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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Outlaw (1943)

This movie is always on, usually in the middle of the night. I don't know why. There's just something about the middle of the night that just begs to be filled by mediocre, sixty-year-old westerns.
Okay, so, you might wonder, "Why review a mediocre sixty-year-old western?" The Outlaw isn't just any old mediocre sixty-year-old western. It is one of the most infamous film forays made by billionaire Howard Hughes. Although finished in 1941 "The Outlaw" was not released until 1943, and didn't see a general release until 1946. The reason it wasn’t released was because of serious clashes with Hollywood censors. So why all the drama? I’m guessing it has to do with the scene where Jane Russell is sexually assaulted in a haystack. Or perhaps it was the scene in which Russell, in an effort to comfort a sick man, tells the maid to leave the room, undresses and says "I'll warm you up." Or the scene where her breasts were hanging out everywhere. Oh, wait, that was every scene.

Jane Russell is known mainly for her portrayal of the lovely brunette Dorothy in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. More than a decade before, however, Howard Hughes picked her to star in this off beat, campy film. Thomas Mitchell plays sheriff Pat Garrett, who hooks up with Doc Holiday (Walter Huston) to track down Billy the Kid (Jack Beutel). Doc's best gal, Rio McDonald (Russell) falls for Billy for some mysterious reason. Maybe because he is, in fact, an Outlaw. All in all, it's pretty standard Western fare with okay acting, fine cinematography and editing that's right up there with human resources training videos. It’s Russell as the feisty Rio McDonald that makes this film worth watching. Beautiful, tough and cross-lit for maximum cleavage, Russell makes everyone else look pale. The promotional photograph of Jane sitting seductively in a pile of hay became one of the three photographs most requested by American servicemen during World War Two.

Watch “The Outlaw” right now for free and see for yourself!
  • www.archive.org/details/the_outlaw
  • Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Match Point (2005)

    The last ten years have been a roller coaster ride for Woody Allen fans. He followed the hilarious “Mighty Aphrodite” with the lamentably unfunny “Celebrity,” the immensely entertaining “Sweet and Lowdown,” with the epically unfunny “Curse of the Jade Scorpion.” Now Allen redeems himself with “Match Point,” one of his most brilliant and engaging films to date.

    Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) is a former tennis pro who gets a job in London working as an instructor at an exclusive country club. He meets Tom Hewett, a wealthy playboy who instantly befriends him. Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Morimer) takes a liking to Chris, who reciprocates but finds himself more interested in Tom’s fiancée, Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Chris marries Chloe but finds himself bored and still lusting after Nola. His desire to satisfy both his carnal lust and his material avarice lead him to acts of frenzied desperation that may, or may not be punished accordingly.

    I could write a long essay of the philosophical and literary allusions in “Match Point,” but to do so would be pretentious and not particularly helpful. That said, it is important to at least note some of the more prominent references in the film. Comparisons to Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” are inevitable. At one point in the film, we even see the protagonist reading it. The film also contains coy references to Sophocles and Strindberg, and its plot is reminiscent of Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy.” Allen drops these references like breadcrumbs throughout the film, daring us to follow them and predict the film’s conclusion. “Match Point,” however, lacks Dostoevsky’s sense of justice. As Chris points out throughout the film, one’s luck is a more powerful deciding force than one’s actions.

    “Match Point” reminded me a lot of “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” Allen’s 1989 film treatise on moral relativism. “Match Point” has more gravitas, however. Allen doesn’t let us have a lot of laughs, and by keeping the tone of the film dark and intense it makes it impossible for us to relax and remove ourselves from the tragedy on the screen. The soundtrack, comprised of classic opera recordings (mostly by Caruso) is the perfect accompaniment to the action on screen (although it sometimes gets a bit cute, with arias from “Macbeth” and “Otello” cuing up at appropriate plot points).

    The performances in the film are spectacular. Mr. Rhys-Meyers does an excellent job of silently boiling beneath his placid façade. Emily Mortimer manages to play her role as Chloe without turning her into a caricature. Chloe is a character that I can only describe as being profoundly superficial. She is sweet and vicious, vulnerable and domineering, sympathetic and villainous. I was very impressed by Ms. Mortimer’s deftness in portraying her. That said, the real smoldering success in the film is Ms. Johansson, who brings tremendous depth and passion to the cookie cutter role of sexpot mistress. I just read that Ms. Johansson has just completed another film with Woody Allen called “Scoop,” also set in London. I can’t wait to see it.

    The amount of money I'd pay to see this: $9

    Woody Allen Summer Project (USA) (working title)
    MPAA: Rated R for some sexuality.
    Runtime: 124 min
    Country: UK / Luxembourg
    Language: English
    Color: Color