cinecarl

IMDb member since September 2004
    Lifetime Total
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    IMDb Member
    16 years

Reviews

Charlie the Ox
(2004)

Marvelous caper that deserves repeated viewings.
This may be the most impressive film I saw at Telluride. While most of the other festival-goers were busy rifling through their programs looking for the latest celebrity appearance, this little movie snuck up on everyone else. Due to its adherence to genre, it's likely to be under-appreciated by the casual viewer, but there is a distinct knowingness that elevates this film beyond the typical festival fare.

Right from the beginning, with the lengthy single shot that pulls back and brings us into the story, it's clear that atmosphere and tone will play a big part of the telling. Charlie sits holding a hand of cards among a grubby circle of poker players -IN AN EMPTY PUBLIC RESTROOM! The movie is filled with these surprises. It takes a few moments to realize these nuances because this film isn't hitting you over the head with every detail, or slowing down for sweeping panoramas. In fact, it's a bit claustrophobic really. I was also pleasantly surprised that the technical parts of the film were so aptly constructed. There's hardly a cut-away to a close-up in the entire film, none of those awkward moments at the ends of a scene, just straightforward cuts to the next dramatic point and this keeps the tempo brisk and assured.

It's not strictly a thriller, a film noir, a comedy, or a heist film per se. The title character is a safe cracker who doesn't have his heart into the job -or seems to struggle with the moral issues in his line of work- and prefers to keep a hands off approach to stealing. He's scolded for this by his mentor, an elderly blind man who used to crack safes and now has turned over the business to Charlie.

Frankly, it seems that everyone knows what Charlie does and that he isn't very good at it. So by this standard, the lead isn't really a typical hero and the movie isn't really a grist-of-the-mill crime caper. But it is a riveting good time.

What was really an amazing achievement is that the events and characters really suck you into the story until you forget you're watching a bunch of new faces. I hadn't seen any of these actors before, and it never occurred to me that they were all making their debut. You just couldn't tell, they were so confident and believable.

Being an avid film buff, and wanting to see this film again right away, I was disappointed that I was at a festival and would have to wait to catch it in the theaters or on video. By no means is it the kind of film that can be completely soaked in by a single viewing, and in my opinion, this is one of the tests of a great film. There's just so much going on in the way the camera angles restrict the viewing of certain characters, and the repetition of key phrases, that makes we wish I could pause and rewind to see everything again. It amazed me that the tempo and the image clarity was so professional and that the final line is one of the most graceful notes I have ever seen a movie go out on. 5 stars out of 5.

Charlie the Ox
(2004)

Marvelous caper that deserves repeated viewings.
This may be the most impressive film I saw at Telluride. While most of the other festival-goers were busy rifling through their programs looking for the latest celebrity appearance, this little movie snuck up on everyone else. Due to its adherence to genre, it's likely to be under-appreciated by the casual viewer, but there is a distinct knowingness that elevates this film beyond the typical festival fare.

Right from the beginning, with the lengthy single shot that pulls back and brings us into the story, it's clear that atmosphere and tone will play a big part of the telling. Charlie sits holding a hand of cards among a grubby circle of poker players -IN AN EMPTY PUBLIC RESTROOM! The movie is filled with these surprises. It takes a few moments to realize these nuances because this film isn't hitting you over the head with every detail, or slowing down for sweeping panoramas. In fact, it's a bit claustrophobic really. I was also pleasantly surprised that the technical parts of the film were so aptly constructed. There's hardly a cut-away to a close-up in the entire film, none of those awkward moments at the ends of a scene, just straightforward cuts to the next dramatic point and this keeps the tempo brisk and assured.

It's not strictly a thriller, a film noir, a comedy, or a heist film per se. The title character is a safe cracker who doesn't have his heart into the job -or seems to struggle with the moral issues in his line of work- and prefers to keep a hands off approach to stealing. He's scolded for this by his mentor, an elderly blind man who used to crack safes and now has turned over the business to Charlie.

Frankly, it seems that everyone knows what Charlie does and that he isn't very good at it. So by this standard, the lead isn't really a typical hero and the movie isn't really a grist-of-the-mill crime caper. But it is a riveting good time.

What was really an amazing achievement is that the events and characters really suck you into the story until you forget you're watching a bunch of new faces. I hadn't seen any of these actors before, and it never occurred to me that they were all making their debut. You just couldn't tell, they were so confident and believable.

Being an avid film buff, and wanting to see this film again right away, I was disappointed that I was at a festival and would have to wait to catch it in the theaters or on video. By no means is it the kind of film that can be completely soaked in by a single viewing, and in my opinion, this is one of the tests of a great film. There's just so much going on in the way the camera angles restrict the viewing of certain characters, and the repetition of key phrases, that makes we wish I could pause and rewind to see everything again. It amazed me that the tempo and the image clarity was so professional and that the final line is one of the most graceful notes I have ever seen a movie go out on. 5 stars out of 5.

Miller's Crossing
(1990)

Plot sucks you in nicely...
Despite its overtones from "The Glass Key," this movie does a tremendous job of hooking you into the premise very quickly.

There's an immediate conflict for the protagonist here, and like Blood Simple, the Coen's earlier films seemed to give more care to the plot as it winds up tightly. Of course, the role of Johnny Caspar is delicious and Polito knocks it out of the part in ways few actors could, and coupled with the savvy of Finney's mob boss, you quickly and clearly gain the gist of the dilemma that Tom faces, and immediately snuggle in for the rest of the movie. Too bad the Brothers abandoned their faith in plot and headed towards a wild disregard for any coherence after "Fargo." I miss the sense of fate that plays a part in their best movies, stories that seem like they are headed towards a serious and inevitable conclusion. The clumsy ones all feel like they lost their willingness to see the narrative through to its natural end.

One-Eyed Jacks
(1961)

Ben Johnson's finest work, often overlooked.
Ben Johnson is mesmerizing in this picture; his natural ease with

screen acting was well-honed by this time and he has a

confidence, a greasy smoothness, in the part of Bob Amory that he

hadn't displayed up to this point. Perhaps it was because he was

working with two stellar actors from the method school that

spurred him to give them a run for their money. Or perhaps he was

more relaxed due to his extensive experience working in westerns

(or because he was one of the only authentic cowboys on the set).

Nevertheless, his contribution is equal to the leads, and far above

everyone else. And that's so small feat. Before Kubrick had left the

production, he obviously installed several of his favorite players:

Slim Pickens, Tim Carey, Elisha Cook Jr in supporting roles. Each

same part makes a significant contribution to the complexity and

charm of the story. But Johnson rises above them all. His snake- rattling Amory is just as pathetic as he is creepy. The scene in

which he chickens out of a gun duel with Brando is electrifying,

mostly due to the ambiguity in Johnson's close-ups. Watching it,

you're not quite sure if the character is too stupid to back down or

just plain chilled to the bone with fear.

Cool Hand Luke
(1967)

I love movies about loners!
Here's the holy grail! A movie about a loner, where the whole story ISN'T about drawing the character out of his shell. Instead, Newman gets to withdraw and simmer, and the supporting players come to represent the tug of war between different aspects of his personality. I can appreciate movies that never seeks to explain their main characters; they let the audience soak in the meaning from the details surrounding him. Left with nothing but inferences (and the exotic behaviors of everyone else), we have to insert ourselves into the part to sort out Luke's feelings.

The end of the song gives us a glimpse, but even that moment is fleeting and shrouded, so the title character remains a mystery to us forever.

Palindromes
(2004)

Another rape-fantasy for this sick director
Troubled Todd is let loose again and come up with another indulgent film where he feels free to expose his sick mind and deranged fantasies on audiences eager to grasp some sense from glints of humorous and whip-smart writing. I saw this movie at the Telluride film festival and, having seen Dollhouse and Happiness, I was willing to give Solondz a break (after the disaster of Storytelling) and hope he had found a new strain to refocus his energies. But he seems more determined to create a body of work destined to brand himself as controversial than to truly seek out some personal reflections and weave them through his narratives.

Never has their been a gifted screenwriter whose obvious talents are consistently wasted; he has yet to create anything on screen but a moment that aims to provokes nervous laughter. That's woefully short of the drama or revelation he's capable of; too bad he hasn't come to terms with that after four films.

Taking Off
(1971)

Rarely seen comic wonder
It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with either

Forman or Henry that this film is both insightful and understatedly

hilarious. There was a time in the early 1970s when the influx of

foreign directors on the Hollywood movie-making frontier (among

them Forman, Bertolucci, and Polanski, as well as cinematographers like Zsigmond and Kovacs) were just as sharp

and scathing of the American cultural revolution as our own young

filmmakers. If not more so. This film is flat-out funny; the humor is

derived from the droll use of pop references and supposedly

taboo behaviors. Because hey are put across so straight-faced,

they reflect back to us an image too ridiculous to consider

seriously. I saw this film in an open-air theatre at a fest and though

it was difficult to hear, the combined laughter of the audience

brought the experience to hysterics. Hope this film makes it to

DVD.

The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper
(1981)

Humongous waste of a great opportunity
This film was hard to get a hold of, and when I eventually saw it the disappointment was overwhelming. I mean, this is one of the great stories of the twentieth century: an unknown man takes advantage of the unsuspecting airline industry and GETS AWAY with millions in ransom without hurting anyone or bungling the attempt. With all of this built-in interest, how could anyone make such a lackluster, talk-laden flick of this true-life event. While Williams is always interesting, the screenwriters assumed that the D.B. Cooper persona was stereotypically heroic like a movie star, s what we get is a type-without any engaging details or insights into the mind of a person daring enough and clever enough to have pulled it off. Harrold practically steals the movie with her spunk and pure beauty, but the real letdown was in the handling of the plot and the lame direction. Shame on this film for even existing.

The Cincinnati Kid
(1965)

Too modern for a period film
There's something unsettling and anachronistic about this film because it is shot and edited in a very contemporary style, fitting for the mid-sixties but too modern for a story set in the run-down New Orleans of the Depression-era. Although it's a lot of fun, with a killer cast and all the makings of a great poker film, the climatic scene which cuts around the room a bit much, begins to feel like an exercise in Eisensteinian montage rather than a sustaining dramatic moment. Overall, the performances make the movie, especially the great Robinson working his charms throughout, but darn if it wasn't for that awkward finale...

Bowfinger
(1999)

Martin and Murphy should team again!
The remarkable thing about this film is that hardly ever has Steve Martin ever been so genuinely sympathetic without seeming clumsy about it. Believe me, this movie could have been over in the first few minutes if the writing hadn't started out so deliciously cynical. Immediately, I was hooked by the story of this downtrodden dreamer who endeavors to commit his life's savings to a hopeless cause. Forget about the weak (tacked-on) ending and the craziness for comedy's sake. This is a light character study worthy of a filmlover's earnest attention. Kudos to Murphy for the dual role-one a loving tribute to his inner child and the other a biting satire of his public image.

Monte Walsh
(1970)

Elegy to the west.
Here's a case of Palance putting in a great supporting role like he has done so often, a truly selfless actor with a great humility.

Seldom does an actor allow himself to look as pathetic as Palance does in his performances. This is a great film, primarily due to the metaphor near the end where Marvin tries to tame a horse, frustratingly attempting to control the nature of all things around him. The austere writing and stilted acting lend to the overall tone, creating an elegiac western greatly under-appreciated in its time. One of those small, offbeat movies awash in a decade of so many sparkling little films, each challenging the strictures of Hollywood. I loved it.

Palookaville
(1995)

Winning trio of losers
I love movies about outsiders and this is one of my favorites.

Forget that it's supposed to be a heist movie; the three friends were never capable of that level of coordination. But there is a remarkable chemistry between them and paricularly with the women in the story. Gallo is quite magnetic in the lead and has a wonderful rapport with both his girlfriend and an older hooker.

Forsythe can be over-the-top in many films, but here he settles down and adds a touching counterpoint to Gallo. I mostly credit director Taylor for this small treasure because he has shown the same kind of class in his Napoleon film, "Emperor's New Clothes." Check out both of these films.

Heartland
(1979)

Another solid effort by Pearce
Director Richard Pearce has a knack for finding small tightly- crafted stories and keeping them confined to their natural surroundings and letting smart casting choices take over the work and create something magical. He's done it with "Country" and "Family Thing" and maybe never better than with "Heartland." Of course, Rip Torn is a fine actor and well-suited to the role of a farmer, but the amazing turn by Farrell in the lead is not any easy part. She is quite remarkable in this film, and it's maddening why she wasn't utilized more by other directors. (She shows up often in stereotypical parts, like the secretary in "Erin Brokovich") A shame this commanding actress isn't recognized more for this fantastic performance.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle
(1973)

Sleepy story of a lonesome loser
I was lucky enough to catch this on video before they pulled in out of release. It was during Mitchum's last hurrah, when he made interesting character studies like "Farewell, My Lovely." This story is a loser's tale, in the same vein as many of Paul Newman's best films, like "The Hustler" and "Nobody's Fool." Some audiences will have a hard time with the nature of the role because they expect a tough guy like Mitchum to kick into gear at any moment, but he never does because it's not that kind of movie. Rumor has it that director Peter Yates is frequently harassed by friends and collegues who have heard of this gem and tried to get their hands on a copy. Let's hope it comes to DVD soon, so we can all relish one of the great stars in one of his last meaty parts.

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