Sunday, March 6, 2016

In Movie Lines (with a slice of Heaven and some Chill time...plus Links)


Movies I've Watched

February 21st - March 5th, 2016



So, as it turns out, the last week of February was dedicated to Love. I guess it came a week late. And it came in the form of a new Netflix series called Love, a Judd Apatow co-created/produced slice of life in L.A. as a smart, single, real-looking person. It is about two people with classic hangups and social anxieties finding each other at the wrong time, as if there even is such thing. One of those people is Gus, an on-set tutor for a handful of snotty young TV stars, played by co-creator Paul Rust in the vein of a young Woody Allen. The other is Mickey, a talk radio programmer and anything addict with epic guy problems, played by Gillian Jacobs of NBC's Community.


And for all its trying with its unapologetic sex scenes and supremely awkward social situations, my wife and I couldn't look away, couldn't stop. It is one of the most emotionally engaging comedy series I've ever seen. On the other side, it is also one of the funniest. Easily the funniest, in that same raw sort of way, since Netflix's own Master of None back in 2015 and even the also Apatow-produced HBO series Girls, at least the first season. Love continues the new wave of great raw TV comedies about people you know, maybe even people you are.

From the influence of texting and social media on the current dating scene to live covers of the Paul McCartney and Wings tune "Jet" to the biting commentary on the TV industry to the new touches on the romantic comedy genre, I left every single episode happy, literally praising the show out loud to my wife. It is that good.

A Somber Double Feature


I wanted to scratch a couple 2015 critical biggies off my list before the Oscars. I'll start with Son of Saul, which is a brilliantly executed exercise in both filmmaking technique and storytelling, showing a side of the Holocaust I've certainly never seen. I haven't seen the other Foreign Language nominees, but this is, I'm sure, the right choice for the win. 

I thought I would like 45 Years more. Not that I didn't like it. It is a powerful portrait of a marriage, perfectly performed by its co-leads, the Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling and, really, the equally good Tom Courtenay. The final scene is a masterpiece by itself and is really the only thing that totally blew me away. 

The Night Before The Oscars...

Fargo
Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 1996

"Look likes she's gonna turn cold tomorrow."

...a friend of ours was over at the house. He asked me what my favorite movie is, and I instantly pulled out my old DVD copy of Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo. He had never seen it, so I figured it was due its yearly re-watch. It's a masterpiece. 

Oscar Night



I thought Chris Rock did a fine job sprinkling the show with different sides of the big race debate. It wasn't a particularly spectacular show, but it worked for a geek like me. The sound, editing, and screenplay categories were wonderfully well-made. And I don't care what you think of Sacha Baron Cohen, the Ali G bit was hilarious. I laughed my ass off. Congratulations to Spotlight. I really thought The Revenant or The Big Short would take it. But I'm good with the way it turned out. I'm even cool with the Supporting Role shockers of Rylance and Vikander, though I haven't seen and probably won't see The Danish Girl

First-Timers

All That Heaven Allows
Dir. Douglas Sirk, 1955


I introduced myself to the work of Douglas Sirk for the first time, and what a wonderful introduction it was. This is a great movie. Beautiful to look at, loving, romantic, though totally and knowingly artificial. I found it wholly charming. It's so interesting how this movie has transcended its place in time as a little-noticed "women's weepie," playing for me as a self-aware balancing act between art and trash, which is exactly what Sirk seems to have intended. 

The Big Chill
Dir. Lawrence Kasdan, 1983


The Criterion Blu-Ray release of Lawrence Kasdan's sentimental tale of thirty-something college friends reunited sort of baffled me. I just never took it seriously ever since Todd Louiso slammed it as impossibly uncool in my 2000 favorite, High Fidelity. It's a bit white bread to be sure, but you can't deny its relatability, especially for someone my age, the age of the characters portrayed here. The cast is a who's who of actors we now sort of miss, and that soundtrack is great. 

The Third Man
Dir. Carol Reed, 1949


The famous joel65913 has been giving me some recommendations of pre-1960s classics, and this is the first one from his lists to get to me. It's one I've had others recommend as well, and I was immediately drawn into its visual style and totally familiar zither score. The Dutch angles are just so good, and that big reveal introducing us to Orson Welles' late into the picture is the reason I love movies so much. Glad to finally start checking some of these oldies off my list. 

A Lazy Saturday (Fueled by Redbox)

Straight Outta Compton
Dir. F. Gary Gray, 2015


While it clings to that biopic formula I tend to stay away from, I was completely immersed in this story, which is a true piece of nostalgia for my generation and the one before. The performances are just superb, especially the work of Ice Cube's son, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., as Ice Cube and Jason Mitchell as Easy-E. Paul Giamatti is becoming the go-to for musical biopic, playing a strikingly similar character to the one he portrayed in the Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy. He is really great in both films. ★★★ 1/2

The Night Before
Dir. Jonathan Levine, 2015


I think this one would've worked better had I been able to get to it around Christmas, when it was out in theaters. It has its moments, specifically in stellar cameos from Michael Shannon and James Franco, but it is ultimately a bit dull and unoriginal given everything we've seen from Seth Rogen over the years. ★★ 1/2

Links

Emily expressed some of my own feelings about the new Ghostbusters trailer.

Drew wrote a nice piece on Ex Machina.

Alex lists his Top Ten Great Scenes in Bad Movies.

Sati talks Ford, Hardy, the Oscars, and HBO's Entourage

The Eclectic Scribe discusses 1984 and current politics. 

The Numbers

I've watched 57 movies this year, so far.

2016 Releases - 2

Re-Watched - 17

First-Timers - 38

What have you been watching?

20 comments:

  1. That Netflix series sounds interesting though I doubt I’ll ever see it. I had streaming a while ago, before they really had much in the way of original programming, but being the old movie head that I am their selection was too slim in choices so I switched back to discs and have never gone back.

    I’m anxious to see 45 Years, I’m a huge Charlotte Rampling fan, less so Son of Saul. I’ve heard frequently that Courtenay is Charlotte’s match so I thought it odd that he had virtually no traction in the awards season, a similar occurrence came about a few years ago with “Away from Her” where Julie Christie won tremendous deserved accolades but the equally strong Gordon Pinsent got left in the dust. It’s a shame for Courtenay but at least he has two previous nominations as an acknowledgement whereas until this year the awesome Rampling had been ignored for 50 years, which is just nuts.

    So glad you liked the first of my recommends! “The Third Man” is really such a strong effort from all involved particularly Carol Reed’s direction. Also happy to hear you that you loved “All That Heaven Allows”, Sirk was such a stylist and this came in the run where he was well into his stride and he had refined his style so sharply. So many wonderful bits but I think that shot of Jane Wyman seemingly trapped in the TV screen, given to her by two of the most awful children in all of film!, is a master stroke encapsulating so much of the message of the film in one shot.

    Conversely “The Big Chill” is an example of a film that caught the tenor of its time and has aged badly, but you’re right about the soundtrack.

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    1. Oh, yes! That shot is perfection, the one with the TV screen. I really loved that film. And The Third Man is just so immediately familiar. That's a true classic to be sure.

      I can't wait for you to see 45 Years. Really a great slice of life with a just perfectly emotional ending.

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  2. As far as my project goes I had a VERY productive two weeks, I discovered a couple of previously untapped resources that proved quite useful, and was able to scratch a baker’s dozen of titles off my main list and six off my secondaries! I wish I could say they were all undiscovered classics but there were more good ones than bad so that’s a positive.
    From my main group in order of preference with the star I watched for:

    New York Confidential-Anne Bancroft-This one was an excellent crime drama made in 1955 during Anne’s first not terribly successful stab at Hollywood. In addition to her it has a very strong cast and she looks like a million bucks.

    The Seventh Cross-Agnes Moorehead/Spencer Tracy
    I’ll Get By-Thelma Ritter
    Can’t Help Singing-Deanna Durbin
    Folies Bergère de Paris-Merle Oberon/Ann Sothern
    When You’re in Love-Cary Grant

    Escape to Burma-Barbara Stanwyck/Robert Ryan-This was a tough one to track down and a Holy Grail title for me (I have MANY) because of the starring duo, Ryan’s in my top 5 favorite actors & Stanwyck is in my top 12 for actresses. It was a pretty standard jungle adventure with some obvious rear projection shots but those two made it worth the time.

    The Dark Angel-Merle Oberon
    Red Mountain-Lizabeth Scott
    The Broken Melody-Merle Oberon
    Twenty Plus Two-Agnes Moorehead
    You’re a Sweetheart-Alice Faye
    Sunset Pass-Jane Greer

    Then from my secondary list again in order of preference:
    The Fat Man-Rock Hudson-An economical little noir with a speedy running time of 76 minutes. Obviously the title does not refer to Rock, this was one of his first substantial parts.

    Masquerade in Mexico-Dorothy Lamour
    Diary of a Madman-Vincent Price/Nancy Kovack
    Return of the Frontiersman-Gordon MacRae
    The Chairman-Gregory Peck
    The Wild Westerners-Nancy Kovack-Mediocre western but it enabled me to complete her filmography (an admittedly small one, she had a very short career-she retired shortly after marrying Zubin Mehta-but I’ve always loved her. She’s probably most well known as Darrin’s scheming ex-girlfriend Sheila on Bewitched.)

    As for what else I saw, there was a quintet of not bad films:

    Déjà vu-I’m not much of a Denzel Washington fan and the premise was absurd but it was a passable action film.

    Under the Volcano-Relentlessly grim but Albert Finney was brilliant in it.

    Miller’s Crossing-I’d been meaning to see this for years and stylistically it was impressive but the uber violence turned me off and some of the acting was surprisingly dodgy.

    The Strip-I have a limited tolerance for Mickey Rooney so this started at a disadvantage but it was an okay drama with two strengths. First it was shot on location on the 50’s Sunset Strip and the house band at the nightclub where a lot of the action takes place is Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra!!

    The Sun Sets at Dawn-Extremely low budget with nary a recognizable name attached, a young man is waiting to be executed in the electric chair for a crime he didn’t commit and how it affects the reporters waiting for the deed to be done as well as others concerned. I stumbled upon it on YouTube and was surprised by how much it held my attention.

    Also The Broken Land-An okay western with a 25 year old Jack Nicholson.

    Then of course there was the crap. Most were just flat out awful: Cut Snake, Frogs for Snakes, House of Shadows (sssooo stupid), Hollywood Air Force and Fury (the Brad Pitt movie from last year-I hate, hated it).

    But there was also an old TV movie from the 70’s, SST: Death Flight that was just so preposterous-a supersonic jet suffers sabotage in the air-blows out all its windows (yet everyone could still breathe!)-unleashed a potentially contagious deadly disease on board and was still able to land safely!! The best part was that it was an endless parade of B level actors of the time AND a just starting out Billy Crystal as a flight attendant. It was a hoot.

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    1. As usual, so many of these sound so great. I can't comment on much, but I'm glad you've been able to be so productive with your viewing.

      I never got to Deja Vu, but I really dig Tony Scott's final few films. He really brought some original style to Man on Fire and Domino.

      Miller's Crossing is one of my least favorite from the Coen Brothers, but that may be because I haven't seen it in so long. A re-watch is coming soon, as I've dug into a few of their films since seeing Hail Caesar. I really only remember Turturro's meltdown scene, which is the one everyone always references.

      I actually really dug the nihilism of Fury, found it to be a new take on the WWII drama and really well made, technically. The interlude with the girl in the village was just masterful in my opinion.

      Thanks for sharing, friend. You know I appreciate it.

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  3. I have to read up on Son Of Saul and find out more about it. I thought the Oscars worked quite well and Spotlight is a good filmalthough I thought The Revenant was better. So glad you watched The Third Man which is one of my all time favourites. When I was in Vienna, I went to that exact spot whe Orson Welles stood and I felt great that I wa in the same spot as that film.

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    1. I so want to go to Vienna and do that as well.

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  4. Great catch, seeing The Third Man. And I'm so glad you enjoyed Straight Outta Compton. Still trying to get around to writing my review of it. Hopefully, soon.

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  5. I agree with you completely on the Oscars. I thought Chris Rock was the best host they've had in a long time. And I also didn't think Spotlight would win. All signs pointed to The Revenant. And you could definitely see the shocked look on Morgan Freeman's face after he announced that Spotlight won. And I definitely agree with you on the Sacha Baron Cohen bit. He never fails to make me laugh. And I was shocked by Rylance winning, but not by Vikander's win. But please watch The Danish Girl. I thought it was very well-done. Redmayne & Vikander were both excellent.

    Anyway… this past week… I finally finished watching all of the Coen brothers movies; I watched Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There; The Hudsucker Proxy; The Ladykillers; True Grit; No Country for Old Men; Intolerable Cruelty; & Raising Arizona. All of them were excellent except for The Ladykillers & Intolerable Cruelty. They were good, but they didn't have a lot of that Coen brothers feeling to it.

    And on Saturday, I watched Youth with Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, & Jane Fonda. I thought it was really good. And I also watched Fruitvale Station with Michael B. Jordan. Very powerful & emotional, especially considering that it is very relevant in today's society.

    And I really want to see 45 Years. It looks really good.

    And here is how I'd rank all the Coen brothers movies from least favorite to favorite:

    17. Intolerable Cruelty
    16. The Ladykillers
    15. Blood Simple
    14. Hail, Caesar!
    13. The Hudsucker Proxy
    12. The Man Who Wasn't There
    11. Burn After Reading
    10. Barton Fink
    9. Raising Arizona
    8. Miller's Crossing
    7. A Serious Man
    6. Inside Llewyn Davis
    5. True Grit
    4. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    3. Fargo
    2. No Country for Old Men
    1. The Big Lebowski

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    1. Scratch that last part. Here's how I'd rank the Coen brothers movies:

      17. Intolerable Cruelty
      16. The Ladykillers
      15. The Man Who Wasn't There
      14. Hail, Caesar!
      13. The Hudsucker Proxy
      12. Blood Simple
      11. Burn After Reading
      10. Barton Fink
      9. Raising Arizona
      8. True Grit
      7. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
      6. A Serious Man
      5. No Country for Old Men
      4. Miller's Crossing
      3. Inside Llewyn Davis
      2. The Big Lebowski
      1. Fargo

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    2. Great list! I'm not ready to rank quite yet. Still need to see The Hudsucker Proxy. It's the only one I haven't seen.

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  6. Oh man, that Oscars night spread looks amazing! So jealous :)
    Thanks for putting that new Netflix show on my radar, too. This is the first time I've heard of it, but it sounds like something I'd love.
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks! We do The Oscars right at my house. lol.

      Yes. Love is love, I'm telling you.

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  7. You and I have the same favorite movie. I knew there was a reason I liked you. ;-) Thanks for the link!

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    1. Nice! Fargo is an anytime watch for me. No problem!

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  8. Thanks for the link! I have yet to see The Night Before but I love Rogen and heard Shannon is hysterical in it so I'll definitely check this one out

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    1. No problem! It's worth a watch, but it didn't really grab onto me the way I'd hoped.

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  9. I still haven't seen 45 Years, but man Son of Saul was so depressing. lol

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    1. Right!? So amazing the way it was filmed though. Totally unique.

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  10. Hey buddy, thanks so much for the link. Your Oscar party looked stacked! That's great man. The Big Chill is one of my all-time favorite films, so I'm glad you were able to see it.

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