Forum Replies Created
August 6, 2020 at 11:20 pm #1203631772
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
A surprising departure into the psychological horror genre for Ingmar Bergman, and yet unmistakably (characteristically, stylistically, thematically) a Bergman film. I love the surreal and creepy party scenes, which are like Fellini, and maybe also Polanski, all circa 1968, on drugs.
Grade: A+August 2, 2020 at 2:22 am #1203621674
Director Stanley Kubrick excelled in so many different film genres, including this swords-and-sandals but tragic and heartbreaking recounting of the historic slave revolt in ancient Rome led by Spartacus. Kubrick’s direction is epic and awesome, but also at times intimate and scathingly caustic such as the scene when four rich, decadent Romans arrive at a training camp for slave gladiators and arrange for a private showing of a fight to the death. A worthy recipient for best drama at the Golden Globes and winner of four Oscars including supporting actor (Peter Ustinov, always a delight), cinematography (Russell Metty, who also photographed such gems as Touch of Evil and Imitation of Life), art direction and costume design. It is nevertheless an injustice that the Academy did not nominate Spartacus for best picture. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was also not nominated (except by the Writers Guild of America), but it is superb. The new 4K release is a revelation and deserves the highest recommendation.
Grade: A+July 25, 2020 at 3:20 am #1203601496
It Chapter Two (2019)
Although based on characters created by (and featuring a cameo appearance by) Stephen King, this sequel to It (2017) often seems like a parody of a Stephen King story. Or maybe just a cynical attempt to mine that sweet It franchise gold one more time. At the very least, this film should be condemned for making some well-known movie stars (who should know better) act like stereotyped stupid teenagers in any old cheap horror movie. Strangely, it begins with a brutal gay bashing and the nearly three-hour slog rambles on from there, resorting to stupefying CGI effects to distract you from thinking about all the waste. Is it really the final chapter? One can only hope.
Grade: D-July 23, 2020 at 2:12 am #1203597050
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Based on a true story of three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964, this powerful and harrowing film still resonates decades later with the Republican party running a presidential campaign on a platform of white grievance, white supremacy and appeals to racism. The film received seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Gene Hackman in a memorable performance) and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography.
Grade: A-July 18, 2020 at 3:26 am #1203590182
War of the Worlds (1953)
Wonderful special effects like the destruction of Los Angeles makes this film a delight for children, but the surrounding 1950’s sci-fi movie clichés make it a slog for adults. The hero is a scientist, which is weird because unlike scientists today he is treated so deferentially, even though in typical boy finds girl, boy loses girl, etc., fashion, what the hero only really wants is to get the girl back. Scenes of wartime destruction culminate in the Americans using the atomic bomb against an implacable invading alien foe, but don’t worry — the fallout is harmless and all guilt is assuaged. The movie ends tidily and with finality in a church scene where all the pious [white] folks are saved.
War of the Worlds (2005)
The newer version of this tale exchanges 1950’s piety for Spielberg sentimentality, a star vehicle for Tom Cruise who in every single film he has ever made has never seemed like anything other than Tom Cruise playing a character, here an irresponsible dad who is called upon to save his children from an alien invasion. The special effects are updated and sometimes thrilling, but sometimes just as hokey as the 1953 version. The movie ends on an unresolved note, with the nuclear family reunited, but still broken.July 15, 2020 at 1:38 am #1203586030
The Goldfinch (2019)
Apparently a bomb (no pun intended) with critics and audiences alike, but not having read the novel by Donna Tartt, I am assured by many that the book was so much better. Well, that is usually the case. On the positive side, the film features some interesting casting and performances, but mostly I am always grateful for any chance to watch Roger Deakins’ cinematography. (Unfortunately, plans for a 4K home video release were scrapped by the film distributor; fortunately, Deakins won the Oscar for another movie the same year, the WWI war movie 1917.) Anyway, it is very difficult to pull off a movie adaptation of a novel of Dickensian proportions like Tartt’s book, unless perhaps you are David Lean.
Grade: BJuly 7, 2020 at 12:50 am #1203571573
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
A French-language sensual and romantic costume drama about two women who have a brief affair in a remote chateau by the sea in northern France in the late 1700s, so in accordance with the reality of the setting, [SPOILER ALERT] there is no happily-ever-after ending, but instead a deeply felt and moving one. The film has many scenes of an artist trying to capture the essence of her model in an oil painting on canvas so one of the themes is looking and being looked at. The cinematography and lighting are overall exceptional and a few frames even transcendental. One of the best movies of 2019. Grade: AJune 28, 2020 at 11:43 am #1203555860
Stephen King is said to have disliked this movie adaptation of his novel, but for me it is the best of all movies based on his books. For one thing, Kubrick’s film satisfies dramatically and simply by ascribing to the Aristotelian (classical) unities of time, place and action. For another, Kubrick’s use of steadicam was revolutionary; the cinematography by the great John Alcott is just jaw-dropping. The editing slowly and steadily builds nerve-wracking suspense until the chilling climax, with unforgettable sets and music (including by Wendy Carlos). Lastly, Jack Nicholson delivers a legendary performance. The Shining is an enigmatic cinematic classic that holds up to repeated viewings; I like and enjoy the film more and more each time I watch it.
The purpose of this movie (also based on one of King’s books) is to answer the question of what ever happened to Danny Torrance, the boy protagonist from The Shining. Doctor Sleep recycles much of the iconic imagery from The Shining, but to lesser effect, and needlessly endeavors to provide an explanation as to why Danny’s father tried to kill his family. Rose the Hat and her clan of soul-sucking child-killers make for memorable and worthy adversaries, but the ending of the movie seems unimaginatively tacked on and too cute by half.
Grade: BJune 22, 2020 at 2:14 am #1203545629
Watchmen (TV mini-series, 2019)
Anyone who has seen the first episode of this series will now be able to understand all of Trump’s “dog whistles” about Tulsa, specifically the racist history of Tulsa, to which Trump approvingly alludes to as “our heritage.” As to the series itself, I cannot say that I appreciate all the updates the series creators made to the original Watchmen graphic novel and movie, but such mixed feelings are of course what the original always engendered, so this update is admittedly true to its origins. Having not watched the entire season, I am unable to rate it, but I am in awe of how prescient (metaphorically, or zeitgeist-wise) Watchmen is. Does life imitate art?June 20, 2020 at 11:48 pm #1203544254
The Arrival (2016)
Without doubt, Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors working today, but for me, The Arrival, one of the very best sci-fi films in years, decades even, is his only film (to date) that I truly love, more than just admire, featuring great special effects, superb cinematography, film editing and sound editing (which won an Oscar), and a memorable performance by Amy Adams. I also love the music by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose untimely death was a great loss to the art of film scoring. I also recommend The Arrival as a great double feature with Contact (1997), which explores similar themes.
Grade: AJune 15, 2020 at 5:07 pm #1203535270
The Fifth Element
This film holds up to multiple viewings, although I find it way too cartoonish and silly to be taken seriously as sci-fi, and star Bruce Willis has all the charisma of a wet rag. But the film is worth watching for the fabulous costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and for the (way too short) performance by the fantastic character Diva Plavalaguna.
Grade: B+May 15, 2020 at 12:17 am #1203482365
Joaquin Phoenix undisputedly deserved the Oscar for his performance, but otherwise I hated this ugly schizo movie (dominant hue: feces brown and mucus green), which goes to great lengths to exploit our sympathy by presenting Joker as the mentally scarred victim of criminal child abuse and of a cruelly indifferent society while rubbing our noses in his shockingly violent acts of retribution. Grade: C
The film that should have won Best Picture, with breathtaking cinematography by the great Roger Deakins. Grade: A+March 28, 2020 at 11:06 am #1203398427
Entertaining, but too cute by half. Grade: B
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Brad Pitt won an Oscar for this? Hardly his best performance, or even his best performance last year (which would be “Looking for Daddy” — sorry, I meant Ad Astra). Grade: B-
Another creepy tale of olde New England by Robert Eggers (a follow-up to his stunning horror tale The Witch, this one oddly, vaguely but creepily (of course) homoerotic, playing off Robert Pattinson’s pretty boy good looks. I take it no animals were harmed during the production, but viewers are forewarned. Grade: B+February 27, 2020 at 1:20 pm #1203362940
Color Out of Space (2019)
I am a huge fan of Lovecraft’s horror stories so I really wanted to like this film, which has a number of astonishingly beautiful images and sequences (the 4K transfer is amazing), but is ruined by reverting to cheap and idiotic horror movie clichés and some very bad acting (e.g., Nicolas Cage). A waste of great material. Grade: D+February 2, 2020 at 2:07 pm #1203326368
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Probably not destined for “classic” status like the 1964 original, but better than you might have predicted for a sequel. Great casting, art, sets, costumes, etc. Love the Music Hall sequence, which combines live action with animation. Grade: B+