Category Archives: Movies

Out with the old, in with the new

So with some money Dad sent me for Christmas, I upgraded some of my electronics.

My iPad, after around 11 years of loyal service, was running out of steam. It couldn’t upgrade to a new iOS, the old one wouldn’t support the CW app or BritBox (the app for Doctor Who, among other things), and Hulu was glitching. So I put it out to pasture (technically; I still have to scrub all my data before I get rid of it) and got a new one.

It’s slightly smaller because a bigger one would have been a lot more money and a lifetime of struggling-writer income makes me very reluctant to spend more than I have to, even if I have it. But it can handle all the apps, it has 12 hours of battery life and the screen is certainly big enough to satisfy (my iPad is a small portable TV for watching in the kitchen or when I’m using the stationary bicycle).

I’ve had my DVD/VHS player even longer. I bought it after my last move in Florida (around 2006) so that I could transfer my off-the-air VHS tapes to DVDs, thereby saving massively on space. It’s a decision that paid off, I think, as I have several hundred movies in one drawer in the living room. Easier than sticking extras in my Netflix queue or paying Amazon streaming, even if they’re available. And we still have some stuff on VHS.

However the VHS player stopped working. So even though the DVD player still plays, I figured I’d upgrade to Blu-Ray. This one I did pay out a little extra for (after reviewing the choices with Consumer Reports‘ ratings). It was worth it. The images look really good, and it’s not freezing up the way the DVD player was starting to do. We don’t have any Blu-Ray discs but I’m sure that will change. For now though, I settled for one of my VHS to DVD transfers, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as the initial viewing.

It’s nice to feel pleased with my expensive purchases.

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The Vietnam-War POW on screen

As I said in my review of Michael J. Allen’s Until the Last Man Comes Home, I wish the book had covered pop culture’s treatment of the supposed hundred of Vietnam POWs still in enemy hands. Having just watched RAMBO: First Blood Part II (1985), I figure I’ll plug that oversight, with the help of some research via Michael Lee Lanning’s Vietnam on Film and Eric Lichtenfeld’s Action Speaks Louder.

POWs had played a role in films about the Korean War and World War II (and we’ve had historical dramas dealing with Civil War POWs). Vietnam, however, was different. Where WW II films have shown escapes (The Great Escape, Von Ryan’s Express, The Birdmen, Escape from Sobibor), Vietnam War prisoners almost never escape (Chuck Norris pulls it off in Missing in Action). They’re stuck there in brutal conditions until the US negotiates a POW release or Rambo, Braddock and other 1980s action heroes come and rescue them.

This mini-genre began with the 1983 movie Uncommon Valor, based on a failed attempt to bring prisoners home, followed by the first of three Missing in Action films in 1984. It was Rambo, in 1985, however, that became the archetype. In other media, an issue of the 1980s Jon Sable, Freelance comic book showed our boys were still there; the 1984 TV series Airwolf has the protagonist’s obsession over his MIA brother as a major plot point.

Lichtenfeld suggests it taps into the same American themes as The Searchers, (which Susan Faludi discusses in The Terror Dream) of captives taken by savages and needing rescue. They also reflect Reagan’s embrace of dubious claims about POWs, his insistence we need to definitely account for every MIA, and his administration’s insistence it was “morning in America” (Rambo takes it as a given that MIAs are possible POWs until proven otherwise). No more feeling bad about Vietnam or wondering if it was good to wage war on Communism; we were America! We blow shit up for justice!

Sure enough, Rambo and his fellow Vietnam veterans go into ‘nam in these films, but they’re unambiguously good guys. The Vietnamese are just as ambiguously the bad guys. In Rambo his commander, Trautman (Richard Crenna), realizes Rambo’s mission was to explore a camp the government knew was empty; when he finds real live POWs, the mission is terminated, leaving him to die (Fools! As the poster says, the higher ups forgot they were dealing with Rambo). Trautman furiously snarls that “it was a lie, like the entire war!” A lie which blasted much of North Vietnam into ruins and got thousands of Vietnamese killed, but that’s not the issue; it’s the waste of American lives that pisses Trautman off.

There’s a lot more to Rambo‘s themes, even though it’s not a good movie. I’ll be getting into them in an upcoming post.

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A blonde in rapture and the rapture: movies viewed

LOVES OF A BLONDE (1965) was an early film by Czech director Milos Forman that I wanted to like more than I did. Influenced by French New Wave and Italian neorealism, Forman’s protagonist Andula (Hana Brejchova) is a small town factory worker who along with her friends sits through an unenthused flirtation with middle-aged Army reservists (the government having stationed them in town in the hopes they’ll provide the factory’s excess women with boyfriends), then strikes up a relationship with the piano player at a dance. When she impulsively follows him to Prague, it doesn’t work out well.

Forman and his cast impart a feeling of reality to everything, but while that made individual moments compelling it didn’t add up to a movie I wanted to watch. Part of it is that the guys come off a little creepy by today’s standards, from the reservists pressuring Andula and her friends to drink to the pianist with his constant “don’t you trust me?” questions as he lures Andula into bed. In short, well-made but not quite for me. “A girl’s honor really exists — it isn’t just something you talk about.”

I’ve long been curious about A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (1972), a seminal film for a generation of evangelical teenagers and a landmark in evangelical pop culture. Patty (Patty Dunning) is a Christian who firmly believes she’s “good enough” to get into Heaven; while her husband completely commits himself to Jesus after a near-death experience, Patty’s faith is shallower. When the Rapture takes place (a fringe evangelical belief that Real Christians will be taken up to Heaven before the end times and the rise of Antichrist), her husband disappears (“Millions of people who were living on this Earth last night are not here this morning!”) but she’s left behind, trapped in a world where the totalitarian Imperiums requires everyone to accept the mark of the beast.

This is no worse than lots of low-budget crap I’ve seen over the years, but no better either, and the twist ending (It Was All A Dream … But It’s All Coming True!) makes no sense (if God sent her a warning, why not give her more time to act on it?). At times it comes off like the measure of true Christianity is simply whether you believe in the Rapture or not; those who believe get raptured, those who don’t are stuck here. The movie later led to several sequels but I think I can skip them. “You can be sure that the Imperium, while taking absolute control of all government during this emergency, will truly represent your feelings and needs.”

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Senseless death, an angel and a yellow submarine: a play, movies and TV

This month’s production from Playmakers Repertory Company was the premiere of JUMP, a drama in which two sisters and their father gather to dispose of mom’s things after her death from cancer, and knit together their frayed relationship. Only one of the sisters keeps going up to the nearby bridge and thinking what it would feel like to jump … This didn’t quite work for me, mostly because the big twist was quite obvious (though I didn’t get the details exactly right). Well executed, though, and a good looking set. “This is a strange place to vape.

JINDABYNE (2006) is an Aussie film based on one of the Raymnond Carver short stories adapted into Short Cuts, wherein Gabriel Byrne goes on a fishing trip with his buddies, only to discover an Aboriginal woman floating dead in the water. They do not, however, think that’s a reason to cut short the trip, which completely freaks out Byrne’s wife Laura Linney when she learns about it. This was better than Short Cuts but multiple distractions during the morning worked against me really getting into it (one break from the screen turned into several short breaks). It would double-bill well with River’s Edge in which a group of callous teens similarly discover a corpse. “So who appointed you the chief of political correctness?”

I was never a fan of the 1980s series HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, in which Michael Landon played Jonathan, an angel earning his wings alongside mortal sidekick Mark (Victor French). Its particular style of heartwarming wasn’t to my taste, though I can see why some people found it satisfying comfort food; comforting enough it ran five seasons, second only to Touched by an Angel as far as angelic TV series go. I watched the sixth season episode Reunion though because a local friend, Hope Alexander Willis, has a supporting role as the wife of a PR guy. I’m not sure I’d have recognized Hope’s face, but I definitely tell it’s the same voice. The story itself involves Jonathan working to bring off Mark’s high school reunion, thereby helping leading man Lloyd Bochner accept he’s aged into character acting and recapture a lost love. However because that’s one of several happy endings at the reunion, I found this less focused than the few episodes I’ve watched before. “It just shows how things we think are unimportant at the time can matter the world to someone.”

THE YELLOW SUBMARINE (1968) was one of LeAnn’s Christmas gifts to me, wherein the malevolent Blue Meanies invade the utopian musical undersea realm of Pepperland with an army of apple bonkers, snapping-turtle Turks, killer clowns and the deadly flying glove. One man escapes in the eponymous vessel that brought the founders to Pepperland. Flying it to Liverpool, he finds a brooding Ringo (“Next to me, Eleanor Rigby lived a gay, mad life.”) and enlists the Beatles to liberate Pepperland. But can they survive their travels through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Holes and the foothills of the Headlands?

This film reminds me a lot of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away in that the designers just don’t seem to quit, constantly throwing in little visual details and touches to scenes that are already stunning. Delightful to look at, whimsical in story, it’s a thorough charmer. I’ve always been surprised the Beatles’ didn’t speak their parts (they sing, of course), as bringing them together in the studio proved impossible (on the commentary track, one of the production team says they stumbled across the voice for George one night in a bar). Definitely worth seeing, if you haven’t already. “Would you believe me if I told you I was being followed by a yellow submarine?”

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Margaret Sullavan takes Budapest by storm! Movies viewed

Ever since catching She Loves Me I’ve been planning to get around to THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1941), which adapts the same Hungarian rom-com. In Budaest, salesclerk Jimmy Stewart and new co-worker Margaret Sullavan find each other the Most Obnoxious, Most Irritating, Most Annoying — well, you know where this is going, right? Complicating things are that they’re already in love as penpals but have never met in the flesh. Frank Morgan plays the worried store owner and Joseph Schildkraut is a smug clerk. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch with his usual charming touch; even though it’s not as lively as the musical, it’s completely winning. “Then we got onto the topic of love — at a cultural level, of course.”

Six years earlier, Sullavan appeared in THE GOOD FAIRY (1935) as a naive, convent-raised orphan who wants to do good in the world. Her efforts lead to her almost becoming Frank Morgan’s mistress and posing as impoverished lawyer Herbert Marshall’s wife, much to the disapproval of kindly mentor Reginald Owen. Pure fluff, but immensely likable.  “I shall buy a pencil sharpener with holes for different sized pencils, at last!”

SPIDER-MAN: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) has Miles Morales (who became Spider-Man in one of Marvel Comics’ parallel worlds) stepping up to the plate after Peter Parker dies trying to stop the Kingpin (Liev Schrieber) from reaching into the multiverse to find his dead wife and son (a la Quest for Love) — the problem being Doc Ock’s dimensional probe could easily blow up Brooklyn in the process. Fortunately for Miles the probe has also brought an older, divorced Peter to his Earth along with Spider-Gwen, anime heroine Peni Parker, Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage) and Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham! This started a bit slow for me (teen awkwardness isn’t the hook it would have been for me forty years ago) but it soon won me over. “Where is that wind coming from? We’re in a basement.”

NORA’S WILL (2010) has a man discovers his long-suicidal ex-wife has finally done the deed, which leaves him feuding with the local rabbi (“What does suicide have to do with criminals?”) pouting over the realization she had another lover and coping with the usual family angst of funeral movies. Didn’t really work for me, though I can see why it got some good reviews. “Don’t make anything from the food in that fridge.”

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London: ground zero for the apocalypse! Movies viewed

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) was the third film adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s TV scientist Quatermass; happily where the first two films starred a very miscast Brian Donlevy as the tart-tongued, crotchety rocket expert, this cast Andrew Keir, a much better choice. Just as Quatermass is feuding with the Army officer (Julian Glover) appointed to militarize space research, they’re both distracted by a strange unexploded bomb found in the London Underground. Only it turns out to be a rocket, and the long-dead occupants weren’t human … and they wield a power that may not be dead yet. This is a first-rate film, though with a couple of flaws (yes, Quatermass is brilliant, but I can’t see how he figures out so much about Martian society); the cast includes James Donald as another scientist and Barbara Shelley as his assistant. Originally released in the US as Five Million Years to Earth. “So that’s your big theory — that we owe our human condition to the intervention of insects?”

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961) has burned-out, divorced reporter Edward Judd trying to get the government to explain why the weather has been so freaky lately. As the government becomes more and more cagey while the weather gets freakier and freakier, he begins to suspect something big’s going on, and starts returning to life — but surely science reporter Leo McKern can’t be right that twin nuclear blasts have disrupted the Earth’s rotation … can he? This is a first-rate newspaper movie (as I’ve mentioned before they manage to get the perfect balance of SF and real world elements) which might double-bill well with All the President’s Men for another pair of reporters cracking government secrets. However Judd’s pursuit of government office girl Janet Munro is really pushy by today’s standards. “What is the nutation of the Earth?”

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (2018) is the new Coen Brothers film (direct to Netflix which says a lot about streaming’s clout), a Western anthology film in which a singing cowboy meets a rival, a hanged man learns he doesn’t get a do-over and stagecoach passengers debate ethics. Unfortunately this felt like A Serious Man in that the point is mostly “life is shit and then you die” (and without the absurd humor that infects the similarly pessimistic Burn After Reading) which isn’t that good a point. In the singing cowboy yarn, for instance, it shows him effortlessly defeating every foe (while singing) until he goes up against a gunfighter who kills him. That’s pretty feeble. “I challenge your credentials, madam, for assessing human worth.”

THE NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS (1935) is based on one of Thorne Smith’s novels (he’s best known now as the author of Topper) in which an eccentric scientist uses a stone-to-flesh (and vice versa) ray to animate statues of the Olympians and introduce them to modern life. This movie version stars Alan Mowbray as the inventor but devotes most of its screen time to his obnoxious screwball family rather than the Olympians running wild — and that’s just a hallucination (unusually the film telegraphs this in advance instead of revealing it later). Amusing enough though. “But I came here to be alone — that’s what being a fugitive means!”

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Women in dance, in New York and in peril: this week’s movies

Due to a slightly crazy last weekend, everything I watched was what TYG was viewing while doing some non-demanding work:

FLASHDANCE (1983) stars Jennifer Beals as a hard-hat/dancer who dreams of crashing the ballet, but hasn’t yet found the courage to audition of even take classes; can sexy boss-man Michael Nouri give her a dose of badly-needed confidence? This didn’t work for me first-run and hasn’t improved, mostly because Beals, while pretty, has no screen presence, can’t act and can’t dance — seriously, why not just hire a dancer? This would make a logical double bill with Coyote Ugly for Piper Perabo’s similar struggling dreamer, but that movie was more fun and Perabo’s a better actor.  “You loved her once, didn’t you?”

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) adapts Truman Capote’s novella to give us Audrey Hepburn as free-spirited but shallow Holly Golightly, with George Peppard as the novelist come gigolo (he’s being kept by Patricia Neal) who falls hard for her but can’t seem to catch the elfin adventuress. This has a good cast including Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam and John McGiver but for some reason it’s never worked for me, neither as a light-hearted rom-com or the dramedy some of its fans argue it is. And of course, Mickey Rooney is painful to watch as a yellowface comic-relief Japanese neighbor (about on a level with Sixteen Candles for cringeable racism). “I’m not his wife, he just thinks I am.”

THE BIRD BOX (2018) has Sandra Bullock and two small children boating down a river blindfolded, then flashes back to explain they’re among the survivors of an apocalypse brought on by an unseen horror that either kills those who see it or turns them into fanatical acolytes (“You must look!”). Not a horror classic (and I’m told it’s a knockoff of an earlier film, The Quiet Place), but I thought it was good. John Malkovich plays a ruthless survivor. “It taught me there are two kinds of people — assholes and the dead.”

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Two franchises, only one success: this week’s movies

Who would have thought AQUAMAN (2018) would have been the DCEU’s big hit? Jason Momoa plays Arthur Curry, “the aqua-man,” as a blue collar guy who’s willing to use his powers to help people but has a chip on his shoulder about Atlantis, due to them kidnapping his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) back to the city in his childhood. Now, though, the princess Mera (Amber Heard) tells Arthur that his half-brother Orm intends to unite the undersea kingdoms and wage war on the surface, unless Arthur can claim the throne himself.

Visually this is gorgeous; I don’t think I’ve ever seen DC or Marvel show such a vibrant, memorable Atlantis (TYG was displeased with the visuals; i.e., we didn’t see as much of Momoa with his shirt off as the trailer suggested). Although the story is, as I mentioned Wednesday, as much Sub-Mariner as Aquaman, and I’ve always preferred Orm as a human half-brother (Peter David retconned him to Atlantean years ago), it’s still a good yarn, entertainingly brought to life. And I really love Atlanna; they’ve done more with Aquaman’s mom here than the comics have done ever. “A king protects his people — a hero protects everyone.”

JOHN CARTER (2012) was Disney’s big-screen adaptation of Burroughs’ sword-and-planet hero, and a massive box-office bomb. The failure may be why I didn’t get around to seeing it until now, but it’s actually fantastic. Taylor Kitsch plays ex-Confederate officer Carter (while they downplay this aspect, I wonder if they’ll keep it at all whenever someone adapts this again, rather than make him, say, an abolitionist or something), transported by a strange amulet to Mars, or as the inhabitants know it, Barsoom.

There he falls in with the six-limbed, green-skinned Tharks and makes his first friends, Tars Tarkas (voice of Willem Dafoe) and his daughter Sola (Samantha Morton). Meanwhile, Princess Dejah Thoris of Helium (Lynn Collins) flees an arranged marriage only to fall into Thark hands and meet John. Can they join forces to defeat the cruel prince who plans to marry and murder her and the sinister alien Therns backing him (rather than Burroughs’ corrupt priesthood, they’re some kind of alien world-wreckers).

Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars is a very loosely plotted, heavy-on-exposition novel but the creators did a marvelous job adapting it and giving it more shape. They keep way more of it than I expected, such as the set-up in which a bemused Edgar Rice Burroughs learns he’s inherited his Uncle John’s estate, with some curious codicils (like a tomb that can only be opened from inside). The changes they do make are good ones, such as Dejah Thoris (who gets little to do in the original other than be brave in the face of death) being presented as both a skilled scientist and a capable fighter (one of the speakers on the DVD track describes her as the woman he’d want to marry as an adult rather than the woman he fell in love with reading as a kid).

And like Aquaman it’s visually fantastic. Everything looks right, from the Tharks to the elegant, feathery Barsoomian fliers to Woola, John’s giant, sort of reptilian dog.

Nevertheless, this was a complete flop, killing plans to follow up with Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars. Was it, as my friend Ross ponders, that to anyone who doesn’t know the books, this looks like an imitation of countless later stories instead of the source that inspired them? Was it bad marketing — John Carter, as a title, hardly speaks of SF and swashbuckling adventure. Either way it’s a shame this turned out to be a one-shot and not a series. “A princess of Mars? How about that.”

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Behold Prince Namor, the Sub-Aquaman! Or Is It Arthur, the Aqua-Mariner?

I really enjoyed Aquaman, which TYG and I saw this weekend (I’ll get the review this weekend). But as a Silver Age kid, it struck me as being as much Marvel’s Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner as it was DC’s Aquaman.

In the Silver Age, Aquaman and Prince Namor had a lot in common. Both started out as solo acts (well, Aquaman did have Aqualad) who despite being human/Atlantean eventually became rulers of their respective Atlantises. At the same time, they were very different in style and tone. Aquaman was a straight superhero who happened to be a king. While he fought off threats to Atlantis in several stories, he battled plenty of surface-based villains: O.G.R.E. (Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement), Ocean Master, Black Manta, the Fisherman, the Awesome Threesome, the Huntress, and the dimension-shifting city of Necrus.

Prince Namor, on the other hand, started as a noble villain and worked his way up to anti-hero. In the early issues of Fantastic Four he battled the team in revenge for his (supposedly) destroyed undersea race (who weren’t identified as Atlanteans until well after Aquaman had become an Atlantean) and to win the Invisible Girl as his wife. After he got his own series, he hovered around the anti-hero level, always ready to beat up surface men, but also dedicated to ruling Atlantis well and protecting it.

The kind of political intrigue in the Aquaman movie is much closer to Namor’s style than Aquaman’s. Heck the whole plotline of Arthur searching for the trident of Atlan to prove his right to the throne resembles a Silver Age arc in which Namor had to find Neptune’s trident to prove his right to the throne. Namor constantly had to fight off rivals such as Krang, Attuma and Byrrah; Aquaman’s rule was rarely challenged (I’ve been reading a TPB of Silver Age Namor, which I’ll be reviewing eventually).

Since then, Namor’s often been away from Atlantis, getting exiled or outcast on a semi-regular basis. DC has developed their Atlantis a lot more, with a great many more internal struggles and a lot more hostility to the surface. So it’s not as if the movie’s Atlantean elements were just whipped up when they started on the script.

But like I said, it’s noticeable how much the two fish-men have converged.

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Bad guys redeemed by the spirit of Christmas!

Although forger Humphrey Bogart insists that WE’RE NO ANGELS (1955), he, safecracker Peter Ustinov and rape-murderer Aldo Ray miraculously help shopkeeper Leo G. Carroll, spouse Joan Bennett and daughter Gloria Talbot have a very merry Christmas despite the malevolent presence of covetous relative Basil Rathbone. A charmer, except for the unpleasant running gag of Ray barely restraining his desire to rape Talbot. Tokyo Godfathers might make a good double bill. “If crime showed in a man’s face, there wouldn’t be any mirrors.”

THE CHRISTMAS SWITCH (2014) has street hustler Brian Krause accepting a million dollars from a mysterious spirit (“Call me Nick.”) to trade bodies with Natasha Henstridge’s dying father so the old guy can play department-store Santa one last time. Krause sees this as a chance to pull one really big score, but spoiler, he gets redeemed by the power of love! So-so, but still better than most of the new Christmas films I’ve caught this year. “And best of all, Santa has access to every child’s email address!”

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) stars Alastair Sim as the perfect Ebenezer Scrooge, cold and arrogant at first yet cracking almost immediately when confronted with what a waste his life has been. But like most people, he doesn’t want to change, even for the better, and so he resists to the bitter end … A great film with a stable of veteran British character actors, including Patrick Macnee as young Marley. “Christmas has a habit of keeping men from doing business.”

Annoyingly, MR. SCROOGE WILL SEE YOU NOW(2013) would have qualified for inclusion in Now and Then We Time Travel but I missed it. The film itself shows flashes of potential but doesn’t do anything with them: a year after the original novel, Marley propels Scrooge into the 21st century where Timothy Cratchitt VI is about to foreclose on “Belle Dickinson’s” diner, sneering at her for prioritizing helping the poor over profits. Can Scrooge turn Tiny Tim’s descendant around? Uninspired, but it’s nice to see a Christian film that puts such emphasis on caring for the needy and giving the beggar your coat rather than the right-wing issues prioritized in Time Changer. A last minute plot twist makes me suggest Sayles’ Lone Star as a double bill. “Here’s my plan: you distract him, I put two scoops of rat poison in his coffee.”

HOLIDAY CALENDAR (2018) is a slightly more magical version of Christmas Calendar in that the antique advent calendar Kat Graham (Bonnie on Vampire Diaries) acquires has actual future-predicting power, but as it doesn’t affect the story any, who cares? Graham is a twentysomething photographer struggling with the usual dead-end job and dead-end love life before her lifelong male bestie turns things around on both fronts. I do wonder if we won’t see a horror version of this gimmick soon (“The calendar shows snow — one of us will freeze to death today!”). “You smell of Cheetos and despair.”

SZ Sakall, Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Una O’Connor and Sidney Greenstreet wind up spending CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) as a result of one nurse’s Hail Mary play to get war hero Dennis Morgan to propose. Along with its skating-on-the-edge-of-adultery aspect, the film is more relaxed about gender roles than I’d expect: Stanwyck’s complete lack of domestic talent isn’t treated anywhere near as harshly as Katherine Hepburn’s in Woman of the Year and Morgan is actually better with babies than she is. “John, when you kiss me, would you please not talk about plumbing.”

As usual we marked Christmas Day with A CHRISTMAS STORY (1984) in which Ralphie’s dreams of a Red Ryder BB gun run afoul of mom Melinda Dillon, a strict teacher and even Santa before the happy ending. Always a pleasure. “There was only one thing that could lure me away from the glow of electric sex.”

As TYG bought me THE GIRL ON THE BRIDGE (1999) for Christmas, I figured I’d watch it while she took a nap. This is an extremely quirky French drama cum rom-com in which suicidal Vanessa Paradis (“I never pick the lucky number.”) meets knife-thrower Daniel Auteuil, who convinces her as she has nothing to lose, she might as well work as his new target (“At my age, I’m not what I used to be.”). This proves to be a smarter move than either character anticipated, as together they turn out to be each others’ good-luck charm. This never quite goes where I expected, and it was definitely worth following the journey. “Focus on that sugar as if your life depended on it.”

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