Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Favorite (four), part twelve

Just like in my other eleven posts thus far in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  I'm trying right now to take in almost a film a day.  Most have been first-time viewings, and most I have been glad to finally see.  But only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those (and hopefully one or two of these will be good to someone else, too).

Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us
At times, the most sexual of all the Altman pics I've seen and certainly one of the most interesting.  Feels like a movie that Altman really cares about; it's extremely unconventional stylistically, just like McCabe, and in a strange way it almost feels like a precursor to the free-form style Michael Mann would take on with Collateral, Miami Vice, and especially Public Enemies.  An Altman film I would need to re-visit as it feels extraordinarily complex.  And if it's such a cliche at this point that Hollywood doesn't make 'em like they once did, during that special time in the seventies, then this film is as much an example as any.  

Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise's West Side Story
One of the first things that jumped out at me is how much it seemed to influence both The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.  I would love to hear Coppola discuss this.  Most of the music is quite memorable (doesn't hurt having Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim as collaborators), and some of the choreography quite lively and striking. My biggest complaint is that the action and emotions sometime seem a little flat.  But all in all, it's one of the grandest and most vital musicals ever made.  

Paul Feig's Bridesmaids    
The sixth Apatow film I've seen, after The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Pineapple Express, and the first I've seen where the hype all seems to add up.  Simply put, Apatow is able to create some of the most painfully funny moments on film right now while also managing to make time for scenes that deal with real life and actually make your heart ache.  Here I think Kristen Wiig is the real key as she's the perfect Apatow actor; she's quite adept at comedy while also able to come off as incredibly human, full of flaws and wounds for all to see.  Feig admittedly seems to lose his way at times, but the memorable scenes are strong enough to pick up the slack.   

Clarence Brown's Flesh and the Devil  
A reminder of how visually expressive, and even inventive, some of the silent period could be.  Full of nicely-weaved, surprising plot movements and a very memorable John Gilbert performance.  I don't know much about Clarence Brown's other work, but if this is any indication, he's someone I definitely need to explore.


  1. Jeffrey, I know you are very fond of the Altman, but I was thrilled to read of your strong praise for WEST SIDE STORY, one of the greatest of all musical films. The operatic Bernstein/Sondheim score has always been considered a high water mark in the musical theatre, and the film's infectious spirit as seen in that mid-film burst of electric editing remains a model of its kind. I really do feel myself that the extremely minor blemished are washed away in an avalanche of musical and choreographic wonderment.

    I must say I loved BRIDESMAIDS for the most part as well, and for me it's the best Apetow. Quite right too on the Clarence Brown feature.

  2. Sam, thanks so much for the wonderful addition here. I particularly loved this statement:

    "I really do feel myself that the extremely minor blemishes are washed away in an avalanche of musical and choreographic wonderment."