Short Takes: Recent Viewings Take 2

I’ll See You in My Dreams

DreamsCalling all Baby Boomers! Finally, an honest, realistic,  touching, poignant  look at the boomer generation reaching the age of retirement. An endearing performance by Blythe Danner as a widow, able to retire and live comfortably thanks to an insurance policy on her husband who passed away twenty years ago. Her daily life is one of quiet routines; reading The New York Times, playing cards, bicycling, playing golf with the girls, all who live, unlike Danner, in a retirement community.  Danner’s performance shows how much this talented actress has been wasted in so many menial roles over the years. It’s a performance  that should be remembered come award season. I’ll See You in My Dreams is a bittersweet, emotionally rich film. A must see! 

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All

LIGHT UP TIME -- 1949 -- Pictured: Frank Sinatra -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

LIGHT UP TIME — 1949 — Pictured: Frank Sinatra — Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

Excellent in depth HBO documentary with warts and all. The music is mesmerizing. The film covers all aspects of Sinatra’s life from his early days in Hoboken to his rise and downfall, and then back to the top of the heap. Along the way, we meet mobsters, presidents, lovers and family. Sinatra was complicated: A left wing Democrat turned Republican who voted for Nixon. A man who fought against bigotry, stood beside Martin Luther King, yet sometimes treated his rat pack buddy, Sammy Davis Jr., badly when they were on stage, with racist humor. But to say he was racist would be foolish,  just maybe using bad judgement or bad taste.

A Woman of Distinction

RUssllFrank Tashlin’s broad comic touch (The Girl Can’t Help It) is evident at times, but this film is highlighted by three delightful performances by Rosalind Russell, Ray Milland and Edmund Gwenn, along with  a script that in addition Tashlin’s broad strokes contains some sophisticated and smart  lines. Not a great film, but charming and containing enough laughs throughout. Russell proves what a delightful comic actress she was. There’s a cameo appearance by Lucille Ball playing herself.

Pickup Alley

half_pickup_alley_styleA_MF01481_L Great title, poor movie.

Cubby Broccoli, who just a few years later would bring us the James Bond movies, co-produced this minor b-movie starring Victor  Mature, on the downhill side of his career. Mature, a Narcotics agent, sees his sister, who’s working for the agency also, killed by a notorious drug smuggler played by Trevor Howard. With a grudge on his shoulder Mature gets his bosses to let him travel all over Europe in pursuit of the slimy dope pusher. Along the way, Howard has the voluptuous, but talentless, Anita Ekberg as his mule, doing all the dirty work, getting the drugs through customs. As a reward, she is treated like dirt by Howard who has even convinced her she killed someone and needs his protection. Mature wanders through various European countries tracking Ekberg in his attempt to get to the big guy. Mostly, he seems to just meander along not really accomplishing much of anything. The best scenes are at the beginning and at the end of the film that take place in New York. These scenes have a jazzy feel to them that the rest of the film lacks.

Firecreek

FirecreekUnderrated western that should be better known. This is more of a character study than the typical action packed western you might expect. Firecreek is a small town consisting of a group of folks who have basically given up in life and are waiting to die. James Stewart is a part time sheriff. Mostly, he’s a farmer. Into town comes Henry Fonda, in a pre Once Upon  a Time in the West bad guy role, and his gang. They just riding thru looking for a place to lay over so Fonda can recuperate from  a bullet in his belly. But Fonda’s men have a knack for causing trouble, especially Gary Lockward, a nasty cruel gunslinger, and his buddy James Best. The film is like a pot of water on a stove, slowly coming to a boil, leading to the final shootout.  In some respects, the film’s ending is similar to “High Noon” with the sheriff on his own to finally face down the bad guys. Both Henry Fonda and James Stewart were a little too old for their roles. Stewart was 60 and Fonda was even a couple of years older. It hurts the believeablilty factor, but these guys are both pros and carry it off. Fonda is exceptionally good.

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7 comments on “Short Takes: Recent Viewings Take 2

  1. The creative people behind “Firecreek”, producers Philip Leacock and John Mantley, writer Calvin Clements and director Vincent McEveety were involved with “Gunsmoke” during the 60s-70s. Many of the players in the movie (Bob Random, Jacqueline Scott…) made frequent appearances on my favourite program. I think of the movie as a legacy for “Gunsmoke” fans. As you pointed out, this was a pre-“Once Upon a Time in the West” Fonda villain. It is a wonder my eyes aren’t permanently rolled into the back of my head due to my reaction every time the experts bring up the surprise of “Frank”.

    I will definitely watch “I’ll See You in My Dreams”. Glad to have your recommendation.

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    • John Greco says:

      Gunsmoke was my father’s favorite show. It was his one must see TV. I was truly surprised on how good Firecreek was. I wasn’t expecting much, figuring it was just an average flick that Stewart and Fonda were making toward the end of their careers.

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  2. Rick says:

    I never liked Danner and I guess it’s because I have NEVER liked her daughter but…Your take on her movie motivates me to get out this Sunday afternoon and go see it at the River Oaks. I hope it’s not a bust.

    Like

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    I am also a huge fan of the deeply moving I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS John!! Just a fantastic post here!!!

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  4. Judy says:

    I saw ‘Firecreek’ not so long ago and really liked it – must agree that Fonda in particular is fantastic. It’s disappointing to hear that ‘Pickup Alley’ isn’t better, with such a great title and both Mature and Howard!

    Like

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