Skip’s Quips: Reconnecting With ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’

Blog Sketch 082813Sometimes movies that were childhood favorites remain just as good when you see them through an adult’s eyes.

I felt that way while watching the classic, leprechaun-filled Disney fantasy Darby O’Gill and the Little People last night. Boy is this a fun picture, and just as charming as I remembered it, with lovely, lilting dialogue, colorful cinematography and brilliant effects work … including some stellar scares via the depiction of a banshee that used to creep me out big time when I was a kid.

Oh, yes: And you have Albert Sharpe as the title character, plus Sean Connery as a young man. What’s not to like?

I was actually surprised at how well this film stands up today. It really is quite entertaining, and I even relished parts of it. I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, but as a piece of escapist movie-making it’s just fine. Certainly better than many flicks I’ve seen recently.

In truth, I probably shouldn’t have waited so long to revisit it. Maybe it’ll become a personal favorite for me as a grownup; I sure wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Not right away, of course, but give me a few months.

I might just develop the taste for it once more.

Skip’s Quips: Boy, Do I Miss Wallace & Gromit

Blog Sketch 082813Where have you gone, Nick Park?

It seems like only yesterday I was watching a variety of classics created by this great animator and starring his most beloved creations: the befuddled inventor Wallace and his trusty, whip-smart dog Gromit. There was The Wrong Trousers. Then there was A Close Shave. Heck, I even loved the duo’s earliest entry into cinema, A Grand Day Out.

Sadly, we haven’t seen any more of these brilliant movies in a while. I think that’s a shame.

The pair is as inimitable as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, or Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The few films they’ve starred in are comic treasures, filled with lovingly designed animation and wonderful, witty scripts, along with terrific, iconic characterizations.

I miss them.

Maybe one day Park will revisit these two cartoon stalwarts. I still remember watching them at Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation in New York long ago, relishing their delightful humor. Please grace us with more films in which they appear, Mr. Park. We could use them.

Signing off now …

Setter’s ‘Spectives: It’s the Met Orchestra, Once Again

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613No, this post doesn’t have anything to do with the movies. Instead, it concerns a great mystery: Why I keep seeing the Met Orchestra perform at New York City venues.

Yes, this is a fantastic group of musicians, and its conductor, the estimable James Levine, is one of the best out there today. But this is the umpth time I’ve attended concerts featuring this orchestra within only a few months, and I’m not even a subscriber to the Metropolitan Opera.

Don’t get me wrong … I don’t mind these concerts a bit. In fact, they’ve been terrific. For example, yesterday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, I saw and listened to wonderful renditions of Beethoven’s Second Symphony and Schumann’s Second, Dvorak and Strauss songs warbled by famed soprano Anna Netrebko, and some dreadfully noisy Elliott Carter “Illusions” that seemed quite out of place in the presence of such melodic masterpieces. In general, the afternoon was brilliant, and the sound produced was exciting, with Carnegie Hall’s renowned acoustics doing the great pieces justice.

I just wonder why I’ve been present so frequently at the Met Orchestra’s performances of late. Is it destiny? Fate? It’s like I’m in some Wagner opera dealing with predetermination.

At this juncture, it’s not clear when the next concert will be. I suspect, thought, that it’ll be sooner rather than later.

Skip’s Quips: Criticizing Crummy Movies Is Fun!

Blog Sketch 082813Is it so wrong that I sometimes like lampooning films more than watching them?

I tell ya: There are thousands of bad movies out there that just beg to be criticized. And I’ve only broached the tip of the iceberg.

Yes, I do enjoy viewing great (or even good-enough) cinema. I love to talk about these pictures, too. But there’s nothing like making fun of a terrible piece of celluloid. It provides a satisfaction that can’t be beat.

Granted, I’m not really a fan of sitting through bad films … I prefer to critique them. So getting there is the hard part. Watching such junk can be grueling.

The rewards, however, are the gifts that keep on giving. Awful motion pictures last as long as quality ones. They’re just as resilient. So they’re just as worthy to discuss.

Thankfully, I don’t feel guilty about doing just that. And I don’t think anyone else should, either. As long as we have crummy cinema in this world, we should have people to make fun of it. It’s part of our critical fabric. It’s innate.

Let’s not let it go to waste.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Do I Dare Continue to Dislike Dubbed Movies?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Years of watching subtitled foreign films have made me less inclined to enjoy dubbed movies, as I’ve always felt that you lose something in translation when you add voices in different languages to the developments onscreen.

Now, however, I’m not so sure I feel the same way. It’s hard to find certain films with subtitles rather than dubbing, and if the latter is the only alternative to not watching a quality picture, I’d rather view the dubbed flick.

Generally, I don’t find it difficult to follow subtitles, provided they appear clearly and not as white blurs on a white background. Yellow text is always welcome, but that’s not always available. Sometimes I have to take what I can get.

Which is why I’ve started to be more lenient in my tastes when it comes to dubbing movies. You can’t always get what you want, as the Rolling Stones song goes, and often the choices are limited when it comes to available versions of good foreign films. I feel like I’m not as particular as I used to be. Perhaps it’s a result of my old age.

It all comes down to how great the picture is, anyway. The way it appears to me shouldn’t matter. It’s what it is that counts.

Skip’s Quips: Why the Heck Isn’t ‘Stolen Kisses’ Better Known?

Blog Sketch 082813There are famous movies, and then there are infamous movies.

There are also movies by famous directors that kind of slip under the radar, like François Truffaut’s terrific 1968 film Stolen Kisses. I’m not sure why this great picture, one of the most romantic I’ve seen, isn’t up there with The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim in the count of the director’s masterpieces. Once upon a time, it got criticized for not being political enough in an era when riots and protests were filling the streets, but I think with Stolen Kisses, that’s beside the point. It’s only political in its accurate, carefree depiction of relationships, which is, in my humble opinion, revolutionary. I’ve never seen anything else like it.

Everything in this glittering piece of celluloid is superb: the cinematography, the editing (catch the quick, multiple cuts in the scene where Antoine Doinel enters someone’s hotel room and discovers adultery in action), the performances, the script. This is a movie where the filmmaker is in complete control. Nothing is wasted.

I wish I could say that for the host of lackluster movies that appeared in 2014.

But I don’t think we’re going to get a flick like Stolen Kisses again. Perhaps that’s for the better; you can’t repeat such unique magnificence. I would, however, like this film to be upon critics’ lips more often. It sure deserves to be, and I’ll continue to talk about it in the hopes that my wish for it will come true. Certainly, it’s an under-seen movie. Ideally, that’ll change.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: What Is It About ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies’ That Bothers Me?

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613For some reason, I’m not as excited at the prospect of watching The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies as I was before, say, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King debuted.

Is it because I already know where the One Ring will end up? Perhaps the suspense is not as great as it was more than 10 years ago, when the LOTR trilogy was entering its final stages.

There’s also the issue of the Hobbit movies not being as great as the LOTR films. There’s not as much riding on the protagonists, it seems, as there was in the later books and movies. I mean, once you have Sauron and Ringwraiths pursuing you, being tense becomes an everyday thing.

I think another problem is the fact that the Hobbit pictures have been stretched out to three cinematic chapters, whereas the three LOTR books just made three movies. There seems to be a lot of filler in the former films: lots of battle scenes that are fun to watch but aren’t as insistent as the ones in LOTR.

I suspect The Battle of Five Armies will be enjoyable. Just not the instant classic that The Return of the King is.

Skip’s Quips: Watching the Fur Fly in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Blog Sketch 082813Let no one accuse me of not enjoying a bit of popular moviemaking now and then.

I did just that yesterday in Times Square during a showing of Guardians of the Galaxy, the hit sci-fi spectacular from Marvel about mismatched con-creatures battling a blue warlord who wants to take over the universe or something.

Yeah, that was about what it was about.

Honestly, part of the fun was not caring what it was about. This is a light, special effects-laden romp featuring, among others, a hulking tree-beast and a trash-talking raccoon, so you know it’s going to be snarky. Yet there was a good dose of sensible humor as well, plus a tender moment toward the end that nearly transcended the picture.

I wouldn’t say it’s a classic. Some of the flashy battle scenes moved slowly and were hard to follow … not that following them would’ve made a big difference. And I did feel the flick missed a few choice opportunities to be funnier, though the aforementioned raccoon was a splendid creation. Plus, it did feel incredibly derivative. It hadn’t exactly been where no one has gone before.

Still, it was diverting, and I enjoyed most of it. Would I see it again? Not sure. It was quite imaginative, however, and that’s a plus. In this day and age, you don’t always get that in the movies.

Skip’s Quips: And for Dessert, I Get ‘Seven Samurai’

Blog Sketch 082813This is why it pays to be nice to your spouse.

A few days ago, Trudi got the Kurosawa classic The Seven Samurai on Netflix, and we watched it together … despite the fact that both of us had seen it multiple times (I about 100 or so). Plus, it’s not Trudi’s favorite movie, though she does like it more than other samurai films. So it was something of a treat for me.

God bless you, Trudi. Thank you for being so good to me.

Oh, it was as good as ever, filled with swashbuckling adventure, heroic deeds and complex characters. I love this movie very much, and I’m grateful to my wife for letting me see it. I get Seven Samurai withdrawal symptoms, you see, and after I go, say, about six months without watching it, I get an incredible desire to view it again.

Trudi and I have different tastes when it comes to films. We don’t always agree on what’s good and what isn’t. But sometimes we do things that one half likes more than the other half – without complaint. That’s part of what makes a good marriage, I think. And it’s just one of many reasons to love Trudi.

Now, the question is: When am I going to reciprocate with a rom-com? Hoo, boy.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: When Bad Special Effects Attack

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Please don’t fault me for watching Conan the Destroyer.

It’s a horrible movie, I know. But it’s something of a guilty pleasure. And in watching it last night, I marveled at a quality I hadn’t really noticed before.

The special effects. They’re just plain awful.

Rubber suits galore. Bad animation. Welcome to the world of Conan. Where things are really cheesy.

Which is not to say that the effects are so much worse than, say, the acting, which is just as horrid. Still, you have to wonder how this stuff passed muster. It looked lousy then. It looks lousy now.

Yet I always find it on TV, for some reason. Maybe there’s a market for it.

One can always hope not.