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The Maid (2014)
Miss Kahane is wonderful, the rest of the actors adequate. Cinematography and production values are good. Where this film suffers, IMO, is the writing. This seems a curious complaint to have to note when the writer is also the director. It seems to me that some of the dialog is repetitious and doesn't move the story along. The other problem for me is the loose ends left hanging which give the impression a sequel is intended. On the whole, it is a very secular story about forgiveness and redemption of a sort with which some viewers might not be comfortable. That's about all that needs to be said without getting into spoiler territory.
Let's go back to the plot. Jack, a very unpleasant alcoholic whose mother died when he was born, has been living with a maternal uncle in the States since his step-mother spilled the beans a decade or so earlier and let him know she was not his natural mother. Since then, his father has divorced and we never meet step-mother or half-brother. Jack has been goaded by his uncle into going to the UK to spend his 18th birthday with his father who lives alone but has a very attractive French woman, Maria, who comes in days to cook and clean for him. Becky, a local girl makes a play for Jack, but he rejects her to pursue Maria whom he also treats shabbily. At the end, we wonder if Maria really wanted Jack or used him for a purpose of her own.
Out of Sync (2000)
Enjoyable escapist fare
I saw the DVD in a store and bought it on the strength of Gail O'Grady starring in it as I had liked her work on NYPD Blue. I have seen it perhaps three times and it is, on its own terms, better than average made for TV fare. Three things bothered me about the story, though. First, since our heroine Maggie's son has a band and she claims to believe in his singing talent, why does she never ask Deacon to listen to his demo tape or help him in any way at all? Second, where are the lawyers? Even if Deacon was only planning to use Maggie's voice behind (more like in front) of Sunni's when he started out at that first recording session, he would know that he needed a signed release from her even if she was not to be put under contract. Not doing so might (ought to) have made Maggie suspicious. Besides, he doesn't have much money at that point and her fee would be a business expense if he could document it. The story could reach the concert conclusion by way of legal maneuvering rather than hijacking the control room. Third, and last, it doesn't quite ring true that Maggie would have been able to instantly cast off her fear of singing in public quite so easily at the end. When Deacon introduces her to the crowd and the film cuts to her view through that sheer drape, right before she steps in front of it on the stage, I expected her to start singing from there where the audience couldn't see her except perhaps in silhouette.
Les parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)
An absolute gem - possible spoiler
Just saw this film at long last on Sundance channel. I was in high school the year it came out and remembered the theme music which enjoyed a fair measure of radio play at the time. And, I had seen other films by Catherine Deneuve, so I was pleased when I happened on it. The non-stop singing and the vivid colors were a bit much at the beginning - I was a bit reminded of Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge although that had much larger sets and more obvious camera movement. Following sub-titles is also a challenge - three and a half years of studying French in school has left me with a limited ability to read French and almost no ability to follow a conversation, let alone songs. And yet, the music is so good and so much of the film just makes sense emotionally that you could almost figure out what is going on without any words at all. The use of explicit titles to identify year and month as the story jumps across several years helps to keep the audience on track with the development of the characters and there relationships, as does the obvious clues to the seasons (flowers in spring, snow in winter). The snow falling in the final scene just before Christmas helps to set the mood as snow makes everything perfect and new and covers all the hurts of the past. BTW, I don't know if they did product placements in films in those days, but a few scenes (especially the end) almost look like a commercial for Esso petroleum products.
Always in Trouble (1938)
An entertaining bit of fluff
WARNING! Spoiler - although this is a 1938 comedy with a fairly predictable happy ending.
Starring a 12-year old Jane Withers (Josephine the Plumber in a series of memorable TV ads in the 50s and 60s) who insists on being called Gerry and not Geraldine, the film opens with Gerry instructing the butler Rogers (Arthur Treacher - who gets high billing but has disappointingly little screen time) in the fine art of splits - a knife throwing game rather like mumbledypeg only a bit more dangerous. This sets up two key elements of the story - a nouveau riche family a bit too "stuffy" for tomboy Gerry's liking and Gerry's precocious ability to manipulate adults into cooperating in her ideas about having fun or doing good.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a series of Gerry's little plots which by turns cause troubles and then solve them. When the family - Gerry, her older sister Virginia, her mother, and her father's brother Uncle Ed, but with her father being impersonated by one of his clerks - shipwrecks on an apparently deserted island, Gerry enlists the handsome young clerk Pete in a plan to use their Swiss Family Robinson circumstances to remind her family of their life before wealth and servants.
This plan seems to fail when they find a house on the island and then a gang of kidnappers arrives. But, while preparing dinner for the kidnappers, Gerry's mother (Nana Bryant) and Uncle Ed (Eddie Collins) do recall fondly how much everyone enjoyed her cooking and how much impromptu entertaining they did in the good old days before they were rich.
At this point, Gerry's shenanigans, aimed at discomfitting the kidnappers, begin to remind one a bit of The Ransom of Red Chief. Meanwhile, we have a budding romance between the clerk (Robert Kellard) and the older sister (Jean Rogers - whom you might recall from the Flash Gordon serials) also egged on by Gerry.
For the mandatory happy ending, the father (Andrew Tombes) arrives by seaplane with the US Navy and the kidnappers are arrested, Virginia falls in love with Pete, and Pete delivers a sound spanking to Gerry who interrupts her screams of protest for a smile and a wink to let us know that everything worked out according to her plans after all.
Seven Surprizes (1963)
uneven, but the good parts are pretty good
This is, as the title hints, a compilation of seven rather avant garde shorts. Their main connection to one another is Canadian government subsidies for their production. I saw it on 16mm film either at school or church in the mid-60s.
I can no longer remember all seven segments. One segment I do recall was an interesting documentary about an old man living alone in the rugged Yukon or NW. The account of his very physically demanding and lonely life was quite moving.
There was also an odd little bit called "The Chair" which, as I recall it, consisted of a chair moving around a room.
The last bit I remember was a clever anti-war message involving two men who are neighbors with a fence between them - it ends with their deaths.
If it were available on DVD at a reasonable price, I would buy it.
It has made me laugh ... over and over
I own a VHS copy of this film and have watched it several times and it never ceases to be delightful. Some of the other reviews are no doubt hampered by being the result of a single viewing or not paying attention. For example, at least two identify Shirey Temple's character as a college student rather than a high schooler.
To understand the interpersonal dynamics of the story, let's start with two of the great supporting actors in this film Rudy Vallee and Ray Collins. Collins plays a psychiatrist who does consulting work for the criminal justice system and who wants to see his niece, a police court judge played by Myrna Loy, married. Vallee plays an assistant district attorney (ADA) who is romantically interested in Loy's character but is frustrated by her lack of interest and Collins' overt hostility. Between her career and caring for her teenage sister played by Temple, Loy is content to spar with Vallee but keeps him at arms length.
For those who are having trouble with the "lady judge" in the 1940s angle - there were a few especially as lots of young male lawyers had gone off to the war and left opportunities for women in legal careers as in other fields, Loy plays a minor court judge, and she has relatives in the system (the aforementioned uncle and another who seems to be a retired judge). One also needs to know the times to understand that "bobby-soxer" refers to young girls wearing sox with the tops turned down ("bobbed" which means shortened). Another historical note - at least one reviewer has mentioned that there is a hint of pedophilia in the relationship between the characters played by Temple and Grant (mild by comparison to The Major And The Minor with Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers pretending to be 12). This is a somewhat anachronistic view as the trend has been toward raising the legal age of consent and the age for marriage in the two generations that separate us from the time this film was made. The idea of the high school girl and the playboy artist dating or marrying would have been a bit scandalous in a middle class milieu like this, but it would not necessarily have seemed criminal to most folks.
So now we come to the silly schoolgirl crush which Shirley Temple's character conceives with regard to the urbane, sophisticated, handsome, and slightly rakish artist played by Cary Grant. This is a stock element of many romantic comedies. In fact, there is an interesting parallel between Shirley daydreaming that Cary Grant is a knight in shining armor and the romantic reveries of Reese Witherspoon's character in The Importance of Being Earnest. Our teen heroine in this movie is a bit of what we would now call a "drama queen." We see this not only in her relation to the older artist, but in the way she returns to her high school beau talking about how handsome he will be in uniform (he just got his draft notice).
When our psychiatrist uncle (Collins) comes up with the idea of having the artist (Grant) pay court to the bobby-soxer (Temple) till she tires of him, he is playing a double - even a triple - game. He wants to put what he considers a real man (Grant) in close proximity to the judge (Loy) and he wants to irritate the assistant district attorney (Vallee) whom he expects will suffer by the comparison.
The artist accepts his unusual form of probation reluctantly and soon begins to see another, and more desirable, side of the judge but each time they begin to get close something intrudes to keep them from acknowledging their feelings. Meanwhile, the artist craftily cultivates the friendship of the ex-boyfriend to keep him in our bobby-soxer's company.
The scene at the community picnic where the artist and the ADA compete (sack races and such) for ribbons, and the attention of the judge, is hilarious, especially as our bobby-soxer bribes the high school boys to help her artist to beat the ADA. And the later scene in the nightclub is also a real winner.
The chemistry between Grant and Loy here is not the greatest, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is much better in that department, but they give a good account of themselves as reluctant lovers. Loy was always fabulous as the straight partner for a physical comic actor which she perfected in over a dozen pairings with William Powell (I Love You Again, Love Crazy, the Thin Man series, etc.). Through most of this film Grant has little scope for his physical comedy (especially as compared to Bringing Up Baby or Monkey Business) which is why the picnic sequence really shines, but his facial expressions and voice make the most of the limited possibilities, especially in the nightclub scene where there is a lot going on in a small space and Cary Grant still shines.
This movie is a bit dated, and I don't think you could make it today with the same charm and innocence. But it is a joy to watch on its own terms and I highly recommend it.
Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
Gleason near the peak of his form
The first thing that ought to be pointed out is that this film is based on a book by Corrine Griffith (the little girl Corrie in the film) about her childhood in turn of the century Texas. Her father was a hard-drinking railroad executive who tried to make up for long absences and other failings as a husband and father by occasionally giving rather outlandish gifts to his wife and daughters.
Jackie Gleason, who had an undistinguished screen career in a range of roles in the Forties and a great success in comedy on television beginning in the Fifties, appears here near the peak of his form as a dramatic actor. This side of his talent is almost forgotten today, but it included his role as Minnesota Fats (for which he won Best Supporting Actor) in The Hustler, as well as very creditable star turns in Gigot and Soldier In The Rain.
In Papa's Delicate Condition we have Gleason playing a complex role that ranges from the breezy banter and physical comedy familiar from his work on The Life of Riley, The Honeymooners and The American Scene Magazine, to great pathos. No stranger to the pitfalls of "demon rum" in his own life, Gleason is masterful in his portrayal of a man deeply in love with his wife and children and yet seemingly doomed by his dipsomania to disappoint them. Gleason, a very successful composer and band leader who couldn't read music, also sings the title song Call Me Irresponsible which furnishes a wonderful portrait of his character - "Say I'm unreliable, but it's undeniably true, I'm irresponsibly mad for you."
The War Effort (2003)
Low budget laughs
I bought this on the internet based on a very sparse description and I was pleasantly surprised. I've seen it at least three times and it's still funny (and I happen to be a very conservative Republican, not the target audience), which is more than I can say for a lot of big budget studio flicks that claim to be comedies. I was also surprised to see someone on the screen I actually knew - Deane Weislogel and I were elected as constables in Berks County in the same year and often trained and worked together. The mockumentary style helps to cover some of the defects of a small budget. My only serious problem with the movie was the "Bob Hope" story line; the acting was fine, but the character's comic material should have been less awful to be more convincing and less screen time should have been devoted to this character.