Friday, April 28, 2006
This movie has one (1) starlet -- Shirley MacLaine -- and six (6) leading men. It also has a painting monkey, seventy five (75) sets, musical numbers, comedic antics on the therapists couch, and half a million dollars ($500,000) spent on Miss MacLaine's costumes alone. (Edith Head RAWKS!!!!)
It's amazing and Robert Mitchum is the Man. Also the Man is Paul Newman, Dean Martin, and Gene Kelly. Dick Van Dyke, and Robert Cummings are guys who really want to be the Man but don't quite pull it off. The show is funny and bizarre and makes good use of pink paint. Highly recommended.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I can't get enough of these things. They're just like novellas. When they start I'm nonplussed by the poor production values, bad acting, and I have no idea what's going on. By the time they end I'm weepy 'cause the melodrama has gotten to me and it just so sad!
Basically, it's like everything on the Lifetime channel except there's good music.
UMRAO JAAN is the story of a girl who gets abducted from her home at 14, raped, and sold to a bordello. Seeing as how this is before the British invasion and she's living in Muslim-country, she's now permanently a hooker. And, after she becomes a dancer/singer/songwriter/philosopher/poet , she's still a prostitute so nothing good will ever happen to her. Ever. She runs away several times only to be dragged back. She escapes with a bandit who gets shot by the po-po and dies, leaving her with the cops. She gets dumped by her lover for the maid. By the end she gets to go home and hug her mother for a minute or two but then her little brother kicks her out of the house 'cause she's a filthy filthy whore who will bring shame on her family for being abducted when she was 14. 'Cause, as the crabby grandma who couldn't be bothered to wear a skirt said in the beginning of the movie "It's better not to let even the shadow of a whore touch you."
This movie didn't do well in India. They say-- "UMRAO JAAN did not create ripples among most critics when it was made because the storyline revolving around a singer/dancer who sells her body was old hat for most Hindi/Urdu filmgoers."
So that sucks. However, there are some really great songs performed by Rekha, an actress who is the living embodiment of old paintings from northern India. Which is to say she's pretty in a voluptious Muppett sort of way. She also dosn't overact as much as she could, which is nice but dosn't really matter 'cause I'm totally invested in the character by the time she starts to chew the scenery.
There's a remake of this film in production right now which will star Aishwarya Rai. I'll totally see it, even though I expect the story will continue to upset me. I just can't help being so American. I know the PRETTY WOMAN concept is impractical and impossible but I always keep hoping that no matter what, there's some redemption possible, particullarly if you can sing and look that cool in 20 pounds of gold jewelery.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
It's a cute show. Based loosely on the book "True Grit" John Wayne reprises the character from the movie of the same name. I like it. John Wayne looks and acts like my grandpa and Katherine Hepburn, who was about the same size of my grandma, is the only one on the screen who can act. This is the only film starring both of these two Hollywood greats and they loved making it. Ms Hepburn insisted on doing all of her own stunts and while Mr Wayne complained about it, given Ms Hepburn's age and theoretical fraility, he also said she was "quite a woman." A second film was planned after ROOSTER COGBURN did so well but John Wayne died before it could be made. It's a shame because I really like watching them together.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Okay, I like surrealism. And I respect people who give everything up in order to express themselves in non-linear socially-unacceptable ways. The writer/director of this film, Sergei Parajanov, a Georgian-born Armenian (Georgia in Russia not in the U.S.) created a film language so far from the KGB-accepted "Social Realisim" school that he was imprisoned after making this film for 5 years and kept from making films for 15. He was finally allowed to make movies again in the '80's but died after only completing two, his harsh term in Russian prison camps ruining his health. SAYAT NOVA is the story of a an Armenian troubador's life and definately isn't the typical biopic we get from Hollywood. Instead it's the life story of a poet told by poetic images. Poetic Armenian images, images full of the iconography of a civilization at a cultural crossroads for centuries. It's astounding. Parajanov, in an interview, said he had no money, no effects, no budget, and was under serious suspicion from the Russian authorities because of his last film. Therefore the entire movie is shot as a series of moving pictures with a hyper realistic look, because everthing really exists. He found what he could and he put it in the film. Beautifully arranged shots and mystical symbology makes the film feel like and hour and a half of still lifes telling you a story. I'm still not sure what the story is but, like all poetry, I don't think that's the point. The point is simply to exist and communicate beauty.
SAYAT NOVA does that perfectly.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
It's cute. The production values are high,
with amazing use of the colors magenta and lime green. All the children are cute, the adults are whimsical and slightly unattractive,(Angela Landsbury is the best part of this film and she's horrible looking) and the story isn't preachy. This, plus magic and some serious makeup makes a cute movie. It's not mind-blowing, it's not earth-shattering, and it's not likely to be anyone's absolute favorite, but it is charming and pleasant. All of that plus candy-striped dress shirts and a pie fight add up to a movie I wouldn't mind watching several times in a row with my nieces and nephew.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, also known as The Longest Film About A Closet Homosexual --- EVER!!!, is 227 minutes of pure 1962 showmanship. It also has an overture, an entre'act, and an intermission -- all lushly orchestrated and played for us over a blank screen so we listen and not look. So, while I am terribly horribly familiar now with the score from LOA, and I know exactly how panoramic the Super 70 panoramic film is, I still don't know much about Mr. Lawrence's motivations, exactly why the British are such jerks, and if the Bedouin are noble descendants of a historic culture or barbaric goat-stealers. All of that pesky character development and motivation stuff is left out in favor of another cool shot/costume/orchestra sting/battle scene filmed from 2 miles away. After that all you have time for is a heavily eyelined Peter O'Toole making sure he looks like a matinee idol, a bunch of mustached British officers who would be a tidy kick-line for the Villiage People, and some characatures of non-whites. No women ever speak in this film. In fact, all the women you see are immersed in veils, (though there is one incidence of wrist exposure.)
Here's the story:
Poncy British officer named Lawrence sits around flirting with everyone while painting. Lawrence gets sent off to the middle of Araby where he proceeds to flirt with his guide. Then, in a fit of desert foreplay, guide is killed by a Man In Black. Lawrence is upset. Lawrence meets his commanding officer and is told to stop flirting with the boy toys who chase him. Lawrence meets the Prince and flirts with him. Prince, not being stuipd, flirts back and sets up impossible task for Lawrence to perform as a sign of love. Lawrence and two Arab boy toys go to the desert for two days. Lawrence then challenges Man In Black to see who can complete the impossible task and thus win the Prince's love. They all head out to cross the uncrossable desert where Lawrence gets permanent boy toys and saves another man's life. Man In Black starts to think Lawrence is pretty sexy so he burns those horrible British togs and gives Lawrence a fluttery white dress. Lawrence is dancing around in his lovely new clothes when a Bandit King shows up and threatens to kill everyone. Lawrence offers to let the King take him and all of his men to dinner so the Bandit King says okay and takes them home to his remarkably Native-American-sounding pack of boys. Everyone eats, yells a lot more, and then decide to take over a city the next day. City taken, Lawrence and his two Boy Toys leave to go tell the British so they can have supplies and money and stuff. On the way one Boy Toy dies. Lawrence shows up in Jerusalem with remaining Boy Toy and gets everything he wants from the British, which includes 200 mustached officers thinking he looks pretty great in that fluttery white number.
Months later, Lawrence is nominal head of the "Arab army" who are getting tired of this gay white guy. Man In Black, who's still in love with Lawrence, wants Golden Boy to stop being stupid and to let everyone go home. (In a side note, Boy Toy #2 blows his own backside off and Lawrence has to put him down w/ a bullet to the head.) Lawrence, who thinks pretty = invincible, goes to a Turkish city. There he is captured and molested by a Turkish general. Lawrence dosn't want to admit he likes it so he hits the general who then has Lawrence beaten for being an idiot. Lawrence is picked up out of the mud by Man In Black who all of this time has just wanted Larry to love him. Lawrence, afraid of his feelings for Man In Black, decides he's not actually Arab and goes back to the British. When he discovers none of the mustached officers want him now that he's not in his pretty white dresses, he goes back to the Arabs to lead them to victory and show those stupid Turks he's not gay. On the road to Damascus Lawrence kills about 200 Turks and so showed them. Man In Black is heartbroken because he now knows Lawrence is way too messed up to ever love him. Lawrence takes over Damascus, expects all the Arabs to suddenly become British, is depressed when none of the Arabs remain impressed by his lovely white clothes, and is sent home by the British and the Prince (remember him?) 'cause he's gone crazy. Lawrence then drives recklessly on a motorcyle in England and kills himself because he finally understands that his racist attitudes kept him from his one true love, the Man In Black.
See? It's a long movie.
There are some folks out there who say that "kids today don't know good movies." I do know good movies. And if someone is going to make an epic film of 227 minutes, there had better be more going on than someone staring at the desert for two hours since we've all just learned that pretty white dresses are never enough.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
This really is a movie I should see at least three more times before commenting on it. The production values are fantastic and I was entranced by the music but all of that is incidental to the intelligence and moral strength of Edward R. Murrow. He never smiles, he's always smoking, he reads his reports to the nation without bothering to look at them, and he is utterly compelling in every scene he's in. Now that I'v seen this movie I'm sad David Straitharn lost the Oscar to Phillip Seymore Hoffman. George Clooney, who played Fred Friendly, is affable and forgetable as Ed Murrow's sidekick. He has nothing like the presence of Mr. Straitharn, who dominates the movie and rightfully so.
The movie as a whole is refereshing. It's not bombastic or accusatory, it's not angry, there's no yelling, no partisanship and it dosn't crow about how right we all are and how crazy Senator MacCarthy was. It just shows us the fear of the times and how Mr. Murrow and his colleagues risked everything to question the authority that was terrorising the nation.
I loved it. Highly recommended.
Monday, April 03, 2006
If you can see the picture that should be near this text, you'll see the entire color scheme of HP4 -- dark, blue, and witchy. I spent most of the movie wondering if the televison was not set up properly for the film. But, since I watched it on my brother-in-law's new baby, a 70" DLP HDTV (feel free to add letters if I didn't get them all in), I'm fairly certain it's just a dark movie. A dark movie that feels rushed and poorly edited, with no time for any genuine affection or space for true emotion.
Basically, I liked the third movie a lot better and not just because the sun occassionally appeared. The last movie actually addressed character development and told a story about this kid named Harry. This film is all about the sort of Lord of the Flies universe of boarding schools and how often kids get into fights. I know it's a really thick book, but when you're cutting things out, there's no real need to cut out the bits that make it engaging. For that matter, there wasn't any need to chop up the ballroom scene so much as I'm certain a lot of stuff happend there that didn't get explained to me. All I know is Hermione lost it and yelled at Harry for no reason. Made. No. Sense.
I hope the next one is better.