"Gremlins" (1984) - dark comedy horror, that is not only fun and chaotic but also very Christmassy!
“Miracle On 34th Street” (1947).
Got to see this with my ten-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son last night on the big screen in our local restored movie palace. Still as delightful as I remembered, but what stands out is the film’s ability to stay kid-friendly without tipping completely into “fantasy.” When I saw it as a kid, it was “proof positive” that Santa Claus is real, full stop. As an adult, you see possible explanations for every “magical” element in the script, so both kids and their parents, believers and skeptics can walk out feeling satisfied with a fun, sweet story. Ultimately the “miracle” comes in how a sequence of events and players all fall into place in just the right way at just the right time to make something really awesome happen for a city, a couple and a little girl. If anything, it’s an assurance that just as a charismatic figure can trigger events that bring out the worst in people, so can they sometimes bring out the best.
A couple days earlier, I saw a short film on TCM called “The Luckiest Guy In The World” with future (original) James Bond, Barry Nelson. It plays out like an old crime/suspense comic book, about a guy who seems to luck out by comitting the perfect crime, only to have his luck turn and cash in his chips. Corny, but fun. In his youth and without the crew cut, the leap to “Bond” is not quite as hard to swallow. That is to say, it’s only nearly impossible.
Groundhog Day (1993) - great fun as always.
Die Hard on the big screen (30th anniversary re-release)
Yippee ki yay!
“Mary Queen of Scots” – (my born-and-raised-in-rural-South-Carolina husband adores all things to do with English royalty–go figure) – competently directed–no real visuals gaffes, but not outstanding mise-en-scene.
What I found most interesting was how the female-sisterhood approach seemed to diminish the power of both queens (and I beleive in the power of queens). Emphasizing the concerted male power opposing both women seemed in some ways to diminish the fact that they did have power and autonomy. I found myself longing for Bette Davis slapping Errol Flynn.
Cromwell, co-starring Timothy Dalton of all people, is similar. Deep if you like English historical drama (I’m Northern Irish, I have a love/hate thing), bit dry if you don’t.
“Spy Game” - Like it more every time I see it. The trade-craft training scenes between Pitt and Redford are great.
“I thought spies drank martini’s.”
“Scotch. Never less than twelve years old.”
I really would have liked Redford as Felix Leiter in the Dalton films in the 80ies. Damn, I think I have to watch Havanna tonight…
Surprise! The idea of Liam Neeson as an action hero in rather routine high concept thrillers did not interest me for so long. I saw the first TAKEN, thought it was unnecessarily brutal but a passable action film. Then, years later, I watched “Unknown Identity” and again: yeah, okay. Not more.
Since “The Commuter” was from the same director I did not think it would thrill me. But I had time, and the movie was on Amazon Prime with no additional charge, so I gave it a chance.
And I loved it! Sure, the characters and their motivation are cardboard-ideas from a scriptwriting manual - but they work. What I really enjoyed, however, were three things:
- Liam Neeson, really giving everything, not just there for the paycheck
- Vera Farmiga, in her one big scene just perfect, perfect acting; she is one of the best and most underrated actresses working today, and it´s HIGH TIME that she appears in a Bond film
- the camera work, especially during that fantastic fight sequence in the train compartment, with no cuts, just breathtakingly choreographed and filmed; you expect the cut (in the hands of a lesser director) but it does not come, instead the camera moves with the fighters, even in this extremely tight space - just wonderful!
So, I will apologize for my blasé thoughts about “oh, just another Neeson actioner” and watch Neeson´s back catalogue as soon as possible. And I look forward to his upcoming “Cold Pursuit”!
The dispatching of the retired policeman was particularly shocking , the whole movie was an unexpected joy. Vera Farmiga would be excellent shop n a Bond movie agreed
THE MULE–Eastwood in twilight.
A strange and evocative film that recalls Classical Hollywood in its combination of narrative and personal film-making. Eastwood has always used his body as his canvas, and now visibly diminished physically, he inhabits Earl Stone as much as a vehicle of confession as a role.
Just as Earl meanders in his delivery of drugs, so the film meanders with Eastwood bringing his performance to a new level of minimalism. He unashamedly inhabits the Eastwoodian man and at the same time reveals its limitations, errors, and follies. The natural light cinematography is devastatingly appropriate and recalls Godard at his greatest, and shows Eastwood continuing to evolve visually (a late shot of Eastwood in the back seat of a car is heartbreaking).
The last wordless sequence feels like a final goodbye to his audience (and especially his fans and champions–see the final frame dedication to Pierre [Rissient] and Richard [Schickel])–and calls to mind the sublime final images of Hawks’ RIO LOBO; Cukor’s RICH AND FAMOUS; Mankiewicz’s SLEUTH; Ford’s 7 WOMEN–“So long, ya bastard” indeed. Would make a superb double bill with THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND.
I recommend The Grey, Run all Night and A walk among the Tombstones. Neeson is really good in every one of them…
I also endorse The Grey.
DEATH IN VENICE (1971)
I saw the new 4k restoration and it is marvelous. I admit upfront that I am a huge Visconti fan and that this film hold special import for me. For many years, the only two Visconti movies that played in repertory houses in New York City were DIV and THE DAMNED (most often on a double bill). The reason for this is that both were distributed by Warner Bros. and were available for showing.
This particular double bill was a favorite of mine though I did not know when I was a teenager that Visconti was gay or any of the wonderful stories that surround the making of the films. They were just two movies in regular rotation in the revival houses–along with 8 1/2; THE SEVENTH SEAL; GRAND ILLUSION; RASHOMON.
What the restoration shows is how detailed Visconti’s mise en scene is and how carefully he manipulated colors, and color in this film is deeply important. The colors are not as bold as in THE LEOPARD (showing at BFI Southbank on 12/29 at 13:50–a perfect holiday movie), and with the restoration, you can see how Visconti gradually introduces the theme of decay into the images. Music is key as well, and DIV is as close to a silent movie of the sound era that we have. The film is beautiful without becoming Beautiful.
The film is also important for how Visconti queers Mann’s text, having Tadzio not be the apostrophed ideal of beauty of the novella, but an actual gay youth who cruises Aschenbach back. Critics at the time did not know what to do with the film, and though it got mixed reviews at best, it went on to become Visconti’s greatest commercial success. (Warner Bros. did not quite know what to do with the film either. The company put up two-thirds of the two million dollar budget–how that came to pass is the biggest mystery I know of. When Visconti showed them the completed film there was dead silence in the screening room which he took as the suits being overwhelmed. They weren’t. To beak the silence, one executive praised the music and asked if they could get the Mahler guy for some other work. Warner Bros. was going to gather all prints and the negative and destroy them, but Visconti out maneuvered them: he set up a gala screening in London to raise funds to save sinking Venice, and got Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne to attend. Warner Bros. then had to release the film.)
The restoration was shown at the Venice Film Festival this year and just ran a little over a week here in New York. I do not know if the movie will play any where else, but the restored film will be released by the Criterion Collection in February. So if you love Italian movies; Visconti movies; 1970’s movies; great Dirk Bogarde performances; or any combination of the above, I urge you to check DIV out.
PS: BFI Southbank has started a run of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU by Boots Riley. The film is not perfect, but it is witty, satirical, and shows a daring that is absent from most films these days.
Yup. I LOVE this film.
The music, wit, editing, writing, tradecraft. All. I normally do not like films that flip timelines around but for some reason all the respective eras are handled seamlessly. Both Pitt and Redford are the epitome of understated acting, and reacting. Catherine McCormack is stunning and completely holding her own in all her scenes.
Every time I see this, I am excited by all that goes on. A perfectly realised film in every way.
ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
This is a long slow stream of epic images, a documentary style meditation on the atmosphere of a bygone time in a country that is also bygone now, the Mexico of 1970/71. This film has breadth and depth and - because of its b/w cinematography - colour as a child would experience them. And then carry them as cherished memories his entire life, as Cuarón did.
We meet an assortment of characters, but we meet them at an angle, see them through their housemaid Cleo‘s eyes, almost family but not entirely. Cleo‘s life is closely stitched into the fabric of the family she’s working for, and so the events in this family mirror and reverberate in her own life. Particularly her employer Sofía is a source of stability and comfort during the troubled times these people go through.
Sofía has to deal with her husband leaving the family, more or less overnight and, as far as we are aware, unexplained. At the same time Cleo gets pregnant and when she tells her boyfriend he simply walks out on her. Meanwhile, in the Mexico of that era, there are political troubles, violence on the streets and rightwing terrorism that also involves male supporting characters. And that will have direct consequences for Cleo.
Roma is one of those films that usually get billed ,not for everybody‘. But actually it shows just that, ordinary human characters trying to cope with ordinary human life. The drama of these ‚little people‘ isn’t blown up, the cruelty they face is casual and thoughtless and entirely unaware of its own nature. The images we see are instantly recognisable as coming from that magic realm that is the past. And yet it’s touching and moving with a quality that goes beyond the staged drama. At the end, during that last frame that mirrors the first, I wasn’t aware I had spent already over two hours. I could have gone on for another two.
They Shall Not Grow Old.
Well, quite. Profoundly affecting.
The Spy Who Dumped Me
Love Mila Kunis! Some great action sequences and soundtrack, but too many twists and turns in the plot.
Sorry To Bother You
The race and class struggles by way of telesales and O Lucky Man! (1973).
A surreal odyssey through the repressed ranks of telesales to the wood panelled rooms hosting sycophantic gatherings and inevitable orgies of the rich elite and ruling classes.
Sounds pretty heavy? Don’t worry, because the satire and surreal caricatures and juxtapositions all hit home with the frequency and pacing of an M2 Browning. It manages to be daft as a brush fun as well as fresh and damning lampooning of societies ills.
Fans of O Lucky Man! will find a lot to like here, as will those of the obscure 1989 cult masterpiece Society… As well as anyone whose had to endure a dead end job at any time, or come face to face with the glass ceiling, trump wall, or agenda laden-trolling moderators (present company excepted )