The Devil and Miss Jones, and a few more movies

#179  [archive]

The Devil and Miss Jones

[Streaming free at Internet Archive]

The marvelous Jean Arthur stars, in this weird and somewhat woke workplace comedy. She's got spunk and she's funny and she's Jean Arthur, playing a plucky shoe saleslady.

Charles Coburn plays an old coot so rich he doesn't even know that he owns Neeley's department store where Ms Arthur works, and where employees have hung him in effigy. He doesn't like the effigy, so he goes undercover in the shoe department, to figure out who's responsible and make sure they're fired.

Once he's on the job, he's befriended by Ms Arthur, invited to a union organizing rally, and gets an inside look at working conditions and the store's bad management.

"I'll show you who's a Benedict Arnold in sheep's clothing. You watch."

All this is preposterous, of course — a folksy comedy built on the extremely incorrect assumption that rich people are decent at heart.

Most ridiculous is a scene where the store's loudest rabblerouser gets angry at a couple of cops, and recites the preamble to the US Constitution at them. This flummoxes the policemen so much they forget to beat the living shit out of him.

That's after the scene where thousands of people go swimming at a public beach, and apparently it was common in the '30s for people to rent a swimsuit to go swimming? That seems crazy to me, even disgusting — you want me to pay, to rest my beloved genitals where a hundred other men have rested their junk? Everyone on screen accepts it, though, so I guess actual American history included ample junk-sharing.

The Devil and Miss Jones is the feel-quaint movie of 1941, but I laughed and said 'aww' when it wanted me to. It's dated, but has a heart, and it's an enjoyable diversion.

I might've guessed Frank Capra wrote it, but nope, it's by Norman Krasna, who co-wrote the musical White Christmas and the actioner Fury. Smartly directed by Sam Wood (Goodbye Mr Chips, Kings Row, Our Town, The Pride of the Yankees, A Day at the Races, and A Night at the Opera).

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013) 

[Streaming at all the usual pay sites]

Wikileaks intrigues me. Three cheers for the open publication of data and documents that rich and powerful people don't want published — it's a great concept, project, and website, right?

And yet, I've long had the nagging suspicion that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is an arrogant prick with odd motivations. Which maybe makes Wikileaks untrustworthy, since it's run (or used to be) by that arrogant prick with odd motivations.

Coming into this documentary, I wasn't sure whether my suspicions about Assange were factual, or based on the slanted perspective of virtually all media reports about him, and about Wikileaks. I was hoping to better understand Wikileaks and Assange.

My hopes were not met. There's next to nothing in this film that I didn't already know, and I'm just a guy who reads the news as it comes out. 

Is the film at least fair and balanced? Well, probably more than this review. I am weary of modern documentaries, with slick and glitzy annoyances when I'd rather have just the facts, ma'am. This one has better special effects than a Star Trek movie, and thirty people are credited as interns, a reminder that this is not an underground or anti-establishment effort in any sense.

Through the first third of We Steal Secrets, absolutely everyone who has anything to say about Assange says he's a saint, a martyr, a living embodiment of all that is good and pure and righteous in our otherwise sorry-ass world. In the words of Assange himself, his passion in life is "crushing bastards and defending victims."

The hero-worship, especially by the alleged hero, grows tedious, and after half an hour I impatiently zoomed ahead, to see whether the moviemakers give a damn about the rape allegations against Assange. It's covered, and in enough detail to refresh my memory of Assange's ickiness.

Are the rape charges true, or a CIA smear? Fuck if I know, and the film has no new light to shed. Assange is an arrogant prick, though, and the movie eventually admits it, while insisting he has good traits too. 

It also gives some time to Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning, the Army whistleblower who gave Wikileaks data and video of American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other atrocities. It does seem fair to Manning, a mixed-up kid who did the right thing and was punished for it.

It gives far too much time and attention to CIA butt-heads, complaining about the damages done by "one dumb PFC," which is simply propaganda. Everyone's seen on the news and read it the paper about the damage of these leaks, but I ain't buying it and don't need to see and hear such blather again in a movie.

Here's a truth instead: If the US would rather the world not know about its many war crimes, then the US should stop committing so many war crimes. 

I did go back and watch the parts of the movie I'd skipped, so yeah, I've seen the whole documentary. I can't figure out its opinion on Assange.

A few years after this was made, Wikileaks itself was the victim of a leak, of confidential internal chats showing Assange and the site's preference for Republicans in the 2016 election. That's when Wikileaks published hacked emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, and was basically complicit with Russian pro-Trump misinformation.

So Assange is an arrogant prick who helped nudge Donald Trump toward the White House.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Toni Erdmann (2016)

[On DVD, from a public library]

I can't remember a more frustrating time with a movie than Toni Erdmann.

It's from the library, a DVD that won't let me play the movie without first playing previews for five other movies. Being stubborn and hating ads, I spent fifteen minutes Googling to find a way around the previews, then finally gave up and fast-forwarded through the ads, one by one.

Toni Erdmann is a foreign film, and when it finally let me reach the menu, 'dubbed in English' was an option. I do dearly love the ability to spill soda on my t-shirt and wipe it up without missing any of a movie's dialogue, so 'dubbed' is what I selected.

It isn't really dubbed, though. Instead, a man reads descriptions of everything, starting by saying, "White text on a blue background, Sony Pictures Entertainment presents."

The same voice reads everyone's dialogue, which shortly drove me nuts, but going back, to select subtitles instead of dubbing, forced me endure the unskippable previews yet again.

Fast-forwarding and swearing a lot, eventually the movie started with subtitles, but then I wanted a popsicle. I pressed pause, and came back with a delicious frozen treat, but you guessed it — when I hit play, instead of playing, the DVD took me back to the same five coming attractions again.

Sorry, but seriously, fuck this DVD. After all the above I'm too grumpy to enjoy a movie anyway, so it goes back to the library for some other sucker to endure.

Meanwhile, a pirated and subtitled mp4 of Toni Erdmann is downloading. I'll give it a watch soon, and try not to hold a grudge.

Verdict: BIG NO for the DVD version.

♦ ♦ ♦

• Coming attractions •

Delicatessen (1991)

District 9 (2009)

Inherent Vice (2014) 

My Life in Monsters (2015)  

QI (2003)

They Live (1988)

Toni Erdmann (2016)

Upstream Color (2013)   

White Lotus (second season, 2022)

Within Our Gates (1920) 

(plus occasional schlock as needed)

    • And then •

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

The Cook (1918)

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Good Night, Nurse (1918)

Last Tango in Paris (1972) 

Ménilmontant (1926)

The Scarecrow (1920)

Stalker (1979) 

Wisconsin Death Trip (1999) 

The YouTube Effect (2022) 

    • And then •

Asteroid City (2023)

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)

Doctor Who (second season, 2006)

Dr Cook's Garden (1971) 

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

From Beyond (1986)

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

Manchester by the Sea (2018)

The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)

Street Trash (1987)


There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. I enjoyed laughing at your frustration, but why watch a DVD if a movie is available by streaming?

  2. Most of the movies I watch are obtained through shadowy means, and the subtitles are dicey. Sometimes they're there, but usually they're not, so for foreign films I usually check out a DVD from the library.

  3. Doug, you ever see Fincher's Zodiac?

    1. True crime and serial killers aren't my usual thing, but your nudges are usually reliable, and it has a cast chockful of actors I like. Maybe one of them will kill all the others?

      Downloading now.

    2. His favorite filmmaker is Pakula, and this is like a reincarnation. Not as good as the real thing (Klute, Parallax View, All The President's Men, Presumed Innocent) but completely, utterly, watchable, over and over. It's ridiculously well-made, without drawing attention to it's own style.

      It's not gross, nor does it glamourize the killer. It kind of glamourizes the press, and the cops, but I suppose it doesn't, really, since nothing is really solved. They all end up wasting years of their lives, in service of nothing.

      Be sure to get the long version/director's cut (163 minutes).

      His other films don't really interest me so much, but he's a good craftsman.

    3. I got the 163-minute cut on accident, without even knowing there was another. :)

      Pakula was so damned good, the comparison is a hell of a compliment. Soon as I read your mention of Parallax View, scenes from it flashed before my eyes.

      All I know from Fincher is Alien³, which everyone hated and it was certainly no Alien or Aliens, but I liked it.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.