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Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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"How Green Was My Valley" is one of my favorite John Ford films. Ford is considered one of the best directors ever (something I agree with), so I find it hard to believe that one of his best films would be considered one of the ten worst films to win the best picture Oscar.

By the way, this film and "Forbidden Planet" have turned my wife into something of a Walter Pidgeon fan. I love the long shot of Pidgeon at the wedding as well, it is indeed brilliantly composed. This is the sort of thing that you look forward to in John Ford films.
Thought I would post my top five favorite John Ford movies. These are not in order of preference, I have difficulty in declaring any one of them a favorite over the others.

Stagecoach
How Green Was My Valley
My Darling Clementine
The Quiet Man
The Searchers
 

CL82

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"The King's Speech"-Tom Hooper-2010

I jumped the queue with this one; it's available on Prime now, but it will vanish in about a week. The budget was about $15,000,000 and the World Box Office was just under $427,000,000. Somebody made a few bucks. There is an interesting story about the screenwriter, David Seidler, was himself a stammerer. He planned to write a book about how George VI over came his stuttering. He wrote the Queen Mother asking for her permission; she asked him to delay until after her death as the subject was too painful for her. He complied; the script made the famous blacklist (best unproduced scripts). When Seidler won the Oscar, he was in his 70's. This made him the oldest winner of that award.

Albert,Duke of York, had suffered from pronounced stuttering since he was a young boy. Bertie(Colin Firth) had
sought treatment for years. The problem had become much more acute with the appearance of radio broadcasts. It was his notable failure in a broadcast that caused his wife, Duchess of York (Helena Bonham Carter) to seek out Lionel Logue an outside speech therapist. Logue was an Australian who began treating problems some veterans whose problems began in World War I. Logur's(Geoffrey Rush) methods were different.

The declining health of George V (Michael Gambon) posed a problem for the Windsors or the Firm as they often refer to themselves. Next in the line of succession was Crown Prince Edward (Guy Pearce); he had two major poblems: first he was an admirer of Hitler, and second he was involved with Wallis Simpson,an American divorcee. The King of England was head of the Church of England and as such couldn't marry a divorced woman.

One more note about the script, while the film was in development the grandson of Lionel, Mark Logue,discovered his grandfather's meticulous notes of his work with George VI. Colin Firth insisted that this exchange: Logue: "You stammered on the W--King George: "Well, I had to throw a few in so they knew it was me" be put in the film. This was taken from comments after George VI's successful radio speech on Britain's decision to go to war with Germany. Logue was present at all the King's radio broadcasts during the War.

This is a treat for those who enjoy a script that allows the principal actors to have fun with their work. Firth and Rush have a grand old time, and the audience does as well. Very highly recommended.
I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. The subject matter seemed a little ho hum but the acting is terrific. I strongly recommend it.
 
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King's Speech was so well done it had me rooting for the monarchy.
 
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"Hidalgo"-Joe Joahston-2004

Sergeo Leone was one of the last great creators of archetypes in film; I should qualify that by saying human archetypes. I exclude the genre of super heroes which dominates current heroic movies. For those interested, search out my "My Name Is Nobody." This is a film which is based on an idea of Leone's. Nobody goes over the top; it moves from the improbable to the impossible. It isn't bad; it attempts to use humor to leaven the journey from improbable. It's on Prime.

Back when I was growing up, the western was still highly viable. Heroes like Shane, Gary Cooper, and John Wayne were part of our weekly fare at the movies. There was a template which included such features as the hero being more likely to kiss the horse than the girl. Vigo Mortenson won the role of Frank Hopkins based of his work as Strider in "The Lord of the Rings." We have come to accept that our heroes may have flaws. They may drink to excess; they may gamble,and they may have secrets in their past.

Frank Hopkins is a real character. He was a long distance racer, or a long rider. He wrote a story of his life which was more akin to the dime novels or as they are even more demeaningly termed "Penny Dreadfuls."
As far as anyone knows there was never anything like the "Ocean of Fire" race. Roger Ebert wrote: "And please ignore any tiresome scolds who complain the movie is not really based on fact. Duh."

This sets the scene for the emergence of our director, Joe Johnston. He is known for being able to create effective visual effects. His credits include "Jumanji", "Captain America", and one outlier "October Sky." That film is one of my all time favorites. Even there we see a heroic story. This time it is true.

The plot finds a broken down wild west star in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show still appearing in a featured role.
After some vacillating; he accepts the challenge to race in the "Ocean of Fire" in the Middle East. At first it seems that he is doing this for money, but clearly there are other stronger motivations. It is a personal challenge; it is a defense of the West, and perhaps most importantly it is a defense of the mustang. Mustangs
are mixed breed wild horses. We find out that Hopkins is a mixed breed; his father was a cavalry scout; his mother was a Sioux chief's daughter. Perhaps the race will help him find himself. Hidalgo, the mustang, is of equal importance in the movie. He will be racing against the best pure bred Arabian horses. These horses form the key base for modern racehorses.

Omar Sharif appears in one of his best performances as Shiek Riyadh the most famous breeder of Arabian horses. He is also the sponsor of this 3,000 mile race. The race begins in Arabia and ends at the ocean in Syria. The race is a test of endurance for both horse and rider. Many/most of the participants die. Of course in the movie it isn't merely the race; there are many who seek to influence the race illegally and even violently. A hero must overcome obstacles; this is the type of movie where we are gut sure that our hero will triumph. In this case the hero experiences, visions, overcomes self doubt, and is redeemed.

This is available on IDMb, yes there are commercials, but it is free. I like this film a lot; it's just enjoyment, but I say so what
 
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"Lucy"-Luc Besson-2014

Since his most productive period in the'90's, Besson made a variety of films which in general haven"t been successes. He has had some success with stories/scripts for instance "Taken" and "Transporter." Lucy marked a return to box office success. Besson is generally over the top; this film is an example of that tendency both visually, storyline, and Philosophically/intellectually. Visually there are portions of the film which use almost abstract images, then scenes of nature, then scenes of imagined nature, and finally images of extreme violence to distract/involve. There are two storylines. The first involves a young woman studying in Taiwan. She becomes involved with a bad boy Ronald. He tricks/forces her into bringing a brief case to a master Korean criminal, Mr. Jang. Naturally, things go downhill; she becomes one of a group of drug mules bringing a massively potent new drug with various lethal side effects to Europe .

The second story focuses on Dr, Norman (Morgan Freeman) who is one of the worlds leading experts on the human brain. He is particularly interested in what would happen if a human being could access a greater portion of the neurons in the human brain. We see him lecturing in Paris and answering questions from the audience.

Meanwhile, a plastic bag of this drug has been inserted in Lucy's intestine. Lucy (Scarlet Johannson) doesn't get on the plane. She is taken by a group of thugs. Their beatings cause the bag to break and release a large quantity of the drug into her system. The drug forcefully activates more neurons. We see various % of the brain being utilized in numbers on the screen. Each jump in % allows her gain new abilities. She not only can learn more quickly, remember things from her past, have increased ability to sense things, but she can control inanimate objects, and even other humans.

The two story tracks are brought together. Lucy goes to meet Professor Norman. Lucy s concerned with what she should do with her new knowledge/abilities. Norman advises her:"I say pass it on." Unfortunately. she is followed to Paris by Mr. Jang (Min suk-Choi) and a company of thugs. (I must interject, that Lucy had a chance to kill Mr. Jang and didn't do it. It is also surprising that his minions have no trouble in acquiring all kinds of weapons. No explanation is offered for either phenomenon.)

The ingestion of this huge quantity of drugs, naturally takes its toll. Lucy is racing against death. She contacts a Paris based police captain, Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) to capture her fellow drug mules.

Lucy is the name given by Donald Johannson to a 2.5 million year old skeleton found in Ethiopia. This skeleton is supposed to be the link between the other primates and man. We see the modern day Lucy interact with the proto Lucy. I advise viewers not to try and follow each imagining to what might be considered a conclusion. There are far too many. Bresson has the ability to move things along. I liked this better this time than I had previously. This is available to stream for free on 1,2,3.

If you like Bresson's other films; this will be worthwhile viewing.
 
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"Who'a Afraid of Virginia Wolfe"-Mike Nichols-1966

I began these commentaries under the title:"Films Worth Viewing>" This film easily meets that threshold. My problem is what to write. This film has taken hold of me; I have been avoiding writing this commentary for a couple of weeks. This film disturbs me. I find in almost impossible to come to grips with. I first saw it when it came out well over 50 years ago. Edward Albee is an enormously difficult writer. He lays bare parts of humanity and human interaction which in many cases we would rather avoid. He is mostly forgotten today. His first "success" was "Zoo Story." This one act play features two men's conflict over a park bench. In the course of a little morethan an hour, we see madness swallow up both characters. Many critics believe "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" is Albee's finest work. They consider Albee to be one of the greatest American playwrights ever.

This was Mike Nichol's first film. It was the most expensive black and white picture made at that time. There were reasons for this. The film rights to Albee's play were purchased for $300,000. Ernest Lehman hired himsel as screenwriter for $250,000. Almost nothing he wrote was used. Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000, and Burton received $759,000. It was filmed partly at Northhampton, Mass,, but mainly at the studio. Nichols later admitted that this was his mistake. Years later he characterized his performance as learning on the job. He was a very fast learner.

The story is set at a fictitious small but somewhat well respected liberal arts college. There are only 4 characters.
The central couple are George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). Martha is the daughter of the college president. George is her husband; after many years of marriage and teaching he hasn't risen above Associate Professor. The marriage relationship has developed into a bloodless blood sport. The injuries they inflict upon one another are to the soul. They are joined for a late after party by a new couple. He is an ambitious scholar in biology, Nick( George Segal). She is a woman who was married because she was pregnant, Honey (Sandy Dennis). The pregnancy wasn't real, and the couple has remained together for appearances sake. Both Taylor and Dennis won Oscars. I think Burton's performance was the best in the film.
The film gained several other Oscars including best black and white cinematography. This was the last year where distinctions were made between color and black and white films by the Oscar voters.

Perhaps my reaction to this film is overly extreme. I find it quality all the way through. This isn't the least bit sloppy. The 2 and a half hours are very uncomfortable. Albee wanted it that way; Nicholas wanted it that way. There are no breaks, no reliefs from the tension. How can such marriages survive? George and Martha in some sick way are dependent on one another. They know how to hurt each other only too well.

This is an excellent film; I hesitate to call it great only because I find the subject matter disturbing. You are warned. It is available to stream for free.
 
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"Quiz Show"-Robert Redford-1994

It's 1957. For those of you who have no personal memories of this time; two major events dominated the news.
Sputnik orbited the earth, and Charles van Doren became a national hero as a result of his success on the quiz show 21. Did you know that Strelka and Belka were dogs and Mo, Sally, and Amy were mice? Did you know that Van Doren beat Herb Stempel to begin his amazing run. My family watched avidly as Van Doren won week after week. He had a "Time"cover. There was an investigation of television game shows by a congressional committee. It turned out that 21 was rigged;Van Doren got the questions in advance, and sometimes he received the answers as well.

This movie tells that story. The script was written by Paul Anastasio based on his own research with Robert Goodwin's book as a starting point. It focuses on two principals, Goodwin, the dedicated investigator, and Charles van Doren, an academic from a family of academics (his father was a Pulitizer Prize winning poet. Goodwin went on to become a speech writer for Jack Kennedy. He married the historian Doris Kearns. Van Doren lost his job at Columbia. He was finished as a university teacher. He worked for Encyclopedia Britannica, and he wrote. He vanished from public view. More interestingly nothing happened to the TV network or the sponsors. They were directly involved, but the investigation didn't touch them.

Many observers believe that this was the starting point of public disaffection with American institutions. The situation became worse with the Kennedy assassinations and the tumult surrounding Vietnam. Of course this is a commentary on a film. So what kind of a film is this "Quiz Story"? This is an excellent film,well written, well acted, and shot with great attention to period detail.

Rob Murrow's performance as Robert Goodwin has been criticized, but I find him to be more than adequate.
Ralph Finnes was Charles van Doren. John Turturo as Herb Stempel and Paul Scofield as Mark van Doren give the best performances. Redford directed a number of quality films;this ranks among his best. It is available to stream for free. you can forget about my background notes and just enjoy this film. Very highly recommended.
 

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"Who'a Afraid of Virginia Wolfe"-Mike Nichols-1966

I began these commentaries under the title:"Films Worth Viewing>" This film easily meets that threshold. My problem is what to write. This film has taken hold of me; I have been avoiding writing this commentary for a couple of weeks. This film disturbs me. I find in almost impossible to come to grips with. I first saw it when it came out well over 50 years ago. Edward Albee is an enormously difficult writer. He lays bare parts of humanity and human interaction which in many cases we would rather avoid. He is mostly forgotten today. His first "success" was "Zoo Story." This one act play features two men's conflict over a park bench. In the course of a little morethan an hour, we see madness swallow up both characters. Many critics believe "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" is Albee's finest work. They consider Albee to be one of the greatest American playwrights ever.

This was Mike Nichol's first film. It was the most expensive black and white picture made at that time. There were reasons for this. The film rights to Albee's play were purchased for $300,000. Ernest Lehman hired himsel as screenwriter for $250,000. Almost nothing he wrote was used. Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000, and Burton received $759,000. It was filmed partly at Northhampton, Mass,, but mainly at the studio. Nichols later admitted that this was his mistake. Years later he characterized his performance as learning on the job. He was a very fast learner.

The story is set at a fictitious small but somewhat well respected liberal arts college. There are only 4 characters.
The central couple are George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor). Martha is the daughter of the college president. George is her husband; after many years of marriage and teaching he hasn't risen above Associate Professor. The marriage relationship has developed into a bloodless blood sport. The injuries they inflict upon one another are to the soul. They are joined for a late after party by a new couple. He is an ambitious scholar in biology, Nick( George Segal). She is a woman who was married because she was pregnant, Honey (Sandy Dennis). The pregnancy wasn't real, and the couple has remained together for appearances sake. Both Taylor and Dennis won Oscars. I think Burton's performance was the best in the film.
The film gained several other Oscars including best black and white cinematography. This was the last year where distinctions were made between color and black and white films by the Oscar voters.

Perhaps my reaction to this film is overly extreme. I find it quality all the way through. This isn't the least bit sloppy. The 2 and a half hours are very uncomfortable. Albee wanted it that way; Nicholas wanted it that way. There are no breaks, no reliefs from the tension. How can such marriages survive? George and Martha in some sick way are dependent on one another. They know how to hurt each other only too well.

This is an excellent film; I hesitate to call it great only because I find the subject matter disturbing. You are warned. It is available to stream for free.
'This was the last year where distinctions were made between color and black and white films by the Oscar voters. '
further supporting my historical contention that somewhere between 1964 to 1966, the entire world shifted from 'black and white' to 'color.' clothes, hairstyles, food, politics, war, youth attitudes and activities, finance, technology,...everything. in a word, boom! by, say 1967 or so, the 'wheels' came off an old world, and before you know it, we were standing on the moon, listening to synthisizers, using seat belts, taking vitamins, wearing hip hugger bell bottoms while tossing bras out, watching former colonies gain independence, and, like noticed in that famous movie of the time, using plastics. thankfully, some of the bad that accompanied the good changes have been ash-heaped. pops always said that 'nehru' shirts looked ridiculous, and that mung bean sprouts were just rude, and definitely not food.
 
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'This was the last year where distinctions were made between color and black and white films by the Oscar voters. '
further supporting my historical contention that somewhere between 1964 to 1966, the entire world shifted from 'black and white' to 'color.' clothes, hairstyles, food, politics, war, youth attitudes and activities, finance, technology,...everything. in a word, boom! by, say 1967 or so, the 'wheels' came off an old world, and before you know it, we were standing on the moon, listening to synthisizers, using seat belts, taking vitamins, wearing hip hugger bell bottoms while tossing bras out, watching former colonies gain independence, and, like noticed in that famous movie of the time, using plastics. thankfully, some of the bad that accompanied the good changes have been ash-heaped. pops always said that 'nehru' shirts looked ridiculous, and that mung bean sprouts were just rude, and definitely not food.
The big three United States television networks also all pretty much went to totally color broadcasting in 1966 as well. Prior to this some shows were shown in color, with NBC leading the way (they were owned by RCA, which was big into making color television sets). I was a young kid at the time, but I do remember that all three networks in the mid to late 1960's made a point in making it known that their programs were in color. I didn't give it any thought at the time, but much later in my life it occurred to me that the transition to predominantly color programming had just occurred at this point.
 
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'This was the last year where distinctions were made between color and black and white films by the Oscar voters. '
further supporting my historical contention that somewhere between 1964 to 1966, the entire world shifted from 'black and white' to 'color.' clothes, hairstyles, food, politics, war, youth attitudes and activities, finance, technology,...everything. in a word, boom! by, say 1967 or so, the 'wheels' came off an old world, and before you know it, we were standing on the moon, listening to synthisizers, using seat belts, taking vitamins, wearing hip hugger bell bottoms while tossing bras out, watching former colonies gain independence, and, like noticed in that famous movie of the time, using plastics. thankfully, some of the bad that accompanied the good changes have been ash-heaped. pops always said that 'nehru' shirts looked ridiculous, and that mung bean sprouts were just rude, and definitely not food.
I had forgotten that this was that year. My mother, one of the most intelligent and perceptive people I've known, was blown away by commercials in color. Hay, I had 2 Nehru shirts. The importance of the images in
commercials cannot be discounted.
 
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The big three United States television networks also all pretty much went to totally color broadcasting in 1966 as well. Prior to this some shows were shown in color, with NBC leading the way (they were owned by RCA, which was big into making color television sets). I was a young kid at the time, but I do remember that all three networks in the mid to late 1960's made a point in making it known that their programs were in color. I didn't give it any thought at the time, but much later in my life it occurred to me that the transition to predominantly color programming had just occurred at this point.
I had forgotten that this was that year. My mother, one of the most intelligent and perceptive people I've known, was blown away by commercials in color. Hay, I had 2 Nehru shirts. The importance of the images in
commercials cannot be discounted.
I specifically remember this announcement from that time period:

"The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC."

I then thought to look it up on the internet. There were a number of variants, but this is the one that was burned into my skull.

 
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"Vertigo"-Alfred Hitchcock-1958

In 2012 "Sight and Sound" ranked this film as the greatest film of all time. It replaced "Citizen Kane" in the #1 spot. It wasn't always so. The movie wasn't a commercial success and the critical reception was mixed. The key factor n this change was the restoration in 1996. This version began showing in theaters in'97. The Castro Theater in San Francisco did more business in the first week it showed the restoration than any other theater in the US. Universal was responsible for the restoration which two years to complete. If you have access to the DVD please watch "Obsessed with Vertigo." Martin Scorese is one of the featured commentators; he is saint of restoration efforts.

Where doe "Vertigo" stand in Hitchcock's work? That seems a simple question, but there isn't a simple answer.
It was one of a group of films he made on loan to Paramount. Hitchcock had total control. It was adapted from a French novel "D'etre Des Mortes." Maxwell Anderson took the first pass at the script. Meanwhile, in his methodical way Hitch was planning shots and looking for shooting sites. Hitch much preferred shooting on a sound stage. Here he could control the lighting and sound. Remarkably, over 40 sets were constructed for this film. Hitchcock normally had his heroes battle outside opponents; this film was outside the norm. (Rebecca was also outside the norm.) Here the hero Scottie Ferguson battles fear of heights and vertigo. This type of internal battle became more common in his later films.

This is often termed Hitch's most personal film. The obsession of Stewart's character with the prototype Hitchcock blonde is offered as proof. It is true that Hitch featured the cool blonde in multiple films, but Grace Kelley in "Rear Window" seemingly fits the archetype. However, she and Stewart have a normal relationship. In
Vertigo the character who most closely resembles the Kelly character is Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) and not Madeline. As we find out Madeline is an illusion. In real life Hitch had a lifelong relationship with his. She in no way resembled the cool imperious blonde.

Htch's daughter believed that he made films for the audience. I believe that Hitch made the films he wanted to make; he naturally hoped they would reach audiences. "Vertigo" came after 30 years of directing, if anything Hitch was more confident of his ability to lead the audience. He often remarked that he shot the film in his head before shooting began. The finished product allowed the audience to experience his creation. One unusual scene is Judy's flashback. This reveals that she was Madeline and a part of a murder.
The audience is given knowledge that the protagonist doesn't possess. This was the result of showing two audiences of critics different versions of the film. One version had the flashback sequence; the other did not have the flashback sequence. The critics much preferred the flashback version. Hitch opted for the audience friendly version.

The film has what many believe to be Bernard Herman's best score. He drew upon Wagner's "Tristan and Isode" score. That of course is a doomed romance. The opening credits were created by Saul Bass. This was the first use of computer graphics in a title sequence. We remember the image of the title emerging from a woman's eye. Bass contributed the vertigo sequences and the scene with Stewart's head in a dream sequence. Given the technology available; this is remarkable work. One of the most famous sequences is the staircase of the mission. Hitch's drawings indicate the look he was after, but it wasn't easy to translate to film. Irwin Roberts was responsible for working out the effect. The audience experiences some aspects of Vertigo as Stewart climbs up in the bell tower.

The ending is solid craft. Scottie has uncovered the truth about Judy and the murder in the bell tower. He pushes her up, seemingly ignoring her pleas that she loves him. At the top they kiss. They hear sounds. The camera breaks away from the couple to focus on the stairs. A nun ascends, we see a glimpse of of Judy going over. The nun arrives: "God have mercy." Judy is gone. Scottie stands on the edge his vertigo gone. It was foreshadowed by a doctor's comment that his vertigo was curable only by experiencing an equal emotional shock.

Hitch was disappointed with the reaction to the film. He thought Stewart was too old for a romantic hero. He was 49to Novak's 25. He also questioned the casting of Novak. Her dual role was monumentally difficult.
Judy, despite her looks, was nothing like Madeline. She was working class and from the mid-west. She walks differently, she stands differently, and her pleas for understanding don't come from a queen. When Madeline asks for understanding, help, and comfort, Scottie is more than moved, he is enraptured. Judy is only clay to be molded. Building an illusion; he loses reality.

It is difficult to believe that Scottie was a master detective. Of course it's possible that his near death experience dangling from a building while a potential rescuer plunges to his death changes more than his reactions to heights. Why does he accept the mission to tail Madeline on behalf of her husband? Why does he accept Carlotta? This demands more willing suspense of disbelief than I have. This is a brilliant film, but one which didn't emotionally move me. Still, this can be a compelling journey. I was unable to find a workable free streaming site.
 
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"Vertigo"-Alfred Hitchcock-1958

In 2012 "Sight and Sound" ranked this film as the greatest film of all time. It replaced "Citizen Kane" in the #1 spot. It wasn't always so. The movie wasn't a commercial success and the critical reception was mixed. The key factor n this change was the restoration in 1996. This version began showing in theaters in'97. The Castro Theater in San Francisco did more business in the first week it showed the restoration than any other theater in the US. Universal was responsible for the restoration which two years to complete. If you have access to the DVD please watch "Obsessed with Vertigo." Martin Scorese is one of the featured commentators; he is saint of restoration efforts.

Where doe "Vertigo" stand in Hitchcock's work? That seems a simple question, but there isn't a simple answer.
It was one of a group of films he made on loan to Paramount. Hitchcock had total control. It was adapted from a French novel "D'etre Des Mortes." Maxwell Anderson took the first pass at the script. Meanwhile, in his methodical way Hitch was planning shots and looking for shooting sites. Hitch much preferred shooting on a sound stage. Here he could control the lighting and sound. Remarkably, over 40 sets were constructed for this film. Hitchcock normally had his heroes battle outside opponents; this film was outside the norm. (Rebecca was also outside the norm.) Here the hero Scottie Ferguson battles fear of heights and vertigo. This type of internal battle became more common in his later films.

This is often termed Hitch's most personal film. The obsession of Stewart's character with the prototype Hitchcock blonde is offered as proof. It is true that Hitch featured the cool blonde in multiple films, but Grace Kelley in "Rear Window" seemingly fits the archetype. However, she and Stewart have a normal relationship. In
Vertigo the character who most closely resembles the Kelly character is Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) and not Madeline. As we find out Madeline is an illusion. In real life Hitch had a lifelong relationship with his. She in no way resembled the cool imperious blonde.

Htch's daughter believed that he made films for the audience. I believe that Hitch made the films he wanted to make; he naturally hoped they would reach audiences. "Vertigo" came after 30 years of directing, if anything Hitch was more confident of his ability to lead the audience. He often remarked that he shot the film in his head before shooting began. The finished product allowed the audience to experience his creation. One unusual scene is Judy's flashback. This reveals that she was Madeline and a part of a murder.
The audience is given knowledge that the protagonist doesn't possess. This was the result of showing two audiences of critics different versions of the film. One version had the flashback sequence; the other did not have the flashback sequence. The critics much preferred the flashback version. Hitch opted for the audience friendly version.

The film has what many believe to be Bernard Herman's best score. He drew upon Wagner's "Tristan and Isode" score. That of course is a doomed romance. The opening credits were created by Saul Bass. This was the first use of computer graphics in a title sequence. We remember the image of the title emerging from a woman's eye. Bass contributed the vertigo sequences and the scene with Stewart's head in a dream sequence. Given the technology available; this is remarkable work. One of the most famous sequences is the staircase of the mission. Hitch's drawings indicate the look he was after, but it wasn't easy to translate to film. Irwin Roberts was responsible for working out the effect. The audience experiences some aspects of Vertigo as Stewart climbs up in the bell tower.

The ending is solid craft. Scottie has uncovered the truth about Judy and the murder in the bell tower. He pushes her up, seemingly ignoring her pleas that she loves him. At the top they kiss. They hear sounds. The camera breaks away from the couple to focus on the stairs. A nun ascends, we see a glimpse of of Judy going over. The nun arrives: "God have mercy." Judy is gone. Scottie stands on the edge his vertigo gone. It was foreshadowed by a doctor's comment that his vertigo was curable only by experiencing an equal emotional shock.

Hitch was disappointed with the reaction to the film. He thought Stewart was too old for a romantic hero. He was 49to Novak's 25. He also questioned the casting of Novak. Her dual role was monumentally difficult.
Judy, despite her looks, was nothing like Madeline. She was working class and from the mid-west. She walks differently, she stands differently, and her pleas for understanding don't come from a queen. When Madeline asks for understanding, help, and comfort, Scottie is more than moved, he is enraptured. Judy is only clay to be molded. Building an illusion; he loses reality.

It is difficult to believe that Scottie was a master detective. Of course it's possible that his near death experience dangling from a building while a potential rescuer plunges to his death changes more than his reactions to heights. Why does he accept the mission to tail Madeline on behalf of her husband? Why does he accept Carlotta? This demands more willing suspense of disbelief than I have. This is a brilliant film, but one which didn't emotionally move me. Still, this can be a compelling journey. I was unable to find a workable free streaming site.
I've said it before, Vertigo is one of my top five favorite Hitchcock films.
 
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"Big Fish"-Tim Burton-2003

This was my first viewing of a film which has become a popular favorite. It is currently on Prime. This is a film which merits the term heightened reality. At the conclusion of the film just before he turns into a giant catfish, his son Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) remarks: "A man tells his stories so man times that he becomes his stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal." Or you might say that he lives as long as he and his stories are remembered. We are concerned that memories will be gone of World War II when the veterans all die. The last Holocaust survivors are dying. We see Sam telling his son at a pool party one of his father's stories. We can exist in Oral Tradition. Will the tradition of reading to young children and/or telling them stories pass from our lives?

This film is based on the novel by Douglas Wallace. He has written a series of novels set in small town Alabama.
The screenplay was written by John August. In the film Ed Nelson is played by two actors. Ewan McGregor plays young Ed. Albert Finney plays the older Ed. Sandra Bloom (Jessica Lange) calls Will in Paris where he works for a news service. She tells him that his father is dying. They haven't spoken in 3 years. For Will his father telling the story of his birth which involved a gold ring and a giant catfish was the last straw. Even at his wedding his father insisted on being the center of the story. Will returns to Ashcroft, Alabama with his pregnant wife Josephine (Marion Cottilard). (This was her first American film.) He retraces some of his father's steps. By the end of the film, Will realizes that his father's stories have a basis in reality. The magical town of Spectre exists. His father really did serve on a dangerous mission in the Korean War. He ends up constructing a death story for his father. At the real funeral, hundreds of people show up including a circus ring master and a giant who had been featured in Ed's stories.

Tim Burton ("Batman", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Beetlejuice.) carefully maps out Ed's life stories. McGregor
does an excellent job as Ed Nelson adventurer. Finney is even better as the bed ridden cancer patient trying to hold on to his stories, and thus to hold on to his life. Crudup has a more difficult role; he believes his father has lied to him his entire life. Dealing with his father's impending death; he learns that the stories have more than a kernel of truth. This is two hours of enjoyable viewing with an obvious truth; every man wants to be a hero in his own story.

Highly recommended.
 
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"Big Fish"-Tim Burton-2003

This was my first viewing of a film which has become a popular favorite. It is currently on Prime. This is a film which merits the term heightened reality. At the conclusion of the film just before he turns into a giant catfish, his son Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) remarks: "A man tells his stories so man times that he becomes his stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal." Or you might say that he lives as long as he and his stories are remembered. We are concerned that memories will be gone of World War II when the veterans all die. The last Holocaust survivors are dying. We see Sam telling his son at a pool party one of his father's stories. We can exist in Oral Tradition. Will the tradition of reading to young children and/or telling them stories pass from our lives?

This film is based on the novel by Douglas Wallace. He has written a series of novels set in small town Alabama.
The screenplay was written by John August. In the film Ed Nelson is played by two actors. Ewan McGregor plays young Ed. Albert Finney plays the older Ed. Sandra Bloom (Jessica Lange) calls Will in Paris where he works for a news service. She tells him that his father is dying. They haven't spoken in 3 years. For Will his father telling the story of his birth which involved a gold ring and a giant catfish was the last straw. Even at his wedding his father insisted on being the center of the story. Will returns to Ashcroft, Alabama with his pregnant wife Josephine (Marion Cottilard). (This was her first American film.) He retraces some of his father's steps. By the end of the film, Will realizes that his father's stories have a basis in reality. The magical town of Spectre exists. His father really did serve on a dangerous mission in the Korean War. He ends up constructing a death story for his father. At the real funeral, hundreds of people show up including a circus ring master and a giant who had been featured in Ed's stories.

Tim Burton ("Batman", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Beetlejuice.) carefully maps out Ed's life stories. McGregor
does an excellent job as Ed Nelson adventurer. Finney is even better as the bed ridden cancer patient trying to hold on to his stories, and thus to hold on to his life. Crudup has a more difficult role; he believes his father has lied to him his entire life. Dealing with his father's impending death; he learns that the stories have more than a kernel of truth. This is two hours of enjoyable viewing with an obvious truth; every man wants to be a hero in his own story.

Highly recommended.
A number of years ago I got the DVD of "Big Fish" as a Christmas gift. At the time I hadn't given any thought to ever seeing this film. So the movie sat on my DVD shelf until one night my wife and I decided to give it a watch. We were both rather impressed with this movie, as it showed quite a bit of imagination to it. My reaction to it pretty much is reflected in the above review. I haven't watched it in a number of years, but from what I recall the giant showing up at the funeral was the highlight of the movie for me.

By the way, our favorite Tim Burton film remains "Ed Wood" (whenever the subject of Bill Murray comes up, my wife always starts talking about this film). "Ed Wood" for many years got regular viewing in our house around Halloween time. "Big Fish" and "Big Eyes" rank just after "Ed Wood" for me on my list of favorite Tim Burton movies.

This review got me thinking of Tim Burton, so I just added "Sweeney Todd" to my Netflix Queue. Sooner or later I'll get around to it.
 
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"Treasure Island"-Byron Haskins-1950

Disney had a problem; at the end of WWII Disney had a very large amount of profits they couldn't return to the US. British law prevented it. Walt decided to make a film in Britain using this capital. "Treasure Island" was a wonderful choice. This classic had been a favorite of boys for generations. Pirates were exotic but compelling.
This film just added to the legend. The famous "aaargh" begins with Robert Newton's performance as Long John silver. My inner boy was shocked to discover that the nickname "Long John" denotes the possibility that he ate forbidden flesh. On a more cheerful note, how can you resist a talking parrot named after a famous pirate, Captain Flint?

Buried pirate treasure is the basis for this story. In 1765 on the West coast of England there was an inn, Admiral Benbow, where Jack Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) is behind the desk. An unsavory caller appears asking for William Bonney. The Captain does reside there, but only a glimpse of his sea chest reveals it. A group of pirates have returned to England; they have been searching for Bonney. He s believed to have the map to the buried treasure of Captain Flint, the most successful pirate. Bonney gives the map to young Hawkins. He goes to Squire Trelawney for help. Bonney is dead when they return, but the map leads the Squire to plan a voyage to recover the treasure. Of course young Hawkins comes along.

This is the start of the adventure, and RLS's novels are used for such films as "Kim" and Kidnapped." It is the innocence of this Disney production which makes seem timeless. Bobby Driscoll was an experienced child actor.
He worked in television as an adult, but he died at 31. Newton never achieved a comparable success, but Disney used this film as a kick start for making real action films. They were successes both on TV and in theaters. This is still a joy to watch if your inner child can be brought out of hiding. I'm not going to revisit the plot. You either know it, or I shouldn't spoil the story.
 
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"Ben- Hur"-William Wyler-1959

This film is one of only 3 films to win 11 Oscars. William Wyler was nominated for best director 11 times. He is supposed to have remarked that it took a Jew to make a great film about Christ. Wyler was a master of spectacles. His producer, Sam Weisman, died during the production, so he was forced to assume the lead producers in addition to his directing responsibilities. He survived a bout with influenza, but he only missed 2 days out of a 9 months shooting schedule at Cinne Citta in Rome.

The chariot race is one of the great set pieces in film history. It required 10,000 extras and the largest everfilm set. Yakima Canut stunt God directed the filming of the race. He also served as an instructor in Chariot driving for Charlton Heston (Ben- Hur) and Stephen Boyd (Messala). 263 feet of film was shot for every foot used in the chariot race. The editing is seamless. $4 million of the reported $15 million budget went to the filming of the chariot race. The film was originally budgeted at $5 million; fortunately it returned $75 million at the box office.
It is interesting to note that this is the last MGM film to receive a best picture Oscar.

The source material was the novel "Ben- Hur : A story of the Christ" by General Lew Wallace. Wallace was a Union general n the Civil War. It was a huge success, and three silent films were made based on the story. The more famous featured Francis X as Messala and Ramon Navaro as Judah Ben-Hur. Surprisingly, I couldn't find a free streaming option, but the 1959 film is available on YouTube.This 1925 film is credited with being the foundation of MGM. You can watch the chariot race which has a real epic crash; extras died in the sea battle. A new score was written for this version. You can watch the chariot race on Daily Motion (best version). The deaths and injuries in this film caused rules to be established to ensure safety in future films.
 
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I should mention several members of the cast: Finlay Currie is an excellent Balthasar, the Israeli actress, Haya Harareet plays Esther, Jack Hawkins give a very solid performance as Quintas Arrias, but the best performance goes to Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderrim in an Oscar winning performance. This is a true epic. The running time is over 3 hours. The score by Mikos Raza is one of the most famous in film history. This is a must see. You will find that there is little wasted time. I haven't seen the latest re-make, but this film which is 60 years old has aged superbly. Even Heston's performance is very solid.
 
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"Ben- Hur"-William Wyler-1959

This film is one of only 3 films to win 11 Oscars. William Wyler was nominated for best director 11 times. He is supposed to have remarked that it took a Jew to make a great film about Christ. Wyler was a master of spectacles. His producer, Sam Weisman, died during the production, so he was forced to assume the lead producers in addition to his directing responsibilities. He survived a bout with influenza, but he only missed 2 days out of a 9 months shooting schedule at Cinne Citta in Rome.

The chariot race is one of the great set pieces in film history. It required 10,000 extras and the largest everfilm set. Yakima Canut stunt God directed the filming of the race. He also served as an instructor in Chariot driving for Charlton Heston (Ben- Hur) and Stephen Boyd (Messala). 263 feet of film was shot for every foot used in the chariot race. The editing is seamless. $4 million of the reported $15 million budget went to the filming of the chariot race. The film was originally budgeted at $5 million; fortunately it returned $75 million at the box office.
It is interesting to note that this is the last MGM film to receive a best picture Oscar.

The source material was the novel "Ben- Hur : A story of the Christ" by General Lew Wallace. Wallace was a Union general n the Civil War. It was a huge success, and three silent films were made based on the story. The more famous featured Francis X as Messala and Ramon Navaro as Judah Ben-Hur. Surprisingly, I couldn't find a free streaming option, but the 1959 film is available on YouTube.This 1925 film is credited with being the foundation of MGM. You can watch the chariot race which has a real epic crash; extras died in the sea battle. A new score was written for this version. You can watch the chariot race on Daily Motion (best version). The deaths and injuries in this film caused rules to be established to ensure safety in future films.
By coincidence, Ben-Hur is showing later today on Turner Classic Movies at 4pm Eastern time. It's Charlton Heston day on that channel.

Best parts of the movie for me are the galley slave/sea battle/adrift on the raft/rescue at sea sequence, the epic chariot race, along with any scenes in which Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith, or Finley Currie appear. For me Currie is a welcome presence in a number of films over the years.
 
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"L.A. Confidential"-Curtis Hanson-1997

This is considered a landmark neo-noir film. I don't believe that it reaches the level of "Chinatown", but it's close. James Ellroy is one of the best crime novelists, and he loves L.A. "L.A.Confidential" is more than complex.
He thought that there was no way it could be turned into a film. Enter Brian Hegeland who pursued Curtis Hanson on the set of "River Wild." He had spent years writing 7 drafts and developing a workable script. Hanson bought into the project. This of course was only the beginning; there were 80 speaking roles to be cast.
There were locations to be found; it is hard to think of a major city which had undergone more physical changes than L.A.. There were costumes, props, and interiors which must be period correct. Hanson developed a filmography for principal cast members to watch. The purpose was to put the cast in the mood. The film sought to create a realistic Los Angeles of the 1950"s which was the necessary background for the film.

The casting was interesting. First Hanson decided that the film must have 3 protagonists as the book did. None of the 3 leads was a "star." Kevin Spacey plays Jack Vincennes, a public figure who served as a technical consultant for Badge Of Honor a "Dragnet" stand in. He also had a profitable relationship with the scandal rag
Hush, Hush a "Confidential" stand in. He worked with Sid Hudgens (Danny De Vito) the publisher and do it all sleeze journalist to set up celebrity arrests for magazine stories.

Russell Crowe plays Bud White a detective with a violent streak particularly where abused womwn are concerned. Crowe was worried that he wouldn't be credible in this ultimate tough guy role. He has disdain
for Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) a by the book college educated rising star. The L.A. police are trying to improve the department's image.

Mickey Cohen had controlled of L.A."s underworld. He was arrested of the federal charge of income tax evasion and sentenced to ten years in prison. Almost immediately his lieutenants were being killed. Then there was a mass murder at the Nite Owl cafe. The investigation of this mass murder brings together our three protagonists in an attempt to solve the crime.

I should mention the key performances of Kim Bassinger (Oscar winner) and James Crowell as a leading captain in the L.A. Police. Crowell was coming off his leading role in "Babe." This role turns audience expectations on its head. The plot is so complex, that this commentary would have to reach novella length to do it justice. My answer, watch the film. It is available to stream for free, try roku.

This is a must see, particularly for noir fans.
 

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A number of years ago I got the DVD of "Big Fish" as a Christmas gift. At the time I hadn't given any thought to ever seeing this film. So the movie sat on my DVD shelf until one night my wife and I decided to give it a watch. We were both rather impressed with this movie, as it showed quite a bit of imagination to it. My reaction to it pretty much is reflected in the above review. I haven't watched it in a number of years, but from what I recall the giant showing up at the funeral was the highlight of the movie for me.

By the way, our favorite Tim Burton film remains "Ed Wood" (whenever the subject of Bill Murray comes up, my wife always starts talking about this film). "Ed Wood" for many years got regular viewing in our house around Halloween time. "Big Fish" and "Big Eyes" rank just after "Ed Wood" for me on my list of favorite Tim Burton movies.

This review got me thinking of Tim Burton, so I just added "Sweeney Todd" to my Netflix Queue. Sooner or later I'll get around to it.
I can't remember the "why" of why I decided one day to watch "Big Fish". I didn't know much about it at the time. But it's one of those movies where, if you do watch it, it has an impact that will stay with you. Once McGregor stepped into the village, I was ready for anything and everything. It's a fun ride and well worth your time.
 
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"The King's Choice"-Eric Poppe-2016

Perhaps the term "quisling" is part of your vocabulary. Vikund Quisling was the leader of the fascist National Union party in Norway. In two national elections they never were able to elect a member of the Norwegian parliament (Stulling). When Germany invaded in April of 1940, he, with Hitler's approval, headed a coup d'etat
over the national radio service. Hitler wanted King Haakon VII to accept Quisling as the legal leader of Norway's government. This would provide legal cover for the invasion, and Hitler correctly believed that Haakon's acceptance would mean considerable Norwegian support for this puppet regime. The Scandanavian countries had committed to neutrality at the beginning of WWII.

Norway was ill prepared for war. The Germans actually invaded before Norway mobilized. Thirty-five years before Haakon arrived in Norway as the newly elected king. He came from the Danish royal family. He refrained from politics. He was active in charities and national events. Most Norwegians regarded him and his family highly; they were symbols of national unity. The elected government couldn't agree on a coherent policy with regard to the war. They hoped that Nazi Germany would honor their neutrality. German sent a massive sea force,but when a fortress sank one German cruiser and badly damaged another, the German's had to delay their entry into Oslo. This allowed the government and the royal family to escape. The German's pursued them, but Hitler charged the German envoy, Curt Braurer, to negotiate with the King to gain his acceptance of a Quisling regime.

I will let you in on what you probably have guessed, I didn't know all this before I watched "The King's Choice."
The movie involved me so that I needed to know more. This is an unusual war film; there is very little conflict. That is the shooting type of conflict. King Haakon and the German envoy both have find a way to do their duty.

This is a very good film. It is well shot, and I cared about the characters. It is available on Prime with subtitles.
It is historically accurate, and it was very popular in Norway where it swept the awards. It was Norway's official entry to the Oscars. This is well worth viewing and is highly recommended. If this topic interests you, you might opt to view "April 6th". This is the story of a single platoon in the Danish army's resistance to Germany's invasion of Denmark. It doesn't approach the quality of "The King's Choice," but it is watchable.
It is available on IMDb.
 
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"West Side Story"-Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins-1961

On December 18th of this year a new production of "West Side Story" directed by Stephen Spielberg will open.
Why this musical? Why any traditional musical? If you are Stephen Spielberg you can make any movie you want. As he tells it , he was won over by the original cast album from 1957. He wasn't the only one. Several of the cast members of this current production echo similar sentiments. The original movie received 10 Oscars, the most for any movie. Of course the movie is an adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet." Spielberg's production will feature one member of the original cast, Rita Moreno. She is 88 and she plays the wife of Doc who now manages the candy store.

Until the Cohen Brothers, Wise and Robbins were the only duo to win the Best Director Oscar. Robbins was sidelined during production because his re-shoots were taking too much time and costing too much money, Wise did it all for the rest of the picture including the dance sequences which were already planned. On Broadway, Robbins did everything. There are no opening credits, after a musical prelude, we find ourselves high above Manhattan looking down on the city. The end credits (Saul Bass) appear as writing on a wall.

What is in the middle almost an opera rather than a musical. There is little dialogue, most of the story is told in song by members of two street gangs. The non singing and dancing characters are the police (Simon Oakland and William Brimley) and Ned Glass (Doc) the candy store owner. The Jets and the Sharks are two street gangs who are contending over a small bit of territory. The Sharks are Puerto Rican interlopers. When the musical was originally conceived, the duelling gangs were Irish and Italian. The influx of Puerto Ricans into NYC after WWII made them more suited as interlopers. The differences in language,culture,and color, made them better opposites. In 1961 the gang members and their girls wore make-up to achieve Hispanic skin tones. Rita Moreno was just about the only Puerto Rican in the cast. Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, was played by George Chakiris (a Greek American). The language was similarly made over. Arthur Laurents wanted the book to have selective profanity, but even on Broadway that was a no go. The screen version by Ernest Lehman was even tamer.

Of course the actors were dubbed. Nathalie Wood was dubbed by Marni Nixon. She also dubbed one song for Rita Moreno. I think one of Wood's best scenes is at the dance where she first sees Tony (Richard Beymer). If you remember the sequence, the viewer becomes aware of these two individuals on the sidelines.
The other dancers become indistinct, slowly the two individuals on the sidelines are in focus. Nathalie Wood's facial expressions are wonderful, Beymer's not so much. This is a huge sell,love at first sight. This is Maria's first dance. Tony has a background of expectation, he is waiting for something wonderful to happen.
You have to sell that moment.

On IMDb they have a section for viewer comments. There are 396 written comments; of those 124 give the film 10 out of 10. About 20+ % don't rank by numbers. I don't like number rankings. Musicals are far from my favorite genre, but this is a great movie. I'llbe interested to see what Spielberg does with it. I acknowledge that to many viewers, it is a cultural artifact. I believe that there is still a very special somrthing there. It is available on Amazon Prime.
 
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"Funeral in Berlin"-Guy Hamilton-1966

Hamilton directed several Bond films including "Goldfinger." The Harry Palmer films were the antithesis of the Bond mystique. Palmer is a working class Brit who likes classical music and cooking. He is an underpaid MI5 agent with a criminal past. His superior is Col. Ross (Guy Doleman). He gave Palmer (Michael Caine) the alternative of joining MI5 or prison. This assignment is to pick up a Russian defector in East Berlin. The defector. Col .Stok (Oscar Homulka), would be of considerable value, but Palmer has his doubts that he really is serious about defecting. The local Berlin of MI5, Johnny Vulkan (Paul Hubschmidt) made the initial contact.

Palmer sets up an elaborate scheme to get Col.Stok out of East Berlin using the services of Kreutzman (Gunter Messner) a specialist in bringing defectors out of East Berlin. Of course, nothing is as it seems. This is a solid film which was shot in Berlin and Shepperton Studios. Surprisingly, it was a success with neither the critics nor the public. The police on the wall tried to hamper shooting the film by using light reflected by mirrors into the cameras. That meant that shots across the border had to be made from a distance. Messner and Homulka are excellent, and Caine is every bit as good as he was in "The Ipcress File." The plot is full of twists and turns. This is a satisfying effort. It's on Amazon Prime.

The third Palmer film, "The Billion Dollar Brain" is an over the top effort. It has a crazed performance by Ed Begley as a Texas based billionaire who has planned to overthrow Communism. He spent a billion dollars on a computer which helps to plan everything. Kurt Malden appears as one of his lieutenants. This is available to stream for free on Daily Motion.

I highly recommend "Funeral in Berlin." "The Billion Dollar Brain" is optional, it's not totally awful, but you can have a perfectly happy life without ever seeing this film.
 
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"A Most Wanted Man"-Adam Corbijn-2014

The story comes from a John Le Carre novel of the same name. It is based on the real life story of a Turkish man arrested in Pakistan. He was imprisoned in Kandhar and then in Guantanamo Bay. Le Carre's two sons were involved in the production. Le Carre has a Hitchcock moment where he appears unbilled in a scene. He also did some work on the script. The film is an independent production with dozens of financial supporters. It was filmed entirely in Germany. 38 of 40 days were filmed in Hamburg where the story is set. Most of the principal cast were American. Some commentators complained about the bad German accents. Some felt the story was anti-American or politically correct. All of us bring expectations to the films we view. My viewpoint is to try and respond to what is on the screen. Of course, I do make viewing choices based on my interests and past experiences. Why did I choose this film? I like espionage movies, and I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a terrific and versatile actor. Knowing the story came from a John Le Carre novel led me to expect less overt action and more thought.

In 2001 there was a terrorist attack on Hamburg. While there was information available which might have prevented this attack, it still occurred. There is a clear reference to 9/11 in the US. Remember that many of the actors in the 9/11 attack were originally based in Germany. Western countries do a much better job of sharing intelligence now. Germany in particular has many residents who come from countries where Islam is the predominant religion. In Germany as well as in the US there are government agencies which operate outside the conventional legal boundaries. The plot features one such agency in Hamburg led by Gunthur Buchman (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). He and his subordinates identify possible bad actors, and they try to get close to them. Buchman doesn't ignore the immediate dangers of a local incident, but his group is focused on a long game. The long game seeks to identify and manage lower level players. Once they are identified, the organization seeks to use the information they provide to identify mid level players. Finally the goal is to reach the top levels of terrorist networks. The best analogy is drug trafficking; if your focus is on street trafficking; you will never get near to solving the problem. The allure of flashy busts often ruins the long game. Governments often opt for style over substance.

A young man enters Hamburg illegally. He has been tortured in Chechnya by the Russians. He had a Chechen mother and a Russian father. He has come to Hamburg seeking his father's money. This money is on deposit in a Hamburg bank headed by Tommy Broc (Willem Dafoe). Buchman's group notices his arrival.
They are quickly pressured by another security agency. For the moment Buchman is able to hold them off.
He co-opts the banker and Issa Karpov's lawyer, Annabel Richter (Rachael McAdams). As Buchman puts it
"We are not your enemy-we are your solution." Issa turns out to have an inheritance of 10 million euros. He decides he doesn't want the money. His father raped his mother, and he was a brutal criminal in other ways.
Buchman pushes to have the money given to Islamic charities. The main fund raiser for these charities is
is a public appearing moderate professor. Buchman believes he is diverting part of the money raised for charitable purposes to terrorists.

I've ended up revealing more of the plot than I should have. What is most interesting for me is how the characters approach their part of the story. The acting is never less than good, but Hoffman really shines.
His Buchman is real, not a character. He isn't desk bound, he pushes himself to the front lines. While he pursues his intelligence goals; he continually has to fight off other government agencies including the US government (CIA?).

Very highly recommended. This is available on Prime and streams on YouTube. One caveat this focuses on character, ideas, and plot. There aren't any flash bangs. So for some it may seem slow, but hopefully my comment will help you discern if this is a film you will find worth viewing.
 

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