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Antics: “What’s Up, Doc?”

What's Up, Doc? (1972 film)

What’s Up, Doc? (1972 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With his famous nostalgia for (truly) old movies, Peter Bogdanovich was right to make in the early ’70s a screwball comedy—What’s Up, Doc? (’72)—for he directed with a fine sense of pacing and a flair for sight gags.  The flick is mere entertainment, but it stays unassuming—not always having funny lines, but sufficiently laugh-inducing nonetheless.

In her first movie role, Madeline Kahn plays the scolding fiancee of a musicologist (Ryan O’Neal) with amusing poise and impeccable timing.  O’Neal is passable and occasionally more than that, and some of the other actors are invariably more than that.  The woman Kahn vies with for O’Neal’s affections is, unfortunately, Barbra Streisand—the movie’s most important flaw.  I suppose Streisand looks right for musicals, but she doesn’t look right at all for a Carole Lombard role in a romantic comedy.  She is unglamorous and unfunny and hollow.  She nearly wrecks the entire film.

But not quite.  What’s Up, Doc? is still pleasurable, an inspired tribute to the screwball productions.  Possibly it is the best Bogdanovich movie I’ve seen.

Racy Swift?

A new song by Taylor Swift is supposed to feature the line, “I only bought this dress so you could take it off.”

That’s rich.  NO woman buys a dress for that reason.  I think I’ll be better off avoiding a racy Taylor.

Early Commie: “Reds”

Cover of "Reds (25th Anniversary Edition)...

Cover via Amazon

The Warren Beatty movie, Reds (1981), is a grabber about the American pro-Communist journalist John Reed (Beatty) and his wife Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton).  Often fascinating, it is also, alas, extremely faulty, and its biggest problem is the use of real-life elderly “witnesses” who yak about the John Reed they saw and knew about.  Rebecca West, George Jessel and Will Durant among them, these people make observations that add nothing to the on-screen story, not least because they utter things the rest of us already know.

Beatty’s acting, though not memorable, is palatable.  Keaton does her best to create a character, but some of what she has to do is plainly beyond her.  Director Beatty—co-scenarist too—mostly wastes Jack Nicholson in the Eugene O’Neill role, and Paul Sorvino is sadly almost laughable.

Reds is sufficiently honest to affirm that the Russian Revolution did not liberate people; it oppressed them.  It says, in addition, that political movements are (constantly) hindered or damaged by natural complexity and human variety, even, in fact, by going against nature (as Alfred Jay Nock knew).  As it happens, Bolshevism, in its cruel determination, went not only against nature but also against people.

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