Change Ad Consent Films Worth Viewing Year 2 | Page 9 | The Boneyard

Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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"Harry Brown"-David Barber-2002

This is an independent British film. Both the director (Barber) and the screenwriter (Guy Young) are relative unknowns. It is a genre/sub genre film. Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is a vigilante. In the beginning Harry lives a solitary life. He resides in what the Brits call an estate. This is really large scale public housing. As in the US, large scale public housing developments are often centers of criminal activity. His wife is dying in the hospital; his lone close friend, Lionel Atwell (David Bradley-"GOT") is his drinking and chess partner. Lionel is killed by a local gang. The film opens with a gang beat-in filmed on a cell phone. Lionel is angry and fearful about the gang situation. He has complained to the police, but they have done nothing. This leads him to seek out the gang armed with an old bayonet. He is stabbed repeatedly with his own bayonet.

Harry is visited by two detectives led by DI Alice Frampton (Emily Watson); they try to get some information about who might have done the crime. Harry isn't sure. The police round up the usual suspects. The interviews/confrontations are interesting. They are released. Harry mourns the death of his friend by getting drunk for the first time at his local. When he pays his bill; money falls from is wallet. This is noted in the pub.
A drug addict tries to rob him at knife point. They struggle and Harry kills him with his knife. Harry cleans up and he decides to observe the gang to try and find the killers.

This leads to Harry, a former British Marine who served in Northern Ireland during "The Troubles" to revive his military self which he left behind after his service. He identifies the local criminal structure, and proceeds methodically to go after some of the principals. The story is solid. The suspense and the action ring true. I was surprised to discover just how many guns were available. The gun deaths bring the drug trade into prominence. The police while aware of the trade, have done little to curtail it. A massive raid directed by Superintendent Childs is planned yo hit the estate. DI Frampton is convinced that Harry is responsible for the uptick in gun related violence. Harry has one great line during a confrontation with a drug and gun dealing leader. The gangster's gun misfires during a confrontation. Harry sends him off saying: "You failed to maintain your weapon." Dry, understated, careful and professional describes Harry. The police superintendent is boastful, unprepared, and unprofessional. His raid goes very wrong.

This is quality film making on a small budget. Caine is at the top of his game; he is a geriatric Harry Palmer. This is highly enjoyable; and is available for free on Prime. I enjoyed it, and it is worth re-viewing.
 
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The Last True Movie Musical

This is what "Grease" is often called. So pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile yarders smile. It is time to hop aboard the Wayback Machine. However, it is unclear whether we should set the controls for 1959 or 1978. Our destination is Rydel High. If it's 1959, that includes "The Day the Music Died." Of course that song is a '70's product. I must mention that I am a member of the class of 1959. I graduated from Manchester High in Manchester, Ct. Now in 1978 when "Grease" came out, I was teaching at Weaver High School in Hartford. Since it was an inner city school, the nostalgia for the '50's was lost on most of my students. George Clinton was far more relevant than Chubby Checker. MHS had 4 African American students in 1959, WHS was nearly 90% Black in 1978. "Grease" opened in the summer of '78; Old School Rap was new school then, but Doo Wop was making a comeback. "Looking for an Echo" by the Persuasions was one of my favorites; "we are oldies now,but we were newies then" is one of the many quotable lines. Sha Na Na, a 50's revival group had more than a moment of fame. (They appear in the movie as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers.

"Grease" was a super hit on Broadway;it ran for nearly 4,000 performances. The songs by Jacobs and Casey are classic. The show had a major revival in 1994; there have been several since then. Robert Stigwood became attached to the production; That opened the door for Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees to write a new title song, "Grease" for the movie. It was sung by Frenkie Valli, and not Franky Avalon who plays "Teen Angel" in the movie. "The song is "Beauty School Dropout." The film grossed $334 million in its first go round. Most of the reviews available date from the 1998 revival. One of the most criticized elements of the film is that the principals were too old; Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was 33; Olivia Newton John (Sandy) was 28; even Travolta was 23. It was also often thought to be parody; I think hyperbole is a more apt term.

High school was divided into cliques; this film is seen mainly from the POV of the pseudo gangs. The T Birds and The Pink Ladies are the central figures. I was in another group the high academic group; in my day we were called accelerated rather than honors students. I had classes with the same group of students all four years. However, I had friends from school activities (drama, soccer, and choir) and from work (caddying and janitorial services at the local hospital) who weren't in that basic group.

The adult figures in Grease were often played by 50's cultural icons>Sid Caesar of "Your Show of Shows" played Coach Calhoun and Eve Arden of "Our Miss Brooks" played Principal McGee. John Travolta (Danny Zuco) achieved fame on "Welcome Back Kotter." He was signed to a three picture deal with Paramount based on his TV success. He had played Zuco in London and on the road. He was signed for "Grease" before "Saturday Night Fever," but the later film came out first. This of course is set the Disco Club scene; it was a huge success, so Travolta got top billing on "Grease." He used this power to nab an extra song. When Olivia Newton John was hired, he brought along her composer., John Ferrar. He contributed two songs not in the musical: "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "You're the One that I want." The soundtrack sold 22 million copies. "Grease" was the highest grossing film in 1978. This was the last time a musical topped the charts. The path for movie musicals is film then Broadway, Examples of this are "The Producers" and "Hairspray." "Grease" is just about the last major example of a movement from stage to screen. Sometimes, as with "The Producers" there is movement back to the screen for a second time.

I could go on and on, but letme tie this up. The opening credits and the end credits are great. The songs and the performances are top drawer. The plot is basic, this film doesn't offer emotional profundity. It drags sometimes in between songs, but the pace is quick. I forgive the film's slow points, because it moves right along. There isn't much time between songs. When Paramount was deciding what films to bring back theatrically for 1998; it was George Lucas who pushed "Grease." I don't think this is a great film, but it is great entertainment.

There is some difficulty with free streaming. Daily Motion has it, but it isn't complete. The end including the final credits is missing. The entire film is on YouTube, but it is broken into 26 parts. There is another choice. In 2016 there was a live TV broadcast of the musical. This is available on Crackle; it's good, but the original is a solid cut above the live musical. The DVD doesn't have a lot of add ons. Musicals are not really my thing, but this one is special.
 
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"Harlem Nights"-Eddie Murphy-1989

Murphy directed, wrote the screenplay,executive produced, and starred in the film. This film was despised by the critics, but over the years it has become a guilty pleasure with thousands of film fans. The score is excellent
Herbie Hancock ties together some of Duke Ellington's greatest songs which are period and pace appropriate
for the 1930's Harlem setting. In this period there was a battle over the numbers between Dutch Shultz and Bumpy Johnson. The period detail costumes, props, automobiles is excellent. Murphy said the backstage banter was funnier than anything in the script. Pryor and Murphy didn't really hit it off; Pryor believed Murphy's comedy was mean spirited'

Pryor plays Sugar Ray an after hours club owner in Harlem. Murphy plays his adopted son Quick. The film also features Redd Fox and Della Reese as associates in the club. The opening of the film is set n 1918 with a young Quick bringing cigarettes to Sugar Ray. An incident at the crap table bonds the two. The story picks up with
Sugar ans Quick managing a highly successful after hours club in Harlem. An Irish gangster, Bugsy (Michael Learned) wants to take over the highly successful business. The conflict develops, Sugar Ray realizes that his crew can't beat Bugsy's crew in a straight out war. He plans to rob the the take from a heavyweght championship fight with his crew.

The film is notable for using ---- word 133 times. Of course that doesn't rank in the top five in film history.
The more memorable line is Della Reese's : "Kiss my ass." Acting cudos to Pryor and Reese. I liked this film a lot more than I thought. Recommended; it's fun even if a little over the top.
 
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"No Way Out"-Joseph Manciewitz-1950

This is a quality effort from a major studio (Fox). Manciewitz made "All About Eve" the same year. Both Manciewitz scripts were Oscar nominated;"Eve" won. Daryl F. Zanuck produced both films. Zanuck was by far the most progressive studio head. He was behind both "Gentlemen's Agreement" and "Pinky." Manciewitz wanted to do a ground breaking film, so the co-operation was natural.

The story and the dialogue were shocking, and the box office reflected that. The film didn't hurt either Zanuck of Manciewitz. It did launch the career of Sidney Poitier; It was Ossie Virgal's first film as well. It marked the first time that he and his wife,Ruby Dee, appeared on screen. Poitier was only 22 when he made this film; helied about his age claiming to be 27. He looked really young, several years latter he played a teenager in "Blacjboard Jungle." Poitier plays Dr. Luther Brooks a resident at a public hospital. He is assigned to the prison ward. His first duty is to care for two brothers, shot in the legs, in an attempted robbery. The wounds should be very treatable, but one of the brothers is showing symptoms which indicate something other than a gun shot wound.
Dr. Brooks thinks there may be a brain tumor. He performs a spinal tap and the patient dies on the table. Unfortunately, his brother, Ray Biddle(Richard Widmark ) is a virulent racist. He believes the doctor murdered his brother.

Widmark had already made a career playing violent, often unstable criminals. He already had his prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He wanted leading man roles. Zanuck convinced him to make the film. Widmark was the polar opposite of his film roles. He married his high school sweetheart; they were together for 55 years. He continually apologized to Poitier. They became life long friends. Widmark was the first Hollywood figure to invite Poitier into his home.

Ray refuses to allow an autopsy that Brooks feels will clear his name. Dr. Wharton (Steve McNally) the medical head tries to help Dr.Brooks. He finds that the deceased brother listed a wife as next of kin on a previous admission. They find the wife, but it turns out that she divorced him over a year ago. Edie Johnson (Linda Darnell) is dismissive at first, but she goes to the hospital to talk with Ray. It turns out that she had a relationship with Ray beyond what one might expect. Edie becomes involved in a race riot which is developing. Edie is yet another person with no way out. One further mention of two solid performances by character actors, a deaf and dumb Biddle brother, and Dr, Wharton's black maid Gladys.

This is quality film making. Fortunately, it is available to stream free. If you can get access to the Fox DVD, the commentary is well worth a listen. Very highly recommended. This is a must see for noir enthusiasts. This is a groundbreaking film for its unflinching portrayal of racial conflict. Yes, in the vast library of films, there are hidden gems as well as guilty pleasures.
 
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"The Road to Perdition"-Sam Mendes-2002

This is one of the early films taken from a graphic novel. The novel (by Collins and Renner) is based on a true story. The script is by David Self. The cinematography won an Oscar for the late great Conrad Hall. Sam Mendes is a quality director. His first feature, "American Beauty" won the Oscar. He has done Shakespeare and Musicals. His latest film "1917" we looked at here. The period detail is superb.

The film opens with a boy riding his bike on a newspaper delivery route. We see him trying to sell to workers coming off shift. He then drops off the unsold papers at a drugstore. Turns over the money, and while the store owner is putting the papers away, he filches candy from the jar on the counter. He rides home and engages in a snowball fight with his brother with a pipe in his teeth. He hides the pipe as his father comes up the drive. I neglected to mention that this boy, Michael Sullivan Jr, is the narrator.

We are immediately thrust into the world of an Irish crime family at a wake. The close relationship between Michael Sullivan, Tom Hanks, and the Don John Rooney (Paul Newman) is evidenced when they play a song on the piano together. Inside the wake, Rooney meets with the key players in the organization. Sullivan and Connor Rooney (Daniel Craig) are sent to have a discussion with the brother of the man killed and celebrated at the wake. He was supposed to have stolen from the organization. John Rooney emphasized that this was talking only. However, the unstable Connor kills him. This will be a problem, even more because Michael Jr.
hitched a ride to the confrontation. Unfortunately, Connor glimpses him. Of course it was Connor who was responsible for the theft. In an attempt to silence Michael, Connor murders Michael's wife and younger son, Peter. This sets up the rest of the film. In the next six weeks Michael and Michael Jr. take revenge for those deaths.

The cast includes Stanley Tucci as Frank Nitti who is charged with protecting Connor, and an assassin, Frank McGuire, Jude Law, charged with killing Mike Sullivan. The opening is so great that expectations are perhaps too high, But despite some excellent scenes, the second half of the movie does drag. I didn't remember it that way from previous viewings. Newman is excellent in his last role; this isn't one of Hanks best performances; he's far from bad. The McGuire character is a hoot. He is a crime photographer who creates his own subjects.

About the name, Perdition is a town where Michael's wife's sister lives. It is out as a hideout early on. The Michaels are forced into a roadshow to fulfill their mission of revenge. The film has several good free streaming options. There is also a full length documentary on the making of "Road to Perdition." This is a solid film with many good points, but it isn't one of Mendes' or Hanks" best.
 
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"Aunt Mary" -Peter Werner-1979

If you are looking for a family film,perhaps even a sports related family film; you've come to the right place. This Hallmark Hall of Fame production is terrific. It tells the story of Mary Dobkin who became a Baltimore legend for her promotion of youth sports. Over 50,000 children participated in the programs she developed. Newspapers all over the country eulogized her in obituaries. They are available on line. I saw this on broadcast TV, but I hadn't thought about or seen it since. Mary faced debilitating injuries from frostbite she suffered at age 8. She had over 130 surgeries in her life. She lost one leg below the knee, and part of a foot on her other leg.

The movie benefits from the work of topflight character actors: Jean Stapleton (Aunt Mary), Martin Balsam (Harry Strassberg), Dolph Sweet (Amos Jones), and Harold Gould (Dr. Sweet). You may not recognize the names, but you will recognize the faces. As with all docudramas, the story takes liberty with the facts, but in this case not with the emotional truth. Aunt Mary is shown as a devoted Orioles fan, who enjoys playing catch from her wheelchair with Strassberg's grandson. She decides to start a baseball team in her impoverished neighborhood.

She assembles a motley crew of proto delinquents and just plain kids. They work their way into the league. The film ends with their loss in their first league game.

In real life Aunt Mary integrated her leagues, made provisions for kids with prosthetics, and brought girls into organized sports. In the film she does it in a single season. She ended up beginning leagues in baseball, basketball, and football. In the film she has only a single baseball team. Those of you who are familiar with the rules of Little League baseball will notice several situations where rules are ignored. The period detail is solid, and I forgive the lapses in rule adherence because the on screen product is so solid. It is available on Amazon Prime, but it also streams for free. Just an added incentive, the score is by Arthur B. Rubenstein. This is another hidden gem; my highest recommendation.
 

ClifSpliffy

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man, you just may have some of the best 'words' on the entire internet. outstanding. stunning, actually.
 

HuskyHawk

Hoping to see something that looks like basketball
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Just finished “Judy”. Holy crap what a performance from Renée Zellweger. She sang the songs which is impossible enough, but she also showed us a tortured soul. Truly impressive.

I cant really say much more. I suppose the only consolation is that Judy will mean something to us long after those who profited from her talents and stole her life are gone.
 
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"The General"-Charles Buckman and Buster Keaton-1926

I had an idea about a triple play about generals who weren't generals in common parlance; that fell through.but
parts remain. This is a great film, you should have this silent masterpiece; however, to appreciate it, you need to find a worthy restoration. The Cohen Group restored this film in co-operation with the Library of Congress in 2013. This is available on Amazon Prime. This one of the best silent restorations I have ever seen. It also has a new score by Carl Davis.

I can't remember whether I saw "The General" or the Disney Film "The Great Locomotive Chase"first. During the Civil War a group of undercover Union agents/soldiers went south with the mission to disrupt the Western and Atlantic railroad. They were led by Harry Andrews a civilian. This was the story covered in Pittanger's book "The Great Locomotive Chase." Keaton changed the story to feature the heroism of a Southern individual, Johnnie Gray. He believed that this was a better underdog character. This film was made by United Artists, just a reminder this was the production group founded by Chaplin, D.H. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks. The major concept was to allow the artists to control their films. Keaton had a contract with UA; this was the last of his films he truly controlled.

This was filmed in Oregon at the huge cost of $400,000. Keaton used the Oregon National Guard to play both Union and Confederate troops. In the movie they just change uniforms, off camera of course. In the movie they capture the engine of Johnnie Gray. He pursues first on foot, then with a flat car, and finally an engine. The love of his life was captured in the baggage car. In real life although both the engineer and the conductor pursued the stolen train;it was the conductor who was most persistent and who captured Andrews. Go to rogerebert.com and read his review for "The Great Movies." He does an excellent job of explaining Keaton's vision. One final note. I believe his love interest becomes the first female action hero.

This is remarkably fresh for a film nearly a century old. This is a must see.
 
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"The Bridge on the River Kwai"-David Lean-1957

This classic film is available for free streaming. It won 7 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Screenplay. Few films have such a copious back story. Sam Spiegel wrangled the picture. He purchased the rights to Pierre Boule's novel. He made the decision to hire Lean based upon a recommendation from Katherine Hepburn. He hired William Holden to play Shears, and he negotiated his contract ($300,000 +10% of the profit). He negotiated with the British and the Japanese governments for technical advisors. He hired the original screenwriter, Carl Foreman,but he was blacklisted. Pierre Boule got the Oscar; he wasn't there to accept it perhaps because he didn't speak English.

Let me deal with the historical accuracy problem. Building this railroad cost the lives of between 15 to 18,000 POW lives,and the lives of 80 to 100,000 indentured Thais and Burmese. The conditions were truely horrendous.
The real life models for Nicholson and Saitao were quite different. Colonel Tosey tried to delay completion of the bridge, and he intervened in the War Crimes trial of Major Saito, the camp commandment. The bridge (actually two bridges, one wooden and the other metal) was never fully destroyed. Japanese engineers designed and supervised the construction. Hey folks;this is fiction. This was never intended to be a documentary. There are other inconsistencies; Columbia claimed the bridge cost $ 250,000; it only cost a little over $50,000. A studio not being completely accurate about the budget, wow, what a shock.

There were some major problems. There were no facilities in Ceylon to develop the film. It was airlifted to England and flown back developed the next day. When the film was completed it was sent out on 5 different flights. The film containing the scenes of the bridge being blown up. It was discovered several days later sitting on the tarmac in Cairo. Lean and Guinness had difficulty working together. Lean and Siegel started out working well together, but they almost came to blows after the Oscar ceremonies.

The film is beautifully photographed, and the restoration is excellent. Guinness often remarked that this was his best work. Sesue Hayakawa said it was his best work. Holden and Lean got along well. Critics often state state that this is an anti war picture, but I find it more a picture of how war changes men. Despite its length, over 2 and 1/2 hours,and its age over 60 years old; I didn't find my attention wandering. This is a classic, and a must see even thought the real bridge wasn't built over the River Kwai which was actually a stream. When I reached Ceylon (still not Sri Lanka) in 1963, everyone was proud of the film. One of my trips was to visit Mountbatten's headquarters which wasn't at Mount Lavinia.
 
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"The Lives of Others"-Florian Hugo von Donnersmark-2006

This is one of the most interesting films of the 21st century. I admit to having a predilection for films which surprise me. I knew little more about the Stassi (East German Secret Police) than the name. I didn't see this in a theater; I found out about it by reading about films. It is in German with subtitles. The Stassi seems to have one
half of the population informing on the other half. The GDR (German Democratic Republic) considered it necessary to have the State continually monitor its citizens. They were separated from the West by a physical
wall. We've looked at the wall before most significantly in "One, Two,Three." The film is set in 1984 over 20 years after the wall was erected. When it came out in Germany in 2006, it was less than twenty years since the fall of the wall in 1989. Shortly after the wall came down, an individual could read his or Stasi files. The only comparable historical situation was in the Union of South Africa after the ANC (African National Congress)came to power.

Films set in the recent past can be particularly difficult for the filmmaker. There are an unusual number of people only too willing and able to point out his mistakes. The most common error cited was that there was no Stassi agent like Captain Gerd Wiesler. Stassi agents were not capable of dealing with those they observed/investigated with humanity. Gerd Wiesler ( Ulrich Muhe) is shown in the beginning ofthe film as a true believer. He believes in his job and he believes the GDR is the best government for his country. He is eager to set up a listening station in the residence of a prominent dramatist, Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). He has his doubts about Dreyman's loyalty to the GDR.. The Captain physically sits and listens to all the conversations in Dreyman's residence. He is relieved once a day. Over time he comes to believe that Dreyman and his lover
Christina Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) are innocent of any malice to the government. One meaning of the title, The Lives of Others, is that the watcher has no life of his own. In one sense he has a life;his mission as a Stassi officer, but his intense observation of Dreyman leads him to identify with him. He doesn't record everything which might be incriminating.

There other actors in this situation; there is a government minister who wants Christina; there is a higher ranking Stassi officer who wants to please the upper levels of the Party. They aren't loyal to the ideal of socialism. The Captain ventures further and further into protecting the life of the artist he is observing.

Von Donnersmark spent several years in research before he began writing the script which took him a year and a half. He wanted Gabriel Yardel to write the score. Yardel didn't read German;so von Donnersberg translated the script. The actors were mostly from what was the GDR. Ulrich Muhe had an extensive Stassi file beginning when he was a teenager. Several of his associates in the theater where he worked were informers. Everyone involved in this production took a pay cut. On the DVD there is an excellent statement from von Donnersberg about he came to make the film.

The Captain gets caught out. He is demoted to a menial job unsealing letters. The wall comes down; the playwright encounters a former colonel of the STassi after reading his files. This encounter goads him to return to writing. This work is a novel "A Sonata for a Good Man." The Captain now making ends meet by cleaning streets discovers the book. He sees the dedication which is to him using his Stassi number and not his name.

My highest recommendation. I couldn't find a free streaming service; you may do better.
 
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"The Caine Mutiny"-Edward Dmytryk-1954

This is adapted from Herman Wouk's 1951 novel. Stanley Kramer bought the rights before it became a huge success and won the Pulitizer prize. Kramer had an independent production deal with Columbia. The deal allowed Kramer to produce relatively low budget films. Kramer picked Dmytryk who was the only director in the Hollywood 10 to helm the film. He finally ended up testifying, so he was removed from the blacklist. Harry Cohn insisted that these films be brought in for $2,000,000 and no longer than two hours. The time limitation was so that the film could be shown twice a day. The novel was based on Wouk's experiences as a communications officer in the Navy during WWII.

In addition to the successful novel, Wouk wrote a play "The Caine Mutiny Court-martial" which was a success on Broadway and was made for television on several occasions. Interestingly, Michael Caine adopted the last name as his screen name. The big question was always whether or not the navy would give its approval for the film.
Kramer secured the navy's approval of Stanley Robert's script with the caveat that a statement that the U.S. Navy had never had a mutiny appeared before the film. Cohn later insisted on cutting out 50+ pages to bring the film in at two hours.

The plot is relatively straight forward. The captain of the U.S.S. Caine is replaced by Lt. Commander Queeg (Humphrey Bogart). He considers himself to be a by the book captain. He strictly enforces uniform protocols, and he is quick to impose punishments for seemingly small infractions. When he is not told of the showing of a Hopalong Cassidy film; he stops showing films for a month. There were other more significant lapses; one for instance is when his orders result in the ship sailing in a circle and cutting a tow line.

Significantly, this is a very solid cast. The novel was told from the perspective of Ensign Keefe (Robert Francis) ; he was a 90 day gentleman. The navy was woefully short of officers, and it had 90 day programs to make civilians officers. Keefe comes on board shortly before the change of command. For me the most distracting element was Keefe's background story including a romance with a nightclub singer. I suspect that
there was even more background material which was part of the script cuts. Van Johnson is surprisingly good as the executive office Merryk. We benefit from another classic Fred McMurray bad guy, Keefer the communications officer. Jose Ferrar appears late in the film as Lt. Bernie Greenwald, the defense counsel.

During a typhoon with Queeg behaving dangerously and putting the ship and crew in peril, Merryk assumes command under article 184. Keefe, as officer of the deck, supports the decision. When the Caine safely reaches San Francisco, Merryk and Keefe are put on trial for mutiny. Ferrar's cross examination of Bogart turns the case in their favor. When questioned about the strawberry investigation.Bogart becomes increasingly distracted, and he pulls his two steel balls from his pocket and begins rolling them. He catches himself, but it is too late. The officers of the court have already witnessed his acute paranoia. This is considered by most to be the high point of the film. Bogart is a craftsman, when he arrives at the court he seems fully in control, but he loses his composure and concentration. He becomes increasingly uncomfortable, we can feel him sweat.
He fidgets in his seat;his answers become halting. We Never actually see the verdict.

There is a double epilogue. First Keefer is confronted and shunned, then there is a scene of Keefe going to anew ship. This is still compelling viewing today, but today's audiences would find Queeg to be suffering from PTSD. This film received 7 nominations,but won no Oscars. Probably because it was up against "On the Waterfront." It is available to stream for free. Very highly recommended.
 
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The Caine Mutiny. The scene with Queeg (Bogart) on the stand is one of the best performances in cinema history. It draws natural comparisons to Jessup (Nicholson) on the stand in a Few Good Men. Both are powerful. The difference is the end of the Bogart scene you have run a gauntlet of emotions and feel compassion for Queeg. Just brilliant stuff.
 
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"Wind River"-Taylor Sheridan-2017

This a film which almost came out of nowhere. Sheridan got the directing job on the basis of two scripts:"Siacrio"and "Hell or High Water." He assembled a cast of quality but lesser known performers. Nick Cave co-wrote the score with Warren Ellis. (Nick Cave seems to turn up attached to a lot of quality films.) Sheridan entered the film at Sundance so that he could get enough money to do what he wanted in post production. The film had a budget of $11,000,000 and a world box office of $44,000,000. It received an 8 minute standing ovation at Cannes.

The story takes place on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Two Indian tribes Shoshone and Arapaho share the reservation which is about the size of Rhode Island. The Tribal Police Force is only a chief and 6 officers. The film opens with a hunter for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Corey Lambert (Jeremy Remmer) killing a wolf to protect a herd of goats. He is dressed in in whites to blend in with the snow. He receives anew assignment to hunt mountain lions which are attacking cattle. He brings his young son along; he will visit his grandparents while his dad goes to hunt the mountain lions. While hunting he comes across the frozen body of a young Indian woman who was the best friend of his daughter Emily. Emily dies under mysterious circumstances; Cory lost not only his daughter, but his marriage as well.

Cory notifies the Tribal Police. They call in the FBI. Graham Greene appears as the tribal police chief. We are fortunate to once again encounter this top flight character actor. Just once I'd like to see him in a leading role.
The FBI agent turns out to be Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Burns). She's really good in the role. These three disparate
individuals form an unlikely posse to investigate the crime. As Ben puts it "This isn't the land of waiting for backup. This is the land of you're on your own." I don't want to reveal any more of the plot. I believe that many of you have not seen this movie, so I don't want to spoil your experience. This is a high quality script, excellent performances, beautifully shot with a solid score. It also highlights a major problem on reservations.
"While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women. There is one other excellent feature of this film; we believe that we are observing real characters and some wind up toys who run to keep the plot moving. In the last scene in the film Cory sits down with the father of the girl found frozen (Natalie). The father, Martin, asks:"Got time to sit with me?" Cory answers:"I ain't going nowhere." It's almost funny, but totally in character.

Don't miss this one. Free streaming on 123.
 
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Sobibor

This was a Nazi death camp in Eastern Poland. In its one year of operation more than 250,000 Jews were killed.
On October 14th 1943 there was an uprising and a mass prisoner escape. In 2014 PBS showed a documentary "Escape from a Death Camp made to remember the 70th anniversary of the escape. This mixes period film with interviews with survivors who attended the memorial at the camp. After the escape Himmler ordered the camp razed and pine trees planted on the site There was a notorious green house standing which was the house of the commandant. One of the survivors goes inside the house.

This version of history differs somewhat from the versions in two documentary dramas. All three do agree that the gassed corpses were incinerated. The documentary refers to a note setting a date for the termination of the camp. It was October 15th. This was supposed to be the impetus for the mass escape plan. Neither of the docudramas mention the note. Other major discrepancies are whether the escapees had guns, and the number who escaped. It was commonly accepted that 300 of the 600 workers escaped initially, and about 60 survived until the end of the war. The PBS documentary puts the number of escapees at about 200 with less than 50 surviving until the end of WWII. There is a recent Russian film, "Sobibor" 2018 which was the official entry at the Academy Awards. It is available on Prime; however without subtitles. There are some other problems. The most important of which is its focus on a Russian officer as a Moses. Probably, the best option is" Escape from Sobibor" a US British production which won an Emmy and was seen by almost 32 million in its initial CBS broadcast. This 1987 production features Alan Arkin, Rutger Hauer, and Johanna Pakula in Lead roles.

This is well worth your time. The performances are solid, and the script is effective. Unless you are of my disposition, this is probably more than enough depressing material for one sitting. It is on Prime, and it streams for free. I did try to find lighter viewing, but I was unsuccessful.
 
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Nurse Ratchit- no not that film. A Zucker film, no not those productions. A classic drag race, no not that film, but the flag dropper has a child in this film. That actress bemoans the efficacy of home surgical procedures.
Jon Lovitz's first starring film. A statue of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry is a prominent artifact. In fact the fictional high school bears his name. Are you getting warm now?

"Mais ou sont les neiges d'autan? This classic will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. It is hard to find a movie with more cliches,but sometimes,not often, but sometimes out of the ooze of cliches, comes laughter. I admit that some of you may think you are laughing at rather than with the purported humor. Seriously, I take that back, conjecture is perhaps a more apt term, is there a possibility, that some of the laughs may have been intended by the film makers?

I found "High School High" funny; there I've finally admitted it. Louise Fletcher as a high school principal/drug gang kingpin, doesn't that intrigue you? An earnest teacher pitted against the forces of indifference and prejudice; isn't that an elevating theme? Never let it be said that the Zuckers aren't capable of raising humor to the pinnacle of comedy. Then to the well trod stage anon if Zucker's learned Sock be on. This one really puts the sock into the old buskin. Teacher Clark:e:"Why are you late?"
Student Natalie: "Because the bell rang before I got here."
More proof would be lagniappe. Hah, you were expecting a but there. Never let if be said that I haven't used a cliche.

It is available to stream for free on 1,2,3. You might enjoy it.
 

ClifSpliffy

surf's up
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Nurse Ratchit- no not that film. A Zucker film, no not those productions. A classic drag race, no not that film, but the flag dropper has a child in this film. That actress bemoans the efficacy of home surgical procedures.
Jon Lovitz's first starring film. A statue of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry is a prominent artifact. In fact the fictional high school bears his name. Are you getting warm now?

"Mais ou sont les neiges d'autan? This classic will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. It is hard to find a movie with more cliches,but sometimes,not often, but sometimes out of the ooze of cliches, comes laughter. I admit that some of you may think you are laughing at rather than with the purported humor. Seriously, I take that back, conjecture is perhaps a more apt term, is there a possibility, that some of the laughs may have been intended by the film makers?

I found "High School High" funny; there I've finally admitted it. Louise Fletcher as a high school principal/drug gang kingpin, doesn't that intrigue you? An earnest teacher pitted against the forces of indifference and prejudice; isn't that an elevating theme? Never let it be said that the Zuckers aren't capable of raising humor to the pinnacle of comedy. Then to the well trod stage anon if Zucker's learned Sock be on. This one really puts the sock into the old buskin. Teacher Clark:e:"Why are you late?"
Student Natalie: "Because the bell rang before I got here."
More proof would be lagniappe. Hah, you were expecting a but there. Never let if be said that I haven't used a cliche.

It is available to stream for free on 1,2,3. You might enjoy it.
new one for me. noice.
Mark Twain's Thoughts on Lagniappe

We picked up one excellent word, wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi (1883), "a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word-'lagniappe'.... It is Spanish-so they said." Twain encapsulates the history of "lagniappe" quite nicely. English speakers learned the word from French-speaking Louisianians, but they in turn had adapted it from the American Spanish word la ñapa. Twain went on to describe how New Orleanians completed shop transactions by saying "Give me something for lagniappe," to which the shopkeeper would respond with "a bit of liquorice-root, ... a cheap cigar or a spool of thread." It took a while for "lagniappe" to catch on throughout the country, but by the mid-20th century, New Yorkers and New Orleanians alike were familiar with this "excellent word."
 
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"Red Sparrow"-Francis Lawrence-2018

This film has a tremendous first hour, but despite some clever plotting,the second half of the movie drags. Francis Lawrence began his career directing music videos. He made several action films, "I Am Legend"and "Constantine" before directing the last three films of "The Hunger Games" quartet with Jennifer Lawrence.
Arnovsky was originally scheduled to direct with a different star. When Francis Lawrence was hired, Jennifer was brought on early. She took ballet lessons 3 hours a day for months, despite the fact that a ballet double, Isabella Brighton, was hired. She also worked on a Russian accent, I remember when I was a Fulbright student in Sri Lanka i tried out for a production of Gorky's "The Lower Depths." My Russian accent was fine, but I didn't
look like the rest of the cast, so I was cast in a subordinate role.

The scriptwriter, Justin Haythe, worked closely with the novelist Jason Matthews. Matthews had a 30 year career with the CIA. The novel is the first book in a trilogy. The rights were purchased for seven figures. A CIA publication praised the accuracy of the spy techniques.

Dominika Ergova, Jennifer Lawrence. is a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet. An apparent accident during a performance ends her ballet career. This puts at jeopardy her apartment and her mother's private medical care,

Her uncle Vanya Ergova (Mattias Schoemerts) offers a solution. Dominika can come to work for state security, and her mother will receive care and keep the apartment. She is sent to a special school to be trained as a sex spy. The Matron (Charlotte Rampling) explains that the West is decadent, and with their skills they will be able to manipulate marks. There are both male and female potential sparrows in training.

There is a second thread in the plot which develops simultaneously with Dominika's training. An American CIA officer, Joel Edgerton, is running a major asset inside the highest levels of state security. He is scheduled to meet the asset at night. He sees police approaching the asset; he fires 3 shots from his pistol to create a distraction. Both the CIA officer and the asset escape capture. The CIA officer is sent back to Langley. The asset remains silent. A plan is worked out to have Edgerton meet the asset one last time outside of Russia.
He will convince the asset to accept a new handler. Dominika is tasked with corrupting Edgerton so that she can find out the identity of the mole.

The supporting cast playing Russians (Charlotte Rampling, Ciaran Hinds, and Jeremy Irons) are uniformly excellent. Schomerts is a Putin lookalike. Putin plays a major role in the book, but even his name is off limits in the movie. The Americans are weak, particularly in my opinion Edgerton. Some critics found Mary Louise Parker's portrayal of an American chief of staff to a US senator with access to top secret intelligence as compelling, I didn't. Free streaming is sort of available.

This merits a qualified recommendation. I like spy movies and Jennifer Lawrence, but this film has other merits. It convinced me to buy the trilogy by Jason Matthews. While the Epstein Brothers were performing script surgery on "Casablanca," they were reported to have asked the question who should we kill at the end of the movie. Their answer was Major Strasser because that was the character the audience wanted to see die.
 
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"How Green Was My Valley"-John Ford-1941

I believe that this film is vastly underrated because it beat "Citizen Kane" for the best picture and best director Oscars. It makes the list for the 10 worst pictures to ever win the Oscar. This film has an interesting back story.
Zanuck planned to make a 4 hour film in color, filmed in Wales, and directed by William Wyler. Then the Battle of Britain happened. The coal fields of Wales were a major target. Fox had paid $300,000 for the rights to the novel. The NY executives wanted to scrap the project, but Zanuck countered with filming in black and white, in California, and with Ford directing. Ford was noted for his efficiency, generally two takes were more than enough. Obviously, filming in California presented problems, a Welsh village complete with coal mine had to be constructed. The problem of casting the role of Huw the young boy in the film who offers narration was acute.
Roddy McDowell was a child refugee among tens of thousands sent from the UK to the US and Canada early in WWII. He had some limited experience in films, but within two weeks of his arrival in the US, he was tested and cast. Ford loved his potential, and he delivered.

LLewellyn's novel ran over 500 pages, Phillip Dunne was hired to create a workable screenplay. The film was now to tell only part of the novel. Zanuck and Ford were both very strong willed; they fought constantly. If you could conjure up their spirits; they would probably agree that their work together was excellent. In this case it was the highest grossing film of 1941, and it was nominated for 10 Oscars. On Oscar night Ford was already in the Pacific with his special crew ready to film the Battle of Midway live and in color. He was wounded. Zanuck accepted his Oscar in uniform; he had his own film unit with the Army. This film struck an emotional note with both the public and the critics. Fox executives were worried that the pro union stance could be divisive in America's lead up to war. The strike plays a prominent part, but it is the value of family which comes through.

The film is set at the turn of the century; Victoria is still Queen. Unions are a new thing; the coal mines slag has yet to destroy the countryside. Huw Morgan is 12 year old and the youngest child in the family. His father Willym (Donald Crisp) and his mother (Sara Allgood) are loving and uniting figures. The sole daughter
Angharad (Maureen O'Hara then 19) lives at home. The father and five sons all work in the local mine owned
by the Evans. Wages are cut, and for the first time the men go out on strike. The strike lasts for months, because the father opposed the strike, the sons save Huw leave home and live in the village. As time passes without resolution of the strike, some miners blame Willym. A stone is thrown through the window. Mrs.Morgan and Huw go to a meeting of the miners. She speaks out against the treatment; on the way home
she and Huw fall through the ice. They are close to death, but both survive.

The individual who is most responsible for Huw's physical and moral recovery is Pastor Gruffyd. I think Walter Pidgeon's performance is underrated. He is never reeking of sanctity; he inspires by his actions as well as by words. He and Angharad have a painful unrequited love. There is sadness in the story, sons leave for America; the wages fall, one son dies in the mine, and the village loses its way spiritually. We are never left without hope.

I think that the second part of the film drags a little, but even here, there are wonderful scenes. Angharad marries the mine owner's son. We don't see the ceremony, but when the principals emerge Willym Morgan loudly asks why there is no singing for his daughter's wedding. The bride and the groom emerge, a wind plays tricks with the veil. In the background we become aware of the pastor standing alone. This is a long shot,so we never see his face. We realize that he performed the service. This entire scene is brilliantly composed and shot with a minimum of dialogue. The written word can only hint at the emotional power and understanding we see on the screen.

This is available on YouTube. This was Ford's favorite. Each year until his death he hosted a lunch for the "Green" women and Roddy McDowell. They continued for many years after Ford's death. This reminds me of the line in Henry V: "we happy few", the making of the film wasn't St. Crispin's Day, but the experience was genuinely cherished by all the participants. If you can access the DVD; the extras will add to your experience.
You will feel better after watching this film.
 
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"How Green Was My Valley"-John Ford-1941

I believe that this film is vastly underrated because it beat "Citizen Kane" for the best picture and best director Oscars. It makes the list for the 10 worst pictures to ever win the Oscar. This film has an interesting back story.
Zanuck planned to make a 4 hour film in color, filmed in Wales, and directed by William Wyler. Then the Battle of Britain happened. The coal fields of Wales were a major target. Fox had paid $300,000 for the rights to the novel. The NY executives wanted to scrap the project, but Zanuck countered with filming in black and white, in California, and with Ford directing. Ford was noted for his efficiency, generally two takes were more than enough. Obviously, filming in California presented problems, a Welsh village complete with coal mine had to be constructed. The problem of casting the role of Huw the young boy in the film who offers narration was acute.
Roddy McDowell was a child refugee among tens of thousands sent from the UK to the US and Canada early in WWII. He had some limited experience in films, but within two weeks of his arrival in the US, he was tested and cast. Ford loved his potential, and he delivered.

LLewellyn's novel ran over 500 pages, Phillip Dunne was hired to create a workable screenplay. The film was now to tell only part of the novel. Zanuck and Ford were both very strong willed; they fought constantly. If you could conjure up their spirits; they would probably agree that their work together was excellent. In this case it was the highest grossing film of 1941, and it was nominated for 10 Oscars. On Oscar night Ford was already in the Pacific with his special crew ready to film the Battle of Midway live and in color. He was wounded. Zanuck accepted his Oscar in uniform; he had his own film unit with the Army. This film struck an emotional note with both the public and the critics. Fox executives were worried that the pro union stance could be divisive in America's lead up to war. The strike plays a prominent part, but it is the value of family which comes through.

The film is set at the turn of the century; Victoria is still Queen. Unions are a new thing; the coal mines slag has yet to destroy the countryside. Huw Morgan is 12 year old and the youngest child in the family. His father Willym (Donald Crisp) and his mother (Sara Allgood) are loving and uniting figures. The sole daughter
Angharad (Maureen O'Hara then 19) lives at home. The father and five sons all work in the local mine owned
by the Evans. Wages are cut, and for the first time the men go out on strike. The strike lasts for months, because the father opposed the strike, the sons save Huw leave home and live in the village. As time passes without resolution of the strike, some mincers blame Willym. A stone is thrown through the window. Mrs.Morgan and Huw go to a meeting of the miners. She speaks out against the treatment; on the way home
she and Huw fall through the ice. They are close to death, but both survive.

The individual who is most responsible for Huw's physical and moral recovery is Pastor Gruffyd. I think Walter Pidgeon's performance is underrated. He is never reeking of sanctity; he inspires by his actions as well as by words. He and Angharad have a painful unrequited love. There is sadness in the story, sons leave for America; the wages fall, one son dies in the mine, and the village loses its way spiritually. We are never left without hope.

I think that the second part of the film drags a little, but even here, there are wonderful scenes. Angharad marries the mine owner's son. We don't see the ceremony, but when the principals emerge Willym Morgan loudly asks why there is no singing for his daughter's wedding. The bride and the groom emerge, a wind plays tricks with the veil. In the background we become aware of the pastor standing alone. This is a long shot,so we never see his face. We realize that he performed the service. This entire scene is brilliantly composed and shot with a minimum of dialogue. The written word can only hint at the emotional power and understanding we see on the screen.

This is available on YouTube. This was Ford's favorite. Each year until his death he hosted a lunch for the "Green" women and Roddy McDowell. They continued for many years after Ford's death. This reminds me of the line in Henry V: "we happy few", the making of the film wasn't St. Crispin's Day, but the experience was genuinely cherished by all the participants. If you can access the DVD; the extras will add to your experience.
You will feel better after watching this film.
"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.
 
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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.
 

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