Once again, a reminder that beginning today, three of us on Facebook will be counting down our 50 favorite films. I’ll be posting on Mondays and Thursday … at least, that’s the idea. If you would like to read our posts and group comments, and hopefully add your own two cents worth, just ask and I’ll add you to the group.
Under Fire. Here’s a hint: Under Fire is my #50. Check it out on Facebook.
Still Walking. In the early years of our marriage, I would try to explain to my wife how my family worked. There were always pleasantries, even good times, when the siblings would gather together at our parents’ house … when we were kids, my friends always liked my parents, they made a good impression. But, I would tell my wife, there was always a subtext to everything in regard to my parents. She thought I was being melodramatic. But after awhile, she noticed that often, after a family visit, the siblings would meet at one of our houses and perform a post-mortem on what had happened. And as we worked through the subtext, my wife came to realize I wasn’t being melodramatic, I was telling the truth. The family in Still Walking reminds me of my own family. Writer/Director Hirokazu Koreeda rejects melodrama … everything in his movie is low-key, people rarely say exactly what they mean, and the audience is left to peel the layers and find the subtext. The film isn’t quite as obscure as I’m making it appear, and the subtext occasionally rises to the surface. But for the most part, Koreeda just places the family in front of us and lets us discover for ourselves, kinda like my wife did back in the day.
Blow-Up. Moralistic film with an excess of symbols and a terrific sequence midway through that makes everything else tolerable. It’s never a surprise when I side with Pauline Kael against the critical masses, but she had this one pegged. Antonioni’s travelogue of “Swinging London” is judgmental as only a sourpuss can be. Sex is seen, not as enjoyable, but as empty and soulless. Drugs are seen, not as enjoyable, but as empty and soulless. Rock and roll is seen, not as enjoyable, but as empty and soulless. Ah, but the central scene that gives the film its title, where David Hemmings’ photographer turns detective. It’s a priceless sequence on its own, and doesn’t need sophomoric analysis of symbols to warrant the tag of greatness. As Kael noted in response to those who foregrounded the symbolic, “I thought the hero did rather well in uncovering the murder.” Most critics would probably find her statement shallow. #207 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They Top 1000 list.
Down from the Mountain. Concert film brings together the musicians who did the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s an amiable show with just enough backstage footage (we learn that Emmylou Harris carried a pager with her that did nothing but update her on baseball scores). The performances are variable but never less than fine.