Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 May 2019

Pennies from Heaven (1936)

Pennies from Heaven is a pretty stupid film. But it was designed as a kind of pick-me-up during the Great Depression, and "Pennies from Heaven" is a gem of a song, especially sung by Bing Crosby.

13 May 2019

The Thomas Crown Affair (the Original)

What sexy fun! I loved The Thomas Crown Affair. It's superbly directed, delightfully performed, with the perfect light touch by both Dunaway and McQueen, and it's just so pleasurable! It's also brilliantly scripted. Structurally, Alan Trustman (who also wrote Bullitt) has put the big set piece in the opening twenty minutes. It's a brilliant move that is so surprising and challenging, and it cleverly lets the rest of the film be about something else. So smart.

11 May 2019

The Spy Who Loved Me

If Barbara Bach had been a better actress, this movie would have worked much better. The chief villain, too, leaves a bit to be desired (he's not very scary), but his number one henchman is very strange, and so he is quite interesting, and The Spy Who Loved Me turns out to be a fun Bond movie, with a great Bond girl (as scripted), a killer theme song (but then, we already knew that) and plenty of fun travel.

09 May 2019

The Naked Spur

I really like Robert Ryan and Ralph Meeker. Actually I liked everyone in this. I am not sure I really buy Stewart as the masculine figure this movie wants him to be – this is a role much better suited to someone like Burt Lancaster or, at any rate, someone younger. But the script is good, the Colorado scenery is lovely, and the psychological mind-games are fun.

07 May 2019

Village on the River (1958)

Fons Rademakers' Village on the River (Dorp aan de Rivier) is fine. It's not quite funny enough to really charm, though.

05 May 2019

Music in My Heart (1940)

Both Music in My Heart and Rita Hayworth are very cute, and Tony Martin has a gorgeous voice. The main song of the film – "Punchinello" – is not the song that was nominated for an Academy Award. "Punchinello" is sung to a small monkey at a street fair. It's delightful.

02 May 2019

My Sweet Little Village (1985)

There is a reason My Sweet Little Village is so beloved. It is very very funny and totally charming. Obviously Jiří Menzel had already made his name with the brilliant Closely Watched Trains in 1966, but this film is very very different than that movie, and it's a Chekhovian delight.

Also, I totally fell in love with the nerdy character who is sleeping with a young unhappily married woman in the village. He's played by Jan Hartl and he looks exactly like my ex Kevin. He's a nerd but a passionate lover (exactly how I always think of Kevin, too).

Postcard from London

I still love Harris Dickinson, and I am clearly the ideal audience for this movie, which was aimed directly at me, but Postcards from London does not work. It's this weird set of references to Fassbinder and Caravaggio and Oscar Wilde. Fine, but it's made cheaply and its tone never jells, and it has no score! This is boring and awkward. Dickinson and Jonah Hauer-King deserve better.

Wings over Honolulu (1937)

Wings over Honolulu doesn't have much to recommend it. A socialite young lady learns to be a good wife and sacrifice her own selfish desires. This was hard to enjoy.

26 April 2019

Climax (2019)

I fucking hated this.
It's so boring, and Gaspar Noé hates human beings.

Krakatoa: East of Java

This is a disaster film from 1969 - it predates Airport by a year. But... well I saw an edited version of the movie, and I think I'm ok with that. It just doesn't have very many interesting characters. The photography is super weird. And the dialogue is silly. The effects are very very cool, though, and Maximilian Schell is so hot. So there's that. Also, Krakatoa is west of Java. Why change the volcano's location? (Actually I know the answer to that. The title – and the film in general – is designed to appeal to orientalist fantasies, and so "east" in the title isn't so much about where the island is as about what the island symbolizes.)

24 April 2019

The Face of Another

The Face of Another (他人の顔) is an ok semi-horror film slash psychological thriller. The production design is the best thing about it. Mostly, though, Teshigahara's film is busy philosophizing about faces and masks, and it doesn't feel like it really gets anywhere, at least to me.

22 April 2019

The Important Man (1961)

This is a strange movie in many ways, perhaps mostly because Toshirō Mifune is playing the movie's protagonist. Animas Trujano is a Steinbeckian sort of tale, and it is, in many ways, indebted to Roberto Gavaldón's Macario, which came out the year before this film. Indeed, Mexican cinema, in the early '60s (at the end of the Época de Oro) was fascinating, and Animas Trujano, like Macario and Tlayucan, which would come out a year later, is about poverty and wealth, village honor, the meddling of the church, and a protagonist who can't quite get his shit together. Tlayucan is definitely the best of these three films, but Animas is worth a watch, for Mifune as well as for Columba Domínguez, who plays Animas's longsuffering wife Juana.

IMDB says that actor and director Narciso Busquets dubbed the voice of Toshirō Mifune. The syncing is really perfect. It is easy to forget that Mifune didn't speak Spanish and that he learned his lines phonetically.

20 April 2019

The Guilty

An excellently made melodrama. This is a one-sided phone-call drama – like Locke – with a great central performance and a tight script.

07 April 2019

Life and Nothing More (2018)

Wow. Life and Nothing More is a quiet, brilliant little film. It's a slice-of-life drama with a powerful emotional effect as we spend more and more time with the two main characters. It's about precarity in the Southern U.S. and it's also a very personal story about the relationship between a mother and her teenage son. I really, really liked this.

My old pal Hudson Meeks has a small role in the movie, which was a nice surprise. And I also managed to meet the director, Antonio Méndez Esparza, last Thursday on campus. He currently teaches at the film school here – which I didn't know before I saw the movie – and he's a lovely guy. We talked about Sorrentino and Malick and the fact that he didn't like Guardians of the Galaxy.