Saturday, January 29, 2011

News and Notes 1-29-11

As January draws to a close...

One of the animated films nominated for an Oscar is a tribute to Jaques Tati, Two reviews of The Illusionist.

Is France becoming a hotbed of action films and comedies?  Is it all Dany Boon’s fault? 'Fraid so.

Director of Oldboy and that girl from The Kids are All Right to team...

Joe's film too freakin' weird for Oscar. No surprise...

Whew…French cinema hasn’t gone all explosions and banana peels. This looks good.

Fabulous Julie Newmar, who has been a great friend to this blog, has a new website chock full of wonderful images. Do check it out.

News and Notes 1-29-11

As January draws to a close...

One of the animated films nominated for an Oscar is a tribute to Jaques Tati, Two reviews of The Illusionist.

Is France becoming a hotbed of action films and comedies?  Is it all Dany Boon’s fault? 'Fraid so.

Director of Oldboy and that girl from The Kids are All Right to team...

Joe's film too freakin' weird for Oscar. No surprise...

Whew…French cinema hasn’t gone all explosions and banana peels. This looks good.

Fabulous Julie Newmar, who has been a great friend to this blog, has a new website chock full of wonderful images. Do check it out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Withnail for the Weekend 3


Withnail: How can it be so cold in here? It's like Greenland in here. We've got to get some booze. It's the only solution to this intense cold. Something's got to be done.
We can't go on like this.
I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum.

Withnail for the Weekend 3


Withnail: How can it be so cold in here? It's like Greenland in here. We've got to get some booze. It's the only solution to this intense cold. Something's got to be done.
We can't go on like this.
I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The King's Speech (2010)****


The King’s Speech is a film that doesn’t really belong in the coarse, pimped-up, dumbed-down world of 2011. The script is laced with respect; respect for government, for leaders and, most surprisingly of all, respect for the power of words.

Director Tom Hooper also has respect for actors, and has entrusted his low-tech production to some of the most able talents in the business. It’s a brave gamble in this age of 3-D zombies, but the risk has paid off as this stately and sedate film has been embraced by audiences and showered with award nominations.


Despite regal and historic trappings, the story is about as simple as a feature length script can be. Set in England in the late 1930s, the film chronicles the efforts of Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth) to overcome a speech impediment that has plagued him since childhood. The Windsor boys are occasionally obliged to make speeches on the wireless - that infernal contraption - and Albert’s stuttering and stammering is anathema to this new medium. The far-flung English empire is already in jeopardy, and a member of the Royal Family incapable of uttering a coherent thought won’t do much to assure its disgruntled subjects.


Desperate, the Duke and Lady Elisabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) consult Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian immigrant who ekes out a living as an unlicensed speech therapist – not the most promising career choice in 1936- in a crumbling east-end flat. Logue’s unconventional techniques, learned from rehabilitating soldiers severely injured in WWI, cause friction between the two men. Progress is slow and with the Nazis marching to war, the Duke has to cope with a number of distractions. Among them, his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pierce) is about to abdicate and marry that tacky Simpson woman from Baltimore (Eve Best). Albert must now assume the throne in one of Britain’s darkest hours, and the smooth delivery of inspiring speeches will be more important than ever.


Firth, a master of deceptive understatement, plunges to his greatest depths of withdrawal as the shy, self-conscious Albert. His fragile demeanor contrasts nicely with Rush’s classical theatrical bombast and, indeed, the pair seem to feed off each other. There is a genuine and astonishingly subtle chemistry between them that stems from performances that are dialed-in exactly right. Director Hooper, known mainly for the HBO series John Adams, understands the dynamics of ensemble acting better than just about any director working today, and has a wonderful ability to design shots around the alchemy of his talented thespians. This sounds simple and straight-forward, but the vast majority of directors, including your loyal correspondent back in his working days, tend to do the exact opposite.


While the film is crammed with historically important, larger-than-life characters, Hooper goes out of his way to keep the presentation calm and stiff-upper-lipped. There are no eureka breakthroughs or Rocky style triumphant montages. The new King will only be able to overcome his difficulties through laborious focus on the task at hand, and it’s going to be a tough slog.


There is hesitation to proclaim this a great film; it plays much like a well financed episode of Masterpiece Theatre, but without the emotional involvement the latter usually elicits. In fact, like the Royal Family, The King’s Speech is oddly cold and formal. If Hooper can be accused of a misstep, he’s over-protected his film from emotion and sentimentality.


In one aspect, The King’s Speech can rightfully be considered a feel-good movie. At a time when our multiplexes are replete with raunchy offerings designed to make a quick buck from the cheapening of human experience, the positive reaction this quiet, literate film has received from critics and audiences is a pleasant surprise. It’s almost enough to restore our faded hope in the American public.


The King's Speech (2010)****


The King’s Speech is a film that doesn’t really belong in the coarse, pimped-up, dumbed-down world of 2011. The script is laced with respect; respect for government, for leaders and, most surprisingly of all, respect for the power of words.

Director Tom Hooper also has respect for actors, and has entrusted his low-tech production to some of the most able talents in the business. It’s a brave gamble in this age of 3-D zombies, but the risk has paid off as this stately and sedate film has been embraced by audiences and showered with award nominations.


Despite regal and historic trappings, the story is about as simple as a feature length script can be. Set in England in the late 1930s, the film chronicles the efforts of Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth) to overcome a speech impediment that has plagued him since childhood. The Windsor boys are occasionally obliged to make speeches on the wireless - that infernal contraption - and Albert’s stuttering and stammering is anathema to this new medium. The far-flung English empire is already in jeopardy, and a member of the Royal Family incapable of uttering a coherent thought won’t do much to assure its disgruntled subjects.


Desperate, the Duke and Lady Elisabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) consult Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian immigrant who ekes out a living as an unlicensed speech therapist – not the most promising career choice in 1936- in a crumbling east-end flat. Logue’s unconventional techniques, learned from rehabilitating soldiers severely injured in WWI, cause friction between the two men. Progress is slow and with the Nazis marching to war, the Duke has to cope with a number of distractions. Among them, his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pierce) is about to abdicate and marry that tacky Simpson woman from Baltimore (Eve Best). Albert must now assume the throne in one of Britain’s darkest hours, and the smooth delivery of inspiring speeches will be more important than ever.


Firth, a master of deceptive understatement, plunges to his greatest depths of withdrawal as the shy, self-conscious Albert. His fragile demeanor contrasts nicely with Rush’s classical theatrical bombast and, indeed, the pair seem to feed off each other. There is a genuine and astonishingly subtle chemistry between them that stems from performances that are dialed-in exactly right. Director Hooper, known mainly for the HBO series John Adams, understands the dynamics of ensemble acting better than just about any director working today, and has a wonderful ability to design shots around the alchemy of his talented thespians. This sounds simple and straight-forward, but the vast majority of directors, including your loyal correspondent back in his working days, tend to do the exact opposite.


While the film is crammed with historically important, larger-than-life characters, Hooper goes out of his way to keep the presentation calm and stiff-upper-lipped. There are no eureka breakthroughs or Rocky style triumphant montages. The new King will only be able to overcome his difficulties through laborious focus on the task at hand, and it’s going to be a tough slog.


There is hesitation to proclaim this a great film; it plays much like a well financed episode of Masterpiece Theatre, but without the emotional involvement the latter usually elicits. In fact, like the Royal Family, The King’s Speech is oddly cold and formal. If Hooper can be accused of a misstep, he’s over-protected his film from emotion and sentimentality.


In one aspect, The King’s Speech can rightfully be considered a feel-good movie. At a time when our multiplexes are replete with raunchy offerings designed to make a quick buck from the cheapening of human experience, the positive reaction this quiet, literate film has received from critics and audiences is a pleasant surprise. It’s almost enough to restore our faded hope in the American public.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Recently Viewed - Comedy Quickies

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)**


A movie the entire family can watch together. In other words, it’s as bland as a 10 year old jar of pabulum. All about a young teen girl (Georgia Groome), her obese, emotionally disturbed cat named Angus, her intense dislike of thong underwear, and her efforts to kiss a cute boy. Nominally set in the UK, the story is so neat and tidy and familiar it could easily be Cincinnati. About halfway through, the dad is offered a job in New Zealand, and you wish the entire cast would go there and never be heard from again. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is to cinema what fish sticks are to cuisine.








Patrik, Age 1.5 (2008)***



A perfectly harmless Swedish import about a gay couple (Gustav Skarsgaard, Torkel Peterrson) whose plan to adopt a baby is derailed by one of those ghastly typographical errors that profoundly change movie characters' lives. There’s nothing particularly new or interesting here, but the film’s shopworn, conventional ideas are executed to tear jerking perfection. This is essentially a Lifetime movie, clad in Swedish understatement. Although the film’s look and feel is at times frighteningly American. Recommended to those seeking warm giggles topped off by a good, therapeutic bawl.







The Groove Tube (1974) **



Those seeking a good rollick in 1970s nostalgia please be advised that this collection of irreverent skits is not nearly as funny today as one remembers from one's misspent youth. Horribly dated, and even a bit dull. That being said, Ken Shapiro's song and dance number through the streets of midtown Manhattan is still quite the hoot.







Waiting for Guffman (1996)****


Christopher Guest fans will know what to expect here…lots of belly laughs and spot-on parodies of familiar personality types. This mock-doc involves the staging of an amateur musical celebrating the sesquicentennial of a sleepy town in Missouri. And, like most small towns, the residents are exceptionally pleased with themselves.

Guest plays the town misfit who went to NYC in hopes of becoming a famous choreographer, but now finds himself back home, attempting to cobble together a show out of some very raw ingredients. Fred Williard is just plain hysterical as a stage-struck local business man and his duet with Catherine O’Hara delivers a tacky version of Midnight at the Oasis that you won’t soon forget.

The great Paul Dooley has a brief walk-on interview that will have you cackling with his brilliant comedic timing. And there’s the talented Guest as director Corky St. Clair, who may not have made it on Broadway, but certainly absorbed the attitudes and airs of that famous street. Funny, sharp, even a little sad on occasion, Waiting for Guffman is everything a comedic escape should be.


Recently Viewed - Comedy Quickies

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)**


A movie the entire family can watch together. In other words, it’s as bland as a 10 year old jar of pabulum. All about a young teen girl (Georgia Groome), her obese, emotionally disturbed cat named Angus, her intense dislike of thong underwear, and her efforts to kiss a cute boy. Nominally set in the UK, the story is so neat and tidy and familiar it could easily be Cincinnati. About halfway through, the dad is offered a job in New Zealand, and you wish the entire cast would go there and never be heard from again. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is to cinema what fish sticks are to cuisine.








Patrik, Age 1.5 (2008)***



A perfectly harmless Swedish import about a gay couple (Gustav Skarsgaard, Torkel Peterrson) whose plan to adopt a baby is derailed by one of those ghastly typographical errors that profoundly change movie characters' lives. There’s nothing particularly new or interesting here, but the film’s shopworn, conventional ideas are executed to tear jerking perfection. This is essentially a Lifetime movie, clad in Swedish understatement. Although the film’s look and feel is at times frighteningly American. Recommended to those seeking warm giggles topped off by a good, therapeutic bawl.







The Groove Tube (1974) **



Those seeking a good rollick in 1970s nostalgia please be advised that this collection of irreverent skits is not nearly as funny today as one remembers from one's misspent youth. Horribly dated, and even a bit dull. That being said, Ken Shapiro's song and dance number through the streets of midtown Manhattan is still quite the hoot.







Waiting for Guffman (1996)****


Christopher Guest fans will know what to expect here…lots of belly laughs and spot-on parodies of familiar personality types. This mock-doc involves the staging of an amateur musical celebrating the sesquicentennial of a sleepy town in Missouri. And, like most small towns, the residents are exceptionally pleased with themselves.

Guest plays the town misfit who went to NYC in hopes of becoming a famous choreographer, but now finds himself back home, attempting to cobble together a show out of some very raw ingredients. Fred Williard is just plain hysterical as a stage-struck local business man and his duet with Catherine O’Hara delivers a tacky version of Midnight at the Oasis that you won’t soon forget.

The great Paul Dooley has a brief walk-on interview that will have you cackling with his brilliant comedic timing. And there’s the talented Guest as director Corky St. Clair, who may not have made it on Broadway, but certainly absorbed the attitudes and airs of that famous street. Funny, sharp, even a little sad on occasion, Waiting for Guffman is everything a comedic escape should be.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Withnail for the Weekend 2


Withnail: What are we supposed to do with that?

Marwood: Eat it.

Withnail: Eat it? Fucker's alive.

Marwood: Yeah, you've got to kill it. 

Withnail:  How do we make it die?

Marwood:  I think you should strangle it quickly before it starts trying to make friends with us.



Withnail for the Weekend 2


Withnail: What are we supposed to do with that?

Marwood: Eat it.

Withnail: Eat it? Fucker's alive.

Marwood: Yeah, you've got to kill it. 

Withnail:  How do we make it die?

Marwood:  I think you should strangle it quickly before it starts trying to make friends with us.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In Praise of Hippie Chicks


Joan Baez dated Bob Dylan, married a famous draft resistor and sang at Woodstock. She is the Michael Jordan of Hippie Chicks.



Laura Nyro was an extremely talented Hippie Chick. She is greatly missed.




Peggy Lipton was the first Hippie Chick to be a major character on a TV show. She introduced and popularised the concept to Americans.




Melanie Safka is a prolific Hippie Chick. She has made over 30 albums. And you thought "Brand New Key" was her only song.



Barbara Hershey began her acting career as a Hippie Chick. She even changed her name to Seagull for awhile.


There are few women today attempting to keep the Hippie Chick flame alive. We salute them.

In Praise of Hippie Chicks


Joan Baez dated Bob Dylan, married a famous draft resistor and sang at Woodstock. She is the Michael Jordan of Hippie Chicks.



Laura Nyro was an extremely talented Hippie Chick. She is greatly missed.




Peggy Lipton was the first Hippie Chick to be a major character on a TV show. She introduced and popularised the concept to Americans.




Melanie Safka is a prolific Hippie Chick. She has made over 30 albums. And you thought "Brand New Key" was her only song.



Barbara Hershey began her acting career as a Hippie Chick. She even changed her name to Seagull for awhile.


There are few women today attempting to keep the Hippie Chick flame alive. We salute them.

10 Years of The Savages

The Savages struck a vibrant chord with me when it was first released 10 years ago. It’s all about a pair of 40-ish siblings...