Piranha 3D (2010, Directed by Alexandre Aja) English 6

Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O’Connell, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr

Image result for PIRANHA 3D

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” Polonius may not have been thinking about Piranha 3D when he said that, but the quotation works. This nudity and gore fest features a small town full of idiots and one or two likable characters during a spring break gone terribly wrong due to the horde of killer piranhas. There’s a large number of scantily clad extras used for fish food in hilariously over the top violence. The main actors, led by Elisabeth Shue and Steven R. McQueen, are actually very good and well beyond what a film like this calls for. Even Jerry O’Connell, with his supremely limited range excels as a middle aged frat boy who never grew up. You could call this movie, and the original film that inspired it, a blatant rip-off of Jaws, but, Piranha knows that and has fun with it. I thoroughly enjoyed its nonsense, the high level of skill masked by its lowbrow aspirations, and the surprises of the script.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 10

Starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genevieve Page, Tamara Toumanova

Image result for the private life of sherlock holmes (1970)

Years after his death, the letters of Dr. John H. Watson, one of literature’s most famous narrators and chronicler of the eminent Sherlock Holmes  are found. In them, he relates a Sherlock Holmes story theretofore untold, deemed to private for the public. In Sherlock’s most personal case of his career, a strange and beautiful woman with amnesia winds up on his doorstep. Deducing that she’s looking for a missing husband, Sherlock sets out to solve the mystery, all the while falling for the woman. This is a later work from Billy Wilder, and probably his last great film. It’s beautifully, lavishly constructed sets, wit, and style belie the poignant sadness at its core which make it a special take on the character. A late sequence featuring a Morse code message by way of umbrella is an indelible, agonizing image.

A Futile Cumberbatch Gesture

With last year’s Me Too and Times Up movements in full force and Hollywood apparently cleaning house of all offenders, I suspect the issue of pay equality is looked upon as a natural continuation of those two causes. Is it fair that male actors make more than their female counterparts? Let me hold off on answering that. The real subject of today is precipitated by a recent news item stating that Benedict Cumberbatch (Oscar nominated star of Doctor Strange and the T.V series, Sherlock) will refuse roles unless his female costars receive equal pay. Now, obviously this is a very noble gesture. Think back five months ago when the story broke out that Mark Whalberg earned a million dollars for reshoots while star of the film, Michelle Williams made something like $10, 000. That wasn’t fair, and so I could commend Cumberbatch for taking a stand here on behalf of his female peers. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the gesture, as noble as it is, and think it represents more harm than good. I’ll do my best to organize and dispense my thoughts on this as best as possible so that you can see where I’m coming from. This is by no means a “men are better than women” argument. This is by no means an argument against fair pay for women.

Image result for benedict cumberbatch

  1. My main qualm is that it takes all the pressure off of the studio bigwigs and places it on all future male costars to follow suit. That’s not fair. As I argued back on the Mark Whalberg case, it was totally wrong for him to receive so much more than Michelle Williams, but the onus was on the studios and not Whalberg. He, and all male actors, have a right to seek as much money as they can get, and actresses have that same right. It is not any male actors’ duty to play agent for his costars. I’m pretty sure actors don’t discuss how much they’re making for a film.
  2. What Cumberbatch’s gesture represents amounts to Hollywood socialism. Are we still a capitalist society? Every actor should be paid according to what they’re worth to the film. Not according to talent, to be clear. Richard Jenkins is an infinitely  better actor than Selena Gomez, but Selena Gomez has a sizable audience that her presence will guarantee. Jennifer Lawrence (who has made upwards of $15 million on films before) deserves to make more money than Benedict Cumberbatch, and Benedict Cumberbatch deserves to make more than Rachel McAdams.
  3. The real problem and point of emphasis should be to make more female centered films, give more female directors opportunities, and watch the audience for these films grow. Since a majority of Hollywood blockbusters are geared towards teenage boys, of course, men are going to see bigger box office returns. Again, this points to the studios who greenlight the films, and, who, to this point, haven’t trusted women or minority led films to make money.
  4. Touching back on the idea of Hollywood socialism, should we go back to the studio system? All actors under contract? I’m fairly certain that system broke down, and it was an actress, the great Bette Davis who played a huge role in breaking free of that structure. This isn’t Friends, where every actor and actress played an equal role in its success. Broker your own deal, and fight for your worth.
  5. Finally, although this is more of an aside, quit remaking successful male pictures with all female casts. It’s counterproductive to the cause. I think, maybe, Ocean’s 8 has a chance, but if you look at past box-office results, it’s original movies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids that clean up. Not second rate remakes like Ghostbusters.

-Walter Howard-

 

 

My Fair Lady (1964, Directed by George Cukor) English 10

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Jeremy Brett, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Image result for my fair lady

Henry Higgins (Harrison), a renowned phonetics professor wagers that he can turn a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn), into a duchess by improving her speech. A musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, and it’s tops for me. The dialogue which is predominantly Shaw, the lyrics, the music, the costumes, the art direction, staging, the performances, are all exceptional. Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle are two of my favorite characters across all entertainment. They are both heavyweights, equals, and watching the two spar is a joy to me. Easily my favorite variant of the Pygmalion story, and probably my favorite musical.

The Witches (1990, Directed by Nicholas Roeg) English 7

Starring Anjelica Huston, Jasen Fisher, Mai Zetterling, Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn

Image result for the witches

A young boy raised by his shrewd Grandmother discovers that the hotel they’re staying in is infested with children murdering witches (led by the Grand High Witch), with a plot that could wipe out children everywhere. After being turned into a mouse, the boy teams up with his Grandmother to foil the evil witches’ plans. Adaptation of Roald Dahl’s horror story for kids. Children’s movies in the ’80s and, in this case early ’90s, were insane. This has some truly frightening stuff in it: the witches pulling off their masks to reveal their hideous true selves, kids being abducted in the street, weird body transformations. The opening sequence is remarkable, scary, and sad as we learn about a girl who became trapped in a miserable painting all her life. Anjelica Huston glides through the picture as the Grand High Witch if everything is dreadfully boring to her including the events of the film. She’s very funny and the film itself, which I believe compromises a little in the end, remains a solid creepfest.

The Parent Trap (1961, Directed by David Swift) English 7

Starring Hayley Mills, Brian Keith, Maureen O’Hara

Image result for the parent trap 1961

Long lost twin sisters (Mills) meet at a summer camp and collude to get their divorced parents back together. The biggest problem, their dad’s new girlfriend, the young and attractive Vicky. The acting, production values, and script all stand-out. One of the best Disney live-action films.

Opening Night (2016, Directed by Isaac Rentz) English 5

Starring Topher Grace, Rob Riggle, Taye Diggs, Anne Heche, Alona Tal, JC Chasez

Image result for opening night 2016

A production manager (Grace) deals with an assortment of problems concerning his aging leading lady (Heche), womanizing star (Chazez), ex-girlfriend (Tal), and back-up dancers (Diggs and Margherita) competing for the new guy all on the opening night of their new show. The cast is solid. The musical performances are all well-done. There’s a lot of creativity, but my basic problem beyond that the film seems so slight, is that the fake Broadway show in the background of the movie could have been better than the backstage drama which makes up most of Opening Night.