Some Like It Hot (1959)

I Always Get the Fuzzy End of the Lollipop

My roommate seems to only be interested in watching movies from right around the time our parents were born recently.  That’s about 90% of what he watches these days.  In fact, the combination of me watching shitty action movies and him watching 60 year old comedies seems to make my Netflix recommendations very confused.  But I’m okay with it, because I do feel like I need to catch up on the old classics as much as I need to watch the new stuff.  Today, he got me to sit down and watch an old comedy classic called Some Like It Hot, written by I. A. L. Diamond and Billy Wilder, directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Pat O’Brien, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray, Nehemiah Persoff, and George E. Stone.

Two down-on-their-luck musicians named Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) witness a gang hit lead by “Spats” Columbo (George Raft), but narrowly manage to escape.  They concoct a plan to leave town in a group of other musicians.  The problem is: they need to be women.  They become Josephine and Daphne to infiltrate the group.  In the group, they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and both kind of fall for her.  But, then again, so do we.  They take up a gig playing at a Florida resort.  Joe decides to take on yet another persona to try to woo Sugar, that of a make-believe millionaire named Junior, heir to Shell Oil.  Jerry is not so lucky, getting propositioned by Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown).  Joe and Jerry need to work with their double and triple personalities, and I’m guessing their mob problems aren’t over either.

I feel like this is certainly a fine film, but one that has lost it’s luster over the years.  I found it to be a fairly charming film with an interesting story and good performances, but the problem was that it is a comedy that just wasn’t very funny.  There are parts of the movie that are very dark, and the rest is pretty light-hearted.  It starts off with a big car chase and shootout, then goes into Joe and Jerry trying to find a gig, then back into the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, then into cross-dressing.  The middle is all more light-hearted, but it dips back into some darkness near the end, though it leaves us on a cheerful note.  The movie was probably hilarious back when it came out, but I mainly just found it cute.  I didn’t laugh, but I wasn’t bored.  There were jokes that were so old in the movie that I felt I was missing something.  They’d say something that seemed to be in a joke structure, but I had no clue what the punchline was supposed to mean.  That’s the danger, to me, of watching a comedy that’s almost double my age: we just don’t find the same things funny.  But the movie still managed to be endearing, so it wasn’t like it was painful to watch it.  It did strike me as odd that this was supposed to be happening in the prohibition but everyone had boose all the time.  There was hardly a single person in the movie without a boose connection.  The girls were boosing on the train, there was boose on the rich guy’s yacht, boose everywhere.  The cops seemed to be pretty on the ball though.  Except, I guess, for the cop that gives himself away to Joe and Jerry by using his badge to punch a hole in his cigar.  This guy may not have been that bright.  Then again, they were the only people in a crowded club of law-breakers that saw him do it.  What struck me as being even more strange was how men seemingly treated women in the 50’s.  They seemed to always be a short step away from being rapists.  When “Daphne” tells Osgood that he/she’s not interested, he gets into the elevator with her and tries to get frisky.  When the mobsters started coming on to “Josephine” and “Daphne”, and they say it’s none of their business what room they’re staying in, they grab their key to find the room number and say they’ll keep in touch.  That means men of this time were both nearly rapists AND fully willing to ignore very masculine qualities in their women.

The performances would probably have been some of the best at the time, but even now they’re solid.  Marilyn Monroe, of course, was the character that interested me the most.  On top of being pretty gorgeous, she was also a pretty solid actress.  She said some things that were vaguely funny, but a pretty good amount of the things she said was about her not being very bright by her own admission, which is kind of a sign of what they thought about women around that time.  I also found it pretty funny that most of the times she walked in to a scene, she was accompanied by that muffled trumpet “wah WAH wah WAH wah” sound that accompanies voluptuous women walking.  She was very voluptuous too, leading me to think that she might border on being considered fat by today’s standards.  But her weight apparently shifted around, and I still would’ve given it up, so it wasn’t really a negative.  She still struck me more as cute than hot most of the time.  Tony Curtis would be the second most interesting character to me.  First, he actually kind of makes an attractive woman, and I’m not afraid to say it.  He handled his acting scenes very well also, so I really have no complaints about him in this movie.  I thought it was kind of funny that his big ploy to bag Marilyn was to basically act like women didn’t do it for him.  Back then, being gay was so far outside of the culture that no one probably thought of it, but I thought that was what he meant for a little while.  He basically just meant that he had been traumatized so that women didn’t have the desired effect.  Either way, it worked, and Marilyn was all about making out with him to fix it.  I’ll need to try that myself one day.  My roommate raved about Jack Lemmon going into this movie, but I found him to be really irritating when he was acting as Daphne.  It seemed like he was trying too hard and ended up just working on my nerves.  Also, he did a piss poor job impersonating a bass player.  Tony Curtis was fairly convincing as a saxophone player, but Lemmon’s fingers were basically just going wild on the bass aimlessly.  All of the other characters were fairly minor, but I did think it was interesting how they always introduced the character of “Spats” Columbo by showing his shoes (and his spats) first.

Some Like It Hot is a movie that warrants at least one watch.  It’s a pretty good story and a pretty cute movie, with a couple of good performances in it, but don’t go in expecting a comedy if your sense of humor resembles mine.  I just didn’t find it funny at all.  But it was pretty entertaining and worth at least one viewing, if for no reason other than it’s classic status.  Some Like It Hot gets “You must be quite a girl” out of “You tore off one of my chests!”

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Spartacus (1960)

Continuing on the story of Spartacus, this time I reached back to my new oldest movie ever reviewed, the 1960’s Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons (a female, not Gene Simmons the guy from Kiss), Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, and John Ireland.

Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is a slave that is sentenced to death by starvation for biting a Roman guard in the shin. Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), a lanista (an owner of a place that trains gladiators), comes looking for recruits and takes Spartacus with him. He is trained as a gladiator and befriends Crixus (John Ireland) in Capua. Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave girl that Spartacus has come to fancy, is purchased by the Roman Crassus (Laurence Olivier). Spartacus gets all pissy about this and, when mocked about it by the Doctore, he drowns the Doctore to death in a pot of stew, and then he and the other slaves overwhelm the guards and take over the facility. Spartacus takes the gladiators and forms them into an army with a steady supply of escaped slaves as new recruits. He also meets back up with Varinia and promptly knocks her up. The army intends to make it’s way across Italy to the shore and take boats they have purchased off to their freedom. The Romans get word of this and a battle ensues, one that Spartacus’ army loses. The famous scene happens of the Romans saying that the slaves will be returned to slavery if Spartacus gives himself up happens after the battle, and when Spartacus stands to give himself up, the rest of the men start yelling out “I’m Spartacus” instead, condemning them all to be crucified. If I were the Romans, I’d say “Okay, bring me the one that DIDN’T say he was Spartacus” and it would be done with. But instead they all get crucified along a road back to Rome, leaving Antoninus (Tony Curtis), the former tutor from Sicily and friend to Spartacus, and Spartacus himself to be crucified last. Varinia, along with Spartacus’ son, has been taken in by Crassus because he thinks she’s hot, but Batiatus is ordered by senator Gracchus (Charles Laughton) to take her and her son to freedom behind Crassus’ back. They go by a crucified Spartacus on the way out of town so he can see his kid for the first time (I guess Varinia must’ve popped it out right on the battlefield or something), and they ride off to freedom.

I first remember seeing Spartacus when I was much younger in a class of some sort (so obviously I remember the situation very well). I remember liking it, but I think the teacher may have been merciful and jumped through the story a lot to get to the cool parts where they cut people’s arms off. Today I did still like the movie and the only negative thing about it is the same reason I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this movie to everyone. That is the length. I don’t know if there are abridged versions available of this movie, but the one I watched was over 3 hours. That is tough for me, especially when this movie has a lot of talking in it. A lot of the scenes felt like they could have been edited down a lot and made this a super fantastic 2 hour movie. I understand that a lot of those speaking moments were building relationships between the audience and the characters, but they really slowed down the pace and lengthened the movie.

That being said, this is one of the first super epic movies and I respect that. The movie seems to be a huge endeavor even by today’s standards. The battles and aftermath involve a great many actors laying in dirt and filth, often on top of other people, as the camera slowly moves over them. Still, I’d have done it so I could be in a movie that will be around forever. Instead, I was in the audience of the Cirque du Soleil scene in Knocked Up. The battles are great, but arguably few and far between. I’m going to need to reacquaint myself with Kubrick movies to know for sure, but as I recall, they are typically really talk-y.

The acting is also fantastic. Kirk Douglas is so good in this movie that I actually stopped staring at that gigantic hole in his chin. I mean, have you seen cleft in that guy’s chin? COME ON! You could stow your luggage in there! Anyways, he’s really good. Jean Simmons is good, but occasionally over the top and creepy. I think the guy that played Batiatus won an Oscar for supporting actor for this. He was good and everything, but I actually found myself more intrigued with the performance of Charles Laughton.

I recommend this movie if, and only if, you are totally aware of what you’re getting yourself into. If you go in expecting it to be an action movie, you’ll be bored. Expect more of a epic drama movie, you’ll be alright. And everyone really needs to see this movie anyway. It’s a classic. I’m trying to acquaint myself with all the uber-classic movies recently, so it’s only right that I go to this movie. I give this movie “I love you, Spartacus” out of 876.

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.