I went a little overboard this week, in terms of movie watching. I just had so many great opportunities to see classic films on the big screen, I couldn’t pass it up. Of course, I still managed to see two new films for review – two horror films, in fact, helping me push onward for Sacred Walloween’s #31DaysOfHorror. Those would be Mandy and the new Halloween. I won’t give too much away about either film before the reviews go up this week, but I can confirm that I liked both films, with a few caveats attached to each.
In terms of those classic films on the big screen, I started my week with my third viewing of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. This is still an incredibly potent, powerful film that is a lot funnier than people remember, and I was taken with how easy it was for almost any ideology to see themselves inside Jefferson Smith, which is both a testament and a curse to the tremendous performance by Jimmy Stewart and the direction by Frank Capra. The second classic I saw on the big screen was Gun Crazy, a film I was supposed to watch for my Film Noir class and never did (how I got an A in there I’ll never know). And I’m a little mad I skipped it all those years ago, because it is a masterful, wonderful film, standing tall as one of the genre’s best (the script by Dalton Trumbo and the performance by Peggy Cummins are both the stuff of legends). And because these films aren’t depressing enough, I went to a local Polish film festival to take in controversial director Roman Polanski’s most personal project, The Pianist. While I was a little disappointed to find this film was, for the most part, a retread of Schindler’s List, there is something to be said about the direction, and it is hard not to be moved by the emotionally gripping story, or the famous climax inside the mansion between Adrien Brody and the German officer. And at home, I ended a long, dark week of movie-viewing with the 1958 Academy Award winner Gigi. While it isn’t my favorite of the big-budget musicals, and I find the strangely beloved song “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” creepy beyond belief, I did enjoy the film overall, and Leslie Caron is an absolute treasure. It’s a perfectly average Best Picture winner, and I’m perfectly happy to have seen it.
However, it is still October, which means Sacred Walloween is in full effect. The main thrust of my quest to watch 31 horror films in 31 days (of which I am still behind, but growing ever closer) has been my marathon of the Halloween film series, each of which has depressed me in a new and different way. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers is a dour, terrible film with unlikeable characters, weird plot choices, and ridiculous murders. Still, it is somehow a huge step up from the next film in the series, Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers. This film is laughably bad, from its overly violent deaths, the weirdly awful married couple offensively named John and Debra (after series creators and wonderful people John Carpenter and Debra Hill), and the shocking debut of the horribly miscast Paul Rudd. If you try binging these movies, do yourself a favor and skip this one entirely. Especially because the next film in the series, Halloween: H20, is actually kind of enjoyable. It’s not great, but Jamie Lee Curtis is doing interesting things, the opening sequence is kind of scary, the Scream writer and the Dawson’s Creek creator add a fresh angle on the stalling series, and Janet Leigh shows up in a cameo to steal the film. It’s not great, but it’s certainly entertaining. And outside of the Halloween franchise, I saw two of my favorite films of the month: the 1931 Dracula and Les Diabolique. Dracula is a master class in early horror techniques, using its editing and acting to sell the terror onscreen. I loved watching Bela Lugosi milking every shot he was in (“I never drink…wine…”), and some of the cinematography is haunting. It’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you want to get your young’un into horror early. As for Les Diabolique, it’s the perfect cross between two of my favorite genres: horror and mystery. While I wasn’t truly scared at anything in the film (although I was creeped out by the photograph scene and the finale), I found the mystery at the center of it fascinating, even though I’d had the ending spoiled for me long ago (perhaps that’s why I wasn’t that scared?). It’s definitely worth watching if you’re a classic film buff, especially for the direction, the editing, and the performances.
Meanwhile, while I missed most of my favorite shows this week due to all the screenings, I did manage to watch a few returning shows, and boy did I have fun. I started the week off with ABC’s new comedy The Kids Are Alright, which had a weird alternating pattern of one good joke, one terrible joke, but the way it wrapped everything up proved to be highly effective. It was an average pilot, and a little too reminiscent of The Goldbergs, but there may be something there to give the series legs going forward. Meanwhile, black-ish proved itself to be a true juggernaut, returning after a controversially experimental finale to find its funny, sweet roots. This is one of the best comedies on TV right now, and I hope audiences are paying attention. And I concluded my week of sitcom watching with the wonderful Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is truly putting up a fight to reclaim its Best of the Year status with a tremendous Halloween episode, which includes no less than two ingenious songs (and one of them performed by Patton Oswalt!). I don’t know what to tell you other than “Watch this show as much as you can.” Meanwhile, outside of sitcoms, I made sure to watch two of my Halloween stand-byes: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, which will never cease to entertain me (“I got a rock…”), and Hocus Pocus, which is such delightful camp I can’t stop myself from smiling whenever it’s on. The film is coming to the big screen again this weekend, in honor of its 25th anniversary, and I may have to make an appearance at the screening…time will tell. And I made sure to watch football yesterday, particularly the great game between Michigan-Michigan State. Unfortunately, my father refused to put on the Ohio State-Purdue game, thinking it would be boring and instead wanting to watch Fixer Upper, so I missed what may have been the game of the week. Oh well; maybe next week.
This concludes this week’s What I Watched, What You Watched! I hope you enjoyed our 90th iteration of this column, and I hope you like the films I watched this week. If not, let me know you’re thoughts in the comments, or let me know what films you watched instead. I love hearing new recommendations on things! See you all next week!