Sunday, March 02, 2008

Movie Diary February 2008

Movies seen for the first time are in green.

  1. Sense and Sensibility (1995, Ang Lee). OK, now this is how you do Jane Austen. Masterpiece Theater, are you paying attention? For me the only false note is Hugh Grant (dearly though I love him); he's simply too stiff, even playing a character who's kind of a stiff guy.
  2. Quiz Show (1994, Robert Redford). I've heard some doubts cast on its literal historical accuracy, but this movie remains an absorbing and entertaining study of ambition, celebrity, greed, and family. Ralph Fiennes is perfect as the aristocratic Charles van Doren, who is equally proud of, burdened by, and not sure he measures up to his famous surname.
  3. Caesar and Cleopatra (1945, Gabriel Pascal). Talky, stagy version of the George Bernard Shaw play is taken from his own screenplay, perhaps to its own detriment. Cleopatra is throughout portrayed as stupid, venal, and incapable of ruling without masculine guidance -- neither her sexuality nor her power is self-directed. Also, Shaw's in-jokes about the British probably went over better with the Victorians for whom they were written. Nevertheless, Vivien Leigh is so luminously beautiful that one can almost forget what she's saying, Claude Rains is worldly-wise as Caesar, and hunky Stewart Granger gets to show off his calves as Apollodorus.
  4. Upstairs Downstairs Season 1 (1971, ITV). See post to come.
  5. Upstairs Downstairs Season 2 (1972, ITV). See post to come.
  6. Little Big Man (1970, Arthur Penn). Unlike many movies of the late '60s-early '70s, this one holds up beautifully. The thoughtful, funny script skewers (even if it can't kill) all the Wild West cliches John Ford and his ilk ever perpetrated. Dustin Hoffman gives a bravura performance as Jack Crabbe, with notable contributions from Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, and Richard Mulligan.
  7. The Goodbye Girl (1977, Herbert Ross). Worth watching for Richard Dreyfus's hilariously bad gay Richard III, but lord, Paula (Marsha Mason) makes me tired. She's a whiny, clinging, unliberated shrew who defines herself by redecorating her apartment for each new relationship. Get a grip, lady!
  8. A Raisin in the Sun (2008, Kenny Leon). It's no shame for an actor to fall short of Sidney Poitier -- I mean, seriously, who doesn't? But Sean Combs (Walter Lee Younger) in this made-for-TV production of the recent revival of Lorraine Hansberry's classic play is so pathetic, so lacking in every way, that he sucks the life out of everything around him. The rest of the cast, though flat, is at least competent (but Tony-worthy? I don't think so). Without passionate and intelligent performances, Hansberry's lines have never sounded so insipid and sententious (and the changes by screenwriter Paris Qualles add nothing).
  9. Pride and Prejudice (1995, A&E). Yes, Masterpiece Theater, this is also how you do Austen. Thank God you had sense enough not to try and mess with this perfection, because I'd have to cut you. As many people have said: Colin Firth, yum.
  10. A Man for All Seasons (1966, Fred Zinneman). Ponderous, pompous costume drama based on Robert Bolt's award-winning play about Sir Thomas More. Although featuring fine performances from Paul Scofield, Leo McKern, Wendy Hiller, and others (not to mention a luminous cameo from Vanessa Redgrave), the film never really comes alive. Maybe it's just me, but More comes off not so much as a man of principle as a guy hiding behind sleazy lawyer tricks.


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Muse of Ire said...

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