Skip’s Quips: Why ‘Big’ Really Grows on You

Blog Sketch 082813The first time I saw the Penny Marshall film Big was in Los Angeles as part of a double feature. The other flick on the bill: Everybody’s All-American.

Needless to say, I appreciated the former movie a lot more after I saw both in one day.

Recently, I watched Big again, and I have to say it has aged well. It’s still charming, with wonderful dialogue, sharp cinematography and terrific performances – notably by Tom Hanks as the child who magically grows up overnight. Marshall has a light touch with the direction, and it never becomes plodding.

Why can’t more comedies today be like this? Big never seems to take the easy way out, and it wraps up everything nicely, even credibly, despite the fantastic aspect of the whole thing. It’s low-key, but I think it’s one of the best things Hanks has done.

It’s always the ones that fly under the radar, right?

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Is ‘The 39 Steps’ Hitchcock’s Best Movie?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I don’t know, but I sure like it a heckuva lot.

What I wanna know is: Why doesn’t The 39 Steps get old or creaky? It’s just as fast-paced and fun as ever, with crackling dialogue, amusing performances (especially from Robert Donat … what a talent) and brilliant cinematography, which provides a wonderful snapshot of the old British music-hall entertainments.

Frankly, I can’t get enough of this flick.

I realized Hitch honed his craft greatly following Steps, providing much slicker pictures, but there’s something about this 1935 charmer that keeps me watching the screen when it’s on. There was a time when I preferred The Lady Vanishes to it, but now I’m not so sure. And there’s a seminal quality to Steps as well … it’s one of the films that introduced Hitchcock’s whole “wrong man” oeuvre to audiences, and there’s something to be said for that.

I’ll tell you something: I’m walkin’ these steps for as long as they’re around.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Dude, Where’s My Movie?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Now I can finally say I’ve seen The Big Lebowski.

And what a big, sloppy movie it is. Kind of tedious, ultimately, too, though it has some bursts of funny dialogue.

Could’ve been a lot better, though. Seemed to miss a lot of opportunities. Still, you rarely see real, bona fide (OK, actors portraying real, bona fide) nihilists onscreen, so that’s a plus. A Big Lebowski plus. Hm.

Actually, what bothered me the most about this Coen Bros. film was the structure. Despite all the tying up of (really) loose ends, it felt like it was generated in a room at midnight over a couple of White Russian cocktails and tons of stale coffee. Perhaps that was the point. I’m not Big Lebowski big on that kind of point, though.

Yes, the cinematography was quite good. Especially the camera-in-the-bowling-ball shot as the orb rolled down the lane. Nice job on that, guys. It didn’t, however, define the movie, like some shots do. And great camerawork does not necessarily a great movie make.

Oh, well. I wish the Coens decided to be much sillier with the film, as it had so many wide-open targets: nutty artists, bowling aficionados, stoner, uh, no-goodniks. It just ended up being diverting, with a number of long stretches. I’m not Big Lebowski big on long stretches, either.

I just want a good-overall movie.

Skip’s Quips: Get Into the Groove, for You’ve Got to … Oh, Forget It

Blog Sketch 082813I’m so happy the musical has evolved into the 3D song-and-dance epic.

I mean, we were really slumming with films like Top Hat and My Fair Lady, right? You don’t want to have a plot and witty dialogue messing up all those steps.

Or, for that matter, anything interfering with a story of competition so fierce that the toughs in West Side Story will want to jump ship into Mary Poppins.

Yes, I’m curmudgeonly. Sure, I’m old-fashioned. And I still grouse over the genre’s move into rock ‘n’ roll.

But I do think we’ve dropped some of the excitement that went into the great musicals of the past–excitement that can’t be replaced with legs flying out three-dimensionally from the screen.

Just look at what has come out recently. Some of these formulaic motion-filled pictures hearken back to the timelessly terrible let’s-save-the-theater yarns of yore. Aren’t there enough screenwriters out there to infuse a lackluster script with some originality?

At this rate, I’ll take even a sequel to Madonna’s best foray into cinema.

The fact is, a musical isn’t complete without something other than feet supporting it. Good writing. A smart storyline. And, of course, terrific music.

Tales of a flash mob just ain’t gonna cut it.

So for those who believe you just gotta have a gimmick, I put it to you that entertainment’s more important. It’s not just about jumping over cars and hoofing in public. Give me a screenplay with clever dialogue, and I’ll watch. Only then will I want to face the music and dance.