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23 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Super-Under-Rated, 28 November 2010

Fellini in top form here. I don't know why this gets so much indifference. Along with "And The Ship Sails On," this might be one of Fellini's best films, up there with Juliet and 8 1/2. You should also check out Intervista. A story of two aging performers well past their peak of popularity team up after not seeing each other in decades to dance on a variety show. "Ginger," the lady, doesn't seem to even understand the nature of the show she's appearing and is baffled and disturbed by the circus freaks and transvestites. "Fred," the man, is bitter with age and a bit embarrassed that he doesn't have more to show for his life. He even threatens to derail their appearance to make a statement about what sheep the modern audience is. The stinging commentary on television and rampant commercialization is always in the background, and fortunately it's more of a cultural critique than a political one (I don't think Fellini had a political bone in his body). For me, the emotional core of the film is probably Fred's discussion with a bemused, condescending writer about the origins of tap dancing. I won't spoil it.

Eraserhead (1977)
I Think My Take On This Film Is Different From Most Other Peoples', 14 July 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can't help but be amused by the people who call it frightening, disturbing, nightmarish, etc. There are nightmarish aspects of the movie, sure, mainly the Lady in the Radiator (maybe it's just organ music that gives me a Carnival of Souls nightmare vibe), but I thought it was a hilarious movie. Hypnotic, fascinating, you have to see what weird or funny thing happens next. The gag with the suitcase had me laughing as hard as at anything else. I thought it was sad too. The baby's mother didn't love him, and he was always crying and got sick. I wasn't disturbed by the baby, I wanted to give it a hug. Deformed cow-fetus babies deserve to be loved too.

If I can get a smidge philosophical, I think the film stretches cinema to limits it hadn't been stretched before, although Bunuel, Kubrick, Fellini, and Tarkovsky are definitely forerunners. As an adherent of Tarkovskyish views on cinema, I think this is a very good example of what he called "sculpting in time," and the irrationality of so much of the movie underlines the irrelevance of plot, characters, stories, 2+2=4, etc., of cinema itself.

Goodfellas (1990)
21 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Not a bad movie, but not that great either, 27 February 2007

Typical Scorsese effort: average crime movie script dressed up with great acting and pretentious, way overly stylish camera-work.

I'm amazed this movie holds anyone's attention, let alone earns the "best movie ever!" praise you hear about this one. As I said, I didn't think it was bad, it was just wasn't that good. I had to force myself to keep watching, trying once again to see what other people see in Scorsese. I get the feeling all the praise and accolades heaped on him are just a big prank being played on me.

At least the Godfather was an actual good movie, although certainly no masterpiece.

A far, far better movie than this that came out around the same time would be Miller's Crossing. It's actually entertaining--you don't feel like killing yourself after watching it for just a few minutes, which is another thing about Scorsese I don't like. His slickness, bleak subject matter, unredeeming violence all combine to create an effect like a low-frequency earthquake hum or day-old shellfish--it's nauseating and depressing. I honestly spend the rest of the day depressed and joyless after watching a Scorsese film. You may say that's the power of the film maker, but I say that's simply the power of the subject matter. Manos: the Hands of Fate is pretty depressing for much the same reason.

Art shouldn't always be uplifting (I love Bicycle Thief and the Year of Living Dangerously) but if it's going to put such misery on the screen then it should have a good reason for doing it and it should teach me something.

A good example of how hollow the praise for Scorsese and his works rings is the famous Copacabana scene, a two or three minute steadicam shot following two characters from the outside of a nightclub as they wind through the kitchens and so forth and end up at their table. Scorsese's fans call this "the best shot ever." As I said, it's a long shot of a fellow getting a table. Kubrick did great tracking shots too, but the key to a great tracking shot, like any shot, is that it communicates something significant to us, puts us in the state of mind of the characters, etc. But this was just some people walking to their table. The difference is contextual and often subtle, but it's there.

13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Alton Brown shows us the real American cuisine, 20 August 2006

Forget McDonald's. McDonald's is to American cuisine what Jurassic Park is to the history of ancient reptiles. Real American cuisine isn't just burgers and hot dogs (although fast food joints like McDonald's have given those fine foods a bad name), American cuisine is about travel, more than anything, and nothing illustrates this better than AB's four-part journey across America, showing us the history of food in this country via the road. Travel, and American people. Many nations have two classes of cuisine, that for the rich, and that for ordinary people. Many times when we think of "French food" or "Japanese food" we are thinking of the kinds of food created for and enjoyed by the upper classes of those countries--elaborately-prepared dishes with expensive ingredients. These are fine, but American cuisine has no counterpart to them, our food has always been for ordinary people, just like everything else in this country. All of our haute cuisine is borrowed from other nations. Our real food is biscuits, hash browns, burgers, barbecue, fry bread, bacon, meatloaf, hot dogs, chili con carne, etc. And so any study of American food has to focus on this, and it has to be on the road, and it has to start in the East and end in the West. And if it happens to be hilarious and surprising, and teach a Southern boy things he didn't know about his own state, then all the better for it. Feasting on Asphalt is all of these things, and should be watched by everybody. Americans should watch it to get a better sense of where they come from and where they're going, and non-Americans should watch it for the same reasons. :-) 10/10

54 out of 58 people found the following review useful:
Ernst Lubitsch is reborn, 25 January 2006

Most action movies are pure fluff, relying on clichés, special effects, and bravado to win over the mostly male audiences that keep them in the pipeline. They are junk food. They provide the illusion of satisfying us but they are not nutritious or filling at all. But then there are those action movies which are so solid, well-written, well-acted, well-paced, and well-done that we don't even think of them as action movies. They are the action movie gourmet meals. Think of Lawrence of Arabia or even Full Metal Jacket. Movies like that are outside the traditional action realm, and tend to have much wider appeal. They are entertaining and smart.

Likewise, the action movie's female counterpart, the romance movie, tends to be fluff, relying on overwrought acting and writing, schmaltzy music, and clichés. Even rarer than the "good" action movie is the good romance movie. A movie that realistically depicts love and interpersonal relationships without relying on any clichés or overwrought acting or writing. City Lights is one example of this, the works of Ernst Lubitsch are another. Think of his movie The Shop Around the Corner. It's a love story that works by depicting real "moments" (as critics like to call them). Instead of being a hammy soap opera, these movies work by touching us on a real level. You don't cringe watching these, you don't say to yourself "Who talks like that?" and you don't hear schmaltzy music all of the time to let you know what emotion you are supposed to be feeling.

I'm bringing all this up to make the point to any guy who is reading this that "Yes, there are good romance movies you will like." Whisper of the Heart is a movie like that, and BOY is it a good one. You've heard of the rare romance movie that both men and women like equally, this is one of them. Guys will like it because it isn't junk food. Comparing this movie to typical romance garbage like Up Close and Personal is like comparing a piece of filet mignon to a Slim Jim. People talk like real people, they have real problems that 14-year-olds have, and they relate to their family like real 14-year-olds do.

This movie should be easy to find on DVD and for once I do not hesitate to say "watch it dubbed." Miyazaki himself says that his movies should be seen in the language of the viewer, and not subtitled, so that you can devote your full attention to the image on the screen and not to reading subtitles (I make the exception for Princess Mononoke which IMO has a inferior dub). It was written by Miyazaki but directed by another very talented man who unfortunately died not long after making this, his only film. The influence of Miyazaki shows in this film, although the animation style is a little different, and the style of the backgrounds is *very* different. I do not know what process was used, but I'd say they based all of the backgrounds on real photographs. The lighting in them is so well that some of them could easily pass for photographs on an NTSC display unless you look at them long and closely. The pacing in this film is also very well-done. Too many directors hurry through pacing, they don't want there to be any silences because they don't know how to use silence. This director does.

Casablanca (1942)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One of Hollywood's best, Bogart's second-best performance (SPOILERS), 1 July 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a great movie, and one of the best examples of the Golden Age. The movie works not only because of a great script, great cast, and great minimalist direction, but because it provides an excellent sense of time and place. Few movies are so directly linked to the time in which they were made. In 1942 the outcome of the war was a question mark, as was the Nazi threat. This movie was made when nobody was sure who would win, and it shows. The desperation of the characters, from Rick himself to bit parts that receive only five seconds of screen time, comes across perfectly without being over-stated or glossed over to give the love triangle more screen time. In fact, forget the love triangle, the real struggle in this movie is in Rick (though as this movie's script is so heavily analyzed by every film school in the country, I'm probably not saying anything new).

Few major Hollywood productions have such human characters. Nobody in this movie is an archetype, they are all flawed, they make mistakes, and most importantly they will all redeem themselves in some way (except for the Nazis, who would certainly not be shown redeeming themselves in a war-time movie). Sydney Greenstreet is a criminal, and proud of it, yet he decides to give Ilsa and Victor some helpful information, admitting that he doesn't see how it helps him. Claude Rains is a despicable pig who uses his authority to get sexual favors from desperate women, and he too is proud of this, yet at the end he also redeems himself.

Some people have said that this movie has the best supporting cast in history, and they may be right. The Bulgarian girl, Rick's staff, Peter Lorre, Victor Laszlo, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, Sam, and the Nazi who looks like Porky Pig with a monocle. I said in the header that this is Bogart's second-best performance, and the first would be Treasure of the Sierra Madre (you saw that coming, I'm sure).

Unfortunately a lot of the dramatic impact of this movie, especially the finale, will be ruined for many younger viewers like myself, because it is so endlessly quoted and imitated in other movies, books, tv shows, etc. This is a darn shame. Nevertheless, I gave this movie a 10/10.

L'Atalante (1934)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
I am on the fence., 28 June 2004

This movie is considered to be one of the best movies ever made, if not the best. It frequently shows up on top ten lists. Some have suggested that Vigo is the best director who ever lived......WHY?!

Okay, there are some nice things about this movie. The photography is good (most of the time), the acting seems relatively authentic, there are some genuinely funny scenes, and.....that's all I can think of.

But what at first seems to be a light, easy-going story about quirky, charming characters on a riverboat quickly turns into a light, easy-going story about truly horrid people, a story that takes up too much screen time for what little actually happens.

Okay, let's get this out of the way. Michel Simon is the most off-putting, loathsome, grotesque person I've ever seen in a movie. He sticks out and flaps his lower lip like he's trying to fan his eyebrows. He grins like an orangutan in a centrifuge. He stumbles around frequently grunting "eh?" to his boss's wife, who is bizarrely intrigued by him. He spits huge gales of saliva, INDOORS. We will not speak of the scene in which he goes shirtless. In fact, that scene never happened. Did Simon alone taint my view of this movie? Perhaps, but Nicolas Cage makes me gag and I enjoyed Raising Arizona. The monkey-man in Wild World of Batwoman is more charming than this guy. Why does Simon's face look like that? It doesn't appear to be actual deformation, he just looks odd. Is he storing nuts for winter? Is he severely allergic to his own face fuzz? He gives cat lovers a bad name (and face). Thank God the fortune teller scene ended where it did.

The captain is only somewhat better, he's hot-headed, jealous, and hits his wife. The wife is not very bright. Not only does she actually marry this loser, she then finds herself somewhat attracted to Simon, and some loser who can do card tricks. The kid doesn't say much, which makes him my favorite character.

I do not believe a movie *has* to have characters we like in order to be good (just look at virtually any Kubrick movie), but when your movie is a character-driven piece, that obviously tries to ingratiate itself onto the audience, then should we at least like someone?

It seems to me there are some plot holes. Why does Simon know where to look for the wife? He's standing right outside the arcade as the music begins to play. And doesn't it seem a little trite that her particular machine is connected to the outside speaker? Am I missing something or does anybody else agree with me here? And I just want to point out that this movie has TWO robot puppet shows.

It's a shame Vigo died so young, as this movie shows a lot of promise. I honestly don't know what to think here. Is this a bad movie with good photography and acting? A good movie with horrid characters? A so-so movie that could have used a better script? Somebody help me here.

Charade (1963)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining, snappy direction, still missing something, SPOILERS!!, 28 June 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I thought Singin in the Rain was "dull, unfunny, and over-rated," and I stand by that assessment, so I was a little worried about this movie, but I actually enjoyed it nonetheless.

It would be impossible to adequately review this movie without even mentioning Hitchcock, as this is the kind of movie he specializes in. Maybe it's unfair to Donen to contrast and compare to Hitchcock, but I can't help but feel there are areas in this movie that Hitchcock would have done better, and that would be a sense of danger. Maybe others will disagree, but I did not feel one from this movie.

Okay, so that's not really a flaw, just something I personally felt was missing. But I do like the movie. I think the acting was great, even Hepburn was good at comic delivery, and normally she leaves me underwhelmed. The directing was good, but not great. The script was probably the strongest element.

There are flaws though. The script has weak points, some of the most important events in the movie hinge on some very unfeasible things, like Dyle managing to sneak into the US embassy during lunch hour to set up a phony appointment with Hepburn. And perhaps I missed the explanation for this, but why is it that Hepburn seems to know next to nothing about her husband? She doesn't know if he's rich or poor, has friends, or anything. Grant's changing identity seems to be an overly-elaborate attempt to keep an otherwise straightforward plot twisting around. Why would the OSS trust five greedy psychopaths to deliver gold in an important, secret mission?

I gave this movie a 7/10. It was a good, entertaining movie, but not a must-see, and something I doubt I'd watch again.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
One of the ten funniest movies I've ever seen, 24 June 2004

Not only is this the movie that made me appreciate Kurosawa (my first viewing of Seven Samurai left me disappointed, though I like it a lot more now), but I can't think of many movies that made me laugh as hard as this one. All you Star Wars fans need to watch this (and The Searchers) to see where George Lucas stole (uh, I mean borrowed, yeah...) his ideas. C3PO, R2D2, Princess Leia, Han Solo, the Empire, it's all here (Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are in The Searchers).

This movie is probably the best use of 2.35:1 photography I've ever seen, and a director has to be extra good for me to like that wide of a ratio. Watch the scene when the our two peasants are complaining about digging a pit, the camera follows them perfectly as they walk on either side. Or the scene when they get lost in a crowd and spot eachother. Not once does Kurosawa seem to be using the wide ratio to impress us or create an artificial sense of grandeur.

I recommend the Criterion DVD, the picture is very sharp and the contrast is perfect (I've never seen this theatrically, so I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it looks good).

13 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
Dull, unfunny, and over-rated., 21 June 2004

Don't bother to try to change my opinion, I just don't like this movie. I didn't think it was funny, or entertaining, or anywhere near being worthy of all the accolades. Why do people mention this movie in the same breath as Hidden Fortress or City Lights? It's obscene and insulting. This is no classic movie. This is just a stage musical in front of a camera. And why is that one dance number near the end so interminably long?

Musicals and non-musicals should be kept separate from each other, as documentaries are not put in the same category with fictional or "depicted non-fiction" movies. If you want to like musicals, fine, but don't insist that *I* have to like them in order to "appreciate film."

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