Reviews written by registered user
margot

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24 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Marvellously weird, 24 September 2010
10/10

"Mum, can I have five shillings?" "Whatever for, Neville?" "I need to buy a doll."

One exchange I remember. Neville was doing some science project. Other episodes: Eddie was treating his English friends to a Christmas present of central heating, something very rare, apparently, in the London of the time.

The American girl practicing the Weird Sisters' chant at the beginning of Macbeth.

A sniffy Englishman admitting to one of the Walkers that that there was one American he approved of: "Benedict Arnold."

A rave smash if it could be rerun today.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not a perfect portrait of its time and place, but as good as you'll get, 9 March 2010
9/10

This is one of the few movies I can recommend without reservation to anyone who has never seen it. Like 'Citizen Kane,' it may annoy you with its artifice and politics, but there's enough richness in dialogue and production values to carry you through to the end.

Let's talk about some of the out-of-the-way stuff that usually gets forgotten or overlooked. Joe Frisco--legendary vaudeville star, bowler-hatted hoofer with the "Jewish Charleston"; and inspiration to the Marx Brothers in the 1920s. Frisco appeared in few movies, and this is his last. He's Herbie Temple, the washed-up vaudeville comedian whom J.J. gives a plug to, and whom Sidney Falco snares as a client. Barbara Nichols--the unattractive blonde (second-string Shelley Winters) who is Sidney's working girl. Barbara appeared in dozens of movies, yet this is the only classic in which she is usually remembered. Leonard Lyons and Earl Wilson: they don't appear, though they are suggested by the two rival columnists whom Sidney tries to butter-up as alternatives to J.J. Hunsecker (presumably a Walter Winchell type). All these columnists were household names in the 50s, at least in the New York with its seven daily papers.

The tragic Clifford Odets, plugging away heroically in Hollywood after a brief and blazing career as a daring leftist playwright, wrote the screenplay from the Ernest Lehman story. Odets never really got beyond the 1940s in his outlook, and this shows here, as it does in his play and screenplay, 'The Big Knife.' Here we are in 1957, and the big slur is still being a Commie. We are expected to believe that press-agent Sidney Falco can trash a jazz guitarist's career by implying Red-front associations. No no no...no one would have cared by this point. This premise, like the café society setting, is too anachronistic.

This deserves a remake, but set in the latter 40s rather than the 50s.

But it's still a great movie, as-is.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Vehicle and a Moving Film, 26 February 2010
8/10

This is a tasteful and moving piece of cinema, no more schmaltzy or campy than most Hollywood fare of the era. Unfortunately Liberace did not make any other films, so this one is a curiosity with a freak-show aspect. Everyone knows the tabloid scandals of Liberace's latter years, and I can imagine how difficult it is to get past those when eyeing this film today. But I watched it twice as a child, long before Lee's Vegas period, and I was enthralled. "I think I'm going to have to go back to reading lips," he says when the deafness comes back and he realizes the initial treatment didn't work. This is as good a scene as anything in 'Citizen Kane.' It's appropriate that the film is considered a camp item in Australia, land of second-hand culture and received opinions: they never knew Liberace except as a joke. But it's a good film nevertheless.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Modest, lovely, entertaining, 12 January 2010
8/10

I came to this with an open mind and had none of the misgivings that some others brought with them.

I know there are people out there who knew 'The Fantastic Mr. Fox' in book form, but I'd never heard of it, and I'd read a lot of Roald Dahl, particularly the short stories. The film's setting is clearly Home Counties England, somewhere between Reading and Cheltenham, but the half-Norwegian Dahl was such an Americanized writer that I never really thought of him as really English, so I had no problem with the American actors who played the animals.

The charm of the film is in its unpretentious sets and its refusal to engage in grand themes. That movie-trailer scene of Clooney/Foxy looking at the stars and wondering why he's a fox and not a badger--that seems to be joke about all overwrought film scripts. The film ends with a dance in a supermarket--what could be less pretentious or more open-ended? I do feel it is a shame that more couldn't be done with Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox. She has nothing to do but stand around and be the wary, censorious wife. Most of the other characters are variants of the Wes Anderson stock company we've been looking at since 'Bottle Rocket,' and that's fine with me, but it makes the characterization flatter than it needs to be. The most exciting character is Willem Dafoe's rat, who never gets a chance to develop.

Still, it's all very pleasant and technologically interesting, without ever hitting you over the head with techno-innovations and philosophical pain. That's charming enough in itself.

Utu (1984)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Intriguing but lacking in clear point of view, 7 January 2007, 12 January 2010
4/10

The picture begins in medias res, with some sort of tribal conflict going on among the Maoris. Some of them are evidently allied with the British. A lance corporal Maori named Te Weheke finds that a relative has been killed by the British, and for some reason swears eternal vengeance (or 'utu'). He has his face tattooed and leads his ragtag guerrilla army through the woods and brush. At no point is he likable.

Even in the most brutal of American westerns, the Indians were given a shred of understanding. Not so with the Maoris here. They are just mean and impulsive savages with no motivation other than the joy of killing. One comes away from this film wondering why these monsters weren't simply wiped out, instead of being coddled and treated as pets. And what were they doing in the local constabulary, anyway? A bit more background to the Maori situation, and to the motivation of Te Weheke's suicidal campaign against the British and colonists, would have helped make this a clearer story.

**IMDb deleted the original version of this review, essentially the same, and wrote:(This review was deleted by IMDb based on an abuse report filed by another user) from which we must assume that the troublemaker didn't bother to read the full review. We would appreciate information leading to the apprehension of this culprit.**

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Bad Danny Kaye Vehicle with No Kaye, 10 April 2009
3/10

I saw this once by accident at a kiddie matinée. I was expecting the spy-comedy fare on the marquee. It was apparent that the scenarist and director were attempting to strike a note similar to the Danny Kaye costume comedies, but without the panache and high gloss. It is revealing about the early career of Dick Shawn that his fey, campy, manic mannerisms were thought to make him a possible successor to Kaye. But Kaye had class that transcended his Borscht Belt beginnings; Shawn never got beyond the tummler you see here.

The production values are of the Low Budget school. The Baghdad setting was a convenient way of making use of all those old Middle Eastern sets and costumes left over from the 40s. The film was no better or worse than Saturday morning TV fare--old Blondie and Bowery Boys comedies, which suggests a real condescension to its audience.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Who are these people? What is the social context?, 18 January 2008
8/10

One of the scariest movies I've ever seen, right up there with "Requiem for a Dream." Paul Calderon, a good actor, plays a small but key (and nasty) character that cannot have helped his career but makes the terror of the film work splendidly.

This is a film about crack addiction, and how it can suck in even a hard-working young man with a good wife and some ambition. We are given just enough backstory about the lead character to make his fall seem credible and terrifying.

Another reviewer referred to the Imperioli character as 'Angelo' and he could well be an Angelo. However the character's name is actually Angel, which makes me wonder. Was this really supposed to be about Puerto Ricans, but adapted to make them maybe Sicilian-Americans instead? It reminds me of those Frank Sinatra comedies (e.g., 'Hole in the Head') where the lead was originally Jewish, but made sort-of-Italian to fit the actor. This misfit casting makes the social context implausible--an Italian family that lives mostly among Puerto Ricans and blacks. Nevertheless the script still manages to ring true in certain details, particularly during the last third when Angel attempts to make a little money by getting back into low-level dealing and finds himself in ever-more-sordid situations.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Phantasmagorical Setting, 24 September 2007
9/10

An excellent story with superb if eccentric production design. Either the version I saw recently was a 'director's cut' with new scenes inserted, or the movie is more watchable on TV than in the theater. When I saw it recently on the tube I caught backstory and sideplots I'd missed before. For example: Frank Galvin (Paul Newman) started out working for courthouse hack Mickey Morrisey (Jack Warden), landed a job with a white-shoe firm that exploited his naivete and ruined his career, and then finally Mickey Morrisey took him back. Frank Galvin still naively loves his ex-wife, daughter of the white-shoe firm's senior partner, even though she assisted in Frank's betrayal. The Charlotte Rampling temptress is hired partly because of a fleeting resemblance to Frank's ex-wife.

The David Mamet script is a gem, relentlessly plotted, but its depiction of Boston is pure science-fiction and fantasy. Mamet offers the peculiar notion that everybody in Boston, with the exception of one Jewish doctor, is an Irish Catholic; moreover at least half of them are Irish-born and speak in rich brogues. So here we have the half-Jewish Newman and the half-Jewish Warden both playing Boston-Irish lawyers, though without any Boston intonation or accent, and the Irish-Irish veteran actor Milo O'Shea playing the capricious judge while looking like the late Tom Snyder in a pageboy haircut, and talking like a bookie from Cork City.

Then we get English actor James Mason as Concannon, attorney for the defense ('Prince-of-F**ing-Darkness,' according to Jack Warden's Mickey Morrisey), and he talks just like...James Mason! And not James Mason in Odd Man Out, either. An upper-class Dubliner, perhaps. Are you licensed to practice here, Mr. Concannon?

All-American actress and theater royalty Lindsay Crouse would be a perfectly believable Irish colleen, were it not for the broad stage-Irish that she speaks for no discernible reason.

Nobody, but nobody, talks with any sort of Boston accent. Even straightforward American accents are thin on the ground. Charlotte Rampling makes a good try but comes across as an English girl who did part of her growing up in Connecticut.

As if to emphasize the strange version of Irishry imposed on the production by Mamet--a brilliantly imaginative East-European Jew who is more at home writing scripts about grunting, potty-mouthed Hollywood agents than he is trying to conjure up a sense of old-line Americana--the movie set is a dank procession of dark-wood pubs, frosted-glass partitions, and elegant but dimly lit Beacon Hill townhouses: a set that could serve equally well for James Joyce's Dublin or A. Conan Doyle's London. I applaud this brilliant fantasy as an aesthetic experiment, but I found it extremely distracting when I first saw the film in its theatrical release. It is as though you go to see a film set in Manhattan, and a parade of cowboys and indians periodically streams down Fifth Avenue, and no one ever explains why.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Political correctness avant la lettre, 7 January 2007
8/10

I have bumped up my rating because this is such a rare and strange movie, so typical of Hollywood in the postwar Dore Schary era.

The beauty of this film is unsurpassed. It is like a movie musical with very few songs but an operatic background. If you haven't seen the full thing on DVD, you may not know a few sequences that were always cut in TV broadcast. For example, the fantasy sequence in which Pat O'Brien recalls how he sang for the king.

Musical? Fantasy? Humanistic postwar plea for tolerance? Why did anyone make this film? Those are side questions. It should be enjoyed for its visuals and hallucinogenic sidetrips.

What is this movie all about? The loneliness of childhood, the pathos of war orphans, the cruelty of schoolchildren, or the need for universal pacifism? Actually none of the above, but it tries to push each button for sentimental effect.

A shaven-headed runaway boy tells police investigators how he lost his hair. He is an orphan, living with a singing waiter he calls Gramps, though they are not related. One day his hair turns green. A group of war-poster orphans comes to life and tells him it is his duty to tell the world that war is bad for children and therefore there must be no more war. But the intolerance of society forced him to shave his head...which is where we came in.

It is unlikely that this war-is-bad message would have found much traction in, say, 1943. No doubt the greenheaded boy's message then would have been that war is a very good thing indeed, because it meant helping Comrade Stalin defeat the Nasties.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Unusually handsome, bright, and charming, 3 January 2007
9/10

George Sandford Becker was a very different sort of kiddy-show host. He played radio's "Young Doctor Malone" as well as providing voiceovers for countless television ads and Saturday morning cartoon characters. Unlike most voice artists and kiddy hosts he was really good-looking, young and stylish. Very bright and culturally aware, too, with a manic humor and talent for mimicry that would have fit in very well in the 70s-90s of Robin Williams and Dennis Miller. Sandy was too subtle and sophisticated for the 50s-60s. Ah me, most of his work is lost, beyond those cartoons and commercials, and a few video and kinescope snippets of him clowning around for the cameramen.


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