CineSavant Column

Tuesday December 17, 2019


I’m getting things straightened out for the holidays, and just starting to catch up some of the Oscar-bait pictures that are all hitting at once. I’m sure that the special contender The Irishman will make an impact, but I’m waiting until I can share it with family members. The same goes for other Netflix- accessible offerings like Marriage Story, and I want to see Laundromat even though nobody’s touting it. I did see 1917, Bombshell  and Knives Out over the weekend, but didn’t get to Parasite, another title that I am pre-warned will become a favorite.

Knives Out is clever and cute and fun, and kind of forgettable. It’s a perfectly good movie of a kind not made much anymore, the light comedy murder thriller with familiar faces. Daniel Craig doing an accent is entertaining in itself. Bombshell is excellent, both as a story about sexual harassment culture and Fox News as an unofficial branch of the U.S. government. The star actresses are really good, and John Lithgow’s fat suit had me worried that he’s really gained all that weight.

1917  did nothing for me, I’m afraid. There was nothing new in the experience it offered, and plenty of the old clichés. Our behind-the-lines troopers are almost hit by a crashing airplane, one of them shares ‘sensitive’ quality time with a lonely French woman, etc.. I don’t understand why critics are impressed by the ‘it’s one unbroken shot’ aspect — respect for a technical feat like that can only go so far, and the trick doesn’t make the film seem any more real or immediate, not to me anyway. What the camera does is more interesting than the story in front of it. I’m also thinking, what… was communication at the front that poor? They didn’t use planes to send important messages? (maybe they didn’t). Don’t mean to be a crab about this — maybe some friend will talk me into an appreciation of whatever it is about 1917 that I’m missing.

I guess I’m mostly reporting on what I haven’t seen — Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is so far still this year’s big positive movie memory for me. I’ll write about the other titles soon enough. Any screaming important recommendations?

I think I’ve given up on a standard ‘best of’ movie article this year. Not only has the notion of ‘best of’ lists become even less attractive, my own have simply been personal favorite lists for six years anyway, and not that meaningful to anybody but me and whatever company or disc producer gets the top slot. This year there were just too many personal favorites offered. No matter what artificial yardstick I applied to my choices, it was impossible to come up with a short list of ‘favorites.’

This is because 2019 saw an explosion of ‘Glenn Movies,’ pictures my friends could easily predict I’d go nuts over. You’d think someone tapped my brain — just in this one year there were at least ten gotta-mention favorite Sci-fi titles. How can I start arranging those in some kind of arbitrary order of best-ness?

I’m therefore just going to put forward a very long list of things I reviewed that I can STRONGLY recommend, in case somebody who cares missed something. I’ll say WHY a film is included, which will expose my faulty lapses in taste and judgment for all to see. And that’s always entertaining.

Speaking of Blu-ray releases seemingly zeroing in on movies special to this movie fan, I just got an announcement of Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases for January alone. It’s a treasure trove. In no order of preference, they’re giving us spaghetti westerns: Kill them All and Come Back Alone, The Specialists, The Hellbenders; and Brit Crime pix: The Interrupted Journey, Cosh Boy, Time is My Enemy, Time Lock, The Vicious Circle.

Also, pix by great directors: The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges), Room at the Top (Jack Clayton), The Good Fairy (William Wyler/Preston Sturges), House by the River (Fritz Lang), Ulzana’s Raid (Robert Aldrich), The War Lord (Franklin J. Schaffner), The Whisperers (Bryan Forbes); odd fantasies: Doctor Cyclops, Cobra Woman; a war movie: Tobruk; and a popular comedy: Semi-Tough.

And Criterion has announced its March releases: Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides, John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven (I hope the audio is clearer this time), the Maysles Brothers’ Salesman, and best of all, Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying and James Whale’s 1936 Showboat!

Will the disc boutiques eventually run out of movies I care about?  Or is it like the French Resistance — you knock off one movie, and two rise to take its place?  Maybe it’s all a plot to make me retire.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson