Midnight in Paris

[2.0 stars] Midnight in Paris (2011) on IMDb

[Amazon Link] I used to be a big Woody Allen fan. Loved Annie Hall. And then, over the years…, eh, not so much.

But Midnight in Paris was supposed to be pretty good. It won one Oscar (for Best Original Screenplay) and was nominated for three others (Best Picture, Best Director, and—zzzz—Art Direction). And Mrs. Salad expressed an interest, so…

Eh, not so much. What's the big deal?

The movie's protagonist is Gil (Owen Wilson), who's saddled with tedious fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and even more tedious would-be in-laws (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy). They're all in Paris for some tourism.

Gil is sort of unhappy, tired of modern Paris. He's a successful Hollywood hack, but really dreams of being a seriously important literary author. He's beset by the philistinism and pretension of his associates, who dare to disrespect his lofty ambition.

Fortunately, Gil discovers a way to get back to Paris of the 20's. He rapidly meets a host of the artistic and literary giants of the era: Hemingway, Fitzgerald (and Zelda), Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Picasso, … You get the idea. He also meets Adriana (played by Marion Cotillard) who's far more interesting and sympathetic than present-day Inez. So…

OK, that doesn't sound so bad. And, obviously, a lot of people liked it just fine. Herewith, my gripes:

Owen Wilson's performance is a not-very-thinly-disguised imitation of Woody Allen, right down to his decades-old stuttering whiny mannerisms. To be fair, many reviews I read remarked on this. But it irritated me. (Also: Kurt Fuller, for some reason, seems to be imitating Alan Alda at his most insufferable. Why?)

The name-dropping script, written by Woody Allen, is mostly centered around convincing us that the Woody Allen-like character would have been recognized as a True Literary Talent and Deep Thinker by Hemingway, Stein, et.al. Please.

Nearly all the characters, past and present, are presented without subtlety or depth. (Although, to be fair, Adrien Brody's version of Salvador Dali is kind of a hoot.) This is a Classic Comics version of 1920's Paris.

But, hey, you might like it better than I did.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:40 AM EDT

Decision at Sundown

[2.5 stars] Decision at Sundown (1957) on IMDb

[Amazon Link] We've been meandering through old Randolph Scott westerns over the past few years, with mostly positive results. This one didn't strike me as well as the others.

Mr. Scott plays Bart Allison. Allison, in some ways, is your typical R. Scott character: stoic and single-minded. But Allison isn't particularly interested in legalities: at the beginning of the picture, he pulls a gun on a stagecoach driver, simply to get a drop-off at a pre-arranged location, where he can rendezvous with sidekick Sam (Noah Beery Jr.).

Sam has located Allison's bête noire, Tate Kimbrough, after years of searching; Allison wants to kill Kimbrough for (initially) unknown reasons. But Kimbrough has set himself up as an oppressive strongman in the little town of Sundown (see title), and has the local law enforcement (hey, it's Andrew Duggan!) on his side. And (by coincidence) he's getting married to one of Mudd's Women, the shapely Karen Steele.

So Allison and Sam have their work cut out for them. Worse, their initial confrontation with Kimbrough doesn't work out well at all. Eventually we learn more about Allison's reasons for wanting to kill Kimbrough, and become aware that it's not a simple black-and-white Western morality tale.

Problems: I like simple black and white Western morality tales. No spoilers, but the ending is kind of out of tune with your typical Randolph Scott movie.

In addition, one of the neat things about Mr. Scott's other movies is all the glorious western scenery his characters' stories play against. In contrast, most of Decision at Sundown takes place in a dreary little Hollywood backlot version of a generic western town. Boring!

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:41 AM EDT