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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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filmlover293: was this your first viewing of Tommy?

 

Do you see any similarities between Ken Russell's films and David Lynch's films? They both use nightmarish imagery and odd fantasy sequences to tell the story.....is one more successful than the other? 

 

(just curious about your opinion/impressions as a movie buff)

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TikiSoo--Yes, this was my first viewing of "Tommy" (1975).

 

As to a comparison between Russell's and Lynch's directorial styles--in addition to the similarities that you've already mentioned, there is one big difference.  Lynch ("Eraserhead" (1977), "The Elephant Man" (1980) & "Blue Velvet" (1986) always seems in control of what his directorial vision is (even if I can't figure it out, LOL), while Russell seems on the verge of losing narrative coherency.  This style works well for him in "The Devils" (1971), "Tommy" (1975), and "Altered States" (1980).

 

Russell seems in near total control of his vision in "Women In Love" (1969) and "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988), two of my favorite Russell films.

 

In "The Music Lovers" (1971) and "Savage Messiah" (1972), the leading performers hold the films together while Russell pours on the imagery and words.  Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson are fine in TML, while Dorothy Tutin's performance keeps SM from being a boring talkathon.

 

I saw "Gothic" (1986) when released, but remember nothing about it.  "Salome's Last Dance" (1988) tries too hard to shock the viewer.  Glenda Jackson is the best performer in the film.

 

"Lisztomania" (1975) and "Valentino" (1977) are successions of images with lousy scripts and next to no coherency.

 

Lynch holds the edge as fas as narrative coherency, but both directors have made memorable films.

 

If I haven't mentioned a film, assume I haven't seen it. 

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I saw five movies last week.  Muppets Most Wanted is another unnecessary sequel to another unnecessary revival.  The songs aren't bad, and Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey have fun.  But most of the Muppets have nothing special to do, and the romance between Kermit and Miss Piggy, never the most interesting part of the show, takes up a large part of that.  The Last Samurai is a movie that is as epic as it empty-headed.  Considerably more needs to be done to explain why we should care about the quarrel between militaristic Samurai and their modernizing empire, and the movie punts it aside.  There is no real appreciation of Japanese culture.  The battle scenes are competent and some of the cinematography is pretty though.  The Music Man is an OK musical, with three good songs and a nice performance by Robert Preston.  It has some nice touches, like the way Preston's character prevents the delegation from the mayor from investigating his credentials by turning them into a glee club.  One problem, compared with better musicals of the decade, is that Preston is the only real charismatic presence.  The other characters aren't bad, but also not particularly memorable.  Chameleon Street is one of the more interesting movies of 1989, based on a true story about a black con man who tries with some success to blur into more socially prominent professions, such as a doctor, a TIME reporter, a Yale student and a lawyer. It's actually fairly funny, with director Wendell Harris doing a good job playing the con man.  It won the grand prize at Sundance, and is certainly better than the winners that preceded and followed it, True Love and Poison.  The Lost City of Z is everything that The Last Samurai only tries to be.  It's an actual attempt of a man trying to appreciate another culture (one that may not exist, since the story is of a British explorer who finds fragmentary evidence of a developed civilization in the Amazon).  It actually shows what true effort and difficulty are like, in contrast to Zwick's film.  It is a fascinating adventure story, though not one with a conventionally happy or exciting ending, which probably explains why its release a few months ago didn't monopolize public attention.  Charlie Hunnan gives a good, understated performance as the protagonist, while Robert Pattinson acquits himself well in an unrecognizable role as Hunnan's assistant.  There are a couple of clumsy scenes between Hunnan and his wife, so that has to be taken into account.

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I saw four movies for the first time last week:

 

"Ivan The Terrible, Part I" (1944)--Sergei Eisenstein film is beautifully produced, but execrably acted.  Subtlety does not exist in the world of this movie.  The actors declaim loudly, in order that the second balcony may hear them, the villains skulk around like The Wolf Man, the main baddie sounds like Maria Ouspenskaya predicting Doom, the villagers attack Ivan's castle with torches and pitchforks.  The movie's a mad mix of horror film, historical biopic, and grand opera where nobody gets to sing.

 

"Ivan The Terrible, Part II: The Boyars Plot" (1946)--More stylized than Part I, this film's more successful because the cast Does finally get to sing.  Ivan declares he will act according to his nickname; multiple deaths later, slow witted Ivan discovers who poisoned his wife in Part I, and takes his revenge.  Part of the film is in color.

 

"The Kissing Bandit" (1948)--Sinatra/Grayson film is memorable mainly for "Dance of Fury", which was performed by Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller, and Cyd Charisse.  Number was a last minute addition to the film; in the print Comcast showed, Montalban, Miller, and Charisse weren't even listed in the credits!  Also memorable were Grayson's song "Love Is Where You Find It", and Sono Osato's "Whip Dance".  Gorgeous Technicolor and elaborate costumes aside, this is maybe the worst of Sinatra's MGM musicals.

 

"Yojimbo" (1961)--Akira Kurosawa film about an unemployed samurai (Toshiro Mifune) who goes to a village where two factions fight for control of the town.  Mifune's character decides both factions are worthless, and leaves the town much more peaceful than when he arrived.  Black comedy shows the influence of "High Noon" (1952), "Shane" (1953), and "West Side Story" (1961), among other films.  Recommended.

 

Most Favorite--"Yojimbo" (1961).

 

Least Favorite--"Ivan the Terrible, Part I" (1944).

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while Russell seems on the verge of losing narrative coherency.  This style works well for him in "The Devils" (1971), "Tommy" (1975), and "Altered States" (1980).

 

Russell seems in near total control of his vision in "Women In Love" (1969) and "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988), two of my favorite Russell films.

 

In "The Music Lovers" (1971) and "Savage Messiah" (1972), the leading performers hold the films together while Russell pours on the imagery and words.  Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson are fine in TML, while Dorothy Tutin's performance keeps SM from being a boring talkathon.

 

I saw "Gothic" (1986) when released, but remember nothing about it.  "Salome's Last Dance" (1988) tries too hard to shock the viewer.  Glenda Jackson is the best performer in the film.

 

"Lisztomania" (1975) and "Valentino" (1977) are successions of images with lousy scripts and next to no coherency.

 

If I haven't mentioned a film, assume I haven't seen it. 

 

That would be Russell's first, "Billion Dollar Brain" (1967)--

Which seems like a nice, tight coherent Harry Palmer spy thriller for Michael Caine, until the villain reveals his plot, the stylistic point is to satirize "American patriotism", and then....clear the dance floor for Ken Russell's Subtlety.   :rolleyes:

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I saw five movies last week.  David and Lisa is a pioneering movie about mental illness, in this case the obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia of the characters.  It was nominated for best director, one of three non Best Picture nominees that year, probably because there were three big budget movies nominated for best Picture that apparently the voters had little faith in.  As for the movie, there are other movies that treat the issue with more subtlety and distinction.  Charlie Wilson's War was made by Mike Nichols, whose adaptation of Catch-22 made one wonder whether he had a sense of humor.  This movie is slightly better, but it's insubstantial, offensively so.  It's bad enough the movie has Hanks as a white man heroically saving Afghanistan.  What's even worse is that he didn't actually, and the movie looks even worse a decade later, since Afghanistan's civil war between a brutal fanatical insurgency and its corrupt selfish government is still going on, with no idea of how to solve it.  Certain Women consists of a triptych about three women and their lives, which suffers from their underwhelming stories, as if the towns in the western states couldn't afford a proper epiphany.  It's not that Laura Dern, Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart don't try, but ultimately what is the point?  The Paradine Case is not one of most admired Hitchcock movies:  it certainly wasn't Hitchcock's.  Interestingly, like in Senso and The Third Man, Alida Valli is in love with a man who doesn't love her back.  This story actually works better than having Gregory Peck fall madly in love with her, ignoring her manifest flaws.  Infatuation isn't something Peck does very well.  Cosmos is a very strange movie.  A law student and his friend takes room in a boarding house, and then he, but not his friend, but some of the the characters, start acting very strangely, with outbursts of hysteria.  Worth watching a second time to understand what's going on.

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I saw five movies for the first time last week:

 

"From Beyond The Grave" (1973)--Four part British anthology horror film from Amicus.  The tone of the four stories varies from serious to dizzy farce (most of the tale about getting rid of an elemental).  The tales all revolve around an odd antique store and four unhappy customers.  Peter Cushing stars.  Recommended.

 

"The War Wagon" (1967)--John Wayne and Kirk Douglas transplant the caper genre to the Old West. Wayne, Douglas, and three others try to rob a stagecoach carrying $500,000 dollars in gold.  Naturally, things don't go as planned.  Movie tries to be a serious caper film, a serious Western, yet a spoof of both, all at the same time.  Film is diverting enough, but not essential viewing.

 

"Games" (1967)--Curtis Harrington directed this little gem, a near perfect thriller that's a tribute to Hitchcock and French thrillers.  A couple that's into mind games is introduced to darker games that ultimately turn fatal.  But will the dead stay dead?  Starring Simone Signoret, Katharine Ross, and James Caan.  Recommended.

 

"Throne of Blood" (1957)--Akira Kurosawa's version of Shakespeare's Scottish Play is set in feudal Japan.  It's an excellent mixture of the Samurai, Horror, and Western genres, with some Noh drama and a bit of Shakespeare mixed in. Arguably Kurosawa's best film. 

 

"Sanjuro" (1962)--Kurosawa's sequel to "Yojimbo" (1961) focuses on the comedic potential of the Samurai film.  Star Toshiro Mifune is a comedic revelation, and the cast are nearly his equals.  A most enjoyable watch.  Recommended. 

 

Most Favorite--"Sanjuro" (1962).

 

Least Favorite--"The War Wagon" (1967).

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I saw four movies last week.  The Ninth Configuration advertises itself as a black comedy where one wonders whether the psychiatrist at a secret military hospital is really sane or not.  Well, it wouldn't be much of a movie if there wasn't anything wrong with hm.and while we go on there is a facile Christ complex and facile talk of redemption.  But that doesn't mean the movie should be simply ignored.  Marriage of the Blessed deals with a common theme, the war-damaged veteran who returns from the front and has trouble adapting.  And so we have him thinking he's a burden to his family, while his woman stands by him regardless.  The interesting thing is that this is from Iran, and its brief (about 70 minutes) is shot in an innovative style.  Ode to Billy Joe benefits from a good performance by Glynnis O'Connor as the young Mississippi girl who is half of the romantic couple in the movie.  And there is a genuine attempt to deal with rural Mississippi without condescension and mockery.  (Though this is done by one particularly egregious omission, which I'll discuss in the Ode to Billy Joe thread).  Unfortunately Robby Benson is borderline hysterical even before the homosexual tryst which causes him to commit suicide.  And the movie is too obvious and literal considering that the power of the original song was its tact and understatement. (It wasn't really enigmatic:  obviously the singer wouldn't be singing it if Billy Joe was simply a vague acquaintance.)  What can one say of Inside Daisy Clover?  It's more subtle than earlier Hollywood movies about how difficult it is for an ingenue to make her way through Hollywood. But it isn't necessarily more intelligent or thoughtful.  It's sort of in a transitional state, like Hollywood at the time.

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That would be Russell's first, "Billion Dollar Brain" (1967)--

Which seems like a nice, tight coherent Harry Palmer spy thriller for Michael Caine, until the villain reveals his plot, the stylistic point is to satirize "American patriotism", and then....clear the dance floor for Ken Russell's Subtlety.   :rolleyes:

Indeed, Eric. First half good, second half not. One of the few English-language films of the time that sees the Soviets as preferable to the Americans.

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I saw three movies last week.  Mogambo is essentially two hours waiting for Clark Gable to realize that he should be with Ava Gardener and not Grace Kelly.  Many viewers would think this was the obvious choice, even if Kelly's character was not already married and her husband is not obligingly run over by a rhinoceros.  But notwithstanding that, Gable and Gardener are quite good, if not good enough to be nominated for an award in what was a very good year for actors, and Ford does good competent work here.  Pieces of April is a pseudo-independent movie that is mildly black turn on the holiday family reunion movie.  Patricia Clarkson got an oscar nomination for playing the mother dying of cancer.  There is also sordid Manhattan, the kind of interracial relationship less popular with white men, and a short running time.  Rewatching A Christmas Tale, with a similar plot, helps show how ultimately slight the plot is.  Margaret is almost an epic tale of a self-absored somewhat spoiled upper class New York teenage girl who helps cause a fatal bus accident.  Wrecked by guilt, Anna Paquin gives a terrific performance as she spends three hours trying to make amends in not the most effective or honest way of dealing with it.  It is a rich role that does not attempt to be sympathetic.  One certainly admires the movie for its ambition.

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I saw four movies for the first time in the last two weeks:

 

"Ladies of the Chorus" (1948)--Cheapie musical has Marilyn Monroe in her first starring role.  Isn't memorable, except for Monroe, who already had comedy timing, a good singing voice.  The song "Everybody Needs A Da-Da-Daddy" is memorable for the lyrics, which are plainly about chorus girls and "sugar daddies".   The cutesy staging of the number with dolls must have distracted the censors' attention away from the lyrics.

 

"Above Suspicion" (1943)--Joan Crawford against the Nazis in this thriller that resolutely ignores logic and has Crawford and Fred MacMurray playing for comedy.  The "above suspicion" newlyweds blow their cover by insulting Nazis, solve complicated clues in a minute, are recruited by Britain and given no training (film is set in summer 1939--England declared war in Sept. 1939).  Film is filled with absurdities.  The most effective scene is a blatant steal from Hitchcock.

 

"The 50 Worst Movies of All Time" (2004)--Entertaining look at what the filmmakers consider to be the dregs of cinema.  Use it as a guide for films to avoid or seek out. Recommended.

 

"Mackenna's Gold" (1969)--Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif film about the chase for cursed gold.  Magnificent location photography is mixed with barely competent studio settings.  Long, rambling film fleshes out the two leading roles, and everyone else plays a stereotype.  Edward G. Robinson and Julie Newmar manage to make people out of cardboard roles and limited screen time.  In spite of films' defects, it's worth the watch.

 

Favorite--The 50 Worst Movies of All Time (2004).

 

Least Favorite--Above Suspicion (1943).

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Last week i saw seven movies.  Tokyo Twilight is grimmer than most Ozu movies, what with the younger daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock, getting an abortion, meeting her long-lost mother and getting hit and eventually killed by a truck.  The actress playing her is good, as is Setsuko Hara playing her older sister.  Record of a Tenement Gentleman is lighter Ozu far, an effective little drama about a middle aged woman who finds herself taking care of a lost child and gradually getting to like him.  Wonder Woman was quite disappointing in most respects.  The comic book relationship between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor was never particularly moving, and it can't bear the weight the movie puts on it.  Nor is moving the action to the first world war a very good idea, nor is the overall theme well developed, what with love showing it is more powerful than hate by crushing hate to death.  Nor are the special effects that convincing.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, by contrast, is much much better.  It's bursting with brilliant visual ideas, even if the ideas are those of an overgrown teenager.  Nevertheless the love story is much more convincing, and certainly less heavy handed.  One doesn't mind that much of the movie is spent ignoring the McGuffin with the heroine rescuing the hero, and then the hero rescuing the heroine, just to balance things.  .The Wedding Plan is about an Orthodox Israeli woman who decides to go through with her elaborate wedding even though she no longer has a groom, supposedly on the idea that if you hold he will come, or that God will provide one.  Although other religions would probably handle the gender dynamics differently (the director is an Orthodox woman), one can imagine them providing the same convenient result.  Ultimately what's created is theologically dubious and since it involves the heroine hoping for love from someone she barely knows, not very romantic in my view.  The lead actress is good, but I preferred the one playing her angry sister.  Ziegfield Follies contains some fascinating ballets, the chance to see Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire dance together (and they're terrific) and some comedy sketches of questionable effectiveness (a man tries to get a telephone operator to reach someone just a few buildings down, a man is barnkrupted when his stubborn lawyer insists on fighting a $2 fine, a couple try to get their winning lottery ticket back from their landlord, and a television sponsor gets drunk tasting the sponsored product).  It's OK in the end.  Captain Fantastic asks whether it's good to home school your kids and teach them survivialist techniques if you also support Noam Chomsky and make sure they read Dostoevsky and Nabokov.  Not surprisingly, the movie suggests you have to compromise and since the mother's suicide that is the core of the movie isn't really dealt with, it can't be said this is a really thoughtful examination of the subject.

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I started back over with my chronological movie watching again, after finishing up with the films of 2017 last week. I still managed to watch one more newer film, but most of what I saw were silent films. Besides the features (and one short film), I also watched the first volume in the Vitaphone Varieties DVD set, 4 discs of shorts from the late 1920s featuring musical performances, vaudeville acts, and other performance pieces. I followed that up with the first volume of FitzPatrick Traveltalks, a 3 DVD set of travelogue short films, shot in color, around the US and the world. Both sets are recommended for fans of the genres. 

 

My choices for best of the week, which only ranked as high as 8/10 for me, include:

 

The Penalty (1920), one of the breakout hits for star Lon Chaney, featuring bizarre scenarios and a terrific performance by Chaney as the gangster known as Blizzard, whose legs were amputated when he was a boy, so he plots revenge, in between piano sessions where he forces a string of lovely young ladies to lay on the floor and press the pedals for him.

 

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925), an ethnographic documentary following a group of nomadic herders in Iran as they move their livestock towards seasonal grazing lands. There are several great sequences here, including a river crossing using inflated goat skins, and a lot of fantastic cinematography. This movie introduced Merian Cooper to Ernest Schoedsack, who went on to make King Kong.

 

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the oldest surviving animated feature, this one from Germany and featuring fantasy elements out of the One Hundred and One Nights. The silhouette style of animation is very interesting to watch, and I found the whole thing to be vibrant and engaging.

 

The Great White Silence (1924), an amazing documentary of the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole in 1910. The filmmaker managed to bring his primitive 1910-era camera along for the treacherous sea journey there, as well as filming the expedition members in and around their base camp, as well as the fauna of the area, such as seals and penguins. Luckily for the filmmaker, he wasn't invited along for the actual trek across the ice toward the South Pole, or else he wouldn't have made it. There's some truly breathtaking shots in this one.

 

As for the others that I watched, here are my ratings:

 

7/10

The Perils of Pauline (1914)

Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)

Regeneration (1915)

The Battle of the Somme (1916)

The Golem  (1920)

Destiny (1921)

Ducks and Drakes (1921)

Oliver Twist (1922)

Three Ages (1923)

The White Sister (1923)

Chess Fever (1925)

Little Annie Rooney (1925)

The Monster (1925)

The Vanishing American (1925)

 

6/10

The Squaw Man (1914)

A Trip to Mars (1918)

The Wandering Shadow (1920)

Four Around the Woman (1921)

Shin Godzilla (2016)

 

And the worst of the week, ranking a 5/10, was Harakiri (1919), a very early work from director Fritz Lang, an adaptation of Madame Butterfly starring Lil Dagover, featuring dull performances, bad makeup, and a turgid pace.

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lawrence said: the first volume in the Vitaphone Varieties DVD set, 4 discs of shorts from the late 1920s featuring musical performances, vaudeville acts, and other performance pieces

 

Wow thanks for the heads up on that (and the TravelTalks set)

 

I'll be attending rare film weekend CAPITOLFEST and sure to find this at a dealers booth. Sounds intriguing!

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I saw five movies for the first time the last two weeks, and one rewatch of I film I hadn't seen in 10 years; the rewatch is first:

 

"The Beguiled" (1971)--Fantastic thriller starring Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, and Elizabeth Hartman.  Directed by Don Siegel.  In 1864 Louisiana, wounded Union soldier John McBurney (Eastwood) is found by a teenage girl picking mushrooms (Pamela Ferdyn).  She takes him to the grounds of the girls' finishing school she attends.  Headmistress Martha (Page) and her other teacher Edwina (Hartman) help get him inside.  McBurney is allergic to the truth--he tells the inhabitants of the school one thing, while flashbacks show what he really did.  He also badly misplays a game of musical beds.  Much trouble ensues.  Highest recommendation.

 

"The Wonderful Country" (1959)--Mitchum film is about hired gun Martin Brady (Mitchum) who is entrusted with bringing back a load of rifles to Mexico.  He breaks his leg in Texas, and while recuperating, falls in love with an Army Majors' wife (Julie London).  The film is about the passing of an era, and not belonging anywhere.  Alex Norths' score is a key to the film; it never quite seems to belong to the country it's set in, just as Mitchum's character never feels at home in Mexico or Texas.

 

"Diary of a Mad Housewife" (1970)--Carrie Snodgress got a well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actress in the title role.  Tina Balser seems to have the perfect life; her husband is rich, has an eight room apartment in Manhattan, with two children.  But her husband (Richard Benjamin) is a perfectionist, social climbing, sadistic *******, her children are spoiled brats, her sex life is lousy.  She takes a lover (Frank Langella).  Will she develop a spine or go crazy?  Infuriating film has an ending that can be interpreted many ways.  Richard Benjamin so overacts his part he destroys any sympathy the viewer is meant to feel for him.  Film is a rough watch, but worth seeing once.

 

"The King Steps Out" (1936)--Josef von Sternberg directed this enjoyable operetta, which benefits from Grace Moore's strong soprano, the acidic direction, the listenable music.  Franchot Tone is ok, although he looks like he had access to a curling iron in 1800's Austria.

 

"Dreamboat" (1952)--Ginger Rogers and Clifton Webb play ex silent screen stars.  Webb is now a professor, and Rogers' broadcasting their old films on television makes his life extremely complicated.  Elsa Lanchester's dean of the college complicates the situation by making passes at Webb because she's in love with his silent screen persona.  The highlights of the film are the silent screen parodies and commercial parodies.  Rogers has a great line to end the film.  Recommended.

 

"Crossfire" (1947)--Taut anti-prejudice thriller with Robert Mitchum is nearly flawless, except there are no messy loose ends.  Robert Ryan, Robert Young, and Gloria Grahame are especially good.  Recommended.

 

Favorite--"The Beguiled" (1971).

 

Least Favorite--"Diary of a Mad Housewife" (1970).

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I saw three movies last week.  When Strangers Marry has some interesting touches such as having the leading couple wander into what would have been called at the time a Negro bar.  But the couple has very little chemistry and the overall solution is based on implausible coincidence.  Interrupted Melody is a melodrama with very little to recommend it.  One suspects that Eleanor Parker was nominated for best Actress because the people responsible didn't realize that she didn't sing her own songs.  Florence Foster Jenkins has Simon Helberg as Jenkins' pianist who realizes she can't sing doing his "Big Bang Theory" character impersonation when trapped by Sheldon Cooper's lunacy.  Streep gives a good performance singing very badly as the deluded patron of the arts.  Hugh Grant is better still as her quasi gigolo husband who, while maintaining a mistress, acts as he does out of love. It's a bit touching actually.

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Florence Foster Jenkins has Simon Helberg doing his "Big Bang Theory" character impersonation as Jenkins' pianist who realizes she can't sing.  Streep gives a good performance singing very badly as the somewhat deluded patron of the arts.  Hugh Grant is better still as her quasi gigolo husband who, while maintaining a mistress, acts as he does out of love. It's a bit touching actually.

 

:like:

 

I wouldn't exalt Grant over Streep, although he was very good. Streep was over-the-top brilliant. I've never seen Big Bang Theory so Simon Helberg was fresh as the month of May. I might have been less impressed by him had already I known the persona. I watched this movie twice (on successive days) and it was even better the second time.

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I continued on with my silent movie watching last week, with one exception, 1930's Paramount on Parade, which I watched via streaming in case it disappeared. Most of what I watched was pretty good this week, with 2 that stood above the pack, including one that I can rank among the best of its time.

 

My Favorites:

 

Napoleon (1927) Abel Gance's 5-hour epic biopic of the French military genius, covering his early life. This contains a staggering amount of cinematic wizardry, and is a real virtuoso piece of filmmaking. Gance borrowed from every conceivable film master, and when that wasn't enough, he invented his own tricks. The montage editing, super-imposition of imagery, recurring visual motifs, hand-held camerawork, dramatic lighting and staging, etc. I could go on all day, and there have been volumes written about this movie, but I have just now been able to see it for the first time, and I can say without hesitation that I rank it among the very best, if the best silent film ever made. 10/10

 

Flesh and the Devil (1926) Director Clarence Brown works with stars Greta Garbo and John Gilbert to make this atmospheric romance masterpiece that has some of the most beautiful imagery of the silent era. The stars are both pitch perfect, their off-screen love adding much chemistry on-screen, while the top-notch production team brings their expertise to the fantastic costumes and sets. Highly recommended.   9/10

 

My other watched films included:

 

8/10

Buster Keaton Short Films Collection  (1920-1923)

 

7/10

The Eagle  (1925)

Lady of the Night (1925)

Beau Geste  (1926)

Don Juan  (1926)

La Boheme  (1926)

The Magician  (1926)

A Page of Madness  (1926)

The Winning of Barbara Worth  (1926)

College  (1927)

Mr. Wu  (1927)

The Show (1927)

Underworld  (1927)

When a Man Loves  (1927)

The Wedding March  (1928)

A Woman of Affairs  (1928)

Paramount on Parade  (1930)

 

6/10

The School for Scandal  (1923, surviving fragment)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp  (1926)

Downhill  (1927)

Mockery  (1927)

Old San Francisco  (1927)

White Shadows in the South Seas  (1928)

 

As for the worst of the week:

 

The Circle  (1925) What would have been a talky stage-bound play-on-film is instead a silent stage-bound play-on-film, with characters sitting and silently talking in room A, or standing and silently talking in room B. I watched it for the fleeting early role of Joan Crawford, but she was gone in less than 5 minutes.   5/10

 

The Wizard of Oz  (1925) Forgotten comedian Larry Semon's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's books is hampered by lazy gags, a meandering, piecemeal script, and flat or non-existent characterizations. The Cowardly Lion is a cringeworthy black stereotype named Snowball, first seen stealing watermelon, who sometimes wears a ratty lion costume. Oliver Hardy is slimmer but still fat as the Tin Woodsman. And there are no Witches. Or Toto.   5/10

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Last week I saw a surprisingly large eight movies.  Kingsman:  the Secret Service asks the question whether you would watch a big budget action movie in which Colin Firth plays a super hero based on a composite of his most popular roles?  (As well as, less surprisingly, Samuel L. Jackson playing a villain based on a composite of his roles.)  I would honestly say I've seen worse ideas for an action movie.  But the violence is done in ways that become extremely distasteful, such as a scene where a church congregation are manipulated into massacring each other, and later when dozens, possibly hundreds of people have their heads explode and the scene is played for laughs.  That the first massacre is based on an extremely bigoted congregation (so that makes it all right) and we don't see the children (who would of course be there) be murdered, which shows the corrupt manipulative mind behind the film. 

 

The Suspended Step of the Stork is the first and least known of Theo Angelopoulos' trilogy of borders.  It stars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau together.  Except they're not really together in the supporting roles they play.  Surprisingly topical, although it deals with a refugee crisis more than a quarter century old, it is an intelligent, thoughtful film made in Angelopoulos' distinct style.  Poetry is a Korean woman about an old woman who faces two crises:  she realizes she is beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's and her lazy grandson whom she is rearing has been involved in a violent contemptible act and she is conscripted to help cover it up.  The protagonist look to poetry to find some kind of consolation.  The movie is intelligently made, with a good emphasis on Korean male sense of privilege, although the combination of troubles isn't entirely convincing.  But the lead performance is very good and I nominated her for best Actress in the Your Favorites alternate best performances. 

 

I saw two movies as part of Ricardo Montalban day.  Border Incident is the better of the two, with Montalban and George Murphy working together to stop illegal immigration and the corrupt growers who use them.  This is actually an effective movie from Anthony Mann, more so than the more overrated Reign of Terror/The Black Book.  Howard DaSilva is very good as a calm, quietly cunning villain, it's noticeable that several characters notice that Montalban's character is too soft to pretend to be a bracero.  It's also violent in a useful way, one is genuinely concerned about the fate of the characters.  Battleground is one of those World War II movies were a multi-ethnic group of Americans is tested in battle, in this case the Battle of the Bulge.  Except this movie was made in 1949, and nominated for Best Picture  It's hard to say it deserved it.  The movie focuses on the characters and less on the battle, and that in itself is OK, particularly with the snowy misc-en-scene.  But the characters themselves are ordinary to the point of triviality:  one would think the extra four months would add some frankness, but it seems to have subtracted it. 

 

The Strange Case of Angelica is a little whimsical film, about a photographer who becomes obsessed with the image of the corpse of a young bride he photographed.  But it's too understated for my taste.  Finally I saw two Rosalind Russell movies where she was nominated for best Actress. 

 

Auntie Mame is the more famous of the two, and Russell that gives a performance that is right of the boundary between outstanding and overwhelming.  Ultimately I'm inclined to outstanding, and I can see why other people are attracted to the movie.  At the same time Russell does tend to suck up all the oxygen in the movie.  Granted that she doesn't have a full opportunity to raise her nephew, it's not as if how he turns out is the best advertisement for her.  My Sister Eileen actually strikes me as a perfectly good screwball comedy, with Russell playing the Ohio-born journalist who finds herself the only sane woman in New York along with her conventionally prettier sister.  I suspect its relatively low reputation for that year, maybe because it didn't have a leading director (Alexander Hall, instead of Billy Wilder and George Stevens), a lower caliber male lead who Russell has less romance with (Brian Ahearne, instead of Ray Milland and Spencer Tracy) and perhaps too many signs of its origins as a stage play.  But  it's perfectly enjoyable all the same with.

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Last week I saw a surprisingly large eight movies.

 

Since it's written in a huge block with no paragraphs or breaks in between, it's almost impossible to read. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be critical, just thought you might wonder why no one responds to your posts.

 

We want to read your contributions, but it's just too difficult to comprehend without proper formatting.

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And in relation TIKI, your tendency to quote lines from a previous post from someon else without using the "quote" feature causes some disconnect for some of us in wondering just who  posted the comment that you quote.

 

But, I DO know what you mean and also agree about that individual's lengthy posts minus paragraph breaks and the like.  But that's still not as bad as those(won't mention names here) done by the one who also uses little if any paragraphs and also peppers them with personal slang vernacular and bad spelling..and an overuse of parenthesis.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I watched several movies for the first time this past week, plus several that I've seen before. Among the new titles, all but one were silent films. They include:

 

8/10 - These three titles were my favorites of the week.

The Outlaw and His Wife  (1918) - Early Swedish film from director Victor Sjostrom about a couple living as outlaws in the rocky wilderness of central Iceland. There's some truly shocking moments in this one, and an atypical romance.

 

Bardelys the Magnificent  (1926) - John Gilbert has his best role that I've seen in this romance/comedy/swashbuckler that plays like a parody of Barrymore's Don Juan

 

Chicago  (1927) - Original silent version of the Roxie Hart story, about a fame-and-money-hungry jazz baby who shoots her extramarital lover and becomes a celebrity. Phyllis Haver is terrific in the lead, and the movie still works as a satire on the media and our justice system.

 

7/10

Behind the Door  (1919)

Master of the House  (1925)

Whirlpool of Fate  (1925)

The Little Match Girl  (1928)

 

6/10

Alien: Covenant  (2017)

 

5/10

Nana (1926) - My least favorite of the week was this early effort from French director Jean Renoir. The story follows an untalented but inexplicably attractive small-time actress (Renoir's wife Catherine Hessling) as she seduces and uses a string of rich and important men. Hessling's performance is bizarrely high camp, and her appeal is baffling to the viewer. Plus, at 150 minutes, it goes on for about 50 minutes too long.

 

I started rewatching my choices for favorite films from the Silent Era (1897-1928), as well as the first Best Picture winner, so I like and recommend all of these:

 

9/10

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages  (1922)

Battleship Potemkin  (1925)

Faust  (1926)

Sunrise  (1927)

 

8/10

Intolerance  (1916)

The Kid  (1921)

The Phantom Carriage  (1921)

Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler  (1922)

Safety Last!  (1923)

The Gold Rush  (1925)

The Phantom of the Opera  (1925)

Wings  (1927)

Steamboat Bill Jr.  (1928)

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I continued on with my silent movie watching last week, with one exception, 1930's Paramount on Parade, which I watched via streaming in case it disappeared. Most of what I watched was pretty good this week, with 2 that stood above the pack, including one that I can rank among the best of its time.

 

My Favorites:

 

Napoleon (1927) Abel Gance's 5-hour epic biopic of the French military genius, covering his early life. This contains a staggering amount of cinematic wizardry, and is a real virtuoso piece of filmmaking. Gance borrowed from every conceivable film master, and when that wasn't enough, he invented his own tricks. The montage editing, super-imposition of imagery, recurring visual motifs, hand-held camerawork, dramatic lighting and staging, etc. I could go on all day, and there have been volumes written about this movie, but I have just now been able to see it for the first time, and I can say without hesitation that I rank it among the very best, if the best silent film ever made. 10/10

 

Flesh and the Devil (1926) Director Clarence Brown works with stars Greta Garbo and John Gilbert to make this atmospheric romance masterpiece that has some of the most beautiful imagery of the silent era. The stars are both pitch perfect, their off-screen love adding much chemistry on-screen, while the top-notch production team brings their expertise to the fantastic costumes and sets. Highly recommended.   9/10

 

My other watched films included:

 

8/10

Buster Keaton Short Films Collection  (1920-1923)

 

7/10

The Eagle  (1925)

Lady of the Night (1925)

Beau Geste  (1926)

Don Juan  (1926)

La Boheme  (1926)

The Magician  (1926)

A Page of Madness  (1926)

The Winning of Barbara Worth  (1926)

College  (1927)

Mr. Wu  (1927)

The Show (1927)

Underworld  (1927)

When a Man Loves  (1927)

The Wedding March  (1928)

A Woman of Affairs  (1928)

Paramount on Parade  (1930)

 

6/10

The School for Scandal  (1923, surviving fragment)

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp  (1926)

Downhill  (1927)

Mockery  (1927)

Old San Francisco  (1927)

White Shadows in the South Seas  (1928)

 

As for the worst of the week:

 

The Circle  (1925) What would have been a talky stage-bound play-on-film is instead a silent stage-bound play-on-film, with characters sitting and silently talking in room A, or standing and silently talking in room B. I watched it for the fleeting early role of Joan Crawford, but she was gone in less than 5 minutes.   5/10

 

The Wizard of Oz  (1925) Forgotten comedian Larry Semon's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's books is hampered by lazy gags, a meandering, piecemeal script, and flat or non-existent characterizations. The Cowardly Lion is a cringeworthy black stereotype named Snowball, first seen stealing watermelon, who sometimes wears a ratty lion costume. Oliver Hardy is slimmer but still fat as the Tin Woodsman. And there are no Witches. Or Toto.   5/10

 

Lawrence, you watched all those silents in just one week? I've seen 95% of them over the course of my entire life.

 

That's a wonderful collection of titles, by the way.

 

Napoleon knocked me out, truly a great film (I saw the 4 hour version with music by Carmine Coppola). And I also have a strong affection for the combination of melodramatics and humour to be found in The Eagle, Valentino at his dashing best, but also showing that he had a flair for subtle humour.

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Sepiatone said: TIKI, your tendency to quote lines from a previous post from someon else without using the "quote" feature causes some disconnect

 

OK thanks for the suggestion. Typically, if mine is the very next post, I don't "name" the poster, I figured people just read it. (but I will be more diligent now!)

But I absolutely hate the quote "feature", it creates a block of text that I cannot edit, so I just copy/paste the words.

 

Guess we all have our little quirks.

 

Agreed that vernacular/misspellings/unpunctuated posts are frustratingly difficult to understand. It's not cute when you're sincerely trying to read what someone has posted. I just scroll right past those posts.

 

And Lawrence, you're so lucky to have time to watch all those movies! I found HAXAN to be startling. But if I had seen it in context of the block of films you had just watched, the impact would diminish. I haven't seen a movie in 3 weeks now.  :(

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Sepiatone said: TIKI, your tendency to quote lines from a previous post from someon else without using the "quote" feature causes some disconnect

 

OK thanks for the suggestion. Typically, if mine is the very next post, I don't "name" the poster, I figured people just read it. (but I will be more diligent now!)

But I absolutely hate the quote "feature", it creates a block of text that I cannot edit, so I just copy/paste the words.

 

 

But you can edit the comments within a quote, Tiki, just as I have done to your comment now.

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