If you missed Part I from September, look no further. Part II is going to go by quickly, sometimes with brief commentary, so here we go…
Loving (2016) Jeff Nichols
DVD – library (2:03)
This drama of interracial couple Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga) in the 1950s/60s in Virginia is superbly acted and in many places restrained and understated, perhaps too restrained and understated. I wasn’t as engaged as I thought I’d be, especially with a Jeff Nichols-directed film. Perhaps I’ll give it another go in a year or two.
Things Change (1988) David Mamet
Borrowed from a friend (1:40)
Two imposing men walk into a quiet Chicago shoe repair shop. Inside, one of the men (Ricky Jay) approaches an elderly shoe repairman named Gino (Don Ameche, right). The imposing man says, “A friend of ours would like to speak to you this evening,” and hands Gino a card and a $100 bill.
“I just shine shoes,” Gino states, totally confused.
“There’ll be shoes there,” the other man says.
Gino shows up at the address printed on the card and is offered an amazing proposition (which I won’t disclose). To make sure Gino goes through with the deal, the gangsters behind the proposition send along Jerry (Joe Mantegna, left), a man who’ll no longer be “on probation” with the organization if he succeeds in keeping Gino on task. It’s at this point that Things Change moves from what we thought was going to be a mob movie to a delightful comedy with wonderful performances by Ameche and Mantegna. Please don’t miss this often-neglected David Mamet film.
Spider Baby (1967) Jack Hill
Arrow UK Blu-ray (1:26)
This black comedy/horror film starring Lon Cheney, Jr. as the caretaker of three strange orphaned siblings is certainly a cult favorite and highly influential in the horror genre, but I suppose it was just too pre-hyped for me. Fun, twisted and interesting, but I probably won’t watch it again.
Black Legion (1937) Archie Mayo
Warner Gangsters Collection Vol. 3 DVD (1:23)
When Frank Taylor (Humphrey Bogart – look how young!) learns he didn’t get a foreman position at the factory where he works, he joins a local gang known as the Black Legion, a group that exists only to terrorize immigrant workers. Still quite powerful and relevant with an excellent early performance from Bogart. Co-stars Ann Sheridan and Erin O’Brien-Moore.
Out of Sight (1998) Steven Soderbergh
America’s most famous bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney) breaks out of jail only to be nabbed by Federal Marshall Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez). Or has he nabbed her? Soderbergh has a lot of fun adapting the Elmore Leonard novel, playing with linear structure, defying genre conventions, and simply having a great time. Clooney and Lopez are both excellent.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season One (1955-56)
Universal DVDs (16:43)
Previously discussed here
Compulsion (1959) Richard Fleischer
Netflix streaming (1:43)
“We agreed to explore all the possibilities of human experience, didn’t we?”
Compulsion is based on the infamous true story of the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924 in which two wealthy university students kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy in Chicago. Although Compulsion is a fictionalized account of that event, it is enormously powerful, even after nearly 60 years later. Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman play Judd Steiner (Leopold) and Artie Strauss (Leob), two rich college kids who kill a boy yet leave behind damaging evidence. The film focuses on the boys’ twisted philosophy and sense of privilege as they become disgusted with anyone of lesser intelligence or breeding. Stockwell and Dillman are excellent in their roles but it’s Orson Welles who steals the show as the famous attorney who takes the boys’ case. Compulsion is one of the very few classic films you’ll find on Netflix these days so catch it there before they realize what a gem it is and get rid of it.
Death on the Diamond (1934) Edward Sedgwick
Borrowed from a friend (1:12)
This combination of sports, comedy, mystery and murder is certainly dated, but you can’t deny its sense of fun. Robert Young stars as a rookie pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who’s not only winning games, but is also seeking to discover who’s behind the murders of several of his teammates. Definitely worth a look.
Close-Up (1990) Abbas Kiarostami
Is Hossain Sabzian an actor, a cinephile, a pathological liar, or all three? On a public bus in Northern Tehran, Sabzian tells the woman sitting next to him that he is the famous Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. She tells him that her sons are interested in film, so Sabzian visits their home several times to gain funding for his next project, in which he will use them as actors and their home as a location. Of course, it’s all a ruse.
Close-Up is a fascinating film for several reasons: Kiarostami’s story is a recreation of an actual story using the real-life people involved. It is and isn’t a documentary, but since the real players are involved, you’re not really sure whether or not the events happened just as Kiarostami filmed them. The scenes come across as authentic, in-the-moment scenes, especially the mesmerizing trial. This is cinéma vérité at its finest, an amazing film I certainly want to see again.
Michael Clayton (2007) Tony Gilroy (3x)
Without a moment’s hesitation, I’d place Michael Clayton in any list of Top 10 Movies of the 21st century. It’s an absolutely stunning film that very few people have seen, but should. I plan to write more on this film soon. Stay tuned.
September’s almost over, but I’ll have more to talk about next time including not one but two TV shows. I hope you’ll find something interesting to watch from my September lists. If you check one of them out, let me know what you think.