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Movie Reviews: 8/29/2022 to 9/4/2022

Movies reviewed this week: Colma: The Musical, Room at the Top, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and A Kiss Before Dying.

9/2/2022: Colma: The Musical (2006): ***1/2

The honesty gets painful towards the end, but in a good way. There’s this shot of a suburban house, door open, and it’s a sharp reminder that every one of those little boxes holds a story. Some of them sad.

It’s true that the two guys can’t sing. The music isn’t great, although it’s catchy. The energy is kind of remarkable, though, taking full advantage of the inherent magical space of a musical. When Marisol and Rodel are singing in the graveyard, and the well-dressed couples slowly and silently dance into view between the gravestones, it’s as good a moment as any and better than most.

And despite John Hughes, not all of the high school stories end well. I’m back to honesty again, but it’s an awfully powerful aspect of this movie.

They made this for $15,000. It’s kind of a gem.

“Maybe it’s a different way of living
But it’s just the way I’ve lived for so long
How can you say that I’m missing out?”

9/3/2022: Room at the Top (1959): ****1/2

Simone Signoret brings a steely clarity to her role which is saved from cliche by her vulnerability. She won an Academy Award for this over four legends: both Audrey and Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Doris Day. She deserved it.

Laurence Harvey holds his own in a tricky part. He’s got to be charismatic enough to convince us that women fall for him, but also not terribly sympathetic. Signoret’s Alice sees potential in him, but I’m not sure we do. I think it’s love talking.

Speaking of charisma, while I’d generally call Jack Clayton’s direction simply competent, there are a few standout bits here and there. The early scene where Harvey’s Joe comes into a new office and everyone flutters at him is fun. The late scene where he hears bad news as a background conversation is equally well-staged, just with the opposite effect.

Finally, this movie broke ground as the first of the British New Wave kitchen sink realism movies. I’ve wanted to watch a cross-section of these since Filmspotting talked about a series of them, and the Criterion Channel is doing a program of them. We’ll see how far I get.

This one was scathing on class, as expected. You could almost read it as validation that classes shouldn’t mix except for that one bar scene where Joe’s mistaken for someone he isn’t. All it takes is a little pretense and impressions change entirely; you couldn’t say class structure is a lie any better than this.

9/3/2022: All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989): **1/2

Decent Don Bluth animation but the story is fairly fractured and I really can’t get over the gay drag queen alligator with a bone through his nose.

9/4/2022: A Kiss Before Dying (1956): ***

Robert Wagner’s performance as a sociopath eventually won me over, although I found the first thirty minutes to be almost gruelingly slow. Virginia Leith really didn’t grab me as the ingenue. On the plus side, the Technicolor cinematography made for a nice contrast to the darkness of the plot, particularly in that late scene in the mining pit. I always like a merciless sky. I also dug the reversal of the usual noir femme fatale trope; it’s nice to watch a homme fatale on screen.

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