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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Tess (Roman Polanski, 1979)




Sharon Tate gave husband Roman Polanski a copy of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles and told him that she thought it would be a good project for both of them. It was only after she was murdered that he got around to reading the novel and became excited about making a film of it. The results contain some of Polanski's most-beautiful imagery while reinforcing his theme of the darkness of human existence. Tess (played surprisingly effectively by teenager (Nastassja Kinski) is an innocent Wessex girl who's used by both her poor (but truly loving) family and two men she meets who seemingly represent two different sides of Victorian masculinity.

The plot to Tess is not confusing and presented rather straightforwardly. I'm not sure if I should go into it and too much detail. However, I will mention that the opening long shot should immediately draw any viewer into the movie. It shows a country road and we begin to hear music playing and see people approaching. It turns out that many people from the local village are going out to a field to have an evening May dance. As the people dance by the camera, we see young Tess among them, and as they pass by, we see the intersecting road where Tess's poor, drunken father (John Collin) is walking home and the local vicar passes by him on horseback, addressing him as "Sir John". It turns out that the vicar is an "antiquarian" who has studied the important high families in the area and determined that John Durbeyfield is actually descended from the House of d'Urberville. Unfortunately, the line is all dead, except for him and there is no money or property left. This sets the film in motion and begins Tess's tragic journey through misery and betrayal, and it's all the more unfortunate and powerful because she is a true innocent.

It's at the dance at the beginning that Tess first lays eyes on Angel Clare (Peter Firth), a free-living, blonde young son of a parson, but he picks another girl to dance with. Angel disappears from the rest of the opening act of the film, but Tess encounters another man in the form of Alec d'Urberville (Leigh Lawson), the son of an old woman who the family hopes is a rich relation who will help them. It turns out that all Alec cares about is getting his hands on Tess's beauty and doing with it what he will. That's enough of the plot, I believe, but needless to say that things are never truly happy for Tess for very long from here on in. She does meet Angel again, and they have a true romance, but as I said above...

Tess is a scrumptious experience for both the eyes and the ears. Geoffrey Unsworth (Cabaret, Murder on the Orient Express) was the cinematographer, but unfortunately, he died while working on the film. After that, the filmmakers enlisted Ghislain Cloquet (Love and Death, Au hasard Balthazar) to finish the shooting, and both men were awarded the Oscar for Cinematography. Philippe Sarde composed what may be his greatest score, full of both beautiful melodies and ominous overtones, and although it was nominated for an Oscar, he somehow lost out to Michael Gore's Fame score. Polanski's work is not only technically flawless but very empathic to the character of Tess. The acting of all the principal characters is very good and adds to Tess's power to transport a viewer to another time and place. One of the film's producers, Claude Berri, is also the director of Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, two other projects which were filmed in the French countryside. [That's correct, although set in Hardy's "Wessex" (southwestern England), the film was shot in France because England's farms were all too modernized to use for filming.] I mention this because I will be watching those two French films soon because I just got them in the mail. I'm anxious to see if they were filmed on any of the same locations. I can't recall since it's been awhile since I've seen the Pagnol films.
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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1971)



First off, I think we should all acknowledge lines as MoFo's true anarchist. I realize that he may not want this adulation, but tough, you got it, Mister. I just watched Even Dwarfs Started Small, and I only now find that lines hasn't posted about it in here! I did read the two posts you commented about it. Now, I don't feel like I'm actually capable of commenting on Herzog's Even Dwarfs Started Small, but how can someone watch that film and not have to comment on something?

I'll try to go into more in-depth, but a few first impressions:

The film begins at a police station. Although we never see the police, they all seem to be dwarfs too, based on their voices. By the way, although the film starts with a flashback, we never actually get past the opening scene, so what was the point, Mr. Anarchist Herzog?

The setting is whack. Apparently, Herzog shot it in the Canary Isands, a place he considered comparable to the lunar landscape, but the music used in the film almost implies that it's elsewhere. The opening song begins as if it's Greek and then sung by an Arab, but apparently, it's sung by a young girl from the Canary Islands who Herzog approached to sing something haunting in a cave. The other main song is obviously a West African anthem, but once again, its use is probably political.

This Herzog film is almost impossible to describe. Herzog claims that it's "incredibly dark", but I've always found him to be a bit lacking in a sense of humor, since I think it's an absurdist comedy masquerading as something serious. Come on now, how can anybody consider the Monkey Passion Play as serious? Most of the film is serious. The leading character, Helmut Döring, cackles maniacally as if Mike Judge paid him to do the laughter for Beavis and Butthead. Then there's that awesome entomological scene where the beetle has a Top Hat.

This film is basically about anarchy; it's not about how cute "dwarfs" can be; it's about the end of the world. My interpretation is that everyone in the movie is a dwarf. Watching Even Dwarfs Started Small, you also get the idea that Herzog is an auteur, but, hey, I don't think that he buys it.



As far as Even Dwarfs Start Small goes, I find it to be an absurdist comedy. As far as I can tell, the world of this movie is completely comprised of dwarfs. True, there are dead animals, and I find it strange that there are NOT more dead people/creatures at this time. I'm getting tired.

Alright now, as far as my rating goes, this is one of the few films I've ever seen where I can accept ANY rating from 0-10 which anyone wants to contribute. I find the film, alternately, fascinating, offputting, hilarious, depressing, spectacular, boring, deep, superficial, visually-impressive, drab, well-acted-and-directed, amateurish, honest, exploitative, the list goes on and on... Herzog apparently felt very strong kinship with his cast, and it mostly shows. One thing I find amusing is that one of the female cast members is a dead ringer for Klaus Kinski!! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to share this with my younger brother. I believe he'd flip for it, but I might not see him again before Christmas, and I'm not sure I could subject the family to this as "The Christmas Movie". I'm going to watch it a few more times because it's very haunting, and I'll adjust my rating if I feel it's appropriate. If anyone is fascinated by Tod Browning's Freaks, they should watch this film. If you listen to the commentary, you will learn that Herzog is a bit naive about the history of the distribution of Freaks. Herzog says that he didn't see Freaks (another flick which I recommend but only give
- raised to
recently) until after he finished Even Dwarfs Started Small, but Herzog felt that Browning never understood how great his film was because he started it with an apology. Since Herzog couldn't even legitimately release this film in his home country of Germany, he should know that the apology at the beginning of Freaks has nothing to do with Browning, but rather was required by Universal's founder, Carl Laemmle's, son "Junior", who was in charge of the studio during its Monster Heyday.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2008)


This documentary film begins with spiritiual choirs on the soundtrack while the viewer is privileged to see things which almost no one on Earth has ever seen. The opening scenes, shot in the water under Antarctica, caused my wife to exclaim that "That's got to be really cold!" While I agreed with her, I remarked that it must be "warmer" than the frozen ground above since there was at least some water, so the temperature had to be ABOVE freezing. Herzog does a good job of trying to explain what's going on in Antarctica (he doesn't like how it seems like the underarm of the U.S.), but he does seem to be attracted to all the offbeat characters who seem to have been shook down to the end (bottom) of the earth. It's amazing; there are numerous linguists (Antarctica has no native language), computer experts, "travelers", quite a few "ex-Soviets", "alternative" scientists (meaning scientists who believe that the neutrino could actually be evidence of a God!!)

Herzog also goes into the history of man's attempt to reach the South Pole a century ago, and he's not terribly happy with the jingoistic approach of the entire thing. Herzog seems to be a humanist who dislikes academia (remember my recent quote?), but doesn't mind using an academic scientist to pitch the idea that you can actually find God even in the most remote part of the world, or perhaps, Herzog's point is that it's easier to find God out in the middle of nowhere, or, if it's not actually God, it's easier to consider that Mankind really knows far less than he believes he does, and there's a good chance, he never will grasp "basic truths".



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Ladyhawke (Richard Donner, 1985)


Ladyhawke is one of those films which will probably mean more to you the older you are. I could be wrong, but it does have Matthew Broderick as a wise-cracking teenage pickpocket in medieval times who's thrust into the middle of a romantic mystery which is the thing of legends. Right off the bat, it's got hip humor, the John Hughes teenage audience would be attracted to it, the sword-and-sorcery crowd which was popular in the '80s, and even fans of the prog rock band The Alan Parsons Project may get into it. Alan Parsons composed the anachronistic score which does tend to scare off some younger viewers, but the film also has Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer just about to reach the heights of their popularity in mainstream entertainments, so, as I say, it's got a lot going for it for people who like '80s films. I've never had a problem liking a film from any era, at least if it's entertaining and/or artistic, so sure, Ladyhawke is a winner. I'm sure the plot must not be completely original, but just in case it is, the plot about cursed lovers who are turned into animals at the exact same time their beloved becomes human, is one of the better I've ever heard of, so that's good enough for me.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Sahara (Zoltan Korda, 1943)


This is one of the films Bogart made to help "win WWII", and it's amazing to watch today as a way to get into the mind of Americans during that war. Bogie is a Sergeant in charge of one lone tank, and he's got only two American soldiers (Dan Duryea and Bruce Bennett) left in his crew when he receives orders to head south to escape the Nazis who have just overrun Tobruk. Along the way south, the tank encounters some English/South African soldiers whom they pick up, as well as a Sudanese Muslim, a Frenchman, an Italian prisoner, and eventually, a Nazi. Meanwhile, a German battalion approaches the same dying well where the American tank tries to extract as much water as possible. It's really interesting to hear how all the Allies can get along with each other, and in this case, the Italian renounces any fascist leanings he had to advocate, even in the face of the "controlling" Nazi. It'a also prescient to hear an American talk to a Muslim about how he's able to have multiple wives, but both men have only one, and it's because they've found the right one and wouldn't ever want to upset her! In between the believable character development and dialogue, there are plenty of exciting action scenes, so this Sahara is well worth anyone's time. Besides, Bogie plays a character with the cool name of Joe Gunn.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008)


I watched Van Sant's To Die For just after I watched Milk, so I tried to reconcile how I felt about both films since, aside from Good Will Hunting, they are probably the director's most mainstream films. What I noticed was that both To Die For and Milk tell their stories from multiple perspectives, yet from a mostly-linear way of storytelling. I was a little taken aback, since I'm well aware of the Milk story, not only from the media of the time, but from the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, to hear Sean Penn speaking into a tape recorder in the first five minutes predicting his own assassination, but hey, that was apparently Harvey. I have to admit that I also had a little bit of difficulty getting into the early scenes because of the different perspectives, but eventually things turned into something easier to grasp as a person's life, not only as a personal journey but as one set in the big picture.

As the film progressed, I tried to measure Sean Penn's performance against Mickey Rourke's in The Wrestler. I have loved Sean Penn ever since I saw Taps, but when he played Jeff Spicoli, I thought that he deserved an Oscar right there. I was sure he'd win one for Dead Man Walking, but it didn't happen. Instead, he got his Oscar for Mystic River, a film I find watchable but mammothly overrated. It's only Clint Eastwood's skill as a storyteller which makes this totally-predictable and surprisingly-overracted film as good (average, at best) as it is. But who am I to say? The people I thought gave the worst performances in Mystic River all got Oscars or at least nominations. So being the human who I claim I really am, I'm watching Penn very closely in Milk with a "C'mon, show me what you've got" attitude. During the first half, I just don't see Penn being as believable a human being as Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, and trust me, I don't really have any reason to tell you that I lionize Rourke, no matter what he's done in the past. Anyway, eventually, and I realize that most of this started to kick in during the last 15 minutes of Milk, but I started to really see Penn as THE MAN Harvey Milk. Maybe it's because most of the tragedy and triumph occurs at the end of the film, but I actually started to believe that Penn wasn't just acting, but that he was living and that somehow what he had to say, in the context of last year's election and Proposition 8 (as opposed to the earlier Proposition 6 in the fllm Milk) was perhaps more important in the Big Picture than what Mickey and Aranofsky were attempting in The Wrestler. Then again, the Golden Globes and BAFTA seem to contradict SAG. Let's see... what am I talking about here? Oh yeah, it's going to be a Bee-ach to pick Best Actor this year.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2006)


Tense French movie-movie, which plays out as both a compelling mystery and an action-thriller, tells the story of Dr. Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) whose wife is murdered. Although the doctor is a prime suspect, he's cleared and the death is attributed to a serial killer although things never really did add up. Eight years later, at just about the time that two bodies are found near the crime scene, Beck receives an e-mail which seems to be from his wife. Eventually, Beck is forced to take it on the lam, but he's aided by several unusual compatriots in trying to prove his innocence and find out if his wife is still alive.

What sets this flick apart from the usual paint-by-numbers thriller is that it has a strong plot and characters so that it's difficult to solve the mystery but it's easy to sympathize with the characters. Then, when you're totally drawn into the mystery, the film throws in one of the most-impressive chases by foot ever recorded (probably only topped by the one in Point Break) and adds a new level of characters to make everything even more complex and seemingly-unravellable (how's that for a word?). I thoroughly enjoyed the unusual characters and the way their fates played out. The only thing I'm worried about is that this is apparently going to be remade in English in 2011. The plot is so strong that if they cast it with character actors it could work. Unfortunately, I'm guessing they're going with big names. [As of now, it hasn't done.]



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
The Green Pastures (William Keighley, 1936)




Simple, ultimately-moving tale, with an all-African American cast, which tells the Bible stories from the perspective of poor people living in the Deep South. A Sunday school teacher relates to his students what De Lawd God (Rex Ingram) might have done and why he did it while he explains all the major incidents from the early chapters of the Old Testament. Many of the stories are told humorously, and the characters all speak in what may seem as cliched "ethnic" dialogue, but the morals of all them come home loud and clear and nobody comes across as anything but a human being.

I realize that many people may find plenty of racism in the film since it was written and directed by whites, but once again, I find it much ado about nothing. To change the way the people speak would render the film pointless, and I understand that lots of misguided people want to burn The Birth of a Nation, Song of the South and Gone With the Wind, but this is a sweet, charming film which snuck up on me at the end and left me crying. Besides that, it has a wonderful cast and really allows Rex Ingram (the genie from The Thief of Bagdad (1940)) to shine in multiple roles.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)


Washington Irving's classic short story was reimagined and adapted for the screen by Andrew Kevin Walker (SE7EN), and the new story fits in well with Burton's preoccupations of the bizarre. In fact, Johnny Depp's Ichabod Crane now seems to be trying to solve a series of murders which somehow resemble those in the earlier Fincher film, but since this is Burton, it never quite reaches the darkness level of SE7EN. It is incredibly entertaining, exciting and beautiful though even if some of the whodunnits of the plot are obvious and jettisoned in favor of an honest-to-goodness horror fantasy with more lopped-off heads than any movie I can think of.

I'm not going into the new plot, but I will say that the cast is awesome. Christopher Lee plays the burgomaster who sends Depp from the NYC of 1799 to the "quaint" village of Sleepy Hollow to solve the murders. There he encounters the Town Council which consists of Michael Gambon (the second Dumbledore), Jeffrey Jones (Amadeus, Beetle Juice), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor in Star Wars), Michael Gough (Tim Burton's Batman's Alfred), and Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon). He also becomes attracted to Gambon's daughter Christina Ricci who practices spells to try to protect him and those she loves. Crane is immediately told the story of the Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), and before he can pooh-pooh it, more murders occur and Crane witnesses the Horseman in action. These Horseman scenes are all top-of-the-line and really push the movie into the upper echelon of the Burton filmography. Besides containing Emmanuel Lubezki's expert cinematography, as well as awesome sound, editing, and F/X, Danny Elfman's menacingly-operatic musical score brings chills down the spine.

When she was growing up, this was Sarah's fave film. (I let her buy it; shame on me since it's rated R for blood and decapitations.) Yesterday I posted images from this flick in her Happy Birthday thread, so she picked it to watch last night, and that's why I'm writing this. She liked it a lot, but no word on changing her favorite movie list.

P.S. Sleepy Hollow is meant for huge screens and loud stereos, but if you've never watched it, see it in whatever format, except for edited and silent.



Some of the stuff I watchet over the last 2 weeks (the most movies I ever watched so quickly the past 12 months or so), violating my no rating rule but I am to tired to review then with words.

Giovanni's Island (2014) 4.5/5
Ace in the Hole (1952) 3/5
Witness for the Prosecution (1957) 3.5/5
The Great Escape (1963) 4/5
Bridge River Kwai (1957) 4/5
Lore (2012) 4.5/5
Au Revoir Lês Enfants (1987) 4.5/5
Little Witch Academia (2013) 4/5
Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (2015) 5/5
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) 5/5
Madoka film 1 (2012) 4/5
Madoka film 2 (2012) 5/5
The Man who Knew too Much (1956) 2.5/5
Stage Fright (1950) 1.5/5
The Interview (2014) 1/5

That 14 features and 1 short film. Now I plan to stop watching movies for a while, in fact, I think I am tired of movies in general, they don't sparkle my curiosity like they did a few years ago (one of the reasons why I disliked Hitch's stuff now, just too boring).



A system of cells interlinked
The Final Girls

(Strauss-Shulson, 2015)





A clever deconstruction of 1980s slasher flicks, Strauss-Schulson's The Final Girls features Malin Akerman (Watchman) and Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) in a comic romp through the now iconic summer camp setting the Friday the 13th films that, for the most part, is a lot of nostalgic fun. This film won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for viewers familiar with the 80s cycle of slasher flicks, I recommend The Final Girls without hesitation.

Farmiga's Max is a recently orphaned teen, daughter of B-Movie actress Amanda Cartwright (Akerman). Cartright had never made much of her name in Hollywood, save an iconic role in Camp Bloodbath, a clear riff on the Jason Vorhees mythology in Friday the 13th, before dying in car accident while driving home from another failed audition. Flash forward to a year later, and Max and her friends end up heading to a screening of Camp Bloodbath. Tagging along for the film is self-proclaimed Camp Bloodbath fanatic Duncan (Tom Middleditch), Hunky Chris (Alexsander Ludwig), Mean Girl Vicki (Nina Dubrov) and Max's best friend, Gertie (Alia Shawcat). The screening of the film is packed with fans, some of which are partying a little too hard, which has the effect of setting the theater ablaze. With the exits blocked by the flames, the group is forced to use a fan's discarded machete to hack through the screen, after which the crew clambers through, ending up in the world of the Camp Bloodbath films.

What follows is cleverly done, with plenty of self-aware nods to the genre, and some fun black comedy. There is a fun contrast between the kids from 2015 and the stereotypical cast from the 80s, and the filmmakers have some fun with it. The time-traveling kids quickly figure out ways to outsmart the silly script and lumbering villain of the film, but the cast of poorly-written dipshits from the film manage to muck up the plans pretty consistently to great comedic effect. There was also a surprisingly effective emotional component between Max and her Mom's character in the film, which adds a little more dimension to the plot and character development - this has the effect of elevating this film above stuff like the Scary Movie series, which relies solely on the satire and parody for which it's known. I found that I actually cared about some of the characters by the end of the film, which is unusual for the genre. I must also comment on some creative camera work as well as a cool flashback mechanic used in the film. Pretty creative stuff!

If I have a nitpick, it's that the film is surprisingly blood-free for a slasher parody. A film like this can either go way over-the-top with the gore (Cabin in the Woods), or basically blood free, as this did. I think with the films this was meant to parody, the over-the-top choice would have been better here. That's a minor quibble though, and doesn't detract too much from the film overall.

A fun, clever parody, I recommend The Final Girls.
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"There’s absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Christopher Landon, 2014)

Eyes of the Navy (Russell Wade, 1940)

A Madea Christmas (Tyler Perry, 2013)

Hooper (Hal Needham, 1978)
+

Movie stuntmen Jan-Michael Vincent and Burt Reynolds jump over a downed bridge in a souped-up car.
Best Friends (Norman Jewison, 1982)

The Gay Parisian (Jean Negulesco, 1941)

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Robert Altman, 1982)

The Visit (M. Night Shyamalan, 2015)


It’s after 9:30PM, and Nana (Deanna Dunagan) is sundowning.
The Rescuers (John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, & Art Stevens, 1977)

From Prada to Nada (Angel Gracia, 2011)

Bloodbrothers (Robert Mulligan, 1978)

Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939)


Upper-class, now-married Cathy (Merle Oberon) meets her former love Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) after he returns from making his fortune in America.
Lucky Number Sleven (Paul McGuigan, 2006)
+
Abe Lincoln in Illinois (John Cromwell, 1940)

Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963)

Steel Magnolias (Herbert Ross, 1989)


While getting their hair done for the wedding, Mom Sally Field forces stubborn bride Julia Roberts to correct her blood glucose.
Like Father, Like Son (Rod Daniel, 1987)

Unidentified Flying Oddball AKA The Spaceman and King Arthur (Russ Mayberry, 1979)
+
Crashing the Water Barrier (Konstantin Kalser, 1956)

People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951)


While his friend Shunderson (Finley Currie) stands by, Dr. Praetorius (Cary Grant) ponders why after a man dies, he’s forced to laugh for eternity.



An Inspector Calls (1954)

Christmas, Again (2014)

Love affair, or the case of the missing switchboard operator (1967)

Snowtime! (2015)

Starting Over (1979)
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A normal man? For me, a normal man is one who turns his head to see a beautiful woman's bottom. The point is not just to turn your head. There are five or six reasons. And he is glad to find people who are like him, his equals. That's why he likes crowded beaches, football, the bar downtown...



I've just realised that this year I've seen as many films as mark.......






















..... saw in his last post.
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5-time MoFo Award winner.