Night Blaze (This Week’s Movies)


Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat: Blace (courtesy IFC Films)

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

Blaze. “Blaze looks and sounds great; some of its images have a sensitively chosen-yet-offhand texture that seems to spring straight out of a vintage country song.” (Herald link here.)

Night School. “Hart’s shtick, in which he frequently ends up being the butt of a joke, is still strong.”

Movie Diary 9/25/2018

Quartet (various, 1948). Four stories by W. Somerset Maugham, introduced by the author himself, who has a wonderfully “he’s never seen the way people talk in movies before, has he?” kind of delivery. Maugham’s ability to find great ideas for stories is much in evidence. The first one, “The Fact of Life” (dir. Ralph Smart), is a comic piece about a young man who goes to Monte Carlo and immediately disregards the three rules his father (Basil Radford) has imparted: stay away from gambling, lending money, and women. The woman in question in Mai Zetterling, who does her best to fulfill the father’s expectations. Second story is “The Alien Corn” (dir. Harold French), with Dirk Bogarde, in his second real movie role, as a young man determined to turn away from family responsibilities and become a great pianist; Honor Blackman tries to reason with him; a tricky bargain is made. “The Kite” (dir. Arthur Crabtree) is an odd number about an awkward kite designer, dominated by his mother (Hermione Baddeley), who forgoes marriage with a non-kite enthusiast (Susan Shaw). In “The Colonel’s Lady” (dir. Ken Annakin), the stuffy colonel (Cecil Parker) is surprised when his wife (Nora Swinburne) writes a best-selling book of poetry, and more surprised when people keep telling him how passionate the book is – a bittersweet situation all the way around. Not a barnburner, but some memorable situations, and an interesting look at an antique form of moviemaking.

Movie Diary 9/24/2018

Blaze (Ethan Hawke, 2018). Musical biopic about Blaze Foley, who comes across in the movie as a self-destructive but poetic-souled artist. Unlike the trajectory of most such films, Foley never becomes a success, which gives the movie an interesting dramatic (or undramatic) twist. Hawke creates a lush-looking palette – this is a film of carefully chosen shots – even if the tone doesn’t always stay true. Also, watch the performance of Josh Hamilton, who does nonverbal things as Foley’s friend; he conveys a healthy skepticism about the bigger-than-life mythology that springs up around a figure like this. Some good people in the film, including Ben Dickey’s acting debut as Foley, Alia Shawkat, and Charlie Sexton, downright eerie as Townes Van Zandt. I keep telling people to see Hawke’s performance as Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue, which is not a great film but is a remarkable example of an actor “getting” an artist in a complete way, despite the difficulties that arist had with/created in the world. This is akin to that.

Clock Lizzie (This Week’s Movies)


Jack Black, Owen Vaccaro, Cate Blanchett: The House with a Clock in Its Walls (courtesy Quantrell Colbert/Associated Press)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls. “The story carries less urgency as it ticks along, frittering away its energy amid all the special effects and sight gags.” (Herald link here.)

Lizzie. “Let’s just say the portrait of this particular ax murderer gets a sympathetic slant in the #MeToo era.”

For the Scarecrow blog, I anticipate the release of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 (haven’t seen it yet) with a revival of my 2004 review of Fahrenheit 9/11, which includes my customary struggle with Moore’s hectoring style. Read it here.


Movie Diary 9/19/2018

Showdown (R.G. Springsteen, 1963). An Audie Murphy vehicle that acquits itself better than you might expect for one of his mid-career low-budget Westerns. Murphy and Charles Drake are saddle pals caught in the wake of a notorious criminal (Harold J. Stone). In its straightforward way, the film touches on reassuringly familiar themes of comradely loyalty and code-of-honor bargains among thieves, plus there’s a dance-hall girl who can’t sing (Kathleen Crowley) and refreshingly admits as much. At the center of the story is an incredibly baroque town “jail,” built outside in the main square: a pike connected to a dozen neck cuffs on long chains. I don’t know what basis this has in reality, but it’s a heckuva central image. The dandy supporting cast includes Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, and Skip Homeier.

Ramrod (Andre de Toth, 1947). An offbeat Western from de Toth, directing his then-wife Veronica Lake in a scorching role. The movie needs more of her, in fact, as its rather lackadaisical pace allows it to wander away from Lake’s would-be sheep rancher. The film’s got a curious cold start, in the midst of a confrontation, as though the opening sequences had been left out; when everything shakes down, it’s Joel McCrea’s hired hand protecting Lake’s interests against the town cattle baron (Preston Foster) and his flunkies, who include her own father (Charlie Ruggles). There’s almost too much going on in the film, but the ranginess allows for felicities such as Don DeFore’s roguish good-time guy, who flagrantly cheats on his ladylove (Arleen Whelan); he’s so charming the movie doesn’t bother to disapprove.

Movie Diary 9/18/2018

Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (Laurence Huntington, 1948). Much of it plays as one of those English school sagas, this one about a young teacher (David Farrar) arriving at a hidebound estalishment where Marius Goring is the fussiest of the instructors. Greta Gynt is the woman they both love, Raymond Huntley is the monstrous dean. Everything fairly normal, with some handsome Erwin Hillier photography along the way, and then the movie reaches a climax that really takes a strange Hitchcockian leap. Peculiar stuff.

Movie Diary 9/16/2018

The Predator (Shane Black, 2018). Not exactly awful, but awfully outdated, this addition to the Predator universe is a real comedown from Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Among other things, this is a movie badly in need of some movie-star zip, an element that can’t be faked. I did enjoy the sign on the high-school greeting board: “Welcome Parents & Stds.”

Lizzie (Craig William Macneill, 2018). The Lizzie Borden case, given a speculative solution and a modern twist. Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart are devoted to the effort, and Jamey Sheridan and Denis O’Hare admirably fill the roles of male creep. (full review 9/21)