Movies: The Official "Movie of the Week" Club Thread III

Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by TP, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. Jevo

    Jevo Registered User

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    Hollywood Shuffle (1987) dir. Robert Townsend

    Bobby Taylor (Robert Townsend) is a young black man aspiring to become an actor. He lives with his younger brother, mother and grandmother in a nice middle class home. He is neither very 'street' nor very 'jive'. he works at Winky Dinky Dog when he isn't going to auditions. He lands an audition for Jivetime Jimmy's Revenge, and impresses, it's his chance for a big break. Although he is not exactly the Eddie Murphy type the were looking for. His grandmother isn't impressed though, as she doesn't want to hear him talk jive, and thinks it's demeaning that he has to play a stereotype like that. This affects Bobby, and he starts to wonder if he should be taking this role after all.

    Townsend wrote, directed and produced this film, as well as playing the lead character. Probably about the only way he could get a role that didn't involve him playing a black stereotype. At least there was no casting director asking him to "be more black" this time. Townsend's own experiences back when he was in Bobby Taylor's shoes is where much of the movie comes from. It's a tough world if you are a black actor. There's no roles unless you are Eddie Murphy, but he can't do all the movies, so for the rest they are just looking for Murphy clones. Murphy also picks up all the roles that are not complete stereotypes, so there's none of those left for the other aspiring black actors. So there's nothing left but roles filled with negative stereotypes, far removed from the life of most black people in America. But all Hollywood producers know about black people is that they talk funny and do a lot of crime, so they don't realise anything is strange about their movies. While Townsend throws plenty of shade at Hollywood as an institution. He doesn't hold back against black actors either. Bobby Taylor and his 'colleagues' are all falling head over heels at the prospect of playing a walking stereotype. Which leads to one of the best quotes of the film, "they'll never play the Rambos until they stop playing the Sambos".

    Hollywood Shuffle is both clever and funny, and at just 80 minutes a short movie, but it doesn't need to be any longer. Townsend is a star of the movie in more ways than one, and he is by far the best actor in it, and he is the catalyst behind anything funny and interesting happening, not too surprisingly. The movie however is a bit uneven. Some skits go on for longer than they need to, and while they were funny to begin with, beating the same joke over and over again at some point ends up killing the joke a little. The movie also sometimes goes for the easy points, by pointing at stereotypes that were already decades old at the time of the movie. But even if the movie is uneven and have a few rough edges, I still think it's a good movie. It clearly has something at heart that it wants to say, it's funny, and it looks like the budget was at least 10 times what it actually was, and that in itself is quite an accomplishment.

    I really liked the small 'dream sequences' or whatever you want to call them of Bobby's. One of them of course is a pretty obvious reference to Siskel and Ebert. I had to go and read Ebert's review of the movie, to see if he would mention it. Of course he did, but in a very Ebert like fashion. He mentions just enough that he knows, that you know what it is about, and then leaves it at that: "and even imagines a TV show in which two soul brothers are the feuding critics and give movies the finger as well as their thumbs."
     
  2. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    That's a pretty good line right there. That Ebert fellow was alright.
     
  3. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    Bobby Taylor is a Hollywood actor and multi-Oscar winner…in his dreams. In real life he's struggling to decide whether chasing a dream is worth compromising his integrity: the only acting jobs available to him seem to be roles which reinforce negative racial stereotypes. Hollywood Shuffle is like a frosted mini-wheat, it has its serious side and it has its fun side. And that's why it works so well: a meaningful message, but not too preachy. Doesn't really have time to be preachy when it keeps going off on tangents, inserting sketch comedy segments into a storyline that touches on some sensitive, tough issues. Race, identity, cultural stereotypes...not an easy subject matter to tackle. It's funny to watch this movie today, three decades after its release, considering how much has changed. The term "political correctness" has entered the mainstream, stereotypes are more widely recognized as offensive, we have black superheroes, black directors and so on. And yet accusations of whitewashing can still be heard and negative images of black culture continue to surface in popular culture. I blame gangsta rap, but that's another conversation.

    Hollywood Shuffle
    even rises above the issue of race at times. Bobby's inner conflict--to give up on his acting career and take a steady job--is more universal than it would seem at first. Take race out of the equation and you have a situation that many people can relate to; people who may be wondering if their dreams are beyond their reach and if they may be better off settling for something less. And there is no suggestion that the challenges black actors face are the result of any white conspiracy to keep a brother down. It's just a malaise in show business and popular culture in general. The white screenwriter says "Don't hate me..everything i know about black people I learned from TV!" Bobby sees a white couple on the set, looking like they're about to walk into a soap opera--beautiful people, well-groomed, rehearsing vacuous dialogue. Even white actors have to take these roles. The squeeky-clean wholesomeness might not be as "negative" as the street thug persona, but it is a lie all the same.

    While the comedy may be outrageous, the drama is very low-key. On his first day on the set of what could be his big break, Bobby reaches a line which he cannot cross. He simply takes off his afro wig and says "Sorry, I can't do this. It's bull****." But he doesn't lead any crusade against the producers or tell the other black actors that they shouldn't be acting in these demeaning roles. In fact, if someone wants to jump in and take his place, that's fine. It's their choice. Bobby makes a personal choice, not a political one, and most of the dramatic storyline consists of him gathering opinions and advice from his family, friends and colleagues. Individual perspectives will vary. At one point Bobby's co-worker at the Winky Dink hot dog stand tells him he'll never be Stepin Fetchit. That could be taken two ways: for some, Fetchit was a sell-out who represents everything disgraceful about Hollywood stereotyping; for others he was a hero, Hollywood's first black millionaire who, despite his on-screen persona, was a professional and pioneer on the set paving the way for others to advance further. (Either way, Donald was right.) It's this commitment to pluralism which allows Hollywood Shuffle to lightly indulge in the very stereotypes it is protesting--like the character of Jheri Curl--without being hypocritical. There's a place for parody and lampooning--it's about balance, context, knowing when enough is enough. But it's a personal struggle to find that point of balance between what is and isn't acceptable. I mean, I like gangsta rap occasionally too.

    But...is it funny? Shee-it. Is it funny?!? The "Sneakin' in da movies" segment alone was worth it, had me howling. Hell yeah it's funny.
     
  4. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    Ha ha...that's a good point. Candy wasn't much of a feminist, was amazed to meet a woman who was actually interested in politics, couldn't understand why she would be. I like when Miss Hunter was telling him how she became an English teacher, she asks (something like) "What can a woman do if she has no talent?" and they simultaneously answer "Get married!"...but Candy responds with gusto and enthusiasm like it's the best thing that can happen while she answers with a tone of resignation like it's her last resort. :laugh:
     
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  5. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    If I remember Amadeus correctly, The Magic Flute was the first opera Mozart composed as a "free agent", when he went into partnership with his friend Schikaneder and produced shows independently. Free of any obligation to represent the court or please the emperor in any way, he could write for himself and his audience, and keep half the profits. The bigger the audience, the bigger his payday, so not surprisingly The Magic Flute was blockbuster entertainment, a romantic fantasy designed to please everyone. And judging by the faces of spectators we see in the Overture segment Mozart's music really does transcend age, ethnicity, and gender. Over two centuries later it's still boffo.

    But wait…this one's actually called Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Flute. Huh? What's the Swedish word for cheeky? I mean, Bergman was certainly a master of his medium, didn't need to stand on anyone's shoulders to make a name for himself, especially at this stage of career But come on. The question of authorship here shouldn't be in doubt: this is Wolfgang's joint first and foremost. At least Mozart's signature appears on screen--briefly--the only other person to receive a screen credit. The rest of the performers and crew remain anonymous?! Interestingly, we don't see a single musician or instrument. Not a glimpse of an orchestra. The music is just omnipresent.

    If anything, Bergman meets Mozart halfway and does well to hold back and not over-cinemize things. The theatricality of the production is not swept under the rug. The monsters and animals are obviously actors in costumes; no one's trying to convince you otherwise. Sets and backdrops from the stage production will suffice, preserving the charm and appeal of what audiences first saw back in the day. But although the film is shot on Mozart's turf, the theatre, it is not simply a live performance captured by strategically-positioned cameras. This is a Magic Flute for the screen--the small screen, actually (it premiered on Swedish TV on New Year's Day 1975)--and it makes only enough enhancements to not get in the way of the performance, mainly giving us close-ups of the performers, who in turn make eye contact with the camera, as they might if they were addressing a live audience. The blend of film and opera produces a (very) happy medium. Sit back and enjoy the show!

    But if you really don't like opera then I guess you're screwed. I'm not a connoisseur by any means, still very much a newbie, but for me this was like 2+ hours of birthday cake, fireworks, and the Leafs hammering the Bruins in a game seven. I loved every minute of it.
     
  6. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    And my next pick will be Lucrecia Martel's La Ciénaga
     
  7. kihei

    kihei Registered User

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    Science fiction fan, eh?
     
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  8. kihei

    kihei Registered User

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    The Magic Flute
    (1975) Directed by Ingmar Bergman

    The first two times that I tried to watch Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Flute I fell asleep. The first time, I got through the opening collage of audience faces, then I was out like a light seconds later. I made it through 30 minutes the second time around, then nighty night again. Third time, lucky, I guess. The fault is certainly not in the movie, it’s in me. With a few exceptions—Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Puccini’s La Boheme, Faure’s Penelope and a few individual arias—opera just leaves me cold. I am always amazed not that I don’t like more operatic works but that I like as many as I do. So this movie was tough sledding.

    We really get two stories for the price of one in The Magic Flute, a frothy one and a much darker one. The staging, which mimics 18th century theatre (I think), provides a warm setting, and Bergman does a very good job of remaining invisible, so that the opera is the thing, not some wicked concoction of the director's imagination. A bunch of young bright, mostly blonde Swedes take over the roles from the usual opera crowd. It looks like they are lip syncing, but at least they are lip syncing their own voices, voices which probably work more effectively in a recording studio than they might on an opera stage. Though the singling is less powerful than one expects in opera, the vocals are pleasingly more intimate. The mise-en-scene, the young singers, the unintrusive direction from Bergman, all are major positives of this production. Still, it is more opera than I want to sit through in a movie theatre or on a sofa. For people who like opera, though, they will likely have a lovely time.
     
  9. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Flute
    Bergman (1975)
    “Flute of magic. Bells of vision.”

    So I just have to lay this out up top. I’m not an opera person. I haven’t had much experience, but what I have experienced I don’t much care for. Call me unrefined, classless, a heathen, so be it. That’s a horned Viking helmet I’ll just have to wear (wait, there wasn’t one of those in here, right?). I just can’t get into it. Even in film form. Sure the music is pretty. I even recognized some of these jamz! It just does nothing for me. I wish I were better.
    That’s the overture right there. On to the show...

    Annnyyyyway, The Magic Flute. Or should I call it, “Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Flute” as the opening title indicates. I’m impressed by the balls of this Bergman guy — give Mozart below the title billing? He only wrote the entire damn thing. All Bergman did was set a camera in front of a stage. Ok, well not EXACTLY. The film’s a little livelier than just watching a broadcast of a staged production. We also see the crowd! And then we see the crowd some more. Are we still looking at the crowd? I knew I was in trouble when I saw the pick. I knew I was in even more trouble when the first eight minutes of the movie was just cuts of people staring at an unseen stage as the overture plays. Yeah, yeah, it's universal. I get it. This is a film, right? Not a concert. OR IS IT?

    Oh, Bergman you scamp.

    Prince Tamino stares at a locket a bunch. Papageno dresses like Robin Hood and is named after a pizza chain in New England. There are angels and stuff. They both are horny. They get musical instruments and then a cult of some sort shows up. ... I think that about sums it up. I was imagining some sort of buddy cop movie scenario for this duo.

    There was something about the expressions of most of the actors — particularly Papageno — that was so faux-happy and creepy. I know in theater you need to be loud and broad and play to the back of the room. But the camera is all up by their faces so the plastic doll expressions just kept, to use a technical term, weirding me out. The words don’t do much for me and the actual people were detractors.

    I’m being a little flip here. But I do have a legit issue in the approach taken. It’s a movie. Be a movie. Not a play. Bergman breaks the walls so to speak for a few sequences, but generally everything is small scale stage craft and tight quarters. I suppose one could argue that it’s a low-budget, small-scale approach so as to keep the focus on the beautiful music. I wouldn’t buy that though. Go to the theater or put on the record. I want my movies to be movies and this only qualifies for technical reasons. There are a few effective visuals here and there. The temple was kinda cool and the climactic confrontation stood out to me but only possibly because the characters weren’t standing around.

    But I appreciate the challenge and experience!
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2018
  10. Jevo

    Jevo Registered User

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    The Magic Flute (1975) dir. Ingmar Bergman

    Ingmar Bergman puts on an adaptation of Mozarts opera The Magic Flute. It's part movie and part theatrical adaptation. Certain scenes are filmed on a stage in a beautiful old theatre, others are filmed on a set. But even when filmed on a set, Bergman are sure to never make things too life like, and he's quick to draw our attention back to the fact that we are watching a play. There's a certain meta element to the film as well. The first several minutes are spent watching audience members, and occasionally during the film, we see the audience again. We also spend time backstage, at first when the actor playing Papageno almost misses his cue and has to rush to get on stage in time. And also during the intermission when we see the actors lounging around. There's a distinct difference between watching this film of an opera, and watching a filming of an opera. Bergman puts his touch as a director on the film, even though it's quite different from most of his work. The film is much more intimate than a typical performance of an opera, and that gives it a quite unique feel.

    I am not exactly a connoisseur in the operatic arts, so I'm perhaps not the best at judging this work. But I've realised I probably watched it all wrong. I read that Bergman wanted to adapt The Magic Flute since he watched it as a small child, completely in awe. At the start of the film when watch the audience, we in particular watch a small girl, who is watching the performance completely engrossed. In many ways she was probably a mirror into a young Bergman watching the same opera at a similar age. They didn't need to understand what was being sung, all they needed to do was watch. Stupid as I was, I tried to understand everything literally. Which is hard when your swedish is rusty, and falsetto vocals don't make it any better. It's not a complicated story. It's a classic fairytale story. You don't need to understand the words to understand the story, but I was too dumb to realise that when I watched the movie. Instead I just got frustrated. I'm pretty sure there's a saying about children being much wiser than adults. This is surely such an occasion.

    I may not be the best at judging opera, but I think Bergman did truly well to make a movie out of an opera. He didn't just place a camera and film a stage. He made it come alive in a different way, but without forgetting the heritage of the stage. I think what he accomplished as a director in this film, is much harder than he makes it seem. It seems like what he has done is the most natural thing in the world when you watch it. Which probably means it has taken a lot of hard work to accomplish. I normally regard Bergman as a director with a lot of range, but this is something quite different from anything else I've seen him do.
     
  11. kihei

    kihei Registered User

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    Maidentrip
    (2013) Directed by Jillian Schlesinger

    The above is a very slightly tarted up version of the review that I use in Beyond Hollywood: 21st Century International Film. I include it not out of sheer laziness, but because I want to make a couple of points related to this review, points that have continued to rumble around in my consciousness five years later.

    First, what kind of parent decides to let a 14-year-old girl set out to sea on her own? This really bugged me when I first heard about this story when the public court cases were underway. I couldn’t understand why any parent would consent to allow their child to try something that was so fraught with peril--especially when there were no plans to supply The Guppy with support craft or even surveillance of any kind. A child would be out there in the middle of an ocean (more than one) strictly on her own, at hostage to the sea for weeks upon weeks at a time. To me this seemed the epitome of parental madness.

    Now I’m not so sure. For if Laura’s story proves anything it is that it is dangerous to make generalizations about things one knows nothing about. Maybe the Dekkers just knew their kid, knew what she was capable of, and knew of her commitment to seeing this daunting task through to the end. People can be exceptional in a million different ways, and the documentary certainly supports the notion that this young girl was destined to be a sailor. The fact that she was actually born at sea must have imprinted itself upon her inner being from the time she took her first breaths of (sea) air. She gives the impression that she is as much a creature of the ocean as are the dolphins that accompany her on part of her journey. As it turns out, certainly her parents’ confidence in her was totally justified. I still likely couldn’t have made their call in a similar circumstance, but I can understand better why they did.

    It does seem like the dad is the main parent, with Laura’s mum more or less out of the picture and not looking like she particularly minds being on the outer fringes of her daughter’s life. I suppose a relationship like that could spark a certain kind of motivation, too, especially in a young adolescent. She gets her fire from somewhere. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just Laura herself. Obviously young teens aren’t considered adults, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily incapable of making serious decisions about their welfare. Her belief in herself turned out not to be foolhardy. There are exceptions to every rule. In the past, I have tended to come to blanket judgements about these sorts of things, but the older I get the more unhelpful that seems.

    There is a scene near the end of the movie where Laura, done with her chores, goes to the aft of The Guppy and just breaks into an impromptu dance. The scene only lasts a few seconds, but it is lovely—and is still stuck in my mind all these years later. It is the perfect image of fragile youth incarnate: ascendant, free, and exuberant—the world her oyster. It is a moment of complete delight, of a joy totally earned, with no awareness on the part of the dancer that with each step time passes.

    subtitles with some English
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2018
  12. kihei

    kihei Registered User

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    My next pick will be Denis Villeneuve's Enemy (2013).
     
  13. Jevo

    Jevo Registered User

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    Maidentrip (2013) dir. Jilian Schlesinger

    Laura Dekker is a 13 year old dutch girl, who embarks on a solo sailing trip around the world, as the youngest ever to do so. It is not without trouble however that she gets going. The dutch authorities tries to stop her endeavour because of her young age. But there's no law prohibiting her from going, so in the end a court gives her free reign to go, and she leaves shortly after on her two year long journey. Laura was born on a boat, grew up on a boat, and after her parents divorced, she settled in her with sailing crazy dad, and continued to sail as much as possible. She has plenty of experience sailing, even in open water, but this will be something else.

    Much of the movie consists of Laura filming herself on the boat, a sort of video diary. It is delightfully honest, and we get to see her through rough times, boring times, happy times, bad weather, and incredibly calm weather. It is in these moments that the movie truly shines. It's where we get to know the real Laura. To me she seems much more honest here, compared to voice-over Laura, who in many ways seems much more calculated about her choice of words. If it were up to me, I'd like to have seen more of the movie told through these self filmed videos, compared to the voice-over. But I guess that the voice-over was needed to tie everything together, and form a proper narrative.

    There are some truly delightful small moments in the film. Such as shortly after Laura left and she tried to heat some ravioli on the stove. And while on deck, the pot slid of the stove and went all over the cabin. Or when she crosses the equator for the first time, has a small party and offers a pancake for Neptune, a pancake she in the first time doesn't even manage to throw over the side of the boat. Or when she has a small dance party by herself on a particularly nice day. It's these small moments that really show us something about Laura, and it's where the distance she often keeps is completely removed. For me, moments like these are the best part of the film.

    Laura may be somewhat mature for her age, but she is still a teenager, and we often see her behaving exactly like you would expect a 14 year old girl to behave, both for good and bad. And it's good that we get to see this side of her as well. Because it shows that, while she's a very strong sailor, and very independent for her age. In many ways she's just like most other kids at her age. Is it a great idea for a kid at her age to go sailing alone around the world, and in some ways abandon her studies? For most probably not. But I think this movie showed that for Laura, it was the correct thing to do. And in the end that's what matters.
     
  14. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    Maidentrip
    Schlesinger (2013)
    “Ok, so here we go.”

    Laura Dekker, as we quickly learn, was born on a boat and spent the first five years of here life at sea. As a 14 year old, she sets out to spend the next two on the water as well, seeking to become the youngest person to do a solo sailing trip around the world. This isn’t about time, it’s about experience as Laura makes it clear. She isn’t racing, she wants to see the world and experience all the life it has to offer be it sailing alongside dolphins or late night parties while crossing the equator or even getting held up by customs in the pacific islands while trying to explain the unpredictability of wind. It feels like a needless folly at first — the Dutch court even intervenes to try to stop it, despite the parental approval. The journey proves to be anything but though. Dekker, 519 days and 27,000 miles later completes her quest. Older and wiser, but also with the need for and desire for company.

    It’s such a cliche, but if this were the stuff of fiction, we’d probably roll our eyes at it. It’s tempting to dig deep on this. The parents seem like reluctant supporters of the idea. I couldn’t help but wonder given their separation if wily young Laura used that as leverage against them to get what she wants. Her mother clearly holds little sway and her father, well, maybe he is just a free spirit reluctant to quell in his daughter a spirit he clearly has himself. It is interesting to ponder her family history, however, the nautical roots, the broken home, the desire to be free .... None of this is really important. It isn’t my kid. Live and let live and all. And live Laura does. Good for her and them.

    While no doubt Laura occupies her own space alone on the Guppy, I also question if she was ever really that far from safety. She clearly has connections and makes friends along her route, the journey itself was well publicized, fellow boats never seem far away and late in the film it’s revealed that a journalist has been tagging somewhat along as well in a separate boat. Is this important? I suppose not really. Her venture is an achievement all the same. I quite liked the scene with the journalist. It’s perhaps the best reminder in the film that the otherwise preternaturally mature Laura really is a kid, with her huffing and puffing and “uuuuugggh I don’t want to do this” attitude when it comes to the interview. Maybe THAT’S the tact she took to influence her parents. But that Laura only barely appears.

    My chief complaint of an otherwise entertaining film is that it isn’t much of a character study despite being so focused on a single person. Maybe that’s why I’m harping on some of these questions? This person, herself, is clearly interesting. It may even sidestep parts of Laura to focus on the more charming free-spirit whimsical world traveler. Or maybe it doesn’t? She is just 14-16 years old afterall and being so single-minded, maybe there isn’t much complexity there. Dekker is her own documentarian after all so we’re definitely seeing what she wants us to see. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Girl sails the world is a perfectly fine premise for a film.

    All that said, what she wants us to see is oftentimes beautiful — she’s an astute and capable camerawoman. As a travelogue, it’s an enjoyable journey.
     
  15. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    There's girl power, and then there's Maidentrip, the true story of a teenager conquering the world. What kind of father lets his 13-year old daughter circumnavigate the globe solo? Oh, I don't know…maybe the same guy who takes his pregnant wife on a similar voyage. Laura Dekker was literally born at sea and like her father has salt water in her veins, and Dad was probably proud when Laura announced her intention to sail around the world. Mom was more neutral, but the people who were most upset were the local child welfare authorities who tried to stop the voyage from even launching. Before setting sail Laura has to navigate a storm of controversy probably more damaging than anything the Cape of Good Hope could throw at her. Not only does the government try to crush her dream and remove her from her parent's custody but the publicity draws out all the haters: Laura's spoiled...she's crazy...hope she sinks. No wonder she decides to keep on sailing rather than return home to Holland.

    Nobody achieves greatness by playing it safe, and Maidentrip outlines the risks and challenges necessary to rise above the ordinary and expected. In Laura's case she's escaping the life that Dutch society has waiting for her and she's well-suited for the task. She is fearless, she rides out a storm like it was an amusement park ride; whereas I'd be praying for my life in that situation, she's having the time of hers. Along the way she creates a new identity for herself--new hair, adopting new parents, flying a new flag. Maidentrip is as much a voyage of self-discovery as action and adventure, it is like watching someone become re-born, refusing to accept anyone else's definition of who she should be.

    It reminded me of Benjamin Gilmour's Jirga, which was my favourite from TIFF this year. (I'm derailing the review here for just a sec, but I'll come back to Maidentrip). They have much in common: both films are formally modest; while they have their moments, neither will likely be studied in film schools for their technique. In their respective contexts however the simple, straightforward approach translates to honesty and sincerity and keeps the focus on the hero. Both movies have main characters who take personal responsibility for their actions to the extreme, in doing so they chart courses for their own destinies while at the same time leaving their fate to forces largely beyond their control. In Jirga, an Australian ex-soldier returns to the remote Afghanistan village where years before he accidentally killed a civilian in an anti-Taliban raid; he is on a mission to ask for forgiveness from the family of the victim. The first question for the director at the post-screening Q&A was "is this based on a true story?". Back at the office after my ten-day movie bingefest colleagues ask about my favourite movie and when I tell them about Jirga the first question they ask is again "is this based on a true story?" Well, no. The story is fictional, yet people seem disappointed to hear this, they'd be more impressed to know if this type of moral courage was actually real. What does it matter? I would like to believe we are all capable of such conviction and seeing an example, even fictional, is sufficient inspiration for me. But Maidentrip is real, and in a way it offers the proof that this strength of character exists.
     
  16. Jevo

    Jevo Registered User

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    I've been quite preoccupied with the holidays, so my review is a bit late this time.

    The Asphalt Jungle (1950) dir. John Huston

    The criminal mastermind Doc Erwin Riedenschneider is released from a lengthy jail sentence, and he immediately has a plan for a new big heist. Only problem is, he need help and funding to do the deed. Doc gets in contact with the unscrupulous lawyer Emmerich, who is willing to put up 50.000 dollars for the job. Doc hires three people to help him. Ciavalli the box man, Gus the getaway driver, and Dix Handley, the hooligan. Dix is a small timer with a gambling problem. His big dream is to get enough money to buy back his fathers horse farm in Kentucky, which the family had to sell during the depression. The caper goes according to plan, they get in, they get the diamonds. But on the way out they are confronted by a security guard, who Dix handles. But the security guards gun is dropped and goes off into the stomach of Ciavalli. Gus takes care of the wounded Ciavalli, and Doc and Dix takes the diamonds to Emmerich. Emmerich however has no intentions of paying them, instead he wants to keep the diamonds and the money for himself. Dix shoots Emmerich's goon, and together with Doc he leaves, on the run from the police.

    There's few if any people in The Asphalt Jungle who operate fully on the right side of the law. Despite this there's few Noir movies with more compelling characters in it than this one. There's plenty of morally questionable people in the movie as well, it is still a noir after all. Emmerich and his friends are not exactly nice people. But the four heisters are all good people, who happen to be criminals. Particularly Doc and Dix. That's the way they are portrayed in the film. Dix isn't the smartest guy, he has a bad gambling addiction and the only way he knows how to make money, is with his fists. But he's still a nice guy deep down. He's loving and caring to his girlfriend, and his big dream is to buy back his childhood home. Which might explain why he's taken up this form of employment and gambling, because it's the only way he thinks he'll ever be able to get enough money. Doc is a criminal mastermind, but he has not violent, and prefer that there be as little violence as possible during his jobs. He's well mannered and nice to the people he comes across. In noirs, even when the protagonist isn't actually doing anything illegal, it's rare to have such compelling characters, and that's actually really nice to see.

    The Asphalt Jungle has one of the best heist scenes ever made. It's not particularly stylish in the vein of Oceans 11. But Huston takes his time, and allocates a big part of the movie on it. It's quiet, professional and very tense. It very much set the par for subsequent movies. The heist reminded me a lot of similar heists in Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob The Gambler and Le Cercle Rouge, two of the best heist movies ever made. Melville has undoubtedly seen The Asphalt Jungle before making those movies and gotten inspiration from it. The heist sequence was a big highlight of the movie for me.
     
  17. Jevo

    Jevo Registered User

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    My next pick will be The Cremator by Juraj Herz.
     
  18. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    The Asphalt Jungle
    Huston (1950)
    “Crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor.”

    If you’ve seen any sort of heist movie you’d know early on in The Asphalt Jungle that this criminal venture is doomed to fail simply by the sheer number of folks with knowledge of what’s about to happen. There’s Doc, the idea man; Cobby, the connection; Alonzo, the money; the actual thieves including safecrackin’ Louie, drivin’ Gus and Dix the muscle; and on top of that there’s Alonzo’s girlfriend (not to be confused with his wife) and Brannom, his hired goon who helps set a failed double cross into motion. Of course you can’t hold this against The Asphalt Jungle because The Asphalt Jungle is one of those films that helped establish the template for so many films to follow.

    The city is unnamed, but I like to imagine its my hometown of Columbus given its anonymity, the presence of a river and the not too far proximity of both Cleveland and Kentucky, both of which are mentioned. Though realistically Columbus was fairly sleepy in those days city-wise, not quite as grimy and metropolitan, so I suppose this is Pittsburgh. Doc needs $50,000 for a team of three to pull off a $1 million jewelry heist. It’s a relatively small investment for a big reward for the others involved. Of course you know what they say about honor among thieves and such. The heist goes off almost without a hitch, until Louie gets gut shot. Meanwhile among the money-men, alliances shift and agreements are not honored. In the end Brannom, Alonzo and Louie are dead, Doc, Cobby and Gus are in jail and poor Dix is making a last second dash for that Kentucky horse farm creek to wash the dirt off him finally.

    This is the type of meaty script that makes me want to just recite lines out of context (Doc and Louie seemed to get the best ones):
    “Money makes me swear.”
    “She’s got nothin’ upstairs, but nothin’.”
    “I never saw a hooligan I did like. They’re like left-handed pitchers, they all have a screw loose somewhere.”
    “Here they are now, the happiness boys.”
    “Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one’s all right, he turns legit.”
    “One way or another, we all work for our vice.”
    “You’ll have plenty of trips, baby.”
    To name a few...

    Huston is a crackerjack director of entertainments like this, but what really elevates The Asphalt Jungle from being a mere template for how to pull off a heist movie, to its own plane of greatness are the little touches throughout that manage to round out so many of the characters in a relatively tight timeframe. I mean, seriously, there’s a lot of people to account for here. The set up is a patient one, taking the time to introduce several of the characters and laying out little strands of plot before bringing them together. The cliche is almost reversed now as the team is often introduced based on skill/job and then (if they movie deems it so) you find out about who these people are beyond their task. Not here. It’s people and circumstance first. Business later. Louis Calhern’s Alonzo is a memorably doomed sap — a man of means and stature, who’s really just a sad paper tiger. You could almost weep for the man and his hangdog face as he says a sweet goodbye to a young Marilyn Monroe. Of course he did kinda screw it up for everyone. Sam Jaffe’s (Oscar nominated!) Doc is another memorable creation. The dance he watches in a roadside bar made me think that the trio in Band of Outsiders most definitely caught a screening of The Asphalt Jungle at some point. They lay it all on a little thick with Dix, though that may just be Sterling Hayden who decided to take large bites of the script and spit it out on his colleagues every time he opened his mouth. I’m not sure.
     
  19. kihei

    kihei Registered User

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    [​IMG]
    Asphalt Jungle
    (1950) Directed by John Huston

    Since seeing Asphalt Jungle about a week ago, I have been trying to figure out why it has such a different, more authentic feel than the other crime movies of the era--which covers a hell of a lot of territory because of the genre's popularity during this period. Think all of those Edward G. Robinson flicks, all those James Cagney flicks, all those "B" movies. Asphalt Jungle feels different than virtually all of them. I've come up with a few reasons why thia might be so:

    The movie's unique feel probably has more than a little to do with the source material. The original novel is written by W. R. Burnett, who also wrote dozens of crime novels including Little Caesar and High Sierra. Burnett's style is ahead of its time in that his characters lean strongly toward moral ambiguity and role reversal (the good guys can be the bad guys).

    John Huston has to figure strongly into the equation, too. It is interesting to note than in the heyday of auteur criticism in the '60s and '70s John Huston was always denied entry to the pantheon despite his superb track record. The argument against him was whereas an auteur director is supposed to possess a discernible style that he stamps on each movie, no matter how inconsequential that film might be, Huston has no consistent style at all--most of his movies look and feel totally different than their predecessors. Consider the variety in his work: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Misfits, The Night of the Iguana, Prizzi's Honor, and The Dead. No two of any of those works in any combination look like they were directed by the same man. While that variety of approach may have been anathema to the auteur critics, it is evidence that Huston is one of the great chameleons in the history of movies. He didn't need one style--his style was always in service to the source material. (Speaks in a big way to a certain self confidence as well).

    The script, co-written by Huston and Ben Maddow, is one of the best in Hollywood history. Even minor characters have full identities and are given language that fits their characters' peculiarities perfectly. There is a great deal of wit in this movie, often quietly delivered and understated. In short it is not just what the characters do that is memorable, it is also what they say and what that reveals about their world views. All of this facility comes in a movie in which there are virtually no rooting interests save a tiny dollop of empathy one might occasionally feel for the "hooligan" of the piece played by Sterling Hayden. The movie wears its cynicism like a badge of honour, rare for a work created in the recent aftermath of World War II.

    The actors get much credit, too, as should their casting director. They weren't a bunch of household names, even Hayden; they were more a collection of character actors who people might recognize but couldn't name if their life depended upon it. Louis Calhern gives a career best performance and many of the others are not far behind.

    Marilyn Monroe: she gets credit for only one thing, the luck that this was her first movie. Maybe "luck" is not the right word in that the role typecast her forever as the uber-sexy brainless blonde bombshell (with that vocal delivery in combination with her mind-boggling sexual attractiveness maybe that was inevitable anyway), but luck in the sense that Asphalt Jungle will always hold historical interest on her behalf. Luckily for them, movie buffs who come to Asphalt Jungle to check out her first performance will be treated to one of the best film noirs in history.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  20. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    A disparate group of criminals join together to rob a jewellery store, each bringing a specific skill to the team. The Asphalt Jungle may be one of the first examples of the heist movie...at one point the mastermind of the heist calls the job a "caper" with a perfectly straight face...and offhand I can't think of any earlier examples (plenty of later ones though) and it sets the bar high. Even still, most of the characters were types that had been seen in the movies before. There's Louis Calhern as Alonzo Emmerich, the sophisticated financier who looks like he defected from an Ernst Lubitsch comedy. He has a taste for young women and you'll find his picture in the dictionary under "debonair". There's Sam Jaffe as Doc, the euro criminal mastermind always in calm control (but with a taste for even younger women), is Dr. Mabuse his nicknamesake? There's Sterling Hayden as the heavy: Dix is a thug of few words, he has that intimidating glare down pat so police lineups are no problem for him. There's Marilyn Monroe as Angela, her first role maybe but not the first blonde bombshell in Hollywood by any means. Oh look, a hardboiled detective. And so on. But although they may be types they're not superficial, and they reveal unexpected traits or emotional depth. Emmerich turns out to be broke, Doc turns out to be a music lover. Dix turns out to be quite philosophic when double-crossed ("What's inside of you...what keeps you alive?") and Angela shimmers until a big meanie policeman makes her cry.

    This gang has two chiefs, one is the brains and the other is the money, but one turns out to be an amateur and a fraud, leaving everyone in a jam. There's your drama. But the story isn't really about them, in fact The Asphalt Jungle turns out to be Dix's story, probably the lowest guy on the totem pole. He's different from the rest, from another world.

    As compelling as the story and characters are, they are supported by a sharp visual style that tells the story in a way of its own…the cinematography, production design, décor…would "mise-en-scene" be the correct term here? Let me illustrate…

    In The Asphalt Jungle--maybe in all film noir--natural light represents morality. The movie opens with an exterior day shot and it's the only one until the very end. Dix is the only character who ever actually sees the light of day.
    [​IMG]

    An Asphalt Jungle two-shot: Alonzo, Angela and a couple of lamps. All the other characters live in a world of electric light; "good" and "bad" replaced by "what's good for me" and "what's bad for me". There are even electric eyes and ears.
    [​IMG]

    Even in the slammer the lights have bars on them!
    [​IMG]

    Dix is often positioned away from lights while others are directly underneath.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    He is eventually drawn into the circle of thieves.
    [​IMG]


    Dix is displaced: not only is he sleeping on the couch, but the sunlight beckons him home.[​IMG]

    I know, I know...no babe threads!
    [​IMG]

    Lights out. Get the feeling something is about to come crashing down?
    [​IMG]

    Electric lights can sometimes be made to appear real, on closer look they turn out to be phony. Like "Uncle Lon".
    [​IMG]

    But Dix is the real thing.
    [​IMG]
     
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  21. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    No worries, I think we're all in the same boat...Happy New Year to all in the MOTW thread!
     
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  22. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    The skyline in the opening scene is Cincinnati...or so I've read. Makes sense too.
     
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  23. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    Performance
    Roeg (1970)
    “I don’t need anymore bums in my face.”

    Chas (James Fox, brother to the Jackal himself of a few films ago) is a hot-headed London gangster. Violent, misogynistic and a bit unstable, his positives don’t really outweigh the negatives, a fact that becomes obvious when he lets business become a little too personal (against his boss’ advice) resulting in the death of a rival (who, in fairness, beat the crap out of him). He’s more trouble than he’s worth. He goes on the run and ends up in the abandoned flat of Turner (Mick Jagger) a reclusive rock star in a creative rut. There’s sex and drugs, but not a whole lot or rock-n-roll. Turner has “lost his demon” and Chas, it seems, is all demon. It’s a reluctant relationship at first. Then the mushrooms come out. Lines blur — gender, sexuality, personality — as gangster and rock star both morph. Chas softens. Turner hardens. The gangsters eventually track down Chas though. Chas, in his new persona, shoots Turner, and walks away to his death.

    RIP Nicolas Roeg who passed away in November. A fascinating director with a stretch of culty, genre-hopping weirdness that’s tough to match. Walkabout and Don’t Look Now are stone-cold classics in my mind. Though I’m not a the biggest fan of The Man Who Fell to Earth, it has plenty of staunch defenders. The bread to this eccentric celluloid sandwich is Insignificance (and Bad Timing) at the far end and Peformance on the near end.

    Co-directed with Donald Cammell, my first take-away is that this is what it’s like when a cinematographer finally get his hands on an editing machine. His lensing resume includes work on Lawrence of Arabia, Fahrenheit 451, Casino Royale and (my personal favorite) The Masque of the Red Death. But here, you can feel two decades of wanting to be in charge spurting itself all over the screen. And you know it right from the top too. The opening is edited within an inch of its life cutting between a driving car and a sex scene. It’s ominous and fractured and violent. The soundtrack sound like a computer melting down. It’s a disorienting opener that, in fairness, adequately sets the stage for what’s to come. If you’re not willing to go with it now, you won’t be going anywhere. Don’t Look Now is rightfully famed for its editing. Roeg feels masterful there. This is all the makings of a rough draft, albeit a trippy, progressive one that probably freaked folks out at the time.

    Despite the inherent energy, the story’s more of a slow burn than I expected. It takes nearly an hour to get Chas and Turner in the same room. That’s when the most memorable moments come to fore. Now inspired, a gangster-ized Turner breaks out into a full blown music video, strutting around some nude gangsters. The bullet he eventually takes to the brain — we follow its trajectory. Overall it feels like the sort of movie you make when you feel like you may never get a chance to make a movie again. Also, drugs maaaayyy have been involved. I’m probably underrating Cammell’s influence on the production, but I’ll conced I don’t know much about him where as there are things here that Roeg would go on to use in the future, so I have a better sense for his hand (I think).

    And, of course, we would be remiss to not address the performances within Performance. When I picked this, I honestly thought the Fox here was Edward (of Day of the Jackal). Didn’t realize until I actually watched it that it’s his brother. The experience of this movie sent James into an eight year retirement. You can’t say he doesn’t give his all here. His amoral ruthlessness is a type I’ve certainly seen in many British gangster flicks to come. Don’t know if that’s direct tribute or not, but he felt very familiar. Jagger, to no surprise, is fascinating. There’s an obvious self-awareness, but he’s quite good despite a few stiff line readings. Sure, Turner may not be a stretch for Mick, but I’ve seen Mick stretch on film a few times and let’s just say it’s good me mostly sticks to his day job (even if the Stones haven’t put out a good album in about 30 years or more). The presence of Anita Pallenberg is an interesting footnote since she’s former partner to both Brian Jones and Keith Richards (whom she was with while filming this).
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  24. KallioWeHardlyKnewYe

    KallioWeHardlyKnewYe Blue Jacket's Curse

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    My next selection will be Ozu’s Floating Weeds (1959)
     
  25. Ralph Spoilsport

    Ralph Spoilsport Rookie Mistake

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    Wait, what? Did I see what I think I just saw? The ending of Performance must have thrown audiences for a loop, sent 'em home buzzing (if they weren't buzzed to begin with). With no pause or rewind buttons available filmgoers in 1970 had to simply think back and reflect on what they saw in order to make sense of things. And in retrospect the ending shouldn't be really surprising: Performance is mind-bending, gender-bending and identity-bending, so why not reality-bending too?

    An acid rock Persona, with a reclusive rock star playing cat and mouse identity games with a thug on the run, this movie begins with an aerial shot of a Rolls Royce bombing down a country road with a rockin' tune--Randy Newman singing "Gone Dead Train"--on the soundtrack when inexplicably the music just cuts out. It seems like a mistake...like someone in the control booth accidentally hit the mute button. Well, get used to it. Performance constantly keeps you on your toes, checks to make sure you're awake. The editing is jarring, quick and aryhtmic...closer to Beefheart than the Stones...it seems amateurish at first. Funnily enough the movie had been re-edited many times so the opportunities were there to make the editing smoother, more conventional, but no...it's supposed to be like this. Likewise the soundtrack is often a collage of sounds and snippets of dialogue. Onscreen there are frames within frames, oblique angles, a mess everywhere you look. An assault of sight and sound designed to either drive you from the theatre or bash open your mind to the point where formal expectations are abandoned and maybe on some level it will all make sense at its point of epiphany...and even that is a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it moment. Total madness, as Turner would say.
     
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