The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. The Last Wave (Peter Weir)
  3. Rio Grande (John Ford)
  4. Manchester-by-the-Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
  5. The Man Who Could Work Miracles (Lothar Mendes)
  6. The Lost Squadron (George Archainbaud)
  7. Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton)
  8. Love, Simon (Greg Berlanti)
  9. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
  10. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

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1- The Birds is one of the films I have seen the most times in my life.  Others include Citizen Kane, Wild Strawberries, All About Eve, Nashville, The Shop Around the Corner and Celine and Julie Go Boating.  They are like little vacations for me to resort towns that I know so well.  Some of these resort towns are creepier than others. All are familiar as home.

2- I remember when the films of the ‘Australian New Wave’ hit New York City in the late 70s/early 80s.  They had the effect on me that the appearance of the French New Wave must have had on my cinephile forebears in the late 60s/early 70s.  Films like Picnic at Hanging Rock, My Brilliant Career, Walkabout, Gallipoli and The Last Wave were young, exciting and sometimes perplexing.  Out of all of these, Picnic at Hanging Rock remains the most meaningful to me.

I hadn’t seen The Last Wave since my first viewing, and always considered it a companion piece to Picnic at Hanging Rock, mostly because they were shown on double bills throughout the 80s.  Seeing The Last Wave again made me realize that it is a lesser film for exactly the reason why Picnic at Hanging Rock is a superior film: ambiguity.  The mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock is never really solved, but you realize that that is not the point of the film.  The point seems to be the effect of disaster on the world.  You would think that the same would be true of The Last WaveI love the foreboding atmospherics and the tantalizing aboriginal hoodoo, but ultimately it is too much about a mystery that never is cleared up and it doesn’t satisfy the way the other film does. Still, it is a great watch.

3- I need to write a piece on John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy. The Trilogy consists of Fort Apache, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, in descending order of greatness and complexity. They are all masterpieces. Stay tuned.

4- Manchester-by-the-Sea. The only word for it is ‘magnificent’.  The complex relationships are handled so masterfully and the story is revealed so artfully. I am not a big believer in a movie needing to be ‘realistic’ to be great. Most of the time when filmmakers are reaching for realism, the results are embarrassing. Here, though, I felt that I was spending time with people I knew and understood. Not necessarily liked, mind you. The cumulative effect is devastating.  The buzz before I saw it was that it was incredibly depressing.  Obviously, the people who said this have had no life experience.  Magnificent.

5- I knew that pre-code films were pretty loose with morals and conventions but imagine my surprise when I saw this in The Lost Squadron:

 

6- Regarding Boy Erased and Love, Simon I refer you to my post on movies targeted to a specific audience.  I would be selling both of these short if I were to imply that they don’t appeal to a wider audience than Gay people. But Love, Simon is incredibly sweet and mostly just a Gay rom-com (not that there is anything wrong with that!) and Boy Erased is greater in its ambitions. The portrayal of the characters is nuanced, and transcends stereotypes. Thrillingly so.  Lucas Hedges is amazing, just like he was in Manchester By The Sea.

7- The Shape of Water. Best Picture of the Year? Really? I have long ago given up on the idea of Oscars as the arbiters of anything, but this award really baffles me. Except for The Devil’s Backbone, every Guillermo Del Toro films I have seen collapses under the weight of its own diffuseness and studied weirdness. This is no exception. Please feel free to tell my why I am wrong here.

8- I went crazy for both Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love when they both came out. I also really liked Boogie Nights a lot.  Since then I have felt a huge disconnect with the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.  I hate it because I see the attention, intelligence and style that are lavished on these movies, as well as the incredible performances he gets out of his stars. But once again, Phantom Thread left me cold and confused. Not as cold and confused as The Master.  Seeking your opinion here also as to what I might have missed.

 

 


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Sorry To Bother You (Boots Riley)
  2. King Cobra (Justin Kelly)
  3. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
  4. 4th Man Out (Andrew Nackman)
  5. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee)
  6. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)
  7. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges)
  8. Handsome Devil (John Butler)
  9. American Pastoral (Ewan Mcgregor)
  10. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau)

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1- Sorry To Bother You remained great fun through the end, but I felt that it skidded off the rails about two-thirds of the way through and the film and I parted company at that point.  Centaurs? Really? It’s been quite a common thing to compare this movie to the wonderfully brilliant Get Out. The comparison does not serve either film.  Still, it was fun….if a little tedious by the end.

2 – For my thoughts on 4th Man Out, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party and Handsome Devil please see my recent post

3- God’s Own Country has been called the British Brokeback Mountain. Why would anyone so insult a brilliant work like this movie? It is so powerful, so masterfully written and shot. so adult, so life-affirming. I loved it. I wonder if there are any free Gay Romanian shepherd out there looking for someone like me?

4- I love movies and I love novels. At one time I was happy to see adaptations of books I liked. That might have come to an end with American Pastoral. This is a perfect (almost) rendition of the plot of Philip Roth’s masterpiece. That is not enough.  We don’t need a Classics Illustrated version of Roth.  The scale of the book and it’s insights and emotions are gone. All that is left is story.  I felt sorry for the actors who were trying so hard. Instead of seeing this film, read the book. If you have already, read it again

 

 


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Someone Like Me Up On The Screen

I alway cringe when I hear someone of a particular ethnic or religious or sexual orientation or racial or economic or political group begin to complain because they want to go to the movies and see ‘someone like me on the screen’.  I never got this.  I know what I am like.  Why would I want to spend two hours looking at myself.  Seems narcissistic. And besides, who would be a person like me? I would be loath to pigeon-hole myself to fit a ‘type’ for a movie.

I would often be berated for expressing this thought. Too ethnocentric or patriarchal or cis-gender-centric or classist, etc. Still, I thought I had a good point.

Until, I started thinking about the topic a little more. I was wondering if there were some genre that I just didn’t care for because I couldn’t identify with it.

I love Rashomon, Ugetsu and Seven Samurai even though I am not from medieval Japan.  I love The Best Years of Our Lives even though I never lived in Small Town, U.S.A. and never experienced the difficult repatriation of soldiers after World War II. I loved these films because they rise above specificity and are genuinely human works.

But then I thought about Rom-Coms.  Now there’s a genre that I cannot relate to at all.  The slightness of the relationships, the implied sexism on both sides. The contrived happy endings. Nope, nothing there for me, I thought.

Then Netflix started recommending a genre that I could only called Adolescent Gay Rom-Coms.  These movies are exactly like the heterosexual version except a cute girl is swapped out for another cute guy.  There is still ‘meeting cute’, frustrating misunderstandings that you know will be worked out by film’s end, as well as a universe of friends and family rooting for or helping the couple in question to work it out.

The three films I watched were 4th Man OutHenry Gamble’s Birthday Party and Handsome Devil. While not exactly following the classic Rom-Com formula, they cleaved close enough to it to give me the feeling of pleasing, unalloyed mushiness that heterosexual Rom-Coms gave their audience.

Was I pulled in because of the Gay element? Yes. Did it lull me into a kind of uncritical complacency that let me enjoy an otherwise not great movie.  Yes. Did I get suckered into rooting for the thwarted lovers. Yes. Did I feel vindicated by seeing someone like me up on the screen. No. Emphatically. No.

I realized while watching these 3 films, that movies created to appeal to a target audience as being ‘for them’ necessarily are lesser entertainments.  The agenda shines through and you never forget that you are being sort of had. I felt the same way when people foisted Young Adult novels on me when I was a teenager. No thank you, I am reading Dickens.

Just like The Best Years Of Our Lives has as its starting point a story about repatriating soldiers, but becomes something infinitely more universal, “Gay” films like God’s Own Country and Call Me By Your Name start out as troubled Gay love stories, but by the end are so much more.

So, will I ever watch another Gay Rom-Com? Maybe. Will I ever find one that ‘reflects me up on the screen’? Not likely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
  2. Big Eyes (Tim Burton)
  3. The Smallest Show On Earth (Basil Dearden)
  4. Carol (Todd Haynes)
  5. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
  6. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
  7. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci)
  8. Homicidal (William Castle)
  9. Vacation From Marriage (Alexander Korda)
  10. The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg)

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1- I found Arrival be intriguing until at the end, a whiplash revelation plunged the whole enterprise into a depressing place.  Amy Adams is so wonderful in everything she does. More of her please.

2- I have never met a Tim Burton film I haven’t loved.  They are all so quirky and so heartfelt at the same time.  I loved Big Eyes. Another great Amy Adams showcase. An old-fashioned, unashamed Hollywood happy end, too.

3- Finally, a gay-themed movie that doesn’t fall into the Celluloid Closet cliche, and also is not a fluffy silly comedy! Carol is a beautifully modulated love story of two women in the 1950s. Gay identity is a big part of the story, of course, but what makes it so satisfying is that it is not the only part.  These are multi-dimensional characters. Interesting meditations on class differences. And, amazingly, a beautifully delivered happy ending.  Cate Blanchett should get a lifetime Oscar for the look she gives in the final frame.

4- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was a film I saw 40 years ago and remembered loving.  This time around I still liked it a lot, but found that the idiosyncratic elements that the Archers bring to their films, which I once found thrilling, now struck me as a little forced. I really enjoyed seeing it again and was sad to think how Deborah Kerr is almost forgotten today.

5- Seven Samurai was one of the first Japanese films I watched.  Year and hundreds of Japanese films later, I still like it, but I find that I am more partial to the modern-era films by Kurosawa.  High and Low and Ikiru satisfy me more deeply than the Samurai era films do.  But hell, was an enormous accomplishment this film is.  I want to watch it again soon with the Criterion commentary track turned on.  There is so much to see in every frame of this movie.

6- The Death of Stalin hilarious and eventually tedious but how wonderful to see Michael Palin as Molotov and Steve Buscemi as a priceless Krushchev.

7- I remembered The Scarlet Empress being a set designer’s fever dream of Expressionist insanity.  This time I grooved on the weirdness (the sets, Sam Jaffe’s loopy performance), but I found the whole thing didn’t hang together as a complete work of art.  The sum of the whole was less than the part

8- The Smallest Show On Earth is one of those tiny, delightful British comedies from right after WWII filled with quirky, lovable characters, cozy atmosphere and amusing plots.  Lest I make it seem like a slight entertainment, let me stress that I have thought about this film every day since I watched it a few months ago.