My Life as a Dog (Lasse Hallström, 1985). This film touched a lot of people. It garnered two Oscar nominations, was fairly popular with critics, and is said to be one of Kurt Vonnegut’s favorite movies. It’s an honest look at childhood that avoids the sappy-headed cheap emotion common to such pictures. I wish I could say I liked it more than I did. But I found my mind wandering, and was glad to see it end, not because there was anything wrong with it, but simply because I was tired of watching it. This is definitely a case of Your Mileage May Vary. #461 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. (Trivia note: the girl who plays the tomboy is the real-life sister of Joel Kinnaman from The Killing.) 6/10.
The Navigator (Donald Crisp and Buster Keaton, 1924). Somehow I had missed this one along the way, and I’m so glad I finally saw it. Reviews of Keaton’s film in his prime write themselves. They are inventive, surreal, hilarious, and startling in the way his modern-day follower Jackie Chan can be. The shorts tend to be more surreal, with more laughs-per-minute, but the features are funny, too, and Keaton devised some of his biggest stunts in those pictures. (Plus, a movie like The General, which I admittedly find more admirable than funny, is a masterpiece in the historical genre.) In other words, there’s not much to say about The Navigator. I could list the best bits, but they don’t play as well on the page as they do on the screen. I could wish for a final third that didn’t feature black cannibals, although this one is no worse than most pictures of its time. The most important thing that separates The Navigator from the pack is Kathryn McGuire. She was in a lot of movies up until 1930, and then she disappeared from the screen, even though she was only 27. There’s not a lot about her on the Internet. But she is marvelous in this movie. She may not quite be Michelle Yeoh to Buster’s Jackie Chan, but she’s a lot more involved than a Maggie Cheung. Her physicality and willingness to participate in Keaton’s intricate slapstick make more of an equal than is usual in Keaton’s films, and this also adds a bit of a sexual charge to their relationship, again not usual for Keaton. Yes, it’s Buster’s film, and it’s his stunts you’ll remember, but McGuire is a key part of the movie’s success. #384 on the TSPDT Top 1000 list. 10/10.
This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006). 8/10.