Thursday, June 22, 2017

Love It or Shove It: Classic Movie Edition

In this new occasional feature, we'll make a statement about classic cinema and then ask our panel of movie experts to "love it" (they agree) or "shove it" (they disagree). It should be a fun way to get some different perspectives. This month, our expert panel is comprised of: Connie Metzinger from Silver Scenes, John Greco from Twenty Four Frames, and Cafe staff member Toto.

So, let's get started!

Is Nicholson's film a classic?
1.  The best films of the 1970s--such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Godfather Part II--are classic films in every sense of the term.

Connie:  Shove it. I appreciate 1970s films as much as 1940s films, but no matter how stellar the picture may be, it's not a classic in my book.

Toto:  Love it. An important element of classic films is that they hold up over time as evidenced by the powerful performances of Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Classic films also impact us socially. Though personally not a fan of The Godfather saga, it continues to influence culture as evidenced by The Sopranos and parodies on MADtv.

John:  Love it. For me, the classic film did not end with the demise of the studio system.  It continued with many of the 1970s filmmakers, who grew up during the studio heydays and fell in love with Hollywood. Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films are brilliant cinema. They embody the visual technique of old Hollywood with a modern touch. Coppola and his films are just one example. Others include Brian DePalma, who mixed Hitchcock suspense with modern day visual cinematic techniques (Sisters, Carrie). Martin Scorsese's love of classic Hollywood is well known, and it comes through in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and New York, New York. Woody Allen's comedies of the 70s are revisionist takes of Hollywood’s classic romantic and slapstick comedies. Finally, Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show, Nickelodeon and What’s Up Doc? all pay tribute to Hollywood’s golden years. The filmmakers of the 70s embraced the old Hollywood as much as they rebelled and changed it.

2.  Alfred Hitchcock's best decade was the 1950s, which included Rear Window, Vertigo, and North By Northwest.

Connie:  Love it. It took the master of suspense twenty years to perfect his craft and he reached his directorial prime in the 1950s.

Toto:  Love it. I like every Hitchcock film from the 1950s and that isn't a statement I can say for all directors.

John:  Love it. Alfred Hitchcock made brilliant films in every decade, but few filmmakers, if any, had a run of four masterpieces in a ten year period with Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest. Any other filmmaker would find this hard to beat.  In addition, during that same decade of the 1950s, Hitch made lesser, but still fascinating, films like Stage Fright, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much and two underrated gems The Trouble with Harry and I Confess. Even Hitchcock’s own 1930s period which is filled with some brilliant work does not match his 1950s output.

Cary Grant at age 62.
3.  Cary Grant retired too soon. He was 62 when he made his last film, Walk Don't Run, in 1966.

Connie:  Shove it. Cary Grant didn't have outstanding acting abilities and if he were to have continued to perform into his 70s and 80s he would have had to rely solely on his talent and not his debonair charm or good looks. Besides, it would have been too sad to see him end his career in a cheap horror film as so many actors did.

Toto:  Shove it. I love Cary Grant! He entertained people all of his life. Retirement at 62, when he became a father for the first time, was well deserved.

John:  Hate it. Retirement was a personal choice on Cary Grant’s part, so it’s hard to argue. He didn't like the limelight. After retirement, he kept himself busy with family and various business dealings (he was on a couple of corporate boards.) As a fan, I don't like it that Grant left the screen so early; that's where the "hate it'" comes from. I felt we were cheated. However, I can understand it on a personal level that he wanted out. He was still a big star, and he left it all behind. That in itself takes some guts.
Sisters Olivia and Joan.

4. Based on the body of her work, Olivia de Havilland was a better actress than her sister Joan Fontaine.

Connie:  Love it. Joan Fontaine was an extremely talented actress, but unlike her sister she didn't have the skill in selecting noteworthy parts that showcased her talent, and that's an important part of being an actress. Joan would often follow a marvelous performance in a great movie by a mediocre role in a mediocre comedy.

Toto:  Love it. From Captain Blood through They Died With Their Boots On, I really enjoyed the eight pairings of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. She was enchanting in Gone With the Wind and left us guessing in My Cousin Rachel.

John:  Love it. At first, I was jumping back and forth on who I thought was better. However, while Joan Fontaine was excellent in both Suspicion and Rebecca, I am not sure she ever did anything as challenging as sister Olivia's work in The Snake Pit and The Heiress. During her career, Olivia de Havilland either went after more difficult roles than Fontaine or was fortunate enough have them handed to her by the studio. Either way, I ended up leaning toward the older sister.


  1. Grant retired in the early fifties. Came back for It Takes a Thief.In the sixties he commissioned a Phantom of the Opera script, which was eventually done by Herbert Lom.

    He was naturally concerned about the age disparity between him and his leading ladies - and possibly their quality. He's bored with Doris Day in their film - you can practically see him "day"dreaming of Irene Dunne.

  2. What planet is this "Connie" person from, who asserts that Cary Grant had no acting talent? He was easily one of the most talented actors of all time. Nobody else executed the range required in screwball comedies such as Bringing up Baby, The Awful Truth, and His Girl Friday, to the dramatic chops in Only Angels Have Wings, Notorious, None But the Lonely Heart, and An Affair to Remember, to the complicated confident protagonist in Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest.

  3. A great discussion, with many good points raised. Of course, your provocative statements make for lively debate, especially the statement about what makes a classic film.

    Really looking forward to this series, Rick. :)

  4. This is a great idea for film fans. We all bring unique experiences to the movie watching table. I find that sometimes I like a film better and sometimes less with repeated viewings. Classics, however, are reexperienced with joy and contentment.

  5. Great concept, Rick! Love the statements you concocted for discussion as well as the responses of your experts. The statements and diverse opinions get one's own "little gray cells" working.

    I tend to think of Hitchcock's Golden Decade as beginning in 1951 with "Strangers on a Train" and ending in 1960 with "Psycho" many amazing films and outright masterpieces in that time frame.

    And I, too, will stand up for Cary Grant as a gifted actor. No one could top his comedic performances - and then you see him in "Notorious" and realize he also had a fine ability to play more complex, darker characters.

    Looking forward to future installments of this feature!