Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Movies, Fall 2007

Not a strong beginning for the season, sadly. Premonition (2007) is a Sandra Bullock vehicle all the way. She gives a strong performance, but the plot weakness works against her, unfortunately. Still, I found lots to like about this film and wish it had all hung together. http://imdb.com/title/tt0477071/. See Wikipedia for the best explantion of the plot and theme I find.

Next up, About Schmidt (2002), Jack Nicholson at his delightful old self. Schmidt has almost disappeared into the conformity of his so-called life, but his retirement and almost simultaneous death of his wife, instead of killing him, open him, quite unexpectedly, to life for the rest of his years. Delightful, sad, funny, and outrageous. http://imdb.com/title/tt0257360/

The Incredibles (2004) was charming fun. So many fun references to action/adventure/spy etc. films! In fact, it starts out good, and keeps getting better and better. http://imdb.com/title/tt0317705/

Back to the movies! Finished La Fille sur le pont (The Girl on the Bridge) (1999) tonight. Vanessa Paridis (perfect!) and Daniel Auteuil (amazing!) run around Europe testing their luck. Who knew knife-throwing could be erotic? Another Leconte (L' Homme du train (2002)) masterpiece. http://imdb.com/title/tt0144201/

Colin got Peter Pan (1953) for his birthday. It is showing its age, but is still a Disney classic. http://imdb.com/title/tt0046183/

Twisted! Another wonderful French film with the ever-amazing Daniel Auteuil, this time as an ugly man, through and through. Jean de Florette (1986) shows the banality of evil and greed set against the foolish, sunny, innocent but stubborn optimism of Gérard Depardieu as Jean de Florette. Yves Montand is malignant as the evil old mastermind of the dirty plotting for Jean's land. http://imdb.com/title/tt0091288/
Soon, we'll watch part two, which is called Manon des sources (Manon of the Spring)(1986) where Manon gains her revenge against the men who caused the death of her father, and changed her life forever. - Finally watched Manon, which was thoroughly satisfying. I was happy to see Manon give up her revenge, and let her enemies destroy themselves, without involving herself in that. Yves Montand is completely incredibly wonderful in the end. I felt that he understood how completely wrong he had been about life, and how he had been entirely at fault. http://imdb.com/title/tt0091480/

Broken Flowers (2005) http://imdb.com/title/tt0412019/ -- leaves me with as few words as Bill Murray's character uttered throughout the film. Great performance from him, and everyone else. I need to see more Jarmusch films!

I must say something about Firefly, even though I'm only in mid-series, and it's a TV show, and one cancelled after one season, at that. All I can say about that, is that TV execs are idiots. At least we got the Serenity film out of it, to sum up and finish the story. Good show!

If you are wondering why you see so much of the same stuff on your movie screen, over and over again, see This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated, and see what we have allowed the MPAA to do to American film. What a disgrace! But a fun, frustrating documentary comforts the fan -- a bit.

Grim, dark, gripping: The Number 23 (2007). Jim Carrey in one of his best dramatic roles ever. Much of the cast plays duel roles (or do they?) as he sinks obsessively into a novel and into disturbing dreams of obsession and murder. http://imdb.com/title/tt0481369/

Another dark masterpiece: Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Nic Cage is burnt out and seeing ghosts of those people he's failed to save in his years as a paramedic. But his compassion still burns within him, even as he sleepwalks through life. Wonderful soundtrack -- I wish I had access to all those songs. And the cinematography is absolutely splendid. http://imdb.com/title/tt0163988/

What an interesting night at the movies! First up, Strictly Ballroom (1992), first of Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain Trilogy", this one is set in Australia, and in his past. Funny and touching, with those *amazing* ballroom dancing costumes, hair and makeup. Under-rated gem. http://imdb.com/title/tt0105488/

Next, the disturbing Mysterious Skin (2004). Painful to watch, wonderful acting, writing, characters, cinematography, music -- but I can't say much else at this point. Haunting, in all senses of the word. http://imdb.com/title/tt0370986/

I'm a bit behind on movies, both watching them, and reviewing them here. Last night we watched the short Andre's Mother (1990), which was made for public TV. Very nice character study of two characters brought together by shared grief. Richard Thomas is more likeable than I've ever seen him, as Andre's grieving lover, and Sada Thompson as Andre's mother is so *frozen*. In the scenes with her mother, played by Sylvia Sidney (who steals every scene she's in), you see the roots of her damage. http://imdb.com/title/tt0099037/

Five Easy Pieces is a Nicholson classic that I haven't seen since Bob and I watched it in the theater, back in 1970. What a great film, from the first frame to the last, wrapped around the amazing scene in the diner: [Bobby wants plain toast, which isn't on the menu]
Bobby: I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.
Waitress: A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

'Nuff said. http://imdb.com/title/tt0065724/

Ghost in the Shell Kôkaku kidôtai (1995), an early anime. A beautiful cyborg on the hunt for the Puppet Master, realizes that she too is "a living, thinking entity that was created in the sea of information" as he was. Beautifully done. http://imdb.com/title/tt0113568/

Finally, at Lou's urging, tonight I watched the truly dreadful Saw (2004). While I see the draw of the puzzle, the mystery, the drama, the film at base is about cruelty; cruelty displayed for us as entertainment. It isn't the gore that got to me, but the absolutely pointless cruelty. I wish this film did not exist. http://imdb.com/title/tt0387564/

Last night I finally got to the really wonderful Capote (2005). Philip Seymour Hoffman absolutely *shines* as Truman Capote, from when he chooses the topic of his next article, which soon grows into the book In Cold Blood. Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee, Capote's childhood friend who acts as his assistant during the trips to Kansas, is his calm center. This is right before Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird was published. And finally, Clifton Collins Jr. as the murderer Perry Smith is absolutely captivating. All other aspects of the film are spot-on; no wonder it won an Oscar! http://imdb.com/title/tt0379725/

Inspired by a Hallowe'en series of scary film scenes, I ordered Jacob's Ladder (1990) because I love Tim Robbins. I won't give away the plot, but this film will MESS WITH YOUR MIND. Quite satisfying, if immensely disturbing. The supporting characters, the writing, sets, cinematography all combine to make this well worth your time. I'm not a huge fan of director Adrian Lyne, but this film raises him in my estimation. Oh, and Danny Aiello is an angel! http://imdb.com/title/tt0099871/

Tales of the City (1993) (http://imdb.com/title/tt0106148) and the imaginatively named More Tales of the City (http://imdb.com/title/tt0120574/) have been completely absorbing me. After watching the first series, I got the first book, the second, have now finished the third, and ordered the final trilogy. I may do a separate blog post just about this series, and the wonderful Armistead Maupin. I plan to read all of his books. What a prince!

Tonight, Colin and I watched the charming and beautiful Les Choristes (The Chorus, 2004). Wonderfully cast, acted, directed, filmed, and sung. If you like choral music, or are interested in education, you should see this film. If you enjoy good French film, you should see this. A very HUMAN film. I loved it.

Finally watched Wait Until Dark (1967), which features Audrey Hepburn as the blind Suzy, still trying to find her way in the world. As the tension builds, she sheds her fear and gathers her courage and intelligence to fight for her life against a trio of hardened criminals trying to play her. What a wonderful thriller! A couple of the scenes near the end were extremely frightening. Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin were top-notch, and Audrey Hepburn, of course, was her meltingly great self. What a dream she is!

Also long-awaited was Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), which is a Frank Capra/Cary Grant madcap masterpiece! Yes, Grant is over-the-top, but I think that was just what the film needed.

Down the stretch to the Solstice, and a new year's worth of films. We rented The Family Stone (2005) so Bob could see it. I like it just as much the second time! http://imdb.com/title/tt0356680/. Finally got Freaks (1932) from the library as a VHS tape. I hope they put this on DVD, and clean it up a bit. Sound is muddy, and it's sometimes hard to see exactly what is happening. But there isn't a creepier movie out there -- the casual, sly cruelty of Cleo and Hercules towards little Hans is met by the frightening anger and violence of all the freaks, who expose her for the monster she truly is. She is shown to be the true freak. http://imdb.com/title/tt0022913.

Also watched Burnt Money (Plata quemada) (2000), a wonderful Argentine film based on a true crime story. Leonardo Sbaraglia as El Nene and Eduardo Noriega as Ángel just burn up the screen. Pablo Echarri as El Cuervo is crazysexy as hell, too! Dolores Fonzi as Vivi also shines on the screen. If sex, drugs, nudity and crime offend you, this is not your film. But if magnetic characters walking and even dancing to their doom is your style, check it out! http://imdb.com/title/tt0227277/

The Night Listener (2006) was wonderful, but not as good as the book. More of a thriller, with much less emphasis on the shifting relationships. Robin Williams and Toni Collette were both outstanding, however. And Bobby Cannivale is a dream, as always! Be sure to watch the "making of" segment, if you are interested in Armistead Maupin and his former partner Terry Anderson. http://imdb.com/title/tt0448075/

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) haunted my dreams for a few days. Yes, it seems so over-played, but the attention you must focus on a silent film (this edition has music and the opera singing) makes it a very intense experience. The extras on the DVD, with photos of the sets, an old silent ad, etc., are also enjoyable. http://imdb.com/title/tt0016220/

The Dinner Game, originally Le Dîner de cons (1998) is a French film I'm on the fence about. It is very engaging, but rather mean-spirited. At the end, the real fool is shown to be the supposed smarty who was trying to get points with his similarly mean-spirited friends by showing off the biggest fool, played by Jacques Villeret (now sadly deceased), but Pignon ends up helping the handsome and rich Pierre Brochant, played brilliantly by Thierry Lhermitte. http://imdb.com/title/tt0119038/

I missed the first few minutes of Walk the Line (2005), but the rest of the film is excellent. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter did a wonderful job both acting and singing, although Phoenix in particular often reminded me that he was NOT Johnny Cash, just because their looks are different. Nevertheless, he seemed to channel Johnny Cash. You don't have to love country music, or Cash's music, to love this film. http://imdb.com/title/tt0358273

What an intense experience the most recent Phantom of the Opera (2004) is! So rich, dense, and wonderful. I'm so glad I got so see Lon Chaney's powerful but unsympathetic Phantom before the modern Gerard Butler version, much more slick, sympathetic and obsessed. Emmy Rossum as Christine was just divine, perfectly balanced between her longing for her dead father and the Angel of Music he had promised would comfort her in her grief, and her love for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, played by Patrick Wilson. I so wish his hair had not been so greasy and long, LOL. Wilson's Raoul was much stronger than the 1925 character, who was a bit of a wimp. Oh, the music, especially Butler and Rossum's duets! Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendour. Grasp it, sense it - tremulous and tender. Turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light - and listen to the music of the night!... Softly, deftly, music shall carress you. Hear it, feel it, Secretly possess you. http://imdb.com/title/tt0293508/

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) is based on a true story, and set in Savannah, Georgia where the murder happened. A few of the characters were minor players in the original tragedy. Clint Eastwood made a leisurely film, and even Jude Law's firecracker of a character doesn't wake it up much. The Lady Chablis playing herself, however, steals every scene she's in. And Irma P. Hall as Minerva anchors the wild tale. http://imdb.com/title/tt0119668/

The final film I watched this Fall was The Cockettes (2002), which was a total trip back to the late Sixties San Francisco. I adore this film, and anyone who cares about gay history, the Sixties, art or drama should SEE THIS FILM! As John Waters so wisely said, "the Cockettes were basically complete sexual anarchy. which is always a good thing." http://imdb.com/title/tt0303321/

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