Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Happy Valley (2014)
Probably the most ironic title ever, considering how depressing this UK policer is. That said, it features one of the greatest lead characters and performance thereof. Sergeant Catherine Cawood is compelling, believable, heroic, competent, troubled, and utterly human as she goes about her duties in what appears to be a bucolic town that is plagued with all the evils we find in every metropolis today. Her courage, heart, and empathy is the theme of this violent drama, as in many great cop shows, she is the thin blue line against the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and women...
The Royal Family of Broadway (1930)
Ina Clair magnificent
Fredric March may have gotten the Oscar nom playing Tony, the most histrionic of the fabulously emotive Cavendish family of Broadway stars, but Ina Clair should have copped the statuette. The film's pedigree is impeccable: Cukor directing, a dynamic screenplay from Herman Mankiewicz from the play by Kaufman and Ferber, running the gamut from hilarious to deeply touching. Ina Clair, who was only in 12 films and whom I don't know, has the funniest lines and the beautifully sad and triumphant final shot. I don't know what formats this fine film is in, but it is posted on YouTube.
The Zookeeper (2001)
Another 10 for Sam Neill
Last year (2016) I happened to see Sam Neill in 3 different vehicles, and he was awesome in all: Peaky Blinders, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and The Zookeeper. I would be hard-pressed to say which I liked better, or which he was better in. Suffice to say, his stature as an actor took a quantum leap in my estimation. I highly recommend all three, although Peaky Blinders is quite violent, and also an ongoing mini-series with the attendant time commitment (Come on, Season Four!!) The Zookeeper is heartbreaking, and I wept for humans and animals alike.
Wiccans vs Christians
So what this film is basically saying is that the Salem witch trials were in fact legitimate.
The women accused actually did perform supernatural acts that were, if not evil, then at least hateful.
I see the popularity of this film as a case of atheists/pagans/wiccans reveling in their assumed power and "demonizing" the sanctimony of the Christian establishment.
The witches' power when it is finally revealed is awful and in fact seems to justify the longstanding superstitions about witches and satanic practices. I know there are "good witches" and "bad witches" (I saw "Wizard of Oz") but there is only evil in this film. If it has a meaning or a message, it is that the old superstitions are true.
Wake in Fright (1971)
Ambiguous title for nightmare allegory
I'm not sure who wakes in fright, unless it's the audience of this sneaky descent into Hell. Hell in this case takes the form of a city in the outback whose male population drinks gallons of beer daily, gambles maniacally on a coin-toss bar game, and engages in a nocturnal kangaroo hunt that is both nightmarish and all too real. The only female character is a young nymphomaniac who services a majority of the bestial males.
The narrative arc is allegorically a journey from Purgatory to Hell and back again, taken by a sad and disturbed, albeit very attractive pilgrim who has the intention of going to Sydney to see his lover over Christmas break, from his teacher's "slavery" in an even bleaker Outback whistle- stop. His plans fall through, and his stay in "the Yabba" quickly devolves into a fly-infested beer-drenched dead-end from which escape looks increasingly futile.
I would consider this one of Ted Kotcheff's most creative and disturbing efforts, up there with my favorites "North Dallas Forty" and "Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz," and it certainly fits in with any discussion of Ozploitation "classics" of the '70s.
A bit of a goof intended to be unpopular
I agree that "All These Women" is misunderstood, especially if you look at it in the context of Bergman's filmography. He had just completed the "Silence of God" trilogy, one of the deepest, most serious works in the history of cinema. So, cut the man some slack and allow him his lark, his goof, his chance to riff on fans and critics and the illusion of the exalted artist (himself), before returning to his true work with his next film, the universally praised "Persona."
I also think he was a little influenced by "8 1/2" which had come out the year before, appreciating Fellini's playfulness as well as his insight into the creative process and, of course, "all these women." Bergman will always be thought of as a somewhat austere and oft despairing artist, but thankfully we have several films that belie that, like "Smiles of a Summer Night," "The Magician," and this little oddball gem.
The Show-Off (1926)
Louise lights up the screen
I also saw this on the DVD double in which it is paired with Clara Bow's "The Plastic Age". That is the one I mainly wanted to see, as I only recently became aware of the incredible talents of Bow in "It" and "Wings". But "The Show Off" was the better of the two, solely for the talent and charisma of Louise Brooks in a supporting role.
I thought of Bix Biederbeck, popular at the same time, the Jazz age of the '20s, in watching Louise in this rather trifling comedy. Bix played in some competent bands, but when he began playing his solo, it had the glitter of a diamond that still has the power to excite to this day and elevated the material to greatness. And Louise Brooks, playing the good and sensible girl next door, has that same brilliant quality in every gesture and expression, however subtle. She would of course go on to star in some much heavier films as a vamp or a "fallen woman" and is considered one of the great silent stars because of those roles, but her early performance here is just a joy to behold.
BTW, Clara Bow is also wonderful in "The Plastic Age". It's a shame that more of her films aren't available for viewing, she was a great actress and a groundbreaking star.
Io sono l'amore (2009)
This is like those old slasher movies, where teenagers who engage in lustful sin are going to pay big-time before the end. Except that the transgressor in this case is a rich matron who falls in love with her sensitive son's best friend who sort of I guess falls in love with her too. At least they get it on in all sorts of places, including al fresco amongst a lot of bugs that rate many close-ups. Why Tilda Swinton's "Emma" would appeal to a young handsome Italian boy I couldn't grasp, but I am supportive of cougar fantasies so we'll let that quibble slide. There is a large subplot involving food, both the lovers love to cook you see, and some of it looks good enough to eat. They unfortunately make a huge stupid mistake involving the soup course that sets off a ridiculous tragic turn of events, leading to "Emma" getting "slashed" by being shown the door, expelled from all that wealth and luxury as it were, and where she goes, one may only guess. But it is hinted that not only has she gotten in touch with her inner cougar, but also her inner lesbian, and considering that she is, after all, Love, we all hope she lands on her feet somewhere less opulent but just as sexy.
Perhaps some of the subtleties of this film escaped me, buried under the overly lush swelling score that tried so hard to make dramatic points. There is one point that I took to heart, involving a smarmy cultured Indian-American power broker helping the rich industrialist family move into the 21st century with their textile mill. He hints that even though they sell out to the multi-nationalists, they can still be part of and profit from the global war machine, becoming even richer. This seems to emphasize that "Emma" is much better off making love on the hillside than further luxuriating in such capitalistic decadence.
So whether she ran off and was received rapturously by Antonio was not really an issue for me. The one big question I did come away with, which I would ask some Italian viewer if I cared enough to post a message, is: Did Tilda Swinton speak Italian with a Russian accent? If so, man, what a performance.
Enter the Void (2009)
the ultimate trip
Do not see this film because you've heard it's trippy or visually stunning, unless you have some interest in the afterlife as envisioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead as filtered through the creative mind of Gaspar Noe. In fact, the opening credits are probably the trippiest thing about the whole film and they're over in an amazingly fast two minutes. Again, I don't think even the opening credits were intended to blow the viewer's mind as much as just wake him up for what follows.
And what follows is basically 2.5 hours from the afterlife of Oscar, from his sudden violent death at a young age, through his chances at liberation into the light which he rejects, because of his karma and guilt over how he has f'ed up the lives of all those he supposedly loves or calls friend, and ending in his inevitable rebirth.
The film is an ordeal and many, even those who are interested in the afterlife and "bardo films", may find it hard going. As Oscar's spirit floats overhead into scenes where he sees the past and present of his beloved sister, his friend Alex, his friend Victor whom he has particularly harmed, and others, including what happens to his corpse, the movement is slow and mostly silent, as befits a disembodied, earthbound spirit. These slow overhead shots are punctuated at intervals by several extremely loud, sudden shocks. This might seem gratuitous, but nothing in this film is gratuitous, even the ending, which many would deem pornographic but is entirely consistent with the Tibetan belief in the soul seeking a womb in which to be reborn. The karmic elements of the film are well thought-out, and the film's overall effect and message are profound to the viewer ready to consider them.
an immersive experience
I don't know how to begin to "review" this cinematic experience, as I felt immersed in the film rather than trying to get my mind around it entirely. This work is neither an apologia for Hitler and the Third Reich nor a condemnation, but a serious attempt by a true intellectual and film auteur, Syberberg, to look at it ALL from every side, the horror and evil as well as the cultural, historical, and philosophical foundations of Hitler and the German people.
The film is subtitled "A Film From Germany" because it is plumbs not only the depths of Nazism and World War II but the entire German psyche. It attempts to present, through hard facts, historical documents, films and photographs, and also through dream, metaphor, and stunningly haunting tableaux, what Hitler really MEANT and what he continues to mean. There are many excellent actors portraying both well-known figures like Himmler and lesser known individuals like Hitler's valet who relate what might seem like endless minutiae of Hitler's daily life but do add a great deal to the ultimate picture of the man about whom so much has been written. It seems that if you don't revile him completely, even today, you are suspected of being a neo-fascist yourself, but this film attempts to offer a complete picture and by extension, a baring of the German soul and what is referred to on several occasions as their "happy guilt".
One issue I have is with the English subtitles. There are so many typographical and spelling errors that one could only call it sloppy. I don't know why a film of this magnitude that took so long coming to home video shouldn't have had more scrupulous editing. Considering how many talking heads there are in the film and the volume of exposition, it was hard enough to keep up with the subtitles without stumbling over the mistakes. On the plus side, there is a lot of English voice-over that provides some breathing space for us Anglos.
And one last comment on the historical context. Considering the film was made in 1977, 34 years ago, much has changed in the world, in Europe, and in the global culture, that the film presciently hints at, not the least of which is the continued emergence of Germany and Japan both economically and democratically. One important point "Our Hitler" made was that Hitler was probably the apotheosis of democracy, rising as he did from the middle class and glorifying the common people, and being democratically elected by them. What he did with that mandate was probably the most horrifying and endlessly fascinating stories of the 20th century.