formula one jazz nutjob

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Saturday, June 02, 2007
Thanks to vast and varied collection of DVDs held by the Multnomah County Library (all praise their name!) and the end of the regular network tv season I have been watching movies. I plan on having a Movie Summer. There are so many (SO MANY) movies that I've never seen and so many ways to indulge micro-obsessions (my favorite kind!) that I think it will be a worthy warm weather endeavor.

So, here are some that I've seen in the past few months that were all new to me. Time to warm up for Movie Summer! (note to self: get better catch phrase. note to others than myself: there will probably be a couple of these posts.)

The Lady Vanishes: (1938/ Alfred Hitchcock) The DVD case says it is "the best-loved of Hitchcock's British-made thrillers" and I can see why. It was much fun and actually suspenseful without giving me 1800 cheap jump out of the closet heart attacks. I've seen it referred to as "frothy" and "fluffy" and I suppose it is (especially compared with later Hitchcock), but I enjoyed it very much. It reminded me (even though it came well before) of some of the early Elizabeth Peters romantic suspense novels: adventure, a little romance, hijinx on a train, international intrigue, and a charming and mostly capable central pair of investigators. (they're not professional detectives and often get things wrong.) Unrelated to anything: from certain angles Michael Redgrave and Jason Dohring (Logan from Veronica Mars) do not look dissimilar.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: (2006/ Adam McKay) Honestly, I did not have very high expectations here -- I usually like Will Ferrell because he just Goes For It, no matter how absurd -- however, NASCAR comedy is not an area in which I have a lot of interest. I must say I laughed a lot -- especially at Sacha Baron Cohen as Ricky Bobby's Formula One French nemesis Jean Girard (referred to by Our Hero as a "formula one jazz nutjob"). Cohen employed a ridiculous over the top ball-bearings and peanut butter french accent that made me laugh every time he opened his mouth. I also liked Gary Cole as Reese Bobby, Ricky Bobby's no-good long-lost daddy who gets thrown out of Applebees for kicks.

Paper Moon (1973/ Peter Bogdanovich) For the 1000th time, I can't believe I'd never seen this before! It was so charming to me -- b&w father/daughter confidence trickster prohibition roadtrip adventure! Tatum O'Neal was FANTASTIC. I loved watching the wheels turn in Addie's head as she figured out (as the smartest person in the movie by a long shot) what she had to do to get what she wanted. For all her scheming, she was still very vulnerable. Funny, sweet yet tart and poignant without being saccharine or preachy.

What's Up, Doc?: (1972/ Peter Bogdanovich) I picked this up at the library shortly after seeing Paper Moon. It was the same director and said Screwball Comedy right on the cover. I love screwball comedies! Hooray! was my general thought. I am sad to say I found this very disappointing. Maybe because the central relationship is so closely modeled on Bringing Up Baby that I couldn't help but be reminded of how NOT Bringing Up Baby it was? As appealing as I found Ryan O'Neal in Paper Moon, he's no Cary Grant (nobody is, so I can't really hold that against him, I suppose), and Barbara Streisand did not strike me as a particularly convincing high spirited troublemaker in this role. She made lots of trouble, but I didn't believe her. I really wanted to like it -- San Francisco, mixed up luggage, Madeline Kahn, mistaken identity, over the top set pieces -- these are all things I normally enjoy. But to me it felt like a broad pantomime of a classic screwball and I had a constant feeling of "not quite" while watching.

Black Narcissus: (1947/ Powell & Pressburger) I remember exactly how I came to watch this movie -- I was reading a message board and one of those How Film Snobby Are You quizzes came along -- one of the questions was "your favorite Powell & Pressburger." The first person to respond said "Black Narcissus, no question!" I'd only ever seen one other P&P movie (I Know Where I'm Going) which I liked well enough but it didn't send me rushing out to see the rest. But "no question!" got me surfing over to the library's website to see if it was available. I'm so glad I did!

This movie is an erotic himalayan melodrama with no sex and NUNS. I had no idea what to expect, but it was so good! There's no real high-driving plot but there is an almost palpable murky conflicted atmosphere that is so interesting. A British order of nuns tries to make a school in an Indian palace that formerly housed courtesans. Complications ensue. The moody lighting and the technicolor are visually outstanding, and the film also features one of the best examples of crazy eyes that I can remember seeing. I have to admit I was thrown out of the story a little bit by the super short shorts of The Man in the movie -- I'm sure the intention was for him to be this brazen masculine sexual energy (one more thing for the nuns to battle along with the unforgiving altitude and the unwelcoming local populace), but he just looked goofy to me in his hilariously short trousers. I should watch it again and see if having the surprise factor taken away makes me less likely to break down into helpless fits of laughter. Despite laughing in a couple of places where it was not intended, I don't mean to give the impression that it's an inadvertent comedy. I thought it was very evocative of a particular kind of unsettled feeling when purpose and commitment are called into question.
8 comments on "formula one jazz nutjob"
  1. Paper Moon? You have not seen it? It is amazing...Tatum is great

  2. Well I've seen it now! There are huge gaping holes in my movie-watching -- I'm not just fooling around when I say that! I just saw the Maltese Falcon for the first time, for cryin' out loud. I'm trying to decide if I want to try an orderly approach, (like the AFI lists or something) or if I just want to hop around like a crazy person and see what strikes my fancy. Decisions, decisions!

    And yes, Tatum is great!

  3. I have never seen The Maltese Falcon, and I am pretty sure I have never seen The Music Man either. Perhaps we could form some sort of movie club, like the lovely Gardners have, you know, to watch the classics?

  4. I should also mention that when Tatum was nominated for an Oscar and her pops wasn't, well, he punched her lights out. Lovely man.

  5. hmmm. some sort of movie arrangement sounds interesting. Is there a particular genre of movie you're interested in?

  6. I like comedies right about now. I like laughing.

  7. I have loved What's Up Doc since the first time I saw it, despite not particularly liking either lead. You are right that it was a role that Ryan O'Neal was wrong for (has he been right for anything but Paper Moon?) and it's Streisand at her most annoying. But the supporting cast just makes me laugh until tears run down my face. I LOVE Madeline Kahn ("Burnsy"!)in this movie and Kenneth Mars and Austin Pendleton are just perfect for their parts. Actually, when none of them are in the scene, the movie is a little dull. Hmm....

    Let me just warn you against The Main Event. It is another O'Neal - Streisand mistake and please, no matter how much you want the numbers of your Movie Summer to increase - Stay Away! It's like "Daredevil" - 2 hours of life you will never get back!

    I witnessed something this week so unnerving I may resume the blog just to rant about it.

  8. Hmmm, you make an argument that I should watch it again, and focus on everyone else... it's what DVD remotes were made for! (I feel like I should say it's not like I don't like barbara streisand either -- I have an embarrassing weakness for Hello, Dolly! of all things -- she just was WAY not working for me in this.) I haven't even heard of the Main Event, but I will steer clear. There are plenty of other fish in the sea!

    I think resuming the blog for rants is a perfectly cromulent thing to do.


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