#222 Billy Liar

Watched: March 02 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Gwendolyn Watts, Helen Fraser, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies, Finlay Currie

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 38min

Billy

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Meet Billy (Courtenay). Billy lives with his parents and works at an undertakers’. Billy juggles girlfriends/fiancées Barbara (Fraser) and Rita (Watts) while harbouring a secret crush on free spirit and original manic pixie dream girl Liz (Christie). He also lies through his teeth.

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Why on earth this lovely, innocent girl would let this man bring her to a cemetery is beyond us. Here, she clearly only has a few minutes left to live.

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Billy has an imaginary world where he is not only king, but pretty much every inhabitant, at least any person of note. This kingdom of Ambrosia is his escape from his boring, average life, as well as an outlet for his creativity. And a source of frustration for his fed up family.

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Who hasn’t dreamt of being a hero, loved and admired by men and women alike?

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Sexually frustrated ladies man, compulsive liar, rebellious teen and part time sociopath, Billy’s fantasies often end in him gunning down everyone around him, especially those who inconvenience him. He lies to protect himself and to seem more interesting. He’s not too good with criticism or confrontation, and he dreams of a more exciting life which he is too scared to actually pursue.

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We get it, Billy. It’s much easier to be the fictional ruler of Ambrosia than to actually go out and take chances with your life, risking defeat. Go Liz!

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Oh, did we mention he also tries to drug one his girlfriends to have sex with her? Which definitely ranks in the top three of “the worst thing that can happen when a man brings a woman to a cemetery”-list.

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Lucky for her he bought bad drugs. And also didn’t know which part of her to suck…

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You can probably tell that we’re not quite sold on the character of Billy… In fact, we found him somewhat sinister at times. However, there are still a lot of things to enjoy about this movie. As always, we loved Tom Courtenay’s face(s), we loved the banter in the funeral home, the twist dancing, and the flashes between reality and Billy’s fantasy world.

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For all his faults, it’s hard to completely hate a man who is so overly dramatic and extra.

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We also liked Liz. Where Billy had only his dreams, Liz had the guts and the follow-through. He talked a good game, but she actually went out and did things with her life. The only thing that confused us about her was why she would be interested in someone like him.

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“Shit! I just realized I’m Julie Motherfucking Christie! So long, sucker!”

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It’s an interesting movie and well worth watching. Apart from his treatment of the women in his life (this goes for girlfriends as well as his mother and grandmother), Billy is relatable in a lot of ways. Frustrated with his mundane working class existence, he retreats into his fantasy world where he can actually achieve and experience things. We can understand that. But like the demolition work going on all around him, he has a destructive streak, and it’s a dark one…

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Why can’t it be both..?

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What we learned: There’s a fine line between having an active imagination and being a compulsive liar.

Next time: Black Sabbath (1963)

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#204 A Taste of Honey

Watched: October 30 2018

Director: Tony Richardson

Starring: Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Murray Melvin, Robert Stephens, Paul Danquah

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jo (Tushingham) is an artistic sixteen-year old girl who’s neglected by her mother Helen (Bryan) and tired of the way her life is going. Following the girl’s short romance with black sailor Jimmy (Danquah), Jo is kicked out from her home when her mother marries a disaster of a man, Peter (Stephens).

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Strangely, it wasn’t the affair that dissuaded Peter from taking her on as his new daughter. It was her resting-weird-face which freaked him out.

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Jo moves out, gets a flat and a job in a shoe shop, as well as a new gay best friend in Geoff (Melvin). In short, she’s pretty much living the outcast girl’s dream. There’s one problem though – her romance with Jimmy left her pregnant.

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No inexperienced teenager would have stood a chance with this guy…

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Like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Taste of Honey was familiar to the extremely sophisticated Sister the Oldest from her literature studies, but only in writing. The film version of Shelagh Delaney’s play was no disappointment and we both enjoyed it a lot.

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On the question of favourite character we’re torn between both these two

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We can imagine that this one would have been at least a tiny bit controversial upon release with its depictions of sexuality (both young girls and homosexuals should keep that to themselves, thank-you-very-much!), interracial relationships and horrible parenting.

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Helen may look caring and worried, but only as long as Jo’s needs don’t interfere  with her own

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Despite the somewhat bleak subject matter, A Taste of Honey is not as depressing as it could easily have become. The dialogue is funny and witty, and the characters are interesting – especially the women and Geoff.

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Peter’s just your run-of-the-mill misogynist bastard though

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We loved Jo – she’s awkward, insolent, insecure, independent, stubborn, sharp and fabulous, partly thanks to Tushingham’s performance. This movie is a great little slice of kitchen sink drama with a fantastic cast and a strange but interesting peep show scene set in Blackpool. Not sure why we point that out that in particular, but it seemed worth mentioning. Definitely recommended.

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What we learned: Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it. And sometimes you make the same mistakes as your mother.

Next time: Lola (1961)

#203 Zazie dans le Métro

Watched: October 8 2018

Director: Louis Malle

Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret, Hubert Deschamps, Carla Marlier, Vittorio Caprioli, Yvonne Clech

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 33min

Zazie

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Zazie (Demongeot), a charming ten-year-old precocious brat, is left with her uncle Gabriel (Noiret) in Paris for the weekend so that her mum can get some sexytime with her new lover.

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All you need to take over the world is a jaunty hat and absolutely no shame

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Zazie’s only goal for the weekend is to go on the metro, so she is less than impressed when it is closed due to a strike. On her first morning at her uncle’s place, she sneaks off to explore the city on her own and try to find an open metro, but instead she finds a very creepy stranger (Caprioli) and lots of trouble.

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We were surprised to find where we’ve gone wrong trying to attract guys…

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The creepy stranger may or may not be a paedophile, may or may not be a cop, and may or may not also be attracted to Zazie’s aunt and a merry widow they encounter on their adventures. It’s all a bit fuzzy and bewildering.

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We’re not sure if we ever got an explanation of the furry

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While we didn’t quite understand what was happening half the time, Zazie dans le Métro was a wild ride from start to finish. The visual comedy of it reminded us a bit of Hulot, and we loved the silliness of it all, although we’re pretty sure we saw a poor lady stabbed at some point. And there’s an attempted rape. And there’s a fairly big chance Zazie is a victim of abuse or a psychopath, judging from her reactions to people and events. Now that we think about it, are we sure this is a comedy..?

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Trust us – this girl has seen some shit!

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Still, we loved the cuts, the speeding up and slowing down of the film, the absurdity, the chaos and the colours, and the assortment of strange and unusual characters.

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Such as the dapper drag queen uncle who has a huge problem with other people’s personal hygiene

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There’s a reason this film keeps playing in film clubs and cinemas to this day, and it’s well worth catching. Enjoy a strange romp through an even stranger Paris!

What we learned: Not everything needs to make sense all the time. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

Next time: A Taste of Honey (1961)

#200 The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film

Watched: September 22 2018

Director: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers

Starring: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dick Bentley and a bunch of others, all uncredited

Year: 1960

Runtime: 11 min

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Hooray! We’ve reached number 200 on the list! 20% done! 200+ blog entries! And many, many hours spent in front of the TV! Tonight, we shall toast with bubbles and celebrate, but not before bringing you another very short film review of a very short film.

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Skål!

The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film is a series of strange and absurd slapstick comedy skits shot in the English country side. The title is almost longer than the film itself, and there’s very little we can say about it other than that it was amusing and reminded us a bit of Monty Python, so we would not be surprised if this was an inspiration for the comedy group. Which, if we’d bother looking it up, we’re sure we’d find was true.

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It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite gag, but this one is up there

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You can watch the whole thing here, and we recommend that you do so.

What we learned: Not a whole lot, really. Perhaps that once you shoot something, you own it..? Or don’t go towards someone beckoning you if they’re wearing boxing gloves..?

Next time: The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan (1960)

#199 The Little Shop of Horrors

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Leola Wendorff, Jack Nicholson

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Seymour Krelborn (Haze) is a simple employee at Mushnick’s (Welles) failing floral shop on Skid Row, along with his crush Audrey Fulquard (Joseph). Their few customers are mainly limited to the unluckiest woman in the universe, Mrs Shiva (Wendorff), whose relatives keep dropping dead on a daily basis, and flower eating Fouch (Miller).

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Mushnick suffering his third mental breakdown of the day. They opened ten minutes ago…

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When Seymour is threatened with unemployment after screwing up yet another order, he reveals to his boss that he has been cultivating a new plant which he has named “Audrey Jr” and is told he can keep his job if he manages to popularize the plant and grow more of them.

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“She’s a fascinating creature, not at all bloodthirsty and creepy!”

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However, Audrey Jr is dying and Seymour struggles to find a food source for it. That is, until he cuts himself and the plant greedily drinks his blood… Having found sustenance for his creation, Seymour turns the shop and his unusual plant into superstars. But Audrey Jr craves more. And Seymour must provide…

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“What? No! It eats shoes. Shoes. Not dead bodies – no siree!”

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The 1960 original Little Shop of Horrors may not be as well known as the musical remake from 1986, but oh my did we love it! The characters, the plot, the script and the humour are all hilarious and we laughed so much that we were in pain at the end.

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Also, Jack Nicholson has a fantastically creepy and funny, though somewhat hyped up, small part as a masochist seeking dental care

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Roger Corman seems to love him some murderous simpletons who profit from their kills, as the main character shares some clear similarities with Walter Paisley (also Miller) in A Bucket of Blood. However, while Walter becomes a douchebag with his newfound success, Seymour seems to be more aware that what he is doing is wrong, and many of Audrey Jr’s meals are products of accidents rather than cold blooded murder.

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Most of them…

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We loved the investigators (especially the one who lost his kid), Mrs Shiva and her accident prone family, Fouch and his handy salt/pepper shaker, the flower floozies and generally everything about this. It’s in many ways a funnier version of A Bucket of Blood, and we cannot recommend it enough. And while we love the musical version, this one is somehow more charming and has become our favourite of the two. Go watch it!

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Like Audrey, it is an utter delight!

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What we learned: If a lifeform of unknown origin craves human blood to thrive, just walk away!

Next time: The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960)

#198 The League of Gentlemen

Watched: August 7 2018

Director: Basil Dearden

Starring: Jack Hawkins, Nigel Patrick, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, Kieron Moore, Terence Alexander, Norman Bird, Robert Coote

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 56min

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A man climbs casually out of a manhole in his finest attire, gets into a car and drives off. When he comes home, he sends out seven packages containing the book The Golden Fleece, half of £50 (literally half, in ripped up bills), and instructions to an assortment of characters. So begins The League of Gentlemen.

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It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After an awkward dinner party.

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The ring leader, Norman Hyde (Hawkins), is ex-army and feels the world owes him something. The men he contacted are all former army officers as well, and they all have secrets or difficulties which make them fairly easy to persuade into joining Hyde for a bank robbery.

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Actually, they just pretend it’s the money they want. They were all on board the minute they saw these bitchin’ gas masks.

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Utilising all their combined skills, the officers-cum-robbers plan an elaborate heist with a possible outcome of £100,000 per participant. It’s enough incentive to sway them all, and the plan is put into motion.

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The plan includes, but is not limited to, peeling a whole bunch of potatoes

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How did we love The League of Gentlemen? Let us count the ways. The dialogue, the dishwashing scene, the naughty vicar, the prep, the military infiltration, the heist itself, the heroic music, the gas masks, and the complete and utter cheek of the whole thing were all amazing, and had us laughing throughout.

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This whole segment is a complete riot

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Combine that with the very real and palpable tension during the heist and you got yourself a winner. The characters, and their interactions, are fantastic and you find yourself rooting for them very quickly. Love, love, love this movie. Definitely something to check out if you’re not familiar with it.

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Pictured: you guys crawling out of the woodwork just to watch this gem. Hopefully.

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What we learned: There was a different class of criminals in the 1960s. Also, this is a local heist for local people. There’s nothing for you here!

Next time: The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

#197 The Apartment

Watched: August 27 2018

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

Year: 1960

Runtime: 2h 05min

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C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon) works for an insurance company and has a crush on elevator girl Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). To ingratiate himself with management he lets several of his bosses borrow his apartment for illicit rendez-vous with their various mistresses.

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“We’ve worked out the new queuing system. Once we’ve covered ourselves, you will have one night a week in your own apartment.”

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The Big Boss Jeff D. Sheldrake (MacMurray) learns of this arrangement and swaps two theatre tickets for a night at Bud’s place. Bud invites Fran to the show, but she stands him up since it turns out she is the girl Sheldrake has brought to the shag shack.

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Can you believe she stands a guy up after he’s taken the time to learn all about her, including her address, her social security number and her insurance status? Rude!

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After Sheldrake doesn’t make good on his promise to divorce his wife for Fran, she tries to commit suicide in Bud’s apartment and he is left to care for her and pick up the pieces of his boss’ mess.

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“I swear I’m a good guy. You can do so much better than Sheldrake. I know all about you, and I’m right here!”

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The Apartment is funny and charming, and we really enjoyed it, but the men in this are generally questionable to say the least! Sheldrake is a real piece of work, as are the middle management bosses, and this is clear from the start. However, the character of Bud is only (partially) saved by being played by Jack Lemmon, who is very likable as an actor.

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It’s near impossible to truly dislike someone who uses a tennis racket as a pasta strainer

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Bud is well-meaning enough, but he exhibits some creepy stalker behaviour when trying to woo the “unseducable” Fran Kubelik. That being said, we really had fun watching this movie, and Fran is very likable and human even though she tries to kill herself over a guy…

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Stalkery behaviour aside, at least Bud is a bit of a step up from this guy.

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We will give The Apartment credit for being complicated – this is not a clear cut love story with perfect characters and a fairy tale ending. The characters are complex and flawed, and that’s one of the reasons it’s an enjoyable comedy and well worth seeing. Still, perhaps it’s time for Fran to be single for a while..?

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You do you, girl!

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What we learned: Don’t trust a taker. But be a bit weary of stalkers as well…

Next time: The League of Gentlemen (1960)

#191 La Dolce Vita

Watched: August 5 2018

Director: Federico Fellini

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux

Year: 1960

Runtime: 2h 54min

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Jesus is out flying in Rome, followed by journalist Marcello Rubini (Mastroianni) whose pursuit of religious iconography is momentarily distracted by a bunch of sunbathing girls on a rooftop.

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The failure of all major religions: not enough sex appeal

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We continue to follow Marcello as he chases stories, fame, love, sex and meaning, and on the way he encounters a series of more or less fortunate events.

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The most famous of which is fountain-bathing sex-symbol Sylvia (Ekberg)

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In addition to the failed seduction of Sylvia, Marcello hangs out with intellectuals at a party, sleeps with an aristocrat in a prostitute’s bed, and saves his girlfriend’s life when she tries to kill herself (because of his philandering).

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It’s challenging keeping your affairs secret when all your best friends are photographers and all your lovers are famous enough to get their pictures printed in magazines

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Among his other adventures are reporting on children who see the virgin Mary (and others killed in stampedes brought on by this), partying with daddy and some showgirls, kicking it with aristocrats and film stars, ghost hunting, lover’s quarrels, murder/suicide, drag queens and growing into a proper douchebag.

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We weren’t kidding about the douchebag thing

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There’s been so much said about La Dolce Vita by people much smarter than us that there’s really very little we can add. We loved Iris and the costumes, and while the movie is almost 3 hour long, it never gets boring. Marcello is somewhat hard to read, but the society falling apart all around him is oh so easy to see.

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Nothing says “disillusioned” like sitting down in the sand in a white suit

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It’s a fantastic movie and you can see its influence in numerous other films and other works of art. It’s one of those classics where even if you haven’t seen it, you still sort of have. However, if you really haven’t, it’s well worth your time.

What we learned: If your man is a serial adulterer, don’t try to kill yourself. Just leave him. You’re better than that. Live your life! Also, fucking paparazzi, man. Oh, and also modern society and stuff, etc.

Next time: Peeping Tom (1960)

Bonus: The Mouse that Roared

Watched: July 7 2018

Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Jean Seberg, William Hartnell, David Kossoff

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 23min

mouse

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The tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick is in a financial crisis after their sole export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine, is priced out of the market by a cheap American imitation. Their solution: declare war on the United States, lose, and collect aid from their former “enemy.”

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And with a well-equipped and modern army such as this, how could an invasion go wrong?

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Unfortunately, through a series of unlikely events they end up winning, and Prime Minister Count Mountjoy (Sellers), Grand Duchess Gloriana (Sellers), and Field Marshall Tully Bascomb (Sellers) must find a way out of their newfound power and notoriety.

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“Good lord! Only a true megalomaniac would want to rule to world! Or the USA…”

 

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The Mouse that Roared is no longer on the list, but we post this in our we-already-bought-the-fucking-DVD-so-we’re-watching-it-dammit category. It’s a very silly and very enjoyable comedy with an excellent Peter Sellers. We loved all the characters, especially the Duchess; the narration, the fox, the army uniforms, and the peace treaty. While no longer deemed good enough to occupy a precious space on the list, it’s still very much worth watching. Such fun!

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For those interested, this is how we usually dress up for a movie night. Furs, flags and all!

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What we learned: Do not wage war unless you’re prepared to win.

Next time: Beat Girl (1960)

#182 Some Like it Hot

Watched: May 5 2018

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 1min

Hot

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Joe and Jerry (Curtis and Lemmon, respectively), two musicians employed at a speakeasy in Chicago, witness a mob hit and must go on the run to avoid becoming the next targets. They look for out-of-town work, but the only one hiring is an all-girl band going on tour. What happens next should surprise absolutely no one who has ever seen a silly comedy.

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As with “all” best friends, there’s the pretty one and then there’s the funny one

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The pair take their new identities Josephine and Daphne (she never liked the name Geraldine) and join the band, where they meet charming ukulele player Sugar Kane (Monroe). On the way to Miami, both fall for Sugar, but are unable to act upon it as they are supposed to pass for women.

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To be fair, you didn’t have to be a man to be attracted to Marilyn Monroe in her prime

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Once in Miami, Joe assumes a third (male) persona, that of heir “Shell Oil Junior,” in order to woo Sugar. Meanwhile, Jerry is pursued by creepy (but ultimately quite sweet) millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Brown), to whom “Daphne” later becomes engaged. Also, to add to the complications, the Chicago mobsters the musicians are hiding from have decided to do their yearly meeting at the same Miami hotel the band is staying at. Hilarities ensue.

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Hilarities include, but are not limited to, a rather scandalous dress and an even more scandalous seduction technique

 

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Despite the fairly simple set-up, this movie truly is hilarious. Given their actions, all the characters should be repellent, but thanks to utterly wonderful actors they come across as strangely likable, and you find yourself rooting for them all.

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Yes, even these two duplicitous “ladies”

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Amid all the sexism (it’s from the ’50s and set in the ’20s) and deceit, there is a sweetness and tolerance in this film which might be more relevant than ever. We loved Sugar’s outfits, Daphne’s tango date, Osgood (post initial assault), and the dialogue. Also, the ending is perfect, without any of the hurt feelings and apologies we find in all contemporary romantic comedies. Everyone just accepts what has happened and how others have tricked them and they move on with their lives and their loves. Perfect!

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And by everyone we mean everyone!

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What we learned: Nobody’s perfect.

Next time: The 400 Blows (1959)