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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  

2020

Title: Director [Year]
"Bad Times at the El Royale" Drew Goddard [2018]
"The Guilty" Gustav Moller [2018]
"1917" Sam Mendes [2019]
"Gomorrah" Matteo Garrone [2008]
"Sudden Fear" David Miller [1952]
"Nightfall" Jacques Tourneur [1956]
"Broken Flowers" Jim Jarmusch [2005]
"Seconds" John Frankenheimer [1966]
"The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" Lewis John Carlino [1976]
"The Deer Hunter" Michael Cimino [1978]

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Liner Notes.

© 2020 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"Bad Times at the El Royale" [Drew Goddard] 2018

"Bad Times at the El Royale [2018] written and directed by Drew Goddard, starring Jeff Bridges.

"This is a stylish film, almost all taking place inside a 50s modern casino-hotel on Lake Tahoe that was a serious destination for celebs only a few years before. It is now the late 1960s. The hotel lost its gambling license a year or two before. Basically empty, it has only one staff person left on duty.

"Some critics treat this film as a Tarantino rip off. I disagree. If they are going to make that claim they ought also to bring in the Coen brothers, since it isn‘t just Tarentino-esque. A Manson-like character does appear, but this film was shot a year before Tarantino‘s "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" [2019].

"The pieces that make up the plot are a bit confusing. J Edgar Hoover is involved, seeking a reel of film shot at the hotel several years earlier. That is just the MacGuffin, which starts the ball rolling. The viewer is left to figure out what that film might be.

"Goddard is breaking out of his reputation as a good horror screenwriter, with such films as Cloverfield [2008], The Cabin in the Woods [2011] and World War Z [2013]. Bad Times is a solid step away from that.

"Bridges is the central character. He plays an old, ailing ex-con recently paroled. The performance he gives is pleasing and believable.

"The film was shot in Vancouver on sound stages where they recreated the interior of the old abandoned Crystal Bay (CalNeva) hotel. That hotel was a casino, now closed, on Lake Tahoe. The border does indeed bisect the hotel.

"This film is not going to be on the best 25 list for 2018. Critics did not like nearly as much as those who went to the theater to see it. It is a reasonable piece of entertainment if you don‘t mind the violence."

--ggf

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"The Guilty" [Gustav Moller] 2018

"The Guilty [2018] directed by Gustav Moller is a Danish film that caught fire with many critics here. It stars Jakob Cedergren who plays a police officer, Asger Holm, who has anger issues and faces a disciplinary hearing the next day. He is assigned temporarily to answering emergency calls.

"The entire film takes place in a small call center room and office. With rare exceptions, the camera is focused on Asger‘s face as he answers calls. Eventually a call comes in from a woman in a van being driven somewhere under duress. Dealing with this call is the focus of the entire film.

"Making a movie in real time restricted primarily to one room isn‘t new. Hitchcock did that with "Rope" [1948] and essentially in one continuous take, technically much more difficult than is the case here.

"Still, many critics seem enthralled by the novelty of this film. Unlike "Rope" this film concentrates almost entirely on Asger alone.

"Novelty by itself does not make a film captivating. The story and pace here are too slow for that. Some critics try to read deep issues into the film, giving is a ‘meaning‘. I do not.

"In my opinion "The Guilty" is not particularly exciting, although there is a plot twist toward the end. Is it worth the time? Yes if you are curious about what can be done under these restrictions."

--ggf

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"1917" [Sam Mendes] 2019

""1917" [2019] directed by Sam Mendes, written both by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes previously won Best Picture for "American Beauty" [1999]. Other fine films of his are: "Road to Perdition" [2002] and "Skyfall" [2012]. The leads in "1917" are George MacKay, playing Lance Corporal Blake, and Dean-Charles Chapman, playing Lance Corporal Schofield.

""1917" was nominated for nine Academy Awards and is considered to be among the few best movies about war. The story is based on an account related by Mendes‘ grandfather, who served as a messenger in WWI. Two men must cross somewhat contested territory to deliver a vital message to a Colonel to prevent two battalions from attacking into a trap.

" [Radio in WWI was still unreliable. When the war opened, the best radio sets the military had were placed in aircraft and had a range of only 2000 yards. Wired telephony was the reliable way of communicating on the ground. Since wires at the front were often cut by shell fire, the military used runners as a backup to deliver messages.]

"The visual technique used in 1917 is the form of a real-time continuous take on the main character, from the opening scene where Blake rests at the base of a tree before his ordeal, to his closing scene resting at the base of another tree. The shots were set up in such a manner that the cuts could be disguised by careful cutting and CGI work. This is so effective you don‘t notice it.

" [It should be mentioned that Hitchcock actually did shoot one continuous take for his film "Rope" [1948]. "Russian Ark" [2002] is shown as a single take. It used digital and steadycam but took three takes before the third take was deemed successful.]

"Some of the scenes, especially those at night in a battered and burning town are truly spectacular on a large screen. This film earned Oscars for best cinematography, sound and visual effects. Most of the battle effects in 1917 were real as opposed to CGI. Curiously, MacKay was not nominated for best actor even though he is on-screen for the entire film.

"Highly recommended."

--ggf

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"Gomorrah" [Matteo Garrone] 2008

""Gomorrah" [2008] directed by Matteo Garrone, screenplay by Maurizio Braucci, based on the book by Roberto Saviano. The cast of characters is long.

"How do you compare "Gamorrah" to "The Godfather", "Goodfellas" and "The Sopranos". Each of those three is great in its way. However, "Gamorrah" is realistic, it is history, while the others are Hollywood movies. Gamorrah was filmed where it actually occurs. Much of it in the Vele di Scampia, Europe‘s most drug infested slum, in practice run by the Camorra crime organization -- more properly called The System.

"The Camorra is one of several of Italy‘s Mafias and its largest. There are approximately 100 clans, each with its own capo and members. Because there is no head capo over all, the clans sometimes violently conflict with one another. It is widely believed that approximately 95% of Naples cooperates with one or more clans. In the last three years Italy dissolved eight municipal governments in the Naples province due to Camorra infiltration.

"That is the film‘s background. It depicts the violence and way of life at the lower levels of the crime organization in the slum where most of the drug transactions and profits are made. It also details the toxic waste dumping that various clans carried out quietly for years for much of Europe‘s industry.

"Gamorra is a bleak film, shot in a documentary style. Is it pleasant to watch - no. It is definitely worth watching if only to see how organized crime operates among the poor and recruits its future staff.

"-----

"The La Vele di Scampia, where much of "Gomorrah" was filmed, is going away. This was a huge public housing project built between 1962 and 1975. The fundamental principle was to create fine shared spaces, where much of life was to take place, keeping interiors more modest. The hope was to create alleys and courtyards mimicking Naples past, each apartment having a balcony hanging in space. The complex was to house between 40 to 70 thousand people.

"The project was underfunded and one of the first things to go were the fine shared spaces. The result was a new huge crime-infested slum. By 2004 almost one murder a day took place there. In 1997 the first of Vele‘s huge buildings was torn down 35 years after it was built. The last Vele building is scheduled to be demolished this year.

"MAP

"The Google Maps URL is a recent picture of two of the Vele buildings."

--ggf

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"Sudden Fear" [David Miller] 1952

"Sudden Fear [1952] is a classic film noir directed by David Miller and starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame. Both Palance and Crawford received Oscar nominations for their performances.

"Crawford portrays Myra Hudson, an heiress to a fortune. Myra wanted to stand on her own two feet and became a successful playwright. Now in middle age and living alone, she is vulnerable to the idea of marriage. Her vulnerability is a weakness that is exploited by Palance, playing Lester Blaine, a somewhat successful actor who marries Myra.

"This film starts somewhat slowly. A surprise a third of the way in sets the plot in motion. The plot is more complex than typical for a noir, but it is handled well, building suspense and leaving the viewer unsure of the outcome until nearly the very end.

"This is a film worth watching. It is a noir often overlooked and it should not be."

--ggf

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"Nightfall" [Jacques Tourneur] 1956

""Nightfall" [1956] directed by Jacques Tourneur, screenplay by Sterling Silliphant, based on the novel by David Goodis. The cast is strong, Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft are the leads with fine support from Brian Keith, Rudy Bond and James Gregory.

"The plot revolves around mere coincidence. An artist, James Vanning, played by Ray, while camping happens to see an accident. He is framed for a murder by two criminals, John and Red, played by Keith and Bond, both having very different temperaments. Bancroft plays, Marie, a model who happens to meet Vanning at a bar and becomes involved.

"Nightfall is a short and tight B+ noir. Tourneur directs with a efficient sparse style, almost racing from the opening to conclusion. Tourneur was a reliable director of B movies, capable of fine work if he was given good material, which happened infrequently. Notable films of his are "Curse of the Demon" [1957], the fine "Out of the Past" [1947] and the famous "Cat People" [1942].

"David Goodis was a specialist in noir material. Many of his novels were made into films, notably by great French directors: Francois Truffaut and Rene Clement. The best known of his Hollywood screen adaptations is "Dark Passage" [1947] starring Bogart and Bacall. Nightfall suffers by comparison, partly due to a smaller budget but also its shorter runtime, 88 vs 106 minutes.

"Little needs to be said about Sterling Silliphant, a reliable screenwriter who got an Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night" [1967], but who is better known for his disaster screenplays "The Poseidon Adventure" [1972] and "The Towering Inferno" [1974].

"Nightfall is recommended. Not a great film, but certainly a well above average noir."

--ggf

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"Broken Flowers" [Jim Jarmusch] 2005

"Broken Flowers [2005] directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Bill Murray who plays Don Johnston, an aging Don Juan.

"The movies Murray has chosen to star in the last 20 years appeal to experienced rather than mainstream viewers and usually feature a non-mainstream character. Murray does this well and while his characters are perhaps not endearing, they are interesting. Examples are: Lost in Translation [2003], The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou [2004] and St. Vincent [2014].

"Broken Flowers opens with the aging Don Johnston‘s current love interest moving out. A letter arrives that causes Johnston to visit old flames he has not seen in many years. It is something he would rather not do. His life is static. They have moved on without him. He finds this to be unsettling. His life has no sense of permanence."

--ggf

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"Seconds" [John Frankenheimer] 1966

"Seconds [1966] directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson. Hudson plays a reincarnated upper-class executive trapped in what has become a boring, meaningless existence. He has lost his taste for life and now just goes through the motions. Emotional ties to his wife and daughter have become thin. Offered a chance to change his appearance and start a new life, he takes it.

"Frankenheimer directed three films often called his paranoia trilogy, The Manchurian Candidate [1962], Seven Days in May [1964], and finally, Seconds. All are suspenseful. Of the three, Seconds has a focus that is entirely personal. Some consider Seconds moves beyond suspense into horror.

"Hudson gives a fine performance here, playing the new and renamed Mr. Wilson. Originally optimistic in his hew life, Wilson slowly discovers that a new face and career does not change who he really is, a disappointment that causes Wilson to have a nervous breakdown, leading to his destruction.

"One wonders if his focus on social and political material doomed Frankenheimer‘s Oscar chances. These three films made in the 1960s remain his crowning achievements."

--ggf

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"The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" [Lewis John Carlino] 1976

"The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea [1976] was written and directed by Lewis John Carlino and stars Sarah Miles and Kris Kristofferson. It is based on the novel of the same name by Yukio Mishima.

"The screenplay is about a man of the sea who is seen as a pure hero by a secret club of adolescent boys. When that man abandons the sea to become a husband, that destroys his purity. He ceases to be a hero in the eyes of those boys. They see that as betrayal and take revenge.

"This film was rated R, which frankly is hard to understand. Perhaps because the sexual scenes were tastefully treated, being part of the plot. Things were also beginning to loosen up in the mid-70s. Given the subject matter, this is a film recommended for adults only.

"As a first attempt to direct, this represents quite an accomplishment for Carlino. Unfortunately for him, the film was not liked by critics. However, it has a resurrection among modern film viewers who see it differently. Even when released it was admitted that the film was beautifully shot. What are some of the critical objections?

"Could a group of well-to-do adolescents, in a secret club, commit serious hurtful or criminal acts? Some critics said no. That objection speaks to the cloistered life of those critics. In Britain much has been written about cruel behavior of ‘public‘ school boys.

"An objection with more weight is that the film is slow. That is to an extent true. Another objection is that the novel is culturally Japanese, that Carlino‘s screenplay could not successfully translate it into British culture. Perhaps, although Carlino‘s whole purpose in writing the screenplay was to undertake translation of those parts he felt did fit into 1970s British culture.

"To my mind critics reacted to the unsettling components of this film: cruelty to animals, bullying, the sexual awakening of adolescent boys and violence perpetrated by them when they feel betrayed. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea remains today a rather unique and unsettling film."

--ggf

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"The Deer Hunter" [Michael Cimino] 1978

"The Deer Hunter [1978] was directed by and co-written by Michael Cimino. This is justifiably considered a great film, winning seven Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Actress, Editing and Sound. The story revolves around the lives of three steelworkers who decide to join the army to serve in Vietnam and the effects that war has on them and those close to them they left behind. The three central characters are played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walkin and John Savage. Major supporting roles are played by John Cazale and Meryl Streep.

"This film is three hours long. It has three ‘acts‘. Act 1 has the three getting ready to leave, working their last shifts at a steel mill. One of them gets married. You see their backgrounds and what sort of people they are. Act 2 depicts the shattering experience of the war, while Act 3 follows their return home.

"The Deer Hunter was controversial when it was made. The US evacuated from Vietnam in 1975. The memories of the war were still raw and fresh. Watching it 40 years later, the Vietnam of the film has passed into history as has the steel mills. The emotional effect the film had in 1978 is now much tempered and unavoidably suffers some as a result.

"Cimino‘s rapid rise due to this film was unfortunately matched by his meteoric fall after his next film, Heaven‘s Gate [1980], became an expensive bomb. Years afterwards unsold tickets to see Heaven‘s Gate at its premiere theater in Los Angeles were sold as curios. Cimino‘s career never recovered."

--ggf

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Last update on Jan 15, 2010 at 12:15:10.