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Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
I'm just saying...
All this Marvel movies are not my kind of film, I grant you that but the comments and box office bonanza, plus the eclectic cast made me think I couldn't ignore it and I didn't. To make matters a bit edgier I escorted to the movie a great movie lover born in the 1940's. She remembers going to see Ben-Hur the day it opened and one of her favorite films of all time is "2001 A Space Odyssey" As we were leaving the theater after the two and a half hours of the Avengers, my guest had two immediate comments. "I have a headache" and "I didn't understand anything" and we as we sat for dinner, the subject of Avengers was hardly touched. We talk about a small independent British film "God's Own Country" that blow up our minds. We didn't talk about the cast or performances in the Avengers - and acting is one of our favorite subjects - because in fact there are no performances in Avengers but a lot of posing, you know? posing and delivering a line that sounds a bit like a recording. The film is breaking box office records around the world and the audience at our screening truly loved it, even applauded at the end so, it's just us. Unlike my guest I didn't developed a headache but I must say, I didn't understand anything.
Time is already telling us.
Stanley Kubrick's Lolita dates back to 1962, 56 years ago and the film is as alive and pungent as it ever was. Adrian Lyne's Lolita is only 21 and it's already forgotten. Jeremy Irons is very good but it doesn't have any of the embarrassing self awareness of James Mason's Humbert Humbert. James Mason was monumental. Then, Kubrick has Shelley Winters as Mrs. Haze - in my book, her best performance - she's a jarring human spectacle. superb. Lyne chose Melanie Griffith in what very well be her worst performance and one of the worst in any movie, ever. Kubrick had Peter Sellers and his performance is already part of film legend. Frank Langella is a bit of a shock in Lyne's version, not the good kind. And then Lolita herself Stanley Kubrick had Sue Lyon and although she was a bit older than Navokov's Lolita, she is sensational. The innocent temptress and destroyer. In Lyne's version, Dominique Swain is pretty and crushingly obvious. Kubrick's version is a masterpiece, exciting to be able to say that 56 years later.
Death Wish (2018)
Deaf, blind and dead inside
A remake of Michael Winner's Death Wish, that in itself is kind of depressing. How can the filmmakers be so unaware of the times we're living in or maybe they are not, unaware. If they know what they're doing then it's just unforgivable. But if one tries to put all that aside and try to see it just as a movie without any deep or ugly intentions, still doesn't work. No, not for a moment. We've all seen it before, a million times. and much, much better.
La comunidad (2000)
Oh the neighbors, the neighbors!
A terrific dark tale by Alex De La Iglesia with a phenomenal Carmen Maura. The film is a crazy relative of Polanski's "The Tenant" and Donovan's Apartment Zero" It takes the sinister neighbors from those two masterpieces and creates something unique. Tension and laughter alternate and commingle in a constant state of euphoria. Compelling viewing for lovers of dark comedies, this is one of the most surprising and entertaining I've seen in a long time.
De rouille et d'os (2012)
There Is Something About Marion
What a remarkable performance! Marion Cotillard as an actress, as an artist goes as far here as very few actresses have gone before - Total and utter truth no matter how wrenching - Maria Falconetti in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice, Anna Magnani in Bellissima and very few others, now, for me, Marion Cotillard in Rust And Bone belongs right up there among the sublime. Here I should be commenting on the film and my comment is all about her because Rust And Bone is her, Marion Cotillard. Her co-star, totally new to me, Matthias Schoenaerts, is superb as the handsome, unwitting agent provocateur. Not to be missed.
Bertolucci's favorite Hitchcock
To find out that Bernardo Bertolucci, the director of Last Tango In Paris, loves Marnie makes a lot of sense, to me anyway. If you think about it, Last Tango In Paris could have been a Hitchcock movie. An American in Paris meets a young girl, they have sex without knowing anything about each other and ends up in murder. Marnie is truly perverse and Sean Connery's obsession for Tippi Hedren is infinitely more perverse than whatever poor Tippi Hedren suffers from. He is turned on by her rejection. The kiss during the gelid honeymoon stays inches away from necrophilia. right?. The script is just delicious. Sean Connery goes for the troublesome center of his character, yes he does, whether consciously or unconsciously. Tippi Hedren is terrific here and with all the things we know now about the making of the movie her performance has acquired some extra something. Diane Baker as the scorned sister in law is a delight. So here we are, talking about a movie made 53 years ago. Time does extraordinary things.
Jane and Banche in the real world.
Why was I thinking that it couldn't work? Maybe because it never does. But "Bette and Joan" present us with that always welcome exception. The introduction of this two icons has sharpness and shine. Both walking a very tight rope. Joan with desperation, Bette with defiance. It is a terrific treat to see Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon going for the real centers rather than the caricature. Alfred Molina is priceless as Robert Aldrich and Stanley Tucci reinvents Jack Warner to a delightful perfection. The late entrance of Joan/Jessica at the theater where Bette/Susan is playing in The Night Of The Iguana is one of my favorite film moments of the young 2017 season. Now, needles to say, I can't wait for the next chapter.
La La Land (2016)
For The Love Of Movies
Damien Chazelle is a young director who loves and knows movies, from Federico Fellini to Jacques Demy. Hallellujah! Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone go back to inspire us forward. What's more surprising than anything else is the feel of amateurishness in the dancing in the singing. So refreshing not to have a sleek but empty experience. Damian Chazelle' Whiplash was a brilliant preview of forthcoming attractions. I would love to see a thriller directed by Chazelle, something like Shadow Of A Doubt or even a glossy damsel in distress story like Midnight Lace. That's what happens when we discover a new and startling talent. You want to see him do everything. I have a feeling this young artist will.
Three One Everything
When a film comes out and you know next to nothing about it with a director you don't know and a cast of mostly unknowns and it blows you away like it did me. Then I know I'm confronted by something unique. In fact it was director/writer Martin Donovan who wrote about Moonlight, urging all his actors to run and see it. Thank you sir. The faces of those three young men who are just one did something to my brain and to my heart. The best group of actors I've seen in one single film in a long, long time. The big surprise is that we knew it all along. It's all about love and what it means to be a man. Thank you Barry Jenkisns A revolutionary film made of truth and beauty.
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Undercooked but tasty
The Coen Brothers are heroes of mine. They travel from universe to universe remaining true to themselves. Hail, Caesar should have been , I thought, a familiar universe for them but they seem lost. A journey without a clear destination. There are, of course, a few pleasures along the road. The scene between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Finnes is a gem. Alden Ehrenreich is a breath of fresh air with vintage breezes that are exciting, compelling and totally disarming. The tap dance routine with Channing Tatum is also a lot of fun even if I can't quite get Channing Tatum. Great body and he can dance but he seems to be somewhere else. Impossible to connect on the screen with him. I hear he gets millions of dollars per movie so maybe it's just me. The opposite of George Clooney who launches himself body and soul to every moment he has on the screen. I will shut up now and wait for the next Coen Brothers movie.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
"Death Becomes Her" is over 20 years old but I bet it took a potion to remain splendorous for ever. Everything ages, even special effects but the elegance and wit of most of the dialog remains fresh and brisk. "I wasn't the sort of girl who could say the word sexual without blushing" tells Goldie to poor, emasculated Bruce - What happens to Bruce's face is just brilliant. He can't believe it. He is excited and terrified at the same time. A new DVD blue ray edition is overdue, with lots of extra features, please. Why haven't we seen more work like this? I'm a great fan of Martin Donovan and David Koepp, the writers, and this was their second and last collaboration. Koepp went on to write Jurassic Park and Mission Impossible and directed the delightful Ghost Town and Premiun Rush. Martin Donovan does extraordinary work with actors at Playhouse West and the Director's Playhouse of Los Angeles. I sat at three of his sessions and I left inspired and breathless. I asked him about "Death Becomes Her" and our exchange will be posted in his Message Boards here on IMDb. It made me want to see the film again, immediately.
The Tillman Story (2010)
Lies My Government Told Me
How appalling and at the same time, how inspiring. Thank God for the Tillman's, even if God doesn't come in into their equation, their life is a model of integrity. Pat Tillman married his high school sweetheart. She was her first and only girlfriend. Always loyal to her as he was loyal to us, to his country, to his believes. Next to him, the government appears as a sleazy bunch, corroding our standards. Films like this make sure we keep our eyes open. The sobbing in the movie theater where I saw the film made me feel very American because we now know and knowledge is power. We won't let this horrors happen again. We can'TV allow it. The world is looking at us.
Eat Pray Love (2010)
The Freudian Pizza
Two moments have stayed with me, one in particular: Javier Bardem crying as he says goodbye to his 19 year old son. The moment provokes a reaction on Julia Roberts's character that makes her totally human. The moment comes on the last third of the film so I thought it was a bit too late to start my relationship with her. The other moment happens at the beginning after she decides to walk away from her marriage and realizes she has broken her husband's heart. Terrific Billy Crudup fighting back tears as the elevator door closes. I love Julia Roberts but I can't quite buy her "philosophical face" 42 years of age in the new millennium is far too young for that kind of crisis, specially when the crisis is provoked by something missing in her. So, okay, a journey of discovery, but then...? The discovery is that she knew it all along. What next. I must say the guys in the movie get the prize, third price really. The first price goes to the location, second price to the food - goodness, the food! - and third to the guys. Bardem fantastic, Richard Jenkins superb - Billy Crudup surprisingly real, James Franco also great and Luca Argentero another plus.
Oh Bruno, Bruno...
I laughed until it ached. I was exhausted after the 80 odd minutes were over but didn't stay with me the way that Borat did. Borat was unquestionably fresher - if you can call it that - the horrible surprise was a one off situation. Bruno is a priceless creation but somehow the pranks are already part of the audience's expectation. A talking penis or Ron Paul trapped in a sex film are things we're not about to see anywhere else anytime soon and that's were the power of this new Sacha Baron Cohen shocking, hilarious opus resides. He is an irresistible, shameless, fearless genius. He knows exactly where the corpses are buried and he digs them up in the most unexpected way. The charity girls, the army guys, Paula Abdul sitting on a Mexican worker. Awful and very funny, very funny indeed.
I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
A Brilliant And Courageous Departure For Jim Carrey
A packed screening at the Sunset 5 in Hollywood. The audience rewarded it with a heartfelt applause and me among them. A stunning surprise. The film starts by telling us the story is true, really, really true and that adds to the already enormous surprise. A con man in the vein of Leonardo Di Caprio in "Catch Me As You Can" that deep down is overwhelmingly honest. After years of being a wonderful father and husband he confesses to his wife that he's gay. He remains friends and close to his family. Ends up in jail and meets the love of his life. The love story between Jim Carrey and the astonishing Ewan McGregor is a first for the screen. Miles away from the wonderful Brokeback Mountain because here their love is public without borders. I totally believe in the flame that both of them ignite looking into each other's eyes. It is so intimate and real that I realized I had never seen it quite like this on the screen before. The fact that this film couldn't get a distribution is beyond me. I'm certain it's going to be one of the hits of 2009 and Jim Carrey as well as Ewan McGregor will get Oscar nominations. I saw the film on the 8th, 4 days ago and I've been craving to see it again ever since. Look at McGregor's face when he realizes this man really loves him. The tenderness is nothing short of breathtaking. As if all of the above wasn't enough "I Love You Phillip Morris" is hysterically funny. Highly and warmly recommended.
The Re-Awakening Of The Giant
Enthralling, captivating. Buenos Aires, maybe? Black and White scope mostly, the limpid soul and devastating smile of Alden Ehrenreich. Coppola enjoys his freedom and so do we. At the base of it all, a juicy melodrama but the master flies over it with a tireless, youthful zest. Vincent Gallo seem a bit of an odd choice to play the title role and in fact I just found out that Matt Dillon was supposed to have played it. It certainly would have added up the romanticism and the sensuality that runs through it but, never mind. Alden Ehrenreich as Bennie is, quite simply, fantastic. Maribel Verdu another stand out as Tetro's loving if long suffering companion. Karl Maria Brandauer is horribly perfect, a character that emanates the kind of debauchery fame and rotten ego can provide. "There is room for just one genius in this family" I saw the film last night and it hasn't left me for a moment. I can't wait to see it again.
The Failed Plot Against Tom Cruise
I'm appalled at the way the specialized and not so specialized media attacked Tom Cruise for this movie. Why? He's not just good but very good in his against type performance. I've heard critics calling him "distractingly bad", how ridiculous and nasty. The film by the great craftsman Bryan Singer is a suspenseful, beautifully made historical thriller with a remarkable attention to detail. In an effort to be accurate the Jews are never mention because in fact the attempt to assassinate Hitler had nothing to do with that. The real reason? The war had turned against the Germans, it was clear that they were entering a down spiral and Hitler's madness was at the center of that. Regardless of the fact we know how the story ends, the movie manages to be a gripping tale based on real events. Well done Mr.Cruise, you won! Your Valkyrie is performing stupendously at the almighty box office.
Sweet And Powerful Milk
It happened only 30 years ago but it looks and feels as if it had been much, much longer and yet we're still dealing with many of the same issues. Gus Van Sant moves slightly and respectfully to mainstream to tell us this inspiring and tragic story. Sean Penn is superb as Harvey Milk, none of the traits that made him famous are present here, other than his talent that is, he exudes a positive sweetness that is compelling and contagious. Josh Brolin as Dan White, manages the impossible by giving the assassin an unexpected but welcome humanity. James Franco as Milk's lover is, quite simply, scrumptious. As it happens with most biopics we're forced to run from event to event to be fair and accurate and "Milk" suffers from that. I wanted more insight into Diego Luna's character - the most problematic - and into Emile Hirsch's character but the essentials are here and the essentials must be listed in lyrical terms. History yes but also poetry. Hope as a theme. A triumph!
The Age Of Wisdom
An optimistic tale from Mike Leigh of all people. This is one of those films in which everything comes gloriously together. It is impossible to imagine it without Sally Hawkins. This is one case in which actress and character merge into one spectacular creation. In fact Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky and Melissa Leo in Frozen River are the two best female performances I've seen in a long, long time. Sally Hawkins's Poppy is a teacher a wise, compassionate, strong, extraordinary teacher. She seems totally unaware of it but we are not. All she knows is that she loves her job. That feeling, if true, can be very contagious. We fall for her not because some kind of gimmick but because her truth precedes her and we learn to know her and respect her almost immediately. As if this wasn't enough, she's very, very, funny.
As it happens more often than not, greatness is relegated to some obscure angle. In a year of brilliant opuses by the Cohen Brothers and PT Anderson, this Tim Burton film shines as the best from every angle. It's not just that Burton creates another superb, dark universe with Dante Ferretti's complicity or that Johnnt Deep breaks new ground, or that Helena Bonham Carter surprises us with a complex, marvelous realistic parody. The film touches visually a very private cord. Ed Wood managed that but Tim Burton with "Sweeny Todd" elevates it to the purest form of art. He will be punished for that, as Ed Wood was in its day. Disappointing grosses in a world that worship grosses will make it appear as a sort of a failure. My advise to you is run to see it wherever you can find it. Try to see it in a big screen with great sound. You will fly and dream and be taken away by the masterful hands of Tim Burton and the glorious faces of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Running with Scissors (2006)
Augusten And The Flip Side Of Wonderland
The true story of Augusten Burroughs's beginnings, sound like a demented work of fiction. That's true of most true things. Here, putting aside what's real and what may be a figment of Augusten's imagination, there is a movie. A slightly confused, a bit pretentious but unquestionably fun movie with some high caliber actors at the top of their game. Annette Bening to start with, extraordinary and without clinging to one of her delightful giggles. She is a magnificent, deplorable human spectacle. Reconizable and yet totally alien. Her character is in her way down from the word go and she (Annette or Deidre)don't shy away from the most devastating human blows. She is surrounded by a beautifully designed human zoo of extreme characters. They carry their eccentricities like badges of honor. Brian Cox, superb as the Dickensian know-it-all, his daughters , Evan Rachel Wood and the magnificent Gwynneth Paltrow who can tell you more with half a look than with two pages of exposition. Jill Claybourgh! Goodness gracious me! Where has she been? She's the throbbing heart of the matter, dog food an all. Her sanity, hidden behind a demented, neglected hairdo, is as real as Joseph Cross' Augusten Burroughs. Joseph Finnes's gorgeous nut doesn't have a great deal of sexual chemistry with his under age lover but maybe he wasn't suppose to. As if all this wasn't enough, Alec Baldwin, giving one of the best performances of his career in a character who's on the screen for only a few minutes. Woody Allen, John Irvin even Eugene Ionesco and Frank Perry are present in this engaging display of human frailty. Terrific surprise.
Not that I'm surprised that I liked it but yes that I liked it as much as I did. Keeping some of the lovely John Water garishness but mainstreaming it enough to make it mainstream. John Travolta in the Divine part is truly divine. He went for it and played it for real. I thought it was actually moving at times and the illusion works, beautifully. Michelle Pfeiffer opening a new chapter in her career, the thin as a rail, gorgeous, middle age bitch. Great fun to watch. Christopher Walken, adorable. I had hoped a bigger splash of a dance number between Travolta and Walken - after all they were playing husband and wife in a musical and when are we going to see that again. Their moments together are, how can I put it? Nice, very nice. Nikki Blonsky inherits Riki Lake's oversize heroine with gusto and lots of energy. Allison Jenney, as usual, steals every moment she's in. Alas, far too few, and John Waters plays a quick cameo as a Baltimore flasher. What else do you want out of life.
The Humble Icon
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this heartfelt tribute is, the genuine humbleness of Fred Astaire himself. I felt he was semi hidden behind an invisible veil of discomfort. As if he was putting himself through this golden ordeal four our benefit, just and only for us. To give us a chance to give him thanks and express one way or another how we felt about him about his entire opus but I couldn't help feeling that if it had been up to him, he would rather be in Philadelphia. He even mentioned Ginger Rogers with love and admiration, although she wasn't there to do the same. I think Eleanor Powell put it in the most moving and powerful way, looking at Fred Astaire she said with a smile that masked the pathos of her remark "I wish we could do it, just one more time"
The Virtue Of Misunderstanding
There is nothing coincidental about the human connection but if you're interested in finding a reason for it, for them - you would have to dig into your spirit. It was meant to be and it was meant to be in the way that it unfolds, no matter how absurd, how contradictory, how seemingly coincidental. I don't know anything about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, other than he is one of the most extraordinary filmmakers to emerge in the 00's, but I suspect he has the soul of a Christian prophet, the mysticism behind the realism of his stories reek of God and of New Testament. Amores Perros, 21 Grams (the weight of the soul, remember?) now Babel the famous, or infamous biblical tower. Gonzalesz Inarritu has put together an immediate universe populated by incomprehension and humanity shaken and wrapped in a bloody cloth of the purest linen. His images will remain with me forever in particular Adriana Barraza's moment with the American kids in the desert. A total triumph.
Breaking and Entering (2006)
Finding Light In The Darkest Places
There is a compelling need for redemption in Anthony Minghella's characters. The need itself is so blatantly human that sometimes, you have to look away. The plea of the characters is as diverse as it is identical. Don't ask me to explain, I may ruin the whole thought just by trying an intellectual explanation when in fact it only makes sense viscerally. Jude Law is back in top form and I for one want to cheer. He is extraordinary. Extraordinary! Juliette Binoche's Bosnian mom is another miracle of truth in her already magnificent gallery of truthful characters. Her son, played beautifully by Rafi Gavron doesn't allow us to take anything for granted. Robin Wright Penn's Liv is truly Bergmanesque and provides the perfect icy foil for Jude Law's longing. I came out of the theater drained and reinvigorated. That in itself is a huge recommendation.