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Tag Archives: Henry Fonda

Flick Clique: November 20-26

The selections in this week’s Flick Clique all date from Monday-Wednesday of last week. We were out of town most of the time since then, spending Thanksgiving at Redondo Beach, California with my parents. The folks, who live here locally in Arizona, have made turkey day a tradition at a cozy seafood market in Redondo for the past twenty years or so. Don’t ask me why they chose that particular place, but it was a funky experience cracking open freshly steamed crab with a bunch of Asian families sitting at tables around us. We were joined by my aunt and her husband and my cousin and her s.o. Friday was spent exploring nearby Hermosa beach (I bought some clothes at one of the local shops), while on Saturday we went down to San Diego to meet my longtime friend Ion, his wife, Yvette, and their young son Evan. After breakfast, we all went to the local swap meet out by San Diego’s old sports stadium. It was lots of fun, and I was so happy to finally meet Ion after emailing and trading lots of mixes with him over the years (hi guys!). What a nice finale to a jam-packed holiday weekend. Onward to the flicks:
Fail-Safe (1964). Dr. Strangelove is one of those classic movies whose appeal strangely eludes me. Despite all that, I put it on my Netflix queue, reshuffled to avoid it, then when it finally arrived Christopher says “You wanted to see that? Watch Fail-Safe instead.” I didn’t feel like giving up two-plus hours on Strangelove, so I returned it and added this celebrated Henry Fonda bomb-scare drama to the queue top instead. Having never seen that one, either, what did I have to lose? This intense, Sydney Lumet-directed drama probably lacked the social commentary of Strangelove but it was a fascinating film all the same. It effectively dramatizes the fears that Americans had of a nuclear invasion during those Bay of Pigs times. In the film, Fonda plays the president who, on a day when he’s set to do some routine U.N. talks, learns that a phalanx of American aircraft are (due to a complex misunderstanding) being sent to Russia, ready to strike. The film also has some great work by two unexpected actors: Walter Matthau as a nuclear weapons expert and Larry Hagman as the interpreter who works the tense negotiations between Fonda and the unseen Russian premier. The intensity builds into an unforgettable finale that threw me for a loop, honestly. Be like a heat-seeking missile and hunt for it.
Reckless (1934) and Riffraff (1935). The last two Jean Harlow films I watched for DVD Talk. Reckless was a bit of a mess, but I really enjoyed Riffraff. I remember seeing it years ago and thought it was flat and kind of dull, but this second viewing revealed the snappy dialogue and the nifty performances from Harlow and Spencer Tracy. My review of Warner Archive’s new box set is here. Hope you like!
Sarah’s Key (2010). This Holocaust drama is another DVD Talk project. I specifically asked for this one, since both of us love Kristen-Scott Thomas and the story looked intriguing. In another of her recent great French-language turns, Thomas plays a contemporary journalist who is doing a magazine story on the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942 Paris, a notorious persecution of Jews by the French police which had faded into history. Eventually she uncovers a personal aspect to the tragedy when it is found that the apartment she’s occupying from her husband’s parents once belonged to a Jewish family that was relocated in the roundup. Beautifully filmed flashbacks illustrate the plight of the relocated family, the Starzynskis, as the daughter Sarah frantically tries to get back to the apartment to free her little brother who was locked in a secret compartment in the siblings’ bedroom. Good film, nicely performed with some very moving scenes involving the Sarah character (who ages into a guilt-ridden young woman). The film does have the Julie & Julia problem of the contemporary story not being as compelling as the historical story, but it does fare well due to the magnetic Thomas (yes, I believe I can watch her in just about anything). Warning: the ending is a mawkish Children Are Our Future sop that would be more at home in a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation.