luni, 24 iulie 2017

Note on Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard, based on the books by Jim Lov...

The Ox- Bow Incident, written by Lamar Trotti and Walter Van Tilburg Clark, based on a novel by the latter, 9 out of 10

The Ox- Bow Incident, written by Lamar Trotti and Walter Van Tilburg Clark, based on a novel by the latter
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

The Ox-Bow Incident is one of the films that you remember for a long time, if not for ever, with its poignant message.
It is included on the New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

It was nominated for the Academy award for Best Motion Picture and a few other prestigious prizes, most of which it won.
The director is William A. Wellman, nicknamed Wild Bill for his lifestyle and personality, captain of such films as:

-          Public Enemy and A Star is Born

The star of the western is Henry Fonda, a legend, a superman, demigod of the Screen Trade, the leading actor in:

-          12 Angry Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Once Upon a Time in the West, Advise & Consent, On The Golden Pond…

In The Ox-Bow Incident he is playing the role of Gil Carter, one of those people who have a conscience.

He arrives in this small town with his travelling companion, portrayed by Harry Morgan, a familiar actor, present in the M.A.S.H. TV series.

There is humor in the introducing scenes, as Gil Carter tries to figure out a painting on the wall of the saloon.
But pretty soon, an “Incident” is creating a kerfuffle, with the entire small town outraged at the killing of a local farmer.

The sheriff is not in town and this creates a legal problem, because only he can deputize and make a posse legal…
At least that’s how it seemed to me, listening to the judge, who opposed the action of those who wanted “justice”.

You can’t do this without the sheriff and it is illegal- this is what the judge says more or less to the mob assembled.
One of them is very active and angry with what he calls the “very slow motion of justice…which might even let the killer escape”.

They have some information about the route of the “suspects” as they hear a man that has seen the cattle, marked with the sign of the dead man in a pass nearby, with a few people leading them West of the town- or was it East?
The posse is formed and Gil and his friend join it, not as much out of conviction, but because they would be suspicious to do otherwise.

The Conformity principle explained in the masterpiece Influence by Robert Cialdini would explain some of what happens in the film.
People tend to do what others do and some examples refer to extreme cases, such as mass suicide in Guyana, where one after another, hundreds of cult followers killed themselves, to more mundane adoption of big shopping carts.

I think that the same applies to a great extent to a number of those in the posse who were bent on killing.
It is not just conformity, for a number of them were too violent and bloody to think differently, but it was an important factor.

Without any spoilers, I would just say that those who wanted justice found the cattle and the men suspected of murder.
Two of them are played by great actors: Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn and their personages claim innocence.

The cattle have been bought, there was no violence or crime involved and they have no idea about any shooting.
Because of “circumstantial evidence” or what the “self-appointed jury” sees as such, they condemn the suspects.

Seven men are against this verdict and I will not go any further than that, expect to say that a woman is one of the group that wants executions, no matter what.
Extraordinary tale, with a very powerful message, lessons on life and its meaning, compassion and vengeance…

Note on The Garden of Finzi- Contis, directed by Vittorio De Sica, novel...

Note on Amateur Teens, written and directed by Niklaus Hilber

The Insider, written by Eric Roth, Michael Mann and Marie Brenner, based on an article by the latter, directed by Michael Mann, 9 out of 10

The Insider, written by Eric Roth, Michael Mann and Marie Brenner, based on an article by the latter, directed by Michael Mann
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

The Insider is one of the most interesting films ever.
It is on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Director, Screenplay…
And in the same categories it received Golden globe nominations…

One of the most compelling aspects of the film, if not the most important part, is the fact that it is based on a true story

-          We know what big tobacco did to its clients and how they denied for decades, until they were forced to pay billions in damages
-          So in many ways, we know what the end could be, without spoilers, even if the individual fates of those involved are not known until the credits roll…

Jeffrey Wigand is the absolute hero of the story, portrayed in an interesting manner by Russell Crowe, nominated for this role.
This is a complex character, which has been caught shoplifting and is really angry when confronted and he is right.

This makes his position even more extraordinary, for the man has shortcomings and idiosyncrasies and finds the strength to fight.

He has been working for a big tobacco company, one of the big seven, led by what they call “The Seven Dwarfs”.
As he says in an interview, he discovered that cigarettes are just the means to deliver nicotine and get clients addictive.

Substances used in the process increase the boost and are very, very dangerous, responsible for cancer in patients.
And yet, called to testify under oath, the CEOs of the big tobacco firms are denying any knowledge of any danger posed by their products.

Lowell Bergman is the other super hero of the movie, with al Pacino in good form, before he started going over the top with his exaggerated, more recent performances…
He is the producer of “60 Minutes” at a time when tens of millions of Americans watched this most successful TV program.

Lowell Bergman makes tremendous effort to get the story from Jeff Wigand and assure him that he will try his best to protect him.
Faced with abuse and pressure from the CEO of Brown- Michael Gambon is as ever excellent in the role- Wigand agrees to an interview.

Meanwhile, the life of the scientist who has to teach in a high school now, in spite of being over qualified is coming to pieces, faced with death threats, anonymous phone calls and men following him around.
There are reminders of the Network in this chef d’oeuvre, since CBC, the station involved is about to be bought and the prospect of a lawsuit will send the share price tumbling down and the bonuses of the legal counselor, head of the company…

So once they have the interview that incriminated the tobacco companies, which was so difficult to do, the network is told to cut the Wigand part out and censure the information, knowing it is accurate.
Furthermore, the public interest is enormous in the case, for we are talking about a time when research had proved that smoking is deadly, but the respective companies had immense power, financial and otherwise.

Indeed, CBS could have become a part of Brown, if the latter won a legal challenge worth lots of money.
This is also a story of betrayal and not on the part of the scientist forced to sign contracts with confidentiality clauses, but on the part of people working in the media, like Mike Wallace aka Cristopher Plummer.

This is a brilliant narrative about the mass murder of so many smokers- even if not as repugnant as in the Nazi or Communist camps- but also a story about the role of the media, the ethics and greed involved, the status of a journalist and the producers, the power of ruthless people interested only in the money, a tale of people who fought, even if afraid with big corporations and powerful, mighty enemies, courage and loyalty, with scoundrels and heroes, victims and villains, role models and despicable individuals.

It is a fantastic work of art and investigation.

Note on Billy Lynn's Long Halfway Walk, directed by Ang Lee, with Kriste...

duminică, 23 iulie 2017

Note on Leaving Las Vegas, written and directed by Mike Figgis, with Nic...

Road to Perdition, adapted from the graphic novel by David Self, directed by Sam Mendes, 9 out of 10

Road to Perdition, adapted from the graphic novel by David Self, directed by Sam Mendes
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Road to Perdition is an exceptional film.

-          Why is it that it did not get more recognition?
-          I do not know

Tom Hanks has the leading role of Michael Sullivan and it is a tough challenge, a man with many sides, but he is very good in that position.
Paul Newman has a negative role, that of John Rooney, an Irish American mobster that controls an underworld empire.

Indeed, Paul Newman, excellent at his late stage in his outstanding, brilliant career- started with Somebody up There Likes Me, a role which he could take because Montgomery Clift wouldn’t-was nominated for

-          The Academy Award and the Golden Globe for his acting

Otherwise, I do not see why this motion picture did not go further than it did, even with a good Metascore of 72.
As for possible flaws, maybe Jude Law is somewhat over the top as the paid, lunatic assassin who follows Michael Sullivan.

To begin with, the relationship between Michael Sullivan and John Rooney is excellent, the former working as a hit man for the latter.
We can see trouble in paradise at a funeral, where Finn McGovern, one of the people under the control of the mobster is probably drunk and talks about his late brother and then starts to rebel against the boss.

So far, Michael Sullivan is like the son of the leader of this organized crime group and they even play the piano together…
Up to the night when he has to do some dirty work with the biological son of the don, Connor Rooney.

The latter is an impulsive, out of control, violent, stupid, psychopathic, gruesome, evil son of John Rooney.
He kills a man, without a reason, on impulse- just as he often acts- and the unlucky thing is that Michael Sullivan Jr. is a witness.

And this is where all hell breaks loose, in a manner of speaking, for the ruthless Connor, played by Daniel Craig is on the loose.
Wanting to make sure that there are no witnesses to his murder, he goes to the house of his associate.

He kills the wife and the son that he finds at home, with Michael Sullivan Jr. witnessing part of his new crime.
John Rooney is beating his son over the head for this, calling him all sorts of names and saying something like:

-          I curse the day when you were born- repeatedly and then embracing his son and resolving to help him

Which means that Mike Sullivan is now on the run and tries first to find some protection and support with Frank Nitti.
This character is played by the always excellent Stanley Tucci and he refuses to take the hit man on board.

What follows is a one man fight against a big, powerful organization that has money, man power and bankers working for it.

But Mike Sullivan figures out that he needs to take the mobsters money from the banks and he does that with efficiency.
Until they have a reaction and a man on his heels, Maguire, an individual who like to take photos of…dead people.

That says about all and the man is definitely sick, but the way Jude Law decided to portray him is still a bit farfetched.
There are some confrontations, from a restaurant along the road to Perdition, to a much more violent gun fight in a hotel.

This is an excellent motion picture, directed by Sam Mendes, the creator who gave us American Beauty, Revolutionary Road and other such masterpieces…

Note on Straw Dogs, with Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods

Note on The Postman Always Rings Twice, based on the classic by James M....

Note on Absolutely Fabulous : The Movie, starring and written by Jennife...

Note on Ronin, with Robert de Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone

sâmbătă, 22 iulie 2017

Note on The Dictator, starring and written by Sacha Baron Cohen, with Jo...

Note on Closer, directed by Mike Nichols, with Clive Owen, Julia Roberts...

Note on Se7en, with Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey

Note on Catch 44, written and directed by Aaron Harvey, with Forest Wh...

Note on The Ides of March, starring, written and directed by George Clooney

500 Days of Summer, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, 9 out of 10

500 Days of Summer, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

500 Days of Summer is a very entertaining film.
Notwithstanding the sad moments, it is a refreshing, enjoyable comedy.

It was nominated for two major Golden Globes, Best Motion Picture and Best Performance by an Actor…
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is indeed marvelous as the loving, creative, loyal, subdued, patient and resilient Tom.

I have noted on another film with this remarkable actor, wherein he had to portray a totally different personality:

in Don Jon, the protagonist is a superficial, rather uneducated man, with an obsession for pornography, even when he is blessed with as beautiful a companion as Scarlet Johansson, who is granted an overbearing, quite obnoxious girlfriend at times.
With this film, I have learned that the excellent and beautiful actress in the leading role, Zooey Deschanel is named after a J.D. Salinger story:

-          Franny & Zooey

Zooey Deschanel has a challenging task in her role as Summer- for the 500 days of Summer mean the time spent with the heroine of the film.
Summer is both the lovely girl that we enjoy seeing with the hero, sharing his feelings and the one who ends it…

I do not think a spoiler alert was needed before talking of the end, for it is clearly stated in the title which specifies:

-          500 Days of Summer…only, even if at first I thought this is about a particularly long summer, perhaps in a place where there is no other season…

The dialogue in this moving picture is wonderful.
Funny at times, witty for the most part and even when it is somewhat awkward, it still feels natural in some manner.

Like when Summer Finn starts shouting penis in the park where she sits with Tom, who tries hard to stop her…
Or when they have this exchange:

-          “Summer: We've been like Sid and Nancy for months now.
-          Tom: Summer, Sid stabbed Nancy, seven times with a kitchen knife, I mean we have some disagreements but I hardly think I'm Sid Vicious.
-          Summer: No, I'm Sid.
-          Tom: Oh, so I'm Nancy...”

The professional side of Tom’s life may have had some influence, perhaps a big one on Summer’s decision to leave.
Even if trained as an architect and in love with beautiful buildings that he admires at Angela’s Plaza, tom works in a company that sells…cards.

He is using self-deprecating humor about it and is evidently a real positive hero, with his generosity, love for Summer, gentle manner, persistence and acceptance of the other’s flaws and shortcomings, grit, but still this is one side of him that is less than heroic:

-          “I guess I just figured, why make something disposable like a building when you can make something that lasts forever, like a greeting card.”

The film is sophisticated, smart, with references and images from The Graduate (by the way, I am reminded of a humorous take on the final scene of this classic, offered in Barcelona, where one character, maybe Frank, is very upset with “oh Elaine, Elaine” and how everybody allows this jerk- as he sees the personage- to run off with the bride), The Seventh Seal, Henry Miller, Bruce Springsteen and many more.

-          “Tom: [the girl at the job interview agrees to meet Tom for coffee afterward] We'll figure it out. My name's Tom.
-          Girl at Interview: [Last lines of the film] Nice to meet you. [Shakes his hand]
-          Girl at Interview: I'm Autumn.”

Perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining after all…

joi, 20 iulie 2017

Note on Shakespeare in Love, written by Tom Stoppard, with Gwyneth Paltr...

The African Queen, written by James Agee and C.S. Forester (based on the latter’s novel), directed by John Huston, 9 out of 10

The African Queen, written by James Agee and C.S. Forester (based on the latter’s novel), directed by John Huston
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

The African Queen is a fabulous adventure, drama and romantic movie, with a charming touch of comedy.
It is included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

This is a narrative about phenomenal heroes.
Both of the protagonists are ultimate role models.

Humphrey Bogart has won the Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his fantastic work playing Charlie Allnut.
To start with, the captain of the boat named The African Queen does not strike the audience as a Superman.

In fact, Charlie Allnut looks like the total opposite of Rose Sayer, portrayed by the wondrous Katharine Hepburn.
Her brother, Reverend Samuel Sayer had his mission burned down by the Germans, who are now at war.

World War I has repercussions even in Africa, where the action of the film takes place and where many of the parties involved in conflict have colonies.
And the poor Reverend is also beaten and dies soon afterwards, his sister is there to bury him, but then she has to escape the enemy.

So she is off for the trip of her life, with her opposite, Charlie Allnut…here we have a case of “opposites attract”.
Nevertheless, this and most other sayings are silly and very wrong- take “all is fair in love and war” as a good case in point.

The story of the making of the film is nearly as exciting as the tale told on screen, by a fabulous director John Huston and his stars.
It appears that everyone got sick on this adventurous endeavor, with the exception of the director and the leading actor…

-          “Bogart later said, "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whiskey. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead."

From the autobiographies, biographies and the recollections of members of the crew, we get humorous and some intriguing details…
Katharine Hepburn drank water, to protest the heavy drinking of the aforementioned duo and got very sick.

Locals hired to help the shooting did not come to the set because they feared their employers were…cannibals.
As for enjoying this perilous filming location, in The Heart of Darkness, the actors were as different as their personages:

-          “While I was griping, Katie was in her glory. She couldn't pass a fern or berry without wanting to know its pedigree…”

On screen, the story is captivating and transformation, which could actually be described as redemption takes place
And it involves both protagonists, Rose Sayer and Charlie Allnut change almost beyond recognition, after taking this trip together.
And to conclude, this is a superb film, with an extraordinary beautiful setting and a marvelous dialogue that only adds to the pleasure of watching two heavyweights, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn at the top of their form:

-          “Charlie: We can't do that!
-          Rose: How do you know? You never tried it.
-          Charlie: Well, yeah, but I never tried shooting myself in the head neither…
-          Charlie Allnut: What are you being so mean for, Miss? A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it's only human nature.
-          Rose Sayer: Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

Note on Great Expectations, based on the masterpiece by Charles Dickens

Note on The Karamazov Brothers aka Bratya Karamazovy, based on the maste...

Note on Virgin Mountain, written and directed by Dagur Kari, with Gunnar...

Note on The Gathering Storm, with Albert Finney, Jim Broadbent, Tom Wilk...

miercuri, 19 iulie 2017

Note on Frailty, starring and directed by Bill Paxton

Note on Religulous, with the phenomenal Bill Maher

Note on Shallow Hal, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black

Note on The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, with Jodie Foster, Mart...

The Defiant Ones, written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith, 10 out of 10

The Defiant Ones, written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

The Defiant Ones is a fantastic film.
It is a story about race relations and racism, friendship, loyalty and sacrifice, valor and resilience, compassion and hatred.

It was included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:

This exceptional work has won:

-          The Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay- Written Directly for the screen and it was nominated in all the major categories- Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role for both Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, Best Director…
-          It won the golden globe for Best Motion Picture- Drama

Sidney Poitier is marvelous in the role of Noah Cullen and so is Tony Curtis as John “Joker” Jackson, two convicts.
The vehicle transporting them has an accident and they take advantage and they escape, only they are chained together.

When someone from the party that are chasing them with dogs asks about the fact that a white man is chained to a black man:

-          “Law officer: How come they chained a white man to a black?
-          Sheriff Max Muller: The warden's got a sense of humor.
-          [Why they don't have to worry about finding the 2 convicts]
-          Sheriff Max Muller: They'll kill each other in five miles.”

Indeed, the two escapees do not get along together very well, at least for parts of the movie, even when in danger.
Joker saves Noah’s life when they are forced to swim in a rapid river and the latter says thanks, only to get the reply:

-          Hey, I did not save you, I just prevented you from dragging me away to drown with you

They arrive at a small town, where they try to break into a shed to get tools for the chain and some food.
Alas, when they fall inside, coming from the roof, they wake everyone up and they are soon caught by the crowd.

They are preparing to lynch the two and racism is more than evident, with hatred visible all around, with one single exception, a man who ultimately saves them, first from a horrible death and later by freeing them.
Even if the “couple” seemed to be progressing in their relationship and understanding, Joker is saying before the “Madding Crowd”:

-          “Ya'll can't lynch me! I'm a white man!”

But after this low moment of betrayal, just in front of death and after all subterfuges have failed, the two become friends.
They are after all involved in one of the Ultimate Team Building Exercises which some companies in the world might try.

Perhaps the people of the late Enron, did it, chaining themselves together physically not just spiritually, with their penchant for extreme risk, sports and gambling with so many victims money and pension savings…
A first climax is reached when one of them is faced with the option of letting the other die, in strange circumstances.

For reasons of spoiler alerts I will not say what happens, only that in the first place one of the men proves:

-          Loyalty, friendship, willing to self-sacrifice, determination, valor, grit, unselfishness and devotion

Instead of thinking about his own escape and chances, he decides to try his best to help the other one.
And the moving picture becomes one of the best dramas, a lesson of respect, anti- racism, and compassion.

And it is also proved that even people who are at the bottom of society, outcasts who have been send to jail can find redemption.

Note on Duck Soup, with The Marx Brothers

Sherman’s March, starring, written and directed by Ross McElwee, 8 out of 10

Sherman’s March, starring, written and directed by Ross McElwee
8 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Sherman’s March is an interesting, outré and thoughtful film.
It was included by The New York Times on its list of Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made:

Ross McElwee is a one man band.
He has set on to film the effects of the Sherman March through the South, during the American civil War.

But although the destruction that was severe, the many victims of that terrible war are mentioned, the March takes little from the 2 hours and 37 minutes of this documentary that can also work as a sort of autobiography.
For most of the time, we hear the hero, who plays himself and is also the narrator, talking about himself and his love interests.

If we look at the list of names, the credits list five names from the McElwee family and then the rest are friends or people met on the road.
One of these friends is a would be actress that is very erotic and engaged in a strange, daily exercise that we see on film.

If I am not mistaken, she even mentions something about the effort being easier without underwear, but I did not see this detail on the screen.
The actress likes the camera, maybe the other way round too, and obviously relishes the focus on her and her every move.

Alas, the protagonist falls in love with this attractive and self-absorbed woman, who has to go to film a movie and so this venue is closed.
At another stage, we meet another couple of women, a mature one that had been the hero’s teacher and a young prospect.

The former teacher is very outgoing and somewhat controlling and maybe even tyrannical, determined to get a result.
She wants to see Ross married with her protégé and not just that, but before Christmas and with children soon after the wedding.

The problem is that the young bride to be is very religious, an adept of the Mormon Church and she wants the spouse to join that faith too.
So we have here another deception and the prospect of getting a girlfriend is stopped in its tracks and Ross moves on.

He meets some survivalists, a very strange group that even use their guns to blow up some dynamite, and I do not see why …
But then nothing of what they did, planned to or said made any sense, these being some fundamentalists waiting for the end of the world.

Which may come, but just because we are polluting the planet and the results will be catastrophic if serious action is not taken.
Another strange woman that we meet, through the hero, writer and director of this documentary is a former girlfriend.

This one does not know what she wants, even if she is a lawyer, and she keeps hanging on to a man that seems to be no good for her.
But after long discussions in which the ex-girlfriend showed symptoms of living in another reality, finally there is some success.

Not with the woman who has lost touch with this world, but another living again in an awkward medium.

She lives in the wild, where she does everything- well, almost- like centuries ago, even if she is a very educated, perhaps she even has a doctoral degree…
Finally, finally!!  Ross is getting somewhere with this woman of the woods that we see naked on a few occasions.

They have intimate relations, although there is someone in the background that comes back once Ross is off the premises.
And this apparently successful match, coming after so much pain and “Games People Play” (a classic by Eric Berne) does not have a long time fruition.

marți, 18 iulie 2017

Note on Kill Bill, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, with Uma T...

Note on Get Shorty, with John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito

Note on Barefoot in the Park, with Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Charles B...

Note on State and Main, written and directed by David Mamet, with Philip...

Note on Room, with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay

Philadelphia, written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme, 9 out of 10

Philadelphia, written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Philadelphia is one of the best films in recent history.
The director is an excellent film maker, the one who was at the helm of

-          Silence of the Lambs

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington need no further introductions or words to describe their performances…
I mean the ones in the good old days, I am not talking about Inferno, The Da Vinci Code and the like, films that I will never see.

The film has won two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes in the same categories, even if Denzel Washington deserved to be at least nominated:

-          Best Actor in the Leading Role- Tom Hanks
-          Best Music, Original Song- Bruce Springsteen

Streets of Philadelphia has become a hit in itself.
Tom Hanks has the challenging role of Andrew Beckett, a talented, hardworking, intelligent, resilient lawyer.

He has True Grit and even manages to tell jokes, at a late stage in his disease, which we learn about early on:
-          What do you call ten thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
-          A good start…

Alas, Andrew is diagnosed with AIDS and his firm, instead of supporting him in every possible manner fires him.
The case and the film have some important themes at the center, in a period when these issues were still very disputed…not that there aren’t at the moment many countries in the world where being gay is punishable with serious penalties, in some cases even death

-          Homophobia, discrimination are just some of the crimes committed by the firm that is called to trial

They are of course not the only ones to manifest a loathing, fear and disgust towards gay people- and Andrew is a homosexual- and the trial becomes a landmark and activists are manifesting outside the court house.
Joe Miller portrayed by Denzel Washington with great skill is the lawyer that represents Andrew Beckett.

But even he shows a marked awkwardness and fear, when his would be client enters the office and says he has AIDS.
The scene is both humorous and somewhat appalling, for this is the common approach to serious and infectious diseases.

In the first place, Joe Miller actually refuses to take the case, goes to see his doctor to check if now he could have AIDS…
When meeting a man that is enthusiastic about the way the trial is going and Miller’s role in it and being approached for a date, the counsellor is getting really mad, grabs the young homosexual by the collar and shouts and puffs…

Jason Robards, a magnificent heavyweight, has the role of the obnoxious Charles Wheeler, a homophobe that fires Andrew
There are scenes in the court room which are both funny and terrible to a degree, especially when Joe Miller becomes more assertive
“Joe Miller: [to Jamey Collins on the witness stand] are you gay?
Jamey Collins: [confused] what?
Joe Miller: [gradually raising his voice] are you gay?, You know a faggot?, A, a punk, a fruit, a queen, a fairy a booby snatcher, rump roaster, pillow biter, ARE YOU GAY?”

And the maneuver works, both in terms of spectacle for the film audience and for the trial, because as the excellent counsellor explains further, the trial is actually about this, an aspect that is on everybody’s mind.
And it also provokes reactions from those question that are instantaneous, unprepared and reveal how loathsome they find the idea and so it is proved that they did not really dismiss the brilliant lawyer for any mistake, but for his sexual orientation.

Philadelphia is an excellent, thought provoking film. 

luni, 17 iulie 2017

Note on Gods and Monsters, with Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser

Note on The Disappearing Illusionist, with August Diehl

Note on The Revenant, written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárrit...

Note on Vengeance: A Love Story, based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates

Note on Gulliver's Travels, based on Jonathan Swift, but with little to ...

The Man Who Wasn’t There, written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 10 out of 10

The Man Who Wasn’t There, written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is an excellent, sophisticated film that deserved more acclaim than it received.
It won one of the most important awards in the industry, for I think that The Cannes Festival is more important than the Oscars in determining the quality and value of a moving picture, especially in history.

-          Joel Coen was awarded the Best Director prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival

This is a brilliant narrative, with philosophical insight, a dark, outré humor and a special atmosphere, filmed in black and white.
Billy Bob Thornton is exceptional in the Leading Role of Ed Crane, a barber with metaphysical inclinations.

He is married to Doris, a woman with a much stronger personality and engaged in an affair with her boss, Big Dave, portrayed with skill by James Gandolfini, who is both a humorous character- “Arny Bragg again??- And a violent man.

Ed Crane: [after reminiscing about their first date] It was only a couple weeks later she suggested getting married. I said, "Don't you want to get to know me more?" She said, "Why? Does it get better?" She looked at me like I was a dope, which I never really minded from her. And she had a point, I guess. We knew each other as well then as now. Anyway, well enough.

Ed Crane appears to those around him as an insignificant personage, but he does see that Doris has an affair, thinks up a scheme through which he sends an anonymous note to Big Dave, asking him for $ 10,000 in exchange for the secret that he is involved in an extra-marital relationship and even gets that money invested in a supposed business of dry cleaning, with a man called Creighton Tolliver, who made a pass at Ed.

Creighton Tolliver has made the same proposal to Big Dave, $ 10,000 for a dry cleaning business and the following day he received the blackmailing note, therefore the latter made the connection and assumed the former is the blackmailer.
He tells about this assumption to Ed Crane, who is actually the one interested in using the money for the dry cleaning.

Ed is attracted by Birdy Abundas, a young, extremely attractive neighbor who plays the piano and is played by Scarlett Johansson.
This interest may be more, if not purely platonic, the older man taking her to be evaluated by a famous professor in San Francisco

  “Jacques Carcanogues: [to Ed, after Birdy's audition] I think, one day, she'll make a very good typist. Ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. Voila!”

Alas, the above quote pretty much sums up the result of the audition and getting back home from it an accident is even more of a problem.
Big Dave finds out who sent the note, by shaking- as he says- the “panzy” and realizing it was Ed Crane.

The Big man attacks his blackmailer and he is near the point of strangling him to death, when, at the last moment a weapon is available.
This can be unveiled without a spoiler alert, for it takes place near the middle of the film and there are complications.

A lawyer is hired, for an unexpected defendant, for the police come to the barber shop where Crane works, but for a different reason.
When he asks them if they came to take him, there is another humorous moment, if a dark one, for they are embarrassed and say that they do not know how to put this to him and they hate this but, someone is accused of murder…only it is not Ed.

The lawyer hired, Freddy Riedenschneider- what a name- is played exquisitely by Tony Shalhoub and it is a phenomenal part:

“Reidenschneider: They got this guy, in Germany. Fritz Something-or-other. Or is it? Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got this theory, you wanna test something, you know, scientifically - how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap - well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes you look at it, your looking changes it. Ya can't know the reality of what happened, or what would've happened if you hadn't-a stuck in your own goddamn schnozz. So there is no "what happened"? Not in any sense that we can grasp, with our puny minds. Because our minds... our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the "Uncertainty Principle". Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy's on to something.”

The Man Who Wasn’t There is a fantastic film.

After the Wedding, written and directed by Susanne Bier, 9 out of 10

After the Wedding, written and directed by Susanne Bier
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

After the Wedding is a thought provoking, worthy film.
Madds Mikkelsen is outstanding in the leading role.

He has proved that he is one of the best artists of the world in:

-          Jagten, A Royal Affair and other outstanding motion pictures

The film starts off in India, where the Madds Mikkelsen character, Jacob Pedersen is involved in helping children.
This is one of the highlights of the movie and a theme that deserves attention and is emphasized throughout.

Many children are abused on the streets of Bombay- and many other poor places- and they are forced into prostitution- whether by ruthless adults or just poverty- have to beg suffer from hunger and diseases.
Jacob Pedersen is haunted by these images and talks in various stages about these children and their traumatic experiences.

He has taken under his wing a good number of them, but he is especially attached to Pramod, who is like an adopted son.
In the presentations he makes for this good cause he talks about the food they bring out, that attracts in a few many minutes an army of hungry children.

Jacob has to go back to Denmark, even if he does not want to, in order to plead the cause of the Indian orphans.

He has to meet with a tycoon, Jorgen Lennart Hansson from whom he has to try and get financial support.
The first meeting is somewhat awkward, for the rich man appears less than enthusiastic about this good cause.

Nevertheless, Hansson says that this is a project that has been selected in a sort of final, with other propositions which would be analyzed.
Jacob Pederson is invited for the wedding that takes place over the coming weekend, of the daughter of the rich industrialist, Anna Hansson.

And the surprises keep coming at this special event, first of all Jacob recognizes the wife of the would be philanthropist- Helene.
There is even talk about the sensational coincidence of meeting at this wedding, after so many years, with connections between the parents of the bride and Jacob.

And then a first coup de grace arrives in the speech of Anna Hansson, who thanks her parents, her loving mother and…the father who had just unveiled to his daughter that he is actually not the biological parent…
There are details, the fact that the mother was six months pregnant that make Jacob rise and leave the hall in terror…

He is sitting and smoking- so bad!!- when the woman who was sitting next to him at table and had already tried to flirt with him comes and makes openings for a drive into the city, where she has an apartment…

-          The Mad Mads Mikkelsen starts refusing her first, then saying he wants to alone and finally shouts at her: “are you stupid? „Leave me alone!!”

He understands that he is the father of the bride and comes in the mansion the next morning to talk with his former girlfriend, Helene Hansson about the cruel decision she had taken to keep him unaware that he has a daughter.

It is a complex story, where the apparent coincidence has a different explanation that I will not divulge.
Father and daughter get together and he is looking with sadness at photos from different stages in the life of his child.

At times it is very emotional and protagonists cry, in spite of their usual coolness, or is it Nordic coldness?
I must confess that I have prejudices here, considering the inhabitants of the Nordic countries as cold and distant…even arrogant when pools show that the Danish are those who dislike my compatriots the…most…

Notwithstanding that aspect, the film is noteworthy.

duminică, 16 iulie 2017

Note on Platoon, written and directed by Oliver Stone, with Charlie Shee...

The Pianist, written by Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman, 9 out of 10

The Pianist, written by Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

The Pianist is one of the best films ever made.
And there is plenty of evidence to support that claim.

It won the most important and relevant award in the cinema world, if we are talking real masterpieces:

-          The Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival

The Pianist has also won the Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Writing.
It won the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and the David Lean Award for Direction- Roman Polanski being the recipient.

As for the Academy Award, the director could not be in the audience to receive it given that he was –maybe he still is- charged with statutory rape or some similar crime, when he had had sex with a girl that was under age, quite a few decades ago.
Robert Evans writes in his book The Kid Stays in The Picture about how he had brought the Polish film maker to Hollywood.

They have worked on Rosemary’s Baby and we get some back stage details on that film, involving Mia Farrow, her husband at the time- Frank Sinatra, the latter’s opposition to his wife staying longer for the project and more innuendo.
The public appreciated The Pianist which is voted at number 41 on The IMDB list of most popular movies ever.

The film presents an extraordinary tale, of the survival of the great pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody.
Apart from the wonderful talent proved while working on this film, it is amazing how much weight the actor has lost.

The ordeal and massacre suffered by the Jewish people is well known and one page of that horror involved the hero of the film and his family.
The audience is horrified by the suffering in the ghettos, from which the pianist manages to escape after some time.

But his pain is just beginning, because he has to go in hiding and rely on some good, generous men and women who offer support.
One of them is supportive to begin with, but then it turns out that he collected a lot of money from donations and he stole it.

 There is very little food to eat and at one stage there is no more water…after becoming sick, the building wherein he is hiding comes under artillery fire from the German troops, responding to partisan attacks.
The hero barely escapes and he has to eat and drink in disgusting conditions, all the time freezing in the cold of a heavy winter.

The resilience and grit of this unfortunate man are astonishing, given his slim figure, a fact which is not to his advantage.
It is an unbelievable escape, for he has a brush with death in so many occasions, from the ghetto where a German is searching his sack of potatoes in which he had weapons that escape the Nazi, to the moment when he lies down on the street, pretending to be dead, when fascist troops are marching by.

In this complex, powerful and true narrative, we have good people on all sides, and the pianist finally finds a Nazi that is kind to him.
Captain Wilm Hosenfeld finds The Pianist hiding in one of the few last standing houses in a neighborhood that is in ruins- I was actually wondering how did they film this; it must have been special effects.

This German captain does not kill or take as prisoner the hiding Pianist, but on the contrary, he brings him some food.
One of the few humorous scenes, overwhelmed otherwise by the heavy, dark, sad atmosphere of the film takes place with the German…

When they meet, Wladyslaw Szpilman is in a horrible, terrible state, very, very thin, unshaven, haunted and desperately hungry.
All throughout his conversation with the enemy, who wants to see where he lives and then wants to hear the Pianist sing, Wladyslaw Szpilman carries with him a big tin with cucumbers, the only food he could find in his refuge…

And he would not let go of that.

Note on The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin, with Jesse Eisenberg

Note on Life with Father, directed by Michael Curtiz, with William Powell

Note on Naked Gun 33, with Leslie Nielsen and...O.J. Simpson

Note on Mad To Be Normal, Written and directed by Robert Mullan, with Da...

sâmbătă, 15 iulie 2017

Note on The Liability, with Tim Roth, Peter Mullan

Molière, written by Gregoire Vigneron and Laurent Tirard, directed by the latter, 9 out of 10

Molière, written by Gregoire Vigneron and Laurent Tirard, directed by the latter
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Molière is a fabulous, entertaining comedy.
With Fabrice Luchini and Romain Duris, two of the best actors in the world, the film is a treat and a pleasure to watch.

There is one line in this fascinating motion picture that symbolizes, explains in a nutshell the importance of Molière

-          Some day people may choose to say talk to me in the language of Molière instead of talk to me in French
-          How prophetic

In 1657, the hero was an acclaimed author and actor, but we are invited on a journey in the past, at a stage in the life of the genius wherein he had not just trouble paying his debts, but found himself in jail because of them.
The God of comedy is played by Romain Duris and the man who takes him out of jail is portrayed by Fabrice Luchini.

When he is out of prison, the actor is invited by his benefactor to prove himself in a scene of exquisite humor.
The rich Monsieur Jourdain is commenting on the repuatation and then sits down inviting the young man to demonstarte- „alors joue”, to which the hero is reacting with stupefaction- what do you mean?

Well, before I engage your services, I want to judge for myself and see if you are worth my paying for your talent.

But you must be joking refutes the flabberghasted young hero and to this, the rich Jourdain is calling for an assistant to send the guest back to prison.
He was willing to pay for the debts and therefore assure his liberty, but only in exchange for services rendered.

Faced with the alterantaive,  Molière agrees and he has to listen to a humorous contract that stipulates that he has to offer lessons to Mr. Jourdain, to the best of his abilities, so that the latter could appear in the best light in front of the woman he loves, Célimène.
Monsieur Joourdain is married to Elmire, who meets the playright when he is dressed as a man of the church and using the name...Tartuffe:

Elmire Jourdain: [to Molière/Poquelin] Mr. Tartuffe, I understood long ago that men of the Church are for the most part mere actors, who endlessly repeat the same lines, with more or less conviction.

Molière falls in love with the neglected Elmire Jourdain and given his extraordinary literary talent, he writes enchanting messages to her.
Elmire is fascinated and ovewhelemed by the beauty of Molière/ Tertuffe’s writing, even if she has no idea that the letters come from him.

Meanwhile, comedy is at its peak as the husband is taking lessons in order to be resplendent in front of Célimène.
The scenario is witty and excellent, presenting the vanity of the philandering husband and the arrogance of the woman he loves:

„I thought it was your intelligence that made you an exceptional being. I realize now it's only your upbringing that gives you style for your soul is entirely devoted to cruelty. You amuse your suite with jokes about those who are absent. But I say it is an insult to your beauty, your intelligence, and your rank that you're incapable of stating what you truly think to one's face. You used the donkey as an example: an animal that waits until you're not looking to kick you. I shall go now, Madame, and leave you to bray about me in my absence.”

Apart from the rejected affection of Mr. Jourdain and the intimacy between his wife and the young Molière, the daughter is also infatuated with a young piano teacher.

Alas, her father, interested in people from the same, rich class wnats to marry her with another suitor, who wants her fortune.
Father and would be son-in-law discuss business and what opportunities are offered by various economic zones, with another humorous take on what happens nowadays:

-          „Thomas: For example, did you know you could save on labor costs by setting up shop in Spain, where people earn four times less?
-          Dorante: [rolling his eyes] In Spain! And why not China?”

This is an adorable spectacle, a great film.