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The Door with Seven Locks (1940)
So many early films of the "Old Dark House" variety are the kind where actors hit their marks, look at each other, and just talk, talk, talk endless pages of dialog and exposition. Not this one! The director knows how to tell the story with a camera, and the movie has a good shot count so there's none of those lock-down shots where two or more actors talk about the situation for an eternity. Quite the contrary: the movie has good pacing, and the actors keep a good rhythm to the delivery of their lines. Lilli Palmer is quite good and beguiling as the female lead, with good support from fellow players. The plot has enough twists to keep things interesting, while the lighting, camera moves, and blocking keep the visuals engaging. For a low budget thriller, it's really one of the better examples!
Skip the Movie. Read the Book.
Cyra McFadden's novel was deliciously tongue-in-cheek look at the environment of her city, San Francisco. Not as over-the-top as Armistead Maupin's books, but still very humorous and accurate. This is neither humorous nor accurate. It's just mean-spirited and ham-fisted. Bad script / bad cinematography / bad performances / bad direction. It's like a LOVE American STYLE sketch that just won't end. And the entire tone of the film is just hate-spewing at anything that isn't white bread and Father Knows Best. It's also got some really homophobic language and attitudes that were already cultural dinosaur when this movie was made, and now are just appalling.
Barcelona, nit d'hivern (2015)
Overdose of Talking Heads
I don't think very highly of the creative team for this movie because the only way they know to communicate how a person feels or reacts is to have a big closeup of the actor's head while he or she talks (and talks and talks and talks) about how he feels and what he or she feels about the other people. It's rather insulting when a creative person doesn't trust the audience's ability to understand something, and so everything is spelled out like this movie does. Gestures, facial expressions, mood lighting, colors, objects within a scene -- all these ways of communicating with an audience and making the audience curious are seriously under-used. 75% of the dialogue could have been left out; and if the camera had moved in or out more to show detail or give us the bigger picture, it would have been a much richer movie. As it is, it's a series of people's heads with their lips moving ... and saying things that are pretty trite and predictable.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Bored Me from the Get-Go
The movie begins with a lousy, redundant voice-over to explain what we're seeing. (Thank you very much, Mister Narrator, but I have eyes so I can see someone is driving a car, is having an accident, etc.) And from there the condescending force-feeding just doesn't let up. This movie is a great example of a creative team telegraphing to you exactly what you're supposed to feel every second, instead of letting you discover what a movie's about by yourself. After about 20 minutes, I figured the people behind this movie must be rookies, so I looked up on IMDb and saw their list of credits is pretty thin. This movie may have been OK if there had been a LOT more re-writes and a creative consultant was hired. The artistic voice of this movie was too timid and predictable to make this an interesting movie.
If the filmmaker wants to make a personal video memory of his dad, so be it. But to serve up this documentary as something serious, with dramatic and political context for a wider audience, then the filmmaker totally fails. It has too little structure, tension, and journalistic effort to make an engrossing movie. So many follow-up questions aren't asked, so much nostalgic remembrances by family members that serve no purpose to a general audience, so many digressions, and no real examination of the times. This might make a good present to other members of the director's family, but as something to leave the house and go buy a ticket at a theatre, forget about it.
A Little Gem
There were so many finely crafted mini-movies in the early days of television, when young hopefuls on the way up and trusty veterans from the golden days of Hollywood studios collaborated on 30-minute stories to feed the ever-growing demand for TV time.
This is one of them. A quirky and charming tale from William Faulkner with a quirky and charming performance by the very talented and overlooked Stella Stevens.
As someone raised in the South, this is one of the few media works I've seen that captures southern rural culture without defaulting into tired stereotypes. Hugh O'Brian as the leading man and the direction by Richard Irving (some shots I can still freshly recall over a half-century later)gave additional strength to this beauty of a micro-movie.
A History of Ancient Britain (2011)
It's all about Mister Oliver
I have never gotten so sick of seeing a producer's face in my life. This isn't about Ancient Britain; it's about Neil Oliver. His face is in almost every shot, his words in almost every soundbite, and very little time is given to the experts who know something on this topic.
It is a producer's love fest to himself. We don't see the historic sites; we see a montage of shots of Neil Oliver walking through the sites. His commentary itself is not illuminating, but instead his observations mainly take the form of reacting to various objects he encounters. For example, when Neolithic arrowheads are shown, rather than something we could take away from the experience, Oliver goes off talking about how to him they are beautiful. Yes, that's all very nice, but there's no way I'm investing several hours trying to learn the history of Britain and coming away knowing that he found a certain ancient object beautiful or an historical site thrilling.
Please, Neil, it's not all about you.
Out of the Blue (1947)
What makes this movie so remarkable is that all the actors are cast against their type. Romantic lead George Brent plays a henpecked hubby in this film. Glamor gal Carole Landis plays a prissy mouse of a housewife. Turhan Bey doesn't wear a turban in this film, but plays a cool and wise-cracking New York man-about-town. And drama queen Ann Dvorak plays a screwball drunk lady with more than one screw loose. It's a gem. Then add to this the remarkable supporting cast, a script with some zingers I can still remember after not seeing this for 40 years. And it gets great Cool Points for having legendary jazz artist Hadda Brooks play the piano and sing in this film (she also performed in the Bogart / Grahame film IN A LONELY PLACE; and had one of the first regular TV shows ever broadcast in Los Angeles in the late 1940s).
Great Performances: Kurosawa (2000)
Too trite for me...
There is a phrase by the experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky, who says some films are structured like a camera mounted on the head of a dog who goes down an alley, sniffing everything along the way.
That's how this movie is. The structure is "Kurosawa started out as a baby, then he became a kid, then a young man, then a movie director, then he started making 'masterpieces', then he grew old, The End." The word 'masterpiece' is used a lot in this film to describe Kurosawa's output, without explaining *what* makes his films so good/great. Just because the off-screen narrator reading a script says that a film is a masterpiece, are we supposed to kiss his rear-end and accept that a certain movie is one of the great works of art of the 20th century? And one more point. The voice of Paul Scofield is used as the voice of Kurosawa, when excerpts from the director's memoirs are being read off screen. He brings pear-shaped Shakespearean tones to the text...but why him?? If you were making a documentary about Billie Holiday, would you use Dame Judi Densch as her voice????
I'm not going to approach and critique the theories of RAW. I mean, this is a site about movies and whether the movie delivers or is well-made, and not a site debating philosophy.
Having said that, this video really blows. It's one talking-head shot of RAW after another. Some of it is archival video, so you can see how he has aged over the years, and that's pretty cool. But, otherwise, the viewing experience is relentlessly monotonous.
It's a strange comparison, but I kept thinking of the Sunday afternoon when I watched some of the Barbra Streisand star vehicle *Funny Lady* (another really bad movie). After a while, I was so OD'd on Barbra, I kept wishing there would be one scene that she wouldn't appear in: you know, a "meanwhile, other characters in the movie were up to something else..." moment. But it was all about Barbra. Well this video is RAW's *Funny Lady*.
So, if your idea of a good time is to look at multiple takes and angles of the face of RAW while he prattles on with his theories, assembled in a lame structure that doesn't add any interest or insight, then be my guest. For me, I couldn't take it after 20 minutes.