Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Short Takes Vol. 5


Teus 11/14

Joe Dante (Matinee, Explorers) directed the hour long Homecoming as part of a limited run horror anthology series that ran (I think on Showetime) in 2005, it is now on out DVD along with the programs twelve other installments. While the characters are thinly veiled, Homecoming is about dead Iraq war vets coming back as Zombies to vote against President Bush in the 2004 election. It can be called partisan, but its point is well taken and creatively presented. Memorable image: Ann Coulter vs. Zombie solders.

Part of the reason for Katharine Hepbruns appearing on the Dick Cavitt show in 1973, was to promote her work in the American Film Theaters production of Edward Albee's Pulitzer winning play A Delicate Balance. The American Film Theater had come up with the intriguing idea of producing about a dozen plays on film (these are not filmed plays in the traditional sense, they have real sets yet retain a certain 'stagy' feel) and selling them as a package deal to consumers, kind of like a season pass to a Shakespear company. In other words they would rent out movie theaters in major cities like New York, and they would rotate another of their productions through it each week. It coasted about $35 per person back in 73'. Anyway A Delicate Balance is about a dysfunctional New England family whose best friends move in with them after suddenly becoming deathly afraid of being alone. Hepburn excels in these kind of 'family on the brink films' like A Lion in Winter and Suddenly Last Summer, and Balance is no exception to the rule. Paul Scofield is quite good as Hepburns husband Tobias, with Joseph Cotten as his best friend, and Lee Remick as their daughter (Scofield and Hepburns not Scofield and Cottens).

Fri 11/17

Oscar's Greatest Moments: Highlights of Oscar-casts from 1971-1991, produced in 1992. I enjoyed it. Hosted by Karl Malden.

Panic in the Streets: This Elia Kazen helmed film noir concerns the efforts a doctor from the 'U.S. Public Health Service' (Richard Widmark) and a New Orleans police captian (Paul Douglas) to prevent an outbreak of bubonic plague, brought into the country by an illegal immegrant. Barbara Bel Geddes plays Widmarks wife, and Jack Palance and Zero Mostel are two bit hoods unknowingly infected with the plague. I enjoyed this movie, it's inovative and unlike any other film noir I've seen. Excellent use of source music. This movie is begging to remade in the post 9/11 world.

Sat 11/18

Watership Down: I watched this because it's in the directors cut of Donnie Darko, and because I'm a fan of Richard Briers, mostley from his work in the 70's britcom Good Neighbors. Based on Richard Adams book, Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits who set out from their old home under the leadership of the prophetic Fiver (Briers) and his brother Hazel (John Hurt), to start a new coloney where they will be safe from man and beast. Unlike most cartoon films the mood of this feature is rather somber and the problems faced by the characters real ones, like finding a mate and not getting killed. This is very Joseph Campbell stuff, lots of archtypes and illusions to both the Bible and 20th century political conditions. This is a thinking mans cartoon. Zero Mostel provides the littel comedy relife in the film as a helpfull, possibly Russian bird named Kehaar.

Sun 11/19

Over the Hedge: 2006 computer animated feature about a crafty raccoon (Bruce Willis) who try's to dupe, and then is charmed by, a group forrest scavangers who live on the edge of the suburbs. Impresive voice cast includes Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, and William Shatner. Enjoyable throughout, a caffieine related gag sequance towards the end is impossible not to laugh through.

Mon 11/20

I had a private showing (meaning no one else bought tickets to the 9:25 PM showing) of Stephen Frears new film, The Queen. The Queen tells the story of Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) royal mishandeling of events following the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Michael Sheen, who is the spitting image of Tony Blair, plays the then new Prime Minister, who is despretly trying to convince the royals to show some grieff after the death of their former daughter-in-law. It's a quietly moving picture that contrasts two very different styles of dealing with death, and indeed of dealing with life, with the stoic Windsors cast in harsh releaf against the modern Blairs and emotional British public. Not the kind of story you'd think would make it to film, but I'm glad it did.

Teus 11/21

The Last Days of Patton: Made for television sequal to the 1970 theatrical hit Patton. Film chronicals Pattons post European war activites through the December 1945 automobile accident that eventually took his life. Staring George C. Scott in the role for which he won an Oscar (which he refussed to accept), and Eva Marie Saint as Mrs. Patton. Slooooooww.

Wed 11/22

Hells Angles: This is the movie you see Howard Hughs directing early on in The Aviator. In short the plot concerns two English brothers (Ben Lyon, James Hall) who fall for the same girl (Jean Harlow), and their German friend from Oxford days (John Darrow), who of course they come up against in the Great War. I might add that none of the major players in this film even attempt an accent. This movie is very Hughs, a blue collar spectical, with pre-code sensuality, and impressive visual effects for its time, including special sequences both tinted and in color. All of this, combinded with a strong sense of mellow-drama make Howard Hughs one of the most distinctive film makers of his time; a protracted sequence set on a zeplin, which merits study, is a testment to the mans often underused cinematic talent.

Thurs 11/23

Johnny Guitar: Emma (Mercedes McCambridge) loves the Dancin' Kid (Scott Brady). The Dancin' Kid loves Vienna (Joan Crawford). Vienna loves Johnny 'Guitar' Logan (Sterling Hayden), who loves her. Turkey Ralston (Ben Cooper) also loves Vienna. Marshal Williams (Frank Ferguson) just wants peace, but he ain't gonna get it becasue all these people have guns. Fine overwrought western from Republic Pictures gloary days. Theme sung by Peggy Lee.

Fri 11/24

The Lepoard : The best thing about viewing this dubbed and trunkated version of Luchino Visconti's 1963 classic, is the opertunity it affords me to recommend the film in its proper Italian version. Based on the novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leporad is a sort of Italin Gone With The Wind, telling the story of a family of the Sicillian aristocracy, and its efforts to weather the changes brought by Garibaldi's revolution of 1860. The film features a strong international cast including Burt Lancaster, and the lovely Claudia Cardinale, my favorite of the many popular Italin beautys of the 1960's (Cardninale, not Lancaster). The ball sequance at the end of the movie is much remarked upon by students of film.


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