Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This adaptation of a Dashiell Hammett novel stared Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor (remember her from Red Dust? She's not hot in this film either.), Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and also featured Eliza Cook Jr (from just about everything). Directed by John Huston. Arguably, this is Bogart's most famous role after Casablanca.

Sam Spade and red shirt Miles Archer are detectives. Stereotypical bombshell walks into their office with a hard luck story. They take the case, and soon Archer is dead. Different groups of people turn to mess with Spade, who slowly pieces the real story together. Everyone has a back story and everyone is searching for a jewel-encrusted falcon statue, painted black to disguise it's real value. Who gets it? With all the smoking going on in this film, a black lung was more likely than a black bird. It says something about cigarettes when obese Greenstreet outlives Bogart and Lorre by more than ten years. Cook, it should be noted, lived to a ripe old 172.

The American Film Institute ranked this the 31st greatest movie of all time in 2007, then called it the 6th best in the genre of Mystery. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay.

With the marquee names and reputation, I have to say this was a bit of a let down. I enjoyed the movie, but I couldn't make heads or tails of the story. I think I'll need to watch it again. This time without child interruption. AMRU 3.5.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Desk Set (1957)

A "Desk Set", apparently, is what computer systems were called back in the 1950's. Spencer Tracy is Richard Sumner, an efficiency expert. Katharine Hepburn is Bunny Watson, a reference librarian for a TV network. He is working to get the computer system installed and configured without the librarians finding out, she is convinced she and her staff are being replaced by new technology. Joan Blondell is an assistant.

Tracy behaves strangely while we learn of Katharine's romance with at TV exec. Does she marry him or take a chance with the aged and cantankerous Tracy? I'll never tell. Like there might be a Tracy/Hepburn movie where they aren't romantically linked.

I was interested in this film because I'm a computer tech. Not so much after I saw it. Maybe I'm just not a Tracy/Hepburn fan. Maybe I found Hepburn at 50 not terribly believable in the role. Still, it's a fair movie. Here's my IMDb factoid: the screenplay was written by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, parents of Nora Ephron. That's the best I could come up with.

I like these two actors, but I haven't found a film that works for me. I'll try another, maybe Woman of the Year. AMRU 3.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When Worlds Collide (1951)

It's a metaphor. When large, rocky celestial bodies (or "worlds", if you will) crash catastrophically with each other, they are said to "collide". Get it?

It the case of this movie, the proverbial "worlds" are Earth, currently known to science, and Bellus, which is currently make-believe. And, oh yea, not a world, but in fact a "giant star" estimated to be a whopping twelve times the "size" of Earth. I'm sure the astrophysicists in the audience (I have an audience?) appreciate the movie's choice of the scientifically accurate word "size" rather than ambiguous terms like "mass" or "diameter". Awesome job, guys.

The eleventh (and last) movie referenced in the song, Science Fiction/Double Feature. Here's the deal. Scientists discover that a star will obliterate Earth and they try to get people to take the debate seriously. Insert climate change argument here. Here's the good news: Bellus has an earth-like planet (Zyra) that might be habitable. In the span of one year, build a rocket ship to bring all humans to Zyra, and problem solved.

Nothing ever goes as planned. The end result is one rocket carrying a dozen or so principle characters lands on Zyra and Eden is regained. All the stupid humans perish. I hope I didn't blow it for you.

Here are the plot flaws a 21st century geek feels obliged to point out: they had NO IDEA what the surface of this planet was like. Temperature, presence of water, atmosphere, ANYTHING! And when they land, the planet is in the presence of TWO suns, one twelve times the "size" of Earth and the other, our sun, over 330,000 times the mass of Earth. And the sun of choice just had a planet crash into it. I'm guessing there was going to be some serious solar activity that day!

That said, I liked this movie. It moved a little slow and the acting was rather wooden, but quirky enough. I rank it behind "Forbidden Planet" and way behind "The Day The Earth Stood Still", but I'd watch it again. At least for the matte paintings. I suppose. AMRU 3.5.