ANNIE HALL is a gift from the gods, one of those untouchables bestowed on moviegoers every once in a while. I cringed when I heard the absurd idea that a planned sequel is being considered. Perfection cannot be improved upon and ANNIE HALL is a perfect film, no doubt about it.
Author: Leo Racicot
OTHELLO is immediately involving, draws us in as swiftly as does a cobra’s eyes, hypnotizing us, avoiding the usual explication of less effective directors and boom! we are there—the dead Othello comes up at us out of the dark, a black, magnificent, marled monstrosity accompanied by giant hoods, the silhouettes of—what?—soldiers? monks? clergy? worshippers? They walk, their footsteps as dead as the dead Moor they carry. This is a FRANKENSTEIN, a DRACULA OTHELLO, the horror movie elements and psychological terrors of that genre deliberately pinned to its hem. A movie, too, of scope and close-ups, lending it a regal fright; watching it, you want to swoon, you get weak, the way you would if a great king should ever pass before you.
Like a wave of fresh, spring air following one of the rottenest winters on record, PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE wafts into the Brattle like a warm rain, green grass, fun and flowers. Its bright candy colors are sure to wake you from your long black-and-white hibernation. Its non-stop frivolity will cause you to skip and run and jump. It is food for the soul, and what fool is going to turn that down after all the rain and hail, cold and snow of Old Man Winter, 2014.
What a gift the Brattle is giving us!
The incomparable Peter O’Toole, who recently journeyed on from us, began his film career with two movies that went unproclaimed. But then, he hit the ground running as T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s magnificent LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and thereafter commanded international movie screens for over 60 years.
There are movies and there are MOVIES! IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE is A MOVIE!
It is hard to believe now but IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE dropped a great, big bomb when it first appeared in 1946. Post World War II Americans had endured hardship after hardship, both overseas and on the homefront, and were not in a mood for Frank Capra’s usual cornball philosophies, or to see beloved all-American stars like Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed playing such dark material — the story is, after all, about a man on the brink of suicide. “It seesaws”, said one critic, “between sugar-coated candy and out-and-out nihilism.” Moviegoers stayed away in droves.
Movie moments imprint themselves on us like tattoos. Whenever my best friend, Bob Stone, and I get together, it is not our health, our families, our jobs we talk about. Right off the bat, we break into our KEY LARGO routine, Bob doing his best impersonation of Johnny Rocco browbeating his ex-moll, Gaye Dawn, to “Sing it! Sing ‘Moanin’ Low’!! Sing it NOW!!” and me then warbling “Moanin’ Low” more off-key and ear-grating than Claire Trevor ever did. This is followed by Bob’s equally spot-on version of Edward G. Robinson’s classic, “Soldier! Soldier! I’m not armed! Soldier!” Then we both crack up laughing. For Bob and me, as for many who have seen or will see KEY LARGO, these scenes are indelibly superglued to our movie consciousness. ” KEY LARGO and classic movies like it train us to worship and cherish their words and images long after the first time we heard and saw them. They take up permanent residence in our collective movie heads and we are happy to have them there.
We love to be scared at the movies! Scary monsters lurk in the world all around us instilling fear. Nowadays, environmental meltdown, rampant terrorist attacks, mindless crime, mindless jurors (That’s right! I mean you, Florida!), moral bankruptcy — all these offer cause to be afraid. Scary movies take the fear out of the world and put it up on the silver screen, high above us. Bad things aren’t happening to us; they’re happening to THEM, the characters in the story. Fear, then, becomes safe..
DOUBLE INDEMNITY holds a special resonance for me; it is the very first movie my father took me to at the drive-in theater.
In 1940s and ’50s America, gender roles were firmly defined and divided; in families, girls kept company with their mothers, learning how to cook, to sew, to dress up pretty; boys stayed mostly with their fathers learning how to spackle a window, swagger, ice fish and spit. So it was that Friday nights in the summer, I found myself in our overlarge, green Plymouth, next to my handsome dad — a big, brown paper bag between us, peckered all over with buttery grease stains, filled to the very top with homemade popcorn. This is where I learned to love the movies.
Rosemary’s Baby – 1968 – dir. Roman Polanski
In the summer of 1968, our mother, recently widowed, treated my sister and me to a week at the beach. After a few days, needing some time to herself, she asked a woman she had struck up a friendship with at the hotel if she would watch Diane and me so she could see the new hit horror movie playing at the little cinema on the casino boardwalk. When she got back, she could hardly contain her excitement and delight; it was “one of the best movies”, she said. She went to bed and tossed and turned all night long. “What kind of a movie”, I thought, “does THAT to you?!!”
Destry Rides Again – 1939 – dir. George Marshall
Marlene Dietrich acted with her eyes. Yes, she possessed one of the most beautifully and deliberately sculpted faces in film history. Yes, she could be a crackerjack actress, easily overcoming her good looks when she wanted to, giving strong, memorable performances in classics such as “Stage Fright”, “Witness for the Prosecution”, “Morocco”. And yes! She had a body-and-a-half that oozed a glamorous and alarming sexuality that still has yet to be defined or matched. Woe to whatever actor had to share the stage or screen with her because when she was “on”, you couldn’t really see anybody else, such a beam of light was La Dietrich. But it was her eyes that made her. Entities unto themselves, lidded by light, lace curtains of flesh, fluttering butterflies running up and down like little elevators, they darted, they flew, they geisha-ed their way into your personal space, invading you, capturing you, making of you a happy prisoner of their multiple seductions. When she first appears in “Destry Rides Again”, her eyes give out so many varied and conflicting emotions at once, if you pay good attention, you cannot help but be slayed out of your seat by the sheer range of shyness, deceit, cuteness, shrewdness and sassy-assed lust they aim at you. They are true guns of seduction and better duck fast before they fire and you die in the happy blast of their embrace. Ah, those eyes. Those eyes are able to bring together the most disparate elements into one, single, glorious being; to wit — Marlene Dietrich!!