Persona- This beautiful black and white film blurs the ideas of identity with subtle (and not so subtle) visual cues. Primarily a one sided conversation with two women, Bergman sets up scenes wonderfully whether it’s a series of rooms or a close up on the two. A classic.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
The Russian Woodpecker- There is a really interesting story here: A man who was evacuated from Chernobyl as a child looks back on the impact it’s had on his life and at possible mysteries with the evacuation. Interesting right? Okay now imagine the child is Fedor Alexandrovich, a wild eyed combative film director who interviews people while looking at the floor or off into the distance or not even facing them. They sneak into Chernobyl to film bananas scenes for possibly a different movie or maybe this one. It’s never made clear. At one point, he is speaking at the Ukrainian riots that happened a few years back about a large 9-11 style conspiracy that happened at Chernobyl. I don’t know if he was scheduled to speak or if he just got up or what. At the core of this movie there is a fascinating conspiracy that I never knew about but the star of this movie is Fedor and he is unforgettable.
Lion- I enjoy skillful combinations of technology and film. I don’t mean special effects necessarily, but the application of something like Google Maps and a story of a boy trying to find his hometown. When it’s not done in a ham handed fashion it can be a beautiful marriage of the technological age where we operate and the natural world where we live. I enjoyed Nicole Kidman stretching her range a little bit with a plain or average character. Come to think of it, ham handed technological marriages are fine too. I love Hackers.
The Wiz- As I watched this, I kept wondering the following: If I hadn’t see The Wizard of Oz before seeing this would I think that it was the crazy film and not this one? If you look at them both objectively are they equally weird? Does one have better music than the other? Is my perspective skewed because I’m white? It’s hard to remove certain factors when judging this film so I just tried to remove my prior knowledge (can’t remove the white part) and watch it as neutrally as possible. Something about it felt off as far as the sets were concerned. Some places felt very real in the world and others less so. The costumes were excellent and the same goes for the makeup. I think this is a worthy adaptation to the original but like the Return to Oz if you’ve seen the predecessor even the best intentions look a little off.
Hoffa- The term movie magic refers to a lot of elements, some or many of which we do not see. They are the little factors that keep us in the world we are watching. One of those things is movie sets. It’s a science like anything else. This movie has impressive set pieces one of which is Braveheart size battle between union workers and a strikebreakers. Contrast that with a rather important scene that obviously takes place on a soundstage with a fake background and trees. Seeing the two creates a heavy disparity which thankfully doesn’t weigh the film down but is still noticeable. The film has other elements weighing it down but DeVito as director does an amiable job at pulling together the life a notorious man.
Hukkle- A predominantly wordless film, it’s advertised that it’s about a man’s hiccups and how they affect a town, but there is something else going on here. Imagine the opening frames of Blue Velvet expanded across a film. Part National Geographic, there is a mystery at the heart of this visceral story based on real events and depicted in a totally original fashion.
A Streetcar Named Desire- I’m paraphrasing here, but my wife while watching this said “Brando acts with his mouth” which is a pretty fair assessment of his acting career. My wife also called it when she said Vivien Leigh’s character was going insane and I just thought she was narcissistic. I never really tracked what was happening in the story with great interest and found most of the characters unlikable. It may be a theater thing.
Smokey and the Bandit- Whatever odd plot this movie has is basically a set up for cars to attempt jumps, get in wrecks or spin around wildly. Here’s some things I noticed in this movie: Gleason laments the age we live in after encountering a black sheriff (who he calls “boy”). Reynolds is clearly wearing a girdle at one point. Every piece of dialogue between Reynolds and Fields sounds adlibbed. Are old semi-trucks equipped with calculators all the time or just for this movie? The soundtrack/theme song (like Reynold’s other movie Gator) seem to specifically reference the main character. This is fine, just odd. This thing is fun and dumb and that’s okay.
Lady Gaga Five Foot Two- I am guilty of perceiving Lady Gaga as the “meat dress lady”. I liked Telephone when it came out, but aside from that my knowledge or her was little and my interest in her was probably less so. This movie does a great job of revealing her to the uninitiated and familiar alike as it discusses her newest album, relationships, medical problems and creative processes. It also offers a great look into what it takes to make and sell an album from the beginning stages to the Super Bowl. After watching this, I listed to Joanne which is the album we watch her create in the documentary. I didn’t love it and I still don’t really put her on my list of favorite artists but I appreciate her and respect her talent now in a way that I didn’t before. This movie helped me understand her better as every good documentary should but part of that comprehension came from her being a revealing person both emotionally and physically. That combination creates one of the more honest examinations of a person’s life that I’ve seen in some time.
Dr Zhivago- Oh boy. Just the name Zhivago always evoked a little dread in me whenever I heard it. I knew I would have to watch it someday and I decided to finally bite this bullet. Despite it having an omnipresence in film conversations I never really knew much about it. I just pictured two people in front of a roaring fire on a bearskin rug which is probably a poster I saw once as a child for a different film. This is a pretty miserable movie. There are happy moments but in general its one long bleak winter of a plot with most character’s ending up unhappy or unfulfilled. It has life and passion but they feel like defiance rather than spontaneous outpourings. This is possibly the fourth Rod Steiger movie I’ve seen this year and he is just incredible. He is very chameleon like but without ever changing his physicality, much like Daniel Day Lewis. This movie is like Russia itself: Long, cold and unrelenting.