Thursday, March 15, 2018

It is Balloon!

Film: The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge)
Format: Various media on multiple players.

DVDs are a lot like sports officials and autocorrect in one important respect: we don’t really notice them until they screw up badly. As I get closer and closer to the end of these Oscar lists, I’ve discovered that, outside of last year’s nominations, there are a few spots where I still have a couple of movies in the same category and year to watch. I’m trying to get rid of those as much as I can. That’s why I requested The Red Balloon (or Le Ballon Rouge if you prefer) from NetFlix; I still had two 1956 nominees for Best Original Screenplay to watch. So imagine my frustration when about 10 minutes in the disc got stuck and started glitching. Fortunately for me, I found it streaming on Kanopy and finished watching it that way.

It would be fair to ask why, since I watched only 10 minutes off the DVD, I didn’t just say at the top that I watched this on Kanopy. Well, in many instances I would. In the case of The Red Balloon, though, watching 10 minutes approaches a third of the film’s running time. This runs under 35 minutes total. It remains the only short film to win an Oscar outside of the short film category. You read that right—this short film about a six-year-old boy being followed around Paris by a balloon won this Oscar despite having almost no dialogue and being shorter than an episode of Matlock.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday Horror: Bug

Film: Bug
Format: DVD from Manhattan-Elwood Public Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

Bug is one of those movies that I think you either really appreciate or really don’t. At least that’s sort of my impression of it. It’s the sort of film that would have really strong advocates on the one hand and people who were either upset by it, hated it, or were at least mildly traumatized by it. It says a lot that this was based on a play written by Tracy Letts, who also wrote Killer Joe. That should give you some idea of the sensibilities.

Bug is a paranoid fever dream, the sort of film that starts out looking like a potentially strange little romance and increasingly becomes more and more deranged over time until it devolves into a full-blown shared schizophrenic hallucination. It also does something so subtle that I didn’t catch it the first time I saw it and didn’t really catch it this time until I was close to done watching. I really like it when a film turns out to be smarter than I thought it was.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Off Script: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

Film: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

There’s something oddly reassuring to me about sliding into a film like the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I know what’s going to happen in general. I’ve read the story and seen the story depicted on the screen enough to be more than passing familiar with the basic run of events. The big switch here is seeing Spencer Tracy in the role of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde. Tracy was so often a warm, paternal presence on the screen that seeing him as a sadistic monster is surprising and kind of fascinating.

This is the pretty standard story with which you are almost certainly familiar. Dr. Henry Jekyll believes that both good and evil exist in every man. Through experimentation, he discovers a formula that more or less enhances his own evil side, which names itself Edward Hyde. When he drinks the formula, the mild-mannered, decent Jekyll becomes the brutish and sadistic Hyde, who more or less lives out the dark fantasies of the good doctor.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

She's Got a Good Personality...or Two

Film: The Three Faces of Eve
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin' flatscreen.

Posting this review today is something of a milestone for me. The full list of movies on my various Oscar lists runs a little more than 1400 total films. As of this point, with the posting of this review, I’ve hit the double-digit mark. There are 99 movies left unreviewed. It feels like I should have a couple of streamers or something, but there are still a dozen or so movies I’ll likely never get to see, so the celebration is admittedly a bit muted.

So, this is where we’re going to be for the length of this film: we’re going to be investigating the world of multiple personality disorder, specifically in the case of a woman who will be known to us as Eve White (Joanne Woodward). Naturally, she’ll have some other names, too. The first of these other personalities is Eve Black; the third is known eventually as Jane. The film purports itself to be based on reality, and is in fact based on a book. I have no idea how closely the film follows the text nor do I know how accurate that text is to any real case. I guess what we have to do is just assume that we’re at least in the reality ballpark.