05 April 2020
This film is a moral kind of story with a heart of gold that critiques "modern" life by favoring the "simple" values of honesty, devotion, loyalty, and truth. My scare quotes should indicate that I'm not sure this film believes in modern life as such or in the simple values it would seem to be extolling.
Duarte's film, see, can't help aligning itself with modernity because the film itself is invested in "simple values" as an exercise in nostalgia. What I mean by this is that O Pagador de Promessas is a vehicle through which its director can mourn a set of values or a way of life that Duarte himself believes already to be past – or at least passé. The director is a part of modern life and conservatively or nostalgically orients himself toward these simple values, but the entire premise of the film is from the point of view of modernity.
01 April 2020
This was the last film I saw before the movie theatres shut down for the coronavirus. There were just three people in the theatre, including me. Glad I got to see it when I had the chance.
31 March 2020
30 March 2020
28 March 2020
Mondo Cane's style is a sort of faux-anthropological view of various activities in human societies worldwide. To my mind, this kind of thing ends up being sort of racist, even when it doesn't want to be, and the violence in it, particularly as directed toward animals, is a repeated theme in the film and is, frankly, disgusting.
I didn't hate this, though. It's well made and amusing when it's not horrifying. It has that kind of Italian humor that we can see in movies like I Mostri and I Nuovi Mostri. Mondo Cane, too, would go on to have a series of sequels.
As for the song that was nominated for an Oscar in 1964... what song?
26 March 2020
The only weird part of A Little Romance is, ironically, Laurence Olivier, who is top billed and who gives an extremely strange, hammy performance that really does not jell with the rest of the picture. It really ought to have been Paul Newman or Robert Redford here, and I'm not sure why it wasn't. But, hey, it doesn't much matter. Olivier's character is not central here (top billed or no), and the rest of the movie is so cute that I'm happy to forgive.
25 March 2020
23 March 2020
21 March 2020
To be honest, in addition to Diane Warren's song, I thought all of the music from this movie was great. And, as it turns out, Breakthrough is actually pretty well made. It has some really good lines in it. I even think the movie has a strain of agnostic skepticism running through it that I found interesting. But Breakthrough is first and foremost a movie that is super-invested in the god and the power of the god. Or, maybe I should say: the power of people who believe in the god to get things done or make the god do things or speak to the god and ask him to do things. The god actually doesn't appear in the film. What we see instead is people of faith closing their eyes and praying or saying magic words and also people speaking about the power of the god. I found most of that stuff just really laughable. I have no ability to take this kind of thing seriously.
At the end of the movie, Topher Grace (he and Josh Lucas are both really great in this, and I loved Lisa Durupt too) has all of the medical personnel and rescue workers who saved this boy stand up, and I thought, Right – these are the people who actually saved this boy's life. And then he also had everyone who prayed for the kid stand. Ok. Fine. But I'm just not into this idea. Those people are not responsible for the boy's rescue in the same way as the actual people who worked hard to save this boy.
The trouble, for me, is that Breakthrough isn't actually interested in the parts of this story that I think are interesting. The main character, for example, begins to feel that it is not the god but she who is keeping the boy alive, that she has some kind of spiritual or magical power (either) over the god or over life and death. This is a fascinating moment in Breakthrough, but it's one that the film doesn't really want to explore. Instead, there is a single scene where she realizes that she's being a little nuts and then she, like, prays about it for a bit and we're done.
19 March 2020
The most interesting thing about The Big Country, though, is the nominal non-violence it appears to preach. But, much like 1957's Friendly Persuasion (starring Gregory Peck's contemporary pretty-boy Gary Cooper), the non-violent man at the film's center proves his masculinity through violence after all. I am not sure why filmmakers were doing this non-violent thing during this period, but one does wish they actually believed in the product they were selling.
Charlton Heston: hot. (Listen. To each his own. He's sexy in this movie. I don't care what you say.)
Carroll Baker: the worst.
18 March 2020
17 March 2020
Jacques Boigelot's film was ok, but not great. It starts off as a portrait of a town, the young people who move around in it, and the influence of the older generation, but it sort of devolves from there as it gets overwhelmed with plot.
This film has been out of print in the United States for a long time, as far as I can tell, but I was able to see it finally here.