31st Hall of Fame

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The Verdict



Everything about this is pretty good. I was a little apprehensive because I'm not the biggest Paul Newman fan but he really fits the bill here. As always, Lumet brings a really nice script to his film. It's always his biggest strength with his films and I think it certainly is here too. There's lulls in the movie here and there but I really enjoy watching the whole end of the film unfold. The courtroom scene was really well done in my eyes and the ending scene with Newman not answering the phone was quite clever too. I'm also usually not the biggest James Mason guy but I thought he had a really good performance here. Overall, it's not anything that will become a favorite but it's something that ill certainly respect.




I forgot the opening line.
I'm thinking of having July 14 be the deadline if everyone thinks that's doable.
Fine with me.
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My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : A Perfect Couple (1979)



I'm thinking of having July 14 be the deadline if everyone thinks that's doable.
Can I get an extension? Little busy over here
__________________
Letterboxd



Planning on watching A Hero with the wife tomorrow night
Thatís what you think. Plan on A Hero, snap, you are in the middle of a Gilmore Girls marathon.



Oh God. When I was married my wife watched Jersey Shore. I can remember us bickering about it I hated that garbage so much.



Oh God. When I was married my wife watched Jersey Shore. I can remember us bickering about it I hated that garbage so much.
What a coincidence. Her favorite version is the Real Housewives of New Jersey.



I forgot the opening line.


Days of Heaven - 1978

Directed by Terrence Malick

Written by Terrence Malick

Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz

Days of Heaven doesn't quite come off to perfection, but there are elements of it that work so well as to make the film notable and memorable. It's an optical feast, and so much effort went into the visual aspect of it's storytelling that you could nearly watch it muted and walk away with the same impression as those who have heard it with dialogue. It wouldn't come as any surprise to learn that this is a film which features a great deal of narration - I don't know of many Terrence Malick films that don't, but what is surprising is that this narration, delivered by a young Linda Manz, wasn't initially planned for before the film entered the editing phase of it's production. This is a Malick film which had a problem at that stage - the narrative was muddled, and the fact that the director did away with the screenplay and asked the actors to "find the story" meant he had to find the story himself in an editing room with 2-time Oscar nominee Billy Weber. It would take two years of work, and some added inserts, to turn this into a coherent whole.

It's 1916. Bill (Richard Gere), his sister Linda (Linda Manz) and girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) are on the run after Bill kills a man in a fight at the steel mill he was working at. They end up being hired to work on a wheat farm in Texas. The farm's owner (Sam Shepard) isn't well, and one day Bill overhears a doctor telling him he only has around a year to live. With this information, Bill encourages his girlfriend (whom he is passing off as his sister) to seduce the farmer in the hopes the two might be married, and inherit the valuable land they're working on. Eventually, Abby does - the farmer easily falls in love with her and the two are married. Now, the lives of Bill, Linda and Abby are easy - they no longer have to work, and have a stately house to live in - but despite this Bill finds it hard to keep his hands off Abby, and the more the farmer sees the two of them interacting when they don't know he's watching, the more he realises how he's being duped. A confrontation is in the air, and with emotions running at a fever pitch combined with Bill's propensity for violence, the results will be dramatic.

It's the cinematography that's most noteworthy when it comes to Days of Heaven. The look of the film has been achieved primarily by the use of natural light over and above artificial lighting - and doing this made the images on the screen differ from the glossy and fake look most films have. The sky and landscape takes on a hue that seems to belong on canvas, and the bright shining blue becomes pink, white, grey and purple - especially since many shots were filmed during "magic hour" - and darkness often shrouds the figures moving about, since reflective surfaces weren't utilized as they normally would be. People's faces are shadowed in way that looks quite unlike most other films - but everything feels all the more recognizable to us. All perfectly natural. The entire crew thought cinematographer Nťstor Almendros and Malick were either crazy or performing their jobs in an absolutely amateur manner - as if the two had no idea of what they were doing. Almendros had to leave before the production ended, as he had a prior engagement with FranÁois Truffaut, about to direct The Green Room.

It's slightly contentious that Nťstor Almendros won an Oscar for this film, because a great deal of the camerawork was done by Haskell Wexler after Almendros had left. After having more time to think things over, Wexler decided that Almendros deserved it after all - as it was him who had set all the trends, and decided exactly how to film this motion picture. All the second cinematographer had done was continue along the same track. Everything is filmed wonderfully by both cinematographers - the composition, balance and especially the placing of what's in the foreground and background of every shot. It's a real pleasure, and continually engages the senses. Nearly every shot is quite simply beautiful. Terrence Malick films would come to be renowned for the quality of cinematography in them, despite utilizing various different talents in that area - usually Oscar winners, and usually nominated for whatever film they'd collaborated with him on.

The score is likewise majestic and alluring, from the legendary Ennio Morricone - earning him his first ever Academy Award nomination. To me it sounds kind of haunting as well - if my life were set to this music I'd feel that there was something always looming over me, just as the main house on the farm in this film constantly looms over the people who work there. You could almost score a horror film in a similar manner - but often the musical accompaniment to what's happening breaks out into lyrical tunes that reflect the golden fields of wheat, and playful actions of the workers who constantly engage in horseplay and energetic reveling. It matches the cinematography in a way that defines Days of Heaven as a technically brilliant film that could nearly have been an art-piece devoid of narrative or dialogue. This is a film that seems to have been guided by these principles above and beyond narrative ones - and that is probably why Malick had such a hard time editing what he had into a coherent story until he added the narration.

Days of Heaven also managed to garner Oscar nominations for it's Sound and Costume Design - again, elements that lean more towards craft than performance or story. There is a solid story there, and this isn't a film that simply exists as a mood piece - although it consists of long stretches that rely more on mood than dialogue or plot. Unusual, though, is the way twists and turns in the story occur almost in the background - not completely lost to the audience, but a little more detached than you'd normally see in a film. Again, some moments play out as if we're watching a silent film, with looks, facial expressions and body language imparting the importance of a moment. The narration isn't as clumsy as it might have been in the hands of a lesser talent - and is shrouded in Linda's feelings, moods and the typical minutia of a young girl's thoughts. It buttresses the dialogue and story, and provides context, and if I didn't know better I'd swear that the film was originally written this way and was always meant to look and sound exactly like this.

I came away from Days of Heaven much more affected by the look and sound of it than I did from the story it told - and I felt somewhat removed from the ultimate fate of Bill and the farmer who marries his girlfriend. I'm kind of surprised by that, considering just how dramatic their stories are. I felt something for Linda, because she's the only character we really get to know - and I think this is the little problem Days of Heaven has been left with. It's a great movie, but it wasn't perfect, and I think Malick tried and tried to make it so. In the end, he had to leave filmmaking for 20 years due to the extended effort and ultimate frustration and defeat. For him, I don't think this being a really good movie sufficed - especially when certain aspects of it came out incredibly well. I feel pretty much the same way about it. It's well worth having in one's Criterion Collection and watching any number of times - but it fell short of complete success, and stands as a kind of Leaning Tower of Pisa. Beautiful but with a fundamental flaw that many a cinephile might notice, but easily forgive.

I got to know Terrence Malick's films middle-to-back-to-front, starting with The Thin Red Line, continuing on and then only later going back into time and seeing his much-heralded first two films. It's such an odd filmography with that huge gap. His films are like poems, and Days of Heaven is no less poetic than the others, despite the unintentional nature of it's narration-driven, one-step-removed narrative and it's visual and auditory brilliance. If pushed to choose a favourite, I'd go for The Thin Red Line - every aspect of that film feels assured and works exactly as it was meant to. Days of Heaven is really, really beautiful, and I like it, but I need to connect with it's central characters more than I eventually do. The rogue and the honest man betwixt the beautiful woman with deep emotions who is pushed and pulled and never quite allowed to simply be who she is. Nevertheless, it's still easy to enjoy - like a stunning painting of turn-of-the-century farm life that has come to life with motion and music, and the hulk of a mansion on the horizon. Built from the inside out for the film, it's the mansion that comes to mind when you think of Days of Heaven - a potent metaphor, but I think we should have come away thinking of the characters first, and the rest second.




A Hero -


Like he does in About Elly, the other Farahdi movie I've seen, this one also demonstrates how good the writer/director is at dramatizing modern dilemmas. The way this one studies social media, particularly how it makes what people believe more important than the truth, mistakes more difficult to recover from and the consequences of our overdependence on it makes me wish Charlie Brooker would hire Farahdi to write for Black Mirror. What makes this such compelling drama is how it adds an implied question mark at the end of its title. In other words, I like how it paints everyone as human first and as a hero or a villain second. I imagine it being possible to rewrite Bahram in the main role and Rahim in a supporting one, for instance. Regardless, the decision to not make Rahim social media savvy - or at least someone who would only use it as a last resort - is apt for how it reveals the consequences of its weaponization. The same goes for the moments when we see the world through his son Siavash's eyes, which reveal how needlessly petty adults can be. After all, it would be fair to reduce this to a squabble over a handful of gold coins. Also, even though the drama is between people instead of people and nature, I like that Farahdi and company highlight the beauty of Iran, such as in that shot of the dig site, especially since it's a country I'll likely never get to visit. To bring up Black Mirror again, there is understandably plenty of entertainment about social mediaís place in our lives to explore. If anything, Faradhiís contribution stands out for tackling the subject in a way that is adult and that respects its audienceís intelligence.



A Hero



If this were an American film, I don't think the story would have the juice to pull it off. Shame and denouncement just doesn't mean as much here. It's so impressive how this director makes great drama out of mundane things. I was able to relate a little bit to the main character as I was once one to always be plotting something. Maybe that's why I kept thinking there must be something more devious at hand then there actually was. This dude was just a F-up, not a bad guy but obviously he only did the good deed to bring benefit to himself. I like how they didn't tell us too much about his past, but the creditor said he was a bullshitter all his life. I was never quite sure how to judge the characters and I think that was part of the point. Really good performances, and in the case of the lead, great work not showing any personality. That's what it looks like when under constant stress. Like everyone else it seems, this was my 4th film from the director, and I'd rank it 2nd. My wife dug it as well.




The trick is not minding
Days of Heaven

Malickís films have always evoked a sense of wonder and beauty in his films. In Days of Heaven, one canít help but stre in awe at some of these scenes. Whether itís the embers of a fire, or a swarm of locusts, or a scene where we watch a seed sprout in real time. The film is amazing to watch.

The story is simple, two lovers (Bill and Abby) and a a girl (Linda), the manís younger sister, are on the run when Bill accidentally kills his boss in a fight. They take up working for a wheat farmer, who Bill learns is dying. He schemes to have his Linda, who is pretending to be his sister, marry the farmer and inherit the farm when he dies. Only, he doesnít get any sicker and Abby complicated things by falling in love with the farmer.

The story isnít much, but whatís really interesting is how the film looks. It can be both breathtaking and ominous. And the principle actors, particularly Richard Gere, is great. The look of regret on Billís face when he realized he is responsible for losing Abby is earnest.

But, as with most of Malickís films, I canít help but feel like Iím admiring the film with a slight detachment. I can appreciate the film, but they rarely ever become favorites.

Still, a good film regardless. Glad to have been able to rewatch it, as itís been about 15 years or so.




Herod's Law (1999,Luis Estrada)

Loved the first half of the movie, with a hapless slacker being appointed mayor of a speck of dust town in the middle of nowhere. I loved the look of the town and location...it was all interestingly colorful, so cool. The actors were real good too and cast perfectly for their roles. I expected Juan as the newly appointed mayor to end up helping the town despite his bumbling ways. The character of Juan reminded me of Jack Black in Nacho Libre....Too bad the writers ran out of ideas and had to go for the low hanging fruit of having the mayor kill a bunch of people to fill out the last half of the film, I find that to be a let down as the town's people had so much more of an interesting story that could've been explored.



Sunset Blvd. -


This remains a classic about the dark side of the Hollywood dream. I'm a fan of stories that pair someone who is relatively new to an industry with someone who has been around the block in it, so to speak, and this is a prime example of this trope. I approve of how Joe Gillis demonstrates that if you're not consistently churning out hits - or better yet, what Hollywood thinks will be hits - you might as well be dead. As for Norma, I like how she makes fame seem like a drug, i.e., one in which the consequences of long-term withdrawal are dangerous. William Holden has relatable everyman "voice of reason" qualities, which make him a perfect fit for the role of the failed too soon screenwriter from Ohio, and Swanson's Norma remains an iconic portrait of a faded star as well as of a narcissist. As for Nancy Olson, who could ask for a better and more charming writing partner?

It's hard to imagine this movie not making anyone interested or even more interested in Hollywood, but if it doesn't, it's still enjoyable as quality noir, especially with its hard-boiled dialogue. As silly as it sounds, I was excited when it was anyone's turn to speak because pretty much every line is memorable. It ends up being a movie that succeeds at making a compelling argument that if things are going south for you in Hollywood, you should get out as soon as you can while also making you wonder if doing so is even possible. Oh, and as a David Lynch fan, I like that it makes me appreciate his work even more since it's chock full of his influences.



Herod's Law



I don't really have a whole lot to say about this. I liked the first half of the film much more than the second half, which can usually affect how much I thought of the film as a whole quite a bit. My favorite parts were the parts that provided some good humor. I think overall the story doesn't really grip me enough for me to fully enjoy it. I didn't have any beefs with the acting but there also wasn't really much that stuck out to me. Overall, it was ok but I wouldn't be in a rush to see it again.