Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Best of May/June 2015

It Happened One Night was a totally unexpected delight. It's one of the finest road trip romances, and the template for many a romcom thereafter. It starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert as a pair of reluctant fellow travelers, on their way to the Big Apple. He's a failing journalist; she's an heiress on the run. When he discovers her secret, they strike a deal: he'll ensure she gets to New York if she'll let him have the story. Inevitably, once the two begin to overcome their prejudices, love finds a way. Made in 1934, the film has held up incredibly well - notably, it won five Oscars (Best...Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Writing), and even now has a 98% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

12 Angry Men is one of those things that could have been deathly boring. The plot is this: a jury has just finished hearing arguments on a murder case. A young, poor hooligan is on trial for murdering his father. When the jury takes the vote, every man but Henry Fonda condemns the boy. Fonda dissents, pleading a reasonable doubt. In many ways, the rest of the film is a love letter to that legal concept - it's never important if someone else did it, merely whether there's a reasonable doubt. It's fascinating how each character's objections are slowly whittled down by a mixture of effects, and somehow, despite the large cast, everyone makes his small bit memorable.


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I've been reviewing here, is simply one of the best things on TV in ages. After the disillusionment of watching The Hobbit, Gracepoint and Broadchurch 2.0 one after another, I had nearly lost faith in anything remaining true to the source material. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell resurrected my faith, and also quite a few people, in the course of its seven-week run. It wasn't perfect, but it was extraordinary.

I'm not normally a huge scifi fan, but The X-Files is more a mishmash of spy thriller, cop drama, and paranormal investigation, a more intriguing mix. I managed to miss it the first time around, because I was busy with Kindergarten, but what with the upcoming reunion series, I figured I needed to do my research. What's the verdict? Well, the truth is, it's out there. It's fun and sometimes melodramatic, sometimes a little moving, and the premise - two FBI agents investigating government alien cover-ups or whatever weird stuff the writers throw at them - is broad enough to allow half a dozen different genres episodes to spice up the the more serious stuff. And yeah, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson do have chemistry - almost as much as Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Hannah Long

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