You Can't Take It With You, and a few more movies

#203  [archive]

You Can't Take It With You (1938)
Streaming free 

Son-of-a-bitch billionaire Anthony Kirby (Edward Arnold) yearns for more money, of course, because that's what billionaires do. His son goes by 'Tony' (James Stewart), and has googly eyes for Alice Sycamore (because she's Jean Arthur, so who wouldn't?). Alice still lives at home with her daft granddad (Lionel Barrymore) and the extended Sycamore family, all daft, all hilarious.

The scenes in their house are spectacular comedic bits, both visually and in the dialogue. Alice's sister Essie (Ann Miller) never stops dancing (and Ms Miller was one of the greats), Essie's husband (Dub Taylor) plays the xylophone (and it's really Taylor playing), Alice's dad is in the basement manufacturing fireworks without a permit, and her mom's been writing the great American play ever since a typewriter was delivered by mistake some years ago. And Mom also paints. A Russkie friend of the family shows up reliably, every night at dinnertime. He's from Omsk.

About 45 minutes in, the film threatens to go tragically normal as Tony and Alice share romantic blabber on a park bench. After a few fast-forwardable minutes, though, that's broken up by a gang of roughneck little kid dancers demanding a dime.

"I was going up in the elevator, and it struck me I wasn't having any fun. So I came right down and never went back.  Yes, sir, that was thirty-five years ago." 

Nothing here is remotely plausible, but it's a lot of laughs and must be seen. It's based on a play by George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart, but this really doesn't seem like stage material, because there's so much chaos happening all at once, you couldn't catch half of it in a playhouse — it needs a camera, showing each bit up close.

Then again, the play won the Pulitzer Prize, and the movie won the Oscar for Best Picture.

It's a screwball comedy by Frank Capra, and there goes Ann Miller again, twirling stage left to stage right across the living room in twenty consecutive pirouettes. 

Verdict: BIG YES.

Perhaps five minutes of You Can't Take It With You is a funny subplot about a man who refuses to pay income taxes. I'd seen this film only once before, in the late 1970s or early '80s when I was mega-libertarian, and I'd remembered the movie as a drama about the tax matter — which it emphatically is not, but that's how much being a libertarian melts your mind.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Honeymoon of Terror (1961)
a/k/a Ecstasy on Lover's Island
Streaming free with ads 

A couple honeymoons in "fabulous Vegas" of the early 1960s, which looks quaint compared to the Vegas we see in movies today. Vegas bores the newlyweds like this movie bored me, so they go to some secluded island instead.

It's excruciatingly dull until about the halfway point, when there's a brief shot of the bride's boobs (which surprised me, for 1961). Then she gets chased by a drunken lumberjack, and after that the movie's only dull, not excruciatingly dull. But everyone in this film — even the lumberjack — is free of personality, emotion, passion, anything, so it's difficult to give a damn.

Was there really a time when a couple couldn't check into a hotel without showing their marriage license?

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦   

The Veldt (1979)
Streaming free 

This is a Ray Bradbury sci-fi short story, adapted into a short film. It's about a married couple with two kids, living in a smart house of the future that cleans itself, sweeps its floors, even ties the children's shoes, and it comes with what we'd now call a holodeck. The kids love the house, but Mom and Dad are thinking about unplugging it, and going back to making their own meals, running their own lives, raising their own children.

I read the story in my sci-fi era, and remember it as better than this, but what film isn't a step down from the source material? At less than half an hour, this too-quick flick is damaged by a shitty video transfer, but it's still OK. Probably works better if you haven't already read the story. 

Verdict: MAYBE.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • And then • • •

A Better Tomorrow (1996)
A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)
A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Alexander Nevsky (1938)
The Bat People (1974)
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)
Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
Brainwaves (1983)
The Card Counter (2021)
Cellular (2004) 
The Celluloid Closet (1996)
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Dark Star (1974)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
The General (1926)
Get Shorty (1995)
The Gorilla (1939)
The Green Girl (2014)
Hiroshima (1953)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Kids in the Hall (debut episode; 1988) 
Kids in the Hall (reunion debut episode; 2022)
The Killing of America (1981)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) 
Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man Who Thought Life (1969)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
The Manhattan Project (1996)
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
Not Wanted (1949)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Popeye (1980)
Reflections of Evil (2002)
Revelations (1993)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
Sons of the Desert (1933)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Taken for a Ride (1996)
The Train (1964)
Truck Turner (1974)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Who Farted? (2019)
Who's That Girl? (1987)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

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. 
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  1. Doug, have we ever talked about the Reverend Horton Heat? Man, we should have. Trio leader Jim Heath plays guitar (lead, rhythm and riffs simultaneously) backed by standup base and pyrotechnic drums. Here's a sample, and one of my favorite RHH songs, My Indigo Friends:


    I've always loved the Rev.


    1. Tell the Reverand some aspirin could curb the fever.

      What's it mean, "Indigo friends"? He had friends who were violet/blue and lost them to drugs?

    2. I have heard the word indigo associated with heroin, but, thankfully, I don't know exactly how the two words are related. The Rev writes the songs: I just enjoy them.


    3. I'm checking now to determine whether Neil Diamond covered the tune. I'm told he is melodious, but I'm not entirely sure he plays the guitar.


    4. Ah, here it is. A partial explanation of how heroin works . . .

      Heroin is rapidly metabolized by sequential deacetylation of two separate ester bonds to yield 6-monoacetylmorphine and morphine. Hydrolysis of heroin to 6-monoacetylmorphine is catalyzed by pseudocholinesterase.

      I always suspected as much, but there it is in black and light brown.


    5. So glad I'm immune to the allure of drugs. Best minds of my generation and all, ruined. I was mostly but only slightly curious about the color indigo, but I'll chalk it up to 'lingo' and move on.

      How did Neil Diamond get in there?

    6. I was giving you some friendly shit for enjoying smooth singers rather than ruffians like The Rev. Just a gentle elbow to the right kidney.


  2. Libertarians are cats. You know that one?

    And a movie called Ecstasy on Lover's Island should have lots more boobies than that.

    1. Yup, I know the one about the libertarian cats. You inspired me to make a meme I'll share shortly...


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