Sunday, January 26, 2020

1917 (2019)

I'm so glad I got to see this film on the big screen.  It was really good, though not for the faint of heart.  The camera movement is silky smooth as it does its astoundingly edited one continuous shot throughout.  The editing is flawless.  Don't know how they did it, but the result is magical.  I got teary twice, not from anything sad, but just from the power of the visuals coupled with the score by Thomas Newman.

The scene that goes with "The Night Window" cue... holy smokes.  I would go see this movie again, just to experience that moment again alone.  The soaring music is one of best cues I've heard in years.  It's got some Ralph Vaughn Williams influence, but even more, it's got some exquisite Alan Hovhaness-ish going on, but given that those are two of my favorite classical composers, I was in heaven.  I purchased the score within 5 minutes of getting home from the movie.  I have not needed a score so badly in years.  How I've missed real powerfully emotional music that makes me want to listen to it in headphones and disappear into the notes, but "The Night Window" does that and then some.

I loved the simplicity of this movie.  Our heroes must deliver a message within twenty-four hours to the front line to stop the troops from walking into an ambush.  That's it.  The journey to achieve that goal is at turns violent and beautiful, brutal and gentle.  There are friends; there are enemy.  The way the movie is filmed, you become a third soldier, accompanying them on their mission.

This movie is a fantastic follow-up to Peter Jackson's documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, which I saw twice in the theater (once when it came out, and once last December when it was re-released in 3D).  Everything the documentary showed and the soldiers talked about is here in 1917.  The documentary added a sense of depth and knowledge to the fictional film that just made it even more moving. 

I saw this film with my mom and brother-in-law, and we all felt wrung out, but... rewarded. 

I'm avoiding spoilers and the like, but I just have to say, the opening few minutes where we simply watch the characters walk from a field into the trench, but looking back at them, not actually seeing where we're going, but watching backwards, seeing the walls grow higher and higher on either side as we descend -- wow.  It was one of my favorite moments.  The choices made of where to put the camera, when to look ahead, when to look behind... it's masterful.  This is a powerful and extremely well done movie.  Kudos to everyone involved.


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year - year in review - movies

Happy New Year to everyone!  Hard to believe it's 2020.

This last year has not been a stellar blogging year for me.  I really made no attempt to maintain this.  I had no energy at the end of the day to blog, and nothing I felt compelled to share.  We'll see what 2020 brings!

Let's take a look back at 2019.  I actually went to the movie theater 36 times.  That's quite a lot!  This was a mix of new movies, Classic TCM big screen movies, operas, documentaries, and repeat viewings.

Let's take a look at my entertainment takeaways from 2019.

There were three movies in 2019 that I went and saw multiple times in the theater, and all three of them are favorites:

1.  Avengers: Endgame
2.  Midway
3.  Captain Marvel

All three were fantastic.  Endgame wrapped things up in just the right way, showing how powerful an ending can be when it's earned. I loved it.  I also loved Captain Marvel. Midway I managed to review a couple weeks ago, but I failed to review the other two at all.  Sigh.  Captain Marvel had a fantastic cast, a fun story, and a great ending.  It's everything I want out of a superhero movie, and it led so nicely into Endgame. It jumped right into my top five Marvel movies.




I have two other favorite movies from 2019, ones seen on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively that make my top five favorite movies of 2019.

4.  April 9

5.  The Highwaymen

April 9 was discovered almost by accident.  After Midway came out, after I watched a couple of the WWII documentaries on Netflix, I was looking for more WWII movies, and, in scanning what Amazon Prime had to offer, I found a movie I'd never heard of, a Danish film about Germany's invasion of Denmark, on April 9, 1940.  As I'm still studying the Danish language daily on duolingo, I decided to see what this movie was all about.  And I discovered a fantastic little gem of a movie.  This movie is so well done it instantly jumped into my favorites of the year, and it is also jumped into my top ten favorite movies about WWII.


It follows a bicycle squad (!) through the day of invasion. I love this movie for many reasons, but one of them is that you only see things from their perspective, never the German side.  This is one of the first movies that really gave me a sense of what it would be like on the ground, fighting for your country, not knowing what you're up against, just following orders the best you can.  I love the cast and cared about the soldiers we followed.  The movie ends with some short interviews with Danish veterans who lived through it.

This movie was so good, I promptly showed it to my family, and they loved it as well.  My nephew still talks about it.

I also found my grasp of the Danish language is decent... except that despite all the vocabulary I've learned, there are still so many words I don't know.  If I hear something I've studied, I can translate, but in a war movie, there were simply so many words duolingo hasn't taught me.  But that's what the subtitles are for.  If you're not put off by foreign films and subtitles, I highly recommend this movie for a slightly different look at WWII.


The other movie I loved was Netflix's The Highwaymen, with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.  This one's about the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde and was really well done.  I love Costner, of course, but what surprised me was just how much I loved Harrelson in this movie.  He was fantastic, and my favorite scene was when a couple of hoods tried to jump his character.  Hah!  The dynamic between Costner and Harrelson was great, and this movie was one I immediately wanted to watch a second time.

Friday, December 06, 2019

The 12 Days of Christmas Movie Tag

This tag comes from Hamlette, just in time for the holidays!

Rules:

#1 Use a different movie for each prompt
#2 Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts
#3 Tag a few friends to play along


1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree -- movie that involves agriculture
Mutiny on the Bounty -- Agriculture is key to this story, as their whole mission to Tahiti is all about those danged breadfruit trees.  I recently re-watched the sumptuously filmed, but very odd, Marlon Brando 1962 version, so it was on my mind.  The plants get all the water they need, while the crew goes thirsty.  Who wouldn't mutiny?  (But some day, I'd like to taste a breadfruit!)




2.  Turtledoves -- movie about a long-lasting relationship
El Cid and Ximena from El Cid (1961).  Okay, this is kind of an odd entry, cuz I've only seen this movie once and it was so long ago that I can't recall the details other than it was not one I ever had a need to see again.  But what sticks in my head is an article I read once where Charlton Heston complained how his character aged, but Sophia Loren did not want to appear old, so her aging make up was kept minimal and almost non-existent. Which means their characters clearly have a long-lasting relationship, so they're my choice here, LOL.  Mostly, my knowledge of El Cid is from a fictional account I read over and over as a kid, and my love of Miklos Rozsa's score from the film.



3.  French Hens -- movie that takes place in France
The Great Race -- because my family just re-watched this, and the titular race ends at the Eiffel Tower.  Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk are awesome in this, and the pie fight, of course... We had to watch the pie fight twice in a row, because, well, the pie fight is epic and it never ever, ever, gets old.



4.  Calling Birds -- movie where people talk on the phone
Cellular (2004) - Chris Evans, Kim Basinger, and Jason Statham.  One of those movies that I watched on Netflix one night while bored, but it ended up being a decent thriller.  Chris Evans gets a random desperate phone call from Kim Basinger, who's been kidnapped, and he proceeds to figure out how to help her while trying to maintain their spotty cell phone connection.


5.  Golden Rings -- movie with multiple romances
Best Years of our Lives (1946).  This outstanding movie has romances on every side.  Al and Millie are my favorite.  They're so real, working daily at their marriage through ups and down, "falling in love all over again."  But there's also Homer and Wilma, and Fred and Marie, then Fred and Peggy. 



6.  Geese A-laying -- movie with a birth or that features babies
How about City Slickers and the oh-so-important birth of Norman, the adorable calf that changes Billy Crystal's character's life? 

7.  Swans A-swimming -- movie where someone goes swimming
The Frogmen (1951)Lots and lots of swimming.  Dana Andrews and Richard Widmark and WWII.  I'm way overdue to rewatch this one!


8.  Maids A-milking -- movie with cows
Well, how can I not go with Twister (1996)?  "We got cows" is just one of those quotes that pops up all over the place.  Ridiculous movie, but Bill Paxton looks mighty fine, and I admit to watching it every now and then just because I love him. (And Cary Elwes is amusing.)



9.  Ladies Dancing -- movie with a dance scene
A Royal Affair (2012), cuz Mads Mikkelsen dancing so smoothly with Alicia Vikander is sheer joy to watch (even if the movie itself breaks my heart).



10.  Lords A-leaping -- movie about athletes
McFarland, USA (2015) - I was surprised how much I liked this movie.  I ended up with it by accident, but was happy I did after I watched it.  It's hard for a movie to go wrong when Kevin Costner is around, and I really liked him in this.  I love the students and how they come together as a team.

11.  Pipers Piping -- movie with someone playing a musical instrument
Night Song (1947) - Dana Andrews and a piano and I'm happy.  Kind of a far-fetched movie, but Dana Andrews and Hoagie Carmichael are a delightful combo.  And Merle Oberon is beautiful.



12.  Drummers Drumming -- movie with characters in the military
Dear me, what movie to pick???  Let's go with Battle Cry (1955), cuz I've chosen a lot of Dana Andrews pictures, and it's time to go with an Aldo Ray movie.  I'm way overdue for a re-watch on this one too, which follows some marine recruits from training to the war.  Love Aldo Ray and Van Heflin and the rest of the cast, but can kinda do without Tab Hunter and his subplot.



Feel free to answer use this tag on your own blog!  I'd love to read your answers.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Midway (2019)

This is a is late review, considering I first saw the movie back in the middle of November.  And then saw it three more times.  With the whole family each time.  My brother-in-law hates going to the movie theater nowadays.  It's always too loud, too full of rude people... he's seen this one three times in the theater already.  My dad, too, almost never goes to see modern movies in the theater.  Not only did he go to see it, but he wanted to go see it a second time.  My mom's already seen it three times and is anxiously awaiting her next viewing.  My sister doesn't usually like war movies, and she's seen it four times.  My nephew, well he declared it his favorite movie, and he's been playing a couple different WWII flying games ever since.

It's just one of those movies.  It works for my entire family, on so many levels.

Modern movies about WWII can be problematic.  If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's filmmakers putting modern attitudes/messages/whatever into historical movies.  They play wrong when that happens.  This movie is amazingly free of modern BS.  In hindsight, this is actually obvious from the movie poster.  It's such a lovely throwback to old school movie poster styles.



What do I love?

The characters (and the actors who brought them alive).  This movie has a fine cast, and everyone works exceedingly well in their roles.  The straight-forward storytelling.  No added romances, no cooked up conflicts between characters simply for the sake of it. The beautiful crisp cinematography that lets you feel like you're in the cockpit of a dive bomber without ever confusing the viewer as to what we're seeing.  The middle of a pitched battle, and everything is still crystal clear and easy to follow.  The accurate history, for once.  The pacing.  The short summary info at the end of the movie on what happened to the characters.

Favorite parts:  Best and Dickinson's friendship throughout.  Best sitting on his daughter's bed.  All the dive bombing runs.  Every scene with Bruno.  Every scene with Doolittle.  The downed Hornet pilot cheering everybody on.  The fact that they show the crew policing the flight deck.  Layton and Rochefort's silent exchanges when Nimitz visits Hypo.  John Ford on Midway.  All the rest of the movie.  LOL

Okay, really, there isn't anything I dislike about this movie except the movie previews we've had to sit through in front of it, and that's nothing to do with the movie.

Midway has put me back in a WWII mood, and I had to re-watch A Wing and a Prayer and The Purple Heart, both Dana Andrews movies, both released in 1944.  The former is about the Battle of Midway, the second is a fictional account loosely based on the trial of some of the men captured from Doolittle's raid.  I also watched two WWII documentaries on Netflix, WWII in Colour and Five Came Back.  The latter is a documentary on five of the big name Hollywood directors of that time, (Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Ford, George Stevens, and John Houston) and their contributions to the war effort.  It's quite sobering and inspiring at the same time.  I learned a lot about these famous directors.  The neat thing is Netflix also has the documentaries they made during the war available to watch too.  I watched John Ford's Battle of Midway first, but I'm working through all the others as well.

I will probably see Midway a couple more times before it finally leaves the theater, because this is one that really needs to be seen big screen.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Tolkien Blog Party Tag




Tag answers for Hamlette's Tolkien Blog Party!  Thanks for hosting!   Lots of fun posts from people to read, go check it out!

1.  ...join Thorin's Company or the Fellowship?
Thorin's Company.  I adore the Fellowship... but they don't need me.  Thorin's company... they could use a scout.  It also not an end-of-the-world adventure, so that makes it more appealing as well.

2.  ...ride Shadowfax or an eagle?
An eagle, of course.  I would love to fly.



3.  ...travel through Moria or Mirkwood?
Mirkwood, any day.  I'm much more comfortable in the forest -- any forest -- than underground.  Now Erebor or Mirkwood?  Erebor, baby, but I don't have any love for Moria.

4.  ...learn to make elvish rope or mithril chainmail?
Both?  I think I would enjoy making chainmail much more, though.

5.  ...try to outwit Smaug or Saruman?
Saruman, definitely.  Smaug likes his riddles and word play and toying with you, and I suck at those.  Saruman is more direct and at least I could actually fight him if it came to that, whereas you can't really fight a dragon.  I would lose to either, but Smaug would roast me and that is not a way I want to go.  I would much rather be defeated by Saruman.

6.  ...spend an hour with Grima Wormtongue or Denethor?
Denethor.  Grima is just plain icky, but I'm fine with Denethor.  I don't have the issues with him most people seem to have.

7.  ...attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding?
 Faramir's, I believe.  It would be more formal and have more people, and I could disappear into a corner and just watch things.  Hobbits would try to talk to me and engage me at Sam's wedding, cuz they're all so hobbity and way too much for me.

8.  ...have to care for the One Ring or the Arkenstone for a day?
Arkenstone.  The One Ring, even for a day, would be detrimental to one's well being.

9.  ...have tea with Bilbo or Frodo?
Bilbo.  I like Frodo, but Bilbo is awesome.  He would be a much more enjoyable tea companion.


10.  ...fight alongside Boromir or Eomer?
Boromir.   I have no love of Eomer.  



Friday, July 26, 2019

Rancho Notorious (1952)

I watched this Western with Arthur Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, and Mel Ferrer, and directed by Fritz Lang, on Amazon prime... and um... wow.  That's not necessarily a good wow.  More like, what did I just watch?  Ranch Notorious is a very strange viewing experience.


This is movie that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.  It has a good cast saddled with a standard revenge plot, but with some other character arcs and settings that should have elevated it.  This should have been a good movie... and it is just a head-shaker instead.

Let's start with the opening title song. I'm afraid it doesn't stand up to time's passage.  It is cheesy and silly.  It would be okay if it were just a theme song, but it turns out that this song continues throughout... it's not just a theme song, the singer ends up being a narrator who moves the plot along.  Silence would have been better.  It's just jarring.

But then the movie gets serious, and we meet Arthur Kennedy's character Vern and his fiancee. They share a nice happy moment.  But he heads out and two robbers arrive in town.  One fancies the fiancee... and yeah, that ends in the worse way possible.  Vern swears revenge and takes off to find the men.  Annnnd, the narrating singer is back.  And then, as Vern keeps searching for the murderer of the love of his life, he keeps meeting people who tell him stories about Marlene Dietrich's character, Altar Keane (!).  Now there's a name for you!  It is very clunky storytelling.  Worse because some of the flashbacks show stuff the teller isn't there to see.

Finally, Vern meets up with Frenchy (Mel Ferrer).  Vern's desperate enough to break the law to get to meet Frenchy, so Frenchy can lead him to Altar Keane, where he hopes to find info about the murderer.  We finally meet Marlene Dietrich in real time.  She runs a safe house for outlaws.  They give her ten percent of whatever illicit gains they've made, and she provides sanctuary.  Now, this is quite a fascinating setup.  This is cool.  Particularly as the murderer is indeed there, taking advantage of the safe house.  All these characters thrown together... this part should shine.  It doesn't.  It falls weirdly flat.  I think we just don't know enough about the characters to care about them, so all this promising stuff goes nowhere.

So, this was a movie full of potential that just sort of comes apart at the seams.  I watched this mostly because Arthur Kennedy was in it, but sadly, not even he can save this one.


This has been an entry for the Legends of Western Cinema Week, hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine, Hamlette at Hamlette's Solioquy, and Olivia at Meanwhile in Rivendell.  Check here for the master post.  Lots of good posts listed here if you love Westerns!


Monday, July 22, 2019

Legends of Western Cinema Week Tag

Here are my answers to the Legends of Western Cinema Week tag



1) Do you tolerate, like, or love westerns?
I love Westerns.  Probably my favorite genre of movies.

2) What do you enjoy about them and, more broadly, the west itself (e.g. the history, accompanying paraphernalia, etc)?
Everything.  I need wide open spaces in my life, I need land untouched by mankind.  I need unpopulated vistas full of beauty and danger.  I need horses and skies full of stars.  Movie Westerns are also full of characters I relate to, most have a code of honor, there's a lot of protection of something or other going on.  I love the themes of Westerns.  Love the settings.  Westerns are just a whole package deal.


3) What's the first western you can remember watching?
I've been watching Westerns since I was a child, so no memory of a first.  There have always been Western movies in my memory.  Though I do have a strong memory of a calvary/Indian fight from an unknown movie as one of my early cinematic memories.  Lots of gunfire, arrows, falling horses...

4) Who are your favorite western stars, the ones whose presence in a western will make you pick it up off the shelf?
Kevin Costner.  William Holden.  Richard Boone.  Richard Widmark.  Arthur Kennedy.  Barbara Stanwyck.




5) What's your favorite performance by an actress in a western?
Not sure what my absolute favorite is, but I do love Felicia Farr in 3:10 to Yuma and Anne Baxter in Yellow Sky and Claire Trevor in Texas.  For a more modern performance, Annette Bening in Open Range is fabulous.


6) What is your "go-to" western, the one you'll typically reach for?
I have many go-to Westerns, depending on my mood. There isn't just one.  How can there be one?  Or even two?  There are so many flavors of Westerns!  But for a movie it would probably be one of the following:  Big Jake, Slow West, The Lone Ranger, Hour of the Gun, Cowboys & Aliens, The Frisco Kid, Salvation, Open Range, Quigley Down Under, or Cat Ballou.  Otherwise, I'm going to grab any "Have Gun Will Travel" episode or "Big Valley" episode for something short.


7) Do your family/friends share your interest in westerns, or are you a lone ranger (pun completely intended)?
My family and friends all share my interest, except for my sister.

8) Pick one western to live inside for a week, and explain why you chose it.
The Ox-Bow Incident.  I'd join Dana Andrews, make sure he gets a receipt for those darned cattle, and I'd be there armed and awake when the lynch mob shows up to make sure they don't try anything, and if they do, I will shoot first and ask questions later.

(Not on MY watch!!)
9) Share one (or several!) of your favorite quotes from a western.
"I thought you was dead."  "Not hardly." (Multiple people, Jacob McCandles (John Wayne) - Big Jake)
"Let's drift." (Silas (Michael Fassbender) - Slow West)
"I smell a water hole!" (Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) - Cat Ballou)
"I'm drunk as a skunk." (Jed (Dwayne Hickman) - Cat Ballou)
"Don't talk about snow." (Chief Gray Cloud (Val Bisoglio) - The Frisco Kid)
"I don't want to hurt you; I just want to eat you." (or "I just want to make you kosher.") (Avram (Gene Wilder) chasing a chicken - The Frisco Kid)
"You bring horses?" (Tonto (Johnny Depp) - The Lone Ranger)
"All right, let's do this." (John Reid (Armie Hammer) - The Lone Ranger)
"The horse can fly?" "Don't be stupid." (John Reid/Tonto - The Lone Ranger)
"I said I didn't have much use for one. Didn't say I didn't know how to use it." (Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) - Quigley Down Under)

And a zillion other quotes.  If I'm with the family, there are a ton from Cat Ballou and Frisco Kid that we use regularly.  If I'm with Hamlette, then Lone Ranger and Slow West take over... :-D

Sunday, April 07, 2019

King Creole (1958)

This was the first Elvis Presley movie I saw, and it remains my favorite of his films that I’ve seen.  Part of that is because it is not a colorful cheesy musical.  It is black and white, and serious, and shows that Elvis can do more than just sing.  He really can act when given a good script and a good director (Michael Curtiz, in this instance).  Elvis’s character is a singer, so the songs performed in this movie are performed as part of the plot, which works really well.


Danny Fisher (Elvis) lives in New Orleans with his sister and widowed father (Dean Jagger).  His dad can’t hold down a job, so Danny and his sister both work to pay the rent, etc.  Danny’s hoping to graduate high school after already being held back a year, but his school teacher flunks him for attitude, and he decides school is not for him.  Danny’s jobs include bussing tables at a joint owned by Maxie Fields, the local crime boss who runs just about everything around.  Maxie’s played by Walter Matthau, and he is delightfully slimy and vicious and powerful.  If he can’t get what he wants by intimidation, he uses blackmail, or any other tool at his disposal to bring everyone and everything to heel.

Playing against type, Paul Stewart is Charlie, the owner of a rival nightclub, the King Creole.  I’m used to Paul Stewart playing gangsters and hoods, and I love that here, he’s a good guy.  Honest and fair.  He hires Danny to sing in his club, and the act is a sensation as, of course, Elvis does his magic whenever he performs.  Maxie can’t handle this, and tries to steal Danny away.  When Danny won’t play ball, Maxie uses vile and violent tactics to implicate Danny in a crime, and then blackmails him with it.

Things boil to an inevitable showdown between Danny and Maxie.

Along the way, there are two women who play big roles in Danny’s life throughout the movie: Ronnie (a fantastic Carolyn Jones), and Nellie (Dolores Hart).  The women could not be more opposite.

Ronnie is Maxie’s “girlfriend,” held to him by some unknown blackmail from the past that keeps her obedient to him.  She spends most of her time drunk to numb her life.  Danny brings a spark of freedom and rebellion to her life, and when he stands up to Maxie, she’s finally able to find the strength to do the same thing and break free of his control over her.  She is a sort of femme fatale, except that she’s too much a victim herself.


Nellie is a young woman working at a Five and Dime store who falls for Danny the first moment she sees him and she actively pursues him with dreams of a happily ever after with him.

One of the things I like about this movie is that the relationships in this movie are slightly unusual.
Danny and Ronnie are attracted to each other, but a lot of that is because they’re both victims of Maxie’s schemes, they both have hard lives behind them, and both dream of futures that aren’t sordid and full of crime.  Both are singers.  Ronnie’s singing is in her past, Danny’s is in the future.  Danny rescues Ronnie, and Ronnie rescues Danny.  They share a bond.  They are kindred spirits.  One of my favorite moments of the movie is seeing Ronnie at the end of the movie wearing casual comfortable clothes instead of the tight gowns Maxie has her wear, relaxed and natural and happy for the first time since we've met her. 


Nellie is the good girl, yet she pursues Danny almost desperately, pushing for a relationship that will lead to marriage.  She’s young and Danny’s young, and one of the things I like is that Danny realizes at the end that he’s not ready for any kind of commitment, that he needs to find himself first.  Nellie tells him she’ll wait, so hopefully she’s learned something along the way too.


There’s a third romantic relationship in the film, between Paul Stewart’s Charlie, and Danny’s sister, Mimi.  This one is also interesting because Charlie is twenty years older than Mimi, and says so outright.  They have the most normal and supportive relationship in the film.

So, what about Vic Morrow?  He has a small but pivotal role as Shark, a local hoodlum with aspirations of being a big hoodlum someday.  He’s got his own little gang, and he continually pushes Maxie to let him work for him.  He gets his wish and becomes Maxie’s errand boy and muscle, which delights him no end.  He takes great pride in obtaining this position.  He’s also a smart cookie.  He’s the one who figures out the best way to blackmail Danny, and Maxie lets him run with the plan, pleased with his initiative.

He’s never less than polite, soft-spoken, his words phrased almost gently even when he’s threatening someone.  He’s deferential to Maxie, almost to a fault.  He thinks he’s a sharp dresser.  He’s clearly trying to stay a classy hoodlum.  And I find it interesting how he quickly he reacts to people's actions.  Early on, Danny gets the drop on him and wins his respect by being faster and stronger than he is.  Shark invites him to join his gang on the spot.  When Danny doesn’t allow Shark to cheat one of the other members of the gang out of their earnings, Shark promptly drops him from the group.  There’s a hundred ways this character could have been played.  Vic’s played some very nasty characters in his career, and while Shark is a bad guy, he’s got such a pleasant, smiling fa├žade, it amuses me no end. 


He and Danny finally come to a physical confrontation, a tense knife fight. It's quite something to watch Vic squaring off with Elvis.

The black and white cinematography lends itself well to this movie, giving it that edge of noir feeling, and really, this is a noir movie.  There is some great shots filmed on-location in New Orleans.  It's moody and atmospheric, which suits the story.  Elvis nails the character of Danny, and he's supported by a fabulous cast.

My favorite musical numbers are "Trouble" and the last song of the movie "As Long as I Have You."  Both work great within the plot.  "Trouble" is the song Danny performs when ordered to sing by Maxie, who is trying to prove Ronnie and Danny are liars, that Danny can't sing.  Danny's hopping mad and not only accepts the challenge, but directs the song straight at Maxie without backing down at all.  Ronnie's little smile of triumph is one of her first steps to breaking free of Maxie's control.  It's one of my favorite scenes.  And the latter song closes the movie.  It ties everything up so nicely.  It's the song Ronnie says was her theme song, so Danny singing it as a tribute to her is lovely, but it also represents his return to honest life, with his whole family there to reconcile and move on with their lives, out of Maxie's sleazy shadow.


This has been my contribution to the A Tribute to Vic Morrow Blogathon.

Friday, April 05, 2019

A Tribute to Vic Morrow: A Blogathon

Hi there - it's time for the Tribute to Vic Morrow blogathon.  This will be running through Sunday.

Leave a comment either on this post or over at my co-host's site, Hamlette's Soliloquy, with the link to your contribution when you've got it posted.  Thanks for joining us!

Entries:

Eva, from Coffee, from Classics, & Craziness: My Top Five Favorite Saunders-centric Episodes of Combat!
Anna and Irene, from Horseback to Byzantium:  Bonanza: The Avenger
DKoren, from Sidewalk Crossings: King Creole (1958)
Hamlette, from Hamlette's Soliloquy:  The Keys to the Killer (1960) 


Friday, February 15, 2019

Macbeth (2015)

I've never been a fan of Macbeth.  It was a play I read in school (more than once, if I recall), one I saw performed live... but it never spoke or appealed to me.  I never liked the characters (except for Banquo), never felt any sense of tragedy, just that they were horrible people who got what the deserved and good riddance. 

That changed when I saw the 2015 version just last year.  This was the first and, to this date, only version where I could relate to Macbeth, and even to Lady Macbeth.  For the first time, I understood them and what drove them along their fateful, bloody path.  For the first time, it actually felt like a tragedy.  I liked this version well enough to buy my own copy on DVD so I can rewatch it.  It's one that gets better with repeat viewings, as I pick up on more of the subtle things they do in this one.


This is an atmospheric stylized Macbeth. The score drones on and on, but it does work within the context of the film.  The movie was filmed in England and Scotland, and it looks fantastic.  Some parts reminded me visually of Valhalla Rising (2009).  What I like about this film is precisely what some fans may dislike about it:  the Macbeths are not shown as such over-the-top flat-out evil and ambitious characters.  Both are given more human reasons for their actions, and as each act of violence steers them farther down a path they cannot return from, you see the toll it takes on them until they are destroyed by their own overwhelming sense of guilt as much as anything else.

The movie opens with a scene that is not in the play (though it could be extrapolated from Lady Macbeth's dialogue later), namely, the funeral of their young son.  This serves several purposes and for this version of the play, is essential.  It instantly gives both characters a great loss to overcome, and one that shadows both of them throughout the play.  Particularly Lady Macbeth, who reacts badly to the death of the Macduffs and, as her own complicity and guilt wrack her, she sees images of her lost child.  You get the immediate sense that had the child lived, things would have gone very differently.  But no, he died, and they are a bereft and childless couple who have nothing but their service, and little reward for that.


Even so, Macbeth faithfully carries out the king's orders in a battle in the beginning.  The King has sent him a bunch of boys to augment his army, and Macbeth reacts to their youth and inexperience with a great sadness, though he carries out his orders.  He and the older soldiers touchingly arm the younger ones for the coming battle.  He bonds with one of the young men, clearly seeing him almost as the son he might have had.  When the young man is killed in battle, it's a second blow, almost as devastating as the loss of his biological son.  This Macbeth is weary, ravaged by battle and death, but faithful to the king.


Until, of course, the witches deliver their prophecies.  There are only four of them here, and most of supernatural stuff is removed.  I like that about this version.

Macbeth makes the mistake of sending his wife a letter about the witches' prophecies, and that is, of course, when things begin to go south for the pair.  With her son taken from her, you really get the sense that she is sick of being beaten down by life, that she has nothing left to lose, that she's ready to seize whatever opportunity comes along to better their lives.  Power cannot substitute for life, but it is still a powerful drug.  With the witches' prophecy already half proved true, why not grab the crown?  I've always loved that Macbeth still tries to back out at this point.  This Macbeth knows full well it's wrong.  Without Lady Macbeth to push him, again, things could have turned out differently.  And who knows, he still might have ended up as king, rightfully, without the murders.

The movie uses the dead son and the killed boy to represent what each Macbeth craved and lost.  Lady Macbeth's famous speech is delivered to her dead son.  Macbeth repeatedly sees the young man who was killed in battle at important moments.  I liked those elements a lot.  They ground it and are quite effective at maintaining the focus.


The cast suits this version very well.  Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) and Marion Cotillard (Lady Macbeth) are excellent.  They are both far more sympathetic than the play's usual version of the characters.  It's a joy to watch them in this movie.  Macbeth descends rapidly into his own guilt-ridden madness, each act of violence pushing him further from his initial humanity.  She drives the action, until he goes even farther than she is willing to go (when he has the Macduff family burned at the stake -- again, this movie shows how much children mean to these characters) and then her own guilt destroys her.  I really love the two of them together, and when things fall apart, when they take that fateful, brutal step forward, they are engaging to watch, and they kept my interest throughout.  I also like the sort of return to dignity Macbeth has at the very end, when he knows it's too late and it's all over for him.


The supporting actors are good as well.  David Thewlis as Duncan, Paddy Considine as Banquo, Elizabeth Debicki as Lady Macduff.  I'm not as fond of Sean Harris's Macduff.  I'm not sure what I want in the role, but his portrayal doesn't resonate for me the way I want Macduff to resonate.  For me, he's the weak link in this film.


This is an R-Rated movie for a reason, and the violence is bloody and brutal.

This has been my entry for the We Love Shakespeare Week.  Thanks to Hamlette for hosting!