30 March 2014

Cabaret


Cabaret 1972
  • Director: Bob Fosse
  • Based on Good-bye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
  • Cast: Liza Minelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey, Fitz Wepper, Marisa Berenson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Liza Minelli  New York New York, Arthur, Tell Me that You Love Me Junie Moon
    • Michael York – Romeo and Juliet
    • Joel Grey – Dancer in the Dark, Kafka
    • Marisa Berenson – Colour Me Kubrick, Playing for Time
  • Why? An old favourite
  • Seen:  maybe 5 times earlier. Now: March 30, 2014 with Hal and YW in our read-book-watch-film circle.
       A musical that starts and ends with silence is startling and effective. There are other powerful moments that touch the viewer with a chill of the impending Nazi terror. Strongest is the idyllic country inn scene of the fresh faced handsome blond blue-eyed boy singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” in his angelic voice, wearing a Nazi uniform, standing stiffly at attention and ending with the Heil Hitler salute.  He is joined by everyone except an old man who seems to be seeing past and future horrors.
       Otherwise this is Liza Minelli’s film which is a strength and a weakness. She is the absolute Sally Bowles and Minelli plays her with wide-eyed manic perfection.  Sally Bowles is irritating, she’s supposed to be irritating, but in fact at times Minelli as Sally is, well, a bit irritating.  As is Michael York in his inhibited, clumsy, socially inept bourgeois scholarly Britishness.  But yes, they are both perfect for their roles.  The one who is absolutely spot on, though, is Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies.  Every nuance of his facial expressions, of his voice, is etched into my conception of the film.  Him I could watch daily.
       There are glimpses of what’s going on in Germany in the 30’s but it isn’t as grim as it should be. The stage production we saw in the Stockholm Stadsteatern a few years ago was much grimmer. And stronger.
       But what can I say? I love this film.  One of the best film exchanges in filmdom is:
       Brian: Screw Maximilian!
       Sally: I do.
       Brian: So do I.
       The orchestra is beautifully decadent, as are the dancers. Fosse knows his stuff.
       And the songs. Oh the songs! Liza Minelli (too bad her stage clothes are hideous) is just so good when she sings.
       It’s the kind of film that as the credits roll (in silence in this case) you already miss it.

7 ½ * of 10

        

Star Wars Episode VI The Return of the Jedi


Star Wars Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi 1983
  • Director: Richard Marquand
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader’s voice), Ian McDiarmid
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Harrison Ford – The Fugitive, Presumed Innocent, Indiana Jones. Working Girl, The Mosquito Coast, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, Witness
    • Carrie Fisher – When Harry Met Sally, Blues Brothers
    • Billy Dee Williams – Lady Sings the Blues
    • Alec Guinness  A Handful of Dust, Kafka, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge over the River Kwai, Oliver Twist
  • Why? Liked it the first time. It’s a classic
  • Seen:  Once before.  Now: March 28, 2014
       Oh, all right. Since I’m not expecting profound existentialism this time, I guess it’s not as bad as The Empire Strikes Back.  Um.  Well.  The flying motorcycle things through the forest are a bit cool.
       The creatures are either fat, gross, yucky, porcine Muppet mutants or cute cuddly Ewokese speaking teddy bears. Luke is not in the least convincing as a powerful Jedi and Han is as annoying as always, although he actually says, “I’m sorry” once and means it.  After a short stint as a bikini clad sex slave Leia is quite the toughie here. And Luke’s sister!
       I forget to notice that there’s no story to speak of and grudgingly admire the seemingly infinite variety of silly creatures and adventures.
       Oh-oh, Leia just got soppy when reunited with Han. But she does have the Power. The Force is with her.
       Low tech beats high tech. Good defeats Evil.  All is right with the world. Galaxy. Universe. Whatever.
       Now just the prequels left.

2  * of 5


      
        

Before Night Falls


Before Night Falls 2000
  • Director: Julian Schnabel
  • Based on the memoirs of Reinaldo Arenas
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Lia Chapman, Sean Penn
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, The Brave, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Sean Penn – Milk, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, 21 Grams, Mystic River, I Am Sam, The Thin Red Line, She’s So Lovely, Dead Man Walking, Carlito’s Way, Shanghai Surprise, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Racing with the Moon, Pauly Shore Is Dead, The Game
    • Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
  • Why? JD
  • Seen:  March 23, 2014
       Even though reading is as important to me as breathing and films nearly so I rarely like films about authors.  I’ve not read anything by Reinaldo Arenas so I can’t express an opinion about his writing but this film doesn’t inspire me to find out.  It’s mostly, well, boring.  It gives almost no background to or explanation for the Cuban revolution and only a fragmented and unsatisfying picture of the underground gay community in Cuba in the 60’s and 70’s.  None of the characters are at all likeable. In fact they are generally despicable, cops, soldiers and victims alike.
       Sean Penn is in the film for about a minute, JD about five, first as a transvestite and then as a sadistic guard.  He does both parts well. When his roles are done, the rest of the film drags, as in fact it has done up to his five minutes as well.
       The political agenda of the film is too simplified to be convincing and it’s hard to care about the fate of the character even though it’s quite sad.
       I’m sure they all had good intentions in making the film but you know what they say about good intentions.

1 3/4 * of 5

        

24 March 2014

Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back


Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back 1980
  • Director: Irvin Kershner
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader’s voice, uncredited!)
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Harrison Ford – The Fugitive, Presumed Innocent, Indiana Jones. Working Girl, The Mosquito Coast, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, Witness
    • Carrie Fisher – When Harry Met Sally, Blues Brothers
    • Billy Dee Williams – Lady Sings the Blues
    • Alec Guinness  A Handful of Dust, Kafka, Dr. Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge over the River Kwai, Oliver Twist
  • Why? Liked it the first time. It’s a classic
  • Seen:  Once before.  Now: March 21, 2014
       Light years from the first Star Wars, this is a disappointment.  It’s boring. Luke is whinges a lot.  Han is annoying and Leia is even worse. The sexist banter between macho arrogant Han and turned-on-and-falling-in-love-in-spite-of-herself Leia is so not amusing.  Yoda’s yoga mysticism and the stilted backwards sentences are, I suppose, meant to be clever and endearing but they aren’t.
       When things get dramatic Luke is meant to be noble but he’s just thick.
       It is a bit exciting towards the end when Darth Vader intones, “I am your father” (I thought that came at the end of the next film) but Luke’s gasping protests aren’t very convincing. And then all of a sudden it’s all over and we don’t know what has happened to Han - and forget to care for several minutes until we say, “Oh, yes, what happened to Han?” I assume we’ll find out next time.
       Maybe it’s as good as the first one. Some think it’s even better. I don’t. But maybe I’m just in a bad mood. May the Force come back. Please.

1 ½  * of 5