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Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997)
I really wanted to like this.
I thought the trailer looked great and the acting talent involved really is quite impressive: Julia Ormond, Richard Harris, Tom Wilkinson, and Gabriel Byrne. Not to mention that the story looked interesting. And the cinematography is just amazing--very beautiful, very cold. So, what went wrong? Sadly, the film is crippled by the script. It's the kind of story where the protagonist knows exactly the right bits of obscure information and knows exactly the right people who can give her exactly the information she needs to unravel the mystery. Not only that, she can rappel off the side of a ship like nobody's business. In his review of this film, Ebert said it was "a triumph of style over substance." The style is definitely there, but just before it triumphs, something completely illogical is said or done that breaks the suspension of disbelief the film tries so hard to build up. As for the actors, I got the feeling that they just didn't know what to do with their characters, none of which were very well-rounded. Even Smilla, a unique female protagonist in that she is very intelligent and independent, is not given enough of a personality or a background to inspire the viewer's compassion. And anyway, it's not her intelligence that gets her to the end of the story, it's the fact that she's got more guts than any hero I've ever seen in a movie, male or female. The only truly likable and memorable character is Isaiah, if only because he's just an impossibly cute little kid. In the end, while the movie is aesthetically pleasing, not enough attention was paid to developing a plausible story, well-drawn characters, or a satisfying ending.
P.S.--I almost forgot to mention that Vanessa Redgrave does a very nice job but has to say the line "There is no Mr Lubing. I am the bride of Jesus", which just cracked me up, even though I think it was supposed to be a serious moment.
P.P.S.--The absolute highlight of the movie is a little speech Smilla gives about numbers. It's actually very unique and insightful and, fortunately, it's in the Memorable Quotes section.
The Merry Monahans (1944)
After a bit of a slow start, The Merry Monahans really picks up with the entrance of Peggy Ryan and Donald O'Connor. Having already made several films together, it is obvious that these two enjoyed working together and playing off each other's comedic timing. They have many hilarious moments which are made even better by their freshness. There's a nice sort of improvisational feeling to the movie that we don't really get to see in modern films. Although she's playing a pretty straight character, Ann Blyth even gets a few laughs, and Jack Oakie's just very likable. The plot (surprisingly) doesn't get stale, probably since there's only half an hour of plot development. It really is a sweet, good-humoured little film that any fan of movies would enjoy viewing.
When I began watching "There's No Business..." I had fairly low expectations. To be honest, I was watching it because of Donald O'Connor and Ethel Merman (her acting, not her singing, although I don't mind that too much) and I figured that it would be mediocre at best. However, by the end of the movie, I was just very very... happy. There's really no other word for it. The majority of the reviews for this film cite its thin plot and melodrama as a negative, but I think that's just because most musicals have a more contrived and contained plot. "TNBLSB" has a more general story (which I won't recap) that, in my opinion, gives it more of an emotional impact by the end. All ends well, of course, but because of the nature of the problem (a lost child versus the typical "lost love"), the final resolution is more satisfying. Acting-wise, Johnny Ray isn't so bad that he ruins any scenes and I've always liked Ethel Merman's kind of maternal smart-aleckiness. Personally, I didn't think the musical numbers were anything spectacular, but that greatly depends on the taste of the viewer. Anyway, despite all the bad reviews of this film, I definitely think it's one to check out if you're a fan of any of the actors or of the musical genre.