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Found 8 results

  1. When I was young, I saw a film titled, "Man in the Wilderness" (1971), which I still remember. "The Revenant" is based upon the same story (also titled "The Revenant," but written nearly 30-years after "Man in the Wilderness" was filmed). Of the two, the latter is *way* more spectacular, and - from what I remember - just plain better: a lot, lot, lot better. Leonard DiCaprio's performance won him an Academy Award for Best Actor, and from the other performances I've seen in 2015, it is fully deserved. Both DiCaprio and Supporting Actor Tom Hardy give two of the greatest performances I've ever seen in a single film - off the top of my head, I can't think of one movie with two better performances. "Midnight Cowboy," maybe, or "Rush?" If you enjoy films dealing with the human struggle to survive against all odds (and don't mind a bit, okay, a *lot* of graphic oomph), you'll really like "The Revenant" - it's not condescending at all. It even mentions Pawnee! Is Emmanuel Lubezki the best Cinematographer in the world? Don't be so sure he's not. Unless you've seen the film, you'll have no idea what this is, but it's a clear homage to prehistoric cave art, and just a beautiful shot: How good is "The Revenant?" I'm going to try and find, and watch, "Man in the Wilderness" - right now, knowing full well that I'm going to be disappointed. And there's no way that "Spotlight" - good as it was - should have taken Best Picture honors from "The Revenant." --- ETA - Make sure to watch "Man in the Wilderness" *afterwards*, and don't make the mistake of assuming that "The Bear" scene will be any less troubling.
  2. I went to see "Manchester by the Sea" with a group of friends, not knowing anything about it. I didn't even know what film we would be seeing as I stepped up to the booth to order my ticket. I was just along for the ride with a group of women who usually choose good films. I am sure there will be Oscar buzz about this film, as it is the type of movie the Academy adores. It deals with very serious issues, and the actors, for nearly all of the film, are allowed to display their chops, portraying unfortunate souls filled with anguish and angst. Grief, and the inability to move on after death, are the major themes in this film. Casey Affleck (Ben's younger brother) gives a wonderful performance as a man who cannot move on. Affleck's character, Lee Chandler, is the most depressed person I have ever seen on film. His gloom wears on you as you watch the movie. I saw this film on a day when I was feeling blue. I do not recommend anyone else do the same. There are touches of humor in the film, particularly in scenes where Chandler is interacting with his 16-year-old nephew. Patrick, brilliantly portrayed by Lucas Hedges. The dialogue between these two is touching and real and occassionaly laugh-out-loud funny. But these light moments are few and far between, and are overwhelmed by the tragedy in the film. Affleck and Michelle Williams, who plays Lee Chandler's ex-wife, Randi, give moving performances as a couple badly damaged by the tragic twists and turns of life. But I fully expect the major buzz this award season to be focused on Hedges. This talented young man is a gifted actor who gave an award-worthy performance, scene after scene, in this film. If you love to watch good actors act, you probably will enjoy this film. I can't say that I recommend it, however. It was depressing and dragged in spots. The score is over the top. There is one particular scene, intended to tug on your heartstrings, where the soaring violins are so obnoxious, the music took my mind completely away from the story. Instead of being moved to tears, I was annoyed by the music and the producers' overwrought attempt to manipulate my emotions with it.
  3. "Kings and Queens of England & Britain" by Ben Johnson on historic-uk.com The above is a useful historic guideline for the film, especially the part at the end dealing with the House of Windsor, which was formed in 1917. In fact, you can look forward to 100th-anniversary events being publicized for this coming July 17th. Before I get to the spoilers, let me say that I found the first 15 minutes of this film intensely boring; now, 30 minutes in, it seems to have blossomed, and has become very enjoyable to watch. If you find it tedious in the beginning, push through, and I suspect you'll be rewarded (again, I'm only 30 minutes into the movie as I type this, so I can't be sure, but it did win an Academy Award for Best Picture, which is worth something). *** SPOILER ALERT *** (Do not read if you're going to see the film) Near the beginning of "The King's Speech," speech therapist (and amateur actor) Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is auditioning for Shakespeare's Richard III by reading the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, those lines followed by, "made glorious summer by this sun of York ...." To me, this is an obvious quibble on "son of York," as the future King George VI (Colin Firth)- his soon-to-be patient with the stuttering problem - currently holds the title Duke of York (which is given to the second-born son of the current King). The closeness of "sun of York" and "son (or Duke) of York" is too much for simple coincidence - this was a clever piece of dialogue that probably went mostly unnoticed. Needless to say, there's also an obvious parallel between the kyphosis of Richard III and the stuttering of the Duke of York. About 40 minutes in, it's clear George V (Michel Gambon) is near death, and he "signs his duties" away for others to execute. A couple interesting facts about the death of George V: 1) In 1986 (fifty years after the death), his physician's private diary was unsealed, and it turns out George V was euthanized with lethal doses of morphine and cocaine - this was known to absolutely nobody for fifty years, and 2) the morning after George V's death, the great German composer Paul Hindemith (a name very well-known in classical music circles) composed Trauermusik ("Mourning Music") in just six hours, and the piece was played on the BBC radio network that same evening. Wow, when you first see Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) at the party, it seems *just* like Winston Churchill - until he turns around and you see his face. You won't recognize this, but Spall played Beadle Bamford in the film of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." This film makes a wonderful history lesson regarding the 20th-century English monarchy. However, it is painted accurately only in broad brush strokes. For example, in real life (not in the film), Churchill was a staunch supporter of King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), and urged him not to abdicate the throne. A memorable quote, made during a conversation between King George V's sons, shortly after his death, and the ascension of David as King Edward VIII: Duke of York: "David, I've been trying to see you." King Edward VIII: "I've been terribly busy." Duke of York: "Doing what?" King Edward VIII: "Kinging." *Damn* Derek Jacobi is a good actor. Oh my goodness, the King is about to give his war speech, and they've chosen to play the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th Symphony as background music. I'm not going to denigrate this work by telling you what other movie it was played in, but I will say that this is one of the greatest movements ever written in the history of classical-romantic music, and very fitting for such a grave occasion. What's interesting is that they played the opening chord twice (when it's only supposed to be played once), imitating a stutter. Also, how ironic is it that Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany? And for the duration of the speech, Lionel Logue was quite literally conducting King George VI - that was not coincidence. And how wonderful that the closing music is the most famous piece for clarinet ever written, the Mozart Concerto.
  4. I had two criteria for a film to watch: 1) Something Oscar-worthy (don't worry, hardcore film fans - I do not take the Academy seriously; I'm just using it as a rough guide - this is probably as annoying to you as it is for me to see people blogging about eating their way through such-and-such's list of "the 50 best restaurants" - trust me, I know how you feel, and 2) Something with which I was completely unfamiliar: "Dallas Buyers Club" fits the bill on both counts, and as of this moment, I know absolutely *nothing* about it. And here I go ... *** SPOILER ALERT *** Wow, it's amazing that I'm just over 1/3 of the way through the film, and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is essentially gone from this Earth - I cannot imagine what awaits during the second-half of this film. I can already tell that Matthew McConaughey either won or was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award, but I'm not looking - he is amazingly convincing in his role: He must have lost over fifty pounds to play this part unless they're being extremely clever with makeup and body doubles. I'm now halfway through, and I really like this film - people who didn't have to suffer through their friends and family dying of AIDS aren't going to feel the resonance as much as people who did, but boy, I can imagine *exactly* what you felt watching this. If anyone would have asked me, "What is AZT?" before this movie started, it would have sounded familiar, but I wouldn't have been able to link it - that's like someone unfamiliar with cancer not being able to link platinum-based chemo, and this is - to put it mildly - a good refresher course of what I heard and read about in my mid-20s. Refresher course or not, there is a *zero*-percent chance that Ron could strong-arm T.J. (Kevin Rankin) for as hard or as long as he did in the grocery store. That was so distressingly unrealistic. Possible correction: I watched it a second time, and I think Ron might be grabbing T.J.'s doo-dads, which would explain things. And I *love* the friendship with Rayon (Jared Leto), and this reminds me of what turned out to be one of the most powerful subplots on "All in the Family" - the Bunker's long-lasting friendship with Beverly LaSalle. Okay, the sex scene was runner-up to "When Harry Met Sally." The moment that Denise (Denine Tyler, who's in the process of becoming famous as hell) tells Ron that the woman out in line 'doesn't have HIV; she has full-blown AIDS,' and then not ten seconds later you hear the most honorable and hilarious moaning coming from the bathroom - this is the take-home comic scene from the movie: He has sex with her because he finds out that she *does* have full-blown AIDS. Lemme tell you - humor aside, it is *so* difficult for me to watch this movie now, knowing what I know, and living what I've lived. When I was watching it "live" in the mid-1980s, I was watching it from a white, upper-middle-class, suburban, perspective: in other words, The Washington Post, the three networks, channel 5 and channel 20 - and that's the entirety of what I knew. (People who were immersed in the situation: Think about what I just said - it was like hearing about Watergate 10-15 years before ... it was this boring news story about something that was happening somewhere else, although even with that viewpoint, it was very easy (and very hard) to see the misery of the patients.) Remember Sergeant Leonard Matlovich's Time Magazine cover? "I am a homosexual." - do you remember that? That's the *only* article I remember. I wonder if Matlovich is looked upon as an unqualified hero, as a mixed-figure like Shannon Faulkner, or as something other than those two?
  5. I remember my father taking me to see "Patton" in 1970, and being awestruck by the opening scene - the one where Patton comes and gives a speech in front of that *amazing* American flag - other than that, I remember it being really long! What a difference 47 years makes when it comes to seeing a film about the quirks and eccentricities of a WWII General. I'm not going to issue any spoilers, especially because this is all based on historical facts about the WWII North African Theater, and its three principles: Patton, Montgomery, and Rommel. Some historical facts which you should know about (and will know about, if you watch the film). Note that since the location for this part of the war (and film) was North Africa, you can assume these are in Morocco, Tunisia, etc. You can consider these spoilers if you really want to, but since you should know about the events anyway, I'm not marking them as such (don't feel badly - I didn't either). The Battle of the Kasserine Pass - The first major conflict between allied and axis troops, at the two-mile-wide Kasserine Pass in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia, during which we got the shit kicked out of us: 6,500 American casualties with over 1,000 dead. It was this battle which the Americans, caught sleeping, decided to bring in General Patton to run the North African campaign, and he became a three-star general (and placed in charge of General Omar Bradley, a two-star general). The Battle of El Guettar - Rommel had planned a massive Panzer attack in southern Tunisia, but Patton was more than ready for them. The Germans were pretty much devastated, and at this point, the two rival leaders had each other's full respect (the amount of respect shown to other competent leaders and soldiers in this film is quite touching, and has nothing to do with politics - they're like boxers in the 15th round, slugging it out. --- Aside: One of my treasures - my absolute treasures - is my father's Master's Degree diploma from Columbia Universty, which is hand-signed by none other than University President Dwight David Eisenhower - he came home from the war, and served in that capacity from 1948-1953, and anyone who got a diploma during that time, received a hand-signature of Eisenhower on their diploma (note that this is *before* he was U.S. President, so people didn't know he was going to be *as* famous as he was). This isn't all that rare, or valuable, but just imagine how much it means to me. How much does it mean? When the last of my parents passed away, this is the *only* thing of theirs that I wanted, out of all their tangible possessions - I'm hoping that, two-hundred years from now, it will be passed down to a distant relative of mine, and they will treasure it nearly as much as I do (it would be comparable to having something hand-signed by Benjamin Franklin today). I'm so proud of my father for serving his country in WWII, even though he was "only" in Occupied Japan after the war as over (he was a chauffeur who drove a limousine for a general, and received an honorable discharge). For the lucky recipient of this diploma, here is our family tree. --- The Allied Invasion of Sicily - Patton, a whack-job who believes in reincarnation, destiny, fate, etc., vies with British Commander Montgomery for getting the glory in taking over Sicily. They're both willing to sacrifice foot-soldiers so *they* can get the headlines and the glory for having taken over the important Italian outpost. The Sicilian campaign reveals both Patton an Montgomery to be egocentric, self-centered generals who put themselves before their troops, and this is the first part of the film that concretely shows just what bad people they are - they don't care about the greater good; they care about having their name in spotlights. These are *exactly* the types of people who need to be the generals in a science-fiction film, invading the aliens (who have superior weapons) and in the process, gain a significant dose of humility by virtue of laser beams, electric heat-rays, etc. God, would it be *awesome* to see Patton taken down a couple of notches by being forced to be humble. I love this line: A reporter who brought some priests to join Patton on his march towards Palermo, said (in front of the priests), "Colonel Davis showed us around your quarters, General Patton, and I was interested to see a bible by your bed. You actually find time to read it?" Patton: "I sure do. Every God-damned day." Oomph, a really bad moment in the movie: Patton's forward-moving line is stalled because of a couple stubborn jackasses (literally, jackasses), and he openly complains about it, and then shoots them. But, there was very clearly a body-double that did the shooting, and they didn't make any type of effort to hide that fact - this is one of the worst scenes in the film, as this is clearly not George C. Scott (yet, the person shooting the jackasses has a three-star general's helmet on). To me, this stands out as being the worst individual moment in the film thus far. There have been several scenes which definitively show that Patton has no tolerance for "cowards" in his army. There is to be no "combat fatigue," no "cases of nerves," etc. He will openly scream in these soldiers faces, scream and call them "God Damned Cowards!" and send them back out to the front lines. A general sympathetic to human needs he most certainly was not. I would be fascinated to hear peoples' viewpoints on this complex man - perhaps someone who we needed in extraordinary times; but these extraordinary times have come about (I mean, *truly* come about) perhaps twice in the last century; the other 95% of the time, these guys are just plain crotchety old bastards - but when you *really* need them, you *really* need them. I'm pretty sure this film tried to stay true to the gist of real-life, so it wasn't embellished except for what was needed for dramatic effect. That said, there was *plenty* of dramatic effect - for example, when Patton was being criticized for not including Russia in a statement about post-WWII world-rule, a newsreel by "Senator Clayborne Foss" was entirely fictional (there was no Senator Clayborne Foss) - the clip used is bogus, so while the main facts of the movie are true, there are plenty of liberties taken. I suppose you could take this as a *** SPOILER ALERT *** The deeper you get into this film, the more you realize that Patton isn't in this war for the good of the world; he's in it for himself. Why should what *he* wants matter, when what an enlisted man wants doesn't matter - at least when it comes to individual needs and also the greater good? I'm 2/3 of the way through the film now, and I'm liking Patton as a person less-and-less, and although he might be the person I'd want leading me in combat (and I mean "in the field of battle"), I don't think I'd want him making strategic decisions, because his first priority always seems like it's for himself. I wonder if the real General Patton was this much of an egoist? This all said, the personal rivalry between Patton and Montgomery was *highly* amusing. Patton said it best: "Hell, I know I'm a prima donna - I admit it. The thing I can't stand about Monty is that he *won't* admit it." Of course, all the humor quickly evaporates when Operation Market Garden costs Patton's troops an unspeakable amount of casualties. I have to say, the ending of this movie resonated more with me than the ending of any movie I've seen in a long, long time.
  6. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** "True Grit" is a continuance of 'Hollywood Classics which I've never before seen.' It begins with a surprise murder by Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), then a distressingly *non*-surprising gathering at the Courthouse, where they're going to be hanging three men that day. Why people have always wished to gather to witness others being violently killed is beyond my capability of understanding. And in case you think our species has evolved since the days of the Wild West: Aug 14, 2014 - "20,000 Watched the Last Public Hanging 78 Years Ago" by Mark Murrmann on motherjones.com Hating human beings, but loving cats and dogs, is perfectly justified, don't you think? Hey, I have an idea! Let's all have a get-together, and push our kids on swings while three men await their deaths! Anyway, daughter Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) is understandably furious at the murder of her father, Frank Ross (John Pickard). Mattie is one of the witnesses to the public hanging, and thinks the cold-hearted judge (who "flips the switch") is *just* the man she needs to try the murderer of her daddy, and it's hard to blame her. Interestingly, Kim Darby was 21-years-old when she portrayed 14-year-old Mattie - she really does have a youthful appearance. Mattie reveals to us that she's from Dardenelle, in Yell County, Arkansas, establishing the setting of "True Grit." Frank Ross (Mattie's dad) was killed in Ft. Smith, just west of where the courthouse is, and one of the westernmost places in all of Arkansas. A pretty telling scene occurs when the Sheriff tells Mattie that Tom Chaney is now in "Indian Territory," which is out of his jurisdiction, and only U.S. Marshals can pursue him there. He names three of them for Mattie: the best tracker, the most merciless (Rooster Cogburn, played by John Wayne), and the straightest - Mattie immediately asks the Sheriff where she can find this "Rooster Cogburn" - she's out for vengeance, plain and simple. I'm very curious why Cogburn wears the eye-patch. This seems to have caught on as a generic "tough guy" symbol, and I wonder if this picture had anything to do with it - I suspect some older, pirate-based movie started it before this. Rrrrrrrrrr there any you can think of? Defense attorney Goudy (I didn't name these people) was played by Alfred Ryder, a character actor who was in many television shows, including "The Man Trap" - the first (non-pilot) episode of "Star Trek." (Darby, by the way, had the lead in the "Star Trek" episode "Miri" as the eponymous character - an important role.) In the same scene, there's a man sitting in the very front row of the courtroom, in what can only be described as a "bit part" - non-speaking, uncredited, and only on camera for maybe thirty seconds total. "True Grit," it turns out, was Wilfred Brimley's very first movie, and this is him - I think (but am not sure) that he's the somewhat stocky, somewhat balding man in the beige leather jacket towards the right of the photo: The only reason I even knew he was in here was because Amazon X-Ray listed him - there is *no way* I would have picked this up on my own. Brimley was personal friends with Robert Duvall - who plays Lucky Ned Pepper - and I strongly suspect that's how Brimley got the part - he was born in 1934, so he would have been only 35 when this was filmed. I'm not convinced this man is Brimley, but he's somewhere in the courtroom: When you see this film, concentrate on the initial, extended, one-on-one conversation between Mattie Ross and the Texas Ranger, Mr. La Boeuf (Glen Campbell). This conversation came across as stilted and poorly directed - essentially, an interplay between two inexperienced actors (which they both were) - nevertheless, this one falls on the Director, Henry Hathaway, and he didn't make it work. It didn't ruin the film, of course, but it was simply not a good scene. A very interesting note: I later read, long after I wrote the preceding sentences, in the "Trivia" section of the IMDB website, that Hathaway hated Campbell's performance, calling it "wooden," and only had him in the movie so he could have a hit song associated with it. If this *isn't* the worst scene in the movie, then that worries me. I. Do. Not. Like. Kim Darby in this role. I hope to God she gets better, because I have a feeling this film is going to hinge on her acting abilities. So far, Darby is every bit as "wooden" as Campbell - maybe more so. However, *this* gentleman, Chen Lee (H.W. Gim) knows how to slice bacon! As of right now, I'm 50 minutes into a 2'10" movie, and two of the three leads can't act worth a damn. I know that Duvall is going to show up soon, and so is Dennis Hopper - right now, I'm praying for a miracle, or at least that these two, along with Wayne, can act "louder" than Campbell and Darby - it must be so in order for this to be a good film: fingers, crossed. The film is half over, and we just met two horse thieves: Emmett Quincy (Jeremy Slate) and Moon Dennis Hopper (thank goodness - btw, when is the last time Dennis Hopper has been spotted in a role that involves being very "off?"): Maybe now, we won't have to watch Wayne attempt to carry the entire movie by himself - Wayne was a good actor, but he wasn't good enough to carry a film when he's handicapped with Campbell and and Darby. Well, five minutes later, so much for either Quincy or Moon possibly saving the film. Now, we have to hope for Pepper (Duvall), who will be along shortly. For those of you into biker flicks, Jeremy Slate played the leader of the gang, "The Born Losers," a sub-par but highly influential movie that was the first of the "Billy Jack" enterprise. For those few of you who saw the film, here's a little memory stimulant to help you remember Slate's role, that of gang leader and lead antagonist, Danny Carmody, Billy Jack's (Tom Laughlin's) nemesis and gadfly: With Quincy and Moon gone, and over halfway into "True Grit," I'm painfully reminded that - just as with all the other art forms including the culinary arts, wine, music, and sports - I don't like "movies" per se; I like *good* movies. And so far, this simply isn't one due to the sub-par acting and the plot, which is thus far moving at a snail's pace. Why have I heard so much about "True Grit" throughout my life? I refuse to look until it's over - I'm just going to try and enjoy it, or at least to glean whatever I can from it. The extended, character-developing dialogue that Darby and Cogburn had, about 1:15 into the film, was *so much better* than the dialogue that Darby and La Boeuf had early on, that maybe it was mostly Glen Campbell, and not as much Darby, who was completely devoid of acting talent. I really enjoyed listening to those two talk with each other, and the viewer really learned quite a bit about Cogburn in the process. This is a *very* imposing gang that Pepper has, and that Cogburn, La Boeuf, and Darby are going to have to face by themselves (Duvall is third from the right): The whole, extended attack scene, complete with rattlesnake pit, made up for a *lot* of the film's first half of ennui. It was exciting, dramatic, well-acted by everyone, and just plain fun to watch. In many ways, it might have been an inspiration for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It is, by far, the high-point of the film, and enough on its own to make the movie arguably worth watching. Yes, it was a long, painful build-up, but it was one heck of an extended piece of suspense - even La Boeuf died a complete hero, winning over the hearts of all viewers. The near-mythical lawyer "Dagget" ended up being played by John Fielder, another famous character actor (who also played in "Star Trek," as Administer Hengst in "Wolf in the Fold.") He, too, deserves his own thread - he has done so much with his career, including being the voice of Piglet in "Winnie the Pooh." Dagget, to a much lesser degree, was to "True Grit" what "Keyser Söze" was to "The Usual Suspects." How do you not at least "like" a film that ends with such a sweet shot?
  7. What an excellent movie "Charly" is. Based on the book "Flowers for Algernon," it stars Cliff Robertson in an Academy Award-winning role as Charly, and he is magnificent - fully deserving of a Best Actor award. I'm not going to go into any details, because this film is free on putlocker.com, and if you can tolerate the rather dubious "extra windows" that open on occasion, you can watch one heck of a good movie for free. This falls within the "exceptional person" genre of fictional biopic: Refer to "Rainman," "A Beautiful Mind," "The Man Who Knew Infinity," etc., but interestingly, this film also falls within the science fiction genre, and has elements of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and even "A Clockwork Orange" as well (without any of the "ultra-violence"). It's a complex, moving, character study, as well as a commentary on ethics, and our society's treatment of the mentally ill. I highly recommend this film to anyone and everyone - you won't get a lot of action, but you won't need it.
  8. I'm breaking recent protocol by posting about "Marty," the Academy Award-winning film from 1955, because I haven't seen it recently; I'm pretty sure all the other movies I've posted about, I saw right before or during my initial post. But I've seen Marty twice, and have seen it within the past couple of years, and I think it's a splendid film - it watches like it could have been adapted from a play, but it wasn't. "Marty" is the shortest film ever to win the Best Picture award, with a runtime of only 90 minutes. Ernest Borgnine gives a magnificent performance (before Marty, he was known as a "tough guy" in films), and the scene at the dinner table with his mom is one of the saddest things I've ever watched in a movie (I also want to alert you that this scene is in the trailer). This movie isn't hard to find, and it's not boring *at all*, despite having no action, or guns, or profanity - it's a human drama of the most poignant type, that just about all of us can relate to. Try and find it if you can, and in the meantime, here's the original trailer - if you watch it, you'll have an idea what the film is about, but it won't ruin it for you; nevertheless, I'm going to announce a slight SPOILER ALERT:
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