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GWTW without Rhett
is one way of thinking about this film, which is an adaption of a play. The first act must end at the bedroom scene where Ashley/Pres forgets he came up the steps to cane his lady. The second ends with the conclusion to the ball scene. The third concluding act is announced with the title "One Year Later."
Like many plays it begins slowly, almost too slowly, as Wyler gives the viewer exposition: Buck Cantrell and friends, including Pres' brother, talking at the bar, the end result being arrangements for a duel the next day, The story moves to a party at Julie's house, where the host is notably absent. When she does appear on a fractious colt, bantering lightly with Our Gang's Stymie, and then her guests, her character is drawn and limned deeper by a trip to Pres' bank, where she interrupts an important meeting. All of these scenes are more or less padding, allowing Wyler to ring up the curtain on the Ball and the red dress. From that point, melodrama breaks out, holding the viewer to the fitting climax where Julie/Scarlett and Amy/Melanie almost switch roles.
What is important to remember is that Wyler and Warners were not doing a send-up of the yet to be released GWTW, but rather using Owen Davis' 'old and often produced play.' And what a job they did, working in the customary Warners' Black and White style. Maybe Davis would be stronger and more southern had it been in color, but the ball scene, and the dinner scenes at Halcyon would not have the impact they do here. The credits scroll over moonlit moss-covered trees, and bear a similarity to those used two years later in the Wyler/Davis masterpiece, The Letter. Both films were scored by Max Steiner, but in Jezebel, Steiner uses an old ballad of the period to underplay Julie's preparations for her reunion with Pres, and it is pure genius, something years ahead of its time. It begins low and slow but as Julie gets more frenetic, it becomes louder and faster.
Watch too as Julie/Davis uses the same nervous mannerisms with the cut flowers as she did as Leslie Crosbie and her needle work in The Letter. In fact the two films make a perfect Bette Davis doubleheader.
Raggedy Man (1981)
Return of Boo Radley
Sissy Spacek has this kind of part down pat, so praise comes too matter-of-fact. I liked the 'Aw Shucks" charm of Eric Roberts as the sailor who receives a 'Dear John" telephone call, and once he disappeared from the film, a lot of its life fizzled away. It's a small film with limited exposition, so that the dinner scene with the boys substituting their long lost father for the departed Teddy seemed to come from almost nowhere. Then despite all of their wailing, they gladly fall in with Mom's desire to move to San Antonio. Then it is headlong into a scene that is part To Kill A Mockingbird and part Straw Dogs.
The problem with the script, and I suspect the screenwriter realized this, is that the Raggedy Man sails too close to Boo Radley, and so the plot must steer away from devices like having the boys be afraid of him. Yet he cannot disappear, so we have shots of him lurking about, or shots of his shop, lest we forget he is part of the story.
I think the film would have worked without him even being part of it, a small tale of a thwarted four day liberty if told from the sailor's point of view, or better, simply a tale of a four day honeymoon for the divorced women. But heaven forbid, there would have been little action. Somehow the ending violence robbed me of my memory of Sissy dancing with her broom while the Andrews Sisters sang.
The Letter (1940)
A fine wine that has aged well
From the opening scene down on the old rubber plantation to the final triumph of the inscrutable orient, this film keeps us in our seat. Wyler,the screenwriters, and Leslie Crosbie manage to wreck three lives in an amazing 98 minutes. Hammond was dead a few frames into the film, but lawyer Stephenson will never be able to practice his trade with the same suave surety again, and husband Marshall is unlikely to ever recover from the kick in the gut as Leslie/Bette Davis tells him she still loves the man she killed.
Maugham's tight little melodrama comes off better in the hands of master Wyler than Forster's Passage to India, another tale of colonial life brought to the screen by David Lean. Made in 1940, and written long before that, Maugham's and the film's characters did not have to include an Edward Fox giving an apologia for his fellow white men, and so we are able to concentrate on the pure melodrama of the story of a woman who shot her lover.
Stephenson is wonderful; as we watch we wonder what price he will ask Davis to pay for his breaking of the rules. He never speaks to her without a pause, as if to say 'what I am telling you is not all that is on my mind' and there is a certainty that he does not know what she will do with this information in the future.
Davis was probably the only actress of that time to be able to carry off her role, but the comment of another reviewer that she is not colonial enough is very well taken. We are used to seeing weak men playing opposite her, but Marshall provides more dignity than that as the noble cuckold.
My only fear is that someone will try to remake it today.
The Birds (1963)
Better with every viewing
When it first came out, the public was disappointed. It wasn't Psycho and seemed to pale in comparison to Norman's story, but I liked it better than Psycho then and still do today. Along with Shadow of a Doubt and 39 Steps, it is my favorite Hitchcock.
I watched it again last night, Halloween, on a VHS tape from several years ago. Today I came to this board; I notice there are 22 pages of comments, so I doubt I can add anything new, but here are some thoughts in general that may engender more discussion on boards:
1. The final scene will always stick with you; 2. How many times does Hitch let his heroines enter a room that they should not? This plot device goes back to Mary Roberts Rinehart, but it works every time. 3. Get the wide screen DVD; there is one scene in my 'fit to your screen' tape where Mitch is talking to Melanie walking back to the house, but he is not on the screen. 4. Tippi is gorgeous, but there are times you can hear daughter Melanie's helium voice bursting out. 5. I wonder about the necessity of the scene in the restaurant with the end of the world man, the old lady who studies birds, the mother and kids eating lunch and the fisherman. It is borrowed from many 50's SCI-FI pictures. The purpose, of course, is to give a pause until the next attack, but all the dialog sounds so trite. 6. Is Annie the only teacher in that school? 7. And what did Mitch's father do for a living when they resided in Bodega Bay? Today such a place would be overrun by tourists. 8. I cannot get over the confidence of Hitchcock, to set that first gull attack on Melanie without music. I keep trying to think what Jaws would be like without the pounding score. 9. Then again, sharks do not caw or coo. There were over 100 starlings and blackbirds on my lawn and in the trees this morning, making what sounded like a hideous racket. Yesterday the noise would not have bothered me, but today? 10. Can we make a pact to shoot the first producer or director who announces he or she wants to remake the film?
Double Jeopardy (1999)
"Let's remake The Fugitive"
"but we can't because Richard Kimball solved the mystery of who killed his wife." "I wasn't thinking of Harrison Ford; Tommy Lee Jones was the real star of that movie. The follow-up, US Marshalls did not do bad either." "So maybe we have him after another runaway fugitive, sort of like a nicer Dog, The Bounty Hunter. He can sprinkle some corn pone charm like when he is the DA in The Client, but we won't have him be so important, some lesser job." "And we will make the fugitive a woman this time, like if Thelma survived driving off the rim." "Yea, and she can be married to a real SOB, but she doesn't know he is a SOB. He can end up dead, maybe his mistress kills her." "Better yet, let him fake his death but her be held for it while he goes off with her best friend or something like that. Wife is put in jail, escapes and goes to find him because she suspects he is alive." "We'll give her a daughter, no make it a young son; they are cuter. Little boy can mention seeing Daddy when friend brings him to visit Mom. Only problem, can't see a women's jail break without outside help....maybe we put her on parole and make Jones her probation officer, and she skips to find hubby." "Throw in some photogenic locales, some atmosphere and make Jones craggier than last time....no romance between them but all else is game....make her like Thelma, or is it Louise." "Well, let's run with it."
The Ladykillers (2004)
If you really want to cringe,
pop it in your DVD and turn on English subtitles. Using them is the only way to understand Hanks, who speaks his dialog so softly and into his lapels, that you have to read it. Oh, you could turn up the sound, but then you'd have Wayans screaming MF at the top of his lungs, or Irma Hall doing her Safire Stevens' mother bit at full vibrato. In print Wayans' language looks more puerile than it sounds.
I watched this with my in-laws; he needs the subtitles, but for her, the foul mouths and tasteless gags were too much after forty minutes or so. We were there as company, and every minute sister-in-law was grating her teeth, realizing she could have come to our house to see the final episode of 6 Feet Under. I knew it was going to be a long evening when the dog died introducing one character. How funny those Coens are! I knew the plot, having seen Guinness pull the same robbery, and without tons of character introduction, or needless scenes like the gospel singing in the church after which the minister explains 'smite, smote,' stealing some 70's Black Comedian's shtick about the use of the verb 'to be' and rephrasing it. I kept expecting those master thieves, the Coens, to have Robert Duvall walk in and start preaching.
How smarmy the Coen's have become! They just have to show us how hip they are with their choice of musical interludes. In 'Brother' it was white down home songs; here they prove to be equal opportunity hipsters. And these are the same people who brought Nathan Arizona to the screen. How low can they sink? We went home, turned on Turner Classic and caught "Hunchback" until ready for sleep. I had this horrible thought that perhaps the Coen's would turn their attention to it for a remake, with maybe Anthony Hopkins playing two or three roles. I kept waking up with nightmares. Avoid this disaster at all costs.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
It's in the writing
Reading the comments, I find few viewers seemed to have read James Ellroy's LA Trilogy, on which LA Confidential is based. The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz comprise the Dudley Smith story; Smith is the only constant in all three. None of the heroes are in Nowhere, Buzz Meeks being gunned down by Dudley while trying to escape, having hidden the heroin. Buzz White survives Confidential along with Exley, and White does go off to Arizona, but Smith still lives and rides high. In Jazz, Ed Exley~~Guy Pearce~~and Smith do battle for the soul of David Klein, who in the end brings down Smith. Of the three, Confidential is surely the most complicated since with the heroin out there somewhere, many more players are involved.
Hanson's genius is to shorten the story, eliminating Nowhere entirely, and bringing Dudley his retribution without Dave Klein being involved. He eliminates so many back stories: Exley's father is alive in the book, and a powerful politico to boot and this is just one difference, but in clarifying and making the story shorter, he almost makes it better. The murder of Vincennes is a brilliant touch, along with the code name Rollo Tomassi.
Both the books and the film are pulse pounders, intense to the core. My late wife, who could never sit through any film without getting up for a cigarette, was immobilized, and by the end was screaming "Kill him" as Exley watched Smith depart. If I had one slight criticism, it would be the cleaning up of some of the language about the original suspects in the Nite Owl killings, but make no mistake about it, this is the film for the 90's, and the only 1997 Oscar nominee worth watching. Hurrah for Curtis Hanson.
Confidential Agent (1945)
It's not The Third Man
but it's worth watching for Boyer, Lorre and Paxinou. Greene's entertainments that were filmed during the war either required transplanting to American shores, as in This Gun for Hire, or the use of American actors in roles where they did not fit. Bacall fits that part here. I kept waiting for her to whistle and bring Bogie to life; her tone of voice is simply all wrong for an upper class Englishwoman. But listen to the dialogue! No, people don't talk that way except in books, but Greene was sending a message about an England that needed to wake up to the dangers of the world. One other positive note: Greene's range of characters were kept whole. While Mr. Mukerjee resembled more a Brahamin, at least his nationality was kept, and his final conversation with Paxinou is priceless.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
I have this vision
of Benjy Stone and company sitting around and writing this screenplay, but there is no King Kaiser to tell them it smells, so each of them gets to put in their little story, with the result that when the film seems like it is about to end, it still has 45 minutes to go. Benjy, the lover of Alan Swan movies, insists it needs the big business intrigue, which could have been dispensed with a lot easier, and with two or three less characters to clutter the landscape. Cy wants to punch it up with a sex scene, and has the idea to shoot it so that with a few added cameras, it can qualify for late nights on Cinemax as a half-hour feature. Silent Herb has the right idea: why can't Death just come for this big wig and leave it at that. Maybe he can choke on a gristly piece of lamb and get the picture over in 90 minutes.
Thirteen years ago my friend D___ dropped dead at 62 on a Long Island golf course. He had piles of money, loving kids, a wonderful second wife and many friends. He was lucky; he told me once that was how he wanted to go. If he'd waited, this film would have killed him.
Emmett's Mark (2002)
I wanted to like it
It was made in Philly, my hometown, and having Gabriel Byrne plus Tim Roth probably assured some decent acting, but as luck had it, Pam figured out the mistaken diagnosis before the film was 15 minutes old. Thus as I watched the rest of the film develop, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, 'does the Police Health & Welfare Plan rule out second opinions?' Man is told he is going to die soon from an illness, and he doesn't see if the doctor could be mistaken.
I read the other reviews where some praise and some damn the film's open end style. In this case I think the writer(s) may simply have run out of inspiration or ideas. Do we want Emmett to go back to his girlfriend, or get involved with his co-worker? Who knows? We will let the viewers decide. What does it mean when Roth can't pull the trigger? Is this some sort of comment on his whole sexual life, or is he granting life in place of the one he took previously? The pose seems almost out of Michaelangelo's Creation on the ceiling at the Sistine. Is failed detective Roth giving the spark of life to the man he just wounded? The questions keep piling up. The serial rapist drives an SUV; so does Emmett? Coincidence? I have played solve the crime board games that were more enlightened than this series of questions.
Pam, and another reviewer, commented on the phone conversation between Emmett and Roth. I'd driven past this intersection on April 4th of this year. The camera actually dresses up the area, and while there is a union hiring hall nearby, and the area is less than a mile from police headquarters, the site of two white men standing on that corner meant that it was either just after daylight or an optical illusion. In fact, I found the views of neighborhoods during foot chases eliminated any of the demographics of Philadelphia. The only Black people we see seem to be policemen.