Wild(er) and Crazy Flicks

2009-01-10
5:19:22 am

One of my favorite aspects of Xbox’s watch instantly option is that I can go through every movie offered online and add whatever looks even remotely interesting to my queue. Which is a great way to watch flicks by some classic directors. Within 24 hours, Em and I watched two movies by acclaimed director Billy Wilder (check him out if you’ve never heard of him, he’s probably most famous for Sunset Blvd. which is worth your time). I actually didn’t even realize that two movies I had already added were directed by him. I added Seven Year Itch because it’s regarded as a classic and Marilyn Monroe’s in it. Kiss Me, Stupid grabbed my attention because Dean Martin stars.

I’ll start with the movie that was…less good, which is Kiss Me, Stupid. There are two huge problems with this movie. The first is that it’s one of those stories where everyone’s lying to each other to make things easier and the whole time you’re yelling “just tell the truth” at the screen. Of course they never do till the end, because that would be the end of the movie. The other problem is that it’s just kind of creepy as the guy who played My Favorite Martian (and was also on Picket Fences) lets stranded crooner Dino (Dean Martin if you couldn’t figure out) hit on his pretend wife while he’s in the room. It’s even worse that Dino does it! It’s well acted and all that and they even incorporate some of Dean’s actual on stage antics in the movie, but, like I said, there’s just too many things taking me out of the movie. Em and I watched it while we took the Christmas decorations down and were both completely weirded out. Skip this one unless you’re a HUGE Dean Martin, My Favorite Martian, needlessly confusing story or Billy Wilder fan.

Luckily, The Seven Year Itch was awesome. The story follows a pocket book editor as his wife and kid leave New York City to summer somewhere only to head home and find out that the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe is living in the apartment above him. I’ve never seen Marilyn Monroe in anything but pictures (speaking of which, this movie has the famous subway/white dress scene (the the full-on image never appears in the flick). I freaking loved this movie. First off, it showed me a time period/practice I’ve never seen before. I had never heard of wives and kids leaving for the whole summer. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything set in New York City in the past. Next, the acting is fantastic. Marilyn doesn’t just seem like the dityz blonde (though she is both), there’s still some depth there without getting int he way. Also, the male lead Tom Ewell had some experience with the character as he played him in the original stage version. Even the smaller parts are all great. But what I really like about the story (and the basic story is very interesting as Tom tries, at the same time, to both be with and stay away from his neighbor) is that Tom gets to imagine all these different scenarios that we then see on screen. You know, kind of like Scrubs, but it doesn’t make me want to punch someone in the face. I highly recommend this flick.

Now a few general points of interest/thoughts. Just for the record, Wilder wrote and directed both flicks, though he didn’t write the play that Kiss is based on. I was surprised by the large amounts of sexuality and innuendo in both movies. I’m not sure if this was something that Wilder specifically dabled in, or if things were a little but more acceptable back then than we think, but there’s all kinds of sex bubbling around the surfaces (most obviously in the “will he have an affair” plot of Seven Year Itch). I was also surprised to see that Kiss Me came out nine years AFTER Itch (Kiss is from 1964, Itch 1955). First off because Itch is so much better, but also because Kiss is in black and white while Itch is in color. Just some interesting things.

Next up on my Billy Wilder list? Probably The Apartment from 1960 which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray.

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