Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two Surprises

Watched a couple of movies over the weekend. One was a pleasant surprise; one wasn’t.

Being John Malkovich is a trip, if you’re into surrealistic movies that keep their tongue firmly in cheek. (Yeah, it’s a bad metaphor. You get what you pay for.) It took me at least ten minutes to recognize John Cusack, and I wouldn’t have known Cameron Diaz at all if The Beloved Spouse hadn’t pointed her out. (John Malkovich I caught right away.)

Describing too much would ruin the fun. Go into it with an open mind and don’t worry if some things don’t make a lot of sense at first. Appreciate the imagination that came up with the 7 ½ floor and the portal into the mind of John Malkovich.

I’d heard great things about High Sierra for years; IMDB’s readers give it 7.6 on a scale of 10.

They’re on drugs.

I realize the movie will be 68 years old this month, so I’m forgiving a lot. Like the horribly racist portrayal of the attendant at the campsite Bogart and his crew stay at before the heist goes down. And the car chase through the mountains, obviously filmed at about half speed. (Full credit to Raoul Walsh for being way ahead of his time as far as shooting on location was concerned.) Forties audiences probably didn’t think twice about these, and some other things that dated the movie.

That doesn’t account for the acting. I thought we finished the leftover Christmas ham earlier in the day, but there was plenty to go around here. Bogart’s good, as is Arthur Kennedy. Ida Lupino is generally able to restrain herself, and Donald MacBride does well as the bedridden mobster. The rest of the cast make William Shatner look like Steve McQueen.

Movies of that period moved along differently than today’s, but still. Half a dozen scenes can be summarized by the following:

Marie: Take me with you.
Bogie: You can’t come with me, Angel. You’d just slow me down. What kind of a sap would I be, taking you and a dog the places I have to go? It’s no good, I tell ya, no good. It wouldn’t be fair to any of us.
Marie: But I got nowhere else to go.
Bogie: All right, Angel. Get in the car.

Stereotypes abound, and, yes, I’ll bet they were stereotypes even 68 years ago. Aside from the house darkie, there was the bad luck dog, the crooked doctor, the rube farmer, his pretty daughter with the club foot who likes Bogie well enough, but, gee, Pa, I just don’t love him, the hotheaded gang member, and more. You know the crew.

Maybe that’s what audiences wanted then, like they want soulful vampires and pop song montages and Judd Apatow now. It’s what sells and makes a “successful” movie. That doesn’t mean it’s any good.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Being John Malkovich is so much fun. I need to see more of Catherine Keener--I know that.

Unknown said...

I just saw "tyson" and he IS a legend, an aging, humbled legend.

10 out of 10 for me, glad the director tastefully depicted the now 50 year old Iron Mike Tyson as a wiser human being.

Dana King said...

I recognized Keener's name, but can't remember seeing her in anything else. She was great as Maxine.

Dana King said...

I haven't seen TYSON. Let's hope he has his act together; it's about time. For a while there he was giving boxing a bad name, which is no mean feat.