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A Quiet Passion (2016)
A Quiet Passion, is a quiet success.
A gem in dialectic within a well-written scenario, the cast of this film greatly helps it. It stars Cynthia Nixon, who is both extraordinary and memorable as the notable American poet, Emily Dickinson. Her resemblance to Dickinson is uncanny. Keith Carradine, an actor whom I have not seen enough of, heads up the able supporting cast.
As opposed to nit-picking a quality production that is miraculous simply for having been made in today's movie industry, it seems to me that just sitting back and marveling over it is more appropriate and certainly more suitable. The periodicity in costumes, sets, properties, music and upscale 19th Century behaviors all felt spot on.
Many years ago, the late, great film director, Frank Capra, whom I had met, sent me a poem by Emily Dickinson. Her work was, by then, only dimly lit way in the back of my mind, as an English (and psychology) major in college. I was so taken by the poem (her work does this to most readers) that I researched her biography and eventually traveled all the way to Amherst, Mass., where her house still stands. Providence saluted my choice with wonderful weather for the journey.
My hopes are for this films' recognition, one that it well deserves.
The OA (2016)
An unpolished gem
This series is a fair effort but fails at the script level. A script is the foundation for all cinematic presentations in any language, even wordless ones. The basic continuity needs refining and polishing. Not being smooth, it tends to jump and has gaps.
Viewers follow a film due to their attachment to the characters in the story. Here, the protagonist, despite much presence, remains blurry throughout so we have only a nodding interest in her. The antagonist, on the other hand, is clearly obsessed but we never get deep enough into his character to understand why this is so. As a result, again, we have only a mild regard for him or perhaps, a mild disdain. Since his role is so pivotal, his motive should have been deeply etched and not tossed off with a superficial excuse for his brutal and bizarre violence on a group of complete innocents. He is not depicted quite as we must privately assume what he is, a psychotic who has lost touch with reality. Like the colleague he kills, he is a linear comic book character and so, frustrated, we cannot really care that much.
As it stands, the filmmakers are asking the audience to use their various, different imaginations to fill in gaps. This is not good filmmaking. To see a fine example of screen writing, find The Night Of, by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price. This superb series stars the talented Riz Ahmed who plays Elias Rahim in The OA. The writers grab you by the collar from scene one and never let go until the end. The suspense is created by an old fiction writer's technique called The Chain of Promises.
The one outstanding feature of this series is its casting. Nearly every one of the players is at their top game. This starts with Alice Krige and the venerable Scott Wilson as the mom and dad. Ultimately, the makers of The OA do show promise, especially in locating fresh ideas, such as the hunt for ontological meaning in the NDE, to bring interest to a tired kidnapping plot, so we would like to see them continue to see what they can come up with after acquiring more experience and insight. ###
Ex Machina (2014)
As a writer and visual concept artist, I was designing a new book cover for an author friend of mine, so in the process I recommended the movie, Ex Machina, to her. She said she was not going to bother with it --- and I found out why, the trailers caused her to believe it was about humans having sex with robots.
I told her, "not even close" and that if you blink, you might miss even the mention of sex in the picture.
Once again, the pinheads in advertising thinking they know how to sell a movie but in fact, destroying its release in the process. In fact, the film has one of the few multi-level-of-meaning, brilliant scripts I have seen in many years and everything else that follows, casting, production values, all superb. It would be a shame to see this one not make back its investment. Ex Machina is one of the best films I have seen in years. It is a study of human consciousness and the possibility of consciousness without conscience. For me, that is brilliant time and money spent on a movie.
Not that bad
I rarely expect to see every unusual show with a $200M budget these days, especially TV fare, so my expectations were not high. I find the production engaging and particularly love the sets of an ancient Hellenic period with heads of giant statues half buried in the Earth and the stands of even trees. They have an otherworldly feeling that adds substance and context to this unusual production.
My experience in production design, directing and writing helps me to come to an objective view of this show. What also helps is the mere fact that someone is attempting to bring unusual fare to the screen. It is not easy and yes, it does take an ungodly amount of money to bring a show like Game of Thrones to the tube. This is not a G.O.T. production but that is fine as far as I am concerned. They all do not have to match G.O.T.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The One and Only Apes Fest
PLANET OF THE APES (1968) This original production, inspired by the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel, La Planète Des Singes was cast well, with a screenplay co-written by none other than Rod Serling. However, someone marred it by injecting period politics. It still stands out as the "one and only", primarily because it was the surprise evolutionary reversal that made it great and launched it into the Pantheon of Classics.
The ensuing milking of the original in the following years was nothing more than various filmmakers attempting to cash in. The first sequel was somewhat interesting but it takes the story beyond known and theoretical science into metaphysics, thus, shattering the original concept. In my humble opinion, it is not a true sequel in that it varies wildly from the original concept, creating its own plot line and becoming silly, actually, with the introduction of malicious, telepathic super humans. That is like a bad pastiche on good art. The following "sequels" are not worth watching.
The 2001 re-make of the original, with a bizarre script and completely incomprehensible ending that essentially tells audiences they have just wasted two hours of their lives and a few dollars, was stillborn, mostly because Tim Burton, who can claim some merit for other movies, such as Mars Attacks, is still no Franklin J. Schaffner.
If you have not seen this original obtain a good copy of it and stick with it. You will be disappointed with anything that follows it.
Sorry but I march to a different drum.
It is not just the impossible science in the script, for example; the fact that a gravity sufficient to slow down time by a factor of 60,000 (one hour equals seven years) would make it impossible to land a ship using our known technology. It would instantly crush the vehicle along with its crew. Not major but contributory, the title itself, "Interstellar" is a misnomer since the lead character travels beyond dimensions, not just between stars.
The script begins to fall apart when it is actually less than half way through. By the end, it is out of control and wildly bizarre. The intelligence alluded to as "they" is far too nebulous and ranges into incoherence. A murky plot and the use of often-mumbled tech-babble move it all to the realm of the juvenile scenario. As a literary device, the use of babble instead of coherent language is as silly as Bugs Bunny pulling a large hammer from behind his back, out of nowhere.
The scene where Coop finally meets his daughter, Murph, as an old woman was touching, but the casting of the highly recognizable Ellen Burstyn, albeit, a wonderful actor was, however, inappropriate since it tends to destroy suspension of disbelief.
Those critics that do not wish it revealed that they do not understand it will give it rave reviews in order to convince others that they do understand it. Some of the audience will go the same way. Such is our contemporary Hollywood scenario.
Angels and Insects (1995)
For the tongue-in-cheek coffee-sippers among us.
We humans come in so many different mind-sets that, astonishingly, a film like this tedious, annoyingly mundane and meaningless churning can actually have value to some.
For me it was a time for slapping my face to stay awake, looking for gummed tape to hold up my eyelids. But then, there was such a marvelous pay-off, again, not for all of us but for those with iron clad stomachs. What was it? The boring protagonist discovers that all his children are really the offspring of his wife's long time sexual relationship with her brother. Indeed, he walks in on them slapping loins, at some point.
One looks for meaning in all forms of literature only to find that, perhaps, life might very well be devoid of meaning. Maybe that is what those given to this drivel have objectified.
Man of Steel (2013)
Unfortunately, greatly disappointing
For me, this new Superman epic, Man of Steel, where the name Superman seems to be verboten, was greatly disappointing. The trailers, at least the early ones were filled with promise and hinted at intelligence, substance and story instead of yet another gross-out treatment of today's over the top violence that has begun to show up in blockbusters.
What story there is, was swamped and drowned out with the excessively loud noise of a sound track that has not been equalized and drifts from normal to painfully loud, all to keynote meaningless, superfluous and excessive violence. Here, the villain, Zod, is a cardboard, two dimensional character without enough subtext for audiences to be able to identify with him beyond anything but a machine that has broken down.
Curiously, there was also no stimulating or illuminating musical score to unify and bring inspiration to the entire procedure. This was not a well made film. I am reminded of the awful corporate blunder, in 1985, by the Coca Cola Company when they replaced a drink that had become an American tradition given impetus by WWII, with carbonated pancake syrup.
In my view, the expenditure of more than $200 million on a production carries social implications and at least the responsibility of the social impact. Beyond that, an opportunity to bring a bit of literacy and decency to the millions who will see the movie. This was not to be in this outing.
If the rumor mills are correct they are doing a sequel. Well, perhaps they should start by trying to find where Kal El's red shorts disappeared and then hire a professional screenwriter and director with at least some semblance of consciousness.
My Dinner with Andre (1981)
A film unique in the annals of motion pictures.
In terms of gross, this entry seems to cover just the re-release of this film in one theater, back in may of 1999. The film actually released in 1981 and it enjoyed a national release so I suspect it grossed a lot of money against its budget. As a filmmaker I can state with no exaggeration that I could have produced the entire film to answer print for less than $5,000. It earned more than that in its one-theater re-release in 1999.
At the bottom line, this film is what I believe to be the ultimate reason for the invention of the motion picture.
Summary: two bright men in conversation across a table, inspires, educates, beguiles,intrigues, and entertains all at once. The shocker is that all this is done without a written script, as far as I can determine. The subjects discussed are far ranging and delivered like bullets from a Thompson submachine gun. You can start watching but if you have any level of intellect at all, you cannot stop watching.
The film is a great, novel idea, one unique as far as I know, to the motion picture industry, an industry to which this movie brings no small amount of grace.
The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956)
Brave little movie.
At the time of release of this film from the book, The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956), the concept of reincarnation was virtually unknown to the masses in the Western World. Today, some 56 years later, it has become fact to many scholars and researchers in this part of the world. Internationally known physicians, specializing in psychiatry, now spend their lives in its research and work in its further exploration. The real miracle of this little, low budget film is that it was made at all at a time of fear and ignorance of one of the basic keystones of ontology.
The book itself is rather shallow as the film but this is probably due to the lack of comprehension of not just the subject of reincarnation but hypnosis itself, which was then not a widely practiced form of psychotherapy. At that time, religionists and their authoritarian scripture heavily controlled the subject of human consciousness much as it is in the Middle East today.
At this writing, schools teach self-hypnosis. It is understood to be a method of focusing and nothing fearful, reprehensible or a dangerous practice of some mysterious Rasputin. In addition, it is known that regression itself is a simple guided focusing and not some bizarre scheme of being controlled by someone else. No one can control anyone else through hypnosis. They can only suggest and persuade. It is up to the subject to accept or reject the persuasion.
Edgar Cayce, who is briefly mentioned in this film, is now honored for his life's work and anyone can join the internationally important Association of Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Virginia to study his life and work as well as research into consciousness.
The movie barely introduces the subject but it does so in a very believable way and with a lot of courage.