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what i watched last week

Making a late appearance this week due to the work on our roof.

Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952). French classic effortlessly manages to be all things to all people. It’s a story about children (although it’s not a kid’s movie), it’s an anti-war statement (although there are very few war scenes), it’s about innocence (and the loss of innocence), it’s a very serious film (that includes some humor, as well), the title literally accurate (but it is also misleading). Many people respond strongly to Forbidden Games, and for the most part, Clément earns that response. He seems to be trying for an innocent style to match his story; there are few, if any, shameless moments designed solely to make you cry. It’s hard to imagine it being made today … our ideas about children and death and innocence have changed, so Forbidden Games seems a bit more fantastical than was probably intended. But it lacks the kind of syrupy glop a 2013 Hollywood version would add; there is a lot to respect here. Ranks #684 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time, which is surprisingly low … it dropped almost 300 places since the last TSPDT list. 8/10.

Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959). Often called the best courtroom drama ever made, Anatomy of a Murder moves right along … the 160-minute film is never boring. Everyone does a good job, and there are some favorites of mine in the cast: Ben Gazzara, Lee Remick, Eve Arden. It was controversial in its day for its subject matter (rape is a key plot point) and the use of words like “panties” and “sperm”. But I confess I never felt like I was watching a classic. Rather, it seemed like a really good episode of a TV series, like the best Perry Mason of all time. And while I appreciated the casting of McCarthy-era hero Joseph N. Welch as a judge, in truth his non-acting was the most awkward thing about the film. It’s #582 on the TSPDT list, moving in the opposite direction from Forbidden Games. Anatomy has gone up almost 300 places since the last list. 7/10.

The Last Detail (Hal Ashby, 1973). Time has changed my perspective somewhat on this movie, which I remember liking quite a bit when it came out. Some things remain powerful, most obviously, Nicholson’s performance. Randy Quaid is also good, although the cast as a whole is fine. Robert Towne’s profane script is filled appropriately with fucks and shits. But I seem to have lost some of my appetite for “two experienced guys show a young guy how to be a man” movies (it definitely fails the Bechdel Test). I prefer movies like this one, which largely ignores women, to movies that includes women just to demonize them. But I’d say the 40 years between the film’s release and my watching it again have lowered by overall opinion. Rather surprisingly, it’s #918 on the TSPDT list. 7/10.

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