27 March 2016

In Movie Lines (with Presidential Masks, Young Leo, A Single Tear,...and Links)

Movies I've Watched

March 6th - March 26th, 2016

Ummm....okay. In the past three weeks, I have been swamped. Movie watching is down. Blogging is down. I feel like I need a break from blogging, but I just can't do it to myself. I need it, and I need you guys, who so faithfully engage with me.

I have only watched 12 movies in that time and have pretty much stuck to Thursday Movie Picks as far as output is concerned. Thought I might as well purge about my recent watches. So, without further ado...


dir. Oliver Stone, 1991

"We're through the looking glass here, people. White is black, and black is white." 
- D.A. Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner)

Point Break
dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 1991
★★★ 1/2

"100% pure adrenaline. Some people jab a vein for it. All you gotta do is jump."
- Bodhi (Patrick Swayze)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
dir. Steven Spielberg, 1977

"I envy you." 
- Claude Lacombe (Francois Truffaut)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
dir. Lasse Hallstrom, 1993
★★★ 1/2

"I'm having a birthday party, but you're not invited, but you can come if you want." 
- Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio)

Inherent Vice
dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014

"Listen: I'm sorry about last night. You? Why should you be sorry?"
- Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) and Lt. Det. "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin)


Written on the Wind
dir. Douglas Sirk, 1956
★★ 1/2

My second outing with Douglas Sirk's 1950s art/trash hybrids was not quite as strong as the first (All That Heaven Allows), but there is no denying the combination of visual perfection and entertainment value. I just didn't get into this one as much and found it a bit TOO melodramatic, even whiny. It is full of risqué dialogue and situations though. I can't imagine a '50s audience seeing this for the first time. 

The Last Wave
dir. Peter Weir, 1977

After watching Picnic at Hanging Rock a few months back (and loving every minute of it), I made it a point to fill in some Peter Weir gaps. This one came highly recommended, but I just found it really messy and not anywhere near as interesting to look at in comparison to his previous masterful effort. 

Magic Mike
dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2012

I truly dug the way this movie started out, instantly becoming something I didn't expect while simultaneously being exactly what I expected. I sort of wanted this thing to go further than it did. It gets sort of overwrought in a wimpy sort of way towards the end, and I just lost interest. Tatum, McConaughey, and the rest of the cast are really good though. And I love what Soderbergh does with color filters. 

Promised Land
dir. Gus Van Sant, 2012
★ 1/2

Here is one that started out good enough, but then the boredom set in. I just find this whole scenario highly unrealistic, which is sad. The issue of fracking is an important one, but it doesn't deserve a sentimental, self-important film. Damon and Krasinski are both solid as usual, but they let their shared politics got in the way of making an actual piece of weighty entertainment. 

Ain't Them Bodies Saints
dir. David Lowery, 2013
★★★ 1/2

Reminiscent, as much discussed, of the early work of Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven) in both style and narrative purpose, Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a lovely, near perfect story of love and crime in a painterly 1970s Texas. I say "near perfect" for the fact that it doesn't quite get enough of a hold in the middle section. But the beginning and end...just wow! Casey Affleck, I'm convinced, can carry any movie and is way underused. And Rooney Mara continues to rise in the ranks of my favorite working actresses. 

Killer Joe
dir. William Friedkin, 2011

Greasy, nasty, bloody, dirty trash delivered with neither apprehension nor shame by one of the great American filmmakers. McConaughey's work in this film is equal parts hilarious and terrifying, which may very well be the best way to describe this film, an adaptation of a rarely produced play by Tracy Letts. I loved every second of this movie. The final scene is of the most abrasive, ridiculous, hilarious things I've ever seen. Seriously. Shock and then uncontrollable laughter. This is how you make a Southern trailer trash noir. How I wish that would become a thing....

2016 Movies

dir. Byron Howard and Rich Moore

A near-perfect mix of brilliant animation, comedy, and message, that has taken over nearly every critic and movie-goer alike. This is your Oscar winner, kids. Check out my full review. 


Dell honors Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.

Sonia reacts to Tarantino's Jackie Brown

Hogan Shogun Blind Spots the brilliant German film The Lives of Others

Brittany is wrong about Bridge of Spies, but I still love her anyway...

And, finally, Drew a.k.a. Fisti has bowed out with a epic ten-part post on his favorite film, Xavier Dolan's Mommy. Miss you, man! 

The Numbers

I've watched 69 movies this year, so far.

2016 Releases - 3

Re-Watched - 22

First-Timers - 44

What have you been watching? 


  1. Written on the Wind is definitely not as good as All That Heaven Allows, mostly because Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall are so deadly dull as the leads, especially compared to Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack. But, OMG the phallic imagery. And the mambo scene. And Malone's orgasmic flashback scene. UGH I love it so, even if it's nowhere near as good as the other Sirk melodramas that I love.

    You have gotta explain how Magic Mike goes "wimpy" towards the end. I love how it stays true to its point of view, which is so different from what the logline makes you expect. There's so much going on there.

    1. Malone and that flashback. Good lord! Lol.

      Look: Maybe "wimpy" was not the right word. Mike does take a satisfying stand, but part of me is like, Oh, poor pitiful perfect hot dude... I just failed to appreciate an ending where a woman demands a man change and right when he does, she's all of a sudden DTF. That whole scenario just played into its audience a bit too much...and I'm not that audience. Plus, I didn't like the girl...at all.

    2. LOL "poor pitiful perfect hot dude..."

      All perfect descriptors of Channing Tatum, but he definitely lost a LOT - all the money to make his furniture business happen, and it was clear that the kid was NOT going to pay back one cent of it. And he knew it too. He realized it was time to grow up and take ownership of himself and his actions instead of just talking about shit all the time. I also think Brooke realizes by the end that she isn't perfect either, that she was actually kind of harsh to Mike. It's so complex, how these characters lie to each other and to themselves. I love that the big emotional climax of the movie just comes from two people being honest with each other, including about their feelings for each other.

  2. It's been a pretty slow month for me, movie-wise, as well. I couldn't really watch a lot of movies this month because I was working on a play. (However, the night before the play, I got acute laryngitis, & I couldn't do the play. But I digress...) But after that, I watched a lot of movies (considering that my laryngitis kept me out of school for a week).

    Anyway, a few weeks ago, I saw the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie, The Brothers Grimsby. It's not as good as Borat, but it's still hilarious. Everyone in the theater that I was in actually stood up & cheered at a scene involving Donald Trump. I'm not gonna say what it's about, but all I can say is: Sacha Baron Cohen destroyed Trump. And it was hilarious.

    And I also watched the worst movie of all time: The Room. Not Room with Brie Larson, but The Room. It was terrible. But it's so bad it's excellent. The backstory of the filming of it is also amazing. James Franco is actually making a movie about it, based on a book by one of the actors from The Room. It's called The Disaster Artist. But if you haven't seen The Room, I highly suggest you watch it. It's definitely so bad it's excellent & hilarious.

    And, as I mentioned before, I finished watching all of the Coen brothers movies. Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Inside Llewyn Davis, Miller's Crossing, No Country for Old Men, & A Serious Man are their masterpieces. O Brother, Where Art Thou?, True Grit, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Burn After Reading, & Blood Simple were excellent. The Hudsucker Proxy, Hail, Caesar!, & The Man Who Wasn't There were great. The Ladykillers & Intolerable Cruelty were absolutely terrible. The Ladykillers was better than Intolerable Cruelty, which is like saying that spraining your ankle is better than tearing your ACL. I can't believe the Coen brothers made those 2 movies. They did not feel like Coen brothers movies at all.

    I got halfway through JFK when all of a sudden, my DVD started skipping & freezing, & I'm now going to have to get another copy of it. But, from what I watched, I thought it was really, really good. It definitely made me think a lot about Kennedy's assassination. I think it was a conspiracy.

    And I watched all the American Pie movies on Friday. I liked them all. Here's how I'd rank them (from worst to best):

    American Wedding
    American Reunion
    American Pie 2
    American Pie

    1. And I'm going to see Kevin Smith, the amazing director of Clerks, do a live podcast in Detroit tonight! I am really freakin' excited!

    2. I would love to see Kevin Smith live. He is hilarious. And I LOVE all of the American Pie movies, though the original is far better than the second for me.

      I like Intolerable Cruelty, and I'm probably the only one....

      Hope you get to finish JFK. It's brilliant. It is a masterclass in editing.

    3. The Kevin Smith thing was awesome. One of the best nights of my life.

      I love all of them, but I agree. The original is better than the second.

      Wait… you liked Intolerable Cruelty? You're the first person I've ever heard say that. No offense, but it was terrible.

      I'm getting JFK in tomorrow. I'll finish it this week.

      And since it's spring break for me this week, I'm planning on going to the movie theater at least 4 times this week. I'm really looking forward to see the new film by Jean-Marc Vallée, Demolition, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, & Naomi Watts. It looks excellent.

  3. LMAO that link, I'm not wrong but I still love YOU, Kev.

    Thanks for reminding me that Killer Joe changed my view on chicken.

    1. Lol. And I'm sorry I misspelled your name. Just realized that. Never again. I promise.

      Yes. The fucking chicken leg. Good God!

  4. Man, Killer Joe is a wonderfully nasty slice of movie. I love every bit of it. I fully agree with you on McConaughey's performance - frightening and funny. And Gina Gershon killed it. Of the others that I've seen I'm with you on most. I have to take exception of Magic Mike and Ain't Them Bodies Saints. I really liked the former, really loathed the latter. Great post!

    Thanks for the link!

    R.I.P. Phife Dawg

    1. Thanks, man! No problem. And Killer Joe just blew me away. I knew I'd probably like it, but it exceeded that by a mile.

  5. LOOOOOVE Killer Joe. One of my all time favorite movies. Still best work from McCounaghey and the movie's style and outrageous humor is exactly my kind of thing. Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon were also hysterical in this, really glad you liked the film!

    1. Yes. I feel like Killer Joe was made for me. My exact kind of movie as well. Gershon is an impressive, ballsy performer. She needs more work in this vein.

  6. I’m going to have to split this puppy up into parts to get everything in. I came down with a severe case of bronchitis which I’m still recovering from, so it’s been watch and sleep, watch and sleep for the past several weeks which I guess explains how I got through so many movies. Sorry.

    I really enjoyed JFK when I saw it in the theatre. I’m not usually that much of a fan of Kevin Costner but his bland everyman persona worked well in the lead, giving a calm center to the cavalcade of faces and stories that passed through as part of Stone’s theory. I haven’t seen Inherent Vice but your other three re-watches are entertaining in their separate ways. Point Break, geez haven’t watched it in years but I clearly recall Keanu’s surfer dude agent and Patrick Swayze’s unbelievably huge hair!

    Written on the Wind may not be as cohesively tight as All That Heaven Allows but in terms of melodrama it delivers a heapin’ helpin’ of overwrought goodness courtesy of Robert Stack and especially Dorothy Malone. Hers is one of my favorite Oscar wins, when she cocks one of those mink stole eyebrows and bites into her dialogue it’s heavenly. So many instances, Dan pointed to some of the best, but I think my favorite is when Robert Stack snarls at her “You’re a filthy liar” and she shoots back “I’m filthy PERIOD!” And of course that brilliantly shot Mambo/stairway scene.

    Sirk reunited with Malone, Stack and Hudson the next year for the very different The Tarnished Angels about barnstorming pilots which is also a decent film.

    I liked Magic Mike well enough but it was missing a certain punch that would have made it excellent instead of merely good, and the lead girl was dreadful. I’ve read about Killer Joe a couple of times but until now hadn’t really heard anyone’s reaction. I’ll have to check it out.

    While most of what I saw the last few weeks were older films from my lists I did watch some more current pictures. In order of preference:

    Spotlight-While it isn’t the equal of All the President’s Men, what is?, I really liked the film. Very involving with excellent work by all, though I was surprised to see Mark Ruffalo go overboard now and then especially considering his nomination.

    8 Women-Unique for sure, I believe it’s one of the few semi-musical comic murder mystery around, most assuredly the only one in French starring most of the major female stars of their industry.

    Jindabyne- Challenging and rather grim but always interesting.

    Trumbo-Good acting and a terrible but fascinating piece of history examined. The direction though was rather flat and it missed being great.

    The Seven Samurai-Finally got around to filling this blind spot and while I wasn’t as enraptured as some it was solid filmmaking but once was enough for me.

    Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother-Goofy but somewhat different and no movie with Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn can be all bad.

    Summer of Sam-I’m just not much of a fan of Spike Lee’s directorial style nor choices. He took a horrifying event, which should have led to compelling storytelling, and sidelined it in a film supposedly devoted to it and filled it with loathsome characters doing stupid things.

    1. Joel - I can't believe you haven't seen 8 Women before this! It's maybe not great but OMG I love it anyway. Deneuve, Ardant, Huppert, Beart, Saigner.... and the songs are so perfectly chosen and used. It's so much fun.

    2. Daniel, I've always wanted to see 8 Women but I missed it in the theatre when it was out and then it slipped my mind whenever I was queueing up films. But with one of the upcoming themes being films with female casts I figured this was the perfect time to finally get off the stick and watch. I'm glad I did.

    3. Oh, bronchitis. Sorry, man. That is the worst. Hope it's cleared up now.

      Inherent Vice is a highly divisive film, but it demands a watch, and I'd really love to hear your take on it. Swayze forever! Point Break is action entertainment in its purest form and is worlds better than what it ended up inspiring in the fun Fast and Furious franchise.

      All this talk of Malone makes me want to dive into that film again. I think I was too focused on Hudson and Bacall. I need to do it again and place my focus on the superior supporting turns. I'll definitely check out The Tarnished Angels.

      I agree on the girl in Magic Mike. She was just not good in any way. Killer Joe...prepare yourself...the last 20 minutes of that thing are about the most shocking of any film I can think of.

      Ruffalo's going overboard was my favorite part of Spotlight. It added just the right note of intensity for an otherwise sort of plain film...and I don't mean that in a bad way. It is solid storytelling. For me, Liev Schreiber was really the star of the show. His performance was perfectly subtle.

      I just have little interest in seeing Trumbo. I've put off seeing Seven Samurai for years. Maybe this summer when I have more time. I know it's a long one.

      I dig Spike Lee's style, but Summer of Sam really is messy and becomes about the dirty glitz of New York at the time and not what it should've been, I agree.

  7. The first week I didn’t have much luck with my main list but I did happen upon a small cache of Deanna Durbin films which made me extremely happy since I LOVES me some Deanna Durbin! An extra bonus was the best of the trio co-starred Charles Laughton, who I’m also a huge fan of.
    Because of Him-This was the one with Laughton and the best of the three. The other two were Something in the Wind-Deanna’s only color film and Up in Central Park which co-starred Vincent Price.

    I had better luck with my secondaries and I was able to unexpectedly finish off Steve McQueen’s filmography which was a bit of a surprise since I hadn’t realized I was even close. Best of all both of those films turned out to be pretty good early ones of his. The rest are in the order I liked them.

    Death Takes a Holiday-Fredric March-This was the original film that the terrible Brad Pitt movie “Meet Joe Black” was based on. It was a terrific allegorical film that ran a crisp 79 minutes as opposed to the ponderous 180 that the overblown Pitt film did.

    The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery-Steve McQueen-This was the better of the two.
    Never Love a Stranger-Steve McQueen
    Baby Face Nelson-Carolyn Jones
    The Truth about Spring-Hayley Mills
    A Thunder of Drums-Charles Bronson/George Hamilton
    Machine Gun Kelly-Charles Bronson
    The Return of Jesse James-Ann Dvorak

    *Lightning Strikes Twice-Thelma Todd-This was a silly comedy, though Todd was her usual charismatic sensual self, but there is a much better film from the 50’s with the same title that stars Ruth Roman and Mercedes McCambridge.

    Ride Clear of Diablo-Evocative title, middling film

    I also saw something that belongs in its own classification: Drive-in Cinema
    Untamed Youth with Mamie Van Doren. SO bizarre, supposedly teenage Mamie & her sister (both of whom were 25 if they were a day) are illegally arrested and sentenced to a juvie work farm where between beating and being fed dog food they break into song in the cotton fields!! I’m not making that up. Mamie-a sort of fourth rate Marilyn Monroe wannabe-specialized in this sort of low-rent fodder that almost invariably played the drive-in circuit, her titles include Girls Town, Sex Kittens Go to College (with a just starting out Tuesday Weld) and 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt.

    1. I have never heard of Deanna Durbin, and I'm incredibly lacking in my Steve McQueen. Thanks for the recommendations all around here. Looks like you've been busy despite your illness.

    2. Deanna Durbin is a fascinating case. Though she isn't remembered as well as she should be today she was massively popular during her heyday in the late 30's to the mid 40's. Her films were so popular they saved Universal from bankruptcy, her fan club was the largest in the world during her active years and in 1947 she was the highest paid woman in the United States.

      She was a feisty one who was constantly at loggerheads with the head office feeling frustrated by the lack of quality of her projects stating she was the highest paid performer with the worst material. Additionally she hated the goldfish bowl side of fame so at 26 after a couple of failed marriages she consented to marry her last husband only on the condition that he would grant her what she most desired "The life of a nobody" and in 1948 promptly retired, moved to a farmhouse in France and outside of one interview in the 80's disappeared completely from public view. She guarded her privacy so fiercely that when she passed away a few years ago at 91 her funeral at an unknown location had already taken place before her son announced her death.

      Unfortunately she was right about most of her films, her presence is a welcome one but many of the productions are mediocre. She was one of the rare performers who managed to make the jump from child star to adult star at the same level of success and was quite a beautiful woman. Her singing voice was more operatic than Judy Garland but she could and did sing popular music well and there are a few of her films that are well worth checking out, I'd recommend these three:

      It Started with Eve-This is the best of her movies. Apart from her it has a fun mistaken identity concept and a wonderful comic performance by Charles Laughton.

      Lady on a Train-Lighthearted mystery, a reworking of Agatha Christie's 4:50 from Paddington, that even manages to find ways for Deanna to sing without stretching the logic of her doing so too far.

      Christmas Holiday-This is a definite anomaly in her work, one that she fought to do, she plays a coded prostitute, a "roadside hostess" who is in hiding from her psychotic, mother dominated mad killer husband. The title refers to the time of year the story takes place but it's a grim one based on a Somerset Maugham novel.

    3. I will certainly look into those titles. Thanks, man.

  8. But where I really struck gold was in the second week. I was reading a post on another site, a tribute to Linda Darnell, and they had a link to one of her harder to find movies so I clicked over to look and discovered a wonderland of obscure films for the watching. The best thing is that SO many of them are ones I’ve been searching for! I’d say about 60 titles! And that’s just from my lists, there are scores more besides. It worked out perfectly in a way because the day after I found the site is when I got sick. A small kicker to the whole thing is that even with all the cornucopia of movies in almost every case there is still at least ONE title for each performer that keeps me from finishing up their filmography! I was only able to complete two, both Shirleys, Shirley Temple and Shirley Booth neither who were on my main list but I’ll take what I can get!

    So here they are with the star(s) I watched for. Fortunately none were flat out awful though naturally some were better than others. The really worthwhile ones I put ** next to. The first two were those patriotic morale boosters that had stars in cameos and enabled me to check off a title for several performers in one fell swoop.

    Duffy’s Tavern-Veronica Lake/Paulette Goddard/Gail Russell
    Main Street to Broadway-Ethel Barrymore/Tallulah Bankhead/Shirley Booth

    **The Lady Pays Off-Linda Darnell-This one was the one I was most excited about. It was a nice little comedy, directed by Douglas Sirk no less, nothing extraordinary but I’ve been searching for YEARS for it and I was giddy with delight when I discovered it was there!
    Rise and Shine-Linda Darnell

    **Night Has a Thousand Eyes-Gail Russell/Edward G. Robinson-This is my favorite of the lot. Wonderful atmospheric noir with spot on casting.
    The Unseen-Gail Russell

    The Night is Young-Rosalind Russell
    This Thing Called Love-Rosalind Russell
    A Song to Remember-Merle Oberon

    **The Great Gatsby-Betty Field/Shelley Winters/Alan Ladd-This was a rather faithful adaptation of the book, not flawless but miles better than the recent one. Ladd was a perfect Gatsby and Shelley Winters ideal as the cheap Myrtle, now if only Alexis Smith had played Daisy instead of Betty Field (a fine actress but not right for the part).
    Are Husbands Necessary?-Betty Field

    **The Blue Veil-Jane Wyman/Natalie Wood/Agnes Moorehead/Joan Blondell-This was a weepie but Jane Wyman made it compelling and it was LOADED with quality performers.
    The Blazing Forest-Agnes Moorehead
    Public Wedding-Jane Wyman

    **Johnny Stool Pigeon-Shelley Winters-Efficient little crime drama.
    The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo-Joan Bennett
    Wild Geese Calling-Joan Bennett/Henry Fonda
    Arizona to Broadway
    The Lady Takes a Flyer-Lana Turner
    Appointment for Love-Margaret Sullavan

    **Song of Scheherazade-Eve Arden/Yvonne de Carlo-Goofy but fun with amazing costume design.

    The Lady Has Plans-Paulette Goddard

    **Practically Yours-Claudette Colbert/Fred MacMurray-A near perfect example of how good casting can elevate ordinary material.

    Misleading Lady-Claudette Colbert
    Yours for the Asking-Ida Lupino

    **Street of Chance-Claire Trevor-Tight mystery with some good twists and turns.
    Time Out for Romance-Claire Trevor
    Valley of the Giants-Claire Trevor
    Let’s Live a Little-Hedy Lamaar

    **The Money Trap-Rita Hayworth/Glenn Ford-Reuniting of the leads of “Gilda” (and a ravishing Elke Sommer) in a tough crime drama with a great jazz score.

    1. Okay, Joel you have GOT to share this treasure trove. I've been looking for Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Street of Chance, and Song of Scheherazade for AGES.

    2. Hey Daniel, here is the link to Night Has a Thousand Eyes and the site is easily navigable from there. It is truly LOADED with so many obscurities that I hardly know what to watch next. I'm glad I went in forearmed with a list or it would have been even more overwhelming.

      By the way, I really LOVED this one. Edward G. gives a performance full of nuance and it captures Gail Russell at the very peak of her ethereal beauty. Here's the link. Enjoy!


  9. Your opening words struck me. I need this break...but I hate that I'm taking it, to be honest.

    And I agree with everything Daniel wrote above about Written on the Wind. Hudson and Bacall sink it, but those supporting players are SHARP and so wildly enchanting. And the abrasive sexual energy is so tackily delicious.

    Miss you too, bro.

    1. Oh, Drew. I'm so glad you read this and commented. Made my day. So sorry for the delay in my response. I have been so damn busy, man. I know you're going through a lot, and I'm sure I just sound whiny. Take your time, man.

      I need a rewatch of Written on the Wind. Need to focus in on the supporting players more.

  10. I am having to get,y A to Z challenge done so I missed this...some great films you have here. Love some of your picks and others I still have to see