Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #59

The More the Merrier (1943)

The cutest "meet cute" that there ever was in the movies, in which Jean Arthur sublets half her apartment to housing specialist Charles Coburn during the wartime housing shortage in Washington D.C. He, in turn, sublets his half to young and handsome Joel McCrea, who needs a place to stay before being shipped overseas. That's essentially the entire plot of The More the Merrier, a sweet little movie with no shortage of charm. This was the last film directed by George Stevens before he entered the armed forces. Charles Coburn won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Best line: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #60

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Gloria Swanson dons the part of her career in her role as Norma Desmond, an aging screen goddess, from silent film days, which closely mimics her real life career. Erich von Stroheim costars as her former director, turned Butler, and keeper. And William Holden plays a failed screenwriter who gets in way over his head when he begins to tangle with the formidable Miss Desmond. An unforgettable film noir, directed by Billy Wilder, and co-written by Wilder and Charles Brackett, the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, and won three, including for Best Screenplay. Frequently cited as one of the best films of the twentieth-century, Sunset Boulevard was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Monday, September 08, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #61

The Parallax View (1974)

There is a long list of political conspiracy thrillers out of Hollywood, among them The Manchurian Candidate, All the President's Men, The Contender, and  Arlington Road. The Parallax View stands with the best of them, in terms of suspense, crackerjack plotting, and climactic moments that chill to the bone. The estimable Warren Beatty stars, and the inestimable Alan J. Pakula directs.

Friday, September 05, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #62

Airplane! (1980)

Airplane! is arguably, if not the funniest movie ever, then certainly one of the two or three most quotable funny movies, ever. (I myself often find myself spouting the line, "I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!") This tale of an ex-pilot, afraid to fly, being the only person on board capable of landing an aircraft, borrows its plot heavily from Zero Hour!,  but also references at least a half dozen other movies from the golden age of cinema. It also revived the careers of a number of heretofore straight-arrow middle-aged actors, including Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and Peter Graves. This was the first, and best of a long series of spoofs from the writer-directors Jim Abrahams, and Jerry and David Zucker. Compulsively watchable.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #63

Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

This stunning psychological thriller stands out as a showcase for legendary theatrical actress Kim Stanley, as a psychotic medium. Her plan to kidnap a child, only to "discover" the whereabouts later goes hopelessly awry. The late, great actor-director Richard Attenborough shines as her hapless husband and partner in crime. This is absolutely riveting, a must-see, although not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies #64

Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)

The original title, in Italian, is I Soliti Ignoti, which basically translates as "The Usual Suspects." This tale of a botched robbery at what is supposed to be a pawn shop references Rififi in all it's glory, but goes it one better - this one's a comedy. It made stars out of Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni, and features a very early screen appearance by Claudia Cardinale, as well as a cameo from famed Italian film star Toto. Big Deal on Madonna Street was nominated for an Oscar for  Best Foreign Language Film and was listed by Premiere Magazine as one of the 50 best comedies of all-time. The wit here sparkles from start to finish.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My 150 Favorite Movies - #65

The Sound of Music (1965)

This movie was of seminal importance to me, as a kid growing up in the turbulent '60's. No one was ever as wholesome as Julie Andrews, nor as handsome as Christopher Plummer, nor was anywhere as scenic as the Austrian alps (or wherever the heck this movie was filmed). The score, by Richard Rodgers (along with lyics by Oscar Hammerstein) was eminently hummable and the story of the Trapp family's daring escape from the Nazi regime was almost unbearably thrilling. Suffice to say, this movie has more than stood the test of time, and will continue to please movie lovers everywhere for generations to come.