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post #631 of 1349 Old 12-06-2011, 11:39 AM
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I didn't know there was a biopic of Elgar.

He enjoys the distinction of having written both the classical piece I hate the most "Pomp and Circumstance" and the piece I love the most the Adagio from the Cello Concerto Op85.
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post #632 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 04:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles.

The nonlinear life, loves and death of a wealthy newspaper magnate. Told in flashbacks as journalists try to figure out how to write his life.

It has monomaniacal focus on Kane's character and ambition and the puzzles of his personality. Is he trying to buy or command love because his parents were cold? Who really knew him? Did he ever love anyone? What did his dying words mean?

Such concentration on one huge ego is wearying. He doesn't change or develop at all: from young and ambitious to old and rigid, he's the same person and it's all about him. He never achieves any self-knowledge, or even considers that he should.

It is a good film, with especially impressive special effects (often meant to be invisible) but I do not understand the cult of "Citizen Kane as the best film of all time." It was made by a certified boy genius and employed much innovative photography; does that make it a great film? Welles said he learned everything by watching John Ford pictures; why is there no cult of The Grapes of Wrath or How Green Was My Valley?

In his commentary, Ebert (a huge fan) calls it a "shallow masterpiece": plenty of surface detail but not much depth. You might classify it with other films that present mysteries which are never solved, like The Birds or Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I know I'm in the minority, but the wikipedia article quotes even harsher critics:

Quote:


Despite its status as a revered classic, Citizen Kane is not entirely without its critics. Boston University film scholar Ray Carney, although noting its technical achievements, criticized what he saw as the film's lack of emotional depth, shallow characterization and empty metaphors. Listing it among the most overrated works within the film community, he accused the film of being "an all-American triumph of style over substance." The Swedish director Ingmar Bergman once stated his dislike for the movie, calling it "a total bore" and claiming that the "performances are worthless." He went on to call Orson Welles an "infinitely overrated filmmaker."

Similarly, James Agate wrote, "I thought the photography quite good, but nothing to write to Moscow about, the acting middling, and the whole thing a little dull...Mr. Welles's high-brow direction is of that super-clever order which prevents you from seeing what that which is being directed is all about."

Bernard Herrmann score.

Available on Blu-ray with two commentary tracks: Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich. Ebert's is almost entirely about camera and lighting technique and the clever stage construction. He says "what is the best film ever?" is a pointless question, but he answers Citizen Kane because he likes watching it.

Bogdanovich's is more or less a subset of Ebert's and repeats some of the same stories.



-Bill
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post #633 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles.


In his commentary, Ebert (a huge fan) calls it a "shallow masterpiece": plenty of surface detail but not much depth. You might classify it with other films that present mysteries which are never solved, like The Birds or Picnic at Hanging Rock.

I know I'm in the minority, but the wikipedia article quotes even harsher critics:

-Bill

I can't even watch this film, not even for 10 min. Might be a good cure for insomnia though.
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post #634 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

It is a good film, with especially impressive special effects (often meant to be invisible) but I do not understand the cult of "Citizen Kane as the best film of all time."

-Bill

Bill, thanks for tackling this one. I always feel like a film-school reject when I tell someone that I don't understand the allure of this film. While I can understand why some people may like the movie it is not for everyone. I have never owned a copy but I revisit the film from time to time on cable TV to see if my perception of the movie has changed but it hasn't. It's a good film but not even close to the top of my list.

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post #635 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post


I can't even watch this film, not even for 10 min. Might be a good cure for insomnia though.

Wow. I have never heard anyone call this film boring.

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post #636 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 11:58 AM
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Wow. I have never heard anyone call this film boring.

I guess you missed the thread a couple of years ago where I recounted my experience of falling asleep during a performance of the newly restored version of CK. And that was in a monster-sized old style theater, the original CineCapri in Phoenix with a 70 foot screen, with a slod out crowd.

The popularity of the film with critics in it's time, is very easily understood. The critics were a bunch of hard core leftists and they loved the fact that CK was a thinly disguised hit piece on W R Hearst, who they all hated with a burning passion. That the movie is actually lame was irrelevant to them.

I'm sure there's still a few critics that hate WRH even though the only thing they could tell you about him was that he owned a newspaper and had a daughter named Patti, but as to why it keeps getting heaps of undeserved praise, the only explanation I can come up with is that a lot of critics aren't willing to come out and say that "the emperor has no clothes", because that would mean dissing their mentors. And non-critics aren't willing to take the brickbats that'll be aimed their way if they contradict the critics.

So now critics are reduced to talking about the one long tracking shot at the start of the movie which was groundbreaking at the time, but is really just a meaningless special effect that didn't add anything to the actual story that was supposedly being told. Heck, most people don't even notice it because they aren't tuned-in to how technically difficult it is to do shots like that. I doubt that anyone would claim that The Matrix was one of the greatest films of all time since introduced "Bullet-Time", which was also a groundbreaking and very technically difficult shot, but that's what they do with CK.
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post #637 of 1349 Old 12-08-2011, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Mac The Knife View Post

I guess you missed the thread a couple of years ago where I recounted my experience of falling asleep during a performance of the newly restored version of CK. .

Yes, I guess I did miss that thread. I support your right to be bored and somnolent in any movie. But I do take issue with your easy, facile swipe at those who like this movie as "leftist critics." I also think that people can enjoy this movie (or not) regardless of what they think of Hearst. There are a lot of visual innovations in this movie and creative camera work that go beyond any single tracking shot. For example:

--Deep focus photography used for expressive purposes
--Construction of sets with ceilings to make Kane and his power seem "bigger"
--The abrupt cutting from the newsreel at the beginning to people watching it, which was a complete surprise for 1940s audiences and to subsequent viewers who don't know what's coming.
--Extreme contrasts of light and shadow, using tropes of film noir to tell a completely different kind of story

And I don't think anyone would take issue with the ensemble acting that is on display in this movie.

So I don't fault you for not liking this movie (and I would be happy to post my list of "classics" that put me to sleep, if anyone cared). I do fault you for taking cheap shots at those who like the movie by slapping on the label of "leftist."

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post #638 of 1349 Old 12-09-2011, 11:41 AM
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It seems to me that these days, it's all the rage to think you're cool if you don't like Citizen Kane. People of this generation go into this movie hearing all the accolades it receives and then come out saying, "meh...it wasn't all that". The trouble is that these people with their "modern" sensibilities just don't realize how Citizen Kane revolutionized the nature of cinematic storytelling in virtually every way possible. There may be more entertaining films, more profound, life changing films, but, arguably, no film had more impact in the development of the language of filmmaking, the use of special effects to enhance the story, and the immaculate editing and complex narrative structure as a means to advance the plot than Kane. It is one of the most important films ever made.

Personally, I love it.
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post #639 of 1349 Old 12-09-2011, 12:41 PM
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It seems to me that these days, it's all the rage to think you're cool if you don't like Citizen Kane.

Sort of like how it's all the rage to proclaim that anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand.
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post #640 of 1349 Old 12-09-2011, 01:20 PM
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Sort of like how it's all the rage to proclaim that anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand.

Seems to me that a person can understand what makes the film important and still dislike it. I understand what's important about Citizen Kane and like it. But I also understand what's important about Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Birth of a Nation, and the silent films of Charlie Chaplin--but they bore me to tears.

The OP fell asleep, didn't like it, AND didn't manifest any understanding of why CK was important in the history of movies. Three strikes (but only the last one matters, IMO).

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post #641 of 1349 Old 12-09-2011, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

It is a good film, with especially impressive special effects (often meant to be invisible) but I do not understand the cult of "Citizen Kane as the best film of all time." It was made by a certified boy genius and employed much innovative photography; does that make it a great film? Welles said he learned everything by watching John Ford pictures; why is there no cult of The Grapes of Wrath or How Green Was My Valley?

-Bill

The better term I've seen used with regard to Citizen Kane is "greatest", not "best".

I feel justifying something in the history of any medium as "the greatest" is actually easier than justifying it as "the best", because technology and popular tastes are always evolving to move the goal post on what can be considered "the best" of any aspect of that medium.

And on that count, it is difficult to find another sound film that can be examined, analyzed, and learned from in as many aspects of filmmaking and has been for as long as Citizen Kane. Overall, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley or Vertigo, The Searchers, Ben-Hur, The Godfather, Schindler's List, Raging Bull, or Avatar, for that matter, don't even come close.

Great:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/great

I believe more cinematic elements of Citizen Kane will still be studied and evaluated for their effectiveness vs those same elements in other films 70 years from now than any sound film made before or since. And I'm talking about cinematic elements and choices like where to put the camera, when and how to move it, when and where to edit, the final impact of the lighting, make-up, performance, story and screenplay, not nuts and bolts technical elements that are constantly changing and improving.
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post #642 of 1349 Old 12-10-2011, 04:17 AM - Thread Starter
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It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955), directed by Robert Gordon.

The models are smaller in this early Harryhausen project; it shows, but the stop motion animation still works well enough. Most of the creature effects are in the last 20 minutes and the final conflict is a bit anticlimactic. Unlike other monster films we don't have a lot of sympathy for the creature this time. Cephalopods, like big bugs, are beyond the limit.

We have more than the usual romantic development between the submarine captain and brainy marine biologist. As a kid I thought Kenneth Tobey and Faith Domergue were major actors because they appeared in several 50s SF films. These were important roles!

The San Francisco locations were shot surreptitiously because the city fathers would not give permission, fearing that people would lose confidence in the Golden Gate Bridge should it be attacked by a giant radioactive six-tentacled octopus.

They have a real octopus in a lab scene; I never noticed before how graceful and cinematic they are when underwater.

Available on Blu-ray with b&w and colorized versions switchable with the Angle button. It has the usual appreciative commentary track with Harryhausen and admirers.



-Bill
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post #643 of 1349 Old 12-12-2011, 04:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Frankenstein (1931), directed by James Whale.

Nicely rendered production of the story, only 69 minutes long. It becomes more of an action picture as it proceeds. Pacing the story with more leisurely scenes is a good thing, but here the drawing room interludes typical of that period bring the narrative to a halt.

The Doctor and his assistant are eagerly sacrilegious when acquiring their materials. They'll pay for that. Frankenstein's hubris has immediate and tragic results.

The Creature dies horribly: screaming, trapped in a burning mill. Boris Karloff is uncredited; the Monster is played by "?". He projects remarkable yearning and pathos through that makeup.

No score apart from the credits.

It's hard not to think of Young Frankenstein, particularly with the bit about the Normal and Abnormal brains in jars. Using a deformed criminal brain screws up Mary Shelley's mythology: the Creature is supposed to be an innocent blank slate, the Noble Savage direct from the state of nature, a popular image then and since.

A loose adaptation of the book, which is mostly travelogue anyway. It's based more on earlier stage versions than the original text. They shuffle some names around: Victor becomes Henry and someone else is Victor. As everyone knows, the Doctor studied at Ingolstadt, not "Goldstadt" (which I now see is a medical college at the U of Ingolstadt). In the book he animates the Creature in his student apartment without much apparatus.

It's easy to see the story as a protest against God, who created Man and then abandoned him, just as the Doctor does his Creature.

The DVD has a wide-ranging commentary track by Rudy Behmler. I didn't know: Karloff had a removable dental bridge on one jaw, allowing him to suck in the cheek and create a gaunt, deformed look. With his large weighted shoes he could lean at strange angles.



-Bill
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post #644 of 1349 Old 12-17-2011, 06:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Bride of Frankenstein (1935), directed by James Whale.

"We belong dead." -- the Creature's last words.

The sequel looks bigger budget (the Doctor now lives in a grand castle), is supposed to be funnier (we have an excess of comic relief from Una O'Connor and an absurd bit with darling homunculi in jars), and is more episodic, with many sequences of running, hiding, fighting, being caught and escaping.

The interesting thread is the Creature's need for love and his discovery of friendship (a nice bit with the blind man in the cabin), his learning language and the truth about his origin.

The wickedly looney Praetorius is a good addition: a mad scientist for whom we feel no sympathy. Hope the monster gets him.

The animation of the Bride and subsequent disaster is all in the last 10 minutes; a good dramatic choice.

The Bride is credited only as "?", but I don't suppose anyone was fooled. Elsa Lanchester appears as Mary Shelley in a framing intro where she tells Percy and Byron the rest of the story. I expect their household was more bohemian than the rich setting shown here.

Franz Waxman score.

The Bride subplot does appear in the original book, where the Creature persuades Frankenstein to build him a mate. In a spasm of remorse the Doctor destroys the body just before animating it. The Creature tells him "I'll be with you on your wedding night" and keeps his promise, murdering the new Mrs Frankenstein in her bridal chamber.

Looking at the thumbnails: it's hard to look away from the Creature. Maybe it's because the images are so iconic, maybe it's Karloff or the photography, but I think it's because the character has had so much stripped away and what is left suggests some essential mysteries of life: pain and longing.

The DVD has a detailed commentary track, some of it rather far afield.



-Bill
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post #645 of 1349 Old 12-21-2011, 05:33 AM - Thread Starter
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A Fistful of Dollars (1964), directed by Sergio Leone.

A gunman plays off two crime families in a town south of the border and rescues a woman and her family on the side. He has a heart!

It's a remake of Yojimbo, a samurai action picture itself influenced by earlier westerns, particularly John Ford. Kurosawa sued for a cut of the film and made more money from it than he did from his own original.

It made a huge splash at the time, infusing new blood (so to speak) into the genre. Despite several truly massive massacre scenes, the only vivid blood is on Clint Eastwood when he is beaten up. This was brutally sadistic by the standards of the time and the picture had an X rating.

As I've said, I like the next film in the series the best. This one seems a bit talky with the villains announcing at length what they're going to do next. Clint Eastwood cut out a bunch of his lines, which is unusual for an actor. (Steve McQueen would do that, too).

Ennio Morricone score, supposedly meant to invoke Dimitri Tiomkin. Filmed in Spain.

Available on Blu-ray. This and For a Few Dollars More are available in an economical two-disc set, with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly available as a standalone.

The second film has a more vivid image, but perhaps has been processed more. The heavy film grain is certainly intact here.

The commentary track by a Leone biographer has much of interest on the low-budget production. Something that wouldn't have occurred to me: they were much influenced by the first James Bond pictures and were trying to bring those sensibilities to the Western. There had been about 25 Italian/Spanish/German Westerns in the previous couple of years, but this was the first to try to be something other than a copy of the American style.

Another innovation that seems obvious in retrospect: traditionally Westerns had been Anglo and Protestant with Midwestern roots; with Leone they become Latin and Catholic and shift to the Southwest. This makes a huge difference in the iconography of the images.

The target market for the film was southern Italy where audiences have a low boredom level and need action scenes every 10 minutes. It is a market that has much expanded since.



-Bill
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post #646 of 1349 Old 12-23-2011, 04:32 AM - Thread Starter
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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), directed by David Lean.

Deliberately paced without being sluggish. The setup is a contest of wills, with Alec Guinness excellent as the prissy British commander who won't break. William Holden is the usual American cynic who makes a daring escape and is then dragooned into returning with a very keen commando outfit. The climax is a tense contest between those trying to blow up the bridge and those defending it, the latter now including the commander who has gone off the rails a bit.

The Doctor, Major Clipton, provides an audience point of view during much of the film. He's the only one who seems to think it strange that the Colonel is contributing so much to the Japanese war effort. Actor James Donald deserves mention for a trio of great POW films: he was also in King Rat and The Great Escape.

Bad as conditions are shown here, in reality they were much worse. See King Rat (1965) for another, grittier view. The authors of both books were POWs. For presentations of what Japanese soldiers faced at the end of the war, try The Burmese Harp (1956) and Fires on the Plain (1959)

Filmed in Sri Lanka. The bridge was life sized and they really blew it up.

Available on Blu-ray with a rather good image in many segments. The greens are not the vivid tropical color we are used to today, but seem typical of color films of that era. The aspect ratio is 2.55:1.



-Bill
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post #647 of 1349 Old 12-23-2011, 06:31 PM
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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), directed by David Lean.

Gets my vote for Lean's greatest film. Lawrence of Arabia is the usual choice and I love it, too. But I've always felt Lawrence peaks at the intermission, where it would be hard to argue against it being Lean's greatest. However, after the intermission it almost feels like it was written and directed by other people less passionate about the subject matter and the implications of its themes, never topping what came before.

But The Bridge on the River Kwai starts out very good and gets better with every scene right up to that great, gut-wrenching, mad and maddening finale. Easily one of the half dozen greatest war movies ever made.

Thanks for the review, the pics and the reminder, Bill.
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post #648 of 1349 Old 12-28-2011, 04:09 AM - Thread Starter
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The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin.

It still works.

The dreadful taint of spiritual loathsomeness. The unseen world errupting into this reality. The mystery of the demon: it seems so childishly vulgar in its taunts, yet has such a keen insight of the weak points of the mortals. We suspect it is playing a long game, with Fr Merrin as the ultimate target; or is there more?

In a great moment we see dark and troubled Fr Karras regain his lost faith: it's during the exorcism when Regan is levitating. He can't speak for several moments and when he does resume he says the ritual with new conviction and understanding. The tangible presence of Evil has renewed his faith.

Maybe that's why people like theologically-themed horror: it's an affirmation. I wonder if those who pursue satanism and such aren't trying to back into faith without admitting it.

I'd forgotten a lot of details: Captain Howdy and the ouija board, the real settings, how many characters and how much city life is shown, the fine details.

The clues build steadily during the first half, but we spend a long time on the inadequacy of the rationalists to cope with the possession. Mom rants and screams a lot, perhaps not unreasonably. I'm not quite following the hospital bits where Regan seems tortured by the doctors; is science just as bad as the demon? Is the devil using medicine for its own purposes? The director said it was just another type of ritual.

Some of the physical effects are a bit distracting. Wouldn't Regan be dead if her head turned 180 degrees? The solution, where Karras takes the demon from Regan, always seemed like a gimmick to me. Why would the demon cooperate? It must be that it has no choice: the priest's sacrifice completes the exorcism, saving both his soul and Regan's. Or so I presume, and the author agrees. He was disappointed that many people left the theater thinking the demon had won. That wasn't the point at all.

Available on Blu-ray with one disc each for the theatrical and director's cuts. I watched the theatrical cut this time. All I remember of the longer version are flashes of the demon face and excessively light-hearted repartee with the police detective in the last scene.

Two commentary tracks. The director rambles but has some good info. The Mom role was originally offered to Audrey Hepburn (who would have done it if they had filmed in Rome where she lived), Anne Bancroft (but she was pregnant) and Jane Fonda (who turned it down flat). He was happy with Ellen Burstyn.

They auditioned hundreds of girls before finding Linda Blair, who had little acting experience. It's hard to imagine a better choice. The director in the film was based on real director J. Lee Thompson; he was offered the role and almost did it. Max von Sydow was 43, playing a much older man.

Jason Miller as Fr Karras was a playwright who had never been in a movie before, but who had studied for the priesthood. Again, he seems just perfect.

Friedkin points out some mysteries of the movie:
  • The medal found at the archaeology dig shouldn't be there. It later shows up around Fr Karras's neck without explanation.
  • Who desecrated the church? It's done with Regan's art supplies, but was she "advanced" enough to do it?
  • Who put the crucifix under her pillow? Was it Karl or his wife? Is there something sinister about them?
  • Why Regan? Was she chosen at random? Did she invite it in? Were her parents responsible? Or was it to set a trap for the vulnerable Fr Karras?

According to accounts in the wikipedia article it sounds like it was a wild production, and Friedkin a difficult and dangerous guy to work with.

The second commentary is only about half the playing time of the disc. William Peter Blatty thoughtfully reflects on the story and production. It is not entirely fiction for him; he is willing to believe in supernatural evil.

He is definite that Regan is not the demon's target, but rather those around her, particularly Karras, who is at risk.

He wanted Shirley MacLaine for the Mom and bullied and bluffed the studio into hiring Friedkin. Seven directors, including Kubrick, turned it down. He also claims the Columbo TV character was swiped from his manuscript while it was circulating at the publishers. I remember thinking the resemblance to Detective Kinderman in the book was striking.

Then the track has some demon vocalizations by Mercedes McCambridge. Don't listen to this while eating lunch. "Like a sick thing in heat" -- Norman Spinrad, different context.

The Blu-ray is not available from Netflix.



-Bill
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post #649 of 1349 Old 12-28-2011, 10:24 PM
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Ah, damnit....another of my favorite oldies destroyed:
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post #650 of 1349 Old 12-28-2011, 11:15 PM
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Bill, just noticed your reference to Jason Miller above. He's also excellent in The Nickel Ride from 1974, just released as part of an "Action Double Feature" with 99 and 44/100% Dead by Shout Factory.
Details are here: http://www.shoutfactory.com/browse/4...#axzz1huBbfmi7
DVD Savant has a nice review, too: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s3734dead.html
Add it to your queue:-)
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post #651 of 1349 Old 12-30-2011, 04:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Christmas in Connecticut (1945), directed by Peter Godfrey.

A mild mannered romantic comedy with the typical Warner ease and gloss. There really isn't a Christmas message, but apparently a Christmas film is any one that takes place during the holidays. I don't quite agree, but never mind. It's in our Christmas rotation and we see it every few years.

Barbara Stanwyck is a columnist who has fabricated her entire act: that she is an expert cook and lives on an idyllic farm with a husband and a baby. When her jovially tyrannic publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) orders her to host a Navy war hero for the holidays, it's a vast effort to fake the whole setting. Including the husband and baby.

It's a familiar stock cast that includes S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall and Una O'Connor. I don't quite get Dennis Morgan as a leading man; he's affable but a bit bland. Stanwyck's almost carnivorous interest when she first sees him is pretty funny.

I see that a generally unliked remake in 1992 starred Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis and was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.



-Bill
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post #652 of 1349 Old 12-31-2011, 05:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Goldfinger (1964), directed by Guy Hamilton.

The third Bond file swings back to the silly side of the orbit after the more serious From Russia with Love. This one introduces the pre-credits prologue story, fascination with little gadgets and the armed car. Car chases and gunplay, crushing cars and the a-bomb timer countdown: it's pretty exciting after we get past the golf course.

Sean Connery's great talent is to sail through all the different moods with equal ease. Intense and tough when he needs to be, light and comical, smoldering lover: he does whatever's required and seems like the same character throughout, which is impressive.

We're still in the era of women as unchallenging conquests. Miss Galore (Honor Blackman) puts up some resistance, but switches sides after one intimate encounter with Bond. I like to think she believed him and had ethical qualms when he told her the nerve gas was fatal. In later years the Bond Girl (always a hazardous assignment) had to be more estimable, an appeal to female audiences.

Quote:



[A naked woman steps from the bath, embraces Bond and complains about his gun...]

She: Why do you always wear that thing?

He: I have a slight inferiority complex.

I always presumed the title character was supposed to resemble Nikita Khrushchev:



He should have consulted the Evil Overlord rules, particularly:



#4: Shooting is

not too good for my enemies.

#6: I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

#10: I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

#15: I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.

#58: If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.

#84: I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

Note that Odd Job kicks Bond's butt. 007 got lucky at the end.

John Barry score.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
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post #653 of 1349 Old 01-04-2012, 10:38 AM - Thread Starter
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The Conversation (1974), written, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

A curiously floating, unrooted thriller. Even the music has a directionless chromatic quality, like a spinning compass needle.

Some aspects are definite: we know that Harry Caul is a legend in his field of wiretapping and audio surveillance. He's a lonely, anonymous-looking man, a paranoid who does not like to be questioned. He just does the job and says "I don't care what they're talking about" but that is not entirely true. He has a secret sorrow: once his tapes caused a family to be murdered and he doesn't want it to happen again.

But what is this current assignment? Who are the man and woman he taped at lunch time in Union Square? He learns his evidence is dangerous and becomes obsessed with the case. What have they done, or what's going to be done to them? We have no idea who's who or what's what and go over the scene again and again, becoming audio voyeurs, trying to squeeze some meaning out of fragments of conversation.

Harry figures that a murder is pending. But he figures it wrong.

Gene Hackman is always excellent. Young Harrison Ford appears as a sinister executive.

I like the presentation of the surveillance subculture, invisible to the outer world, even though they have their own trade show. It's a gray area and some of them are cops.

Available on Blu-ray. Netflix doesn't have it.



-Bill
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post #654 of 1349 Old 01-06-2012, 04:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Diabolique (1955), produced and directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

"The Devils".

The headmaster of a boys school is abusive to his wife and mistress, both teachers at the school. Without getting too explicit, it's pretty clear the women have become lovers and they conspire to murder him. Establishing alibis, they drown him in a bathtub and dump the body in the school pool.

Tired of waiting for the body to be discovered (it's scummy water) they have the pool drained and find that the body is missing.

Quite naturally the women ask themselves: What in the Hell is Going On?

All sorts of spooky and inexplicable things start happening. Is there a rational explanation or not? Is someone playing games with them? Or do we have a ghost or a dead man walking? We switch back and forth several times, seeking the solution. This culminates is a fine terro-rama final segment with several more twists.

Lots of Hitchcockian developments: the good and bad luck you have when guiltily transporting a body in the back of your car. The intense anticipation of waiting for a discovery that never happens. The genial retired detective who just wants to help. Sure he does.

The original story was written by the same team who wrote the basis for Vertigo. Lore has it that Hitchcock just missed purchasing the film rights.

Criterion Blu-ray. Neither Netflix nor Classicflix have it.



-Bill
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post #655 of 1349 Old 01-07-2012, 05:02 AM - Thread Starter
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The Guns of Navarone (1961), directed by J. Lee Thompson.

A war adventure with a commando team against impossible odds. It's exciting but a total fantasy with very little plausibility to the plot. I took it more seriously as a boy. Alistair MacLean was great at these "one damn thing after another" plots.

Gregory Peck was 45 and close to the peak of his powers. David Niven and Anthony Quinn are fine.

Dimitri Tiomkin score. Filmed on Rhodes.

Available on Blu-ray. Classicflix has it; Netflix doesn't.



-Bill
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post #656 of 1349 Old 01-09-2012, 04:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Straw Dogs (1971), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

An American mathematician and his English wife move to a country house near her home town. They don't seem well-matched: he's brainy and introverted and needs time alone for his work. She's contrary, pouting and hot blooded, requiring lots of attention. An old boyfriend is hanging about; he'd like to fill her needs.

David isn't getting on well with the locals. Like many intellectuals he is awkward around laborers, in this case a dangerously rough lot. Tension mounts and someone kills their cat and leaves it hanging in the bedroom closet. He does nothing about it and his wife charges him with cowardice. She is raped by two of the men but does not tell her husband or anyone else.

It all comes to a violent climax on a foggy night when David shelters a retarded man from a local mob who besiege the house. Repelling the invaders with inventively bloody means, he comes into his own as a survivor defending his home. I think it's what he wanted: his wife and the locals don't respect his intellect or his reticent demeanor, so let's see how they like him when he's angry.

He's happy at the end: "I got 'em all." Which is premature: they always jump one last time.

It was fantastically controversial at the time and continues to provoke. Not just for the Peckinpah bloody action, but for the rape scene and sexual politics. Amy is attacked first by her old boyfriend. She resists, then gives in and seems to cooperate, showing signs of pleasure. Then she's assaulted even more savagely by his friend (sodomy, we think), which is horrific.

(An aside about life with the movies. Most of us are pleased to see naked women. Undressed actresses are usually quite pretty. But then I started noticing that even the naked corpses are pretty. That disturbed me in Eyes Wide Shut. Recall how in many movie rape scenes are filmed with a sort of erotic intensity. The reprehensible can be made good-looking, even stimulating. Same, of course, with other types of violence).

Here's where Peckinpah messes with us. Susan George is pretty. (Great!) Then she's beaten and assaulted. (Bad! We wish we could save her!) But we see her naked. (We feel guilty about seeing her this way, guilty because we want to see her). Then she changes her mind. (Does she? Can she do that? Are we supposed to cheer them on now? Getting confused...) Then the second man assaults her and it's all bad. (Isn't it?)

We're whipsawed by the rapid succession of the appealing and the repellent and our worry and guilt that we're going to confuse right and wrong, maybe take pleasure in another's pain or experience inappropriate lust. There is a parallel segment in Walkabout when our enjoyment of Jenny Agutter swimming nude is spoiled by intercut scenes of animals being hunted and butchered. Or more directly, in The Coca-Cola Kid when we catch the bodacious Greta Scacchi in the shower but she has a little girl with her who we don't want to see in that circumstance.

Susan George had been a child actress and that probably made the story more wrenching for UK audiences.

There are even more questions I'm not going to get into: to what extent the women are responsible for the violence in the story. They don't cause it, but they contribute.

Available on Blu-ray. Jerry Fielding score. Remade in 2011.

In the thumbnails I don't show much of the rape scene; it's just too much. Most of the violence during the siege is too dark for stills.



-Bill
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post #657 of 1349 Old 01-11-2012, 04:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), written and directed by Michael Cimino.

Clint Eastwood's partners from an old bank job finally track him down. After negotiations involving gunfire and fisticuffs they add young adventurer Jeff Bridges and decide to do it again.

This is one of those great, quirky, scruffy-looking mid-70s oddities, a combination road movie, buddy film and heist story. It takes place in the weird mythical landscape of the northern plains where you just might be picked up by an exhaust fumes addict with a shotgun, caged racoon and a trunk full of bunny rabbits. Where men rob banks with anti-tank guns.

There are hints that Jeff Bridges' character is not a confident heterosexual. ("Lightfoot", get it?) He talks loud and large about women, as if he is over-compensating. Maybe he's just shy. When he gets back from one date he just says "Redheads are bad luck." He pretends to kiss George Kennedy and has to dress in drag.

Eastwood blames bad marketing by the studio for the film's poor showing and he might be right. I remember not wanting to see this film:



Brief nudity. Filmed in Montana. Cimino's first as director.

Netflix doesn't have it. It's out of print in region 1 so I imported a PAL edition. According to DVD Compare every disc made has been 4:3 letterboxed, which is shabby treatment for a 2.35 aspect ratio title. Criterion has shown interest, which would be a good thing.



-Bill
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post #658 of 1349 Old 01-11-2012, 05:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), written and directed by Michael Cimino.

Netflix doesn't have it. It's out of print in region 1 so I imported a PAL edition. According to DVD Compare every disc made has been 4:3 letterboxed, which is shabby treatment for a 2.35 aspect ratio title. Criterion has shown interest, which would be a good thing.

-Bill

I know I've seen this in a 16:9 presentation, maybe in HD on the satellite.
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post #659 of 1349 Old 01-11-2012, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), written and directed by Michael Cimino.

Clint Eastwood's partners from an old bank job finally track him down. After negotiations involving gunfire and fisticuffs they add young adventurer Jeff Bridges and decide to do it again.


-Bill

Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in this one. Now that he has won an Oscar for Best Actor I'm surprised there hasn't been an effort to put together a Jeff Bridges DVD box set that includes a decent widescreen transfer of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Robert De Niro won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year for The Godfather: Part II.
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post #660 of 1349 Old 01-13-2012, 03:56 AM - Thread Starter
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A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

"Piracy and High Adventure on the High Seas!"

That's a bit misleading, making it sound like a light-hearted Disney project. There is nothing here children can't see, but it is nonetheless darker and more unsettling than one might suspect.

Two families of children, headed back to England for schooling, encounter pirates, still scraping by in the 19th century. In the confusion they transfer to the pirate ship and sail around with them for a while. For the most part they have a good time without always understanding what is going on. ("Pirates? I'm sure he said pilots"). Anthony Quinn is the captain and James Coburn his first mate.

Dark deeds: the oldest boy dies in an accident. The oldest girl, a young woman, is initially afraid of the men, but then starts consorting with them. The children grow wild and strange, spooking the superstitious crew. The captain has confused feelings for the younger girl Emily, finally settling on a fatherly affection. In the end he glady sacrifices himself for her.

I won't give away the twist ending, other then to say it is a bleak "oh, wow" moment. You can read the summary in the wikipedia.

Deborah Baxter, age 11, only made a half dozen films but she shines as Emily. Hayley Mills was supposed to do this a few years earlier and you can imagine her in the role. One of the boys is Martin Amis, later the novelist.

The book shows up on a lot of favorites lists: dark happenings narrated in an off-hand manner.



-Bill
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