…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “screwball

I still don’t get it.


ph. Doctormacro

I understand the career woman who wants to get married – I’ve actually seen that happen. But  Rosalind Russell’s character manipulates a jail-bird into a sound bite that gets him in the chair and that’s supposed to be funny? Or maybe I had misled genre expectations.


Best. Opening Credits. Ever.


‘My purpose in coming here tonight was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to aid this young lady. Secondly, I was curious to see how a bunch of empty-headed nitwits conducted themselves.’

Burn. Gregory La Cava‘s My Man Godfrey takes satire over slapstick. The patriarch of the Bullock’s frustration with his family’s antics and lavish spending is delivered with sincerity. The titular dumpster hobo Godfrey’s (William Powell) mixed in with this craziness that always crosses the line, like Cordelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) trying to destroy whoever she doesn’t like. She especially finds Godfrey as a target, but not the same way we do – there’s eloquence in stinging the rich that makes us question his gruff demeanor. Cordelia, nonetheless, comments on the age difference between him and his love interest – her sister Irene (Carole Lombard). Often looking glamorous and elegant, like a blond Joan Crawford, Lombard kind of looks like a gangly woman-child in an expensive gown. It’s the curls. At least she is the reason this movie’s funny.

Cordelia picks Godfrey out of the dump near the Hudson river, she hides pearls under his bed accuses him of stealing, pearls go missing because he ends up stealing and hiding the pearls better than she can. He uses the pearls to turn the dump into a place that can accommodate both a night club and housing apartments, two institutions that won’t mix today. Godfrey, thus, invents gentrification avant la lettre, but unlike today’s version, he incorporates the poor into is urban vision by giving them work instead of simply turning them away.


Valentine’s Hangover: Intolerable Cruelty


The Coen Brothers offer in Intolerable Cruelty characters who like to deceive except in the scenes when they’re introduced. We first see Miles Massey (George Clooney) talking on the phone to get messages from his assistant, the cutthroat lawyer that he is. There’s another scene shortly after when he talks to his colleague about the intricacies of the legal system and the real functions of marriage, a conversation they should have had years before but exists in the film for purposes of another introduction. Marilyn Rexroth (Catherine Zeta Jones) is sad but has great resolve while watching surveillance video of her husband Rex cheating on her, and we know that she’ll survive and probably has ulterior motives. Both eventually meet – Miles becomes the lawyer representing Rex – and fall in love and try to, as private dick Gus Fetch (Cedric the Entertainer) says, nail each other’s ass.

ph. Universal

Cinematographer Roger Deakins find ways to play around with colours and images in a supposedly light comedy like this. The blues – the light while Miles is getting his teeth whitened, Gus’s aquarium, the swimming pools, Vegas at dusk – standing out in within the browns and reds of the res t of the film. The white lights, both the ceilings of the court scene and the lamps used both in Miles and Marilyn’s first date and at Miles’ boss’ office, are echoed in more prestigious films.

This is probably the second film of Zeta-Jones’s that features a courtroom when a woman feigns innocence to a scandal devouring public. This time around, it’s Jones’s Marilyn that does the pretending, in pink. I didn’t know Bill Blass designed in pink.

The doesn’t prepare its audience to its own style of humour, but there are some scenes that work because of its surreal comic style, the writing for the film is both tight, sprawling and wordy at the same time. One is the scene when Miles tells his client a defense story that helps her even if it’s absurdly untrue. There’s also Marilyn’s second marriage to a Dallas oil heir named Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton), officiated by a priest marching down the aisle playing Simon and Garfunkel in his acoustic guitar. The third scene is Marilyn’s court scene with its many movements.  Rex being in contempt, Miles and Marilyn throwing Shakespeare at each other to try and fail to admit the other’s guilt, the scandalous Baron von Espy testimony.

Miles is the best role I’ve seen Clooney do. He strikes that note to evince a charming but slimy regular person. The Coen Brothers always allows him to be kooky, culminating in a scene near the end that’s hilarious in an old school sense. Jones allows herself to go through the inconsistencies of female characters but she’s very lively here. Her character’s consummation with Miles happens late – less than an hour into the 95 minute film – but she’s the stronger end of the romance department.  In the stage of her character being a ‘sitting duck, ‘ she shows great passion and vulnerability


Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera


(Sorry I cannot hear you. ph. doctormacro)

I have no soul. Or at least I have a shriveled one. There is a saying that comedy is timeless and there is another saying in my circle of friends saying that it is not. Nonetheless, I did not find most of “Duck Soup” funny, and so is half of the Marx Brothers movies anyway. They are kind of overrated compared to Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant, etc.

There are a few scenes I like, Harpo’s telephone scene in Rufus T. Firefly’s office and the mirror scene. It probably took a lot of choreographing to do the latter, as one brother tries to outwit the other. It kind of scares me that Harpo is probably my favourite Marx Brother, showing his intelligence without saying a word. Well Zeppo’s the hot one, of course, whose last credit I think is this movie.

I have seen two or three of their movies and I think this is the first one where I realized that Groucho’s mustache is painted over. It did not look painted over in “Skidoo.”

What I did not like the racist joke about ‘ how darkies were born.’ I do not care about ‘it was like that then.’ Cut it.

“A Night at the Opera” is probably better because it shows us another dimension skipped over in the other films – their adorable side. The piano and harp scene with Chico and Harpo, entertaining the children – I can watch another five to ten minutes of that. This side of them, as well as the strong supporting cast, takes the heat of their quasi-class conscious screwball material so their screwball material actually stands out. It is also funny that the working class Marx Brothers tells Lasparri that Ricardo’s signing is “real singing,” taking opera criticism into their own hands, and we without cynicism take their word for it.

This is an excuse to show my rudimentary knowledge of opera, and by rudimentary I mean Italian, but the Miserere scene in “Il Trovatore” is the second most miserable scene since any part of “Madama Butterfly.” The movie only uses a bit of that sadness to add to the romantic tension between Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) and Ricardo, as well as the struggle of achieving their dreams. Side note that Kitty Carlisle kind of reminds me of Norma Shearer and she interprets the song in the stage-like way that Shearer does. They also sing ‘Miserere’ in their encore, but they look happy, as they celebrate their stardom in America. The movie is still about the Marx Brothers but you can hardly call this romance a B-story.

(I’m kinda busy)