MoonRISE Kingdom – Wes Anderson, director, 2012
JOHN: There’s a recent New Yorker review of Nathan Lane as Hickey in The Iceman Cometh that makes an interesting distinction between a performer and an actor. In this film we see the difference between actor and celebrity. It starts with a cozy, perhaps claustrophobic, interior of an old island house in which young kids are listening to a record of Benjamin Britten’s The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra. But, in contrast this is a movie about children not playing together.
Edward Norton as the surreal boy scout leader is right, right, right. He is an actor in the defining role of his life. But a movie is also about how the audience gets caught up in it. We empathize with the young boy and girl―and the adults searching for their own Moonlight Kingdom―and recall our own dreams of what we thought life would be.
GO, GO, GO, GO (4 GOS out of 4)
SPANKY: And, John, you are probably going to say celebrities like Bruce Willis (because he treated Demi and the kids so well after she took up with that younger guy) and Francis Fargo Woman, who always seems realm, if not fallible, and Bill Murray, forever trading on his angry looser temperament, bring these identities ready-made to the movie so Wes Anderson can concentrate on the marriage of two twelve year olds. Or so we think. As the bits and pieces come together we realize, in the very last minute of the very last scene, that this is an allegory. Like a good poem, it sends us back to the beginning (and title) and we, in the audience have something to ponder beyond a movie. Stunning!
BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK (4 BARKs out of 4)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid – Carl Reiner, director, 1981
JOHN: I saw this when if first came out and thought it deserved a second viewing. It is a clever idea – using bits of old movies integrated into a Steve Martin/Carl Reiner new plot. But…. It doesn’t work (if it ever did). Why? The actors are good; the conceit, praiseworthy, the interjection of old footage, flawless; but it reminds me of someone trying to write a poem in the form of a sonnet. It is way too self-conscious. Just write the goddamn poem.
GO (1 GO out of 4)
SPANKY: If anything it makes me wish I were seeing the original films. Sure there are some clever one-liners, like audience banter in the old “Mystery Theater” TV program. But, this is wasted talent and the fact that so much effort has gone into it makes the waste seem even greater. To give it some credit, when it first came out people weren’t into old noir movies. Maybe this helped bring that about, I don’t know. However, we might say about some films, “They don’t make them like they use to.” Let’s hope they never make them like this again.
BARK (1 BARK out of 4)
Get Shorty – Barry Sonnenfeld, director, 1905
JOHN: There’s something about Elmore Leonard that makes you want to read rather than watch this one. Perhaps the story is overly complex–too many characters, or too quirky and a little too creative. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies about movies especially about the one I am watching and this story seems as authentic as you get, but in the end I am left asking, “What? Could you go back over that again?”
GO, GO, GO, (3 GOs out of 4)
SPANKY: You should be saying, “Look me in the eye.” like everyone else did after John Travolta’s superb performance (I think matching Pulp Fiction). Isn’t the problem, we’re too dumb to keep up. Hackman, Travolta and Taxi’s DeVito are at their best, and the twist at the end should leave us all thinking about what we see and what we get. I think Get Shorty wears its guts on its sleeve.
BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK(4 BARKs out of 4)
Posted in film, film classics, film noir, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movie review, movies
Tagged Barry Sonnenfeld, Danny DeVito, Elmore Leonard, Gene Hackman, Get Shorty, John Travolta, Taxi
Altman at the 1992 Cannes Festival
THE Player – Robert Altman , director, 2011
JOHN: Fun to revisit one of Altman’s best, and see it stand up so well. Tim Robbins is fantastic. And a couple scenes, real classics: he asks a table full of hangers-on if they can talk about anything but Hollywood (they can’t), the murder itself and his cold blooded look as he sits on a couch dressed in black and tells his girlfriend (Bonnie Sharon), she has been replaced—in a way that brings out the smarmy side in all of us.
GO, GO, GO, GO (4 GOs out of 4)
SPANKY: Don’t forget the ending which cleverly brings this full circle (we are watching the movie Graham Mill is blackmailed to make). And the opening 7 minute, 47 second tracking shot—an homage to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. Almost as much fun are the guest appearances of famous people playing themselves—Angelica Huston, Elliot Gould, Steve Allen, Jack Lemmon, Jeff Goldblume, Joel Grey, Sidney Pollack, etc. It’s almost like being in Hollywood and spotting these people on a street corner yourself. Then there’s the irony of Bruce Williams and Julia Roberts starring in the movie within a movie of how the rich (and we know that’s the Robbins’ character) never get prosecuted. Wow!
BARK, BARK, BARK, BARK(4 BARKs out of 4)
In November 2000, Altman claimed that he would move to Paris if Geroge W. Bush were elected, but joked that he had meant Paris, Texas when it came to pass. He noted that “the state would be better off if he (Bush) is out of it.”
Posted in cult films, film, film classics, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movies, Orson Welles
Tagged Adam Simon, Alan Rudolph, Alexandra Powers, Andie MacDowell, Anjelica Huston, Annie Ross, Bert Remsen, Brad Davis, Brian Tochi, bruce Willis, Buck Henry, Burt Reynolds, Cathy Lee Crosby, Charles Champlin, Cher, David Alan Grier, Dennis Franz, Elliott Gould, Felicia Farr, Gary Busey, Greta Scacchi, Harry Belafonte, Jack Lemmon, Jack Riley, James Coburn, Jayne Meadows, Jeff Goldblum, Jill St. John, Joan Tewkesbury, Joel Grey, John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Karen Black, Katarzyna Figura, Kathy Ireland, Leeza Gibbons, Lily Tomlin, Louise Fletcher, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin, Martin Mull, Marvin Young, Michael Bowen, Mimi Rogers, Nick Nolte, Patrick Swayze, Paul Dooley, Peter Falk, Peter Gallagher, Ray Walston, Rene Auberjonois, Richard Anderson, Robert Altman, Robert Carradine, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger, Sally Kellerman, Sally Kirkland, Scott Glenn, Scott Shaw, Shari Belafonte, Steve Allen, Steve James, Susan Sarandon, Teri Garr, The Player, Tim Robbins, Whkoopi Goldberg
The Artist, directed by Michael Hazanavicius, 2012
SPANKY: John, you seemed to like this movie a lot more than I did. It started out well, then began to drag (except for the RCA Victor dog) only to pull around at the end. I think if we are judging a film on its worth, not on the meaning we can attribute to it or our personal film-going history, this one is, at best, an oddball that slipped into the Oscar mainstream because it ostensibly had something to do with the development of cinema.
2 Barks out of 4
JOHN: I saw this after the reviews were in and the film won “best picture,” but I think most people, including the Academy, missed its point. Sure the advent of talkies was a convenient metaphor, but this is about an artist who can’t communicate directly with the man on the street. An artist who doesn’t want the pity or support of those who can. And, literally, the French director lets us in the audience experience this silence. We feel this disappointment (that is the let-down in interest you complain about, Spanky). The solution, is not to give up, or become a crowd pleasing talker. He is an “Artist.” The answer is to adapt his art to the times and be new and fresh all over again. He and his love do this through tap dancing (with sound) and we feel the joy. We can’t dance, but he can for us.
In 2010r, a brilliant film that spoke to who we are and what our world has become, Social Network, was just a little too edgy for an Academy Award. This film succeeds because it is subtle and misleading. But its message is particularly meaningful for the floundering movie/television industry. And as a writer, I found it more real, more touching, more meaningful to me than any “entertainment” has been for a long, long time.
PS. Words on the page don’t talk either. Or do they?
4 GOs out of 4
Posted in cult films, film, film classics, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movie review, movies, Musicals
Tagged Academy Award, Best Picture, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Silent Movie, The Artist, Uggy
The Help – Tate Taylor, director, 2011
JOHN: The first half made me sick to my stomach. Even though I lived during the period depicted in the film, I didn’t know that the help in Southern homes were required to use separate bathrooms (of course I did know public facilities were segregated). What were people thinking. And the women dressed like mannequins, what was that all about (what would Freud have made of them and their treatment of women of a different color). We must never forget, even if it is difficult to watch.
GO, GO, GO (3 GOs out of 4)
SPANKY: I agree about the beginning, but the second half of the movie turns this into a Lifetime Channel feature, with that soupy music and its pointing a finger at the especially contemptible women, which sort of lets the white audience off the hook. The “poop pie” is a nice ironic twist, but having the “Help” book be well received and the black maid going off at the end to be a writer like the white girl—all seem self-serving to make the early message more palatable for today’s viewers.
BARK (1 BARK out of 4)
Posted in Books, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movie review, movies
Tagged Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Kathryn Stockett, Mary Steenburgen, Octavia Spencer, The Help, Viola Davis
Glengarry Glen Ross, James Foley, director, 2002
"And the third place prize in our contest is, you're fired!"
SPANKY: I loved the Reservoir Dogs previews on this old VHS (John, are we down to this; not a movie, not even a DVD, but a VHS cassette, for gods sake! What’s next? Reviewing old-time radio programs?) And this film/play is actors being actors in a competition for their lives: both in terms of the characters’ jobs and the perfumers vying with each other for the audience’s attention. Continue reading
Posted in cult films, film, film classics, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movie review, movies
Tagged Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey
Manhattan, Woody Allen, 1979
SPANKY: You probably remember the stark panarama shots of the New York skyline against a lush George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” But wait. Looking at this movie with John all these years later, things aren’t quite what is remembered. The movie voice-over is of the central character writing a novel and several times reworking the first chapter–each version expressing a different emotion.
When the movie first came out Continue reading
Posted in cult films, dogs, film, film classics, John Lehman, Jokes & Fun, movie review, movies, Spanky and John Go to the Movies, Woody Allen
Tagged Black & White, Diane Keaton, George Gershwin, Manhattan, Mariel Hemingway, Masterlpiece, Meryl Streep, Woody Allen
Scent of a Woman – Martin Brest, director, 1991
JOHN: Revisiting this classic, I was able to get beyond Pacino’s in-your-face theatrics and appreciate the movie’s plot structure and genuine, if not a bit corny, theme. At first it is hard to see what the blind, alcoholic, over-bearing retired army colonel and Chris O’Donnell, his weekend caretaker—a small town fish out of Eastern prep-school water—might have to offer each other, but eventually we do. Continue reading
Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn, director, 2011
JOHN: There were noir themes worth exploring: the hero’s search for a father, loyalty to an attractive wife’s husband, saving a woman from evil, a man of honor walking the mean streets of LA and—best of all, from the opening sequence—the movies versus reality. Why this film chooses to not explore them is its real mystery. Continue reading
Posted in cult films, film, film classics, film noir, movie review, movies
Tagged Albert Brooks, “Drive”, Carey Mulligan, Kaden Leon, Nicolas Winding Refn, Ron Perlman, Ryan Gosling