Polanksi, De Niro, Coppola, Baldwin, Nicholson, and Hackman-all part of some past selections.
A friend of mine has loaned me some of his DVDs from his collection, and given our Coronavirus nightmare (with “Black Widow,” “F9,” “A Quiet Place: Part 2,” “Mulan,” and “No Time to Die” being postponed and movie theaters temporarily being shut down), I’ve taken the liberty of seeing them for myself, and sharing my opinion with you loyal readers.
“The Cotton Club”
Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” offers a variety of colorful characters in its Prohibition Era setting of Harlem, New York, and shares it admiration for dancing and organized crime.
The Cotton Club, running from 1923 to 1940, was one Hell of a great club for musicians and tap dancers, and it even had celebrity guests from Cab Calloway to Judy Garland. Each of the tap-dancer’s spots in the movie version are beautifully photographed and stylishly choreographed. Even in rehearsal, the dancing is pure magic.
Richards Gere plays Dixie Dwyer, a musician, who finds himself working for mob kingpin Dutch Schultz (James Remar), falling for his lady friend Vera (Diane Lane), and landing an acting career in Hollywood.
Gregory Hines plays Delbert Williams, an African-American tap dancer, who was lucky enough to earn his brother (Maurice Hines, Gregory’s brother) and himself a gig in the Cotton Club. He also falls in love with a biracial singer named Lila (Lonette McKee).
You also have Bob Hoskins as Owney Madden, the owner of the club; and Nicolas Cage as Dixie’s gangster brother Vincent, who has an implausibility of talking with a Looney Tunes voice.
“The Cotton Club” is such an underrated classic from Francis Ford Coppola, and he should be considered lucky enough for it to get more attention as time expands. You have Gere and Hines both delivering the goods in their own ways, as one becomes an actor and the other is a dancer. You must also appreciate the choreography of the tap-dances, and the WTF moments, like Schultz stabbing a man through the throat.
This is one for the movie history books.
I’ve watched the director’s cut of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 drama “1900,” which runs for 5 hours and 17 minutes. The DVD I was loaned had both parts on two discs. The story focus on Italy’s liberation, and deals with communism and fascism during the first half of the 20th century.
It stars Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu as two best friends: Alfredo Berlinghieri and Olmo Dalcò, both of whom come from different worlds. Alfredo is a landowner, while Olmo is a peasant. We see them frolicking as kids (Paolo Pavesi as the young Alfredo and Roberto Maccanti as the young Olmo), and we see them reunite as young adults, the minute the First World War is over. They’re still friends, regardless of their families’ differences and beliefs. But their relationship changes as time goes on not for the better.
The movie is beautifully photographed by Vittorio Storaro; and I love the shots of a watermelon being mangled, a rainy sequence when people get shot and killed, at the farmlands when women are shoveling hay, an outdoor trial later in the film, and the authentic feel of Italy. It reminds me of “The Godfather” with Bertolucci’s style of filmmaking. It looks radiant, it feels radiant, and Bertolucci guides De Niro and Depardieu on the right path as two friends from dangerous sides. And you also get Donald Sutherland as a sadistic fascist and Burt Lancaster as Alfredo’s grandfather in the cast.
But the movie is too long, I admit, so I didn’t care for everything that goes on. I’m just lucky I saw this on DVD, instead of theaters, especially since people refused to see “The Irishman” in theaters, because of its long time frame. Netflix saved their skins there. Too much is going on in the movie, and I wasn’t able to remember all the characters and their intentions and ambitions.
“1900” has been tabled a cult movie, and it has the potential to be one.
First time I’ve heard the title “Night Moves,” I thought of the Bob Segar song. but that’s not the case with this 1975 movie, since the song came out a year later. Anyway, it has Gene Hackson as Harry Moseby, an ex-football player and LA private investigator, who finds out his wife (Susan Clark) is having an affair with another man (Harris Yulin), and is on the case for a retired actress’ (Janet Ward) missing daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith).
He finds her in Florida, living her stepfather (John Crawford) and another woman Harry becomes smitten with (Jennifer Warren). The young girl is avoiding her greedy mother, and refuses go back to LA. That is until, she finds drowned victims in a plane trapped underwater, and traumatizes her.
The movie not only helped launch a film career for Griffith, but also for James Woods as sleazy mechanic, who’s one of Delly’s friends, and comes across Harry.
We all know that Gene Hackman retired from acting, because of his mental problems, thus making “Welcome to Mooseport” his final performances. But we should also look back at his classics performances, and “Night Moves” is among the many entries for him.
Written and Alan Sharp and directed by Arthur Penn, the movie isn’t your average run-of-the-mill detective story with the obligatory case of the missing person story. It’s a chance for the detective to find the low points in his life. His wife is having an affair, the girl he finds is scarred and angry, he doesn’t miss his football career, and he decides to quit the agency. Hackman provides the goods in this role.
Director Roman Polanski’s 1971 take on the William Shakespeare tragedy starred the late Jon Finch as the title character, who gets honored by King Duncan (Nicholas Selby), murders him, under the urge of his wife Lady Macbeth (Francesca Annis), and becomes the king of Scotland. Finch is riveting in the role, and he really delves into the character with great intensity. There’s evil in this man, which grows stronger and stronger with each passing, and Finch’s acting convinces us of that notion.
And Annis delivers some emotional poise as Lady Macbeth, especially her sleepwalking scene (“Out damned spot”), when we see her madness over her husband’s actions.
The story was filled with violence, and the movie was given controversy for showing the gore and nudity. You get some brilliant WTF moments, like when Macbeth sees visions of Banquo (Martin Shaw) whom he sent two assassins to kill, bloody bodies, and the aftermath of a bear and dog fight. And let’s not forget the final battle between Macbeth and Macduff (Terence Bayler).
Polanski has given the film version ambition, and whether or not people understand the Shakesperian literature and dialogue, they should check out this masterwork for its acting, visuals, and depth.
“The King of Marvin Gardens”
Made in 1972, “The King of Marvin Gardens” is a drama about the relationship between two brothers with different aspects on life. Jack Nicholson stars as late night radio host David Staebler, Bruce Dern is his con artist brother Jason, with the former being more depressed than the latter.
The story involves David leaves Philly to come to Atlantic City, where Jason has big plans for the both of them: to open up a nightclub in Hawaii. And the best thing about the film is their Nicholson and Dern’s chemistry and relationship. They represent their own emotions in these brothers with Dern being upbeat and Nicholson being low key.
Also in the cast are Ellen Burstyn as the former dancer-turned- hooker Sally, the late Julia Anne Robinson as her step-daughter Jessica, both of whom become involved with Jason’s night club idea; and the late Scatman Crothers as Jason’s crime boss Lewis.
The narrative isn’t always interesting with the night club segments, but the performances, sentimental tone, and passion from the stars win us over. Kudos to Bob Rafelson (the director, co-writer, and co-producer) and Jacob Brackman (the co-writer) for drawing these characters with tones and personalities.
This crime comedy from the beginning of the 90s starred Alec Baldwin as an ex-con named Fredrick, Jr, who’s back to his old criminal tricks in Miami, Jennifer Jason Leigh as his new lady friend Sophie, who’s still in school, and Fred Ward as a cop named Hoke Moseley, who’s on the Fredrick’s tail.
The criminal beats the cop up, and steals his badge, gun, and dentures, and goes around beating up thieves for bribes. The girlfriend wants him to stop all this criminal activity. And when Hoke gets better with a new pair of teeth, he gets back out there to take Fredrick down.
The performances from Baldwin and Ward are both stylish and dangerous, and Leigh provides some sweet material for her character. But the screenplay for them by writer/director George Armitage never really seems to lead them anywhere. In fact, they’re given a mean-spirited attitude, and left me feeling sad at times.
Yes, there are some fun moments, like when Fredrick, Jr. tries to stop a store robbery, and gets hit by that robber’s truck when it drives into the store. But, I wanted more or less out of the material and risks.
It’s hard to comprehend the connections and directions of these characters. “Miami Blues” is an attractive, but underdeveloped crime comedy.
These are the movies my friend let me borrow, and experience for the first time. The best of the bunch, to me at least, would be “The Cotton Club,” and you should definitely see the extended version on Blu-Ray. And given the circumstances, you should check out some of these options, if not all of them.
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