Apparently the Regency era was one of strong-willed women, mud and rain. And little else. Or so Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (2005) would have us believe.
I suppose the relentless and oppressively tempestuous weather could symbolize love as an elemental force, but feels so predictably derivative that it feels expected. It is not bad, it’s just cliched. The heath, the voiceover…..eyeroll!
This version of Mr. Darcy is played most utterly uninteresting by Matthew Macfadyen, (so not Colin Firth – but I’m not biased, oh no-no-no-no-no). However, I do like the characterization of Elizabeth (played grumpily by Kiera Knightly) realizing not only that she’s pretty hot for him but also that he’s serious boyfriend material.
Dame Judi Dench (obviously) turns up as Lady Catherine de Bourg lending the usual gravitas that a DJD role does. (Naturally, no truly respectable British period drama could suffer the loss of Judi Dench – I mean, why make one at all if Judi isn’t coming to the party).
The saving graces:
Donald Sutherland – He gives the most sympathetic performance of the film.
Mr. Bennet is in MANY ways the most unfortunate character in P & P. Stuffed in a small house filled with a wife and five teen daughters – and the accompanying giggling and screaming - well, it would drive anyone dour, knackered and impatient – and Sutherland plays him with a weary grace. Actually, seeing him here made me wish he were in more films.
For all my bellyaching, Pride & Prejudice has one very specific strength: director Joe Wright. In what has often been a static book to film proposition, the infusion of a strong visual style gives this version a radical spin without detracting from the story. In fact – the adaptation and performances are only…eh, but the cinematography and camerawork is a knockout – vibrant, dynamic, visceral and lush.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged donald sutherland, elizabeth bennet, jane austen, joe wright, judi dench, Kiera Knightly, Matthew Macfadyen, mr. darcy, prride& prejudice | Leave a Comment »
Okay, okay, okay – I’ve been meaning to watch my Easter selections since, well, Easter. I finally had to insist (of myself) to have a post-holiday marathon viewing. My easter flicks were in peril of becoming the equivalent of the magazines sitting on my night stand for two years that I’ve never gone through. And despite the promise such articles as “Sexier by Tonight” or “The Ultimate Guide to Bedroom Utensils”or “Is What You’re Eating Making You Old. Yes.” do indeed promise - I fail to succumb. So, I finally decided to put my nose to the grindstone – or rather, flatscreen, and finish what I should have started way back April 8th. Armed with my discount chocolate bunny & box of peeps and a bottle of Riesling I hopped on down the bunny trail with some pretty terrific results.
It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)
While it may lack the pizzazz or devotees of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) or A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is still a fun Cadbury egg’s worth of quirky, gooey sweetness. Sally goes to the mall for new platform shoes and Marcie drives Peppermint Patty mental attempting to hard-boil eggs. It all gels when the whole gang goes on an egg hunt while looking for the Easter Bunny. Cool.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) Reason: Why not?
A 70’s concept album turned stage play turned film…oh deary, deary dear. How could I not take a stab? A rock musical adaptation of the life of Christ – why not! Its Tommy (film, 1975) meets King of Kings (see below). Based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, the story is a ….nontraditional take on a passion play – and almost as groovy as the Easter Beagle. This film is a bit of a rhetorical, campy, meta anomaly, but…my goodness Carl Anderson is a-maz-ing as Judas in this movie. Easily one of my favorite characters from a musical ever! Ted Neeley is fantastic (and hot!) as Jesus as well. Did I mention he played the lead in the L.A.production of Tommy before JCS? It all comes full circle, darlings.
King of Kings (1961) Reason: First time for everything!
Narrated by Orson Welles, this film tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ. Dreamboat & prettyboy, Jeffrey Hunter, as Jesus is – no foolin’- pretty effecting in the Sermon on the Mount scene (so much so that one might forgive his wig) and is convincing throughout. Jokingly referred to as, “I Was a Teenage Jesus,” this was the first major film to show Jesus’ face (rather than hands, etc). A strong supporting cast (hey-hey Rip Torn!) makes this *talkative* film engaging as it spans Christ’s 33 years. Director Nichloas Ray’s compassion for social misfits (eg. Rebel Without a Cause, 1955) lends itself to this story nicely, as does his use of atmosphere. Visually, the matte work from Lee LeBlanc is stunning (see below). Ultimately the film is about struggling with faith and skepticism and socio-historic movements – something relatable even if the subject matter isn’t your brand of coffee. Oh – and the fact that King of Kings is all wrapped up in melodrama-y goodness and narrated by the brilliant & bravura Orson Welles just makes it that much more of a gem.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged andrew lloyd webber, carl anderson, Charlie Brown, easter, It's the Easter Beagle, jeffrey hunter, jesus christ superstar, judas, king of kings, nicholas ray, orson welles, peanuts, snoopy, Ted Neeley, tim rice | Leave a Comment »
There is a certain type of bloke that always sets off my alarm – the archetype of which was well & truly established by the dreamy and ridiculously talented River Phoenix. In the decades of muscle bound schwarzeneggers and snarky brat packers and post-brat packers (I’m looking at you Christian Slater!) he shimmered like the hot-hot reincarnation of James Dean. He forever shaped my idea of masculinity – with his special elixir of non-conformity and narcissism – that went straight to my soul like champagne bubbles to my heart. His type would be destined to rule my life to this day. So, is this an indictment or a thank you? It’s a “it doesn’t matter, you changed my life .” Full Stop.
River also indulged my budding cinephilia by working with “actor’s directors” like Peter Weir, Sidney Lumet & Gus Van Sant.
He is still my gold standard crush…my boy ground zero, and the hugest heartbreak of my life. In honor of what would have been his 41st birthday I give you my River Phoenix top five movie list:
1. Running on Empty (1988)
2. Dogfight (1991)
3. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
4. A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988)
5. Stand by Me (1986)
I love You To Death (1990)*, Young Indiana Jones (1989)*, The Thing Called Love (1993)*
* he was spectacular-spectacular in his rare comedic roles
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged river phoenix | Leave a Comment »
Roger Ebert’s review of Malick’s, Tree of Life (2011), had me in tears.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged brad pitt, roger ebert, sean penn, Terrence Malick, tree of life | Leave a Comment »
Confession time! Despite being a voracious cinephile, my film criticism had fallen by the wayside in the last few months. On the one hand, I’ve been watching loads of movies (feverishly & with abandon) yet I’ve had no time to actually put my thoughts/notes/criticisms/raves together online. I promise this is not lethargy! In fact, I find myself writing reviews and coming up with ideas more than ever – but in frequent bursts – and in my own internal monologue-y voice rather than anything useful.
Although I’m devoted to this blog (and anyone who reads it, obviously), I don’t want to be obliged to transcribe my messy & and disjointed thoughts to this blog ‘as is’. So I’ll keep up on my screenings and note taking and thinking critically – while recording my thoughts and opinions – but waiting for the time to synthesize before posting.
I will never abandon this blog! After starting my new job this past winter I find I need this blog more than I could have anticipated - expect a time (in the near future) when I will be ready to share my humble words and reactions with my fellow cinephiles. And when that happens there will be a ridiculous flurry of postings!
For now – for the moment, let me talk about a movie that has been CONSUMING my thoughts since awards season.
Dogtooth (Greece, 2009)
I know, I know….totally unoriginal to be mesmerized by this film, but DEAR GOD, how could you not be!? The film is beautifully shot, always surprising, and intensely discomforting. The film engages your mind from start to finish.
Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, the film takes place in rustic, suburban Greece & chronicles a bizarre, highly original, violent and delusional family. This is not even a remotely normal family. First off – we never learn anyones names – characters are refered to simply as Father, Mother, Older Sister, Son, and Younger Sister. I really want to be careful not to give anything away here so I won’t write too much about the story, but Dogtooth doesn’t simply terrify, but deeply disturb – to the core. This is the depiction of how humanity can be brought to its knees merely by wanting to do what it thinks is best or right. Here it leads to a bizarre and isolating universe full of violence, sex, and suspicion. I couldn’t look away!
Cinematographer, Thimios Bakatatakis & Editor, Yorgos Mavropsaridis allow for airy silent takes of spaces & characters observing their situations without editorial manipulation. The twisted nature of this domestic story and country estate is gorgeously enhanced by the wide-angle lenses and awkward angles Lanthimos & co. employ.
Their is certainly a Brechtian quality to the film – it’s very much Dogville meets the Virgin Suicides (I’m stretching to find comparisons here, but I desperately need a reference point). And while the ending is completely ambiguous, Lanthimos manages to create a semblance of the possibility of a glimmer of hope for the children to escape their home/prison. Dogtooth oscillates from black comedy to depravity to surrealism with an undercurrent of immense existential despair throughout every scene. The kids lives are completely wasted by their deranged daddums (and they don’t even know it)!It’s impossible to identify with anyone in this film – nonetheless, the stakes are *so* high for the characters that the viewer walks the tightrope between conscious critical observer & completely absorbed participant.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Dogtooth, dogville, film, Greece, life, passion, Raison d'être, time, virgin suicides, writing | Leave a Comment »
Thanksgiving movies are lovely, but schizophrenic (then again, so is Thanksgiving)! Sure, it’s a communal harvest dinner…but it’s also about spending time with the people who build us up & tear us down (and then do it all over again). Whether you’re a Pilgrim & Native American, a mother and daughter, a new couple or travelers thrown together in a mad, mad, mad, mad world there is the constant tension between wanting a “you” and “me” and an “us”.
T-Day movies are usually about intentions and memories that are properly muddied up by eff-ed up, dysfunctional relatives, changing social mores or circumstance. They’re about longing for home and a sense of belonging …aaand the realization that this is an idealized romantic notion of reality. So…we take our turkey & existentialism with a side of travel hi-jinks, dinner buffoonery, romantic shenanigans (and a heaping side of denial of how the Pilgrims screwed over the indigenous peoples who helped them survive in the new world). So, get warm and cozy, grab the pumpkin pie, turn off the Macy’s Parade and get your film queue ready!!
These Thanksgiving movies might just make you grateful for the beloved & bonkers friends and family you have.
- The Ice Storm (1997)
- Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
- Pieces of April (2003)
- Planes Trains & Automobiles (1987)
- A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
- Avalon (1990)
- Alice’s Restaurant (1969)
- By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)
- Mouse on the Mayflower (1968)
- House of Yes (1997)
**Essential Thanksgiving Mini-Scene: Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
***Day After T-Day Movie: The Daytrippers (1996)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Ang Lee, Arlo Guthrie, Avalon, Broadway Danny Rose, Charlie Brown, Doris Day, Hannah and her Sisters, holiday, john hughes, Mayflower, movies, Parker Posey, Pieces of April, Planes, Thanksgiving, Trains and Automobiles, Woody Allen | Leave a Comment »