OMG … I actually liked a movie with Joan Crawford in it!
That film was Humoresque, which I watched for the first time on TV last night. Quite a fun, if melodramatic ride, centering on the love affair an egocentric though brilliant violinist (played by John Garfield) has with a married socialite (Crawford). Normally, I don’t care for pictures with Joan in it, but this one had a good script co-written by Clifford Odets and able direction from Jean Negulesco. Plus, simply glorious violin playing by the incomparable Isaac Stern, who did the virtuoso performances attributed to Garfield’s musician character.
So does that mean, all of a sudden, that I’m a big Crawford fan? Not at all. This film rose above the usual sordid plotlines her flicks so often seemed to encapsulate, making it altogether a more interesting work. I frequently find her acting overdone, but in this case, she kept her portrayal in check. Whether that’s due more to the direction or her own ability, I don’t know.
Certainly, any film that features snippets from Bizet’s Carmen and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde has got to be good, right?
Well … the jury’s still out on that.
OK, so I didn’t get a chance to finish Cloudburst last night. What I saw of it, however, I rather liked.
The story of an elderly lesbian couple on the run after they’re split up when one is forced to go to a home, Cloudburst has lively dialogue and a strong performance by reliable Olympia Dukakis as one of the feisty protagonists. It also has strong direction by Thom Fitzgerald, who also wrote the script. I think there are a couple of spots that stretch credibility, including a scene in which two characters are let go after being busted for drugs, but overall it seems to be an enjoyable film. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest.
When I will actually do so is another story. Hopefully, it’ll be soon.
I was not delighted to read the recent news report about Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Pedro Almodovar calling Israel’s ongoing Gaza Strip initiative a “genocide.”
These are very talented people, especially Almodovar, whose films I like very much. Unfortunately, calling Israel’s operation a genocide smacks to me of ignorance and anti-Semitism. It’s a way of turning around Jews’ experience in the Holocaust to suggest the victims of that era are now the perpetrators of an operation that seeks the extermination of a population, and that’s just not the case.
Full disclosure: I’m Jewish. I have positive feelings for Israel in my blood – my mother raised money for the country when I was an infant – and although I don’t agree with all of its policies, I support its right to exist. I also support the right of celebrities to say any ludicrous thing that comes to their minds, as everyone should have freedom of speech. Sadly, it has become fashionable to single out Israel as a “fascist” or “Nazi”-like state effecting a genocide in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that Israel’s activities bear no resemblance to the Nazis’ attempt to eradicate Jews in the early part of the last century.
There’s no comparison. I know. I interviewed two Holocaust survivors when I was in seventh grade, and I’ll never forget the horrors they recounted to me. It’s not the same thing. The Nazis were a different animal. They sought the systematic destruction of the Jews, both physically and psychologically. They sought genocide. The two people I interviewed were witnesses.
I don’t believe in violence as a solution to the problems of living in this world. But I also don’t believe in the misuse of words to address political sentiments. Those who argue that Israel is committing genocide should reexamine their claims in light of actual attempts at genocide in recent history – including the Holocaust, the Turkish genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. I encourage Cruz, Bardem, Almodovar and others to think further on these events, study them, before making a determination. Hopefully, they’ll come to a more educated conclusion.
Normally, I don’t care for movies with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. So I wasn’t surprised to find that The V.I.P.s, their 1963 film under Anthony Asquith’s direction, was awful. And I mean awful.
Soapy, too. In a bad way, not in an I, Claudius fun way. This was soap without a lot of bubbles. Deadly dull, unperfumed, lather-free soap.
And trashy. The tale of a group of high-end passengers who get stuck in a London airport due to fog, The V.I.P.s went from one dreary relationship to another, from Burton and Taylor’s married-couple-on-the-outs to Rod Taylor’s nice-guy businessman whose secretary, played by Maggie Smith, has fallen in love with him. I didn’t find any of these situations credible, and they just got more tedious as the film rolled along. Plus, the cinematography didn’t help, either. Strange compositions seemed to include lamps or some kind of bizarre light fixture in many shots, leading them to be jarring. And the score by the normally reliable Miklós Rózsa was awfully syrupy. Not good, Miklós. Not good.
So what are the takeaways from this? Well, I still don’t like Burton-Taylor movies. I also don’t like bad movies. And I love I, Claudius.
If you can find meaning in that, you’re a better man (or woman) than I.
There’s a lot of really good stuff in Nicole Holofcener’s bittersweet flick Lovely & Amazing. An introspective script. Strong subject matter. Good performances.
There are also many annoying things about the film, particularly the fact that it meanders and doesn’t seem to come to a resolution. That’s sad, because it otherwise has a lot going for it, including yet another fine turn by Catherine Keener as one of three sisters with dealing with the problems of life.
I lost interest, however, after what seemed like the eighth reel. It went on a bit too long and could’ve used more editing, as well as significant tightening.
Still, it has some interest value, and it tackles an issue that’s rarely dealt with sensitively or truthfully: how women view themselves. Kudos to the film for that – you don’t see such subject matter in the theaters often.
What will my next movie be? Let’s see …
I remember watching the trailers for Philomena and thinking that it seemed like a syrupy, sentimental movie.
We watched it last night. Boy, was it not that at all.
Pretty serious, disturbing flick, with some light touches. But the advertising for it was all wrong. This was an attack on social injustice, centering on a woman whose child was basically taken away from her for adoption in the United States … and it was based on a true story, too. It was not a “feel-good” movie.
Direction, by the reliable Stephen Frears, was expert, getting fine performances from Judi Dench (I know, as usual) and Steve Coogan. And although there was some humor, it focused on memories and the sadness of one who lost something important. I think we’ve all experienced that in some way.
Good movie. Not a “feel-good” one, though.
I love Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be.
Brilliant script. Terrific performances by Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Sig Ruman and the rest of the brilliant cast. And of course perfect, sly direction by the immortal Lubitsch.
Sure it’s in questionable taste – what with a story concerning a company of Polish actors and their wartime efforts to foil a Nazi plan – and even now some of the material seems iffy. But it remains razor-sharp, as well as still topical to this day. I watched this film again last night for what may have been the 45th time, and it’s still fresh. That’s the mark of a great movie. It just doesn’t get old.
I’ve seen the remake with Mel Brooks, too, and it’s just not the same. The Lubitsch version is tops; there’s no comparison. I’m giving the medal to that one for quality.
I want to tell you something about the movie At Middleton.
IT WAS HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!! UGH!!!!!!!!!
OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s proceed to why this rom-com was so wretched. It had some talent in front of the camera, including Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as parents visiting a college with their kids and finding romance in the process. Unfortunately, the script was dreadful, creating a host of unbelievable situations in the name of character development, including a completely unrealistic scene in which the duo crashes a campus acting class and provides a clinic in method theory.
Can you say, “Ludicrous?” I can.
Another problem: Many sequences went on for far too long, with the effect that they became tedious. The conversations between the two parents were so uninteresting that they didn’t foster any definition; instead, they removed it. What we, as viewers, were left with were skeletons of characters speaking poor dialogue and becoming more and more insufferable as the film went on.
Oh, and I really dislike forced quirkiness, which was broadcast through Farmiga’s free-spirit mom. Yuck.
Much of the blame for this nonsense could be put on the direction by Adam Rodgers, who co-wrote the film, too. But the script’s issues were really insurmountable. If only it were better paced. If only the characters were credible. If only … if only …
Can I watch something good now?
In watching Georgy Girl last night, I was struck by how adult the subject matter was … and how tastefully it was handled.
It’s not just a Swingin’ Sixties trifle. It’s a mature film, with poignant, realistic situations and complex erotic problems. It’s also got terrific performances, including from Charlotte Rampling, who has an unusual, remarkably upsetting scene in which she rejects her newborn baby that’s one of the disturbing highlights of the film. This portion of the movie upset me greatly when I was younger; I couldn’t fathom how a woman could hate her own child. To this day, it bothers me, and seeing it once more yesterday evening reinforced my opinion.
I’ll tell ya one thing, however: I’m not itching to see Georgy Girl again. It has a great script and crisp cinematography, as well as a catchy theme song, but it’s a bit hard to watch. Perhaps that’s because it feels so realistic; there’s powerful stuff here, despite the movie’s glossy style. Still, I’m glad I watched it, as it’s something to revisit now and then.
So. On to the next picture.
There’s a lot of good stuff in The Oranges – so much that I wonder why it got such a low rating on IMDb.
This tale of adultery with your New Jersey neighbor has a pretty tight script, some good direction by Julian Farino and fine casting that results in sparkling turns by the likes of Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Alia Shawkat, Catherine Keener and Allison Janney. The plot features some not-so-credible points, and I feel everything wrapped up in an all-too-pat manner, but there’s humor and drama in hefty amounts along the way, plus sensitive treatment of a familiar subject.
And no, I didn’t turn it off halfway through. That’s something in itself.
OK, it’s not a great film. I don’t think it tries to be, though. Surprisingly, it’s quite unpretentious; I think that’s partly why I enjoyed much of it.
Director Farino has done a lot of TV work in the past. Perhaps that’s one reason why it felt so crisp. Maybe the ending was a little TV-esque, too, but there’s potential here.