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An online diary of the movies that matter, as I see them,explained and explicated daily (hopefully), at least weekly, and hopefully never weakly.
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:: Saturday, August 27, 2005 ::

"March of the Penguins" is one of those documentary movies, like "Winged Migration", that really deserves to be seen by all of humanity, because these films "humanize" the animal and avian participants to such a degree that I believe these films act as "tracts" for my "universal mind" theory that all spirits are equal, and we have more in common with "life" than differences, although the differences are always what are read about and see in the media.
I haven't even seen "March of the Penguins" yet, but just watched their trailer on the Yahoo service, from which I am gleaning the images you see here, even though when I used to update this blog, I used images form the IMDB. Now the images in the IMDB are "locked" so nobody can "steal them". '
It is a shame I cannot just click a button somewhere and see the film on my 19" computer monitor, because upon seeing the trailer on Yahoo, I immediately wanted to see the film.
I am reminded of the time I and a friend went to the Cinerama dome in Hollywood to see Oliver Stone's Jim Morrison biography, "The Doors", and I wished I could buy a laserdisc of the film on my way out of the theater. (That was in the "pre-DVD days)
Why can't we, now,half a decade into the 21st century, just download the movie into our computers when we wish to be entertained by them? After all, the 'link' in a webpage should eventually lead to the "content" itself, in this case, the film, "March of the Penguins".
While watching the trailer, I was immediately reminded that I had read an article in the L.A. Times concerning the "scriptwriter" for the "American " version of the film. In France, where the movie is called "La Marche de l'empereur" the penguins are given "voice" and the story is more like Ken Murray's "Bill and Coo" in 1948, where the birds have "personalities" and speak English. In "March of the Penguins" they speak French, of course, but I hope the DVD edition of the movie, where I wil see it, on my HDTV, will feature both soundtracks, so I can decide which one I like better.
:: Michael Nyiri 9:04 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, February 12, 2005 ::

The lights dim. The curtains begin to part. And they don't stop.
The flickering on the screen intensifies, and the curtains are still pulling back, all the way to the side of the theater walls. The credits begin, and when the first images appear, the grandeur afforded the size is simply breathtaking. You can't believe what you are seeing. You hear Spencer Tracy begin to tell the story of the American West, and you are transfixed, because you are actually there, flying above the mountains and the plains.
Soon you are floating on a river, and in the distance is a mountain man rowing a canoe. It is Jimmy Stewart, and you almost feel wet as you are there in the river with him. Is this a dream?
No, This Is Cinerama.

Last year, the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood resurrected the three projector Cinerama system, and showed the second (and last) non travelogue Cinerama feature, "How the West Was Won", a movie so big it was directed by not one, but three directors, Henry Hathaway ("The Rivers", "The Plains", "The Outlaws"), John Ford ("The Civil War") and George Marshall ("The Railroads"). Starring the aforementioned Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck, George Peppard, Eli Wallach, Karl Malden, Henry Fonda, Robert Preston, and with John Wayne and a cast of thousands, the movie fills not one, but three screens, and is projected with three projectors. The moderator at this special event screening introduced the members of the Projectionists Union (a dying breed now that digital cinema will eventually replace projected film in most of the muliplexes) who would be "running the film". I attended the screening on a Saturday afternoon, and the theater, which is enormous, in keeping with it's history, was packed with film buffs. I conversed with many people that afternoon, prior to the start of the picture, and when it did start, the experience took me back over forty years.

In 1962, when in the second grade, I attended a showing of "How the West Was Won" at the old Warner's Cinerama Theater on Hollywood Boulevard with my class. It was the first time I had even seen a movie projected on a large screen inside a theater. The process of Cinerama was invented in 1952 when television was in the process of invading American homes, and the theater moguls were looking for "bigger" and better projeciton methods to "bring audiences" back in the theaters. This same fear and mode of thinking spurred the development of many other "widescreen processes" including Techniscope, Cinemascope (now called Panavision), Vistavision (which was sometimes used for pre digital special effects) and also brought about the introduction of three dimensional or 3-D filmmaking, which used two projectors. Most widescreen processes involved one camera and projector, either using compression and special lenses to "squeeze" and "unsqueeze" the image, running the 35mm film sideways (Vistavision) or utilizing 70mm (2x35mm) frames (Techinscope and later Todd-AO). Cinerama was a completely different process, utilizing three cameras and projectors, and was very bulky. Because of the super wide picture, which consisted of three conventional screens butted together, there were a lot of problems with what would be basic cinematographic techniques, and for the first decade of it's short existence, the form was basically remembered for the many Lowell Thomas documentaries it inspried. Sort of like Imax in the early days, the filmmakers couldn't figure out how to adapt the format to conventional story telling.

George Pal, who was well known for his special effects extravaganzas ( "War of the Worlds", "The Time Machine") produced "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm", but it is generally accepted that "How the West Was Won" is the nadir of existence of the form. Even if you have seen "HTWWW" in a theater or on home video (a 2:35 version was produced which later showed up as a VHS tape, laserdisc, and DVD) you haven't "seen" this film. The only way is to see it in three screen Cinerama. The image is 3x wider than it is tall.

I have written one of my many "essays" on my experiences at the (now, sadly destroyed) El Monte Drive-In Theater, where I saw my first movie. But HTWWW was my first indoor film experience, and it has cemented my love of movies since the second grade. Seeing it again last year, repeating the experience (at a theater, the Cinerama Dome, which believe it or not, never showed a Cinerama film after it was built in 1963) I not only felt young again, I fell in love with the movies all over again. This was a benchmark event for me in 1962. Most of the people in the audience related their first experience seeing the film in Cinerama theaters across the nation. Now that the Dome has the equipment installed, there are plans to project not only the documentaries, but "Brother's Grimm" as soon as the elements are found.

The two most glaring problems the filmmakers faced are the fact that everything has to be shot with an extremely wide angle lens, and because of the size of the screen there are no close-ups. There were some rather interesting shots in the movie because of this, and when seen on television, ESPECIALLY in pan and scan (the process of panning a widescreen film to be able to "follow" action from one side of the screen to another on a standard square (1:33) television image) some of these scenes look really strange. Not so blown up to full size Cinerama.

I have been a "fan" of letterboxing for many years, and now that HDTV screens can show films in their widescreen glory at home (the increased resolution of the digital image allows one to see actors in master shots that were 60 feet tall in the theater with clarity on a television screen) one can "almost" replicate the theater experience at home. (You have to remember to dim the lights when watching, too!) Modern technology is fast advancing where eventually "media" will be released simultaneously, in theaters, and beamed to the home (for a price, and probably a steep one) at the same time.

But no amount of technology is going to replace the emotion I felt in 1962, repeated again in 2004, seeing "How the West Was Won" in the full three screen Cinerama projection process. I love movies, and that experience cemented this love for all time.

Click here for an article which offers an overview of the widescreen process and Cinerama in particular.

My "Home Theater" in the Media Room, with an actual sceen shot from "Moulin Rouge" 2001

The HDTV from another angle, with my media stack, and with the red velvet curtains set up for "square movie" viewing. Click on the photos for the full size images.

:: Michael Nyiri 5:20 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, December 05, 2004 ::
It's been a long while since I posted anything at the ElectricMovies blog, and that's because, frankly, I rarely was writing about movies for the longest time, and then I stopped going to movies in a theater. The price just got to be too high. Eight bucks for a matinee, and they show REAL LOUD commercials. Well, the reason for this particular post, is that I am trying to establish comments on these Blogger blogs, and each time I attempt it, I never see the comments section, like on Xanga, where I now have the main blog, WhenWordsCollide, for AllThingsMike. I have attempted to write movie reviews there as well, but have only penned a few. It' s OSCAR season again, though, and you know me, I always begin talking about my Oscar Picks. This year it's "The Passion of Christ" and "Ray" so far. I'm not putting up links right now. I never knew if this blog was even being read anyway. Here goes. Are there comments?

:: Michael Nyiri 4:08 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, June 19, 2004 ::
One of the Films which need to be released as a special edition DVD: "Santa Sangre" directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), and starring his son Axel as Fenix, a traumatized mental patient whose life, told in alarmingly bright Mexican colors, is a sad tragedy of circumstance, starting when he is a "circus boy" with a knife throwing father and a religious fanatic mother. This is one of those "lost films" which used to wow my friends when I would show them the laserdisc, which I still have.

I've seen most of the summer blockbusters so far. Backwards from last week:
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" 8 of 10 on the Mikometer. The best in the series so far, and Dumbledore has such a small presence the viewer doesn't even miss Richard Harris. Emma Thompson is deliciously funny. David Thewlis is eerily creepy. The kids are not "outgrowing" the series yet, but are getting there fast. The hippogriff is the best digital character since Gollum.

"The Stepford Wives" remake by Fozzie Bear, er, I mean Frank Oz. The best thing about this film is the credit sequence, which uses old 50s advertisements and trade show films showcasing "modern kitchens" with shiny new appliances and models dressed in gowns. The movie itself is flat, uninteresting and a waste of time. All the actors, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Peter Bart, Jon Lovitz, and Christopher Walken, are all slumming terribly, and with all the acting talent, it's a damn shame that the film works so poorly, or, really, not at all. The original was always "lacking" but at least it had the ending of the book. This one changes not only the ending, but the name of the character "Diz" whom I thought was being played by Walken. He's even boring in this film.
Having one of the couples be "gay" and the "prissy" one (Bart) becomes the "stepford wife" is rather in bad taste and isn't funny to boot. 4 of 10 on the Mikometer.

"The Day After Tomorrow" Roland Emmerich's latest attempt to cinematically destroy the world, is more of the same in tone and execution, but special effects have gotten better since his last effort "Godzilla" and you really "see" New York freeze, Los Angeles decimated by tornadoes, Tokyo being hit by hailstones the size of soccer balls, and Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, and Emily Rossum ("Mystic River", "Songcatcher") trying their hardest not to crack a smile as the northern part of the United States becomes increasingly colder. According to the film, global warming causes "super storms" which are like "ice hurricanes" overtaking the Earth with little time to prepare or survive. This being an Emmerich picture, a lot of strategically placed plot points keep the action moving, and I wasn't bored, like, say, with "Stepford Wives" which I wanted to see. No, that's not true, I wanted to see "Day After Tomorrow", the previews looked great, and the imagery did not disappoint. I'll even buy the DVD. Cheesy Science Fiction Film like "The Core".

:: Michael Nyiri 11:20 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Thursday, May 27, 2004 ::
I went to the theater for the first time in months last Saturday. I want to see the upcoming summer releases: "The Day After Tomorrow", "The Stepford Wives", "Spiderman II" and went this past weekend to see "Shrek 2" but the theaters were packed, mostly with kids, so I bought a ticket (Matinee prices at the AMC are now $8:00 a ticket, it's getting ridiculous to think I get the used DVD's a few months later for $9.99 at Hollywood Video.) for "Troy" a movie I didn't really care to see.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Even though the "gods" are not represented, they are mentioned. Wolfgang Petersen ("Das Boot" , "The Perfect Storm") directs. The cast is tremendous, and the dialogue does Homer proud. Brad Pitt plays Achilles. Sean Bean (from the first "Lord of the Rings" movie) plays Odysseus. Brian Cox (the "original" Hannibal Lecter) plays Agamemnon. Paris is played by Orlando Bloom (also "Lord of the Rings" and "Pirates of the Carribean") Saffron Burrows , Brendan Gleeson, are also in the cast. Hector is played by Eric Bana (last year's "Hulk") Helen is newcomer Diane Kruger.
At first I didn't think she was beautiful enough to "launch a thousand ships" but I warmed to her after a while.
The set design and production values are befitting for a 200 million dollar movie, and both the individual fight scenes and the battle scenes are beautifully photographed. Roger Pratt ("Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", "The Fisher King" and "Twelve Monkeys" for Terry Gilliam) lensed the film. Nigel Phelps, who did a similarly good job on "Pearl Harbor" did the production design.
I can't get over how much I love this movie.
It is long, but not boring. It plays as if it is historical drama, and the principals do mention the gods but they don't make an appearance. Petersen is not going for a Ray Harryhausen ancient Greece. Each bit of business is historically accurate, and the folks who made this movie are well versed in the mythology, and the history.
Brad Pitt, who hasn't starred in a movie since "Ocean's 11" which was an ensemble piece, is magnificent as Achilles, and some poeple in the audience were actually shocked when he dies in the end, and it is with an arrow through his ankle. All the nunaces of the epic poem "The Illiad" are touched upon, and people who know the mythology will not be disappointed, but people who don't will be able to follow the story.
9 of 10 on the Mikometer.
Only trouble with not personifying the Gods, is that the sequel has already been written, Homer's "Oddysey", and it is filled with beasts like the Cyclops and mermaids like the Sirens, so I don't see how they can turn that story into a historical drama.
The Trojan Horse makes a fantastic appearance, and the city of Troy and it's sacking are similarly fantastic.
I don't think I have been so pleasantly surprised by a film since I saw "The Fifth Element".
Next week": Roland Emmerich's "The Day After Tomorrow", the "global warming film". Previews are magnificent.
:: Michael Nyiri 9:37 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, May 16, 2004 ::
Whether to see "Van Helsing" hasn't been a big priority, but I do admire that director Stephen Somers (The "Mummy" remakes.)is a fan of the original Universal Horror films and has had a hand in the release of three really great box sets including a lot of the old B&W Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman films. By the look of the previews for "Van Helsing" in which star Hugh Jackman looks like he's slumming in between XMen films, and Kate Beckinsale looks like she's making a career out of appearing in bad horror films. (she's not a vampire out to kill werewolves in this one, she's out to kill the vampires.) The set design and CGI is very "busy" and I didn't like the looks of the previews. I do like the set design and cinematography of the original Universal Horror films, however, and the transfers are for the most part well done in the DVD sets. The packaging is tremendous. I wanted to get the "gift set" but I needed to buy these films pronto and Universal made the mistake of not making enough of the gift sets (they include busts of the three principal "monsters" as well as the DVDs.) so I couldn't get the gift set from either DVD planet or Best Buy. Circuit City didn't even stock the sets.
I'm in the middle of the Frankenstein films, and even though it is relatively easy to laugh at Boris Karloff's big lug, especially after having been ruined by Mel Brook's "Young Frankenstien" in college, I still savor the camerawork and especially the moody sets, all filmed on the Universal backlot, and seen on the tram tour.
Each set comprises four films on two DVD's and Steven Somers had a lot to do with the fact that the films were released. I don't even have laserdiscs of these so having 12 or thirteen of these films in the DVD library is a welcome addition.
I still don't know about Van Helsing. Probably will finally see it in a theater, but can't believe it raked in 54 mil in it's opening weekend.

:: Michael Nyiri 1:23 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
Where to begin?
I've been "offline" for quite a while owing to a nasty virus that settled in my puter, and even when active, I've been posting poems to ElectricPoetry and not concentrating on the movie blog. I have been watching films, albeit not too often in the theater. "Girl With a Pearl Earring" a DVD rental, was a very fine film, filled with period detail of Dutch life in the 15th Century. It was directed by Peter Webber, who has a credit directing a TV movie version of "Stepford Wives." (I'm anticipating the muppet, er, I mean, Frank Oz's retelling of the original movie this summer, love the idea of Christopher Walken as Diz.) I admit I only watched "Pearl Earring" for Scarlett Johannsen and Colin Firth. I'm in love with Scarlett and have been following her career since the excellent "Ghost World" and the Coen's "Man Who Wasn't There". Needless to say she became a major player with "Lost in Translation" last year. She is remarkable as the Girl, Griet, who is a servant for Johannes Vermeer, the Dutch Master painter, played with understatement by the gloriously gifted Colin Firth. Not only does dear Scarlett look like the girl in the painting, the various scenes are inspired by Dutch paintings of the period, much like the cinematography in Ridley Scott's first feature, "The Duellists" and Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" was inspired by paintings.
The plot is about how this waif/servant girl fits or more properly fails to fit in with the household, and the end result is the creation of the painting. A wonderful film, and an acting powerhouse.
Colin Firth is becoming one of my faves. I saw the DVD of "Love, Actually" for the first time the other day, and it has become one of my all time favorite romantic comedies. I was entrhalled with the section concerning Colin Firth's Englishman and his Portequese maid/lover. So much so that I rented another Firth starrer, with Heather Graham and Minnie Driver called Hope Springs which was directed by Mark Herman who directed "Brassed Off" and "Little Voice" both very well done films. "Hope Springs" is set in America, and not England and concerns the travails of Colin's character who is escaping his ex girlfriend in England (Driver) who follows him to the picturesque New England town of Hope Springs to get him back, but after he has already fallen in love with "caregiver" Mandy, played by Graham. I was delighted with the proceedings in this film as well.
I'd like to spend hours talking about "Love, Actually", which plays sort of like an English "Playing with Hearts". Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, a lovely lass named Martine McCutcheon, Emma Thompson, the aforementioned Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, I'm sure I've left some other wondrous performance out. The film is filled with many stories which take place around Christmas time, and the viewer doesn't get confused or bored. Each story line is interweaved beautifully, and director Richard Curtis, who wrote "Briget Jones' Diary" and "Notting Hill" introduces the deleted scenes which couldn't fit in the movie, but which enrich the story of Liam Neeson's recently widowed father.
This is a film worth watching more than once.

:: Michael Nyiri 1:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, April 11, 2004 ::
I've been so busy "online" with Poetry and haven't updated Movies except to finally add a still from "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" for the main page. I've been similarly busy with "making" my own little "internet movies", like the latest MikeVideo (No link yet, except to the latest download: "Beach Dreams". I wanted to write about the "Oscar Party" I attended, but that was Feb. 29th, and it's now, (heavens!) April 11th, Easter Sunday morning. The "Oscar Party" was fantastic. Debbie, Jim Zabel's sister (Jim supplies the soundtrack to my latest MikeVideo) and her husband, a retired drama professor, invite their friends to a party complete with a "pot" which the winner takes home. This isn't the most important part of the party, it's a time for old friends to get together, but it helps to "intensify" the atmosphere, especially in a predictable Oscar telecast (I'm sure glad it was predictable, as I finally got my "best Pix choice back again.) . I liked the telecast myself, and viewing it in a social atmosphere was a real treat. The food was stupendous. We had all kinds of different dishes to chow down on, including crab cakes, two different "designer" pizzas, and and some cheescake that melted in my mouth. This was a while back, now, and I still remember the food. That's always the mark of a great party as far as I'm concerned.
Sadly, I didn't "win" the party prize. But I had a great time. Hearing "Return of the King" several times (a tie for record of noms/wins with Ben-Hur I believe, at 11.) I thought "King" broke a record, but it didn't.

I've watched lots of films since I've written, as well, and some of them were, from the theater pictures first:

"The Passion of the Christ" director Mel Gibson, 10 of 10 So far perhaps the Best Picture Winner for 2004. An emotional tour de force which shows the Pain of the Passion in excruciating detail. (Better than "Braveheart with Jesus" which I first uttered when I heard about the making of the film. A reverent look at the "Gospel Truth" of Jesus' Crucufixion, which at over two hours, with sproadic flashbacks, gets painful. A magnificent film, with stunning visuals, and a heart wrenching portrait of Jesus by Jim Cavieziel from "The Count of Monte Cristo".

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" a somewhat disappointing Michael Gondry film with Jim Carrey 5 of 10 Charlie Kaufmann did the screenplay. I wanted to like it more than I did.

The New "Dawn of the Dead" by newcomer Zack Snyder. 6 of 10 I'm a big fan of the original movie but I went for Sarah Polley, Mekhi Pheiffer, and my fave Ving Rhames in the cast, but the dead move too quickly in this version, and the original, by Romero is a classic. My favorite part was hearing the song "All the people who died, died" at the end of the end credit sequence. That was always one of Bob's favorite songs. There are some real good sequences. But the original is more disorienting, and this one is more of a roller coaster. I won't discount that it is a fairly well made film, full of action and suspense, but too much shakycam and digital fast mo for me.

"Spartan" the new David Mamet film. 7 of 10 Wasn't "prime Mamet" as far as I am concerned. Val Kilmer (a favorite, never miss him, and particularly like the noir "Salton Sea". stars. The plot is a "political thriller" but it looks like a low budget TV movie and isn't that intriguing.

Lots of rentals and DVD purchases. Even got the "Airport" "Quadrilogy" for thirty bucks. Cheeseball American Cinema at it's worst. The second and third are eminently watchable. Last movie viewed on DVD, the deplorable "Duplex" by Danny DeVito, with a powerhouse cast, some good laughs, and an awful script. I'll go into detail on some of the rentals in another post.

Need to see films in a theater right now? Certainly not "The Alamo." Do want to see "Hellboy".

:: Michael Nyiri 9:58 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, February 28, 2004 ::

Tomorrow, Sunday, The Oscars.
I hadn't put a picture up in a while, and the page was starting to look barren, so in honor of the oscars, this is the poster for the 1962 event.
They were on Mondays then. And in April.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:59 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
Finally caught up with "Something's Gotta Give" this past weekend. Title is always confusing me, becuase of course, there is already a 1962 movie called "Something's Got to Give" which of course was the unfinished film Marily was working on at the time of her death. "Something's Gotta Give" is Nancy Meyer's humorous and touching take on middle age romance, with Jack Nicholson, who's getting better as he gets older, and Diane Keaton, who is now (along with Charlize Theron) my pick for Best Actress this Sunday night. Diane is lustrous, exciting, and still beautiful. (Major female stars of the seventies, as they age, usually pile on the botox and collagen, to somewhat startingly frightening effects. Witness Goldie Hawn, for example, who tends to look these days like the character she played in Zemeckis' "Death Becomes Her". But Diane Keaton has "aged well" and still looks beautiful. I've always said that Susan Sarandon is the most beautiful 53 year old gal I've ever loved, and Diane Keaton certainly gets my vote for the most beautiful 58 year old.
The film is one I would recommend to anyone, but especially to aging boomers like me. It rekindles one's belief in romance. It's funny. It's warm and has a feel good feeling to it. Something that most major films in 2003 certainly didn't offer.
"Monster" for instance, with the aforementioned Theron, is almost too painful to watch. The denoument of "Cold Mountain" is really chilly. And even though "Mystic River" is a great work of art, it isn't light comedy that's for sure.
"Something's Gotta Give" gets a 9 of 10 on the Mikometer.
:: Michael Nyiri 8:54 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 ::
Oscars this Sunday.

Actor in a leading role
Sean Penn in "Mystic River" (Warner Bros.)

Actor in a supporting role
Tim Robbins in "Mystic River" (Warner Bros.)
(Should have won a nomination and the best performance is Andy Serkis in "Return of the King"

Actress in a leading role
Either, or perhaps a tie:
Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give" (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Charlize Theron in "Monster" (Newmarket Films)

Actress in a supporting role
Renée Zellweger in "Cold Mountain" (Miramax)

Animated feature film
"Finding Nemo" (Buena Vista)

Art direction
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line)
Art Direction: Grant Major
Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee

"Cold Mountain" (Miramax) John Seale

Costume design
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line) Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line) Peter Jackson

Film editing
"Seabiscuit" (Universal/DreamWorks/Spyglass) William Goldenberg

"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line)
Richard Taylor and Peter King

Music (original score)
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line) Howard Shore

Music (original song)
"Into the West" from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line)
Music and Lyric by Fran Walsh and Howard Shore and Annie Lennox
Should win:
"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" from "A Mighty Wind" (Warner Bros.)
Music and Lyric by Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole

Visual effects
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line) Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke

Adapted Screenplay
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line) Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson

Original Screenplay
"Lost in Translation" (Focus Features) Written by Sofia Coppola

Best picture
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (New Line)
A Wingnut Films Production
Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Producers

This time I have most of them. Trust me. The beginning of a winning streak. You can bet on it. Go ahead.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:38 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, February 21, 2004 ::
I just rented "Open Range", as it has been "rented out" at Hollywood Video. This is one I will eventually own. I watched the "shootout scene" in toto twice over the past two days. This is a magnificent film, and a great western, with nods to everyone from Sergio Leone, to Clint Eastwood, to John Sturges, to John Ford, to Sam Peckinpah. Kevin Costner is fantastic, and he did win an Oscar, it might be remembered, for "Dances with Wolves". Kevin, as Charlie Waite, Robert Duvall as "Boss" Spearman, Annette Bening as Sue Barlow, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter. The cast is magnificent. The scenery, shot by James Muro, who steadicamed on "Titanic", and "X2" among other films, is lush and painterly. The production design, by Gae Buckley, always lets the viewer know exactly where he is in regards to location in the town. It seems somewhat futile to mention this, but why didn't "Open Range" get nominated for any Oscars. Kevin is a past winner. The film is much more than the "standard oater". I am always looking for good westerns, and this shall be a classic. I can't get enough of "Open Range." My roommate even liked it, and he doesn't like anything.
:: Michael Nyiri 8:26 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 ::
Much has been said about the fine film "Bend It Like Beckham" which I finally got around to seeing. I love sports movies which take me somewhere I haven't been, because I don't particularly like sports. This is more a "culture clash" movie, and ties in with my Bollywood tastes, being the tale of 'Jess' Bhamra, a Indian girl living in England who happens to be a fantastic soccer player, but is stuck in a "traditional" family, who do not think it proper for her to pursue her dreams. Directed by Gurinder Chadha, this is a heartfelt movie which, like "Real Women Have Curves", takes the viewer into a foreign subculture, and immerses us in this culture. It's also a neat sports movie, and Keira Knightly is more stunning here than in "Pirates of the Caribbean. "
:: Michael Nyiri 4:14 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 ::
I don't think I can honestly call myself a "movie buff" after seeing the documentary "Cinemania", one of the gems I picked up through Netflix. Jack, Eric, Bill, Roberta, and Harvey are the true "movie buffs" or "cinemaniacs". Not satisfied with "real life", this group of eclectic cinefiles forsake human relationships, family, work, etc. for the hectic life of a true cinemaniac. The documentary follows these people, who harbor a need to see at least three to five movies a day, in theaters, and not on video. Thier tastes are eclectic. They like foreign films and classic b&w's but they see them in art theaters in New York City. I don't even think there could be this subculture in L.A. We don't have enough theaters showing classics on a regular basis, besides Landmark theaters, the Bing, and the Egyptian. New Yorkers have quite a pallete to choose from, and this is a film I couldn't take my eyes off of. Roberta, the only female, is an outspoken individual, who gets impressively peeved if anyone "misunderstands" or "disagrees" with her tastes. Harvey collects film soundtracks on vinyl, but doesn't have a turntable on which to play them. Jack is the "main narrator" and seems to be the most "sane" (that's the best way to put it.) But all these guys are pretty weird. Harvey, for example, knows the running time of every film he sees, and gets upset at the projectionist when the film runs over or under. Don't even think of digital video with these folks. I was awestruck at this document of a subculture I guess I knew existed, but didn't really know about. I recommend it highly for anyone who considers themselves a movie buff.

:: Michael Nyiri 5:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, February 01, 2004 ::
This past week I saw a couple of John Frankenheimer flicks which I Tivo'd from Turner Classic Movies. "Birdman of Alcatraz", which is probably thought of along with "The Manchurian Candidate" when the director's name is mentioned. And "The Young Savages" sort of like "West Side Story" without the dancing and music. "Savages" is from 1961, and "Birdman" from 1962. Both star Burt Lancaster. Both are excellent. I hadn't seen "Birdman" since I was a kid. "Savages" tells an inner city youth tale, from a book by Evan Hunter, who wrote the similarly themed "Blackboard Jungle". Burt gets to laugh in "Savages" Hahahahaha. But as lifetime prisoner and bird buff, he's mostly very serious. Frankenheimer started as a television director, and his "signature" shot would have to be where one character is in almost closeup near the front of the screen, and another or a group of others is behind, yet still in focus. He likes to frame from below eye level, with the camera looking "up" at it's subjects. He also filmed wild car chases, but there aren't any in either movie I just lensed. "Birdman' looks wonderful in letterbox, even though it is only 1:85 to 1 because of the framing. Burt's performance is mannered, and wonderfully bristly. He's a D.A. in "Savages" in which he chews a bit more scenery.

I also saw "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" with Spencer Tracy as James Doolitle, and starring Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Don Defore and Phyllis Thaxter. Robert Mitchum shows up as another pilot. Just as exciting as I remember. The "real" footage and the staged footage, in b&w WWII era films (this one from 1944, and propaganda all the way) are matched rather well. It has one of moviedom's most quoted lines. "Why are you so cute?" " Because I had to be" spoken by Phyllis and Van.

I never tire of seeing the old b&w films on my "silver screen". One of the main reasons why I keep ahold of the "square" bigscreen television is for the old square gems of the silver screen.

Oscar fever is now upon us. I've now read two articles in the LA Times about Andy Serkis since the noms. One mentioned that there had been some buzz in the Hollywood community about nominating him for best supporting actor (I'm giving the nod to Tim Robbins in his absence) and one was a plug for a book he wrote about the experience of "acting" Gollum. I can hardly wait for the first nominated performance that was done in the computer. That will legitamize the process.
:: Michael Nyiri 7:30 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 ::
The Globe went to: "Lord of the Rings:Return of the King". Is it too early to think I might have chosen the oscar winner this year after three misses???? I won't venture a guess. Not this early. The nominations were just announced.
Picture: "THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING", (my choice. Now to write the "big article" for the website. Peter Jackson's greatest hour.) "LOST IN TRANSLATION", (I kinda thought this was the best of the year so far when I saw it a long time ago. It still holds up, and got the Globe for comedy/musical.) "MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD", (This one shouldn't have received so many nominations. A good film, but I still have to see this one again. It didn't impress me as much as, say, the TV miniseries with Kenneth Branagh about the Endeavor in Antarctica.) "MYSTIC RIVER", (My first real favorite this year, but like "LA Confidential", when it was up against "Titanic", the other movie is my favorite to win, even though I admire both. "SEABISCUIT" (I'm glad this early gem is included. A worthy pick.)
Of course this means "Cold Mountain" was shut out this year. It gets noms for Best Supporting Actress in Renee Zellweger, who won a Globe, and is my favorite for the supporting category. It also got a cinematography nom, but not much else. The surprise is Keisha Castle-Hughes for "Whale Rider" as actress instead of Nicole Kidman, but Nicole has been an Oscar staple for a while, and she won already. I'm very upset that since "Lost in Translation" is all over the noms, that Scarlett Johannsen is absent from both actress or supporting actress. Best Actor: I'm still bucking for Sean Penn, who got the Globe. I'm glad to see Dimon Hounsou as a supporting nom although I haven't seen "In America" yet. Tim Robbins, who was also nominated, got the Globe.
I think I 'm most surprised at the amount of noms given to "Master and Commander" but the academy loves Russell Crowe. They gave him an Oscar for "Gladiator". They gave best pic to "Gladiator".
Another disappointment. Neither "Millennium Actress" nor "Tokyo Godfathers", the two films by Satoshi Kon, were nominated for Animated Feature. We know "Finding Nemo" will get the award, but I find it very disappointing that Kon was shut out. I haven't seen "Godfathers" but "Actress" is not only great anime, it is a wonderful movie. I still have to see "Monster" for Charlize Theron's performance.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:57 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, January 24, 2004 ::
Ann Miller 1923-2004

The Good Fairy, 1935
The Devil on Horseback, 1936
New Faces of 1937, 1937
Stage Door, 1937
The Life of the Party, 1937
Tarnished Angel, 1938
Room Service, 1938
Radio City Revels, 1938
You Can't Take it With You, 1938
Too Many Girls, 1940
Hit Parade of 1941, 1940
Melody Ranch, 1940
Go West, Young Lady, 1941
Time Out for Rhythm, 1941
True to the Army, 1942
Priorities on Parade, 1942
What's Buzzin', Cousin?, 1943
Reveille With Beverly, 1943
Carolina Blues, 1944
Jam Session, 1944
Hey, Rookie, 1944
Eve Knew Her Apples, 1945
Eadie Was a Lady, 1945
The Thrill of Brazil, 1946
The Kissing Bandit, 1948
Easter Parade, 1948
On the Town, 1949
Watch the Birdie, 1950
Two Tickets to Broadway, 1951
Texas Carnival, 1951
Lovely to Look At, 1952
Kiss Me Kate, 1953
Small Town Girl, 1953
Deep in My Heart, 1954
Hit the Deck, 1955
The Opposite Sex, 1956
The Great American Pastime, 1956
Mulholland Dr., 2001
She was 80, and my room-mate, for one, thought her "selective memory" of MGM life in the forties and fifties was a pain in the "a". As many of the MGM stars got older, they seemed to be cheerleaders for the system, and began to believe their own version of history. Ann was one of the biggest mouths when it came to this, but I never cared. I "remember" her from her films, listed above. I haven't even seen them all, but I recently viewed "Easter Parade" and "The Opposite Sex" again, and every time I see an Ann Miller movie I fall in love with the image of this tall, leggy, dancing machine. Energetic, brassy, in-your-face, and sublimely beautiful, she was an "older woman" when I began my love affair with her as a child. One more icon of "Old Hollywood" has passed from existence, and the memory of that existence exists in the individual films. I think I might pull out my laserdisc of "Small Town Girl" and pay tribute to this old "trouper" who might have degenerated into Bette Davis Blathering if she had survived much longer. So what if my room-mate is one of her detractors. He has a selective memory as well. Ann is a Goddess of Dance and will be missed. Au Revoir, and Goodnight to a classy dancing lady.

:: Michael Nyiri 7:33 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Friday, January 09, 2004 ::
The Thin Man
After the Thin Man
Shadow of the Thin Man
Another Thin Man
The Thin Man Goes Home
Song of the Thin Man
I have now seen all of "The Thin Man" movies. (Thanks to Tivo.)
From the young couple first seen in 1934 to the aging but still cuddling lovebirds seen in the swing era "Song", Nick and Nora Charles fit stars William Powell and Myrna Loy like snug underwear. By the last film, which lampoons both itself as a series and the movies in general, sort of like self aware action films starring people like Will Smith today, there are several in-jokes and subtle asides that the genre was slowly fading out. I wish we could have seen a noir Nick and Nora next, but I believe "Song" was the last. This series is absolutely delightful, as are the two leads. After three or four movies, the series essentially became like a television series today, each film being an episode. I was hit with the realization while watching the first film, set and filmed in 1934, that all the drinking being shown was really rather bold in a country which had only recently been relieved of Prohibition. There is even one episode where Nick goes "straight". I love the conceipt that everywhere Nick goes he runs into old jailbirds whom he "sent up the river". The way in which the feel and the look of the films, which doesn't really vary very much since they are all shot on the MGM back lot, echoes the times changing, even though the films appear very much to be alike. I thrilled seeing William Powell age both in the role and literally.
These films are classics. I have never seen them all, and thanks to Tivo and Turner Classic Movies, my favorite TV channel, I have now experienced the complete set. (I always wanted the laserdisc box set but put it off, and I don't think they're all on DVD.) I'm also attempting to see the complete Andy Hardy on TCM, and have seen about five.

:: Michael Nyiri 10:55 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Monday, January 05, 2004 ::
I got the following two images from "One From The Heart" from the official website. There are more large images, and a host of video clips from the restored version of the film at:

Teri Garr as Frannie leaves Frederick Forrest on a wet Vegas night. (Indoors, just like in Oz.)

Frannie is living it up on the strip at the start of her date with "fantasy lover" Ray. (Raul Julia) (And we're still indoors on Fremont Street. In one shot in the film, you can actually see the roof of the soundstage, but I'm probably the only one that noticed, and it doesn't ruin the illusion....
:: Michael Nyiri 5:56 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
At a New Year's party, I gave my picks for Oscar. Here they are:
Best Picture: "Lord of the Rings:Return of the King"
Best Director: Peter Jackson: "LOTR:ROTK"
Best Actor: Sean Penn: "Mystic River"
Best Actress: Scarlett Johannsen: "Lost In Translation"
Best Supporting Actor: Andy Serkis: "LOTR:ROTK"
Best Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger: "Cold Mountain"
Costume design, set decoration and art direction to ROTK.
Cinematography: John Seale: "Cold Mountain"
Editing: Annie Collins & Jamie Selkirk: "ROTK"
I seem to have been blown away by the last installment of the Rings trilogy, but still have to emphasize that I am in fact "awarding" the entire trilogy, which is one seamless work, and not a series of three films shot over time. If only because of this accomplishment, Jackson and company should be "awarded" not only with the millions in box office revenues that are coming their way (third week at number one.) but with recognition by the Academy.

:: Michael Nyiri 6:58 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Monday, December 29, 2003 ::
A quick thought about Renee Zellweger's performance in "Cold Mountain". I can't say anything about Renee without first mentioning that I have been a fan of her and have been following her career since "Love and a .45" . I read recently that she is somewhat over the top in "Mountain". The reviewer compared her performance to Debbie Reynolds as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." I beg to differ. Playing a character like Ruby Thewes might make the actress essaying the role turn into Betty Hutton ("Annie Get Your Gun") but I believe Renee showed a lot of restraint. Here is an actress (as compared to a movie star, like, say Catherine Zeta Jones, who won a Best Supporting Actress Award for "Chicago" last year) who has won some Globes ("Chicago" and "Nurse Betty") but has not been singled out by the Academy yet. Here's a Best Supporting Actress Nod from me. Seldom has someone (other than Robert de Niro) thrown their weight (as in "Briget Jones Diary") into their craft as well as Renee does. I believed in Ruby as a real person, and her arrival in "Cold Mountain" even though it was expected, delighted and surprised me. Renee is a wonderful character "actress" who doesn't fall into the same traps as some well known movie stars who wished they were actresses. She compliments and enforces Nicole Kidman's performance as Ada Monroe. She almost steals every scene she's in away from Nicole, and I've been in love with her since "Dead Calm" so that's saying something!
:: Michael Nyiri 6:37 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, December 28, 2003 ::

Hank and Frannie have been together for five years. Co-habiting in a Las Vegas "fixer-upper", their fifth year anniversary (on the Fourth of July) begins with both partners questioning their choices. An argument ensues, and each chases his fantasy romantic dream, complete with dazzling setpieces imaginatively shot completely on soundstages and music and lyrics from Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle.
In 1982, when director/mastermind Francis Ford Coppola released his avowed favorite movie, "One From the Heart", nobody much seemed interested in his lavishly produced valentine to the musical comedy form, utilizing technical knowhow and some beautiful music, not to mention stellar acting from Frederick Forrest as Hank, Teri Garr as Frannie, and Harry Dean Stanton and Lainie Kazan as their friends and Raul Julia and Nastassia Kinski as their romantic fantasy lovers. Now that the DVD is soon to be released on January 27th. the movie has been re-released in theaters and I got to see it at the Nuart in Santa Monica. Although I have a personal quibble in that the re-edited version cuts what I think is one of the best lines, Teri Garr's "I'm walking. Look at me go." and doesn't finish the first traveling shot into the travel agency from the window display, as I say, I'm merely quibbling. The movie is back, it's on the "big screen", and will soon be in my DVD collection, complete with some commentary by Baz Luhrrman, I understand, who was inspired by "One From the Heart" in making "Moulin Rouge". Here is the link to the official site.

"One From the Heart" has always been one of my personal favorite films for years, and I have regretted for years losing my CED collection, where it lived for many of those years. A laserdisc was never issued, and I understand Francis himself pulled it from theaters after suffering a broken heart when nobody saw it. Sadly, the early show I saw on Saturday, one day after it's opening at the Nuart, only had six or seven patrons. I hope that there are more like me who think of this film as true artistic endeavor, to be lavished upon and experienced more than once, like a favorite album. The DVD has lots of extras, unlike the DVD of "Phantom of the Paradise" which I was so disappointed in I didn't even buy yet, even though it, like "Heart" is a favorite musical from a director whose name doesn't usually come to mind when thinking about the form.
:: Michael Nyiri 12:32 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Friday, December 26, 2003 ::
I began to be worried when I read the list of Golden Globes, and noticed all the hoopla concerning Anthony Minghella's Civil War romantic tragedy "Cold Mountain". After all, I championed "English Patient" as Best Picture in 1996. If "Cold Mountain", which hadn't even been released yet, could receive all those noms, then it probably was as epic and tragic as the previews had suggested it would be.
Well, even though I am championing "Return of the King" for my Best Picture nod this year, I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if "Cold Mountain" takes away the statuette.
The reviews are strong, and although I thought the turnout somewhat weak in the afternoon (every body is still in the five or six theaters in the complex showing "Return of the King" I suppose) the film itself is a work of art, and much more a comparison film in tone and scope to "English Patient" than his earlier "Talented Mr. Ripley".
"Cold Mountain" is brutal. Brutally honest in it's portrayal of war, missed and misguided opportunites, torn emotions, and broken spirits. Brutally honest in the feelings and misguided notions of it's characters. Jude Law should be singled out as Inman, who begins the film in the midst of battle, a somewhat ethereal presence, whom, even in flashbacks seems a silent "everyman" when he meets the stunning Ada Monroe, played with spunk and a regal bearing by Nicole Kidman, whose performance echoed Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara although not being an homage or even attemtpting to be any thing other than the character. Law is essentially standing in for the audience as viewers of what such a social and historical disaster as the Civil War can wreak on the populace of the nation. We see, through his eyes, and without much commentary, the horrors of war, and how it can reduce even the most innocuous of moments, into utter confusion and carnage in another moment.
I'm blown away by the film. It is stunning to look at, sad to ponder, and wonderfully directed. I'm still partial that Jackson win the Oscar this year, but that's personal. He won't. Minghella has won, and so has Eastwood, so even though their films are both powerful, Jackson has a chance in my book.
I highly recommend "Cold Mountain", however, and give it a 10 of 10 on the Mikometer.
:: Michael Nyiri 7:45 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, December 20, 2003 ::
When I got out of the performance for "Return of the King", I had a couple more hours to kill, so I decided to see "Mona Lisa Smile", the new Julia Roberts movie, with co-stars Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Marcia Gay Harden. Although somewhat pale in comparison to "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" from the sixties, I did thouroughly enjoy the acting, produciton design, plot, and characterizations of "Mona Lisa". I even cried during the last scene with the girls pacing Julia in the cab on their bicycles. Upon leaving the theater, a funny/strange thing happened that bothered me. A female patron, who was alone, as was I, sitting a few seats from me, approached me walking out of the theater, and exclaimed: "Did you hate that movie as much as I did?" I shrugged her off with a "No, I kinda liked it" and ducked into the men's room. In retrospect, I think she was just trying to start a converstation, and she said she had noticed me "squirming", probably because of sitting on a theater seat for past five hours, including "Rings". I really was taken aback, though! I enjoy the reverie of sitting in a dark theater seeing a film, and if I enjoy it, like "Mona Lisa Smile" I don't want to deal with someone who doesn't like it at all. I've always maintained that a person either likes a particular movie or not. If one is knowledgeable and intelligent enough to note that a film might be good even if one doesn't like it, then that person is singular. I try to notice the difference, but just didn't want to have to wipe the still wet tear from my eye and try to verbalize the graces of the film to someone who "hated it". Not my cup of tea.
On the other hand, I have always fantasized about a gal coming up to me to discuss the film we had just seen (together in the dark). She should have asked me how I liked it instead of displaying her hatred right away is all.
:: Michael Nyiri 8:41 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
"The Lord of the Rings" trilogy comes to a close (too soon, I might add) with the anticipated release of "Return of the King".

10 of 10 on the Mikometer.
My pick for Best Picture of 2003. Andy Serkis should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his "interpretation" of Smeagol/Gollum.
This is truly a "crowning acheivement" for director Peter Jackson, and the Academy should honor him for his efforts. If not Best Director, then at least give this the Best Picture nod.
(Perhaps it will get a Globe?)
I sat transfixed, even though not a true Ringophile (?) through the conclusion of this epic tale. Posh on the folks who credit the sweep and epic filmmaking ahead of the acting. When Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee enters the room where Elijah Wood's Frodo is putting the finishing touches on the "books", my tear ducts opened wide. I care for these hobbits, elves, dwarves, humans, and wizards, just as openly as in any humane piece of work. A triumph. A wonder. I've begun watching this "true trilogy" again, by taking out the extended versions of the DVD's and starting from the beginning all over again.
I wish the Academy would listen to me this time. Yes, "Mystic River" was my first favorite, and "Seabiscuit" is a wonderful time at the movies. But Clint Eastwood has his Oscar, and nothing compares to LOTR:ROTK as true "literate" film-making. In 1939, when dozens of great films competed for Best Picture during what has consequently been considered one of the most artistically drenched years in movie history, the Academy Award went to "Gone With the Wind" , a very popular movie based on a very popular book. To this day, the film, one of my personal favorites since I saw one of the reissues as a child in the theater, has endured as one of the greats of all time, and most people agree on it's status. GWTW usually comes in at around Number 3 on almost everyone's list of "best films".
This year, when there haven't been a lot of earthshakingly great films, even though some of the year end crop weigh in pretty heavily, I feel the Oscar should go to Jackson and ROTK. The end of one of the most amazing tales in the history of filmmaking, how a director with a dream fulfills his vision of filming all three of the films at once, ensuring that the vision is not hampered over time. As it is, the "journey" to make the films took seven years. I feel exhausted just thinking about the project.
Yes, I love Clint Eastwood, and since he is aging, my first inkling was that I would champion "Mystic River". Although there are still a few front runners I haven't seen, I don't know if I will think any of them compares with ROTK as my choice. For the past three years, my "losing streak" has made me feel out of touch with the Academy, even though I took pride in my "winning streak" in previous years.
This year I won't predict I will be right.
But Andy Serkis for Supporting Actor, issuing in a new era where a "digital role" would be nominated. (I don't expect him to win, but a nomination would be nice. I'd like him to win!) And "Return of the King" for Best Picture. Best Director to Peter Jackson.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:23 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, December 14, 2003 ::
This weekend I chose to see "The Last Samauri" and it disappointed me. The film is somewhat forgettable and I will quote a reviewer on Yahoo Movies who said she had seen it all before 10 years ago when Kevin Costner played the lead. Tom Cruises through another easy role. I had hoped to see him act. I know he can do it. I really don't expect this to be an Oscar frontrunner after seeing it. The box office isn't as phenomenal as you'd expect for a Tom Cruise movie either. I didn't think the sets were that spectacular, and there's better swordplay in, say, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", or "Kill Bill" for that matter. It's a pleasant afternoon at the movies, but no great shakes as far as I'm concerned. I looked at my watch too much. 6 of 10, pretty much the lowest I grade.
:: Michael Nyiri 3:15 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Monday, December 01, 2003 ::
I tivo'd 1969's "Paint Your Wagon" recently. The movie is, along with "Hello Dolly", , released the same year, part of the reason why big budget musical comedies died at the end of the sixties. Audiences were not in the mood for big budget musicals at the end of the sixties, even though the best picture of 1968 was "Oliver". "Dolly" came at the wrong time, and put MGM out of business. "Wagon" made the mistake of casting leads who couldn't sing. "Paint Your Wagon" was the most expensive film of it's time, and nearly every critic at the time of it's release gave it the ol' "thumbs down". I believe it is an essential piece of work, however, and this isn't just because I like musicals. It seems everybody can single out Lee Marvin's rendition of "I was Born Under a Wandrin' Star" as one of those songs, like Leonard Nimoy's rendition of "Bilbo Baggins", that are soo bad they are classics, in a Dr. Demento sort of way. At the time, I don't know what the filmmakers were thinking, but in retrospect, seeing both Marvin (as prospector Ben Rumson) and a marvelous Clint Eastwood (as "Pardner") in their only co-starring effort together, was a real treat. The tivo copy, from a standard DirecTV feed on Turner Classic Movies, wasn't good enough to view on the HDTV, but showed up on the analog 60" screen very well.
The Broadway musical was very popular. Joshua Logan directed the movie. The songs were well known, in addition to "Wandrin' Star", there was "I talk to the Trees" and the excellent "They Call the Wind Maria." (To the producer's credit, Harve Presnell as Rotten Luck Willie sings the latter.) The plot concerns what happens when a gruff prospector, Marvin's Rumson, meets up with a homesteading farmer (Eastwood) whose brother dies in the film's opening covered wagon crash, as gold is found in the brother's grave. The pardners, along with other prospectors, found the town "No-Name City", which soon blossoms into a bustling boom town. Albeit with no women in sight. When a Mormon straggles into town with his two wives, the menfolk decide that one man having two wives in a this town is unfair, so the second wife (Elizabeth, played by Jean Seberg) is auctioned off. Although Rumson wins her hand, his pardner Pardner is granted an equal share, and Elizabeth sets up homesteading with them both. Later, the men kidnap a coach full of prostitutes bound for another boom town, and No Name City grows into a metropolis.
The actual town was constructed in Oregon, and this was way before miniatures and digital imaging, so everything is real. The sets are a delight, and the plot moves forward easily, even though the movie clocks in at over three hours. Musicals did pretty much die after the release of "Paint Your Wagon" but I still admire the cinematography, by William Fraker, and the byplay between Seberg, Eastwood, and Marvin is excellent.
I also recently tivo'd "How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying" from 1967, when the musical was still in full flower. The choreography is by Bob Fosse. Robert Morse is at his cutest. Michelle Lee is a delight. Although some of the songs from the Broadway musical were trimmed for the film, the music that is on film, including "It's Been a Long Day", "The Company Way", and "Old Ivy", are staged tremendously. My favorite number from the film is "A Secretary is Not a Toy."
:: Michael Nyiri 5:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, November 30, 2003 ::
"The Missing" is not as good a western as Kevin Cosner's latest, "Open Range". Where "Range", like "Dances With Wolves", opts for epic sweep and universal characters, Ron Howard's latest, which I give 6 or 10 on the Mikometer, is a straight ahead story detailing the efforts of a frontier doctor (Cate Blanchett) and her tracker father (Tommy Lee Jones, in a role that fits him too much like an old glove) to find her missing daughter, who has been kidnapped by a white slaver. In an earlier time when there were lots of westerns on the filmic horizon, this would have been a "standard oater", but since westerns are few and far between these days, and since I love the genre, I was waiting for this one. The film is better directed than the usual Howard piece. I liked it better than "Beautiful Mind". But this isn't a classic in any sense.
:: Michael Nyiri 5:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, November 22, 2003 ::
The big guns are starting to be rolled in for the holiday/Oscar season. I saw "Master and Commander" and give it a 7 of 10 on the Mikometer. I want to give it a higher position, but I tend to give too high a number to too many films, and in retrospect, perhaps M&C isn't as great an acheivement as Roger Ebert led me to believe after hearing him gush about the film on Ebert and Roeper. First: it's chances for Oscar. I don't think it will rate. I love swashbucklers, although this is more a historical "epic" than a simple "pirate" movie. It is tons better than "Pirates of the Carribean", but falls short of "masterful" to my thinking. The story of Captain Jack Aubrey (I almost wrote "Sparrow") who commands a British frigate, the "Surprise", looking for French to fight during the Napoleonic Wars, it is a rousing tale told with gusto and suspense by director Peter Weir. The film seems somewhat hard to follow at points, and there is a lot of camera buffeting meant to simulate the heaving waves. I'm sure I will like this film better when I get the DVD, (I wanted to rewind some of the movie for plot emphasis). Russell Crowe shows he is today's consummate action guy, and plays a mean fiddle as well. I understand he actually learned how to play violin for the captain's and his ship's doctor's musical interludes. One thing that really kept knawing at me as I watched was that Aubrey's friend, Dr. Maturin , the ship's surgeon, is played by Paul Bettany, who played Crowe's nonexistant room-mate in Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind". Next week is Howard's "western", "The Missing".
:: Michael Nyiri 6:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Tuesday, November 04, 2003 ::
This last weekend I saw "Runaway Jury" in the theater, and give it a 7 of 10. It is a standard Grisham thriller, and I kept thinking of Gene Hackman as the head of "The Firm". Overall it is a fine movie, nothing really special, and not one I will someday buy on DVD. The main attraction, and why I wanted to see it in the first place is the actors, specifically John Cusack as the tampering juryman Nicholas Easter. For some reason I don't really think of Rachel Weisz as that pretty an ingenue or that great an actress, but she did impress me in her "Jury" scenes. Much has been made of the Gene Hackman vs. Dustin Hoffman pairing, but they both seemed to be chewing the scenery in a somewhat usual effect.
:: Michael Nyiri 5:34 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
This weekend's "theater film" is the Coen Brothers' "Intolerable Cruelty" and although I wasn't keen on thinking this was going to be "Classic Coen" from the trailers, I give it an 7 of 10, bordering on 8. Both George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones are perfectly paired, and the biting Coen humor exists in all it's glory. Especially of note is Cedric the Entertainer as a private dick. The final scene is hilarious. "Cruelty" also has a perfect spit take by Clooney, and one of the best filmed jokes of the year, which I don't want to spoil by giving away. Prime Coen, somewhat below "Raising Arizona", and not in the league with "Miller's Crossing" or "Fargo" but much better, in my opinion, than "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou".
:: Michael Nyiri 5:33 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, October 25, 2003 ::
The DVD versions of all three Indiana Jones movies are out, in a box set, and I have no money. But.... a friend purchased the set, and I was able to catch both "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" on my HDTV. I'll have to wait a while for "Last Crusade" and the extras disc. I haven't seen "Raiders" in years, and haven't seen the film in it's full widescreen glory since 1981 in the theater. I had a CED videodisc, which was non-box, and the letterboxed versions of the first two films never came out on laserdisc, so these DVD's are something special, and films I certainly will want to own. Because my friend wanted to see "Temple of Doom" on my HDTV, and had already watched "Raiders", I saw this first, before seeing "Raiders". It might seem that this is out of sequence, but "Temple of Doom" is set a couple of years before the first film, so it makes perfect sense from a timeline perspective.
I still don't like the shrill performance of Kate Capshaw, but this time around I noticed (especially with "Kill Bill" still in recent memory) that the "gruesome" stuff in "Doom" which garnered it the first PG-13 rating in filmdom now seems tame. Somehow in memory, I got the "monkey brains" scene mixed up with real footage featured on the "Faces of Death" series on video, and the footage in "Doom" is fairly tame. I still think "Raiders" is the quintessential entry in the series, and it is still, after all these years, a grand hoot to watch. Karen Allen is delightful as a Hawksian babe with as much moxie as Jones, and I couldn't get over how young Harrison Ford is in the film, which to me, seems like it just came out yesterday.
I'm looking forward to "Crusade", with an excellent turn by Sean Connery as Indy's dad, and to the extras disc.
I understand a box set of Looney Tunes is scheduled for next week, and I missed the original boxed laserdisc set of the classic Tunes so can hardly wait for this release as well.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:00 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, October 19, 2003 ::
There is no justice. "Mystic River" nationwide at 5th place. The remake of Tobe's "Chainsaw Massacre", which was lambasted by critics, and which I just do not even care to mention is No. 1? "Kill Bill" should have at least spent a second week in the top spot. I can't fathom why movies like "Dreamcatcher" disappear, and remakes of classic films can get a number one spot. Shows that, besides being no justice, people have no sense when it comes to picking product upon which to waste $7.50 (I go to matinees, I know it's closer to ten bucks at night, even worse logic.)
I will cry tonight for the moviegoing public. At least Jack Black's starrer (and the Richard Linklater directed) "School of Rock" is holding in there. I've got this one on my list of want to sees but probably won't get to see it in a theater.
Speaking of the senseless moviegoing public, I rented one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past few months, Peyton Reed's "Down With Love" and watched it the all important second time last night. This was snubbed at the B.O. and is one of the most deservedly comical and interesting pieces of filmed product offered in 2003. The DVD is a must have, lots of neat extras, and the full screen "video" version of the "Up with Love" musical number from the end credits. Renee seemed anorexic to me in "Chicago" but I fell in love with her all over again in her homage to Doris Day. Ewan McGregor proves he's a leading man for the ages, and the direction, production design, costumes, pacing, is all a wonder to behold. Why didn't "Down With Love" prove a hit, at least in it's first weekend, like "Chainsaw" remake did this week?. Well, for one, it came out during the summer of sequels and had the misfortune of being original. Two, Hallowe'en is coming up, and the "kids" like the horror movies. I don't know of course, not having seen (or having cared to see) the remake of "Chainsaw." I just rented the remake of "Willard" with Crispin Glover, and when I saw the picture of his character's "father", Bruce Davison, whom of course was in the original "Willard" , plus the set design and atmosphere, I know it will be fun to watch. But no one saw it, as I remember.
"Chainsaw" got 29mil. I'm upset. "Mystic River" is art. "Chainsaw" is probably wallpaper.
Oh Well.
I added a link to the left under the links for my other sites. The webmaster of a discussion group for movies called "MilkPlus" (after a drink in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" which I remember seeing in Hollywood a long time ago, and which remains one of Kubrick's masterpieces and a damn fine rollercoaster of a film.) asked to exchange links. I haven't done that with the Electric Movies site, so thought I'd give it a try. I'll see if my link is added to that site, probably along with a million other movie blogs. But it's a start. I won't get readers if I don't actively begin promoting and link exchanges did work in the past, so I'll try to get past my skepticism and look at this as a positive step toward said readership.
Also I fully intend on keeping up the posts now. I've got the HDTV, computer, record player, receiver, and digital camera all hooked up. Soon, the capability I've always dreamed about concerning instantly adding images from my collection of movies to the computer will be complete. The scanner went on the blink, but I rarely use it.
Let me hope, dear Electric Movies Diary, that I will begin to post more incisive insights as to why I watch so many movies, again and again, and try to remember to post on this blog the reasons as they hit me.
Ciao. For Now.

:: Michael Nyiri 1:42 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, October 18, 2003 ::
I saw "Mystic River" last night.
This is the Best Picture so far this year.
Clint Eastwood has directed, in the later part of his life, a masterpiece of unparalleled quality and unflinching emotion. The story of three friends who suffer an emotional and indelible separation early in their lives when one of them, Dave, played in "later life" by Tim Robbins, is molested, the movie is a straightforward and unblinking look at a lot of Eastwood's motifs from earlier films, yet culminates in a career milestone, even for a director who has already won an Oscar for the gut wrenching "Unforgiven" in 1993.
While last weeks "movie of the week" "Kill Bill" is relentless in it's bloody revenge engine driven plot, it is ultimately and admittedly cartoonish. Eastwood's "River" is heartrenderingly "real". The one murder which drives the plot started a flood of tears to well up and gush over me, causing me to wipe my glasses numerous times. The buzz on Robbins, who plays completely against the "type" to which he usually is cast, has overlooked the rare gem of a performance of this piece. And this is a film (sans the director, who does not have a role) with excellent performances all around. The Oscar should go to Sean Penn, whose performance gives chills as the "hardcase" of the group, Jimmy. I would say that his performance supersedes mere "acting". I felt each and every moment with him as if I were feeling his feelings myself.
Kevin Bacon, as Sean, the third of the friends, is a marvel as well, in a different way, with a mannered performance. Clint doesn't show up as another actor (a la Woody Allen in "Bullets Over Broadway" in John Cusak's performance.) Bacon is a cop, but he certainly isn't Dirty Harry. No squinting or histrionic outbursts here.
Credit should be given to Eastwood, who is a true "actor's director", to the complete cast including Morpheus (I mean Laurence Fishburne), Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney, who all play characters they have not played before. And the city of Boston is a character as well. I'm so glad Clint insisted that the movie be shot on location. His earlier location work on the overlooked gem "Midnight In the Garden Of Good and Evil" (Savannah, Georgia) was equally impressive and wonderfully shot. Tom Stern shot "Mystic River", and is no stranger to Eastwood's ouvere, having photographed not only "Unforgiven", but "A Perfect World" and "Bird" among other works of art by the director.
The film is dark, both in tone, and in the way it is shot. The characters are "normal", but deeply flawed, as with a lot of Eastwood, specifically William Munny and John Wilson, the director (based on John Huston) in "White Hunter, Black Heart."
Best Picture. Best Actor for Sean Penn.
Best Supporting for either Laura or Marcia Gay. (Marcia's won, so let's give it to Laura.)
Lot's of interesting films coming up. I loved "Lost In Translation" Sofia Coppola's second film, although haven't written about it in the blog yet, I don't believe. I loved Bill Murray's performance, and it is very good, and deserving of a nomination. I have a suspicion I'll love Tom Cruise in "The Last Samaruai" too, but right now, Sean Penn's aching realism, and unflinching emotion has bowled me over.
I have to mention that the screenplay by Brian Hegeland is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. I didn't read the book. I only saw the excellent preview for the movie a few months back, and marvelled at the acting.
On all counts.

I was thinking when Bob Hope died that the world lost an icon. Same with Gregory Peck. Same with Kate Hepburn. Then I thought of Clint. He's not ancient, like Hope. He's still working. Hell, "Blood Work" is vintage Clint. Even though nobody saw it! But someday hopefully not for a decade or so, when Clint Eastwood passes from us, I will feel as if a special friend has left. I implore anyone who wants to see a chronological view of the cultual and political history of America to buy and watch in order the Dirty Harry DVD collection.

Clint Eastwood, Rowdy Yates, The Man With No Name, Dirty Harry, Director.
A true movie God!!!!!!! And he saw to it that "Mystic River" was good.

:: Michael Nyiri 10:09 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, October 12, 2003 ::
This weeks movies:
"Kill Bill: Volume 1": 8 of 10 "In Theaters Now". Relentless entertainment without a pause. I wanted to see Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" this weekend, because Eastwood is one of my favorite directors, the buzz is Oscar-worthy, and I'm just sure Clint might get to have another of those golden statuettes in his hand some time this coming April, but "River" is playing on only three screens in LA this week, and I missed it. By about 10 minutes, to tell the truth. Because I couldn't find a parking place in the garage by the AMC Century 14.
Instead, a choice at the local multiplex between the Coen's "Intolerable Cruelty" and the "4th Film by Quentin Tarantino", the relentless "Kill Bill".
The Coen film seemed to much, to me anyway, by viewing the previews, to be a standard romantic comedy, and I remember being excited to see, and then disappointed by after I saw their immensely popular "Oh Brother Where Art Thou", and didn't want to brave the same kind of disappointment.
Instead, I saw "Bill" (Only his hands in Vol. I) and spent the afternoon wandering the back aisles of Quentin Tarantino's Memory Video Store.
Relentless, as I just said. Unwavering entertainment consisting of enough severed limbs and movie references to making me long for the day when they sell the DVD in the lobby so I can "rewind" and "review". There are so many wonderful filmic tricks, sweeping camera moves, and frenetic editing, not to mention a brief but beautifully bloody anime section, that viewing this film once is, like De Palma's "Femme Fatale", is futile. This viewing is merely the preamble to the full experience. (Which continues in February with the release of the second part.
I only give "Kill Bill" an 8 because it's not done yet. I do gush (and that's an apt word) when thinking of Quentin's 4th film. The critics have all mentioned the lack of plot, or more specifically, the "simple revenge scenario." Well, as with all great opera, and operatic films, such as, say "Moulin Rouge", even though that's a musical and this is a drive-in exploitation spaghetti samauri bloodbath, the simple plot is merely the hook to hang the cloak of moviemaking wonder and multiple themes, and Quentin overdoes himself.
I got to thinking, perhaps this is not as grand as I had wished, coming off of (six years ago!) "Jackie Brown", but it's even grander in retrospect.
Don't go if you feint at the sight of blood. More blood is spilled and or/gushes/flows/spurts/pumps than in any movie of recent and perhaps past memory. The setpieces are a filmgoer's feast. The restaruant scene is to die for. There's allusions and references to every thing from Star Trek, de Palma, Ennio Morricone, Bruce Lee, and Run Run Shaw, to the old "Feature Presentation" reels and bad sound editing which show up on all the old drive in exploitation films Quentin loves and so reverentially pays homage to here.
I don't think "Bill" is for everybody. "A man's film" is what my friend said upon leaving the theater, and he looked at his watch quite a few times during the feature.
As I said, relentless entertainment.
Quentin can be proud.
I also saw "You've Got Mail" and "A Man for All Seasons" again on DVD. I love those old English play/movies like "A Man" where the setpieces are all filmed on old castles that look old, instead of new, as they were when the events took place. I thought it weird back then, and do now. But the acting is great.

:: Michael Nyiri 11:20 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Tuesday, October 07, 2003 ::
Movies this week:
"Dreamcatcher" 10 of 10
I can't fathom why some of the worst dreck makes tons of money, but a truly great piece of work like Lawrence Kasdan's adaptation of Stephen King's book was overlooked from the beginning. This is a well crafted, excellently acted, and very scary film, and while some might not recommend it for it's similarities to King's "It" or "Stand by Me", I found the two hours a rollicking roller coaster ride into a hellish situation, resolved as some of King's aforementioned work (like "It") could not be, simply because of the advancements in computer generated special effects.
Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Morgan Freeman, and especially Damien Lewis as Jonesy collectively and separately act up a storm, a cold one at that, in this excellent film adaptation, now out on DVD. I don't want to spoil this one, because I had the luxury of not having read the book, and thankfully, no one ruined the plot for me. I'll only say that besides the "Stand by Me" qualities of the plot and characterization, which is typical for a King work, the film does a terrific and scary turn, sort of like in Richard Rodriquez' "From Dusk till Dawn" although that's not really an apt comparison.
Good show from start till finish, and a recommendation not to watch alone in the dark, especially if you've had any disturbing medical news in the past few weeks before viewing.

:: Michael Nyiri 5:15 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Saturday, October 04, 2003 ::
Movies this week:
"A Mighty Wind" 9 of 10
"The Core" 7 of 10
A delightfully cheesy sci fi "throwback" with an excellent cast , thrilling effects, and a dose of much needed imagination. I truly enjoyed this film.
:: Michael Nyiri 5:08 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Thursday, August 07, 2003 ::
Finally got around to watching "K-19:The Widowmaker' (2002), which I didn't much care to see, really, thinking, 1. It's "another" submarine movie, and 2. Am I going to believe Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford as Russians. Well, I didn't realize it was directed by Katheryn Bigelow, whom I admire, and whose Near Dark (the rockabilly vampire movie), "Blue Steel", "Wild Palms" TV miniseries, and recent "The Weight of Water" are all films I admire. The good news about "K-19"? It's a darn good adventure film, and is probably second only to Wolfgang Petersen's "Das Boot" (1981) which is the benchmark submarine movie of all time. "K-19" gets an 8 of 10 on the Mikometer, and is truly a movie that matters. I trust viewers will have no problem with any of the castmembers. I found both Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson's acting to be commendable. I believed in and cared about these characters, and the film treats the heroism and the humanity of all involved with bravura and panache. I love movies with a fine attention to detail, and this one certainly qualifies. Plot is about the maiden voyage of the K-19, a Soviet super sub, powered by nuclear reactors, and the miscalculations and ultimately heroic acts which mark the voyage. A must see. I'm always astounded when I finally see a film I didn't care to, and it turns out to be so good.
:: Michael Nyiri 4:15 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Monday, July 28, 2003 ::
Last week I had an incredible urge to see Disney's "Pirates". I saw it. It was okay. Mikometer Rating: 7 of 10. This is the kind of movie where it is useless to try to keep up with the plot, as one could probably pilot a couple of frigates through the holes. It wasn't a very pleasant experience, however, because two "family units" in front of me had 3-5 year old kids whining and screaming throughout the film, which at 2.5 hours, is quite a buttsleeper.
The good news is the second film I saw in the theater this weekend. Although only "No. 5" in this mornings "tout sheet", the excellent "Seabiscuit" directed by Gary Ross, whose first film,"Pleasantville" is one of the underrated films of all time, is, at least for me, the first Oscar worthy film out of the gate this year. I'm writing a "full blown" review. (I actually started it on Saturday after coming home from the theater, I'm not kidding.) I saw it without checking out Ross's credentials. I really enjoyed "Pleasantville" back in '98, and thought it showed remarkable heart and soul. "Seabiscuit" shows for sure that this wasn't a fluke. As a screenwriter, he has written some heartstring tuggers, besides "Pleasantville", and "Seabiscuit", which he adapted from Laura Hildenbrand's book, he wrote "Big" and "Dave".
"Seabiscuit" is definitely the answer to the age old question, "Why don't they make movies like they used to?" This one doesn't have careening freeway crashes, snappy with it dialogue (except perhaps for William H. Macy
s "Tick Tock McLaughlin" radio announcer) or modern cultural references. This is a film for the ages, made "as they used to" with older filmic conventions (including the first montage I've seen in years) fantastic acting, and it gallops at a reasonable pace. 10 of 10 on the Mikometer. I can't deny that "Seabiscuit" is so far the best movie this year!
:: Michael Nyiri 6:56 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Wednesday, July 23, 2003 ::
1. "Pirates of Perserverance, Part II" I just saw my Tivo'd copy of Ebert and Roepper from two weeks ago, with their Pirates review, Ebert loved Depp's performance, gave a nod to Geoffrey Rush's over the top acting, and gave it thumbs up. I never pay particular attention to Roepper. No, he gave it thumbs down, I do believe, and thought the "swashbuckling" went on forever. I'm just so sure I'm going to love this movie. This weekend I'll be going for sure. Still probably will want to see Ahnold before he goes straight to DVD, too.

Last night I pulled out a laserdisc title I didn't remember I had. The Coen's "The Hudsucker Proxy" from 1994. A few weeks ago, I had rented their excellent "Miller's Crossing" from Netflix, and asked my roommate:"What do you think is the quintessential Coen Brothers film BESIDES "Fargo". His pick was "Blood Simple". Mine is "Miller's". But I had forgotten ("Sure, sure") just how inventive, funny, and well made "Hudsucker's" is. Besides wonderful turns by Tim Robbins as Norville Barnes ("You know....for kids"), and Paul Newman as Vice President Sidney Mussburger ("Yeah, yeah"), plus would be Muncie girl but actually hard bitten career girl reporter Rosalind er', I mean, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Amy Archer ("Only a numbskull thinks he knows things about things he knows nothing about."), there is an angelic performance by Charles Durning, who exits the movie (almost) in the first scene, and Charles Buscemi, Peter Gallagher, and Bruce Cambell put in appearances. I was surprised a few weeks ago when a friend told me Sam Raimi had a hand in the film, co-writing the thirties screwball /fast talking newsroom/boardroom comedy along with Joel and Ethan. This was post Sonnenfeld, and I was equally surprised to find that Roger Deakins had done the cinematography.

I don't know how many other laserdiscs I still have in virgin shrink wrap. I picked up a lot at bargain prices at Ken Crane's when they became DVD Planet. Just as I had picked up scads of CEDs and Beta tapes when those formats went bust. One thing about my love of the movies. I used to love to say "I own it" when talking about a title in my CED library so long ago. When you own these films that mean so much, repeat viewings are always a treat. And even though the laserdisc format was analog (albeit with digital sound) I remember thinking that DVD's would never be as good. Now, of course, when I see a particularly pleasing film on either laser or Tivo, and "really want to see it" on HDTV, of course I rent it at Netflix, and see it in an even better shape. My Hudsucker's laserdisc, fresh out of the shrinkwrap, and a relatively new title when offered, I believe, has a fairly sharp picture. The transfer was pretty good, so I don't need to rent the DVD just now. Over on the IMDB site, I noticed that a lot of people treasure "Hudsucker's Proxy". I didn't think it particularly "worthy" when I first saw it. Normally, a Coen brothers film release is a must see for me. I think they are incapable of turning out a bad film, although their low points for me are (and I'm sure many will disagree) "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou" and " Barton Fink". "Miller's" is a masterpiece, and "Hudsucker" made me guffaw with pleasure. At the end, when Bill Cobb's "Moses the Clock Man" mentions that someone once tried to jump off the 45th floor of the Hudsucker building....but....that's another story..." I began laughing out, of course, does the Clock Man.
"Hudsucker Proxy" is the story of big business, big scams, and big disappointments, salvaged by big breaks and big dreams. The script is excellent. The wordplay between the actors, especially any repartee involving Leigh's Kate Hepburn affectations or Newman's gruff stoicism is giddy. Tim Robbins is just Jimmy Stewartish enough in his role without being cloying or annoying. I don't believe "Hudsucker's" is mentioned too much in the Coen's canon, but it should be. An excellent "thirties screwball comedy" as would have been directed by Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges. Sure, Sure. Yeah, yeah. You know.....for kids......!!!

:: Michael Nyiri 6:44 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, July 20, 2003 ::
Another of the hot summer weekends passes, and I haven't been to see a movie in a theater since summer began. Am I perhaps, showing my disrespect for the summer of sequels by not patronizing the local AMC? Hmmmmm. There are two films out right now I want to see in the theater, and perhaps next week I'll catch either "28 Days Later" (not, as you might suspect, a sequel to the Sandra Bullock movie) what looks to be a worthy successor to Gerorge Romerodom by Danny Boyle or (and here's one I just can't wait to see) "Pirates of the Carribean". It's always been my favorite Disneyland ride, and the previews looked fantastic. I love the official website, too.

I'm a sucker for the pirate genre, and loved the wondrous "Cutthroat Island" which was one of the biggest flops in history. I still think it's a great swashbuckler. The Disney animated "Treasure Planet" is a delight. I'm looking forward to a hearty time with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush, but wanted to wait until enough teenage girls had already caught the flick a few times and had emptied from the theaters. Over the weekend, my biggest epiphany was while watching the 1990 Best Picture, "Dances With Wolves" by Kevin Costner. When I originally screened that film in 1991, it was on a VHS tape rental. As usual, and as I've mentioned many times, to see a well made widescreen movie on TV (my top of the line is 1991 was a 32" Toshiba direct view) in pan and scan is to miss half the movie. Besides the fact that the DVD release, which is relatively new, is fantastic, the visual elements which wash over me from my HDTV prove that I didn't even see the movie when watching VHS in '91. I was merely seeing a "copy".

Costner has directed a new western, for which I saw previews a few weeks ago. He excells in the genre, and "Dances" is surely a "movie that matters". I feel as if I have seen it for the first time on the big screen, even if that screen is in my "media room" instead of at the local multiplex. They can be content to show "Bad Boys II" (I'm guessing at least 40 mil opening, maybe more) on four or five screens. I can watch art in my shorts and try to beat the heat.

:: Michael Nyiri 10:04 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Sunday, July 13, 2003 ::
Just walking down the aisles at Hollywood Video the other day, whilst looking for new films to rent, I was astounded by the amount of films I see but don't even mention in this blog. "Frida", for instance, the Salma Hayek starrer about Frida Kahlo, directed by "Titus" director Julie Traymor, at first didn't interest me when it came out in theaters in 2002. But the film, which I finally gave in and rented on DVD, is excellent. I give it an 9 of 10 on Mikometer and classify it as a "movie that matters." Besides showing that Salma is a fine actress, the "artistic" production design, by Felipe Fern?ndez del Paso (I), whom I don't know, but who designed John Sayle's "Men With Guns" in 97, and the art direction, by Bernardo Trujillo (whose only credit I know was "Blow" which isn't a very good film) is wonderful. Traymor, who also mounted the Broadway production of "The Lion King" describes on the DVD documentary on the making of "Frida" how she uses not computer generated imagery, but stage cheats to imbue the "lifelike" nature of the paintings in the shots. I totally glossed over this film, and now it has become one of my favorites.
Funny how perception can be negative, but when the film is actually seen, the perceptions can be blown out of the water. Other boxes staring back at me told me that I don't really pay attention to the fact that a lot of the films I choose to see are in fact masterpieces which languished at their time of release because of the blockbuster nature of the biz.
Although not a masterpiece, I viewed "How to Lose a Guy In 10 Days", starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey just yesterday. I feel I need to write an actual "review" of this picture. I wouldn't really call it a "movie that matters", and it was described to me by the woman who rented it to me at Hollywood Video as a "chick flick", but I wanted to see it because even though it was lambasted by critics, didn't do too good of business as I remember (but could be wrong) I do remember liking the preview, which was totally enjoyed by the theater audience, and I just love both Matthew and Kate. I like Kate even better than her mother, the always delightful Goldie Hawn. I don't like to call romantic comedies "chick flicks" although I believe this came from "Sleepless In Seattle" a few years back, where Meg Ryan's character is a big fan of "An Affair to Remember" and cries over it every time she sees it on video. There are a wealth of excellent romantic comedies, one of my latest favorites which disappeared from theaters really quickly was Peyton Reed's "Down With Love" with Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor which I might have already talked a little about when it was released. "How to Lose a Guy" is similarly delightful, and I cried (PLOT POINT ALERT) when McConaughey's Benjamin Barry grabs the dying "love fern" and straps it on the back of his motorcycle to go retreive Kate's Andie Anderson. But I'm giving away plot here, which I don't like to do. I just wanted to mention that I did get emotional during the film, and, as a "guy", I admit I am emotional during the best romantic comedies, and fully embrace the feeling, just like Meg's character in "Sleepless." Some romantic comedies are "cookie cutter" and seem to star either Julia Roberts or JLo, but some are wonderful and play as emotional triggers for me.
There were other boxes staring at me, and now that I want to remember them I can't as usual.
But at least I just got two mini reviews up here, and mentioned "Down With Love" (again?) That title and "Frida", plus "How to Lose a Guy" shall probably have at least a page each. Heck I still haven't finished my opus filmbook on "Phantom of the Paradise".
I did post some "comments" on the 20 Best Movies list but haven't seen any reciprocal comments on that site yet.

:: Michael Nyiri 8:22 AM Leave a Comment on this Post ::
:: Monday, July 07, 2003 ::
Movies this week:
"Tiger Bay" 1959 8 of 10
I was looking for Hayley Mills flicks, specifically "The Trouble With Angels" from 1966, and which doesn't seem to be on DVD yet, and got this early gem. It's a b&w English film also starring her father John, which interested Walt Disney in her prowess before casting her in "Pollyanna". My Hayley search also netted me "The Moon Spinners" which I hadn't seen since it aired on The Wonderful World of Disney when I was a child. I had never seen "Tiger Bay" until renting it at Netflix Hayley is Gillie, a 10 year old tomboy who witnesses a murder in her low class English housing tract, and later befriends the murderer, played by Horst Bucholtz. Although full screen, meaning I couldn't watch it on the HDTV, it is still mesmerizing and filled with suspense. There are a lot of old b&w English films which not many people have seen, and I recommend this one highly.
:: Michael Nyiri 6:03 PM Leave a Comment on this Post ::

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