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Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Gone Over With Much of Public
A morally ambiguous tale is told within a quite murky structure. It seems to wander here and there, without the feeling of anything but free form. Rather reminded me a bit of that similar detective yarn of yore, "The Big Sleep," in which Bogart and Bacall danced around a convoluted script--and managed to get away with it.
The acting in "Gone, Baby Gone" is so confident and dedicated, and the production so convinced of itself, that when one "doesn't get" everything, one tends to think it's just their lack of understanding.
I suppose if one would make the effort to analyze everything, much of it would make sense. Indeed, the production is designed to make one think all the ends are tied up. Still I've a suspicion that some of it's a conjurer's trick, through crafty writing and editing manipulation. Director Afflect shows us just what he wants us to see at any one time, leaving other "bits of evidence" either out or delayed, to create a "surprise effect" down the road.
Lead actor Affect slurs and mumbles his way through his lines, I suppose giving a "realistic" performance. Some of the violence seemed a bit gratuitous and pat; still, I admit the plot needs some action from time to time to liven things up.
How long this film will "last" remains to be seen. I've a feeling it won't be among the "great" detective stories, but only time will tell. On the positive side, Messers. Afflect and cast and crew have made a respectable piece of work, and the much of the public and critics tend to agree. ###
For the Bible Tells Me So (2007)
Good, Thoughtful Work
Only days following its New York premiere, "For the Bible Tells Me So" plays Cinematheque, Cleveland Ohio's superb film series.
A capacity audience sits attentively through this informative feature, responding audibly to its content and ending with loud applause. I found the work well prepared and executed, offering varying points of view on the subject of morality and religiosity.
Famed world leaders from far left to far right are given time to express their varied opinions, while the viewer is allowed to reach a personal conclusion. The presentation is comprehensive and fair minded in delineating key points of scripture that are used to judge sexual orientation and practices.
A film worthy of extensive screening, especially in churches of all denominations as well as civic organizations. Ultimately, it's a most valuable addition to any film collection.
Too Many Notes
. . . That's the way the Director's Cut struck me. Simply too much of a good thing, especially toward the end when the drama should be nearing its wrap up. We have extraneous scenes that only confuse momentum toward a dramatic finale.
As for the film itself, it seems fundamentally skewed, with the author taking what appears little more that a footnote in a Mozart bio, and blowing it up to enormous proportions. The result is long on entertainment, short on history.
Some films benefit from director's cuts; Amadeus does not. Fortunately, the studio cut version remains the better choice.
What Can I Say?
"Hairspray" 2007 is simply one of the best musicals ever put on celluloid. A perfection of script, songs, orchestrations, casting, directing, choreography, editing and all technical elements. In short, a true masterpiece.
The first time I saw the film I wasn't prepared for so great an achievement. It was only days after that I began to reflect on what I'd seen. Back I went, not once but several more times, and the film just got better and better each time.
Congratuations to everyone who made a contribution to this landmark film musical!
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
What prompted me to see this film was, quite frankly, noting the rating of 98 it received on the MetaCritic website. I've never seen a rating that high here before, and it peaked my interest.
Then, just to be sure, I visited Rotten Tomatoes, and found a rating almost as high. This plus the 8+ general public rating sealed the deal. This film must be pretty good!
Unfortunately, I found it to be murky, muddy and muddled; long on horror, short on fantasy, and filled with brutality, blood an torture.
It didn't help that the multiplex where I saw it had the most ear-splitting volume I'd ever experienced in a theater.
I'm not sorry I'm with the minority on this one. It's a picture I'd rather not learn to appreciate, and one I'd rather forget.
In short, I'm happy to be an outsider here.
La battaglia di Algeri (1966)
There's no doubt that, once seen, "La Battaglia di Algeri" cannot be forgotten. It's stark and horrifying images are forever imprinted on the mind.
What's so utterly striking is that no documentary footage is used, only carefully staged scenes. Sometimes literally thousands of Algerian extras are employed--a remarkable feat for Director Gino Pontecorvo.
Every shot here in this elaborate retelling of one of history's bloodiest battles rings true. The actors are remarkably real, and the black and white cinematography gives an authentic look and feel to every episode.
I'm not sure just how accurate the politics are here (its being banned in France is notable) or exactly what statement Pontecorve is making. It seems to be pro-Algeria, and indeed the use of torture casts a shameful blemish on the French garrison.
Still, one wonders what point of view the French have regarding this terrible conflict. In the end, one ponders what it's really all about. Ownership of a piece of land?
This film undoubtedly prompted Marlon Brando to agree to work with this talented director in "Burn." The director's professional career seems as spotty and uneven as his film folio. In an interview Gino admitted to only making a film when he felt like it, even if years might pass in the interim.
"La Battaglia" remains the high point of his career, and a lasting contribution to the mock-documentary style in cinematic art.
The Killers (1946)
It's hard to figure just how ex-circus acrobat emerged a superstar in his first film. Notice his name's over the title, not a special "Introducing Burt Lancaster," as normally done. Obviously the studio recognized he deserved this billing and gave it to him.
Where'd he come from and where'd he get his training? According to his bio, he never studied his craft, opting to teach himself on-the-job.
Few actors have enjoyed such above title credit in their first film (Gregory Peck was another, but even he came from the New York stage with formal training).
In film after film thereafter Lancaster scored bull's eyes with his naturalistic style of acting.
Here, in "The Killers," he's joined with young Ava Gardner, who holds her own co-star billing, and the fine Edmond O'Brien.
Miklos Rosza's score enhances this atmospheric production, that was one of 1946's most successful films.
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Well Executed Film
Director/CoScriptor Michael Roemer is responsible for the overall look and feel of this sensitive drama. Part social commentary, this film depicts a touching, often sad portrait of Americana during a challenging historical period.
Heading the talented cast is Ivan Dixon as Duff, who nicely underplays his role, letting his expression emerge from within. Singer Abbey Lincoln is seen in a nice dramatic turn as his girlfriend turned wife, Josie. Julius Harris renders a moving performance as Duff's spent father.
Robert M. Young's atmospheric black and white cinematography is most striking. Having received excellent critical notices, the film apparently never found a wide audience, and has become a "forgotten gem." Fortunately, it's on DVD to be appreciated by a new generation--who will be educated as well.
King of Kings (1961)
Well Crafted Spectacle
MGM must be credited with bankrolling this expensive project. True, their objectives were probably mercenary, hoping to cash in on their earlier commercial success, "Ben Hur." Still, the big studio can't be faulted for choosing Nicholas Ray to head their massive enterprise. Ray's work's always worth watching, and here he proves he can lead a gigantic spectacle to impressive heights.
Miklos Rozsa's "inspirational" score is notable for its prominent use of voices and thematic motifs. Philip Yordan and his writing colleagues fashion a respectable script.
Orson Welles manages to subdue his often florid histrionic tendencies to render outstanding narration.
Further credit to MGM for engaging a more than decent cast of solid professionals, headed by Siobhan McKenna, Hurd Hatfield, Viveca Lindfors, Rip Torn and Robert Ryan.
Kudos to the second unit and art direction, and to the fine photography and striking costumes.
Jeffery Hunter must be given credit for taking on an impossible role and coming out not too badly.
As for the validity of its historicity, that may be an entirely different matter, and each viewer must draw his and her own conclusions on this. With a story as old as the hills, there isn't much room left for many fresh insights, and what gives this interest is the big studio that mounts this ancient tale.
In this case, MGM and crew made a pretty good show.
Pal Joey (1957)
Ring-a-ding Role for Frank
Talk about a perfect cast. This film brings together all the right folk to realize Rodgers and Hart's swinging musical for the screen.
Firstly, here's a role Sinatra's born to play. Made during the period of his greatest album recordings, like "Song for Swinging Lovers," his voice, manner and attitude is perfect for George Abbott's A-1 heel.
His singing and acting are on the ball here, and Sinatra throws himself into the part with cool abandonment.
Secondly, Rita Hayworth (reportedly replacing Marlene Dietrich) turns in a dazzling performance. Wise, worldly, and sophisticated, her "former stripper" number's a knockout.
Thirdly, Kim Novak enjoys one of her best ever roles. Often in other films she acts as though the camera's hurting her. Here, she uses her discomfort to advantage, making for a fascinating persona. (Often one can see the vague, distant and ethereal qualities Alfred Hitchcock must have spotted to cast her in his haunting "Vertigo.")
Behind the scenes is Sinatra's favorite music director/arranger/conductor Nelson Riddle. Jean Louis designs some fabulous gowns for the ladies, and George Sidney's direction and Hermes Pan's choreography likewise hit the bull's eye.
In short, this "Pal Joey's" a real gasser.