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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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Quite a few movies this week, of rather high quality. One Hour with You is almost effortlessly charming. But then again, how could it not be? Monte Carlo is almost as good, and though I supect Maurice Chevalier would be a better star, it's nice to see Jack Buchanan again. Also definitely worth seeing is L'inhumaine a 1924 silent film directed by Marcel L'Herbier, which does remind us that the French film industry did not begin once Joseph Goebbels destroyed the German one. Also worth watching is The Magician. It's easy to be a bit blase about this movie: ho-hum it's another intelligent, beautifully shot, well thought out film by one of the greatest directors the world has ever seen, and with several of its greatest actors, such as Thulin, Josephson, Bjornstradd, Anderson and von Sydow.

 

Argo is a perfectly good thriller, which only suffers from the fact that the last 24 hours in Iran are hopelessly hyped up. As message board contributors probably already know, Argo is about the six American embassy staff members who escaped during the Iranian hostage crisis and hid out with the Canadian ambassador. To get them out, the CIA plans an elaborate cover story in which the six are part of a movie crew shooting a silly science fiction movie, the Argo of the title. At one point, Ben Affleck's character has arrived under this scheme, and he gets a message from the Iranian Ministry of Culture saying they will give them a tour of a Teheran bazaar. The fugitive members are understandably worried about visiting this, and there's this big scene about how all members all have to do this. Except they don't have to do this, the bazaar tour never happened. And there's also a scene where the mission is briefly aborted, and the seven Americans wonder if it will be restarted in time for their tickets to be valid at the airport. (In point of fact the Canadian ambassador had bought the tickets weeks ago.)

 

A Christmas Carol was nice, if not as good as It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 47th Street. River of no Return was one of those fifties movies that show some interesting signs coming from being directed by a major director, only to become more conventional in the end. In a sense, it's not unlike Party Girl, which I saw earlier this year. Sorry Wrong Number looks very much like an unwisely expanded radio play, with people giving elaborate conversations to set up long scenes, instead of the short simple conversations that would have actually occured in the situation. Clash by Night is better than Golden Boy, another movie based on a Clifford Odets play, and Stanwyck is good. But otherwise it's not a very remarkable drama.

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Four movies this week: Sita Sings the Blues contains more ideas that could be great than are actually great, like having a cartoon Sita sing public domain blues songs, or have various characters make amusing comments about the Hindu epic it is based on. But one doesn't have to be a Hindu fundamentalist to suggest that the movie is a little callow. Where the Sidwalk Ends starts off well. In fact the first half is very good. But it then becomes more predictable. Django Unchained is not as good as Inglourious Basterds and one would have to ask whether it was as good as the fundamentally shallow Kill Bill movies. It does have one fine sequence where all the major characters are at dinner. The final sequence is less successful, though it does have some good lines ("I count six shots." "I count two guns.") Watching Made in USA on youtube isn't the best experience, but it is a strange, original film.

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Five movies this week. The Children are Watching Us is not a particularly profound film, though the performance of the child does show what De Sica would much better in the future. Bunny Lake is Missing starts off very well, continues very well, but ends very badly when it becomes clear that a motivation of a key character has been whatever suits the convenience of the plot rather than an integrated whole. Iron Man II benefits from an amusing Robert Downey performance, but otherwise it is so rote that I did not pay attention to the fate of the villian when it came to a climax. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, despite the best efforts of Michael Caine and Steve Martin, is a surprisingly bland comedy. So the movie of the week is The Day I become a Women which maintains its strangeness notwithstanding the best efforts of my DVD player not to play it.

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Four movies this week: Greenberg is another movie by Noah Baumbach, and I felt the same way towards it that I did towards The Squid and the Whale it is an uninteresting movie about a not particularly likeable person. Mississippi Mermaid is from Truffaut's late sixties period, which I tend to find his least productive period. It's vaguely Hitchcockian and vaguely romantic, but not quite successful at either. (Are there any influences from Marnie, a Hitchock film I've never been able to warm to?) The musical Les Miserables is a disgrace. The music is bland, the book is incompetent in expressing feeling, this makes Evita look like Singin' in the Rain. Scenes of considerable dramatic interest, such as Valjean stealing from the bishop, or making sure another man isn't imprisoned in his place, or the death of a child at the barricades, or Valjean's travels through the sewers, are idiotically foreshortened to fit the banal lyrics. Definitely choose the thirties French version. Heroes for Sale is an odd movie, what with Loretta Young being killed abruptly and with the hero falsely imprisoned and then his life made miserable by Red Squads. William Wellman had the tendency of making movies that were outshone by other, better movies: Wings by Sunrise, his version of A Star is Born by Cukor's, The Story of G.I. Joe, by A Walk in the Sun, Nothing Sacred by half a dozen better screwball comedies. This is oddly better. And though I usually only discuss feature movies here, I should give a shout out to Pudovkin's Chess Fever currently available on youtube.

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I think Noah Baumbach is the ex-husband of Jennifer Jason Leigh who is the daughter of Vic Morrow....I think Baumbach used his wife in quite a few of his films.

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Five movies from the 14th to 20th.: The March/Laughton Les Miserables is much better than the recent musical, though not as good as the French version from the same decade. The scene where Laughton shows why Javert is so utterly impossible shows how extraordinary he could be as an actor if only the director knew how to use him. And the movie starts well. But there are problems as if the makers realized they had only a limited amount of time and had to speed through the rest of the novel. And nothing is gained by having Valjean live. Anna and the King of Siam is the kind of movie that political correctness makes indefensible. Having Linda Darnell play an Asian is bad enough, but having Rex Harrison (!) and Lee J. Cobb (!?!) as well is simply silly. While by no means a great movie, Harrison and Dunne do a creditable job. 99 River Street is an unjustly underestimated noir, and the first half is quite good. I wish I paid the second half more attention. Zero Dark Thirty is disappointing. Leaving aside its view on torture, it lacks interest and in the end we're supposed to go along with Jessica Chastain's insights for no better reason than that she is the star. Green Zone suffers from, among other problem, a rather implausible ending.

 

Five movies for the next two weeks. The Road to Morocco is an amusing movie and refutes the late Christopher Hitchens' claim that Bob Hope managed the remarkable trick of having a major career as a comedia without being the least funny. I saw Home Before Dark on the recommedation of the Self Styled Siren and it was interesting. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I particularly cared for Jean Simmons. Fig Leaves is quite good, a silent movie by Howard Hawks. But clearly the bets movies of the past three weeks are Conversation Piece, blessed with an excellent performance by Burt Lancaster, and Moses and Aaron a fine version of Schoenberg's opera by Straub/Huillet.

 

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Four good, or at least adequate movies, this week: I was able to catch The Actress which was not bad, even if the actress whose early life it details in the glow of nostalgia is now best known for her roles in Rosemary's Baby and Harold and Maude. Disraeli has a silly love plot, and it's hard to view his seizure of the Suez canal as a great triumph, but there is something to be said for George Arliss. Likewise, the original Imitation of Life has a good Claudette Colbert, and she's certainly more interesting than she was in Cleopatra. It's probably a good example of a genre I otherwise don't particularly care for. Oslo, August 31 is also not a bad movie, but I suppose it's also a genre I don't really show much interest in. Either the addict faces a predicatable crisis of addiction, in which case it's predictable, or they just muddle through with their lives, which does not alter the fact that they're not particularly interesting people. I suspect the movie's treatment of drug addiction is better than the as yet unseen Silver Lining's Playbook's treatment of bipolar disorder is. But there's only so much interest in muddling through and being unhappy. .

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Six movies over the past two weeks: let's start off with Wilson, which as a historical biopic does nothing to demonstrate why anyone would think he was a great leader. To be sure, it is clearly not obvious that he was as great a leader as, say, Lincoln or Gandhi, or as charismatic as Malcolm X. to choose three prominent biopic subjects. Given how compromised American entry into the war was, and Wilson's policies generally, there's not much drama in seeing him fail. Goodbye, first love was a subtle french romance which didn't quite click for me. A Farewell to Arms was better, if not as good as Borzage's Man's Castle or Three Comrades. Hold Back the Dawn is another Mitchell Leisen movie which like the last Mitchell Leisen movie I saw is OK on its own terms, if not particularly brilliant. So the two movies of the last two week, are the silent A Page of Madness, a very strange Japanese movie which surprisingly has actually appeared on TCM. And then there is Almanac of Fall which shows that Bela Tarr can be even more depressing in color than in his future black and white movies. It has a color scheme that would make vampires want to slit their wrists.

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My two favorite of the week as far as TCM goes were "Hold Back the Dawn" and one that is coming on tonight - "Awakenings". I also watched a great poverty row film called "No Hands On the Clock". You have to watch it twice to get what's going on here, but it is very well done.

 

Least favorite - "Blow-Up" (I just don't get it.) and "Unsinkable Molly Brown" (if only Howard Keel had been available for the male lead!).

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My favourite movie was also HOLD BACK THE DAWN. It was the first time that I saw this movie and I was very moved by it. I only wish that they would have shown both Boyer and Olivia together at the very end, that was a bit of a let down, otherwise, it did not disappoint.

 

Twink

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<and "Unsinkable Molly Brown" (if only Howard Keel had been available for the male lead!).>

 

 

I like Howard Keel . . . but I like Harve Presnell, too. I was astonished when I discovered a few years ago that he's the guy who plays the cranky, ill-fated, father-in-law in "Fargo" (1996)!

 

 

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Quite a few movies this week and clearly the best was The 5000 Fingers of Dr.T which was imaginative and brilliantly colored. Also, the songs were nice as well. The Color of Money by contrast reminds me of a joke in Gremlins 2 where the Clamp New Network advertises Casablanca! Now in color with a happier ending! The remake of Goodbye Mr. Chips had Peter O'Toole giving a better performance than he did the year before in The Lion in the Winter. But there was not only no pressing need to remake the movie, it's kind of silly to have a musical where your lead actor doesn't really sing much. Also it's 1969, and after three Beatles movies the best that Hollywood cam come up with is Petula Clark? Anchors Aweigh is, I believe one of only two Gene Kelly movies to be nominated for best picture. Kelly, of course, is marvelous when he dances. But he only dances once briefly in the first half of the movie which, I might add, is 140 minutes along and where the female lead is a bit of a drip. Silent Running is a better movie than Ang Lee's The Hulk which is poorly conceived and poorly characterized --there's lot's a facile father/child conflict, Betty and Banner have no chemistry, and the poorly animated Hulk has none of the orginal's innocence. Battle: Los Angeles is little more than an add for the Marines. Mamma Rosa is not one of Pasolini's better movies. It lacks a certain passion or ingenuity, and while Pasolini provides some nuance, the story is too similar to others about mothers sacrificing for their children to be completely successful.

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Five movies this week. I was actually moderately impressed by The Red Badge of Courage, not knowing that its short length was the result of Hollywood politics at their apparently most philistine. It may have helped that I have never read the original novel. Amour left me ambiguous. Is Haneke being honest and unsentimental, or just getting his kicks making us symapthize with euthanasia? Suddenly is a competent thriller, with Sinatra and Hayden giving good performances, but with a noticeable misogynist subtext. Four Nights of a Dreamer is probably a very good film, although watching it a few minutes at a time in a not very good version on youtube is probably not the best way to see it. I'm sure if I give it more attention its virtues would become more obvious, though to be honest a first glance suggests that Visconti's White Nights is a better treatment of the Dostoyevsky story. The movie of the week I suppose, in the absence of reseeing Bresson, is Le Bonheur, known by that name I suppose so as to not confuse it with the other two very different movies called Happiness. Visually stunning, it is a tribute to Varda's intelligence that we do not think, for much of the movie at least, that the protagonist is the biggest idiot in the history in film. Not to give anything away, but the ending has much in common with Strom Thurmond's post 1964 political career.

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Five movies this week: Romancing the Stone strikes me as a rather bland and empty movie which, come to think of it, was my view of The Jewel of the Nile when I saw it more than a quarter of a century ago. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs combines some interesting animation with an unimaginative parent-child plot. The Hobbit: an unexpected journey actually left me thinking it was a bit underrated. I suppose it's a bit silly to turn a children's novel into an eight hour three film epic, and I did not actually see it in the special new format that so far has deeply underwhelmed most critics. But on its own terms it's pretty good. Fear was also an interesting movie, with a great performance from Ingrid Bergman. And Cosmopolis was also a good movie as well.

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Four movies this week, all quite good. The Eddy Duchin Story does not sound promising to me, with a star I've never particularly cared for, a director I've either never seen or can't remember, and a musical style I have no interest in. But this biography romance is actually kind of touching. Humanity and Paper Balloons is a rarely seen but quite effective 1937 Japanese drama dealing with feudal Japan and abuse of power. It is quite good and effective. The Only Son is a 1936 drama by the more famous Ozu and has a very effective simplicity. Finally Rossellini's India, if not as beautiful as The River or as ingenious as Sans Soleil is quite interesting in its own right.

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Several movies in the past two weeks. Early Spring if not one of Ozu's best films, is certainly an intelligent and worthy work. Looper got many good reviews, but I didn't find anything special about it. In Vanda's Room is no doubt of considerable interest as a film though I am reminded of Stuart Klawans' review of Trainspotting that drug addicts are, among other things, rather passive and uninteresting people. Rossellini's historical films were very striking. Socrates was quite good, and Blaise Pascal and it's a pity that more classrooms don't use them. The Lady in the Water was not a bad film, but also not a particularly interesting or remarkable one. And the shot at movie critics is the definition of a cheap shot. Mad Max beyond Thunderdome certainly won its position as the least interesting and original of the Mad Max movies, although there is some interesting art direction. Skyfall may actually be the best Bond Picture. It does have some audacious scenes, some attention paid to mis en scene, and one does have to admire a movie that pays tribute to a famous scene from Playtime. And Judi Dench does actually act, and the story has moral weight. One problem is that instead of having some preposterous megalomaniac plot, the villian's motives are so simple one would think that he could have a much simpler plot.

 

Edited by: skimpole on Apr 8, 2013 3:07 AM

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I like Howard Keel . . . but I like Harve Presnell, too. I was astonished when I discovered a few years ago that he's the guy who plays the cranky, ill-fated, father-in-law in "Fargo" (1996)!

 

 

 

I was startled to find him in that hilarious Jeff Daniels picture about Upper Michigan called "Escanaba in Da Moonlight."

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I saw several movies the past two weeks. A Little Romance was cute, and the Vivaldi theme was a piece of music I had been trying to indentify for more than 30 years. On the other hand, The Black Stallion and The Muppet Movie are better children`s movies from 1979. The original Fantomas does get more clever as it proceeds. Mare Nostrum was an interesting silent film, while A Fistful of Dollars really is a Yojimbo rip-off. I saw Silver Linings Playbook which means I have seen eight of last year`s best picture nominees. I would say it is a movie that is effective precisely to the degree you find Jennifer Lawrence sexually attractive. Otherwise it doesn`t stand up very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oddly enough I forgot the movie that I saw last week that I liked most: Like Someone in Love. And I've actually been in Japan since Wednesday!

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Six movies over the last two weeks: The Dark Knight Rises strikes me as the least interesting of the trilogy, increasingly schematic and obvious, and without Heath Ledger's special malicious energy. A King in New York is I agree Chaplin's least successful film, although that is a very high standard, and Chaplin himself is remarkable. Life of Pi is cynical new age rubbish, while The Death of Maria Malibran is genuinely weird. The Match Factory Girl is the fourth Kaurismaki film I've seen, and I don't think his ultra deadpan style works with something not quite this funny. As for the 1933 Alice in Wonderland while it had enough Carrol to be worth a look, it was both rushed (combining both Alice books) and at times unduly extended.

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The Sheik isn't a bad silent film, although I must say I'm not a fan of sepia tinged films. There is the obvious Orientalism (Valentino's character isn't actually an Arab! Oh goody!) the stars do have a genuine charisma that persists. Plus there's Adolphe Menjou. I earlier said I wasn't that impressed with the Korba The Four Feathers. Having seen it a couple of times since then it actually does grow on you. I don't think the same will be said of the 1950 King's Solomon Mines, which is merely competent. It's actually striking how well Cocoon, having seen it for the first time last week, does not wear at all well. The special effects look cheesy and I suspect Ameche got the oscar because the cast was listed alphabetically. (Hume Cronyn actually has a more prominent role, and Michael Palin and Chistopher Lloyd gave much better performances in other movies.) So I think the movie of this week was Equinox Flower, with this week's Ozu about a company man, played superbly by Shin Saburi, disconcerted that his daughter had decided to marry on her own volition. (I should remember the relatively lively mother daughter pair for future reference.)

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Six films over the last two weeks: The River is a strange Taiwanese film, stranger still because the print I saw only had Portuguese subtitles, and not as good as the director's Vive L'Amour. Hyenas is a more striking Sengalese film, well worth watching, and oddly enough based on a Swiss play. Sounder is interesting, if not brilliant, and the same could be said for True Confessions, where the guilt of Duvall's character becomes more important than what his priestly brother or the amoral Charles Durning have actually done. The conceit is interesting, but the execuion leaves something to be desired. The Freshman was Ok, though I prefer Safety Last and The Kid Brother. Finally, there's La Haine, which is certainly a vigorous movie, and certainly puts Boyz in the Hood and American History X in their place.

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Six movies last week: Hot Water isn't a bad film, although mother-in-law jokes do show a certain lack of genius. Looking again at The Loved One there are some nice understated bits and Gielgud, Morley and Liberace are good. On the other hand I don't have particularly strong memories fo henovel, and I'm not sure if the problems of the tone are Waugh's fault or Richardson's. Some of the accent jokes read like snobbery. And Aimee Thanatogenes is a very flawed character. Not only is she a stupid girl, she's a stupid girl with an annoying voice. Not only is a stupid girl with an annoying voice, but she's a stupid girl with an annoying voice and a death obsession. I can't imagine why the other characters would want to sleep with her, let alone marry her. White Hunter, Black Heart is a good competent movie. A New Leaf is a better one, and better than The Heartbreak Kid and my 26 year old memories of Ishtar. Il Grido is an early Antonioni film, with a more social realist touch and showing some of the stylistic obsessions of his later films. It's also an interesting film. But I actually think the movie I liked best was Absolute Beginnerss. I admittedly have not read the original novel, but I struck me as visually innovative and striking.

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Four movies over the last two weeks: The Idiots is not, in my view, one of von Trier's more successful movies. Obsession is another De Palma "Tribute," which like his future films Dressed to Kill and Blow-Out replaces what was haunting and eerie about the original movies, and replaces them with nonsense. Exotica was an interesting erotic thriller, but the best movie I saw was the Japanese After Life.

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Five movies this week: More than a Miracle is a commercial quasi fairy tale by, of all people, Francesco Rosi. It has a chesy pop title tune, Sophia Loren is very attractive and Omar Shariff is much less interesting. The idea of a commercial fairy tale movie directed by Francesco Rosi has some genuine interest. Head=On is an interesting German/Turiski movie about two drug addicts who suprisingly find love and much less surprisingly don't find happiness. My name is Julia Ross isn't a bad movie, though not a particularly profound one. The Holy Mountain is perhaps the most imaginative movie ever made without any corresponding intelligence. But if you like gratuitous nudity, quadruple amputee actors and stunning art direction, you might like it. To the wonder is however the best movie released last year, and perhaps one of the finest romances ever made.

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