Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Sigh...once again great expectations have poisoned a movie experience for me.  All the hype and Oscar nominations, and director David O. Russell's previous record had me expecting more than a sloppy feel-good comedy/drama.  Stars Bradley Cooper as a guy just out of the booby hatch for nearly beating to death the guy who was screwing his wife (a guy with anger issues, it's easy to see why Russell was attracted to Matthew Quick's novel).  He finds peace of mind and happiness by watching football games with his father (Robert DeNiro) and entering a dance competition with the neighborhood "slut" (Jennifer Lawrence, who has two fantastic scenes, enough to justify her Oscar win).

Russell's Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees are dazzling movies, but after those ambitious projects, he seems to have become just a regular, good, overpraised director.  Russell's volatile reputation, the tumult behind the scenes of Kings and Huckabees, plus the abandonment of the unfinished Nailed, seems to have prompted him to play nice and by the rules just to stay working.  Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter play it safe, and he's rewarded with big box office and glowing reviews, of course.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

Watched this in the afternoon, thinking I could use a good nap.  Ended up not being nearly as stodgy as I feared.  What could've been a corny and dry history lesson is turned into a political potboiler thanks to Tony Kushner's script.  There is corn, mostly provided by Spielberg's staging and John William's score full of pomp and majesty (lots of distant horns on the soundtrack).  But Kushner's script, which avoids white-washing and canonizing, keeps the director in check.  Daniel Day-Lewis gives a ghostly performance (he sounds eerily like Walter Brennan), but most of the all-star cast does what they can to humanize bewigged and pantaloon-clad daguerreotypes.  What comes through loud and clear is that the back-room deal bullshit that goes on in Washington was always there, and that sticking to your principles in that town will one way or another eventually kill you.  Change the names and shave off the muttonchops and this could've been set in present day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Haven't we had enough of this?  Haven't we had enough of these flashy Tarantino rip-offs?  Hit men delivering eloquent monologues (why don't they just shut up already?), slow motion bullets, soundtrack laden with seventies pop tunes, multiple story lines converging's all here, and it's all been done before and much better.  While not as shitty as a Michael Ritchie caper, this occupies the same litter box.  Writer/director Andrew Dominik makes a film that a fourteen-year-old boy with no friends and raised on video games might find brilliant.  Bottom of the barrel.

Price Check (2012)

Comedy about a new boss (Parker Posey) who swoops into an underperforming division and takes the film's protagonist (Eric Mabius) under her wing and makes him over from drone to executive.  Posey is hardly credible as an executive, but is funny nonetheless.  Writer/director Michael Walker effectively captures the fake enthusiasm and forced camaraderie inflicted on office workers by bosses making more than double their salaries, and what an unfulfilling job can do to someone's psyche.  The trouble is Walker doesn't seem to know where to go from there.  Somewhere near the end, the film has a jarring jump to "Six Months Later" during which it appears many things happened.  These are not shown, explained, or accounted reeks of lazy writing.  It goes beyond not knowing how to end a story, it seems like everyone just got sick of filming and wanted to go home.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Skyfall (2012)

The latest James Bond starts off with a signature, pre-credits action sequence (the best sequence in the film) then gives us a rather busy (visually) credit sequence with a limp Adele song, which made me long for the John Barry/Maurice Binder days.  This is a fine movie.  Just fine.  My problem is the film isn't fun, except when Javier Bardem is on screen, and the whole film has a gloomy pall hanging over it.  There's only one, all-too-brief Bond girl (who is quickly disposed of in a rather vivid manner...he doesn't even end up in bed with her) and hardly any exotic locales:  There is one scene in the streets of Istanbul, and a skyline shot of Hong Kong, and that's it...most of the movie takes place in an underground bunker.  Daniel Craig may be the closest to Ian Fleming's conception of the character than any of the other actors that have played him, but the films have taken on their own identity apart from the books, and a little glee and panache would've lightened the grim mood.  He has maybe thirty lines in the entire film, and never changes his facial expression, no acting required, his haunted blue eyes providing the required screen magnetism (if any).  Most of the acting is provided by Bardem, who's obviously having a ball, the best Bond villain in years.  Spoiler Alert.  The film seems in limbo, tearing down the franchise's legacy while supposedly celebrating it.  M is murdered and the famous Aston-Martin is symbolically blown to smithereens, while the character of Moneypenny is reintroduced and we visit Bond's childhood Scotland (a reference to Connery, I'm guessing).  Though I'm not proposing reinstating the days of Roger Moore's eye-rolling, James Bond is taking himself way too seriously.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Room 237 (2012)

Documentary by Rodney Ascher about the supposed hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.  This has audio interviews with the films enthusiasts while clips from the film are shown, sometimes frame by frame.  Now, Kubrick, for me, is not someone I worship.  To me, he produced two masterpieces: Dr. Strangelove and The Shining.  The Shining is an endlessly fascinating film and to my mind Kubrick's greatest achievement, so I was excited to have some of the film's secrets revealed to me.  To my disappointment, these theories are presented as a joke, and the interview subjects (some of whom are serious scholars) come off as crackpots.

For instance, in a scene between Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, a chair behind Nicholson disappears.  The narrators read a lot into this.  Knowing what I know about Kubrick, the real reason is that the scene is composed of two shots filmed a fucking year apart!  A simple continuity error.  If Kubrick wanted to give us a sense of unease, he'd already gone further by making the geography of the hotel completely nonsensical (elevator shafts that weren't there before, windows placed in impossible locations), I don't think he'd simply remove a chair, something that might be perceived as a mistake.

Some theories ring true, like the genocide of Native Americans, something even a casual viewer of the film would pick up.  In the opening scenes, the manager states the hotel is built on an Indian burial ground and that many Indians had to be "fought off" during its construction (this gives heft to the stunning image of blood gushing from the elevator doors...don't take that elevator to the basement, lots of Indian blood down there!).  Also, the Jack Torrence character as a minotaur (the monster of the hotel and hedge maze, plus Kubrick's first production company was called "Minotaur").

Through most of the film, Danny's gift aside, the set-up is that this was all in Jack's mind (whenever he sees a ghost, he's looking in a mirror, therefore he's talking to himself). Then near the end, Kubrick has that chilling scene when you hear the latch of the storage room door being opened from the other side by Grady.  This completely shifts the implications that the sinister hotel and its ghostly inhabitants are at work.  The one thing the narrators cannot explain (or agree on) is Jack Torrence's presence in the photograph in the final shot, dated "July 4, 1921" (who, or what, was he?).

Directors like Kubrick, or even David Lynch, who leave things vague or open to interpretation never own up to these theories, why would they?  The thing I took away from this is the folly of overanalyzing films.  It's enough to make you as crazy as Jack Torrence.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Argo (2012)

Last year's Best Picture winner, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.  Affleck the actor gives a downright cloudy performance, as if his mind were on something guess is he's unable to pat his head and rub his tummy at the same time.  Affleck the director fares slightly better, assembling a great cast (particularly Brian Cranston and Alan Arkin) and just playing the action without showing off too much (although he does slip in a beefcake shot of himself).  I suppose he should've been nominated.  Perhaps the Academy still has nightmares that they gave Kevin Costner an Oscar for Dances With Wolves?  A good, solid movie.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Sessions (2012)

A 38 year old paraplegic is tired of being a virgin and looks for sex by means of sexual surrogate Helen Hunt.  This reeked of Oscar bait (the two lead characters are a disabled guy and a prostitute with a heart of gold!).  I went into this wanting to hate it...once it was under way, the nonchalant approach and good acting made me want to love it...neither happened.  A nice movie where most of the good stuff comes not from the script but from the actors trying to inject truth into the proceedings.  Once again Helen Hunt struggles with an accent and it comes off as inauthentic (this time it's a Boston accent, about as convincing and tenuous as her Brooklyn accent in As Good As It Gets).  Her vagina's holding up nicely (you see it often, it's practically a supporting character).  Much better than her face, she looks as if she sleeps in a dehydrator.  Also starring John Hawkes, Moon Bloodgood, and William H. Macy (who looks like he shares that dehydrator).

Monday, April 8, 2013

'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (2007)

Routine documentary about Jackie Paris, one of the most criminally overlooked singers of the twentieth century.  He was (and is) known as a "singer's singer", which basically translates as "unpopular with the public".  Among his ardent fans were Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn (who went to bed with him), Charles Mingus (who didn't), Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk...Paris was the first to record the Monk classic "Round Midnight".   Paris turns out to be a rather dull Italian guy, who never drank or smoked, and never got his big break.  His voice (I've been a fan since stumbling across his remarkable recording of "Detour Ahead" a dozen years ago) is sometimes shaky and gravelly, but like other great singers who have an imperfect voice (Billie Holliday, Anita O'Day) it's intimate and unique and an emotional experience to listen to.  Sounding like no one else can work for you or against you, and the latter seems to have happened with him.  The film reveals very little about the man, you'd do better to purchase his lp "Skylark" (he recorded only four albums in his prime, and just another two after his voice went).  There are larger mysteries, but just listen to this man's voice and try to fathom why he never made it big...

Holy Motors (2012)

For the life of me, I could not begin to explain what the fuck this movie is about.  Perhaps director Leos Carax likes making his audience feel stupid?  The only other film of his I've seen is the hysterical (in the bad sense) and pretentious Pola X.  I should've known this would be an arty ordeal.  Is this film about divine providence?  About fate?  About identity?  About the nature of acting?  About movies?  About an hour too long?   Carax once again attempts to grasp at some universal truth and instead produces a fistful of hot air.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Late Quartet (2012)

Christopher Walken, Katherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Mark Ivanir star as a renowned string quartet about to embark on their twenty-fifth season, when the group's cellist (Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

The egos of creative types is a subject matter that can grow rather tiresome.  All the infighting and history of the group comes off as nothing more than a classical music version of Fleetwood Mac.  Oddly low-key and overdramatic at the same time, this has good performances from the four (however, none of them even bother to look like they're actually playing their instruments) and a scene here and there that works.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wake In Fright (1971)

A "lost" film that has recently been restored and reappraised.  An American/Australian co-production, shot on a low budget (which doesn't show, the film is shot with grace and invention and looks fantastic) and directed by the Canadian Ted Kotcheff (who'd go on to direct the swell Joshua Then and Now as well as...gulp, Weekend At Bernie's).

A young schoolteacher, stuck in a one room schoolhouse in the Australian outback, decides to escape to Sydney during the summer break.  En route to the city, he gets marooned in a small town after losing all his money gambling.  He soon is drinking heavily, flopping on stranger's beds, going on (real) kangaroo hunts, and engaging in the brutal side of cliche Australian male behavior.

That kangaroo hunt...that was hard to sit through.  If you are unable to watch innocent animals suffering, then you may not want to see this film.  The producer hired kangaroo hunters for this scene and after a few hours, the hunters (who were by then completely drunk) were missing their targets and just wounding the creatures.  The producer fainted on set after seeing a baby kangaroo limping with its entrails dragging behind it.  The director faked a power outage to get them to stop firing.  When this was re-screened at Cannes in 2009 (one of only two films in the festival's history to show twice, the other being Antonioni's L'Avventura) twelve people walked out during this scene.

I'm not sure what the point of all of this is.  This has the descent into corruption and debauchery that director Joseph Losey liked to portray in his films of the early fact, Losey tried to make this film years earlier but was unsuccessful in gathering up the funds.  This also has a Losey/Harold Pinter fascination with homosexuality (the film is permeated with ugly homoerotic undertones, and sometimes overtones).  I guess the point is irrelevant, it's just an uncomfortable film buzzing with flies, dripping with sweat, reeking of b.o. and vomit, and festooned with kangaroo intestines.  It's memorable, but you may not want to remember it.  Starring Gary Bond and the terrific Donald Pleasance.

This Is Not A Film (2012)

You got that right!  This is Iranian film director Jafar Panahi shuffling around his apartment, watching television, reading the newspaper, watering plants, etc.  Oh, and to spice things up, the cute college student stops by to collect his trash.  I'm guessing this is to illustrate a kind of "artistic castration", since he's awaiting the government to hand down a decision whether or not he will go to prison, or be banned from making films.  There are bigger tragedies, but the situation is shameful and ludicrous.  Unfortunately, this footage that sheds light on Panhari's fate (which was smuggled out of Iran in a birthday cake) is boring.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Wise Kids (2012)

Drama written and directed by Stephen Cone about three teens (Eric Hulsebos, Tyler Ross, and the unfortunately named Molly Kunz) who are about to leave their small Southern town for college in the big city.  All three, aside from the big leap they're making from childhood to adulthood,  are going through other major transformations:  One is terrified that her world and friends are slipping away, the other, a pastor's daughter, loses her faith, and the third is realizing that he is homosexual and is pretty much okay with it.  More instructional than college is the fact that most of the adults around them are mistaken...about how they live their own lives, mistaken about everything, really.  This comes through clear as a bell to these wise kids, and they're the most well adjusted and happy characters in the film.  The acting from the kids (a filmmaker hired actual teens for once) is faultless and beautifully simplistic, and the film overall has a nice gentility to it.  Also starring the director himself in a major role (he's quite good) and Matt DeCaro.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (2011)

A Turkish police drama directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylon that has a bunch of small-town policeman dragging two murder suspects around the Anatolian countryside looking for the spot where they buried a body.  It's obvious that the film was made with care and taste, but beautifully composed shots and ponderous dialogue do not a satisfying movie make.  Ceylon seems to be aiming for an Antonioni-style character study (deadly pacing, unanswered mysteries, a plot that disintegrates), but without Antonioni's  passion and wildly arty eye for design.  There are stunning moments (a sudden lightning strike that reveals a face in the darkness, a midnight dinner at a farm house, the chilling opening shot) but these moments seem arbitrarily placed in a film that is ultimately about isolation (again, Antonioni tackled this subject time and again with more invention and economy).   Instead of a mystery that lingers in the mind, the film evaporates before our eyes.

Chico & Rita (2012)

A Spanish animated film set in pre-Castro Havana about the love affair between a Cuban bandleader and his singer.  It's a romance with a standard rags-to-riches showbiz story...we've seen it before, just not in animated form.  The animation is pleasing to the eye and shows us glimpses of Havana's jet setting days, plus the music is okay.  I just don't quite understand why this story had to be told, especially in animated form.  I still cannot get the image of cartoon tits and beaver out of my head.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Very, very corny comedy about college a cappella singing competitions.  The entire "teenage" cast is pushing thirty and the script is hard-sell and joke-filled.  Some of the jokes are actually funny (one girl with large areolas is nicknamed "bologna tits").  But the film tries to straddle the line between sincerity and snark, and comes up short on both.  Glee meets Bring It On, if that sounds like a winning combo to you, then be my guest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)

A little girl named Hushpuppy is raised on the margins of society in the Louisiana swamps, with an insane father and lots of floor-stompin', jug-swillin', toothless bayou stereotypes.  The "point" of the movie (I suppose) is to show how the least of the world (the smallest insect/these people) are just as vital as everything/everyone else, and that these people are slowly being killed off to the detriment of the planet..."balance of nature" metaphors abound.   Also, retarded dialogue, hammy acting, clumsy surrealism, and nauseating camera moves are in full supply.  I couldn't wait for it to be over.  What a crock of shit. 

Keep The Lights On (2012)

Gay movies.  Ugh.  They have a built-in audience, therefore they don't have to be good, and ninety-five percent of the time they're not.  As a gay man, I try to imagine the characters heterosexual and ask myself if I'd still be interested in the story.  Usually the answer is no, this time the answer is "meh".   It stars Thure Lindhart as a documentarian and Zachary Booth as a young, drug addicted lawyer who embark on a nine year tumultuous relationship.  Good acting and enthusiastic sex scenes by the two leads barely keep this from becoming one of those depressing relationship movies, like the terminally dreary Blue Valentine.  Plus, I've always wanted to see Zachary Booth naked, ever since first seeing him as Glenn Close's teenage son on Damages (he read "gay" then, yet he still proclaims his heterosexuality in interviews, he must be a very good actor).  Very sincere and ultimately insignificant.  Not a fraction as good as another gay film that came out about a year ago, the fantastic and perceptive Weekend...a film that anyone would find moving, gay or straight.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Compliance (2012)

"Thriller" (more accurately a drama) written and directed by Craig Zobel, and starring the terrific Ann Dowd and Dyan Cannon lookalike Dreama Walker.  Supposedly based on true events, a cop calls a fast food franchise and claims a female employee is a thief and needs to be strip searched.  The clueless manager spends the next few hours inspecting and probing the naked employee in the back office while the "cop" on the phone gives her ridiculous instructions like: "Make her do jumping jacks."

No red flags went up for any of these people...or maybe they did and they ignored them, triggering some base emotions in the participants...there is a lot of grey area in this movie. The good acting, and the details of working in a fast food restaurant, as well as the mindset of doing what you're told in a corporate environment, keep the plot from reaching the point of collapse.  I lasted a month in a place like this when I was nineteen, and an anal probing or two would've been a welcome break.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Writer/director Martin McDonagh's follow-up to the marvelous In Bruges (2008).  Colin Farrell plays an alcoholic screenwriter wrestling with the script of a hollow action film called "Seven Psychopaths" who suddenly finds himself in hot water with a murderous gangster, thanks to the shenanigans of his best friend (Sam Rockwell, an out of work actor who kidnaps dogs for money).  Not surprisingly, real-life psychopaths walk among us, and soon Farrell has found the inspiration for his seven protagonists and ends up writing the film we're watching. (This device has been used before, many times, yet I can only recall Adaptation.  If anyone reading this can think of others, I'd like to know, it's killing me.)

Lots of cartoonish violence and many great one-liners, this was a lot of fun.  It's inferior to In Bruges only because that film seemed more focused, and had more sincerity.  The cast is great, particularly Christopher Walken, who for once isn't on autopilot, his best performance in years.  Also starring Tom Waits and Woody Harrelson (a last minute replacement for Mickey Rourke, thank goodness).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Detropia (2012)

Hyped documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Detropia (a somewhat clumsy portmanteau if you ask me) chronicles the decline of Detroit by following the downtrodden residents as they go about their lives in a dying city.  The directors seem to take a page from Frederick Wiseman's book by just pointing the camera at people as they talk and flounder (This at times reminded me of Wiseman's devastating documentary Public Housing, another kind of "dying city").  While maybe not ethnic cleansing, class cleansing seems to be occurring.  I have a hunch that Detroit has become so cheap to live in that it'll soon be overrun by artist and hippie types, turning it into some sort of Fruitopia.  This isn't focused enough, just an assemblage of footage.  There's a moment in Gary Hustwit's 2011 doc Urbanized that manages to say more in three minutes than this does in ninety:  Wordless footage of a ride on the Detroit Monorail from thirty years ago, then that exact same ride looks like an atom bomb had been detonated.  I'd recommend watching an Urbanized/Roger & Me double feature instead.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nightmare Alley (1947)

Bland director, bland leading man, I still had high hopes for this one.  It's something of a cult film, and has a few promising credits attached to it, screenwriter Jules Furthman and cinematographer Lee Garmes.  Plus Joan Blondell, an actress who always looked and acted like she was on the rag...she always perks up a film with her sour and exhausted presence.  But this just didn't quite do it for me, Tyrone Power is an actor whose appeal eludes me...too glossy, no depth.   I don't even find him terribly handsome (Tallulah Bankhead was once asked who the best looking woman in Hollywood was, and she replied "Tyrone Power").  And for a screenwriter as talented as Furthman, you could see the ending coming a mile away.  Not good enough.  Also starring doomed actress Helen Walker, who steals the movie playing a butch, evil psychologist.

Side By Side (2012)

Excruciatingly dull and meandering documentary presided over by Keanu Reeves.  This is supposed to weigh the pros and cons of digital versus film in moviemaking, but it's just a bunch of luminaries talking about video cameras, with Keanu explaining how cameras work as if he were speaking to a kindergarden class.  It's not like they didn't talk to the right people, perhaps Mr. Reeves didn't ask the right questions?  I noticed a funny pattern:  Whenever he was speaking to a distinguished cameraman, it would list credits that starred Keanu Reeves over any others.  For instance, legendary Director of Photography Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) was billed as the DP of Little Buddha.  Listless and unenlightening.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Garbo: The Spy (2009)

Astounding documentary from director Edmon Roch about the first (and one of the only) deliberate double agents (most double agents are found out and then turned).  A Spanish guy who was just looking for a job, he pretended to be an ardent Hitler supporter around Madrid for a few weeks, then marched into the German Embassy in 1940 and offered his services as a spy, saying he regularly traveled to London (a lie) and spoke English (another lie).  They trained him, showing him tricks of their trade and vital encryption codes, and sent him to London.  Instead of hopping a boat to London, he spent 11 months in Lisbon lounging on a beach and using a travel book of England (!) to fool his employers that he was actually in London.  He made up every piece of information he gave them, when they grew suspicious, he would blame a contact (a person he fabricated) for the misinformation.

He was eventually hired by the British (who gave him the code name Garbo, saying he was "the greatest actor on earth") and shipped off to London, where he invented an elaborate network of contacts, each of them paid by the Germans (he had thirty or more completely imaginary contacts).  When his "contact" in Liverpool failed to report a British fleet deployment, he told the Nazis the contact had been ill.  Garbo then placed a bogus obituary in the local newspaper announcing this non-person's death, and not only did they swallow this, they sent a generous pension to his non-existent widow (pocketed by Garbo).

 He would purposely feed lies to the Germans, the Brits would give him enough true but harmless information to make him appear credible, and the Americans would give him vital information, but a few hours too late to do any harm.  His most cunning trick was to convince the Germans that Allied forces were planning on invading the French coast at Pas De Calais, not Normandy, claiming Normandy was the diversion and not the other way around.  They believed him, so much so that two months after D-Day, they still had most of their army poised at Pas De Calais, thus saving thousands of lives, on both sides.  A few weeks after Germany surrendered, he met with his secret Nazi contact in Madrid, who thanked him for his valuable service, handed him a fortune, and Garbo disappeared into thin air, never to be seen again (the Allies arrested the contact minutes after Garbo left).  That week, he was awarded the German Iron Cross (in absentia) and a month later was awarded Master of the British Empire (in absentia), the only person in history medaled by both sides.

The film itself is not anything out of the ordinary, a mixture of talking heads and clips of old spy movies.  But this guy's story is so extraordinary that I was totally enthralled during its breezy 82 minute running time.  Why a narrative film has not been made about this scoundrel is perplexing...perhaps because no one would believe it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Sky's The Limit (1943)

I haven't posted in over a year.  I'm so damn bored that I've decided to resume this thing, at least for now.  So once again I'm twisting in the wind and have rejoined the innumerable ranks of opinionated assholes with a blog.

There are so many wartime movies that treat the frontline as if it were one big party, full of flag-waving and characters espousing dated American values, so The Sky's The Limit is an oddity:  a wartime musical that is cynical about the war and actually critical about homefront patriotism.

Fred Astaire plays a Flying Tiger on leave who wants to get off the war bond tour he's stuck on and just get laid.  The train he's on stops in the middle of nowhere and he sneaks off.  Astaire did a lonely, middle-of-the-night solo on a train trestle high above a ravine.  This was shot over the course of days, with great expense to the RKO special effects department, but for some reason the scene was cut from the film and is apparently lost.  Too bad, for the insight this gives to the character he plays...dancing high in the air, flanked on either side by a deadly fall, is an effective metaphor and is recalled for his final solo of the film.  The object of his lust is played by Joan Leslie, a young magazine photographer who views the war almost strictly as a career opportunity, begging her editor to put her "where the action is."  Over the course of their brief romance, he hides his true profession, worried that he'd spend the remainder of his leave "telling her all about China."  His character doesn't care, about anything really, for he knows probable death awaits him once his leave is up.  But (of course) he starts to feel true love towards Leslie, and this fills him with what could only be described as anger and bitterness over his precarious situation.  In the end, Leslie finds out who he really is.  The war, which before she had viewed as a chance to further her ambitions, now takes on a whole new meaning.  No flag-waving here.  Near the conclusion, Astaire, in a drunken rage, smashes up a bar (because sugar was rationed, real glass was used, which cut up Astaire's hands and ankles).  One of the only instances where a tap dance was choreographed to express anger;  Astaire's body is like a coiled spring and he lays into the floor like a jackhammer.  This tremendous number is the Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen classic "One For My Baby", and after Astaire demolishes the place, he toasts the two things that are causing his grief: Leslie and the war..."Make it one for my baby / and one more for the road / that long, long, road."

The film is filled with draft-dodgers, corrupt politicians, incompetent war profiteers.  There is even a scene (which really sours Astaire's mood) where the film's producer hired an actual war widow to tearfully christen a fighter jet...the same kind of jet that malfunctioned and killed her husband.  The film was a modest success, but people didn't get it.  Some critics noticed something "vaguely disturbing" (James Agee in The New Yorker) but ultimately dismissed it as another frothy Astaire musical.  This is clearly an anti-war film, a musical drama.  An intelligent, well acted, very moving film.  This deserves rediscovery.