365 day movie challenge 2014

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #96: The Panic in Needle Park (1971) - dir. Jerry Schatzberg

This depressing drama is as harrowing as you would expect a movie about heroin addicts to be, so it was difficult to find too many positive aspects to it. There’s a large number of notable actors in roles large and small: Al Pacino and Kitty Winn as the main couple, and also Alan Vint (who looks like the unibrowed love child of Tommy Lee Jones and Anthony Perkins), Richard Bright (a fine addition to any movie or TV show), Warren Finnerty, Marcia Jean Kurtz (with some terrific eye makeup), Raul Julia, Angie Ortega, Joe Santos, Paul Sorvino, Bryant Fraser, Dora Weissman (as a feisty pawnshop owner named Esther), Sully Boyar (he’s terrific in his one scene as a doctor) and Rutanya Alda (who married cast member Richard Bright six years later). I noted that the cinematographer was Adam Holender, a talented DP who filmed another chronicle of seedy New York life, Midnight Cowboy; although it may be unfair to compare the two, Midnight Cowboy is definitely a far better. I wouldn’t blame Holender, though, since it’s the fault of more than just visuals. I never got a sense of the characters having arcs. Pacino lends flair to some of the dialogue, but Winn’s character is so unevenly drawn that it’s hard to comprehend her.


365 Day Film Challenge:

334/365 | The Grand Budapest Hotel

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365 day movie challenge | 92. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)  ★★★★★

“Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and for that I’m eternally grateful.” 

Hazel and Augustus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they meet and fall in love at a cancer support group.

My thoughts; Okay, The Fault in Our Stars was wonderful, yet horrible, yet perfect at the same time. While it was missing a lot of the good parts of the book, they both made me cry equally as hard so thumbs up there.

The thing that made me mad though were all the screaming, talking, crying, pre-teen girls that flooded the theater and made the experience a lot less enjoyable.And the selfish brats who didn’t give up their handicapped seats as an actual handicapped person came into the theater. Guess that’s my own fault for wanting to see it right away, though :/

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #31: Rollercoaster (1977) - dir. James Goldstone

Why do I feel like that Vincent Canby comment on the poster is such a backhanded compliment? Anyway, this is a fun 70s disaster movie. You got your mustachioed George Segal, you got your stalwarts Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda, you got your Timothy Bottoms as the nameless mad bomber, you got your teenage Helen Hunt in 70s teen clothes and 70s teen hair. Nice to see Harry Guardino as well, though Susan Strasberg has very little to do. Great amusement park locations, cinematography by David M. Walsh and a score by Lalo Schifrin help make this a memorable sort-of-thriller (and help you overlook some of the plot holes).

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #51: In Secret (2013*) - dir. Charlie Stratton

This isn’t a bad movie, necessarily… but, much like Therese and Laurent’s relationship, my feelings toward this adaptation of Thérèse Raquin are chilly when compared to the intensity I previously experienced with Zola’s novel. Unlike Time Out New York’s review, I did not feel that the affair was totally believable. Part of the problem is that you’re never in Laurent’s head like you are in the novel’s narration; in the film, his character doesn’t have nearly enough depth. You never get the sense that he is tormented by his crime as Thérèse is. You don’t even feel as much as Thérèse’s total descent into madness, especially since the cat subplot is totally removed and the ending is rushed. There’s also a major change in how Suzanne is depicted, including how the ending plays out. (The film’s ending may make viewers feel more satisfied, but I prefer the novel’s approach.) The main four actors - Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac (objectification alert: he does have nice thighs), Jessica Lange, Shirley Henderson - do good work, especially Lange during the last half hour or so. It’s not enough to wear costumes from the period and act out the sex scenes, though; you need to have chemistry and you need to be a little truer to the original story. Thérèse Raquin is not ultimately a story about lust. Its real focus is on the results of adultery and the guilt of complicity. The film should have spent more time on that, letting the viewer wallow in as much richly layered agony as readers of the novel have endured. Not even music by Gabriel Yared (Map of the Human Heart, The English Patient) can make up for that loss.

*The copyright at the close of the ending credits says 2014, even though the film first debuted at TIFF back in September. Back then the film was titled Therese, though, so I guess that the change to the title and any other changes that may have been made to the film must have led to the different date. In any case, I still consider it a 2013 film.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #43: 42 (2013) - dir. Brian Helgeland

This biopic is a feel-good look at the story of Jackie Robinson. Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie play Jackie and Rachel Robinson with dignity. Harrison Ford chews a little too much scenery as the Dodgers’ general manager, Branch Rickey. It’s kind of weird seeing Christopher Meloni shirtless but not as Elliot Stabler. Alan Tudyk’s turn as a racist baseball manager is effective. I liked both Andre Holland as Wendell Smith and T.R. Knight as Harold Parrott; in another universe their bespectacled characters would be an OTP. Watching John C. McGinley as Red Barber made me realize how old McGinley is. Anyway, this is basically a good movie. Mark Isham’s feel-good-movie score is annoying at times, but Boseman carries the film.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #39: Pulp (1972) - dir. Mike Hodges

This very entertaining (if weird) dark comedy, styled after classic noirs like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, stars Michael Caine as a pulp fiction writer who must contend with personalities played by Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri and Leopoldo Trieste. Give it a try. It’s a little baffling, but there’s a lot of great dialogue.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #67: Anna Christie (1930) - dir. Jacques Feyder

This German-language version of the Greta Garbo talkie co-stars Theo Shall as Garbo’s boyfriend, Hans Junkermann as Garbo’s father, famed writer Salka Viertel as Junkermann’s girlfriend and Herman Bing (uncredited) as Larry the bartender. The film is lacking the enjoyably robust Charles Bickford in the love interest role, but it benefits from the performances by Junkermann and Viertel, who are nowhere near as hammy as George F. Marion and Marie Dressler in the English-language version. The dialogue is also better without the English “gee, sure” stuff.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #9: Betsy’s Wedding (1990) - dir. Alan Alda

There is a massively talented cast in this mediocre but amusing comedy: writer/director/star Alan Alda, Madeline Kahn, Joe Pesci, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Catherine O'Hara, Joey Bishop, Anthony LaPaglia, Burt Young, Dylan Walsh, Bibi Besch, Julie Bovasso, Nicolas Coster and Sully Boyar. There are even bit parts from Helen Hanft and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s not the greatest (or most original) story ever - completely predictable - but it’s sweet and enjoyable.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #49: Stand and Deliver (1988) - dir. Ramón Menéndez

I get why this is movie is part of a certain zeitgeist (if I’m using that word correctly?), but I’ve seen better from 1988. (I also kept thinking of Mr. Cartmanez.) I think there are problems with the screenplay, though perhaps they are coupled with editing problems. There are a number of scenes that seem to end on dialogue rather than on action before rapidly cutting to the next scene, which is jarring and also a no-no in screenwriting. (Actions are stronger than dialogue and I guess they usually make for easier transitions.) The acting is basically pretty good - the scene when Edward James Olmos is on the night school stairs probably helped get him his Oscar nomination - but it’s a little too obvious that Lou Diamond Phillips is in his mid-to-late 20s rather than 16-17.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #66: Monte Walsh (1970) - dir. William A. Fraker

I know that this Western is supposed to be a great, elegiac drama, but I didn’t like it that much. It’s not the fault of Lee Marvin (with terrible hair) or Jack Palance, two fine actors, or even Jeanne Moreau, whom I have never been crazy about. The music by John Barry and the theme song sung by Mama Cass (“The Good Times Are Comin’”) are really quite nice. It’s also nice to see Eric Christmas and Charles Tyner, both of whom would appear in Harold and Maude a year later. The problem is the story itself, which has such an uneven tone. There’s no question that Fraker was a great cinematographer (Games, Rosemary’s Baby, Heaven Can Wait, Baby Boom), but I don’t think he was quite so talented a director. I didn’t find myself caring much about what happened to any of the characters.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #59: Second Honeymoon (1937) - dir. Walter Lang

This lightweight comedy stars the perennial pair, Tyrone Power and Loretta Young, as a divorced couple who are still drawn to each other (of course). Lyle Talbot is OK as Young’s new husband, while Claire Trevor is underused as one of Young’s friends, but the really great performance here belongs to Stuart Erwin as Power’s valet. The movie’s worth sitting through for Erwin and his amusing lines. He makes for a nice pair with chatty Marjorie Weaver.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #53: Midnight Cowboy (1969) - dir. John Schlesinger

Man, this movie is good. It’s like a textbook for great storytelling. And get a load of the cast: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vacarro, Barnard Hughes, Ruth White, Jennifer Salt, Jonathan Kramer, Bob Balaban, Paul Benjamin, plus members of Andy Warhol’s clique like Viva, Ultra Violet, Taylor Mead and Paul Morrissey. (Even Paul Jabara pops up at the party.) The screenplay by Waldo Salt has so many memorable moments, paired with John Barry’s score and Harry Nilsson’s unforgettable song, “Everybody’s Talkin’.” This is a film that you definitely need to see.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #32: Gambit (1966) - dir. Ronald Neame

This caper comedy came out the same year that William Wyler’s similarly-themed How to Steal a Million did; sadly, Gambit’s talented leads do not have the chemistry that Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole had. While I adore both Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, there is close to zero electricity between them. There are a lot of gorgeous costumes by Jean Louis, though, and Herbert Lom is fun (as always) as the mark.

365 Day Movie Challenge (2014) - #4: Our Modern Maidens (1929) - dir. Jack Conway

I thought this drama, from the tail end of the Jazz Age, was a bit of a drag. Joan Crawford flaps around as much as a flapper might, wild curly hair, interpretive modern dance and all, but I prefer her in her more glamorous, subtle style from the sound era. Rod La Rocque is quite boring as her paramour, though her other beau, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is awful cute when he’s doing impressions. Anita Page is terrible (as usual).