Friday, September 15, 2017

A Special Announcement...


It's Agatha Christie's birthday!

The Queen of Crime was born on this date in 1890, 127 years ago! More than 41 years after her death, she is still the world's best-selling fiction author - but, more relevant to what we do here, she is also experiencing a cinematic comeback! For not one, but two films based on her works are coming to the screen this winter. One is the first ever adaptation of her infamous crime thriller Crooked House; the other is the fifth screen version of one of her most famous novels, Murder on the Orient Express:


Mom was right: prayer does work! I've been wishing and hoping for a resurgence of silver screen Agatha Christeries for ages. Sure, we've had the recent Poirot, Marple and Partners in Crime series to keep us company - in addition to the new miniseries of And Then There Were None and The Witness for the Prosecution - but the last time Christie was on the big screen* was 1989's Ten Little Indians, a re-working of her most famous novel that transferred the action from a British island to an African safari. Now...now, we have two!

(*I'm speaking strictly American/British releases. I am well aware that India and France have had a number of theatrical adaptations in the past decade, but none of them seem to leave their respective continents.)

Let us celebrate properly. Throughout the month of October and into the first week of November, we're celebrating the on-screen works of Agatha Christie. Every Tuesday, a Casting Coup, in which we dream-cast adaptations of some of her most popular works. Each week, a set of films to watch so we may explore her characters, interpretations of them, and their international appeal.

The schedule, after the jump:

Monday, September 4, 2017

I Have Some Thoughts

Here's what I've been watching since last we talked about 2017...

Ingrid Goes West
dir: Matt Spicer
scr: David Branson Smith & Spicer
Vicious, uncomfortably funny takedown of social media stardom, fandom, and LA's bright young things. Works like a slow-drip poison. Chilling, chuckle-worthy - highly recommended.

Girls Trip
dir: Malcolm D. Lee
scr: Kenya Barris & Tracy Oliver, story by Eric Rivinoja and Barris & Oliver

Generous, hilarious ensemble of women, buoyed by smart, sincere writing! Hard to choose a best in show, but know I laughed non-stop - as did everyone else in my theater.

Okja (옥자)
dir: Bong Joon-ho
scr: Bong and Jon Ronson, story by Bong

Sincere An Seo Hyun shares unbelievable chemistry with CG beast. Haunting, inventive sound design. So-so script. Embarrassing Gyllenhaal.

Thoughts on Atomic BlondeDunkirk, and more, after the jump....

Friday, September 1, 2017

Part Two: 1986 Retro Hollmann Awards

Previously, on the 1986 Retro Hollmann Awards...

A Room with a View led the nominations, with twelve....

Aliens and Peggy Sue Got Married lead in wins so far, with two apiece...

Overall, the Top Ten films have been dominating the proceedings, though Top Gun and Legend snuck in with wins of their own...

And now, Part Two - beginning with....

Best Supporting Actress


Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett 
A Room with a View

2. Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet; 3. Dianne Wiest in Hannah and Her Sisters; 4. Judi Dench in A Room with a View; 5. Mia Farrow in Hannah and Her Sisters

The key scene for Charlotte Bartlett comes late in the movie, when Lucy realizes her cousin has blabbed about her and George's kiss in Italy. "I shall never forgive myself," Charlotte insists, going back to a regular phrase that usually sets people right. Instead, Lucy snaps, "You always say that, but you always do forgive yourself." You see a shift in Charlotte's eyes, and not only is she suddenly vulnerable, able to express both warmth and regret...you realize that Maggie Smith has actually kept much of her face...not immobile, but calculated. Slight eyebrow-raise here, a firmness of the jaw there, but otherwise Smith maintains Charlotte's mask of wide-eyed innocence, something that helps when doling out insincere remorse calculated to make the injured party comfort her. That she went two hours with limited movement conveying all - and still getting the best laughs in the film - says it all. She is one in a million.

Isabella Rossellini wins second for her portrayal of the sadistically abused yet confusingly masochistic chanteuse Dorothy Vallons. Dianne Wiest comes in third for her portrayal of the sister searching for herself wherever she can, whether it's in an audition or up her nose. Judi Dench places fourth for her pretentious romance novelist that loves her voice and mind. Mia Farrow is in fifth as the strong-willed, helpful sister who keeps her own frustrations buried deep.

Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Actor...and Best Picture of the Year...after the jump

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Part One: 1986 Retro Hollmann Awards

It's the first day of the 1986 Retro Hollmann Awards - a day late, but it did, indeed, take me a while to finally choose my Number One picks in each category.

The first nine categories will be presented here, beginning with Best Supporting Actor. If you'd like to know all the names of the nominees, do consult the complete nominations announcement.

And now - our first winner!

Best Supporting Actor

Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth
Blue Velvet
2. Daniel Day-Lewis in A Room with a View; 3. Andy Garcia in 8 Million Ways to Die; 4. Wang Xiao in A Great Wall; 5. Simon Callow in A Room with a View

A perfect outlet for Dennis Hopper's particular brand of intensity, Frank Booth is one of the most frightening characters in cinema. His sudden outbursts make him unpredictable - are they strategic, or the result of a truly diseased mind? Hopper suggests it's both, and they get worse as the movie continues, as Frank unravels. But then there's that look when he hears "In Dreams" - Hopper knows what that song means to Frank, you see it in his eyes - and it's a moment that haunts.

In second, DDL's "decadent" snobbery. Andy Garcia's drug lord, calm and collected until the unexpected occurs, in third. Wang Xiao as a poor Chinese teen jealous of his beautiful neighbor's American cousin in fourth. Simon Callow's gleefully indulgent vicar in fifth.


Best Actress, Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay, and more - after the jump.

Monday, August 28, 2017

1986 Retro Hollmann Awards Nominees

Ladies and gentlemen, readers both faithful and transient, here they are, my nominees for the 1986 Retro Hollmann Awards! The actual doling out of awards will take place Wednesday and Thursday, giving you time to read this post, stew over the choices, and comment!

For further reference, check out the Top Ten here. And, of course, each flick received a mini-review, which you can read by clicking the title the first time it shows up.

Now, then, the nominees in 18 categories, presented in the order in which I figured out my final picks...

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 

David Lynch

Peter Wang & Shirley Sun

Woody Allen

Hanif Kureishi

Jerry Leichtling & Arlene Sarner

The rest after the jump....

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Top Ten of 1986

This was a tough Top Ten to make, and it changed shape many times - I wish I had room for Heartburn, Howard the Duck, and The Mission. But I don't.

In alphabetical order.

8 Million Ways to Die
dir: Hal Ashby
scr: Oliver Stone & R. Lance Hill (as David Lee Henry), from the novel by Lawrence Block
cin: Stephen H. Burum
Apparently not a great experience for Ashby, and both he and the cast are on the record in saying the movie could have been more than the final cut. They want more? Jeff Bridges turns in one of his better performances as the alcoholic Matt Scudder; Andy Garcia's role as a "classy" LA drug lord is his best, and the two play off each other beautifully.

Aliens

dir: James Cameron
scr: James Cameron, story by Cameron and David Giler & Walter Hill, based on characters created by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett
cin: Adrian Biddle
An imaginative continuation, shifting the "old dark house in space" horror of the original to a feminist action thriller. Really, this movie is the reason the franchise has lasted as long as it has, with its development of Weyland-Yutani, the xenomorphs, and Ripley. It's Cameron, so the action is stellar, the dialogue delicious. And Sigourney Weaver? A five-star performance, honey.

The rest of the ten, after the jump....

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Class of '86: Best Picture

As Babs said in 2010, the moment has come. The award for Best Picture could go to any one of these movies.

It could go to the romantic drama about a speech therapist who teaches deaf people to speak...and his love for a deaf woman who refuses to conform to his world, his standards.

It could go to the dramedy about three sisters loving and hating themselves, each other, and each other's husbands in New York.

It could go to the epic about two priests in the South American jungle, struggling to maintain peace, and their vows, as colonialism threatens the lives of the indigenous population.

It could go to the war flick about an intelligent young man who goes to Vietnam to fight alongside his fellow Americans, and witnesses the horrors and degradation of war.

Or it could go to the romantic-comedy about a young woman who becomes transfixed by Italy and spends the next summer fighting her own spirit.

Let Dustin Hoffman tell us who the winner is...


What stands out the most to me as I look at the old-school Best Picture presentation is the acceptance speech. Nowadays, it's customary for everyone to take the stage alongside the producers, a celebration for all involved. Here, it's more focused on the individual, and while Arnold Kopelson certainly deserves his moment in the sun, it feels almost anticlimactic. A night of a thousand stars...and we end on this guy standing on stage alone? After having to sit through Dustin Hoffman's monologue about...something?

None of the Best Pic nominees went home empty-handed. Children of a Lesser God took Best ActressHannah and Her Sisters won Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay; The Mission was awarded Best Cinematography; A Room with a View took home Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. But Platoon was the big winner of the night in numbers, too, winning a total of four: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Director - and of course, Best Picture.

Did it deserve it? Let's talk, after the jump...