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Wine, Greed, and Nazis on Trial
BOTTLE SHOCK (2008), based on the 1976 wine competition termed the "Judgment of Paris" when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test, is an entertaining comedy with Alan Rickman as a snobby Parisian wine shop owner named Steven Spurrier who arranges the contest. Spurrier travels to Napa Valley in search of contestants for his contest and gets involved with struggling vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) of Chateau Montelena. The story moves at a brisk pace, with entertaining secondary characters and a come-from-behind win that is as entertaining as it is predictable.
THE BIGAMIST (1953) was written by Collier Young, who went on to create TV’s wheelchair-bound detective Robert Ironside, as a vehicle (of sorts) for his wife Joan Fontaine, who plays Eve Graham (Joan Fontaine), wife of Harry (Edmond O'Brien). Problem is Harry has another wife in another town. This strange tale, from a story by Larry Marcusand Lou Schor, could have been called “The Sympathetic Bigamist,” or “Bigamists Are People, Too,” was directed by Ida Lupino, who curiously enough was previously married to the director Ida Lupino, which presumably gave him experience in handling two wives. Edmund Gwenn appears as a social worker, and there are a few in-joke references to Gwenn’s most famous role as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
RAT RACE (2001), directed by Jerry Zucker, features Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Lovitz, Lanai Chapman, Seth Green, Kathy Najimy, Dave Thomas, Vince Vieluf, John Cleese, Breckin Meyer, Kathy Bates, Wayne Knight, Dean Cain, and Amy Smart in a dumb, unofficial remake of 1963’s all-star farce, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The main plot revolves around six teams of people who are given the task of racing 563 miles from a Las Vegas casino to a Silver City, New Mexico train station, where a storage locker contains two million dollars. A few laughs, but it wasn’t too funny as a premise in 1963 and it’s not too funny now (with a lame, unbelievable ending). Gordon Gekko to the contrary, greed is not good, and here it is not a pleasant site.
EAST OF THE RIVER (1940) features John Garfield in another bad boy role as a gangster – but one who does the right thing in the end. Troubled youths Joe Lorenzo (Garfield) and his adopted brother Nick (William Luncdigan) grow into very different types: Joe a small-time hoodlum and Nick a well-regarded college graduate. Nick falls for Joe's girl Laurie (Brenda Marshall), and trouble erupts. Average, enlivened only by Garfield’s presence.
JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) Uninspired drama about the politics and personalities who appeared at the trial of Nazi war criminals, redeemed mostly by the stars, who appear primarily in cameos. Spencer Tracy heads the cast (which includes Marlene Dietrich as a sympathetic German; Burt Lancaster as a repentant Nazi; Judy Garland (!) as a nervous Jew; Montgomery Clift as a burnt-out victim) in a story that takes the most horrendous crimes of the century and makes them part of a high-toned soap opera. With future TV stars William Shatner (Star Trek) and Werner Klemperer (Hogan’s Heroes).
December 14, 2012