Monday, June 4, 2018

Movies Since Last Time

The French Connection (1971). I found myself home alone while The Beloved Spouse was helping with The Sole Heir’s wedding preparations and thought I’d watch L.A. Confidential. Realized as I was scrolling through the DVD collection I had the French Connection soundtrack running through my head as an earworm. The French Connection holds up to repeated repeated viewings (repetition intentional), and not even after the plot holes wear through the fabric is the overall value undermined. This is a film much more about attitude and the onsessions of Popeye Doyle than it is about any plotting and set the tone for what are now called “Seventies movies.” A true classic, and I don’t throw that term around loosely.

Wind River (2017). This is the kind of movie that could get me out of the house to watch movies again. Taylor Sheridan’s follow-up toHell or High Water, which I loved, is at least as good. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson pair well as a hunter for Fish and Wildlife working with a junior FBI agent to solve the mystery of a young woman found dead on the prairie six miles from anywhere. Olson is not Super Fed. She was just the closest agent when the body was found, sent to stabilize the situation until more senior agents can arrive as a major winter storm approaches. She’s smart and tough and knows her limitations. When Renner tells her the way to find this killer is by backtracking where he’s been, she’s sharp enough to realize he has skills she doesn’t have, but needs. Their relationship is built on growing trust and respect and avoids the impulse too many movies have to make something sexual out of it. There’s already plenty going on in Wind River. Highest recommendation.

Sunset Boulevard (1950). A movie I actually did leave the house to see, driving to a theater to watch
one of Turner Classic’s screenings in a multiplex. Not quite like it must have been in 1950 when the whole building was one theater and there might have been organ music instead of commercials, but close enough. The acting is a little stylized for my taste, but that fades in comparison to the story and the personalities—more than just characters—portrayed. Another film that grows on me as I notice something different every time. I knew it was coming and was still crushed when Max confesses that he was Madame’s first husband. Also the only film to start with the dead man talking to you that gets away with it.

Whiplash (2014). J.K. Simmons deserves all the accolades and Milles Teller might be the best combination of actor/drummer ever, but the movie doesn’t hold water. Admittedly, my standards are
high, as I have a Masters in Music and worked as a free-lancer for almost ten years, but no teacher anywhere could get away with ten percent of the shit Fletcher pulls in this movie, not even for a week. Hell, drill sergeants can’t get away with some of the shit he pulled. No musician would set Andrew up for the gig at the end the way Fletcher did and ever work in that town again, and I have a hard time believing anyone wouldn’t have seen their drummer walk into a competition bleeding from the face and head and not turn to the jurors and say, “We’re gonna need a minute.” Still, it’s an absorbing film in the moment and the music is spectacular.

Kill the Irishman (2011). A 70s story told in the style of a 70s movie that works. It’s no French
Connection—it’s not even a Hickey and Boggs—but it does what it sets out to do and stays true to itself throughout. Based on a true story of Cleveland hood Danny Greene, who took on the Italian mob and dared them to kill him. Literally. On television. Ray Stevenson is outstanding as Danny, supported by a who’s who cast of crime film stalwarts including Vincent D'Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Robert Davi, Tony Lo Bianco (Sal Boca in The French Connection for those not in the know, bringing this post full circle), Steve Schirripa, and Paul Sorvino, with extra realism added through the use of actual news clips when Greene was big news not just in Cleveland but nationally. It’s not a classic, it’s not even great, but it’s solid, knows what it wants to be, and does it well.


pattinase (abbott) said...

WHIPLASH dazzled because of two great actors and the great music but it has no resonance because it's bullshit as you suggest.
Love William Holden by Gloria Swanson is just too over the top for me. Although I haven't seen it in thirty or forty years. Probably should rewatch.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Dana – FRENCH CONNECTION is great. Another 70s film with music I can hear in my head was the original TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3, composed by David Shire. Funny how THREE BILLBOARDS seemed to attract so much more attention than the far better WIND RIVER. Max’s revelation in SUNSET BLVD is the most shocking thing in that very strange movie. Passed on WHIPLASH, it sounded phony.