127 Hours. Not really what you’d think. Yeah, he cuts off his arm, and yeah, it’s really really gross, and yeah, the movie derives its narrative thrust from the fact that everyone knows in advance that he’s going to cut his arm off so no matter what happens in the movie, you keep thinking about his arm. But the first 10-15 minutes constitute a lovely paean to getting away from it all, and Danny Boyle manages to turn 127 hours of James Franco stuck in a crevice into something other than boring. And he gets it all done in 94 minutes, which is at least as important as the 127 hours. It’s really well made, but in the end, it’s mostly just Boyle showing off. Nothing wrong with that … it worked great in 28 Days Later … but on a basic level, Boyle never gets past making the movie about the guy who cut his arm off. #180 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. 7/10.
Hoop Dreams. #43 on my Facebook Fave Fifty. Review is there. 10/10.
Heart Like a Wheel. Phil Dellio had this at #44 on his Facebook list, so I checked it out. I was surprised to find a fairly standard biopic that works its way diligently through the events of Shirley Muldowney’s life, mostly getting the details right as far as her racing career goes (not that I’d know if they got it wrong), while tossing in the kind of human-interest tales that fill virtually every biopic that lacks bigger aspirations. There is nothing particularly wrong with this approach, but it’s not exactly innovative. Bonnie Bedelia is good, as is Beau Bridges, and it’s always a good thing to see Dick Miller. Phil got it right when he wrote “If there’s a hypothetical midpoint somewhere between Roger Corman’s Eat My Dust and one of those small Czechoslovakian art films from the mid-‘60s, that’s where Heart Like a Wheel exists.” But I think he also explains the film’s lack of aspiration: Jonathan Kaplan, one of Corman’s many protégés, breaks free in a small, Czech art film kind of way. 6/10.
Mildred Pierce. Seemed like a good time to revisit this one. I had previously given this a 9 out of 10, and to be honest, I couldn’t remember why. As I watched, I understood … it really is a fine movie. Oddly enough, I may have underrated it, since I’m not a big fan of Joan Crawford. Many of the differences between this and the recent mini-series can be attributed to the way HBO was able to return to the original novel, while Warner Brothers had to deal with the “unfilmable” nature of Cain’s book in the context of the early 40s. What is interesting is that Warners removed some of the sleaziest aspects of the book, but then added a murder (killing someone was more acceptable than sleeping with your stepdaughter). Ann Blyth’s Veda is more believable than what HBO gave us, and Crawford won an Oscar, although she’s no match for Kate Winslet. Michael Curtiz filmed it like a noir, and it works on that level. Still, I might have been a bit generous in my earlier rating. #596 on the TSPDT Top 1000 list. 8/10.
A Hard Day’s Night. #42 on my Facebook list. #445 on the TSPDT Top 1000 list. 10/10.
Inglourious Basterds. Not as much of a pastiche as other Tarantino films, although it is loaded with cinematic references. The film comes in chapters, and each of those is like a short movie of its own. Some are better than others, but, as is pretty much always the case with Tarantino, the better ones are as good as it gets. There’s his characteristic ear for great dialogue (considering that less than half of the film is in English, that’s pretty good), for one thing. And a few of the chapters, including the first, are extremely tense. There is also some showing off, and violence, and a rewriting of history that some find offensive. As for me, I realized as the movie began that I have really liked every single Quentin Tarantino film I have seen, even though I don’t think of myself as a fanboy. That streak holds true here. #72 on the TSPDT Top 250 of the 21st century list. 8/10.