No Mall Movies! (Chicago Cinema)
14 September 2014
Film: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (d. Wood Allen, 2014, USA) 
Forum: Davis Theatre       Format: DCP
Observations: Took Mom to see this, and survived. Fitzgeraldian tale of a world-weary British conjurer enraptured by a American Midwesterner who claims to possess psychic powers. Chief virtue is Colin Firth’s nasty performance; chief demerit is Allen’s music track, laying the period music on with a trowel.  

14 September 2014

Film: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (d. Wood Allen, 2014, USA) 

Forum: Davis Theatre       Format: DCP

Observations: Took Mom to see this, and survived. Fitzgeraldian tale of a world-weary British conjurer enraptured by a American Midwesterner who claims to possess psychic powers. Chief virtue is Colin Firth’s nasty performance; chief demerit is Allen’s music track, laying the period music on with a trowel.  

12 September 2014
Film: FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER (d. John Ford, 1938, USA) 
Forum: Home       Format: DVD (home library)
Observations: In comparison to my least favorite Ford film, the dreary multi-generational epic THE WORLD MOVES ON (1934), this modern-dress drama at least had the virtue of some spirited action sequences (including the repressed revolt, in the still above) and a fun cast (with George Saunders, Alan Hale and the sinister John Carradine as Gen. Adolfo Arturo Sebastian). But still, I’m unlikely to return to it.

12 September 2014

Film: FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER (d. John Ford, 1938, USA) 

Forum: Home       Format: DVD (home library)

Observations: In comparison to my least favorite Ford film, the dreary multi-generational epic THE WORLD MOVES ON (1934), this modern-dress drama at least had the virtue of some spirited action sequences (including the repressed revolt, in the still above) and a fun cast (with George Saunders, Alan Hale and the sinister John Carradine as Gen. Adolfo Arturo Sebastian). But still, I’m unlikely to return to it.

4 September 2014
Film: STREET SCENE (d. King Vidor, 1931, USA) 
Forum: Home       Format: Recorded from TCM
Observations: Any time spent with a King Vidor film is an investment, a filmmaker so accomplished that it’s hard to understand why he does not enjoy a much wider following - other than, maybe, his taste for unfashionable prestige material (here, an Elmer Rice Broadway drama).

4 September 2014

Film: STREET SCENE (d. King Vidor, 1931, USA) 

Forum: Home       Format: Recorded from TCM

Observations: Any time spent with a King Vidor film is an investment, a filmmaker so accomplished that it’s hard to understand why he does not enjoy a much wider following - other than, maybe, his taste for unfashionable prestige material (here, an Elmer Rice Broadway drama).

2 September 2014

FilmONE WAY STREET (d. Hugo Fregonese, 1950, USA) and HARDLY A CRIMINAL (d. Hugo Fregonese, 1949, Argentina) 

Forum: The Music Box Theatre       Format: 35mm

Observations: More of the Music Box Theatre’s “Noir City,” with two films by Argentine director Fregonese, whose career took him from South America to Hollywood to budget cinema in Europe. HARDLY A CRIMINAL was a brisk and entertainingly derivative prison film set in Argentina, its chief asset being the urban backdrop of Buenos Aries, not often seen in movies in the States. ONE WAY STREET was a slow-moving, earnest crime drama about James Mason - doctor to the Mob - making a new life in Mexico before inevitably being drawn back to LA. Small audience and frankly hard to tell whether folks were really enjoying it or just getting their money’s worth (it was a double-feature price, and many attendees apparently had series passes). On the plus side, Eddie Muller was in attendance presenting (his introductions sometimes exceed the actual films in entertainment value) and Prof. Tom Gunning from UChicago (with a number of our movie friends) was up in the front row.

29 August 2014

FilmTOO LATE FOR TEARS (d. Byron Haskin, 1949, USA) and ROADBLOCK (d. Harold Daniels, 1951, USA) 

Forum: The Music Box Theatre       Format: 35mm

Observations: The Music Box Theatre’s sixth-annual opening night of “Noir City,” featuring a new restoration (TOO LATE FOR TEARS) and a new print (ROADBLOCK). ROADBLOCK  - which we’d seen on TV decades ago - was a knockout in 35mm. A true B-feature running a lean 65 minutes, it was lensed by Nicholas Musuraca - the DP famous for his work with the Val Lewton unit and Fritz Lang at RKO. Nice hard-boiled story about an insurance salesman gone wrong over a woman. The A-feature, TOO LATE FOR TEARS (d. Byron Haskin, 1949, USA), was - by comparison - a bit humdrum. Bigger budget, but an indifferent screenplay that did not bring out the best in the cast (which included the indispensable Dan Duryea and Arthur Kennedy), and a dreary design.

28 August 2014

Film: LAWYER MAN and JEWEL ROBBERY (d. William Dieterle, 1932, USA) 

Forum: Home       Format: Recorded from TCM

Observations: Two expertly-quilted As (maybe A-minuses), both starring a game and amiable William Powell, by one of Hollywood’s least-heralded German emigres. Dieterle enjoyed a very substantial career alternating between modest projects like these and prestige super-As. His most accomplished film, the self-produced THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941), warrants a place in the canon of great literary adaptations, along with THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. The movie LAWYER MAN is a slick drama, similar to many of the era, about the rise of a clever attorney (with a moralistic twist at the end). Entertaining but highly generic. JEWEL ROBBERY aims for Lubitsch territory, doesn’t quite hit it (Warners did not have the budget, for one), yet still manages to be consistently entertaining. For pre-Code fans, the film features several characters (including law enforcement) lighting up marijuana cigarettes - unwittingly, perhaps, but anyone watching the film in 1932 probably understood what was happening.

23 August 2014
Film: THE DAWN PATROL (d. Howard Hawks, 1930, USA) 
Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm
Observations: Hawks grasped - early on - the capacity for sound not merely to convey dialog, but to expand filmic space. And so this film comes across as more contemporary than many films of the era, alternating non-synced action sequences, sound stage and a few expertly filmed exteriors. Hawks also found a strategy for acting that suited the new medium, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and (surprisingly) Richard Barthelmess especially effective as daring aviators. A great and highly entertaining film.

23 August 2014

Film: THE DAWN PATROL (d. Howard Hawks, 1930, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm

Observations: Hawks grasped - early on - the capacity for sound not merely to convey dialog, but to expand filmic space. And so this film comes across as more contemporary than many films of the era, alternating non-synced action sequences, sound stage and a few expertly filmed exteriors. Hawks also found a strategy for acting that suited the new medium, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and (surprisingly) Richard Barthelmess especially effective as daring aviators. A great and highly entertaining film.

21 August 2014
Film: YOUNG AND INNOCENT (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1937, UK) 
Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm
Observations: The small theatre was packed for this screening. This film has long been a favorite of mine and my spouse’s, though it’s generally only been available in crummy, public-domain dupe prints. Hitchcock was refining his technique in this film, perfecting the first-person dolly shot that became a standard part of his films - and delivering a bravura crane shot that we’d later see revived in NOTORIOUS and UNDER CAPRICORN. Also a captivating cast, including principals Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney and Edward Rigby.

21 August 2014

Film: YOUNG AND INNOCENT (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1937, UK) 

Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm

Observations: The small theatre was packed for this screening. This film has long been a favorite of mine and my spouse’s, though it’s generally only been available in crummy, public-domain dupe prints. Hitchcock was refining his technique in this film, perfecting the first-person dolly shot that became a standard part of his films - and delivering a bravura crane shot that we’d later see revived in NOTORIOUS and UNDER CAPRICORN. Also a captivating cast, including principals Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney and Edward Rigby.

20 August 2014
Film: WHAT IF (d. Michael Dowse, 2014, Canada/Ireland) 
Forum: Landmark Century Cinema       Format: DCP
Observations: The story and dialogue are strictly Screenwriting 101 - but any comedy feature set in Toronto (not merely filmed there) has earned my hard-won affection.

20 August 2014

Film: WHAT IF (d. Michael Dowse, 2014, Canada/Ireland) 

Forum: Landmark Century Cinema       Format: DCP

Observations: The story and dialogue are strictly Screenwriting 101 - but any comedy feature set in Toronto (not merely filmed there) has earned my hard-won affection.

12 August 2014
Film: THE SKIN GAME (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1931, UK) 
Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm
Observations: The Film Center has been screening prints from Hitchcock’s British period, including some seldom-seen titles that fall outside the “thriller” category ordinarily associated with the master. This film was an adaptation of a John Galsworthy play about the conflict between old gentry and new money, fought over a country estate - ending in blackmail and remorse. Hitchcock makes the most of the material, experimenting with strategies in sound and depth of field. And the film itself turns out to be highly lively, belying its stage origins.

12 August 2014

Film: THE SKIN GAME (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1931, UK) 

Forum: Gene Siskel Film Center       Format: 35mm

Observations: The Film Center has been screening prints from Hitchcock’s British period, including some seldom-seen titles that fall outside the “thriller” category ordinarily associated with the master. This film was an adaptation of a John Galsworthy play about the conflict between old gentry and new money, fought over a country estate - ending in blackmail and remorse. Hitchcock makes the most of the material, experimenting with strategies in sound and depth of field. And the film itself turns out to be highly lively, belying its stage origins.

9 August 2014
Film: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (d. David Wain, 2001, USA) 
Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm
Observations: About 35 folks attended this funny satire of Hollywood youth sex farces, populated with a brigade of emerging stars: Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper among others. Everyone was in a fit of giggles.

9 August 2014

Film: WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (d. David Wain, 2001, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: 35mm

Observations: About 35 folks attended this funny satire of Hollywood youth sex farces, populated with a brigade of emerging stars: Janeane Garofalo, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, Amy Poehler, and Bradley Cooper among others. Everyone was in a fit of giggles.

3 August 2014

Film: JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (d. Frank Pavich, 2013, USA) 

Forum: Doc Films       Format: DCP

Observations: A handful of folks showed up for this screening, a brisk talking-head documentary about an abandoned 1974 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel. Alejandro Jodorowsky is a great raconteur, and the interviews with other creative figures (H.R. Giger, Chris Foss) are very absorbing. But as the film moved into its final act - where the participants and modern critics assay the artistic influence of the unfinished movie - I felt unmoved and even a bit resentful at the lily-gilding claims of Jodorowsky’s importance to cinema. 

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