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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
I still can't quite get the enormous reputation of this film. I saw it again last night and instead of clearing up the mystery, the mystery got thicker. It is enjoyable film with very good performances by Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, James Whitmore etc, but...the most highly rated film ever? I don't get it. The voice over alone seems to belong to a so so film. I love Morgan Freeman's voice but he's telling us what we're seeing. So, the sterling reputation damages the enjoyment of the film because one is expecting something that never, really, arrives. The most interesting aspect is Tim Robbins's psychological journey. Credible or incredible doesn't quite matter, I did go with him without asking too many questions. Morgan Freeman's humanity is contagious and inspiring, whether credible or not because I bought it. So, a masterpiece? No. Good, even very good? Yes.
The Dragon Nun and The Wimp
I was taken aback by the lack of nuance and subtlety. Meryl Streep is a monstrous nun from the very beginning and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a wimp that can shout but remains a wimp. I just didn't believe any of it, which is a pity because this are among my favorite actors of all time. I think that John Patrick Shanley (the writer, director) didn't have enough muscle to handle this enormous talents. Meryl's nun couldn't hide anywhere, she carries her intolerance, frustration and repression on her sleeve. She knows she is hated but according to her, that's her job. No, I didn't believe it. I thought what Vanessa Redgrave, Liv Ullman, Helen Mirren even Cherry Jones who played her on the stage could have done with this creature and then, Philip Seymour Hoffman's priest, without a single vibe of sexuality, imagine what Montgomery Clift could have done with that! After saying what I've said I also have to add that the film is never boring and that is also merit of the miscast leads. They are great fun to watch. The film is dedicated to Sister James, the young nun played by the wonderful Amy Adams, so this is based on a real case? I don't believe that either.
Down Under And Then Some
I think the best word to describe this pastiche is "ridicolous" and not in a fun, entertaining way. Baz Luhrmann's ego is all over the screen but there is no visible sign of his intellect. "Somewhere over the rainbow"? Oh please, give me a break! Although the story is the wannabe love story between a man and a woman the whole thing feels incredibly camp and not in a fun, entertaining way. If I sound angry it may be because I am. I sat for three hours! Three hours! To be told this quilted compilation of other much better movies. Nicole Kidman is always fun to watch and that is true also here but for the wrong reasons. Hugh Jackman gets the most loving, sexy framings and close ups. I'm giving "Australia" a 3 and not a 1 due to the young Aborigine star and some spectacular locations.
Savage Grace (2007)
I'm a fan of "Swoon" I loved the semi documentary approach at another, true, high society horror story. In "Swoon" the distance the director took from his subject helped us to understand and to involve ourselves in the twisted mind of the protagonists. In "Savage Grace" it works the opposite way. I needed to be closer I needed to be taken step by step in any way you want it but step by step. The shrill performance by Julianne Moore didn't give me and 8th of what Judy Davis gave me in "A Little Thing called Murder" Here you're on your own. No sense of period or class no dramatic structure and feeble performances. What a pity. I had waited for this film with feverish anticipation.
I'm not buying, thank you.
It starts so promisingly that thoughts of "Fatal Attraction" even "Brief Encounter" came to mind but, unfortunately, it degenerates into a rushed, thoughtless TV movie of the week. I can put up with nonsense and suspend my disbelief like the next guy but you have to have all the other elements in place for me to buy whatever it is you're selling. Here the script gives up a wallop just a the right time and then pretends to have accomplished its mission when the wallop should be the beginning of the mission. Clive Owen is a phenomenal actor a true film creature at a pair with the greatest and the best, although I think he is overdoing it a bit. He's everywhere. No, Mr Owen, less is more. Vincent Cassel is terrifying, brilliantly so. Pity that the script doesn't allow him to become a real character and Jennifer Aniston, what can I say? Whenever I mention she's not made for the big screen, her defenders always shout: "Have you seen The Good Girl?" Well, yes, I have and I was fooled like everyone else. She's not in tune with the medium, her performances are just that, performances and not particularly good. Did you see "Rumor Has It"? She's too much of a personality and not enough of an actress. We'll be seeing re runs of Friend for years to come. I think that will remain the Jennifer Aniston that everyone knows and likes.
Howards End (1992)
The Thompson Factor
If it's raining, if it's late, if I'm tired of working, if I'm restless or if I'm in a quandary of sorts, "Howard's End". I put the film on and Emma Thompson - presumably with the help of her accomplices, Ivory, Jhavhala, Hopkins etc - takes me away from whatever mood I'm trying to escape and leads me through her own, brilliantly drawn, gently torturous path. I don't recall when was the last time an actress has had this kind of power over my own psyche. The film is constructed with an Ivory attention to detail worthy of a vintage Visconti. The screenplay has no lapses of any kind and never falls into the usual traps. Loyal to its source material and yet, cinematic in the most revolutionary traditional sense of the word. The Britishness of Anthony Hopkins character is turned upside down giving us a glimpse into a character that's a mass of contradictions. But it is Emma Thompson's film from beginning to end. What a glorious achievement.
Don't Look Now (1973)
Fear, as an art form.
I was afraid to swallow, to make any noise. The unspeakable was all around me and I lived it up to the fullest. Nicolas Roeg plays with our instincts, with our inner voices and challenge us to take notice. Just like Donald Sutherland's character. He knows, even if his brain tells him not to be stupid. To believe is to commit intellectual suicide. Better not to look, not to listen. Sutherland and Christie are one of the most convincing modern artistic yet normal married couples in their pain in their every daily detail. Sutherland goes along with Christie's "nonsense" because he sees what the nonsense does for her. They make love for the first time since their daughter's death in a way we've never seen before on the screen and, probably, never will again. Based on a Daphne Du Maurier's book, Nicolas Roeg has orchestrated a chilling work of art. For film lovers all over the world, if you haven't seen it, do, preferably in the dark with someone you know and love.
Death Dreams (1991)
An American Gothic Of Italian Descend
Pain and fear reflected in beautiful, dramatic close ups reminded me of some of the best Italian cinema of the 60's and 70's and yet the movie is unmistakable American. The seductive unpredictable style contributes to a constant state of dread. Marg Helgenberger gives a walloping performance of naked emotions without ever going over the top. Almost Italian yes but seasoned in Midwestern roots. Christopher Reeve is an astonishing surprise. The nuances of his villain, at least for three quarters of the film, are so beautifully drawn that I wonder why this film is not better known. "Death Dreams" subscribes to the smarter kind of Gothic thriller. Devoid of cheap shots and dressed up in witty dialogue and an elegant leisurely pace. Fionnula Flanagan and a titillating score complete this unexpected American dish sprinkled with exquisite Italian flavors.