#57 Suspicion

Watched: October 28 2016

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Dame May Whitty, Auriol Lee

Year: 1941

Runtime: 1h 39min

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Shy, bookish introvert Lina (Fontaine) keeps running into charming (but creepy) playboy Johnnie (Grant). After parrying his first advances, she overhears her parents discussing her inevitable descent into spinsterhood and starts pursuing him instead. She rapidly goes from indifferent and interesting to lovesick and stalkery, all in the name of avoiding becoming a spinster.

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“I’d better marry the man who assaulted me on our first date. The alternative is just too horrible!”

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Back from their honeymoon, she realises he’s completely broke, living well above his means, and intends to live off of her income and future inheritance. Being a sensible woman (apart from marrying this guy) she suggests he gets a job. So he sells her family heirlooms to gamble instead.

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“Do you mean to say you love these chairs that have been in your family for generations and which your father gave us? Well, if I had known that I never would have sold them, monkey face!”

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Lina also starts to suspect her handsome, charming husband may have murderous intents, especially when his rich friend Beaky (Bruce) dies in a freak accident in France while Johnnie is out of town. It doesn’t help his case that he asks a lot of questions about untraceable poisons to Lina’s crime writer friend Isobel Sedbusk (Lee) and then starts feeding Lina suspicious drinks.

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“Just trying to be a good husband. God, I can’t do anything right, can I?”

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Suspicion is as suspenseful mystery from the king of the genre, Mr Alfred Hitchcock, and it is fun to see Cary Grant play a villainous character. Joan Fontaine is great as well and actually won an Oscar for her portrayal of the confused, helpless and scared Lina. The film has a great soundtrack and sound effects, and normal, everyday actions, such as carving a chicken at a dinner party, turn very dark and menacing due to the extreme tension throughout. Lina gradually covers up her neck (Johnnie’s favourite part of her body) as her suspicions grow, and the lighting in the film perfectly illustrates her state of mind (like some filmatic mood ring).

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The use of light and shadow is amazing in general – not just as Lina’s mood ring

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Despite the abrupt and slightly unsatisfactory ending, this is a great, tense mystery film. We loved the ’40s fashion as well – it is nigh impossible to look bad in those clothes.

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The typical “nerd attire” in the 1940s is particularly good, especially compared to its more modern counterparts

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What we learned: never marry a man who calls you “monkey face.”

Next time: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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#56 Sullivan’s Travels

Watched: November 04 2016

Director: Preston Sturges

Starring: Veronica Lake, Joel McCrea

Year: 1941

Runtime: 1h 30min

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John L. Sullivan (McCrea) wants to make a serious film with real social issues and deep meaning (with a little sex in it) which will educate his audience and make them think about the social and economic structures in place in 1940s USA. The only problem is, he’s a pampered Hollywood director who’s never really experienced any of these problems himself. Also, his producers would rather have him make silly comedies and fun action flicks (with a little sex in them).

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“Let’s face it, you can make whatever you want as long as there’s a little sex in it”

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Naturally, he decides to go undercover as a hobo to experience firsthand the suffering of the penniless, with nothing but ten cents (or something like that), the clothes on his back and a crew of five or six reporters, producers and chefs following him in a bus.

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“What do you mean, some people go on the road without the expert advice of costume designers? Then how do they achieve that ‘poor, penniless hobo’-look?”

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His first venture is somewhat fruitless. Although he hilariously manages to shake his entourage with the help of a little boy in a “whippet tank” and then convinces them to take a vacation in Las Vegas, he doesn’t do too well on his own and is eventually kidnapped by a sexually frustrated woman. After escaping through the window he finds a diner where a failed actress (Lake) buys him breakfast and he then “borrows” his own car to give her a ride home.

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There’s just no way any cop would ever pull over a tramp driving an expensive car

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The Girl (who needs a name anyway?) finds out his true identity and decides to join his experiment, dressed (rather unconvincingly) as a boy. Together they go on fun hobo adventures!

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Turns out dressing like a hobo isn’t really enough to fool actual hobos.

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More problems ensue and after a stint in prison Sullivan realises that comedies aren’t really that bad after all and that serious films with real social issues are actually more interesting to the people not experiencing these issues themselves than the ones living them.

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Just like living the hobo life seems more romantic to people not forced into that position

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It’s pretty much impossible to explain how funny this film is. We loved the fast, snappy dialogue, the long, silent Chaplinesque scenes, the wonderful bass voice of the minister who invites the prisoners to movie night in his church, and the satirical view of 1940s Hollywood (and U.S. society in general). This was also our first Veronica Lake (we know – for shame!) and we have now developed major girl crushes on her. Not only is she gorgeous, but she has a very particular presence which is completely fascinating.

Give Sullivan’s Travels a chance. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life!

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Even as a hobo, Veronica Lake is gorgeous.

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What we learned: if we know what we want, we’ll never live in Pittsburgh. Also, the value of escapism in films is not to be underestimated.

Next time: Suspicion (1941)

#55 Dumbo

Watched: October 30 2016

Director: Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, Jack Kinney, Sam Armstrong, Norman Ferguson, Bill Roberts, John Elliotte

Starring: Edward Brophy, Verna Felton, loads and loads of other voice actors

Year: 1941

Runtime: 1h 4min

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Poor Mrs Jumbo. She’s the only animal in the circus who’s not visited by the stork, and she’s very sad about it. But wait! The stork was only delayed due to its heavy burden. Hooray! But wait again! What’s going on? Is the elephant baby a freak? The other elephants certainly seem to think so on account of his massive ears. But Mrs Jumbo (where’s Mr Jumbo..?) disagrees – she thinks her child is beautiful and perfect. Thus goes the emotional roller coaster ride which is the opening of Dumbo.

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This may seem blissful now, but just you wait for the trauma that is about to come…

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Mrs Jumbo, fiercely protective of her son, is labelled insane (or, being female, probably hysterical) by the circus owners after attacking some kids who made fun of Dumbo, and she’s sent to solitary confinement, leaving the young infant to fend for himself as the other (very elitist) elephants will have nothing to do with the freak.

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Bitchy, gossipy elephants: many an innocent child’s first exposure to bullying

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Luckily for Dumbo, Timothy Q. Mouse, a mouse(!), takes pity on him and becomes his mentor/manager, trying to get him a good position in the circus show. Which doesn’t go so well. However, after a drunken night complete with pink, dancing elephants, the two (along with some very culturally insensitive, but historically interesting, crows) discover Dumbo’s secret power – his enormous ears are perfect for flying, and they become the salvation of both Dumbo and Mrs Jumbo. Yay!

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Though technically, those ears should have been the death of them all, so science tells us…

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Despite the traumatizing event of Mrs Jumbo being sent to solitary, this is a sweet film about learning to accept your faults, and finding that what makes you weird may also be your biggest asset. We love the “Pink Elephants on Parade” scene (which made us wonder just how many drugs were involved in making this film, and in which quantities) as well as the way Dumbo holds on to the mouse’s tail and follows him around when his mother is no longer around. Perfect Sunday viewing, especially if you have children (or if you can borrow one as an alibi..).

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“You’re my mommy now!”

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What we learned: look out for Mr Stork! Seriously – avoid that bastard.

Next time: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

#54 Citizen Kane

Watched: October 22 2016

Director: Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles & the Mercury Actors

Year: 1941

Runtime: 1h 59min

Note: only Sister the Oldest watched this, as Sister the Youngest had fucked off to Oslo. Incidentally, she timed her trip so that she would avoid watching Citizen Kane… And unlike The Bank Dick, whose title no one could resist, Sister the Oldest couldn’t find anyone interested in watching this classic drama with her, so it was just her, a bottle of wine, and Orson Welles. She had a blast!

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It was terrific!

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We suppose no one really needs a recap of this classic, as it is generally considered the greatest film of all time. Still, we’ll give you a short summary. A rich, narcissistic publishing tycoon, Charles Foster Kane (Welles), dies alone in his vast mansion, and for some reason everyone knows his last word, “Rosebud,” even though he was clearly alone when he died.

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Our theory is he was overheard by a chatty ghost, as this place is clearly haunted!

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A journalist working on a newsreel of the magnate’s life (which was in no way based on real people, by the way! No siree, not at all!) sets out to find the meaning of Kane’s last word, and interviews old associates, friends and an ex-wife to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. He fails in that particular quest, but what he does find is a sad boy with abandonment issues and a slight case of megalomania. As for “Rosebud,” the audience are given the answer at the end of the film.

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Hint: it’s pictured here, and it is not wearing a top hat. #spoileralert

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I have to level with you, and admit that we were not looking forward to this. We both watched it in school when we were about 16 or 17, and found it incredibly boring, which is why S.t.Y. decided to skip town rather than rewatch it. I, S.t.O., wasn’t really excited either (while interested in film at 17, I was more into the Jackson and Raimi cult horror stuff than the Welles classics kind), but I have clearly matured a bit since 17 (thank God!) and this time around, I loved it.

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It even has a dance number! More than enough to keep me entertained.

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It had me from the Gothic opening and I was enthralled throughout. The story, the shots, the camera angles, the non-linear storytelling, not to mention the increasingly unlikable Kane, all come together to make a great film. One could spend hours (and paragraphs) analysing and commenting on the technical and artistic brilliance of Citizen Kane, but that has been done several times by people better qualified than me, so I shan’t even attempt it. I’ll just tell you this: if you were forced to watch it at a young age and didn’t like it, wait until you’re older and rewatch it. You won’t be sorry.

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I’d also like to point out that Welles was only 26 when Citizen Kane was released. Just to add to any inferiority complex you might have.

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What we learned: no matter how good your intentions, money and power corrupt.

Next time: Dumbo (1941)

#53 The Grapes of Wrath

Watched: October 29 2016

Director: John Ford

Starring: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charly Grapewin, Russell Simpson

Year: 1940

Runtime: 2h 9min

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The schizophrenic opening music perfectly sums up The Grapes of Wrath – it is in turns depressing and uplifting, and while a lot of bad things happen to the Joad family, there’s always hope and love. Sister the Oldest had read the Steinbeck novel before, but none of us had seen the film, possibly because we feared it would be too depressing. As it turned out – yes, it’s depressing, but we loved it nonetheless.

During the Great Depression, Oklahoma native Tom Joad (Fonda) is released from prison and hitchhikes back home only to find his family home deserted. He learns from former preacher Jim Casy (Carradine) and another local they come across that all families have been driven from their homes by the deed owners due to ruined crops. Tom eventually catches up with his family at his uncle’s place, and the Joads, along with Casy, start their arduous journey west, believing there’s work for them in California.

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Cue not-so-hilarious road trip!

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Along the way, they are faced with the deaths of two family members, xenophobic locals (“Okies” apparently ranked somewhere between Gypsies and rabid dogs back in the ’30s), cynical employers and corrupt police officers. However, they also meet with the occasional kindness, and the family members love each other and stick together, led by the wonderful Ma Joad (Darwell) who we absolutely adored.

 

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Pictured: a true American hero (and Oscar-winning performer)

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Tom’s experiences awaken his philosophical and political side, although it is former preacher Casy who becomes an activist and strike leader. However, when Tom tries to defend Casy from camp guards during an illegal strike meeting, he inadvertently kills the guard and becomes a liability for his family. He decides he has to go off on his own, but he waits until his family has found a safe place to stay (he is a good son after all).

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“But, who will lead the family if you go, Tom?” “Oh, come on, Ma. Don’t even pretend I’m the real leader here.”

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The dark side of the American Dream is evident in The Grapes of Wrath: if you’re poor, it’s somehow your own fault (you probably haven’t worked hard enough!) and so no one should feel sorry for you or help you out. The film is heartbreaking, sad, melancholy and occasionally infuriating. The Joads are loving and lovely though, and they give us a feeling of hope despite the bleak world they live in. The film is beautifully shot, and even the decrepit, dried-up land looks beautiful. Definitely worth watching!

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It is also very stylish and has a lot of cool shots, if that’s what rubs your Buddha

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What we learned: We’re sure glad business owner never exploit workers anymore in the USA (or anywhere else for that matter). And also that there’s no racism, xenophobia, generalisation of entire groups of people or anything like that anymore. Phew!

Next time: Citizen Kane (1941)

#52 The Bank Dick

Watched: October 21 2016

Director: Edward F. Cline

Starring: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 12min

Note: since one sister (Sister the Youngest) fucked off to Oslo for a week, Sister the Oldest watched this one alone. Well, not alone, as she does have friends apart from her immediate family. So she watched it with a friend. Who’s real.

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Bumbling buffoon Egbert Sousé (Fields) drinks too much, has no career to speak of and his family does not respect him. So he goes out in search of a drink. On the way, he stumbles across a film team whose drunken director is unable to work and naturally they hire Sousé.

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Anyone capable of sitting on a chair shouting into a tube is automatically qualified to work as a director in 1940. Sadly, Sousé isn’t really able to do the former.

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After his short stint as director, Sousé finds himself in the vicinity of bank robbers trying to escape. He is credited with stopping them and so gets a job as a bank guard. His daughter’s fiancé Og Oggilby (Sutton) works in the same bank and after Sousé is offered the chance to invest in stock in a mining company, he persuades his future son-in-law to “borrow” $500 from the bank.

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“Of course it’s okay to borrow money from the bank! I’m head of security, aren’t I? Check out my trustworthy face!”

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Unfortunately, a bank examiner, J. Pinkerton Snoopington (Pangborn) shows up the very next day and Sousé and Oggilby must join wits (of which Og especially has very little) to keep the examiner to discover the missing $500. Let the farce commence!

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Rule number one when being investigated: take the investigator out for drinks and slip them a mickey.

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This is a very silly movie full of fucked up characters, over-the-top performances and slapstick humour. The main character is gullable, stupid and self-aggrandizing, yet he is also occasionally likeable, possibly because the way his family treats him makes you feel a bit sorry for him. But usually not for long, as he parries their attacks on him with attempted murder such as when he tries to throw a concrete vase at his youngest daughter.

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It’s practically as big as its intended target

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The real gem here though is the car chase towards the end of the film. It is fast, funny and impressive in so many ways – such as the very real danger in which it must have put stunt performers. Even if farcical slapstick films aren’t  your thing, it is well worth watching The Bank Dick for this scene alone. Or if you enjoy violence against 8-year-olds. And let’s face it – who doesn’t? Have fun!

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Naturally, no still can do a great chase scene justice, so you’ll just have to watch the film.

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What we learned: poor men are mad – rich men are eccentric. Also, it was surprisingly easy to get a job as a director back in the day.

Next time: The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

#51 Pinocchio

Watched: October 02 2016

Directors: Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Ben Sharpsteen

Starring: Dickie Jones, Cliff Edwards, Christian Rub, Mel Blanc, and various other creatures

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Geppetto is a lonely toy maker/inventor who lives with his cat and fish somewhere in Italy (we presume). After finishing a wooden marionette, he wishes upon a star that Pinocchio (the dummy) would be a real boy. Somehow, this does not come across as creepy. Well done, Disney! Lo and behold – in the night a blue fairy visits and brings Pinocchio to life, promising him he’ll be a real boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Jiminy Cricket, a cricket(!), is assigned to be the newborn boy’s conscience and is tasked with keeping him out of trouble.

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The first thing he does is light himself on fire. So much for staying out of trouble.

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Geppetto is delighted to wake up and find his new “son,” but like many parents before him, he is equally delighted to send the kid off to school the next day so as to have a few hours of peace. Despite the fact that he was literally born yesterday. We feel you, Geppetto!

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“Give this apple to your teacher, and oh – take these school books I have lying around for no discernible reason…”

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Of course, Pinocchio, being both a dummy and born yesterday, gets into trouble right away. He is lured away from his path by a couple of scammers who promise him a career in show biz.

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He’s also promised ladies

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Lots and lots of ladies

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Of course, the glamorous life in show business isn’t at all that it’s cracked up to be. Pinocchio is kidnapped and the blue fairy has to show up and help him out one last time. One would then presume the marionette had learned his lesson, but he is a young simpleton and promptly gets himself into even more trouble.

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“Seriously, pull yourself together or I’m gonna find myself a new job!”

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Pinocchio is once more kidnapped (sort of) with a bunch of other young boys who are skipping school and are generally up to no good. They are brought to “Pleasure Island” from where boys never return… At least not as boys. We won’t even begin to comment on the connotations here… Meanwhile, poor Geppetto, the world’s most irresponsible parent, is wondering what on earth has happened to his son.

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Luckily for the boys, they’re only turned into jackasses and don’t become victim of some horrible child prostitution ring. Just slave labour. It’s a Disney film after all.

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We’re prepared to bet most of you have seen this Disney classic and learned your lessons from it. Thus you are all responsible, honest and caring people. Well done!

We really liked Pinocchio, particularly Jiminy Cricket and Figaro the cat. The clock scene in Geppetto’s work shop in the beginning is magical, and despite the fact that he sends his newborn son alone to school on day two, we like Geppetto as well. Pinocchio is slightly annoying, but being a puppet we can (mostly) forgive him. Growing up, “There Are No Strings on Me” was on TV every Christmas but we realised watching this that we’ve never really seen the entire film! So it was about time.

What we learned: a conscience is that small voice people just won’t listen to. But clearly should. Also, you shouldn’t send your kid to school when he’s only a day old, no matter what!

Next time: The Bank Dick (1940)

Favourites from First 50 Films

We’re now 50 films into Edgar Wright’s amazing Top 1000 list, which means we’re almost done. Because of this, we thought we’d do a little summary post, listing our old and new favourites from the first 50 films. Here goes:

Old favourites we’ve enjoyed re-watching:

Amazing new favourites we will enjoy re-watching (in about 5 years’ time when we’ve got through the list):

Now comes the time when we shall shamelessly beg: we’re having a blast doing this, but some of the films are hard to come by. Our local library has a lot, we own quite a lot ourselves, and we’ve managed to get some used in charity shops and bought even more new. However, because we are not of limitless funds we have an Amazon Wish List for anyone with a bit of extra money to spare who wants to make two Norwegian sisters very happy. Or, if you have any of the films and want to get rid of them/lend them out, please contact us at 1000filmsblog@gmail.com. We’re very happy to pay for shipping.

Thank you all for following this adventure! Here’s to the next 50!

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#50 His Girl Friday

Watched: October 28 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Pop the champagne, people! We have reached #50! *sounds of corks popping and (two) people cheering* And what a way to celebrate – with our favourite comedy on the list so far, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday.

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Featuring two familiar guys and a girl who can give them a run for their money any day!

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Newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant) learns that his ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Russell) is getting remarried and he’ll have none of it! Not necessarily out of jealousy (although that plays a part in it), but because bad-ass newswoman Hildy is planning on marrying boring insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy) and retiring from being awesome. So he does the only reasonable thing he can think of: he ropes Hildy into doing one last story for him while continuously getting Baldwin arrested for various offences.

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“Seriously, where on earth did you get that hat, and can you get me one too?”

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Despite Hildy’s insistence that she is done with the news business and is looking forward to a quiet existence with Bruce and his mother, she is clearly in her element tackling other newsmen, law officials and a convicted murderer.

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Including her at one point physically tackling a guy, but we can’t find any pictures of that, so here’s one of her just being generally awesome instead.

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The dialogue is incredibly fast and funny with lots of overlapping lines (which probably has a technical film term with which we are unacquainted). Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell have wonderful chemistry and despite new boyfriend Bruce not being a bad guy at all (in fact, he’s rather sweet) we are rooting for them from their first scene together.

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Poor Bruce is so clearly out of his league with these two

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When you take the dialogue, the chemistry of the two stars, the funny and occasionally farcical plot and add one of the best female characters we’ve seen so far, you get movie brilliance. Despite being over 75 years old, His Girl Friday never seems dated and it will continue to stand the test of time.

What we learned: we’ll take a kick-ass career over safety and starting a family any day. Also, characters played by Ralph Bellamy tend to look like Ralph Bellamy.

Next time: Pinocchio (1940)

#49 Fantasia

Watched: October 19 2016

Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen

Starring: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, Mickey Mouse, various creatures and instruments.

Year: 1940

Runtime: 2h 5min

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We cannot do this film justice in a text post, so we recommend you watch it (if you haven’t already). It’s a Disney classic (and the first Disney animated feature on the list) for very good reasons – it’s a love letter to the magic of music and an (a?) homage to human creativity and artistry.

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For those of you whose tastes run darker than Disney, it also features this guy

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Various animators and directors have visualized works of classical music by Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Ponchielli, Mussorgsky and Schubert (hopefully we didn’t forget anyone… Either way, they’re dead so no harm done!) in various styles and the results are mesmerizing, beautiful, therapeutic, educational, and at times funny, sad or scary.

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The clumsy elegance of the ostrich and hippo ballerinas ticks the boxes for both beautiful and funny

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The different segments are introduced by Deems Taylor and the music is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowsky (our classical musician friends have informed us that it is vitally important to credit the conductor). Some of the sequences tell a story while others are more abstract interpretations of the music, but they are all lovely and entertaining to watch.

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A wonderful collaboration indeed!

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This is the sort of film one can rewatch endlessly and it should be required viewing for all children (and adults).

What we learned: hippos are awesome dancers. Also, church bells will scare off any unearthly creature.

Next time: His Girl Friday (1940)