December - Film
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Best of November: Bull season 1 &2 & Chasing Shadows
Worst of November: Wiener Dog
A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.
Not a great start. What a fiasco! Another "don't listen to anyone's warning...just do as you please" plot line. Completely unbelievable especially to us that lived with hurricanes as a part of our lives nearly every year. I was rooting for the alligators by the middle of this one.
Best of November
Ford v. Ferrari
but Unleashed (2016), Maiden and Missing Link were not far behind
Worst of November
X-Men - Dark Phoenix
A.O. Scott & Manhola Dargis, NYT, Dec. 4, 2019: Best Movies of 2019.. With 277 comments the last time I checked. The title isn't entirely clear: these are each critic's top 10.
TCM Bucket List Continued. These are carryovers, films started in late November from my cable provider's database of TCM films, paused, and not finished until December.
Fanny and Alexander (1982). Dir. & written by Ingmar Bergman. Cinematographer: Sven Nykvist. TCM ran the 3 1/2 hour version. The movie was apparently restored by Criterion -- looks like it was made yesterday. In sharp color. Nykvist shot most of his Bergman films in B&W; this one shows his mastery of color -- a real treat for the eye (helped by excellent set decoration). As indicated, bucket list material -- viewed it for the first time & very impressed! Considering purchasing the Criterion DVD, which has both the 3 1/2 + the 5 1/2 Swedish TV version. Bergman had a lot to say! Huge cast. Starts with a family Christmas celebration of a well-off theatrical troupe -- reminded me a little of the Thomas Mann novel Buddenbrooks -- time & place early 1900s in Sweden. Then the 2 children's father dies onstage -- Hamlet is the play. Mother (Ewa Froling) re-marries the local Lutheran bishop, Edvard Vergerus, and her 2 children, Fanny & Alexander are taken with her to the bishop's dwelling. This second part recapitulates David Copperfield. Vergerus (Jan Malmsjo) is the Murdstone of the story, and Malmsjo makes a terrific villain -- further, he is as anti-Semitic as some of the Swedes in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the semi-magical scene with Isak Jacobi (Erland Josephson) -- a puppet master and another character who serves as a mask for Bergman. The scene where he interrogates and beats Alexander (Bertil Guve) is harrowing stuff, even though the actual punishment takes place off-screen. So what's happens in the third part? I'll leave that open if you haven't seen it but my reaction was Watch Out for the Ekdahls. There's magic and ghosts too! Ending has a Dickensian flavor to it. Like Dickens in David Copperfield, Bergman is patently as autobiographical in feeling in his work's dark core, and also so much like Dickens where the author tries to ward off the ghosts of a miserable childhood through a fantasy alternative world that can only be realized in fiction. Great holiday viewing.
Another TCM carryover from November:
La Belle et la Bete (1946). Directors, Jean Cocteau & Rene Clement. Screenplay, Jean Cocteau. B&W, cinematography Henri Elekan. French "classical" cinema, pre-New Wave. Haven't seen too many classical French movies, but it did remind a little of Marcel Carne's famous Children of Paradise in style; the soft focus glamour photography of Belle (Josette Day) was like the photography of Arletty in the Paradise film, or Greta Garbo in her many films. The Cocteau touch can best be seen in the Beast's (Jean Marais) enchanted castle. In the early going the Beast doesn't want to be seen, so many of the objects take on human limbs to serve dinner -- but the hall corridor with human arms holding up the lamps is downright spooky. The most suggestive difference that movies do better than the written word is how Belle's suitor's transformation takes place. Does this represent Belle's ambivalent feelings toward Avenant? Does Avenant's transformation represent his own development or a change in how Belle sees him?
This one was not a carryover; saw the whole thing in December, also TCM:
Paris, Texas (1984). Director, Wim Wenders. Writers: L.M. Kit Carson, Sam Shepherd. Photography, Robby Muller, Music, Ry Cooder. Color, 2 h4. 25 min. Long film; from the comments some objected to length and pacing. I watched it largely without pause & found it absorbing, with a caveat. It opens with a shot of the Mojave desert, and a man who appears to have been wandering about for some time. He drinks the last of his water and dumps the plastic gallon bottle (the type you can get at Walgreens drugstore) in the pristine landscape. How did he get into this situation? He finds a small, dilapidated store in the middle of nowhere can collapses. From a card in his pocket, his rescuer is able to contact the man's brother in Los Angeles, who flies down and then drives to get him. We learn that the lost man -- Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton, a character actor who made his mark with this portrayal) has become mute and can't remember who he is. In LA, his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell, who I initially thought was Tommy Lee Jones) and the brother's French wife Ann (Aurore Clement) -- PARIS, Texas, get it? -- coax him back to what appears to be himself. We learn that their 7 year old Hunter (Hunter Carson, the screenwriter's son?) is Travis' son. What happened to Travis & his wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski) 4 years ago? Hunter was too young to remember. Watching Travis's returning to himself and tentatively establishing a relationship with Hunter, and their journey together to find Jane, was all absorbing to me, and the movie passed by quickly. However -- when they find Jane -- here's the caveat -- much of it turns plot-wise into a shaggy dog story. We never find out what either have been doing for the past 4 years, and what led up to that gap turns out to be as banal as a country song, except it allows Jane to wander off into pretentious existentialist soliloquizing. Both Stanton's and Kinski's soliloquies reminded me of students doing a reading in an acting class. One of the commenters on ImDB was positively enthralled by Kinski's performance -- she was reading her soliloquy for heaven's sake! I assumed this nonsense was due to Sam Shepherd, who started in theater, but it seems the scriptwriters were writing the screenplay while the film was being shot (fortunately in chronological sequence), Shepherd had to leave before writing the conclusion, and Carson (L.M., but it could have been Hunter as far as I'm concerned) was apparently the culprit. P.S. Music was one of the good things in the movie, as well as the photography. For the commenter who referred to Cooder's slide guitar as repetitive twanging of strings -- you sir, have a tin ear. I should say that a quick glance at ImDB and Rotten Tomatoes indicates most viewers love and cherish this film, so don't let me turn you away from it; everything but the conclusion was fine with me.
On Halloween, a group of friends encounter an "extreme" haunted house that promises to feed on their darkest fears. The night turns deadly as they come to the horrifying realization that some nightmares are real.
From the beginning it very quickly morphed into a ho-hum...same old same old...kids in the middle of no where...a Halloween haunted house attraction that was being run by characters that would have sent a sensible person running...and of course they paid and obediently turned over their cell phones to these characters. You knew the whole thing was going downhill like a runaway train.
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