Friday, February 27, 2015

Agnes Varda's Le Bonheur at 50

Released in February 1965, this early work by Agnes Varda is ostensibly a cheery movie with bright colors, dappled sunshine and a beautiful, loving family. Yet behind this Monet-esque revery are ideas that may have you questioning some of the basic moral principles of modern society. The story centers on Francois (Jean-Claude Drouot), a square-jawed cabinetmaker who gladly spends every spare moment with his lovely wife and adorable young kids (played by Drouot’s real life family).

Much time is spent establishing the family’s idyllic existence in suburban Paris, as we see them engage in relaxing country picnics and nature walks, as well as exploring the deep bonds of affection and sexuality between Francois and his wife Therese. One day, Francois emerges from his mountainous sawdust pile to send a telegram, and a chance encounter with a postal clerk (Marie-France Boyer) launches a series of profound and strangely disturbing events. There is little else about the plot that can be disclosed, but suffice to say that some very controversial sexual politics are presented. So controversial that if the film had not been directed by a woman, Le Bonheur probably would have ended up on the scrapheap of misogynist cinema.

The bonus material offers a number of interesting interpretations of the film, and is quite thought provoking. The disc itself is beautifully restored thanks to Thomson’s HD Spirit Datacine, a new generation film scanner that makes possible nearly perfect recovery of even badly degraded negatives (which was apparently the case here). In all, this is a film that sticks with you, albeit in a very odd and unsettling way.

Surprisingly for a film of this vintage,  2015 finds all of the principles alive and kickin'. Agnes Varda - who has truly seen it all - is a couple years shy of her 90th birthday. The dashing Jean-Claude Drouot is pushing 80 but is busier than ever, having become a virtual fixture on French TV in recent years. Madame Drouet and Boyer are among the living as well, although their acting careers have taken a backseat to other interests. Wouldn't you love to sit at a Paris sidewalk cafe with this lot? Oh the stories they could tell….

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TCM for March 2015

Cheer up folks, it's almost spring! TCM makes it official with some fine cinematic offerings sure to lift those winter blues. My picks below. All times Eastern. Full Schedule HERE

3 Wednesday

12:30 AM
A poacher has to elude the Texas Rangers and the mob after stealing drug money.
C-122 mins, Letterbox Format

7 Saturday

The first Batman serial, complete with racial slurs, begins on the 7th

10:00 AM
The Caped Crusader battles a Japanese scientist turning people into zombies
BW-26 mins,

4:15 PM
A woman on the run gets mixed up with a repressed young man and his violent mother.
BW-109 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

8 Sunday

10:00 AM
Documentary of a reclusive mother and her daughter who created their on own world in their mansion known as "Grey Gardens."
C-95 mins,

6:15 PM
A flamboyant star throws a TV comedy show into chaos.
C-92 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

2:00 AM
The French Riviera comes to life only after the tourists are gone.
C-12 mins,

3:00 AM

All is not happiness in Le Bonheur

A married young carpenter tries to make his mistress part of his family.
C-79 mins,

10 Tuesday

8:00 PM
An ambitious young man wins an heiress's heart but has to cope with his former girlfriend's pregnancy.
BW-122 mins, CC,

10:15 PM
A black woman uses her late husband's life insurance to build a better world for her children.
BW-128 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

12 Thursday

5:30 PM
An American pioneer raised by Indians ends up fighting alongside General Custer.
C-140 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
A washed-up prizefighter tries to free himself from his ruthless promoters to build a new life.
BW-85 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

9:45 PM

Piper Laurie and Paul Newman get real friendly in The Hustler

A pool shark falls into the clutches of a crooked gambler.
BW-135 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

14 Saturday

10:00 AM
The search for a kidnapped reporter leads the Dynamic Duo to a rooftop chase.
BW-17 mins

5:45 PM
A defrocked priest surrenders to the sins of the flesh in a Mexican hotel.
BW-118 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM
The World War II housing shortage brings three people together for an unlikely romance.
BW-104 mins, CC,

10:00 PM
Two aging gunslingers sign on to transport gold from a remote mining town.
C-94 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

3:30 AM
Two vagrants try to outrun the police after committing a savage crime in this real-life shocker.
BW-134 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

5:45 AM
This short safety film looks at carelessness in the home that can lead to fires.
BW-10 mins,

15 Sunday

9:45 PM
In this episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, Walt takes a trip to Ireland in search of actual leprechauns.
BW-49 mins,

Visit Disney's Wonderful World of Color on the 15th

10:45 PM
Two children stumble on a clearing in the woods where they encounter gnomes and an evil witch.
C-8 mins,

11:00 PM
This episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color takes a look at the history of animation and animation techniques throughout the ages.
BW-60 mins,

12:00 AM
With his friends Jose Carioca and Panchito, Donald Duck discovers the joys of Latin American life.
C-71 mins,

1:30 AM
Walt Disney leads his production team on a good will tour of Latin America during World War II.
C-106 mins,

3:15 AM
British colonists kidnap a rebel Irish prince.
C-110 mins,

19 Thursday

9:30 PM
A scientific expedition discovers a 25-foot tall mutant.
BW-65 mins,

4:45 AM
Delinquent teens ingest a substance and grow to 30 feet tall, then proceed to take over a small town.
C-81 mins, Letterbox Format

20 Friday

1:30 AM
A small-town girl hits the big city in search of romance Roaring Twenties style.
C-152 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

4:15 AM
An unemployed female singer poses as a female impersonator and becomes a star.
C-134 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

21 Saturday

10:00 AM
Batman races to stop enemy agents from destroying a supply train.
BW-17 mins,

2:00 AM

The tragically hip life of Edie Sedgwick is chronicled in Ciao!Manhattan

A one-time underground film star goes home to her mother to recover from years of drug abuse.
C-90 mins, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
Cameras capture the backstage drama as acting students audition for a film.
C-75 mins,

5:00 AM
Technicians herald the arrival of a new car that "delivers the goods as no other compact car can" in this short advertisement.
C-6 mins,

5:00 AM
An education short film that exposes drug use and drug culture.
C-22 mins,

5:00 AM
Filmmakers trace the history of opium and its role in today's drug trade in this short film.
C-22 mins,

22 Sunday

8:00 AM
A gambler discovers an old flame in South America, but she's married to his new boss.
BW-110 mins, CC,

10:00 AM
When he inherits a fortune, a small-town poet has to deal with the corruption of city life.
BW-116 mins, CC,

12:00 PM
A veteran returns home to deal with family secrets and small-town scandals.
C-136 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM

MacLaine and Lemmon in Irma La Douce

A Parisian policeman gives up everything for the love of a free-living prostitute.
BW-143 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:30 PM
An old waterfront character tries to help his daughter when her lover leaves her pregnant.
C-134 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

25 Wednesday

10:00 PM
BW-91 mins,

26 Thursday

2:00 AM
A pulp fiction novelist fights to survive an assignment to ghost write a controversial star's memoirs.
C-95 mins, Letterbox Format

4:00 AM
A would be private eye gets mixed up in a smuggling case.
C-86 mins, CC,

5:30 AM
Celebrities reveal the classic movies that influenced their lives in interviews with acclaimed film critic/interviewer Elvis Mitchell.
C-29 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

27 Friday

10:30 AM

More than crocuses are blooming in Ozu's Early Spring

A young salary man and his wife struggle within the confines of their passionless relationship while he has an extramarital affair.
BW-145 mins,

1:00 PM
A fading stage star gets caught up in the decadent life of modern Rome when she hires a male companion.
BW-104 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

3:00 PM
When her husband moves them to a small farming town, a woman falls in love with a married neighbor.
C-98 mins, Letterbox Format

28 Saturday

10:00 AM
Batman investigates a fake fortuneteller working with Japanese spies
BW-18 mins,

3:45 AM
In this short film, children learn about the world of fun that awaits them when they grow up and go to work.
C-11 mins,

29 Sunday

2:00 AM
A young girl's guardian falls in love with her.
C-98 mins,

4:00 AM
Random scenes -- including the famous eyeball-slitting, a bicycle race and a hand crawling with ants -- capture the insanity of dreams.
BW-16 mins,

4:30 AM
A religious sage fights temptation from Satan himself.
C-45 mins,

20 Monday

8:00 PM

Nuclear power is not your friend in The China Syndrome

A television newswoman stumbles onto deadly secrets at a nuclear power plant.
C-122 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:15 PM
A news producer is caught between a committed journalist and a flashy anchor.
C-133 mins,

12:45 AM
Television programmers turn a deranged news anchor into 'the mad prophet of the airwaves.'
BW-121 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

31 Tuesday

8:00 PM
A little brat turns Paris upside down during a two-day visit with her uncle.
C-93 mins,

10:00 PM
A French boarding school harbors Jewish children during the Nazi occupation.
C-105 mins, Letterbox Format

12:00 AM

Lacombe, Lucien is part of a Louis Malle festival on the 31st

A French teen collaborating with the Nazis falls for a wealthy Jewish girl.
C-138 mins, Letterbox Format

2:30 AM
A 15-year-old comes of age despite his father's neglect and his mother's smothering love.
C-118 mins, Letterbox Format

4:30 AM
A businessman kills his boss to cover up his affair with the man's wife.
BW-91 mins, Letterbox Format

Monday, February 23, 2015

News and Notes: Oscar Aftermath 2015

  • The Academy Awards were given out last night. I actually watched most of it and didn't get offended or upset even once! A new record for me. Congratulations to all the winners.

  • Stephen Follows does a great job crunching Oscar stats. He has created a page with lots of interesting info about the cost of marketing films and the demographics of Academy voters. Check it out.

  • France's Oscar equivalent, the Cesars, were given out Friday. Timbuktu did very well as did a couple of American actors. Winners list here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Last Minute Looks at Some Oscar™ Hopefuls

Boyhood ✭✭✭✭

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Directing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

I found the concept of this movie to be more interesting than the final result. It was fun to see everyone grow up and age before our eyes, and certain scenes were wonderfully done. Yet, by the end of this overly long case history, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) remained opaque. While his parents (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke) seemed to grow as characters over the course of the film, I didn't feel as though I knew Mason any better than at the beginning. To me, his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) was a much more interesting character - and a better actor - and I found myself wanting to learn more about her experience. I hope Linklater had the foresight to film a "Girlhood" concurrently. Despite my complaints, it's still an impressive achivement from a mainstream filmmaker who has never been afraid to put a personal twist on things. And if it takes the Oscar™ I'm ok with it.

Leviathan ✭✭✭½

Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film

This film was a little disappointing. Andrey Zvyagintsev's previous features, The Return and Elena, were much more interesting and hypnotic. In comparison, Leviathan is an overly-plotted genre piece that fails to tie up all its loose ends. As for it being a condemnation of Putin's Russia, forget it. Leviathan shows that when it comes to land grabs, Russian politicians are no more craven and corrupt than your typical American one. Ida's going to take this category anyway.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ✭½

Nomination: Best Visual Effects

I guess the effects were impressive but what a stupid feckin' movie. Two and a half hours of people beating the snot out of each other yet no one is ever seriously hurt. Giant airships are going to shoot everybody or something and Bucky is now a bad guy. I mean what's the point of this crap?