peteg's blog - noise - movies

Laura

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around with this Preminger / Gene Tierney 1944 black-and-white classic. I enjoyed it just as much, and like Roger Ebert couldn't remember whodunit; it somehow doesn't matter, though he's also right that it makes little sense.

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood

/noise/movies | Link

Opening day at The Ritz, 4.30pm, Cinema 1, downstairs 6 rows from front, 10 AUD. Supposedly a 35mm print but I can't say I noticed. Perhaps a third full. Upstairs was open too.

Tarantino's latest is nostalgia for America's glory days of the late 1960s, a sort of whitewashed greatest hits target for MAGA types to aim for. Men were men, cars were Cadillacs with fins, women were dreamy, and you could light up anywhere. (The cigarette ad over the credits was deeply weird.) Murder was still random but violence was generally more personal than today's mass shootings. Di Caprio and Pitt buddy it up. Westerns, Spaghetti and American, are showered with various cackhanded honours. Robbie eventually gets upholstered and doesn't move like a pregnant lady. The Chekhovian devices are legion (a dog, tins of dog food, Robbie, ...) but none fail more dismally than an acid-laced cigarette, except perhaps for Pacino as a movie executive. It's amiable, ingratiating, introspective, self-absorbed, and has you wondering if Tarantino can go the (lengthy) distance without graphic violence; he almost makes it. At times the vibe is Altman: Short Cuts or perhaps Nashville, but without the masterful long takes.

I was bored throughout.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. Widely reviewed elsewhere.

...And Justice for All

/noise/movies | Link

Third time around with this funny but shallow legal procedural farce. A Jack Warden jag from Everybody Wins. Pacino has a few good moments, as do each of the other cast members I guess. Christine Lahti has the thankless job of talking the plot. I recognised Jeffrey Tambor from The Death of Stalin, and perhaps Craig T. Nelson from that other Pacino legal vehicle, The Devil's Advocate.

Roger Ebert was unimpressed at the time; Vincent Canby even less so.

Everybody Wins

/noise/movies | Link

#31 on David Stratton's list of marvellous movies, and by far the worst so far. Written by Arthur Miller as a play and adapted for the screen. Nick Nolte leads as a credulous and sex-starved private dick (Stratton says TV journalist) who is readily suckered by the far more worldly Debra Winger when she asks him to spring a friend incarcerated for a bogus murder conviction. Will Patton does a special kind of menacing but ultimately vacuous crazy. I'm not sure there's a point, but if there is, it's better made in David Lynch's small-town efforts, with Blue Velvet already having set the pace and Twin Peaks not far into the future.

Stratton claims this was an original screenplay but Wikipedia concurs with IMDB.

Vincent Canby at the time.

Foreign Correspondent

/noise/movies | Link

A Hitchcock jag. Not great. It's 1940-ish and wooden, credulous, flat reporter-lead Joel McCrea is sent over to Europe by a NYC newspaper to sort out those foreigners (future Americans?). Laraine Day does as well as she can as the girl to be gotten, alternating passivity with sassy repartee. The ending is as pure a pitch for war bonds as you'll find. Canonical Englishman George Sanders at least seems to be enjoying himself. The Latvians cop it in the neck, as do the Dutch at times.

Bosley Crowther got into it at the time.

Strangers on a Train

/noise/movies | Link

Second or third time around for this Hitchcock classic. The black-and-white cinematography is perfect (and not just for 1951), as is the continual search for the horror in the familiar and omnipresent. Yes, the plot is farfetched and it's not entirely clear why things go as they do. It seems to have fallen out of the IMDB top-250 since I last saw it in 2012.

Roger Ebert in 2004. He tells me Farley Granger was also in Rope. Bosley Crowther was more skeptical at the time; I feel he'd be a lot more thankful if it was released now.

Road to Perdition

/noise/movies | Link

Third time around with this perplexingly poor movie, and I still don't remember a thing — except that American Jesus Tom Hanks goes out dumb. The cast is stellar (Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig, Dylan Baker in yet another thankless role, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ned Rifle Liam Aiken), cinematographer Conrad L. Hall got an Oscar for his beautiful compositions, but the whole is not much. It's winter 1931, somewhere out in Midwest Irish gangstaland where we're supposed to know prohibition is allowing the speakeasies to do huge business. Two — no three! — sons and the patriarch, and the over-patriarch and so forth try to convince us that the ultraviolent Hanks is doing the decent thing by murdering people so his own family can eat, and later shielding his son from needing to do similar. It's a busted premise. I don't think director Sam Mendes is entirely to blame for its lifelessness.

Roger Ebert. Stephen Holden.

From Here to Eternity

/noise/movies | Link

Black and White, 1953. An adaptation (bowdlerisation) of a James Jones novel (just like The Thin Red Line), cut to be a US Army promo. A Deborah Kerr jag; strange to see her so young. She does OK with the little she gets to work with. Join the army, get posted to Hawaii... Donna Reed is there waiting for you! IMDB suggests this is the one that Sinatra got his mates to make an offer for that could not be refused. Montgomery Clift does his best as an individual who is a lifer in a collective. Burt Lancaster has a limited range and is exposed here. The famous sexy beach scene was very brief. It concludes with the fallout of the attacks on Pearl Harbour and Oscars all round.

An Affair to Remember

/noise/movies | Link

There must be something between us, even if it's only an ocean.
— Cary Grant to Deborah Kerr.

French playboy Cary Grant picks up bar singer Deborah Kerr on a boat from Europe to NYC in colour in 1957. I enjoyed her performance here about as much as in The Night of the Iguana with some snappy dialogue and reversals. The plot goes as you'd expect, which is to say it's annoyingly artificial at times and cloying at others. Another love-letter to mid-1950s American uppercrustiness: marry into it if you can. IMDB tells me it was a remake of Love Affair, also directed my Leo McCarey.

Bosley Crowther at the time.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

/noise/movies | Link

A trip down down the river prompted by Ebert's selection of greatest movies. From the title we're obviously going to end up with a Kurtz, and the early lush cinematography, rich conceit and huge cast winding down the Andes is very promising. Unfortunately (the horror) it is too cut up to be immersive; Kinski always seems to be mugging for the camera, and the the "oh woe I am pierced by this feeble arrow" dialogue does not help. I know it's a Werner Herzog "art" movie, but he seems to have lacked sufficient conviction to either completely dispense with a plot or develop it or the characters adequately.

Ebert in 1977 and in 1999.

Apocalypse Now (Final Cut)

/noise/movies | Link

The Ritz, $10, 4pm, Cinema 1, five rows from the front downstairs (upstairs also in operation), 4K digital, maybe half full. Coffee at Shorty's before, lunch at Coogee before that in a strong onshore wind, a little cool. They were hammering the golden pop/rock classics of my youth before the shorts. Once Upon A Time ... in Hollywood looks a bit more literally Tate-murdery than I'd hoped.

The intro had Coppola billing this as a sort of ultimate revision, something between the original theatrical cut and the redux of 2001: this amounted to keeping the French plantation, ditching the supply depot and expanding some interstitial scenes. Somehow it was less magical this time around, leaving me detached and trainspotting the continuity. It was followed by Coppola being interviewed by Steven Soderbergh at Tribeca earlier this year. They gestured to perhaps more interesting Coppola interviews: with Martin Sheen in 2010 and the press conference at Cannes 1979. And of course Hearts of Darkness. This meant I didn't get out until well after 8pm.

Ebert had at least three goes: at the time (an experience, not a philosophy), 1999, the redux of 2001. A. O. Scott on the redux. Still #50 in the IMDB top-250.

Apollo 11

/noise/movies | Link

Dendy Newtown, 4:15pm (only session of the day), $1 birthday ticket, Cinema 6, front row modulo the wheelchair space bracketed by couches (unused), perhaps 10-15 people. Ate my lunch in dogshit park out back of the church, and had a coffee in the cafe next door beforehand. I got there in time for Springsteen's Hungry Heart. I don't think they played any shorts, just ads.

Glenn Kenny suggests this is an assembly of previously unscreened (on film anyway) footage of the moonshot. It is excellent. The composition, editing, pacing, etc. is also spot on. I was slightly annoyed by the soundtrack: the drama speaks for itself. I would also have liked to (always) know who was piloting. I wonder what happened to all that antiquated tech. I'll refrain from politicking.

James Gleick.

The Chaser

/noise/movies | Link

A graphic Korean crime/police procedural directed by Na Hong-jin and not the eternal Australian undergrad-humorists. A serial-killer jag from Memories of Murder, which is in every way superior. The plot of this one doesn't make a ton of sense, and all the solid acting and decent cinematography didn't save it. Kim Yoon-suk (Yoon-Seok?) leads as a detective-turned pimp and spends an excess of time running the streets of Seoul. It's a bit Se7en mashed up with more pointless slasher/horror tropes.

Mike Hale at the New York Times.

Memories of Murder

/noise/movies | Link

More IMDB top-250 completism (#190), and Bong Joon-ho too. This is a masterful mashup of genres that covers a sensitive period in South Korean history: it's 1986, democratic elections are on the way (replacing a police state), the country has its first serial killer and the local cops are way out of their depth. The cinematography is generally excellent and the odd shot is sublime, which is weird given the grim skies. Song Kang-ho leads, again.

Manohla Dargis. Made a huge splash at the time.

The Bandit

/noise/movies | Link

IMDB top-250 completism (#208). Turkish. A mountain bandit gets released from gaol after 35 years and heads to the big smoke. Cliches ensue. Not very good. Presumably highly pumped by the partisans.

North by Northwest

/noise/movies | Link

Alfred Hitcock's loveletter to mid-century America: trains, planes, automobiles, NYC, Chicago, Mount Rushmore, bottomless pockets stuffed with Madison Avenue greenbacks, a breezy, implausible and slight cold war plot. Cary Grant leads, James Mason follows and Eva Marie Saint tags along. Second time around. Fun. Still #78 in the IMDB top-250.

Sunset Boulevard

/noise/movies | Link

In two sittings. Second time around. This is classical Hollywood: a strong (albeit self-regarding) story told with pitch-perfect acting in B&W in 1950. This was Billy Wilder's masterpiece. Gloria Swanson is so iconically arch. Still #57 on the IMDB top-250.

Roger Ebert.

Glengarry Glen Ross

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around with this Mamet piece. I laughed throughout. The cadence strikes me as so very Raymond Carver now. This may be the only Jack Lemmon performance I genuinely enjoyed. Everyone dumps on Kevin Spacey.

Roger Ebert. Vincent Canby. Peter Travers.

Scent of a Woman

/noise/movies | Link

I might have seen this one before. A Pacino jag, and also James Rebhorn (as a milksop headmaster). Nothing more than Oscar bait for Pacino, who is better elsewhere. Chris O'Donnell is not great as his seeing-eye scholarship student. Tailor Anh Duong is striking in her almost non-speaking role. A very young Philip Seymour Hoffman. Overall it's mawkish American hokum. Loosely based on a book and something of a remake.

Janet Maslin. Roger Ebert.

Carlito's Way

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around. De Palma and Pacino decided to make a Godfather Part III / Scarface / ... mashup in 1993. It's a world-weary gangsta sort of thing set in generic mid-1970s NYC. Sean Penn has his moments as a lawyer in Jewfro. Viggo Mortensen is a depleted good-time host. The plot unfolds entirely predictably. There's some fancy cinematograpy but everyone was better elsewhere. It's an exercise in style.

Roger Ebert at the time, and Janet Maslin.