Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - All in the Family Edition: Father-Daughter Relationships

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. If you'd like to join (and you should), just pick three films that fit the week's them and post to your blog!
This month's "All in the Family Edition" of Thursday Movie Picks is focused on Father-Daughter Relationships. Being neither a father nor a daughter I have nothing to say in general about these kind of relationships, except that they're not always centered around a protective papa and a pony-wanting little girl. Here are my three picks for this week.
In A World... (Lake Bell, 2013) The story of a vocal coach and her famous voice-over actor father, actress Lake Bell's debut as a writer-director was one of the most pleasant surprises in recent years. As Bell's Carol tries to come into her own as a woman and as a professional, she inadvertently lands a trailer voice-over gig, earning the ire of her father (Fred Melamed, perfectly cast) and his protegé (the ever-reliable Ken Marino). Indignant that such a prominent gig would go to a woman, Daddy vows to come out of retirement to do the voice-over himself, and does just that when he finds out it's his own daughter who is the mysterious woman in question. Funny, smart, and cynical all in just the right amount, In A World... (yes, it's named after the immortal trailer line made famous by the late Don LaFontaine) has a lot to say about Hollywood and its attitudes toward women, in addition to the loving, contentious relationship between family members in the same professional arena.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012) Probably my favorite film of this decade, Benh Zeitlin's first full-length feature is a miracle. Adapted by Lucy Alibar from her play Juicy and Delicious, this lovely, lyrical film takes place in a Louisiana bayou in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Wink and his daughter Hushpuppy (played by revelatory first-time actors Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis, who won a deserved Oscar nomination for her stunning work) love their life in The Bathtub, primitive though we may find it. And when government-type outsiders try to take them away, they fight to stay. This film is unspeakably gorgeous on every level, and the incredibly lived-in performances make this thorny, touching father-daughter relationship one of the all-time greats.
To Kill A Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962) Perhaps the greatest page-to-screen adaptation of all time, this adaptation of Harper Lee's novel is pitch perfect, and nowhere morseso than in Gregory Peck's wonderful performance as Southern lawyer and all-around good man Atticus Finch. Though the story is told from his young daughter Scout's point of view, so it could just as easily be a brother-sister movie, the heart of the film is in the relationship between father and daughter. And a more honest encapsulation of the perfect parent-child relationship you won't find in any film before or since.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blind Spot #4: In The Heat of the Night

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Ryan at The Matinee.
Here's the thing about Norman Jewison's In The Heat of the Night: I always thought it was Carroll O'Connor, TV's Archie Bunker, who played the white Southern cop opposite Sydney Poitier's Virgil Tibbs. It's not. It's actually Rod Steiger. And every time I see him in this film, I can't get O'Connor out of my head, because Steiger looks so much like him. AND, as if to add to my confusion, O'Connor played this part in the 80s TV series based on this film. Mind = BLOWN. It's not necessarily an impediment to watching the film, but it causes such a weird misfire in my brain whenever I see it that I feel like I have to mention it right off the bat, kind of like a disclaimer.

None of this is to disparage Steiger's Oscar-winning performance, which lives up to its reputation. He's incredible here, as the police chief of Sparta, Mississippi who slowly (VERY slowly) wakes up to the fact that maybe, just maybe, African Americans are worthy of the same trust and respect as white people. Or maybe just this one particular African American, played by Sidney Poitier in an incendiary performance. Poitier's barely controlled rage throughout his performance as Virgil Tibbs, Philadelphian police officer caught up in a murder investigation in the racially hostile South is quite a thing to behold.
I was inclined to watch In The Heat of the Night as part of the Blind Spot series after reading Mark Harris's staggering Pictures At A Revolution, a brilliant exploration of the films in the running for Oscar's Best Picture of 1967. I had seen the other four (Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?) but not the eventual winner. The book is a must for anyone who loves movies, particularly anyone who loves the Oscars, and is quite a marvel in how it fuses Hollywood history with the story America at large in this time period, one of its most tumultuous. Harris does let his typical journalistic integrity slip a little, though, in that he makes it pretty clear that he would pick Bonnie and Clyde for the win. I'm not sure I agree with that (my pick would probably be The Graduate), but watching this film now, I can't help but agree with the conventional wisdom that this was Hollywood's attempt to keep on the better side of history, while still remaining utterly conservative.

It's not that In The Heat of the Night is a bad film (like its closest analogue the not-quite-as-woeful-as-some-say-but-still-nowhere-near-Oscar-level Crash), it just isn't a particularly revelatory one. While it does handle a very thorny, tricky subject with an almost surprising level of realism (unlike Stanley Kramer's rose-colored-glasses look at similar subject matter that same year, also starring Poitier), there isn't a whole lot of nuance. It paints in rather bolder strokes than I was expecting, given its reputation. For every scene like the famous slapping scene (which prompts a brilliant nearly silent, confused response from Steiger) there's a scene like the also-famous "They call me MISTER TIBBS" scene, which is pitched so high as to almost approach camp. But the atmosphere courtesy of master cinematographer Haskell Wexler, as well as the careful character work done by Steiger and Poitier, keep the film firmly grounded in reality at all times.
But even still, In The Heat of the Night is a murder mystery police procedural, and not a great one. There's tension in the film's most racially-charged scenes, but the murder mystery itself doesn't have any real sense of urgency or danger to it. What makes the film worthy is mostly in the lead performances of Steiger and Poitier. The question then becomes: Are the racial elements and performances enough to lift it above the average police flick? The answer is: Yes and no.

It's near-impossible to separate In The Heat of the Night from its time and place. It might lose something with time, especially in the wake of all the many police procedural stories we've seen since, but in its way it is a groundbreaking film. All the evidence you need of that is to look at Sidney Poitier's filmography: How many times before this did he get to play a competent, but imperfect professional who still got to speak truth to power? Hell, how many times did he get to do so AFTER this? It's not a perfect film about race relations in the 60s, but all things considered it's probably the best we could have gotten: Neither completely cynical nor completely optimistic, the film suggests that everyone has their own prejudices to overcome, and the only way to do so is through respect. I may not love In The Heat of the Night, but I definitely respect it. I may not fully support its Oscar win, but I certainly don't begrudge it.

In The Heat of the Night
Year: 1967
Directed by: Norman Jewison
Screenplay by: Stirling Silliphant (based on the novel by John Ball)
Starring: Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Lee Grant, Warren Oates, Larry Gates, Beah Richards
Oscar: 5 WINS - Best Picture, Best Actor (Steiger), Best Adapted Screenplay (Silliphant), Best Sound, Best Editing (Hal Ashby). Nominations for Best Director (Jewison lost to Mike Nichols for The Graduate) and Best Sound Effects (lost to The Dirty Dozen)
Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Superhero Movies

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. It's incredibly easy to join - just pick three movies that fit the category for the week and post your link to the Wanderer's blog!

I was never really into comic books as a kid, but I was into Saturday morning cartoons. So when I was a kid my favorite superheroes were, far and away, the X-Men. I was a bit obsessed. I even had decks for the Marvel Overpower card game. I never felt the need, though, to see them in live action on the big screen. And truth be told, I have seen most of the superhero movies of the past few years out of some combination of boredom and duty: Everyone else is seeing them, they're part of the national cultural conversation, so I guess I have to see them, too. Not that I haven't enjoyed most of them (largely due to star power - Robert Downey, Jr. is compulsively watchable as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth is hot as FUCK as Thor, the Chrises Evans and Pratt has never been more charismatic than as Captain America and Starlord, respectively), but I almost never WANT to go see them. Especially since there are just so damn many of them crowding the multiplexes practically year-round.

But here are three really, really good superhero movies, from the time before the cinema was All Superheroes, All The Time, in order from least to most realistic.
The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004) Look, by rights, this list should just be The Incredibles 1-3, but for some stupid reason Pixar hasn't made a sequel to LITERALLY THE ONLY FILM THEY'VE MADE THAT ENDS WITH A CALL FOR A SEQUEL. Whatever. Director Bird is apparently working on a script for a sequel now, so hopefully we won't have to wait too long to see the Parr family (and Fro-Zone) onscreen again. This is just a genius flick, with great scene ("NO CAPES!") after great scene ("WHERE'S MY SUPERSUIT?") after great scene ("That was TOTALLY WICKED!") and great, fully-fleshed-out characters. Some people say it's Pixar's best, and I'm not so sure, but it's definitely up there. And, God help me, I can't WAIT for the sequel.
Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan, 2000) Far and away Shyamalan's most sophisticated film, I think Unbreakable might be a far more important film than we give it credit for. This was the first superhero film to unquestionably take place in the real world, with very real consequences to its characters' actions - a style which has become more pronounced in recent years thanks to Christopher Nolan's Diminishing Returns Dark Knight trilogy. But this is where it really started, and what sets Unbreakable apart is that for the most part, it ISN'T a superhero movie - it's a mystery with a slight supernatural edge (frankly, the big superhero/villain reveal very nearly unmoors the whole movie; it's only saved by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's great performances). When this first came out, I appreciated it more than I enjoyed it, but looking back, this is Shyamalan's best film.
Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) I know. I KNOW. But people, Erin Brockovich is an ACTUAL REAL LIFE superhero: A single mother with no job experience who through sheer force of will and personality becomes a legal assistant and single-handedly brings down one of the nation's largest utilities (plus, I mean, six hundred and thirty-four blowjobs in five days. - COME ON - who wouldn't be tired?). And couldn't we use more of those? And couldn't we use more films this thornily entertaining? And couldn't we use more of the crackling chemistry between Julia Roberts and Albert Finney? Another film that is just perfect scene after perfect scene from start to finish.

BONUS PICK
Chronicle (Josh Trank, 2012) Okay fine, if that last one was too much of a stretch, what about this one? A lot of people said this found-footage teen flick was "really" a superhero origin story. I'm not sure I buy it, but Chronicle (about a trio of high school friends who find a UFO and, after touching it, gain mysterious powers, the development of which they capture on video) is one of the most surprising films of the last few years. Clever, fun, and with ingenious visual effects, it's a blast. One of those movies that makes you excited to see what everyone involved is going to do next.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Police Movies

Posted as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. You should join us! Just pick three movies based on the theme Wanderer has chosen for the week; it's that easy!

I'm not as excited about this week's topic as I was about last week's. Police Movies. Enh. It's not that I don't like them, just that I don't seek them out. I'll watch one if it gets good reviews, but otherwise I could mostly take 'em or leave 'em. So I decided to have a little fun with this week's picks. I hope you enjoy!
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975) - In which a bunch of weirdos dressed in Arthurian garb travel around the English countryside reenacting the bloody quest for the Holy Grail, and the police are in hot pursuit!
Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) - In which a hot bisexual murder suspect flaunts her womanhood while being interrogated in front of a roomful of cops, and they all completely lose their minds and forget how to do their jobs.
Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) - In which they all did it, and Communism was just a red herring.

Hope to see you next week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Dance Movies

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. To join, just pick three films from the genre she's chosen for the week and write a bit about them.

YES. This is what I LIVE for. It is, after all the name of my blog:

DANCE MOVIES

I will see ANY dance movie. You name every single one that has come out in the last twenty years, good or bad, and I've seen it. Here are three of my favorites, with my favorite dance scene (that I can find) from each.
Take The Lead (Liz Friedlander, 2006) Antonio Banderas changes the lives of inner city students THROUGH THE POWER OF DANCE! No really, he does. Because this is a true story! Also known as the first time Yaya DaCosta, America's Next Top Model runner-up, showed the world she could act. In this scene, Banderas has had it with trying to make his detention students do some kind of dance other than hip hop bump-and-grind, so he brings in one of his best, sexiest students to show them just what he can teach them.
Shall We Dance? (Masayuki Suo, 1996) Don't bother with the 2004 Hollywood remake with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere. Just don't. Because this is the real thing, and this is where it's AT. Genuinely sweet and funny, with a heart as big as any movie could hope for, this Japanese gem is very nearly perfect. In this scene, Shohei Sugiyama is taking a dance lesson from the lovely woman he has seen in the window as he passes by on his way home from work, and she and a fellow student teach him how to really dance - not just with your body, but with your heart. And by the end of the movie, his heart truly has opened, in the most beautiful way.
Step Up Revolution (Scott Speer, 2012) The Step Up films have basically only gotten more and more ridiculous over time, but they've proven themselves to be a playground for some of our most talented choreographers, and have some shockingly great cinematography to match. The fourth in the series, Revolution, is by far the craziest in terms of plot (it involves an "underground" group of flash mobbers trying to win a YouTube competition because reasons) and probably has the most tenuous grip on reality. BUT, the dancing? OUT OF THIS WORLD. I included the Art Gallery scene as part of my entry for Andrew's Fistful of Moments blogathon, and it's a stunner, but when push comes to shove, I would probably pick this one as my favorite from the whole movie. Maybe even from the whole series. "The Mob" has finally decided to use their dancing to actually try and effect change, and do so in pretty stunning fashion.

BONUS PICK
Mad Hot Ballroom (Marilyn Agrelo, 2005) The documentary that inspired Take the Lead. And really, it's all you could ever want in a documentary. The kids are ADORABLE (the crowd goes wild when they start doing the rumba, and you will too - with good reason!), it looks at real social problems through a unique lens, and shows the positive impact this program has on these kids' lives. Keep the arts in schools, people. They do a world of good.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Johnny Guitar

Written (and this week I use the term very loosely) as part of The Film Experience's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, hosted as always by our benevolent overlord, Nathaniel.

Look, there are many things to love about Nicholas Ray's incredible, impossible western melodrama, Johnny Guitar: Joan Crawford's costumes. Joan Crawford's hair. Mercedes McCambridge's unhinged, nearly Faye Dunaway-as-Joan Crawford-level performance. And anyone would be perfectly justified in talking about the women in Johnny Guitar, because women so rarely get to take center stage in westerns. And anyone would be perfectly justified in talking about genre conventions, or the difference in masculine/feminine aesthetics/gender roles and how the film upholds and/or subverts them. It's a brilliant, incredibly entertaining to watch film.

But, as much as I love Johnny Guitar and Nicholas Ray, and as much as I love actresses, and as much as I love Crawford and ADORE McCambridge's performance here, I could give two shits about them right now, because Sterling Hayden.

STERLING
FUCKING
HAYDEN

He's such a fucking MAN and I just want him to look at me with those eyes and sing to me with that guitar (I do not care one bit if he can't really play) and touch me with those hands. He's one of my all-time biggest actor crushes and I do not care that the whole point of Hit Me With Your Best Shot is supposed to be about looking at a film and its cinematography and how one works in service of the other and how film is an incredible art form because...
 
Sterling Hayden.

But I suppose I do have something to say, because my pick for Best Shot I really do feel encapsulates a lot about this crazy film.
BEST SHOT
It just makes me laugh. Sterling Hayden, epitome of masculinity, holding a dainty, PERFECTLY CLEAN, bright blue & white teacup. If that isn't the whole of Johnny Guitar in one image, then I don't know what is.

...except that OH WAIT, maybe I do, because this film also contains this classic piece of WTF:
Best Shot Runner-Up
No, seriously. WHAT. THE. FUCK.

If you haven't seen Johnny Guitar, I don't blame you. The film has been notoriously difficult to find on DVD, and even then mostly in not-very-good prints. But it is out on Blu-Ray now, as well as on iTunes and Amazon Instant apparently, so now you have no excuse. Do yourself a favor and watch it. It is "out there" in a crazy, melodramatic, completely unique way.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Fistful of Moments Blogathon

So, the wonderful Andrew over at A Fistful of Films made this post the other week about 10 Great Cinematic Moments, and obviously it was incredibly inspiring - one of those posts that remind you why you love films and writing about them and sharing that love with others. So much so that I told him in a comment that it would make for an incredible blogathon. Thankfully, he obliged, and now there will be even more inspiration to spread around! This is what he originally said about Great Cinematic Moments:
We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think "man, this is what the movies are all about". We relive those moments in our mind's eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it's edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it's actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.
I, uh, started making this list the day the blogathon was announced and found that I could not stop. And as more and more people started posting their lists, I began cursing myself for not including certain things! As usual with lists - even unranked, representative lists as opposed to ranked, ordered, definitive lists - I want it to be perfect. So I kept adding, and then replacing, and moving around... and finally I just said FUCK IT. Here are 50 Great Cinematic Moments, some of my favorite moments in movies. For your reading (and viewing, where possible) pleasure.

Here are the ten I mentioned on the original post:
Amelie turns into a waterfall (Amélie, Jen-Pierre Jeunet) Takes a feeling we've all had, visualizes it singularly and perfectly.
Elephant Love Medley (Moulin Rouge!, Baz Luhrmann) Like love exploding all over the screen.
Norman cleans up (Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock) The single greatest act of audience manipulation EVER. Even now, after I've seen it a million times, I'm still holding my breath throughout this entire ordeal, hoping Norman doesn't get caught. Don't forget the paper, Norman! How does Hitchcock DO this?!?
"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" (The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson) Chilling. Nothing else in Middle Earth has ever topped this.
First jump to light speed in the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars, George Lucas) Even on a tiny screen, you feel it.
Race along the bridge (Jules et Jim, Francois Truffaut) This film is alive and never more so than here.
Dream Sequence (Sherlock, Jr., Buster Keaton) How did such a perfect meta-cinematic moment arrive so early in the history of the medium? A triumphant feat of editing.
La Marseillaise (Casablanca, Michael Curtiz) Not just perfectly shot and edited, but perfectly placed in the narrative.
Angkor Wat (In The Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai) As swoon-worthy as Wong's images are, his use of sound is just as impactful, nowhere more so than here. A secret told, a promise kept, a soul cleansed.
One last playtime (Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich) I could go as far as saying the entire last twenty minutes of this (as far back as the incinerator scene). Also, that now-famous Boyhood "I just thought there would be more" thing? Pixar did it first. And better. But the last scene is really where it's at. Cue crying in 5... 4.. 3...

...and here are ten more:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Teen Comedies

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. To participate, just pick three movies related to the week's theme. It's easy and fun!

This week's Thursday Movie Picks theme is Teen Comedies. So many and yet so few to choose from!
Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004) This Tina Fey-scripted, Lindsay Lohan-starring film is now a bona fide classic, and thank God for that. It's one of the funniest, smartest, most rewatchable films of the '00s. The quotable lines are endless, the comic performances are iconic (Amy Poehler and Rachel McAdams - funniest mother-daughter pair ever?), and the visual gags are untoppable (THE BUS)! And it's also surprisingly resonant - check out what I wrote about it for The Film Experience's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series a while back. In a perfect world, this would have gotten Oscar noms for Fey's script as well as the performances of Rachel McAdams and/or Amanda Seyfried.
Dick (Andrew Fleming, 1999) If you haven't seen this, man are you in for a treat. The title refers, of course, to Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon, 37th President of the United States. Betsy and Arlene (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams, at their teenage best) are just two regular teenage girls in the 1970s, trying to win a date with Tad Hamilton heartthrob singer Bobby Sherman. But instead, they witness part of the Watergate scandal. In order to buy their silence, Nixon makes them the Official Presidential Dog Walkers. But then they discover the President's not-so-nice side, and decide to get revenge as only teenage girls can. Dick is hilarious and surprisingly sweet, with killer performances from Williams and Dunst, a very funny cameo from Will Ferrell, and a great, atypical Nixon in Dan Hedaya. And also: AMAZING costumes.
Whip It (Drew Barrymore, 2009) Okay this MIGHT be stretching it a bit, but Whip It is so good that I don't really care. Ellen Page is typically wonderful as the directionless teen Bliss, whose mother (Marcia Gay Harden) makes her compete in beauty pageants... because that's what you do in Texas when your mother is a former beauty queen. But one day, she and her best friend Pash go to check out this thing called Roller Derby, and Bliss is so excited by it that she tries out for a team - and makes it. And, as is typical in both teen flicks and sports flicks, she learns more about Who She Is and Becomes A Better Person in the process. Drew Barrymore directed this, and also features as Smashley Simpson, a member of Bliss's roller derby team, the Hurl Scouts - along with Kristen Wiig (Maggie Mayhem), Zoe Bell (Bloody Holly), Juliette Lewis (Iron Maven), and Ari Graynor (Eva Destruction). The film is alternately tough and sweet, just like its heroine, and it's good enough that it makes you wish Barrymore would hop back into the director's chair sometime soon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Mommie Dearest

Written as part of the series hosted by Nathaniel, the benevolent overseer of The Film Experience.

Some films loom so large over the cultural consciousness that you feel as though you already have an opinion about them before you even see them. Mommie Dearest, the adaptation of Christina Crawford's memoir about her mother, (in)famous movie star Joan Crawford, is one of those films. It is a camp classic! Faye Dunaway is incredible as Joan! But the movie itself is terrible! So bad it's good! It ruined Dunaway's career! It soiled the memory of Joan Crawford! The thing about those films, though, is that preconceived notions are quite often their undoing.

Mommie Dearest isn't great cinema by any stretch, but outside of a few scenes it's hard to read it as a camp classic, either. It's true that Dunaway goes big - VERY big - in her efforts to play one of the most larger-than-life movie stars ever to grace Hollywood, but outside of one scene (you know the one), I wouldn't say it's TOO big. Joan Crawford was a big personality. And to the eyes of a child, she was likely even bigger.

And that's the ultimate undoing of Mommie Dearest as good cinema - its source material. Joan may be the main character, but we're seeing her through the eyes of Christina, her adopted daughter, one who may or may not have very good reason to be traumatized by this woman, and who very likely has every reason to want to take her down. Whether what we see is true, "true", or false we may never know. But what is clear is that this is not a film that goes big in order to find bigger, deeper truths about its subjects - it's a film that goes big because its main subject was HUGE. It goes big because IT HAS TO.

Which is why my choice for best shot kind of surprised me. It comes very early on, but when I saw it I immediately held onto it, because it just felt right. After reaching the end of the film, reflecting on it, reading about it, and rewatching some of the better scenes again, I realized that this shot is the key to the whole film.
BEST SHOT
In Mommie Dearest, we're not seeing Joan Crawford as she was. We're seeing her through several filters - her daughter, her daughter's book, the screenplay, Dunaway's performance, the director's vision - enough layers to be like frosted glass. We can barely see her through not just all that has been put between her and us, but all that's been put between the film and us. Neither Crawford, Dunaway's performance, nor the film can stand on their own, without a filter between them and us. If even they ever could. There's so much history and cultural knowledge that came between this film and even audiences who saw it when it was originally released - and has only accumulated since - that I'm not sure it was ever possible to see this "blind," completely devoid of any preconceived notions of Joan, Christina, and even the film itself.

(It's also the closest Dunaway comes in the film to looking like the younger version of Crawford she's supposed to be playing at this point. When she has to play older, the resemblance and performance are uncanny, but she looks far too harsh for most of the first part of the film to look like the woman who was Mildred Pierce.)

*                          *                          *

Okay I couldn't let this go without bringing this up: I know everyone talks about that "NO WIRE HANGERS!" scene, but what's REALLY scary is what comes after that, when Joan makes Christina scrub the bathroom floor. I could only watch it with my hand attempting to cover my mouth - my jaw hit the ground the second the soap started flying everywhere and WOULD NOT CLOSE until about five minutes after it was over. It's the scariest, most hilarious, most hilariously frightening, most frighteningly hilarious thing I've ever seen, very nearly reaching the heights of the sublime.
Were I more sure of Mommie Dearest's quality or lack thereof - which I am still very much in debate over - I might have chosen it as my best shot. Because even all the preparation and cultural conditioning in the world did jack shit to prepare me for THAT particular shitshow.