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The Opposite Sex (1956)
Glorious costumes. The rest ill-conceived.
If you just want to look at an array of stunning gowns, this will fulfill your expectations. The film isn't as boring as some of the reviews suggest and the female stars make it almost worthwhile, especially in the Reno scenes. (Is this a spoiler? Is there anyone who hasn't seen The Women?) All I could think while watching it was that June Allyson must have bought the rights as a personal vehicle, because she has all the songs, although not one of them is memorable. Why cast Ann Miller, Dolores Gray, Charlotte Greenwood, Sam Levene, and Joan Blondell and not provide them with even one number? Especially Gray and Miller. The adaptation never commits itself to being a musical, and instead sticks in a few songs (Dick Shawn has a solo?) that don't further the plot but stop it dead. The Women is actually moving at times, despite its dated cattiness, but this skates by too superficially to make you care.
Test Pilot (1938)
Smart movie, great acting
I just watched this for the first time. It starts as a light romantic comedy and becomes deeper as the story evolves. The dialogue is especially well-written, fast-paced and witty. Myrna Loy's performance is a stand-out - not to slight Gable and Tracy in any way! - with nuance that grows more complex as the movie progresses. I was particularly impressed by the screenwriter's skill in developing the relationships among the three lead characters; Tracy's gradual love and respect for Loy; Gable's discovering the depth of his feelings for her; and her struggle to be the wife of a man who constantly puts himself in harm's way. It's the kind of measured (thoughtful, not boring) film that rarely gets made today, when the emphasis would be on the action scenes. Just an excellent, intelligent film all 'round.
The Tree of Life (2011)
For those who love film - and metaphysical themes
This is a beautiful film, gorgeously shot and realized. The narrative is non-linear and you just have to go with its rhythms. If you do, it will fall into place. At heart it is a portrait of a family moving through what first appears to be a Utopian era - the 1950's. As the story progresses, the cracks begin to show. Even the family home seems to get smaller as the main characters grow older and the perspective of the young brothers changes. On other levels, the film questions our purpose here on earth and our relation to the universe and how tragedy challenges faith. There is religious imagery but in the end it is a spiritual film. I'm basically an atheist and at first was a bit put off by the Christian symbolism but as the film progressed, I was intensely moved by the big questions it raises. If you want your movies unchallenging, summed up and without ambiguity, this isn't for you. If you are intrigued by metaphysical themes, stunning imagery and the primal struggles of life and family, you will be moved by this film.