Archive for February, 2010

Catch up: Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Posted in Catch-up with tags , on February 25, 2010 by sdoob


This is a pretty common story. An olive in a bowl of cherries, something like that; a fish out of water, etc. Recently we have seen this theme in Did You Hear About The Morgans? – a NYC couple (Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant) get relocated to a small town in Wyoming by the witness protection program – and New In Town – Renée Zellweger is a Miami businesswoman who moves to a small town in Minnesota. I have seen neither of these movies (despite the name of this website); my point is that this is a narrative device for comedies still used today. Moreover, Ruggles of Red Gap took on many forms before 1935. It was a novel, a play, and two silent films, though the most successful was this version here, starring Charles Laughton as an English butler, Marmaduke Ruggles, working in Paris under the Earl of Burnstead, a rather dapper man prone to mumbling, who uses poor Mr. Ruggles as a stake in a poker game. Ruggles is won by a New Money cowboy, Egbert Floud (Charlie Ruggles (the actor’s name is purely coincidental)), and taken away to a small American town: Red Gap, Washington. Before they leave, however, Egbert gets his new decidedly uptight butler drunk to the point where all Ruggles can do is hoot, giggle, and ride Egbert as if Egbert was a horse: something Ruggles learned, of course, from Egbert. Ruggles’ untimely display of periodic tippling causes Egbert’s socially conscious (if not socially paranoid) wife, Effie Floud (Mary Boland) to threaten to terminate her new butler, though she inevitably lets him off the hook and even allows him a morning snifter which she says will solve Ruggles’ hangover, not that she would know firsthand. Continue reading

Catch up: Mongol (2007)

Posted in Catch-up with tags , , on February 25, 2010 by Timothy Parfitt

Mongol is a fun bio-pic unencumbered by realism or recent history.  Genghis Khan ruled Eurasia so long ago that his story can be built from scratch.  Set against gorgeous scenery (shot in China and Kazakhstan), Mongol focuses on how the boy became the conquerer. Continue reading

The Fluff up there

Posted in Review with tags , , , on February 22, 2010 by Timothy Parfitt

If there is one thing I hate, it’s mediocrity.  And boy, is Up in the Air Mediocre.  Set adrift without a driving plot, the film leans heavily on George Clooney’s charm.  If you are still partial to said charm, you may like this movie.  If like me, however, you now find Mr. Clooney unable or unwilling to blend into a film or inhabit a character, stay away.* Continue reading

Shutter Island (2010)

Posted in Review on February 20, 2010 by sdoob

I really don’t think you want to see this.

Catch-Up: The Invention of Lying (2009)

Posted in Catch-up, Pick of the Week, Timothy Parfitt with tags , , , on February 13, 2010 by Timothy Parfitt

I went to Central America on vacation, and on the flight back Delta played The Invention of Lying, Ricky Gervais’ latest comedy.  Like the similarly enjoyable Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying is witty,  original, and flopped at the box office.  The film is set in a world where no one has ever lied.  Gervais and co-writer/director delight in exposing the cruel thoughts that, in this alternate universe, no one covers with discretion or white lies. Continue reading

Snowed In – Wednesday 10 February 2010

Posted in Festival/Event, Samuel C. Doob with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by sdoob

Full Metal Jacket (1987) 

Seemingly Stanley Kubrick’s most outright comedy, it surpasses even Dr. Strangelove in this regard. Although the film lives up to its name, hitting a plateau from the center on.  (Kubrick once likened the story to the shape of a bullet (full metal jacket). Looking somewhat like a tube of lipstick, it starts at a fine point, expands, then runs flat until the end.  In this way, the film could have been a shorter bullet.)  There are scenes in the middle that seem superfluous: namely, the documentary interviews, and the scene where the platoon stands around two American G.I. corpses, each soldier saying a word regarding one particular corpse, until we finally rest on Private Cowboy (Arliss Howard) who explains to Private Joker (Matthew Modine) the dead soldier’s masturbation disability.  If just these two scenes were cut, would the end of the movie still have its impact?  I think so.  Nonetheless, the cinematography and production design are almost always stunning.  The ensemble acting is hilarious and beautifully orchestrated.  And the opening fifty minutes are among Kubrick’s best work.  Outstanding performances by R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onofrio. 

Father of the Bride (1950) 

Dull, dull, dull!  The film hints at a meltdown – in the opening scene, Spencer Tracy sits, defeated, in a completely wasted living room and proceeds to tell us (he speaks directly to the camera) how he had no idea what he was getting into when his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) said she was getting married – but this meltdown never comes.  Nothing happens so much as a few sleepless nights, a fight between the fiancées, and Spencer Tracy grumbling about too many guests at the reception and too much money spent on live music.  Two notable scenes: Tracy tries on his old tuxedo cutaway, he believes it still fits and it doesn’t – that’s the joke – then the suit inevitably tears at the back.  The other scene is a nightmare Tracy has the night before the wedding: he crawls down the aisle, his arms fall through the checkered floor, his pants stretch a yard as he tries to keep moving.  Pretty good.   

Mr. Skeffington (1944) 

Mr. Skeffington, starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains, has the ingredients of an epic: two World Wars, prohibition, the great depression.  But Fanny Skeffington (Davis) never even bats a false eyelash; she is much concerned with her hair.   

Fanny Skeffington is a woman who declines – with a smile – the many advances of her loyal suitors.  After she marries, she allows the suitors to come around still! And more often!  We find this out from Mr. Job Skeffington, played by Claude Rains.   The emasculated Mr. Skeffington tells his cousin-in-law that he, Job, is a very patient man, concerning his wife’s suitors; but he says it with such pride, and with such a harsh look in his eye, I scarce say, in addition to being patient, he seems a very angry fellow!  Rains brings grace and humility to this seemingly stiff man.  When he goes off to Europe during World War II, we miss him.  Then we get to see Fanny Skeffington without her saving grace, her husband.   

Fanny is a phony.  She is shallow and narcissistic.  She is dumb in elemental ways, while claiming she is no fool.  Of course, she contracts diphtheria and not only loses her looks, but has hallucinations of her ex-husband sitting beside her, just watching her, which drive her up the wall because throughout the movie she repeatedly says to Job – whether in flirting or angry – she feels as if he is always silently laughing at her, laughing, she says, without moving a muscle.  And something I noticed: upon Mr. Skeffington’s return from the Nazi concentration camps, Fanny behaves differently around her husband than she does around anyone else.  She seems to be unconsciously trying to amuse him.  It is very sweet: a sweet ending.  There is much that is left unspoken, a lot to observe when the characters choose not to say something, and these silences are short and subtle, the way they should be; you don’t feel you’re getting hit over the head with a brick: Pay Attention!  It’s a class act, this film. 

Catch-Up: Mississippi Burning

Posted in Catch-up with tags , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by sdoob

The pun is intended: this movie is too black and white.  Leaving no room for ambiguity, Mississippi Burning uses manipulative music and stereotypical characters to get one point across: the members of the Ku Klux Klan are assholes.
Continue reading