Then Playing — Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser; Somewhere; Ladies in Retirement

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Charlotte Zwerin, 1988). This documentary was released during that strange stretch when Clint Eastwood admirably leveraged his considerable influence with Warner Bros. to get the studio to make movies about jazz. Eastwood serves as producer … Continue reading Then Playing — Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser; Somewhere; Ladies in Retirement

Avakian, Mankiewicz, Rohmer, Tavernier, Vidor

Suddenly, Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959). Tennessee Williams is such a bold, distinctive writer that watching a film adaptation of one of his works sometimes consists largely of gauging how effectively the various actors wrestle with his challenging words and emotions. As a stalwart young doctor who gets drawn into the tangled affairs of a wealthy New Orleans family, Montgomery Clift is solid enough, although, at this relatively late point in his troubled career, he’d lost whatever lightness of touch he once had. Elizabeth Taylor strains beautifully as the fragile, damaged girl whose state of mind the plot hinges … Continue reading Avakian, Mankiewicz, Rohmer, Tavernier, Vidor

She walks to work but she’s still in a daze, she’s Rita Hayworth or Doris Day

Wanted (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008). Colossally stupid. Based on a six-issue comic book series written by Mark Millar, the film revolves around a secret society of assassins with a knack for bending the laws of physics to their favor, most notably by sending bullets on curved trajectories with a flick of their wrist while firing a gun, as if they were bowling balls hurled down a well-oiled lane. If the filmmakers are going to disregard the basic principles of science so freely and frivolously, I suppose it’s silly to expect them to care a whit for things like logic and narrative … Continue reading She walks to work but she’s still in a daze, she’s Rita Hayworth or Doris Day