Zorba

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database

From the novel The Life and Times of Alexis Zorba by Nikos Kazantzakis

An English writer inherits a house in Greece and meets Zorba, who shows him how to enjoy life.

I expected to love this movie, which Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I watched as part of our Saturday Night Zoom Movie series…the elements are all there: uptight British guy with writer’s block goes somewhere to find himself, freewheeling enthusiastic local takes him under his wing, pretty girl in village, lots of colorful characters…but no. While this movie has its moments, it’s not only really misogynistic (even granted the time and place, very hard to watch) but really awful stuff happens in this lighthearted movie, and the people who have bad things happen to them are the women!

Quinn was really good at playing Zorba, who really cares for nobody but himself and handsome Alan Bates was perfect for the repressed Englishman. This film is famous and won a bunch of awards…but all I have to say is, be warned. It’s not all fun and games.


Orlando

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf

A young man is commanded by Elizabeth I never to grow old…and doesn’t.

My book group read this, and it was pretty good; I certainly liked it better than the only other Woolf book I had read to that time, To The Lighthouse. So I said to Mr. Otter, we both really liked the movie when it came out, let’s watch it again!

And we did…and it was still good. Not as stellar as I had remembered, but certainly enjoyable.

Orlando, given the gift of long life and youth, is on a self-narrated quest for poetry and love. The tale is told with humor, especially when he goes on a voyage and returns as a woman, having decided that that may be the reason he can’t find true love.

There are some nice observations about male and female roles (especially in the second half of the movie, which is much more enjoyable than the first because of Orlando’s comments about being female) and beautiful settings.

This is charming and interesting, and lightly amusing. A fun movie for an evening with someone you love!


The Painted Veil (2006)

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor takes his unfaithful wife to a cholera outbreak in China.

My book group read this and it was OUTSTANDING. The characters, descriptions, events all masterfully written, what a wonderful book.

I chose the 1934 version of this for our Saturday Zoom Movie night, and when my turn to pick rolled around again, we watched the remake. And it was good, but like the previous one, suffered from rewriting.

This was really good in so many ways; Ed Norton makes a good obsessed researcher, and Naomi Watts is a good choice for Kitty, the vain socialite who marries him. And I love Liev Schrieber, what a good choice he is for Kitty’s lover Townsend!

This movie sticks closer to the book in most ways; the big difference is at the end, when Kitty returns to London, there is a scene between her and Townsend that is a modern woman-empowering rewrite of the book; it’s not bad, but it completely changes her character and her choices. Not sure I’m happy with that…but it’s still a very good movie.

Why don’t you read the book, and then come over and we’ll watch it again and discuss the ending?


Ziegfeld Follies

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

William Powell plays Flo Ziegfeld, up in Heaven, thinking about the perfect show that he would put on if he were still on Earth.

I’m not joking. That’s what this whole movie is. The acts that Powell/Ziegfeld dreams of having perform in his theater while he looks down from Heaven and does introductions/commentary.

This movie is, of course, purely a vehicle for whatever Warner Brothers stars were available (or forced to perform, since it was the bad old days when they were under contract to the studio and had to do what they were told. It’s not a bad list- Lucille Ball (singing a serious song as a beautiful Ziegfeld Girl instead of the wacky funny woman we all know her as nowadays), Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and many more very talented people.

Pretty good for what it is, definitely a period piece.


The Painted Veil (1934)

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor forces his unfaithful wife to come to a city in China where there is a cholera outbreak.

My book group read this, and it was so good. The characters, the descriptions, and the story were just beautifully written, and I couldn’t put it down. So of course I wanted to see the movie, and when it was my turn to pick on Zoom Movie night with Mr. Otter and CoyoteRambles, we watched this.

So firstly, it’s a GARBO movie. You can’t miss that because the titles, all the freakin’ titles for the WHOLE MOVIE, appear below the giant word GARBO that stays there during the whole title crawl. You can see on the dvd cover above, the same thing. Oh, so Greta Garbo is in this? That’s nice…

But yes, she was that big a star back then. All it took was her name on ANYTHING (and she didn’t make a whole lot of movies, only 32 before she retired and became a professional Garbo-promoter) and people would flock to see it. Now, she was a great actress, but to me, ninety years later, promoting a movie by hyping one cast member seems kind of silly (and it’s still done, and it’s still silly) since it take so many people to make a movie good…especially the WRITER, who never gets enough credit.

Anyway. I digress.

This was a pretty good adaptation of the novel, except that the Hays Code was starting to take effect, which (I assume) is why they completely changed the ending; it’s not bad, and if I hadn’t read the book I would be happy with it…but her character is so much more interesting in the book, and she has so many more layers, that the story here was kind of disappointing. All the actors were good, the film was well made, the writing was good…but, as so often happens, just not nearly as good as the book.

Go read it, then watch this and make up your own mind! The Otter’s betting that you’ll agree.


12 Monkeys

September 1, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A convict from the future is sent to the past to try to find out what cause the plague that wiped out most of humanity, and stop it if possible.

I saw this once or twice in the mid-90s when it came out, and remembered it as brilliant-Bruce Willis, a very young Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe, and of course directed by Terry Gilliam. Seeing it again 20 years later, as a much older Otter…maybe not brilliant, but still very good.

This is one of those movies where you have to just accept several premises: that time travel works, that it is possible to change the past, and that huge coincidences are just part of life. On the other hand, given those three things, this movie has edge-of-your-seat suspense and really mind-blowing twists and turns. Even having seen it, albeit 20 years earlier, I was rivited by the plot and waiting to see how it would play out (I vaguely remembered the general plot but not the details.)

Bruce Willis is perfect for the desperate but clueless main character, and Brad Pitt as the crazy son of the virologist. Madeleine Stowe is excellent as always, as the psychiatrist assigned to Pitt’s case.

Just get on the roller coaster and ride. Everything will make sense by the time it’s over.


The Molly Maguires

September 1, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Based on Lament for the Molly Maguires by Arthur H. Lewis.

A group of Irish immigrants in the coal mines in Pennsylvania in 1876 use sabotage and murder to fight against the mining company’s mistreatment of them.

Well, Sean Connery and Richard Harris, need I say more? But drooling aside, this is a really good movie. Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I had watched Matewan a couple of weeks before, so of course this was one of the next pics.

Connery is the leader of the Molly Maguires (named after another group in Ireland) and Harris works for the mine owners; his job is to work at the mine and infiltrate the secret group, which he finally does; most of the tension in the movie is a cat-and-mouse game between them about whether or not Harris will win their trust or they’ll decide he’s a traitor and kill him. Things go dramatically south in the end, though, and do not end well for anyone…

This is fairly historically accurate, and good moviemaking. Worth seeing!


The Bedford Incident

September 1, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Mark Rascovich

Richard Widmark is the obsessed and driven captain of the USS Bedford, who becomes involved in playing chicken with a Russian nuclear submarine.

This was one of our Saturday night Zoom Movies, and Mr. Otter chose it. We were watching a lot of Sidney Poiter’s movies, since he had just died, and really enjoying them. Poitier plays a journalist who, along with Martin Balsam as the ship’s doctor, has just joined the destroyer on her travels.

This was really good; the slow progression from ‘watching the sub and making sure it doesn’t do anything it shouldn’t’ to full blown crazy ‘I’m going to get him’ is slow and well presented, and the ending is not for the faint of heart.

If you like Cold War cautionary tales, this is a good one.


Matewan

September 1, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A labor organizer is brought into a fraught situation at a coal mine in West Virginia in 1920.

This was an excellent movie, although it’s clear from the start that it’s going nowhere good. The actual events-the strike, the mine owners’ efforts to bring in other workers to take over, and the violence at the end- are all historically accurate…John Sayles, one of our favorite writers and directors, BOTH wrote and directed this movie, and anything by him is pretty good history!

The main character, the labor organizer (Chris Cooper, who is a knockout in this role) who has been brought in to help the striking workers, is fictional, but when the detectives that the coal company hired started evicting miners’ families (who couldn’t pay rent because they were on strike), the inevitable happens and there’s a gunfight that left nine people dead, mostly detectives. The violence continued for years after this, and eventually martial law had to be declared and the National Guard sent in.

A really dark chapter in American history but worth seeing, if not for the events, then for the excellent writing and acting.


Once Upon a Time in America

August 26, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel The Hoods by Harry Grey

A gangster returns to the Lower East Side where he grew up and started on his life of crime, hoping to put his past to rest.

This was one of our Zoom Movie Nights; during the lockdown in 2020, Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I would set up a Zoom session, and after we had chatted a bit, would watch a movie while connected and talk about it afterwards. It was so much fun that we are continuing the movie nights indefinitely! We alternate choosing movies, and this was my choice; I’ve seen most of Sergio Leone’s movies, but always wanted to catch this one and never had. And I was not disappointed!

De Niro is a gangster who is haunted by his past, and that past (and his childhood) make up a large part of this movie; most of his young life is shown, with the present as a frame story and mystery about what actually happened to De Niro’s friends from the past.

This was so enjoyable! Not a typical mobster movie (and I had really expected a Godfather clone), but more of a character study framed by the question of what’s really going on in the future. The prohibition-era kids who will grow up to be gangsters are really good, and the fact that the film focuses so strongly on them makes it a much better viewing experience than it otherwise would have been.

Recommended by The Otter!