Saturday, February 20, 2016


Year 8, Day 51 - 2/20/16 - Movie #2,252

BEFORE: Well, now it seems I'm still doing things backwards.  I watched "Bridget Jones's Diary" before watching "Pride and Prejudice", and I watched "Clueless" before this one.  I really should have paid more respect to which movies are ripped off from which novels.  And here's my last indirect linking for February, as Hugh Grant links to Toni Collette via "About a Boy".  After today, I've got nothing but direct links that will take me all the way to "Batman v. Superman" in late March (or early April for me, more likely).  

Here's the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, February 21 (just one week until Oscar!):

Olivia De Havilland carries over from "Anthony Adverse" to:
"The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Alan Hale carrying over to:
"Night and Day" with Jane Wyman carrying over to:
"The Lost Weekend" with Frank Faylen carrying over to:
"Funny Girl" with Omar Sharif carrying over to:
"Doctor Zhivago" with Geraldine Chaplin carrying over to:
"The Four Musketeers" with Richard Chamberlain carrying over to:
"The Slipper and the Rose" with Edith Evans carrying over to:
"Tom Jones" with Albert Finney carrying over to:
"Under the Volcano" with Jacqueline Bisset carrying over to:
"The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" with Anthony Perkins carrying over to:
"Friendly Persuasion"

I'm hitting with 6 today, the four films starting with "The Lost Weekend" and also "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Tom Jones".  This line-up seems very literary, with Robin Hood and Doctor Zhivago, Tom Jones and the Musketeers.  Right when I'm covering Jane Austen, very nice.  My totals rise to 76 films seen, 162 unseen and 6 on the list.

THE PLOT:  In rural 1800s England things go badly for a young matchmaker after she finds a man for another woman.

AFTER: Well, this Jane Austen may have been a great novelist, but she was a hack screenwriter.  I found this one very hard to follow, as Miss Smith turned down the proposal of Mr. Martin so she could marry Mr. Elton, who wasn't even interested in her, but then Mr. Churchill comes to town, so maybe Miss Smith could be interested in Mr. Churchill, but he turned out to be secretly engaged to Miss Fairfax, all while Emma's trying to set up Miss Fairfax with Mr. Dixon.  Wait, which one's Mr. Dixon, do we even see him in this film?  He's not even on the list of credited characters, so I feel justified.  

This sort of romantic bait-and-switch goes on for the entire story, and it's enough to make your head spin.  Plus Austen pulled this "man who's meant for Harriet but really falls in love with Emma" plotline TWICE in the same book.  That's just lazy storytelling.  Plus there's the "mysterious benefactor who sends a piano as a gift" plotline, which was also in "Sense and Sensibility"!  You just can't keep going back to the same well, at some point an author is just stealing from herself.  Another cribbed plotline - the secret engagement thing.  Really, Jane Austen, how much effort did you put into this book, didn't you just stick together pieces of your other books?  

And Mr. Weston's son doesn't have the same last name as him?  Come on, that's a contrivance to set up a case of mistaken identity, right?  And Emma and her father live with her sister's husband's brother?  Another contrivance - of course that's a sneaky way to get a man close to her that she's not really related to, for a very obvious reason.  

"Emma" definitely shows the author on a bad track, when she'd begun to repeat herself and display signs of very obvious telegraphing.  Have fun telling that to your English teacher, you'll get an "A" for your boldness (or an "F" if your teacher has no sense of humor.)

Also starring Gwyneth Paltrow (last seen in "Sylvia"), Jeremy Northam (last seen in "Amistad"), Alan Cumming (last seen in "Circle of Friends"), James Cosmo (last seen in "Troy"), Greta Scacchi (last seen in "Flightplan"), Polly Walker, Ewan McGregor (allegedly last heard in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Sophie Thompson, Phyllida Law, Denys Hawthorne, Juliet Stevenson (last seen in "Nicholas Nickleby").

RATING: 3 out of 10 gypsies

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

Year 8, Day 50 - 2/19/16 - Movie #2,251

BEFORE: Nearly the whole cast of "Bridget Jones's Diary" (nope, that final "s" after the apostrophe still doesn't look right) carries over to the sequel.  So how could I not watch this next?  Ugh, I know I'm going to regret this.  But let's focus on Hugh Grant carrying over because this is his third appearance in a row, and he's my connection to tomorrow's film also.

In the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, February 20:
Betty Field carries over from "The Southerner" to:
"Picnic" with Kim Novak carrying over to:
"Bell, Book and Candle" with James Stewart carrying over to:
"The Naked Spur" with Janet Leigh carrying over to:
"Bye Bye Birdie" with Bryan Russell carrying over to:
"The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm" with Russ Tamblyn carrying over to:
"Father of the Bride" with Spencer Tracy carrying over to:
"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with Sidney Poitier carrying over to:
"No Way Out" with Richard Widmark carrying over to:
"Judgment at Nuremberg" with Burt Lancaster carrying over to:
"Seven Days in May" with Fredric March carrying over to:
"Anthony Adverse"

 Chalk up another three films that I've seen - "Bye Bye Birdie", "Father of the Bride" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner".  So now I'm up to 70 seen, 157 unseen, with 6 on the watchlist.

THE PLOT:  After finding love, Bridget Jones questions if she really has everything she's dreamed of having.

AFTER: Well, I've come to the conclusion that Bridget Jones is just the British Ally McBeal.  Sorry if this is widely-known and I'm just coming late to the party on this one.  They even have some of the same theme music, like Aretha Franklin and Barry White songs.  And both have been feminist icons for that generation of women that was told that they needed to balance work and relationships if they wanted to "have it all".  

But not a lot changed in "British Ally McBeal"'s life since the first film.   Since it takes place only 8 weeks later, I guess that's to be expected.  Bridget is still madly in love with Mark Darcy, to the point of moony obsessiveness, but she's still wracked with self-doubt to the point where she imagines that she sees signs of his unfaithfulness everywhere.  So it comes as no surprise that the minute she convinces herself that he's having an affair, she bolts without an explanationWell, at least she's consistent, she flies off the handle in every case, jumps to conclusions in both positive and negative directions.  Possibly bi-polar, definitely overly emotional.  

That's when her ex, Daniel Cleaver, shows up again.  Is she destined to spend the rest of her adult life bouncing back and forth between these two former friends and current rivals?  If she's wrong about Mark cheating, though, then isn't SHE the one who went out and cheated?  I mean, I guess she and Mark were on a break, but at the end of the day, which one of them remained faithful?  Oh, yeah, not her.  

What I don't understand is, if women are being all progressive and stuff, and they want and deserve equal rights, and the single progressive women want to be married women, why can't THEY propose?  Why does Bridget automatically revert to the old stereotype that seems to dictate that only men can pop the question?  If she knows that she wants to marry Mark, why does she spend her time waiting for him to ask?  See your future, be your future, reach out and grab it.  

There's a marginal improvement here over the first film, just because there are a few characters who aren't nasty to everyone else near them, all the time.  Some of Bridget's friends actually seem a bit supportive here, instead of just teasing her for her horrible life choices and cooking skills.  And her parents manage to get back together, after the mother's affair with a home-shopping salesman (at least, I think that's what he was).  But Bridget's boss still tries to hit on her and keeps giving her humiliating reporting jobs, Daniel's still a dog and her uncle still tries to grope her at the family holiday party.   

Speaking of that party, a big NITPICK POINT listed on the IMDB - we first see Bridget in this film at her family's annual party, which seems to suggest that it's been a year since she started dating Mark, so her claim of being in a relationship for 8 weeks doesn't seem to make sense.  However, the holiday party seen in the first film was not when she started dating Mark - she had a bad encounter with him there, remember?  Then she started keeping a diary, and we don't really know how much time passes over the course of the first film.  It could be 10 months, let's say, and then at the end when Mark buys her the new diary, it's snowing again, and we could assume that her previous diary is close to full, which could mean the end of the calendar year is approaching.  So, potentially this is not a mistake.  

However, it is a mistake that when skydiving, the plane's altitude is given in feet, not meters, and Daniel also mentions flying several thousand miles to Thailand, not kilometers.   Again, Hollywood screenwriters, the people in the U.K. are on the metric system.  And the people in the U.S. are never, ever going to switch to that system if you keep babying us like this in movie dialogue.

And on a more positive note, in this film, Bridget spends some time in prison.  Too bad it's not for the reasons that I would put her there. 

Also starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips, James Callis, Celia Imrie, James Faulkner, Neil Pearson, Paul Brooke (all carrying over from "Bridget Jones's Diary"), Jacinda Barrett, Ian McNeice (last seen in "White Noise")

RATING: 4 out of 10 massage parlors

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bridget Jones's Diary

Year 8, Day 49 - 2/18/16 - Movie #2,250

BEFORE: I spent another day looking through blogs from people who review children's books, and it's really starting to eat at my soul.  Really, all I want is to check the blogger's review policy and copy their e-mail address, but to get through that, I have to hear about something they knitted or some cyst that they seem to have developed on their finger.  Jeez, remember when people kept their private information private, instead of posting or tweeting every damn detail about their lives?  Nobody cares!  And now I have to find out what Bridget Jones writes in her diary...

Hugh Grant and Gemma Jones carry over from "Sense and Sensibility" - and I know that this is related to Jane Austen because one of the characters is named Mr. Darcy, which I think is a reference to "Pride and Prejudice".  I may be putting the cart before the horse by watching this one before I watch P&P, but that's what the linking is telling me to do.

But shouldn't the title be "Bridget Jones' Diary" instead of "Bridget Jones's Diary"?  That word "Jones's" just doesn't look right.  

Here's the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, February 19 - 

Jacqueline White carries over from "Crossfire" to:
"The Narrow Margin" with Charles McGraw carrying over to:
"T-Men" with June Lockhart carrying over to:
"Meet Me in St. Louis" with Mary Astor carrying over to:
"The Maltese Falcon" with Barton Maclane carrying over to:
"The Spanish Main" with Fritz Leiber carrying over to:
"The Story of Louis Pasteur" with Paul Muni carrying over to:
"Juarez" with Brian Aherne (not Bran, TCM!) carrying over to:
"Captain Fury" with Douglass Dumbrille carrying over to:
"A Day at the Races" with Maureen O'Sullivan carrying over to:
"The Thin Man" with Myrna Loy carrying over to: 
"The Best Years of Our Lives" with Virginia Mayo carrying over to:
"The Flame and the Arrow" with Norman Lloyd carrying over to: 
"The Southerner"

I've seen three of these, "Meet Me In St. Louis", "The Maltese Falcon", and since I covered the Marx Brothers last year, "A Day at the Races".  I picked up all 6 "Thin Man" films about a month ago, so I'm going to count that as something added to the list, plus I'm adding one more, the Best Picture winner "The Best Years of Our Lives" because it seems important - I can watch it on Veterans' Day or something.  Now I'm up to 67 seen, 149 unseen, with 6 on the watchlist.

THE PLOT:  A British woman is determined to improve herself while she looks for love in a year in which she keeps a personal diary.

AFTER: I think I've avoided watching the Bridget Jones movies for so long because I can't stomach what she stands for, this kind of "feminism lite" that ends up just creating an improper fantasy for women.  It's related to my feelings about the 2016 election, but let's see if I can explain it properly.  First we have to back up a few decades, to the 1960's, which for some people was the era of "free love", the sexual revolution.  Then came the 1970's, and it was all about equal rights, everything that men had, women wanted to have too.  Fair enough, I'll grant that.  But then came the 1980's, and it was called the "me" decade - everybody wanted what they wanted, and we had those annoying entitled yuppies.  

When the dust settled, we had the children of the 90's in place, who were close to being adults when this film came out in 2001 - Generation X we called them at the time, and they were the product of the philosophies of the preceding decades, all rolled into one. (Except for the sex part, AIDS had pretty much killed off the concept of "free love")  Women still had the desire for equal rights, and people still had the desire for everything from the entitled 80's.  The prevailing message to women was "You can have it all!" but there was a second part of the message that didn't really get communicated.  It should have been "You can have it all - provided you're willing to work for it."  Yes, women could juggle careers, and love, and maybe even kids, but doing all that took hard work and commitment.  A job is a commitment, a relationship is a commitment.  But by just saying the first part, "You can have it all!" we created a completely entitled generation that wanted everything for little effort. 

Don't believe me?  Take a look around at today's hipsters.  The people who had all day to sit around and occupy Wall Street, complaining about being out of work, instead of using that time to, you know, work.  Or at least look for jobs.  Today's millennials not only want it all, they feel they deserve it, and they complain when they don't get it.  These are the people who are supporting Bernie Sanders, because he's promising free college education, health insurance for everyone, where another candidate might say, "Sure, you can have health insurance, if you're willing to work for it."  The hipsters are suddenly not interested.  And they'd rather hear about the fantasy then entertain something more realistic.  

(I just don't think that Socialism's going to work for the U.S., because just as Socialism was thinly-veiled Communism in the U.S.S.R., here it's going to be thinly-veiled capitalism.  Everybody wants what they think they deserve, plus a little more.  For individuals and small businesses, every decision is made on the basis of cost-effectiveness or personal gain.  Like, do you think that restaurant serves locally-sourced, sustainable produce because they truly care about the planet, or because local ingredients are cheaper, and sustainable items means they'll never go out of business?)  

But this brings me back to "Bridget Jones's Diary", which is the equivalent of undeliverable campaign promises to women.  This is porn for women in its own way, letting women think they can smoke, and drink, and sleep around, and they'll end up with the perfect man anyway.  At least in "Trainwreck", Amy Schumer's character eventually learned to take steps to change her behavior, but I don't think that Bridget Jones ever does.  She doesn't have to, because Hollywood's going to provide her with a happy ending no matter how badly she screws up.

Looking at this film after watching "Sense and Sensibility", it feels like Bridget Jones combines the worst qualities of the two Dashwood sisters.  Like Elinor, she's too willing to let her man go if he has another obligation (or a little something on the side) but like Marianne she's immature enough to be overly emotional about it.  She wants it all, she feels she deserves it all without putting in any effort, and then she complains when she doesn't get it.  

The overarching message seems to be: If you love something, set it free, and if it doesn't come back, feel free to harbor a great deal of resentment, and then trash-talk the guy in your diary (or on social media).  Not cool.

Plus, she goes from sleeping with her boss in order to get ahead at one job, to sleeping with a trial lawyer in order to land an important interview at the next job - I don't really see how that's a vast improvement.  Both seem like a violation of workplace ethics, like she has no moral boundaries.  

NITPICK POINT: The scene with the "Tarts and vicars" party - not everyone knows what this is (I sure didn't), maybe taking a minute to explain what this is to the audience might have gone a long way. For a minute I thought it was Cockney rhyming slang for "knickers", so you should come to the party in your underwear.  WTF, anyway?  Why do they throw parties where men and women are supposed to dress like priests and sluts?  Here I was starting to think that Britain was a magical place, but so many of the people in this film are terrible people - the woman are all catty and the men act like dogs.

NITPICK POINT: Why does Bridget monitor her weight loss in pounds?  Aren't they on the metric system over there in the U.K.?  Why is she the only person not using kilos?  Or do they still use "stones"?  I think, like with the extra apostrophe in the title, that Hollywood assumes that all Americans are stupid.  I'm not saying that they're wrong, but I just want to see things done more accurately.

Also starring Renée Zellweger (last seen in "Down With Love"), Colin Firth (last seen in "The Importance of Being Earnest"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Moulin Rouge!"), Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips (last seen in "Notting Hill"), James Callis, Celia Imrie (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Embeth Davidtz (last seen in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), Paul Brooke, James Faulkner, Honor Blackman (last seen in "Cockneys vs. Zombies"), Patrick Barlow, Felicity Montagu, Neil Pearson, Dolly Wells, with a cameo from Salman Rushdie.

RATING: 4 out of 10 launch parties

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sense and Sensibility

Year 8, Day 48 - 2/17/16 - Movie #2,249

BEFORE:  Kate Winslet carries over from "The Holiday" as I finally start to tackle the works of Jane Austen.  It's a little strange, perhaps, that I decided to clear things off the list like the James Bond series, Hitchcock films and the work of the Marx Brothers before getting to Ms. Austen, but things are what they are. She's just going to have to be content with her place in my pecking order.

Here's the TCM line-up of Oscar-nominated films for tomorrow, February 18:

Elijah Cook, Jr. carries over from "Trial" to:
"Dillinger" with Anne Jeffreys carrying over to:
"Sing Your Way Home" with Jack Haley carrying over to:
"Higher and Higher" with Frank Sinatra carrying over to:
"On the Town" with Florence Bates carrying over to:
"Kismet" with Edward Arnold carrying over to:
"The War Against Mrs. Hadley" with Van Johnson carrying over to:
"Too Young to Kiss" with June Allyson carrying over to:
"Executive Suite" with Nina Foch carrying over to:
"An American in Paris" with Oscar Levant carrying over to:
"The Band Wagon" with Robert Gist carrying over to:
"Strangers on a Train" with Robert Walker carrying over to:
"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" with Robert Mitchum carrying over to:

I've only seen three of these before - "On the Town", "An American in Paris", and "Strangers on a Train".  I thought maybe I'd seen "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo", but no, last year I watched "Destination Tokyo", which is not the same film.  I'm not sure how they can justify not putting the two Gene Kelly films next to each other, but then, I'm not seeing the big picture.  Sometimes when you need to link everything together in a chain, you have to separate some of the more obvious connections.  I'm up to 64 films seen, 141 unseen, with 4 added to the list.  Decisions need to be made tomorrow.  

THE PLOT:  Rich Mr. Dashwood dies, leaving his second wife and her three daughters poor by the rules of inheritance. The two eldest daughters are the titular opposites.

AFTER: I guess I never really thought about it, that the words "Sense" and "Sensibility" are opposites - since they seem to have the same root word, I always assumed that there was only a slight difference between them.  But the dictionary definition for "sensibility" equates it with "sensitivity", saying that it refers to someone's delicate nature, making them easily offended or shocked.  Now I'm starting to understand the meaning of the title, one sister is sensiBLE and the other is overly sensiTIVE.  

Elinor, the sensible one, takes it in stride when the man she loves turns out to be engaged to someone else.  It makes sense, she's older, maybe she's been through something like this before, had her heart broken once or twice.  Marianne is the sensitive one, and when the man she loves suddenly stops calling (and by calling I mean stopping by, not calling on the phone...) she takes it hard, really hard.  She starts wandering aimlessly around the country estate in the rain, and considering the state of medicine in the early 1800's, that's not a great idea.  Back then if you came down with a cold they'd break out the leeches or the bloodletting, and before you know it, you're more sick from the cure than you were from the disease.  

Officially the first "soap opera" aired in 1930, but unless I'm way off base here, it seems to me that Jane Austen wrote some of the pioneering work in the form.  Consider what happens in this story: a woman falls in love only to find out her man is secretly engaged - to someone else!  Another woman falls in love only to find her man got another woman pregnant - out of wedlock!   That guy who was secretly engaged gets left at the altar - so his fiancée can marry his brother!   Then that brings me to that girl who went walking around in the rain - and comes very close to dying!  But Austen really should have saved that storyline for sweeps week, it's too bad that hadn't been invented yet.

Kids, here's what you have to consider.  In the early 1800's, I know this sounds a bit strange, but legally women had about the same status as animals or other property.  We've come a long way since then - but at the time, if a man with children died, his estate became the property of his oldest son, and not his daughter.  That's where this Austen story starts, with the three daughters of one man left out in the cold because they were sisters born to one wife, and their father's inheritance going to their half-brother, the son from another wife.  And even though the son, John, agrees to "take care" of his half-sisters, his wife Fanny talks him out of it. Thus the three sisters need to move, so that John can take possession of the house.

And as women of the early 1800's, it's now important for them to marry well, because it's not like they can get jobs or anything like that (again, different time, don't blame me...) and they don't have a dowry, so there's less incentive for men to marry them.  If you're not familiar with the term, a dowry was money paid by a father to the man who marries his daughter.  I know, it seems so archaic.  But also, bear in mind a few things - these rich women who didn't work, well, let's just say they were pleasingly plump (unlike most of the women seen in this film) and that was also culturally acceptable at the time.  In addition, things like deodorant, toothpaste and modern showers hadn't been invented yet, so maybe you sort of get an idea why someone would need to be paid to marry somebody.  Plus, people back then just didn't live as long as they do now, so asking someone to give up 10 or 20 years of their life to be married to someone was a huge deal.  On top of all that, a lot of people were very religious, so divorce wasn't an acceptable option like it is now.  

(Really, this is all a-grade material for your next book report, I don't know why I give this stuff out for free, I really should be charging for this...) 

Also starring Emma Thompson (last seen in "Saving Mr. Banks"), Hugh Grant (last seen in "About a Boy"), Alan Rickman (last seen in "CBGB"), Greg Wise (last seen in "Johnny English"), Gemma Jones (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Imelda Staunton (last seen in "Malificent"), Hugh Laurie (last seen in "The Man in the Iron Mask"), Robert Hardy, Elizabeth Spriggs, Tom Wilkinson (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Imogen Stubbs, Harriet Walter (last seen in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), James Fleet, Emilie Francois, Richard Lumsden, Oliver Ford Davies. 
RATING: 6 out of 10 unanswered letters