Sabrina (1954)

December 6, 2012


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From the play Sabrina Fair by Samuel L. Taylor

Mr. Otter hates this movie. Oh, how Mr. Otter hates this movie! He shudders, he whines, he froths at the mouth whenever I mention it. He screws up his face and bares his teeth in pain. He really, really hates this movie.

And I say, Too bad! I love Sabrina. I love it a lot. I love the cast: Serious Honey Humphrey Bogart, gorgeous and elfin Audrey Hepburn and (the usually annoying) William Holden, who is just fine in this.

I love the whole ‘chauffeur’s daughter goes to Paris and comes back a knockout grownup dish’ thing. I love the ‘she’s in love with him and he doesn’t know she’s alive and then she comes back and he notices her and she finds out what a jerk he is’ thing. I especially love the ‘boring older brother who never has time for anything but work who has to charm the chauffeur’s daughter away from his ne’er do well younger brother and ends up falling in love’ thing.

I really, really love this movie. Romantic, funny, charming. I even love the modern remake with Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear, which I’m going to watch again soon. (added note: watched it and hated it this time, here’s the review) This story is a winner, this is a lovely version, it’s great to see Bogie not being a tough guy or a private dick, and you should just go get it and watch it. May I join you? I’d love to see it again…

Rose Marie

December 5, 2012


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Serious Honey Nelson Eddy is a Canadian Mountie, and Jeanette MacDonald is the girl with a secret.

We love Nelson and Jeanette movies, and in fact one of the best of Mr. Otter’s birthdays was the one we spent on the couch with The Barracuda, wrapped in a warm blanket, watching them all day long.

This is one of the better ones- good songs, humor, Nelson in a mountie suit, and Jimmy Stewart as a bad guy, what a great role for him.

Unfortunately, these movies are only available from Brazil (!) so we have to watch for them to end up on Amazon Marketplace and pay through the nose for them. We have them on video, but most of them are just about worn out.

Anyway. Rent this, fly to Brazil for it, do what you have to do…it’s a good one.

Addendum: They are available on dvd, if you look. We got all the Nelson and Jeannette movies from some Australian distributor shipping from the US.

The Princess Bride

November 29, 2012

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From the book The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure (The ‘Good Parts’ Version) by William Goldman*

There is no way to describe this plot, but I’ll try: Sword fights. Death. Treachery. Torture. Revenge. Piracy. Kidnapping. Blackmail. Murder. True Love. Friendship. Miracles. Oh, and Rodents of Unusual Size as well…

What a perfect movie. This movie made me feel the same way about fantasy novels that the bar scene in Star Wars did about science fiction: they finally, finally did it RIGHT. There is finally a movie that is showing something I love to read and showing it exactly the way it should be.

This is also an excellent example of changing a story but capturing the spirit of it…the frame story with the sick kid and his grandfather, what a wonderful addition! if it were possible for a movie to improve the book, this would be the instance.

You can tell that I really love this movie. It has EVERYTHING. The only tiny flaw in it (and many people disagree with this) is Wallace Shawn, who plays Vizzini. Not only repugnant in and of himself, but completely wrong for the role. But that is a tiny quibble, when the rest of the movie is so completely wonderful, so funny and romantic and adventurous, with THE two best sword fights EVER, and I could go on for pages and pages but if you haven’t seen this, you just have to. Now. Get off the web and go rent it, you’ll be glad you did.

No, the honey is not Cary Elwes, who is very cute and charming, but Mandy Patinkin (be still my beating heart) who is not only seriously gorgeous in this (I like ’em scruffy) but can also SING. Wow.

*This is the actual title of the book…Goldman wrote it purporting to take it from an older longer classic, and in fact I had a young friend in England who emailed me just before I went on one of my used-book jaunts, asking me to find him a copy of the original, because all he could find was this edited version…I was so sorry to have to disillusion him!

And by the way, when you read it, SKIP THE INTRODUCTION. It has nothing to do with the actual story (it’s mostly about baseball, of all things) and will just bog you down. Trust me, you can go back and give it a go later. But the story itself, oh my what a treat!

Pride and Prejudice (1980)

November 29, 2012

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From the book of the same name by Jane Austen.

Life and love in Regency England as the five Bennett daughters look for husbands.

This is a wonderful version of this story; I am almost saying, The Best…but I remember that the version from 1995 with Colin Firth was pretty good. It seems to me that the actors and characters in that version were better, but that the small details, the manners and the bits of byplay in this one were much more accurate both for the time and in comparison to the book.

But now it’s been too long since I saw the 1995 version…guess I’ll have to subject Mr. Otter to it yet again…

Anyway. This is a made-for-BBC show, five hours long, and it’s lovely. Well worth owning, because you know you’ll watch it over and over and over…

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

November 28, 2012

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CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

The third in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. There is no way to describe the plot, at this point. Go back and watch the first two, don’t let the second stop you from seeing this one.

So there we were in Winnemucca, NV, Mr. Otter and I.

When we came to town, the double theater was playing Shrek 3 and Spider-man 3. I expressed my interest in the second of these epics, but after dinner, lo and behold, the marquee had changed: Shrek 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (elegantly and succinctly expressed on said marquee as Pirates 3, but of course it’s clear.)

Said I to Mr. Otter, do you care if I see it without you? or do you want to see it with me? I might do that instead of gambling, if it’s playing at a good time.

Mr. Otter expressed his complete lack of interest in this movie, both of us having really hated the second Pirates movie. Plus, as he pointed out, having lost his eyeglasses in the middle of godforsaken Idaho nowhere, he couldn’t actually go to a movie if he wanted to.

So I left him comfortably ensconced in the lovely motel room with a bottle of wine and the DVDs of Slings and Arrows (which he COULD see) and went off to see what delights Winnemucca had to offer.

And I walked the two blocks to the movie theater to check on movie times. And there was a line of people, mostly of high-school age. It was ten minutes to eight, and the movie was supposed to start at 8:15. Well, thought I, it’s gonna suck but I know I’m gonna see it even so…may as well get it over with and only pay 8 bucks for the privelege.

And I went in. And when I came out, three hours later (the movie theater put in an intermission so people would buy more food) I was FLOATING. And RAVING. And BABBLING.

Damn, that was a good movie. Who’da thunk? I don’t know of another example where a really excellent movie was followed by a sucky sequel, and then the third movie was so good.

But it is. And the reason is that the second movie only has about an hour of actual plot-driving content, and the rest of the movie is just filler. The payoff, in the third movie, of all those unbelieveable plot threads they set up in the previous one is nothing short of spectacular.

The characters are good, as always, but now we know them well, so the writers don’t waste their time defining the characters, but actually expand on them. Johnny Depp (SERIOUS honey) is still wonderful, and some of his scenes are amazing. And the plot, oh my god. How can I describe how good it is without giving it all away?

I will say only two things about it:

  1. I’m an avid reader of fantasy novels, and one of the things I’m always saying is that in a quest story, the characters have to pay for what they get or it isn’t worth it. In this movie, they do and it is.
  2. The other thing you need to know is that I paid full price to see this again three days later with Mr. Otter in tow. It was that good. Even the second time. I can’t remember the last time I paid full price to see a movie twice in the theaters…but it’s kind of rare. (And I went a THIRD TIME a week later with Maid-of-Awesome. And it was STILL GOOD).

And yes, Mr. Otter had a spare pair of glasses at home.

Go see this movie. It’s wonderful. I might just come along and see it again…

Oh, and sit through the interminable credits, there’s one more scene at the end.

Only Angels Have Wings

November 9, 2012

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Cary Grant is the owner of a struggling mail delivery service, a bunch of flyers somewhere in South America.

An Otter Family Favorite! This one has it all- good writing, a great plot, interesting characters, good camerawork, romance, adventure and airplanes.

There are bunches of plot threads:

  1. The Mail Must Go Through Or We’re Washed Up
  2. The Adventure And Danger of Early Aviation
  3. Love at First Sight
  4. The Ex-Girlfriend Shows Up
  5. The Man Who Must Pay For His Mistakes
  6. How To Tell Your Best Friend Bad News
  7. The Vicissitudes Of Marriage
  8. Dealing With A Guy Who Won’t Admit He’s In Love With You

and on and on…makes this sound like a fairly silly movie, but it’s not, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen from that year (a year of GREAT movies, 1939) and is as good as Jezebel, another Otter Family Favorite.

Jean Arthur carries a whole lot of the credit for the success of this film. She’s tough and cute and brave and silly and very very charming, a real honey if I ever saw one and the perfect foil for Cary Grant’s (dare I say it?) curmudgeonliness. Thomas Mitchell is a wonderful supporting actor as well, as is Richard Barthelmess. Rita Hayworth doesn’t have much of a part, but by golly she’s pretty! so that’s all right.

I really can’t say too much in favor of this wonderful flick, but I’m just gonna start babbling now, so I’ll stop here. See this one as soon as you can, you’ll be glad you did.

Naughty Marietta

November 7, 2012

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A French princess runs away to New Orleans to escape a distasteful marriage and finds Nelson Eddy.

Ah, Nelson (Serious Honey) and Jeanette (also Serious Honey). Is there anything better in the world? Okay, maybe, but they are still pretty darn good.*

Yes, the stories are often silly. But they are fun, and the songs are good. And I love this one, not only for the songs and costumes (France and New Orleans in the early 1700s, although not historically accurate by any means) but just because it’s Nelson and Jeanette.

And the ending! that’s what the hearts are for, in the ratings. Oh golly. See, the King wants her to marry some dweeb because once she’s safely married he can make her his mistress, and of course she’s not happy about this. So she runs away to New Orleans. And meets Nelson Eddy, Serious Honey. And they’re in love, but she’s a princess, and he’s just a guy, and the French nobles come to get her, and they tell her that if she doesn’t come along quietly they’ll shoot him and…omg, it’s such a wonderful movie.

*But how can I watch this movie if I can’t get it? you ask…and well you might. Because it’s darn hard to find. There is some licensing problem, and the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald movies are ONLY available used, on video. They are not on DVD.

Except in Brazil.

Yes, you heard me right. Brazil. You can get all of them from there.

And it ain’t easy, trust me. I’ve found two on Amazon over the last couple of years, each for over 30 dollars, and snatched them up. I’ve tried going to the Brazilian dvd online stores, and they are not set up to accept addresses outside Brazil. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Then a couple of things happened synchronously: firstly, someone mentioned that the last company that makes VCRs has stopped manufacturing them. I emailed Mr. Otter, saying that we should work on replacing our videos on DVD. But what about Nelson and Jeanette? I thought.

Then later that same day, I found extra money in my Paypal account that I didn’t expect to be there, from a refund.

Then even later, I was idly surfing the internet and thought I’d give Nelson and Jeanette a try, and did a search for dvds…and found this site, where they HAVE ALL OF THEM for UNDER TWENTY BUCKS APIECE.

Needless to say, I jumped for them. Mr. Otter danced around the room. They are direct-from-video copies but good direct copies, and the sound is good. And we are THRILLED to have them.

***The above was written long ago; they are now available in the US, try

So there are your choices…you can buy them for yourself, or come over and watch them on our big-ass ol’ flat screen tv. And I must say, even after seventy years, Nelson and Jeanette are lookin’ mighty fine. Come on down and we’ll sing all the songs.

The Music Man (1962)

November 7, 2012

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From the play of the same name by Meredith Willson

A fast talking con man comes to River City to take the townspeople for whatever he can get…until he falls in love with the librarian/piano teacher.

OK, this is one of the all time best musicals. Great songs, wonderful story, funny, romantic, charming, some good dancing, pretty costumes, what else could you want? Even Ron Howard when he was very young and cute… and Robert Preston. Oh my. If there were such a thing as a double honey, he would seriously be it. From Beau Geste in 1939 all the way through Victor/Victoria in the early 80s, he was just adorable, charming, funny, and could sing and dance. Wow.

But I digress…back to the movie. It’s great. Small town infighting and politics, a really nice slice of turn of the century midwestern life. The costumes are sort of a late 50s/early 60s fantasy on the general theme of the type of clothes people wore then, but they’re remarkably effective.

And who in my profession does not know the Marion the Librarian song? Yes, on the one hand Shirley Jones is the archetypal old-maid librarian wearing funny shoes and saying “Shh!” to everyone and his brother (I shudder to think of what she’d do about cell phones…) but on the other hand, she’s winsome, charming, has a temper and is willing to stand up for what is right. And to admit her mistakes. I really like her, overall. And I love the library, too!

The music in this movie is amazing. Every note in every scene works with not only every other note, but other parts of the score and everything the actors are doing…it’s so much fun to watch and listen to, even when nobody is singing.

Well, and I could go on and on and on about this one…basically, it’s brilliant, one of the best musicals ever, and if you haven’t seen it you’re either a musical-hating lowlife or have been living on a desert island for forty years…either way, time to give in and give it a try.

Love Actually

October 18, 2012

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A series of stories about you-know-what, taking place around Christmas time.

So this movie came out about two years, maybe three years ago.
And people said, go see it, it’s funny and charming.
But I never found time.
And as is his wont, Mr. Otter said, go see it, it’s got lots of good people in it.
But I never found time.
And then one night Mr. Otter rented it so he could see it again, and he said, you want to watch this with me? I think you’d like it.
But I really didn’t have time.

And then we were ordering a bunch of DVDs and this one was cheap and I knew Mr. Otter loved it so I threw it in the batch.

And not too long after it arrived, I was home sick with the flu and we were going into the back room to watch a movie, and we watched this one.


Written by Richard Curtis.

Now why on earth couldn’t all those people (including Mr. Otter) have told me the one important thing about this movie that I needed to know? Sure, it’s romantic, charming, full of good people…but if it’s written by Richard “Four Weddings and a Funeral, Blackadder, and a host of other EXTREMELY funny British stuff” Curtis…well, all I can say is I would have run, not walked, to the theatres to plunk down my ten bucks to see it.

And of course it was wonderful. Funny, charming, romantic, full of wonderful people like Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson (of course), Serious Honey Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Kiera Knightly, and a whole bunch more. And of course I loved it.

But why didn’t anyone mention this? am I the only person on the planet who loves pretty much everything Richard Curtis has done and will actually go out of my way to see/buy/enjoy/laugh hysterically over it?

Well. Anyway. You get my drift. This is a wonderful movie. Don’t, as a friend of ours did, make the mistake of taking it home to show your parents; not only are there many four letter words in it (“Rank!” her dad pronounced it…) but there is one story that involves a couple who meet when they are body doubles for famous people in a movie where the famous people have to do a long and graphic sex scene, and the doubles go through the motions instead…very funny, but not something you want to be in the same room watching with your parents, trust me.

Rent this, buy it, visit a friend who owns it and hint loudly that you feel like watching something funny, do what you have to do, but see it now! this one is a real winner.

Lone Star

October 18, 2012

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A sheriff in a small Texas town on the border with Mexico returns to face his (and his father’s) past.

Oh, yes, this is an Otter Family Favorite. In fact, I would probably declare John Sayles, along with John Huston and maybe a few others, an Otter Family Favorite Director.

Gosh, this is a gem. Firstly, a wonderful cast: Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Serious Honey Matthew McConaughey (hard to believe he was ever so young, wow!), and the ever beautiful Elizabeth Peña.

And a wonderful script, written (as many of the movies he directs are) by Sayles: a small border town, racial tensions, small town politics, past happenings coming to light, danger, murder, mystery and a charming love story.

And (as is not often the case in these latter days of doom and tribulation, woe be unto moviemakers for creating bloated and boringly discursive crap) although the plot is intricate and there are many flashbacks, he doesn’t waste a frame. This is a beautiful piece of moviemaking, with good characterizations shown in brief scenes…the audience actually has to pay attention, because Sayles won’t tell you twice or beat you over the head with anything.

And the ending. I won’t say anything, I would hate to destroy anyone’s pleasure in the perfect ending…but it was WONDERFUL.

I would find it hard to believe that anyone missed this excellent movie, but if you did, you have a real treat coming, rent it and enjoy it. And watch it a couple of times, it keeps getting better.