Sunday, October 24, 2004

Latest and Favorite Films

Watched He Knew He Was Right (2004) on Masterpiece Theater (PBS). I understand from IMDb that an hour was cut by PBS from the original BBC version. I wish they had not done that. Good, but not great as viewed.

Finally, I got to see Bend It Like Beckham (2002). It was worth the wait! Not a "chick flick" as my son Thomas dismissed it, but a wonderfully rich look at Indian immigrant society in England, as well as a look at women's sports in the UK. You have probably seen Parminder Nagra on E.R. (tv), and she was very good. I loved the Indian music and the engagement and wedding preparations. A wonderful little movie. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I knew anything about football (soccer).

House of Sand and Fog (2003) - I *love* this film. Everybody should have gotten Oscars, really. Kingsley and Connelly for sure, and Ron Eldard, Shohreh Aghdashloo and first-time actor, young Jonathan Ahdout were all just wonderful. Although I haven't read the novel, the screenplay adaptation was GREAT, as was the directing, lighting, cinematography and score. I loved everything about this tragic, moving masterpiece. Heartbreakingly wonderful.

A fun romp - The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Terry Gilliam's vision is just wonderful. Imagine a hot air balloon made entirely of women's ...knickers! Wonderful whimsical fantasy. Jonathan Pryce as the bad guy is just priceless. "We're out of virgins."

Recorded The Three Faces of Eve (1957) a while back, and finally watched it. I read the book last fall. Bob had tears in his eyes at the end, when Eve finally regains her health. What a great story, and a tour-de-force for Joanne Woodward.

What a wonderful experience! I got the DVD of Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) from the library, and watched the film and all the special bits. I'm an American, and know that the US Government followed a sad parallel course with the Native American people to that of the Australian government and the aboriginal people. Amazing acting, photography, writing. A true story really brought to life. Don't get caught up in the politics or history; humans have done horrifying things to other humans over and over again. The beauty of this film is the strength of love shown by these girls, and the power that gives them. This must be one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated films I've ever had the privilege of seeing.

Next up -- 21 Grams (2003). Difficult to write about so soon after watching. The quick cuts were bewildering, but made sense, too. The story, though -- redemption? Healing? Paul Rivers was the character I don't understand. Maybe because he was trying to understand life and himself through his mystical take on math. "21 grams", indeed.

The kids talked me into Napoleon Dynamite (2004) which was surprisingly charming. Maybe the advertising was bad. The IMDB reviewer who called it absurdist comedy was right, but the determination of Napoleon D. was endearing. He lived through the embarrassments of his life, and kept going. "So what did you do again this summer, Napoleon?"
"I was in Alaska hunting wolverines with my uncle."

Debra rented Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). The DVD was a disappointment -- no extras at ALL. However, the film itself was great. I think I'll buy the DVD, in spite of the lack of extras! (Bought it for Bob for Xmas. Hee hee) Russell Crowe was perfectly cast, and I enjoyed the interplay between his character and that of Dr. Stephen Maturin, Surgeon, played by Paul Bettany (John Nash's imaginary friend in A Beautiful Mind). Peter Wier made a wonderful film; too bad it didn't make buckets of money. Some of the other books in the series might have made great films too.

We also watched The Magdalene Sisters (2002) and the TV documentary Sex in a Cold Climate (1998). Completely horrifying, both of them. Also completely absorbing. It is easy to blame the Catholic Church for what happened, or even the specific (and monstrous) priests and nuns who ran these prisons, but the wider society created and supported these places until the late 1960s. I wonder what modern Irish think about these films today?

Wow. Watched Touching the Void (2003) tonight. On the strength of it, I've bought the DVD for my dad, and a DVD player to watch it on! What an amazing story, and so realistic I kept fearing to watch bits of it. Beauty and horror are so close to one another sometimes.

I forgot to put Mystic River (2003) in here. Thinking back, I am not as impressed as I was immediately after watching it. The mysteries of the past and present are developed well, and the acting is good. Perhaps because it is such a depressing plot, and such a cynical ending, it doesn't last well in my mind.

Well, now. Finally watched Sexy Beast (2000). Hmmmmm. I don't see the humor, dark or not. On the other hand, it was original, and memorable. After reading some of the Cockney dialog translated on the IMDB board, I feel less foggy about THAT. Interesting, interesting. Both Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley were great.

Onmyoji (2001) - beautiful and intriguing. It was rather difficult to follow the plot, but might be worth another watching to get more of the layers. I was constantly struck by the similarities of the ancient Japanese Buddhist culture to that of some Native American culture. The final shots of Mansai Nomura dancing reminded me *so much* of the dream-like dancing scenes in The Business of Fancydancing (2002). Brothers of a common father, I guess.

Johnny Belinda (1948) was much better than I expected. The setting on Cape Breton in Canada was interesting, and the place was a character of the film. Jane Wyman as Belinda was perfect, and the rest of the acting was fine, too. Ya gotta love any film with a pipe band!

Henry V, or "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France" (1944) - Laurence Olivier's creative Henry V, made during the fire-bombing of London under what must have been trying circumstances. I loved the conceit of beginning and ending in the old Globe Theatre, and the segue into "movie" was seamless and magical. The use of stage sets in the movie part were just perfect. Overall, I prefer Branagh's Henry V (1989), but Olivier is a powerful actor, director, and producer.

"And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother."

Forever Amber (1947) seems like a typical Otto Preminger film. She's pretty, the costumes are big, etc. I liked the book better.

So darn cute and sweet I almost maxed out my blood sugar. The Adventures of Milo and Otis or Koneko monogatari (1986) is a bit controversial under all that cuteness. Filmed in Hokkaido over 4 years, it was an art film in Japan, but re-edited as a children's film here in the US. Narrated by Dudley Moore. The treatment of the animals is the controversial part -- how did Hata get the animals to "act," and were any animals harmed in the making of the film? Read conflicting opinions on the IMDB board.

Unusual, mesmerizing, fun, and horrifying. IFC presented Gray's Anatomy (1996), directed by Steven Soderburgh. Spalding Gray is a GREAT storyteller. The few other characters are a nice black and white change from Gray's neurotic intensity.

Wow. I just saw not just a great film, but a movie that spoke to me, spoke to my LIFE. Educating Rita (1983) has breath-taking performances by not only Michael Caine, but also Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter films). What is education FOR? Why bother to learn? Does one have to abandon one's true self, one's own voice, to be truly educated? And, what are the roles of teacher and student in all this? I sympathized so with Rita/Julie, who was a working-class woman yearning for education even while it made her a fish out of water. I hope that they restore this movie somewhat -- the version I saw on TV looked and sounded pretty bad.

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) also exceeded expectations. Wonderful biography of Loretta Lynn, from her childhood to success as the world-famous country-western music star. This is not a film about country music, but completely focussed on Lynn's roots, life, and music. Sissy Spacek IS Lynn, and Beverly D'Angelo as her friend Patsy Cline is just super. Tommy Lee Jones as her husband, and Levon Helm as father, are also perfectly cast.

From Here to Eternity (1953): Better than I thought it would be. Montgomery Clift was great, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Donna Read were also really good. Frank Sinatra had a nice little part, and Ernest Borgnine was great as the bad guy. "The kiss" has lost a bit of its fire in 50 years, but this was still a great film.

Finally saw all of Trainspotting (1996) -- thanks, Debra! So cynical and depressing, but still enjoyable, thanks to great performances by Ewan McGregor and his mates. Sparkling bit by Kelly Macdonald as his under-age girlfried Diane, also. I watched the DVD and turned on the subtitles -- the Scottish accent is a bit thick! There are lots of references to other films and books; IMDB has a nice summation under Trivia.

Gunga Din (1939): The blatant racism bothered me, but I have to admit I'm a sucker for the buddy movie, even when it's a jolly olde slap at women, peace, and indeed -- everything but men and their games. This game is about murder, religion, war, and empire.

Ghost World (2000): Definately for everybody, but I loved it. One of the best movie beginnings of all time. Nice ending, too. And how can you top Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi?

A Star is Born (1954): Isn't Judy amazing? I loved the bit where Norman makes her remove the studio makeup and take the screen test as *herself*. Flawed, but unforgettable.

The Last Detail: Jack Nicholson was great, of course, but so were Randy Quaid and Otis Young. Gritty, touching.

Quills (2000) - Quite the fin de siècle film! Strong performances by Rush, Winslett, Joaquin Phoenix, and Caine. The argument for freedom of speech and thought might be weakened by the demonstration of the pain, violence and even death which can result.

The Quiet American (2002): I haven't seen the 1958 original, so I can't compare. Pretty decent film, however. Michael Caine is always wonderful, and Brendan Fraser is very strong.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Jimmy Stewart is always great, and this is "the last of the great black and white Westerns." John Wayne as a supporting character? and Lee Marvin as the baddest of the bad of the West. :-)

Devil in a Blue Dress
The Apartment
Singin' in the Rain
Kiss of the Vampire
The Nun's Story
Secret Window
Road to Perdition
Gallipoli (1981)

Previous favorites:
Katherine Hepburn
Philadelphia Story
Bringing Up Baby
Stage Door
Mary of Scotland
The African Queen
State of the Union
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
The Lion in Winter
On Golden Pond
Love Among the Ruins
Audrey Hepburn
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Seven Samurai
Johnny Depp
Pirates of the Caribbean - The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Benny & Joon (1993)
Chocolat (2001)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Bridget Jones' Diary
Shakespeare in Love
Antwone Fisher
Malcolm X
Dancing with Wolves
Good Will Hunting
Mrs. Doubtfire
Marathon Man
The Graduate
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Jeremiah Johnson
The Way We Were
Funny Girl
Dr. Zhivago
Lawrence of Arabia
Saving Private Ryan
Forrest Gump
Apollo 13
Catch Me If you Can
Romeo + Juliet
"Amelie" - Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Toy Story
The Sixth Sense
Liar Liar
Three Amigos
Raiders of the Lost Ark
First Blood
The Shawshank Redemption
Sleeping Beauty
Pay It Forward
A Beautiful Mind
The Usual Suspects
Star Wars (Episodes 4-6)
Young Frankenstein
Finding Nemo
Harry Potter (all so far)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Last Samurai
Back to the Future
Schindler's List
The Piano
The Pianist
Requiem for a Dream
American Beauty
Donnie Darko
Being John Malkovitch
Pulp Fiction
Get Shorty
Don Juan DiMarco
Waking Life
L.A. Confidential
Jack Nicholson......
A Beautiful Mind
Office Space
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Five Easy Pieces
China Town
Taxi Driver
The Truman Show
This is Spinal Tap
Planet of the Apes
"Rafifi" - Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)
High Fidelity
The Lost Boys
"Man on a Train" - L'Homme du train (2002)
Some Like It Hot
Muriel's Wedding
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Ed Wood
How could I forget Citizen Kane? I really did love it.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask
On The Waterfront
The Great Escape
The Wizard of Oz
Blade Runner
All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)
The Conversation
Hannah and Her Sisters
Dogtown and Z-Boys
The Lion in Winter
King Kong
The Iron Giant (1999)

Gluck - Dance of the Blessed Spirits (flute)

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