Monday, May 3, 2010

The Fortune Cookie

Billy Wilder, 1966, bw (7.8*)
Ok, maybe not Wilder's best comedy, but it may well be the best performance by Walter Matthau, earning him a well-deserved Oscar® for supporting actor, after mostly undistinguished minor dramatic roles. This is also his first teaming with Jack Lemmon, as he plays the shyster lawyer brother-in-law of Lemmon's sideline football cameraman for CBS, injured on a punt return by Boom Boom Jefferson (Ron Rich). You can see the ambulance-chasing wheels turning in Matthau's every move as he seeks to extract a huge financial award from the insurance company for Lemmon's faked back injury.

For his part, Lemmon has to play mostly straight man with morals to Matthau's oily smooth orchestrations as nearly all the comedy comes from the parody of lawyers without any scruples when money is involved. The funniest scenes are when Wilder parodies our overly litiginous society, all the lawyers are hilarious caricatures of men with nothing but dollar signs in mind. The more serious issues injected here, such as Boom Boom's alcoholism, dampen the comedic flow somewhat and keep this from being as funny as it could have been.

Wilder is one of the great directors, here's a small list of his best films:
The Front Page, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Lost Weekend, The Spirit of St. Louis, One Two Three, Ace in the Hole, The Seven Year Itch, Sabrina, The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Witness For the Prosecution.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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