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Thread: 2007 Repertory: Oldies but Goodies

  1. #61
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    Very informative discussion, thanks, Oscar. The Ray Chess Players review was also a new angle.

  2. #62
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    Thanks for the responses guys!

    *On TCM, one can vote for any film to be released on dvd. I voted for The Merry Widow. My library doesn't have the film on vhs, but I will continue searching for a copy now that I know it exists.

    *The film Sunset Blvd.'s Joe and Norma watch in a screening room is Queen Kelly. Stroheim had a long acting career. One of his favorite roles had to be the aristocratic Captain he plays in Renoir's Grand Illusion. He was fascinated with both the aristocracy and the military, more so because he couldn't join either in real life.

    *More Rays and Sauras pending, maybe for early next year.

    *Since we discussed Mike Nichols in this thread, it's perhaps appropriate to express what follows here. He's got a new adaptation coming out on Xmas. Lamentably it's George Crile's lighthearted and comedic take on our country's largest covert foreign policy operation. Crile's book was criticized as (perhaps inadvertent) hero worship. It views corrupt politicians in a very sympathetic light. The film makes it worse by casting everyman, Mr. Nice Guy Tom Hanks and America's Sweetheart Julia Roberts in the lead roles. I didn't know anything about this until after I disgustedly watched the trailer for the film and experienced the audience's warm reaction to it. The film (and book) is called Charlie Wilson's War.

  3. #63
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    THE CROWD (1928)

    King Vidor, a director who made a smooth transition from silents to sound pictures, is often associated with films with epic scope. Prominent among them the silent The Big Parade and the talkies Duel in the Sun and The Fountainhead. On the other hand, The Crowd is the intimate story of an ambitious but ordinary man who travels to New York City to become a success. Vidor uses his signature rapidly rising and dropping crane shots to situate Johnny, the protagonist, among the masses of people in the streets and in a huge office in which he is one of hundreds of insurance clerks looking for advancement. Vidor uses low and high-angle framing to denote hierarchy, and achieves maximum realism by filming in real locations (Manhattan, Coney Island, Niagara Falls).

    What's most remarkable about The Crowd is that it's a story of failure. A deeply poignant one. Johnny may be ambitious but he is not talented enough to deserve a raise. He doesn't get it, and he grows despondent, and his marriage to Mary (Eleanor Boardman) suffers because of it. Boardman and James Murray give outstanding performances. Murray in particular is pitifully perfect. Pitifully because his real life proved to be a tragically intensified version of his best role. In 1936, at the age of 35, he was fished out of the Hudson River after spending the last few years of his life as a bum and an alcoholic.

  4. #64
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    I read with interest your review and became curious about Murray. King Vidor so obsessed with Murray's death, he wrote a script called, "The Actor" which never went past development. The director tried several times but finally gave up on the project in 1979. One of my King Vidor favorites is "Man Without a Star," a Kirk Douglas vehicle, with a great cast. "Duel in the Sun" is probably his best film, though. Trivia: Nominated five times, he never won the coveted Oscar. To this day, "The Crowd" is considered a critical masterpiece. Irving Thalberg called James Murray, 'the finest natural actor I ever saw.' Like so many, he could not handle the pressures of fame. He found solace in alcohol and drank himself to an early death, some say possibly murdered when pushed into the Hudson River off a dock during a drunken stupor.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  5. #65
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    Richard and Linda Thompson's song "Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?" comes to mind. We'll never know. Thanks for the info, cinemabon.
    You know, there's a wonderful scene in The Crowd in which Johnny is about to jump into the Hudson River. Johnny also gets drunk to deal with embarrassment and shame after his brothers-in-law pay a visit and humiliate him. I suppose there are more parallels between the role and the actor. I find it interesting that Murray failed to show up for his audition after Vidor offered him the part. Apparently, he was not a confident man. Maybe he didn't feel capable or deserving. Vidor apparently had to search for him and insist. I also read that Vidor tried to encourage Murray to shape up years after the release of The Crowd but, obviously, did not succeed.

  6. #66
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    Haven't seen The Crowd in about 8 years but your posts have refreshed my memory.
    Didn't know about James Murray's fate.
    Definitely puts a new light on the movie.

    Once again, thanks for the great info.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #67
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    I'm glad you've seen The Crowd. My other favorite is The Big Parade, mostly about a soldier's relationship with a French woman during WWI. Even when the material isn't good, King Vidor's direction transcends it. The tear-jerking of Stella Dallas, the camp of Beyond the Forest and the racism of Northwest Passage are somehow made tolerable under Vidor's supervision.

    Like cinemabon, I like Duel in the Sun very much (but less than the two above-mentioned silents). I haven't seen Man Without a Star yet, as well as too many other Vidor films. Next on my schedule: his first talkie, with an all-black cast. It's called Hallelujah and it's reputed to be quite good.

  8. #68
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    THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936)

    The prisoner is Samuel Mudd, the southern doctor who provided medical treatment to John Wilkes Booth after the latter assassinated president Lincoln and briefly escaped capture. Then Booth was killed while resisting arrest and several men were charged with conspiracy, Mudd among them. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life at a penal colony in one of the Dry Tortuga Islands, off the southern tip of Florida.

    The Prisoner of Shark Island was one of the earliest and best collaborations between Fox's Darryl F. Zanuck and John Ford. The film's major theme is the miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the government to appease the angry population. There was no evidence that Booth was involved in a conspiracy (although, contrary to his testimony, he had met Booth on a previous occasion, a fact elided by Ford). The influence of German Expressionism, as practiced by the great F.W. Murnau particularly, is amply evident in Bert Glennon's glistening, low-key photography. TPOSI is a series of stunning set pieces_the assassination, Booth's tense stopover at Mudd's house, the trial, the unforgettable execution scene, Mudd's brilliantly-edited failed escape, and his fight against an epidemic on the island_held together by Ford's direction, its visual texture, and a very effective performance by Warner Baxter as Mudd. The film presents a rather complex vision of our country during Reconstruction, particularly in the arc of the relationship between Mudd and one of his former slaves.

  9. #69
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    So that's it. Year over. Another one bites the dust. And more repertory films are available than ever before. Only you cannot watch them in a theater with an audience of geeks like you (I mean me). You must watch them at home and, if there's no like-minded person around, alone. The repertory event of the year was the release of the early films of the best African-American director, Mr. Charles Burnett. It's been so hard to watch them that some critics are treating Killer of Sheep as if it was a new release, thus eligible for inclusion in Top 10 lists.

    I had fun writing about some of the great oldies I watched in 2007, especially when the posts received replies. I wish I could write about several Kenji Mizoguchi masterpieces I finally was able to watch in 2007 but, since watching them required ability to read Spanish or French subtitles (or understand Mandarin) I decided it was not fair to post about The Crucified Lovers, A Woman of Rumor and others.

  10. #70
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    I would watch with teh French subtitles just fine.

    It's been so hard to watch them that some critics are treating Killer of Sheep as if it was a new release, thus eligible for inclusion in Top 10 lists.
    That was going on last year too when they kept listing Melville's Army of Shadows as one of the year's best. It's an easy way to be becuase people are always more indulgent of older movies. It's rare that TimeOut New York fails to give a revival six stars, while they are cruel on newer stuff. Of course Killer of Sheep is remarkable, but it probably was not greeted with much enthusiasm originally.

  11. #71
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    As opposed to voting for Oscar or Globe nominations, there are no rules critics (and fans) can follow when posting a list of films from a given year. I guess any film, no matter how old, which had its first commercial release in the given year would qualify. That's the case of Army of Shadows which was released in France in 1969 and never in the US until 2006. A couple of critics (and the main actor during an interview here in Miami) confirmed that Killer of Sheep had not only screenings at campuses and festivals but a bonafide commercial release in NY/LA in the 1980s. That disqualifies it from my list, based on my own criteria.

    I will however list Burnett's second film, My Brother's Wedding which was never released commercially and, even if it was, became available in a brand new version for the first time in 2007. Apparently most critics have decided not to list Blade Runner aka Blade Runner: the Final Cut even though it is a brand new, never seen before version of the film. I will treat it as a new film, just as I regarded Apocalypse Now Redux as a new film because of the differences between this version and the one previously available.

  12. #72
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    You are right. People delight in making their own ornate rules, which get as complicated as some Medieval debate about angels on the head of a pin. I guess it's pretty hard to decide, but I would tend to prefer to keep the totally new releases in a list to themselves and give any others special mention elsewhere. But new films weren't necessarily completed in the release year. Look at the "structure" your man Hoberman imposed on his 2007 list:
    (Speaking of structure, my list is restricted to movies made over the last five years that had their first New York theatrical engagements in 2007.)

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