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What Are You Watching? Part 2

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    Gucci
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    The Neighborhood

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    K-Hole
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    Children of Men (2006)
    This well-made film seems even more prescient and frightening 15 years after its original release because today it sometimes seems like we are only one disaster away from tipping into a violent, fascist (racist, xenophobic) dystopia like the one depicted here. Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki are artistic geniuses. (Props to P.D. James who wrote the original novel.) The battle scenes are especially well done. I had forgotten how magnificent this film is, with an iconic ending. (Universal should re-release Children of Men in the 4K format.)
    Grade: A+

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    K-Hole
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    Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    It’s a fun movie, but the villains are mediocre (the Nazis are, well, bumbling). And did the monkey really have to die? On the other hand, lead Harrison Ford as the professor of archeology looks very handsome and dashing (one of his admiring male students leaves an apple for teacher), and the newish 4K re-release is fabulous (first-rate video and audio quality). Still, I am looking forward to watching the rest of the quadrilogy in this upgraded presentation.
    Grade: B+

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    Emmyfan
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    Maude

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    K-Hole
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    The Conversation (1974)
    I love this movie, not only for being filmed on location in San Francisco, but also for the superb screenplay (written by director Francis Ford Coppola) — featuring one of the most memorable twists in cinema history — and for the cinematography by Bill Butler and Haskell Wexler (uncredited), and for Walter Murch’s sound editing which is a sublime achievement. The movie was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture (notably losing to Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II), Best Original Screenplay (losing to Chinatown, which is understandable), and Best Sound (criminally losing to something called Earthquake). Gene Hackman gives one of his best performances and would have been a worthy nominee and winner. The Conversation was eclipsed by the acclaim and awards bestowed upon The Godfather: Part II, which won Coppola Best Picture and Best Director, as well as a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Robert De Niro, but in a year when the Academy rewarded the likes of The Towering Inferno with three Oscars(!), Coppola’s The Conversation, a masterpiece of guilt and paranoia, withstands the test of time as a cinematic classic, and remains one of my all-time favorites.
    Grade: A+

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    K-Hole
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    The Thing (1982)
    I used to like watching horror movies more than I do now, probably because there is too much real horror in the world, so there is no need to experience it vicariously anymore. Still, I retain a fondness for the horror films of John Carpenter, and this is perhaps his best. Plus, it’s probably best classified as sci-fi/horror, which is one of my favorite genres (when done right). While not a remake of the also superb 1951 movie directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks (uncredited) titled The Thing From Another World, both are based on the same short story “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr., and would make a great double feature. The icy Antartica story location (Carpenter’s film was shot in Alaska) remains memorable and rare for a horror movie, and the special effects are also memorably gory and horrifying and perhaps were influenced by such classics as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alien. The new 4K re-release is the best the film has ever looked or sounded (music by Ennio Morricone, always a treat) in digital format.
    Grade: A

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    K-Hole
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    Dune (1984)
    I do not know if the book is better than the movie (it usually is), but I totally disagree with the professional movie reviewers who rated this movie a dismal 39 (“generally unfavorable”) at Metacritic.com, because David Lynch’s film version is a delight for the ears and eyes, thanks to the great cast and breathtaking special effects, production design, art direction, costumes, music, and cinematography by Freddie Francis (all magnificently captured in a gorgeous new 4K release). I especially love the weirdness that is a primary characteristic of the films of David Lynch, one of my favorite directors of all time. However, some of the dialog (screenplay by Lynch) is downright cringeworthy, referencing “jihad” and something about the “faithful” “cleansing the universe.” So while this strange and creepy film creeps me out with its religious symbolism, I am also always fascinated and enamored by its mind-blowing artistic vision. That said, I am also very much looking forward to seeing the new version directed by Denis Villeneuve.
    Grade: A

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    K-Hole
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    Unbreakable (2000)
    Featuring one of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s trademark surprise twist endings, although I thought the final scene concluded rather abruptly/awkwardly, in contrast to the unhurried, deliberate pace of the rest of the film. New 4K re-release retains a pleasing “organic film grain.” The film’s palette is mostly muted and shadowy, but there are moments when the colors of certain things really pop, resulting in a visually pleasing cinema experience.
    Grade: B+

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    K-Hole
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    8 1/2 (1963)
    After a diet of escapist blockbusters, it was revitalizing to cleanse the palate with a European arthouse classic. I’d rate this film an “A+” for the faces alone, but it also has a sublime screenplay as well as Fellini’s unique, surreal style. I enjoyed the film much more than the first time I saw it, and was awestruck by its genius (although I still prefer La Dolce Vita as my favorite Fellini film, I think one of the best films of all time). The presumably autobiographical story is about a film director who is putting together his next film (the film within the film) which he wants to be honest but is wracked by self-doubt — one character criticizes his “little nostalgia-bathed memories” and another character tells him “A guy like your character, who doesn’t love anyone, he isn’t really the kind you’d feel sorry for. After all, it’s his fault.” Gorgeous B&W cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo and an unforgettable score by the great Nino Rota.
    Grade: A+

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    K-Hole
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    Super 8 (2011)
    I enjoyed watching Super 8 more this time than the first time I saw it — the 4K version features house-shaking audio. Despite the many colorful and loud explosions, the overall palette is dark and muted, not really a showcase for UHD dynamic flare (other than the director’s typical overuse of lens flare). Maybe the film is supposed to look like faded “Super 8” film stock, i.e., nostalgic in a classic Spielberg-produced 1980s way. I have enjoyed this cinematographer’s work more in films like 300 and Watchmen. Still, I am guessing if I watch the film a few more times, I will like it even more.
    Grade: B+

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    K-Hole
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    The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
    An unusual choice for “Best Picture” given its genre, but its win may be in part because it stood the genre on its head; instead of Clint Eastwood (or Walter Matthau) hunting down the serial killer, we have FBI trainee Jodie Foster, who delivers an Oscar-worthy, iconic performance along with her co-star Anthony Hopkins. In addition to their powerhouse acting, all of the films technical merits in every category are first-rate — it really transcends its genre and is a worthy “Best Picture” winner. My only qualm is the psycho killer is both homosexual and an aspiring transexual. One might say that the movie traffics in harmful stereotypes. Although the new 4K version does not “pop” with dynamic colors — the film is deliberately dark and somber — the amount of detail revealing the brilliant set design and art direction is astounding. An unforgettable movie, but I no longer think “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” is so funny. Other than that, I would rate this movie an “A”.

    A Clockwork Orange (1971)
    Another violent movie, just re-released in stunning 4K for Halloween. Also unusually, the subject or theme of this film is violence itself — both the kind perpetrated by alienated youth, and by the government or state itself. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, but it seems 1971 was a strong year for Hollywood and perhaps the Academy was not ready to bestow its highest accolades upon a movie as disturbing as A Clockwork Orange no matter how deserving, iconic and unforgettable. One of Kubrick’s best, brilliant in every technical category, which is really saying something. I would rate this movie an “A+”.

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    K-Hole
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    The Damned (1969)
    This film about a rich German industrialist family during the rise of Nazism was supposedly Fassbinder’s favorite movie, which explains a lot; after the family learns that it must cater to the Nazis if it wants to stay in business, it seem inevitable that only the most ruthless and depraved member of the family will come out on top in the battle over control of the company. The rise and fall of individual family members’ fortunes mirror the rise and fall of the factions of the Nazi party. The influence of Thomas Mann, and of Shakespeare (especially Macbeth), is apparent. The film would make a perfect double feature with The Night Porter, not least because both films feature Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling. I would rate this film an “A/A-“.

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