Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My Week of Movie Watching

The Taking of Pelham 123 – If this movie is on, I’ll watch it every time. Pelham creates great tension not with gunplay and explosions, but rather with plot and great supporting performances, from the likes of Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, and the great Robert Shaw. When Walter Matthau has been dead for 100 years, they will still use this film’s closing image when they talk about him. Kinda interested to see the remake, too.

Raise the Red Lantern – Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s majestic tale of the experiences of a girl (Gong Li) who becomes the concubine of a wealthy man and butts heads with the other mistresses. I love how the master is not really ever seen here – He’s just a symbol. I also love how there isn't a firm sense of time period. That is by design, as Lantern is really about how mindless practices are passed down from generation to generation simply because they are "tradition." The cinematography is top-notch from start to finish - Rarely has color been used so effectively to add to the mood of a film. Very highly recommended.

The Scalphunters – Hard-to-pin-down Sydney Pollack film from 1968. Burt Lancaster is a trapper, and Ossie Davis is a runaway slave, and they band together to battle a gang of marauding scalphunters. That sentence makes this sound like a grim movie, and it is pretty violent in a couple of spots, but it’s really a comedy more than anything. Lancaster and Davis have some funny scenes together, and Shelly Winters gets some laughs as the girl of head scalphunter Telly Savalas. Still, it’s just a so-so watch.

It Happened One Night – I’m not sure how a self-confessed film snob gets to his 48th year without seeing this film. This one was fun – A lot of fun. Clark Gable is just terrific as a down-on-his-luck reporter who accidentally hooks up with heiress-on-the-run Claudette Colbert. I loved the impish way that the film bats around the topic of sex, especially in it’s final moments. I’m not a fan of a lot of the stuff in the “screwball comedy” genre, but I heartily recommend this one.

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