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1,657 movies reviewed so far this century. I procrastinate posting past years' reviews to the alpha pages above but have posted them all up to halfway through 2009 already, and next time I can't think of anything better to do, I'll post the rest. This and the rest of the last few years' reviews trail down this page.
I reviewed 89 movies in 2006; 127 in 2007; 106 in 2008; 121 in 2009; 174 in 2010, 149 in 2011 and a whopping 213 in 2012. This year I'm taking my time, and so far I've seen 47.
I write these quickly and change them often. I've previously reviewed the Bold Gray ones, but have new opinions, though I only count them once. I saw the red ones in theatres, a few on Anna's TV, but most of them on my middle-sized iMac. If there's any deep, dark secrets in these movies, I probably reveal too many of them.
I started another movie, stopped in the middle when I just couldn't take it any more, and started this one, which held my attention and spirit all though it. Hollywood's always telling us about couples who lose children. Child dies. Everybody goes to pieces. I believe it, but I don't always believe those movies. This one I believe, except sure seems like they could have come up with a better title than Welcome to the Rileys****. The story is human and fallible all over the place. Only a few sometimes uncredible, and I got over those quickly enough. A thinker. Perfect dialog. Acting subtle and superb.
I've just seen every Foyle's War**** episode, including the ones I did not see some years back. I loved it all again, and only remembered some few small instances of plot and characters, so there's chance I might see more movies from that last confusing century again, without worrying whether I'd seen them already. Like some special few Brit detective TV shows, this one was sterling. The only drawback were the idiot subtitles. I often need those with Brits talk the way they do, and these were often written by someone who obviously wasn't paying attention. Many are laughable, some pure stupid. I hope someday we American either learn how to understand them when they talk funny, or they rewrite the entire series' captions. They're bloody awful, but everything else was glorious.
Incredible movie. The deepest, darkest, most ironic, most bitter, sweetest story, movie I've ever heard, read, listened to, thought about in the most tragic moments. Kurt Vonnegut wrote it and briefly appeared in this movie about truth and hatred and secrets and love and ... Well you'd have to see it, read it, understand it. I have done all those things, and I'm still baffled by it. And still I aver it is one of the most incredible movies I've ever experienced. Mother Night*****
I guess I was expecting Robert Redford's The Company You Keep*** to be as intelligent or funny as Sneakers. That is, a good movie. But it's just not. Instead, it's long and involved, full of loud fury and signifying nearly nothing. What a waste.
I read a lot of John Steinbeck novels when I was in — oh, it must have been high school. I loved them, read as many as I could find. When I happened across this one in Netflux recently, I started getting excited. But it's an essentially stupid movie. Might have been a stupid book, I don't remember much, but nothing of what I remember except the Doc character, played by a young Nick Nolte, rings through the years. This one's played as a farce, and that might have been in the book and I was too young and naive to recognize it then, but this is a truly stupid movie. Cannery Row**/ Note, I've since read that this flick was based on Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, not Cannery Row, although ST was a sequel of CR. Boo!
Stanley's Dragon*** is a goof, but a goof with heart. Unfortunately their special effects budget — the dragon itself — was pretty cheap; I was hoping for animation; this was less-so full-motion more or less reality. Guy finds an egg while spelunking. Egg hatches to be a little dragon that grows into a big dragon. Politicians want to bring in tourist money. The Zoo keeper wants the most amazing animal ever. Nobody wants Stanley to be with his dragon. Often, the drama seems almost real, then we see the stupid dragon puppet again. This kick is for kids.
Dragon***** is astonishing. Makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon seem like a petite ballet. Its twisting plot unfurls in blood, guts and gore. It's about family and destiny and reformation. Love, honor, and all the other stuff gets wrapped up in it also. Wu Xia.
Not a great film but certainly a great feat, skateboard jumping over the Great Wall of China. This movie documents the build up, of Danny Way to become who he is and the build-up to him jumping the wall three times, which in itself is totally anticlimatic. Typical daring little kid becomes the greatest whatever in the world kind of hoakum we see too much of during the Olympics. Decent movie, but not much above or beyond the usual. This one that doesn't even show that last jump in its entirety. The fi was better in the flick, but YouTube finally gave me blurry, far-away shots of the first and the a little more glorious — with a 360 twist in the middle — final Great Wall jump. I guess him falling after getting all that air at the end of that second jump was too anticlimatic for the producers. Lame name, too. Waiting for Lightning*** was mostly fun.
Oh, man. I wondered if I'd ever get through the whole thing. Last time I saw Terry Gilliam's Fisher King***, I thought it was fabulous, and that sense of fabulosity lasted me forever till now. Now that I've seen it again lo these many years (22) later I had to seriously reconsider my state of mind back then. Like any TG flick, there's room for serious doubts about its credibility, intelligence, sanity, poetic justice, etc. I'll admit, I fast-forwarded (the picture stayed on the screen, just I didn't have to listen to it or excruciate through every word), and if I still have my wits about me, I won't want to do this again. And I'd give it a couple fewer asterisks. But I finished it, and I can still see the mad wisdom in it.
Life of Pi**** is at least as good as and probably even better than everybody who saw it already months ago says it is. Wild adventure set in so long a series of visually stunning moving images I may have to watch the whole thing again but fast-forward through the talking. Did I mention the startlingly stunning series of visual wonderments? Wow.
I'm sure I've seen this one before, but it's been at least fifty years, so I haven't counted it on this 21st Century list. The Hunt for Red October is still my all-time favorite submarine movie, but this 1957 subber, The Enemy Below***, ain't half bad. Another Robert Mitchum flick. It's the old tic and tac. Submarine pilot does this. The sub chaser does tac. Back and forth till. Well, this is the first sub flick I can remember wherein they both lose. Fun, mildly exciting. More than adequate.
Once upon a time I read all the John Steinbeck I could find. Even the odd ones like Pippin IV, which I've been misquoting from for more than forty years, and I don't know if I ever read The Red Pony, but this movie came out when I was five, so I doubt I ever saw it. Maybe on TV a long time ago. I could see Steinbeck even in the movie. His characters, his ideas of family and responsibility and what people are supposed to do. The Red Pony*** was okay, not great, and certainly of its time, and much less so of today. But I enjoyed seeing it and Robert Mitchum, and the kid was Beau Bridges.
I've been watching Dexter again. Got sick and tired of it awhile ago, Didn't want to see it again till now. But sometimes when things are grim, it's nice to know there's grimmer.
Took time to warm to this movie. First. I. Did. Not. Like. It. Had to put it away for a couple days. When I brought it out again, I quickly grew to like and respect it. As a movie. As history. As a story. Lincoln***/ is good. Stirring, as in stirring the pot of political disarray at first, became stirring as in causing strong emotion, as every Hollywood movie must.
It's not the old Bond. The old Bond was various stages of young. The new Bond is old. That's about half of this one. Aches, pains, etc. Not, for a change, hundreds of people in some scenes doing silly grande spectacle stuff. Max about a dozen at any one time. Lots of flames and shooting and booming, so there's plenty of the old Bond, too. He may be smart, but he doesn't really act smart, so I'd say, like the movie, it's mostly dumb. Exciting but stupid. Which makes it very old Bond. Skyfall***
I've been watching Touched, the TV series with Keifer Sutherland, which is more than reminiscent of many sci-fi stories of the late last and early this century, though they've cobbled together so many of those they've probably got away with their obvious plagiarism. Maybe because I've got a touch of autism myself, I am fascinated by the themes and that slight story line mixed with coincidences and numbers, and all that keeps me tuning back in, besides it's glorious not to be forced to watch commercials... Unfortunately, with each new episode, the whole thing gets stupider.
In high school I read Anna Karenina***/ over the last weekend before it was due, so I had the gist in my mind, but I couldn't have put it into many words. First time I tried this movie, I disliked it intensely, could not get into the stylization. The second time, a couple days later, I loved its stylized grandiosity and intense colors. Its theatric sweep and interchanging interconnections thrilled me. I grew bored over the length of it just as when I read it that many years ago, but still an odd quirk of a film — that I hope I will not again have to endure.
The Words***/ are about the words an aspiring writer finds hidden in a valise, where they'd been for years, maybe decades. Words the writer presents as his own and becomes famous for it. But it's not just about word-stealing, it's about love and loss and deeper things. I got this one, because Jeremy Irons is at the heart of it, because he wrote the words that tell the story and because it was his story.
5 Ways You Don't Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain by David Wong.
It's not Clint's worst — there's no monkeys, but it doesn't get anywhere close to his best, either. It's an amusing little baseball flick. Goofy story, fun roles, silly romance, ignorant parenting, eminently predictable but pleasant. Trouble with the Curve***
I've just seen two rousing citizenship movies. Political thrillers. Whatever. Both toy with the truth. They are movies. Both were good but not really outstanding. They told their stories. I believed them there for awhile. I believed Zero Dark Thirty***/ much longer than Argo***/. Argo threw in lots of homey little touches sure to set off — oh, a tear, a stirring sensation, a building rush of movie adrenaline. Zero did that largely without dipping to smarm. I'd see Zero again.
A Late Quartet***/ sifts us through the good and the bad parts of dealing with three other human beings they live with on the road, play with, perform with, form their taste with, make their life. People who have been in their lives for the last quarter of a century. Then the cellist is diagnosed with Parkinson's, and they dis-integrate into individuals and all that entails. What will become of them? We worry, and they worry. Great exploration of inter-related human beings who sometimes perform like machines, and sometimes like gods. Great acting, great roles, a lot of perfection, and plenty imperfection. About two-thirds through it, I decided it was a human comedy, funny in layers deeper then the music, which never leaves us alone.
Obviously, somebody thought we needed another movie called The Awakening***/ Though this was not an awakening, it had its moments of fear. Was scary well enough. The denouement got stupid, but the end was decent, and I liked the acting. The middle was \ confusing, and I never quite knew if they were there or not — and who — but it's a haunting alright. … I really like this director, and the anatomy of a scene and deleted scenes special features, though they do go on, are intelligently informative, although the lighting in those scenes is strictly amateur and, in fact, distracting. But I wanted to hear what said. I guess I liked the film better than I've let on.
I've been watching the Brit version of the Wallander***/ series, from beginning to end, and I'm liked it as much as years ago when I glimpsed a few episodes on Public TV, though it gets gruesome. I finished off the Brit series, so I can chalk it up now I've seen it all, and I do want more, but there aren't any. I tried to watch some of the original Swedish version too, but the language got in the way.
I got kinda fed up with the original, Brit version of House of Cards, but I'll go back. Turns out the Kevin Spacey American v. is more subtle.
The Netflix blurb on the CD envelope (I should have known; they're always wrong.) sounded like this might be the French original of The Sessions [below], but thankfully not. The Intoucables***/ is all original, heartfelt, sincere, but human funny and deep. An irresponsible lout gets hired for the job he didn't want any part of, and being caregiver to a rich quadriplegic changes his life. Changes both their lives. Then for no apparent reason, the rich guy fires him, then he misses the guy and the job, finds the egg without ever looking for it, and a bunch of postscripts tell us they're still living happily ever after, only the caregiver isn't Black.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower*** seems better than average but it's deep-down soulless. Plenty of heart here, it's about a friendship that never blossoms into the romance it always should have been. We watch our hero's heart-rending lack of progress, engaged as he is in living life about as well as he can, but something's holding him back, and what that is, is a deep, dark secret, the movie waits till the end to tell, then tells it in him going to a shrink and she magically and mostly off-camera cures him nearly overnight, and then he's happily ever after, and that's just too stupidly un-credible. It's a trick, a really old trick, and it should not be in a 21st Century movie with this much heart, although it is some kind of weird wonderful to turn Joan Cusak's usual smiley smarm into the ultimate evil.
Disney's Brave* is stupid.
Been wondering a long while why Netflix doesn't just show me movies I'd like, since it's used judgments on more than 2,500 of the ones I've seen to know by now, and lately it has, so I clicked on one that had nearly four stars, and I didn't know the name of it till very near the end, and that's just as well, because it's a lame name for a solid movie. Not much pat about it. I never knew what to expect next. Not that it's a fast-moving adventure. It's slow, with meaning that reaches deep, but doesn't need to and does not go very far. A man escapes from job and city, to fix up an old boat that's in the water off a small town we don't see much of, and that feels good. It's a transition. He needs to feel worthy, so he gets worthy, and the movie ends. Some friendship, shallow and deep, some love but not much romance. Mellow. Hide Away***/.
I love watching dance especially not ballet, although I can watch a few hours of that sometimes, too. But it is what I can only call new dance that holds my attentions, and I never really know when that's what I am going to get, I just have to keep trying various media. TV is a wash for that penetrating amazing wonderful dance that I so love. But movies make it sing sometimes when there's not a chance under heaven I'd ever get to see the best of new dance anywhere. Like in Pina*****, stunningly visual and not at all all serious, but always all visual and sound and movement. Best of all, it kept surprising and amazing me.
I put off seeing Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants***/ for years, maybe decades. Worried it'd be some too-subtle French New Wave nothingness I couldn't understand or enjoy. But I did and I did. The story is a bunch of kids at a Catholic boarding school, and the movie is about tentative young friendship among boys. What could go wrong? Well, it was in France during the Nazi Occupation, and the Gestapo were tracking down Jews, some of whom were hiding at the school.
The Cabin in the Woods**/ is, on several levels utterly absurd. The plot, if you can call it that, doesn't make any sense, although the concept does, a little. There's a lot of horror in this horror flick, but there's an odd sort of humor, too. If you don't want to know this movie's secrets, I wouldn't read any further into this review, but the situation is a set-up. Give whomever they (We get to meet enough of them that they are not the usual amorphous they, and most of the star-power is in the they.) can round up to send to the eponymous setup in the woods, a long series of moral choices, then when each five visitors choose the immoral choices often enough, because they are egged on by pheromone releases and other implausible machinations, the evil-doers of the month of the they who are pushing the buttons and setting up the setup, tear their limbs off and splatter blood everywhere. All to appease "the ancient ones," which I should probably capitalize, but their presence in this movie is so inconsequential it barely rises above the level of, "oh, yeah, they're in it, too." It's a puzzle that doesn't make any sense, contains lots of gore and blood, and it goes on and on, and nobody learns any lessons from it, but it's often fun to watch, nonetheless. The Night of the Living Dead was a better movie, with a better and more credible plot, but both are what we call cult hits.
I haven't watched all of the original British series House of Cards*** after so thoroughly enjoying what we've got, so far, of the American version, which is usually nastier and more deeply evil — and a slightly better movie, except, of course, it isn't really a movie, it's a series. And it may go on forever. I'm listing the Brit version, but I'm not counting it, because those are my rules, and I'm not going for any record this year, so it doesn't matter.
I tried to watch My Man Godfrey (1936), about a society dame who finds "a forgotten man" in the shantytown by the city dump, said pursuit part of a high-society scavenger hunt. They guy she nets is a better human being than any of the society nitwits smarming around, and I liked him, if only because I could understand every word he spoke, but also because he's the most intelligent of the bunch. Unfortunately, I could not understand much of what the society dame said, she spoke very fast and not coherently, and the rest of her family was likewise indecipherable. I suspect Godfrey eventually reveals that he'll inherit a million bucks, and he'll probably knit the idiot rich family back together again, but at this point I don't care, and I'm not counting it, because I didn't finish it.
I have a fierce unease with drunk movies. Movies about drunks. If I'd known that, I might have passed on Flight***, although it's got Denzel and some really hairy flying in it. Watching him revert to normal, i.e., flat out drunk after the incident and during the subsequent trial was difficult. I'd rather not have to watch drunks; it's bad enough having so many of them on this planet. Despite its preambles, his last-minute conversion does not ring true, though strangely, what follows does. Just that one flight and crash is oddly the high point of the movie. Most of the rest of the movie's descent seems seoarated frin the logic of the first half. I wanted to like this more than I did.
I thought I was going to watch To Have and To Have Not, just to pay attention to the dialog partially written by William Faulkner, but almost immediately realized I'd seen it too soon ago, and could not face that insipid story again.
Rob Reiner's The Magic of Belle Isle*** is a sweet, gentle, human weeper about a writer who's pissed off at the world and stays drunk as long as he can into his summer visit to Belle Isle, where his new muse in the form of a mother and three girl children, an old big white dog and a boy who hops kinda like a bunny — turns his life around. It's all a lot too pat, but it's Morgan Freeman at his good, so mostly who cares?
The end is baffling, but the rest gold. It's about memory, whom we have those with, and what makes us alive, and how doing that makes us worthwhile to ourselves. Retired cat burglar Frank Langella is losing his memory, so his son gets him a robot, who is programmed to help keep him healthy. That works pretty well once Frank collaborates with the robot to pull off a big heist. Endearing, gentle besides the idiot cops running around accusing Frank of doing what he's done all his life, and the robot grows on all of us, except Frank's daughter and son and wife. He remembers the kids, but not ... Well, that would be giving too much away. I liked Robot & Frank***/. I might even watch it again with the commentary. Pretty, intelligent, human, nice.
I only remembered the cheesy bits, but Key Largo**** had Humphrey Bogart so I watched it again. And in another few years I'll watch it again again. Then again. Its dialog is amazing; the story compact and simplified. It'd make a fine play. Very theatrical, and not really much to get in its way. Remarkable acting, except the Indians, who were stuck in White American movie-making what must have been hell.
I kept stopping Side by Side*** to look up movies I'd missed. Produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves, it's the history and philosophy of film vs. digital movie making. Interesting mostly because we get to hear a lot of people who make movies talk about it. Well edited. Makes lots of points. Best of all, in shows snippets of many many movies.
After I rented it, I wondered whether I really wanted to see Men In Black 3***, but after, I mostly enjoyed it — it starts a little lame, but keeps getting better and smarter — I wondered whether I should see it again. So I did, and it was another hoot and a half, gaining speed and humor.
I've been manically watching Netflix first series, House of Cards**** with Kevin Spacey as a wheeler-dealer Congressman who is pretty much pure evil, and it's rubbing off on his wife. Everyone else is either caught up in the Congressman's games or actively attempting to subvert him. Lots of true-to-life political intrigue ripped from the headlines. I think I'm 13 episodes in, and I'm more than willing to watch more when they put them together. Impressive. The original, British version is also on my queue.
A Ninja Pays Half My Rent***/ was a complete surprise. I rented something else, and this very short (five minutes and 24 seconds) movie came on the same CD. Good production values. Decent story, but I can't really say there was a plot. More info than that would blow the whole story, so I won't.
The Ninja short came with Buddy, about three guys who share an apartment, one of who shoots video of some of what they do, then while escaping after one of them does a stunt he likes to do, the videographer accidentally drops some tapes in a TV studio. The TV guys like it and start showing their antics, likening it to Jackass, although these guy's video is truer and gentler. Fame changes them enough, but not much. Buddy***/ is a sweet with a little bitter story, well acted and beautifully shot.
Ruby Sparks***/ didn't exist, really, until she appeared in one of Calvin's dreams, and he began writing about her. Calvin didn't believe he created her, but neither did Ruby know he had, but she showed up soon as if he had, and however he described her, she was. They were happy together till she had independent notions, then he'd write her back to his idea of whom she should be, despising himself for his power over her. Except for the part where she acted out his fantasies, the setup was not altogether unlike how we all try to control each other. Unlike in so-called "real" life however, movies have to end. And I'm afraid to watch how this one does. It's already scary. Then. Then it wasn't half bad. A few tears. And then… Well it just might be happily ever after.
The Secret Life of Bees***/ is charming when it sticks to simplified adults and children, and children being children. Occasionally, however, it strays and forces grown-up notions out of the mouths of sub-teens, and that always sounds wrong. Otherwise, predictable in that we always know this will end up being a happily-ever-after movie, and it does a mostly honest job of reminding us of the Times of Segregation, although it hints that was all over now, and of course, it's not. Not counting those overly optimistic portions of our program, it's a tear-jerking charmer with wonderful characters, some of whom are even believable.
At its best when everyone is harmonizing or counterpuncting, this movie soars when the song is king, but the story always brings us down. It's limp, silly, empty and always always always predictable. Except when the a cappella sounds advance the plot, maybe a couple times here, this movie is only worth seeing for the songs. Perfect Pitch***.
Combining classic genres of a road trip; not finding the right boy/girl by finding somebody not well suited until the end; and that little thing about it being the end of the world, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World***/ is upbeat, off the wall, charming and goofy. I'd never cared about Steve Carell, because I didn't like that stupid TV show, but this. This is lilting, smart, stupid and loving.
Not early Stephen King, but Early David Cronenberg. He hasn't figured out how to do deep-down chilling. This was a learner. Some parts of this story chill. Most don't. Was also early Christopher Waken. Nice combination. They're both learning their craft. The love story here seems barely glued on. Our anti-hero lacks depth, and it doesn't all hold together very well. And I wonder if his role here is what netted Martin Sheen The West Wing, which I still love but don't want to see again yet. And the title's seen bad times since The Dead Zone***, but now I gotta see more Cronenberg. 1983
Very disconcerting to have my main character change body and face in the middle of a series of movies, but the new director does chase scenes with different mannerisms and pacing and feel on a little different kind of film with odd colors. The change is okay. I really liked that other Jason Bourne, but this one's not terrible, so I can go along. The Bourne Legacy**** 2012
Only two other films in the last few years still on this page net my elusive five-asterisk rating that goes only to something amazing different in as many ways possible. Beasts of the Southern Wild***** is like that. I hate it when people tell me, even in print or on TV, to go see a movie. I never know their motives. But if I were the sort who would do that, this is the one I'd do it for. So very different a bunch of people for it to be about; the way the story winds in and out of reality as we all think we've got it pegged; and how it shows what's really important; and how anybody knows when that happens. One glory-odski movie. Five aces superb and so different and mysteriously strange. 2012
It's appropriate I looped back through Looper***/, which I loved the second time on my monitor and nearly hated the first in a movie theatre. I like time travel stories probably too much, and this is one of the better. But I remember disliking almost every moment of it on the big screen. Set and setting is what LSD trips were all about. Get those right, and the flight would be smooth. Maybe I got it right this time. Now that I've got the DVD, I'll watch it again. No hurry, this year, to beat any records. Eventually, I'll even start seeing movies I haven't already, but sure glad I rejoined this one. Nothing dirty about it except when it was big enough I could see the grain, clean all the way through small. Violent as hell, but clean cinematography, story, plot, acting. 2012
It's an evil thing when people who put money into a movie get to call the shots, and one of the more egregious shots was the off-camera narration by Harrison Ford in Blade Runner that some people really liked. I loved that narration. It gave hope, and now I have to see the other version of this already long, long movie. But it wasn't in The Final Cut***/ version of that earth-bound yet stellar movie, and I missed it. Otherwise, it was a a letdown after all the factoids and memories in the making of documentary, and I shoulda just seen the movie.
You'd think a computer smart enough to know how well I'd like any movie in Netflix' extended catalog would know better than to show me great long lists of suggested titles, which usually don't even rank 3 stars. Worse, I cannot seem to get that point across to the big N. Surely that same uber-computer knows exactly which movies I've already seen, because it insists I review them with stars (I save my words about such things for this page.), yet they keep pushing me to see movies on my Already Seen list, like the left side of their is keeping secrets from right side. I love Netflix, but what a bunch of idiots.
Although I have been watching Blade Runner - The Final Cut, I'm pretty sure I'd reviewed that already, so I won't count it here, but it is a pleasure to see again. These days I'm spending a lot of time with people, and although they are a great deal more challenging to figure out, I'm enjoying.
Dangerous Days - The Making of Blade Runner***/ goes on for three and a half hours. So many talking heads of people associated with the movie telling us nearly everything we'd ever want to know not just about the making of and all its myriad challenges and impossibilities, but what the film is all about. Remarkable depth. Interspersed with scenes in and that never quite made it into the film. I am a huge fan. I was astonished by it when I first saw it, and again every time I see it or a new version. I loved all the detail in this, but sometimes it nearly put me to sleep. Often during the long slog, I wished I could see the movie instead. But I ordered both, so that's next. Thirty years later it's still in the top three of my all-time favorite movies, so I watched and listened and learned, but I doubt I'll retain most of it.
I read Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely a couple weeks ago, and had hoped to see Bogie in the movie to figure out the plot, but a movie of it with Humphrey Bogart doesn't exist, so I latched onto a newer (1978) version of The Big Sleep*** with an aging Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Richard Boone (Have Gun Will…) and younger Joan Collins and Sarah Miles. Mitchum and Miles instead of Bogart and Bacall, as in the 1946 classic. I like Mitchum in war movies and Thunder Road, which I adored more than 50 years ago, and the 1991 remake of a bone-chilling Cape Fear. But Bogart is a better Phillip Marlowe, and why they moved this one to England escapes me. Even there, Marlowe would not have driven a Mercedes-Benz, among many odd choices throughout, although this version does explain the title, which the Bogie version ignored. About three-quarters through this version I needed to see the Bogie one again, even if I'd just seen it a couple weeks ago. Then I went back to this one and liked it more than I thought, but not enough to watch the whole thing again.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry*** is a stirring documentary of who this most powerful artist in the world is and what he does in China against the government and elsewhere. That he continues to exist in one of the most repressive societies in the world is miraculous. That what he does so often surpasses art is thrilling. I'm glad to finally know what this name I've heard so much over the last few years, really stands for. Freedom sounds so hollow here, where we have a modicum of that precious stuff. But in China? Wow.
Take This Waltz***/ is a superb post-modernist romance between a single man who pulls a rickshaw and a married woman who is afraid of being afraid. Visually stunning though not overtly, but still gorgeous. An elegant internal dialog that eventually leads to joy, and we get to watch and worry all the way.
A Cat in Paris***/ is a delightful animation about a cat burglar, a cat, a little girl who won't speak, her distracted mother, her nanny and a bunch of crooks and a few cops. The animation is stylized but much more believable than Chico & Rita. This is a family story with a smart and involved plot, enjoyable characters and characterizations worth learning from and a happily ever after ending. Originally French, the version I saw was dubbed in English by famous English-speaking actors.
Though not altogether original and pretty goofy overall, ParaNorman*** was fun and had a decent story.
It's all in Spanish, except when somebody's singing there's no translation, and for a movie about romance between a jazz singer and a pianist, fifty percent of what's being said doesn't reach anybody's eyes. I'll never understand why lyrics, especially when they're at the heart of a movie, are only rarely translated. Aside from that, though, this is a lovely, affecting story of two fiercely independent souls who love each other so much they won't give each other the chances they desperately need till the happily ever after ending. Did I mention the music is wonderful? The animation doesn't fill in all the visual details and faces are, in generally, rendered ugly, but for this plot — love found, love lost, etc. — we hardly need to see much more than what's here. But still … Chico & Rita***/
The Dali Dimension*** is a sometimes stumbling, often eloquent exposition of Salvador — whom a man with a camera late in the documentary called, "a man like his paintings, most unusual, very interesting" — Dali's fascination and artistic response to then-new discoveries in psychoanalysis, physics and biology, often commingled with religion. I've always responded positively if viscerally to Dali's art while believing he was an egocentric windbag. But this film informed my appreciation and reversed much of my disapproval. No doubt the guy was a genius. Now I begin to understand some of his thinking that went into that strange work. Too bad the visual quality of the film itself suffers so.
Watching Gerhart Richter Paining**** has been a revelation. I kept quitting it to go off to work on my own art ideas. Think deeply of my own progress as an artist. Nice that some movies can do that. I wouldn't want to have to watch it again. This time I saw it in smidgens and splats, like him putting his paintings together. That was fascinating. Any time I get to watch a painter paint is. This guy is and a lot of other people think he is, very interesting. I don't much care, but still thought it was a fine movie, because it kept inspiring me.
Seriously watching painters painting has taught me much about painting. Like that it's not so much a problem to get what they want onto the surface — although that's always a challenge, but it is so much more important to know when what they are doing is good, or good enough, and when to stop, at least for awhile.
Except in movies, none of the painters I've watched were famous or particularly successful. Always when I watch painters, they keep at it long after I would have stopped, and they keep changing what we both see, though we see it differently. I don't know what they want, even if they explain, and I try to never tell them what I think, because that's not important. Even later, when I do say or write about the finished piece, it shouldn't matter to them, although I've had some say my words helped.
I suppose deep into the reasoning to see so many artist-centric movies is that they give me ideas. Not obvious aspects I can copy or use directly or visually, but possibilities I might be able to employ in my photography. Maybe a little something new and more interesting than just pictures of. Still, watching someone in control of their work paint is fascinating, even if I cannot know what they are up to.
Safety Not Guaranteed*** is a 'round-about plot that gradually centers on a guy who takes out a classified ad for a companion versed in weapons and straight-thinking in times of stress for his upcoming time machine trip back to right some wrongs. On his track are government agents who know he's stolen some of their fancy lasers, and a team of dumwad journalists, who think it's a lot of hooey, and the government guys are clueless but getting closer; the woman who answers the ad wants to go back to turn her life around. It's mostly subtle how it toys with the usual time-travel enigmas, but it's a fairly believable set of romances. Not great, but not bad.
Not lame exactly, but stupid is so many small and large ways, Total Recall2*** is exciting, yet still stupid enough I expected Arnold S. to come barreling in at some point. Loved the cameo by Bill Nighy, hated that the bad woman and the good woman looked so much alike, even if near the end, that had some purpose, but it was stupid, too.
I am listing and counting experimental films by William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Anthony Balch that are officially collected as William S. Burroughs: Three Films 1950 - 1960**, which, then perhaps but probably never, were either interesting or exciting. By my 2012 take they mostly are tedious and trite, but maybe I saw too many too similar films at Dallas' Festival Theatre past midnights in the 70s. A nice visual conceit/trick from time to time, but I mostly experienced oh-gosh-not another-one-of-those dread. The only color were spotted pools on clear celluloid or B&W film tinted in colors. Please make it stop. Then there's his "Yes, Hello," which has rhythmic continuity, and, all the way in and through the maddening repetition till it's just texture, we have something, but not anything I'd want to see again or contemplate further.
I wonder whether the first time I saw it on the big screen — or that other time early in the 90s — whether I thought I understood the back third of Lawrence of Arabia***/ at all. Now, at least, I'm certain that I do not. Was his sudden turn toward the far side of its nearly three hours, something some stupid script-writer came up to explain everything, or was it just bum filmmaking. I remember being wowed both those times. I rarely concede it, but some films need a big screen, but I don't think that would help the story.
I'd hoped to finish Lawrence of Arabia for a grand finish for my 200th movie this year, but that's got hours to go yet, and I watched this one in a mere 103 minutes that was scary movie-ing. Called Alexandra's Project*** it reminded me of some of the scarier women-in-charge anti MCP (male chauvinist pig) movies of the Politically Correct decade. In this one a guy comes home for his surprise birthday party, which delivers him a shocker. It involves both male and female full frontal nudity, several varieties of sex and massive recrim for all his oafish MCP ways. Massive.
Froze our butts off again at the Angelika for a preview of Hyde Park on the Hudson*** with Bill Murray of Ghost Busters, Groundhog Day, Broken Flowers and Lost In Translation, all of which we thought outstanding. This one is not. It's pretty, but the story's not plottish enough. I didn't care about Bill's FDR — whom he did not resemble; in fact he looked more like Harry Truman, and most like Bill Murray. Nor did I care for Mrs. Roosevelt, although the real Eleanor was a class act. And I only slightly cared for this latest mistress — about whom this story was mostly about, if it was about anything. We did like the King and Queen of England, who were the most human of the bunch. This movie played like fiction, and it mostly was.
I saw this one, because Netflix said in stars that I would like it, and because it's Danish. Like Canada's Film Board, they make good movies, especially the ones Netflix rates 3+ for me. This is a grisly (both blood and other bodily excretions) thriller about a high-class sleaze who is a corporate Headhunter***/ who talks his clients up, finds out if they have art worth stealing, then steals it. Soon after the beginning, I knew I didn't care what happened to our ... uh (He's no hero.) protagonist, so I just enjoyed the ride. Once that got going, it got complicated and grisly, then the movie engages us in a series of plot switchbacks that turn him into The Good Guy, which is still difficult to accept, and despite murders he and his archenemy pursuer perpetrate, it ends more than happily. A preposterous plot I was willing to go along with. I guess.
It's a high school boy-girl romance flick with hints at profundity and several attempts, and it's good but not amazing. Our little hero is a slacker with artistic tendencies who wows his art teacher with a final project piece they carefully didn't show us for a few scenes, and that was better, more honest, then they showed it to us in the ultimate moment, and it basically sucked. A friend who used to teach at a community college called that sort of thing girlfriend art, and it really didn't reach much beyond that, but the art teacher and by extension, us, went gaga over it. So it wasn't real, and when a few things in a movie are that bad, I have to start distrusting the whole thing, and I do. The Art of Getting By*** may be adequate.
Detachment**** is about a substitute teacher who is anything but. It's a quiet, brooding, ultimately depressing and sad movie with hope and death. It's got a great cast, a solid though ephemeral, maybe even spiritual story, with moments of joy. The filming and how the story unfolds is unusual, so it leads edges, and bleeds.
The mood and tenor was hardly a surprise. It was, after all, Jeremy Irons. I chose Waterland***/ because he was in it. I don't mind weeding through his really bad ones, but I'll see anything with him, though I wonder if casting agents choose him, or does he select scripts with that haunting, ultimately sad feel? Here, he's a History teacher taking his class on a field trip back through his own memories, unsettling and strange as they are. And, of course, we go along. There's hope in the end, but not much in the middle. Haunting, eerie and dark. Netflix didn't think I'd like it as much as I did, perhaps because I so identify with madness and wanting to go back and change what I did and said.
I'm still on my Bogie kick, picking through the Humphrey Bogart movies, concentrating on his detective portrayals, starting with what are considered the best. Here, we are introduced to whom will become Bogie's wife in real life, Lauren Bacall. The story is an especially complex whodunit with Philip Marlowe, in Bogie's first portrayal of crime novelist Raymond Chandler's quick-witted and deeply moral detective. The Big Sleep****
I remember thinking Shrink***/ was too depressing the first time I reviewed it. Now I dig. Much funnier and deeper and more cohesive than I at first thought. I might have to watch it again next year or the year after.√
Well, I've seen a couple of Roger Corman's cheap movies over the years — I loved Death Race 2000, The Trip with Peter Fonda and there's probably a couple others. Here, many serious actors and directors talk about his exploitation movies — movies done cheap and often sleazy, and it's fun to see the people talk about the movies, although many of the movies are less-than, we've all loved them. Still I'd rate Cormon's Movies: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel*** as really nothing new or different or great. But it's fun.
Originally called You Instead, Tonight You're Mine***/ was an oddly romantic and mostly realistic pop festival — almost seemed like a rockumentary — roller coaster ride of music, pop fest behaviors and thousands of young fans at Scotland's T in the Park. Good acting, exemplary story-telling in the middle of festival and an affecting romance. Fun, funny sometimes, human, not a lot quirky except the drunk scenes and love.
Before this one I thought I liked movies where, by some obscure mechanism, someone stops time. Suspends animation for everybody but whoever's unrunning it. This one begins with an auto accident with our hero driving and not paying enough attention, killing his wife and teenaged son and and a guy driving a truck, who's married to a woman, whom the codapendent guy who finds the mechanism haunts for the rest of the movie by stopping everything repeatedly, at first with an eye to making it easy on her. Later, when he thinks he know owns her, because he's spent so much time with her without her knowledge, he gets more and more evil. Suspension** Cute name. Worse and worse movie full of dread for what the guy will do next.
I watched the first disk of George Harrison: Living in the Material World*** and I just don't know if I'll go through the trouble to watch the other disc. It's the Beatles again. This one's a smidge better than most of the Beatle documentaries I've seen so far. Some scenes are even better than that. I just don't know if I care anymore.
My Life Without Me***/ is a lovely, sad, lilting movie with several joyous moments, about a woman who is dying but doesn't tell anybody. She has two little girls and a husband then — because she's only ever been with that one guy — acquires a boyfriend who is in love with her, and we can see why. Before she goes, she sets her husband up with a likely girlfriend and makes audio tapes for the close people in her life. Affecting, gentle, not bitter but sweet. Sarah Polley, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Plummer.
London River***/ tells the story of two parents who go to London to find their grown children after terrorists blew up busses there. She's White and uptight. He's Black and laid back. When their paths first coincide, she calls the police. But he has important evidence linking the two, so she steals it. He hasn't seen his child since he was six. She last knew her daughter two years ago. The son and daughter have been living together, and after searching the streets, the hospitals and their mosque, they are still missing. Superb pacing, outstanding characterizations and actors. Sad but true-to-life.
The Ledge***/ is a complicated movie that involves a lot of religion, cast in both good and bad lights, but then it's about adultery, which might even have been true love, and by the end, it is. And by that end, even the nonbelievers will probably not be indifferent to it. Remarkably intense concepts going on here, well acted, well filmed, well done. I usually stop movies often. I watched this one all the way through.
Prometheus*** is both intriguing and stupid. It's beautiful to watch, visually well done. The story falls apart toward the end and in places all along. It got made anyway. It's almost a good story, though hackneyed, borrows from many much better science fiction movies. I watched it three times, and I would like to see it again. I kept hoping it would get better, and though it kept disappointing me, it was close.
Some movies are memorable and stay in my mind for days or years. I saw Detention** less than a week ago, and I had to look it up on Netflix to remember what it was about. Netflix calls it a "gender-bending slasher flick, or I probably wouldn't have been interested. When I did, finally, remember bits of it, I recall thinking, why bother?
Stunning characterizations. Very entertaining. Fascinating story full of holes, gradually being filled. Funny and serious by turns. Funny in the serious parts and serious in the funny parts. Human, and wise, in a riveting story winding slowly out. I don't know where it's going, but I know I'll enjoy it, and for once, I can enjoy a series instead of thrashing through it in a big hurry to get to the next movie. It helps that the BBC's Almost Strangers**** series is only 3 sessions long, and that it's about family, a reunion and love. (There's two photographs that make this story, one at the end, so it hardly matters, but the other is key, and we are shown it being taken, with a flash, but the resulting photo(s) were sans flash, and it seems such a mean stupidity in an otherwise intelligent film, I can only wonder why.)
The Paper Chase*** is an old movie that's been on my queue blah, blah, blah. It's a stupid movie about a male chauvinist jackass who likes his favorite teacher's daughter. But he's not in love with her, since he could only ever love himself. We never see evidence of it, except that everything he does or doesn't do is her fault. He's studying to be a lawyer, but seems largely soulless, which may be good for that profession. But then, so is the movie, though it has moments.
We saw Cloud Atlas*** in a nearly empty and freezing cold theatre (The Angelika). I like to have few or no other people at a movie, but I dislike being flash-frozen, although none of that discomfort mattered much against the confusion of making any linear or spatial sense of these stories. Seeing is far better than attempting to understand. Maybe with decent captions, I will at least understand what they are saying, if not why. That might be a leg up. Themes are easily enough discerned, if they are not in the movie. Often fun to watch, sometimes interesting to try to understand, mostly I was happy several hours later to get out of there and thaw. In sum, extravagant, goofily complex, often insipid. Like one of the characters actually did somewhere midway through this hash, I wanted to scream that "Soylent Green was People."
I liked Brick thoroughly, so I looked up that actor and found Manic*** with Zooey Deschanel and Don Cheadle. A well-enough crafted thriller(?) about getting beyond anger in a mental hospital.
I saw The Barefoot Contessa*** because Bogie's in it, but it's a sordid little movie, with a tired and aging Bogart. It is confusing, without really needing to be, maybe without wanting to. About friendship and elusive love, and in many ways it's rife with stupidity, but there's a smidgeon of wisdom there, too. As if one scriptwriter after another concocted this serial, without communicating with the others, and they just filmed it, but the story is there, and it's not awful, just tortured long. I wouldn't recommend it, but I liked Bogie in it, even if he is only playing himself from dozens of years before.
There's being dogged and there's being dog-ed. This guy is both in Brick**** a complex story told straight through with clipped hip dialog that defines itself on the way. Like a detective novel, in dark color, but now. Fascinating complexity of characters, all of whom are in high school, usually over their heads in life. Twitchy tale told fast. Not paying enough attention, you'll miss the important bits. They're fast and furious, like the fists. Interlock and play out only at the end. Taut, smart but bloody. Our hero gets crumpled again and again.
Got to see a preview of a then yet-unreleased new movie. Kept thinking it might be a hard sell for the PR dept. It's about sex, shows female frontal nudity of someone many of us remember. That she — Helen Hunt was in it was all I needed to know. And William H. Macy as a cool but kind priest whose inexperience is commensurate, with John Hawks, whom I didn't know, but I liked seeing Adam Arkin and Rhea Pearlman, though neither are listed, and Arkin's more than a cameo. The sex is between Hunt's character, who's a professional sex surrogate, and the 40-year-old virgin polio sufferer, not paralyzed, just can't use his muscles and needs an iron lung to breathe every day and sleep, and he's naive about sex, which he's never had any of, but it is often discussed forthrightly. It's called The Sessions*** after the time he spends with Hunt's character, often with both of them naked (though we only see her parts), while he learns how to do that with a woman who has to do most of the work. Based on a true story, but it's hard to say how much of the movie is real. By its nature it's humanly and sexually funny, but also bittersweet. I didn't believe all the acting, but I never doubted the people. Sad sometimes but some joy, too. Perhaps it just tries too hard, but there are great swaths of this story I just don't trust.
Another remarkable black & white movie. One I've had in my queue for years. I worried it'd be cheap sci-fi, but there's nothing cheap about it. Great story, excellent characters, though the characterizations are not that great. But it was made in 1951. Very good acting, decent enough special effects, remarkably subtle and apt details in the spaceship. I've known about this movie most of my life, but I've never seen it. Pity. The Day The Earth Stood Still****, though a powerful title, is barely pertinent to the fact that the world's electricity stopped flowing there for awhile.
Wildly romantic without sex. No thrashing in bed, just kissing and worrying and wondering. Directed by David Lean and written and produced by Noel Coward in 1945 in scrumptious, restored and full tonal range glorious Black & White. Not quite an affair, well the love part, in proper old Britain. I found no fault with it. Was willing, and taken away with it. Remarkable how simple a story can affect. Brief Encounter****
Obscene***/ is about Barney Rosset and his Grove Press publishing house and Evergreen Review magazine, which both published then-controversial, often banned authors and books. Talking heads, yes, of course, it is a documentary, but because Rosset was an aspiring filmmaker and also because he gathered fine graphic artists for his publishing, there are excellent visuals illustrating the various court and other battles with the police, the government and its courts. Exciting for an Old Lefty, of interest to anyone who reads four-letter words or concepts in print, when before Rosset, that was illegal. Rosset first published Lady Chatterly's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Howl and the list continues. It was rarely easy, but now we can say almost anything in print. BR (before Rosset), we could not.
Watching Looper*** I realized it was a prime example of a "dirty" time-travel movie. Especially grimed up by grainy film reproductions of post-apocalyptic crime. I like my time travel movies cleaner. I like high-resolution, and I like time-travelers not caught up in doing their fellow citizens in, or at least not having that be the most creative future these dolts can dream up. Probably too much of this movie is too obviously in service to the conundra of going forward or backward in time, spending too little of it making a great story that's easy to follow. By the end, I was tired of it, and when — well — what happened at the end happened, I barely cared, except to note that, even in the potential world of time travel, it seems unlikely. Just too pat an answer to a difficult question the movie put so much effort into asking and getting us to believe in. I was willing to suspend my disbelief earlier, but then I just gave up on it, although I want to see it again on my little screen at home maybe a couple more times.
The Mill & The Cross*** is a plodding, almost painful, often viciously violent, slow and deeply surreal reenactment of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting, The Procession to Calvary as a vivid, minutely detailed and overly didactic tale of the painting in its time and place and the people who inhabit it. Very strange.
It's a dysfunctional road trip. Her mother, once his wife, is dying and wants to see him and her, who may be their daughter, but as he points out later in jail, he's the only father she's ever had. From the mother's invitation, to them arriving at the hospital is a long, drawn out deal. There's drunkenness, a murder, nasty fights with her and another guy they hook up with on the way. The father is a drunk, and she's not without her addictions, either. So we know they're father and daughter even after a paternity tests proves — well, watch the movie. The trip nearly takes too long but a lot's involved, and it's a wrencher. But it's a good wrench. Not good as in saintly or pleasant, but as in a good movie, in which only a few things very nice happen. But those make the movie, give Aberdeen***/ the up-turn it needs.
A guy who desperately wants to be somebody. Wants to be a superhero. Is given pills that will do that for him. So we see him do some amazing things, and he sees himself do those things, then after awhile only he sees himself doing those things. But he believes. — The makings of a cult classic. Not altogether polished, and except for Michael Rapaport the acting is mediocre at best. Feels kinda like a film school project. Though the ideas are deep, if not altogether important. Special***/
A love affair. An art heist mystery. An enigmatic riddle of identity and what really happened. Opaque, but beautiful and dreamlike, then transparent at the end. A movie that tells its story gently and visually, though there is dialog. Great plot, superb pacing. Wildly romantic. Delicious mind games. Excellent title. Luscious. The Double Hour**** Italian with subtitles
Contagion***/ is one in a very long list of movies about infectious disease. One of the better ones, showing, perhaps, a more contemporary view of the little buggers that start somewhere and spread all over the world. Lot of stars in this, the story is outstanding, and probably awfully true to life. A thriller with human elements.
A long time ago, I read a lot of John Steinbeck, so the story is familiar. I'm sure I saw this movie at least once in that last century, but this is the first time for this version, and though it's dated in many dimensions — the sets are absurdly simple, the music is too dramatic, and even the acting is simplistic, the story shines through. It's about people with dreams in a bad situation. Everybody knows it's a bad situation, but nobody does anything about it, and eventually, the situation takes over and breaks all the really important people's dreams. Of Mice and Men*** was probably a blockbuster in 1939, as was the book before that.
Twice Upon a Yesterday***/ is a bit of turnabout on the already too old go-back-to-where-it-all-started-and-right-it-via-time-travel routine, only this is not science fiction but magic, simple and pure. When he gets back, he does what he woulda done the first time if he'd been conscious then instead of full of himself, but he's not himself, he's who he thinks he oughtta be, then he does it again and is the he he's supposed to be and he knows that, because he can feel it, and then the woman he loved the first time... Well, you know how these time travel mixups go, around in circles and off on tangents, and it would have been more credible if they hadn't been speaking Brit-glish without captions, but it is a pleasant romp through all those gathering enigmas and ineluctables and manages to do it pleasantly.
Even if they've updated it nearly out of the stratosphere, I love Dr. Seuss, and until recently I'd not heard of The Lorax***, but it's a sing-along, song-filled story about saving trees, so bears and fishies and everybody else can grow where once weren't trees.
I've long been a fan of Jeremy Irons, but I thought I still hadn't seen Reversal of Fortune, so I watched it (not knowing, again) and loved it. But since I can't count it against my all-time yearly record of movies seen, I wonder why bother. Another couple of hours wasted. Alas.
Lunopolis***/ feels amateurish, and looks it. Blair-Witchy amateur vid to suck us in a less-than credible plot. Some guys track and find a machine down there, try it, and what happens? Later, we get more complex, higher-tech CSI vid exposition, so we know we're in a movie with too much explanation. Then the cheapness comes back. Not Hollywood, more like the government or Junior College, with bad lighting and low-tech PowerPoint detailing lame and lamer plots backs down to amateur vidage again. Dumb title. But intertwining, loop-de-looping notions are right on. I love time-travel plots, and I'm still smiling about this one.. 2011
I like down-on-their-luck superheroes and angels and other up-from-the-skids magical creatures, especially with gnarly wings. If you're going to be magical, might as well be human, too — so we can all identify. Movies are scattered with those, and this one's particularly lovable in the end after being much less so through most of it. Helps he's played by Tim Roth. Earnest plot that works well enough. We like the kids, parents too, but especially Skellig: The Owl Man***/
Took a long while to warm to The Painted Veil*** as Edward Norton movies often do. About a self-centered English woman in Singapore with the self-uncentered doctor husband she never loved, and he only thought he loved her. Lush landscape and cholera isolate them to learn who they are. What took effort was caring about them, but once we and they learn their fallibility and follies, it was easier.
Army of Shadows** is all in French, except the critical commentary, which I chose as my soundtrack — although calling it that is ironic, because though it tells me critical history of this intriguing movie, I hear no music, although the commentator occasionally mentions it. I understand I am not hearing the original movie, but I am seeing it, and perhaps I am seeing it more intelligently, though I would have far preferred seeing and hearing it in a language I understand. Then, after awhile, I just got bored.
Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff*** held my attention most of its hour and 26 minutes. Better than that, he led me to a number of other films, many classics, that Cardiff either shot or directed. Most of its interest is as a short, Cardiff-related history of English and American movies.
It's been years since I last watched Gérard Depardieu, back when we were both younger and I was willing to read subtitles even for plodders. Here he's been raised by an apparently unloving mother and those who call him friend think him a dolt. Along comes 95-year-old Margueritte who reads to him every day in the park while they feed pigeons he knows well enough to have names for each of them. Of course, there's more to both their lives, but he is learning to read and reading teaches him, as it often does — to become a better, more loving person. My Afternoons with Magueritte***/ is a charming delight. French with subtitles 2010
This documentary is about women and girls (as young as 14) who are getting labial reduction surgery, so they feel normal — even if almost no one ever sees the parts they consider abnormal, and most who do, don't care. The documentary is narrated by a woman who takes great pains to call those parts something different every time they're mentioned, and she is openly against the procedure. The Perfect Vagina*** may seem shocking, but since 50% of the population has one, and increasing numbers in England feel need to "normalize" it, it's more odd to not talk about it. This scatter-shot documentary explores issues about radical personal alteration. At one point our perky narrator says, completely oblivious to the part she Freudianly slips in, "There is a part of me that really wants to go with this. And there's a part of me that just goes, it's really just trippy-hippie." Then she asks the guys painting her flat what they think, and they are more forthright than she was till the end when she bares her own, though not to the camera. She thanks them for their honesty, then calls them "hideously sexist." The next episode is about medical hymen restoration so women who aren't or who have had theirs injured can prove their virginity. This version on Documentary Heaven has long sequences of black screen silence — or auto insertion advertising, as if parts of it have been left blank for a commercial, but it is otherwise intact, and the time clock continues to count down.] Another unobjective online streamer from Documentary Heaven is The Trouble with Atheism, a low-resolution TV presentation
From the first frame, the soundtrack for Windfall***/ was a little twitchy, and the visuals appropriately intense — beautiful upstate New York farm country. Gradually, the music got less happy and more contentious — just like the people in the town letting and fighting the wind turbine company taking over their town. Before this flick I got a bright joy every time I saw wind turbines populating the hills. Now I get a little queasy, and I don't even have to live near them.
I picked Oranges and Sunshine***/ because Emily Watson is in it, and I fell in love with her acting in Breaking The Waves in the late 1990s, so I either saw that because Lars von Trier did it or I've seen every von Trier movie I could find since, because of Breaking the Waves. Hard to remember which. But I was blown away by her in that, and not in much else since. So here I am trying again. Where Waves was strangely enigmatic and abstract, as von Trier tends, this is hard history and weep-worthy drama, so I'll abandon comparisons. By the middle of the 20th Century more than 130,000 children of the poor and other less-thans in England were deported to Australia with about as much appreciation as the prisoners were in the centuries before them. Slave labor and unappreciated. Children who grew into adults who knew not their families nor whom they were. Lost children, many of whom Margaret Humphreys found families and identities for.
Loving Lampposts***/ began with a little kid who loves lampposts. Then more kids, then adults, more adults, some with autism. There were many quotes I found worth typing: "Everything a child with autism does, they're doing it for a reason. We may not be smart enough to figure it out. But we should at least try. It's not random." "Thinking about autism as both a disability and a difference tends to change how you treat it. You begin to think less about changing behaviors, and more about developing relationships." "We need to think about changing ourselves." "But acceptance is not about giving up and not working with your child. It's just about understanding where they are at that moment. Understanding this is how my child sees the world." "In recent years, this idea of acceptance has gotten a name. … The idea is simple. Non-autistic people are neuro-typical. Autistic people are those whose brains are different — neuro-diverse." "This narrative of dread and calamity is something that we are together — all of us — working against." "Autism is a gift disguised as a dilemma." typed into a speaking computer by a Autistic woman who does not speak. Many ideas worth considering.
Street Thief*** documents a fast-talking hairy guy who burgles money from businesses small and large. The film crew follows him sometimes, in and out of places he's casing and places he's stealing from. Interesting and exciting, maybe even true. Guess he's gotta be an ego maniac or he couldn't pull off what he does for a living. I keep hoping he and the film crew all get caught, so the movie has a moral. It's interesting, seems to have a plot, a story, an antihero main character. Everything but a sexy-starlet love interest.
Small Town Murder Songs**/ has the truly obnoxious soundtrack of a loud chorus singing loud church music in mercilessly short then lengthening bursts at opportune transitions, and holy-roller chapter heads with heavy-handed messages. Almost annoying enough to shut the stupid movie off. Then the audio got out of synch for a few scenes, all with several (a total of four, I think) sudden high-pitched electronic screeches. Not nearly enough happens, our hero eventually turns his cheek, the murderer is offered up, then nearly nothing more happens, all with the flavor of Fargo sanctified.
From it's odd beginning to its even odder end, this movie is a visual delight. Strange, some might say weird, but almost always smile-worthy, The Fairy**** is vividly colorful visual, but absurdist fun. It has to be one of those movies Netflix calls visually arresting, so varied and wonderful those can sometimes be, this is more so. And just when it begins to veer off too much, it comes back to silly surreality. Very peculiar. Mostly funny, sometimes hilarious. A little strained momentarily maybe, but it always comes back to joy.
Even at a mere 46 minutes, Marilyn in Manhattan*** is repetitive enough to be improbably padded. It's not a great documentary, but it is of her, so who cares? It reveals some of her truths and glosses over others, so it's not probing, either. Just a short made for TV romp.
You have seen his photographs. That one, at least. Probably others, too. You know the one. A Vietnamese guy has a pistol to the head of another Vietnamese man and he's just pulled the trigger — the bullet was still in the guy's head, hadn't burst out the other side yet. He grimaces, his head thrown away from the gun. Click. On film. That was Eddie Adams, and he doesn't like that photograph, doesn't think it's a good shot; has had his life ruined — shredded by that shot. But he has shot other photos he was more proud of, that also changed history. Those conflicting feelings and needs are what this movie, An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story**** is about. No war rah-rah here, this is gritty stuff, reality, history — Fidel Castro hunting ducks or women for Penthouse — way past journalism.
Paper Man**** is eminently peculiar, but believable in a quasi-post-Juno-esque flow that turns goofy, floppy broad comedy to serious — poignant even — friendship. The deep-voiced imaginary friend in his buff superhero costume with red, flowing cape attempts reality, but can't hold it. Even in the gentle dénouement moments, this quirky movie remains deep down ponder-worthy hilarious with a human need for imperfection.
Here's a spooky one. Jack Nicholson's a just-retired cop, whose last coply dutiies is telling parents of a little girl raped and murdered that he pledges on his "own salvation" to track down her murderer, so he finds a mother with a little girl fitting the guy's M.O. and baits a trap that's about to to spring. We're watching her all innocent, and the giant coming down the road. And then, and then, it all comes unraveled. The Pledge***/ is a little maddening, but taut.
The Wavy Gravy Movie: Saint Misbehaving***/ is think-worthy documentation of the era of peace, love and civil disobedience. Much of it is wonderful funny; but it's all serious; and mind-rearranging, if you give it a chance. Here, I'm quoting Wavy's long-time friend, Doctor Larry Brilliant from the film: "Sitting in front of a clown who has thought more deeply than you have; who knows more that he's read in books than you have; you have to go into a period of suspended disbelief .... He's adopted this ruse, this disguise or persona of being a clown, and it fits him, but he's really a deeply spiritual being." Touching to this aging hippie.
This is very much like being taken into a new realm in which I have no expertise. Clueless about Classical composers, I never know whose music that is, but ere's a piano tuner solving sonic specific quandaries from pianists. I haven't the faintest what he's talking about but the sound tells me. It's as if he were speaking in a foreign language, and of course, he actually is. Most of the words are from captions, although they speak English sometimes. No dubbing. So instead of listening as close as I could to a movie about sound, I am firing on more than the cylinders I have, to keep up with what they are saying. And it's invigorating. Lots of high-level piano technology interspersed with marvelous visual traffic and later, architectural, transitions, Pianomania***/ fills my head with notes and music and understanding.
Then comes The Lincoln Lawyer***, and I don't even want to know why it's called that. About a sleazy, fast-talking lawyer, very low on the human scale, who rises a little during the movie, then sleazes on back to the slime layer later. I liked the William H. Macy role best, but they killed him off early, and he wasn't all that personable. The rest of it's mostly double-talk and double-switchback-plot B.S. Amusing, with a back of almost-Justice, but smarmy.
A riveting story about justice in America when most Americans wanted revenge. Sounds familiar, huh? The Conspirator**** brings us the story of Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt, convicted of conspiring in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with no proof but anger.
Wim Wenders' — I seem to be on a kick of his flix lately — film, A Trick of Light*** is an odd combination of historic re-presentation and documentary about the Skladanowky Brothers who presented motion pictures before the Lumiere Brothers but the Lumieres did it better, and are credited with "inventing" cinema, when a lof it inventors were working on it with various degrees of success. Endearing characters, interesting history, just not utterly fascinating, and there's a clownishness deep in this film that, though it rings true enough, seem anachronistic.
I remember another Starman long ago about a kid who gets good at video games so an interplanetary talent scout takes him up to the planet where that game is real, and he becomes a hero. But this Starman***/ is not that one. This is a lilting romance with Jeff Bridges as an alien who assumes the cloned form of Karen Allen's recently deceased boyfriend so he doesn't make her nervous. Then it's a road trip to the giant crater near Winslow, Arizona to meet up with the mother ship to rescue him and take him back to his own planet. And if it weren't for the idiot military (ours) and the power-crazed police that take over and want desperately to kill and/or destroy the man from outer space, it would have been an even better movie. He's kind, brings a hunter-killed deer back to life, etc. Kinda poignant. A little too much of its time, 1984, but still a gentle movie about a being learning to adapt.
Ah! Finally, a movie I haven't already seen. Can't count those last two green ones, because I already did, and I'd already given this one four stars on Netflix, but I've never seen it before. This time I checked before I watched the whole thing. On Amazon for free, which is fine by me. Took a long time to find a good flick via Amazon's idiot interface, but once started it worked without a glitch.
Oh, I see, this must be the reason Patricia Arquette got that TV Show where she saw dead people or whatever. Medium. I liked it at first, then grew to mistrust it deeply. Kinda like my relationship with the Catholic church. This one's called Stigmata**/, and she's got that and devil infestation and the deep down truth about the Catholic church that church officials don't want her telling all God's chilluns that the church is in its people, not in buildings of wood and stone or thie biggest, richest corporantion on the face of the Earth that doesn't pay taxes anywhere. Lots of exorcism and pyrotechnic special effects. Reminds almost none at all of Jane Fonda's Agnes of God.
Well, I did it again. Quite without realizing it, I saw an older movie I'd already seen. As I watched it this time, I kept thinking I bet I would have liked this flick if I'd seen it up to a few years ago, but now I thought it contained every cliché the genre of magic — witches, sorcerers, etc. — had to offer. Then I found my old review when I had seen it. Argh, I loved it last time. Only could barely stand it now. Stardust**/.
Sidewalls***/ is a romance between two people who live close but never quite get together, though they pass within inches remarkably often. With lovely transitional passages of architectural beauty and not. I saw it in segments, because Netflix kept crashing (probably Times Warner's fault), so I'm not sure of the chronology anymore, and if I saw it again, it'd have to be dubbed in English. But I'd love to see it again when it made more sense.
I'm not sure watching instantly makes sense with my current Internet Disservice Provider. I'm eligible for Amazon's supposedly similar service, except I haven't figured out how to find anything I'd want there, and their star system wildly overrates.
I've begun another TV series starring Damien Lewis. Homeland**** starts off like a house afire. A thriller about a POW returning from Iraq or some such, but he might be — I've seen three episodes already, and I'm not convinced — a terrorist. It'll probably take years to find out, and the show will drag some toward the end, but it's excellent right now.
I knew there was something called Hunger Games***/ out there — I'd seen the signs and posters but never paid enough attention to care if it were a game, TV or vampires. I kept not caring till I snapped it was a movie. I must be the last person in America to know. Not slobbering crass like I suspected from the promos. Impressive sci-fi, except the let-down at the end, but knowing the killing game's been a sci-fi standard over all the 50+ years I've been devouring it.
It started fun. I'd just seen the 2005 Gideon's Daughter with Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt as his distant daughter, now the same pairing in 2010's Wild Target** that began much more active, visually adventurous and musically upbeat — though hardly deep. Then, with scant warning — maybe the offputting rock track with loud lyrics, it turned inept and stupid. Then stupider. Eventually moronic.
In talking-heads documentaries, my eyes wander while I listen when nothing much is visual, and Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fileds*** insisted on flashing identifications of whoever's head is talking. When I tune suddenly back, Merritt is talking movies and says, "That's how I feel about other people's records: I think they're emphasizing convention over beauty and interest, and I'm usually emphasizing interest and beauty over convention." The joy of this movie is watching them make their music, step by step and in leaps of faith.
All the way through, I am mystified. How did this movie know I needed that just now in my life, in these moments of transition? That I needed to see this actor in that pain, in that wonder, lost but seeking. Not at all bending the world to his will, as well his character might, the power he wields. He is learning his answers, and I'm watching this movie because Bill Nighy is starring in it. And maybe I'm learning something, too. Something important. Lessons about grieving and letting go. And can that possibly be why I chose this film, now? I had to stop Gideon's Daughter**** to write this, and I'm joyed to get to watch more, learn more into the end.
And then I learn in the special features that this is Film Two, and I need to see Film One (They didn't have names when they were shot.) — even though Mr Nighy's not in these others — to fit first the one, then the others directed by Stephen Poliakoff into this one I liked so much. Odd timing and fitting time together again like Mr. Dumpty vs. Billy Pilgrim. The others include Almost Strangers and The Lost Prince. Is it any wonder my disk and streaming queues are up to 402 movies? I read this week that most viewers keep up to 25 movies on that changeable list. Ha!
Usually I just trust Netflix' star system. They're pretty often right. If they think I'd give it more than three stars, I'll dig the flick. I wondered most of the way through this teen sob story with a mildy upbeat ending,"why this one." But when they say anything it's something inane like "because you liked Lord of the Flies, The Hunt for Red October and William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet. Or something similarly stupid. As if there were any connections a human could parse. So I kept at this one, and eventually there was a payoff, but it really wasn't big enough to balance for this sobbish teen drivel. Keith***
Until late tonight I'd never heard of Paul Goodman. Seeing this elegant, intellectual documentary about his life surprised me. Took me from my usual day and night and made me think and wonder about this guy. An honest man. Bi-sexual, anti-war, writer, amazing poet, thinker, one-man think tank, author of nearly 60 books of literature, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, explainer and understander, happy and sometimes sad man. Spokesman for The New Left. Tonight, Paul Goldman Changed My Life***, too.
Steve Jobs: One Last Thing*** is another of those tribute pieces that tell the story of. Better than average, decent talking heads (including Ross Perot and The Woz). Vaguely inspiring. I've seen every one I could and will probably continue. Neat guy. Terrible guy. Interesting man. Mediocre movie.
A Murder of Crows***/ is a really really stupid name for an informative and entertaining documentary about birds, some of whom are smarter than some of us. It is cute that a flock of crows are sometimes called a murder, but this story has nothing to do with murdering crows, so it's not even a bad pun. It's just an insipid title for a documentary on how smart crows are, and they are. The narrator says ravens are even smarter, then doesn't tell us anything about ravens. I'm a big fan of birds, and I've often photographed and wondered about crows. I've even repeated that they are very smart, but this movie proves it in remarkable visual ways.
The Last Word***/ offers up the deep-down stuff we don't want to mess with. Most movies toy with personality and personalities. Some have the stuff in rich supply. So off-beat it's almost off-putting, this takes quirkiness to new depths, then bounces around down there. There is a special, almost mirthless joy in getting into this one about a guy who writes literary suicide notes. It's deeper than it makes out to be, and Ray Romano is fabulous, off character yet in it, so's Winona Rider. Our hero doesn't seem to have it, so he lets everybody else escape. Till the end.
A bit of hokum, a lot of hope and a Yemeni sheikh who fishes for faith, two men, two women and a farm's worth of fish. (Well, there's more women and more men, but they obviously don't matter any. And one guy is very special, a dreamer, with Faith and a river and all those fish. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen***'s not earth-shatteringly bad or good, but gentle Brittish fun.
Oddly reminiscent of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie's Touch the Sound, this deft, surreal movie about percussive terrorists who employ large-scale industrial effects and the intermittantly deaf but almost always tone-deaf policeman obsessed with stopping them and exacting his own sonic revenge, Sound of Noise**** is a strange and superb comedy that rarely stoops to laugh out loud humor.
There's no doubt that women get a raw deal in this life, but this stupidly glitzy flick about it is not a good way to tell the story. Miss Representation**
Elderly Brit superstars' retirement in India starts slowly, continues predictably, then ends heartwarming, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel***/ with Judi Dench, Tom Wilknson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Slumdog Dev Patel.
Here's another World's Record Attempt movie about The Flying Scotsman*** who competed with bicycle racing teams who spent a millions of dollars on their bikes. Our hero made his own out of washing-machine parts and grit. He also suffered from Depression. It's about friendship and love and keeping at it, despite the odds. Well-filmed, edited and scripted, but … so what?
One Week*** is one of those movies that pays attention and makes fun of itself. That's worth something. A guy is diagnosed with Cancer, so he buys a Norton motorcycle and drives west, no real plan. And has adventures while he tries to decide what to do next. Will he marry the woman he thinks he might be in love with? Will he fight the disease? Etc. Not a perfect movie, but nice scenery, and great large-scale objects he finds along the way.
Hammett*** was in my queue a long time. Sounded like a good idea. Wim Wenders does detective novelist Dashier Hammett as a detective in seamy 30s San Francisco. It's got all the characters and pretty noir scenes. It captures the surface qualities, but the story's too busy and just off.
I haven't seen a personality-transfer movie in a long time, but this is a good one. Makes sense. Follows its own rules, like I learned from The Sixth Sense, which shares some thematic elements. Who dies is Mom. Daughter lives but more than channels Mom for an extended period. Interesting psychodrama, intriguing notions, pretty to look at, not a starltling new plot, but many of the twists are. I danced to it, The Secret***/ 2007
Lotte Verbeek and Steven Rea in a lovely, almost as slow as real life, relationship that has nothing to do with Hollywood in speed or absurdity. It grows and they learn each other. In Ireland by Polish director Ursuszula Antoniak. Delicious movie for the time it taks to say simple things. Touching. Quiet. Bittersweet. Nothing Personal****
I saw Puss in Boots*** with my girlfriend and her 6-year-old granddaughter on a TV, a different setup than here on my Mac at home, which is significantly clsoer and higher res. It was good enough, sometimes funny, though predictable, visually of limited interest, ocassionally intelligent and amusing. The six-year-old almost had it memorized already, although many of its quips escaped her, and a passing acquaintance with Spanish might have been helpful. I was willing to suspend disbelief, but the story was goofy and unoriginal.
It's difficult not to get emotionally involved when I talk about Project Nim***/. It's about a chimpanzee who was raised almost as a human, treated for years as a human, then was almost forgotten, because nobody thought what to do with him after he was a world-famous signing chimp. When he was unceremoniously returned to a plain cage, alone — after he'd lived in a house and slept in a bed and had human companionship all that time. Can't help but think humans are not only stupid, we're cruel. The Making Of special feature is not particularly worthwhile, but Bob's Journey should have been in the movie.
Maybe this was a good movie, but it was about a bad war, evil through and through. I'm not sure that it helped that Angelina Jolie wrote and produced it. I knew what was going on, yet it always confused me. I've seen the stupidity of war up close and personal. This one was closer and more personal, with hatred so thick it slithered. In the Land of Blood and Honey***/
I've been watching a Jump Tomorrow*** that's only an hour and thirty-seven minutes long, but it's gone on forever. I watch awhile, then put it down for almost anything I'd like or not like to do. It's about a straight-laced Black guy traveling somewhere in, I think, Europe, with a goofy French guy who keeps egging George, our essentially lame protagonist, toward amor. I've only got 37 more minutes, and I've put it off and put it off, and if I start it again, I'll probably put it off again, even if Geogre is finally almost happy, even if he's scheduled to marry a woman of his parents' choosing the day after tomorrow. And I still don't care what happens next. Till the end, and I did care, and suddenly I liked those people on screen, and then when it started raining at Niagra Falls, it started raining and thundering in real life, here, and I thought that was just perfect.
Justified***, which I enjoyed almost enough to watch all the other episodes, has a lot of killing, but there's an elusive hero wearing a cowboy hat in contemporary Kentucky who seems to know more than anybody else, and I love my heroes too-smart like that. I wondered about it, watched it, and now think that's enough. The plot's pretty much the same every time.
The Answer Man***/ is a lilting little charmer about life's questions and who's got the answers. Starts sardonic and funny, ends up in quirky romance with a son who still believes his dad is coming back in two weeks.
It's one of those painful movies where the lead character has a dark secret about something awful but won't tell anybody even when just thinking about telling almost sets her spirit free. We know she will, but not till the end. So that's the psych of it, but movies like this end happily ever after, so we know she will, and all this is character development. Right? Speak***
So much style, there's hardly room for content in Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows***/, yet it's thoroughly enjoyable.
There are times when all I really need is to see some dance. When whatever else I'm up to fails me, I have to see the motions, watch the abstract rhythms, see the beat. Usually I have no idea that's what will save me. It just happens. Happened couple months ago at the performance series at Central Trak. Don't ever get my fill, sustenance till next time. Tonight, of all things, it was a dose of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet**** streaming. All those dance exclusives tossed salad together with not always inane lyrics and that voice. Yes it was funny, but art, too. Whenever the talking heads 'd gone on too long, dance took over. A little gloriodsky with the special effects one time, but still perfect. No tutus, thank good, but Traditional throughout. Nothing we haven't seen, but oh the juxtapositions.
Incendiary**** might have been the movie I was waiting for. Fanciful and real, about love and evil, light and dark, the ugly and beautiful. One of those rare movies that pits the impossibles together. Lilting and amazing transcendant.
I'm somewhere in the middle of three movies I may never finish but for some perverse reasons keep trying. Franklyn** purports to be science fiction, but in all the times I've watched succeeding parts of it, I've never once given a damn about any of its characters, who all seem unlikely, stilted and stupid. I was watching it again a little while ago, but since I still had more than an hour to go, I was not motivated. I tell myself if I can get within 40 minutes of the end (the worse the flick, the more often I check) I can stick with almost any movie. But add 20 minutes and myeh.
Better Than Sex**/ started out funny about a one-night stand that seemed to be going somewhere and was laugh out loud funny, but then it stopped going anywhere and wasn't funny anymore, so it's on hold, too.
Friends and Crocodiles** seemed almost interesting. A rich guy with lots of plans and big ideas and flagrant lovers hires a prim and proper woman to organize him, then he does everything he can to thwart her (and we assume his) plans, and I just don't care what happens next.
The conundrum is whether to count these idiocies I've already spent too much time on. Enough to know I just don't care. Yep. I'm counting them, and abandoning them, too.
The Hunter**** was beautiful, superbly acted (mostly Willem Dafoe with some Sam Neill and a lovely family) mixing out-back adventure and scenery, thriller story with deep tree-hugger themes. Had me all the way through.
Bobcat Goldwaith's God Bless America***/ is dark and riotously funny and bloody murdurous. Can't get much darker without going over to the other side, and this one doesn't condescend or cheat us, though Its pacing is painful slow sometimes (meaning, as a director, Goldwaith's not always on target), and the acting is almost never top-rate, and the filming suffers, but the story is deep down American, fiercely funny, and it puts the thumb down on many of our worst traits. Blood luscious theme, not all that great movieing, but righteous story and dialog. Maybe I cannot explain it well enough but ! I've been movied. And maybe Goldwaith's next attempt will be better.
It's just possible that John Carter*** missed a few sword & sci-fi clichés, but darned few. Everything we've ever seen in Sword & Scorcery and alien almost anything is here, and it's grand fun to watch, all 2 hours and 12 minutes. I laughed and laughed and laughted, usually with but often at.
I needed a good spy thriller, and Denzel Washington's Safe House***/ delivers. Fast-action, deep-thought and corrupt agencies. Just like real.
It's about the ineffable senses, those not betrayed in movies. Smell and taste, almost the same, then sensations, like trust and love, attention and being with. Accomplishment, progress. It makes Perfect Sense****. Hearing, rage. I love the warning, "Stay away from anyone showing signs of aggression." Essentially, this is a romance in wild sci-fi circumstances. The world is going crazier than usual, making fascinating cinematic texture. Sound made effable by its absence. More profound than that daft Artist.
Rio*** was animated fun, based on the humor of stealing endangered wildlife. I laughed most of the way through it. Three days later, I don't remember anything, but then and there, I liked it.
The rise and precipitous fall of rock star and singer Harry Nilsson — Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talking About Him)***/ is a lot of talking heads and historical footage and a lot of people I've idolized (John Lennon, Ringo was his best man, Van Dyke Parks, Terry Gilliam) tied into n amalgam of that wonderful voice and everything that flowed from it and after.
It was a cute idea adequately fleshed, but my oh my, this was one tedious movie. I was soooo glad when it was over. No way this was one of the best movies of any month, let alone year. Myeh. The Artist**/.
I'm sure an English Prof could cram this into the list of seven basic plots, but it's new to me. Wildly Romantic. Lovely. Intelligent. 19th Century. Superbly acted and plotted, Sophie Marceau is superb. Firelight**** 1997.
Hadn't seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs*** this century or since a big chunk of the last. It's still a classic, but its age shows. Ms. White has nearly no facial tonality, and her singing is archaic. A lot is. She's hopelessly naive moments after being warned about the witch and stupidly succumbs to obvious evil.Any kid in the audience would have known better. The depth contemporary movies have taught us to expect isn't there yet, and the witch's first ploy fells her target almost irrevocably. I'd like to have enjoyed more wit battle, but it was a hoot to see it again after so long. As three-dimensional as it must have seened when new in 1937, it's pale imitation now, but not without its Disney animal charms
I can see why filmophiles went gaga over this documentary. It tells a story of a son's journey to discover who his father was. His father who had three families. One with the woman he stayed married to. And two other secret families, each with a child. Strange guy. One of the gods of architecture, Louis I. Kahn. I wasn't that thrilled with the whole thing, but toward the end, My Architect: A Son's Journey*** got more emotional and more spiritual. His last building, completed well after his death, is amazing.
Ayn Rand & The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged***/ sounded like another deadly documentary of talking heads gabbing about ideas. But I saw this strident film as a lively story of an independent soul, and I look around now, as she looked around in the late 40s and early and middle 50s and see exactly what she predicted all around us. It's not all that different a flick in any other respect. It took me a while to get into this movie, but wow. Its liveliness comes from ideas. If it was, except for those ideas, presented in any new way, I might have given it that last full asterisk. Unfortunately, this movie manifests more hope than exists. We are, all of us — business, government, religion and philosophy — going to hell, as she predicted in her 1200-page novel. But I'm mightily impressed by what this movie says. Maybe because I think I'm living the independent life she prescribed in that wildly controversial book that was so thoroughly despised by all the Big-Time Idiots of both The Left and The Right, all of whom have since been proved Wrong.
The Woodmans*** is about a family, but almost exclusively in relation to the daughter who made photographs at least thirty years ahead of her time. Without Francesca, this movie would not have been made. That said, it is an intriguing character study, of everybody, but mostly her.
I don't even know the guy's name, but Lila, I remember. She's porcelain and blonde, and he's brown with dark, curly hair. They're both beautiful, and neither know what they are doing — falling in love. She seems overtly sexual, and he's careful, and it's a much better movie than all that. Only subtitles, because it's French, which is appropriate. It's beautiful, intelligent and emotional, without going overboard. They're both growing up, and it's a nice one of those. Lila Says***/
After Felicia's Journey***, I'm much less sure I want to explore Atom Egoyan's early films. More darkly evil than ambiguous, though set in a bright setting. The deft Egoyan touch I like so much is not yet in evidence. But I'll try a couple more.
I saw Moonrise Kingdom***/ in a real theatre, and it surprised me how intelligent and entertaining it was, since all the others of their movies have done little or nothing for me. Meh. This one was strange and fascinating. I can't wait to see it again on DVD.
I got this one so I could hear the man and the woman singing harmonies. I don't care when he's singing alone, and I don't care when she's singing alone. Those do nothing for me. When they're together harmonizing, I like hearing it. And I know there's all this deep stuff about their lives and especially their lives on the road, and it comes out in their songs, but I don't care. I'm still a fan of them harmonizing, and the rest can go hang. The Swell Season***.
Don't even know where to begin on this one. It's science fiction. Teen-aged mutant science fiction that holds together all the way through, although it grows more amazing, sticking with the important things despite it all. High school friends discover an alien place under the woods where close contact gives them amazing powers. That they use for good and evil. But it's about friendship and their odd powers and the mostly mayhem to do with them. I figured it for a goofy B movie, but it's deeper and better than that. Teen but that's just a setting. This is good, and Chronicle***/ tapes the extravagant saga of fear and hubris.
Often, Netflix' computer's evaluations are so dead-on correct to my peculiar movie tastes that it's difficult to accept it as computer "thought." Other times it's painfully obvious that humans have again interceded. Baraka** (and growing) has been bouncing around my queue for years. When it got too close to the top, I'd flush it down somewhere nearer the bottom again. I never quite trusted that it'd be one of those rare, few winners. And I sure thought I was right. What the DVD jacket calls a "mesmerizing visual study" looked to be tedious enough that I couldn't wait to get it out of my computer.
Then I gave it one last chance, and it's gorgeously detailed cinematography and deliberate pacing won me over. Koyanasquatsi with a positive message. It might even do me some calming good to watch all 96 minutes. I doubt much will happen 'out there,' but even a smidgen 'in here' will be welcomed. Then I got tired of it all again, and went on to a real movie.
Atom Egoyan makes movies that are peculiarly specific to the several years in which they are created. Their exquisitely subtle plots twist in the joys and anguish of that now in deeply intelligent and emotional stories, and I've just loaded up with several of his earlier movies to try again to get that amazing Egoyan thrill. Adoration****
In which the English writer of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and other fantasies and fictions and truths, learns to love a woman. And when she dies, he weathers the doubts with her two young boys. A charmer, swirling with religious questions and wonderments. And humanity. C.S. Lewis: Through the Shadowlands***.
Taking Shelter***/ is surreal. Clean, sharp, amazing, beautiful, deeply human psychological and scary. I knew those random-compressing bird flock videos that cropped onto Utube about a year ago were in some movie. This one.
Darkening Sky*** almost works. It's spooky enough. The acting is just shy of what it needed. Good story with a gathering plot. I wanted to believe, but something held me back. Besides the obvious, of course. It's scary science fiction just a few hairs less-than. I might go back and add that last half an asterisk, if the story continues to haunt me. Not bad, just not quite enough. Not sure enough what. Credibility.
I've ensnared myself in another series. Luckily a Brit one, so it's far shorter. Only six episodes, so far. Fascinating all that's going on. I don't pretend to understand all the subcurrents any more than I can understand their version of English, but it's all quite well done, and pertinent to so much else, though it's about a startling 1950s news program that does not tow the government line. I loved the first disk, zapped the second to the top of my queue and will watch that soon as I get it. The Hour***/
Exquisitely paced, visually stunning, fiercely gripping, dark. Demon seed. We Need to Talk About Kevin**** about raising a Columbine-like killer.
Engaging the dialectic of Nihilism. A good talk between two old guys. The White guy has just attempted to do himself in via The Sunset Limited***/. Like an old preacher, the Black guy asks leading questions and tells his own tales. Fascinating conversation at the end of something. That might be The Beginning? My conversation with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson via Cormac McCarthy. Smart, human, deep — Kafka on wheels.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close***** is a well-told tale. Subtle and gentle and quiet when Hollywood would go loud and garish. Harsh when most movie makers would go sweet. Tells the story in many media, and I'm so happy nobody ever broke out in song, and if the orchestra did, I was never aware of it. Almost I want it to have been foreign it was so perfect paced, visually.
I was avoiding seeing it, but once it got started I let it run. One fine movie, even if it is so obviously a play on film, not so much a movie. Amazing acting and actors. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman and Burl Ives, wow. Smart, deep down human and fierce. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof****
Mr. Nobbs***/ is an odd bit of story-telling about a woman who has passed for a man for thirty years, working as a butler at an English hotel, her naive life, loves — if you can even call them that — and their secrets. I didn't realize till the credits rolled that the title character was played by Glenn Close, although I readily recognized Mia Wasikowska, who the movie was much less about. It hints at women loving women, but touches upon it ever so gently.
Most times in a movie theatre we don't get up and walk out on it. Turn it off. Come back later, try it again. But I really didn't think I'd like this one, but 'cause who's in it, and the topic. I did. Five or six times I came back. Eventually, I settled it and liked it. Teared up at the appropriate times. Appreciated it. We Bought A Zoo***
You call a movie Shame***/, and you don't expect fun and joy, and you don't get it here. About a man addicted to sex. Whose longest relationship ever was four months. Who goes from prostitute to women he meets in bars, to whomever he can find or finds him. Spiraling ever downward. There's lots of sex in this movie, plenty of female and male frontal nudity. But it's not sexy. It's depressing sad. The only real relationship he has is his sister, and he blows that, too. Good movie, but dark and emptier and emptier. Very little sweetness, and no light.
I thought maybe, someday, in some odd set of circumstances, I'd see that Ally Sheedy movie she made a few years ago. Why not? Then it appeared near the top of my queue, and I had it here at home, and I watched it, with only a few, brief trips to other parts of the house. I liked its ongoing quirk. It was funny in that deep, human and humane way I like in movies. And gradually, that quirk got funnier. It's about a guy whose wife left him via a telephone call and he's all broke up about it. Etc. I'll Take You There***/
Creation**/, a Public TV Weeper charts Charles Darwin's various struggles with insanity, abject loss and The Church. I never once believed that actor was Charlie Darwin and had equal trouble with other actors, never much liked his wife here, either, but I can see some of the points. But it was mercifully short.
I finally finished a whole movie. I've been going through them without ever finishing any for about a week now. Whatever movie I chose, was so terrible, just then, I couldn't even finish the stupid thing. I deleted forty flicks from my queue I knew my choices were so bad. I rented and returned at least a half dozen movies. Finally, now, I finished one.
Not that it was a great movie. I'll give it two and a half stars. It's wildly romantic. So much that it blows right past any sense of intelligence. Cute but essentially stupid, but I liked it enough to finish it. And now maybe I can finish others. Not that I now think my life is back on track or anything. I've met a couple deadlines; I'll blow some others. Life ain't perfect, but I finished a movie. And the reason I started that movie was because it was a time-stopper movie, and even the stupidest of those (and this wasn't the worst yet) have been worth watching. It's called Cashback***, and I may well have seen it before, but I don't care.
Masters of Photography — Gertrude Käsebier*** was short, but since I count 20-hour TV series as just one flick, why not this essential slide show of the founding mother of modern American photography. I found it via Image Resource, but there's more material on Käsebier at Collections Search, Shorpy, Wiki on Photo Secession and Camera Work etc.
The plot sounded familiar. I thought I'd probably seen that movie already. So I tried streaming it, and I liked it. Not because it was a bundle of joy or anything. Kinda depressing in fact. But real. I even liked where, in filming, reflections 'ruined' a shot of walking in Central London. There's lots of just walking and talking. Haltingly, like in real life and conversations with people who don't know each other, just are caught in the same moments, even if those last into the morning, walking and talking and being. Lilting movie, sad with overlays of reality and bits of joy. A love story, of course, but one with real heart and soul. Forget Me Not***/
I just watched nine hours and forty-five minutes worth of a TV series that, the first half of which, was an outstanding movie. But by then, it began fraying a little at the edges, like the writers needed to pad the story out to the end of the series. Then's when more counter-character actions started not-fitting in. But most of The Killing***/ was beautiful, expensive, a good yarn, had plenty of twists and turns and relevant social issues and deep, dark abysses of the human — and inhuman — soul.
Except for one egregiously bad clichéd camera movement shot, The Young Victoria*** was not bad, just wildly romanticized and manipulated beyond comprehension. Still, in the movie at least, she was a likable character, and he was almost human.
Senna*** is the life and death story of the Brazilian Ayrton Senna who was the World Champion Formula One racer three times and one of the greatest F1 drivers ever, who loved the rain. He was fast and furious and when he crashed and died, we can see it coming.
It's almost sacrilege to call another movie that, but what this Sleeping Beauty*** is about, is a sleeping beauty — a woman willing to test ideas, concepts, experiences, allows herself to be drugged out and used by a series of old rich men who pay a pretty penny to have her limp, drugged-out body for a night. What this movie is is soft porn with pretensions, excellent production values and a sense of importance that's not entirely off base.
The Mia Wasikowska Jane Eyre*** 2011 is adequate to the task, with a few almost fresh twists in the usual plot — I've seen this book in movies maybe four or five times already, and this time was more pleasant because of the actor playing Jane, but otherwise hardly distinguished.
When I put it in my queue, I thought The Desert of Forbidden Art*** was about art stolen back from the Nazis, but it's about Nukus Museum Director Igor Savitsky who saved 40,000 banned Soviet paintings from the KGB by buying them from the painters' families on credit, then getting money from the Uzbekistan government (a major feat), then "hiding" them 1,700 miles away from Moscow, in the poorer country north of Afghanistan. Lots of images of amazing art from the early years of the 20th Century and interviews with painters and other artists' families, and letters read by famous American actors. A treat.
I fully expected not to like this one. I hated that stupid fox movie he did, although I've liked almost every other one all the way back to ER, although I don't remember him in Kotter. But The Descendants***/ is one fine movie. A family dealing with a major issue. Mom's dying. With remarkable aplomb and major restraint. Lotta complicating factors. Serious movie with lots of humanness. Beautiful, soundtrack too. Probably deserves any awards it got, if it got any.
I guess they thought the end was hokey enough they could pull the usual give away the secrets with the swelling of the music as one hero rides off into the sunset, but otherwise Tracker***/ was pretty fair dinkum. I was thinking at the beginning I'd seen it before, but that was a different tracker and a different Maori in a different movie. Now I want to see that one again. Till the end it was five aces. But alas, they couldn't help themselves. Reminded me of that other, Enemy Mine and other track down classics. I didn't know what was next till that idiot end. I like it better when I don't know, but these fools broadcast it.
Thought I'd seen all the Jane Fonda movies, but I somehow missed this one. It's about a smoker. Well, actually, it's an espionage plot, but Jane smokes throughout. She smuggles money to the resistance in Germany during the early high Nazi days. She's told very specific things, and though she forgets every one of them, she still makes it through, but — oh, what a mess. Tense but goofy around the edges. So much smoke. Train smoke. Dinge smoke. And Fonda smoking through it all. Guess I'll have to wait till the smoke settles to figure out this mess. Jane's character seems too simple-minded to have been a spy. Jason Robards, Vanessa Redgrave costar. Julia***
Netflix touted Proof** as a dramedy, but it was bleaker than that. Hardly our hero, the lead is blind and surly. He takes photographs wherever he is, then gets his proof when someone he trusts describes it to him. Trusting someone is an issue, however. His housekeeper, who supposedly is madly in love with him, moves his furniture around to thwart him and perpetrates other meannesses like stealing his dog when it and he are in the park. Of minor interest, this Aussie flick has one of Russell Crowe's early roles, though it's hardly a breakout one in this dyspeptic flick. I struggled to finish it, stopping and starting often, then wondered why I bothered.
There's hardly a second goes by I wasn't fully aware this movie was made by master movie manipulators. It wasn't something I could watch all the way through, I'd get so pissed at its many manipulations. Hokey. Sappy. Sometimes stupid and so often just there to make us hope or dash our hopes that one more time. But it's a horse movie, and with them, anything goes. War Horse*** is good enough, I guess.
Dumbo**** is utterly wonderful. Cornball and ever so slightly saccharine at times, most often it is amazing. Racist from all the big Black men who pound the circus into reality and the crows who bring jive music to it, but still amazing after all these years.
My Week with Marilyn*** is a lilting charmer, sweet and bitter of course about Marilyn Monroe, but the woman who played her never really looked like her, and I never forgot she wasn't, so I was left wishing she were more, too busy to let myself be taken away. I had the willingness to suspend disbelief, not the opportunity. She most approximates Marilyn when we can't quite see her.
I think I still like newspaper movies, although I've given up on most newspapers. Rum Diaries** may be a newspaper movie, so I guess I like it. Somebody quotes "Nothing you can change. Sometimes you have to spew over the side and keep rowing." This one, if it's about anything, is about being disheartened and then losing. The story almost works, sometimes. The actors may be good, but not in this movie. Johnny Depp has made better choices. It's alright, but it could have been better.
The Memory of a Killer***/ is pretty good. Looks great. Thinks deep. Our killer for hire as one issue. He's coming down with Alzheimer's. Belgian with subtitles. Crafty old bastard — the assassin with a heart of ... well, not quite gold, but at least he has a soul. All but our hero cops here are dirty. I guess that's true the world over. Dirty, too, are the prosecutor, the Baron. All up and down the line. The bad guys are the nastiest of all. Grim. The movie is tightly wound. Smart and dark with glimmers of black humor.
On this Bogie trip last couple months. The movie historians say his break-out performance was as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest***, which is a remarkable mix of absurd realism in the American West, disguised as a play-acting stage with cardboard mountains and real dust blowing past a Bar-B-Q somewhere in Arizona near the Mexican border. There's a lot of romancifying, philosophizing and preaching Americanism, but very little action till the going-out-in-a-blaze-of-bullets ending. Shot through with cornpone and Apple pie and ... well, it does go on. Funny, in ways the movie-makers never intended 80 years later, but serious in some of the ways they did. I'm impressed, but not at all in Bogie's performance. He's as faked as the cardboard mountains.
I got this movie, because David Cronenberg directed it, more than it being the feud between Freud and Jung, although that was interesting enough. Two of the greatest minds of the 20th Century battling wits. And the woman who came between them. Of sorts. I may have to watch it again for the words. The emotions, though muted in so many stiff-collar ways, was also magnificent. A Dangerous Method***/ indeed.
I assumed I'd like Anonymous**, because I liked Shakespeare In Love and some other big movie period pieces about that time and some of those same people. The trailer for it looked kinda like all that stuff, too. It and the flick got good glitz, great movie visuals. Even sex — handsome (I guess...) guy in bed with a demented Queen Elizabeth — and some bruhaha that matters not a whit (and almost entirely sans wit). It might have been better if it had afforded that Shakespeare guy even a modicum of intelligence, but it doesn't. In fact, that stuff is in short supply here. Amid all that grandeur, many of these dolts can't even act. Or the director can't direct, which amounts to the same thing.
City of Ember*** with, of all people, Bill Murray as the bad politician, Martin Landau as the good worker, Mary Kay Place as somebody, and Tim Robbins as somebody else and a couple of teenagers and a small child. It's an odd movie that's part Terry Gilliam, Rube Goldberg, Indiana Jones and several parts something the cat drug in. Low tech back to the earth after we screwed it up, had to go hide for awhile till it cures itself of us, then this quirky adventure finding our way back.
Being Elmo — A Puppeteer's Journey*** is not the greatest documentary, and it frays around some of its edges, kinda like letting the seams show in a puppet. But it's got heart and miles of that. It's affecting and entertaining and tells a story that I liked. It's not really about Elmo. It's about being Elmo.
I like Daniel Craig, but I liked the other Mikael Blomkvist so much better. I read all the books, have seen the Swedish trilogy twice, and will see it again when comes the English dubbed version, so I can pay attention to the movie not the subtitles — I just hope the dubbing is as first-class as the original movies, and the Extended Version with two more hours from the original Swedish TV version. This English version is even less true to the book, adding little bits, plus they change the character of Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo***, making her vulnerable, which she never thinks of herself as — making the English-come-lately version a travesty, because she is what it's all about; Mikael is just along for the ride. This is not a bad movie (the first of five parts) — oh, Lard — just not as powerful as the original or the book written by Stieg Larsson, who died, and his stupid heirs turned the text over to idiots who changed it when it didn't need changing.
Lars Von Trier makes movies that are outside almost everybody's expectations. Way outside. His The AntiChrist was subtly yet deeply terrifying. This one's not so much scary as, well, melancholic. Deep, superbly acted, often beautiful — the first time the two sisters at the center of this movie rode horses through the mists was exquisite — and it's one of the most subtle science fiction stories ever. Melancholia is strange, maddening, seemingly bizarre, then a lot of it makes sense, but by then it's too late. Melancholia***/ When worlds collide.
He's a self-absorbed narcissist who is either having sex with every attractive woman he meets or is enticing them to think that he will, so they'll buy his products. He's a super salesman who can sell anything, but he ends up selling drugs for Pfizer, and now has the Viagra account. She's shell-shocked with Stage One Parkinson's so bad she sometimes can't open the child-proof cap on her medicine, and another even worse disease that won't let her be intimate (not the sexual part of a relationship) but loves having sex when she can move at all. Of course, they fall in love. Her old boyfriend beats him up in a parking lot (multiple potential witnesses), even kicks him a couple times while he's down, but he doesn't report it, and of course, is all better the next day. So the viewer may have the usual Hollywood expectations of romance. She meets a bunch of other people with Parkinson's whose lives it does not entirely control, and one of them tells him how totally he will have to care for her, later. So he's feeling like he won't be able to handle it, first sets about curing her, so she'll love him, which she already does. But he can't accept her for who she is (have we ever heard that one before?), and she doesn't want to burden him for the rest of her life (which seems inevitable, though he won't admit it). So does he revert to his usual old bullshit behaviors or does he really really really love her and risk living unhappily ever after taking care of her and her disease? Does anyone really care? Love and Other Drugs*** also has a cute but not unexpected ending. I got it, because it's got Jake Gyllenhaal and some woman who keeps showing off her breasts, I'm not sure why.
I remember Poo and Flopsie, Mopsie and Cottontail, but my childhood did without The Adventures of Tintin*** well enough. I got it, because it looked like it might be interesting. As animation it is fairly, but as a story I was not impressed. I barely got through the techy-weckie titles. Started again later. Stopped and started several times during the inanity that followed. Liked the big noses on way too many characters for it to much matter, and ... well, not much more, but it goes on and on.
Watching Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird***/ was a little like watching that iconic movie again, which I have every decade or so since it came out in 1960. Most of the talking heads were either Harper's friends or fellow writers, and what they had to say was important and instructive, as was the movie itself. This documentary is only an hour and 22 minutes, but it was a treat, and I learned a few things about her and the book and her friends, and I know I would have liked her.
I just finished watching 32 43-minute episodes (23 hours worth) of Life**** from one of the stupider TV networks. It doesn't say which one, but they cut short this amazingly intelligent, often laugh-out-loud funny, and vastly entertaining series at two seasons, which is fine with me (because 23 hours was about enough) but it was not (because it was so good I wouldn't mind still watching it this many years later — though probably by now the idiot network would have watered it down to death), although I loved its quirky humor, Zen philosophy, exciting action and reactions, and extended cast of characters, including Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews (who gets "life" for being set up for the murder of a friend's family, then released 12 years later with a $50 million settlement; his faithful friend and financial assistant Adam Arkin and partner (they're cops) Sarah Shahi and a whole raft of really bad bad guys. Wow!
I've been seeing a lot of Danish movies lately, and I am over and over surprised how good they are. Lilting, gentle, sweet with some bitter. Kinamand**** (China Man) is like that. It's about love first and foremost, but about family and communications, also. Beautiful and heart-warming then rending.
I agree with Leonard Maltin in the Special Features. This is a good movie, not a great one, but it was Bogey, and even though I've probably seen it before a couple times before this century, it's good enough. Dark Passage***
Every Picture Tells A Story*** begins with four famous painting, which art critic Waldemar Januszczak carefully enunciates the story and stories behind. Fascinating bits of history and mythology, but next time I'll select the paintings he dissects more carefully.
Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune*** documents the life, rise and fall of a protest singer who was pretty good, but not amazing. A friend of Dylan, but Bobby put him down, too. He had a good voice and was a remarkable songwriter and intellect, but he also had depression in his DNA, and it got him. Long, sad story pocked with lots of famous people, singers mostly, but some politicians, too. Tells the real story not just about Phil but about the wars and idiocies he fought with his words and his voice.
I had a lot of trouble watching Crazy Love***. I kept stopping, then when I started again, nothing made sense. Essentially, I saw each of the major segments, then got lost when everybody changed, then waited about a week and saw the final segment. Not that it tied everything together. Nope. But as an ending, it made sense, and that sense helped the whole movie make more sense. It's a great ending. The young-kid segment is the best acted and the most interesting and endearing. But the ending made watching the whole silly thing almost bearable.
It's a storybook movie, and in storybook movies, characters change personalities based on one little thing. Good guys get better and bad guys suddenly turn good, usually toward the end. Other than that rather major idiocy, Hugo***/ is pretty good. Good-enough movie story, outstanding cinematography with a few, momentary, wonderful visual tricks, good enough acting, and a lot of clocks. The clocks helped more than having Ghandi in it.
To Have and To Have Not*** is a good-enough yarn whose plot nearly parallels Casablanca, only thinner, but it's got Lauren Bacall, so what little plot there is, sizzles. For that, it's become a great movie, and every several decades I have to see it again. Might need me a couple more Bogie flicks before long. Some 1940s movies avoid being stuck in another century. Others don't. This one succeeds. Plus it's got Hoagy Carmichael singing his own songs, and that part, at least, is aces.
The First Grader***/ is the brave and independent story o fKimani N'gan"ga Maruge a Mau Mau freedom fighter who fought the British for Kenya's Independence and was imprisoned and tortured by them, and they killed his wife and children, whipped him savagely and drove a pencil into his ear partially deafening him (I couldn't help think about our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan), who at the age of 84 attempts to go to school to learn to read. Not an easy task. Beautiful filming, very visual. Heartwarming and bureaucracy-induced maddening.
I've just spent the last 9 hours thoroughly enjoying watching the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition that came to me today as a bolt from the blue, although it's been around for a couple months now (Netflix is lousy about announcing new movies). After the first couple minutes I began to recognize and relish scenes cut from the original Swedish movie that knocked my socks off for enough reasons not to go into here. I loved the movie. I will see the bastardized (It's only a couple hours long, for one instance) English version starring big stars and big budget that the family of the dead writer insisted upon. But first, I want to see all the rest of the episodes of the extended version, with segments, here and there, added. Those were probably cut for time and violence reasons, I like them back. What a treat. There additions were, like the rest of the original film, superb movie making. It's not like seeing a whole new movie. It's more like seeing an amazing movie I already love in much more detail. This one was in Swedish with English subtitles, but I understand there's one dubbed in English out there, and all of some other Sunday I'll have to see that, too.
Kitchen Stories** is about a Norwegian bachelor farmer who volunteers for a kitchen manufacturer' survey about how their products are used. The surveyor, who promises not to get involved personally with the person being studied, watches objectively and takes notes and draws diagrams indicating how their products are used. Luckily, we are saved from all that stupid objectivity, and a tale of friendship ensues. It's not nearly as cute as it thinks it is, and it proceeds at a pace any snail could easily outdistance. Gentle and kind, but awfully slow.
Ken Burns' America: Thomas Hart Benton**** is a lively story jammed with art that's almost hyperactive, with plenty of bright, joyful music of the time — and stupid art critics like Hilton Kramer being their usual idiot selves. Amazing heart for a public documentary about art — well before Burns' intra-image zooming got mindlessly monotonous. Here the camera moves around, goes where it needs to go to illustrate what somebody is talking about, and it is never hideous slow. Hot dog! This is one fine documentary! I smiled and laughed out loud with the human comedy of it all the way through. Hooray!
Darkly intriguing, deeply cynical, and — like real Presidential politics, truly evil. The Ides of March***
He wasn't terrible at it, but Public Enemies**/ was not Johnny Depp's best performance, though it was almost interesting, among all that rat-a-tat-tat of machine and other guns. Lot of senseless and sensible violence. J. Edgar Hoover as a stick-up-his-ass prig was par for the course, and the girlfriend seemed pretty stupid, and it all did go on pretty long. 2009
Visually, Jar City**** is amazing beautiful, serene and surreal. The story, too. Winding and as strange as the Icelandic landscape. Our hero policeman has his own family issues in this turning and twisting murder mystery about families and death and digging up graves and. I only wish the English subtitles stayed on screen a few seconds longer. Otherwise, one superb flick. 2006
Edge of Dreaming**** is about a woman, a filmmaker, who dreams she will die in her 48th year. She dreams that soon after she dreamt her horse died, and he died the night she had the dream, so she takes the death dream to heart and lungs, which clog till sometimes she cannot breathe. In life Amy Hardie makes movies about science, and in this dream movie she animates many important parts of dreaming and thinking, and in beauty- and meaning- full trip sequences she continues to advance the plot till. Well, to know that, you have to watch the movie, but it's beautiful and intelligent and a little magical and visually exquisite. 2009
Copenhagen***/ is a videoplay involving possible conversations between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Jewish Danish physicist and former teacher Niels Bohr during World War II, before either side knew the other was working on an atomic bomb. The conversations and the dense personal history of the two physicist's father (Bohr) / son (Heisenberg) relationship and close friendship make for fascinating conjecture, most of which is presented in comparatively plain language. It is deep, intelligent, and keenly affecting. 2002
Every other movie I've tried today has been wrong. I'll probably go back to Bogie in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but the rest were all losers. I chose this one from my online queue at Netflix, so I had little hope for it, either, but it surprised and delighted me. Caos Calmo***/ (Quiet Chaos) is about greif and community. It involves quirk, brotherhood, business and of course love. A man's wife dies while he and his brother are playing ping pong on the beach, then two women cry help, and they jump in and save them, but nobody even thanks them. Our hero has a daughter, and this is mostly about them, so he waits outside her school all day meeting people who inhabit the little park. A gentle little movie whose chaos is smart and pretty and calm, at least on the outside. 2008
You know that great feeling we get when we see something new and uniquely different or expressed uniquely? Well, that's promised here, but there's not a single moment of it in the whole Anxious Animation* collection. Everything here has been done nearly to death already — and a long time ago. Although it is anxiety provoking, but in an inanely boring way. 2006
Giulia Doesn't Date at Night***/ because she's in prison for killing her lover, and her husband feels betrayed, and her daughter is frightened of her, and her new boyfriend who met her at the pool where she works days, loves her but part of his attraction is that she is so sad. It's the story of responsibility and loneliness and only brief and, she believes, undeserved joy and romance, so the story is dark. 2009
I always wonder how I miss the really sappy love stories like Definitely, Maybe***/ that I love — about a guy choosing among three women, but never quite choosing. Flitting and bugging out when he should have stayed and discovered. But I thoroughly identified with this pretty smart for a sappy romance movie, that's still heart-warming, sweetly funny and manages to be too true-to-life. 2008
Restless***/ seems an odd title for a tale of young love about to be interrupted by her death by cancer, just after his parents died, but this is an odd duck of a movie. Lilting romance taking the usual Hollywood arc, they meet; they fall in love; they fight; one leaves; then that one comes back; they live happily ever after … well, actually, not. Serious, somber quirk in a gentle story about dying and living. Sweet and bitter. Lovely. 2011
Philip K. Dick is a strange but wonderful writer and pretty much nuts as a human being. So probably even more movies should be made about him and his work. I'd list the more famous of those, but if you don't know, it might be too late. All these talking heads of people who knew him may be fascinating for us fans, and we can probably overlook — or underhear — them without the really, incredibly stupid music that plays on and on throughout this film. Somebody kll the electronics. Please. So here's a guy talking about a tape recording of Dick, and we are shown the cassette and liner notes, oh, gosh, another terrible movie about the master. Oh, I get it, PKD cartoons, rudely interrupted by a bunch of people talking about him. Essentially dumb movie. The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick. I need to rewartch for the fortieth time, Blade Runner or one of those awful Schwartzenegger flicks... The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick**
I remember Jim Jarmusch's Night On Earth 20 years ago. How life was affecting people all over the world, if I remember correctly, and I often do not. This one is Last Night***/, which proved remarkable in its own quirkish ways. The world is ending, everybody knows it's ending, and they're all planning for it in their own very peculiar ways. We, of course, S O P in these sorts of things, follow a smaller group of people through to the end. People being people in so many different ways. Often very funny ways, or are we just identifying and laughing along as people deal with it, don't deal with it, go crazy, fall in love, or have sex with one of every kind (including his favorite high school teacher) and color (We only see the Black woman.) of woman in every place and under interesting conditions, as one character does, and that seems so empty. At first. Then, oh, hell, why not?
This movie seems to think it's so damned cool it can get away with senseless violence, frontal female nudity, and the music telling what's going on in case we hadn't figured it out yet. It is cool in a warm and oozy sort of way, and stylish as hell, and it's even about love, and so much less than it should have been about fast cars, but it's really really slow. Driver*** 2011
Elvis is the mortician's son and Anabelle is the beauty queen. When she seems to die after winning the pageant, he's about to replace her blood with mortician's fluid, he kisses her. And she comes back to life. After that they have their differences and their sames and they get along, and they escaps her beauty pageant life together, and they like each other, and they fight, and … Well it gets more complicated, but except for one stupid jail scene when they won't tell each other stuff they need to tell (typical Hollywood tripe, even though this one was made at the University of Texas), it's a lilting love story with many of the same ups and downs and some different ones, too. Elvis & Anabelle***/ is a charmer.
The best part of The Source***/ were the performances of Beat Poetry by lots of different people famous and not, poets and others. And the editing into an order that seemed right, at every moment through talking heads who said something important and I'm glad to know it, and the pictures, moving pictures, pictures of Allen Ginsberg taking pictures of notions that got into his mind. Solid documentary about the Beats who started a lot of things rolling that are still rolling. Out there, in here. And everywhere.
Troubled Water**** is a deeply rending film about loss and guilt and retribution, good and evil and even forgiveness. Dark and oddly edited to get at the truth the characters don't want to admit, but finally have to. Creepy in moments that need it, a few joys scattered in, and then an end I didn't see coming, but for a change I wanted to have been happy … Brilliantly acted and deeply felt. I'm still shaken. In Swedish with subtitles.
I don't like this movie, and I don't trust it. It feels like the director or the producers found an interesting book and screwed it royally to make this too-Hollywood movie about an angry man, the long lost son of the author of a children's fable. Too much anger for the sake of anger, too much reaction and not near enough character. Or something stupidly concocted like that. I'm sure it'll end happily ever after, but I'm still upset with it, because it's so stupidly Hollywoodianly overwrought. This guy's acting is overwrought, and this movie is, too. Neverwas*** It's just too bad, so sad, that Aaron Eckhart can't act. But we're lucky beyond reason that Ian McKellen still can.
Happy Happy*** is anything but some of the time and utterly joyous in its enriching infidelities and dark human humor. It moved me in many ways, good, bad and ugly, and it's all tied together with down-home glory a cappella gospel. Amazing mix of cultures.
Now here's a spy hero with depth and truthfulness, something we don't get much of anymore. A cool character who is wiser and older than all the studmuffins usually inhabiting such roles. Masterpiece Contemporary & PBS' Page Eight***/ is deeply intelligent, truly of this century, and willing to have actual emotions, and we get them, too. I like the elder hero and — in the well-tread way of one-off productions — want to see more of him, and that wont is all the more delicious knowing it probably won't happen.
I didn't think I was going to like it. Way too much senseless violence, but on the far side of it, the violence started making sense in this Kaiser Söze kind of roundabout logic and overwhelmingly violent movie that, oddly enough, is about love and honor and wallpaper. With Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kinsley, Stanley Tucci and Josh Hartnett, it's called Lucky # Slevin***/
The Unknown Woman***/ is the soul-shredding story of a woman who escapes from the sex trade, but it keeps coming back to get her — actually as well as figuratively. Heart-rending, a thriller in many dark ways, while in everything visual, it is beautiful. Gorgeous. Careful delicate editing that shimmers and sparks; amazing dark when that needs showing; bright with luscious colors when that needs to show; sparkkling clean and filth — so many opposites compressed into this movie. Joy, viciousness, misery, evil and love — sliding in and out of reality and memory and horror, and transcendance; guilt and forgiveness. Superb. Deeply intelligent.
I'm out of movies, except the ones I bought in the last century, and since I never watched any of those — except Waking Life once — this century it seems stupid to buy any more, so when I watched my last Netflix flick late last night, I watched The Truth About Cats & Dogs*** online because Janeane Garofalo was in it. Turned out the whole goofy Hollywood plot turned on, not just mistaken identity, but purposely obfuscating Garofalo and Uma Thurman's identities, inevitably setting up the dichotomy of pretty vs. smart, although I always thought Garofalo was cute or I wouldn't have seen this mostly silly flick. A little heart-warming at the end, but I expected that from one of these misdirection romantic comedies, and really nothing ever happened that I didn't already know was gonna happen, but I watched it anyway.
The characters are all black & white, and I don't mean grayscale. The extreme stylization only involves a few areas of gray well into this movie. Towards the end there's even one scene in color, but everything else is bright & dark. It's a seeming kidnapping by a world corporation intent on selling a protocol that give eternal life. There's a big brave detective, some beautiful women and a buncha cops. Once I got used to the extreme white-black, getting into the characters and plot was easier, but never easy, because it's so different. Renaissance***/ 2006
I wasn't expecting a great movie, but it'd been atop my movie queue for so long, I would not have cared, but it turns out, this story, and the movie of it is quite strange, somewhat different and often enough shocking that it's grand fun when it's not horribly tragic. The Libertine**** with Johnny Depp for all you lovers of period pieces. 2004
A lot of Hanna*** is superb, but certain incredulities intercept the "meaning" of this film at inopportune moments. Yeah, yeah, the United States Government as ultimate Satan is real enough, but in this too-often over-the-top film even that becomes unbelievable. A more deft screenplay might have rendered it outstanding, lots of action, hero is a growing little girl who is beautiful and very talented. The filming is very nice, and many of the characters are superb. Even Cate Blanchett is pretty good as the Wicked Witch of the West (CIA boss), but she's too evil seeming for this usually kinder, gentler movie that could have been a contender.
Life in a Day***/ is some of what got videoed on July 24 2010 all over the world superbly edited with world music and taste and joy and all humanity's other emotions, personal and universal. It might have been better with other videos, but this is what they had to choose from, and they did pretty well.
I've seen all the episodes now, and I enjoyed them thoroughly (So thoroughly I'm reading one of the novels it was adapted from, but they are very different beasts. The TV show is better), because they're unique and funny in a very dark way as well as mysterious, and our hero bumbles through it all as if he were the master detective, and we're never quite sure he's not — and it's all set in Italy about Italian cops, so it's as corrupt as anything could possibly be (except maybe Mexico), and all that just adds to the mystery.
My rules for this page are that I count TV shows for only one movie, no matter how many episodes I watch. At the moment, that doesn't seem fair, but they're my rules, and with no one else to follow them, I guess I'm stuck. It's called Zen****; it's from the BBC; and it's about a rough and tumble Italian detective with a reputation for being honest, which probably makes him remarkable, and he seems so.
What I'm not watching is the second two-thirds of Pandorum**, which is long, stupid, tedious and keeps introducing little ghouls that scrap about and attempt to kill our hero who is more or less lost inside a giant space ship full of zombies, while his boss (Dennis Quaid) gives him orders from somewhere inside the spaceship. Or something unpleasant like that. Maybe to balance out not being able to count all of Zen's episodes, I'm counting this insipidly unthrilling sci-fi thriller, even though I already dislike it so intensely I likely will never finish. I thought because it is sci-fi, that would outweigh its low score. Wrong again.
All drama, including movies, TV, stage plays, fiction and even comic books, requires the audience to submit to a willful suspension of disbelief. This movie takes the notion to the next dimension. It's dark and bloody funny, in great part, because it makes fun of itself and many of the idioms of movie-making, but it's more than s a little mean-spirited. About a tire that learns to be a destroyer, so it destroys, usually blowing the heads off people. Rubber***
Whip It*** is about a teenager who joins an all-girl roller derby team in Austin and her trials and tribulations. It's mostly upbeat, amusing, sometimes even rises to fun, then is all but dashed with a straight-out-of-the-Hollywood-book ending that kinda wrecks the quirkiness developed through the movie. Almost touches actual smarm. Still is fun and even funny but well short of a great flick.
I tried to watch The Seven Year Itch**/ with Marilyn Monroe, hoping to see her as she was, instead of what stupid, sexist Hollywood made of her, and I was vastly disappointed in this dated and inept movie, but now I see what she meant by demeaning. With those guys, she never had a chance.
Then I watched the sci-fi-inept and similarly elderly Forbidden Planet** and saw that same old Hollywood, tell-not-show sexist, species-ist idiocy.
I saw this movie because An Education was so good, and during the Special Features, they kept mentioning this one as if it was a real charmer, and it is. Italian for Beginners***
After all those really good movies, I thought I'd dip down into the B movie section, but instead I came up with another decent flick. Not a great movie, but fun and funny with a little serious thrown in when all that fun got a little much. It's called Easy A*** and it's about virtue and promotion and, well, see the movie, because it's about too many things to list here, and if I did, you wouldn't believe it anyway. Might actually be better if you're a teenager or in your twenties, but since I'm not I can't be sure. The presentation is somewhat unorthadox, but a lot of it is pure teen-flick story.
I never quite got baseball. I played it as a little kid but was never very good at it. Maybe because I was afraid of the ball and had serious depth of field issues. If I shut my eyes after the ball was hit or released, I could catch it, but coaches insisted I keep my eye on the ball, which always did not work. I don't really understand baseball or baseball movies, but this one makes some sense. A lot more than I expected. Not sure what I expected from something called Moneyball***, but I was impressed, very nearly enchanted and certainly entertained.
Mix a really good story by people who actually know how to write a screenplay, with some outstanding actors, throw in every cliché about cowboys, Indians, law persons, bad guys and good so we feel comfortable about what we are seeing, and shake a little with some interesting make-it-up-as-you-go-along warfare, and you might be lucky enough to pull Cowboys & Aliens***/ out of a wet ten-gallon hat. Fun, exciting, fairly intelligent after the first half hour or so, and well crafted.
The Burning Plain***/ is an odd name for this bittersweet little topsy-turvy tale that takes about half the movie to figure out who the players are and how they all fit together in this purposely disjointed and edge-frayed story of love and self-hatred. But then it makes all the sense in the world. Charize Theron and Kim Basinger and probably one guy you'll recognize and several that we should, but mostly it's the women who carry this superb, deeply affecting, smart story of dense characterizations. Nice.
Another Earth**** is only very subtly science fiction. Much more it is close-up personal between two people with a terrible moment shared in their histories. We can call it love, but it is also awful, and he cannot let her back into his life once she tells him their story — until she wins a ticket to go to the second Earth that we see ever coming closer to the otherwise ordinary scenes of life around them. A simple story told in close-ups of faces and impeccable never quite abstract but seeming-so cinematography that's as elusive and remote as our characters sometimes are. Unlike anything else I have seen, and I've rated more than two thousand movies on Netflix and sixteen hundred here, although the name Adam Egoyan comes to mind. . Beautiful. Ethereal. Of guilt and setting themselves free.
I get this eerie feeling around schizophrenics, and I've known too many this life. I kept that feeling through the strange and disturbing Peacock***/ — The heebies and the jeebies. Startlingly good cast. Scary acting. Shakes my mind and memories to think on it. I couldn't stop watching, but always with a certain dread. There are scary movies. Lars Von Trier's Antichrist comes to mind there, but so dos this one.
Incendies***/ tells the long and violent and beautifully and horrible and twisting and winding and hateful and loving and evil and kind story of a family in search of itself through the history and internecine warfare of the Lebanese civil war.
Nothing exceeds like excess, and no film director is ever as excessive as Terry Gilliam, who ought by now, to be used to stars dying in the big middle of his major extravaganzas, and I thought that was, for awhile there at least, Heath Ledger, with his other fasces — of Jude Law and Collin Farrell and Johnny Depp (wow, that's a movie-full). [Wasn't all this inter-charactal gimmickry in another, earlier, wild extravaganza of Gilliam's movies?], and then there's Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits. Oof, wonderfully, well, they're all in there in Dr. Parnasus' wildly imaginative imagination. Running amok as only Gilliam can push them. Wild and wooly, and holy fantabulous. I'll have to admit I'm a huge Gilliam fan. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus**** is amazing.
An Education***/ is just that. Cute young, otherwise intelligent high-school girl falls for fast, loose, charming older man and nearly gives up her dreams. Smart, odd in just the right places, quirkish, never smarmy, a little unreal at the end of course probably too pat an ending, but it had to stop somewhere, and the end seems about right for that.
First movie of the new year, which means I'll have to start thinking about alphabetizing all those below, but what the hey, it never takes as long to do it as I have spent worrying about it, so I won't.
Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris**** is enchanting. Time-travel and thick with nostalgia and real people from time gone by, a young man in Paris falls in love with the city and out of love with his fiancé, all the while traveling back and back to the golden years, which always receed further into the past, till he accepts the present. Former Dallasite Owen Wilson is marvelous, instead of his usual stupid, and the movie is a marvelous step into this current future.
Audrey Tautou is amazing. I learn that again every time I see her in a movie. This one has scope and grandeur. It's wildly romantic, yet deeply feminist. A heart-breaker and deeply affecting portrayal of a unique individual, an independent woman at a time when there weren't such things. Smart, superb and enchanting. Coco Before Channel****
Heaven**** is a simple love story, intricate escape plot and moral dilemma set in beautiful, corrupt Italy and starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi. Gorgeous, intelligent, and wildly romantic yet the passion is held tautly serene. And the Special Features add to the depth without scuttling the film.
The sad, sick, sordid story of Ivy (Drew Barrymore as a unloved slut), Sylvie (Sara Gilbert), Tom Skerritt and Cheryl Ladd and even some Guy called Leonardo Di Caprio) as near total disaster of a dysfunctional family. Full of unresolved almosts and truly idiotic lusts. Poison Ivy**
The Rape of Europa***/ documents compellingly and with many contemporary photographs the colossal robery of European art and culture by the Nazis, the Russians and the Americans during World War II. It's a fascinating story with many heroes and villans, including a truly mediocre painter named Adolf Hitler.
Exam*** purports to be a thriller. What it is instead, is a psycho-drama. A big corporation needs a director. The exam looks like a blank piece of paper. The six candidates have 80 minutes to answer. It reminds me a lot of The Cube. Essentially, not enough to hang a movie on, certainly not that important a plot.
First, we see Sarah with her family, taken by the French — not the Nazis, but the French collaborators, from whose camp she escapes. The rest of Sarah's Key*** is a long, sad story, told incrementally through the people who knew her at different times of her life. Interesting and intricate, explaining much, but never all, the movie explores a life of sadness with but little joy.
I love me some time-travel movies. Next*** was much better than I expected until I saw that Julianne Moore and Peter Falk were in there with Nicholas Cage being his usual save-the-world action adventure hero. Remarkably well done. High production V. Good enough acting. Smart story all the way to the end. Action, adventure, premonition and romance. Fun flick.
One of these two movies was based on yet another Philip K. Dick novel.
The Fourth Kind**/ purports to be a documentary about alien abduction, but from very near the beginning, we know it ain't true. The premise fails. Then it hammers and hammers away repeating stuff till we either believe, or chuck the stupid thing. Some good (Milla Jovovitch), some really bad (Will Patton, but what do you expect?) acting. Some fear induced. A lot of anger perpetrated against the stupid cop (Now there's a new concept …) Not dreary dreck, often intense, but not a great enough movie that we believe, although we may want to. Lotta tricks being played here. From the Blair Witch Project School of cinema verite. Not saying alien abduction is not real, just that this movie isn't, despite its high production values.
For distraction while I worked up some photographs — birds and bears — tonight, I switched on the TV for a movie for awhile. Then I stuck through it. Funny several times, laugh out loud so. Snickers, too. Cute movie, and just absorbing enough to watch through the end. The Wedding Date*** with a cute guy and a cute girl, and her family.
Either it makes not nearly enough sense or it makes way too much sense, The Tree of Life**** is stunningly visual, often relying on amazing earth, nature, industrial and everything else visuals to represent human emotions, and it pulls off that film abstraction pretty well, but it's not in service to a happy story. Mom lets Dad do what he wants, and he's deep-down wicked, obscured by evil, and his kids suffer for it.
If The Help***/ had come out sooner than 55 years after the events portrayed, we could more honestly pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we are not utterly racist to the core, just like most of the White ladies in this movie. It reads like a feel-good fairy tale. Very well acted, and probably close to dead-on accurate for 1955 in Jackson, Mississippi, which we want to have been long ago and far away, but of course it is still very much with us.
We may think we know all about The Science of Sex Appeal***/, but prepare to be proved wrong in this educational and entertaining movie that matches and mismatches such traits as: adornment, age, attachment, body shape, breasts, cars, chemistry, children, children, copulence, craving, desire, dopamine, elation, elation, estrogen, euphoria, evolution, excitement, face, hormones, infidelity, kissing, love, lust, marriage, mental chemistry, monogamy, ovulation, oxytocin, pair bonding, passion, physical attraction, physique, preferences, resources, scent, scent, sexiness, skin exposure, social class, social cues, status, status, straying, symetry, taste, testosterone, cars and voice.
Burma VJ**** is riveting. The repressive government of Burma versus the Democratic Voice of Burma (VJ), a small cadre of dedicated journalists who videotaped the 2007 popular protests against the government, led by the Bhudist monks and joined by the public till the army started shooting, arresting, torturing and murdering the monks, the people and especially the VJ. Amazing video from the forefront of a democratic uprising, once again smashed.
I'm sure I saw The Trouble with Harry*** decades ago, but it didn't feel at all familiar. Billed as Alfred Hitchcock's second American comdey, it's a classic farce. Amusing, rather than outright funny. More like goofy with outstanding characterizations — every one is a true individual. Harry's issue was that he couldn't stay buried, though when we first see him, he's dead, and he stays dead throughout. The one other hallmark of this silly trifle is that it was Shirley MaclLain's film debut, and she's as goofy as the rest of them.
Beginners***/ trying to fall in love, unlike his parents — his dad was gay, and his mother wanted more, but never got it, so they never taught him that love was even possible, so he kept running off girlfriends. Then his dad came out and spent the rest of his life finding love, died, and son had to do something. Sad little tale of love of the family kind and of the boy/girl kind. Very well done, beautiful, deep in a slow and sad yet hopeful way. A hack with soul.
Bitter and sweet, but Water for Elephants*** has the most to do with cruelty, mostly human cruelty, but there's animal cruelty, too. So be warned. An evil man runs a circus, and our hero hops a train, joins the circus and falls in love with the cruel man's wife. Guess what?
Yeah, it's exciting, and the kids are done very well indeed. But all the subplots are stupid, and we've seen them too many times already, and Steven Spielberg, who invented a lot of them, is the producer. Our hero's father is mean and stupid. His young girlfrien's father is mean and stupid. The Air Force is … well, you know, mean and stupid. I understand that we should never believe the army or the air force or any of the services. That's a given, but dramatizing it makes everybody — well, you guessed it — mean and stupid. They're rampaging (Air Force?) tanks through the town, and all their weapons are misfiring, bombs going the wrong way, but they just keep shooting. Not unlike, Afghanastan and Iraq, I bet. This is still exciting, but almost too stupid to be a movie. Super 8***
Once I learned, in the Special Features, that the movie I'd just seen came from Performance Art, the little sense it so slowly made, made much more sense. Performance, when done particularly well, does that. It pulls everything in and makes a visual sense out of it, if not an everything else sense. This movie is unique in that. After the end, I began to like it more and more. Before it finally stopped, I got up and did other things. But I always came back. I saw every second of it. In order. Early on, however, I began not expecting a lot of the usual movie sense in it. An ocean of it, may be there, ebbing and flowing. Like tides. Creating a certain rhythm that mocks a story. Maybe not. The Future****
Netflix tried to warn me, giving it only 2.5 stars, instead of my minimal 3, but I got it anyway, because I mean how bad could a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kenneth Branagh possibly be? Then I watched some. Then some more, and finally, I had to take it out of the slot and stick it back in its red envelope and send it back. I couldn't watch it anymore. Branagh's character was stupid prim politician who wants to stamp out Britain's Pirate Radio*, even if it's not illegal. And mostly everything else is over all the good tops, and I just couldn't watch any more of it.
Three couples, or not couples, depending on who's having the moments when they're either terrified or not of having a relationship. And the guy in one of them find a little Black kid who's been abandoned on the subway. So it's about finding love and being friends, even if it's scary or the cops put you in jail for being good. Bittersweet, humanely funny, lots of little sad tugs as we watch grownups being incredibly afraid and so not doing what we all know they should be doing, and lots of other moments when joy is abundant enough to keep at it. HappyThankYouMorePlease***?
He might as well be on the moon, this castaway's chances of getting off the island in the first half of this sweet and bittersweet and nearly direct-dialog-free movie, is slim. The island this Korean finds himself on is in the middle of the Han river in the middle of his city, but otherwise inescapable. It's about being alone, trusting self, learning self-sufficiency and communication. A reclusive young woman with a super super telephoto lens sees and photographs him, beginning something that is bigger than the movie. One of those rare few one-of-a-kind movies that will be remembered. Castaway on the Moon****. All that and it's still pretty goofy.
This vision amazed me. Truly visually arresting, it presents us with the odd amalgam of a realistic and animated comix universe. French, so it does not devolve utterly into stupidity as our own often do, yet foreign enough in creation and characterizations that we stay tuned. Graphically weird, somewhere beyond the setting of The Fifth Element, out into manifestations of Philip K. Dick's dystopia. If there's much wrong, it's the bad-guy plots that stutter the story, although the red hammerhead-seeker and Horus Himself, are superbly accomplished. Fierce movie. Immortal***/
For a movie that calls itself Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself***/, this is a gentle, bittersweet, kind and beautiful movie. Poignant, intelligent, deeply humanly funny with several, sometimes contrasting and intelligent themes that play and play back upon themselves, and us.
I've begun 5ive Days till Midnight**/, and am loving it. Disk Two now tops my Netflix queue, and I'm sorry I didn't trust it enough to have already got it here, so I can devour it. I am ever fond of sci-fi movies that even hint at time travel, and to that, fold in a thoroughly thriller plot. Delicious, remarkably well acted and exciting. Can't wait. I even like the typo shenanigan with the spelling. Then, the second/last disc started well enough, but the final episode just got stupid. And stupider. Too bad.
Van Gogh: Brush with Genius***/ has him speaking English with a thick French accent and using contemporary idioms, but this movie is mostly about the paintings, and they are gorgeous.
John James Audubon: Drawn from Nature*** is one of the better public TV biographies. Plenty of infomation, chronologically follows his life through ups and downs to his dying words, "Billy, let's get our guns and go down to Long Pond and shoot some ducks."
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death***/ is as good as they get, and short. But Wallace didn't mention a single cheese, and I rely on his recommendations.
Dean Spanley***/, with of all people, a very elderly yet still superb actor Peter O'Toole with Jeremy Northam and Sam Neill was an unexpected delight. A faciful tale of the reincarnation of a much-loved dog, once the joyed pet of who is begins our story as a crotchedy old man who is in dire need character development — and gets it when his long-lost and much-loved dog, who has since reincarnated as a human lover of a particular Hungarian wine joins the Thursday evening festivities. Bitter and sweet, comedic in the human condition and lofty as the transmigration of souls.
Cars 2***/ was almost as great as Cars 1. Like the first one, the characters are depthy, the action fast and the plot thick. Best of all, Pixar + Disney (even if it an all-out commercial entity) = soul.
At first I thought Green Lantern*** was going to be just another super-gallactic hero, then he was. No puny earth-bound bad guys (well, maybe a couple), he's got galactic scope. It was better than I expected, but then I didn't expect much. All the cosmic stuff was a big (not just a little) goofy. For awhile I thought it was just an elaborate setup for a dozen or so sequels, but I don't know where they'd go from here. I'd give it a lot of so-what?
With nary a nod to full dimensionality and soft fur of contemporary cartooning, Winnie The Poo***/ was a delight. A little old school mixed with a lot of new school annimation, it felt like a righteous re-introduction to the characters I first fell in love with in my childhood. I still have my first, black ink on browning acidish paper, lPooh book, marred by errant crayoning though it may be. And I've always been a major Pooh Bear fan, and I loved this new version.
We saw Margin Call***/ in a real theater without much talking, one of those minor miracles, even at the Angelika. Lotta really good, big-name actors and mucho tension, partially because we almost wanted them to get away with it, but the other part because we knew they had. It's about Bear Stearns or someplace like that just before the meltdown when they were dumping all those dubious assets, nearly destroying our economy. Executive-level crimes that would never be persecuted.
The Speed of Thought**/ is a less-than flick about people working for the government who can read others' minds, but they all die by age thirty, or so they believe. The government uses them as secret powers agents, though we only see a few card games. Thieatric mind-read "special effects" and cheap film tricks marr the production and the plot, but I love a good mind-read movie, so so-what?
The Yellow Handkerchief*** is a sweet little movie that's a remake of the Japanese movie of the same name. It's a road trip after the William Hurt character gets out of jail and meets a young woman and a young man. For the last two it's a coming of age flick, for Hurt it's character development. We get to see what he did and why he left the love of his life when he want off to prison for doing, well, you gotta see the movie. It'll be worth your while.
I saw a movie in a theater recently, and I don't remember a thing about it. It was outside of my usual, watch it, write about it routine, and now I've forgot everything about it, except it was in a movie theater, and we got there just as the opening credits were over. What was that flick?
They talk about the French, as if the movies they made were the greatest ever, and yeah, they are, sometimes, superb, but I'm watching Five Days**** the Brits did that's amazing good, and I've only done the first disc of two of. A swirl of characters, grand scale in a minor key, novelistic. All about when a woman disappears after buying flowers at a roadside, then some of the children she left in the car on the other side of the road, then her family, and then. Well, ripples spread as the story contracts, and we have no more idea than everybody else what happened, but everybody on both sides (cops and humans) think they may know or are busy wrongly identifying others of those caught up in this deed's motives and guilts. A five-hour-long movie about five days in all this rush to judgement, fear and all those other human motives so well packaged in this made-for-TV movie I can't wait to see the rest of.
I like Jesse Stone movies. They're all pretty much the same. Same issues, lot of the same characters. Part of why I like them, I guess. And I'll watch every one I can. This one was Innocents Lost***. He's a small-town police chief, or was just fired from being one, or becomes one after being fired in LA for being a drunk. The issues don't change much. Hell, even the bad-guy issues don't change all that much. It's dependable.
Inside Out***/ is a character-driven story. Arlo is just getting out of jail for 13 years, and he just wants to make pickles. His buddy meets him at the bus. They used to be criminals together, and it's more involved than that. Deep friends. Trouble is the friend is an idiot. There are several really stupid people in this film, but every one is a true individual. Most of the way through this I didn't think I was going to like it, but I watched it all the way through, and I'm charmed by it. Maybe should call it a study in responsibility, but it's character-driven, and most the flicks that are that don't qualify. This does. It's got loads of character and loads of characters.
Been a long time since I saw a new (to me) Walter Matthau movie. I doubt I've seen many Matthau movies this century but in the last one I saw as many as I could find. Made in 1980 with a remarkable cast — Glenda Jackson, Ned Beaty, Sam Waterston and some other faces I recognize without (as usual) knowing the names. It's fun and funny about Walter getting fired from the CIA, so he writes a book, send early chapters to all the world's intelligence agencies to perk up a little interest, then he goes a hoscotching around that world with all those guys on his tail, and then … well, you know, adventure and amusement ensues. I loved Hopsctoch***/.
Whether it's on the street in New York or on the runway in Paris, watching Bill Cunningham work is a joy, and lucky for us, that's what Bill Cunningham New York***/ is all about. The joy of working the work he wants to. What his life is all about. Photographing clothes.
Strand: Under Dark Cloth*** is your typical documentary about a famous photographer, Paul Strand, who, among other things, started the 20th Century trend to photograph abstract images. There's some annoying noises like a woman crying behind black & white photographs we know had no soundtracks and way too many talking heads, but some of them were important. Best of all a chance to hear Paul Strand, major photographer of the early 20th Century talk talk about his work, but never long enough, although we get to watch, briefly, him make photographs with a camera that does not use a dark cloth.
I love Science Fiction even if they make fun of it, so Paul***/, though goofy and crude, was good fun, funny and did I say goofy? Goofy fun. If I knew who Steven Spielburgh looked like I'd watch it again to track him down, but luckily I don't. Lotta good actors in there, though, and the story actually makes sense, and I probably only caught half the references.
Limitless***/ was fun. I love plays, books and movies about somebody who's way smarter than the rest of us. I identify in some peculiar and envious way. This time Algernon's flowers are a drug, and everybody wants it. Our hero has it and gets more, so lots of criminals are after it and wouldn't mind killing him for it. So it's a race and an unfolding and even character development, so it's got a lot going for it. The zoom-and-move-and-zoom again trip scenes manage an eye-delighting visual arrest. It stays pretty smart, mostly logical and somewhat credible throughout. Even Robert Dinero isn't as stupid as he has been in most of his movies as of late.
I loved Carrie Fisher's first tell-all from 1990, Postcards from the Edge, though I don't remember it much. It was a movie. This, Wishful Drinking*** 2011 starts off funny, then is not quite as funny, then slowy gets less and less funny, even though it's still about her life, so there a deeper humor there.
I usually screen my flicks pretty well, so no telling what the movies I just yesterday sent back were like, but I hadn't watched them — or this — in a couple weeks, I figured it was time to do a redraw. Not sure why I kept this one, but it could easily be one of those Netflix (yeah, them, still. A.k.a. nitwits.) calls "visually arresting." This one's got some spiritual going on, too. Beautiful. The trip scenes are amazing — time passing, or space. Obviously the director (some guy named Wim Wenders) and the cinnematographer were having great fun. In several important parts, it's even semi-mystical. A couple even all the way. A wowzer. I don't feel really movied very often, but this one did it. Don't Come Knocking.****
I'm a huge Wenders fan, and just searched through Netflix site to find and order more. He pronounces the Ws as Vs.
Silly to have named this very well-told tale I've just seen, Flirting***/, but that's the name it's got, and there's a playfullnes about calling that, I suppose. A very different sort of growing up movie from 1991, with a very young Nicole Kidman, but not in a major role. Boarding schools, guys on one side, girls on the other side of a rowable river. All very Brit proper, plenty corporial punnishment. Stupid rules and the lot, and two kids, really, on the verge of learning something important. Unlike most that sound like that, though, this one's intelligent and very close to real.
I could have seen Win Win*** for free in a theater, which means seeing it at home was far better. Far far better. I could back it up when I missed a line. This one's fairly simple, and everything turns on being honest, which nearly nobody is at first, then some of them are, and that's what they call character development. It's a smarmy little flick with, I suppose, some good, but I'd rather everything turned on character, which of course, it did.
The Debt*** was confuing all the way through, at least partly because they change actors from their strident youth to their anxious age. Everything changes, personalities, looks, character. I was mostly confused, though by the end I figured out who everybody was supposed to be, even though I knew they weren't. An intricate retrieval of a Nazi war chriminal by Mossad, after which Mirren marries the wrong guy and that's compounded and complexified by numerous other idiocies. From unlikely to just plain dumb. Lotta drama, and that part's okay, but the characterizations and characters are most of the way to stupid. Not all the way to tedius, but lame enough to be close.
Picasso and Braque goe to the Movies*** is yet another talking heads production trying to explain something somewhat beyond them. Movie guys talkking about Cubism. Ho the hum. Interesting but hardly earth-shaking.
I didn't like her all that much at the beginning. Too full of herself, despite those huge blue eyes and chemical stains on her fingers, I slowly came to appreciate her, her oeuvre. I liked her family from the get go, but it took some learning and some understanding and a lot of seeing her photographs to begin to accept her as an art star. What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann is exquisite in the details and moments. There's the briefest of rain scene that is perfect. Many poignant and meaningful moments in this film. Her cutting her husband's hair outside on their farm. Animals acting and reacting with her. Lovely.
Blood Ties***, also about photographs by Sally Mann was one of the special features that came with the other film. It's good enough to stand on its own, and like every member of the family photographed for that intimate family series, they do. If all I'd seen was this short one, I'd probably given it a higher score. But compared to the feature length one above. What Remains is substantially better.
Wow! I've been movied again. And I loved it. International**** intrigue. Clive Owen. Intelligent and intricate plot. Spy-like but it's cops doing the right thing in the face of the, yeah, international banking conspiracy. They're all in cahoots in reality and fiction. Beautiful but I hardly noticed, the story was so engaging. Even the Special Features were.
It was mildly amusing at first, but then it just got stupider and stupider. I thought I could deal with it for the Kato scenes, even if The Green Hornet was an idiot, and maybe later on in the movie they deal with all that in some insipid way, but it's so dumb, I just cannot deal with it. The Green Hornet.** What a load a.
All my life, so far, I've loved healing stories and movies, sci-fi or straight, and Resurrection***/ with Ellen Burstyn is a joyous one of those. It's got its bad guys (aplenty) and good folks and nay-sayers and evil-doers, but it doesn't dip down into Holly Rollers, it just is. And it's good, and very close to real. 1980
Away from Her***/ is an exquisitely filmed sad and poignant story about Alzheimers, love and change.
Inside Job**** tells the story of the international financial meltdown compellingly and concisely. It names names and counts up figures. It's the best indictment yet of Wall Street and the Banking Industry and, of course, the U.S. Government. And most likely nothing will ever be done about all the criminals who are running all three. Narrated by Matt Damon, it is a beautiful film, apparently honest, but in the face of so incredibly much criminality, just kinda TS.
I never expected this one to be that good. Wasn't sure I wanted to deal with subtitles from Spanish all the way through, but once Cell 211**** started, I was hooked. It's a prison riot movie in which most of the good guys are corrupt and evil. Some of the bad guys are deep-down good and some rotten to the core. Never quite sure who was which till the end. One of the best character development flicks I've ever seen, but you never know how the plot will twist. Superb. Tense, engaging, exciting, amazing.
I suppose it's possible I could stand a 24-minute discussion of the design of dissent that is the bonus material for Milton Glaser: To Inform and Deilight***, which itself is informative and Glasser's graphic arts and illustrations reproduced are delightful, but I just don't think I could stand that much more talking heads. He's famous, amazing, extraordinarily talented in several art directions, and his heart is obviously in the right places, but though I was inspired by his history of images, I was dismayed at the pacing and over-reliance on gabbing faces.
I watched 23 episodes in a row of Sports Night**** — I started to just give it 3.5 asterisks, because it's just a TV show, but watching this many hours of it nearly makes it a movie, and it's wonderful — although not altogether different from subsequent Sorkin Sitcoms. I saw a few episodes when they were just a few months old on late night (like the fictional show of the series) on local Dallas TV. Seeing the computers from way back then reminds me it was before W was President. That old. It was funny then. It is funny now. With a little serious thrown in, the usual Sorkin human kindness with a liberal dose of Liberal politics, copious advice to the lovelorn and that elusive sense of community so much of TV and the world lacks. When I finish this whole thing (23.5 minutes each), I'll look for another by him. I love the fast-talking, quick-thinking and intelligent humor and situational ethics of Sorkin's characters and stories. Addendum: I'm almost all the way through with all the episodes, and while I am eager for the next one and wish there would be one after that in an unending line, I think I understand now why it didn't get renewed, why there will never be another Sports Night. It dwindled. It was ahead of its time, and its time was never allowed to catch up. And there was way too much about everybody's love lives.
The Beaver**** is wonderful. Dark. Very dark. But deeply and humanly funny. About fathers and sons and how sons are like their fathers, even if their fathers are suicidally depressed. Like I said, dark. Very noir. But human. And so hilarious you'd laugh out loud if you weren't afraid somebody'd think you were nuts, too. But you are nuts, so you laugh along. Because reality is too funny to ignore.
Namesake*** is about a Bengali family living in the U.S and raising, mostly a son whose is the namesake that I never understood the connection, and a host of others. It is about a family growing up and learning who they are. It is strange and exotic and real and personal. Not fabulous, really, but mostly nice and a lot human.
Alfred Stiglitz - The Eloquent Eye*** is informative, illustrative and almost inspiring. It's a slightly better than average documentary about a famous and seminal character in the history of art photography. Yet not quite fascinating and not quite amazing.
Public TV's ongoing series of American Experience documentaries are several cuts above the ordinary, and Ansel Adams - American Experience***/ is, too. It quickly and eloquently crosses the lines from about art to inspiring. I've heard and read about this guy all my life since I turned onto photography at the University of Dallas in the early 1960s, but this video turned me around an inspired me to pay attention. I learned who he was, what he was up to and what he was like. More than that, I learned about his struggles, his personal life, and best of all what it took to make him who he was. Gently told, but hardly a gentle story. Marred by chronological wandering and rarely just showing a bunch of his best images, I'd still rent it again. It's probably worth its while just to see the wild parts of Yosemite.
When The Levees Broke*** is a disturbing reminder of how bickering politicians and an uncaring government ignored Hurricane Katrina as long as they possibly could. Long and lurid.
Rock Prophesies*** is the overblown title of a slightly overblown documentary about an old guy photographer who's going around, still taking rock pix, but also looking for the next big things in rock and roll, including a band called The Sick Puppies from Australia and 16-year-old guitar wizard Tyler Dow Bryant, oh, from somewhere small town in the sticks. What's the guy's secret? He asks other stars he's photographed, then he and his film crew follow through. Interesting enough. Made me want to check them out, but the movie's pretty cornball. And the next big thing never quite is.
This one's title is The Photographer***/, and I keep trying to watch it, but I just can't. It's so stupid. Ignores every reality to tell this semi-mystical story. Our hero (or anti-hero, who knows, it's early in the movie.) is a photographer who has a show in New York, and sells everything, then he's got another show coming up, but he doesn't have any shots worth showing, and he's in anguish. But doesn't go out and shoot the same old stuff, for no apparent reason. Then 8x10 black and whites keep showing up, images of his life that he lives into. Image shows up. Later he happens upon the place they were shot at and is in the pictures. And he obviously knows he didn't shoot them, but he's gonna show them anyway.
Somehow the black & white 8x10s are going to transmogrify into big exhibition prints without the negatives or digital original images. Yeah, right. Maybe somebody who didn't know how this stuff really happens, might believe some of this crap, but mostly, nobody could be that dumb. So now, maybe I gotta finish the stupid movie. But I don't want to. But I keep at it. It occurs that our crew. It keeps growing. Is like Dorothy, off to see the wizard. There's a photographer — he keeps saying he takes photographs, but we haven't seen him do that even once, although he held a camera (no film) in one seen. And his acquired first pal, whom he saved from muggers. The new pal is a writer who doesn't write. They went to a fortune teller, who's not quite sure she sees anything, but she emcees into a feather duster like a microphone and explains what's going on as we watch it happen. OK, so this is going somewhere. But the photographer is still schmuck.
Then while the team (that now includes a drunk warrior 'celebrating' his bachelor night on a Monday) looks for the photographs that the photographer in the title didn't take but wants and probably needs, Romeo finds a typewriter ribbon, the photographer finds another 8x10, the warrior (who isn't) gets snagged on some barbed wire trying to drain the main vein. They have a fun little party, and eventually Max (the photographer) attains enlightenment and learns the big lesson, and they do not all live happily ever after, but the important ones do.
And after watching the whole thing, and putting all the pieces together (well, most of them) I went back and changed my original two asterisks to 4.
Then I posted it online, thought about it once more, pulled it back up and left the asterisks at 3.5.
Rango*** is funny and almost deep, but mostly goofy.
A Passage to India*** seemed promising, beautiful cinematography, India during the British colonization, David Lean of Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia fame, big scale but goofy in the details. We follow an independent woman and her daughter, also independent there for awhile, visiting India. The mother is great but gets older and feebler. The daughter seems good (Hope Davis, why I saw the movie), but after instigating a trip to the hills, accuses the guy who organized their extravagant trip, of rape. He did no such thing, is tried, yada yada. Like she just blanked out and did that rude thing, then she takes it back, and the film goes on and on in too typical 50s stupidities. Lame flick had promise, lost it.
The Adjustment Bureau*** runs everything but stays in the background until our enterprising young man catches them at it, wants what they don't want to let him have, gets it, drops it in the face of their further opposition, remembers eventually, fights them awhile, then drops the matter again. Like there's an AB running the movie, too. Goofy, somewhat adventuresome, awfully tiresome. Happily ever after ending for no particularly good reason.
Source Code**** does time travel one better, neatly sidestepping the usual movie and novel limitations. Good drama, solid story, deep thought till the copout ending Hollywood must have insisted upon. The science is flawed, of course, so why not the fiction, too?
Never quite knew how Rabbit Hole***/ would work out. Sad, of course, most of the way through, but enobling, not enabling. Niccole Kidman's usually worth it, but barely here. Kid dies, mom and dad are devastated, of course. Eventually, well, watch the movie.
From almost the very beginning, I knew what was going to happen in Clint Eastwood's True Crime***. Happily ever after, after a lot of trouble. May have been worth most of the trouble, but sure wish I didn't know all the way through it. Thought that's what great directors knew how to do best. TS
I got it because Steve Buscemi's in it. And some actress. Sienna Miller. It is an Interview***/ and that's what it's called. But off the wall. It is a Buscemi, and he directed. He looks awful in it. Pale with what looks like lipstick. Maybe he got beat up, too. Hard to say. He's a on-the-skids journalist interviewing a famous soap actress. They're playing games with each other, as well as being honest. Or is it the other way around. Odd dance, quirks and twists. More interesting than great, but the story pulls us through.
After the inept and tedious Masters of and Wizards of Photography, comes the superb American Photography: A Century of Images,**** made in 1999. Although I'd love to see the last dozen years protrusion into digital, this is a beautiful and intelligent history of American photography chunked into themes that add breadth and depth. Remarkably well done and beautiful to watch. And vastly informative.
The pre-movie and hideously audioed click click progression of famous photographs would have been far more effective if they'd been in focus, but here we have another dull grayscale — plenty of white, but never a definitive black throughout — documentary whose greatest lift is getting to see lots of excellent photographs, even if they are all out of focus here. Not often I long for the mind numbing lingering zooms of Ken Burns, but here it might have helped. I wanted hard details but got none. Fifties hokum, apparently before color film was invented. Masters of Photography: Edward Steichen**/. Way over-explained. 30 minutes.
Calling George Eastman The Wizard of Photography*** is piling it on deep. He was the businessman who popularized it and commodified it, but he wasn't that creative, except for making money at it. He was a micro manager and clearly uncomfortable with his eventual massive success. When I saw the unexplained title, I thought it would be about Jerry Ulesmann or one of the other true wizards of the form. The straightforward chronological documentary is interesting enough, but I expect more from something calling itself wizard.
Buck***/ is about the Horse Whisperer in the Robert Redford movie many years ago. About his job traveling around and helping horse-owners train their horses with kindness not control. And about the man and what made him so compassionate. Mellow, sometimes tear-jerking film, a craftfully and carefully-told story
I'm watching a really really really bad and stupid monster movie called Carny**. I guess I'll finish it, if there's not too many more commercial breaks offering us an opportunity to save some more wounded dogs — there's one in the movie, too. Not quite every stereotype in the book, but a lot of them. And nearly everybody in it, even the hero, is really really stupid — especially the director and writers.
If I subscribed to two-year-old movie magazines, maybe I'd know what the ones I get in the mail would be about before I choose or decline them. Had no idea what The Lovely Bones**** was up to. Almost dropped it again to the bottom of my queue, then on a lark let it rise to the top and watched it. Once that started, I couldn't let it stop. It's about a murder, and I knew that, but I could not have imagined the magical and mysterious and ethereal and deep down mystical truths of this — well, it was never a mystery really, but it feels like one. Will he get caught? Was the question, not who done it. And will she take the next step? Remarkably beautiful film about death. With marvelous special effects. Deep. Intelligent. Beautiful. In the end uplifting, but scary along the way. A treasure of a cinematic experience. Superb. Music by Brian Eno. Wow.
I have finally caught up with Rooster Cogburn, Tom Chaney, the Texas Ranger and 14-year-old Mattie Ross, and I have seen all their True Grit***/. Interesting how people talked, back in cowboy days, and how they carried through with their grit. And I am impressed by all of it.
Always wondered about Julia (I can hear him singing it in in my head.) and John Lennon's beginnings. This tells the tale. Possibly fact-based. Based on a true story. Not sure how true, but it gives a flavor, and that's plenty. Nowhere Boy***
I'd just read a longform essay about Buster Keaton and especially The General*** when I stumbled on the opportunity to watch it on Netflix online. A little dated, it was made in 1925, before sound, although the soundtrack added in 2003 was terrific. A comedy about the Civil War must have been daring at the time, but it was beautifully shot in glorious black & white and superbly edited. Good story, broadly acted of course and often funny.
Absolute Wilson*** caught me up on avant garde dance and theatric production through sometime late in the last half of the last century. Interesting to intriguing, combining personal elements from teaching brain-damaged hyperactive children; to wild, open collaboration; incarceration; and autism by this guy from Waco.
The Work of Director Chris Cunningham***/ varies from exquisite surrealism to loud, stupid repition, but through these too few visual tracks for songs is a outré attitude and psycho babble heart. Fascinating, unbearable, and lots between.
Exquisitely visual, clipped, clean, approaching surreal throughout. Serene, as is the pacing. Remarkable. Befitting the story of a Marine officer escorting the body of a fellow marine killed in action. But more than meets the eye here. Taking Chance***/
I've finally got my Neflitx queue down under 140 (it'd got past 250 for awhile) movies, so moving them around, up and down is a lot easier (the software works up to about 200). But it still takes awhile for one to rise to the top, and by then I often have no idea why I chose it.
So went Ghost Town***, which I actually thought might be some updated Western, but it's about New York City, or the people who died there recently and, as the old-time movie gimmick (that this movie fully subscribes to), they have not finished their job on earth, so they haven't sparkled into a gleam of light and disappeared yet. This might be the second movie by Ricky Gervais I've seen. I have not seen anything he's been on TV. Until earlier this week, I hadn't had TV for about three months. Now I got cable, and it is cheaper than paying the lying and thieving AT&T (who is by no means the only phone company in town but they still act like it), just for the phone that didn't work at least two weeks out of every three months. But that's about six other stories. GT is good enough. It's entertaining. It breaks almost zero new ground, so it's not even eligible for four or five asterisks. It is amusing and persistent, and I liked it well enough for a standby of Hollywood movie. (and now I get phone and internet as well as TV for less than I used to pay various other institutions of lower learning for not getting TV).
Cloverleaf**** is a scary monster flick. And really is scary, and there's several monsters involved. It's all shot from the Point of View (POV) of a video camera in the hands of one of the actors as they try to escape from the monsters attacking Manhattan. I got a little tired of the characters, who acted like real human beings. Instead of a brave, smart team working against the scary monsters, like most monster movies, we have a bunch of 20-somethings running scared, discovering the story as they attempt to get away from it.
Nice music, some sensitive singer-songwriter, gives the whole thing a, well, sensitive tone that's … well, needs emphasizing. At one point, early on, they ask each other if they are "fuck ups." They are, but they don't think so. She's pregnant. He seems to be employed, but with all his kid-like attributes it's hard to scope out who's really in there rattling around. They're touring the U.S. trolling for people they'd want to move near. All been real duds so far, but we're barely into the movie. O-okay, so maybe it's darkly and humanly funny. Or just stupid. Away We Go***. You know how all those foreign movies translate every word of dialog in the subtitles? Well, here someone in the next room is singing "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man," and we can barely hear it, but the subtitles get every word. How weird is that? Oh, here it is, that poignant moment when one of them tells a childhood story that brings them together. Of course it ends happily. [Sometimes it's nice to write a review while the movie's still going. Nice to have this already done by the time it finishes.]
The Burmese Harp***/ tells the story of Japanese soldiers in Burma at the end of World War II, their last battle wherein one of their number has the opportunity to give other soldiers the chance to surrender without killing or dying, they choose killing and ended up dying, and the soldier who risked his life to give them the opportunity becomes a monk. This sounds so cut and dry, but it is an affecting and spiritual movie that is difficult to put into words, although the soldiers put it into choral song, accompanied by the monk and his harp.
A Small Act*** is a beautifully videoed documentary about scholarships for outstanding students in Kenyan primary schools.
I thought it was going to be yet another documentary on her life and work. But Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen as Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stiegletz. Wow. An idea fraught, like their marriage and relationship, with difficulties and pain. Amazing to get so much understanding in just those few word. And beautiful. Amazing. Georgia O'Keefe***/
I was just beginning to write about this movie I just saw, formulating the words: odd but affecting movie about, well, I was going to say about a paranoid schizophrenic who follows random Middle eastern men around the city, with paranoid notions about what they are up to, and his long lost niece, who has come back to America after 9/11, when I saw that it was directed by Wim Wenders, and a lot more of it tumbled into sensibility. What it is about is acceptance and sanity, although it uses extremes and opposites to load up the irony. Remarkable motion picture. Affecting and deeply think-worthy. Land of Plenty***/
Youth Without Youth***/ is a stupid name for this great little movie about time and life times and aging, forward and backwards. Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It is wildly romantic, nominally scientific, and fiction, hence science fiction. A good story, beautiful, haunting and ultimately, about life. As we don't really know it. The special effects are ultimate simple, but effective.
TV teen sci-fi, with every goofy adolescent stereotype known to Hollywood. Part horror, part teen angst and young love, all intermixed with sentimental tripe and alternating moments of evil stupidity. Like a battle of directors. The good one has a story and a little soul. The bad one needs to throw in all the crap, to get attention. Plus there's a few shreds of intelligence hid behind, that comes out briefly, but never long enough to save this poor movie. I Am Number Four**/. Good thing they all read the script. Otherwise it wouldn't make any sense. Oh, that's right, it doesn't. And the pacing: Exciting, sentimental, exciting, stupid, exciting… Hokum poke 'em. Oh, lard, and it looks like a sequel comin'.
Brothers***/ is about two brothers, a bad boy just out of jail and the perfect soldier just off to war. They exchange modes. The soldier goes haywire, as they often do in wars, and the bad boy goes good. Smart movie, mostly.
I watched Chops***/ so I could listen to the jazz, what it's all about. Free my mind, put it into other orbits. Worked, too. Wrote some stuff I'd not tried before. Movies about high school jazz competitions. I remember my high school band. Not much compared to these geniuses. Flick's got soul and charm. Human and amazing.
She's smart, wants to be a doctor. He didn't graduate from high school, is an alcoholic, goes by momentary feelings. But he's an unrepentant alcoholic who's always going to be a drunk, and he's never going to learn anything different. So it's hopeless. And we're supposed to feel for him? Yeah, right. Blue Valentine***/
A dark future. Is there a chance of any other? Full of secretly controlling influences. Advertising. Voices in his head. TV reality shows. All in distinctively odd animation. Very strange. Bleak landscape. We know what's going on, but the details are vague. Like real life as we think we know it. Realistic faces. Odd walking. Dark. Strong, superb science fiction. Makes ya think. Unique. Metropia****. 2009
The Illusionist*** had charming animation, lilting story that was so simple I almost missed it, then it was over and I thought I must have missed it.
Another dark future in The Road, which I did not finish. Tried multiple times. Couldn't beat to watch it. Had listened to the complete novel, which was much more — oh, more everything, credible, human, possible. The kid was younger, and the father more frail. Like it was originally written. Movies change even fiction, making it more fictional, less credible, human, likely.
I am watching Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock the new, British update to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Here, better acting, beautiful cinematography, we get to see the clues, or rather they are labeled on the screen, almost like clicking on them. Fast thinking, fast action. Quick-witted, too. Also witty. A delight. I'll count the whole kaboodle as one movie, although it goes on and on. Then, nearing the end of one, I recognized another I'd seen some time ago, not nearly as good as the pilot, though.
Farewell***/ is a spy story the way probably most real spy stories are. No car chases. Plenty of intrigue at the expense of loved ones. Not so much something everybody involved wants to be involved in. More personal than political. Remarkably good film about those inner issues of espionage so major it actually changes the world. Not Bourne but real. President Reagan portrayed as the idiot he probably was. In French. 2009
Pixar*** is a tried and true historic look at a very successful enterprise, with lots of samples of Pixar magic. Near total clone of a the film about the history of Disney animation. Hard to remember them apart.
I had two other Netflix flicks I'd tried to start and will finish eventually, but soon as I started The Butterfly***/, a French movie in French-only, I knew I had my evening's winner. It's about a nine year-old daughter whose mother has not found time to be with her, so she befriends an old man who collects butterflies and enters his world of hiking in the mountains and collecting, without telling anyone where she was off to. A bit of adventure in that, then something almost dire. An enchanting movie with a simple story, beautiful cinematography, all gentle and mostly sweet. 2003
Incendiary****, on the other hand, is a real movie. Not predictable. Strong characters and characterizations. Fierce story, again involving a journalist, but also love or what passes for it, and guilt — it's got guilt in spades. A couple faked scenes — well, a lot actually, but two egregiously faked. It is about bombs and bombers, after all, and who is murdered by them and whose lives are destroyed, and it actually gets at what that's all about, but mostly this movie is a dream, not the fakey kind where somebody wakes up and … but one in which we are all still asleep.
Secretariat*** is Hollywood through and through. I wonder how much of it is true so much of it is hacked through with Hollywood movie tricks. Tricks to make us smile — goofy caricatures of characters, including a Black guy who's almost Steppin' Fetchet but mostly ignored, one assumes, because he's Black. Stupid, invasive music. A plot/story-line that absolutely dead-on predictable every step of the way. Cute to watch, but essentially stupid.
Runaway Train … oops, that's Unstoppable*** was exactly as expected, all the way along the long track. At speed. Heroics. Stupid management, etc. etc. Fun. Just what I wanted. Denzel.
Netflix has all this data on computers that tell me I'm going to like this film instead of that film, because I liked some other film not remotely related to either film, but they won't warn me when I'm about to rent a film I've already seen. But this one I like. I like a lot, and once I realized I'd seen it before, I didn't stop it. I watched it all the way through again, even though I knew how it ended. State of Play****. Of course, it helped it was about newspaper reporting and newspapers and spies and murder and a bunch of other adventure stuff, and it was beautiful and intelligent. Etc. etc. I'm not counting it again, but it counts.
Mostly Martha***/ is mostly Martha, and she's enough odd her boss sends her to a shrink once a week, where Martha talks about her one obsession, cooking. So this is a foodie movie, and an outstanding one of those. I wish there were smellavision, this would be great in it. Along the way, Martha lets some other people into her life, grudgingly, with great difficult, and it's worth it, but she still goes to the shrink, because she's still obsessed. The movie is a delight, with fascinating characters, little and big ones.
So often, movies that everybody likes turn out to be dreadful, but The King's Speech***/ is quite wonderful. About an odd friendship and history. Something about a king with a speech impediment.
It's not about A Man on A Train****. That's just how he gets there. When the hotel's closed, he is befriended by a man who lives well. It's about their unlikely friendship. There's character development, of course. With quirk and seriousness. The man is there to rob a bank. His unlikely friend is about to experience a Triple Bypass. Both on a Saturday. Both lives change in the friendship, then on the Saturday, something mystical happens. English subtitles.
House of Games***/ is a con that cons us all, or tries to. Nice to see a name low on the list of actors who later makes it. I love looking down those lists, always hoping to see someone I recognize. This one was W.H. — later William H. — Macy, in just a bit part. Joe Montegna's our anti-hero and the anti-heroine is somebody time has not honored, and her name was near the top. It's a game. Con and be conned. Crazed dialog and direction by David Mamet. Interesting puzzle of a movie, that in the end, doesn't really make sense, and loses track of dollars, but seeing whose hands it's in is the name of the game.
One of those separate stories you know will combine in the end. Exquisite unfolding. Beautiful film. Engaging stories, memorable characters. I will have to see it again, later. Clint Eastwood. Steven Spielburg, even though it is somewhat schlocky. Matt Damon. Only originals get four asterisks from these reviews. It's about the Hereafter****
I had just been rewriting an old story comparing autusm and artism and wondering not for the first time if I had serious aspects of asperger's myself. I needed a movie, so I pushed the DVD into the computer and was charmed, and chagrined, pleased, a little sadened. A very pleasant little coming of age story that kept reminding me of who I was, too. Nice of movies to sometimes do that. Adam***.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father*** is almost amateurily put together, while retaining verve and deep human humor that turns darker and darker. But it's about the good people who survive several turns of horrible luck and a government (not ours, for a change) that's both ignorant and stupid about letting a premeditated murderer free to kill again. Strange, often goofy, laugh out loud funny and poignant and real.
Freakonomics*** seemed right on at first. Then it lagged a little with each segment. By the end I didn't believe they knew what they were talking about.
Although I was a fan of The Beat Poets a decade after their rise, I never understood Howl, the poem and book, before this movie. Nor did I understand the prominence nor eminence of Allen Ginsberg. Till now. Pitty as that is, this movie is remarkable, and not just because every word in it was actually said by the persons portrayed as having said them. It is an amalgam of annimation and fictional-appearing reenactment cinema and pseudo documentary. It tells a story, an important story while elucidating the poem, the book, the writer and his times, and that's a good thing. Howl!****
I didn't watch all of it, but I got through it okay — better than our hero. I remember suggesting it to watch with some friends in a theater, where I could not have escaped or fast forwarded through much of it. That would have been a mistake. Luckily, nobody else wanted to see this one. So I got to wait till now to see some of it, and that was enough. No real surprises, since they advertise it as a guy gets his arm trapped under a big rock as he descends a crevice in the Utah canyon desert, so I knew all along he'd cut off his art to escape, and I watched that much of it. 127 hours***
Fair Game***/ is about the unfair game the President, the Vice President and others in the U.S. Government played against Valerie Plume and Joe Wilson when they learned and told the truth about Saddam's supposedly secret program to create weapons of mass destruction, so the American People would feel that going to war against Iraq would be okay. It's strong as a spy movie and superior about the XXX of power in what is supposedly our government, but of course it doesn't belong to us anymore.
The Real Dirt on Farmer John***/ is about the ups and downs of family farming from John's childhood through several failures and several periods of relative joy and the land under him has dwindled and grown out again. It's a documentary with spunk and originality, and towards the end, real joy. I put off seeing it for a long time, because I didn't know what to expect. Now, I expect it will stay with me awhile.
It's got Robert Redford as a cranky old man mad at everybody because his son died before he did, and Morgan Freeman as his best friend and cowboy on his ranch who got mauled by a bear and Jennifer Lopez as the woman who was driving his son when she crashed and killed the son, and a kid who's his grand daughter. And the bear, and the ex-boyfriend who beat her up and some other folk up in Wyoming. Bit of a smarmer, but a nice one. Mostly mellow and getting mellower. About forgiveness and being who you are without being a total AH. An Unfinished Life***/.
Intimate Strangers***/ is a French movie in French-only with English subtitles about a married woman who attempts an appointment with a psychiatrist but goes the wrong office and tells her secrets to a tax attorney instead. And he listens. What evolves is sensuous and intimate without becoming sex. It's about trust and having someone to talk to. It's subtle, interior and intellectual and mostly gentle, beautifully acted.
I waited a long time for Sita Sings the Blues***/, and it was worth it. Its' the animated epic of the Indian classic Ramayana updated with the singing of 1920s singer Annette Hanshaw and some remarkable and colorful and often goofy animation styles. Still have issues accepting that I liked it this much, but I do.
The Battle for Terra*** is, to a limited extent, quite good. But the limitations include that the plot is hardly original. Or if it is original, it's been copied and copied and copied. Little thing called Avatar was nearly identical. Star Wars had a huge influence, shall we say, on this one, too. Many scenes copied almost directly from it. Earthians try to take over another planet after destroying their own. Beautiful annimation, gentler people and renderings than those other scifi movies I mentioned. Lilting greatness, except, oh, standing on the shoulders of giants. Etc.
Science Fiction, definitely. The title is Monsters***/, and there are those. Lots of them. Giant octopus-like ones. Eventually we get to watch our … well, they're not exactly heroes (and that's a relief), though it's a man and a woman, and basically they're trying to escape from the area infested by the creatures. We see several. When the local humans go nuts and try the good old American (don't have to be north of the Rio Grande to be Americanos) kill-everything-in-sight ethos, the monsters get 'em all and leave their stinking corpses all over the landscape. A lot of that is off-camera, though we hear strange noises. There's character development, growing rapport between the woman and man, lots of back story for both, and a creepy (but not really crawlly) feeling of impending doom from time to time. It's well-crafted sci-fi, with enough chill to make it interesting, and interesting enough characters to chill. I'm impressed.
What glorious, goofy, Bond-like fun with spies and the CIA. Bruce Willis and Mary Louise Parker is all it took for me to put this in my queue. Then there's Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss all obviously having great fun, and we got a secret agent kill-kill hootenany. Smart (in too many historically accurate ways to bother counting), wild, action, adventure, deeply hilarious, righteous, exciting, fun and funny. Red***/ (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) !
Jack Goes Boating***/ is scintillating like only Phillip Seymore Hoffman can. Three sets of couples. Twice a man and a woman, and the friendship of two men drive this halting, timid, ultimately gentle romance between one man and one woman compared harshly against the other man and woman. Ultimately positive at both ends, but not all the way through the middle.
It's been at least a century since I last saw 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, but I got the same kick out of the experience as I did upon first seeing this oddly accurate and sometimes surrealistic collection most often audio-backed by great music and all produced by The Film Board of Canada. In another thousand years I want to see and enjoy this one again
Never Let Me Go***** sounds like a romance and it very much is, but it is also deep Science Fiction in a mind-blowing and startling dimension. One that is never seen except vaguely in operating rooms and briefly in scars. A whole class of people are raised for their organs, which will be donated to the people they are clones of when those unseen need replacements. Sometimes after the first donation, but almost always by the third one, the replicants die. So they have that to face all their lives, which are remarkably normal otherwise. This haunting and superbly told story — the cinnematography, pacing, story, dialog and chilling notions — nearly every aspect is delicious. But always with that invisible fright and fear hovering in the darkness.
Get Low***/ is the story of a hermit who'd locked himself away from humanity for forty years then decides to attend his own funeral to hear folks tell their stories about him. Instead he ends up telling his story, one that needed telling, so he could get forgiveness. It's a pleasnat story, human funny often enough, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, and of course, the old curmudgeon Robert Duvall. A tale of forgiveness with lots of quick and little bits of joy.
Even that stupid fox movie was better than average. I'll see any movie with George Clooney. This one, called in the bonus features that weren't on my Netflix disk, Journey to Redemption was how too many black ops guys retire. Beautiful scenery. Beautifully filmed. Well acted. Tense but with some love interest, too. The American***
It's been on the local PBS station for the last couple weeks, but I never saw it end to end till I rented it, then finally, I began to think I vaguely understood William S. Burroughs. This movie William S. Burroughs: A Man Within***/ was good, if not entirely great a documentary of much of his outter life. Now I have to see Naked Lunch again.
The Five Senses*** is slow, sensual and mostly melancholy. A movie in which almost no one changes very much. Then it stops
After the first movie, I read all three books in a mad, page-turning several weeks. But I always wanted to see Mikael and Lisbeth again, so I watched the third one, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest**** soon after it came out in video, remembering the distinct differences between the movies and the books. I may have to hear all three books again sometime in the next few years, but I've had it with the Swedish movies. I know the dorkwater who inhereted Stieg Larsson's fortune has set Hollywood on making one movie out of all three books, and I'm sure it will be stupidity squared, but I'll probably eventually see that one, too. Wish there were more Stieg Larson books to swallow whole, but he died before all this worldwide popularity and major big bucks.
So it wasn't really that big a jump to see this one, which until I heard Sorkin wrote it, I had avoided, pretty much like I avoid Facebook and most other really popular things. All I knew about it before I saw it was that, and that several people said it wasn't true. Maybe true to life, but not true. I think I can live with that, although I far prefer honest biographies. I loved the Zuckerberg characterization as a high functioning austist and/or AH, and I way too strongly identified with him. As usual with Sorkin screenplays, what was said was important and fast-paced and often very intelligent. I'd give The Social Network**** four stars, even if I don't visit my own fb page more than every three, four or more days, and I never know what to do with all the people who say they want to be fb friends.
I knew Aaron Sorkin was writing for something else, but that something else was on cable, and I don't want cable, because if I had it, I'd watch TV all the time, instead of the several other slightly more important things I do. I figured I'd catch up eventually. He's perhaps the best TV writer ever. That he did West Wing proves it, whatever political side you might be on. Luckily, he's still on the leading left edge, and Studio 60**** is already amazing, and I'm in the middle of watching the pilot. I'm sorry I only get to count this one once, because I'm going to be floating all of it over the internet these next few, probably, weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it. Great. Just what I needed, another addiction. Then I watched eight shows straight, got some sleep, did a couple other things, watched eight more, and by Weddy saw number 22 and final, but if I could see more new ones, I would.
Truly a Rube Goldberg movie of visual hijinks, the French Micmacs**** is a fun run-down of International arms trading pulled assunder by a gang of misfits, contortionists and goofballs. Deeply and visually intelligent and quirky to the max. Even the special features are a joy to see, although the shooting-of does go on.
The Vanishing***/ is a dark little tale. As dark as I can imagine. About a woman who disappears at a rest stop on the highway, and whose boyfriend become obsessed with finding out what happened to her. And in the end, he does. Oddly told. The humor, what little of it there is, is dark, too. A mystery revealed but not until the end. Spooky and creepy and mean-spirited.
Salt***/ with Angelina Jolie is exciting all the way to the finish, smart, plot twisting, fun, lots of action. Less than a week later, I can't remember anything about it.
A Touch of Frost: If Dogs Run Free*** - Jack Frost Season 15, Episodes 1 and 2. I'm counting them as one movie. Another long-running Brit detective. Smart guy who thinks it through and discovers. Older guy, not really an action hero. But wise. Season 15. Now I'll watch more on Netflix Instant View or whatever they call it. 88 minutes each.
I'd forgot I'd seen Manhunter**** (but didn't review it till now), probably before I saw Silence of the Lambs. Even before the first CSI. I keep seeing William Petersen in 80s movies. He's so much better in this one, which is in most ways, better than Silence. Except this one's Dr. Lektor isn't as sinister as Anthony Hopkins. But the detective, Petersen here, is amazing good, dark, brooding, more than a little psycho. Don't understand why he wasn't a bigger star then, but I always liked him on CSI, then when he retired, they replaced him with Lawrence Fishburn, which is high praise indeed. This one's dark, deeply evil. With Joan Allen, always a treat.
The Andromeda Strain***, the 2008 movie version was good solid science fiction up till near the end, when it reverted to stupid mechanical processes then tagged on a rip-off story device from an old Indiana Jones movie. I was glad for the opportunity to see Andre Braugher again. He's always worth watching, but the movie veered from a super-smart-think-team-figures-it-out to cornball bad endings. The journalist character was fun. The President seemed presidential often and sneaky bastard some of the time, probably like most of the real ones. I could dance to it, liked that it went on for two segments, maybe three-plus hours.
Legend of the Guadians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole**** was remarkable. Of course, we're birders, so there's a special bond already, but we were amazed at the annimation and the details. Some of the battle scenes are a little confusing, and like any good saga, there's too many characters, so we didn't always (usually) know who way saying what, but it was inspiring. English subtitles helpd get through the Aussie accent on second viewing. First time I saw it it was on a screen halfway across the room, but the details held up up close on my Mac hi-def. Plenty of detail, action, adventure, marvelous flying scenes, fascinating feather work. Perhaps a tad too Star Warsian. Although I thought this first one was plenty, I guess they're already planning more. But I'd probably watch them, too.
Jan Svankmajer: Disk 2 (The Collected Shorts)**/. I'd never heard of Svanmajer, and it's just as well. The short shorts were funny and inspired stop annimation. The longer shorts were tedious, supposed to be scary — I'm guessing, and just weren't.
I must have seen movie art from Fantastic Planet*** hundreds of times over the deaces since 1973, but I don't remember anything of the annimated movie of the subjugation of the tiny, human-like Oms by the giant Traags. Now I have. Primitive annimation, but interesting ideas, especially for that long-ago era.
Another one I think I saw before but am not quire certain is Enigma***/, a World War II mystery that may be "based on history," but probably not on facts, since it has some of the geniuses who built the Allies' copy of the Enigma Machine that unencrypted all the secret codes used by German, and helped win it for the good guys. It's a couple of romances, a period piece, more than a little mystery, even has one rather tame car chase. Pleasant in a laid-back way, smart.
I wasn't going to count it, because I saw it when it was new in 1974 and again many years later, but it's not in my alphabetical movie pages linked above, so I am counting it here. I remembered Harry and Tonto**** as a charmer with some quirk, and it is. Much more than that though. Art Carney and an orange cat's adventure out West from New York City. It's about independence and family and friendship.
That one got me up to one-thousand-and-five-hundred movies so far this century. I'm amazed, and only 90 years to go (of the century).
War Photographer***/ is a documentary of someone who may well be the best war photographer. I don't follow war photographers after David Douglas Duncan and Danny Lyons (different kind of war) any more. He is good. But deeper than being a good composer, exposer, etc., he is a good person, willing to go to wars and other dangerous places around the world, to elicit our help for the poeple James Nachtway photographs. Interesting, compelling, gentle.
I have a lurid painting by Ann Huey titled He Was Quiet and Kept to Himself. This movie, with a very different looking Christian Slater and, among others, William H. Macy, is about the guys thus described who climb out of their shells long enough to murder a bunch of people in a corporate worklplace. Most of whom — in this movie, at least — richly deserve it. Some of the sudden plot left turns make a certain sense, and the acting is peculiar but more realistic than we'd like to admit. Cinnematography as quirky as the story and plot. It is deeply and darkly funny, even moving. Not perhaps a great movie, He Was a Quiet Man***/ is, nonetheless, memorable. Did I mention dark?
Entering other's dreams is not new. There's a long tradition of the notion in movies: Peter Ibbetson, Dreamscape, The Lathe of Heaven, The Cell, Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky and Waking Life. Now Inception***/, which promises greatness but delivers too much of the usual gangster pap of violence, car chases, and rain of bullets. It veers between wretched, violent excess and intelligence, ultimately crashing through stupidity.
In some ways xxy*** is a mess. Another of those movies when no one will talk about the elephant in the room. That Alex has both male and female organs and has not decided which to choose, although everybody seems to have made up their minds. Resulting in too many issues for everybody including Alex. In the end, Alex does what's right for Alex, a point it seems like everybody else — compassion or not — should have got to by the time this movie started. So it's a movie that is a movie because somebody needed a movie, not so much for the reality of it, but for the story of it. I'm glad they felt the need. It raises interesting and important concepts, but it does seem they waited an awfully long time to come to their conclusions.
Vaguely I remember seeing the first Ghost in the Shell, but it was nothing like Ghost in the Shell 2****, which was superb anime, delving into areas usually not dealt with, deep stuff like existence and souls, on beyond Artificial Intelligence. Mostly very cartoon like hero annimation but with beautiful transitions of startling depth and pseudo-reality. Nice.
Only a few ones left from 2010. Soon as I get my strength back up, they'll all be among the alpha pages on top of this page.
Temple Grandin**** is almost a new kind of movie. One that treats autism from the autist's viewpoint. At its best, it is a strongly visual movie that lets us see the world the way Grandin and some other autists do. At its worst — and there's a lot of that — it is as manipulative as Hollywood has learned over the last century. We are prodded like Grandin's cattle through chutes and into pits. We feel joy or panic or triumph, all on cue. But it's still a showstopper of a movie blending all that hokum with visual understanding, much like early CSI sequences, when they actually made sense. And the story is mostly true, although TG is hardly that pretty.
The Merry Gentleman***/ was an unexpected gem. Bitter and sweet, a little scary sometimes, starring Kelly MacDonald with Michael Keaton, who directed. Lilting dark but affecting story about friendship and starting over and telling the truth. Almost a romance. A lot about trust. Protection. And a downward swirl of other topics rendered noir but beautiful, real and human.
Took me several sittings to get all the way through Yellowstone: Battle for Life Episode 1*** — winter, but it's not like there's just one story to follow, and not counting the people behind the cameras and support crews, whom we never see, there's not much humanity in it. Good thing it concentrates on animal life. Superbly filmed, and I recognized several places I've been in the distancing past, even covered with snow. Amazing place. I won't count each as a separate movie, but I will enjoy many more seasons at Yellowstone.
Any time-travel flick anytime. The mechanism (deus ex) for transporting back this time was a rainstorm, an old chimney and a dog named Tess. Set in World War II and contemporary England, it's an interesting bit of history, but more a bit of friendship than romance. Pleasant, wiggly-walls were all the special effects, darned few anomalies, but time travel nonetheless. An Angel for May***.
There must also be dysfunctional family movies set at Christmas and New Years and the Fourth of July, but Thanksgiving takes the prize in so many movies. Pieces of April***/ is only an hour and twenty minutes, but as much as happens, it seems longer, fuller. Lovely really, a little weepy near the end, though nearly nothing of the evil havoc that precedes makes it inevitable. About family and strangers, community and love, even if.
Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio*** is the long name for a one-hour-short documentary about a school of architecture that designed and built (important) a series of homes and public building for the people of Hale County, Alabama. It is both charming and educational — and inspiring. The houses the students made are beautiful and comparatively inexpensive. Maybe a little too much talking head scenes and never enough images of the buildings and the people who use them.
Before the betrayal, I Am Love***/ is about everything and nothing, family, then slowly we perceive sensuality, subtly at first, like all else that gathers through this movie, till it takes over. Food, flowers, then sex comprise a visual complication of themes building through the first hour. Going nowhere until it is everything, a culmination, a gathering of concepts into the tyrannical complication. Beautiful throughout, often mysterious — did that really happen? we ask ourselves. And deep.
Winter's Bone***/ is a savage little movie about a strong woman — who may only be 17, but she's got grit — and her father, whom we never see, and their extended families, many of whom are in the illegal drug business in the Missouri hills. It's told slow, but deep, and with a lot of emotion, and none of it syrupy or fake. Very real, very gripping. Serious movie that never once got tedious. Fierce.
Startlingly and amazingly intelligent dialog, considering half the leading men (twins played by Edward Norton) generally acts like a hick, and the other is even slower on the uptake till towards the end. Deep and darkly funny in that deadly serious way that makes a shockingly good movie. I am in awe, and I want to watch the whole thing over again before I send it back. Wow! Leaves of Grass**** is a true original, and only has a very little to do with Walt Whitman.
Bela Fleck goes to Africa. Well, it's not called that, but sometimes it's too much like the famous American banjo star goes to Africa to play with their best banjo-like musicians, because that's where banjos came from. Sometimes a banjo can't help playing louder than everybody, but in the best of this trip, Bela blends in. It's a music movie intersected by travel and people and musics. Had me chair dancing often. Only rarely got bored. Set me off buying many of the Africans he played with, with and without Bela. Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart***. I wish some of the best jams and tunes in the film were available online, and it seems wrong that Bela to take solo artist credit for all the creativity on the soundtrack. Should at least list the African musicians for each tune. They are wonderful.
Okay, I finally saw High Plains Drifter***, but I still don't know what all the fuss was about. Stupid story, stupid killing of everybody in sight. A gunslinger saves a town, but why? They're just a bunch of cowards. Style, I guess, if you can call it that.
Made for TV, Something the Lord Made*** has honor, tears and the triumph of human spirit going for it, but it still overlooks most of the difficulties of being Black in mid-20th Century America.
Selkies are mythical creatures who are seals in the water and human on land. A lot of purposeful confusion between the woman Circus nets on a fishing run and the mythical creatures gets swirled and mixed in this dark fantasy Ondine***/ — mixed with spookiness and fear and joy and quirk and love and magic. Possibly the best of all that is the underlying darkness of fear and unease.
The Secret of Kells**** has real soul. Animation so lively and beautiful and visually exquisitely innovative, with hardly a nod to technology. This is an eloquently told tale of youth and age, creation and fear, perceived fact and vivid fantasy, hope and courage. A remarkable film that gets joy and doom and can actually tell them apart. Unlike Dreamworks. And a wicked subtext of Catholicism that's important to the very real plot.
I don't usually review movies I saw on TV, but The Parking Lot Movie***/ about The Corner Parking Lot somewhere in Virginia was so outrageously anarchic, intellectual and anti-intellectual and cleverly funny, I can't help myself. There's this pay parking lot owner who hires over-educated attendants, who live through the taunts and tribulations and mete out parking lot justice and talk about the people who park there and chase them down the street when they refuse to pay. And develop attitudes and ... Well, once again, you gotta see the movie. Maybe KERA-TV will show it again when we least expect it. Meanwhile, Netflix has it, too.
Anna was amazed I'd never seen Badlands****, but I've probably missed a lot of good movies along the way. This one's surreal in several senses. Wonderful, amazing transition scenes including a fabulous fire sequence. Senseless violence. Confounding music. A story unlike any other, except Mickey and Mallory's much later Natural Born Killers, but here the love interest is a very young and confused Sissy Spacek, and our anti-hero is a slightly older but still youthful and searing evil Martin Sheen. Great acting. Strange story. Love. Or something like it. And a lot of death.
Dreamworks got something akin to soul, and in How to Train Your Dragon***/ it shows in higher tech and more human humans and other characters and characteristics. The fur still is not perfectly rendered — Hiccup's Dad's beard is a mess of grime and fluff not hair, but much else is. They've got body language down close to pat, and it plays important though hardly pivotal roles in this high adventure for the sake of high adventure, where subplots get lost in the action. Fun, very pretty, exciting, peace-loving, violent, funny ha-ha and funny human. Basically a Father and a Son flick, but on beyond that. A thoroughly watered down unmessage of peace underlaid with grisly war in this manufactured plot. Very little blood, but lots of violence and occasional nuances of human spirit. Nice. I've watched it twice already and need to one more time again.
Not many movies about artists go this deep. Into the art and into the soul. About a Philadelphian artist who covers the walls of whole neighborhoods with his large, sometimes flat, journals in tile, mosaic, etchings, ink on paper. Odd characters but always true, if not to each other then to life. Married 42 years by the end of this movie. Which has marvelous filmic sequences and searing truths and a lot of the artist talking about himself. And his wife and family. Sometimes fascinating and visually elegant, sometimes not at all. In A Dream***/
It's crawling with early 20th Century chronisms, and I know I've read the novel. I read all of Steinbeck, but I don't remember a lick of this book. The Grapes of Wrath, some. Of Mice and Men, a lot. Both probably helped by big movies of their time and mine. And the Cannery Row series now I want to revisit. But East of Eden***/ still escapes memory. Guess I don't identify with all that brooding James Dean sloshes into this story of father love. Overdramatic from the overlong title sequence all the way through. Almost laughable now.
Believable, if not entirely credible. Not like the book I remember reading in college. I mostly missed it growing through a Pooh-laced past. I saw this movie in 3-D. I was there. What actually I saw, since my eyes don't work together, was slogs of mush that more or less coalesced into great ugly too-many-colored everything-nothings in the same space and mostly identical circumstance, glop. I hated it, because I couldn't see individuals, just slop. This DVD version, in all its un tri-dimensioned glory, was clarity after those fleeting sludgeoid impressions. Good enough story, a little Tim Burton over all the tops, more than a tad quirky Depp depth and plenty Character-Generated animation stripped into live action. Exciting, funny, bad, good, all those and more. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland***/
It's fiction, or fictionalized faction, but it often carries the look, feel and heft of documentary. Not all, but a lot of what happens, is real, not Hollywood. Hardly ever Hollywood except, well, the acting parts, I suppose. When they kill and butcher a pig, that's real. When they brand cows, that's searingly real. Some other parts, like when they supposedly have their arms up a cow's uterus to pull a breech birth, that's cheap-out obviously faked, until they pull it out, then that looks real. They are a couple living in Montana in the early years of the 20th Century, against the odds of nature, low cattle prices and each other. Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrerel. Much more interesting and engaging than I expected. Heartland***.
The Barbarian Invasions**** is a wonderful movie about life and death, love, men and women and everything in between. It caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting such lovely visuals and deep-felt emotions. It's about an old man who is dying and this son, whom he seems to hate. Then the son, who happens to be a millionaire, comes to say good-bye, gatherers the old man's friends about him, keeps him oddly pain-free and friends-rich till the end. Many telling moments of human realism, a few quirks, a lot of marvelous people and good actors.
Glenn Gould: Hereafter*** is of and pertaining to perfection and what follows. Him talking often, with others, to himself, but more often or at least the best of which is him playing the piano, and almost always subvocalizing along. Informs what he was thinking about. Shows him as the mad genius of the piano.
Some reviews write themselves all during the movie: Title sequence is several kinds of exquisite. Superb. Begins as a proper, almost Japanese anime fantasy. Wondrous characters. Certainly an odd world view. I'd rather they weren't, but here dragons are definitely the bad guys. Ill-manered and mean, in all shapes, colors and compositions, most unlike classical dragons, but all very creative, if not altogether fanciful. Towards the middle, it gets a little full of itself. Although the landscape is always lively, our heroes and heroine do get a little tiresome. There's a few largish laughs and a lot of little ones, usually rooted in visual. Then it picks up again, gets exciting, then stops. Etc. There's a remarkable rhythm going here among all the absurd fantasy, fear and fierceness. Then the big dragon and a big fight, quite colossal and horrific. Then, when then it's all over. Or almost, comes the goofy ending and more exquisite titles. The Dragon Hunters***/
Took long enough for me to get around to putting this one in my Queue, then longer to let it up to the top. Just never really wanted to watch it, but eventually I did. Basically, it's a character development plot. Our main character trudges around in some deep shit a long time, then with some help, figures out who she is, and what she can do about it. Not a really great movie, but a good enough one to win some awards. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire***/, which ungainly title appears to be somebody's way of thanking the writer for these characters and this story. I'd thank them, too, but I'm on my way to see the next flick.
Just a couple minutes into Ken Burns' America: Thomas Hart Benton**, I had to stop it. At the time, all that panning and zooming into Benton's paintings must have seemed the height of filmic expression, but it drives me nuts. I wanted to see his paintings and would settle for the low res TV version of his colors, but all that camera and frame movement was too much for my stomach, and however that connects to my brain. Unmittigated visual crap.
Without a Netflix, I would never have discovered The Secret in Their Eyes***/, an exquisite Argentinean story of a crime and punishment, governmental stupidity, love (of course) and justice. It's an exquisitely filmed movie. Acting, story, script, all superb. I wish it'd been dubbed in English, so I could have watched the movie more. That's the star here. The transitional scenes are lush and beautiful. Argentinean by Director Juan Jose Campanella.
Much is made of the fact that this filmmaker, Lucy Jarvis, was allowed into the Louvre with television cameras, but not much was revealed of its inner life. Its art and history are of great interest, and the paintings are always fascinating, but in this low resolution videotaping, we see these works in even lower resolution than we saw them in books and reproduction — vague phantasms of the real art, nor is much of the building and its operation or expansion or care mentioned, let alone shown to this TV show's intended mass audience. The Louvre*** was good enough for 1978. Is there an update?
Orson Welles & Me*** Is a way to tell the story of Orson Welles without getting lost in Orson Welles, whose part is important, maybe even pivotal, but he's not the star here, and that alone makes it worthwhile. Odd little romance that doesn't work out, interesting characters on stage and back. Good enough without being boffo.
Let the Right One In***/ is slow, spooky and gruesome. About a little girl who is a vampire and her friend, a boy who is not. It is about torment, and standing up for oneself and decency among the unlawless. Bullies play an important part in this quiet thriller. All these things different from however you've seen them in other movies. Deep, dark and frightening.
I've been watching TV shows on and via Netflix and being alternately fascinated by their intelligence and appalled by their stupidity. The Brit crime series, Wire in the Blood***, about a psychiatrist working with the police to solve heinous crimes, is fascinating, though dark. Burn Notice**, exciting at first, has become tedious — there's story and interesting characters aplenty, but it's painfully bereft of plot or character development. And I've caught up with the last season of Dexter***/ and still find his story delicious, intelligent and wicked funny.
I been diggin' Instant Viewing flicks on Netflix. Never tried it before, because I thought I had to have some expensive Blu-Ray player, but it works on my elderly Mac just fine. Not everything's available, but plenty.
© 1996-2010 by J R Compton.
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