[Somehow I forgot when I began this week's journal in Standard Mode that Father's Day was coming up and I was gonna be out of town for four days. Switching formats mid-stream pains me but I'll never catch up if I don't, so here's the rest à la capsule.]
Smokey and the Bandit (1977, Hal Needham): 66
Feel like I saw this a dozen or more times as a kid (mostly on cable, back when cable was basically one channel that showed the same 10 movies over and over), but can't be sure it was ever start-to-finish so no /slashes/. In any case, there's no chance that my pre-teen self appreciated the unique tone it achieves, an amalgam of fast-paced zaniness and relaxed nonchalance that I'll dub good-ol'-screwball. The appeal of Burt Reynolds and Sally Field can seem mysterious from today's perspective, but it's kind of amazing how effortless their performances seem here; it's not so much that they throw lines away as that they refrain from trying to sell them, an approach abetted by Needham's (and/or his editor's) penchant for cutting briskly away rather than providing the customary laugh-beat. It's absurdly casual, and yet at the same time it's also just plain absurd—best example is probably the Bandit explaining Frog's presence in his Trans Am to the Snowman via CB (complete with untranslated slang) while completely ignoring her lengthy monologue about her experience as a dancer, which she delivers, obscured from sight, while changing her clothes underneath what's left of her wedding gown. Had it just been the three of them, plus a bunch of stunt driving involving faceless pursuing cops, we'd be talking about a minor classic. But Jackie Gleason—and I say this with all due respect to a comedy legend—not only brings the anti-funny but proceeds to nail the anti-funny to the wall so that we can watch its twitching carcass slowly expire. (I did not enjoy his work in this film.) Thankfully, he's cordoned off from the main action, but every recurrence disrupts the film's blithe rhythm, and that rhythm is precisely what's cherishable.
Declaration of War (2011, Valérie Donzelli): W/O
Almost stuck with this out of respect, as it's at least trying to do something unique and arresting. And I really dug the musical number (duet in cabs following diagnosis), which is heartfelt enough that it honors the gravity of the situation even as it provides formal counterweight to the disease-of-the-week template. But the other distancing devices—multiple omniscient narrators; intrusively offbeat source music; bursts of histrionics usually reserved for grand opera (one family member instantly collapses upon hearing the news, while Dad drops to his knees and bellows at the heavens as if he were Kirk cursing Khan)—just seem inappropriate, frankly. I'm all for innovation, especially when it comes to subject matter this well-trod and predictable, but the tone here really needs to be laser-precise (even in its wild shifts), and mostly I was wincing. Also, I would give my eyeteeth, once I figure out which those are, for a movie scene in which the parent actually does what the doctor/cop/other authority figure says rather than pull that whole I-care-too-much-to-submit-to-bureaucracy-NOW-ANSWER-ME! routine. All the people who wait for the doctor rather than harass the technician love their children just as much as you do. Being obnoxious is not noble.