My cable provider is giving us free viewings of the premium channels this weekend, and I'm watching Dick Tracy. I remember being impressed with this when I first saw it on all fronts, from the set design to the costumes to the performances. This new viewing reminds me how clever and convincing this movie is. First of all, it's physically gorgeous, with everything including the cars in crayon-bright colors. The cross-cutting is wonderfully paced to keep the narrative going without fragmenting everything to smithereens. All the big names featured here seem to be having a grand time. The cast is amazing: Dustin Hoffman, Mandy Patinkin, Warren Beatty as Tracy, Madonna, Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice (the main villain), and a host of character actors including Charles Durning, Michael J. Pollard and Estelle Parsons (both reunited with Beatty years after Bonnie and Clyde), and child actor Charlie Korsmo. There isn't a dud in the lot. Both as director and as actor, Beatty manages to convey real emotion at the heart of this comic-strip tale. Madonna is the most appealing she's ever been in any movie, I think. Charlie Korsmo is a splendid kid, natural and true. The music is ideal. I think Sondheim did the songs, while Danny Elfman did the orchestral score. Everything is perfectly Thirties, with the exception of Madonna, who when she sings is plainly in a Fifties mood, using the body movements and arm gestures of singers from the 1950s (notably Marilyn Monroe in her musicals). No surprise here. This is a tremendous piece of skillful moviemaking by Beatty et al. Unlike so many comic-book or superhero action movies, it's not overblown or meandering. Every piece fits together. It's really charming, and I recommend it.
Another film I watched recently on TV was the MGM Ivanhoe from the 1950s, starring Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, George Sanders, and I think Joan Fontaine. My special love in this movie is the music, one of Miklos Rosza's finest scores (along with El Cid). I always thought of Robert Taylor as a bit insipid as an actor, and to me Elizabeth Taylor is rather unconvincing in most of her roles. But seeing this again, I realize that Elizabeth T. infuses Rebecca with great dignity and warmth, and even Robert T. does better than I remembered. As with Dick Tracy, this film uses vibrant hues, but in this case they're the clear colors of a Medieval illuminated manuscript. MGM in this era was noted for its premium production values, and this movie is one of the best of their historical pictures. In the Sir Walter Scott novel, Ivanhoe himself is largely offstage (so to speak) because he's wounded. Here he has more of a role, which suits the rhythm of a film. Scott's Rebecca is one of the greatest literary creations of the nineteenth century, largely because she's based on a woman who actually lived, Rebecca Gratz. I think this movie does pretty well by her. Again, the music is a huge part of the film, giving it far greater life than it would have had otherwise.
Does anyone have any other "second look" movies to tell us about?