john cribbs

Christopher Lambert first appeared on the big screen swinging into audiences' hearts as Tarzan, lord of the apes. Since then he has enjoyed a successful 25-year career as an actor, producer and occasional thunder god.

Although he counts himself among the star's many fans, Cribbs has actually only seen a handful of Lambert's more popular movies (the Highlanders, basically) and therefore made the questionable decision to embark on the ambitious and possibly pointless task of seeing all the French-American's films from Greystoke on. That's over forty films, but John isn't sweating it. It's time for a new kind of magic. Nothing in the world has prepared you for this. John is building a fortress for the ultimate takeover... of your mind!

This is his own personal...


joel & ethan coen, 2016

2016. Another year, another slate of movies. I know it's still early (Ride Along 2, currently #2 on the list of the year's highest-grossing films), but what's everybody excited for? Following the Super Bowl premiere of its teaser, I've heard non-stop talk about the new Bourne movie which, taking a cue from Stallone's current strategy, is simply titled "Jason Bourne." I'll be happy to see it of course, although I liked the non-Damon one just fine and personally don't require an apology movie (I also wish I could confirm that Tommy Lee Jones' character will somehow be Deputy U.S. Marshal Gerard). But unequivocally the film I'm most looking forward to is Shane Black's The Nice Guys, opening May 20th. Seeing its trailer on the big screen was reason enough to catch Hail, Caesar!, the latest romp from the Coen Brothers, on a snowy night in February when I would typically be nursing my post-football depression by mixing Scotch and cough syrup while binging on old episodes of Teen Angel (for academic reasons: I'm developing a theory that Corbin Allred and Ryan Reynolds are the same person).

But the real reason I saw Hail, Caesar! was to honor a New Year's resolution: to get the Lambertathon going again. It's been five years since my joint review of Subway and The Big Blue, during which time I've allowed such secondary enterprises as having kids, buying a house and producing a movie distract me from the Great Work of writing about the films of international pizza enthusiast and hotel owner Christopher Lambert. There hasn't been much movement on the Lambert front on this side of the Atlantic since his appearance as a monk in the Ghost Rider sequel; I guess he was on one of those CSI shows for a bit, but who cares about that?

The more recent Lambert news has revolved around his alleged involvement in the next Expendables movie. Apparently he was slated to be in the last one but wasn't, so now the world has its fingers crossed that he'll appear in part 4 (unless Stallone wins the Oscar and gets too uppity to continue his action franchise, or waits 20 years to make a reflective sequel called "Barney Ross.") I guess Joel & Ethan Coen got sick of waiting: not only did they name their new movie after Terry Crews' Expendables character Hale Caesar, they added budding Expendable Lambert and Expendables alum Dolph Lundgren to its large cast. The potential was high - He-Man meets Highlander! Tarzan trades swings with the OG Punisher! The Sicilian matches wits with the Universal Soldier! Ivan Drago versus...well, Lambert played a former boxer in the sensitive French drama Cartagena a few years ago, that sort of counts. Either way, being part of such a high profile project with a big group of A-listers seemed like a good deal for both actors, and Lundgren himself was flattered, telling Creative Screenwriting: "I'm a huge fan of theirs and I never expected to be in any Coen Brothers movies, but I guess I am!"

Actually, I guess he isn't. Bad news for Lundgren and all Dolphanatics: the star of Showdown in Little Tokyo was apparently deemed expendable and cut out of the picture. He's listed as "Submarine Commander" in the credits, but the only member of the submarine crew we see is silhouetted against the moonlight, his face obscured, and has no lines - it could be Dolph, but there's too much focus on some hijinks involving a dog for it to be apparent. Since another actor's part was erroneously assigned prior to the film's release, I wondered if maybe Dolph appeared in another scene - but unless that's him playing Herbert Marcus (and if so, huge props to the makeup department) I'm 99% certain he got the shaft.* (Weirdly, the Guardian review mentions Lundgren's "walk-on" as if he's clearly in the final cut, which he definitely is not; another review mentions Agyness Deyn having a cameo - I have no idea who that is or why her appearance is noteworthy.) Sorry, fellow Lundgrenadiers - we will have to wait for Kindergarten Cop 2 later this year.

More notable as far as Lambertathon is concerned, Hail, Caesar! is the first film in 30 years to feature Lambert and his Highlander rival Clancy Brown, decked out in Centurion armor as a Richard Boone-like co-star to George Clooney's pampered leading man. But in another disappointment, MacLeod and the Kurgan don't get a scene together (c'mon, Brown's even got a sword!) Instead, Lambert historians have to settle for him sharing the screen with Josh Brolin, who previously popped up alongside Lambert in 1994's The Road Warriors (a.k.a. Roadflower). Despite their 10-year age difference, Lambert and Brolin have been in the public consciousness for roughly the same amount of time, Goonies dropping the year after Greystoke. And of course both men were married to the stunning Diane Lane, although she only had one of them arrested on charges of domestic battery. (Not Lambert.)

In Lambert's one and only scene, he plays film director Arne Slessum, who takes time between set-ups of his Arthur Freed-era musical No Dames! to chat with Brolin's character, a fictionalized proxy for famed Hollywood fixer/MGM general manager Eddie Mannix. Mannix is working damage control to cover-up the illegitimate pregnancy of studio darling DeeAnna Moran, an Esther Williams surrogate represented by Scarlett Johansson in a mermaid outfit, and wants to gauge whether likely-father Slessum would be "open to matrimony." Even though Slessum happily cops to tapping that fish ass, he's more interested in discussing skiing than being slickly coerced into raising a celebrity baby (unlike the real Lambert, who had a daughter with an actress and is by all accounts a devoted dad.)

It's the very definition of a subplot, as Mannix's main concern is the kidnapping of Clooney's Baird Whitlock, which threatens production of the movie's eponymous, Quo Vadis-ish sword & sandal epic. It's amusing that Wayne Knight plays the on-set conspirator who slips Clooney a mickey (in his prop goblet no less) and spirits him off the lot, sort of the same function he filled in Jurassic Park (remember that the Coens co-scripted Spielberg's Bridge of Spies from last year?) It's also funny that Brolin as Mannix, who in real life was rumored to have hired someone to kill Superman George Reeves,** has a scene where he physically abuses Clooney, a former Batman. Also to see Brolin-as-Mannix assaulting a fellow man when in real life Brolin and Mannix are both noted wife beaters. (Sorry, I'll get off the TMZ stuff and try to stay focused.)

Not content with the reliable madcap kidnapping plot device previously utilized in Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski and Fargo (the ransom money gets lost again, which I guess sets up a sequel for Kumiko: Treasure Hunter), the movie sees to it that everybody's got some kind of problem. Whitlock is desperate to keep secret a dalliance that launched his career, DeeAnna is being pressured to either find a husband or adopt her own out-of-wedlock child a'la Loretta Young,*** Channing Tatum's hoofer Brad Gurney is apparently defecting to Russia (an Errol Flynn/Nazi joke? it reminded me a little of Timothy Dalton in The Rocketeer) while Alden Ehrenreich's cowboy crooner Hobie Doyle, despite being groomed for an image makeover by the studio, just can't doggone act. All of the studio players - including Ralph Fiennes' fustian filmmaker Laurence Laurentz - are portayed as children that papa Eddie is tasked to placate and rein in while maintaining the composure of a teamster and the patience of a saint.

Appropriately, his Hollywood babysitting duties have awakened a crisis of faith in the devoutly Catholic Mannix, and the Coens milk most of the film's successful comedy out of its concurrent demystifying of spirituality and moviemaking. Early in the film, Eddie, whose office door identifies him as head of "Physical" Production, is viewing rushes of Caesar! in which a character's transforming vision of God is revealed as an underwhelming title card reading "Divine Presence to Be Shot." Taking lunch orders during downtime filming a crucifixion scene, a PA inquires whether the actor playing Jesus is a "principal" or an "extra," a funny reference to Ben Hur, another "Tale of the Christ," in which Claude Heater's savior is never seen directly and doesn't even get a screen credit**** (incidentally, Claude Heater just became the name of the hero of my new series of pulp thrillers).

Meanwhile Clooney's "numbskull" movie star is suckered into socialist thinking by his abductors' communist propaganda, just like the Roman consul he's playing is suckered into Christianity by witnessing Jesus on the cross. If it seemed odd that the decidedly liberal Clooney would agree to work with the left-skewering Coens in their three previous collaborations, it's downright befuddling that he'd agree to such a thankless secondary role that serves no purpose other than to mock celebrities who decide to lend their fame to political call-to-arms.

The Coens have described Hail, Caesar! as a furthering of their "Numbskull Trilogy" featuring Clooney (which I guess is now a "Numbskull Tetralogy") and sure enough their latest has less in common with their last three films than the freewheeling frivolity of their previous work with the actor. For me those movies, along with the deplorable Ladykillers remake, rank at the bottom of the brothers' filmography and a return to that type of loose series of sketches featuring irritatingly dense and/or boorish characters is a shame after the directors changed things up with the more focused A Serious Man and Inside Llewyn Davis. My personal history with the Brothers Coen warrants its own article: to borrow their O Brother Where Art Thou? reference point, it's like asking Ulysses how his trip home was - where to begin? I won't go into all that here, but my long-running theory is that at one point the infamously cagey Joel and Ethan (filmmakers against whom it would be hard to build a case their claim as the most talented American filmmakers to cross over into the 21st century) became bored. Bored with their own brilliance, their organic knack for dialogue and smart gags, their flawlessly constructed scenes and memorable characters, the ease with which they court mainstream entertainment while incorporating everything we film fans love about alternative cinema. The result is an increase in cynicism, a contempt for characters and increasing lapse into their unquenchable affinity for MacGuffins to service the "hopelessly complex plot that's ultimately unimportant," as Joel once described it to Doug Stone.

Hard evidence of this dates back 20 years to 1996, when a poignant scene with Jerry Lundegaard's son in Fargo was punctuated by an appearance of the Accordion King on the back of the bedroom door. The King was sent in by the Coens to undermine the proceedings in ways that even goofy accents and feet sticking out of woodchippers couldn't. What, you mean you allowed yourself to become emotionally involved in this scene, with these characters? It's just a movie, idiot! But we're the Coen Brothers, we could pull off this kind of scripted drama effortlessly if we wanted, only we don't and that's what makes us the goddamn Coen Brothers! Now everybody polka!

Since then it's been fat guys riding on hogs, hitmen who mistake their gun for an asthma inhaler and kinky, self-made sex apparatuses in George Clooney's basement. Insertions by two filmmakers to goose the audience, distance themselves from the drama, or just to alleviate the tedium of having to build an engaging story. Whether any given moment works for you or not... here's the Accordion King, right behind the door, to show that it doesn't matter! Here's Clooney's dildo-cycle!

These subversions aren't necessarily dealbreakers, but they complicate my larger feelings on the Coen Brothers. For example, The Big Lebowski is a minor miracle: their most defiant anti-narrative, a rambling circus of self-serving idiots running around with no clear objective, a calculated Accordion King-scored insult to those who praised Fargo's concise plotting and quiet intensity. By all logic, Lebowski should be considered their biggest disaster (like Burn After Reading, a hate-fuck to its audience following the multi-award winning No Country for Old Men.) Yet Lebowski is one of their best movies, mainly because it's centered around a great character who's perpetually as adrift and exasperated as the audience (say it with me: "Who the fuck are the Knudsens??")

Brolin's Mannix is not a great character and he seems merely fatigued to be playing staid mediator to the spoiled morons of the movie studio. Almost all of the film's energy goes into the sending up old Hollywood scenes care of Capitol Pictures, the same company that hired Barton Fink. I guess things have changed since the Jack Lipnick days (Hail, Caesar! is set in 1951, exactly ten years after Fink) when he assured, "You tell them - bullshit! We do NOT make B-pictures here at Capitol. Let's put a stop to that rumor RIGHT now!" The Coens haven't made a ton of self-references within their movie universe: H.I. McDunnough working for Hudsucker Industries and the enlisting of law firm Tuchman Marsh in both Burn After Reading and A Serious Man are the only ones that immediately spring to mind (although they're involved in the Fargo tv show, which makes regular references to their films), so Caesar! is as much a hark back to the directors' previous work as the movies of Old Hollywood. Somebody mentions the Wallace Beery Memorial Building, which serves as a double-reference to Barton Fink, where the bespectacled playwright struggled to write a "Wallace Beery wrestling picture," and to one of Mannix's most infamous alleged cover-ups in which Beery was supposedly involved in the death of Ted Healy.

It's hard to point to Caesar's fake movies as its official Accordion Kings because fake movies are such a staple of the Coen Brothers. There's Devil on a Canvas from Barton Fink, Logjammin' from The Big Lebowski (as well as the Dude's Busby Berkeley-aping musical dream sequence, Gutterballs), Coming Up Daisy from Burn After Reading; even the conceit of naming a film after the fake movie in Sullivan's Travels with O Brother Where Art Thou? plays into this theme (they borrow the "Hail" from Preston Sturges' Hail the Conquering Hero.) But while those previous examples are worked into the plots of their respective films - the banal, repetitive and violent Canvas rushes represented Fink's state of mind, Logjammin' fit into Lebowski's theme of virility, Daisy showed that... the characters like dumb movies? - the ones in Caesar seem arbitrary, impressively reproduced (and shot on film) but largely joyless. A scene from Lazy Ol' Moon, a Hobie Doyle western viewed by an audience at a Hollywood premiere, suggests that what the artists put into a movie isn't necessarily what people appreciate about it... or that people just like dumb movies?

The co-existence of Hail, Caesar!'s fake movies and its "real world" behind-the-scenes drama seems like a comment on the Coens' own adversarial relationship with artifice. While the pious Mannix and the spurious religious epic his studio is producing form a clear parallel (look no further than its title, which also happens to be the title of the Coens' movie), the kidnapping scenario that plays out in the background progressively resembles a dated Hollywood thriller. From the Hitchcock-like setting of the Future's lair to the handsome movie star pose Tatum's Brad Gurney strikes as he's rowed out to sea to rendezvous with a Soviet sub, the action being filmed on the Capitol sets and what's going on in the movie itself are only distinguished by somebody calling "cut!" It's a whole other article to discuss what this sort of artifice has in common with the dollhouse world of Wes Anderson or the film freak meta-verse of Quentin Tarantino; for the moment, I'll just say that the Coens seem uncomfortable letting any scene play out without a giant wink as to its artificiality. Without it, it appears that they'd be worried about churning out something akin to, say, the Spielberg gloss most recently on display in Bridge of Spies: its climactic prisoner exchange even has a similar feel to Caesar's anti-climactic submarine transfer, only with more obvious matte paintings. This is the first Coen Brothers movie about making movies (Barton Fink was really about writing), so it's a shame that it condemns the forerunners of their medium as a collective of morons running around in their movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie under the fabricated tint of Roger Deakins' golden veneer.

For all the diligence put into replicating big Hollywood productions of the time period, this is the kind of movie the Coens can do effortlessly and its rewards are scant. Remove the polish and you're looking at subplots that are recycled (Inside Llewyn Davis' Jean Berkey was also pregnant from an undetermined father) or totally irrelevant (the affair between Sleesum and DeeAnna is as theoretical as that between Judith Gopnik and Sy Ableman in A Serious Man), the kidnapping storyline representing both in a flippant display of disinterest by the writers. The whole affair appears to have been dumped unceremoniously onto the moviegoing public: the Coens have had their last five movies released towards the end of the year in spots typically reserved for prestigious films, four of which have gotten Oscar nominations/awards out of it. The last one they released at the beginning of the year was The Ladykillers in March.*** **

Hail, Caesar's still getting good notices, and why not? They've proved themselves critic-proof by swapping styles and genres and eschewing actual storylines in favor of broad scenarios like they were changing shoes, counting on the blind devotion of crotchety pseudo-cinephiles like Richard Brody and useless blurb whores like Richard Roeper. To folks like that, the Coens offer deep insight into 1950's Hollywood instead of just following a checklist of references, an eyepatch away from Jack Lipnick's pentaptych of "westerns, pirate pictures, screwball, Bible, Roman."

Another baffling thing about the old Hollywood parodies is the wobbly discontinuity of said references. A Busby Berkeley-style musical from the 30's? Hoofer and Gene Autry cowboy musicals from the 40's? A Carmen Miranda analog, a performer whose acting career had tanked by the WWII era? Religious sword & sandal epics from the 50's? "A Tale of Christ" - as in the 1925 version of Ben Hur's subtitle? The hushed-up Loretta Young scandal happened in 1935; while I'm sure Hollywood damage control was still happening in the 50's (L.A. Confidential era), the distraction of trying to consolidate all these slightly incongruous epochs to one another did nothing to help their general flatness. I'm no expert on aquamusicals - and Berkeley was working with Ester Williams as late as 1953. Plus, Hail's choreography heavily references 1952's Million Dollar Mermaid. Williams own marriage scandals happened in the early 40's - there's nothing explicitly wrong with the film's timeline, just a general feeling of compression and lack of specifity that does it no favors. I just know I liked the pastiche in The Great Muppet Caper better.

Again, it doesn't matter. The directors would probably shrug in unison if you brought it up in an interview. Who cares? This kind of Coen Brothers theme is only good for the number of jokes that can be squeezed out of it. As far as a serious consideration of an idea, it doesn't matter - there's no use discussing it. The bros take it about as seriously as they did the emasculation motif in Big Lebowski, which at least got more comedy out of it. Some examples of Hail's humor include Tilda Swinton as twin Hedda Hoppers (hey waitaminute - another set of identical twins! What's up with these recent Lambertathon titles and their connective visual of random duplicates?), Mannix attempting to pack $100,000 cash into a tiny suitcase, a creepy guy with a camera who constantly pops his bulbs (did he sneak in from the courtroom scene in Bridge of Spies?), the aforementioned dog complicating a simple rowboat-to-submarine transfer, Hobie's disastrous elocution lessons in the tradition of Singin' in the Rain, and Whitlock (who retains Roman attire throughout his kidnapping) finding it difficult to rise from or lower himself into sitting position without his hanging sword getting in the way. The movie's gags are mostly clunkers and weirdly elusive, such as Sleesum's sailor musical starring a tap-dancing Channing Tatum that's so homoerotic it's more Querelle than Anchors Aweigh.

Speaking of Tatum, the cast of Hail, Caesar! shows how little the directors care about star-power. The use of these big names is essentially a goof, a way to equate old movie stars to modern movie stars, old studio movies to new studio movies (Timur Bekmambetov's remake of Ben Hur is set for release later this year). I guess that's a good thing, although it's a further distraction. Alden Ehrenreich's been receiving a bulk of the praise for the movie, the word "revelation" popping up all over the place. While he has some business with a spaghetti lasson that I found charming, he also has the benefit of getting a lot more to do than most of the "stars." Johansson, Fiennes, McDormand (almost unrecognizable as an editor I'm guessing is modeled after Viola Lawrence but who knows? Distracting!), Jonah Hill, Alison Pill and Lambert are all relegated to what amounts to a single scene with maybe a short coda; Tatum turns up later in the movie but ostensibly has hardly a word of dialogue while Swinton gets double screentime by virtue of the twin joke but is still basically on screen less than five minutes. This made the movie even more Wes Anderson-y (Swinton, Clooney and Michael Gambon - who narrates - have all been part of Wes' repertoire company; Fiennes essentially reprises his foppish performance from Grand Budapest Hotel).

Again I have to question why Clooney keeps hooking up with these guys. He's got a hang-up over his high stature that informs his performances for the Coens, overplaying vain characters who fetishize promade and pearly white teeth to prove he himself is not subject to vanity, despite his wealth and looks. He's too self-deprecating in these movies, which the Coens are only happy to oblige: I mean, we get it Clooney, you want us to know you're smart and you have a sense of humor to balance your self-serious political image, an aw-shucks everyman who just happens to own an Italian villa, but you need more roles like Jack Foley and Archie Gates: slick, confident, flawed-yet-ultimately noble leading men prone to foolish behavior but not flat-out stupid. We'll allow the occasional humorless sufferer a'la Michael Clayton and The American - you can make your Solaris between Ocean movies - but broad slapsticky comedy may simply not be your forte, pal. Talk to your wife about it, I hear she's very smart. (What, she's supermodel-level hot as well? That's just a coincidence! Let's change the topic, it's Sudan that's really important...)

(As far as his career as a filmmaker, just forget it. He's a competent director with no visual signature or interesting ideas about how to relate a story. We'll see if he improves any working from a script by the Coens, Suburbicon, due next year.)

The movie's at least got some good character actors popping up in (even) smaller roles. John Carpenter regular Peter Jason plays the director of Hail, Caesar!, which is cool. Robert Picardo is funny - of course - as a rabbi called in to discuss the potentially offensive Jesus movie, although the scene is badly edited for some reason (the film in general is extremely cutty - the Coens should have a word with their boy Roderick Jaymes). Patrick Fischler, whose face will forever evoke his creepy scene from Mulholland Drive, is well utilized to give Whitlock's introduction to the communist screenwriter club The Future a Barton Fink's David Lynch-esque foreboding.

For his part, Lambert went up against Julius Caesar in the form of Klaus Maria Brandauser in 2001's Druids. As Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix, Lambert fought Brandauser's Caesar for the future of Gaul; it didn't turn out so well for him in the end, but then we all know what eventually befell that great general/dictator one bloody Ides of March. But the actor himself has had pretty good luck in Rome, where he and Diane Lane made their first movie together and officially started their relationship when he whisked her away to Geneva, where the actor grew up. I'm not sure if Arne Sleesum is meant to be Swiss: his Scandinavian first name is pretty generically Northern European and I'm not sure if the surname derives from anything or is just invented ("Sleaze 'Em?") And I'm not sure if he's based on anyone: my first instinct tells me he's meant to be an expatriate along the lines of a Lang or Von Sternberg, but neither director ever made a silly sailor musical. Those duties typically fell to American like George Sidney and Stanley Donan, although Hungarian Charles Vidor directed Gene Kelly in 1941's Cover Girl. By '51, Kelly had already co-directed On the Town and was headlining An American in Paris, directed by frequent collaborator Vincente Minnelli, an Italian; rather than set sail with a Soviet sub, he'd go on to make his masterpiece Singin' in the Rain the following year.*** ***

So is Sleesum based on Minelli or Vidor? Pictures of the two filmmakers don't match up with the hideous beige sweater/white pants combo (with white watch??) Lambert is forced to wear in this role. It is not flattering. And he looks like he can't move his face, which I hope is more an aspect of the character than the actor. Maybe it was a bad idea to jump ahead to the present in the middle of covering Lambert's more youthful days... at least he doesn't look anywhere near as creepy as he did in his last movie, 10 Days In A Madhouse. Actually, he kind of resembles Ben Hur star Charlton Heston. He's on screen for approximately the same amount of time as Jonah Hill, yet Hill made the preview and the poster and Lambert didn't. But I should stop complaining; I should just be happy to see Lambert. This is the first time I've seen him on the big screen in a mainstream American movie since 1994, even if it is one tiny scene. Anyway, we'll make up for that with our next Lambertathon, when we check in with young Christopher Lambert (and young Clancy Brown) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a little movie called Highlander.

~ MARCH 3, 2016 ~

NEXT WEEK: In the meantime, join us for the obvious companion piece to this review of Joel & Ethan Coen's Hail, Caesar! I speak of course of Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive.

* I went to the bathroom during the Frances McDormand scene, so somebody let me know if I missed Lundgren on the Moviola. [editor's note: You did miss what seemed to be an Isadora Duncan joke - they're Preston Sturges fans, so I'm assuming they're as intrigued as we are by the fact that Sturges' mom was the one who gave Duncan the fateful scarf.]
** As dramatized in Hollywoodland, in which Eddie Mannix's wife Toni (who had a long-lasting affair with Reeves) is played by...Diane Lane! Kind of funny that a once-married acting couple played fictionalized versions of a married couple in different movies years apart.
*** Loretta got knocked up by Clark Gable, who was played by Josh's dad James Brolin in 1976's Gable and Lombard. Footnote trivia's at full utilization up in this piece!
**** The scene also made me think of the mundane productions featuring crucified actors in Pasolini's "La ricotta" and Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal.
*** ** Should note, many of their older and best movies had March debuts: Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, even Fargo. And Barton Fink came out in January.
*** *** Can I just put this on record: Singin' in the Rain is the greatest movie musical ever made, but having checked out a ton of Kelly's other films recently? Let's just say it's clear why nobody mentions their second-favorite Gene Kelly movie. [editor's note: The problem is that the easy answer is The Three Musketeers but since it isn't a musical people freeze up. They freeze up when you start quizzing them at the bus stop or waiting in line for The Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens about their SECOND favorite Gene Kelly movie. Also, there are plenty of folks who mention An American in Paris, some lunatics even believe it to better than Singin' in the Rain. The Pirate is also enjoyable, but Cribbs' basic premise is correct that after Singin' the pickings are slim.]