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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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I saw three movies last week.  Night Must Fall has an interesting performance by Robert Montgomery, an early performance by Rosalind Russell in an untypical role and a striking performance by May Whitty as Russell's irascible aunt.  As Good as it Gets has a good performance by Jack Nicholson, but one wishes he could  have done something he hadn't done so many times before.  One also wishes Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear gave more than adequate performances.  You Were Never Really Here is clearly the movie of the week, what with Joaquin Phoenix's remarkable performance as a deeply traumatized vigilante, and with its stunning visual and aural landscape.

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I saw three movies this week.  Liquid Sky is an attempted cult film, involving aliens searching for a vital substance.  They find that sex produces a similar effect, so they find a means of tapping into the feelings of copulating couples.  The side effect is that the partner enjoying it is zapped into dust.  But as it happens the movie is not only a lot less erotic but a lot less interesting than the scenario provided.  It's sort of like pornography with the nudity all removed but with the same poor acting. 

The Battle of the Bulge suffers from a number of historical inaccuracies, such that Eisenhower apparently came out of retirement to denounce it.  The most obvious flaw is that there's barely any snow that took place in the winter of 1944-1945.  The actors are mostly forgettable, but there are some interesting tank battles and Robert Shaw has a little charisma.  So the movie of the week is Nocturama half brilliant terrorist thriller, half watching the terrorists stuck in consumerist solipsism while hiding out in a Paris department store.  One might point out the movie needs a little more political bite, since we don't know why these attractive young Parisians are acting the way they are (they're not jihadists). 

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I saw four movies this week.  Whispering Pages is an interesting experiment by Alexander Sokurov, as he follows his protagonist through the crypts and catacombs while using themes from 19th century Russian literature, most obviously Crime and Punishment.  A Ghost Story lacks enough weight to be a really great movie.  But this aggressively low budget special effects movie can work on its own terms.  It follows Casey Affleck, apparently under a bedsheet with holes for eyes as he haunts, or is stuck in, his former home.  It has some interesting twists, especially with time.

The other two movies were best picture nominees I hadn't seen before.  The Broadway Melody of 1936 has Robert Taylor instead of 1940's Astaire, so not surprisingly it's less satisfying.  Jack Benny is good if not brilliant as the comedic relief.  Overall the movie is OK.  As for Three Smart Girls, I must say I don't easily see the appeal of Deanna Durbin.  Having an all-American girl (notwithstanding her actual birth in Canada) with the vocal range of an opera singer is, well, not a bad idea.  But how to incorporate it into movies is the tricky part.  And the title characters don't seem very smart, allowing their plan to stop their father from marrying a woman not their mother gets confusingly sidetracked.

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I saw four movies over the last two weeks.  The Death of Stalin has some problems.  The opening joke, about a Moscow concert that has to be repeated because Stalin wants a recording of it, takes longer to play out once the essential point is made.  There is a good deal of compression and simplification, and while some of it can be justified, having the 1000+ people killed crushing themselves in trying to see Stalin's corpse shot by the NKVD instead is not cool.  What saves the movie are the excellent performances with Jeffrey Tambor playing Malenkov as a pathetic manipulated twit, Simon Russell Beale as the malevolent Beria, Steve Buscemi playing Khrushchev as the one leader with vestiges of a conscience and the welcome return of Michael Palin portraying Molotov as a deluded, but ruthless fanatic.  Jason Isaacs also shines in his brief portrayal as Zhukov.

A Quiet Place got a lot of credit for having an original idea.  Certainly this film has a certain power, even if much of it is watching which of the five adorable characters, plus the father, gets eaten by the horrendous aliens if they're too loud.  There are some problems on a closer examination.  The central emotional conflict feels more like a scriptwriter's exercise than a genuine relationship.  The final shot doesn't quite mesh with the gravity of what has come before it.  And one would think that if salt of the earth country people could stumble on the conclusion, those smug effete city dweller would have caught on to it a lot quicker.

If it takes some effort to put A Quiet Place in its proper evaluation, Good Time's charms are much easier to resist.  I am the least street smart person I know, but I couldn't believe Robert Pattison could try something so stupid and hopeless in the first thirty minutes or so of the movie.  And that's before an extremely indulgent plot twist and an unbelievable blunder he makes on top of the stupid scheme.  So that leaves Tokyo Olympiad as the movie of the fortnight, filled with startling vistas, exciting competition and brilliant imagery.

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I saw four movies last week.  West Beirut is a coming of age movie about a callow youth, different from other movies of this type is because it takes places during the Lebanese civil war.  It's an intelligent film, with non professional actors giving full bodied performances.  Godspell is the second of the famous seventies musicals based on Jesus.  It's clearly the lesser of the two, and unlike Jesus Christ Superstar, its orthodoxy is unquestionable.  Much of it consists of the gospels being quoted verbatim.  Despite the flower power vibe, the movie is directed to children.  Teenagers might asks awkward questions about sex and power.  Better songs would also help.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, has an interesting plot, Bradley Cooper as the amusingly obnoxious Rocket Raccoon, as well as some exciting, if not brilliant action sequences.  It also has some big themes that smell a little too much of the screenwriting workshop (a conflict between sisters, a triangle involving a son and two fathers).  Well not a great film, it's more fun than the pretentious Wonder Woman.  Jerry Maguire was Cameron Crowe's most successful film.  It's not undeserving of this.  Tom Cruse, Renee Zellweger Bonnie Hunt give good performances.  it has one of the most romantic scenes in a nineties movies.  Cuba Gooding, despite becoming a punchline a few years after this film also gives a good performance.  The last third is a bit weak, but overall the effect is well.

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I saw three movies last week.  Anthony Adverse was a pleasant surprise.  Thirties extravaganzas based on long forgotten novels have historically not been a promising genre.  And Frederic March has never been one of my favorite actors.  But there's a power of in its sweep, as the movie moves from France to Italy, then across the Atlantic then to Africa.  It has so much, such as Claude Rains being cuckolded and revenging himself in the first twenty minutes before the title character is even born, Gale Sondergaard in a juicy and brief role, one of the few pre-Civil Rights Acts film sequences of a slave market (in this case in Africa).  I'm Gonna Get you Sucker! is a late eighties parody of blaxploitation films.  As such it is mildly amusing, thought not the most inventive or outrageous of the eighties genre.  Happy End takes some time for its portrait of bourgeois malice and coldness to come into focus.  Like his previous movie it uses Jean-Louis Trintignant to serve as propaganda for euthanasia.  He's good, his grand-daughter's malice is somewhat contrived, the movie has an elliptical style, and Isabelle Huppert doesn't really come into her own until near the end when she shows her son not to mess with her.

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5 hours ago, skimpole said:

I saw three movies last week.  Anthony Adverse was a pleasant surprise.  Thirties extravaganzas based on long forgotten novels have historically not been a promising genre.  And Frederic March has never been one of my favorite actors.  But there's a power of in its sweep, as the movie moves from France to Italy, then across the Atlantic then to Africa.  It has so much, such as Claude Rains being cuckolded and revenging himself in the first twenty minutes before the title character is even born, Gale Sondergaard in a juicy and brief role, one of the few pre-Civil Rights Acts film sequences of a slave market (in this case in Africa).  

ANTHONY ADVERSE also had that rare finale during the studio era and Production Code era where the film doesn't entirely end on a 'they lived happily ever after' note. 

Gale Sondergaard was the first actress to pick up the very first ever Best Supporting Actress Oscar the Academy started that year too. She is a manipulative, wicked shrew. Always enjoy Claude Rains. Olivia de Havilland shines as Anthony's childhood sweetheart (though her scenes are really few and far between but still very emotional).

But the movie is clearly Fredric March's movie all the way.

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I saw three movies.  Revolution was a notorious fiasco that destroyed the reputation Hugh Hudson won for Chariots of Fire.  Actually seeing this movie suggests this was a fate well deserved.  The editing and the imagery is poor and choppy, the larger point of view muddled and poorly thought out.  It's clear that Hudson doesn't know that much about the revolution so his opinion about it has little value.  Although people at the time marked Al Pacino's accent and how he didn't sound like any of the other characters, one more even glaring problem is the relationship between Pacino and Natassja Kinski.  There's supposed to be a romantic relationship between them and supposedly the studio insisted on a happy ending that doesn't remotely work.  But given the fact of differences in not only age and class, but also the fact the two have dramatically different opinions of the revolution, and even more so the fact that they don't really interact very much, makes even less sense. 

Khrustalyov my Car, by contrast, is the best movie I've seen in several years.  Brilliantly, beautifully shot with a unique, cluttered and foreboding misc-en-scene, this film details the life of a powerful Soviet army doctor who faces arrest as part of the Doctor's plot just before Stalin's death.  It certainly feels very Russian in its strangeness.  One can see The Confession to imagine what it was like to be falsely arrested and made to confess to crimes you didn't commit.  But this shows a certain kind of madness over and above that.  Kedi is a documentary about the not exactly wild cats of Istanbul that the residents allow to walk around.  One can enjoy it if you are a cat person.  I like cats, or more precisely, I like the idea of cats.

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12 hours ago, skimpole said:

I like cats, or more precisely, I like the idea of cats.

The classic definition of Intellectual is listening to the William  Tell Overture without thinking the The Lone Ranger.

Now we have another.

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I saw three movies last week.  Le Petit Soldat is perhaps the least known of Godard's first run (1960-1967).  One reason, aside from the fact that censorship delayed its release for several years, was that its structure was very similar to Breathless.  In both movies a conventional B-Movie plot, a criminal on the run in Breathless, a man facing two sides in an espionage plot, is interrupted by intellectual conversations with his love interest.  So, not the step forward his other movies would show.

The Sand Pebbles is one of the oddest of sixties Hollywood would-be blockbusters, and not in a good way.  On the one hand, the surprisingly downbeat ending suggest that American running around in 1920s China is a brutal, futile gesture.  On the other hand, there is little serious attempt to actually understand Chinese objections to Western presence.  Of the two Chinese characters, one can barely speak English, while the other only talks in pidgin English.  And the violent Chinese kill both those two and the Westerner most sympathetic to their cause.  Aside from a first half that takes an inordinate amount of time to get started, the love interests for both McQueen and Attenborough are only cursory.  If one waits for the second half one does get to see McQueen do something more, though no one would think this was the one performance of his that deserved an oscar nomination.

I, Tonya is shallow, and best enjoyed if you don't think too much about it.  Alison Janney is certainly striking as a psychotic gargoyle.  It suffers, like The Florida Project, from thinking that unsociable or wildly irresponsible behavior is either typically working class or white trash.  This reflects the director's unconvincing combination of sympathy and condescension.  Also, it's a bit hard to be irritated by the snobbishness of American figure skating or the shallowness of the media, when Harding's mother and husband are so much worse.  The movie takes a lot from Goodfellas, not always successfully.  (For one thing, the music selection is off.  One would think one would use "The Chain" for a relationship considerably less dysfunctional than the one here.)

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Aside from rewatching The Hidden Fortress (much improved seeing it on the big screen) and Underground (its considerable vitality is still evident) I saw five movies this week.  Let the Sunshine In was the best one.  In this story about an attractive women in her fifties trying to find love, Juliette Binoche may have been the best actress of 2017.  Unfailingly intelligent and realistic, Claire Denis is, admittedly, not the most audience friendly of filmmakers.  But one should make the effort.

Two other contemporary movies have gotten high praise, but deserve it less.  Hereditary certainly starts out well, with an unpleasant sense of unease, where it's not clear where the threat is coming from, following by a horrific act of violence.  Toni Collette tries very hard as the grief stricken mother, but the film loses a certain energy after the aforementioned HAOV.  Arguably, Gabriel Byrne does a better job as Collette's loving, but ultimately ineffective husband.  Unfortunately once it becomes clear what's going on about three quarters of the movie, things become much less effective.  Several plausibility problems emerge.  Let's just say a family drama that used horror trappings, becomes a horror movie that uses family drama trappings and the change is not for the better.  The final scenes do have some genuine chills, even if they are of the "Boo! There's something in the dark!" variety.  But even they go on too long.  First Reformed has gotten what I consider an undue amount of praise.  In its defense Ethan Hawke does give a credible performance as, of all things, a Protestant minister.  But much of the movie is derivative of Winter Light.  (Poor Victoria Hill is even made to look like an unnaturally mousy Ingrid Thulin.)  At first this is only broken when it becomes clear that it's also derivative of Diary of a Country Priest.  Once Paul Schrader goes beyond that it's with a gesture that is, to put it mildly, very poorly thought out.  And it concludes with a final gesture that shows Schrader is no Bresson or Dreyer.

Two other movies are much older.  Mandingo was wildly loathed when it came out.  But since then some critics have noted it as one of the few movies that portrays the savagery of slavery.  Perhaps.  I wonder what the Raoul Walsh movie TCM showed earlier was like.  In its defense one could say the sexual themes could have been shown even more meretriciously than they were.  But having James Mason (who is simply wasted) say slaves don't have souls shows general ignorance (pro-slavery Christians of course believed that slaves had them).  And the slave breeding and slave fighting doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.  The Professionals looks like an oscar friendly The Wild Bunch.  (Richard Brooks got an oscar nomination for Best Director, in a year where the Academy was clearly desperate to find something other than A Man for all Seasons and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.)  Lots of people die, but considerably more tastefully than in The Wild Bunch.  People talk about the value of the Mexican revolution, but in a vague way not as to be associated with any revolution going on in 1966.  Woody Strode is used as one of the four Professionals.  But in case anyone might object, he doesn't really do or say much.  On the plus side, it's nice to see Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale together again.

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18 minutes ago, skimpole said:

Unfailingly intelligent and realistic, Claire Denis is, admittedly, not the most audience friendly of filmmakers.  But one should make the effort.

Chocolat (1986) would be a good start.

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I saw four movies last week.  Three Coins in the Fountain so beautifully films postwar Rome, or at least the more touristy areas, one wishes one didn't have to worry about the three bland love stories that take place in it.  Taurus is part of Alexander Sokurov's tetralogy of power.  In this case it deals with the dying Lenin.  It's a striking movie, with Lenin being more brutal than he was under Soviet times, shot in a striking green filter.  Zama is an interesting movie about a Spanish bureaucrat in colonial Latin America.  He would like to get back to Spain and his family and he faces bureaucratic problems worthy of Kafka.  The beautifully shot film takes an elliptical approach, often jumping ahead once Zama faces major problems.  The movie certainly improves as it goes on, with Zama eventually joining an expedition to hunt an infamous bandit.  Logan is not of the same caliber, but Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are actually fairly good as the last of the X-Men in a dystopian future with no promise of a happy ending.

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9 hours ago, skimpole said:

Three Coins in the Fountain so beautifully films postwar Rome, or at least the more touristy areas of what, one wishes one didn't have to worry about the three bland love stories that take place in it.

This film is one of the favorites of real estate agents.

 

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I saw three movies last week.  The first was On Her Majesty's Secret Service, or, as James Bond skeptics might put it "You will believe a glib sociopath can love."  The movie has some striking alpine shots, though mixed with rear projection shots make it look dated.  And the idea of having Blofeld using an alpine hideaway as his lair does lead to some obvious plausibility problems.  I suppose the largest problem with the movie is that while the idea of having Diana Rigg as both a Bond girl and the love of Bond's life is a good one, it's not executed very well.  Cactus Flower suffers from having a very obvious plot, which oddly enough resembles another mediocre film of a Broadway farce, Any WednesdayLogan Lucky is an amusing heist film, but not much more than that.  Everyone is very competent, though one can see the cynicism in the subplot about the hero's daughter.

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On ‎5‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 3:24 AM, skimpole said:

I saw three movies last week.  Night Must Fall has an interesting performance by Robert Montgomery, an early performance by Rosalind Russell in an untypical role and a striking performance by May Whitty as Russell's irascible aunt.  As Good as it Gets has a good performance by Jack Nicholson, but one wishes he could  have done something he hadn't done so many times before.  One also wishes Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear gave more than adequate performances.  You Were Never Really Here is clearly the movie of the week, what with Joaquin Phoenix's remarkable performance as a deeply traumatized vigilante, and with its stunning visual and aural landscape.

I never felt that Jack nor Helen deserved their Oscars for AS GOOD AS IT GETS, especially considering the powerhouse performances of the other nominees both were up against (exception being Kate Winslet, as much as I love TITANIC, she was only slightly better than Helen but still not Oscar worthy).

Must see YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, sounds like quite an interesting movie.

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Again, I saw three movies this week.  These three were more interesting than last week's.  Besieged is about a love affair that blooms between an English pianist and an African refugee working as a maid in the pianist's home in Rome.  David Thewlis himself is somewhat understated, except for a scene near the end where he juggles.  The movie stands on fall on Thandie Newton's performance as the refugee whose husband has been imprisoned back in her country.  As it happens, her performance is very good indeed.  Sorry to Bother You achieves what Get Out only promised.  Whereas the latter played on paranoia and fear and the plan itself did not entirely make sense, Sorry to Bother You shows more invention and a more coherent critical outlook.  This doesn't mean there isn't a certain facile touch to the proceedings, but on the whole it works better.  Finally, On a Beach at Night Alone is an interesting drama about a young actress trying to get over her affair with a married man.  Kim Minhee, my second favorite actress from The Handmaiden, gives a subtle performance in a movie with long takes and almost stationary shots.  The result is not as catharitic, or even as interesting, as one might expect such a drama to be.  On the other hand, it works better than the last Hang Sangsoo movie I saw.

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Once again, I saw three movies this week.  Girl Crazy was part of my quest to find ten great movies from 1943 (I only have seven, and the best one was made in 1942).  It doesn't help that Mickey Rooney starts off playing a ladykiller who's distinctly shorter than most of the women he surrounds himself with.  The movie is basically hi-jinks about a cow college, and the high point is a rodeo version of "I got Rhythm."  The Princess and the Pirate is much more enjoyable, with Bob Hope at his best as the weaselly protagonist.  It does show that, contra Christopher Hitchens, that he had genuine talent.  Coco starts off with a somewhat predictable opening, and the overlying metaphor of the value of family is not very thoughtful in the end.  On the other hand, the metaphor works better than Zootopia, another movie which it share good action sequences and considerable visual style.  It's not as innovative or amusing as Inside Out, while Moana does more with a considerably more spartan set design.

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Instead of watching three movies last week, instead I watched four!  All of which dealt with women under pressure.  Something Wild (not the Jonathan Demme movie, but an independent movie made a quarter-century earlier) was perhaps the most disappointing.  It starts off grimly with Carroll Baker being raped, and then having a miserable time afterwards.  I thought there was something off in the way that everyone around her is unnecessarily unhelpful around her.  And then there's the major plot twist involving Ralph Meeker.  I can agree that Baker is suicidal and disoriented at this point, and there is such a thing as Stockholm syndrome.  But there have been enough movies made after this with the same theme that such things appear like excuses for two underwhelming actors and an insufficiently well thought out script.  Star 80 is much easier to judge.  If it weren't for the copious nudity, and for Bob Fosse's prominent place in the movie, you'd think this was a cheesy exploitation made for TV movie.  Indeed the relationship appears inexplicable, since Eric Roberts is such an insufferable pimp even at the best of times, and you'd think someone would make it clear to Dorothy Stratten, even if Mariel Hemingway portrays her as a complete nitwit.

 

Mrs. Parkington is another movie in one of the odder Hollywood couples, that of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.  It's not clear to me why Hollywood thought American women were looking for a movie star as uninteresting as their own husbands.  To be fair, Pidgeon actually has some personality in this movie, and the relationship has a little spice in it, even if the relationship is undercut by the fact that we see her descendants are all spoiled wastrels.  Raw is an interesting French movie about a young woman and strict vegetarian who goes to veterinarian school where her older sister is already a student.  She both encounters an elaborate hazing culture, one which bullies people about sex, and also encounters meat.  The result is a movie where sexual desire and guilt are conflated with cannibalism.  It is, as I said, interesting, and the performances are good, but one can't help but wonder if this is just a bit ludicrous.

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Last week I watched five movies.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II completes a movie series saga that started for me seventeen years ago.  And ultimately I'm not impressed.  Ultimately I didn't care about all the complicated magic rules and the exceptions and complications.  Personally the rules should have been clearer.  Moreover, what should have been the emotional high points of the movie, the revelation of Snape's true character, and Potter's true love with a girl other than the one he's been hanging out for the last decade, don't really come off very well.  Submarine is the sort of movie that looks as if someone saw Rushmore and asked "How can we make this less interesting and more irritating?"  The characters tend to act like they're on Prozac for much of the movie and the protagonist is both irritating and not very interesting.  "If you have any more tawdry quirks you could open up a tawdry quirk shop."

The other three movies are much more interesting.  Slack Bay takes place in Belle Epoque France with an eccentric well to do family visiting the seashore, a family of fishermen collecting mussels and two policemen of questionable intelligence investigating disappearances.  To be honest, the cannibalism subplot doesn't entirely work (do they ever?).  On the other hand you get to see Julie Binoche in a state of hysteria, androgynous love affairs, wind yachting, an odd miracle, and an even odder miracle near the end of the movie.  Bruno Dumont discovers he has a sense of humor!  Chunhyang is a 2000 South Korean movie, that the Korean film industry, in both Korea has filmed multiple times.  Based on a Korean ballad that was finalized sometime in the 18th century or so, it deals with a young would be aristocrat who meets and marries the daughter of a former courtesan (the Chunhyang of the title).  He goes off to write the vital civil service exams while keeping the marriage secret.  Later a new governor comes to town and proceeds to make Chunhyang's life miserable.  Although the framing story consists of an audience watching the play on stage, the movie is beautifully filmed in the Korea of several centuries ago, with fluid shots and elaborate costume design.  Skate Kitchen offers a portrait of an adolescent/young woman who finds female friends with a shared love of skateboarding.  As a portrait of young women it's not as tough minded as Girlhood.  But it's better than Lady Bird and offers an entrancing portrait of a diverse multi-racial group of friends.  Rachelle Vinberg gives a good performance as the protagonist.

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Last week I saw three movies.  Burn After Reading is usually considered minor Coen brothers, which is to say that its flaws are harder to disguise and tolerate.  Basically we see cartoon figures teased and tortured for ninety minutes to glib effect.  Since Frances McDormand is married to one of the brothers, she comes out best.  I would find it hard to believe that any Tilda Swinton character would want to marry any George Clooney character, let alone ruin her marriage for the cartoonist buffoon he plays here.  An underlying theme is that the characters show their foolishness by actually taking the CIA seriously.  Of course the Coen brothers are too cool to care about politics, or people.  There are some good jokes, and J.K. Simmons does well in a brief role.

Panic in the Streets is a competent thriller.  Having Richard Widmark play the hero is an interesting touch, since people are less likely to follow him unequivocally.  Paul Douglas does well as the policeman who helps him, and there's a rousing chase sequence (on foot) at the end.  It's interesting that so much effort was made to film the movie in New Orleans when (a) the actors take so little effort to talk like they come from the Big Easy, even though most of the speaking parts were played by native Orleaners (b) much of the plot deals with Greek/Asia minor immigrants and (c) few, possibly none of the characters are black.  Three Identical Strangers is a documentary about three triplets separated at birth who reunited in 1980 when they were nineteen.  What appears to be a heartwarming human interest story turns into something much stranger and more unpleasant.  It's certainly a watchable movie, though the nurture/nature debate could have been handled more clearly.  

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Last week I saw three movies.  Place, Straight and Show is the first Ritz brothers movie I've ever seen.  To be honest, splitting the difference between the Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges does not strike me as a good idea.  But it's not a bad movie over all.  Claudine is an interesting attempt at trying to portray the life of a poor black woman, and trying to deal with welfare at a time, then as now, when many Americans were deeply unsympathetic.  It's a nice try, though it suffers in comparison to Killer of Sheep a few years later.  Dawson City:  Frozen Time is a documentary that, of course, appeared on TCM earlier this month.  But even though it's about a Canadian town, TCM Canada didn't show it all.  This movie about how hundreds of lost silent film footage were found nearly buried after being forgotten for half a century, and about the images of Dawson City, intercut with silent film footage, would be a fascinating documentary.  One minor problem is whether there was any real need to explain the 1919 World Series scandal.  A more serious problem, and rather fatal for me alas, is that the print used to explain much of what's going on is so small that it's difficult and awkward to read.

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Yet again, three movies this week.  Kiki's Delivery Service is a charming, inventive delightful Miyazaki film dealing, as his movies often do, with the struggles of a young girl as she strives towards maturity.  The only complication being that she's a witch who goes places on her broom.  The apparently European city she lives in stunningly beautiful.  The only slight problem is that it pales slightly in comparison to other Miyazaki movies.  *Corpus Callosum is a strange experimental, non narrative film by avant-garde filmmaker Michael Snow.  It's hard to describe.  It mostly occurs in two places:  in an office and apparently the living room of one of the characters.  While life elapses weird things happen, some are Melies like manipulations of the movie, other more advanced manipulations of film.  I thought it was interesting, but it's not surprising that others wouldn't.  Ismael's Ghosts is a movie about a movie director whose relationship is interrupted when his wife suddenly appears out of the blue after completely vanishing 21 years ago.  This is a complex, rich film with Marion Cotillard giving an excellent performance as the wife and Charlotte Gainsborough also good as the girlfriend.  I suppose it would have been better if the movie had been ore about them and not about the crisis that nearly wrecks the movie the director Mathieu Amalric is making.  But it's still fairly interesting.

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Last week I saw six movies for once.  Tunes of Glory is one of those sixties English movies where the performances are the best things about them, with Alec Guinness as a commanding office with a drinking problem and John Mills as his new superior with his own problems.  Guinness and Mills are good, though one might think they could have exchanged their roles.  Avengers:  Infinity War may seem incomprehensible to people who haven't seen the dozen or so earlier movies.  One might add that it did not really develop the characters as those movies did.  On the plus side, this may be the greatest triumph of intercutting since Intolerance. 

The Belle of New York has a nice Fred Astaire performance. two first rate dance sequences, and charming set decoration.  It also has, in Vera Ellen, the dullest partner I've seen in an Astaire movie.  Seriously, she is as just and dull as one might expect in a Salvation Army scold and attempts to make her complex are not successful.  The Penalty is best known for Lon Chaney's masochistic efforts to appear that his legs had been amputated.  This attracts more attention than his performance.  The movie is both reactionary (one of Chaney's plans as a criminal mastermind involves using immigrants to cause riots) and ill thought out (supposedly Chaney isn't responsible for his actions because of a physical problem which he's eventually cured of.  Yet he is still held responsible for them and is killed at the end, the penalty of the title.)

World War Z is essentially five action set pieces.  In the first four hundreds, possibly thousands, of people die but Brad Pitt lives, along with someone else to get him to the next set piece.  The genuine competence of these sequences does not overcome the general callousness of the movie, where apparently the vast majority of humanity has no hope and must be slaughtered for our amusement.  Eighth Grade was a bit disappointing to me. It captures the insecurity and solipsism in that time in a girl's life.  But it does not really explain her apparent inability to have friends, or her lack of interest in anything other than being popular.  Some things appear off as well (you'd think an eighth grade musical band, at the end of the year would know how to play the American national anthem).

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Last week I saw four movies.  The Sea Around Us starts the beginning of Irwin Allen's career.  It includes some portentous quotations for Genesis, a frankly mercenary attitude towards exploiting the sea and some interesting deep sea footage.  I suspect the reference to global warming was just a typical melodramatic Allen touch, but it does make the movie look much more perceptive now.  For All Mankind is more dignified, and having elaborate footage from the NASA missions is impressive.  Having astronauts putter around the moon doing frivolous things does somewhat hamper the supposed gravity of the event.

If you were to wonder what a screwball comedy starring Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas would be like, you'd probably guess it wouldn't be at the same level of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.  Or William Powell or Myrna Loy.  The fact that I don't particularly prefer Jean Arthur to Irene Dunne, does say something impressive about the comedies Frank Capra and Mitchell Leisen had her star in.  As such Theodora Goes Wild is OK.  Dunne does show some energy, and Douglas becomes more acceptable as the movie goes on (he starts rather pushy and obnoxious).  Hermia & Helena is about a young Argentine woman who is trying to adapt A Midsummer's Night Dream into Spanish.  She muddles around, meets some associates, wonders about some past relationships in a very undramatic and unerotic way, has civilized conversations with an important relative.  So basically she just putters around for 86 minutes.  Not to everyone's taste, or mine for that matter.

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