Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! I don’t give very many “10” ratings as you may know, but there are two of them in this batch. I didn’t plan it, but I think having borrowed a series of them from the Criterion Collection has something to do with it.
M (1931) Criterion Collection spine #30
Starring: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Gustaf Grundgens, Friedrich Gnaβ, Fritz Odemar, Paul Kemp, Theo Lingen, Rudolf Blumner, Georg John, Franz Stein, Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur, Gerhard Beinert, Karl Platen, Rosa Valetti, Hertha von Walther, and many more.
Director: Fritz Lang
Genres: crime, mystery
Synopsis: Set in 1931 Berlin, a child abductor and murderer is afoot. Every adult in town is on edge and desperate to catch him before he takes his next victim. They say it takes a village to raise a child. In, “M” it takes a village to catch a monster.
Impressions: What I appreciate most about the movie is how intelligent the plot is. How many movies do you see these days where things are done well by the players. There are no dumb moves in this, which makes it so very pleasurable to watch. The monster is played to perfection by Peter Lorre. I honestly don’t know how they could have made this movie any better than they did. It’s masterfully put together in every way, from how it was filmed to the building of tension, and how the people united in their effort to find the killer. This movie would be a good one to deconstruct for a film class.
Etc.: black and white film; made in Germany in German language with English subtitles; note: despite the gruesome subject of child abduction and murder, you will see nothing graphic in the movie; it’s done by suggestion; there is a plethora of trivia at imdb
Awards: 2 wins
Contrary to popular belief, Fritz Lang did not change the title from “The Murderers are Among Us” to “M” due to fear of persecution by the Nazis. He changed the title during filming, influenced by the scene where one of the criminals writes the letter on his hand. Lang thought “M” was a more interesting title
On the Waterfront (1954) Criterion Collection spine #647
Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, Leif Erickson, James Westerfield, Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello, John F. Hamilton, John Heldabrand, Rudy Bond, Don Blackman, Arthur Keegan, Abe Simon, and many more.
Director: Elia Kazan
Genres: crime, drama
Synopsis: Set in 1954 on the Hoboken, NJ, docks, as the story opens, Terry (played by Brando,) a former prizefighter, is now used as gopher and muscle for Johnny Friendly’s mobster gang (played by Cobb,) who his brother Charley (played by Steiger) is also a ranking member of. Friendly’s gang is in control of the dock workers among other things. The workers understand they need to kowtow to the gang and to keep their mouths shut. The status quo changes when two things happen: 1) Father Barry (played by Malden) decides to become an advocate for the dock workers; and 2) Edie (played by Saint) comes back to town from her convent school and catches Terry’s eye. A battle between the workers and the mobsters is set up and people are forced to choose sides.
Impressions: I thought the movie was very well-done. It’s been awhile since I saw Marlon Brando in anything. He seems in a genuinely fragile state of mind in the movie and I learned his real mother had recently died and so his grief was fresh. Rod Steiger is the standout performance in his fairly limited role. The scenes between Brando and him are amazing.
Etc.: black and white film; from imdb: Shortly after the film’s debut in 1954, the AFL-CIO expelled the East Coast longshoreman’s union because it was still run by the mob.
Awards: 30 wins and 9 nominations
Starring: Robin Wright
Director: Robin Wright, Demian Bichir, Sarah Dawn Pledge, Kim Dickens, Warren Christie, Finlay Wotjak-Hissong, Brad Leland, Jordan Bullchild, Dave Trimble, Rikki Lynn Ward, Mia McDonald, and many more.
Genres: adventure, drama, grief
Synopsis: Edee (played by Wright) is a city dweller, but when a devastating tragedy happens that she’s unable to function after that leaves her suicidal and desperate, she takes extreme steps as a way to go on: she buys a rustic cabin (with outhouse!) up on a mountain in the middle of wilderness and is pretty much dropped off by the real estate agent. She leaves all electronic devices behind and goes incommunicado. The rest of the plot shows in graphic detail how she struggles physically and emotionally in her solitude where nothing is convenient. Miguel (played by Bichir) is a hunter that happens across her cabin and ends up helping her out in very small ways at first as she is determined to be alone with her pain.
Impressions: Such wild and beautiful terrain! I liked the pragmatic aspects of the movie very much as it shows how much savvy you’d need to have to survive out in a remote location with no help. I also like how it shows that humans need each other, no matter whether they are self-sufficient or not. I loved Bichir in this; it’s the best role I’ve seen him in so far. Kleenex alert!
Etc.: filmed in Alberta, Canada and filmed with the assistance of the government of Alberta; This is Robin Wright’s feature film directorial debut.
Awards: 2 wins and 2 nominations
Secrets in our DNA (2021) S48 E1 of Nova TV documentary series
Starring: CeCe Moore, Chelsea Rustad, Jim Scharf, Craig Sechler,
Director: Edward Gray
Synopsis: I can’t beat the imdb plot synopsis, so here it is:
Some 30 million Americans have sent their DNA to be analyzed by companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, hoping to obtain clues to family origins and forecasts of their future health. Some users have found family members and discovered lurking genetic risks. But what happens once the sample is in the hands of testing companies? What are they looking at and how accurate are their results? NOVA explores the power of this information and the unintended consequences that can arise from sharing our data with these rapidly growing online databases. DNA results that offer estimates of health risks can be misleading, and the discovery of intimate family secrets can tear relationships apart. Meanwhile, law enforcement is increasingly turning to the DNA-sharing website GEDmatch as an extraordinarily powerful tool for cracking cold cases, as demonstrated by the 2018 arrest of California’s notorious Golden State Killer after 42 years at large. What is the peril and promise of consumer DNA testing?
Impressions: I liked learning the basics on it and would recommend anyone who has done it or is considering doing a mail-in DNA testing to watch the show. I have mixed feelings about DNA testing, but to be honest I think law enforcement should have a DNA file of every person that lives in or visits the USA stored in one big fully networked database, accessible only to forensic law enforcement centers. There are too many rapists, pedophiles, murderers and other very dangerous individuals out there walking free that need to be behind bars. I’d be interested in hearing how others feel about it.
Paris, Texas (1984) Criterion Collection spine #501
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Berry, Bernhard Wicki, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clement, Clairsie Mobley, Hunter Carson, Viva, Socorro Valdez, Edward Fayton, Justin Hogg, Nastassja Kinski, Tom Farrell, John Lurie, Jeni Vici, Sally Norvell, Sharon Menzel, The Mydolls
Director: Wim Wenders
Synopsis: The story begins when Walt (played by Stockwell) gets a call from a remote location in the desert from a man who says his phone number was on a piece of paper in a man’s pocket that collapsed there. The man, who is conscious now, but mute, is Walt’s brother, Travis (played by Stanton,) who has been missing for four years. Walt and his wife, Anne (played by Clement,) have been taking care of Travis’ son, Hunter (played by Carson) after Hunter’s mom, Jane (played by Kinski,) dropped him at their doorstep, saying she was unfit to raise the boy. Travis’ resurfacing sets in motion the rest of the story, which is better left not spoiled by my attempts to describe it.
Impressions: “Paris, Texas” is an existential masterpiece and a manifesto on love and the human condition. Taken at face value or as a metaphor, it works seamlessly. I’ve seen Harry Dean Stanton in quite a few movies, and he’s always excellent. In this he finds a way to go beyond excellent and into the realm of the transcendent. I enjoyed Stockwell’s role also as he plays straight man without any of the quirky or weird sh*t he often ends up playing. Kinski exquisitely underplays her role; whomever’s decision that was is a genius. She shows she’s more than just a pretty face! This one also has a Kleenex alert on it.
Etc.: This is Harry Dean Stanton’s favorite film in his own filmography; multiple (42!) locations in TX and CA mostly but also in NM were used.
Awards: 18 wins and 12 nominations
more imdb trivia:
During the scene in the Texas airport, Dean Stockwell’s character is on the phone with his wife. The PA announcer can be heard saying “A message for Joy Stockwell, Joy Stockwell. Austin will arrive at any minute.” Joy was Dean’s wife and Austin, his son, was born during production of this film.