Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Brassy broads! Scantily-clad chorus girls! Lascivious babies!  Songs about public philandering! Everything a respectable film should have.

The plot is simple. Brazen ladies don't let dire economic circumstances get them down; instead go around being fabulous and witty. That's all the plot you need, as it turns out, because everything about this film works. The songs are great, the choreography is wonderful, the dialogue is snappy, and the performers are charismatic. Ruby Keeler is still a terrible singer, though (clip not the same film, but you get the idea). I don't understand how someone can be so terrible and charming at the same time.

The film also offers an interesting alternative glimpse into depression-era attitudes. Modern day depictions of the Depression tend to romanticize certain aspects while overlooking important others. Gold Diggers of 1933 addresses these issues frankly and presents an outlook that is both realistic and positive. Artifacts from the time period itself are more valuable than any re-creation.

In sum, fun, funny, smart, so on. Go watch it right now. Start with this.


The Muppets (2011)

True to form, I am not updating this blog as often as I should.  Forgive me, for I shall try to do better.

I was going to see this film on Thanksgiving, but it was sold out. So, I saw it the morning after. There was a kid kicking the back of my sister's seat throughout the film, but there was no kid kicking my seat. Hah. This information has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion of the film, so why am I sharing it? Good question.

The Muppets has many elements that, combined, should make up a film that I really like. It's a musical. It's self-reflexive. It's funny. There are muppets. It's a musical. However, the film as a whole left me a bit cold.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy a lot of it, though. I actually thought the first half of the film was very good. Most of the jokes landed, it was well paced, and the numbers were nice. (This one in particular. I think I involuntarily stood up and put my hand over my heart when the drums came in).

But. As the film went on, I began to enjoy myself a little less. The self-reflexivity got a bit too cutesy and calculated. The plot began to rely on cheap gags and broad sentimentality, an emotion that didn't feel earned. The Walter character, who had been a weak point throughout the film, got really annoying. The cameos began to do what cameo appearances tend to do.

So, in the end, The Muppets came across as more of a product than a heartfelt expression of anything. Darn. And it started off so well.


They Live (1988)

More John Carpenter! And good news, the entire soundtrack to They Live is on YouTube! Listen away!

I didn't really like this film when I first watched it. But lo, it has grown on me since then in ways I didn't expect. Now I like it more. These things happen.

I think I was initially thrown by They Live because of its shifting tones. When it begins, the film looks like it's going to be some gritty portrayal of the lives of a group homeless people. Roddy Piper is included in this group, playing a tight-lipped Canadian construction worker. They never actually specify his nationality, but Piper makes no effort to conceal his accent, so I shall assume. He also wears plaid, so, you know. Anyway, we spend some time with these people before Roddy notices something weird going on in a church. Next thing you know, shady government peeps have destroyed the Hooverville and our hero has gained access to a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the evil aliens that live among us and control our lives. At this point, Roddy abruptly transforms from silent drifter into profane, gun-wielding, sayer of nonsensical one-liners. The film continues to jump around crazily. These abrupt changes in tone, plot and character gave me a case of cinematic whiplash that I didn't recover from until after the film ended. But recover I did and now I like many things about They Live. I like how Carpenter didn't attempt to compensate for or hide the fact that the star of his film is a professional wrestler. Instead of trying to stretch Piper's limited acting abilities to unsuccessful lengths, Carpenter allowed his actor to give a performance he was comfortable with. I think the social issues explored in the film are expressed in a cool and suitably angry way. I think the alien makeup effects are excellent.

Also, there is a fight scene. It is completely amazing. I will say no more.


The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987)

What? Halloween is over? I DON'T CARE!

I appreciate this film. I appreciate the circumstances in which it was made. Ultra-low budget controversial critical successes by upstart young punks are always fun. I like the demon forest tracking shot. I like several scenes in the film. That possessed pencil stabbing part makes the world a better place.  However, the prevailing mood of the film keeps me from liking it as a whole.

It’s obvious that Sam Raimi wanted this film to cause a stir. This desire is understandable. First film, big break, young people, whatever. However, Raimi’s eagerness to shock often steers his film into unpleasant territory. There were several moments in The Evil Dead that caused me to make this face, and by the last act, I found myself wishing that the film would end already. A bit mean-spirited, is what I’m saying. So I appreciate it, but I don't really like it. And yes, I am fully aware that, at the ripe old age of 20, I sound like your stick-in-the-mud sunday school teacher when I say that. Get off my lawn.

BUT WAIT! Don't send me off to the rest home yet! We haven't discussed the sequel! When I watched The Evil Dead II for the first timemy young teen brain oozed fluids out of my face holes. THIS IS AMAZING, I thought, THE WORLD MUST KNOW. Unfortunately, as was usually the case when I attempted to show my friends something I thought was cool, I was soundly rejected.   Someday. Someday, they'll be sorry...

Anyway, I have revisited this this film more recently to see if my view has changed. It hasn't. I still really like this movie. It's a slicker and more even product than #1. This is partly because of the increased budget, but it's also because I think Raimi made some tonal adjustments that better suit the subject matter.  Where as The Evil Dead wants to disturb you and make you uncomfortable, Evil Dead II wants to make you laugh. It goes so ludicrously and knowingly over the top that it doesn't come across as mean-spirited. Possessed hands and their subsequent chainsaw replacements. Harryhousen-esque ballet dancing headless corpses. Laughing furniture. So on. It just works. And it's scary. This film is also full of some awesome cinematic showing off, which is always fun.

In conclusion, this shot.