They say good things come in threes. They say that about bad things, too, so never mind. My point is today marks the start of the third annual Against the Crowd Blogathon. If you're a regular around these parts, you know this is THE biggest event of the year on my site. It has become that because of you, my readers and fellow bloggers who have joined me to express your not-so-popular opinions. Yup, this is the blogathon where you get to vent and tell us why some film everyone loves really sucks, and why that movie everyone hates is really good. That's basically it. Almost forgot, to help me out I recruited a co-host, KG of KG's Movie Rants. To check out all the rules, check out the announcement post, over on his site.
To kick things off this year, I'm going to let a regular commentator on the site take the wheel. That commentator is Joel, or Joel65913 as his name sometimes appears, who doesn't have his own blog, yet has become a welcomed presence on a number of the small community of blogs I frequent. Giving him the first spot is a way for me to say thank you for two things. The first is the most obvious. He reads, he comments, and is clearly knowledgeable about movies from every era. The second thank you is specifically for his guest post during this same blogathon last year. As of today, it is the second most viewed post in the history of my blog and trending to take over the top spot. So yeah, Joel has stolen my thunder, and I'm okay with that. I'll let him take over from here since he obviously does this blogging thing better than I without even trying.
Love - American Dreamer
Filmed in both Paris and the French countryside this may not be a startlingly original film or idea but it is a fun one. JoBeth Williams is having a high ol’ time zipping around like a loon causing chaos as she ferociously pursues people who have not one clue what she’s talking about most of the time. Until surprise!, it turns out she might have stumbled across something really dangerous in her crazy pursuit!
Tom Conti is a great pairing with her, his calm befuddlement reins in the scenes where JoBeth is at her most manic. Add in Giancarlo Giannini as Rebecca Ryan’s hapless prey, Coral Browne as Conti’s mother (a dotty delight) and truly beautiful settings and you have a very jolly night at the movies. I’ve always been at a loss why it was so poorly reviewed.
Hate - An American in Paris (RT score 95)
Decisions, decisions. I was very torn when I was deciding which over venerated piece of cinema that I was going to spew my vitriol towards this time. I briefly considered the original Ghostbusters (RT score 97) in light of the debut of the new one but I fell asleep TWICE in the theatre when I attempted to see that mind-numbing junk originally and couldn’t put myself through that again!
So I decided to follow last year’s choice of the Best Picture winning fiasco Chariots of Fire with another from that august group. Which led to another conundrum. My first two picks of horribleness, Forrest Gump (RT 72) and Around the World in 80 Days (RT 74), had dropped just beneath the 75% score cut-off…they should only sink lower, they both stink. And the inexplicably beloved Lawrence of Arabia (RT 97) has recently shown itself to not be too popular around these parts (YEAH!) which made me finally land at the artsy-fartsy pretentious feet of An American in Paris.
Now I’m a huge fan of Golden Era musicals in general plus Vincente Minnelli is a director of great skill and finesse who has helmed many films I love and admire…so why do I find this film akin to a root canal to sit through? This is one of those weird occasions where I like so many of the elements of the film - Leslie Caron, Nina Foch, Oscar Levant and most of the songs, though don’t get me started on ‘S Wonderful (I’m sure the Gershwins were attempting to be charming with its sibilant S’s but it makes the singer sound like they’re either drunk or worse getting ready to spit on someone!) but can’t stand the end product.
The reason is because it clearly wants to make AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT ABOUT ARTISTIC EXPRESSION!!! Glug. Most of the time when filmmakers start with that aim the end result comes out as arch and calculated and boy this puppy hits that nail right on the head.
Films like Meet Me in St. Louis, Casablanca & Out of the Past retain their power today because while the makers set out to make an entertaining movie they didn’t see them as masterworks for the ages allowing them to become just that through the unforced confluence of the proper pieces coming together. American in Paris has the feeling from the first frame of LOOK AT WHAT WE’RE DOING, ISN’T IT SPECIAL! Well no. Not any more so than dozens of other musicals turned out during the same period.
Something, or should I say someone, else that drives me from the film is Gene Kelly. Here’s my trouble: very good looking and mega-talented dynamo he might have been but he often exuded a sense that NOBODY thought as highly of Gene Kelly as he did of himself. This film and performance are the worst example of just that vibe. An immensely gifted performer should give off a sense of confidence, and Kelly always displayed a brash and cocky assurance, but mixed with a relatable humility. Judy Garland and Cary Grant are probably the best examples of this. But in AAIP Kelly tips over into a completely overweening unctuousness exuding the noxious odor of showboating-“Hey look at me do this! Aren’t I Great!” “Now watch THIS!! Ain’t I TERRIFIC!!!” Well yeah, but could you leave a little air in the room for someone else and just shut the hell up for two seconds together?
Then there’s the final ballet which goes on for centuries and adds zip to the narrative but becomes just another example of ostentatious overkill.
Give me The Red Shoes, the less revered but much more enjoyable Summer Stock or The Gang’s All Here any day and twice on Sunday over this hogwash.