The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)
After having seen so many Hitchcock movies, I sometimes wonder if all that's left is minor work that's best left unseen. And then I see a movie like this, which, along with The 39 Steps, is considered a highlight of Hitchcock's early British work. I found The 39 Steps disappointing, a half-baked story that was fleshed out better in North by Northwest. But this is a clever, highly entertaining movie that's as much a comedy as a thriller (I actually got up about 25 minutes in to look at the Netflix sleeve and make sure that there was some sort of intrigue on the way). The central mystery is, of course, largely irrelevant, and the film is as much a wry commentary on the unknowingly deleterious effects of staunch English politeness as it is a suspense thriller about a woman who suddenly vanishes. I should know better than to underestimate Hitchcock, and this movie reminds me why.
The War of the Roses (Danny Devito, 1989)
Maybe I should have also known better than to rent this alleged black comedy, which is neither funny nor really dark, since it has this disturbingly Puritanical bent to it. Mostly it's just repugnant and pointless, slow and then really repetitive. It takes almost half the movie for the Roses to decide to get divorced, in which time you never get a sense either that they love each other or that they are descending into loathing for each other. All you get is a bunch of self-consciously "grotesque" camera angles from Devito and mean-spirited humor that makes no point whatsoever. Devito's lawyer character asks at the end of the movie, after telling the whole story, "What's the point?" and professes not to know. Neither do I.