Thursday, January 01, 2015

It Ain't Over Yet

It's 1944.  Everything is about the war, even in Hollywood, which is churning out films about the battle, along with a new, tougher thing called film noir.  Meanwhile, Europe and Japan are in too much turmoil to be turning out films like they used to.

So what, you ask, are Jesse Walker's top ten films of the year?  Ask no more:

1. Double Indemnity
2. To Have And Have Not
3.  Laura
4.  Curse Of The Cat People
5.  Hail The Conquering Hero
6.  Henry V
7.  Miracle Of Morgan's Creek
8.  A Canterbury Tale
9.  It Happened Tomorrow
10.  Arsenic And Old Lace

Hard to argue with this list (which is mostly Hollywood, as you'd expect).  Double Indemnity helped start the film noir genre, and was so rough in its day that Billy Wilder's regular partner Charles Brackett dropped out of the project and Billy was forced to write it with Raymond Chandler (they didn't get along at all).  Hawks was in the middle of one of the greatest streaks ever, and To Have And Have Not, the anti-Casablanca, continues to fascinate.  Laura I'm not so hot on--it looks great, moves well, has nice music and memorable performances, but like another famous film of the era named after a woman, Gilda, doesn't have a story that amounts to much (and maybe we'll be arguing about that in two years).  The Curse Of The Cat People is a strange, low-budget mood piece that's unlike anything else that year (I'd say unlike anything else ever except it wasn't Val Lewton's only film).  My only trouble with Hail The Conquering Hero is it's not at #1--it's my favorite Preston Sturges film, and has momentum like few other comedies.  Miracle Of Morgan's Creek is good, too (and was an even bigger hit), just not as good.  Shakespeare rarely works on film, but Olivier comes closer than most, and Henry V, made to buck up Britain, may be his most memorable adaptation of the Bard.  A Canterbury Tale is one of the few Powell and Pressburger films I haven't seen; It Happened Tomorrow is one of the few Rene Clair films I haven't seen.  Arsenic And Old Lace is an interesting case--rather than a story developed by Capra, it was a case where the director took a hit play and didn't change it that much since he was trying to make some money before he left for the war.  But then the studio couldn't release it until its run ended--and it lasted on Broadway for three and a half years.  So it's not a conventional Capra film--he wasn't much into farce--but I'm a big fan. Cary Grant called it his least favorite performance, but I think it's fun to see Cary overact as much as he ever did.

Jesse's honorable mentions:

11. The Old Grey Hare
12. Murder, My Sweet
13. At Land
14. Lifeboat
15. Ministry of Fear
16. The Suspect
17. Jammin' the Blues
18. Little Red Riding Rabbit
19. The Woman in the Window
20. The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks

11 is a cartoon.  I like 12, but don't consider it a classic.  13 is an experimental short I've never seen.  14 is one of Hitchcock's experiments, and while it's fascinating, I don't think it quite works.  15 is good, but not great, as Lang can be--maybe I should see it again.  16 is pretty good.  17 is a classic short.  18 is another cartoon.  19 I haven't seen.  20 is a foreign language film I haven't seen.

Other films that might make my top ten:

Cover Girl

Meet Me In St. Louis (once again, we see Jesse underrates musicals)

Other films I like:

The Great Moment (Sturges' oddest at Paramount, but still worth a look)

Higher And Higher (some list this as 1943)

Meet The People

Phantom Lady,  

Other films of note:

Lady Windermere's Fan, The Adventures Of Mark Twain, Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves, Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble, The Battle Of China, Belle Of The Yukon, Blonde Fever, Bowery To Broadway, The Bridge Of San Luis Ray, Broadway Rhythm, Buffalo Bill, The Canterville Ghost, Casanova Brown, Dragon Seed, The Falcon In Hollywood, The Fighting Seabees, The Fighting Sullivans, Four Jills In A Jeep, Gaslight, Gildersleeve's Ghost, Going My Way (Oscar winner and huge hit, but Leo McCarey was so much better in the 30s), Greenwich Village, The Hairy Ape, Here Come The Co-Eds, Hollywood Canteen, House Of Frankenstein, I'll Be Seeing You, Ivan The Terrible (though Jesse believe this is a 1945 film), Jungle Woman, Kismet, Lady In The Dark, Louisiana Hayride, The Mask Of Dimitrios, Memphis Belle, Million Dollar Kid, Mrs. Skeffington, Mrs. Parkington, The Mummy's Curse, The Mummy's Ghost (it's not enough we've got a mummy, we've got his ghost), Music For Millions, National Velvet, The Negro Soldier, Nevada, None But The Lonely Heart, Nothing But Trouble, Once Upon A Time, Pardon My Rhythm, Pin Up Girl, The Return Of The Vampire, Rosie The Riveter, Shine On Harvest Moon, Since You Went Away, Something For The Boys, Song Of Russia, Step Lively, The Story Of Dr. Wassell, Swing In The Saddle, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Two Girls And A Sailor, The Uninvited, The Very Thought Of You, The Whistler, The White Cliffs Of Dover, Wilson, Winged Victory


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like those World War 2 Documentaries, but I don't know if they can be compared to feature films.

9:44 PM, January 01, 2015  

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