Can’t wait can’t wait.
Pilgrim: So, a power dropped on a power.
Pilgrim: Power killed a power.
Walker: It is what we do.
Pilgrim: I know. But it would be nice if we got ourselves, I don’t know, a dead pirate or something once in a while, just something to break it up a little bit.
“The speed of his movements was such that he said in a single action what took ordinary actors three separate movements to express. He put forth everything directly and boldly, and his sense of timing was the keenest I had ever seen in a Japanese actor. And yet with all of his quickness he also had surprisingly fine sensibilities. […] I’m a person who is rarely impressed by actors, but in the case of Mifune I was completely overwhelmed.” — Akira Kurosawa
“He is an artist, and he is demanding; a man more full, more whole, both more self-willed and more compassionate than most men are. It is from this understanding, this tact with life, that he draws his films, just as he draws from us, his actors, our best. I know. I have never as an actor done anything that I am proud of other than with him.” — Toshiro Mifune
Okay, okay, this pictures is creepier than it is awesome, but holy crap, just look at the cast for this. I heart you, Steve McQueen.
Woody Allen (1980)
A reimagining of Fellini’s 8 1/2, Stardust Memories is replete with all the classic Woody-isms— a man who can’t fully commit to the woman he’s with, a supporting cast of mundane and obnoxious but benign people, lots of self-reference and self-awareness of the film as a film and as a construct, and gobs of neurosis.
Now, I’m not an enormous Woody Allen fan. I’d actually say I’m not a Woody Allen fan at all. I usually find his movies entirely too fascinated with neurosis and witty self-reference and not fascinated enough with anything else. I’ve been trying to slowly watch more of his films over the last year or so in an attempt to at least make sure I’m making an informed judgment, but it’s been a slog through a lot of 2.5/5-caliber movies.
Which is what makes Stardust Memories such a pleasant surprise for me. Everything that Allen usually does is done here, but to a different effect. Fellini created a story that is intensely true and profoundly and lovingly human. By using that story as the framework for his trademark self-examination, Allen manages to escape the triviality and shrugging pessimism that undermines so many of his other films. The substance and tenderness of 8 1/2 prop up Allen’s humor and lend weight to the acuity with which Allen paints people and their imperfections.
One in the win column for Woody Allen.
Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson
Sam Raimi (2013)
Truly beautiful, Maxfield Parrish-y CG scenery, a welcome supporting cast of not all white people, and imaginative hairstyling (very a la Whoville in Jim Carrey’s 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas).
And that is every nice thing I can say about Oz. The lead cast of well-paid big names puts in performances that range from dull to dreadful. Their facial expressions, their vocal intonations, their line delivery—- awful. James Franco’s eyes are red, and his reactions are so off as to occasionally feel absurdist. The script is drivel. The makeup is terrible. How is it that I can see the texture of Michelle Williams’ eyeshadow in a film with a budget like this? And why do they insist on leaving that one long tendril of hair hanging out of her let’s-play-princess tiara like she was a twelve year-old girl in her first experiment with looking cool? Even the costuming is unexciting. I kept being distracted by the plasticized faux leather stretchy stuff in Mila Kunis’ pants.
When someone like Disney undertakes a big-budget fantasy project like this, I only ask for a short list of things to be made very happy: beautiful visuals with average acting and writing. I just don’t want the substance of the film to be so bad that it distracts me from enjoying the pretty colors. With that as the only bar I set for this film, it’s still very, very disappointing.
(Peter Nelson, 1963)
A wandering black handyman (Sydney Poitier, handsome as all get-out) is yoked into building a chapel for a group of East German nuns in the middle of the American desert.
The high points include the language lessons, the relationship between Poitier’s character and the owner of the gas station/diner, and the subtleties of the scenes of Poitier and the nuns getting into and and out of the car throughout the film. It’s ultimately a little flat and lacking, though, with strange, sometimes exaggerated performances all around. The only character who is made out to be patently ungenerous is also the only white man in the cast. It’s strange that it was nominated for a Best Film Oscar, since it’s really not that great, but it was pretty far outside the comfort zone of its time. And hey, who has ever thought the Oscars made any sense, anyway.
Poiteir’s performance imbues a less-than-subtle character with a great deal of quirk and nuance, and rescues quite a lot of the film in the process. It looks like it might have informed quite a lot of Denzel Washington’s work—a solid lesson in how to play a proud, don’t-tie-me-down man without making him distant or unlikable (a la about half of Washington’s roles).