The film has such assertive direction that it slips without effort from power play drama to suspense thriller to police procedural/manhunt chase to high drama. In spite of this blend of genres that for a lesser director would take three or four films to fully unravel in its complexity, this film is all Kurosawa, an assured and heady blend of action, drama and objective humanity.
The Masque of the Red Death – 1964 – dir. Roger Corman
Before he was crowned the all-time campy Master of horror schlock, the incomparable Vincent Price had already carved out for himself a distinguished career in Hollywood that would have been the envy of any actor of his time. Such film classics as Laura, The House of the Seven Gables, The Keys of the Kingdom, The Ten Commandments, Leave Her to Heaven and many more were graced with his formidable skill and presence.
Director Roger Corman, christened “the King of the Bs” due to the slew of low-budget, some might even say ‘corny’ movies he cranked out beginning in the 1950s, mans The Masque of the Red Death with as sure a hand as he brought to all his projects, creating springboards for such stellar artists-to-be as Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorcese, and turning out what has become a body of films many of which are today considered true masterpieces of the genre.
In Moon (dir. Duncan Jones, 2009), Sam Rockwell plays the scruffy hipster-next-door on the moon, who turns out to be both more and less than what he seems. With impressive set design, constructed with tiny models instead of CGI, Moon inhabits not the 1960s techno-future of visible progress, but the 1970s paranoid present of hidden ulterior motives. In a way, Moon recalls not so much the actual space race, but the aftermath of plastic modules on the kitchen table, with an excess of glue and tiny pieces that don’t seem to fit anymore. Continue reading →
Before I went to see J. J. Abrams’ version of the classic franchise, I was treated to dark whispers and quiet warnings such as, “If you’re a big-time Trekkie, you’re not going to like it.”
Being a moderate-time Trekkie, as opposed to a big-time one, I hotly anticipated the release through two years of promotional posters, mysterious trailers, and vague, origin-story allusions. I have to confess that along with Pixar’s Up, Star Trek is likely one of the best movies of the year. It’s not just a good sci-fi movie. It’s a good movie. Continue reading →
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000 – dir. Ang Lee
“When in comes to the affairs of the heart, even the greatest warriors can be consummate idiots.”
Ang Lee’s homage to Du Lu Wang’s kung-fu novel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I must confess, did not make an instant impression upon me the first time that I saw it. The film soars with Lee’s breathtaking direction and cinematography by Academy award-winner Peter Pau, but I found the story meandering and simple.
Of course, I missed the point, discovered only after a re-watch. The story is indeed simple. It is the characters who are complex. This is an ironic movie about opposites: finding through loss. Gaining through sacrifice. Joy through despair. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a simple story about masculinity, femininity, and life. Continue reading →
A smart, breezy romp cut from the same cloth as The Thin Man series, Footsteps in the Dark marked a change in the actor Errol Flynn’s career. Until this movie was made, the very popular matinee idol was known primarily for his rousing, period piece swashbucklers and he jumped at the opportunity to trade in his Robin Hood tights and swords for a chance to prove himself as a deft comedian. He more than succeeds. Continue reading →
So will you be at the meeting on Tuesday? The first rule of Fight Club is, you don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is, you don’t talk about Fight Club. The third rule of Fight Club is . . .
I’m going to talk about Fight Club. Based on the Chuck Palahniuk book by the same name, the film concerns a disaffected white-collar worker who can sum up his life with the three C’s: Catalogs, Condo, Condiments. Not surprisingly, for his efforts he’s got insomnia, ennui, and anhedonia. He starts going to support groups for diseases he does not have, to jump-start his atrophied connection to life. But then he meets a woman doing the same thing; recognizing her as a fellow “tourist,” all his ennui and insomnia come racing back. Then his house explodes. Then the movie starts.
Reviewed by Paula Delaney Shoot the Piano Player – 1960 – dir. Francois Truffaut
This 1960 French film starring Charles Aznavour tells a story that has the ingredients of romance, drama, and comic tragedy. The main character, Charlie Kohler (Edouard Saroyan) is played by Aznavour in a persona that might remind one of Peter Sellers, due to his expressions of his emotions, or lack thereof. The film is in black and white and the cinematography is representative of foreign films at the time. The music throughout the film evokes a carnival type of atmosphere, and gradually heightens the irony of the plot. Continue reading →
It began with the 1915 spy novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, written by John Buchan. Then came the 1935 Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps, loosely based on Buchan’s novel. And then came more film versions, including one that’s “in production,” according to IMDB. Oh, and don’t forget about “The 39 Steps” Broadway show. It’s described as a mixture of Hitchcock, a juicy spy novel and Monty Python.
And although I haven’t seen the Broadshow show . . .
And I haven’t read Buchan’s original novel . . .
And I haven’t seen all the remakes . . .
I’m gonna go ahead and say that Hitchcock’s version is the my favorite. And not just because of the great camera angles, witty dialogue, and fascinating characters.
I have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, easily one the director’s best-known and most influential films, and certainly one of my favorites. It remains a study in the successful undermining of audience expectations (cannily using what we know about genre and even film stardom against us), and on a personal level, it was one of the first films to get me thinking about the structures and strategies that filmmakers use (it also may well have taught me the meanings of the words “inordinately” and “aspic.”) Yet while it has a well-earned reputation as an exemplary thriller and an indispensable horror film, the sly humor of Psycho is occasionally overlooked.