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Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The ravaged landscape of two hearts
I never believed that I would live to see the depiction of a heart-rending gay-men based passionate,doomed love story - and yet this is what the director Ang Lee and the superlative cast have gifted to me.
The intense, frustrated yet uniquely fulfilled selfless love of Jack Twist for Ennis Del Mar nailed me to my seat. Ang Lee's direction is faultless as are all the performances, including all supporting roles, and particularly the depiction towards the end of the film of Jack Twist's knowing, loving mother.
Heath Ledger's Ennis collapses in seismic passion because of his inability to absorb the depth and beauty of Jack Twist's love for him - and while the review I read of Heath Ledger's portrayal deservedly hailed Ledger, for me it was Jake Gyllenhall's performance as Jack Twist that propelled the movie.
I recommend viewers to read Stephen Holden's review in The New York Times, available on line. And while I rarely write reviews, I am doing so now as an act of homage to those who created this remarkable film.
Towering performances by 2 actors at the zenith of their powers.
My comments here tend to be Misremembrances of things past. I know I saw "Becket" decades ago while I must have been suffering from a periodic bout of reviling Richard Burton. Having recently seen "Cleopatra" again, I will forgive myself. Still, there are movies that I've enjoyed - "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" and "The Night of the Iguana", to name 2 - so I thought I'd give "Becket" another try.
Historical movies are among my favorites, although the IMDB parameter of not spoiling restricts me from discussing plot. But this is a movie that made me click on here to see who directed it...since directing Burton and O'Toole must have been like being a meterologist tracking a tornado and a hurricane. Their synergy is astounding...but whereas O'Toole launches himself on occassion into a thespian stratosphere it is Burton's performance that is incandescent. There are scenes..."inner monologues" - queries to God, where the ribald Burton is transformed into a man illuminated by a spiritual puzzle - he cannot believe that he is becoming who he is becoming - and it is Burton's challenge to share that bewilderment with us.
Well, I'm comforted that I can now stretch the glory days of historical film-making at least to "Becket." Any film in which John Gielgud, Martita Hunt, Felix Aylmer and Pamela Brown are "supporting" - how do I put it, "supporting" performances such as these are most other actors' triumphs. The costumes and sets are sumptous. Finis.
Flamingo Road (1949)
"You just wouldn't believe how difficult it is to get rid of a dead elephant!"
I am clueless as to how this movie has failed to become one of the great cult classics. Yes, of course, the plot is pitiful...combination of State of the Union meets Stella Dallas meets Sadie Thompson...but my God, the dialogue!
Joan Crawford - truly an amazing actress. If there's a heaven and she's in it and I make it there, I'll be acolyte in her heavenly choir. In this one, she looks like she's about to be torn to pieces by the centrifugal forces of her conflicting character. She's part Great Lady of the American theaTRE, movie version, with an accent that must be part Mount Holyoke mixed with Bryn Mawr mixed with Locust Valley Lockjaw...so how this dame is working as a carny girl at the tender age of 45 is quite the sight to behold. And then there's Gladys George...the type of older character actress that I suppose only the Depression-era movie studio system could produce...she's seen everything and done everything twice, and still has time to get her hair peroxided and permed. And finally - Sydney Greenstreet - of course - he is awesome in everything I've seen him in...but the look on his face when Joan utters the deathless line I've just tried to quote above...well, anyway...forget plot, just sit back and enjoy mid-20th century glossy-film-noir with Joan lit from angles that would put De la Tour to shame. a fan.
Love and Pride Conquer Prejudice
I've just seen this film for the 3rd time although I'm sure I hadn't seen it for at least 10 years. I had forgotten the depth and intensity of the prejudice displayed in the film. It is taking nothing away from Jeanne Craine's sensitive and beautiful performance to say that the star of the film is Ethel Waters - she is simply a magnificent presence throughout. It is one of those performances where every fibre of being is transmitted thru to the viewer - you cannot help but feel that the character is one of the strongest and bravest women ever shown on screen. Considering the shocking 1950's world of Amos and Andy and the in-every-sense-white-bread fiction world of Hollywood - Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, etc - it is startling to see how movies so transcended the comfort-food level of TV and challenged audiences. This movie belongs, I believe, in the highest echelon of social commentary films - such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Gentlemen's Agreement. Absolute must see!!!
A movie that sweeps me thru the demi-belle monde of Paris
...and deposits me breathless in my Brooklyn living room.
This movie is like a time machine. I visit the Art Nouveau boudoir of Maurice Chevalier...attend instructions on seduction by the jaded Aunt Alicia...leap along with Louis Jourdan as he awakens to love...am part of the crowd during the "cavalcade of decadence" at Maxim's...decadence and beauty and Paris...ok, the singing is either adequate or, in Leslie Caron's case, dubbed poorly...and the lyrics can cloy more firmly than the hero's sugar fortune...but the professionalism of the older actors (there should be a special place in cinema heaven for Isobel Jeans)...and the simple joy of witnessing the transformation of GIGI...well, I guess I check this movie out every other year or so to see if I'm so jaded I should be put in Aunt Alicia's collection...and no, not yet...just wish I could don one of those pearl-gray suits with cravats and join Maurice for a plate of cheese!