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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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Last week I saw four movies.  I think I need to see House of Bamboo again.  I can't say I was impressed hearing it in the background while I worked at a 90 degree angle to it.  The plot is a variation on White Heat, and replacing James Cagney and Edmond O'Brien with Robert Ryan and Robert Stack is not, on the face of it, a very promising idea.  Also the criminal gang has a special feature:  they kill any wounded member so they can't be broken under interrogation.  Certainly a grisly detail, but one would think a gang of Americans running around in fifties Tokyo would stand out very quickly.  But other critics have admired it more, so perhaps it deserves another look.  The Man Who could Work Miracles is an amusing film, based on H.G. Wells short story, with interesting effects and working on the general English lack of imagination in dealing with the title's premise.  Roland Young is also good as the titular ****.

This is the Army is an example of that underwhelming genre, the army revue film.  As such, it does not have as good a dance sequence as Gene Kelly in Thousands Cheer.  But surprisingly enough Joe Louis (a boxer, not a dancer) does very well in the African-American number.  This is one of the few movies Ronald Reagan and George Murphy appeared in that has any resonance, but both are forgettable in the token plot, which fortunately does not take up much time from Michael Curtiz's direction and Irving Berlin's music.  Frankie was somewhat underrated I feel.  Isabelle Huppert is very good as the title character, a French actress dying of cancer who brings her extended family to Portugal on a lost vacation.  Jeremie Renier is good as her son.  Marisa Tomei, Vinette Robinson and Sennia Nanua are interesting, but perhaps there is one subplot too many.  The movie has a certain understated power, especially at the end.

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The three movies i saw this week all left something to be desired.  Penelope, despite being made in 1966, feels like a film that wishes it was ten years older.  It appears trivial in the context of its time.  One thinks that if it was made a little later, something more could have been made of its frustrated heroine that just to admire Wood's prettiness.  One also thinks that Ian Bannen, who got a supporting actor nomination for The Flight of the Phoenix the year before despite giving perhaps the seventh most impressive performance in that movie, is not the right person to play her husband.  Strike up the Band is the sort of movie that emphasizes that Mickey Rooney is really considerate and mature, when you wish it would focus more on Judy Garland.  Her Smell is directed by Alex Ross Perry.  And it wouldn't be an Alex Ross Perry if it didn't have an unlikeable protagonist making herself and everyone around her miserable.  After lasting the length of a feature, we find there's a whole redemptive third act to go through.  This is actually handled pretty well, but many viewers will have long last their patience with Elizabeth Moss' protagonist. 

I also rewatched Key Largo for the first time in about a quarter of a century.  Robinson is good as the villain, and Lionel Barrymore gives a better performance than one might expect from him.  But Claire Trevor's award winning role is pure oscarbait:  the miserable lush who tries to do the right thing.  It's not surprising I forgot her big scene, and i don't regret at all choosing someone else for best supporting actress of 1948.

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I saw three movies last week.  Brewster McCloud has all sorts of interesting themes.  But unlike other Altman movies from this time period they do not cohere.  Maybe it's because Bud Cort is insufficiently interesting.  Maybe it's because the three women who follow him aren't much more than the sum of their sex appeal.  Maybe it's because we don't really find out who the serial killer is.  (The last John Simon thought it was Jennifer Salt, but nothing on the internet agrees with him.)  Later that decade Robert Altman would shake up the themes with more success.  The Young Philadelphians is basically a glorified legal soap opera.  Robert Vaughan got a supporting actor nomination when more obvious choices from North by Northwest, Rio Bravo and Some Like it Hot were ignored.  Clearly it was because this was a more "serious" movie than the  other three "genre" movies.  Vaughan plays a classic overbait part:  he not only has a drinking problem, but he loses an arm in the war and is justifiably afraid of being falsely railroaded to death row.  Clearly he didn't deserve it, and Paul Newman's courtroom triumph only shows that Philadelphia inquests are handled by idiots.  Captain America:  the First Avenger is less successful than its two sequels, particularly with the action sequences.  Chris Evans is good at showing Captain America's fundamentally decent:  he's brave and principled well before he's turned into a super soldier.  But Hugo Weaving is underwhelming as the Red Skull:  Toby Jones is more impressive as the amoral scientist Arnim Zola. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I saw four movies over the last two weeks.  Remaking The Awful Truth as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and replacing Irene Dunne with Carole Lombard is an interesting idea.  Replacing Cary Grant with Robert Montgomery is much less so.  The Buddy Holly Story works best when Gary Busey does a very good Holly impression.  Apparently the movie is so inaccurate the surviving Crickets and Holly's widow were quite unimpressed.  And the next movie the director made, Under the Rainbow, was one of biggest bombs of 1981 and helped kill Carrie Fisher's acting career.  But that isn't to say that Busey doesn't do a good job, and even though having "Not Fade Away" as the closing number is very obviously ironic, that doesn't mean it's not effective.  Deception takes the director of Now Voyager and three of its stars, Davis, Henreid and Rains, and jumbles them up in this florid melodrama about a woman, her suddenly alive cellist husband, and her former lover who plots revenge.  While clearly not the best work of any of the parties involved, it's a tolerable experience.  At Berkeley is another of Frederick Wiseman's epic documentaries.  Much of it is devoted to the internal politics of the university, and I didn't find quite as interesting as his films on the National Gallery, Jackson Heights, or the New York Public Library.  But there is enough there for it be worth watching. 

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I saw three movies last week.  Mourning Becomes Electra is best known as the oscarbait movie that lost a sure fire best actress win to The Farmer's Daughter.  I haven't seen that movie, but I also haven't seen anyone who thinks it was a better choice.  Certainly Rosalind Russell was more deserving of an oscar for lifetime achievement.  As for the movie itself, it lacks imagination.  One problem is that Russell and Michael Redgrave are too old for their roles (late thirties when the movie was made).  And there are two problems with having Katina Paxinou play the Clytemnestra character. One is that she's only a few years older than her "children".  Second, while I suppose it makes some sense of having a Greek actress play the part, the whole point of the movie is the mother-child bond, and that bond is weakened by having Paxinou talk like literally nobody else in the New England town where the movie takes place.  It might have been better for Russell to play the Clytemnestra character and have somebody younger, like Deborah Kerr, play Lavinia.

All Night Long certainly has style and certainly succeeds in being cooler than many of the British "New Wave" movies of their time.  Certainly the jazz music appears very effective, and Patrick McGoohan even went to some trouble to learn how to play his drum sets effectively.  One problem is that McGoohan affects a slight American accent distinct from his normal voice which, as it happens, sounds like a similar trick that Michael Palin used and it's distracting.  One key problem with any version of "Othello" is that the Iago character can't be transparently obvious in his machinations, while the way everything unravels so that he can be punished can't be too convenient.  Since the whole movie takes place one evening, this concentrates the problem, and the movie, I'm afraid to say, has problems with both.  (Having the Cassio character pushed off a railing that could easily have killed him to Iago exposed in less than three minutes exempllfies the problem.)  But still, cool jazz score.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the world makes me wonder why I don't enjoy two of the other three Edgar Wright movies I've seen.  (Baby Driver was slight, but more watchable).  In this case, there's a certain lack of weight with Michael Cera's character.  This is a pity, since the writing is consistently amusing.  It's a bit disconcerting that Brie Larson went on to bigger things, than this movie's heroine.  If the craziness reminds at least one critic of Tashlin, it also reminds me  that he also didn't deliver the emotional goods either. 

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I saw three movies last week.  Designing Women is another good film by Vincente Minnelli, if not one of his best.  The beginning certainly shows his skill, even if Peck and Bacall are not the best couple.  Mystery Train is an interesting, watchable Jarmusch film:  not as good as Down by Law, but better than Night on Earth.  The first two stories are the better ones.  Perhaps it would have been more affecting had I caught the scene where the Japanese couple meets an apparent derelict who responds in Japanese to them.  One Fine Day is a less than inspired comedy, but it works better than it should thanks to the charm of its stars Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.  The children, in particular Pfeiffer's son, are more annoying than usual in movies, but not unreasonably so. 

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On 5/4/2020 at 1:32 PM, CinemaInternational said:

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If you like THE LODGER, you might also want to check out MAN IN THE ATTIC which Fox remade with Jack Palance. It's in the public domain and a good print can be found on YouTube.

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7 hours ago, skimpole said:

I saw three movies last week.  Designing Women is another good film by Vincente Minnelli, if not one of his best.  The beginning certainly shows his skill, even if Peck and Bacall are not the best couple.  Mystery Train is an interesting, watchable Jarmusch film:  not as good as Down by Law, but better than Night on Earth.  The first two stories are the better ones.  Perhaps it would have been more affecting had I caught the scene where the Japanese couple meets an apparent derelict who responds in Japanese to them.  One Fine Day is a less than inspired comedy, but it works better than it should thanks to the charm of its stars Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.  The children, in particular Pfeiffer's son, are more annoying than usual in movies, but not unreasonably so. 

The success of ONE FINE DAY and THE PEACEMAKER would cause Clooney to defect from the hit TV series ER.

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Another week, another three movies:  Seduced and Abandoned is certainly a distinctive comedy in the absurd reactions of its characters and the grimness of its scenario.  Nor is it a comedy that tries to say something nice about the regional purgatory its characters find themselves in.  Perhaps if I paid more attention I might find it funnier.  Hardcore is a movie where Paul Schrader recycles the ideas of Taxi Driver, while adding those from The Searchers, and the result shows he's not as good as Martin Scorsese.  Part of the problem is that the ideas are lurid and reactionary:  instead of one teen prostitute, we're asked to believe that underage performers and snuff films are a common occurrence and nobody does anything about it.  George C. Scott's character was supposedly based on Schrader's father, and the result is a less ambiguous, less interesting character than Travis Bickle.  Afterimage was Wajda's last film, based on the true story of the leading abstract artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski persecuted by the Polish communists after the war.  The movie suffers from a certain predictability, since we know the authorities' attitude towards him and how meanly they will treat him.  As time goes on, and the very worst does not happen, the movie becomes more effective as it proceeds to what happens is bad enough.  Boguslaw Linda is better as the protagonist than the movie itself, showing a certain nuance.  In some places the movie does have a certain restraint, about not explaining why Strzeminski has already lost an arm and a leg, or why his marriage has dissolved.  Other scenes, such as one explaining why his daughter was baptized twice, are less so. 

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I saw five movies over the last two weeks.  The Castle is certainly a faithful adaptation of the Kafka novel, and it does show the Sisyphean struggle as  the more K tries to contact the Castle the farther away from any actual progress he gets.  It can't be said that Michael Haneke is exactly the wrong director for this, since all the unpleasant leitmotifs were there in the original novel.  But there's a certain lack of stylistic flair.  Welles' The Trial was not altogether successful either, but it was more engaging.  Perhaps the TV movie format did not bring out Haneke's imagination.  Spy is amusing in places, somewhat disgusting in others.  One key plot twist was apparent the moment it happened.  Jason Statham playing a deliberately less competent version of his persona is less successful  Surprisingly, Rose Byrne is more successful as the sociopathic villain with a more interesting twist or two.

Murder is my Beat has a plot described by one admiring critic as "marvelously incoherent."  Perhaps if I watched it again, Edward G. Ulmer's stylistic merits may be more apparent, since here the couple is much less desperate or interesting than in Detour.  Girl with Green Eyes does sound like a typical British sixties film.  A young woman faces prejudice, this time in Ireland actually, when she goes out with a man estranged from his wife.  But after a somewhat clumsy climax with that plot, the two eventually split since Rita Tushingham is too meek and Peter Finch is old enough to be her father.  Ad Astra is the movie of the fortnight.  It's interesting to compare this thoughtful, at times clearly well designed movie about space travel with the previous year's High Life.  If one gets the impression that 2001 and Solaris are both breathing down both movies' necks, and as such are sort of pushed to the side, both are interesting on their own terms. 

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Another week, another three movies:  A Wrinkle in Time was the disappointment that critics said it was at the time.  Instead of L'Engle's subtle Christian themes, there are some obvious and clumsy New Age themes.  A crucial failure is that Charles Wallace needs to be more enigmatic and special, and Meg's redemption of him needs to be more powerful and moving.  Reese Witherspoon tries as Mrs. Whatsit. Park Row is an interesting Sam Fuller picture, with some interesting camera work and some gruff newspaper war shenanigans. One drawback is that the leads (opposite sex heads of two dueling newspapers) are not very interesting.  The Farewell is a movie about a common theme--a family worrying about its dying matriarch.  Only this time they're Chinese!  Compared to other movies of this somewhat narrow genre, it's less calculated and irritating as Ang Lee's early movies, while not remotely in the same class as Yi Yi.  One aspect that becomes more apparent as the movie goes on is that while Crazy Rich Asians turned into an advertisement for how incredibly rich Singapore was, The Farewell turns into a movie about how comfortably middle class the Chinese characters are in Changchun, (a city of at least seven million people that I hadn't actually heard of before seeing this movie).  While the number of middle class Chinese who are as prosperous as the people likely reading this post has certainly increased dramatically--I had just read a scholarly article earlier last week suggesting that such a population was now larger than that of the entire United States--the fact that the retired woman, who must be in her seventies is so secure, and that her two sons can live in completely different countries and yet return with little problem seems, well, a little convenient.  This leads to the main focus of the picture.  The family decides not to tell the family matriarch she's dying so as not to burden her last days.  And only the American granddaughter is uncomfortable with this and wants to tell her.  So we're basically dealing with people agreeing to lie for the good of the family.  And there is a solution to this moral dilemma which is, not to spoil anything, also remarkably convenient.  Awkwafina, as the granddaughter is interesting.  Or at least conventionally pretty. 

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Last week I saw four movies.  I have not been the biggest fan of Kelly Reichardt,   And it takes some time for First Cow's plot to actually start.  (Another thing is that it not clear that the present day woman has discovered two skeletons at the beginning of the movie.)   But eventually the plot of this movie in early pioneer Oregon (it's so early there 's a foolish British official running around played by Toby Jones) does start when a Chinese man tells the tracker who earlier saved his life that he has a get rich plan.  They will make quality biscuits by covertly milking the title character.  This plays out better than other Reichardt movies:  I wonder if I actually like it.  The chronological distance between Captain Newman MD and MASH almost exactly matches the gap in their release.  Newman takes place in late 1944 and was released in late 1963.  MASH was released early in 1970, and takes place a little later in 1951.  Yet the gap in these two movies about medical doctors who buck the system seems like a generation.  That fact that Newman is played by Gregory Peck of all people reveals everything.  This is also the movie for which Bobby Darin got an oscar nomination, this time for a classic oscarbait role as a severely traumatized soldier with both a drinking problem and a southern accent. 

My Journey Through French Cinema is a very good documentary as Bernard Tavernier offers his personal preferences.  He concentrates on Jean Gabin, and among directors, Becker, Renoir, Carne, Melville, Godard and the less famous Greville and Sautet.  There's a lot of clips from French films, more of which could be shown on TCM.  There are also some good anecdotes.  The best one is that Tavernier, working for Godard at the time, calls up leading french poet and leading French communist Louis Aragon, reminding him that his father helped hide him during the war.  Anyway Aragon saw Godard's latest movie, and gave a rave review of Pierrot Le Fou, at once showing him to be cooler than the entire country of Canada.  At one point in The Souvenir Honor Swinton Byrne's character is in bed with her boyfriend who comments on how pale her skin is.  So it seems that she has literally been in the shadow of her mother,, the famous Tilda Swinton.  The theme of an addict and the woman whose life he ruins is an old one.  It's just that Byrne, playing a wannabee British film maker is the first half of the eighties and tom Burke as her boyfriend are exceptionally dull and uninteresting even before we learn that Burke is a heroin addict.  It's not even clear why they're attracted to each other, let alone why we should spend two hours watching them. 

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Another week, another three movies.  The Boston Strangler was Tony Curtis' effort to win an oscar with a "serious" role. He ended up with only a Golden globe nomination,.  The performance isn't bad, though hardly oscar worthy.  He might have gotten a nomination if he appeared more in the first half of the picture.  As for the movie itself, there's a lot of splitscreen, sixties Hollywood's answer to actually improving its films.  (There's not much point in fragmenting the screen that way, and it ruins misc-en-scene).  And the climax where Curtis, as the eponymous character, remembers himself into a catatonic state, is undercut by the fact that at the time Albert DiSalvo was very conscious and residing in prison (he would be murdered there a few years later).  Who'll stop the Rain is much better, a tale of a drug deal that goes very wrong, It's striking that this grim film filled, like the title song, with a sense of disillusion and despair, would probably not have the same tone had it been made a decade later.  Nor would the choice of which of its three main characters would live or die likely be the same.  Nick Nolte is effective as a sort of proto-Rambo character, but with a more plausible ending.

Judy oddly enough resembles Lady Sings the Blues is that both movies end with a triumphant performance, and then with a brief reference to the protagonist's premature death.   The major difference is that Diana Ross, of course, already knows how to sing, while Renee Zellweger is nothing more than competent.  Zellweger, of course, won an oscar for the performance.   She's certainly unrecognizable, but she's even more pathetic than Ross' version of Billie Holiday.  One does not really get a sense that Garland was much more than an aging has been a few months from death.  There's little sense that other genuinely talented Hollywood stars recognized this talent, and little sense of her movie career aside from being bullied and manipulated on the set of The Wizard of Oz.  And since Zellweger already had one of the silly things, it's not clear why the Academy felt the need to give her another one.  (Did Isabelle Huppert give  a superior performance that year?  Let me check...oh yes, she did.)

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Last week I saw four movies.  Arthur starts off very badly.  In the 39 years since it was made, Dudley Moore's level of drunkenness really is more alarming than funny.  Though it's hard to think of an earlier movie where it is really pulled off.   (Also, the title song may have been a huge hit and won an oscar, but three years later Christopher Cross had worn out his  welcome.) The movie does improve when John Gielgud enters the scene ("Steal something casual").  The movie shares with Ghostbusters the quality of being an unimaginative comedy redeemed by one character being incredibly dry.  But Gielgud is only a supporting character, and as the movie proceeds to its unimaginative end, one realizes that this a movie that has a long way to go before it's on the same level as Holiday, even before it betrays its spirit at the end.  Insignificance is a more interesting movie, though not a successful one.  It takes some time for Teresa Russell's version of Marilyn Monroe to pick up steam, though once she does give a reasonable explanation of the theory of relativity she becomes much more interesting.  Unfortunately the movie lacks a certain weight, most obviously in the fact that there is little profound said about the other trio of characters. 

Vibes asks whether you wouldn't mind Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper and Peter Falk palling around in Ecuador for about an hour and a half.  Only, in this case, the characters are slightly duller and less interesting versions of the actors in question.  It's rather a shame as while a little more effort wouldn't have made it  a great film, it could have made it much enjoyable.  As it happened, I liked the song which plays over the credits, but it flopped on the charts. So the fourth movie is clearly the movie of the week.  An Elephant Sitting Still oddly shares some qualities with the other 2018 art film from China, Long Day's Journey into Night, such as many long takes as well as a focus on China's rust belt.  But Elephant  is much more austere, with its palette of grays blues and browns.  Oddly enough, Long Day's Journey into Night (not the other movie's original title), would be a more apposite title for this movie, which takes place over a single day into the night.  It is a grim story, of four main characters, who are victimized by petty thugs, and who find themselves reacting badly and unwisely under the pressure.  Obviously this 230 minute movie is not for everyone, but I found it every engaging and moved by its integrity. 

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Another week, another three movies:  but this time they show a bit more life.  But I'm not sure it's enough.  Oddly enough, I enjoyed most of Pal Joey while I was watching it.  This, I think is the movie that best shows his tough guy charm.  (I should point out that when I was growing up Sinatra meant not the titan of pop music or the Hollywood star, but the man Garry Trudeau mocked in Doonesbury for his mafia ties.)  And apparently the Golden Globes agreed with me, because they gave their 1957 Best Actor in Comedy/Musical for this role.  (On the other hand, Astaire made two classic musicals in 1957, and the Globes and everyone else ignored them, so that's not encouraging).  But the reviews I read were less enthusiastic.  For a start, the original musical had a tougher, more downbeat ending.  Also, there is a certain bitterness that Rita Hayworth is viewed as too old for Sinatra when she was actually younger than him.  And while the give and take between the love triangle isn't bad, the scene where Sinatra wins Kim Novak is a bit underwhelming. 

You and Me has some interesting ideas.  Let's have some Kurt Weill tunes!  Let's have George Raft be more than a tough guy for once.  And while Sylvia Sidney starts being tough when she catches a shoplifter at the beginning of the movie, I though she was a bit of a drip for much of the movie while being a little too sweet for my taste.  But there is the scene in the last quarter where she lectures would be robbers that crime literally does not pay.  There is something to be said for L.A. noir movies, there's something to be said about conspiracy movies, and there's something to be said about unlikable characters.  But Under the Silver Lake is a grave disappointment all round, where the somewhat creepy and voyeuristic protagonist, whose sole redeeming characteristic is apparently that he;s played by Andrew Garfield, goes off on a search for the hot blonde who mysteriously vanished after chatting with him one evening.  It's not a clear mystery (good mysteries show their work, or else they're directed by Howard Hawks) and the conspiracy not only has no real weight, but is increasingly ludicrous.  The director who rather foolish to hope to be mentioned in the same breath as David Lynch. 

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Last week I saw four movies.  Let's start with the two Goldie Hawn movies.  Protocol, which appeared twice in fourteen hours on TCM Canada, is an appallingly gutless "political" movie.  Hawn learns civic lessons worthy of the worst Capracorn, while actual politicians and political issues are evaded with the villains becoming a small coteries of conniving bureaucrats.  A love story subplot is handled remarkably cursorily.   Also, this is the second Hawn movie from 1984 where her ego helps commandeer the movie, along with Swing Shift, where the director's cut is supposedly much more impressive.  CrissCross was the first of three Hawn movies that appeared in 1992.  Hawn is more a supporting character, as the mother of the teenage protagonist.  This was Chris Menges' follow-up to A World Apart, and it suggests he should have stayed a cinematographer.  There are many beautiful shots of 1969 Florida, as the son, upset that his divorced mother is making ends meet by becoming a stripper, gets involved in a poorly thought out drug trafficking scheme that would have gotten an African-American equivalent killed of permanently imprisoned.  A comparison with next year's Ruby in Paradise, which also deals with precarious work in Florida, shows the latter;s toughness all too well.

The other two movies are distinctly better.  For once Hollywood production values are put to good use in Scaramouche,  Here is a tale of vengeance where not only is the final duel very well done, but surprisingly show more intelligence and moral weight than decades of vindictive action follow-ups.  Also, for once we have a movie where Marie Antoinette appears and we're not supposed to feel sorry for her.  Meanwhile, the revolutionaries are the good guys and for once Eleanor Parker gets to be (and have) fun.  The Whistlers is an odd film, sort of "Cornelius Poromboi sells out," advertising the movie while in a bathtub full of baked beans.  This somewhat complicated thriller about a dirty cop goes backward and forward in time (essentially everyone's crooked) has, as its McGuffin, a visit to the Canary Islands to learn the language of whistling.  The sense of restraint and quotidian despair that appeared in his earlier movies does give this movie more effective than the hundreds of similar movies, even if the ending is just a touch too morally convenient. 

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I'm kind of on a Robert Young kick now.  I watched two of his movies this week.  "The Toy Wife" was AWFUL!!!  There were so many cringe-y moments, I could barely stomach it!  Definitely one of his worst movies out there.  😞

The other one was "Married Before Breakfast".  I'm a sucker for silly, romantic, comedies.  This one did get a bit too stupid at times, but overall I loved it.  Robert Young seemed to do very well at slapstick comedies.  🙂 

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Don't want to start another thread regarding movies but the 'Least Favorite" has been just about everything this year regard new movie releases.  This year stinks!  I thank Directv whom gave a few free months of AHC and Smithsonian for my package.  

The only old movie I liked this past month is "The Golden Head" in Smilebox format.

History and TLC has nothing but TRASH!  What in the hell is there to LEARN on TLC (The Learning (joke) Channel? :angry:

Don't have HBO, Starz, etc....reruns galore and stuff I've already seen, some several times. I might catch something once in a blue moon when they give a free holiday weekend viewing.

 

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I saw five movies over the last two weeks.  The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone  is another work from that inexplicably popular source of classic Hollywood, from Tennessee Williams.  Like most of the movies based on his works (this one is from a novel) this story of a rich American widow and her deteriorating relationship with the Italian gigolo, is not very successful  Lotte Lenya got an oscar nomination.  She's not particularly good, but 1961 was a weak year for supporting actresses.  Hotel by the River is another Hong Sang-soo movie that was critically acclaimed that I didn't quite warm too.  The story is of an elderly man about to meet his somewhat estranged sons who sees two attractive women walking in the snow, who have their own problems.  I watched Steamboat Round the Bend because it appeared in David Thomson's book of 1000 movies.  As it happens, the movie was there as an example of John Ford movies that he did not like.  Indeed, as an example of the charms of Will Rogers and Stepin Fetchit this is less successful than Judge Priest, let alone the more refined version a couple of decades later  The Sun Shines Bright.

Bombshell turned up by surprise on broadcast tv despite having been released just eight months earlier.  As such it has a certain competence.  Malcolm McDowell makes a brief effective appearance as Rupert Murdoch who ruthlessly cuts off Roger Ailes.  There's a joke about pants near the end of the movie that is not suitable for this forum, but is worth watching.  Kidman, Theron and Robbie are all competent (the latter two got oscar nominations).  Robbie in particular plays a composite character, a hot Evangelical with lesbian touches.  Apparently this is a genuine composite, not someone's erotic fan fiction.  She's good in an early scene where she mixes up Don Henley and the late Glenn Frey because, as an evangelical, she doesn't know who the Eagles are.  She's also very affecting in her memorably creepy scene with John Lithgow's Ailes.  But wondering whether any of the female characters have real journalistic integrity and seeing Fox News double down on everything Trump has done since then, helps show a certain hollowness about the film.  Joan the Maid is Jqcques Rivette's version of the Joan of Arc story.  Since it was usually shown in two parts, I'm going to view it as two movies.  The Battles is actually about how Joan managed to convince the French to let them lead them into battle.  Despite the title, most of the film consists of Joan convincing the relevant authorities to allow her.  Sandrine Bonnaire is good at suggesting her force of will.  The film consists of long takes, mostly made up of conversations, with only a few battle scenes at the end.  It's an intelligent film, if not an engaging as several other Rivette movies.  I suppose I will have to see the second half, where Rivette competes against Dreyer (as well as Bresson and Preminger) to see how well this works. 

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Last week, after weeks of seeing three movies (or occasionally four), last week I saw eight.  Gender, I suppose, is one way of dividing them.  Khartoum has some striking opening shots in this tale of Charles "Chinese" Gordon.  It was made in 1966, which was close to the end where you could have Laurence Olivier in brownface as the Madhi, and people would be sympathetic towards, instead of intensely suspicious of, a military figure who ignored and contradicted the orders and advice of his superiors so as to get the British deeper into Sudan.  The many criticisms of Gordon, of a mercurial, unstable and dogmatic individual are not dealt with.  While Basil Dearden in previous movies might have been able to provide a more complex touch, he had little involvement with the basic plan.  Robert Ardrey, now known as a discredited primatologist, goes for hagiography in the uniquely rigid Heston mode.  He got a screenplay nomination in which the Academy, after noting A Man for all Seasons and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, basically threw up its hands.  Distinctly better are the two rock and roll films I saw.  The Kids are All Right isn't a particularly thoughtful documentary.  It basically consists of a decade or so of Who singing various hits live, along with clips, also over a decade or so, of them being interviewed.  It's hardly definitive, it doesn't have a clear chronological focus (it climaxes with a  performance of 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' instead of a discussion of Keith Moon's recent death).  But since it consists mostly of the Who singling their greatest hits, it's certainly worth watching.  (Also it has an early video of 'Happy Jack," which is, considering the lyrics, not only has nothing to do with the song's subject, but, oddly enough, has them trying to break into a safe.)  Shine a Light is most remarkable for showing Mick Jagger's considerable energy and charisma doing what he's been doing for four decades.  As such it's certainly remarkable, even it it doesn't have the historic importance of Woodstock or The Last Waltz, or anything as striking as the version of 'Once in a Lifetime" in Stop Making Sense.  But it's well worth watching, even though the Stones songs chosen are mostly not my favorites.

Let's move to the women.  Stage Fright is basically 110 minutes of Jane Wyman trying to outwit Marlene Dietrich.  One might say that's hardly a fair fight.  Jean Arthur didn't fare too well in A Foreign Affair,  and Wyman is also upstaged by Alistair Sim, playing her father, as well as David Lean's wife, who tries to blackmail her.  Possibly the least revered of Hitchcock's fifties movies, there may be something said for a movie which involves the characters constantly lying.  Joan the Maid:  the Prisons is the second half of the Rivette film I mentioned last week.  Seeing both one can see the titles of both are a bit misleading (the battles in the first and the prisons in the second are basically confined to the last third of each movie.)  Sandrine Bonnaire is effective  playing Joan of Arc as very stubborn, and understandably plays its very different from Maria Falconetti.  Not an easy film to warm giving its near six hour length, though some scenes, such as the Dauphin's coronation, put Rivette's interest in length to good use.  Merrily we go to Hell is the pre-code film directed by Dorothy Arzner which stars Fredric March as a journalist with a drinking problem and Sylvia Sidney as the woman who tries to change him.  Given what would be a common plot, it benefits from better dialogue ("What this country needs is fewer blondes.") and a reasonably adult view of the topic.  On the other hand, if one compares it to a not entirely different movie, Man's Castle, the latter is a better movie because Frank Borzage is a better director and Spencer Tracy is a better actor than March.  (Cary Grant also shows more charisma than March in his very brief appearance.) Sidney, interestingly enough, does something similar to the last movie I saw her in, You and Me, in which she plays the good girl only to do something interesting near the end of the movie. 

Je tu il elle was TCM's choice for its Chantal Akerman film.  This early work may seem like a cheap soft-core film.  It certainly is cheap, the first third of the film has Akerman's character moping around her room, often without any clothes on.  Then she has two sexual encounters, one with a man, a truck driver she encounters, and the other with a woman, an ex-lover.  Despite the copious nudity it's certainly not structured or really shot like porn, and certainly Akerman's ultimate suicide helps limit any prurient thoughts.  Olivia is the best movie I've seen in months.  Beautifully shot and decorated, certainly one of the loveliest boarding schools for girls ever put on film.  Here Edwige Feuillere and Simone Simon battle each as dueling authorities and the lesbian temptations they raise in their students, and probably themselves, in two of the richer roles for women in 1951.  Had it been more widely available it might have been dismissed as camp, but this is one movie where the erotics of knowledge are strikingly demonstrated.  (In a key scene Feuillere enraptures her students  by reading Racine). 

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Last week I saw eight movies.  The Song Remains the Same does not have a particularly good reputation among concert movies.  And it's perhaps best known as an inspiration for This is Spinal Tap.  But just as Led Zeppelin's music easily survived the contempt of the critics, so does this movie.  Keeping in mind that Page's guitar playing works better than Plant's voice, this movie depends on whether you want to listen to twenty or thirty minutes versions of "Dazed and Confused."  And as it happens, I'm fine with that.  Young Americans is best known as the best documentary winner that got its oscar taken away because the Academy found that it premiered in the wrong year (1967 instead of 1968).   This movie about teenagers touring the country singing standards and being relentlessly pure is for people who thought that live action Disney comedies are too anarchic and subversive.  The incidents are relentlessly square (one singer worried about keeping a pet, a couple are excessively chaperoned.)  It's worth pointing out that 1968 saw The 17th Parallel, High School and Monterey Pop. none of which were nominated.  1967 also saw Don't Look Back (not nominated) and Festival (nominated, but I didn't see it.)

So Proudly we Hail is a better than an average war movie about nurses.  Claudette Colbert is better as the head nurse than Paulette Goddard  who got the nomination.  Aside from seeing Veronica Lake as a suicide bomber, the best scenes are several desperate evacuations from the early Philippines theater.  The rhetoric scenes are underwhelming, and Colbert's love interest in rather dull, which hampers the climax of the movie.  Black Mother is a striking documentary about Jamaica whose success I'm not entirely convinced.  There is much talk of religion, feminism, and black consciousness among the ordinary Jamaicans.  There's also talk about prostitution.  The imagery is also cut and edited in a striking way.  Talk about politics and history is much less (one of the witnesses rants about the use of Kool-aid.) 

Seven Beauties was the first female directed movie to get a best director nomination.  It clearly did not deserve to.  It's a crude, cartoonish farce about a macho idiot played by Giancarlo Giannini.  Then it gains undeserved gravitas by throwing him into a concentration camp.  To those who might defend it by suggesting that Italy needs this uncompromising attack, I would respond that there were better Italian comedies about male sexism (Seduced and Abandoned).  There were better Italian movies about being a fascist (The Conformist), about fascist cruelty (Salo), and there would be better movies about living under fascism (1900, A Special Day),  There are even better movies about Giannini having to confront his male privilege, such as Visconti's last film The Innocent, a superior movie in every respect.  Tenet is a time travel movie from Christopher Nolan that is much successful than Memento and less interesting than its trailer.  One problem is that the sound is muddled, so one can't easily hear the dialogue and one misses key plot points.  And while some of the twists and turns make sense, others, such as the death of a major character, don't make sense at all.

The final two movies are infamous for their badness.  Plan Nine from Outer Space did not grant my full attention, so I missed the way Ed Wood kept repeating the couple of minutes of Bela Lugosi that he got, nor the attempt to replace him with an actor who looked nothing like him.  But anyone in the same room could notice the unusually stiff and awkward way the actors spoke the clumsy dialogue.   They also noted the silly attempt to think of something worse than atomic weapons (apparently exploding sunlight could destroy the universe).  The fact that the invading aliens actually have a point is one in the movie's favor.  Reefer Madness is a movie that would be better seen in the company of marijuana users.  The hysterical, deceitful tone is matched by a dreary and unimaginative style that does not keep the casual viewer's interest.  People who take the drug more often, are more likely to be amused about the "true story" of one user murdered his family with an ax, while one character ends up in an  asylum for the criminal insane for life. 

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Last week I saw four movies.  The Personal history of David Copperfield was probably the best.  It's probably foolish to try to fit in one of the most complicated novels in English literature in only two hours.  So this adaptation concentrates on the most amusing bits and touches of the novel.  Rather oddly, out of a whole host of minor characters, it is Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick who gets an undue amount of attention.  But actually it's one of his best performances in years.  Ben Whishaw is also good as Uriah Heep, while Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, and Morfydd Clark round out a strong cast.  While concentrating on the most amusing parts isn't really what David Copperfield is, but the movie is watchable enough.  Peggy Sue got Married is on the one hand a female version of Back to the Future, only it's not as funny as interesting.  A more sympathetic view would be that Kathleen Turner gives a good performance in a movie that could use more depth, while Nicolas Cage is surprisingly successful as someone who is not only impossible (admittedly that's not a stretch), but also someone who genuinely wants to be loving,

Conquest is one of seven Clarence Brown/Greta Garbo collaborations.  In this case Garbo plays a Polish countess who is asked to sway Napoleon, played by Charles Boyer, so he can restore Polish independence.  She falls in love with him anyway.   Boyer got a nomination, not  unreasonably to the extent that he's better than Garbo.  The movie is perhaps most interesting as a Hollywood take on a major historical figure Americans can look at with some neutrality.   As such there are several scenes of grandiloquent rhetoric which don't work well.  And there are some nice touches which show Boyer's virtues, such as  his final scene with his and Garbo's son.  Give me Liberty is an independent movie about a Russian-American medical driver who has a day from hell as a host of people try to drive him insane with their demands.  Supposedly this is a metaphor for America (a group of elderly Russian immigrant mourners basically hijack the vehicle to get to a funeral.  One of the driver's ordinary passengers, played by Lauren Spencer is a very irritated African-American woman with ALS.)  But since the people in the first half of the movie are some of the most irritating imaginable, people are likely to feel as much of the rest of the world often does about the United States.   The second half dials down the chaos, but in a way that is not altogether plausible.

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