Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Con Artists

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three films that fit the week's theme and telling us about them!

Ready, steady, GO: Con Artists




Sorry, I'm still in a turkey coma from last week. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I had two celebrations, one on Thursday and one on Friday. This was my first year traveling to celebrate the holiday since college. And I was also cooking. So I missed last week's Thursday movie picks. :-(

So I wanted to be back this week with a vengeance.

Except that I forgot today was Thursday.


Oh well. I shall soldier on anyway! I've got one modern classic, and two Classic classics.

Ocean's Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001) Effortlessly cool and with enough movie star charisma and swagger for eleven films, Soderbergh's update of the classic Rat Pack film is pure, endlessly rewatchable movie fun.

The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941) Barbara Stanwyck's seduction of Henry Fonda's dim-witted mark is one for the ages.

Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1933) Only Lubitsch could make a con film this sophisticated, sexy, and funny. Indelible performances from conwoman Miriam Hopkins and single socialite Kay Francis, as well as suave Hubert Marshall, the man caught between them.


  1. Love Ocean's Eleven. Definitely enough swag for eleven films, lol. Still need to see the classic classics listed here.

  2. Glad to see you back, you were missed last week.

    Love all three of your picks! I much prefer this version of Oceans 11 to the original which had the germ of a good idea that got swamped by all the Rat Pack shenanigans. This one has Clooney and Pitt at their peaks and exactly the right actors in the right parts in the supporting cast. The only semi-weak link to me is Julia Roberts who is fine but I've never quite gotten the allure that would make her someone that Clooney would pine over all those years.

    The Lady Eve is classic Sturges, Stanwyck and Fonda. It's a great one to show people who only think of the lead pair as heavy duty dramatic actors, both are as light as the air. Coburn is dynamite as Stanwyck's shameless crook of a father.

    Haven't seen Trouble in Paradise in years but it's a charmer with the three leads rarely better. A reminder of how gifted and enchanting Miriam Hopkins could be before she ruined her career with all her upstaging nonsense and ended up blackballed.

    This week's theme could go in so many directions and I had a tough time narrowing down and decided to go with a heavy drama, a frothy comedy, a musical and one extra based on a scandal that was a sensation when I was a wee yougin'.

    The Grifters (1990)-Roy Dillon, a small time conman is torn between his loyalty to his ice cold mother and his slightly less ruthless girlfriend, both far more adroit grifters then he. A fascinating examination of a group of unsavory people with a staggeringly great performance from Anjelica Huston as one hard opportunistic woman, a true Medea.

    The Music Man (1962)-Traveling conman Harold Hill blows into River City expecting to fleece the townsfolk by forming a band and selling their children instruments that don't exist. Everything goes smoothly until he meets Marion the Librarian. Sprightly and colorful with great music.

    Bedtime Story (1964)-Lawrence Jameson (David Niven) lives in a castle on the French Riviera seducing wealthy women and persuading them through charm and other methods out of large quantities of their fortunes. Everything is going swimmingly until rival Freddy Benson (Marlon Brando) appears on the scene. The two eventually meet and engage in a bet. The first to successfully bilk $25,000 out of the pocket of Janet Walker (a very lovely Shirley Jones), the daughter of a wealthy business man, will win the title of king of the flim-flam men. When Freddy pretends to be paralyzed, supposedly the result of a sad love story, in order to garner Janet’s attention and sympathy Jameson turns up as his rival's putative psychiatrist and the game is on! Breezy comedy was the basis for the Steve Martin/Michael Caine starrer Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

    Honorable Mention-The Hoax (2006)-I remember so well the outcry this caused when it was happening as it occurred almost concurrently with Watergate and the two together showed the two sides of journalism. Based on a huge scandal of the 70's. Novelist Clifford Irving tells his publishing company that he has partnered with the reclusive Howard Hughes and has been authorized to write his autobiography. Amid much fanfare and a great deal of money the book is published. The catch-the entire project is a con job. The film tells Irving's version of the events.

    1. Totally agree about the original Ocean's. I agree that Julia doesn't entirely work in the role, but she has some great moments bantering with Clooney and Pitt. I was stunned by the performances in Lady Eve the first time I saw it. And Eugene Pallette, one of my all-time favorite character actors. Stunned by Miriam Hopkins in Trouble in Paradise, too, especially after having seen her other work first. She's so effortless here!

      I have yet to see The Grifters - it's been on my list for a while - and Bedtime Story. LOVE The Music Man, which mostly survives the transfer from the stage somehow, although later versions failed utterly at capturing its effortless charm. Brilliant pick for this week.

  3. I have seen all three and I picked The Lady Eve as well. Great movie! I almost picked Trouble in Paradise but it has been a long time since i saw it that I thought I should pass but it is great and love the sexiness of it.

  4. I haven't seen the last two and it's been so long since I've seen the Ocean's movies, they were good though.

    1. Trouble in Paradise and Lady Eve are great especially if you like classic films.

  5. Hi there... Being on the run, will just throw in the titles and a few words...

    My top conman movie: Nine Queens (2000) ("Nueve reinas") - after having been mesmerized by Ricardo Darin's performance in "The Secret in Their Eyes", we dived into his (and Soledad Villamil's) movies. Nine Queens is twist after twist and anything else would be spoiling the movie. (We have recently tried the writer/director Fabián Bielinsky's last movie, "El Aura" (2005) which was much sharper than we could cope with). []

    House of Games (1987): David Mamet warming up with his gang. []

    Matchstick Men (2003): Great cast, meh movie. []

    and a TV-series well done: The British, Hustle []

    and in our "because I was young, guilty pleasure" category: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels [] -- why? because I was young... 8)

  6. I've only seen Ocean's Eleven, but that's a stellar pick. Almost went there myself.

  7. I've only seen part of Ocean's 11, I don't know why. I've heard recently on a podcast similar to what you said, that it's a very fun watch so I might have to go and watch it in full soon.

    1. You should definitely watch the whole thing. It's worth it!