Monday Movie List ~ Films I’ve Seen in 2010, Part Three
4 October 2010 Leave a comment
Tender Mercies — March 14, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
There are a handful of films that I’ve known about my whole life but never made time to watch, and there are a few of those that have grown in my estimation even without seeing them. Tender Mercies is just such a film. I have come to love Robert Duvall without ever seeing his earlier works, and I’ve heard nothing but tremendous reviews of this particular film of his. Having finally taken the time to watch it, I can honestly say it deserves all the hype. It’s a quiet film, so very subtle, yet powerful and rich and moving throughout. And, as I suspected, Duvall is the primary reason for everything good in the movie. Not to say Tess Harper isn’t wonderful, too. Just that Duvall is the core and his character is what makes the film so special. I can certainly understand why people would want to watch Tender Mercies again and again throughout a lifetime. It’s truly exquisite.
Veronica Guerin — March 14, 2010 / Starz
The more I see Cate Blanchett in acting roles, the more I’m convinced that she’s the greatest of the current generation. She’s the new Meryl Streep. And she’s glorious in every role. Which is to say, she submerges herself into every role and never fails to give a performance that is greater than expected and perhaps even greater than imagined. It’s roles like Veronica Guerin that prove this point so well: Blanchett has the extraordinary ability to become each character, each person she portrays, and I always seem to forget that I’m watching the actress. Guerin is a wonderful study of Blanchett’s craft, but it’s also a fascinating story based on truth, which is what makes it so compelling. As an investigative journalist, Guerin turned over the wrong rocks and found herself deep in a world of Irish crime syndicates and drug lords, eventually becoming the target of assassins. It’s engaging from beginning to end, but the core of the film relies solely on Blanchett’s personification of the journalist, and she does not disappoint.
Gypsy (1962) — March 15, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
Though I’d never seen any version of the Gypsy Rose Lee story, I already knew many of the songs from the production. I had also become fascinated with Natalie Wood after seeing Splendor in the Grass, so I determined to finally sit down for this Hollywood production of Gypsy. I think I was mostly just curious about Wood in the role, having thus far only seen the films in which she played the wholesome girls, but I also looked forward to Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose, as she was such a classic gem that I had been overlooking for years. In the end I did like Gypsy and found Wood mesmerizing in the title role, but it was still just the music that charmed me and the only reason that I might watch it again.
Wuthering Heights (1939) — March 19, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
There are books that I was never required to read in school, and most of those I’ve also never bothered to pick up in adulthood. But I still want to know those classic stories, so when a film version comes along, I always try to make time for it. I was especially interested in this early film version of Wuthering Heights because of Laurence Olivier in the primary role of Heathcliff. And I tried to love it. But it wasn’t for me. This became yet another film that I simply watched in fast-forward in order to gather the basics of the story so I might sound somewhat educated should the subject ever arise. But I couldn’t find any love for the film. And I’m not quite sure I have love for the story. But I’m holding that opinion until I have opportunity to see other versions or to actually read the novel.
Mrs. Miniver — March 19, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
I had never even heard of this film, but I knew of Greer Garson and had never taken any time to purposefully watch her films. And since the premise sounded intriguing — “The Minivers, an English middle-class family, experience life in the first months of World War II” — I decided to give it a try. In fact, it’s not a bad film. There is much of the dry wit that found itself into the films of the 1930s and ’40s, which is always welcome, and there was a depth to the story that went beyond the expected and characters that were drawn a little more deeply as the film progressed. My only complaint, and this rarely happens, was having the film be presented in black & white. But this has everything to do with a subplot involving a glorious prize-winning rose (named after Mrs. Miniver) and not being able to see such a thing in its full beauty. Still, that one element did nothing to make the film any less enjoyable.
Serpico — March 19, 2010 / American Movie Classics
I have mentioned my disinterest in many so-called “classic” films of the 70s, so it shouldn’t surprise when I admit to not seeing many Pacino films from that time. As much as I agree that he’s a true star with talent beyond most actors of his time and mine, I often don’t find his films intriguing. But Serpico is an exception. If there’s one thing I do love, it’s a crime drama. And I enjoy watching Pacino when he was truly acting and not simply chewing the scenery. Serpico is the best kind of cop story, made during the best time for cop stories. It’s classic 70s, classic New York, and classic Pacino. Yeah, that’s a trifecta, and if every current project could hearken back to that era and pull the best elements from those films… well, nothing would ever seem like a caricature of itself.
Lawrence of Arabia — March 20, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
Some films are meant to be seen over and over and over again, each time knowing it will be better viewing than the last. For me, Lawrence of Arabia is that kind of film. It’s a film that didn’t capture me at once or even halfway through the first viewing. That actually happened at the very end when I saw it for the first time several years ago, and as the closing scene played out I realized that I couldn’t wait to revisit everything I’d just seen. The actors, the settings, the cinematography (of course), but also the individual moments that made me laugh and cry and sit on the edge of my seat. And that glorious segment crossing the desert, which every time makes my heart swell. Lawrence is as close to a perfect film as any I’ve ever seen, and I never tire of seeing it all the way through again and again.
Deep Blue Sea — March 20, 2010 / TV broadcast
Interestingly, I also never tire of seeing this, um… gem. There is nothing remotely great about Deep Blue Sea, and it is, in fact, one of the cheesiest films you may ever see. But there’s Thomas Jane as a shark wrangler, Saffron Burrows as a biologist, Samuel L. Jackson as a wealthy investor, and LL Cool J as a snarky chef (of all things). And there are captive sharks who develop a stark intelligence and begin to fight back against being medical experiments. Seriously… what could be better for repeat viewings than such an inane film with so many great players? It’s a true guilty pleasure for me, and I’ve learned to never apologize for it.
Bright Lights, Big City — March 20, 2010 / American Movie Classics
Back in the Reagan 80s, I saw lots of films about young adults trying to find their way and make a killing in the world, and very few of them had any connection to me other than my love for the actors involved. And so, as an adult, I’ve often returned to those films of my youth to see if my opinions have changed or if any of them are more relevant to me now. In the case of Bright Lights, Big City, the answer is still “no.” But I did enjoy seeing the young Michael J. Fox at the point where he was finally allowed to enter adulthood onscreen and return to the youth of Kiefer Sutherland, as well as see so many familiar faces that were not familiar at the time (Swoosie Kurtz) or who have not been seen since (Phoebe Cates and Charlie Schlatter). It’s a fascinating look back into my own very young days, and though I’m not always intrigued by it anymore, it does have its place in my life.
Intermezzo: A Love Story — March 27, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
A little at a time I’ve been attempting to watch films by iconic actresses who never quite appealed to me before, so when I happened upon this unknown-to-me film featuring Ingrid Bergman I felt it imperative to give it a try. And it turned out to be a decent film that held just enough interest for me to leave it on throughout its running time. It’s not a great film, nor does it have the best performances, but Bergman is charming despite the somewhat sad story that plays out. Most of all, the music is enchanting and makes the film worth watching.
Jeremiah Johnson — March 27, 2010 / Turner Classic Movies
Another surprising fact in my lifelong love of movies is that I’ve not seen many of Robert Redford’s films despite a great love for him since childhood. I can’t tell you why that is, but I have determined to correct that oversight as best I can. Jeremiah Johnson was a must for that very reason. When even my non-classic-film-loving mother told me how good it was, I knew I was behind the curve. What I didn’t know was what this story entailed. But oh, how I loved it. This film touches every single thing I love in the world, from stories of pioneers and the settling of the West to the plight and prejudice against Native Americans to grand cinematography of the mountains and the forests and harsh winters that took so many families during those years of settlement. And then there’s Redford, whose heart swells at all the same things. As I watched the film I kept wondering how so many people had kept me from knowing about Jeremiah Johnson. How could I have missed it all these years? I wonder if it’s simply so personal, so moving, that words cannot convey its greatness and one simply has to come upon it by happenstance. It’s best viewed that way, I’m certain now. And it’s best re-watched many, many times in life. Which is what I shall do in the years to come.
Catch Me If You Can — March 27, 2010 / TV broadcast
And speaking of viewing many times, I like to watch Leonardo DiCaprio at least once every couple of months. This time I managed to catch (ha!) most of this classic, and again I realized how truly gifted Leo is. It was easy to overlook for a while there, but he really is an artist with an incredible ease to his abilities. His work in Catch Me If You Can is some of my favorite he’s done, and it’s one film I tend to watch every single time I see it played. Leo’s captivating as Frank Abagnale Jr, and such a thing makes anyone fun to watch.
Titanic — March 28, 2010 / TV broadcast
Fortunately, Catch Me ended just as Titanic began, so I was treated to a DiCaprio Double Feature. Now, just so you know, I’m not one of those squealy women who got all swoony over the love story in Titanic. Rather, I find great enjoyment in the actors themselves. I was already a fan of Leo’s from his young days in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and This Boy’s Life, as well as his more recent performance in The Quick and The Dead, so Jack Dawson was simply one more enjoyable entry into a career I already loved. But, as Rose, I focused on Kate Winslet for the first time… and I fell for her in a big way. She’s so effortless, so enchanting and intriguing and equally gifted, and I just couldn’t get enough of her after Titanic. Watching that film now is like revisiting a perfect moment in time when new friends are made and connections are reborn. Having seen Kate and Leo grow in real-life friendship all these years since accounts for more than half of my endearment for the tale of the doomed ship. So I never tire of seeing it, and it’s likely I never will.