This led to her thinking of other movies that have classic status and a number of elements that should hit all her sweet spots, and yet she's never tempted to sit down and get reacquainted with them when they pop up on Turner Classic Movies, or when someone posts or tweets about them. So, for the sheer undiluted hell of it, she came up with ten.
Now lists like this are risky, in that people do not generally care to have their beloved favorites maligned. The Siren apologizes in advance, and assures her patient readers that she sees virtues in all of these movies, even if it's just the presence of a great actor. You will also notice that the list is almost entirely comprised of some of the Siren's most beloved directors. And nothing here alters that devotion, but you'll have to accept that as a given. The Siren isn't going to clutter things up by waving around her Billy Wilder-loving credentials, for example.
Still, something about each of these films irks the Siren to the point of nonenjoyment. Usually that's related to deficiencies of humor, theme or performance, although there's a couple of films that, in the words of X. Trapnel's grandmother, "don't have looks eyes like."
So if the Siren's list includes a deep personal favorite, go ahead and take your revenge in comments: "Oh yeah? Well I'VE never liked [insert name of movie the Siren has praised to the skies]." Just remember the one rule at the Siren's place: No dissing Citizen Kane. That is not and never has been a joke. Otherwise, have at it.
P.S. Over at Some Came Running, Glenn Kenny has posted a response, in which he links to his defense of the second Man Who Knew Too Much and offers his approving thoughts on Kiss Me, Stupid. Check it out! The Siren loves the post title alone.
1. Father of the Bride (Vincente Minnelli, 1950)
The Siren hastens to say that the late Elizabeth Taylor is the one thing she really does like about the movie. Taylor makes the most of an underwritten role, and you really believe she loves her Pop. However. For one thing, it bothers the Siren that Taylor is so young, although she realizes full well that this is the age at which many people got married in the 1950s, and Taylor herself was married when it was released. Still, it's off-putting. As is Tracy's open jealousy of his son-in-law, and if you ask the Siren, his character talks down to Joan Bennett way too much, and she's clearly a lot smarter than he is. More than anything, the comedy falls short of the mark, both too sour and not sharp enough. The Siren's final curmudgeonly observation is that Taylor's celebrated wedding dress is way too mid-Victorian for her taste.
2. You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra, 1938) Back in his IFC blogging days Vadim Rizov took this one apart. Heart of the matter:
Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (played by Lionel Barrymore) [is] a lovable old coot who lets whoever wants to follow their flighty impulses and desires (fireworks! mechanical dolls! ballet!) take up space and pursue them, no matter how impractical or unsafe.
Like all free spirits, Grandpa Vanderhof doesn't believe in paying the income tax. In [one] infuriating scene… he plays rhetorical cat-and-mouse with a frustrated representative of the IRS, demanding to know what good his 22 years' owed back-taxes would do. The representative says they need warships, but crafty grandpa -- three years before World War II -- says we haven't used those since the Spanish-American War. Nor does Grandpa use the roads ever, and he certainly doesn't believe in Congress because, you know, Congress, haw haw.
The Siren agrees with Vadim in every particular. We're both Capra fans, but You Can't Take It With You is for the birds.
3. Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942) To the Siren, this will always be one-half of a great movie. My word, Katharine Hepburn is gorgeous in it. The Siren would say it's tied with The Philadelphia Story for the title of Hepburn at Her Most Ravishing. And if the Siren is lucky enough to catch the first half, she'll watch it for the way the actress lounges down a hallway and swings her legs off that desk. The chemistry with Tracy would give Antoine Lavoisier a heart attack. But the ending--oh my stars and garters, that ending, in which Hepburn is humiliated because sure, she can wear the hell out of a chic suit and write circles around any man in sight, but what that does matter if she burns his breakfast--that ending is so hideous, so cringe-inducing that the Siren can't watch it. She can't even watch much past the midpoint because she knows the finale is coming. TCM says the ending was changed after an audience preview. And before you go after the Siren for imposing 2011 viewpoints on a 1942 movie, let it be said that when the rewrite was presented to Hepburn, she "termed it 'the worst bunch of shit I ever read.'" God, don't you love her even more for that?
4. Kiss Me, Stupid (Billy Wilder, 1964) The Siren likes Kim Novak very much in this movie; Pauline Kael was 100% right that "her lostness holds the film together," to the extent that it hangs together at all. People tell the Siren to just try to get past Ray Walston, but how, exactly? He's all over the movie. As is Dean Martin, a hit-or-miss talent for the Siren; here his character is just too creepy for words.
5. The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962) This is one movie the Siren would watch again in its entirety because it's so damn beautiful, and that is no small virtue in her eyes. But the truth is that she finds the dialogue, and the performances of Anthony Perkins and Jeanne Moreau, mannered and dull.
6. Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, 1941) The Siren doesn't believe that the indisputably great Hawks had much of a feel for Tennessee or its inhabitants. Nor does she care for the preachiness of this movie, or find Alvin York's conversion to Army superhero to be particularly convincing on screen, even if it did happen in real life. For what it's worth, co-screenwriter Howard Koch later expressed something of the same doubts: "If you render under all the Caesars, past and present, what they demand of us, there is little left for God. They get what they want--power, glory, money or whatever--and He comes out on the short end." The Siren does like the "Give Me That Old Time Religion" conversion scene a lot, though.
7. Guys and Dolls (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1955) Truly, the Siren does not get any of the love for this one. You want to revive an unjustly neglected Mankiewicz, the Siren suggests The Late George Apley or Five Fingers, both terrific. Guys and Dolls' abstract sets might--might, although the Siren has her strong doubts--have worked had the casting had been better. But look, people say it all the time because it's true: Frank Sinatra should have played Sky Masterson, not Nathan Detroit. Vivian Blaine, by all accounts a marvel as Miss Adelaide on stage, never quite catches fire here, and her fights with Sinatra are mechanical. Brando mangles his every love song, none worse than "A Woman in Love." The one saving grace for the Siren, aside from her beloved Jean Simmons dancing in Havana, is the marvelous Stubby Kaye.
8. Where the Boys Are (Henry Levin, 1960) The Siren can happily deal with retro attitudes toward sex and marriage in Jean Negulesco's "three girls" movies, like Three Coins in the Fountain or The Best of Everything. But there's one problem with this movie right there: you get four girls, and that's one too many. Darryl Zanuck would have made them take one out. Robert Avrech argues that Dolores Hart is quite good here, and she is. But the way poor Yvette Mimieux is treated makes the Siren's skin crawl, and there just isn't enough laughter or romance to make up for it in any way.
9. The Pink Panther (Blake Edwards, 1963) Great look to the film, and a great-looking Capucine, who is high on the Siren's list of Actresses She'll Forgive Anything Because They Are So Ridiculously Beautiful. But just not funny to the Siren; too slapstick, and a lingering cruelty under the humor that rubs the Siren the wrong way. Man, the Siren loves that song in the ski lodge, though.
10. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) This married couple just basically hate one another, don't they? The Siren vastly prefers the original.