Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! A decent batch of films this week. Let me know which ones are your favorites or which ones you plan to see.
Malcolm X (1992)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman, Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette McKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude Lamarr, O.L.Duke, Larry McCoy, Maurice Sneed, Debi Mazar, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Scot Anthony Robinson, Sonny Jim Gaines, Joe Seneca, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Wendell Pierce, and many more.
Director: Spike Lee
Genres: biography, drama
Synopsis: Beginning from Malcolm’s childhood and continuing through his life until the end of it, it’s a well-developed portrait of an iconic figure in the Civil Rights era. It shows how his family was terrorized by the klan as a child, his father murdered by them, he and his siblings placed into foster care by the State, his inadequate education, his criminal delinquency as a young man that sent him to prison, how he found a strong leader in the Muslim faith that transformed his beliefs and his behavior there, and how he rose in rank in the well-organized black nationalist movement via the ministry of the Nation of Islam. It also shows the ugly side of the organization and the aftermath of his resistance to them.
Impressions: I knew virtually nothing about Malcolm X before watching the movie and feel like I know at least some about him now. The movie makes me want to learn more. Washington in the role of Malcolm was a real pleasure to watch, as he takes the gloves off of being a people pleaser. I really like Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz, starting from her entrance into the plot and until the end. There is a great support cast. There are a lot of working parts in this movie and Spike Lee does a good job of having them articulate well.
Etc.: 3 hours and 22 minutes long; filmed in 44 locations in the US (mostly NY, NJ, CT, and MA,) Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. Imdb trivia: With a total of 3 hours, 21 minutes and 58 seconds of screen time, Denzel Washington’s performance in this movie is the longest to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. There are loads of trivia at imdb.
Awards: 21 wins and 22 nominations
Starring: Francis McDormand, Gay DeForest, Patricia Grier, Linda May, Angela Reyes, Carl R. Hughes, Douglas G. Soul, Ryan Aquino, Teresa Buchanan, Karie Lynn McDermott Wilder, Brandy Wilber, Makenzie Etcheverry, Bob Wells, Annette Webb, Rachel Bannon, Charlene Swankie, David Strathairn, and many more
Director: Chloe Zhao
Synopsis: Fern (played by McDormand) decides to buy a van and hit the road after the small town she and her now-deceased husband shuts down when the main employer shuts down. Fern travels from place to place, working at amazon during Christmas season, then finds other places based on conversations with her compatriots in the nomadic lifestyle. Despite opportunities to settle down in one place, she decides to continue her nomadic habits.
Impressions: McDormand is perfect for the role and does an outstanding job. I love Strathairn in anything he does and this film is no exception. Looking at the cast, it appears that most of them are real nomads that agreed to be in the movie. There is an authenticity to it that is refreshing. You won’t find anything glitzed up or embellished in here. It moves at a slow pace which I’m sure reflects the slow pace on the road. To be honest, I think it may show things with rose-colored glasses to some extent. You won’t see much alcohol or drug abuse and little to nobody with mental illness acting out, which I’m guessing is also part of the lifestyle.
Etc.: from imdb: The movie was filmed in seven states over the course of four months, during which Frances McDormand actually performed several of the jobs done by people who do nomadic work and inspired the book, such as harvesting beets and packaging Amazon orders with the CamperForce program.
Awards: 233 wins and 136 nominations (say what!?!?)
The company town of Empire, Nevada is a real place that was owned by US Gypsum. In 2011, US Gypsum closed the mine, and subsequently, the town with it. Workers and their families were allowed five months of continued residency in their company-owned homes after the closure. The zip code would even later be discontinued as Empire became a ghost town.
The Mikado, aka The Town of Titipu (1939) Criterion Collection spine #959
Starring: Kenny Baker, Martyn Green, Sydney Granville, John Barclay, Gregory Stroud, Jean Colin, Constance Willis, Elizabeth Paynter, Kathleen Naylor, Leslie Phillips, and many more.
Director: Victor Schertzinger
Genres: musical comedy
Synopsis: Nanki-Poo (played by Baker) is the son of The Mikado (like an Emperor) who made the mistake of being nice to Katisha (played by Willis,) an older, rather unattractive favorite of the court, who now wants The Mikado to order Nanki-Poo become her husband. Nanki-Poo wants none of that and so runs away to a small village, in disguise as a minstrel. While there he is smitten by Yum Yum (played by Colin,) who is one of the wards of Ko-Ko (played by Green) the tailor. Ko-Ko has his plans to marry the beautiful, innocent Yum Yum. When fate intervenes and makes Ko-Ko the town’s executioner who has no interest at all in killing, and the Mikado announces he’s coming to town to see how the executions have been going, things get complicated.
Impressions: It’s a wonderful farce with a lot going for it, but being politically correct back in 1939 wasn’t part of movie-making. This is set in Japan, but all of the players are Caucasian and dressed up as Japanese. The costumes and sets are very well-done. It’s a goofy and yet clever film with sharp dialogue and dual meanings. The musical numbers are fair to good. I was very surprised it was made so long ago.
Etc.: from imdb: This is the first three-color Technicolor feature to be released by Universal Pictures in the U.S.A.; Sir W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s comic opera “The Mikado or, The Town of Titipu” was their ninth of fourteen collaborations. It opened on March 14, 1885 in London at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 672 performances.
Awards: 1 nomination
The Daytrippers (1996) Criterion Collection spine #1001
Starring: Hope Davis, Anne Meara, Pat McNamara, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Stephanie Venditto, Campbell Scott, Marc Grapey, Douglas McGrath, Jill Rowe, Andy Brown, Paul Herman, Amy Stiller, and several more.
Director: Greg Mottola
Genres: comedy, drama
Synopsis: Eliza (played by Davis) and Louis (played by Tucci) are married and living in a nice home in the burbs of NYC. Louis works for a publishing company and leaves for work as usual. While Eliza is cleaning up she finds a cryptic love poem that is signed by “Sandy.” This is mystery that needs to be solved. Eliza’s sister, Jo (played by Posey) and her intellectual boyfriend, Carl (played by Schreiber) are in town visiting and staying at their parents’, Jim and Rita (played by McNamara and Meara,) place. The family, being the supportive and lovable rascals that they are, all pile into their parents’ station wagon and drive into NYC to support Eliza as she confronts Louis about the letter. The problem is, Louis isn’t at work like he was supposed to be and the family goes on a day-long wild goose chase to find him.
Impressions: It’s a light-hearted, fun, and often humorous journey to and through New York City. The conversations in the station wagon and elsewhere often wander into substantial existential and socio-political topics. The cast has very good chemistry with each other and each has their moment to shine.
Etc.: filmed in 17 days on a $50,000 budget (say what!?!?)
Awards: 7 wins and 3 nominations
Chaos Walking (2021)
Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Demian Bichir, David Oyelowo, Kurt Sutter, Cynthia Erivo, Bethany Anne Lind, Mads Mikkelson, Nick Jonas, Ray McKinnon, Vincent Leclerc, Blane Crockarell, Francois Gauthier, Tyrone Benskin, Frank Fontaine, and many others.
Director: Doug Liman
Genres: action, adventure, space
Synopsis: Todd (played by Holland) is an adult who lives on a planet with others who landed there years before to settle humans in a new place. One strange effect of the planet is that men’s thoughts are able to be read by everyone else. It doesn’t affect females. There a small village led by Mayor Prentiss (played by Mikkelson) who is a charismatic narcissist who seems to have mind control over most of the men in the camp. Unfortunately years previous, all of the women, including Todd’s mother, were murdered, allegedly by the indigenous life forms. When a second wave ship holding settlers sends a small scout ship to see what’s happened to the first wave, it crashes, leaving only one woman, Viola (played by Ridley) alive. Mayor Prentiss has ill intentions for Viola and the ship that is waiting to hear back from her. Todd is compelled to help Viola. Along the way he learns that so much of what he has been told by Mayor Prentiss has been lies.
Impressions: I liked Holland and Ridley in this. The FX they used to show the thoughts of the men and Todd’s ongoing inner dialogue with himself was irritating at times. Despite the very well-known cast and inventive plot, this felt more like a TV movie you’d see in the Sci-Fi Channel more than a big screen. Reading through the trivia at imdb, it appears that this is based on a kid’s book series where the main characters are in their teens.
Etc.: The first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy is called ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ and is a winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize Award.; imdb tells about many misfortunes Tom Holland had during the filming of the movie.
Awards: too soon