Friday, August 5, 2016

Twelve more movies

[Twelve movies, three sentences each, no spoilers.]

Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking (dir. Les Blank, 1990). More Les Blank, more Marc Savoy, more food, more music. I like the repeated scenes of people loading up their plates: a lump of rice, a hunk of something else. Supporting cast: red pepper, black pepper, salt.


Gap-Toothed Women (dir. Les Blank, 1987). Minding the gap, from the Wife of Bath to Lauren Hutton and Sandra Day O’Connor. Not the essay in objectification I thought it would be. But neither does it pass the Bechdel test: each gap-toothed woman speaks only to the camera.


The Lost Weekend (dir. Billy Wilder, 1945). Ray Milland as Don Birnam, writer and alcoholic, with Jane Wyman as his long-suffering girlfriend, and Phillip Terry as his long-suffering brother. Markedly different from the novel (Don’s sexuality, the ending) but excellent on its own terms. I recommend the novel too, which begins with a sentence from James Joyce’s story “Counterparts”: “The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.”


Fitzcarraldo (dir. Werner Herzog, 1982). “The act of territorial acquisition is done step by step.” Klaus Kinski as Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, known as Fitzcarraldo, a white-suited fanatic attempting to realize his dream of opera in the Amazon. My favorite scene: Caruso v. Jivaro drums.

[Klaus Kinski as Fitzcarraldo broadcasting Caruso. Click for a larger view.]


Burden of Dreams (dir. Les Blank, 1982). The making of Fitzcarraldo is a story of determination against all odds. Werner Herzog was his own Fitzcarraldo, mastering an environment, or attempting to. The heart of darkness is here the heart of art.


Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (dir. Les Blank, 1980). The story goes that Herzog promised to eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed his film Gates of Heaven (1978). Morris did, and Herzog did. With help from the chef Alice Waters.


Ramona and Beezus (dir. Elizabeth Allen, 2010). In our household Sarah Polley is the one and only Ramona Quimby, but we’ve been reading Beverly Cleary, and when we saw a few minutes of this film by chance, we had to get it. It’s sweet, funny, and good for the whole family. A wonderful touch: not a cellphone or computer in sight.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson, 2014). Perfect for anyone who just happens to be reading Stefan Zweig. A beautiful, deliriously detailed treat, with moment after moment that calls for pausing and zooming. I would say what Umberto Eco said of Casablanca : The Grand Budapest Hotel is “the movies,” with all the delights to be found therein.

[“Who’s got the throat-slitter?” A Courtesan au chocolat from Mendl’s bakery, cut and shared with cellmates. Click for a larger view.]


Viridiana (dir. Luis Buñuel, 1961). A novice leaves her convent to visit her uncle. She’s a live ringer for his long-dead wife. Celibacy and lust, purity and degradation, with strong overtones of Vertigo and a Brueghel-like Last Supper.

[Click for a larger view.]


Grand Hotel (dir. Edmond Goulding, 1932). Great Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, and Wallace Beery, all sojourning under various names or guises. This is the film in which Garbo famously said that she wanted to be alone. Is it heresy to think that Crawford steals the show?


Joy (dir. David O. Russell, 2015). A plucky mother of two (Jennifer Lawrence) invents a new and better kind of mop and triumphs on QVC. A thoughtful depiction of creativity against the backdrop of a complicated, imperfect, often unsupportive family. But the final thirty minutes feel like a contrived attempt to create further drama when the story has already come to an end.


Tickled (dir. David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, 2016). Much of what’s here has been on record for some years. No matter, though: Farrier and Reeve are figuring it out for themselves. What begins as a light look into a quirky online subculture turns into a story of immense cruelty, shame, and sorrow.

What would you recommend?

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Fourteen more : Thirteen more : Twelve more : Another thirteen more : Another dozen : Yet another dozen : Another twelve : And another twelve

comments: 7

Chris said...

Recommended: Scarlet Street (dir. Fritz Lang, 1945), with Edward G. Robinson, Dan Duryea, and Joan Bennett. A film noir I had the weird feeling of having watched before, until I realized that it was because it has the same principle cast members and director (as well as a vaguely similar plot) as The Woman in the Window, which I saw a year or so ago. Great fun.

Not recommended: The Lobster. Turned it off halfway. A kind of self-consciously quirky black comedy that doesn't manage to be either funny or intriguing.

Pete said...

Lost Weekend; I'll never forget the visual image of Birnam slumped in his armchair, despairing that there wasn't a drop left to drink in the apartment, only to glance upward and see the silhouette of a pint bottle concealed in the globe of the ceiling light. The expression that came to his face was almost beatific. I've been meaning to read the novel since it was reissued a few years ago.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Chris. I’m a fan of both Lang movies. I noticed a poster for The Lobster (the lead looks like the young Van Dyke Parks), but watching the trailer cooled my interest.

Pete, there was a recent biography of Charles Jackson too. I’ve been meaning to get it (or request it) from the library.

Fresca said...

I love your mini-reviews, you know.
I must write up a few of my own now.
Yes, now.
I am going to do it now.

Michael Leddy said...

I wish more people did. Word of mouth (or hand? typing?) is a powerful thing. I found out about Mike Leigh from one of your posts, yeah? (Yeah, as someone would say in one of his films.)

Frex said...

i know--i learn about movies from you too, and
i'm thrilled if i introduced you to mike leigh--
oh, now i remember--it was the happy middle-aged couple one!
(another year)

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, that was the one. I think we’ve seen seven so far. There was one we had to give up on — no subtitles, and really hard to understand. But that one was probably wonderful too.