Bohemian Rhapsody

May 10, 2019

boho

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A biopic of the life of Freddie Mercury, of the legendary rock band Queen.

Okay, I’ll say it again: I’m so old I used to go see Queen (and Mercury) whenever they were performing in LA.

And having said that, this was an excellent movie. They got most of the detail right, although the ending, where the band breaks up and comes back together for the Life Aid concert, was pretty much made up for the movie.

The guy who played Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek, was excellent, and the hair and makeup person for the movie did an amazing job of making him look like the iconic rock star.

And the music! Mr. Otter got annoyed with me for singing along, but how could I not? This was the soundtrack to my older teenage years, and I still listen to Queen and love them.

A wonderful movie, watch it for the music if nothing else.


Alien

May 10, 2019

alien

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A nearly perfect horror movie, with the crew of a space ship trying to escape/survive a deadly alien life force.

I saw this in the movie theater the year it came out (1979); it was the same summer Jaws was re-released, which is actually a great juxtaposition! I’m not a big one for jump scares or slasher movies, but this was well made and classy.

And I probably saw it a couple more times in the 80s, and maybe once after we got the DVD…but I know I haven’t seen it in 17 years, because I started this blog January 1 2002, and am only now reviewing this movie.

Which…actually ages pretty well. I mean, sure, a lot of the tech is dinosaurish, but one has to expect that, as fast as everything has changed. But the basics- a work crew out in the galaxy, harvesting raw materials from other planets, out of communication with Earth and having to deal with anything that comes up on their own, including problems with each other, is totally believable and very well done here.

All the actors are just amazingly young…this was made forty years ago as I write, so from this perspective they all look like teenagers! But the writing and acting was just as good as I remember it; the atmosphere is tense, the aliens are scary as hell…and of course Jonesie is the best cat ever.

Worth seeing, or seeing again. A classic in its genre.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

May 10, 2019

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Six short Westerns, all set in different places with different characters.

Ah, the Coen brothers. We do love them, chez Otter. Even when they fall on their faces (yes, we hated The Big Lebowski, even though one of our cats is The Dude) they are interesting, inventive and make movies worth watching, at least once. And at their best, they’re incandescent.

I wouldn’t put this in that last category, but it was certainly good. They had us from the get-go, with the first story being about a singing cowboy (Tim Blake-Nelson) who is definitely NOT one of the good guys. Other stories include a spooky stagecoach ride, an Indian raid on a wagon train, a prospector who hits the big time, a bank robbery gone wrong, and a traveling showman.

All of them were interesting, all had good people acting in them, all were enjoyable.

And (the thing that sticks in the mind of everyone I’ve talked to who saw this) each seperate section is let into by the narrator opening an old-looking book of western stories, and showing an illustration and part of the text of the story that the movie audience is about to see.

And after it was over, Mr. Otter and I spent a couple of days talking about the stories, what we liked and didn’t like, and if they should have been in that order. Very satisfying.

This is stylish, well writing and certainly worth seeing if you can get your hands on it.


Black Narcissus

February 8, 2019

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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

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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

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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
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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.