Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Visual images tell a love story
This film is silent because it is meant for the deaf to be able to fully understand it, while the hearing (or at least those who do not know ASL) to be left partly in the dark. In the course of this movie, two gay guys repeatedly cruise each other in northern Manhattan, then one starts the talk, and the other indicates that he is deaf. The hearing man is smitten, and starts communicating with exaggerated lip movements, then by text message, then learns sign language. They fall in love, they move in together. Then, jealousy and complications arise--non-ASL people will find it difficult to know exactly what the problem is. Finally, the two lovers run into each other on the subway and they feel the same heat that they felt when they first met.
This is a short film with a simple story, told entirely through visual imagery and music. It is like a great silent film of the 1920s, but without the intertitles. The cinematographer (who is also the director) makes great use of New York backdrops, especially vivid images from the underground. He also must focus on the signing, because one of the points of this film is that deaf people will be able to appreciate it just from reading hands and expressions. There's a great beauty to the signing, which non-ASL people can appreciate, even if they can't necessarily read the signs.
As refreshing as the Passaic Falls
"Paterson" is largely filmed in the old industrial town of Paterson, New Jersey, and pays homage to Paterson and all the people who came from there, in particular, William Carlos Williams. Adam Driver plays a bus driver named Paterson, who drives a bus through a downtown route in Paterson. He writes poetry, and lives in Paterson (his house might have been filmed in Yonkers, alas) with his wife who stays at home and paints everything in the house black and white. They have a dog, Marvin, who is another star of this movie. Yeah, it's charming and delightful, yet it's by the icy-cold Jim Jarmusch, go figure. It's about poetry and poets and people who come from Paterson, like Lou Costello and Allen Ginsburg and Hurricane Carter and Frederick Reines, the Nobel Prize- winning physicist who co-discovered the neutrino. Several scenes are filmed at the beautiful Passaic Falls (unfortunately, it must have been a dry season, the falls are a bit trickly). It's a deadpan comic delight-- and there is nothing in the whole movie about crime or decay or corruption or evil. It's wholly sweet, and especially sweet for North Jerseyites, who often fail to see the poetry around them.
Finding Prince Charming (2016)
Infuriating, but I can't stop watching
This is a gay male version of "The Bachelor." A bunch of infuriatingly handsome and dumb gay men in a SoCal house, and they are supposedly not fooling around with each other, but are all competing for another guy (Prince Charming, aka Robert Sepúlveda Jr.) who is also infuriatingly handsome, maybe not so dumb. Complications ensue. It's a totally annoying show that I absolutely have to watch.
An interesting facet of the show is the a few of the contestants are not really quite as handsome as the others. One, Charlie, is a hairy guy in not very good shape . . . and he's the first to be told to leave (in the show's parlance, "to give up his black tie" which Robert had formerly presented him with). Another,Danique, is a black man with a rather odd face--a huge forehead that just looks all wrong--and he's the second to be kicked out. There is also a girl-y guy named Robby who speaks in a high-pitched voice and is fully of stereotypical witticisms. He is attractive until he opens his mouth, then becomes a total turn-off, and ceases being handsome. He's the third to be asked to leave. Robert, aka Prince Charming, is great at telling these duds that he is sending them away because "he does not feel a connection," rather than because they are boner-killers. He's lives up to his name--"charming."
After those three leave, the house is left with only hunks--then the competition gets real.
Host Lance Bass is perfectly adequate in the role. Despite any flaws the show may have, I cannot stop watching. When it's on my DVR list of shows to watch, it's number 1.
I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Wonderful performances, needs subtitles, preachily leftist
Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake is the type of movie that plays well in places like New York's Upper Left Side and in Berkeley. It's about two people being screwed by a system that treats them as cases and statistics and problems to solve, but never as human beings. Meanwhile, these two people find each other, and find ways to help each other to survive.
It's a story that could well be true, portraying a situations that happen to many of us when we must deal with the government or with large corporations, or with large corporations deputized by the government,like health benefits corporations. The movie has emotional power, and one cannot help but identify with the lead characters. One is a carpenter not allowed to work because of fragile health, but not allowed to collect welfare because he is too healthy. The other is a single mother priced out of London, who moves to Newcastle because there she can get better housing, but who receives too little assistance to be able to feed both herself and her children.
The movie loses me for two main reasons: first is the lack of subtitles--they speak a different sort of English in Newcastle than they speak in the USA, and I missed at least a third of the dialog, maybe more. Some aspects of the plot were lost to me because of that.
And then I thought that the characters were too pure and flawless, and the plot seemed to imply that all those caught in the system are virtuous, and the abuses of welfare are minimal. That the system is designed solely to ferret out worthy applicants and make them fend for themselves. Thus, the film comes across as preachy, as a teaching film, and one loses the sense of watching real people in real situations. And likely this film will mostly be preaching to the choir.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
It was not fun
I watched the full 3-1/2-hour+ version in a Brooklyn movie theater. It was not fun. Maybe it would have been funner if the theater was less full and I could stretch out my legs and relax, but we were packed in, and my neighbor to the right kept rubbing against me (accidenally), and a head in front of me kept bobbing up and down. (Like a middle-seat plane ride to Jackson Hole.)
Heaven's Gate is a movie with spectacular scenes, especially the dance numbers and roller-skating numbers, but ultimately it was a big and very bloody mess, whose characters were both incoherently drawn and incoherent (at times I was thinking this was the first mumblecore movie, thanks to the gravelly, sotto voce Kris Kristofferson (I forgot what a great- looking man he was, that's something to see)). I also forgot that the movie was based on historical events, which made it somewhat more interesting for me, but I would rather have read a book about the Johnson County War than see this movie.
The best scenes are the earliest ones, set at Harvard in 1870, where Kris Kristofferson, John Hurt and others celebrate their graduation with marching bands, drunken speeches, elaborate waltzes, and some aggressive sport. Once the scene shifts out to Wyoming (filmed in Montana), the movie becomes elliptical and obscure, and it didn't have to be that way. The elements of a coherent plot are there, but the director preferred to be a bit of a mystic, and to let the viewer decipher the relationships among the people, and figure out for themselves why they went from Massachusetts to Wyoming. But most viewers are not going to care, and will not want to figure it all out.
Look, according to another review on IMDb, this is one of the big 3 expensive flops of all time (along with Ishtar and Waterworld). Thus, it's worth seeing, but a nice supply of Adderall might help you along.
An Honest Liar (2014)
Moving, sad, joyful--about fakery and true love
I expected this to be about Randi's debunking of psychics and religious healers, but it was also about his much younger boyfriend (now husband), and his struggles to stay in the USA, despite having stolen someone else's identity. Very touching. How did I miss Randi's coming out (at age 81!)? I was a bit disappointed that it did not go into his debunking of religion in general, and it revealed none of the magic tricks--even as Randi is exposing someone like Uri Geller as merely a magician, not a psychic. Nonetheless, the documentary was riveting. An Honest Liar. The Amazing Randi (James Randi was also a great conversationalist--he had an all-night radio show on WOR-New York when I was a teen, competing with Long John Nebel and Brad Crandall.)
The Projectionist (1970)
Awesome flick, also a haphazard and unfocused mess
Awesome flick, starring Chuck McCann. In some ways, a very haphazard and unfocused mess, but also, obviously, an intense labor of love for the director, and maybe also for Chuck McCann, the kiddie-show star of our youth. Chuck is a projectionist at an old movie house (run by Rodney Dangerfield), who fantasizes that he is a superhero. The superhero segments, filmed in Fort Tryon park, it seems, are very amateurish and cheap, remind me of a super-8 superhero film my friends and I made when we were in 10th grade, in which I starred as some sort of superhero. But the director, a guy named Hurwitz, also interspersed hundreds of clips from old Hollywood movies--at one point, the screen was divided into five parts, with different segments of Hollywood films showing in each of the parts. (I guess no one was enforcing film copyrights in 1971.) The Projectionist opens with a segment from a Gerald McBoing Boing cartoon, which then goes off the reel, and contains a lot of news footage showing the awful events in the world, police beating demonstrators, KKK hanging blacks, etc. It also contains fake coming attractions: one for a film about our awful future in which men become the slaves of robots, and another for a film about our glorious future, in which we ascend to heaven on earth. And then there are the scenes of Chuck McCann walking through the streets of New York of 1971, including a stunning walk down seedy old 42nd Street (one of the marquees says "Save Free TV"--remember the campaign against pay TV becoming the norm?) and a visit to a magazine shop with racks full of girlie mags (racks full of racks?) and a photo from one of those mags, a naked girl on a rug, turns into a fantasy segment for Chuck McCann. The movie is nuts, total anarchy, gloriously unfocused and idiosyncratic, and wonderful, and ends with the film we're watching pulling out of the aperture, and the screen going white, then black. Then the lights in the theater go on.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
A little piece of film history. Very erotic. Showy cinematography.
Peter Greenaway's ambitions and talent are gargantuan, and his achievements, films such as Prospero's Books and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, are mighty. Eisenstein in Guanajuato, which chronicles 10 days in the life of Sergei Eisenstein, is not a masterpiece, but is unique in its visual techniques and its inclusion of explicit sex (and anal sex at that!) that make it stand out among biographical films. It would have been helpful to have read a biography of Eisenstain before seeing the movie, and to have recently viewed 10 Days that Shook the World and The Battleship Potemkin and Que Viva Mexico. Nevertheless, I was thrilled by the cinematography which used techniques that I have never seen used in quite the way they are used here. For example, scenes shift quickly and often from B&W to color, and sometimes use both B&W and color in the same frame.
There is one amazing scene that seems to take place at a street corner, but gradually the building behind Sergei straightens out and reveals itself to be the straight facade of a mid-block building.
Every reference to an Eisenstein movie is accompanied by a shot of that actual movie. Every name dropped by the characters is accompanied by a photo of the actual person whose name was dropped. It helps in understanding the movie.
The most thrilling thing about the movie, for me, is the inclusion of a rather explicit gay sex scene. It is Sergei's first time having sex, and he seduced by a very handsome young man, his handler and interpreter, who joyously teaches Sergei about the Mexican siesta, and has Sergei undress. Sergei is quite uncomfortable about his body (the actor playing him is rather ungainly, like Sergei was). Sergei does not think that anyone would want to have sex with him, no man, no woman. The handler assures Sergei that he is wrong, and proceeds, graphically, and erotically, to enter the Eisenstein anus. I rarely get aroused by non- porn movies, but this scene is one that I think about often, and fondly. The notion that an unsexy man can been seen as sexy and can become sexual, is one that I appreciate. And so, Viva Greenaway!
Steve Jobs (2015)
Too much Fassbender, too much Jobs--tedious--talk talk talk
t's an art film. Schematic--it only shows Jobs before the introduction of three innovations: the Mac, the NeXT, and the iMac. All the conflicts in Jobs' life at each of those three pivotal times are dramatized as if revelatory conversations took place at that exact time, within the half- hour before the presentation. His conflicts come to heads: between Jobs and Scully, between Jobs and Wozniak, between Jobs and his the mother of his daughter, and between Jobs and his daughter Lisa. Jobs' conscience is a loyal assistant named Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslett).
I call it an "art film" because it is not really particularly entertaining, nor does portray Jobs' life as it really could have happened. It's a film that follows a scheme, and pushes the Jobs character forward, toward being a good human being, through each of his presentations. The film is all talk, and all Fassbender all the time. It's not designed for popular appeal.
I didn't really enjoy it, I was glad when it was over. Now I want to see how the Ashton Kutcher movie handled it, and the current documentary.
I'm not a partisan: I'm rather neutral toward Jobs--I use an iPhone and iTunes, but eschew the OS--I stick with Windows. From this objective point of view, I've got to say I think the portrayal was overly harsh, not balanced. The film uses Jobs' life to make its points about the need to be a good human. Jobs is the template--biography is not the point.
Its central premise is slanderously wrong--if that were not true, it'd be great
Even if Joseph Califano hadn't made the point, I would have been appalled by the portrayal of LBJ in this film, since I'm old enough to remember LBJ. The CENTRAL PREMISE of this film is that MLK had to do something dramatic, and even court tragedy, in order to convince a reluctant LBJ to push the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That is the "drama" on which this entire historical fiction hinges. The climax comes when fictional LBJ changes his mind, having witnessed what local authorities did, and what Gov. George Wallace allowed, on a bridge outside Selma. LBJ then makes an address to Congress, the bill is passed, and everyone praises MLK for making it happen.
As Califano said, "Selma was LBJ's idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn't use the FBI to disparage him."
I don't mind when liberties are taken with historical fact in the interests of making a good film. I've defended "The Imitation Game" despite various distortions--the central premise, that a math wiz named Turing made it possible for the Brits to crack the Enigma code, that he conceived of computers as we now know them, and that he was persecuted for his homosexuality, are true beyond dispute (although other events were involved in breaking the code).
But Selma's key dramatic element, it's emotional core, is based on well- known and well-remembered historical fact, and it is a lie. The filmmakers say that the film is a dramatic story, and that they have taken liberties, yet they make it seem, by the use of a teletype device at the bottom of the screen, that they are recounting events contained in FBI wiretaps--the teletypes contain dates of particular events that we are seeing dramatized. It is a device that gives veracity to the tale.
Of course, it's just a film, and the filmmakers are not responsible for the impressions of history conveyed who don't know it, but I could sense that the young people in the auditorium where I saw the film were emotionally invested in seeing LBJ as a villain. An audible gasp arise when LBJ, speaking with George Wallace, referred to the "Nigras"; I saw a person near me shaking his head, as though the N word had been said. If LBJ were alive and if public figures were able to sue for defamation, he would have a case against this defamatory motion picture.
So why did I give it any "stars" in this rating system? Because, other than the central premise, it was a terrific movie. David Oyelowo is a magnificent actor. The speeches written for him to deliver, in lieu of the actual speeches which they were not given the rights too, were powerful, and delivered with such sincerity and force that you wanted to go out and march behind Oyelowo. The director did not ignore MLK's affairs with other women, but portrayed him and Coretta talking about them, dealing with them as adults. There is a recognition of MLK as a flesh-and-blood human, as well as a person who was able to recognize, in himself, that he was in a position where he could change the world. The scenes of freedom marches were powerful and exciting.
So, with the exception of its main story line, this movie is great. And because of falsity, the movie is slanderous.
The Interview (2014)
A terrific gross-out political satire
Great comedy! Much better than expected! I laughed all the way through. Franco's Skylander was a wonderful parody of fatuous TV hosts. Rogen a very good straight man. Lizzy Caplan, who I love in "Masters of Sex," was divine and hilarious as the CIA honeytrap. Randall Park a hysterical Kim Jong Un. Diana Bang lives up to her name as Sook. Query: Is this the first combination gross-out comedy and political satire? It's not really a satire about the reprehensible DPRK, but it IS about the way Americans, and probably the rest of the world, euthanize themselves by wallowing in "celebrity"news, while there is a place in the world, run by an evil clown, where people who speak out are sentenced to death and their children and children's children are sentenced to work camps. Where huge expenditures go to armaments while people must eat the bark off trees. It's a gross-out comedy with a mission, and I loved it.
Into the Woods (2014)
Best to leave after the first 1:15 (approx)
I am not a Sondheim fan, but I thought the movie was (SPOILER ALERT) amazing and wonderful and enthralling up to the False Ending, which I assume was the end of Act One in the theater. Then, when everyone gets lost in the woods in Act Two and the giantess tries to get her revenge, the movie seems to bog down completely and becomes an utter bore, and we have to listen to endless lugubrious, tedious, Stephen Sondheim songs, and it's torture for me and for all the 10-year-olds in the audience. I would have been perfectly happy if it ended at the False Ending, but that would not be our wistful and melancholy National Treasure, Stephen Sondheim, would it? (I did like Sunday in the Park and Night Music, so I'm not a total anti- Sondheim person.)
Giulietta degli spiriti (1965)
Wonderful to watch on DVR--discover the mysteries
Juliet of the Spirits makes more sense to me now that I can go back and rewatch and remind myself of earlier, confusing scenes, and characters who appeared and disappeared. Fellini made movies meant for DVR, only he maybe didn't know it that DVR would come to be. I recommend seeing Juliet of the Spirits once every 15 to 20 years. That's how often I've seen it. It is all about maintaining your dignity as you age and the world goes crazy around you, everyone trying to retain some piece of their former youthfulness in clownish and ghastly ways, while Juliet, the amazing Mrs. Fellini, walks through live and gazes upon it true to yourself. Spoiler alert: the last scene, when Juliet walks out of the fake sets and fake nature of a Fellini picture, and into the reality of an actual landscape (a curated landscape though it is), is timeless, worth watching over and over again.
The Raid (1954)
A Vermont Civil War western, more or less--very effective
I didn't expect much from this Civil War movie, set in Vermont(!), but the movie really delivered some great excitement. A group of Rebs were held prisoner in a POW jail in Plattsburgh, NY. They escape to Canada, not far away, and then decide to raid St. Albans, VT, also not far from the border. Their motives are to raise money for the Confederate cause by robbing the 3 banks, and to get revenge for Sherman's destruction of Savannah. All of the big male stars are bad guys--if you believe the lost cause was bad. Van Heflin has some redeeming qualities--he is kind to the boy, Tommy Rettig, and to Anne Bancroft in one of her earliest movies, as a local boarding- house owner and mother of the boy. (Her husband died in the war, fighting for the Union cause.) The excitement builds to a climax, but that may be an unsatisfying climax if you are a Unionist.
The Sturgeon Queens (2014)
My kind of Jewish doc
I am a secular Jew, but this movie evokes the parts of Judaism that I love and revere: the Jew food, the harrowing escape from pogroms in Eastern Europe, the humor. You can taste the lox, the herring, the whitefish, right through the TV screen (the movie was used for "Pledge Week" at Channel 13--I taped it and zapped the pledge parts). I related most to the humor of the 4th generation of Russes, who had the nerve to name one of their sandwich concoctions ("the Hebe"). After the 3rd generation complained, they renamed it "the Hebester", so it's not so offensive, just a play on "hipster." I've had people complain when I call the cuisine "Jew Food," but "the Hebe" goes further than I probably would--but I'm of the age of the third generation, not the fourth. And I might complain about the Hebe, but I'd eat it (lox and WASABI--perfect together).
The Imitation Game (2014)
Can't help crying for this great man brought down
My immediate reaction to The Imitation Game was that it was the best movie ever made. That was my instant reaction, as I was crying at the end, when we experience the demise of the brilliant Alan Turing. It's a scrupulously made telling of three important stories: the creation of the computer, the winning of the War, the persecution of homosexual men in post-War Britain. Each topic is huge, and all three come together in one man, portrayed by the impeccable Benedict Cumberbatch. (Oh yeah, it's also about the bonds between a gay man and the woman to whom he becomes engaged.) Do go see this shattering, fascinating, informative movie. You too will love it. Maybe it's not the best ever made, but it's damn good.
The Knick (2014)
Dark and disturbing and brilliant
Wow, what a dark and disturbing series, and it's excellent. The racism portrayed on The Knick is worse than that in 12 Years a Slave, but it takes place in NYC around the turn of the 20th Century. Even the "heroes," the smart ones, are racists, although they gradually overcome prejudice when presented with a Model Negro, the brilliant surgeon and inventor portrayed by Andre Holland. But every black person in the city is one wrong move away from lynching by the Irish cops and the Irish populace. And that's just one theme: the hospital portrayed in The Knick is in the forefront of surgical innovation, mostly advances in stanching bleeding while sewing up internal injuries. There are lots of shots of internal organs and blood oozing out of human bodies, more gruesome than anything I've ever seen. (The show strives for accuracy in its portrayal of medical history.) The lead surgeon, portrayed by Clive Owen, performs miracles while addicted to every drug available in the hospital and in Chinatown, where he spends all his off-duty time. It's a powerful show, and the only reason why I continue to subscribe to Cinemax. The show is created and often directed by genius Steven Soderburgh. And it's filmed in New York, which gives it greater authenticity. And an electronic music score mesmerizes.
Rabbit, Run (1970)
Why isn't this film revived?
After I read Rabbit Run and Rabbit Redux, I wanted to see how many Updike novels had been made into movies. His writing does not seem cinematic. I was surprised to find that, in addition to The Witches of Eastwick, Rabbit Run had, in fact, been made into a movie. And starring one of the leading actors of the late 60's, early 70s, James Caan, as well as Carrie Snodgrass, best known for Diary of a Mad Housewife. Also, in a major role, Jack Albertson, later renowned for Chico and the Man.
Rabbit Run, the movie, is unfairly neglected. The central role of Harry Angstrom is fully realized by James Caan as a guy you sympathize with and despise. The events of Harry's life are played out to suitably tacky late-60's pop music, and filmed in John Updike's hometown of Reading, Pa. Reading looks even sadder than Updike described it, but the gritty streets work well for the story. They are unpleasant and dangerous and claustrophobic, and if you were to live there, in this small industrial city walled in by high hills, you might feel like you're trapped, like Rabbit was.
James Caan was somewhat unique among actors of that time: I think of Dustin Hoffman and Elliot Gould as being the icons of the era, the not-really-handsome lovable Jewish schmos. James Caan is a Jewish schmo, but he's also a hunk, with broad shoulders and a big chest and a seductive face. He's conventionally sexy, and women fall for him easily, but he still is an outsider, he's got issues, lots of issues, just like Dustin and Elliot. A super-schmo.
There was one scene in the book, which I will NOT reveal here, that was harrowing and an amazing display of the author's power with his pen. That scene translates frighteningly to the screen, although I thought the filmmakers could have gone much further in depicting the horror. If ever a remake is made, THAT scene should be full-out Grand-Guignol.
It's a satisfying flick, and it makes you long for the sequel that was never made. I read elsewhere that this film never even opened in New York, the studio thought so little of it. If the éminences grises of the Film Forum or Anthology Film Archives or Film Society of Lincoln Center are reading this, please consider reviving this film, and giving it a proper New York opening.
Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)
As mindboggling as El Topo and The Holy Mountain
If you loved El Topo and The Holy Mountain in the 1970s, even if you think that you've now grown up and put such mystical mumbo-jumbo behind you, you've still got to see this documentary about a movie that was never made. How, you may ask, can a film be made about another film that never existed? Well, in the tale spun by Alejandro (and his tale- telling, even in his broken English, is as fine as that of Spalding Gray), someone told him about the book Dune, by Frank Herbert, and, at a time when producers were willing to shower Alejandro with money, Alejandro said, "That will be my next movie." He had not read the book. It's not clear from the movie that he EVER read the book. But he went about hiring the best illustrators to create the most fantastic storyboard ever made, a huge volume the size of an artbook merged with the Unabridged Oxford, that illustrated the complete film, beginning to end. It only roughly corresponded to the novel, but to Alejandro, that did not matter. He told the story that he wanted to tell, about how one messianic figure, Paul (who would be depicted by Alejandro's son), would liberate, not just the planet Arrakus, but the entire universe. And all of this would have been depicted visually with special effects, in 1974.
In Alejandro's tale, this film was $5 million away from being made. And it would have starred David Carradine, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger among others. Alejandro's tales of finding these various stars and offering the roles are fantastical in themselves, and highly dubious, but for my to retell the tales here would spoil some of the best parts of the movie.
I attended the movie with someone who had not seen Alejandro's movies, nor had he read Dune (although it's on his must-read list), but he loved the movie because (1) it's a great tale, and (2) the comic book artists and special effects people that Alejandro employed, and who were working on the film when they pulled the plug, have gone on to great fame in other films and in comic art. And my friend was mostly nonexistent in the 1970s.
I remember Alejandro coming to speak at my college in 1971, and he was spellbinding, and he is still spellbinding in this film.
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
The Adventures of SuperPoet When He Was a Boy--fantastic!
I am such a fan of this movie, I can't begin to tell you. What a thrill to see Daniel Radcliffe, the most popular actor of our time, portraying my hero, my guiding spirit, Allen Ginsburg. Oh, this movie is great! I had never seen Daniel Radcliffe in a movie--I'd seen him on stage, from a distance, through binoculars, but I'd never seen him in a movie--I've yet to see a Harry Potter film. But this guy, this British guys, totally embodied my hero, the man from Paterson, Allen Ginsburg. How did he do that? The director, last night at the Walter Reade theater, was so articulate , so learned about my hero. But it's Daniel who became him, who imagined him at a tender age, at age 18. How do you do that? It was phenomenal--please, see Kill Your Darlings I don't know when it will come to your burg, but see it--it's like the movie that I always wanted, and there it is, exactly as I would create it, if I had any artistic talent at all.
Computer Chess (2013)
As good as it gets
I don't want to reveal too much here. No spoilers. I did not know anything at all about Computer Chess before I sat down at the local rep house to view it, maybe you shouldn't either. It seemed like it was an old documentary about an early (1979) contest to design a computer program that could beat a human being at chess. I thought, as I was watching it, that eventually the documentary would jump to the present day, and interview the participants in that contest, and provide revelations about the the development of artificial intelligence, and perhaps about the evolution of the participants in that early competition. But, at some point, maybe 10 or 15 minutes into the film, I realized that what I thought the movie was about was not at all what the movie was about. And I thought to myself, Wow! Incredibly the movie manages to merge a story about a bunch of extreme tech nerds with a story about a bizarre cult of seekers of sexual and spiritual awakening. My movie-going companion and I were both entranced all during the film, and couldn't stop talking about it afterwards.
This movie is the real deal: it's what we used to go to the movies for. Complexity, surprise, enthrallment, humor, enigmas, revelations. Ambiguity. Somehow a bunch of people down in Austin, Texas made the perfect movie.
Chernobyl Diaries (2012)
I can imagine myself doing the dopey things that the kids do in this film
I TIVO'd this film not knowing what it was about--I thought it might be a drama set at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown. Instead, it was about a group of dopey American (and Australian) kids who wind up in Chernobyl as part of an "extreme tourism" jaunt. And I can easily imagine being one of those dopey kids, even though I'm a lot older. The film plays with viewers' excitement on doing things that are a little bit (but not too) dangerous, and a little bit (but not too) illegal. Needless to say, the little darlings get their comeuppance as the movie turns to horror. I'm not a fan of horror, and the outcome was rather disappointing, but until it got silly, I was riveted by this story.
Packs a jolt
I watched this thinking it was a reality show and, boy, did it pack a wallop. But then something happened that never happens on reality shows, and I realized it couldn't be real. But the actors, if that's what they are, carry on, improvising, I guess, as though they don't know what's going on, like they are contestants trying to figure out the show's twists. As a reality show, what I found appealing was that there were no rules, and no stupid competitions, and no voting someone off the island. All you had to do to share the prize was to make it through a winter in Siberia. (So it would be a long series, since it seems to have been filmed in summer.) It was more NatGeo than NBC. But the surroundings were suspiciously unlike Siberia: first, I couldn't imagine getting permission from the Russian government to film something like this. And second, there were no mosquitoes, and whenever you read about outdoor life in Siberia, you read about mosquitoes. So I read the small print at the end, and discovered that the show is fiction, and is filmed in Manitoba. So next time I watch, I'll know it's fiction, and I'll see if I get any thrill out of it. Really loved the ride in the first episode.
Johnny Belinda (1948)
Schmaltzy, yes, but wonderful acting, cinematography, music
I just saw Johnny Belinda for the first time, and it's wonderful cinema. I kept being reminded of later films I admire, and see where they could have learned elements of their style. The face, that beautiful face of Jane Wyman, how expressive, how poignant! No wonder Reagan fell for her, she was glorious, and without saying a word. And I was watching also the shadows and light, and thought, how very European, and in fact it was by a Romanian-born director, Jean Negulesco. Its setting had elements of the American west, but it was set in Cape Breton, Canada, and portrayed families that fished and farmed and had little contact with the rest of the world. It portrays, a bit melodramatically, small-town prejudice and ignorance, and tackles the issue of rape rather bravely for the time. The Lew Ayres character was a bit too goody-goody for my taste, not much nuance, but he carried off the role well. I've now got to see him in the Dr. Kildare movies.
Man of Steel (2013)
Machines ramming into other machines. Not MY Superman.
Man of Steel. The new Superman movie. I didn't hate it. I did hate much of it. Much of the 2-1/2 hours involved machines blowing up other machines. There were also machines ramming into other machines. And sometimes people slamming into other people. Much of this happened on Krypton, so it didn't matter, the place was doomed anyhow. But a lot of it happened on Earth, and caused some pretty bad destruction in Smallville and Metropolis. (A pretty funny line: Superman asks the residents of Smallville to stay inside and lock the doors. But when Zod & Superman to at each other, they knock each other threw the walls of multiple product-placement sponsors: 7-11, IHOP, etc.) No one on the Daily Planet crew could possibly survive the destruction in Metropolis, yet were supposed to believe and care about this bunch of intrepid reporters.
So, I would prefer this movie if all of THAT stuff were removed, and we were just left with the bits where Clark tries to get control of his superpowers (loved where Clark could not stop using his xray vision, and saw too much), the scenes with Ma & Pa Kent, the scenes in Newfoundland on the fishing boats. I like the flying scenes in this version because you really get a sense of super speed--it never seemed like the other supermen were going really fast.
So, for my viewing, I propose a totally expurgated, 1/2-hour version of the movie. Needn't be 3D--two dimensions would be plenty. Oh, and I'd use the score from the the Chris Reeve Superman movie--I kept wanting for it to come on. Also, do not spend more than, say, $1 million on special effects. And turn down the sound effects--maybe just get the sound effects guy from Prairie Home Companion to do all the effects.