Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2017

AT THE MOVIES IN MY HOUSE

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

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

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.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

PHILOMENA - THE FILM


A week or so ago, I watched the film Philomena. What a lovely, lovely movie. Judi Dench is superb and Steve Coogan is no slacker. He more than holds his own with Dame Judi, and that's no small feat. The chemistry between the two actors, Coogan, who plays an English journalist, and Dench, as Philomena, an Irish woman, is amazing when they come together to search for her lost son.  If you didn't see the film, which is taken from a true story, when it played in the theaters, I highly recommend you watch online or find a copy of the DVD.  As well as acting in the movie, Coogan co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope from the book of the same name, so it is truly his baby.

Be sure to watch the bonuses, the interviews with the real Philomena and actors, Judy Dench and Steve Coogan, that are included in the DVD.  Philomena Lee is quite a woman, and the film appears to have been a labor of love for the script writers and the actors.  In the interview, Coogan speaks of Philomena with true fondness and respect.

As Coogan, who played the journalist, Martin Sixsmith, was being interviewed, I thought of the present discussion and controversy over whether England is a Christian country initiated by Prime Minister David Cameron's speech at his Easter reception at Downing street. In the interview, Coogan, who is a lapsed Roman Catholic, notes that he and Pope, with permission from Sixsmith, took the liberty of making him a lapsed Catholic, though...
He's Church of England, so Protestant, which in England, basically, means athiest. (Laughter) You go to church, but you don't believe any of that stuff, you know?
Not the final word, I'm sure. 

Coogan is also a comedian, and, though the film is not a comedy, his comedic touch lightens what is, in fact, a quite moving and serious film.  One phrase spoken by Sixsmith refers to the nuns at the the convent in Rosecrea, Ireland, as, "The Sisters of Little Mercy".

Before I returned the DVD, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the film one more time.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

IS IT THE ART OR THE ARTIST?

The other night, I watched the movie, Blue Jasmine, which was highly recommended to me by several people. If I ever knew, I'd forgotten the movie was written and directed by Woody Allen. Though the film was very good, I can't say I enjoyed watching, because the story was emotionally wrenching. Cate Blanchett was outstanding, and the movie included very fine acting by others in the cast.  The choice of music in the soundtrack is excellent, as is usual for Woody Allen's movies, which, for me, adds a great deal to my enjoyment.

Even if I'd known the movie, an homage to Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire, was written and directed by Allen, I'd forgotten the lurid details of the custody trial after Mia Farrow and Allen separated.  After I finished watching, I went online and happened to see the link to Dylan Farrow's open letter in the NYT. After reading it, I felt sick. Later, I read the transcript of the custody ruling.

The world of celebrity so often seems in a different universe. The family of Mia Farrow and Allen, unusual though it may have been, was a family, and Allen seemed to have little knowledge or skill in parenting and no concept of proper boundaries within a family. His view that adopted children are not "real" children is seriously out of whack. 

A few months earlier, I watched  Midnight in Paris and enjoyed it very much. Allen is immensely talented, but he's also creepy, at best, and a pedophile, at worst, but I confess that I'd rather have seen the two films than not.  The only firm conclusion I've reached is that I do not believe Dylan Farrow is lying.

Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?  I ask because I struggle with the question.  What do we make of other gifted artists such as Lewis Carroll and his relationship to Alice Liddell? His photographs of Alice would quite likely be considered child pornography today.  I suppose I will know when the next Allen movie comes out whether I'll choose to watch or not. I'm not crazy about all of his films. Some I just don't get, plus, in others, I sense a misogynistic undercurrent that makes me uneasy.

Then there's Alfred Hitchcock, who apparently had a conventional private life, but who displayed a propensity for putting beautiful women, especially blonds, in dangerous and frightening situations.  Even as I enjoyed the chills and thrills, Hitchcock's treatment of the women seemed rather creepily sadistic to me.

After I'd written the words above, I read , which sheds more light on child abuse and memories and leads me to consider Dylan Farrow's account even more credible. Zoe was abused by a family member when she was a very young girl.  She's writing a book about her experience and has done quite a bit of research on the subject.
People who do like, or love, Allen’s work often argue that we should separate the art from the artist. I don’t disagree; especially if we are able to do the reverse, and separate the artist from the art, not grant him any greater benefit of the doubt than we would another human. But we have to acknowledge that this is difficult, just as it’s difficult for us to recognize warning signs or baldly stated declarations of inappropriate behavior when they concern someone we know, trust, love, admire, or depend on to pay the bills and keep things running smoothly. If we like the art, if we like the love or the family unit or the school community or just generally the way things are, we can feel guilty if the person at the center of it has committed a heinous crime.
Further:
Research also shows that children are not nearly so suggestible on the topic of sex abuse as previously believed, especially school-aged children. In the past 40 years, children’s testimony has gone from being inadmissible in a court of law to being not only allowed as evidence but sometimes used as the sole evidence in cases involving sex abuse, which is notoriously difficult to prove (physical proof is rarely present even in cases of vaginal penetration).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

THE FABULOUS RITA HAYWORTH



Set to the music of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", here's a wonderful video compilation of clips from her movies to remind us what a fabulous dancer Rita Hayworth was. Rita was drop-dead gorgeous, talented, and sexy, too. And, like Ginger Rogers, she danced with the best male dancers of the time in high heels.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ann Fontaine fore the link.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

AT THE MOVIES AT MY HOUSE - QUICKIE REVIEWS

"Of Gods and Men" ("Des Hommes et des Dieux") tells the story of a small community of French Cistercian monks in their monastery on a hilltop in North Africa, who live peacefully amongst their mostly poor Muslim neighbors. An elderly monk who is also a doctor offers what medical care he can to the people in the surrounding area with minimal medical equipment.   

Enter militant Muslim fundamentalists who kill a group of foreign workers and instill fear in the local population.  The situation of the foreign monks becomes dangerous, and the monks must make a decision on whether to leave or whether to stay.

I loved the scenes in the monastery with the monks praying, chanting, and going about their work.  The actors in the film perform superbly, and the camera work shows off the landscapes surrounding the monastery beautifully.  Viewing the film was altogether a powerful and moving experience.

In French with subtitles.

The fast-moving "Source Code" called for two and a half viewings for me to work out exactly what was going on.  The first time around, I was interrupted more than once for rather long periods, which made it difficult for me to follow the intricate plot.

The surprised and confused Jake Gyllenhaal wakes and finds himself on a commuter train, thrust into a mission to stop a terrorist from carrying out his plot without knowing who the terrorist is, only that the man is on the same train, and Gyllenhaal has to find him before he carries out his plan.   Doing the job involves him in life extension, a form of time travel, and an alternate universe.   With Michelle Monaghan, as a fellow-commuter, and Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright, as Stevens’s military handlers.

In "The Descendants" George Clooney plays the stressed, workaholic scion of a large, extended family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty, who are heirs to vast and valuable land holdings in Hawaii.  An offer to buy the land for development divides the family.

At the same time, Clooney grieves for his wife, who now lies in the hospital on life support following an accident and fumbles and stumbles through learning how to be a father to his two daughters after leaving all the parenting to his wife through the years.  The movie shows Clooney at his best, which is very good, indeed, and Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller perform with excellence as the two daughters.  Of course, the fine film includes gorgeous vistas of Hawaii.

It had been a long time since I'd watched "Young Frankenstein" all the way through.  I'd catch parts of the movie on TV, but I never timed it right to see the whole movie in the proper sequence.  I decided to order through Netflix, and I was not sorry to laugh my way through the film again.  I laugh out loud now when I think of some of the lines.

Dr Frederick: "Perhaps I can help you with that hump." 
Igor: "What hump?"

Inga: "Werewolf!"
Dr Frederick: "Werewolf?"
Igor: "There."
Dr Frederick: "What?"
Igor: "There, wolf. There, castle."
Dr Frederick: "Why are you talking like that?"

A good time was had by me with all the movies.  Grandpère does not watch with me, even when I tell him he'd probably enjoy the movie.  He's busy doing his own thing, and my timing is not always right for him.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

AT THE MOVIES - AT MY HOUSE

A month or so ago, I broke down and signed up for Netflix.  Tom and I have not been seeing movies in theaters as often as we once did.  The senior discount is a thing of the past.  The smell of popcorn is irresistible; and we end up paying an exorbitant amount for a couple of bags and sometimes a small box of candy and end up spending $40 or more to see a movie.

Okay, so I miss the mystique of the quiet, dark theater, with the large screen and the entire focus on the movie, but along with the $40-plus price tag to have the theater experience comes smelly carpets that are not cleaned nearly often enough and, on occasion, stalls in the ladies without toilet paper.  Then, too, we live in the boonies, and a good many of the movies I want to see are never shown at the theater in the next town over and would involve a trip to New Orleans.

The Netflix plan I chose is the one DVD at a time, which suits me well, as I don't have time to watch a movie every day.  The movies arrive a day after mailing, and I viewed four movies last month and one so far this month for $7.99. You may tell me of better alternatives to Netflix, like movies on demand, but I'm not sure we could have the service on our TV sets, since they are old, and we would surely need a box and another remote.  I've just about mastered the two remotes to use the DVD player, and I don't want to learn another.  Grandpère has never learned how to use the player, so I have to set him up each time he watches a film.  Netflix offers the option of watching on the computer for the same subscription price, but I want a bit more comfort than my computer armchair offers...thus Netflix DVDs.

Oh, and I don't care for movie rental outlets, because I can seldom find what I want in the vast space.  Besides, I don't like vast spaces.  So why not have the movies mailed to my house, watch them, and pop them back into the ready-to-be mailed envelopes to await the next in about four days?

Thus far, I've watched the following:


I can't think why I chose an animated film, and one that was shown in 3-D in the theaters as No. 1 in my queue, but there it was.  For some time, I'd been keeping a list of movies I wanted to rent but never did, and "Rio" was on the list.  Anyway, in "Rio" the  animation is well done; the colors are gorgeous; and the songs are tuneful with witty lyrics.  The story is of a parrot, Blu, and a human, Linda, who love each other.  Through a mishap, Blu ends up in Rio De Janeiro and falls in love with another parrot, Jewel, and troubles, separation, and dangers ensue before...you guessed it...the happy ending in which Linda also finds true love.


The second movie to arrive in the mailbox was a winner, "Moneyball", a baseball story about real people.  Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics, played by Brad Pitt, is convinced by a young Yale graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to adopt a new statistical method for choosing players, and he sticks with the method in the face of repeated losses and opposition from within the organization until the team turns around and begins to win and proves the method works.  The theme of resistance to change, the old ways versus the new ways, runs through the movie.  Brad Pitt does a fine job of acting, as does Jonah Hill, and their scenes together are especially well-played.

The film includes a charming side story of the tender relationship between Beane and his young daughter, Casey, beautifully acted by Kerris Dorsey, who worries for her dad when the team is on the skids.

Next up in the queue was Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris", with Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) in Paris as a treat from Inez's father, John (Kurt Fuller) who doesn't much like Gil or the idea of his daughter marrying him.  Mimi Kennedy plays Helen, Inez's mother.  As the movie started and the four characters began to interact, I thought to myself, "This is going to be a long movie.  All these people are insufferable."  Gil is a screen writer but he wants to be a "real writer" of novels.  In the evenings, he roams the streets of Paris alone,  longing for the 1920s when Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and all the beautiful people lived in Paris.  I can't blame John for not wanting his daughter to marry the dithering and mooning-about Gil.  Gil reminded me too much of Hamlet, another character who makes me quite impatient, so that I want to shout out, "Get on with it!"

Gil gets drunk and lost in one of his walks and hitches a ride in a 1920s car, and - bam!..he's back in time meeting all the beautiful people, and the movie picks up speed.  Of the celebrities from the twenties, Kathy Bates is outstanding as Gertrude Stein, as is Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali.  Gil has a dalliance with Adriana, Picasso's mistress, played by Marion Cotillard, who longs to live in the Belle Époque, and the next thing you know the two are back in the 1890s.  The dialogue in the scenes with the celebrities in both eras in the past is delightfully clever and witty and thoroughly entertaining, but when the movie moves back into real time, the pace slows.

The critics gave the movie very high ratings, with one even saying it was a work of genius, though the same critic called Gil's fiancée his wife, which kind of messes with the plot, so one wonders...

The two next films I'll save for another post, and I will await Netflix's offer of at least a couple of free months for promoting their service - movies for techie dummies.  Thus far, the subscription is well worth the price.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

R. I. P. ELIZABETH TAYLOR


Elizabeth Taylor is so beautiful. I remember her in "National Velvet", which I saw when I was about 10 years old. Her beauty was nearly unbelievable to me. I wanted to look like her, even then. Elizabeth grew up gracefully, never passing through the awkward stage.


Then I remember "A Place in the Sun" with the marvelous Montgomery Clift, with whom Elizabeth remained dear friends as long as he lived. Indeed, she was in love with him, but, he was gay. Monty loved Elizabeth, too, but not the way she loved him. He did a damned fine job of acting the part of a man deeply in love in the film.

Elizabeth as Maggie the Cat in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" is one of my favorites of her roles. She maneuvers Brick (Paul Newman) and Big Daddy (Burl Ives), until she gets what she wants.

"That girl's got life in her, alright."

Words that Tennessee Williams put into the mouth of Big Daddy have a permanent place on my sidebar.

"There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity...You can smell it. It smells like death."

What an emotional workout it was when Grandpère and I went to see "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" We felt battered and bruised when we left the theater after watching Elizabeth and Richard Burton verbally duke it out for a couple of hours. The movie caused us to cringe a bit, because it hit home in that we both realized that a good many of our own quarrels were unnecessary and served no useful purpose, except to upset us and those around us. For me, as a result of seeing the movie, I was inspired to try to do better.

Though Elizabeth may have been a bit confused at times about the direction of her life, as we all are from time to time, she was as good as she was beautiful. Don't fail to read Leonardo's moving post at Eruptions At the Foot of the Volcano about Elizabeth's early advocacy in the cause of AIDS. She was amongst the first of the Hollywood celebrities to jump in and call attention to and demand help for those suffering from AIDS and HIV.

Eternal rest grant unto Elizabeth, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

AT THE MOVIES

The weather here is terrible, with hard rain falling and a heavy wind blowing. I'm spending the greater part of the day watching rental movies, because the films are due back today, and I hate paying fines. It's a thing with me.

I'm weary of thinking and writing about the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Covenant, and Anglican primates. I'll take a break, maybe short, maybe long, and the Anglican world will continue to turn whether or not I take note and be little or not at all affected by my refusal to take note.

I'll report back on the movies, but I will probably not do my usual full-fledged, professional review of either film. One good movie down and one to go, and then a quick trip to Blockbuster for the returns.

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?"