Black Narcissus

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Rumer Godden

Five nuns open a convent in the Himalayas. Stuff happens.

Mr. Otter and I hosted the New Year’s Day Videofest 2019, and the theme was Best Cinematography Oscar. We always choose eight movies, and watch as many as we can between 10 am and 9ish pm…that usually makes it 5 or 6 movies. This was one of them, but did not get chosen in our random drawings.

But we had really wanted to see it, so a night or two later we queued it up and watched it.

So these nuns are to establish a convent in a palace in the Himalayas that has been donated to the church by the general who runs the local town/area. Five nuns are sent there, and of course things happen. The isolation and being cooped up together, so to speak, cause all kinds of friction; plus there are various locals who add to the problems.

This is a pretty good drama combining interpersonal dynamics, the past coming back to haunt some of the characters, and outside influences that can’t be controlled.

And the Oscar is well deserved, it was beautifully filmed in black and white, with luminous lighting and amazing light and shadows.

Worth watching, we enjoyed it.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The lives of two outlaws and the woman who loves one of them.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, chez Otter, and this year’s theme was Best Cinematography Oscar Winners. We had picked eight movies, drawn the names of four randomly, and watched them, with nine people coming in and out at different times…but by 9 pm, everyone else had gone. And as is often our wont, Mr. Otter and I were not ready to call it quits. So we watched this one as well.

I loved this movie when I was a young Otter, although I don’t think I ever saw it in a theater…I do remember watching it on TV every time the Television Scheduling Gods decided to show it (because, kids, in those days nobody had control over what was shown or when; you had a paper television schedule and you’d check it to see what was available for your viewing pleasure. The old days SUCKED.) and in fact, it was a family favorite.

But I had not seen this movie in at least 20 years if not more…and it was time to revisit my old friends.

And…it held up pretty well, for a movie where I could have quoted most of the dialogue along with the actors. I really like director George Roy Hill’s work (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean was another family favorite), William Goldman was a stellar writer, and I have and always will have a HUGE crush on Paul Newman. Robert Redford, not so much, but Newman was tops in the Otter Book of Actors to Crush On.

This is one of the revisionist Westerns that started being made in the 60s and 70s, where the outlaws are the sympathetic characters and full of charm, whatever their flaws…and (except for that damn song in the middle) this is well written, with good plotting and character development, a lot of amusement but also serious moments.

I’m glad to say that this is still a winner. Come on over and we’ll watch it sometime and put pillows over our heads and scream during that awful song.


La La Land

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A pianist and an actress meet in LA and fall in love.

We chez Otter had gathered for the annual New Year’s Day Videofest, which had as its 2019 theme: Best Cinematography Oscar. Mr. Otter and I had not seen this one, so we were happy when it started off the day of movies (the names of the 8 films we choose get drawn from a bowl so we never know what’s coming up.)

This got a ton of press and awards; the list of Oscars that it won:

  • Best Actress
  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Music, both Original Score and Original Song
  • Best Achievement in Production Design (which I had never heard of and had to look up; used to be called Best Art Direction. Whatever.)

You’ll notice that NONE of these awards have anything to do with the quality of writing or plot. And with good reason. This was beautiful fluff.

Yes, it is a pretty movie. The first number, with everyone dressed in brightly colored clothes, stuck on a freeway onramp, dancing around and on their cars, was awesome.

And it kind of went downhill from there, for several reasons:

  1. Neither Ryan Gosling nor Emma Stone can really sing. They can, as we say Chez Otter, carry a tune in a bucket, and they look really pretty, but neither are really singers.
  2. The plot was so not that good. Two broke wannabes in LA find each other, but then they have to choose between each other and their dreams. Either way, btdt.
  3. The songs were so generic; I literally cannot remember one tune, phrase or song title, even the one that won an Oscar. Just pretty fluff.

And…you know. Blah blah blah, and except for the VERY pretty eye candy all through this movie, that was about my reaction to it. Glad I watched it, never need to see it again, meh.


The Student Prince

February 1, 2019
prince

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A prince goes to school in Heidelberg to learn how to socialize instead of being way too formal and stuffy, and in the process falls in love with a barmaid in the tavern where the students hang out.

This is a Sigmund Romberg musical, and being fans of Nelson and Jeannette as we are chez Otter, I had wanted to see this for the longest time, and since Mr. Otter had not watched it in many years, we indulged ourselves.

The story is okay, although it’s been done many times before. The songs are good, especially (of course) the drinking song. The best part is Mario Lanza’s amazing voice.

Lanza had originally been cast to play the Prince, but he and the director started snarling at each other, Lanza walked off and was forbidden to do any voice work of any kind for over a year (the length of his contract for the movie) and they settled by Lanza recording the songs to be dubbed for another actor, Edmond Purdom, who is quite easy on the eye in this movie.

So this is cheesy fun, but it is enough fun to be watchable. Purdom and Ann Blyth (the barmaid) are good together, and he goes from an officious stick to a real guy very nicely.

An amusing evenings watching, especially if you join in on the drinking.


Romeo + Juliet

February 1, 2019
R and J

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From the play by William Shakespeare

This resetting of

Leonardo DiCaprio (looking about twelve) and Claire Danes play the title roles in what is arguably one of the most famous plays in the world, and Baz Luhrmann’s setting of it is nothing but a delight.

Mr. Otter and I like Shakespeare, he more than I. This is not one of my favorite plays; I lean more toward the histories, and this one just makes me roll my eyes. If everyone would just TALK TO EACH OTHER, I say to him, it would all turn out fine.

But the Perfect Housesitters love this movie, and when we took them to dinner to thank them for Housesitting Perfectly, we were talking about this and that and they were amazed that we had never seen this movie. So we said, let’s pick a date, you bring it over, we’ll order pizza. And the plan was made.

And as soon as this movie started, we LOVED it. We loved Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, and had no idea that Baz Luhrmann had done this as well…we kind of wrote him off after the train wreck that was Australia (as did many people, judging from his IMDB page…)

Anyway. The setting is Venice Beach, the two families are rival gangs, everyone is dressed to the nines, and the visuals are amazing- cars, guns, bright colors, beaches, and it ALL WORKS. This is one of the best versions of R&J I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most fun to watch.

Which is what you should do if, like us, you haven’t seen it yet. Trust the Otter, you’re in for a treat!


Isle of Dogs

February 1, 2019
isle

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Because dogs are coming down with several dangerous and communicable-to-humans diseases, the mayer of Megasaki, a large town in Japan, decrees that all dogs will be taken from the city and dumped on Trash Island to live or die…including his own son’s beloved pet.

This was a strange and wonderful animated movie. The voice actors include a wide array of talent- Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber and Anjelica Huston were the names I knew, plus a host of Japanese actors. The voice talent was amazing; they really brought the animated dogs to life.

There are so many amusing and interesting things happening that it’s hard to describe how much fun this film is to watch; the story has great twists and turns. I mean, basically it’s about a boy determined to save his dog, and also about the abuse of power, and also has wierd science experiments, and is also a journey story, and has a lot of hilarious digs at cats.

This is not a typical Pixar-like kids movie; the stop-motion animation is extremely well done, but it gives this film its own look and feel, and the story and characters are wacky and interesting.

Well worth seeing!


Get Out

October 19, 2018

get out

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An African-American who is engaged to a white girl goes to visit her parents for the weekend and things just get damn wierd and creepy.

Let me start by saying that I am not African-American, just so you know where I’m coming from here. Mr. Otter and I watched this, having heard a lot of buzz about it when it came out, and I rented it from my local library with a few other movies I had missed recently.

I knew that it was a horror-ish movie from the African-American perspective; I was envisioning an abattoir in the parents’ basement…but this was both way more interesting and waaay creepier than that.

I don’t want to give anything away, but this was not only a well-written and edge-of-your-seat horror movie, but it also had a lot to say about race relations. And being able to combine both in one movie is amazing. The characterization is good, the writing is good, the storyline just goes places I did not foresee.

If you can stand suspense and some blood, watch this, it was great!