what i watched last week

Doctor X (Michael Curtiz, 1932). A couple of the names associated with this one are still familiar to us. Curtiz directed Casablanca and many others, and Fay Wray is an icon. Some consider Lee Tracy to be unfairly forgotten. The movie looks like it will be a horror film, but as it plays out we realize it's more a mystery of the "dark house" genre. It's mostly forgettable, as horror or mystery, and the comic relief from Tracy isn't much help. Still, a couple of things remain of interest. It was filmed in two-strip Technicolor, which was rarely used and which gives the film an odd look to a modern eye. Also, it's pre-code, so while this is more clear in the description than in the visualization, prostitution, rape, and cannibalism are plot points. 6/10. Curtiz, Atwell, and Wray teamed up a year later for Mystery of the Wax Museum.

Le jour se lève (Marcel Carné, 1939). Carné directed the classic Children of Paradise, which also starred Arletty. (Jacqueline Laurent actually has as big a part in this one as does Arletty.) The true star of the film is Jean Gabin, and his presence elevates the movie. Le jour se lève is an example of “poetic realism” (“French Poetic Realism depicts the marginalized of society through a lens of disappointment, regret, and estrangement”). I feel like I recognize this genre, even if I couldn’t exactly define it, and certainly some of my favorite movies, notably Renoir’s Grand Illusion and The Rules of the Game, fall into the category. But for me, the movie is very much like an early film noir, perhaps exemplified by the story that the Vichy government banned it because it was demoralizing. #668 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. You can’t go wrong pairing this with any of the other films I mention above.

Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007). Starts off like a standard historical romance, in this case, the period before and during WWII. Then things take a dark turn, and Wright manages to keep several balls in the air, flipping around with chronology and getting the best from his actors, particularly the three who play Briony Taliis at various stages in her life: Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Vanessa Redgrave. The three are quite believable as the same person, with Ronan given the task of making us understand why Briony acts so poorly and Garai facing the consequences. There’s a “look at me” long tracking shot at Dunkirk that is worth the hype, and Redgrave’s appearance in the coda also mostly justifies its existence. It’s at least as depressing as Le jour se lève, although this film isn’t as good. #352 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10. For more of Romola Garai, binge-watch The Hour.

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943). Things are a bit hectic right now, so this movie, which should have its own By Request post (thanks, Jeff!) ends up here. In my memories, Shadow of a Doubt is one of the Hitchcock movies I hold in the highest regard. And it is certainly a good one. But I felt more aware of the gigantic plot holes than I expected, and spent more time enjoying the Santa Rosa scenery than actually taking in the film as a whole. No apparent reason for this, and it’s not like my favorite Hitchcock, Vertigo, isn’t full of its own pile of holes. Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised when I looked online after we’d finished watching and found that I’d long ago given Shadow of a Doubt 8/10. Which is still a good rating, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t note Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright doing strong work in the leads. #519 on the TSPDT Top 1000 list. For a Hitchcock night, try Notorious, another of his 1940s movies, one that I like very much indeed.


what i watched last week

Some of these are briefer than usual ... lots going on at the moment.

Night Will Fall (André Singer, 2014). It's unfair to complain that movies with footage of the concentration camps have become less effective as time passes. You can watch such footage a thousand times and still find it revolting. But at this point, filmmakers must come up with a new focus or get lost among the many similar films. For Night Will Fall, the angle is a lost film from the 40s, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, that uses footage shot by servicemen, much of which we have never seen before. We also learn about the involvement of Alfred Hitchcock in the making of the film, and how the British government decided it wouldn't do to rile up the German people in the post-war period. Singer does what he can to blend this together, but to some extent, it feels like two films, one of lost footage and another of a lost film. Hitchcock emphasizes to the filmmakers how to use creativity to convince the audience what they are seeing is real, which is an interesting point on its own. 7/10. It's probably too obvious, but a companion film would be Night and Fog.

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014). Well-made in a cultured British way, never too stodgy, with an interesting performance by Benedict Cumberbatch at its center. It does a decent job of making code-breaking entertaining, and if it fudges on facts, well, don't all of these movies do that? The one area where the film might be "too cultured" is in its presentation of Alan Turing's homosexuality. We hear a lot about it, but you get the feeling the filmmakers thought it would be too much to show Turing actually having sex. #908 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10. I haven't seen it, but the best matchup would be The Theory of Everything.

Jack Reacher (Christopher McQuarrie, 2012). Tom Cruise in heroic mode. Not as much action as you might expect ... Cruise plays a kind of super detective. But I suppose there is enough action to please most folks; it grossed $218 million worldwide. Top special effect goes to Rosamund Pike's boobs ... apparently she was pregnant during the making of the film, and about halfway through the movie, her character, a lawyer, turns up in a cleavage-baring outfit which is so startling it becomes distracting. 6/10. For a better Tom Cruise action movie, try Minority Report.

The Interrupters (Steve James, 2011). Yet another top-notch documentary located in Chicago from James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself). It sounds like it will be one of those movies that is good for you, but one thing that makes James' movies so strong is that he works hard to give us characters of depth about whom we care a lot. He also effectively balances the bleak with the hopeful, for the most part without seeming too much the Pollyanna. Here, he focuses on three "Violence Interrupters" who intervene in real-time street disputes, hoping (and often succeeding) to prevent murders. We also get to know a few of those street people. We care about them all. #494 on the TSPDT 21st-century list. 9/10. Might as well watch Hoop Dreams again while you're at it.

The Water Diviner (Russell Crowe, 2014). Absent any particular context, this movie, Russell Crowe's directing debut in which he also stars, would be a reasonably enjoyable story of a man looking for his presumably-dead sons after World War I. Crowe the director is kind to Crowe the actor ... the actor doesn't need a lot of help, he's one of our best screen actors, but the director makes sure the actor is featured in lots of heart-warming moments. However, there is context, most fervently stated by Andrew O'Hehir, whose review is titled "What Armenian genocide? 'The Water Diviner,' Russell Crowe’s disgraceful Turkish fantasy". ("If I made a film set in Germany or France or Poland in the 1940s that made no reference to the fate of Europe’s Jewish population in those years – if I appeared unaware that there ever were Jews in Europe, let alone what had become of them – how would that look?") O'Hehir hits the spot by pointing out you could watch The Water Diviner as a plain story of family and war, without considering the Armenians, if you didn't already know about their genocide, because they are absent from the film. You get Australians and Brits and Turks (one of whom is played by Ukrainian Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko), but the Armenians aren't considered important enough to the story being told, so they are left out. (For further reading, look at "Directors Slam Russell Crowe’s ‘Water Diviner’ Over Armenian Genocide Denial (Guest Blog)".) 5/10.


what i watched last week

I'll stick these all in one post ... our cable was out for a couple of days, so we ended up watching discs that were lying around. I'd seen all of them before ... there is one Request, one Make My Wife Watch, and one Revisit.

Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992). As with so many requests, it's been a long time and I don't remember when this actually made the list. Tomás was the one who asked for it. I last watched it in 2008, and I don't see much reason to change my opinion now. As I noted then, the ear-slicing scene is unnecessary, but it's fun to see how many things we now recognize as Quentin-esque are there from the beginning. Actors must love to work with his dialogue, which remains the best thing about his art. The cultural riffs are excessive, but in this case, I'd argue the sheer number of references to the cinematic past makes his movies oddly unique. You can see the influences, but he throws them together with such joy that the result is Tarantino and no one else. (Others have tried to copy him, but it doesn't usually work, partly because they don't have him to write dialogue.) Reservoir Dogs is also a good example of working within a budget ... there are only a few sets, and not too many characters, and he brought the picture in at a reported $1.2 million. #316 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. I've seen seven of his movies, and never given a rating lower than 8. If you want to watch my idea of a 9/10, try Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown.

The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014). I'd seen this only six months ago, but during our no-cable weekend, I trotted it out for Robin to watch. I wrote about it when I first saw it, and don't have much to add. The first 2/3 of the movie are still too concerned with plot and character for my liking, and the last 45 minutes or so are still filled with lots of "WHOA!" moments. As the guy from Comcast was fixing things up, he saw the box for The Raid 2 and exclaimed, "I love that movie!" 8/10. Watch The Raid first, then this one, for a double-bill.

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968). This is a bit of a request, as well ... back when we did our Top 50 lists, this was one of my last cuts, and a couple of people since then said they'd like to see what I had to say about those near-misses. I think if I made that list today, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly would rank above this one. OUATITW is more "arty", and you could say that here, Leone went for broke and did everything he could to define his vision. And there are some truly wonderful scenes. But it's a bit long and a bit boring. I don't mind the endless scenes that are 98% buildup and 2% resolution. But not all of the scenes are interesting, and since Leone seems largely uninterested in the "plot", you could cut scenes and the movie wouldn't be any less understandable than it already is. #61 on the TSPDT list. 7/10. It would be a butt-numbing exercise, but the best double-bill matchup would be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It's just as long, but it's more fun. And if Henry Fonda is an interesting bad guy in Once Upon a Time, it's mostly because of the stunt casting ... Lee Van Cleef is just as good in The Good ..., but we expect him to be an effective bad guy. Meanwhile, Leone gets more out of Clint Eastwood than most people ... Leone helped make Eastwood a star ... Clint certainly has more screen presence than Charles Bronson, who plays a similar role in the later movie.


what i watched last week

Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold, 2011). Arnold deserves credit for offering a Wuthering Heights that differs from all the others, and I'm guessing that the resulting film is pretty much exactly how Arnold wanted it. Gloom piled on gloom, with plenty of closeups of the actors, of which the main ones are neophytes with the exception of Kaya Scodelario as the grown-up Catherine. Some of Arnold's earlier work has been compared to Dogme 95, and I can see that, although that isn't necessarily a selling point for me. I guess everything is supposed to be smoldering here ... the characters' excesses of passion are rarely let out to play, but the actors' faces may be expressing inner turmoil. Mostly, they are pretty, no matter how dirty their clothes. And pretty doesn't make passion all on its own. Some find this masterful ... it's #483 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. Me, I'll give it 6/10. For a double-bill, go for overkill and watch the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011). I admit I struggle with the idea of Woody Allen these days. Not sure why ... if Roman Polanski made a great film tomorrow, I would have no trouble recognizing it. Midnight in Paris is both slight and complicated, and the combination works well to get "Woody Allen" the tabloid person out of my mind for an hour and a half. It helps that Owen Wilson plays the Woody stand-in ... it's a funny impersonation, more Wilson than Allen. There are a lot of impersonations going on in this fantasy-that-is-never-explained, some better than others, and all of them more rewarding to ex-literature students. Among my faves: Corey Stoll as Hemingway, who talks like Hemingway writes (wasn't the old line always that Hemingway's dialogue was hard to translate to the screen?), and Adrien Brody as Dali. The cameos run deep ... even Djuna Barnes turns up briefly. And so the film enthusiasts aren't left out, there's a funny little scene with Wilson's character and Luis Buñuel that is a bit like when Michael J. Fox plays "Johnny B. Goode" in Back to the Future. Not everything works ... maybe Rachel McAdams is just playing her character as Allen desired, but her rich bitch is annoying and demeaning. Luckily, Marion Cotillard is around for balance. (And a tip of the cap to whoever cast Audrey Fleurot.) #482 on the TSPDT 21st-century list. 8/10. The film reminded me at times of Linklater's "Before" movies ... it's not as good as those, but they might work well as a quadruple-bill.

Salesman (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, 1968). In my formative years as a film major in the early 70s, I read and reread a book (I've forgotten the title) that was about film theory. A good portion, as I recall, was given over to cinéma vérité. I was fascinated by the concept, although I'm not sure I'd seen anything that qualified other than Gimme Shelter and Don't Look Back. (Wait, I saw Titicut Follies, too.) I wanted to make cinéma vérité movies myself, and my first short film was indeed a "real life" representation of one woman's life. For those brief moments, I was a real believer in cinéma vérité, and I didn't spend much time questioning the "reality" of what was on the screen. More than 40 years later, I've seen a lot of cinéma vérité, and I no longer trust it in quite the same way. I'm more aware of the artist's manipulations than I was in my more naive years. If I had seen Salesman when I was 19, I would have loved it. Now, the "vérité" seems, not false exactly, but concocted. Its truths are the ones the filmmakers want to put forward, just like with every movie. And if I take away the aura of reality, Salesman is a documentary that takes a little too long to makes its points. The more reflective salesmen have insights into their own lives, but those insights feel casually slipped it, as if they weren't any more important than the other scenes in the movie. That's part of the trick, of course, to make it seem like the camera just happened to be there to record the men. And the artistry of the film is hidden behind the theory of its execution. #432 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of all time. 7/10. For a companion, try anything by Frederick Wiseman.

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940). So smooth, you might not notice how well it all works. The primary reason for this is the interplay between James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The plot is a hokey bit of nonsense, but it makes a perfectly fine frame for the two stars to work their way through the romance at the center of the movie. It is hard to imagine someone not liking The Shop Around the Corner, which if nothing else is finely appealing. Ten films were nominated for Best Picture Oscars; none of them was The Shop Around the Corner (the winner was Rebecca). There were 20 performers nominated in the acting categories; none of them came from The Shop Around the Corner. Is it the greatest movie ever made? No. But it ranks with the best of its kind, and it's hard to know why it didn't get any Oscar love. In fact, the film won no awards until it was added to the National Film Registry in 1999. Its reputation has increased over the years, and it is now #270 on the TSPDT list of the top films of all time. 8/10. For a double-bill, try one of the other Sullavan-Stewart films: Next Time We LoveThe Shopworn Angel, or The Mortal Storm.


what i watched last week

An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujirô Ozu, 1962). Ozu's last film, like so many during his career, is instantly recognizable ... the low-level camera and the lack of camera movement take care of that, even before we get to the plot and realize that once again, Ozu has returned to a story about a family with a daughter at the age to be married. Although the idiosyncratic nature of his style by definition draws attention to itself, Ozu always manages to give a feeling of "real life", as if a static camera suggests a documentary. Throughout, I felt like I was missing something because I wasn't a Japanese viewer in 1962, but rather an American in 2015. The class structure that affects relationships among the characters isn't always clear to me, but it seems to be very clear indeed to the characters. The struggle to be true to that structure means people rarely speak their minds without resorting to allusion. Drinking loosens tongues, though. Some lovely acting here, and this is another must-see for fans of Ozu, even if it isn't quite the masterpiece that is Tokyo Story. #252 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. A companion film would be Ozu's Late Spring.

My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004). Nicely drawn tale of two teenage girls from different backgrounds who come together one summer. Emily Blunt (Tamsin) is properly beautiful as the rich one; Natalie Press (Mona) dresses in a thrown-together manner that befits her casual, working-class status. It's easy to see why Mona is taken with Tamsin, but it doesn't initially play as you might expect. Tamsin seems to have real feelings for Mona, which Mona matches, but Mona is never condescended to. Or so it seems. A series of revelations at the end of the movie show that more was going on with Tamsin than Mona realized. That realization makes the movie a bit more generic, but the buildup, and the interaction between the two actresses, makes their summer of love believable, and thus makes the end of summer surprising. #463 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century ... it benefits greatly from the new format that expands the list from 250 to 1000 films. 7/10. If you'd like to create a double-bill, go with Heavenly Creatures.


carlos (olivier assayas, 2010)

I've tagged Carlos under both film and television, which I think is appropriate. It was made as a TV mini-series running in three parts. It has been shown rarely as a complete movie, but the more standard presentation, as far as I can tell, is to show the three parts separately on TV. There are also edited "movie versions" than run two-and-a-half to three hours. I watched the entire series of three, which makes it a mini-series, but if you watch it, you'll see why I think it's a movie. It has the look of a movie, with its 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Carlos plays like the long-form serial television series that have become the standard for quality TV today, taking advantage of the extended running time to offer depth that wouldn't be possible in a shorter film. But the way the story unfolds reminds me more of a movie like De Palma's Scarface than it does a series like The Wire.

In fact, Scarface makes an interesting comparison with Carlos. Both are epic-length stories of the rise and fall of a narcissist on the wrong side of the law. One thing that would seem to make Carlos different is that its titular character isn't a mere gangster, but is rather a political terrorist. But politics takes a backseat throughout the film ... it's not as different from Scarface as you might imagine.

The scope of the movie is impressive. In covering the career of Carlos, Assayas takes us from 1973 through 1994, and crisscrosses nations and continents: London, Paris, Vienna, the Netherlands, Yemen, Germany, Algeria, Libya, Budapest, East Berlin, Syria, Sudan. Yes, at times it's a bit confusing, but the overall feel of the life of an international terrorist is clear.

Édgar Ramírez plays Carlos as a charismatic man who we can see would easily impress others. He's ultimately not very good at his job ... his most famous escapade, a takeover of an OPEC conference, mostly results in flying from airport to airport with hostages, never accomplishing any goals, until finally they take money in return for releasing the hostages. Nonetheless, the OPEC sequence is a masterwork in the world of action/thriller cinema. Assayas is more successful with his representation of the OPEC events than Carlos was in trying to pull off the caper.

The film does well in showing the grungy glamour of the lifestyle of Carlos, as well as his gradual fade from importance. The third chapter, which deals with the decline, is necessarily less exciting than what came before, but it does provide some closure on the story.

What is missing is a sense of the politics that drove Carlos and his associates. People toss off standard catch phrases about the revolutionary struggle, but the film rarely goes deeper than those phrases. Assayas is more interested in the character of Carlos, and he is very successful, but the ultimate lesson to be taken from the film is that the politics never really mattered, that Carlos' self-involvement was the key to the story. I don't need Assayas to provide an explanation for terrorist acts, but even with the decades-spanning nature of the movie, the individual acts almost seem to lack context. They work as scenes in an action thriller, but you wouldn't watch Carlos to learn about revolutionary thought.

Nonetheless, Carlos is a triumph of epic film making, riveting for most of its long running time, with a terrific performance from Édgar Ramírez. #205 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 9/10. For a companion film, try the aforementioned Scarface, or something with a similar topic, like The Baader Meinhof Complex.


what i watched last week

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947). Inevitably present on any list of the best film noirs. As much as any movie, Out of the Past could be shown as an ultimate example of the genre. It would make a fine introduction to people who haven’t experienced noir before. The striking black-and-white cinematography, the femme fatale (more than one, actually), the femme’s dupe (more than one, actually), the plot that makes increasingly less sense as the film progresses ... it’s all here. Roger Ebert once wrote a guide to film noir, ten things that make the genre stand out. Many of the items on his list are here: “A movie which at no time misleads you into thinking there is going to be a happy ending.” “Locations that reek of the night, of shadows, of alleys, of the back doors of fancy places, of apartment buildings with a high turnover rate, of taxi drivers and bartenders who have seen it all.” “Cigarettes.” (He calls Out of the Past “The best smoking movie of all time.” “Women who would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa.” Robert Mitchum is excellent as the detective with a past ... oftentimes, the dupe is a near-moron (see William Hurt’s character in Body Heat), but Mitchum’s detective is rarely fooled, which makes his actions even more impressive. He knows what he does with Jane Greer’s femme fatale will lead to destruction, and he does it anyway. Greer’s character is set up before she even appears on screen ... we’re told everyone falls for her, and soon enough, Mitchum falls in line. Toss in Kirk Douglas early in his career, and you’ve got it all, or close enough (and if you’re still hungry, there’s Rhonda Fleming as the back-up fatale). #179 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 9/10. For a companion noir, try Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.

The Suspect (Shin-yeon Won, 2013). 7/10.


by request: the suspect (shin-yeon won, 2013)

I had very little idea what to expect with The Suspect. I have a rather narrow view of what a Korean movie might offer ... stylish gore and violence, mostly. But this turned out to be something different.

Not different as in “I’ve never seen anything like it,” but different as in “this isn’t Oldboy”. In fact, The Suspect is a fairly standard action spy thriller in the modern mode, a Korean version of the Bourne franchise, if you will. It’s pretty good at this, even if I wouldn’t recommend it as the first movie for viewers new to modern Korean films.

The plot is suitably complicated. I never understand these kinds of plots, anyway, and the Korean angle really threw me off. The Suspect has agents and double agents and whatever they call faux-double agents. But there is lots of border crossing ... the main character was a North Korean spy who ran into trouble when the new regime took over, which led to his escaping to South Korea, where he learns information that turns him into a weapon of vengeance. It’s assumed he’s a double agent, but in fact, he’s out for himself. He’s a defector, not a double agent. Meanwhile, the film shows a South Korea rife with corruption ... if there’s an ultimate bad guy, it’s the government, itself.

The Suspect goes on too long, but the defector, played by Yoo Gong, has charisma, and Hee-soon Park is also good as the man chasing the defector. Da-in Yoo turns the typical “let’s put a pretty girl in for eye candy” role into something more substantial ... she plays a journalist who is a key to exposing the corruption.

But the only real reason to see The Suspect is for the action scenes. And while there are some good ones, two stand head and shoulders above the rest. Both are car chases, which by now you’d think was an exhausted idea. But the first car chase marvels for 7+ minutes, and when a second car chase emerges late in the film, and you think they’ve already done this, they add just enough to make it an entertaining reprise. 7/10.


what i watched last week

Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst, 1929). There aren’t many films as notorious and highly regarded as Pandora’s Box. Pabst is regarded as one of the great directors. And, of course, Louise Brooks is a legend, and Pandora’s Box is the movie that, more than any, feeds that legend to this day. I’ve heard it said that Pandora’s Box seems like a modern movie, that it hasn’t aged ... I guess the idea is that Brooks’ Lulu is the kind of character you could still see today. Or maybe it’s the open lesbian content. Ultimately, Lulu anticipates the femme fatales of film noir, but that was “modern” 70 years ago. It sounds like I’m complaining, and I think I did find the movie disappointing because I expected a full-out classic. That’s not fair, and Pandora’s Box deserves a second look down the road, when I won’t be distracted by its reputation. In the meantime, Lulu’s single-minded selfishness is almost fun until the tragic end ... the fun comes from Brooks, who really does seem like she could seduce everyone who crosses her path. #246 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.

Fellini’s Casanova (Federico Fellini, 1976). One could say that Fellini was just being honest when he started attaching his name to the titles of his movies. In fairness, some of the time, his name was added to foreign releases of his films. But this one is indeed his Casanova ... the original title is Il Casanova di Federico Fellini. Since Casanova doesn’t come across as a very good person, and since he also seems to be a stand-in for the director, you can’t help but wonder why the director hates himself. Some of Casanova’s problems arise because he doesn’t get the respect he thinks he deserves. But in the film, it’s never clear he actually does deserve respect. The film has the colorful pageantry you associated with Fellini, all meticulously shot in a studio. But as the movie goes on (for more than 2 1/2 hours), it loses its energy the way the older Casanova does when he can no longer service the women who have helped make his reputation. Fellini was only in his mid-50s when he made Casanova, and you wouldn’t think he was burned out. In fact, it is said he thought Casanova was one of his best movies, although the critics didn’t agree. (It does make #883 on the TSPDT list.) 6/10. For a companion piece, I’d recommend “Toby Dammit”, Fellini’s contribution to the Poe anthology film, Spirits of the Dead.

Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014). It’s all Angelina Jolie. Oh, there is a lot of CGI work ... first-time director Stromberg has spent his career in visual effects, and has two Oscars for Art Direction. And there’s the story, a reworking of Sleeping Beauty that carries some contemporary attitudes alongside the classic tale. But it’s a Disney film, which means there are things that I suppose are for the little kids in the audience (the Three Pixies are the worst offenders) but which won’t likely do much for the parents who bring the little kids. Still, the combination of “for the kids” and “give the grownups something, too” works well enough, although the darker turns in the plot might give one pause when thinking of those kids. Elle Fanning plays the Beauty as a constantly-smiling, beloved-by-all Princess-to-be. It’s not Fanning’s fault that the role is fairly narrow in scope. But where the Beauty’s role constricts Fanning within its goodness, the title character Maleficient gives Jolie plenty of room to offer several shades of both good and bad, and Jolie takes full command of the role. She is what you’ll remember from Maleficent ten years from now. 7/10. Most obvious pairing would be with Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty.

Chef (Jon Favreau, 2014). 7/10.