Sunday, May 20, 2018

Not-So-Dangerous Liaisons

Film: The Affairs of Cellini
Format: Internet video on the latest internet machine.

There are plenty of actors in the world who seem to do little more than simply play themselves. That could come from several different factors. It might be that the person in question is being typecast and is just getting more or less the same role over and over. In some cases, though, it seems like the actor just doesn’t have much in the way of actual range. I think, for instance, of someone like Edward Everett Horton—an actor I enjoy quite a bit—but someone who more or less played the same guy over and over in the same sort of movie over and over. Based on his Oscar-nominated performance in The Affairs of Cellini, I can say the same thing about Frank Morgan.

Again, I want to go on the record as saying that I like Frank Morgan. The moment he walks on screen in The Affairs of Cellini, though, you know immediately who he is even if you don’t know who he is. In this film, he’s playing Alessandro, the Duke of Florence, but if you saw him, heard him speak, and immediately thought that Oz the Great and Powerful somehow ended up in Renaissance Florence, I would forgive you. Aside from the costuming and the facial hair, there’s not a molecule of difference between Oz and Alessandro. What this also means is that while there are moments of drama in this film, we’re not going to get a great deal in the way of seriousness.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Misty and Water-Colored

Film: The Way We Were
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

So here we go again. I clearly left the Barbra Streisand to the end of this set of films with two left to the last hundred. With The Way We Were, I thought I knew what I was getting into, but there’s a great deal more here than I figured there would be. In fact, I thought this was little more than a romance that dies over the course of the movie. What I didn’t know was that this is kind of a period piece, taking place at the end of World War II through the McCarthy era.

World War II is in full swing when we start, and Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) is working at a radio station and constantly clashing with the government censor. That night, out at a club, she encounters the WASP-ishly named Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), who she knew at college, and it’s flashback time. We jump back to those college days at an unnamed college that is almost certainly somewhere on the East Coast and also very likely Ivy League.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Viva Cuba?

Film: Before Night Falls
Format: DVD from NetFlix on The New Portable.

Because my job involves a great deal of reading, I don’t read for pleasure a lot. It’s one of the reasons I watch movies. Movies are a break from reading for me, and these days (and for the last decade or more, really), reading has been associated with work. Because of this, a lot of my “reading” comes in the form of audio books. The problem is that my local library’s collection is packed to the rafters with biography and autobiography, and I find that those genres leave me pretty cold. The same is kind of true with movies, which made Before Night Falls a hard sell for me. But hey, I’m getting to the point where I can’t keep putting off movies that I’m not particularly interested in watching. And this one at least stars Javier Bardem, and actor I really like.

Before Night Falls is the story of Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem), a Cuban author who was writing during the Cuban revolution. Arenas, in addition to being something of a counterrevolutionary and of a talent that made him dangers to Castro and his minions, he was also homosexual, which made him a threat in very different way. Eventually, Arenas managed to get out of Cuba and wound up in the United States, essentially living in exile until he died of AIDS. What this means is that despite being based on a true story and likely following the story as cleanly and accurately as possible is going to be very paint by numbers in a lot of respects.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday Horror: I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House

Film: I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on laptop.

A great deal of modern horror is about putting as much blood on the screen as it will take. I’m not generally a fan of gore for its own sake. When it is used well as a legitimate part of the story, it can be extremely effective. When it shows up just for shock value or as fan service, I think that it generally fails. Because of this, I find it really interesting when a film takes the opposite path. The epically-named I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House is a movie of the second stripe. The goal here is to produce an atmosphere of dread without covering the screen in blood.

We are presented with hospice nurse Lily Saylor (Ruth Wilson), who has just been hired on as the live-in help of horror author Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss), who is slowly descending into dementia. The house in which the two live is old and, as befits the genre, both creepy and gifted with a strange, mysterious history. The original owners of the house never lived in it; they vanished on their wedding day. Iris has lived in the house for ages, and as Lily continues to live there, she begins to suspect that at least one of Iris’s books may have been relayed to her by a ghost that resides in the house.