List List Bang Bang

March 16, 2010

2010 (January to March)- Screening Log

Filed under: 2010,Screening Log — misterjiggy @ 9:25 pm

MARCH 2010

Updated March 31, 2010 

    

 

  

   

  • Broken Embraces (2009 – Pedro Almodovar) pro(+) (Theater)
  • Julia (1977 – Fred Zinnemann) pro(-) (cable)
  • The Ugly Truth (2009 – Robert Luketic) CON (cable)
  • Observe and Report (2009 – Jody Hill) con(+) (cable)
  • Between Two Worlds (1944 – Edward A. Blatt) mixed(+) (cable)

This is a true ensemble piece with various Warner Bros. contract players of the day performing in a rather unique purgatory set story that is part mystery – fantasy and part war time home front drama, all of which seems to anticipate a bit of that Rod Serling / Twilight Zone like plot twisting and moralizing.  Based on a play (“Outward Bound”, also an earlier film) the movie is talky and melodramatic to a fault with Erich W. Korngold’s score (reportedly a personal favorite of his) dominating when it doesn’t need to.  To add to the theatrics, John Garfield as a brash and cynical (wasn’t he always?) newspaper man is constantly speechifying and Paul Henreid as a suicidal type drowns the scenery with his tears when he’s not chewing on it.  The film’s claustrophobic setting (a cruise ship in limbo) and microcosm of society during wartime thematic give a slight suggestion of Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (also 1944).  The strangely romantic and borderline ludicrous ending (even within the context of the film’s world) could have used more of a Frank Borzage like touch.  It appears that Edward Blatt had a pretty limited career as a helmer of films, this being the first of only three directorial credits.  It seems Blatt came up through the Warner Bros. ranks as a dialogue director (as did Vincent Sherman who would go on to a much more prolific career from a feature film perspective). 

  •  The Invention of Lying (2009 – Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson) mixed(+) (Airplane)

What starts as a very inspired and funny critique of human nature, societal norms and organized religion gets mired in the final third in the usual romantic comedy tropes (with half hearted attempts at sentiment and poignancy).  Ricky Gervais (particularly self deprecating here) got the rom-com elements down better in Ghost Town (though he did not write or direct that one – it was David Koepp) but that’s likely because Tea Leoni got to play something closer to a living breathing person.  Here Jennifer Garner is stuck playing little more than an idea; her face frozen in some sort of 13 Going on 30 like naiveté.  Worth seeing but a lot of wasted potential. 

  • Family Diary / Cronaca familiare (1962 – Valerio Zurlini) pro (cable)

This Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival is incredibly austere in composition and art/set direction; but also painterly, with an almost monochromatic palette accenting rich autumnal tones (something Sidney Lumet and Carlo Di Palma appeared to be shooting for in the Italian set 1969 misfire The Appointment).  The resulting look suggests a blend of both the nostalgic and melancholic.  A moody, measured and incredibly downbeat film; but the result is never quite oppressively ponderous.  A story of two Florentine brothers separated at a young age, one raised surrounded by a soon to be decaying aristocracy, the other by his grandmother in virtual poverty.  The resulting emphasis on the socio-economic divide has a decidedly political bent; with Zurlini sympathetic yet critical of how a man raised in comfort and privilege is detached from, and unprepared to address, the real life political and economic hardships of the day  (recall Jean-Louis Trintignant’s draft dodging son of a rich fascist in Zurlini’s earlier Violent Summer).  Thankfully politics never overwhelms the central human drama at the film’s core, that of regret, reconciliation, grief and fraternal love.  One of Marcello Mastroianni’s (who plays the poor brother) most effective and unique dramatic performances of the period.  A baby faced Jacques Perrin plays the privileged man-child of a brother, which is fitting as  Perrin previously played a similar wealthy youth in Zurlini’s far more light and bittersweet Claudia Cardinale vehicle Girl with a Suitcase.  

  • Shutter Island (2010 – Martin Scorsese) pro(-) (Theater) 

Overstuffed, even silly in its convolutions, but with style to kill (not just visually there’s some pretty cool use of pre-existing music).  Middle portion bogs down and I was strangely never truly creeped out despite repeated text book creep out efforts.  The final twist (not exactly earth shattering) got it back on track for me and made all that preceded it more interesting upon further reflection.  As always for Scorsese, a committed Leo De Caprio was excellent and the glue that held it all together (with the wrong actor this could have been pretty bad – picture Mark Wahlberg (once attached to the project, though maybe that was for the Mark Ruffalo role).  Some of the other named supporting players I found distracting by their mere famousness (Patricia Clarkson please read this expository dialogue, Elias Koteas do a De Nero as Frankenstein’s monster bit, Ben Kingsley give us an anagram 101 lecture).  The film is a Kubrick, Lewton, Fuller, Powell & Hitchcock mishmash – with frozen corpse flashbacks suggestive of the Pompei sequence in Viaggio in Italia; but as a genre effort the formulaic elements and homage hodgepodge can be forgiven.  To me, not quite in the league of the Cape Fear reimagining; but familiar thrilling fun overall (though Val Lewton never needed 2 hours and 18 minutes). 

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009 – P. Lord, C. Miller) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004 – Brad Silberling) pro(+) (DVD)
  • In This Our Life (1942 – John Huston)  pro(-) (DVD)

Prestigious novel (a Pulitzer Prize winner) turned into an entertaining but, despite all the Warner Brothers A list bells and whistles, sleazy soaper.  In 40s Warner Bros. studio terms the film is closer to the simplistic emotional amplification and trashiness of Flamingo Road than to the more textured likes of Now, Voyager or King’s Row.  John Huston, directing only his second film, didn’t do many of these female driven ensemble melodramas so he was likely out of his element, but with the help of Ernest Haller the film has an expressive (at times almost Wellesian) look and design.  The story focusing on the two Southern Timberlake sisters (played by Bette Davis and Olivia De Havilland) features adultery, suicide, manslaughter, racial bigotry, shady business dealings and incestuous desire.  Bette Davis plays an unconscionable malevolent schemer with more than a little extra gusto.  Gone is any hint of nuance she brought to more even keeled portrayals of flawed characters such as those in The Letter, The Little Foxes or Jezebel (it seems veteran director William Wyler was more successful in pulling back the reigns than relative neophyte Huston).  According to film scholar Jeanine Basinger in her DVD commentary Davis would often hyperbolically refer to this effort as the worst film she ever made.  Charles Coburn supports in small town patriarch scum bag mode, ala his Kings Row sadist doctor.  With Davis’ character named Stanley and De Havilland’s character named Roy one almost expects George Brent’s character to be named Shirley. Glossy crazy fun. 

  • The Three Musketeers (1948 – George Sidney) pro (DVD)

Even in a non-musical from MGM Gene Kelly dances (read: swashbuckles) his heart out.  Moving with the grace and athleticism of a Burt Lancaster or a, well, Gene Kelly.  An extremely colorful entertainment with a strong ensemble cast; but it’s Kelly as D’Artagnan’s show all the way.  Lana Turner’s first color film and DP Robert Planck and the MGM hair, make-up and wardrobe team make her look absolutely ravishing (to the detriment of June Allyson’s Constance and Angela Lansbury’s Queen Anne).  When Van Heflin (as Athos) weeps in extreme close-up over his tortured love for Turner’s duplicitous Lady De Winter, couldn’t help but recall Heflin’s tears at the end of another Turner film – Johnny Eager; except in that film Heflin wept (all the way to an Oscar) not for Turner, but for his man love for Robert TaylorThe Three Musketeers is not as strong a swashbuckler as director Sidney’s later Scaramouche – but not far off either.  

  • Louisiana Story (1948 – Robert Flaherty) pro (DVD)
  • Ballast (2008 – Lance Hammer) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Together Again (1944 – Charles Vidor) pro (DVD
  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944 – Arthur Lubin) mixed (DVD
  • Bright Star (2009 – Jane Campion) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Most Beautiful (1944 – Akira Kurosawa) mixed (cable)
  • Cairo Station (1958 – Youssef Chahine) PRO(-) (DVD)
  • Whispering City (1947 – Fyodor Otsep) mixed (DVD)
  • Major Barbara (1941 – Gabriel Pascal) pro (DVD)
  • Julie & Julia (2009 – Nora Ephron) mixed(+) (cable)


   

  

 

  

  

FEBRUARY 2010   

  

 

 

  

  

 

  • Rusty Knife (1958 – Toshio Masuda) pro(-) (DVD)
  • My Son John (1952 – Leo McCarey) mixed (cable)
  • Kitty (1945 – Mitchell Leisen) pro (cable)
  • The Happy Ending (1969 – Richard Brooks) mixed (cable)

Highly stylized and cynical bourgeoisie lament for the death of romance after marriage.  Somewhat in the mold of those adult counter-culture meets the mainstream anti-romances like Two for the Road, The Arrangement, The Rain People and Petulia and a sort of a proto-feminist bridge between The Pumpkin Eater and Diary of a Mad Housewife.  The opening portion seems to parody the lush romance of 60s box office hits like A Man and a Woman before turning it on its head.  An Oscar nominated Jean Simmons (then wife to director Brooks) shines as the alcoholic and borderline suicidal Denver suburbanite in mid-life crisis mode.  The cast is strong all round and Conrad Hall’s camera work inventive, but Brooks’ super blunt script, while provocative, is heavy handed. Every character is jaded and expresses their world view and lack of personal satisfaction with excessive clarity – particularly the women (including Tina Louise as an acerbic society wife and, Simmons Elmer Gantry co-star, Shirley Jones as a serial mistress).  (Pop) Culturally it feels like that period of time between the early 60s boozy adultery of Mad Men and the 70s somnambulant decadence of The Ice Storm.  Flawed but worth seeing.  Might have worked better as a Paul Mazursky styled comedy. 

  •  To Each His Own (1946 – Mitchell Leisen) pro (cable)

The mother as martyr tear jerker that delivered on Olivia De Havilland’s potential as a true leading player. 

  • The Great Lie (1941 – Edmund Goulding) mixed(+) (cable)
  • Couples Retreat (2009 – Peter Billingsley) con (DVD)
  • Battleground (1949 – William Wellman) pro (cable)

As with his earlier The Story of G.I. Joe, Wellman’s got a knack for the ensemble combat film. 

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941 – Victor Fleming) pro (cable)
  • My Reputation (1946 –  Curtis Bernhardt) mixed(+) (cable)

Not even Barbara Stanwyk, Max Steiner or James Wong Howe can completely save a film with a George Brent problem. 

  • A Guy Named Joe (1943 – Victor Fleming) pro(-) (cable)
  • Ornamental Hairpin / Kanzashi (1941 – – Hiroshi Shimizu) pro (DVD)
  • The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail / Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi (1945 – Akira Kurosawa) mixed(+) (VHS)
  • Body of Lies (2008 – Ridley Scott) pro(-) (cable)
  • State Fair (1945 – Walter Lang) pro (DVD)
  • L’Amore (1948 – Roberto Rossellini) mixed(+) (VHS)

This portmanteau is the Anna Magnani show.  The first half comes from Jean Cocteau and the second from Federico Fellini (who also has a supporting acting role).  To me  the Fellini portion easily wins the day. 

  • The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009 – Tony Scott) mixed (cable)
  • My Sister Eileen (1942 – Alexander Hall) pro (DVD)
  • Coraline (2009 – Henry Selick) pro(-) (cable)
  • Macbeth (1948 – Orson Welles) pro (cable
  • Good News (1947 – Charles Walters) pro (cable)

Perhaps a minor MGM musical – but this collegiate set film is completely delightful.  Gives me hope that I can cure my June Allyson allergy.  Features such winning numbers as “The French Lesson”, “The Best Things in Life Are Free”, “Pass That Peace Pipe” and “Varsity Drag”. 

 

  •  She Wouldn’t Say Yes (1945 – Alexander Hall) mixed(+) (DVD)

Screwball comedies aren’t known for their plot logic but the marriage related second half plot turn here is perfectly absurd.  Rosalind Russell plays the career girl cold fish; but she’s far more likeable and sympathetic in Hall’s earlier and better screwball – My Sister Eileen (remade as a terrific Richard Quine directed musical in 1955). 

  • Year One (2009 – Harold Ramis) con (cable)
  • A Night To Remember (1942 – Richard Wallace) mixed(+) (DVD)

   

JANUARY 2010

    

  

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  • When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950 – John Ford) pro (DVD)

Odd ball mix of comedy, war time drama and musical (plus there were 2 or 3 other musical numbers excised from the final version available as extras on the DVD).  It’s all a little suggestive, on the comedy front, of Preston SturgesHail the Conquering Hero.  The comparatively serious middle portion featuring a very sexy Corrine Calvert and the French resistance was a highlight (reminded me of the effect the less than comedic stretch in Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be has).  Having known Calvert only from her Québécois tomboy in The Far Country I had no idea that she could make with the sexy.  Star Dan Dailey would go on to woo the French Calvert in another Ford film with nods to the musical genre – What Price Glory. 

  

  • Early Spring (1956 – Yasujiro Ozu) pro (DVD)
  • Carousel (1956 – Henry King) pro(-) (DVD)
  • He’s Just Not That Into You (2009 – Ken Kwapis) con (cable)
  • Up in the Air (2009 – Jason Reitman) pro(+) (Theater)
  • It’s a Gift (1934 – Norman Z. McLeod) pro (cable)
  • One Week (2008 – Michael McGowan) mixed(-) (cable)
  • Up the Down Staircase (1967 – Robert Mulligan) pro(-) (cable)
  • Rachel and the Stranger (1948 – Norman Foster) pro (cable)

Winning Ohio frontier “Western” featuring William Holden in his pre-Sunset Bouelvard self proclaimed “smiling Jim” phase as a dour de-sexed sodbuster.  Film also features a wandering, singing and “woodsy” Robert Mitchum and Loretta Young as a store bought wife/bonded servant who has a lot more to offer a widower and his plucky son than indentured servitude.  Until the final moment of the film there’s barely a romantic clinch; but sex is very much in the air with the flirtations of Mitchum’s rugged and virile Jim Fairways enough motivation to get Holden’s Big Davey to look at his put upon bride through a different lens.  Suggestive of, or prefigures elements in, films as diverse as Shane, Rebecca, Stromboli and Knife in the Water.  A box office winner for RKO back in the day; but not as stylized and unconventional as Foster’s Wellesian Journey Into Fear.  

  • What Price Glory (1952 – John Ford) mixed (DVD)
  • The Class / Entre le murs (2008 – Laurent Cantet) pro(+) (DVD)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda (1952 – Richard Thorpe) mixed (DVD)

Reportedly a virtual shot for shot remake of the 1937 Ronald Colman version directed by John Cromwell (though this time in color).  The story is strong enough to carry the day and Stewart Granger is a serviceable late period swashbuckler (though Scaramouche must surely be his peak), but it’s all pretty unnecessary and wholly inferior to the original MGM stab at the material. 

  • Il Divo (2008 – Paolo Sorrentino) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004 – Adam McKay) mixed (DVD)
  • Pillow Talk (1959 – Michael Gordon) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Vikings (1958 – Richard Fleischer) pro(-) (DVD)

Richard Fleisher’s entertaining muscular romp and box-office smash features a pre-Spartacus pairing of Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis who play rivals and half brothers.  These two Vikings will square off in the end over possession (love would be a stretch) of kidnapped Welsh princess Morgana (played by Curtis’ then wife Janet Leigh, lovely and effective in a thankless role) one combatant missing an eye, the other a hand, with the battle resulting in one beckoning the Norse god of war Odin and claiming entrance to Valhalla.  It’s all pretty hokey but with Douglas’ robust earnestness and athleticism and some impressive location photography (the great colorist Jack Cardiff is the DP) the raping and pillaging goes down easy. The film is more of a pulpy boyish adventure than the more staid historical epics with higher brow aspirations that would follow in its wake (like Ben-Hur and El Cid).  Ernest Borgnine (who worked with Fleischer on the solid Violent Saturday) supports and provides one of the more memorable death scenes of the era.  Orson Welles (soon to appear in Fleischer’s Compulsion) briefly narrates.   

  • Night and Fog / Nuit et brouillard (1955 – Alain Resnais) PRO (DVD)
  • Storm Warning (1951 – Stuart Heisler) pro (DVD)

In an era that was bringing movie audiences socially conscious films that touch on race like Pinky, Intruder in the Dust, Stars in My Crown, Gentleman’s Agreement, No Way Out and The Well, you would think that a movie focusing on indicting the practices of the KKK would feature some oppressed African Americans, Jews or Catholics; but no, we are left with only a vague xenophobia relating to “outsiders”.  These outsiders, troublemakers and busybodies, such as Ginger Rogers as a New York City model stopping by to visit her newly married sister, apparently irk the (accentless) Southerners that reside in a tight knit small town.  A populace engaged in a conspiracy of silence about unseemly Klan activities which frustrates a do-gooder county D.A. (Ronald Reagan) in prosecuting Klan members for the murder of a reporter as witnessed by Rogers’s character.  As strong as Heisler’s direction is and the often impressive film noir look of the film, it could have used a little less Warner Bros. gloss and more Phil Karlson style B Movie grit (in 1955 Karlson would direct his own corrupt Southern town run by crime syndicate film, the more memorable The Phenix City Story, as well as directing Rogers in the reluctant witness mob informer film The Tight Spot).  Many have noted Storm Warning’s obvious riffing on A Streetcar Named Desire with Rogers in a Blanche like roll and the perky Doris Day and hirsute Steve Cochrane providing the bestial Stella / Stanley dynamic, but it doesn’t distract too much.  Despite the film’s timidity on the possibilities of the subject matter and the occasional derivativeness in story, it’s a very well made and compelling film.  Plus you get to see a hood decked mob take a bull whip to Ginger Rogers under a burning cross.  In many ways Warner Bros. had covered this ground before in 1937’s hard hitting Archie Mayo helmed Black Legion, which features one of Humphrey Bogart’s best pre-High Sierra performances.

  • The Hurt Locker (2008 – Kathryn Bigelow) pro(+) (DVD)
  • It’s Always Fair Weather (1955 – Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen) pro (DVD)
  • A Summer Place (1959 – Delmer Daves) pro (DVD)
  • Deep End (1971 – Jerzy Skolimowski) pro (cable)

In the cinema year of brutal rapes (Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange), young men lusting after older women (Harold and Maude, The Last Picture Show, Summer of ‘42), old men lusting after young boys (Death in Venice), incest (Murmur of the Heart), adultery with a bi-sexual twist (Sunday Bloody Sunday), adultery with an S&M and manslaughter twist (Just Before Nightfall), a crazed killer targeting hookers (Klute), an opium addicted frontier madam (McCabe and Mrs. Miller), lovemaking with pillows or in coffins (The Ceremony), and ball-busters on parade (Carnal Knowledge) I wasn’t exactly expecting a cult coming of age film about a young boy’s sexual awakening in a seedy Soho bath house to be sunshine and roses.  Familiar with director Skolimowski only as a screen writer for Wajda (the modish Innocent Sorcerers, a sort of Polish Breathless) and Polanski (the seminal sex and suspense three hander Knife in the Water), I was expecting some Polish tinged darkness in this UK film that received a brief release from Paramount.  True to form, the style and themes of the film reminded me of the seediness, paranoia, claustrophobia and less than healthy and normal human relations in Zulawski’s often surreal The Third Part of the Night, the gloomy UK made and one time Polanski slated project A Day at the Beach, and Polanski’s own The Tenant.  The stylized grotesque but lyrical ending of Deep End is certainly unforgettable (erasing much of the black comedy that precedes it); but must agree with Roger Ebert who noted that the ending was both awkwardly handled and telegraphed (right from the title of the Cat Stevens song used in the opening credits).  On the acting front, Jane Asher (sister to Peter, one time Paul McCartney squeeze) fares much better as the manipulative, sexually confident and brutally honest object of obsession than John Moulder-Brown does as the shy and sexually confused “hero”.  Lots of good stuff in this film but its rep might be a little inflated due to the unavailability effect. 

  • The Road (2009 – John Hillcoat) pro (Theater)
  • A Hatful of Rain (1957 – Fred Zinnemann) pro(-) (cable) (pan and scan)
  • Coup de grace (1976 – Volker Schlöndorff) pro (DVD)

This New German Cinema effort features unrequited love in a turbulent time (civil war in the Baltics circa 1919), with deep seeded psychological effects resulting in politicization by way of broken heart.  The result is more atmospheric than conventionally dramatic; but the ending is a corker – imagine Scarlett O’Hara denouncing the South, embracing the carpetbaggers and asking to be executed by Ashley Wilkes, who then stoically complies.  Margarethe Von Trotta, who co-directed The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum with Schlöndorff, co-wrote the screenplay and stars as the jilted Prussian “white” aristocrat cum “red” rebel with a measured sense of craze. A beautiful looking meticulously constructed film, made in black and white (as was Schlöndorff’s decade earlier first feature Young Törless) but more in a classical style than the Wenders, Fassbinder or Herzog pictures of the period. 

  • The Prisoner (1955 – Peter Glenville) pro(-) (DVD)
  •  These Thousand Hills (1959 – Richard Fleischer) pro (DVD)
  • The Girl Can’t Help It (1956 – Frank Tashlin) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Play Dirty (1968 – Play Dirty) pro(+) (DVD)
  • The Best of Everything (1959 – Jean Negulesco) mixed (DVD)
  • Miracle in the Rain (1956 – Rudolph Mate) pro(+) (cable)
  • Love is a Many -Splendored Thing (1955 – Henry King) con(+) (DVD)
  • Daisy Miller (1974 – Peter Bogdanovich) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Champagne for Caesar (1950 – Richard Whorf) pro(-) (DVD)
  • A Kid for Two Farthings (1955 – Carol Reed) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Shout (1978 – Jerzy Skolimowski) pro (cable)

Polanski / Skolimowski’s Knife in the Water meets Altman’s Images meets Weir’s The Last Wave meets Coppola’s The Conversation? Creepy kooky fun.

  • Shadows (1959 – John Cassavetes) pro(-) (DVD)
  • China Doll (1958 – Frank Borzage) mixed(+) (DVD)

In some ways closer to Sam Fuller than to classic Borzage, at least in look.

  • The Informers (2008 – Gregor Jordan) CON (cable)
  • I Love Melvin (1953 – Don Weis) pro (cable)

A cute, charming, and ebullient minor MGM musical featuring two thirds of the Singin’ in the Rain lead trio.

  • Polytechnique (2009 – Denis Villeneuve) mixed (cable)
  • The Doctor’s Horrible Experiment / Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (1959 – Jean Renoir) mixed(-) (DVD)

Famed French actor/mime Jean-Louis Barrault (Children of Paradise) takes on Jekyll & Hyde in a this late period Renoir for French television.  The performance is a true original and downright bizarre; Chaplin meets a beatnik juvenile delinquent.  No hint of Frederic March or Spencer Tracy here.

  •   The Mating Game (1959 – George Marshall) mixed(+) (cable)
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