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skimpole

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  1. The TCM schedule tonight, both American and Canadian, has two Louis Malle features, with Au Revoir Les Enfants at midnight MST, and Lacombe, Lucien at 2:15 AM MST. But my local tv listings say that at 2:15 the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World will play. Can anyone explain this difference?
  2. I saw five movies last week. Lets start with the two foreign ones. The Bridge is a German movie from 1959. Incidentally a German movie was nominated each of the first four years of the competitive Foreign Language film award, notwithstanding a less than inspiring film history in this period. This movie, which takes place just days before Hitler's suicide, is about seven 16 year old boys who are drafted to stop the Americans. A soldier decides it would be best if they guard an unimportant target, the titular bridge, but he gets killed. So the only question is whether any of the seven will survive to the end of the movie. More serious than this predictable twist is that it doesn't get the atmosphere quite right. It's striking that the only Nazi in the movie (one of the boy's fathers) is busily looking after his own skin. That's not false, but there isn't the atmosphere of Nazi fanatics bullying everyone around at gun point and killing everyone who is skeptical of them. It's hard to believe that this close to the end of the war that people aren't, however tactfully, talking about imminent defeat. Also, once in uniform, the boys aren't easy to tell apart. But the actual battle is done fairly effectively. One might consider The Cremator, which I watched on youtube not knowing it would be a Criterion release, an example of the ideological imperatives of the Communist government. It deals with a title character who exemplifies bourgeois hypocrisy. Living in the thirties he supports the Nazi occupation of his country and moves from his Czech nationality to German one, with unpleasant consequences for his half-Jewish wife. One might also consider the movie's new modernist techniques, with a lot of rapid fire editing, more fashionable than successful. But one can't ignore Rudolph Hrusinsky's memorable performance, which reaches now lows in oily unctuousness. As for the other three movies, Hearts of the West is an OK movie starring a young Jeff Bridges who movies from wannabe western novelist to movie actor. It's an interesting effort. Whiskey Galore is as amusing and wry as everyone says it is. The performances are good in their restrained, dry way. The effects are subtle, such as the soldier that tells the islanders how to tie him up so that they can take the whiskey, or the amusingly bigoted Sabbatarian mother, or the amusing final twist. It has a very dry wit (" They're so unsporting. They don't do things for the sake of doing them like the English. We play the game for the sake of the game. Other nations play the game for the sake of winning it"). And Mackendrick shows his special competence in the way the islanders quickly and efficiently hide their whiskey from the snooping captain. It's a bit of a pity , that Ealing films don't attract me more. The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover is little better than competent. It's basically a parade of Hoover's greatest abuses of power (manipulating press coverage of arrests, wiretapping Martin Luther King, handing out dirt to Joe McCarthy, who botches it). There's he occasional nuance--Hoover apparently opposed Japanese internment--but looking at the rest of director Larry Cohen's filmography is not encouraging. It certainly doesn't use Jose Ferrer, Celeste Holm or John Marley to their best advantage.
  3. Three weeks of Lone Wolf/Cub movies? At least we get Paper Moon as part of the Bogdanovitch quasi-spotlight. I'm surprised they didn't get At Long Last Love just to be complete.
  4. And here's another great opening, also the best James Bond sequence of all time:
  5. Tonight the TCM premiere of Once Upon a Time in America at 229 minutes!
  6. As the Self-Styled Siren commented on Twitter in the last week or so, being nominated or winning an oscar is for most people outside the circle of cinephiles and TCM viewers the best proof of quality for an "old" (i.e. made before they were born). It's not a reasonable standard (does anyone think Marty is a better movie than The Night of the Hunter?), but it is what it is.
  7. He didn't create a world, he copied it from Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. I can understand Phoenix getting a nomination, even though it's clearly the least of the four nominations I've seen (I haven't seen Pryce), and even more so than the unnominated De Niro. But better cinematography over A Hidden Life? Of the actresses, I've only seen Johansson, and she clearly was not as good as the unnominated Lupita Nyong'o. That Sam Mendes has a better shot of getting his second directing oscar over Scorsese does not sound promising.
  8. Carney's win, and I've probably said this before, is one of Oscar's most egregious mistakes. This was a year when three of the leading actors of their generation (Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman) gave their best performances in three of the best of American films. And there's no shortage of better performances that year.
  9. I saw three movies last week. Road to Utopia (about the Alaska Gold rush actually) is the second "Road" movie I've seen. If not the funniest of forties comedies, it's certainly amusing, with slapstick hijinks, absurdist turns, asides to the audiences and two protagonists who constantly scheme against each other but do the right think in the end. Body and Soul, the first of two movies TCM will show this month, is a silent movie by Oscar Micheaux starring Paul Robeson. This melodrama about a corrupt pseudo-preacher does share some peculiar traits (long lost identical twins! It was all a dream!) but Robeson is good and there is an effectively subtle and sinister rape scene. The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about the title character fascinated with trying to find some way of getting back his old family home, now long lost and hopelessly expensive because of gentrification. It has some interesting aspects, but the protagonist could be more interesting still.
  10. Personally a rather snotty article, that critics are spending too much time complaining of the lack of diversity in films, though it's exactly what one would expect from Williamson, who lost a post at The Atlantic because he couldn't convincingly explain tweets suggesting women who had abortions be hanged. It's also exactly the sort of piece one would expect from National Review which since 1955 has always been outraged that some non white male might be treated too generously. As for Kelly Marie Train's role (a) there's been no shortage of bad The Rise of Skywalker reviews, and clearly Tran's limited role is the least of the critics' problems, (b) it does seem odd that Tran's role is so small. After all three major characters in the last movie died before the end of it, and the actress playing a fourth one died shortly after it was released. So it's hard to argue there was no room for her. Nor was she a Jar Jar Binks level of awfulness. Since the oscar nominations are going to be announced on Monday, we're probably going to have this diversity debate. Mark Harris had a piece on the Vanity Fair website this week that looks at the issue. As it stands, it seems more likely or not that all five directors this year will be male. Harris doesn't have too much to object to this: Greta Gerwig was the one female director with a major contender this year, and despite good reviews, it's not unreasonable that many people thought it was more a ten best movie than a top five one. On the other side, there's the best actress race and here Harris is much more critical. Actually he made the points earlier in a November Vanity Fair piece: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/11/oscar-best-actress-race If you want to know how troubling these conventions can be, look no further than this year’s best-actress race—a contest that currently involves four white actors, one Asian actor, and three black actors, and one in which, all too predictably, the prevailing belief seems to be that all four white actors are in, and that all four actors of color are vying for one remaining slot. At the prediction-aggregation site Gold Derby, which has amassed the guesses of 30 Oscar pundits, the field is currently ranked as follows: Renée Zellweger, Judy Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story Saoirse Ronan, Little Women Charlize Theron, Bombshell Awkwafina, The Farewell Cynthia Erivo, Harriet Alfre Woodard, Clemency Lupita Nyong’o, Us This is how a narrative gets entrenched: There are those who are in, and those who are fighting to get in, and the implicit notion of a quota—the idea that there is one spot for “diversity”—becomes a way of not looking at the performances. Let’s look at the four actors presumably competing for one spot. Lupita Nyong’o is an Oscar winner who received rave reviews for a movie that, when all is said and done, may well have outgrossed the other seven films on this list combined. Cynthia Erivo is a Tony-winning actor and singer who plays an important historical figure in a film that has outperformed expectations at the box office. Awkwafina stole her scenes in a comedy smash last year and has now pivoted to drama in one of the summer’s breakout indie successes. And Alfre Woodard is a beloved veteran who received her only other nomination 36 years ago, has finally gotten to carry a movie, and in fact took it straight to the Grand Jury Prize at January’s Sundance Film Festival. It is also worth noting that all four of their movies are directed by nonwhite filmmakers, three of them women. A good personal narrative can do a great deal to smooth the road to an Oscar nomination, and all four of those narratives more than do the job—Woodard’s story alone practically embodies the last 40 years of the history of the struggle for representation for African American women in Hollywood. To be sure, there are also some great stories to tell in the putative “top” four—Zellweger’s comeback, Johansson’s quest for a first nomination—but they’re not necessarily any more compelling. So why, at this moment, do all three black actors look like they’re just going to miss? The rationales I’ve heard are fairly grim. There’s the “They’ll all cancel one another out” argument, which really needs to be permanently retired, since it’s premised on a horrific underlying assumption that blackness is such a salient characteristic that choosing more than one of those actors, who give performances that could not possibly be more different, would represent a kind of redundancy in the minds of many voters. It’s been suggested that Nyong’o is a long shot because Us is a genre movie that came out too early in the year, as if we did not all have that exact discussion two years ago about eventual best-picture nominee Get Out and eventual best-actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya. There’s the idea that the rest of Harriet isn’t quite up to Erivo’s performance (although the same problem hasn’t stopped momentum for Judy) and that the movie isn’t quite enough of an earner to make an impact (it’s outgrossed Judy by more than 25%). And about Woodard, who carries most of Clemency’s scenes with a performance of staggering range and control that reaches its climax with a silent close-up that lasts almost three minutes and is as powerful as anything an actor has put on screen this year, I’ve heard, “It’s a shame the movie’s coming out so late.” That’s not wrong—in a very short voting season, opening a movie in late December doesn’t leave much time for momentum to build. Unlike Theron in Bombshell or Ronan in Little Women, whose performances voters can already—no, wait, I just checked, and what do you know! Those movies don’t open nationally until late December either, and yet both actors seem to have been ushered straight to the VIP check-in line, at the end of which seats in the contest are being held for them. I have nothing against any of these performances and actors, but I do have a problem with looking at the order of the above list, shrugging, and saying, “Well, that’s just the way it happened to work out this year.” Because nothing has actually been worked out this year—voters are still in the process of sorting, thinking, weighing, and seeing the work, and punditry has a way of turning the expected into the accepted. I hope that, besides adding any other names to that list that strike their fancy, voters feel free to rearrange that top eight in novel ways. Why not weigh Zellweger against Johansson, since they both play mothers? Or Ronan against Awkwafina, since they both play daughters? Or Woodard against Theron, since they both play white-collar professionals? Why not proceed, right now, from the premise that nobody has a slot and go with the five performances that most surprise and move and dazzle you? Why not do everything possible to fight against a notion that should have died long before 2019, the idea that actors of color must, by definition, still fight amongst themselves for one precious invitation to the party? Harris adds in this week's piece (https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2020/01/oscar-nominations-preview) Since then, Nyong’o, the star of the biggest hit in the best-actress field, has been named the year’s best actress by the New York Film Critics Circle, the New York Film Critics Online, the Toronto Film Critics Association, the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, and the Chicago Film Critics Association—that’s more prizes than any lead actress has won this year. And where does she currently stand on the aggregation site GoldDerby? In sixth place. In a situation like this, we tend to start our harangues with our outrage at Academy voters. But the truth is, we have no idea what Academy voters have or have not done yet. We only know that they have been told, over and over again, in every conceivable way, that Lupita Nyong’o is not a front-runner, that she is a long shot, that she has only an outside chance, and that no number of honors and awards can change a narrative that seems to have been agreed upon early and then zealously defended, a narrative that has also put Nyong’o’s fellow SAG nominees Cynthia Erivo and Jamie Foxx juuuust out of the running. Oscar voters don’t like to waste their votes; if you tell them again and again, “That’s not happening,” it sinks in. I hope enough of them were able to ignore the dully reactionary noise and fog of this year’s punditry. But if they didn’t, and no black actors are nominated, this one’s not just on the voters; it’s on those of us who set the table for them.
  11. Two of my favorite movies from last year, A Hidden Life and The Irishman, were distinctly longer than average. A Hidden Life was more than 170 minutes and The Irishman was just a minute short of three and a half hours. Now as it happens some of the most respected Best Picture winners (Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, both Godfather movies), as well as some of the most popular (Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, Titanic), are distinctly longer than average. This leads me to ask what it is that makes a movie "too long" when we say they are too long? And please don't repeat the well known Hollywood anecdote about an antsy producer or director: Titanic and The Godfather Part II are very different in style, tempo, acting and content. It's not just because there are a lot of murders in the latter movie that people willingly sit through the latter. And that's even more true of Lawrence of Arabia.
  12. Well here are the movies of 2019 that I've reminded myself to see this year: Aside from every best picture nominee they include Ad Astra American Factory Apollo 11, Asako 1 + 2 Avengers: Endgame Bad Education Beanpole A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Black Mother The Burial of Kojo Climax Coincoin and the extra humans Diane Dragged Across Concrete An Elephant Sitting Still A family tour The Farewell La Flor Frankie Give me Liberty Her Smell Honey boy Honeyland Hotel by the River Hustlers Jojo Rabbit Knives Out The Last Black Man in San Francisco The Laundromat Little women Monos My Name is Dolemite Napalm The Nightingale 1917 One Child Nation The Personal history of David Copperfield Peterloo Portrait of a Lady on fire Quick and Slim Richard Jewell The Souvenir Suburban Birds Sword of Trust Synonyms Toy Story 4 Uncut Gems Under the Sylvan Lake Varda by Agnes Vitalina Varela Waves The Whistlers,
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/jan/09/for-your-consideration-this-seasons-most-overlooked-film-performances?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2lXQDFveBFuk3Z9Xivu0bXsH66O1Tr9xytoEqVhL3MjoMPnnKO8Cs4HQg Personally, I think Rogowski was the best actor of 2018 for Transit.
  14. Not everyone agrees: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-beauty-of-sam-mendess-1917-comes-at-a-cost
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