Also it looks like we won’t be seeing her around for certain annual “seasonal work”
In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up, a little bit more, I decided to pick some comedies. To make for a more specific theme I picked comedies about musicians.
All that I knew about the first of my selection, Frank, was “that film about the guy with the papermache mask.” So naturally I’d been curious about it for a while.
It tells the story of a completely ordinary guy named Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who joins an Indi band called Soronprfbs (we are never told how to pronounce it) led by the aforementioned Frank played by Michael Fassbender, as their latest keyboardist (their last one had a nervous breakdown and tried to drown himself in the beach) Soon he abandons his job and joins them on a seemingly endless retreat to record the bands new album while becoming as enamored by Frank’s apparent musical genius. But this soon goes nowhere with Jon blowing his life savings to pay the bands rent and the band manager killing himself. But every thing changes that due to Jon documenting the band on social media they are invited to an indy rock festival in Austen Texas,
I’m not sure what I thought of this film. I think it was aimed more for the indy music scene and I was not it’s target audience. My biggest problem with it was that when it was funny it was sweet and whimsical… when it was being dramatic it was depressing as hell.
I’m very sentimental about the Monkees since I remember watching it in the Saturday morning cartoons lineup and listening to their music (back then I still thought they were a real band) but since I didn’t watch it that much I only learned to appreciate them as a guilty pleasure on reruns in cable years later.
Head starts with the Monkees interrupting a ribbon cutting ceremony, running onto a bridge then jumping off and then the film starts. It’s all over the place in ways that cannot be explained. THere’s just enough plot to hold some of the skits together but otherwise it can almost Dada as comedy.
One minute it’s a war scene in the trenches (which is suddenly invaded by a football player) and the next minute the band is doing a dandruff commercial on top of Victor Mature‘s head (later they are chased by a giant Victor Mature.) Soon after they find themselves touring a bizarre factory only to find themselves trapped in a black box. Later one of the band members finds a giant eyeball staring out of the medicine cabinet of a public lavatory. The sky’s the limit and the only way to truly enjoy it is not to think about it.
As a cow led by Frank Zappa says (yes, really) “Monkees is the craziest people.”
My original plan for this week was art theft. Unfortunately I didn’t do my homework quite as well as I should have, so that was not completely accurate. Instead I went with the slightly more general description of scams and heists.
I had never heard of the first film on my list, The Best Offer (La migliore offerta) but I was drawn by the presence of Geoffrey Rush, and Donald Sutherland in the cast. The Best Offer is an english language, Italian Film that tells the story of antiques auctioneer and valuer Virgil Oldman, played by Rush. Oldman is a fastidious and obsessive man who doesn’t play well with others, and doesn’t have much of a life outside of his chosen profession. He does have the pleasure of his routine and a secret collection of priceless portraits which he has amassed by passing them off as lesser works at the auctions where they are bought cheap by his accomplice, Billy played by Donald Sutherland.
Everything changes when he is contacted by a mysterious woman named Claire (played by Sylvia Hoeks) who wants to sell the furniture in her mansion. At first we don’t even see her. Eventually she’s revealed to be an extreme agoraphobe who spends much of her time hiding in a large wardrobed (this is later revealed to be the entrance to a small suite) Oldman becomes fascinated by her and gradually the two draw each other out of their shells… But things are not quite what they seem.
This was an interesting film with a great performance from Rush. I liked the first half which presents a wonderful portrait of Oldman’s character (in fact I think this might have made an interesting double feature with Coppella’s The Conversation) The second half felt a little slow for me but did a good job at putting the final peices in place of rat final reveal.
I had chosen The Thomas Crown Affair as my second film as a way to continue the art theft film. It turned out that only applied to the 1999 remake starring Pierce Brosnan. The original stars Steve McQueen and no Art is involved.
McQueen plays our tile character, Thomas Crown, a brilliant millionaire businessman who is bored out of his mind. To challenge himself he plans a perfect bank heist using complete strangers hired anonymously (kind of like Reservoir Dogs except here the plan works) While the police are baffled, brilliant insurance investigator Vickie Anderson, played by Faye Dunaway pretty much has him figured out in no time at all… Now all she has to do is prove it.
The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game between McQueen and Anderson and the dance draws them together in more ways then one.
This was a fun and stylish quintessential sixties thriller doing interesting things with split screens and a hip sound track. On a more serious note McQueen and Dunaway have great chemistry together and the choreography of the heist is fantastic.
For this week’s I was initially planning to do a couple of westerns in general but as I found I couldn’t find a couple of the titles I had listed, I narrowed it down to one of the great teams of the genre, John Ford and John Wayne.
Stagecoach from 1939 is one of those films that, while I always knew about in textbooks, I had never gotten around to seeing. I regret this now since this film is brilliant and is definitely on my list of favorite western.
In their fist collaboration Wayne plays the Ringo Kid (his real name’s Henry) who has been arrested and taken aboard a stagecoach through Indian country with an amazing ensemble cast.
It is easy to accuse this film of being shock full of cliches, the drunken doctor, southern gentleman, pregnant wife, hooker with a heart of gold, and the comic relief… I don’t how much these were cliches in the western beforere it came out for the most part a lot of this is like reading Hamlet. This was where all of the cliche’s came from. Either way this whole cast transcends these cliche’s and half the fun is learning more about them as they talk within the film’s most important set, the stagecoach itself.
Ford shows his craft wonderfully. I was especially impressed with his editing the best bit being a blink and you’ll miss it bit with Dallas (the aforementioned hooker with a heart of gold.) Sa says that she has nothing left in the town she is leaving and the camera switches for about thirty seconds to a shot of the town’s moral guardians. After that the stunt work is amazing especially with the final chase of Apache’s on horseback. It looses a little bit by having the closeups of the stagecoach against a moving backdrop. (One of complaint is that the Apache’s are pretty much nothing more than just a natural obstacle)
The next film on my lis, Rio Grande was done 11 years later. It is the third of Ford’s so called Calvary Trilogy (which includes Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.)
Way plays Lt Colonel Kirby York of the US Calvary who is stationed in us the Texas/ Mexican border assigned to protect settlers from Apache tribes. It’s not an easy assignment. He is extremely understaffed only receiving 18 new troops. Things are complicated when one of his new troops is his young son. Soon his estranged wife (played by Maureen O’Hara) comes to retrieve him.
I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Stagecoach. Wayne’s Though it was certainly up to Ford’s usual standards. Like Stagecoach there is some incredible stunt work the best bit is a couple of soldiers riding “roman style” which consists of standing on two horses for an entire lap and then jumping over a hurdle.
The Apaches are treated slightly better in this film… at least we’re shown they’re human by showing them perform their rituals before their attack.
Well I haven’t done one of these for a while… a combination of having been busy and these things get harder to find once you get past the big names!
Anyway today’s Rhapsody is Bassmelodie’s African Rhapsody (Floreano Remix) From their Rhino Ride album
As a way to recover from a traumatic week, I decided to go with the comfort of musical comedy from 1981. Unfortunately having not done my research as much as I should have wheel these films were musicals they certainly weren’t comedies.
The reason behind this misunderstanding came from my first choice, Pennies From Heaven. I saw Steve Martin’s name and read the briefest description and I went in expecting screwball comedy with a soundtrack. It wasn’t one.
Based on the 1978 BBC miniseries created by Dennis Potter starring Bob Hoskins (not the 196 film of the same name starring Bing Crosby) Potter adapts his own script for the film version.
Steve Martin plays Arthur Parker a struggling salesman in a loveless marriage, living in the great depression. He wants to open a record store but the Bank won’t front a loan unless they get collateral from his wife’s inheritance which she won’t give him. Into this he meets and falls in love with a demure teacher played by Bernadette Peters.
Throughout this we keep drawn into musical fantasies with the cast lip syncing and classics like “Let’s Misbehave” and, of course “Pennies from Heaven” at first this just seems like schtick but as the film continues they become much more beautiful and at the same time ironic as the lives of our characters slowly flow down the drain making the sad reality of the depression even more depressing.
By the end of this became almost hard to watch. Still it was interesting watching Martin and Peters playing against type and the musical numbers were wonderfully done.
I’m embarrassed to say that for the most part all I knew about the Zoot Suit was they were an example of one of 1940s bad taste in fashion mostly seen through Al Capp’s Zoot Suit Yokum Parody. I was not aware of it the racial connotations it had due to it’s popularity amongst Mexican-American, Filipino and Italian-American youth as well as being a symbol of identity in the Chicano movement.
Our story is a dramatization of the events surrounding the events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial, where a group of young Mexican-Americans are charged with a crime they didn’t commit through an almost comically biased trial and the Zoot Suit Riots that happened later .
All of this is done in a wonderfully stylized way that is everything I like in filmed theater.
The best part of this is Olmos as El Pachua, a sort of idealized god of the Zoot Suiters. He is one part master of ceremonies one part narrator and one part conscience to the films lead played by Valdez. Omnipresent he stands unseen making snarky remarks as well as providing advice to Valdez that is frequently as self destructive as it is useful
This is was a fascinating study of ethnic identity which struggles to survive when a larger identity is trying to keep it down.