Sons of the Desert (1933)
This is a very funny outing by Laurel and Hardy as they try to convince their wives to let them go on a lodge retreat. In a plot contrivance that I Love Lucy would borrow and recycle endlessly, they lie to their wives to get them to let them leave, but are found out in the end and retribution follows. One of the interesting things I have noticed with Laurel and Hardy's work is that so much of their comedy is physical, their films are almost essentially silent films where the title cards are spoken.
Maybe if I was a disaffected middle-aged man who liked to drink wine I would like this movie more. As it was, I was bored through most of the film and did not care for any of the characters.
C. S. A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)
This mockumentary, done in the style of a straight-laced PBS documentary, tells the story of the history of America with one little deviation from actual history: the South won the Civil War. The whole film is done with a straight face with no winking at the camera. Interspersed throughout are a series of fake commercials for products featuring unflattering racial stereotypes (such as Coon Chicken), products to keep your slaves from running away, and even a COPS style television show about law enforcement hunting down escaped slaves. It is a very sobering film that really brought home to me how slavery actually works. Even though I've read all about it in history books, it happened over 150 years ago, making it seem less real. But seeing how it would work in today's context really brings to light how dehumanizing slavery can be. The real kicker for me was during a segment with the Slave Shopping Network (a takeoff of the Home Shopping Network) in which there is a family of four slaves for sale, and the saleslady says cheerily, "Now you can purchase the whole family or we can break up the set and sell them individually." The film is definitely not for everyone, but it did give me a lot to think about.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
This is yet another take on the "do something desperate while we try to avoid the loan sharks" theme already visited in Mean Streets and Rounders. This is easily the flashiest and most complicated of the three, but with so many characters to follow, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.
Evelyn Prentice (1934)
This is another outing from William Powell and Myrna Loy, and while they are fun to watch, as always, the story is too serious for their chemistry to have a chance to shine. But rework the script and change some of the characters around, and this might have made a good Thin Man movie.
Coming up next: some AFI catch-up.