• The Pajama Game

    The Pajama Game

    ★★★

    This is Stanley Donen’s staging of the fun labor vs. management Broadway musical, with songs by Adler and Ross. The script, of course, is just an excuse for the numbers, choreographed by Bob Fosse. They’re a hoot: "Hernando’s Hideaway," "Steam Heat," et al. Doris Day (the obligatory movie star addition to the original Broadway cast, replacing Janis Paige) really belts it out. The picnic scene (“Once-a-Year Day") and the rest—it’s all pitched at a nearly hysterical level that plays quite…

  • War and Peace

    War and Peace

    ★★★

    It’s more of a “Gone With the Wind”-type Hollywood entertainment epic than it is Tolstoy. (Same length: 3 1/2 hours). Still, it's rather a must for Audrey Hepburn fans: she’s moving as Natasha. I read the book in the early ‘90s and as I recall the last third or so was all given over to Tolstoy’s philosophizing. Still one of the richest and most immersive reading experiences of my life. You can’t film the ideas in the book, though there…

  • The Grizzlies

    The Grizzlies

    There sure are an awful lot of feel-good sports movies just like this. If you liked those—or, better yet, if you've never seen one of those—you'll probably like this one. That said, it's still surprising how cluelessly at this late date it traipses right into the white savior hole. I liked the Inuit actors and the few glancing looks at their culture which weren't utterly clichéd. As a career high-school teacher, Karolyn tells me she utterly resents the sort of…

  • A Streetcar Named Desire

    A Streetcar Named Desire

    ★★★½

    Re-watched this to get in the mood for our upcoming return to New Orleans. The perspicacious Pauline Kael analyzes Streetcar as being about a collision between magical thinking (Blanche) and brutal realism (Stanley), which I think is an illuminating way to look at the piece. (She also says Blanche Dubois looks and acts like a Dresden shepherdess: I didn't get the reference, but Google it: it's true). I hadn't seen this in perhaps 30 years. It's still vivid melodrama: New…

  • The Taking of Deborah Logan

    The Taking of Deborah Logan

    ★★

    Fairly effective deployment of well-trodden found-footage tropes—enjoy it late on a Saturday night. Amazing how tired many of those tropes nonetheless feel, already. I feel like these movies contribute to the general trend towards the abnegation of the role of the director we see with cheaply-made "reality" shows, though here it's simulated reality, which I suppose is an art of a kind. One of the contrivances is we're forced to believe people would keep recording life-periling events occurring right in…

  • Haunt

    Haunt

    ★★½

    Potent Saturday-night thrills and chills.

  • Hair

    Hair

    ★★★½

    Re-watched partly in homage to my first post-COVID haircut—first haircut in probably a year and a half. Much derided by ‘60s-era rock critics, much admired by critics/fans of Broadway and movie musicals, it’s still exhilarating, funny and powerful. I’d probably rank it in my top five Formans, with Firemen’s Ball, Cuckoo’s Nest, Taking Off and Amadeus. Love the “Black Boys/White Boys” draft board scene.

  • In Fabric

    In Fabric

    ★★★

    I thought this was a lot of fun. It's partly a bizarre and quite funny comedy, a satire of British culture and identity. It's partly a wicked homage to giallo, which you wouldn't think would translate from the sensory and sensual Italian to the British. The fetishistic Stickland gets it, and he gets a Lynchian madness, as well—or rather, he has Lynch’s feel for bringing what’s beneath the surface in social interactions to the surface. The one thing it's not is scary: don't watch it for that reason.

  • Bob Dylan: Hard Rain

    Bob Dylan: Hard Rain

    Our traveling gang was a bit burned out by this point (the tour was at its peak in fall '75) and a stadium is not at all the right setting for the Rolling Thunder Revue. Still, when expectations are adjusted, this '76 TV special is rough, ready, and raggedly right. Love the duets with Baez: a very intimate "Butcher's Boy" and "Deportees" into a rollickin' full-band "I Pity the Poor Immigrant." Of course there's that great slide guitar rendition of…

  • Tokyo Sonata

    Tokyo Sonata

    ★★★½

    It plays like a Japanese Kenneth Loach film, and I mean that as a compliment. It's an exciting, unpredictable, devastating look at despair gripping a family in a patriarchal and uncaringly corporatist culture. If you look at those titles, you know that Kurosawa might have had Tokyo Story somewhere in the back of his mind when he made Tokyo Sonata. You could even say the roots of what Kurosawa's looking at could be seen in the Ozu. Debussy's 'Clair de Lune' has never been used with such graceful and redemptive power. "Somebody please pull me up."

  • Él

    Él

    ★★★½

    An absorbing, occasionally startling drama of what today we'd understand as toxic masculinity, from Buñuel. It's from his Mexican period, when he developed into a pro craftsman making movies he strived to make as personal as he could within a commercial framework. Él could be shown on a double bill with Gaslight. Arturo de Córdova gives a memorable performance as a man who appears a pillar to the community while waging domestic abuse upon his wife (Delia Garcés). Actually, he's…

  • Wait Until Dark

    Wait Until Dark

    ★★★

    Even if her true era was the '50s, Audrey Hepburn had a good year in '67, what with this and Two for the Road. She's very good as a young blind woman who proves more resourceful than anyone imagined in this gripping and entertaining thriller, based on a Broadway suspense play by Frederick Knott. It's got entertaining supporting performances from Richard Crenna, Julie Herrod as a smart young girl from (it's intimated) a dysfunctional family, and especially Alan Arkin as the head baddie. They do a lot with essentially one set. Terence Young was otherwise known for Dr. No and From Russia With Love.