"Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" (2004)
"Young Adam" (2004)
A thoroughly depressing, morosely dark film about an amoral Scottish gadabout, played by Ewan MacGregor, who goes from woman to woman and moral disaster to moral disaster, without anypause or respite. The film is handsomely shot, the acting is first rate and its interresting to see a superstar like Ewan willing to play such as utter bastard onscreen, but the story itself will leave you feeling nauseous and harshly used. As, I suppose, it's supposed to. But it still felt really icky. If you don't like watching really depressing movies, then you should definitely skip this one.
"Strange Bedfellows" (Universal, 1965)
Another outrageously sexist Rock Hudson, with yet another unbelievably blatant homoerotic subtext. Things start out innocently enough, with Rock separating from his spitfire Italian wife (Gina Lolabrigitta) and having co-star Gig Young give him a manly pep talk in which he repeatedly comments on how pretty Rock is... But when a long, clumsy game of "telephone" -- played via two London cabbies and their dispatcher leads the cabbies to conclude that Rock is a male-to-female transsexual who recently had a three-way with a woman and a man, and that he wants to have the man's baby... Well, that's when you and whoever you're watching this film with stop, pause the play button, and gape in astonishment. Okay, now I firmly believe that Rock's inner circle were in on the joke, and that these types of gags were undoubtedly written because Hudson's closeted gayness made them that much funnier. There's just no other explanation. He did the same kind of joke over and over, in film after film -- sure, humor that made fun of gay people was fashionable in the 'Fifties and 'Sixties... but to this extent? It's just too much to be coincidental. entertainmentwise, this film ain't bad, although more than half of the fun is a result of these campy pop culture ironies... But if you wanna check Rock out, this is a fine film to start with.
"A Shot In The Dark" ()
The classic "Pink Panther" comedy, with Peter Sellers in fine form. It holds up really well.
"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring" (Miramax, 2004)
The cycle of life and suffering is explored in a remote and fantastical Buddhist temple, a one-room shrine afloat on a beautiful lake in modern-day Korea. This film is gorgeously shot, and the story is fairly compelling, with most of the plot revealed visually, rather than through verbal exposition. I won't say much more, other than that I enjoyed this as a nice, fairly ephemeral art film. Quite nice.
"Kill Bill 2" (Miramax, 2004)
Not as wowed by the second film, but it was okay.
"Kill Bill" (Miramax, 2003)
This was way more entertaining than I thought it would be. I liked it, despite myself.
"Just For You" (Paramount, 1952)
Der Bingle and Jane Wyman team up again for this glossy Technicolor spectacle, in which Broadway star Bing is torn between his duty to his children (who are alienated because of his workaholic tendencies) and his budding love life (which, unfortunately, involves Jane Wyman, who I find quite unappealing). It's an okay film, very white picket fence-y and Eisenhower-ish... The musical numbers don't have any cohesion, but that's okay -- they're clearly just meant to be eye candy and pad the film out... (Cast notes: Bing's son, Gary, plays his petulant son, while a teenage Natalie Wood plays the daughter... and sparkles in many a scene...) Kind of a ho-hum, melodramatic plot, but it's an entertaining enough movie, with some choice moments of campy fun. Not bad.
"Here Comes The Groom" (Paramount, 1951)
When folks discuss the great films of Frank Capra, this film seldom seems to come up... and there's a reason! This was a pretty terrible film, one of Bing Crosby's least charming outings, and certainly a low point for Capra. The script is atrocious, the realization is shoddy and abrupt, and the film's end may make you feel a little queasy. Here's the plot: Bing is a foreign correspondent, off in postwar Europe, writing heartwarming stories about French war orphans. His editor wants something juicier, and his jilted American fiancee does, too. So, Bing has to come back to the States with, naturally, a couple of toussle-haired raggamuffins in tow and a song in his heart. Alas! He is too late: his sweetie (played by a remarkably shrill Jane Wyman) has dumped him in favor of her millionaire boss, amiably portrayed by Franchot Tone. In fact, it's Franchot Tone, easily outshining Crosby, who gives this ricketty film its one glimmer of class... A long scene between him and Bing, when they size each other up, is the single redeeming sequence... Everything else is rough, slipshod and frantic, including Capra's directorial work, particularly the editing. Bing does his best to be cool and hip, but his schtick just isn't working this time around... Mostly it's the film's fault; this is an amazingly substandard production... It's worth skipping, even if you're a big Bing Crosby fan.
"Safe Conduct" (2001)
The German occupation of France in WWII is the focus of yet another Parisian epic... Portrayed this time through the filter of the French film industry, which was appropriated by the Germans in an attempt to use it as a tool for Nazi propaganda. The Germans didn't try to warp French movies ideologically as much as they tried to maintain the high quality of film production as if to say to the world, "hey -- look how great things are here under our rule!" The German Reich tried to employ as much top talent as they could, and the writers, actors, directors, producers and stagehands all needed work, which tried to do without giving too much moral ground to their German jailkeepers. This film, by director Bernard Tavernier, is the fictionalized true story of two men -- screenwriter Jean Aurenche, who refused to write a single word in service of the German state, and director Jean Devaivre, who worked for a German-held production company, but also acted as a saboteur in the French Resistance. The movie is moody and engrossing, but also rather long, and deeply anchored in the now-arcane lore of the early French cinema. Most of the specific references will go past your average modern audience, but the main narrative is clear and compelling enough that a viewer willing to sit through the two-and-a-half hour length may find this film fairly rewarding.
"The Decline Of The American Empire" (1987)
Well, I have to confess I didn't actually make it all the way through this film -- it just wasn't worth it. I rented it because I'd heard such high praise for its sequel, "The Barbarian Invasions," and thought it might be nice to have some background on the characters that continue on through that new film, which had just come out on video. Gawd. What a waste of time. This is a tedious film, one that replies on the bluntest of "arch" dialog and most banal shock tactics, outlining the profoundly uninvolving sexual escapades of eight French-Canadian intellectuals, academic buddies and married couples who sleep with everything that moves and cheerfully cheat on one another, then kiss-and-tell about nearly every detail. I'm sure that their unlikeability is intentional, but their cheaply outlined raffishness is not compelling enough to balance things out: they simply aren't interesting characters, and their affairs are tawdry and implausible. It's just boring. Plus, the token gay character is poorly realized and unfairly stereotyped -- he's as much of a skeeze as the hets, but portrayed with an extra gloss of condemnation, as if non-straight promiscuity were in and of itself more dangerous than the mindless, voracious immorality of the straight characters. (At the time, I guess, AIDS was still seen as a "gay" disease...) Anyway, my wife walked away from this film after about forty minutes, a half-hour later, I joined her. I doubt I'll follow up with watching the new film as well.
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