Movies/TV I saw last month...
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)—Much better than I remembered. The A story suffers from terminal slightness, as so much of the '80s Woody Allens did, but the old comics sitting around the diner telling the story somehow makes it all work (even as it could have been much better).
City Lights (1931)—Holiday favorite.
Civilisation (1969)—I am finding my first look at this BBC series to be an oddly thrilling experience. I keep wondering what this stuffed shirt Sir Kenneth Clark is doing to pull that off and I've decided that it is the way he forces us to look at the magnificence, and contemplate it with him, for all these many hours.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)—Holiday favorite.
Dazed and Confused (1993)—In my memory this went from the most realistic depiction of my high school experience ("now I know what it feels like to have my youth trivialized," I put it at the time) to a '70s update of American Graffiti. But that's just not so. This is different and distinctly bizarre. There's stuff here I'm at a loss to explain. For one example: this could be Ben Affleck's greatest performance. For another: spanking? For another: Wiley Wiggins? It is a parade of weird yet always engaging and entertaining. And somehow I have a feeling I will like it even more the next time.
Dead Ringers (1988)
Django Unchained (2012)—Tarantino's least effective and enjoyable movie in my opinion, but nonetheless, I can't deny it, also one of the most interesting movies to experience and discuss with people, including, maybe especially, strangers. (I notice a number of blog reviews also seem to be including audience reports, which itself is rather unusual.) Thought experiment: Other movies with African Americans (as slaves or otherwise) taking revenge on white people. I admit this has been a stumper for me. I'm hoping it's just because I'm bad at trivia, or don't know blaxploitation and/or spaghetti westerns all that well.
Early Summer (1951)—My first time with this Ozu, which I liked a lot. I think this, Late Spring, and Tokyo Story are my favorites, all with Setsuko Hara.
The End of Summer (1961)—Ozu, Setsuko Hara, very nice.
Gremlins (1984)—Holiday favorite.
The Hidden Fortress (1958)—I can see the Star Wars connection plain but this is certainly the better story—the peasants more interesting and complex than the robots, the princess way better here. Plus Toshiro Mifune. The first half is all otherworldly landscape, in and around the fortress, and starkly beautiful. And there is a handful of great set pieces distributed all along the way, such as the map drawing in the sand or the bonfire ceremony.
The Hobbit: An Interrupted Journey (2012)—Went the limit and wore the glasses. It's a fine start but I worry about bloat. This could have been 45 minutes shorter. This story can never be as big as The Lord of the Rings, book or film. Then again, there are probably many rather slender novels that could benefit from a trilogy treatment at the movies, in the right hands.
Idiocracy (2006)—Made me laugh, which puts it in a certain elite among comedies.
The Innkeepers (2011)—Very nice, spooky, open-ended ghost story.
Late Autumn (1960)—First time seeing this Ozu. Very nice performance as always by Setsuko Hara.
Lola (1981)—Loved this Fassbinder, which is luscious purple in its narrative and production design both.
Looper (2012)—Time travel taffy pull with old hand Bruce Willis and new hand Joseph Gordon-Levitt that never quite convinced me it knew what it was doing, confirmed by the finale. And no, I'm not talking about time travel logic.
Lost (s6, 2010)—Feels like I am going to settle into disappointment, even acknowledging the sixth season was more energized than anything since the third. As a self-consciously very big project, it tried too hard to be everything instead of just settling on something. I haven't given up on trying it again, but whew, that's daunting even to think about.
Lost in Translation (2003)—Brittle, and beautiful, as ever.
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)—Busy busy. Lots and lots going on in this Fassbinder, most of it visual, with frames exploding with action and sound and color. A strangely heartless fable of the Nazi era. I remember liking it a lot when it was new, but was more unmoved by it this time.
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)—Weak.
Night Gallery (s2, 1971-1972)—Just from all the great germs of ideas this could have been so much better, but it was burdened not so much by low budgets as by fundamental misunderstandings of how to execute. More generally, too often a Twilight Zone retread.
The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982)—Some dazzling moments still, but altogether not as good as I remembered.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)—This is one of those Woody Allens that some elevate above others, but not me. I think it's just gimmicky and slight.
Red Hook Summer (2012)—Very likeable Spike Lee joint about post-Obama African-American teens and their families and the way life is that unfortunately feels a need to go to dramatic territory that's less than convincing and actually quite distracting. As were the Mookie cameos, though it was also interesting to imagine that fate, having seen Do the Right Thing so recently.
Risky Business (1983)—Old favorite I hadn't seen in some time. It's still good, I think. Inspirational line: "Please, Joel, do what they say, just get off the babysitter."
Scanners (1980)—Had seen this only once and not for awhile. The special effects are amazing, of course, especially the exploding head. But the preposterous and incoherent story unfortunately did not hold my attention.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)—Great turn from Jennifer Lawrence, her best yet, and a nice supporting ensemble (headed by Robert De Niro), in service of an otherwise predictable Bradley Cooper indie kookoo vehicle.
Smithereens (1982)—Basic NYC punk-rock nihilism by the numbers but not without moments of charm, squalid and otherwise.
Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987)
Throne of Blood (1957)—This was somehow much better the second time through. I watched it with The Hidden Fortress, which came the year after, and it was really interesting to compare the Toshiro Mifune performances. Makes me appreciate him even more.
Tokyo Story (1953)—Masterpiece.
Twenty-Four Eyes (1954)—I had been similarly stunned by Keisuke Kinoshita's Ballad of Narayama some years ago, so I don't know why I wasn't prepared for this. It's about children, so inevitably has some sentimental strains. But mostly it's just a powerhouse, with a sweeping narrative and beautiful to look at. Best discovery of the month.
Umbrellas (1994)—Last and longest of the collaborations between the Maysles and environmental artists Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, this one also raises interesting moral and ethical questions about life and death, as a crisis for all in one way or another is involved. The five films together, some five hours or so, make an interesting documentary statement, spanning more than 20 years.
Veronika Voss (1982)—Dazzling black and white, a nagging story that gets under one's skin, I started annoyed with this Fassbinder and ended entranced. I imagine this would be the movie that the character Patricia Clarkson plays in High Art was involved with.
Zelig (1983)—Some nice bits but still feels to me as if it could blow away in a breeze.