Brigadoon- I had a similar reaction to my wife when this movie first came on: “This movie is about what?” Dreamy Gene Kelly and shit-talking Van Johnson (see how the archetypes pop up in all Gene Kelly’s movies?) are on a hunting trip in Scotland when they get lost and stumble upon a mystical village in the fog. After being immediately accepted into (and accepting of) this magical Scottish village, Kelly falls deeply in love with the least Scottish looking woman I’ve ever seen. I didn’t love most of the songs and am always skeptical of people just automatically falling in love but there’s some good choreography. The plot with the visiting duo is super thin and I would have preferred to see more of the villager’s life even if there was only a handful of redheads among them. Am I being racist again with my assumptions about Scotland? Probably.
Kate Plays Christine- While watching this, two very distinct thoughts crept into my head. The first was that this movie moved and felt like 2014’s Actress with Brandy Burre. The subject matter and mood was very similar and turns out it was the same writer/director. Even though this is documentary, I point out the “writer” aspect of this because it’s not just cinema verite and its crafted in parts. You feel the construction in some scenes but that doesn’t mean that what’s happening is false. Like Actress, this pays off really well in some areas that make it memorable and you also see behind the curtain of how a documentary works when it wants to skew your opinion towards the creator’s viewpoint.
The second reoccurring feeling I had was, what movie is this for? The actress Kate Lyn Sheil is rehearsing, studying and filming for a role about anchorwoman Christine Chubbuck who killed herself on air in Florida in the 70s. This documentary came out the same year as the narrative film Christine starring Rebecca Hall. So, what movie is Sheil rehearsing for? The one I’m watching? That doesn’t make her process or performance any less credible but I found myself wondering how she felt about the other Christine. Did she know about it because it’s never mentioned but you can be sure that the same people were interviewed for both. Did that or would that have affected her choices as an actress if she did know about the narrative version? A lot of this movie is about a real person struggling to understand another real person so I think it’s valid to question whether she compared herself to someone who had already gone through what she is. (There are answers to all these questions but I choose to just let them linger and people can research if they like).
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Rope- There is an oddball almost B-movie with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Gosling called Murder by Numbers where two friends murder someone then try to outwit the cops with their knowledge of forensics. I believe it is technically spelled Murd3r by Num8ers. Rope seems its distant and superior cousin with Jimmy Stewart in the Bullock role but much better looking. Known primarily as the one-take Hitchcock movie it’s also known that it’s not a true one-take due mostly to the limitations of film at that time but not limitation in Hitchcock’s ability. Like most one-takes, you only realize how long it’s been happening at the end. Thinking back on every line of dialogue and camera movement in hindsight makes it seem impossible but it’s not and Alfred is a deity of sorts.
The Mummy (1932)- Ten minutes in to this and I realized that pound-for-pound this is the best Mummy movie I’ve ever seen. I will list them in order now:
The Mummy (1932) The Mummy (1997) The Monster Squad (1987) Abbot and Costello meet the Mummy (1955) The Mummy Returns (2001) Bubba Ho-Tep (2001) The Mummy (2017)
I can tell you there’s a lot more Mummy-starring movies I need to see and that when I do, I will place them somewhere above 2017’s The Mummy. Just guessing. This Mummy on the other hand is great and weird and as suspenseful as 1932 gets. Was this scary back then? I’m not sure. It was released in the middle of The Depression AND Prohibition so I don’t know if people were really phased by it but “move-ies” were still a burgeoning medium. Maybe sober, poor folks were shitting themselves left and right when his eyes were glowing white in the silhouettes (a neat effect for sure). Makeup, music and acting are all admirable and believable for the time.
Machines- Less a documentary a more guided roller-coaster through a horrible textile factory, Machine shows 1902 American factory conditions in present day India. A lot of this is beautifully shot but underlying every frame of colorful dye and screen print is the thought of 36 hour days toiled for $3. It’s sad but also a testament to human spirit and a reminder to not bitch about your cubicle or really any job Americans deem to fit to work at. You’re fine.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1969)– This is a good example of the ignorance of youth. When I rented the Pierce Brosnan version of this movie on DVD (maybe VHS) I was pretty surprised by it. The guy I knew as James Bond was surprisingly likable as a mega rich guy. Now that I think of it, Pierce Brosnan was kind of my first James Bond as well as my first Thomas Crown so I will always have an affection for him but it’s hard to beat McQueen for coolness. There’s even a movie about it (The Tao of Steve). It’s also hard to not compare the two. Russo is better than Dunaway but she’s doing Dunaway so it’s not a good comparison. The original had a real jazzy, fun feel to it which Brosnan’s version thankfully retained. The remake did improve one thing which is in the original, Thomas Crown is basically a Danny Ocean (or more accurately a Dark Knight Joker) styled bank robber. He’s not stealing money for money but because he can. In the later version, he’s stealing art which opens up avenues of dialogue and settings beyond what plain money offers. In the end, they both have positives that make for the rare excellent original and excellent remake.
Life is Beautiful- Jesus, took me long enough. I have a strong memory of watching Roberto Benigni walking across the backs of chairs to get to the front when he won best actor for this film. Turns out he actually walked on maybe two chairs and it was for Best Foreign Language Film. Memories are weird.
This movie is about the Italian version of Robin Williams trying to convince his son that they are not in a Jewish concentration camp. This is all done through a series of games and an immense amount of lying. It is funny and heartwarming and it does the best possible job of making a holocaust film into a family friendly comedy. That being said, it also makes the concentration camps seem pretty easy other than the occasional disappearance of someone. The nature of the movie makes losing important characters an underwhelming affair where they just walk off screen and are never seen again. This is my nitpick for a fun and well shot movie with moments of great warmth and genuine love.
The Square- I love Elizabeth Moss. I always thought she was okay, but as soon as Mad Men ended she hit the ground running with a string of strong indie performances not to mention the coup de grace of The Handmaiden’s Tale. Now that you know that, you will understand it pains me to say that she should have been entirely cut from this movie. It could have easily been a shorter story and a funny one to boot. But at almost 2.5 hours, the removal of her 25 minutes would have greatly improved a story already dealing with other themes. This movie walks the edge of wanting you to look away allowing you to just keep your balance, pulling back a little and then going right back. Its emotionally verifiable peak is the performance artist who masquerades as a gorilla and intimidates a room full of museum donors. That another half hour transpires afterward more or less diminishes that scene and the rest of the movie.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s- I have seen the part in this movie where Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi (yes, this happens) yells down at her at least 20 times. Aside from Holly Golightly’s self-destructiveness, he is basically the villain or foil of the movie. You just have to look past this stuff and say they didn’t know any better, I guess. And they certainly didn’t learn anything in the following years as Sean Connery was given a Japanese makeover 6 years later in You Only Live Twice. Now that I think of it Hollywood still does not give a fuuuuckk about white people in yellowface or with “oriental” backgrounds. Emma Stone as Allison Ng? Everyone except Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas got to be Asian but no one opted for blackface? Hmmmmm..
All that aside, Breakfast is a good story about a damaged girl who is easily objectified but difficult to love and the guy that tries to love her (Hannibal from A-Team!). The ending is quite beautiful and all things considered it’s great. Hepburn was much more than an actress in her life, but she is wonderful to watch.
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography- Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) has the ability to make a simple person, profession, or topic into a grand discussion of life and meaning. As the title suggests, this is about one woman and her portraits. The details of her life (large scale Kodak film medium, connection to the Beat movement) are brought lovingly to the fore by Morris and narrated primarily by Dorfman who in her own fashion has been pushing boundaries of photography and, subtly, feminism. It’s short and very sweet with some colorful stories peppered throughout.