Yesterday's Papers: Your spoilerific guide to SotG 2010 (The Year We Make Contact), never mind that it doesn't get going for another month yet
[caption id="attachment_6066" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="You ain\'t got the gumption to use it. But he'll find it."][/caption] Summer in our Nation's Capitol is long and hot and squishy and hot and suffocating and sultry and hot. Also, it's been known to get a little warm on occasion, those occasions being July and August. But the sticky season is not without its pleasures. Screen on the Green, the beloved outdoor film series on the National Mall, returns next month to showcase another eclectic menu of classic flicks on four consecutive Monday evenings. Herewith, a primer on this year's slate.
Films begin at dusk on the field between 4th and 7th Streets.
Goldfinger (1964) The third time was the charm for the James Bond franchise, which had scored with two prior outings starring Sean Connery as the ur-agent on her majesty's secret service, but which exploded into a global phenomenon with this, the film that provided its most iconic images, heavies and beauties. Recall, whether you've seen the film or not, the gold-painted female corpse. The passenger-expelling Aston Martin. The hat-throwing, golf ball-crushing assassin, Oddjob, And, villainess-or-is-she Ms. -- hey, can we say this in the newspaper? -- Pussy Galore.
Geek Alert (niche): Honor Blackman quit the great British spy show The Avengers to take the part of Ms. Galore. Geek Alert (broad): Goldfinger is also the picture in which 007, in a rare lapse of taste, disses The Beatles. Who, to be fair, didn't make their best records until after this movie came out.
Notable film critics like Roger Ebert and my dad say this adventure, wherein 007 must foil a conspiracy to rob the U.S. gold repository at Fort Knox, is the best of the 20-odd Bond flicks, an honor I reserve for its immediate predecessor, "From Russia with Love." But with its morbid one-liners, rapid-fire (for the time) cutting, and fake endings, "Goldfinger" was the template blockbuster action films would follow for the next 40 years, seldom with more amusing results. And any movie that can make a golf game -- between Connery and Gert Frobe as the titular villain -- seem exciting is clearly operating on a higher level. (July 12.)
The Goodbye Girl (1977) Did you think Jerry Maguire was the first dramedy wherein a movie star falls in love with a little kid and then eventually, the kid's mom? Neil Simon got there 20 years before Cameron Crowe. Richard Dreyfuss, that fixture of 70s event films, won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a pompous stage actor who arrives at his Manhattan summer sublet and finds its current occupant, played by Marsha Mason, unwilling to leave — it seems her boyfriend hadn't bothered to tell her he'd rented out their place.
They fall into an unlikely/inevitable courtship based on a love of trading withering verbal barbs. Hey, we all know couples like this. While becoming an accidential surrogate Dad to her adorable 10-year-old daughter, Dreyfuss is rehearsing a production Richard III that posits Richard as a drag queen. Those are the scenes you probably remember. (July 19.) Twelve Angry Men (1957) Sidney Lumet's most recent film came out in 2007, fully half a century after this, his feature debut (though he was already a seasoned TV veteran), wherein 12 men — a few of them angry, yes; but some just lazy, or anxious to get out in time to catch a ball game — try to reach consensus on the fate of the accused. "Innocent until proven guilty" and "reasonable doubt" are two ubiquitous phrases in American life that you might never have thought about deeply; this taut, absorbing drama, set almost entirely inside a jury room on, naturally, the hottest day of summer, might inspire you to chew them over at length.
We barely glimpse the murder trial or the defendant. Everything we come to know comes from the lips of the jurors, 11 of whom are intially ready to convict. But Henry Fonda isn't buying. As he gradually sways other jurors to share his skepticism, Lumet switches camera lenses and shoots from ever-lower angles to crank up the tension.
If you've ever been empaneled in a criminal case -- I have -- so, so many elements of this film will feel uncannily familiar to you. It acknowledges that trial by a jury of one's peers is a messy, imperfect process, necessarily as vulnerable to prejudice and carelessness as the human heart itself. Bonne and Clyde (1967) The Bailout Era has not yet produced a pair of bank-robbing folk heroes like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but there's still time. This romanticized saga of the real-life Depression-era outlaws whose crime spree was motivated as much by a fear of ordinariness as by poverty is now recognized as the first shot of the New Hollywood; the creative revolution that brought us sophisticated, substantive movies from Martin Scorcese, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, and Robert Altman, among others, until Star Wars convinced studios it was better business to aim everything at kids.
From its opening frames, Bonnie and Clyde captivates, effortlessly combining romance with crime thriller with road movie with social critique. The chemistry between producer-star Warren Beatty and star-being-born Faye Dunaway palpably sizzles. To miss it, you'd have to be a Warner Bros. executive. Jack Warner famously hated the picture, dumping it into the second-rate theatres in the dog days of summer. Six months later, after a wave of critical raves and 10 Oscar nominations, Warners rereleased the film to worldwide success, ushering in a decade-long creative renaissance that Hollywood hasn't come close to replicating since.
SPOILER: They die. SPOILER: Beatty's character suffers from impotence for most of the film. SPOILER: Rosebud is the sled. You can't spoil a classic. (Aug. 2.)
This piece appeared in yesterday's Examiner, with fewer photos.