What I’ve Caught Up With, August 2021:
Film: Harlem Nights (1989)
As with the 1001 Movies list, there are some films here I’ve seen before but haven’t seen in more than a decade. Harlem Nights is one of those—I remember the outline of the plot, but had forgotten a lot of the specifics. This is a better movie than people remember it. The best way to describe this is as a Harlem-ized version of The Sting. It’s not as clockwork as the 1973 classic, but it has a lot of fun with its era and the costumes, which are fabulous. It’s clunky and too long, but it’s entertaining, and sometimes that’s enough.
Film: The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Seven Year Itch has one of the most iconic stills from the entire 20th century—as iconic as Cary Grant being chased by a biplane or Keanu Reeves dodging bullets. And yet, I don’t know a single person who has seen the movie. Beyond that, this is a very basic sex comedy from 1955 that contains not a whiff of sex. Marilyn Monroe is aces, of course, as is Tom Ewell. I didn’t realize how similar this is to Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It’s cute and it has its moments (like the subway grate), but it’s ultimately harmless. That said, the fact that much of the movie is a conversation between Tom Ewell and the audience is a bit off-putting at times.
Film: American Gangster (2007)
There are a lot of obvious parallels between American Gangster and a film like Scarface. I was disappointed in a sense that there weren’t more. American Gangster purports itself to be about heroin kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), but we end up spending far more time with Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), the cop trying to bring him down. The trouble with that is that the crime elements and Frank Lucas are a lot more interesting. Stellar cast top to bottom—this thing is loaded even in bit parts—but I would like it a lot more if it were focused where it’s the most interesting rather than on where it’s the most morally sound.
Must be an odd feeling seeing the children move out. At least it might give more time for movie watching. Thinking of my son moving out some day gives me the jitters.ReplyDelete
We've been prepared for it. Our older one moved out at 18, and that meant really moved out on her own into an apartment. She now lives a good 5 hours away from us, so it's something we were braced for.Delete
The Seven Year Itch is a film I need to see in its entirety while I do enjoy Harlem Nights as I just think it's hilarious as fuck while it allowed Eddie Murphy to work with 2 of the finest comedians of their previous generations in Richard Pryor and Red Foxx as it proves that Murphy was willing to give back. I liked American Gangster though I do think it tries too hard to be all things at time while I'm still baffled by Ruby Dee's Oscar nod for an appearance that was just brief.ReplyDelete
I didn't realize that Ruby Dee was nominated. I love Ruby Dee when she's well cast, and she is in this. She has one really noteworthy scene, which I would agree doesn't seem like enough to warrant a nomination.Delete
Harlem Nights is loved a bit less than I think it should be.
I am one of the few people who have seen The Seven Year Itch, and seen it several times. That's mostly owing to my love of Marilyn Monroe as a teenager, and appreciate for her as adult. Its an amusing film, very much of its time. Her character doesn't get much of a backstory, and there is far less archness in Monroe's performance than in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which I think is her best film. But its fun, and has great costumes, and she is always great to watch onscreen.ReplyDelete
Harlem Nights sounds worth seeking out, I could do with more comedy at the moment.
I think you might well be the only person I know aside from me who has seen The Seven Year Itch. While there are plenty of movies where I'm the only person I know who has seen it, that does seem strange for one that is so iconic.Delete
I agree that Marilyn is a dynamite comic presence in The Seven Year Itch, and I love the little in joke about it really being her in the kitchen when Tom Ewell's friend stops by, and I like Ewell but not so much in this. Outside of Marilyn I didn't care much for the rest of the picture. I wouldn't even make my top 10 of her movies.ReplyDelete
Besides American Gangster being too long by at least 45 minutes I thought it was a good involving picture. I thought Ruby Dee was fine but her nomination was an acknowledgement one of her long career.
I only saw Harlem Nights once and that was enough. I did get that ersatz The Sting feeling, I'd rather just watch the original again.
As far as my birthday project goes it was a pretty fallow month. The only really intriguing picture I saw was on the very last day in tribute to Fredric March-The Condemned of Altona. It had quite a cast, beside March there was Sophia Loren, Maximillian Schell and Robert Wagner and was directed by Vittorio de Sica. Oddly for having the majority of the cast well-known in American films it was in Italian and German with subtitles. It wasn't brilliant but had some interesting thoughts and solid performances.
The other film that was worthy of mention was the Paul Newman directed "The Shadow Box" again with an extraordinary cast-Joanne Woodward, Valerie Harper, Sylvia Sidney, Melinda Dillon, Christopher Plummer, James Broderick and Ben Masters. It was good if extremely downbeat but it often felt like a filmed play.
I was honestly surprised at what a nothing The Seven Year Itch felt like. It was a sex comedy without the sex...so what was the point?Delete
I agree that American Gangster was far too long. I'd want to cut at least 30 minutes--there was no clear reason for it to be longer than two hours.