Friday, October 26, 2018

First Man (Damien Chazelle)

Huston we have a problem

You need to keep reminding yourself: Damien Chazelle's adaptation of James Hansen's biographical book First Man is not The Right Stuff and astronaut Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) is no Chuck Yeager nor was it--or he--meant to be. Question: does it still manage to stand on its own four radically redesigned fins?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018)

Star wars

There are as of this writing five count em five different versions of the story, of an ambitious young artist in love with a declining old star: George Cukor's What Price Hollywood? (1932) where film director Max Carey (Lowell Sherman) takes an interest in aspiring actress Mary Evans (Constance Bennett), based on a story by Adela Rogers St. John and Louis Stevens; William Wellman's A Star is Born (1937) where film star Norman Maine (Fredric March) spots aspiring actress Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor); Cukor's 1954 A Star is Born--for many the definitive version--where James Mason as Maine hooks up with Judy Garland as Blodgett; Frank Pierson's 1976 A Star is Born where Kris Kristofferson's John Norman Howard jumpstarts the career of Barbra Streisand's Esther Hoffman; and of course Bradley Cooper's spanking new version, with Cooper's Jackson Maine discovering Lady Gaga's Ally in a drag bar.

So which one's best? Well lemme tell you:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

Monster, Inc.

(CAUTION: plot and narrative twists--which aren't all that much and anyway aren't the heart of the film--to be discussed in explicit detail!)

Hard to believe Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro was seen as a too-risky project, and had to be double-featured in its original commercial run with Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, an adaptation of a well-known World War 2 short story. Both made a modest profit (the former earning $6.1 million in Japan and Europe according to Wikipedia) but Totoro went on to become a family favorite, earning $265 million home video sales in Japan and the USA (again according to Wiki--sometimes you wonder at their figures). Totoro has since grown into a small but persistent cultural phenomenon: Studio Ghibli (which produced the film) adopted the creature as its corporate logo; a Japanese astronomer named an asteroid 10160 Totoro; biologists have dubbed a Vietnamese velvet worm Eoperipatus totoro; and I've spotted stuffed toys being sold in Rotterdam stores.

Totoro is considered a family-friendly delight, purest sunshine and cheer. Some fans though make the case that the picture is darker than it seems, that despite the animator's reputation for creating epic adventures like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke this little production is his true masterpiece.

Thursday, October 04, 2018