Review: Cimarron, seen on December 8th, 2011

December 25, 2011

Racism: A Love Story

Edna Ferber, historical epics obsessed, race driven Pulitzer Prize winning spinster, more famously known as the mind behind ‘Giant’, the big, sprawling film adaptation starring three of the most iconic movie stars of all time, published twenty three years before a historical fiction novel based on one man’s settlement and eventual ambitions unknown to most, in the historical context of the Oklahoma Land Rushes that occurred near the end of the nineteenth century.

The lead character, Yancey Cravat, who might as well also be known as Jesus Christ for the way he’s depicted: an impossibly noble man, with unlimited charisma and leadership skills but modest ambitions, impulsively nomadic and lover of everything that’s wild, an inexplicable social defender to whom the hopelessness of his causes in the larger scheme are no obstacle to his willingness to fight for what he believes is right and just. This description might really sound fascinating in perspective, but watching this character unfold, if we can call it that, is quite bizarre. It might have something to do with actor Richard Dix’s flamboyantly cartoonish acting, tilting his head back and forth as he utters every word, flapping one of his arms around as he delivers speeches to congregations and defense statements to juries, not being able to point a gun in one direction for more than two seconds, all with the same shit-eating grin of someone who knows is RIGHT, all the damn time.

That said, this level of incompetence is almost endearing, and present in every aspect of the film. Interesting are the many things it attempts to be, sometimes all at once: a moralistic Western about an honest man’s fight against society’s injustices, a family saga of a growing American dynasty, the melodrama of two spouses’ differing beliefs on how to deal with life’s struggles, and finally, a racial stereotypes’ kaleidoscope of sorts, one more embarrassing than the other. In keeping up with this ambitious goal, the film maintains a frankly schizophrenic tone throughout: I believe there isn’t a single dramatic scene to be swallowed with a touch of respect or decency, since they all seem to end up photobombed at any given moment with impossibly faithful assistants who, according to the film, STUTTER really funnily, snotty old ladies who happen to be quite UGLY, or HILARIOUSLY dumb negro help boys.

The passage of time is about as fluid and unforced as the film is racially sensitive, jumping from one decade to the other with minute long references on what’s happened to each character in a certain time, making little mention to how they develop as human beings, but rather as to what occurs to them amidst a world’s changing attitudes towards other people, as briefly as possible: subplots such as the son’s growing affection towards a native girl, the daughter’s bafflingly blunt gold digger antics, that would make Scarlett O’Hara and Alice Adams dismiss her a desperate whore, and the mother’s stubborn fight to keep her family’s hometown a morally immaculate place, all of these subjects that would make interesting pictures all on their own, are given insignificant amounts of screen time, and seem to exist solely as material to fill one scene after the other.

In the same say, the film makes the typically grating Hollywood mistake of being blatantly proud of its own progressiveness while somehow managing to avoid the racial issues at hand, never wasting opportunities of whites invigorating themselves with speeches about social injustice, but practically forbidding itself of even hearing these excluded groups  speak: a sudden cut to a group of Indians present at an improvised multi-religious gathering spearheaded by Jesus himself ends up being quite unintentionally funny, as everything that’s said in the speech before or after this acknowledgement makes no reference to them even existing in the same room as the rest of them.

And every issue seems to be handled this way, as seen in one of the film’s many weird facets, that of a bizarre slut shaming courtroom drama, in which the town’s very own Whorehouse owner, Dixie Lee, is the target of a moral crusade sponsored by none other than the wife of Jesus Christ himself, played by a young, meek voiced Irene Dunne, who, by turning Miss Lee into his own personal Mary Magdalene, much to the mortification of his wife, after being contradicted on her shun the whore goals by her own husband, that not only volunteers to defend her arch nemesis on the grounds of the misfortunes  she went through before she got where she was, manages to convince a jury and eventually, his sociologically skeptic wife, by showing how low we can all go due to unjust circumstances. Whores have feelings, too! Or what about Cravat, I mean, Jesus Christ’s hypocrisy in bemoaning the unjust taking of the Indians’ lands while still gleefully joining in the mass appropriation of them? Oops!

I must also pinpoint two positive things: a surprising, perhaps unintentional shot of two small children holding hands as they flee a bandits rampage against their town, and the portrayal of a Jewish clothes merchant rescued by Jesus right before he’s about to be gay bashed by a gang. And unexpectedly, I found myself finding surprisingly positive parallels to the other really maligned, decade spanning early Best Picture winner, ‘Cavalcade’, which should be easy to see coming once it’s clear that this is, amongst all those other things I mentioned, another tale of the privileged suffering through the ages. The ultimate reliance in the figure of the strong headed matriarch as a symbol of the will to go on despite all the hardships is slightly less undignified in this case in its failure to depict her as an individual. Major scenes fall flat, the clunky message remains the same, but its historical gratuitousness is less obvious, as is its willingness to be down to earth, and ‘of the people’, which actually makes it way less patronizing. As learnt by this year’s ‘The Help’, we can all agree Hollywood will never get how to explain all of our social baggage towards the differences of one another in a responsible way, but misguided, condescending portrayals of the unkindness of the human intolerance are still better than none at all.

Review: Wings (x2), seen on December 5th

December 8, 2010

Acting legend Lillian Gish once said, disapproving of the ‘talkies’ that replaced the films she became known for: ‘’Silent movies were well on their way to developing an entirely new art form. It was not just pantomine, but something wonderfully expressive.” That quote seems appropriate when discussing the first and last of silent films to ever win the Best Picture award, William A. Wellman’s Wings. It’s also fitting to describe the many virtues of this film, and possibly even as to explain the reasons this movie has never properly enjoyed the reputation of a classic, to the point where I can’t help but wonder if it would be completely forgotten if it weren’t for the historic, perhaps even random privilege of being our very first Best Picture.

It’s not necessary to understand the context in which this film earned the accolades it did during its heyday in order to be able to appreciate it, but learning a bit about them does enhance the overall experience, and earns even more craftsmanship appreciation points. And I’m not talking exclusively about the first World War post war feeling, the transcendence of its notorious aerial battle sequences, the immense success achieved by it thanks to the sudden rise in popularity of aviation, conveniently at the height of Lindbergh’s historic trans-Atlantic achievements, the opportunistic use of It Girl Clara Bow in a filler role… Part of that post ‘Greatest War of All Time’ (the film’s own words) sentiment manifests an almost complete discarding of political context in order to focus on the story at hand that’s surprising and refreshingly ahead of its time, especially when thought of in retrospective. Or maybe it’s just meant to be over understood, because of how recent the events were, but either way, the almost devotional preference to character actions and devices over exposition, to plot developments no matter how contrived over boring historical contextualization is both admirable and endearing, even when it doesn’t always work.

I always prefer to keep the plot as much under covers as possible when I’m writing reviews, but given that this remains as the most undeservedly underseen (Cavalcade can spend the rest of its days in obscurity for all I care) of all Best Picture winners, I feel almost obligated: two young men from the same hometown: David, played by Richard Arlen, who comes from a wealthy, always rigid looking family, and is bound to play husband to beautiful city girl, Sylvia, (who remains as not much but a plot device, the elephant in the room to both our leads, after both our heroes head to war, we’ll only see her once again in a sole shot, and much like the other big Oscar winner from that first Academy Awards’ ceremony, Murnau’s Sunrise, it’s that subversive visitor from the city the one’s that’s to disrupt the calmness and provoke discord into the story), who also happens to be the object of affection of our other male lead: middle class, youthful Jack, played by Charles Rogers, who at the same time continuously ignores the not so subtle romantic approaches of next door neighbor Mary, played by Clara Bow. As the threat of war comes along, both men (and Clara, eventually) gleefully submit to the air craft to fulfill their dreams. It’s interesting how the film is certainly not shy in showing that life altering decision in an exciting, cheerful manner (physical comedy breaks and slightly xenophobic comic relief are to be found in this section of the film), whereas a few years later All Quiet on The Western Front, the other Oscar winning WWI epic, wasn’t having any of that: the blind ambition that drove those young men into risking their lives for glory and unabashed nationalistic pride was shown so loudly, so emptily instinct driven, it was completely premonitory to awful things about to happen.

Even the most heart-stopping, life threatening (literally, an Air Corps’ pilot crashed fatally during production), audacious air stunts seem to be portrayed in that same careless but unashamedly vicious craving to entertain. Even after Gary Cooper’s infamous two minute cameo, in which his character, a veteran of aviation, after our boys have finally joined the Air Force, teaches them both a lesson about the arbitrariness of luck and destiny during duty, only to become seconds later the same cruel example to his own ‘teachings’; we meet his demise in clever filmmaking style: unlike the other aircraft fatalities during the film, Wellman decides to shoot Cooper’s trajectory and eventual downfall through the use of shadows, you follow the shade of the plane ascend throughout the base without ever looking up to the sky, ending in an almost delightfully sadistic, nail biting yet obviously inevitable finale.

But despite the amazing craftsmanship that obviously went on during the making of the film, and the uniquely entertaining the results those battle sequences achieve, there’s much more to the film than the power of its neat action pace. During my first viewing earlier this year it seemed as if I was much more taken aback by that wonderful silent era sentimentality (in the purest sense of the word) present throughout the film: the naïveté and childlike drive of our lead character Jack, Clara Bow’s contagious, giggle worthy forced smiles, the obstinate serious faced-ness of David, that makes his more spontaneous happy moments all the more miraculous, and the hardships of his tragic journey all the more moving; and also by the obviously pre-Hays Code enforcement naughtiness: during an intoxicated reward trip to Paris, there’s a longshot showing everything from cross dressing gentlemen to tomboy lesbians seductively enjoying a night on the town, Bow’s character doesn’t think twice when it’s time to slut herself up for the team (spilling more boobage than you’ll find in any Best Picture winner, until the native ladies from Mutiny on the Bounty), our heroes don’t mind taking unidentified ladies while on the influence of apparently hallucinatory champagne, obviously phallic jokes, even emotional man on man affection and probably more ‘amoral’ stuff than I didn’t pick up.

It’s funny when it needs to be, it’s jam packed with towering technical achievements, but it’s the emotional payoff that doesn’t lend itself until the ending, despite predictability, what I gathered the most from this second viewing: in the tragic climax, resulting from a misunderstanding of war barriers and angst and mourn driven actions, eerily remindful of my beloved The English Patient in more than one way, in which the film entirely lays its heartbreaking rewards unto us. Lillian Gish was definitely onto something: despite the contrivances and the limitations, you rarely see films attempting so much and achieving most of what they seek to nowadays, something that the late silent era was only beginning to provide.

Reviews: The War Zone, The Letter, The Last Metro, The Towering Inferno. Seen on: I’d be damned if I remember when

April 13, 2009

Sorry for not writing in… what, a month? Damn. =/ I’m sure you understand (you don’t, and that’s okay), all three of you people who read my blog, and I promise I shan’t abandon it for no reason any more. =)

The War Zone (Tim Roth, 1999) directed by Tim Roth, I’ll admit that the only reason I got this was because I was intrigued about Lara Belmont’s performance. It’s quite raved, 1999 is always bitched for being a weak year for actresses, and even though I’ve never agreed with that statement, I wanted to see what the fuss was about. And that’s probably the only thing I would recommend from this film. No, this isn’t a bad film by any means, just an incredibly unpleasant one. I had no idea what it was about when I started watching, or what touchy subjects would be approached, so even if I don’t know how well known the matter is to people who haven’t seen it, I’m not sure if I should bring it up. Anyway, it’s uniformly well acted: Ray Winstone impossibly unaffected, (as in the good way), Tilda Swinton at her least Tilda-esque (again, it’s a good thing), and the boy playing the brother very natural, and Lara Belmont pulling difficult, strong material like a pro. The film as I’ve already implied is very hard to watch, but it’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t have a stomach for that sort of thing, it’s nothing I would watch again, but it’s undeniably well made and the acting is definitely the highlight. Rating: B.

The Letter, (William Wyler, 1940) BETTE DAVIS! Isn’t she always great? Well, as far as I’m aware she IS, so shut up! :@ This William Wyler collaboration of hers isn’t very good, but if you’re looking for another great Bette Davis performance, you’re looking on the right place: here she plays yet another treacherous spoiled little cunt who thinks can get away with anything cause she’s so “good” inside, but actually she isn’t. Sam old tired formula, I love Wyler’s films but he doesn’t do anything here to try to spice things up or make it seem worthwhile: same melodrama, same dated unintentionally funny racial gaps, same dumb male characters, same not so dumb male characters, same “mysterious” supporting lady, same predictable twists, and so on. Anyway, I lost track my main point, which is Bette: here she is wonderful, the first second we see her walking into the film pointing a gun, shooting the living shit out of some man, we already know everything about the character with just the look on her face and the way she keeps following him. The way she keeps defending herself, delivering her melodramatic lines and subsequently defending her actions and trying to cover everything up is all too familiar, yet at the same time, all so very fresh: it’s the same inflictions, it’s the same type of character she’s used to playing yet it’s so different the way she delivers it: vivid, honest, aware, transparent, never trying for the audience to fall for the character with cheap tricks. Thank you, Bette. Rating: C


The Last Metro (François Truffaut, 1980) Truffaut! He’s great, isn’t he? This movie always sounded like Frenchiness personified. Denueve + Depardieu AND Truffaut? = I’m in! The story is about Catherine Denueve, a stage actress in charge not only of running the theatre his Jewish husband (to my disappointment, NOT Depardieu, but some other actor) used to run, but also of keeping him well hidden in the same theatre’s basement from the Nazis and other nosy unpatriotic Frenchies. Very well acted (Denueve playing this character as if she was born to play it, Depardieu delivering his usual charms), as with most Truffaut pictures the story just flows by, even when it’s kind of intended to drag, the tension is always there, gorgeously produced, every turn the story takes seems effortless thanks to Truffaut’s direction (well, that whole love triangle thing seemed forced at first, but that’s probably what I get for not seeing it coming) and it gets its message across beautifully. Essential Truffaut right here. Rating: A-

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The Towering Inferno (John Guilermin & Irwin Allen, 1974) I don’t know what it is that I have about disaster movies, but I think it’s that I’m always expecting too much even though I just KNOW I shouldn’t. For no apparent reason, I often used to forget Faye Dunaway and Paul Newman (two of my favorites) starred in a big movie together. That and the fame of the film were enough for me to give it a try. Problem is, it’s not that entertaining. Naturally, with such a huge cast, it’s obvious that there will be underwritten characters, endless useless subplots, and great actors all around stuck with nothing to do, but, because I’m a bitch, I find it to be a huge stumble. The dynamics between the characters are not that believable, and once we have some action going on it’s very hard to care for anyone, and the film just goes on for too long for its own good. The use of miniatures for the visual effects is admirable, and must’ve been quite impressive for the time but predictably, they’re quite dated for nowadays, and frankly, once you don’t have much tension going on inside the building thanks to a sloppy script, and nothing that striking going on outside, it’s just very hard to care at all for what goes on. Overall: flawed, overlong and quite messy, even if admirable from a technical, dated point of view. Rating: C

Review: Watchmen. Seen on March 6th

March 18, 2009

Watchmen (Zack Snyder, 2009), “visionary” (giggle) director brings the famous graphic “novel” (giggle) Watchmen to life into one messy, long, at times even slightly pretentious piece of film. I’ll admit to have been avoiding this review for the last days, but it’s probably because I feel everything that needed to be criticized about this film has already been said. Having never read the “novel” (gigglex2) I doubt I was expecting much, but at the same time the common complain (or warning) from fans of the comic book is that the film might turn out to be too “confusing” for those unfamiliar with the material. But believe me, confusion was easily one of the lesser sentiments I got from watching the film. The premise of superheroes working their way through history was interesting enough for me to keep me interested for the first act or so, and to give Snyder some credit, each character’s arc didn’t seem too cut or rushed into the film. Where some of the problems of the film lie is in the way the plot keeps evolving – each twist, or new incidence that happens throughout the film seems to be more muddled and flat out unconvincing than the one before, the action sequences lack drama or any thrill sense to them (the slow mo trick getting more tiresome by the second), thus making the final result completely unenjoyable, and when the film takes the luxury of lasting over almost here hours, you know you got yourself a problem. Most of the performances do work: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is appropriately brutal as The Comedian, Jackie Earle Haley obviously tries, and most of the time he’s the most interesting thing to watch, Carla Gugino is fun as the first Silk Spectre, and Billy Crudup is properly one note as Dr. Manhattan. On the other hand, Patrick Wilson just continues to bore, Matthew Goode seems miscast, and the girl playing Silk Spectre II, thoroughly unconvincing and completely avoiding the few opportunities to do a fun job, should be a candidate for a Razzie. So overall, an ambitious flick lacking a lot in the writing, entertaining and pacing departments, with its few shiny spots here and there.


Review: The Damed, seen on March 6th

March 15, 2009

The Damned (Luchino Visconti, 1969) –  Luchino Visconti directs this film about the downfall and decadence of an aristocratic German family (the original Italian title translates directly to “The Fall of the Gods”) during the first years of the Nazi Germany. We begin with shots of the steelwork factory that is said to be the source of their wealth and power, here and the ending shots being the only ones showing the industrialist background of the family. Most of the occurrences that happen throughout this first hour of the film are better left unsaid, the film is obviously attempting shock everywhere, and they mostly succeed, so I won’t go into much details – but what I can say is that these events show a glimpse of the nature of the main characters (Ingrid Thulin – always unbelievably scary in Bergman films, plays a character that fits her looks like a glove, the power hungry matron of the family; Dirk Bogarde – the result of Visconti casting English language actors into his films has often been boring, and this isn’t the exception; and Helmut Berger – a complete unknown for me at the time, but easily the one who steals the film. Playing one of the most disgusting corrupted characters in film history, whiny, annoying and flamboyant; he nails the evilness, yet the helplessness lying beneath this spoiled, sick young man. Not to mention he features one of the most awesome character introductions of all time – a grotesquely iconic drag performance of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel), actions that in the end will mark the subsequent “fall” of these Gods and Goddesses.

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Some of the ideas Visconti is trying to pursue don’t seem to fully work:  the infamous gay orgy, while it works as an historical reference to locate the moment in time in which the characters are in (just wiki “The Night of the Long Knives”), holds very little importance to the actual arc of the story or the characters, and seems to exist barely for the purpose of shock and shock alone. Also, I think that tagline is pretentious, and never does the film remotely suggest that he was bound to become “the second most powerful man in Germany”. The ambition was there, sure, and in retrospective it COULD make sense, but I still think it gives the wrong idea. However, and as I’ve previously mentioned, I find the main idea of showing the downfall of a powerful family to be truly exciting and interesting. And Visconti’s decision of showing every single disgusting little detail about the relationships of each character, not being afraid of certain subjects, contrasting them in beautiful, rich scenarios and thus making the melodramatic situations impossible to look away for me truly shows a gutsy, polished vision that while it may be hard to swallow, it’s very easy to admire fully. So if a little too self-conscious and hard to watch at times, nevertheless an accomplished, fascinating vision of decadence thanks to a ballsy direction and to at least one of the lead performances. Rating: B+

Reviews: Synecdoche, New York; Leave Her to Heaven; Aguirre, the Wrath of God & Room at the Top, seen somewhere between March 2nd-March 5th

March 13, 2009

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kauffman, 2008) – the ambitious and fragmented new Charlie Kauffman movie was one of the last “big” films from 2008 I still hadn’t seen. Overall a rewarding, though rather tough watch, Charlie Kauffman shows the story of a stage director (Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’m not a fan, but God knows I’ve seen him do this sort of stuff better before) trying to put some sort of larger than life itself “life-replica” of his own life, aswell as others’ for decades of his life (money never seems to be an issue :S), how his attempt at portraying life as realistically as possible affects his own and his relationships with women: Catherine Kenner, being her usual wonderful self, but stuck in one note, Hope Davis, (legs!), Samantha Morton (that voice!), Emily Watson (boobs!), Michelle Williams (hair!), Dianne Wiest (I love her) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (egh) and some child actress playing his daughter. It’s not a film that’s easy to explain, and I can see how its guts and ambition might turn so many film buffs on, but cinematically, its cold philosophical approaches on certain things can turn into quite a dry experience at times, though yeah, the result at times is quite overwhelming (that ending!) and the feeling is as if you’re watching something quite deep – and it might just be. Anyway, lots of admire in this one, but it’s not an easy watch by any means. Rating: B.

Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945) – Gene Tierney (see: the most gorgeous thing to ever live) plays Ellen Berent, a woman obsessed with keeping her man (Cornel Wilde) to herself and no one else, and that will go to extremes in order to keep it that way =/. I know that sounded odd and melodramatic, but that’s basically the set up (and also some of the best adjectives there are to describe the film). It starts very interestingly, before Tierney’s last evil act the melodrama is kind of kept to a minimum, but it is in this last chunk of the film that one starts seeing all the flaws in the screenplay (not gonna go into details to avoid spoiling anything). As for the performances, it’s all Tierney’s film. Cornel Wilde is asked to do nothing with his role, and in the scene in which he confronts Tierney, his acting choices basically come off as flat and after seeing Jeanne Crain in A Letter to Three Wives before, really enjoyed her in that and being excited about her presence once I knew she was in the film, overall came off as disappointing. But again, it’s Tierney who shines here, and after this, I’ll never understand all the “pretty face with limited talent” descriptions I’ve read about her all this time. With dazzling subtle skills and utilizing her looks in the most effective ways she inhabits this horrible monster of a character, and avoids every stereotype that the screenplay sets on her way like a true pro. Another aspect worth mentioning about the film is the gorgeous Technicolor cinematography. I saw this Film on YouTube, and even by seeing it in that cut format I was more than once taken away by the beauty of some of the shots, with its beautiful use of that painfully bright red so characteristic of the first color movies and its not missing any opportunity to look sprawling despite the film being anything but. Rating: C

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Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972), Werner Herzog, whose films like Encounters at the End of the World, Nosferatu and Grizzly Man I’ve loved in the past, directs this film starring Klaus Kinski as Aguirre, second man in charge of an expedition that sets off from the mountains of Peru to the Amazon jungle in order to start the conquest for El Dorado. As Don Pizarro, first man under command, after much difficulty during the expedition, suggests the possibility of going back, while selecting a new group of men to continue the quest, Aguirre sets a rebellion against Pizarro in order to continue the expedition without looking back, thus putting himself into the Hall of Fame of the Biggest Douchebags in the History of Motion Picture. The whole plot (there’s lots of misery going on there and no redeeming: decapitations, starvation, cannibalism, a little incest, and so on) could turn into something grotesque and completely dreary that leads to nothing and says nothing (just like Aguirre’s little adventure itself), but thanks to Herzog and Kinski this is an intensely interesting watch: an intelligent, unique, imaginative yet quite truthful portray of obsessive ambition, thirst of power and well, the flat out delusion that comes with it all without in any way Herzog’s vision being easily affected in the least by it. Rating: B+

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Room at the Top (Jack Clayton, 1959), despite the fact that I have never seen any of those quite popular at the time British “kitchen sink dramas”, or British New Wave, or whatever you call it (I understand that they’re probably two entirely different things. Whatever, you catch my driftJ), I’ve always been very interested into watching them and quite drawn into digging this whole movement to see what the fuss is about, especially this one (it looked like something I’d really really like), even if I’d never heard any specific praise about it. Plot’s basically Laurence Harvey, plays a socially discontent man, who in ambition to climb the ladder of society starts seducing a wealthy factory owner’s daughter (played by Heather Sears), while falling in love with a married, older, humbler French actress (Simone Signoret). The whole love triangle plays in a very misogynist way, what with all the leading character’s indifference into just choosing one of these women, except until he is basically coerced into one of them by an outside force. For this whole approach and the whole social climbing aspect (which I actually thought it was handled very nicely) the film could be very well considered to be dated, but… I like old school. The film was definitely beloved at the time, even inspiring a sequel and a short lived TV series, and at times one can definitely see why. And the plot could very easily just fall into melodramatic ground, but it doesn’t, and the scenes shared by Harvey (who I’ve finally seen in a role I think fits him like a glove, after being bored to death by him from seeing him in Darling and BUtterfield 8) and Signoret (subtle, committed and often luminous. Her “people at the top” monologue near the end is just powerful and haunting, yet subtle and quiet) are beyond romantic and simply elegantly shot. Overall, a nice little British drama I’d definitely recommend for those into them, not without its flaws, but certainly a nice way to spend two hours. Rating: B

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Reviews for The Damned and Watchmen coming up tomorrow

Review: Swing Time, seen on March 1st

March 12, 2009

Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936) – Being in the mood for something lighter (not to say better), and having never seen a Ginger Rogers / Fred Astaire dance flick, being a huge musicals fan you can say the least I expected was simply a mildly amusing feel good movie. Well, there’s way more than that. Fred Astaire plays a dancer who in the day of his wedding is tricked by his dancing partners into missing his own wedding. After disappointing the poor little bride, he agrees with his fiancé’s father to find 25000$ in order to be allowed to marry her again. In search for success, he arrives to New York penniless with his partner, Pop (Victor Moore). There he follows Ginger Roger’s character to a dancing academy and this is what really sets this wonderful story into motion.

I won’t go on any further on the story, but I can assure you every musical number is impeccably performed, choreographed, and shot (one of the final musical sequences involves Fred Astaire in a blackface on a number that could be very easily considered distasteful in retrospective, but thanks to the impeccable choreography is very easy to just forget the context and admire it for the flawless technicality of it). Somewhere between the middle of the film our characters start breaking into singing for no reason, which could be very easily considered discrepant to the path the film had been choosing til that point, but the intent is so pure and heartfelt, and the result is so beautiful, I don’t even think I mind that much. Beautiful, sparkling chemistry between the leads carry the whole film like a breath of fresh air, and the supporting performances by Victor Moore and Helen Broderick as Ginger’s co-worker/friend/roommate can very easily make you laugh in the less cheerful moments of the film. All in all, a wonderful deservedly classic musical that most certainly won’t be the last of Fred & Ginger’s films I’ll be seeing. Rating: A-

The Oscar winning song “The Way You Look Tonight”, from the film.

Review: Star 80, seen on March 1st

March 11, 2009

Star 80 (Bob Fosse, 1983) – based on the true story of tragic fated Playboy’s Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, played by Woody Allen girl (REALLY a girl, anyone who’s seen Allen’s Manhattan would agree =/) Mariel Hemingway. It follows the story of how Stratten came to meet her murderer: her husband Paul Snider, played by Julia’s big brother, Eric Roberts. Directed by Bob Fosse, the film starts by showing us the decay and the progress of Snider’s anger, as he one day meets Dorothy and starts seeing her as an opportunity for success. What Fosse achieved in the fantastics Cabaret and All That Jazz so effortlessly was that the flow of those films seemed invisible: they’re both rather lengthy, they’re both kind of raunchy, yet the energy in which he brings into his actors and into his direction make it all look so breezy. Unfortunately, this is not the case for this film. Often we see the story fractured by interviews of people who knew Dorothy or Paul (or rather, actors who play them), trying to tell us things we’re kind of already seeing in the film by these small character’s reactions. By this Fosse seems willing to capture a documentary feel into the film, but it just seems unrealistic, not to mention some of the dialogues of these faux-interviews just come out so unnatural, and the saddest of all, it breaks the rhythm of the film considerably, which like I’ve already said seems to be Fosse’s forte. Another glaring flaw in the picture seems to be some sort of unintentional sadism in the way the story’s being told: rushedly shot only 3 years after the incident, the decision of filming the tragic climax in the same department where the real Dorothy Stratten was murdered, are often very obvious aspects the film never tries to hide even though it should, and the result just seems exploitative, and for the audience, downright unpleasant.

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But if the film does excel in some departments, it’s in the acting: Mariel Hemingway rises above the script’s lazy decision of never showing why Dorothy cares so much about the schlub, and with limited subtle stares and soft voice makes us understand that perhaps despite the uneasiness Paul provokes on her, there’s an understanding and sympathetic feelings that make her try to handle the situation as long as humanly possible. On the other hand, and with an entirely different style of acting, there’s Eric Roberts, who despite the screenplay’s attempts to show the guy’s situation in a sympathetic manner, never gives in into clichés and just shows Paul Snider’s inner demons with such a pathos and in such a convincing way that he achieves a coldly truthful, honest, yet effortlessly transparent portrayal of this pathetic, sleazy man. All in all, a rushed, lazy and unpleasant project about a story that should have never been told, but that works as an acting showcase for both its stars just perfectly, they’re the reason to at least give the film a try. Rating: C

Resurrecting my m00vies, y’all

March 11, 2009

So my last attempt of carrying it out a blog failed miserably, mostly thanks to my lack of Internet connection at the time. And Blogspot got on my nerves =/.It was a stupid idea then, but now that I do have a steady Internet connection I’ve decided to carry this thing out as a film log diary, in which I will publish reviews of the films I’ll be seeing week after week day after day. Some way shorter than others, depending on how much I’ve got to say for given film(s). Get it? Good. Let’s start!

And to re-open this blog, or morelike, for no particular reason whatsoever, here’s this little gem, featuring Jimmy Dean and Paul Newman being unintentionally homoerotic! Discovered it last night (thanks to Dave, from Oscar Buzz!) and I can’t get enough of it. Enjoy!