What's on your Daily Viewing List?

bujaki

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Pordenone Day #4:
La tempesta in un cranio aka Kill or Cure
1921. Italian film. The title translates literally as Tempest in a cranium. Crazy, enjoyable film that is part Fairbanks, part Keaton. Surreal, illogical, madcap, athletic stunts, devil-may-care; it's all about this man who fears going crazy due to genetics and so he dreams or lives or goes through or whatever, a series of (mis)adventures involving friends, (enemies?), sweethearts, oh, you name it, who will drive him to the brink or cure (?) him. An absolute delight but as illogical as they make them. The director/actor believed in making films with an underlying moral and, yes, this one has it.
BTW, the leading lady became his wife. The director ended his professional life making sword and sandal movies.
 

Mike Frezon

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Peg and I watched bookend films over the past 24 hours: The Secret Garden (2020) and The Chalk Garden (1964).

The Secret Garden (2020)
Originally Released: 08/07/2020
Watched: 10/12/2020
4K UHD digital streaming on Apple TV app via Roku Ultra

View attachment 80082

The 1993 American Zoetrope adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic novel, directed by Agnieszka Holland, is in the Top Ten for my favorite films of all time. Between the fact that the book had already been adapted well and the fact that Jack Thorne, who had only frustrated me in the past, had written the screenplay, I had no interest in watching this latest version.

Two things changed my mind:
  1. Robert A. Harris praised it pretty effusively in his A Few Words About thread.
  2. Jack Thorne wrote the screenplay for Enola Holmes, which delighted me.
I happened to spot the Blu-ray for sale at Walmart for $19.96 and picked it up on impulse. The enclosed digital code redeemed in iTunes in 4K, so I watched that version instead.

I really, really enjoyed it. It's a kinder, gentler movie than the American Zoetrope version or the creepy, atmospheric MGM version. Whereas the novel and previous adaptations were set at the turn of the 20th century, at the very end of the Victorian era, this version moves the action up to 1947. Mary's parents die amidst the turmoil resulting from the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. The England she returns to is scarred by the ravages of the second world war, as both the British Empire and the aristocracy it supports are in precipitous decline.

While the broad outlines of the story, at least until the final act, are very faithful to the source material, the difference in time period has a number of consequences, affecting Mary's relationship with her parents, the backgrounds of Martha and Dickon, the relationship between Mary's mother and Colin's mother, the nature of the India in which Mary was reared, and so on. Most of these changes aren't bad, but they do have a cumulative impact.

The biggest triumph of this version is Dixie Egerickx as Mary Lennox. The character, as written, is a spoiled and entitled brat. That element is present in this version, but only in a very precursory way. Egerickx understands and embodies Mary's desperate loneliness, conveys the heartache of a life spent feeling neglected and unloved. But while this version of Mary feels unloved, she is very free with her own love. She tries being arrogant and snobby, but she can't maintain it for long because she's too interested everyone and every creature around her -- too responsive to every little bit of kindness shown to her. If prior versions of Mary were like a tempest needing to be calmed, this version of Mary is like a journalist, eager to uncover and understand the secrets of this place in which she finds herself.

The biggest shortcoming of this version, the thing that keeps it from quite achieving the same level as the American Zoetrope version for me, is that it has a problem with scale. The titular garden, in this version, is a whole Lost World, going on for countless acres. The movie doesn't trust the anguish of Lord Craven's grief for his late wife as an internalized thing; it needs to externalize it as a violent climactic conflagration. Similarly to Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation of A Little Princess, it embraces magical realism, with the world seen through Mary's eyes and Mary's imagination instead of as it objectively is. The garden is largely a CG creation, completely out of scale with reality and constantly growing and changing based on Mary's emotional state.

The human relationships in the version are much more fully realized than in the prior versions, but the cost of that is some of the story's thematic power. In the 1993 version, Holland casts the story as a conflict of opposing forces: Kate Maberly's Mary Lennox was indomitable, the unstoppable force, and the avatar for life, nature, and rebirth. Maggie Smith's severe Mrs. Medlock was steadfast, the immovable object, and the avatar for confinement, stagnancy, and deterioration. I missed the fierceness of that struggle this time around, because it made the final victory of life over stagnancy less impactful this time around.

And the CG-infused magical realism of the garden itself creates beautiful spectacle, but loses track of how the children save the garden so that the garden can save everything else. The thing that the 1993 version understood was just how cold and barren to make Misselthwaite Manor feel, and how much work it would need to take to nurture this place back to life. In the 2020 version, the nature is less nurtured than discovered. The kids don't need to do anything to bring it back to life.

So I do have my issues with it, but all in all a really solid piece of all ages entertainment that adults and children can both enjoy.
I agree with most of your observations about The Secret Garden, Adam. But Peg and I came away from the film with much less enthusiasm. We found it especially dark in terms of its imagery (specifically the Misselthwaite fire) and disliked the CGI in the expansive garden. I did not like at all viewing the garden via Mary's imagination. The garden is much more effective, I think, as a "real" part of the story. We didn't think much of Colin Firth's portrayal of Craven. Julie Walters wasn't given much to do. The kids were fine. But I never got the sense that the film was really interested in telling the story of Mary's role in helping Colin Craven reclaim his life. The filmmakers seemed more vested in imagery then in storytelling.

Peg said "the film was missing the heart." I think that says it all.

As to The Chalk Garden. What a cast! The four principals were all excellent (no surprise there). But the music/score sucked. And it really wasn't a great, compelling story. In 2020 the plot seemed rather predictable and boring. They even felt the need to come right out and explain the symbolism of the "chalk garden" to Hayley Mill's character. Lame.

So the film was rather a letdown. I'm certainly glad I've seen it. But I'm not sure if I'll be wanting to revisit it ever.

 
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bujaki

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Pordenone Day #5:
The Apaches of Athens aka The Prince of Beggars
1930. From Greece, based on a famous operetta from 1921. Apaches as in apaches from the underworld, not Native-Americans. A satirical look at the nouveau riche in which the Prince is passed off as a real prince. There is a romantic triangle: the poor girl from the poor district and the rich girl vying for the love of the Beggar Prince. There is a realism and rawness to the scenes shot in the "lower depths." A lost film recently found and restored, looking pristine. The sound discs are unfortunately lost, but the score is based on the operetta itself. The film is fluid and cognizant of late silent film techniques.
 

bujaki

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Pordenone Day #6:
Abwege aka Crisis or Astray or The Devious Path
1928. German film directed by Pabst just before Pandora's Box. Starring the immortal Brigitte Helm (Metropolis) as the wife who is stultified in her marriage and longs for escape. A phantasmagorical nightclub scene that includes everything you always wanted to know and see about the decadence and laissez faire of Weimar decadent culture using all sorts of camera tricks, lighting and editing. Everything shows Pabst as a master of technique and superb handler of actors.
 

bujaki

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Pordenone Day #7:
A Romance of the Redwoods
1917. A Mary Pickford vehicle directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A story that takes place during the California gold rush. Mary unwittingly falls in with a bandit and tries to redeem him. Through a trick, he escapes a lynching (again, the good ol' American way of justice), and it all ends well. Mary does act very well under CB's efficient direction and Alvin Wyckoff superb cinematography of exteriors and studio shots.
 

bujaki

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Pordenone Day #8 (last day):
Ballettens Datter aka Daughter of the Ballet
1913. Impressive Danish film directed by Holger-Madsen, starring a famous ballerina, Rita Sacchetto. As with films of its time, the camera remains stationary in the style of tableaux, but there are many interesting techniques used that surprise the eye. Also, many framing devices are utilized as well as mirrors (did Sirk see this film?) All in all, an interesting product of its time, and an interesting glimpse of Sacchetto's art as dancer.
Laurel or Hardy 5 shorts. Two with Ollie without Stan; two with Stan without Ollie; one directed by Stan. Purchase the upcoming Flicker Alley release containing the same program.
 

Robin9

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Yesterday I watched The Thief on DVD. An interesting film with the consistently good Ray Milland plus Rita Gam

Today I watched How The West Was Won on Blu-ray disc. It's a good film that really moves along and doesn't drag its feet for a moment. I wonder if this will ever come out on 4K. It's certainly a suitable candidate.
 

Matt Hough

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Tonight after watching an episode of The Boys on Prime, I stumbled across Liza with a 'Z.' I have it on Blu-ray, of course, but since it was there and ready to stream, I watched it. It's such a grand showcase for Liza naturally, and Bob Fosse's characteristic choreography is a special plus. No wonder he took home three Emmys for the show: choreography, direction, and as the producer.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting
Originally Released: 10/15/2020
Watched: 10/15/2020
1080P HD digital streaming on Netflix, upscaled to 4K via Roku Ultra

ABabysitter'sGuideToMonsterHunting_2020_Poster.jpg


Walden Media's latest children's book adaptation landed on Netflix today, perfect programming for the Halloween season.

It reminded me a lot of Hocus Pocus, in several ways:
  1. I wasn't sure what audience it was targeting; it would be too scary for younger kids, but too tame for older kids.
  2. It's overly reliant on visual effects of questionable quality.
  3. A lot of activity surrounding a bare bones plot bogged down by a lot of worldbuilding dished out in dribs and drabs.
An unrecognizable Tom Felton chews through the scenery with abandon as the movie's bogeyman.

Tamara Smart and Oona Laurence keep the movie careening forward as the titular babysitters.

Smart is an English actress, but her American accent is pretty solid if a bit more precise than any 14-year-old native speaker I've ever heard. Her character is a math prodigy, and that comes in handy more than you might think.

Laurence plays her character like a hardened war vet who's seen some shit she'd rather not talk about, and just wants to get the job done.

The movie doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it clips along at a decent enough pace. I don't see it joining my regular Halloween rotation, but it was fun enough the once and I'd probably watch a sequel if Netflix made one.
 

Robin9

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The Caper Of The Golden Bulls has just arrived so I'll watch that Blu-ray disc tonight. Apparently a Brand New 4K Master!
 

bujaki

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A few posts back I mentioned that during my virtual Italian sojourn in Pordenone, I watched a few shorts shot by the Biograph Studio in 68mm in the early years of the 20th century. First time I've even seen films shot in that very rare gauge. I've seen 8; 9.5; 16; 28; 35; 70mm; but never 68mm. Well, this unique format delivers crisp, crystal clear images, practically devoid of grain. Furthermore, the negatives and prints had no sprocket holes, which meant that the films could not be reproduced nor projected on our regular equipment. Not until, that is, digital scanners and digital projection became a reality. These films were projected in IMAX theaters in Europe to great success. I wish we had the same opportunity here.
 

Thomas T

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Versione italiana. Che meraviglia!
Actually, I watched the English language track but couldn't resist watching one scene in Italian. Watching Bette, Diane and Goldie screaming at each other in Italian was hilarious! The reason I sent away for the Italian DVD is that it's anamorphic. My domestic DVD was non-anamorphic and I stand to be corrected but I don't think Paramount ever corrected that. It's a film I'd love to upgrade to blu ray though the DVD looks quite nice.
 
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bujaki

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Catching up on my viewings split up to accommodate my Italian journey (and I'll also split the posts up due to the many items):
Fargo (FX) A couple of episodes. Minor notes that jarred me: calling a crank-up 70-rpm player a hi-fi; a lesbian couple referred to as lesbian. In 1950 cops would have likely used a derogatory term.
Women Make Films (TCM) 2 episodes in this series. One does learn much here.
The Great Work Begins: Scenes from Angels in America 5 scenes from Tony Kuschner's landmark play movingly and expertly portrayed by many actors (remotely). A splendid experience.
Houston Grand Opera Concert: Reginald Smith Jr. Songs by Black composers. I've seen this baritone on stage in a performance of Verdi's Aida. He's really good.
Hold on to Me Darling A Zoom reading of a Kenneth Lonergan play starring Mark Ruffalo, Gretchen Mol, Michael Cera, etc., all in top form. A moving piece about a narcissistic country singer/movie star. Ruffalo is a national treasure.
 

bujaki

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Flesh and Blood (PBS) 4-part series starring Francesca Annis, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Rea and Russell Tovey. Scratch the surfaces of familial, neighborly, marital, extra-marital, romantic, and workplace relationships; and all can lead to murder. Flawless performances.
Line of Separation (PBS Passport) 2 Seasons, 6 episodes each. Post WW2. A town in Germany is split in two by a wall, just like the Berlin Wall. A fictional tale based on a true story of a town that was actually split. Oh, those ex-Nazis. They blended so well as capitalists or as communists. Didn't matter.
 

bujaki

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Twenty Plus Two (TCM app) 196. David Janssen plays an heir hunter who gets involved in an old kidnap mystery (plus murder, blackmail, rape of minors, beautiful Jeanne Crain and Dina Merrill) and a great scene with Agnes Moorehead. William Demarest shows up as well.
The Racket (TCM) 1951. The remake of the silent Milestone classic, also produced by Howard Hughes. So a tommie means a tomboy or code for lizzie? I could have sworn it was short for tomato. Did the screenwriter know in advance that Scott had been cast and that she was already an outed tommie? Or are we reading too much into this slang word? Still a good film. But could Ryan be so stupid knowing full well how the machine would rub out potential canaries? And what happened to his brother, that weasel? And to the big man himself? Where was the Production Code when we needed it?
 

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