Monday, October 8, 2018

A Small Part of my Movie Summer

After two lousy nights in a row, it's probably fair to say that I wouldn't have been able to stay awake for ANYthing... but the sad fact is that Abbott & Costello In The Foreign Legion never stood a chance. After snoring through two of them, I've come to the realization that these later A & C's leave me cold. Lou's cutesy mugging gets tired awfully quickly, and Bud is too aggressive and mean to be of any use as a straight man. In this case, they're working with an idea that was Old Hat even when they made it (Laurel and Hardy did it earlier and better). I can tell you that there's an awful lot of shouting and an awful lot of running around; none of it kept me awake. I fear that I'll never make it through this set, which I bought only for the monster comedies, especially the great A & C Meet Frankenstein.

Lou was just 53 when he died from chronic heart-related issues. According to the DVD notes, he'd been ill for the better part of a year before this picture was made -- and yet the studio persisted in putting him into Big Physical Comedy gags of almost comic-book violence, most of which was obviously performed by a double. This is NOT an effective way to make use of a comedian with his talents, IMHO. Laurel and Hardy were always inventing, but A & C did the same exact stuff in movie after movie after movie, probably not by choice.

After watching The Shape of Water — which at first blush is nothinig more than a remake of Universal’s The Creature Walks Among Us — I could not understand the warm reception it’s received from critics and audiences alike. It seemed to me to echo all the qualities I found in Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: that is, a marvelous flair for visual fantasy wrapped up in an outer casing of Pure Nastiness, mean-spiritedness and a hard-core love of nasty, sadistic violence. Recently, I had a mental breakthrough about the thing, and now suddenly I "get" it: Water is completely 100 percent a Chick Flick. Note: I do not think this speaks particularly well on The State of Chicks in 2018. Not the least because Fish Man is almost a complete non-entity: he never says a word — which after all, makes him the Perfect Man, right?

Among the other pictures that I have managed to get through this past summer: The Lost City Of Z is... perfectly all right. At least, I didn't fall asleep on it. But it would be better with a more engaging actor in the main role. A great story, though, and beautifully shot.

Technically and visually astonishing, War For The Planet Of The Apes is just An Ape Too Far. I sat through all 140 minutes of the god-damn thing, and I still don't know what the point is. Its soft-headed "good guys vs. bad guys" story and its rampant emotional signaling is anti-ethical to the biting social parody of the original movie series. It turns Planet Of The Apes into a simpering iteration of Finding Nemo. Meanwhile, Woody Harrelson enters another in his long line of Sadistic Thug parts. He has the talent to do better, but apparently not the ambition or the brain power. This is what modern cinema has become: the triumph of style over substance, the legacy of Steven Spielberg shameless pandering. Two thumbs down and one big raspberry blown at the screen.

Von Ryan's Express very much wants to be Bridge Over The River Kwai only with Germans in occupied Italy. OK, I'd buy that. Except for one thing: Frank Sinatra is in it. And of course Frankie has to be **THE STAR**, And his method of being the star is to cop an attitude and just be a Completely Arrogant Asshole: which I gather was simply Frankie Playing Himself. Or playing with himself: either applies.

Annie Hall, Rocky and Star Wars all came out within shouting distance of each other, and all became favorites of mine. I never watched a single one of the Rocky sequels, because I could see that they had moved into the territory of pandering to a certain perceived audience. But all these years later, Rocky Balboa works for me in all the ways that The Last Jedi did not. You get the sense of things turning out the way they would in Real Life. You get a character aging with dignity and with his spirit intact. You get the truth that life is not over and the challenges do not end when you pass a certain age: very much unlike what they did to Luke, Han and Leia in that latest godawful Star Wars piece of crap. I had much the same feeling watching Manhattan Murder Mystery recently... it was a delight to see Woody working with Diane Keaton again, and both showing that they still had it well into middle age. So I now think that only middle-aged people should be allowed to make movies about middle aged people, because you can't possibly know what Middle Age is truly about… until you're here.

— Thorn.
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