Tag Archive for 'Favorite'

Finian’s Rainbow

Finian’s Rainbow (6/28/15) TCM (1968 ***1/2) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the musical by E.Y. Harburg, Fred Saidy and Burton Lane, starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele and Don Francks. When Finian McLonergan steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold and travels to America’s deep South, it doesn’t take long before the rightful owner shows up and demands its return. While it certainly doesn’t seem that long ago, I’d previously watched and reviewed this film back on 3/1/06, and described how it became one of my sentimental favorites. While it’s not a perfect movie, I’m so glad to report that its place in my heart hasn’t changed much since childhood. I haven’t much to add other than this time around I noticed some similarities to The Muppet Movie (1979). Specifically, compare the Muppets’ “Moving Right Along” to Keenan Wynn in “The Begat.” In addition to that, I also began to wonder if Finian‘s original musical was influenced to any degree by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Curiously, googling the obvious search terms shed absolutely no light on the matter. (Favorite)

Boyhood

Boyhood (6/24/15) TMC (2014 ****) Directed by Richard Linklater, starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. A young Texas daydreamer named Mason grows to manhood before our eyes. I’d previously watched and reviewed this film on 2/9/15, a bit prior to it losing the Best Picture award to Birdman (2014). Not surprisingly, Boyhood remains my choice for best picture. Watching it for this second time, I was further impressed by the loving touch that went into this film. Given the variety of projects he undertakes, I don’t know if Richard Linklater is ever going to be able to top this accomplishment or not, but I sure as hell wouldn’t bet against him, and I hope to see him someday holding a Best Director and/or Best Picture Oscar in his hands. In my previous review I wrote that I would likely watch it again. Guess what? I’m going to repeat that same prediction this time around. Let’s see how long it takes before I do. (Favorite)

JFK

JFK (6/21/15) MAX (1991 ****) Directed by Oliver Stone, based on the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs, starring Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon and Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison decides to expand his purview to include the assassination of the 35th President of the United States. I had not watched JFK for more than a decade. I saw it when it was first released and its visual style blew me away, immediately becoming my favorite of Oliver Stone’s films. It’s still hard for me to believe that JFK is nearly 25 years old. Of course, because of its subject matter, the film was controversial when it was released, but it seems like that aspect of it has softened somewhat over the years. The question of whether there was or was not a conspiracy to assassinate John Kennedy doesn’t seem to be as poignant in a post-9/11 world. (Favorite)

The Avengers

The Avengers (5/3/15) FX (2012 ****) Co-written and directed by Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston. The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble to save the planet from an Asgardian demigod and his alien pals. After watching the somewhat disappointing Age of Ultron (2015), I wanted to test whether my memory of the first Avengers film was faulty. Well, as it turns out, even watching it with commercial interruptions, the 2012 film was every bit as good as I’d remembered: The story, characterizations, character relationships, villain and humor were all 100% rock solid. (Favorite)

Godspell

Godspell (4/5/15) TCM (1973 ****) Directed by David Greene, based on the musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, starring Victor Garber, David Haskell, Katie Hanley, Merrell Jackson and others. The Gospel According to St. Matthew is brought to musical life by a bunch of face-painting hippies in the vacant streets of New York City. It’s not exactly a tradition, but I often think of watching this film each Easter, and it was on an Easter morning that I did. I’ve loved this film since I was a child and I’m embarrassed to admit I basically cried continuously all the way through. While I’m very familiar with Godspell, I seem to see something new with each viewing. This time around I recognized, possibly for the first time, just how well-directed it was. Looking at its director David Greene’s filmography, his greatest awards success was in television, including an Emmy in 1977 for Roots. Another thing I think I’ve probably noticed previously but don’t remember if I’ve ever written it down: One of the film’s most famous images (and used on the cover of the soundtrack album) is the cast dancing atop one of the Twin Towers while it was still under construction. Watching Godspell with post-9/11 eyes, the film’s opening imagery with the World Trade Center coupled with the sound of a jet airplane is especially spooky. On a personal note: This was the first time I’ve watched Godspell since my mother passed away, and I’ll always be grateful to her for taking me to see this film and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) when they were originally released. (Favorite)

Boyhood

Boyhood (2/9/15) DWA Screening (2014 ****) Written and directed by Richared Linklater, starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. Mason Junior’s life from age 5 to 18 is captured in a film that weaves life’s moments together in a tapestry. I’d been wanting to see this film since first hearing about it. I’m a fan of Linklater’s, and this may well be my favorite of his films. Boyhood exists both as a cinematic experiment and as a cinematic experience. The former, in which an ensemble of actors and a film crew were assembled for a few days once a year for twelve years, was a noble undertaking and undoubtedly a landmark in the history of independent film production. How could I not have utmost admiration for that? As a film, I have to admit that its 165 minute running time had me fidgeting in my seat a bit, and there were some scenes that fairly cried out for shortening. Because of that, I can understand those who have criticized the film for being the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry. Also, while the film’s narrative was a work of fiction (even if the particulars were filled in by Linklater each year), very little true drama took place. But if it had, it would have shifted the film tonally away from its focus on “small moments.” While I didn’t love Boyhood quite as much as I wanted to, it absolutely touched me emotionally and I have little doubt I’ll watch it again in the future. (Favorite)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (10/31/14) Video On Demand (1948 ***1/2) Directed by Charles Barton, starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi and Glenn Strange. A slow-witted fella and his fast-talking pal get wrapped up in a real Universal classic monster mash! I must confess that I only half-watched this film with my wife and some friends on Halloween night. During the course of the movie we chatted, ate pizza and paused about every five minutes to give candy and glow-sticks to our neighborhood trick-or-treaters. Still, even though I hadn’t seen it in years, I feel fairly confident in my judgment of this great film that I’ve seen perhaps a dozen times since childhood. It’s arguably the best film Bud & Lou made in the course of their careers. It’s also a brilliant mixing of horror and comedy, and is probably still useful as an example of how to do that combination properly. Probably my favorite part of the film was watching Lon Chaney Jr.’s absolutely earnest performance as the soul-tortured Wolfman, in delicious tonal contrast to Abbott and Costello’s hijinks. (Favorite)

Brazil

Brazil (6/9/14) Netflix (1985 ****) Directed and co-written by Terry Gilliam, starring Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins and Michael Palin. A gifted but unambitious worker living in a Kafkaesque future society attempts to correct a fatal bureaucratic error and becomes entangled with a member of the underground who’s also his literal dream girl. I have vivid memories of seeing this when it was originally released. At the time I was an undergraduate engineering student taking film classes on the side. I was already a fan of Terry Gilliam because of Time Bandits and his involvement with Monty Python. This film blew me away and I saw it at least three times in the theater. At one point in my younger life I proudly pointed to it as my personal favorite film of all time. Seeing it again years later, I still hold it in high regard. However, as a man approaching fifty, I find elements of the story troubling. We’re also living in a post-9/11 society when sympathies for terrorists (even if mistakenly categorized) make for a bitter narrative pill. Then again, maybe it’s appropriate for Brazil to be unsettling, given the dystopian world it represents. Of course, I’m basing my feelings on the version of the film I watched, which was the original theatrical cut, the one Terry Gilliam was famously unsatisfied with. In fact, I’ve never watched any of the other versions, and I wonder if that would make me less troubled or more so. It’s likely that in the annuls of film history that Brazil will be known as Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece, and given his output the past few decades it seems unlikely he’ll manage to surpass it artistically or commercially. Personally, I also have a fondness for The Fisher King (1991), a film I’m criminally overdue to rewatch. (Favorite)

84 Charing Cross Road

84 Charing Cross Road (5/30/14) TCM (1987 ****) Directed by David Hughe Jones, based on the book by Helene Hanff, starring Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench and Mercedes Ruehl. Spanning two decades beginning in 1950, a female New York writer reaches across the Atlantic for reasonably-priced books and forms a bond far stronger than book-binding glue. I loved this movie when it first came out, though not quite enough to read Helene Hanff’s epistolary novel/memoir on which it was based. After all these years, it remains a beautiful film with a story made all the more poignant knowing the principal characters were real people. But as much as I love this film on an emotional level, I also have to appreciate it in terms of its production execution. Prior to its airing on TCM, Mel Brooks, who was the film’s executive producer (as well as the late Anne Bancroft’s husband), bragged about how the movie, shot half in New York and half in London, cost almost nothing ($4 Million) to make. (Favorite)

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused (5/3/14) SHO (1993 ***1/2) Written and directed by Richard Linklater, starring Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Adam Goldberg, with Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich and Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson. Set during the last day and night of school in 1976, Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd and his friends do what kids do in suburban Texas, namely institutionalized bullying under the guise of hazing, getting drunk and fighting authority figures. There are some films that remain sentimental favorites even after you’ve come to realize they’re far from perfect. Dazed and Confused had a huge impact on me when I first saw it during its original release when I was 29. Seeing it again after at least a decade, I’m begrudgingly willing to acknowledge its weaknesses. I think it was an admirable thing for Linklater to try to make a then-contemporary version of George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973). The comparisons between the two are undeniable to the point that a double-feature is borderline compulsory at some point in my life. Though I’d seen Dazed and Confused a number of times, this was the first time my wife had seen it and it was telling that her first comment was how much differently bullying is seen now than twenty years ago. (Favorite)