May 2017 Recap


May is another month that's gone by in a flash. It helped that it was Clark Gable month on TCM, something I've been looking forward to for a few months now; with all of the films I watched, I've now nearly completed Clark's 1930s filmography! I've noticed lately that Clark Gable isn't talked about that much nowadays, and I'm not totally sure why--perhaps his ever-charming, suave screen presence doesn't resonate as much with contemporary classic movie fans, who prefer the more complex, tortured performers of classic Hollywood? Whatever the reasoning may be, this binge of his early films has cemented him as one of my favorite performers of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I plan to watch as many films from him as I can in the future. Beyond Clark, I also managed to squeeze in viewings of some 70s horror films, more catch-ups from 2016, and a couple of re-watches, including You've Got Mail with my mom for Mother's Day. Overall, a really great month for movies. See a list of what I watched and a selection of my favorites after the cut.


First-Time Viewings: 48
Re-Watches: 2
  1. Late Spring (1949)
  2. The Killers (1946)
  3. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  4. Blow-Up (1966)
  5. Fences (2016)
  6. Silence (2016)
  7. No Man of Her Own (1932)
  8. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  9. Night Nurse (1931)
  10. Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931)
  11. Polly of the Circus (1932)
  12. Sporting Blood (1931)
  13. Strange Interlude (1932)
  14. Split (2017)
  15. Detour (1945)
  16. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
  17. Possessed (1931)
  18. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  19. Re-Watch: Yentl (1983) 
  20. Bloody Moon (1981)
  21. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
  22. Moonlight (2016)
  23. Hell Divers (1932)
  24. Laughing Sinners (1931)
  25. The White Sister (1933)
  26. Chained (1934)
  27. Death Watch (1980)
  28. An American Tragedy (1931)
  29. Odd Obsession (1959)
  30. White Heat (1949)
  31. Barren Lives (1963)
  32. Re-Watch: You've Got Mail (1998) 
  33. China Seas (1935)
  34. Elle (2016)
  35. Men in White (1934)
  36. Dance, Fools, Dance (1931)
  37. Dancing Lady (1933)
  38. Forsaking All Others (1934)
  39. Night Flight (1933)
  40. San Francisco (1936)
  41. Nocturnal Animals (2016)
  42. Test Pilot (1938)
  43. Suspiria (1977)
  44. Bells Are Ringing (1960)
  45. Boom Town (1940)
  46. Phenomena (1985)
  47. The Finger Points (1931)
  48. Idiot's Delight (1939)
  49. Saratoga (1937)
  50. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
By Decade:
  • 20s: 0
  • 30s: 23
  • 40s: 5
  • 50s: 2
  • 60s: 5
  • 70s: 3
  • 80s: 5
  • 90s: 1
  • 2000s: 0
  • 2010s: 6
Blow-Up (1966)
I was apprehensive of my first viewing of Antonioni's Blow-Up. Very slow-paced films can go either way with me--I either love them or, more commonly, hate them--and this was a film that even the most dedicated cinephiles seemed to think was a bit on the glacier side of slow-moving. Fortunately, Blow-Up turned out to be one of the most fascinating, captivating films I've seen in a long time. It does move very slowly, and is mostly absent of a plot, but each scene is paced so perfectly and offers just enough intrigue that I was kept riveted for the full 2 hours. In fact, the film just gets better and better the more I think about it: mulling over the strange, complex world Antonioni created here has gotten me through more than a few dull graveyard shifts this month. It has also reminded me that I really need to seek out more films about photographers--between this and Get Out, I've really enjoyed seeing this rather underappreciated art form getting some love in films.

Silence (2016)
It was exactly a year ago that I saw The Last Temptation of Christ for the first time, a film that moved me in a way I never expected. I was raised in religion, but it just didn't stick: I've never been able to connect to it and commit to it the way that so many others can. However, something about Martin Scorsese's treatment of the story of Jesus touched me in a way no other depiction ever has, making this legendary figure feel tangible and relatable. As I settled in to view Silence, I wasn't expecting Scorsese to be able to trap lightning in a bottle twice--in fact, I hadn't even made the connection that this film may be similar to Temptation--but somehow, he has: once again, he has made a film that makes these complicated religious concepts feel so real and important to me in a way they never have before. For instance, the controversy surrounding a believer "denying god" has always felt so strange and trivial to me, but this film makes it come alive so that I fully understood Andrew Garfield's internal struggle. While not for everyone, this is truly a special film with some of the best performances and cinematography  and one I hope gains a larger following as time goes on.

Split (2017)
I loved The Visit, so I've been eagerly anticipating Split ever since the trailers started cropping up, and it did not disappoint. James McAvoy in particular puts in the best performance I've ever seen from him, effortlessly shifting between the different personalities occupying the same body; he was so convincing that at times I really did forget it was just one actor playing all of these different characterse. Really, my only complaint is that we didn't get to explore more of these personalities; there's several who only appear in brief glimpses, but would have been great additions to the story. I would love to see a prequel--perhaps a short film--with more of these characters in the limelight. I also really enjoyed Anya Taylor-Joy's role in this film--I love that she's not simply fading into obscurity after her fantastic performance in The Witch, and she puts in another great one here, playing a smart and complex character who makes a great foil for McAvoy. Shyamalan has definitely gotten his filmmaking prowess back, and I can't wait to see what's next for him.

Yentl (1983)
 This one is a re-watch, but I'm so enamored by it that I can't resist talking about it. I last saw it when I was a pre-teen, and at the time I was only interested in the romance between Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin--Streisand's beautiful songs and all of her complex ruminations on feminism, sexuality, education, and religion went right over my head. This time, whether Yentl and Avigdor would end up together was the last thing I was interested in--in fact, I was much more interested in the relationship between Streisand and Amy Irving. Here we have a film made in 1983 and set nearly a century earlier that involves a same-sex marriage, with one of the women legitimately falling in love with the other. While the cross-dressing antics help to soften these transgressive elements, they're still there as plain as day, and remain unique even to this day because of the sensitivity and complexity Streisand employs in exploring them. This film is criminally under-seen and underappreciated, and I'm so happy that I managed to rediscover it anyway, because this is a film that I needed in my life and didn't even realize it.

Dance, Fools, Dance (1931)
The first pairing of Joan and Clark, and the one which features the least Clark. However, despite the lack of screen presence for the King, this film is one of my favorites I discovered during his tribute, perhaps less so because the film itself is objectively spectacular, but rather because I watched it at the right time for its themes to really resonate with me. Here, Crawford and her brother must completely reinvent themselves after losing the family fortune: Crawford works hard and takes risks and in the end finds happiness for her trouble, while her brother tries to take the easy way out and pays the ultimate price. It's a rather simple and predictable little pre-Code, but Crawford really sells her role here, and with all of the upheaval going on in my life right now, it offered some catharsis to see her going through similar struggles and succeeding in the end. Also, while brief, Crawford and Gable's scenes together are just as good as the more famous ones that would come later; even at this early stage, it's easy to see why they became such a powerhouse screen pairing.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
I always have a great respect for divisive films, because the controversy surrounding them is usually because they did something new and different; even when I don't actually like them, I really appreciate films that challenge their viewers and try to take them out of their comfort zones. Nocturnal Animals is just such a film, and in this case, I really took to its eccentricities. It's a rather twisted film that tackles some truly dark and horrific subject matter, but always with a sense of detachment--it's only a story, after all, a story within a story. My only complaint is the ending, which felt a bit too sudden and unresolved for its own good, but I can see myself liking it more upon a re-watch. There's just such a thick sense of atmosphere to the whole film, and combined with the really fantastic performances by Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon, this film felt like a fever dream that I wasn't quite ready to leave when it ended.

Bells Are Ringing (1960)
I managed to work in another Vincente Minnelli musical this month, and it's another new favorite. Like The Band Wagon, it's not without some faults--it feels too long, with several musical numbers in particular that just feel like filler--but the whole thing is just so gorgeous and charming that it's impossible not to love it. While incredibly silly and dated, I just loved the telephone operator premise--this makes for a great technological in-between for The Shop Around the Corner and You've Got Mail--and Judy Holliday is an adorable force to be reckoned with in this film, serving as the perfect center-point for all of the other wild characters and storylines to revolve around. This is a romantic musical that is truly romantic with some lovely musical numbers, and is a shining example of why I love these classic Hollywood tunefests so much.

Saratoga (1937)
Can I just say what a gorgeous couple Jean Harlow and Clark Gable were? I'm not a fan of the word "swoon", but I must admit that's what I do whenever I see a picture like the one above; I don't think any other leading lady, not even Joan Crawford, was quite such a perfect match for him on-screen as Harlow. Her premature death is heartbreaking for so many reasons, and one of them has to be that her collaborations with him were cut so short. Saratoga, both the final film they made together and the last one she made period, is a perfect example of their amazing chemistry that I'm sure could have been maintained for many years, and films, to come. A rather silly, screwball-style comedy about horse racing and bookies is infused with so much class and glamor every time the handsome Gable catches eyes with living firecracker Harlow, and a rather risque scene where Gable lathers Harlow's neck and back with cream to help her cold is simply brimming with the feverish chemistry they shared. There never was and never will be again a screen couple quite like this one, and I will always treasure the all-too-small filmography they share.

May was a month filled with some of the biggest and brightest stars of early Hollywood, and June promises to be no less exiting, with a particular highlight being TCM's next star of the month, Audrey Hepburn--11 unseen-by-me films will be airing, and I plan to catch every single one. I hope May treated you well, and that June proves to be even better--and check back soon for the next Classic Film of the Week.

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