Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ten Days of Terror!: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)

Film: Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

My viewing of Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) comes with a number of caveats. The first is that I initially tried to watch it on one of the weird little channels I have access to on the Roku. It was Midnight Movies or Drive-In Classics, or something like that. I actually got through a pretty good portion of it that way, but I found the experience frustrating. On whatever channel that was, the film stopped for commercials every 10 minutes on the dot regardless of what was happening on the screen. Middle of a conversation, right at the moment of someone being killed. Hell, in the middle of a word sometimes. So, eventually, I went to a version I found online which was of lower quality, but was ultimately shown without breaks.

The other caveat here is that Deep Red occurs in multiple versions. The original release is slightly over two hours long, but the American release is about 101 minutes. The excised portions are evidently comedy and romance portions and were never dubbed into English. So, while I may have missed some of the movie, I’m at least convinced that I watched the entire American release of the film.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Real Lawnmower Man

Film: The Straight Story
Format: DVD from Moline Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

I tend to like David Lynch’s films, but I also tend to want a long time between them. Lynch is great in small doses, not so much as a constant diet. The Straight Story is one that I wasn’t sure how to approach. On the one hand, this is a Lynch film distributed by Disney and given a G-rating. On the other hand, this is the film that Lynch declares is his “most experimental.” When someone like Lynch says that, there are a couple of possible reactions. If he’s telling the truth, we’re in for a rough trip. Then again, there’s always the chance that he’s just messing with us.

The Straight Story is one of those titles that has multiple meanings. It is, in fact, a straight story. There’s no rising action here, no complications on the basic plot. There’s something set in motion at the beginning of the film, and the rest of the film gets us from that to the end. It’s also the David Lynch film that is the most direct in terms of its narrative. And it’s also the story of Alvin Straight (played here by Oscar nominee Richard Farnsworth).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Women of a Certain Age

Film: Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is going to be tough. Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams is a short movie about a woman’s mid-life crisis. That’s not an immediate deal breaker for me, although I admit that it’s hardly a step in the correct direction. More specifically, this is about the mid-life crisis of the sort of woman whose life appears to be entirely about herself. Her children are grown, her husband is kind of a stranger, and she is suddenly emotionally adrift.

The mid-life crisis genre isn’t necessarily one that I dislike. In fact, there have been movies like Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine that come from almost the same place as Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams that I have liked quite a bit. No, the issue here isn’t the story, but the character. Rita Walden (Joanne Woodward) is an awful, self-absorbed woman who clearly isn’t worth the 87-minute running time of the film.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nick's Picks: Perfect Blue

Film: Perfect Blue (Pafekuto Buru)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

This is the tenth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

The 1001 Movies list is responsible for my knowledge of a number of directors, directors of whom I would know nothing without having pursued the list. I kind of expected that. In the case of Satoshi Kon, though, I am entirely reliant on Nick Jobe. I’ve seen three of the six films that Kon has directed--Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and now Perfect Blue (or Pafekuto Buru) at the behest of Nick. Nick’s various selections for me are entirely responsible for my having seen anything Satoshi Kon is connected to.

Perfect Blue is almost certainly the most influential of Kon’s films, at least in how these are reflected in the work of Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky has cited Perfect Blue as an influence on Black Swan, and he references shots from this film in Requiem for a Dream. The Black Swan connection is definitely here, although the two films go to different places and get there in different ways.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Admittedly, Other Letter Shapes Would Be Strange

Film: The L-Shaped Room
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve made no secret on this blog that I’m not a fan of Leslie Caron. I don’t mind her in An American in Paris where she is pretty harmless. The same is true of her role in Chocolat and I actually don’t mind her at all in Father Goose. But I genuinely dislike Gigi and Lili and I didn’t think a great deal of Fanny. With The L-Shaped Room, I think I’m officially done with any movies she’s in as they touch on my Oscar categories. I have to say I’m relieved. I think I understand why a certain generation seems to like Caron, but I really don’t understand the fascination. There was far too many instances of her playing much younger than her real age and too much effort to pitcher her as the essence of womanhood, something she wasn’t really capable of being. It’s sort of the same opinion I have of Claudette Colbert, although I think Colbert had more acting chops.

With The L-Shaped Room, at least Caron is playing something close to her age, and this might actually be the key to me not disliking Leslie Caron. In Fanny, for instance, she was 30 playing 18 and it falls apart. Here, she’s about 32 playing 27, and it’s close enough to work. Caron can past for 27 here, so I’m not immediately pulled out of the plot. That seems to be a big part of my immediate dislike of Caron on screen, so we don’t have that problem here. The other problem—the fact that she often looks like she’s just smelled something unpleasant is something that seems to follow her wherever she goes.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I'm Telling My Girls to Elope

Film: Father of the Bride
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I like Spencer Tracy pretty well, so I’m always at least interested when I encounter one of his movies that I haven’t seen. It feels like I’ve seen a ton of them, but I’m sure I haven’t hit half, or even a quarter of everything he was in. Father of the Bride is one that was at least well enough thought of that it was remade not that long ago. In fact, even the sequel got remade. With a name like Father of the Bride, there’s not a great deal of shock or surprise where this one is going to go. If you don’t know what you’re going to get here, go back to that title and read it one word at a time.

Father of the Bride is one of those movies that starts at the end, with Stanley Banks (Tracy) sitting in the aftermath of his daughter’s wedding reception, trying his best to come to terms with the fact that his daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) has gotten married and is off on her honeymoon. While Banks speaks to us in voiceover, we flash back to a few months before when Stanley and his wife Ellie (Joan Bennett) discovered the existence of one Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor), the latest young man in Kay’s life. After Kay speaks gushingly of Buckley, Stanley asks her (almost joking) if she’s planning on marrying the guy, and she says that she supposes she is—they’ve talked about it, evidently.