New York Film Festival 2021 – What I’ve Seen So Far, Part 1

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I skipped last year’s New York Film Festival entirely because I couldn’t get my head around seeing the films virtually, which might seem odd since I’d been watching everything — new and old movies — on my computer screen since the previous March when theaters shut down. I didn’t even bother to check the lineup (head in the sand approach). Last year there were no in-theater screenings, and consequently no in-theater filmmaker introductions or Q&As after. I wanted to be present for all this, in the same space, which I think makes a difference.

This year there are no virtual screenings; everything is being seen in one of the four venues at Lincoln Center. Of course, things aren’t totally back to normal. Theaters can be filled to capacity, but wearing a mask throughout is required. From what I’ve observed, everyone is cooperating with that restriction. Though two nights ago, before the film began I mentioned to a woman sitting two seats away that her mask needed to cover her nose, which it did not. She looked at me as though I’d just sprouted a second head. I decided to leave it at that.

By my count, there are fifty-one feature films in the Main Slate, Spotlight, and revival categories this year. And that’s not all. I’m seeing fourteen features, ten with my wife and four on my own. That leaves thirty-seven films I’m not seeing, but I’ll live. I’m happy with what we selected. There are others I wish we could have fit in, such as two new films by the great (and prolific) South Korean director Hong Sangsoo, but I’m confident these will be released at some point. In the 1980s and into the ’90s, Alice Tully Hall was the only venue and the lineup was such that if a person was crazy enough to want to see all the films, it was possible. Not that I’m complaining. With additional screening spaces, sidebar programs and revivals, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

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The opening night film was The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed and written by Joel Coen (with an assist from William Shakespeare). We weren’t able to get tickets (even though they ended up having eight separate screenings over the course of that night, with a ninth screening added for Saturday, October 9). So I haven’t  seen it yet, but wanted to mention it here anyway. Reviews I’ve seen have been excellent. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as Lord and Lady Macbeth seem like a dream team. And speaking of teams, this is the first time Joel Coen has made a film without his brother, Ethan. It will be interesting to see if that makes any difference. The black and white photography and squarish screen format are also interesting, from what we can tell from the trailer. I’d like to see more films shot in black and white, and that’s not just nostalgia for the old days. In any event, I very much look forward to seeing this film.

Here is a press conference with Joel Coen, Frances McDormand, Denzel Washington, and others, moderated by Dennis Lim. It runs approximately 43 minutes.

The Tragedy of Macbeth opens in theaters on December 25 (counter-programming for Christmas) and streams on Apple TV+ on January 14.

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Our NYFF59 viewing offically began last Saturday with Bergman Island, directed and written by Mia Hansen-Løve. I’d especially liked her earlier film, Father of My Children (2009), so I was looking forward to this. Tony (Tim Roth) and Chris (Vicky Krieps) are a married couple who have come to the Swedish island of Fårö, where Ingmar Bergman lived and shot many of his films. Tony and Chris are filmmakers, each working on a screenplay. They are staying in one of Bergman’s homes and hope to be inspired by the location and the Bergman vibe that seems to be everywhere. Chris is having difficulties with her writing. At one point she begins describing the story of her script. As she does this, the film we’ve been watching begins to weave in an out of her script. Mia Wasikowska and Anders Danielsen Lie play characters in Chris’ story. At times it seems like the film within a film is beginning to take over. After it was over, I wasn’t sure if the film worked, but it’s stayed with me, which is a good sign. One of the most interesting things about Bergman Island is that it was shot in Bergman’s actual homes on the island, and people are constantly talking about Bergman and his films, which lends a kind of documentary aspect.

The trailer is followed by a Q&A with the director and stars, which runs approximately 18 minutes.

Bergman Island opens at the IFC Center in Manhattan on October 14 as part of a series called “Fårö and Other Edens: Films by Ingmar Bergman and Mia Hansen-Løve.”

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The next film, which we saw back to back with Bergman Island, was The Worst Person in the World, a Norwegian film directed by Joachim Trier. We loved it. Here’s a description I’ve adapted from the NYFF program, which gives a good sense of the film: “As proven in such exacting stories of lives on the edge as Reprise and Oslo, August 31, Joachim Trier is singularly adept at giving an invigorating modern twist to classically constructed character portraits. Trier catapults the viewer into the world of his most spellbinding protagonist yet: Julie, played by Cannes Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve, who’s the magnetic center of nearly every scene. After dropping out of pre-med, Julie must find new professional and romantic avenues as she navigates her twenties, juggling emotionally heavy relationships with two very different men (Trier regular Anders Danielsen Lie and engaging newcomer Herbert Nordrum). Fluidly told in 12 discrete chapters, Trier’s film elegantly depicts the precarity of identity and the mutability of happiness in our runaway contemporary world.”

Renate Reinsve truly earned her Best Actress award at Cannes. She gives an extremely engaging performance. Anders Danielsen Lie was also in Bergman Island, so we saw him in consecutive films. Along with Herbert Nordrum, it’s a very strong cast.

The following trailer presents the film as something of a rom-com, which I guess it is, but it’s also more than that. After the trailer is a Q&A with Joachim Trier, Renate Reinsve, and Anders Danielsen Lie. It runs approximately 20 minutes.

A release date has not yet been announced.

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We had one film last Sunday afternoon, Paul Verhoeven’s latest provocation, Benedetta. As we were waiting to enter Alice Tully Hall, we were treated to a vociferous protest against the film by a Catholic organization, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property. They felt that a film about lesbian nuns in a 17th Century convent in Italy has to be blasphemous. I suppose from their point of view, it is, even though Benedetta is based on fact. This “protest” seemed silly and ineffectual to me.

Verhoeven has always pushed the envelope in terms of sex and violence. Robocop, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and Elle come to mind. I like his films partly because he’s not afraid to go over the line, in fact, he’s eager to do so. Though the inclusion of a wooden figure of the Virgin Mary modified to serve as a dildo might have been a bit much.

The trailer is followed by an interview with Verhoeven by Film at Lincoln Center’s Dennis Lim, which runs approximately 41 minutes.

Benedetta will be released theatrically at the IFC Center and Film at Lincoln Center on December 3, and will also be available for streaming.

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On Wednesday afternoon I saw Titane, a French film directed and co-written by Julia Ducournau. Having now seen Titane, I’m at a loss to understand how it received the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the prestigious Palme d’Or. I hadn’t read anything specific about the film, but this seemed like a good sign. I also hadn’t realized that Ducournau had previously made Raw (2016), a film about a vegetarian young woman in her freshman year at a veterinary school who becomes a cannibal. I’d wanted to walk out on that one many times, but I hate to do that, so I stuck it out. Titane is no different in the reaction it provoked in me. The film is aggressive and assaultive in ways I found very ugly and unpleasant. David Cronenberg, whose films I love, is much better at the kind of body horror on display here. I suspect I’m in the wrong demographic for this one. Though it does feature Vincent Lindon, one of my favorite French actors.

I’ve resisted attempting a synopsis. It would require one spoiler alert after another, and I just don’t feel up to the challenge. But this is only my opinion. Sometimes you get on the ride and sometimes you don’t.

The trailer below is followed by a Q&A at the festival with Julia Ducournau, Vincent Lindon, and lead actor Agathe Rouselle. It runs approximately 23 minutes.

Titane opened in theaters today, October 1.

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Wednesday evening we saw The Lost Daughter, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante. It was written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal for her feature film debut. The strong cast, many of whom were onstage at Alice Tully both before and after the film, includes Olivia Colman (awesome as always), Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescak, Dagmara Dominxzyk, Ed Harris, and  writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Colman plays Leda, a divorced college professor on a solo vacation on a Greek island. She becomes involved with a large family that she initially finds annoying. A child’s lost doll figures heavily in the narrative. The present is interwoven with the past and Leda’s memories of her younger self and her relationship with her two daughters. I wasn’t initially sure that the film worked for me, but, like Bergman Island, it’s stayed with me, which is always a good sign.

Here is the Q&A that took place following the screening we saw. I wish Gyllenhaal had been asked about her visual approach and the cinematography, which employs a lot of tight closeups on faces. The Q&A runs approximately 24 minutes.

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Last night I saw a film I’d been anxious to see since reading about it earlier this year, The Velvet Underground, a documentary directed by Todd Haynes. The Velvet Underground is a group that has meant a lot to me over the years, both for the music and the personnel, specifically Lou Reed and John Cale. I’d seen the band play at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco in 1968. The one thing I remember from that concert is when someone in the audience called out for “Heroin,” Lou Reed said, “We don’t play that anymore.” Of course, this signature song continued to be performed by the band and later, during Reed’s solo career. After I moved to New York City in 1977, I saw Lou Reed frequently at The Bottom Line and John Cale almost as many times. Their music has been a part of my life for years. Haynes’ film is startling in many ways, both in the often radical way it’s structured and in the depth of the material presented. I learned a lot I hadn’t known about the backgrounds of the people who came to form the Velvet Underground. The cultural scene in New York in the Sixties provided a unique and fertile landscape that expressed itself through film, art, photography, and music. Everything fed into everything else. The importance of Andy Warhol to all this is examined in the film. The amount of material amassed is almost overwhelming. The editing is excellent. The source attributions listed in the lengthy closing credits seem to go on forever. Along with all the archival footage, interviews conducted for the film are interwoven throughout. Haynes said during the Q&A after the screening that they limited new interviews only to people who were there at the time, in that scene. John Cale is especially great to hear. Maureen Tucker, too.

The Velvet Underground always comes back to the music. I’d forgotten how experimental their sound was, especially during the early years. I think there’s stuff on the first two albums that we still haven’t caught up to yet. Seeing this film reminded me of that. I was quite moved at the end.

The Velvet Underground opens here in New York City on October 13 at Film Forum and Film at Lincoln Center. It begins streaming on Apple TV+ on October 15, though I recommend seeing it on a theater screen played as loud as possible through a good sound system.

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Still to come, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers, and more. In the meantime, stay safe. – Ted Hicks

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Posted in Books, Documentaries, Feature films, Film posters, Home Video, Streaming, TV & Cable | Leave a comment

Bigger Than Life – A Movie Marquee Gallery

Movie theater marquees aren’t what they used to be, that’s for sure. In the last twenty years or so, they’ve become less distinctive and less dramatic. Multiplexes here in Manhattan do without traditional marquees entirely, though smaller theaters, such as Film Forum and the IFC Center, still have them. Most of the examples in this post are of theaters  from the 1940s through the ’70s, with some before and some after. More than a few of them are of theaters in New York City. My interest here is in what these photos can add to our sense of film history and the excitement and anticipation that could be felt just by seeing these marquees.

I grew up in Iowa in the 1950s, where movie-going options were limited to usually one theater each in nearby small towns. My favorite by far was the Vista Theater in Storm Lake, which was about twelve miles north of our farm. My mother loved movies, and we saw a lot together, usually at the Vista. I was probably carried into my first movies, which I’m sure is still imprinted in my database. The photo of the Vista below dates back to 1938, but this is exactly how I remember the theater when I was going there. I love “News & Popeye” at the front of the marquee.

Sometime after I moved to New York in 1977 the Vista expanded, adding smaller theaters adjacent to the main one. Below is a shot of what the theater looks like today. The marquee has been removed entirely, but when I was back for a visit, I was very happy to find that the main auditorium had not been changed. It was exactly as I’d remembered it.

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When I started college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City in the Fall of 1962, I was excited that there were four downtown theaters. The one with the best marquee was the Englert, which showed first-run films.

The Iowa Theater, just around the block from the Englert, showed foreign films as well as classics. It was the local art house. I saw Chaplin’s Modern Times there (on a first date!), and had my first exposure to movie nudity with a Swedish film whose title I’ve forgotten. The Iowa was also directly across the street from Donnelly’s, my all-time favorite bar. When I came back to college after getting out of the Air Force in 1970, I was a ticket-taker and usher at both the Iowa and the Astro Theater, across the street from the Englert. A friend of mine was a projectionist at the Englert, and I would often hang out with him in the booth. I also took tickets for a time at the University Film Society theater in the student union. Lots of movies. Show biz.

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Before coming back to Iowa City, I was stationed for a year and a half at an air base outside of Marysville, California. The State Theater there had a memorable facade and marquee. That’s where I saw Bonnie and Clyde for the first time in 1967. The photo below dates from 1954.

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Another Iowa theater I have to include is the Rialto. I was back from New York running down family tree info. I knew that the courthouse in Pocohantes, 40 miles from where I grew up, had some family records. I drove there to check that out. While in town I noticed the Rialto with its beautiful Art Deco design. Here it is.

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There were even more movie theaters in Minneapolis, where I lived from September 1973 to early January ’77. The shot below was taken on my 30th birthday in 1974 across the street from the State Theater, which was typical of the older theaters in the city. I saw Chinatown in that theater three times the weekend it opened. Had to.

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I moved to New York in January 1977 and have been here on the Upper West Side ever since in the same apartment at 92nd and West End Avenue. I really lucked out with the location, because the Thalia theater was just three blocks north on 95th. Their programming was a never-ending film festival of classic repertory, the great and the misbegotten. Everything from Plan 9 from Outer Space to Kiss Me Deadly, Ozu and Mizoguchi, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. It was great while it lasted. It was always a kick to turn the corner and see the marquee with the large “Thalia” letters atop the marquee jutting out on the block.

At the same time, a few blocks down Broadway was the New Yorker theater on 89th Street. Opened in 1914 as the Adelphi Theater, later called the Yorktown, it was taken over by Dan Talbot as the New Yorker in 1960. Talbot is in the shot below with Alfred Hitchcock.

A few blocks further up Broadway was the Metro Theater, between 99th and 100th Streets. It opened as the Midtown in 1933, showing first-run films until the 1950s. In the 50s and 60s it showed films by Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel, and Roman Polanski. Then in the 70s and 80s it turned a corner and became a porno theater. The photo below dates from 1933.

In 1982, Dan Talbot took over and ran it as a repertory theater. I remember when it reopened. The theater, with its Deco facade, had been refurbished. It looked great. The programming was excellent. Lots of series, such as film noir, Buster Keaton, samurai films, etc. It closed for good in 2005 and has sat empty since then. The interior has been completely gutted, but landmark status preserves the exterior.

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Super-sized Department. Here is a selection of theaters where the advertising has gone beyond the marquees, in some cases with huge banners above the marquee, wrapping around the building itself. Kind of a “Go big or go home” approach.

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Times Square theaters. The Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver years before Disneyfication. I know it was tattered and sleazy, but I kind of miss it. One theater after another, on and on, like a surreal dream.

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The Paris Theater, on West 58th Street in Manhattan by the Plaza Hotel, opened on September 13, 1948. Marlene Dietrich cut the ribbon while the U.S. Ambassador to France stood by. With the closing of the Ziegfeld Theater in 2016, the Paris is now the last remaining single-screen theater in Manhattan. In August 2019, a closure notice was posted. The thought of the Paris being no more was not fun to contemplate. It reopened that November with Netflix taking over operation. That takes a little getting used to, but the Paris is still with us.

Below, the U.S. premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet in 1968. Beneath that, The Artist, which we saw there on Thanksgiving Day, 2011. The interior of the theater has been refurbished over the years, but basically has not changed since 1948 (to the best of my knowledge).

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Drive-In Theaters

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Other marquees of note.

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I know this shot isn’t strictly speaking showing a marquee, but I think it fits the bill anyway.

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That’s probably more than enough for now. Until next time, stay safe. – Ted Hicks

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Posted in Feature films, Film, History | 5 Comments

Basic Bogart – Notes on Three Key Films

 

 

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Recently I went to Film Forum for the start of a three-week series of Humphrey Bogart films (July 16 to August 5). I saw The Maltese Falcon (1941) back to back with Casablanca (1942). I’ll see The Big Sleep (1946) later next week. I’ll bet that when most people think of Humphrey Bogart, they’re thinking of him as he is in these three films. For those people — and I’m one of them — Bogart is largely defined by his roles in these films. Audiences already knew him as a gangster in films such as The Petrified Forest (1936) and The Roaring Twenties (1939), and as great as he was later in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), In a Lonely Place (1950), The African Queen (1951), and The Caine Mutiny (1954), it’s as Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Philip Marlowe that he became a true icon. Though it can be argued that his sympathetic role as gangster “Mad Dog” Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941) played a big part in this process. But think of Bogart in his trench coat and hat at the end of Casablanca. That image carries a lot of weight.

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Some of the titles in the Bogart series are being shown in 35mm and others in DCP (Digital Cinema Package). I know there are many film goers who vigorously prefer seeing films in 35mm over DCP. For me, the advantages of seeing a film that looks clean and crisp, without splices, scratches, and other damage far outweigh any loss of texture that comes with the grain of a 35mm print. The Maltese Falcon is DCP and looks great, while Casablanca is a 35mm print that’s been around the block more than a few times. It’s somewhat beaten up, with some scenes that have been repaired, losing pieces of dialogue, etc. This is distracting. But I’m not going to not see a film because it’s in 35mm. The Big Sleep is 35mm, and there’s no way I’m missing that. You have to take it as it comes. (I just learned that Film Forum is showing a new print of The Big Sleep, so there shouldn’t be any problems.)

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The Maltese Falcon (1941 – John Huston, director & writer)  I love The Maltese Falcon. It’s a nearly perfect film in every way. Huston had already established himself as a screenwriter, but this was his first film as director as well as writer. The Maltese Falcon had already been filmed twice before, first in 1931 under that title, and unrecognizably as Satan Met a Lady in 1936. Both had little to recommend them. It might not have seemed promising to make yet another version, but Huston made the difference. He basically filmed the book. Most of the dialogue comes straight from Dashiell Hammett’s novel. Huston finished shooting the film two days ahead of schedule and $54,000 under budget.

The Maltese Falcon is one of those films where you can’t imagine anyone else playing the parts. George Raft was initially lined up for the role of Sam Spade, but he refused to work with a first-time director in an “unimportant” film. Bogart got the part, making this the first of five films he would do with John Huston. His Sam Spade has a gritty integrity and a strong moral complass. He is self-assured, ironic, sardonic, and always quick with a clever comeback. As Raymond Chandler once said, “All Bogart has to do to dominate a scene is to enter it.” He can be incredibly charismatic, as he is here. The killing of his partner, Miles Archer, is the only scene in the film that doesn’t involve Sam Spade. Otherwise, the film is entirely from Spade’s point of view.

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The following clip shows Spade’s first meeting with Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre). Cairo is clearly homosexual in Hammett’s novel, but that had to be downplayed in the film to get past the censors. It’s still rather obvious, though in somewhat clichéd terms.

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Spade’s first encounter with Wilmer (Elisha Cook, Jr.) and his great line, “People lose teeth talking like that.”

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Another great hardboiled quote: “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.”

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Another great line of dialogue comes when Joel Cairo says to Spade, “You always have a very smooth explanation ready.” To which Spade replies, “What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?” I’ve been unable find a clip of this exchange, which is too bad,  because Bogart’s delivery really nails it.

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Sydney Greenstreet had acted for years on the stage in Britain and the United States, but this was his screen debut at age 61, for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He’s wonderfully entertaining as Kaspar Gutman, aka the “Fat Man.” Tipping the scale at 357 pounds, he certainly fit the part. Huston often shot him from low angles to emphasize his bulk, as though that was necessary. The following scene with Bogart communicates his charm as well as an understated menace.

Greenstreet would go on to make five films with Humphrey Bogart, and a total of nine with Peter Lorre. His film career would last a little over eight years, but he certainly made an impact.

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Even people who haven’t seen The Maltese Falcon, if indeed there are any, are familiar  with what is probably the film’s most famous line, “The stuff that dreams are made of.” Of course, this comes from Shakespeare (as so much does), but no matter.

Bogart has said of The Maltese Falcon, “It was practically a masterpiece. I don’t have many things I’m proud of, but that’s one.”

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Casablanca (1942 – Michael Curtiz, director)  Roger Ebert has said that while Citizen Kane is considered to be a greater film, Casablanca is more loved. Sounds right to me. I remember seeing it with a packed house at Film Forum on New Year’s Eve in 2016. After it was over, “As Time Goes By” began to play, with a bouncing ball following the lyrics on the screen. I don’t think there was anyone in the theater who didn’t sing along. I know we did. It was such a communal experience. After all, it was New Year’s Eve, which I think amplified the strong feelings that Casablanca creates.

Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine is one of his definitive roles. An American expatriate in Casablanca who runs a popular nightclub, he has a tough, cynical, no-nonsense exterior with a sentimental streak. He’s also a tragic figure, pining for his lost love, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), whose surprise appearance in Casablanca sets the plot in motion.

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Besides Bogart and  Bergman, Casablanca has a great cast. As with The Maltese Falcon, it’s hard now to imagine any other actors in those roles — with the exception of Paul Henreid as Ilsa’s husband and fugitive resistance leader Victor Laszlo, who I think is little more than functional in the film.  Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre are all very strong. And it’s a pleasure to see French actor Marcel Dalio as the croupier in Rick’s club, having been in Jean Renoir’s great films, Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game.

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As with The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca has lines of dialogue that have entered into popular lexicon. They exist outside of the film.

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

“We’ll always have Paris.”

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Then there’s the line that Ilsa says to Sam (Dooley Wilson) at the piano in Rick’s club, “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.'” Thanks to Woody Allen, this is often misquoted as “Play it again, Sam.” This is never said in the film.

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Here’s the truly inspiring scene where Victor Laszlo leads a singing of “La Marseillaise” in Rick’s club to taunt Major Strasser and other Nazi officers in attendence.

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And finally, “Here’s looking at you, kid” and “We’ll always have Paris.”

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The Big Sleep (1946 – Howard Hawks, director)  An immensely satisfying film with another definitive Bogart performance and a definitive pairing of Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Philip Marlowe has been portrayed by Dick Powell (Murder My Sweet – 1944), Robert Montgomery (Lady in the Lake – 1947), James Garner (Marlowe – 1969), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye – 1973), and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely – 1975 and The Big Sleep – 1978). Considering the strengths and weaknesses of these films and performances, when the dust has settled, Bogart’s Marlowe is the one left standing. Dick Powell is good and has the necessary toughness, and I love Elliott Gould’s revisionist Marlowe in Robert Altman’s iconoclastic take on the genre, but at the end of the day, it’s Bogart.

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Marlowe meets Carmen Sternwood and the General.

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Marlowe meets Vivian (Lauren Bacall).

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Marlowe and Vivian discuss horse racing (with a helping of double entendres) at lunch.

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Marlowe hears Vivian sing at Eddie Mars’ gambling club.

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The plot of The Big Sleep gets rather complex. Per Wikipedia: “An unanswered question in The Big Sleep is who killed the chauffeur. When Howard Hawks filmed the novel his writing team was perplexed by that question, in response to which Chandler replied that he had no idea.” Myself, I don’t really care. It’s a great film. I’m not bothered by any loose ends.

The screenplay for The Big Sleep was written by William Faulkner (!), Jules Furthman, and Leigh Brackett. It’s interesting that Brackett would later write the screenplay for Altman’s The Long Goodbye, a rather different version of Philip Marlowe.

The music score was by Max Steiner, one of the greatest composers of film music.

The The Big Sleep was edited by Christian Nyby, who a few years later was the director of The Thing from Another World (1951). It’s generally assumed that Howard Hawks actually directed that film. I’m always rooting for the underdog, so as long as Nyby is the director of record, that’s who I’m going with.

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If it’s true that the popular Bogart persona was created in these three films, it’s also true that he was not limited to them. He was a real actor. At the start of this post I mentioned other films I thought he was great in. These include Sahara (1943), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), In a Lonely Place (1950), The African Queen (1951), and The Caine Mutiny (1954).

A heavy smoker and drinker, Bogart was diagnosed in early 1956 with esophageal cancer. He made one final film, The Harder They Fall, released in March of that year. I wish this had been included in Film Forum’s Bogart series, but you can’t have everything. Besides, it’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime. The Harder They Fall is a tough boxing film based on Budd Schulberg’s 1947 novel. Bogart plays Eddie Willis, a sportswriter out of a job when his newspaper folds. Financially strapped, he reluctantly goes to work for Nick Benko a terminally crass boxing promoter, played at full throttle by Rod Steiger. Benko has acquired Toro Moreno, an oversized lunk from Argentina with a decided lack of boxing skills. Through a series of fixed fights, Benko plans to sell Moreno to the public as a contender. He expects Eddie Willis to be instrumental in this.

Despite being very sick, Bogart gives a totally powerful performance as a man forced to go against his principles and integrity. In the following scene, he finally draws the line.

Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957 at age 57. I was shocked when I realized how young he was.

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Just to show it wasn’t always a home run, here are two exceedingly strange films Bogart filmed in 1939: The Oklahoma Kid, a Western with James Cagney, and The Return of Doctor X, a horror film with Bogart as a mad scientist brought back from the dead. Indeed. Cagney and Bogart in films like these makes one wonder who could have thought it was a good idea. Though I’ve got to admit, Bogart looks pretty cool all dressed in black.

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Wikipedia entries:

Humphrey Bogart

Bogart filmography

The Maltese Falcon

Casablanca

The Big Sleep

The Harder They Fall

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Two books worth checking out: Noah Isenberg’s We’ll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Film is an in-depth study of all aspects of the making of this film. The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Stephen D. Youngkin is an exhaustive critical biography of Lorre. Of particular interest are sections that deal with Lorre’s involvement in films with Humphrey Bogart.

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Here is a fairly insightful video that looks at Bogart’s most significant roles and what makes them tick. Running time is approximately eight minutes.

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That’s all for now. Until next time, stay safe. — Ted Hicks

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Film Books – Recent Acquisitions

In October of 2019, I posted a three-part series on film books in my library — both old and new — that I considered significant. I’ve since acquired several titles that I think are worth mentioning. Of the following eight books, all but two of them have been purchased since the first of this year. Here they are.

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I love “making of” film books, especially when they’re as good as these two.  They’ve set new standards for how this can be done.

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Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas by Glenn Kenny (Hanover Square Press, 2020)

I first became aware of Glenn Kenny from his film reviews in the New York Times, but nothing prepared me for the forensic attention to detail he brings to this study of Martin Scorsese’s epic 1990 gangster film, Goodfellas. To say it’s in-depth doesn’t do it justice. Check out the table of contents below.

Of particular note is the fourth part, “A Martin Scorsese Picture, Scene by Scene.” This breakdown of every scene in the film takes up 162 pages of a 397 page book, but it’s not simply a description of what happens. The backgrounds of real-life figures and the actors who portray them are woven in and out. The information goes deep. This is true of the entire book. What might at first seem like digressions serve to create a fuller picture. This enriches our appreciation and understanding of Goodfellas, really gets into its DNA.

Kenny introduces the iconic “How Am I Funny” scene as “…one of the film’s most famous, most quoted scenes. And it defines the knife edge of comedy and mayhem (physical and/or moral) that much of the rest of the film balances on, almost always falling the side of mayhem.”

After the scene by scene breakdown, part five is “All the Songs,” which covers the music in the film and the reasons for choosing each song. Kenny writes, “In Goodfellas Scorsese moves freely between songs coming from jukeboxes and live performances and songs that are just in the air, so to speak.” Anyone familiar with Scorsese’s films knows that music, especially rock, is very important to him. He’s quoted in Made Men as saying, “For me, it’s very, very serious. Probably the most enjoyable part of making movies is to select these songs.”

There’s a lot more to Made Men, such as a chapter on Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s editor since Raging Bull in 1980, what happened to the real Henry Hill, and a 2020 interview with Scorsese talking about Goodfellas and his career in general. This is a densely packed work, and I recommend it highly.

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The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson (Flatiron Books, 2020)

As with Made Men, this book goes beyond the usual nuts and bolts of how a particular film was made, which in this case is the classic Chinatown. I bought my copy in April of last year, but my first attempt to read it was short-lived. Focusing on four key participants — actor Jack Nicholson, producer Robert Evans, director Roman Polanski, and screenwriter Robert Towne — it seemed promising indeed. I was initially put off by Wasson’s style of saying what people were thinking or feeling. I guess I was more used to the “usual nuts and bolts” approach. That’s what I’d been expecting, not some novelistic approach. So I put it down for several months, until one day I decided to take another run at it. This time I slipped right into it. Checking the 47 pages of notes at the end of the book, I saw that every thought or feeling Wasson had ascribed to someone had a source in interviews (either previously published or by the author) and articles.

Like Glenn Kenny, Sam Wasson goes for depth. And like Made Men, what might first seem like digressions adds layers that create a fuller picture.

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Music by Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer by Steven C. Smith (Oxford University Press, 2020)

The flyleaf of the book has this to say: “During a seven-decade career that spanned from 19th-century Vienna to 1920s Broadway to the golden age of Hollywood, three-time Academy Award winner Max Steiner did more than any other composer to introduce and establish the language of film music.”

I’ve not yet finished reading Music by Max Steiner, but this past March I streamed a virtual lecture by the author that was fascinating. It motivated me to buy a copy of the book.

I’ve loved Steiner’s film music for many years, though I don’t think I was aware of the scope of his output. He composed over 300 scores for RKO and then Warner Bros., receiving 24 Oscar nominations along the way. His work includes King Kong (1933), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Letter (1940), Now Voyager (1942), Casablanca (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), White Heat (1949), and probably my favorite, The Searchers (1956).

My response to the music of The Searchers is no doubt informed and influenced by my love of the film itself, just as my love of the film is reinforced by the power and emotion of Steiner’s score. It’s all of a piece, all one thing.

From Music by Max  Steiner:

The Searchers came to Max not via its director, John Ford, but its producer. Merian C. Cooper envisioned a reunion of the creative trio behind two of his most acclaimed projects, The Lost Patrol and The Informer. But the renewed partnership proved a rocky one. Ford eschewed a big-orchestra approach in his films, preferring spare folk song accompaniments. When Cooper proposed hiring Steiner, a compromise was struck: country vocalist Stan Jones would write and perform a title song with his group, the Sons of the Pioneers (a Ford favorite). Max would incorporate Jones’ melody throughout his score. The blend fit the film magnificently. Jones’ ballad delineates anti-hero Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), a loner who spends years roaming post-Civil War America, hunting for the niece who was taken as a child by Indians. What make a man to wander? / What makes a man to roam? / What makes a man leave bed and board / And turn his back on home?

The “soundtrack suite” (running time 14:54).

The final scene of The Searchers, powered by Steiner’s music. It gets me every time.

Max Steiner’s incredible filmography can be accessed here.

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A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere: The Untold Story of the Making of Fargo by Todd Melby (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2021)

This is a very informative, highly entertaining account of the making of Joel and Ethan Coen’s now-classic film, Fargo. Todd Melby covers in detail the writing, casting, production, and afterlife of the film. We learn the lengths to which William H. Macy would go to land the role of Jerry Lundegaard; the difficulties of shooting snow-covered landscapes during a season when there was little snow; the efforts to have the regional accents be just right; and the post-Fargo journey of the wood chipper. And that’s not all. Shortly after finishing Melby’s book, I watched Fargo again. I never grow tired of seeing it, but this time I had the knowledge of how it came to be.

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The Nolan Variations: The Movies, Mysteries and Marvels of Christopher Nolan by Tom Shone (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020)

I initially got this book from the library, but realized I’d never get through it all by the time I had to return it. I felt like I needed to know what was in it, so I ordered a copy. I began by skipping around, reading about certain films. I soon realized it was so densely packed and interconnected that I would have to read it from beginning to end in order to get the most out of it. I still haven’t done that, but my selective reading has so far inspired me to re-see  Nolan’s Insomnia (2002), The Prestige (2006), the three Batman films, and Interstellar (2014).

The Nolan Variations is clearly not a superficial study. I sense that, similar to Made Men and The Big Goodbye, it includes digressive material that ultimately leads back to the main subject. The table of contents suggests that this is not the usual book about a film director.

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Alien Invasions! The History of Aliens in Pop Culture edited by Michael Stein (IDW Pulishing, 2020)

This is an ideal book for me, given my lifelong interest in science fiction and horror. Copiously illustrated, it covers the topic of alien invasions from H. G. Wells through pulp magazines, comic books, movies and television, and beyond. The table of contents breaks it down.

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The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of  Suspense by Edward White (W. W. Norton & Company, 2021)

I’m a third of the way into this now, and liking it a lot. Per the flyleaf copy, “The book’s twelve chapters illuminate different aspects of Hitchcock’s life and work… Each of these angles reveals something fundamental about the man he was and the mythological creature he has become, presenting not just the life Hitchcock lived but also the various versions of himself that he projected and those projected on his behalf.”

In what I’ve read so far, White is persuasive in laying out how Hitchcock became “Hitchcock,” with all his complexities, genius, and manifold flaws.

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Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris (Penguin Press, 2021)

I wanted to read Mark Harris’ biography of Mike Nichols as soon as I heard of it. Nichols is endlessly fascinating to me, and very, very funny. Sometime last year I read Life Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends. It was great. So I was ready for a hefty biography. Mark Harris is a terrific writer. His Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (2008) and Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War (2014) are major works. I reread Pictures after finishing his Nichols book, and it was just as good as when I first read it.

Mike Nichols feels like a definitive book. Harris goes deep and gets inside his subject. An epigraph at the beginning, quoting Nichols, sets it all up: “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Big things look like little things. Little things don’t have big signs on them that say ‘This is a Big Thing.’ They look like everything else. Disaster can reorder our lives in wonderful ways, and you just go on to the next thing. I passionately believe that in art, and certainly in the theater, there are only two questions… The first question is: ‘What is this, really, when it happens in life?’ Not what is the accepted convention… but what is it really like? And the other question we really have to ask is, ‘What happens next?'”

I was primarily interested in Nichols’ ground-breaking work with Elaine May and, of course, his films. Harris delivers in spades, and then some. I was deeply moved by the following passage at the end of the last chapter before an epilogue. Nichols had been to dinner with his wife, Diane Sawyer, and three of his children. “As they got back to the apartment, he complained of feeling dizzy and collapsed. He died a short time later, surrounded by the people he loved the most. He left behind an appointment book for the coming week that was completely full.” Completely full. That kills me. It perfectly describes Nichols’ approach to life.

My only complaint with the book is that the binding began breaking down before I’d finished reading it. Take my advice, don’t get the hard cover.

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My previous posts on film books can be accessed at the following:

Bookish 2: Favorite Film Books Then & Now

Film Books – Part 2

Film Books – The Last Batch

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That wraps up this installment. See you next time. Until then, be safe. — Ted Hicks

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Posted in Books, Feature films, Film posters, History, Home Video, Music, Streaming, TV & Cable | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going Back – Supplemental

For a deeper look, here are interviews and discussions for most of the films covered in the previous post. Running times for videos are indicated.

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The Courier

Benedict Cumberbatch and director Dominic Cooke interview (8:18)

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Gunda

Interview with director Viktor Kosakovsky at the New York Film Festival (27:02)

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The Human Voice

Interview with Pedro Almodóvar and Tilda Swinton at the New York Film Festival (1:04:19)

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In the Earth

Interview with director Ben Wheatley and actors (7:39)

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La Strada

Martin Scorsese on La Strada (13:14)

La Strada wins 1957 Academy Award (1:45)

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Nobody

Interview with cast and filmmaker (26:15)

Bus fight — scene breakdown (10:25)

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Rear Window

Martin Scorsese on Rear Window (1:00)

How Hitchcock controls the audience (8:43)

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Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

Interview with director Marilyn Agrelo & producers at the Sundance Film Festival (13:26)

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The Truffle Hunters

Directors Q&A at Toronto International Film Festival (16:04)

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That’s it for this segment. See you next time, and as always, be safe. — Ted Hicks

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Posted in Documentaries, Feature films, Film, Film posters, Home Video, Non-Fiction, Streaming, TV & Cable | 1 Comment

Going Back: Movie Theaters 2.0

I’m seeing movies in theaters again! On March 22, I saw Tenet in IMAX at the AMC Lincoln Square theater at 68th and Broadway here in New York City. This was my first time back in a theater in over a year, since March 14 of last year, when I saw Hitchcock’s Stage Fright at Film Forum. I’ve had both of my COVID-19 vaccination shots, so I felt reasonably safe. The experience of being back in a theater was oddly underwhelming, though. It was like I’d always been there, that I’d never left. I think this was largely because this particular theater doesn’t have the same meaning for me — as a theater — that venues like Film Forum or Walter Reade do. It also felt weird being one of only 25 or 30 people in an auditorium that holds around 600. There wasn’t that communal feeling of seeing a movie with an audience, because there basically wasn’t one.

I’d thought that my return to movie theaters would take place at Film Forum, which wasn’t slated to reopen until April 2. But when I learned that Tenet was showing on the IMAX screen at Lincoln Square, I knew I couldn’t wait. I didn’t know how long it would be there, and didn’t want to chance missing it. Christopher Nolan had shot most of Tenet in IMAX, and that’s how I wanted to see it. But last year, as movie theaters in New York City remained closed, and it seemed unlikely I’d be able to do so, I purchased a digital copy of Tenet to see on our flat-screen, rather than not see it at all.

As I’d expected, Tenet was visually spectacular on that IMAX screen, which is reportedly the largest in the country (80 feet high, 100 feet wide). Its narrative remains extremely complex (okay, confusing), which isn’t helped by a sound mix that renders much of the dialogue incomprehensible. When I’d watched it at home, I’d used closed captions, but that was not an option at Lincoln Square. I’ve always liked time-travel stories, and that aspect of Tenet, to the extent I understood it, is pretty cool. John David Washington is a charismatic presence, and Robert Pattinson is excellent.

Here is a brief clip from Tenet that shows how well Nolan can shoot and edit a sequence. There’s a feeling of physical weight to what’s on the screen in his films. Imagine seeing this on a screen six stories high.

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Seeing Tenet got my feet back in the water. Eight days later, on May 30, I returned to Lincoln Square to see Nobody in their Dolby theater (better picture, earthquake-level sound, more expensive ticket). By this time, I’d re-activated my Stubs A-List membership, which means that for $19.95 a month I can see up to three movies a week at AMC theaters, IMAX and Dolby included. All I have to do is see one or two films and the month is paid for.

My attraction to Nobody was that it starred Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) as the unlikely protagonist in an action movie, and was written by Derek Kolstad. Kolstad wrote the John Wick films, which I like, especially the first one. Nobody is pretty good, in a no-redeeming-social-value kind of way. Here’s the trailer.

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Film Forum reopened on April 2 and I was there to see La Strada (1954), directed and co-written by Federico Fellini. I’d seen the film many years ago and had forgotten most of it. I wasn’t as knocked out by it as I expected I would be, but I can see why it made such an impact. La Strada received many international awards, included Best Foreign Language Film at the 1957 Academy Awards. Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, is other-worldly and heartbreaking as Gelsomina, playing opposite the brutish Anthony Quinn. The film looks great in a 4K restoration.

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It was great being back at Film Forum. Of course, things don’t feel the same, not with only a few people at each screening. Theaters are allowed to have concessions, but Film Forum has elected to play it very safe and doesn’t, for the time being. Tragically, this means NO POPCORN. Their popcorn is the greatest in the world, certainly the best popcorn I’ve ever had in a movie theater. I just have to be patient.

Film Forum concession stand

NO POPCORN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And then, for my sins (no doubt), three days later I went back to Lincoln Square to see Godzilla vs. Kong in IMAX. Based on what I’d seen and heard, I didn’t expect much. It was even worse than I feared, terrible, incoherent. So why did I go? Probably just to see it in IMAX. And with my A-List membership, it didn’t cost me anything, other than two hours out of my life that I’ll never get back. Maybe I should be more careful in my choices. My biggest objection, other than the fact that the narrative makes no sense, is that the battles taking place in urban environments would result in huge numbers of civilian casualties, a horrendous death toll. But because of the PG-13 rating, none of that can be shown or even acknowledged. No blood, no bodies. That said, I’ve got to admit, the image below is pretty cool.

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Back to Film Forum on April 9 to see Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). This is a great film, one of his best. I am always struck by how supernaturally beautiful Grace Kelly is in every scene. James Stewart is wonderful, as is Thelma Ritter. Not to mention Raymond Burr as the suspicious guy across the courtyard. It’s an intensely pleasurable film. I remember seeing it at the New York Film Festival in 1983. Rear Window, along with Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry, and Rope had been held out of circulation by Hitchcock for a number of years. After his death, they were going to be shown again. Rear Window was the first to be re-released. Stewart was at the Saturday afternoon screening I attended at Alice Tully Hall. I was seated a few rows from the front and to the side. Stewart was there to introduce the film, and from where I sat, I could see him standing just off stage, waiting to be called out. It was exciting to see him standing there in the backstage shadows before anything happened. As I recall, it had been raining heavily that day. When he came out he said, “My gosh, you people will go out in anything.” Or words to that effect. He then went on to say that he had just seen Rear Window for the first time in many years, and that he thought it “held up pretty well.” He was right about that.

An interesting thing about the following trailer is that near the end, Stewart turns to the camera and speaks directly to us about the film. You don’t see this very often.

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On April 16, I was back at Film Forum to see two films by Pedro Almodóvar: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) and a new 30-minute short, The Human Voice (2020). I’d seen Women when it was released here in ’88, but had forgotten most of it. It was probably the first Almodóvar film I’d seen at that point. I didn’t like it much this time around, but The Human Voice was great. It stars Tilda Swinton in her best David Bowie look, and she is magnificent.

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The next day, April 17, my wife Nancy and I went to the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, which is part of Film at Lincoln Center. We were there to see French Exit, a new film with Michele Pfeiffer. We didn’t like it much, though Pfeiffer has gotten rave reviews for her performance. The most significant thing about this was that it was Nancy’s first time in movie theater in over a year. She’d gotten her second vaccination shot three weeks prior, and was ready to join me.

I know the trailer makes French Exit looks promising (that’s what trailers do), but the film just didn’t work for us. Sometimes you get on the ride, and sometimes you don’t.

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Two days later I was at Lincoln Square to see Ben Wheatley’s environmentalist horror film, In the Earth. This is very strange going, with more than a few WTF moments. For the most part, I was into it, though I haven’t thought about it much since.

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Film Forum again, April 22, to see The Truffle Hunters (2020), a terrific documentary set in a region of Northern Italy where old men and their dogs hunt for the white Alba truffle in the forests, often at night. It’s always a pleasure to be shown something you hadn’t seen before and knew nothing about, especially when it’s done as well as this. The relationships of the men and their dogs is quite moving. A review by David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter can be read here. It reflects the extremely positive response the film has received.

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Two days later, back at Film Forum to see Gunda, a film I’d been wanting to see since I first learned of it last year. Directed by Viktor Kosakovsky, Gunda is a documentary about pigs, chickens, and cattle, but not like anything you’ve seen before. It has a very different way of looking at things. No music, no narration, no humans on screen at all. For the entire movie we’re just seeing animals be, watching them in long takes at close range. Gunda centers mainly on a mother sow and her litter of piglets. It makes a nice companion piece to The Truffle Hunters, in a way. They’re both dealing with things in a very elemental way. A review by Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, which can be read here, gives a good sense of the film, as does the trailer below.

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April 28, at AMC Lincoln Square to see The Courier (2020), a spy drama with Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s not great, but it’s not bad, either, and has a nice John Le Carré vibe. Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne, a British business man recruited by MI6 and the CIA to get intel on nuclear arms from a Russian mole. Based on a true story, The Courier is set in the early 1960s, with the Cuban Missile Crisis waiting in the wings. Benedict Cumberbatch is very good here. An actor I was not familiar with, Merab Ninidze, is excellent as Oleg Penkovsky, the high-level Russian official who passes information to Wynne, at great risk to them both (naturally, as it’s a spy movie).

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And to bring this up to date, last Saturday we went to the Quad Cinema to see Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021). It was our first time to the Quad since they’d reopened. They have a great facility and it was nice to be back, though not exactly overflowing with people, as you can see from the shots below. Then again, it was a Saturday afternoon with beautiful weather, so maybe for some there were better things to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Gang is WONDERFUL!!! Sesame Street is an institution, and an important one. From an educational, cultural, and entertainment point of view, it’s close to unique. Directed by Marilyn Agrelo, Street Gang skillfully weaves together archival  footage from the program and behind the scenes with interviews to tell the extraordinary story of the beginnings and development of the show. Agrela had made an earlier documentary, Mad Hot Ballroom, about students from several New York City elementary schools who learn ballroom dancing in order to compete in a city-wide dance contest. It was inspiring and entertaining in its message, as is Street Gang.

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Okay, I’m seeing movies in theaters on big screens again, but I’ll continue to stream films at home. I got used to that out of necessity during the last year. Viewing habits continue to evolve. Meanwhile, as part of my arbitrary repertory program, I’m about to watch Appaloosa (2008), a Western with Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. Until next time, be safe. — Ted Hicks

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Posted in Feature films, Film, Film posters, Home Video, Streaming, TV & Cable | 2 Comments

Best TV, Cable & Streaming 2020/2021 – Supplemental

For those who would like to go a little deeper, here is a selection of interviews, discussions, and featurettes for some of the titles covered in parts 1 and 2. Running times for videos are indicated. Pick and choose, as per your interest. No pressure, there won’t be a quiz.

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The Crown

The cast on making season 4. (12:34)

Emma Corin on playing Princess Diana. (3:58)

Gillian Anderson on playing Margaret Thatcher. (4:06)

Josh O’Connor & Emma Corin on playing Charles & Diana. (10:01)

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The Good Fight

Times Talks: Women of The Good Fight. (1:18:26)

Christine Baranski & Justin Bartha interview. (29:03)

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Jack Irish

About the series. (9:55)

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Line of Duty

Five seasons recapped in six minutes. (6:03)

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Lovecraft Country

Cast interview. (45:01)

Historical references in Lovecraft Country. (6:51)

How the monsters were created. (11:14)

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Miss Scarlet and the Duke

Stuart Martin interview. (15:52)

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The Morning Show

Main Title sequence. (1:50)

Cast panel discussions. (59:17)

Billy Crudup interview. (40:36)

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Mrs. America

Cast interview. (47:07)

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Mystery Road

Behind the Scenes of season one. (3:26)

Director Iven Sen interview. (2:09)

Aaron Pederson interview. (8:42)

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Ozark

Cast interview. (30:29)

Julia Garner interview. (24:01)

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Perry Mason

Perry Mason in books, films, and TV shows. (11:15)

The classic Perry Mason theme rearranged by guitarist Mark Doyle. This isn’t in the HBO show, but if you like the theme, this is very cool. (4:20)

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Pretend It’s a City

1978 interview with Fran Liebowitz. This isn’t in the Netflix series, but I think it shows that she’s basically the same person now that she was then.

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Queen’s Gambit

Behind the Scenes. (14:09)

Cast & creator discussion at the 92nd Street Y, moderated by Jodie Foster . (1:16:30)

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Rake

Richard Roxburgh interview. (7:11)

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Silent Witness

Clip montage of 25 years of Silent Witness. (2:36)

Interview with David Cave and Liz Carr. (5:16)

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The Spy

Main Title sequence. (1:17)

Interview with Sacha Baron Cohen. (4:08)

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What We Do in the Shadows

Season One featurette. (4:20)

Season Two featurette. (3:02)

Cast panel at 2020 Comic Con. (32:54)

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That’s probably more than enough for now. Until next time, stay tuned and stay safe. — Ted Hicks

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Posted in Art, Books, History, Home Video, Music, Streaming, TV & Cable | 1 Comment

Best TV, Cable & Streaming – 2020 & 2021 (so far) – Part 2

Here are twelve more titles to wrap up this survey of what I’ve liked on the small screen in 2020 and so far this year.

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Miss Scarlet and the Duke (PBS Masterpiece)  Set in Victorian London of 1882, this series concerns Eliza Scarlet (played by Kate Phillips), an aspiring sleuth who takes over her recently deceased father’s detective agency. Of course, no one at that time can even comprehend the idea of a female detective. This is a constant challenge for her. She seeks support for her ambitions from a friend of her father’s, Scotland Yard Detective Inspector William “The Duke” Wellington. For the Duke, Eliza is a constant irritant who wants to help with cases that often befuddle the professional police. She’s a disconcerting presence for those around her, a smart-ass with Sherlockian powers of observation. Her relationship with the Duke has the familiar dynamic of male/female protagonists who constantly rebuff the other, and who you know should really be together. There’s a modern sensibility to their relationship and Eliza’s personality that might not be credible given the period, but overall Miss Scarlet and the Duke is very entertaining in ways I associate with Gentleman Jack (HBO) and the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series (PBS). The final two episodes of the six-episode season also raise the stakes in darker ways that I hope continue in the next season.

Also, the production design and costumes are outstanding. Eliza’s outfits always pop against darker backgrounds.

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The Morning Show (Apple TV)  Mitch Lester (played by Steve Carell) and Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) were beloved co-hosts of “The Morning Show.” As this terrific series begins, Lester is out of a job after revelations of sexual-harassment charges against him. The show and its network go into damage control overdrive as they attempt to deal with the fallout and survive the scandal. Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), an outspoken field reporter with a regional news show in the south, joins “The Morning Show” as Alex Levy’s new co-host. Very timely in the MeToo reality, the show is fast, funny, and dramatic. The excellent cast also includes Mark Duplass as the harried producer of the show, and Billy Crudup as a non-traditional network executive whose agenda I was never quite sure of, though he’s one of the most interesting characters to me. Will be interesting to see if the next season can maintain the energy.

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Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)  Really great mini-series about the polarizing efforts in the 1970s to prevent the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) from being ratified, led by conservative activist Phyliss Schlafly (played by Cate Blanchett). There are excellent performances from all,  including Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinhem, Uzu Aduba (Crazy Eyes on Orange Is the New Black) as Shirley Chisholm, and Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug. Martindale is a favorite of ours. She was amazing on Justified and The Americans.  Here she lets it rip as Abzug. I was pleased to see that four of the nine episodes were directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Together they have written and directed some terrific feature films, including Half Nelson (2006) with Ryan Gosling, Mississippi Grind (2015), and a Marvel superhero film, the excellent Captain Marvel (2019). Mrs. America is very engaging and very well made. A footnote is that the ERA has yet to be fully ratified.

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Mystery Road (Amazon Prime/Acorn)  Another great Australian series. Similar to Jack Irish, the series was preceded by feature films. In this case there were two: Mystery Road (2013) and Goldstone (2018).  There have been two seasons of the series, the first in 2018 and the second in 2020. All feature Aaron Pederson as indigenous police detective Jay Swan. To describe his character as tight-lipped and taciturn is an understatement. His cowboy hat, boots, and holstered weapon give him a Gary Cooper vibe. The features and the series are set in northern Western Australia, a vast, open landscape evocative of the American West. These are modern day westerns with strong neo-noir vibes. I recommend seeing the feature films first, which lead into the series. The first season of the series gets an added boost by having the great Judy Davis as a local police sergeant working with Jay Swan. In each storyline he gets sent to different communities to solve crimes. Tragic stuff happens.

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Ozark (Netflix)  Here’s the setup, per Wikipedia: “After a money laundering scheme for a Mexican drug cartel goes wrong, financial advisor Martin “Marty” Byrde proposes to make amends by offering to set up a bigger laundering operation in the Lake of the Ozarks region of central Missouri. Marty suddenly relocates his family from Chicago to the remote summer resort community of Osage Beach, Missouri. When the Byrdes arrive in Missouri, they become entangled with local criminals and later the Kansas City mafia.”

A terrific series with good people going bad, a la Breaking Bad (including that level of violence and duplicity). Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star as Marty and Wendy Byrde, with Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner as their children, Charlotte and Jonah. Julia Garner is especially great. She has received two consecutive supporting actress Emmy awards for her portrayal of Ruth Langmore, member of a local family of criminals. We first saw her on The Americans, and more recently in The Assistant, a feature film. Janet McTeer is also excellent, and very scary, as Helen Pierce, a lawyer for the drug cartel. We see the Byrdes continually getting backed into corners and somehow bluffing their way out, which frequently ends up with bodies on the ground. There have been three seasons so far, and a fourth is in the works. Below are trailers for season one and two.

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Perry Mason (HBO Max)  I was intrigued when I first heard HBO was doing a Perry Mason series. Matthew Rhys was terrific on The Americans, so I thought he would be interesting as Mason at a point early in his career. But it took me a couple of episodes to get into it, mainly because this was not the Perry Mason I’d grown up watching in the ’50s. Like Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Raymond Burr was firmly imprinted in my mind as Perry Mason. What I let go of that, it was no problem.  This is just another Perry Mason, a somewhat tattered, sometimes boozing private eye in early 1930s Los Angeles.

The production is, as you’d expect, impeccable. It’s interesting and satisfying seeing how other characters we know from the TV show have been reimagined. Besides Matthew Rhys as Mason, there’s Juliet Rylance as Della Street, Chris Chalk as a Black LAPD cop named Paul Drake, and the surprise appearance later in the series of Justin Kirk as Mason’s future courtroom nemesis, Hamilton Burger. These characters are being introduced on the ground floor, so to speak, as they begin to evolve into regular fixtures in the Perry Mason universe. The always authentic Shea Whigham plays Mason’s sometimes assistant, Pete Strickland. As usual, he puts an interesting spin on his scenes. John Lithgow is excellent as E.B. Jonathan, a lawyer who uses Mason as an investigator on cases, and acts as a mentor of sorts. Tatiana Maslany plays Sister Alice McKeegan, an evangelist with a prototypical mega-church following, seemingly inspired by the real-life Aimee Semple McPherson. Andrew Howard is Detective Ennis, a very bad cop. In the eight-part series, Mason is drawn into the case of a kidnapped baby who is murdered. He works to find the truth, despite many setbacks and the occasional beating. And before it’s over, we finally see him in court, defending the accused and finding his way to becoming Perry Mason.

One of the things I liked the most about the original TV series was the iconic theme music that played at the beginning of each episode. It’s quite obviously stripper music, and unforgettable. Yesterday I imagined Raymond Burr in flamboyant drag coming into the courtroom doing a striptease with the theme blasting away. Would like to have seen that. Terence Blanchard did the score for the new show, as well as scoring many Spike Lee films. I was thrilled that at the end of the final episode, a jazzy version of the original plays under the closing credits. Here it is:

The new Perry Mason is very different from the old, but I’d like to think they’d get along.

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Pretend It’s a City (Netflix)  This is really great, a seven-part documentary directed by Martin Scorsese about Fran Liebowitz and how she sees the world. For Liebowitz, the world is New York City. The DNA of the city is in everything she says. It’s impossible to imagine her anywhere else, though it’s fun to picture her on the Iowa farm where I grew up. Those who don’t appreciate Fran’s grouchy views on everything in sight should probably avoid this series, but we loved it. It’s especially great that Scorsese gets such kick out of her; he can be heard laughing constantly either on or off camera at something she’s said. Scorsese made a previous film about her in 2010, Public Speaking. That film had a screening at Film Forum in 2019 with Liebowitz there for a Q&A after. She’s a trip. She’s a writer who has famously had a decades-long writer’s block. Metropolitan Life and Social Studies were published in 1978 and 1981, respectively. Both are collections of essays. I was surprised to learn that she also wrote a children’s book published in 1994, Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas, about giant pandas living in New York City who want to move to Paris. She’s known now as a wit and raconteur whose bark is worse than her bite. The New York Times has called her a modern-day Dorothy Parker. For those of us who appreciate her style and sense of humor, Pretend It’s a City is a gift.

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The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)  This series about a chess prodigy is amazing. I knew basically nothing about how chess is played before watching The Queen’s Gambit, and didn’t know much more after. But I found it riveting, and that’s mainly due to Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role of Beth Harmon. Her other-worldly presence (those eyes!) has got my attention in everything I’ve seen her in, which includes The Witch (2015), Morgan (2016), Thoroughbreds (2017), The Miniaturist (2017 mini-series), and Emma (2020). She’s slated to take the Charlize Theron part in Furiosa, a prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road, scheduled for release in 2023. That should be interesting.

The Queen’s Gambit, based on the novel by Walter Tevis (author of The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth), became one of the most popular scripted series that Netflix has done. All seven episodes were written and directed by Scott Frank, which helps ensure a consistent quality throughout. Frank is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, whose work includes Get Shorty (1995), Out of Sight (1998), and Logan (2017). The Queen’s Gambit production and acting are topnotch. I especially liked Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel, the building custodian at the orphanage where Beth is sent after the death of her mother. She begins to take refuge in the basement where Mr. Shaibel, in his grouchy fashion, teaches her to play chess. As Beth grows older and gains prominence for her increasingly brilliant chess playing, she also struggles with drugs and alcohol, a result of being fed tranquilizers at the orphanage. One of the neatest things about the series is that each of Beth’s matches is presented differently, so they never get stale or predictable. Despite my knowing little about chess, each match builds in tension. The series is a thriller. It’s not about chess, it’s about Beth.

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Rake (Netflix)  And yet another great series from Australia. Richard Roxburgh shines as Cleaver Greene, a criminal defense barrister in Sydney. He’s a lovable rascal, a familiar type in film and literature. Some of the terms that aptly describe him are unreliable, outrageous, alcoholic, incorrigible, and self-destructive. One could go on. His life is a trainwreck, but he somehow manages to squeak by. If you knew someone like this in real life, he or she probably wouldn’t seem quite so charming. But there’s something quite appealing about Roxburgh, similar to Guy Pearce in Jack Irish, that makes him fun to be with. But even with his manifold faults, Cleaver does have a sense of justice, despite his claims to the contrary. Defending the little guy is important to him.

I wasn’t quite as happy with the fifth season, in which Cleaver has somehow gotten elected as a senator in Federal Parliament. I preferred him in the courtroom setting of the first four seasons. Regardless, it’s still a great series and he’s a great character.

These trailers for seasons one and four will give you a more vivid sense of what I’ve described.

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Silent Witness (Amazon Prime) This British series that follows a team of forensic pathologists has been on the air since 1996, twenty-three seasons so far. It’s fascinating, and quite addictive. We only started watching recently. We finished season 19 last night. Only four to go. At the beginning, Sam Ryan (played by Amanda Burton) is a pathologist living and working in Cambridge. At the end of season three, she takes a job as a university professor and moves to London. She leaves the series at the start of season eight. Her place as the only female member of the team is eventually assumed by Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox). There have been several cast changes since the series began, though not as many or as frequent as those on the original Law & Order in this country, which is similar to Silent Witness in terms of longevity. There’s also been a shift in emphasis. When the series began, it seemed more about the work of performing postmortems on crime victims. As it has progressed, mainly since the move to London, the team has become more involved with field work, as investigators alongside the police. The autopsies depicted are quite graphic, but not lingered on or in your face for shock value. The quality of the episodes has not fallen off  over time, which can happen, particularly with long-running shows. I’m glad to say that, so far, no sharks have been jumped. Though with four seasons left, I suppose there’s always time.

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The Spy (Netflix)  Anyone who thinks of Sacha Baron Cohen as only Borat should see him in this series and as Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7.  He’s an extraordinary actor. In this six-part series taking place during the years leading to the Six-Day War in 1967, he plays Eli Cohen, an Egyptian Jew living in Israel who becomes a top Mossad spy, eventually infiltrating the Syrian Ministry of Defense. It’s very tense as he repeatedly evades detection, until he doesn’t, and as his assumed identity becomes more and more real to him, at the expense of his wife and children. In order to succeed in his undercover life, he risks failure in his real life.

A bonus is that Noah Emmerich plays Dan Peleg, one of Eli’s Israeli handlers. We got to know him well as FBI agent Stan Beeman in The Americans.

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What We Do in the Shadows (FX on Hulu)  As I wrote last year, I love this show. A small group of vampires share a house on Staten Island, where they’ve lived (so to speak) for over 100 years. They have the usual mundane domestic problems, like whose turn is it to clean the bathroom or sweep up. As with The Office, an unseen film crew is ostensibly shooting a documentary, which allows for direct-to-camera commentary by the characters. Very black, deadpan comedy. The second season was even better than the first. I love them all, but one of my favorite characters is Colin Robinson (played by Mark Proksch). Colin, a nerdish little man, is an energy vampire. He doesn’t suck blood; he drains energy and life force by boring people into a stupor. Here’s a clip collection of Colin in action.

Guest stars on the show have included Tilda Swinton, Wesley Snipes, Mark Hamill, Danny Trejo, Evan Rachel Wood, Haley Joel Osment, and Dave Bautista.

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That’s it for this wrap up. There may be a supplemental materials post, but I haven’t decided yet. Stay tuned and be safe. — Ted Hicks

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Best TV, Cable & Streaming – 2020 & 2021 (so far) – Part 1

As with last year’s recap, I’m covering the best of what I saw in 2020, as well as shows from 2021 that I’ve liked so far. None of my picks are network programs. The best work being done these days is seen on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and cable sources such as HBO, Showtime, and FX. I’m sure many of you are familiar with most of the shows on my list, but there may be some that you either weren’t aware of or haven’t caught up with yet. There’s way too much stuff to watch, even if one wanted to, and the proliferation of streaming outlets has only increased the problem. But better too much than not enough.

The following titles are in alphabetical order and not separated by year. This will be in two parts.

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The Boys (Amazon Prime)  I came to this a year after the first season, but burned through that and the second in short order. I love it. The show posits a world where superheroes are sponsored, managed and marketed by a huge corporation. Almost all of them have been totally corrupted by their unlimited power. Opposing them are the “boys,” led by Karl Urban, a very tough character. Traditional superhero definitions are turned inside out. These are not the good guys. If you haven’t seen it, be advised that it’s extremely violent, often in ways you probably haven’t seen before.

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Bridgerton (Netflix)  Shonda Rimes’ previous hit shows include Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Her latest, based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn, is a period drama set in England in 1813. What gives it a terrific spin is that it takes place in an alternate reality in a racially integrated society where people of color have rank and privilege. It’s well written and well acted; the production design is incredible.

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Call My Agent  (Netflix)  Friends had been recommending this series for years. It began showing in the U.S. in 2016,  but we only started watching after the fourth season had been released earlier this year. Call My Agent follows four agents in a fictional French talent agency as they compete for business, deal with temperamental clients, juggle personal problems, and try to keep the agency afloat. It adds a meta-level by having real actors and directors play versions of themselves, which recalls Garry Shandling’s excellent HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show. We basically loved Call My Agent, though I became very irritated with some of the characters during the second season. I thought I was done with it, but kept watching and loved the rest of it. This was supposedly the end of the series, but it was announced earlier this month that there will be a fifth season.

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Criminal: UK (Netflix)  Previously this series consisted of four separate “seasons,” all taking place almost entirely inside a police interrogation room in the respective countries, the UK, France, Germany, and Spain, with four episodes per each. The format remains, but we have only the UK for this second season. It’s concentrated, claustrophobic, and compelling as the episodes play out. The characters of the interrogators are fascinating.

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The Crown (Netflix)  Created by Peter Morgan, this terrific series dramatizes the life and reign of Elizabeth II, Queen of England. Claire Foy played her in the first two seasons, with Olivia Colman taking the role in the next two seasons, of which this is the fourth. Colman is excellent, as she is in seemingly everything she does. Tobias Menzies (Rome, Game of Thrones, The Night Manager) is also excellent as Prince Philip.  Josh O’Connor (The Durrells in Corfu – see below) is petulant and nasty as Prince Charles, while Emma Corrin is quite heartbreaking as Princess Diana. Gillian Anderson is great as Margaret Thatcher, and very frightening, like some sort of crocodile. There will be another cast change for the final two seasons.

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The Durrells in Corfu (Amazon Prime)  This is a simply wonderful series. If it had continued past four seasons (26 episodes), we’d still be watching. And it’s all true, sort of. In 1935, with little money and no prospects, single-mother Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) moves from England to the Greek island of Corfu with her four children, Larry (Josh O’Connor), Gerry (Milo Parker), Margo (Daisy Waterhouse), and Leslie (Colem Woodhouse). On Corfu they encounter hardship, friendship, adventures, and romance. Budding novelist Larry would grow up to become famous as Lawrence Durrell. Gerry, whose three memoirs of their lives on Corfu would become the basis for this series, became well-known as an author and naturalist. Something that’s really a kick is watching his collection of animal life expand over the course of the series. Parrots, pigs, pelicans, various lizards and the occasional goat wander through the rooms of their house. With war imminent, the family is forced to move back to England in 1939, but it’s been an extraordinary adventure

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The Good Fight (Paramount+)  Another series we came to several seasons in. This is a spin-off of The Good Wife, which we really liked. Christine Baranski carries over from that series as Diane Lockhart, along with the wonderfully named Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn and Sarah Steele as Eli Gold’s daughter Marissa. Strong additions to the cast are Delroy Lindo, Rose Leslie, and Audra McDonald. Legal struggles and court cases abound. An interesting real-world connection was having the Trump presidency as part of the storyline. I had no trouble with the anti-Trump position taken by the show, but I felt it was limiting and got in the way at times. Still, this is an excellent series, well written and well acted. We had to subscribe to yet another streaming platform in order to watch it, CBS All-Access, which is now known as Paramount +. There have been four seasons so far.

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Jack Irish (Amazon Prime/Acorn)  An0ther engaging Australian series. Guy Pearce stars as a formerly successful lawyer in a Melbourne law firm until his wife’s murder causes him to skid into an alcoholic depression. He’s now a somewhat tattered part-time investigator taking on dirty dealings in high places, aided and distracted by a colorful crew of friends. Based on a series of detective novels by Paul Temple, Jack Irish began as three feature-length movies (Bad Debts, Black Tide, and Dead Point)  before becoming a series for two seasons. The movies and series are available via Amazon Prime & Acorn. All are excellent, Guy Pearce especially.

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Line of Duty (Amazon Prime/Acorn) This is a critically-acclaimed series in the UK. As happened with several other series on this list, we came to this one late, after five seasons had been released. No matter, we proceeded to burn through those in short order. Line of Duty follows DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), his partner DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), and their boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) as they work to uncover corruption and corrupt police officers in the fictional Central Police Force. Each season of six episodes follows one storyline. We see a lot of British cop shows. This is one of the best. A sixth season has been produced, which will likely be available here later this year.

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Lovecraft Country (HBO Max)  Based on a novel by Matt Ruff, this series deals with issues of race and Black experience through the filter of a horror story. Jordon Peele did this with his feature films Get Out (2017) and Us (2019). The Amazon Prime series Them is doing it now. All are using the conventions and expectations of the horror genre to get at something very real. Set in 1950s America, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus “Tic” Freeman, a Korean War veteran and fan of science fiction and horror, as he goes in search of his father Montrose (Michael K. Williams). An incredibly complex and often outlandish narrative unfolds. It gets very violent. There are some horrific images and actions I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

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Lupin (Netflix)  An immensely entertaining French series. Here’s a synopsis per Wikipedia: “The story follows professional thief Assane Diop, the only son of an immigrant from Senegal who had come to France to seek a better life for his child. Assane’s father is framed for the theft of an expensive diamond necklace by his employer, the wealthy and powerful Hubert Pellegrini, and hangs himself in his prison cell out of shame, leaving the teenage Assane an orphan. Twenty-five years later, inspired by a book about a gentleman thief Arsène Lupin his father had given him on his birthday, Assane sets out to get revenge on the Pellegrini family, using his charisma and mastery of thievery, subterfuge, and disguise to expose Hubert’s crimes.”

As Assane, Omar Sy is stylish, clever, smooth, and always several steps ahead of everyone. He made me smile. The show is altogether very satisfying. Master thief Arsène Lupin was a character created by Maurice Leblanc in the early 1900s. His novels and short stories became extremely popular. Ending after only five episodes, Lupin felt rather abrupt and incomplete. I’ve since learned that the first season was originally to be ten episodes. I suspect the pandemic interrupted the production, though I don’t know the details. In any event, the next five episodes  have been completed and are planned to be released this summer.

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That’s all for now. Part 2 will follow shortly. Stay safe. — Ted Hicks

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More Roundtables – Directors and Producers

As I mentioned in my previous post, the annual roundtable discussions curated by The Hollywood Reporter are conducted in this pandemic year via Zoom, rather than the participants being seated at an actual table.  In this post, we have directors and producers in discussion. In addition to The Hollywood Reporter, a second directors roundtable organized by The Los Angeles Times is also included. I watched these yesterday and earlier today, and found them engaging and informing. The first directors roundtable begins below.

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Directors Roundtable #1 (Running time: 55:44)

The seven directors taking part are listed below, along with titles and streaming availability of their films under discussion.

Regina King – One Night in Miami (Amazon Prime)

Spike Lee – Da Five Bloods (Netflix)

Chloé Zhao  – Nomadland (Hulu)

George C. Wolfe – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

Paul Greengrass – News of the World (Amazon Prime)

Lee Isaac Chung – Minari (Film Forum & A25 sites through February 25; streaming services TBA thereafter)

George Clooney – The Midnight Sky (Netflix)

This discussion is moderated by Rebecca Keegan of The Hollywood Reporter.

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Directors Roundtable #2 (Running time: 48:12)

Aaron Sorkin

David Fincher

Regina King, Chloé Zhao, Spike Lee, and Paul Greengrass carry over from the previous directors roundtable, but what they discuss is basically new, covering  different aspects of the filmmaking process. They are joined by the following directors:

Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

David Fincher – Mank (Netflix)

This discussion is moderated by Mark Olson of The Los Angeles Times.

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Producers Roundtable (Running time: 41:51)

The six producers taking part are listed below, along with titles and streaming availability of their films under discussion.

Andy Samberg – Palm Springs (Hulu)

Ashley Levinson – Pieces of a Woman and Malcolm & Marie (both on Netflix)

Charles D. King – Judas and the Black Messiah (HBO Max)

Dede Gardner – Minari  (Film Forum & A25 sites through February 25; streaming services TBA thereafter)

Marc Platt – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

Eric Roth – Mank (Netflix)

The presence of Marc Platt and Eric Roth adds some interesting perspective from an older generation of filmmakers. Marc Platt, age 63, has a long list of producing credits going back to 1987, with films projected into 2023. Eric Roth, age 76, is probably better known as a screenwriter. His films include Forrest Gump, The Insider, Munich, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and many more. Despite all their experience in the business, they both sound like they’re still excited and engaged by making films.

This roundtable is moderated by Tatiana Siegel of The Hollywood Reporter.

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That’s all for now. See you next time. — Ted Hicks

NEWS FLASH! I just read that movie theaters will be reopening in early March in New York City, subject to limited capacity and other restrictions. This is good news. We’ll see how it works out.

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