Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More Pocket Movie Reviews

I'm going to go through these so fast you won't believe it.

Everlasting Moments (2009)

Swedish movie about a woman trapped in a difficult marriage who finds some kind of release through taking photographs. I actually liked it, though that has to be taken by the reader with a few caveats as regards my personal proclivities. 1. It is set during the 1910s. 2. It takes place in Sweden, and is all about Swedish people (and one Danish guy), whom besides being attractive I also relate to relatively easily as far as temperament, gloominess, the nature of the climate they have to live in, level of intellectual energy, etc. 3. The director was Jan Troell, who has been directing films since the mid-1960s and was 78 when he did this. In other words, he is working in a paradigm that is familiar. This movie reminds me of something that would have come out around 1987.

I am glad to see they are still making feature films in the Swedish language, especially given that country's outsized tradition in that art. I had thought maybe with global economics and the defection of all top international talent to the identifiable centers of economic dynamism in their respective fields, that the worldwide market for movies in Swedish centering around, if not small, then relatively subdued themes, would no longer justify the expense not only of making them but of developing the talent to make them. Of course Jan Troell is old and has international prestige, so he may be a dinosaur who has the cache to carry on. He also went to Hollywood for a few years back in the 70s, though it sounds like he didn't like the dynamics of how he was allowed to work there and came home pretty quickly.

This was another Roger Ebert pick, though in this instance I think a good one (I identify the Roger Ebert selections because he is a much more generous critic than the other books I have, which rated this movie for example as low as 2 1/2 stars).

ER: Series Premiere (1995)

This was actually very good. It is the first episode of the long-running TV show, which I have otherwise never seen. I am guessing it was a two hour program, cut down without the commercials to about a ninety minute movie. Maybe because I have worked in a hospital for sixteen years I find medical movies more inherently interesting at this point than courtroom or police movies, but the way they did this was effective, it gave a sense of an environment that is, like it or not, at the very center of human activity in contemporary life.

Yes, I did like the no-fool-suffering, first in her class, relentlessly professional and oh so cute lady doctor.

Poltergeist (1983)

The first of two blockbusters from my childhood I was certainly well aware of but had never seen before. Poltergeist seems to me quite dated. The animating spirit behind it does not resonate with me, and probably would not have at the time either, though it does seem that the public was more easily frightened by movies in those days than any sensible person would be now. A few of the forgotten early 80s artifacts were interesting to see, such as those horrible shag rugs everybody had that always smelled bad because of the dogs. My parents were the kind of cleanliness fanatics who even in 1983 didn't allow people to smoke or bring dogs into the house--other people regarded them as strange--so I always thought everybody else's house that we went to smelled awful, though only of their generation. The houses of people my grandparents' age I always thought were great, even though they smoked just as much as everyone else did. Maybe the smoke mixed better with the older rugs and tables. I had also forgotten how the television stations would just go off the air at one or two in the morning and there would be static for 4 or 5 hours overnight. That must have ended almost right after this movie was made though because by '87 or '88 when I was at the end of high school and staying up late all the time there were reruns or movies or infomercials and the like going on all night.

I also like how when their daughter is zapped into another dimension that the family doesn't go to the police or seek out credentialed experts in radio waves or black holes or whatever but call on exorcists and spiritual mediums to deal with their problem.  

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

As I've mentioned before I never saw the Star Wars movies as a kid, even though I was right in the primo age group to have become enveloped in the cult, and I find as an adult I really cannot get into them at all. On of my movie books has rated all six of the Star Wars movies, including the 3 new ones that everybody hated, at 5 stars. Well, one down at least.

I was ten when this came out, and even though I never had a great clamoring to see this, or any other movie, at that time, it is kind of surprising to me that I was not at some point taken to see it anyway, only because it was such a huge deal. I know my father thought they were stupid, but his opinion on anything did not seem to carry much weight with anyone besides me. Anyway, I am inclined to agree with him now.

I did enjoy seeing Billy Dee Williams, whose appearance brought some much needed interest, or humor, or even implied humor, to the movie (though I kept waiting for him to crack open a Colt 45).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Famously dominated the Oscars in its year, as time goes on a fairly legendary one in the annals of film. The other best picture nominees that year were Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, and Nashville. The other best director nominees were Fellini, Kubrick, Altman, and Lumet. This of course was directed by Milos Forman, probably the most famous figure to emerge from the Czech new wave of the 60s who emigrated from that country after the crackdown of 1968. I have to admit, I have a lot of affection for this movie. It is absurd, but that is after all, largely the point. The sensibility of life as essentially absurd is a strong current running throughout the Czech mindset, which impresses itself upon the outside observer as bitterness tempered or cut through in places with a rather charming whimsy. This is the best I can explain the quality with which I think Milos Forman infused into this movie, which I'm sure would have been very different, and probably less likable, in the hands of another director. Also, I like to think that maybe I share something of this outlook on life, though it has not assumed as clear and definite or appealing a form in me as maybe it has in intelligent Czech people.

I am tempted to get some of the music Nurse Ratched was fond of playing in the ward (such as the number above) to put on for my children. It is actually quite calming, and while I am worried about them turning into passive zombies wholly lacking in any initiative like I am, I think there are much greater threats in that way than elevator music, which naturally would be interspersed with strident, commanding selections from Beethoven and the like.   

Everyone who sees this now makes the same observation, but it is remarkable to think that this was a major Hollywood production and was very popular commercially. Or was considered popular enough.

Little Big Man (1970)

I'm not sure what to make of this movie, which I knew nothing about before it turned up on my list. I will probably need to see it again sometime. At some moments I felt like it was interesting, at others I wondered if it were one of those 'you had to be there' late 60s/early 70s movies (I stole this description, which I found humorous, from a prominent and outstanding movie blogger who seems to be about my age). I had trouble concentrating my attention on it all the way through. It is a long, sprawling, picaresque Western-type of movie, similar to a type of novel that was popular at the time, massive, detail and fact-stuffed, full of goofy and somewhat irreverent incidents often featuring historical personages, the John Barth, John Gardner type of book. The director was Arthur Penn, who had done Bonnie and Clyde and Alice's Restaurant in the three years prior to this, so he was at the short-lived, but quite productive, peak of his career. Dustin Hoffman was the star, playing a rather strange role as a white man who, starting as a child, keeps getting captured during the wars between the white men and the Indians and living as a member of whichever society he happens to be in the fold of at the time until he gets captures again in the next war. Faye Dunaway is also in it, playing an even more bizarre character. It's 1970, so Dustin Hoffman has a decent amount of situationally interesting sex come his way even though he is neither particularly looking for it nor seems to merit such unasked for bounty. George Custer is a fairly major character, and a good one. Wild Bill Hickok is almost depicted, though he is not as effective as the Custer character. I think I will give it a year of two and see it again.

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