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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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Last week I saw five movies.  Let's start with two of the biggest box office disappointments of 1977:  The Exorcist II: the Heretic and Sorcerer.  The first is probably the most loathed sequel of all time, and it's example A in the supposedly unmitigated disaster of Richard Burton's post Virginia Woolf career.  Sorcerer has seen a bit of a revival in its critical fortunes in this decade, with an improved blue-ray.  So let's take a look again without being shocked by the gallons of red ink.  About the first, if you loved the original, the sequel is a garish disgrace.  But what if you didn't like the original?  Then director John Boorman's choices are more reasonable.  Since everyone now knows demonic possession is real, there's no need to repeat the original's slow development, and a different strategy is in order.  The result is, kind of weird, and not especially effective, but is worth a look.  Burton isn't brilliant, but he's certainly competent.  And the movie seems to suggest that he is the heretic of the title.  His belief in the reality of evil almost makes him its victim and slave, which is certainly a better idea than the original's that the sexuality of teenage girls is demonic.  I will agree that Louise Fletcher's role is just jaw-droppingly awful.  Her oscar win the year earlier was clearly because viewers thought, not unreasonably, that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a better movie than Tommy, while more people saw her role than saw The Story of Adele H, Hester Street and Hedda put together.  Forman clearly was excellent at using Fletcher's limited talents into a role where her limited range could appear as subtlety.

Sorcerer is basically a retread of The Wages of Fear whose main advantage is that it has a lot more money and a quarter-century of special effects development to play with.  But the big scene of trying to get the trucks over a ridiculously feeble washed out bridge, just adds danger to danger such that it ends up appearing less real.  And Friedkin has skimped on character:  Yves Montand and Charles Vanel were clearly unlikeable people in the original, but there was more to them.  A comparison with the original scene by scene, shows Sorcerer's weaknesses.  On the plus side there's some cool jungle cinematography.  On the other hand, the sequence where Vanel's counterpart dies, the sudden death of two of the drivers, the death of the original "fourth" driver, none of these are improvements.  Also the music score of Tangerine Dream has not dated well, and it muffs a crucial sound effect.

Godzilla, the 2014 Hollywood blockbuster, get a better reception than Godzilla, the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster.  But it isn't really a better movie.  The clashes between Godzilla and the bad monsters is sluggishly and confusingly shot, and resembles Pacific Rim.  The new movie does more to emphasize the human interest.  Did you know that studly military men really like their hot babe wives and their adorable moppet children?  If you didn't, then this movie will be a source of endless revelation!  El Norte is the little independent movie that did.  It got an oscar nomination for screenplay and it got respect for treating a serious subject.  But a comparison with America America shows that the latter is a tougher film.  Granted that the characters are brother and sister, and granted that many Catholics take premarital chastity very seriously.  But you'd think two people in the early twenties would be a little more curious about the opposite sex.  And granted again, working class African-American life in eighties Los Angeles is distinctly different from working class illegal Hispanic immigrant life in eighties Los Angeles.  But the same year's My Brother's Wedding shows a richer, more complex tapestry of life.

So the movie of the week is Phantom Thread.  One sees the movie and becomes enraptured by its sheer craft, the care that the director devotes to every aspect of the movie.  Soon one also becomes aware of the work and nuance that Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville put into their performances.  It's not a movie for every taste:  but it certainly a movie that shows its subject with realism and insight.

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I saw four movies last week.  Bright Victory got Arthur Kennedy an oscar nomination in a classic oscarbait part.  In this case, he loses his sight in the war and has to adapt to being blind.  As such, it's a competent, tasteful story, and Kennedy gives a competent performance.  Though the performance itself wouldn't make my top 5, or top 10 for 1951.  The Post may be the best Spielberg film since A.I.  While not as good as that movie, or even close to it, it's an entertaining movie.  The civics lesson is done with a lighter touch than in Munich, Bridge of Spies or Lincoln.  Meryl Streep actually gives an admirable performance, and while Tom Hanks' Ben Bradlee is no match for Jason Robards', it works well enough.  And while doing the Pentagon Papers from the view of The Washington Post is an odd way of doing it, the result works fairly well.

Latcho Drom is a documentary and also a musical that trace the Romani/Gypsy world from India to Europe.  It's vibrant and filled with music, and deserves to be much better known.  The Other Side of Hope may be one of the funniest comedies I've seen in some time, even though I tend to ignore Hollywood comedies.  Here Kaurismaki's renowned deadpan humor is used in the story of a desperate, somewhat ingenuous Syrian immigrant who encounters a plump middle aged man who abruptly leaves his wife and decides to take over an underwhelming restaurant  Imagine Chaplin's warmth and Keaton's poker face.

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3 hours ago, skimpole said:

Meryl Streep actually gives an admirable performance, ...

...to go---[IMO]---with a long list of spectacular ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, skimpole said:

And while doing the Pentagon Papers from the view of The Washington Post is an odd way of doing it, the result works fairly well.

It's also ironic how people are praising The Post and excoriating the release of the Nunes memo.

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I saw five movies this week:  three best picture nominees, one Palme D'Or winner, and one in the apparently endless series of Marvel comic book movies which was actually the best of the week.  Zorba the Greek is a bit more tough-minded than its "happy southern European peasant bursting with life" reputation would suggest. I just don't think it's tough-minded enough.  Irene Papas does a better job than oscar-winner Lila Kedrova, and it might have been better to develop Bates more than Quinn. 

Darkest Hour left me unimpressed.  The fall of France is quickly compressed, Halifax is scheming to gain the premiership just days after renouncing it, and he and Chamberlain are planning to throw in the towel even before the debacle has begun.  George VI is given a heroic role he didn't deserve, and Churchill has so little support until the last day of the movie, he appears oddly pathetic and uncharismatic.  And for all the praise for Oldman's performance his final speech is less impressive than the actual Churchill's.  Apparently John Wayne did not originally intend to take the large role in The Alamo, but his financiers insisted on it.  That's the best defense for the fatuous speeches he has his David Crockett speak.  There's the "republic" speech, which forgets that not only that Mexico was already a republic, but that much of Texas was fighting for a compromise within Mexico.  And then there's the latter speech where he says Santa Anna's aggression ultimately has to be stopped, as if the United States feared Mexico, and not the other way around.  Leaving aside the many historical inaccuracies, such as the fact that the Texans were fighting to expand slavery, the first half of the movie takes an inordinate amount of time to get started.  A contrast with the other three hour plus movie about questionable independence victory of 1960, Exodus, shows the former's weaknesses.

The Square starts by showing its protagonist is a meretricious twit, and then spends the next 140 minutes being superior to him.  The movie has a certain style and craft, but its view of the art world is banal and reactionary.  The protagonist is a museum curator who knows nothing about art, but just spouts fashionable babble and supports obviously empty provocations.  It's chic misanthropy, and nothing about the actual Sweden is allowed to complicate the movie's smugness.  Thor: Ragnarok is not as Ragnarocky a movie you might expect.  But the movie does find a way to provide its divine hero with a good deal of wit.  Benedict Cumberbatch has an amusing and inventive cameo, Jeff Goldblum makes his decades old Marvel villain considerable more amusing than fans have any right to expect, and Tom Hiddleston acquits himself well.

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On ‎1‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 4:07 AM, skimpole said:

Last week I saw five movies.  Let's start with two of the biggest box office disappointments of 1977:  The Exorcist II: the Heretic and Sorcerer.  The first is probably the most loathed sequel of all time, and it's example A in the supposedly unmitigated disaster of Richard Burton's post Virginia WoolfSorcerer has seen a bit of a revival in its critical fortunes in this decade, with an improved blue-ray.  So let's take a look again without being shocked by the gallons of red ink.  About the first, if you loved the original, the sequel is a garish disgrace.  But what if you didn't like the original?  Then director John Boorman's choices are more reasonable.  Since everyone now knows demonic possession is real, there's no need to repeat the original's slow development, and a different strategy are in order.  The result is, kind of weird, and not especially effective, but is worth a look.  Burton isn't brilliant, but he's certainly competent.  And the movie seems to suggest that he is the heretic of the title.  His belief in the reality of evil almost makes him its victim and slave, which is certainly a better idea than the original's that the sexuality of teenage girls is demonic.  I will agree that Louise Fletcher's role is just jaw-droppingly awful.  Her oscar win the year earlier was clearly because viewers thought, not unreasonably, that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a better movie than Tommy, while more people saw her role than saw The Story of Adele H, Hester Street and Hedda put together.  Forman clearly was excellent at using Fletcher's limited talents into a role where her limited range could appear as subtlety.

 

I admit it, I love the original THE EXORCIST and absolutely loathe EXORCIST II:THE HERETIC, so yes to a large degree I am biased, but in all fairness I actually did see EXORCIST II before the original film and thought it was the biggest piece of crap I had the misfortune to sit through and one of the reasons I avoided giving THE EXORCIST a viewing for the longest time, but finally one night I finally broke down and sat down to watch it and was completely blown away by it.

I really don't believe THE EXORCIST was making any kind of statement on the sexually of teenage girls (whether it's evil or not). (SPOILERS, maybe): It was digging into the faith (or lack of it) into one troubled priest, Father Karras (Jason Miller) and how his coming into contact with the possessed Regan, and her mother (Ellen Burstyn) who has exhausted all medical options to try and help her daughter, actually helps him to restore his faith in one final act of sacrifice. I find this a much more compelling story than the one in the sequel, which I say was just a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of a movie that really needed no sequel at all.

 

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Four movies this week:  Skippy is best known for having the youngest nominee for best actor, in a year where several classic performances were egregiously overlooked.  Notwithstanding that, it's fairly amusing, Cooper does a good job, and it's one of the first sound movies where most of the cast are children.  Lady Bird is a coming of age movie whose main quality is that, in retrospect, the mother is always right.  Indeed, if Pence rather than Trump had been elected president, one might view this as independent film's olive branch to the Republican party. 

Kapo was Italy's nominee for the best foreign language film of 1960.  Considering that this year saw L'Aventura, La Dolce Vita and Rocco and His Brothers this is not an easily defensible choice.  This movie about a young Jewish girl who manages to pass as a gentile long enough to get to a concentration rather than an extermination camp, and then become the titular official, is best known as being the subject of one of the most famous critical reviews in movie history.  (By Jacques Rivette in Cahiers du Cinema.)  Certainly in The Battle of Algiers, director Giles Pontecorvo would learn how to present traumatic material with a more successful realism. 

Meanwhile, The Story of Qiu Ju marks a temporary change of pace for Zhang Yimou.  Instead of the more stylized trappings of Raise the Red Lantern and the more open dramatics of To Live, he has star Gong Li waddling around in the ordinary, unfashionable clothes ordinary rural Chinese women wear when they're heavily pregnant.  Less a simple tale of justice denied, the movie offers a more cinema verite approach as Gong Li's character seeks justice in a fight involving her husband where he is mostly, but not entirely in the right.  This is an interesting approach, but not to me the most engaging.

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I saw four movies this week.  Ex Libris:  the New York Public Library may be the best movie of 2017 I've seen.  It provides a rich, complex portrait of an invaluable and indispensable institution.  It includes cameos by Richard Dawkins and Elvis Costello, as well as from other scholars and artists.  We get to see children read "Old MacDonald hold a farm" and the recording of an audio version of Laughter in the Dark.  The Shape of Water is overrated, but more acceptable than other Del Toro films.  Hawkins is good, Richard Jenkins is better as her gay friend.  The misc-en-scene is good, with an acceptably waterlogged feeling, if not as good as, from this year, Song of Song, Valerian the City of a Thousand Planets, mother! or Wonderstruck.  This helps mitigate a somewhat simplistic plot, which flatters viewers for being more liberal than people 55 years ago, as well as a lack of chemistry between Hawkins and the amphibian man.

The Subjects was Roses asks the question what if you looked at the domestic drama of O'Neill, Miller, Williams and Albee and then took out everything in it that was interesting about them?  And also what if, while doing this, you learned nothing from previous attempts to film those plays.  The result is a filmed play which looks very much like a filmed play.  The film sticks very closely to the three main characters. The only attempt to open up about the stage is an awkward, sequence where Patrica O'Neal wanders around outside.  Jack Albertson won an oscar for best supporting actor, though he is really a lead.  The result is rather bland.  Beach Rats deals with the trouble of growing up in the unfashionable parts of Brooklyn, while not dealing honestly with your homosexuality.  Madeleine Weinstein is more interesting than the protagonist as the girl he pursues with little enthusiasm. 

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Three movies this week.  Ruby in Paradise contains a striking performance by Ashley Judd as the eponymous character, trying to make a new life in a Florida town in the off season.  It's subtly observed and provides a real sense of what living in such a place in such a profession would be like.  Sholay is one of the most famous "curry" westerns.  Like many Bollywood films the film borrows a lot from more famous movies (most obviously a key scene from Once Upon a Time in the West).  Yet it works on its own terms, with some competent chase scenes and Hema Malini standing out as a great dancer and chatterbox love interest.

 

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri suffers in contrast to Ruby et al, since it doesn't really take place in a particular time and place.  Nor is it really about police brutality.  Indeed, the movie is more about the pleasure of Frances McDormand's outrage.  We soon learn, that this is outrage is based on guilt and her own feelings of failure as a mother.  One reason her outrage burns so fiercely is that, except for Harrelson and Rockwell, the other characters are just ciphers and don't actually respond the way actual people would in such circumstances.  (That includes the priest McDormand insults, in itself a sign of how little director Martin McDonagh cared about getting Missouri right.  But it also includes her son, her ex-husband, her cipher of a best black friend, the other police officers who seem rather incurious once McDormand attacks their station with molotov cocktails.)  The movie is more like a play with a limited number of characters opened up for the screen, and not with the best results.

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I saw three movies over the last two weeks.  The Valley of Decision seems intended to remind us of How Green was My Valley.  The latter may be a good film and a deserving Oscar winner.  It's certainly a great film compared to this simplified version.  I prefer Gregory Peck when his reserves are strength are challenged, as in Twelve O'Clock High or The Gunfighter, or subtly revealed, as in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Dangerous is not one of Bette Davis's best performances, but it's competent enough in its picture of a talented actress who drags down the men attracted to her.  The first half is clearly more competent.  Beatriz at Dinner stars Salma Hayek in an untypical role as an ordinary movie who is invited to dinner when her car breaks down at the house where she has an appointment as a masseur.  John Lithgow has a more typical role as a vain and obnoxious businessmen who is a guest at dinner.  Their confrontation evolves in a way that is less predictable than one might expect from the trailers, but not necessarily more interesting.

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I saw five movies this week:  two oldies and three more recent ones.  The Seventh Cross is a very effective wartime thriller, actually taking place a few years before the war.  Tracy is quite good in a more understated role as a desperate escapee.  Hume Cronyn is particularly effective as the acquaintance who seems to have accepted the third Reich but who then does everything he can to help Tracy.  I would imagine there is a good movie to be made about the romance between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.  But The Barretts of Wimpole Street is not that movie.  I can sort of understand why people loved Frederic March and Norma Shearer together, since they are a physically attractive couple.  But they're not convincing as poets, let alone Browning as the greatest poet of the Victorian age.  Even Charles Laughton is surprisingly bland as the ogre Barrett patriarch.

Call me by your Name is arguably more effective than the best picture winner, and the acclaimed Lady Bird and Three Billboards, etc.  It's certainly more effectively directed, with the movie have a real sense of space and atmosphere.  But I found Chalomet's character more callow than sympathetic and wondered why Armie Hammer and two attractive Italian girls wanted to be with him.  There is an element of entitlement that is not all that attractive.  The Party is sort of like Carnage, only with seven people instead of four, and with Sally Potter not quite earning Roman Polanski's critical attitude towards them.  But it is beautifully shot, and usefully brief.  Timothy Spall spends most of the movie being catatonic, and while Bruno Ganz and Cillian Murphy are amusing caricatures, Kristin-Scott Thomas is better as the politician heroine whose world falls apart.  Patricia Clarkson is good as the tart, sympathetic friend, while Cherry Jones does a good job as the bien-pensant lesbian whose world has its own problems.  After the Storm has Hiroshi Abe giving a good performance as a man whose marriage had already fallen party and his ties to his young son are about to fall apart.  It's a good, realistic, family drama with Abe not being an all out loser, but a private detective and a novelist with writer's block.

I just want to remind myself that I rewatched The Wages of Fear.

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Gotta respectfully disagree with Skimpole about BARRETTS.  I love March and Shearer together and I accept them as poets; they don't recite any poetry during the film as I recall but I believe that their characters are much smitten with each other and that works for me.  Charles Laughton is anything but bland as the father.  He's very cruel and he clearly lusts after his daughter - hardly bland behavior.

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8 hours ago, ChristineHoard said:

Gotta respectfully disagree with Skimpole about BARRETTS.  I love March and Shearer together and I accept them as poets; they don't recite any poetry during the film as I recall but I believe that their characters are much smitten with each other and that works for me.  Charles Laughton is anything but bland as the father.  He's very cruel and he clearly lusts after his daughter - hardly bland behavior.

I agree with you. The film very much works for me because of all three actors.

I always thought that Laughton's character was merely overzealously overprotective of his daughter Shearer. Actually he was that way with all his children but most particularly her. 

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I saw four movies last week.  The Red Light Bandit is a Brazilian movie from the late sixties which tells the story of its titular criminal in a way influenced by New Wave techniques.  If the version I saw had proper Portuguese subtitles perhaps i would have enjoyed it more.  The Diary of Anne Frank is a prestige picture by George Stevens that has some effective scenes, such as them trying to be quiet while someone is sneaking below, but suffers from an uninteresting lead performance and several histronic scenes. Shelly Winters is blander than one might think.  I would have to watch it again to see if Joseph Schildkraut acquits himself with dignity.

I remember seeing a preview of In Search of the Castaways when it had a 1978 re-release.  In retrospect, Disney live-action movies don't quite fit.  Chevalier's charm is a bit irritating, Hyde-White isn't used to the best of his ability, Mills' love interest isn't very interesting, and Sanders doesn't do anything original.  Still the special effects, if obviously dated, still have a certain charm and it's more enjoyable than the other 60s Disney live action movies I saw recently.  So I suppose Happy Hour is the movie of the week,  It's very well acted, very well thought out, and very long (more than five hours) about four Japanese women in their late thirties and the problems they face when one of them gets a divorce.

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On 3/24/2018 at 11:57 PM, skimpole said:

I just want to remind myself that I rewatched The Wages of Fear.

Ouch !!!

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Four movies this week:  Quo Vadis is sort of a mixed bag.  The Christians are insufferably noble, and Deborah Kerr is wasted in the general sanctimony.  They're also perfectly orthodox, which they weren't likely to be in the age of Nero, and Paul argues for Rod Taylor to free all his slaves (the actual opposite of the one time he have advice on the subject.)  But Mervyn Le Roy has an eye for both pacing and spectacle and I was genuinely surprised at the end.  Peter Ustinov got fame for his portrait of an insufferably pretentious Nero.  He's good but Leo Genn is better as the sardonic, self-hating Roman who flatters him.  The odd thing is that while Hollywood had no trouble realizing that this was not the best movie of 1951, why did it insist that a poor imitation like Gladiator was the best movie of 2000?

The Star was one of the five best actress nominees of 1952, one of the last acting categories I had yet to see a nominee from.  It starts with Bette Davis giving a poor imitation of Margo Channing and Norma Desmond.  As the movie goes on, she shows signs of subtlety, but the movie is ultimately kind of repulsive in suggesting that Davis' character--Davis was only 44 at the time--should basically just give up.  I'm not why Way Out West was on a list of movies to see.  It may have been because I confused with a Laurel and Hardy movie with the same title.  Certainly, there's little in this early talkie comedy that's funny and memorable, about a con artist forced to work on a farm by the people he's cheated.  (After they nearly lynch him--hilarious!)

That leaves Loveless, certainly the movie of the week and certainly tougher than a movie like Three Billboards outside.  It's certainly an indelible portrait of both emotional, moral and economic bleakness.  It's striking that civil society provides the highly competent and professional assistance in finding the lost child that the police can't--all to no avail.  Certainly love and pregnancy doesn't provide a happy solution for the divorced parents at the end of the movie.

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One correction, Skimpole,  and probably just a typo or something.  WAY OUT WEST was an early talkie, not silent, as you likely noticed since you watched it.  I watched it because I've become sort of a fan of William Haines now that I've seen some of his movies.  I thought he was funny in it.  Not a great movie but agreeable.

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On ‎4‎/‎8‎/‎2018 at 3:16 AM, skimpole said:

Four movies this week:  Quo Vadis is sort of a mixed bag.  The Christians are insufferably noble, and Deborah Kerr is wasted in the general sanctimony.  They're also perfectly orthodox, which they were likely to be in the age of Nero, and Paul argues for Rod Taylor to free all his slaves (the actual opposite of the one time he have advice on the subject.)  But Mervyn Le Roy has an eye for both pacing and spectacle and I was genuinely surprised at the end.  Peter Ustinov got fame for his portrait of an insufferably pretentious Nero.  He's good but Leo Genn is better as the sardonic, self-hating Roman who flatters him.  The odd thing is that while Hollywood had no trouble realizing that this was not the best movie of 1951, why did it insist that a poor imitation like Gladiator was the best movie of 2000?

The Star was one of the five best actress nominees of 1952, one of the last acting categories I've seen a nominee from.  It starts with Bette Davis giving a poor imitation of Margo Channing and Norma Desmond.  As the movie goes on, she shows signs of subtlety, but the movie is ultimately kind of repulsive in suggesting that Davis' character--Davis was only 44 at the time--should basically just give up.  I'm not why Way Out West was on a list of movies to see.  It may have been because I confused with a Laurel and Hardy movie with the same title.  Certainly, there's little in this early talkie comedy that's funny and memorable, about a con artist forced to work on a farm by the people he's cheated.  (After they nearly lynch him--hilarious!)

 

Have to agree to disagree with you on GLADIATOR....I love that movie, it was not a poor imitation at all, in fact I think it's one of the most accurate depictions of ancient Rome ever put on film, even if it did use a lot of CGI. And I am so happy that it won Best Picture over the tedious TRAFFIC.

Do agree with you on THE STAR though. Bette tried her best, but her character in here was really too much like Margo. ALL ABOUT EVE was the better film for me.

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I saw three movies this week.  Butterflies are Free has the engaging sight of Goldie Hawn in her underwear, and is best known today because Eileen Heckart won Best Supporting Actress for 1972 for her performance.  The field was an uninspiring one (none of the nominees were from the best picture nominees--one of which, Sleuth, had no women at all.)  It's not much of a movie.  It's very much a filmed play, with an easy plot (will the handsome blind guy make out with Goldie Hawn, the lucky bastard, and will his mother let him?). 

Annihilation has the advantage of being better than Arrival and more style than the latest version of Blade Runner.  But a look at Natalie Portman's performance shows the movie's limitations.  If you are trying to make a movie about the contact between humans and something inconceivably alien, should the humans be, well more human?  One might compare Portman's reserved role to those in Kubrick's performance.  But there was a reason the characters in those movies were often so cold.  They lived in powerful hierarchies and used rhetorics of bureaucracy and ethics to hide their real feelings.  Portman and her female colleagues are reserved because Garland doesn't really do characters very well.  Each one has a clear trait to be tight-lipped and fretful.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is dying from cancer, Gina Rodrigues and another actress are dealing with drug addiction and a suicide attempt (I forget which one has which), and Portman has an adulterous fling to feel guilty about.  It's not enough.  If you want to see a movie which really presents a clash between humanity and alien intelligence, as well as having the movie with the best Supporting Actress of 1972, see Solaris very late tonight.

Aquarius has Sonia Braga give the great performance one may have wondered she could give when she was promoted as Brazil's great sex symbol three and a half decades ago.  Braga plays an intelligent, reasonably well off widow who has to worry that the people who own her building are trying to push her out of her condominium.  Since this is Brazil, and Brazil is a country where rich people have rarely been inconvenienced for being corrupt, she does face genuine danger.  It's an interesting, intelligent film.

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I saw three movies this week.  The Moon is Blue has William Holden, David Niven and Maggie McNamara, who got an oscar nomination as the woman who puts the "professional" in "professional virgin."  It's not a bad movie, though McNamara is ultimately not an attractive figure, and Niven gives the best performance of the three.  Girl Shy starts off like many Harold Lloyd comedies, with him desperate for money and in a not very engaging romantic relationship.  And like many of them its ends with an elaborate series of slapstick gags.  This one is actually very good, in what is not an exactly a car chase, but where Lloyd desperately races to prevent a wedding.  You might think he could have called first, but it's certainly striking how ruthless and amoral he is in his quest, stealing several cars and modes of transportation.  24 Frames was Abbas Kiarostami's last film, 24 short films based on photographs (and Brugel's "The Hunters in the Snow") which subtly move.  They involve rain, snow, birds, cats, cows.  It's a strange, enigmatic movie.

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I saw five movies this week.  The Funeral, I am afraid, was the least of these.  The imperfect patriarch of an imperfect family dies and they have to come to deal with it.  Not a heavy drama, not a farce, it's not so much a combination of the two as a movie that alludes to the two concepts.  It's not surprising that the director, Juzo Itami, decided that a livelier approach was needed in the future.  Pickpocket is not the 1959 Bresson film, but a Chinese film by Jia Zhangke that points to the underside of the Chinese economic miracle, by looking at a young, bespectacled pickpocket of strictly finite competence.  He listens to music, thinks of having love affairs, and is eventually arrested.  It's a deserving, realistic film with Wang Hongwei giving a good performance as the title character.

One interesting thing about The Breaking Point is why this intelligent, well acted film noir that is exciting and deals with a real sense of time and place is not better known.  It's not on Theyshootpictures.com top 1000 or even its top 2000.  One can understand why it did not make a bigger splash at the time since star John Garfield was redbaited when the film came out.  But other movies that suffered from the blacklist such as Limelight and Salt of the Earth have a bigger reputation.  Yes, Michael Curtiz isn't exactly an auteurist favorite, but it's not as if he made the most admired movie in the history of Hollywood and then produced nothing of value.  It might be that Garfield is just too good a person for the movie.  He is a good person trapped in a horrendous situation.  I suppose he doesn't heave William Holden's self-loathing in Sunset Blvd, or the way Joseph Cotten's niavete makes him an accomplice to evil, or the ambiguity of Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place or the way Gregory Peck is trapped by his past in The Gunfighter. 

Isle of Dogs is both an amusing and inventive film that I would rate a little lower than Wes Anderson's last three movies.  A lack of a strong lead performance hampers it just a bit.  But there's much worth waiting for in its immaculate sense of detail from Greta Gerwig's character's silly blonde afro to the way Tilda Swinton's character is thought to be an oracle by her fellow canines when all she can do is understand television.  I haven't seen many Israeli movies since Waltz with Bashir, but Foxtrot, with its po-faced sense of absurdism, self-serving callousness, and cruel irony certainly make it worth watching.  One should note a distinct visual style, that is slightly and deliberately upsetting.

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I saw three movies this week.  The first two are charming trifles.  Four Daughters is directed by Michael Curtiz, stars Claude Rains, Mary Robson as his sister, and four women who never quite became big stars and four young men as their eventual husbands, plus John Garfield.  Although the movie is engaging and occasionally amusing, it doesn't help that Garfield is the most interesting of the suitors and the one who uses the suicide solution to conservative divorce laws.  Don Juan De Marco has another forgettable Bryan Adams movie song, Johnny Depp doing a good job as the heartsick lothario, while Marlon Brando amuses himself as his psychiatrist.  There's not much for Faye Dunaway to do.  Considerably more impressive is The Scent of Green Papaya.  Shot on a French soundstage, this Vietnamese movie is about a maid living in an oblique angle to her country's long war of independence.  Set in two parts, one where she is a child, the second ten years later as a young woman, the movie is exquisitely shot, with smooth vertical tracking shots, superb use of sound, finely etched detail and considerable detail.  One might wish that the actors were a bit more robust.

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I saw four movies this week.  Twilight of Honor is based on the idea "let's make a movie for our hot new TV star Richard Chamberlain, and let's make it like Anatomy of a Murder, only worse in every way." The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is one of those Hollywood movies about China where the Chinese people are played by Curt Jurgens and Robert Donat.  It has Ingrid Bergman playing a missionary whose ability to mother a hundred Chinese orphans is helped by them all being as undistinguished and uninteresting as possible.  With Byrd at the South Pole is actually the most interesting film, an early sound film that is actually a silent film for most of its duration.  From the Journals of Jean Seberg isn't really from her journals, it's sort of an essay film made by Mark Rappaport about fifteen years after her suicide with Mary Beth Hurt serving as Rappaport's amaneunsis. One might wonder viewing everything retroactively in the light of her suicide and J. Edgar Hoover's dirty tricks on her is the best way to examine her.

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Jean Seberg, who was an extremely talented actress (see "In The French Style" and "Lilith") is a horrendous example of the highly corrosive effect that J. Edgar Hoover and his investigations could have on an individual.

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I saw three movies last week, all from last year.  Murder on the Orient Express suffered from the fact that I was the wrong audience for the movie, since the 1974 Sidney Lumet version is one of my very favorite movies.  It's basically off in all sorts of ways starting with the fake CGI effects, and attempts to spice up the story with action that make little sense either from the characters or the scriptwriter.  Branagh's ludicrous mustache is the least of his Poirot's problems:  while the Lumet version always showed his work, Branagh's leaps to conclusion after conclusion with one non-sequitur after the other.  Depp's Ratchett is absurdly rude, barely hiding his mafioso past from someone supposedly traveling incognito.  Michelle Pfeiffer would be eaten alive by Lauren Bacall while John Gielgud, Sean Connery, Rachel Roberts, Wendy Hiller, Ingrid Bergman and even Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset easily outshine their 2017 counterparts. 

The Greatest Showman was a surprise hit.  Its songs could have been written four decades ago, and have the odd quality of being forgettable while you are actually listening to them.  The movie is actually more sentimental and less critical than not only Yankee Doodle Dandy, but even The Great Ziegfeld/  Except for the love affair between Barnum's partner and an African-American acrobat, and editing tricks mastered in the seventies, this could have been made eight decades ago.  BPM (Beats per minute) discusses ACT UP activists in nineties France, one of whose members is seriously ill with AIDS.  It's certainly more complex and profound than the other two movies, though the movie has the bad habit of having poor subtitles that are often unreadable against white backgrounds.

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