Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thirteen more movies

All of which I can recommend with enthusiasm.

Happy-Go-Lucky (dir. Mike Leigh, 2008). Sally Hawkins as Poppy Cross, an indefatigably cheerful, funny, kind teacher. It’s other people who have life the wrong way round. The fourth Mike Leigh film we’ve seen.

*

Phffft (dir. Mark Robson, 1954). Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday as partners whose marriage flickers and dies before coming back to life. Two comic geniuses at play. Best moment: mambo. With Kim Novak in her second credited film role. Bonus feature: a bachelor pad with a bearskin rug.

*

Good Neighbor Sam (dir. David Swift, 1964). Jack Lemmon as a suburban everyman involved in a scheme to secure his wife’s best friend’s inheritance. I imagine that this film represents grown-up, slightly risqué comedy before “the Sixties” began. With Mike Connors, Dorothy Provine, and the ill-fated Romy Schneider. Also featuring the Bradbury Building and the Hi-Los.

*

The Ox-Bow Incident (dir. William Wellman, 1943). Mob action and lynching in nineteenth-century Nevada. That the ending seems inevitable in no way detracts from the movie’s power. Such a cast: Dana Andrews, Frank Conroy, Jane Darwell, Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan, Anthony Quinn, Leigh Whipper, and others. Even the Bowery Boys’ Billy Benedict shows up. How had I never seen this movie before?

*

A Borrowed Identity (dir. Eran Riklis, 2014). A young Palestinian man among young Israelis at a school for the arts. A film about friendship, kinship, eros, selfhood, and cultural constraints. How much can one change before ceasing to be oneself?

*

Pushover (dir. Richard Quine, 1954). Fred MacMurray in a Double Indemnity -like role as a police detective gone wrong. Kim Novak appears in her first credited film role. Also includes a pocket notebook. I could watch such black-and-white stuff forever.

*

Ball of Fire (dir. Howard Hawks, 1941). Already the subject of this post. Grammar and usage and squirrel fever. One favorite moment: the conga line. Cinematography by Gregg Toland, which means a moment or two of the deep-focus technique even in a light comedy.

*

Lemon Tree (dir. Eran Riklis, 2008). The Israeli Defense Minister moves to a house on the Israel-West Bank border, and a Palestinian woman takes legal action to preserve her lemon grove, which Israeli authorities claim may offer a hiding place for terrorists. Based on true events.

*

Where the Sidewalk Ends (dir. Otto Preminger, 1950). Dana Andrews plays Mark Dixon, a rogue cop with a dark secret in his past. (Notice that even the proprietor of his favorite café knows him only as “Mister Detective,” no last name.) The film’s stationery supplies are the subject of this post.

*

The Lavender Hill Mob (dir. Charles Crichton, 1951). Alec Guinness (Holland) and Stanley Holloway (Pendlebury) plot to steal gold bars, melt them into souvenir Eiffel Towers, and smuggle them out of England. A genial, clever comedy in which everything hinges on a question of pronunciation.

*

Armored Car Robbery (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1950). About as inventive in plot and characterization as its generic title suggests. But Guy Roe’s cinematography is genuinely inventive. And there’s an exchange name. And it’s fun to see William Tallman on the wrong side of the law. (He later played District Attorney Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason .)
*

Crime in the Streets (dir. Donald Siegel, 1956). Teenage gang members and the settlement-house worker (James Whitmore) who tries to steer them straight. With John Cassavettes, Mark Rydell, and Sal Mineo as aspiring psychokillers. Virginia Gregg, character actress of countless television shows, has what must be her finest moment, as a long-suffering mother. A great musical score by Franz Waxman. Watch the opening credits and tell me that this film didn’t influence West Side Story .

*

La Vie de Bohème (dir. Aki Kaurismäki, 1992). Our household’s Kaurismäki spree continues, at least intermittently. This loose adaptation of Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la Vie de Bohème looks like a black-and-white French film from the 1950s. Very quietly funny at the expense of creative types. (The composer Schaunard curses a cabdriver who has the nerve to want to charge him for going only a few miles: “The swine!” ) Other favorite bits: the reappearing jacket, the piano performance, and the announcement “I’m going to sit and order a drink” — namely, water. With three Kaurismäki old reliables: Matti Pellonpää, Kari Väänänen, and André Wilms.


[In reverse alphabetical order: Wilms, Väänänen, Pellonpää.]

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Twelve more films
Thirteen recommendations
Fourteen more recommendations

comments: 6

Chris said...

Phffft sounds interesting, even if it has perhaps the worst movie title ever. I was thinking about Lemmon and Judy Holliday the other night while watching The Apartment again. There's a character in the movie who reminds me of Holliday, and now I come to find out that the actress who played the role was named Hope Holiday (with one "l"). She even had an older sister named Judy, who however used the stage name Judy Sinclair.

See The Witch if you get a chance.

Michael Leddy said...

I’ll look for The Witch , which I don’t know. And I have to watch The Apartment again. Thanks, Chris.

Whit said...

Pretty good list. I can't believe you mentioned "Pushover". Side note: the movie theater is on Magnolia Blvd. You mentioned the St, in your previous post. You can't go wrong with "The Ox-Box Incident" either.

Michael Leddy said...

When I was watching, I thought the theater might have been this one in Culver City, but the box offices are different. I wish I had put two and two together — we were just a couple of blocks from 4403 Magnolia. This page looks at the Magnolia in the movies.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

I love your list of movies, Michael.
If you enjoyed The Lavender Hill Mob, you might also like Passport to Pimlico (1949).
My parents forbade me to see The Ox-Bow Incident when I was a boy!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Barnaby. It’s now in the queue, along with The Ladykillers .