The Cat Returns. A Studio Ghibli film not directed by Miyazaki, this 2002 film from Hiroyuki Morita is a bit of an oddity. Even though it’s the story of a teenage girl who talks to cats and finds herself in a magical Kingdom of Cats, there is something a bit prosaic about it all … it lacks the flights of fantasy that make Miyazaki’s worlds so enticing. The film is OK, and since I am not a fan of the Disney Musical genre of animated movies (which is to say, I’m not a fan of the music), a movie like The Cat Returns is nice because there are no songs to stretch the running time, which is 75 minutes. A pleasant movie, but nothing more. 6/10.
A Star Is Born. This is the Judy Garland version. She sings great, and mostly avoids the tics and mannerisms that I find bothersome (although I think her fans love them … I could be wrong). James Mason is as good as you’ve heard. The movie works well as a star vehicle for Garland, but it’s not a classic musical, no matter what people think. The damn thing goes on for almost three hours in the restored version … basically, you’ve got a normal-length movie with enough songs attached to make it long enough for two. Garland fans will want to give this a 10 … I’m going with 6/10. #245 (!) on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the 1000 best films of all time.
Sherlock Jr. A truly remarkable short feature from Buster Keaton, one that must have been at or near the top of Jackie Chan’s viewing schedule in his formative years. The setup takes a bit of time to get going, but when Keaton, as a movie projectionist, falls asleep in the booth and his dream self enters the theater, anything becomes possible. Keaton climbs into the movie … as with virtually all the stunts, there is a seamless quality that is amazing for a film made in 1924. Whatever trickery is used happens in the camera, or in the mind and body of Keaton. There are several Holy Shit moments, and the scenes are also hilarious, even as they are mind-boggling. This wouldn’t be a bad introduction to Keaton, if you’ve never seen him before. 10/10. #129 on the TSPDT list.