15 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
28 September 2009
I resisted to see "Mommie Dearest" for years but last night I lost a bet and I was forced to sit through it. Surprise. It didn't provoke what I thought it was going to provoke. Nothing personal really. A bad TV movie, cheap in every department, the production design, the hair and make up, the script, oh my God, the script. I never read Christina Crawford's book, maybe it was this amateurishly bad. Anne Bancroft was first going to play Crawford but fortunately she came to her senses. Dunaway has been paying the price ever since. You don't mess around with Crawford, didn't she know that? Other than the outrageous performance by Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid gives her Christina a certain amount of dignity, perhaps more dignity than Christina deserved. The supporting cast seems like a round up of the last resort. Atrocious. So much so that it's not even funny. I bet Joan Crawford is turning in her grave unsure whether to cry or to laugh.
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Baarìa (2009)
Tornatore's Amarcord
3 September 2009
Looking back with a sentimental eye and a generous budget doesn't guarantee a masterpiece and in fact "Baaria" is not a masterpiece, but it manages to be a lot of other things and when I say a lot a mean an awful lot, too much perhaps. The ambition of the enterprise clashes with its clarity, its accomplishment even with its honesty. I've spent 10 critical years of my childhood in Sicily and the Sicily depicted here, beauty an all, felt like the work of a foreigner. This is a Sicily for exportation or, the Sicily of a dreamer with a very acute cinematic eye. Not the Sicily of Visconti's "La Terra Trema" to be sure but perhaps Tornatore's way is a cleverer way to go about it. This is a exemplary crafted "product". It doesn't have the depth of real art nor its purity. It has, however, a great show of confidence in itself. Beautiful images, beautiful protagonists, beautiful score. The toothless smiles of the under proletarians the color coordinated attire of the rich, everything in place just the way we imagine. To say that I was disappointed wouldn't be quite true, in fact, I enjoyed it much more that I thought I would, but now, twenty four hours later, very little of it remains in my mind or in my heart.
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Caché (2005)
Who's really looking?
31 August 2009
We are, yes, we're the ones who look without really seeing and Michael Heneke, the veteran young director knows it. Paranoia and responsibility in a film that is as irritating as it is brilliant. Even the opening credits, small writing while a camera, still, very still, stares at an upper, middle class abode. An intellectual Hitchcockian exercise by a genial director who seems, at times, is playing with himself. He probably is doing it knowing that we're looking and tests our endurance without caring, really, whether we're with him or against him. What he, I believe, wouldn't tolerate is our indifference but, there is no danger of that. Love and hate. Admiration and ridicule. He will inspire all of that, at the same time by some of us, all of us, one way or another. The performances are all wonderful and there is a marvelous moment with the great Annie Girardot.
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Funny Games (2007)
Entertaining, Infuriating and very, very sick
25 August 2009
The premise is not a thousand miles away from William Wyler's "Desperate Hours" but the distances here are measured in a different way. Michael Heneke the "author" of this horror thriller of sorts is at the service of his vision of himself. He's not the first "author" to suffer from the same malady but here it's so bloody obvious that becomes kind of funny. From the opening credits you know that "pretension" will permeate the whole movie and it does but, the funny thing is that it's riveting. I watched the whole nonsense with my mouth open. That's an achievement, isn't it? I haven't seen the original German version (a blow by blow account directed by Heneke himself)but, I must confess, I think I will, I think I want to. Don't ask me why. This is as empty as anything I've ever seen. A public act of obscenity and yet you can't, you just can't look away. Naomi Watts is terrific as the smart middle class wife and mother that will notice for first that Michael Pitt is not that good an actor. She sees through him - who wouldn't? - pretty much from the start. Michael Pitt plays the creep as a creep with good manners. So on the nose that doesn't manage to be frightening. He is shocking because of what he does but not for what he appears to be. He has no sexual presence. Tim Roth, as the weakling husband is disturbingly convincing and the young actor playing their son is truly wonderful. So here I am, talking about a film I kind of detested with unexpected respect. Michael Heneke may be one of those artists who are extraordinary self promoters, but he's an artist none the less and like real artist often do, divide, confront and provoke. So, did I like "Funny Games"? No. Will I see it again? Absolutely.
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Titanic (1997)
Waiting for the thing to sink
30 January 2008
How long did it take for the Titanic to sink? Hours, it felt like for ever. Why? After all that's the reason Cameron was attracted to this story. All those spectacular visual effects. But what about the people? They were irrelevant. Celine Dion and the bravery of Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio kept this wreck afloat. There is a wannabe thriller abroad, gun fights, robbery... as if the tragedy alone wasn't enough. Remember the Titanic with Barbara Stanwyck? That version didn't make history but if you compared it to this one, the early one was a masterpiece. How angry it made me to think that all the millions invested in this Oscar winner didn't allow for a decent script to emerge. The surreal success of "Titanic" makes me fear the worse. The crowning moment of this puzzling hit is the jewel thrown into the sea. Why? Didn't Gloria Stuart had a niece? Couldn't she have secured a livelihood to her niece with that horrid piece of blue glass? Thoughtlessness, clearly, dominated the enterprise. However, the sinking in itself is an extraordinary show of technical ability.
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An Actor's Film Of Reflection
11 January 2008
Not true! Robert Redford didn't take to the pulpit to give us a pet talk. He's far too subtle, honest and compassionate to pull a stunt like that. The film is about questions not about answers and we're all grateful for that. I left the theater with a weight on my chest because I believe in the validity of the questions and the individual responsibility of finding the fair way to the answers. Important to remember, at least it was for me, that this is a film delivered to us by three icons. Robert Redford, a symbol of consistency and independence, Meryl Streep, an actress who defined the last two decades of film acting with characters that went straight to the center of something and Tom Cruise, the box office champion who's become a controversial figure despite of his undeniable humanity. I will take a stand here and advise you to go and see this film. You will come up with new questions and a potential road map for the answers.
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Brief Encounter in Manhattan
10 January 2008
I've read reviews and articles from its day dismissing this moving as a waster of two major talents. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, all of those comments appear short sighted if not just inaccurate. True, the film is an "hommage" to David Lean's "Brief Encounter" and I don't think anybody can deny that. The word "hommage" may be arguable but the concept isn't it. Streep is a feast to the eyes and ears. She was then and she is now. She constructs something memorable out something quite ordinary. De Niro falls into place but it's hard to divorce him from his well established film persona. Is this Travis? So clean? I fell into their Brief Encounter situation head on and enjoyed it thoroughly. In particular the first 45 minutes when their lives are starting to connect but before the actual connection. My favorite part? Meryl for the first time waiting for him in the train, looking out of the window to catch a glimpse. The juxtaposition of her thoughts it's dizzying, wonderful and worth the entire film.
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Capra Remakes Himself
1 January 2008
With "Pockeful Of Miracles" Frank Capra remakes his own "Lady For A Day" with Capraseque results - that means a mix bag with mostly delightful stuff in it - The major problem here is Glenn Ford, not as an actor but as a producer. There is too much dedicated to Ford's character's businesses, moving away from what really matters - Apple Annie and her predicament. Bette Davis was one of the major supporters of Glenn Ford at the beginning of his career - A Stolen Life, did for his career what "Thelma and Louise" did for Brad Pitt's and one should remember that Davis sort of "imposed" Ford for that role. Now Glenn Ford bills himself above Bette Davis. That should tell you something. The film, however, more than survives the petty egos and comes out as a wonderful swan song for the extraordinary Frank Capra. Bette Davis herself confessed to have found enormous difficulty at being faithful to Apple Annie in those gorgeous gowns post-makeover, but this is, was and always will be a fairy tale and as such it succeeds beautifully. The entrance of Davis after the make-over scored with the Nutcracker suite, it's one of my most cherished movie memories as are Davis's eyes as she witnesses the "miracle" in first person. A collection of wonderful character actors: Thomas Mitchell, Ellen Corby and in particular Edward Everett Horton makes the whole thing a smashing pleasure. Beautiful Hope Lange is terrific and Peter Falk wears a coat that makes his character a shady relative of his future "Colombo". If you're not made of stone and/or your levels of cynicism have not reached inhuman stages, you're going to enjoy this very much. I certainly did.
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Shaving Ryan's Privates
26 November 2007
True, the first half an hour of Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" is truly mesmerizing but then it degenerates into a soap opera of sorts and all the angst and horror of war evaporates until the truly sentimental finale. "The Longest Day" doesn't depend on special effects but on the minute by minute horror of its moment. It's also, if I'm permitted to say it, a lot of fun to watch. Strangely enough the all star cast is not distracting at all. It was much more in "Saving Private Ryan" with a cast of up and comings headed by Tom Hanks himself. In "The Longest Day" there are real moments, film, cinematic moments that are intimately connected with the profoundest sense of drama: The clicking of the rifle. Richard Burton, Richard Beymer and the boots of the dead German. Red Buttons hanging from the Cathedral. Paul Anka, Fabian, Robert Wagner, the landing in Normandy. This film remains one of the best, from every angle, films of its kind.
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A scatological farce and other British specialties
1 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Short and to the point. Family relations, death and excrement. A hallucinogenic drug who's effect takes most part of the movie. A dead father "an extraordinary man" with a skeleton in his closet shaped as a dwarf (sorry little person)with blackmail in his mind. A lot of fun to see Jane Asher as the widow, the mother. She was the girl from the swinging sixties,, the Beatles "Deep End" and I believe Michael Caine's "Alfie" Loved to see Rupert Graves in a funny, adult turn. I miss this guy, such a good actor, so much better than others that made it big on the other side of the ocean. All in all a British sit-com dealing and doing what they do best. Toilette humor, and death, in the most straight forward politically incorrect British fashion. Frank Oz treats the whole thing as a drawing room comedy and everything goes so fast that there is no real time for a serious assessment. If you go I guarantee, at least, a couple of hearty laughs.
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A Cast To Die For
14 September 2007
That Sidney Lumet knows how to frame an actor within his or her character is a very well known fact - "The Pawnbroker" "Network" "Dog Day Afternoon" and some other spectacular pieces of acting prove that point unquestionably. Here, there is a sort of "divertissment". Agatha Christie given a first class treatment (not that Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple wasn't first class, but the production value here is as impressive as the cast) in the hands of Sidney Lumet who knew how to put a bunch of sensational actors in a confined space - "12 Angry Men" for instance and make it riveting. There a 12 Angry people here too and (almost) each part is cast with relish and delight. Albert Finney, marvelous, manages, not only to survive, under the weight of his characterization but to create something bold, exquisitely structured, great fun to watch and to hear. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar for her missionary looking after little brown babies - I thought she was a highlight indeed but in my modest opinion, Valentina Cortese for "Day For Night" deserved it that year, Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates's twin brother, also with a mother fixation and a compelling facial tic. Wendy Hiller was, clearly, having a ball and that, on the screen, is always contagious. Sean Connery and Vanessa Redgrave make a surprisingly hot pair, Lauren Bacall over does it of course but who cares, Jacqueline Bisset is breathtaking, Rachel Roberts a hoot. John Gielgud is John Gielgud and that in itself is a major plus. Colin Blakely does wonders with his moment and Dennis Quilley plays his Italian as if this was a silent movie. Martin Balsam is always fun to watch, no matter the accent. Richard Widmark is splendid in his villainy and Jean Pierre Cassel very moving indeed. The only weak spot in the cast is Michael York. Totally unbelievable. I suspect that "Murder in The Orient Express" 33 years old already, will continue delighting audiences for years to come.
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A Billy Wilder Movie
26 August 2007
The excitement to finally see the only movie of Billy Wilder's greatest period I hadn't seen, verged on childishness. I love Wilder and I felt frustrated not to be able to find anywhere "Ace In The Hole" Well, all that's over now. I've seen it, in its crispy DVD release. The theme is Wilderesque, bitter sweet. Some of the lines belong, unquestionably, to the best Wilder sharp, unsentimental wit but, and unfortunately there is a big couple of buts here. Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels (his co-writers) are not Diamond or Brackett and Kirk Douglas is relentless in his on your face, loud son of a bitch. His "redemption" is literary but not cinematic. His performance starts way up high and stays there. I was longing for the laconic delivery of a Fred McMurray in "Double Indemnity" Here, one could see through his character way to easy and far too fast. Jan Sterling is lovely as the woman on the verge. Tough cookie. Delivering a couple of the best lines in the film. All in all, maybe my expectations were too high and the film deserves to be seen again. I will.
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An Explosive Talent
23 April 2007
Libero Di Rienzo's directorial debut is a sort of explosion. Swiped under the rug by a distribution that, clearly, didn't know what to do with it but that I'm sure will gather momentum with the passing of time. I discovered it by accident, in fact, I heard a foreign film director, talking about this movie with passionate enthusiasm, I went to look for it, couldn't find it on VHS or DVD anywhere until last night. De Rienzo's view of the world is chaotic and yet romantic, Elio Germano and Luca Lionello are nothing short of sensational and Libero Di Rienzo plays a cameo that, in itself, is worth the price of admission. In a way this is an Italian film that makes you hope for new and great things to come. Unfortunately, so far, it hasn't been allowed to breath and find its audience.
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How A Star Loses His Glitter
11 March 2007
Riccardo Scamarcio floats through this, how should I call it? - romantic comedy? with annoying passivity. Smouldering vacuously. The stunning, vivacious Laura Chiatti, scores all the points. This tired tale of boy loses girl, gets another and then...looks old before it starts. The aforementioned Scamarcio seems to go through it all with a gun to his head. He doesn't even manages a little bit of charm. I fear this is a repeating strategy of the one of two important Italian production/distribution companies. They get a name that seems to attract young audiences and squeeze them to death, putting them in one brainless project after another. Here there is a brave attempt by director Luis Pietro, to play on Scamarcio's growing status as a teen age idol, but Scamarcio doesn't seem very willing to oblige and as a consequence the whole thing collapses. The grainy photography - maybe it was me, sitting on the third row of the Adriano movie house - doesn't help the idea of romance when you see every pimple in the actor's faces. The theater packed by, mostly, teen age girls and their reluctant boyfriends sat in silence until the opening a beer can, provoked a few giggles. Nudity and empty glances try to accomplish the impossible. Delivering what it promises.
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Casino Royale (2006)
A Great Actor As Bond
7 January 2007
What a difference a great actor makes. Daniel Craig is superb as James Bond and parting from that point everything in it is enjoyable, frightening, thrilling just because we're with him. He conquered us from the word go. The initial chase is one of the best in film history and as soon as we get to know this new incarnation of the iconic Ian Fleming character, we're hooked. He's virile but there is room for ambiguity. He's elegant but as, the sensational Eva Green, points out is more acquired than inherited. More working class than even Sean Connery and that works wonders for Mr Bond. The script is more compact and organic. The locations are breathtaking and what else I can say? The series have been reinvigorated, rejuvenated and in one single stroke have secured that this franchise will live forever. A note to Barbara Broccoli, the producer, your father would be so proud. Congratulations!
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