Gambit (1966) aka my one true love

March 18, 2015

Let's file this under "movies that I had on dvd but never watched because I am a stupid, stupid fool." Part of me is a little bummed that it took me so long to finally watch it, thus depriving myself of a really fun movie to rewatch over and over again -- probably costing myself at least a dozen viewings over the last few years. But part of me is really excited to have found Gambit this late in the game. It seems like very few new-to-me classic movies knock my socks off these days. I've already discovered most of my tried-and-true favorites by now and nothing new ever seems to impress me enough to share space on my All Time Favorites list with Sunday in New York and Doctor Zhivago.

As you can probably tell, Gambit has made The List. I have NO idea how it eluded me for so long but I finally watched it today and I am so ridiculously smitten. I want to write it love letters and send it flowers. I want to take it for long walks on the beach and buy it dinner. I really, really like it, you guys.

Our meet cute almost didn't happen -- I wanted to watch Cry Wolf (A spooky Barbara Stanwyck movie with Errol Flynn not being a pirate) but the DVD was missing. So I started flipping through my DVD binder and came across The Happy Thieves, an art heist movie starring Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth. Which reminded me how much I really love movies about stealing art. Which led me to search for more movies of that sort on google. Which is how I found Gambit.

I won't give much away (even though the poster encourages you to go ahead and spill the ending) but suffice to say, it's about an art heist. Michael Caine plays the criminal mastermind, fluctuating between effortlessly suave and slightly peevish. Shirley MacLaine is his partner in crime. If you're watching this for the first time and think she's being wasted as merely arm candy in the beginning, just stick around and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I promise.

Gambit reminded me a lot of one of the veterans on my All Time Favorites list, How to Steal a Million. I don't throw that comparison around lightly, and it's not just because their plots are both centered around thefts of priceless works of art. They have a similar pace, their stars have great chemistry, the actual heists leave you biting your nails with suspense, and the twists are fun and unexpected. And much like How to Steal a Million, I can see myself watching Gambit dozens of times and enjoying it completely each and every time.

I'm not sure if this is as funny out of context, but I found this one exchange from the movie so funny. Michael Caine's delivery is just so perfect, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be one of those lines that I quote at random moments for the rest of my life -- "Always interested in seeing something extraordinary."

My Six Loves (1963)

March 16, 2015

One of the movies I watched for my Pi Day themed marathon was My Six Loves, a comedy-ish movie starring Debbie Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and David Janssen. Let's be real, the main only reason I picked this for my no. 6 film was Cliff Robertson. It's one of those "I'll watch anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- just because so and so is in it" kind of things. Not to sound like a crotchety old hag, but movies about bands of children aren't usually my cup of tea. They need to be accompanied by a dashingly handsome Cliff Robertson or maybe a debonair Dirk Bogarde in order for me to buckle down and watch.

And buckle down I did. Cliff Robertson's gravely voice was absolutely the best part, as it always is (oh, and he wears one of Debbie Reynolds' floral robes at one point - and still looks ridiculously fetching, I might add) I'd give this movie 5 out of 5 stars if I was rating it on Cliff Robertson's voice alone. What can I say, I love a good gravel. However, this movie also had a plot and characters and once I factor those in my rating drops considerably.

There are some movies with elements of sexism that I can conveniently overlook for the purposes of entertainment. I wince a bit when Jane Fonda's character casually accepts the fact that she'll be giving up her job as soon as she's married to Robert Culp in Sunday in New York but it's still my favorite movie. My Six Loves came out the same year as SINY, 1963, but its sexism seems more dated and more prevalent. It's an obvious message to "career girls" that you'll never be happy, truly happy, until you have a husband and some young-ins' to look after. It isn't even remotely subtle about the message, either. [spoiler alert] Debbie Reynolds is struggling between returning to the stage where she’s had a successful career since she was 14 years old, or staying in the country to raise 6 orphans with the local preacher (who can totally date, no chastity to be found here) played by Cliff Robertson. For a few brief moments, she decides on Broadway — returning to the great white way to begin work on a new play. But then our gravely voiced preacher bursts into rehearsals to tell Debbie that one of the orphans has run away, and she needs to come back to look for him. When trying to explain why Debbie needs to return, he not-so-delicately states that “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” Ok, now this is where any thinking, rational modern lady would be like “WHAT THE WHAT?!” Um, even in 1963 I’m pretty sure you were just as much a woman if you were working on a career, looking after a household, or doing both. But being a movie still firmly grounded in 1950’s morality, Debbie naturally agrees. “I MUST GO TO THE CHILDREN! AND RECLAIM MY WOMANHOOD!,” she doesn’t say, but definitely implies. [spoiler over]

Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s my frame of mind or the movie itself that dictates how sensitive I am to sexist overtones in film. Like I said, Sunday in New York isn’t the most progressive feminist movie but I still find it hilarious and watch it way more than any normal person should. Maybe I just didn’t find My Six Loves funny enough, so I picked up on the serious dialogue a little more than I would otherwise. Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough movies from 1963 and I have some serious misconceptions about how much movies were still shaming women who didn’t want to be housewives at the time.

Either way, this is one movie where the sexism seemed a little too heavy handed and prevented me from really enjoying the movie. I will add though that David Janssen’s character was pretty cool (when they’re tying to figure out where one of the children would have run away to, Janssen remarks “Miami if he’s got any sense.” He also sat on a picnic blanket in a suit-and-tie, drinking champagne and looking amused at the goings-on around him. I can see why Millie is smitten.) and also I’ll give some (not a lot) points for Debbie Reynolds seeming to genuinely want to be a career girl, even if biology and society and everything else in the world was conspiring against it.

All that being said, movies are always products of the time in which they were made. I don’t expect 2015 morals in a 1963 film. But sometimes it’s tough to throw all of your modern sensitivities out the window when you’re watching classic movies. And it’s difficult to hear the words “She’s a woman. It’s about time she acted like one.” even when those words are uttered by the most gloriously gravely voice there ever was.

Pi Day movie marathon

March 09, 2015

If you're a fan of Pi Day, then you already know that this year is pretty exciting. Usually Pi Day occurs on the date that represents the first three digits of pi -- 3/14. But THIS year, the date will be 3/14/15. And at 9:26:53 it will be the only time in our lives that the date and time will coincide with the first 10 digits of pi. Pretty exciting stuff!!

On 3/14/15 I'll be in Princeton celebrating -- my beloved hometown goes all-out for Pi Day since it's also the birthday or our most famous resident, Albert Einstein. But on Sunday, I'm going to extend the celebration with a pi-themed movie marathon! I thought I'd share my picks here in case you'd like to join me in my possibly-pathetic devotion to this mathematical holiday!

Here are some alternate picks in case you don't have access to these movies (also, you can use one of the other options for 5 and 3 if you want to do 10 digits of pi instead of 8, but that'll make for an even longer marathon)

1: One More Tomorrow, One Foot in Heaven, And One Was Beautiful, One Man's Journey, One Sunday Afternoon

2: The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Between Two Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Breakfast for Two, Trouble for Two, Two Women, Two for the Road

3: The Three Faces of Eve, A Letter to Three Wives, Sergeants 3, Three Godfathers, Three Comrades, These Three

4: Four Men & A Prayer, Four Wives, Four Mothers, Four's A Crowd

5: Five Star Final, Five Fingers, Five Miles to Midnight, Five Graves to Cairo, Five Came Back

6: My Six Convicts, With Six You Get Eggroll, The Deep Six, Six of a Kind

9: The Man With Nine Lives, Nine Girls

Happy Pi Day! :)