Saturday, June 1, 2024

What I've Caught Up With, May 2024 Part 1

For the first time in awhile, I watched more movies than there were days in the month, although not by much. Essentially, in terms of watching 400 movies for the year, I basically broke even; didn't lose ground, didn't catch up. In terms of the gigantic list of to-watch movies, I got through enough that I can't fit them all in a single post, so that feels good. The biggest movie event for me in May was the update of the They Shoot Zombies list, something that took up a couple of days of my time to readjust all of the lists, and all for just a handful of new movies to watch.

What I’ve Caught Up With, May, 2024 Part 1:
Film: The Roaring Twenties (1939)

There was a time when James Cagney could get top billing over Humphrey Bogart, and that time was the late 1930s. In The Roaring Twenties, three guys meet up during World War I. After the war, they wind up sort of in business together. Eddie (Cagney) becomes a bootlegger during Prohibition who eventually teams up with fellow crook George (Bogart). Initially, they are protected by their third friend, lawyer Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn). Things go south when Lloyd runs off with Jean (Priscilla Lane), who Eddie’s had a crush on and George double-crosses him after the stock market crash. It’s a fine old-school gangster pic, but it won’t hold up to Little Caesar or The Public Enemy.

Film: The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)

I enjoy Judy Holliday’s work, and her early death is one of the terrible tragedies of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I’d have loved another 40 years of her madcappery, but instead we have to content ourselves with films like The Solid Gold Cadillac. Laura Partridge (Holliday) causes a ruckus at a shareholder meeting of a company she owns a few shares in; she’s hired by the company to be in charge of shareholder relations as a way to keep her quiet. Unfortunately for her corrupt bosses, Laura is a lot smarter than they think she is, and so is the former chairman of the board and new Washington insider, Edward McKeever (Paul Douglas). It borders on screwball and works entirely because of Holliday’s skill. She’s a peach, and she makes this worth seeing.

Film: A Walk in the Sun (1945)

Propaganda films still got made even during the closing months of the war. A Walk in the Sun feels like a very different film in many respects. War, according to this film, is not glorious nor exciting. It’s a slog, and people die in ways that are far from heroic. That feels like the biggest difference between this and other films in the genre of this era. An American platoon lands around Salerno and starts moving inland in Italy with the goal of blowing a bridge and taking a farmhouse on the top of a hill. This is the entire film, and it’s a grueling bit of work getting to that farmhouse. A good ensemble cast and what feels like a realistic view of war make this a worthy watch.

Film: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

A sort of kid-friendly version of Fantastic Voyage or more accurately Mysterious Island, a Disney-style mad scientist played by the always likable Rick Moranis creates a shrinking machine that ends up shrinking his children and the neighbor kids, who have an adventure as half-inch tall people in an overgrown backyard. As you would expect, everyday things like bees, water sprinklers, lawnmowers, and ants become existential dangers for the tiny kids, who are just trying to get back to safety and get full-sized again. It also features Marcia Strassman (Mrs. Kotter for those old enough to remember) and Matt Frewer (or Max Headroom, again for the older crowd). It’s harmless and fun, even if it’s pretty obvious where things are going.

Film: Special (2006)

A depressed, lonely man (Michael Rapaport) signs up for a clinical trial of an antidepressant medication. The drug has a massively adverse effect on him. In his mind, the drug has awakened a variety of superpowers in him—the ability to levitate, teleport, read minds, and walk through walls. In reality, all of this is a delusion, and what he thinks is happening is vastly different from what is actually happening. Rapaport is an oddball actor, someone who isn’t suited for a lot of roles, but he really makes this one work. Special sounds like it would be funny, and there are certainly moments of comedy, but this is actually quite poignant and heartfelt, and a bit sad.

Film: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

I am very slowly making my way through the F&F movie series, but it’s taking some time because I genuinely can’t stand to watch these more often than one every couple of months. For this, the third installment in the series, the action shifts to the titular Tokyo and to the titular drift style of racing, which involves oversteering the car through turns. There’s going to be all sorts of racing and explosions and appearances by the Yakuza, and eventually Vin Diesel is going to show up to tie this in to the rest of the films. Honestly, it’s hardly required viewing. I suspect that is equally true for the entire series, honestly.


  1. Tokyo Drift is an OK film but not much else. Honey I Shrunk the Kids was a film I think I saw in the theaters as a kid when it came out. That summer of 1989 was insane. Batman, Do the Right Thing, Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Dead Poets Society, Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon 2, Licence to Kill, Weekend at Bernie's, Turner & Hooch, Parenthood, When Harry Met Sally..., The Abyss, Uncle Buck, and sex, lies, & videotape. Nothing can rival that.

    I have The Roaring Twenties set as a Blind Spot film for this year. I just gotta get the Blu-Ray for that one in July in the Criterion 50% off sale at Barnes & Noble (hopefully my local store will still exist as it's planning to close to become a fucking gas station).

    1. Tokyo Drift barely kept my attention.

      The way you feel about 1989 is how I feel about 1982--such a great summer for movies.

      I feel you on the B&N. I live in a college town--and not a little college--we have a 19,000-student university about 2 miles from our house. We have no major bookstores. How stupid is that?

  2. Honey I Shrunk The Kids was essential for me growing up. I loved that movie.

    1. I can imagine. There's nothing like a movie from your youth that you see at exactly the right time.

  3. The Roaring Twenties is a great example of the Warner A level movie making machine at its peak. Pull one megastar (Cagney), back him up with one of their most promising lower watt stars, at least at the time, (Bogart) toss in someone they are trying to make happen (the ever bland Lynn) and an IT girl of the moment (Priscilla Lane-who at this point was receiving more fan mail than a most of the female stars whose legacy have endured longer) and then fill out the rest of the roles with the upper level of their stock company and put one of their premiere directors (Walsh) at the helm. While I think the film could have used a snip here and there for pace, overall it’s an excellent picture. Cagney drives the film and he’s terrific but he and every other person in the film is put in the shade whenever Gladys George appears on screen. For me she is the film MVP and was robbed of a nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

    Judy Holliday so few films, so much brilliance! The Solid Gold Cadillac is my favorite of her films (though I think her best performance is in my second favorite “The Marrying Kind”) just for the unalloyed joy she brings to the role, her wonderful chemistry with Paul Douglas (did you know he played the Broderick Crawford role when Born Yesterday played on Broadway?) and the sweetness of the story as it gently digs at corporate greed and malfeasance.

    A Walk in the Sun contains another excellent Dana Andrews performance and still no nomination! In this case, as you said the film the picture is more of an ensemble (although that’s never stopped the nominating committee from singling someone out) and grim so that may have had a hand in his exclusion.

    Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was adequate but little more, I’ll never watch it again.

    I am unfamiliar with Special, but it sounds like something I must see if I can find.

    As far as Tokyo Drift, I barely made it through the inanity of the first and threw my hands up in the middle of the second, so I swore I’d never watch another. So far, so good and I think it’s a promise to myself that will be easy to keep!

    1. Honestly, your life is fine without Tokyo Drift in it. In fact, probably better, since you won't spend the two hours on it. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is fun for what it is. It's pretty harmless, and it has a fun sense of adventure to it. For a younger audience, it's an easy crowd pleaser. Special is not a particularly easy watch, but it asks some interesting questions. It's also short, so it makes a quick viewing.

      A Walk in the Sun is very grim, and I think that may have worked against any nominations for it, but it's a hell of a good war film. I like that it's unrelenting in what it does. It doesn't pull a lot of punches, which seems a bit surprising for 1945 and the war still slogging on or just finishing up.

      Judy Holliday was such a joy. I said on watching Born Yesterday that it takes a tremendous amount of talent to play that ditzy, and few people have ever done it as well as she did. Miss Partridge is someone that not a lot of people could have played as believably and the movie is really all hers.

      The Roaring Twenties is a fun one. It's a solid proto-noir, and the cast is pretty unbeatable. It's not going to be my favorite gangster movie from the '30s, but it's going to be in the first paragraph of that discussion.