they get the press release
jon miller, hall of famer

what i watched last week

Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2004). As I did with Shaolin Soccer, I found this Stephen Chow movie a delight to watch, even as I knew there were inside jokes I was missing. If Jackie Chan was his generation’s Buster Keaton, I suppose Chow is our Chuck Jones. I’ve only seen two of his movies, but they resemble a Road Runner cartoon more than a silent comedy. In Kung Fu Hustle, Chow is very generous with his fellow filmmakers … he doesn’t really have a standout fight sequence until the end of the film, while a parade of middle-aged stars from the glory days of martial arts movies get plenty of time to act and to kick ass. Something very different is promised in the opening scene, which includes a dance sequence, but then the film settles in to a mostly-nonstop run of action scenes. Which is fine … this is an entertaining movie above all else … but it’s not exactly deep. #238 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century.

Ivan the Terrible, Part One (Sergei Eisenstein, 1944). It’s probably unfair to rate this one before seeing Part Two, but the two films were made a couple of years apart, and I’ve only watched Part One so far. It’s a unique film, even impressive, but not in a way I enjoy. I’m sure someone will tell me it isn’t meant to be enjoyed … there certainly isn’t any joy in the film. Magnificent photography combined with hammy acting results in characters about whom it is difficult to care (this was likely different for Russian audiences when it came out). Lyudmila Tselikovskaya is breathtakingly beautiful as the Czarina, but even she, who supposedly helps humanize Ivan, is given little to do (and her beauty is closer to that of a Hollywood movie star than to a 16th-century monarch … she looks about four centuries different from every other character in the film). #164 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the greatest films of all time.

Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953). Audrey Hepburn’s coming-out party. What I noticed this time around was the way William Wyler offers up a Hollywood version of neo-realism, which is really no version at all, beyond filming on location. But the on-site filming does add something to the film, and if it seems a bit decadent to use the tools of neo-realism to tell the story of a princess, well, there’s nothing wrong with a little decadence. #648 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the greatest films of all time.


Charlie Bertsch

I think The Best Years of Our Lives is a Wyler film that comes closer to the Neo-Realist aesthetic. But he made it before Neo-Realism was well known in Hollywood. I wonder if it's rather the Italians who learned from directors like Wyler.

Steven Rubio

This is weird. I meant this to be posted on Monday, and I think there was another movie in there. Oh well ...

Phil Dellio

You should dig up Stanley Kauffmann on Roman Holiday; he had a section called "Reviewings" towards the end of a couple of his books where he went back and revisited films he loved. Anyway, it's such a great film. The biggest surprise is how engaging Gregory Peck is--he could be pretty wooden later on in his career. The scene at the Mouth of Truth (had to look up the name) kills me every time, ditto the final scene, ditto the final shot.

Steven Rubio

Thanks, I'll hunt that down.

I left off discussion of Gregory Peck, partly because these are short blurbs, partly because I've written so much about him already. Maybe I'll dig that up as well and repost it as a Rubio Klassic.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)