The Coen Brothers’ filmography seems to alternate between “beloved” and “pretty much unknown.” For every Fargo and Big Lebowski there’s a Man Who Wasn’t There and A Serious Man. Nonetheless, it’s this writer’s opinion that each one of their movies is carefully crafted to near-perfection. (Okay, the jury’s still out on Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty. ) Of course, if I hold all their movies in such high esteem, what’s the point of a review? Well, because first of all I want you to know that The Hudsucker Proxy exists. And secondly because it deserves as much analysis as any of their other films.
In a hyper-Art Deco 1930s Manhattan, Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning), president of Hudsucker Industries, has flung himself off the top floor of the downtown headquarters. With company stocks about to go public, the board of directors, led by Sydney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman), plots to depress stock prices by hiring an incompetent president as a scapegoat and then buying back the company. That incompetent proxy turns out to be oblivious business student Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins). But that’s only the beginning of the Coens’ madcap screwball parody that satirizes every rung of the workforce ladder, from the mailroom grunt to the head honcho. Continue reading The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Boston’s Brattle Theatre screened a new restoration of the Frank Capra classic It Happened One Night this past weekend, fittingly coming on the eve of the 87th Academy Awards — Night was the first film to win Oscar’s Big Five, taking Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay in the face of strong competition from the likes of The Thin Man. The restoration improved the quality of the original not by colorizing it or replacing the deleted scene where Clark Gable’s Peter discovers a magical portal to the planet Zaferonz (you didn’t hear about that?), but simply by touching up the considerable damage to the original print.
Scripts from this era of American film are always fascinating, mostly because they’re so different from today’s scripts. It Happened One Night falls only a handful of years after talkies came about, but the ensuing decade would typify a dedication to screenwriting that’s much rarer these days. It’s why I adore films like The Big Sleep, and it’s largely why It Happened One Night remains such an endearing version of a very familiar story.
Continue reading It Happened One Night (1934)
The holiday season is filled with food, family, presents, and, of course, movies. Most of the movies people routinely watch during the holiday season include such classics as Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Santa Clause, and even Elf. These Christmas movies are exactly that: novelty movies made just for the 25 days leading up to the holiday. Hardly any of these movies hold any weight as great films outside of the holiday season. However, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life does what these other movies could not by transcending the Christmas movie genre and becoming a classic film in its own right.
The 1946 movie, which is based on the 1943 short story “The Greatest Gift”, tells the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) which takes place in the form of flashbacks at the beginning of the film so that his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) can understand the man he has been called on to help. It is clear from the beginning that the only thing that outweighs George’s lofty ambitions is his true care for everyone around him. At a young age, he saves his younger brother Harry from drowning and keeps his boss, pharmacist Mr. Gower — who is distraught after receiving news that his son had died in World War I — from accidentally delivering poison pills.
Continue reading It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)