2015 Summer Movies #3
Posted by Gerald on June 1, 2015
Summer Movie (additional) – La voyage dans la lune (Gorges Melies, 1902): This is the restored version that was released in 2011 and premiered at Cannes that year. It is notable for the restored original hand-tinting that created color on some elements. It also has a new musical score composed by the band Air. This version is mostly interesting as an example of film history. The color is an interesting element for the time. The score varies from distracting to somewhat interesting – but frankly doesn’t add much to the experience in my opinion. This is currently streaming on Netflix.
Summer Movie #21 – Get the Gringo (Adrian Grunberg, 2012): This one was surprisingly good. Mel Gibson (who co-wrote and produced) is back to playing the sort of character he’d done so well over the years – a sharp, funny, slightly crazy and dangerous anti-hero. The filmmaking channels a lot of Sam Peckinpah; over-the-top violence, very efficient scenes, etc… (even some playing with multiple timeframes within scenes). The story – a thief turning the tables on the crime bosses who oppose him – is reminiscent of “The Getaway”. A good movie, but it isn’t without its flaws, including a fairly stereotypical view of Mexico, a rather forced plot involving a kid and his attractive mother (who, it should be noted, was at least played by an actress who was somewhat close to Gibson’s age – her 40s to his 50s), and a rather improbable ending. Still, it is a fun crime drama and wirth your time if you like that sort of film.
Summer Movie #22- The Invisible Front (Jonas Ohman & Vincas Sruoginis, 2014): This is a documentary where the subject matter is much more interesting than the film itself. The subject is the Lithuanian resistance to Soviet occupation up through 1953 and focuses on one leader, Juozas Luksa. It is a compelling story and shows a side of the Cold War that we rarely see in the West – the resistance of the people inside the Soviet bloc and, in particular, their desperate hope that the US would come to help them. The film itself is a bit dull – long interviews and narration over mournful cello and piano music. However, we get an inside view of the Soviet takeover – the resons people resisted and the reasons some cooperated. Well worth seeing if you have an interest in the history of this period.
Summer Movie #23 – The High and the Mighty (William Wellman, 1954): Here is the prototype of the 1970s and 80s disaster films. You have a group of rather fabricated characters brought together by being on the same public conveyance which has a crisis during which personal issues are explored or resolved until in a moment of competence porn the main character somehow saves some or all of them. This, “The Poseidon Adventure”, every “Airport” movie… Probably the most interesting thing about this is that it is kind of an ensemble picture. Although John Wayne is the big star, there really isn’t a clear “leading man” distinction between his character and Robert Stack’s. Otherwise, the movie is best seen as an historical relic – the men are men, the women are gendered stereotypes, and the non-white people are funny and non-threatening. The movie itself manages to take about ninety minutes of action and spread it out over two and three-quarters bloated hours. Especially edifying filler is provided by the several minutes of watching Wayne and the passengers forming a human chain to pass luggage to the rear of the plane and by the final scene where a few pointless minutes are spent as each pair of passengers leaves the plane to the accompaniment of the same swelling musical notes (by the third time it is repetitious; by the fifth annoying) to indicate drama in a scene that has none – everything is resolved.. the movie is over… we’d like to go home now… please…
Summer Movie #24 – Apur Sansar (Satyajit Ray, 1959): This is the third film of the “Apu Trilogy” chronicling the childhood and early adulthood of a Bengali man. This movie again shows Ray’s skill as a filmmaker with beautiful shots and brilliant editing. This film continues many of the themes of the earlier films, such as tragic loss and how to find meaning in the most ordinary moments of life. These movies aren’t fun, they are beautiful.
Summer Movie #25 – Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980): Because sometimes you just have to watch it. It is somewhat unbelievable that this campy wonder was directed by the same guy who wrote and directed the amazing “Get Carter” (the 1971 version with Michael Caine, not the limping re-make with Sylvester Stallone.)
Summer Movie #26 – The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961): This is one of the great movies. It is beautifully staged, shot, and edited. It features great performances by George C. Scott, Piper Laurie, and – of course – Paul Newman. Jackie Gleason is also really impressive during his scenes as “Minnesota Fats” that bookend the film, just in silently conveying the sense of a man at the top of his game, but who is also under the thumb of men like Scott’s character. It is notable for addressing one of America’s defining characteristics, the worship of winning. Here we have an American protagonist who can be a “winner”, but comes to realize, through tremendous personal loss, that victory is meaningless if you have to destroy everything else about yourself in pursuit of that. The triumph here is to forget his dreams and embrace real life – which is not the thing that the American Dream, or its Hollywood portrayals, has ever fit well with. Watch this!
Summer Movie #27 – His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940): I had never watched this before. Cary Grant at his cynical best, Rosalind Russell caught between patriarchy and patriarchy, Ralph Bellamy as the hapless straight man and lots of really snappy dialogue. What surprised me about this was how dark it is – murder, attempted suicide, the heartlessness of the press, political corruption, etc… It is also interesting how the “happy romantic ending” seems to strongly suggest that Grant and Russell’s characters will wind up exactly where they were to begin with – divorced and resentful – because they can’t help but be who they are. There was more to this than I expected.
Summer Movie #28 – Five Minutes of Heaven (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009): This is an excellent drama about the aftermath of violence – in this case the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It depicts the historical killing of James Griffin, a 19-year-old Catholic, by Alistair Little, the 17-year-old head of a cell of the Ulster Volunteer Force, in 1975. The latter half of the film dramatizes a meeting between Little and Joe Griffin, the younger brother of James and a witness to the murder, some thirty years later. The movie is well-shot and directed but the real power comes from the performances of Liam Neeson as Alistair Little and James Nesbitt as Joe Griffin. The movie deals with guilt and acceptance without becoming falsely sentimental or succumbing to platitudes. A interesting side-note for me was that the 1975 version Little was played by Mark Davison (or Mark Ryder) who played Cesare Borgia in the 2011 Tom Fontana series “Borgia” and one of the members of his cell was played by Diarmuid Noyes, who played Alessandro Farnese in the same series. I also found the film interesting in that it is one of the few times I’ve seen a depiction of the terrorist acts performed by Ulster Protestants in a movie about Northern Ireland.
Summer Movie #29 – Monkey Business (Howard Hawks, 1952): Not the Marx Brothers movie – this is another screwball romantic comedy from Hawks and starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. It plays a lot like “Bringing Up Baby” in many ways, but doesn’t work quite as well. However, a lesser effort from Hawks and Grant is still going to outshine many other people’s best film. Marilyn Monroe is good in a supporting role, but somewhat under-utilized. I think the best parts of the movie are the scenes where Rogers gets to show her comedic skills (and the one scene where she dances, of course).
Summer Movie #30 – Stand Off (Terry George, 2011): This was a Netflix recommended movie that I watched on the spur of the moment. I did not realize going in that it was set in Belfast and that I would, therefore, be following up a Howard Hawks/Cary Grant screwball comedy with a movie set in Northern Ireland for the second time in two days. The film is a crime dramedy starring Brendan Fraser that centers on a botched robbery. It tries to deal with the relationships of father and sons and ends on a life affirming note (it is one of those movies where the closing credits play over jangly guitars while we see “candid” shots of the stars of the movie being all warm and affectionate). Even with a decent performance by Fraser and the presence of Colm Meany and David O’Hara, the best that can be said for the film is that it is profoundly okay.