3/12/2010

Top 6 Words: That

Posted in Top 6 Words at 5:00 am by Sam

“That” is the word for this third post in the Top 6 Words series. Yes, “that.” I know. I was surprised too when it came up. But That was the word that came up, and so That is the word I must use. (Did you see what I did there? Heh heh heh.) The words my program chooses are not supposed to be very common words, but I guess “that” is not as commonly found in movie titles as it is elsewhere.

Do you know how hard it is to think of “that” movies? Words like “eyes” and “kiss” are easier, because they are dominant words. But I don’t mentally file “Analyze That” under “That,” I file it under “Analyze.” Likewise, “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” goes under “Brain” with a cross-reference under “Die,” but “That” doesn’t come into it.

I have no doubt that I missed some great candidates for this list. Clue me in in the comments section, so I can turn my forehead red from slapping it. My Top 6 list of “that” movies after the jump.

Missing the list: Follow That Camel (1967), an average entry in the Carry On series; and Hold That Ghost (1941), an average Abbott and Costello vehicle. Also noteworthy is That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), which probably should have topped the list, except that I haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet.

6. That Darn Cat (1965)

A sentimental favorite for me; I saw it at just the right age. I loved Hayley Mills and Dean Jones, and I laughed all the way through this. I can see how I might not appreciate it as much had I seen it at a different time and under different circumstances. But the movie and the experience are inseparable for me now, and I make no apology about that. Nor am I trying to weasel out of praising the film, as it probably sounds: if the movie weren’t a good one, it wouldn’t have made a great experience under any circumstances.

5. That Touch of Mink (1962)

In the 50s and 60s, Doris Day was the queen of romantic comedies. Day’s squeaky clean image is scoffed at today, but her movies did right what the witless romantic comedies of today do wrong. That said, this movie doesn’t quite sparkle the way their earlier Pillow Talk (1959) did, nor how her three outings with Rock Hudson did.

4. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)

A surprisingly strong thriller from director Curtis Hanson, who went on to make better (L.A. Confidential) and worse (Lucky You). It’s one of those movies where someone seems perfect but gradually turns out to be a psychopath. Plenty of thrillers, good and bad, fit the mold; this one is unusually good, though, because of how solidly it progresses. No artificial contrivances steer the plot, like the husband spending the whole movie thinking his terrorized wife is going crazy and working against her. Because the characters feel like they’re actual people instead of screenplay constructs, we empathize with them, and that makes the rest work.

3. That Uncertain Feeling (1941)

This battle of the sexes comedy tends to get lost and forgotten amongst the surrounding titles in Ernst Lubitsch’s filmography: Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be Or Not To Be are all wonderful, whereas this one is a whisper by comparison. But taken on its own terms, That Uncertain Feeling has plenty to offer. It has all the earmarks of the famed Lubitsch touch, the remarkable way that heavy matters of the heart are dealt with in such a light and breezy manner. It’s amusing throughout, though just one scene achieves hilarity — and boy is it a beauty of writing, editing, and comic timing.

2. That Thing You Do! (1996)

I’m often impressed by good movies about great fictional artists, because the filmmakers must not only create a good film, but art that the fictional artists make that’s good enough to be convincing. This film is about a band that vaults to stardom with the title song. The film succeeds in part because the song is good. But there’s more to it than that. It has charm, in part due to the clever script and insightful glances into the world behind fame. Tom Hanks directs and also co-stars in the small yet scene-stealing role of the group’s agent. His instructions to them about how to present themselves to the public are among the film’s finest moments.

1. The Mouse That Roared (1959)

Political satire at its finest, and a great vehicle for Peter Sellers, too, who plays multiple roles. It’s about a country who seeks revenue by declaring war on the United States, losing, and reaping all the reconstruction funds. Naturally, all does not go according to plan. Surely this film must have inspired Mel Brooks, whose great film The Producers involves similar scheming. But the humor of the two films could not be more different. Whereas The Producers is quintessentially Jewish, The Mouse That Roared is quintessentially British. Both are uncommonly fine comedies.

4 Comments »

  1. ThePhan (128) said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I was surprised to discover I’ve only seen four movies with “That” in the title: That Thing You Do! (loved), That Darn Cat (not really a fan), He’s Just Not That Into You (*not* a good movie) and The Toy That Saved Christmas (also not a good movie). So the only one I would really have advocated was That Thing You Do! and you’ve already included it. A few of these on the list sound quite interesting. I’ve always meant to see The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, just never got around to it.

  2. joem18b (231) said,

    March 13, 2010 at 2:43 am

    1. All’s Well That Ends Well (1981) - Lot of versions. The ‘81 BBC is a good one.

    2. All That Heaven Allows (1955) - Sirk.

    3. Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains (2007) - Most worthy documentary.

    4. Hai tan de yi tian (1983) (That Day on the Beach) - Edward Yang’s second movie. Written by Yang and the legendary Nien-Jen Wu (Yang’s lead in Yi Yi).

    5. All That Money Can Buy (1941) - Daniel Webster and the Devil (John Houston). William Dieterle.

    6. All That Jazz (1979) - Fosse.

    Not-so-honorable mentions:

    That Cold Day in the Park (1961) - Altman.

    That Night in Rio (1941) - Carmen Miranda.

    That Kind of Woman (1959) - Sidney Lumet, Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti, if you can picture that trio. Didn’t work out.

  3. Sam (405) said,

    March 13, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I can’t believe how many in the “All That” subgenre I didn’t think of. Another one I missed (but haven’t seen yet anyway): That Obscure Object of Desire.

  4. Stephen (221) said,

    March 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Oh good call on That Obscure Object of Desire. That movie rocks.

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