Movie Blog - Film Review, Rating, Plot Summary / Synopsis - Archive Winter 2005

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

2005 BLOG Archive - Winter Season (January 2005 to end of March). My personal movie watching diary. NOTE: there may be spoilers for some entries.

ratings: 1 = dud; 2 = fair; 3 = good; 4 = excellent

March 29, 2005 - Watched the quite engaging silent version of Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921) today. Mary Pickford plays Cedric Errol, New York City "boy" with those famous "Fauntleroy" long curls and black velvet suit. He gets in fights with the school bully who calls him a "curly-haired sissy" and thinks about cuttin' his curls off, but his Mother, Dearest (also played by Mary Pickford), doesn't want him to grow up - so the curls stay. Cut to England, where lives in a huge castle, the Earl of Dorincourt, a crusty old man and friendless recluse who happens to have a "fabulous fortune". He also has a wild, drunken son, who falls off his horse and dies. The son turns out to be Cedric's long-lost dad, so Cedric is proclaimed Lord Fauntleroy, who will one day become Earl. He leaves New York City, and his pack of "best friends" including the local grocer, boot-black, and apple woman, to live in the castle with, as Cedric soon calls him, Grand-daddy Earl. Dearest is forced to live in the front gate cottage 'cause the Earl doesn't trust her. But our dear little Cedric soon charms the old guy, his lawyer, all the house servants, and the whole village! This film is thoroughly enjoyable, and though I find it at times very hard to imagine that Mary Pickford is a boy (especially since "he" is wearing lipstick and full make-up), still she is completely charming in the part. This film includes some very well-done split screen work when Cedric and Dearest are both on screen together. The DVD I saw is from Milestone Films, and has a clear, nice-looking sepia-tinted print and a very good orchestral score done by Nigel Holton, which I thought matched the film really well. Terrific. - - - - OUR GANG ALERT: Watch for baby Jackie Condon in a bit part in the opening scene in NYC. He's the little boy who pulls off his shoes, then hat to reveal his famous mop of hair, and then chases after a street cleaning truck to run in the water. (4 stars)
Later today watched A Cinderella Story (2004) - updated take-off on the story of (what else) Cinderella. Hilary Duff plays Samantha "Sam" Montgomery, Valley girl being raised by her widowed dad, who marries a witch named Fiona (no, not a literal "witch" but a, ya know, a bitch), who has two bad girl twin daughters. Unfortunately for Sam, her dad is killed in the Northridge Earthquake, so Sam is relegated to sleeping in the attic (actually a pretty nice room!) and doing slave work at her dad's (now Fiona's) diner. Fiona's daughters, the two "wicked step-sisters", like to practice goof-ball synchronized swimming routines, and force Sam to do their homework for them. Meanwhile, Sam is busy text-messaging with a secret admirer - unknow to her, the admirer is none other than the school's major hearthrob, a cutie-pie named Austin Ashe (Chad Michael Murray). He also doesn't know the secret of who his "email pal" is - but arranges to meet her at the Halloween Dance. Sam dresses as Cinderella and meets Austin, but before she can reveal the secret of who she is, she is forced to get back to the diner before Midnight or face the wrath of Fiona. Now, Austin has already been seen in previous scenes communicating with Sam, so it's a mystery to me how he doesn't recognize her just 'cause her face has a small white mask on (not to mention recognizing her voice), but, hey, just suspending disbelief on that matter. Anyway, just like in the traditional Cinderella story, now he must try to figure out WHO she is - he meets up with Sam several more times - and STILL doesn't recognize her. Weird. This film was a bit annoying just for the parts with the step-mom and step-sisters, which were over-the-top and silly. But I did enjoy the romance part of this story. And, oh dear, yet another movie with the school three "mean girl" trio - that cliche is starting to wear a bit thin! I also think the ethnic mix at their high school was absurd - come on, almost all white kids at a school in the San Fernando Valley?! This is where I live - no way! Oh well, enjoyed this movie anyway for a bit of "light" entertainment. (3.25 stars)

March 25, 2005 - Watched the recent comedy White Chicks (2004) - Starring the Wayans Brothers as two black FBI agents who are assigned to pick up a couple of stuck-up bimbo blonde "Nicky and Paris Hilton wannabee" heiresses named Brittany and Tiffany Wilson and take them to the big Labor Day weekend at the Hamptons, where they are to be protected from kidnappers. But on the way there they have a small car accident and the girls get SMALL cuts on their faces, so refuse to go. The guys, not wanting to lose their jobs, AMAZINGLY disguise themselves to look exactly like the girls (and it only takes a few hours too!) and go in their place. Hence follows a bunch of silliness with a story that in some ways reminded me of Some Like It Hot (though not as well done). One of the guys is pursued by a man who fancies him/her (just like Joe E. Brown chasing after Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot). The other guy meets a woman he likes, so changes into his male self to try and pursue HER (of course, this woman doesn't realize they are the same person) just like Tony Curtis chasing Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Well, this movie only had a few laughs for me here and there. But I do always enjoy a cross-dressing movie, the two guy/girls kept me quite amused, and the transformation of the Wayans Brothers into "White Chicks" was very well done. (3 stars)

March 22, 2005 - This afternoon watched Troy (2004), epic based on Homer's The Iliad. On a visit to Sparta, handsome Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) falls in love with the beautiful Helen, so brings her back home to Troy with him - causing her husband, the King of Sparta, to start a war between all of Greece and the ancient walled city of Troy. They even convince Achilles, a real hunk / beefcake as played by Brat Pitt, and the most powerful fighter in Greece to fight with them. Loved this. Full of interesting tracking shots including lots of aerial tracking shots showing vast armies, and a neat shot that at first shows one ship, then pulls back and back to show more, and more, and more ancient vessels sailing on the Aegean on their way to war with Troy. This film also has an excellent orchestral score done by one of my current favorites, James Horner. There is also a great performance by Peter O'Toole as the King of Troy. Not to mention the fact that there is one gorgeous hunk after another in this film. Orlando Bloom - swoon! And the guy who plays Prince Hector of Troy, Eric Bana - swoon! Fab. (4 stars)
Later on TCM, saw The Mind Reader (1933), directed by Roy Del Ruth - - Warren William as a carnival shyster who tries every crooked racket he can come up with - passing himself off as a "Painless Dentist", selling "magic hair tonic", etc. - to bilk the suckers out of their money. He isn't having a lot of success until hitting on the idea of becoming a phony mind reader. Calling himself "Chandra the Great", he performs a fake routine, with the help of a couple of crooked buddies. One day he meets a beautiful girl named Sylvia (Constance Cummings), "reads her mind" during one of his performances, then later through a series of circumstances involving a stolen purse, hires her as his secretary. She marries him, completely innocent that he is a cheat, but one day finds out. Chandra the trickster still manages to lie his way out of that one - boy that girl sure is a sap. Anyway, this movie is quite unusual, with interesting plotline and cool slanted photography - plus a great performance by Warren William who really hams it up when he's doing his Chandra routine - love it. (3.75 stars)

March 21, 2005 - Watched two Robert Taylor films from the thirties this morning. First up, His Brother's Wife (1936) - Handsome young Chris (Robert Taylor), a medical researcher and playboy whose odd hobby is collecting stolen hats, meets pretty Rita Wilson (Barbara Stanwyck) one night at a local casino, then spends the whole night out on the town with her, drinking and sharing wisecracks - they really "click". Unfortunately, the happy couple have only ten days together before Chris is set to go to the Tropics for two years to research ticks and help find a cure for "spotted fever". Chris is all set to "cancel" his jungle trip when he realizes he has fallen in love - but in order to pay off a $5,000 gambling debt or go to jail, he must ask his stuffy brother for help. To pay the debt, Chris must agree to Dull-Bro to go ahead with the trip and not shame the family by marrying a girl he met in a gambling hall. To get even, Rita marries the brother (!), then promptly dumps him right after the wedding and disappears. Before you know it though, she's off to the jungle working as a nurse on the tick research project. I was really enjoying this film for the first half, but it really began to drag a bit too long with the spotted fever, jungle stuff going on. Still, with two of my favorite stars - Stanwyck and the GORGEOUS Robert Taylor, it couldn't go too far wrong. Plus, there is LOADS of chemistry between the two stars making it enjoyable to watch. BIG BONUS: who could be better looking than Robert Taylor, as he looked in 1936.(3 stars) - - - >
Unless it's Robert Taylor, in 1937 - swoon. Next up, Personal Property (1937) - Handsome young Raymond (Robert Taylor), a playboy just out of prison for some kind of odd car sale scam, meets Crystal (Jean Harlow) in a nightclub, gorgeous all in white fur and shimmery sheer evening gown. She hates him (so, of course, secretly "LIKES" him), but he follows her around ending up at her house where a debt collector is also knockin' on her door. The debt collector decides to assign Raymond as his "sheriff's assistant" who must live in Crystal's house with her, making sure she doesn't sell off her furniture, skip town, or something like that. Crystal, tryin' to find herself a rich fellow is, by coincidence, engaged to be married to Raymond's stuffy brother. In a quite amusing scene, Raymond pretends to be Crystal's butler when she throws a dinner party for Dull-Bro and his parents, plus assorted guests including a wealthy Englishman with an over-the-top British accent that you can't understand (yet, amusingly, some of the guests understand every word he says). Raymond doesn't let Crystal know he is related to her fiance and parents - fiance and parents don't let Crystal know they know Raymond. This film, by the way, is all meant to take place in England - yet Robert Taylor, meant to be from an English family, puts on NO English accent whatsoever. This is quite a good movie - I have seen it several times before. (3.5 stars)
Enjoy a cocktail - like Robert Taylor, who drinks a Gin Rickey in His Brother's Wife (1936) and a Champagne Cocktail in Personal Property (1937).

March 19, 2005 - The Marriage Circle (1924) - Ernst Lubitsch sex romp about two couples living in Vienna - one happily married, one unhappily married. Professor Stock (Adolph Menjou) is unhappily married to Mizzi (Marie Prevost) - she won't take care of his needs, like darning his socks and folding his clothes (even though there are maids lurking all over the house - why don't they take care of his needs?!). Doctor Franz Braun (Monte Blue) and his wife Charlotte (Florence Vidor) are both very happily married to each other and in love. One morning, Mizzi, a bit of a Vamp, steals a waiting cab from Franz, but agrees that they can "share" the cab - then spends the entire cab ride flirting with him, much to his chagrin. Mizzi is surprised to find out that the man she just tried to seduce is the husband of Charlotte who, by coincidence, is an old friend of hers she has just gone to visit. Meanwhile, Prof. Stock, looking out the window, sees Mizzi get into the cab with Franz and promptly hires a detective to get the dope needed on Mizzi's flings, so he can divorce her. Mizzi next spends the majority of the movie chasing around and trying to seduce poor Franz, who spends most of his time trying to get away from her. A side character, played by Creighton Hale, is meanwhile in love with Charlotte (much to her amusement, it seems - judging by the smirks she gets on her face whenever he's around). The Braun's throw a dinner party and Charlotte gets the mistaken impression that her husband is romantically interested in a pretty blonde dinner guest, and is completely CLUELESS that her "friend" Mizzi is secretly chasing around after her husband. All kinds of mixups ensue. I thought this movie was really good - I was pleasantly surprised, it was much better than I was actually expecting. The DVD for this movie is from Image Entertainment and has a very nice looking print done in a sepia tint. The music is a very good orchestral score done by the Mont Alto Orchestra. (3.75 stars)
This afternoon, I watched Thirteen (2003) - Valley girl and seventh grader, Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), hangs with geek girls but longs to enter the world of the "cool" kids - of main interest is the girl in school considered the "hottest" by the guys, "bad girl" Evie (Nikki Reed). Tracy desperately tries to become friends with Evie but it's not working until she shows Evie she can be "bad" too - by stealing a purse on Melrose Avenue then taking Evie and another girl on a wild shopping spree with the stolen dough. Soon Tracy becomes a VERY troubled teen indeed - hanging with Evie to the exclusion of all others, she changes her entire appearance, gets her tongue and belly pierced, makes out with mainly the black guys at school (except when she and Evie attempt to seduce a twenty-something lifeguard next door), steals clothes, smokes, takes drugs, and worse. Evie, seemingly the more "sophisticated" of the girls, ends up being, if anything, even more troubled than Tracy. Meanwhile Tracy's mom Mel (Holly Hunter), a hippie, recovering alcoholic, single mom hairstylist who seems mainly to dye client's kids hair blue, is trying to cope with having a good teen girl gone bad. This movie was dark, but engaging - the story really held my interest. Plus it had very interesting photography and editing. (3.75 stars)

March 14, 2005 - Watched The Princess Diaries (2001) - Geek Girl Power Movie. About 15-year old geeky girl Amelia "aka Mia" (Anne Hathaway) who lives in San Francisco, and whose goal in life is to be "invisible". Her geek girl gal pal is Lilly (played by Heather Matarazzo, who is so memorable as geek girl Dawn Wiener in Welcome to the Dollhouse) who runs her own cable access show which has a viewing audience of 12. Mia is tormented at school by yet another one of those movie "mean girl" trios - Anna, Lana, and Fontana (are they trying to poke some fun at the movie mean girl trio phenom here?), plus Mia has a crush on school surfer-boy blond "honey" Josh, a real prick. At the same time, Lilly's nice-guy brother has a secret crush on Mia. Mia's long lost grandma comes to town (Julie Andrews) who turns out to be Queen of a tiny European country called Genovia, and she brings with her a HUGE surprise - Mia is Princess of Genovia. But Mia is so socially awkward and clumsy, she has to take "Princess lessons", plus requires a complete beauty makeover - where (of course) she is turned from ugly duckling to gorgeous swan with just a few plucks of the eyebrows and a hair straightening. Of course, the mean girls and guys from school want to benefit from the new-found publicity Mia is now getting, Mia is close to "tempted" by a beach party date with Josh, but luckily Mia sticks by her geek friends after all. Hurrah! I like Mia's darling black and white fat cat in this - "Fat Louie". Nothing great, but still a cute movie. Though I must say they kind of overdo the falling down, breaking things, klutz-girl stuff. No one is THAT clumsy. (3.25 stars)
Tonight - Midnight (1939) - Screwball comedy with Claudette Colbert as Eve Peabody, who arrives one rainy evening in Paris with nothing to her name but the glimmery gold evening dress on her back. Having lost her last dime at the Roulette Wheel in Monte Carlo, she must rely on, let's face it, MEN to pay her way basically. And, well, being Claudette Colbert, it works out for her. Soon after getting off the train, she meets a handsome cab driver named Tibor (Don Ameche) and cuts a deal with him to drive her around town to look for a singing job, where she will pay him "double or nothing" cab fare if she gets a job. They hit every cabaret in town, but no luck. Next thing you know though, she sneaks her way into a fancy dress party using a pawn ticket as her "invitation". She befriends a cad with a wandering eye (John Barrymore), his wife (Mary Astor) with a wandering lust for handsome French men, and Jacques (Francis Lederer), the handsome French man Astor is having an affair with. Barrymore helps Eve pose as a baroness to lure Jacques away from his wife, while at the same time Tibor the cabbie, with the help of just about every cabbie in Paris, is busy scouring the city trying to find Eve. Fell asleep sitting up (!) for part of the middle of this. I've seen this one once or twice before, quite a long time ago though. Quite good movie. Monty Woolley appears in a brief scene as a judge. (3.75 stars)

March 11, 2005 - Tonight watched Father of the Bride (1950) - this is one of those films I usually turn on every time it's shown as it's quite amusing, full of one good scene after another, and, well, I love it. All about the preparations for a big wedding. Elizabeth Taylor as Kay "Kitten" Banks, who has just announced to her parents that she is going to marry "Buckley". Kitten's dad, Stanley Banks (played by Spencer Tracy) is not real happy about the whole idea - particularly spotting the bill for the wedding. He soon learns what it's like to host a wedding including finding out that "an experienced caterer can make you ashamed of your house in fifteen minutes", your old "cutaway" from twenty years ago is unlikely to fit you now (funny scene when he tries on the cutaway and finds THAT out), a wedding cake can be practically as expensive as a down-payment on a house, and the groom's family only have to contribute ONE thing towards the wedding - the groom. Poor Stanley. I like the engagement party scene - where Stanley makes a whole tray of Martini's which no one wants, then spends the whole party in the kitchen making cocktails for the hard-drinkin' guests (one guy even asks for five Mint Juleps!). I also like the scene where Stanley gets sloshed on Martini's when he meets the in-laws for the first time. Spencer Tracy is really funny in this film and pretty much steals every scene he's in. (4 stars)

March 10, 2005 - Two precodes this morning on Turner Classic. First up, Bed of Roses (1933) - about two "bad girls", Lorry (Constance Bennett) and Minnie, who've perfected the loose girl hands on hips, swingin' hip moves walk. Just out of women's prison, they get on a steamboat, get a couple of saps drunk, and steal their money. When confronted by the captain for stealing the dough - Lorry jumps overboard, then is picked up by river cotton barge owner/hunk, Joel McCrea (why is that when someone falls overboard in a movie, there is ALWAYS a nearby fishing boat or some other vessel to rescue them?!). She steals his money too, then leaves. Next Lorry disguises herself as a female newspaper reporter interviewing rich publisher Stephen Paige, gets him drunk, then tricks him into settin' her up in a lavish apartment. But she's still thinkin' about that beefcake of a barge owner - so seeks him out, returns his money, and immediately gets asked out on a date by him (hmmm - is he really that desperate for a woman?). Now what should she do? Stay with boring Publisher Man and live in rich digs - a kept woman, or turn over a new leaf and go with her poor but good-looking Hunk Man? This film was enjoyable, though the reception (could have been my cable, not sure) was fuzzy and the sound was fluky for part of the film. (3 stars)
Then, The Half Naked Truth (1932) - About Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy), small-time carnival barker/huckster, and his hot-tempered Carny girlfriend, a harem-dancing sideshow girl he calls the "Tamale" (played by Lupe Velez). Jimmy cons the local small town hicks into thinking that Lupe's father is one of their fellow townies - the truth of who the man is will be revealed at "that night's show". They take the money from the folks, but get caught - so Jimmy, Lupe, fellow Carny pal Achilles (Eugene Pallette), and Lupe's Chihuahua take it on the lam and end up in New York City. Next Jimmy tries publicity stunts to get parts in a big producer's (Frank Morgan) Follies. Jimmy first passes off Lupe as "Princess Exotica", a Turkish princess. Next is a weird stunt involving a nudist colony where everyone has long ragged hair, beards, and fur Tarzan-style loin cloths. This movie started out okay, but the last third really dragged for me, except did enjoy Lupe Velez singing "Hey Mr. Carpenter". Just so-so. Franklin Pangborn had amusing small parts in both of the films I saw this morning, by the way. (2.75 stars)

March 9, 2005 - This morning I watched Win a Date with Tad Hamilton (2004) - About a girl named Rosalee Futch, who lives in Fraziers Bottom, West Virginia and works at the local Piggly Wiggly, along with her two "best friends", including Pete, a guy in love with "Rosy" since birth - though he's never told her. Tad Hamilton, popular movie star hunk, has a bad rep - so his agent and his manager (both named Richard Levy) come up with a contest to improve his reputation and get him a part in this upcoming film they want for him. Our own Rosalee enters and (of course) WINS a "Date with Tad Hamilton". She is quickly jetted to Hollywood where she is amazed at the sights she sees on the streets (so am I - I've lived in L.A. my whole life and have never seen a high-heeled blonde hitchhiker wearing a skimpy bikini, a small pooch strapped in a fancy car seat, a lemonade stand selling $9 a glass lemonade - or, for that matter, people walking their kids on the streets of Bev Hills, on leashes or not - ah, well). Anyway, she has her date with Tad, says all kinds of silly supposed "small town" stuff like "yikes-a-poo" (or something like that), there seems to be no real connection between the two - yet he amazingly follows her back to Fraziers Bottom 'cause he wants some of her small town girl "goodness" to rub off on him. Hmmmm. Anyway, now all kinds of stuff about Rosalee dating Tad, Tad staying in a local motel he thinks is really crummy (I didn't think the motel looked that bad! A lot better than his "Plastic Palace" back home - a nightmare in blue and white chrome. Yuck. I prefer to live surrounded by wood, books, antiques, and all sorts of vintage "treasures", or as my mom calls it "junk". But, hey, that's just me), Tad buying a local farm (!!), conflict between Tad and Pete (gee, I wonder what will happen there). I thought this film was predictable and kind of boring. A disappointment. I did like the few brief scenes with Nathan Lane as Tad's agent. (2.5 stars)

March 7, 2005 - Tonight on TCM - saw about half of Imitation of Life (1934) before falling asleep on the couch (I blame the dog - when he was younger he used to wake us up at the crack of dawn, now he's a middle-aged hound who likes to sleep in, but I have gotten used to getting up early - so get drowsy very early in the evening, blah). Anyway, I have always liked this film with Claudette Colbert as Bea, a struggling widow and mom of a little girl, who starts a pancake business along with her black maid Delilah (Louise Beavers), who also has a little girl. Later the two young girls grow up, and Delilah's daughter, who is very light skinned, tries to pass as white causing conflict with her mom. Bea and Delilah, after a successful run with a pancake restaurant on the boardwalk, decide to box their product as "Aunt Delilah's Pancake Mix". They become rich - but Delilah still wants to be Bea's maid rather than getting a house of her own (hmmm, I guess only in the 30s, or before, would they make a movie with that plotline!). Anyway, I'm sort of forgetting the details of the later part of this film (since I was asleep for this viewing!) but this IS a very good movie - I like this version better than the later fifties version with Lana Turner. (3.75 stars)

March 6, 2005 - Tonight I managed to stay awake (though drowsed just a tiny bit in the middle) for TCM's Silent Sunday screening of Lorna Doone (1922), a period costume piece about two star-crossed lovers: John - the son of a sheep farmer, and Lorna - daughter of a Countess, who meet for a brief moment in childhood and immediately fall in love. Young John gives Young Lorna his knife to remember him by and so she can protect herself from robbers while traveling on the road. Unfortunately, the knife doesn't seem to help much, 'cause the next thing you know, Lorna's carriage is targeted by a band of BAD highwaymen, the Doones, who kidnap pretty little Lorna to make her a future bride for one of the Doones. Fast forward a few years, now Lorna is a lovely grown-up young lady (now played by Madge Bellamy), living in the Doone enclave. But fortunately for Lorna, the old patriarch of the pack, Sir Ensor Doone, has taken a fancy to her (in a fatherly way) and protects her from the other bad, bad Doone men. Meanwhile, John (now played by John Bowers) has grown into a strong, handsome young man. One day while showing off his strong moves by wrestling with this log in the river, he gets caught in the currents and ends up (of course) right at the Doone complex, where he immediately runs into (of course) Lorna, and remembers her by the knife, which happens to have his name carved in the side. Love strikes again - but soon trouble for the young couple, as Ensor, having deathbed guilt pangs for kidnapping Lorna - restores her to her aristocratic life of old - she is now "A Lady". Oh, what will become of the farmer and the lady now? Well, I thought this film was quite good. The print was tinted and looked nice. This also had a fab score - loved, loved, loved the music in this. I am actually still humming my favorite part of this score, and here it is the next day as I am writing this. Only one thing about the music that was a little off, was kind of odd silent gaps between the five or so different themes that were running through the whole movie, but no big deal. (3.75 stars)

March 4, 2005 - Yet another rainy morning, I actually just love to watch movies when it is raining outside, so watched 50 First Dates (2004) - Adam Sandler as Henry Roth, ladies man (hmmm, Adam Sandler? I really question that) who lives in Hawaii, works at the local "Marineland/Sea World" place, and only dates tourists so he can drop them after he (ya know). One morning, while eating a Spam and eggs breakfast in a local eatery, he meets a cute blonde local girl named Lucy (Drew Barrymore) who's a bit kooky - she likes to build little houses out of her morning waffles. They hit it off, and arrange to meet for breakfast the next day. But when he arrives - she doesn't remember him! Seems a year ago she had a car accident while going with her dad on their annual trip to "pick a pineapple" on dad's b-day, and got a head injury causing her to loose her short term memory. Every morning when Lucy wakes up she thinks it's her dad's birthday all over again and remembers nothing that has happened since the time of the accident. Now Henry comes up with different ways each day to meet Lucy and have her fall for him (sometimes his plan doesn't work) all over again. When this movie first started I thought it seemed pretty dumb, especially some of the gross-out humor like a walrus vomiting all over this character whose sex is unknown (looks like a guy, but has a long Heidi-style braid hooked on top his/her head - weird, eh). Anyway, the movie got better as it progressed, and I ended up liking the movie okay (nothing great). There were even a few laughs here and there. Plus, the oldies soundtrack is quite good. (3 stars)

March 3, 2005 - This morning watched In America (2002) - Taking place in the early 1980's, about an Irish couple, recovering from the recent death of their young son Frankie, who start a new life in New York City, along with their two charming little girls - serious older sister Christy, and adorable little moppet Ariel (played by real life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger). The family moves into a flat on the top floor of a rundown building mostly inhabited by drug addicts. The dad is a struggling actor with somewhat of a bad temper, the mom takes a job in a nearby ice cream parlor called "Heaven" to help make ends meet and soon becomes pregnant. Christy spends most of her time with her camcorder recording life as it happens, and looking at past footage shot. Ariel is a talkative little pixie who quickly befriends everyone in the neighborhood. Both the girls, especially Christy are, like their parents, struggling with coming to terms with the death of their brother. One Halloween night while trick-or-treating in their building, the two girls befriend the stranger on the floor below - a seemingly disturbed African artist named Mateo (Djmon Hounsou) who ends up having a heart of gold and is seriously ill with an AIDS-like illness. A quite moving film, I thought this was terrific. I especially like the scenes and performances of the two young girls, and the film also has a very nice music score. (4 stars)

March 2, 2005 - Tonight I watched To Catch a Thief (1955) on Turner Classic Movies. Cary Grant as a retired cat burglar/jewel thief. But now there is a series of copycat jewel robberies in town, done in his style, and everyone thinks it is him. He meets a rich mother and her daughter, Francie (Grace Kelly) in Monte Carlo - and joins with Francie to "catch" the real thief. Far from my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, but stll pretty good. Lots of nice on-location photography done in the gorgeous French Riviera. I do like the scene with the wild car ride on the cliff roads of Cannes. Seems to me there are several Hitchcock movies I can think of with similar cliff road scenes like that. (3.25 stars)

February 27, 2005 - Oscar day. This morning I watched Maria Full of Grace (2004) - Oscar nominated for Best Actress in tonight's awards, Catalina Sandino Moreno plays Maria, a poor seventeen-year-old Columbian girl who works at a flower plantation taking the thorns off of roses. After she quits her job and becomes pregnant she takes up an offer to take a job as a mule - running drugs to America inside her stomach! I thought the film was quite good, the story was interesting. Kind of gave ME a tummy ache seeing Maria swallowing down all those little (actually, NOT so little) drug pellets. (3.5 stars)

February 26, 2005 - This afternoon I watched Vanity Fair (2004) - Based on the classic novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, a costume drama set in the early part of the 19th century - all about the escapades of social climber Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon). I am one who always enjoys these English period pieces - this was no exception, I enjoyed it, though I prefer my costume dramas with quite a bit more romance than this one has (you know, that Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy or "Heathcliff and Cathy" sort of thing). This film was mainly impressive for it's extremely LAVISH costumes and art direction - good job there! (3.5 stars)

February 25, 2005 - Watched The Prince and Me (2004) - all about Edward (Luke Mably) - he's young, he's handsome, he's a playboy, and he's the Crown Prince of Denmark. Tired of being Prince, he moves to Wisconsin (inspired by his viewing on TV of "Wisconsin College Girls Gone Wild" or something like that) and enrolls in University incognito as an exchange student named "Eddie". He is accompanied by his valet, who amusingly passes himself off as a student, though still tending to the Prince's "needs" like ironing his boxers and preparing him eggs benedict on a dorm room hot plate. Eddie soon meets a pretty pre-med student named Paige (Julia Stiles) and, while they don't hit it off to begin with, are clearly headed for romance. Soon love strikes, but she doesn't know he's a Prince! Well, this movie is very, very romantic - I loved it. I would give this 4 stars but am giving it a little less, as I wasn't completely happy with the way this ended. (3.75 stars)
Tonight watched half of Rain Man (1988) before I fell asleep on the couch (gee, I used to stay up 'til 2 in the morning, now I can barely make it past nine some nights - of course, I used to sleep in 'til noon). I have only seen this film one time before, when it first came out - so can't rate this today, as I don't remember the whole story. But I think I can say - if I ordered all the Best Picture Oscar winners from first to last place (now there's an idea for a new list!), Rain Main would definitely be close to the bottom end somewhere.

February 23, 2005 - Today watched The Rose Tattoo (1955) - starring Anna Magnani as Serafina, a VERY emotional Sicilian woman who has a beloved husband with a rose tattoed on his chest. When her husband is killed during a smuggling incident, she becomes a complete wreck, unable to recover. Three years later, she is still worshipping his ashes that she keeps on her mantle - she won't get dressed, she yells at her annoying neighbor ladies, yells at her pretty teenage daughter, Rosa, and goes pretty much crazy when she finds out that a woman in town may have had a year-long affair with her husband, and tattooed herself with a rose tattoo on her breast, in honor of her "lover". But soon Serafina meets an oafish, loud, obnoxious, goofball, "clown" (hey, even she calls him that) truck driver (Burt Lancaster) who reminds her of her dead husband (the body only!). He is quickly in hot pursuit of Serafina, and although she yells somewhat at him too - he soon brings a little bit of life back into her. Now I question how Serafina can stand to be around this annoying pumpkinhead, but whatever. Anna Magnani does a great job playing Serafina, and certainly was a deserving Best Actress winner for this role. (3.75 stars)

February 21, 2005 - Another rainy, rainy day - watched two of my very favorite talkies of all time - in the morning I watched 42nd Street (1933), a great pre-code backstage musical. Jones and Barry are puttin' on a show - "Pretty Lady" - and all the chorus girls and boys are tryin' out. Cute, wide-eyed innocent Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) is on hand to try out for her very first show, the other gals are mean, but soon she has made friends with the juvenile (Dick Powell) and experienced, wisecracking, blondie showgirls Ann aka "Anytime Annie" (Ginger Rogers) and Lorraine aka Lollie (Una Merkel). In this show, apparently dancing ability is much less important than looks - as the first step in the choosing process for this show is having all the girls show their legs. Soon forty girls have been picked - of course, our three girls are chosen, and rehearsals begin. Later, when the lead actress for the show (Bebe Daniels) breaks her ankle, it's up to Peggy to take on the lead and "come back a star". This movie is full of GREAT musical numbers with that classic Busby Berkeley touch. Love "Young and Healthy", "Shuffle Off to Buffalo", and, of course, "42nd Street". I also really love Ruby Keeler - she isn't the greatest of dancers (or singers, for that matter) - but she makes up for it with pure "likeability". What a great movie - I could watch this over and over again - and do. (4 stars)
This afternoon watched Wuthering Heights (1939) based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte. Romantic story of Cathy - she wants "dancing and singing in a pretty world" but loves stable boy Heathcliff - he loves Cathy, so lets himself get "kicked around like a dog" by Cathy's meanie brother just to be near her. All takes place in their big, sometimes gloomy estate Wuthering Heights, plus nearby rich manor house Thrushcross Grange where dull brother and sister duo, Edgar and Isabella Linton live, the wild Yorkshire moors, the heather (hey, I picked myself a piece of heather years ago when touring the Yorkshire moors, all 'cause of this movie. I still have it somewhere), and a "castle" near Penistone Crag. Great one - I LOVE this movie - have seen it many, many times. One of my ten favorite talkies. (4 stars)

February 20, 2005 - Two Lon Chaney silents on the same DVD. First up, well done silent version of Dicken's classic story of workhouse orphan Oliver Twist (1922). Jackie Coogan comes across as a very charming Oliver, and Lon Chaney is so heavily made up as twisted old long-bearded Fagin, he is mostly just recognizable by his hands, eyes, and mannerisms. The print on this DVD, from Image Entertainment, was tinted and looked nice, the music was a decent organ score. (3.5 stars)
Then second movie up was The Light of Faith (1922) - A love triangle about a young girl, Elaine, who arrives at a boarding house, almost penniless. Tony (Lon Chaney) lives at the boarding house and quickly falls for her - but she has escaped a mysterious past and her love, 5th Avenue rich boy J. WarBurton Ashe. WarBurton, while on a hunting trip in England, believes he has found the Holy Grail. Elaine relates the legend of the Holy Grail to Tony (seen acted out) - then when Elaine falls sick, Tony seeks out to steal the Holy Grail from WarBurton, as it is supposed to bring cures to the ill. This movie was okay - mostly notable for lots of interestingly photographed scenes. Plus, an absolutely GORGEOUS tinted print, and nice piano score with selections by Mozart, Brahms, etc. (3.25 stars)

February 19, 2005 - Saw Ray (2004) - new bio-pic about the life of Ray Charles. This is up for an Oscar for Best Picture next week. I thought it was pretty good, as bio-pics go. (3.5 stars)

February 17, 2005 - A rainy afternoon today - I watched Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004). Teenager Mary who goes by the name of Lola (Lindsay Lohan) has just moved from New York City to Dellwood, New Jersey, much to her dismay. Being a young "drama queen", Lola indulges in a bit of a fantasy life, wants to be an actress, and dreams of her favorite rock star Stu Wolff (Adam Garcia), lead singer of the band Sidarthur. On the first day in her new high school she immediately becomes best friends with blonde geek girl Ella, a girl who coincidentally also loves Sidarthur. At school there is also the expected trio of "mean girls" lead by brunette Queen Bee Carla, a major bitch. Lola soon gets the lead in the school play (much to Carla's dismay, since she wanted the part) playing Eliza Doolittle in an updated musical version of Pygmalion called "Eliza Rocks". Meanwhile, it is announced that Sidarthur is breaking up and will have one "final" concert - the girls MUST go! Via Carla's dad, Carla's girl trio have tickets plus invites to an after-concert party at Stu's loft. Lola and Ella come up with a scheme to get themselves to NYC, get scalper tickets, then sneak into the party after. Nothing is going right until by chance they befriend a drunken Stu. Very enjoyable - with lots of really good music throughout (I especially like the song "Don't Move On" sung by Adam Garica in the closing credits). I may as well admit, I am really a sucker for these sort of teen movies - I thought this movie was a lot of fun. Interestingly, I thought the character of Lola seemed sort of like a modern-day version of Anne of Green Gables. She thinks the name Mary is dull, and prefers to be called "Lola" - Anne thinks her name is dull, and asks to be called "Cordelia". Both Anne and Lola are their day's version of a "drama queen". Lola immediately finds a "kindred spirit" in Ella, as Anne has her Diana. And both have red hair! (3.5 stars)

February 13, 2005 - This morning I watched a silent on DVD - Sparrows (1926). Mary Pickford as Molly, a young girl who lives as a prisoner at a "baby farm" in the swamps, along with a bunch of ragamuffin orphans, mean old ogre Mr. Grimes, his hag wife, and their bratty son Ambrose (Spec O'Donnell). The kids all must live in a barn in tattered clothes, work the vegetable patch, and hide whenever someone visits the farm. One day a new baby girl arrives - an adorable curly-haired blonde moppet just kidnapped out the window of her rich mansion by Mr. Grimes "partners". When Grimes reads in the papers that the cops are onto the kidnappers, he makes plans to throw the kidnapped baby into the swamp to be sucked into the quicksand-like mud. Molly loves this little baby (who now calls her "Mama Molly") and leads the kids on an escape through the swamps with the baby on her back, and tons of alligators snapping at their heels. The ending of this movie is predictable - just what you would want to happen. I like this movie, but it is far from being one of my favorite Mary Pickford films. The music in this is a decent organ score that suits the movie, the print looks nice. The DVD is from Milestone, and includes the D.W. Griffith directed short film Wilful Peggy (1910) - 18th century costume piece with Mary as a peasant girl who marries a Lord (even though she doesn't seem to really want to), then flirts and cavorts with his nephew, including dressing herself as a man to accompany the nephew to a nearby inn where she drinks ale and fights him off with a chair. Plus the DVD also includes the D.W. Griffith directed film The Mender of Nets (1912) - starring two of my favorites, Mary Pickford and Mabel Normand, as two girls who are rivals for the attentions of a handsome young cad fisherman. This film is nicely photographed, including on-location seaside shots. (3.25 stars for Sparrows; 3 stars for each of the D.W. Griffith films)

February 11, 2005 - This morning it was pouring rain - I watched The Butterfly Effect (2004). Twilight Zone-like science fiction story involving time travel. Starring Ashton Kutcher as Evan, a guy who had lots of childhood blackouts and bad incidents, mostly involving a young blonde white trash girl (who he has a crush on), her psychotic brother (no doubt, a future serial killer), and their perverted father (Eric Stoltz in an unusual role for him) who films the kids in "naked films". Evan finds a way to go back to the past and alter things that happened (in an effort to change what happens in the future) by reading his childhood journals and altering the memories (and giving himself lots of nose-bleeds resulting from his mental trips back in time). I thought this was a pretty good movie, although a touch more violent than I would like. I always enjoy movies or TV shows involving time travel, preserving or altering the space-time continuum, etc. (3.25 stars)
Tonight watched Cold Mountain (2003) - A Civil War romance about a quiet (and handsome!) young man named Inman (Jude Law) who meets new gal in town Ada (Nicole Kidman), a minister's daughter and Southern belle. They barely get a chance to enchange two words (but they DO exchange a rather passionate kiss) when war is declared and Inman goes off to fight for the Confederacy. Then the majority of the film is spent by wounded deserter Inman treking through forests, and rivers, and towns, trying to get back to Cold Mountain and Ada, who he has spent the whole war dreaming of. She too has been waiting and dreaming of him, and spends the whole war writing him letters of devotion, most of which he never receives. Meanwhile, her father dies and she needs someone to help her tend the farm - soon a wild, big-mouthed mountain girl named Ruby (Renee Zellweger) is living with her and setting her straight on the ways of the world. I enjoyed this movie, but I would have liked it a lot better with a little less violence, and a little more romance. I mean, I realize this is a movie about war and it is going to contain a certain amount of violence, which I don't mind when it fits with the story (hey, I absolutely love the movie Glory (1989), also a Civil War movie, and it has a ton of violent scenes). But this went way beyond just the violence of wartime. (3.25 stars)

February 10, 2005 - Tonight watched Philadephia (1993) - With Tom Hanks as a homosexual lawyer who works at a top Philadelphia law firm where he is one of their prize young hotshot lawyers. However, he is soon fired for reasons that he comes to believe are simply this - they have found out at his firm that he has AIDS. He hires Denzel Washington to defend him when he brings suit against the firm - the firm hires a real ballbuster bitch (Mary Steenburgen) for their defense, and the better part of this film is then the courtroom drama as it plays out. This is a really great movie. Love. (4 stars)

February 7, 2005 - This morning I watched Monster (2003) - Wow, good movie. True story about female serial killer Aileen Wuornos, played by Charlize Theron in one of the best performances by an actor I've seen - she was totally transformed into this character. (4 stars)

February 6, 2005 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Unusual movie about a shy guy (Jim Carrey) who meets a kooky girl named Clementine (Kate Winslet) at the train station, they connect and she invites herself to spend the night at his place. Suddenly the movie takes a new course as it seems these two have met and dated before. This movie is about a weird Twilight Zone-like concept of a business that erases a person out of your memory for a fee. I did think this movie was quite different than anything I've seen, it had some interesting special effects, and I always like Kate Winslet - but as far as how good it was, well, I was a bit disappointed in this as I heard it was quite good. I did enjoy it, but nothing super special. (3.25 stars)

February 4, 2005 - Today - Picnic (1955). Movie that takes place all in one 24-hour period - a small Kansas town is having a Labor Day picnic and the whole town is going. A new guy arrives in town, a tan beefcake named Hal (William Holden). He soon meets up with two sisters, tomboy bookworm Millie (Susan Strasberg), a Jennifer Jason Leigh lookalike, and her older sister Madge (Kim Novak), known as "the pretty sister", she works at the five and dime and spends a lot of time primping her hair and looking in the mirror. Hal was once a frat brother of rich boy in town, Alan (Cliff Robertson), who happens to be dating pretty Madge. Everyone goes to the picnic, and all kinds of fun ensues - three-legged races, pie-eatin' contests, you name it - including the highlight of the day apparently for this town - the crowning of the Neewollah queen (Halloween backwards) who ends up being Madge (of course). In a very odd ceremony, the queen floats down the river with her crown of gold upon her head, and the whole town chants and waves their hands in a bizarre sort of ritual. Some weird stuff going on there. Madge has developed a bit of a crush on Hal, and spends most of the picnic drooling over him from afar (well, she IS there with her "date", Alan). When Hal sees her floating down the river in all her glory (combined with the fact he has been drinking quite a bit of whiskey) he is overcome by her beauty, and soon the two are together dancing a romantic dance, kissing, and more. Good movie - and I like the theme music running through the movie. (3.75 stars)
Tonight I watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) - Kate Hudson plays Andie Anderson, a girl who works for Composure, a "Cosmopolitan"-like magazine, as their "How-to" girl. Her newest project is to write an article "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" so she picks up a sucker named Ben (Matthew McConaughey) in a bar, to date then "lose" in ten days. But what she doesn't know is that he has just made a bet himself - he must seduce a girl and make her fall in love with him in ten days. So while she is doing everything she can think of to drive a guy away - clinging, naming "it" (ya, know) Princess something or other, etc. - he puts up with everything. Pretty silly movie, I was expecting better from this one. (2.75 stars)

February 2, 2005 - This morning watched The Spiral Staircase (1946) - a murder mystery set in a manor house full of a variety of characters including sickly old dame of the manor (Ethel Barrymore), her step-son - a dull professor (George Brent), his wildish half-brother, a pretty secretary (who the brother is having an affair with), a visiting doctor, a drunken kitchen maid (Elsa Lanchester) who downs a whole bottle of Brandy in one afternoon, an oafish nurse resigned to sitting in the hallway (the old dame hates her) rather than performing her nursing duties, a burly manservant, and a mute girl named Helen (Dorothy McGuire) who loves the doctor. Seems there is a serial killer in town who mainly kills young girls with "imperfections". But wait! - there's a mute girl in the house - will he kill her before he gets caught?! It's stormy like crazy, the house is only lit by candlelight (well, it IS the early 1900's), and there's lots of spiral staircases and shadowy hallways in the house where a stranger could be lurking. Fun movie - I like this kind of stuff, sort of reminds me of all those Agatha Christie books I love to read, with big old manor houses full of characters including the "mystery" murderer. I last saw this movie quite a few years ago - so didn't remember the details of the plot at all. (3.5 stars)

February 1, 2005 - Today watched Camille (1936) on TCM. The reception was a bit fluky during the first half of the movie, but I watched anyway 'cause I love this movie. Greta Garbo plays Marguerite Gautier - despite being very sickly, this girl lives an extravagant lifestyle in Paris circa mid-1800's, building up huge debts, and partying with a group of loud, wild, dirty joke-telling, drunken friends. Plus she loves Camelias - and buys herself some every day (or lets a man buy them for her). While at the theater one night she meets an extremely HANDSOME man named Armand Duval (played by the extremely HANDSOME Robert Taylor) who is poor, but, well, he is extremely handsome, so she is extremely interested in him (not to mention the fact that when she first meets him she mistakenly thinks he is a rich Baron). She is immediately set straight that he is not the Baron, and then meets the real Baron that same night, who soon is "dating" her. But Armand keeps coming around to see her, and they are soon in love. BUT Armand only has 7,000 francs a year - and her LATEST debt is 40,000 francs. What should she do - stick with the rich Baron (a bit of a cretin) or go with love and the beautiful Armand?! Love this movie. And - swoon! - I am crazy about Robert Taylor - I have got to say he is the prettiest "pretty boy" of all-time. (4 stars)

January 29, 2005 - This afternoon I watched Something's Gotta Give (2003) - Jack Nicholson plays Harry Sanborn, a never married, sixty-three year old man who only dates girls at least thirty years his junior. His latest fling, less than thirty-year old Marin, invites him to her family's beach house for the weekend. But unknown to the "young couple", Marin's mom Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), a famous playwright, and Marin's aunt (Frances McDormand) have also decided to spend the weekend there. The four decide to go ahead and share the house for the weekend, and, of course, the two older ladies find the old pervert pretty annoying. Next thing you know, though, he has a heart attack while fooling around with his young girlfriend. Now he has to stay there to recover, and ends up being cared for by Erica. Soon Harry and Erica start to click together after all, but meanwhile Erica is also being pursued (lucky girl!) by the hunk of a young doctor (Keanu Reeves) who treated Harry's heart attack and is twenty years her junior. Gosh, I never really went for Keanu Reeves in other movies I've seen him in, but he looked really gorgeous in this one. Hmmm - looks like another new crush for me. And this was a really good movie - started slightly slow, but I really got into it. Loved. (4 stars)
Then this evening I saw Along Came Polly (2004) - a kind of dumb movie about Reuben Feffer (Ben Stiller), a boring guy who works as a risk assessor for an insurance company, and has just married a bimbo named Lisa. While on their honeymoon Lisa leaves him for a naked French scuba diving instructor. Soon Reuben and his pal Sandy, an ex-child-star famous as a one-movie-hit wonder, are at an art opening and meet Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston), a girl they knew in junior high. Reuben asks her out, and they are really a mismatch from the start. She is a flake girl who is constantly on the move traveling from place to place around the world, loves ethnic restaurants and salsa dancing, and owns a blind pet ferret. He hates dancing, hates spicy food, hates germs, has irritable bowel syndrome, and is about as dull a guy as you could meet. Most of the comedy in this film is of the bathroom humor variety, and really, I only got a few laughs out of this. Mostly pretty darn silly. (2.5 stars)

January 28, 2005 - A rainy morning, watched That Uncertain Feeling (1941) on TCM. About Jill Baker (Merle Oberon) and Larry Baker (Melvyn Douglas), a couple married for six-years, so known as the "Happy Bakers". Larry is a boring insurance salesman, more interested in entertaining potential clients than being with his wife. Jill is a gal who spends three hours at Elizabeth Arden to get herself fixed up for dinner at home with Larry (who doesn't seem to notice), and finds she gets the hiccups when she is nervous or upset. Because of her hiccup problem she decides, of all things, to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist seems like a bit of a quack to me, as he attempts to reach her "inner self" and within a few hours has convinced Jill that her marriage is no good. Soon Jill meets an "angry young man" in the waiting room of Doctor's office, Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith) - an eccentric pianist who has a fear of performing in front of people, fancies himself a sort of junior art critic, and has a pretty negative attitude in general. He doesn't seem like much of a catch to me, but they strike up a friendship and before you know it - Jill is ready to divorce Larry for Alexander. Now this all sounds like a pretty serious drama, but it's not. It's an Ernst Lubitsch comedy - and not a very good one. This movie has it's moments, but in general I found it more boring than entertaining. (2.75 stars)

January 27, 2005 - Watched Super Size Me (2004), an interesting documentary about McDonald's and obesity in America. All about a guy who does this experiment where he eats three meals a day at McDonald's for a month - including a rule to always super-size his order, when asked. He ends up gaining something like 27 pounds and almost wrecks his liver! I personally LOVE McDonald's - but I only eat there about twice a year (guess that's a good thing, huh). (3.75 stars)

January 24, 2005 - This afternoon I watched Mystic River (2003) - a murder mystery set in Boston, involving three men who were friends in childhood. The first, Jimmy (Sean Penn), has a nineteen year old daughter who is murdered. The second, Sean (Kevin Bacon), is the cop out to solve the crime of the murder. The third friend is Dave (Tim Robbins), a guy who is an emotional wreck since a childhood abduction and sexual abuse incident in which he was kidnapped while his two buddies watched him being driven away. This film kept me on the edge of my seat - I thought it was great. (4 stars)
Tonight saw a silent on TCM - The Ace of Hearts (1921). Lon Chaney plays Mr. Farallone, a guy who is part of a weird group called The Brotherhood - a group who has just researched and then decided by vote on "Death" for a person known as "The Man Who Has Lived Too Long" (a man who has great power but has done wrong to the world nonetheless). The Brotherhood chooses which Brotherhood member is going to put the bad man to death by cutting cards - whoever is dealt the "ace of hearts" has to kill him, even if it means a risk of death to themselves when performing the assasination (as it is, the chosen one has to kill him via explosion). Meanwhile Farallone and another member of The Brotherhood named Forrest, both love the one girl in the group, named Lilith (Leatrice Joy). When Forrest is the man to draw the ace of hearts, she agrees to marry him (!!). Now, I can't really see what it is about this girl that makes these two like her so much - she seems like a real cold fish, admits that she cares nothing about love and the only thing important to her is "The Cause", and then is willing to marry whichever man has drawn the ace of hearts (her hero now, I guess, since he will be performing the ultimate sacrifice for the Cause). Hmmm, perhaps these two guys don't meet a lot of women or something?! This film has a score done by the first winner of TCM's young composer competition and I thought the music was quite good for this, went really well with the movie. And the movie was quite good too. Lon Chaney is one of my favorites (and seriously, I think he's quite a heartthrob). (3.5 stars)

January 21, 2005 - Watched 13 Going On 30 (2004) - It's 1987, and 13-year old Jenna longs to be part of the "Six Chicks" pack of stuck-up "mean girls", plus has a crush on the cute surfer-boy blond guy, Chris Grandy. Jenna's best friend (and the "boy-next-door") is Matt, slightly pudgy but still kind of cute, and a really nice guy who is in love with Jenna. She treats him like crap, and on her 13th birthday, the mean girls and guys trick her into the closet, blind-folded, for a fake game of "seven minutes in heaven" in which she thinks her "crush" Chris is due in the closet to make-out. When he doesn't show, she makes a wish that she was thirty years old (as in "Thirty, Flirting, and Thriving", an article from her fave magazine "Poise"), and in one of those premises in movies like this that you just "must accept" for the movie to make sense, some "wishing dust" falls on her head (a b-day gift from "Mattie") and suddenly she is forward in the future to 2004 and is thirty years old (now played by Jennifer Garner) - but inside she is still thirteen! This is really a movie about what her life has become if she sticks on the path she is on - ya know, hanging with "mean girls", treating her best friend like dirt, etc. I enjoyed the movie, though nothing great here. Lots of good music from the 80s though. (3 stars)

January 20, 2005 - Mean Girls (2004) - Cady (Lindsay Lohan), a girl from Africa who has been home-schooled her entire life starts high school at a public school for the first time. She is slightly geeky, but very pretty - and soon makes friends with two artsy types - gay, pudgy Damian and goth girl Janis. They quickly dish the dirt to her on all the school cliques - of which there are many. One clique of big interest to them all (and to all in the school) is the one they call The Plastics - beautiful stuck-up trio of "mean girls", comprised of "Queen Bee" Regina George, and the two "Wannabees" - gossipy brunette Gretchen and blonde bimbo Karen. When The Plastics spot Cady in the lunch room they quickly invite her to their table, as they spot her as a fellow "pretty girl". She gets invited to "eat with them for a week" and her friends Damian and Janis say she should do it, just to spy on Regina and make fun of her later. Cady does it. She has to wear pink the very next day as Plastics "always" wear pink on Wednesday. The Plastics have all kinds of rules and fitting into "girl world" is a lot of work for Cady - but she goes with it including one ponytail day per week, asking the other Plastics for advice on clothes, and NOT dating another Plastic's ex. Well, Cady soon falls for "man candy" Aaron, who turns out to be Regina's ex - but not for long, as Regina, being a mean girl, soon steals Aaron back just 'cause Cady likes him. Cady and pals now set out to "get even" with Regina. I thought this movie was quite good - and pretty amusing too. One thing I'm thinking - I can right off the bat think of three other movies with that same kind of trio of mean girls - composed of three mini-skirted "bitch" girls, lead by a blonde, the other two being one blonde and one brunette. The movies I'm thinking of are: The Hot Chick (2002), Never Been Kissed (1999), and Heathers (1989). Perhaps the original mean girl trio is actually the three from Bev Hills 90210 - hmmm?! Funny thing though - this movie is called "Mean Girls" and I didn't think they were nearly as mean as the girls in the other movies. They're mostly just mean to each other, rather than mean to other kids (except for mean stuff written in their "Burn Book"). But probably that is the point of this movie, right?! (3.75 stars)

January 10, 2005 - Pouring rain again - this morning watched a pretty bad b-movie Four Jacks and a Jill (1942) - Ray Bolger as Nifty, a guy who plays in a four-piece band with sequined girl singer "Four Jacks and a Queen" in a basement club called "Mike's Tavern" (or something like that). Since the band is only paid 20 "clams", apparently for the WHOLE group, the four guys all live together in one tiny flat. Nifty soon meets cute, young, but homeless it seems, girl singer Karanina aka "Nina" (Anne Shirley) on the streets, and before you know it, she ends up taking over the main bedroom in their tiny quarters and the guys have to sleep in chairs and in small beds with each other. This movie then has all sorts of implausible hard-to-follow stuff going on (with a few mostly not very good musical numbers thrown in) including run-ins with a softie gangster who loves the "Queen" of their group, and Desi Arnaz as a taxi driver pretending to be a king. The worst part is: the guys do a fairly cute number called the "Boogie Woogie Conga" (best part of the movie, though that's not saying much) and Desi Arnaz ISN'T in it! In fact, he doesn't sing at all in this film except very briefly in a throw-away scene at the very end. Blah. (2 stars)

January 9, 2005 - Watched Sunday in New York (1963), movie that all takes place during one rainy Sunday in New York - the perfect movie to watch on a rainy Sunday in L.A.! Jane Fonda as Eileen, "the world's only 22-year old virgin" (who has just had a big fight with her fellow back home over this fact), and who is now torn with this dilemma - should she or shouldn't she? (ya know, sleep with a guy BEFORE marriage). She has just arrived in New York City by surprise to stay for a week with her airline pilot brother Adam (Cliff Robertson), a guy who lives in a swingin' bachelor pad with built-in bar, cool loft, fur (almost shag-looking) rug, and stereo ready to seduce any young lady he might bring around. He does have one "main" girl it seems - red-haired Mona, a girl "really" anxious to spend Sunday at the pad with her bachelor sweetie, but everything gets messed up with the arrival of Eileen (and Adam and Mona spend the whole movie trying to "get together"). Eileen, meanwhile, soon meets Mike Mitchell (Rod Taylor) when her pin gets caught on his jacket on a 5th Avenue bus. They hit it off very badly during a coffee break at Rockefeller Center, but believe it or not, immediately meet up again on another bus - and later end up in a huge rain storm (even though they are on a boat just shortly before this with completely blue skies above) and she takes him back to her bro's pad to dry out. Next thing you know, they are drinking scotch and she decides that her "virgin" days are over. Nothing happens, but they end up in robes, the fiance from back home bursts through the door, confusion ensues as he thinks Mike is Adam, swingin' bro Adam comes home and must now pretend he is Mike. Yeah - pretty good stuff, quite amusing too. Love this movie - watch it fairly often, it has a really good score running through it by Peter Nero (who also appears playing piano in a scene at "Club Nero"), and I love movies filmed in New York City (and hubby likes this one too, so he watched with - and it is SO hard to get him to watch a movie with me!). (4 stars)
This evening watched an old fave Portrait of Jennie (1948) - terrifically romantic; it is also my mom's stated favorite movie of all time. About struggling New York artist Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) who paints landscapes, can't really sell them, but meets up with the owners of an art shop (Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway) who encourage him to paint portraits instead. Soon he meets a mysterious little girl in Central Park named Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones). He is mesmerized and later draws a sketch of her. He accidently keeps meeting up with her each time he goes to the park - and each time he sees her, she is mysteriously older than the last time. They are soon in love, he's found the model he's been looking for and he masterfully paints her portrait - but the mystery of who she is, why her clothes seem out of the past, and why she ages every few days remains. Have always loved this movie - it has great, haunting music by Debussy running throughout the film, and there is even a bit part played by Lillian Gish. The film is nicely photographed in black and white with a kind of gauze-look during some parts to make the scenes look like a painting, and the last scene, a shot of "The Portrait of Jennie", is filmed in Technicolor. (4 stars)

January 7, 2005 - A stormy day - watched Wings (1927) this morning, first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Clara Bow as Mary Preston, small-town girl who loves the boy-next-door Jack Powell (Buddy Rogers) who loves city girl Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston) who loves rich boy David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) who loves Sylvia back. WWI - the guys enlist as flyboys and soon our story takes us from ground school (where our two fellows, who aren't getting along 'cause they both love Sylvia, "bond" during boxing practice) - to overseas dawn patrol where their first flight takes them into battle against a German ace and his "flying circus" - to fighting a Gotha. Mary signs up too - and ends up overseas herself driving a supply truck. When the guys are given leave and end up in Paris at the Folies Bergere, word is sent that the "Big Battle" is coming and all leaves are cancelled. Mary tries to get Jack out of the Folies (and out of the arms of a loose Folies girl) but he is drunk on champagne (and instead of "pink elephants" all Jack sees are bubbles flying out of everything!). With the help of the bathroom attendant, Mary borrows a dress from the dancers wardrobe and seduces her cutie-pie into a room (where he promptly passes out). She is caught naked in the room (just changing back into her uniform, but misunderstood!), and is sent home for good. While there are a bit too many flying battle scenes in this for my personal taste (seems like at least half the movie is midair dogfight scenes), this is still a great movie and has lots of neat photography. Love an early scene with Sylvia and David on a swing, the scene with the black shadow of a plane going over the landscape below, and the neat tracking shot through the tables of people at the Folies Bergere ending at the drunken table of Jack, David, and friends. A young Gary Cooper appears in a brief scene as White, a veteran flyboy who shares Jack and David's overseas quarters. The organ score on my copy is done by Gaylord Carter and is quite good. (4 stars)

January 6, 2005 - This morning I saw a pretty good blackmail/murder mystery The Unguarded Hour (1936) on TCM. Franchot Tone and Loretta Young as Sir Alan and Lady Dearden. Alan is about to be appointed attorney general, but unfortunately for him he once in his youth wrote love letters to a gal named Diana, who later married a "blaggart" who is now trying to blackmail Lady Dearden for the letters in exchange for 2,000 pounds. When Lady Dearden is making the "drop" on the white cliffs of Dover, she passes by a man on the path who is warning his wife not to go near the edge. When a few days later it is in all the papers that the man murdered his wife by pushing her off the cliffs - Lady Dearden is now the "phantom mystery witness" who can save him from the gallows. But if she appears to help the man, it will come out about her husband and the letters, thus ruining his career. Oh, what should she do? (And there's another mystery - why will it ruin his career? It's mentioned that he wrote the letters years before he married Lady Dearden, so what's the big deal?!) Anyway, a pretty good movie. And dare I say, that Franchot Tone certainly has IT. (3.25 stars)

January 5, 2005 - Tonight watched The Emperor's Club (2002) on DVD. Most of the movie is set in the 1970's - Kevin Kline as Mr. Hundert, a Classics teacher in an exclusive prep school for boys. The big event of each school year is the annual "Julius Caesar" competition - a series of ancient history essay quizzes followed by an onstage finale between the top three scorers to compete for the award. A new boy arrives at school named Sedgewick Bell. He is the troubled and ignored son of a well-known senator - and causes all kinds of mischief in class, until Mr. Hundert decides to take him under his wing and push him into trying for the Julius Caesar contest. This is a very, very good movie. Love the score too. I might as well say, I can't actually think of a boarding school movie that I didn't like. (3.75 stars)

January 4, 2005 - Rain again today. This morning I watched one of my fave old MGM musicals which I used to watch a lot, but haven't seen in recent years - Best Foot Forward (1943). Young cadet at Winsocki military academy, Bud Hooper, has written a fan letter to Lucille Ball (who plays herself) asking her to attend his commencement prom with him. Her agent thinks it would be great publicity for her "fading career" so she accepts. Bud tells his regular girl, Helen Schlesinger (Virginia Weidler), he is sick so he can take Lucy to the dance instead of her (and, of course, Helen soon arrives to nurse her "ailing fellow"). Lucy has to go to the dance under Helen's name 'cause that is the name given to the faculty for approval. Bud and his two goofball pals, Hunk and Dutch, then spend their time at the dance trying to keep the other guys away from Lucy (who's dress, of course, is eventually torn off by the wild pack of schoolkid souvenir hunters), and the faculty from seeing that a movie star is at the dance instead of Helen. This movie has some great musical numbers and even features Harry James playing at the dance. I especially LOVE the 3 B's "Barrelhouse, Boogie-Woogie, and the Blues" number done by June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, and Nancy Walker . Fab! (4 stars)
Tonight watched my DVD (along with hubby) of Pretty in Pink (1986) - another one of those high school John Hughes movies from the 80s that I love. Andrew McCarthy as rich, preppy guy Blane who loves a girl from the "wrong side of the tracks", Andie (Molly Ringwald). Andie wears cool, pink, retro-look outfits she puts together herself from old clothes and scraps, works in a record store, and has a best guy "pal" named Duckie (Jon Cryer) who is in love with her. Blaine hangs out with the rich jerks of the school including a real "ass" (how else can I put it?!) named Steff (James Spader) who apparently spends a lot of time with his blow dryer making that perfect blonde feathered hair look and who is hot for Andie himself (but has been turned down by her for the whole four years of high school). So when Blane asks Andie out, his jerk pal tries to keep them apart by telling Blane she is a loser. Now - why in movies do people always seem to listen to their jerk friends when deciding on who to date? Anyway, Blane and Andie must now work through all the problems presented by their "chums" and try to make this work (will he take her to the prom or won't he?). I always enjoy watching this movie - it has great music in it too (the song "Pretty in Pink" was and still is one of my fave songs from the 80s). (3.75 stars)

January 3, 2005 - Another rainy day - this morning watched Cain and Mabel (1936) - Marion Davies as Mabel O'Dare - a waitress who takes pity on a hungry patron, gives him some eggs, then gets fired, only to have him suddenly come up with this bright idea - become her publicity agent and get her into a show as singer or dancer, despite having no experience other than being taught a few dance steps by her flat-footed aunt. It works - through a series of circumstances that could never happen in the real world - within a day Mabel ends up with the lead role as dancer in the upcoming broadway show "Words and Music". Mabel is awful but practice makes perfect, I guess, and for some reason they decide to rent a hotel room to practice her dance steps all night long. In the floor below is heavyweight boxer Larry Cain (Clark Gable) who is mad as can be - with a fight the next day he can't sleep - so he goes up to Mabel's room and demands quiet. Of course, she refuses, shoves him out the door, and now the two of them HATE each other. Mabel's show starts, Cain continues boxing, and soon Cain's "people" decide he needs more glamour 'cause he is not getting enough fights. Mabel's people simultaneously decide the same about her, since her show isn't bringing in the "box office" they had hoped for. So they join forces in making a fake story for publicity about a romance between Cain and Mabel. It works - both suddenly are in all the papers, and super popular - but here's the bad part: they still can't stand the sight of each other. Well, in the tradition of thousands of movies from the earliest days to now - you just KNOW that when a couple hates each other in a movie - they will surely be kissing in the last scene. This movie was an enjoyable bit of light silliness to watch on a rainy morning. (3 stars)
This afternoon I watched one of my fave silents It (1927) - Clara Bow plays Betty Lou Spence, a girl from the poor suburb of Gashouse Gables who works as a shopgirl at the "world's largest store" - Waltham's. Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno), handsome son of Waltham's owner has just taken over as the new "boss" and while making his rounds to look over the store, Betty sees him and falls hard for the cutie-pie ("Santa Claus - give me HIM!"). She tries every trick to get him to notice her but nothing is working, but after overhearing Waltham say he is eating dinner at the Ritz that night, she accepts an invitation for dinner by a friend of Waltham's named Monty, a rich "old fruit" (hey, I didn't say it - he calls HIMSELF that as he looks in the mirror "Old fruit - you've got IT!"). Betty needs a dress to wear to the Ritz, so decides to slit open the black satin she is currently wearing, add a few touches like flowers and net veil for effect - and looks gorgeous. Off to the Ritz with Monty, where she spots Mr. Waltham eating with a blonde (introduced as one of the 18 million blondes in America currently getting ready to dine with a gentleman). Betty has IT so, of course, Waltham falls for her the minute he spots her. Next day they have a date at Coney Island - not exactly the kind of place he is used to - but they have a GREAT time munching down hot dogs, going in the fun house, and riding the "Social Mixer" (that wood spinning thing everyone sits on and spins off of in old movie fun houses - I always wonder, didn't people get hurt when they got thrown off that thing?). They are in love. But - - Betty has a roommate, Molly, who is sick and has no job (and apparently no husband) - but has a baby. A couple of busybody old bitties arrive to try and take Molly's baby away from her - so loyal pal Betty tells the busybodies that the baby is HERS. Monty overhears and tells Waltham who drops Betty, as apparently he can't go with a "soiled woman". He soon is overcome by her beauty though, so makes her an "offer" of diamonds, clothes, etc. in "trade" for, well, you know. She is offended. When the truth comes out that the baby isn't hers, she sets out with Monty to get even with Waltham, but ya just know this isn't a couple to be apart for long! LOVE this movie. My copy has a very nice piano score done by William Perry. (4 stars)
Tonight watched Oklahoma! (1955) on TCM. Filmed version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical about Laurey (Shirley Jones), pretty blonde who loves Curly (Gordon MacRae) but pretends she doesn't - - Curly loves her too - he's a conceited cowboy with a great singing voice and a twinkle in his eye. Then there's Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame) - a girl who loves "whoever she's with", and "poor Jud Frye" (Rod Steiger) burly, angry, brute man who works on Laurey's farm and loves Laurey. The first part of this movie is PACKED with great songs - and I LOVE all the songs in this movie, especially "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top", "Many a New Day", and "People Will Say We're in Love". I find the lengthy "dream Laurie and Curly" ballet sequence quite dull, to the point of often in the past turning off the movie at this point. I also have never been that keen on the choice of Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie (hey, I've seen a local SMALL theater version of Oklahoma that had a better Annie than Gloria Grahame) - but all in all, this is a very enjoyable film. (3.25 stars)

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