Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
Chorus girls who glittered at the Apollo Theatre at the height of the
Harlem Renaissance reunite as The Silver Belles, a different sort of
Chorus Line. A film as witty and stylish as its subjects, BEEN RICH ALL
MY LIFE features a cast of delightfully indestructible women, who
explain how they have persevered through times good and bad, retaining
their sense of glamor and their sense of humor and giving audiences a
great time along the way. There are melancholy notes among the scenes
of joy, but in the end, they embody Stephen Sondheim's "I'm Still
The film was a big hit at New York's "Dance on Film" festival.
Anyone who has ever embarked on a construction project, from a
tree-house to a skyscraper, will identify with the beleaguered Mr.
Blandings. His simple vision of an idyllic life in the suburbs
encounters the harsh reality of recalcitrant geology, feuding
contractors, exploding costs, and other complications -- all to
The script has a perfect ear, the director's timing is impeccable, and the sophisticated style of the stars gives the entire production a polished sheen. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas are all brilliant, but this is much more than a star vehicle. It's one of the best sophisticated comedies Hollywood ever committed to celluloid. And even 60 years later, the story is all too true.
I saw this landmark, two-evening play twice on Broadway, and still live in
awe of the experience. I did not see the original broadcast, and I worried
about the wholesale cast replacement. (Only Jeffrey Wright remains from the
Broadway cast.) Much as I would like to see the performances that blew me
away recorded for posterity, replacing Kathleen Chalfant with Meryl Streep,
for instance, or Marcia Gay Harden with Mary Louise Parker, is simply a
matter of replacing one extraordinary artist with another superb talent.
Having now caught up with a taping of the show, I must pronounce myself profoundly satisfied, and more. Kushner and Nichols and their terrific tech crew have enhanced the magic that fueled the play, broadening its impact. The literally all-star cast delivers. The fantasy scenes are breathtaking. This is a brilliant evocation of a specific time and place (gay New York circa 1985) with a resonance that still echoes today.
While it's far too long for theatrical release, "Angels" is a classic to be enjoyed for years to come. Thanks to Mike Nichols and HBO for getting it recorded so magnificently.
This series (and its spin-offs) attracts viewers all over the world, but
ratings are always highest in New York, where it is filmed. Local experts,
like me, love to figure out where all those location shots were made. The
fictional "Hudson University," for instance, combines the campuses of
Columbia, Pratt Institute, CCNY, and Fordham, depending on time (some
colleges object to filming during the academic year) and scheduling.
More important, all the "L&O" series serve as a vast showcase of local acting talent, hiring literally hundreds of actors as murderers, red herrings, witnesses and local color. The producer, Dick Wolf, admits that when he goes to the theatre in New York, he assumes that any actor who fails to list an "L&O" credit in his or her bio is either recently arrived or lacking talent. He gets top-flight talents by casting them against type: Kathleen Chalfant, for instance, is known for her noble women, but Wolf cast her as a manipulative bitch. She clearly enjoyed herself...
The writing is great, too. Even if you know the most common plot devices, the script can surprise you with last-minute twists.
Just cast an eye at the credits (Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason
Robards, Maximillian Schell, Hal Holbroke, Meryl Streep, John Glover and
others directed by Fred Zinneman in a story by Lillian Hellman) and you know
this film is worth seeing. It delivers fabulous performances by some of the
best actors of our time, in a carefully -- yeah, sumptuously -- produced
film directed by one of Hollywood's most respected veterans, based on a
narrative by a gifted dramatist and tale-spinner.
The screenplay blends the two longest episodes in Lillian Hellman's PENTIMENTO, the third, most engaging, and most imaginative of her memoirs. It traces the (largely factual) struggle of Hellman to develop her talents as a playwright under the tutelage of her long-time lover, Dashiell Hammett, and the (largely fictional) course of her friendship with an anti-Nazi activist. The character of Julia seems to be part fantasy, part composite of women Hellman admired.
The film suffers from this blend of fact and fiction and even more from the episodic nature of the intermixed stories. In addition (and to its credit), it does not minimize Hellman's famously abrasive personality. But the characters are so compelling, the performances so outstanding, and the pacing so canny that it holds the viewer's interest for a full two hours.
A flawed but fascinating flick!
The central issue in this film is the shifting patterns of the relationship
between two exceptional sisters, cellist Jacqueline du Pre and her sister
Hilary, a flute prodigy who abandoned music for a more conventional domestic
Emily Watson is wonderful as the mercurial Jackie, striking a complex balance between genius and victim. The later scenes, dramatizing the effects of muscular dystrophy, are devastating. The part of Hilary is more complicated -- especially since the script is based on her memoir of the relationship, an account that many British critics denounced as self-serving. The wounds that her memoir has opened are reflected in the fact that Jackie's husband, Daniel Barenboim, has apparently prevented the producers from using most of her recordings for the soundtrack.
But the movie as a whole is sympathetic to all the players and, despite an excessive reliance on swooping circular pans, packs a considerable emotional wallop.
It was Frank Capra's genius to translate America's fondest dreams into
irresistibly emotional movies. Maybe it takes a Sicilian to capture the
essence of America.
The movie's power is certainly enhanced by its terrific cast: Lionel Barrymore as an irresistibly evil villain, Donna Reed as an imperfectly perfect wife, and Jimmy Stewart as, well, Jimmy Stewart. (Like most movie-goers, I am enormous grateful to Tom Hanks for taking up this mantle.)
I could go on, but why bother? Get out the Kleenex and enjoy! "It's a Wonderful Life" beats roast turkey, roast ham, roast beef and even apple pie as a holiday tradition.
All the best in 1999 --
Gee, where should I begin? It's a character study -- but on what subject?
About a man who came to gay awareness far too late to benefit from the gay
lib movement? About an artist whose greatest achievements depended on
extinguishing all connections between the personal and the political? All
of the above and so much more!
Personally, I'd give the Oscar to Brendan Fraser, who has a much more challenging role as the understated, naturalistic yard man, though Ian McKellan gives such a commanding performance that he's bound to play a prominent role at every award ceremony. If he's dissed because the love interest is gay, it's only the proof gay activists have long sought -- namely, that peronal respect is sexually conditioned.
All in all a wonderful film for anyone who loves great acting and a director willing to push the envelope. It's a terrific look at the ways life has shaped all of our beliefs.
The best thing I can say for this film is that it enhances our appreciation
of Alfred Hitchcock. His 1954 original has roughly the same running time,
but it has so much more going on: A dozen recurring minor characters give
texture to the script and complications to the plot. The plot itself
involves far more twists, turns, and red herrings, plus twice as many
confrontations between the heroine and the villain. The romantic
relationship is far steamier, and the climactic scene is utterly original
and totally terrifying.
In this new version, the mystery story has been "streamlined" to allow more time for techno razzle-dazzle and detailed presentation of the challenges faced by the disabled every day. The cause is worthy, but the shotgun marriage of movie-of-the-week message with murder-mystery drama serves neither facet of the film very well.
There are a few effective scenes, and the actors make the most of the feeble script. Christopher Reeves may be paralyzed from the neck down, but he knows how to use his handsome, highly expressive face and voice. You won't forget Jimmy Stewart, but you do get involved with Reeves' character. Reuben Santiago-Hudson is delightful in the Thelma Ritter role, and Robert Forster is fine as the hard-bitten cop. Darryl Hannah, alas, does little with less; a star willing to take on a Grace Kelley role deserves more support from her producers!
If you'd like to support people with spinal cord injuries and see a good thriller, write a check to Christopher Reeves' foundation, then rent Hitch's masterpiece.
I have a great deal of admiration for this engaging effort to explain the
roots of the modern gay rights movement, produced on a shoe-string by a
director with an admirable sense of style, pacing, and resourcefulness.
Though filtered through a distinctly British class-consciousness, it does a
highly respectable job of catching the main trends in gay America from my
Furthermore, it is candidly presented as a subjective, fictional account, mooting complaints like "the bus is too old," "no New York apartment is that big" and "the Stonewall bar never looked that clean."
Nonetheless, one small detail and one large item are egregiously wrong. The detail is the rather elementary fact that the Stonewall was never licensed; it was a "private" mob-run club. It was raided not because all cops are homophobes but because, in the absence of official licensing, gay bars were, in every sense, illegal. The scenes where Stonewall employees display great care about the liquor laws are ridiculous, since the bar operated outside the law.
The larger item is the failure to capture the sense of exhilaration that swept throught the country in 1969. This was the year men walked on the moon, the year of Woodstock, the year an X-rated gay-themed film ("Midnight Cowboy") won the "Best Picture" Oscar, and (biggest miracle of all to us New Yorkers) the year the Mets, long "lovable losers," won the World Series. Anything was possible, and gay people joined the party with enthusiasm.