• Return to Oz

    Return to Oz

    This (not animated) Disney movie was loosely based on the second and third books in the Oz series by L. Frank Baum. "There's no place like home" and all that, but Dorothy is a little bored to be back in Kansas and longs for her old friends (who nobody in Kansas believes in). The desire to remain a child and postpone the tiresome business of growing up? Could be - that story has been told before.

    Somehow, she makes it…

  • Waterloo Bridge

    Waterloo Bridge

    Well, I finally watched this remake of the 1931 original (see below). Although the story elements were roughly the same, it told a very different story. More sappy romance, for one thing.

    I think this was mainly an effort to give the two stars as much screen time as possible (Vivien Leigh, in her first picture since Gone With the Wind, and Robert Taylor, who must have been a big star at the time, though he looks and acts like…

  • Midnight Cowboy

    Midnight Cowboy

    I probably saw this once, when it came out. So 50 years ago?

    What a great movie! I did not remember just how good it was. It goes from one vaguely-remembered iconic scene to another, all burned into our collective memory. And others as well. For example, the long shot at the beginning when Jon Voight (as Joe Buck) gets on the bus in Texas, crossing the street to the station while two girls watch him and smoke.

    The story…

  • Nosferatu

    Nosferatu

    This is the by-film-lovers-revered silent film from 1922, lovingly restored and with the original orchestral score. Directed by F.W. Murnau (whoever *he* was, it was released as NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORROR.

    For a 100-year-old silent movie, it was pretty darn good. It probably created and set the tone for vampire movies for all time. Most of what Nosferatu does is left to the imagination, but he certainly looks creepy enough to heighten one's imagination.

    Incidentally, this was my wife's pick as one of the scariest movies she had ever seen, but this turned out to be a different Nosferatu. I'll have to keep looking.

  • Kansas City Bomber

    Kansas City Bomber

    Raquel Welch stars as K.C. Carr, an up-and-coming roller derby star. But it's a hard life.

    The film was well-paced, focused mainly on action sequences (lots of well-filmed roller derby action), but her back story was briefly told. Very briefly, but enough to make the point. She is divorced, and constantly on the road with her teams, and her relationship with her young children suffers. The kids stay with her mother, who urges her to quit the life and marry…

  • I Married a Witch

    I Married a Witch

    Frederic March and Veronica Lake star in this film adaptation of Thorne Smith's posthumous novel "The Passionate Witch." Guess which one is the witch? This movie was one of the inspirations for the long-running TV series "Bewitched."

    The back story is rather complicated, going back to the persecution of witches and sorcerers of New England, and the imprisonment of their spirits in a tree. But things pick up once we get to the modern era. Lots of special effects and…

  • Baby Face

    Baby Face

    Barbara Stanwyck sleeps her way to the top (of the Gotham Bank hierarchy) in this pre-Hayes code film. "She climbed the ladder of success - wrong by wrong!" as one blurb amusingly puts it. She starts out working at her father's bar, fending off the gropers (ostensibly rough steelworkers in Erie, PA). This old German coot keeps coming around urging her to read Nietzche, which she has tried, but doesn't get. "Use men... to get the things you want," he…

  • The Getaway

    The Getaway

    I liked this movie. Not exactly sure why, as the negatives would seem to outnumber the positives.

    Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw are on the lam in this action film. Supposedly they met on the scene of this film and began an affair resulting in marriage the next year, but they sure don't show much on-screen chemistry here. Ali MacGraw is a lousy actress, and this role is no exception (my wife's opinion).

    So why did I like it? Well,…

  • Waterloo Bridge

    Waterloo Bridge

    Another pre-Hayes Code film, set in WW1 London during the years of the Zeppelin air raids. One blurb I read describes the plot: a young soldier is forced to give up [his fiancee] when his well-to-do family learns she's a prostitute.

    But that is not at all the story told here. Yes, the young soldier (a naive, needy, impulsive pain-in the-ass, as far as I'm concerned). Yes, his well-to-do family. Yes, Mae Clark is excellent as a prostitute. But there's…

  • Judas and the Black Messiah

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    This powerful film relates the story of Fred Hampton's career as chairman of the Black Panthers in Chicago, and his murder by police in 1969, facilitated by FBI informant Bill O'Neal. It does not rely on period footage, but dramatizes the events with actors. Both Judas and the Messiah (played by Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya) are excellent.

    There's no doubt about the truth of the events portrayed, even allowing for some dramatization - much of the dialog appears to be taken from Hampton's speeches. He must have been an amazing orator. Hard to believe that he was only 21 at the time of his murder.

  • Red-Headed Woman

    Red-Headed Woman

    Did you ever read "The Sensuous Woman," by J? J advises women to shed their clothing piece by piece at the door, with the last stop being an ice-cold martini for her man, and the goal a new refrigerator for her. Here's how we got here...

    Jean Harlow thinks she can use sex to get whatever she wants in this pre-Hays-code film. She can and she can't. Maybe not in Cleveland, but in Paris?

    Offensive throughout - a standard patriarchal view of a woman's place in society.

    Jean Harlow, red-headed here in black and white, is better as a blonde.

  • Fingers

    Fingers

    Fingers. He's a torn personality. He gets so excited when he plays Chopin that he has to clean himself up afterwards. What turns him on? Women, violence, music. Torn between his loan-shark Italian father, and his stereotypical neurotic Jewish mother, he pinballs back and forth between violence and classical music - where does he draw the line? Yucchhh.