Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Mrs. Miniver, First Man, 9 to 5, & The Goldwyn Follies

Here are four more movies I’ve seen recently that don’t fit into any other articles I’ve written.

B+ Mrs. Miniver (1942), Filmstruck

William Wyler’s first Best Picture winner celebrates the British stiff upper lip during the early months of World War II. These are the sort of people who enjoy a flower show with death all around them. The title character (Greer Garson) struggles to keep her family and small town together while German bombs rain down on them and their son is off fighting. Of course, this was made in Hollywood by a German-Jewish director, and it’s not exactly accurate, but it sure is inspirational.

B- First Man (2018), Cerrito

Neil Armstrong – the first man to walk on the moon – was a very dull person. At least he seems that way in Ryan Gosling’s performance. He avoids socializing with anyone, including his wife and children. Almost everyone standing next to him seems warm and fuzzy by comparison. Gosling spends the whole film looking sad (for which he has reason; Armstrong’s daughter died at a very young age). But when the camera takes us into space, the film comes alive. Director Damien Chazelle gives us the feel of those tiny Gemini and Apollo capsules, and the majesty of the ultimate wide-open spaces.

9 to 5 (1980), HBOGo

At least this badly-made comedy – a satire on office sexism – has its heart in the right place. Unfortunately, neither Lily Tomlin nor Jane Fonda are as funny as we know they can be. Singer Dolly Parton, in her first acting role, isn’t much better. The plot is outrageously ridiculous, which could have worked but doesn’t, thanks to Colin Higgins’ off-timing direction. Fonda does a slapstick routine with a Xerox machine that only reminds us how much has been lost in the art of physical comedy. At least Parton gave us a terrific title song.

D- The Goldwyn Follies (1938), FilmStruck

How can a film written by Ben Hecht, shot by Gregg Toland, with songs by the Gershwins, be so bad?  In this Hollywood attempt to make fun of Hollywood, a producer (Adolphe Menjou) hires a typical young woman (Andrea Leeds) to help find out what the public really wants. It’s all very obvious and dull, with random songs, dances, and comedy routines that seldom work.

But 34 minutes into the movie, there’s one wonderful comic song-and-dance sequence starring the Ritz Brothers, with Menjou as the straight man. It’s weird, brilliantly funny, and works out of context; of course, the movie itself barely has a context.  You can watch it, in pretty bad resolution, on YouTube: