Phantom Thread (2017, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson) English 10

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Camilla Rutherford, Brian Gleeson

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Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a world famous designer. Like many great artist, he sacrifices all else in favor of his craft. He needs everything to be just so, and the opening reveals, how this forces the women from his life. Then one day, he meets Alma (Krieps), and while Alma too marvels at Woodcock’s work,  where other women were pushed away, she gradually begins to push back. Paul Thomas Anderson, who hit the ground running with Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, has, over the years, has grown more enigmatic and opaque with his work. I’m sure there will be several essays deciphering what exactly is going on between Woodcock and Alma (and the indomitable sister, Cyril, looming over the picture, played expertly by Lesley Manville). I saw, in the end, a strong male figure who ultimately wants to be mothered, with the ghost of his departed mother casting a shadow over his life and work. It becomes nearly masochistic by the end. What’s clear and indisputable, however, is the skill involved, both in front of behind the camera. The film, for large segments, becomes akin to one of Ingmar Bergman’s chamber plays, with three dominant characters stuck in a confined space, allowing their quirks to plays out. I also was reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, wherein Professor Henry Higgins takes a woman named Eliza Doolittle off the street, and attempts to mold her in the image of his liking. Only in Phantom Thread, Alma, unlike Eliza, does the final molding.

When Harry Met Sally (1989, Directed by Rob Reiner) English 9

Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Steven Ford

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Harry Burns (Crytsal) and Sally Albright (Ryan) meet one day through a mutual friend, as they move from Chicago to New York. Harry makes a pass, Sally says let’s be friends, and then Harry informs her that men and women can”t be friends. Years pass before they see each other again, this time Harry’s willing to give it a shot, but their close friendship seems destined for more. Romantic comedy that is, in fact, both romantic and funny. Endlessly inspired, whether it’s the old couple interviews, or getting huge laughs from a scene involving Pictionary, When Harry Met Sally is gold.

Gregory’s Girl (1981, Directed by Bill Forsythe) English 7

Starring John Gordon Sinclair, Clare Grogan, Dee Hepburn, Jake D’Arcy, Robert Buchanan

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Gregory (Sinclair) is the ultimate awkward, gangley teen. He lives in a very small town in Scotland, and has his first big crush when he meets the new girl trying out for the soccer team, Dorothy (Hepburn). He quickly finds that he’s not the only one pining for her, so he turns to anyone who will help him for advice, including his wise-beyond-her-years, 10 year-old sister. Painfully embarrassing at times, I guess that’s a credit to the film making and acting which make the story seem painfully real. It’s also terribly funny.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990, Directed by John Patrick Shanley) English 8

Starring Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Dan Hedaya, Abe Vigoda, Ossie Davis, Nathan Lane, Amanda Plummer

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“Dear God, whose name I do not know – thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG… thank you. Thank you for my life.” So says Joe (Hanks), once just a worker ant, pondering the big questions with a bad case of hypochondria. After being diagnosed with a “brain cloud,” and given six months to live, Joe is offered by a kooky millionaire, Graynamore (Bridges), an opportunity to jump in a volcano for the good of an island tribe; essentially sacrificing himself for their well-being. He accepts, and goes off on an adventure led by Graynamore’s daughter, Patricia (Ryan, in one of three roles). Wonderful, wonderful movie as far as I’m concerned. Beautifully strange, mixing the profound with the bizarre, but always witty. Hanks and Ryan are great together, and give the film a rooting interest beyond all of the offbeat antics, and the dialogue is peerless.

 

My Favorite Wife (1940, Directed by Garson Kanin) English 7

Starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Gail Patrick

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After being lost at sea for seven years and legally ruled dead, Ellen Arden (Dunne) returns home to find her husband, Nick (Grant), has remarried. Fortunately, Nick still loves Ellen and wants to reunite with her, only he doesn’t know how to tell his bride. Plus, once he finds out that Ellen wasn’t by herself at sea, but alone with the studly Steve Burkett (Scott), he begins to have second thoughts. Screwball comedy and follow up to the great film, The Awful Truth, also starring Dunne and Grant, this movie isn’t as successful as that one, but it still showcases its stars knack for this kind of humor. They’re terrific, and the film gets the most mileage out of a bizarre premise for a romantic comedy.

Married to the Mob (1988, Directed by Jonathan Demme) English 6

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Dean Stockwell, Alec Baldwin, Mercedes Ruehl, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt, Nancy Travis

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Modern screwball comedy starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Angela de Marco, frustrated wife of mobster Frank “The Cucumber” de Marco (Baldwin). Frank works for Tony the Tiger Russo (Stockwell), who has the FBI hot on his heels. When he finds Frank sleeping with his mistress, Tony kills him, and the FBI see a chance to finally get something to stick him with. They send agent Mike Downey (Modine) to monitor Angela, hoping she’ll give them the evidence they need, but Mike begins to fall for her. Breezy comedy with a terrific lead performance, but the film undercooks the romantic interest, the character of Mike Downey. He’s never given the time to develop as a serious love interest. He does nothing to show why Angela loves him. Dean Stockwell steals much of the show.

The Three Musketeers (1948, Directed by George Sidney) English 7

Starring Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Van Heflin, Gig Young, Vincent Price, Frank Morgan, Keenan Wynn, Angela Lansbury, June Allyson

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Premier adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ enduring, oft-told classic, Gene Kelly stars as d’Artagnan, a French country boy sent to the city to show his meddle and serve his king and country. He seeks to join the musketeers, a service dedicated to their king, and soon finds himself at odds with three older members: Athos (Heflin), Pathos (Young), and Aramis (Coote). Their animosity quickly turns to friendship, and the adventure begins. d’Artagnan could not have picked a better moment, as King Louis XIII (Morgan) is in terrible danger. Wily, ruthless Richelieu (Price), with the help of the beautiful, but evil Countess de Winter (Turner), has a number of plots working to change the balance of power. Sometimes episodic, always slightly corny, this is, in the end, fantastic entertainment. Colorful, vivacious, and actually fairly faithful to the material. You certainly can’t beat this cast, especially Vincent Price as the cunning Richelieu. Gene Kelly’s stunt work, made famous through musicals, is equally impressive here in this swashbuckler.