Archive for October, 2008

1944

October 28, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English
107 Minutes — September 6, 1944
Crime / Film-Noir / Thriller
Billy Wilder [The Lost Weekend; Sunset Blvd.; Ace In The Hole; Sabrina; The Spirit of St. Louis; Some Like It Hot; The Apartment]
Fred MacMurray [The Caine Mutiny; The Apartment]
Barbara Stanwyck [Meet John Doe]
#94 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

An insurance agent connives with the glamorous wife of a client to kill her husband and collect.

Even though it’s more than 60 years old, it still is almost unbelievably tense. Our hero confesses while talking into an old fashion dictation machine. He meets Stanwyck and just about devours her with his eyes. It must have been incredibly revealing to have a character enter a scene wrapped in a towel in 1944. Sure it’s dated, but I felt like I needed to know how it all fit together. Impossible to stop watching in the middle. All the pieces fit.

“Archetypal film noir of the forties, brilliantly filmed and incisively written, perfectly capturing the decayed Los Angeles atmosphere of a Chandler novel but using a simpler story and more substantial characters. The hero/villain was almost a new concept.” — Halliwell’s DVD & Video Guide 2007

“The script packs fireworks in account of insurance salesman MacMurray coerced into murder plot by alluring Stanwyck and subsequent investigation by Fred’s colleague Edward G. Robinson. An American movie classic, with crackling dialogue throughout.” — Leonard Maltin’s 2005 Movie Guide

**** Halliwell’s #43 All-Time
8.5 #53 All-Time IMDB
**** Maltin

Double Indemnity @ Amazon

DOUBLE INDEMNITY

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2008

October 19, 2008
San Jose Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
80 Minutes — December 10, 2008 (limited)
Drama
Kelly Reichardt [Old Joy]
Michelle Williams [Dawson’s Creek; Dick; If These Walls Could Talk 2; The Station Agent; Brokeback Mountain; I’m Not There]

Another incredibly slow-moving (in the best possible way) story from Kelly Reichardt who also directed the quiet and beautiful OLD JOY, which was about two ex-hippies in search of an Oregon hot springs. This one is about Wendy, played with steadiness by Michelle Williams, a woman “just passing through” a tiny Oregon town when her car breaks down. She is on her way to the fisheries of Alaska in order to make some money. Her partner on this journey is Lucy, her loyal dog. We meet Wendy as she’s woken up by a security guard as she sleeps in her car. He wants to be kind to her, but rules are rules, and he helps her push the car off the Walgreen’s property.

Wendy keeps a log of money spent on her way to find fortune in the Klondike and her funds have dwindled lower than she’s comfortable with. She needs her car fixed and she needs some new dog food so she heads to a store where her urge to save a few more dollars results in a shoplifting charge which results in her dog being lost, which results in her world being turned upside down.

The plot isn’t much. Woman and dog break down on their way to Alaska. But to paraphrase Gene Siskel, it’s not what the film is about, but how it’s about what it’s about. Michelle Williams drops all of her glamor in order to play a woman who does all of her bathing in a Shell Station bathroom. She is distrustful of everyone but her dog. She is estranged in some way from her family, although we are never told what happened. Her license plates are from Indiana and she’s made it as far as Oregon. She doesn’t really hesitate to shoplift, she is comfortable around the homeless who join her in line to recycle cans. She also constantly hums the same tune as she walks from place to place. The time frame of the film is probably three days. And some of the scenes are made up of the mundane things one does while waiting for a car to be fixed, or in Wendy’s case, the auto repair shop to open.

Strangers help her and she helps strangers. The film can be seen as an example of the hidden underclass whereby one financial emergency (or simply a larger-than-expected bill) can devastate a person. She has just about enough money to make it to Alaska–until her car breaks down. She moves in a working class circle. She laments the job market with the Walgreen’s guard. She has no address nor phone number to offer people if they ask. The slide into homelessness could not be more slippery. It’s been reported that the director began thinking of this story after hearing right-wing blowhards blame the victims of Katrina for not leaving New Orleans before the storm hit. Why didn’t they just hop in their SUVs and head north? There is a sizeable group of people for whom a tiny car repair, or a massive hurricane would alter their existence completely. As each new expense pops up for Wendy to deal with, Williams’ eyes reflect a barely-hanging-in-there sensibility. It’s no wonder the homeless guy she meets in the woods is talking to himself. Life is hard. You try your best to get by.

Williams is spectacular in the role. Her wide expressive eyes tell us that she can’t possibly accept another setback. She stays mostly silent, except when speaking with her dog. The unconditional love of a pet might just be keeping her alive. There are scenes of Williams’ face when speaking to a store manager, a cop, a dog pound employee, where she hits it just perfectly. She has realistic breakdowns and seems to bring out the best in people with her open, available face.

And I probably won’t forget the scene involving a tiny kindness by the security guard. I may have teared up.

This film isn’t for everyone. You will feel every one of its 80 minutes. There are long passages where nothing happens and nothing is said. A substantial part of my enjoyment was probably based upon my own life. I have slept in my car (an Acura, not an Accord) in chain store parking lots in Oregon. I’ve been awoken by cops in the morning and told to move on. I’ve taken a train through the Pacific Northwest surrounded by other young people on their way to the canneries. I’ve had cross-country trips stalled because my VW couldn’t go another mile. I’ve “just passed through” most of the towns in Oregon and Washington and Northern California.

My love of the vibe and pacing of this film may be because I’ve been in Wendy’s exact situation, and it certainly rang true for me watching it unfold on the screen.

Like OLD JOY, give WENDY AND LUCY a chance to wash over you. Don’t watch it if you’re already tired. Just observe and you’ll be rewarded.

7.9 IMDB

WENDY AND LUCY

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2008

October 15, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English
113 Minutes — October 3, 2008
Drama / Romance
Jonathan Demme [Melvin And Howard; Swing Shift; Stop Making Sense; Something Wild; Married To The Mob; The Silence Of The Lambs; Philadelphia]

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RACHEL GETTING MARRIED is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 62. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 RACHEL GETTING MARRIED Discussion – Part 1
• Break
• 18:17 RACHEL GETTING MARRIED Discussion – Part 2
• Break
• 33:07 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 33:37 The Last Five®
• 48:56 Credits and Outtakes

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8.2 Metacritic
6.8 IMDB

Rachel Getting Married @ Amazon

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED

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The Star Maker
1995

Netflix DVD
Italy
Italian
113 Minutes — March 8, 1995
Drama
Giuseppe Tornatore [Cinema Paradiso; Malena]

In Sicily in the mid-50s, a traveling con man offers townspeople the chance of stardom if they give him money to make a screen test.

Another Tornatore story of a small Sicilian village and the quirks that thrive there. This time, a van drives in to small village after small village announcing that for one day only, screen tests will be administered in the tent by a world-famous personal friend to American movie stars. For only 1500 lira, of course. This is an opportunity for Tornatore to have unique Italian faces recite monologues about all manner of subjects. Some are too frightened to speak on camera, some use the opportunity to right a wrong or lobby for a husband. Some have faces that glow–others are cold and blank. Then he packs up his worthless film and heads to the next town. Everyone comes out–smart judges, dumb farmers, the local police chief, the mafia don–all hoping for that elusive stardom that our hero is quick to never promise. Because it’s Italy and the lure of fame is so great, our hero–while ridiculing the simple people he is rooking–only occasionally takes a beautiful woman up on her offer of non-currency payment for his services.

We also get a genuine beautiful discovery. This time, a simple milkmaid, who is obviously the most beautiful girl in Sicily, is played by someone named Tiziana Lodato, who after a bit of eyebrow plucking, is more than ready for her closeup.

Tornatore has his signature unbroken shot sweeping through alleyways and near fishing villages and around townspeople as they congregate outside of the screen test tent. He also finds these fabulous faces of people we assume have never acted before. And like Malena, there is a savage beating that seems to take place from a different film altogether.

But the travelogue aspects of a man in a van traveling around Sicily will keep you entertained throughout.

* Halliwells — “A road movie about people’s dreams and disappointments, too schematic to be entirely successful.”
7.1 IMDB

The Star Maker @ Amazon

THE STAR MAKER

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2008

Campbell CA — Camera 7
USA
English / Hebrew / Arabic / Persian / Spanish
101 Minutes — October 3, 2008
Documentary
Larry Charles [Borat; Curb Your Enthusiasm]

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RELIGULOUS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 61. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 RELIGULOUS Discussion
• Break
• 27:42 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 28:24 The Last Five®
• Break
• 46:51 Listener Last Five® (12-year-old Charlie)
• 54:28 Credits and Outtakes

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5.5 Metacritic
7.4 IMDB

Religulous @ Amazon

RELIGULOUS

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Written by Michael W. Cummins