Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Meltdowns

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Participation is easy: Just pick three movies that fit the week's theme and write a bit about them. It's fun - promise!

This week on Thursday Movie Picks: Meltdowns. These can be lots of fun or very scary to watch, depending. But the greatest ones are the ones we watch happen in slow motion, not necessarily knowing what we're watching until it's too late. Ones like...

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950) The fall of Norma Desmond, Greatest Film Star Of Them All (TM) is a true horror story, and Gloria Swanson's tremendous portrayal is a thing to behold. That famous final scene has become iconic for a reason - the direct address to the camera implicating all of us, the little people in the dark, in creating the monster she became and the pitiful thing she's become. One of the most brilliant films Hollywood has ever produced.

American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999) "I'm just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose," says Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham. And, well, he actually does have something to lose: his life. This takedown of the seemingly perfect suburbia of America at the turn of the millennium is pitched VERY high, but the moments that work are all-timers: Mena Suvari doing the cheer routine, Lester serving his wife and her lover at the drive-thru window, Annette Bening singing "Don't Rain on My Parade", and that KILLER dinner table scene, a perfect meltdown from both husband and wife. And of course, there's also the video of that damned plastic bag, which you either love or hate.

Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011) Annie is having a rough go of it. In the downturn of the economy she had to close her bakery, and now she has no money and is working at a job she hates. Oh, and her best friend is marrying an apparently pretty wealthy guy. AND wants Annie to be her maid of honor. And the pressure, well... let's just say it gets to her. Kristen Wiig's performance brilliantly toes the line between making us laugh with Annie and laugh at her, often at the same time. The entire cast is phenomenal, but none more so than Rose Byrne's delicious take on the wealthy, effortlessly likable (and effortlessly bitchy) Helen, and scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy, in the role that won her a well-deserved Oscar nomination.


  1. American Beauty is my all time favorite film and I love Sunset Boulevard. Great picks! I'm in that tiny minority that didn't like Bridesmaids lol

    1. Well, you're in good company on not liking Bridesmaids - my mom didn't like it either, and I really thought she would.

  2. You can't do better than Sunset Blvd. Sad, funny, tragic and fascinating I can't pass it on TV without stopping and watching to the end. Holden gets short shrift because Swanson and von Stroheim are so powerful but he is pitch perfect as well.

    American Beauty is too dark to return to often but it is brilliantly acted. That paper bag scene was seen as so cutting edge at the time and has such a total cliche now.

    While it fits in well with the week I LOATHED Bridesmaids.

    This was an easy week for me, all three came to me very quickly.

    They Drive by Night (1940)-Joe and Paul Fabini (George Raft & Humphrey Bogart) are wildcat truckers struggling to make enough to get their own business off the ground. When Paul is seriously injured in an accident Joe goes to work for old friend Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale) the owner of a successful trucking firm and all seems well. The problems start when Ed’s much younger wife Lana (a riveting Ida Lupino) discovers that Joe is seriously involved with Cassie (Ann Sheridan) and allows her (unreciprocated) desire for Joe to take extreme measures leading to betrayal and death. Rough, tough Warner’s drama climaxes in a high grade courtroom meltdown.

    Mommie Dearest (1981)-Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) is a huge star at a crossroads in her life and career. Released after decades by MGM and between husbands she decides to start the family she’s always wanted by adopting several children with the oldest being Christina (Mara Hobel as a child/Diana Scarwid as an adult). Madly ambitious and competitive she is not suited to motherhood and rides the children relentlessly meting out hard punishments for small infractions. Among these is a spectacular meltdown late at night when she discovers that the young Christiana has failed to take her expensive dresses off wire hangers from the dry cleaners. While Crawford was a tough customer and a harsh taskmaster and child abuse is no joke this hatchet job reeks of score settling and has been largely discredited. Faye however pours her guts into the role giving almost a kabuki performance.

    Falling Down (1993)-William Foster known through most of the film by his license plate moniker D-FENS (Michael Douglas) an unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society abandons his car in LA gridlock and begins to psychotically and violently lash out against most everyone he encounters as he makes his way across the city to attend his daughter’s birthday party. The entire film is really one long meltdown.

    1. So Mommie Dearest, strange beast of a film that it is, WAS on my list, until I came up with the angle of watching a character meltdown basically throughout the whole film. Which KIND OF happens in Mommie Dearest, except that the big breakdown comes with the hanger scene which is... halfway through? ANYWAY, Faye is just beyond great in that role... literally. She is completely beyond notions of good and bad.

      I'm talking a lot about Mommie Dearest because I haven't seen the others, although I have heard of They Drive By Night.

  3. I picked Sunset last week and it is brilliant, simply put. American Beauty seems to have all sorts of breakdowns and lyrical poetry in my book. Bridesmaids is just downright hilarious in my book. The scene in the exclusive shop made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants...almost. Great picks!

  4. I watched Sunset Boulevard last week and I loved it. I really liked the other two too and I almost picked American Beauty myself.


    Love that movie. McCarthy's nomination is one of my all time favorites

  6. I've seen all your picks and enjoyed them, but they totally escaped me when I made my picks.