The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

End Credits #54: Cinema's 2016 Lost Treasures

More depressing news: Still another stalwart member of our beloved cinema community has passed away, Fritz Weaver at age 90. His performances brought enormous conviction to the characters he portrayed, remaining vivid in our memories long after the means of presenting them ended. He commanded one's attention in television shows such as Studio OnePlayhouse 90, two distinctive episodes of The Twilight Zone: (The Obsolete Man and Third from the Sun), Mission Impossible, Murder She Wrote, narrating the History Channel specials, and perhaps most notably, his Emmy-nominated performance as Dr. Joseph Weiss in the mini-series Holocaust. Weaver consistently demonstrated his unique capability to enthrall movie-goers by projecting a dominating authority (helped by standing 6'3" with a deep baritone voice) in roles such as the increasingly unstable Air Force Colonel in 1963's Fale-Safe, a villainous executive in 1973's Day of the Dolphin, a highly respected University Professor in 1976's Marathon Man, a resourceful F.B.I. agent in 1977's Black Sunday, a brilliant scientist in 1977's Demon Seed, and a Professor in 1982's Creepshow, among others. On stage, Weaver won a Tony in 1970 for his role as a tough disciplinarian teacher in Child's Play. He received acclaim (and a Tony nomination) for his 1955 Broadway debut in The Chalk Garden, and went on to portray Shakespeare's Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, the latter roles he relished stating: “The old boy — he’s the one who makes the maximum challenge to the actor’’. “That high charge on all the lines that he writes — you’ve got to measure up. You can’t just saunter into that stuff; you’ve got to bring your whole life into it.”... something Fritz Weaver did in all of his magnificent performances. Fritz Weaver (January 19, 1926 - November 26, 2016) R.I.P.

 

21st Century Treasure Quest #8

 

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 10 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

 

Bad Moms (2016—Director: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore)

This comedy is fairly diverting especially when Kathryn Hahn takes center-stage. Creating a relevant satire on the subject of modern-day motherhood, however, is far beyond its reach. The narrative leans heavily toward an obvious disregard for any parental responsibility whatsoever and along with its harsh depiction of father characters, disrupts the delicate balance of irreverence and sensitivity required for approaching this kind of subject.  

 

 

Ben-Hur (2016—Director: Timur Bekmambetov)

This third adaptation of Lew Wallace’s novel of a Jewish prince-turned-slave-turned-chariot racer replaces the grandeur and spectacle of physical realism offered in the 1959 film with cheap looking CGI effects and disorienting action camerawork, leaving the proceedings starving for an effective gaffer. Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell give dependable performances as Judah Ben-Hur and Messala, respectively, and the choice to make them adoptive brothers (similar to how The Prince of Egypt animated film updated The Ten Commandments) are among the few attributes in this otherwise dreary and forgettable remake.

 

 

Don’t Breathe (2016—Director: Fede Alvarez)

Writer-director Fede Alvarez steps back from the blood and gore of his 2013 Evil Dead remake to craft this enjoyable fusion of horror and thriller that keeps audiences' eyes wide open. Pedro Luque’s distinctive cinematography shines while Stephen Lang makes for one of 2016’s most engaging antagonists—a man whose blindness has forced him to take drastic measures against a neglectful society and more specifically, three naive delinquents who were unlucky enough to try and steal from him. 

 

 

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016—Director: Stephen Frears)

This latest offering from director Stephen Frears, while not as intimately tied to its movie-production setting as Hail, Caesar! from earlier this year, remains a quirky and poignant examination of how a mediocre singer becomes famous for her musical ineptitude. Meryl Streep—who recently showcased her vocal prowess in 2014’s Into The Woods—proves she can successfully shift to the opposite end of the spectrum by transforming into a naturally bad singer. Simon Helberg and Hugh Grant provide a bittersweet touch as Streep's confidants who put aside their own artistic ambitions to protect the titular bad singer from the harsh reality of the music world's true response. 

 

 

Kubo & the Two Strings (2016—Director: Travis Knight)

The folks at Laika Entertainment once again demonstrate their mastery of stop-motion animation with this Asian-influenced action-adventure. At the same time, the exemplary technical achievements cannot completely compensate for a half-baked storyline—one that hungers for deeper characters at nearly each and every turn. Such a wide gap in quality between technical craft and narrative makes this film somewhat of a disappointment.

 

 

Nerve (2016—Director: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman)

A strong premise helps sustain this glossy thriller that taps into the growing world of augmented reality entertainment. Emma Roberts and Dave Franco make a charming couple, while Emily Meade—who earlier this year stole the show with her ranting scene from Money Monster—delivers yet another impressive supporting performance as Roberts’ vapid, yet emotionally fragile, best friend. Taken as a whole, the film amplifies the fun factor while delivering some teen-friendly smarts, making repeat viewings most worthwhile. 

 

 

Nine Lives (2016—Director: Barry Sonnenfeld)

Along with director Barry Sonnenfeld’s bewilderingly over-conceptualized recent output of silly animal comedies, stories of body-switching, and back-room business scheming, this effort carries the audience on a scenic route to nowhere, despite the contribution of five different screenwriters. Sparing the dignified presence of Kevin Spacey and Christopher Walken (both in paycheck mode), those unfortunate enough to have witnessed this film have now experienced the cinematic equivalant of staring into a black hole.

 

 

Pete’s Dragon (2016—Director: David Lowery)

The director of 2013's indie romantic crime gem Ain’t Them Bodies Saints helms this serious update of the whimsical but badly-dated 1977 Disney musical of the same name, depicting the friendship between a boy and his docile green dragon. The results here are rather lightweight: An adventure too grounded and tame to soar or inspire the imagination, much less linger in one's memory. Weta Digital’s take on 'Elliot the Dragon', despite a few well-crafted details, e.g. hair texture, feels disappointingly segregated from the human characters. 

 

 

Sausage Party (2016—Director: Conrad Vernon & Greg Tierman)

This animated "comedy" is what appears to be simply a cash cow, industry stunt: Greenlit because of Seth Rogen and his close collaborators' involvement. The filmmakers' only interest is to shockingly oppose, debauch and vulgarly insult family-friendly animation, both domestic and abroad, in order to set apart their film from the same, and they sure have succeeded. This dreadful "party" consists of uncreative racial stereotypes, mean-spirited religious attacks, toilet humor, obvious food puns, and profanity in every other sentence, all conspiring to put the audience through the device it takes to make their title's product. 

 

 

Suicide Squad (2016—Director: David Ayer)

David Ayer’s comic book offering, following his impressive 2014 war drama Fury, may hold one's viewing attention, but later reveals itself as a dour, muddled mess—both in tone and filming technique, i.e. lighting and camerawork. Instead of fleshing out and developing each ensemble member, the filmmakers opt for condensing as much DC Comics source material as they can into a one-night action slog, preceded by rather cursory character introductions. Combining a poor imitation of the joyous compilation soundtrack from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a supernatural villainess better suited to a Ghostbusters sequel, and the superfluous inclusion of Jared Leto’s Joker, what we're left with is a mere baby step by Warner Bros. to catch up to Disney’s typically more engaging Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

R.N.B.

Top Ten: Cinema's Most Treasured Images Part 10 (#91 - 100)

I'll continue with some of cinema's most treasured images. For those familiar with the scenes represented they're bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in order of greatest impression with #91 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected. 

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"Now Listen to Me..."

Just some thoughts on current happenings:

 

There are 14 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:

 

(From left) Frank Gerstle, Edmond O'Brien

(From left) Frank Gerstle, Edmond O'Brien

The first is one of film noir's finest and boldest: D.O.A. previously recommended here. This "dead man walking" will arrive on TCM Sunday, November 6 at 1:15pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The multi-talented Gordon Parks made his directorial debut at age 57 with 1969's The Learning Tree based on his semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. This touching coming of age story was previously lauded, along with its creator Parks, in an article entitled: Exploring the Artifacts #5: The Alchemist. Included are some clips of Parks' music compositions for The Learning Tree and Shaft's Big Score. The Learning Tree can be studied Wednesday, November 9 at 10:45am PST.

 

 

 

 

 

For those who may have missed last month's showing of The Innocents, reviewed here, you'll have another chance to see this extraordinary film Thursday, November 10 at 7pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake

Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake

Journeying to a completely different cinematic landscape there's Preston Sturges' masterpiece Sullivan's Travels, a previous Blu-ray recommendation here. His comedic adventures will begin Friday, November 11 at 12pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Randolph Scott as Gil Westrum (on the left) and Joel McCrea as Steve Judd

Randolph Scott as Gil Westrum (on the left) and Joel McCrea as Steve Judd

Later that same afternoon is another offering starring Joel McCrea and one of the western genre's finest, Top Ten Western #4 in fact, Ride the High Country. Sam Peckinpah's deeply reverential and moving odyssey will occur that same Friday at 3:15pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

Also on Friday is John Ford's masterpiece The Searchers, another Top Ten Western listed in the #2 spot. The search will begin at 7pm PST. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A British cinematic treasure, this time in the romance category, was reviewed as such in Opening Up a Treasure: Brief Encounter. Director David Lean's emotionally stirring "encounter" will begin on Saturday, November 12 at 7pm PST.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons

Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons

For a far more light-hearted romantic escapade, it's hard to beat the musical Guys and Dolls, a previous TCM recommendation here. You can bet they'll show on Sunday, November 13 at 8:30am PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later, on Sunday, is a film noir bonafide classic The Narrow Margin also a previous TCM recommendation here. This little firecracker is set to explode at 6pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pre-code charmer sure to delight fans is Blonde Crazy with Jimmy Cagney and Joan Blondell captivating as a couple of cons. This recommendation was previously made here. The fun will begin Thursday, November 17 at 6:45pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(From left) Gordon Jackson, Michael Caine

(From left) Gordon Jackson, Michael Caine

Espionage fans should have a look through The Ipcress File, reviewed here and discoverable Saturday, November 19 at 5pm PST. They will also realise why I chose "Now Listen to Me..." as the title of this column.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most harshly realistic and harrowing depictions of men at war occurs in Larisa Shepitko's The Ascent, previously recommended here. Its stridency can be felt Sunday, November 20 at 12:30am PST (technically Monday morning). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The great Italian film director Vittorio De Sica along with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini together made 3 neorealist masterpieces: Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thieves (1948), and this month's TCM recommendation Umberto D. (1952).

These films' simplicity contributes to their powerful influence. Artifice, such as plot machinations and dramatic histrionics, is absent. And although they do not have a documentary feel, all three appear highly observant and embraceable of their characters' most heartfelt and basic pursuits in life. Sometimes the emotions generated by these films are so strong they trigger a negative backlash, with viewers criticising how the characters wound up in these precarious circumstances in the first place, but here that is hardly the creative concern. Nor should it be. Artists of this calibre are obliged to simply reveal their characters and surroundings inner personalities and soul, impartially, but in a meaningful and identifiable manner. They succeed because there is no judgement or value imposed on what we see, only recognition of a shared humanity. Their view is toward acceptance and is reflected in their characters' humility and endearing qualities. Umberto Domenico Ferrari, once a Government civil servant, is now an aged pensioner living in Rome, spurned by the society he so dutifully served, struggling to make ends meet. His only friends are Maria, a maid at the boarding house, and his dog Flike. Although his dire circumstances will not be shared by most viewers, the visionary filmmakers' careful and skilled presentation of these people and their emotional responses are recognisably human and timeless as art itself, and as cherishable as its greatest accomplishments. This profoundly moving film can be experienced Sunday, November 27 at 11pm PST.  

 

 

 

 

 

(From left) Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan

(From left) Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan

My final TCM recommendation has a much lighter tone than the preceding two. The Shop Around the Corner, previously recommended here, will open for business and our viewing pleasure Wednesday, November 30 at 3pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Birthday shout-out to the iconic motion picture composer Ennio Morricone who turns 88 November 10th.

MV5BMTk4MDgxMjI2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjkzODc0._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_.jpg

A list of his artistic triumphs would seem endless after having composed over 500 scores for films and television in every conceivable genre, not to mention over 100 classical works. Just some of his most memorable motion picture scores include A Fistful of Dollars, The Battle of Algiers, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Maddalena, 1900, Days of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission, The Untouchables, The Legend of 1900, and Malena. And he's still going strong! Bravo Maestro!

 

 

 

 

The soundtrack recommendation for the month, in keeping with its composer's birthday celebration, is A Time of Destiny, a very limited (1000 only) release by Quartet Records.

The label has collaborated with Virgin Records/Universal Music Special Markets, in presenting the remastered reissue of one of Ennio Morricone’s finest and most expressive scores of its decade. This re-release of the long out-of-print 1989 Virgin Records CD has improved sound and a gorgeous love theme ("Love and Dreams"). Frankly, I'm surprised it is still available from Screen Archives Entertainment. Get it while you can! More information, including international ordering, can be obtained by clicking on the image. 

 

 

As an added treat I've included a trailer for the film Wyatt Earp (1994) which masterfully utilises some of Ennio Morricone's majestic music from the above soundtrack. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It would be unfair to assess the quality of One-Eyed Jacks by viewing practically any of this picture’s past home video transfers: Typically faded and cropped, these prints could only offer a faint idea of what was originally filmed and imagined for the big screen in glorious Vista Vision technicolor.

 

Nor would it be fair to judge the results based on a delayed and troubled pre-production or an extensively prolonged shooting schedule. Marlon Brando (the film’s star and “one off” director) took an enormous amount of time to film One-Eyed Jacks and turned in a cut that reportedly ran over 4 hours… practically unheard of, especially for a western. Paramount finally took the film away from its idealistic star and had it edited to under 2.5, using an alternate, more “upbeat” ending the director reluctantly filmed, but opposed using. 

Now, thanks to Universal Pictures, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and the Film Foundation, One-Eyed Jacks (the theatrical version, all other footage is lost) has been beautifully restored and finally presented on high-definition by Criterion. The reason it would be a mistake to knock Brando’s deliberate and exacting fastidiousness, (unless one was a financial investor in the project), is simply because, we, the audience, are his beneficiaries. Even at half its original length, the director’s leisurely pace and precise attention to detail allow us, for one, to soak up the sublime ambience of the surrounds. Brando's acting skills, both as a performer and director of his formidable cast are extraordinary, offering a bountiful of character revelation in each and every scene. Most of all, his temperamental fortitude behind and in front of the camera manifests itself in exploring his film’s underlying theme of repressed emotions, the choices they influence, and the effects both have on the human spirit. Most of its many character conflicts are harboured internally, heating up and held in tight like a pressure cooker, blisteringly intense and minimally resolved, but when they are, watch out for their sudden, explosive, rather quickly concluded but stylish execution. 

 

The lack of sustained physically settled drama here can be a source of disappointment for western fans, especially at the film’s conclusion. It’s almost expected in this genre, making One Eyed Jacks’ conventional defiance a most unusual entry in the field. As stated earlier, the filmmakers’ focus lies in carefully delineating the thoughts and emotions simmering under the surface of its characters, not in upholding their setting’s typical dramatic showdowns. There is a more customary romantic element presented, but the genuine sincerity of the relationship depicted by the actors is achingly heartfelt, contains some inspired and unique characteristics, and therefore manages to transcend its conceived limitation. More problematic are a few plot developments late in the narrative. The aforementioned romance will cause the story's main character, Rio (played by Brando), to completely alter his previous life's purpose, a decision we are only privy to once it's made. Perhaps our identification would have been stronger, his sacrificial moment more dramatically effective, had we watched him "think it through". The other weak segment concerns his mostly (too) silent friend and traveling companion. Rio after being held captive for 5 years in a Mexican prison, escapes with fellow inmate Chico (Larry Duran). They cover a great distance together for the sole purpose of seeking revenge on the person who put Rio there, even though Chico has urged his buddy to give up his plan of retribution. Nevertheless, they stick together throughout this long journey, like the duo in The Searchers, watching each other’s back, that is until the time comes when, inexplicably, they split up, but at the precise moment when both could have been the most useful in one another’s lives. One wonders if these flaws existed in its director's lengthier version or if the subject matter was considerably broadened. After all, length-wise, it's another entire film missing. Who knows? 

 

After all of the tragic outcomes we previously witnessed, Brando’s preferred dire ending (as described to me by actor Karl Malden, See: Close Encounters #8), seems like it would have been too theatrical and overbearing. The alternative released finale allows the events to finish on a much welcomed hopeful note, highlighting the naturally occurring impassioned concern between our couple in love, with just the right added touch of Brando’s self-deprecating sense of humour. 

 

This film is a joy to behold for many reasons: Charles Lang’s captivating photography fuses superbly with Hugo Friedhofer’s adventurous and romantically enlivened music. One-Eyed Jacks’ narrative flows evenly and assuredly, surprising for a film edited to almost half its original length. The concise dialogue is punctuated with some notably choice and memorable lines, always delivered with aplomb by its perfectly chosen cast (a joint effort by Brando and Stanley Kubrick, the film’s originally hired director). 

 

One-Eyed Jacks distinctively discerns one man’s brooding, introspective journey of discovery mirroring the star/director’s own personality traits, values, life experiences, and waywardness making this a most personal and momentous undertaking, the results of which bear out. At one point, the film’s title is referred to in a clever character attack venomously delivered by Brando’s Rio to his once fatherly friend, the aptly named Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) who so devastatingly injured Rio’s feelings by betraying his trust, thus causing years of suffering in a deplorable hellish prison. One-Eyed Jacks’ plurality, however, accurately indicates more than one partly concealed character and accordingly will demonstrate time and again, in a well-integrated, fascinating and smart fashion, practically everyone’s duality and deceitfulness. 

The Criterion Blu-ray (Region A-locked, North America) of One-Eyed Jacks is my recommendation of the month and is scheduled for release on November 22nd, 2016. The transfer is immaculate, (see the above captures), and there are a plethora of insightful extras. My only complaint is that the original Paramount logo has been removed from the film, having been replaced with its new owners’ Universal in the front, and (somewhat ironic), restoration credits at the end. Click on the Blu-ray for more details and ordering from Amazon.com    

 

 

A.G.

Plundering the Genre: A Halloween Tribute to Horror in Cinema Part 3

The following montage is compiled from a selection of motion pictures that have included some noteworthy moments of horror throughout the years. None of the entries are repeats from our two prior montages. Part 1 (2014) is here which has a link to Part 2 (2015). This year, the net has been cast even wider than with the previous tributes. The 108 films referenced are not specifically recommended nor are readers discouraged from seeing them, especially if they are fans of the genre. The music from Psycho (1960) is by Bernard Herrmann. The list of stills selected is printed below in the order they are presented.

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21st Century Treasure Quest #7

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 10 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

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Sterling Silver Dialog #20

Sterling Silver Dialogue From The Movies: 

Do you know where they're from? Answers coming soon.

Special Film Noir Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Art is one of the remaining ecstasies that is neither immoral nor illegal.."

 

 

“We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your two hundred dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you’d been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.” 

 

"I won't because all of me wants to regardless of consequences... and because you've counted on it.”

 

 

"I've got a pretty good bottle of rye in my pocket and I'd rather get wet in here.”

 

"You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.”

 

 

“I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

 

"Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?"

(response) "What I want to know is, does it bother you?”

 

 

(at a roulette wheel) "That’s not the way to win."

(response) "Is there a way to win?"

(reply) "There’s a way to lose more slowly.”

 

 

"Maybe I’ll live so long that I’ll forget her. Maybe I’ll die trying.” 

 

 

"Maybe you shouldn’t dress like that."

(response) "This is a blouse and skirt. I don’t know what you’re talking about."

(reply) "You shouldn’t wear that body.” 

 

 

 “I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.” 

 

 

"Look, you’re a nice girl, but in case you’re thinking of mothering me, forget it. I’m no stray dog you can pick up, and I like my neck without a collar.” 

 

 

"What did I tell you about playing with that radio? If them batteries is dead, it's gonna have company."

 

 

“A woman doesn’t care how a guy makes a living, just how he makes love.”

 

 

"Okay Marlowe," I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on.”

 

 

“Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. The liar’s kiss that says I love you and means something else.” 

Top Ten: Cinema's Most Treasured Images Part 9 (#81 - 90)

I'll continue with some of cinema's most treasured images. For those familiar with the scenes represented they're bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in order of greatest impression with #81 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected. 

Read More

21st Century Treasure Quest #6

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 11 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

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