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beneath the melted mountain,
seeing life edge by as barren trees,
picket fences enclosing sheep in pens.
the solitude of that earth, that sky
not real, not Summer tourists Christmas picnicing.
The memory was of one steep plain
and a shore where the sea came in
Given time, the ethereal feel of Ole,
a Danish student,
ocean hunting and high on heroin
will trespass as I have trespassed
on his solicitude.
Leaving us, coasters kiss the waves;
the throb of his engines,
the scent of peeling citrus in his galleys.
one of us the slave
the other, a lover
'There's nothing in this world beats a '52 Vincent and a red-headed girl'.
'Remembering all those sons of bitches who said we'd never get back up'
'And a screen without a picture since "Giant" came to town'
Worst Film Critic
Andrew Sarris - I don't know why Andrew Sarris bothered. He seemed to me to be a film critic who didn't like films, just the sound of his own voice as he rubbished almost every decent director in the history of movies in his so-called 'bible' 'The American Cinema'
Best Film Critic
David Thompson - Anyone who doesn't already own a copy of Thompson's 'Biographical Dictionary of the Cinema' should rush out and buy one as Thompson is by far the most enlightened, (and enlightening), critic the movies have seen. While he can puncture the most inflated ego with one cutting remark, unlike Sarris, he actually does seem to love movies and those whom he has championed should be forever in his debt
MY TOP 250 FILMS
1 PSYCHO (Hitchcock 1960)
2 SINGIN IN THE RAIN (Donen/Kelly 1952)
3 VIRIDIANA (Bunuel 1961)
4 PATHER PANCHALI (Ray 1955)
5 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Welles 1942)
6 CITIZEN KANE (Welles 1941)
7 THE GODFATHER PART 2 (Coppolla 1974)
8 THE QUIET MAN (Ford 1952)
9 LES VANCANCES DE M HULOT (Tati 1953)
10 L'AVVENTURRA (Antonioni 1960)
11 DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (Bresson 1950)
12 LA REGLE DE JEU (Renoir 1939)
13 BICYCLE THIEVES (De Sica 1948)
14 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Eisenstien 1925)
15 INTOLERANCE (Griffith 1916)
16 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Kubrick 1968)
17 CASABLANCA (Curtiz 1942)
18 VERTIGO (Hitchcock 1958)
19 THE DEAD (Huston 1987)
20 MADAME DE ... (Ophuls 1953)
21 LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (Carne 1945)
22 THE SEARCHERS (Ford 1956)
23 THE SEVEN SAMURAI (Kurosawa 1954)
24 ORDET (Dryer 1955)
25 PERSONA (Bergman 1966)
26 SALVATORE GUILIANO (Rosi 1961)
27 THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (Lubitsch 1940)
28 LAWERENCE OF ARABIA (Lean 1962)
29 SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (McKendrick 1957)
30 NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Laughton 1955)
31 THE CROWD (Vidor 1928)
32 TOUCH OF EVIL (Welles 1958)
33 THE GODFATHER (Coppolla 1972)
34 LOCAL HERO (Forsyth 1983)
35 DR STRANGELOVE or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (Kubrick 1964)
36 MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Lynch 2001)
37 HEIMAT (Reitz 1984)
38 FANNY AND ALEXANDER (Bergman 1982)
39 THE BAND WAGON (Minelli 1953)
40 EIGHT AND A HALF (Fellini 1963)
41 LES QUATRES CENTS COUPS (Truffaut 1959)
42 BIGGER THAN LIFE (Ray 1956)
43 ALL ABOUT EVE (Mankiewicz 1950)
44 MEET ME IN ST LOUIS (Minelli 1944)
45 ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Almodovar 1999)
46 SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (Riesz 1960)
47 LOS OLVIDADOS (Bunuel 1950)
48 PULP FICTION (Tarantino 1994)
49 THE SEVENTH SEAL (Bergman 1957)
50 FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Fassbinder 1973)
51 THE NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (Fellini 1957)
52 ET - THE EXTRA TERRESTIAL (Spielberg 1982)
53 THE WIZARD OF OZ (Fleming 1939)
54 SOME LIKE IT HOT (Wilder 1959)
55 THE DECALOGUE (Kieslowski 1988)
56 WINGS OF DESIRE (Wenders 1987)
57 LA STRADA (Fellini 1956)
58 A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (Godard 1959)
59 THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Pontecorvo 1965)
60 THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Allen 1985)
61 THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY (Jackson 2001-2003)
62 ANDREI RUBLEV (Tarkovsky 1966)
63 BADLANDS (Mallick 1973)
64 NASHVILLE (Altman 1975)
65 THE PALM BEACH STORY (Sturges 1942)
66 THE THIRD MAN (Reed 1950)
67 O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU (Coen 2000)
68 UGETSU MONOGATARI (Mizoguchi 1953)
69 AMARCORD (Fellini 1973)
70 THE CHILDHOOD OF MAXIM GORKY (Donski 1938)
71 SUNRISE (Murnau 1927)
72 DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES (Davies 1988)
73 TALK TO HER (Almodovar 2001)
74 GONE WITH THE WIND (Fleming 1939)
75 THREE COLOURS RED (Kielowski 1994)
76 HUD (Ritt 1963)
77 A TASTE OF HONEY (Richardson 1961)
78 L'ATALANTE (Vigo 1934)
79 THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (Salles 2004)
80 ETRE ET AVOIR (Philibert 2002)
81 SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (Donen 1954)
82 THE MALTESE FALCON (Huston 1941)
83 SUNSET BOULEVARD (Wilder 1950)
84 THE GRAPES OF WRATH (Ford 1940)
85 BONNIE AND CLYDE (Penn 1967)
86 BLUE VELVET (Lynch 1986)
87 CHINATOWN (Polanski 1974)
88 I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING (Powell/Pressburger 1945)
89 Z (Costa-Gavras 1969)
90 MEAN STREETS (Scorcese 1973)
91 LA GRANDE ILLUSION (Renoir 1938)
92 THE AWFUL TRUTH (McCarey 1937)
93 WALKABOUT (Roeg 1970)
94 BARRY LYNDON (Kubrick 1975)
95 REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Ray 1955)
96 BLOW UP (Antonioni 1966)
97 THE SERVANT (Losey 1963)
98 BAD EDUCATION (Almodovar 2004)
99 YOL (Goren/Guney 1982)
100 THE WAGES OF FEAR (Clouzot 1953)
101 THE WILD BUNCH (Peckinpah 1969)
102 ORPHEE (Cocteau 1950)
103 WENT THE DAY WELL (Cavalcanti 1942)
104 THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (Frankenhimer 1962)
105 THE KING OF COMEDY (Scorcese 1983)
106 LANDSCAPE IN THE MIST (Angelopolus 1988)
107 THE THIN RED LINE (Mallick 1998)
108 ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (Leone 1968)
109 THE 39 STEPS (Hitchcock 1935)
110 BELLVILLE RENDEZVOUS (Chomet 2003)
111 TAXI DRIVER (Scorcese 1976)
112 SHOWBOAT (Whale 1936)
113 NEVER ON SUNDAY (Dassin 1960)
114 LA DOLCE VITA (Fellini 1960)
115 PATHS OF GLORY (Kubrick 1958)
116 APOCOLYPSE NOW (Coppolla 1979)
117 SCHINDLER'S LIST (Spielberg 1993)
118 UNDER FIRE (Spottiswoode 1983)
119 THE PLAYER (Altman 1992)
120 TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Lubitsch 1932)
121 IMITATION OF LIFE (Sirk 1959)
122 DEATH IN VENICE (Visconti 1971)
123 SIDEWAYS (Payne 2004)
124 THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (Bunuel 1972)
125 FAR FROM HEAVEN (Hayes 2002)
126 NORTH BY NORTHWEST (Hitchcock 1959)
127 LA BELLE ET LA BETE (Cocteau 1946)
128 CITY LIGHTS (Chaplin 1931)
129 TOY STORY (Lasseter 1995)
130 ADVISE AND CONSENT (Preminger 1962)
131 JESUS OF MONTREAL (Arcand 1989)
132 THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (Arnold 1957)
133 ACCATONE (Pasolini 1961)
134 AMORES PERROS (Inarritu 2000)
135 VERA DRAKE (Leigh 2004)
136 LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (Resnais 1961)
137 ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (Sirk 1955)
138 L'ENFANT SAUVAGE (Truffaut 1970)
139 THE GOLD RUSH (Chaplin 1925)
140 THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS (Angelopolous 1975)
141 RIO BRAVO (Hawks 1959)
142 GOODFELLAS (Scorcese 1990)
143 EL (Bunuel 1953)
144 THE SUN SHINES BRIGHT (Ford 1953)
145 MANHATTEN (Allen 1979)
146 DOG DAY AFTERNOON (Lumet 1975)
147 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Spielberg 1977)
148 LOST IN TRANSLATION (Coppolla 2004)
149 BRIEF ENCOUNTER (Lean 1946)
150 A STAR IS BORN (Cukor 1954)
151 LAURA (Preminger 1944)
152 THE APARTMENT (Wilder 1960)
153 ORDINARY PEOPLE (Redford 1980)
154 MAGNOLIA (Anderson 1999)
155 LAND AND FREEDOM (Loach 1995)
156 THE HAIRDRESSER'S HUSBAND (Leconte 1990)
157 THE GENERAL (Keaton 1927)
158 DINER (Levinson 1982)
159 NUIT ET BROUILLARD (Resnais 1955)
160 WHERE IS MY FRIEND'S HOUSE (Kiarostami 1987)
161 DO THE RIGHT THING (Lee 1989)
162 LES PARENTS TERRIBLES (Cocteau 1948)
163 ALEXANDER NEVSKY (Eisenstien 1938)
164 STRIKE (Eisenstien 1924)
165 THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY (Loach 2006)
166 TARNATION (Caouette 2004)
167 THE NEW WORLD (Mallick 2005)
168 ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (Hawks 1939)
169 CLAIRE'S KNEE (Rohmer 1970)
170 PINOCCHIO (Sharpstien/Luske 1940)
171 UNFORGIVEN (Eastwood 1992)
172 STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (Hitchcock 1951)
173 THE PRODUCERS (Brooks 1968)
174 SHANE (Stevens 1953)
175 SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (Bergman 1955)
176 RAISE THE RED LANTERN (Yimou 1991)
177 THRONE OF BLOOD (Kurosawa 1957)
178 BELLE DE JOUR (Bunuel 1967)
179 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (Scorcese 1993)
180 HEAVEN'S GATE (Cimino 1980)
181 HAPPINESS (Solondz 1998)
182 COMME UNE IMAGE (Jaoui 2004)
183 ROBIN AND MARIAN (Lester 1976)
184 A ROOM WITH A VIEW (Ivory 1985)
185 THE TIN DRUM (Schlondorff 1979)
186 TEA AND SYMPATHY (Minelli 1956)
187 FEDORA (Wilder 1978)
188 ALPHAVILLE (Godard 1965)
189 THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (Bogdanovitch 1971)
190 MAN OF ARAN (Flaherty 1934)
191 THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Cukor 1940)
192 RAGING BULL (Scorcese 1980)
193 MAN OF MARBLE (Wajda 1977)
194 KISS ME DEADLY (Aldrich 1955)
195 AMERICA AMERICA (Kazan 1963)
196 JOHNNY GUITAR (Ray 1954)
197 NOTORIOUS (Hitchcock 1946)
198 IF ... (Anderson 1968)
199 PERFORMANCE (Roeg/Cammell 1970)
200 SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (Sturges 1941)
201 STAGECOACH (Ford 1939)
202 ON THE WATERFRONT (Kazan 1954)
203 WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (Nichols 1966)
204 THE PASSENGER (Antonioni 1975)
205 GROUNDHOG DAY (Ramis 1993)
205 KING KONG (Jackson 2005)
207 ROSEMARY'S BABY (Polanski 1968)
208 PARIS TEXAS (Wenders 1984)
209 LORD OF THE FLIES (Brooks 1963)
210 THE BIRDS (Hitchcock 1963)
211 THE NIGHT OF SAN LORENZO (Tavianni 1981)
212 THE HUSTLER (Rossen 1961)
213 WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Aldrich 1962)
214 AI: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Spielberg 2001)
215 ROME, OPEN CITY (Rossellini 1945)
216 BRINGING UP BABY (Hawks 1938)
217 WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (Almodovar 1988)
218 SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS (Kazan 1961)
219 THE WOMEN (Cukor 1939)
220 THE HAPPIEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE (Launder 1950)
221 GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (Hawks 1953)
222 THE WAR GAME (Watkins 1966)
223 MILDRED PIERCE (Curtiz 1945)
224 MYSTIC RIVER (Eastwood 2003)
225 JACKIE BROWN (Tarantino 1997)
226 DINNER AT EIGHT (Cukor 1933)
227 YOUNG FRANKENSTIEN (Brooks 1974)
228 AGUIRRE, WRATH OF GOD (Herzog 1972)
229 FREAKS (Browning 1932)
230 SEPTEMBER (Allen 1987)
231 12 ANGRY MEN (Lumet 1957)
232 HIGH NOON (Zinneman 1952)
233 BLACK NARCISSUS (Powell/Pressburger (1946)
234 WOMAN IN THE DUNES (Teshigahara 1963)
235 THE RED SHOES (Powell/Pressburger 1948)
236 INTERIORS (Allen 1978)
237 GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (LeRoy 1933(
238 THE LAST WALTZ (Scorcese 1978)
239 THE HOUSE OF MIRTH (Davies 2000)
240 PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (Ross 1981)
241 TOPSY-TURVY (Leigh 1999)
242 BREAKING THE WAVES (Von Trier 1996)
243 JOUR DE FETE (Tati 1947)
244 OUR HOSPITALITY (Keaton 1923)
245 SEVEN CHANCES (Keaton 1925)
246 THE INNOCENTS (Clayton 1961)
247 THE WIND (Sjostrom 1928)
248 THE BIG HEAT (Lang 1953)
249 FIVE EASY PIECES (Rafelson 1970)
250 THE NUN'S STORY (Zinneman 1959)
MY 20 GREATEST DIRECTORS
1 ALFRED HITCHCOCK (96 votes)
2 FEDERICO FELLINI (95 votes)
3 JOHN FORD (81 votes)
4 LUIS BUNUEL (78 votes)
5 STANLEY KUBRICK (76 votes)
6 INGMAR BERGMAN (74 votes)
7 MARTIN SCORCESE (73 votes)
8 ORSON WELLES (72 votes)
9 FRANCIS FORD COPPOLLA (61 votes)
10 PEDRO ALMODOVAR (59 votes)
10 STEVEN SPIELBERG (59 votes)
12 BILLY WILDER (54 votes)
13 VINCENTE MINNELLI (50 votes)
14 DAVID LYNCH (49 votes)
15 MICHEALGELO ANTONIONI (46 votes)
16 TERRENCE MALICK (43 votes)
16 NICHOLAS RAY (43 votes)
18 STANLEY DONEN (42 votes)
18 SERGEI EISENSTIEN (42 votes)
20 JOHN HUSTON (41 votes)
Nobody does vegetables like me. I did a whole evening of vegetables Off-Broadway
Don't fuck with me fellas; this ain't my first time at the rodeo
Hell of a thing killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist
This is your great winter romance, isn't it? Your last roar of passion before you settle into your emeritus years.
First we'll have an orgy then we'll go see Tony Bennett.
Morons! I've got morons on my team! Nobody is going to rob us going DOWN the mountain
The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter
Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!
I love the smell of napalm in the morning
Keep your friends close but your enemies closer
I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk
Top 12 Films of 2006 in alphabetical order:
BEFORE SUNSET (Linklater) - seen for first time
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (Lee)
THE DEPARTED (Scorcese)
L'ENFANT (Dardenne Brothers)
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (Dayton and Faris)
PAN'S LABYRINTH (Del Toro)
SPIRITED AWAY (Miyazaki) - seen for first time
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (Baumbach)
UNITED 93 (Greengrass)
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY (Loach)
The 100 greatest performances
1 Marlon Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT
2 Albert Finney in SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING
3 Bette Davis in ALL ABOUT EVE
4 Orson Welles in CITIZEN KANE
5 Laurence Olivier in RICHARD 111
6 Monica Vitti in L'AVVENTURRA
7 Celia Johnston in BRIEF ENCOUNTER
8 James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
9 Peter O'Toole in LAWERENCE OF ARABIA
10 Katharine Hepburn in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
11 Robert DeNiro in TAXI DRIVER
12 Anthony Perkins in PSYCHO
13 Jane Fonda in KLUTE
14 Michael Redgrave in THE BROWNING VERSION
15 Daniel Day-Lewis in MY LEFT FOOT
16 Geraldine Page in INTERIORS
17 Alec Guiness in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
18 Emily Watson in BREAKING THE WAVES
19 Al Pacino in THE GODFATHER PART 2
20 Agnes Moorehead in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS
21 Marlon Brando in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
22 Elizabeth Taylor in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
23 Robert DeNiro in MEAN STREETS
24 Lila Kedrova in ZORBA THE GREEK
25 Jack Lemmon in MISSING
26 Alec Guiness in KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS
27 Al Pacino in DOG DAY AFTERNOON
28 Robert DeNiro in RAGING BULL
29 Dirk Bogarde in THE SERVANT
30 Jean Louis Barrault in LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS
Visually gorgeous but much too slow for its own good.
Visually, Don Palathara's film "Seed" has much more in common with the cinema of the great Satyajit Ray than it does to what we know as Bollywood. Unfortunately what it lacks is Ray's ability to engage with his characters or to make us feel involved in what is happening to them. It may be visually very beautiful, (he shoots it in black and white and often in single takes with very little cutting), but it is also very, very slow; a look at his inspirations on the final credits will tell you all you need to know.
What his camera does is observe at great length people doing very little, (a masturbation scene is nicely 'out of place' but he films it off-screen). What it most closely resembles is a documentary about nothing in particular which is a pity as Palathara has a remarkably good eye and this might have made a great 30-minute film had he not dragged it out to feature length so that ultimately even our admiration for his skills starts to pall quite early on. Still, I am keen on seeing where he will go from here. An art-house crowd who like those 'inspirations' might lap this up but Palathara needs to be his own man.
Xiang ai xiang qin (2017)
A gem that cries out to be seen.
Sylvia Chang's glorious film "Love Education" deals with the kind of subjects cinema often ignores or simply uses for purely dramatic effect, namely life, death, the passing of time, the past, the present and the conflict between generations though I admit not too many of us work in the media and have a family crisis blown up on television as a major news story. Indeed, the initial premise of the film may seem far-fetched but Chang, who also co-wrote the picture as well as playing one of the leading roles, treats the central subject, not to mention a couple of subplots involving her daughter's singer boyfriend and an unruly schoolboy, in such a low-key, off-hand manner that the film feels both realistic and utterly charming.
Chang plays, (and not all that sympathetically, either), a school-teacher who wants to move her father's grave from the country to the city so that her recently deceased mother can be buried with him. The problem is he had been married before and his first wife insists on guarding his grave like a bulldog. To make matters worse Chang's daughter, who works on television, has filmed a graveside altercation between the two older women that has gone public.
Despite moving into the territory of reality television this remains a film about ordinary people living ordinary lives and it's a wonderful picture of life in contemporary China where the past and the present seem to collide on an almost daily basis and where bureaucracy defeats even the best of intentions. The performances by everyone are outstanding and the film is funny and deeply moving in equal measure. In fact, this is a gem that cries out for a much wider distribution than it is currently getting.
The Mating Season (1951)
A real feelgood movie.
This farce may not be the best thing Mitchell Leisen ever did but it's a charmer nevertheless and it gave Thelma Ritter one of her best roles as well as having a cracker of a script from Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard L. Breen. It's the old mistaken identity plot with Ritter, who happens to be the mother of new groom John Lund, being mistaken for the hired help by Lund's new socialite wife, Gene Tierney. Don't even think of asking how this happens; farces are never founded on realism. Best you just sit back and enjoy what ensues and savor three first-rate comic performances from Ritter, Tierney, (an excellent light comedienne), and Miriam Hopkins as Tierney's snob of a mother. Only Lund, never much of an actor, (he only made 28 films and retired in 1962), lets the side down. Otherwise, "The Mating Season" is a real treat of a feelgood movie.
Cold in July (2014)
Violent yes, but very enjoyable.
When Richard Dane, (Michael C. Hall), shoots and kills a burglar his life, and that of his family, comes under threat from the dead man's father, (a grizzled and menacing-looking Sam Shepard), or so it would seem because Jim Mickle's excellent thriller "Cold in July" doesn't quite go in the direction we expect. It was adapted from a novel by Joe R. Lansdale but it could have come from Jim Thompson. It's also beautifully acted by Hall, Shepard and Don Johnson as a very unconventional private detective. It's certainly pulp fiction; it might have even been a B-Movie once upon a time, now given a high gloss finish. Very enjoyable, even if the violence may not be to everyone's taste.
The Miracle of the Bells (1948)
The real miracle is anyone went to see this.
Hollywood piety; the worst kind. Russell Janney's novel "The Miracle of the Bells" was a big bestseller but this screen version came out of RKO, a studio not famed for their blockbusters and the director was Irving Pichel who was hardly a name to conjure with. It might have launched Alida Valli as a major star had it been more successful. She plays a young actress cast as Joan of Arc, who dies of TB the day after the picture is completed. Fred MacMurray is the press agent who loved her and who brings her body back home for burial while a highly unlikely Frank Sinatra is cast as a poverty row priest.
The title really gives the game away; you see, Valli isn't just playing a fine actress but a deeply religious one as well and it's hardly a mere coincidence that her only film role was playing a saint while MacMurray's idea to have all the local church bells ring continuously for three days and nights is both a tribute and a marketing ploy and if there's anything good about the present picture it's MacMurray who rises above the cloying sentimentality, proving once again he was one of the most underrated actors in movies. Valli looks beautiful but is defeated by the material. The real miracle is that the book sold and the movie found some kind of audience.
Tobacco Road (1941)
Certainly not Ford's finest hour.
When John Ford filmed "Tobacco Road" in 1941 the play was still running on Broadway. It opened in 1933 and even today only "Life with Father" has had a longer run for a non-musical production. It was based on Erskine Caldwell's risque novel about dirt-poor Southern farmers and after his success with "The Grapes of Wrath" Ford might have seemed like a fairly obvious choice for the film version but Caldwell was not Steinbeck and this was no "Grapes of Wrath".
It's tolerable enough but Charley Grapewin's old codger Jeeter, a supporting character now given centre screen, gets on your nerves very quickly. In fact, everyone in this picture gets on your nerves very quickly, (they are all portrayed as greedy imbeciles). William Tracy is terrible as the son and a youthful Gene Tierney, (it was only her second film), is totally miscast as sex-pot Ellie May. If Marjorie Rambeau is a little less grating as Sister Bessie it's perhaps because she, at least, is trying to underplay her part and only the great Elizabeth Patterson comes out of this with any dignity. In other words, it's certainly nobody's finest hour, (except perhaps cinematographer Arthur Miller), and Ford's least of all. The only real surprise about it is how it was ever a hit in the first place.
A feminist take on a male-orientated genre
Nicole Kidman with 'ugly' make-up, (a little over-applied, if you ask me), is the LA detective with issues out to catch the demonic villain from her past and who was responsible for screwing up her life. This means we jump back in time to when Kidman was a much prettier young undercover detective, (this time made up to look much younger than her actual 51 years), infiltrating said villain's gang, a mission that leads to a heist that goes badly wrong. Catching Silas now, (for that is the name of the said villain played grimly by Toby Kebbell), will, she hopes, lead to closure of a sort.
As a crime movie Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer" is slow and detailed with a couple of beautifully executed action sequences. The fact that in the present day sequences Kidman is working alone and with impunity might make it feel a little less credible than if she had a partner but that's a minor quibble in a movie that has a touch of the Michael Mann's about it while Kidman is always good value for money. Nice too to see a feminist take on what is usually a fundamentally male-orientated genre even if it could to with a trim here and there.
Queen of Earth (2015)
The best psychological horror movie I've seen in a very long time.
Alex Ross Perry takes his cue from both Altman's "3 Women" and the films of Ingmar Bergman for this tale of two women in isolation, both geographically and emotionally. "Queen of Earth" finds Catherine, (Elisabeth Moss), and Virginia, (Katherine Waterston), holed up together at a lakeside house after an event in Catherine's life leaves her bereft. Perry shoots it largely in close-up so there's no respite; this is as up close and personal as it gets and both Moss and Waterston are magnificent.
Naturally, it's a very claustrophobic little picture, airless and suffocating despite the sunlight and its deceptive warmth and it's clear from the first close-up of Moss' tear-stained face that stability isn't really her forte and as the film progresses, jumping back and forth in time, it soon becomes clear you wouldn't want to spend time with either of these women.
It's also brilliantly written by Perry in that literary style we've become accustomed to. Indeed, this is one of those films you might actually want to read and it's clear it's not aimed at what we might call 'a general audience', (even more than "Listen Up, Philip" this is 'New Yorker Art-House'), and even at a compact 90 minutes it's a fairly gruelling experience, like being a fly on the wall at someone's psychoanalysis. Consequently, it is both disturbing and a masterclass in acting and the best psychological horror movie I have seen in a very long time.
The Great Gabbo (1929)
Entertaining if somewhat prehistoric
This is the one in which Erich von Stroheim plays the crazy ventriloquist controlled by his dummy. He's "The Great Gabbo" and, as befits Mr von Stroheim, he's completely over the top but then OTT was what made him famous, in film and in life. The movie itself is entertaining enough, even if it goes down the musical-comedy route and isn't the chiller we might have expected. Betty Compson is fine as the girl Gabbo is in love with and who drives him to even greater levels of distraction than he might otherwise have reached.
The Walking Stick (1970)
A little-known and surprisingly good psychological thriller.
Based on a Winston Graham novel, (he of "Marnie" fame), Eric Till's "The Walking Stick" is, perhaps surprisingly, a good psychological thriller that came and went without too many people seeing it. Okay, Till was no Hitchcock, (this was only his second feature after the excellent, and again little-seen and underrated, "Hot Millions"), and the film does suffer from a little too much soft-focus prettiness at times but he does make great use of his London locations, draws first-rate performances from leads David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar and ensures the thriller plot builds to a reasonably satisfactory climax.
Eggar is the girl whose early polio means she has to use the walking stick of the title and Hemmings is the not particularly good painter she meets at a party. They start a romance but then she begins to suspect he may not be all that he first seemed. Others caught up in proceedings include Emlyn Williams as Hemmings' shady 'patron' and Phyllis Calvert as Eggar's somewhat aloof mother. It's certainly no classic but it is also much better than its original reputation might have suggested and is worth seeking out.
A masterpiece or the most boring film ever made?
Certainly not 'a biopic', either of the composer or of his wife, who narrates most of it, Huillet and Straub's film "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" concentrates almost entirely on Bach's music, of which we hear a great deal, and is told in what really amounts to a series of tableaux of said music being performed, interspersed with stills of journal pages, sheet music, drawings etc. It takes around forty minutes for Bach himself to speak and for 'the actors' to appear. It is, in other words, not so much a film as an illustrated album of some of Bach's greatest hits and is either a source of great pleasure to lovers of his work or the most boring film ever made, (you might prefer simply to listen to the recordings). Of course, lacking in 'dramatic' structure it may also be the greatest film 'about' a classical composer ever made since the directors let nothing stand in the way of the music. In some quarters, I have seen it described as a masterpiece.
Black Dynamite (2009)
I just wish this had gone further and had been funnier.
This parody of Blaxploitation films strives to be funny but what you need from a movie like this are the kind of belly laughs you would get from Mel Brooks or the 'Airplane' movies. I suppose you could say it's just as tasteless which, in my book, is at least a brownie point in its favour. Scott Sanders made it in 2009, which was only 10 years ago, but I wonder if a project like this would still get the green light today.
Michael Jai White is "Black Dynamite", (think 'Shaft'), out to avenge the murder of his brother and running up against every stereotypical character there is in the Blaxploitation and crime canon. It looks cheap despite the clever use of the split screen, (very seventies), but then the cheap look and bad acting are at least intentional and I certainly welcomed the lack of political correctness. I just wish it had gone further and was actually funnier.
Mike's Murder (1984)
The vacuous lives of some of the vacuous inhabitants of Los Angeles. James Bridges film "Mike's Murder" was supposedly based on a real case but it's so poorly executed it's difficult to care about Mike, his murder or anyone else involved. Debra Winger was the name used to sell the film but it didn't work and the film flopped. Mike was the talentless young actor Mark Keyloun who shortly afterwards gave up acting; it's just a pity he didn't think about doing it sooner.
After peaking with "The China Syndrome", Bridges' career never really took off either. He only made two more films after this and was dead from cancer within ten years. You get the impression he thought he was making something akin to a European art-movie, (he originally wanted to do the film in reverse), That may or may not have made it more interesting but I doubt it; I think this one is beyond redemption.
The Talk of the Town (1942)
One of the most enjoyable films of its year.
A farcial, grown-up rom-com, very typical of its period, the early forties, and what might be called a prestige production. Cary Grant is the escaped convict and suspected arsonist, Ronald Colman is the stuffy law professor who comes to his aid and Jean Arthur, the girl who is the object of both their affections. George Stevens was the director at a time when a George Stevens movie was a sure sign of quality and he draws terrific performances from all three leads. He also succeeds in subverting the semi-serious plot to great comic effect, making this one of the most enjoyable pictures of 1942, (it was nominated for seven Oscars). Not seen much these days but it cries out for a good revival.
Les frères Sisters (2018)
An instant classic.
"The Sisters Brothers" is a revisionist western directed by a Frenchman but it feels like a classic; the idiom may be 'modern' but it's a film that will fit in any list of great westerns thanks to a terrific script, a terrific cast and the direction of that Frenchman, Jacques Audiard and I haven't even mentioned the superb cinematography of Benoit Debie.
The brothers of the title are a couple of paid killers and their story runs parallel with that of Jake Gyllenhaal's more urbane killer as they all journey west in pursuit of a gold prospector who allegedly stole from the man who is paying them to hunt said prospector down. It's the kind of western Anthony Mann or even Budd Boetticher might have made but given a nice post-modernist twist by our knowledge of the western as a genre and of how cinema itself has developed since the western first appeared. The plot may be actually quite thin but is still sufficiently different from most westerns and Audiard does get terrific performances from his cast.
The title roles are played by Joaquin Phoenix as the laconic, laid back brother and John C. Reilly as his more thoughtful and seemingly slower sibling and both actors do some of the best work of their careers in these roles while Gyllenhaal underplays beautifully the other hunter who befriends his prey, a superb Riz Ahmed. Here we have a quartet of great performances that far outweigh a lot of what is winning Oscars these days.
The pace of the picture may be slow, as slow at times as the brothers hunt for their quary, but it captures beauifully a sense of the past that many contemporary westerns have denied us. These towns and their inhabitants look very much like the real thing and the landscapes reek of authenticity even though the whole film was shot in Europe. Should we ask more of a genre that has been around as long as cinema itself? The pleasures you get from watching a movie like "The Sisters Brothers" may be manifold but mostly they are the pleasures you get from watching a film you know is head and shoulders above most of what else is out there. See this.
A real charmer.
"American Graffiti"-lite. "The Myth of the American Sleepover" is about what boys and girls get up to on a summer's night and no, it's not what you might expect if you rely solely on the movies for your information. The closest they get to sex is a bit of petting; they drink beer and vodka but stop short of getting drunk and 'fighting' is limited to an egg and a slap being thrown. This was David Robert Mitchell's first film and it's a real charmer. Nothing happens but his delightful young and untried cast make spending time in their company a real pleasure and Mitchell is content just to let them be themselves. There are no dramas and nothing bad happens. This is a movie to make us think back to our own youth and smile.
The most boring film ever made.
"Drift" is a film of all-encompassing boredom; watching it makes watching paint dry seem like a ride on a rollercoaster. It has two characters, both women, who start off together then drift apart, (geddit?), as they drift across seas which drift ... well, wherever seas drift, I guess. They don't say much and director Helena Wittmann's camera watches them...drifting. As an exercise in 'pure' film-making, (nothing feels 'constructed', every image is simply 'as it is', held at times for what feels like an eternity), it is certainly honest and perhaps even fascinating if you can get past the fact that absolutely nothing whatsoever happens but there's no denying that many of the images have their own beauty. Of course, it's also massively self-indulgent, a well-made home-movie that Wittmann has inflicted on the rest of us. I think I would have preferred to watch paint dry.
Sans toit ni loi (1985)
One of Varda's best films
We know from the very beginning the fate of Sandrine Bonnaire's Mona, the "Vagabond" of the title in Agnes Varda's magnificent film. She's dead, a frozen corpse in a ditch and then, in flashbacks, we see how she got there. Varda never passes judgment and "Vagabond", like her very best films, is a work of observation. As well as a handful of professional actors she uses the people of the towns and villages Bonnaire passes through, giving the film an air of reality while Bonnaire herself is simply superb.
Varda doesn't require her to do anything but exist and it's a very 'un-actressy' performance, closer to real life than to what we are used to seeing in the movies. Now and again the film dips into the conventional as if Varda is trying to put some meat on its bones but for the most part, this is a remarkable work and one of the best of its director's career.
Richard III (1955)
The best Shakespearean performance on film
It may not be the best film of a Shakespeare play but surely there is no better Shakespearean performance on film than Laurence Olivier's "Richard III". He had already done "Henry V" and "Hamlet" on screen, winning Oscars for both, (an Honorary one for his "Henry V"), but 'Richard ...' was always considered the lesser, more fanciful play with an Elizabethan Godfather in charge yet Olivier made it his own, creating a Richard by which all others would be judged.
It's less 'cinematic' than either "Henry V" or "Hamlet", (the sets look like sets), but here 'the play's the thing' and Olivier cast it perfectly. Knights Gielgud and Hardwicke are quickly dispatched as Clarence and Edward but Ralph Richardson is a magnificently malevolent Buckingham, Mary Kerridge, a magnificent Queen Elizabeth and Claire Bloom, a sublime Lady Anne. It is also one of the most accessible of all Shakespeare adaptations; Shakespeare for those who don't like Shakespeare and a 'thriller' that genuinely thrills.
Kiss of Death (1947)
A classic of its kind.
As a jobbing director Henry Hathaway was one of the best in the business and his best films, like this one, are classics of their kind. He made "Kiss of Death" in 1947 and shot it on location and it's a humdinger of a picture. Victor Mature, (surprisingly excellent), is the star and he's ably backed by Brian Donleavy and Coleen Gray but it's Richard Widmark, making his screen debut as the young psychopath Tommy Udo, who walks off with the picture, picking up an Oscar nomination on the way.
This is the movie in which a giggling Widmark pushes Mildred Dunnock, in a wheelchair, down a flight of stairs making him one of the most loved and despised villains in the movies. The first-rate screenplay was written by Beh Hecht and Charles Lederer and the excellent black and white cinematography was by the undervalued Norbert Brodine. The theme of a crook who squeals might now be read as a comment on what was happening in Hollywood at the time though this has never proved to be as controversial as "On the Waterfront" would finally become.
The Big Gamble (1961)
Decent enough Saturday matinee fare.
Not one of Richard Fleischer's happiest projects, (he complained Producer Darryl F. Zanuck insisted on coming to Africa with the crew and kept interfering). It's a romp that doesn't really romp; an African adventure that's played too broadly and in desperate need of a script, (Irwin Shaw did the screenplay and it wasn't his finest hour). Stephen Boyd is the brash, arrogant Irishman who heads to the Ivory Coast with French wife Juliette Greco and Irish cousin David Wayne in the hope of starting up a trucking business. Needless to say, things don't go too well.
There are a few good set-pieces as well as too much local colour and the opening scenes in Dublin are now of some historical interest in showing how a city can change in fifty years. Ideal for a wet Saturday afternoon is about the best you can say for it.
Le bonheur (1965)
A small gem of a picture
Even as early as "Le Bonheur", you could tell that Agnes Varda was born to make documentaries. This slight, if extremely beautiful, little film is an everyday tale of adultery, of a man happy, and in love with, not one woman but two, his wife and the mother of his children and his mistress. For most of its length, until near the end when a tragedy occurs, it's not a film full of drama. The title says it all; the husband is guilt-free and happy and Varda's use of colour expresses that. Even that tragedy is expressed very matter-of-factly.
It's also like a documentary in that Varda uses untried actors, (it was Jean-Claude Drouot's first film), and simply observes them in a series of everyday situations in which very little actually happens, just like life and it becomes clear quite early on that observation is everything for Varda, (the long opening sequence of a summer picnic is a stunner). When I say the film is slight I don't mean in form or construction or even in content but in attitude. Varda views the world with great simplicity and the closest she comes to being critical is simply to say that perhaps happiness isn't all it's cut out to be after all. A small gem of a picture.
She-Man: A Story of Fixation (1967)
Jaw-droppingly awful; "She-Man: A Story of Fixation" is another Z-movie out to shock, in this case with a tale of transvestism and lesbians. It was directed by Bob Clark; yes, the same Bob Clark who made "Porky's" and at 66 minutes it certainly doesn't outstay its welcome. If you haven't heard of it, that's understandable as it's unlikely to have seen the light of day outside of those cinemas that were once popular in London's Soho and New York's 42nd Street. It may aim for seriousness but settles instead for sleaze and the kind of production values you might associate with a horror film of the trashiest kind as if 'she-men' were just one step away from vampires. A curio, then, but one that now seems positively prehistoric and definitely a must to avoid.
A real gem
Sean Baker's 2015 film "Tangerine" is an absolute gem. It's fiction but it could be fact as we get a glimpse of the seamier side of LA on Christmas Eve as Baker follows a couple of transgender hookers aound, one of whom is looking for her unfaithful boyfriend. Then there's the Armenian cabdriver just looking for what, in less enlightened times, might have been called, 'a chick with a dick'. It's funny but mostly it's sad and, as one of the hookers, has in Mya Taylor, a real find. It's not an easy watch but it established Baker as a director of considerable promise, a promise effortlessly fulfilled with "The Florida Project", making him one of the most exciting talents in the independent section right now.
Not really a very 'nice' film but typical of its director.
No-one could ever accuse Todd Solondz of making 'nice' films. From the very beginning, he has dealt with the harshest of subjects but with what seems like the 'sickest' sense of humor. The sexuality of children is often to the fore with his 'Wiener' films being perhaps the most misanthropic.
"Palindromes" begins with a dedication to the fictional Dawn Wiener but then takes up the story of Aviva, played by a variety of performers of varying ages, both male and female, (you couldn't say Solondz isn't an 'equal opportunities' director), with a series of loosely linked sketches passing for a plot like some kind of warped fairytale. It's certainly original but flimsy and Solondz's cynicism often leaves a very sour taste. Ultimately there isn't much here to get your teeth into and I can't say I really cared for it.