Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Ballad of Martha and Henry, or Heaven Can Wait (1943)

When I think of Ernst Lubitsch, I think of dreamy black and white creations, with a twinkly-eyed Maurice Chevalier seductively singing, lovers running around and trying to get their act together, all of it handled with a light touch and a feeling that love is the greatest game in the world. Who wouldn't want to live in a universe run by Lubitsch? I'll admit I'm not a connoisseur of the director's works -- they haven't been as readily available to me as I would like -- but I'm a reader and so I've conjured up ideas of what a definite Lubitsch film is. That's why Heaven Can Wait threw me for a bit of a loop. Tender, devastating, and rendered in stunning Technicolor, Heaven Can Wait is a film that I never expected. Since we're all friends here, I'll be honest with you... I just wanted to see two of my favorite actors, Don Ameche and Gene Tierney. That's what fueled my late-night decision to buy the DVD during an exciting Criterion online sale, a sale that came at the height of my Ameche fever, a very real medical condition. The plot of the movie is unbelievably simple: after years of chasing women despite being happily married to the beautiful Martha (Tierney), Henry Van Cleve (Ameche) tells his story to the Devil (Laird Cregar) to make his case for spending eternity in Hell. What follows is a string of vignettes that give you glimpses into Henry's life, from birth to death, all of them illustrating that maybe Henry doesn't belong in Hell like he thinks he does.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Evelyn Keyes is magic in... A Thousand and One Nights (1945)

TCM has introduced me to countless movies, as I'm sure it has to many others. I owe the majority of my film knowledge to the channel, and while not every film is an absolute gem, there are quite a few that turn out to be spectacular: Kiss Me, Kate, Vivacious Lady, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, Rebecca... and today's film, 1001 Nights. If you've never heard of it, I'm not surprised, although I'm certainly hoping to persuade you to give it a chance. A comedic take on the familiar Arabian Nights-style fare, 1001 Nights is a movie that deserves to be more well-known. It's not even released on DVD! While it resides in my DVR, I had to rent it on Amazon Instant just to get my screenshots -- there was no way I was taking photos of my TV on this one, the Technicolor is seriously that good. Let's get to it!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Disney demonstrates its genius again in... 101 Dalmatians (1961)

I have zero patience. I wrote my first entry for this blogathon on Disney's magnificent Sleeping Beauty a day early, and while I planned on posting my second and final piece two days later, I just couldn't help myself. I get a weird rush out of publishing my posts, what can I say? Anyway, now I bring you a totally different Disney flick, the irresistible 101 Dalmatians. For the other great celebrations of cartoons, click here.

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As a Disney Kid (copyright pending), you watch everything you can, from the minuscule to the major, and you don't just watch them once -- try at least a few dozen. When you're little, you don't really have a discerning taste yet. You know what's pretty and what's funny and what's sad, but you have no clue what exactly all the machinations are. For me, I didn't quite get 101 Dalmatians. I found it boring and stuck to that decision for the longest time. I was baffled every time I read a list or an article that praised the 1961 movie, so much so that my indifference started to bug me. When you can't remember exactly why you dislike a movie, maybe it's time to give it another chance. That's what I did last year, and the minute I pressed play on my DVD player, I saw the ghost of Walt Disney appear and say "You were wrong, Michaela. You still have amazing taste, but here, you were wrong." I agree, Walt.

Dreams, Tchaikovsky, and One Scene-Stealing Owl: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

I'm very excited to present my first post for Movie Movie Blog Blog's "One of My All-Time Favorite Cartoons" Blogathon, a dream for a girl who watches cartoons every day. I'm a hardcore Disney fan -- I've kind of lived and breathed it every day for the past 21 years now -- and oddly enough, I had been thinking about writing up pieces on Disney classics when magically Steve's blogathon popped up. And then I got so giddy that I chose two films, which couldn't be more different despite only three years separating their release dates: 1959's Sleeping Beauty and 1961's 101 Dalmatians. Are any of you as thrilled as I am to get started on this?! Probably not, but thanks for pretending.