Category Archives: film classics

Sunset Boulevard – “Silents Speak”

images (1)images

Sunset Boulevard

SPANKY: The Netflix rejuvenated version is great. And the plot holds up well.

JOHN: I first saw this as a kid with an audience in a small town theater who lived through the silent film days. I was struck by the exaggerated poses and facial gestures of Gloria Swanson. Now (though I still remembered some of the lines) I paid more attention to the story and how it fits movies and writing today.

SPANKY: Before we get that wisdom, didn’t you think the ending stunning. She is before the cameras—granted it is the news-media cameras—but she has come full circle.

JOHN: Haven’t we also come full circle. Longing for movies like this instead of pre-teen chase epics. Here is substance. But each generation has its needs and mine, like Gloria Swanson’ before me, has passed.

SPANKY: Television supposedly replaced movies, then cable replaced networks and now… Now we get movies for all ages and appeals over the internet. I don’t know that this forces one generation to understand the next (it is more, indulgingyourself in the familiar). But you want substance, John, and I want dog food. And those, Gloria, are words that don’t make any more sense than talkies.

SPANKY: 4 Barks out of 4

JOHN:  4 GOs out of 4


Blue Velvet – “Disturbed”

Blue Velvet


JOHN: This is what movies could be but choose not to—like a nightmare you wake up from and wonder if it were real.

SPANKY: There are three things that stay with you years after leaving it: 1) the protagonist walking along after his father’s stroke and finding a cut-off ear in the grass, 2) the songs “Blue Velvet” and “In Dreams“ performed with their weird context instead of blaring off of a portable radio, 3) Isabella Rosellini telling her young savior to hit her making love.

JOHN: And he does hit her. At the end, though the plot is resolved, the troubling subtext is free to go on and on and on.

SPANKY: Who would go to such a film? I’m sure that is why others never followed David Lynch. More than a romantic entertainment for date night, more than an action flick for pre-teens. A film that changes who you are and how you see life.

JOHN: Creepy, beyond what we want, beyond what we need. But we can’t look away.

SPANKY: 4 Barks out of 4

JOHN:  4 GOs out of 4


Apocalypse Now – “Still Unsettling”


SPANKY: I know you like to go back over movies you saw at a certain time in your life, but most seem labored, dated.

JOHN: Not this one. It parallels a confusion about Vietnam we still suffer from. When I first saw the movie I wanted it to stick closer to Heart of Darkness which I had read. To see Brando at the end. Be moved by his words.

SPARKY: But now we see many more references to Kurtz throughout the film. The visuals are spectacular and at the end we do need someone of Brando’s stature.

JOHN:  The fact that he doesn’t make any sense seems even more appropriate now than it did then.

SPARKY: We were looking for easy answers then.

JOHN: This is a masterpiece that goes beyond its time. The message: There is more to “the horror” than war. “The horror” is humanity.

SPARKY: Not something entertaining, but a film so important you have to watch it again. And again.

Spanky 2

See it, see it, see it!

Scoop – “Magic Trick”


SPANKY: Nice to watch a movie we just sat through a few months ago.

JOHN: But don’t really remember, because…

SPANKY: Because you were so taken with Scarlet Johansson you didn’t remember anything else.

JOHN: This is a Woodly Allen movie in which he was breaking away from Manhattan. He plays a two-bit magician and Scarlet’s would-be father. Continue reading




(director: Bille August; screenwriters: Ann Biderman /from the novel by Peter Hoeg; cinematographer: Jorgen Persson; editor: Janius Billeskov; cast: Julia Ormond (Smilla Jaspersen), Gabriel Byrne (the Mechanic), Richard Harris (Tork), Robert Loggia (Moritz Johnson), Vanessa Redgrave (Elsa Lubing), Jim Broadbent (Lagermann), Tom Wilkinson (Professor Loyen), Clipper Miano (Isaiah), Emma Croft (Benja), Bob Peck (Ravn)

JOHN: What sticks with you, long after the movies is over, is the face of Julia Ormond. Both haunting and torn, for a brief moment at the end of the film it transfigures into the young boy, her friend in the Denmark apartment, who jumped from the roof.

SPANKY: The plot of the movie is bad SF but it is moments such as these that explore real mystery. The context—unexplained death, a friend who might not be a friend, the wonder of Greenland, past and present—set the stage. But the real movie is her face.

JOHN: How many films, good films are self contained? How few stay with you as you drive home, or weeks later?

SPANKY: John and I believe the audience is an underappreciated partner in a story. Producers, studios, directors who have put millions into a movie don’t want to take a chance. Occasionally, for whatever reason, a novel or a movie does.

JOHN: Like footprints in the snow. It jumps off the roof. The face we see at the end is our own.

4 Barks out of 4, 4 GOs out of 4

Lost in Translation – “Found”


Lost in Translation  

SPANKY: You watched this because, of…

JOHN: Scarlett Johansson, yes, not Bill Murray—even though he is from my hometown of Chicago. And I have been to Tokyo and Kyoto, equally lost as the two of them.

SPANKY: So, Sofia Coppola could have just shot a movie of you and saved herself a lot of money?

JOHN: If acting didn’t matter, Continue reading

The Usual Suspects – “The Devil Disappears”

Usual SuspectsThe Usual Suspects  

SPANKY: Something about the lanky Spacey holds our attention.

JOHN: Yes, but some movies are only meant to be seen once. I think this is one of them.

SPANKY: What do you mean?

JOHN: This movies is so full of surprises I just had to watch it again, but…

SPANKY: Wouldn’t that give you an actor’s or director’s perspective?

JOHN: Exactly, but you know what is going to happen. So Continue reading