Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Bohemian Rhapsody, Hangmen Also Die, & School Ties

Three more movies that I saw just because I wanted to see them.

A- Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), New Parkway, Theater 1

The Freddie Mercury Story (as this film would have been called in the 1950s) plays out as a relatively conventional rock star biopic. The protagonist (played by Rami Malek) finds and joins an existing band, becomes their de facto leader, gets an oversized ego that leads him into quitting the band, followed by reconciliation and a triumphant concert. And yet, it’s better than almost any other film using this formula. Malek’ Oscar-winning performance is the powerhouse that keeps the movie alive. Not only does he manage the emotional highs and lows of stardom, but the issues of his changing sexuality. And when he performs, you really believe it’s Mercury come to life. The rest of the cast supports him well, and the music is, of course, transcendent.

Hangmen Also Die! Kanopy

Set in a very Hollywood version of Nazi-occupied Prague, Fritz Langs’ World War II drama assured American moviegoers that the Czechs were doing everything they could to fight the invaders. Brian Donlevy plays a doctor who murders the top-ranking German in Prague, then must find a place to hide. The Nazis react not only with a dragnet, but by arresting and executing random people. It’s sort of a murder mystery in reverse; we’re rooting for the murderer and hoping the authorities fail to find him, and it works very well. But the film is a bit too long for such a simple story.

One bit of trivia: This is Bertolt Brecht’s only American movie credit. He’s listed as Bert Brecht.

C- School Ties (1992), Netflix DVD

I saw this largely-forgotten college drama for one reason only: It’s one of a handful of film about American anti-Semitism. But that doesn’t make it good.

In the first few minutes, we see a movie theater showing Rebel Without a Cause, a motorcycle gang wearing black leather jackets over their white tee-shirts, and a young boy with a Davy Crocket hat. In other words, the filmmakers really wanted you to know that this is the 1950s. Brendan Fraser heads a cast of future stars as a working-class Jewish teenager with a sports scholarship to a prep school filled with snobs – including many anti-Semitic snobs. The filmmakers had their hearts in the right place, but the characters are little more than cardboard cutouts. The cast of not-yet-famous actors include Matt Damon and Chris O’Donnell.