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La grande illusion

All Those Grand Illusions
A group of French officers in World War I become prisoners of war. This movie follows their experiences, their escape attempts, the kind of people they are. But that hardly touches on the greatness of Renoir's creation.

This is a movie about the illusions we live with. Some illusions help us survive unbearable situations. Other illusions are just accepted parts of our roles as citizens, as mechanics, as children or wealth or children of poverty.

It is an illusion that Rauffenstein and De Boildeau are at war with each other, that they are enemies when they've shared so many experiences together. The upper class and their conceits are shown to be absurd illusions.

At one point POWs dress up and rehearse for a theatrical show; one boyish soldier puts on women's clothes and thinks everyone will laugh -- nobody is laughing, the looks on their faces show their hunger to see even the illusion of a woman.

It is an illusion that a man who meets a woman far from home during a war will seek her out after the war -- that he makes a promise to return for her in a language she doesn't even understand. It is an illusion that Verdun and these other battles were great victories for Germany when they left one woman's dining table empty.

And the final, grandest illusion of all -- no matter how many times I see this movie it still gives me chills -- that there is such a thing as Switzerland. However absurd things may seem in the rest of the movie, the fact that someone can look out over a blanket of snow and say "That is Switzerland" ... whew.

She's Working Her Way Through College

Glossy but Flat
It's glossy in that 1950's way -- it's in color and the colors are vivid and saturated. The dance numbers are slick. There is some clever thoughtful dialogue in the Thurber-Nugent script. Virginia Mayo is very beautiful. One really bright spot 80 minutes in -- Gene Nelson's acrobatic dance routine to "Am I in Love?" But what does it all add up to? This movie is like white bread with margarine.

Actors in their 30s pretending to be college kids in clothes that are perfectly color-coordinated. The vivid colors make the made-up faces look ludicrous. And locations that always look like a Hollywood soundstage.

Ronald Reagan playing drunk that would embarrass a high school drama teacher. Don Defore? Gene Nelson? Sorry but there is NO charisma or charm or personality in any of the male leads. And the girl we're supposed to like is soooooo good and soooooo decent. And the girl who is nasty is sooooooo nasty.

Have you heard of any of these songs? Couldn't they find one memorable and fun song? A big yawn.

Big Eden

"Can't You See What a Good Job God Did Here?"
After 974,000+ heterosexual feel-good movies, we finally get a good-old-boy down-to-earth heart-of-America gay feel-good movie! Not feel-good in terms of hunky guys showing off their sweaty chests. But a story that shows people being nice and loving and generous (toward gay characters).

This is the freshest, most unique gay-themed movie I've seen (and I've seen a lot). It doesn't take place in a big city. It doesn't include homophobic rants.

Big Eden asks us to believe that in the deepest right-wing part of the Rocky Mountains the colorful townsfolk would try to play matchmaker for two gay men; that a countrified old man nearing the end of his life would tell his gay son, "Did I teach you shame?" and then say "Can't you see what a good job god did here?" (forget psychotherapy, gay men who were rejected by their families and communities can just watch this movie.)

Two big questions guide the plot: Will Henry choose between his boyhood crush (dad of two, recently divorced) or the quiet, native-American shopkeeper who shyly dotes on him? And will Henry remain in his hometown of Big Eden, MT, or return to his adopted home in New York? This provides enough drama and interest without adding in drugs or dance clubs or gay bashing or screaming drag queens for comic relief.

My theory about the positive community in Gay Eden: I think the town would react very negatively if a big city gay couple bought land in Big Eden, moved there and tried to dance together at the town barbecue. But Henry and Pike were from Big Eden -- they belonged there... when Pike says that he wants Henry to be happy, the most stereotypical of all the rednecks tells him, "We want you to be happy also." And I truly believed him.

Feel good yet?

My Name Is Earl

Is Earl in Texas?
Was it ever said what state they're in? If not can anyone make a good guess based on what we've seen so far?

I've recorded some episodes to share with a good friend who originally comes from Texas and I've told him I have a feeling the show is set in Texas.

BTW: I live as deep in a Blue State as you can get -- born in New York I now live in San Francisco. And I love MY NAME IS EARL -- it's the funniest comedy since the first season of Malcolm in the Middle (and I do mean the first season, MitM has become tired). I wonder whether the people in the Red States (such as Texas) like this show and aren't offended by the show? Any Texans want to comment on this?

Everyone Says I Love You

Woody's Worst
I love Woody Allen and I love musicals. I can't believe how awful I found this movie!

Allen's dialog has always been so fresh and sharp. I've never heard such weak dialog in a Woody Allen movie. Lukas Haas is a conservative republican vs Alan Alda as the liberal democrat father; the dialog between them was the most obvious. I didn't believe any of the lines from any of the characters.

Then this idea that the actors should do their own singing. Why? I've heard these songs many times by talented people. Do I really need to hear these songs butchered by the likes of Drew Barrymore (I also am fond of Drew B, but hope never to hear her sing again). Edward Norton is doing a Woody Allen imitation. Oy. None of the musical numbers move the plot forward.

Why did he decide to make a musical?

Designing Woman

What a terrible script!!!
How in the world did this movie win the Oscar for best original screenplay?

The script is based on a series of stupid premises. These are two sophisticated New Yorkers but they each act silly about the prospect that the husband had any girlfriends before their impulsive marriage. Husband's life is threatened by some thugs, but when wife walks in he introduces the thugs as "friends," so that later on she sees them and thinks they're friends. She is a sophisticated worldly New Yorker but he doesn't dare tell her about the risks he's facing -- he'd rather create nonsensical complications and jealousy etc.

The only thing that could've made this movie worse would've been Grace Kelly in the leading role. Lauren Bacall has an edge, she can do comedy, have attitude. If the role had been done by an Ice Princess, the whole movie would've been totally flat and unwatchable. Although I would say that Jimmy Stewart would have added life to the character of the husband.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce

Phone on Rt is NOT a Goof
IMDb has it listed as a goof that: In the first segment Rex Harrison asks that the phone be moved to the left side of the back seat, but in subsequent segments the phone is still on the right side...

POSSIBLE SPOILER BUT Rex Harrison only owns the car for two days! When he asks that the phone be moved (and some other request) the Rolls Royce man tells him that it will take a week. But Rex needs it that very day as an anniversary present because the following day is the big horse race. They don't have time to move the phone before he takes delivery of the car. When the car arrives he remarks to his wife that he will have the phone moved. But the very next day he sends the car back.

So why does IMDb list as a goof the fact that the car is still on the left side?!

The Tic Code

Thank you for making this movie...
This movie meant a great deal to me. I have Tourrette Syndrome -- no two cases are alike and the way it impacts each life is different -- but the two Tourretters in the story humanized the funny movements and grimaces that have been with me all my life. I didn't get a correct diagnosis until I was 30 and then chose to not take medication so I can keep my personality.

It would be great if the filmmakers come across this. I'd like them to know how much this meant to me (and I'm sure lots of other people with Tourrettes and their families).

Plus, it was nice that Gregory Hines got this multifaceted role to play -- I will miss him, he was a performer with class. And BTW isn't it nice that there are still a few movies about human beings without things blowing up or bimbos taking off their clothes?

The John Larroquette Show

Wonderful First Season
John Larroquette Show had a truly brilliant first season. It was startling to have such a darkly comic show on American TV in the early 90s -- American sitcoms were still stuck in the idea that characters had to be likable and situations had to be pleasant. But he was in a bottom- of-the-barrel job, trying to be a recovering alcoholic, living in a terrible place, surrounded by people who encouraged him to drink. So of course it was too good to last...

The network brought the show back for a second season but with the understanding that it had be brightened up. They had John move into a nicer place, they got him a nice decent love interest (other than Carly, the hooker), and they took the edge away from the show. Sigh.

The bitter irony is that nowadays American TV sitcoms go out of their way to try to set up quirky situations and characters, but without the talent in the writing or acting that John Larroquette Show had in its day.

Paris Is Burning

The Closing Speech in the Mirror
I saw Paris IS BURNING at the San Francisco Gay Film Festival when it wasn't yet finished. But even without closing credits and closing music, it was one of the most powerful endings and the audience jumped to its feet with a standing ovation. There is a very elegant, heavyset light-skinned black performer doing her eyelashes and explaining that when she was young she thought life was about being a success but now she understands just surviving is a success in itself. It ended with "and if you can -----, then hooray for you." I'm not getting this right. Can somebody tell me who this was and what the speech is? At least that closing piece.

BTW: I was very actively gay in NYC in the 80s, for two years I shared an apt with the love of my life who was an African-American man. And I NEVER KNEW THESE BALLS EXISTED!!!

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