Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Star Is Born, 1976 (Grade B-)

Director: Frank Pierson
Any Awards?  Yes both Academy Awards & Golden Globes --winners and more nominations
Cast:  Barbara Streisand;  Kris Kristofferson;  Gary Busey;  Oliver Clark;  Venetta Fields;  Clyde King;  Marta Heflin;  M G Kelly;  Sally Kirkland;  Joanne Linville

plot summary: a remake of the 1930s classic--that was remade in the 1950s with Judy Garland--this being the third incarnation... about a young woman (Esther Hoffman played by Streisand) who is on the brink of stardom, thanks to her monumental singing talent and her nurturing mentor, (John Norman Howard  ie: Kris Kristofferson). He is a veteran rocker who's also her lover/husband. Unfortunately, his once-bright luster is on the wane just as her star is on the rise.Can love prevail?

sez says:  we decided to watch the three versions of this movie back to back --to see how they are the same and how they are different.  Among other things, this one deals with music/rock rather than the movies .....that is, if you can imagine Barbara Streisand as a rock star.  Sure she is talented --but rock star? I think not.  
Kristofferson is amazingly good -- his addictions to drugs and alcohol are played to be as much foisted on him as they are a choice that he is making.  He is a man with talent but with no practical skills. He is lost in this world.  At one point he says he has no idea how to balance a check book: he is at a loss to negotiate the simplest things in every day life. He is a one trick pony: He can write and sing.  He lives in a mansion that is a slum inside. He depends on others to take care of him but they exploit him.   He hasn't a clue how to get by--except he can recognizes talent and Esther has talent.  He can help her develop--so long as we are talking strictly about the singing and writing.   He means no harm but he is constantly in pain. Not even a good woman can save him. He makes his character real, difficult to understand and tragic.

Esther/Striesand seems to be mostly making sure she looks and sounds as good as she can.  And she can--in both cases--look and sound good.  But is that acting?   She and Kristoferson are a hard match to make. But it ultimately works.  It is an old story..and obviously one with legs --it  was a hit in the 1930s , again in the 1950s and again in the 1970s...

mjc says: I like the house in the desert and Kristofferson's clothes.  Overall it would have been improved by stripping out the sound track.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Conversation, 1974 (Grade B)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Awards: This film in on AFI's Top 100 Movie List. It was nominated for but didn't win Adademy Awards, Bafta Awards, Golden Globe Awards.
Cast: Gene Hackman; John Cazale; Allen Garfieldl Frederic Forrest; Cindy WIlliams; Harrison Ford; Teri Garr; Michael Higgins; Elizabeth MacRae; Mark Wheeler; Robert Duvall; Robert Shields; Phoebe Alexander


sez says:   Are we responsible for the product of our labor--after we have done our task, does it matter who does what with it next?   That is the question that Hackman's character struggles with.  He knows that in the past someone was killed because of the information he gathered and handed over to the party who paid him to get the information, Is it about to happen again? Woven into that question is the "what is happening here' mystery of the movie.  The two elements work very well.  And the grey plastic rain coat that Hackman seems to never take off--is a winner (Grade B)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three, 1974 (Grade B+)

Director: Joseph Sargent
Awards: BAFTA Best Supporting Actor; & AFI top 100 Thrillers
Cast: Walter Matthau; Beatrice Winde; Robert Shaw; Martin Balsam; Hector Elizondo; Earl Hindman, James Broderick

sez says: we just watched this back-to-back with the 2009 remake--this is by far a superior movie-(the other, newer version being near trash--all crash and gore and wild unrealistic car crashes and violence--the other has some good actor but the whole is NOT equal to the sum of its parts)  This version, for me, is wonderful not becasue it is a thriller -- but it is wonderful becasue of  the script!  What a great bunch of banter, well delivered!   And a wonderful portrayal of New Yorkers--from the mayor who provided wonderful comic relief--to the cops driving the money to the supervisor who marches into the tunnels to find out what, exactly in going on and to set things straight. And that doesn't even touch the wonderful script given to the main characters. This is a classic. (Grade B+)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Being There, 1979 (Grade A)

DirectorL Hal Ashby
Awards; yes--Academy Awards for best supporting actor Melvyn Douglas, and nominated for best actor. ALso on AFI, best 100 for laughs
CAST:  Peter Sellers; Shirley MacLaine; Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard A Dysart, Richard Basehart, David Clennon

sez says: This is a delight..and unlike many comedy/satires it has held up perfectly over the years. It is an absurd story: A man (Peter Sellers) with no experience of the world, except for what he has seen on TV, and what he has learned gardening, is set loose in the world of high finance, national politics and thus enters --front and center into the media's focus.  As well as finds himself in the sites of an amorous woman.  He understands nothing about what is going on around him and constantly answers their questions with simple, honest truth based on his limited life experience. He overwhelms them all  as they hear what they want to hear.  All of this could have fallen flat without great acting, perfects sets, astute timing.  But it does work and it is not jut good laughs--it is good social commentary.  (Grade A)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anna Karenina, 1979 Ballet (Grade F)

This is described as follow s: "Maya Plisetskaya choreographs and stars as the title character in this stirring ballet adaptation of the timeless Leo Tolstoy classic, set to the haunting compositions of the great Russian master Rodion Shchedrin. Conducted by Yuri Simonov and with stage direction by Margarita Pilihina, this memorable production also features performances from Alexander Godunov and Vladimir Tihonov."   But it isn't true .. the recording is abysmal --it is small and fuzzy-- poor quality --and the dancing had nothing to recommend it. We seldom give up on any film--but we gave up on this one. (Grade F)