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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...

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There was once a film that both Ebert & Siskel absolutely despised in the early '80's I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE

 

Plus, they had disdain for the FACES OF DEATH series

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Last week I saw six movies.  Let's start with  the three older ones.  Something Different is the first feature of Vera Chytilova, which tells the story of two women, one  a gymnast who is busy training and the other about a housewife who deals with an unhappy life by having an unhappy affair.  The first story is more interesting, since the character is a real gymnast and we see her train in real takes.  The second story is more ordinary and less interesting.  Le Camion is one of Marguerite Duras' avant garde movies.  Essentially Duras and a  young Gerald Depardieu play variations of themselves as Duras reads Depardieu a script about a women who hitchhikes with a trucker, which is intercut with scenes of trucks going down the highway.  I suspect many viewers would not find it interesting, though the main problem I had was that the subtitles in the youtube version I saw seemed to be thirty seconds off.  New Jack City has some interesting stylistic touched, an interesting soundtrack, and some attempt to offer a more complex view of the drug war.  Wesley Snipes also shows promise as the big drug kingpin.  Unfortunately his role is more a supporting one, and  we don't really get to see him demonstrate his intelligence and cunning.  Moreover, much of the film stars the director as the hero cop, with scenes that look they've been composed from a thousand parodies of cop movies over the past few decades.

Atlantics is an African movie about young lovers in what is apparently a former French colony split when the young man has to try to get to Spain by boat since work opportunities in their city are so awful.  For much of the movie you would think this is a story about global poverty and the oppression of women.  And that's exactly right, because it is a movie about global poverty and the oppression of women.  But about halfway through the movie it takes a dramatic and unexpected turn that is not immediately dramatic and unexpected.  I suspect I would have liked the movie more had I a clearer idea of exactly what happened.  In Fabric is a strange sort of horror movie about a  very strange London clothing store who appears to have nothing better to do than wreck the lives of its customers with a magical red dress.   That's odd, but Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Haley Squires are good as the potential victims.  Pain and Glory is a vaguely autobiographical view by Pedro Almodovar.  Antonio Banderas gives a good performance as a director who suffers constant back pain and has to deal with a creative crisis in his aging life.    Spoilers, he more or less succeeds.  Banderas gives a good performance, which reminds us how little Hollywood used him outside his latin lover image.  Penelope Cruz is even better playing the director's mother in flashbacks.  It's the kind of intelligent, thoughtful movie that Hollywood has trouble making anymore.  I wonder why I didn't like it more.  Possibly I expected a bit more weight at this stage in the life of Banderas' character. 

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I saw three movies last week.  There's little to recommend the thirties version of The Age of Innocence over the Scorsese version.  Irene Dunne acquits herself in comparison to Michelle Pfeiffer, but John Boles is (of course) no match for Daniel Day Lewis.  Nor is Julie Haydon is good as Winona Ryder.  Eureka is an odd choice for TCM to show.  If you were going to show a third Roeg film for TCM you would think a classics movie station would show Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing or Insignificance.  It's odd that a major study would allow Roeg to make a movie loosely based on the murder of Sir Harry Oakes.  It's even odder that the movie doesn't make clear who actually killed him.  Hackman is good, as usual, as the Oakes character, which makes his murder a bit of a surprise.  The odd relationship between Teresa Russell and Rutger Hauer, as Hackman's daughter and son-in-law, is also striking, particularly in how ambiguous and generally unpleasant their relationship.  Hollywood would not now make a movie that was so opaque, and we're poorer for it.  That leaves Parasite as the movie of the week.  Interesting, this year's Palme D'Or has an opposite premise from last year's winner, Shoplifters.  In that film a group of people pretended to be a family.  In this one, a family pretends to be unconnected strangers so that they can all be employed by the same plush Korean family.  They succeed in this, up until the halfway point or so when the movie takes a gonzo narrative twist that is stunning, hilarious, exciting and criminal to divulge.   Perhaps the landing on the ending could be a bit stronger.

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On 7/9/2010 at 2:44 PM, misswonderly3 said:

Interesting, LoveFilmNoir, what you said about Walter Huston being even better in this role than Walter Brennan would have been. Because I always get those two mixed up, and not because they're both named "Walter". They're both crusty crabby smart amusing old men. But yeah, I take W. Huston a little more seriously than I do W. Brennan.

 

On 7/9/2010 at 2:44 PM, misswonderly3 said:

Interesting, LoveFilmNoir, what you said about Walter Huston being even better in this role than Walter Brennan would have been. Because I always get those two mixed up, and not because they're both named "Walter". They're both crusty crabby smart amusing old men. But yeah, I take W. Huston a little more seriously than I do W. Brennan.

I thought this meant one's overall;; favorite motion picture actor, for me that of course wouls be Bogey as Marlow and Sam spade for me if so & not cinema detect8ive  WHOOPS!

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I saw five movies this week, with a surprisingly Anglophile emphasis.  That's not how I wanted it, it's just how it turned out thanks to the TCM schedule and that of my local repertory theatre.  Downtown Abbey was the least of these.  I'd never seen the series before, it's one of the most television series I've been ignoring for the past two decades while concentrating on movies.  And now that I've seen the movie I clearly didn't miss much.  Yes, there's a spot of sexual scandal and a more open minded attitude towards homosexuals (we can always be more tolerant a century afterwards).  But this is basically country house porn, filled with admiration for these aristocratic toffs (a key plot thread is whether the servants will get to serve the King on a one day visit, or have to stand down while his pwn personal servants do the work).  Maggie Smith is interesting.  Mary Poppins Returns is alarmingly close to a remake of the original movie, only consistently off.  It's darker and greyer for little good reason, clearly the child is father to the man as Michael Banks finds himself playing his father's role, and two key musical numbers from the original are repeated to slightly less effect.  Blunt has a more authoritarian line, an element Dwight MacDonald noted back int the sixties,.  And while this may be part of the original novels (I haven't read them), it's not an attractive quality.  It makes one appreciate Julie Andrews all the more. 

As it happens Young Winston is the most effective of this sort of English nostalgia.  While not a great film, the second half where Winston Churchill risks his life in various colonial wars is certainly competent and effective.  It's better than the first half where we're supposed to admire Churchill's parents for no other reason because they're his parents and he admired them deeply.  The Lighthouse is an odd movie where Willem Dafoe constantly skirts the edge between a good performance and rabid hammery.  While this grim mystery of two lighthouse keepers starts off intriguingly, and is professionally made, the movie ultimately comes down to saying one shouldn't be stuck with Willem Dafoe for a month.  So that leaves Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence as the movie of the week.  It also contrasts with the anglophile theme of the previous paragraph.  The four main actors are all good with a Japanese office, otherwise a blind fanatical supporter of his country's unjust war, is unconsciously attracted  to the British officer and prisoner of war, played by David Bowie.  An interesting take on a brutal situation, and the last line is devastatingly effective.

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Last week I saw three movies.   Let's start with the last two movies of 2019.  Faithful Heart is a touching French silent movie about a woman who chooses unwisely, but who gets another chance with the man who truly loves her.   It has effective use of closeups, and one wonders whether it was an inspiration for Sunrise.  (Key scenes take place in an amusement park.)  A Hidden Life is the best movie I've seen so far from 2019.  While many people would find 173 minutes about an Austrian who refuses to knuckle under to Hitler exhausting, especially with the second stage Malick style popular since The Tree of Life, I was tremendously moved by it.  Among its other admirable features (a) there is an emphasis on the labor August Diehl and Valerie Pachner work at (Franz Jagerstatter, on whose life the movie is based, was a farmer) especially as things get worse.  (b) There is a stress on the isolation he faces.  Although not everyone is cruel to them, this is not a movie where virtue is recognized, let alone rewarded (c) while one might think the many shots of Diehl, Pachner and their three charming daughters a bit much, it actually works by making clear that Diehl is sacrificing.  Here is an epic movie on an inner life.

Joker is so dominated by its unusually intense performance by Joaquin Phoenix that many may think it is a better movie than it actually is.  But it's not a movie that bears close examination.  Among other problems (a) the movie is clearly derivative of both Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, and yet while Phoenix's Arthur Fleck is clearly worse than Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin, the movie clearly wishes us to have more sympathy with him.  (b) One thing about the Joker, whether in eight decades of comics, the Nicholson Joker or the Ledger Joker was that he was consistently audacious, insouciant, confident and charismatic.  But Phoenix's character is pathetic and delusional.  (c) The politics are all muddled:  early in the film there is a warped version of the Bernie Goetz incident.  While the police are searching for him, Fleck has become a popular hero for some.  But this gets the Goetz incident backwards.  In that incident Goetz was viewed as a hero because people presumed the black men he shot were about to mug him.  By contrast here it's hard to imagine in 1981 (when the movie takes place because a double bill of Blow Out/Zorro the Gay Blade is prominently featured) that there could be a popular movement cheering on the death of three yuppies, especially when nobody knows how much they provoked Fleck. 

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I saw three movies last week.  Road to Utopia (about the Alaska Gold rush actually) is the second "Road" movie I've seen. If not the funniest of forties comedies, it's certainly amusing, with slapstick hijinks, absurdist turns, asides to the audiences and two protagonists who constantly scheme against each other but do the right think in the end.  Body and Soul, the first of two movies TCM will show this month, is a silent movie by Oscar Micheaux starring Paul Robeson.  This melodrama about a corrupt pseudo-preacher does share some peculiar traits  (long lost identical twins!  It was all a dream!)  but Robeson is good and there is an effectively subtle and sinister rape scene.  The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about the title character fascinated with trying to find some way of getting back his old family home, now long lost and hopelessly expensive because of gentrification.  It has some interesting aspects, but the protagonist could be more interesting still. 

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I wish I could pick one of the "So You Want To..." shorts with George O'Hanlon (Love those!) but have to go with a rewatch of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), followed by So You Want to Build a House (1948), probably intentional as they had So You Want to be a Gambler (1948) on later but that first one with Cary Grant, I just love it. Absolutely love it. Got up early to watch it at 6 AM Saturday and it's still funny after it being a rewatch. The entire room colour scene, the dialogue and ace acting, visual gags, it's just tops.

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I saw five movies last week.  Lets start with the two foreign ones.  The Bridge is a German movie from 1959.  Incidentally a German movie was nominated each of the first four years of the competitive Foreign Language film award, notwithstanding a less than inspiring film history in this period.  This movie, which takes place just days before Hitler's suicide, is about seven 16 year old boys who are drafted to stop the Americans.   A soldier decides it would be best if they guard an unimportant target, the titular bridge, but he gets killed.  So the only question is whether any of the seven will survive to the end of the movie.  More serious than this predictable twist is that it doesn't get the atmosphere quite right.  It's striking that the only Nazi in the movie (one of the boy's fathers) is busily looking after his own skin.  That's not false, but there isn't the atmosphere of Nazi fanatics bullying everyone around at gun point and killing everyone who is skeptical of them.  It's hard to believe that this close to the end of the war that people aren't, however tactfully, talking about imminent defeat.  Also, once in uniform, the boys aren't easy to tell apart.  But the actual battle is done fairly effectively.  One might consider The Cremator, which I watched on youtube not knowing it would be a Criterion release, an example of the ideological imperatives of the Communist government.  It deals with a title character who exemplifies bourgeois hypocrisy.  Living in the thirties he supports the Nazi occupation of his country and moves from his Czech nationality to German one, with unpleasant consequences for his half-Jewish wife.  One might also consider the movie's new modernist techniques, with a lot of rapid fire editing, more fashionable than successful.   But one can't ignore Rudolph Hrusinsky's memorable performance, which reaches now lows in oily unctuousness.

As for the other three movies, Hearts of the West is an OK movie starring a young Jeff Bridges who movies from wannabe western novelist to movie actor.  It's an interesting effort.  Whiskey Galore is as amusing and wry as everyone says it is.   The performances are good in their restrained, dry way.  The effects are subtle, such as the soldier that tells the islanders how to tie him up so that they can take the whiskey, or the amusingly bigoted Sabbatarian mother, or the amusing final twist.  It has a very dry wit (" They're so unsporting. They don't do things for the sake of doing them like the English. We play the game for the sake of the game. Other nations play the game for the sake of winning it"). And Mackendrick shows his special competence in the way the islanders quickly and efficiently hide their whiskey from the snooping captain.  It's a bit of a pity , that Ealing films don't attract me more.  The  Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover is little better than competent.  It's basically a parade of Hoover's greatest abuses of power (manipulating press coverage of arrests, wiretapping Martin Luther King, handing out dirt to Joe McCarthy, who botches it).  There's he occasional nuance--Hoover apparently opposed Japanese internment--but looking at the rest of director Larry Cohen's filmography is not encouraging.  It certainly doesn't use Jose Ferrer, Celeste Holm or John Marley to their best advantage.

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Last week I saw seven movies, and they were on the whole surprisingly good.  Let's start with the least of these The Member of the Wedding.  It's rather odd that Julie Harris plays a child less than half her age.  That her character spends much of the movie borderline hysterical, is both problematic and an example of the Academy that nominated her confusing the best acting with the most acting.  Ethel Waters gives a better performance as Harris' infinitely patient and reasonable maid.  Farewell, My Lovely is basically a remake of Murder my Sweet.  Mitchum takes a brusquer style than other Marlowes,  and there's some gratuitous nudity in a brothel.   His essential decency is still there.  As detective movies go, Marlowe is not a particularly effective one.   The Big Sleep is notoriously confused and Marlowe doesn't really show much detecting skills in this one as stumble upon the solution.  Nor does the movie have the emotional power of the Bogart/Bacall relationship or Elliot Gould's outrage in The Long Goodbye, or even the relationship Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle have in Devil in a blue Dress.  Sylvia Miles got an oscar nomination, which should  have been a warning shout that Hollywood didn't have enough roles for women since she only appears for less than ten minutes.  The dialogue is good ("The house itself wasn't much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler building.") and Mitchum does give a good performance. 

Pete Kelly's Blues was a movie slow to appear on DVD.  Peggy Lee got an oscar nomination as the abused moll of Edmond O'Brien's gangster.  But the screenplay is much better,.  If Jack Webb isn't your usual coronet player, he's surprisingly effective.  Varda by Agnes is the last film by Agnes Varda which basically has her discussing her films in more or less chronological order.  (Though One Sings, the Other Doesn't appears surprisingly early in the proceedings.)  It's full of Varda's interesting touches.  We see what appears to be a tracking shot from Vagabond, and then we see Varda on a dolly, and later talk to the star of that movie.  We later see one of her exhibits inspired from The Gleaners and I, as well a shack made up of reels of her film.  It also closes with an all too appropriate shot from Faces Places.  Peterloo, in my view, has been seriously underrated.  It actually takes considerable trouble to show the arguments and divisions within both sides.  Instead of the focus on character in most of his movies, we see a wide variety of people approaching the fateful meeting.  This has some nice touches (not only do we see a women's reformer meeting, but after the president gives what is, in conventional movie terms, a perfectly acceptable speech for the cause, one working class women and first time participant says she can't understand her at all.)  Rory Kinnear is good as the leading Reform orator Henry Hunt without making him appear too perfect  and noting the reserve other reformers had with him. Also the actual massacre is well shot .

Queen & Slim is actually a lot of fun, except for the inevitable consummation scene, poorly cut with an ill conceived anti-police brutality protest.  Also, there's the ending.  Jodie Turner-Smith gave one of the more effective actress performances from last year.   Nothing But a Man is the first great movie I've seen this year, with an excellent performance by Ivan Dixon as a black man whose difficult family life is worsened by white malevolence (he's fired from his working class job because he's suspected of being a union sympathizer).  It's an extremely good performance, nuanced and subtle, and certainly shows Stanley Kramer in a poor light  One might wonder why the movie was not more successful, even among cinephiles.  One reason is that it's not actually a black film (the director was Michael Roemer, a Jewish refuge from Germany, whose next major film,  The Plot Against Harry, had to wait twenty years to be released because that was how long it took for people to find it funny.)  Also one is reminded of the cruelly accurate Jules Feiffer strip about a black man who complains about being the only African American allowed at parties until they decide to get two of them, in case the first one didn't work out.  That hadn't happened yet in the career of Sidney Poitier for Dixon to benefit. 

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On 1/26/2020 at 1:09 AM, skimpole said:

he Member of the Wedding.  It's rather odd that Julie Harris plays a child less than half her age.  That her character spends much of the movie borderline hysterical, is both problematic and an example of the Academy that nominated her confusing the best acting with the most acting.  Ethel Waters gives a better performance as Harris' infinitely patient and reasonable maid.

Odd, but not overly jarring in this case, thankfully. You bring a lot of acting with you when you've already done it two years on Broadway. It would have been interesting if Julie Harris had given us a more subdued performance, more cinematic rather than stagy, for instance. Ethel Waters does this and it shows.

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Over the last two weeks I saw ten movies, two the first week, eight this one.  Shoah:  Four Sisters basically consists of the testimony of four female Holocaust survivors .  A Czech Jew tells of miraculously giving birth to Auschwitz, only for her child to be subject of one of Mengele's medical experiments.  A Polish Jew finds herself in Sobibor.   A Hungarian Jew talks about being part of the the controversial Kastner transport, and a fourth survivor tells of living in the last major Polish ghetto, Lodz.  Compared to this Harriet appears kind of shallow.  Cynthia Erivo is better than the movie, which is little more than competent.  One problem is that it doesn't show, as such movies usually don't, the many indignities African-American faced in the north (of which being caught and re-enslaved was almost literally the least of their worries.)

Three more movies deal with men behaving badly.  The original Point Break is getting a bit more critical respect these days, and I saw it on a television channel that alternated it with viewings of Speed.  It's interesting to compare the two, since Speed was the more admired and successful at the time.  On the one hand, the latter director, Jan de Bont, has not made anything half as good, while Point Break's director, Kathryn Bigelow, eventually won an oscar and made several admired pictures.  And certainly there are a couple of very well done sequences, including a chase  on foot that's very dynamic.  (De Bont, by contrast, in Speed concentrates more on desperate situations in three circumstances where there's limited movement, respectively an elevator, a bus, and a subway train.)  Point Break also has the gonzo sequence where Reeves' character, who has skydived at the point in hls life exactly once, jumps out a plane to catch Patrick Swayze without a parachute.  So there's that in the movie's defense.  On the other hand the script is weaker.  Swayze's character is so reckless and irresponsible he gets most of the cast killed.  And Lori Petty is a much weaker love interest.  She starts as a tough surfer girl, sleeps with Reeves, and then becomes a bland damsel in distress.  Not only in Sandra Bullock much more charming, she's actually given something useful to do (she drives the bus while the other characters try to figure out to defuse the bomb underneath it).   The Bachelor Party (not to be confused with the Pinter play The Birthday Party, as I did when I first typed this) may be best known today because Carolyn Jones got a supporting actress nomination for a role where she appears for about six minutes.  You might wonder why she got a nomination for an almost forgotten movie, while Janis Paige in Silk Stockings and Kay Thompson in Funny Face both memorably danced with Fred Astaire the same  year and got nothing.   Well since the movie had the same author and director as Marty, it was the closest 1957 had to a respectable sequel.  As a movie, the not surprisingly very depressing party is an example of what Gore Vidal considered using love as a deus ex machina.  And as a  cop out.  I didn't like the previous film the Safdie brothers made, Good Time, since it involved Robert Pattinson acting like an idiot.  Adam Sandler also acts in an irrational manner, but at least this time he has a better excuse (he's a gambling addict).  He also has a slightly better reason for endlessly antagonizing his main loan shark  (He's his brother in law).  Of course Sandler is still Sandler and when his wife, played by Idina Menzel, tells him "You are the most annoying person I have ever met," who can deny her?  So spending more than two hours, when he's in almost every scene, can be an exhausting experience.  But in the last hour Sandler becomes more sympathetic.   Now there's no good reason why one should prefer him with his mistress, played by Julia Fox, than with his wife, except she's eighteen years younger.  But instead of madly improvising, Sandler actually starts to think and has a not utterly idiotic way of getting out of his mess.  And this makes the movie much more tolerable.

The next three movies are all war movies.  The North Star is a movie which decides to make our Soviet allies more amenable by making as much like Americans as possible.  Since Lillian Hellman is intelligent enough to know this, she rightfully gets the blame for its cynicism  which involves idyllic collective farmers (!) in Ukraine (!!), and in fact in that part of Ukraine the Soviet Union brutally and counter-productively annexed two years earlier (!!!).  Oddly enough Erich von Stroheim comes as best as an army officer/medical doctor who has enough good sense not to accept Nazism altogether.  Though Walter Huston is quite to right point out that the Nazis wouldn't have gone so far if von Stroheim hadn't confined his doubts to furrowing his brow occasionally, in the best Susan Collins impression.  In its defense, the movie works better when the characters aren't talking.  1917 is the smart movie to win Best Picture tomorrow.  Well, the illusion of one take shot is certainly watchable.  On the other hand, the acting is worse than Birdman's.   The one shot style leads to some implausibilities.  (Wouldn't several dozen soldiers have noticed the two protagonists after they survived a loud explosion and had an airplane nearly crash into them, instead of a couple of crucial minutes later?  Just what are those German soldiers doing in the third quarter of the movie, aside from delaying the hero in his mission until the last possible minute?)  More dubious are the politics.  This may not be the movie Douglas Haig wanted, since the characters occasionally swear, and he was probably an insufferable prig as well as a bad general.  But it's certainly the movie his supporters want, as it's brainlessly patriotic.   The justice of the war is not questioned, and the couple of times Germans appear they don't get to say a word in edgewise.  (Unlike of course Grand Illusion, but also Paths of Glory).  Rather annoying, even though the movie takes place in France, and the French are doing most of the fighting, they only appear in a brief cameo with a pretty peasant girl.   Here Comes the Navy is the third movie.  James Cagney plays a man who foolishly joins the Navy because a naval officer mistreated him.  Highlights include rescuing aforementioned officerwhile both hang from a blimp.  Cagney is OK, I suspect he was in better even in 1934, when the movie came out.  What is most striking now is that the movie takes place on the doomed Arizona. 

The final two movies are about women.  The Sin of Madelon Claudet is known today as a shameless soaper.  (It also shares with Cat Ballou the distinction of winning an undeserved foreign film festival prize, Venice in the former's case, Berlin in the latter's.)  And having seen Helen Hayes find out that her fiancee is a both a jewel thief, and then having to serve 10 years in prison for being unjustly convicted as his accomplice, I'm inclined to agree.  A Bread Factory refers to a small city art center that used to be the titular factor.  It's certainly one of the most ambitious movies of 2018, clocking in at four hours.  Tyne Daly is the biggest name as one half of the lesbian couple who runs it.  She faces an unsympathetic city council and board of education, as well as a meretricious Chinese post-modernist act.  It includes a composite Chekov monologue, a newspaper staffed with boys, a boy projectionist, people occasionally breaking into tap dancing, a traveling chorus, and large swathes of Euripides' Hecuba.  I actually think it's pretty neat.

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7 hours ago, skimpole said:

I didn't like the previous film the Safdie brothers made, Good Time, since it involved Robert Pattinson acting like an idiot.  

So I wasn't the only person who felt that way about Good Time.

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I saw six movies last week.  First off were two oscar nominees this year.  The Two Popes is a (quite fictional) conversation between the penultimate pope and the cardinal that would be his successor.  Jonathan Pryce, who often plays villains or jerks, gets to be the future Pope Francis.  Although his story dominates the film, much of it spent in flashback with another man playing his younger self.  It's nice to see Anthony Hopkins playing  a serious role, though it's odd that he plays both Pope Benedict and Odin in the same decade.  Ford v Ferrari is the kind of conventional film that one imagines Hollywood used to make much better in the olden days.  It's certainly good enough on its own terms. One might wonder why we should root for one of the world's most powerful companies in its feud with the smaller company that makes the best racing cars.   As it happens we're not.  We're supposed to sympathize with Matt Damon and Christian Bale as the two men paid, and later bullied, by Ford to achieve this goal.  Damon is competent if not brilliant.  Tracy Letts is better as Henry Ford II, while Caitriona Balfe stands out as Bale's wife.  The movie is helped by not one, but two twists that undercut the inevitable victory.

Then there are two past oscar nominees.  Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams gives Joanne Woodward something to do for nearly ninety minutes as she worries about her recently deceased mother, her gay son and her understanding husband who, even worse, is played by Martin Balsam.  Woodward is OK, but it's not a memorable movie.  (The director is best known for producing oscar ceremonies, and he uses some clumsy "arty" touches.)  The Pride of the Marines deals with the somewhat underwhelming genre of disability pictures.  I think this works better than Bright Victory, of which I remember little except Arthur Kennedy was in it.  John Garfield is the sassy, brash, working class Philadelphian who wins Eleanor Parker's heart before he ends up in Guadalcanal.    As such he has a certain charm and does give the wartime romance an extra oomph.  It also makes Parker more interesting than in the two movies I saw her in that were nominated for best Actress.

Cure is the movie of the week.  This 1997 Japanese thriller deals with a weary detective with an ill wife ably played by Koji Yakusho who is investigating a series of murders of people killed by having an X carved into their bodies.  The m.o. is the same, but the perpetrators are clearly different and had no reason to commit the crime.  As the movie proceeds, the detective finds that the crimes are linked by the presence of the amnesiac Masato Hagiwara, who in excellent in a role where he, like Christian Bale in The Prestige, never breaks character.   Apollo 11 is of course about the moon landing, and is distinguished from previous documentaries because it is based entirely on historical footage with no contemporary voice-over.   It is questionable whether I will remember the difference between this film and For All Mankind in a few months. 

 

 

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I saw five movies last week.  Weathering With You was clearly the best.  This Japanese animated film is about a runaway 16 year old who tries to make a living while not being caught by the authorities.  While doing so he encounters a teenage girl who can stop the constant rain in Tokyo and briefly bring in a little sunshine.  The ultimate emotional connection between the two is quite affecting, even if the characters are a bit young for it.  Algiers is a remake of Pepe le Moko, and certainly the one scene that I remember from that film does not go down very well in this movie.  But while Charles Boyer is, one would think, the wrong person to take on Jean Gabin's role, he's actually fairly charismatic.  Climax is the latest provocation from Gaspar Noe.  It's about a dance troupe whose party is ruined because someone laces the sangria with LSD.  Gee, that doesn't sound very promising.  Notwithstanding two virtuoso long takes, the horrible things that happen are sordid and predictable.  (Gee, do you think that little boy is going to get through the movie in one piece?) The tiny subtitles on the DVD that I saw didn't make the viewing experience more pleasant.  And then there's Sons and Lovers.  This is an example of the British new wave in which congratulating oneself for sexual frankness and dealing with class is a substitute for insightful treatment of said subjects.  And while D.H. Lawrence was not exactly unmoralistic towards his characters, this is a movie that does more telling than showing what is wrong with its three female characters.  Perhaps a more nuanced approach could have given Trevor Howard a decent supporting performance instead of the lead nomination the Academy oddly gave him. 

The final movie was also a literary adaptation.  I must confess I was a bit disappointed with the latest version of Little Women.  It was...all right I suppose. Gerwig tries a distinct visual style, whose most obvious emphasis is one on natural lighting, so much of the movie in pre-Edison America is rather dark and shadowy. It's very pretty, but I prefer the Armstrong 1994 cinematography and art direction. Streep is preferable to Wickes as the girls' great aunt (said to be their aunt here for some strange reason). But most of the cast was clearly better in the Armstrong movie. A simple contrast makes this clear enough: Sarandon, Neville, Stoltz and Danes, vs Dern, Cooper, Norton and Scanlen. You'd think Emma Watson would be better as Meg than the forgotten Trini Alvarado, but such isn't really the case. Chalamet is given what appears to be an undue amount of space here (Christian Bale played Laurie in 1994), which is a problem if you find his appeal to both sexes a bit mystifying. Florence Pugh is given more space as Amy as well, but I was distracted that Pugh plays both the young woman she is and the pre-pubescent brat she was more than a decade ago. (In the 94 version, Amy was played by two actresses, including a young Kirsten Dunst.) Louis Garrel is badly served as Baehr in what appears to be an elaborate exercise in having everything her own way on Gerwig's part. It really hurt my view of the movie. One gets the impression that while Ryder and Sarandon (and Katharine Hepburn in the 33 classic) were strong enough on their own, Ronan and Dern were are only so strong because Gerwig was pushing down on the scale.

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The "Washington" mini series has been better than any main stream films I've seen during the past several months.  Learned a lot.

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Last week I saw four movies, three of which happen to deal with the second world war.  Jojo Rabbit, or as I like to call it, Calvin and hitler, is not entirely unamusing.   But until the end Taika Waititi does not resemble any version of imaginary Hitler a ten year old German boy in 1945 is likely to have.  And this is the problem with the movie.  It doesn't offer any insight of what it would like to be in such a place and time. On the one hand the Nazis encountered are either foolish (like Rebel Wilson), or their heart really isn't in it (Sam Rockwell).  Yet when (SPOILERS) Scarlett Johansson, playing Jojo's mother is summarily executed, someone actually had her killed.  We need to see more of this evil, and why people went along with it.  It also leaves a rather large plot hole, since the authorities then ignore Jojo for at least a couple of weeks, if not months, when he has no way of fending for himself.  (It also muddles the whole point of Jojo learning racism is wrong by recognizing the humanity of the Jewish girl his mother was hiding, a dubious point in itself, since having his only parent killed would also, one would think, do the trick.)  Beanpole is a much better, tougher movie, about two women living in (just) postwar Leningrad trying to find love and family under desperate circumstances.   With two excellent lead performances, and with several good supporting ones, it is a movie which a number of unpleasant themes.  One of them is the ruthlessness of one of the woman to get what is necessary for her.  And since is Russia/the Soviet Union, the ruthlessness scars the soul, and doesn't work anyway.

I saw Foreign Correspondent for the first time last week because, although it appears on TCM constantly, it's always pre-empted in Canada.  But not this time.  As a movie, it contains several exciting sequences, such as a chase through a sea of umbrellas, an attempted murder at Westminster Abbey and a spectacular plane crash into the Atlantic Ocean.  Although Albert Bassermann got a supporting actor nomination, both Herbert Marshall and George Sanders are better, both playing against type.  On the other hand, there are several plot holes.  Bassermann is kidnapped in  London, then taken to the Netherlands, indeed to precisely the place where the assassin of his double flees to, then back to England.  Marshall's character keeps turning up everywhere, when you would think he would stay put.  How does Sanders, and later Joel McCrea, find the final place where Bassermann is being kept?  Why does Marshall fear being arrested when he lands in the United States?  Why would they care over his European conspiracies?  Broken Lance actually starts out well.  And Spencer Tracy does a good job as the family patriarch.  Robert Wagner is less interesting as the son of his whom we're supposed to sympathize with., as well as less interesting than Richard Widmark.  The movie is also a bit short, and the final fight appears tacked on.  Lily Jurtado got a supporting actress nomination in a year where Eva Marie Saint must have won unanimously. 

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Last week I saw four movies.  Say Amen, Somebody is an OK documentary about black gospel movie, and I suppose if I cared more for the genre, I'd  have liked it more.  Iracema, an Amazonian affair, is a mid-seventies Brazilian road and documentary about an underage prostitute who does not have a good time wandering her country which at the time was in the grips of a brutal and callous dictatorship.  As it happened, the auto-translate captions from where I saw this on youtube were hardly very coherent, so its impact was somewhat lessened.  1973 was the only year that I had not seen one of the acting winners.  But now I've seen The Paper Chase and John Houseman.  He's OK, but there were better performances that year, even if the Academy didn't recognize them.  I actually went to law school, and can't say I was all that interested in the movie, or the plight of the characters played by Timothy Bottoms and Lindsay Wagner.   Ride the Pink Horse is I suppose the most interesting movie of the week.  Thomas Gomez got a supporting actor nomination, but Art Smith is better as the deliberately irritating FBI agent.  Interestingly they and the woman who plays the Mexican girl are more sympathetic (and better actors) than the protagonist. 

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Last week I saw four movies.  Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is the second of Michael Caine's infamous collaborations with Irwin Allen.  It's not as bad as The Swarm.  Certainly there's nothing as silly as "And I never dreamed, that it would turn out to be the bees. They've always been our friend."  Basically it's the same movie as the first, with characters being introduced m dramatic situations and us wondering which of them will be killed.  There some annoying plot holes, such as the fact that at the end of the original, the rescuers took the original survivors away.  Then a few hours later Caine and Telly Savalas show up independently and find more survivors.  Also, there's a convenient explosion.  I had higher hopes for Knives Out.  Watching it I thought that, with this and Looper,  Rian Johnson has the habit of making movies that are not nearly as clever as he thinks they are.  It's amusing to watch Daniel Craig with a silly southern accent.  And Jamie Lee Curtis is good as the most intelligent of Christopher Plummer's family.  But she isn't in it enough. More to the point, this is a movie when we hear most of the truth early on, wait for the information that will modify it slightly in an over elaborate way, and then realize that the bad guys can still get the money they want with a reasonably competent lawyer. 

The other two movies are much better.  Diamonds of the Night is a Czechoslovak movie from the sixties.  It's short (little more than an hour) and almost silent (which is good since I had to watch it on youtube using auto-translate of the Spanish subtitles.  This is a stark film about a favorite theme of Warsaw Pact cinema, the wartime Nazi occupation.  It's about two young concentration camp inmates trying to escape, and it's well worth watching.  Dragged Across Concrete stars Mel Gibson as obnoxious right-wing jerk, this time as an abusive detective.  When he and his partner are suspended without pay for roughing up a suspect, he decides to get some much needed money by trailing an apparent drug lord to steal his money.  Meanwhile a black man recently released from prison is told he can get some extra money by serving as getaway drivers for the aforementioned drug lord.  Who, along with his two assassins, is very intelligent and very ruthless indeed.  The result is a sparse, stylish movie that waits very patiently to develop to an effective climax.

Also, I rewatched If...

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Over the last two weeks I saw four movies.  Portrait of a Lady on Fire has been mentioned elsewhere in these forums, as not a movie for that person's taste.  As it happened, this was the last movie shown in Edmonton (I got a nine PM screening) for the foreseeable future.  (The day after, they closed all the theaters.)  Noemie Merlant is quite good as the protagonist:  she's certainly better than the three best actress nominees from last year that I've seen.  She plays a painter who is hired to come to an island in order to point a young woman's portrait as part of her getting married to a man she doesn't know.  Instead, they fall in love.  This is a subtle, well developed movie, with careful use of music (Vivaldi's 'Summer' appears effectively) and eroticism.  Seance on a Wet Afternoon was better than I expected.  It doesn't have some of the problems of Bryan Forbes' previous  movie The L-Shaped Room.  That suffered from an overbearing use of Brahms, and was too self-consciously edgy ("It's Leslie Caron as you've never her before--pregnant and unwed!  Also, there's a black person!  And that middle aged lady is probably a lesbian!")  Kim Stanley got an oscar nomination as a phony medium who convinces her whipped husband to kidnap ("borrow") a child, partly to get over the pain of losing her own child at birth.  Stanley is OK, But it's Richard Attenborough who is better as the husband who has to do all the dirty work.

Two movies that have often appeared on TCM America turned up on TCM Canada last week.  I Married a Witch is amusing, sort of like light Preston Sturges.  Veronica Lake is very fetching in pajamas as the title character.  Fredric March as the "I," not so much.  One Potato, Two Potato is the movie about miscegenation made before Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.  It's a better movie than, but that's not saying much. Although Barbara Barrie won a prize at Cannes, Richard Mulligan is better in the supporting role as her former husband.  His instant rapport with his daughter, who has forgotten him, is the best scene in the movie.  One problem is that Barbara Barrie and Bernie Hamilton are overly abstract as the interracial couple, as if the creators didn't really know any real ones.  Stress is put on their decent ordinariness, but one would think that more people in 1964 (probably Ohio, were the film was shot) would be surprised and more opposed than just Robert Earl Jones (whose role, one suspects was to show that not only white people are prejudiced).  The movie does share with To Kill a Mockingbird, the certain shock when the egregiously unfair verdict goes down 

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I saw three movies last week.  Satan's Brew is not an easy comedy to like.  The German directors North Americans are likely to see tend not to emphasize the comic.  And Rainer Werner Fassbinder's protagonist is extremely unlikable. a pseudo-anarchist who reaches new heights of pretentiousness when he begins to think he's turn of the century poet Stefan George.  But if you like cringe comedy, or believe it occasionally has to be taken seriously, this is worth watching.  While the film develops themes of **** and fascism,  Helen Vita stands out as the poet's long suffering wife, as well as Margit Carstensen as a delusional groupie.  Fingers is the kind of serious, considered drama Hollywood more or less stopped making by 1981 because they weren't making enough money.  Harvey Keitel is good as a man torn between his Italian mafia father and his Jewish pianist mother.  It's certainly better than the same year's Bloodbrothers, which insanely got a screenplay nomination.  But it lacks something (his parents don't seem like a real couple, for a start).  Coincoin and the Extra Humans is an odd comedy, a movie that appeared as a mini-series on French television.  It's about a small town, apparently dominated by a National Front like party and often rude to the local African immigrant population.  Slowly the town is subject to an alien invasion, which involves black glue like oil dropping abruptly from the sky, and clones being formed.  The movie works its leisurely pace (the characters are definitely not the sharpest tools in the shed).  It's certainly the only film where everyone is saved by a homage to 8 1/2. 

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I again saw three movies last week.  After the Mad Max franchise ran out, George Miller directed some children's film.  I suppose your reaction to Happy Feet depends on what you think of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman pretending to be Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley singing "Kiss."  Well my reaction was "meh," and that was my view of the film as a whole, which uses predictable top 40 hits, none of which are used with any originality or feeling.  The Creature from the Black Lagoon has a great costume and some nice swimming.  Paper Moon is a good film.  One wonders why TCM so rarely shows it.  It is a good film if not a great film.  The cinematography is good while other movies that year (Badlands, Cries and Whispers, La mere et la putain, Ludwig) were better.  Ryan and Tatum O'Neal are good as the probable father/daughter con-artists.  Tatum is clearly better than three of the four best actress nominees from 1973 that I've seen.  Yet one suspects it wasn't  much of a stretch for her to play a sassy daughter.  And clearly it was Ana Torrent in The Spirit of the Beehive that gave the child performance that was really special that year.

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Once again, I saw three movies last week.  The Man Who Never was is a good competent war/spy film, based on a story that I first heard when I was nine.   To the more or less true story is added another subplot to pad out the movie, and make the Germans look slightly more intelligent.  It's OK.  TCM also aired two biblical spectaculars on Easter Sunday.  There is an interesting movie hidden within Barabbas.  Anthony Quinn is put to good use as the reprieved criminal who constantly encounters the new Christ cult until he accepts it at the very last minute.  The pious elements are forgettable, as they usually are.  But there is a better movie about a cruel society and the man who suffers under it, first in a sulfur mine, then in the gladiator's arena.  The Greatest Story Ever Told, by contrast, is the movie that killed George Stevens' reputation.  Well, not exactly, but hating his four fifties movies among film critics was a lot easier after this 1965 movie, which may be the most portentous and self-important movie ever made.   In fairness, the cameos are not as infamous as legend has it, and Max von Sydow does his best.  On the other hand, a key discourse on wealth is fatally botched.  The dramatic vistas, taken in the American west because  Stevens was unimpressed by actual Israel (Jesus Christ Superstar did well enough there) are more intimidating than actually awe-inspiring.   Indeed the whole attitude towards the material (massive crowds for the Sermon on the Mount, no clear reason why his supporters follow him) reminds us we are not to reflect on it, but genuflect. 

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Last week I saw four movies, two each by two directors.  Susan Seidelman started a somewhat indifferent career with Smithereens.   This is the story of an unpleasant young woman who cheats and abuses everyone she knows in an attempt to succeed in New York's punk scene, until she is screwed over in turn by someone more unpleasant.  OK....so don't do that in the future, I guess.  Cookie was the more typical Hollywood film with a great cast about New York gangsters and a decidedly underwhelming script, which forgot to make us care about Emily Lloyd as the title character or give her sympathetic, or interesting relations with other people.  (And did anyone really think Peter Falk was killed in the explosion that starts the movie?) Nickelodeon is a mildly amusing slapstick comedy about the early movie industry.  It's obviously and unsubtly farcical.  Tatum O'Neal is probably the best of the cast, which does include a surprisingly tolerable John Ritter.  But her father and Burt Reynolds spend more time in a not especially charming love triangle.  Saint Jack wasn't originally supposed to be an audience friendly Killing of a Chinese Bookie.  Apparently Cybil Shepherd got the rights to the novel it's based on when she sued Playboy for printing unauthorized nudes.  But insisting on Ben Gazzara as the lead as a pimp with a heart of gold does remind one of the stronger, tougher movie.  Saint Jack is OK, and the movie does get better at the end, but I missed  the actual conclusion of the ending blackmail ploy.  Perhaps I blinked and I missed it. 

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