This is going to be a tough one. I didn't feel much of a spark from any of these films, negative or positive, even though all are highly regarded to one degree or another. I'm just gonna have to plow on through, though.
The River - d. Jean Renoir (1951) - Is it me? I was looking forward to this film -- not least, I admit, because Wes Anderson cited it as a major influence on his marvelous The Darjeeling Limited -- but as I watched it I just...sat there. It looked beautiful, of course. And I realized that the lovely Adrienne Corri, who plays Valerie, was the same woman from that scene in A Clockwork Orange. And Arthur Shields looks an awful lot like my doctor. But it's...it's a bit limp, isn't it? I mean, as drama? I feel horrible even saying that, but Rick and Marilyn have assured me that it's not just me (although their objections to the film are slightly different from mine). The film just seemed to plod along, offering a flourish here and there (like Melanie's dance), lightly pulling the characters apart until tragedy and rebirth could bring them back together. Fine, but...
My Favorite Year - d. Richard Benjamin (1982) - I can't imagine I'll get into too much hot water for being dismissive of Richard Benjamin's ouvre, but this film is held up as something of a comedy classic. And I can see why, as it must represent the end of an era, to a degree, in that I can't remember the last time a comedy of this classic type was released. Add to that a terrific performance from Peter O'Toole, and, well, no, because I didn't laugh very much. Look, early on the film, Bill Macy, the head writer of a Your Show of Shows-style comedy program, comes into the writer's room. He says hello to two other writers, played by Jessica Harper and Basil Hoffman. He asks a question, and Basil Hoffman whispers into Jessica Harper's ear, and Harper gives Macy Hoffman's answer. Macy says something along the lines of "What's wrong with you, anyhow?" Now, this is the first time we've seen these characters, but it's not the first time they've seen each other, and this quirk of Hoffman's is not otherwise presented as something he developed overnight. So Macy knew about it. The filmmakers just wanted to highlight it for the audience, and remind us that they realized that Hoffman's behavior was unusual and hilarious. And what I call that is sloppy. This is still better than Laughter on the 23rd Floor, however.
Young Mr. Lincoln - d. John Ford (1939) - Okay, how do I get out of this one? Well, no, I liked this film. If you could ever say about an actor that they were born to play Abraham Lincoln, you could say it about Henry Fonda (not Liam Neeson). He's effortless here, and Ford offers many beautiful touches, my favorite being the shot, after the killing that will end up driving the film, of a clearing at night, a body lying on the ground, and gunsmoke slowly drifting above it. But a lot of excuses have to be made to onself while watching the courtroom scenes, entertaining as they are. Does it matter that they're not remotely realistic? Probably not. This film plays out like a folktale anyway (I was reminded of William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster) and seen from that angle it works like gangbusters. But really, what's up with Abraham Lincoln cheating at tug-of-war??
NEXT IN THE QUEUE: Kill Baby...Kill!, Salesman, and My Darling Clementine