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His Girl Friday (1940)
hilarious breakneck dialogue via Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant's genius
There are several reasons His Girl Friday is so brilliant so much funnier than any other version of the Ben Hecht / Charles MacArthur stage comedy "The Front Page" and has gone down in history as the smartest, funniest, fastest movie comedy of the forties.
The story and plot are classic. By the climax, an accused criminal is hiding in a desk in the courthouse press room to avoid a hasty hanging, with a retiring reporter and her boss helping him. But this version offers so much more.
There's Cary Grant. In any other version of The Front Page like the previous one with Adolph Menjou before long you're filling with contempt for scheming, unscrupulous, self-centered news publisher Walter Burns. But when Cary Grant plays Burns doing those same things, we cheer him and love him for it. The gender change for Hildy was key: it works so much better that Burns' unstated goal is to get back with his sharp-tongued, perfectly matched ex-wife - not just to scam his paper's best reporter into staying on. Grant lets us in on every motivation and joke - he practically winks at the camera when he cracks wise at Hildy's boyfriend Ralph Bellamy's expense, with zingers only his dear ex-wife will get.
How could we like someone who pays a thug to rough up an old lady? Someone who flatters and even hires a rival paper's reporter, just to get control of his desk a minute later giving the order to "kick him down the stairs" when he reports for work? No other actor could get away with any of this, not remotely. In the last line of the movie there's Hildy, in love again and struggling to balance a suitcase over her head as they rush down the stairs. As Grant helpfully asks without breaking stride, "Why don't you carry that in your hand?" we forgive him one more time in exchange for that laugh.
Even more important, there's Rosalind Russell not the character she plays the actress. Russell was so determined her Hildy must have as many great zingers as Grant's Walter Burns, she started quietly paying writers to add hilarious Hildy comebacks throughout every conversation. She delivers them without a breath or a pause, and impossibly without making the scene any longer. In other words, she interrupts and talks over Walter whenever she can and comes off as the sharpest wit in a story brimming with sarcastic reporters. When critics caught their breath, some credited director Howard Hawks with an innovation: uniquely naturalistic dialogue, with people talking over each other as they do in real life.
This movie is full of genius from its writers - the acclaimed Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were news reporters in the corrupt Chicago they depict, while Charles Lederer was known for making dialogue spark. Don't miss it.
The Living Matrix (2009)
provocative, informative mix of edge science and "spiritual" healing
Over a dozen articulate scientists and healers present theories, anecdotes and results of rigorous experiments, including cures that aren't explained in our traditional understanding of biology and medicine.
Similar in many ways to "What the Bleep Do We Know?" - including extensive use of animation to explain ideas about fields, physics and the body.
Several of the experiments were conducted in California's Institute of Noetic Science, and several of the scientists interviewed work there. The Institute, founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell, is also described in the new Dan Brown book "The Lost Symbol" where the characters are fictionalized. But its research is real. Mitchell, resident scientist Dean Radin, and director Marilyn Schlitz all appear. Very thought provoking!
Le souffle au coeur (1971)
delightful, funny, touching classic
Laurent is the youngest, smartest, most sensitive of three boys in a wild bourgeois French family. His brothers are amoral and hysterical. His father could not be more uptight. And his mother is full of laughter, beautiful and irresistible.
The brothers drink, steal, and even replace a valuable original painting just so they can watch their father's reaction when they casually start cutting it to pieces during dinner.
This is the ultimate French counterculture movie. Somehow the way Laurent pleases himself with books and bebop recordings is simultaneously sophisticated and innocent.
The Charlie Parker score is mesmerizing. Some people won't get it. Others will find it evokes everything wonderful about growing up and discovering yourself.
Stuck on You (2003)
Surprisingly sensitive and hilarious!
Conjoined twins are happier than the rest of us. They're never lonely. They're better at sports and handier in the kitchen. And their families are more loyal someone's always got your back.
Who would have thought the Farrelly brothers renowned for throw-away, gross out humor in "There's Something About Mary" and "Me, Myself and Irene" could make such a sensitive, entertaining comedy about 'siamese' twins? Walt (Greg Kinnear) is the extrovert brilliant on stage in one-man shows (you heard right) and determined to make it in Hollywood. Bob (Matt Damon) is the shy, thoughtful one who's been keeping their special status a secret from his online sweetheart. Bob and Walt share a liver. Damon and Kinnear play it brilliantly, as if they've been fused their whole lives. And sexy Eva Mendes is hilarious as their new neighbor: "Oh my god! I'm an actor too! You guys are gonna love this place. I've been here like two and a half years, and - hey, you guys are stuck together! - and I still love it here."
To believe it, you just have to see how Walt lands and plays a role co-starring with Cher in a cop show with Bob always just out of frame. Or how Bob keeps his secret through dating, dinner, dancing, and romance.
Few comedies can sustain a 2 hour movie, but this one gets a deeper third act when Walt decides they should be separated. The performances are so strong, the drama and comedy even work when the conjoined brothers fight: "Don't you walk away from me!"
The ending a musical number didn't thrill me, but over all, the movie is almost flawless. It's so full of treats, it's enjoyable in repeat viewing. The twins rule at hacky sack and do spot-on impressions of Ted Koppel and Mike Tyson. Cher and actor/director Griffin Dunne (star of Scorcese's "After Hours") do terrific send-ups of themselves. Meryl Streep, Jay Leno, Frankie Muniz, Mary Hart, and Jesse Ventura all appear as themselves.
What everyone was sure would be a one-joke embarrassment is actually some of the best work the Farrellys, Matt Damon or Greg Kinnear have ever done. And man is it funny!
Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
engaging, visually stunning mystery
This amazing sun drenched noir sleeper from the Easy Rider era stars attractive young Robert Blake, as a short motorcycle cop who dreams of becoming a detective and gets a chance to help solve a murder.
Conrad Hall's cinematography is startling from the start - when you don't quite know if you're witnessing a suicide or a murder - to the breathtaking finish. Close up or telephoto shots draw you in and keep you guessing; wide southwest desert locations are awe inspiring.
Ordinarily waxing about the imagery would suggest a dull story, but this mystery is full of surprising twists, characters, and some unexpected action. The cops vs hippies milieu is well captured. Billy Green Bush (Nicholson's "Five Easy Pieces" oil derrick sidekick) and old Elisha Cook have memorable roles.
brilliant, funny, daring and romantic
The way you wear your hat -- The way you sip your tea -- The memory of all that -- No, no they can't take that away from me...
Actually, they can. Did you ever hear that classic Gershwin tune and wonder just who "they" are, and why They'd want to take those romantic memories away? Is this just a lover's awkwardly turned phrase, a sign of paranoia - or is someone seriously in with the wrong crowd?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind lays out just such a scenario, and doesn't let up finding ways to tickle you with it until you're exhausted. "They" are professionals from Lacuna Inc. working to erase Joel Barish's memories of his ex, Clementine (Kate Winslet). Joel (Jim Carrey) hasn't given the procedure enough thought, and now each recall of a treasured moment with her is helping Them with their mind map and brain eraser.
The way your smile just beams -- The way you sing off key -- The way you haunt my dreams -- No, no they can't take that away...
This may be the most wonderfully, boldly imaginative movie I've ever seen. It keeps mostly to Joel's point of view, pushing movie and story form where they've never quite gone before. Devices like flashbacks serve their usual purposes as well as showing the effects of being drugged, trying to remember, to forget, or even to think something you've never thought before. There are chases and races inside Joel's brain, and places to hide there. The filmmakers take dozens of storytelling and special effects risks that pay off delightfully. Discovering them is half the fun, so I won't say more about the movie. My date and I laughed, cried, and sat back slack jawed the entire time - often all at once. (I mean my wife - how'd I forget?!)
The way you hold your knife -- The way we danced till three -- The way you change my life -- No, no ...!
Jim Carrey gives a subdued performance that won't annoy even his most ardent critics. Kate Winslet is fantastic - early in the film, she gives him a long, skeptical look, while holding her body at such a silly angle for so long that you finally have to laugh. And somehow you immediately understand what it's like to love this woman.
This great film deserves all the acclaim director-writer Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman's utterly original script have received, and much more.
...First Do No Harm (1997)
excellent realistic, heart wrenching story
Meryl Streep took a break from feature films for a rare TV movie role, while Jim (Airplane!) Abrahams took a break from wacky comedies, to tell this extraordinary story of a family that must take its health care into its own hands when the medical complex is failing them - after losing almost everything. Their son seems to have a variety of epilepsy that's tragically difficult to diagnose and treat.
Many have lost family members because they didn't have the strength and courage to challenge their doctors' biases before it was too late. So this true story is an important vaccine for people who need to take back responsibility for their families' health. It's a stark contrast and partial antidote to thousands of made-up movie and TV medical stories.
Streep, Fred Ward and the rest of the cast are superb. Allison Janney is perfectly cast as the doctor, because in real life the 'bad guys' are often smart, attractive, and certain they're doing the right thing.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
most overrated film ever
This boring, overlong, implausible excuse for a story has psyched out a surprising number of people, thanks to a strong cast (Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken), phony but emotionally exploitive material, and American audiences desperate to demonize the winners of the Vietnam war.
Any scenes that might have shown combat, snipers, or something that could have really happened in Vietnam are jarringly missing - it practically cuts from Pennsylvania to a POW camp. Then the famous "Russian roulette" scenes are utterly invented, and never happened to anyone in Vietnam (and probably not in any other war). Any honest viewpoint on any war would be preferable. Nam veterans aren't fooled; they hate this movie.
Finally, they eliminate Walken's character in a twist that should logically have occurred many years earlier, but happens to take place just as his best friend arrives after ten years. Please!
The most amazing thing about this movie is how many people say they loved it. Somehow the alternation of pretentious slowness and violence is manipulative. Its success so confused its director that he became delusional and made an even longer and far more expensive failure, so infamously bad it actually brought down United Artists studio. Still, I suspect I'd like it better than The Deer Hunter.
The Hidden (1987)
extraordinary, fun, unique story
When more than one mild mannered person turns up on a wild rampage of stolen sports cars, indulgence and murder, cop Michael Nouri can barely keep up. But his low-affect new partner Kyle MacLachlan seems to know exactly what is going on. They're perfectly cast in a totally unexpected movie that unfolds with relentless action, surprises, and oddly believable absurdities. Claudia Christian is perfect too, as a stripper who won't take no for an answer.
It's hard to do this movie justice without spoiling surprises, but once you tune in to it, the mix - violence strongly serving character and story, oddball humor, and tantalizing science fiction - is uniquely addictive. There's no other movie like it. Have fun!