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Archive for the ‘Crime Comedy’ Category

The Ladykillers

26 Aug

The Ladykillers – directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Gangster Comedy. 91 minutes Color 1955.

★★★★★

You gather your friends about you, and you set them up with some shortbread and whisky or a spot of brandy or something convivial, and you watch this gooseberry pie of a comedy together, for you don’t want your neighbors to hear you guffaw alone. It stars Katie Johnson, a tiny little actress who steals every scene she appears in with Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Jack Warner, Peter Sellers, and Alex Guinness. They don’t have a chance, because she keeps everything she does as small as toast and jam. If you watch her analytically, you see a performance of such subtlety, experience, and skill that it forces you to eat out its hand handily. She’d been acting since 1894. She is 77 years old and pretty and her cheeks are pink as a rose teacup. She is well spoken and has beautiful manners. She presents her character as perfectly intelligent and considerate to a fault. But she is more than beautifully cast. She plays the part as a miniature Napoleon hiding in a rose. Not one of these gangsters dare disobey her. The story is beautifully set up by the writer and director with scenes in her local police station, whose chief pacifies her reports of a friend’s sightings of alien invaders, and she goes back to her lopsided house and rents out one of its rooms to a weird lodger played by Alec Guinness, who is clearly doing an imitation of Alastair Sim. This is disconcertingly funny at first because of the match of Sim’s buck teeth, watery eyes, sleazy hair, and drooling, delirious starvation, but Guinness’s performance fades somewhat as the film progresses because it is an imposture facing off against the real thing, Katie Johnson’s Mrs Wilberforce. The same is true of the others, who tend toward the cartoon. They are all entertaining, of course, except perhaps for Peter Sellers, an actor who was not inherently funny, whose comedy depended upon prop gags. You’d rather watch Katie Johnson sleep than watch him fumble with a gun. The only one who matches Johnson shot for shot is Danny Green as One-Round, the ignorant palooka strongman, because what he is doing as an actor is real. The look on Katie Johnson’s face as it dawns with the truth of what these bums are up to in her house is a sight to rejoice in. So gather your friends around like a tea cozy. You will all be pleased to be pleased. This film is vacation from the crude, a recess from the explicit. And when it is over you will have a discussion on what the word “entertainment” actually means. Although, of course, you don’t have to, because as with this film, entertainment frees us for a time into Liberty Hall, where, as Sean Kelly once told me, nothing is forbidden and nothing is required.

 

 

 

Roxie Hart

11 Jun

Roxie Hart – Directed by William Wellman. Comedy Satire. A gum snapping wannabe dancer is put on trial for murdering or not her wannabe producer in the 1920’s. 74 Minutes Black and White 1942

* * * * *

One of the funniest movies I have ever seen, and one of Ginger Rogers’ three great comedic film performances.  It’s an out-and-out American farce on American promotion, its relation to American justice, and the relation of both of them to American sex appeal. Adolph Menjou and Ginger Rogers head a cast of brilliant supporting performers, among whom we have Lynn Overman, Nigel Bruce, Spring Byington, Sarah Algood, William Frawley, Phill Silvers, and George Montgomery. The piece is so well-written, by Nunnally Johnson, that all Sarah Algood has to do is stare fixedly at a newspaper and say the word “Children” for me to fall off my chair laughing. William Wellman directed it, whom one does not mainly associate with comedy, but, boy, he didn’t miss a trick here. (He also, of course, begins it in the rain.) As to the actors, nobody misses a trick. Watch Ginger prepare to faint by hoisting up her skirt over her knees. It is based on a stage played called Chicago, and it eventually became the musical called Chicago, but the delights of this piece, which is actually filmed closer in time to the Roaring Twenties, bring forward all the gum-snapping smart-alecky attitude of that era and also of the times we live in now, with its easy remorselessness and eye-rolling acceptance of Madoff and The Money Boys. Wall Street today is so crass and unregenerate you gotta laugh – ‘cause they’re getting away with it — Civic Conscience reduced to a political cartoon. Here, even innocent clean cut George Montgomery ends up tossing them back and cynical. Rent it. Sit back in your seat. Ya gotta love it. Ya just gotta!

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Triggermen

18 Mar

Triggermen – directed by John Bradshaw – Crime Comedy. A hit misses the target and a whole bunch of people get jumbled up in a fancy hotel. 93 minutes Color 2010.

* * * * *

Everyone in this hit comedy is superb, and one wonders how the director got these performances before the camera. They look improvised, but they are far more telling than most improvisations. Amanda Plummer is top notch as the girlfriend in England of one of two clueless ninnies who have travelled to the States to score some easy dough, but instead they are locked in their sleazy hotel room for want of rent. One of them escapes and scores a briefcase with a stash inside, meant for two hit men. The great Pete Postlethwaite plays the target of the bullets, and he is the only one who sustains a straight face during the kaleidoscope of mistaken identities which follows. Donnie Wahlberg and the extraordinarily seductive Claire Forlani play the cooing duo hoping for reprieve from  gangsterdom. The piece is brilliantly written, as a ruthless drollery. If professional crime is this inept, we are safe in our beds. The film is beautifully edited and shot. Everyone is very funny. Every thing is very funny. Snuff said.

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Going Places

13 Mar

Going Places — directed by Bertrand Blier – Crime comedy. Two drifters go on a crime spree. 118 minutes color 1974

* * * *

Only 4 stars because I wished it had ended sooner, Of course it is beautifully made by Blier and photographed perfectly. Being a picaresque tale it is episodic and being written by the director no episode is suitable for scrapping. No American actor would ever have assumed the roles taken by Patrick deWaere and Gerard Depardeau. In Parts unequalled for nastiness, even Sean Penn, a most unlikable actor, would not have touched this material. But these two actors go into it full bore. There is a good deal of really bad treatment of females, but these two are such crummy two bit thieves to make a case of misogyny against them would be pettifogging. Besides, misogyny is a word too grand for their conduct. Nor does one take to them in time. They are marvelous actors at the first pitch of their youthful brilliance. They had acted together often before on the stage in Paris, so they fit well into one another’s energy. Jeanne Moreau brings her tiny form into the picture and takes over the men for a time. But it is Miou Miou who carries the film. Her appearance and reappearance in it brings us along to see where she will arrive. A youthful Isabelle Huppert makes a striking appearance as a frisky teenager. This picture is carried forward by a ghastly wit, but it is wit, and so it is not to be dismissed, hard watching though some of it may be. And of course, de Waere was one of the greatest actors ever to live.

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Heartbeat

25 Feb

Heartbeat — Directed by Sam Wood — Melodrama. A  female juvenile delinquent enters high society.  100 minutes Black And White 1946

* * * *

Ginger Rogers was 35 when she played the part of a 17 year old here. I don’t know how well this movie did at the box office, but if it failed it might have been because the public who grew up with her knew perfectly well how old she was, because they were the same age as she was. Nevertheless, she is wonderful. The story is Oliver Twist with a female as Oliver, Basil Rathbone as Fagan, and so forth. We are to believe she has run away from a girls’ reformatory, and when she is soon thrust into the high life of Paris, watch what, as an actress, she chooses to play. She does not play innocence. She plays, I’m Not Used To This World, This Dress, This Handsome Ambassador. It’s a very shrewd choice, and a natural one. Her being found stealing Alolphe Menjou’s stick pin is delicious. She had this naturalness from the start of her career in pictures which began when she was 19 in 1930. The film is amusing and quirky throughout. And, boy, can she hold the screen. She had a naturalness and a sense of herself that drew you to her. Rogers was talented and hardworking: she was touring the country at age 14 as a Charleston Queen. By the time she started making musicals with Astaire she had 19 films under her belt. She understood film acting from the inside out. I think you’ll enjoy yourself with this off-beat Sam Wood piece.[ad#300×250]

 

Roxy Hart

04 Feb

Roxy Hart – Directed by WIlliamWellman – Comedy. A cunning, dim-brained doxy tries to get away with murder while everyone else in the country is getting away with murder. 75 minutes black and white 1942.

* * * * *

One of the funniest movies I have ever seen: an out-and-out American farce on American promotion, it’s relation to American justice, and the relation of both of them to American sex appeal. Adolph Menjou and Ginger Rogers head a cast of brilliant supporting performers, among whom we have Lynn Overman, Spring Byington, Sarah Algood, William Frawley, and George Montgomery. The piece is so well-written that all Sarah Algood has to do is stare fixedly at a newspaper and say the word “Children” for me to fall off my chair laughing. William Wellman directed it, whom one does not mainly associate with comedy, but, boy, he didn’t miss a trick here. He’s well aided in the editing to tell the story smartly. As to the actors, nobody misses a trick, either. Watch Ginger prepare to faint by hoisting up her skirt over her knees. It is based on a stage played called Chicago, and it eventually became a musical called Chicago, which can be credited for its big energy and color, plus the sacred bosom of Queen Latifa singing “You Gotta See Momma Every Night Or You Can’t See Momma At All”, but the delights of Roxy Hart itself, which is actually filmed closer in time to the Roaring Twenties, bring forward all the gum-snapping smart-alecky attitude of that era and also of the times we live in now, with its easy remorselessness and eye-rolling acceptance of Madoff and The Money Boys. Wall Street today is so crass and unregenerate you gotta laugh. They’re getting away with it — the Civic Conscience reduced to a political cartoon in the papers. So here — except the cartoon goes on for over an hour. Rent it. Sit back in your seat. Ya gotta love it. Ya just gotta!

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Pushing Daisies

03 Feb

Pushing Daisies – Comedy Detective Fantasy TV series about a pie-maker who has the ability to brings dead things back to life with his touch, a talent not without its drawbacks. Color 2007 – 2009

Nominated for 57 awards and winning 18 of them, including 7 Emmys, it establishes itself brilliant in all departments at once. Set up as amusingly symmetrical as an 18th Century royal French garden it plays itself out in the form of a 16th Century English royal garden maze. The coloration of sets and costumes alone is worth a statue or at least a Red Garter; the perfection of reds vanishing into reds, and greens into greens; the idea of everyone at a cocktail party wearing the same color dress of the same material; the flabbergastering shirts of the males; the decor of the four square two dimensionality of the pie shop; the dead centering of characters on camera. Enough of that. Passing from all that rose-petal scattering of kudos on to those petals to be tossed at the writers whose skill knows no end, as they give us a feast of red herrings every time, mysteries not for the watcher to solve, but to giggle at, dialogue that demands the most fluid and rigorous of stylization of performance. The splendour of the production which looks like it cost billions in its super attention to details, such that, like Pinocchio, one could go back and discover them more and more at each viewing, and with more relish each time. The bountifully gifted Swoosie Kurtz as the swilling sister with the bling eye patch, and the inestimable Ellen Greene as her romantical sister; the stupendous Chi McBride as Cod; the superlatively gifted Kristin Chenoweth as the miniature Olive, gaga and at once pert; the appealing Anna Friel as the open-faced love interest of His Greatness Lee Pace who plays the pie maker to die for. And roses roses all the way to whomever established the style for all this. Well, let praise have no end, and so ******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

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