I love Stanley Kubrick but I hate his movies. Yes, hate is a bit strong. Let’s say dislike. I just find his films boring. At the same time, I find them visually brilliant and fascinating. I can’t think of any other director that leaves me with such a conflicted response.
Below I refer to John Sayles but maybe the movie Mumford is more like Lasse Hallstrom amused and charmed by a Norman Rockwell America. Whatever it is, and despite a few anachronisms, I still find this movie appealing. It has so many actors in it I’ve always liked. Part of its appeal may be that we don’t often see ensemble pieces like this anymore.
This movie is filled with fascinating imagery as Michael Mann presents a nocturnal vision of the city that is dark and threatening. It also has a key image, the coyote, that I think many people misremember. If you look at it closely, it’s not quite the image you think you saw and its meaning is very different when you really see what Michael Mann show us.
I’m usually more forgiving of the sins of older movies as I try to keep in mind the periods they were made and the attitudes and mindsets of the day. But the subject They Won’t Forget takes on and how it deals with it makes it ineligible for any license because of when it was made. This is probably the most disturbing movie I’ve seen in quite a while.
Lawrence of Arabia is the Icarus myth. A hero starts out at neither the bottom nor top but somewhere around the middle, perhaps a bit lower than that, then ascends. But he gets too close to the sun and falls. The movie looks at that, asks why and suggests the answer is the usual thing: hubris.
There are certain movies I can make a reference to and people immediately know the film and usually recall it with a smile — if not outright laughter. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of those movies. It didn’t change the world of movie making when it came out and didn’t win any awards. It simply did what most movies hope to do: get seen, be appreciated and remembered.
Ridley Scott likes his movies big. In 2005, he made one of them — an old school sword-and-sandals epic called Kingdom of Heaven that despite its action scenes and moments of brutal violence, is overall a surprisingly quiet, thoughtful cautionary tale about the hazards of extremes.
I remember the summer Jaws came out and I remember you couldn’t get away from it. Everyone did that John William’s four note theme: da-da, da-da … Everyone saw the movie; TV was filled with it; shark sightings were popping up like coffee shops. But that was over 35 years ago. The hoopla subsided. What is left is a movie that is a brilliant example of craft.
At the end of this I make an admission — but why wait? I prefer Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison to the better known The African Queen, two movies from the same director (John Huston) and superficially similar. I like this movie and always have. But be warned! It’s a quiet one; it’s characterized by restraint.