My Week of Films (October 6-October 12)

Big week of movies as I made my way through a few films deemed “the best of the 21st century” by BBC. I also rewatched a couple of classic Hollywood musicals and my favorite film by my favorite filmmaker, Miyazaki.

Under the Skin   85% on Rotten Tomatoes                  7 (DVD)

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Starring Scarlett Johanssen
Plot Summary-An unexlained alien figure posseses the form of an alluring woman in order to seduce and consume men in modern Scotland.
My Take- Provacative,engaging work that mixes spontaneous guerilla filmmaking with insane, and yet beautiful abstract sequences. Heavily thematic, I’m at odds to pin down just what the film was saying. I do think, like with its characters, it’s what’s underneath that counts. The soundtrack/score is an instant classic.
-Directed by Jonathan Glazer, 2013
Dodsworth     88% on Rotten Tomatoes            10 (Filmstruck)
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Starring Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor, Paul Lukas
Plot Summary- A middle aged married couple travel through Europe for a late honeymoon, only to find themselves drifting apart. Sam (Huston) misses his work, and Fran misses her youth.
My Take-Well-written and romantic classic. Huston is completely natural and note perfect in the title role. His late season romance with Mary Astor is one of my film favorites. Director Wyler was famous for his excruciating attention to detail, and it shows through in every scene.
-Directed by William Wyler, 1936
Spirited Away    97% on Rotten Tomatoes              10 (DVD)
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Voices of Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Susan Egen
Plot Summary-A bratty preteen, Chihiro, moving with her family to a new home gets sidetracked by an apparent abandoned theme park. Stumbling into a world of spirits and witches and talking frogs, Chihiro fights to return home and save her parents.
My Take-Awe inspiring. One of the best films ever made. A beautiful work of popular art made my a master in Hayao Miyazaki. Each frame is staggering, and I love the characters in the film. Chihiro, at first fairly whiney, quickly becomes a memorable, tough protagonist, and I love that even the scariest of supporting characters can become a friend in Miyazaki’s world. The work of Disney to create solid dubbing for this film is also admirably done.
-Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2001
The Grand Budapest Hotel   92% on Rotten Tomatoes         7 (DVD)
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Starring Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Tony Revelori, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton
Plot Summary-An elaborate, multi-frame story unfolds this story of Monsieur Gustave H. (Fiennes), manager of a luxurious and remote hotel in the made-up land of Zubrowka. Along with him for every adventure is the faithful lobby boy Zero Moustafa, who loves and admires his boss.
My Take- The aspects of Wes Anderson’s work that I enjoy are in full display here. He is an extraordinary craftsmen, and an eccentric. The camera movement and mise-en-scene are exceptional. Ralph Fiennes, as he has demonstrated in other films, is very funny. Gustave H. is a wonderful character. Unlike my feelings about earlier films in Anderson’s filmography, this one seems more substantial. The relationship between Gustave H. and Zero is genuinely touching, and so is its wistful tone.
-Directed by Wes Anderson, 2014
Silk Stockings    100% on Rotten Tomatoes                 7 (Youtube)
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Starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre
Plot Summary-Adaptation of an earlier Hollywood drama, Ninotchka, starring Greta Garbo. Charisse stars as a Russian agent at the height of the Cold War sent to Paris to retrieve 4 Russian men who have fallen for the French way of life. Astaire plays an American director responsible for tempting the men in order to produce his new movie. He now sets his sights on Charisse.
My Take-Smart, gently satirical film. The highlight in this musical is Charisse who gets the best role of her career and is completely wonderful. Her and Astaire’s dance numbers are remarkable (with Charisse’s title number being the stand out), while the music is solid but underwhelming.
-Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, 1957
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers    88% on Rotten Tomatoes         9 (VHS)
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Starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Russ Tamblyn
Plot Summary-Willful, handsome Adam Pontipee goes to town and brings home a wife, Milly, in 19th century Oregon Territory. She meets his six rowdy, uncouth brothers, all single, all longing for brides. Later on, after bad advice from their older brother, they go to town themselves, and abduct six local beauties.
My Take-Taking the rape of the sabine women as the basis for a Hollywood musical seems a crazy venture, but this is a fantastic musical. Every song is lovely, and the premise makes for funny social satire.
-Directed by Stanley Donen, 1954
-Walter Howard-

 

Predicting a James Cameron Failure: The Avatar Sequels

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       Four new Avatar films set in that video game looking world created by James Francis Cameron. Who asked for this? Let me preface, before I explain, since there is some respect due. For all that is said about him, James Cameron just seems to make one enormous hit after another. He gambles wildly with production costs (his upcoming Avatar sequels are said to have a budget of $1 billion), critics cry out that his upcoming film will end his career, and then it’s released to record box office numbers all over the world. He deserves credit for Terminator 2 and Titanic and Avatar, all trailblazing blockbuster films that pushed special effects forward and influenced a decades worth of films thereafter. All this to say, I’d like to go on record, right now, declaring that these upcoming Avatar sequels (four of them to be exact) will fail spectacularly. Gradually at first, right before they fall off the cliff. The first Avatar, which was Pocahontas with aliens, or Dance with Wolves with aliens, or The Last Samurai with aliens (the point being that its plot device has been done to death), was a mediocre entertainment that some how hit the jackpot on timing and…I don’t know what else. I guess just timing. Cameron’s ideas on 3-D technology seemed like the next great innovation, but, like his film which championed it, has drifted into its place as a barely remembered zeitgeist moment. A fad. A moment in history. Hey, remember when the 3-D scam was a big thing? Hey, remember when Avatar was the biggest movie in the world? It made what can round up to 3 billion dollars. And yet has it pervaded pop culture the way, say Star Wars (the benchmark) has, or Game of Thrones in television? I haven’t seen it. I can’t recall hearing one person talking about Avatar in the 8 years since its release. Maybe once with someone confusing it with The Last Airbender, that M. Night Shyamalan film made during his travesty period. How many characters from Avatar can you name? It’s not on the level of Star Wars or other big movie franchises, so the question becomes, does it need to be in order to make the amount of money its budget demands? I predict a severe if not fatal drop off from film 1 to film 2, and then an all out box office bomb for film 3. As it stands now, Avatar 2 comes out in 2020, and Avatar 3 comes out 2021. Eleven years between first and second film. We’ve moved on.

My Week of Films (September 30-October 5)

Excellent week, mixing in old favorites with multiple trips to the theater (seeing American Made and Blade Runner 2049).

Rio Bravo 100% on Rotten Tomatoes                      9 (BLU-RAY)

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Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson, Ricky Nelson

Plot Summary-After arresting a wealthy and corrupt man’s brother, Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) must hold his small town prison off from a horde of deadly mercenaries. The only help he has are his two deputies, the self-destructive Dude (Martin), and the lame Stumpy (Brennan).

My Take-Classic western, one of the last and best of the old Hollywood style, coming right before the genre would be redefined by Italians and Sam Pechinpah. Centered more on characters and dialogue than most westerns, Rio Bravo is a terrific entertainment, kind of a boy’s fantasy. Hanging out with friends. Facing off against villains. Romancing a beautiful woman.

-Directed by Howard Hawks, 1959

Aladdin 94% on Rotten Tomatoes                        8 (VHS)

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Voices of Robin Williams, Gilbert Goddfried, Scott Weinger
Voices of Robin Williams, Gilbert Goddfried, Scott Weinger
Plot Summary-A common street thief, Aladdin, gets caught in the evil schemes of a
power-hungry Vizier. This leads him to a magic lamp holding an all-powerful, wish-
granting genie (voiced by Robin Williams), which Aladdin uses to make himself into
a possible suitor for Princess Jasmine.
My Take-Not much in terms of substance, but easily one of the most entertaining
films in Disney’s canon. Williams’ Genie steals the show, and the songs are extremely
catchy.
-Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992
Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book     79% on Rotten Tomatoes             8 (VHS)
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Starring Jason Scott Lee, Sam Niel, Lena Headey, Cary Elwes, John Cleese
Plot Summary-Loosely inspired by Kipling’s stories, here, a grown Mowgli, raised by wolves, reunites with a childhood friend, and attempts to find his way in society (one  formed by an imperialist culture).
My Take-Superb action adventure fantasy. Several exciting and terrifying sequences including runs from tigers and baddies being buried alive. Lee does a credible job of selling the fish out of water aspect to his character. There have been several excellent adaptations of The Jungle Book, and this is definitely one of them.
-Directed by Stephen Sommers, 1994
Beautiful Creatures   46% on Rotten Tomatoes                  5 (Netflix)
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Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum
Plot Summary-A teenage boy in a hick town dreams of getting away. Soon he falls fort the weird new girl, and discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, or “casters.” The family disapproves, and a more serious plot involving an evil caster surfaces.
My Take- Lame, if not completely terrible, teen romance. The acting is uniformly good. Ehrenreich, set to star in the Han Solo spinoff, shines here, and will likely go on to much better things. The story is rife with cliches, and the portrait of a southern town as full of idiotic bible-thumpers is tiresome.
-Directed by Richard LaGravenese, 2013
Insiang    No Rotten Tomatoes Score                 8 (Filmstruck)
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Starring Hilda Korenel, Mona Lisa, Rez Cortez
Plot Summary- In poverty stricken Manila, beautiful Insiang deals with a boyfriend unwilling to commit, a mother who is critical of everything and everyone, and her mother’s brutish boyfriend who has eyes Insiang.
My Take- Lurid, melodramatic story mixed with gritty, documentary style filmmaking. Effective drama, with a beautiful leading lady.
-Directed by Lino Brocka, 1976
Pocahontas    56% on Rotten Tomatoes              7 (VHS)
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Voices of Mel Gibson, David Ogden Stiers, Christian Bale, Irene Bedard
Plot Summary-Fantasizing of the historical meeting between Pocahontas of the Powhatan tribe and John Smith of the British imperialists. In this Disney interpretation, the two fall in love and do their best to stop the oncoming violence that threatens the people they love.
My Take-Weaker work from Disney’s greatest era. It is still an absorbing story with beautiful animation, music, and voice work, but he ending is unsatisfying. Too much of a wrap-up.
-Directed by Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg, 1995
-Walter Howard-

 

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, Directed by Denis Villeneuve) English 5

Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Carla Juri, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright

I was afraid this belated sequel would be made too accessible. The original masterpiece, directed by Ridley Scott, was met with faint praise and middling box-office returns, and so, I presumed, 35 years later, this new film team would simplify. Lighten. Keep the mood, the atmosphere, and premise, but then deliver a more structured story, a less elusive story. I’d like to say kudos to director, Villeneuve, writer, Hampton Fancher, and anyone else involved in this film’s final confounding effect. I’d like to focus on its many virtues and hail this film as the next sci-fi great, but that would be ignoring the tremendous amount of frustration I felt during and after its run. That, in itself, could be seen as a commendation for Blade Runner 2049, if it weren’t saddled with the more severe feeling, the worst of all film watching emotions, which is boredom. Blade Runner 2049 is 163 minutes long, and it felt like 163 minutes. Its runtime and massive pretensions wore on me. Therefore I will not be extolling this epic sequel, but instead will admit to feeling disappointed.

A quick catch-up is necessary, and fair warning, spoilers from 1982’s Blade Runner forthcoming (I will do my best not spoil 2049). The futuristic setting and context are recounted to us at the outset of 2049, so Ill only remind you of the key plot points in Blade Runner. Rick Deckard is an L.A cop whose sole purpose is to find and stomp out a rogue breed of androids (replicants) that have surpassed humans in nearly every aspect of living. Originally intended to be slaves of labor, these super-humans, led by Roy (Rutger Hauer) revolt, making them threats to society. Deckard, and anyone in the pursuit of killing androids are referred to as Blade Runners. In the course of his duty, Deckard meets Rachael and identifies her as a replicant. Instead of “retiring” her, he falls in love, and the two escape Los Angeles 2019 in hopes of starting a life together.

2049 stars Ryan Gosling as a Blade Runner known as K. We are told early on, explicitly, that he is himself an android, which is something that was left ambiguous about Deckard in the original. K, whose mission is to stop a growing resistance movement from a factious line of androids, stumbles on a secret that could change everything. A miracle of sorts. Twenty eight years earlier, an android gave birth to a child. Androids giving birth was previously thought impossible. Everybody wants this miracle android, now an adult. The resistance want the child as a symbol of their “humanity,” to validate them in essence. The L.A.P.D wants all evidence of a miracle android to disappear.  And a sinister third party led by replicant manufacturer and perverse God-figure Nander Wallace (Leto) want this mysterious android to help him solve reproduction in his models in order to bolster sales. K’s discovery ultimately leads him to an old, worn-out Deckard holed up in Las Vegas, and the two spend the rest of the film fighting Wallace’s henchmen and sorting through revelations.

Blade Runner, and this is certainly true of its source, the Phillip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, built its reputation on being a challenging science fiction marvel that blended pulp noir with enormous religious and philosophical themes. Is this true of its sequel? As comparison is inescapable. I don’t think it is. I found 2049 to be brooding rather than deep or thoughtful, and solemn rather than atmospheric. I found myself imagining the director holding a stop watch, making sure that there was at least a five second silence between every passage of dialogue. I especially found Jared Leto’s character, in theory, the most interesting, to be pretentious and awkward. His dialogue nonsensical and his weirdness forced. Should we talk about 2049’s themes? Does subtext matter when you find the text muddled? The most readily apparent theme concerns the character of Nander Wallace. Wallace has a God-Complex-he even calls his creations angels- but it’s important to note that none of his replicants can procreate. It was Tyrell, the original creator from Blade Runner who made the replicant that had the child. Think of Tyrell as a God-figure and Wallace as an imposter, someone who wants to be in Tyrell’s place. A sinister, lesser creator. A devil. Much of his dialogue highlights the dichotomy between him and Tyrell, as he laments that there are good angels and bad angels. Beyond that, I was at a loss to forage themes of interest. True, there are quotes intended to be provocative. “The most human thing you can do is die for something you believe in,” for example. But, in all, I found the pickings slim, in terms of subjects for thought.

The visuals, this artificial future created by film artists and technicians, which have been lauded by critics en masse, were a source of discontent for me. Shot to shot, is 2049 nice to look at? Mostly. Roger Deakins is a thirteen time Oscar nominee. The lighting and hues are spectacular, sure, but Blade Runner was more than that. The design of Los Angeles to this day, thirty plus years later, is awe-inspiring. 2049 reminded me of too many sci-fi pics that preceded it. Clinical atmosphere to indicate a washed up future. Rich hues to be aesthetically pleasing. Blade Runner created a world that I wanted to spend time with (if not actually inhabit). 2049’s vision of the future passed the time. There is almost no trace of noir in the proceeding, and that to me is major loss between Villeneuve’s film and the original. Just look at the original poster:

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This poster captures the noir spirit of the first film, one that’s lacking from its sequel, and it’s that spirit that mesmerized me.

I had mentioned virtues in my opening,and on a more positive note, 2049 unquestionably has some. The dual leads were impressive. Gosling as the weary, embattled cop is strong, and Ford gives his one of his best performances in this, a supporting role. The sound design, unlike the visuals, is inspired, and the final sequence, a fist fight in a flooding hovercraft, is a tour de force. Worth seeing. Worth being disappointed by. Worth holding the minority opinion on and having to argue with people you respect about.

-Walter Howard-

 

My Week of Films (September 23-September 29)

Watched a number of classic Hollywood pictures with an emphasis on noir. The private detective subgenera has long been a passion of mine, and so I’ve seen these films at least a dozen times each. I made it to the theater once last week, to see Kingsmen: the Golden Circle, which I very much enjoyed, despite its mixed reception from critics.

San Francisco    100% on Rotten Tomatoes                       7 (DVD)

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Starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy

Plot Summary-A midwestern girl and pastor’s daughter (MacDonald) moves to the raucous urban sprawl of 1906 San Francisco. There, she falls for the roguish club owner Blackie Norton (Gable) while being pursued by the more reliable and wealthy Jack Burley.

My Take-Special effects and melodrama. An early example that I believe set the template for later classics such as Titanic. The climactic earthquake sequences are remarkable. While the surrounding drama is at times heavy handed and somewhat hackneyed (perhaps due to age), Gable gives his best performance as the selfish man changed by love. Tracy is excellent in essentially a supporting role (although he was nominated for the Oscar in the lead category). MacDonald is lovely as the fish out of water songstress and rising star.

-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1936

24 Frames Per Second No Rotten Tomatoes Score                5 (Filmstruck)

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Plot Summary-Avant-garde cinema centered around an exhibition of a Persian rug.

My Take- The real art here is in the technical achievement. Clarke manipulates frame rate through editing to create a jarring, albeit brief experience. Like most experimental work, I question what was it in the service of? A.K.A what’s the point?

-Directed by Shirley Clarke, 1977

The Maltese Falcon 100% on Rotten Tomatoes             9 (VHS)

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Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr.

Plot Summary- What begins as a simple case of following and protecting a beautiful brunette for private eye Sam Spade, soon leads to three murders, the death of his partner, and a quest for an ancient treasure.

My Take-Benchmark Hollywood filmmaking. Very few characters, but all distinct and expertly played. I couldn’t imagine a single other actor in any one of these roles. Bogart’s is an indelible persona and Sam Spade was his first great role. Other, more complex noir would follow, but Huston’s pic remains the standard.

-Directed by John Huston, 1941

Another Thin Man 81% on Rotten Tomatoes           7 (DVD)

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Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy

Plot Summary- Nick and Nora Charles visit an old family friend who’s grown paranoid, certain that someone’s out to kill him. He’s proven correct not long after, and pretty soon Nick (a former detective) is asked to come out of retirement, this time with the help of his wife.

My Take- The gritty, sophisticated edge that the original Thin Man movie had is gone from this, the third entry in the long running series of films. What’s left is Powell and Loy’s charm, light comedy, witty dialogue, and a decent murder mystery. Good enough.

-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1939

You’re Never Too Young    No Rotten Tomatoes Score                5 (Youtube)

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Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Raymond Burr

Plot Summary-Unwittingly involved in a major heist and murder, Wilbur (Lewis) has to take it on the lam, disguising himself as a 12 year old as he hides out at an all-girls school.

My Take-A promising setup and a bright, colorful disposition, this Lewis-Martin film should have been more fun. They miss opportunities throughout to push the humor or mix in suspense by being over reliant on Jerry Lewis shenanigans. A couple of those land, but there’s no tension making anything more exciting. Martin’s relegated to frown face and wet blanket. There was also an opportunity for an odd romance that the film conveniently drops and does nothing with.

-Directed by Norman Taurog, 1955

Shadow of the Thin Man   83% on Rotten Tomatoes            8 (DVD)

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Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Donna Reed

Plot Summary- Nick and Nora Charles return, this time getting wrapped up in a murder case involving a friend on a casual trip to a wrestling match.

My Take- After the first film which is a great movie, this and the second one compete for the next best. It’s a return to a slightly more serious tone, with an engaging murder mystery and juicy characters. Powell and Loy are always the selling point though. What they bring to this series seems effortless. I also love the return of Lieutenant Abrams  who first appeared in After the Thin Man.

-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1941

-Walter Howard-

My Week of Films (September 16 -September 22)

The highlight of this week was definitely my trip to the local AMC to see Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Still not quite done processing that one. Other than that, I knocked a big film off my to-watch list. The Deer Hunter was one of the few films left on American Film Institute’s top 100 that I hadn’t seen yet. I believe I have six left now.

The Deer Hunter    94% on Rotten Tomatoes                         8 (DVD)

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Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep

Plot Summary-The lives of working class buddies in a small Pennsylvania town are interrupted when three from the group head to Vietnam with the Army. There, Mike (the most serious of the group), Nick, and Steven are forced into a game of Russian Roulette that scars them well after they manage to escape.

My Take- Mike might be De Niro’s best performance and most compelling character (and yes, I have seen Raging Bull). Walken and Streep with the two key supporting roles also stand out. My problems with the film have been noted by others, and mainly concern its lack of complexity. It wears its emotions on its sleeve. The other side, the Northern Vietnamese, are foreign and brutal. Rather than condemn this aspect as racist, I simply saw it as an extension of the film’s simple-mindedness. This being said, the three hour long epic was engaging and moving. The crap-shoot chance involved in the Russian roulette sequences plus the acting make for two memorably brutal and sad scenes. I also admired the odd three distinct act structure that makes the film feel epic and not drag. The scenes between De Niro and Streep were some of the best in the movie.

-Directed by Michael Cimino, 1978

Pardners      No Rotten Tomatoes Score                            5 (Youtube)

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Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Agnes Moorehead

Plot Summary-In order to save their ranch, Slim and Wade Jr. (Martin and Lewis) take on a violent gang known as the masked raiders, over twenty years after their fathers were murdered by that same gang.

My Take-A lesser Martin and Lewis pairing, while still showcasing an abundance of style,  that lacks wit and any memorable musical numbers. Lewis’ screen time dwarfs Martin’s, and I don’t consider that a positive. There’s also no romance to speak, despite there being two romantic interests. Too much Lewis, not enough Martin.

-Directed by Norman Taurog, 1956

Paper Moon     91% on Rotten Tomatoes                        9 (Filmstruck)

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Starring Tatum O’Neal, Ryan O’Neal, Madeline Khan, Randy Quaid

Plot Summary-Moses Pray promises to take 9 years old and orphaned Addie to her Aunt in Missouri, as she suspects he might be her dad. After watching Moses pull a number of small-time cons, Addie proves adept at assisting him, and the two escalate their grift on the way to Missouri.

My Take-Paper Moon is completely wonderful. Sad when it wants to be sad, funny when it wants to be funny. The two lead performances are pitch perfect, and never reduced to being cute. They form real characters and take them seriously.

-Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, 1973

-Walter Howard-

 

 

My Week of Films (September 9-September 15)

Solid week. Watched a number of good films. Saw It in theaters. Meanwhile, I’ve been watching a few television series: Sneaky Pete, Gravity Falls, and Glow. The week’s highlight? Seeing Jaws again for the first time in over ten years.

The Naked Spur   100% on Rotten Tomatoes                  8 (Filmstruck)

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Starring James Stewart, Ralph Meeker, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan

Plot Summary-Wanting to begin again in life, Howard Kemp (Stewart) tracks down a wanted fugitive and plans to collect on his bounty. The venture is complicated by two strangers-one a caddish soldier and the other a deceptively meek prospector-who want a piece of the pie. The three men transport the criminal and his girl, while always keeping an eye on each other.

My Take-The best of what are termed the Anthony Mann psychological westerns. With shades of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the chief pleasure of the film is its clash of distinct characters. As a Hollywood western of the classic tradition, it’s a little too glossy at times. Still a superb picture. Simple story, complex western.

-Directed by Anthony Mann, 1953

Jaws       97% on Rotten Tomatoes                        9 (Netflix)

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Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Plot Summary- An island resort town is in chaos when it’s found out that a shark is terrorizing their water in the heart of the summer season. A bereaved mother puts a bounty on the shark’s head, after it kills her son, which brings dozens of insane hunters to the beach. Sheriff Brody (afraid of water) deals with all of this.

My Take-Exemplary monster film. Holding off on revealing the monster is cliche now thanks to how perfectly that technique was demonstrated here, and then copied by later films. There are only three real characters with any depth here, but Spielberg makes them interesting enough to carry the action. Quint (played by Shaw) steals most of the scenes as the most colorful character. Later scenes drag a little. I’d say early in the third act. The first half and the movie’s conclusion though are top notch.

-Directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975

Road to Hong Kong     No Rotten Tomatoes Score                          7  (Youtube)

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Starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins

Plot Summary-Zaniness, gags, and meta humor abound as Hope and Crosby (both long in the tooth) get roped into a world domination plot that brings them to Hong Kong.

My Take-The last in the Road to… series maintains all of the humor and fun of the previous movies. Bob Hope has at least a dozen clever one-liners, the songs are catchy, and I really enjoy the exotic locales. Naturally there’s plenty here in terms of cultural representations that is outdated. (Whites playing Asians or Indians mainly.) Peter Sellers is hilarious though as a shady Indian doctor.

-Directed by Norman Panama, 1962

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery   70% on Rotten Tomatoes           7 (VHS)

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Starring Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner

Plot Summary- Austin Powers, a ’60s super spy, is cryogenically frozen, literally put on ice, to be thawed out once his arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, returns. thirty years later, the two return and have to adjust to the ’90s.

My Take-Very episodic, with a plot that is nearly irrelevant. Mike Myers is, however, a comedic genius of sorts and the characters he creates here are classic. Austin Powers is mostly a feature length series of jokes, but the jokes are very good, and even the lesser jokes are milked for humor by Myers successfully. Works especially well if you’ve seen the Bond films.

-Directed by Jay Roach, 1997

-Walter Howard-