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28 reviews in total 
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A beautiful musical fairy-tale, for adults as well as kids, 2 August 2015

The heroine is a Princess whose widowed father (the Blue King) is forced to remarry and realizes no one but she can surpass the beauty of his beloved dead Queen. The girl is horrified by his proposal, but advised by her Fairy Godmother she concocts impossible conditions for the King to meet -- which incredibly he performs. The last sacrifice is to skin his prized donkey, which has yielded daily treasures of gems and gold in place of manure. Gradually she sympathizes with him and readies herself to the idea of matrimony, but the Fairy devises her escape and the Princess leaves incognito, wrapped in the filthy donkey skin. Hiding in a distant village in another realm, the regal girl is now treated as the lowliest servant. Enter the young Prince of the Red Kingdom as he passes through. He is feeling the melancholy of loneliness and ready for True Love which eludes him. He wanders through the wood and is led magically to the Princess and sees through her disguise. They do not actually meet, but the rest of the story involves the delicate steps towards restoring her to nobility, acceptability, and betrothal.

It's a very charming musical fairy-tale, teeming with metaphors as children's stories often do. Jacques Demy was very influenced by and pays homage to Jean Cocteau, utilizing many of his simple camera techniques (elegant and mysterious if done artfully .. or if performed clumsily will look like hack work): slow-motion, reverse motion, on-set trickery (like actors dressed and built into the set as living magical statues). Like Cocteau's fantasies, Demy has achieved a poetic level here. His use of color is glorious -- the strong Blues that dominate *everything* in the Blue Kingdom (or the Red color scheme for the Red Kingdom) -- and the shift to All-White in the finale -- dresses that illuminate their own light or have moving clouds projected upon them -- the fairy god-mother whose dress changes color on a whim -- the great contrast of all-red horses and riders traveling through a vibrant green wood -- a hovel which magically flickers, dressed by dozens of strobe lights.

And this is an excellent cast. The young Catherine Deneuve is of course perfect for a fairy-tale princess. Delphine Seyrig steals all her scenes as the Fairy Godmother. Jean Marais is a natural for the King (and as an old favorite of Cocteau's, adds another link to that fantastic universe). Jacques Perrin is an ideal Prince Charming. The music and songs by Michel Legrand is very good and has a bittersweet tinge to it.

I love the musical sequence of the princess directing herself on how to bake a cake. Split in two she both reads the recipe (filthy and dressed in her loathsome donkey skin) and also performs the task (dressed beautifully with a crown). It theatrically represents how the Mind itself works, showing intention and will. There are other moments like this which SHOULD be iconic. Like the burial of the beloved queen who is placed in a large crystal sphere and left in an open field, presumably to never decay. Like the cranky old hag who expectorates live toads. Like the boat ride at the end of the couple's duet, drifting down a stream and fading away ephemerally.

Jenkins, you IDIOT!, 30 March 2014

This episode highlights two great supporting players, ALLEN JENKINS & FRANK NELSON (plus a small part for a very strong actor, Lawrence Dobkin). Jenkins is a beat cop who mistakenly arrests Lucy & Ethel; Nelson the desk sergeant who insists he recognizes them as known criminals. When Nelson finally realizes his mistake, he shifts all the blame on Jenkins -- I just think it's fun that he also uses the actor's real name: "Jenkins! You IDIOT!" Meanwhile, Ricky and Fred are oblivious to everything around them, caught up with Friday Night Fights on TV. Watch it & you'll instantly recognize these very familiar performers. By this time viewers would already have known Allen Jenkins from the movies. Nelson had come up in radio, so they would know his voice, but in the advent of TV he'd become one of those famous faces whose names nobody knows (You know, the store clerk whose first line is always: "Yesssss?")

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A dreamer's paradise vs. a meat-head's greed., 4 October 2011

This is great sci-fi/fantasy, with terrific stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, & they kept the Victorian feel of the original book. The characters are perfectly cast. Lionel Jeffries steals every scene as the moon-eyed Cavor, & Edward Judd -- who preferred playing the villain over leading man -- nailed the charming but deceitful Bedford. Initially Bedford seems a voice of practicality and reason, opposed to Cavor's fanciful idealism. But he's cretinous, loathsome and selfish. Cavor might be eccentric (even bipolar), but he remains creative and always growing.

Bedford: Sells a house that isn't his. Takes Cavor's own money to leverage himself as a partner in Cavor's endeavor. Drags his fiancé into this real estate swindle. Tries to unload those damn boots for the Boer War onto Cavor. And how's this for crassness: Cavor exclaims "Look at that Prism assembly!" when they discover a vast and advanced technology. But Bedford grumbles "The only thing I want to see is that blasted diving helmet"

Bedford assumes the Sellenites are evil, attacks them without provocation and has no patience with Cavor's desire to communicate with them. He invades their territory, then fears, hates and loathes them simply because they're alien. His voice registers disgust towards Cavor for trying to dialog with them. Even later in his old age, he cynically relishes in their demise.

The playful humor in the fist half changes once they enter the underground complex. It's a kiddie-movie until they turn this dark corner. The change in tone isn't the dreadful Sellenites, so much as the falling out between Bedford and Cavor. As soon as Bedford begins throwing insects into the boiling abyss, Cavor is struck with remorse. "I should have come alone. I should have come alone"

Cavor wants to dialog; Bedford just wants to get the hell outta there -- he has no use for the place since nuggets of gold aren't lying around. We could sympathize with Bedford's paranoia if the Sellenites were malicious, but they never express an evil intent. They won't invade Earth, but they're worried that MORE of these dangerous humans will pop up to spread war, pestilence and mortgage crises. Maybe Cavor's desire to stay with the Sellenites isn't so lunatic.

"Don't flatter yourself. I didn't stick my neck out just to save you." Evidently Bedford would have abandoned Cavor, but he needed his skill to fix the sphere. With this final letdown, Cavor realizes he is truly alone. He probably always was a loner, shunned by classmates and a committed bachelor. His only companions were bungling lab assistants, then along comes a charming Bedford. For the first time he lets down his guard and opens up all his secrets. So Cavor's major weakness was a poor judge of character. In these earlier scenes, its almost heart-wrenching to watch Cavor chortle and giggle as he demonstrates the sphere and reveals his great dreams. Then all his work is destroyed by this opportunist.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A collaborative process documented on film, 3 August 2008

This documented the production of the soundtrack for Werner Herzog's film GRIZZLY MAN and was included as an extra on that DVD. I found this short documentary as intriguing and interesting as the longer main attraction. Herzog and company assembled a small group of musicians who had not, featuring Richard Thompson as the main guitar soloist. Not only had they not worked together before, but their genre and disciplines were dissimilar. A typical soundtrack would be produced in the studio only after a composer has first drafted a score, but Herzog wanted this group to arrive unprepared and develop the music together from the ground up. It was a very interesting process to watch as they experimented and made decisions about instrumentation. Although Herzog is no musician he was integral to the process and sat with them to described the various moods and styles he wanted. He also spoke briefly about his goals as a film-maker, the relationship between film and music as art forms, and of the creative process in general. Particularly impressive was a segment where Thompson was given various tasks to improvise very precisely-timed interludes. "This time we want exactly 22 seconds... " "Alright, now do a variation of that theme for 36 seconds, but re-tune one of your strings to a different key..." "This next one has to run 64 seconds." (Thompson quipped, "you're sure it's not 64.2 seconds?")

Murder! (1930)
2 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
How teDDibly dreadful, 3 April 2005

MURDER is preposterous from concept to execution:

Herbert Marshall had served on a jury that convicted a girl of ... mUrDeR! Yet she was a personal acquaintance ... now who selected THAT jury pool?? Then one day while listening to some pretty music on the radio a sudden whim sends him into a change of heart (oh drat, why oh WHY didn't he hold out for one more vote on that jury??)

So then Herbie takes up the detective work to find the real killer. The over-stagey theatricality that ensues is laughable (yes, do watch this movie; I'm not trying to steer you away from it .... you WILL laugh.) For instance, a witness is dead certain that the unseen killer had been a woman, because -- jeez-- the voice sounded feminine. Yet Marshall ducks around a corner, squeaks out a ludicrous falsetto that sounds more like a parrot (bwaack!), and -- Hey! our witness is suddenly confused about how a woman got in the house!

{SPOILER -- as if anything could spoil this flick any further} "Elementary, Watson. The drag queen did it." But to explain how or why such an anomaly as a transvestite could possibly exist, he/she was turned into a circus performer. How convenient. Now if only he'd been the bearded lady he might've eluded capture yet one more time.


Memento (2000)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Who are we without memory?, 9 December 2004

MEMENTO is a film about a brain-damaged man who cannot retain short-term memories and whose sense of self is limited to whatever longterm memories he'd formed before his injury. Most folk either love it or hate it or are indifferent to it (have I covered all the bases?) but only because they either love or hate or are indifferent ... to GIMMICKY movies. A friend once asked, "How do you spell GIMMICK backwards? OTNEMEM. But they miss the point -- "Memento" is not a mere novelty nor an exercise in backwards narrative. This is an exploration of what it is to be human. What generates a mind, or how does a brain store a mind? How can a person function or an identity be formed if they cannot REMEMBER? In fact, if our brain is creating our mind then what happens to it when we fall into the oblivion of sleep? Perhaps each night we die. And each morning are recreated through the power of regenerative memory. Do concepts like "soul" even apply anymore, in this age of neuroscience where we've gained insights into the physiologic and microscopic energies of what makes up a "thought"? The backwards-chronology narrative is a brilliant device to put the viewer into the protagonist's confusion. But like any mystery, ultimately we are asking ... "what happens next? and what will the final answer be?" Returning to my harangue about neuroscience, on one level *any* film or TV show is creating a reality within your mind. At least to the extent that you let yourself get immersed in it. For what is the difference between the true external world about us and some artificial world we tune into? For all that we hear and see is filtered through our senses. The true and the false are all just impressions that we experience, whatever is "out there" is separate from us and must be interpreted by us. This is why I think mysteries are such an intriguing genre for most of us. For life itself is a mystery. Our physiologic make-up is constantly probing the world about us and asking, asking, asking "what's going on out there?" Therefore it's only natural that a book or movie is going to hook us if we get caught up in the questions, "what has happened here? Who dunnit? How will it turn out?" Because subconsciously we are constantly being presented with riddles by our own senses. And in Leonard Shelby we have a character whose senses still create a world about him, except he doesn't possess the means to correctly interpret this reality.

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
The medium is the masseuse, 5 August 2004

Fascinating clash of philosophy, classical studies and Pop Culture -- especially if you recognize the need to keep Pop Culture under scrutiny, instead of just letting it massage your brain like the narcotic it's designed to be.

The film capsulizes a number of McLuhan's conclusions about Media. Wittingly and unwittingly we've created and surrounded ourselves with this electronic environment -- but McLuhan also recognized that like any other tool (language included) it is an extension of our own physical selves. And like so many other tools we are also transformed by our own creations.

The important thing is to be cognizant of all this jive b.s. McLuhan began his public discourse on Media because his freshman students couldn't relate to Literature. I guess he began opening their eyes FIRST to the cacophonous culture they were blindly walking through, and once aroused *then* they became receptive to Wordsworth and Milton. (Though some were cheesed off that he didn't test them on Coca-Cola and Batman after spending so much lecture time on it.)

McLuhan spoke often in metaphors, which perhaps isn't a very clinical approach to codifying a new science. But it seems the man never forgot a thing he read or saw -- and thus Poe's "Descent into the Maelstrom" became symbolic for the dynamic fractured environment we've created for ourselves. It also has become a metaphor for his own career. Although his celebrity had fallen into obscurity, his ideas still influence those who've never heard of him or his Four Laws. I think his star will continue to rise again until -- *pop* -- look what's resurfaced outta that whirlpool.

McLuhan is more timely than ever, in an Age where what we experience is less and less an observation of the Real World and more and more an interface with manufactured concoction. I'm not convinced though -- need to surf the Internet a little more to look into this.

25 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Tour the solar system on $5 a day, 23 December 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler Alert!! 100 years from now scientists discover a new planet in the solar system hidden on the far side of the Sun. It shares earth's orbit and revolves at exactly the same speed so that it has remained undiscovered until now.

A consortium of nations collaborate to send two men to the new planet. Security leaks frustrate their desire for secrecy. The two men crash on the surface of the planet and are surprised to wake up back on earth. They are accused of turning back halfway in their journey since a roundtrip flight would have taken twice as long as their trip.

One of the men dies of his injuries and the other becomes disoriented by his surroundings -- everything is reversed: cars pass on the wrong side of the road, words and letters are flipped. His interrogators are convinced when he can quickly recite lengthy passages of text read in a mirror. When an autopsy on the dead astronaut reveals that his organs are in reversed position, the conclusion is bizarre -- the men did indeed complete the journey but landed on a parallel/mirror-imaged earth. All matter is duplicated, and each person has a doppelganger partner on the far side of the sun. They attempt to return him. With disastrous results.

While it doesn't rank in the top tier of sci-fi classics, Doppelganger is still worth looking for. This film (aka, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) is an oddity, beginning as pure SCIENCE-fiction then suddenly turning surreal -- almost fantasy. Slow by today's standards, it's intriguing if you put yourself in the mindset of its era, the space-race 60's. (Suiting up and preparing for blast-off was more carefully depicted compared to how someone would film it today) I'm particularly impressed by the art/costuming/production design; it doesn't suffer from a cliched "vision" of what the future would look like. It's a low-budget poor-relation to GATTACA in this regard. The movie indulges in some delightful "gee-whiz" gadgetry -- [A spy uses a miniature camera in his prosthetic eye to record holographic images. A trans-Atlantic flight ends with the craft disassembling itself on the runway so that the passenger section is carted separately for disembarking. Wrist-bands monitor everyone's vital stats and reminds them to take their meds.] This was the sort of attention to detail that embellished "2001: a Space Odyssey", but on a much cheaper budget. Often the miniatures don't look realistic -- but they were always very well crafted and painstakingly rendered. This included a large number of rocketry, vehicles and many outdoor sets (buildings, launch pads, roads). I admired them even in their artificiality; it lent a surreal tone to the project.

Roy Thinnes does a serviceable job in the lead (not his usual blandness) and it's fun to find another performance by Ian Hendry (whose brief career included the first season of TV's "The Avengers", and the sadistic guard Sgt Williams in THE HILL) Patrick Wymark is good as the pushy authoritarian who heads up the project. After the fateful conclusion -- where all evidence is destroyed that might prove the existence of the Doppelganger world -- he is left as a broken mumbling invalid. The film ends as he rolls his wheelchair excitedly into his mirrored reflection.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Dial H for Hitchcock, 14 August 2003

This film was re-monikered DIAL H FOR HITCHCOCK when I saw it recently on cable.

We get it all here. Clips from the films. Commentary about his craft. Commentary about the personal impact he had on current film-makers. Personal insights from a few people who'd worked with Hitch. A brief biography blended in with a chronological survey of some of his career highlights. We also get Hitchcock himself; both in serious archival interview as well as entertaining appearances from his trailers and TV show intros. And montages. Glorious beautifully crafted montages. We get it all. Except for that compulsive-monster stuff you can only find in the tabloid-style book THE DARK SIDE OF GENIUS.

I was very impressed by the montage sequences and how they artfully chose just the right images to blend with what the commentators were saying. It didn't hurt that Bernard Herrmann's score to VERTIGO was used, both for the long opening montage as well as the closing sequence.

Commentators included several directors from today ... Wes Craven, Brian DePalma, Jonathan Demme, Robt Altman, Peter Bogdanovich.

Would have been nice to get old footage of interviewed commentators from days of old ... folk that Hitchcock had worked with. The only ones left to interview were ... Norman Lloyd (the actor who took the plunge off the Statue of Liberty in SABOTEUR and whom collaborated closely on the 50's TV show ... he also had become a very close personal friend with Alfred and Alma)... Janet Leigh, who needs no introduction ... Tippi Hendren, ditto ... Teresa Wright, the nice young lady in SHADOW OF A DOUBT... and Joseph Stefano who wrote the screenplay to PSYCHO.

Stefano's comments were very keen as he mused about where the hell such a civilized man as Hitchcock could have found the deep dark places of the human soul within himself to mine. His narration synched-up nicely with the montage, displaying short snippets of various characters in close-up, tortured souls, lonely souls ... as Stefano's comments were handed over to the voice track of Norman Bates: "we're all alone. Trapped like animals. In our own private cages."

For Hitchcock aficionados, there might not be anything new to glean here. It covers old territory like explaining "The McGuffin" theory. But it doesn't go much into technical things like his montage-approach to editing ... or the pre-eminence of building a long anxious suspense sequence, compared to a brief sudden shock. (These kinds of things are covered more thoroughly in the 1970's docu series THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES ... but when will we ever get treated to THAT again??) This is still a great retelling of his life and career in a fresh style, and a nice entertaining way to spend 90 minutes. In fact I got sucked into watching part of it a second time. But this (like Hitchcock's own work) is like a rollercoaster -- you can enjoy it over and over.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Latter-Day Buster, 29 May 2003

I find myself laughing harder at Buster-in-decline than at the youthful genius of the Silent Era. Even as I laugh out loud at him, I'm in awe that this artiste of the pratfall had not lost his touch through the decades.

TRIUMPH OF LESTER SNAPWELL is certainly not in league with the Classic Buster of the 20's. But while the production values are minimal, you'll still come away deeply impressed by the the man's adroitness. His physical humor is fully intact and perfectly timed. You'll find yourself rewinding the tape to scrutinize how the hell he set up his gimmicks so seamlessly. (Case in point: Buster "inadvertently" closes the back of a camera on his tie, so that it's left hanging from his tie. It takes a very dexterous fellow to make clumsiness look so flawless.)

This Kodak promotional film was produced to tout the newly-released "Instamatic" which featured an easy-to-load film cartridge. So naturally they wanted to show the pitfalls of all the earlier awkward technologies. Enter Buster, who demonstrates through the ages how the photographic arts have progressed over the last 100 years.

By the way, this 20-some minute short was available on a video titled "The Lost Films of Buster Keaton" (available from Grapevine Video, Phoenix AZ). Also on the tape were two other shorts --

"Ford Van Commercial" where Buster loads up an Econoline with everything including the kitchen sink. And a lion to boot.

And "The Home Owner". This was a creative promotional for a 1950s-era prefab housing community. Buster is sold on the strength of the pretty neighbor as much as the quality of homes. And once again, I found myself hitting the rewind button over and over to admire the artistry of his surprising stunts. This guy was pushing 70 and still performing miraculous pratfalls. (I was especially jazzed by a spill into a swimming pool. He was pushing a shopping cart, got distracted by a pretty lass, the cart went into the deep end and pulled him along after it ... Buster did an amazing flip in the air to sail far PAST the cart, halfway across the pool.)

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