Monthly Archives: July 2004

Third time’s the charm

In my time-honored tradition of seeing movies ages after everyone else, this past Friday, I finally saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. My chief complaint about the previous two movies was that the filmmakers filmed the books, but failed to capture the spirit of them. Not a problem with this film. 
 
The NY Times critic puts it best, but in short, the result was less rosy, happy, fantastical and more slightly scary, cool, fantastical. For the first time, too, the acting felt solid. Rather than having a group of famous and talented acting legends doing cameos very much in the manner of the special guest stars from Batman, instead we had some famous and talented acting legends actually acting. It will be interesting to see the direction they take with the fourth movie.

Joan Crawford in Space!

A discussion on Attack of the Clones at Virtual Views got me thinking about the connection between Joan Crawford and Attack of the Clones. Anyone reading this is probably scratching his or her head, but think about it.

1. Padme has no less than fifteen! different outfits and hairstyles in the movie, which she dons regardless of the appropriateness of the moment, so the end result is like watching Crawford in Female on the Beach.

2. We have Natalie Portman as an extremely implausible Senator–kind of like watching Joan Crawford or Kay Francis playing a brain surgeon.

3. Star-crossed lovers who do manage to have a “Happy Interlude,” complete with pleasant colors, flowers, and good times. You know, it’s that sequence in the middle of the movie where the action pretty much stops dead as the two young lovers go riding, to the carnival, walking through the field, and so on. I suppose we should just be grateful George didn’t have them sing.

4. Hayden Christensen delivering that painful, pathetic, soulful dialogue in the mode of a buff George Brent. Although maybe I’m being too hard on the late Mr. Brent. I think he could have given Mr. Christensen some tips on selling that schmaltz.

5. Padme/Joan consoling Anakin/George after he’s revealed that he’s done some really horrible things, with that wonderful illogical moral relativism of the women’s picture. “Darling, I’m sure you didn’t mean to do it. It’s all right. Our love can conquer anything” (said shortly before we learn that the leading man has gone beyond the pale of what the Production Code allowed.

So in short, here’s George Lucas hell-bent on recreating the Saturday morning serial of yore, and instead he has recreated a Joan Crawford movie.

Go figure.

Judy Garland

This recent article in the Independent has one of my film listservs all riled up and I’m not entirely sure why.

I’ve seen this kind of reaction before and I still don’t get it. It’s as if someone else’s opinions were a personal attack. The worst that Thomson said was that Judy Garland’s acting was “adequate,” a criticism that isn’t exactly out there. She gave some amazing performances and her roles in movies like The Clock prove that. But let’s face it, she wasn’t exactly Kim Stanley.

Most of them have been vilifying the man. Thomson’s not exactly known for his kindness as a film critic (which is probably why I like him so much). His New Biographical Dictionary of Film is notable in that he tells it as he sees it.

I kind of like that.