Raymond Griffith at Niles

Last Saturday night, I visited the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum for a screening of the 1925 Raymond Griffith comedy, Hands Up! I had seen it once before–probably in 1977 or ’78 at the Avenue Theater (of blessed memory). Then, and now, I totally enjoyed it.

Sorry it took me so long to get to write about this. I’ve been busy.

Raymond Griffith (not related to D.W. Griffith) is largely forgotten these days, and his work (or at least what I’ve seen of it) doesn’t come up to the best of Keaton, Chaplin, or Lloyd. But he was funny. He almost always appeared in a top hat and cape, as if he was going to the opera. His character was cheerful, unflappable, and exceptionally polite. I wrote more about Griffith in a recent Eat Drink Films article, Revisiting Walter Kerr’s THE SILENT CLOWNS.

Hands Up! is a civil war comedy, with the hero on the side of the Confederacy, so comparisons to The General
are almost mandatory. The General is a masterpiece–a near perfect alloy of epic adventure and slapstick comedy. Despite the laughs, it feels plausible and realistic. But Hands Up! is simply farce. It will do anything for a laugh, even at the expense of the atmosphere or story.

Griffith plays a Confederate spy who travels west to sabotage a Yankee goldmine. Along the way he outwits a firing squad, teaches native Americans to dance the Charleston (a major anachronism), and romances a pair of young and beautiful sisters.

The film wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. Over the years, my memory had improved some of the jokes, making them better timed. Some sequences involving an African American were shockingly racist, even for a film of this vintage.

But the good parts were strong enough for me to give it an B+.

The 16mm print was made up from several sources to get the entire picture looking as good as possible. And for the most part, it looked good if not great.

The feature was preceded by two shorts: D.W. Griffith’s The Last Drop of Water and William S. Hart’s The Taking of Luke McVane. Neither was better than moderately entertaining, in large part I suspect from the washed-out prints, especially of the Griffith.

There was a theme running through all three movies: the desert. The organization Desert Survivors was involved with this screening.

Bruce Loeb accompanied all of the films on piano.

Before the movies began, I took the liberty of taking some photos of the museum. Enjoy:

The theater

Old cameras, with an old projector on the right

Another view of the cameras and that black projector

The two 16mm projectors in the projection booth. The blue box in the rear is one of the two 35mm projectors

Four nights at the movies: The Crowd, Preston Sturges, a Teenage Girl, & 2 Noirs

I managed to see four feature films theatrically in the last four nights–plus another on television.

Sunday: The Crowd

My wife and I, along with another couple, went to the Castro to see one of the greatest silent films ever made, and arguably the most difficult American masterpiece to see, King Vidor’s The Crowd. I’ve already written about the movie, so I’ll stick to the presentation.

This was something of a special event–the last silent film to be accompanied by the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ that has graced both silent films and before-the-movie concerts at the Castro for over 30 years. The Castro never owned the organ, and the owners are finding it more and more difficult to maintain. The Silent Film Festival hasn’t used it in years because of technical problems. The theater is raising money to replace it with what is being claimed as “the largest hybrid (pipe/digital) organ in the world.”

Unfortunately, this last hurrah for the old organ was disappointing–despite the great cinema up on the screen. Bruce Loeb’s improvised score felt off, often ignoring the actions and emotions on screen. Even obvious music cues, such as a close-up of a phonograph about to be put on the turntable, didn’t affect what Loeb was playing.

Monday: Christmas in July

My wife and I stayed home Monday night, and we watched the one movie I always wanted to screen on a double bill with The Crowd: Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July.

What does a talk-heavy comedy have to do with a silent drama? A lot. They’re both set in New York. Both protagonists have lower-level white-collar jobs adding numbers in a large office filled with similar employees. And each dreams of breakthrough success via advertising slogan contests.

Of course the big difference is that Christmas in July is funny. The hapless hero of a loser (Dick Powell) thinks he’s won a slogan contest with a “funny” catchphrase that other people just find bewildering. So he goes on a generous spending spree that’s headed to disaster. The ending is utterly and completely absurd–and hilarious. I give it a B+.

Just remember: If you can’t sleep at night, it isn’t the coffee. It’s the bunk.

Tuesday: Diary of a Teenage Girl

The next night, we went to the Shattuck to catch Diary of a Teenage Girl–the only new film we’ve seen this week. In fact, it’s the only film we saw this week that was made before after 1950.

We both loved it.

Minnie (Bel Powley in an amazing breakthrough performance) isn’t just any teenage girl. She’s the daughter of a irresponsible hippie mother in 1977 San Francisco–and when we first meet her, she’s just lost her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend. She’s also an inspiring cartoonist (the film is based on a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, and the images often burst into underground-comic-style animation). The movie follows her early sexual experimentations, mostly with the morally weak, age-inappropriate man who should be loyal to her mother. The film captures San Francisco in the late 70s flawlessly (I was there). But even better, it captures the rocky emotions of a young woman bursting with hormones and not sure what to do with them.

I give it an A.

At least when we saw it, the Shattuck was running Diary of a Teenage Girl in one of their tiny, hole-in-the-wall auditoriums. I hate these. The tiny screens are bad enough, but the very wide aisle down the middle of the theater makes it worse. There’s nowhere you can sit that isn’t very far off to the side.

Wednesday: I Wake Up Dreaming

The I Wake Up Dreaming film noir series moves to Berkeley this month. Every Wednesday in September, The California Theater will screen two classic or obscure noirs–mostly obscure.

That’s the good news. The bad: The $15 ticket price is high, and there are no discount prices. The other bad news: The films are being screened digitally, and I don’t think any of them will be off DCP. Some of the films will be projected off of Blu-ray, which is reasonably acceptable. Most, I suspect–including the two I saw Wednesday night–will be off of DVDs.

If you’re curious, there’s an easy way to tell if a film will be screened off a Blu-ray. Google the title, the year or star, and the word blu-ray. You’ll soon find out if a Blu-ray is available. If it is, chances are very high that California will screen it in the better format.

I attended the first double bill last night (my wife wasn’t able to join me that night). It was in the California’s large and lovely downstairs auditorium. Okay. Now onto the movies:

Phantom Lady: Enjoyable and fun, this 1944 murder mystery is awful light for a noir. The good guys are just too good. And thus, dull. But the bad guys are a lot of fun–especially Franchot Tone as a totally psychotic killer (don’t worry; I’m not giving anything away) and Elisha Cook Jr. as a horny drummer. But then, any noir with Elisha Cook Jr. is better than the same movie without him. By the way, the plot involves a man convicted of murdering his wife, and the loving secretary (Ella Raines) out to prove him innocent. Enjoyable but unexceptional. I give it a B-.

Criss Cross: This one is considered a minor classic. I wouldn’t go that far, but I liked it enough to give it a B+. Burt Lancaster plays an armored car driver who finds himself in a love triangle with his ex-wife and a gangster. And not just a love triangle. They also join forces to pull off the heist of the century. But as the name suggests, everyone is planning to double cross everyone else. Director Robert Siodmak keeps the story moving fast and tight. Look fast, and you’ll catch a not-yet-famous Tony Curtis in a non-speaking role that’s little more than an extra.

[[Thanks to my wife, Madeline, for catching that before/after error.]]

The A+ List: The General (and The Gold Rush)

The Gold Rush and The General are, by widely considered the two great masterpieces of silent comedy. Walter Kerr called them epic comedies. Both films easily make my A+ list.

For a film to earn that grade, it must be the perfect embodiment of its genre or stand beyond genre. It must be at least 20 years old (so I know that it’s stood the test of time), and I personally must of have known and loved the film for decades.

I don’t need to tell you about Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush again. I’ve already written a Blu-ray review and a piece about seeing it with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

So let’s get to…

The General

I feel a little uncomfortable praising a Civil War comedy that asks us to root for the Confederates. After all, the South’s rebellion was an act of treason committed in defense of slavery. After all, I’ve been very critical of Gone with the Wind and The Birth of a Nation.

And yet, here I am, discussing the genius of a movie where the lovable hero proudly waves the Stars and Bars–clearly a cue for audience applause–in the climactic battle.

On the other hand, as he waves, he steps on a “rock” that turns out to be the back of a cowardly Confederate officer. Buster Keaton, the film’s auteur as well as its star, wasn’t much interested in politics. But he sure enjoyed making fun of the military.

(Several of Keaton’s films, including The Seven Chances, contain racist humor that’s shocking by today’s standards–although completely acceptable in the 1920s. Luckily, he used no such humor in either The General or his other film set in the antebellum South, Our Hospitality.)

Keaton based The General on a true story that held mythical power in the South in the 1920s. In the film’s very fictionalized version, Northern spies hijack a Southern train, and the engineer (Keaton) gives chase to recover his beloved engine. (He doesn’t know that his former girlfriend, who rejected him for not being a soldier, has been kidnapped, as well.) Two locomotive chases dominate the movie. In the first, Keaton chases the spies. In the second, after Buster has retrieved his train and his girl, they’re chased by what feels like the entire Union army.

Keaton loved trains, and he used them frequently as giant comic props. But in The General he created the ultimate train comedy, and arguably the ultimate train movie. Every aspect of running a 19th-century steam locomotive–from chopping wood to tanking up on water to switching tracks becomes cause for comedy.

As does the hardware of war. In the first chase, Buster tries to attack the villains with a snub-nosed canon. As is so often the case with Keaton’s work, the inanimate object appears to be alive–and malevolent.

In the second chase, he adds another wrinkle–the girlfriend. She doesn’t know trains, and therefore makes comic mistakes far greater than Keaton’s. When he tells her to add wood to the fire, she throws in one small stick. Annoyed, he hands her a twig. Not understanding his sarcasm, she dutifully throws that one in as well. His reaction is priceless.

But she also shows some common sense. She improvises a trap for the oncoming Union trains that Keaton clearly thinks worthless. When the trap springs on the hapless bluecoats, it gets one of the film’s biggest laughs.

The General just might be the most beautiful and spectacular comedy ever filmed. Shot mostly in rural Oregon, it’s filled with breathtaking scenery. And sometimes that scenery is filled with massive armies moving across the landscape or–in the climax–in battle.

But Keaton knew how to use spectacle in the service of comedy. One particular shot, which just may be the single most expensive shot of the silent era, shows a train attempt to cross a burning bridge and fall to its doom, while soldiers below ford the river. It was done without models, and the visuals take your breath away. But it’s also a setup for a gag whose punchline is a medium shot of a one man on horseback.

If The General has a moral–and I don’t really think it does–it’s that the professional technician is superior to the professional soldier. Buster makes a lot of mistakes, but the officers on both sides pretty much make nothing but mistakes. And one very funny moment, involving a Northern train engineer, shows us that the technical professionals are the smart ones everywhere.

I’m not sure, but I may have seen The General more times than any other single feature film. I first saw it in a college lecture hall, off a 16mm print, with no sound except the laughing students. I’ve heard it with live accompaniment by Bob Vaughn (at least three times, probably more), Christoph Bull (my single favorite General experience), The Alloy Orchestra (twice), and others I don’t remember. I’ve owned it on Laserdisc, DVD, and now on Blu-ray.

I’ve yet to tire of it.

Dough and Opening night at the SF Jewish film festival

I attended opening night of the SF Jewish Film Festival at the Castro last night. It was, for the most part, an enjoyable evening.

Although it did start with the inevitable reserved seating problem. The whole front half of the theater was cordoned off for VIPs. Luckily, I convinced a volunteer usher that as press, I counted as a VIP, so I was able to sit in my preferred 3rd row center seat. Not that I was stealing that seat from a worthier person. For most of the film, I was the only person in the front three rows.

The show started soon after the official 6:15 starting time with a series of past Jewish Film Festival trailers. The last trailer, of course, was this year’s, and its’ one of the best.

The talking started at 6:23. SFJFF officers discussed the history of the Festival, the organization’s new name–the Jewish Film Institute–and their video-on-demand service. We were told that people under 35 can buy a festival pass for $35 (it doesn’t cover the big nights). We heard about other films coming up. And the director of this year’s film, John Goldschimdt, was introduced and talked briefly.

The movie started at 6:46. Not bad.

And the film itself? Not bad.

B+ Dough

This feel-good comedy succeeds in making you laugh and in making you feel good. Why not? The marijuana-laced challah makes the onscreen characters laugh and feel good. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept the absurdities of the story and the conventional comic tropes, but if you do you can sit back and enjoy the movie. The story involves an orthodox kosher baker (Jonathan Pryce) who hires a Muslim, African refugee teenager (newcomer Jerome Holder) as his apprentice. And of course they bond while the bakery thrives. It’s a movie.

Dough will play three more times at the festival:

This British film may get an American theatrical release, although as near as I can tell, it has not yet been picked up my a distributor.

After the film, director Goldschimdt and star Holder came on stage for a Q&A. It happened to be Holder’s 21st birthday, and he was presented with a cake.

Some highlights:

  • How did you (Holder) get involved? “I got called in to come in, and I did and audition with Jonathan Pryce. I’d done a bit of TV work. This is my big break.”
  • On playing a character from Darfur (out of character, Holder speaks with a London accent): It came to me just speaking to people in that circle.
  • Goldschimdt: “We shot 60 percent of the film in Budapest. It was a very good experience.”
  • On casting Holder: “When you look at a video, you can see who the camera likes best.” He brought Pryce into the auditions to make sure they had chemistry together.
  • Holder: “It was the best 10 or 11 weeks of my life.”

After the show, I went to the opening night party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The current exhibit on Any Winehouse was open for us. There was plenty of good food, but alas, no marijuana-laced challah.

Miracle Mile: A quirky romantic comedy thriller about the ultimate disaster. My Blu-ray review

I usually review Blu-rays of well-loved classics. This time, I’m covering a little-known film you’ve probably never heard of. But it should be a well-loved classic.

Miracle Mile starts as a quirky, one-of-a-kind romantic comedy. Harry (Anthony Edwards) woos Julie (Mare Winningham)–in a science museum–with his wit and his slide trombone. He meets her grandparents. They arrange a first date. He oversleeps and misses it.

Then he answers a wrong phone number and discovers that everything he cares about–in fact, all of civilization–will be gone in a little more than an hour. The United States has fired nuclear missiles at the Soviet Union, and retaliation is inevitable.

Unless, of course, it was a prank call.

At that point, Miracle Mile becomes a very different type of movie. Following Harry in real time, it becomes both a heart-stopping thriller and a very dark comedy of disaster, as he tries desperately to find and save the girl who thinks he jilted her.

And, of course, everything goes wrong. And not just the little, funny things. Harry’s actions result in several deaths and the destruction of a gas station and department store. Eventually, Harry begins to doubt what he heard on that wrong number, but that’s no comfort either. If the bombs won’t be falling, he’s going to be in very big trouble.

The comedy drains away as the suspense increases and the film nears its climax. I found myself shaking in the film’s last minutes–and that was my second time seeing the movie.

Harry isn’t much of a hero. Yes, he puts his life on the line to save the woman he loves–even though they’ve only just met. But he makes one stupid mistake after another, and unlike a Hitchcock protagonist, he doesn’t learn much from his mistakes.

The story wouldn’t work at all if we didn’t care about Harry and Julie. De Jarnatt made a very good choice in casting Edwards and Winningham in the lead roles. They’re both attractive, but not gorgeous. Because they don’t look like conventional Hollywood stars, you can more easily accept them as real people. They’re not fantasy figures. It helps considerably that both Edwards and Winningham are excellent actors.

De Jarnatt and cinematographer Theo van de Sande shot most of Miracle Mile in long takes, often with excellent, dynamic staging and camera movements that don’t draw attention to themselves. This style, almost unheard of today, adds to the feeling that the movie is unspooling in real time–that ten minutes on the screen is equal to ten minutes in the characters’ lives. And when the minutes left in the characters’ lives may be draining away very quickly, the film becomes very tense.

Helping that tension is the remarkable music by Tangerine Dream, which manages to be unusual without drawing attention to itself. Chilling and taut, it produces the feeling of a nightmare.

The title comes from a Los Angeles neighborhood, not far from Hollywood, where most of the film is set.

Made in 1988 and released in 1989, Miracle Mile is probably the last film about nuclear disaster made during the cold war. It barely made a peep when it came out. I discovered this film, almost by accident, in New York in 2011. I wrote about it enthusiastically, and noted that it was available for home viewing only on a badly-cropped DVD. Since I discovered it, it has played once at the Castro.

In other words, it’s a very difficult film to see properly, either in a theater or at home. I’m glad to report that with the release of this Blu-ray next Tuesday (July 28), at least for home screenings that problem will be solved.

First Impression

There’s nothing special about the case, and nothing inside that case except the disc.

When you insert the disc and get past the FBI warning, you’ll find a very stripped down and unexceptional menu. The only options are Play, Chapter, and Bonuses. There are no Setup options.

The disc only has nine chapters.

How It Looks

This low-budget film doesn’t call for an incredible transfer, and Kino didn’t give it one. But the transfer is more than acceptable. The colors look right, and pop when they should pop (which is often). Everything is reasonably sharp, and the film grain is clearly visible.

In other words, it looks like just what it is: A low-budget commercial American film from the late 1980s, shot mostly at night with very fast film.

How It Sounds

Miracle Mile was originally released is Ultra Stereo, a competitor and to a certain extent a clone of the then ubiquitous Dolby Stereo. Coincidentally, this is my second Blu-ray review in a row of an Ultra Stereo film–the other being Hoop Dreams.

Like Dolby, Ultra put two discrete stereo tracks on the 35mm film, then used some electronic tricks to channel the sounds into four, rather than just two, directions. As far as I know, Ultra Stereo soundtracks were compatible with Dolby Stereo sound systems.

Kino is releasing Miracle Mile in 2-track stereo, without any instructions about surround decoding. Before watching the entire movie, I did some tests and decided that it sounded best with my receiver’s Dolby Surround Decode turned on. The tracks use lossless DTS-HD Master Audio compression, and sound great.

Still, I wish Kino had done what Criterion did with Hoop Dreams–release the disc with a 4.0 soundtrack. That gives you the original mix without any ambiguity about how the audio should be played.

And the Extras

  • Audio commentary with writer/director Steve De Jarnatt & film critic Walter Chaw: Interesting and covers all the bases, including how the story evolved, the small budget, and the various actors.
  • Audio commentary with De Jarnatt, DP Theo Van De Sande, and Production Designer Chris Horner: A lot of self-congratulations here, as they say various versions of “We did so much on such a tiny budget.” But they also describe some interesting money-saving tricks, so it’s not a complete loss.
  • Excavations from the editing room tar pits – deleted scenes, outtakes, and bloopers: 11 minutes, 1080p. Some of the scenes are interesting, and tell us more about the characters. But there’s no narration to put it into context. Someone decided to add music over everything, obscuring much of the dialog. Although presented in 1080p, it all looks like standard video.
  • Supporting cast & crew reunion: 14 minutes, 1080p. Several supporting actors talk about the movie and what they’ve done since.
  • Harry & Julie: Interview with stars Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham: 12 minutes, 1080p. They talk, with clips from the film popping up intermediately. It’s interesting. Edwards mentioned the NYC screening where I discovered the movie.
  • Alternate Diamond Ending: five minutes, 1080p. It repeats the last minute or so of the movie, then has one really stupid shot, then repeats the entire credits roll. Utterly pointless.
  • Trailers for Miracle Mile and De Jarnatt’s only other feature as a director, Cherry 2000.

The A+ List: 8½ (also Children of Paradise & City Lights)

Getting back to my list of all-time favorite films–the near-perfect masterpieces that I’ve loved for decades.

In strict alphabetical order, the next movie on my list is Marcel Carné’s love letter to France and the theater, Children of Paradise. But I’ve written about it twice already, so you can read my appreciation and my Blu-ray review.

Next on the list is Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. I wrote a Blu-ray review of that one, too.

So let’s skip ahead to the next greatly-beloved film that I haven’t dedicated an article to.

Federico Fellini’s surreal, autobiographical, self-referential comedy (of a sort) captures the dread of writer’s block, the pressures on a filmmaker, and the male mid-life crisis better than any other film I’ve seen (Barton Fink may equal it in terms of writer’s block). Fellini takes us deep into the worries, dreams, and memories of a successful writer/director who doesn’t know what his next film–soon to go into production–should be about.

And Fellini does it all with humor, stylish visuals, and an enthusiastic embrace of the cinema as exciting as Citizen Kane‘s. The camera swirls and dances through extras drinking mineral water or waiting for a mud bath. Reality slips into fantasy and back again as easily as a Steadicam can slip from one room to another. I’m still not sure which part of the ending is fantasy and which is reality. Since is an auteurist film about an auteurist filmmaker, we can reasonably assume that Fellini based the main character, Guido, on himself. Of course the part is played by Marcello Mastroianni, who was far better looking than Federico Fellini. But hey, this is a movie. I’d want my cinematic alter-ego to look like Mastroianni.

Guido has a lot on his plate. His next film is headed towards production–sets and costumes are being built–but he’s lost his confidence. He’s delayed the shoot. He avoids talking to his stars about their characters. His producer is losing his patience. And his writing collaborator–apparently the only person who’s read the script–does nothing but tell him how bad it is. This collaborator/critic becomes one of the film’s best running jokes. As he continually points out flaws in the film to be made, it begins to sound as if he’s criticizing (“It doesn’t have the advantage of the avant-garde films, although it has all of the drawbacks”). It’s as if Fellini beat the reviewers to the punch by panning the movie inside of itself. (Not that has these flaws, but I could see how some people might think it did.)

All this is set in an upscale spa resort where Guido has gone for unspecified health reasons. It appears as if he’s brought his entire production company with him, and that the film will be shot (if ever) near the spa.

To make Guido’s life even more complicated, his mistress arrives (played by Sandra Milo–Fellini’s real mistress at that time). Then his wife arrives. And he keeps seeing fantasies of Claudia Cardinale.

The film contains a number of great set pieces. There’s Guido’s walk, mostly shot POV, through the spa to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. The descent into the mud bath to interview a cardinal. His childhood memory of watching a woman dance and being punished for the “sin.” And, of course, his harem fantasy where all of the women he’s loved and wanted happily do his bidding. I’m a bit hesitant to call a comedy, although on reflection I think the word fits. It’s nowhere near as funny as The General or Some Like It Hot, but it is often funny in a sardonic way.

I was still in high school when I first saw and fell in love with . I saw it at least three more times in college. But the real revelation came when I revisited it in my 40s. With its flashbacks, regrets, insecurities, and sexual fantasies, is very much about the middle-aged male. I don’t think a young person can catch everything about it, although–as my younger self proves–you can catch a great deal.

Bill Plympton’s absurd love story: Cheatin’ (my review)

A Adult animation

  • Written and directed by Bill Plympton

If Bill Plympton isn’t the strangest, most iconoclastic, bizarre, and brilliant animator of all time, we live in a very weird world. His instantly recognizable style takes caricature—the heart of all animation—to an extreme beyond anyone else working in features.

Consider Jake—the irresistible hunk in Cheatin’. He appears to have a 60-inch chest and a six-inch waist. He looks as if the upper and lower parts of his body are connected by a thick rope. The love of his life, Ella, has lips so swollen you can’t imagine how she can talk.


Not that we ever hear either of them talk. As with Plympton’s last feature, the brilliant Idiots and Angels, this is basically a silent film, told entirely in visuals, music, and occasional sound effects and grunts.

The story is simple. Jake and Ella meet when he saves her life in a carnival bumper car ride. They fall in love, get married, and are so deeply in love that they can barely keep their clothes on. Other women throw themselves at Jake, but he’s not interested. Then one of these would-be seductresses tricks him into believing that Ella is cheating on him. He starts sleeping around, so Ella…at this point I should stop.

But with Plympton, story is secondary. The real joy is in the surreal wit of his hand-drawn animation—drawn, I might add, with Plympton’s own hands. In the Plympton universe, everyone is ugly and misshapen–even characters whom the story paints as attractive. And Plympton shows his work, with visible pencil lines everywhere.

The visuals reflect emotional states, not real ones. When Ella wonders why Jake seems angry and remote–they’re as far apart as they can be in the same bed–she reaches her hand out to him. And it keeps extending, many feet, as she tries to bridge the widening gap in the widening bed. Before the scene is over, the bed splits apart and his half floats away. It’s absurd, but it’s sad and touching.


Often Plympton uses absurdity simply to get laughs, and he gets them. A hired assassin loads himself up with so many weapons that he can’t get through the door. A cop with both hands and both feet cuffed together, so that he can’t move any of them, still manages to chase his prey by hopping.

The music, much of it familiar classical pieces, adds to the frivolity. When the soundtrack breaks into Verdi’s Libiamo Ne’lieti Calici aria (from La Traviata), Jake and Ella dance and move their lips to the Italian lyrics.

An all-around wonderful film.


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