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Viskningar och rop (1972)
My first brush with Bergman
It was a haunting and shattering film experience, as promised.
I've never before seen a Bergman film, however, judging by the praise awarded to "Cries and Whispers," I decided to try this one out first. And I couldn't have been more rewarded. The film, even though it clocked in at a short ninety-one minutes, I estimate less than half of those minutes contained dialogue. As Gloria Swanson put it in "Sunset Boulevard," they "had faces." And how they used them! The facial expressions and mannerisms the characters in this film used were breathtaking. Going from Liv Ullman's smug, teasing grin in her flashback scene with the doctor to Ingrid Thulin's anguish-cum-rhapsody in the scene with the broken class (that undoubtedly stays in the minds of all who see the film for one reason or another!) is truly incredible. Each character uses their body language to convey the meaning of their characters and their situations. In fact, I could have watched the film in Swedish without English subtitles and still have known perfectly well what was going on. The dialogue was truly superfluous and unnecessary. Combining the characters' body language with Bergman's masterful use of color to convey the personalities of the characters as well as their environment in general is something that (1) I've scarcely, if ever, seen used in a film before and (2) could not stop marvelling at its brilliance.
The performances were top notch. All of the performances by the four leading ladies were exceptional and perfect in every way. The homoeroticism that pervades the film is perfectly captured by the ladies in a manner that is not sexual, but rather something the farthest possible being from sexuality.
I do not even need to speak of Sven Nykvist's cinematography beyond that it is perfection incarnate.
I am now convinced that Bergman is a master, and I cannot wait to see another of his films! Sure, the film is depressing and certainly is not for those who think that "The Italian Job" is the best film of the year, however, for those who can just watch the relationships of the sisters unfold in all its splendor and anguish, this is truly a work of art rivalling those of any medium.
MY RATING: 10/10 (and I don't give tens lightly)
HIGHLIGHTS: Liv Ullmann, Harriet Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Kari Sylwan, Sven Nykvist's cinematography, Bergman's use of color and his direction in general
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
*Snore*...Oh, what was that again?
Next time you have trouble sleeping, don't fumble in the medicine cabinet for sleep aids, just pop this into the VCR and off you'll be in minutes. This positively one of the most boring films I've ever seen. Every single minute of this film is so heavy and lumbering that you'd think little lead sinkers had been attached to the celluloid. The problem with this film is mainly the cast. Except for Luise Rainer, who was wonderful and one of the film's only good points, there is no charm at all. William Powell is irriatingly self-confident as Ziegfeld--not Ziegfeld's self confidence, mind you, it's his own big head there. Myrna Loy, who got second billing for very limited screen time, doesn't distinguish herself as Billie Burke, and makes you wonder why somebody so flamboyant as Ziegfeld would want to marry her. This film is so unberably top heavy that by intermission, you feel as if it should have fallen and been over already. That said, the musical numbers are spectacular. They were truly glimpses into the glamor of the past. The most notable is the one set to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, right before the intermission. It is so archeytpically golden age Hollywood/Broadway that it'll knock your socks off. It truly defines the word spectacle. However, these little breaks in the boredom are not enough to make up for a truly uninteresting and tiresome film.
HIGHLIGHTS: Luise Rainer, musical numbers, seeing "The End" on the screen
NOTES: -I believe that James Cagney or even Clark Gable would've made a far better Florez Ziegfeld than William Powell.
-Luise Rainer won the Oscar for Best Actress for this film, but it was really more of a supporting role IMO.
-This won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1936, but pales in comparison to other films from that year such as MODERN TIMES, MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, and MY MAN GODFREY.
All in all, just don't waste your time (unless you're an insomniac!)
Creepy but good!
When I first began to watch this film, I remember people saying that it was one of the most disturbing film's they'd ever seen. I beared that in mind while watching the beginning segments, yet I didn't see why they were so "disturbed" by this film. Was it just the rathe odd-looking inbred child? Was it the too-peaceful mountain setting? Was it the banjo music? I decided that I should just wait and see...and inevitably, I saw! The scene in the woods between Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and the two homosexual mountain-folk was one of the creepiest scenes I've ever seen in any movie. Could any of you imagine yourselves canoeing downriver in the mountains and being confronted by two violent-minded hillbillies? Just imagining myself in that situation makes me cringe. As the film progresses and the characters' plights become more and more life-threatening, I became more and more intrigued. It was fascinating how John Boorman used settings that reflected what was happening in the story, and the acting (especially Jon Voight) was fantastic. This truly is one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen, but it's a kind of disturbance that I'd recommend to all; I guarantee you'll never hear "Dueling Banjoes" again without thinking of DELIVERANCE!
HIGHLIGHTS: "Dueling Banjoes"; the cool, detached cinematography; the infamous scene in the woods; Jon Voight; the rock climb; the swim to safety.
NOTES: -Definitely deserved to be nominated for Best Picture in 1972! -Probably John Boorman's best and best-known film. -Not for the faint of heart, so proceed with caution!
This movie, I hate to say, is a waste of time. It's boring, its feeling of length belies its running time, and it's JUST NOT INTERESTING!
Zero Mostel, who I normally love, plays his usual self as Pseudolys and Jack Gilford, far from his excellent performance in SAVE THE TIGER, is just ho-hum.
Considering this film was made in the heyday of the revival of the musical, this film pales in comparison to THE SOUND OF MUSIC, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, or CABARET. See one of those instead.
What I think should've won...
Here's what I think should've won this time:
Best Picture: Traffic
Best Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator)
Best Actor: Tom Hanks (Cast Away)
Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream)
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich)
Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock)
Just what I think.
Here's my opinion on what should have won:
Best Picture: A Beautiful Mind
Best Director: Robert Altman (Gosford Park)
Best Actor: Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind)
Best Actress: Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom)
Best Supporting Actor: Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast)
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) OR Helen Mirren (Gosford Park)
That's just my opinion, though.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
What's the big deal?
Spoilers are possible, so proceed at your own risk.
I watched THE DEER HUNTER for the first time last night. I was interested in seeing it because of its status as Best Picture of 1978. After sitting through the three hours, I had one question in mind: what's the big deal?
This film, so widely praised in the annals of film history, seems to have no reason to support this praise. The story is drawn out, the characters lack depth (save Christopher Walken) and you cannot identify with them. Robert De Niro, who I usually like very much, does not give his usual bravura performance we're used to, as in RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, and THE KING OF COMEDY. He seems to be just going through the motions. Cimino's direction lacks a certain style that Scorsese, Coppola, and other modern-era directors so painstakingly thread through the film. The acting beside De Niro is stale (with the exception of Walken, who can be called about "average.")
The first hour, while thought to be the highlight of the film, is still too long and causes even the most intent viewer to look at his or her watch once or twice before the men go to Vietnam.
The film had an interesting idea behind it: divide a film into thirds and have the first third show the life of Pennsylvania steel-workers, the second third show their ordeals in Vietnam, and the third show how they changed when they came home.
The problem I thought was this structure was that during the last third, the characters (except De Niro) hadn't changed greatly (or at all) from the first half! They still engage in the same adolescent horseplay and do not seem a bit stirred by their experiences in Vietnam. Christopher Walken is the only exception to this, and his reintroduction into the film near the three hour mark was too drawn out to achieve the artistic status that Cimino was trying to achieve.
There was too much Russian roulette! If I had to watch one more game of Russian roulette, I was going to shoot MYSELF! (Just kidding). It was too much, though. These scenes in Vietnam involving this deadly game were too overdramatic and drawn out.
Although this wasn't the worst of the Best Pictures (that honor goes to GIGI, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, and the ones from the late 20s and early 30s), it is only middle of the road as far as Vietnam movies are concerned, as it suffers in comparison to FULL METAL JACKET and especially APOCALYPSE NOW, but is superior to PLATOON and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.
My rating: 4/10 (That's being generous).
Highlights: None that stand out.
The best screenplay ever written
When thinking of film noir, what comes to mind? THE BIG SLEEP, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE THIRD MAN, even L.A. CONFIDENTIAL? How about 1974's CHINATOWN? In my opinion, this is among the best noir films of all time, with those mentioned before. CHINATOWN is a nearly perfect film. The screenplay, by master of the medium Robert Towne is, in my opinion, the best ever written. It is so full of detail, characterization, plot, tone, style, and overall punch, and the fact that it is flawles makes it the best ever written. In fact, it is so flawless that it is used to teach amateur screenwriters how to write.
The film itself is also nearly perfect. The acting from Nicholson and Dunaway could not have been better, nor the directing by Roman Polanski. John Huston was very interesting in his small role as well.
Technically, the movie is brilliant. The cinematography by John A. Alonzo is beautiful and its bright colors strongly contradict the usual film noir fare of shadows and dark alleys. Jerry Goldsmith's score is haunting and you'll find yourself whistling it all day after you've seen the film (how it didn't win Best Score (Oscar) of 1974 is beyond me).
I haven't much else to say about this film, except that I strongly recommend seeing it.
My rating: 10/10.
Highlights: The whole film (especially Nicholson, Dunaway, Huston, Goldsmith's score, Alonzo's cinematography, Polanski's direction and ROBERT TOWNE'S SCREENPLAY!)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Has its good and bad points.
There may be some inadvertent spoilers in here, so proceed with caution.
I normally dislike Lerner/Loewe musicals (especially GIGI) because of their slow pace, forgetful songs, wooden acting, and speak-singing. In the case of 1964's MY FAIR LADY, some of these elements return, but others thankfully do not.
I'll comment on the bad first, to save the best for last.
Rex Harrison was the major drawback of the film. Yes, he won the Oscar for Best Actor for this, but how? If the delightful and radiant Audrey Hepburn was passed over (and not even nominated at that!) for Julie Andrews in MARY POPPINS of all things, how did Harrison manage? How did he beat out Peter Sellers for DR. STRANGELOVE? He's irritating the whole way through, and he screams all of his lines as if he were stranded on a tarmac at La Guardia. He did not sing his songs, but rather spoke them quickly, a Lerner/Loewe trademark as in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and GIGI as well.
Wilfrid Hyde-White's character of Pickering was utterly pointless! Whatever Rex Harrison demanded, he followed right along without qualm. The musical would've have been almost exactly the same without him. He was such a follower! Also, if Eliza Doolittle said "I'm a good girl, I am!" one more time, I was going to reach through the television and slap her. The length of the film also detracted. If it were, say, forty-five minutes shorter, it would've been improved greatly.
Now the good.
Two simple words: AUDREY HEPBURN.
Need I say more?
Also good were the songs WOULDN'T IT BE LOVELY, WHY CAN'T THE ENGLISH, WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK, THE RAIN IN SPAIN, and GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME. Stanley Holloway was very good in his role as Eliza's drunk old father. George Cukor did a good job directing this film, and was basically his last great film before his death 19 years later.
I don't know if this really deserved Best Picture over DR. STRANGELOVE, but it was an entertaining film, and I'd recommend it. 7/10.
Highlights: AUDREY, the songs mentioned above, Stanley Holloway.
Not one of the better musicals I've seen.
When compared to other film musicals such as FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and WEST SIDE STORY, you can see how poor this film actually is. The fact that the stage musical the film is based on is weak to begin with, there isn't much hope left for the film itself.
There are no catchy tunes, and the big number of the piece, THE NIGHT THEY INVENTED CHAMPAGNE, is uninteresting and lacks the charisma of other showstoppers in other musicals such as IF I WERE A RICH MAN, MARIA, or FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD.
I cannot say anything good about Leslie Caron. She is flat, dull, and does not evoke any kind of caring for her from the audience. Audrey Hepburn played the role of Gigi on the stage, and although I was not alive at the time to see this, I am sure that she could run circles around Caron.
Louis Jourdan is not much of an actor and he seems to old to be in this role. Maurice Chevalier's character is annoying and only pops in when the characters have nothing else to do. If he sang LITTLE GIRLS one more time, I was going to turn off the movie!
Vincente Minelli's direction was nothing special. How he won the Academy Award for this piece is mindboggling. If he didn't win for the superior AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, why this?
The cinematography is somewhat nice, however, and at times even pleasant to look at. This is probably one of the only good aspects of this film.
I just couldn't get into this film, and far better examples of films from 1958 are VERTIGO, SEPARATE TABLES, and RUN SILENT RUN DEEP.
Highligths (of which there are few): the cinematography, seeing the end credits come up at last!
Maybe if Hepburn were cast instead of Caron, this could be a much better film. 3/10.