You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937). An early example of the “Bonnie and Clyde” story, fictionalized into “Joan and Eddie”. The beginning is a bit awkward, and the final seconds are absurd, but in between, You Only Live Once is a top-notch social melodrama. Henry Fonda plays Eddie with a dark edge he didn’t often utilize, and Sylvia Sidney recovers from the beginning to make us believe in her Joan. The message is that society made them criminals, and while the logic is a bit muddled, Lang does make us root for the duo. They get stuck in something beyond their control, which also happens in Bonnie and Clyde, but in that movie, you can tell that they get off on their crime spree. Eddie and Joan never enjoy that part of their lives. #973 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.
Tootsie (Sydney Pollack, 1982). This is a request from Jeff Pike, which means it deserves its own post, but I’ve gotten caught up in a couple of other things and never managed to write anything, so I’ll stick it here. Dustin Hoffman usually makes us very aware that he is acting … he’s not what I’d call a “natural” actor. You suspect he’s a bit like his character in this movie. Like that character, Hoffman is able to open up within the structure of playing an actress (the irascible actor in drag) who plays a character on a soap. He is still “acting”, but it makes sense with this role, since much of the time, his character is “acting” as well. The result is a Dustin Hoffman that is likable, not a trait I normally associate with him. He’d have won the Oscar in another year, but they were intent on rewarding Ben Kingsley for playing Gandhi. Instead, the film’s only Oscar went to Jessica Lange, who beat Teri Garr among others for Supporting Actress (it received 10 nominations). Gandhi won the most Oscars that year, twice as many as E.T., which is nonsense, but that was a particularly poor year for Oscar: The Long Good Friday didn’t get a single nomination, Fanny and Alexander didn’t qualify for Oscars until two years later (when it won four), and did I mention E.T.? In such company, Tootsie is a bit thin … I preferred all of those movies I just listed. But you could say it benefits a bit from that thinness, since it lacks the overbearing importance of Gandhi, and is a better movie for it. #440 on the TSPDT list. 7/10.