Thursday, November 26, 2015

She Wears Seal Coats by the Seashore

Film: Song of the Sea
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

There are plenty of times that Oscar nominates the wrong film, but there are times when a nomination brings attention to a film that would otherwise be missed or ignored. This is what happened in 2009 when The Secret of Kells was an unheard of film that managed a nomination. Filmmaker Tomm Moore earned another, similar nomination in 2014 with Song of the Sea, which uses some similar animation to tell another story based in Celtic mythology. This time, the story is centered more in the modern world, although one pre-cell phones.

Ben (David Rawle) is a young child awaiting the birth of a new sibling. He’s helping his mother Bronach (Lisa Hannigan) prepare a room for the new child by helping paint scenes of Celtic myths on the nursery walls. Ben goes to sleep, with his mother giving him the gift of a seashell horn. That night, the child comes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beginnings and Endings

Film: Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all’Italiana); Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all’Italiana)
Format: DVD from NetFlix (Marriage) and streaming video from Kanopy (Divorce), both on laptop.

The school I work for has recently signed up for a new movie database called Kanopy. I did a quick check of what it has, and there are a few I’d really like to see lurking in tis corners. When Marriage Italian Style showed up from NetFlix, I knew it was time to take Kanopy on a test run as the back half of a double feature. As it happens, of these two movies, Marriage Italian Style was released second. However, it only makes sense to have the marriage before the divorce.

The premise for Marriage Italian Style is entertaining. A wealthy businessman named Domenico Soriano (Marcello Mastroianni) is summoned to the home of his mistress. She has collapsed and is near death. We get a long flashback from him to tell us the story of him and his mistress. The two met during a bombing raid in World War II. Domenico finds a young girl in a brothel who refuses to leave because the public will see her and know where she works. This is Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren), and it’s the start of a long relationship.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Afterlife Delight

Film: Ghost
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on The Nook.

The biggest shock in revisiting Ghost was not that Demi Moore can and Patrick Swayze could act. It’s that this was directed by Jerry Zucker who is far more famous for directing films like Airplane! I say “revisiting” in the sense that I think I’ve seen all of Ghost at one point or another, but I’m not sure I ever watched it start to finish. There’s a lot here worth recommending, and that comes from someone who doesn’t generally choose romances and who also has no supernatural beliefs. Obviously, they did something right here.

Chances are good that you’re already familiar with Ghost, so I’ll keep the plot summary to a minimum here. Banker/financier Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) and his artist/pottery wheel aficionado girlfriend Molly Jensen (Demi Moore) have decided to move in together in a big old loft that they are refurbishing. Naturally, since Sam pulls down bank at the bank and Molly is evidently successful enough to get pieces in galleries, their place is pure moviedom fantasy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Off Script: Angel Heart

Film: Angel Heart
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

By the time it wraps up, Angel Heart has gone through almost a half dozen gruesome and grisly murders and has moved from New York to New Orleans. But the film could have essentially been a short feature. We as the audience jump through a lot of hoops and have to keep a lot of plates spinning to get to the final sequence that finally reveals what many of us will deduce from previous scenes. Ultimately, we realize that a great deal of the film could have been handled by extending an early scene instead. Because of this, Angel Heart is about the journey rather than the destination.

Downtrodden private investigator Harold Angel (Mickey Rourke, back when he still had his own face) is contacted by a lawyer named Winesap (Dann Florek) to meet with a client. This client, Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) is an imposing gentleman with a full beard, immaculate black suit, and long, pointed fingernails that intentionally look like claws. Cyphre tells Harry Angel that a singer who was starting to make a name for himself a dozen years previous during World War II has backed out on his contract. He wants Angel to track the man down.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Not Another Alzheimer's Movie

Film: Away from Her
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

There are times when I get frustrated with my Oscar lists. The biggest personal issue I have is that the genres that I tend to like—action, science fiction, horror—are rarely represented in the categories I am watching. In a sense, that’s sort of why I started doing this. It’s a way to further expose myself to films that I would otherwise miss. What that often means, though, is that a lot of what I watch ends up depressing me. Such is the case with Away from Her. I can’t say I’m ever really in the mood for a movie about Alzheimer’s disease.

One thing I’ll say for it is that it doesn’t take long to get started. We’re introduced to Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona Anderson (Julie Christie). They have been married for more than four decades, and now Fiona is starting to fade. It’s evident that she has an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s. She has started to forget where things are and forget what she is doing. As she begins to fade, she makes the decision (and it is her decision) to move to a care facility.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'll Sue for This!

Film: Libeled Lady
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s a joy going into a film completely cold. Based solely on the title and the year, I figured Libeled Lady was probably a melodrama starring someone like Bette Davis. What a joy to discover that this is a William Powell/Myrna Loy screwball comedy with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow. Libeled Lady was one of at least three Powell/Loy films from 1936; both After the Thin Man and the Best Picture-winning The Great Ziegfeld were released the same year. I like Powell and I love Myrna Loy, and I especially like them both together.

Like many a screwball comedy, there’s a large romantic subplot here and the plot turns on the functions of a newspaper. Warren Haggarty (Spencer Tracy), managing editor for the New York Evening Star is pulled away from preparing for his wedding to deal with a serious problem. A report has come in from Europe accusing Connie Allenbury (Myrna Loy) of breaking up a marriage. Connie’s father (Walter Connolly) is a long-time enemy of the paper, making the story extra-juicy. The problem is that Connie wasn’t at the event in the story and is completely innocent. While the Evening Star attempts to recall the papers, a few get out, and Connie files a $5 million libel suit.