Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
Back in 2006, when Blu-ray players and discs first appeared in stores, Sony distributed a demo reel for stores to play showing how fan-damn-tacular movies looked in the new format. This included scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, a Sony property via Columbia Pictures, implying the film would be among the first released. For the next six years, film buffs waited with increasing impatience for Sony to make good on that promise.
I, for one, am tickled that they waited so long. The Blu-ray edition released in November, based on a meticulous 4K restoration, is simply amazing. The last time the movie looked this good to my eyes was back in 1989, and I was watching it projected in 70mm at the old Cinedome theaters in Orange, CA.
This big-budget, globe-trotting comedy is almost exactly as old as I am and I’ve always held a warm place in my affections for it. It’s not quiet or subtle, but it is spirited, like a Clydesdale that thinks it’s a quarter horse.
Sergio Leone’s follow-up to the “Man With No Name” film trilogy was probably not what anyone expected, but international audiences seemed better able to cope with the surprise than their American counterparts. Once Upon a Time in the West initially bombed in the States despite being a smash hit overseas. Only in retrospect have we conferred upon this film its proper status as a unique classic, as different from the director’s previous work as it was from the more traditional Hollywood conventions it inverted at the same time it was playing homage to them.
The Sons of Katie Elder looks epic in the sweeping vistas of its Mexican locations and its large cast of characters, but it doesn’t feel epic in the scope of its story. Its two-hour length is more than enough to contain its narrative, with a solid twenty minutes to spare. It’s not a bad movie so much as a decent one that takes its sweet time getting to the point.
Don’t be deceived by the fact that John Wayne received an Oscar for his performance as Rooster Cogburn. That award was probably more of a lifetime achievement award than recognition for a single performance, much like Paul Newman’s Oscar for The Color of Money. John Wayne had given better performances and made better films. Probably not coincidentally, John Ford was usually involved.
While John Ford would go on to direct several more pictures after this one, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance represents a sort of exclamation point of one of most celebrated directorial careers in American film. His previous high-water mark, The Searchers, was a film torn between the conventions of a previous era and emerging modern sensibilities. Liberty Valance is thoroughly modern by 1962 standards and virtually timeless by any other.
It’s best to think of this movie as the estranged fraternal twin of Dr. Strangelove. Fail Safe is the sober, humorless one. Both films cover virtually the same territory, that of an inadvertent nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, but while Stanley Kubrick treated Armageddon as a subject worthy of absurdist gallows farce, Sidney Lumet takes it seriously for some reason. Continue reading →
Directed by John Frankenheimer, this film teams with his masterpiece The Manchurian Candidate to form a potent one-two punch of Cold War paranoia. The earlier film, with Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey, boasted a more complex plot and a layer of political satire that’s not found here. That doesn’t make Seven Days in May a lesser film, just a different one with different goals. Continue reading →
Back when I was a kid, this movie used to play on the Saturday afternoon movie about every third week and, being a boy with a jones for all things aviation, I ate it up. Of course, back then I simply got off on the idea of turning a crashed airplane into a new smaller airplane. As I got older, I came to appreciate the movie for what it was: a deeply insightful drama about men under crisis, couched in the format of an action adventure.
The Jungle Book was the last Disney animated film in which Walt Disney had any direct involvement. It’s probably not a coincidence that it also marked the end of the first real “Golden Age” of classical animated features from the House of the Mouse.
While the studio would continue to produce other cell-animated movies over the next twenty years, no one was ever going to confuse The Aristocats and The Rescuers for Pinocchio. It wouldn’t be until The Little Mermaid in 1989 that Disney would really reclaim its animated mojo.
With the first Beatles movie, A Hard Day’s Night, they had the good sense not to saddle the lads with anything that closely resembled a plot. Their 1965 follow-up is similarly devoid of a storyline but saddled with the unnecessary appearance of having a plot. The alleged narrative ends up accomplishing nothing but diverting attention away from the music and scenes of the Beatles doing what they did best: being the Beatles. There are a few moments in which the four boys get the chance to cut loose and in those scenes, Help! does manage to come to life. Alas, there are not enough of those.