Things I Saw In May

lions-love-and-lies-still

The Last Hurrah (1958) John Ford’s film of a political boss running for re-election but is losing touch with his constituency is prime Fordian values featuring a great performance by Spencer Tracy. The film slips in usual Fordian sentimentality of nostalgia and the way things used to be, and the ending doesn’t have the emotional impact it wants to have. Still you have to admire the film’s tenacity. 3 stars out of 4

Two Rode Together (1961) A strange film from John Ford, this one a western about the search for missing children who were kidnapped by Cherokee warriors. James Stewart and Richard Widmark lead the march to find the kidnapped children both knowing there isn’t much hope. The film doesn’t know what it wants to be, and goes in too many directions, even though the darker aspects of the film are fascinating. I wish I loved this more, but this was a misfire. 2 stars out of 4

The Big Combo (1955) Famous film noir about a police detective trying to bring down a notorious mob boss. Shot is stark black and white emphasizing light and shadow to full effect, the film’s plot feels secondary which now plays like a generic take on a cop show. That being said, the screen is filled with some great moments and characters 3 stars out of 4

The Razor’s Edge (1946) Based on a personal favorite book of mine by Somerset Maugham about a young man who comes home from the war and is no longer satisfied with the material world and instead sets off on a more spiritual journey to find out what life really is about. This feels like a somewhat sanitized version of the novel but comes off as an impressive Hollywood re-telling, if not quite as satisfying as one might hope. The film features a great cast including Tyrone Power in the lead, Herbert Marshall in a meta version of Maugham, and Anne Baxter who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a woman who loses her family in a car accident. Good just not great. 3 stars out of 4

Uncle Yanco/Black Panthers (1967-68) Two short documentaries by Agnes Varda that display a unique verve and energy. The first one is a personal documentary on Varda’s own bohemian Uncle while the other chronicles a protest of the Black Panther party after one of their founders was imprisoned. 3.5 stars out of 4

Lions, Love, (….and lies) (1969) Agnes Varda’s meta film about three hippies who live together in Los Angeles while a movie director crashes at their place is the type of post-modern film that is exciting to watch in that it feels so fresh and original. Varda plants us into this documentary like atmosphere where you’re not quite sure what is real and what is not. Much of it was improvised on the spot with real life events most significantly the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy influencing the plot. The final moments of this film are breathtaking. 4 stars out of 4

Mur Murs (1981) Varda’s documentary on mural makers in Los Angeles is an interesting take on fringe artists in the California community. Many of the artists come from different backgrounds but share the commonality that what they make is to them a form of art. Varda makes the point in showcasing these artists who are mostly anonymous with their paintings yet create canvases as big as Michelangelo. 3.5 stars out of 4

Documenteur (1981) A short film about a mother who lives alone in an apartment with her son. Throughout the film you feel it is going somewhere but without warning it suddenly ends as if unfinished which feels frustrating, however moments in time can feel like that. Much of the film feels like it’s just filled with moments, and Varda makes it all seem so real and important. 3 stars out of 4

Two For the Road (1967) Outstanding film chronicling a couple’s history by the many road trips they made together and how they ending up bitter and resentful at one another. Directed by Stanley Donen who creates clever time lines in the film and wonderful performances by Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, this is really a wonderful hidden gem for any movie lover. 4 stars out of 4

The Unforgiven (1960) John Huston’s bizarre western about a family who raise a girl who was taken from her first nations family and raised as white. The past comes back to haunt them and this film goes in all sorts of strange directions including an incestuous relationship with the girl and her adopted brother, who just happen to be played by Audrey Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. Huston seems to have something here for awhile, but the conclusion disappoints in more ways than one which makes this not quite the classic it could’ve been. 3 stars out of 4

The Fate of the Furious (2017) The latest in the Fast and the Furious franchise is big dumb silly fun but there was a slight disconnect with this one which didn’t make it feel fully formed. Still the set pieces are fun enough. Not as memorable as other entries, but not it delivers on most levels. 3 stars out of 4

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Marvel movies have become like a drug, I keep going back for more even though the entertainment value never goes above pretty good. Marvel movies feel like great mediocrity most of the time, and this one is no exception although it has some pretty funny bits, I just can’t help but see everyone just doing a competent job but not going above what is expected of them. This is just fine and what the fans want. 3 stars out of 4

The Drunken Master (1978) Jackie Chan’s breakout role some might say is a great kung fu comedy that never takes itself too seriously but contains some very amusing, and impressive kung-fu action. This shows of Chan’s real talent the way no Hollywood movie ever gives him, I wonderful, funny, film. 3.5 stars out of 4

Bojack Horseman Season 3 (2016) The most recent season of Bojack Horseman contains some very inventive episode namely one that is mostly silent, while Bojack tries to get Oscar gold. This goes into darker territory most animated comedies don’t tread. I never feel good after a Bojack episode, but I do come away feeling impressed. 3.5 stars out of 4

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