Saturday, January 23, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. Here is my year 2020 in review.

    Best new-to-me movie: Tie between Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Red Cliff (2008/2009)

    Movie I watched the most: Tie between Master and Commander/Eastern Promises 3 times

    Best theatre experience (out of 3 theatre visits): 1917 (2019)

    I watched 309 movies total. 24 of them were movies from 2020. Top 2020 movies:

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
    Da 5 Bloods
    The Outpost
    The Wolf of Snow Hollow
    Palm Springs/First Cow/Eurovision (Erika said ties are ok!)

    Other new-to-me honourable mentions:

    The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014)
    Danger Close (2009)
    The Getaway (1972)
    The 12th Man (2017)
    In Which We Serve (1942)

  2. Good weekend to everyone. As the disarray of the world continues, I am glad to have the refuge of movies to turn to.

    WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (1988, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) – Almodóvar’s farce about the chaos surrounding an actress I found very funny. There are so many aspects of the film to have fun with: layer upon layer of crazy situations, colors, clothes, amusing side characters (the driver of the “mambo” taxi). The mischievous spirit of his early films is present but is channeled in a far more refined package. Some of the dialogue sounded stronger than the subtitles were suggesting.

    MATADOR (1986, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) – The pornography of violence. Almodóvar ventures into erotic thriller territory with Matador, a film I saw around a decade ago but did not remember a lot of. One thing that I have noticed over the years about Almodóvar is that he seldom depicts men in a flattering way. Sometimes his female characters are not flattering, either, but he seems to have more affection for them. In any case, I liked Matador more than I did the first watch. As with most films of this nature, there is a lot of suspension of disbelief involved. As a side note, I was amused to see Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace featured at the start of the film.

    THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT (1964, dir. George Roy Hill) – Peter Sellers, who portrays the character in the title, gets top billing yet hardly appears in the film. The real focus is the relationship between two teenage girls, one of whom happens to have a crush on Mr. Orient. They are students at a private school in New York City. The girls bond while indulging in flights of fancy running around the city. There are some magnificent shots of Central Park and other locations in their wanderings. As the conclusion approaches, the comedy morphs into some surprising drama. The strength of the film is that the girls are very believable characters trying to understand a confusing grown-up world. Definitely not what I thought I was getting into but still a great watch. Recommended.

    MÄDCHEN IN UNIFORM (1931) – All of her students love Fraulein von Bernburg, especially the vulnerable Manuela von Meinhardis. Though there are some undeniable homosexual undertones, one could also interpret Manuela’s feelings in other ways, particularly since she seems starved of any kind of affection in her life. MÄDCHEN is also very critical of a German militaristic mindset that puts discipline and order above emotions and individuality. Though the theatrical origins of the story are very evident, there are plenty of striking images throughout the film. The restoration looks terrific.

  3. A couple weeks ago, my son asked me when we're going to do Junesploitation again. He didn't say "Junesploitation", more like "that thing where we watch a ninja movie every day".

    And a Movie Lover is born!

    1. It is always good to hear of another person joining the ranks of movie lovers.

      I am just as impatient as your son, Paul. With a lot of physical media purchases from 2020 to choose from, I am already thinking about which discs to get around to watching in June.

  4. MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978) Incomprehensible Star Wars ripoff, but I did enjoy the old-school model work.

    KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004) Completely ridiculous mostly plotless action-comedy, but one that's hugely entertaining. Only Stephen Chow can make a Stephen Chow movie. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dance with my axe.

    And... I've now seen DRAFT DAY!!! I legit liked it. It's a less manic Uncut Gems, in how a million stressful things are going on in this guy's life all at once. And they did a good job keeping all the football wheeling and dealing understandable for us non-sports types.

    1. So Mac, to paraphrase Adam Riske, is "Draft Day" as good or better than Hallmark's "Love, Lights, Hannukah!"? 😉🎄😁

  5. I didn't say anything at the time, but last January 6th (the day the U.S. Capitol was attacked) was my birthday. And since I'm getting close to the big 5-0 (and I ain't talking about Hawaiian TV cops) I've been in the dumps lately. So I needed an overdose of cinematic testosterone, stat. And I started by removing a GIANT asterisk from my List of Shame's unwatched action movies from the 1980's:

    Craig R. Baxley's ACTION JACKSON (1988, HBO Max) just can't stop throwing its charismatic-as-fuck leading man (Carl Weathers, retaining Dillon's 0% body fat physique from 1987's "Predator") into absurd situations (chase on foot after a cab, drive a car through the wealthy villain's mansion, get Vanity to clean her drug habit, etc.) that prompt him to quip an unending stream of one-liners... most of which actually land! Joel Silver made sure half the supporting cast from "Die Hard" (De'veraux White, Robert Davi, Al Leong) and "Predator" (Bill Duke) had small roles, and even "Back to the Future's" Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) shows up for a laugh or two. Craig T. Nelson is a weak sauce baddie, but who cares? "Action Jackson" sings an aria of cocaine-fueled, excessive late 80's violent action, and I frankly can't wait for endless encores from now 'till the day I die.

    As if that wasn't enough manly testosterone, I rewatched Tony Scott's CRIMSON TIDE (1995, Amazon Rental) for the first time in 26 years. Holy shit, I'd completely forgotten than George Dzundza (the first NYC cop on the first season of "Law & Order," who paved the way for Jerry Orbach's Det. Lennie Briscoe) plays Gene Hackman's XO. In a sea of recognizable faces (Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Steve Zahn, Ryan Phillippe, etc.) you can see Scott deftly handle a sausage fest of military melodramatic tension like a pro... the complete opposite of how he did "Enemy of the State" with Hackman a few years later. And young Denzel Washington before he picked up the mannerisms from "Training Day" is a beautiful thing to soak in. A grand time.

    But no, the depths of my post-birthday depression necessitated more cinematic testosterone. So in came Curtis Hanson's L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997, Starz), which I saw in theaters and a couple of times on cable but I had mostly forgotten. Screw "Gladiator," this is the Russell Crowe picture where his Bud White manliness eats up the screen! In this Black Lives Matter present it's hard to watch the many scenes of L.A.P.D. being racist a-holes to the black and Latino characters, but that doesn't diminish the super-tight screenplay (based on an James Ellroy novel), no-frills competent direction and great performances by an ace cast. "L.A. Confidential" will make you admire Kim Bassinger's beauty as much as her acting, remind you why you used to love Kevin Spacey, observe James Cromwell's subtleties and just brace for Crowe's bull-in-a-china-shop intensity. Five Guy Pearce broken glass rims way up! :-D

    What better way to wind-up my cinematic testosterone boosters than rewatches of Gareth Evans' THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011)/THE RAID 2 (2014, both on Blu-ray). The more times I watch them the more holes I can see in the story and plot (like in "The Dark Knight," "Inception" and pretty much every Christopher Nolan movie not named "Tenet"). So it's a good thing these worlds and stories are glued together by exquisite action scenes that have pretty much ruined every superhero movie trying to pull off the acrobatic jumping/fighting thingie. Iko Uwais' Rama is a good military man whose duty forces him to become Jason Vorhees times a million, Yayan Ruhian's Mad Dog is a henchman for the ages, and the versatility of camera work working in tandem with devil-may-care fight choreography helps one overlook just how small budgeted these productions are. Junesploitation! royalty!

    1. Happy birthday, JM! Yes, that's a lot of action movies. I do miss Guy Pearce now that I think about it.

    2. I know how you feel about getting older, J.M. My thirties are in the past now, and every year it seems to get more difficult to be enthusiastic about the world around me.

      I first saw Action Jackson on HBO back in the late 1980s and only saw it again a few years ago. I think it stands out more today than it did in 1988 because the whole thing screams 1980s in a way that some of the more famous films of the time do not. It is a shame that there was not some kind of Action Jackson franchise.

    3. Awww, you guys! 🥳🤗 Thanks. Getting old is hard, but never as hard as Jericho Jackson's glorious pecs. 🤯😋 I just felt like seeing movie tough guys to live vicariously through their action set-pieces. And yes, Meredith, even Guy Pearce wearing glasses can't hide the dude's sleekness. 🤓👻

  6. Cactus Flower (1969)

    If you told me Ingrid Bergman could overshadow Goldie Hawn I wouldn't have believed you before seeing this. Actually...if you told me an older woman could overshadow a younger woman (GOLDIE HAWN, in particular), I would have a hard time imagining what that looked like without thinking the older woman must be undignified or too over-the-top. (I know I have old fashioned ideas about aging, but, well, I wish I didn't, I just do. I worry that when these masks finally come off I will be all wrinkled and old. Very bad times for vanity.) Anyway it was fun because it felt a bit unpredictable. Walter Matthau is so...charming. One of those guys. I think I'll go through all of his movies - he never disappoints.

    1. There is a reason why Ingrid Bergman had such a long and distinguished career. She had a combination of talent, charisma, and beauty that few actress can rival. (Sophia Loren is one of the few who did.)

    2. Meredith, it's not that young Goldie Hawn's beauty and star power wasn't shining as brightly as later in her career in '69. It's just that Ingrid Bergman's aura was so strong even in her later years she outshone everyone (male or female) she acted opposite to. Ingrid was just that classy and good looking a silver screen lady. 🌞🤩

    3. I've seen Ingrid Bergman in her early movies- Casablanca, Notorious, Gaslight and Spellbound, but she was way more appealing in this. Must see more of her later performances!

    4. Bergman is particularly strong in 1978's "Autumn Sonata," a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with fellow Swedish movie legend Ingmar. 🥸😢