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Lord of War (2005)
Beautifully made almost documentary
Imaginative, beautifully directed, written, acted and photographed.
Almost a documentary predicting events that have come to pass and are still in flux. Cage is at his best.
Cet obscur objet du désir (1977)
Choice of actress
Sorry to disappoint all those who were trying to find some deep, intentional meaning in the choice of two actresses for the same role, but if Fernando Rey is to be believed, here's what he told me when I bumped into him at a party in the early 90's: he said that he and Buñuel liked both actresses for the part, couldn't decide which one to use, so they used them both.
Now, perhaps there was something working on the unconscious level about the dual nature of Conchita, but Rey maintained there was no grand decision they made regarding the specific scenes assigned to one or the other.
Of course, artistic choices can be obscure, especially even to the artist, but Rey insisted it was just a whimsical idea, one which I thought worked brilliantly.
Lady Ice (1973)
The real story about this film
Dr. Bombay is wrong about this film being made for TV.
It was always intended to be a feature, produced by the General Electric subsidiary, Tomorrow Entertainment. It suffered along the way from problems with the script and was delayed several times.
Alan Trustman, a lawyer and the author of the film, remained mostly in Boston during development, which hindered the process of fixing the script.
While Tomorrow Entertainment did indeed produce many fine TV movies, Lady Ice was one of two features developed by the company. The other was Gravy Train, a bit of cult classic. After the limited success of these films the company concentrated on TV movies.
A Death in California (1985)
I know very well what Hope's motivation was in cooperating with Walker, since I worked with her for months on this story.
She was most of all concerned for the welfare of her children, whom Walker had threatened, as well her own safety.
Since he was demonstrably a killer -- a shot in her boyfriend's head proved that -- she had every reason to believe he'd fulfill his threats to her and her kids. She cooperated the same way any prisoner does with terrorist captors: do what it takes to survive.
She wasn't some unwitting or dimwitted airhead. Survival was her motivation and she succeeded. How well or how poorly the film showed that is for others to say.
Sunday Morning Shootout (2003)
The "Business" in Show-Business
Should be required viewing for every film student and would-be filmmaker. Don't look for Brittney Spears on this show, but if you want the best people in the industry to talk about how they actually created a film, this is the place.
The only things wrong with it:
It's only half an hour. It's only on once a week. It's on AMC, where it might be missed.
In case you didn't know, in a single year Guber produced the highest-grossing film (Batman) and the best-Oscar winner (Rainman.)
Bart's been a producer, studio head, and runs Variety.
In an age when it seems that only celebrity counts, these two balance off with brains and knowledge. I wish it was a daily show.
Not worth seeing remake
Wretched movie of a fine book and a fine movie.
Astonishingly bad redo by first-rate actors. Miscast, misdirected. A prime example of how not to redo a picture that should have been left alone.
The IMDB requires ten lines of comment, but another word would only add to the pain of seeing and reading about this vile film.
I'll have to add another three lines of nothing to see this review in print, but it's no worse prattling on than wasting a minute of a life actually watching the film.
The staging, the acting, the script, the directing, the aerial photography (especially) jars one at every moment.
Let this book alone! Shame on you for even thinking about seeing this dreck.
My Mother's Murder (1992)
Powerful autobiography centered on suburban murder
Frontline and former ABC news producer Charles Stuart quietly tells the story of his mother's unsolved murder in her house in Princeton, New Jersey, one of the least-likely towns in America to imagine such a heinous crime. Stuart succeeds at what any loving child imagines doing: creating a poignant and compelling elegy to a suddenly-departed loved one. Every documentary film class ought to show this and use it as a example of how to tell a well-paced, significant story without resorting to sensation or bathos. There's no telling if making this film helped heal Stuart's wounds, but there's a pointed and telling lesson here, made undogmatically -- don't take love or loved ones for granted. You never know. Personal documentaries don't come better than this.
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Overwrought and sanitized docudrama of nasty business
Imagine Braveheart in Vietnam and you've got it. Almost. Subtract the kilts and the intrigue, now take away the politics, remove any human interest, distort the events of the battle, add lots of gory blood squibs -- voila!
If you think explosions and suffering are better portrayed in slow motion, with violins in the background, with 1/10th as much panic and pain as was reported to be there, you'll like this one.
Noble, brave, unscratched Mel Gibson and Sam Elliot emerge from one of the bloodiest battles in Vietnam with nary a hair misplaced, while nearly everyone around them dies. Well, they got half of it right.
War bad, Mel's men good, and while that's commendable, this ham-handed and overwrought direction by Randall Wallace is but a shadow of the real battle.
No, I wasn't there, but friends were, and one great ABC newsman writes about what it was like for him....
But before we even get there, Mel delivers one of the most nauseating, politically-correct speeches ever exposed on film. Gag me with an All the Way With LBJ button.
You won't like war much after this one, but don't be surprised if you don't like war movies very much, either. Reeks of phoniness. As empty of ideas and heart as a fallen helmet.
The Last Castle (2001)
Overwrought, well-made, ill-conceived. Who's the enemy?
Beautifully acted, photographed and directed, but ill-conceived piece of crap. An insult to the military and our intelligence. Gandolfini plays a Mafia hit man, but wearing the uniform of the USA. Redford doing his prison revolt thing from Lousiana, but this time taking on the US military, for no purpose.
There are bad people in the world -- but they shouldn't be making films.
Operation Crossbow (1965)
Informative but ponderous history of the German V program
A great cast squandered in a ponderously directed and edited stagy production of how the Nazis built their rockets and the Allies got all upset about it.
At least it's one of the few portrayals of the great pilot, Hannah Reitsch, as a V-1 test pilot.
And you have to wonder how -- or why -- in a war film you find Sophia Loren at the top of the credit list.
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Hard to find a better feel-good movie in the 23 years since it was made. An all-star cast, a perfect script, precise direction. I could watch this once-a-year and still wipe a tear. Julie Christy, Warren Beatty, James Mason, Jack Warden -- all Oscar performances. And Buck Henry and Elaine May show why they're comic geniuses. I don't even know exactly why this movie moves me so, perhaps it's the myth of redemption and renewal that permeates it. One of the best of the '70's -- and if you see it for the first time now, one of the best of the 00's.
Dark enough for anyone who enjoys the truly morbid and wretched. Puts the fun back dysfunctional and can brighten anyone's miserable Christmas. Thank gawd for offbeat comedies like this, which are closer to real life than most people would care to admit.
La dolce vita (1960)
A seminal film of the era
One of the most talked-about, argued-over, influential films of its time.
A film about the emergence of post-war Europe from its devastation and ennui into the modern era of freedom and personal fulfillment but with a slap at capitalist decadence. Foretold the whole theme and tone of the 60's and 70's free love and hedonism in the USA and Europe.
Features three of the most attractive European stars of the time, great cinematography and, of course, direction par excellance. Best seen on a big screen but a must-see in any format.
The California Reich (1975)
An early look at the underside of Far Right politics
One of the earliest films made about the Radical Right, alerted the world to neo-nazis in California. Because the characters were nearly parodies of Nazis, few took the movement seriously, but as later events showed they were indeed serious and building sympathy for a world spinning out of their comfort zone.
Worth seeing both as an early cinema verite look at the Far, Far Right, and as a important historical insight into a movement that within a decade would have the whole country nervously looking over its shoulder at killings and robberies by a country-wide band of neo-nazis.
When Billie Beat Bobby (2001)
The world changed.......for the better
One of the most entertaining, best-written/directed TV movies I've seen. Jane Anderson has given us a classic of quality. A slice of the past that sums up a turning point in American history. Holly Hunter, Ron Silver......the best.
Naked States (2000)
Artist Spencer Tunick's American odyssey photographing nudes
One of THE most delightful, entertaining and informative films of an artist at work. Spencer Tunick travels to most of the United States to portray people by one's, by ten's, by hundred's in their natural states.
Instead of showing an artist in angst, this film shows the artist at work and reveals the surprisingly happy effect of his efforts on the people he portrays.
As far removed from Hollywood and films about Jackson Pollock and Vincent Van Gogh and Michelangelo as Spencer's vision is from conventional notions about what art does and who it's for.
Starts slow and tentative and builds to a glorious and satisfying ending. Great pacing and direction put this on a straight track to documentary perfection.
Especially surprising was the segment that reveals Spencer's troubles with --and distaste for.......NUDISTS! They're a real pain in the ass to work with.
Nothing in the film draws attention to the making of the film. There's no didacticism here, but by the end of the film I was ready to take off my clothes and find Spencer.
HBO showed it but if they don't show it again, find it and rent it..... the legacy of Woodstock come to small-town America.
Although quiet and unassuming, Spencer's as bold as his subjects when he goes up to total strangers and persuades them to undress for art's sake.
And yes, he's been arrested, but never on a citizen complaint.....just by cops who can't stand the thought of people not wearing clothes in public. Bravo, Spencer!
The Right Stuff (1983)
A great film biopic about great Americans
Every scene, every line, every shot, every frame seems as right today as when this film was released. A classic of writing, direction, acting, and effects. One of the few great movies to follow a great book -- on its own terms. Funny, stirring, exciting, poignant......whatever else anyone could want -- it's here.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000)
Astonishingly mind-numbing and dumb..... Give it a chance, wait for something to happen....boy, will you be disappointed. After seeing three episodes the fascination shifts to how bad it can get. It's still heading for the basement.
Son of the Beach (2000)
Baywatch Meets Nightstand, Rated RF (really fun)
Tim Stack's the master of the suggestive double-entendre and now takes his act to the beach. A broad and sometimes smutty parody of Baywatch, SON OF THE BEACH is far more intelligent and fun, and with the hard bodies, to boot.
There's a bit of BEANY AND CECIL in here, too, in that many of the references might go over the heads of the intended audience. That's all to the good, since this is more than just the natural child of MARRIED WITH KIDS and Howard Stern, whose company is one of the producers. It's a breath of fresh air after endless and mindless cookie-cutter network sit-coms.
Saturday Night Live (1975)
One of the great icons of American TV
SNL represents a quarter century of great American humor, no less a comedy monument than Groucho, R. Benchley, Thurber, Perelman.....they all might have written for SNL.
The show has given us a pantheon of comic actors and writers.
And still it goes on.
We'd all be less without SNL....
Riveting drama, visual tour de force.
This Academy Award winner stands out for the relentless pace that proceeds without a wasted second. A simple tale told by a kneeling man climbs step-by-step from a mystery to an historical metaphor for political lying and cover-ups, with every step along the way a chance for astonishing photography and heart-racing action. I've seen this film a dozen times, in theatres and on television, and every time I am nearly exhausted by the relentless tension and drama -- even while knowing every scene. The photography is unsurpassed for composition and lighting, the direction is flawless. One of the greatest pictures, but hard to find in a theatre or video. The script, the acting, the sets -- all magnificent. A film without a flaw, but like a buried jewel may be hard to unearth.