Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Movie Watching

This month had a lot of promise at the multiplex, with mixed fulfillment.

Watchmen was a distant film and as a viewer I felt that the entire time I had to work to engage myself. This is not the sign of a lazy viewer, it's the sign of a bad movie or at least in this case, a not-that-great one. And yes Dr. Manhattan's dong was just far too distracting. I liked pieces of the movie here and there, however: "You're locked in here with me!"-- for example. On the whole I thought it was decent, but I know I'll never revisit it.

Sunshine Cleaning was a movie I enjoyed a lot. However, after I walked away, I realized that what little that got resolved at the end was oh-so tied up in this neat little bow. But it had that desperately needed originally so lacking in almost everything-- at least everything that is set in a contemporary, realistic setting.

When I stood up after Duplicity, the woman behind me said, "It was OK." That about summed it up. What is with Tony Gilroy? Is he the M. Night Shyamalan of urban contemporary thrillers? You wait and wait and wait for the end. And Michael Clayton had a much better ending than Duplicty, so I had much more forgiveness for it. But then again Duplicity won't get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture as Michael Clayton did, so there you have it.

And then, I saw I Love You, Man-- easily the best film this year to-date and possibly the funniest comedy since Borat. The premise is familiar-- in fact there was a french film a year ago with this very plot. The structure is formula. But Paul Rudd finally finds his niche by mixing in a heavy dose of self depreciation. One quibble: who doesn't know the band Rush? (a [minor] plot point)-- this was the only misstep in it. And I wasn't even dying to go see it!

On TCM, I watched a lot of Oscar-winners as per their annual "31 Days of Oscar." The one I was most curious about was the first Oscar-winner for Best Film Editing-- Eskimo (1933). The bastard step-child of Nanook of the North, in the misdt of the drama, is a very un-Nanook sequence in which a white trader rapes an Eskimo woman. Some of the film is Nanookish with hunting for food etc. but this storyline dominates the film and its third act. The "Oscar-winning" editing involved a lot of weird rear projection mixed with the semi-documentary stuff. To the modern eye it looked pretty bad. But the movie, on the whole, is worthwhile.

Also saw Best Picture nominee Picnic (poor!-- what a terrible movie), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (pleasant, but not the **** film the Leonard Maltin Guide claims it to be), and Vacation from Marriage (writing winner/ OK, talky-- has some Imdb fans, but I wouldn't recommend it).

Finally saw La Roue (1922)-- a really great 100 minute film, buried in four-and-a-half hours of excess. So, I would certainly recommend it, but it's a tough slog through such a running time: a shame that it has to be qualified so negatively. Again, the reason why I'm secretly glad (don't tell!) that the version of Greed we have is 2 hours, 15 mins.-- because I know this version is a masterpiece-- what the longer versions were like I don't know... but perhaps we were robbed of an even greater work.

Also caught In Cold Blood (1967): very good, but also not a supreme classic-- yet it was the best movie I saw on TCM this month. And, although I'm sure this is blasphemy, I found the Quincy Jones score to be dated and disruptive. Also on my "lists" to see: I caught This Is England (2007) on IFC-- strong start, atmospheric, but ultimately, skippable.

Caught the "last of the silent adventures" The Iron Mask (1929) on the big screen-- its flaws were so easily forgivable in the face of that irresistible Fairbanks charm.

Monday, March 30, 2009

W. W. Young's "Alice in Wonderland" (1915) Now Available on Internet Archive

Considered the first "significant" version of the story, this 1915 five reel feature film has been among the harder-to-locate silent era titles-- but no longer, since its Internet Archive posting.

Click here for Link.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Full Reviews on OneLineReview

Here's a list of all the movies for which I've written full reviews, in chronological order. It skips the capsule reviews I've written from time to time. Rather than making this an annual blog entry, I will continually update this entry and have it accessible by its LABEL under "Full Reviews List." I'm doing it in paragraph rather than list form, to conserve space.

A Bill of Divorcement (1932), It Happened One Night (1934), Top Hat (1935), Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Bambi (1942), Brief Encounter (1945), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Adam's Rib (1949), All the King's Men (1949).

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), The Quiet Man (1952), Marty (1955), Wild Strawberries (1957).

Psycho (1960), Dr. Strangelove... (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

Gandhi (1982), Terms of Endearment (1983).

Casino Royale (2006), The Departed (2006), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Away From Her (2007), Juno (2007), No Country for Old Men (2007), There Will Be Blood (2007).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

If You Believe They Put a Man on the Moon

I'm getting interested in all things space travel again. Will we finally put a man on Mars? The dates being bandied about are all in the 2030s. Colonization of Mars is an inevitability, so I think we should just go ahead put those tax dollars into it. I ran across an interesting article in Astronomy magazine (last month's) though that argued that it's good that we're not rushing into such things as manned flights to Mars-- since rushed-into and failed space programs lead to even further delays, which is a valid point.

I do hope we (mainly the US) get another rover on Mars though before the Spirit and Opportunity no longer function-- already they've surpassed their 3 month longevity astronomically (no pun intented)-- at 5 years+. It would be cool that, starting with these two pioneering rovers, we always had at least one funtioning rover starting from 2003. The Mars Science Laboratory is scheduled to launch in the Fall-Winter of 2011, to land in about September 2012. Nasa is currently having a contest about naming the new rover-- submission of nominees were by schoolchildren. Among the nine finalists: Wonder, Adventure, Vision... and Amelia? Link to Nasa site.

Link to Wikipedia article with list of Mars space programs.

By the way, there's a funny YouTube video about all of these landers and rovers dropping down on Mars: here's the link.

I look forward to a few other missions, including the Pluto flyby. This mission-- New Horizons-- launched on January 19, 2006 and will reach it's destination on July 14, 2015.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Four '50s Oscar-Nominees Have Died

The '50s Oscar nominees still around are so few, and their number plummeted further with four back-to-back obits:

Tullio Pinelli (1908-2009), died March 7. Best Writing nominee: I Vitelloni (1953) and La Strada (1954), plus two '60s noms.

Betsy Blair (1923-2009), died March 13. Best Supporting Actress nominee: Marty (1955).

Millard Kaufman (1917-2009), died March 14. Best Writing nominee: Take the High Ground! (1953) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955).

Jack Lawrence (1912-2009), died March 15. Best Song nominee for Susan Slept Here (1954)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This Month on TCM: "Marty" (1955)

On March 31st, TCM is showing Best Picture winner Marty-- the Little Miss Sunshine of 1955. With Marty, Oscar-winning trio Paddy Chayefsky, Delbert Mann, and Ernest Borgnine offered up an uplifting piece of cinema that is forever relevant.

"I'm just a fat, little man. A fat, ugly man," blurts Marty to his mother in a desparate admission of his lifelong dating frustrations. But Marty is ever hopeful. He gets it from the ladies at the butcher shop, gets it from his mother... but he has his friends, he has his work, and life isn't so bad.

In bringing Chayefsky's "kitchen sink" drama from the Golden Age of Television to the silver screen, little is lost of the intimacy by director Delbert Mann (who also did the TV version). Perhaps the only difference is in Borgnine's performance. But maybe this more overt approach over original lead Rod Steiger's internalizations, was necessary for the big screen-- could Steiger have pulled off the joie de vive that Borgnine delivers at the bus stop (after his first meeting with Clara) with such aplomb?

The film starts off with Marty getting lectured about why he isn't married now that his younger brother has just tied the knot. There is no hint of rumors of homosexuality (that would be in today's Marty), but something has got to be wrong-- at the very least isn't he ashamed, everyone wonders? Marty has bigger issues on his mind-- like buying out the butcher shop he works at; but his nagging loneliness hangs over him.

Marty's mother, played by Esther Minciotti, gets word that Marty could get a date by going to local singles scene, the Stardust Ballroom. Although Marty says he's been there many times before, he goes this Saturday night to please his mother (or to get far away from her nagging, perhaps). There he meets "dog" Clara, a schoolteacher who's an over-the-hill 29! They talk and talk, but the film never lags. Borginine's Marty has charm. The film convinces us that he's a "catch." And Betsy Blair's Clara, although painfully shy, seems to agree. Clara calls Marty a "nice guy"-- as much the kiss of death today as it was then. Marty starts to have doubts about Clara, mostly based on how others perceive her.

In an interesting subplot, Marty's cousin Tommy (Jerry Paris) and his wife Virginia (Karen Steele) are having marital troubles due to living with Tommy's mother ("Aunt Catherine," played by Augusta Ciolli). Tommy at one point lecutures Marty. Why should Marty want to get married? He's free from the responsiblity-- why spoil it? Is geting married-- chancing marrying the wrong person, worth the trouble? It might seem to leave a smudge on Marty's rose-colored glasses, but instead it suggests that Marty, who took so long to find his match, may have been luckier than some who perhaps rushed into marriage. And yet, it also shows that everything doesn't end up as one would expect in relationships. This was a necessary shade of gray for Marty's storyline, keeping the potential treckliness of the material as a whole at bay.

And so it goes. The film meets an inevitable conclusion and there are no groundbreaking cinematic moments, but the drama is solid, and the characters are real.

Marty was one of the defining films of the 1950s-- even internationally, as it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It's a "slight" film, without a grandious sweep, an unusual winner for the Best Picture Oscar, and surely the first major success by an independent film.

Marty (1955): An eternally relatable film, done on an appropriately modest scale, which may not be the height of all that cinema has to offer, but an example of what is dramatically possible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

82nd Annual Oscars: Dates Announced

The "key dates" for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards have been announced. And, to my chagrin, the awards have been pushed two weeks forward to avoid the Olympics-- which means the nominations are back to February and the show, March. Ugh! Wrong direction! One day, it's my hope, the nominations will be early January and the show early February. Trust me, studios will make sure their movies get released in November-early December. As far as I'm concerned, the last "wide" releases should be on Christmas day-- not January 31st. Can't Anytown, U.S.A. get their Frost/Nixon in 2008, you know, the year it was actually released, and not January 2009? No wonder the public is always confused as to what movies are eligible.

The nominations will be on February 2, 2010; the 82nd Annual Oscars will be on March 7.

Link to full list of key dates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Quantum of Solace" On DVD-- Plus a Twitter Event

To celebrate the release of the 22nd James Bond film Quantum of Solace on DVD and Blu-Ray, 007 fansite MI6 is hosting special worldwide online viewing parties; the U.S. one is tonight.

Click here for more info.

The Twittering begins at 7PM PST!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Heritage Galleries March Auction Realized

Heritage Galleries' March Auction ended this weekend, resulting in the fifth-highest amount of money ever paid for a movie poster-- the $310,700 fetched for the style F Dracula(1931) one sheet.

The next biggest seller in the March auction was a tie between the 14 x 36 Freaks (1932) poster, and the Walt Disney short-subject Mad Doctor one sheet-- both of which garnered a not-too-shabby $107,550 apiece.

The Grade VF+ Citizen Kane went for $47,800; the grade VF- Casablanca went for $10,755; and a steal at $8,365 was the FN+ Lady From Shanghai.

An impressive auction for Heritage (especially considering the continued terrible state of the economy).

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Upcoming Criterion: Includes Ingmar Bergman Doc

Three new releases. Link.

Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad has been on my to-see list forever-- although I dread it. Louis Malle's My Dinner with Andre occasionally gets the eye-roll from film fans, but I did think the three collaborators pulled it off.

Bergman Island (2006) from filmmaker Marie Nyreröd, which runs 83 minutes, looks like a must-rent for anyone's upcoming Bergman festival.

Didn't jump out of my seat at this group, but worthy releases all.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Movie Preview 2009

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY gives us their annual Spring Movie Preview.

With the end of awards season, it's time for One Line Review to take a three-week hiatus. I'll be back on March 22nd with more on the movies... In the meantime, below are the top five Spring movies I'm most looking forward to seeing:

FIVE on my Spring '08 List to See:

WATCHMEN: I'm starting to hear muddled things critically, but of course, who cares?--will still be there on March 6.

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN: I'm a sucker for the trailer on this one, and although the original is a dim memory, so much so that I might have never actually seen it, has that childhood nostalgia touchstone. March 13.

SUNSHINE CLEANING: Yes, the trailer is a bit too Little Miss Sunshine-esque, but have to see this follow-up by the same team, plus I'm liking Amy Adams more and more. March 13.

ADVENTURELAND: Absolutely can't wait to see this movie! Has a timeless feel in the trailer and must appeal to all ages: those places never changed. March 27

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS: One of the many kids movies (and I rarely care) that look really fun this year. March 27.