Five more films, all worth watching…but not all of them great.
A- The Stunt Man (1980), My own DVD, which I hadn’t watched in ages
One of my favorite cult movies. Strange, audacious, funny, suspenseful, and totally weird. A Vietnam vet on the run from police accidentally kills a stunt man, and the vet takes the victim’s identity so that the movie can be completed. Everyone, in one way or another, is crazy, with the protagonist never knowing what’s reality and what’s just a movie. The stunt scenes are frequent and exciting – and entirely unlike how real stunts are shot. A loving, funny, sexy, romantic tribute to the magic of the movies, with Peter O’Toole as the mercurial director. “If God could do what we can do, he’d be a happy man.”
A- The Wind (1928), Criterion Channel
Lillian Gish, arguably the first thespian to figure out how to act for the camera, gives a superb performance in her last silent film. In The Wind, her character finds herself thrown into a harsh environment where the people are rough, but the landscape is rougher – with constant wind blowing sand outside and in. Director Victor Sjöström (anglicized to Victor Seastrom for Hollywood) and cinematographer John Arnold create an unforgiving landscape where few would bare to live. Unfortunately, MGM insisted on giving The Wind an unbelievable but commercial ending.
B+ American Trial: The Eric Garner Story (2019), Lark
Remember Eric Garner? The cry “I can’t breathe” should remind you. This improvised dramatization of the trial that never happened is like no courtroom film I’ve ever seen. (If you recall, the policeman who killed Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, was exonerated by a grand jury.) Most of the cast are legal professionals making up their own dialog. The only exceptions are actor Anthony Altieri as Pantaleo, and Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, playing herself with incredible courage. I don’t think I’ve seen a more realistic trial movie, even if it’s occasionally dull. The film also contains some documentary footage.
B Snow Trail (1947), Criterion Channel
Is it a Kurosawa film if Akira Kurosawa didn’t direct it? He wrote the screenplay, and it stars Toshirô Mifune and Takashi Shimura – so maybe it is. Mifune and Shimura play criminals on the lam high up in the Japanese Alps. They find refuge in a small lodge run by a kindly old man and his cheerful granddaughter, who melts Shimura’s heart. But nothing could soften Mifune’s hardened character. Strangely, Mifune gets top billing, even though he was an unknown novice, while Shimura was already known and has a character arc. And yes, it sometimes feels like a Kurosawa film, yet it’s much better than Kurosawa’s own picture of 1947, One Wonderful Sunday.
B Gloria Bell (2018), Kanopy
Love is difficult for middle-aged divorcees in this pretty good but not exceptional drama. Julianne Moore plays the title character, who has good relationships with her children and her ex. She finds a new romantic interest (John Turturro), also divorced, who makes her very happy. But the new man in her life has a way of disappearing. No, he’s not two-timing her, but he has other problems. There’s nothing really exceptional about the film, except for the sort of sex scenes that seemed to have disappeared in American movies with the last century. The characters don’t experience anything that we all face in our lives.