I watched 23 films in the month of February. That's not quite one film a day but it isn't bad either. My theme this month was foreign films and I watched 14 movies not made in the United States and not initially using the English language. I write "initially" because I watched a few low budget Italian horror films and I could only find them in dubbed versions. Still, I call that a victory. My tentative theme for March is Madness. No, I won't be watching basketball movies, or even sports ones. But rather I'm using the basketball nomenclature and instead, I'm watching movies in which one of the characters exhibits some form of madness. That's still tentative as I need to make a list of movies that fit that bill and of which I either have a DVD copy or is streaming on some service I subscribe to. But we'll talk about that more next week, for now here are the cool things I consumed this week.
When I was in high school, this would have been in the early 1990s, I came across McLintock! in the New Release section of my local video store. This seemed strange to me as it was an old John Wayne movie. I've come to understand this was the first time the movie was available on home video. I remember reading about that and hearing buzz from people excited to finally get to bring it home. This was before the Internet was really a thing so I must have read it in Premiere or some such. I wasn't a John Wayne fan back then so I didn't watch it but that memory has stuck into my brain.
All these years later and I've become a John Wayne fan. I've been casually watching a bunch of his films over the last few months. Today, I finally watched McLintock!. After years of hearing how funny and good it was, I have to admit that after watching it I'm a little bit disappointed.
It starts out slow. The film spends a lot of time developing Wayne's character as G.W. McLintock, a wealthy rancher who basically runs the town. It goes to great pains to show that he is a man's man, but also kind and fair. All of this stuff is relatively interesting, but not particularly funny and it kind of drags. But Wayne is in his element and it works, more or less.
Things don't get moving until his estranged wife, Becky (Maureen O'Hara), shows up. She's become a socialite and hates the backwaters he lives in, but their daughter (Stephanie Powers) is coming to town from back East where she's been in school and she wants to see her. There's also a pretty widow (Yvonne DeCarlo) whom McLintock has hired to be his cook, a love interest for the daughter, and some business about how the government treats Native Americans.
It is basically a western version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew with some really fun scenes, a whole lot of filler, and some questionable moments. Wikipedia says Wayne developed the story because he didn't like the way Westerns treated both Native Americans and women. Which is kind of funny considering Wayne starred in lots of movies in which both of those weren't treated particularly well. But maybe he had a change of mind.
The thing is while there are moments that directly contend with how the American government treated Native Americans the film also buys into some the stereotypes. One of the few Native Americans with a speaking role spends most of his dialogue talking about drinking whiskey. There are also two scenes in which adult women are given spankings by their men. No kink is implied. In fact, the whole thing ends with Wayne chasing down O'Hara to give her a spanking because she's been so mean to him through the whole film. She has been mean because she thinks he's cheated on her and while that notion isn't settled, the spanking does the trick. This makes sense from the Shakespeare angle but is pretty gross from a modern one.
Still, the whole thing is given a light-hearted tone. There are lots of funny moments, and the cast is quite enjoyable.
A Man For All Seasons
King Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon failed to deliver him a son. She had multiple miscarriages and the one child who was born and remained healthy was a girl, unsuitable as an heir. The King, desperate for a male heir, asked for a divorce from the Pope. He refused, and the King set about creating the Church of England, with himself as its Supreme Governor. Most of the government, church leaders, and advisors to the King fell in line, but Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor at the time refused. Or rather, knowing that if he outright refused he'd be hanged, he stepped down from his position and remained completely silent on the issue.
The King issued a decree declaring that everyone must swear an oath declaring him the Supreme Governor of the Church. More refused to sign it but was clever in the way he did it so as not to make any declaration one way or another about the oath. The King's people knew what he was doing and sought multiple ways in which to catch him. Eventually, they had a trial where everyone knew full well what the verdict would be before it even started. He was found guilty and hung. Later, he was declared a saint by the Catholic Church and he is still regarded as a great man who was willing to die for his beliefs.
Fred Zinnemann's film, A Man For All Seasons, based upon Robert Bolt's play of the same name dramatically depicts this period on More's life. Paul Scofield plays More with Robert Shaw portraying the King and Susannah York playing More's daughter, Margaret. Orson Welles has a short, but powerful scene as Cardinal Wolsey. It is the type of film that makes me want to go back and study British history. It is filled with names and events that I vaguely remember from high school, but not enough that I could tell how accurately the film depicts them.
Scofield is fantastic as More, a man full of conviction, but wise enough to do everything he can to stay alive. Having watched Jaws approximately 150 million times, it is always difficult to see Robert Shaw as anyone other than Quint. He plays King Henry VIII with a twinkle in his eye and an infectious laugh, yet with a hidden ferocity that spells out the danger to anyone who can cross him. It won all kind of awards and it has the gleam of Important Film all over it, yet it is quite enjoyable to watch if you have an interest in history.
I'm not a huge action movie fan. In my youth, I eagerly awaited each new Stallone or Schwarzenegger film, but at some point, I grew tired of every film having to come up with bigger and bigger guns and bigger and bigger explosions. I can still enjoy a well-executed action scene but it needs to come within a good film with more to it than just action.
Yet here I am, rather excited about Guns Akimbo which looks like a ridiculously stupid action film. The plot which is about a young man (played by Daniel Radcliffe, whom I always enjoy) who has two guns surgically attached to his hands and must survive multiple attacks from some kind of gang, is so over the top, so insanely dumb that I find myself a bit gleeful in anticipation.
That has been dampened a bit by some mediocre reviews and some pretty terrible things tweeted out by the film's director, Jason Lei Howden, but this trailer keeps my spirits up.
Love on the Run
Do you remember when television series used to have clip shows once a year? They'd concoct some dumb plot wherein the main cast would be trapped at home by a storm or some other such thing then they'd spend the entire episode reminiscing about their antics over the previous year or even the entire series. It ran like a greatest hits collection of some of the best clips from the series. Love on the Run, the final film in Francois Truffaut's Antoin Doinel series of films plays out a lot like those clip shows.
After the events of Bed and Board in which Antoine cheated on Christine, they are finally set to get a divorce. This gives both of them cause to look back on their stormy relationship (and us to get lots of clips from previous movies). Later, Antoine runs into Colette, the girl he was infatuated with in Antoine and Colette. Naturally, we get clips from that film as well. Having watched all four previous films in this series over the last few weeks, I found myself growing a little bored watching all these clips again, but Antoine is such a delightful character I was happy to see him one more time.
Shaun of the Dead
It seems that every couple of years I wind up watching all of Edgar Wright's films. A few weeks back when I was a little under the weather I watched Baby Driver. I'd not seen it since it first came out and I was interested to see how well it held up. It did so magnificently. Then not long after that, I was upstairs in my bedroom flipping through my various streaming services, which led me to my list of digital copies of films I own. I don't buy digital copies of anything but sometimes Blu-rays come with codes and I try to use them even if I rarely actually watch in that way. But the Blu-ray player is downstairs and Hot Fuzz was there for the watching and so I put it on.
Last night, something similar occurred and I found myself watching Shaun of the Dead. I'm sure next week I'll wind up watching At World's End which will then lead me to Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and then I'll be desperate for September to come when his newest film, Last Night in Soho is scheduled to be released.
The first time I watched Shaun of the Dead I didn't like it. I'm rather sure I wrote a negative review of it for Blogcritics back in the day. I no longer remember what I didn't like about it. I suspect I didn't know what to make of it. I've always loved zombie movies but watching this film that seemed to both love the genre and make fun of it was confusing to me. Or something. I really don't remember.
I've seen it many times since then and have grown to love it. Wright is clearly a fan of the genre and he's made a film that both works as a straight-up zombie film, but also references just about every zombie film ever made while also having fun with the absurdities of the genre. In each of the films in the Cornetto Trilogy, he sets up a million different things in the first half and then has them paid off in both big and small ways in the second half. Every time I watch one of these films, I catch a new one. With this viewing, I caught how Nick Frost's character regular says "cock-it" or some variation thereof as a derogatory slang word and then towards the end of the film he makes the same exclamation except for this time he's telling Simon Pegg's character that he actually needs to cock it, with it being the gun he's trying to shoot. I love little things like that.
Jordan Peele has produced this direct sequel to the 1992 horror film by the same name. I don't recall really enjoying the original movie but I've come to love Peele as a horror filmmaker and I'm interested to see what he'll do with it. The trailer looks scary anyway.