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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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I saw quite a few films last week. Lover Came Back did not mean much to me. I'm not really a fan of either him or Doris Day, nor of those sort of comedies. I wonder how much of this affected by the fact that I didn't see any of his movies until well after he died of AIDS. Love on the Run was mildly interesting, but not really first class Truffaut. By contrast, She's Gotta Have It was clearly the best movie I saw last week. It also gave a woman a stronger role than I've seen in the other three Spike Lee movies that I've seen. Also good was The Butcher Boy, although it was a little florid, and Ghost Dog: the way of the Samurai which was very cool, if perhaps too close to Melville's Le Samourai. Something Wild had some nice touches, such as the rap version of "Wild Thing" at the end of the movie. But Melanie Griffith is not one of my favorite actresses, and she becomes distinctly less interesting as the movie progresses. One Eyed Jacks struck me as rather dull and endless. Straight Time had an interesting Dustin Hoffmann performance, and it was also good in that we are allowed to see the ruthless, egotistical side of the criminal Hoffmann plays. 2012 was kind of repulsive in the way it used the deaths of millions of people for cheap thrills. No one fails to use human interest to enliven his melodramas like Noah Emmerich. Everything he does is just off. I remember the moment when the spell in Independence Day wore off: it was when we see a whole city destroyed, but the dog of the stripper with a heart of gold gets saved. And, idiotically enough, we have a similar scene in 2012!

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I saw three films last week. Prince of the City was the best one, intelligent and thoughtful, and in a way that really put American Gangster a theme. There are many movies about teenage girls being murdered in haunted houses. But none are as deliriously silly and mad as House so you have to give them credit for that. Much better, in my view, than Halloween. Meek's Cutoff was less successful. I don't mind the pacing or the camera work which are certainly not typical Hollywood. But since it's clear that the captured Indian isn't going to deliver the pioneers into a fatal trap, it's hard for the movie to really say anything original or unexpected.

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With a three-day weekend, I watched so many films I wouldn't know where to begin!

 

Though I will give honorable mention to THE SUNSHINE BOYS. I failed to watch it last time it was on TCM, so I rented it from Netflix and it was a pure pleasure. I liked it so much I watched it three times. That's saying a lot, since I had so many other titles to plow through. The charming chemistry of Walter Matthau and George Burns is classic. And Richard Benjamin as the befuddled nephew of Matthau comes close to stealing the picture away from these two pros.

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I saw several movies last week. I'm afraid Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was not the best introduction to the comic duo. My Brother's Wedding was a good movie, showing Charles Burnett is the most criminally neglected director of his time. Its sense of the rhythms of everyday life is very good. There is a schematic element to the film: it's hard to believe that the central characters of the movies could be brothers. A Tale of Winter is one of the more romantic of Rohmer's movies. Hugo is one of the best movies of the last year, and if The Tree of Life is shafted in the nominations I would prefer it to win best picture. It's actually a rather touching movie. And finally, I got to see for the first time La Region Centrale.

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The films that really caught my attention this week:

 

Deanna Durbin in THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP. It's easy to see why she was awarded a special Oscar that year. Such a marvelous performance, and the rest of the cast is in spectacular form: Charles Winninger, Robert Cummings & William Lundigan. Of course, it helps that Henry Koster is directing. I watched it twice and may watch it again when time permits.

 

Also, I watched Claudette Colbert in TEXAS LADY, which was available on Netflix streaming. This was her last starring role, and in many ways it's a routine western from RKO in the mid-50s. But like one would expect, Claudette elevates mediocre material and turns it into something special. She has extraordinary chemistry with Barry Sullivan. The Technicolor photography flatters both stars and the outdoors scenery, and there are some nice musical touches that bookend the film. I don't know what it is about her, but I always feel that Claudette puts extra care into all her projects and it's that painstaking dedication to her craft that is so worth our watching her.

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Had loads of free time last week. Spent it either DVR'ing or watching. saw these for the first time:

Garden of Evil(Cooper/Widmark)

A Hatful of Rain

Holiday(great film, Hepburn/Grant)

My Favorite Wife

In Name Only(my first Lombard movie)

Every Girl Should be Married

All Fall Down(overlooking the Beri-Beri, good film)

Room For One More

The Toast of New York

Damnation Alley(well...lol)

The Lodger(Laird Cregar. What a talent)

Fury at Showdown

The Anderson Tapes

The Letter(Great Bette Davis)

The Mark of Zorro(which I liked better than Robin Hood w/ Flynn)

There's no least favorite there ;) . Anytime I have free time and can watch the overall quality of films with the likes of Connery, Malden, Lansbury, Cooper, Davis, Power, Rathbone, etc. why would I complain :)

 

Edited by: lanceroten on Jan 23, 2012 8:55 PM

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I saw several movies last week. The Glenn Miller Story I suspect depends largely on what one thinks of Glenn Miller. There's a line in it where a character says that teenagers like Miller's music, and to which I thought, "And then Elvis Presley and the Beatles" will come along and it will be almost completely forgotten." The Islands of Lost Souls has been admired by some people, but though Charles Laughton was good, the movie lacked something. For a start the other actors aren't nearly as interesting. And while the story gets its frission from blurring the distinction between man and animal, now a century and a half after Darwin, we know that they're not going to be confused so easily. The actors are all recognizably human: being lustful, vengeful and even having long fingernails does not make one an animal. The Lion in the Winter, in 1968 the highbrow alternative to Oliver! in retrospect is a clearly inferior film. Hepburn is good, but O'Toole is a bombastic failure, and he clearly isn't thinking things through rationally. The Invisible Man has interesting touches, but it doesn't really get into the depths of Griffin's character. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which I only saw because it was to everyone's surprise nominated for best picture, is a deeply flawed film. To the extent that it is tolerable, it's because of the original novel and its eccentric chracter. But the invocations of 9/11, the sentimentality, and Tom Hank's appallingly unoriginal performance ultimately fail the movie. So the best movie I saw this week, was A Dangerous Method, with Michael Fessbender and Viggo Mortenson giving strong, subtle performances, as well as the subtle egg white art direction.

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I'm still processing a few films I watched this week. Today I looked at PLAY MISTY FOR ME, which I think was great. Some wonderful artistic touches by Eastwood in his first film as director. Jessica Walter, though, pretty much steals the picture with her dynamo performance of a neurotic.

 

I did not particularly care for ONE MORE RIVER, which aired on TCM a few nights ago. I was looking forward to it, but it fell flat in my estimation, with long dry stretches only slightly alleviated by Diana Wynyard's fine performance and James Whale's somewhat interesting direction.

 

On Netflix, I viewed AGATHA CHRISTIE'S THE MIRROR CRACK'D. A reviewer said Liz Taylor was fat, Tony Curtis was under the influence of something, Rock Hudson was still attractive and Kim Novak still had a good body. Well, I don't know about all that, but I thought the direction and English countryside made it worth watching. Angela Lansbury, however, is sidelined for most of the picture with her Miss Marple convalescing after an injury. She is not really needed until the final fifteen minutes of the picture anyway, coming in to neatly solve the crime in its last few scenes.

 

The best film I watched was SOYLENT GREEN. I am of the opinion that Charlton Heston should be remembered not for his biblical epics but for his science fiction work. Edward G. Robinson, meanwhile, gives a truly stellar final performance in this picture and goes out on one of the highest notes I have ever seen by a veteran movie star in a last role.

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I guess I should probably rewatch *Soylent Green*. I haven't seen it since it first came out. I found it to be a big letdown.From near the beginning, I assumed that *all* soylent products were made from humans, so finding out that was the big deal with soylent green seemed very anticlimactic. I expected something more.

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The cannibalism was not in the original story but added to the screenplay. The author of the book, Harry Harrison, is still alive and in his mid-80s. His most recent novel was published in 2010.

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Darling is a clear failure, as dated as granny glasses, according to Dave Kehr, or an example of how quickly modishness dates, to quote David Thomson. I can almost see giving Julie Christie an oscar out of pity for having to play such a stupid, unsympathetic woman. We Have to Talk About Kevin is a more interesting film, but ultimately it's unsuccessful. I liked Lynne Ramsey's earlier movie Morvern Caller and this has an interesting visual style. On the other hand, seeing a pregnant Tilda Swinton surrounded by small girls in tutus, or saving a jam sandwich covered in ants, I had to say This is a bit much. And I find such infinitely malicious title characters ultimately superifical. The original State Fair was slightly better than I thought it would be, but not by enough. So the best movie of the week was Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, with Juliet Berto as the best actress of 1971.

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No turkeys this week. *The Cruel Sea, Decision Before Dawn*, and *David and Lisa* are all very fine films, each one remarkably well directed, with good performances in all parts. Oskar Werner is unforgettable as the tormented young German POW in *Decision Before Dawn*. A huge thank you to TCM for bringing us these films to us. Hint: all three would be outstanding choices for a future TCM Film Festival.

 

Skimpole, I'll have to say a few words in praise of *Darling*. I won't disagree that Julie Christie plays a young woman who isn't especially bright or sympathetic, but, if anything, that strengthens the heart of the film, which is Dirk Bogarde's portrayal of a man who leaves his wife and children for a young woman whose beauty he can't resist. Though it's not a major aspect of the film, it should be noted, as I have on other threads, that *Darling* is perhaps the first film that simply takes homosexuality for granted as many people do today. Also, as dated as the main storyline seems, it could just as easily happen today.

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Several movies seen in the last two weeks: the rebooted Star Trek is OK, I suppose, except that what was interesting about the original series and the original movies were the original actors and their original personalities. I don't really think they're like James Bond, an essentially bland character who can be replaced with impunity. The Andromeda Strain had such dull leading characters that I think I may have seen the movie before and forgot about it. The Help struck me as a clumsy, manipulative, shallow treatment of its subject. Harry and Tonto has a reputation as one of the more egregious oscar choices. The reason Art Carney plays such a spry, life affirming 72 year old is that he was actually 55 when the movie was made. But its structure and incident detail is much more interesting that movies of today, like, for instance, The Help. So I think the best movie that I saw over the last two weeks was Peter Watkins' documentary Edvard Munch.

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Let's see Rachel, Rachel wasn't a bad movie, but something was missing, like one suspected that small town life of quiet desperation isn't something Paul Newman has much intimate knowledge of. Eraser is just another forgettable Schwarzeneggar thriller, with a particularly unpleasant disposing of the villians (why would want to see James Caan die anyway?) Carnage was another good Polanski film, with Foster, Waltz and Winslet particularly good. Moneyball is an OK film, and I suppose I'd love it if I actually cared more for baseball. On the other hand, the flow isn't perfect. Jonah Hill helps discover this amazing method for winning baseball games for Brad Pitt. At first it doesn't work. Then they tweak it a bit and it does work. But they still don't win the championship. And do we really want such a technique to win in the first place. So the best movie I saw last week was Satjayit Ray's The Big City, with the unforgettable Madhabi Mukherjee.

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Room at the Top was not a bad movie, though I liked Laurence Harvey's unpleasant performance more than Simone Signoret's oscar-winning one. Victim was a much better movie, which actually takes one of British cinema's historic vices--the suffocating restraint and limited emotional depth of much of its movies--and turns it into a virtue. By contrast, Suddenly Last Summer can only be counted a failure, florid being the adjective it best describes. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo joins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the most disappointing of David Fincher films, what with its muddled geneology, poorly laid out clues, and crude psychology. There's also the three endings after each other, and when your title character steals three billion dollars at the end of the movie, you have to wonder why she's bothered by any government social workers or policemen. Yol appears somewhat schematic, and the VCR tape may not have good subtitles. Because the five prisoners all wear moustaches, they're not easy to distinguish from each other. But key scenes, of a family wandering in the snow covered mountains, or an angry mob outraged at two members of, as it were, "the ten feet high club" make this worth watching. The real movie of the week, however was Mysteries of Lisbon. Seriously, don't miss it.

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Several films seen in the last two weeks: Wings was an interesting movie by Larissa Shepitko, though I prefer The Ascent. L'Enfance Nue was a better movie, a realistic portrait of a foster child. Corolianus was well worth watching. This Sporting Life wasn't bad, but really didn't interest me very much. Likewise with The Woman on the Beach. Audition I suppose would have worked better if I didn't know the basic plot. So the real movie of the last two weeks was A Separation, with Peyman Mooadi as the best actor of the year, or at least until I see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

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FIVE FINGER EXERCISE was my least favorite of the week. It was too much like having my ex back for me to get past 45 minutes of Rosalind Russell's as an overbearing wife and mother. Normally I can watch just about anything all the way through, but this one was compromised by having already tolerated all of A MAJORITY OF ONE, an utterly painful film.

 

Faves for the week were back-to-back viewings of THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and THIS GUN FOR HIRE.

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Four movies this week. I was a Male War Bride strikes me as one of Hawks' less successful comedies. Many of the jokes are very obvious. There are worse franchises than Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows but that doesn't it make it a really worthwhile film. Night and the City is a much better movie, and the best movie I saw last week was Vengeance is Mine, a strange, unpleasant crime thriller from two time Palme D'Or winner Shohei Imamura.

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Not counting the many I'd already seen, the best "new movie" of the week was Dana Andrews' Zero Hour! , though apparently it helps that I never saw the 1970's parody of it. They Won't Believe Me was also pretty damn good, although I think I may have seen it earlier in one of my past lives. But it was a treat to see Susan Hayward and Jane Greer in the same film, even if Greer's screen time apparently was severely cut.

 

The worst? No real clinkers on a grand scale, but Hallelujah! is going to take at least one more viewing for me to get over the early scenes of the happy darkies singing in the cotton fields and the inevitable fight over a craps game. Perhaps it improves towards the end, but by that point I'd already given up on it. OTOH the virtue of that DVD recorder is that there's always a second chance for a fresh perspective.

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Call Northside 555 wasn't a bad film by Henry Hathaway, though it wasn't entirely successful. It's not as if James Stewart found the actual killer, and it seems surprising in our Rehnquist/Roberts day and age that you can get a pardon simply because a prosecution witness lied about when she first saw the defendant. Far better as a star vehicle was Edward G. Robinson in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. Sayonara strikes me as yet another of those self important fifties films about social issues that in retrospect don't wear well. The Devil's Double does not really have anything interesting to say about Iraq. If you didn't like De Palma's Scarface, it is not going to be improved by having Al Pacino play a disapproving double to the title character speaking with a classy English intonation. Martha Marcy May Marlene was not a bad movie, but it doesn't really say much other than that one shouldn't belong to creepy Hippy/religious cults, and ti really sucks once yo leave them.

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Leaves from Satan's Book was clearly one of Dreyer's early works, and the movie more resembles Intolerance in telling tales from history than Dreyer's own insights. Also, I didn't like the view of the French Revolution and the Finnish Civil War. I didn't care much for Marilyn Monore being drooled at in The Seven Year Itch. The Muppets was not as good as the original Muppet movies. So the best movie I saw last week was Bunuel's rare English language movie, The Young One.

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I agree that Monroe is very objectified in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. Drool is the word for it. I prefer her in THE MISFITS where she has a much more substantial film role.

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I just want to add that I recently rewatched High and Low and Kagemusha. The first one is very enjoyable, the second well worth watching. I haven't reseen Presumed Innocent recently, but it's worthwhile to point out that it's a good movie.

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If TCM showed High and Low as much as Some Like It Hot , North By Northwest , and Splendor in the Grass combined, I'd never voice a peep of complaint. That film is as good or better than anything that Wilder or Hitchcock ever made.

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What did I watch over the past two weeks? Well I saw Film Socialisme and I rewatched Passion. They were interesting, but difficult films: if the films Godard made from Breathless to Weekend needed to be seen twice to be fully appreciated, the movies he made after need to be seen three times. The Secret World of Arietty is an OK movie, more like Castle in the Sky, than Spirited Away, Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro. I'm not a big fan of Fellini, and Ginger and Fred which Canadians had to see instead of Diary of a Country Priest (!!) is certainly not one of his better films. (Midgets, again?) On the other hand Giuelleta Massini is very good, and Fellini's satire of television would be probably appear less heavy handed when you consider that Berlusconi's TV is crass beyond imagaining. Contagion is a competent thriller, although it has a nasty, cynical undertone. It's a movie that deals with the death of 26 million people and focuses our hatred on one annoying blogger. It's a movie proud of itself for the way it disposes of Kate Winslett as well as Gwyneth Paltrow's son.

 

So clearly the best movie I saw recently was The Kid with a Bike. Its simplicity is simply stunning.

 

 

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