First of all, let me say welcome to the new followers that made it to the next post! for those of you who are not familiar, I do mini reviews of each movie I see each month (you can find the previous months here here here and here.) I am pleased to say that this is the first month in doing this series of posts, that an old movie was my favorite! I have always loved old movies, but I have come to the realization that I have seen most of the good ones. But this month I found a real hidden gem.
1: Ace in the hole.
Was there anyone better at writing dialogue than Billy Wilder? Maybe Neil Simon? I’m not sure. Some like it Hot has been a family favorite and I have seen the movie many times. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing a comical masterpiece. Though fare warned, just because it’s black and white, does not mean it is clean. Another Billy Wilder classic which I have enjoyed, is Sunset Boulevard. Knowing he had made these two films took away any hesitation I had about watching Ace in the hole. And boy am I glad I did! Even though I am an optimist at heart, I find some cynical movies highly entertaining. Mainly because the dialogue is usually heavy with sarcasm (an art of which I am very fond of.) And Ace in the hole is a film where cynicism really pays off. In a world where the media is seen as unreliable and crooked, it was interesting to see the media portrayed in the same light in 1951. The storyline is super simple: a journalist finds a man who is trapped in a cave and decides to do everything in his power to keep him there, while he milks the story for multiple days as his ticket to the top of the journalist world. The world of journalism has always been stained by cutthroat people, willing to break moral and legal laws. This film does a great job of setting up a man who is desperate. So, desperate that he commits deeds he later regrets and tries to stop. Since this a film noir, that means that there are only about two good people in the entire film. It also means that the dialogue and story are rich and entertaining. Kirk Douglas is especially great. I’ve seen him in a few things (20,000 leagues under the sea, War Wagon, Man from snowy river) but I think this to be my favorite performance of his. He plays a wide range of emotions and continues to unravel as the film progresses. Tons of people flock to the site of the man trapped inside the cave, showing that stories went “viral” long before the invention of the internet. One of the things which seems unbelievable about the film is that a circus sets up outside of the cave. Making money hand over fist while a poor man is trapped inside a cave. But as I thought about it later, the circus was symbolic: The media is a circus. It is crazy, unhinged, a little scary and creepy. The carnival music in the background really helps set the tone of things getting out of hand. The more I thought about this film, the more I really liked it. There was thought put into the scrip and filming. The acting was great, and there were consequences for people’s actions. It’s hard to talk about it without giving any of the story away, so I’ll leave it at that, and go the number two on the list.
2: The Great Gilly Hopkins.
From the trailer, I was expecting this film to be sweet and cliché. And it was sweet, but not entirely cliché, which was a plus. This film does make you feel good, but it really breaks your heart before it gives you a happy ending. I was sold on the idea when I saw that Sophie Nélisse was playing the lead. She was phenomenal on Book Thief, so it was fun to see her playing a totally different character, which is a testament to her talent. This girl has a long and bright future as an actress. The dialogue was surprisingly raw and painful for a kid’s movie. There was a lot of cursing, mostly done by kids, so if that is something you don’t like, you may want to think twice before seeing this film. I usually dislike children cursing in films, but it is mainly done by the girl, who is a foster child acting out, so it feels natural. She also starts to teach an innocent boy how to swear, unbeknownst to him that it is wrong. Everyone in this movie nails their parts. Kathy Bates is the anchor that gives this film weight, and believability. Octavia Spencer shines as the teacher. Bill Cobbs is great as the gentle blind neighbor. Glen Close is heartbreaking as the grandmother. The social worker also shines in that he holds his own with some intimidating performances. This film was not a blockbuster, and it is not Oscar worthy. But it does blow some of the other movies of the same genre out of the water. And that deserves to be applauded.
3: Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
Sometimes all you ask of a movie is for it to make you laugh. And who can make you laugh without even saying a word, better than Rowan Atkinson? While Mr. Bean’s Holiday is not as good as the Johnny English movies, it is still fun to see an iconic character take his adventures to the big screen. Two people very near and dear to me had seen this film in theaters and absolutely HATED it, so I felt like I was jeopardizing my relationships just by watching this film. So first of off, I am sorry, let me just say that I totally understand why you wouldn’t have liked it. And I hope you’ll forgive me because…
I liked it. I really did. So much of it worked for me. There was actually a plot, very similar to silent film comedies. Some of the scenes are pure genius. The supporting cast offers Mr. Bean a chance to really react in his great way. He is a simple man, who wants to go to the beach. But he constantly makes things worse for everyone around him. I honestly didn’t think it would be this easy to watch a feature length adventure of Mr. Bean, but this movie is nicely paced. It has songs, background noises. Other people talking, and even Mr. Bean himself says things every once in a while. Though his voice is actually kind of annoying. Yet funny. I found its playful critique of the art of film being taken too seriously a breath of fresh air (perhaps somewhere on the beach.) However, even though this film satisfied my curiosity, and made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, I still am not putting it forward to be considered in my list for “Best films I saw this year.” That honor is left to The Great Gilly Hopkins and Ace in the Hole
And with that, there is the end of the month of May. Thanks for reading! What films did you see this month? Have you seen any of these before? Let me know in the comments.