Saturday, November 12, 2011

Min and Bill (1930)

Min, the owner of a dockside hotel, is forced to make difficult decisions about the future of Nancy, the young woman she took in as an infant. [imdb]

Nominated for 1 Oscar:

Best Actress: Marie Dressler (WINNER)

Not much to write about this film, which unfortunately holds a length of only about 65 minutes. I don't think it's bad by 1930 standards, but it just looks dated and rushed. And also predictable.

To me, there are 2 reasons why the film is not a massive failure: first, there's Marie Dressler, who is above material here, even if her performance is not without its flaws. However, she's an undeniable presence and a consistent acting force. The second is the fantastic (!) Marjorie Rambeau in a supporting role as the drunken selfish villain; she steals every scene she's in and, had there been a Supporting Actress category back then, she would've easily been in the run for a win. Her big moment towards the end makes for the most delicious 5 minutes this film has to offer.

My rating for the film: 5/10. Many will be much more generous. I'm not. And can someone explain that silly fighting scene?!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gigi (1958) (2nd time)

A rich playboy and a youthful courtesan-in-training enjoy a platonic friendship, but it may not stay platonic for long. [imdb]

Nominated for 9 Oscars:

Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: Vincente Minnelli (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay (WINNER)
Best Cinematography, Color (WINNER)
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (WINNER)
Best Original Song (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Art Direction (WINNER)
Best Costume Design (WINNER)

Yes, Gigi is the musical that could; it won Oscars for all of its 9 nominations, including Best Picture: making it the 31st winner of this category. It's incredible how memory plays a lot of tricks on you: I remember liking this film a lot, as I had seen it once, many years ago on TCM. I was probably fascinated by all the costumes and nice sets, because otherwise, today, I'd find it hard to explain. The film is a mess in many ways.

While I don't think it's among the worst this category's ever seen, how could I defend the song Thank Heaven for Little Girls, sang by 70-year-old Maurice Chevalier... Unfortunately, I suspect this is a pedophile's dream... But even getting past this, I don't remember/admire ANY of the songs - and when the film is a Musical, that's a huge problem (a very similar problem that I had with An American in Paris, the previous Minnelli BP winner that fails in the music department).

So the songs are either outrageous or uninspired, the film is mostly boring... what's left: ah, the performances - no, nothing there worth mentioning as they're all either mediocre or just ok. Leslie Caron, however, is among the best of the group, at least because she looks so sweet, and does create a character outside the musical numbers.

The costumes are dreamy, the art direction is beautiful, the cinematography is ok, but what makes me more forgiving of Gigi is the subject of the film - this is the thing that charms me: romances with great costumes, rich people, sentimental dilemmas, and there's a scene or two (with Gigi's hesitation of becoming only his mistress) that speaks plenty of truth. I also found the film to be surprisingly & pleasantly non-misogynistic, considering a rather delicate subject matter.

My rating for the film: 6/10. I'm being too generous, but what can I do...