Another Woman

Another Woman. Woody Allen. 1988.

Oh, this is the first Allen movie with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and it looks very Bergmanish indeed. Which I love.

But it’s more style than substance. This is part of Allen’s series about rich, cultured Manhattan denizens that made me abandon Allen in the first place. Gena Rowlands is great, but there’s a lot of dicey performances here, and basically all the lines are hair-raisingly artificial.

Rowlands saves the movie.

The Amazing Adventure

The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss. Alfred Zeisler. 1936.

This is another public domain movie, so it hasn’t been restored, and the audio is rather bad on this copy. But Cary Grant is Cary Grant.

This British movie seems a bit… basic. American movies of this era were more technically accomplished, I think? Yeah. There’s a lot of clumsiness when moving the camera around and some non-ideal blocking.

It’s a pretty classic storyline: Rich guy pretending to be poor to prove some obscure point. There’s so much fun to be had within that framework, but this feels so… abbreviated. They’ve got one fun scenario in, and then the next one is kinda really beyond absurd, and then it’s almost over. It’s really sloppy, lazy writing. I wonder whether the original 1920 movie was better, because the script to this one by horror movie writer Balderston is such a wasted opportunity.

It’s hard not to enjoy watching a Cary Grant movie, though.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Bretaigne Windust. 1957.

I bought two DVD box sets of public domain movies… and this was the only movie that was on both of them. So perhaps it’s really really good?

Or perhaps is just one of the very few public domain movies that are in colour. Because as we got to the late 50s, the companies got wise to the worth of even catalogues of B movies: You could sell them to all the new TV stations that were starved for content.

So from now on the rights were snapped up from the estates of bankrupt movie companies.

I think! I haven’t read a comprehensive history of the business side of this era, but that’s what I’ve pieced together from tid-bits. It may be wrong! Don’t listen to me!

But… this movie is… pretty tedious. It’s all in cod-oldee tymey rhymey, and kind uninteresting.

I bailed after half an hour.

Made For Each Other

Made For Each Other. John Cromwell. 1939.

I thought this was from the no-frills 50 DVD box I bought… but this seems like a too expensive movie, and I can’t see why it’d be in the public domain. I mean, it’s a Selznick movie!

With real stars!

So perhaps it’s from a separate DVD… but… I can’t find it…

Lombard is great and Stewart is Stewart, but this is a pretty odd vehicle for them. It’s not a very high concept movie at all: It’s about two pretty normal middle class people and their frustrations with their employers and family.

It’s got a nice light touch. It’s not actually funny, but it’s amusing. It’s all about frustrations and embarrassing situations and stuff.

This doesn’t seem surprising:

Reception

The film lost $292,000 at the box office.[1]

I really wonder what they were thinking when they made this movie. It’s such a hard sell plot-wise (i.e., the plot’s not there), so you’d expect it to be somehow interesting in other ways (huge laffs (no), exceptional screen chemistry between the leads (no), trenchant social commentary (no)), it’s just so odd that anybody worked to have this made.

Perhaps it went through a blanderizer, but was interesting at some point in the production history?

There are some good scenes in here.

Rhythm in the Clouds

Rhythm in the Clouds. John H. Auer. 1937.

I think I got this on a 50 DVD public domain DVD box set, so I didn’t have very high expectations. But it’s fun! The actors are really engaging and it moves has and everything is silly and wonderful.

Now, the gags aren’t really top notch or anything, but it’s just so amiable. I was smiling most of the time I was watching this.

The cinematography is surprisingly ambitious for this sort of trifle. Some nice dolly moves and some good larger scenes, but, of course, virtually all of the scenes are just a couple of people in a small room.

The songs are a bit on the lame side, though.

La macchina ammazzacattivi

The Machine That Kills Bad People. Roberto Rossellini. 1952.

I had no idea I had this movie: I had it ripped as “Fear” (1996) by James Foley…. which this isn’t. It’s by Rossellini (who also had a movie called “Fear”, which this isn’t.)

Very confusing.

Roberto Rossellini is probably more known for being the father of that other, more famous, Rossellini these days. And I have to admit (well, I don’t have to, but I’m doing so anyway) that I’ve seen very few of his movies. Stromboli… and that’s probably it.

A lavender print!?

Anyway, I don’t really get this movie. I mean, it’s a picaresque comedy with all the standard elements: Topless women, peeking-tom youths, priests, politicians… and a camera that kills people.

There’s a lot of great shots here, but even on a scene-by-scene basis, it just doesn’t cohere. Any scene may start out great and then just sort of dissolve into unsightly nonsense.

If anything in here had been actually funny, instead of being replete with signifiers of HERE THERE BE FUN, it would have helped, for sure. But even as non-funny as this is, it just should have been better.

It feels like I’m watching a parody of something I have no knowledge of.

Because this movie is so non-thrilling I’m kinda sitting here pondering other things… like whether anybody in, say, fifty years, will regard Italian movies from this era as just quaint artefacts, just because of how they were made. I mean, they were filmed without audio, and mostly without the actors knowing what the lines were (or were going to be), and then they had voice actors doing the lines afterwards, in the studio. So nobody’s lips ever match up with the audio, and sometimes the audio goes on for the double amount of syllables as the lips in the video.

I mean, I’m used to it and I don’t mind, but I can totally see people not being able to get past that simple thing…

Blackkklansman

Blackkklansman. Spike Lee. 2018.

I haven’t seen a Spike Lee movie in a while. Like a couple of decades. His early movies were really fresh and fun and really interesting on all levels (cinematography, story, style). He was like the US Lars von Trier for a couple of years. And then he made one boring movie, and then another boring movie, and then I stopped watching him.

But now I’m watching this, and loving it. It’s not very fresh or new or anything, but it’s a solid, interesting drama that’s not annoying in any way, which makes a change. It moves a long at a good pace, and it looks great, and it’s just very… well made. It’s like a movie that should win all the Oscars.

OK, that sounds like I’m totally slamming this movie, but I really like it, despite it not being very special. And that’s really special.

It’s really solid.

The only thing I had a hard time getting past was the wig the main character wears. There’s a lot of wigs in this movie, but they mostly look like, but the lead wig?

Dude

“John David [Washington]’s wig was made by myself and Chantell Carrtherol,” Pierre-Weston said. “She ventilated a few inches of his hairline and I just tracked the rest and colored it, picked it out. Shaun Perkins is my key. He really helped to shape the wig and give it that perfect roundness that we wanted.”

Yeah, that perfect roundness may have been what you wanted, but it screams FAKE in every scene.

The next-to-last bit (with the bomb plot) seems pretty contrived; it’s like they really wanted to have something super-dramatic, so they just dropped it in at random.

But then there’s the documentary coda.

Dude.

Last Stand At Saber River

Last Stand At Saber River. Dick Lowry. 1997.

I pulled the director of this movie up in imdb-mode, and I got:

“Errr” I thought, but by default (sensibly enough imdb-mode doesn’t show TV productions). But then I hit `x’ (to display all the irrelevant crap), and got:

This is a TV movie! Made by a TV director.

Oops. That explains Tom Selleck starring in this thing. The reason I have this movie is because I got this Westerns box set, which has a lot of great movies.

So perhaps I should give this a chance anyway…

OK, I’m 45 minutes in, and I have no interest in this, so I’m aborting.

人狼

Jin-Roh. Hiroyuki Okiura. 1999.

Oh, it’s animated. This was a DVD I picked up at random in a used DVD shop some time back, and I assumed that it was a… Korean… action movie? For some reason?

But it’s an animated Japanese movie about some anarchists and the cops who hunt them down.

I really like the style of animation here. It’s more French than anything, and some of the characters have this slight insectile vibe to them that’s great.

And it moves slowly and is mostly unscored, so there’s nothing here to dislike, really. But despite all that, the storyline is just so… tentative… that I find it hard to keep concentrating on what’s going on, and instead I’m shopping for springforms on the Interwebs.

The documentary featurette on the DVD is fascinating. The writer (the Ghost in the Shell Guy) talks about how he wasn’t sure that Okiura was the right director for this movie, and that while he likes the results, perhaps he should have directed it himself. The director talks about how he was pretty sure that he didn’t want to do the movie, and set terms for the story that he thought the writer would refuse, so that he wouldn’t have to do the movie.

It’s like the anti-Hollywood documentary. I love it.

Abre los ojos

Open Your Eyes. Alejandro Amenábar. 1997.

This movie is really fun, but they’ve made some strange choices with the protagonist. He’s consistently such douche canoe that the only thing you can possibly be thinking while this is all going on is “yea! torture him some more!”

The cinematography of this movie is what you find if you look in the dictionary under “blah”, but the performances are good and it’s kinda exciting.

Fun!