Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Fool's Views (9/1 – 9/30)
Look at this. We’re all caught up.
September found me in West Virginia, rehearsing for GVT’s production of Hamlet and armed with a bevy of civilian titles that I’d been meaning to catch up with for years. During the downtime between bouts of spouting iambic pentameter, I worked my way through the DVD wallet. Didn’t manage to see quite as many as I’d hoped prior to the madness that is the October Horror Movie Challenge (this Shakespeare stuff ain’t the easiest stuff in the world to memorize, plus I was doing all the recaps from Jan-Aug), but we still knocked out a few.
Heck, we even managed to provide the full Fool’s Views capsule reviews effect for the first time this year – gotta get warmed up for SCARE-A-THON 2015, after all.
As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.
Away from Her (2006) d. Polley, Sarah (Canada) (1st viewing)
Agonizing drama with Gordon Pinset devastated by the unceasing disintegration of his marriage to Julie Christie due to the effects of her Alzheimer’s, especially once they decide to move her into a full-care facility and she loses mental and emotional ties with the outside world, forming stronger bonds with her new surroundings and companions. Actress Polley directed and wrote the screenplay based on Alice Munro’s short story.
An Education (2009) d. Scherfig, Lone (UK) (1st viewing)
English high school student Carey Mulligan is seduced by older American Peter Sarsgaard, who turns out to be not at all what he seems. Some terrific observations made about love, sex, family, women’s roles in society, and deception (both of others and self).
Hamlet (2009) d. Doran, Gregory (UK) (1st viewing)
The one with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, whom I found respectively too busy and too sedate for my personal tastes, even though both were quite clear in their choices and characterizations. Doran delivers some impressive and innovative directorial flourishes, including my favorite final confrontation between Hamlet and Claudius.
Hush (1998) d. Darby, Jonathan (USA) (1st viewing)
I remembered seeing the trailer for this when it came around nearly two decades ago and thinking it looked like a fun little update of Hammer’s Die! Die! My Darling! It’s not quite, but Jessica Lange renders a delicious hag horror turn as Johnathon Schaech’s possessive mater, trying to lure little sonny boy home against the wishes of sunny sweet pregnant bride Gwyneth Paltrow. Some worthy thriller moments, and a surprisingly non-violent conclusion that may or may not satisfy as a result.
Johnny Cash: Half Mile a Day (2000) d. Greenfield, Al (USA) (1st viewing)
The Man in Black’s journey from Arkansas sharecropper to country/rock superstar, highlighted by numerous vintage performances and interviews with dozens of adoring friends and collaborators.
The Last Castle (2001) d. Lurie, Rod (USA) (1st viewing)
One of the few Robert Redford titles I hadn’t seen and, well, there may have been a reason for its relative obscurity. The star’s return to the screen after a three-year hiatus borders on self-parody, playing a character so sage and righteous and armed with enough well-writ platitudes to choke a horse. James Gandolfini plays a rigid military prison warden, trying to keep Redford’s charismatic former general from re-instilling his fellow inmates with the self respect they’ve lost after years of degradation. Guilty of melodrama in the first degree.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) d. Anderson, Wes (USA) (1st viewing)
Finally caught up with this acclaimed offbeat all-star comedy about marine documentarian Bill Murray hunting down the “jaguar shark” that killed his crewman, bonding with could-be son Owen Wilson, dealing with intrepid reporter Cate Blanchett, jousting with competitor Jeff Goldblum and ex-wife Angelica Huston, and trying to not be upstaged by Willem Dafoe’s hilarious German-accented first mate. Good stuff. Still need to see Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited and Bottle Rocket.
My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) d. Hogan, P.J. (USA) (2nd viewing)
Julia Roberts works her ’90s romcom magic while Cameron Diaz – finally hitting on all cylinders following her breakout role in The Mask opposite Jim Carrey three years prior – is lovely and charming as the fiancée of Dermot Mulroney. But it’s Rupert Everett who steals the show as Julia’s suave and sage gay pal. Great Chicago location shooting, employing literally hundreds of Windy City extras.
The Negotiator (1998) d. Gray, F. Gary (USA) (1st viewing)
It’s as though they said, “Let’s get Samuel L. Jackson to be his most Sam Jackson, Kevin Spacey to be his most Kevin Spacey, surround them with a bunch of other worthwhile actors at their most clichéd, give them some of the juiciest hambone lines, and just let ‘em have at it.” Entertaining but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
Project A (1983) d. Chan, Jackie (Hong Kong) (1st viewing)
Jackie doing his comic/action thang, this time as a navy sailor attempting to thwart government corruption and PIRATES! Sammo Hung and Biao Yuen co-star.
The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) d. Ophuls, Marcel (France) (1st viewing)
Epic four-hour documentary – referenced to great comic effect in Woody’s Allen’s Annie Hall, which is where I first heard of it – about the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. Equal parts damning and tragic, Ophuls and his team interview politicians, military officers, and civilians from both sides of the conflict, painting a well-balanced portrait of a complex situation, with only the members of the French Resistance emerging as anything other than flawed or outright villainous.
Sunday in the Country (1984) d. Tavernier, Bertrand (France) (1st viewing)
Quiet and precious drama about an old painter being visited by his son, daughter and grandchildren, replete with tender and heartbreaking observations about family relationships and obligations. Beautifully shot and deliberately paced.
Sylvia Scarlett (1935) d. Cukor, George (USA) (1st viewing)
Katharine Hepburn and father Edmund Gwenn flee France following the latter’s embezzlement of the company funds, meeting up with cockney con man Cary Grant en route. The comedy derives mostly from Hepburn’s “disguise” as a young boy and the cast’s devotion to the fanciful material, which ultimately involves their running a traveling song-and-dance caravan.
Three the Hard Way (1974) d. Parks, Gordon (USA) (1st viewing)
Blaxploitation icons Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly are on hand, attempting to head off a devious plot to render all of the Negro men in major metropolitan areas sterile. Ridiculous as it sounds, and everyone is along for the ride. Kelly is particularly hilariously terrible in his “acting” but he does lay down the whoop-ass when the occasion calls for it.
Venus (2006) d. Michell, Roger (UK) (1st viewing)
Peter O’Toole in one of his last great roles, playing an aging actor who takes a shine to his fellow thespian’s rough-hewn niece Jodie Whitaker. The relationship that develops between them is unconventional to say the least, but the best moments are with O’Toole and beloved Brit character actor Leslie Philips. The old coots still have it.
2015 Totals to date: 209 films, 129 1st time views, 97 horror, 25 cinema