Posts Tagged “8.5”

1958

Netflix DVD
USA
English
129 Minutes — May 28, 1958
Crime / Mystery / Romance / Thriller
Alfred Hitchcock [The 39 Steps; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Notorious; Rear Window; To Catch A Thief; North By Northwest; Psycho; The Birds; Frenzy]

#2 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

A detective with a fear of heights is drawn into a complex plot in which a girl he loves apparently falls to her death. Then he meets her double.

“Double identity thriller which has many sequences in Hitchcock’s best style. A film as unsettling as the phobia it deals with, keeping its audience dizzy and off balance throughout.” — **** — Halliwell’s.

“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My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first.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.

James Stewart…John Scottie Ferguson
Kim Novack…Madeleine Elster
Barbara Bel Geddes…Midge Wood

The Top 10 films of all time (based on that holy list I love) goes: Kane, this film, Rules Of The Game, 2001, 8 1/2, Godfather, Searchers, Samurai, Singing In The Rain, Potemkin.

One of these things is not like the other. And that thing is VERTIGO. There is no way that VERTIGO is the second best film ever made. No way.

Stewart is his usual charming, natural self. Novack is wooden at best and terrible at worst. Bel Geddes is entirely charming as the BFF of Scottie who has real feelings for him.

Positives:

–Hitchcock took the most beautiful city in North America and made it look even more beautiful somehow. It makes me want to drive up to The City to find Scottie’s apartment right now.
–The give and take between Scottie and Midge is pretty great.
–The sexual obsession of Stewart is pretty strong for a film made in 1958. He essentially can’t get turned on unless his date is made into another woman for him.
–Novack is pretty hot, especially in either a white coat or a black dress.
–Colors and angles are all superb, as you’d expect from Hitchcock (who apparently never looked through the camera during filmmaking).

Negatives:

–They fell in love too easily.
–How did Scottie get off the ledge in the first scene?
–Way too much following of people.
–Stewart: 50 years old; Novack: 25 years old. Um, of course he’s attracted to her.

Scottie is recuperating from his brush with death after chasing a criminal over the rooftops of San Francisco. An old college friend (though clearly living in England) asks him to follow his wife who is apparently under the spell of or possessed by a woman who died long ago. Scottie follows her and she’s gorgeous and she’s troubled and she jumps into San Francisco Bay and he had to take her wet clothes off and put her in his bed, so naturally he believes he’s in love with her. And we are asked to believe it as well. Her possession and sadness cause her to do herself harm and he spends half an hour seeing her in every other blonde in San Francisco.

And he doesn’t realize that an attractive, artistic, intelligent woman is his for the asking. Plus, she’ll fix him dinner and pour him bourbon.

Fabulous San Francisco locations. Great music.

I mean, it doesn’t suck. It’s pretty good and it was probably a big deal when it came out. But why all the praise?

I was surprisingly disappointed.

8.5 IMDB (Number 45 All Time)

VERTIGO

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2007

January 18, 2009
San Jose Camera Cinema Club
Vietnam / USA
Vietnamese
97 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Stephane Gauger

10-year-old Thuy runs away from her mean (but not too mean) uncle’s bamboo blind factory and heads for Saigon after he yells at her when she makes a production mistake. She breaks open her piggy bank, gives away some items to friends, and is on her way. She shows up in the bustling city with one outfit and a pink princess backpack containing her two beloved dolls. She falls in with the other kids who try to make a living on the street, selling postcards, food, or roses. No one she comes into contact with is particularly sinister and all have advice for the new girl in town: “customers can’t say no if you have a good story.”

Meanwhile, a flight attendant checks into her regular room at a rather-nice hotel. She is 26 and attractive, with a good job. But she finds herself meeting a married pilot for an afternoon of non-feeling sex. Of course, he’ll never leave his wife. Lan knows this, but she falls back into easy patterns of behavior. “I’m not good at dating” she tells a setup over dinner after she sneaks out the back way. The people she comes into contact with can’t seem to figure out why she’s single.

Across town, at the Saigon City Zoo, Hai tends to the animals, especially his favorite young elephant who has been sold to a zoo in India. Hai was recently dumped by his beautiful, high-maintenance fiance. “She just changed her mind” he says. When asked why he’s single, he replies that he’s not the type of man women like. Hai gets more enjoyment from the animals, having grown up living at the zoo while his father worked as a zookeeper.

We know that somehow these three intricately drawn characters will cross each other’s paths. But before they do, we already care what happens to them. It’s the weirdest thing. We fear for the young girl’s safety in the big city, of course, but we also want Hai and Lan to be happy almost from the moment we meet them. Their loneliness is written all over their faces. In fact, the runaway little girl seems to be happier than the two adults.

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The film is shot with hand-held cameras which take us right into the crowded alleyways and shops of the city. We’re in traffic with the characters, we experience what they experience. The city is every bit as big a part of this film as Mumbai was for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

The anchor of the story is young Thuy. A non-professional actor chosen for the part with just two days to learn the lines before shooting, it can’t be overstated what a screen presence she is. Her open, trusting face and her ability to carry us along with her as she meets every challenge with calm thoughtfulness. She is given a crash course in sales by the other children. She never complains about her fate; “I’m used to sleeping on the floor–it’s good for the back.” She seems genuinely touched when someone shows her a kindness. And the first adult to do so is zookeeper Hai. He lets her feed the elephants sugarcane, he explains the hidden dangers of some of the animals. She follows him around as he does his duties, he offers her lunch (which she needs to protect from his pet Orangutan). She doesn’t talk in the way of wise-beyond-their-years child actors that we’re used to. She seems to suck everything in and digest it before speaking. By the same token, she isn’t afraid to ask questions of her adult friends. A favorite is “why are you alone?” which is typically answered with “you ask too many questions, sometimes.”

Thuy meets Lan while trying to sell her a rose as she eats alone after another miserable date. Lan sees something in the young girl. An honesty, perhaps. A girl who isn’t so different from Lan when she was 10. Or maybe Lan just needs something to live for; something to protect. Whatever the cause, a simple sharing of some Pho turns into an offer of a roof over her head. Thuy is beside herself with appreciation. Lan is happy for the company, even when Thuy applies Lan’s makeup while she sleeps to see what it’s like to be a grown-up.

Young Han Thi Pham inhabits the role of Thuy as if she’s living her life in front of our eyes. Part of that is probably due to the hand-held cameras which captured what was happening without lengthy setups or too large a crew. Thuy sees that what both of her adult protectors are missing is each other. She mentions them to each other and finally tries to arrange a meeting at a restaurant. The scenes of the three of them, each adult holding one of Thuy’s hands, is nothing short of magical.

There are something we know while watching OWL AND THE SPARROW. The uncle will search, the authorities will find out she’s a runaway, there will be a scene in a (pleasant) orphanage, tears will flow, children will be ripped out of arms. But the ending is never in doubt. The zookeeper’s lower status, the flight attendant’s far-away job, and the girl’s relatives are all merely speedbumps on the way to the inevitable. And I loved every minute of it.

OWL AND THE SPARROW is being self-released and is playing in pockets of California now.

8.5 IMDB

OWL AND THE SPARROW

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2006

December 21, 2008
September 16, 2006
DVD — Thanks, Paul
USA
English
106 Minutes — August 11, 2006
Drama
Ryan Fleck
Ryan Gosling [Remember The Titans; The Believer; The Notebook; Lars And The Real Girl]

Secrets Don’t Let Go.

A teacher in an inner-city middle school has a heroin habit — a fact discovered but kept secret by one of his pupils, a 13-year-old girl. He tries to protect her from unseemly influences in her life out of school, and they strike up a cautious friendship.

“Hey Teach, can I ask you something?”
“Mmm-hmm”
“What’s it feel like when you smoke that stuff?”

And then the look on Ryan Gosling’s face somehow tells us how hard the struggle is inside him. The struggle against drugs and the struggle to remain a viable and worthwhile role model to the students he teaches. This was my favorite film of 2006 and I was again captivated by Gosling’s realistic (and realistically flawed) performance as a caring teacher by day, basehead by night.

One father figure for Drey is the local drug dealer, who has a stable home life, a nice car, and whose worse vice appears to be an addiction to peppermint candies. The other father figure is a schoolteacher, who can barely make rent, hooks up with strangers in bars, and is addicted to all sorts of substances. Neither are good for her. Both truly care about her.



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HALF NELSON is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 7. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here. (note: the audio quality back then wasn’t particularly good–I breathe heavily during this episode–sorry):

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 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 1
• Break
• 20:56 HALF NELSON Discussion, Part 2
• Break
• 31:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 32:36 The Last Five®
• Break
• 47:12 Corrections
• Break
• 49:19 Surprise Segment
• 56:42 Credits and outtakes

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“It’s a thinly disguised battle of wills over the future of an adolescent girl between two improbable saviors, but the writing and characterizations are so strong that the story never feels reduced to such a bald formula. Instead, the script is full of intriguing grace notes; Dan’s ambivalence about growing up, Drey’s wisdom that often gives way to her child-like qualities; and the pact between the two, which in context seems oddly believable. And it’s rare that one sees an actor inhabit a role as meticulously as Gosling does here.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“The script deals steadily with enduring racial and social divisions in America by pitching the liberal thinking of the classroom against the reality of the street. Gosling and Epps, a most unusual and effective pair, show real commitment.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

8.5 Metacritic
7.5 IMDB
** Halliwell’s

Half Nelson @ Amazon

HALF NELSON

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2008

December 3, 2008
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
UK / USA
English / Hindi
120 Minutes — November 12, 2008
Comedy / Crime / Drama / Romance
Danny Boyle [Shallow Grave; Trainspotting; The Beach; 28 Days Later; Millions] & Loveleen Tandan

It’s hard to describe just how “cool” this movie is. Which is a terrible way to refer to any kind of film. “Cool”.

A young man from the slums of Mumbai is a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The host can barely contain his contempt. Everyone expects him to exit the game early. But he continues to answer questions correctly, captivating all of India in the process. Most of the film is told in flashback as each question he is asked on the show reminds him of a part of his life. If the question is about US currency, he flashes back to a time when he was a hundred dollar bill. This is clearly unrealistic but sometimes, as the screen shows us early “It is written”. These flashbacks provide and opportunity for us to watch the visual styling of Danny Boyle, who is working out of his European element here. Jamal and his brother are first played by tiny Indian boys who live in an enormous slum just outside the gates of an airport. They spend their time playing cricket, trying their luck at money-making schemes, and outrunning the corrupt police.

There is thumping music, colorful fabrics, slow motion and shaky camera work. It is incredibly exciting.

The boys are compelling and respond to heartbreak with a seen-it-all attitude. They become orphaned and pick up a “third musketeer” along the way.

The film continually moves between the present-day quiz show and the incidents in Jamal’s life that led him to know answers that he has no right knowing.

It is loud and exciting and is a great mixture of western and Indian filmmaking. I loved it.





8.5 Metacritic
8.6 Critical Consensus
8.6 IMDB

Slumdog Millionaire @ Amazon

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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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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1949

June 24, 2008
Netflix Criterion DVD
UK
English / German / Russian
104 Minutes
Film-Noir / Mystery / Thriller
Carol Reed [Oliver!]
#24 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 version of the list I used 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.

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THE THIRD MAN is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 54. 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 THE THIRD MAN Discussion
• Break
• 16:23 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 16:47 The Last Five®
• Break
• 25:36 Average Matt
• Break
• 32:10 Tassoula’s 5 Favorites from SIFF
• Break
• 49:29 Show Notes
• 51:56 Credits and Outtake

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An American pulp fiction writer goes to Vienna to meet an old friend and finds that he has disappeared in sinister circumstances.

An unintelligent but tenacious writer of Westerns arrives in post-war Vienna to join his old friend Harry Lime, who seems to have met with an accident…or has he?

Oscar Winner: Cinematography Robert Krasker
Oscar Nominee: Director Carol Reed, Editor Oswald Hafenrichter

#18 All Time Halliwell’s
#49 All Time IMDB
**** Halliwell’s
**** Ebert
**** Maltin
8.5 IMDB

THE THIRD MAN

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Written by Michael W. Cummins