Monday, 7 January 2019

1930 Page Added

Movie-Viewing Experiences  23/12/18 - 7/1/19     
A+ = Adored Masterwork   A = Excellent   A- = Very Good   B+ = Good   B = Nice Try   B- = Scrapes Through 
C = Significantly Flawed   D = Pretty Bad   E = Truly Dreadful: Looking Into the Void   F = Absolutely Vile: The Void

d: Lewis Milestone
CAST: Lew Ayres; Louis Wolheim; John Wray; Slim Summerville; Lucy Arnold
> I read the book when I was 14, around the time of John Lennon's "Imagine"... I've been anti-flag and anti-anthem ever since; even after nearly 90 years, this film remains a powerful anti-war statement; while the young actors are awkward & amateurish (often spouting painfully didactic phrases...cringe), they come across as tall children, which fits the intent perfectly; the battle scenes are visceral horrors (Saving Private Ryan paid attention) and a few of the individual shots are framed in such a way as to stay with you long after they have gone by; watch this and despise the evil of old men using patriotism & religion to turn young men into killers & corpses
Award-Worthy Performance
Louis Wolheim

VICE (2018)
d: Adam McKay
CAST: Christian Bale; Amy Adams; Steve Carell; Sam Rockwell; Jesse Plemons
> having turned a heavy topic like the Global Financial Crisis into an entertainment (2015's The Big Short), Director Adam takes a shot at the Rise & Fall of Dick Cheney, Vice President in the Bush#2 presidency; apart from Christian (who is wonderful as Dick, all fat suit and quiet determination), the real star of the movie is its creative construction...incorporating flashbacks & flash-forwards + to-the-camera asides + a false ending + dialogue from Shakespeare (Macbeth? Pure Invention?) + chummy narration + fly-fishing + documentary footage + open-heart surgery; I was never bored, I learnt a lot and I await the sequel Trump: Power Without Glory 
Award-Worthy Performance
Christian Bale

IRON MAN (2008)
d: Jon Favreau
CAST: Robert Downey Jr; Jeff Bridges; Gwyneth Paltrow; Terrence Howard; Shaun Toub
> curious to look at this 10 years later, with the MCU having turned into an entertainment juggernaut...the financial success of this movie started it all; so many features are close to perfect: the tweaking of the origin story + the SFX, particularly the holographic imagery + the metal soundtrack + the banter between Tony & Pepper + the humour, both slapstick & quip...but most of all, of course, it's example of inspired casting...the actor is at ease in the dramatic and comedic scenes and, because he is anonymously encased in armour, appears to be an action hero too; flat in a few spots and the villain isn't all he should be, but still great fun
Award-Worthy Performance
Robert Downey Jr

d: Warren Beatty
CAST: Warren Beatty; Halle Berry; Oliver Platt; Don Cheadle; Joshua Malina; Jack Warden
> 20 years have gone by since the release of this political satire, and its message still rings true: Everything is Rigged (or, to put it another way, "ain't no difference 'tween the Left and Right"); Warren is a senator on the re-election trail who has a complete mental breakdown (the cause: even he couldn't listen to any more of his bullshit)...he orders his own assassination (but rethinks that) + openly & honestly raps on about rich vs poor / race relations / urban disintegration / corporate evil / deliberate unemployment / police brutality (what? no digs at the NRA?..for shame); the film's greatest achievement is how it directly preaches Leftisms with humorous asides which are actually funny; punchy soundtrack (if you like hip hop) gives a boost; a blunt telling of what our (certainly not just the American) political scene has become

d: Yorgos Lanthimos
CAST: Emma Stone; Olivia Colman; Rachel Weisz; Nicholas Hoult; Joe Alwyn
> Warning to delicate viewers: this is not a BBC costume drama (it's closer to Game of Thrones than Pride & Prejudice) my sitting, two walked out after the first couple of 'C' word barrages; Queen Anne is the centre of a tug-of-power between Lady Rachel and Maid Emma, with sex & lies & rabbits used to wrest control of the monarch's increasingly-ill heart; raved about by all & sundry, I was less impressed: the transformation of Emma into a Demon of Darkness was too abrupt + the film needed a final act, one last flourish of devious bitchism as a topper...instead, it just kinda fades away; a sumptuous entertainment about ruthlessness  
Award-Worthy Performance
Emma Stone & Olivia Colman & Rachel Weisz

COLETTE (2018)
d: Wash Westmoreland
CAST: Keira Knightley; Dominic West; Denise Gough; Fiona Shaw; Eleanor Tomlinson
> astonishingly good in this (as Keira is in most period dramas...she just seems to belong there), it is beyond belief that this performance hasn't even been vaguely considered for Oscar nomination by those who wield the power...huh?; a bio-pic of French novelist/performer Colette and the pop-culture phenom that was the titillating Claudine series (the literary Beatlemania of early 1900's France); costumes, Parisian setting and French countryside (pre trench warfare) are all gorgeous to gaze over, as are the many close-ups of Ms Knightley...but the actress is more than merely stunning; a well-told (if a little rote) sexuality/gender liberation story
Award-Worthy Performance
Keira Knightley

d: John Ford
CAST: Spencer Tracy; Warren Hymer; Humphrey Bogart; Claire Luce
> a prison comedy featuring the swellest bunch of convicts you're ever gonna meet...maybe these miscreants are pacified by all the female inmates (it's a co-ed institution); a social fantasy, this story of friendship, romance and baseball behind bars is enjoyable partly because it is so downright peculiar; Spence (in his first feature film) partners with Warren to do an effective Abbott & Costello-style double act...and all of the laughs come from their to & fro; Humphrey (in his first feature film) falls in love and wants to bring the ex-con back to meet Mother(!); the only prison movie with a hayride, a zebra and the Warden's 10YO daughter as everyone's playmate
Award-Worthy Performance
Spencer Tracy & Warren Hymer

d: Hugh Wilson
CAST: Shirley MacLaine; Nicolas Cage; Austin Pendleton; Richard Griffiths; Edward Albert
> this is my favourite Shirley performance...strong-willed & secretly soft & blessedly restrained (she only yells once); Nicolas (who is quite normal in this...see, he can do it) is a Secret Service agent who must protect the widow of a therefore ex-president...but this First Lady is a major pain to everybody...Queen Curmudgeon; an eminently enjoyable piece of fluff, this movie meanders along a well-worn sentimental trail and only really messes up twice: #1=the bond between Shirl & Nic needed a couple more scenes to develop effectively + #2=the big dramatic finish is too nasty; still, the film's a small pleasure which I feel no guilt about whatsoever
Award-Worthy Performance
Shirley MacLaine

d: Howard Hughes (and James Whale and a little bit Edmund Goulding)
CAST: Ben Lyon; James Hall; Jean Harlow
> as everyone says, this is really two films (one good; one bad) mashed into one: 
GOOD=WWI aerial-combat action, with some truly amazing footage of a zeppelin hot-knifing through the clouds and a series of dogfights between biplanes, shot from all possible angles... even after all these years, this is spectacular stuff, with a number of haunting images 
BAD=a love-triangle slog involving two brothers (one good; one bad) and slutty Jean who must have had no more than 10 minutes of acting lessons before playing her scenes (although the two men are pretty dire too); My Advice: fast-forward through the Jean scenes (maybe pausing for when she actually says "I'll just put on something more comfortable"), play & replay the battles-in-the-sky, and stop for a while to consider that 4 men were killed during the filming

JUBAL (1956)
d: Delmer Daves
CAST: Glenn Ford; Rod Steiger; Ernest Borgnine; Valerie French; Charles Bronson
> very good-looking (particularly the scenic vistas) but fairly mundane Western, despite being an apparent rejig of Othello; loner Glenn is hired by boss Ernest to work on a ranch...the boss's wife has the hots for Glenn but Glenn is a good guy and refuses to allow his sap to rise... cowhand Rod wants the boss's wife for himself, is therefore jealous of Glenn and plans a way to get everything he wants, including even; the three male leads add absolutely nothing new to their tried'n'true personas (Glenn=taciturn + decent & Rod=mean + loud & Ernest=a grinning McHale); more widescreen lust-in-the-dust than Shakespearean tragedy, this layers the psychological motivations until it achieves the much-sought-after Depth; never exciting and only occasionally interesting, this ladles too many turgid soap-operatics into an action genre

d: Joseph Losey
CAST: Elizabeth Taylor; Mia Farrow; Robert Mitchum; Peggy Ashcroft: Pamela Brown
> rich fruitcake Mia thinks that prostitute Liz is her dead Mummy, so they move in together in a huge mansion...but scumbag stepfather Robert comes along and plans to take charge, resulting in the usual tragedy; not much of a fan of either Director Joseph (I only ever adored one of his movies...1964's King & Country) or Elizabeth Taylor (she was never any better than National Velvet), I was always likely to be prejudiced against this movie...and sure enough, its arty pretensions and baroque drudgery irk me (in fact, they bore me silly), but I nearly came to respect it; rather than a bleak character study (which it certainly is), this is more a look at the evil of child abuse...if Joseph was less deep/more direct about his intent and the two lead actresses didn't angst it up so much, this film may have had a chance of being significant

d: Robert Benton
CAST: Roy Scheider; Meryl Streep; Josef Sommer; Joe Grifasi; Sara Botsford
> an example of how talented people can still mess things up; one of the most predictable (I clocked up pre-guessing 7 plot turns, one at least an hour before it happened) and just plain dull "psychological thrillers" ever made; Roy the shrink is told that a sleazebag he was treating was murdered and that the killer was probably someone at the shrink goes to the guy's workplace (an art auction house...why is it never a bakery or a chemist?) to do some investigating all by himself (his other patients apparently don't mind)...enter Meryl who has issues & secrets...then there is a dream to analyse which holds all the clues...winding down to a twist and a shock; this movie contains a ghastly Meryl performance...she's all big eyes and hairdo...her long unbroken monologue where she tells us the truth is pure Year 9 Drama class

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