Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Directed by Warren Beatty) English 5

Starring Warren Beatty, Lilly Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Paul Schneider, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman

Rules Don't Apply - NYT Watching

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Muddled. Unsatisfying.

Frank Forbes: [to Marla] You’re an exception. Rules don’t apply to you.

Howard Hughes. The man, the myth. Only I’ve never really understood the fascination with him. Perhaps it’s obvious to some: he was obscenely wealthy, an influential Hollywood figure, an aviator, and dated some of the most desirable women of his time. Yet, I have never been that interested in him or his story and no film has come along to make me feel otherwise (haven’t seen Melvin and Howard). The most recent attempt is Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. Opening in the late ’50s, a young driver, Frank (Ehrenreich), gets a job chauffeuring a young Hollywood hopeful, Marla (Collins), around L.A. The two begin to fall for one another and the film is off to a great start. It’s when the main star of the piece, Howard Hughes (Beatty), shows up that the film loses its way. Shifting tones should feel like a journey not like a distraction. There are two stories at play here and though they are linked, they don’t compliment each other. One subtracts from the other. The result turns Hughes into a creepy older guy who interrupts an intriguing romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 8

Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Harry Davenport, Marjorie Main, Hugh Marlowe, June Lockhart

Meet Me in St. Louis” is always as cool as a cucumber | Cinefilia ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Picturesque. Classic.

Esther Smith: I can’t believe it. Right here where we live – right here in St. Louis.

Like the March sisters of Little Women, the Smiths of Meet Me in St. Louis are a family to cherish. Made up of four daughters-led by Esther (Garland), the second oldest-a son, a loving mother (Astor), a stubborn but caring father (Ames), a spirited grandfather (Davenport), and a sassy maid (Main), the film follows the Smith family through one eventful year in their lives leading up to the famed World’s Fair of 1904. Everything about Meet Me in St. Louis inspires affection. The characters are wonderful. Garland is a star. The production, from the sets to the costumes to the vibrant technicolor, is astounding, and the music is timeless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Pompeii (2014, Directed by Paul W.S Anderson) English 4

Starring Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Carrie Ann-Moss, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris

Movie Smack Talk | Movie Review: Pompeii (2014)

(4-Bad Film)

Crude. Unoriginal. Entertaining.

Cassia: Is this the end of the world? Why would the gods let this happen?

Entertainment is something I value in nearly all contexts, so I do give Pompeii some credit for being entertaining despite not being much of anything else. Directed by Paul W.S Anderson, the king of garbage entertainment (though Michael Bay might argue that distinction), Pompeii follows orphaned slave, Milo (Harrington), as he’s taken to the famed Roman city to compete in gladiatorial matches where he meets fellow slave Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and later, Cassia (Browning), the instant love of his life (rolling my eyes). This is an awfully silly film heavily indebted to much better ones, chiefly Gladiator and Titanic. There’s plenty to enjoy for those like me who appreciate camp and crude craftsmanship but almost nothing to admire.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Whisper of the Heart (1995, Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō) Japanese 8

Voices of Brittany Snow, David Gallagher, Jean Smart, Cary Elwes, James Sikking, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Ashley Tisdale

Whisper of the Heart – IFC Center

(8-Exceptional Film)

Charming. Vibrant. Light.

Shizuku: Stupid jerk, stupid jerk, stupid jerk!

Who knew Studio Ghibli produced so many wonderful light romances? While I ask that rhetorical question jokingly, certain that millions of the studio’s large fanbase have known for ages, I’ve only recently discovered Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, and this film, Whisper of the Heart. Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku, a young girl dealing with teenaged romance and all the drama that goes with it. She meets Seiji, a boy at school who is always rude to her, and she’s determined not to like him though the rest of the school believes that they’re a couple. I was most surprised to find that the great Hayao Miyazaki wrote this screenplay as it bears little resemblance, as far as I can tell, to any of his other work. Otherwise, Whisper of the Heart has all of the distinction, the artistry, and the confident storytelling of Ghibli’s work. I see now that they are equally skillful at these lovely small-scale dramas as they are at epic fantasy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Apartment (1960, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 10

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, Edie Adams, David Lewis

The Apartment (1960) | The Medium

(10-Masterpiece)

Sad. Sweet. Masterful.

Fran Kubelik: When you’re in love with a married man, you shouldn’t wear mascara.

C.C Baxter (Lemmon) is an enabler. His philandering bosses walk all over him and his apartment, using it whenever they can get away from their wives to be with their mistresses. Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), Baxter’s office crush, isn’t doing much better. She turns out to be one of these mistresses, in love with the head honcho, Mr. J.D Sheldrake (MacMurray). A particularly low night for both of them results in the two spending the weekend together in Baxter’s apartment, helping each other. This film is a masterful balancing act between tones for director, Billy Wilder. Elevated beyond its sordid subject matter, The Apartment is sad (I love the image of Baxter completely alone in his enormous office space surrounded by empty desks or sitting by himself on a long New York bench) and sweet (I love the final exchange between Baxter and Ms. Kubelik) in equal measure and like its protagonist, hopeful. Even when he is cleaning up after someone else’s’ party early on in the film, he’s humming cheerfully. There’s a lightness to the humor in this movie that would seem inappropriate if not for how deftly Wilder and his actors manage it. Certainly, one of my favorite films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Ocean Waves (1993, Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki) Japanese 8

Voices of Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Kae Araki, Yuri Amano, Takeshi Watabe, Hikaru Midorikawa

i can hear the sea | Tumblr

(8-Exceptional Film)

Wistful. Lovely. Skilled.

Taku: The whole thing was starting to feel like a bad soap opera.

Though produced by the famed Studio Ghibli, Ocean Waves doesn’t compare to most of the company’s typically grand, epic output such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the Fireflies, or Castle in the Sky. Ocean Waves works on a much smaller scale so that I don’t believe it would be condescending to describe it as modest, or you might prefer “a gem.” Told in flashback, set in the small city of Kōchi, a high school boy, Taku, develops feelings for Rikako, the aloof new girl in school, which causes a rift between him and his best friend, Yutaka, who saw her first. Working with fewer resources (apparently, the film was originally meant for T.V), Studio Ghibli managed to fashion one of their best works. It’s an endearing story, beautifully animated, and told sweetly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(952)

Penelope (2006, Directed by Mark Palansky) English 6

Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Nick Frost, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Reese Witherspoon, Burn Gorman, Russell Brand

Penelope - Movies on Google Play

(6-Good Film)

Agreeable. Light. Undercooked.

Penelope: They always run. Why can’t you accept that? For seven years I’ve been watching them run. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?

Fairy Tales are an ancient form of storytelling at this point and the idea of a romantic lead being cursed with animal features along with it. Disney reimagined and popularized fairy tales as wish-fulfillment, and now most modern fairy tales, including Penelope, owe more to Disney than they do to the Brothers Grimm or to Beaumont or to whomever else. Penelope is wish-fulfillment. A smart, wonderful girl, the titular Penelope (Ricci), wonders if any man could truly love her as she is, with a nose cursed to resemble a pig’s. The Beast in Disney’s classic not only looked like a beast but acted like one too, and he, of course, found love. I find it amusing that Penelope is virtually flawless aside from her nose and it’s a serious question as to whether or not she’ll find someone. Alas, this is a fantasy. The characters are broad, the reactions extreme. I like Penelope a good deal as entertainment, but find it wanting as a fairy tale. There’s not much depth to the story, whereas the great ones speak volumes.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(950)

My Sassy Girl (2001, Directed by Kwak Jae-yong) Korean 7

Starring Jun Ji-hyun, Cha Tae-hyun, Kim In-moon, Song Ok-sook, Han Jin-hee, Yang Geum-seok

My Sassy Girl' (2001): An Inexplicable Non-Romance | Express ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Quirky. Cute. Appealing.

The Girl: Wanna die?

It’s rare and largely unnecessary for a romantic comedy to feature any measure of originality. Most people look to the genre for easy laughs, cute faces, and a reassuring story. My Sassy Girl is now nearly twenty years old, but I’m struck by how fresh it feels. The setup is familiar enough. On the subway one evening, a young man, Gyeon-woo (Cha), meets a very drunk girl, simply referred to as The Girl in credits, played by Jun Ji-hyun. She throws up, he’s burdened with seeing her home, and later, through a serious misunderstanding, Gyeon-woo is tossed in prison. So begins their relationship and it’s a strange one, chiefly because she’s a bizarre girl; demanding, moody, reckless. Gyeon-woo can’t help himself from falling for her, and it’s a credit to the actress that we fully understand. Mean girlfriends aren’t anybody’s idea of a romantic lead but Jun and the quirky writing make The Girl a slow charmer. My Sassy Girl relies heavily on misunderstandings; for its humor and its story. That’s generally considered a weakness in movie storytelling but it works here and the final misunderstanding leads to a surprising and satisfying finale.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Directed by Farhan Akhtar) Hindi 8

Starring Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Kulkarni

Flashback Friday: Dil Chahta Hai

(8-Exceptional Film)

Compelling. Attractive. Intimate.

Akash Malhotra: Dad, there is more to life than just signing checks.

Akash’s father: Really… What is that?

I don’t know of many films (or novels, for that matter) that focus on typical males in their twenties. Dil Chahta Hai stars Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna as best friends Akash, Sameer, and Sid; three adult university students trying to find their direction in life as they fall into complicated relationships. Carefree Akash falls in love with a girl, Shalini (Zinta), engaged to a rich jerk, Sameer discovers he has feelings for the woman, Pooja (Kulkarni), his parents tried to set him up with, and Sid, worst of all, becomes infatuated with a troubled older woman, Tara (Kapadia). Great music, a fresh look at modern India (despite this being nearly 20 years old), and engaging romance make this a classic. I’d rank it with Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982) as the best film about twenty-somethings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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