Bull Durham (1988, Directed by Ron Shelton) English 8

Starring Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl, William O’Leary

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Fresh. Appealing. Knowing.

As equally fantastic a romantic comedy as it is a baseball movie, Bull Durham stars Sarandon, Costner, and Robbins caught up in a heavily imbalanced love triangle. Sarandon plays kind of a baseball groupie who takes in a different player every season. This season though she finds herself falling for a dogged veteran (Costner) as she takes in the talented meathead (Robbins). Sarandon has a difficult role. Her Annie Savoy wouldn’t normally be the hero in a romantic comedy, and Sarandon makes her charming and the work seem effortless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(462)

To Catch a Thief (1955, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 9

Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams

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(9-Great Film)

Beautiful. Charming, Exciting.

A fantasy where all the actors are beautiful, all the dialogue is witty, and all the costumes are stunning. It’s escapism in its purest form as Cary Grant, a reformed cat burglar, attempts to clear his name in a new string of jewelry thefts that have copied his old m.o. This leads him to Grace Kelly whose mother owns and is rather careless with several high priced pieces, making her a likely target for Grant’s imposter. Set in the French Riviera, shot in Technicolor, this movie demonstrates how great even a superficial film can be when executed perfectly.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(459)

Pride and Prejudice (2005, Directed by Joe Wright) English 10

Starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Carey Mulligan, Tom Hollander

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(10-Masterpiece)

Romantic. Lovely. Expert.

Glorious adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel about Elizabeth Bennett (Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Macfadyen) falling in love in 19th century England. The two, of different circumstances and certain that they detest each other, find themselves continually drawn to one another. Some may quibble with the liberties taken-much of Austen’s biting satire is gone and every character in the film is beautiful-but the end result is wonderfully romantic. Keira Knightley, while not what Austen had in mind, is perfect for this film’s version of Elizabeth.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(458)

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985, Directed by Susan Seidelman) English 7

Starring Roseanne Arquette, Madonna, John Turturro, Laurie Metcalf, Aidan Quinn, Steven Wright

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(7-Very Good Film)

Fun. Light. Period.

80’s romantic comedy about a bored housewife (Arquette) losing her memory and assuming the identity of a carefree drifter (Madonna). With the new identity comes trouble and a ruthless killer following her. There to help her is Dez (Quinn) who inevitably falls in love with her. Solid fare, with good performances top to bottom. The outcome may be predictable, but the story took a number of surprising turns along the way, with a fairly original premise to begin with.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(451)

Bells Are Ringing (1960, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 5

Starring Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Jean Stapleton, Fred Clark, Eddie Foy Jr.

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(5-Okay Film)

Stagey. Slight. Mediocre.

A small company called Susanswerphone acts as a telephone answering service for its customers (remember, this is before answering machines). One of its employees, Ella Peterson (Holliday), goes above and beyond, perhaps too far, by getting involved in the customers’ lives when she can tell by their messages that they need help. One especially desperate customer, a playwright named Jeffrey Moss (Martin), can’t seem to pull himself up off the mat after his partner ditches him. Ella sets out to help him and finds herself in love with him. Adapted from a stage musical, the film never actually tries to escape its stage trappings. That’s mostly fine since Minnelli is a master at stage design and mis-en-scene. More problematic is the lack of early dramatic tension, as, for me, the film only picked up in the second act once Holliday and Martin meet. This musical is best seen as a vehicle for Holliday’s enormous talent, and a super smooth Martin is always fun to watch. A couple of funny satirical elements also make an impression (there’s an actor molded after Brando and an amusing song about name dropping).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(441)

Frantz (2016, Directed by François Ozon) French/German 7

Starring Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber

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(7-Very Good Film)

Intriguing. Gripping. Appealing.

In the aftermath of World War I, a young German girl, Anna, mourns the loss of her fiancée, Frantz, when, one day, she notices a mysterious Frenchman visiting her beloved’s grave. “Who is he?” Anna wonders, as he begins spending time with her and Frantz’ family, and as she slowly begins to fall for him. At its core, the film is a fairly simple story, but it’s strengthened by themes of forgiveness, xenophobia, truth versus lies, and illicit romance. Plus, Ozon’s direction gives the film the suspense and tension of a classic Hitchcock. Switching between black/white and color, I believe to signify times of mourning versus post-war closure, Frantz is an excellent foreign drama, though I can’t shake my disappointment with the resolution, despite it probably being the right ending for the film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(438)

The Shape of Water (2017, Directed by Guillermo Del Toro) English 7

Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stahlberg

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(7-Very Good Film)

Vivid. Provocative. Bizarre.

Mute cleaning lady, Elisa (Hawkins), works at a top-secret government lab. There, she meets and falls in love with the creature held under lock and key by sadistic Colonel, Richard Strickland (Shannon). What a strange love story? Del Toro pulls it off thanks to outstanding performances from the cast, and his unique and infectious love of all things strange and fantastic. There’s a standout dance/ dream sequence between the creature and Elisa that encapsulates all the film’s uncanny appeal. Shannon is truly terrifying as the psychotic Colonel, and there’s a scene late in the movie where he yanks off his own rotting finger that is unfortunately burned in my mind. This said, The Shape of Water is a superior monster movie, but falls short of being a masterpiece. Pan’s Labyrinth, which transcended its genre, remains Del Toro’s best.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(437)