Movie Diary 8/18/2019

The Magic Christian (Joseph McGrath, 1969). I saw this movie at the Neptune theater on its first (possibly second) run, a matinee that provided one of the truly baffling moviegoing experiences of my youth. Today, having recently read the Terry Southern novel (a very funny book indeed), I thought I would give another look. I can understand why my young self was baffled – the movie is so incompetent at the basic things, it doesn’t even establish what the world’s richest man, that grand guy Guy Grand (Peter Sellers), is doing with his money-related pranks. The whole enterprise is ragged, a series of mostly chaotic gags, a feeling enhanced by weird cameos (Yul Brynner in drag singing “Mad About the Boy” to a silent Roman Polanski, Raquel Welch whipping the topless galley slaves, Laurence Harvey as a striptease Hamlet). John Cleese and Graham Chapman, who also appear, worked on the screenplay, although Cleese says in his memoir that their stuff was over-written by Sellers. Despite the general clumsiness, Sellers has his share of good, withering moments, and Ringo Starr is pleasant to have around (a character not in the novel: Guy Grand’s adopted son). The deployment of two songs, Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” and Badfinger’s McCartney-penned “Come and Get It,” is swell. The attack on propriety and wealth has a vicious undertone that ran through British comedy of this era, and is bracing to see 50 years on; maybe the movie looks better today than it did circa 1970 because we’ve so completely capitulated to the worship of rich people now. A worthwhile re-encounter, in any case.



Where’d You Light (This Week’s Movies)


Cate Blanchett: Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Annapurna Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette. “This should all be a meal for Blanchett, yet the actress isn’t a great fit.”

Blinded by the Light. “This is not just a movie about an exuberant teenager. This is a movie that feels like it was made by an exuberant teenager.”

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a 1998 review of D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’s Moon Over Broadway, a terrific backstage documentary about an ill-fated stage production starring Carol Burnett. Read it here.

Movie Diary 8/13/2019

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Collaizo, 2019). Star turn for Jillian Bell as a cynic who trains for a marathon in order to get in shape. An agreeable amount of TV-style one-liners, ably delivered by a breezy cast, and maybe that’s enough. (full review 8/29)

Movie Diary 8/12/2019

The Fugitive Kind (Sidney Lumet, 1960). A Tennessee Williams adaptation, with Marlon Brando as a snakeskin-jacket-wearing drifter hired as a shop clerk by lonely wife Anna Magnani in a small Southern town; her husband (Victor Jory) is recuperating in the upstairs of their mercantile store. Joanne Woodward plays the local wild child – yes, Joanne Woodward. Brando is fascinating, seemingly intent on going the opposite direction from Stanley Kowalski; his character is slow-simmering, muttery, full of tender philosophical credos. For all the poetic flourishes in Williams’ dialogue, there’s also much interest in what is unsaid (if you wonder a little about why Brando gets thrown out of his musical gigs and parties, you might find yourself wondering about the nature of those parties and his sexual identity). Beautifully photographed by Boris Kaufman, although Lumet has the tendency to hammer the keys; in Brando’s big monologue about birds that spend their lives flying and never land, Lumet makes sure you understand this is the Big Moment, practically a church sermon. It works, of course, because of the imagery and Brando’s delivery. Magnani is tops, and Maureen Stapleton and R.G. Armstrong are also around, though not enough.

Movie Diary 8/11/2019

Bird of Paradise (King Vidor, 1932). Sailor Joel McCrea sticks around after a South Seas island stop to snuggle with native girl Dolores del Rio, unaware that she is destined to be sacrificed to the volcano gods. A certifiably daft film, with some strangely intense moments and Max Steiner’s cool score.

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977). Kind of a “why not?” screening, from a DVD print that somebody must’ve spent some time restoring, so vivid are the colors. Seeing it again only underscores the woeful miscalculations of the 2018 remake.

Kitchen Art (This Week’s Movies)


Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish: The Kitchen (Warner Bros.)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald, and etc.

The Kitchen. “A hurried crime spree with too many unanswered questions.”

The Art of Racing in the Rain. “I kept wishing a talking cat would saunter in to poke fun at all this sentimental gush.”

ECCO. “Slowly — very slowly — moves into the kind of ambitious territory Christopher Nolan likes to stick his nose into.”

For this week’s Scarecrow Video blog, I contribute a Seasoned Ticket post on Last Year at Marienbad, playing this week at the Beacon Cinema. Read it here.

Movie Diary 8/7/2019

The Kitchen (Andrea Berloff, 2019). Crime fantasy, from a graphic novel, about wives going into their imprisoned husbands’ crooked business. Some intriguing casting helps at first (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss), but in various fundamental ways this movie doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Would like to know more about a criminal matriarch in this corner of the world (Hell’s Kitchen, late 1970s), however, especially given Margo Martindale’s presence in the role. (full review 8/9)