More Film Reviews of 2021

Undine

Christian Petzold is the master of methodical cinema and with the conceit for Undine, he proves he’s more than up for imprinting his style onto a modern-day mythical fairy tale. He reunites again with Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski from Transit. Once more it’s a world from a distant past somehow planted in contemporary society. There are successive moments that feel so mundane it makes the scenes breaking the mold all the more startling.

They shatter an aquarium and lie sprawled on a coffeehouse floor. Undine pays a wordless visit to her former boyfriend as he does laps in his outdoor pool. The diver resuscitates her to the beat of “Stayin Alive” even as she resurrects him through some mystical romantic force. It borrows some visual language from underwater love stories like Creature from the Black Lagoon and Splash, but it’s also sculpted by the director’s unmistakable outlook from post-modern Berlin. What a pleasure it is to watch a filmmaker who doesn’t find a need to explain all his choices. We must watch them unfold and wait to be enchanted. 

The Power of The Dog 

The Power of The Dog is a fine film, and Jane Campion’s touch is deft in bringing her version of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel to the screen. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a role almost antithetical to the image he’s slowly gone to work dismantling since the days of Sherlock and impeccably British dramas like The Imitation Game.

There’s something leathery and caustic about Phil Burbank, a man who has learned to lead the demanding life of a cattle rancher. And even as he remains skeptical of his brother (Jesse Plemons) marrying a new bride (Kirsten Dunst), and he openly belittles her tenderhearted son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his persona continually erodes and shifts before us. It is a movie about a neutered form of masculinity. Although there aren’t too many pulse-pounding interludes, this element alone feels almost startling given the general conception of the western genre. 

If there is any issue with the picture, it’s really no fault of its own. It’s simply not what I was expecting. But I don’t want that to totally sour my expectations. There’s a quiet tension to the picture as it goes through its paces. There’s no murder, no perpetual row of histrionic Oscar-worthy scenes of drawn-out drama, and it seems to continuously bend away from what is expected toward more nuanced observations.

It has the vistas one might expect from the West, set on a family’s ranch, and yet it’s strangely contained like it was perfectly suited for the Covid age despite being a 1920s period piece. Mostly it’s a  film doled out in relational dynamics – this is its currency – the emotional and relational psychology that governs how people exist with one another. In The Power of The Dog, the evolution occurs gradually, over time, and it might just surprise you if not totally gratify your want for catharsis.  

The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch is less of a narrative film and more of a clockwork cinema machine where we have the pleasure of watching Wes Anderson orchestrating his preferred world with its myriad of players. It’s an ode to the art of writing – the journalistic form – and its best spurts boast comic objectivity with a perfectly calculated and colored intricacy. The initial French milieu of Ennui-sur-Blase blended with this perspective feels almost Tatiesque.

It’s not so much a story as a style, and it’s an extraordinary style. Anderson is so singular in his aesthetic, and it seems so specific by now that it never wavers for a moment. We always know intuitively that we are existing fully in an Andersonian world as he splits his homage (or pastiche) into three distinct stories. Anderson’s stock company, which keeps ballooning while retaining all his own usual consorts, ensures the frames are full of familiar and eminent faces (even if some have next to nothing to do).  There’s a trolly ride into a prison asylum that feels like it’s literally sagging under the weight. 

There’s a droning literary nature to The French Dispatch as it dabbles in all sorts of creative whims. There’s Bill Murray as an avuncular editor. Benecio Del Toro and Lea Seydoux as a crazed artistic genius and his prison guard-turned muse respectively. Timothee Chalamet becomes a college-aged dissident plucked out of Godard’s Masculin Feminin (or David’s Death of Marat). The black and white mimesis and Lyna Khoudri are compelling if not the vignette itself. Jefferey Wright gives an amusing turn recounting a food column devolving into a kidnapping thriller. Oddly, there’s nothing to be taken too seriously in Anderson’s French Dispatch, which gladly gives itself over to ligne claire animation before writing its own editor’s obituary.

As an artistic achievement, it’s extraordinary though it lacks any true narrative absorption. We must appreciate the individual accents and moments, not a centralized sense of comedy or drama. By now Anderson’s vision is so well-attuned and everything is humming just as he likes it. He’s trusting his audience knows what they like too. Anderson connoisseurs should and for others, it could be a mixed bag.

King Richard

If King Richard were merely a rags-to-riches sports movie, I would hold issue with the fact there seems to be so little adversity on the road to professional success. However, to its credit, in an age where biopics need an angle if they’re ever going to see the light of day, here is a version of the familiar story that feels more like a character piece than your typical insurmountable sports story defying all odds. To be sure, it has all of that, but Will Smith, as Richard Williams, helps bring life to a deeply stubborn, idiosyncratic visionary, who helped cultivate his two daughters into the greatest tennis players ever. 

I was chomping at the bit for more Venus and Serena, and Venus (Saniyya Sidney) grows into the movie as she gains traction in junior tournaments and then becomes one of the most sought-after endorsements while making her professional debut. In a conventional sense, these are the beats we expect, but the movie never totally pulls away from King Richard, whether he’s butting heads with his daughter’s well-meaning coaches (Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal) or getting chewed out by his wife (Aunjanue Ellis) for his own delusions.

He’s not all saint and some grievances are aired, but no matter how odd his tactics seem, he still was a man of principles and someone who seemed to genuinely love his daughters. The adage holds true that it takes a village to raise a tennis player, but King Richard did something pretty spectacular. I’m not sure if this is Smith’s best performance, but the film will definitely resonate with the intended audience who appreciate this kind of uplifting story in a year where we could always use more. The fact that Serena is still in the cultural spotlight decades later still astounds me. 

Nightmare Alley

Guillermo Del Torro’s version of Nightmare Alley vows for a methodical establishment of its world and characters. We get a sense of the carnie life and the 1940s sensibilities. The cinematic antecedents could be spouted off in passing like The Uknown, Freaks, and, of course, Tyrone Power’s own iconic turn as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (1947). While I don’t dislike Bradley Cooper, he somehow lacks the wheeling-dealing charisma of his predecessor. It comes with time, and yet he seems to play the role close to the vest until the drama really starts to capitulate.

They throw around the word panache though it hardly seems to characterize the kind of performance he’s looking to achieve. Willem Dafoe feels like a standout not solely due to the craggy contours of his performance. He feels like this film’s individual creation. Cate Blanchett is much the same taking arguably the juiciest secondary role from the original and turning it into a blood-red femme fatale.  

This version does have the opportunity to be more shocking and vile in where it can take the material, and since it is hardly a contemporary picture, there’s a different kind of appreciation the set dressings can garner. A world seems to be resurrected before us. Del Torro’s chooses to draw out the story to become more of a psychological mood piece that lacks the more timely pacing of the earlier rendition though it does finally spiral into a dark abyss of its own making.

It’s this final chapter that earns the moniker of noir and though it doesn’t divert drastically from the original, the vision of its maker is unmistakable. He does his very best to make Nightmare Alley his own. I must admit I maintain a fondness for the original, and I’m not sure if he’s bound to find a broad new audience. 

Last Night in Soho

There’s this sense Edgar Wright has been dying for this day: to curate a British Invasion soundtrack for one of his films. For him, this is all homegrown music. It’s set up immediately with a heroine named Ellie (Thomasin Mackenzie) who holds an obvious affection for all things retro – a college-bound fashion designer infatuated by Swinging London – and “World Without Love” feels like one of the quintessential anthems of the times (along with “Downtown”).

I was fond of Midnight in Paris because it reminded us that every generation wants to return to the good ol’ days. As Petula Clark also sang, “the other man’s grass is always greener.” But Last Night in Soho takes these sentiments and gives them the chilling tinge of horror.  Nostalgia can be a deadly thing too.

It morphs into a nightmare of the sixties where the rose-colored glasses are cracked and whatever an immaculate soundtrack might suggest, we’re still left ill at ease by leering men and a kind of pervasively misogynistic culture. It’s precisely why a movie like The Knack..And How to Get It feels so offputting to me. Because you feel gross. Character identification becomes so crucial as we fill Ellie’s shoes and we empathize as the horrors engulf her and her surreal double (Anya Taylor-Joy).

It might just be the presence of Matt Smith, but there is a sense this could be an episode of Doctor Who in an alternate dimension while also paying homage to the old guard like Terrence Stamp, Diana Rigg, and Rita Tushingham. Still, it’s not like we were plucked out of one world and put in another. I also can’t remember ever seeing a Wright picture where there was such an obvious theme tied with the kind of unabashed entertainment he’s always capable of providing. The only problem is that in trying to derive a twisty payoff, he somehow muddles the meaning of the movie. 

House of Gucci 

Trailer expectations make House of Gucci feel like a mild disappointment. There’s a hope that Ridley Scott’s latest film might lean wholeheartedly into the camp to become a bizarre story of decadence and machiavellian wheeling-dealing gone horribly wrong. We are being sold a murder in the upper echelon of the fashion industry. I’m reminded of I Tonya, a surprisingly ingenious film telling a larger-than-life story with conflicting perspectives on recent history that formerly covered the tabloids. The movie pays off thanks to the weight of the performances and the stranger-than-fiction narrative.

House of Gucci has some performances that work well enough. Lady Gaga gives her role a real go of it, but far from being just a backbiting femme fatale, there’s attempts to make her character, a woman who married into the Gucci family, more of a human being. This is not wrong, and it can be lauded as she gels with her new husband (Adam Driver) navigating the hierarchy governed by his father (Jeremy Irons) and his uncle (Al Pacino). But in trying to be a genuine relational drama while also jostling for future camp status, it’s not able to capably manage either.

It feels impossible to have our theatrically sated and get the sincerity too, thus falling into this realm of overlong mediocrity. It’s not bad in its totality, but we leave the story feeling mostly underwhelmed, especially given all the talents assembled. Like Gaga, Jared Leto, who readily “uglifies” himself for the role, looks poised to go for the fences. However, it represents some of what I dislike about this approach to acting at times. There’s very little that feels real about it, and I kept on questioning why they could not get someone else – someone older – for the role. It’s disheartening because I didn’t know what kind of story Gucci was trying to tell, and it suggests maybe the team didn’t know the best story to tell either.

No Time to Die

Daniel Craig burst onto the scene with Casino Royale as a darker, more mercurial Bond for the 21st century, and it gave the franchise a level of rejuvenation and relevance in the arena of action movies. Vesper Lynd gave Bond a bona fide relationship that did not feel totally disposable but in grappling with Hollywood expectations, demanded to be disposed of. So the fact Bond is found at Lynd’s grave marker, conveniently also setting up the film’s best setpiece, feels like an early signifier of good things to come. 

No Time to Die gives Bond an inkling of a back story and the weight of a human connection (with Lea Seydoux) that almost feels incongruous with his very image where women are merely objects and enemies are to be vanquished all in a days work. It seems only fitting Bond feels more human than ever given Craig’s history with the character. Despite its runtime, it’s not a gargantuan, earth-shaking film. The villains as they are (Christoph Waltz and Rami Malik) are fine if not totally out of this world.

Still, in our restricted era, there’s something appealing about a globetrotting thriller married with a character who seems to recognize the weight of the real world. Whether it looks suave and debonair or not, sometimes it takes vulnerability and sacrifice to win the day. Bond seems to have stakes that he never had, much less cared about, before. It’s up to the viewer to decide if they embrace this or not.

The Card Counter

“Forgiving another and forgiving oneself are so much alike.”

There’s often an austere quality to Paul Schrader’s cinema, whether it’s about a priest or a card counter. A lot of it is inert and internalized. They are meticulous with composition books, deep in thought, and always ready with a drink to nurse nearby. His heroes seem to live by a certain code and more than simply being religious, they operate on a level of penance for sins, both their own and the world around them. These might seem like weighty words to describe movie characters, but then Schrader is not your typical, average, everyday filmmaker.

There are no warm and fuzzy feelings in The Card Counter nor the kind of comedy release valve we’re taught to expect in our movies. Schrader doesn’t seem to have time or patience for this as he tackles heady, more existential topics. It’s cool and brooding in tone and atmosphere, mostly shot in the fake interiors of casinos. 

It’s poker as a character study rather than the crowd-pleasing sports drama of Cincinnati Kid, and Oscar Isaac is our hero, a war vet who also served a stint in military prison. Now he devotes his life to counting cards and playing poker but not for the normal reasons. His backer (played by Tiffany Haddish) pointedly tells him, “You have to be the strangest poker player I’ve ever met.”

It also doesn’t have the feel of a 2021 film, and yet the space from its historical past is probably necessary. Because it dredges up the crimes perpetrated in Abu Ghraib. Will says, “Nothing can justify what we did”  And he cannot change the past so he looks to watch over a young man (Tye Sheridan) and search after the man (Willem Dafoe) responsible for all the evil in his past.

The first time I heard Pickpocket evoked in reference to The Card Counter, everything clicked into place; it all makes sense because Robert Bresson’s film was at the center of the cinematic transcendental revelation that hit Schrader in the mid-seventies. He does his best to evoke some of that here.  Once it’s mentioned, you can’t unsee it. 

Passing 

There is no movie without the performances of Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. There’s something delicate and tempered about the way they carry themselves through this movie only matched by the 1920s color palette.  It’s a curious reference, but I was thinking how, like the black and white in Some Like it Hot, here it allows us to buy into the charade that this woman would play: living the life of a white woman.

The world conjures up images of The Cotton Club, a space where we don’t see Jim Crow segregation as much as these oddly stratified and “separate but equal” spheres of existence. Blacks build a vibrant community for themselves in Harlem out of the prying eyes of whites because it is a fragile peace. We meet Irene (Thompson) in a scene where she attempts to pass as white. The one person who catches her, Clare (Negga), does so because she has made a life of infiltration. She’s married a white man and effectively given up her past life for the preferential status she now owns.

Passing is a quiet film, and there are only a few scenes I can look back on. The opening scene could have been the set-up for a chilling race horror film. Scenes in the jazz club are alive with the energy of the age. And the ending has an anesthetized tragedy to it. As we watch the snowfall on the street, we realize this is a story formed in the silent void and not in vocal tumult. In the ever-shifting, always malleable, and confounding spectrum of human identity, there are so many adjacent conversations to Passing that I find fascinating.

Rebecca Hall must as well or she would not have undertaken this story as her directorial debut. I need more time with it, but I couldn’t help thinking I liked the idea of the story (and the book) more than I actually enjoyed the film. Then again, maybe it falls to the fact the movie was not the one I was expecting. It’s not an easily digestible message picture. Somehow it’s more nuanced and complicated. It feels like this deserves further consideration.

Rain (1932): Joan Crawford and Walter Huston

Rain finds its origins in a short story by W. Somerset Maugham, and it was also preceded by a picture starring Gloria Swanson titled Sadie Thompson. She is indeed the central character of this adaptation as well, although the title of this version focuses in on the dreary poeticism.

It’s true that a kind of rainy exoticism defines the entire mood of Lewis Milestone’s movie as this perpetual gloominess sets the tone for the story at stake. A few years before Safe in Hell, we have another picture set on an island. This one is named Pago Pago, and it serves as a weigh station for passengers during a cholera scare.

Among those laid up are Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston and Beulah Bondi), a pair of religious reformers, who are intent on completing their voyage so they might begin administering to the nonbelievers. They are reformers who’ll gladly break your back to save your soul.

The good, innocuous Doctor MacPhail (Matt Moore) feels like an author’s creation; he’s a character we can identify with as an audience — a stand-in of sorts — who ably fits into the company of respectable folks but remains an impartial observer.

Then, you have a much different ilk, part of the earthier, more salacious crowd, headed up by the island’s local proprietor (Guy Kibbee) and made a lot more enticing by the one and only Sadie Thompson (Joan Crawford). With her checkered dress and made-up eyes, she falls in with the soldier boys on leave, introduced in saucy fashion through a mixture of appendages and hot jazz. In her own estimation, some lively music and a nip of liquor are what rainy days are for.

The movie itself can easily be summed up by a clash of moral prerogatives; it becomes plainly apparent who’s on each side. Kibbee’s character is especially wary of their latest visitors because it’s crusaders like them who readily sully the last remnants of earthly paradise. This is his picture of Eden — freedom to do whatever he sees fit — although it’s quite different than their conception of it. He’s got a gripe with their kind because they represent the age and the newest commandment, “thou shall not enjoy life.”

Throughout the movie, Milestone’s whips and whirls make the film feel all the more alive even as it rages to burst out of the restraint and aestheticism of its more pious players. This obvious motion accentuates what otherwise feels a bit like an island chamber piece.

Because it’s built completely out of the performances. First, it’s Mrs. Davenport (Bondi) denouncing the lady of loose morals dancing on the Lord’s Day — the sabbath — and she wants her husband to put the fear of God into the tramp.

Soon enough, he does just that, confronting Sadie with the fervent belief that it is up to him to save her incorrigible soul. Though he admittedly burns with conviction, it’s his overall demeanor that’s offputting to the likes of her. She doesn’t take kindly to his Pharisaic demeanor.

Their words, thoughts, and deeds are worlds apart as exemplified in this more understated confrontation. We see them for who they are fundamentally at the core of their beings. He talks of presenting her “a gift.” He’s speaking of eternal things — salvation as Christians think of it — this is her chance to be saved. Meanwhile, she’s thinking about life on this terrestrial rock. Where people get knocked down and beaten up and the like. It’s in this world where she reckons to make out and survive, living her happy-go-lucky kind of life day-to-day.

More than rejecting his religiosity, she rejects his self-righteousness even as his pronouncements come off almost incomprehensible to her. What she does understand is his dismissiveness, his callousness toward her precarious station in life. The doctor, standing by the wayside for most of the picture, finally lets his companion know he thinks the man harsh and tyrannical,  although Davenport affirms his heart bleeds for the poor wayward sinner.

The reformer evokes the Lord’s Prayer as Sadie rails into him with her own indignant tirade only for it to evaporate around her. It comes out of a place of fear and dejection. For all her outward confidence, she really doesn’t know what she’s doing. Shellshocked piety is a strange garment for her to wear if altogether understandable. But others must judge the outcomes for themselves and the same goes for the denouement.

For all its provocative flaunting in the beginning, Rain relies on an ending of inference, happening between the lines. A lot is at play in the final moments on a subtextual level — be it latent desires or closeted hypocrisies. Instead of a hangman’s noose in a discarded field, it’s a cut throat on the shoreline, but the similarities are undeniable.

It sends shockwaves through the population even as it suggests the conflicted nature of humanity. As far as its impact on Sadie, it leaves her much where she began, though now at least she has a man (William Gargan) to take her by the arm.

Rain was not much of a box office attraction in its day and part of this might have to do with the brazen ending. It’s not a straightforward picture, but like Safe in Hell, between loose morals and redemptive religiosity, the picture jockeys for an uneasy equilibrium. If nothing else, Joan Crawford and Walter Huston make it feel like a seismic battle that’s eyecatching in fits and starts.

3.5/5 Stars

Classic Movie Beginner’s Guide: Kim Novak

In our ongoing series of guides for up-and-coming classic movie fans, we turn our attention to one of the most alluring and iconic actresses from the Classic Hollywood period.

Kim Novak, who is still alive and well today, started out in her early 20s as an answer to Marilyn Monroe, while soon developing her own image as a husky-voiced, sultry siren. She played opposite some of the biggest stars of her day. Unfortunately, her own talents are often dismissed in light of her looks, and she eventually left Hollywood to live a far more secluded life.

Picnic (1955)

Image result for picnic kim novak

Kim Novak garnered attention for her self-assured work in the film noir Pushover and a playful bit in Pfft. However, one of her most iconic roles thereafter came with Picnic opposite William Holden. The Kansas heat whips up a passionate romance between a teenage prom queen and an out-of-town drifter. Their dance together to “Moonglow” is one of the movie’s magical moments.

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)

Image result for the man with the golden arm

There’s no doubt this is Frank Sinatra’s picture and a darn good one too as he plays a relapsing druggie struggling to get the monkey off his back. As all the street graft enable him and his disabled wife nags him, it’s the local waitress in Novak who gives him the tough love he genuinely deserves. They would costar again in Pal Joey with more tepid results.

Vertigo (1958)

Image result for kim novak vertigo

This is the big one. The one that will cement Kim Novak’s legacy for the ages thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s obsessive vision and Bernard Hermann’s mesmerizing score, turning her into a spectral beauty haunting the streets of San Francisco. Everything from her wardrobe to her posturing makes her dual role as Madeleine and Judy pitch-perfect. If you want something lighter, try Bell, Book, and Candle from the same year, also starring James Stewart

Middle of The Night (1959)

Image result for middle of the night 1959

Kim Novak’s performances are generally overshadowed if not completely neglected. She is, after all, remembered as a glamour girl. However, in a film like Middle of The Night with a heart-wrenching premise and a craftsman like Paddy Chayefsky, she stretches herself opposite Frederic March playing an unorthodox couple trying to weather societal peer pressure. It’s probably her most vulnerable, most devastating performance.

Worth Watching

Strangers When We Meet, Boys Night Out, Kiss Me Stupid, etc.

 

Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Jim Jarmusch

Screenshot 2020-02-17 at 3.40.27 PM

One of the most revelatory aspects about becoming more familiar with Jim Jarmusch is how international his films are. At the very least, there’s this sense of them putting a lens to a broader cross-section of society.

He is unequivocally American, but whether it’s because he’s a cineaste or driven to a global perspective through music or other interests, he paints with a canvass broader than simply the American experience. He also seems to understand the American experience is framed and colored by those who come to us. In fact, we are a melting pot, as Alexis de Tocqueville once noted, made up of all nations.

As a storyteller, Jarmusch seems drawn to what I’ve heard termed the “mearcstapa” — the border walkers — people on the outskirts. They could be expatriates, foreigners, or people who simply conceive of the world in a different manner than you and me. Although the term is recontextualized from its Medieval connotations, it does take on renewed meaning. In the case of Stranger Than Paradise, it’s a visitor from Hungary.

But if any of this dialogue runs the risk of making the story sound too rarified, rest assured, it is far from that. It’s a picture content in the simplest of moments. The plot as it were is born out of a statement. Eddie (John Lurie) has a cousin arriving and visiting him from Hungary. That’s it right there.

He feels put upon having her stay with him. He doesn’t show her the town. He doesn’t give her food. He’s the most inhospitable person in the world. But then again look at his life. He subsists off TV dinners and beer.

His only friend is Eddie, a shifty-eyed, flighty fellow who’s half-witted in a lovable kind of way. They spend time watching football, playing cards, drinking beer, or going to the races. That’s just about all they ever do. And it hardly changes with the addition of Eva.

Still, what the movie exudes resolutely is a style and an aesthetic, forming something more substantial than the sum of its modest parts. Because it’s certainly humble, and the antithesis of flamboyant production values, and yet it manages to supersede the simple nature of what is happening onscreen.

Take, for instance, the sequence where Eva is walking down the streets with her suitcases in hand to the tune of “I Put a Spell on You.” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins rumbles across the pavement, and it’s oddly mesmerizing.

Pairing this with the black and white cinematography, dominating the film with a dreary, dilapidatedness leaves a startling impression. It’s both the prevailing sense of the world and somehow complementary to the budget and resources he’s working with.

I am reminded of the early films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder because there is the sense of almost two-dimensional space in many of the scenes — simple but purposefully done. In the case of Jarmusch, there are hardly any cuts, with the shots put end-to-end and void of any other type of true editing. It’s the simplest form, really, cut together by way of black inserted between the sequences.

You could point out Jarmusch is making a kind of glorified short film, and that’s how the narrative began sticking the footage together in three segments. But the black in-between the visuals also function as a kind of ellipsis.

Because pretty soon Willie and Eddy get up and go from Brooklyn and road trip it out to Cleveland. Why? Because Eva’s there. She is a fellow sojourner, and so they take to the road in order to catch up with her. In one of his typically dorky observations, Eddie tells his buddy, “Before I met your cousin, I didn’t know you were from Hungary or Budapest or any of those places. I thought you were an American.”

Pretty soon they’re staying with the Aunt and back to watching TV and playing card games. Shooting the bull and chewing the fat like they always do wherever they go. Even miles away in the icy tundra of the Midwest they realize, “You come someplace new and everything looks the same.” Restless for some meaningful experience, they head off to sun-soaked Florida to seek something else.

Finally, there’s some action, albeit off-screen and pretty much only alluded to. The boys lose all their dough at the dog races. In her own absurd turn of events, Eva winds up with a mother lode in drugs. That could be a whole rabbit hole all to its own. Instead, they take a trip to the airport to set up another adventure…undoubtedly just as absurd as the last.

It might not seem like much, but that’s the entire charm of Jarmusch’s movie; he’s so very comfortable bending away from Hollywood convention. Where location shooting becomes more of an in-joke than of a particular commodity and characters and story are more likely conduits of style. In fact, to this day, he’s made a career out of it.

Now, Stranger Than Paradise feels a bit like Richard Linklater’s Slacker. They played as important catalysts for subsequent generations of filmmakers because they were unique and of their own time with their own vision. And part of their merit is having done it first — using the world at their disposal and creating something that stays with us however mundane and unadorned.

Part of the paradoxical charm of Stranger Than Paradise is how you could conceivably make a movie like it, and yet you couldn’t ever match its essence because Jim Jarmusch made it just so — distinctly individual and measured to his own personal liking. That’s what it has going for it even to this day. It’s unmistakably him.

3.5/5 Stars

Johnny Eager (1941): Taylor and Turner Spark Dynamite

Screenshot 2020-01-08 at 91406 PM.png

“Are you thinking of allowing her to play Roxanne to your Cyrano?” – Van Hefflin to Robert Taylor

Pretty faces don’t always add up to a quality movie and if you want to find where the faults lie, you might look between the players and the script then split the difference. Johnny Eager has all the Classic Hollywood trappings that very well could have made it dead on arrival — especially years later.

Because our protagonist has a name that only exists in the movies (or Hollywood for that matter). He’s a gangster from the old days formerly clad in the finest of threads and raking in the dough. To this day, he’s unrepentant or at least blatantly honest about how he feels; he’s no chump, even despite a stint he did behind bars.

Now he’s on the outside on parole making a go at propriety as a cabby. After this preliminary bit of eye-opening exposition, the story has all but telegraphed its intentions, really no fault of its own. It doesn’t take much imagination to put a reformed Robert Taylor and a curious young sociology debutant like Lana Turner together.

They meet through his parole officer: a white-haired, benevolent picture of authority. He seems to believe every man is capable of reform and human goodness if only given a chance. His secretary, on the other hand, gives Johnny the stink eye. Lisbeth Bard can hardly take her eyes off of him.

Of course, none of this is on the level because Johnny is busy getting into his old rackets, including an ambitious plan to resurrect the Alongonquin dog races to make a killing out of it. Simultaneously, he’s double-dealing, getting his sister and bratty niece to masquerade as his alibi. They’re nicely compensated of course to play up a squeaky clean picture of domesticity.

One has to laugh. The authorities must be idiots and Johnny accordingly plays them for fools. He’s a modern-day Machiavelli and this combination of authority, guile, strength, and charm makes Johnny Eager come off a bit more significant than a walking caricature.

It’s true Taylor had caught ahold of something in his career and whether or not he was considered a negligent actor and merely a pretty face, he brings a definite machismo to the screen more than capable of knocking off everyone else around him. He’s without a doubt the center of the action despite the plethora of scene stealers around him.

But one cannot forget the diffident school girl played by Turner, quoting Cyrano de Bergerac and sporting a hat to beat them all. What overtakes her exactly? Is it some compulsion to flirt to convert a wayward soul? Is it simply yearning passion? Whatever the reason, the film is full of “inamorata” — men and women lovers.

Not least among them is Van Hefflin who’s quite the educated fellow, quick and rich on the prose, especially when he’s soused with liquor. Jeb is Johnny’s most faithful friend for reasons the movie never puts to words. But whereas everyone else is either a hired ally, a paid stooge, or an easy rival, Jeb stays by him because he has no one else.

The film is at its most engaging tracing the lines and mixing its reference points between literate dames and men pontificating with a grandiloquent verbosity while the thugs rattle off their own barb-wire jargon prickling the ears. They tumble around inside the head as the most unrealistic and simultaneously peculiar cocktail of discordant voices.

Hefflin does very little compared to the other forthcoming gruff, garble-mouthed, shifty-eyed types, and yet he doesn’t need to because the words flowing off his lips play like riffs off the rest of the film. He seems to relish every soliloquy he gets to run off, and it definitely leaves an overall impression.

But the real fire is between Taylor and Turner for as long as they get on screen together. Aside from Johnny’s clandestine activity, Lisbeth Bard’s step-father happens to be a crucial man. Edward Arnold aptly plays the domineering and vengeful district attorney, who just so happens to be situated in the most convenient place in the movie. He helped put Eager away in the penitentiary as a service to the public. Now Johnny’s looking to stick it to him with Lisbeth implicated in his own crimes.

Could it be he never loved her at all? It always functioned as business over love? Regardless of his motives, enemies become accomplices as he leverages his new position to open up the long-dormant dog racing track. Everyone across the board has got an angle. What sets Johnny apart is his self-serving shrewdness, never blinded by sentimentalities such as sacrificial love, grace, or a guilty conscience.

Meanwhile, Lisabeth is overtaken by mental frailty and paranoia. She’s not bred for the cutthroat gangster’s life like Johnny. Her tragic hysteria forces him into a type of hero’s choice. It’s what all Hollywood movies ask of their protagonists. Something is required of them in the end.

In its day, Johnny Eager was a stirling success, and if history is any indication, it might have one of the most tragic days in American history to thank. It premiered in Los Angeles on December 9th, 1941. For those keeping tabs, this is two days after Pearl Harbor.

It heightens the dramatics just enough to bring out of the realm of reality and into the spaces of escapism. Where illicit romance can shoot off like fireworks on the screen between two scintillating specimens like Taylor and Turner. They were TNT as the contemporary advertisements so aptly framed it. They were the eye candy; they were the distraction to take the masses away from the tragedy right outside those cinema doors.

In a short time, the movies would be acting as a comment on the world at-large and the war at-large with propaganda machines spinning on all cylinders. For now, they still act as a counterpoint saying something about the state of a nation by not saying anything at all.

The story ends in a somewhat comforting manner, ultimately capping off with a Hollywood moralism that made sense, creating heroes out of gangsters far away from the chaos of sneak attacks and brazen days of infamy. It just goes to show life is more ambiguous and thus more complex than a movie.

3.5/5 Stars

Merrily We Go to Hell (1932): Directed by Dorothy Arzner

merrily we roll to hell.png

Bubbly is flowing and the gaiety abounds. Alcohol is not an evil, just a tonic to loosen morals, tongues, and dour countenances. When Joan Prentice encounters Jerry Corbett for the first time at a party, she’s immediately taken with him. He’s a few drinks in and has let the merriment overtake him. It comes off charming if a bit dopey.

Merrily We Go to Hell feels like a provocative title, and it’s true this alcohol-drenched drama is a predecessor to the likes of The Lost Weekend and Days of Wine and Roses.

Sylvia Sidney is about as winsomely sweet as she ever was and ever could be playing a socialite at a party. Frederic March has momentary glimpses of warmth and allure, though it’s hardly his finest hour on the screen. However, it is a testament to how phenomenal his career was at points, and even a picture like this seems to suggest how often he is an underappreciated star of Classic Holldywood.

There’s also a third far more surprising presence in the movie filling what might be considered a minor bit part. Cary Grant is all there, but it’s a bit like seeing John Wayne in Baby Face or James Stewart in Wife vs. Secretary. We’re there but not quite there when it comes to their career trajectory. He still needed to meet Mae West and then Leo McCarey to really get the wheels rolling, thus entering the stratosphere of quintessential screwball suavity.

As it settles in, Dorothy Arzner’s picture is all for hitting the journalistic beats contemporary to the day and age. It’s a perfect arena for modern, capitalistic America. An arena of vocation, class, and in this case, alcohol. One easily recalls Platinum Blonde though March, despite all his able acting prowess somehow cannot muster the same fitting charisma Robert Williams managed as a newshound. The former performer lent almost a screwball sensibility to Frank Capra’s picture.

It’s the same kind of affable charm that made Jack Lemmon so effective even as he dipped into similar depths of hell in Days of Wine and Roses. But back to Platinum Blonde. It’s hard not to see the earlier movie’s imprint being reworked within this material (even unconsciously) with less handsome results. Because some of the same dynamics are present. We have a lead infatuated by a platinum blonde (Adrienne Allen) and then opposite him is the endearing “other girl” we know full well will actually win out his heart. At least, in theory.

And if that isn’t enough, both newsmen dabble in playwriting, suggesting the menial pavement-pounding, all for the sake of making a buck, giving way to a higher calling of art and patronage. It handily reflects rungs in the social ladder to mirror contemporary society, as the film’s of the Depression-era all have a habit of doing. Obviously, they can’t help it. This is their world.

However, in Merrily We Go To Hell, playwriting holds a more substantial role aside from being a narrative device for the sake of parallelism. It brings Jerry Corbett the highs and lows of such a career while throwing him back together with his former flame, the glamorous thespian Claire Hempstead. The scenario feels rudimentary and mediocre going through these typical dramatic progressions.

Before it becomes complicated, the film is a basic love story of the lowly working stiff smitten with the heiress, although not for money’s sake. As it predictably dips into drunken stupors, strained relations, and infidelity, the film actually loses some ground. Corbett rounds up his chums, partakes of some merriment, and resigns himself to the platinum blonde rival. In an act of preservation more than rebellion, his wife deflects by digging up her own beau (hence Cary Grant) in an attempt to be equally “modern.”

What resonates most fundamentally are some of the more curious shot selections by Arzner. She certainly manipulates the camera and the images in such a way we are aware of them as an audience, whether through early forms of product placement or a curious rear-view of two men sauntering through a mansion. It feels sporadically alive with invention and a very particular vision, even as it spirals toward an unimaginative soap opera denouement. The accompanying  Pre-Code elements are there, but the picture doesn’t entirely douse itself and drown in the melodrama.

This proves to be a key because any such digression could have been its final death. Instead, the sense of restraint and understatement proves a far more powerful tool of storytelling. It subtly undermines stock Pre-Code sordidness for something nominally more intriguing. This nor the actors, totally save the movie, but they keep it from completely sinking. More people are finally starting to talk about Arzner, and Merry We Go to Hell feels like a worthy touchstone in her career.

3/5 Stars

Classic Movie Beginner’s Guide: 60s Spy Spoofs

As part of our efforts to cater to up-and-coming classic movie fans, here’s our latest installment to our classic movie beginner’s guides.

In appreciation of the James Bond franchise and the newest installment that will hopefully still be released early next year, we thought it would be fitting to highlight four spy spoofs that had as much fun with the genre as their inspiration, if not more so!

While we’re partial to Don Adams’ Get Smart on the small screen (or The Man from U.N.C.L.E), here are four franchises to consider if you’re interested in the spy fad of the 1960s. Here we go!

Fantomas (1964)

Image result for fantomas 1964
France’s answer to the Bond craze came with retrofitting a national comic book hero and supervillain for the ’60s. The blue-faced mastermind Fantomas (Jean Marais) is constantly avoiding capture by the bumbling Inspector (played by comedy’s best-kept secret Louis De Funes). Thankfully, he has the help of an intrepid journalist (also played by Marais). Two more installments would follow.

Our Man Flint (1966)

Image result for our man flint
Not to be outdone by his compatriots, James Coburn also got his chance to be a top-class secret agent named Derek Flint, who fits all the parameters of a world-renowned spy, including playmates, gadgetry, and continual globetrotting. His travels bring him in contact with a deadly adversary (Gila Golan) and the nefarious Galaxy! One more Flint film with Coburn would follow.

The Silencers (1966)

Image result for the silencers imdb
Dean Martin is no one’s idea of a James Bond (a drunk one maybe), but his good-natured persona and womanizing ways make him the best off-beat answer to Bond as impregnable agent Matt Helm, also based off some serialized literature. It’s campy, low-grade spy spoofing at its best (or worst?). A bevy of sequels came out in rapid succession.

Casino Royale (1967)

Image result for casino royale 1967
Definitely not to be confused with Eva Green and Daniel Craig’s iteration, this is the most unwieldy and extravagant of all the spoofs. The cast is absolutely stuffed with big names, and it really is an excuse to roll out the talent. Everyone from David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Ursula Andress masquerade as the incomparable Bond. The best thing to come out of the movie might be “The Look of Love,” but there are lots of memorable cameos.

What other classic Bond or spy spoofs would you recommend?

Classic Movie Beginner’s Guide: Gene Kelly

As the site takes a look at some of Classic Hollywood’s most prominent musicals, it seemed like an auspicious occasion to focus on some of the most well-regarded performers of the era.

For our latest beginner’s guide, we look at Gene Kelly, the man who combined his muscular athleticism with graceful hoofing to transform the movie musical like never before. He would become the greatest hoofer since Fred Astaire and then ultimately enter movie immortality alongside his idol. Here are some of his greatest films well-worth checking out.

On The Town (1949)

Image result for on the town gene kelly

While Gene Kelly isn’t quite calling the shots, he’s front and center in this MGM extravaganza alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen, and Ann Miller, just to name a few. Regardless, it’s an exuberant offering showcasing much of the magic and music that made the studio’s musicals so popular.

An American in Paris (1951)

Image result for an american in paris 1951

Paired with the glorious mise en scene of Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly tapped his affections for France and showcased the waifish talents of Leslie Caron to envision one of the finest achievements of his career. Between the music of the Gershwins and his top-class dancing, he makes the dreamy final third of An American in Paris into pure cinema.

Singin in The Rain (1952)

Image result for singin in the rain gene kelly imdb

If there was ever a benchmark for what the Hollywood movie musical could be, it’s encapsulated by Singin’ in the Rain. It boasts so much quality from Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor to commentary on the silent era to sterling direction by Stanley Donen. All you need is Kelly’s tour de force in the rain to understand what makes this movie transcendent. It’s emotion personified.

Always Fair Weather (1955)

Image result for it's always fair weather gene kelly

This one is a bit of an oddity reflecting signs of the changing film landscape. Yet Gene Kelly still shows his prowess with a particularly thrilling dance on roller skates. Likewise, the story blends a post-war commentary with a satire of modern media which proves surprisingly lucid. Regardless, it was the beginning of the end of the musical’s golden years.

Worth Watching

For Me and My Gal, Cover Girl, Anchors Aweigh, The Three Musketeers, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, Summer Stock, Brigadoon, Les Girls, Inherit The Wind, The Young Girls of Rochefort, and more.

5 Favorite “Classics for Comfort”

With the CMBA Spring Blogathon being themed around classic movie comfort, I busied myself considering the types of movies that act as comfort films.

Here before you, without too much deliberation, are five classics I would gladly share with anyone. They are movies that I own and return to for any number of reasons, perfect for lounging around on a Saturday afternoon.

Also, as it worked out, they all just happen to represent five separate decades of cinema.

Please enjoy!

6f909bbaebc7bb19d90bdce05c1aadee

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Gawky, wide-eyed Jimmy Stewart reflects all that is good and decent about Classic Hollywood. Frank Capra’s political drama is a time-honored story of the little guy going up against a political juggernaut. It’s full of humor and geniality, romance and patriotism, and heart-wrenching drama. Stewart’s staggering filibuster on the Senate floor, as Harry Carey looks on wryly and Jean Arthur coaches from the cheap seats, is an iconic showcase.

Far from simply giving us the kind of Hollywood catharsis, replete with happy ending and romance, it reaffirms the virtues of humanity in the face of corruption. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

880px-Best_Years_of_Our_Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

It’s a sprawling film and yet it never seems lengthy because I always fall into the storyline and the sense of community created within Boone City. William Wyler’s direction with the immaculate photography of Gregg Toland is glorious, and once more, the cast is one of the most amicable.

I’ve long enjoyed Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews. Frederic March and Myrna Loy make a lovely couple. Harold Russell turns in, arguably the most sincere, undoctored performance as the double-amputee. We even get Hoagy Carmichael plonking away on the piano. It gets to the point where relationships are actually being formed with the characters. We care deeply about their happiness and well-being in the wake of WWII.  Even as the world changes and we must come to terms with it, there is still hope in making something out of life, wherever it may lead us.

Howard_Hawks'Rio_Bravo_trailer_(29)

Rio Bravo (1959)

Before there was any sort of sub-genre, Howard Hawks feels like the king of buddy movies. John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Angie Dickinson are a joy to hang out with. There’s no question this is a western — with a sheriff sticking by his guns — and there’s certainly conflict drummed up.

But for the sake of our discussion, this movie is all about the camaraderie. These very purposeful lulls in the action and even an intermission just so Dino can sing “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me.” It brings all the necessary components together, including action and humor, while instigating a quality time at the movies.

Its_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World_Trailer4

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

There are a couple reasons I have a lasting fondness for Mad, Mad World. This goes beyond the wall-to-wall goofballs squished into the caper comedy. (I’m talking to you Jonathan Winters.) One of the other touchtones involves the iconic palm tree becoming a symbol of Inn-N-Out burger, a favorite watering hole of mine.

Likewise, my dad often tells stories of riding off to summer camp only to see the crew filming the chase sequences up in the mountains. It’s these small anecdotes that make it feel all the more familiar. And so many friends come to the party: Don Knotts, Peter Falk, even Buster Keaton. It’s always a pleasure to see them.

american g

American Graffiti (1973)

There’s something instantly satisfying about the tableau American Graffiti offers up. It’s one night in 1962. The scenarios are lightweight and life-changing all at once, between cruising cars, fleeting high school romances, and some of the most iconic tunes of yesteryear. For me, very few films evoke a milieu as well as George Lucas’s picture, and it still remains one of the preeminent coming-of-age movies generations later.

For one evening, we get to step back in time and enjoy an evening on the town with a soundtrack supplied by Wolfman Jack. It’s an immersive, totally delightful experience cruising around with the likes of Toad, Milner, and Curt. In the age before JFK’s assassination and the escalation of Vietnam, it somehow spells simpler times for all.

Wishing everyone the best of cinematic comforts!

 

National Classic Movie Day Blogathon: 6 Favorite Films of the 1960s

Thank you to the Classic Film and TV Cafe for having me!

Following-up last year’s ode to the 1950s, I secretly relished the addition of another film to make already tough decisions even a little bit easier. But let’s be honest…

All my intellectual posturing and punditry must go out the window. This is not about the best movies alone. It is about the favorites — the movies we could watch again and again for that certain je ne sais quoi — because they stay with us. They always and forever will be based on highly subjective gut reactions, informed by personal preferences and private affections. As it should be.

Drum roll please as I unfurl my picks. Each choice says as much about me as the decade they come out of. Here we go:

charade_2

1. Charade (1963)

Charade has always been a highly accessible film and not simply because it’s fallen into the public domain. Its elements are frothy and light calling on the talents of two of Hollywood’s great romantic charmers: Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Their rapport is lovely, and the spy thrills are surprisingly cogent for a romantic comedy thanks to Peter Stone’s script.

Last year I acknowledged the loss of Stanley Donen, but this picture reflected his range as a director, taking him beyond the scope of musicals. By this point, it’s positively twee to acknowledge his movie verged on a Hitchcock thriller like To Catch a Thief. I am also always taken by the supporting cast. Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy all had more prominent performances throughout the 1960s, but they supply a lot of color to the story.

Likewise, as amiable as the chemistry is to go with the blissful French streetcorners and Henry Mancini’s scoring, there is a sense Charade represented the dawn of a new age. It came out mere days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The happier times were snuffed out, and we could never go back. The decade would be forever changed in its wake.

a hard days night

2. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The Beatles were the first band I could name at 4-years-old. A Hard Day’s Night was probably the first album I could sing along to. So already I have such a significant connection with it, recalling bumpy roads in the British Isles on summer vacations. And that has little to nothing to do with this film. It only serves to evoke what the Germans might aptly call sehnsucht. Warm, wistful longings for the exuberance of youth. At least that’s what I take it to mean. But we must get to “Komm gib mir deine Hand!”

Because, all levity aside, A Hard Day’s Night is the best Beatles “documentary” any fan could ever ask for. Not only does it showcase some of their greatest music, but Richard Lester’s style also keeps the story feeling fresh and free. Even as the schedule and hysteria of Beatlemania look to suffocate the boys in their own stardom, the film is the complete antithesis of this rigid mentality. It goes a long way to showcase their individual personalities, real or mythologized.

What’s more, it’s simply loads of fun, packed with Liverpoolian wit, shenanigans indebted to the Marx Brothers, and a certain lovable cheekiness helping to make the Beatles into international sensations. Again, it’s a film on the cusp of something new. They would kick off the British takeover of American music and usher in a cultural revolution up until the end of the decade. When they disbanded in 1970, the world had changed, and they were arguably 4 of the most influential cultural catalysts.

girls of rochefort

3. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Jacques Demy began as a revelation for me and quickly evolved into one of my most treasured directors. What makes his film’s magical is how they truly are incubated in their own self-contained reality influenced by near-Providential fate and unabashed romanticism. They too can be wistful and heartbreaking, but equally spry and joyful — maintaining a firm, even naive belief in humanity and love.

The Young Girls of Rochefort is no different. In fact, it might be the great summation of all his themes. Umbrellas of Cherbourg shows the tragedy, but Rochefort is merry and light in a way that’s lovely and intoxicating. The palette is a carnival of color, and real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac are incomparable in their title roles.

As someone who appreciates contextualization, Demy populates his films with footnotes to film history among them Gene Kelly, who was a beloved figure in France, then Michel Piccoli and Danielle Darreux who might as well be considered national institutions for the substantial bodies of work they contributed both domestically and abroad. Even his wife, 21st-century celebrity Agnes Varda, helped choreograph the movie’s action from behind the scenes. It’s a positive delight.

le samourai

4. Le Samourai (1967)

If I have a deep affection for Jacques Demy, my affinity for Jean-Pierre Melville runs deep for entirely different reasons. Like his fellow countryman, he had an appreciation for a subset of American culture — in his case, the pulp crime genre — so it’s a fitting act of reciprocation for me to enjoy his filmography.

Le Samourai is without question his magnum opus, at least when his noir-inspired crime pictures are considered. Like Demy, his images are distinct and particular in their look and appeal. Cool grays and blues match the clothes, cars, and demeanors of most of his characters.

Alain Delon (along with Jean-Paul Belmondo) was one of the great conduits of his methodical style, clothed in his iconic hat and trenchcoat. Anything he does immediately feels noteworthy. While it’s never what you would call flashy, there’s a self-assured preoccupation about Le Samourai.

You can’t help but invest in both the world and the story of the characters — in this case a bushido-inspired assassin: Jef Costello. With hitmen, gunmen, and gangsters given a new lease on life in the 1960s, Delon’s characterization still might be one of the most memorable.

odd couple

5. The Odd Couple (1968)

Here is one that’s stayed with me since the days of VHS. I’ve watched it countless times and always return to it gladly like time away with old friends. It just happens to be that one friend is fastidious neat freak Felix Ungar (F.U. for short) and the other a slobbish couch potato Oscar Madison.

Despite being one of the great onscreen friendships across a plethora of films, The Odd Couple is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s most enduring film together from purely a comedic standpoint. They bring out the worst in each other, which subsequently supplies the conflict in Neil Simon’s smartly constructed tale, as well as the laughs.

I must admit I also have a private fascination with cinematic poker games. The Odd Couple has some of the best, bringing a group of buddies around a table, with all their foibles and eccentricities thrown into a room together to coalesce. John Fiedler and Herb Edelman are great favorites of mine and The Odd Couple has a lot to do with it. That Neal Hefti score is also just such an infectious earworm. I can’t get it out of my head, and I hardly mind. What better way to spend an evening than with Felix, Oscar, and oh yes, the Pigeon sisters…

butch cassidy and sundance

6. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

You can tell a lot about a person depending on what western they pick from 1969. There’s True Grit for the traditionalists. Then The Wild Bunch for the revolutionaries. And Butch Cassidy and Sundance for those who want something a bit different.

Because out of all the westerns ever made, it doesn’t quite gel with any of them. William Goldman writes it in such a way that it feels like an anti-western in a sense. His heroes are outlaws, yes, but they are also two of the most likable anti-heroes Hollywood had ever instated. Whether he knew it or not, Goldman probably helped birth the buddy comedy genre while the partnership of Paul Newman and Robert Redford fast became one for the ages.

My analysis of the film has waxed and waned over the years and not everything has aged immaculately. However, at the end of the day, it’s one of the most quotable, rib-tickling good times you can manage with a western. I’ll stand by it, and when we talk about endings, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid is as good a place to end as any: immortalized on tintypes for all posterity. What a way to go.

Thank you for reading and happy national classic movie day!