What I watched in the past few weeks…
I’ll start off with this month’s Mad Movie Challenge from Mike’s Take on the Movies: Tender Mercies. This movie fit right in with my recent viewing, with its country-western music theme and bittersweet, unvarnished look at a flawed character just trying to survive failures and tragedies, and rebuild in mid-life. Very good understated performances from Robert Duvall as a has-been singer and Tess Harper as his young, sweet and patient new wife, with whom he faces troubles once his famous ex (Betty Buckley) and estranged daughter (Ellen Barkin) return. Bruce Beresford gets emotional suspense out of Duvall’s urge to run or a possible alcoholic relapse, without overdoing it with dramatics or sentimentality, and shows that there’s always hope and goodness in any situation. Now click here to see the Jacques Tourneur movie I suggested for Mike.
My Clint Eastwood binge (see last post) rolls on, thanks to many recommendations here and on Twitter–since last time I saw:
- Joe Kidd. Duvall again, as a villainous landowner, and Clint gets caught between him and Mexican Revolutionaries cheated out of their land claim. Gritty with memorable scenes involving a steaming pot of beans, a train crashing into a saloon and a Mission shootout.
- The Beguiled was new to me, Don Siegel’s wonderfully dark, twisted, hallucinatory story of the shady Civil War soldier recuperating at a girls’ school. Fantastic performances all around (especially from Clint after his character loses his leg), working with rich material about jealousy, repression, male fantasy and the limits of women’s tolerance. Very curious to see what Sofia Coppola will do with her version.
- The Eiger Sanction, hybrid of Bond and Indiana Jones in this fun macho espionage mountain-climbing adventure.
- High Plains Drifter, loved this supernatural western, in the memorable lakeside town of Lago, renamed Hell and painted blood red to pay for its sins against a nameless Stranger they think is there to help them.
- Bronco Billy, a sweet light-hearted travelling western show becomes a refuge for a snooty heiress. So heartfelt and screwball you could imagine a Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne or Loretta Young 40s version.
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Jeff Bridges is fantastic, bringing a childlike glee to the chase, the search for hidden loot and the do-over caper with his new friends, three seasoned bank robbers. Loved the bro-mance, the comedy and the way the plot threads tied back together before that sad ending.
One of the great things about this Clint binge has been seeing so much of Geoffrey Lewis, Gregory Walcott (usually getting punched), George Kennedy and sometimes Bill McKinney–like the Clint stock company.
The rest of the viewing:
- The Ladykillers was my “blind spot”movie for January.
- Earthquake. Wish San Andreas had this kind of all-star cast getting trapped and squashed.
- Von Ryan’s Express, seen this several times, exciting war adventure.
- Homicidal was a fabulous find, William Castle’s slightly Psycho-ish tale of an abusive childhood and dark family secret that comes back (in heels) for bloody retribution. Figured out the twist but that didn’t take a thing away from the scares or tension. Love Joan Marshall’s work in this, credited as Jean Arless who only made this one film, which adds to the mystique. A pause and countdown make up the movie’s “fright break” before the big reveal, which in theatres gave any chickens in the audience a chance to flee and demand their refund (not fair since by that point they were treated to almost all the fun).
- Blood and Black Lace (finally– took me a few months to get back to giallo). Lavish, vivid, visually overloaded record of a masked killer’s fixation on the “fashion house of death” (a Letterboxd user calls this The Devil Wears Bava). And here I always thought Scream was so original with the dual killer reveal. After watching this and The Neon Demon, modelling seems way too dangerous.
- The Gun Runners, good action but a weak twist on the Hemingway material that was also made into To Have and Have Not and The Breaking Point. In this version it’s reluctant but financially desperate Audie Murphy who’s roped into into Cuban Revolution arms trading by colourful villain Eddie Albert. Watched this with…
- Riot in Cell Block 11, for an action-packed Don Siegel double feature. Love to see Neville Brand, Emile Meyer and Leo Gordon get such juicy roles. Raw, compassionate look at poor prison conditions and the high cost of getting attention and reform.
- The Nice Guys was nasty, violent self-aware fun, but I didn’t like it as much as expected given all the hype, or compared to other Shane Black work I enjoy. Lots of slapstick, predictable mugging (Gosling does a Lou Abbott reaction next to a dead body), overlong. This kind of odd-buddy pulp romp would have been great in the actual 70s with, say, Donald Sutherland and Robert Forster? George Segal and George Kennedy? Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.
- The Mend. Josh Lucas is good and you can spend lots of time with excruciatingly self-absorbed, pretentious and immature Bohemians.
- 3 episodes into Taboo, a grungy mini-series starring and created by Tom Hardy. He’s the prodigal son returned to England 1814 after years abroad, armed with deadly and apparently supernatural skills, to protect the land he’s inherited on the disputed border around Vancouver. So far, moving slowly and I’d like more focus on other characters (Oona Chaplin plays his sister), but I’ll stick with it.