Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


Recommended Posts

I saw three movies last week.  It turns out the question behind Postcards from the Edge is not whether Meryl Streep can do comedy as to whether director Mike Nichols can.  It's not that Streep does a bad job, or for that matter Shirley MacLaine as her mother.   But this tale of drug addiction and daughter/mother tension is ultimately too insubstantial and with stakes that are too low.  Fisher's screenplay is competent, although it's kind of odd to see the Reynolds/Fisher relationship played by better actors.  It could also be funnier.  A couple of years ago, Molly's Game came out, a movie about a woman and her financial skullduggery which offered the pleasures of Jessica Chastain's cleavage and an engaging script by Aaron Sorkin.  Well Hustlers also deals with women stealing money, and it offers Jennifer Lopez pole dancing to "Criminal" and a much less interesting script.  Constance Wu, as the nominal lead, is remarkably uninteresting.  Meanwhile the film clumsily telegraphs her outbreaks of conscience, scenes where we're supposed to be wary of Lopez, and offers a vision of sisterhood whether Wu and Lopez's accomplices are basically forgettable.  There is also some facile populist rhetoric, including a clunker of a last line.  So Salaam Bombay is the movie of the week, telling the story of criminality and poverty of 1988 Bombay.  It has some nice touches (a prostitute plays shadow animals with her young daughter, later the daughter happily tells her over the phone about a wind-up toy).  Could this grim story use more genius?  Certainly.   Is it, as one critic, a touch too professional? Certainly again (the western music is certainly unimaginative.)  But it's reasonably good on its own terms, and unlike the other two movies, it also has a real weight.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw four movies last week.  The first two were fine, rigorous movies focusing on women with unusual depth and insight.  Adoption is a 1975 Hungarian film about a middle aged widow who would like a child with a lover.  Since that lover is already married and already has children, he is, as one might imagine, unenthusiastic.  As that relationship dribbles away, the protagonist encounters a teenager who would like to marry itself.  The movie is interesting for a number of reasons.  It's in black and white, about half a decade when that was no longer the default for much of European cinema.  One can watch the movie and not realize that Hungary had a communist government.  Little effort is made to make the protagonist more engaging and audience friendly.  Vitalina Varela is the first movie from Pedro Costa that I've really appreciated.  It is certainly not an easy film to admire.  Partially a re-enactment of events that happened to the title character, played by herself.  Varela arrives from Cape Verde to Portugal, the former colonial power,   She has come to attend her husband;s funeral, who had abandoned her decades earlier, only to find that he was buried a few days earlier.  Nevertheless she sets herself up in the shack where he lived near other Cape Verdeans.  The camerawork consists of stationary shots, like a really depressed Ozu, but much longer.  Most of the film takes place at night, or in the shadows.  Much of the dialogue is spoken in little more than a whisper.  I found the austerity rather compelling. 

The two more audience friendly films are more disappointing.  The best thing one can say about Stand and Deliver is that Edward James Olmos, who will likely be best remembered as Commander Adama on the second and best Battlestar Galactica portrays his heroic calculus teacher as balding and a bit pudgy.  But the story is basically conventional, and it's not clear why he succeeds where hundreds of other equally driven teachers fail.  (I personally think there were lots of great songs from the eighties.  But the title tune played over the credits is manifestly not one of them.)  Antonia's Line is one of the more irritating movies I've seen recently.  Basically a feminist fantasy, it tells the story of how a Catholic village in the Netherlands after the war becomes a pagan matriarchy.  About half an hour or so it becomes clear that this is a film where the heroine and her (all female) descendants wins in a thoroughly facile way, with an unearned superiority solving all the problems.  Among other problems, politics are evaded, sex is sentimentalized, and the one incident of violence is rigged in a way that is cynical and crass as the most lowbrow of Hollywood films. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw three movies. I watched A Place for Lovers because it was directed by Vittorio de Sica, and because I remember it getting either a "BOMB" rating from Leonard Maltin, or some other source for bad movies.  Certainly this love story between a dying Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni has nothing special going for it.  But then I'm not the biggest Dunaway fan.  There's something so death haunted in her three most famous roles (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Network) that it hampers this more sentimental part.  The Erl King is a short feature, under fifty minutes, based on the Goethe ballad about a boy magically attacked by an elf king while his father tries to flee with him on horseback.  It's an OK film, although I thought it had a more optimistic ending than the original.  The Three Musketeers is yet another version of the novel, with Gene Kelly, Vincent Price and Lana Turner making an impression, and June Allyson making less of one as Kelly's supposed love interest.  I'm not sure any of the versions have been truly successful and I think the director George Sidney did better with the basic idea a few years later in Scaramouche.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yet another three movies this week.  The first two movies are more triumphs over censorship than of the cinematic art.  All my Countrymen is a Czechoslovak film from 1968 that is most remarkable for portraying the Communists who take over a Moravian farming village as nasty and stupid.  One might think the actual communists were both more ruthless and more popular.  One might also suggest that the photography is more pretty than beautiful ("look, we finally have color film!") while the characters could be more engaging.   Rafiki is a recent Kenyan example of the lesbian coming of age film.  Given that homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, the film is somewhat forced to be tasteful.  The characters are more middle class than most Kenyans (the fathers are both politicians and the protagonist goes to college to become a doctor.)  The conclusion is conveniently, and unconvincingly, optimistic.  Suburban Birds is a more interesting film, with young people surveying potholes, and a group of young children wandering around the suburbs of their Chinese city.  This enigmatic movies has touches of Zhangke and Weerasethakul, though one might wish the children were a little more lively and interesting. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw six movies.  Let's start with the three Hammer Horror movies, The Curse of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Created Woman and Frankenstein must be Destroyed.  Denounced as excessively violent at the time by the moralists of the day, they now appear as a transition to the more bloody movies like The Exorcist or Carrie.  The sense that they were becoming obsolete in this respect appears most clearly in Destroyed, where a rape scene was inserted to the annoyance of both actors involved and the director, and the act is never referred to again in the movie.  Certainly there is nothing as shocking in Curse as Karloff's killing of a child in the Universal picture.  As movies there is clearly a problem of diminishing returns.  That there were seven of these movies (six with Cushing) is kind of preposterous.  On the one hand, you'd think that scientists would get interested in his experiments.  On the other hand, the fact that his attempts to revive the dead always go wrong become increasingly ripe for parody.  The atmosphere is interesting, and there are odd touches.  (Such as Cushing maturing in Curse in a few years from a teenager to a man in his forties while Robert Urquhart stays the same age.)  The most appealing aspect is Cushing himself, with a combination of ruthlessness and intelligence, which is most appealing in Woman.  Here his superiority to the rest of the cast is most evident and he almost saves the day.  Yet though the series made him a star, it's  not the best use of his talents.

The 1964 The Killers has engaging aspects.  Lee Marvin is good, but there's not enough of him.  Some of the dialogue is good (mostly from Marvin, including his last line).  It's certainly interesting to see Ronald Reagan as a criminal business man, and just before he started his unbelievably successful career.  On the other hand he's arguably a bit stiff.  And the Cassavetes/Dickinson relationship is too superficial and too long winded to support the enigma of the original Hemingway story.  There's also the problem that Reagan has no reason to pimp Dickinson out as he does, and that the intelligent Marvin should have found out the truth about the two of them before the climax.  Oh well, nice try.  Waves is a family drama  set in Florida.  The first half deals with pressure the older teenage son, Kelvin Harrison, Jr.,  faces a number of typical adolescent problems (a cold father, an athletic career derailed by an injury, an unwanted pregnancy) which gets increasingly worse, and then goes dramatically off the rails halfway through the movie making one think whether the fact the family is black  is more important than we'd been led to believe.  It certainly makes one think they desperately need a better lawyer.  Instead of dealing with this, Taylor Russell as the daughter meets cute with Lucas Hedges, eventually has nice sex with him, helps him get a epiphany with his own obnoxious,dying father, while her family deals with the trauma at hand is a way that does not add up.  It's quite pretty.

So that brings us to Tomka and His Friends, as the movie of the week.  This 1977 movie is the first Albanian movie I've ever seen. It's very much an ideological movie, though here it's an odd time capsule of the Popular Front ideology of the wartime resistance it covers, rather than the high Stalinism of the Hoxha regime.  (There is a clumsy scene where the Resistance emphasizes that former Italian soldiers are welcome to join, even though Albania's relationship with 1977 Italy was as bad as it was with almost all of the rest of the planet).   As a genre, the obvious comparison is with other Eastern bloc pictures that have children in the second world war.  Is it as good as Ivan's Childhood or Come and See?  Of course not.  And one imagines that there were plenty of films in the Eastern Bloc that dealt with children resisting the Nazis, and that TCM only showed this one because it was directed by a woman.  And one wonders how this trope worked in Romania and Hungary, where there was no resistance worthy of the name.  But this isn't to deny a certain skill in filming the very mountainous country, as if the homes were carved out of the rocks, and a certain competence as the anecdotes slowly add up to a climax. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw four movies.  The Best Man is based on a play where Henry Fonda, Lee Tracy and Cliff Robertson play variations on Stevenson, Truman and a pre-presidential Nixon.  Is the movie as good as the other 1964 movie where instead of running for president, Fonda actually got to be president?  No.  Is it as good as the other 1964 political thriller where Burt Lancaster played a dangerous right-wing extremist?  Again, no.  But it is certainly watchable, with some good lines ("Oh well, the world's sure changed since I was politickin'. In those days, we had to pour God over everything like ketchup.")  And using the convention as a backdrop is engaging enough.  The Devil Rides Out is not the most horrifying of horror films.  It's certainly not in the same class as the other 1968 movie about Satanism, Rosemary's Baby.  Basically its pleasures consist of Christopher Lee and Charles Gray playing the hero and villain as Lee tries to stop a cult of devil worshippers.   And on those terms it's acceptable. 

Dos Monjes is an early Mexican movie where two monks recognize each other from the tragic past before they took holy orders.  It's worth watching again, as the director quickly learned a lot from German expressionists.  Richard Jewell is one of Eastwood's better examples of Americana.  With a somewhat less padded plot than Sully, this story of a man unjustly accused works well on its own terms, even if the Olivia Wilde character is probably egregiously inaccurate.  Kathy Bates got a supporting actress nomination, largely for one scene near the end where she begs Bill Clinton to exonerate her son.  But Sam Rockwell does a better job as Jewell's mildly disreputable lawyer.  Paul Walter Hauser is also good as the title character, at times irritatingly schlubbish, at others much more than that (the scene where he makes clear he knows the investigators are condescending to him is a high light.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw another four movies last week.  The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum is, like the other three Volker Schlondorff movies I've seen, based on a prestigious novel (in this case a novel by German nobel laureate Heinrich Boll).  Unlike the other three movies of Schlondorff I've seen, I hadn't actually read the novel in question.  Does that make it a better movie, since I didn't care too much for the previous ones?  Not really.  Angela Winkler plays the victim in a sort of Absence of Malice scenario where she is the victim of deliberate journalistic malice instead of sloppiness, as she is falsely accused of abetting terrorism.  But while the Springer press was international notorious for its right-wing gutter journalism, Winkler is more pretty than engaging .  Mario Adorf is better as the corrupt cop who bullies her. 

Whistling in the Dark is a Red Skelton comedy and part of a series of movies which I watched because I liked the premise.  Skelton's radio star is kidnapped by religious con artist Conrad Veidt and his circle because they want him to think up a perfect murder.  As it happens the "perfect murder" isn't that clever (it's simply an undetectable poison).  Nowadays Veidt would just send a goon to go to the public library and look through murder mystery novels until they found a solution.  Though apparently Skelton does do a trick with a telephone that allows him to contact people which I should have kept in mind in case I'm ever kidnapped.

Shoes is an early silent feature which TCM showed because it was directed by a woman.  Lois Weber filmed this short film about a woman who sleeps with a man in order to get desperately needed new shoes. It's OK, and could have been much more melodramatic.  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood works better than I thought it would.   It's one of Hanks' better performances actually, showing someone disarmingly simple and good, even if the story about a journalist with family issues is somewhat fictional and contrived.  Actually, growing up in small town Canada where I only had two television channels, I only knew Fred Rogers by occasional allusion.  (The one that struck most in my mind was a typically cruel National Lampoon cartoon).  And despite what seems to be a vaguely Oprahish quality of the material, Rogers was actually a Presbyterian minister. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw three movies.  Primary Colors is a comedy about politicians I don't particularly care for (the Clintons), based on a novel by a journalist I like even less (Joe Klein), and made by a director I consider overrated (Mike Nichols).  The result is as underwhelming as you might expect, with a forgettable POV character played by Adrian Lester, while Emma Thompson is simply wasted playing the Hilary character.  There is a scene where Elaine May gets to show some of her screenwriting chops, where Billy Bob Thornton's James Carville character starts with an ostentatiously folky analogy that the other characters don't get.  But as political satires go, it's fairly bland.  Kathy Bates does get more to do here than in her other two Best Supporting Actress nominee roles.  Synonyms is a more interesting movie.  Tom Mercier is a young Israeli who has moved to Paris and tells the young French couple he meets that he is escaping Israel.  and yet he also works as security at the Israeli mission, and hangs out will one belligerent Israeli who's interested in playing Fight Club with neo-Nazis.  Mercier is good as the confused protagonist, the movie could be better, with a contrived presentation of French secularism undercutting the conclusion. 

So the movie of the week is  Un Carnet du Bal.  This movie about a relatively young widow who tracks down all the men who danced with her one night twenty years earlier  does not have the most profound theme, or the best performance from its lead Marie Bell.  It also ends abruptly, or at least the version TCM showed did.  But the series of stories do have good performances.  Among the standouts are Franoise Rosay, as the mother of one of the dancers, Harry Baur as a dancer who became a priest, Louis Jouvet as a former lawyer/criminal nightclub owner and Raimu as a mayor about to be remarried with a wastrel son. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw four movies last week.  Pinky basically takes what was most problematic about Gentleman's Agreement and double-downs on it, that is by viewing racial prejudice through the victimizing of someone who is clearly not a member of the group in question.  It's not so much that Jeanne Crain gives a bad performance, but she clearly is not "mixed-race" and does not look remotely like Ethel Waters' granddaughter.  Also it's hard to make a movie about interracial relationships while not striving to break the movie code prohibition against such relationships.  Ethel Barrymore does give a good supporting performance.  The Nightingale is sort of a feminist Australian The Revenant, except that it takes place in Tasmania.  As such it is not as visually audacious as that film.  The take on revenge also does not end up that much morally superior.  The film does show British violence against the soon to be almost extinct aboriginal population in a way that reveals it was truly appalling in its cruelty and casualness. But the key act of violence near the beginning does beg some questions of whether the British treatment of its convicts was in any way comparable. 

Alien from L.A. is a misconceived movie in every respect.  Oddly filmed (it appears to be slightly slower than it should be), it''s also confusingly plotted, such that the crucial plot points are never clear or well developed.  And since the only reason most people would want to see the film is to look at Kathy Ireland, much of it is shot in shadow and the dark.  The Sea Wolves is an odd 1980 film in its ordinariness.  Watching this story about a British raid on the Portuguese colony of Goa to take out a transmitter helping u-boats in the Indian ocean, one wonders how much of it could have been made twenty years earlier.  Most of it could be, and it stars both Gregory Peck and David Niven in a jauntier version of The Guns of Navarone.  There are a few scenes where the British show themselves to be more ruthless than they did in the fifties (so more Dr. No then).  There are a couple of swear words, almost ostentatious because of their rarity.  Roger Moore is allowed a sexual relationship with Barbara Kellerman, taking most of the movie before realizing she's a Nazi agent, but not before she kills Trevor Howard.  But this is actually a movie which puts Gregory Peck to good use, showing his toughness and strength.

Also, just to remind myself, I rewatched L'Eclisse and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

i saw three movies  last week.  The Chapman Report is an early attempt to deal with sexuality before most censorship issues ended.  The movie is not especially thoughtful, but George Cukor does a good job directing a fundamentally middlebrow task.  One thing about having genuine movie actresses like Shelley Winters, Jane Fonda, Claire Bloom and Glynnis Jones in contrast to a bunch of male television actors is that it makes the men in the relationships look even shallower.  It's interesting that the movie ends with the sex psychiatrist saying most American women are sexually normal.  And that's true since there's nothing abnormal about two middle aged women married to dull men interested in adultery, nor in a widow being unenthusiastic about sex after being maltreated by her late husband.  Torch Song is about a brilliant actress and singer who is demanding at the beginning, and increasingly insufferable as the movie goes on.  Naturally she's played by Joan Crawford.  Nevertheless she finds love at the end.  Marjorie Rambeau got a supporting Actress nomination  as Crawford's mother.  Toy Story 4 is much better than I thought it would be.  Pixar has been having a bit of a creative slump, with too many sequels, and this is the best movie they've made since Inside Out.  It's certainly exciting, with lot of tense situations, with Tom Hanks trying to rescue his new child's favorite toy, a spork she made in kindergarten.  Kirsten Schall appears as a toy triceratops.  Annie Potts returns as Bo Peep.  A bit disappointingly the little green men who saved the day in Toy Story 3 don't get much to do.  It does make me curious why, having liked the second and third movies so much, I have shown so little curiosity in rewatching the first movie. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw four movies.  Running on Empty was probably the best of these.  River Phoenix got a supporting actor nomination.  He's good, but he's arguably the lead.  Christine Lahti is also good as his fugitive mother.  Judd Hirsch has to play the less sympathetic role, and while one may guess the ending, the movie does have a certain emotional weight.  Bloody Mama is Roger Corman's version of the Ma Barker story.  There isn't much to say about this unpleasant woman and her violent, somewhat degenerate family, except that unlike Bonnie and Clyde, nobody could accuse the movie of sentimentalizing its subjects.  The Lure is a variation of "The Little Mermaid," complete with losing one's voice and turning to sea foam out of unrequited love.  That's all to the good.  The movie is also a metaphor for abused female sexuality, except the fact that the mermaids are also carnivorous and at one point they're told they're not really human undercuts the metaphor.  And the movie as well, frankly. 

Avengers Endgame is the climactic movie in about 20 Marvel Universe movies.  What does it have?  Well it does have an interesting and rather long climactic CGI battle.  It does have a complicated time travel plot which does make sense if I paid more attention to it (the basic idea is that when you go back in the past and change things, you don't change the past, you create an alternate reality.  As such present self can kill past self, because that past self isn't really the "past" but from an alternate reality).  It actually provides a reasonable and almost moving end for its two lead characters, who in the actual comics never quite had the popularity the series gave them.  Both Marvel, the studio and the viewers owe Robert Downey Jr., a lot. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I saw five movies over the last two weeks, one the first week, four this week.  Honeyland takes place in North Macedonia, about a late middle-aged woman living with her elderly mother with a special practice of bee-keeping.  A new family comes to her isolated area.  But after a friendly start, commercial pressures and the father's mistakes lead to most of her bees dying.  It's  a visually striking movie.  High Society is more an interesting example of oscar trivia than an interesting movie.  It is not the Grace Kelly movie but a Bowery Boys movie that came out a year earlier, but got a nomination for best story from people who obviously confused it with the musical.  I've never seen a Bowery Boys movie before.  But TCM Canada is showing them instead of Laurel and Hardy.  Apparently their humor, which in this case involves Boys getting used in an inheritance swindle, relies heavily on malapropism.  I can live with that.  I had never seen White Christmas, probably influenced by a two star review in Maltin's guide.  So the actual movie was a bit better than that.  There's not much to the frame story of Crosby and Kaye helping out their old general Dean Jagger.  Nor is their much to the protagonists' relationships with Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney.  And while "Sisters" is a good standard, there's little need to sing it twice in twenty minutes.  But Ellen is a good dancer, and the four dance scenes are pretty good.

The Joy Luck Club was more disappointing.  This story of four Chinese-American women and their four Chinese born mothers has some problems.  One is that the stories tend to blur with each other.  Three of the daughters have problems with their husbands, the daughters usually disappoint their demanding mothers, and the mothers' experiences back in China tends to easily trump them.  Two of the mothers' stories involve variations of Raise the Red Lantern, while a third involves an awful husband.  And the note of generational reconciliation at the end of the movie appears forced.  So TCM should stick with reshowing A Brighter Summer Day, along with the fifties dramas of Hou Hsiao-hsien.  Another Year is another standout drama from Mike Leigh.  This story of a happy couple and their unhappy friends isn't quite as impressive as Leigh's previous Happy Go Lucky, and doesn't have the concentration that Leigh's next film Mr. Turner had.  But it works well enough.  Lesley Manville is very good as the most prominent of Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen's friends.  The critics groups were divided over whether her role was lead or supporting.  I'm going to go with supporting. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw four movies.  Hell's Heroes is William Wyler's take on the "Three Godfathers" tale, and I think it actually works better than the Ford version.  Difficulties in sound recording mean there isn't music blaring overhead as the characters wander in the desert, and that actually helps.  The movie is noticeably terse and striking in its abruptness.  And the fact that all three godfathers die in this version (John Wayne survives in Ford's) is distinctly more tough minded.  Come to the Stable got  seven Oscar nominations, a high number for a movie not nominated for best picture, and also because TCM doesn't seem to show it often.  This story of two nuns seeking to build a children's hospital.  and succeeding by everyone recognizing their superior virtue.  It's a forgettable, pious trifle (at least in Lillies of the Field the mother Superior puts more pressure on Sidney Poitier), and not in the class of The Bells of Saint Mary. 

City Hall is the first movie of this year that I actually liked.  Admittedly I've only seen two others from this year.  Frederick Wiseman's latest is about how Boston municipal government works.  So we see Boston's mayor making speeches, an aid for veterans meeting, a community meeting about a new cannabis shop, one of the best renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" on film, and quite a lot more in the four and a half hour running time.  Dark Waters is a film about corporate wrong-doing that was given to Todd Haynes for reasons that are not immediately apparent.  So the misc-en-scene is a permanently overcast Ohio and West Virginia, which is not to say that's a bad thing.   The story is good so far as it goes.  Mark Ruffalo is not as charismatic as presence as Julia Roberts was in Erin Brockovich or George Clooney in Michael Clayton.  And the issues raised aren't as profound as in The Insider.  Nevertheless the growing weight on Ruffalo's character does have a real effect, such that one is almost disappointed in his briefly told victory. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw four movies last week.  Let's start with the last two movies of 2020.  The Belly of an Architect stars the late Brian Dennehy as the title character, whose suspicions that his wife is trying to poison him while he is overseeing an exhibition in Rome are replaced by his reaction when he learns he is dying of stomach cancer.  As is often the case in Peter Greenaway films, the characters are not very sympathetic with the seduced and the seducer being particularly unpleasant.  That might not be a problem, but Greenaway smugly treating his actors like chess pieces is never a valuable experience.  On the other hand Dennehy does give an increasingly better performance, even if the movie does not show the malevolent ingenuity of Drowning by Numbers.  The score is also interesting.  Destroyer has Nicole Kidman as a brunette, looking her age, and being a bitter cop who is out for revenge.  As such the story of a flawed desperate individual isn't particularly profound.  This isn't the best dirty cop movie I saw this year, though Kidman does give it her all.  The concluding music is also good.

Murphy's Romance is a competent picture of small town life in Arizona, with James Garner doing a good job as the title character, Sally Field as the love interest, and a reasonably competent storyline.  Garner didn't deserve his oscar nomination, but it wasn't an egregiously bad choice.  The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry offers the interesting picture of George Sanders playing a schnook bullied by his sister played by Geraldine Fitzgerald.  It's an interesting performance, and Fitzgerald is good too, but the ending is pretty much indefensible. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I saw three movies last week, two the week before.  The Star Prince is an early silent movie that deals with a child who comes down from the stars, and has to learn humility.  The movie has an all child cast, but it is too diffuse and poorly structured to be as charming as it could be.  Lucia is a  Cuban movie that deals with women in three eras of that country's history---the war for independence, the thirties and the revolutionary present (early sixties) In each era a woman, named Lucia deals with the politics of the day through the man she's attached to.  In fact the movie shows both visual  flair, good performances from each of the three Lucias and different ways of presenting the material (historical melodrama in the first, sex comedy in the second). 

Our Mother's House certainly has some effect in its story of seven children who have to pretend their mother is still alive after she dies.  The theme would be dealt with again, and the unplesantness involved is not particularly thoughtful.  But the children have a certain edge as they've been brainwashed by their fanatical mother, before facing their awful father,  played by Dirk Bogarde.  Not quite "This be the Verse," but still...  Witness to Murder certainly shows that actors don't make a movie, since Barbara Stanwyck and George Sanders can't save this movie which is surprisingly similar to Rear Window.  One can still wonder whether the screenwriter or the director are to blame, since neither do the story any favors.  By contrast, Action in the North Atlantic is surprisingly effective.  Bogart has relatively little to do in the movie, except for a scene where he hits a chatterbox who won't shut up about shipping routes.  This occurs after his ship was just sunk by a torpedo and he had to spend 11 days on a raft after the submarine rammed his lifeboat.  But the action sequences involving sunken ships are genuinely effective  and exciting, and they overshadow the expected propaganda line. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw five movies.  Jazz on a Summer's Day was probably the best.  With Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, Chuck Berry, and Louis Armstrong, what's not to like?  The Falcon and the Snowman is a 1985 movie directed by John Schlesinger, and for his enemies, it demonstrates his vices.  Timothy Hutton's character (the "falcon" because he has one) is key to the movie, a man so upset at CIA manipulations that he feels compelled to deliver secrets to the Soviet Union.  But this was hardly a popular position to take, and certainly not after Regan's re-election.  So there is a vacuity in both the script and in his performance.  Indeed the movie is best known today, if at all, because of Sean Penn (the "Snowman,"  called that because he deals cocaine) and the slight boost this gave to his early career.  Indeed the best part of the movie consists of the middle third of the movie where he runs around Mexico City, trying to give information to the soviet embassy and being so generally annoying that you wouldn't blame his Soviet handler, played by David Suchet, from just capping him in the head.

Love Crazy is a Powell/Loy comedy which I found more frenetic than successfully farcical.  (Powell has to pretend to be crazy so Loy can't divorce him, and then can't convince people he's sane when he's sent to a sanitarium).  After the Curfew is an early film from a country that has not had the film industry it deserve, Indonesia.  It deals with the common theme, more evident in literature than in commercial film about a young man disillusioned with the aftermath of the war/revolution that he sacrificed so much so.  (In this case Indonesia's war of independence against the Dutch.)  It's an interesting movie, though somewhat generic.  The male characters dress in Western clothes, there's little or no mention of either the Dutch colonizers or the overwhelmingly Islamic population.  Bacurau is one of the most admired films of 2020, though it came out in 2019.  This starts as a film about villagers living under various injustices, such as a dispute that has cut off their water.  Then about a third of the way through it,, it becomes increasingly clear that the powers that be have sicked brutal mercenaries on them.  So then it turns into a sort of Brazilian Seven Samurai, but without the samurai.  It's certainly an engaging and effective movie that way. 

Have I seen Red Dust before?  I'm going to say I must have.  It's not just that I saw the movie remade as Mogambo.  The movie has apparently been shown at least twice a year, and I don't think its likely that last week was the first time it's been on TCM Canada.   But I haven't recorded it on this thread.  Certainly Gable and Harlow are a very sultry couple.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Last week I saw six movies, none of whom were all that impressive I'm afraid.  It could happen to you stars Nicolas Cage in his pre-Leaving Las Vegan days when he played sane characters.  In this story about a cop who feels compelled to give half of his lottery winnings to a waitress because he promised to in the absence of a proper tip, Cage is nice, pleasant but not particularly deep.  Bridget Fonda is pretty and fetching in a few places, but overall is even shallower.  When I watching Justice League I thought to myself that this looks like a Zach Snyder movie that someone called Joss Wheedon to do some script-doctoring.  It turns out that is pretty close to the case.  Although the plot of this movie and The Avengers has independent origins, the overall plot, involving various mcguffins that are part of a plot of a Bigger Bad in the future are strikingly similar, to Justice League's detriment.  The contrast between Ben Affleck's dour Batman and Robert Downey Jr's nomination worthy Tony Stark is quite striking,  especially since Batman is a key figure in popular culture, while Iron Man was for decades one of the least interesting of Marvel heroes. 

The Children's Hour actually raises the issue of lesbianism that William Wyler couldn't raise in These Three.  Generally it's thought that this didn't improve matters, though I thought the scene where Shirley MacLaine admits she has same-sex feelings did have some power.  And also Hepburn walking past Garner at the end.  Fay Bainter got an oscar nomination as the grandmother of the malevolent girl behind the false rumours, and she does bring some dignity to an unsympathetic role.  When A Stranger Calls starts off with the dramatization of the urban legend that I heard about when I was a chilld.  There's little in the rest of the movie with that kind of power.  Charles Durning can be a good actor, but he is not given much to do as the protagonist trying to find the killer seven years later.  As it happens, said killer is not particularly competent until the end of the movie.  And one wonders why it's so hard to find him.  Granted that he escaped from an asylum, you'd still think it would be easy for the authorities to tell people what he looks like, and there'd be a general desire to catch him.

Finally there are two  movies about God.  Yes, God, Yes is about a repressed Catholic girl growing up in the nineties who gradually learns that her fellow Catholics are hypocrites about sex.  Ultimately she learns to relax and enjoy **** in a rather predictable tale.  George Burns is clearly the best thing about Oh God! providing his lines with a certain wit and gravity.  Unfortunately more of the movies deals with John Denver who tends to magnify the movie's self-seriousness.  This is the lesser of the two 1988 Teri Garr roles where she plays wife to a crazy husband.  Paul Sorvino plays an insufferable evangelist as well. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, skimpole said:

Last week I saw six movies, none of whom were all that impressive I'm afraid.  It could happen to you stars Nicolas Cage in his pre-Leaving Las Vegan days when he played sane characters.  In this story about a cop who feels compelled to give half of his lottery winnings to a waitress because he promised to in the absence of a proper tip, Cage is nice, pleasant but not particularly deep.  Bridget Fonda is pretty and fetching in a few places, but overall is even shallower.  When I watching Justice League I thought to myself that this looks like a Zach Snyder movie that someone called Joss Wheedon to do some script-doctoring.  It turns out that is pretty close to the case.  Although the plot of this movie and The Avengers has independent origins, the overall plot, involving various mcguffins that are part of a plot of a Bigger Bad in the future are strikingly similar, to Justice League's detriment.  The contrast between Ben Affleck's dour Batman and Robert Downey Jr's nomination worthy Tony Stark is quite striking,  especially since Batman is a key figure in popular culture, while Iron Man was for decades one of the least interesting of Marvel heroes. 

The Children's Hour actually raises the issue of lesbianism that William Wyler couldn't raise in These Three.  Generally it's thought that this didn't improve matters, though I thought the scene where Shirley MacLaine admits she has same-sex feelings did have some power.  And also Hepburn walking past Garner at the end.  Fay Bainter got an oscar nomination as the grandmother of the malevolent girl behind the false rumours, and she does bring some dignity to an unsympathetic role.  When A Stranger Calls starts off with the dramatization of the urban legend that I heard about when I was a chilld.  There's little in the rest of the movie with that kind of power.  Charles Durning can be a good actor, but he is not given much to do as the protagonist trying to find the killer seven years later.  As it happens, said killer is not particularly competent until the end of the movie.  And one wonders why it's so hard to find him.  Granted that he escaped from an asylum, you'd still think it would be easy for the authorities to tell people what he looks like, and there'd be a general desire to catch him.

Finally there are two  movies about God.  Yes, God, Yes is about a repressed Catholic girl growing up in the nineties who gradually learns that her fellow Catholics are hypocrites about sex.  Ultimately she learns to relax and enjoy **** in a rather predictable tale.  George Burns is clearly the best thing about Oh God! providing his lines with a certain wit and gravity.  Unfortunately more of the movies deals with John Denver who tends to magnify the movie's self-seriousness.  This is the lesser of the two 1988 Teri Garr roles where she plays wife to a crazy husband.  Paul Sorvino plays an insufferable evangelist as well. 

"Charles Durning can be a good actor, but he is not given much to do as the protagonist trying to find the killer seven years later."

I always found Charles Durning realistic and almost always seemed perfectly cast...an example being the flatfoot cop chasing down Robert Redford in THE STING.  

I am a big fan of character actors vs. leading role actors. 

He had a marvelous turn as the "Governor" in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. He performed a charming, comical song and dance rendition of "The Sidestep" in that film. Always loved that bit. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MrMagoo said:

"Charles Durning can be a good actor, but he is not given much to do as the protagonist trying to find the killer seven years later."

I always found Charles Durning realistic and almost always seemed perfectly cast...an example being the flatfoot cop chasing down Robert Redford in THE STING.  

I am a big fan of character actors vs. leading role actors. 

He had a marvelous turn as the "Governor" in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. He performed a charming, comical song and dance rendition of "The Sidestep" in that film. Always loved that bit. 

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) - Sidestep Scene (8/10) | Movieclips - YouTube

It starts at about the 2:00 mark...enjoy!

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

As it happened, I saw another six movies this week.  Let's start with the three failures.  When I started watching The Conqueror I thought, while it's obvious that John Wayne is a ludicrous choice to play Genghis Khan, maybe it could work if it's a sot of generic sword and tribal fight enterprise.  Sort of like Conan the middle-aged barbarian.  But the movie is both pompously written and ultimately unengaging.  There's not much to the Susan Hayward subplot ("her hate turns to love") and it's not even clear why one would make a film about the Mongols inn the first place, given the incredibly destructive nature of their empire.  And yet it appears on theyshootpictures top 24000 movies it looks at in thinking about the top 1000, and not at the very bottom.  It would have been a better idea to try to film the original The Food of the Gods novel.  To be fair, having a movie with so many rats is a bit creepy, even if the special effects are not good in making them appear the same size as the actors.  But the ending is silly (they're on an island in the middle of a lake, but there's a damn which, though far away from them, allows them to drown the rats.)  Avalanche Express also did not get a good reputation, nor does it deserve  one.  This story about Americans trying to rescue a high profile Soviet defector, while at the same time using him as a stalking horse to bring out Soviet sleeper agents isn't necessarily a bad idea.  But this story contains as a key action sequence an avalanche that is both implausibly large and implausibly slow.  Likewise, Americans can apparently copy Dutch patrol ships and equip them with the ability to fire torpedoes at a moment's notice.

The Carey Treatment was not liked by its producers, or by its director, Blake Edwards, who didn't like the way the producers treated him.  The audience and the critics didn't care for it much either.  Yet I think James Coburn is quite good as the title character, a tough, cool doctor trying to find out who is responsible for a fatal and horribly botched abortion.  Sleeping Beauty has interesting visuals, a truly unpleasant villain in Maleficient and enough nostalgic status to overcome its oddities.  among them are a lack of memorable songs, the blandest of all Disney  heroines, and some peculiar plot holes (what good does it do to put the entire kingdom asleep?)  Perhaps the oddest fact is the three late middle aged fairy godmothers are the real heroes of the movie.  Sorry We Missed You is the movie of the week.  I must say I dreaded watching this movie about precarious pseudo self-employment,since obviously Ken Loach wouldn't be making this movie if the delivery man set-up was not grossly unfair.  But Loach in the movie prefers a slow burn, or a slow pressure squeezing the life out of the family in question.  So slowly in fact, that is not complete at the movie's end.  And why should it be?  Who's going to put a stop to it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched a bunch of movies this week. I DVR all kinds of stuff.

My favorite this week was CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. I can't say I watch a lot of Sidney Poitier movies but man, the guy can act. I had seen Hitchcock's LIFEBOAT (I like Hume Cronyn) a while back and was vaguely familiar with Canada Lee. This was his last of only a handful of movies....his star turn I would guess.  He died young, only 45.  For 1951, a story about apartheid and South Africa must have been ground breaking. It was very good.

My wife and I  streamed FIRST COW last night. Another fine movie. A little slow, moody at times. However, it really captured 1820's wilderness life. It looked like a dreadful time to live. It reminded me in many ways of the late Rip Torn/Conchata Ferrell film, HEARTLAND, Mary Steenburgen's CROSS CREEK and the Bruce Beresford directed BLACK ROBE.  I thought it was well directed. Many fine sets and poignant scenes.

My least favorite movies of week were a couple of sci fi flicks I DVR'd. THE SWARM (what were the actors thinking?) and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Simply dreadful.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw three movies last week.  The first two were Lana Turner movies I saw because TCM Canada wasn't going to show Body and Soul.  Slightly Dangerous is a comedy where things get worse because the characters act in a clearly silly and irrational way, while true love helps fill some gaping plot holes.  Lana Turner was never best known for comedy and Robert Young is even less impressive.  Ziegfeld Girl  resembles other backstage musicals, except in having a comic plot, the three actresses have soap opera plots.  This is not really an improvement, and Ziegfeld numbers are not particularly impressive anyway.  Carlito's Way has slowly been improving its critical reputation since its release in 1993.  It turns out that Pacino did not choose to be in a De Palma movie after Scarface nearly destroyed his career.  In its defense, Pacino is comparatively sober and serious, there are some effective sequences, some signature tracking shots, including the climax, and there is a good use of "You are so Beautiful to me."  But ultimately the relationships or characters are not as deep as in Heat or Casino two years later. Nor is the script as memorable.  (And why kill Pacino's character when he is about to leave the country forever?)

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/7/2021 at 4:01 AM, skimpole said:

As it happened, I saw another six movies this week.  Let's start with the three failures.  When I started watching The Conqueror I thought, while it's obvious that John Wayne is a ludicrous choice to play Genghis Khan, maybe it could work if it's a sot of generic sword and tribal fight enterprise.  Sort of like Conan the middle-aged barbarian.  But the movie is both pompously written and ultimately unengaging.  There's not much to the Susan Hayward subplot ("her hate turns to love") and it's not even clear why one would make a film about the Mongols inn the first place, given the incredibly destructive nature of their empire.  And yet it appears on theyshootpictures top 24000 movies it looks at in thinking about the top 1000, and not at the very bottom.  It would have been a better idea to try to film the original The Food of the Gods novel.  To be fair, having a movie with so many rats is a bit creepy, even if the special effects are not good in making them appear the same size as the actors.  But the ending is silly (they're on an island in the middle of a lake, but there's a damn which, though far away from them, allows them to drown the rats.)  Avalanche Express also did not get a good reputation, nor does it deserve  one.  This story about Americans trying to rescue a high profile Soviet defector, while at the same time using him as a stalking horse to bring out Soviet sleeper agents isn't necessarily a bad idea.  But this story contains as a key action sequence an avalanche that is both implausibly large and implausibly slow.  Likewise, Americans can apparently copy Dutch patrol ships and equip them with the ability to fire torpedoes at a moment's notice.

The Carey Treatment was not liked by its producers, or by its director, Blake Edwards, who didn't like the way the producers treated him.  The audience and the critics didn't care for it much either.  Yet I think James Coburn is quite good as the title character, a tough, cool doctor trying to find out who is responsible for a fatal and horribly botched abortion.  Sleeping Beauty has interesting visuals, a truly unpleasant villain in Maleficient and enough nostalgic status to overcome its oddities.  among them are a lack of memorable songs, the blandest of all Disney  heroines, and some peculiar plot holes (what good does it do to put the entire kingdom asleep?)  Perhaps the oddest fact is the three late middle aged fairy godmothers are the real heroes of the movie.  Sorry We Missed You is the movie of the week.  I must say I dreaded watching this movie about precarious pseudo self-employment,since obviously Ken Loach wouldn't be making this movie if the delivery man set-up was not grossly unfair.  But Loach in the movie prefers a slow burn, or a slow pressure squeezing the life out of the family in question.  So slowly in fact, that is not complete at the movie's end.  And why should it be?  Who's going to put a stop to it?

doan forget his terrific performance in Dog Day Afternoon as NYC Police Detective Sgt. Eugene Moretti. he shoulda won a best supporting actor oscar for that.

"we got 250 cops out here. we don't know what the ****s going on in there!"

Image result for charles durning dog day afternoon

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw three movies last week.  Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice immediately got a reputation of one of the most pompous and humorless superhero films.  Seeing it make clear it well deserves that reputation.  I was not a big fan of the Burton/Schumacher and Nolan Batman films, but nobody wanted to make them more portentous and lugubrious.  It's bad enough that Bruce Wayne is successfully manipulated by Lex Luthor, but that this Luthor is a preening, obvious idiot played by Jesse Eisenberg just makes it worse.  And the main intellectual point of the movie, that Superman is too powerful and careless of ordinary humans' lives is undercut by the fact that such traits were less part of the original character, but arose because Zach Snyder arranged a big battle scene in the previous movie that indulged in massive carnage.  Al Capone is a competent version of the thug's life.  Apparently Rod Steiger held out for a less romanticized version.  In this case, more power to him.  The latest version of The Invisible Man starts off subtly and Elizabeth Moss gives a good performance as the woman in peril.  One wonders that so much focus is on her that the villain appears as unreasoned malevolence, not a quality one wants to encourage in Hollywood. But as the movie goes on, it becomes clear that not only does the villain not have a real personality, his plan is increasingly nonsensical, with an extra retribution scene that begs all sort of questions. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
© 2021 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...