Author Topic: Antares' Short Summations  (Read 120474 times)

Offline Antares

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #150 on: January 13, 2012, 05:46:03 PM »
People on Sunday (1930) 3.5/5 - Robert & Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Fred Zinneman and Edgar G. Ulmer...how's that for a lineup of talent? This is a curious little film from the waning days of silent German cinema. I say curious because from beginning to end, I couldn't help but feel a sense of morbid curiosity at not only the people involved in the film, but of the beauty that was once Berlin. As I watched, I wondered... how many of these people on the streets of a bustling Berlin, would lay dead on the cobblestones just 15 years later as Allied bombs reduced this once beautiful city to ruins? The beautiful trees that line the roadways...how long before they would be hewn at the trunk to be used as fuel to heat the homes of the bombed city? When Siodmak shows little toddler children playing with adults in a city park, I wondered...How many of these children would be hauled away in trains and tossed into a gas chamber...How many of these little boys would die on the frozen steppe of the Ukraine and how many of these little girls would be raped by invading Russian soldiers in the waning days of the war that was to come? I couldn't separate these thoughts from the film, and that's a shame because this is a beautifully shot and paced film. It's leisurely pace never falters and though the story may seem insignificant, always keeps you interested. I would have liked to have seen this film when it was first released, before the Nazi infection had spread through Germany.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #151 on: January 15, 2012, 09:33:11 PM »
North (1994) 1/5 - I always wondered what it must have been like for Rob Reiner in the 70's to be walking down a street or eating in a restaurant and having some stranger waltz up and yell Hey Meathead. It had to be excruciatingly annoying. After finishing North, I now realize that he must have really hated the general public so much, that he delivered a two hour shit burger just to get even. I finally got the chance to watch this today, courtesy of HDNet movies, and I'm glad that I didn't grab this at Blockbuster oh so many years ago. For a gifted director, who gave us The Princess Bride, This is Spinal Tap, Misery, When Harry Met Sally and the seminal Stand By Me, to unleash this stinking pile of excrement on the public, should be grounds for banishment from Hollywood. The other part of the equation that baffles me is that Alan Zweibel, long one of the better comedy writers at Saturday Night Live in the 70's and 80's, would pen such an unfunny, cliche ridden mess of a screenplay. To say that it is painful to watch is being kind. I'd rather watch Madonna do Shakespeare than have to ever sit through this film again. There isn't one joke in this film that even raises a mere chuckle, and Elijah Wood, with those evil blue eyes of his, is absolutely loathsome in the title role.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #152 on: January 17, 2012, 10:09:55 PM »
Celebration at Big Sur (1971) 2.5/5 - Up until the last year or so, I never understood the fascination with YouTube. I don't know if either they changed their policy towards copywritten material or if the people who own the rights to films have just given up trying to stop people from uploading. In the last few months I've been able to find long forgotten films on this website, and now I find myself spending most of my computer time, scouring the site in search of rare gems from my youth. Celebration at Big Sur was a little indie documentary made on a shoestring budget back in 1969. It chronicles the sixth annual Big Sur Folk Festival, which took place just one month after the famous concert at Woodstock. Whereas that famous documentary was shot with multiple cameras and employed some unique editing techniques in the final product, this film is more or less a wanna be to its successful predecessor. The music acts are not as stellar as the show at Yasgur's farm, with the exception of Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. The headliner at this show was Joan Baez, long one of my least favorite folk singers. You get a lot of anti-war songs from her and they are interspersed with a heaping dose of flower power ramblings from some very stoned concert goers. With the exception of Joni Mitchell debuting her acoustic version of what would become CSN&Y's hit song Woodstock, and the latter's short segment on stage, the music and the performances are pretty stale.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #153 on: January 23, 2012, 09:58:46 PM »
The Ghost Goes West (1935) 3/5 - I'm a huge fan of Robert Donat, and I've yet to see him put in a less than stellar performance in any film. As usual, he makes it look effortless playing a modern day Scottish clan leader named Donald Glourie and his deceased ancestor Murdoch, who happens to haunt the castle Donald resides in. But that being said, the rest of the film is very lightweight fluff, with a pretty threadbare premise to its story. Eugene Pallette, another of my favorites, has very little to do, except look befuddled, which is a waste of his talents. One bright spot is Jean Parker, a cute, waifish slice of adorable who I couldn't take my eyes off of whenever she was onscreen. After I finished the film, I went straight to IMDB to see what kind of career she had, and unfortunately, this was her high water mark. The story meanders it way through very lightweight comedy and the resolution to the plot is predictable early on. If it came on TCM, I'd watch it again, just to catch another glimpse of Parker, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #154 on: January 27, 2012, 02:16:16 AM »
Harper (1966) 2.5/5 - As good an actor as Paul Newman was in his lifetime, he sure did act in some truly subpar films. At times, I thought I was watching an amalgamation of a bad episode of Jack Webb's Dragnet, mixed with a healthy dose of Mannix machismo. Johnny Mandel's score for this film almost sounds as if it was lifted from one of these shows too. What really surprised me, was the fact that with such an all star cast of A list actors, that most of them were sleepwalking through their roles. Only Newman and Robert Webber seem to be invested totally in their characters. Janet Leigh supplies the same window dressing type character she portrayed in The Manchurian Candidate, while Lauren Bacall and Shelley Winters played their usual stereotypical roles of that time. The former as the acerbic shrew of a wife, while the latter played her usual drunken floozy. I swear, if I had been playing a drinking game, and had taken a shot every time I murmured Oh my God while watching this, I would have died of alcohol poisoning by the end. Thank God that Newman would rebound with Cool Hand Luke the following year, because this was a very forgettable film.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #155 on: February 06, 2012, 10:03:09 PM »
Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973) 3/5 - Back when this was first made in 1973, this was considered a marvelous depiction of Hitler's last days of life in the bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery. But time and subsequent films have made this more of a curiosity and comparison piece to judge against those that followed. I love Alec Guinness, he's one of my favorite actors of all time, but aside from being made to look like a carbon copy of Adolf Hitler, his performance lacks something that I can't quite put my finger on. All throughout the film, I saw other characters that he has portrayed over his illustrious career. When Hitler is throwing a tantrum, he comes across as a manic version of Jock Sinclair from Tunes of Glory. In pensive or laid back moments, he's Henry Holland from The Lavender Hill Mob. What I'm trying to say is this, he never comes across as anything other than Alec Guinness with a toothbrush mustache. The story itself, kind of plods along and there never ever seems to be a sense of desperation as the situation above ground in Berlin worsens. To be honest, it's a bit dull. I would only recommend it as a vehicle for comparing Bruno Ganz's excellent portrayal in Der Untergang.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 06:53:12 PM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #156 on: February 09, 2012, 12:31:15 AM »
Foreign Correspondent (1940) 3/5 - This is a strange little film from Hitchcock, as it appears like he's trying too hard to please an American audience, in this, his first American made film. There are moments that are inspired, the umbrella chase, the scene inside the windmill and the survivors of the crash floating on the wing in the middle of the Atlantic, but there are also very cringe inducing moments too. The instant love affair and marriage proposal between the two stars of the film, the scene outside the windmill when they lose the car they are chasing and the countless attempts at humor that come and go. Hitchcock, to me, always struggled with comedy in his films. A bit too much of the wink-wink, aren't I cheeky kind of stuff that when you get right down to it, isn't funny. I watched this on TCM and before the film started, Robert Osborne was saying how this film has kind of been forgotten because of the success of Rebecca, which was released the same year. When the film was finished, I felt that it's been forgotten because it's a film that misfires repeatedly. Just as it seems to be running on all cylinders, some small thing occurs that just doesn't work and it stalls the film for a few seconds. It's not a bad film, but it's something I wouldn't make plans to watch again.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #157 on: February 09, 2012, 10:40:12 PM »
Well, you might have known I'd disagree!  :laugh:

Foreign Correspondent is an interesting film for several reasons. Rebecca, as he said, "is not a Hitchcock film". FC certainly is. It's worth remembering exactly when it was made and considering that Hitchcock was trapped in the States as war broke out. Have you read my review, by the way? Easier than repeating sentiments here.

I do agree Hitchcock couldn't do straight comedy. Mr and Mrs Smith is awful. That said, humour is subjective and I find his cheekiness wonderful and this is no exception. I know you enjoy British movies, but perhaps there is a limit to the British sense of humour you can join in with? I love the farcical, random nature of this film and it positively drips with barbed metaphors and political subtext, which would have been very powerful at the time: a big dumb American unable to comprehend back-stabbing Europeans who can't see what's right in front of them?  ;) I thought the ending was remarkable and passionate.

And I absolutely agree with you about the marriage thing. Annoys the hell out of me, not just here, but in many films of the era. Other work proves Hitchcock was a sentimental old sod (Shadow of a Doubt had scenes rewritten to make the romance more subtle), but it wasn't all his fault. The Code crippled many a story because it was simply impossible to show two characters in love with each other without the moral justification of marriage. The 39 Steps is the perfect Hitchcock film from this time precisely because he presents them as being literally chained together and hating each other, until the very last moment when they choose to hold hands. Soppy-ness averted by credits, but there's no denying we were watching a romance as much as a thriller.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #158 on: February 10, 2012, 02:05:52 AM »
I know you enjoy British movies, but perhaps there is a limit to the British sense of humour you can join in with?

It's not that I can't join in, it's the fact that sometimes he tries to be cheeky for the sake of being cheeky, and it doesn't work for me. I groaned a few times during this one. Now maybe what hurts is the fact that outside of his westerns, I've never been fond of Joel McCrae. In the two films I've seen by Preston Sturges, that he stars in, he the weakest part of said films.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #159 on: February 11, 2012, 05:36:21 PM »
The War Game (1965) 4/5 - I can understand why the British government did not want this aired on the BBC back in 1965. The documentary style made this seem a little too real and probably would have had the same effect on the general public, that Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds, had on American audiences back in 1938. The use of hand held cameras added an authentic 'as its happening' feeling to this story, that neither Fail-Safe nor Dr. Strangelove could achieve the previous year. Seeing as this was only three removed from the Cuban Missile Crisis, I'm surprised that it didn't generate as much buzz in Britain as ABC's The Day After did 18 years later in the United States. I remember that nuclear arms talks were taken off the back burner after it aired and within a few weeks, discussions shifted into 4th gear on getting reductions in the stockpiles of thermonuclear devices of the two super powers. What impressed me most with this film was how Watkins, who was probably on a ridiculously small budget, made every aspect appear true to life. You could say that the instances of radiation sickness weren't as grotesque as it could be, but the black and white imagery made up for this shortcoming. The other thing I liked was how Watkins begins the film by showing how many places in England were being targeted by Russian ICBM's. Had there been a full strike against England, I doubt anyone would have survived after the destruction of the bombs and the subsequent radiation poisoning. One interesting aspect was when he interviewed people on the street and asked them about Strontium 90 and its effect on human beings. No one knew what it was and one woman said she thought it was some kind of gunpowder. It just goes to show how much the government, not only in Britain, but in the US, went to keep fear from spreading in their countries. I couldn't help but laugh when they showed a bobby going around to homes with pamphlets for instructing families on how be prepared for a nuclear blast. The interviewer asks him about why the pamphlets are now only being distributed and his response is that they weren't too popular when they were first put together and no one wanted to purchase them. The interviewed retorts in a shocked manner, You were charging people for these?, and the bobby responds glibly, Yes and keeps moving on, continuing his fruitless endeavor.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #160 on: February 15, 2012, 01:15:52 AM »
Pale Flower (1964) 3.5/5 - Highly stylized in its presentation, Pale Flower is a hybrid noir/gangster film from the heyday of Japanese cinema. The characters share a detached sense of coolness which leaves them underdeveloped and for the most part, kind of uninteresting. Now don't get me wrong, I liked the film, but then again, I love almost all Japanese films from this time period, but there really isn't much to the story. You have a ronin type Yakuza who has just been released from prison for killing a rival gang member, and he returns to his former life style, but seems to want to go in a different direction. Not knowing anything other than that kind of life, he just melds back into it with a sense of personal destiny. He then meets an attractive young female gambler, who throws caution to the wind in everything she does, and his life gets a jump start. Unfortunately, it is here where the story kind of fizzles out. Maybe the director should have shorn away a few scenes of the couple gambling, and added a little more of them together out in the real world as it is here that the film scores repeatedly. There's a scene of the two racing another car on a highway, and you get a sense of why they both are attracted to each other. They both live for danger, and she doesn't really understand what kind of man she is with, but that's because the director doesn't flesh out either character. This is only my second Yakuza film, and I hope that further adventures into this genre yield riper fruit. It's an interesting film to look at, but atmosphere, cinematography and a great soundtrack aren't a complete package.

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #161 on: February 17, 2012, 10:42:41 PM »
Black River (1957) 3.5/5 - This is the film that Masaki Kobayashi made just before The Human Condition trilogy. He still hadn't risen to prominence yet, but after watching this film, you get a sense that he was about to break through. The story involves a love triangle between a waitress, a student and a yakuza boss, and Kobayashi weaves a gritty, no holds barred approach to telling it. I was shocked at times by the level of realism in the dialog, with characters talking about abortions, prostitution and things of that ilk. I couldn't imagine hearing these things in a noir made in Hollywood at the same time. And that is what made this film click for me, it was refreshing to watch characters acting like real gangsters, with out all the Hays white washing. Tatsuya Nakadai, who would go on to star in many of the successive films by Kobayashi, plays the yakuza with a sly, coolness that plays against the atypical roles he was playing up until that time and in the following years. It showed me a depth I wasn't aware of in him. But it was Ineko Arima who stole the film for me. Looking a little like Setsuko Hara, she plays the love interest with not only the frailty of an innocent Japanese youth, but when her mind is made up to get away from the yakuza, a fatalistic femme fatal type vengeance.

If you're interested in watching this, I found a playlist on YouTube for it...

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=D9AAB9B22DCE0C60

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #162 on: February 19, 2012, 02:44:49 AM »
Contagion (2011) 3/5 - Steven Soderbergh films for me are like Chinese food, after I finish it, I'm hungry again very shortly after. Meaning that I find his films very stylized, yet very cold, clinical and lacking any real depth, and I don't feel like I invested my time wisely in watching it. I get a sense that yes, I watched a tactician present a story, but I'm left indifferent to the characters and the story in general, and I want to watch something else, by someone else who can grab me by the throat and suck me into the story. Soderbergh has failed me in this regard repeatedly. When I finish one of his films, I don't find myself going over it in my head, and its pretty quickly forgotten. Contagion doesn't break this string for me. It's not a bad film, but it's not a great film either, for the most part it's pretty mediocre. Sure, it's got a lot of big name stars, but they're pretty much wasted in their brief moments on screen. The first hour of the film starts off well, with the outbreak in its initial stages of incubation and transmission, and there's a slight bit of suspense as to how many people are going to get infected worldwide. Yet as this scenario is being played out and news organizations are reporting of outbreaks around the world, people still seem to be relatively calm about the situation. And this is what I mean about cold and clinical, Soderbergh has events transpire in a ho hum manner which doesn't fit the material. The film is definitely much better than the ridiculous Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo, but that's not saying much.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2012, 02:13:03 AM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #163 on: February 25, 2012, 05:48:08 PM »
Bless the Beasts & Children (1971) 3/5 - There are some moments in this film that are a little cringe worthy, especially in the dialog, but the allegory of the buffalo's plight plays well as an anti-Vietnam war statement. Some of the child actors are a little wooden, but Billy Mumy and Miles Chapin both carry themselves well in their roles. As I mentioned earlier, some of the dialog sounds as if it were written by someone who was long since removed from his adolescent years, and being a Stanley Kramer film, you get hit over the head with his preaching at times. I can understand why it is kind of a forgotten film from his canon, but it's not a bad film and is a product of its time. It's a worthwhile venture for anyone trying to understand what kind of environment people lived in at the end of what has proven to be the most turbulent decade of our history, the late sixties.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 06:49:48 PM by Antares »

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Re: Short Summations
« Reply #164 on: February 27, 2012, 01:22:25 AM »
East of Eden (1955) 4.5/5 - For many years I've never understood the iconic appreciation for James Dean. I had seen both Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, but I had seen the sullen, brooding performance in the former, done better by Montgomery Clift in a couple of films, and Dean's performance in the latter film is only half good. Meaning he's great in the first half as the loner, wildcatting his way to a fortune, but when that fortune is achieved and the screenplay advances him in age, he looked lost in the role. So I've always avoided East of Eden because I thought I was going to get more of the same out of him. I now admit that I was wrong in prejudging him and this film. From the get go, his moody absorption into the troubled life of Cal is a breath of fresh air in what was a sea of by the book type acting in Hollywood. His scenes with Raymond Massey highlight this very well. It's like watching the old school butting heads with a revolution. Now I've never read East of Eden, the travesty of which I'm soon going to remedy, so I would have liked to have had a bit more exposition as to why the brothers were so different and why the mother wasn't there. But from what I've read, the film only covers about the last 70 or so pages of the book. Maybe this was a blessing for me, as I wasn't jaded by having read the book first. There are probably many out there who don't care for this film because of that fact, but until I finish reading it, the film is a success for me.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 06:50:37 PM by Antares »