Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Marilyn Monroe is getting a divorce in Reno and falls for ageing cowboy Clark Gable.
Written by Arthur Miller, directed by John Huston and also starring Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter, this film should have been a classic, and it is, sort of; it was the last film of Monroe and Gable. But is it any good? I was a bit disappointed. I found it hard to believe in the characters and the story. As a portrayal of the end of an era, I think The Last Picture Show did a much better job. Gable and especially Clift are good in their parts. Marilyn Monroe I can believe in as a cartoony, blond bimbo, like in Some Like It Hot, but in this film where she is playing more of a real person, she is less convincing. The best part of the film are the scenes of capturing and tying down the horses. There's something very iconic about these scenes in black and white, and more or less symbolic, I suppose. Then it's sort of ruined by a tacked on happy ending.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I was going to watch The Road, but you can tell from the first five minutes of the film that it's not going to work: Viggo Mortensen's dreary voiceover on top of the gray but perfectly composed images. There's a very powerful sequence in the book, where the father tells the son how to commit suicide with a gun. There's the same sequence in the film, but with images it actually loses a lot of it's power. So I turned off the film after 15 minutes. I liked the book a lot, but why would I be interested in sitting through this when I can choose not to? Sorry, Viggo!
So I rather popped in an antidote, Crimewave, the film directed by Sam Raimi and written by Joel and Ethan Coen between the two first Evil Dead films. It's about... well, it's not that important what's it about. It's sort of Harold Lloyd meets the Three Stooges. It has lots of great visual ideas, a cartoony energy with the camera forever spinning around, and everything is completely artificial. It is a movie like no other. It has Bruce Campbell in a supporting role as "a heel". It has been disowned by Raimi because he lost control of the film in editing. It is funny and probably a bit too much, but it only lasts 75 minutes, and they save the best joke for the end: the nuns and their oath of silence.
Next: The Misfits
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A woman is a passenger of a car that crashes through the railing of a bridge and into a river. She later appears on the riverbed, not knowing what happened or how she survived. She gets a job as a church organist in a small town, but keeps seeing a ghoulish character and having experiences where she is invisible to other people. She is also strangely drawn to an abandoned amusement park.
I caught this film on a French channel some years ago, not knowing anything about it, which is probably the best way to see a film like this. So if you've never seen this film, stop reading right now! Forget the title! Keep checking channels for late night movies and hope you stumble upon this one! See if it doesn't turn up in your dreams!
It's clearly low budget and has an amateurish feel, something that only increases it's strangeness. It's like a horrorfilm made by someone who has never seen a horrorfilm. There are clumsy scenes next to scenes that even Stanley Kubrick couldn't have done better. Candace Hilligoss as the main character gives a very effective performance, her spaced out eyes saying more than the often ridiculous dialogue.
Next: The Road
Friday, September 24, 2010
I don't really know much about the director Yasujiro Ozu. I haven't seen any of his other movies. Jim Jarmusch has mentioned him as an influence, and you can see that in the use of a static camera. Unfortunately there was something wrong with the dvd, so I was unable to watch the last half hour of the film. Japan is a foreign country, and Japan in the 50s even more so, but the relationship between parents and grown children is pretty universal, I suppose, as is the theme of growing old. It's a film that it's easy to relate to. I found it maybe a bit black and white, with the bad daughter and the impossibly good daughter-in-law. Sometimes the characters say what they feel, when it would have been more exciting to guess their feelings.
Slow, foreign movies work maybe better in a cinema. Viewing it at home it's easy to be distracted by other things. The car chase was pretty good though.
Next: Carnival of Souls
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I remember seeing this film on tv when I was a kid. We had a black and white tv at the time. I haven't seen the film since then and I was a bit disappointed in finding out that it actually is in colours. It's been many years since I read the novel by Carson McCullers, so I don't really know how well it has translated into film. It's got all the surface details at least. Especially Arkin and Locke are excellent, and I like the simplicity of the film. The director doesn't try to do anything fancy with the camera. It's a story about isolation and loneliness, about a girl becoming an adult, and the ending is just as touching as I remember it to be.
Next: Tokyo Story
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This was a late film noir, and it still holds up pretty well. It's shot in black and white, and even in tone it's quite dark. It's never said directly but implied that Mitchum's character will take revenge by raping Peck's young daughter. For Peck, and the viewer, it's a question of how far are you willing to go to protect your family? Not getting any help in the courts Peck has to finally use his own family as bait. The final showdown between the two is a primitive man to man struggle for survival in the Florida swamps, far from cilvilisation. Both actors are very good, even if they are very much typecast.
In the Robert Mitchum School of How to pick up girls, there's a great line in this film. You walk over to the girl sitting in the bar and say, -I give you one hour to get rid of your friends. (It's even better if you are escorted out by police officers, like Mitchum is in the film.)
Monday, September 20, 2010
Again it's a Hitchcockian pastiche, filmed with some 60s psychedelic touches, the story taking place in London rather than in Paris and the macguffin being a cipher that needs to be decoded. Someone is killed, the trace leads to Peck, so he's the innocent man on the run. There's also a chase to prevent the assassination of a prime minister, like in The Man Who Knew Too Much. It doesn't all make that much sense. Most of the dialogue falls flat. The villain could maybe have been a bit more camp.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
When I was 15 years old Alistair MacLean was my favourite writer. There was also this other guy, Bagley, I think. Then Ken Follett showed up. I always looked through his books to find the sex scenes first, then I read the rest of it. There was no sex in MacLean's books. I tried rereading Where Eagles Dare when I was 18, but gave up after a few chapters. Then I discovered Stephen King.
The Guns of Navarone is based on the novel by MacLean; it's about Gregory Peck and a small group of men whose job it is to blow up the canons of, well, Navarone, I suppose, but uh-oh! There's a traitor among them! The film also stars David Niven, Anthony Quinn and that British character actor that always turns up in war movies from this period. Where's the guy with the blue eyes always playing a nazi officer? He's not in this film.
I thought this was supposed to be a classic film, but it's kind of boring actually. It has not aged well. The scene where they overwhelm the nazis is pretty silly. A bit more credibility would have been nice. Still, it's okay for a hungover Sunday, I guess.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
It's an interesting film, almost like a play. Most of the story takes place in a saloon. There are several similarities to High Noon that came out two years later. It's building up to a gun fight in the end, it's mostly told in real time and there are close ups of clocks. Actually, Gregory Peck turned down High Noon just for that reason. Too bad maybe, since High Noon is the one film remembered as a classic, but The Gunfighter is pretty good as well.
Friday, September 17, 2010
It's strange to see a young Joan Collins in this film. For people my age she will always be Alexis, from Dynasty. Just like it's strange to see John Forsythe, Blake, in The Trouble With Harry. Gregory Peck is very good in a dark and haunted role as the widower. It's an excellent film. What could have been a simple revenge film turns out to be something more, it's rather about the futility of revenge.
In the last image of the film the situation is maybe a bit too perfect (Compare it to the ending of The Searchers). It's a chance for Peck to start a new life with a new wife, but how much can a person change?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I just got a couple of Gregory Peck westerns and will also rewatch some of his other films. First: The Big Country by William Wyler. Peck is a former ship's captain going west to meet his future bride Caroll Baker, ending up in a conflict between two ranch owners.
So, Gregory Peck, was he sort of a Keanu Reeves of the 50s? They have some of the same qualities. The film also stars Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston and Burl Ives. Especially Ives is very good as one of the ranch owners. I love the scenes in old movies when somebody lights a match and the whole room lights up.
The Big Country is a big movie, almost three hours. It's good, but never really exciting. Or really funny for that matter.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
It's Peter Bogdanovich's masterpiece, shot in timeless black and white. All the actors are great. There are young actors just starting out, like Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Sheperd and Randy Quaid, there's the veteran actor Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion, sort of a father figure for the kids. There's also Eileen Brennan as a waitress, another one of those great 70s faces. It's a sad film, even more so when you know how Bogdanovich squandered his early promise. He didn't get the long career of his idols John Ford and Howard Hawks, more like that of Orson Welles.
I'm not sure if it's correct to call Jeff Bridges underrated. He's been nominated for the Oscar and he won one for Crazy Heart, but he's never done the sort of showy overacting that usually is necessary for winning awards. Usually you don't notice him acting at all. I ordered his 79 film Winter Kills, but it hasn't arrived yet, so I'll have to get back to that one later.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
It's a darker and more unlikable role for Jeff Bridges than what he had usually played until then. John Heard shines in his part, and Lisa Eichhorn as Heard's girlfriend but with feelings for Bridges, is also excellent.
Some movies you forget as soon as you walk out of the cinema or put the dvd back in it's cover, other movies stay with you. Cutter's Way is one of those. It has a powerful ending, made better by not pulling a Psycho: five minutes at the police station where everything is solved and explained. The film flopped when it was released in 81, maybe a sign that this would be a decade all about winning, and who cares about the losers.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The film is one of the anti Westerns of the 70s, where they go for a more unromantic tone. It looks beautiful though, photographed by Gordon Willis. The director is Robert Benton. It's a good script as well and the ending couldn't be more perfect.
Friday, September 10, 2010
It's directed by John Huston, and what a long career this guy had, from The Maltese Falcon to The Dead. He probably did some lesser films as well, but in Fat City there's not a wrong step or a false note. It's never condescending, everything rings true. The film is slow, but not selfindulgently so like some films from this period.
Bridges is as usual excellent in his part, but the film really belongs to Keach, it's simply a brilliant performance. Susan Tyrrel plays his girlfriend. She's one of those eccentric/unglamourous actresses from the 70s, like Karen Black, that you don't see much in movies today. In the role of the boxing coach you find Nicolas Colasanto, who later became famous as Coach, on Cheers! Music is by Kris Kristofferson.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Michael Cimino's debut as a director is a mix of road movie and heist film. It's very much an American film, a bit John Ford, the characters almost lost in the wide open spaces. Basically, it's just about a silly bank heist, but the movie shows the difference between a hack and a real artist, with Cimino going for the small details. An extra bonus is the sight of Bridges in drag!
The ending goes in a darker direction, and the final image is strangely similar to the one in American Heart.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I've bought a couple of dvds with Jeff Bridges and will also be rewatching some of his older films, starting with American Heart. It came out in 92, but has a 70s feel to it. Bridges is an ex-con having to look after his son, Edward Furlong. The story takes place in Seattle, it's their dream to move to Alaska to start a new life there.
I'm not sure if Furlong is much of an actor, but he has the sad and lost look that's right for the part. It's a great, nuanced performance by Bridges. The film has a documentary look, possibly influenced by Italian neorealism. At some point someone even steals Jeff Bridges' bycycle! Only towards the end does it get a bit melodramatic, but leading to a haunting final image.
The dvd has no extra material. A commentary track would have been nice. Still, it's definitely worth a look.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
1. Describe an image from your childhood.
I am on my way home from the comic book store. I have a copy of the new Batman in my hands. Two bullies from junior high step in front of me. They knock me down and steal my comic. I lie in the bushes, crying. I can hear the voice of a woman, from somewhere above me. -Don't cry, her voice says. -One day you will see Neal Adams at a comic book convention in America.
2. Where will you be in 10 minutes?
In two minutes a woman will knock on my door. She wears sunglasses and a beat up fedora . She says she has something to show me. I put on my shoes and follow her down the stairs. In the street we pass the mailman. We sit down on a parkbench. It's still a bit wet from the rain. -Well, what?, I say. -Not yet, she answers, looking at her silver pocket watch. Two more minutes pass. And then...
3. And in 10 years, with some luck?
I'll be bald and fat. I'll have retired from comics, after the fiasco of the I killed Adolf Hitler movie. I blame Hollywood. I become an alcoholic. I wander the earth, losing all my money. I wake up in a gutter somewhere. A woman looks at me. She wears a familiar perfume. She gives me a bowl of soup. I become her gardener, finding out I don't miss comics that much.
So, musicals... I don't know. Singin' in the rain is one of my favourite films, and I like most of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. Those Astaire tapnumbers are always fun to watch. But most musicals I find a bit boring, and this film is no exception.
Frank Sinatra is Nathan Detroit, Marlon Brando is Sky Masterson. Sinatra makes a bet that Brando won't be able to seduce Salvation Army Officer Jean Simmons. If you've seen a couple of these movies you know how this will turn out. Of course, it's Brando who falls for Simmons, who is very appealing in her part, and the scene where she gets drunk is pretty funny. Vivian Blaine's Adelaide, Sinatra's girlfriend, is however pretty tiresome. You don't really care what happens to those two characters. Blaine also plays the part in a bigger, more theatrical style than the others.
There's a couple of good songs, but also some forgettable ones. Brando is no singer, but does all right. Sinatra really wanted to play Sky Masterson, and Luck be a Lady is the one song that he could have done better. At two and a half hours the film feels a bit too long.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
The film is about political powerstruggles and brainwashed assassins, and realisticly speaking it doesn't all make that much sense. There are some silly parts, like the Jump in the lake-sequence and that Harvey's girlfriend just happens to be dressed as the Queen of diamonds at a masquerade. There's also a genuinly shocking sequence where Harvey acts against his American operative's enemies (I'm trying not to give too much away here!)
In the remake by Jonathan Demme, starring Denzel Washington, they updated the story and made everything more logical, something that made the whole film fall completely flat. They lost all the fun and creepy stuff from the original, like the women's tea party scene. The original is still a tremendously entertaining and exciting film.
Next: Guys and dolls
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Frank Sinatra was someone you didn't mess with. He had a temper and got into fights for nothing. He is using that side of him in this film, doing a convincing portrayal of a coldblooded killer. It's a good, but not great film. It's clearly low budget. I'm not even sure if it can be called a film noir. Everything is very black and white, the bad guys and the good guys. There's none of the moral questioning that you find in the better films of the genre.
Next: The Manchurian Candidate