Recent Films

Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood directs and stars along with Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank. Wins four major Academy Awards including Best Picture.

I really enjoyed the film as I also enjoyed Sideways (the California wine movie). But damn, neither movie was what I would call an incredible cinematic achievement and I think Eastwood’s Mystic River was a much better film, especially in terms of looking at the human condition.

Baby was a great story and well-acted and besides the major players mentioned above had some great performances by lesser-known actors and actresses. (Jay Baruchel as Danger Barch is especially notable.)

I want the average movie to be as good as Baby and great movies to be as good as Mystic River. Sideways is the quality I expect of a TV movie.

This, of course, would be in a best-of-all-possible worlds where film is somehow still considered an art and not a commodity. Really great movies are generally ignored in the market place, lacking a budget to make themselves visible among all the Spidermans and disasters.

Luckily, Mr. Eastwood is still making great films along with a handful of American directors and foreign films are gaining a foothold here. Some low-budget films are also getting more exposure but often end up compromised in some way by the big studios.

So after being Mr. Critical, I will go see Scorsese’s Aviator. Yeah, I get sucked in by the dreck like everyone else. (At least this one has Cate Blanchett to look at.)

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

What a great film! Good story, told in the old way. Basically, it’s all about Cold War intrigue with the Brits, Americans, and Russians mixing it up. Plus, it’s got a submarine.

Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) plays a British spy, ostensibly a good guy but very secretive and prone to killing people who wake him.

Here’s an exchange between Commander Ferraday (Rock Hudson) and McGoohan’s spy character, alias “David Jones,” that takes place after Ferraday discovers someone has sabotaged a torpedo hatch.

Cmdr. Ferraday: It wasn’t sealing wax. It wasn’t chewing gum. It was epoxy glue. And all of a sudden you know a whole damn lot about submarines.
David Jones: I know how to wreck them, and I know how to lie, steal, kidnap, counterfeit, suborn and kill. That’s my job. I do it with great pride.

Ernest Borgnine plays a Russian spy who has come over to the West. Zebra is a weather station on the North Pole ice (so it’s hard to locate because the ice moves). There is a horrible storm, a satellite with sensitive information (to both sides) lands near Zebra, and there is a fire at the station and communication is lost. So send Rock Hudson in a sub with Patrick and Ernest (and oh yeah Jim Brown). It’s billed as a rescue mission but they really want that satellite and the data. The Russians are on their way too.

The sets for the artic scenes leave a lot to be desired. But you get used to them.

Try to find a woman in this movie. I don’t think there is one.

Directed by John Sturges.

rec.arts.movies.reviews has a nice review.

Short notes on other films

I Heart Huckabees. We (Mary and I) loved it but definitely not for everyone. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play existential private detectives. If that doesn’t sound interesting, don’t see the movie.

Vivian Jaffe (Tomlin character): Have you ever transcended space and time?
Albert Markovski (client): Uh, time, not space… No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

The Motorcycle Diaries. Che Guevera motorcycles, walks, and boats around South America. Based on Guevara’s diaries. Excellent film.

Triplets of Belleville. Animated, French, dark, very little dialogue. Plot revolves around bicycle racing and a trio of female singers. I’ve seen it twice (rare for me). Don’t see if you have strong emotional attachments to frogs.

Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon is in high school and searching for himself. There are some funny scenes. I wouldn’t see it twice if I could help it. I did find a great review by a sixth grader online.

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