Thursday, October 23, 2014

760. Babettes gaestebud/Babette's Feast (1987)


Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Gabriel Axel
Written By: Gabriel Axel, from novel by Isak Dinesen
Main Cast: Stephane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, Jean-Philippe Lafont
Click here to view the trailer

So I've FINALLY got myself caught up on Louie and WHAT A SHOW! I must own it now, because it's going to be one of those shows that I'm going to want to just pop in and revisit a lot, I can tell. I was literally sad to be done with it and honestly, I think subconsciously I was delaying finishing it, because I didn't want it to be over. I've never seen such a fluid mix of both comedy and drama in my life, where the comedy was just as funny as the drama was serious & effective. I could write a full scale review on the two part "In the Woods" episodes - I'm talking one of those reviews where I theorize and go on for paragraph after paragraph. Likewise for the triple part "Pamela" episodes. Pamela Adlon was AMAZING in this show and I'm left to wonder how close to her real self she's being. Anyway, yeah - it's a fantastic show that streams on Netflix and comes with my highest of recommendations.

In other news, more BOOK related news, I've been tinkering around with the final forty or so films and I have to say there's a lot of stuff that looks like it's going to be a chore to sit through. I'm aiming to be done with this 100 by the end of the year, which means I really need to kick it into a higher gear and just get these done. I've definitely lost SOME of my passion for this project in 2014, but am trying to chug along and just get into the home stretch, where I feel it will be easier once the finish line is more visible. I WILL NOT quit, I promise - I just ask that you bear with me if it takes me a while to get there. I've tried to replace some of the stuff that looks like it's going to be bad with some stuff that I think looks like it's going to be good, to try and balance things out and give me some movies that I can actually look forward to, as opposed to dreading which I've been doing a lot of lately. Enter "Babette's Feast"...

FORGETTABLE

I watched this on Tuesday night, but just didn't feel like writing last night, so I put it off until tonight. I didn't think you'd mind. Anyway, speaking of chores this was one, however, I think I have myself to blame for not liking this one. Read on...


To be honest, I kind of dozed in and out of this one (I don't mean fell in and out of sleep, I just mean I my mind wandered heavily), so to relay the plot in full is going to be tough for me. I could peruse the Wikipedia plot summary and refresh my memory, but I'd rather be honest and just recount what I remember. Basically the film is set in this tiny village in Denmark, where these two sisters, Filippa (Kjer) and Martine (Federspiel) have lived all their life. The movie is set in the 19th century, with the first half introducing the characters and how they came to have a maid, despite being less than wealthy and the second half deals with a feast that their maid, named Babette (Audran), prepares for them, prior to what they think will be her departure. Upon arriving to serve them, she tells them of a lottery ticket that a friend of hers, in Paris, renews for her every year, If she were to ever hit it, she would be 10,000 francs richer. Well, you don't just get a piece of information like that, so of course she hits it and her final wish before taking off is to cook one large, meal for them - why? I couldn't tell you.


I'm not even going to try to stretch that into more sentences, because really, that's about all I can recall. Seriously, did I miss something? I must have! Upon perusal of that very same Wikipedia plot summary, it doesn't look like I've missed anything, really. There's the courting of the two sisters by a cavalry officer and an opera singer, but are those really key pieces of this plot? I mean, it all sort of revolves around the maid doesn't it? And her big feast, which I still don't get the significance of. Why did she insist on cooking for them? What were her intentions? Did the meal symbolize something? I feel like the guy watching a room full of laughing people and I didn't hear the joke.


I had to take a moment to look up Stephane Audran, as I knew I knew that name and sure enough she appeared in a few films that I actually took to - "Le Boucher" (a "Ten Worth Mentioning" selection) and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (one that I'd like to revisit someday). I remember her being fairly attractive in those movies and here...not so much. Did she not age well, or was she just made up to look older and less appealing? Hopefully the latter! The rest of the cast was fine, but like I said, unless I totally missed something, the plot lacks serious substance. Look, I'm not trying to send mix messages here - I'm sincerely blaming myself for this one. I tend to look forward to films that have a Criterion release, as Criterion has always shown a quality palate, so I have no reason to believe that this film was fine and it's me who was having an off night. I'll stop there, as I feel I'm starting to just repeat myself. Approach this one with caution, as I found it to be hideously boring and without substance, despite fine acting, camera work and real sense that there was something good buried in there somewhere.

RATING: 3/10  Can't go any higher, because I just didn't like it that much at all. I'll go a few notches for the few points I mentioned and because ultimately I feel I'm the culprit here.

MOVIES WATCHED: 859
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 142

October 23, 2014  10:46pm

Sunday, October 19, 2014

515. Ucho/The Ear (1970)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Karel Kachyna
Written By: Karel Kachyna, Jan Prochazka, Ladislav Winkelhofer
Main Cast: Radoslav Brzobohaty, Jirina Bohdalova

THEY'RE WATCHING...AND LISTENING...

I have to be up at five o'clock in the morning and it's now nearly eleven at night. However, I just couldn't delay this review any longer. I actually finished this movie on Wednesday night, but catching a fairly nasty cold and purchasing a new flat screen TV kind of got in the way of the review. The cold's still kicking my butt, but the TV (and new blu ray!) are set up and I'm ready to write.


Chances are if you've heard of this movie, then you've also heart it compared to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - another film about a couple who do more bickering than cuddling. The difference here is that we're set in the Czech Republic and this movie has to do with a couple who suspect their under surveillance by their government. When Ludvik (Brzobahaty) and Anna (Bohdalova) return home from a night out a communist, political party, they first find that their keys are missing. When Ludvik climbs the gate, so that he can get into his house and let Anna in, Anna realizes that the gate is already unlocked. To further the peculiarities of the evening, when the two enter their domicile, they find that their power is out, despite the fact that just across the way, they can see that their neighbors still have lights. Later, they learn that their phone lines are also dead, but still they chalk it all up to other coincidences and surely explainable occurrences. Meanwhile, Anna hollers at Ludvik and hints that he's forgetting that today is a very special day (their anniversary). However, Ludvik has no time to make last minute anniversary plans, as he's busy piecing together the fact that his home may very well be under surveillance from his own communist brethren. He gets to work burning papers that may make "the ear" (big brother) suspicious, meanwhile batting away his wife who questions his every movement. However, when things get serious and scary, Anna and Ludvik's true feelings for one another are exposed.

SPOILER ALERT!


I dug this movie, although I will say, I think there was a culture clash and I also think a lot of the political importance of all this went over my head. I hated the constant cutaways to the party earlier in the evening and just wished we could've stayed inside the apartment, in the dark, with Ludvik and Anna. Of course, I'm sure those cutaways were of utmost importance in trying to tell us (and the characters) why Ludvik may be under surveillance, however, I wasn't getting it. Why was he suspicious? And lets say he is under surveillance, what's the threat? Is it jail time or will they simply murder him for being a suspected traitor? As far as I could tell, it's never made clear ENOUGH why Ludvik suspects and if his suspicions are warranted, what he's afraid will happen to him. The film starts out just fine - a woman and man return home from a party and the woman can't find her keys. The man notices a car creeping in the distance and takes notice, before climbing the fence to break his way into their own home. Once inside, the two find that they are without power and phone and later, they begin to worry that they're being watched, listened to. I think if everything would've been kept more vague, instead of them TRYING to tell us why Ludvik was being monitored, it would've been a much easier watch.


Everything else was just fine though, in my opinion. The thrill and almost horror of it all. Being in the dark and worried that maybe there are microphones listening to your every comment, that people are lurking in your garden, peeping up through your windows. A hysterical wife that is both scared & looking to you for answers and irritated with you all at the same time. I loved how when it got real, the couple were fine. When their lives and the life of their son was threatened, it put everything in perspective and they held each other, while she cried and wondered what they'd do without him. I loved how that feeling passed and then returned toward the end of the film, while the two shared some time together on the balcony, watching daybreak. I thought it an incredibly sweet moment when Anna thought Ludvik had locked himself in a room and was in the process of committing suicide, that she did everything in her power, including climbing a ledge and breaking in through his window, to make sure he was okay. The film was not only a political statement, the ultimate middle finger to an oppressive government, but also a fine love story, a bittersweet one. Of course, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is the superior couple in peril film, but had they left the detailed reasoning of "the ear" out of this one, this one could've been one to rival it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't rate it high enough to get it to that upper echelon of ratings, but it was a fine film and one that I'd even thank THE BOOK for having me watch.

MOVIES WATCHED: 858
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 143

October 19, 2014  11:14pm

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

268. Beat the Devil (1953)


Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: Truman Capote, John Huston, from novel by James Helvick
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollbrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre

STILL DON'T LIKE HIM...

Some may recall from my "The Man from Laramie" review that I'd tried to start this one last week to no avail. The appearance of Bogart probably didn't do me any favors either, as I just don't care for the man and would gladly be done with his movies once and for all if it wasn't for my obsession with lists. Anyway, lets get on with it, shall we...


Even THE BOOK can't seem to recall the plot as it states that the film "has something to do with uranium rights in Africa". If the people who adored the movie enough to include it as one the 1001 muse see movies can't be bothered to remember what it's about, why the hell should I care? However, I'm too much of a perfectionist to gloss over the details of the plot and I'll do my best to recall them here. I will say I had a hard time settling into this one and thus, I found my mind wandering easily. Once Bogey and the crew started going off about uranium and a boat to Africa, I couldn't have possibly cared less about the outcome. Billy Dannreuther (Bogart - when the last name is said onscreen, it sounds like Dan Rather - which I found amusing) leads a motley crew of thieves and con-men as they plot to take a boat to Africa where a land rich in uranium deposits is going to be put up for auction. With this privileged information, they'll buy the land cheap and reap the benefits. Before they can set sail, however, they're informed of a problem with the boat which threatens to keep them docked for no more than two weeks, no less than a day. While waiting, Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollbrigida) meet Harry Chelm and his wife, Gwendolyn (Jones). The two basically act as swingers, taking all of ten minutes of screen time to swap partners, with Billy and Gwen falling in love and Maria having eyes for Mr. Chelm, who is obsessed with the fact that he can't find his hot water bottle. Eventually the crew DO set sail for Africa, but chaos ensues. I hate to be sassy, but if you want better details, you'll have to suffer through it yourself.

As per usual, lets start with what I liked about the movie and segue into what I didn't. I liked Edward Underdown and Robert Morley....now then....the bad...

Everything else. The end...


Just kidding...

I DID indeed enjoy the efforts of both Robert Morley (who played one of Bogart's heathens) and Edward Underdown (who may have given me a new favorite word with his use of the term roustabout). They were both fine and honestly, too good for this huge pile of tripe. THE BOOK makes it sound like it was the collaboration of many great minds that earned this movie it's spot. Truman Capote on as the writer, Steven Sondheim as the "clap boy", Huston in the director's chair and Bogart starring and bankrolling seem to be the only reason this movie is recognized and therefore forced upon yours truly. I just don't find Bogart to be a good actor, does that make me a bad person? Trust me, I've tired my darndest! I wanted to like him in The Big Sleep and hell, I even went into my original viewing of Casablanca (so many years ago) wanting to come out of it a certified movie snob. However, it's just not in the cards for me and Bogey. I find him to be playing the exact same character each and every time he's onscreen. He's a tough guy, a rebel, no family, lots of friends. He always knows who to call in a favor to, he always gets the girl and dammit, he always makes me roll my eyes. I just don't like the guy. If my calculations are correct, I have one and only one movie left starring old Humph and it's "The African Queen" - which means, one last shot for Bogey to impress.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - Beat the Devil. Like I said, I just couldn't settle in and in the end, this has to be considered one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. I just couldn't wait for the end to come, so that I could shut it off and get back to watching The Simpsons. The plot was senseless and honestly, not enough meat & potatoes to even make for a worthy film. You know, you'd expect more from the collaboration of John Huston and Truman Capote. The supporting cast is the best thing about this movie, but the bad news is they're forced to play second fiddle to the Bogey. The women do fine jobs too, but seem to be in place more for eye candy than for their talents. I simply don't know what else to say, other than this was a complete loss for me and I'm glad to be done with it, review and all.

RATING: 1/10  I know that seems harsh, but even saying '2' seems too much to me. That's how much I disliked it. I will do my best to remember Robert Morley and Edward Underdown though.

MOVIES WATCHED: 857
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 144

October 14, 2014  5:25pm

Friday, October 10, 2014

705. The Right Stuff (1983)


Running Time: 193 minutes
Directed By: Philip Kaufman
Written By: Philip Kaufman, from book by Tom Wolfe
Main Cast: Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn, Fred Ward
Click here to view the trailer

UP, UP AND AWAY!

SOMEHOW I managed to tackle the first two days of my work week AND find the time to knock out a three plus hour movie in the process. Don't ask me how, but hopefully it's a sign that I'll be getting the lead out and picking up the pace on this project. Anyway, I was kind of dreading this epic, but it turned out to be not half bad...


The film begins at an air field in California where a pilot named Chuck Yeager (Shepard) spends his days chasing his wife on horseback (a game they play), chewing Beemans gum and being a damn good flyboy. Yeager, a Captain in the air force is offered the chance to break the sound barrier when ace pilot "Slick" refuses to do so without a grand payday. Up in the air, Yeager manages to break the sound barrier, defeating the "demon in the sky", as the legend goes and etching his name in history books forever. Flash forward to 1957, to the the height of the Russian space program and the launching of Sputnik. To compete with Russia and be the first country to "get a man up there", Eisenhower institutes the beginning of the American space program. After considering who these men will be to go into space, Eisenhower insists on pilots and since he's the POTUS, he gets his way. A couple of NASA goons (played by Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer of Simpsons fame) go to the air field in California (from earlier) to try and recruit some astronauts. Yeager is disqualified immediately because he doesn't have a college degree. After vigorous testing and a battery of physical examinations, seven men are chosen, including John Glenn (Harris), Gordon Cooper (Quaid), Gus Grissom (Ward) and Alan Shepard (Glenn). Together they're known as the Mercury Seven and some among them will be the first Americans in space.


Man, I'm really surprised at how much I liked this one, but honestly it was just so damn interesting. I kept finding myself with my phone in hand, asking myself "I wonder if that really happened?" or "Hmm let me look that up and get the full scoop". This movie was the equivalent of walking into your history class one day and finding out that today's the day you're going to learn about a cool piece of history, one that actually excites you. Not only did this movie make me want to learn more about the Mercury Seven (did you know that John Glenn is still alive, at 93 years old and later in life became a U.S. Senator?) but I also found myself doing Wikipedia searches for the Challenger explosion and wondering where I could get my hands on a copy of Apollo 13. It was the type of movie that really sparks your interest and because of that, it's hard not to give it good marks. I mean, at three plus hours long, this one COULD HAVE went downhill and fast, but it managed to stay afloat for it's entire duration and stay interesting throughout. Could it have benefited from having about forty or so minutes shaved off? Sure. The other thing about the movie that I found REALLY irritating is the fact that the first forty minutes deals with a character (by some accounts, the main character of the whole shebang), whom after that becomes irrelevant. Of course, I'm talking about Yeager. Did we just trudge through forty minutes of movie simply to say, "Okay, here's this guy who broke the sound barrier, a sort of precursor to the whole spacecraft thing."? It's like there's two movies going on here: the circumstances revolving around the breaking of the sound barrier and the whole Mercury Seven story. I would've much preferred an abridged version of the Yeager stuff (say, cut it down to twenty minutes) and then get me right into the space stuff.


What a cast, huh? And not like a blatantly obvious great cast, but rather like the pretty girl in school who wears glasses, but is smokin' hot when she takes them off. Who doesn't love Fred Ward? And I could as the same question about Jeff Goldblum and Lance Henriksen, two guys who have minor roles. Harry Shearer's in there too and while he did a fine job as NASA goon #1, I can't help but thing "The Simpsons" when I hear his voice. You also have a beautiful Barbara Hershey, a young and good looking Dennis Quiad (who somehow went on to a very forgettable career, despite showing up here full of piss & vinegar) and Scott Glenn, whom you may remember as Agent Crawford from The Silence of the Lambs. And, heck, that's not even mentioning Ed Harris or Sam Shepard who also turned in fine performances. It's kind of amazing to think that at one point in time, there was such admiration for these guys and how somewhere along the way we lost that. Do kids today still have that respect for certain occupations? I remember seeing videos/movies where kids would get autographs from pilots or astronauts, simply because that was their job and they were respected for it. Today, people could care less if you're a pilot or burger flipper.

Anyway, it's a fine film. Pace yourself going in and maybe don't expect TOO MUCH and I think you'll do fine with it. I had to break it up into three sittings, but mostly because of work and other priorities that came first. I could've easily gone cover to cover with this one and still been smiling at the end. It has SOME flaws and sure, I would've trimmed the fat in a few spots, but all in all, I think it's one that a lot of people will get a nice education out of and I think most, like me, will just find the whole thing fascinating. Of course, you have to remember I'm a lummox when it comes to history so, while I'd heard the name John Glenn before, I really didn't know any of this story. I'm even ashamed to admit that I didn't even know who Alan Shepard was (first American in space)!

RATING: 7/10  Good enough to edge it into '7' territory which makes it ripe for a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot or possibly more if I sweeten on it between now and TOP 20 time.

MOVIES WATCHED: 856
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 145

October 10, 2014  10:38pm

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

649. All That Jazz (1979)


Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: Bob Fosse
Written By: Robert Alan Aurthur, Bob Fosse
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Ann Reinking, Erzsebet Foldi
Click here to view the trailer

IT'S SHOWTIME, FOLKS!

This whole "do whatever you want" Tuesday deal that me and my wife struck up is really helping me to be a little more productive when it comes to the blog and the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Once again, yesterday I managed to knock off two more movies and move two steps closer to the short term goal of having only 100 films remaining.

A FANTASTIC shot of Reinking and one that all movie lovers have probably seen, whether they've seen this movie or not. If I were her, I'd have a gigantic copy of this hanging in my home.

I was really excited to see this film, especially considering how much I took to Cabaret when I watched it a few years back for THE BOOK. I'd seen the iconic picture of the woman decked out in a black bowler hat, black sequined outfit and dark leggings and have always thought it a great shot. The film basically tells the tale of Fosse's life, as he chit chats with the Angel of Death (Lange) and is portrayed by a character named Joe Gideon (Scheider). At the film's core is Gideon's hair pulling efforts to produce the musical Chicago and one of the earlier scenes shows him casting for it. We also learn early on that Joe is a womanizer, a flirt, a cheater, a relationship failure, yet a good father, a perfectionist and a hard worker. We watch as he downs Dexedrine tablets to stave off exhaustion as well as pumping Vizine into his eyes and chugging Alka Seltzer, all to deal with the stress of show biz. He ignores chest pains, instead yelling at his dancers, telling them to "do it again!" and this time better! Joe's ex-wife, Audrey (Palmer) still collaborates with him as the two try to cooperate in raising their daughter Michelle (Foldi) together. His current girlfriend, Katie (Reinking) loves him despite his philandering heart. Meanwhile, the whole thing is intercut with scenes of a stand-up comedian, as Joe frantically tries to edit a film he made about the comic (mirroring Fosse's real life film, Lenny). According to THE BOOK the film is often compared to Fellini's 8 1/2, as it's a director basically telling his own story through film.

SPOILER ALERT!


Boy, I really wanted to like this one and I DID!....except, not as much as I thought I would. Let's tackle the good stuff first and then we'll transition into the bad. First of all, who doesn't love Roy Scheider? Probably some of you, actually, but I really wouldn't know why! He's so good in everything I've seen him in and All That Jazz is no different. How hard must it have been to be portraying the man that is directing you! There had to be some pressure on Scheider there to get the performance just so, don't you think? Of course, when you're talking about Fosse, you're talking about choreography and this film is chock full of great dance sequences. My personal favorite had to be the big presentation in the middle where Gideon has his dancers show the producers of Chicago what they've come up with so far. The whole thing ends up turning into some orgiastic opera, but it's all done so classy! I actually think I was hypnotized by the numbers at one point, as I could actually see myself just gaping in awe of the choreography on display. Just a fantastic scene! I gushed about Scheider but really the entire cast was fine and I even found myself not totally hating the kid that played Gideon's daughter (I normally hate kid actors, but she wasn't awful).


Of course, the whole thing IS structured a lot like 8 1/2 and while I gave that film a decent review when I watched it for the blog, I've since gone back and tried to rewatch it to lesser success. That was an early review where I still may have been trying to kid myself into liking things that I really didn't have a taste for. My point is, is that I could've done without all the Angel of Death stuff and the big fantasy sequence at the end where Gideon basically dies in grand fashion, as only Bob Fosse could possibly imagine his own death. You see, I'm even willing to admit that it was all very Fosse, yet at the same time very much not for me. There were certain scenes where the film flew by, yet other times (like the last thirty minutes) where I'd had my fill and was just ready for the movie to end already. I will say that the whole thing was like one, overly long eulogy to his own self and that was unique enough to earn the movie a few brownie points and probably a permanent place in my cinematic memory bank - it's definitely not a movie that will wash off easy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for the definitive Fosse then this is probably the one for you. However, if you want the one that's more accessible and easier to get into, then Cabaret is the movie for you, as I found it a whole lot more enjoyable than this, despite having less stunning dance numbers. The plot is more prevalent in Cabaret, while All That Jazz seems to be, at times, serving Fosse's own needs. Hey it's his death film, why not let the man have what he wants - I'm not complaining, just saying I had my issues with it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't go into '7' territory because that's a whole new ballgame, but it wasn't bad either. It's definitely the best thing I've seen in the past week, that's for sure.

MOVIES WATCHED: 855
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 146

October 8, 2014  8:28pm

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

391. O Pagador de Promessas/Keeper of Promises (1962)


Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Anselmo Duarte
Written By: Anselmo Duarte, from play by Alfredo Dias Gomes
Main Cast: Leonardo Villas, Gloria Menezes, Dionisio Azevedo, Norma Bengell, Geraldo Del Rey

THE GIVEN WORD

It's Tuesday which means another day in my makeshift man cave while my wife does her own thing in the other room. So far today I've managed to tackle six episodes of The Simpsons and this movie, with hopes of doing another movie later. Let's get this review out of the way so I can make that goal.


The film opens with a man carrying a cross reminiscent of Jesus Christ, being followed by a woman whom we later learn is his wife. We learn that the man's name is Ze and that the reason he is carrying the cross has something to do with a promise he made to Saint Barbara. His destination: the church of Saint Barbara where he plans to carry the cross through the front door and fulfill his word. The whole promise thing came about when his donkey (also his best friend) fell ill and Ze's prayers weren't answered. He decided then to strike a deal with Saint Barbara, a deal that would see him carry a cross to her holy temple if only his donkey would recover. Soon after making the promise, the donkey makes a miraculous recovery and Ze decides to keep his promise. Once there, however, the priest of the church refuses to let Ze inside, stating that the deal he made was that of witchcraft and that Ze sees himself as a new Jesus Christ, which he won't condone. Ze refusing to leave the steps of the church until he is allowed entry, plants himself, while his wife is wooed by a Handsome stranger. Meanwhile the whole thing becomes a media circus, with different people preying on Ze, trying to benefit from the situation. A reporter sees his next big story, while a nearby restaurant owner sees the developing crowds as a business opportunity.

SPOILER ALERT!


Let me start off by saying whoever wrote up the subtitles for the copy of this I was watching, really flubbed them up horribly. Obviously this person's first language wasn't English, as they struggled to get a grasp on just what forms of words to use. Anyway, I digress. I didn't like this one very much at all, as is usually the case with these rare films that I have to dig up somewhere on the internet. I try to give them a fair shake going in and this one started out decent I suppose, but ultimately just lost me altogether. When the movie started, it seemed like we were heading down the same path that Contempt did. A woman is lured away from her husband's side by Handsome, a local pimp, despite her objections, when her husband urges her to go and get a hotel room so that she can rest after the "7 league" journey. She seems angry that her husband would allow a handsome stranger to just take her away without much protest and goes with the man, almost out of defiance and of course, so she can soak her tired feet in hot water. Anyway, the film turns into a whole big statement on the endurance of faith and the greed of man.


I never really expected to like this, so it wasn't any shock that I didn't. I will say that the commentaries are kept to a minimum in favor of a somewhat pieced together plot about Ze trying to gain access into the church. I'll also say that there was something like three REALLY good shots toward the end of the film: the one with Ze lying next to his dropped cross on the steps, a group of onlookers surrounding him. Another of a few of the onlookers placing Ze on the cross and carrying him inside the church and the final shot, of Rosa ascending the church steps. All fantastic shots, almost too good for this movie. While I will not admit to liking this one, I will say that it's probably my own fault. As I've stated dozens of times, give me a good plot and good acting and I'll be fine. When you start to muddle everything up with sermons about faith and greed, it gets a little too heavy handed for my tastes. NEXT!

RATING: 3/10  That's probably a little harsh, but it seemed to fit, so...I'm not sure what I'll watch later, but I'll do my best to find something that sounds more appealing than this one.

MOVIES WATCHED: 854
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 147

October 7, 2014  4:12pm

Monday, October 6, 2014

295. The Man from Laramie (1955)


Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Philip Yordan, Frank Burt, from story by Thomas T. Flynn
Main Cast: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O'Donnell, Alex Nicol
Click here to view the trailer

WHEN IN DOUBT - JIMMY STEWART

I should preface this whole thing with a short story. I sat down Saturday night to watch Beat the Devil. At about the six minute mark, I decided that I just wasn't in the mood for Bogey and decided to save that one for another night. Ultimately I decided that I wasn't in a movie mood at all and threw in the towel. The next night (Sunday) I decided to try another movie while my wife was working the late shift at work. This time a Jimmy Stewart western called The Man from Laramie. It certainly proved that I'm a Stewart man as opposed to a Bogart man....


Will Lockhart (Stewart) along with his traveling companion Charley are delivering supplies to the town of Coronado. Lockhart is coming from Laramie and as a secondary mission is tracking a group of Apache who gunned down a Calvary unit, killing Lockhart's brother in the process. Upon getting the supplies to Coronado, Lockhart first meets  Barbara Waggoman (O'Donnell), whom he has eyes for and a cranky Indian who run Waggoman's General Store. The store and the town are all owned and overseen by Alec Waggoman (Crisp) - Barbara's uncle. Not wanting to return to Laramie with empty wagons, he inquires to Barbara about picking up some sort of cargo. She directs him to the salt flats where she tells him the salt is free for the taking. While shoveling salt into his wagons, he is approached by Dave Waggoman (Nicol) - Alec's son - who berates him for stealing salt, burns his wagons, shoots his mules and roughs up Lockhart. After Lockhart pays off his men, including Charley, he goes back to Coronado to try and recoup his losses. He approaches Alec who agrees to reimburse him for his lost property and send him packing out of town. It turns out that Alec has been dreaming of a stranger who comes to Coronado to kill his son and he's pretty sure that Lockhart is the stranger. Of course, the only man Lockhart is looking to put down is the Apache that killed his brother. Meanwhile, the Waggoman clan deal with a power struggle between the old guard (Alec) and the new blood, Vic (Kennedy) and Dave and Alec deals with his recent diagnosis that he's going blind.

SPOILER ALERT!


Despite the fact that this film was able to get me out of a Bogey movie (temporarily) and make me appreciate Jimmy Stewart even more, it can still be filed under the heading of "nothing special" and another western that just didn't do it for me. Honestly, when I think of all the westerns from THE BOOK that I watched (and not counting the Leone westerns, which feel like something more special than your typical westerns), the only ones that really stick out are Silver Lode and maybe Stagecoach (which is probably due a rewatch by now). I've seen so many westerns that I've just had to endure and while this was better than that and I'd call the time spent an easy two hours, it was still pretty typical stuff from out on the dusty trail.

Was anyone else REALLY disappointed by the ending? I mean, Vic turns out to be the big villain? That just seemed to obvious. Of course Vic was crooked and in fact, it didn't even seem right when he made friends with Stewart's Lockhart just five minutes after Vic's cohort beat him up. I would have much rather seen Charley turn out to be the bad guy or even that cranky Indian from the general store. Come to think of it, that's a loose end that's never tied up, as we're shown this sneaky, disgruntled Indian a few times throughout the picture, yet we're never really told what his deal is. I guess we're just supposed to buy that he's suspicious of Lockhart because Lockhart is looking for Apache. It wouldn't have taken much more creativity from the mind's of the writers to really spruce this script up and provide something a little more cutting edge and unique for this 1955 western. As it is, it's pretty basic and sure, the whole thing where they shoot Lockhart's hand at point blank range is BRUTAL, but not shocking enough to make this stick out.


They definitely "had me" throughout and never lost me and the acting was top notch. Did anyone else think that Arthur Kennedy looked a lot like Kiefer Sutherland? All the more reason he should've been a heel from the get go! Stewart is can't miss as far as my tastes are concerned and Donald Crisp and Alex Nicol turned in fine performances too. The lead actress could've been stronger, sure, but she wasn't really a central character so it's forgivable. The actress that deserves the praise here is Aline MacMahon for her portrayal of the sassy, yet caring Kate Canady.

RATING: 6/10  Nothing to see, but nothing to hate on either. I have one Stewart/Mann collaboration left and I'm hoping it's a little more special than the two I've seen, although Winchester '73 was quite good in retrospect.

MOVIES WATCHED: 853
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 148

October 6. 2014  8:01pm