Showing posts with label films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label films. Show all posts

Monday, February 5, 2018


A list of movies I watched recently and recommend, along with brief descriptions, is below.

"Funny Face" - rated 4 stars

Though "Funny Face", directed by Stanley Donen, was very good, I thought it would be better. What struck me as I watched again after a long time is that once again, the male lead, Fred Astaire, was nearly 30 years older than the female, Audrey Hepburn. Astaire is still amazing, but it appears Hollywood assumes female dancers of similar age can no longer dance.

"The Artist" - rated 5 stars

I watched the movie last night and loved it. The film, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, won a number of Academy Awards and other well-deserved film awards in 2012. The French romantic, feel-good, silent movie in black and white, like the olden times, even before my olden time, is a delight. In the French style, with subtle and ironic touches of humor, the film includes musical accompaniment and what I just learned are called intertitles (filmed, printed text edited into silent movies) when necessary. Since the expressions and movements of the actors reveal quite a bit, not many intertitles were necessary. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star in the film, with our own John Goodman in a strong supporting role.

"Loving" - rated 5 stars

The movie, directed by Jeff Nichols, tells the tender, moving story of the long, painful period in the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving, played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, an interracial couple who married in Washington DC, but could not, by law, be married in their home State of Virginia. After living in DC for a while, the Lovings moved back to Virginia but lived in constant fear of arrest. Mildred decided to write a letter to Attorney General RFK about their plight, and he referred them to the ACLU. When the two were arrested, the ACLU defended them and took their case to the Supreme Court. The rest is history in Loving V. Virginia, the ruling that overturned miscegenation laws in the entire country.

"Room" - rated 5 stars

"Room", directed by Lenny Abrahamson, is the story of a young woman who was abducted and held in a shed for 7 years during which time she is sexually abused and gives birth to a boy she calls Jack. After 5 years, she begins to plot their escape. The film was difficult to watch, so much so that I had to stop and take a break, but I recommend it highly. "Moonlight" was the same, but I have the film in my queue to watch again. I'll do the same with "Room". Brie Larson stars as the mother, and she is excellent in the role, but the truly amazing performance is the boy's, with Jacob Tremblay as Jack.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman ("Nashville", "Mash") and written by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), includes a delightful all-star ensemble cast that includes the wonderful Maggie Smith.  The subject of the film could be described as a typical English country house murder mystery, except that it's not typical at all.  The story and dialogue move quickly, as is Altman's style, and calls for the viewer's close attention, so as not to miss the sharp wit and humorous asides in the conversations.  I've seen the film 3 times, and I want to see it again. I gave it the highest rating of 5 stars on Netflix.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an early collaboration by Ethan and Joel Coen, the brothers who wrote and directed the movie and have gone on to further fame and fortune.  The film is a satire loosely based on  Homer's Odyssey and set in Mississippi during the Great Depression.  Three white convicts escape from a chain gang and pick up an African-American guitar player along the way.  Mayhem, suspense, and hilarity ensue, as the four try to keep ahead of the chase by members of law enforcement and citizen enforcement, including the KKK.  In trying to save their necks, by accident, the group becomes a famous radio band called The Soggy Bottom Boys.

T Bone Burnett worked with the Coen brothers on the superb sound track as the movie was being written.  The music in the film consists mainly of American southern folk music, and the sound track won the Album of the Year Grammy award.  I rated this one 5 stars, too.

As for My Dinner With André, if you enjoy dinner with a companion who is a monologist, who tells tales that make one wonder if any of them really happened, then you may enjoy the movie more than I did.  I thought, "Good heavens!  When will André allow Wally to get in a word or two, except, "Really?"

The two actors, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn, who play themselves, have a certain charm, but a dinner companion would have to be a lot more engaging than André, for me to have patience with a monologue.  I gave this one 3 stars.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the delightful Gigi. The list of talented people who worked in the film is amazing.  Vincent Minelli directed the movie.  The screenplay was written by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the song lyrics.   Frederick Loewe composed the music. which was arranged and conducted by André Previn.

The story is loosely based on a novella of the same name by the French writer, Colette, and is one of the few books I've read in the original French.  The movie is a charming romantic musical comedy set in turn-of-the century Paris.  The women in the family are brought up to be courtesans, and they don't marry.  As Aunt Alicia, who gives Gigi lessons for her future role, says, "Marriage is not forbidden to us, but instead of getting married at once, it sometimes happens we get married at last."

The cast is listed below.

Leslie Caron as Gilberte ("Gigi")
Maurice Chevalier as Honoré Lachaille
Louis Jourdan as Gaston Lachaille
Hermione Gingold as Madame Alvarez
Eva Gabor as Liane d'Exelmans
Isabel Jeans as Aunt Alicia

Costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton, and the cinematographer was Joseph Ruttenberg.  The scenes of Paris are gorgeously idealized, and they are a feast for the eye.  The movie won nine academy awards, including Best Picture.  5 stars for Gigi.

In the past, I thought Louis Jordan was dreamily good-looking, but my taste changed over the years. It's not that Jourdan is not good-looking, but he's no longer my dream man.

I remember with fondness Hermione Gingold's regular appearances on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Though Paar was sometimes an ass, his guests were often brilliant, and he could hold his own in the banter.  When I visited my friend who was at Columbia University over 50 years ago, she had reserved tickets to the show.  One guest that evening was the playwright, George S Kaufman.  Somehow ostriches as unlikable birds came up in the conversation, and Paar asked Kaufman if he liked ostriches.  Kaufman said, "It's hard to say.  I know so few ostriches."

Credit to Wikipedia as the source for some of the details about the films.

Monday, November 17, 2014


You ask what I've been watching lately. What? You didn't ask? Forgive me if I tell you anyway.

Last night, I watched the delightful film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and smiled all the way through, though the movie includes a good measure of seriousness in the mix with the madcap humor. Since I knew little about the film, except that several friends told me I should see it, I was surprised when well-known actors popped up unexpectedly in hilarious disguises and delighted that they played their roles so beautifully and unassumingly without striving to steal the limelight in their scenes.

Ralph Fiennes, as the concierge of the hotel, Mr Gustave H, was superb, and F Murray Abraham more than holds his own as the lobby boy, Moustafa Zero, to whom Mr Gustave becomes a mentor and a friend. There's lot to be said for knowing little to nothing about a film, and coming away charmed with one's spirit uplifted.

Last week, I watched Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  Since I had already read critical reviews of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was completely caught up in the story. The main criticisms were that the very concept of a biographical movie about Mandela was wrong, because his character was too complex and his life too long and eventful even for a film that stretched into two and a half hours, and that a series would have been a more appropriate vehicle. That the movie telescoped the great sweep of history of the struggle for freedom for blacks in South Africa, as shown through the life of Nelson Mandela, who played so great a part in the story even during his long years in prison, was seen as a failure. Well, the film is what it is, and, though events moved along at a fast clip, and large chunks of Mandela's life were missing, it held my interest throughout.

Idris Elba was magnificent in the role of Mandela, Shakespearian, as one critic described him, and Naomie Harris was excellent as Winnie Mandela. The two dominate the film, with the other actors playing only minor supporting roles.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Hibernating

Movietime again! I watched "Good Night and Good Luck", the 1950s story of newsman Edward R. Murrow's clash with Senator Joe McCarthy, the commie-chaser. Excellent. It's startling to see all the cigarettes in the movie, but that's the way it was back then. Murrow went on the air with his cigarette! David Strathairn is terrific as Murrow. It's obvious that George Clooney made the movie with a passionate drive to get it right - and he does.
In those days the news producers had to answer for their content to the corporate sponsors of the shows, but could still make their own decisions. Today the corporations own the networks and cable channels and give the orders. Back in the day, Morrow thought the standards for TV news had fallen to a low point in catering to folks who want their news easy and entertaining. Surely, he's rolling his grave at the state of news gathering and producing today. I look back and see his era as a golden age.
Joe McCarthy of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Communist infiltration into the US Government, ruined and intimidated a goodly number of people before his downfall, and to take him on was a huge risk for Murrow. The movie uses actual footage of McCarthy instead of an actor. To see his accusations and bullying questioning of Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon communication worker, is stomach-turning. Poor lady. She looks terrified. Ray Wise is excellent in the role of Don Hollenback, a journalist at CBS, who is smeared with charges of being a pinko. You can see the fear in his face as he waits for the ax to fall.
I liked the jazz soundtrack with music by Diana Reeves and a jazz combo. Scenes from performances by Reeves and her group are interspersed between scenes of the movie.
Next up was "Pollock", a film about the artist, Jackson Pollock. Depressing beyond depressing. It's well-done, but a real downer. Does all art involve this much angst? I don't think so. Pollock was an alcoholic, and it's always grim to watch that kind of tale of destruction play out. Along with telling Pollack's story, the moviemakers try to give the viewer insight into the artistic process.
Ed Harris directed the movie and played the role of Pollock. He and Marcia Gay Harden, playing Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner, also an artist, both do fine work in their roles. Pollock gives Lee a hell of a time of it. Amy Madigan is outstanding in the role of Peggy Guggenheim, an early patron of Pollock.
I'll never look at Pollock's paintings in quite the same way after seeing the movie. The photo above shows the real Pollock at work in his later technique of drip painting. I love the moment in the movie when an interviewer asks him what his paintings mean. He looks pained and says, (not a direct quote) "Look at the grass and the birds. Can't people just look at things and enjoy them?"