Okay, this post isn't actually about going to the movies, because that's something I never do, and it's not even about current movies, since one of them is 70 years old, but it is about three movies I've recently seen and want to comment on.
Movie No. One: Have you ever seen San Francisco, the classic 1936 movie about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco (and the movie that introduced the famous eponymous song)? If you haven't, you definitely should, and for a whole bunch of reasons. To begin with, April 18 is the 100th anniversary of the quake. (You can find some good websites here, here and here.) It was an extraordinary geological event. My next door neighbor when I grew up through the quake. Her house was relative undamaged, but she recalls that the fires, which were a couple of miles from her house, blazed so brightly you could read a newspaper by their light in the middle of the night.
Anyway, San Francisco has, in my opinion, one of the best earthquake sequences ever filmed. Sure, the technique's a bit primitive, but it still packs a huge wallop -- something that may not be surprising if one considers that there may have been many involved in making the movie (filmed a mere 30 years after the quake) who actually experienced the quake or personally knew someone who had been there.
The movie also has Clark Gable, as a Barbary Coast nightclub owner, Jeanette MacDonald, as the singing preacher's daughter whom Gable learns to love, and Spencer Tracy, as the fighting priest, which makes for a totally wonderful cast. Add to this a knock-out script by Anita Loos (of Gentleman Prefer Blondes fame, and herself a San Francisco native), which contains dialog like this:
Blackie Norton: Well sister, what's your racket?
Mary Blake: I'm a singer!
Blackie Norton: Let's see your legs!
Mary Blake: I said, I'm a singer!
Blackie Norton: All right, let's see your legs!
Aside from the tart dialogue, I swear that I still tear up every time the movie reaches the shlocky but inspiring end, which I won't ruin for you by describing.
Movie No. Two
: 50 First Dates
is the most schizophrenic movie I've ever seen. About a third of it is gross comedy with vomit, transvestite jokes and a racist Hawaiian caricature played by the truly untalented Rob Schneider
. But the other two thirds of the movie is a sweet, charming love story about a man, nicely played by Adam Sandler
, who falls in love with a woman (Drew Barrymore
), who has a brain injury that leaves her stuck in a time warp. It's this love story that, while improbable, is imaginative, and leaves you feeling good. I ended up giving the movie two stars on Netflix, because the gross part garnered it one, the sweet part earned it three, and the average was two.
Movie No. Three
: If you're having any doubts about whether executing Stanley "Tookie" Williams was a good thing, City of God
, a Brazilian film from 2002, will set those doubts to rest, even though it actually has nothing to do with Tookie. City of God
is set in a slum outside of Rio, and follows a nice boy's efforts to survive life in those slums from the 1960s through the present day. The slums are riddled with hoodlums, guns and drugs, and the violence, though never graphic, is appalling and deeply disturbing. It's especially awful because, in the most violent character, named Li'l Dice or Li'l Ze, you see Tookie -- the uncontrolled lust to kill, the joy in suffering, the thirst for power, the organizational skills, etc. It's a difficult movie to watch, but an excellent one. In many ways, the weirdest thing is the lovely, lilting Brazilian music providing a constant background to so many on-screen horrors.
So, if you've been casting around for things to add to your Netflix
list, those are my offerings.
Talking to Technorati: San Francisco, 1906 Earthquake, 50 First Dates, City of God, Cidade de Deus