I’m still watching movies!!!


As you might expect, our theme for October (yes, I’m just getting to October) was horror movies. And I thought three of them made an interesting evolutionary trio: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and The Cabin In The Woods.

Now to me, Halloween represents that rare thing in Hollywood – an original and well-executed idea. I remember when it came out. I was 13 and we couldn’t wait to sneak into theaters to see it. We’d seen nothing like it before – horror in suburbia with a smart but emotionless killer (the blank mask) coming to get us. Especially if we were doing something illicit as teenagers (sex and drugs). I think the movie holds up pretty well. The number of deaths seems small by today’s standards, it’s not particularly gory, and the minimalist soundtrack still holds up.

Friday the 13th, of course, represents that…

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When A Room With A View premiered in 1986 the first digit of my age had just turned to a “2” and there was absolutely zero chance that I would have gone to see it in a theater.  Zero. Zip. Nada. I can guarantee you that I would have just gone to see Aliens again instead.

This was the one film in August’s list (other than the just-released Savages) that I had no previous experience with either as the novel or film. I had a vague expectation that it took place in Italy… and that there was a room… and that it likely had a view… and that it was probably some sort of love story… and… that’s it. I had no idea who was in it or what time period it took place in. I’d gotten to having a “4” as the first digit in my age without ever…

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Sometimes the adaptation outdoes the original material…


One common conversation among bibliophiles is how film adaptations so often fail to live up to the books from which they are derived. Words like “depth”, “nuance”, and “characterization” are usually included in any comparison, with the film nearly always on the short end. So, it was with some interest that our Flick Buddies topic for August was literary adaptations.

There were two films that I thought demanded a special shout-out because I think they are better than the book from which they were derived.

The first one is Jaws, which is such a tremendous and landmark film that I imagine most people don’t even know that it was originally a novel. It is probably my favorite film, period. I’ve posted about it a couple of times, here and here. My guess is that I’ve probably watched it from start to finish a dozen times, so it’s…

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Flick Buddies: North By Northwest (1959)

Steve here:

North By Northwest (1959)

Like Kelly, I will shamefully admit that I had never watched North By Northwest until this past week. And like Kelly I’ll be free to admit that this was a HUGE MISTAKE on my part.

Freakin’ Biplane!

What a film. In it, the dapper Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill is mistaken for undercover agent George Kaplan and before he knows it he’s mixed up in a cross-country trek involving kidnapping, murder, international spies, the heads on Mount Rushmore, and of course, romance.

Was the cast perfect? Maybe. I mean, has anyone ever been as cool and suave as Cary Grant? I doubt it. James Mason was at his breathlessly sinister best, a young Martin Landau was excellent as the creepy henchmen, and Eva Marie Saint was perfect as the beautiful (and deceptive) Eve Kendall. An aside: I couldn’t get over how much Saint reminded me of Anya (Emma Caufield) from Buffy. Also, I bought into Grant’s and Saint’s attraction waaaayyy more than I did with say the one between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain.

Grant trumps Mason. Or does he?!?!?

Probably the most iconic scene (which I’d seen out of context before) was when Thornhill is lured out to a barren field in Indiana and attacked from the air by a crop-dusting biplane. The filming is fantastic – the pale sky against the brown dirt and Grant in his fine suit. The slow turns of the biplane arcing into the sun are absolutely filled with menace.

Things I liked most: The biplane attack. Thornhill avoiding assassins by causing a ruckus at an art auction. James Mason’s cool confidence. The snappy dialog. Thornhill’s desperate attempts to break up Mason’s getaway.

Things I didn’t like: Was there anything? I’m still thinking about it…

Things that are still with me: The realization that I will never, ever be as cool as Cary Grant.

Grade: A+

Flickbuddies: Rebecca (1940)

Steve here:

Rebecca (1940)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. So begins Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. This gothic tale tells the story of the whirlwind romance of a young woman (never named) with the handsome aristocratic widower, Maxim de Winter, and his young second wife’s struggles to compete with the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter (the eponymous Rebecca).

I have never read the original novel and hadn’t seen this adaptation before, and I thought it was superb. The dialog was snappy and smart, and the new bride’s anxiety at falling short in comparison to the dazzling late Rebecca was palpable. I thought the young and beautiful Joan Fontaine reminded me a lot of Kate Winslet.

Of all the films this month, I thought this was the most “unhitchcockian” maybe because I think he played it mostly straight up. Extra props for getting in topics (cousin incest, barely veiled lesbian obsession) that I would have thought would be pretty scandalous in 1940. Then again, maybe that’s why the novel was so popular.

Also, it’s funny in this social media obsessed  and over-sharing world that there was a time when people could have secrets. At some level you just want to shake de Winter and have him just be honest with his new bride for like five minutes instead of being all dark, distant and sulky.

What’s your name again, honey?

Things I liked most: The creepy Mrs. Danvers’ obsession with Rebecca. Fontaine’s performance that took her character from a wide-eyed girl to tough competitor fighting for her husband. “That’s not the Northern Lights. That’s Manderley!”

Things I didn’t like: de Winter is supposed to be around 40 and Fontaine’s character is in her early 20s. Isn’t that kind of creepy? Maxim could have solved a lot of problems by having a simple conversation with his new bride. Maxim not quite clueing in that a whole houseful of “R”-emblazoned things might make his new girl feel a little awkward.

Things that are still with me: The way the whole movie shifts when de Winter admits his true feelings about Rebecca.

Grade: A-

Flick Buddies: Torn Curtain (1966)

Steve here:

Torn Curtain (1966)

Torn Curtain is a Cold War thriller about the presumed defection of an American phyicist (Paul Newman) and his secretary/assistant/fiancee (Julie Andrews) to East Germany. Newman’s character is apparently bitter about having his missile-defense project killed by the Pentagon, so he’s taking his toys and going to the DDR. Or is he?!?!?!?

Torn Curtain

There’s a lot done right in Torn Curtain. I thought Newman’s grappling fight to the death with one of the agents assigned to him (Gromek) was ugly and prolonged (unlike most Hollywood fights) — and very effective. And the German Commies were played as credible foils – not omniscient, but not blundering fools, either. It was weird to see Germans be the enemy without them being Nazis. In the end, I didn’t love this movie mostly because Newman and Andrews have zero chemistry. ZERO. None. Zip. Nothing. Nada. I didn’t care about them or their relationship in anything more than the most abstract sense.

Thing I liked most: The death of Gromek. The incredibly slow “bus-chase” scene where Newman and Andrews attempt to bluff their way from Leipzig to Berlin with the aid of some sympathizers. The wide cast of supporting actors did a great job.

Things I didn’t like: Did I mention that Newman and Andrews had zero chemistry? Did he really save the day by causing chaos in a movie theater by yelling, “Fire!!”?? One of the most climactic scenes was two guys at a blackboard.

Things that are still with me: Newman was just too damned good looking to be a physicist. A biochemist, for sure, but never a physicist. Have you ever met one of those guys?

Grade: B-  Good overall supporting performances undone by leaden lead chemistry.

Flickbuddies: Marnie (1964)

Steve here:

Marnie (1964)

Marnie was my choice in Flickbuddies for August’s Alfred Hitchcock theme. I thought it would be a movie that many people hadn’t seen and I liked that it involved a man from Philadelphia (like me) and a woman from Baltimore (like Kelly and Jenny). In many ways, Marnie is sort of an odd movie. The title character (played by Tippi Hedren) is a con-artist-thief who is set to prey on successful businessman Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). She’s also sent into a panic by a) lightning, b) the color red, and c) being touched romantically by a man. So, naturally, Sean falls for her. I mean, who wouldn’t?


Things I liked most: I actually liked the scenes where Marnie is a thief, more than the ones in which Mark is trying to “figure her out”. I’m also totally on Team Lil. Lil was Connery’s sexpot sister-in-law who pretty much threw herself at him and always (rightfully) distrusted Marnie.

Things I liked least: Well, Rutland pretty much rapes Marnie on their honeymoon cruise, so there’s that. But he saves her when she tries to kill herself later, so there’s that.

Things that are still with me: Occasionally I will catch myself walking around trying to say the name Marnie like Connery,  “Maaaahhhhrrrrnneee-h…  Maaaahhhhrrrrnneee-h“


Grade: B-  Unlike some, I was not as offended my Marnie’s mom’s “Baltimore” accent and I liked all the performances, which I thought were pretty good given the somewhat stilted material.