( +1 hidden )
July 17, 2021 at 2:41 pm #1204350948
I watched The Last of Sheila on TCM this afternoon. I thought it was fairly decent, but with the director, writers, and cast it boasted it made me wonder if it was in any consideration for any major awards back in the day. Does anyone know if it was expected to be an awards contender? It didn’t end up with any, but I just wondered if it was shocking back in the day when it didn’t turn out being an awards contender?July 24, 2021 at 2:28 pm #1204361224
Night Moves (1975). Arthur Penn’s superb neo-noir private detective movie stars Gene Hackman as a character who is obsessed with his case once the 16 year old girl he brings back home from Florida winds up dead. Melanie Griffith made her screen debut as the 16 year old girl. The standout for me though is Jennifer Warren as the woman he meets in Florida who he becomes infatuated with and has sex with her – she’s much more than he understands. His wife is played by Susan Clark. The film is endlessly fascinating and so worth watching. I give it an A – superb direction, acting, writing, atmosphere and film-making.July 25, 2021 at 2:51 pm #1204362515
Also just watched “Night Moves.” It’s definitely a product of its time, with its crazy fashions of the day and unfortunately tossed-about slurs. Gene Hackman delivered another stoic, good-guy-caught-in-a-compromised-world sort of performance. The 70s gave Hackman some of his biggest successes: “The French Connection” (1st Oscar win), “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Conversation,” “I Never Sang for My Father,” & the “Superman” films. I don’t suspect that this was a significant hit, with its downbeat screenplay that zags when expected to zig, and vice-versa. Harry Moseby wasn’t a remarkable character in any way, but that worked in Hackman’s favor, I think. He’s a private investigator with a knack for solving crimes, and this case tests him like no other one has. Nice supporting ensemble with some standouts: Jennifer Warren as a mysterious woman who Harry falls for (and sounds exactly like Jane Fonda), Janet Ward as a boozy socialite, Melanie Griffith in her first credited film role, Harris Yulin as a love interest of Harry’s cheating wife, and James Woods as a weaselly mechanic. Arthur Penn’s direction was excellent throughout. Hackman looked so sleazy here, and I loved that aesthetic choice for him. Alan Sharp’s script was all over the place, with tenuous connections between characters, convenient plotting, and an ambiguous ending that didn’t fully work. Hackman made the journey worthwhile regardless.August 15, 2021 at 5:39 pm #1204398361
Recently had a Michelle Pfeiffer-thon with three films: “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989), “Love Field” (1992), and “White Oleander” (2002). I’d never seen “The Fabulous Baker Boys” before, but was more curious about the Bridges bros pairing than anything else. I’m somewhat surprised that Jeff Bridges didn’t gain any traction for his performance, since it was the most interesting to me. Pfeiffer was many things here: sultry, alluring, sarcastic, and more, but I totally get how Jessica Tandy could swoop in at the last minute to win the Oscar instead of her. She’s definitely the lead female, but sometimes her character lost focus and vital screentime, coupled with the whole comedic/dramatic divide that almost always sinks nominees like this. The ending also fizzled, which was disappointing. “Love Field” was as rote an Oscar-bait vehicle as I’ve seen in a long time, and not nearly one of my favorite Pfeiffer performances. “Batman Returns” was right there instead that year! Sigh. A bad, bleached-blonde Jackie O wig did most of the work for her, but I didn’t respond much to the push-and-pull story of a beleaguered Dallas housewife making her way to JFK’s funeral in D.C. with a black man and his daughter running from suspicious circumstances. Dennis Haysbert also deserved far more than what he was given, saddled with this sort of nothing role years later in “Far From Heaven” that served him about the same. Surprisingly, the best of the three performances came from the worst film, “White Oleander.” Lived for Pfeiffer’s ice queen sociopath Ingrid Magnussen! Her scenes were easily the highlights of this otherwise middling venture, although Robin Wright and Renée Zellweger both delivered well in their respective sections. Alison Lohman’s horrible acting almost derailed the film entirely, so it’s to Pfeiffer’s credit that despite an obstacle of that high magnitude, she delivered so beautifully and memorably. I won’t begrudge Queen Latifah her sole (and likely only) Oscar nomination, but Pfeiffer replacing either her or Kathy Bates (who has nods to spare and a win) would have been fine with me. Nice exploring these films all the same and filling in some overdue gaps in Pfeiffer’s filmography.October 1, 2021 at 10:30 am #1204496396
“Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992): David Mamet’s words plus the all-star casting makes this film a must-see, though James Foley’s direction is pretty uninspired. I’m not overly concerned about “opening up a play” once it’s adapted to the big-screen, but I need something visually to work with, at least. The depressed real-estate office settings, the Chinese restaurant across the street used to schmooze potential clients, and the constant rain did create an ominous environment where the worst always felt possible. Al Pacino got the dual Oscar nominations in his winning year in lead actor. Fine performance, but nothing revelatory like I was expecting or hoping from him. The real standout here is Jack Lemmon. This would have been a much-deserved final Oscar nomination in one of the best career roles he’s ever had. Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Pryce, and Kevin Spacey (sigh) all had standout moments. I’ll pay special attention to Alec Baldwin’s now-infamous “Always Be Closing” sequence, which was even more thrilling to watch in context than the isolated footage I’ve seen on YouTube and the “SNL” parodies. As far as one-scenes go, he absolutely nailed it. Maybe not enough for an Oscar nomination, particularly in comparison with what he would eventually be nominated for with “The Cooler.” Regardless, I was invested in the trajectory of the story from beginning to end. This might be my first Mamet experience. His dialogue is a journey, for sure, but I can see how influential he’s been to future playwrights and screenwriters.October 1, 2021 at 3:34 pm #1204497169
Rewatched “Network” the other night. I had forgotten how FUNNY the movie is! One funny line after another!
I love the friendship between Max and Howard. I forgot how endearing they are together.
Beatrice Straight is only in two scenes and has no dialogue in the first (perhaps just a short line or two? During the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking it anymore!” with all the people screaming out their windows and on their balconies). The second scene was her Oscar-winning scene, where she lets Max have it for his philandering and not appreciating her 25 years of loyalty. I think it’s the shortest amount of screen time ever to win an Oscar.
Peter Finch thoroughly deserved his posthumous Oscar for his Howard Beale. Funny, sad, dramatic, passionate – he has all the colors in his performance.
While I preferred Liv Ullmann in Face to Face and Sissy Spacek in Carrie I can see why Faye Dunaway won her Oscar for this film. She plays an unlikeable character but with flair and style and she’s very funny too.
Paddy Chayefsky’s script was ahead of its time. It was a prophecy of the dumbing down of the news, the manufacturing of consent, and the celebrity oriented news that harms us to this day. Conglomerates taking over our minds with constant chatter and constant misinformation and disinformation.
Sidney Lumet’s direction is his best work in his long career. The editing, sets, the feel for the mid-1970’s all adds up magnificently.
Network ought to have won Best Picture of 1976 rather than the more popular feel-goody Rocky. Grade: A.October 5, 2021 at 10:14 pm #1204504715
“Testament” (1983): Fairly obscure film from the 80s with an Oscar-nominated performance from Jane Alexander, who was stellar in it. This was Shirley MacLaine’s time for “Terms of Endearment,” so no one was beating her, but Alexander was riveting regardless. It’s the story of an all-American family’s life completely upended by a nuclear attack. All kinds of modern-day relevance, since so many COVID-19 parallels are found here: the devolving of social norms, the food lines, the vulnerability of children’s lives, etc. It was difficult to watch in that regard, though at the time, a long stretch of nuclear armament/escalation films were being released: “The China Syndrome” (1979), “Memoirs of a Survivor” (1981), “Silkwood” (1983), “The Day After” (1983), “The Manhattan Project” (1986), “Ground Zero” (1987), and more on both film and television. It’s a credit to Lynne Littman’s direction that for a film originally set as a television movie with low production values, the dramatic heft was never lost. Paramount saw the final cut and though it was good enough to be a feature film. The actors later sued Paramount for being paid television salaries and not film salaries, with the case being settled out of court. I’m lowkey surprised that decision was made. This was no box office hit and probably would have been better served on television where it could have won multiple Emmys and found a wider audience. The content so bleak with no punches pulled. We never find out the origin of the nuclear attack. A lesser film might have had all of the core family survive somehow, but not this one! The radiation poisoning takes out just about everyone. Characters you expect to return never do. The poor children never had a chance. Some notable supporting cast: Rebecca DeMornay, Kevin Costner (in one of his first roles), Lilia Skala, Lukas Haas (his debut), and especially William Devane. Not sure I would nominate Devane, but he was far more impactful than John Lithgow was that year. Him getting in over Jeff Daniels is baffling to this day. This film more than holds up, so seek it out and watch ASAP, particularly for Jane Alexander.November 11, 2021 at 2:01 pm #1204572393
“Resurrection” (1980): Another little-remembered and bygone film of the 80s, but featuring two notable, Oscar-nominated performances in it. One was from Ellen Burstyn, taking center stage as a recent widow experiencing strange powers post-accident and grappling with that reality in heartland America. The other is Eva Le Gallienne, a British Broadway legend who was so convincing as Burstyn’s grandmother that one would think she was born and raised in the backwoods of Kansas. She really should have won the Oscar for this role. No one was beating Sissy Spacek that year in lead actress, but Mary Steenburgen was utterly laughable in comparison to Le Gallienne. The film’s dated special effects were distracting, and no credible reason was given for Burstyn’s character having her healing powers. Edna was in a happy marriage, escaped her abusive farmer father, and lived a respectable life in the big city until the car accident left her paralyzed and in need of her family’s help again. Lots of “faith vs. science” clap-trapping soon follow. Three supporting men gave the film some added dimensions in stretches. Roberts Blossom played Edna’s stern father. Sam Shepard was Cal, the resident bad-boy agnostic and son to the town’s fire-and-brimstone preacher. The moment Cal entered the film on his motorcycle with his long hair a’flowin’, you knew that Edna would be in his bed sooner or later. Lastly was the great Richard Farnsworth as Esco, a mystical gas station attendant who’s pivotal to the film’s abrupt ending. Jeffrey DeMunn and Lois Smith also appeared briefly in minor roles. It’s really up to Le Gallienne as salt-of-the-earth Grandma Pearl to salvage the film and bring its messaging home of love above all else winning out, even over science and reason. Burstyn was fine, but it’s one of her lesser roles. Seek the film out for Le Gallienne’s standout work instead.November 20, 2021 at 10:25 pm #1204591621
“Testament” (1983): Fairly obscure film from the 80s with an Oscar-nominated performance from Jane Alexander, who was stellar in it. This was Shirley MacLaine’s time for “Terms of Endearment,” so no one was beating her, but Alexander was riveting regardless. It’s the story of an all-American family’s life completely upended by a nuclear attack. All kinds of modern-day relevance, since so many COVID-19 parallels are found here: the devolving of social norms, the food lines, the vulnerability of children’s lives, etc. It was difficult to watch in that regard, though at the time, a long stretch of nuclear armament/escalation films were being released: “The China Syndrome” (1979), “Memoirs of a Survivor” (1981), “Silkwood” (1983), “The Day After” (1983), “The Manhattan Project” (1986), “Ground Zero” (1987), and more on both film and television. It’s a credit to Lynne Littman’s direction that for a film originally set as a television movie with low production values, the dramatic heft was never lost. Paramount saw the final cut and though it was good enough to be a feature film. The actors later sued Paramount for being paid television salaries and not film salaries, with the case being settled out of court. I’m lowkey surprised that decision was made. This was no box office hit and probably would have been better served on television where it could have won multiple Emmys and found a wider audience. The content so bleak with no punches pulled. We never find out the origin of the nuclear attack. A lesser film might have had all of the core family survive somehow, but not this one! The radiation poisoning takes out just about everyone. Characters you expect to return never do. The poor children never had a chance. Some notable supporting cast: Rebecca DeMornay, Kevin Costner (in one of his first roles), Lilia Skala, Lukas Haas (his debut), and especially William Devane. Not sure I would nominate Devane, but he was far more impactful than John Lithgow was that year. Him getting in over Jeff Daniels is baffling to this day. This film more than holds up, so seek it out and watch ASAP, particularly for Jane Alexander.
Lithgow’s nomination was thought to really be for Twilight Zone-The Movie. Because of the deaths and lawsuits on that film and its genre they went for him in Terms though instead. Plus he had been nominated the year before so he was on their minds. Charles Durning getting in again is also odd. It was pre-screeners being sent out. People voted for who they had heard of….but yeah Jeff Daniels was better in Terms than Lithgow.December 4, 2021 at 3:25 pm #1204626737
“All That Jazz” (1979): I wasn’t prepared for the spectacle and experience of this film, but it’s surely something to remember and ponder over. It leaves a lot to chew on, let’s say. Roy Scheider was superb here in one of the best performances I’ve seen him give as Joe Gideon. I can’t imagine the pressure he was under to deliver, considering that it’s a re-imagining of Bob Fosse’s excessive lifestyle of boozing and womanizing with the director being Bob Fosse. Many actors of the era either tried out or were considered for the lead role: Alan Bates, Warren Beatty, Richard Dreyfuss, Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Jon Voight, etc. I’ve been in a theater mindset of sorts lately with Stephen Sondheim’s recent passing, and since I’ve always wanted to see the film but never quite wanting to delve into it before now, I thought this was the best time to just go for it. The supporting cast is notable for many reasons. Ann Reinking was Bob Fosse’s former love interest (one of so many of Fosse’s conquests), having to audition several times to play the role she’s based on in real-life! Two actresses, Leland Palmer and Erzsebet Foldi, played Joe’s estranged wife (based on Broadway legend Gwen Verdon) and daughter, strangely both quit acting forever after being in this film. One migrated to Israel, and the other became a born-again Christian. Jessica Lange’s role was completely baffling, but I read that Angelique (or “the Angel of Death”) was based on one of Fosse’s ex-wives and major influences. Ben Vereen played this bizarre variety-show host of sorts who’s a major factor in the film’s outlandish musical ending. Fosse’s real-life daughter Nicole had a cameo as a dancer. Many of these characters are based on notable Broadway figures of the time in a “who’s who” sort of sense, like John Lithgow playing a rival of Gideon’s (Michael Bennett was a noted rival of Bob Fosse). It’s too much to try to write about, but fascinating all the same. I think the film’s best aspects were the dance sequences and unique, Oscar-winning editing from Alan Heim. There’s a famous “Airotica” dance routine that has to be seen to be believed. I imagine it was quite groundbreaking for its time. The cross-cutting from real-life to fantasy was trying in stretches, but that feeling of disorientation served its purposes, I guess. There’s a character that mocks Dustin Hoffman in his “Lenny” era, when Fosse was in the process of working on “Lenny” and staging “Chicago” on Broadway. It’s a full-circle moment really in this particular Oscar year where Scheider loses the Oscar to Hoffman for “Kramer vs. Kramer” lol. This was an odd viewing and certainly not all of it worked, but when it did, I was floored.December 15, 2021 at 1:50 pm #1204658400
“River’s Edge” (1987): In honor of the recent Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations, I decided to watch one of its earliest winners for Best Feature, and also one that didn’t translate to any Oscar nominations. Directed by Tim Hunter, who seems to only work in television now, this is quite the unforgettable entry in the “nihilistic youths” subgenre. A group of disaffected “teens” who smoke, drink, and barely go to school, find themselves in a situation where one of the friends has inexplicably killed his girlfriend (also a member of this social circle), left her body by “river’s edge,” and shows no remorse for it. The other friends see her dead body and have differing reactions. What if it was me instead? Should I ignore what’s happened? Do I call the police? How cool is this? This was one of Keanu Reeves’s early films, as well as Ione Skye’s feature debut. The scene-stealers here are Crispin Glover, who plays the friend who wants to cover up the murder; Daniel Roebuck, the murderer and likely rapist; and Dennis Hopper, a veteran amputee and town drug dealer who provides a safe haven for the criminals. Glover veered on the edge of Razzie-level, but you can’t take your eyes off of him, and his scenes with Hopper were the film’s highlights. Keanu rarely ever makes a good impression on me, but his blank-stare form of acting worked well with a story like this. The parents don’t care, the kids aren’t alright, and then the film just ends. It shouldn’t all work out, but it surprisingly does. The film was inspired by the real-life killing of Marcy Conrad by her boyfriend, Anthony Jacques Broussard, in Milpitas, California, in 1981.January 2, 2022 at 12:21 pm #1204692807
“Children of a Lesser God” (1986): Decided to watch this last night on TCM since I hadn’t seen it all the way through. It holds up very well, even though it’s clearly a product of the 80s. Randa Haines was the first woman to direct a best picture nominee, which is wild. I thought surely “Seven Beauties” had been nominated there with a historic directing nomination, but it wasn’t. This was an explosive debut acting performance from Marlee Matlin. She shows no hints of being a novice here, and her chemistry with William Hurt was superb. I’ll say that the use of sign language and perspective was interesting and somewhat troubling. The film is pretty much told through Hurt’s perspective, which isn’t completely surprising with a man writing the source material and co-writing the adaptation. A deaf person might have had a hard time with a film that’s clearly made for the hearing. Matlin speeds through her signing, and Hurt conveniently translates what she says to the audience, sometimes with his back turned to camera. (James cheekily says at one point that “he must like hearing the sound of his own voice.”) There are no subtitles, so if you’re not an expert at ASL or a lip reader, it might have been a rough viewing experience. Some more of Sarah’s interiority would have been nice to see. We get some of that between Sarah and her mother (a thankless and brief role for Piper Laurie, but both lead and supporting actress were slim pickings that year), but other than that, Sarah is an obstacle that James tirelessly tries to “fix.” The reality is that for some deaf people, speaking isn’t always the solution! The ending sort of reaches this middle ground where “silence and speaking meet,” which felt facile, but fine, I guess. This pairing is also tainted by Matlin’s recent revelations of physical abuse from Hurt in their real-life relationship. Regardless, it’s notable for its casting of deaf/hard of hearing actors, and will always be historic for Matlin’s Oscar win in multiple ways.January 21, 2022 at 3:43 pm #1204742741
“Gloria” (1980): First Cassavetes film, so I was excited to finally see one of his collaborations with his wife, Gena Rowlands. It’s definitely a product of its time, and in the opening sequences, there are shots of famous NYC landmarks, including Yankee Stadium, the Statue of Liberty, and the Twin Towers (which made me sad). It’s more of an action genre film than I was expecting. Cassavetes wrote this initially just to quickly sell it off. After Barbra Streisand turned down the lead role, it was then offered to Gena Rowlands, with Columbia Pictures insisting that Cassavetes direct it. The plot starts easily enough with a Puerto Rican woman (Julie Carmen) buying groceries and going to her apartment. She senses that she’s being surveilled, and soon we find out that her white husband (Buck Henry) works as a mob accountant who’s turned state’s evidence. Hitmen are after him and an incriminating ledger that he possesses. The woman’s neighbor and friend, Gloria, is asked to take their youngest son with her. She’s a former moll and quick to her feet. The mobsters kill the rest of the family, and then we’re off! Rowlands is the reason to watch this otherwise middling film. Gloria has such a swagger to her that’s incredible to watch, and Rowlands specifically wanted to give this character an unmistakable walk and presence, like this woman’s been somewhere and has experienced much in her life. The child actor, Juan Adames, only has this sole acting credit to his name. It was one of the worst child actor performances I’ve seen, possibly ever. So stilted and unnatural throughout that it almost ruined the film for me. He was discovered by the casting director’s sister. Her brother was searching for a child actor to play Phil. She knew of Adames and thought he would be perfect for the role, went to his school, and asked him to audition. The ending is also overly sentimental and verging on nonsensical and implausible. I’d only recommend this film for Rowlands, who was Oscar-nominated for the second time in Best Actress for her performance.January 22, 2022 at 3:08 pm #1204744115
“Looking for Mr. Goodbar” (1977): Lurid, puzzling, and moralistic, but quite the journey for what it was, I guess. Diane Keaton was pretty fearless, and many say that the stark contrast between this performance and “Annie Hall” in the same year helped secure her Oscar win. In some stretches, I didn’t fully believe her Theresa, like it reeked of “I’m a badddd girl!” theatrics that muddled the film’s messaging. Keaton couldn’t completely sell those moments for me, but the rest of her work I found quite moving, especially the interactions with the young actors. The double standards are so present here, like would anyone bat an eye at a man having a “double life” of work and sex? Absolutely not. It would have been viewed as entirely common and normal. I mostly blame the haphazard direction from Richard Brooks, but this was the go-to aesthetic of that era. Keaton’s delivered excellent dramatic performances in her career before and after this film, like “The Godfather,” “Interiors,” and “Marvin’s Room.” I’m not sure I’d put this one in that company. Based on Judith Rossner’s novel of the real-life murder of Roseann Quinn, the film delves into the dual-life of Theresa Dunn–a caring teacher of deaf kids by day, and a promiscuous, bar-hopping thrill-seeker by night. This was ironically the debut (or early work) of Richard Gere, Brian Dennehy, LeVar Burton, William Atherton, and Tom Berenger. Gere in particular was a standout as Tony, one of Theresa’s many conquests who becomes one of her stalkers. Berenger plays a repressed homosexual who ends up being Theresa’s fatal last encounter. So much Catholic moralizing from her shitty father (Richard Kiley) follows throughout due to a birth defect, and bizarre fantasy sequences play too close to real-life. Tuesday Weld is Theresa’s older sister, who’s cosmopolitan, a married swinger, and has had multiple abortions. Weld received the sole acting Oscar nomination in supporting actress for doing next to nothing, but the field was very bleak that year. There’s so little to get out of this film, and even Rossner is said to have “detested” the adaptation. Quinn’s murder case inspired multiple movies, television, music, podcasts, and both fiction and nonfiction works.January 25, 2022 at 2:44 pm #1204748847
“Carrie” (1976): I’d only seen the awful 2013 remake with Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, where the only redeeming thing I can say about it is that Moretz was actually a teenager at the time of filming. Otherwise, burn it. The original lived up to pretty much all the expectations I’ve built up all of these years. The prom scene is even more iconic that I imagined. The low-budget, sleazy aesthetics served the story very well. I think it’s one of Brian De Palma’s most effective directing efforts. I haven’t read Stephen King’s novel, but I have read that King is said to have loved this particular adaptation, and he even liked this changed ending better than what he came up with. Sissy Spacek was both memorable and haunting as Carrie. I loved that no explanation or backstory was given for her telekinesis, only that it was manifesting itself in the current narrative due to her mother’s religious extremism. It routinely takes me out of things when actors approaching thirty are playing teenagers, plus Spacek didn’t nearly match the description of Carrie’s mousy physical appearance in the book. It’s interesting how Spacek almost stumbled into the lead role. De Palma was about to pick Amy Irving for the lead role, but Jack Fisk (Spacek’s husband and production designer for the film) thought she would be great for the part instead and was already a PA there. Spacek was about to audition for a commercial and decided to try out for this role instead, and the rest is history lol. Pinnacle Piper Laurie performance and one of the best supporting actress turns I’ve ever seen. No moment of screentime was wasted as Margaret White, and every word counted volumes. Her ecstatic death scene was absolutely stunning to watch unfold! Laurie hadn’t acted in film in over a decade prior to this, but was convinced to return to film at De Palma’s request. It must have stung a bit for such a juicy role like hers to lose the Oscar to Beatrice Straight’s five minutes of screentime. Nothing against Straight, as “Network” is one of my all-time favorites, but Foster, Laurie, and even Alexander (haven’t seen Grant) had more substantial roles than Straight. But as they say, there are no small parts, just small actors. Betty Buckley was excellent in her first screen role as the one teacher who showed Carrie kindness (good that did her lmao). John Travolta was still doing his Vinnie Barbarino in “Welcome Back, Kotter” at this stage. Nancy Allen would later become De Palma’s wife, and close friend Spielberg was introduced to Irving on the set who would later become his wife, etc. Anyways, I’m thrilled that I finally was able to watch this classic.Not now
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.