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-

 

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