Weekly Round-Up, Dec. 5-12

At the start of my college film classes, the professor would ask us if we had seen anything of interest over the past week. It was a fun way to kick off class, and hearing my classmates’ recommendations often influenced my screening decisions. So, I’ve decided to continue the tradition on this blog. Following the model of fellow bloggers Pop Culture Pundit and BNoirDetour, I’ll post weekly recaps of what I watched with a brief review and whether or not I recommend it.

Sunset Blvd. (1950)TCM Essentials

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Gloria Swanson and William Holden

I’ve been working my way through writer-director Billy Wilder’s filmography ever since I fell in love with The Apartment (1960) last year, and Sunset Blvd. is further proof of his genius. This noir/dark comedy is not only representative of Wilder’s oft-used themes of self-loathing and appearance vs. reality, but also his flair for poetic writing and creating relatable characters. Gloria Swanson’s performance as faded movie star Norma Desmond is stunning; she teeters on the edge of parody, but she injects pathos at just the right moments to make you pity her. This was also my first time seeing William Holden play someone other than himself; he’s wonderful in this movie and I plan to seek out more of his films (any suggestions?). Unexpected highlights: the cameos of famous Hollywood figures like Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, and Cecil B. DeMille, and Swanson’s Charlie Chaplin impersonation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Available on Netflix.

Desk Set (1957)– TCM

1957-film-desk-set-stars-katharine-hepburn-quick-witted

Dina Merrill, Sue Randall, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Blondell

Another first-time viewing. In this comedy, Spencer Tracy is an efficiency expert installing a computer system in Katharine Hepburn’s reference department at NBC the Federal Broadcasting Company. They clash and argue and eventually fall in love, but their relationship is not the only focus of the plot. The story of the four women who run the department and their concerns about a computer replacing them is just as, if not more, prominent. Desk Set‘s screenplay was written by Henry and Phoebe Ephron, the parents of Nora Ephron, writer and director of movies like Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998). One could argue that Mail is a loose update of Desk Set, and you can see where Nora inherited her wit. The ending is a bit corny, but it’s still a fun film with a positive portrayal of autonomous women to boot. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, especially for Nora Ephron fans. Available on Netflix. Next TCM airing: 12/22 at 8 pm ET.

Sinatra Sings (2011)– TCM

Frank Sinatra is TCM’s Star of the Month for December in honor of his 100th birthday, and they’re airing several of his concert specials and feature films on Wednesday nights this month. This particular special is a 2011 PBS compilation of Sinatra’s best live performances over the years, with his daughter Tina narrating. It’s a good gateway to his full concert specials, and you can see his unparalleled talent for infusing emotion into his performances. Whatever Sinatra’s singing about, you believe every single word. I almost booked a ticket to Chicago after this one:

RECOMMENDED for Sinatra newbies and fans alike. Clips available on YouTube.

What did you watch this week? See any of these recommendations? Have a suggestion for me? Let me know in the comments!

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