Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's a wonderful New Year's movie

There are numerous “old Hollywood” movies where, from a modern standpoint, you wonder, how come they don’t make ‘em like that anymore? They’re wholesome but not in a namby-pamby antiseptic way. They exude the best human ideals, are optimistic, show the power of persistence and good humour to overcome obstacles, and make the viewer feel uplifted and trusting in his fellow man. Movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington come to mind. But the one I saw recently was Made for Each Other. And wouldn’t you know it, like those two other films, this one stars America’s most optimistic in character actor, Jimmy Stewart. In the 1939 film by John Cromwell Carole Lombard plays opposite as Stewart’s wife Jane. Stewart is John, a young lawyer trying to make partner in a New York law firm. As so often happens in these heartwarming comedies our hero meets adversity at every turn. He has a domineering live-in mother (Lucile Watson) who disapproves of his quick marriage to Jane, whom he met on a business trip to Boston. Their honeymoon to Europe is sidelined when an important court case is rescheduled. Hoping that winning the case will grant him partnership a smarmy colleague is chosen instead. John, a shy guy, is pushed by Jane to seek a raise. He’s up all night plotting his strategy. With determination the next day he marches into his boss’s office only to be pre-empted when Judge Doolittle (Charles Coburn) tells him the Depression has taken its toll and the firm must cut salaries.  “We’ll always be together no matter what happens,” John says to Jane as the bills pile up.  Then the couple’s newborn gets sick and can only be saved by a rare serum available on the other side of the country. A harrowing plane ride from Utah through winter storms finally delivers the medicine. And all turns out well. The film takes place around New Year’s Eve. A nightclub party welcomes in 1939, an ominous year if ever there was one, though the filmmakers may not have known that. “Happy New Year, darling!” And a most appropriate movie to welcome in 2014.

The more wired our world becomes the more we can't escape the electronic eye, whether it be the NSA or your friendly retail website. But I've never felt so closely watched as on Netflix. After subscribing a couple of months ago I got an email one day gently telling me that they noticed that I'd been watching movies on my computer screen. They politely reminded me that I can watch movies on television as well (duh!) and provide ways to connect an HDMI cable depending on the type of flat screen I own. (Problem is, no connection functions well with my TV, as the Netflix feed always times out.) Netflix of course also quickly informs the subscriber of their movie-watching tastes and suggests similar film titles. But this was a bit much.

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