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Far from Heaven (2002)
Julianne Moore is Absolute Heaven!
"Far from Heaven" is Todd Haynes' homage and attempt to recreate what was called, in the 50's and 60's, a "weepie," a domestic melodrama with all the attendant production values: lush musical score, sumptuous costumes and a heroine with big concerns/problems mostly having to do with Love, Family and usually both. Think "Written on the Wind," "Magnificent Obsession" or "All that Heaven Allows." The problem with this kind of a venture is that in order for it to work it must be handled in a non-ironic, straightforward manner. Haynes's and his actors succeed most but not 100% of the time. The very nature of an enterprise like this calls for a somewhat arch and precise acting technique as we are dealing with a dead genre probably farther removed from our 2002 reality than are Shakespeare's plays. Like the best of these films, "Far from Heaven" can be unbelievably moving; when we are not only marveling at the gorgeous mise en scene but when the superior acting abilities of the amazing Julianne Moore as Cathy shine through. Cathy and her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) lead a tranquil life in Connecticut where beautiful and well-put together Cathy is slowly withering away, being eaten alive by the fact that her perfect life is irrevocably punctured when she catches her husband in the arms of another man. But this is not all. Cathy's natural openness towards everyone she comes across as well as her empathy for other races specifically her African American gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert) is also causing gossip among her friends and her neighbors. The outwardly disapproving and disgusted looks on the townspeople's faces when Cathy is with Raymond are laughable in one way but in another really goes to the heart of race relations then as well as now. Has much changed in this regard in the last 44 years? There is a very poignant scene in which Frank slaps Cathy across the face and Cathy, always the understanding one, reassures him that all is "fine" but then pathetically asks him to bring her some ice to quell the swelling. She tells her friend, Eleonor (played immaculately by Patricia Clarkson): "Frank didn't mean to hit me." Frank, in a kind of homosexual panic, lashes out at Cathy, the one person who loves and accepts him; as well as the one who reminds him on a daily basis that his love for her is a lie. The scene in which Frank asks Cathy for a divorce is a stunner: watch Moore's eyes and body language. Even when her heart seems about to explode, her eyes remain dry, calm and understanding even in this harrowing and unspeakable situation. So as not to portray her as the ultimate victim, Haynes has smartly imbued Cathy with a strong desire to change from the all accepting, never questioning woman she's been to the strong, independent woman she aches to become. Her heartbreaking attempts to contact the N.A.A.C.P to volunteer are both incredibly naïve yet strongly sympathetic. Heaven to Cathy Whitaker is a place in which she is always loved, always valued, forever cherished. Nothing could be more basic yet more unattainable whether it be 1957 or 2002.
2002 107 min. Rated: PG-13
The Hours (2002)
An Oscar to All Three!
To me, the premise of "The Hours" was a little intimidating to me before I finally managed to see the film: Three women are linked through three time periods to Virginia Woolf's novel 'Mrs. Dalloway'. I was concerned that my blazing ignorance to Ms. Woolf's work, and this one in particular, would hinder my enjoyment of the film and my ability to understand it. Not so. Yes, 'Mrs. Dalloway' was at the root of the three stories presented, but everything you need to know is in the film. This is it, basically: Mrs. Dalloway decides one morning -- the morning of a party she is throwing -- that she will buy the flowers herself. Though she projects the appearance of togetherness and cheer, she is a lonely, empty woman inside. Oh, and someone dies at the end. That's it.
In "The Hours", we meet three women. First is Virginia herself (Nicole Kidman), and our introduction comes in the form of her 1941 suicide at the age of 59. A feminist Ophelia, she places a stone in her dress pocket, walks to a nearby stream, and lets it carry her away. Her brief, mortal stroll is voiced-over by her suicide letter, which explains to her husband that this act of desperation is to spare him the madness she feels is returning. The rest of her story takes place in 1923 as 'Mrs. Dalloway' is working its way out of her. Flashing forward to 1951, we see Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), depressed housewife of WWII veteran Dan (John C. Reilly) and mother of a young son. It's Dan's birthday, and Laura, in the middle of reading 'Mrs. Dalloway', decides that she will feel better today and bake a cake. Cut to 2001, and publisher Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is preparing a reception for author and friend (and long-ago lover) Richard (Ed Harris). Richard has just won a prestigious poetry award but is too ill from AIDS and related dementia to want to go to the party.
Each of these women are depressed. Each awakes and acquires flowers. Each has something special going on that day -- a party of sorts. Each of these women kisses another woman. They all face suicide, and they all face the choice between death and the imprisonment of life. They each make a choice. The variations on these choices, while sometimes disorienting, are exactingly faithful to each other. Sometimes they reveal themselves suddenly, consecutively. Other times they surface gradually, inconspicuously. Like Philip Glass' subtle, driving score, they build gracefully from a whisper into a cry and by film's end find themselves whispering again.
"The Hours" is a miracle of a movie. Literate, involving, active -- it is that rare film about women and their unique experiences that neither excludes nor condemns the role of men in their lives. The men of "The Hours", Woolf' stoic and supportive husband (Stephen Dillane), Brown's husband and son, poet Richard, and his former lover Louis (Jeff Daniels) -- the sexual politics of the film are sometimes scattered but fascinating -- are innocent bystanders who, while making decisions to maintain or find their own happiness, neither victims nor devalue these unhappy women. Their depressions are unto themselves, and their lives entrap them in ways that their respective others cannot assist or understand.
All of the performances in "The Hours" are excellent, uniquely extraordinary, and utterly unforgettable. Ms. Kidman, unrecognizable behind a prosthetic nose, does more refined work here than I have ever seen from her. Her Woolf is depressed but never pitiful and always strong whatever the hardship. Ms. Moore, playing a very different '50s housewife from her "Far From Heaven" turn, gets it just right. In the midst of true depression, something as simple as baking a cake becomes an overwhelming, impossible task. Moore's battle with the cake is heartbreakingly sorrowful when she fails, yet somehow sadder when she gets it right. Ms. Streep, meanwhile, shows us again why she is Streep -- equally profound unraveling before the party and, in a devastating scene at the end, as she just listens to a voice from the past that puts things into perspective.
Sad, but never far from hope, "The Hours" not only also has an outstanding supporting cast (including Claire Danes, Allison Janney, Miranda Richardson) and superb direction from Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot"), it is also one of the finest films of 2003 and of recent memory. A great DVD must-own for any Nicole Kidman fan, any Julianne Moore fan, or even any Meryl Streep fan, BUT ESPECIALLY JULIANNE MOORE!!
2002 114 min. Rated: PG-13
American Beauty (1999)
One of the Best Films of 1999.
The first time I saw the now famous poster for American Beauty was months before it opened. I was going down the escalator of a posh local multiplex, and there it was at the end of my descent. I looked at those red roses adorning an actresses midsection, and I remarked to a friend that this looked like a very special movie. I don't what it was about the artwork that made me say that, but it turned out to be an accurate remark. The movie opened in a limited engagement in September 1999 and went on to build and build. In March, it won Oscars in major categories - Best Picture, Best Actor [Kevin Spacey] and Best Director. At the time, there were some nay-sayers who said the film painted too dark a picture of American life. I won't debate this, but I will say that there are precedents in the Academy Awards. For example, Billy Wilder's The Apartment, a scathing comedy about how morally low some people will go to move up in corporate life, won Best Picture in 1961. Brilliant is brilliant, no matter what the subject is, and America has had a seriously cynical side to it for decades.
Welcome to the Burnham household. Meet Lester and Carolyn [Spacey and Annette Bening] and their lovely teenage daughter, Jane [Thora Birch]. The Burnhams have it all - the lucrative jobs, the topflight public schools, the perfect suburban home, the immaculate lawn with its borders of American beauty roses. What could possibly be missing from their lives? Oh, just little things like happiness and fulfillment. Lester and Carolyn certainly no longer love each other. Theirs is an uneasy truce. On the surface, Jane comes across as a snide and ungrateful child, but you have to ask yourself who wouldn't be eager to leave such a dismal scene? How often many of us point the finger at our children when what we are showing them are lives devoid of love, passion, honestly and integrity.
Jane is a cheerleader at the local high school, and one night the Burnhams decide to attend a game. They want to show support for their daughter, who truly doesn't want them there. Lester sees another cheerleader, a friend of Jane's, and instantly falls in lust. He becomes obsessed with the girl. He quits his job and blackmails his boss into giving him $60,000 severance pay. He buys a red Pontiac Firebird. Carolyn, who constantly berates herself for not being a success, retaliates by starting an affair with an arch rival in the real estate business. Their actions are not exactly what they appear to be. Lester's pursuit isn't all about an older man / young girl relationships. Its about the loss of youth and passion and about the dire consequences that can be spawned by living a whole lifetime of fitting in. Carolyn feels she has totally lost controlnot just of Lester and Jane, but of life as a whole. I think they are after the same answers, only Lester uses a brutally honest approach. And now Jane is really ready to split.
Compounding all these problems is the arrival of some strange new neighbors. Col. Frank Fitts is a retired Marine who's feelings are so repressed he's become a walking time bomb. His wife has retreated into a haunting, silent world of her own. Teenage son Ricky is obsessed with videotaping everything he encounters, including Jane. He supports his hobby by dealing vast quantities of dope. Soon Jane and Ricky have a thing going, and everything climaxes for all involved in one bizarre night of the most memorable and improabable miscommunications.
Is this a comedy or a drama? That's hard to say. Many viewers do not relate to the Burnhams specific problems, but they do identify with their general feelings. In laughing at them, many of us are laughing at ourselves. Take the problem of trying too hard to fit in. There is nothing wrong with doing this, unless you lose your own identity in the process. And many would agree that, while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being American, there is currently something fundamentally wrong with American life. Personally, I think it has less to do with moral issues than it does with a basic spiritual emptiness that comes with being obsessed with external appearances and with material goods.
American Beauty is a brilliant movie and, to me, probably was the best American film of 1999. Like a few others before it, it stands uniquely on its own, owing very little to movies that came before it. I love the way it peels away the layers of the Burnhams' lives like onions. I admire its essentially nonjudgmental point of view. Best of all, I like the way that everyone is somehow redeemed at the end. Its a movie that makes you wish there were a few more great ones like it out there.
Where's Poppa? (1970)
A True Comic Classic!
The brothers Hocheiser make a solemn promise to their dying father that they will "never put their mother (Ruth Gordon) in a home." But brother Gordon (George Siegel) gets stuck with the old dingbat and she is wrecking his life. His law practice is falling apart, his sex life nonexistent, and he can't even hire a nurse to take care of the wacko. Then, suddenly, a nurse-- the girl of his dreams comes along, but mother has other ideas. This wonderful, creative, hilarious 1970 classic comedy directed by Carl Reiner with its gallows humor could not be made today. We have lost much of our artistic freedom to political correctness, commercial timidity and lack of creative talent. But don't take my word for it, ask Mel Brooks who has remarked that some of his movies could not be made today either. Fortunately we can get the video. The movie does require a somewhat offbeat taste to appreciate. Everything and everyone is in a kind of reality warp, the Hocheiser family, the Central Park muggers, the police, the nurse Louise (Patricia Van Devere). The movie is also comment on life in America in 1970, and on how family members manipulate each other with guilt. Finally, I like the ending the movie was released with, it really does work better artistically.
1970 87 minutes Rated:R CC.
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Eat A Bowl of Tea!
Having not seen it since it was in the theater, I forgot just how good "The Joy Luck Club" is. The story of each of the women is personal and engaging. Different lives and pasts leading to the same destination, each road is harsh and lined with perils. The film is a nice blend of period piece and modern drama.
I love the dialog ("She will know I am waiting like a tiger in the trees, now ready to leap out and cut her spirit loose.") Visually, the film is almost too pretty. The women are all heart-breakingly beautiful, and each setting is dream-like in it's perfection. However, what could be a flaw is a strength, due largely to the quality of the actors. Each of the characters is strong and individual.
I seriously question the slanderous "R" rating! I think it could have sufficed with a PG-13! I mean, there is hardly any sex, no nudity, but just some violence! The MPAA needs to get a life!!
Otherwise, It is a very touching story of mothers and daughters, of hopes and fears. Victor Wong, even has a small part. A good film and time all around!
1993 139 minutes Rated: R CC.
Sex and the City (1998)
.."Sex And The City" is so unique, so original, so fresh, I totally understand why it appeals to men, women.... These stories are delivered with such honesty, and rawness that you can't help but say to yourself: "oh my God, I feel like that too!" or "that happens to me!" We all know of someone, who has experienced 'something' similar to the story lines. That's the beauty of "Sex And The City". It tells it like it is. And Something has to be said for the BRILLIANT performances each and every one of these women (and men) gives. Sarah Jessica Parker is amazing. She radiates every emotion to perfection. Kim Cattrall is my favorite. She's a blonde bombshell who does not beat around the bush. Her character is so openly honest with 'everything', you can't help but love her character "Samantha" and either cheer or crack up at her episodes. Cynthia Nixon's character is awesome. I think we all have a little bit of "Miranda" in all of us. And Kristin Davis as the annoying, "Charlotte", gives the story lines that feeling of "hope" and "innocence". This show truly deserves all the praise and awards it's currently getting. Do yourself a favor, buy and see "Sex And The City" and see for yourself. You'll be hooked, and you'll discover a world that many try to "avoid". We're only human! We deserve a little "Sex and the City".
Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)
Great Narrative Film with strict interiors!
This is Neil LaBute's more lavish but no less vitriolic follow-up to "In the Company of Men". Whereas that film had a documentary sense of realism to it, this one feels very much like a play. Although nothing mystical happens, there's a sense of surreality that coats this film. From the opening music, an oddly appealing version of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" played on four cellos by a quartet called Apocalyptica, to the main titles, which are superimposed over a sedate Alex Katz print called "The Cocktail Party", we enter a world of wealth and culture. Only under the glossy surface beats a soulless heart.
Witness an early dinner scene. Two couples meet at one's swanky townhouse, exchange pleasantries and share glasses of wine. The women are smartly dressed. The men are too (one of them laments a spill on his new doeskin jacket). But they never connect in a tangible way. Until, that is, an offer of infidelity is confidentially proffered. The movie uses this moment to jump off into a world where everyone (but one) appears stable but all are ineffectual and socially retarded. This point is further driven home by a series of scenes set in an art gallery, where each character uses the same verbatim small talk with an artist's assistant to expose significant aspects of their character. They're artificial moments, but delicately set up the tone of the film. The cast is uniformly excellent, if not overly mannered, which further helps create the feeling that you're watching a play rather than a film. Ben Stiller's character represents this the best, not just because he's a drama professor. He is erudite and articulate when "performing", such as when lecturing his students, or giving a tour of a museum. But when he gets into social situations, Stiller fails to complete a single one of his thoughts. Most of his sentences trail off, ending with the question "You know?" or just a resigned sigh. It's an evocative (if a touch shallow) character trait, but damn if it doesn't get annoying by film's end. I had this intense desire to slap Ben good.
Aaron Eckhart sports a $2 haircut, a cheesy moustache, and a bulging gut. He's playing a character exactly opposite to his toxic Chad from "In the Company of Men", and it's amazing that one man can pull off both roles. Eckhart has proven himself to be a marvelous chameleon-like actor, easily filling out the pathetic and needy sap LaBute has written for him here.
Jason Patric gets the toxic role this time, playing a misogynistic obstetrician (he's prone to playing football with a model of a fetus). His stories of extreme behaviour "amuse" his friends. One involves sending a retributive note to an ex-girlfriend on doctor's stationary, informing her that she may be HIV-positive. Another, in the scene that the film will be forever known for, involves high school hijinks in the gym shower with a bullied boy named Timmy. Patric wrings every bit of wickedness from this story, told in one incredibly long close-up take. It's a powerful little moment that leaves the audience (not to mention the other characters in the scene) exclaiming, "What the heck was that?"
Catherine Keener, so energetic in "Being John Malkovich", is much more subdued here. But you can feel her frustration bubbling up beneath the service (she's Stiller's girlfriend, and is as fed up with him as the audience is). Keener is a very self-aware actress, knowing when to go full throttle and when to pull back. Hers is not the showiest role in the film, but it ranks right up there with the most memorable.
Nastassja Kinski is used the least of the six main actors (author's note: Come to think of it, there are only six speaking parts in the whole movie, making the theatrical nature of the piece even more profound). And it's probably for the best. She is fetching, but doesn't bring much more to the role than quiet neediness.
Amy Brenneman plays Eckhart's wife, and has an affair with Stiller. She stays nervous and reticent throughout the movie, never giving in to her boredom or frustration even when the moment calls for a little blow-up. In the beginning she passes for the innocent moral centre of the film, but by the end she is the one most corrupted. Brenneman does well playing both sides of this coin.
Writer/Director LaBute appears to have learned much since "Men". He's more confident using close-ups to get in his characters' faces. And the film looks luscious bathed in warm autumnal hues. The story, such as it is, is told through a series of vignettes, each tellingly juxtaposed with the next to subtly portray the differences between men and women. A scene of three women talking about sex over lunch is followed by one of three men in a steam room pondering the same subject, in a cruder manner. And though there is no real narrative thrust, the individual scenes themselves are propulsive enough to keep the viewer interested.
1998 100 minutes Rated: R CC.
Originally to be rated X!!
Like titillating porn, Mandingo is the kind of film you rent and hope no one you know is looking. Then you hurry home, lower the blinds, make sure the kids are in bed, then turn on the VCR in anticipation. This film is so politically incorrect it's worth it on that merit alone! Black and white stereotypes are played up to the hilt and everybody is running around "pleasuring" any thing that moves. If you don't take it seriously, you can have loads of fun and laughs watching this one. Snortin' Norton does a great job as Meade the Mandingo fighting buck. Ol' Jimbo Mason is superb as the aging hard-line plantation owner who is very strict and true to the old traditional ways. His son Perry King is a much kinder and gentler soul without a cruel streak in him like the other characters. Susan George is great as the sly conniving Southern Belle who is not as innocent as she seems. Ol' Mr. Bentley from the Jeffersons - Paul Benedict plays a fine sub-role as Mr. Brambley the slave trader. All in all, let the liberals cry and whine. Get this film and have a ball with it!
1975 121 minutes Rated: R/X CC.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Olivia Hussey's finest hour!
"Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny. Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.... A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life."
This version of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is a masterpiece. If you have read the play, you'll notice that the film version is very similar. The actors are very fitting for their characters. Up till this point in this play, directors were using older players. This version uses younger, more fitting actors and actresses. Juliet, played by actress Olivia Hussey, is a young, headstrong girl looking for love. Being that her parents, Lord and Lady Capulet, didn't provide her with much sensitivity and love, Juliet is forced to confide in her nurse. After Juliet finds love in Romeo, actor Leonard Whiting, she learns he is a Montague, her great enemy's son. This devastates both Romeo and Juliet, but nothing will get in the way of their love for one another. The film takes us from the meeting of the title characters to the famous balcony scene. After this, Romeo's friend Mercutio, actor John McEnery battles with Juliet's cousin Tybalt, played by Michael York. He is slain and this starts a war between Tybalt and Romeo. "I am fortune's foe!" Romeo yells this after he kills Tybalt to avenge Mercutio, and then realizes that he is banished from fair Verona. This occurrence threatens Romeo and Juliet's marriage. Another threat to their marriage is the proposal of Paris, actor Roberto Bisacco, to Juliet. Her father, of course, sees Paris as a noble man, worthy of his daughter's hand in marriage. The proposal leaves Juliet to disappoint her mother and father, and the nurse thinks she should marry Paris, although she is already married to Romeo. Now Juliet is left to take desperate measures into her own hands. At Friar Lawrence's cell, actor Milo O'Shea, Juliet insists on his help in the rejoining of her and Romeo. He sees she's desperate and gives her a vial filled with a poison to make her seem dead, while she is really in a deep stage of sleep. He says Romeo will hear the news that she really isn't dead, he'll come and she'll wake. Their marriage should be renewed. As in any other tragedy, not all of the plans are carried out and death is the outcome. With death comes a sense of remorse, both in the Montague and Capulet families. The young actors give the audience a more realistic view of what Shakespeare wanted the characters to be. Hussey and Whiting perform Romeo and Juliet is the fashion in which Shakespeare intended. Both like love, want a little more of it, and will go to great lengths to obtain it. Many viewers argue that they are not truly in love with each other, but rather in lust. The time frame of the film and play is over the course of a couple days, and love usually takes longer to grow than that. None of the characters get enough sleep, and this may force them to act irrationally. You choose for yourself; is "Romeo and Juliet" a story about true love or just a teenage crush? Enjoy the film!
1968 140 minutes Rated: PG CC>
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Lean's Best Film!
Within the heart and mind of the true poet resides a grasp and perception of life and the human condition unequaled in it's purity by any other art form. From Rimbaud to Frost to Jim Morrison, he will in a few words or lines create or recreate an experience, thereby enabling his audience to know that experience, as well, albeit vicariously. The poet, of course, will choose the medium through which he will share his vision. For director David Lean, that medium is the cinema; and with "Doctor Zhivago," a film of sweeping and poetic grandeur, he reveals that within, he harbors the heart and soul of the poet. Indisputably, this is the true nature of David Lean; and it is evident in every frame of this film from the beginning to end.
To borrow a line from the more recent "Moulin Rouge," this is a story bout "love." A love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Dr. Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif) is a general practitioner, but he is also a poet; through his vocation as a man of medicine, he tends to those in need in everyday real life. But it is through his avocation as a poet that he expresses what he sees. He marries Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and has children; but the War and revolution intervene, and it is during these tumultuous times that his life becomes inexorably intertwined with a government official, Komarovsky (Rod Steiger), a young revolutionary, Pasha (Tom Courtenay), his half-brother, Yevgraf (Alec Guinness), and finally, Lara (Julie Christie). It's desperate times for Russians from all walks of life, and Zhivago does what he can to do what he can to keep the fragile threads of his life-- and of those around him-- intact. But fate plays a hand, and in the end, even Zhivago must go where Destiny leads.
With "Zhivago," David Lean has crafted and delivered a magnificent and monumental motion picture of epic proportions that at the same time is disarmingly intimate, rendered as a world within a world, with each a vital part of the other. Lean blends actors, cinematography, story and music with his own compassionate perspective to create a true work of art; a work of true poetry. In telling his story, he offers breathtaking visuals, like the awesome vistas of the snow-covered Urals, or a long shot of a wide open Russian plain with a solitary figure in the distance trudging through the snow, juxtaposed against the enormity of the landscape.
Often, however, what he doesn't show you, but suggests, is even more effective and emotionally stirring. Consider the scene in which a complement of mounted dragoons, sabres drawn, ride down upon a crowd peacefully demonstrating in the city streets; Lean sets it up so that you understand what is about to happen, then trains his camera on Zhivago, watching from a balcony overlooking the street as the carnage unfolds below. And in Zhivago's eyes, in the expression on his face, in his reaction to what he is witnessing, there is more horror because of what Lean has established in your imagination-- and which significantly enhances the impact of it-- than anything the most graphic visual depiction could have produced. Similarly, when the Czar and his whole family are shot, Lean does not take you there; instead, you learn of it and realize the impact of it through the reaction of Alexander Gromeko (Ralph Richardson), Tonya's father, and it places it into a context that makes it all the more effective. This is filmmaking at it's best, and an example of what makes Lean's films so memorable.
Put a talented actor into the hands of a gifted director, and results of more than some distinction can be expected; and such is the case with Omar Sharif and David Lean. In 1962, Sharif received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia," and in "Zhivago," Lean's next film, Sharif gives a sensitive, affecting performance for which he should have received a Best Actor nomination, but inexplicably, did not (It was Lee Marvin's year for "Cat Ballou"). Still, as Yuri Zhivago, he has never been better. Sharif successfully manages to convey his deepest, internalized emotions, expressing them through the genuine compassion with which he imbues his character. Lean allows his star the time he needs to share with his audience his appreciation of the beauty he perceives in the world around him, and it's in those pensive moments that we, in turn, perceive the inner beauty and poetic nature of the man. You have but to look into Zhivago's eyes to know his sense of joy in all living things. It's a wonderful collaboration between actor and director that so vividly and poignantly brings this character to life.
1965 was a career year for Julie Christie; she received the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in "Darling," yet in this film created an even more enduring and memorable character in Lara (aided in no small part by the hauntingly lovely "Lara's Theme," by Maurice Jarre, which indelibly etched Christie/Lara in the consciousness of "Zhivago's vast, international audience). Lara's beauty is obvious, yet of a kind that goes much deeper than what you see on the surface; her station in life has made her vulnerable to misuse, but at the same time has endowed her with a strength born of necessity. And Zhivago sees in her a quality and a resourcefulness that fulfills his romantic notions of perfection, and with a beguiling screen presence and a performance to match, Christie makes those notions credible and believable.
Guinness, Richardson and Courtenay are exceptional in their respective roles-- Lean without question knows how to get the best out of his actors-- and also turning in noteworthy performances are Siobhan McKenna (Anna), Rita Tushingham (The Girl) and Klaus Kinski, who is unforgettable as Kostoyed, manacled and designated for forced labor, yet the "Freest man on this train!" One of Lean's greatest films.
1965 200 minutes Rated: PG-13 CC.
In their only appearance together on film - they didn't have any scenes together in the 1944 wartime moral - boosting film HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN - Davis and Crawford each sparked their quickly fading careers by doing this excursion into the macabre. The picture isn't exactly Hitchcock, and it goes on and on in a light dimmer than necessary, and the climax - when it belatedly arrives - is rather something of a cop-out. However, this low - budget film which was directed by Robert Aldrich has achieved cult status, because the acting impresses those who relish it. Bette Davis is absolutely amazing in her characterization of a misfit who can't forget that she was once a child star in vaudeville. Bette had just been through what she termed her "ten black years" when this movie thrust forward her screen stock and again made her a bankable star. Joan Crawford plays the role of Blanche, a wheelchair bound cripple and former movie star who lives in constant torment due to her sister's shenanigans. Crawford, (who is considerably better groomed than Davis) wisely underplays Bette and director Aldrich drew to nicely contrasted performances from two actresses the likes of which we'll never see again. Davis is astonishingly grotesque in her playing of Jane and the public ate it up in 1962; it was the runaway sleeper hit of the year.If these two legendary stars did indeed have a feud, there certainly aren't many juicy stories connected with it in books; it is probable that they respected each other enough to succumb to such drudgery. It is well - known that Joan enjoyed Pepsi spiked with vodka, insisted that the set be kept at fifty degrees and would say "bless you" for "thank-you". Bette was her unaffected opposite and walked around the set in slippers and an old robe with make-up on the collar. Victor Bouno plays obese mama's boy Edwin Flagg and his acting is at once grotesque and brilliant. That's Bette's fourteen year old daughter B.D. playing Anna Lee's daughter; she would marry in real life two years later and the marriage is still going strong; in 1985, she would pen her infamous "expose" MY MOTHER'S KEEPER. Davis received her tenth (!) Academy Award nomination for this macabre classic and footage from two of her vintage films PARACHUTE JUMPER & EX-LADY (both 1933) were used to show what a lousy actress Baby Jane was as a young woman - the old movie in which Blanche watches herself with genuine fondness at is a 1934 MGM flick entitled SADIE MCKEE.
1962 134 minutes Rated: R CC.
West Side Story (1961)
Romeo & Juliet musical-style
Those who have nothing will do everything in their power to protect it, even if all they have is territory, in which case they will claim ownership by planting a metaphorical flag in the middle of it and marking the boundaries. And, forever after, anyone invading their "turf" had better have a good reason, because within this imaginary domain a peer status is also established, and to some-- especially the ones at the top of the pyramid-- this becomes all they have or will ever hope to have in their entire lives. But there is one thing that will ultimately, at least for some, supersede this delusional monarchy, and that thing is universal: Love. Which is exactly what happens when a young couple from different sides of the street fall in love, in the landmark musical "West Side Story," directed by Robert Wise, with staging and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The streets of New York City are the setting for this contemporary version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the drama of which plays out within the confines of a microcosmic world which encompasses a sparse few city blocks and is ruled by rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, who are constantly vying for territory and whose soul purpose in life is protecting their turf. Tony (Richard Beymer) is a former Jet, once one of their leaders, in fact, but has left it all behind in an attempt to get on with his life. His best friend, Riff (Russ Tamblyn), however, is still the leader of the Jets, who are currently embroiled in their ongoing fight with the Sharks. Maria (Natalie Wood) is Puerto Rican, and her brother, Bernardo (George Chakiris) is the leader of the Sharks. And when circumstances bring Tony and Maria together and they fall in love, it sets the stage for tragedy on a grand scale, all of which is captured on the screen in this film, the most celebrated musical of all time.
When a movie earns ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Jerome Robbins also received a special award for choreography), it clearly indicates that this is a film of extraordinary merit. And this one is-- by anyone's measuring stick. Told through the magic of music, presented through the dramatic and driving Oscar winning songs and score of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, Shakespeare's tragic love story becomes a transporting, memorable experience that is at once a sweeping visual extravaganza while at the same time an intimate chronicle of the romance between the star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria. Lavishly staged, the film evokes a true 1950's sensibility while retaining the agelessness of the passion at the heart of the story. The production numbers are dynamic, from the quietude of the enthralling and poignant "Maria," and the perky, uplifting "I Feel Pretty," to the energetic "Dance At The Gym" and the thundering, dramatic strains which accompany the rumble. This is an example of filmmaking at it's best, brought to fruition through the talents of Wise, Robbins and a superlative cast and crew, whose many and varied individual contributions are too lengthy to mention here.
This may not have been Natalie Wood's greatest role, but she is nevertheless unforgettable as Maria. She is charming and beautiful, with riveting, dark eyes that speak volumes about her character. Her accent is passable, if not perfect, but most importantly her natural ability as an actor enables her to create a very real, believable person in Maria. There's an endearing vulnerability about her, yet in her eyes you find the pride and determination that makes Maria strong. It's a solid performance, and just one of the many reasons this film was so well received.
This was without question Richard Beymer's day in the sun, career-wise, and his portrayal of Tony is credible, but fairly lackluster. If a weakness in the film could be singled out, it would be his performance; still, he does well enough, but in the end his work here is average, to say the very best. As his buddy, Riff, Russ Tamblyn comes across much better, and makes the most of showcasing his considerable talents in what is one of his most memorable roles, as well.
The performances that really steal the show, however, are turned in by George Chakiris as Bernardo, and Rita Moreno as Maria's friend, Anita; both of whom deservedly received Oscars in the Best Supporting categories for their work here. Chakiris, with his dark, good looks has never been more convincing or better in any role, and he has a commanding presence especially in the production numbers. And Moreno is in a class all her own as the fiery Anita; she dominates the screen whenever she is on, especially during the dance at the gym and in the rousing "America." She is such a vital presence in this film, and along with Chakiris, more than helps in bringing the music and story to life.
Also in supporting roles that add so much to this film and demand to be singled out, are Tony Mordente, as Action; Tucker Smith, as Ice; David Winters, as Arab; and Eliot Feld, as Baby John.
The additional supporting cast includes Simon Oakland (Lieutenant Schrank), Ned Glass (Doc), William Bramley (Officer Krupke), Bert Michaels (Snowboy), Susan Oakes (Anybodys), Gina Trikonis (Graziella), Carole D'Andrea (Velma) Jose De Vega (Chino), Jay Norman (Pepe) and Gus Trikonis (Indio). An emotionally involving story underscored by a blood-stirring soundtrack, "West Side Story" is without question one of the all time great movie musicals, thoroughly entertaining and presented with the kind of flare that is rarely even attempted anymore. Within the genre, it's the best of the best, the realized vision of a group of extraordinary artists. Earning Oscars, as well, for Cinematography, Costumes, Art and Set Direction and editing, this is a prime example of the true magic of the movies.
1961 151 minutes CC.
Now, Voyager (1942)
Davis at her apex!
I caught this film late one evening when BBC2 was doing a run on black and white classics. All I can say is "what a little gem of a movie." I am not normally the love story type of person, but this film made me reach for the Kleenex box on more than one occasion. Bette Davis was superb as the repressed Charlotte Vale living with an overbearing mother, (Gladys Cooper at her nasty best) slowly being driven toward a nervous breakdown. Enter a kindly psychiatrist Dr Jaquith (Claude Rains)who teaches the unhappy Charlotte that life is for living and sets her off on a voyage of self-discovery. Charlotte falls in love of course, with the handsome Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) but he is unhappily married so all they can have is a gentle love affair that will surely break both their hearts. However it is Charlotte's love for Jerry that enables her to defy her mother and make a life for herself outside of the family home. Even though she and Jerry can't be together, Charlotte can help Jerry's trouble daughter Tina who has suffered the same fate as Charlotte, being a child her mother does not want. There are many memorable scenes, everyone remembers Jerry lighting two cigarettes at the same time and the words "Don't ask for the moon we have the stars" but my favorite scene is Charlotte remembering her youth and a rare boat trip with her mother when she falls in love for the first time, and that love is reciprocated. The young actor (I can't remember his name) who plays that brief love interest bought tears to my eyes, as did the innocent quality of Charlotte's love as her blossoming passion for this young man is crushed beneath her mother's cruel reign. Now Voyager is one of those films you can watch again and again, and the soundtrack is equally as addictive. I'm so glad this is film is now on DVD because I have practically worn out my tape watching it so many times. Worth the Kleenex value alone if you want a real weepie to munch popcorn by.
1942 114 minutes Rated: PG CC.
Warner Bros. to MGM's and #1 picture, Gone with the Wind
After winning the Oscar for best actress in 1936 for "Dangerous", Bette Davis began to complain that Warner Brothers was not giving her scripts that were worthy of her talent. In 1936, Warner suspended her without pay for turning down a role. She then went to England, in violation of her contract, with the intention of starring in a movie without Warner Brothers' approval. The studio stopped her, telling her that if she didn't work for them she wouldn't work anywhere. In defiance, she sued to break her contract. Although she lost the lawsuit, Warner Brothers began to take her more seriously and even paid her legal expenses. The part in "Jezebel" was thought to be an olive leaf offered by the studio to mollify her.
About that time, Davis made it known that she wanted the lead in David O. Selznick's upcoming production of "Gone With the Wind". She was actually considered for the role, but Warner told Selznick that they wouldn't agree to loan her out unless he also took Errol Flynn for the part of Rhett Butler. Davis refused to work with Flynn and angrily turned down the part, although Selznick did not intend to agree to Flynn regardless. Many believed that Warner Brothers purposely created an impossible deal to punish Davis for the lawsuit while making it appear they were trying to help her. It isn't clear whether "Jezebel" was offered to her before or after the negotiations for GWTW. Clearly, it didn't matter, because Bette Davis went out and gave one of the best performances of her career and won her second Oscar for best actress.
This film is GWTW without Yankees. Instead, the enemy is yellow fever. The story takes place in New Orleans in the 1850's. Although there are references to the abolitionists and the prospect of war, the entire story takes place prewar. This story focuses on the southern lifestyle of the period, and in this way it is very similar to its more famous counterpart. It also follows the life and times of one very spirited woman named Julie Marsden (Bette Davis), who could have been Scarlet O'Hara's soul mate.
Julie shocks New Orleans society when she insolently comes to a ball wearing a red dress when it is the custom for all proper southern girls to wear white. (A production note of interest: The famous "red" dress was actually black satin, which was used because red didn't produce enough contrast in the black and white film, causing it not to stand out enough.) As a result, her beau Preston Dillard (a youthful Henry Fonda) is mortified and he breaks off their engagement. Included in the story are a couple of duels over points of honor, a stark depiction of the yellow fever epidemic, and the noble resurrection of a contrite Julie Marsden upon Preston's return.
As always, director William Wyler (with whom Bette Davis was romantically linked) does a fantastic job at direction, giving the film a genuine southern flavor and period feel. The black and white cinematography in this film is tremendous and procured the film one of its five Oscar nominations.
The acting is superb all around. This is certainly one of Bette Davis' best and most memorable performances and it helped secure her place in movie history as one of Hollywood's greatest stars. Though she never won another Oscar, she went on to be nominated eight more times with five straight nominations between 1939 and 1943. Ironically, in 1940 she lost to the beautiful, and exceptional Vivien Leigh, who won in the role Davis turned down.
Fay Bainter is marvelous as Aunt Belle Bogardus garnering a best supporting actress Oscar. Henry Fonda shows a hint of his future greatness in a fabulous portrayal of Julie's no-nonsense beau. George Brent (with whom Davis also was rumored to have had an affair) also turns in a strong performance as Buck, the honorable gentleman who duels his best friend to defend Julie's honor.
This is a wonderful film with great acting and directing. Though not the epic that GWTW became, it contains certain elements that Selznick undoubtedly incorporated at Tara, since the similarities between the films are striking at times. I rated this film a 10/10. For anyone interested in seeing why Bette Davis is considered one of the great actresses of the Studio era, this film is a must.
1938 138 minutes CC.
Single White Female (1992)
A real chiller!
This horror thriller directed by Barbet Schroeder is fairly tightly wound with some interesting psychology around an apartment and a ménage à trois. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the mousy, and somewhat dykish, new roommate (and such a beauty she used to be! almost a clone of Elisabeth Shue) interested in Bridget Fonda and Steven Weber (Fonda's semi-cheating fiancé). What we have is women's sex/fear fantasy and titillation with the obligatory "all men are dogs" theme thoroughly worked in. Leigh actually says "men are pigs," which amounts to the same thing, although I guess we could say women are pigs and men are dogs and call it even.
There's some male titillation as well, of course, but Schroeder is primarily interested in spilling blood and out-dyking the dykes. Fonda is kind of cute and sexy, which is why I was able to watch the whole thing. She is, by the way, another one of those children of a star, like Liza Minelli, who would never but never have made it except for the family's stardom, yet achieved a certain appeal through hard work, minimal talent, and a certain audaciousness. She can be striking in a stark, animalistic sort of way. In some sense, her performance here anticipates her role as an America la femme Nikita in Point of No Return (1993) which came out the following year.
Single White Female was considered a controversial sensation when it was released in the early nineties because of the gross sex and violence displayed, but I suspect future generations will see it as high camp and laugh out loud at how it panders to some of our baser instincts. The knock-down, drag-out, blood-flying fight between Leigh and Fonda near the end can be seen as hilarious in its absurdity, and kind of campish as a burlesque of Hollywood's increasingly desperate appeal to blood lust in order to sell tickets. The crude violence and sex was moronically combined with a politically correct portrayal of Fonda as an unsympathetic career girl, fighting the good fight in a world filled with sexist men and sexual harassment. She was in effect the woman as male Hollywood hero. The only thing about her that was all wrong was the hideous, short red hair. Fashion EMERGENCY!
1992 107 minutes Rated: R CC.
Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
I just do not understand why this wasn't a hit!
I waited forever for this movie to be released to DVD. It was more than worth the wait. Penny Marshall has done it again, directing a film that struck all the right cords in me...much like the movie "Where the Heart Is" ( A masterpiece itself-not to be missed).
Drew Barrymore plays Beverly, a fifteen year old who spoils her father's (James Wood) life plan to have a perfect family by getting knocked up at the age of 15. While her family ponders what to "do" with her, Beverly has a plan already in formation(She IS a talented and smart girl after all). She will get a job, finish high school, and go to college. Her parents don't want a family crisis or controversy, so they convince her to marry the father of her child instead(Steve Zahn), who is a washed-up drip of a loser, yet a willing father and husband. Bev agrees, not wanting to cause her family any more grief.
While this movie is meant to be dramatic, it offers some outright laughs during very intense scenes. At Beverly's wedding (she wears pink) her best friend Fran (The VERY talented Brittany Murphy from "Girl Interupted" and "Don't Say a Word") announces to the wedding crowd that she is also pregnant. Could Bev's father have a worse nightmare?
Fran and Bev buddy up, sticking together through life's "What have I done?" moments...missing out on the prom, watching their friends go off to college, having babies together, and doing anything they can to make money and leave their small town. They quickly realize their dreams of each giving birth to two girls( which they hope will grow up and be just like them), two pretty houses, and being best friends forever is not quite reality when there is no money, wandering husbands, and your water breaks. "How gross Mom!" Bev shouts as real life intervenes. -real life- Take 1.
Drew plays a magnificent roll as a young mother who's character spans 20 years from the birth of her son. She is a convincing actress at every age. While she may be a self-admitted irresponsible parent and make terrible life choices through the years, she is a good mother..despite the fact that she blames everyone, including her son for her misfortunes.
I was particularly moved by the ending to this movie. The "ride" getting there is just as poignant as you follow Bev's life from a young girl to a mature woman striving to be a great writer and publish her personal memoirs titled appropriately "Riding in Cars With Boys". A perfect title for a woman who had life changing experiences everytime she did ride in a car with the men in her life. I highly recommend this film to all. I will go as far and say that it is also a must-own for anyone that appreciates a 'see-it-more-than-once' flick.
2001 132 minutes Rated: PG-13 CC.
The End of the Affair (1999)
Should have been an oscar for Julianne Moore!
"This is a diary of hate," writes Maurice Bendrix, beginning the narration of "The End of the Affair," a highly sensual and emotional melodrama that takes place during 1939 in war-torn England, where two people will discover a love that can resist all boundaries, even that of marraige. Through the intensely creative eyes of director Neil Jordan, the story of this love comes to life through artful cinematography, a highly impactful story and complex characters that weave the vivid web of desire and chance.
Henry and Sarah Miles, who live in England, share nothing but a house and words, no intimacy or words of love. One night at a party, Sarah in introduced to Maurice Bendrix, one of her husband's acquaintances, who is a novelist whose books become motion pictures. There is an immediate attraction, and after spending an afternoon and evening together, they embark on a lustful and passionate journey into the depths of love and devotion. When the war makes its way to their city, they are only able to see one another in the shelter of the exploding bombs and air raids. One day, Sarah walks out of his life, telling him that "Love does not end, simply because you do not see me." After two years, Bendrix and Henry cross paths again, and Henry confesses his suspicions of his wife's adulterous actions. Bendrix becomes determined to discover the secrets Sarah is hiding, all the while falling more and more in love with her again, and what he discovers will lead to a shocking revelation for the both of them.
Based on the novel by Graham Greene, who is supposedly the person that Maurice is based upon, "The End of the Affair" is a gorgeous and almost lyrical tapestry of events that all fall into place like a canvas of pastels. Jordan uses flashbacks and memories to tell a major part of the story, with Maurice narrating each event as he is writing his memoirs. As he recounts the events that lead to he and Sarah's reunion, the characters are able to develop complexity and integrity, and the audience can fully appreciate and understand the actions they take and the emotions they feel.
Neil Jordan's own sense of style comes to play in the film as well, with his use of multiple flashbacks and certain color schemes. It is raining most of the time in the movie, which adds to the coldness and isolation that the characters feel when they are separated from one another. He is also able to bring to life the city of London during the war, with authentic building structure and the elegance of aristocratic homes and public places.
The story, while being quite simple, is made incredibly complex by the affair, and in turn makes the movie strikingly original. When their affair is abruptly ended by Sarah, the intensity begins as Maurice begins his search for the answers he has been waiting for for two years. He takes the audience along with him on this journey, and through the narration of different characters and the exploration by his private eye, we learn the secrets of Sarah's heart and her reasons for leaving. This also leads to Maurice's inner conflicts with God, his disbelief in Him, and Sarah's coming to terms with her religious background and beliefs.
Of all the characters in the film, Sarah is the most complex and attention-grabbing. In the beginning, she seems normal and content with her life, even when she begins her affair with Maurice. She knows that she loves him and not her husband, which proves that she knows her heart. But, as the film progresses, we soon learn that their is another side to her, one that is not easy to explain. This has to do with her reasons for leaving Maurice, and what she feels for him after leaving. Julianna Moore does a stunning job portraying all of these emotions, and fits the role perfectly. Ralph Fiennes is remarkable as Bendrix, and is able to convey the jealousy and possessiveness of him in a straightforward and believable manner. Stephen Rea, while not having a lot of onscreen time, plays the role of Henry wonderfully, though his character is nothing more than downcast and trodden most of the film's duration.
Visually stunning, highly sensual and emotional, "The End of the Affair" is an entertaining and complex journey along the path of the unknown chambers of one's heart. Once everything falls into place in the ending, we realize that there was so much more going on than we originally thought, how different people react to different events, and the overall quest to gain the love and affection everyone looks for in life.
1999 101 minutes Rated: R CC.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
On of the most Beautiful Pictures Made!!
This movie has a little bit of everything- creativity, romance, a love that truly is for better or for worse, suspense, action, and taste. I have to admit- before this movie, I was never really a Russell Crowe fan, due in part to his reputation for being arrogant and obnoxious. I really went to see the movie because Jennifer Connelly and I are the same age and I grew up seeing her face in Sears' catalogs, never having seen any of her acting performances. But when I saw Russell and the enormity of acting talent he put forth in this movie, I was completely blown away. How wrong I was for opinionating myself and using my opinion to decide whether or not I would see any of his movies. This movie impressed me so much that I went out and rented all the Russell Crowe movies available to me, and all I can say is: Boy have I missed out through the years. His true personality radiates in every character he plays, and he was surely the right choice for the lead in "A Beautiful Mind". Jennifer Connelly was outstanding as Alicia Nash, and together, her and Russell were a "Beautiful Pair". Paul Bettany was also great. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone in any age group, due in large part to the message it conveys- a beautiful mind, a mind that can appreciate the deeper things that most of us can't, can be a troubled one, and those closest to that"beautiful mind" should never give up hope and keep close in mind the important things in life- compassion, long-suffering, and most of all: L-O-V-E.
2001 136 minutes Rated: PG-13 CC.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Depressing, but undeniably gripping!
Laura Harring's career should go sky-high after her portrayal of the amnesiatic and bewildered, Rita. This movie is of a more complex nature, and is not for the general viewer. The movie is quite long, (145 minutes) but feels as though it is only a long hour and a half. The most interesting scene is the ending, when Rita opens the blue-box, and their lives are transformed. Very fast-moving, and just when you think you've unlocked the mystery, ZAP!! You're right back where you've started.
2001 145 minutes Rated: R CC.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Does for Tubs, what showers did for Psycho!
To call What Lies Beneath Hollywood's most self-conscious tribute to Alfred Hitchcock is by no means an understatement. Elements of, amongst scores of others, Rear Window, Rope, Notorious, North by Northwest, Vertigo and, of course, Psycho, combine in terms of plot and visuals to make a thoroughly absorbing story that is as classic in its narrative as its masterful cinematic style. Everything about this film harks back to the 40's and 50's way of doing things, whilst simultaneously using advanced technology to take that style and project it into the present day. Indeed, every single shot feels like Zemeckis said to himself: how would Hitchcock have filmed this? What would he have done if he had the technology we have? With more than a few allusions to the old master himself (grabbing the shower-curtain when falling out of the bath, for example), the result, understandably, is stunning.
With so much going on in every scene, it is difficult to talk concisely about this film. Throughout, there is much to marvel over in the cinematography, editing, soundtrack; the chills come thick and heavy, the mystery sucks you in, the visual brilliance astounds at every turn. The claustrophobia of the house, the realism of Ford and Pfeiffer's relationship and the intrigues that surround the central characters pale into insignificance beside the pure ingenuity of the filmmaking. In a single take, Pfeiffer leaves the bathroom, the bath empty, walks around for a minute, and re-enters the same bathroom, now filled with steam, the bath full, before discovering a message written on the mirror. In the final sequence, the camera darts in and out of CGI cars, offering shots that Hitchcock could only dream about, and yet the whole set-piece screams of 50's classicism. In the creepiest bathroom sequence since Psycho, we are offered the POV of a drowning woman, in a scene that deserves to go down in film history as one of the best-constructed examples of film technique ever seen. In some scenes, the camera even drops suddenly through the floor, to look up through glass at the actors above. For fans of film aesthetics, there is no doubting that this is one of the finest experiments to grace the screens. I see shades of "Fatal Attraction" with the whole tub sequence. Oh, how I love tubs like that! And, I just love the scenes where she drains the tub, and the slow, eerie music as she's about to drown.
Admittedly, if you are not a fan of Hitchcock or have never seen a Hitchcock, much of the enjoyment can be taken out of the film. The story plods along at first, only really picking up momentum half-way through. However, that said, the final half-hour more than makes up for any lack of pace in the early reels. If nothing else, it is great to see Ford in a role that is the opposite of what we have come to expect from him. Overall, anyone who considers themselves a serious film fan needs to own a copy of this film. And if you've never seen Hitchcock, there is no finer introduction to the man than this movie. Buy it and love it. It's as simple as that. A must!!
2000 130 minutes Rated: PG-13 CC.
The Shipping News (2001)
Hallström's direction, as well as acting is superb!
The lesson it takes Quoyle, the central character of "The Shipping News," almost a lifetime to learn. Of course we, as an audience, can already pinpoint the film's moral message, given the fact that this is a character-based meller with plenty of saccharine sentiment and gorgeous cinematography. The surprise here is the director, Lasse Hallström, instills the film with enough interest to keep it afloat, with a little help from his cast along the way.
The film stars Kevin Spacey against type as Quoyle, a boy whose life has been shaped by the years of physical and emotional torment at the hands of his father. Life as Quoyle experiences it is simple and colorless, until he crosses paths with Petal (Cate Blanchett), a drifter who happens into his life one day and becomes his everything. This woman is a class act: she stays out late while a despondent Quoyle remains home with their daughter, Bunny, all the while pleading with Petal to give their marriage another try.
One momentous day, Quoyle receives word of his father's death, and returns home from the funeral to find Petal and Bunny gone from his life. Enter Agnis Hamm (Judi Dench), his aunt from his father's side who has stopped by to pay her respects on her way back to Newfoundland, where their family's ancestry lies. After news of Petal's death and the return of Bunny, Quoyle makes the decision to travel to Newfoundland with Agnis in hopes of regaining some semblance of order in life once again.
Once the story makes the transition to the coldly atmospheric coast of Newfoundland, more characters are introduced, more of Quoyle's family history is revealed, much to the silent dismay of Agnis, who would rather keep the wrongdoings of her family hidden from view. Quoyle attain a job at the local newspaper, makes good with editor Jack Buggit (Scott Glenn), who takes a liking to the fact that his work stirs up interest in the town; later, he awards Quoyle his own weekly column. As Quoyle makes his rounds, he meets interesting faces, and takes a liking to the local daycare operator, Wavey Prowse (Julianne Moore), a conserved woman with a young boy who suffers from minor mental defects.
The movie has two main things going for it: its cast and its wonderfully dense appearance. As Quoyle, Spacey is required to express emotion through words and facial expression, and achieves both very convincingly despite the lack of development of his character. Dench does well in portraying Agnis as reserved and quiet, while Moore shows a great deal of warmth and emotion; both actresses succeed in keeping us mystified by their characters' pasts, making the revelations more impacting and heartfelt. Various actors, including Glenn, Jason Behr, Pete Postlethwaite and more, play the local townsfolk very well; also worth mentioning is the short-lived but effectively chilling performance from Blanchett, who proves her versatility as an actress in portraying Petal as one of the lowest forms of life.
The look of "The Shipping News" is nothing short of breathtaking, containing its fair share of beautiful vistas that evoke the grandeur and beauty of Newfoundland. Seeing this film's setting unfold reminded me of such films as "The Horse Whisperer" and "Snow Falling on Cedars," where the setting plays a role in the film. Here, the same type of approach is applied, and succeeds for the most part in grabbing our attention in between character development.
So what's the purpose of it all? Well, as far as I can tell, it's a coming-to-grips story in which people realize their fears and their hidden secrets and make peace with their inner torments. However, it seems that everyone but the intended character achieves this: both Agnis and Wavey face a part of their past they have long since ignored, while Buggit, after a near-death experience, reconciles with his son. Even little Bunny accepts her mother's death, but Quoyle himself spends more time helping these people deal with their emotional grief rather than devoting time to dealing with his own. One might gather that through helping those around him, Quoyle is making his own realization, which comes at the movie's weirdly cut-off ending.
Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. One could argue that the lack of developing his character does not merit this deduction about his coming-to-grips with life. Even still, Hallström keeps all of this moving at a pace where no one in the audience is required to put much thought into what they see, providing us a movie where one can simply relax and enjoy the experience. This is somewhat similar of one of his previous films, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," which derived its complexity through its simplistic approach. And while "The Shipping News" may not be as complex as some of Hallström's previous efforts, his many artistic touches are felt throughout much of this acceptably melodramatic landscape of self-realization.
The 'R' rating wad totally undeserved. It could have gone with a gambled PG-13. Sure there is a very short sex scene, and brief language, but I have seen far worse that have earned the R, instead of the NC-17.
2001 125 minutes Rated: R CC.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
All that hype over a 90 second Scene? No way!
Those who have criticized Eyes Wide Shut as an inelegant misinterpretation of 'Dream Story' have misunderstood both the adaptions necessary for an objective visual medium and Kubrick's own daunting artistic stamp. Eyes Wide Shut inverts the psychological dialectic of Schnitzler's novella into a dark metaphysical mosaic. The dilemma for the viewer is not to reconcile the dream state logic to the visceral reality, but to fathom the perception of the protagonist as he is enveloped by anger, jealousy and fear. Kubrick creates an integrated tapestry of the malignant manifestation of deformed desire. The streets of New York form the backdrop of danger and threat; every venality is accepted and bartered here. Distractions or interruptions invade every possibility of intimacy in the film. Sex and death are juxtaposed in a sustaining motif. Like a hall of mirrors, look alike characters, distorted fragments of Bill and Alice, appear throughout the movie.
Victor Zeigler seems a potent, savage stage manager. His final ultimatum to Bill holds the entire plot. Like peeling layers of an onion he unmasks the competing emotions and possibilities of the events. Nothing being said here can be taken at face value. Both are well aware of a subtext. Ziegler casts down his comments with avuncular condescension, like an encyclical from a throne. He offers a recourse to facile rationalizations (as Kubrick does to the audience), but this masks a core of corruption and ulterior motive. He is not offering a choice. Bill is lucky to be alive. The film slips, for the moment, its filters of dream, fantasy and deception and comes into sharp moral focus. Is the good doctor really worried about the fate of his friend Nick, or the nature of Mandy's death. No, his inquiries go straight to the obsessional suspicions which drove him into the night. The frightening, tantalizing implications of his own experience are the limits of his conscience. He accepts Victor's frail reassurances and leaves.
Bill finally finds the prospect of his wife's infidelity both tormenting and irresistibly intoxicating. The final scene seems to indicate that all pretensions have evaporated. Something primitive, overwhelming has taken over, the same force that has propelled his odyssey from the beginning. There are a series of revelations (to the observant and receptive) as the film progresses, but they do not disentangle the ambiguities. Kubrick involves his audience along with his characters in an encroaching awareness, like an engulfing flood.
This director never resorts to trivial, happy endings. His bleak vision of the human condition is the binding element in his films. All paths lead to the same nihilistic conclusion. Nothing is resolved of Alice's taunts, sexual dissatisfaction and secret desires Where, then, can this marriage go but abandonment to the shadows and creatures which inhabit every corner of Kubrick's city? He leaves just enough, though, to reclaim a glimmer of grace and hope, an escape portal from the labrynthe. In this, EWS brilliantly synthesizes the essence of his previous films.
The indistinct borders between fact and illusion become moot to the theme. Bill's desperate sojourn through this modern mythological underworld forms a classical tableau, where the contradictions of impulse and character ARE the projected reality. This should be the great director's most enduring achievement. The cast is uniformly excellent. Kubrick's cinematic genius is most obvious in its stunning visual impact, but Eyes Wide Shut's real power in its subtlety, and the indelible and disturbing impression it makes on the mind.
1999 159 mintues Rated: R CC.
THE WORST PIECE OF ACTING EVER FILMED!!!!!!
I saw this piece of s*** last November, and I have never turned the Television off in such disgust. Kelly McGillis was absolutely hideous as the demented divorcee who marries her cousin (Harry Hamlin, in an inappropriate and forgettable role)!!! The film is gross, even for television. The film could have been cut to 2 or 2 1/2 hours, but not 4 wasted hours! Keith Carradine is as milquetoast as usual, even by his EX-wife. This picture just goes to show that all child custody cases are bitter, and was there really a need to wipe out the whole family and the kids? My god! The person who wrote this trash, should be blacklisted in Hollywood, and any other place that has acting as entertainment. This is entertainment?!! I have never seen such a horrible and depressing movie in all of my life!! This gives the term, "bad tv-movie", look like "Gone with the Wind"!! I hope Lifetime NEVER shows this again!! For your sake, don't view this crap. See Gone with the Wind! Especially if you have 4 hours to kill, it certainly is the best film EVER!! Not this Garbage! Don't say you weren't warned!!!!
0/10 The lowest!!, The WORST!!!!!!!
Whispers in the Dark (1992)
Absolutely Hysterical, but mind-blowing!
"Whispers in the Dark" clearly was an opportunity to cash in on "Basic Instinct's" success. The film deals both with psychotherapy, and excessive amounts of sex. The character I loved most, and wished that Christopher Crowe would have went into more detail to is Eve (played by sexy Deborah Unger). She brought a sort of sexy aura and comic relief when she appeared on screen. The most funniest scene, however, is when ________ gets hit in the head with ________. I won't say anymore. You'll just have to do the research.
1992 103 minutes Rated: R CC.
The Sheltering Sky (1990)
The Stifling Sky!
Director Bernardo Bertolucci is the perfect choice for bringing Paul Bowles incredible novel -- one of the most finely crafted of the 20th century and one of my favorite books -- to the screen. Debra Winger and John Malkovich are fine as Kit and Port -- spoiled, bored, EMPTY Americans 'travelling' (NOT tourists) in Morocco just after WWII. Their journey -- one of self-discovery and an attempt to bring some life back into their marriage -- turns from one of idle fascination with an exotic culture (one in which Bowles, the author, immersed himself long ago, one which he loved unabashedly) turns into a trip to hell. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Campbell Scott is also good in the role of their friend Tunner, and the Lyles -- the fawning Eric and his intolerably superior mother -- are every bit as disgusting as they seem. Some viewers have found these latter two portrayals to be a bit 'over the top' -- but they're completely irritating characters, whining and complaining constantly about the conditions in which they chose to place themselves. They are the biting fleas you cannot remove from your sleeping bag, no matter how long you search for them.
Filmed on location in the African desert, the film resounds and shines with Bertolucci's touch -- if it seems long and slow in places, those characteristic accurately portray the atmosphere of life in desert Morocco. The unbelievable heat would tend to slow things down a bit. The director's use of camera angles, light, and those long, slow, sweeping shots are masterful and perfect. Bowles was consulted every step of the way -- a sign of the respect held for the author and his work by the director -- and he even appears in the film and supplies narration.
A lot of people may find this type of film to be a bore, but you have to be consistent by watching it. If you want to fully understand the movie, you have to read the book, for the film itself, omits a great deal of material that would have the made the film longer than that of "Gone with the Wind".
I am amazed that a film of this scope, made by a director of Bertolucci's stature, with two of the most critically acclaimed actors of our time, has not appeared on DVD. There's a wonderful documentary called DESERT ROSES: THE MAKING OF 'THE SHELTERING SKY' that would make a nice piece of bonus material for a DVD release. When the film was shown on BRAVO, that network had the good taste to run the documentary along with it. There's also a fine documentary on Bowles available from Mystic Fire Video, PAUL BOWLES IN MOROCCO, that gives an informative portrait of this literary giant.
1990 140 minutes Rated: R CC.