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Charlie Rose (1991)
Charlie & Celebrities
I enjoy Charlie's interviews greatly--they represent a rare oasis on television, a quiet half-hour or hour devoted to intelligent, thoughtful conversation. How rare is that?! But it kind of breaks down when Charlie is interviewing celebrities, particularly famous actors. Charlie kind of loses it with those people, becoming a bit fawning and, it would seem, a bit envious. I don't know what accounts for this--perhaps Mr Rose always wanted to be an actor, I don't know.
But this perception usually leads me to skip his interviews with actors, unless it's someone who I haven't heard from before. But there were even a couple of such programs where I couldn't get through the whole show because of Charlie's going ga-ga within minutes of the start. In those times I think of Charlie as a red carpet interviewer before the Academy Awards, except the people who do THOSE interviews usually maintain a better emotional balance.
Hom rong (2004)
An Insight Rarely Seen
"The Overture" certainly had a number of flaws, not least of which was for the audience to figure what was when. I had very little sense of time and place for any of it, and, at first, the flashbacks and flash-forwards were unanticipated and difficult to differentiate from the previous scene.
Nonetheless, such movies provide a rare insight into foreign cultures, and this one did just fine in that regard. The strongest element of "Overture" was the acting. I thought the cast did a generally wonderful job in bringing substance to the disparate collection of characters who populated this story.
While, to be frank, much of the music of southeast Asia is difficult to listen to for extended periods, this film did manage to demonstrate the subtlety and beauty of some Thai music. And is the competitiveness shown in this film part of the reality of traditional Thai music? If so, it seems the Thais have also made music, at some level, into nearly a blood sport.
By the way, some have written here of this film in relation to "Amadeus". To me, it is more like "Drumline".
Dark Victory (1939)
"Goof" in heading a goof itself
The 'Goof' item in the leading description of this film refers to a scene that I've been unable to locate.
The only scene in which someone's legs are to be seen in a mirror is in Chapter 13 on the DVD, a conversation between Judy & Anne. At one point Judy sits on a table or something; she kind of stretches her legs out and they can be easily seen in the mirror on the wall behind--those shoes are mostly white, and as the scene progresses you can see Judy walking in those shoes as well. It was not above a fireplace, and no one was on the phone. If this is what was being referred to, that 'goof' item should be deleted from this movie's page.
By the way, there were a lot of scenes in which mirrors were on a wall. This had to be a deliberate set design detail to give the scenes dimension and realistic depth.
The First One
'The Best From 20,000 Fathoms' was the first monster movie I ever saw-in fact, it may have been the first movie I saw in a theater. It must have been at its initial theatrical release--I was just a kid, maybe 6 or 7 years old. Although I didn't actually see the whole movie at that time, it made such an impression on me that to this day there is some emotional response when I think about it. Pleasant but disconcerting.
My mother dragged me into a theater because she was looking for one of my cousins, who she was supposed to pick up after the previous showing (as I recall those long-ago details). As she was looking for the cousin in the darkened theater while the movie rolled, I was transfixed by what I saw on that big screen. We happened to go into the theatre as the Beast was about to take New York City apart. Since we lived in New York City, there was something very familiar about those streets, and particularly the elevated train. That scene where the Beast comes up through the tracks of the el and trashes the train scared the crap out of me--my eyes must have been as big as saucers since I had been on those trains myself. Shortly after being witness to that scene my mother found & collared my cousin in the dark and she hustled us out of the theater--but not before I was hooked on movies--after maybe 5 or 6 minutes of "The Beast...", though perhaps it didn't seem that would be the case right away.
I literally had nightmares that night & the next night, waking up crying at the horror of it all! It was truly a memorable experience of my young life and, of course, after that I couldn't get ENOUGH of monster movies, and what a time to be living as a movie-going kid--the 1950s and their endless delivery of wonderful and strange monster flicks, each more grotesque and horrible than the last, with most of the humans being more stupid and incompetent than the last. Ha!
Silver City (2004)
What It's About
This movie isn't really 'about' anything in particular. As Sayles himself said--though not quite so bluntly--this was basically an attack piece against George Bush, and as such is an arrogant waste of time and talent, particularly for an independent filmmaker who typically doesn't have blood in the teeth like, well, let's use Michael Moore as an example.
In addition to the fundamental motivation for making this film, there were a few other misses. Colorado, while providing a nice and too-rare backdrop for a film, wasn't the right choice when playing the Chicano card, as Sayles tried to do here. Arizona or New Mexico would have been better.
Nonetheless, it does have some redeeming qualities. Chris Cooper was terrific as Dickie, and this character as written and performed DID reflect some of the least complimentary characterizations of George W--that he is a puppet of political insiders smarter and more cynical than he, that he is not the brightest bulb in the box, and that he has a love-hate relationship with the English language.
This was one of the best roles for Daryl Hannah in a long time, and it was nice to see her in something that gave her things to chew on.
Dreyfuss played the political operative fairly straight and tended to steal the scene from whoever he was playing it with.
But the nice ensemble couldn't overcome Sayles overblown ambitions on this one.
Executive Suite (1954)
Idealism vs Reality
I had never seen this film until quite recently, and it is an anachronism today. Representing executives who actually care about their company beyond the next financial reporting quarter! Unheard of today when our so-called great companies, let's use Intel as an example, are led by executives like Andrew Grove, whose philosophy is to do just what William Holden's character warns against in the marvelous speech in the board meeting near the end of the film--do it all just for the money and forget about experiencing something as trite as personal fulfillment and satisfaction on the job.
Americans by the millions toil for American corporations that suck the creative and emotional blood from them in return for some money, which they use to fill the hollowness of their working lives with SUVs, reality TV shows, and other wastes of time and money too numerous to mention.
It's a shame Hollywood has not been up to producing films that represent the American workplace today--"Office Space" doesn't quite cut it.
"Executive Suite" was smart and Holden was simply terrific, as were most of the sensational cast. But I'm afraid most people working in American corporations today wouldn't recognize such a place as The Tredway Corporation with a leader like Holden's McDonald Walling--such executives were downsized, outsourced or simply fired years ago.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Bringing Canvas to Film
I have admired the paintings of the great master Johannes Vermeer for quite a long time, and it is fairly rare to see the life of an artist portrayed in a motion picture. I was pleased to find this film and viewed it quite recently for the first time.
For me this film elevated in virtually all scenes in Vermeer's upstairs studio and in the attic space or wherever it was where he made his paints. Those places in the house were, of course, where the artistry found expression. All the rest of it, the neurotic baby-factory wife, the wise but mercenary mother-in-law, and Vermeer's generous, lecherous patron were somewhat unfortunate aspects of the artist's life, though his was hardly a tragic story.
The breathless Griet, first as the maid cleaning the studio then later becoming Johannes' assistant and model, was a wonderful concoction in the book and that fictional character was beautifully rendered in this film. There were several scenes in the studio with Griet which were literally breathtaking in their beauty and stillness. This was only possible because of the production design, costuming, lighting and the luscious Scarlett Johansson who was brilliantly cast in this role as the nubile Dutch maid.
There was one other scene in the studio when Griet silently watched Johannes painting another model for another picture. The sheer visual beauty of that scene as the camera moved across the room was simply wonderful; for a moment I wasn't sure what we were seeing.
The core of this film was a fictional account of what might have been the case with this famous painting. Whether the truth behind that picture is anything like this seems irrelevant; I can accept this story for what it is and am pleased to have seen this film.
Moby Dick (1956)
"Moby Dick" Huston's Masterpiece
"Moby Dick" is one of the great adventure films of all time, and one of the greatest psychological stories ever told. Ahab & his quest for the White Whale have reached the status of a cultural icon, but this film was wonderful when it was released, remains wonderful today, and will I think stand the test of time well into the future.
I'd heard that even Gregory Peck himself had been talked into believing that his performance was 'wooden', but that is hogwash. This is probably Peck's greatest performance, and that's saying something.
"Moby Dick" takes us into two strange and unfamiliar worlds--that of the 19th-century whaler and its crew on a global hunt for whale oil on the high seas, and that of Captain Ahab's mind. A great adventure and a great obsession intertwined, inseparable.
The script was a brilliant adaptation of a difficult book. John Huston & Ray Bradbury put this together and managed to use a number of lines directly from the book in the sometimes odd vernacular of the period that gives certain scenes and dialogue such presence and authenticity.
From the odd first spoken line in the film, the voice-over of Richard Basehart saying "Call me Ishmael", the brilliantly constructed initial scenes that brought us, the audience, down to the sea as they brought the young Ishmael to it, the wonderful scenes in The Spouter's Inn where Ishmael meets innkeeper Peter Coffin and some of the Pequod's crew, notably Stubb, who goodnaturedly challenges Ishmael's seagoing ambition and, when convinced that he is authentic, introduces him to the inn's customs and celebration. And the unforgettable, wonderful and strange Queequeg with his head. Who wouldn't want to join a whaling voyage with this lot?! Peck's Ahab is one of the most compelling and memorable characters ever portrayed on film, and the transformation of the crew to carry out Ahab's obsessive search for the White Whale even against their better judgement was wonderfully portrayed and is the singular most important element of the story & of this script.
It is absurd to describe what happens in this film, and I will not. Suffice to say that this is a great film, one I can watch from time to time with almost the same frequency as 'Casablanca'.
GIANT Makes A Big Impression
"Giant" is for me one of a handful of movies that introduced me to the world of motion pictures at a time when I was about 10 years old, give or take a year or two. "Gigi" and "Around the World in 80 Days" were others that I saw in theaters during their original release. They made a huge impression on me.
The characters in these movies were larger-than-life. "Giant" was an enormous film with a number of interesting elements, not untypical of scripts in the '50s', touching on personal conflicts, racism, and of course the love story.
But the scenes in "Giant" I remembered most vividly from that first viewing involved Jett Rink--even that name was larger-than-life--and Jordan Benedict's brawl in the diner with the racist owner who wanted the Chicano family that had come in to leave.
But it was the rise & fall of Jett Rink that was the most memorable part of the story to me. I recalled the famous 'gusher' scene when Jett's little well strikes it rich and he drives over to the Benedicts to rub it in Jordan's face ("It's a big'n"). Next thing you know there is the private plane with the initials 'JR' on the tail and the transformation is complete, from the grubby, lonely wildcatter to the ultra-rich oilman; then years later, the big dinner when Jett is being put up as a political candidate, gets drunk, and passes out on the podium in front of the crowd of 'supporters'.
"Giant" remains a film I can watch from time to time, and probably see something I hadn't noticed before. It is not a great film, simply an enjoyable one, with an amazing central cast all in their prime.
Tôkyô orinpikku (1965)
The Olympic Games of 40 Years Ago
Having watched this film for the first time only recently, it was striking to try to realize how much is forgotten about any given Olympic Games with the passage of time. Many of the names of athletes, including those of the USA, are simply forgotten. Bob Hayes, Billy Mills, Joe Frazier, Don Schollander were about the only American athletes on the 1964 Olympic team that were recognizable in this film.
My view of this film is that it did not particularly energize me or inform me about the Tokyo Olympics. Many of the editing choices were not good, and it was not a film that would stand the test of time. Compared with the wonderful Olympic films by Bud Greenspan over the years (16 Days of Glory), this is clearly the product of a relative amateur. But this predates Greenspan's Olympic work, and for its time it was probably the most ambitious approach to filming such an enormous athletic event since Riefenstahl's work in Germany.
Individual sequences that were particularly enjoyable were the close close-ups of the shot-putters and the hammer-throwers, the sprinters spiking their starting blocks into the cinder track, swimmers on the starting blocks just before the start, the amazing finishing sprint by American Billy Mills to win the 10,000 meter race (to this day one of the great singular Olympic moments).
This film did not personalize the athletes--there was virtually no background provided about them, no personal story. The only portion that came close to that focused for a time on a young runner from Chad who, as was pointed out in the film, was at 22 much older than his country at the time. This was clearly the filmmaker's choice--to present an abstract vision of the Tokyo Games--but it somehow left me cold. To present the first Olympic Games held in Asia in such an impersonal, abstract way, seems like the incorrect choice of approach.
Well, I've now seen this film once, probably will never watch it again--it brought back some memories of those Olympic Games, some nice photography. But in the end uninspiring & forgettable. Oh, yes, it rained a lot in Tokyo in October of 1964.