Kong Zucchini (This Week’s Movies)

kong skull

The tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood, Kong: Skull Island (courtesy Warner Bros.)

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

Kong: Skull Island. “Hiddleston is a bust as a dashing adventurer (‘Stand on a hillside with one leg cocked’ seems to be his acting note), and Larson has the shocked look of someone who wins an Oscar and finds out this is her reward.”

My Life as a Zucchini. “The mood is closer to the gentle melancholy of Peanuts, with which Zucchini shares a wistful air and pumpkin-sized craniums.”

The talkers in Framing Pictures re-convene for a conversation at Scarecrow Video tonight, March 10, at 7 p.m. The event is free, and freewheeling, and this month will range over new films (James Mangold’s Logan), a pair of Japanese masters (Yasujiro Ozu – the subject of a Seattle Art Museum spring series – and the recently departed Seijun Suzuki), and a bushel of new DVD releases. And what you’d like to talk about. Check the FP Facebook page for updates.

Last week I served as guest speaker in the first meet-up for the Columbia University of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab, launching an ambitious new project focused on Frankenstein and Artificial Intelligence. The meeting was held at Lincoln Center and we batted around ideas literary, cinematic, and otherwise. The program is introduced here, and the audio of my participation is embedded there.

Movie Diary 3/9/2017

The Swimmer (Frank Perry, 1968). Burt Lancaster swims across the suburbs in the adaptation of John Cheever’s story. I saw it at a tender age and it left an impression – maybe more as an idea than as a movie. The thing sure has a lot of late-60s mannerisms and even more fruity Marvin Hamlisch music. Lancaster seems to decay as the story goes along, a somewhat more convincing arc than anything in the screenplay.

Movie Diary 3/8/2017

A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1961). The original cast of Lorraine Hansberry’s stage play is intact in this strong (if still stagey) translation – and a strong cast it is, with Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands, and Ruby Dee. The writing is so exceptional it makes you wonder what Hansberry would have accomplished if she hadn’t died at 34.

Movie Diary 3/7/2017

Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017). From the director of Kings of Summer! Which I liked, actually. This one has wobbles in tone and some silly heroic posturing, but the Vietnam War setting is cheeky and the fights are good monster-movie stuff. (full review 3/10)

Movie Diary 3/6/2017

The Dragon Painter (William Worthington, 1919). Sessue Hayakawa produced this vehicle for himself, in which he plays a rough painter touched with savage genius (really a Toshiro Mifune character thirty years before the fact, complete with leaping physicality). The painter is taken in by a mentor, and entranced with his elder’s daughter (Hayakawa’s wife, Tsuru Aoki); the young painter believes her to be a lost princess of times past. Nice evening at the Paramount theater, with live music by the Aono Jikken Ensemble.

A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961). I had never seen this title from this era of British film. The Criterion disc looks great. Rita Tushingham’s first movie role, and she well suits the kitchen-sink mode. It has aged better than some of Richardson’s other films. No title song, however (it was written for the stage play). Great ending, too.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962). Tom Courtenay is just right in this gritty drama, which goes wandering at times but generally holds up. Another pretty good ending, at the very least.

Logan Fall (This Week’s Movies)


Dafne Keen, Hugh Jackman: Logan

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

Logan. “A gratifying piece of movie storytelling.”

Before I Fall. “What makes this formula work is the intensity director Ry Russo-Young brings to it. Before I Fall is drenched in atmosphere, whether it’s the damp mood of a Pacific Northwest suburb or the hothouse of a teen party.”

The Salesman. “The movie’s main issue is a warped concept of masculinity, an issue Farhadi explores not by appointing a single villain but by depicting the problem in context.”

Early warning: Next Friday, March 10, the Framing Pictures group will convene to sort through a bounty of movie topics, including an upcoming Seattle Art Museum series on the films of Yasujiro Ozu; James Mangold’s Logan; and a trove of new DVD releases, from Mildred Pierce to the Jacques Demy movies that inspired La La Land. And yes, I may speak to the cultural significance of Philip Kaufman’s 1979 gem The Wanderers. It’s free, at Scarecrow Video at 7 p.m. More info on our Facebook page.

Movie Diary 3/2/2017

Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon, 2017). The Disney cartoon musical gets a re-do with live people. Some of the live people are Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, and Josh Gad, so that’s good. There’s a whole lotta digital world-making going on, too. (full review 3/17)

My Life As a Zucchini (Claude Barras, 2016). One of the animated Oscar nominees, a sweet-natured little stop-motion parable about orphans with giant heads. (full review 3/10)