One of the best things I’ve watched in recent months is the British mini-series THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE airing on PBS. This engrossing post-war drama focuses on the lives of a handful of women who served together during WW2 as codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which housed the Government Code and Cypher School. This British intelligence agency was responsible for collecting, deciphering, analyzing, and utilizing top secret war-related communications shared … Continue reading MYSTERY & MELODRAMA: THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (2012-2014)
Everyone loves a Hollywood tragedy. The violent murders of Sharon Tate and Sal Mineo generate more press and web articles than the body of work they left behind while the estates of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean continue to benefit from our endless fascination with early death by misadventure. For better or worse, we obsess over stories of fallen stars who died while they were … Continue reading OUT OF THE CLOSET: TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL (2015)
“Without people, a forest of cherries in full bloom is not pretty, just something to be afraid of.” – Ango Sakaguchi Although typically described as a horror film, Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (1975) defies simple categorization. This grisly adult fairy tale is a strange amalgam of traditional Japanese theater, folktales, ghost stories, social commentary, antiwar sentiment, dark humor and existential philosophy based on a story … Continue reading Fear of Flowers: Under the Blossoming Cherry Tree (1975)
Steve McQueen in THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) Me and my dad (1972) From my latest at the Movie Morlocks: “I recently became an aunt again so I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately and with Father’s Day right around the corner I thought I’d share some thoughts about my own dad and how the movies we watched together helped make me the person I … Continue reading Celebrating Father’s Day
Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon (1941) Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart. They’re one of my favorite film pairings and over at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog I just posted an appreciation of one of the movies they appeared in together, Michael Curtiz’s Passage to Marseilles (1943). It’s not the best film that Bogart and Lorre made but it’s the only one I … Continue reading Lorre & Bogey
Stray Dog (1949) was the ninth film made by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It features no rogue samurai or mad emperors and it’s set in modern Japan instead of feudal Japan, but it does contain many of the major themes that Kurosawa enjoyed exploring in his work throughout his long career. It began life as a novel that the director wrote after being inspired by the … Continue reading Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949)
A day late, a bit slime on content, but not forgotten…
Since the death of Robert McNamara last week I’ve been thinking a lot about the man who was often called the “Architect of the Vietnam War.” And I was reminded of one of my favorite films of the last decade that explored the American involvement that led to the war in Vietnam, Phillip Noyce’s excellent 2001 adaptation of Graham Greene classic novel The Quiet American.
Phillip Noyce isn’t a director who I’m particularly fond of. I’ve sat though five or six of his films, but the only two that left any kind of impression on me were his terrific thriller Dead Calm (1989) and The Quiet American. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was the first director to turn Graham Greene’s novel into a film, but Phillip Noyce’s 2001 remake of The Quiet American is not only a better movie than the original, but I also think it’s one of the best adaptations of Graham Greene’s work that I’ve seen.
The film stars Michael Caine in what is arguably one of his finest roles. In the film Caine plays a married British journalist named Thomas Fowler who is living in Vietnam and having an affair with a young Vietnamese woman called Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). After Thomas meets an idealistic American by the name of Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) and introduces him to Phoung, the stage is set for a complicated love triangle that plays out against the backdrop of the escalating political situation in Vietnam. The plot may sound a bit dry, but The Quiet American is actually a very suspenseful film that is filled with political intrigue and beautifully shot by the incredibly talented cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
Miramax shelved the film for more than a year because producers were concerned that it would be seen as anti-American after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Thankfully Michael Caine was able to persuade the studio to screen the film at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival where it received great reviews and afterward it was finally released into theaters. The film went on to win many awards and Michael Caine was even nominated for an Oscar for his performance. If you haven’t had an opportunity to see the film yet, now might be an appropriate time.
I recently had the opportunity to revisit Norman Jewison’s extremely silly and very smart 1966 comedy The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming for the first time in 20 years. When I was a kid it was one of my favorite comedies for reasons I can’t fully explain. But it seemed to portray adults as I saw them then – easily frightened big kids … Continue reading The Terrorists Are Coming, the Terrorists Are Coming!
There’s not a lot of serious war films that I like. So many of them are badly put together propaganda filled with ridiculous ideas about heroism and patriotism that have very little basis in the reality of war and rarely convey the true horrors of it. Oddly enough I’m also fascinated with WW1 and WW2. I tend to devour history programs about the topics and … Continue reading Overlord & The Futility of War
Seijun Suzuki and the cast of of Gate of Flesh (a.k.a. Nikutai no mon), 1964 To put things simply, Gate of Flesh is one of Seijun Suzuki’s greatest films and without a doubt one of the best films produced in Japan in 1964. Suzuki (Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast, etc.) shot Gate of Flesh for Nikkatsu studios at the time as … Continue reading “Dead man coming through!”