Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Dark Waters, Summer Stock, & High Anxiety

I see a lot of films at festivals – always with a press pass. I screen movies before they’re opened so I can review them. But I also see pictures like everyone else; buying a ticket or streaming at home. If I see the film that way, and have never written about before, it goes into this irregular series, Movies I’ve Recently Seen.

B Dark Waters (2019), Shattuck

While making Teflon pans for your kitchen, Dupont poisoned a great many people working in their plant or living downstream. In Todd Haynes’ new, based-on-a-true-story drama, Mark Ruffalo plays a corporate lawyer who sets out to make Dupont pay for its crimes. The film is very well written, shot, and edited. Along with Ruffalo, it has Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and Bill Pullman – and they all give good performances. But by putting the lawyer front and center, Haynes takes that focus away from the people who suffered most. In 2018, the Jewish Film Festival screened a better documentary on the subject that focused on the real victims.

B- Summer Stock (1950), Criterion Channel

This MGM musical depends entirely on the singing and dancing to be enjoyable…mostly the dancing. The story is so corny and obvious that you know everything that’s going to happen. Despite the strong, comedic talents of Eddie Bracken, Phil Silvers, and Hans Conried, most of the humor falls flat. But when Gene Kelly and Judy Garland sing and dance – together or solo – everything becomes magic. Kelly’s dance with newspapers is like nothing you’ve ever seen. And Garland’s final number, Get Happy, is one of her best performances on film.

D- High Anxiety (1977) YouTube PPV

Mel Brooks’ parody/homage to Alfred Hitchcock is wrong in almost every way. The plot, taken from Spellbound, never feels Hitchcockian, suspenseful, or funny. Brooks, who stars as well as producing and directing, lacks even the charisma to parody a leading man. Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman, as the main villains, go so far over the top it kills the comedy. There are almost no attempts to use, or parody, Hitchock’s unique camera angles. I rarely laughed. If it wasn’t for one scene parodying The Birds – the only extended funny sequence in the movie – I would have given High Anxiety an F.