So recently, having risen out of the depths of poverty (and into the ranks of the plain old lower class), my girlfriend and I installed CABLE TELEVISION. Needless to say, it's been a delight (LOST is so much cooler in HD). One of the things we splurged on was a package that included the thoroughly wonderful Turner Classic Movies, which is like having a second Netflix subscription, only they choose what movies to send to you. Having spent a month with it, I felt compelled to share some highlights.
The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) - Okay, Orson Welles, you've just made the greatest film of all time. Now you're just showing off. Ambersons is a hugely ambitious film, and although in its 88-minute running time (footage that comprised Welles' longer cut is assumed lost) it can feel a bit abridged, the heights it reaches are nevertheless staggering. By the end I felt much as I feel when I watch Barry Lyndon - elated by the filmmaking accomplishment, and thoroughly eviscerated by the tale I've been told.
More after the jump...
Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) - Patience is a virtue, and if one is willing to invest, this can prove to be not only a suprisingly tense experience, but a wonderful tale about the founding of the American West.
The Fortune Cookie (Billy Wilder, 1966) - It's a Billy Wilder movie about Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau scamming an insurance company. It comes quite close to living up to that promise. It could have been an evisceration of a certain type of American greed similar to Ace in the Hole, and for a good deal it is, but Wilder oddly softens his blows towards the end, eventually removing the teeth from the story entirely. It's still a very, very funny movie.
The Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder, 1942) - Wilder's American debut as a director is a very assured one, with the sort of "wacky situation" he'd perfect in Some Like it Hot - in this case, a woman (Ginger Rogers) tries to pass herself off as a twelve-year-old to get a cheaper fare on a train ticket home. Along the way, she meets a charming Major for the U.S. Army, and through a variety of slightly-stretched circumstances (this is the weakest part of the film, which pays the film a huge compliment), has to keep the act up. Look for great WWII propaganda for women.
Journey Into Fear (Norman Foster, 1943) - The only screenplay credited to Joseph Cotten is a pretty engaging piece of tension. It jumps through some hoops to get him there, but the main thrust of the story has Cotten (who also stars) being chased around a cargo ship by Nazis. Orson Welles shows up as member of the Turkish police, and there's a great, if slightly unmotivated, finale.