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Screenings: The Beguiled (2017)

October 28th, 2017 · No Comments

7.4
[DVD, library]

It’s beautiful visually, with lots (and I mean LOTS) of shots of hazy light filtered through mossy Southern trees [like in the works of Terrence Malick] and scenes in dark rooms that seem to be lit by only candlelight [as in Stanley Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON]. So, it’s interesting to move from the end of the film to the DVD supplements and hear director Sofia Coppola speak about wanting to make this remake of the ’70’s Don Siegel film from a woman’s point of view (the D.P., Philippe le Sourd, is a man, and the ambient score was created by the band Phoenix – four men). At least the ending, in which the women – in a show of hand-holding unity reminiscent of a coven of witches – mutilate, poison, and bag up the lone male character like the contents of a larder – exerts a strong, albeit unsavory, message of female independence.

https://boxd.it/lcCm3

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Screenings: Joan Didion – The Center Will Not Hold (2017)

October 27th, 2017 · No Comments

7.8
[streaming, Netflix]

What a fascinating and ultimately tragic life Joan Didion has led! This doc connects her published works to the life events that inspired her to write them, for, as Didion state’s in the film’s generous interview segments, “You write what you have.” I have read her two late books about grieving, and they were devastating (not cold and removed, as some are quoted as describing her work in this film), and am inspired to seek out “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” after seeing this. One puzzling question I have after seeing this, though: Didion’s speaking mannerisms include wild gesturing with her hands…is that merely an affectation, or is it physiologically-based or perhaps related to her failing eyesight? Also, the scene in which she is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom was very moving.

https://boxd.it/lbm0D

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Screenings: True Confessions (1981)

October 27th, 2017 · No Comments

5.1
[DVD, Netflix]

Here is a textbook example of a film likely having amazing potential on paper but not ultimately translating those qualities to the screen. The cast is A-ranked, the script is co-written by Joan Didion, the story offers moral dilemmas; but the acting is, for the most part (especially DeNiro, who was taking a nap in between his work in TAXI DRIVER and THE KING OF COMEDY), wooden and somnolent, the extremely clever turns of phrase fall with a thud, and the moral dilemmas remain intellectualized rather than emotional.

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Screenings: The Midwife (2017)

October 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

7.6
[DVD, Netflix]

There was a point not too far into this film when the tone changed completely for me. Up until that point, the film was aloof and removed, but at the moment when Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot walk through the door of a bistro – the plates clanking, glasses dinging, the low ambient rumble of work and chatter intermingling – the film took on a deeper dimension for me. Not coincidentally, I think, this was the beginning of the first scene in which Deneuve lets her character spill forth, creating the initial contrast between the two women (one impulsive and emotional; the other cold and controlling) that will supply the framework for the rest of the picture. Both leads act wonderfully throughout THE MIDWIFE, and there is a very understated but crucial performance by Olivier Gourmet as titular character Catherine Frot’s possible love interest.

https://boxd.it/l3G0R

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Screenings: Spider-Man – Homecoming (2017)

October 21st, 2017 · No Comments

8.0
[blu-ray, Netflix]

I laughed a lot during this movie.

Tom Holland should take advantage of this perfect role while he is still young enough to pull it off well – he’s relatable and believable. Marisa Tomei (as Aunt May?! What?!!!) has the best and funniest moment of the entire film in its last second.

https://boxd.it/l1DEP

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Screenings: The Princess Bride (1987)

October 15th, 2017 · No Comments

8.7
[theater]

This movie, by now, has become review-proof. Everyone has seen it, everyone seems to love it, it is funny and romantic and endlessly quotable. So, watching it with a group of people becomes an enjoyable group experience every time. Today’s “group experience” was at a Fathom Events/TCM screening. Unlike past TCM events that I’ve been to (and I’ve been to several) where the attendance was spotty (screenings of ON THE WATERFRONT and THE MALTESE FALCON drew less than ten people), this show nearly packed the house – it was easily triple the size of the crowd I watched BLADE RUNNER 2049 with during its opening week). The audience was extremely attentive during the intro and outro with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director Rob Reiner, and practically every line uttered from the screen was accompanied by an echo from one or more members of the “group” (usually one of the most annoying of movie crowd interactions, but not today). Props to the ever-evolving TCM crew for continuing these nationwide events and for their creative programming.

https://boxd.it/kSMpr

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Screenings: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

October 14th, 2017 · No Comments

7.7
[DVD, library]

How I have lived this long without seeing this classic that is exactly as old as me is a mystery. But, since I have seen countless Westerns since then, seeing the one that so many of them borrow from and imitate is a bit disorienting (despite TMS itself being a remake of Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI). The entire second half of THREE AMIGOS, for example (despite clearly not being an example of a classic Western), is an homage to the Mexican village setting of MAGNIFICENT, right down to Martin Short – while merely being Martin Short – acting as a double for an over-acting Horst Buchholz. UNFORGIVEN, OPEN RANGE, THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, and many other Westerns made since then: they all owe a debt, in some way, to THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. I was thoroughly engaged throughout, and the constant presence of the famous musical theme ignited an urge in me to throw a slab of beef on the barbecue grill and light up a Marlboro.

https://boxd.it/kR9At

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Screenings: S Is for Stanley (2016)

October 14th, 2017 · No Comments

6.8
[streaming, Netflix]

This isn’t a critical appraisal of Kubrick’s work, but a character portrait – told roughly in chronology – through the eyes of his personal assistant/chauffeur. The all-consuming self-focus of Kubrick’s personality is on full display here, yet the interactions have an intimate charm when told from the perspective of this humble, seemingly honest employee. Fascination lies in the small details, as when Kubrick tasks Emilio (the assistant) to locate a candlemaker who can keep the BARRY LYNDON production in full supply for at least two years, or Kubrick inserting Emilio’s name into the EYES WIDE SHUT set in a gesture of personal tribute.

https://boxd.it/kR6Jn

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Screenings: The Book of Henry (2017)

October 14th, 2017 · No Comments

6.8
[DVD, library]

Torn about what to think of this film. Is its uneven tone purposeful or a result of wanting to be too many things (a portrait of childhood precocity; a morality play; a vigilante thriller; an apologia of single parenthood; a messianic fable) all at once? There’s no denying the underlying heart of the story, but certain elements – especially the thread involving a potentially violent revenge plot – push that to the very edge of confusion.

https://boxd.it/kPYPv

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Screenings: Deliverance (1972)

October 13th, 2017 · No Comments

7.5
[blu-ray, Netflix]

I’m glad to have not seen this as a pre-teen when it was first released. Yet, it’s been at least 25 years since I did first view it, and the emphasis for me has shifted from the episodic backwoods horror to the moral quandary that plays right through to the end. Both Jon Voight and Ned Beatty have rarely had better roles or realized them so fully.

https://boxd.it/kPsmr

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