Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I keep watching good movies!

I'm happy to report that I'm getting back in the habit of watching good movies again. After too long of satisfying myself with whatever dreck Showtime or Comedy Central offer up (hmm, should I watch Employee of the Month for the third time, or Tommy Boy for the tenth?), I'm making myself TiVo (and watch! That's always the hard part) some of the great films constantly being aired on Turner Classic Movies.

Last week was The Great Escape. A few days ago, I saw Ecstasy, a beautifully shot pre-Code film featuring an infamously erotic performance from Hedy Lamarr, including an extensive nude scene and what is allegedly the first onscreen depiction of a female orgasm, seen only in Lamarr's achingly expressive face. Something along these lines:

Denounced by Pope Pius XII, so you know it's GOT to be good!

Hot stuff!

I'm in the middle of Frenzy right now, one of the very last Hitchcock films, and one of the few remaining of his post-Code flicks (say, 1934 or so) I have yet to see (and by "few" I mean "dozen or so"). Tomorrow there are a couple of Jimmy Stewart films I've never seen, Come Live With Me and Ziegfield Girl (I don't know if they're truly great, but the former has Hedy Lamarr and the latter has Judy Garland, so they can't be bad). And last night was All About Eve, which I had never watched all the way through before. And holy cow, was that an amazing film! (As I'm sure you're all aware.)

Bette Davis is just epic as the tough-as-nails aging star of Broadway, and Anne Baxter matches her as the devious ingenue who connives her way into replacing her. And George Sanders, as critic Addison DeWitt, was quite a surprise; on looking back, you can see where his character is headed, but watching his scheming unfold for the first time was a powerful and disturbing revelation. And let's not forget a young Norma Jean Baker (working under a stage name) making a luminous impression in her brief screen time. That kid might hit it big one day!

I had a little trouble with the gender politics (as I often do with films of this era, though I try not to). It's hard to imagine a boisterous broad like Davis's Margo Channing wishing she could be "helpless," like Baxter's Eve, in order to better please her man. Yuck!

But all in all, this is very close to a perfect film. Wonderful writing, legendary acting. Just flat-out great.

Okay, back to Frenzy. Oh, wait, I just checked Showtime... Failure To Launch is on. Frenzy can wait!

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