Today’s DVD Sound Bite will be about three classic movies that I just watched recently, courtesy of Netflix.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
This is generally considered one of the best movies about Hollywood ever. It stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, a Hollywood screenwriter who has seen better days. On the run from debt collectors, he stumbles upon an aging mansion, wherein resides Norma Desmond, a silent movie star who has been left behind by the movie industry. I won’t go into too much more detail to avoid spoiling anything about the plot.
This movie is an exploration of the ways in which such a turbulent industry as Hollywood leaves their greatest stars in the dust so quickly and so easily. William Holden brings a solid, if unspectacular performance. The show is stolen by Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond. Her standard demeanor can be best described as “batshit insane”. The level-headed nature of Joe Gillis contrasts perfectly with the vigorous eccentricity of Norma.
Required viewing for anybody who considers themselves a movie buff, but everybody else might find it uninteresting. Not enough explosions or T&A.
85 out of 100
Herman Melville’s most well known novel gets the Hollywood treatment. If you need a synopsis on what happens in the plot, slap yourself in the face. Twice.
This movie is rather impressive on a technical level. Granted, it looks hokey by today’s standards, but given how much of a royal pain it was to shoot a movie in water during the 50s, what they came up with wasn’t half bad. The script was well done, although the lengthy segments taken directly from the novel get a bit tedious when they are delivered with a monotone that would bore an AM radio announcer.
My biggest problem has to do with the casting of the two male leads. Gregory Peck was 38 when this movie was made. He plays Ahab, who is described as an old man in the novel. Conversely, Ishmael is supposed to be a fresh-faced 20-something kid. However, the actor they got for Ishmael was 40 at the time.
So the 20-something narrator looks older than the aging captain. As if that wasn’t enough, neither of them turned in a very good performance.
The characters are really what makes Moby Dick interesting, so when the male leads are botched, everything comes unraveled. Oh well, I still enjoyed it.
60 out of 100.
The Apartment (1960)
Jack Lemmon stars as C.C. Baxter, an office drone in New York City who found an easy way to advance his career: let his superiors use his apartment as a place to take their mistresses.
I love this movie. It officially just became one of my favorite classics. Jack Lemmon plays his character to perfection, giving us an extremely likable and satisfyingly real protagonist. One of the things that really makes this movie work is the humor. It calls itself a comedy, but the brilliance lies in how underplayed the comedy is. It never goes over-the-top with the humor, which provides a realism that adds dramatic weight to the heavier moments in the movie.
There is some interesting social commentary to the film as well, but thankfully, it is never overbearing, letting most of the focus rest on the main character. Long story short, the script is brilliant. Narrative-wise.
94 out of 100.
For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.