Endless Film

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The Longest Day (1962, Ken Annakin)

The Longest Day picks up when the Normandy beach invasion starts. It happens maybe ninety minutes into the three-hour film. There are the overnight paratrooper drops, which have such dull action scenes it seems like the film will never improve, but then it turns out the large-scale battle choreography is exceptional and could potentially make up for the rest. It doesn’t, however, because Robert Mitchum turns out to be terrible once he gets more to […]

The Element of Crime (1984, Lars von Trier)

During The Element of Crime, it never seems like the mystery will be particularly compelling. The film and the detective’s investigation are compelling, but the mystery itself seems rather pat. A serial killer has been targeting young girls selling lotto tickets, earning the moniker the “Lotto Murderer,” and the police are stumped. So they bring in Michael Elphick to take over. Elphick has been living in Cairo for over a dozen years, exiled from Europe. […]

7 Women (1966, John Ford)

First, it’s actually 8 Women; Jane Chang doesn’t count because she’s not white. Though I suppose it could just be counting good Christian women, then Anne Bancroft doesn’t count. Women is a Western, just one set nearer to modernity and not in the American West. Instead, it’s about a mission in China on the border with Mongolia. By 1966, apparently Hollywood had decided it was no longer okay to do yellowface of Chinese people, but […]

Casino (1995, Martin Scorsese)

The best part of Casino isn’t my favorite part of Casino because the best part is James Woods bickering with Erika von Tagen. It’s mainly in the background, and it’s the only time anywhere in the film anyone shows any personality not expressly required for their scenes. Director (and co-screenwriter) Scorsese doesn’t believe in background action; if it’s not foreground, it doesn’t matter. The problem is von Tagen is a kid, and Sharon Stone’s her […]

Annette (2021, Leos Carax)

Right up until the end, it seems like Annette will maintain some level of success solely due to the audacity of the project. It’s a musical set in Hollywood, where an edge lord white male comedian (Adam Driver) marries a beloved singer (Marion Cotillard). Only he’s got a shelf life because he’s always trying to offend, and she doesn’t really want to play Hollywood mom. The movie’s terrible about delineating the present action, but basically, […]

The Great Ziegfeld (1936, Robert Z. Leonard)

Second-billed Myrna Loy shows up in The Great Ziegfeld at around the two-hour mark. The film runs three hours. The about a half-hour of it is musical numbers; they’re presumably recreations of the actual Ziegfeld stage productions, but even without having read the Wikipedia article first, it’s obvious Ziegfeld’s a glorifying tribute. Loy’s most significant scene is when she—playing stage, film, and radio star Billie Burke—tells husband Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (played by William Powell) she’s […]

Macbeth (1948, Orson Welles)

There are two classes of performance in Macbeth, those who can only handle a double r-rolling and those who go for a triple r-rolling. Director, star and screenwriter Welles gets to do the triple. As does Jeannette Nolan as Lady Macbeth. Everyone else is only doing the double r-roll for their Scottish accent. Like much of Macbeth, it’s a puzzling directorial decision from Welles. Though nothing’s more baffling than him taking the lead role. When […]

A Life at Stake (1955, Paul Guilfoyle)

A Life at Stake is a peculiar noir. It’s low budget, it’s got an actor-turned-director in Guilfoyle, it’s got Angela Lansbury as the femme fatale, it’s got a great, lushly romantic score from Les Baxter, and it’s got a jam-packed script from Russ Bender. The film only runs eighty minutes, and there are a couple longer suspense sequences, but Stake is usually full of distinct dialogue. Bender’s always giving someone something weird to say, and […]

Cabaret (1972, Bob Fosse)

The first act of Cabaret is about introducing British guy Michael York to Weimar-era Berlin and to the life and times of his neighbor Liza Minnelli. Minnelli’s an American ex-pat; she’s landed in a cabaret and is trying to sing, dance, and sleep her way into movies. York’s there to teach English and get some experience before he becomes a boring Cambridge professor. The second act is about the rise of Nazism in the early […]

Beverly Hills Cop (1984, Martin Brest)

Beverly Hills Cop opens with a montage of Detroit street scenes. Kids playing, people talking, walking, Black and white. It’s beautifully cut—even at its most tediously cop action movie procedural, the editing is always glorious (though there’s lots of technical magnificence in Cop—and is well-done enough you even forgive the film for Glenn Frey’s The Heat is On. The thing about really tightly chosen soundtracks is when a song doesn’t fit the characters, and Glenn […]

MASH (1970, Robert Altman)

MASH is timelessly white liberal. There’s even a lovable Southerner (Tom Skerritt) who knows in that science way Black folks are just folks, but he still wants to be a dick about it. And his white male Northeastern elitist friends, Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould, are totally fine with that bigotry because, you know, it’s not hurting anything, really. But then there is something going on actually hurting people, and it’s evangelical Christian Robert Duvall. […]

Reminiscence (2021, Lisa Joy)

I did give Reminiscence a fair shake. I really did. It’s not my fault it opens with an all-CGI “helicopter” shot introducing the setting—a future, flooded Miami—and a terrible voice-over from star Hugh Jackman. It’s writer and director Joy’s fault. And her producers. And whoever thought doing low-to-middling CGI on a fake helicopter shot was a good idea. And whoever told them no one would remember Dark City, which is the first obvious… um… “homage.” […]

Lone Star (1996, John Sayles)

Lone Star is Texas Gothic. There’s nowhere else the story plays the same way except a border town, at no time other than when it does; it’s all about the sins of the mothers and fathers playing out. Actual sins, imagined sins, hidden sins. It’s about heroes and villains and how they’re the same thing. It’s very much about love and loss and anger and sadness. It’s about fear. And it’s about joy and goodness. […]

Pig (2021, Michael Sarnoski)

Pig is an anti-noir. Writer and director Sarnoski sets it up as something of a neo-noir in the first act, with seemingly inscrutable modern-day hermit Nicolas Cage having to travel back to civilization and civilization being scared of him. And even though Cage’s adventure routes through shady settings, they’re just background to the actual journey and immaterial to the actual character. Pig is a character study—or a couple of them—in quirky (but not as quirky […]

I Come in Peace (1990, Craig P. Baxley)

I Come in Peace is a Dolph Lundgren versus alien movie. It’s from the period before Lundgren went to acting classes but had gotten rid of his Swedish accent, which ends up working against the picture. The terrible one-liners might have some personality if Lundgren had some accented inflection. Or if he just lost the accent. But no. He’s monotone. He’s not unlikeable; he’s just monotone. Brian Benben is his partner. Benben’s unlikeable but not […]

Passing Strange (2009, Annie Dorsen and Spike Lee)

From the start, Passing Strange is a spectacular filming and presentation of a stage production. Lee’s direction, Barry Alexander Brown’s editing, Matthew Libatique’s photography, they’re all great from go. Lee and Libatique have highlights throughout—and Brown’s cutting excels during the busiest sections—but it’s clear Strange will look great no matter the content. Of course, Lee directs for the actors’ performances, which I’ll get to in a bit, so again, he still gets occasional peaks thanks […]

Much Ado About Nothing (2011, Josie Rourke and Robert Delamere)

The best thing about Much Ado About Nothing, except the dialogue, is Delamere’s direction. Not the stage direction, Rourke did that job, but Delamere’s direction of this recording. There’s some ho-hum headroom stuff going on to keep actors in the shot, but it’s a phenomenal showcase of the actors’ performances. They don’t credit the editor, which is a shame. Thanks to Delamere, watching Much Ado really does feel like seeing a play. It’s very cool. […]

Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic (2021, Jack Rampling)

If its aloof and earnest host is to be believed, Louis Theroux: Shooting Joe Exotic was totally going to be about said host, Louis Theroux, journeying to Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic to do a new documentary about Joe Exotic. Exotic appeared on one of Theroux’s documentary specials ten years ago and, since being convicted of multiple crimes and then becoming a folk hero for people who don’t think Covid is real, actually, thanks to […]

The Ramen Girl (2008, Robert Allan Ackerman)

There’s not much good to say about The Ramen Girl, except the Japanese cast does pretty well. They don’t get actual story arcs, and they’re only around to service the vanity of narcissist protagonist Brittany Murphy. But their acting is good, even though director Ackerman is terrible with their scenes too. Murphy is a trust fund Barbie who runs off to Japan pursuing bro Gabriel Mann, who throws her aside after one night together. While […]

The Magnificent Meyersons (2021, Evan Oppenheimer)

Despite some occasionally annoying visual techniques (which I'll enumerate later), director Oppenheimer always shows enthusiasm for the directing of The Magnificent Meyersons. He loves directing New York City walk and talks, whether on the street or in a park. Most of Meyersons takes place either in a park or on the street. Sometimes seemingly the same street, just different sides of it. The dialogue pacing is usually good enough an occasional goof doesn't matter. There's […]

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