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Recently relocated to Palm Beach
The Defiant Ones (1958)
Solid performances, reflecting small town America
John "Joker" Jackson (Tony Curtis), and Noah Cullen (excellent portrayal by Sidney Poitier), have escaped from prison and are shackled together. The story, well directed by message film director Stanley Kramer (see also the excellent "Ship of Fools", as well as his masterpiece "On The Beach" with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner).
At any rate, the film has some good scenes, they are in the brush and swamps of Georgia, trying to escape a pack of bloodhounds, and the Sheriff well portrayed by Theodore Bikel The fact that the way Poitier is treated , simply because he is black, is a time warp as when a woman offers the refugees food, but first asks Curtis if she "should give the other guy some as well". Tony Curtis is good in the role of a desperate malcontent, his accent a bit too NY but his acting usually overcomes this. He is angry at society, that he wants to be a "success". The dated phrase "Charlie Potatoes", humorously shows us the society of 1950's America and its values of what success means. Money, at any cost.
The sheriff;s bounty hunter assistant has several bloodhounds and Dobermans "I hope you treat them dogs as go as your grandma" cracks Bikel. The dogs and how they are cared for (better than minorities and the poor) is a point of reference.
Bikel as sheriff has a run in with Lon Chaney Jr., a man who lets the prisoners free from a town lynch mob. The seething anger and hypocrisies of small town America are well manifested here. Racism, ignorance, bigotry.
This film was made in 1958, an important message. 10/0
The Quiet American (2002)
Beautifully filmed...relevant post 911
This film requires more than one view to pick up subtleties in the stories. The parallel story of a British reporter, Thomas Fowler, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Caine, his mistress Phuong (Do Thi Ha Yen), and her predicament, as well the overall quagmire that was Indo-China, American interference, and later Vietnam.
It is filmed with illusory, tropical backdrops to a scene of hundreds of recently murdered citizens, noted "probably killed by just another faction" by a fellow war correspondent of Fowler's.
The sets are realistic without being overwrought (i.e. Platoon). The story has a soft side to Caine's character and his love for Phuong, and the desires of an older man to find final happiness, in a sense. He remarks to Brendan Fraser (Alden Pyle, a US intelligence agent, posing as a physician treating Trychoma), that if he were to lose Phuong it would be the end of his life. The problem is his British wife is Catholic and refuses divorce. This would not be a very valid reason these days.
Caine is excellent, giving a voice over finessed view of war torn Vietnam, the tragedies of staged bombings, and his impressions of what "the story behind the story" here is.
The visuals are trans formative, and we see a new dictator, General The (secretly being funded by US ), who interviews with Fowler about his visions for a "new Vietnam" Neither the French Colonialists nor the Communists can "fix " it. So what then?.
It is nice that this is left as an open ended question leaving the audience to have to THINK. Graham Greene is an excellent author and one must read the book which this film encapsulates. Highly recommended. 10/10.
Stumbled upon this film during research
regarding Manson era, S. California and the drug issue.
Suffice to say, this film is an interesting squib on the socio-political era of the late 1960's. While it offers no answers it gives the audience a glimpse into the times.
Look for Jay Sebring (1969 victim of the Manson/Tex Watson murders), as well as Stella Stevens as a junkie in rehabilitation, she looks quite well put together. The actor portraying Zanke Albo, who is involved with Stevens is quite good as a heroin addict.
Eartha Kitt looks lovely, is convincing as a drug addict at the end of the line, living at "Synanon", in Santa Monica California headquarters.
The true story of Synanon itself has a very interesting back-story, apparently the founder Dieterich (well portrayed by an aging Edmond O'Brien) at one point had raised millions. Initially if one researches, the group had helped addicts, but later became a cult without good purpose.
This film is often shown on satellite via Universal or MGM and I rate it a 9 because it is very interesting to those of us interested in 1960's American culture.
Also, I will not call it "counter" culture because research into the political era shows how very divided this country was, and indeed, still is. Similar issues and divisiveness exist, even to this day.
VERY interesting 9/10.
Freeway Killer (2010)
worth it for true crime die hards...
It is interesting to see Leet in the principal role of Freeway killer William Bonin, who apparently was an extremely disturbed individual who also teamed up with young boys he either picked up hitchhiking, or at local parties in the area of Southern Los Angeles.
The product of a pedophile grandfather and alcoholic mother (we only see a glimpse of his mother, a psychological wreck for certain). Yet none of the back-story of Bonin can explicate the heinous acts of kidnapping and torture he put his victims through, in real life.
There is also an odd scene where his friend "Vern" is dressed as wizard, into the occult and Tarot cards, and helps host parties to attract young boys. (Reminiscent of John Wayne Gacy, Des Plaines Illinois serial killer).
Actor Michael Rooker (from JFK film), is excellent as the detective who finally trails the killer, there is an especially good scene at a local newsstand, while Bonin is salivating over the headlines and murders, Rooker is observing him casually. Then Bonin suddenly turns to him to try and out him as a detective.
If you like this type film you may also be interested in "The Hillside Stranglers" with Billy Zane and Dennis Farina as the killers (actually a good true crime story due for a re-make). As well as the Gacy film with Brian Dennehy, in the lead role as John Wayne Gacy.
The story is based on facts, and a cautionary tale for random young people who will just trust any stranger. This story shows,no matter how friendly a sociopath may seem, they are chameleons, and capable of anything. You may also like criminologist author Michael Schecter's book "Serial Killers" . truly surreal and horrifying.
An American Crime (2007)
Keener is excellent, as is Ellen Page...
As victim Sylvia Likens, Ellen Page (a young newcomer here) is very believable. Catherine Keener is excellent (as she usually is) in the understated performance here of a monster. In reality, Gertrude Baniszewski was apparently an untreated sociopath who had many children, lived in Indiana, and had neighbors who "heard nothing" despite abuse and nefarious screaming at her downtrodden home.
It is filmed realistically, and brutally. Having researched a few true crime cases, I would be interested to see the Director here address the Sharon Tate murders. We know Americans have been lied to by THAT particular story.
With the cinematography, he clearly has a true feel for the brutality and starkness of what these crimes reflect about an average, lower class community in America. Keener is excellent as Gertrude/"Gerty", a woman who has a passel of children, an ex husband who was a deadbeat, and clearly has several psychological problems.
The audience will see James DiFranco as her young lover (actually he was two years younger than her daughter Paula)
The true crime behind this film is telling and horrific. Everyone who has a social conscience should watch this film, to see the plausible deniability and denial that exists in America, regarding true crime, even today. 10/10.
Flores Raras (2013)
Gloria Pires as Lota De Macedo Soares...
Lovely. A story here that is not overshadowed by the relationships, politics, or agenda. It is, simply beautifully filmed, the beaches of Rio De Janeiro, the beautiful home Lota has deigned in part to accommodate her new lover, poet Elizabeth Bishop, completely played by Miranda Otto.
Otto is at once restrained yet yearning, a Vassar graduate visiting her friend, who initially is puzzled (and indeed overwhelmed) by the beauty and passion of South America.
She plays the American New England spinster type well, without a stereotype here. We can feel she wants, and NEEDS to break free from societal restraints.
The filming of the rain forests, the owls at night, the visuals are incredible. Lota Soares was politically connected and designed the park near Carioca beach, the title infers, reaching for the moon has so may more connotations for each woman.
What is most refreshing is the way this film is written, sensitive to the issues each woman experiences, it is an individual and a private journey.
The actress portraying Carlotta Soares is affecting and sad, and Miranda Otto is quite believable as Bishop. The story is beautiful and sad, and the scenery of Brazil is not to be missed, simply beautiful, and beautifully filmed. 10/10
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
very nicely done...captures the times
This film is the basic story of 1969, Marty and Pearl Kantrowitz a couple who married young and have two children, on vacation in upstate NY. Anything north of the city is "upstate" and they take vacation near the well known "Nevele" and Concord Hotels, only at a more down at heel bungalow campground.
The atmosphere of the Catskills bungalow and the rather tacky but fun atmosphere is realistic. Tovah Feldshuh as Lillian is excellent, she realizes something is amiss with Pearl and lets her son know, calling him in Brooklyn.
The Moon walk itself is secondary to the actual story of America in the turbulent 1960's, Woodstock, and social unrest, but the story is not heavy handed.
Nor is it a complete miss like the faint hearted "1969" film with Robert Downey Jr., which attempts to address the same time period in America, and misses the point. Entirely.
Pearl Kantrowitz, well portrayed by Diane Lane feels something is missing, she has married too young, and subsequently meets Walker Jerome, a hippie who is known as the "Blouse man" (announced over the intercom by Julie Kavner's unmistakable voice ), when he brings his bus of clothing and jewelry to the camp site. Viggo Mortensen as Walker Jerome, is believable as a young man who eventually gets involved with Pearl, hoping for more.
The story rings true because it is simple, but believable and even sad. The affair with him, the ultimate fact that she realizes her life is passing by, but she does love her husband and children as well. and its time to say good bye to lofty dreams. There is a decent soundtrack including Joni Mitchell, and many other gems from that era. Liev Schreiber as Marty Kantrowitz is sympathetic and funny, attempting to dance to Jimi Hendrix at the end of the film.
The story is memorable without cheap sentiment, and a rare thing we see from Hollywood deserves praise. It is not a cheap romantic comedy with over the top actors, just a believable vignette which will touch you as the audience.
During the credits I noticed it was produced by Dustin Hoffman as well as Tony Goldwyn. Well done. 9/10.
well written, and Adrien Brody is excellent....
This story may attract an audience which even may have no interest in George Reeves himself, or the "Superman" series, a faded far away time. But it also a story of deceptions, corruption, mendacity and of course murder.
Diane Lane as the former showgirl, Toni Mannix, happens upon young actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck) at a Hollywood party. She becomes involved with him and apparently as older woman feels she has a few good years left, so wants to keep Reeves as her ego boost. A "kept" man, she buys him a house in Benedict Canyon which her husband (who has his own mistress and dalliances) gladly pays for to keep her occupied.
Lane has been in some rather mediocre films lately, so deserves credit for this realistic role of Toni Mannix. Eddie Mannix is well portrayed by Bob Hoskins. Eddie Mannix himself, if you read his biography was the right arm of Louis B. Mayer, MGM and its enforcement of the golden years of the studio. It makes for an interesting read as well.
Indeed, the actual factual story is about Eddie Mannix, his VP position at MGM and the role of Howard Strickland as "the fixer" in the times when MGM studios ruled Hollywood with an iron fist. They also ruled actors, their careers, and possibly (if one has read of the murder mystery of Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern) have had involvement in many cover-ups.
Adrien Brody as the outside observer, almost reminds one of Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby" (referring to Fitzgerald's book, not the recent abysmal commercial movie with Leonardo di Caprio).
We see him as he attempts to speak to Toni Mannix about the Reeves murder and she is a silhouette, saying "he was shot" but revealing nothing further about Reeves' death. As a sometime private investigator, Louis Simo is an outsider trying to piece the puzzle together.
Reeves died an evening when there ere three other people present . His sometime girlfriend Lenore Lemmon (Robin Tunney is believable, but a bit over the top as a cheap NY hustler), writer Robert Condon and another woman, who all subsequently stated that Reeves simply shot himself directly in the head as a result of long term depression over his career. There were however, gunshots in the floor as well, which LAPD never explained. At the scene of the murder also were found Catholic mass cards, which some have suggested were left by Toni Mannix, who in her life mourned Reeves' death and never re-married after her husband, Eddie Mannix died.
The story is very good, and while I am not a fan of Ben Affleck, he does have the cadence here of George Reeves, a rather bygone era of "movie star" ambitions which for Reeves himself were never achieved in his life. Thee is a sense of tawdriness and disdain Reeves himself felt for the Hollywood "system" and the character he portrayed on TV just to try get a film career going, which actually never materialized for him.
The back story with Reeves' mother (excellent cameo by Lois Smith as Helen Bessalo), is also relevant. There is a tragic story to the upbringing of George Reeves and what depressions and failures he may have had in his life as well as the abandonment of his father in real life. His mother also apparently lied to him about his father and reasons he left.
And it is indeed, THIS aspect of the mystery, which helps the story to meld as something more than just a has been celebrity and tawdry Hollywood. We see Adrien Brody as he watches his estranged son, a young boy with a new stepfather, and how his young son idolized "Superman" ( a rather silly series at best, but it clearly had an impact on children of that time). As Louis Simo, he is in a state of flux, drinking, resenting his choice to feed off of the seaminess of his job, but who still in the end tries to do the right thing and mend his relationship with his young son. He relates to Reeves' tragic death in a very personal way, seeing that this may be his final chance as well.
After seeing this film again on TMC I hope to see Adrien Brody in more suspense and drama. He clearly offers many layers to the audience and has much more to offer in the way of his talent for drama and subtlety. Even though the character of Louis Simo is on the periphery, the story works because we empathize and see the world of Hollywood through his eyes, and not some ephemeral filter with which plastic Hollywood is often shown to the masses.
The Hollywood of the MGM "golden" days" was not so golden on its underbelly, and the hypocrisy of it and how people view it is addressed in the story here. It does not come off as a cheap parody however, unlike the TV we see today which is indeed pure trash.
Den skaldede frisør (2012)
Good job by Brosnan...well written
I normally do not like the typical American romantic trite comedy, which is cartoon-ish, unrealistic, and reads like a Hallmark card.
This film is, happily, none of those. It is a very well-written story about several characters converging, The wife with cancer, older, whose daughter is to be married in Italy. The character Brosnan plays is an unavailable father (whose son turns out to be gay and not wanting marriage, in the end). Her husband is also a loser who cheats, and yet wants her back in the end, just for his convenience.
There are a few annoying characters such as the frivolous actress portraying "Benedicta", a former sister in law who continues to pursue Brosnan, who lost his wife and has been a widower.
It is not a straight comedy, there are some very good scenes such as mother and daughter talking about marriage, how things don't always work out, and generally how life can throw us curve balls when we least expect it.
The end is positive and hopeful, and while I am not a fan I thought Pierce Brosnan was very good in this type role and had some depth we don't normally see. Highly Recommended. 8/10
Excellent performance by Lange
This film is a stand out performance by Jessica Lange, who at this point in time appears in some films as the neurotic mother(as in "Prozac nation"), which covers the issue of clinical depression in a rather convoluted manner.
This film details actress Frances Farmer's life, early success, stage and screen, her contempt for Hollywood superficiality and the eventual downward spiral f her career, as well as her sanity.
The scenes with esteemed NY playwright Clifford Odets are interesting, well portrayed by Jeffrey DeMunn. Lange looks lovely, fragile yet tough, a defiant and independent spirit, especially considering this was the era of 1930's and 1940's.
Her mother is well-portrayed by the rather schizoid Kim Stanley ("Séance for Wet Afternoon'). Ms. Stanley portrays a narcissistic, controlling and even malevolent force in Frances' life.
When Frances tires of Hollywood facade and "glamour", she states to her mother she just wants to live her own life, quietly, and rejects Hollywood. This seemed to be the mechanism which enraged her mother, and eventually causes her to have Frances committed to the Western Asylum in Washington State.
Many books have been written (although the supposed lobotomy issue has been debunked), but clearly Frances underwent insulin and other barbaric treatments while committed to the barbaric asylum. Lange is very believable here, disheveled, angry, but also edgy and raw. And not necessarily "in the wrong" despite American society and it treatment of emotionally disturbed inmates at the time.
In a disturbing scene with psychiatrist, "Dr. Symington" it is evident at the time that railroading patients into involuntary commitment was all too commonplace. Frances may have been a common bipolar patient who would have responded to talk therapy, but this was never given a chance. Indeed, she was never given a chance.
The book "Will There Really be a Morning?" is also a good reference for those interested in delving into Frances Farmer's biography. While some have mentioned this film doesn't accurately portray the story, I think overall the audience gets a clear sense of the despair, longing and passion which were interwoven in Miss Farmer's life, and Jessica Lange does an excellent portrayal here. Highly recommended. 9/10.