Topper (dir. Norman Z. MacLeod, 1937) – As with all of these, it was awhile ago, invoking the question, why bother? That’s fair. To answer, probably just as a record, in order to lessen the already-high odds of forgetting about them completely. So, this is just a silly little something that was hugely popular back in the day. It is both refreshing and disturbing to see characters in the 30s treating the issue of death with such levity, actually. In the years soon to follow (WWII and aftermath), this would change. This is in the vein of Arsenic and Old Lace, but not quite as well written. Produced by Hal Roach, you can see his Little Rascals fingerprints all over it.
Lady Chatterley (dir. Pascale Ferran, 2007) – Oh, dear. You can call it a literary adaptation of a great novelist, or something much closer to sex-kitsch. The most fascinating thing about this one is getting to see a reverent and painstaking adaptation of a book that probably didn’t deserve the praise it received, D.H. Lawrence’s novel of the same (or a similar) name. As far as cinematics go, this is adeptly done. As far as the content goes, it feels like a Dead Poet’s Society-type embrace of Romanticism even in the face of its glaring pitfalls. It’s fitting that this is in French, filmed by a French guy, despite taking place in England.
You Can’t Take It With You (dir. Frank Capra, 1938) – Dear, dear Frank Capra. This is, in practically every way, the pre-WWII part-one to It’s A Wonderful Life. The “problems” they encounter here are utterly trivial (other than token allusions to the Depression), and the comedy is textbook screwball. Great to have Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart share the screen – is it possible that she and Jimmy click better than she and Cary? Provocative. Lionel Barrymore is the polar opposite of his Mr. Potter in the later film. This may also be a kind of precursor to the family comedies that made My Big Fat Greek Wedding such a formulaic success.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Pod People (1983/1991)- Excepting the incomparable Mitchell with Joe Don Baker (and with Hobgoblins close behind), this is the best MST3K episode. We’re watching an ultra-cheap ripoff of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. fused with a seventies teen flick. They combine to form ideal material for riffing: just enough structure and bad special effects to keep it interesting, and more than enough filmic incompetence that it deserves all that it has coming to it.
Apollo 13 (dir. Ron Howard, 1995) – Golden material for someone like Ron Howard, that great cinematic manipulator of emotions. It’s tailored to those who remember the historic event, and intended to function precisely as the historic event to those of us unborn at the time. As if Howard thought, this was such a big deal that we should relive it up-close, and recreate it for our children. Archival news footage is spliced into the film with reckless abandon, as the film insists that its content is real despite its form being quite unreal.