As I mentioned on Twitter last night, last night my wife, as a surprise early 40th birthday present, rented out Chicago’s beautiful Music Box Theatre for a screening of my favorite movie, The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, and invited a bunch of friends (including some who came in from out of town). It left me speechless in appreciation. I could wax poetic about that but I don’t want to get blubbery, so for those who were there or those who weren’t I thought I’d just share a sweet Louis Armstrong take on the movie’s most famous song, “I Will Wait For You.” (Accompanied, unfortunately, by a weird image of a woman holding a rose.) Thanks again, Stevie.
I reviewed Argo, Ben Affleck’s new Iran hostage crisis thriller, for The A.V. Club. It’s a very good, tense thriller that stirred some hazy memories of how inescapable that crisis was at the time. The juiced-up ending’s a bit much, but otherwise it’s a solid, no-nonsense suspense film. (I even liked Affleck’s performance, which seems to be bugging some other reviewers.) If you don’t mind having the ending spoiled, or want to learn more after seeing the film, be sure to read theWired article that inspired the film, which includes some neat details that didn’t make it to the screen, including the fact that the fake movie used concept art created by Jack Kirby for a proposed adaptation of a Roger Zelazny novel and was then supposed to be reused for a science fiction theme park. No mention of Kirby makes it into the film, meaning that it’s now not just Marvel Comics adaptations all but writing him out of history.
Things I have written: Eating Raoul (1982, review)
I lept at the chance to review Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul when the new Criterion edition landed in my in box. It was never my favorite of the cult films my high school friends watched when we were in the process of discovering such things, but I had a feeling I was missing something. I was. It’s not as nasty as the John Waters movies I loved at the time or as cleverly scripted as, say, something from the Coens, but maybe I was looking for the wrong things. It’s mean and funny and filled with sleazy details of 1980s L.A. It’s its own thing. I just didn’t recognize what that was at the time. The disc is great, too, throwing in a couple of striking Bartel short films and other extras.
I wrote most of this review, filled with praise for Clint Eastwood’s willingness to grow old on screen, the day of Eastwood’s appearance at the RNC. So admirable. Let others make fools of themselves while Eastwood maintains his hard-won, weathered dignity. It all still applies, at least as far as the Eastwood on screen goes. Anyway, the movie’s corny and kind of irresistible, especially if you like Eastwood and baseball movies and stories about fathers and daughters. As I do. And so I did.
I might have liked Dredd a new attempt to adapt the long running, darkly comic, dystopian British comic book character better if it had contained the moment above. Alas, it did not. I’m way on the low end of the critical spectrum for this one, but I just found it deadening and dull, a not-so-great violent cop thriller wearing the comics’ trappings.
Things I have written: Films That Time Forgot, The Sinful Dwarf
I’m not sure this piece captures the depths of depravity on display in The Sinful Dwarf, but I can guarantee that the 700 or so words I wrote about it are more entertaining than the film itself. (That is an extremely modest guarantee.) Watching the second half of this at a Panera required extremely careful placement and screen shielding. It’s truly vile stuff.
How many times have I seen this movie? I honestly don’t know. I used to watch Abbott And Costello movies every Saturday morning at 10am on channel 19 out of Cincinnati and this one was in heavy rotation. (I maybe saw InTheNavy more.) I remember thinking it weird then, in part because the end is more monster movie than comedy. And, watching it now, it is a weird movie. Does it make sense to put Abbott And Costello in a movie with a bunch of monsters? Not really. It’s fun, though. And what I wouldn’t have given to see Lou Costello and Bela Lugosi interact between takes. Why do I think they would not have been pals?
How can a movie do so much right and still get it wrong? Bachelorette has a good cast, some witty lines, and an unapologetically crude take on romance and weddings. What it doesn’t have is characters I ever believed cared about one another or that I spent a moment hoping wouldn’t disappear into a deep, dark pit. No thanks. (Sorry for the flurry of self-promotion to follow. I’ve got a backlog of articles I haven’t linked to.)
Things I have written: Quadrophenia (Blu-ray review)
I’ve always liked Quadrophenia, Franc Roddam’s 1979 adaptation of The Who’s other rock opera but I never liked it as much as when I watched it this time. Which is kind of strange. Both the movie and and the album—which I’ll admit to only hearing in full in the last year, in part because the double-disc CD seemed too pricy to me when I first got into The Who—take as their subject male teen angst. Sure, there’s all that obsessive re-creation of what it was like to be a Mod in early ’60s England, but both are ultimately both about being in the thrall of under-20 existential crises (and adolescent hormones) that make you feel alternately like a constantly aroused king among men and a species lower on the evolutionary ladder than an earthworm. (It’s different for girls, no doubt, but that’s another movie.) Shouldn’t that have spoken to me more when I watched at 17 than it does now? Maybe it’s because both the album and, especially, the film put a little distance. They’re immersive but also reflective, the work of people who remember what it was like and are happy to have a little distance. The first shot is the most important shot of the movie. Sometimes you have to just walk away.