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Love Is the Answer
WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) is a big, histrionic melodrama from director Douglas Sirk. And no one did big, histrionic melodramas better than Sirk. Its soap opera plot finds rock-like leading man Rock Hudson in love with practical Lauren Bacall. Problem is that Hudson's best friend (rock-like Robert Stack, who is less rock-like than usual and gets to emote doing his Academy Award-nominated "Best Drunk Performance" -- actually "Best Supporting Actor" performance) is also in love with her. He happens to be a multi-million-dollar oilman when he’s not drinking, and promises to stop drinking if she marries him. She does and poor Rock is left to suffer in silence (the role he was made for). But don’t worry, there is another woman for Rock: Dorothy Malone, as Stack's drunken sister, who suffers quite loudly at Rock’s platonic treatment of her. It all gets tangled up with questions of manhood (does excessive drinking cause low sperm count?) and murder, which is always a nifty way to end a film. The screenplay by George Zuckerman was based on Robert Wildser's 1945 novel, a thinly veiled account of the real-life scandal involving torch singer Libby Holman and her husband, tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds. Zuckerman shifted the locale from North Carolina to Texas, made the source of the family wealth oil rather than tobacco, and changed all the character names.
YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW (1963), a comic anthology film is a far cry from Italian director Vittorio de Sica's groundbreaking (and heartbreaking) The Bicycle Thieves (1947). It stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni as three different pairs of lovers (at three different social class levels) in three short movies. The first, and most farcical, is about a woman who avoids jail by having her husband constantly impregnate her; the second is about a bored rich woman who wants to use a former lover as a plaything; and the third finds Loren (in a short tale that could have been more aptly titled, "The Prostitute and the Priest") as a friendly hooker who turns the head of a cleric-in-training, while her mama's boy lover looks on aghast. Entertaining if a bit simple-minded, the film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 37th Academy Awards.
TIMER (2009) is a science-fiction romantic comedy film by Jac Schaeffer about a device that counts down to the moment you meet your soul mate. The movie seems to be saying that if you know who your soul mate is at the time you meet him/her, there is less pressure on the relationship – and this is a bad thing. However, even though most of the events seem to back up this idea, the conclusion of the movie seems to endorse the opposite view. Is messiness necessary for relationships? Or is there a perfect mate waiting for you out there? The movie tries to have it both ways and ends up a muddled mess.
BERNIE (2011) tells the story of Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede, a charming mortician who one days gets pushed too far and murders an 81-year-old woman (Shirley MacLaine) who employs him. The most unsual twist in this true story is that the townspeople in Bernie's southern down so liked Bernie and disliked her, that it was hard to get a local jury to convict the self-confessed killer. The movie is a dark comedy, with the actual townspeople playing themselves, and the hitherto unnoteworthy Jack Black turning in a phenomenal performance as Bernie.
October 21, 2012