Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Ferrari (Michael Mann, 2023)

Fast car

(Warning: plot and story discussed in explicit detail)

Michael Mann's Ferrari continues his tradition of depicting work-obsessed introverted men but with a key difference: Enzo Ferrari was reportedly more gregarious till the death of his son Dino at the age of 24 from muscular dystrophy. Mann doesn't make the obvious connection, just shows the aftereffects: Enzo depressed and focused on his beloved racing cars with a singleminded ferocity. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Experiment Perilous (Jacques Tourneur, 1944)

Glass menagerie

Experiment Perilous isn't the best-known Tourneur and critics of the time compare it unfavorably to Gaslight, with Hedy Lamarr's Allida Bederaux in the Ingrid Bergman role of tormented housewife, Paul Lukas as Nick her husband, and George Brent as therapist Dr. Huntington Bailey, who comes from the outside world seeking to help Allida. 

Indiana Jones movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade)

Indiana Jones and the series of doom

Remember enjoying Raiders of the Lost Ark when it came out in 1981; hadn't seen the matinee serials that inspired producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg, but did respond to the junky theme-park ride feel (actually it wasn't so much a theme park ride (that came later) as it was a traveling carnival, complete with walking freaks, lurid exhibits, the hint of sex, and thrills galore). The picture shambled and lurched horribly (there wasn't much of a plot to speak of) but that was part of the charm, and it moved with agreeable speed (the huge fiberglass boulder threatening to roll over Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) pretty much set the pace and tone of the picture).

Caridad (from 'Fe, Esperanza, Caridad,' Gerardo de Leon, 1974)

A love profane

If anyone doubted Filipina singer/actress Nora Aunor's popularity in the late '60s to early '70s one only had to glance at her filmography, during which period she was on something worse than a hot streak, doing an unbelievable seventy or so films in seven years, from 1967 onwards. 

Monday, December 11, 2023

The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)

Angry birds

Both a pain and a pleasure to write about a new Hayao Miyazaki film-- a pleasure because for some three years after the man's previous last film it looked as if he had really retired and for seven years after looked as if he'd never finish the film before, well, you know. But finish he did, and now pain comes from the possibility this may really be his last-- he's 82, the picture certainly feels like a summation, and as high points go this as good as any to bow out on. 

Saturday, December 09, 2023

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, 2013)

Skyward bound 

(Warning-- article discusses Miyazaki's film (and his manga Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) in some detail, including plot twists and surprises. 

In short-- see the film (maybe read the manga) first)

Can't help but feel a sharp pang watching The Wind Rises (2013), knowing this to be Hayao Miyazaki's last feature; can't help but see this as a valedictory work, a summing up of his thoughts and feelings about art and aviation and everything else at this point in his life. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki, 2023)

War Godzilla

Takashi Yamazaki's Godzilla Minus One is basically what you'd get if you made a Godzilla movie based on an actual script-- y'know, with a narrative arc populated by real characters having human interactions. Not a completely radical concept-- Ishiro Honda's Godzilla (1954) featured a love triangle between an embittered scientist, his fiancĂ©e, and a salvage ship captain-- but for perhaps the first time (or at least one of the rare times) since the original we have a storyline more compelling than just 'oversized radioactive reptile stomps Tokyo.' 

Monday, December 04, 2023

Silent Night (John Woo, 2023)

When you have to shoot shoot, don't talk 

John Woo's latest brings to mind Norma Desmond's immortal lines: "There was a time when I had the eyes of the whole world. But that wasn't good enough for them O no-- they had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk talk talk...

"You'll make a rope of words and strangle this business. With a microphone to catch the last gurgles and Technicolor to photograph the red swollen tongue."

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Napoleon (Ridley Scott, 2023)

Make love, not war

Ridley Scott at his best can be an immersive filmmaker and with the opening of his latest feature Napoleon he manages to locate you in the middle of the Place de Revolution, 1793, where a wood cart wheels one Marie Antoinette to the guillotine. Lovely little vignette with the queen (Catherine Walker) standing stoically while folks jeer and pelt her with rocks and rotting vegetables (a tomato stain marking her bosom like a scarlet letter). Some trouble fitting the stock onto her neck-- these are the little details that help you believe the reality of her oncoming death, and when the executioner picks up the head by its locks and shakes it at the roaring crowd you watch the expression closely wondering if you might catch it blink (you don't). Apocryphally Napoleon (Joaquin Phoenix) stands in the sidelines, watching.