Underrated masterworks

What is a masterwork?  It’s like, a really good film, right?

I started to debate the meaning of masterworks at university.  In the essays titles to choose from, one was, “The Greatest Masterworks are also some of the most immoral.”

Something like that.  I didn’t necessarily agree with the films chosen in “Masterworks of the cinema.”  I think included in the curriculum were Battleship Potemkin, Triumph of the Will, some gory horror film, Bring Me The Head of Garcia Alfredo, and a few other movies that I didn’t like either.  Some of these films could be called immoral, but masterworks?  I would have chosen different films.

So, I guess I’ll start a series of reviews called Underrated masterworks. Continue reading Underrated masterworks

Apocalypse Now Redux: review

Walter Murch, yes the Walter Murch, travelled all the way to Aberystwyth to take questions on his film, Apocalypse Now.

Okay, so Murch was only the sound stylist, right? An editor, not a director, star, screenwriter or even a producer. Producers take home the best picture award, directors get to be thought of the auteur, actors get famous, screenwriters can say they thought it all up, but without people working below the line there’s only so much you can do.

Continue reading Apocalypse Now Redux: review

The Disaster Artist (review)

At Ptara, I directed two microbudget feature films. Make that nanobudget.

One had a crew of two (excluding the three actors, who also crewed, and a few kids who helped out on sound one day), the other was basically me editing a large variety of footage to make it coherent. There were challenges in both, and everyone learned a lot.  And, what these films lack in production values is made up for in performance and story line.

By contrast, Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” had a budget that was about 1000 times either of my films.  He worked with much more expensive kit and a more experienced cast and crew. Yet, “The Room” was filled with continuity errors, bad acting, and an incoherent plot.

Continue reading The Disaster Artist (review)

“A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”

I hate to start a review with a spoiler, but knowing your history is always a spoiler.  And, if you don’t know your history, historical films often lack interest.

Spain was backward during Franco’s dictatorship, just as fundamentalists in the middle east are making their own countries backward.  Much of Europe only truly emerged from the dark ages in the past 200 years, some parts have yet to emerge.

This documentary “Las Maestras de la Republica” is a story about education in a time between extremes, not only Franco’s extreme, but the extreme of the other guys.  The Second Spanish Republic was not a bed of roses, and the documentary skims over most of the problems of that regime.  Instead, it focuses on the new found equality of Spanish women through education, especially the role of teaching. Continue reading “A short course of nothing” review of “Las Maestras de la República”

Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Poster with the words "The Mikado on top, and a full length portrait of the character kaisha, in traditional dress and holding a sword, surrounded by flowers.
The Mikado, promotional poster from the Gilbert and Sullivan theatrical production, by Johnathan B. Jeffrey, ca. 1885

I purposely avoided Moliere, Shakespeare in Love, and almost every other movie about a playwright.  I do this because I respect writers like Shakespeare, and I find their period fascinating.  I likewise avoid most movies about Thomas Jefferson.  I prefer the Jefferson that I read in his letters, or from his contemporaries, to the cartoon lecher that Hollywood spoon feeds us with.

It ain’t just reverence and respect for the past, I don’t like the glossy misinterpretations.  Those movies about great people are often like sampling Mozart into some kind of techno elevator music. Continue reading Topsy Turvy (1999) Review

Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Like many of today’s historical films, Mysteries of Lisbon is long (very long). Before investing four and a half hours in a movie, it might be an idea to read a review or two.  After I invested my four and a half hours, ideas for reviews kept invading my head. But there are so many things to talk about, the director’s style, the actors, the camera work that one observer called “unobtrusive”, the level of history, it was hard to settle on something.

Sure, I could write a PhD thesis, researching the director’s life and speculating how that influenced the production, but I’m not interested in that. Instead, I’ll answer the two questions I think every reviewer should answer. Did I like the movie? And, how do my readers know if they’ll like it? Continue reading Mysteries of Lisbon: A historical film.

Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

John Michael Priest is a well respected author of the American civil war, especially the battle of Antietam.

Notice we didn’t say War Between the States or Sharpsburg.  Some of you might accuse us of bias. Well, that’s nothing new. Continue reading Remembering Antietam, with civil War expert John Michael Priest

Laura (1944) review

A mystery, filled with red herrings, deceptions and hilarious false leads, but at the end, when it’s all solved, it seems so obvious. The entire plot falls into place. How can anyone claim to forget who the murderer is? Roger Ebert claimed in his review that “I’ve seen the movie seven times, and the murderer still doesn’t immediately spring to mind.” Continue reading Laura (1944) review