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My second-favorite film genre is horror, and once again my favorite movies of this type are from the 1930s. "Dracula," "Frankenstein," and "The Mummy" are movies I can watch again and again -- and by the 1940s, with all the disappointing sequels that these three movies spawned, I do believe the "art" had run its course.
I suppose you could say that I'll be mired in "black and white" for the rest of my life.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
For five-year-olds only . . . and gullible ones at that
An endlessly saccharine tear-jerker very cynically (in my opinion) designed to sell candy and pajamas and coloring books and what-have-you. Other one-star reviewers have pretty much summed up what this film represents. I agree with their comments. Seriously, I can tolerate and even luxuriate in sentimentality if it serves a legitimate artistic purpose. At least "Madama Butterfly" (as just one example) manages to marry the flowing tears with wonderful music. Or, if you want to stick with movies, how about "On Borrowed Time," the 1939 cinematic masterpiece that just happened to star the great uncle of "E.T."'s own cutesy version of a Barrymore.
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Kiddie-porn goes mainstream
Wow. Gorgeous island photography. A lush music score designed to generate two full hours of spine-shivers. A pair of absolute hunks attracting more audience jealousy than a Clark Gable or a Grace Kelly could ever hope for. Dialogue cleverly scripted to suggest a truncated childhood education. And all of this for one purpose only: To wrap a huge dose of titillating kiddie-porn inside a package with enough pretenses of respectability to survive in mainstream movie theaters. And, judging from all the rave reviews I'm seeing on IMDb, the perpetrators of this "love story" achieved just what they desired. Likewise, the vast majority of the movie's audience got exactly what they expected and wanted -- and anybody who denies they "wanted" it is fooling him- or herself.
The Number 1 choice for an "Ariadne" video?
Having just purchased and watched the very fine Karl Boehm-conducted video with Gundula Janowitz (Ariadne) and Edita Gruberova (Zerbinetta), I figured there was no chance of finding a DVD version of this magnificent opera that was better cast. Little did I know! Jessye Norman elevates the role of Ariadne to an entirely more exciting and powerful level. Her performance of "Es gibt ein Reich" is downright explosive and must be heard (and seen up close) in this video to be believed. Her transformation near the end of the opera, with James King as Bacchus, is equally enthralling -- and King is no slouch either. The rest of the cast is mostly strong too, and Levine clearly conducts the piece con amore. Until recently, I hadn't paid much attention to "Ariadne auf Naxos" since the late 1970s and early 1980s, but my re-acquaintance with it makes me wonder if it is not Strauss's ultimate operatic masterpiece. (I know, I know . . . what about "Salome" and "Rosenkavalier"? An embarrassment of riches, that's what it is.)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
OK for five-year-old pajama-boys
A shambles of a medieval castle atop a small but craggy mountain, both of which happen to be chock-a-block adjacent to a faceless 1960s tract-home subdivision -- in which, by the way, all of the homes are uniformly painted in a pink, blue, green, or blue pastel color. And for me, that is where the film's interest begins to wane. Simply put, "Edward Scissorhands" is yet another Spielberg-like tear-jerker, from the oh-so-sensitive (but cardboard) characters on down to the treacly, chorus-tinged music score. If you like this kind of thing (cf. "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial"), you'll probably love this two-hour waste of time as well.
It's a "scream"
Even in Cold-War Berlin we would expect to encounter more than a dozen city residents, and perhaps even a handful of motor vehicles, over the course of two-plus hours, but not in this movie -- which, I suppose, is what we are supposed to accept as "deep symbolism." Cut to the estranged husband and wife, whose acting is so amateurish and over the top that it reminded me of the student plays we used to produce in high school. You can rapidly understand why these two don't get along. Wife wants to leave and live with the man who, she cackles joyously, satisfies her like the husband never could. For some strange reason, husband wants to hold on to wife and establishes at least 2,457 times that he will not take "no" for an answer. Wife does leave, but keeps coming back for short visits, presumably to spend time with the couple's young child who, frankly, is the only likable character in the entire cast. Relations between husband and wife continue to deteriorate. Eventually we come to the miscarriage-in-the-subway-corridor scene, where wife spends three minutes making us forget (finally) the screaming episode of Faye Wray in "King Kong." And yes, things continue downhill even from there. All along, you've wondered how the couple's young boy could remain so even-keeled and undisturbed in the midst of all the marital explosiveness and physical violence swirling around him, but at the very end you hardly blame him for taking to the bathtub face down. In fact, his solution is one to which you might feel like subjecting yourself, at least until you realize that the "eject" button on your DVD player offers a much easier and less fatal means of escape from this thoroughly depressing bit of pretentious, Euro-trash nonsense.
The Abyss (1989)
Kind of boring
Mr. Cameron is fond of portraying military people as somehow vacuous and monstrous at the same time, as in "Avatar," where he drives the point home with a vengeance. He gets another golden opportunity at military-bashing here, and his fans probably won't be disappointed. I, for one, got tired very quickly of the characters constantly yelling at and bickering with each other. None of them are particularly likable, especially the female lead. The constant efforts by the female lead's "ex" to make her like him again grow equally tiresome. As a subplot his obsession ends up overshadowing the rest of the story-line. The special effects in this film received a lot of critical praise, but by now they look a bit dated and predictable. Worse yet, they're simply too cutesy to be taken seriously. There were times when I thought I detected the telltale influence of Spielberg in this movie -- and I don't mean that as a compliment.