Cooks, confederates and Kirk: Movies viewed (#SFWApro)

THE MATING SEASON (1951) is a comedy that deserves to be much better known. Thelma Ritter is a restaurateur, whose son John Lund is a low-ranking executive; after Lund meets aristocratic Gene Tierney he hides his blue-collar origins from her so when Ritter shows up at their apartment, Tierney assumes she’s the new cook. Hilarity (and a sharp skewering of social pretension) really does ensue. Worth looking for (poster courtesy of the Movie Poster Shop, all rights remain with current holder). “You’re on her side already—and she’d be on yours if she’d been lucky enough to be born an orphan.”


After the god-awful Star Trek: Into Darkness, I probably wouldn’t have caught STAR TREK BEYOND (2016) if TYG hadn’t wanted to. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by the story of deranged alien Idris Elba (wearing the kind of stiff alien mask that would have looked familiar back in the days of the original series) crashing the Enterprise on his isolated world so that he can steal the Ultimate Weapon Kirk unwittingly possesses and thereby destroy the Federation (“Unity of all races is an illusion.”). The crew’s character arcs include Kirk wondering about the point of his long-range mission and Spock breaking up with Uhura. A good actioner that has more of the Trek spirit than the first two films did. Elba, however, has too stock a role to show off his talent. “There’s no absolute direction out there—all you have is yourself, your crew and your ship.”

JAPANESE SUMMER: Double Suicide (1967) has a lot in common with arty Western films of the era, opening with a string of bizarre visuals involving a horny young woman and a brooding deserter, then winding up in an underground bunker for strange conversations with a clique of possible gangsters and a suicidal high-schooler, then finishing in a confrontation with a Mad Sniper. According to the Criterion Films website, the director wanted this to be meaningless at the literal level and he certainly succeeded, but success doesn’t make it watchable. Given the mad shooter and the emphasis on the summer heat, the logical double bill would be Summer of Sam. “If he kills me he has to watch me—then I see myself reflected in his eyes.”

Long before The Free State of Jones became a Matthew McConaghey movie, the story was fictionalized as TAP ROOTS (1948), which transforms hardscrabble farmer Newt Knight into the kind of wealthy planter (Ward Bond) the real-life Knight Company despised. Bond’s plan to turn Jones County into a fortress for Southern Unionists to defy the Confederacy just serves as the backdrop of a Gone With the Wind knockoff wherein headstrong belle Susan Hayward must choose between an idealist cavalryman and womanizing newspaper publisher Van Heflin who signs on with Bond’s crusade (instead of the War Between the States it’s the War Between Confederates). Too stock to get any mileage out of the premise, though it would double-bill well with Jimmy Stewart’s Southern refusenik in Shenandoah. Boris Karloff plays Bond’s Native American buddy (believe it or not, the second Native American role he’s played that I know of). “If you look behind those curtains you’ll be questioning my veracity.”


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