Today I Watched: The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010)

The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski, 2010)

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The Ghost Writer is handsome, smooth and persuasive. It is a Well-Made Film. Polanski at 76 provides a reminder of directors of the past who were raised on craft, not gimmicks, and depended on a deliberate rhythm of editing rather than mindless quick cutting. The film immerses you in its experience. It’s a reminder that you can lose yourself in a story because all a film really wants to do is tell it.” —Roger Ebert

Score: 9+ out of 10.

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Today I Watched: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1984)

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“In this follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg creates an atmosphere of happy disbelief: the more breathtaking and exhilarating the stunts are, the funnier they are. Nobody has ever fused thrills and laughter in quite the way that he does here. Momentum has often been the true—even if not fully acknowledged—subject of movies. Here it’s not merely acknowledged, it’s gloried in. The picture has an exuberant, hurtling-along spirit. Spielberg starts off at full charge in the opening sequence and just keeps going, yet he seems relaxed, and he doesn’t push things to frighten us. The movie relates to Americans’ love of getting in the car and taking off—it’s a breeze. … This is one of the most sheerly pleasurable physical comedies ever made.” —Pauline Kael

Score: 8 to 8+ out of 10.

Today I Re-Watched: The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

The Shining (European version, dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

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“When we see a flash of bloody cadavers or observe a torrent of blood pouring from an elevator, we’re not frightened, because Kubrick’s absorption in film technology distances us. Each shot seems rigorously calculated, meticulous, and he keeps the scenes going for so long that any suspense dissipates. … Over and over, the camera tracks the characters, and by the climax, when we’re running around in the hedge maze on the hotel grounds, the rhythmic sameness has worn us down. It’s like watching a skater do figure eights all night, or at least for two hours and twenty-six minutes. … It took nerve, or maybe something more like hubris, for Kubrick to go against all convention and shoot most of this Gothic in broad daylight. … There isn’t a dark comer anywhere; even the kitchen storerooms have a fluorescent boldness. But the conventions of Gothics are fun. Who wants to see evil in daylight, through a wide-angle lens? We go to The Shining hoping for nasty scare effects and for an appeal to our giddiest nighttime fears—va­porous figures, shadowy places. What we get doesn’t tease the imagination. Visually, the movie often feels like a cheat, because most of the horror images are not integrated into the travelling shots; the horrors involved in the hotel’s bloody past usually appear in inserts that flash on like the pictures in a slide show. … What’s increasingly missing from Kubrick’s work is the spontaneity, the instinct, the lightness that would make us respond intuitively. We’re starved for pleasure at this movie; when we finally get a couple of exterior nighttime shots with theatrical lighting, we’re pathetically grateful. As Wendy, trying to escape from Jack, opens a window and looks at the snowstorm outside, and then as she pushes Danny out and he slides down the snowbank, we experience, for a second or two, the spectral beauty we have been longing for. Earlier (in the film’s most imaginative, chilling scene), when Wendy looked at the pile of manuscript that her husband had been working on, she found only one sentence, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’ typed over and over. Well, all work and no play makes Stanley a dull boy, too.” —Pauline Kael

Score: 6½ to 7− out of 10.

Today I Watched: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (dir. Peter R. Hunt, 1969)

“For me there’s no question that cinematically On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best Bond film and the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment … Shot to shot, this movie is beautiful in a way none of the other Bond films are—the anamorphic compositions are relentlessly arresting—and the editing patterns of the action sequences are totally bananas; it’s like Peter Hunt (who cut the first five Bond films) took all the ideas of the French New Wave and blended them with Eisenstein in a Cuisinart to create a grammar that still tops today’s how-fast-can-you-cut aesthetic.” —Steven Soderbergh

Score: 8+ to 8½ out of 10.

Today I Watched (and Re-Watched Part of): Koe no Katachi (Yamada Naoko, 2016)

A Silent Voice (Koe no katachi, dir. Yamada Naoko, 2016)

“Yamada’s creative direction shows a filmmaker with a distinctive way of looking at the world, following in the footsteps of other maverick Japanese talents like Ozu, Kitano and Miyazaki.” —Trevor Johnston

“Firstly this is a film that depicts a story in which ‘a boy practices how to live’, but another focal point other than the previously mentioned ‘film about sound’ is ‘a work that allows you to experience the memories and sensations of another person’. This was another aspect that was thought about when making the film. So I would like people not just to enjoy the story’s content and meaning. There is something that rises from the film, something that you can’t quite grasp. I would like the various people watching to accept and understand this as part of an individual and personal viewing experience.” —Yamada Naoko

Score: 8 to 8+ out of 10.

Today I Watched: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

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“[D]ecades of speculation and analysis led to extreme self-consciousness. This feels less like a sequel to Blade Runner than like an adaptation of collected critical essays about Blade Runner; everything intriguing has been dragged to the surface and rendered inert. At the same time, the mystery/quest narrative kept making me think of The Da Vinci Code, which I’m guessing is not a comparison that anyone involved in 2049’s making would welcome.” —Mike D’Angelo

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Today I Re-Watched: Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)

Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen, 2011)

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“I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving, or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face … it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds. Until it returns, as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again.”

Score: 8 to 8+ out of 10.