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Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - Renaissance Man, The Preacher's Wife & Riding in Cars with

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019. Renaissance Man This is decidedly a much more modest follow-up to Marshall’s wildly successful A League of Their Own. Danny DeVito plays a former businessman who gets a short-term gig instructing a group of Army soldiers at a boot camp. Of course, these soldiers are the colorful and academically underachieving misfits called the Double D’s (surprisingly no one makes the obvious crack at their name. The film falls into the genre of Freedom Writers and Dangerous Minds, a genre I have come to despise as an ed

Uncaged - Birdy (1984) & Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me. Birdy (1984) The mid-80’s sees Nicolas Cage on the cusp of stardom. While these two movies aren’t super memorable, we see him in lead performances in which either the plot revolves around him or he is a major catalyst for the plot. Birdy was apparently a difficult work to adapt since the original novel was mostly internal monologue. Alan Parker of Commitments and Evita fame would sign on to direct once he felt it was properly adapted. It is getting more and more obvious to me that Cage is a collaborative actor. He tends to do best w

Short Film Wednesday - Laurel and Hardy - Laughing Gravy

Inspired by having seen Stan & Ollie, I will be trying to fill in a blind spot with the films of Laurel and Hardy, artists I had absolutely no familiarity with before seeing the movie. This is yet another film in which Laurel and Hardy are a pseudo-married couple, decidedly pre-Code. The two share a bed with each other and their dog, Laughing Gravy (fantastic name for a dog by the way), is their adopted child. The landlord is not tolerant to dogs, and maybe he is opposed to the idea of these two resembling a married couple so strongly. Perhaps the best gag in Laughing Gravy is when Hardy is stuck outside and the landlord throws a pot in Hardy’s general direction. His yowl turns into a dog’s

Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - A League of Their Own

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019. It takes a lot of hard work to make a movie this effortlessly feel-good and entertaining. Penny Marshall made sure that all the actresses could convincingly play baseball. Lori Petty threw more pitches than most Major League players and apparently all bruises or injuries you see in the film are real. This is also the film that Marshall really comes to her own as a director. She has always had a gift with working with actors and nearly every one of them gets her or his moment. Jon Lovitz, a Marshall favorit

2018 Recap - Best Films by Female Directors (2018)

This post was originally scheduled for Sunday, but the Academy Award nominations dropped today, and I found them more out of touch than usual. The two most problematic big movies of 2018 were nominated for Best Picture (Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book). Ethan Hawke was snubbed big time for one of the most lauded performances of the year. South Korea remains without a single nomination even as Burning was so widely acclaimed. But the biggest snub would have to be the lack of a single female director recognized in that category. The only one who came kind of close was Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, with nominations for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant (both well-deserved),

2018 Recap - Best Films by Female Directors (pre-2018)

The best lesson I learned from last year’s resolution to watch works from more women filmmakers (half of all movies watched to be exact) was that women filmmakers and their works are hardly monolithic. There are certainly patterns that could distinguish women filmmakers: women are better, more complex characters, stories often revolve around women’s status in society, etc. However, I could name exceptions to any sort of rule one could lay down, and that is what made this resolution so rewarding, to witness the diversity of work and the new viewpoints that they opened me up to. I have listed ten of what I thought were some of the most striking works that I encountered last year. I have tried

Uncaged - Racing with the Moon (1984) & The Cotton Club (1984)

This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me. Racing with the Moon (1984) It’s difficult to reconcile modern Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage with their young, boisterous men that they are here, but I found this coming-of-age film, set weeks before both will be shipped out to fight in World War II, quite affecting. While the romance especially between Sean Penn’s character and Elizabeth McGovern’s is quite sweet, the best part is the bromance between these actors. They both have the same, nervous energy that makes them seem like coiled-up piles of nerves, but Penn is more intense and

Short Film Wednesday - Laurel and Hardy - Busy Bodies (1933)

Inspired by having seen Stan & Ollie, I will be trying to fill in a blind spot with the films of Laurel and Hardy, artists I had absolutely no familiarity with before seeing the movie. You can’t help but to think of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times when you see this film. But while Chaplin had the benefit of a relatively mammoth budget compared to this short, Busy Bodies is predictably smaller in scope as it is in scale. The focus is much more on personal inadequacies rather than the grander point Chaplin was making about the dehumanization of workers stuck in an industrial machine. I mean, who in their right mind, would hire these two to do any sort of construction for them when they can’t fo

Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - Awakenings

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019. 1990 was the year of Goodfellas vs. Dances with the Wolves at the Academy Awards, the latter winning apparently all the awards. Awakenings was also up for Best Picture. Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) gets a job as a neurologist at a mental hospital in the Bronx, and, quite against his solitary nature, starts to sympathize with the patients, especially Leonard (Robert DeNiro), who was a victim of the encephalitis epidemic from 1917-1928 and is now catatonic. The film follows both men as Sayer finds a po

Uncaged - Valley Girl (1983) & Rumble Fish (1983)

This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me. Valley Girl (1983) I definitely liked this movie more the second time around, mainly because I stopped focusing on the silly and, I still think, unconvincing romance at the center involving Deborah Foreman’s titular valley girl Julie and the punk from the wrong side of the tracks Randy played by the Cage (going by his new moniker for the first time in his first starring role). Instead, I saw this movie as a picture of a society that was wallowing in prosperity during the early Reagan era and how it was affecting not just the youth b

Short Film Wednesday - Laurel and Hardy - Helpmates

Inspired by having seen Stan & Ollie, I will be trying to fill in a blind spot with the films of Laurel and Hardy, artists I had absolutely no familiarity with before seeing the movie. I am starting to see the pattern in these Laurel and Hardy short films. Much like The Music Box, which came out later this year, the core of this short is a take on the Sisyphus tale. This film starts off with Hardy seemingly looking directly into the camera and chastising someone for his profligate behavior. It turns out he is looking into a mirror and the person he is chastising is himself (a neat trick, considering how hard it is to film characters looking into mirrors), which already frames this as Hardy’s

Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - Big

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019.​ I think to judge this film fairly, one needs to realize that this is a pure fantasy because otherwise there are so many problems of the icky and logical kind. For example, the questionability of sleeping with a man who has the mentality of a twelve-year-old boy. Or the fact that Tom Hanks’ Josh gets a job at a major company without any proper legal documents or references. The events in this movie do not hold up under scrutiny, and they were never meant to. It is ultimately a wish-fulfillment comedy. The

Best Movie Memories of 2018

2018 was one of the most fruitful in terms of my movie watching and my writing. While, I am atrociously behind in this blog, it still motivated to write and refine my criticism more than I would have without. Also, 2018 itself was one of the best years of cinema after the strong years of both 2016 and 2017, but these films were almost just a supplement to the literally hundreds of films that I saw last year as I explored Giallo, Japanese exploitation, early silent comedies, and so much more. The more I explore, the more and more I realize just how vast cinema really is and how I am constantly just scratching at the surface, which is kind of depressing yet also exciting. Below are my most mem

Sundays at Videotheque

Videotheque in South Pasadena, CA was my film school post-college. Even though I live far away now, I still make it out almost every Sunday to check out movies that I have no luck finding online, for money or otherwise. In this ongoing series, I will give my brief impressions about my rentals from the past week. Esther Kahn (2000) dir. Arnaud Desplechin, starring Summer Phoenix, Ian Holm The movies of Arnaud Desplechin movie have left me cold. Perhaps it is the language and culture barrier, but his overly talky style and his overstuffed narratives with little drive frustrate me. Esther Kahn has become a big exception for me though. In this movie, the dialogue of the characters and the narrat

Uncaged - The Best of Times & Fast Times at Ridgemont High

This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me. The Best of Times (1981) The Best of Times was an unaired TV pilot, meant to be a sketch comedy show. It features pretty typical 80’s cheesy humor, not unlike say the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Despite the wholesomeness of the show and the vision of a pre-George McFly Crispin Glover in full earnest mode, you can already see the seeds of the insanity of the Cage. Cage (credited as Nic Coppola) plays a roided out jock, who likes nothing better than to show off his admittedly impressive physique. Even at that age (17), he stands ou

Short Film Wednesday - Laurel and Hardy - The Music Box (1932)

Inspired by having seen Stan & Ollie, I will be trying to fill in a blind spot with the films of Laurel and Hardy, artists I had absolutely no familiarity with before seeing the movie. It’s difficult to not compare Laurel and Hardy to the silent film comedians that came before (and worked with previously in vaudeville). The whole fat and skinny dynamic is reminiscent of Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton with Stan even doing the similar stone-faced bit that Keaton did. They’re not as athletic as Keaton or as expressive/sentimental as Chaplin though. They are also not entirely anarchic like the Marx Brothers. In fact, there is a groundedness and certain obedience to rules in the face of absurdi

Theme Tuesday - Penny Marshall - Jumpin' Jack Flash

In honor of one of the few American female filmmakers that regular people could name, I will be watching all of the works of Penny Marshall, who passed away in late 2018, for January 2019. Jumpin’ Jack Flash would not have been anyone’s auspicious birth of a director. The production was in chaos as the script was rewritten several times, once by no other than David Mamet. It was originally meant for Shelley Long but was later replaced by Whoopi Goldberg. It was only by a chance meeting with Goldberg and the urging of her brother Garry Marshall, a successful director in his own right, that Penny Marshall decided to finally step behind the camera, since she would be “learning on the job.” Ther

 
 
 

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