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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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I saw ten movies this week:

 

"The Lost World" (1925)--Special Effects done by Willis O'Brien (he's best known for "King Kong (1933), Ray Harryhausen's forerunner, are the main attraction here.  And they are Good.  Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle story, film takes thirty minutes to get started, then doesn't slow down.  Two good prints on YT.

 

"Maniac" (1934)--Incompetent mess makes "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" (1963) look like "Citizen Kane" (1941). A waste of time and celluloid.

 

"A Royal Scandal" (1945)--Farce about Catherine the Great stars Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn, & Anne Baxter; they are excellent, & if Vincent Price had been Bankheads' co-star instead of William Eythe, this would be an acknowledged classic.  But Eythe is overly sincere and vocally too slow (Otto Preminger keeps things moving at breakneck speed--he knows that Farce needs to Move, and slow line readings kill laughs).  Not as good as it could be, but not the disaster 1945 critics said it was.

 

"Bluebeard" (1944)--Low-budget film from PRC distinguished by Edgar Ulmers' direction--bizarre camera angles and a rare leading role for John Carradine (he's excellent) make the predictable film interesting.  Film has an Awful musical score by someone named "Erdody" that acts for the actors and tells the audience how to react and what to expect five minutes in advance.  A Lousy print is on YT.

 

"Cluny Brown" (1946)--A girl has a passion for plumbing in 1938 London, and that's just not socially acceptable--Jennifer Jones, Peter Lawford, Charles Boyer, & Helen Walker all prove expert farceurs under Ernst Lubitsch's direction; Jones' innocent quality lets Lubitsch get away with double & triple entendres.  Walker is the only actress I've seen who can scream while reading a book and looking bored.

 

"New Orleans" (1947)--Forget the ******* plot.  Film is a rare chance to see Billie Holliday on film, as well as Louis Armstrong and I'm not sure how many other jazz greats.  Others on this board are more qualified than me to say.  I can say that when the film concentrates on music, it soars; when plot gets in the way , it Thuds.

 

"Bride of Vengeance" (1949)--Film is beautifully restored on The Paramount Vault on YT.  The film is beautiful: set & art decoration, costumes, etc.  Problem is the script. It has Lucretia Borgia as an innocent, never meaning anyone harm, until misled by various villains.  Macdonald Carey gets the historical implications across, as does Paulette Goddard. The scripts' tone veers from domestic comedy, to swashbuckler, to palace intrigue.  Actors do their best, but film is still reminiscent of "I Love Lucy" played in 16th century fancy dress.

 

"Forever Amber" (1947)--Beautiful film is hampered by what had to be discarded from Kathleen Winsor's novel.  Linda Darnell never quite masters an English accent, but otherwise she has the spirit and fire of the novels' Amber.  Cornel Wilde is OK as the object of Ambers' affections.  George Sanders is the only one in the cast who looks and sounds at home in post-Cromwell England.  Enjoyable film.

 

"Lust For Gold" (1949)--Film is about The Superstition Mountains in AZ and the cursed gold that is supposedly hidden there.  Everyone in LFG is a *******, so the fun is in watching them double and triple cross each other for gold, water, whatever's needed at the time.  A fun watch.

 

"M" (1951)--Shockingly good remake of Fritz Langs' 1931 classic.  Joseph Losey directed, updating it to 1951. & David Wayne gives a very good performance (not quite great, although the final scenes come close).  Recommended.

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I saw seven movies over the last two weeks, two in the first week, five last week.  Sicario has a good surface, but questions soon arise.  For a start, is it really a good idea to hide so many bodies in a Arizona suburb.  And there's one seen of helicopters panning the Mexican landscape where the score is so bombastic you think Godzilla is going to pop up.  And instead of a real political critique of the drug war, there is a conspiracy angle that doesn't really make much sense if you think about it too hard and amounts to a cop out.  Guardians of the Galaxy is the kind of Hollywood blockbuster one thought Hollywood didn't know how to make anymore.  It's actually amusing and competent in parts, though the grand climax is a bit weak.  Incidentally, there are two teams with that name in the Marvel  universe, with the movie being about the second one.  Michael Rooker plays the only member of the original team alluded to, and he does have one scene to show just how tough he is.  The Assassin is an opaque movie, and it could be clearer.  But that just means you should see it more than once.  It is a beautiful movie, as well as a subtle and thoughtful one.  Two Weeks in Another Town was interesting, the sort of movie about Hollywood Vincent Minnelli could make and be of some value.  Although more "grown up" than The Bad and the Beautiful, it isn't as well regarded.  Nor do I think this is necessarily unfair.  Another Thin Man isn't as good as the previous two Thin Man movies, though it's certainly enjoyable.  And I could think of movies that would be a lot worse to end the year with.  Smile in retrospect looks like shooting fish in a barrel, but that doesn't mean that beauty contests don't deserve it.  One might think the small town hypocrisy is laid on a little thick.  But the characters do try to muddle through.  Jonathan Rosenbaum compared it to American Beauty, and it does have more integrity than that movie.  Divine Madness is actually kind of fun.

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filmlover, I'm crazy about CLUNY BROWN and the Losey remake of M. Very fine films.

 

skimpole, as for TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, I consider this a hilarious campfest. Yes, there are critics who take it seriously, but they must have been at some other movie. I kept watching in the hope that there would be another scene where Claire Trevor hammed it up outrageously, and she did, she did! Minnellli thought the studio ruined it in the editing phase, but given the goshawful lines and good actors giving bad performances (CT isn't the only one), this could never have been a good movie. Recommended to fans of THE COBWEB, and vice versa. Of course there are good Minnelli films like THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, and some might prefer to watch those.

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One thing I have to say about Hulu is they have a 'History' page...which means you can review the history of what you've watched. So when I am making these lists, and I am trying to remember what I have watched recently-- it's quite easy to do!

 

I wish other streaming sites had a 'History' page.

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I stumbled onto Career on Movies this week.  A mid-50's film it starred Anthony Franciosa as a mid-westerner who leaves home for New York and stardom.  Over ten or twelve years he experiences all that a person can trying to make it on stage or film.  a marriage to a girl from back home fails because she can't take the poverty and uncertainty; when a director  "friend" sells him out he marries his alcoholic girlfriend for spite, the Korean war and the HUAAC hearings finally seem to finish him off.  Only his agent, who never says so but obviously loves him, doesn't give up on him.  At the end he's back to being a waiter when he waits on his visiting first wife who finally understands him and encourages him to keep trying his acting.  The friend who sold him out now needs him; he agrees to work in his latest production and finally gets his break and begins to realize his agent is the woman he needs. 

 

This is an honest depiction of show business for the 98% who never "make it" or only do later years of "paying dues."  The character is mostly a nice guy except when he uses his second wife for revenge and to get on her father's-he's also in the business-good side.  You want to see him make it.

 

Dean Martin is the "friend" and he is good in an unsympathetic role.  Shirley MacLaine is the second wife-her fourth marriage-who finally finds meaning in life when she marries Martin's character and has a family.  Unfortunately, he is a lousy a husband as he is a friend.

 

Franciosa is riveting every time he's on screen.  I'm betting all of these people know others who, or might themselves have lived through some of the story.  It's a cautionary tale for us "would be stars"  who should perhaps ask ourselves if we won staying who we are.  

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I stumbled onto Career on Movies this week.  A mid-50's film it starred Anthony Franciosa as a mid-westerner who leaves home for New York and stardom.  Over ten or twelve years he experiences all that a person can trying to make it on stage or film.  a marriage to a girl from back home fails because she can't take the poverty and uncertainty; when a director  "friend" sells him out he marries his alcoholic girlfriend for spite, the Korean war and the HUAAC hearings finally seem to finish him off.  Only his agent, who never says so but obviously loves him, doesn't give up on him.  At the end he's back to being a waiter when he waits on his visiting first wife who finally understands him and encourages him to keep trying his acting.  The friend who sold him out now needs him; he agrees to work in his latest production and finally gets his break and begins to realize his agent is the woman he needs. 

 

This is an honest depiction of show business for the 98% who never "make it" or only do later years of "paying dues."  The character is mostly a nice guy except when he uses his second wife for revenge and to get on her father's-he's also in the business-good side.  You want to see him make it.

 

Dean Martin is the "friend" and he is good in an unsympathetic role.  Shirley MacLaine is the second wife-her fourth marriage-who finally finds meaning in life when she marries Martin's character and has a family.  Unfortunately, he is a lousy a husband as he is a friend.

 

Franciosa is riveting every time he's on screen.  I'm betting all of these people know others who, or might themselves have lived through some of the story.  It's a cautionary tale for us "would be stars"  who should perhaps ask ourselves if we won staying who we are.  

Great flick. I particularly enjoy Carolyn Jones' performance in the picture, but they're all good. 

 

CAREER is currently available on Amazon Prime without commercials. 

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I stumbled onto Career on Movies this week.  A mid-50's film it starred Anthony Franciosa as a mid-westerner who leaves home for New York and stardom.  Over ten or twelve years he experiences all that a person can trying to make it on stage or film.  a marriage to a girl from back home fails because she can't take the poverty and uncertainty; when a director  "friend" sells him out he marries his alcoholic girlfriend for spite, the Korean war and the HUAAC hearings finally seem to finish him off.  Only his agent, who never says so but obviously loves him, doesn't give up on him.  At the end he's back to being a waiter when he waits on his visiting first wife who finally understands him and encourages him to keep trying his acting.  The friend who sold him out now needs him; he agrees to work in his latest production and finally gets his break and begins to realize his agent is the woman he needs. 

 

This is an honest depiction of show business for the 98% who never "make it" or only do later years of "paying dues."  The character is mostly a nice guy except when he uses his second wife for revenge and to get on her father's-he's also in the business-good side.  You want to see him make it.

 

Dean Martin is the "friend" and he is good in an unsympathetic role.  Shirley MacLaine is the second wife-her fourth marriage-who finally finds meaning in life when she marries Martin's character and has a family.  Unfortunately, he is a lousy a husband as he is a friend.

 

Franciosa is riveting every time he's on screen.  I'm betting all of these people know others who, or might themselves have lived through some of the story.  It's a cautionary tale for us "would be stars"  who should perhaps ask ourselves if we won staying who we are.  

 

I have watched Career twice on MOVIES-TV the last few months.   Nice film and what you say about it is on target.   Franciosa is one of those actors that can go overboard when displaying emotion but in Career he maintains the right balance.  i.e. he sizzles instead of boiling over (expect when boiling over is called for).   

 

As TopBilled notes Carolyn Jones provides fine support in the film.    Always nice to see her in films since until fairly recently I only knew her from the Adams Family.

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I have watched Career twice on MOVIES-TV the last few months.   Nice film and what you say about it is on target.   Franciosa is one of those actors that can go overboard when displaying emotion but in Career he maintains the right balance.  i.e. he sizzles instead of boiling over (expect when boiling over is called for).   

 

As TopBilled notes Carolyn Jones provides fine support in the film.    Always nice to see her in films since until fairly recently I only knew her from the Adams Family.

And she made quite a few movies in the 50s and 60s (before and after her popular TV series). In 1959, she was under contract to Hal Wallis and in addition to CAREER, he cast her that year in the hit western LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL with Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn and Earl Holliman. In many ways, she's the one to watch, which is a major accomplishment with those three scene stealers.

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I saw six movies this week.  The Martian shows Ridley Scott at his most competent.  But I wonder whether it will be like American Gangster, a movie I saw before several classic Sidney Lumet movies that put it in the shade.  I suspect it will be like Apollo 13, only slightly more off-beat, but ultimately forgettable competent entertainment.  Certainly, the ending breeds suspicion.  And the difference between it and A Man Escaped nicely encapsulates the difference between Scott and Bresson.  The Spanish Earth was a propaganda film that lacked particular information and insight.  Dr. Erlich's Magic Bullet was an OK scientific biography.  Bulldog Drummond was an early sound film and while it ultimately doesn't amount to much, I can see why audiences warmed to Ronald Colman, who is comparatively more engaging than most actors in the very early silent era.  Peter the Great, Part II is the sequel to the Soviet historical epic that I mentioned last year.  Keeping in mind all the propaganda elements, it's not a bad film with some nice films.  Zvenigora is clearly the movie of the week.  Aside from reminding me that I should rewatch Earth again, a movie I treated too cursorily when I first saw it, this movie is a very strange one.  Beautifully shot, visually dynamic, and with a strange plot that goes forth and back in time, I can see why Guy Maddin included it in his 2012 Sight and Sound top 10 poll.

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BETWEEN TWO WORLDS-

After about 20 minutes realized I had seen this before...but so long ago couldn't recall the ending. A rather interesting take on life after death; well directed with decent story flow & interesting charactors. John Garfield takes a back seat to Eleanor Parker who I think is the most beautiful blonde to ever be on screen. Worth watching through for a great ending.

 

COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN-

I thought I had already seen this, but once started watching realized this was a first viewing. Very well acted "ensemble" piece starring Sandy Dennis, Cher, Kathy Bates & Karen Black (fist time seeing her) I think the entire film takes place in the store and coupled with the shadowy lighting, gives the film a "stagey" feel. Director Altman employed the lighting "fade in/out" used in CITIZEN KANE to represent "inner thoughts" which worked well. Sadly, some of the plot "zingers" are somewhat dated now and wholly predictable. Doesn't diminish the charactors or acting.

 

JACK THE RIPPER-

A circa 80's BBC TV production starring Michael Caine loaned to me by my movie "buddy". Excellent, classy production that most certainly feels like a theatrical release, not a TV movie. The sets/costumes/props & lighting puts you right in London of 1889, just perfectly done. Very well acted with minimum of gore (thank you!) Loved the story & the way it was told, highly recommend seeking this version. Taught me a lot about the case....prologue said it was based on ALL facts gathered, even Scotland Yard's secret archives of the case. 

 

CALL ME MADAM-

Ethel merman, Donald O'Connor, George Sanders, Vera Ellen...Gershwin....how could you go wrong? Well, it was rather flat and lackluster for some reason. Maybe Merman was a little old to be so instantly smitten with an aquaintance? It was way more believable between O'Connor & Ellen who are presented as 19-25 year olds. The songs were forgettable -amazing for any Gershwin- even with the grande Merman carrying them. This is worth watching, if only for the great dancing and to hear Sanders REALLY sing, I had no idea he had such a great singing voice! And of course, any chance to see Merman on film is worthwhile.

 

WILD TALES-

Recommended by Bogie, I think, a new film in 2015. Five tales of outlandish vengeance told in an amusing way. Each story was strong on it's own, and despite the fact it's modern, it had nothing that would make you uncomfortable watching with your kids or parents. In other words, any sex, violence or swearing fit into the story and was not in any way overdone or offensive. They saved "overdone" for the wacky situations that had both me & MrTiki yelling at the screen. We whooped & gaffawed at several story turns which I know will remain in my consciousness for a long time.

 

LOVE & MERCY-

The new movie about Brian Wilson. This is a difficult subject since Brian is still with us, but I guess we're getting the story with his approval. The movie jumps back & forth between the time The Beach Boys were recording Pet Sounds & Smile and circa 1980 when Brian was at his lowest point. (We all remember "lyin' in bed, just like Brian Wilson did") which is difficult in itself. But the director chose to cast 2 different actors to portray Wilson in those 2 periods!

Paul Dano played the young Wilson to PERFECTION, as were all the guys playing brothers Dennis & Carl, Al Jardine & Mike Love. The movie is very successful at recreating the time period & recording sessions.

John Cusak laughingly played "older" Brian Wilson, not convincing at all. I guess he did OK, but all I saw was John Cusak mouthbreather. My dislike for Cusak might color my feelings, but this casting still was mystifying. First time ever seeing Paul Giamatti and although he played a despicable charactor, is definitely a powerhouse of an actor.

I liked the story and very much liked the perspective of the telling, a difficult task for the writers & director.

But I can't recommend it to anyone other than Brian Wilson fans.

 

So best of the week: WILD TALES

Worst of the week: CALL ME MADAM

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BETWEEN TWO WORLDS-

 

LOVE & MERCY-

 

 

Glad you liked, Wild Tales TikiSoo.

If you liked Between Two Worlds you may like to watch out for Outward Bound (1930) if it ever comes on TCM.  It is the original with Douglas fairbanks, Jr., and much better IMHO.

I did a mini-review of Love & Mercy in the Films of 2015 thread.  I concur with your assessment.  Paul Dano is worth the look-see.

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I said earlier: First time ever seeing Paul Giamatti and although he played a despicable charactor, is definitely a powerhouse of an actor.

 

Duh, last night at dinner MrTiki corrected me- Giamatti was the lead in AMERICAN SPLENDOR, a movie I loved. Just didn't recognise him as the same actor! 

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I saw three movies last week.  Jane Eyre was more interesting than I thought it would be.  I wish I actually watched it more instead of listening to it while I made my dinner.  The Little Fugitive was also interesting, and I can see why the French new wave was admired it, even if it did not quite meet the highest of standards.  But I think the movie of the week was Victoria,   At the beginning of this 138 minute single take, one might wonder what the point of such an exercise is.  After all the first part seems to demonstrate little more than that hanging out with drunks after clubbing is not a good idea.  And indeed, the movie goes on to show that in this case, it's a spectacularly bad idea.  More to the point there doesn't seem to be much depth or grace in the single shot, in contrast to Sukorov, Jancso, Angelopoulos, Tarr or German.  But as the movie goes on, it becomes progressively more exciting and alarming.

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I saw four movies last week.  "The Maze" (1953), directed by William Cameron Menzies. is an effective low budget thriller that takes off from a 17th century gardening fad and a family curse on a castle in Scotland.  Maltin says ending ruins film; I disagree.  See what you think.  Available on YT.

 

"The Abominable Doctor Phibes" (1971).  Late Hammer horror starring Vincent Price; plot has him going after ten doctors who tried and failed to save his wifes' life on the operating table.  Phibes is assisted by his daughter, Vulnavia.  Good film effectively mixes music with horror.  Is on YT,

 

"Doctor Phibes Rises Again" (1973)--Phibes & daughter Vulnavia make a return appearance in this sequel that places humor over horror.  Bad guy goes against bad guy, with the police following a mile or more behind.  Films' ending is possibly the intentionally funniest of the Hammer 1970's films.  Is on YT.

 

"A Boy And His Dog" (1975)  Deeply cynical film about the dystopia left after WW IV.  Don Johnson gives his best performance and is matched by Tim McIntire's voicing of Blood, the telepathic dog.  McIntire's and Johnsons' back and forth, rat-a-tat-tat-tat dialogue is hilarious; Bloods' muttered asides are also very funny.  Bitterly funny film is not for everyone.Based on Harlan Ellison's novella.  Is on YT. 

 

Film with least intentional humor--"The Maze" (1953)

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Bogie said: I did a mini-review of Love & Mercy in the Films of 2015 thread.  I concur with your assessment. 

 

Don't you think this guy would have made a better "circa 1980" Brian Wilson?

 

nm0261724.jpg

 

It's my fave Joe Estevez.....much better fit than John Cusak.

 

Your review in that thread brought the movie to my attention. Thank you for your insights. Some on this board enjoy discussion of film.

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Bogie said: I did a mini-review of Love & Mercy in the Films of 2015 thread.  I concur with your assessment. 

 

Don't you think this guy would have made a better "circa 1980" Brian Wilson?

 

nm0261724.jpg

 

It's my fave Joe Estevez.....much better fit than John Cusak.

 

Your review in that thread brought the movie to my attention. Thank you for your insights. Some on this board enjoy discussion of film.

 

Failing taking a page from Boyhood and waiting 20 years to let Paul Dano play his older self I would say yes!  I'm not familiar with Joe Estevez' work but just about anyone would have been better than John Cusack.  I didn't want to put anyone off watching the film by saying how much Cusack brought the film down every time he appeared.  And I couldn't stop wondering about his face lift and why on earth would he do such a thing.

 

**Actually, this is a great idea for a remake in 2035.  Just reshoot the separate older Brian Wilson scenes with Paul Dano.**

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I said earlier: First time ever seeing Paul Giamatti and although he played a despicable charactor, is definitely a powerhouse of an actor.

 

Duh, last night at dinner MrTiki corrected me- Giamatti was the lead in AMERICAN SPLENDOR, a movie I loved. Just didn't recognise him as the same actor! 

After seeing Harvey Pekar many times on tv interviewed by David Letterman, I agree that Giamatti was spot on in that role in "AS".

 

Speaking of not spot on, I can only concur and agree that John Cusack as Brian Wilson was a total abomination!

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I saw six movies over the last two weeks:  four this week and two for the week before.  The silent version of The Blue Bird had some charm.  The Duke of Burgundy is about a lesbian couple who engage in BDSM rituals.  (They're also studying butterflies, which is what the title refers to.)  This is interesting, but not easy for me to appreciate it.  I probably don't have enough empathy for this sort of movie, where sex games have overshadowed everything else in the relationship.  Yesterday evening, I watched Josie and the Pussycats, largely because there's problems with my audiovisual system that prevent me from watching DVDs, and it happened to be on television.  It's kind of odd that this should be the one property from the Archie universe to make the big screen.  It's not a very interesting movie, though Parker Posey makes a good villain, and one wishes more of the awful Cabot siblings.

 

The other three movies were three of the best picture nominees.  They're all good, but one wishes they could be better.  Saoirse Ronan is so good in Brooklyn that you think the movie is actually better than it actually is.  But I couldn't help but notice when I was watching it that it took some time for the movie to actually produce an individual character as opposed to the type of the shy, devoutly Catholic immigrant.  Richard Brody criticized the movie since actual Irish women in the 1950s would show more curiosity about NYC than the intelligent and not unambitious character does in the course of the movie.  Spotlight is competent, interesting journalism about the Boston Catholic sex abuse scandal.  One wishes it showed more cinematic flair and that the characters showed greater emotional engagement with their subject.  The Big Short is certainly more fun, though at times it appears like a more "responsible" and less imaginative The Wolf of Wall Street.  One problem in its useful narrative is that the people who are betting on the world economy to collapse also have to double as the moral conscience of the movie, regularly getting appalled at the chicanery around them.  That doesn't entirely work.

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I saw seven movies & one longish cartoon last week.  "Something For Everyone" (1970) is a cynical, bitter delight of a comedy about what people will do to acquire money.  Michael York and Angela Lansbury are fantastic.  "Anatahan" (1953) is among Josef von Sternbergs' last films, and I hated it.  Film is rambling, incoherent, and goes for long stretches in Japanese with no subtitling.  Film has voiceover by von Sternberg philosophizing (according to Wikipedias' info.).  "Beat the Devil" (1953) is a hilarious spy spoof to end all spy spoofs.  Jennifer Jones goes blonde and steals the film as a compulsive liar who gets a thrill out of each lie; if her line isn't funny, her body language makes it funny;I SO wish she had done more comedies (she did just two--other is 1946's "Cluny Brown", directed by Ernst Lubitsch).  "Gorgo" (1961) is Great Britains' entry into the Godzilla movie sweepstakes; has relatively good Special Effects.  LornaHansonForbes said there was a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 presentation done on "Gorgo" on SyFy Network in their first season on  that network--I need to see if it's available online..  "Salome" (1923) is the legendary financial disaster filmed by Natacha Rambova and Nazimova.  It's ridiculously pretentious; is just the thing to see after suffering through a LLLong Biblical Epic.  Rambova is most memorable for a hairdo that looks like it has Christmas ornaments stuck on top of it.  "Mambo" (1955) is an initially banned film from Italy, re-edited to make a logical plot baffling.  In the re-edited version, watch everyone's eyes and who they follow; that gives a clue to films' original plot.  "Some Call It Loving" (1973) is a baffling, infuriating film; just when I thought I had it figured out, plot does  the complete opposite of what I was thinking.  Film is Not an artistic disaster like I had speculated in another thread, and is definitely worth watching.

 

The cartoon was an immaculately restored 1939 Popeye cartoon--with Olive Oyl, Popeye, and Aladdin's Lamp & genie. A delight.  To find, search "1954 films" and go to 33rd page or 34th page of results.

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Three movies this week:  Carol I immediately compared to Brooklyn, since both movies take place within months of each other in New York.  I very much admired the cinematography, which really provided a sense of place and time, compared to the somewhat more artificial arrangements of Brooklyn.  Also Mara and Blanchett's characters struck me as more real, while Ronan, despite all her skill, seemed to be playing a generic demure Irish Catholic immigrant with some depths.  So clearly a much more successful movie.  The Revenant also struck me as better than I thought it would be, since I had not been the biggest fan of Birdman, or of other Inarritu movies.  But there the tracking shots are rather more impressive given that it's shot in difficult forest scenes, rather than backstage at a theatre, there's no attempt to pretend we're watching Russian Ark, and the circumstances are undeniably gripping.  Live and Let Die benefits from the best of the Bond theme songs, and one of the few great songs Paul McCartney wrote after leaving the Beatles.  But otherwise the movie is pretty mediocre, with dull chase scenes, a scene involving waterboats that was probably impressive in 1973, unpleasant racist overtones, a rather dull romantic interest, a wasted Yaphet Kotto who dies one of the silliest deaths in a Bond movie, and a final fight scene in a train which seems idiotic since it was done much more famously and effectively in From Russia With Love.

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Three films, a BBC documentary, a cartoon, and a video of a edited out song that explains a plot hole in one of tonights' musicals.  First, the films.  "Only the Valiant" (1951) is a Gregory Peck western that has a dreadful reputation, but is rather good.  A low budget hampers what is accomplished, but Peck is in a perfect role, IMHO; an officer torn between duties (to his commander, his possible fiancee, and his regiment--all three conflict).  Not the worst film Peck ever made (in his career, OTV is right in the middle, IMHO).  Barbara Payton, Gig Young, and Ward Bond costar.

 

 "Something For The Boys" (1944) was originally a Cole Porter Broadway hit, which 20th-Century  Fox got the rights to film.  The songs are second-tier Porter, but are exceedingly well sung by Vivian Blaine, Carmen Miranda, and Perry Como; enjoyable fluff, with a couple of songs that verge on being first-rate, and one number with hideous costuming.

 

 "The Sea Wolf" (1941) is a wonderful ship-bound noir.  Edward G. Robinson is terrifying and pitiable as Captain of the  S.S. Ghost, and Ida Lupino nearly steals the film as a fugitive who ends up on that ship.  John Garfield has his moments, and I can't even remember the authors' (Jack London) persona or who played him.

 

The BBC documentary is "Carmen Miranda:Behind the Tutti-Frutti Hat" (2010?).  This hour long doc. shows the roots of her persona, and some rare Brazilian recordings and film footage of films she made there before becoming a star in the U.S.  This talented lady was started down a pill-popping road which eventually killed her.

 

The cartoon is "The Tell-Tale Heart" (1953), narrated by James Mason.  Imaginatively drawn, based on the Poe story, this is an enjoyable, if short (not quite seven and a half minutes) take on the tale.

 

The video is on YouTube, from "The Harvey Girls" (1946) ; song is "My Intuition".  Charming duet between Garland and Hodiak (did he ever sing onscreen again?) explains certain plot points, mainly that there was an Understanding reached.  A plot hole is explained away, and previous viewers who Thought a song was being set up are proved Correct.  All credit goes to the YT poster(s)--I merely stumbled across it last night.  Click on six minute version to hear the first underscoring of the song (instrumentals start around 1:50 of video; vocals start about two minutes in.)

 

All described films (except "The Sea Wolf"), etc, are available on YT. 

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Five movies this week:  let's start with Steve Jobs.  As a movie, one may question how much this borderline sociopath deserves, and one way wonder how neat and contrived the three act structure is.  Having said that, it's certainly clear that Fassbender gives a remarkable performance, certainly better than DiCaprio in The Revenant, let alone Matt Damon in The Martian.  One is inclined to compare it with Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game or Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything.  Certainly, by that standard Fassbender is clearly superior:  Cumberbatch, by contrast, is a Sheldon Cooper  impression with delusions of oscars, while Redmayne doesn't even do much as Stephen Hawking.  Flying Down to Rio is a nice light comedy with an obvious problem:  the trio at the core are clearly less interesting than supporting players Astaire and Rogers.  Future movies would solve that problem quite nicely.  Son of Saul presents an interesting dilemma.  Most of my favorite critics, Rosenbaum, Hoberman, Klawans and Kenny have praised the movie highly, though Edelstein and the Self-Styled Siren were clearly less sympathetic.  So why was I not moved more by this movie which showed considerable skill and some intelligence in presenting a sonderkommando's experiences?  Why did I think that the scenes in the changing room of Auschwitz and the constant presence of the corpse of the "son" resembled the least successful aspects of Schindler's List?  Part of the problem was that anyone with a little knowledge of the subject knows that isn't going to end up well.  And under the circumstances, it's hard to begrudge the protagonist any epiphany or redemption, while at the same time wondering what can be learned from such extreme experience?  Star Wars:  the Force Awakens starts off with greater competence than the first two movies of the last trilogy, and the characters nicely introduce themselves.  Then it slowly dissipates the good will it gathers by too slavishly copying the original movie, without showing the technical skills that Lucas managed to achieve in the worst of the movies.  The best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back?  More the best Star Wars movie after The Revenge of the Sith.  So the best movie of the week is Alain Resnais' Je 't'aime, Je T'aime, finally available on DVD in which a man goes back in time as part of a scientific experiment, and finds himself living his unhappy love affair, all out of chronological sequence.  It's the marriage of Chris Marker and Eric Rohmer!

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I saw four films this past week.  "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955) is notable for the cynicism coated screenplay that has a semi-sweet outcome.  Dolores Gray is memorable as a talk show hostess who oozes insincerity, constantly diets to keep her figure, and finally tells her boss where to go.  Cyd Charisse had a perfect part as a corporate type who rattles off statistics at the drop of a hat and views other people as "inconveniences".  Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, & Michael Kidd also star in this delight.

 

"The Threepenny Opera" (1931) is a German film made just before the Nazis rise to power. German Expressionism and Post WW I cynicism mix for one cynical musical, with a score by Kurt Weill. I saw this on a 2006 Criterion restoration, which has one problem: the translator/subtitler mixed up their "r"s & "n"s, so the viewer has to do some quick re-translating.  I found this just annoying; other than this problem, restoration is flawless, as far as I can tell.  Film is wonderful!

 

"The Letter" (1940) & (1929)--1940 version has a controlled, calculating Bette Davis measuring and thinking out every move she makes in the film.  Director Wyler does one of his best directing jobs here, making the Production Codes' insistence on obvious punishment watchable & not letting it derail his film.

 

The 1929 Jeanne Eagels version is less subtle, but Eagels is more successful in showing a woman on the verge of falling apart.  She is a wonder to behold (that's a compliment), and when her husband shows his claws, she matches him in anger.  The lack of music in the film just heightens the tension, IMO. 1929 film is Fantastic; 1940 film is very good.

 

All four films are Must-sees, IMHO.

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