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The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
All About Maria
Four years after the phenomenal All About Eve, Joseph L Manckiewicz moves away from Broadway and lands in Hollywood. Naturally, everything in Hollywood is bound to be louder, more vulgar, more shallow and more expensive and surprisingly less relatable, less credible. Ava Gardner is breathtakingly beautiful and Jack Cardiff photographs her like a goddess but that's no match for any of the exchanges between Bette Davis and Thelma Ritter in All About Eve. Here the soap opera elements dominate the tale. The Italian aristocrats as played by Rossano Brazzi and Valentina Cortese take the story for a ludicrous spin. Josseph L Manckiewicz as a writer and director makes sure the film doesn't become "The Legend Of Lylah Clare" for instance. Humphery Bogart plays the lead and I forgot to mention it. I wonder why. He's wonderful in it but the Oscar went to Edmond O'Brian for his unbearable press agent. Ava Gardner presence transformed this lurid tale into a classic and it's bound to remain so for ever.
Crudup and Wilson
Billy Crudup and Patrick Wilson are two of the young actors I follow and wait for with a certain amount of longing. So imagine my shock. I always refer to them as "pure actors" the kind of actor that will never go for the buck. I, naturally, forgot the power of the buck but in this case is terribly depressing. I'm sure the "Watchmen" have a following but so did Charles Manson. I love movies and very rarely use the word "hate" referring to a movie but this time I was tempted. I even stayed for its interminable and unendurable length. I must grant you that it may just be me. A generational thing but that doesn't prevent my depression. I had to run and watch "Angeles In America", "Little Children", "Jesus's Son" and "Stage Beauty" to fall in love with Crudup and Wilson all over again and eliminate the sense of disgust that "Watchmen" provoked in me.
An Enormous Pretty Pill, Impossible To Swallow
Shapeless epic with a shifting center. Everything feels fake even the real magnificent scenery but it's really the script that tried to be about a lot of things but ends up being about nothing. The potential poetry in the plight of the Aborigines smells of opportunism, at least, it wasn't filled with the honesty of Philip Noyce's "Rabbit Proof Fence" for instance. On a personal, and maybe shallow perspective, I'm truly upset about Nicole Kidman for whatever she's done to her face, I was so aware of the swelling in her upper lip that it distracted me away from any sort of emotion. Hugh Jackman is gorgeous but his acting here is so exterior that I couldn't believe him for a moment. He is the new Rock Hudson and I think he'll be at his best in bright feel good, sexy comedies. Buz Lhurman's "Australia" seems filmed by a foreigner. There is not a hint of the Australia I got to know and be fascinated by of the films of Peter Weir just to name one great Aussie director. Buz Lhurman has been a lucky director with lots and lots of of chutzpah. Let's see what happens next.
The Queen (2006)
A Crowning Achievement
How silly of me. I kept putting off seeing this movie because I had an acute case of "Dianaetis" Too much about the doomed princess of the people. Well, I was wrong. I was very, very, wrong. The film is a surprising, unpretentious masterpiece and I haven't mention Helen Mirren yet. Apart from the fact that it's a film perfectly suited to be seen in your own living room or like me, in bed, it's also cinema with capital letters. The illusion created by Helen Mirren's portrayal is total and I mean total, eerily so. There were moments in which I was seeing the real thing or the "royal" thing I should say. When Elizabeth II bows to pressure and returns to London and views first hand the overwhelming show of affection for Diana, something happens to her, we will never know what exactly, but something. That in itself is Helen Mirren's mastery. To tell us exactly that without revealing anything. Needless to say I'm buying the DVD. I know I will see this one many times.
Cute Guys Those 300
A feast for the eyes but not the senses. Well, maybe some pornographic thought may have crossed somebody's mind, not mine I swear, but I could sense the steam mixed with the giggles rising all around me. A historical comic book, blatant, ambitious and silly, very silly. I was so aware of the elaborate graphics that the Spartan's predicament became kind of irrelevant. The experience is so far removed from the actually idea of "feelings" that the death of a son in front of a father will not make you flinch. The violence is so cartoonish that it will not disturb, not even the most sensible spirits. If you're in the mood for a festival of pictorial sequences filled with hard, shiny male bodies, you're in for a treat.
War of the Worlds (2005)
The first half hour it leaves hour breathless. The characters don't know what hit them, but we do. We know all about it, a world of the worlds is about to take place, with nasty creatures from outer space. This elementary rule, we, the audience are a few steps ahead of the characters on the screen. It makes our anticipation of their realization an spectacular thrill. Then, of course, it's all downhill from there. Well, not all. Tom Cruise is in it. I have to hand it to him. Looking at his name in the poster, lots of useless but unavoidable information came to mind. Katie Holmes and Brooke Shields and L Ron Hubbard, Oprah, Matt. The lot. And I'm one who doesn't watch much television, imagine someone who does! In any case, much to Tom Cruise credit, I completely forgot all that nonsense as the movie started and I was able to concentrate on the nonsense at hand. He is really good. I took him seriously. I felt for him. He's playing a loser with an empty refrigerator and I believe it. Totally. The problems in the movie are of a different kind. The same way that you can't mix Kubrick and Spielberg and A.I was a blatant example of that. In War of the Worlds we discover H G Wells and Spielberg don't go together either. Wells, H. G as well as Orson Welles played with our inner fears without computer generated images. I imagine that playing with the intellect would have been too frightening to Spielberg, Paramount, Amblin and Dreamworks. So I guess that part of the master plan was to give us something of what, they imagine, audiences the world over expects of them. But, it doesn't work like that. It should be the intellectual wallop of H G Wells or the sentimental pyrotechnics of Steven Spielberg. Together, they do not go. Okay, I've unburden myself of my thoughts, now, I recommend you to see it and make up your own mind. Within the sad desolation of the film going summer of 2005, there is enough solace within the horrors of War of the Worlds to make you feel you haven't wasted your afternoon.
Fatally Brad Pitted
I know of two couples, I repeat, two,- who went their separate ways after "Troy"- Not for political or historical differences but for Brad Pitt differences. Let me explain. They all four had fantasies about Pitt. The two girls felt entitled the two guys felt kind of shocked not as shocked as their girlfriends but shocked all the same. Okay let's rewind for a moment. We're talking about an actor in a movie here. The two guys and two girls in question are smart people, college graduates, with jobs, lives, responsibilities. What is this? I finally had to see the film for myself. I had resisted the temptation because I've never been a fan of this kind of movie but, finally, last night, I saw it. Or I should say I saw "him". It everything made sense. Pitt is a sort of demi-god, beautiful and imperfect enough to make him human. Don't ask me a thing about the film, I couldn't tell you, Bloom and Bana and that girl, I couldn't tell them apart. The erotic treat of Brad Pitt's legs makes this historical cartoon worth seeing no matter how terrible it is. I, for one intend to see it again tonight. I mean I intend to see "him" again tonight and tonight I'm ready, yes, ready willing and able to be Brad Pitted to death.
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Stunning Bag Of Wind
I wonder if that line from the Duke "I don't care about your ridiculous dogma" was directed to Lars Von Triar. It could be, the film is full of knowing lines "He could make you a star and you're dallying with the writer!" or "They dressed me with the Argentinean's best clothes and passed me for a famous English writer" There is something of Ken Russell's second period in "Moulin Rouge" Everything is emphasized, underlined and repeated at least three times for safety. Excess seem a rather feeble term to describe it and yet, it works. The film, for the most part, is a delight. Nicole Kidman, ravishing and spectacular, spectacular. Ewan McGregor, superb, and so charismatic that no one would blame me if I confess I had a had crush on him as soon as he broke into "The Hills are alive with the sound of music..." Kidman and McGregor, this film proves it, are the closest thing we've had in years to the big stars of yesteryear. They could make anything shine and they have. Another detail that shouldn't go amiss, "Moulin Rouge" opened the door again for musicals and that's always a good thing even if we're bound to be bombarded by some terrible stuff. I say it doesn't matter as long as it allows glorious film talents of the caliber of Kidman and McGregor to give us the pleasures they have even in a bag of wind such as "Moulin Rouge"