Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(966)

Only Yesterday (1991, Directed by Isao Takahata) Japanese 7

Voices of (English Version) Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Alison Fernandez, Tara Strong, Grey Griffin

Only Yesterday (1991) - Little White Lies

(7-Very Good Film)

Evocative. Contemplative. Beautiful.

Hirota: Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?

Taeko: …cloudy days.

Hirota: Oh, then we’re alike.

Taeko (Ridley), a young woman from Tokyo, was raised to feel like an anomaly. We see her childhood in beautifully animated flashbacks where her adventurousness was called selfishness by her family and her older sisters were constantly calling her a brat. Now an adult in her late twenties, Taeko, takes a working trip to the countryside where she meets Toshio and thinks back on some of the small but significant moments of her youth. There are a number of interesting aspects to Only Yesterday making it unique, the most conspicuous being its alternating between two distinct animation styles to portray the change in time periods. Less prominent but still uncommon is having such a seemingly passive protagonist. Taeko, mostly because she spends the majority of the film as a child, has her decisions made for her, but we get the sense watching her adult form that she still hasn’t made many choices for herself. The ending, so simple, is a perfectly satisfying turning point.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(964)

Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Directed by Warren Beatty) English 5

Starring Warren Beatty, Lilly Collins, Alden Ehrenreich, Annette Bening, Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Haley Bennett, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Candice Bergen, Oliver Platt, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino, Taissa Farmiga, Paul Schneider, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman

Rules Don't Apply - NYT Watching

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Muddled. Unsatisfying.

Frank Forbes: [to Marla] You’re an exception. Rules don’t apply to you.

Howard Hughes. The man, the myth. Only I’ve never really understood the fascination with him. Perhaps it’s obvious to some: he was obscenely wealthy, an influential Hollywood figure, an aviator, and dated some of the most desirable women of his time. Yet, I have never been that interested in him or his story and no film has come along to make me feel otherwise (haven’t seen Melvin and Howard). The most recent attempt is Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply. Opening in the late ’50s, a young driver, Frank (Ehrenreich), gets a job chauffeuring a young Hollywood hopeful, Marla (Collins), around L.A. The two begin to fall for one another and the film is off to a great start. It’s when the main star of the piece, Howard Hughes (Beatty), shows up that the film loses its way. Shifting tones should feel like a journey not like a distraction. There are two stories at play here and though they are linked, they don’t compliment each other. One subtracts from the other. The result turns Hughes into a creepy older guy who interrupts an intriguing romance.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(962)

Whisper of the Heart (1995, Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō) Japanese 8

Voices of Brittany Snow, David Gallagher, Jean Smart, Cary Elwes, James Sikking, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Ashley Tisdale

Whisper of the Heart – IFC Center

(8-Exceptional Film)

Charming. Vibrant. Light.

Shizuku: Stupid jerk, stupid jerk, stupid jerk!

Who knew Studio Ghibli produced so many wonderful light romances? While I ask that rhetorical question jokingly, certain that millions of the studio’s large fanbase have known for ages, I’ve only recently discovered Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, and this film, Whisper of the Heart. Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku, a young girl dealing with teenaged romance and all the drama that goes with it. She meets Seiji, a boy at school who is always rude to her, and she’s determined not to like him though the rest of the school believes that they’re a couple. I was most surprised to find that the great Hayao Miyazaki wrote this screenplay as it bears little resemblance, as far as I can tell, to any of his other work. Otherwise, Whisper of the Heart has all of the distinction, the artistry, and the confident storytelling of Ghibli’s work. I see now that they are equally skillful at these lovely small-scale dramas as they are at epic fantasy.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(955)

The Apartment (1960, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 10

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, Edie Adams, David Lewis

The Apartment (1960) | The Medium

(10-Masterpiece)

Sad. Sweet. Masterful.

Fran Kubelik: When you’re in love with a married man, you shouldn’t wear mascara.

C.C Baxter (Lemmon) is an enabler. His philandering bosses walk all over him and his apartment, using it whenever they can get away from their wives to be with their mistresses. Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), Baxter’s office crush, isn’t doing much better. She turns out to be one of these mistresses, in love with the head honcho, Mr. J.D Sheldrake (MacMurray). A particularly low night for both of them results in the two spending the weekend together in Baxter’s apartment, helping each other. This film is a masterful balancing act between tones for director, Billy Wilder. Elevated beyond its sordid subject matter, The Apartment is sad (I love the image of Baxter completely alone in his enormous office space surrounded by empty desks or sitting by himself on a long New York bench) and sweet (I love the final exchange between Baxter and Ms. Kubelik) in equal measure and like its protagonist, hopeful. Even when he is cleaning up after someone else’s’ party early on in the film, he’s humming cheerfully. There’s a lightness to the humor in this movie that would seem inappropriate if not for how deftly Wilder and his actors manage it. Certainly, one of my favorite films.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(953)

The Barefoot Contessa (1954, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 8

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Rossano Brazzi, Warren Stevens, Marius Goring, Valentina Cortese

Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa 1954 (photo taken by Annoth ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Sumptuous. Cynical. Unique.

Jerry: What she’s got you couldn’t spell – and what you’ve got, you used to have.

I admire the way Joseph L Mankiewicz, both director and writer, plays with structure. He showcased this originality earlier with the films, A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve. In The Barefoot Contessa, we begin at dancer-turned-movie star, Maria Vargas’ funeral, and then flashback to her life episodically through different characters’ recollections of the great diva. Harry Dawes (Bogart) is a jaded Hollywood director and played a significant role in luring Vargas to movie acting. Oscar Muldoon (O’Brien) is a lap dog but a consummate publicist and makes Maria a star. Alberto Bravano (Goring) is a spoiled multimillionaire who always gets his way until he meets Maria, and Count Vincenzo (Brazzi) loves Maria too much for any good to come of it. It’s maudlin, soap opera material but the great directors of the time (and I certainly include Mankiewicz) infused the melodrama with great style, wit, and biting commentary. The Barefoot Contessa is one of the most glorious exemplars of color ever produced. The stars are well-suited to their characters- Gardner, in particular, is given her most substantial role- and the dialogue is magnificent.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(951)

Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Directed by Farhan Akhtar) Hindi 8

Starring Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Kulkarni

Flashback Friday: Dil Chahta Hai

(8-Exceptional Film)

Compelling. Attractive. Intimate.

Akash Malhotra: Dad, there is more to life than just signing checks.

Akash’s father: Really… What is that?

I don’t know of many films (or novels, for that matter) that focus on typical males in their twenties. Dil Chahta Hai stars Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, and Akshaye Khanna as best friends Akash, Sameer, and Sid; three adult university students trying to find their direction in life as they fall into complicated relationships. Carefree Akash falls in love with a girl, Shalini (Zinta), engaged to a rich jerk, Sameer discovers he has feelings for the woman, Pooja (Kulkarni), his parents tried to set him up with, and Sid, worst of all, becomes infatuated with a troubled older woman, Tara (Kapadia). Great music, a fresh look at modern India (despite this being nearly 20 years old), and engaging romance make this a classic. I’d rank it with Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982) as the best film about twenty-somethings.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(947)

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000, Directed by Aziz Mirza) Hindi 5

Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Paresh Rawal, Johnny Lever, Atul Parchure, Sanjay Mishra, Sharat Saxena

Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani' failure made me stronger: SRK | Catch ...

(5-Okay Film)

Disappointing. Overwrought. Mediocre.

Tagline: Love, laughter, and freedom.

Reteaming him with director, Aziz Mirza, and costar, Juhi Chawla, Shah Rukh Khan claimed that this film was the biggest failure of their careers. I don’t know just what he meant or why he feels that way. The film was a modest commercial success and fared reasonably well critically, but there’s no question that it is disappointing. With its high pedigree and its strong premise, borrowed partially from classics like His Girl Friday, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani should be much better. Khan and Chawla star as rival t.v reporters competing for ratings as they slowly fall for one another. Meanwhile, a huge story develops involving corrupt politicians, revenge, and a local assassination. The film simply attempts too many tones to successfully deliver on any of them. Most Bollywood films alternate between tones frequently but it’s too jarring here. There’s a subplot wherein a father kills the man who raped his daughter and there are goofy scenes like the one in which Khan fends off past girlfriends who want to get back together. It just doesn’t work. By the end, all ideas of fun have completely left the picture and what’s left is overwrought. Too many tearful closeups.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(940)

The Long Goodbye (1973, Directed by Robert Altman) English 9

Starring Elliot Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Long Goodbye | Metrograph

(9-Great Film)

Cool. Distinct. Languorous.

Det. Green: Your name Marlowe?

Philip Marlowe: No, my name is Sidney, uh, Jenkins.

Det. Green: Come on inside, Marlowe, we want to talk to you.

The famous Philip Marlowe, private eye, star of Raymond Chandler’s classic mystery novels and several films, gets possibly his best adaptation in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. From the moment he wakes up in the opening scene, to the surprise of the finale, Marlowe (Gould), is out of his element. He still basically looks and sounds the way we’re accustomed to; Gould is sly, witty, infinitely cool, always wearing a suit and tie. It’s his surroundings that have changed (his neighbors don’t wear any clothes at all). Very loosely working with Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name, Marlowe gets involved with an alcoholic, self-destructive novelist, Roger Wade (Hayden), and Wade’s beautiful, unhappy wife, Eileen (van Pallandt), shortly after helping an old friend, Terry Lennox (charged with killing his wife) escape to Mexico. Other films that came before this one tried to transplant Marlowe to a more modern setting. The film simply titled Marlowe, for example, moved him to the ’60s, but The Long Goodbye doesn’t just “update” the material. It displaces the hero. He’s still essentially the romantic hero that he’s always been. Chandler described him as a “shop-soiled Sir Galahad,” in The High Window, but his loyalty and sense of honor seem out of touch here. In any case, this is a great film with an odd sense of humor and a unique style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(930)

Holes (2003, Directed by Andrew Davis) English 7

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voigt, Tim Blake Nelson, Khleo Thomas, Patricia Arquette, Henry Winkler, Dulé Hill, Eartha Kitt, Roma Maffia, Rick Fox, Siobhan Fallon Hogan

Holes is a Cinematic Masterpiece – The Blue & Gold

(7-Very Good Film)

Idiosyncratic. Faithful. Rich.

Madame Zeroni: If you forget to come back for Madame Zeroni, you and your family will be cursed for always and eternity!

Stanley Yelnats IV (LaBeouf) has been cursed since the day he was born. His whole family bears the curse, or at least the men, ever since Elya Yelnats failed to fulfill his end of a bargain with Madame Zeroni (Kitt) back in the old country. Now the youngest Stanley is headed to Camp Green Lake, an ironic name for a hellish juvenile delinquent program, where he’ll have to dig a hole (5 feet by 5 feet) every day for the next 18 months, and did I mention he didn’t even commit the crime that he’s sentenced for? Holes is a faithful adaptation of a classic novel I read as a child. I was enchanted with its sense of mystery, foreshadowing, adventure, dark humor and thrills. It’s certainly a favorite of mine and the movie absolutely does it justice. Shia LaBeouf is a very natural performer and he’s surrounded by a tremendous cast of veteran actors.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(925)