Movie Diary 2/27/2022

Being the Ricardos (Aaron Sorkin, 2021). Some funny lines and running jokes, as you expect, and an overbearing tendency to have everything fit neatly together, as you might also expect. The most interesting thing going – I will try to write more about this – is the film’s depiction of the creative process, which in this world (despite the end result being slapstick comedy) is serious and disciplined and difficult. Nicole Kidman’s performance is therefore split between the two styles of Lucille Ball and Lucy. Javier Bardem also nails it.

Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2011). A previous film by the director of The Worst Person in the World. It is not, I think, up to the level of the current one, but you can see things falling into place; it is about a young addict (played by Worst Person co-star and National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Anders Danielsen Lie), in rehab but taking a day in Oslo. The influence of Ingmar Bergman is visible here, especially those scenes where someone simply stops the flow and gives voice to the most naked kind of despair.

The Friday 2/25/2022

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

Metropolis.

That Metropolis post is related to our upcoming “semester” of Scarecrow Academy, another online discussion series, this one devoted to “The Art in Sci-Fi: Science Fiction and the Director,” which launches March 5, and continues on Saturdays for 10 weeks thereafter at 2 pm Pacific Time. It’s free. See info and sign-up here, and check out our poster below.

No new episode of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” this week. We’ve posted a re-run, though, on the subject of New Nordic Composers. And our show on the film career of Ringo Starr is still online for a few more days.

I’ll be presenting my Humanities Washington talk, “The End is Near: How the Movies Prepared Us for the Apocalypse,” tomorrow, Saturday February 26, at 2 pm Pacific Time. Presented by King County Library System; details here.

Three vintage reviews posted to my other website, What a Feeling!, this week: Larry Peerce’s Wired, the biopic of John Belushi, with Michael Chiklis in his first big role; Chris Menges’ A World Apart, a South Africa story with Barbara Hershey and Jodhi May; and Paul Flaherty’s Who’s Harry Crumb?, an unworthy John Candy vehicle.

Movie Diary 2/22/2022

Private Hell 36 (Don Siegel, 1954). One of the films Ida Lupino made with her production company; she plays a nightclub singer (with maybe other things on the side) drawn into the tension between cops Steve Cochran and Howard Duff – Cochran wants to make off with some recovered money, Duff wants to play it straight. Lupino sings, as she did in Road House, to, shall we say, similar effect. Some scenes have grit, including some good shots at the racetrack; other times, Siegel seems to have lost interest. IMDb says that Lupino was having an affair with Cochran during the shoot, while married to Duff, which suggests a more interesting movie than the one on screen.

Movie Diary 2/21/2022

Le corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1943). Anonymous poison-pen letters in a small town, so there’s a whodunit aspect, but mostly just a portrait of suspicion and backbiting. Revisiting this because it’s on the Criterion Channel, looking good. One thought: Clouzot seems highly sensitive to annoying sounds, and adds that layer of unpleasantness to an already unpleasant world. Another director with misophonia? Could be.

The Friday 2/18/2022

John Malkovich, Nicole Kidman: The Portrait of a Lady

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Portrait of a Lady.

I have a new episode of my radio show, “The Music and the Movies,” as we complete our four-part series on the Beatles and film. This one’s about Ringo, of course. The one on George Harrison will be online for a few more days.

Check out the groovy new poster for the next semester of Scarecrow Academy, “The Art in Sci-Fi: Science Fiction and the Director,” which begins (free, online) Saturday, March 5. It’s not too early to sign up.

I’ll be doing my talk for the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau again on Saturday, February 26, at 2 pm Pacific Time. It’s called “This Is the End: How the Movies Prepared Us for the Apocalypse,” hosted by the King County Library System. More info here; the event is free.

Just one addition to the roster of vintage 80s reviews this week for my other blog, What a Feeling!: Thom Eberhardt’s Without a Clue, the Sherlock Holmes variation in which Holmes (Michael Caine) is an idiot and Watson (Ben Kingsley) is the true genius.

Movie Diary 2/16/2022

The King’s Man (Matthew Vaughn, 2021). Prequel to Vaughn’s other fantasy-spy pictures, with a few funny quasi-historical ideas (circa World War I) and the considerable aplomb of Ralph Fiennes to keep it going. Other than that, blech. In the previous Kingsman film, the absurdities mounted up and achieved some kind of energy, however callous; this one doesn’t reach those heights, although Rhys Ifans as Rasputin has his moments. Bonus moment of lyricism: the slo-mo shot of Fiennes in bowler hat, carrying an umbrella as a walking stick, is like a dream advertisement for Englishness.

Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne, 1996). Random re-visit to the feature that launched Payne’s career, about a pregnant aerosol-huffer who becomes a pawn in an abortion battle. It holds up well, and I’d forgotten it ends with a fantastic traveling shot that qualifies as one of the more robustly cinematic gestures in Payne’s career. Above everything else, though, Laura Dern is a fearless performer who never does that fake thing of ennobling this hopeless dipshit, however tempting that might be for an actor. She is superb.

Movie Diary 2/14/2022

Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954). Is there another film with such a distance between the inanity of its plotline and the disciplined design of its mise en scene? Here’s Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson as widow and millionaire playboy, moving through a series of charged 1950s spaces, with a handful of characters changing places once in a while. In the middle, there’s a European interlude, including one long night’s enchanted evening, that shows you where Sirk is coming from, in more ways than one.

Encanto (Jaren Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith, 2021). Watched this one because I’ll be doing a radio show about the Oscar-nominated Best Scores. Germaine Franco did the score here; the nomination surprises just a little, maybe, because the musical score is dominated by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songs, but okay. The movie itself is very assertive, and I have questions about the ending, which seems to Disneyfy the thing (as in, you can have your empanada and eat it, too).

The Friday 2/11/2022

Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielson Lie: The Worst Person in the World (Neon)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

The Worst Person in the World. “These are mundane things, but Trier’s methods keep the movie alive and buzzing.”

I’ve got a new episode of “The Music and the Movies”: Part Three of our Beatles and film series. This one’s about George Harrison. The previous show on Paul will be online for a few more days.

Prepare now for the upcoming Scarecrow Academy series on “Sci-Fi and the Director,” which goes on Saturday afternoons (free, online) beginning March 5. Info here.

Three vintage 80s reviews added to my other blog, What a Feeling!: Jenny Bowen’s The Wizard of Loneliness, a coming-of-age tale with Lukas Haas; Colin Gregg’s We Think the World of You, starring Alan Bates, Gary Oldman, and a notable Alsatian; and Nick Castle’s Tap, a vehicle for Gregory Hines that gave moments to a roster of old-pro dancers, notably Sammy Davis, Jr.

Movie Diary 2/8/2022

Green Grow the Rushes (Derek Twist, 1951). By the looks of it, a fling at capturing some of the whimsy of Ealing Studios, set in a small town that allegedly has legal independence from the UK but actually survives on smuggling. Or something like that. Contrived but mostly pleasant, thanks to a congenial cast, most notably Richard Burton and Honor Blackman very early in their careers, and looking attractive. Roger Livesey goes the comical old-salt route as a smuggler whose fishing boat washes up on the property of a cantankerous local, who just happens to be living with the cap’n’s wife. The production was a co-operative venture.

Movie Diary 2/7/2022

The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel, 2021). Black Western, mostly silly, but with a number of frisky moments and robust genre conventions. Not really all that much for the likes of Idris Elba and Delroy Lindo to do, but some of the lesser-known players get their licks in, and the whole thing has a very appealing oomph.