Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Four

#4 — The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) The Philadelphia Story is all about Katharine Hepburn. More specifically, the enigma code that unlocks why The Philadelphia Story is so great begins with Hepburn as the key. In the late nineteen-thirties, Hepburn’s struggles to generate consistent mass appeal among the moviegoing public led to the coining of the persistent dismissive “box office poison” (though the term has historically hung around Hepburn’s neck, other future unquestionaed icons of the silver screen such as Fred Astaire and Mae West were name-checked in the same infamous article). As headstrong in her professional navigation as … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Four

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Nineteen

#19 — Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944) To describe something as a “revelation” is entirely overused in criticism. I get that. I try to avoid the term (though I’ll admit that a quick search of the content of this very page attests that it shows up plenty). There are instances, though, in which it is the most fitting descriptor for my reaction. For me, Ingrid Bergman’s performance in Gaslight is revelatory. Before viewing it, I had plenty of respect for Bergman’s abilities as an actress, though I likely wouldn’t have held her up as someone who demonstrated the remarkable level of range a … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Nineteen

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Twenty-Five

#25 — Adam’s Rib (George Cukor, 1949) When considering classic Hollywood cinema, there exists a commonly held, wholly understandable desire to project more modern social belief systems onto certain films, celebrating them for an ahead-of-their-time embrace of, say, greater tolerance or general mindfulness. Fairly often, I suspect this is wishful thinking, an attempt to partially wipe away the decades of lamentable portrayals of, well, really anyone who wasn’t a white male. I love Duck Soup like few other films, but I get woozy with dismay every time I hear Groucho Marx deliver the joke in which “darkies” is a central part of … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Twenty-Five

Campbell, Cukor, Curtiz, Gluck, von Donnersmarck

Adam’s Rib (George Cukor, 1949). Probably the apex of the onscreen collaborations between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, largely because the storyline involving married attorneys facing off against one another in a high-profile trial allowed for the sort of warm, frightfully intelligent banter that served the duo best. For most of the film, the interplay is infectiously delightful, especially as presented by the sure lens of George Cukor, who demonstrates an unerring sense of timing, including knowing when to just lean back and let his stars cut back and forth across the frame. The screenplay by Ruth Gordon and Garson … Continue reading Campbell, Cukor, Curtiz, Gluck, von Donnersmarck

Allen, Coppola, Cukor, Gunn, Mills, Scorsese, Winterbottom

New York Stories (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen, 1989). I remember reading Roger Ebert’s review of this anthology film and thinking he cheated by giving individual star ratings to each of its three segments. After all, no one going to movie theater had the option of just paying for a third of a ticket to see the one part of the film he recommended. Now that I’ve seen it, however, I completely get why he chose to take that approach: one part of the film is significantly better than the others. Woody Allen’s segment is amusing but … Continue reading Allen, Coppola, Cukor, Gunn, Mills, Scorsese, Winterbottom

Here comes the movies with dialogue so cool — why did they never tell me to speak like that in primary school?

Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, 2006). Unexpectedly standing as the last feature film from Minghella, Breaking is evidence that we’ve lost someone from the dwindling population of directors interested in crafting films for grown-ups. With its tricky plot, its examination of delicate matters such as the growing chasm between economic classes and its unapologetic willingness to let the messiness of life seep into its framework, it’s hard to imagine that anyone ever expected this to become a substantial earner at the box office. Yet there it is, playing out with delicate insight and unfussy emotion. There’s a quiet ache to … Continue reading Here comes the movies with dialogue so cool — why did they never tell me to speak like that in primary school?