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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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23 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

I'm sure the words suggested by the censor's asterisks are far more colorful that the word you wrote. I'm very curious though. Can you spell it phonetically? 

Schm...rhymes with duck.

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On 7/11/2021 at 3:45 AM, skimpole said:

 

Solo is a bland entry into the Star Wars franchise.  The only real question is whether Alden Ehrenreich is any match for Harrison Ford.  And the answer is not remotely.  Woody Harrelson has more charisma than the rest of the cast combined and he's one of the bad guys. 

I agree that Ehrenreich could not hope to fill in Harrison Ford's shoes. We really did not need a backstory on Han Solo anyway. 

I only watch the prequals and the original trilogy nowadays. As far as I'm concerned the space opera saga ended with RETURN OF THE JEDI.

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39 minutes ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

I only believe in the initial 3 films.  

Yes, I prefer the original trilogy myself, but on the whole I make myself watch them and the prequals at least once a year.

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I saw three movies last week, all romances of a sort.  The Snows of Kilimanjaro works best if you don't realize that the original ending was changed to a happier one.  Notwithstanding that, Gregory Peck does project a certain strength.  Chilly Scenes of Winter was based on a popular novel that initiated a short lived literary fad called minimalism.  It doesn't seem to be a very promising one, since the main problem about the unsuccessful love affair between John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt is  a certain lack of weight in the characters.  Whatever you think of them, they could be a bit more interesting (such in the way John Heard and Lisa Eichorn are in Cutter's way.)  No Regrets for our Youth is sort of the Japanese The Mortal Storm about the less than successful resistance to the Showa dictatorship.  (It's notable that at one point that at a couple of points the protagonist is berated by the population, and not simply the government for her opposition) In stark contrast to Mizoguchi and Ozu, it is one of the few, possibly the only one of Kurosawa's movies that focuses on a woman.  It does have the advantage of a striking performance by Setsuko Hara, who becomes stronger and more determined as the movie continues. 

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Last week I saw five movies.  A Woman Rebels may seem like a silly soap opera.  But Katharine Hepburn does offer a good performance, in a role suited for her as a forward looking young  19th century woman.  An awkward illegitimate daughter is handled by the convenient death of her sister and brother in law.   There's more concern for people at the time than one might expect in this sort of movie.  Hepburn's father begins the movie with some prime misogynist claptrap, but since he's played by Donald Crisp and not Henry Daniell he gets hugged near the end.  Repast is a Mikio Naruse movie which has Setsuko Hara play an unappreciated housewife who is threatened in her husband's affections by her own niece.  Hara gives a good performance, and she won a Japanese movie award.  But I prefer her role in the same year's Early Summer.  And the stand by your schlub theme isn't as done as well as in Floating Clouds.

There were two Tyrone Power movies I saw for the first time last week.  Blood and Sand is striking for being in color.  It has the plot of the man who wastes his talent for quick fame that we usually see in boxing movies, but in this case it's bull-fighting.  The Black Rose is notable more for its oddities.  Much of the movie involves a trading expedition that is about to be turned into an invasion.  But Power leaves before the big power.  The love interest looks a little too young for comfort.  Perhaps the most amusing of Power's scenes are his conversations with Finlay Currie, who plays his grandfather, as they try to deal with the latter's rule that he will never talk directly with him.  And Orson Welles outshines everyone as the Mongol general.  News of the World  has Tom Hanks playing the too Capraesue role as someone who reads newspapers to the salt of earth people of post Civil war Texas.  As such he encounters a blond girl who had been kidnapped by Kiowa Indians so long ago that she can only speak their language.   Having lost those parents as well Hanks has to  take her back to her relatives.   As such the movie alludes to more important movie while its episodic structure proceeds in variations of competency and adequacy. 
 

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Last week I watched a remarkable nine movies.  Gorky Park was clearly the least of these movies.  Interestingly, it's also Dennis Potter's least interesting work.  It's striking that the movie is best known for the cold ruthlessness the murderer uses to disfigure his victims, and then the Soviet authorities easily work their way through it, even though powerful people aren't interested in solving the case.  While it doesn't help that William Hurt is his underwhelming self (his sex scene is inexplicable in terms of supposed charisma), the plot doesn't make sense.  Basically the murders are a part of a plan by Lee Marvin to smuggle sables out of the Soviet Union, thereby breaking its monopoly.  Apparently the KGB decides to let Marvin do this as part of a plan to soak him.  But their endgame is to try to kill him in a neutral country, and somehow using Hurt even though he has no sympathy for the state he serves.

I also saw two milestones in Ingrid Bergman's movie career.  Intermezzo attracted enough attention to make her a star, and having seen it I for once accept their taste.  She does give a good (supporting) performance.  The movie itself is somewhat lesser, since there's no reason to sympathize with the violin virtuoso who is married and old enough to be Bergman's father.  (An abrupt accident at the very end which is conveniently resolved doesn't help either.)  Bergman is competent in Anastasia, playing the pretender to princess, and Helen Hayes is OK as the actual dowager empress.  But the best thing about this sentimental movie about the fake pretender to a deservedly deposed dynasty is Yul Brynner's charmingly cynical ex-Tsarist general who backs her up.  This doesn't make the love story between him and Bergman very convincing, and she was better that year in Elena and Her Men. 

In the category of plays turned into films, there is The Browning Version and The Father.  Hopkins is certainly competent in his oscar winning role about an aging man whose dementia turns his past into an unsolvable puzzle.  And I have enough experience of the problem with my own family to take the movie seriously.  The score is also good.  But I'm not sure it's enough.   Redgrave is good as the cuckolded teacher  who is retiring and whom Wilfred Hude-White treats with contemptible cheapness.  That the author Terence Rattigan was a homosexual and has the wife's lover treat Redgrave with more decency than the wife says something, but it's not necessarily good.  Continuing with education, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis look what if someone turned three episodes of a sitcom and turned it into a movie.  The character would become the star of a sitcom later that decade and star Bob Denver is his most respected role as a proto-beatnik.  I've never seen it.

The last three movies have little in common.  The Comic has some interesting ideas, with Dick van Dyke playing a silent comedian even though his own comedic persona is very different from them.  Also, Dyke's slapstick doesn't really show Keaton's talents, the closest silent movie star to his character.  On the one hand the Dyke character ruins his marriage because of his own stupid selfishness.  On the other hand the movie suggests he is treated shabbily by Hollywood.  On the other other hand the scene where he encounters his son after his divorce, and the son's a selfish brat does have some power.  The Hot Rock is a caper film which oddly does not put Robert Redford's charisma to best use.  The idea of a jewel heist repeatedly being complicated despite Redford's best efforts is a good one, and so is having Zero Mostel doing most of the complicating.  But the execution is off.  Having Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn as a couple in $(Dollars) was a good idea, and the heist itself showed some cleverness.  But here Redford is more annoyed at his irritating brother-in-law.  The last movie is Without You I'm Nothing.  I suspect three decades later, this kind of comedy lacks a certain reference,  There's parodies/tributes to Diana Ross, a monologue based on Andy Warhol's death,  and one monologue about wishing for a  Gentile Christmas and fantasizing about incest,   Perhaps the zeitgeist has moved on.  On the other hand there is Bernhard dancing nearly nude at the end to Prince's "Little Red Corvette," which is definitely not for everyone, but is certainly something. 

 

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8 hours ago, skimpole said:

I also saw two milestones in Ingrid Bergman's movie career.  Intermezzo attracted enough attention to make her a star, and having seen it I for once accept their taste.  She does give a good (supporting) performance.  The movie itself is somewhat lesser, since there's no reason to sympathize with the violin virtuoso who is married and old enough to be Bergman's father. 

I don't feel that way about the violin virtuoso but maybe that is because I'm too much of a fan of Leslie Howard.      He doesn't come off as just a guy that wants to bed beautiful,  women.       Also there is the musical connection:   make art\music with someone and the creative process creates a strong emotional bond.      The violinist wasn't seeking a relationship and he wasn't cavalier about the impact it would have on all those in his life.       None of this, in any way,  justifies what he did,  but for me it does place it in a context where I can have some degree of sympathize for him.         

For me the film handled the overall topic in a mature manner.    As for the ending:  We all knew the film would end with this cannot-work relationship ending and the man going back to his family.     But I do get the feeling the screenwriter took the easy way out with that ending. 

   

 

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On 9/5/2021 at 4:06 AM, skimpole said:

 

The last three movies have little in common.  The Comic has some interesting ideas, with Dick van Dyke playing a silent comedian even though his own comedic persona is very different from them.  Also, Dyke's slapstick doesn't really show Keaton's talents, the closest silent movie star to his character.  On the one hand the Dyke character ruins his marriage because of his own stupid selfishness.  On the other hand the movie suggests he is treated shabbily by Hollywood.  On the other other hand the scene where he encounters his son after his divorce, and the son's a selfish brat does have some power.   

 

..except that the brat is not VanDyke's son (spoiler alert) -- he tries to "snatch" him, and it turns out it's the wrong kid.  The brat is not his son, but another child who was playing with this son.  This seems to be the running gag, that the van Dyke character through egoism or alcoholism, constantly is rushing to disastrous mistakes -- driving his car through the wrong house, trying to grab the wrong child.  Later in the film, van Dyke's adult son visits him  , also played by Van Dyke, who is doing an obvious gay characterization, part of another gag/one-liner with Mickey Rooney.  I found the movie a mixed bag, much to enjoy and quite a few laugh out loud moments, but at times also trite.  

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I saw four movies this week.  The first two movies are late films.  The Arrangement was not Elia Kazan's last film, but it was the movie where critics lost their patience with him.  Oddly, the movie is less successful about its basic theme, the upper bourgeois mid-life crisis than Strangers When We Meet, made almost a decade earlier, and also starring Kirk Douglas.  And in retrospect, it's hard to be sympathetic to a movie that argues that a husband should replace Deborah Kerr with Faye Dunaway for no better reason than that the latter is twenty years younger.  The movie also has some 'modern" touches which critics found dated by the time the move ended.  Arthur Penn is, of course, best known for directing Bonnie and Clyde.  He then directed five more interesting , arguably uneven, perhaps shambling movies.  Then he directed two more conventional Hollywood films.  Then he made his last movie:  Penn and Teller Get Killed.  This movie about practical jokes going bad does not seem either very remarkable, or show any of the traits of his best movies.  Nor does the script, written by the magicians, show much ingenuity (it's all too obvious there's going to be a twist). The final joke, a rash of suicides as the movie ends certainly shows bad taste.  Caitlin Clarke, the love interest in Dragonslayer, is also the love interest her. 

The other two movies are about put-upon people.  Welcome to the dollhouse started Todd Solondz's career with his uniquely cruel humour.  It' s about an eleven year old girl who suffers all sorts of verbal abuse.  She in turn is mousy and pathetic, throwing herself at two boys (one of whom after he threatens to rape her).  It's hardly a  realistic movie (would an auditorium full of students start laughing at the protagonist because she's awkward in thanking them for their moral support once her sister was kidnapped?)  It's also not a very pleasant movie either.  Mickey Rooney does a good job in Drive a Crooked Road, as a mechanic and would be race car driver who is manipulated into becoming a getaway driver.   But one character becomes conveniently remorseful and another character becomes conveniently incompetent when the movie comes to make sure the bad guys don't get away with it.   

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I saw three movies last week.  Good News is a trifle directed by Charles Walters.  Are June Allyson and Peter Lawford as good as Fred Astaire and Judy Garland?  Of course not.  But there are two good numbers, "Pass the Peacepipe" and the closing one.  Human Nature could best be described as "vaguely inspired by La Bete Humaine."  Gloria Grahame is more interesting than her two co-stars, who nevertheless mange to see through her, and with the movie ended with an oddly anti-climatic murder.  Blind Chance is the most interesting of the three movies, with Boguslaw Linda doing a good job as the protagonist who lives three lives as a result of a chance event at a train station.  But ultimately "Sliding Doors with something intelligent to say about Polish society," was disappointing.  SPOILERS ahead, as Linda can either join the Communist party (the movie was filmed in 1981) , resist it, or ignore politics altogether and live with domestic bliss with the love interest he impregnated.  All three choices end unhappily, hardly surprising given the state of 1981 Polish society.  But the final apolitical Linda dies not because of anything about Polish society or his character, but because the plane he is on (alluded to in the other realities but not actually boarded) exploded after takeoff.  The viewer is certainly shocked, but then realizes that Linda died because Krzystof Kieslowski didn't want to give him a happy ending, in an ultimately tendentious act of authorial manipulation. 

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On 9/5/2021 at 1:06 AM, skimpole said:

The Father.  Hopkins is certainly competent in his oscar winning role about an aging man whose dementia turns his past into an unsolvable puzzle. 

Certainly competent indeed, and a lot more than that IMO. He can do a role like this in sleep, he is in his element. He still deserves a lot of credit even though the role be his most natural persona. He did the same thing as Stevens, the Butler. Not many can do this sort of thing better.

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I saw another three movies last week.  Autumn Leaves is an odd movie.  It stars Joan Crawford in a relationship with Cliff Robertson who starts by being a bit pushy, then deceitful and then has serious mental issues.  One might wonder why Crawford stays with him, and the suggestion that he's doing her a favor since she's so much older than him doesn't leave the best taste.  And why is his ex-wife having an affair with his father?  Roller Boogie is generally considered infamous, and properly so.  The two leads have little charisma or chemistry, the disco score is forgettable, and unless you're Gene Kelly in It's Always Fair Weather, roller skating isn't that interesting.  Certainly watching the cast go around and around in circles at roller rinks isn't.  Also, the plot doesn't really start until the movie is more than half over.  Annette is certainly the first good movie I've seen from this year (as well as the first I've seen from this year period).  It's kind of a pity that I didn't like it as much as the other three Carax movies I saw.  I like musicals, I like interesting movies, and I like movies that take risks.  And certainly Adam Driver is interesting as a sour comedian who becomes envious of his talented and more successful wife, before tragedy strikes.  It certainly tries harder than most movies I've seen from the year before. 

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On 8/22/2021 at 12:43 AM, skimpole said:

The Snows of Kilimanjaro works best if you don't realize that the original ending was changed to a happier one.  Notwithstanding that, Gregory Peck does project a certain strength.

Correct. But something of a spoiler. Excerpt from a review of mine some time ago ; "Street's angst is purged at least in part through the help of a mentor and good friend who he calls Uncle Bill, wonderfully played by Leo G Carroll. The latter has several short scenes with Street. and has an especially entertaining one with a woman (Hildegard Knef, who's pretty good and wonderfully entertaining in a small role), who becomes Street's fiance. Carroll is strong in this role. He speaks with a wry, bemused air and dominates all his scenes. Gregory Peck passes muster but at time he seems unconvincing. Spontaneous reactions are not always free. He's a bit stiff and his attempts at buoyancy, which his character needs to be I guess, seems forced. Susan Hayward is excellent in a relatively unspectacular role. But it is an important one as she has to carry the load in the waning moments. Her commitment to character is extraordinary."  Ava Gardner doesn't even make the radar. I don't remember her at all. It's been awhile though.

 

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I saw three movies last week.  Silver Streak is a movie that seems to have been structured to match its movie poster, the Streak crashing into Chicago's train station.  That this crash does not make a lot of sense is a problem with the movie.  The problem with trying to use a train as a getaway vehicle is that trains have a very limited ability to maneuver, so even if you can get away from the police, they can still call ahead and get someone to block your path.  Nor is it clear why the villain goes to such lengths, since hijacking a train would dramatically strengthen what appears to be a fairly weak FBI case.  And one would think that the villain could have been arrested well before the hero has to board the train again.  As for the cast Jill Clayburgh is dull as the love interest, while Richard Pryor doesn't show up until the movie is more than half over.  Patrick McGoohan is not bad as the villain, until he loses his brains just so that the movie can end in a dramatic train crash.  Gene Wilder is not used to the best of his abilities, though being forced off the train three times and having to get back on is mildly amusing. 

Promises in the Dark got two Golden Globe acting nominations in 1979, and the completely vanished from movie memory.  I can relate to this.  This is a rather bland movie about a female doctor whose patient is a teenage girl living with cancer, and then dying with cancer.  It's not particularly impressive or interesting in any respect, and it has a TV movie quality with its right to die conclusion.  Titane is certainly the movie of the week.  It's certainly the strangest and most interesting, which takes the plot of Crash (the good movie and not the bad one) and takes it to a new level.  A certain voyeuristic interest in the lead actress' nude body, certainly pays dividends after a key plot twist which I did not fully appreciate because I have a problem with my eyes and this makes it difficult to read subtitles.   But the concluding connection between a deranged serial killer and a deluded fireman is oddly powerful. 

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I saw another three movies this week.  I actually saw Topper after years of it being bumped off TCM Canada.  It was not commercial free, and while mildly amusing, it had too much Roland young and not enough Cary Grant.  Shirley is a fictional movie about the novelist and short story writer Shirley Jackson.  Elizabeth Moss plays the eponymous character and who in turn plays various mind games on the young couple whose husband is about to join the English department where Stanley Hyman, Jackson's husband, works.  It's not very pleasant but I suppose we're supposed to accept her because she's the only one of the quartet with talent and it's wrong for university instructors to sleep with their students.

So that leaves The Human Condition, the Japanese war movie that's really three (three-hour!) movies.  Undeniably grim and oppressive, with Tatsuya Nakada doing a good job as the naive young Japanese intellectual who is forced relentlessly to learn that no good deed goes unpunished.  Are there weaknesses?  There are some.  The music is bombastic and unimaginative.  One might point out that the arc, from watching the army brutalize the Chinese, to being stuck in said army, to being captured by the Soviets and eventually dying is not the right balance between self-criticism and self-pity.  And the naivete of Nakada's character, in still being pro-Soviet long after he has been compromised by the Showa Dictatorship is laid on pretty thick.  Not that there aren't scenes of considerable power, such as the last part of the second movie, where Nakada and his fellow soldiers are desperately facing Soviet tanks.  On the other the third part, where various surviving Japanese wander around China after the defeat with no plan to get back to Japan:  did that really have to last two hours before the Soviets finally capture them? 

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I saw four movies last week.  For me William Wellman is the great runner-up of directors.  He made the first best picture that only the Academy believes is superior to Sunrise.  He made everyone's second favorite A Star is Born.  He made the Carol Lombard screwball comedy that people watch after My Man Godfrey and To Be or not to Be.  He made the second world war  wartime movie about ordinary soldiers that's less successful than A Walk in the Sun.  And now with The Track of the Cat we find him making complex, visually audacious westerns that are less successful than Anthony Mann's.  There may be touches of Dreyer in the way the characters talk amongst themselves inside, like in Ordet made a year later, or the way a coffin is shot from the point of view of a grave.  But the family tensions and religious bigotries are presented more ordinarily.  Nor are they as complex as Mann's.  Mitchum's character is eliminated too early, and Tab Hunter doesn't have the dramatic weight to be the  hero the movie requires. 

The Mauritanian is a workman like story of a prisoner who spent 14 years at Guantanomo Bay without being charged.  The characters are somewhat underplayed, and it takes some time to realize how he was tortured into confessing.  Benedict Cumberbatch is the prosecutor too decent to go with the charges after learning of this.  Jodie Foster is the prisoner's attorney.    Perhaps the real kicker is at the very end, when we learned that the prisoner remained at Guantanomo for another five or six years while the government exhausted the appeal process. Pitfall is a better movie, with Dick Powell as a very bored insurance company employee who decides to have  fling, only to be bullied  by a private detective also working on the case.   If not as profound or miserable as other film noirs, it does have touched of a very dry wit.  Brighton Rock is that better noir, with Richard Attenborough memorable as the young sociopath with ice water in his viens and latin liturgy on his lips.  It has more visual style as well, and with a coda that is both "happy" and deeply cynical. 

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