Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Movie Watching

I saw five movies theatrically this month, which constitute some of the biggest blockbusters of the year.

The first one was Hancock, the July 4th offering. Will Smith scored another big moneymaker with this one, but it was among his weakest entries— if still offering a decent amount of entertainment value. Although I liked it in general, I could detect what appeared to be studio tampering. I generally dislike longer movies but when this one clocked in at 92 minutes, I got the sinking suspicion that the studio's plan was to make a not-so-great movie palatable by getting you out the door before you realized what happened.

Next, I caught up on late-June's Wanted. A popcorn movie that I liked. It was a 2008 compilation of every action movie from about 1999 onward shoved in a blender. This will be a big year for Angelina Jolie, with The Changeling due out October 31. I did notice that annoying thing in which something in the trailer is NOT in the movie. I think this scene was put into the trailer to ramp up the "sexy" aspect— he says "Is this where we bond?" and she says: "Would you like to?": not in the movie. *** SPOILER ALERT*** : I think this scene and potentially others are not in the movie because the producers decided the relationship between the two leads should be toned down specifically due to the fate of her character, so we wouldn't feel badly at the end; they left their relationship more distant and cold so we could accept this ending— that's my theory anyway.

Hellboy II was another fun one. I liked the original movie (which seems like it came out ages ago). This one was fun for its settings and the characters— especially Seth MacFarlane's "Johann Krauss": I want that action figure. The plot had a string of improbable moments and familiar devices, but was acceptable.

Then, the BIG ONE: The Dark Knight. Burning up the box office charts, The Dark Knight wasn't perfect but was a hell of a ride: and what a showcase for Heath Ledger. Ledger was excellent and the choice of doing his make-up the way they did was a masterstroke. Two things impressed me most about the movie in addition to Ledger's performance: the camerawork and the tone. The tone is where the influence will be felt in subsequent movies. And finally! I'm so sick of the jokey one-liners, etc. in every action movie (and subsequently in the comic book genre). Both Casino Royale and The Dark Knight (and probably Quantum of Solace) will erase these action movie cliches for the 2010s. On the minus side, the movie seemed to be unrelenting, you couldn't catch your breathe, and there were many plot holes (on Imdb someone listed 24 of them)— however, you just kind of went-with-it. It's definately been exciting watching this movie leap the rungs on the box office list. I suspect it will indeed get one of the five Best Picture slots come Oscar time, as well.

Lastly, I saw Step Brothers. It seems to me that this movie was generally panned, not because it wasn't funny, but because reviewers were uncomfortable with the premise itself. A 40-year-old man acting like a child is just not acceptable. However, it was a satire, folks! Now, unfortunately it wasn't all that brilliantly funny, so it would be hard to say within any kind of certainty that this was the reason for the critical drubbing, but it seems like it to me.

On DVD I watched The Boondock Saints, which a friend lent me. What a CRAZY movie. Pretty ambitious too. I can see why there is a cult following. You'll never look at Willem Dafoe the same way again.

On TCM, I watched two classics from the 1950s— 3:10 to Yuma (terrific: actually better than the remake [which I really liked] and with a different ending) and Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind (also amazing, although I didn't think it ended strongly). I also watched 1965's A Patch of Blue. It's as manipulative as can be, but I have to confess it really stayed with me: that poor girl! By the way, I'm finding these Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence shows to be so pretentious: ugh!— I watched the Bill Murray and the Quentin Tarantino ones.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2009 Leonard Maltin Guide and the Slate of Award Winners from Last Year

The Leonard Maltin Guide, for better or worse, sets a standard for how movies are ranked in later years. Although there are many examples of aberrations (for example Unforgiven, which frequently lands on best-films-of-all-time lists, is rated just *** out of ****) the guide has had influence in general in accessing films for future generations.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd look up the films which received the main awards from critics, guilds, etc. from last year to see where they placed in Maltin's rankings. (Note: After a movie's rating is listed once, I won't repeat the rating):

AMPAS Best Picture Nominees:
Atonement (**)
Juno (*** 1/2)
Michael Clayton (***)
No Country For Old Men (winner) (*** 1/2)
There Will Be Blood (*** 1/2)

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood
Best Actress: Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose (rating for film: ***)
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton
Best Original Screenplay: Juno
Best Adapted Screenplay: No Country for Old Men
Best Foreign Film: The Counterfeiters (*** 1/2)
Best Animated Film: Ratatouille (*** 1/2)
Best Documentary Feature: Taxi to the Dark Side (*** 1/2)

Multiple Oscar winners (features):
No Country for Old Men (4 Oscars)
The Bourne Ultimatum (3 Oscars) (***)
La Vie en Rose (2 Oscars)
There Will Be Blood (2 Oscars)

Most Oscar nominations (eight): No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood (tie at 8 each)

Golden Globes Best Drama Film: Atonement
Golden Globes Best Musical or Comedy Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (***)
Golden Globes Foreign-Language Film:The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (*** 1/2)
Golden Globes Animated Film: Ratatouille

BAFTA Best Film: Atonement
BAFTA Best British Film: This Is England (*** 1/2)
BAFTA Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others (*** 1/2)
BAFTA Best Animated Film: Ratatouille

PGA Best Film: No Country For Old Men
PGA Best Animated Film: Ratatouille
PGA Best Documentary Film: Sicko (*** 1/2)

SAG Ensemble Award: No Country For Old Men

DGA Award: No Country for Old Men

WGA Original Screenplay: Juno
WGA Adapted Screenplay: No Country For Old Men
WGA Documentary Screenplay: Taxi to the Dark Side

Online Film Critics Society Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Online Film Critics Society Best Foreign-Language Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Online Film Critics Society Best Documentary: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (*** 1/2)
Online Film Critics Society Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille

Broadcast Film Critics Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Broadcast Film Critics Animated Feature: Ratatouille
Broadcast Film Critics Comedy Film: Juno
Broadcast Film Critics Foreign Language Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

National Society of Film Critics Best Picture: There Will Be Blood
National Society of Film Critics Foreign-Language Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (*** 1/2)
National Society of Film Critics Non-Fiction Film: No End in Sight (****)

New York Film Critics Picture: No Country For Old Men
New York Film Critics Best Animated Film: Persepolis (*** 1/2)
New York Film Critics Non-Fiction Film: No End in Sight
New York Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others

Los Angeles Film Critics Picture: There Will Be Blood
Los Angeles Film Ciritics Best Animated Film: Persepolis and Ratatouille (tie)
Los Angeles Film Critics Non-Fiction Film: No End in Sight
Los Angeles Film Critics Best Foreign Language Film: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

National Board of Review Top Ten Films:
The Assassination of Jesse James... (** 1/2)
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bucket List (** 1/2)
Into the Wild (*** 1/2)
The Kite Runner (***)
Lars and the Real Girl (***)
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men (#1)
Sweeney Todd

National Board of Review Foreign Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
National Board of Review Animated Film: Ratatouille
National Board of Review Documentary: Body of War (n/a)

AFI Top Ten 2007:
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (** 1/2)
Into the Wild
Knocked Up (***)
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
The Savages (*** 1/2)
There Will Be Blood

Indiewire and Village Voice Top Tens (listed side by side)
1 There Will Be Blood/ There Will Be Blood
2 Zodiac (*** 1/2)/ No Country for Old Men
3 No Country for Old Men/ Zodiac
4 Syndromes and a Century (n/a)/ 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
5 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days/ I'm Not There (** 1/2)
6 I'm Not There/ Syndromes and a Century
7 The Assassination of Jesse James/ The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
8 Colossol Youth (n/a)/ Killer of Sheep (*** 1/2)
9 Killer of Sheep/ Ratatouille
10 Offside (*** 1/2)/ Colossal Youth

2007 additions to Theyshootpictures top 250 films of the 21st Century [here I'll repeat the ratings]:

17. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (*** 1/2)
21. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (*** 1/2)
25. ZODIAC (*** 1/2)
51. I'M NOT THERE (** 1/2)
52. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS (*** 1/2)
128. ONCE (***)
156. INTO THE WILD (*** 1/2)
165. PERSEPOLIS (*** 1/2)
177. RATATOUILLE (*** 1/2)
188. ATONEMENT (**)
190. AWAY FROM HER (***)
236. THE SAVAGES (*** 1/2)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2009 Leonard Maltin Guide: Actors and Directors Index Adds

With the new Maltin Guide comes the addition of new names to the star/director index (plus the inevitable axing of others). Since putting the guide together every year and making editorial decisions is no easy task, let's not be too harsh on the deletions, which this year included: George Burns/Gracie Allen, Danny DeVito, Deanna Durbin, John Goodman, Michael Keaton, John Malkovich, Sharon Stone, and Debra Winger. Instead, let's take a look at the "graduating class" of 2007/08.

New "Faces" added to the Leonard Maltin Guide 2009 Index:

Javier Bardem

Ben Kingsley

Heath Ledger

Queen Latifah

Rob Reiner 
(the only director add)

Forest Whitaker

Monday, July 28, 2008

"The Dark Knight" Juggernaut Continues...

The Dark Knight's 10 day cume of over $300 million makes my July 20 blog entry's question as to whether it will reach $400 seem like a joke. So now the question is, exactly how high up the domestic top ten will it rise? Could it possibly beat Titanic and become the #1 movie ever? Again, an Oscar campaign re-release and possible Best Picture nomination could give the movie the extra boost it needs to hit that box office high mark.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2009 Leonard Maltin Guide Is Out!

Every year I greatly anticipate Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (as usual, out at the bookstores way before its Amazon street date). His capsule reviews and ratings set the standard for how a film will be seen by future generations. The one thing I have noticed of late however, is that the **** rating is practically unattainable for new releases, and the *** 1/2 rating is more like a **** these days [for example, the acclaimed No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood both rated *** 1/2]. When the new guide comes out it's a game of find the one movie that Maltin gave ****. In years past it's been The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), don't think there was one for 2005, and Little Children (2006). This year, both the Iraq War doc No End In Sight and the Apollo space program doc In the Shadow of the Moon received the coveted ****. You could probably search ratings-wise on the online version-- if anyone knows of other **** films in his guide from the last three years, I'd like to know about it.

Here's how my top ten 2007 stacked up against the Maltin Guide's ratings:

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (*** 1/2)
300 (***)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (*** 1/2)
Away From Her (***)
The Darjeeling Limited (** 1/2)
Into the Wild (*** 1/2)
Juno (*** 1/2)
Paris je t’aime (** 1/2)
Ratatouille (*** 1/2)
Sicko (*** 1/2)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 5 of 5

Two of the very best episodes of Moonlighting played at the end of season two, reviewed below.

Season Two (continued):

• “Every Daughter’s Father Is A Virgin (airdate: 2/18/86) ****
This episode opens with Maddie and David addressing the camera to read viewer mail, all about how they should kiss already— it ends up in the air again, of course, but it’s a cute “filler.” Funny Blue Moon office opening that only needs David to be disguised as a priest to keep the comedy ball rolling. We’re introduced to Maddie’s parents— in the form of Robert Webber and Eva Marie Saint— who are in L.A. for a wedding. Moonlighting throws its audience another curveball with a highly dramatic story in which Maddie's mother confides in her that she suspects infidelity and David agrees to follow Maddie's father to prove her “wrong.” Sequence in which David tails Mr. Hayes is well played, nicely scored to The Temptations’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone.” David has a lot of one-liners to balance out this episode (“I wasn’t even in town that month.”/ “Like I always say, if you can’t agree, disagree.”/ “Alright, then it’s Oedipie.”/ “Your wish is my demand.”) David’s treatise on justified dishonesty is hilarious (“the turkey tastes great Aunt Sophie… the factory just isn’t the same without you cousin Eddie.”) At the centerpiece of the episode are Cybil Shepard and Robert Webber’s scenes together which are heartbreaking. Eva Marie Saint has one nice, memorable speech (“It rains, and it stops, and the sun comes out again.”) There's even a funny reference to Maddie’s door slamming. Not a sour note throughout (except perhaps a weak tag), and if it’s not a “fun one” that you’d want to frequently return to, it’s a significant episode in the Moonlighting oeuvre.

• “Camille” (airdate: 5/13/86) ****
Title Card: "1. Here Comes the Bride" as the soundtrack blares: “Devil with the Blue Dress” and Whoopi Goldberg enters frame. It’s nonstop from there and is possibly my all-around favorite episode of Moonlighting (save for the offbeat "Atomic Shakespeare"). The plot surrounds Camille Brand (Goldberg), a small time hustler who accidentally thwarts the assassination of a senator and becomes an instant celebrity, prompting David to hire her for her publicity value to Blue Moon Investigations. David Paymer plays the usual lackey, Judd Nelson plays the dirty cop that wants to blackmail Camille for a piece of the money she’ll get due to her new found fame, and Edie McClurg has a cameo as a chatty woman getting her hair done (“I had this dream last night... about this man with the longest tongue you’ve seen and he could breathe through his ears.”) Goldberg, in an Emmy-nominated performance, offers both laughs and pathos as the shyster-with-a-heart-of-gold; Judd Nelson is great as the oily fortune hunter. Idea of David holding an ice cream as he gets off the elevator in one scene is a funny bit. Although Camille lectures Maddie and David: “Who I am and what I do is take people for a ride. And you two have been rode,” you know she doesn’t mean it. The best of the best crazy chases and finales— as only Moonlighting could get away with [then and now] (and one last brilliant cameo that I won’t reveal). A sexual-tension-filled last few minutes had legions of fans tuning in for season three.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Dark Knight" Ranked #1 on ImdB

Not surprisingly, The Dark Knight now top's Imdb's list, which stands as follows:

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
3. The Godfather (1972)
4. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
6. Pulp Fiction (1994)
7. Schindler's List (1993)
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
10. Casablanca (1942)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yahoo! Lists Scientifically Inaccurate Movies

There's a fun article on Yahoo! that comments on the scientific inaccuracies of ten films from Armageddon to Total Recall to this summer's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Scientifically inaccurate movies link.

There is also a list on historically inaccurate films: link.

Here's another link to comments on Armageddon's inaccuracies:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

1937's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" -- the Oldest Film in American Domestic Top 100 Box Office-- Is Knocked Out By "The Dark Knight"

I was watching this closely, knowing that at any day Snow White would fall out of the domestic top 100. It seemed that, appropriately, WALL-E would dethrone this first great animated masterpiece. However, within a day of what would have been WALL-E's entrance into the top 100, The Dark Knight zipped by....

This now makes 1939's Gone WIth the Wind (currently at #88) the oldest film in the (unadjusted) Top 100 Domestic Box Office Moneymakers of All-Time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 4 of 5

Two more good ones from Moonlighting reviewed.

Season Two (continued):

• “The Bride of Tupperman” (airdate: 1/14/86) ***
Addison watches The Bride of Frankenstein in his office at the end of a lazy Friday, giving some audio commentary on the Monster’s woes. Maddie wants to take off early on this particular Friday, prompting David to wonder why: and leading them to discuss a date, but it doesn’t happen, as duty calls. The episode’s plot revolves around a 39-year-old man’s desire to hire Maddie and David to find a woman— only it’s a possibly non-existent one: he wants them to find him a dream mate, a la a dating service. A perfect Moonlighting premise: David brings in his version of the dream mate and Maddie hers— with the expected differences. Most fun is the approach the two take in finding the woman: both finding it impossible (at first). The episode does offer some real discussion of what men and women want (and the conundrum of what looks good on paper versus real world expectations and desires). Funny moment when David supposedly uses his investigative background to open a door with Maddie’s shoe. Quick Moonlightingesque wrap-up of the mystery (Maddie: “When did you find all this out?”/David: “During the commercial.”) features a wild, funny chase through a hospital.

• “In God We Strongly Suspect” (airdate: 2/11/86) *** 1/2
Maddie and David talk directly to the screen in the kill-time opener in which they discuss a failed 3-D episode (Moonlighting had actually planned to do this—series creator Glenn Gordon Caron later did do a Medium episode in 3-D as a make-up session). Another great Moonlighting opener follows in which a Harry Houdini-like accident during a magic show of the “Great Kandinisky” [also spelled Kandinski during the episode!] ends with a distinct punctuation of that wonderfully familiar “ding” of the elevator at the Blue Moon building. Maddie finds the office empty and then a rare moment occurs in TV— a Beatles song is actually used well (“Happy Birthday”). Continuing the breaking of the fourth wall, the episode features a classic pull-in (during Maddie’s flying fig speech) in which the two characters both address the audience. The Houdini reference continues: the plot of this episode is that Mrs. Kandinsky hires Maddie and David to watch her husband’s body, since, as a purveyor of the occult, he had threatened to kill her after he died. What follows, could qualify as a Moonlighting Halloween episode— even if it did originally aired in February. What follows is a fun, interesting mystery, with some funny lines throughout (Maddie: “And wipe that stupid grin off your face.” David: “This happens to be the smartest grin I own.”/”Ceased to be deceased”, etc.). Cute scene also when Maddie visits an old magician named Abby Cadabra: magic in itself. The meat of the episode comes out of left field but somehow fits: the God discussion— brilliantly done. This is absolutely why Moonlighting is one of the great series of all-time. When do TV shows get into discussions of theology amidst comic romps? The show ends up being mostly about Maddie’s doubts and David’s belief in God, than anything else. The topic ends on an interesting note, in terms of both character development and what thoughts the viewing audience might have.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Time Runs Out for "Ebert & Roeper"

In a rapid-fire end-of-an-era double-announcement, Richard Roeper and Roger Ebert are severering ties with their review show At the Movies. I always enjoyed Ebert (particularly in the old days) and I was fine with Roeper (he did have some of that old Gene Siskel man about town quality about him to temper uberintellectual Ebert). But it seemed as if a change was in the air anyway. I bet Roeper will be on the first plane to Los Angeles for some project or another (he apparently has another show lined up already).

Here are links to articles about the two departures:

The New York Times


Here's a link to Roger Ebert's site.

Here's a link to the Ebert & Roeper site.

7/22/08 Follow-up: New Hosts announced!

CNN Link.

7/24/08 Follow-up: Link to Roger Ebert's "The Balcony Is Closed."

Ebert link.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Dark Knight" Breaks Opening Weekend Record

By the time EW's Summer Movie Issue got its first few wrinkles on your coffee table, with a few soda can circles on its Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull cover, it was widely predicted that The Dark Knight, and not Indy would be the #1 summer movie. The opening numbers confirm The Dark Knight's dominance, with little else left in the summer to stand in its way. Now the question is, will it gross $400 million domestic and enter the very elite group of films that have managed this feat (numbering just 7 to-date). The film's only stumbling blocks are its length (2.5 hours) and the fact that it's not young child-friendly (as, generally speaking, the 7 other $400-millioners were). The tried-and-true bellwether will be the Monday drop-off percentage: will it be significantly more or less than 50%? I'm voting that The Dark Knight, length and all, will be an unstoppable "must-see" and will easily land in the top ten domestic of all-time. What might give the film that extra boost is an end-of-the-year Oscar consideration re-rerelease: something few summer movie blockbusters get. It will be fun watching The Dark Knight ride up the box office ranks—particularly with an opening weekend debut at #149.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Terminator Salvation Teaser Trailer in front of Dark Knight

Gets the blood flowing but it's strictly a teaser...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

60th Annual Emmy Nominations

The Emmy nominations were announced, and as expected 30 Rock and Mad Men did very well and seem likely to be the winners for Best Comedy and Drama Series respectively. Pushing Daises got a lot of attention too (although curiously no nom for Best Comedy series).

In my previous blog entry, I correctly predicted four out of the five comedy series nominations (Entourage got it instead of Ugly Betty) and four of the six drama series (I only had five predictions: I didn't have Damages or Dexter which trumped my last-chance-at-a-nom prediction for The Wire).


Curb Your Enthusiasm


The Office

30 Rock

Two and a Half Men

BEST DRAMA SERIES nominations:

Boston Legal





Mad Men

Other reactions:

Pleasantly surprised by Bryan Cranston's nom (for Breaking Bad) just cause he's a nice guy.

Happy for Christina Applegate, who's finally got a hit series (as lead) on her hands with Samantha Who?— I wouldn't be surprised if she wins.

Lead Actress in a Drama looked more like the Oscars than the Emmys (Sally Field, Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close, Mariska Hargitay, Holly Hunter).

From what I've heard, and based on these noms, I think Damages is probably the best show I'm not watching.

Four out of the five Guest Actor in a Comedy series and three out of five Guest Actress went to 30 Rock— c'mon! And I love 30 Rock, but, for example, Tim Conway wasn't that good (and again, I love Tim Conway!). As a result, 30 Rock now has the record for most nominations for a comedy series in a single season— 17.

Would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to see Charles Durning win for Guest Actor for Rescue Me-- please let this happen! (Plus, with 9 nominations, he's never won.)

Diahann Carroll is nominated for Guest Actress in a Drama for Grey's Anatomy. She has never won an Emmy but I think Sharon Gless has the buzz for Nip/Tuck.

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: 0 noms. Crap!

Miniseries/Made-For-TV-Movie categories: usual boring nonsense— retire these categories already!

In Treatment sure got a shot in the arm, with its four noms (three for acting).

If its the Emmys, there must be yet another category added to water them down EVEN further. This year? Outstanding Reality Host. So what do we get?: Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, etc. How horrifyingly embarrassing for Little Miss Emmy.

George Carlin got a posthumous nomination for his special [presumably he did anyway as exec producer of his nominated special]: he's never won an Emmy, so I expect his show (he and the other producers) will get it.

Saturday Night Live got 6 noms— the last time this happened was in 1994; the most noms SNL has ever gotten in a single season was 8 (this happened twice: 1977 and 1978). SNL's grand total is now 101 nominations. It will eventually drag itself up to most nominated series of all-time. This record is currently held by ER (122 noms— only 2 this year: and it probably won't remain on the air much longer).

Family Guy's Star Wars episode (Blue Harvest) was nominated for Outstanding Animated Program One Hour or More AND Robot Chicken's Star Wars episode was nominated for Outstanding Animated Program Less Than One Hour. Yeah!

And... Jon Stewart was nominated for hosting the 80th Annual Oscars! He's now the fifth host to be nominated for an Emmy for the Oscars, following Billy Crystal (multiple noms and two wins [plus another two wins for writing]), Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, and Ellen DeGeneres. Will he be the second host to win? I think Don Rickles will probably get it (for his special Mr. Warmth— his first nomination).

Link to full list of nominees.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Criterion Adds Two More Jean-Pierre Melvilles

Jean-Pierre Melville, a member of the French New Wave, who died in 1973, directed 13 features. Criterion has now added two more titles to its Melville releases: Le doulos aka Doulos the Finger Man (1962) and Le deuxieme souffle aka Second Breath (1966). This puts the total Criterion output at 7 Melville titles. Curiously, an early short of his, Vingt Quatre Heures de la Vie d'un Clown (1945) has not been a special feature of any of them-- perhaps it's a lost film.

I haven't seen any of Melville's films, but with these new titles (plus an Anchor Bay release of his last film Un Flic from 2001 available) this is certainly a good time to discover his work. I'll add him to the ever growing list...

Link to Criterion's coming soon titles list.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best of the Year So Far: Midyear 2008

A few years back I realized that I had trouble diferentiating between the movies I liked and the movies I loved from the early part of the year. Roger Ebert has always suggested that this was true of the Academy and why the Oscars have such "short attention span." He recommended a midyear ballot to go along with the end-of-the-year ballot combining both to create the nominations list.

For me, I decided a top 5 usually works. I wait until July 15, since the first few weeks of January are generally a wash for new releases, and so 7/15 is a little closer to the mid-point. This year has been slim pickings for personal favorites. I acknowledge that WALL-E is, easily, the best reviewed film of the year and has already won that Animated Film Oscar— and it deserves it, based on critical consensus. However, it's a No Country For Old Men situation for me, because I liked WALL-E but I can't be dishonest and say I loved it.

I have just seven "nominees" for my top 5 this year— Cloverfield, In Bruges, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Hellboy II, Iron Man, The Mother of Tears, and Shine a Light.

My top 5 2008 so far (listed alphabetically):
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
In Bruges
Iron Man
Shine a Light

Monday, July 14, 2008

D. W. Griffith's Screen Debut- "The Adventures of Dollie" Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary

Griffith's first film as a director was released today in 1908. This short film can be seen on YouTube. It's not much, but has enough drama to get you through a viewing based on its historical significance (mute the score that's been attached though).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Heritage Galleries July Auction Realized

Heritage Galleries' July Auction ended this weekend. The two items that fetched the highest prices were from the first Astaire-Rogers film Flying Down to Rio (a two sheet poster and a window card)— they went for $26,290 each.

The third highest price realized— and the highest for a one-sheet— went to Creature from the Black Lagoon, which went for $25,095.

Next on the one-sheets was This Gun For Hire ($22,705).

Of the ones that caught my eye (and which I posted in my previous blog entry), that terrific Salome poster went for $10,157.50; Vertigo (VF- quality) went for $4,182.50; Invasion of the Body Snatchers (VF- quality) for just $1,553.50. The Flash Gordon poster is now on Heritage's post-auction bidding.

Here is Learn About Movie Posters compilation of top sellers of all-time.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top Ten 1950s Films To See

A couple months ago, I composed my silent era films-to-see list. Catching up on a few classic films from the 1950s over the last couple days, I decided to put together a top ten of films I haven't yet-seen from this decade of Technicolor, VistaVision, and samurais. Here's my list of movies I've yet-to-see, 1950s (quite a few biggies out there!):

The Gunfighter - 1950

Ikiru - 1952

Gate of Hell - 1953

The Moon Is Blue - 1953

Picnic - 1955

The Rose Tattoo - 1955

The Nights of Cabiria - 1957

Throne of Blood - 1957

I Want To Live! - 1958

A Night To Remember - 1958

Friday, July 11, 2008

Seven Surviving Cast Members Remain From "Gone With the Wind"

With the passing of Evelyn Keyes (memorable in Here Comes Mr. Jordan— 1941) at the age of 91, a total of seven cast members with speaking parts are left from the all-time classic Hollywood epic Gone With the Wind (according to all available sources online).

UPDATE: September 1, 2010 blog entry: passing of Cammie King

former update: UPDATE: August 22, 2008 blog entry: passing of Fred Crane.

The surviving actors are as follows:

Alicia Rhett (b. 2/1/15) as "India Wilkes." She is the young daughter from the Twelve Oaks Plantation. She can be seen at 18 minutes into the film (using the 4-disc Collector's Edition DVD version of the movie as a guide).

Olivia de Havilland (b. 7/1/16) as "Melanie Hamilton." De Havilland was fourth billed and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind. She's first seen at 19 minutes into the film.

Fred Crane (b. 3/22/18) as "Stuart Tarleton." As one of Scarlett's suitors, he appears in the movie's very first scene (at a little under 7 minutes into the film, following the overture and opening credits).

Mary Anderson (b. 4/30/20) as "Maybelle Merriwether." She is the first girl "auctioned" at the Atlanta bazaar (where Scarlett dances with Rhett). She can be seen at 43 minutes into the film. P.S. This link certainly raises an eyebrow.

Ann Rutherford (b. 11/2/20) as "Carreen O'Hara." She is the youngest sister of Scarlett. She is first seen at 14 minutes into the film.

Mickey Kuhn (b. 9/21/32) as "Beau Wilkes." Playing Ashley and Melanie's son, he appears toward the very end of the film (216 minutes into the approximately 223 minute film [1 hour 48 min into DVD 2])

Cammie King (b. 8/5/34) as "Bonnie Blue Butler." She plays Scarlett and Rhett's daughter. She first appears at 187 minutes into the film [1 hour 19 min into DVD 2]

UPDATE: August 22, 2008 blog entry: passing of Fred Crane.

UPDATE: September 1, 2010 blog entry: passing of Cammie King.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No News On "Magnificent Ambersons" DVD Release-- Trailer Online

With the two new Welles releases coming up, as noted in my last blog entry, one wonders, when will The Magnificent Ambersons come out on DVD? We're still waiting. And with the recent Metropolis discovery, so many Welles fans are wondering, will Welles' cut of Ambersons ever be discovered? As someone pointed out on, the Metropolis print was an actual release of the director's cut. The Magnificent Ambersons, on the other hand, was never released in any other form but the 88 minute version. However, there is a two-second glimpse of one of the most famous "lost" scenes to be found in the trailer-- the boarding house sequence (still above left)-- which can be viewed online at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Three Versions of "Touch of Evil" on One DVD Coming Soon

Finally, a DVD with the original release and the new restored version of Touch of Evil will be coming out on DVD. According to, the release is slated for 10/7. The DVD will actually include three versions of the film (kind of like the Criterion Mr. Arkadin disc): the 96-minute theatrical version, the 111-minute restored version and the 109-minute preview version. There will be commentary with various participants as well on each version.

Still looking forward to the August release of the Welles' Don Quixote DVD as I noted in my previous blog entry.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 3 of 5

Two more from Moonlighting, including the series' first of two clever Christmas episodes.

Season Two (continued):

• “Atlas Belched” (airdate: 12/10/85) ***
Very ‘80s “sting” music follows a robbery of office equipment in the opener— has Blue Moon been robbed? We soon discover that it wasn’t Blue Moon, but we get another surprise, Maddie has brought breakfast-for-two into the office: served on fine china for he and she. But the bad news is Maddie has ideas of selling the agency. But kismet strikes and David just might be able to impress a big fish and put Blue Moon on the map. Perfect Strangers’ Mark Linn-Baker guest stars as a poor schmuck whose bosses’ rolodex was stolen out of his office due to his negligence— he knows his job is as good as lost, until David meets him in a bar and takes the case in a preemptive strike at finding it before the boss finds out. Reference heavy episode: Ronald Reagan, Madonna (and the error in thinking she wouldn’t last), even The Lone Ranger, Because it’s such a downer, this is an episode you might not want to go back to— but it serves a purpose— to show how delicate and fleeting things in your life can be: for Maddie and David, it’s their happiness and fulfillment at Blue Moon— for the audience it’s basically the exact same thing, as their happiness is ours. As a part of the greater whole, an important episode in the series, and one that serves to bring our lead characters closer together.

• “Twas the Episode Before Christmas” (airdate: 12/17/85) ****
This episode is mostly remembered for its epilogue, an ending as wonderful as It’s A Wonderful Life— and I wouldn’t dare spoil it— but let me just say, again, no one was doing this kind of thing in series television in 1985. The show starts with another unsettling but effective opener that involves a heinous killing, softened only slightly by the familiar face of Richard Belzer. But even this opening (and retelling of the incident later) doesn’t impact the absolute happiness and ho-ho-ho jolliness of this Christmas episode. A great showcase for all three leads— Shepard, Willis, and Allyce Beasley; and the three are in top form. Seeing Agnes’ Dipesto’s apartment is a delightful surprise and its exactly as you’d expect. The way Agnes interacts within her home environment is very well written and played. The conceit of the “three kings” (and their crowns) is very funny, the other Christmas references are only so-so acceptable. The scene where David mocks Maddie, repeating her every words at the office, is masterfully timed. Wacky confrontation with the villains at the denouement is the show at its absolute silliest. For a show that had nothing to do with children and raising a family, the writers managed to pull off a Christmas miracle.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Complete Version of Metropolis (1927) Found

Big news on the silent film discovery front: a few days ago it was announced that twenty-odd minutes of lost footage from Metropolis has been found in the form of a complete print dating back to 1928.

Although much of it is of poor quality, the discovery 80 years later is remarkable.

Here is a link to Zeit Online's article regarding the find.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 2 of 5

Here's my capsule reviews of the next two episodes I consider classics of the series. One is a delightful romp— and one of my very favorites, the other a dark moody piece (until the usual wacky end).

Season Two (continued):

• “Somewhere Under the Rainbow” (airdate: 11/19/85) ****
The first perfect episode of Moonlighting comes from the pen of the same writers who did “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice,” Debra Frank and Carl Sautter, and, it too, plays like a miniature movie. The episode begins with a bang-up opening sequence in which a woman puts a spell on a man and he dies on the spot. At Blue Moon, Maddie and David are at it again, this time over a discussion of art, high and low, and each other’s definition of “poetry.” When Maddie brands David a philistine, he’s able to use her words against her as an unexpected client arrives— the young woman of the opening sequence, whose name is Kathleen Kilpatrick. She claims she’s a leprechaun who’s being hunted for her gold. Maddie doesn’t want to take the case, but David calls Maddie on her lack of imagination, i. e. “poetry.” Agnes has a hilarious line that never fails to get me, right before the first “station break.” The bulk of the episode has us starting to believe that Kathleen is a leprechaun, playing out like Miracle on 34th Street— each beat has the audience cheering her on. This episode softens Maddie (and even David: particularly in his parting advice to Kathleen) and makes Agnes DiPesto look normal (!). There are plenty of laughs, with little-to-none missing their target. There are some nice character touches too, as when David describes the way Kathleen casts spells by holding up her hand “like early Diana Ross”— the exact reference that David Addison would use. The silly chase at the airport is highly pre-9/11 and has several moments in which, despite the villain being right on their heels, the trio have what seems like several minutes in between his catching up to them for which to concoct a new scheme to get away! But no matter, it’s all in good fun, and this was exactly the kind of material that no one was doing on television at the time.

• “Portrait of Maddie” (airdate: 11/26/85) ***
A disturbing opening has a gun going off and blood spattering on a collage of magazine covers featuring Maddie Hayes at various stages of her modeling career (employing the real life Cybill Shepard’s image). The back-and-forth between Maddie and David in the opening (and most of the first act) is not quite up to par— the bread-and-butter of the series— but includes some of the winking to the audience that became a big part of the series. Also prevalent is the hopelessly obvious soft focus on close-ups of Cybill Shepard. When the mystery gets going in act two, we’re brought into the Hitchcockian plot, that at least for this episode, takes precedence over Maddie and David’s shenanigans, ever so slightly lowering the humor level. The line “Where’s the duchess?!” and David’s retort however becomes funnier with each viewing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Moonlighting Seasons One & Two: Classic Episodes, Part 1 of 5

I ranked eleven episodes of Moonlighting *** or above, here's capsule reviews of the first three:

Season One

• "The Next Murder You Hear" (airdate: 03/19/85) ***
As with the best episodes of the series, a diverting mystery serves as a background to Maddie Hayes and David Addisons’s battle of the sexes. The comic wordplay begins with one terrific silent moment from Maddie following David's utterance of the word “boinked.” This early episode also shows off Addison’s talents for detecting (a little), which helps ground all the craziness. The episode is about a late-night “lonelyhearts” talk show host who’s murdered on the air, and when it hits the front pages, David wants to take the case for publicity; Maddie begins to listen to the radio host's old shows on tape and becomes interested. The plot twist is obvious to Moonligting fans and anyone who's read the credits; a second less obvious twist keeps the episode humming along and into act three. Addison getting drunk at a bar (singing “Respect,” etc.) has its moments and a certain delightful rough-around-the-edges early series episode quality. Contains the classic moment where Maddie finds David in her office, when she pulls her door shut. Not among the very best episodes, but it’s the season one episode that best exemplifies the future formula, including the wacky confrontation/chase-the-killer finale.

Season Two

• "The Lady in the Iron Mask" (airdate: 10/1/85) *** 1/2
Odd, and therefore memorable, series episode in which a woman wearing a black veil, whose face had been disfigured, shows up at the Blue Moon Detective Agency, in order to hire David and Maddie to find the recently paroled man who threw acid in her face (she claims she wants him found because she “always loved him"). This episode seemed to rerun quite a bit while the show was on, so it must have done well in the ratings. It opens hilariously with some off-topic commentary on “9-to-5-er” boredom (When the staff disappears Agnes Dipesto says they’re at lunch and Maddie says “Lunch? It’s not even 10:15?” to which Agnes replies “OK then. Brunch?”). Again the showdown between Maddie and David begins with the oft-repeated argument as to whether the case should be taken, which comes to a dramatic head with some character development from Maddie— she had once been the object of an unhealthy obsession herself. We get back on comedic track when Maddie mentions the phrase “Let’s be friends” prompting David to offer his interpretation of this most-dreaded of female turndowns: “No kissy, no huggy, no horizonty.” A very farfetched series of plot twists and turns mark this episode— that you just go with— punctuated by a Hitchcockian score.

• "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" (airdate: 10/15/85) *** 1/2
The black & white episode, the Orson Welles episode, the “Blue Moon” episode. In the old abandoned Flamingo Cove nightclub, whose heydey was in the 1940s, Maddie and David are told about the famous murder that took place there, in which a singer and a trumpet player both blamed each other for her husband’s murder. The episode shows two versions of how the “Flamingo Cove Murder” might have happened— Maddie’s version shot in glossy MGM style and David’s, shot in down-and-dirty Warner Bros. style. This show begins with Addison’s opinion as to why he’s glad that there’s a little dishonesty in the world (and the unexplained logic seems to make sense!). Just before the show goes to black-and-white, Maddie and David have a "car fight" in which he calls her a sexist and she ends up shouting: “Not another word, not another sound, not another peep until we get back to the office!” Then there’s a beat, and David says: “peep.” Back at the office David gives his “sexiest sexist speech” on how he likes to “satirize, scrutinize, fantasize, etc. etc.” Maddie. The main drama is well written and a nice homage, if somehow a shade forced (especially the humor in the second story). Cybill Shepard shines in this episode, particularly in her singing scenes, while Bruce Willis seems out of place. I still think this is a terrific (as well as ambitious) episode, just one I rarely go back to. It was dedicated to Orson Welles, who filmed a brief introduction to explain to the audience that the episode would be in black & white (even then I thought this was absurd— did TV execs think that 1985 audiences were that unsophisticated?). However, because of the silliness of such a necessity, Orson Welles was given a primetime platform to essentially say goodbye— the greatest director of the black-and-white era, espousing the need to take an artistic chance.