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This Week in Nemtim (1972)
One of the Greats!
I don't remember very much about 1972, but I do remember seeing this show and HOWLING with laughter -- tears streaming down my face! For weeks it was all I talked about and, sadly, I was the only person in my High School who seemed to have watched it.
There was, as I recall, a musical number -- perhaps it was a folk dance or the national anthem of Nemtin -- but the lyric included the line, "Two plungers and two dishtowels": 38 years later, and I still recall it.
Like so many other things that reside in memory, my remembrance of it is probably far better than it actually was -- but, looking at the cast list, maybe it was EXACTLY as good as I remember!
Sing and Like It (1934)
One of the Greatest RKO comedy shorts!
I couldn't agree less with the negative comments about this delicious little film! It's not about talent squandered -- it's about talent SHOWCASED! Many of the best character actors from the RKO lot appear in this film and their work is stupendous! The film is, in many ways, a parody of the gangster genre -- it's got a very Runyonesque take on the underworld, where kingpins are sentimental and their molls are sharp as a tack. The surface humor is broad -- but the wit is sharp and incisive: If the screenplay were any more tightly written I'd swear it was Mamet or Sorkin who created the dialogue.
The handling of theatre critics and their work is particularly vicious -- and never fails to make me guffaw! For anyone who understands allusion and parody -- and who appreciates good comedic writing -- this is the film to see!
O' Horten (2007)
I'm not certain if this is the first Norwegian film I've ever seen but, if it is, it's a wonderful beginning! I found the film to be utterly enchanting: Charming, quirky, eccentric, and delightful! The cinematography is flawless -- every frame was interesting to watch. The score is an absolute joy, fitting the film to perfection, yet never intruding or proclaiming itself.
I was deeply impressed by the natural, highly specific work done by the actors: They performed with great truth and honesty, saying more with a look or a gesture than they did with words.
I must confess to being something of a railroad lover -- so the inclusion of locomotives in the film was an added benefit. There is a strange dialectic between the freedom of travel and the limited mobility of trains that fits the characters and enriches the story.
So if you're the type who enjoys simple, direct, character-driven storytelling, this is the film for you. I look forward to seeing it again, and hope it will be released on DVD in the US soon!
Do not MISS this film!
This is a thoroughly and completely delicious film! I really cannot think of anything else to say about it, but the rules require ten lines of text. One could speak about the flawless decor, the perfection of the costuming, the grace of the cinematography, the charm of the screenplay, the specificity and finesse of the acting, or the flawless interplay of the musical score with the visual elements.
This last comment brings to mind two boys on bicycles -- see the film and you'll understand.
One gets the sense that everyone involved with the creation of this film must have had an extraordinarily fine time working on it -- it's a work of art that's so overfilled with joy that it splashes off the screen! Although I am personally acquainted with no one involved in the making of this film, I am very, very proud of each and every one of them and would like to thank them for making my life better - if only for a few, brief moments!
Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)
Sergio Leone, but with udon!
It's difficult to categorize this film -- or, I should say, to pigeon-hole it. I suppose the closest way to describe it would be as a recipe: One part Spaghetti Western, one part Moulin Rouge revisionist fantasy extravaganza, and one part Kurosawa epic.
Whatever the case, I found it to be an utterly delicious experience! The director has created a film rife with clichés -- both literary and visual -- yet, somehow, managed to make them all seem original and unexpected and delightful! I smiled, laughed, and giggled my way through this film -- I have a strange feeling that this one is going to be around for a LONG time...
In the Bleak Midwinter (1995)
Sparkling. Witty. Vicious.
I love this film -- to my mind it has only one flaw and that's the otherwise delicious Jennifer Saunders' off-the-mark attempt at an American accent.
Well, there's a second flaw: This film isn't available on DVD -- and my VHS copy is nearly worn out! This is a film that will be funny to just about anyone, but it will have special resonance for theatre folk.
The only other film to so expertly skewer a genre of the dramatic art is "Waiting for Guffman": What that did for community theatre, this does for Shakespeare.
Branagh did an extraordinarily fine job of casting the film using a mix of actors ranging from the VERY well known to the soon-to-be well known. Each of them is playing at the top of his or her game.
Maybe it's art...
This is a compelling film -- annoying, unnerving, confusing, enlightening, and exciting. It celebrates film for what film can BE, not for the whiz-bang bells and whistles that film can DO.
It is a beautifully written film performed flawlessly by an ensemble cast -- star-studded, to be sure, but not a "star-turn" in the lot. This is storytelling of great power and theatricality -- one senses connections to the roots of drama on a visceral level.
What could be directorial/editorial gimmicks are here applied as devices that enhance our experience of the story -- this isn't the work of a director whose knowledge goes no deeper than television or music video.
Although the performances are uniformly strong (and despite my comment about "stars") Dianne Wiest does some of the most amazing work I've ever seen her do.
"G-d," said architect Mies van der Rohe, "is in the details." It is in the attention to detail that this film shines. Because our society doesn't have a "definition" of art or of cinematic art I can't really be certain of my use of the term. But maybe having a little "G-d" in every frame is a step in the right direction. Maybe this film is more than the sum of its parts: Maybe it's art.
A Quiet Impact
Western film makers, and especially American film makers, have presented their paeans to the soldiers who fought in WWII -- but I've often wondered how this topic was dealt with in Japan.
Rather than focus on heroics or bravery or battles or military might, "Hotaru" presents a simple and respectful portrait of those who survived and the lives they led. It is a simple story about ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times.
Others have commented that parts of the film seem disconnected -- I agree, in that certain story lines appear and the stop, as if the editor simply forgot to remove them completely when the director changed his mind.
And, indeed, some of the performances are bland -- but the work done by Takakura-san and Tanaka-san is outstanding. They present the soul of their generation -- and of their nation -- with nothing less than nobility.
Furuhata-san, the director, has used his camera with the softness of a lover's caress upon the scenery. There is a sense, in his deft touch, of the organic one-ness of man and nature found in Shinto beliefs. Each cloud, each wave, each blossom serves to help us understand the lives of the characters just as much as the characters help us understand the "Japan-ness" of Japan.
This is a lovely film -- you would be well-advised to see it with someone special.
Charm isn't such a bad quality -- and this film has it in abundance. While the Japanese approach to sexuality may be unfamiliar to western audiences, the onset of puberty and its hormonal hijinx is universal.
It's a simple story: An elementary school boy falls in love with a "mature" junior high school girl. There are some side stories about their respective families and friends but, in the long run, not much else happens. And that's just fine because the director and writer have chosen to focus on the kids and their experiences.
The young actors do excellent work -- utterly natural portrayals.
All told, a very enjoyable film.
Not easily fooled...
Let me say, up front, that I adored this film. I've been a theatre professional for all of my adult life -- and a teacher of actors for the past fifteen years -- and I was totally and completely taken in by this film: I thought I was watching a documentary! Sure, there were a few moments that were a bit "over the top" but then, in today's world, that isn't so uncommon. And I cared so much about the characters that I was all too willing to overlook these "departures from reality." I came away from the film actually wanting to email Kenny -- to let him know that the world needs more blokes just like him. But now I just want to email the director -- to let HIM know that the film industry needs more blokes just like him! What a storyteller! If you have the opportunity to see this film, DO NOT MISS IT!