- The Roaring Twenties (Raoul Walsh)
- Official Secrets (Gavin Hood)
- House of Strangers (Joseph Mankiewicz)
- The Searchers (John Ford)
- Ad Astra (James Gray)
- Downton Abbey (Michael Engler)
- The Girl from 10th Avenue (Alfred E. Green)
- Brother John (James Goldstone)
- Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson)
- Blood on the Devil’s Claw (Piers Haggard)
1- I was so satisfied with Official Secrets. A good, tight script based on a true event that I had no idea about. Just the right length, just the right amount of suspense, just the right amount of history. Well done!
2- I am beginning to thing that All About Eve was an outlier. That is such a work of genius and perfection. Not one false note, exhilarating story telling, acid wit, beautifully drawn characters. So far, every other Mankiewicz has paled. House of Strangers was really weak. A slightly interesting story, developed in fits and starts, with tons of lacunae. Edward G. Robinson sporting an atrocious Italian accent. Why is it always ok to portray Italian-Americans so stereotypically?
3- Downton Abbey was exactly what you would expect it to be, no more no less. You have to decide for yourself if that is enough.
4- On the plus side, Ad Astra offers a view of the near future that isn’t your cliched dystopian apocalyptic vision. In all likelihood, the near future will be like today, except with more tech. The image of stations on the moon seemed interesting in that that they didn’t have a Jetsons air to them. On the negative side, this is one of the bleakest films I’ve seen in a long time. It is kind of a riff on Heart of Darkness, but without the belly laughs. But boy, Brad Pitt is aging well.
5- Continuing my exploration of every foot of celluloid that features Bette Davis, I watched The Girl from 10th Avenue. Thank you TCM. These pre-code films just knock me out. It really shows how much more realistic depictions of relationships were in the 20s and 30s and how reality retreated behind a curtain of self-imposed morality once Mr. Hays got his grubby hands on Hollywood.
6- Brother John is always mentioned with reverence when discussing the films of Sidney Poitier. It sure is unusual. Poitier is playing a character who may or not be an angel or a messiah-like figure heralding the impending apocalypse. Or maybe not. The film makers seem skittish about committing. Is this a facet of this kind of film – don’t confirm anything….keep it all ominous but ambiguous. I get tired of that kind of fence-sitting. But this was quite a fun watch.
7- October had the greatest of secular holidays – Halloween. I celebrate every year by watching as many classic and not-so classic horror films as I can. This year I kicked off the festivities by watching a sublime one, Isle of the Dead, and a not so sublime one, Blood on Satan’s Claw. The latter dates from early 70s and is surprising for its overt sexuality and unfiltered gore. Very much in the vein of The Wicker Man. If you like murderous, devil-worshipping adolescents in the forests of 18th Century Olde Englande, this is the film for you! Isle of The Dead might be the jewel in the crown of the Val Lewton oeuvre. At 70 minutes it is so taut and the script moves like clockwork. Superstition and ignorance and bigotry are shown in a way that explains how people cling to them. And how about a posthumous Oscar for the amazing Helene Thimig, the vorvolaka-obsessed Madame Kira. She gives the great Boris Karloff a run for his money.