Parker's Baroness made "The Sound of Mucus" bearable for at least one viewer - ok, me.
My friend Carrie calls me The Contrarian because I agree to disagree.
Particularly about movies.
Case in Point: For some reason, which even I can't explain, I don't like "Casablanca." I simply can't get through it. I've tried innumerable times, often under the most ideal circumstances. One time, I saw a newly restored print at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, located along the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame. My appetite was whetted but, as usual, I was bored. Couldn't get into it. Perhaps my tendency to keep the film at bay has something to do with the fact that I have an aversion to Humphrey Bogart. I know. Blasphemy.
Another: When "The Sound of Music" opened on Broadway in 1959, it was billed not as "a new musical comedy," but tellingly as "a new musical play." That's because it was serious. By the time it hit the big screen in 1965 under Robert Wise's dubious guidance, it had morphed into an elephantine Disney film. I disliked it the minute that Julie Andrews came twirling and trilling over that oh-so-picturesque mountain top.
And it got worse as Wise poured on heaps of sugar and included those insufferable Von Trapp kids in way too many scenes, far more than the characters had on stage. (Yes, I prefer the recent live TV version with Carrie Underwood, but more about that on another day.)
I made it through only because of the wicked humor of Richard Haydn and especially the regal, witty villany of Eleanor Parker, who died yesterday at age 91. Parker in particular makes the film watchable for me.
Thank you, Eleanor. Sleep well.
Along similar lines, I spent most of "Independence Day" cheering on the interloping aliens against the intolerably smug Will Smith, an unpopular stance that got me into trouble with my readers at the time.
Finally, there's "West Side Story."
Regular readers of this site know by now how I feel about this classic. Yes, the music is legendary and the dancing is great, albeit kind of riduculous when staged in realistic settings. It's what comes in-between that's bad. My problem has always been with Arthur Laurents' original stage script which adapter Ernest Lehman honored too closely. By 1961, four years after the play opened, the material already sounded dated.
Critic Sam Adams put it best in his critique of WSS (in one of its DVD incarnations) for Philadelphia's City Paper: "The new disc includes a booklet featuring Ernest Lehman's script in its entirety, though it's a mixed blessing at best since the cornball book (by Arthur Laurents) of the original stage musical has always been West Side's Achilles heel. Being stuck with Laurents' dialogue probably cost Lehman the screenplay Oscar, the only one for which West Side was nominated and didn't win."
Adams also questioned with the decades-long unfair lambasting of the film's two romantic leads, particularly Richard Beymer as Tony. And, of course, it also doesn't help that both Beymer and Natalie Wood are saddled with Laurents' worst dialogue (which Lehman slavishly preserved). I think both Wood and Russ Tamblyn are terrific in the film and that the unfairly maligned Beymer does wonders with a character that's virtually unplayable (and actually makes no sense whatsoever).
On the other hand, there are Rita Moreno who, at 30, was simply too old for her role, and George Chakiris, who, well, simply can't act - and yet these two won Oscars, inexplicably beating out Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift in Stanley Kramer's "Judgment at Nuremberg."
In one of her many recent interviews about WSS, Moreno - who apparently is still busy promoting the film, even though it's more than 50 years old - commented that everyone expected Garland to win out of "sentiment." No, everyone expected Garland to win because she's actually great in the film. Moreno's win had everything to do with popularity - not her popularity but the film's, which swept the Oscars that year.
She was conveniently caught up in the sweep. Had Natalie Wood been nominated for "West Side Story" instead of "Splendor in the Grass," I have every confidence that she would have won, too.
Also, there have been years of complaints about the fact that the singing voices of both Wood and Beymer were dubbed. True. But wait! Everyone's singing voice in the film is dubbed, thanks to associate producer Saul Chaplin's weird hang-up about having only perfect singing voices on screen. Tamblyn, an accomplished musical-comedy star, was dubbed by co-star Tucker Smith, who plays Ice in the film. It's odd to hear Tucker's voice come out of Tamblyn's mouth in "The Jet Song" and then hear the same voice come out of his own mouth in "Cool." Betty Wand, who also did the singing for Leslie Caron in "Gigi," dubbed Moreno.
Of course, Boris Leven's production design for the film is a masterwork, as is Saul Bass' still-arty titlework. But this film is no classic.
End of tirade.