Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dirtier Harry vs. Flatnose

I'm not sure this is the motion picture event of a generation, as the trailer suggests, but it least it ends the argument over whether this final installment in the Harry Potter series will be in two parts or three.

Police escort at Brown's funeral no big deal

There's a huge difference between an escort and an honor guard. There was no police honor guard at the funeral of David Brown Jr., the slain son of Dallas' chief of police. There was an escort. An escort is the polite term often used for the person paid to accompany someone to the theater or some charitable event. In this case, it's the individuals on motorcycles who stop oncoming traffic when funeral processions are making their way from site of the funeral to the grave site.

I never knew where these escorts came from. I always assumed they were police officers and I imagine most of the rest of civilized society assumed the same thing. And I could care less whether they were off-duty police officers being paid extra by the funeral homes or whether they were on-duty officers performing a much-needed public safety service. I usually have a lot more important things in my own life to be concerned about.

That's why I can't see a reason for any furor over the fact that this service was provided for Brown's funeral entourage. This is an issue that has far more resonance with fellow police officers and city staff members than it has with the public. I do empathize with their concern, even if I don't share it. David Brown Jr. shot and killed an on-duty Lancaster police officer. My feeling, however, is that the escort has nothing to do with Brown but in preventing someone from smashing into a car in a funeral procession that is traveling through an intersection when the traffic light signals they should instead be stopped.

Apparently these escorts are provided by private escort services of a kind not found in the back pages of tabloids. I came to that conclusion after reading the following letter written by First Assistant Police Chief  Charlie Cato to the members of the Dallas Police Department:

On the day of the funeral for Chief Brown's son I was Acting Chief of Police. I attended the funeral and was present in the procession to the graveside ceremonies. Deputy Chief Julian Bernal was in the vehicle with me at this time. My impression of the procession was that it was larger than anticipated and quickly exceeded the capacity of the two assigned private escorts. After the procession began in Plano, circumstances began to develop, including intermittent rain, heavy traffic and an accident at Walnut Hill Lane that caused both Chief Bernal and I to become concerned about public safety.

Chief Bernal and I discussed options to make the procession and public motorists safer. The decision was made to request assistance from motor officers if any were available. I concurred and take responsibility for this decision. The decision to utilize these resources was unplanned and the sole purpose of their presence was to address the immediate public safety issue.

As police officers, we are required to make daily decisions and be judged by the impact of those decisions. Chief Bernal and I must also be held to this standard. We recognized there might be concerns about our decision. I truly regret and apologize to anyone who has been offended or hurt by this decision. Please know that neither I nor Chief Bernal intended in any way to be disrespectful to any fallen officer. I believe that both he and I have demonstrated our commitment to fallen officers and their families during our careers. Our deepest regret is that our decisions on Friday may detract from the Department's history in this regard.

The City Manager has informed me that an investigation will be conducted concerning the actions taken on Friday. I want to assure you that I will fully cooperate with and accept the outcome of this investigation.

I don't know Chief Cato, but individuals whose opinion I respect and who do know him, say his selection as assistant chief was a brilliant move on the part of Chief Brown. So I'm going to give Cato the benefit of the doubt. But that's not all.
About seven or eight years ago, when headlines blared that Dallas had the highest crime rate of any major city in the country, a huge hue and cry emanated from the public that this trend must be reversed, giving birth to that wonderful euphemism of "public safety," which, as defined by those doing the hueing and crying, meant arresting all those minorities committing crimes. The leaders of our fair city heard the hues and they heard the cries and responded by adding unprecedented numbers to the ranks of our police force in the misguided belief that the greater the size of a police force the lower the crime rate. (In research I conducted while at the City of Dallas I learned that the major cities with the lowest crime rate also had the lowest police-to-population ratios but also the more innovative crime fighting techniques.)
The dilemma that resulted is that if you are going to insist on "public safety," you can't pick and chose which members of that public you're going to protect. And that's what Chief Cato is saying in his letter and why I think any protests about escorts at Brown's funeral "don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Best of Woody Allen

Sasha Stone listed today selections for the 10 best films of Woody Allen after mentioning this quote from Allen that appeared recently in a British publication:

"Out of 40 films I should have 30 masterpieces, eight noble failures and two embarrassments, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Many of the films are enjoyable by the mean standards of movies, but look at what has been accomplished by people who have done beautiful things — Kurosawa, Bergman, Fellini, Buñuel, Truffaut — and then look at my films. I have squandered my opportunities and I have nobody to blame but myself."
I agree with Stone that Allen is underestimating himself here, and although I agree with his two top picks, my list of Allen's 10 Best and Stone's differ significantly:

Stone's 10 Best Allen Films    My 10 Best Allen Films
1.  Annie Hall                              1.  Annie Hall
2.  Manhattan                              2.  Manhattan
3.  Stardust Memories                 3.  Hannah and Her Sisters
4.  Crimes and Misdemeanors     4.  Crimes and Misdemeanors
5.  Husbands and Wives             5.   Bullets Over Broadway
6.  Hannah and Her Sisters          6.  Love and Death
7.  Another Woman                    7.  The Purple Rose of Cairo
8.  Zelig                                      8.  Take the Money and Run
9.  Sleeper                                  9.  Broadway Danny Rose
10. Radio Days                          10. Interiors

Stone, incidentally, includes film clips of his choices.

A weak defense

There is the classic movie scene in which the wife arrives home unexpectedly and discovers her husband in bed with another woman. The husband grabs a sheet around him and says pleadingly to his wife: "Honey, it's not what you think. Who are you going to believe: me or your own eyes?"

That scene came to me this morning when I read Kevin Sherrington's essay in the Dallas Morning News about why the Texas Rangers should still pursue Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt. Last night, for reasons that need not be explained or excused, I found myself in an Uptown frozen yogurt joint, one of those with plasma TV screens hanging on every conceivable wall space, and watched Oswalt being shelled by the Rangers. I thought to myself at the time it was one of the worst job interviews ever.

To be released tomorrow on DVD

Everlasting Moments presents a paradox: It's a small, graceful epic. Set in southern Sweden during the first decades of the 20th century, the movie picks one face out of the tenement crowd: Maria Larsson (Maria Heiskanen), impoverished, overworked, saddled with a brutish husband named Sigge (Mikael Persbrandt) and a growing gaggle of children. Then it hands her a still camera and watches as, to Maria's own great shock, her creative fires are lit.

The camera — a small accordion model called a Contessa — is won by Maria in a lottery and packed away at the back of a closet. Years later, she pulls it out only to try to sell it to a local photographer, since Sigge is on strike at the shipyard and spending what little money they have on drink and other women. The photographer, a cultured older man named Pedersen (Jesper Christensen), instead shows her how to work the camera and sends her home to snap a few pictures.

She's good at it. In fact, she's a natural. When a neighbor woman asks her to photograph her dead daughter, the shot Maria keeps for herself is a spooky image of the corpse laid on a table as local children jostle to peer in at a nearby window. The Contessa comes to represent freedom to this shy, self-effacing woman — the possibility of independent life, of a soul-match with the gentle photographer — and this fills her with both joy and fear. It's 1907, after all, and Maria is a 19th-century woman. Certain things aren't done.

Everlasting Moments is beautifully attuned to tectonic shifts in the culture even as it attends to this one small life. We see Maria's marriage and art through the eyes of her oldest daughter, Maja (played by Nellie Almgren as a girl and Callin Öhrvall as a teenager; both have the wide, clear face of a Vermeer subject). Sigge, is a chauvinistic blowhard whose bullying grows more intense as he sees his wife step gingerly into the modern world. Both he and Maja sense what Maria won't admit to herself and what the photographer already knows: Art and independence can never be packed away again.

“Not everyone is endowed with the gift of seeing,” Pedersen tells his pupil, and that's the true subject of Everlasting Moments: seeing, and preserving what is seen. It's a matter clearly close to the heart of director Jan Troell, who at 77 is the reigning grand old man of Swedish cinema. (U.S. moviegoers know him best for his Oscar-nominated The Emigrants and The New Land in the early 1970s; the new film, based loosely on a true story, was Sweden's submission for the 2009 Academy Award.)

Everlasting Moments is quiet, observant, and intensely moving whenever Heiskanen is on screen, and it has a valedictory sweep that feels like a summing up. Troell lovingly re-creates a time when socialism and Charlie Chaplin movies represented the ways forward, and he anchors his social panorama in the meek, stubborn stare of an unnoticed woman possessed with looking at everything. Grade: A

Other recents movies to be released tomorrow on DVD:

The White Ribbon (2009) At a rural school in northern Germany in 1913, a form of ritual punishment has major consequences for students and faculty. But the practice may have bigger repercussions on the German school system and even on the growth of fascism. German writer-director Michael Haneke seems to thrive on frustration in all its forms. His characters are habitually stuck in unpleasantness or awkwardness or even outright peril, with no means of escape or release or even, quite often, any clue as to what is happening to them or why. His films move quietly and obliquely, with long stillnesses and misdirections; they have no obvious “good guys” for us to care about; they obdurately avoid closure or explanation. And his view of humanity is as dark as that of any artist since Goya: We are, per Haneke, a selfish, petty, mean and cruel species, driven by subrational impulses, given to spite and hollowness and malice, indifferent to the effects that our pursuit of our personal needs and desires has on others. For all those cautions, though, Haneke is an indisputable master. In his best films — Caché, The Piano Teacher, the German-language Funny Games — he can draw viewers through a terrifying gamut of emotions, confusions and doubts, imposing the painful experiences of his characters on his audience. You can squirm, for hours, at a Haneke film, then turn off the DVD in relief but find, damnably, that you can’t forget any of it, sometimes for years. It may not be pleasant, but it is most definitely art. The White Ribbon is, in some ways, absolutely prime Haneke and in others a departure. As befits the man who hid a possible solution to the riddle of Caché in an apparently meaningless shot before the final credits, Haneke only hints at what is really happening — which, of course, will drive most audiences batty and is, of course, exactly what he wishes. And while there are clues enough for a reasonable solution to the mystery to be proposed, the characters — particularly our protagonist, the schoolteacher — never seem to pick up on them, and Haneke doesn’t exactly deliver them up unambiguously to the viewer. All of this is packaged in a creamy black-and-white, with impeccable period décor and wardrobe and a cast full of utterly credible performers. Indeed, the tension between the comely and comforting manner of the film and its undecided and beguiling content is, arguably, Haneke’s signature touch. By reeling backward nearly a century to find people like the ones we’ve seen in other of his works, he seems to be affirming his dim view of us. The comfort, insofar as the film affords any, is the knowledge that such adept art can arise from a depiction of such unworthy souls. Grade: A-minus

The Warlords (2010) After emerging as the sole survivor in a battle between revolutionary troops and the Qing army, wounded Qing Gen. Ma Xinyi (Jet Li) is nursed back to heath by lovely peasant Lian (Jinglei Xu). After he recovers, Xinyi swears blood brotherhood with bandits Cao Er-Hu (Andy Lau) and Zhang Wen-Xiang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and the trio wages a seemingly impossible campaign against the revolutionaries.With its thousands of years of bloody history — and tens of thousands of low-cost extras — China has long been a reliable source of battlefield epics. But The Warlords, a China/Hong Kong co-production, is more than just reliable. It's a surprisingly nuanced and sober tale of brotherhood and betrayal. It isn't principally a love story, but that element does give the movie unexpected emotional depth. Jet Li fans may be surprised to see their hero here looking weathered and, frankly, old. The final scene does offer the actor a showcase for his kung fu skills, but his grim, largely internalized determination is more important to the movie's success than any chops or kicks. The Warlords doesn't make fighting look graceful, easy or fun — and that's a mark of its courage. Grade: A-minus

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) Fueled by energy drinks, vodka and nostalgia for their younger, wilder days, a group of aging best friends use a hot tub to travel back in time to 1987, where they get the chance to relive the best year of their lives. The fact that this guys-gone-wild comedy is actually pretty damn funny — in an admittedly dumb-funny way — is as much a surprise as the time/space twist of its title. A perfect collision of high-energy and high-concept, Hot Tub benefits from near-complete lack of inhibition and a total immersion in dude-centered shenanigans. It knows the genres it's riffing on and how to up the ante. And in Rob Corddry's hilariously manic turn, it has the most memorable showcase for a goofball co-star since Michael Keaton in 1982's Night Shift. Though it towel-snaps everything from Peggy Sue Got Married and The Terminator to Back to the Future (Crispin Glover as a weirdo bellboy is a nice touch), what Hot Tub Time Machine savors most is its own insanity. As with the best parties, the cast seems happy to be hosting. John Cusack hasn't been this loose since his own ‘80s movies, and Craig Robinson is great at being a sensitive galoot. But Corddry, the former Daily Show regular and perpetual side player, roars in like the love child of Jack Nicholson and James Carville. He makes the movie his own sure thing. Grade: B-plus

It Came From Kuchar (2010) Director Jennifer M. Kroot examines the works of filmmaking twins Mike Kuchar and George Kuchar and explores the undeniable influence they've had on independent directors such as Atom Egoyan, John Waters and Buck Henry. The portrait that emerges is affectionate and fascinating. The brothers themselves are un-self-consciously talkative, unassumingly odd and frequently very funny. Kroot’s documentary, while more conventional in tone and structure than anything her subjects have ever done, is nonetheless a valuable and intelligent introduction and tribute to their anarchic, uncompromising and absolutely peculiar genius. Grade: B

The Eclipse (2010) In this supernatural thriller written and directed by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, Ciarán Hinds stars as a recent widower who begins to sense that a mysterious presence is sharing his house. Not surprisingly, the film unfolds with the muted allusiveness of the best short fiction and the attention to character of a good play. As cinema, it is less sure of itself, but the trade-off feels fair. Above all, the film is lucky to have one of the better character actors in recent movies in a lead role: Hinds’ great, dour coffin of a face fits the role he plays here. The filmmakers work hard to sustain a tone of quiet watchfulness, and sometimes the story seems in danger of floating away, only to be brought up short by grisly shock tactics. A more experienced director might have navigated the shifts better, but also might not trust his characters and themes to reveal themselves with such lambent grace. The town and surrounding landscapes make a gorgeous setting — the Irish tourist board will be happy — but at its heart The Eclipse is a small, contained ghost story about a haunted man learning to exorcise himself. Grade: B-minus

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) After he discovers that he's the son of the Greek god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) strikes out to rescue his mortal mother and negotiate a peace treaty between his father, Zeus (Sean Bean), and Hades (Steve Coogan). Punctuated by painful dialogue and high-camp celeb cameos (notably Uma Thurman as a vampy Medusa), the ensuing quest has all the CGI sorcery of a Harry Potter picture, but none of the magic. Grade: C-plus

Don McKay (2010) At the urging of his ex-girlfriend, Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, high school janitor Don McKay (Thomas Haden Church) returns to his hometown for the first time in 25 years and finds himself ensnared in a web of conspiracy, deception and murder. Quirky goes a surprisingly long way before stalling out in this film, an oddball comedy with the knowing, festering heart of a neo-noir. Shue bounces from one narrative right angle to the next with melodramatic vigor, laughing and weeping and tugging at the increasingly bewildered Don, who seems happy to yield. Although an early shot of Don cleaning up a generous pool of blood while on the job broadly foreshadows the violence to come, writer-director Jake Goldberger tends to let his actors do most of the work. There might not be much going on in terms of framing and camera moves, but when you pack your movie with performers like Church, Melissa Leo, James Rebhorn and Keith David, all with faces and deliveries that can slide easily between comedy and menace, you’re holding a full house. Certainly it’s a bit of a self-flattering kick to see Church and the rest of this likable cast revisiting the twisted themes from classic noir. Goldberger has a direct reference to the shopping scene in Double Indemnity during which Barbara Stanwyck plots with Fred MacMurray. You recognize the allusion in this film, smile (or not) and wait for the payoff. The problem is that for the reference to have any meaningful resonance you need to be familiar with the Billy Wilder film, which in turn sets up a level of expectation that Goldberger and the cast can’t meet. If you don’t recognize the reference, well, you might wonder what Don sees in this dame with the wild eyes and endless supply of negligees. The answer is surprisingly moving and suggests that Goldberger once envisioned telling a very different movie. Grade: C-plus

The Crazies (2010) When a plane crashes in a small town, a secret biological weapon is released. As the toxic substance infiltrates the local water system, some residents become gravely ill, while others descend into homicidal madness.Whatever contemporary resonance this film might have had, even with the paranoid wingnut crowd, gets lost in a procession of competent—and sometimes slightly better than competent—shocks. Director Breck Eisner’s last film, 2005’s Sahara, suggested he didn’t have the chops to make a full-scale blockbuster, but he clearly has an eye for eerie compositions and some intriguing ideas about how to create scares. Yet for every inventively staged scene — most notably a nightmarish trip through a car wash — The Crazies throws in a couple of the fake-out shocks and cheap jolts that have plagued modern horror movies for decades. Another problem: The crazies themselves could be a lot more terrifying. Without the rotting ickiness of proper zombies, they just seem like methed-out Iowans looking for a fix. That’s scary, but not scary enough. Grade: C-plus

The Cartel (2010) Director Bob Bowdon takes aim at America's public school system, revealing a self-serving network of wasteful cartels that squander funding and fail to deliver when it comes to academic testing and basic skills. A mind-numbing barrage of random television clips and trash-talking heads, The Cartel purports to be a documentary about the American public school system. In reality, however, it’s a bludgeoning rant against a single state — New Jersey — which it presents as a closed loop of Mercedes-owning administrators, obstructive teachers’ unions and corrupt school boards. Bowdon concludes that increased financing for public schools is unlikely to raise reading scores but is almost certain to raise the luxury-car quotient in administrator parking lots. The evidence may be verifiable (and even depressingly familiar), but its complex underpinnings are given short shrift. Instead Bowdon, a New Jersey-based television reporter, employs an exposé-style narration lousy with ad hominems and emotional coercion. Visually horrid and intellectually unsatisfying, The Cartel demonstrates only that its maker has even more to learn about assembling a film than about constructing an argument. Grade: C

Creation (2010) Paul Bettany stars as Charles Darwin in this drama that captures the scientist in a period of intense mourning — and expansive intellectual discovery — following the untimely death of his young daughter. This interweaving of science and real life sounds suspiciously like a Hollywood plot to humanize that old guy with the long gray beard. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. After all, who doesn't want to know more about the softer side of the man still causing a ruckus at school-board meetings across the land more than a century after his death? But the movie has an appalling narrative structure. Creation is an exercise in the maudlin that would try the emotional patience of even someone who can tear up at the right television commercial (guilty as charged). So, what of the acting? You'd hope for a display of piercing intelligence from Bettany, but the main impression we get is of physical discomfort. Bettany's Darwin always has a chill or a case of the sweats, tummy ache or trembling hands. He has our sympathy initially, but the movie bathes us in such general despair that the natural instinct soon becomes a desire to tell him to buck up. We do believe in survival of the fittest, after all. Grade: C

When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors (2010) Composed entirely of original footage from 1966-71, Tom DiCillo's documentary about The Doors filters truth from myth, reveals new insight into Jim Morrison and his bandmates, and captures the essence of the iconic rock group and the era. DiCillo does his damnedest to make his documentary about The Doors unwatchable, but the subject matter is too compelling — and the vintage footage too electrifying — to be completely worthless. Half the time, there’s no compelling reason to look at the screen during When You're Strange, especially since instead of interviews with the principals, DiCillo has Johnny Depp reading narration that alternates unnecessary play-by-play and banal observations. To his credit, DiCillo doesn’t overlook Morrison’s booze-fueled unreliability issues, nor does he shortchange the qualities that made The Doors special. But aside from the too-broad context of the ’60s youth movement — and brief mentions of how Morrison idolized Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra — DiCillo doesn’t frame The Doors properly. He treats them as though they were sui generis, not part of a whole Los Angeles music scene filled with similar — and in some cases, superior — bands. It’s as though grounding The Doors in reality would detract from DiCillo’s formal strategy: combining fawning recitations from an audiobook with the kind of amateurish fan-made montages readily available on YouTube. Grade: D-plus

Stolen (2010) Investigating the mystery behind the mummified, half-century-old remains of a young boy found in a box at a construction site gives a detective (Jon Hamm) key clues to his own son's disappearance eight years before. The movie plays like a middling episode of Law & Order: SVU, drawn out an extra half-hour and embellished with pretentious literary and cinematic flourishes. The movie flashes back and forth between the present and the late 1950s. The ’50s characters are so sinister that you expect Stolen to turn into a horror film. It finally does, in a scene near the end when Tom encounters a jailbird named Diploma (James Van Der Beek). In outlandish makeup, Van Der Beek suggests a mug shot of an unstrung Nick Nolte with witchy hair and a Hannibal Lecter attitude. Grade: D-plus

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Best Movies: 1942

The 10 Best Movies of 1942

1. Casablanca. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid. Not only the best picture of this year, but the best movie ever. Nothing else comes close. Want proof? Name another movie with this many memorable, still quoted, lines: “I stick my neck out for nobody.” “You played it for her, you can play it for me. If she can stand it, I can. Play it!” “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” “Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.” “Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “Inside of us, we both know you belong to Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” “We’ll always have Paris.” “I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” And the simplest of them all, and still my favorite: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” And this doesn’t even count many of the memorable spoken exchanges in the movie. I have watched this film more than 100 times and each time seems like the first.

2. Yankee Doodle Dandy. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring James Cagney and Joan Leslie. It’s getting right around the perfect time to watch this movie — July 4. This is schmaltz raised to an art form and, as hammy as it is, the film’s manipulative sentiment gets to me every time, even with all my defenses up. Cagney is simply magnificent as George M. Cohan. It is reputed that after seeing Cagney’s portrayal of him in this film, Cohan said “My God, what an act to follow.”

3. Sullivan’s Travels. Written and directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Sturges made some of the best films during the first half of this decade — The Lady Eve, The Great McGinty, The Palm Beach Story (see below), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero — but this was his masterpiece, a variation on Gulliver’s Travels and a satirical indictment on the way Hollywood made movies at the time. Most of Sturges’s films were made strictly for entertainment value. This one, however, packed a powerful message. I could describe the plot, but it would sound contrived. Trust me, however, it works to perfection.

4. Now, Voyager. Directed by Irving Rapper. Starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains. The Ugly Duckling fairytale remade as pure soap opera and Davis’s most popular film of the decade. Like Dandy above, this is incredibly manipulative — the makeup artists had to work very hard to make Davis look as bad as she does during the early parts of the film — but it has a depth lacking in most films of this type. As a director, Rapper was smart enough not to get in Davis’s way.

5. Random Harvest. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Amnesia has always been a popular plot device for Hollywood screenwriters, but in the genre of Amnesia Films, this is the pick of the litter. Colman is superb and although Garson won a best actress Oscar this year for the much overrated Mrs. Miniver, she is far superior in this film. I always found Garson to be stuffy, but she literally lets her hair down in this movie. Her scenes with Colman are pure magic.

6. The Palm Beach Story. Written and directed by Preston Sturges. Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee. After taking on Hollywood with Sullivan’s Travels (No. 3 on this list), Sturges sets his satirical sites on the idle rich in this film, one of the funniest movies you’ll find from this period. It may not have the bite of Sturges’s best films, but it is still a delight. Vallee almost steals the show as multi-millionaire J.D. Hackensacker III and Astor is particularly wicked when she deals with her dumb lover.

7. Kings Row. Directed by Sam Wood. Starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings and Ronald Reagan. The flip side of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, showing small town America not as an idyllic place but the location for tragedy. It is also the film that features the finest performance from the actor who would, almost 40 years later, become president of the United States. This is a film from this era that I would like to see remade with a script that is closer to the novel from which it was adapted.

8. To Be or Not To Be. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Starring Carole Lombard, Jack Benny and Robert Stack. Proof that a comedy can convey an important social commentary, be considered as propaganda and yet still be hilarious. The film was controversial at the time of its release because many felt Lubitsch, a German, was holding up the Poles to ridicule, although in reality he is lampooning the Nazis and portraying the Poles as patriots. This was Lombard’s last film; just after it was completed, she was killed in a plane crash as she flew to Hollywood to appear in a war bonds appeal on Benny’s radio show.

9. The Man Who Came to Dinner. Directed by William Keighley. Starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley. A perfect example of it’s better to be lucky than good. The producers wanted Lionel Barrymore to play Sheridan Whiteside, but, for some reason, he had problems with the dialogue. So Barrymore was replaced by the then-largely-unknown Woolley who had created the part on Broadway and his performance is the reason this film turns out to be a comedy classic.

10. The Magnificent Ambersons. Directed by Orson Welles. Starring Joseph Cotten, Anne Baxter and Tim Holt. Welles’s constant bickering about how this movie was “stolen” from him has elevated it to a status higher than it deserves. Welles does employ some stunningly innovative visual tricks to enhance an essentially mundane story and Agnes Moorehead delivers the performance of her life. But some of the soliloquies border on a tedium even Welles couldn’t rescue. This is another film difficult to find on DVDs that will play in North American players.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between this scene ...

...and this one

A new TV ad lambasts Gov. Hair

This one was produced by a Political Action Committee calling itself the BacktoBasics PAC. I absolutely love it.

Is that all there is to the tower

I'll admit that the views are going to be spectacular, especially if you're at floor 30 or above. But for a minimum of $1 million I want more than the spartan existence I see in this video, especially since I don't think those artworks pictured, as lousy as they are, come with the joint, nor does the furniture which seems borrowed from Ikea. And for that amount a dough, I would want a swimming pool, not something that looks like a reflecting pool designed for the hoity-toity to mill around during the cocktail hour. If that's all there is to the Museum Tower, I would pass even if I could afford the tab.

Wish I had written this

I am not familiar with Stinson Carter who is identified on The Huffington Post as a "journalist, novelist, screenwriter and playwright." I do not know what novels, screenplays or plays he has written, but he did compose a fine journalist piece this morning on the aforementioned Huffington blog concerning yesterday's Algeria-U.S.A. World Cup contest, the last three paragraphs of which were:

Perhaps the very fact that soccer has not been widely embraced by America until now has preserved it as one of the least tainted of American sports; maybe its purity lies in its obscurity. These men on our National Team mean so much more to us now because they meant nothing to us a month ago. They are not celebrities, they are not multi-millionaires, and we don't read about their lives in grocery store checkout lines. So, when we see them out on the field, we don't see our vain ambitions in them. We see ourselves in them. And what we saw yesterday filled us with pride and self-respect at a time when we really need it.  
We are in perhaps one of the most challenging eras of American history. With a Gulf Coast in peril, an overseas war with no end in sight, and an economy still in the grip of an historic financial slump, it's hard to face our realities. But yesterday, the young men of our National soccer team showed us something that affirmed the inner greatness of a troubled people. They showed us why we must always continue to believe that great things can happen to those who work hard and refuse to give up.

However far we go in this World Cup, we have already won a glimpse of the strength at our core. Perhaps soccer will become huge in America one day. But let's remember it as it is now, while what makes it big is that it is still small. While one little tap of a ball into a net by a young man a few thousand miles away has the power to make us see the greatness in soccer and remind us of the greatness in ourselves. So of all the things that happened yesterday, let's remember it as the day when the sport that didn't matter showed us what matters most.
Very well said.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What's needed to love the game of soccer

I was on the edge of my seat this morning watching the World Cup contest between the U.S.A. and Algeria. And when Landon Donovan scored that goal in the 91st minute, I screamed, lept from my chair and danced gleefully around the room. (The fact that I was home alone at the time made the spectacle far less embarrassing than it could have been.)

I was giddy. The American team had gone from the brink of World Up elimination to winning its group with one deft kick of a rebounded ball.

It was only later, after I had a chance to digest my emotions, to review my history with the sport, to recall conversations with other sports enthusiasts who find soccer boring beyond belief and to remember a lot of the things I had read and heard about soccer in the U.S.A. that I realized what it really takes to enjoy the sport: A passionate involvement with a team. Not just a passing fancy, or an admiration, but the kind of passion people usually reserve their college sports teams -- that kind of fanaticism that expresses itself in people wearing pigs on their heads to collegiate events.

There's a lot of talk about how so many kids around here play soccer and then lose all interest in it when they get older. That's because, while their parents are desperately and passionately rooting for their childrens' teams, after this experience is over they really don't have any other teams to root for. Let's face it, Major League Soccer still isn't cutting it, not the way the English Premier League does or the French, Italian, Spanish, German, Mexican or South American leagues do.

As for me, my nationalistic pride has me passionately rooting for the U.S.A. in these World Cup games. Realistically, I know they don't have a chance to win it all, But that degree of passion invested while watching a soccer game - especially one tied 0-0 when just the slightest event, lightning quick, can turn the entire game around -- makes soccer, to me, among the most exciting sports played on this planet.

But, if you don't have a team, you don't have a prayer and you're never going to understand why the rest of the world loves this game above all others. Not until every hamlet in America starts its own soccer team and gets its citizens invested in its success, will Americans really understand what makes this game so breathtakingly exciting.

Go U.S.A.!!!

These folks are dumb enough to be elected to Joe Barton's Congressional seat

Let me see if I get this straight. A 19-year-old woman, a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy are minding a 9-month-old baby outside the apartment of one of these idiots. The 19-year-old tells the 14-year-old to assume full custodial duties for the infant because she, the 19-year-old, has to go inside to use the bathroom. Minutes later, the 14-year-old decides she needs to go inside as well, handing the infant off to the 12-year-old. When the two older females come back outside, what do they see? They watch as the 12-year-old, carrying the infant in his arms while he's riding a motorcycle, crashes the motorcycle into a curb. The baby was hospitalized with head abrasions. Here's hoping when it leaves the hospital, it leaves in the care of someone with enough sense to look after its best health and welfare.

The Father's Day Tragedy

The immensity of it dwarfs even Shakespeare's epic tragedies and that's the reaction of someone as far removed from the chain of events as yours truly. I don't want to even imagine - nor do I think I even could - what it must be like for those with direct association to what happened at that apartment complex in southern Dallas County this Father's Day just past.

David Brown Jr., 27, shot and killed 23-year-old Jeremy Jontae McMillan as McMillan was driving his girlfriend and two small children into the apartment complex where he planned to have a Father's Day dinner. The last word I had was that Brown and McMillan did not know one another.

A short time later Brown, wearing only brown boxer shorts and a pair of sunglasses, then shot and killed Craig Shaw, a five-year veteran of the Lancaster Police Department before Brown himself was shot and killed by other Lancaster policemen.

And the instigator of all this violence was the son of a man I admire and respect as much as any human being I know and, to compound the tragedy, the head of law enforcement in our city, Dallas Police Chief David Brown.

I am so afraid the final chapter in this woeful tale has yet to be written and, when it is, it's only going to make me sadder.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Get me the Raid

Based on my reaction to this trailer, The Green Hornet looks to be as dead as The Prince of Persia or even Jonah Hex. For one thing, Seth Rogan as a comic book super hero doesn't appear to work. The Cato character comes across as a ventriloquist's dummy. And the brief appearance of Cameron Diaz seems to be nothing more than some producer saying "Gwyneth Paltow did wonders for Ironman, let's see what her near sister can do for our faltering project." It's significant the movie is scheduled to open in January, the traditional dumping ground for bad products.

Who is the worst person in the world?

It's interesting that as Keith Olberman nominates Gov. Hair for that honor, a new poll has Hair tied with Bill White in the governor's race.

Monday, June 21, 2010

To be released tomorrow on DVD

Given its mixture of sexuality, mystery, and abrupt violence, it isn’t surprising that Charles Perrault’s story Bluebeard held a childhood fascination for director Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl, Romance). Given how concerned Breillat’s movies are with investigating primal urges through a string of metaphoric scenarios, they could almost be seen as fairy tales themselves, albeit of a fairly dense and recondite sort.

Breillat’s Bluebeard is effectively two interwoven stories: a relatively straightforward retelling of Perrault’s story, and a present-day thread in which two sisters (Marilou Lopes-Benites and Lola Giovannetti) read from Perrault’s book in an attic. But interpreting one as fairy tale and one as reality — or the contemporary story as a frame for the ancient one — is getting things precisely wrong: Each story is as true as the other. In a sense, the Bluebeard story itself is less important than the girls’ attraction to it. Modeling their interaction on her own childhood, Breillat casts the younger, more forthright sister as the narrator, toying with her older sister’s mixture of fear and fascination. Their eyes widen and their throats clench as the lure of Bluebeard’s forbidden chamber sucks them in.

The fairy-tale sisters resemble their present-day counterparts, although in the present-day story, the dark-haired sister (Lola Créton) is the headstrong one, while the redhead (Daphné Baiwir) recoils from the gargantuan Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas). Removed from their religious school after their father dies, the sisters and their mother face ruin unless one of the girls marries the notorious Bluebeard, whose many wives have disappeared without a trace.

The story progresses apace toward its blood-strewn chamber of horrors, but Breillat’s Bluebeard is almost benign, a loving husband who carries out his gory punishments with a tinge of regret. He isn’t too smart to be manipulated by his teenage bride, who picks a bedroom too small for her husband’s massive frame to squeeze into. Nor are their appetites so different: They tear with equal relish into a massive hunk of animal flesh that looks as if it’s had only a passing acquaintance with the cooking fire.

As with Breillat’s 2007 period piece The Last Mistress, Bluebeard is subdued and unadorned, almost plain. The decision to give both time frames the same look is conceptually of a piece, but it wouldn’t hurt if both were a shade more interesting to look at. But steering clear of fairy-tale frippery throws the whole piece into unfamiliar territory, which is no doubt just how Breillat wants it. Grade: A-minus

Other recent movies to be released tomorrow on DVD:

The Maid (2009) When Raquel’s (Catalina Saavedra) place in the Valdes family — for whom she’s provided 23 years of maid service — is threatened after they hire more help, she decides to do something about it. The movie’s narrative design is at once simple and complex, and more appealing than its smeary visuals, with their distracting washed-out colors and putty skin tones. (It was shot in high definition that looks closer to old consumer-grade video) There might be a rationale for the visuals (economics probably counts more), and you could argue this is an ugly world. But this grubbiness works against the movie, particularly because there’s more here than meets the eye. It takes director Sebastián Silva a while to finish his story, but the ending of The Maid is so intelligently handled and so generously and honestly conceived, it proves well worth the wait. Grade: A-minus

Green Zone (2010) U.S. Defense Intelligence Agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) doesn’t want to hear what Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) has to say about not finding the weapons of mass destruction — evidence that could launch a war — he’s been sent to Iraq to unearth. There is plenty of fighting in Green Zone, most of it executed with the hurtling hand-held camerawork and staccato editing that are hallmarks of director Paul Greengrass’s style. From Bloody Sunday through the second and third Bourne movies (which turned Damon into a minimalist movie star), this director has honed his skill at balancing chaos with clarity. Using locations in Morocco and Spain uncannily doctored to resemble the Baghdad we know from documentaries and contemporary television news feeds, Greengrass (decisively aided by the stroboscopic vision of his cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd, who also shot The Hurt Locker) choreographs foot chases and gun battles that unfold with the velocity, complexity and precision of a Bach fugue played on overdrive. Pedants may object that the chase sequences and plot twists distort the facts, while thrill-seekers may complain that the politics get in the way of the explosions and firefights. And the inevitable huffing and puffing about this movie’s supposedly left-wing or “anti-American” agenda had already begun before the film's theatrical release. All of this suggests that the arguments embedded within the movie’s version of 2003 are still going on seven years later, and are still in need of accessible and honest airing. Which is precisely what Green Zone, without forsaking its job of entertainment, attempts. When Greengrass made United 93, his 2006 reconstruction of one of the Sept. 11 hijackings, some people fretted that it was too soon. My own response to Green Zone is almost exactly the opposite: it’s about time. Grade A-minus

TiMER (2010) In this comedic fantasy, science has facilitated the search for a soul mate via biotechnological implants that count down to the moment one is supposed to meet his or her match. But Oona (Emma Caulfield) is worried: She’s nearly 30, and her TiMER isn’t ticking yet. Perhaps it’s nitpicking to scold writer-director Jac Schaeffer for adhering to the genre’s feel-good trappings, when a more rebellious auteur might’ve had Oona beeping in the presence of someone disabled, another woman, or a long-lost relative. The titular device draws attention from any heartfelt connections, and the film’s bland aesthetics and movie-cute cast kick up unsolicited nostalgia for many a ‘90s indie. A romcom is a romcom, however, and at least this one’s more charming than most of those in Jennifer Aniston’s career. Grade: B

The Good Guy (2010) Well aware of his own blessings, up-and-coming Wall Street star Tommy Fielding (Scott Porter) decides to mentor one of his co-workers, Daniel (Bryan Greenberg). All is going according to plan until Daniel befriends Tommy’s new girlfriend, Beth (Alexis Bledel) — at which point things go rapidly south for Tommy. The movie may feel a little behind the curve. But it is fresh enough to provide the voyeuristic kick of glimpsing the frenzied lifestyle of aspiring masters of the universe at a time when unlimited greed was rewarded with unlimited opportunity. An alternate title might have been Wall Street, Junior. The Boy Scout versus the cad is an old story, and the outcome of the competition is a romantic-comedy no-brainer. But the movie’s confident performances and its eye and ear for detail make The Good Guy a satisfying insider’s snapshot of a shark tank. Grade: B-minus

The Last Station (2009) Set during the last year of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s life, this biopic explores the fractious relationship between Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife (Helen Mirren), as he embraces a life of asceticism. Mirren and Plummer are wonderful together, and their portrayal of a long marriage — still fueled by physical desire nearly 50 years on — has a refreshing carnal zing. If the operatic emotional pitch ultimately proves unsustainable (not to mention tiresome), the film is full of captivating details. Most interesting is director Michael Hoffman’s depiction of the couple as the Brangelina of their age, their every movement noted and recorded by an entourage of acolytes, journalists, filmmakers and sundry hangers-on. Tolstoy himself remains an oddly blurry figure throughout, which may speak to the character’s genuine ambivalence; at its best, The Last Station vividly illustrates the enduring Russian gift for iconography, whether spiritual, secular or something in between. Grade: B-minus

She’s Out of My League (2010) When he starts dating drop-dead gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve), insecure airport security agent Kirk (Jay Baruchel) can’t believe it. As his friends and family share their doubts about the relationship lasting, Kirk does everything he can to avoid losing Molly forever. The movie might have been wiser to go for the surreal absurdity of early Woody Allen. Instead, it gives us some psychological blah-blah about how, under certain circumstances, a Molly might go for a Kirk. Moreover, scenes that should be grotesquely funny (man helps another man with his intimate grooming, or the appearance of a Hall & Oates cover band) deliver only chuckles rather than a big payoff. Worse, the movie is 15 minutes too long, slowing down in the final act to deliver lines like, “You were plenty good enough for me — you were just never good enough for you.” Thanks for the tip, Dr. Phil. Grade: C

Fuel (2009) With America so dependent on oil, filmmaker Joshua Tickell sets out to prove that biodiesel, made from vegetable oil, is a viable alternative. This documentary (winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) chronicles Tickell’s quest to popularize the untraditional fuel source, citing the environmental and economic advantages the country could reap by adopting it. Tickell’s unabashedly intimate, 11-years-in-the-making attack on America’s addiction to oil, is not so much a green documentary as a red, white and blue alarm. But if you can resist the urge to hit stop on the remote control, you may finish watching this DVD feeling a lot more hopeful than when you started. Thanks to an informative, buoyant tone and the director’s own restless intelligence, the film preaches to the unconverted with passion, energy and graphics so clear that they would make Al Gore weep all over his PowerPoint. Grade: C

Remember Me (2010) Still reeling from a heartbreaking family event and his parents’ subsequent divorce, Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) discovers a fresh lease on life when he meets Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), a gregarious beauty who witnessed her mother’s death. The movie manages to avoid gagging us with a spoon largely because Pattinson and de Ravin are so lovely together. They are wounded cutie-pies and nice kids, and when they are making soft-lit love in Tyler’s scummy apartment, you can almost forget your doubts over whether Tyler has ever washed his sheets or scrubbed his tub. It’s challenging to accurately assess Remember Me’s merits without discussing whether the end of the movie is grossly manipulative or fair use of wrenching emotional material. I’ll say this: if I had a daughter of impressionable age, I’d rather have her weeping over this mildly tasteless romance than the nonsense of Twilight. Grade: C

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A great movie poster

The movie in question is David Fincher's The Social Network with Jesse Eisenberg playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Some thoughts on seeing this "Knight and Day" trailer

  • I'm not that big a fan of either Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz, but this trailer makes me want to see this movie.
  • The trailer makes the film look more like a comedy than a spy thriller, which, to me, is a good thing.
  • I think this film will do far better in foreign markets than it will in the good ol' U.S. of A.

I absolutely loved this book, apparently EW thinks it's OK, too

Uhm ... excuse me .... say, driver ... uhm, ya think we might be going the wrong way

According to the story in The Dallas Morning News, a woman driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck the wrong way on Interstate 30 crashed head on with a Chevrolet Tahoe traveling the right way near Ferguson Road. The Ford had two passengers inside.

I am familiar with that stretch of road and, trust me on this, it's difficult to get on I-30 around there if you're going the wrong way. But even if the driver managed to pull it off, don't you think at least one of the passengers in the truck might have noticed something was amiss.

And if not, the Dallas County coroner owes all of us a warning about what substances, legal or otherwise, these people had in their bodies.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rep. Brown partially right for all the wrong reasons

State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown claims she is the "victim of misleading political attacks." She's right about that, up to a point. She is the victim of "political attacks," although I'm not sure they qualify as "misleading." And the Irving Republican who should be defeated in November (she won by only 18 votes in her last election) has pulled a Tiger Woods or a (does anyone remember) Jim Maddox by trying to go on the offensive without any semblance of defense.

Harper-Brown's vehicle of choice is a 2010 Mercedes E550, a car with a cost of $83,887. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, if you can afford it. Trouble is, the car doesn't belong to Harper-Brown. It is owned a company called Durable Enterprises Equipment, Ltd. Nothing wrong with that either, on the face of it.

But if you look beyond the face, you will find a lot of trouble with that. Durable Enterprises Equipment, Ltd., is a transportation-related company that does a lot of business with the state and Harper-Brown is a member of the House's Transportation Committee. That's at least conflict of interest and could be constituted as a bribe.

In her statement today Harper-Brown said:

"The real story here is just how desperate the Democrat Party is to bring the Obama-Pelosi agenda to Texas. They've recruited a 25-year-old government employee from San Antonio who is just a few years out of high school to run for Irving's seat in the Texas House. They've made some outlandish claims, and they've made these accusations without a lick of proof. Irving families deserve better, not angry political rhetoric from folks who don't live in our community. I've long been fighting for open and transparent government, and I won't let some sleazy attacks from Washington, D.C., liberals stop me from fighting for lower taxes and less government. Please ignore their lies."

Notice there's not a word there about a Mercedes or any other car or even Durable Equipment, Ltd., unless she's trying to claim that President Obama and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planted that car in her name, forced her to put state government license plates on it and drive it. Frankly, I don't think either of them care one whit about this Idiot from Irving.

Like Woods when he made his first public "statement" following the revelations of his domestic problems, Harper-Brown is refusing to answer questions from the media. Unlike Woods, however, Harper-Brown didn't even make a live appearance to read her statement. She made a video and sent it to reporters.

Can you picture her in front of a reporter who asks her about a possible conflict of interest and she replies "The real story here is ... "

Here's something you can take to the bank. Anyone who begins answering a question with "The real story here is ..." is not going to be answering the question. I just feel sorry for the people of Irving who have to wait until November to rid themselves of this embarrassment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Best Movies: 1941

The 10 Best Movies of 1941

1. Citizen Kane. Directed by and starring Orson Welles. That this is No. 1 should come as absolutely no shock to anyone since many film critics and historians call this the greatest film of all time. I am not among that number - I don't even consider it the best film of the decade. But it was revolutionary at the time for its film-making technique and non-linear storytelling. It was not, however, the first film to employ deep focus photography as many think. And it's based on a false premise: The film depicts the quest to find the meaning of Charles Foster's Kane dying word, "Rosebud," yet Kane was clearly alone when he died so who knew what his dying word was?

2. How Green Was My Valley. Directed by John Ford. Starring Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O'Hara. When Ford's name is mentioned, most people automatically think of Westerns, but the director's two best films - this one and The Grapes of Wrath from the year before - were non-Western dramas about two distinctly "ordinary" families. This film gets unfairly dumped on today because it won the best picture Oscar over Citizen Kane, but it is a classic that's still retains its majesty.

3.  The Maltese Falcon. Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor. Yet another remake that proved superior to its two earlier versions and a film that dreams are made of. This picture established the Bogart persona and made him a star, unveiled the considerable talents of Huston as a director and screenwriter, and officially inaugurated the genre that would become known as film noir. I actually think Huston demonstrated more control over his material in his screen debut that Welles did in his.

4.  The Lady Eve. Directed by Preston Sturgess. Starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. Sturgess's masterpiece and the all-time champion of the "battle-of-the-sexes" movies, a superb blending of satire and slapstick. Watching this film made me wish Stanwyck acted in more comedies - she was a superb comedienne. I don't know of another actress who could have pulled off the tour-de-force scene in which she watches Fonda - as well as all the ladies trying to snare him - in the mirror of her compact.

5.  Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Directed by Alexander Hall. Starring Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes and Claude Rains. A beguiling fantasy with a marvelous cast that suffers a little from being a bit too talky and a romantic subplot that doesn't work.

6. Ball of Fire. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. A brilliantly twisted variation on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and another example of Stanwyck's immense talents as a brilliant comic actress. Terrific screenplay courtesy of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.

7.  Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Directed by Edward F. Cline. Starring W.C. Fields. Did Fields, in this spoof of Hollywood, bite the hand that fed him? Perhaps, but then Fields bit at everything he thought pretentious and besides he knew at this point that his studio, Universal, was shoving him aside in favor of Abbott & Costello, so why not take a few hilariously comedic swipes as he exited the scene.

8.  The Wolf Man. Directed by George Waggoner. Starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Claude Rains. A thrilling, scary and tragic horror film. It's ironic that Chaney shied away from horror films for years because he didn't want to be compared to his father and, when he finally appeared in one, it would be the film he would forever be identified with.

9.  Forty-Ninth Parallel. Directed by Michael Powell. Starring Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey and Laurence Olivier. An excellent war drama with a strong anti-fascist message. At times it plays like a documentary and at other times as a thriller. This was my first real exposure to Eric Portman and I thought he created a superb villain; Olivier, however, was a little too hammy for my tastes here. Unfortunately, this one is tough to find in DVD.

10. High Sierra. Directed by Raoul Walsh. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino and Arthur Kennedy. The last of the great gangster movies until White Heat finally put a capper on it at the end of the decade. One of Bogart's best performances as the aging bad guy wanting one last score. It had the courage to make the criminals sympathetic and that fadeout at the end is a masterstroke.