Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
What makes us human?
Alex Garland's "Devs" is one of the most complex shows that I've ever seen. There have been plenty of techno-thrillers, but not like this one. Like "The Good Place", it focuses on what it means to be human. If you only know Nick Offerman from comedic roles, you'll be impressed with his performance here.
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)
a Ukrainian named after a Native American ethnicity leads th e Catholic Church amid a possible world war
Having recently seen "The Two Popes", I took an interest in "The Shoes of the Fisherman", which also focuses on the transition of power in the Vatican. It was interesting that the movie depicts a non-Italian leading the Catholic Church amid a crisis; it's very much like the last two months. Since I'm not Catholic, much of the pope-choosing process is a vague concept to me, but I did like seeing how they make efforts to keep the peace once the new guy is in power. The references to Indochina made sense, considering that the movie got released at the height of the Vietnam War. As for the name Lakota, that was awkward: the Lakota are one of the groups of the Great Sioux Nation.
It's not a masterpiece, but worth seeing. It stars Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Leo McKern, Vittorio DeSica, David Janssen and Burt Kwouk. Put another way, it stars Zorba, Hamlet, other Hamlet, Rumpole, a director, the Fugitive and Cato.
To think: back then it was all Italian popes all the time, and now we've gone forty-two years without an Italian pope.
The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
shrew's afraid of Virginia Woolf
Fans of Shakespeare likely know that Franco Zefferelli adapted his "Romeo and Juliet" into a movie in 1968. They might not know that the previous year he brought another Shakespeare work to the big screen. "The Taming of the Shrew" casts Richard Burton as the roguish Petruchio, wooing the foul-tempered Katharina (Elizabeth Taylor), so that the latter's sister can eventually find a husband. Obviously the gender relations are a little dated - the idea of taming a woman sounds like something created by Don Draper - but the movie is enjoyable enough. I found the most intriguing character to be Lucentio (Michael York); he seems like the type who has a lot to reveal about himself and others.
Anyway, we can revel in the movie as long as we understand the backwards subject matter. Enjoy!
The Chalk Garden (1964)
"chalk" it up to the performances
I should start by noting that I've never read the book on which "The Chalk Garden" is based. My interpretation of the movie is that we shouldn't try to suppress our true character. Laurel is undeniably herself, but then there's the thing about the governess.
Hayley Mills was known for "cute" roles by this point, so her role as Laurel was a real departure; the character reminded me of Parker Posey's character in "The House of Yes". Deborah Kerr naturally turned in a solid performance as the governess. John Mills as the dad didn't make much of an impression on me, but Edith Evans (in an Oscar-nominated performance) as the grandmother is enough to chill anyone's bones. Director Ronald Neame went on to helm "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and "The Poseidon Adventure".
All in all, worth seeing.
Billy Budd (1962)
Zod meets Nero meets Munchausen meets Kuryakin
I've never read "Billy Budd". The only one of Herman Melville's novels that I've read is "Moby Dick". Nonetheless, Peter Ustinov's adaptation is a sight to behold, with Terence Stamp (who received an Oscar nod for the role) debuting as the title character, whose blows with the ship's authorities have severe consequences.
I didn't know about Terence Stamp until Steven Soderbergh's movie "The Limey" (starring Stamp as a man investigating his daughter's death) got released. My mom noted that Stamp played badasses in '60s movies, and I was surprised to discover that I'd already seen him in both "The Phantom Menace" and "Bowfinger" (he didn't register in my mind until "The Limey").
Anyway, this is a fine piece of work. In addition to Stamp and Ustinov, we also have Robert Ryan, Melvyn Douglas, John Neville (Baron Munchausen) and David McCallum (soon to be known as one of the men from U.N.C.L.E.)
Dead to Me (2019)
these 21st-century serials make life worth living
The isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has given me the perfect chance to binge-watch TV shows, among them "Dead to Me". It focuses on a pair of women drawn together at a session, unaware that they have a connection. As a serial, each episode adds a new element to the story, making the viewer wonder how long the women can keep their secret.
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini make the most of their characters. I just finished the first season and am now in the second one. I had never heard of Liz Feldman before watching this, but I hope that she creates more shows. In the meantime, definitely see DtM.
Five Minutes to Live (1961)
Johnny Cash walks the line into home invasion film noir
Johnny Cash's presence is probably the only significance of "Five Minutes to Live". It's a pretty typical home invasion movie, although Cash's character gets pretty nasty. Seriously, he leaves you wonder what he'll attempt next.
The other point of interest is a young Ron Howard (billed as Ronnie). The future Richie Cunningham only has a supporting role, but his character is a calculating one.
Basically, it's nothing special but worth seeing just for those two together.
Who would've ever guessed that the boy would later make a documentary about the Beatles' touring years, and the star would get played in a movie by a man who would later win an Oscar for playing a sympathetic version of a Batman villain?
Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
ah yes, the influenza epidemic
While COVID-isolated, I've been watching a number of movies that I've never seen before. I just watched Vincent J. Donehue's "Sunrise at Campobello", and it was a bit of a surprise to hear them reference the Spanish flu while the coronavirus still dominates the news.
As for the movie itself, it's an impressive piece of work, focusing on Franklin Roosevelt as he started to succumb to polio. There's not much indication of the policies that FDR would enact as president, but it's nonetheless a captivating look at the early life of the man who would go on to launch the New Deal. Tensions arise between characters throughout, and the whole thing has the feel of a play. The movie earned some well deserved Oscar nods the following year. It's a pity that it's not that well known. Everyone should see it.
And here's where I'll mention some of the cast: Ralph Bellamy, Greer Garson, Jean Hagen, David White and Herbert Anderson. In other words: Randolph Duke, Kay Miniver, Lina Lamont, Larry Tate and Dennis the Menace's dad (I can't think of a defined role for Hume Cronyn).
The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
Gidget meets Roper
While coronavirus-isolated, I've been watching a number of old movies that I've never seen before, and I decided to watch this one. On the one hand, "The Reluctant Debutante" is pretty dated, and the emphasis on high society feels like overkill. But I see that Sandra Dee plays the same role here that she played the following year in "A Summer Place": a rich girl feeling disenchanted with her family's haughty lifestyle and falling for a "lesser" man, much to her family's chagrin. It reminded me a bit of "Dirty Dancing". Quite frankly I find Dee's movies more profound than anything in which Doris Day starred (i.e., Sandra Dee's movies had an element of sexuality, while Doris Day was always the eternal virgin).
So, while there was a long way to go before cinema gave audiences something like "Diary of a Mad Housewife", one can sense the younger generation trying to break away from the older generation's mores. "A Summer Place" went so far as to look at how effed up the parents' generation in the '50s was, albeit in a soap opera manner; it was sort of a forerunner to "The Graduate" in that sense.
But most importantly about Sandra Dee, she was more than the cute teeny-bopper that the studios cast her as. In an interview, she said that she figured out that the execs only considered her a piece of property, and early on she had developed anorexia nervosa. San Francisco's Castro Theater held a retrospective of her movies in the 1990s, and she attended as guest of honor; who else but the gay community was going to embrace her?
Overall I do recommend the movie. In addition to finding Sandra Dee hot in some of those gowns, I gotta praise John Saxon's performance. He shows the same flair that he did in "Enter the Dragon"* and "A Nightmare on Elm Street". As for Rex Harrison, he came across as a typical old-school actor, so he didn't really catch my attention. I also wonder what Kay Kendall would've done had she lived longer.
*It would've been neat if Sandra Dee had ever co-starred with Bruce Lee. Such a movie would've been the textbook definition of super-awesome.
The Way (2010)
the long and winding road
I recently saw Emilio Estevez's movie "The Public" (in which homeless people take refuge in a library one snowy night), so I decided to check out this movie that he directed some years ago. "The Way" casts his dad Martin Sheen as an ophthalmologist whose son (Estevez appearing a couple of scenes) dies while hiking the Camino de Santiago - hiked by pilgrims who want to see St. James's grave - so the dad decides to hike it in memory of his son. Our protagonist comes across a couple of people in the process, each with their own stories about how they came to walk the path, all the while set on his goal of honoring his son.
Martin Sheen is of half-Spanish descent, and remains a practicing Catholic, so this is the ideal movie for him. He puts his all into the role, as do the other cast members. This movie has interested me in hiking the trail if I ever go back to Spain (although I don't know if I'll ever have time to go there again).
Anyway, it's not a masterpiece, but I liked it. I recommend it.
I wonder why Spanish has three forms of James (Diego, Jaime and Santiago).
Decision Before Dawn (1951)
behind enemy lines
I had never heard of the instances when the US army hired German troops to collect intelligence during WWII, but Anatole Litvak's Academy Award-nominated "Decision Before Dawn" turns it into a compelling story. Oskar Werner turns in one of his best roles as an idealistic young soldier willing to contribute to the US effort to bring down the Nazis. I hope that in the coming years, this movie gains the recognition that it deserves, and that Anatole Litvak earns more recognition as a director.
Watch for a young Klaus Kinski (uncredited) as a volunteer early in the movie.
Moulin Rouge (1952)
Cyrano de Bergerac meets Dah-ling meets Dracula/Tarkin and Van Helsing/Dooku
To today's audiences, the recognizable movie about the fin de siècle dance hall in Paris is Baz Luhrmann's 2001 jukebox musical.* A lot of people might not know that John Huston made a movie about it half a century earlier. I did appreciate how "Moulin Rouge" addressed the era's class differences (and we retroactively will notice the era's ableism, with Toulouse-Lautrec having no real accommodations). Any of the dance scenes are some sights to behold. Of course, a lot of what I noticed was the cast. In addition to José Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor, there was also Theodore Bikel (Capt. von Trapp on stage) and future horror co-stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (both of whom later appeared separately in the Star Wars franchise).
So, I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but at the very least you gotta love the dance sequences. It must've been fun to be there.
Another piece of trivia is that costume designer Elsa Schiaparelli was the grandmother of Berry Berenson, who got married to Anthony Perkins and later was in one of the 9/11 planes. Strange how these things work out.
*Since it featured two songs that "Weird Al" Yankovic had spoofed, I envisioned an entire version of the movie featuring Weird Al's parodies.
Stalag 17 (1953)
life's jadaed meaning
William Holden won an Oscar for his role as a POW in Billy Wilder's "Stalag 17". In reality, he's only the nominal star. The movie is really about all the different people in the camp. Holden's jaded character is the window into the dire conditions under which these men lived. And by dire, I mean filthy (but of courage the Nazis make it look nice for the inspector).
Accompanying Holden is Otto Preminger as the the kommandant. He makes the kommandant out to be the type who approaches you calmly, but truly has evil on his mind. The banality of evil, one might say.
All in all, it's a fine piece of cinema. It strikes me as more realistic than "The Great Escape". Watch for future creator of "Witch Doctor" and Alvin and the Chipmunks Ross Bagdasiaran in a scene in the cabin.
stand for whistleblowers
Steven Spielberg's 2017 movie "The Post" looked at the Washington Post's efforts to publish Daniel Ellsberg's expose of the lies about the Vietnam War, which makes the Academy Award-nominated documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" all the more interesting. It was impossible not to see links to the present. Indeed, Ellsberg has voiced support for Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. There's no doubt that, much like how the Pentagon Papers forced the US to get out of Vietnam, Manning's expose forced the US to get out of Iraq.
Definitely see it.
Inception meets Ready Player One
When David Cronenberg's "eXistenZ" got released, one review called it the thinking man's "Matrix".* Having now seen it, I interpreted it more as having a similar plot to both "Inception" (descent into a dreamlike state) and "Ready Player One" (spending time in a virtual reality). Of course, this being a Cronenberg movie, there's bound to be some gruesome stuff. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law spend much of the movie in the virtual reality, with the viewer often not knowing what's real and what's simulated. One might view the movie as a subtle version of "The Matrix". However you interpret it, this is one fine movie. I've liked most of David Cronenberg's movies (an exception was "Eastern Promises", which came across as cliched).
*Another 1999 movie about a fake reality was "The Thirteenth Floor", a real disappointment.
The Academy Award-nominated "Pearl" features a father and daughter chasing their dreams. It's not a masterpiece, but enjoyable nonetheless. I like seeing these animated shorts and hope that more of them become available in the near future.
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
the first western
By all accounts the first narrative movie, "The Great Train Robbery" doesn't have a complex plot but is a fine look at cinema's infancy. I understand that when audiences first saw the movie and saw the train approaching onscreen, they ran away because they thought that a train was actually headed towards them!
Anyway, good times.
Period. End of Sentence. (2018)
When Rayka Zehtabchi won an Oscar for "Period. End of Sentence.", she proclaimed that a period should end a sentence, not an education. Her documentary focuses on the use of sanitary pads in India during women's menstrual cycles, and also the efforts to end the stigma around the topic.
I remember reading about how, when Lucille Ball was pregnant, the network told her that she wasn't allowed to say pregnant on TV. The fact that it's now acceptable to talk about menstruation on the Academy Awards shows how far our society has advanced. Of course, we still have a ways to go. In the meantime, definitely check out this documentary.
A Night at the Garden (2017)
evil has its simple ways
The Oscar-nominated documentary "A Night at the Garden" shows scenes from a Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden in 1939. As expected, the speakers spout lots of anti-Jewish and anti-labor pronouncements. It just goes to show how evil can be something so simple (Hannah Arendt called it the banality of evil). And then in 2017, neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, egged on by a certain orange-skinned head of state. As Mark Twain said, history doesn't always repeat but sometimes it rhymes.
Excellent documentary. The producer is Laura Poitras, who notably filmed Glenn Greenwald's interview with Edward Snowden, turning it into the Oscar-winning documentary "Citizenfour".
A Double Life (1947)
playing one's life
While COVID-isolated, I binge-watched Ryan Murphy's "Hollywood", a hypothetical look at what US entertainment could've been had people stood up to racism and homophobia in the 1940s. A couple of episodes depict George Cukor, and one episode mentions "A Double Life". A few days after watching that episode I saw the movie in question. It's an intense one, with Ronald Colman (in an Oscar-winning role) as a thespian who lets his performance gain too much control of his existence. It's impressive how, in these movies focusing on stage performances, the play can sometimes come across as more intense than the person's life, as happens in this movie.
It's not a masterpiece, but Colman puts on one of the most haunting performances of all. I definitely recommend it
The Valley of Decision (1945)
labor and class issues abound
When I first read about "The Valley of Decision", the title caught my eye since it was a line in a Bob Marley song. Obviously, the movie has nothing to do with that, instead addressing issues of class and labor in the late 1800s. Greer Garson received an Oscar nomination for her role as an Irish woman in Pittsburgh who becomes a maid for the family that owns the mill where her father worked. Despite her romance with the family's son (Gregory Peck), labor issues remain.
There's nothing philosophical about the movie. It has a straightforward focus for its plot. I wouldn't call it the greatest movie of all, but I do appreciate its focus on class and labor. I recommend it.
Patti LuPone and Holland Taylor get the roles of a lifetime in a hypothetical story
Having revolutionized TV with "Glee" and "American Horror Story" (as well as last year's miniseries "The Politician"), Ryan Murphy turns his attention to Hollywood's golden age. "Hollywood" looks at what the capital of entertainment could've been had the studios stood up to racism and homophobia in the 1940s. The protagonists are a group of people trying to break into movies amid all sorts of barriers: a mixed-race man (Darren Criss), a gay black man (Jeremy Pope) and a black woman (Laura Harrier). They want to make a movie that would usually never get accepted by white audiences, so what to do?
In addition to the main characters, two cast members stood out to me: Patti LuPone (as the wife of the studio head) and Holland Taylor (as an executive). Both actresses are in their seventies, but here they get some of the meatiest roles of all; let's just say that no one expected to see Patti LuPone do what she does on the first episode! This mix of old and young - as well as the racially diverse cast and depiction of real-life people - adds up to one of the most impressive miniseries that I've ever seen. Definitely see it.
Also appearing are Jim Parsons, Rob Reiner, Mira Sorvino, Queen Latifah and Samara Weaving (of last year's "Ready or Not").
it's about time that the Oscars pay attention to these topics
Bong Joon-ho's "Gisaengchung" ("Parasite" in English) became the first foreign-language movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. And it was a deserved win. Like "Joker", it employs some unusual methods to address class conflict in modern society. To crown everything, it takes a subtly comedic approach to the topic!
A lot of people had never heard of Bong before this movie. I've known about him ever since I saw "The Host". I've seen a couple of other Korean movies in addition to his movies. If this movie gets people interested in Korean cinema, then all the better; some great movies come from there. But in the meantime, this movie probably says more about modern society than just about any other movie from last year. Definitely see it.
Switzerland's view of the war
Since Switzerland avoided Nazi occupation during World War II, it may seem odd for that country to have made a movie dealing with this topic. But Leopold Lindtberg's Oscar-winning "Marie-Louise" is a fine piece of work, depicting a girl from Rouen sent to a school in Switzerland. Even upon arriving at this presumably safe place, other challenges arise for her.
It was probably appropriate, albeit coincidental, that I watched the movie on the 75th anniversary of Victory Day (celebrated on the 8th in most of Europe, on the 9th in the former Soviet Union). Troubling is that a new set of would-be dictators (notably Hungary's Viktor Orbán and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan) have usurped power in their countries. What's going to happen with these places?
Anyway, great movie.
Watch on the Rhine (1943)
the resistance abroad
Lillian Hellman wrote and staged "Watch on the Rhine" before the United States entered World War II. No doubt this story of a family fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe and helping the resistance from afar (while facing a new threat in the United States) was the perfect movie to help US audiences understand the danger that Nazism posed to the world.
Paul Lukas won an Oscar for his role, but I'd say that Bette Davis carries the movie; when did her performance not carry a movie? Part of what caught my eye were the references to the Spanish Civil War; this movie and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" drew attention to it, but later on the Cold War shifted the Western governments into an alliance with Franco.
Anyway, definitely worth seeing. It's only a coincidence that I watched it on the seventy-fifth anniversary of Germany's surrender, and reviewed it on the anniversary of the signing of the capitulation.