Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bringing Up Baby, 1938

Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde
Starring and


This is such a fun movie. It's really loopy -- it's starts silly, and stays silly all the way to the end.

Hawks is clearly having a ball, Katherine Hepburn gets to break all the rules about her persona, and Cary Grant -- who I think is underrated as a physical comedian -- gets to do all kinds of schtick. Basically every character in the movie is out there, which adds to the fun.

There's also a reference to The Awful Truth: when Katherine Hepburn is explaining that they're in the Leopard Gang, she says that Cary Grant's nickname in the gang is "Jerry the Nipper"; he exclaims that this is from a motion picture that she saw. And it's The Awful Truth, in which Irene Dunne claims that Cary Grant's nickname is Jerry the Nipper. (I've never heard a quote about this, but I am sure that Hawks loved The Awful Truth, both from this reference and from his casting of Ralph Bellamy as the odd man out in His Girl Friday.)

One of the older members of The Pantheon.

Jerry the Nipper and Swinging Door Susie












 

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The Killer's Kiss, 1955

Directed by
Written by
Starring  , , and

(Part of the ongoing Kubrick series)

This is Kubrick's second picture, and it's definitely an improvement on the first, Fear and Desire, but it's still what one would call "an early work." It's a decent story and one can see how he could go from this to The Killing. There are a few things that make this movie stand out.

First, the fight at the end is great: it has the feeling of a real fight, not a Hollywood fight. It's set in a mannequin warehouse, which makes for both some incredible images and also for a wild card quality to the fight. There's a sense that, not only could it go either way, but that anything could happen.

Second, the boxing match is also quite something; on the one hand, it looks like so many boxing matches in so many movies, but I think it's because Kubrick created that form in this movie (and I'll bet Scorsese used this match as the basis for so many of the pieces in Raging Bull). Third, as you'd expect, it looks great -- and in the way that a young director, working on the cheap, has figured out -- not with everything that he could bring to bear for Barry Lyndon or 2001.

A couple of interesting side notes: 

According to the Wikipedia entry, United Artists forced Kubrick to recut the movie with a happy ending. This isn't surprising to me -- as, frankly, I was surprised that the movie had the happy ending that it did.

Even though these are the first shots of New York in one of his features, this New York and the New York of Eyes Wide Shut (which, apparently, was mostly a reconstruction on a Pinewood studios set) have a similar feeling to them. Plus ├ža change...


One of the many amazing shots
in the mannequin warehouse










 

 

 

 

 

The places to hear from me:
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Tropic Thunder, 2008

Directed by
Written by Justin Theroux & Ben Stiller and Etan Cohen

Starring , , and

This movie is so over the top that, even after having seen it quite a few times, I find myself flabbergasted at the places to which it is willing to go -- and I mean that as a compliment. It is assuredly offensive in quite a few ways, but its willingness to, as they say, "go there" is quite something.  

The acting is actually quite good, though it's easy not to notice that because it's such broad comedy. It's easy to miss that because of Robert Downey, Jr.'s and Tom Cruise's performances (and I've known a number of people who didn't realize it was Tom Cruise for part or all of the movie). 

Particularly for anyone who has an interest in movie "culture," theater, actors, or other such topics, there is a steady stream of ridiculous moments and lines. My personal favorite is "I don't read the script -- the script reads me."

Also, the youngest member of the The Pantheon.



Don't miss the begninng --
it features Tobey Maguire in his brief, hilarious cameo


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The places to hear from me:
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Also also - Josh's Part of lubarr.com  


The Killing, 1956

Directed by
Written by and Jim Thompson
Starring , , and

(The second in a series of posts on Stanley Kubrick's movies.)

This is Kubrick's third feature, and it's a great watch. It's clearly indebted to The Asphalt Jungle, and is also its own picture. Sterling Hayden shines in this movie, and it's easy to understand why Kubrick would later cast him so memorably in Dr. Strangelove. Elisha Cook, Jr. stands out in a fine cast, with the doomed sense of his marriage (with as his wife) driving much of the story. 

As for the narrative, it's not linear, which is particularly striking in a film from the '50's. While The Killer's Kiss and Fear and Desire (his first two features) both have some stunning moments, this is the first movie where there's the feeling of watching something special. 

Surely the most iconic image in the whole picture


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The places to hear from me:
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Barry Lyndon, 1975

Directed by
Written by (from the Thackeray novel)
Starring  and

This is the first in a series of posts about Stanley Kubrick's movies, as I've been conducting an informal retrospective of his works over the past number of months. I'm writing about this movie first, because it has made the strongest impression on me so far, along with The Killing. I'm not finished yet, so we'll see what else strikes me.

Simply put, I was floored by this movie.While the acting is fine, but not stunning, everything else is outrageously good. And to say that the acting is not as good as everything else is paramount to saying that it was the worst part of one of the best movies I've ever seen, so it was still far better than the acting in most movies. I don't think of Ryan O'Neal or Marisa Berenson as fantastic actors, but they do very good work. Kubrick holds the camera on them -- and everyone else -- for extended shots, so that we can see every flicker of an emotion that passes across their faces for a long time. They're able to sustain their presence through those extended periods.

And that brings us to the cinematography. This is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Kubrick used NASA lenses so that he could shoot in natural light and create a naturalistic eighteenth century feeling -- and the results are amazing.

Because of the clarity and beauty of the shots, Kubrick is able to sustain the static or languid camera use. When he shows us a field in summer, we can practically feel the moisture in the air. It's really stunning.

The story, while not original and somewhat episodic, is captivating. Barry is not sympathetic, but he is fascinating. The narration and title cards make clear where the story is going, so there is a sense of fatalism that pervades the story. In that sense, this almost feels as it were a cautionary tale, but Kubrick never says that and is never heavy-handed about it.

The music is also phenomenal.

Reverend Runt,
one of the most authentic-lookning characters,
in one of the many perfect shots


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The places to hear from me:
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Movies - Old Movies and New with Josh Lubarr
Politics - Progressive Politics (per Josh Lubarr)
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Favorite movies - The Pantheon
Me generally - Josh Lubarr's web site extraordinaire
Also also - Josh's Part of lubarr.com