"The Stork Club" (Warner, 1945)
A fun film. Singer/comedienne Betty Hutton stars as a gal working as a hat check girl in the hottest club in town, in the waning days of WWII. Being wholesome and all-American as she is, when Hutton spots a doddering old man falling into the ocean when she's out for a swim, she naturally saves his life and hauls him back onshore. What she doesn't know is that the old curmudgeon, played in a broad Irish brogue by a winsome Barry Fitzgerald, is really a misanthropic bazillionaire, who is naturally quite moved by her selflessness. He anonymously arranges for her to be provided for financially, but can't resist hanging around to see what happens when she's given all his dough. Complications ensue when her boyfriend comes back from the war and gets bent out of shape wondering who her new sugar daddy is, and she has to try to patch things up. At the heart of this movie is a fabulous performance by Betty Hutton (who's sister Marion was a featured vocalist in the Glenn Miller band, and who bears an uncanny resemblance to Joan Cusack, sister of John...) She is as cute and as charming as they come, and when she does her comedic song-and-dance numbers, she'll blow your mind. Hutton's vocal range and physical ability are both amazing -- how many people have you seen moon-walk in high heels while belting out a great tune like "Square In A Social Circle"? The other great performance is by the no-nonsense nightclub owner, played by Bill Goodwin, who gets off some crisp one-liners. The plot drags a bit, but this is still a nice wartime B-movie, and a must-see for any potential Hutton fans out there.
"Y Tu Mama Tambien" (2002)
"Girls Can't Swim" (2002)
A French coming-of-age art film that I rented while on vacation. Despite rave reviews all over the packaging, this story of two moody teenage girls growing apart as sexuality enters their lives seemed pretty slow and predictable, even a bit tedious. Jet lag set in and we gave up two-thirds of the way through the film, and took it back the next day.
"Pagan Love Song" (Warner, 1958)
Esther Williams stars in this silly South Pacific love story, filmed largely on the Hawaiian island of Kauai (although the story is supposed to be set in Tahiti...) Her love interest is the schmaltzy show tune crooner Howard Keel, playing a lazy American who inherits an abandoned coconut farm, and after making it out to the island picks up a yen for the half-Tahitian hottie played by Williams. She tames him, he mellows out, learns to like small children and to kick back into Tahitian time, just like the locals. Musically, the Harry Warren compositions are not, admittedly, among his best work, although there is a dazzling Tahitian dance number, staged in a Busby Berkeley-like fashion, and if you know Kauai at all, the improbable cutaways from one beach to the next are pretty hilarious. Not the greatest musicial ever (and Williams hardly gets in the water at all!) but it has its charms. Take the "happy native" stuff with a grain of salt, though.
"Tuvalu" (First Feature, 1999)
Esperanto slapstick? I guess I'm getting too old to pay attention to this sort of pretentious European surreallism, or at least to bother trying to figure it out. Still, this is an interestingly crafted movie, with the scenes tinted like an old silent film, in washed out greens, greys, blues and sepia, and the odd, Jacques Tati-like slapstick of the acting. The plot is simple enough, and reads like an old Metal Hurlant comic strip: an odd old blind man runs a decrepit bathhouse in the middle of a post-apocalyptic countryside; the locals come in and trade potted plants and buttons in orer to gain admission; meanwhile the blind man's son and the bathhouse staff go to elaborate measures to ensure that he doesn't find out that the "success" of the bathhouse is actually a sham. The older brother, however, is a greedy capitalist, and has plans to raze the building in order to build a mall. When a sexy young woman enters the picture, the rivalry between the brothers intensifies, with the soul of the family at stake. Shot in Bulgaria by German director Veit Helmer, this film drags horribly at the start, but picks up steam in the second half... It's a bit insufferable, but creatively realized. The evil brother looks a bit like Lyle Lovett.
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