Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Discussion of programming on TCM.
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jamesjazzguitar
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by jamesjazzguitar »

TikiSoo wrote: December 4th, 2022, 6:39 am Yay! I always liked this thread skimpole!
Please note that all of skimpole's post have been deleted.
skimpole
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Joined: February 26th, 2024, 5:49 pm

Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

So my old posts have been deleted, and nobody knows why or how to bring them back. I am extremely annoyed at being treated this way and that I should have to pay for someone else's incompetence. Let me post the movies I've already seen this year and hope they won't be deleted again:

Kentucky Fried Movie
Mothra vs. Godzilla
The Holdovers
Godzilla Minus One
May/December

History is made at Night
The Johnstown Flood
Saltburn
Maestro

King: A Filmed Record from Montgomery to Memphis
Song of Freedom
The Black Marble
Joyland
Beau is Afraid

The Delinquents
Poor Things
Being Two isn't Easy
Something's Gotta Give
Get on the Bus
Rustin

The Emperor Jones
Totem
The Zone of Interest
Nyad

Master Gardner
American Fiction
Fame
The Man who Skied Down Mt. Everest
Talk to Me

Also, a reminder that Monster is the one 2023 movie I saw in 2023 that I might otherwise forget what with all my old posts being deleted.
Last edited by skimpole on March 23rd, 2024, 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Last week I saw three films: The Taste of Things was the most enjoyable of the three. Seeing the welcome return, at least to North American audiences of Tran Anh Hung, the movie tells the story of a late 19th century French gourmand (played by Benoit Magimel) and his indispensable cook and part-time lover (played by Julie Binoche). As such the meals are beautifully presented and show with lovely cinematography and special attention to detail. After we get a long but appropriate scene showing what our two protagonists have devoted their life's work to, we learn more about Binoche's health which develops the plot more. It's one of the finest movies of the previous year, even if Binoche's performance isn't as deep as some of her others in the past decade.

In 1962, French cinema gave us Jules et Jim, Vivre sa vie and Cleo from 5 to 7. However, instead of choosing one of these films, France's official entry for Best Foreign Language film was Sundays and Cybele, and the Academy rewarded it with the oscar. Notwithstanding this success the director, although still alive, hasn't made a movie since the death of Charles De Gaulle. Admired at the time by critics, soon it got the reputation of a pseudo-New Wave film, for those who couldn't stand the real thing. Although it's not that the actors are bad, this story of a wounded war veteran who develops a "truly innocent" relationship with a twelve year old girl whose father abandons her at a Catholic boarding school suffers from a half century'sconcern about child abuse. The movie is sort of what if censors had gotten hold of the script for Lolita (another 1962 release) and turned it into mincemeat. Humbert Humbert isn't really improved by making him truly loving and docking 50 IQ points.

A better use of New Wave techniques is seen in the Soviet film I am Twenty, released in truncated form in 1965. This story of the new generation of Soviet youth shows them as a thoughtful, respectful lot thinking about developing relationships and working for the general good, but with handheld camera work, use of location shooting, overlapping dialogue and non-staged scenes. While not as profound as the best New Age films, it does allow us to see Moscow in the sixties and it clearly rankled soviet officials in their late fifties and sixties who had grown too used to unquestioning obedience.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Over the last two weeks I've seen six films: five this week, one the week before. Or almost all of five. Godland is an art-house film from last year (or so) which involves a Dane sent to Iceland at the time the latter was a Danish colony as a priest. As part of this he brings the first camera the residents have seen and takes the first photographs. The movie starts with interesting landscape scenes. But as the movie proceeds we get elements of clerical hypocrisy, violence and sex which we have seen in such Scandinavia films before. Also you'd think given the limited number of people, that they'd pay more attention when people and animals disappear. Transatlantic tunnel is a lot less interesting than the title suggests. For a start, this isn't a movie that knows much about its central concept, which is how to build a transatlantic tunnel. So we get business manipulations and romance elements, which are made worse because the protagonist, Richard Dix, is so dull about all this. The main problem with The Hanging Tree is that Gary Cooper is so much more interesting than the rest of the cast. He plays a doctor who arrives in a Montana gold rush town, rescues a young man who is about to be lynched for stealing from a gold sluice, but keeps him in a sort of involuntary servitude. Humane and not so humane impulses alternate within him. Unfortunately George C. Scott is almost unrecognizable as a rival quack, Karl Malden is not particularly remarkable as an unpleasant acquaintance, and Maria Schell is pretty, virtuous and bland. The last fifteen minutes are rather contrived and chaotic, as if someone told Delmer Davies the movie had to be shortened by ten minutes, but only within the last twenty-five.

All of us Strangers is the most impressive movie of the week for me. I didn't particularly care about Andrew Haigh's previous movie 45 Years, but this movie is much better. It appears to be a movie about a somewhat overly isolated screenwriter who slowly develops a homosexual relationship with one of the few people in his apartment building. But as the movie proceeds it turns out he is haunted by memories of his parents, who died i his early teens. As this proceeds the movie develops his feelings to considerable effect. Son of the white mare is a Hungarian animated film from 1981. Tasked with making a movie based on Hungarian folktales, the director used limited animation and repeated animation to visually striking effect, with kaleidoscopic images offered with considerable imagination. It's not on the order of A Tale of Tales, the short Soviet classic made a couple of years earlier, or the very different Twice upon a time made a couple of years earlier. But it does have its own virtues. I watched the final movie because John Wick 4 had garnered enough critical attention last year to make it on my list of movies to watch this year. However, I hadn't seen any of the previous John Wick movies, so I decided to see the first one. What can one say about it? Certainly it does show the influence of both the Matrix franchise and the collected works of Christopher Doyle. And there is the occasional joke in the ultra-violence. One could even be generous and note who the movie fluctuates with some skill between ordinary henchmen whom Wick slaughters with ease, and more competent ones who hamper his progress. However, the fact that this is a movie where in response to three thugs breaking into house, assaulting him, killing his dog and stealing his car, Wick kills 77 people. Even granted this slaughter starts with a dozen or so assassins breaking into house in an ill advised preemptive strike, this is preposterously unbalanced, almost to the point of self-parody.

I should add that before I could see that last 15 minutes of John Wick, there was a problem with the DVD that affected my DVD player. So, notwithstanding the fact that the movie has three sequels, I do not actually know if Wick survives.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Turns out he lives. Who would have thought?
skimpole
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Joined: February 26th, 2024, 5:49 pm

Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

This week I saw eight movies. Let's start off with The Rising of the Moon, three short tales from 20th century Irish literature strung together by John Ford. Considering the depth of what Irish literature has achieved in the 20th century, they do not refute the criticism that Ford was sentimental about Ireland. Nor do they refute the idea that a sense of humor was not really his strong point. (The middle story consists of a train that is endlessly delayed, "for just a minute" and we see the passengers keep rushing in to the station for another drink that it makes you wonder that the cast doesn't die of alcohol poisoning.) Ron Howard is certainly not my favorite director and Far and Away starts off very unpromising indeed. Beginning in 1890s Ireland it spends its first ten to twenty minutes without a single true note, up to the point when Tom Cruise threatens the local landlord, and then is knocked unconscious when his firearm explodes. Given that it's been decades since their divorce, not to mention Eyes Wide Shut one is struck by how much good will the movie gets from the Cruise/Kidman chemistry. It's also kind of amusing that once the two arrive in Boston, they soon find themselves taking lodging in a brothel, but then don't realize their love for each other until the very end. It's also striking that Howard allows his superstar protagonist to be pummeled to a pulp, and then devotes a crucial set piece remaking the opening of Cimarron. You're actually a bit pleased that someone not only enjoyed that old warhorse, but put it to mildly enjoyable use. Forever Amber is also popular trash that goes down better than it should. Based on a now forgotten pulp bestseller, Linda Darnell is better as the chastity challenged heroine than Cornell Wilde as her priggish true love. But then George Sanders is better than both playing Charles II (and who else could play him?) There's little sign of Otto Preminger's past and future virtues, except perhaps at the end where Darnell sets herself up to have her heart broken while the movie desperately appeases the Hays office.

I also saw the last two best picture nominees of 2003 that I hadn't seen yet. For much of Past Lives we see the connection between the Korean couple as a relationship that is clearly not meant to be. And since it is very clear to the audience that the Korean woman, now married to an American, has no desire to leave her husband we can only feel the combination of awkward sympathy and creepy nervousness for a man who doesn't seem to realize he has no chance. But then something interesting happens. In the old TCM forums I once described the Kelly Reichardt movie Certain Women as three women in search of an epiphany. And then, in the last five minutes, the characters find it. The result is, if not Best Picture worthy, certainly worthy of a certain praise. Oppenheimer, much to my surprise, is even better. I have not liked the portentousness and self-seriousness of Christopher Nolan's last three films, or for that matter the latter two parts of his Batman trilogy and Inception. But here for once, Nolan's portentousness has found a worthy topic. After all, if you can't be worried about the possible extinction of humanity, what should you be worried about? The movie is helped immeasurably by Cillian Murphy's performance, both showing Oppenheimer's genius, political naivete and awkwardness around women, friendship and bureaucratic structures. I would admit the parallel plots of the making of the atomic bomb and Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss' later encounters with Nemesis could have perhaps been better structured, so that there isn't such a large gap between the creation of the bomb and the end of the movie. But still the resulting portrayal is surprisingly adult and intelligent, bringing to life both the physics and the politics. Robert Downey is quite good as Strauss, for once this is an "It's time to give him/her an oscar" Oscar that is actually deserving of a nomination. And this may be Matt Damon's best performance as General Groves.

The last three movies can be discussed more quickly. We are the Strange is an independent animated film whose conceit is that it takes place inside an obscure and unpopular video game. The idea is that a sex slave is insulted and expelled by her master, and then has to wander around in the video game's strange little world. Unfortunately the first half is so dark, confusing and unclear that the movie appears much longer than its 88 minutes and I lost interest long before the inevitable showdown. Brian's Song is a simple, and in my view inexplicably popular weepie of which the best can be said about it is that you wish Billy Dee Williams, James Caan and Jack Warden were doing something better in movies. And sure enough, they soon were! The Buena Vista Club is a documentary about the pre-revolutionary Cuban jazz scene, revived in the late nineties enough for this movie by Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders and whose only major problem in my view is that I don't find such music particularly interesting.
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txfilmfan
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by txfilmfan »

skimpole wrote: March 24th, 2024, 4:49 am This week I saw eight movies. Let's start off with The Rising of the Moon, three short tales from 20th century Irish literature strung together by John Ford. Considering the depth of what Irish literature has achieved in the 20th century, they do not refute the criticism that Ford was sentimental about Ireland. Nor do they refute the idea that a sense of humor was not really his strong point. (The middle story consists of a train that is endlessly delayed, "for just a minute" and we see the passengers keep rushing in to the station for another drink that it makes you wonder that the cast doesn't die of alcohol poisoning.) Ron Howard is certainly not my favorite director and Far and Away starts off very unpromising indeed. Beginning in 1890s Ireland it spends its first ten to twenty minutes without a single true note, up to the point when Tom Cruise threatens the local landlord, and then is knocked unconscious when his firearm explodes. Given that it's been decades since their divorce, not to mention Eyes Wide Shut one is struck by how much good will the movie gets from the Cruise/Kidman chemistry. It's also kind of amusing that once the two arrive in Boston, they soon find themselves taking lodging in a brothel, but then don't realize their love for each other until the very end. It's also striking that Howard allows his superstar protagonist to be pummeled to a pulp, and then devotes a crucial set piece remaking the opening of Cimarron. You're actually a bit pleased that someone not only enjoyed that old warhorse, but put it to mildly enjoyable use. Forever Amber is also popular trash that goes down better than it should. Based on a now forgotten pulp bestseller, Linda Darnell is better as the chastity challenged heroine than Cornell Wilde as her priggish true love. But then George Sanders is better than both playing Charles II (and who else could play him?) There's little sign of Otto Preminger's past and future virtues, except perhaps at the end where Darnell sets herself up to have her heart broken while the movie desperately appeases the Hays office.

I also saw the last two best picture nominees of 2003 that I hadn't seen yet. For much of Past Lives we see the connection between the Korean couple as a relationship that is clearly not meant to be. And since it is very clear to the audience that the Korean woman, now married to an American, has no desire to leave her husband we can only feel the combination of awkward sympathy and creepy nervousness for a man who doesn't seem to realize he has no chance. But then something interesting happens. In the old TCM forums I once described the Kelly Reichardt movie Certain Women as three women in search of an epiphany. And then, in the last five minutes, the characters find it. The result is, if not Best Picture worthy, certainly worthy of a certain praise. Oppenheimer, much to my surprise, is even better. I have not liked the portentousness and self-seriousness of Christopher Nolan's last three films, or for that matter the latter two parts of his Batman trilogy and Inception. But here for once, Nolan's portentousness has found a worthy topic. After all, if you can't be worried about the possible extinction of humanity, what should you be worried about? The movie is helped immeasurably by Cillian Murphy's performance, both showing Oppenheimer's genius, political naivete and awkwardness around women, friendship and bureaucratic structures. I would admit the parallel plots of the making of the atomic bomb and Oppenheimer and Lewis Strauss' later encounters with Nemesis could have perhaps been better structured, so that there isn't such a large gap between the creation of the bomb and the end of the movie. But still the resulting portrayal is surprisingly adult and intelligent, bringing to life both the physics and the politics. Robert Downey is quite good as Strauss, for once this is an "It's time to give him/her an oscar" Oscar that is actually deserving of a nomination. And this may be Matt Damon's best performance as General Groves.

The last three movies can be discussed more quickly. We are the Strange is an independent animated film whose conceit is that it takes place inside an obscure and unpopular video game. The idea is that a sex slave is insulted and expelled by her master, and then has to wander around in the video game's strange little world. Unfortunately the first half is so dark, confusing and unclear that the movie appears much longer than its 88 minutes and I lost interest long before the inevitable showdown. Brian's Song is a simple, and in my view inexplicably popular weepie of which the best can be said about it is that you wish Billy Dee Williams, James Caan and Jack Warden were doing something better in movies. And sure enough, they soon were! The Buena Vista Club is a documentary about the pre-revolutionary Cuban jazz scene, revived in the late nineties enough for this movie by Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders and whose only major problem in my view is that I don't find such music particularly interesting.
Re: Ron Howard and Far and Away, the land run/rush story may be part of his family's history. He was born in Oklahoma, as were his parents. Though they moved away due to their (and their sons') careers, he probably heard those stories growing up, whether or not any of his ancestors were a part of the various land runs (there were several, before the federal government switched to a lottery/bid system) because the land rush story for Oklahoma kids was akin to the Alamo for Texas kids. You heard about it all the time.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Last week I saw five movies. Menus-Plaisirs-Les Troisgros was the movie of the week, a fascinating documentary about the French restaurant of the same year, and another example of Frederick Wiseman's skill. It helps describes both the restaurant and the elaborate efforts to grow and get the food in the first place. All These Women is one of Ingmar Bergman's lesser known movies. It's an odd little movie about a movie critic who tries to visit a prominent cellist but is waylaid by the cellist's many mistresses. The use of color is interesting, although the fact that Bergman is launching a rather heavy handed attack on his critics undercuts matters.

Three Little Words starts off with a wonderful dance scene by Fred Astaire, and Vera Ellen does a fine job keeping up. There are two more dance numbers, but unfortunately they're all in the first half, which means the rest of the movie is devoted to the only mildly amusing interplay between Astaire and Red Skelton as the song-writing duo of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. What's the Matter with Helen? basically depends on just how much mystery there is in Shelly Winters' character as she and Debbie Reynolds decide to leave their town to go to California after their sons are sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. It turns out there is exactly as much mystery as one might guess and the movie proceeds underwhelmingly from there.
John Wick Chapter Four certainly has more style that the first movie (I haven't seen the interceding two) and at least Wick is proceeding against a recognizably, if still cartoonishly evil super-criminal conspiracy, rather than the ridiculous vendetta of the first film. Also, he needs more help in his battles and isn't as absurdly invulnerable as he was in the first movie. Still, ultraviolence isn't really something movies need more of.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Last week I saw five movies. Let's start with the two from last year. About Dry Grasses may be the best Nuri Bilge Ceylan film I've seen yet. Admittedly, I haven't been the biggest enthusiast of his movies, and I do admit the movie not only rivals The Return of the King in length, but also in last minute epiphanies. But this story of a resentful Turkish teacher stuck somewhere in a snowbound Boondocks has many virtues for the patient. For a start it's much more tough-minded than The Holdovers, another movie about a teacher contemptuous of his students. It's not simply that the performances are good (they were fine in Payne's movie), but themes of teacher relationship with students, the educational bureaucracy, the passions of the teachers, and the larger politics are developed to a much greater depth. One disagreement I have with some critics is the degree of contempt one should have with Samet, the protagonist. Certainly not the most admirable protagonist (he manages to sleep with the main female character because he conveniently "forgets" to remind his roommate and fellow teacher that she invited him to dinner as well). But one shouldn't dismiss him as a snob: there is no good reason to think he is some pleasant Our Town village and he's just a pseudo-intellectual whining that he isn't in Boston or New York. This is a movie that makes it all too clear they are living in Erdogan's Turkey, and the long debate with the woman (she's a socialist, he is a rather unenthusiastic liberal) can't simply be read as reflecting Ceylan's own views. After all, it is not clear what needs to be done to stop Erdogan. To say Perfect Days is the best Wim Wenders fiction film since Wings of Desireis also a bit underwhelming. After all, I thought he only made three, when in fact he's made eleven. But this story of a Tokyo toilet cleaner who leads an orderly life, punctuated by his classic rock tapes and his interest in classic 20th century authors like Faulkner and Highsmith does demonstrate a certain kind of tranquility. That he lives in solitude, while the characters of Yasujiro Ozu, the most obvious Japanese influence and subject of a Wenders' documentary, live in families that are usually imperfect in some way, need not be held against the film (though Richard Brody did). Experiences are no less realistic simply because they are rare.

The other three movies were all less admired movies made by major directors. I watched A Slightly Pregnant Man because I thought this Jacques Demy feature may have inspired the 1978 comedy Rabbit Test. I've never seen that movie, but I do remember the newspaper ad campaign which had rabbits playing characters from major Hollywood movies, such as King Kong. The idea of what it would be like if men were pregnant is only slightly developed, and given that an essential plot point would be made clear with the use of ultrasound in a just a few years' time, the larger feeling is that doctors are both overly confident and dogmatic. Mauvaise Graine was the first film Billy Wilder actually directed, and this story about a spoiled rich kid who has his car taken away from him, and ends up with a gang of car thieves does show some of the lightness and irony that Wilder would develop in other movies. It's a bit like a rough draft for The Crime of Monsieur Lange, which TCM should find some way to show. Most impressive of the three is Rumble Fish which develops an ordinary story, the teenage boy addicted to macho crap and violent fights, and make something interesting of it. Here Francis Ford Coppola develops a fascinating black and white cinematography, with Lynchian overtones. At least one critic wondered who the audience for this movie was, and certainly it's worthy of one from people much older than its adolescent characters. It does show that Coppola's talent didn't simply end with Apocalypse Now. Interestingly enough, Nicholas Cage, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne would all appear in Coppola's next movie, The Cotton Club.
skimpole
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Re: Least and Most Favorite Movie of the week

Post by skimpole »

Last week I saw three movies, none of them fully successful. Courage for every Day is a mid-sixties Czechoslovak film about a young member and Communist part member who faces the growing disillusionment of those around them. At least that's the plot Wikipedia and tv guides give. Actually watching the movie the plot appears somewhat more opaque, as one might guess from the authoritarian government Czechoslovakia had at the time it was made. It certainly starts with a certain relative eroticism that is more noticeable than one would expect from Warsaw Pact cinema at the time. But the rest of the movie is less interesting. A Couple is the first Frederick Wiseman narrative film. Well not really. Essentially the movie consists of shots in the countryside while an actress plays Sonya Tolstoy's letters complaining to her husband, Leo Tolstoy, of how his religious beliefs in making her and the whole family miserable. Leo's responses are not given. Oddly enough there are shots of the sea, which is odd since the governorates the couple lived appeared to be landlocked. It's an odd exercise, and a short one, less than 65 minutes long.

The Naked Prey certainly has a striking concept. Cornell Wilde plays the guide on a safari whose leader crudely insults an African tribe on their path. The tribe retaliates and wipes out the safari, forcing Wilde to run away naked as a select group pursues him. Wilde is able to kill the first man who tries to finish him, and is therefore conveniently not nude for the rest of the movie. The chase continues, with Wilde eliminating some of his pursuers, but this is not like Die-Hard where Wilde conveniently defeats the superior forces by eliminating them one by one. Also, Wilde's character has little reason to talk until near the end of the movie. On the one hand, this eliminates a possible source of superiority over his chasers. On the other, it gives the audience less of a reason to truly care about his position. One could also point out that some effort to show the pursuer's point of view. One problem is although the movie is rather violent for 1965, the violence (mostly people being speared) looks fake. And would look even faker a few years later.
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