The Ides of January
Some thoughts on some of this year's viewing pleaures:
The Dixie Flyer (1926)
The Dixie Flyer has got to be the definition of DIY in the DVD world. Don't look for it in theaters (you're about 78 years too late), or the video store, or Amazon.com - you won't find any trace of it. It's not famous, and there are no stars in it. By all rights, this movie should no longer exist. Most likely some collector acquired a print and took care of it - and, with time, as the rights reverted to him / her, decided to sell copies. (I would guess it's in the public domain but it may be just too young for that.)
With no stars, tinting, or even soundtrack, this is still a wonderful film. The print overall is in very good condition, clear and projected at the correct speed. But the revelation is the story of 'Sunrise' Smith, foreman at a railroad construction site; Rose, daughter of the construction company's president but incognito as the site's telegraph operator; and their work to foil a plot to sabotage the site and ruin the construction company. We've got trick telegraph machines, fistfights, train chases (including one in which both Sunrise and Rose have to jump between moving trains unaided), and a great runaway rail car / open rail bridge finale. The leads are great and give the movie a this-could-really-happen feel, the villians are evil and one even has the requisite mustache. And, even better, neither Sunrise nor Rose is a shrinking violet - Rose, especially, is a can-do woman and takes action when action is needed. With edge-of-your-seat energy like this, who needs any stinking sound?
The Dixie Flyer is available on DVD from Golden Age Archives (http://www.geocities.com/rombooks/store/200dflyerx.htm). Note: the imdb description has errors - but hey, it's imdb.
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
I found this wandering around my local library's collection. Fritz Lang does film noir... how can you pass that up?
Anne Baxter is a "good" girl. Dear Johned on her birthday, she ends up on a date with Raymond Burr (!), then really, really drunk, then back at his apartment (where he starts putting severe moves on her), then wakes up in her bed with a massive hangover - only to find out that Raymond Burr has been murdered and she can't remember a thing. Richard Conte, a proto-tabloid reporter, offers support and legal assistance in return for an exclusive; as the police get closer, she sees this as her only option for any justice. It doesn't hurt that the reporter is kinda cute and unmarried...
There is some delicious tension in this film. Baxter is the anchor, and does a strong job as a confused woman in circumstances beyond her control, trying to protect herself but showing cracks as the noose tightens. But this is not classic noir. Conte's reporter is cynical, but there isn't the comfort level with the seedier side of life à la Bogart. There also isn't that almost Expressionistic lighting or angles - there isn't the feel of a noir; the film's too clean. I blame this on marketing moreso than Lang. Apparently this was his first film after the McCarthy hearings began, and this was much more of a response to the situation, and a reaction to the media's role in enabling McCarthy, rather than emulating a style that others had done much more effectively.
Phyrefox has already covered this one, so I won't go into too much detail. Charlize Theron does an excellent job of covering Aileen Wournos, although... (sigh) I've never seen her in a movie before (to my knowledge) to make any comparison. Christina Ricci is someone to always watch for, but I had some problems getting into her character. Maybe her, maybe the writing. A few of the scenes looked like acting (now, Ladies and Gentlemen, Aileen will throw a fit at Shelby because of all the murders she's committed "for" her - but she has to cycle through the emotions and pull back, because she can't stay mad at her. Why not get mad, have a certain level of anger for a few scenes, then forgive?). The more I write, the more I think it's the material. Overall, very good, some flaws, not great.