Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Tales of Hoffmann, 1951 (Grade F)

DIRECTORS:  Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Any Awards?  Not that we know of --and we would be surprised if there were any
CAST: Robert Rounseville; Moria Shearer; Pamela Brown; Edmond Audran; Robert Helpmann; Meinhart Maur; Frederick Ashton; Philip Leaver; Leonide Massine; Ludmilla Tcherina; Anne Ayars; Mogens Wieth; Lionel Harris

sez says: OMG--this was awful--but it was also pretty strange--so the strange kept us watching (using fast forward liberally)  In the end I had to confess it was bad. It claims to be an Opera and has lots of  dancing and yes signing going on.  But it was like no opera I've ever seen before.   It contains various stories linked together about a man who keeps falling in love with women, who, for a variety of reasons, are not for him. And then, in the end'll have to sit through this to find out how it finally winds itself up.

On the other hand the costumes and hairdos were fantastic-- a think if I were a drag queen I might have felt like I'd found my true family residing here. But that might just be an unfair stereo typing of drag queens on my part.  Overall grade F

mjc says: this film called to mind, viscerally, my early 20s horror of OPERA.  Carmen it is not.  Add a dash of costumes from Christopher Street without any gay panache and you have the makings of a disaster. At such times fast forward is the only option.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Legend of the Lost, 1957 (Grade C-)

Director: Henry Hathaway
Any Awards?  none that I know of--it isn't that kind of movie--ie one that would win an awayd
Cast:  John Wayne; Sophia Loren; Rossano Brazzi; Kurt Kasznar; Sonia Moser; Angela Portaluri; Ibrahim El Hadish

PLOT: good/religions man (Brazzi) need a guide (Wayne) to take him into the Sahara Desert to locate the treasure that his father told him was there. A lost woman (Lorn) returns to virtuous ways under Brazzi's tutelage an joins them on the quest in the desert.  After many adventures Brazzi finds the treasure but also learns his father was not the hero he had thought he was-- this drive Brazzi crazy--throws Loren into Wayne's arms--and things get desperate as there three try and find there way out of the desert.

sez says: Color Cinematography by Jack Cardiff makes this a watchable film-- he was amazing. And the Ben Hecht Scree play added a little oomph..but John aye is John Wayne in the American SW or on the Sahara, so itis no wonder that some classify this as a WESTERN, even though it was filmed in Libya. And all of them stayed might tidy and clean for having spent so much time in the desert...white shirt are still white even after weeks wondering in the dust.   Wayne had a trust mule named Janet--that was--well, very John Wayneish 

mjc says: as you watch it close your eyes.  John Wayne's voice and Sophia Loren's Italian accent will fill your visions of the Dukes every gesture and Sophia's full lips -- on second though forget the movie and just stick with your imagination

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Star Is Born, 1958, (Grade C-)

Director: George Cukor
Any Awards?  Yes, Lots of them Academy Awards; Golden Globes, BAFTAs --and multiple AFI top 100 lists 
CAST:  Judy Garland; James Mason; Jack Carson; Charles Bickford; Tommy Noonan; Lucy Marlow; Amanda Blake; Irving Bacon; Hazel Shermet. 

STORY (SPOILER ALERT) -- hard working singer has come along way--(having made it to being the lead singer with an orchestra), following her muse but she hasn't made it yet (her dream is to be a singer, record a record and get played on the radio) She is 'discovered' by a big-name drunken actor who says her dreams are too small.  She follows his lead--which include a few travails that result from his drinking-- and eventually becomes a BIG STAR. He agrees to quite drinking if she will marry him--and so they get hitched.  But his career falters.  He returns to drinking when he is accused of sponging off his wife.  She decides to give up her career to nurse him--he can't have that and commits suicide.  She is distraught and is going to give up everything until a buddy comes along and says she is doing her dead husband's memory wrong if she doesn't use the talent that he discovered.  So she goes back to work.

sez says: First be aware that this is a 3 hour movie...long.  And I am sure everyone was happy to see Judy Garland back in the movies after her long absence due to drugs and drink. This being esp so in a movie that deals with the ravages of drug/alcohol addiction.  (She being on the care taker side in the movie--as opposed to being the addict, as she was in real life.)  She has one scene where she tells her producer that she loves her husband and hates him too becasue he keeps making promises to quite and then doesn't..and the tears in her eyes and the intensity of her feeling are clearly not acting. She knows this situation well and brings the audience right into midst of this painful reality. That scene alone is --in my opinion-- why she--and this movie--got the awards it did.  I say that because the rest of the movie is just not all that good.  It is spotty. Some of her performances were o.k.--  The Man That Got Away, in the first half is the best. But you gotta like her singing more than I do to appreciate all of the songs.  And, Garland is a pathetic actor.  She did a really bad job in the first half as young woman--she became a more believable character in the second half--but you've got to watch a lot of ho-hum to get to the second half.  In sum, this is just  not my cup-of-tea.

MJC SAYS:  James Mason was credible as a has-been actor, but the movie is approx 2 hours too long.: 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Vikings, 1958 (grade D)

DIRECTOR Richard Fleischer
Awards?  none that I know of
CAST:  Kirk Douglas; Tony Curtis; Ernest Borgnine; Janet Leigh; James Donald

story line:  This was one of 1950's largest-grossing films. It is full of slam-bang action from start to finish, with Kirk Douglas and Ernest Borgnine as a couple of Norsemen who rape and pillage the British countryside. Tony Curtis is their slave (who is really Borgnine's son -- offspring of a long ago rape of a British he is of royal bloodlines from both enemy camps).   Curtis and Douglas (brothers) have eyes for the beautiful British princess Morgana (Curtis's real-life wife, Janet Leigh) -- and she prefers Curtis -- Odinnnn! they cry. and ohhhh noooo I cry.

sez says: we just came home from a visit to Scandinavia, so I've been reading about I just saw a documentary of Jack Cardiff (the cinematographer for this film), and I have a strong memory of seeing this as a child and thinking it was great.  So I was really looking forward to viewing it.  Well..was I ever knocked off my feet --this is possibly the most sexist movies I have ever seen.  Did you know that men enjoy sex most when they are engaged in rapping them?  No joke, that is a part of this story.  And beating women is for their own good...and and it does not stop there.. it is really distressing even to watch.  And there are lost of really boring and long battle scenes.  Kirk Douglas does his own stunts...for what that is worth.  And Cardiff's camera work is impressive. He was a genius in the early use of technicolor--but you have to be pretty interested in the history of film technology to get off on that because it is hardly even noticable when compared with what can be done today.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities, 1958 (Grade C)

Director: Ralph Thomas
Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Dorothy Tutin, Paul Guers, Marie Versini, Ian Bannen, Cecil Parker, Stephen Murray, Athene Seyler, Alfie Bass

sez says:  We've been watching all the versions of this Dicken's classic that we can find.  This one is  watered down to the 'love story' --there is a "back story" on Madame LaFarge (how her family had been mistreated - murdered by the Evremondes) that is missing from other versions--but this version of the story leaps over other aspects of the tale to hold Carton's love for Lucy as the center piece -- the French Revolution is just a backdrop for that love to be demonstrated. Ho Hum -- Derk Bogart did a good job -- but there is nothing exceptional here.  Grade C

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

La Strada, 1954 (Grade A)

Director Frederico Fellini
Awards? - Nominations for Academy Awards and BAFTA awards
Cast: Anthony Quinn; Giulietta Masina; Richard Basehart; Also Silvani; Marcella Rovere; Livia Venturini.

sez says: I have known about this movie for years but I'd never taken the time to see it till now. What a treat.  It deserves all the praise it has received.  It is wonderful. Anthony Qninn did a pitch perfect job of being a hard, cruel man who lives on the thin edge of survival and who has no warmth or kindness to offer anyone.  Giulietta Masina offers a character entirely unique. A woman who is somewhat slow and who lives such a narrow existence  as to not even know why she should go on living -- but she is also able to find joy in tiny moments and actions where many would miss its existence. What she can convey with a sinlge change in facial expression is fabulous. 
It comes to a point where she questions continuing her life and Basehart's character tells here even the smallest pebble has a meaning and a purpose: She sets herself to do what no one else can do -- that is, to love Quinn.  What happens from there is agonizing and profound.  Events lead to her death and the film ends with Quinn weeping on the beach.  But it is not depressing.  It is a relief to see him recognize that there can be more to life than what he has known. That she is gone is sad: but that he has at long last experienced love provides a kind of joy. She accomplished her purpose.  And what was his purpose? Maybe it was to bring her into the world where she discovered and spread bits of joy,   And by staying her course, she brought Quinn to a knowledge of the possibility that life can offer gifts that he had never known--his life could have ended never knowing anything but harshness if it were not for her...thus the film ending with him weeping on the beach turns out to be a celebration of hope. (Grade A)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bigger Than Life, 1956 (Grade C)

Directory Nicholas Ray
Awards--not that we know of
Stars: James Mason; Barbara Rush; Walter Matthau; Robert F. Simon; Chris Olsen; Roland Winters; Rusty Land; Rachel Stephens; Kipp Hamilton

sez says: My dad didn't need cortisone to act like Mason does in this film when he is all hopped-up on the new wonder drug cortisone.  Indeed, without drugs my father had tendencies toward being the same kind of Ubermensch-maniac that Mason portrays.  So excuse me if I find it hard to report without bias about a movie that tries to depict a man like this.  All I could think was what the HE-double-LL-- is his wife doing? Call the doctor and get out of there. But truth is, in the 1950s women were not so likely to act independently--men were suppose to be in charge--and most women were in fact economically dependent on their husbands. So exposing a spouse's misbehavior to the outside world could be a bigger threat than the raucous behavior that was going on behind the doors to your house.   Barbara Rush's acting was awful. And Mason's was not as good as he was capable of. But, sorry for me and my siblings and for her too, my mother's behavior was not unlike that depicted by Rush.  But then the movie is suppose to be about the dangers of miracle drugs--esp if not dosed correctly --and that continues to be a problem today.  (Grade C)