One of those movies I’ve been low-key meaning to watch every year for a decade and a half, and it’s good. Maybe not horror exactly, but it’s still a ghost story, expertly designed and written. Opens with a one-two rhyme just like all those Nightmares on Elm St. I’ve been tearing through, but the ghosts here are sad orphans who died in the house Laura is moving into. She’s Belén Rueda of a couple twisty Oriol Paulo thrillers, has got a husband and a curly-haired boy. When her son goes missing during a party and never returns, she invites medium Geraldine Chaplin to investigate the house’s spirits. Laura plays tag with the house ghosts, finally discovers her son dead under the stairs, then takes all the sleeping pills and plays ghost-mom to the houseful of dead children.
Opens with a series of insanely awesome process shots as Oliver’s doomed mother trudges through a rainstorm. Oliver grows up in the orphanarium, asks if he can please sir have some more, plays a “mute” following funeral processions, while behind the scenes there’s a scandal-drama involving an amulet that proves he’s from a wealthy family. I took notes on character names and plot details, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find an Oliver Twist synopsis whenever I need. Besides the nice cinematography, it’s just a parade of good performances, actors well-suited to their roles – until Alec Guinness appears as the giant-honkered Jew-monster Fagin. Villain Bill Sykes steals the kid, and after a rooftop chase scene, justice is served.
Something like the eighth filmed adaptation of Oliver Twist, and the last until the 60’s musical version. The kid grew up to direct/produce Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers episodes. Robert Newton, who played Sykes, went on to create the most influential pirate characters in the movies. Oliver’s kindly rich grandpa Henry Stephenson was the kindly neighbor in Cukor’s Little Women. I’m glad to see that even at the time Guinness’s portrayal was considered unacceptable by some – it sure didn’t hurt his career. Kay Walsh maybe overdoes her part, but that didn’t stop her from getting a Hitchcock picture next. Dodger Anthony Newley became a singer/songwriter who’d influence Bowie.
A LNKarno screening with Katy as special guest. This is the foster home drama that The Dissolve went nuts over. I wasn’t much in the mood to watch a movie about young counselors barely managing a house of angsty teens when it came out, but it’s better than the description sounds, mostly for all the terrific performances. Brie Larson is tops as an extremely capable counselor who becomes worried that the new girl (Kaitlyn Dever of this year’s Outside In) is being abused by her father, and having been in the same situation at that age, Brie loses her distant professionalism and goes into vigilante mode to rescue the girl. Also great: Brie’s very patient boyfriend John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) and in his debut, Lakeith Stanfield as a doomed over-sensitive kid dreading his impending release into the real world. The plotting is a bit obvious – Mike D’Angelo uses the word “overwritten,” which is probably what I’m looking for. Cretton has made two other features, neither of which sounds good, but he’s supposed to be working on a Michael B. Jordan movie next.
Cool stop-motion, meticulous big-headed characters, the camera rarely moving – kind of a laid-back movie. Opens with a nine-year-old accidentally killing his drunken violent mom by shutting the attic door as she’s coming up the stairs. He’s sent to an orphanage, where he befriends red-haired bully Simon and broken introvert Alice and new girl Camille and gets everyone to work together. The kids are surprisingly in-touch with their feelings for nine-year-olds. Anyway, the cop who first talked to Z after his mom’s death finally adopts him and Camille, but the movie doesn’t address how their budding young romance will be affected when they suddenly become siblings.
Sure it’s the cutest-ever story of an orphan mouse who befriends a hermit criminal bear, but it also has major subplots about teeth theft at the behest of a sinister orphanage.
Also there’s a family with a dentist mom who works across the street from her candy seller husband, which is funny and low-key cynical but they don’t seem to deserve the chaos Ernest wreaks upon their businesses.
Beautiful watercolor backgrounds, often fading away at the edges. According to the codirector the writing was influenced by Studio Ghibli (naturally) and Kikujiro (ha!).
I was crazy about it, but something seemed off with the English voices. After just having seen The Little Prince and feeling Jeff Bridges was just perfect as the inventor neighbor, I wasn’t feeling Forest Whitaker as Ernest. The movie is short, so I watched it again in French with original Ernest Lambert Wilson (the American in Not On The Lips), which was perhaps an improvement, perhaps not, but either way a joy to see twice.
Pretty-good movie with convoluted plot based on a Hungarian play with English dialogue rewritten by Preston Sturges. Wyler didn’t have a knack for this sort of thing. Comic timing is off from the start, and the Frank Morgan character crosses the line from annoying the protagonist to annoying the audience, but the second half seems to settle into a nice groove, thanks to the soothing influence of actor Herbert Marshall.
Margaret Sullavan (of The Shop Around The Corner, also set in Budapest) is quite good anyway. She’s an orphan recruited by Alan Hale (does he buy her? adopt her?) to work at his movie theater. Trying to avoid sexual harrassment in the street she latches onto sensitive, protective Detlaff (Reginald Owen, Scrooge a few years later), who works as a waiter at a restaurant where she meets wealthy, sexually aggressive annoyance Konrad (Frank Morgan, Sullavan’s costar again in Shop Around The Corner) who works for hilarious drunken gov’t minister Eric Blore.
Through a series of preposterous events, Margaret, who wants only to be a “good fairy” and help others, gets Konrad to enrichen randomly-selected destitute & honest (the movie isn’t necessarily saying he’s destitute because he’s honest) lawyer Max (Herbert Marshall, star of Trouble In Paradise). She then tries to carry on a relationship with Max while pretending to Konrad that they’re married, all under the watchful eyes of Detlaff.
Wikipedia: “In particular, Sturges added a movie-within-the-movie in which the actors communicate in one-syllable sentences.” Beulah Bondi of the Sturges-written Remember the Night plays the orphanarian, and the musical remake I’ll Be Yours a decade later featured Sturges regular Franklin Pangborn.
We also rewatched the Sturges-written Remember The Night for Christmas.