The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s a sign that a particular technology has become established when you notice its absence more than its presence. When Blu-ray first came along, I marveled at the look of every movie I watched … it was new and beautiful. The same was true for Hi-Def TV, which doesn’t quite match the exquisiteness of Blu-ray, but is enough of an improvement over standard definition that every show was a joy. As some point, though, that look became ordinary in a good way. Good, because I take it for granted. The only time I notice the picture now is when it’s not in HD. The Blu-ray of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly looks great. The movie itself is also quite something. Roger Ebert wrote a few years ago about how he first reviewed the film when he was just getting started, and his review “described a four-star movie but only gave it three stars.” He’d give it four, now. As for me, I’ve always loved it, but I guess I never trusted my love … my previous rating was 7/10. I’m bumping that 9/10 now. #187 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the 1000 greatest films of all time.
The Who: At Kilburn 1977. I saw The Who only once, a little more than a year before this performance. Keith Moon wasn’t what he used to be, I suppose, but he had enough of his manic energy to make me happy. I wasn’t expecting the same for this film, which documents his next-to-last live performance with the band. It’s a famous concert amongst Who fans … Moonie was out of shape in more ways than one, Entwhistle was drunk, Pete was pissed, and Roger Daltrey was … well, god love him, he’s never been the most important person in the band. The concert is indeed ragged … they hadn’t played together for some time, and it really shows in the early numbers, leading to Townshend’s famous mid-show comment to the film’s director, “This wasn’t fucking worth filming!” But … Townshend does everything he can to will a good show into happening, and with the final “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the band is finally playing as a unit (which isn’t true for much of the set). Moon recovers a bit, but it’s really Townshend’s show … he plays with a fierce anger, baiting the audience (this was 1977, after all, when punks were trying to make people like Pete Townshend irrelevant), jumping and sliding all over the stage, yelling at stage hands, all the time playing like a man possessed. Daltrey and Entwhistle just stay out of his way, but Moonie refuses … between songs, he badgers Townshend, tries to cheer him up, and as he does, you can see the old Keith Moon surfacing … he may have lost a lot of his ability to play, but he hasn’t lost the ability to lose himself in his playing, and there are moments near the end when he seems extremely happy to being playing drums with his mates. Overall, I’d call this a 6 but give Townshend a 10, so I’ll split the difference and say 8/10. But if you’re new to The Who, don’t start here (and remember, without Keith Moon, it ain’t The Who).
The Lady Eve. A screwball classic that I don’t quite get. Oh, it has many memorable scenes (none more so than when Barbara Stanwyck plays with Henry Fonda’s hair), but it’s not as laugh-out-loud funny to me, compared to others I like more (hello, His Girl Friday). Still good .. 8/10. #114 on the TSPDT list.
The Godfather: Part III. Guess I had an Eli Wallach film festival. While some claim greatness for this movie, the more general opinion seems to have become good-not-great, not an embarrassment but also not a classic. I’ll go with that. This viewing, I realized that despite the film’s flaws, it has become a part of our collective Godfather experience, so that scenes you remember with pleasure turn out to be in this movie rather than either of the first two parts. Every time I watch this, I try to give Sofia Coppola another chance, but it never works … her line readings are blank at best. Still, anytime I can watch a three-hour movie without being bored once is worth noting. If the first two movies combine to make the greatest American film of all time, Part III at least extends the moment for awhile. 7/10. #616 on the TSPDT list.