Reviews written by registered user
hcoursen

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70 reviews in total 
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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
admittedly biased, 21 October 2010
7/10

I enjoyed this -- knowing nothing at all about the subject before I watched the film. I don't think there's any doubt that the big-money came in and purchased the result it wanted, in conjunction with the affable Ed Rendell, who could make about anything seem reasonable. But -- the inaccessibility of the collection does seem to be an issue that the film did not really address. What about transportation? Parking? The impact of a density of visitors on a residential neighborhood? The film did not resolve these issues. A highhanded 'theft' may actually be in the interests of the greater number of people. One flaw in the design of the film is that -- having presented early on the vigorous objections of the neighbors in Merion to the crowds and buses coming down the residential roads to the Barnes -- Argott did not go back to them for their reaction to the move to the city. What did they think of that? We never know.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Understanding her character, 31 March 2010
3/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I agree with the negative reviews. The film drifted aimlessly -- an unfortunate effort to simulate the aimlessness of the lives depicted. And, come on, no state would permit anyone to drive a windshield-less car after it has rolled over. That is, even assuming the car were drivable. The cops would not have released it. The last few minutes strained credulity in other ways as well. The little blonde girl! But so say more would be to utter a spoiler. The only reason I respond is to suggest that so far the reviewers have missed the subtext for Applegate's character. She was in love with a boy once. "We were just kids." Obviously, that was her brother, who committed suicide once their incestuous relationship was (apparently) found out. She fled. Her return to Charleston was motivated by that memory, as was her screwed-up persona. To be fair to the film, it did sketch in that background -- including her holding on to her brother's photo. It wasn't clear, of course, and, indeed, the film muddied things up in all kinds of ways. But -- the back story does answer some questions.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Terrific -- with one major flaw, 15 February 2010
9/10

This film is a joy to watch -- as not many films these days are. The settings are superbly created -- the green, grotto-like woodland where Irons and Streep meet in the Victorian world of the film, the murky streets of Lyme, Exeter, and London, and the interior of the lawyer's office, for example. The Victorian part of the film emerges from the dawning of the concept of abnormal psychology (just before Freud) and is really convincing. Streep shows us that her character cannot move on emotionally until she has worked out her own madness. That constitutes a remarkable and complex performance of insanity and self-awareness inhabiting a single psyche. She earns the gentle movement out of the tunnel and onto the calm lake. The turbulence of the unconscious -- that threatening sea of which Irons has warned her -- has been subdued. Seems to me the flaw lies in the 'modern story' (as some here have pointed out). It may be that the Streep character is trying to find a subtext for her fictional heroine, but it looks like the old ennui, so that, while her lack of concern for the relationship is understandable, his obsession with it is not. Though the garden party at the end almost gets it there. Were we shown her decision there? If so, I missed it. I like the concept of the 'two endings' and their contrast, but the ending in the 20th century was a so what? The one in the 19th century was complex and included much of the pain that the relationship had caused both characters. A little more attention to the contemporary love affair -- to suggest that it was more than just a romp on location -- would have helped that dimension of the film per se and also suggested what the Victorian lovers had earned within their Hardyesque world.

Carrington (1995)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A drift, 6 February 2010
5/10

This one needed tightening and focus. It drifts aimlessly in imitation of the non-sexual affair between Carrington and Strachey, but the art form is an imitation of an action, not a replication of mere aimlessness. That the characters are inherited from history and from a book about the Bloomsbury circle does not absolve the film, a separate work, from establishing the characters and their motives. Yet here we have the Rufus Sewell character charging around madly for no established reason, other than that he can't get into Dora's knickers. And his brief reappearance almost at the end is inexplicable. Carrington's lovers come and go -- obviously surrogates for her inability to consummate anything with Strachey. But those lovers have no frame or context or reason for being taken on by Carrington other than that old ennui. Her own character, then -- in spite of wonderful Emma -- gets lost in the slow motion meaninglessness of her life. She does depict the layering of the Bohemian that took the place of the stiff corseting of the rest of the ladies of the time. The beautiful moorlands of Yorkshire are just that -- a travelogue. They are not integral as, say, the world of Tess or Eustacia in Hardy. In spite of what other posters say, direction here is a major flaw.

The Crush (1993)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Silverstone is superb, 20 January 2010
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I agree that Silverstone is superb as a combination of 'Lolita' and 'Bad Seed.' Her ability to play the innocent is brought off very well because she conveys a sense of really caring for Nick, within one field of her ambivalence. I do have some problems with the film. Perhaps foremost is Nick's inability to just get the hell out of there. He should have done that much sooner. Or -- was the film suggesting that his fascination with the Silverstone character is keeping him around? That the girl could rewrite Nick's story and improve it strained credulity. The film dropped Nick's professional issues almost completely about a third of the way through. We got no sense of the huge interview he pulled off. That the girl could convince doctors of the event she claimed even having planted evidence struck me as completely impossible. The ending involved a transition to surrealism that the film had not prepared for. It was as if the film were figuring out its stylistic and generic premises as it went along. Why can't filmmakers produce coherent finished products anymore? Is it in response to the post-modernist attack on 'thematic unity' or just plain sloppiness. This could have been a great film.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Not good, 17 January 2010
4/10

I was fooled by comments here into watching this one. It is, in a sense, all flashback without an establishing context. We don't learn until the end that much of Fox's problem results from his mother's death. The other reason -- the 'divorce' -- is made much of but no context for that is established. So -- he drinks, snorts, and fails in his job as a fact-checker for a Vanity Fair type of magazine. And -- so what? The motivation seems just to be self-destruction, and that is not particularly interesting. I suppose the Robards character (like the coma baby) is a 'reflector' of the main character. But the Robards character seems actually to have had a life at some point in the distant past. What is he doing now? Is he still holding down a job? Why was Fox's character broke at some points yet affluent at others? Can anyone drink vodka all day, snort, and still function? His treatment of his brother was not only nasty, but unmotivated. What was the point of the ferret episode? The main character's equation of his friend and ex-wife at the end was incomprehensible. This is an incoherent ramble. No story. Tedious and radically un-involving.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Awful, 16 January 2010
1/10

This is an incoherent piece of junk. My mistake in believing the blurbs -- looked like an attractive premise. But -- it had no sense of how magazines actually work. It did not show the young woman contributing a damned thing as "Green Scarf." The distinction between worth and value was Luke's insight. It was not extended thematically into the film. No chemistry at all between the two "young lovers." That made it incomprehensible that he would fall for a bubble-head. The qualities he claimed for her at the 'editorial meeting' had not been discernible.

The film was incomprehensible, with characters often serving no defined function. Who/What was Kristen Scott Thomas supposed to be? Screenwriters should be summarily shot for inflicting this on us. Awful. A waste.

De-Lovely (2004)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Some good songs ruined, 6 January 2010
5/10

This is better than the Grant/Alexis Smith pic, in which "In the Still of the Night" is sung as a Christmas carol while Porter is still living in Indiana, but some great songs are undercut by their treatment. Why must we watch "Night and Day" sung while the singer touches Cole's heart? That's excruciating, particularly when the straight rendition, of which we get half a chorus, is brilliant. Of the many songs left out, Porter's greatest -- "I Concentrate on You" -- is the one most egregiously omitted. If the music is good, let it be. Natalie Cole's "Love for Sale" is superb, sung, it seems, in a male brothel. Crow's minor "Beguine" is somewhat beguiling, undercutting as it does the song's movement to a triumphant validation: "Oh yes, let them begin the beguine, let the stars that were there before return above you." But I wish we had had the contrasting version. The homosexual stuff and Mrs. Porter's sentimental longing for a little girl of her own is overdone and unnecessary. That's all irrelevant now. It is the music that still counts and this film does not do it justice. That's a disservice to a generation that might really perk up if it heard what this greatest of our songwriters had written, even if in some of the original settings. The verse of "I Love You," for example, is one of the best things Porter ever did ("If a love song I could only write..."). Here we only got the refrain, which is banal, as Porter knew it was. As a disc jockey, I learned that you never voice-over a singing voice. Here, it happens all the time. As someone said, get Ella. She doesn't have the ironic touch for some of the songs, as she was humbly aware, but you hear the lyrics.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Terrible, 15 November 2009
1/10

This is an awful film. Usually, the thin thread of a musical comedy plot links up with an Astaire, a Ginger, an Eleanor Powell, an Alice Faye. This one, with a plot even more gossamer than most, leads to some excruciating exhibitions of non-talent. The harmonica sequence and the parody ballroom dance performance are radically unfunny. Holden has nothing to do but be yanked like a puppet on the strings of Dorothy's sudden changes of mind. She plays a profoundly self-interested performer who, of course, falls in love with the puppet. The other women -- the raucous Hutton and the over the top Dailey play insulting stereotypes. As, of course, the rest of the sailors are. But some good sailor flicks do exist -- 'Follow the Fleet' and 'On the Town' for example. We do get to see Helen O'Connell, who towers over Dorsey and Eberly, and do, too briefly, hear Jimmy on the clarinet. He was one of the best clarinet players in an era that featured Goodman, Shaw, and Barney Bigard. At one point, Jimmy's band appears in a sudden pavilion on the street below Dorothy's aerie. How'd they get there? At the end, the four couples are all in a taxi getting married. How'd they get there? The film, made before Pearl Harbor, was already an anachronism when it was released (with Holden believing that his enlistment was just about up just as his battle wagon heads for Pearl). Robert Osborne on TCM said that he'd been trying for years to get the film on TCM. Never would have been too soon.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
wonderful film, 11 November 2009
9/10

I tuned into this one while trolling for a film and became immediately absorbed. The film interlocks several plots, as 'The Waltons' used to do -- the problem of keeping the night spot out of the hands of the criminal creditors, the issue of the unfulfilled wife (nicely mirrored by the alcoholic white woman for whom she is a servant), young love developing between the guitar player and lovely China Doll, a dispute between two cotton pickers (one a city slicker, the other a local field hand), the sheriff who, of course, is a racist but who loves un-spiced fried chicken, the inevitable tug of fundamentalist religion on the underclass of a rural town, and two waifs who end the film with a mime of the musicians they hope to be. I confess that I was stationed in southern Georgia a little after the time of this film and found my own experiences coming back vividly. It is a warm film, drawing on an ominous set of possibilities lurking behind the action, and it doesn't cheat with its interlocking happy endings. What a surprise!


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