Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
So the Film Festival has returned to help us Clevelanders pull through this final resurgence of winter. Today was the first full day of films following Opening Night, as well as my first night back as a volunteer for a second straight year. While I tallied attendees, passed out and collected ballots, and ushered people to their seats, I was refreshed that festival season was upon us again as I overheard many film goers revel in the fine films they had seen. It was like music to my ears, even the occasional gripes about a stinker were good for a laugh. As the shift came to a close, and the final attendee was ushered to his seat at my theater before the lights dimmed, I settled into my seat to watch a midnight horror screening, a perfect end to my wonderful first day.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
"Is he cute?"
"No, but you'll dig 'em."
These words are spoken to Chan (soon-to-be) Parker by a club manager in reference to a hot new headliner about to play the club by the name of Charlie Parker. They reflect Chan's feelings towards the man she married as well as his music, and if I may make a stretch, they also reflect the film's sentiments towards Parker, in a film that loves him warts and all. Bird is a loving biopic brought to the screen and directed by Clint Eastwood, a lifelong jazz lover and musician himself, and this can be seen as a postcard to the music he loves so much. Through jumps in time from the past to the present, the film follows Charles "Yardbird" Parker from his struggles growing up in Kansas City to his coming of age, moving to New York and achieving greatness as a jazz saxophonist with a gift for improvisation, during the 40s and 50s. During his triumphs, he also meets his wife, struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, and battles depression and mental illness. By the time of his death in 1955 at the age of 34, the coroner assumed his age to be 65 from the appearance of his worn out face. Forest Whitaker gives a virtuoso performance as the jazzman, portraying him as a sad figure who speaks intelligently and doesn't seem to enjoy any of the vices in which he partakes. Diane Venora is spotty as his long suffering wife and seems to have trouble hitting notes sometimes while hitting them so well at other times. Bird is a loving portrait of a great musician that tends to get sidetracked. Replete with great music and complete songs, something rare in pictures, Bird is an ambitious and engrossing, if overlong, biopic.
Here are two song clips, one from the film, the other from a live session with Parker in 1953:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tonight at the Cleveland Cinemateque, Turner Classic Movies presented Robert Osbourne and Eva Marie Saint as they participated in a question and answer session before screening North by Northwest. It proved to be a truly wonderful evening indeed. Osbourne proved to be as fine of a host as he is when introducing classic films on television and by the time Mrs. Saint took the stage still carrying herself with a movie star swagger, the crowd roared and from the second last row she still appeared to look the same as that beautiful young woman who seduces Cary Grant aboard the Chicago bound train. During her address to the crowd and the Q&A session, she appeared vibrant, witty, funny, and altogether lovely. A perfect introduction to a magnificent from a classic actress.
North by Northwest is one of those few films that I have held dear since childhood that I always make a point of seeing when I have a chance. It is mentioned in the shortlist as one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films, but never mentioned as the best, which is usually reserved for Vertigo, Psycho, or Rear Window. Still, it is no less than the most entertaining and crackling of his films. It has a wrong man's plot, one of Hitch's favorites, and involves a Madison Avenue ad man (a droll and wonderful Cary Grant) getting mistaken for a government agent by dangerous espionage types, a mistake which will put him in harm's way several times, lead him into the arms of a mysterious woman (the wonderful Mrs. Saint), and lead him across the country by way of plain, train and automobile. The plot is so silly it would surely spell disaster in any other hands, but thanks to a smart script from Ernest Lehman (West Side Story, Sweet Smell of Success), brilliant direction by the master, a bristling score by Bernard Herrmann, and wonderful acting from Grant, Saint, and James Mason as the wry and debonair bad guy. Filled with sly humor and many memorable scenes including the unforgettable crop dusting scene and the finale atop Mt. Rushmore, North by Northwest is a trip always worth the ride
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
|Errol Morris with his Interrotron|
For the Centennial anniversary of their companies creation, IBM and mesmerizing documentarian Errol Morris created this short film showcasing key innovations and interviews with past and present employees who have helped make the company such a groundbreaking organization. Breakthroughs such as a high capacity calling computer, equipment that made the Apollo 13 rescue possible which was unavailable before that mission, and the creation and unexpected explosion of barcodes. All of this is captured with Morris's Interrotron, a camera that allows the subject to look into the lens and the interviewer's eyes simultaneously. The result, aided by the spellbinding music of Philip Glass, is a sense of immediacy. Here is the entire 30 minute short film:
*** out of ****
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sidenote (spoilers): I thought the revelatory ending was great, but Snape has been evil all along? Who didn't see that coming? How could anyone cast Alan Rickman in a movie and expect him not to be bad?
Here are songs from the original 1970 album:
Sunday, March 6, 2011
When a movie has a witty, literate script and is populated by smart characters it is a rarity. When this movie is a romantic comedy it is something like a miracle. The American President, written by recent Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin of Social Network and West Wing fame, is a movie that fits this bill and watching it is like a breath of fresh air. It stars Michael Douglas in a commanding performance as the recently widowed president who takes up with an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening) something which his staffers frown upon in an election year. Directed by Rob Reiner, this film never ceases to be charming and funny. It's the kind of film with clever, rapid fire dialogue that I wanted to watch again to see what I may have missed. The film lies entirely on one side politically, but it is a well acted and terrifically smart and historically aware movie.
It begins with the premise that the White House employs lookalikes to help the president with his hectic schedule. We then meet Dave, an earnest goofy Mr. Smith type who works in a temp agency, likes musicals, specializes in impersonations, and just so happens to be a dead ringer for the commander in chief. Soon he is filling in as his double when the less than scrupulous leader has a debilitating stroke and Dave is forced to fill his considerable shoes. Although the President's advisers have their own plans, Dave has plans of his own. Directed by Ivan Reitman, Dave is fun, sweet, and corny in a Capra-like way. It's
locations feel authentic, and the film does a good job at making you forget plot holes, but I found Dave to be a little to preachy. The acting isn't bad it's just misguided: Kevin Kline is too good and not conflicted enough in the lead, Sigourney Weaver is too icy as the First Lady, and Frank Langella is too evil as a top advisor. These one dimensional characters may be what you want for this type of film but I found it to hurt it. It's not to say that it's a bad film, in fact it's very good in parts and I especially liked the ending. It just had one too many sentimental moments and speeches as well as uninteresting characters. Washington
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The movie then proceeds into a story where Simon's character is trying to juggle saving his failing marriage, keeping his band together, and making a record that will both satisfy the record companies as well as his own artistic sensibilities. The plot was purportedly based on Simon's life at the time. As far as the movie goes, the direction was fine, the screenplay could have used some tinkering, and Simon's performance was adequate. What carries the film, is the soundtrack of his songs, both live and in studio, which demonstrate what a creative and unique musical talent he really is.