Monday, February 21, 2011

Two Not-So-Bad Movies Over The Weekend.

I've been dealing with unexpected complications with regards to the 'silent killer' (diabetes) the past couple of days. Consequently I spent a goodly amount of time on the couch watching some movies I've recorded.

The first was a movie Angie had never seen, 'Come Back, Little Sheba,' a 1952 film based on the William Inge play. The extraordinary Shirley Booth reprised her stage role in the movie and she's just teriffic in every possible way. Unfortunately, Burt Lancaster is miscast opposite her as the shaky recovering alcoholic husband, Doc. Funny, because I remember seeing the film some twenty years ago and vaguely recall Lancaster being good. Well, he's as good as he can be under the circumstances, I suppose, but woefully miscast, ultimately.

The play is one of those rare ones that is so stunningly good in terms of ideas and themes, but badly written. Much of the language (it was written in 1949) is terribly dated. But aside from that the play itself works on so many different levels. It's just a blisteringly good idea, but it was Inge's first play and he didn't quite have the horses to pull that cart as a writer yet. It is one of the few plays that I would love to go back and rewrite myself. That sounds a tad arrogant, but I kept thinking it all the way through. Somehow it has become a bit of a 'sacred cow' over the years and the idea of tampering with it makes theater purists a bit crazy. I don't care, I'd really love to update the script and make it relevant to today.

My God, what a sad story. And a lot of the sadness comes from Booth. Yes, it's a very well-sculptured role, but she takes it to an entirely different level with her astonishing performance. She deservedly won the Oscar for it. Lancaster, on the other hand, is playing a role clearly written as a frumpy, past-his-prime, living-in-his-head, scaredy-cat. Lancaster, especially later in his career, had some chops. That's not the problem. The problem is he's too young for the role and too goodlooking. The character should be at the end of his rope, physically unappealing, caught forever in a daily existence of en oui. Lancaster, through no real fault of his own, looks like he could run away and be a gigolo if he wanted.

But the core of the movie is still there. It made Angie cry (and me, too, actually). As well it should. It's such a great idea for a drama. And a little more poignant knowing that Inge himself died of alcoholism some twenty years later. I kept thinking what a remarkable film it would have been if Spencer Tracy had played the role instead of Burt Lancaster.

The second film was a surprise. A surprise in the sense that I completely expected it to be a laugh-riot, tongue firmly planted in cheek, much like, say, 'Dusk Till Dawn' is a funny film. It's called 'Hostel' and it's produced by Tarantino and directed by Eli Roth. It follows the same sort of pattern as the DiCaprio movie 'The Beach.' Some youngish, American party types are looking for fun and sex in Europe while backpacking across the continent. They unexpectedly hear about the existence of a sex-filled, girl-laden hostel in Slovakia so they hop on a train and head over there to check it out. And I'll be damned if the movie doesn't actually get scary at this point. Now, to be honest, it's nothing to write home about. I mean, it's not in the same league as, say, 'Silence of the Lambs' or 'Jaws' or 'The Exorcist,' but it's pretty spooky nonetheless. And the special effects are dead-on. To say much more would spill the beans about the film, but suffice to say it manages to make a very believable right turn from 'Beach Party Movie' to genunine 'Scare the Shit Out of You Movie.' And even though Roth directed it, there are very clear touches of Tarantino throughout.

And the sheer ability to go from a movie apparently about topless girls sitting on a bed, breasts bouncing enticingly, giggling and uttering inanities to a hide-your-eyes, real-assed horror flick is in and of itself quite an achievement.

Anyway, there you have it. 'Come Back, Little Sheba' and 'Hostel,' two movies to which I give a half-assed thumbs up.

The old blood pressure is fluctuating wildly. So much so, in fact, that the play had to be cancelled yesterday because I was having trouble standing up. Waves of dizziness. Saturday's show was a nightmare for me. There were four separate spots in the show I actually thought I might lose my balance and pass out.

Good Lord, I hate getting old.

Seeing you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed on "Come Back, Little Sheba". Booth is heartbreaking in it, but someone like Tracy would have been much more apt for Lancaster's role. I think you should go ahead and rewrite/update it anyhow!

Craig B