Friday, April 29, 2011

American movies, 1970-1979

from Elaine May's Mikey & Nicky (1976)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My moviegoing: 2003

An image from Shohei Imamura's segment of the anthology film September 11 (2002), a hit-and-miss collection of 11 short films made by 11 prominent directors from 11 countries, given an 11-minute, nine-second, and one-frame time limit to respond to the events of September 11. Both an intriguing premise and a silly gimmick, September 11 is worth seeing just to get a sense of 9/11 as interpreted by mostly non-American sensibilities. Unfortunately, the American segment of the film, directed by Sean Penn, is the film's and Penn's worst effort. Here's the full lineup of directors and countries:
Youssef Chahine (Egypt)
Amos Gitai (Israel)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Mexico)
Shohei Imamura (Japan)
Claude Lelouch (France)
Ken Loach (United Kingdom)
Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran)
Mira Nair (India)
Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso)
Sean Penn (U.S.)
Danis Tanovic (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

My moviegoing: 2003

from Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sidney Lumet, 1924-2011

I forgot to write Elizabeth Taylor and Farley Granger posts, so here's my Sidney Lumet tribute before he's too dead to bother.
One of the last active American filmmakers who began his career in the 1950s is gone. Lumet was never in my top tier of favorite directors, possibly because he was more of a studio craftsman than the obsessively personal filmmakers I'm drawn toward. He made some bad movies, and he wasn't the most visually distinctive director, with some notable exceptions. He was a great storyteller and director of actors, enthusiastic, youthful, not pretentious, sharp, interested in people. His best films, though, were personal and visually distinctive, in addition to their other virtues. Dog Day Afternoon is one of the finest films of the 1970s and one of the best movies about America and American desperation. Even in Lumet movies I find lacking, great moments poke through. Running on Empty has a certain ordinariness to it that can sometimes push it toward TV movie territory, but the teenage romance between River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton is sweetly honest and affecting. Lumet just watches them and lets it happen without condescending to the characters or the audience. Treat Williams gives a hysterically overblown performance in Prince of the City, but Lumet manages to create a chilly atmosphere of pervasive corruption and paranoid fear and matches that emotional geography with a compatibly physical one. Jerry Orbach's very good in that movie when he's not ducking Williams' scenery-chewing. I also like that Lumet went out on a high note with two of his most critically acclaimed movies after a long string of mediocre ones: Find Me Guilty and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The penultimate film was a commercial flop, but his last movie put him back in the spotlight.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Serpico (1973)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Network (1976)
The Verdict (1982)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Recommended, with reservations or for nostalgic purposes only:
The Wiz (1978)
Prince of the City (1981)
Running on Empty (1988)
Guilty as Sin (1993)

I need to catch up with some of his other films. He made a lot.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

American movies, 1970-1979

from Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

My moviegoing: 2003

from Andy Warhol's Mario Banana #1 (1964), Mario Banana #2 (1964), Blow Job (1964), Poor Little Rich Girl (1965), and Outer and Inner Space (1966)
Austin Film Society's Warhol retrospective

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