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Everything posted by cinemaspeak59

  1. THe Killers(1946)

    Yes, The Killers is a great noir. The casting was perfect, and a breakout performance by Burt Lancaster.
  2. Recently Watched Horror

    A QUIET PLACE (2017) is a derivative but well-crafted story about a family fighting to stay alive against alien creatures that attack at sound. The monsters have pretty much wiped out most of humanity, and the setting is post-apocalyptic. There are strands of the excellent Pitch Black (2000), and more so Signs, from 2002. The performances elevate this beyond your standard creature feature, especially Emily Blunt as the besieged mother, and Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, who play the children. Simmonds is deaf in real life. The dialogue is heavy on sign language and whispering, since loud sounds ring the dinner bell. Director John Krasinski maintains a white-knuckled suspense, and seamlessly blends horror genre touchstones with a highly emotional family survivalist drama. Krasinski also plays the family patriarch. My only complaint is the design of the monsters; they’re not very distinctive, and the more you see of them, the less scary the movie. Overall, A Quiet Place is a satisfying and gripping scare fest.
  3. 2017 Noteworthy Films

    The following is a baker’s dozen of noteworthy films from 2017, and 8 honorable mention films. Arranged alphabetically. Beach Rats A breakout performance by newcomer Harris Dickinson, playing an aimless, bored Brooklynite who spends his days lounging around with equally aimless friends, and his nights surfing gay chat rooms and meeting older men. Call Me by Your Name Luca Gaudagnino’s tender, bittersweet story of a teenager’s (Timothée Chalamet) emotional and sexual awakening when a handsome scholar (Armie Hammer) visits his family’s picture-postcard Italian villa. Columbus A stunning directorial debut by Kogonada. This is an exquisite, meditative film about relationships, family ties, and the power of architecture as art. Darkest Hour This elegant, Masterpiece Theatre-like production takes a few liberties with Churchill’s life. Gary Oldman’s performance is one for the history books, and the film is riveting as a political thriller Dinner with Beatriz Things go off the rails when an eccentric spiritual healer (Salma Hayek) has dinner with her wealthy clients, and one very obnoxious, right-wing real-estate mogul (John Lithgow). The film also exposes the phoniness of limousine liberals, who wear their politics like fashion accessories. Dunkirk Christopher Nolan simply can’t do linear narrative. But that’s okay. We know how the story ends. This is cinematic minimalism at its finest. Get Out A combination of 1980s horror and absurdist comedy sprinkled with keen racial and political insights. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Jordan Peele as a director. Lady Bird Much in the same vein as Columbus, Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical film about an opinionated young woman (Saoirse Ronan) longing to escape stultifying Sacramento for the glitter of Manhattan. It’s also a time capsule into 2002, and a love letter to California’s capital. The Lost City of Z A haunting Edwardian Era-set throwback to those adventure quests, like King Solomon’s Mines and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The Post Steven Spielberg’s flawlessly acted ensemble hits every note, and flawlessly captures the mood, style and detail of the era. The Shape of Water This is Guillermo del Toro’s best film. It’s a creature feature, yes, but also a statement for acceptance and tolerance. Beautifully photographed and acted. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri A powerful performance by Francis McDormand as a mother taking desperate measures to find her daughter’s murderer, while haunted by doubt that she didn’t do enough to prevent it. Wind River A Neo-Western set on a Native American reservation. It's a murder mystery and a poignant statement on grief and loss. Honorable Mention: Alien: Covenant – An underrated thriller with arguably the best monsters ever created Baby Driver – Some of the most dizzying driving scenes since The French Connection Blade Runner 2049 – A worthy follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Lady Macbeth – Shakespeare meets film noir Logan Lucky – A return to form by Steven Soderbergh Phantom Thread – Daniel Day Lewis’s final film before retirement The Beguiled – Southern Gothic Civil War drama with sexual tensions running through the roof Wonder Woman - Feminist empowerment in the form of a superhero. Gal Gadot is almost too good to be true.
  4. Thoughts about Claudette Colbert's movies

    Yes, Young Man of Manhattan sounds like a delicious Pre-Code drama, one I would like to see TCM air.
  5. I Just Watched...

    I wasn’t surprised when Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting. He was being interviewed -- I think he was doing press for Gangs of New York -- and he said there’s not much one can learn from being on film sets, in response to why he takes long absences between projects. And it was reported Leonardo DiCaprio kept asking him why he didn’t work more. Of course, there’s the opinion that an artist must create. But that’s simply too subjective. Intellectual pursuit, and learning different things also qualify as art. Having said this, I will miss Daniel Day-Lewis terribly.
  6. Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

    Black Panther (2018) Marvel Studios can seemingly do no wrong. The feline superhero gets his own film, and it's one of the best. The movie explores isolationism vs an active world presence as the kingdom of Wakanda, the most advanced on Earth, is forced to confront the question of whether its cloistered existence is a selfish act, considering the great injustices against Africans across the world. Chadwick Boseman plays Black Panther, but the movie is generous with its cast, making the women equal. I particularly was impressed with Letitia Wright as Panther's brilliant, fearless sister. Marvel’s recipe of great storytelling, effects, and characters are all here.
  7. Recently Watched SF & Fantasy

    I have a different opinion on Annihilation. Here's my take: Annihilation (2018) is a trippy, thought provoking film that echoes Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, and Arrival. Following a meteor crash somewhere on the Florida coast, a psychedelically colored mist appears (it looks more like a giant shower curtain), known as the Shimmer. It slowly begins encroaching further inland. Special Forces have been sent in to investigate, but none have returned, except for Oscar Isaac's character, Kane, who is married to biologist Lena, played by Natalie Portman. But Kane was presumed dead, and when he mysteriously returns to his wife one year later, he's a shell of a man, with zero memory of what he did or saw inside the Shimmer, or how he got home. Lena eventually volunteers to join four other women, all scientists, on an expedition into the Shimmer, to see if they'll have better luck than the military in unlocking the mystery. All five women are spiritually damaged, which in its own way liberates them from the fear they are embarking on a suicide mission. Gina Rodriguez plays a paramedic recovering from substance abuse who has major anger management issues. Tessa Thompson is an introverted physicist who covers herself in thick layers of clothing. And Jennifer Jason Leigh as the team leader psychologist is hiding her own secret. Annihilation is an eerie, riveting, thriller, with some great jump scares, and a few extremely gory scenes. It's an unsettling film. Screenplay and direction by Alex Garland, who made his directorial debut with the superb Ex Machina, from 2014.
  8. Davis & Crawford & "Feud"

    I loved this miniseries. Stanley Tucci looked like he had a blast portraying Jack Warner. He actually made Jack look worse than the way Bette used to describe him. And Frank Sinatra didn't fare much better. The actor who played Frank, Toby Huss, did great work. As did Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper. It was just interesting as a window into Hollywood politics, and all the behind-the-scenes gossip and treachery. Yes, I thought Zeta-Jones' portrayal of Olivia was quite positive. It's no secret Olivia and her sister Joan Fontaine did not get along. Only when the show touched on Joan that Olivia may have appeared uncaring.
  9. Noir Alley

    I thought something was off about the two women. It was diabolically clever, and a very good noir. I liked how Barry Sullivan's character goes from honest and rather dull to shrewd and unethical, a border-line criminal himself. Arlene Dahl had the perfect look of a femme fatale.
  10. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

    This movie is a lot of fun, with great slapstick comedy. Buster Keaton plays William Canfield Jr., aka Steamboat Bill, Jr., who returns home to Mississippi after a lengthy stay in Boston. His father, Bill Sr., (Ernest Torrence) who is strict but loving, eagerly awaits his return, but is disappointed to find his son a tad too foppish, which Keaton plays to comedic heights with his brilliant trademark drollness. He's a metrosexual before that term existed. If William is to take over as skipper of his father's creaky and battered boat, he must toughen up. Bad habits include William's fondness for a beret his father keeps removing, and William keeps putting back on, a move that drives his father nuts. I was laughing when Buster went to buy clothes befitting a he-man steamboat captain, and instead came out looking like a Nantucket yachtsman. At this point, his father is ready to throw in the towel. Things get complicated when William forms a connection with Kitty (Marion Byron), the daughter of his father's rival, and enemy, J.J. King (Tom McGuire). Pompous J.J. owns a much nicer boat, and is rich enough to get William's dad thrown in prison. No worries, though, William has baked a special cake to spring his father. The centerpiece is a hilarious sequence involving a cyclone. Buster's character has houses collapse around him, and is swept to and fro by the powerful gusts. But in the end, as usual, he carries the day, saving lives, finding love, and above all, not compromising who he is.
  11. Now Watching: Charley Varrick (1973)

    Yes, this was an enjoyable gangster picture, and it was fun seeing Matthau in a non-comedic role, and also quite a ladies man.

    It's a mystery why Lucille Bremer didn't become a bigger star. She was a great dancer, with striking red hair, expressive blue eyes, and a wonderful figure. She wasn't as compelling a screen presence as Cyd Charisse, and I can see why people might read a certain blandness about her. It could also be due to not finding the right studio and the right projects to showcase her talents. I particularly loved the "I Won't Dance" number Bremer performed with Van Johnson in Till The Clouds Roll By (1946). You couldn't keep your eyes off her, she was that good.
  13. Most romantic couple on screen

    All good choices. John Garfield and Lana Turner are memorable in The Postman Always Rings Twice. And Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift are simply devastating in A Place in the Sun.

    Eleanor Powell was indeed a great dancer. But Cyd Charisse was the best female dancer I've seen. Her combination of athleticism, artistry and sensuality is hard to top. As Fred Astaire said: "When you dance with Cyd Charisse, you know you've been danced with". William Friedkan attributed this quote to Astaire when he introduced The Bandwagon on the The Essentials, with Alec Baldwin. As for the other Powell, Jane Powell, she also was a very good dancer. Royal Wedding (1951) with Mr. Astaire is a good example. I always found her similar to Betty Grable. They both had the girl-next-door persona. Jane also had great legs.
  15. Recently Watched Westerns

    The Westerner (1940) pits Cattlemen vs. Homesteaders, Notorious Judge Roy Bean vs. Gary Cooper, and Lawlessness vs. The Rule of Law. Director William Wyler's films depict the goodness of America absent the chauvinistic patriotism. And Wyler could not have found a better choice than Gary Cooper to embody American idealism, based on compromise, tolerance, and justice. Walter Brennan, who won a Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance, plays Judge Roy Bean as a corrupt political boss, a law unto himself, with a twinkle in his eye, shrewd but ultimately too clever by half. A thrilling scene in which he jumps on a horse to chase down Cooper's character, whom he's arrested, demonstrates Bean must always act the tough-guy enforcer. Gary Cooper, as the decent but canny Cole Harden, plays Bean like a violin, entertaining his vanity, and exploiting Bean's strangely immaculate obsession with stage star Lily Langtry. Bean gets paranoid when Cole says he knew Ms. Langtry. How well? Bean asks, ready to blow a gasket should Cole reply they were intimate. Cooper and Brennan have an easy screen chemistry. There's a bromance aspect to Judge Bean and Cole, playful, adversarial, and at times resembling that of a father and son. A moral arc gives Judge Bean a shot at redemption, by having him negotiate with cattlemen to peacefully share the land with their homesteader neighbors. When flames ablaze destroy the homesteaders' village, it signals justice must be served. That task falls to Cooper's Cole Harden, not vigilante style, but with a badge. Legendary cinematographer Gregg Toland's pristine yet atmospheric photography (which would become more experimental a year later in Citizen Kane), is a treat. The Westerner is first-rate entertainment.
  16. I Just Watched...

    I included this in my listing of Noteworthy Films from 2016. The performances were first-rate, and I still think about this film. It beautifully captured the 1950s. And the story involved so many elements: love, mental illness, youth alienation, conformity, religion and philosophy.
  17. All quiet on the western front, silent version

    I've never seen the silent version, but the talkie still holds up today. It's one of the best war movies ever made.
  18. Entertainment Weekly's Oscar Issue

    Yes, this issue of EW was a great read. I liked the circumstances of how Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain (the favorite) for Best Picture.
  19. documentaries that you can't seem to forget

    Two come to mind: Why We Fight (2005), about the military-industrial complex, and Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (2016). Why We Fight, directed by Eugene Jarecki, examines the influence of defense contractors, and their lobbyists, and convincingly makes the case this may be the most powerful of all interest groups. So large and unwieldly is this industry, that President Eisenhauer is quoted as saying he, with his vast military experience, can’t control it. It’s fascinating and still relevant. Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold explores the digital age, how it came about, and where it’s going. What struck me is the pioneers of electronic information never imagined this technology would be used for nefarious purposes. The destructive force of social media is examined in a sad story involving on-line bullying. In another segment, Herzog interviews scientists creating robotic soccer players that one day will be advanced enough to compete against humans. Lo and Behold is a cautionary study, illuminating, and scary.
  20. Life Magazine Listing of Noir

    Here is a listing from a Life Magazine Special from November 2016, titled Film Noir: 75 Years of the Greatest Crime Films The Classics 1941 - 1958: The Maltese Falcon 1941 Shadow of a Doubt 1943 Double Indemnity 1944 Laura 1944 Mildred Pierce 1945 Out of the Past 1947 The Third Man 1949 In a Lonely Place 1950 Niagara 1953 The Night of the Hunter 1955 Touch of Evil 1958 Neo Noir 1967 - 1997: Bonnie and Clyde 1967 Dirty Harry 1971 Chinatown 1974 Taxi Driver 1976 Body Heat 1981 Blood Simple 1984 Blue Velvet 1986 Pulp Fiction 1994 L.A. Confidential 1997 The authors admit many worthy films were not included, and for everyone listed 10 others could have been picked. I have no problem with the selection, except I would have taken Leave Her to Heaven (1945) over Niagara. Other films worthy of inclusion are Murder, My Sweet (1944), The Killers (1946) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955).
  21. What ? ! No Oscar thread this year?? !

    I look forward to the Oscars, warts and all. Less grandstanding would be nice, but it's always a matter of degree. Gary Oldman was humble in his victory speech. Frances McDormand I liked, too. She has an integrity (as does Oldman) in that it's about the work, not being the most glamorous. She's truly unique. The stunt of going into the movie theater to "surprise" the patrons totally backfired. It was like the gods descending from above, and gracing the mortals with their presence. Finally, I was thrilled to see Roger Deakins and James Ivory win.
  22. Summer with Monika (1953)

    Summer with Monika (1953) is a rather straightforward Ingmar Bergman film, before he began exploring the heady theological and philosophical questions that make his work so intriguing, and that place him in the pantheon of cinema’s greatest directors. Two young lovers, Monika and Harry, escape from their enervating jobs in the city. They find idyllic happiness on a secluded island, living like castaways, with Monika (Harriet Andersson) frolicking naked. Days seemingly last forever. Caressing sunlight dances off faces, plants, water. Eventually, rations and patience disappear. Monika resorts to stealing food, and her personality slowly changes from nice to nasty, as another suitor vies for her attention. Summer with Monika reminded me of a Hollywood Pre-Code drama, while still maintaining a Euro arthouse vibe, with the cautionary message that free-love and living off the earth eventually crash into the reality of modern life. Monika’s pregnancy signals the beginning of the end of the couple’s relationship. The film is notable for Gunnar Fischer’s exquisite black & white photography, and the authentic performances. Lars Ekborg as the honorable and decent Harry garners sympathy. While Summer with Monika does not soar, it’s still relevant as a portrait of an emerging auteur.
  23. Any suggestions for Nazi movies?

    Aimee & Jaguar (1999). This foreign language film is about a love affair between the wife of a Nazi officer and a Jewish woman. This film stayed with me long after I had seen it. It's an extraordinary picture.
  24. 2017 Noteworthy Films

    I loved Wind River. Oversight corrected. I added it to my list.
  25. It's close, but Paul Muni for the win. Scarface is perhaps not as stylized as Little Caesar or Public Enemy, but Muni's complex characterization elevates it.

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