The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. (1962) Considered by many to be among the greatest Westerns ever made, which may explain a lot about why I went so long without watching Westerns. The story is good, but delivered in such a ham-handed manner I couldn’t take it seriously. Actors’ actions and reactions were exaggerated to the point where high school musicals look nuanced in comparison. The acting is broad overall, making the quieter scenes—where they actually talk, and don’t make speeches—welcome relief. Character actor heaven, especially Liberty Valence’s (Lee Marvin) henchmen: Strother Martin and Lee van Cleef.
Out of the Furnace. (2013) This was recommended and the trailer looked good, so we took a flyer, it taking place in Pittsburgh, and all. Loved it. I feel guilty sometimes when I enjoy a Christian Bale performance, knowing what a self-important asshole he is (or at least can be), but he carries this film effortlessly. There are couple of plot points—not really holes—that keep it from getting highest marks, but they’re not critical. Well worth anyone’s time.
Klute. (1971) Jane Fonda’s Oscar-winning role. Released in the early part of the 70s Golden Age, it doesn’t hold up well. Director Alan Pakula went for a psychological thriller, but the plot doesn’t hold water, the actors speak wooden dialog as if they didn’t believe it themselves, the pacing is lugubrious, and the timing for the final scenes is ludicrous. Not even Donald Sutherland could save this for me. (Frankly, he’s not very good in it, either.)
Jackie Brown (1997) I had a day off work and dilated pupils from an ophthalmologist appointment, so watching TV was about all I could do. The Beloved Spouse came home a short ways in, said she hadn’t liked it the first time we saw it, and would stay while we ate. She stayed for the whole thing, said. “That was a lot better than I remembered it.” One of the best Elmore Leonard adaptations (of Rum Punch), and one of Tarantino’s best movies, from the days when he was more concerned with making good movies than with making “Quentin Tarantino” movies.
Get Shorty (1995) I’m not going to say any more than I have to, if that, about this. My annual birthday movie, brought out early to try to recover a thoroughly shitty day. There’s no way I can watch this and not feel better.
LA Confidential (1997) Get Shorty was over too early to go to bed, so I asked TBS if she’d mind watching LA Confidential. She said she’d hang in until she fell asleep, then stayed awake past midnight. This is as close to the perfect crime film as I’ve ever seen, and damn near a perfect movie.
The Mexican (2001) Getting back to normal life, this underappreciated little comedy tries to achieve on multiple levels, and pretty much does. It’s nothing special, and it probably doesn’t pay to look too deeply at how the story holds up, but it has an Elmore Leonard quality to the loopiness of the plot and characters that made it a fun way to spend an evening.
The Guns of Navarone (1961) Hadn’t seen it in at least thirty years, and it surprised me. What I’d thought I’d like, hadn’t aged well, and what I’d forgotten was much better than to have been forgotten. The classic Alistair MacLean commando tale, the battle scenes don’t hold up after you become accustomed to Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. On the other hand, there’s far more anti-war sentiment and shades of gray than I remember. Gregory Peck sure could chew some scenery when he had a mind to.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013) Great fun in another of Wes Anderson’s off-kilter worlds. We first became acquainted with Anderson with Moonrise Kingdom, and the ads for The Grand Budapest Hotel were too good to pass up. Anderson’s films are highly stylized, stiff to the point of absurdity, which makes the lunacy they depict all the more entertaining. Highest marks.
Hour of the Gun (1961) Probably a more realistic depiction of the Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday-Tombstone period than even Tombstone, begins with the Earps and Doc on their way to the OK Corral, none of that fussy family and wives backstory bullshit. (I hope to know more which is the more accurate after I read a book currently working its way to the top of the TBR list.) James Garner and Jason Robards are well cast as Wyatt and Doc, though Val Kilmer has created the definitive Holliday. It’s a compelling story, but somehow doesn’t quite measure up. It has a little of the same problem as The Guns of Navarone, as more sophisticated viewers will wonder how accurate these guys can be at distance when shooting everything—pistols, rifles, shotguns—from the hip, and often pointed at an angle that would put the bullet in the ground six feet away from the shooter.