30 September 2013

Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands 1990
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry-Baby, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Winona Ryder  Girl Interrupted, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Black Swan, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, A Scanner Darkly, The Darwin Awards, Looking for Richard, Little Women, Reality Bites, Night on Earth, Beetlejuice, Great Balls of Fire, Alien Resurrection, Black Swan
    • Dianne Wiest  – I Am Sam, Practical Magic, Footloose
    • Anthony Michael Hall  – The Dark Knight
    • Kathy Baker – Take Shelter, Last Chance Harvey, The Jane Austen Book Club, Cold Mountain, The Glass House, Cider House Rules, To Gillian on Her Thirty-Seventh Birthday, The Right Stuff
    • Vincent Price  – old scary movies I suppose
    • Alan Arkin – The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Little Miss Sunshine, Gattaca, Grosse Point Blank, Glengarry Glen Ross, Catch 22, The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Fifth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: About 10 times. The first time was probably about 15 years ago and that’s when we started noticing JD.  Now: September 28, 2013

       How can one not love this film?  It’s sweet, funny, sad…
      And it’s Johnny Depp’s first masterpiece. He speaks rarely, and then in a soft boy’s voice, but he utterly and completely expresses the loneliness of the outsider, the longing to be the same as everyone else, the pleasure at being accepted and liked, the hunger for love, the innocence of the victim of a meanness he could never imagine existed, the panic at the unexpected hatred and violence and the resignation over loss and renewed loneliness.
       How does he do it?!?
       Dianne Wiest is also perfect. She’s a parody of the oh so sincere Avon lady, yes, but she is just so kind.  Truly, earnestly, deeply kind. And as innocent as Edward in her own way.  Unfazed by anything, she simply places her pastel suburban self daintily but undauntedly into whatever bizarre situation meeting a boy with scissors instead of hands and welcoming him into her home and her family can throw at her and deals with it.
         The ticky tacky little boxes she and her neighbors all live in are wonderful too.
         The story itself, the fairytale quality, the cast of stereotype suburban characters including the solidly well done dad in the form of Alan Arkin, the vamp Kathy Baker and the cute teen Winona Ryider – all of this is fine. But it’s all just background for the brilliance of Depp and Wiest who lift this to     
           

5* of 5

Silverado

Silverado 1985
  • Director: Laurence Kasdan
  • Based on Book: no
  • Cast: Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Scott Glenn, Linda Hunt, Brian Dennehy,  John Cleese, Jeff Goldblum, Rosanna Arquette
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Kevin Kline - Hamlet, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Prairie Home Companion, The Emperor’s Club, Life As a House, The Wild Wild West, The Ice Storm, Dave, The January Man, A Fished Called Wanda, Sophie’s Choice
    • Danny Glover – Be Kind Rewind, Honeydripper, Dreamgirls, Manderlay, Bopha!, Lethal Weapon 1-4, The Color Purple, Witness
    • Kevin Costner – Swing Vote, Rumor Has It, A Perfect World, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Dances with Wolves, Bodyguard, JFK, Bull Durham, Stacey’s Knights
    • Scott Glenn – The Bourne Ultimatum, Freedom Writes, The Shipping News, Virgin Suicides, Carla’s Song, Courage under Fire, Edie & Pen, Silence of the Lambs, Apocalypse, Nashville
    • Linda Hunt – Stranger than Fiction, The Year of Living Dangerously
    • Brian Dennehy – Romeo and Juliet, The Stars Fell on Henrietta, various TV series
    • John Cleese – Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda, Fawlty Towers, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Harry Potter, The Meaning of Life, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Taming of the Shrew
    • Jeff Goldblum – Igby Goes Down, Independence Day, Jurassic Park, The Fly
    • Rosanna Arquette – Pulp Fiction, After Hours, Desperately Seeking Susan
  • Why bought: Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, remember liking it
  • Seen:  Twice. First time about 15-20 years ago. Now: September 27, 2013


Actually I’m practically allergic to westerns and this is pretty much a standard western with outsider he-men good guys, mean crooks and bent sheriffs so one could ask oneself what it was I liked about this movie the first time I saw it.  I remember it as an irreverent comedy but other than Kevin Kline’s red long johns and  young Kevin Costner behaving like a dumb, sharpshooting yeehawer it’s not funny, and the yeehawing isn’t funny either, just tiresome.
I suppose what I liked back in the olden days was the inclusion of a black hero and a non-beautiful, tough and likeable leading lady. In the 80’s this was maybe a bit radical.  Sadly, maybe it still is.
I won’t go into all the clichés. Westerns are westerns. This one is without Indians except for a couple who walk across the street at the beginning. There’s no indication that all these good-hearted wagon train people are land robbers.
Without the cast this movie wouldn’t get more than a puny little star from me but Danny Glover and Kevin Kline bring quality to everything they do and Linda Hunt makes any scene she’s in worth watching.  Thanks to them:


2 * of 5

Extremely Loud and Incredible Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 2011
  • Director: Stephen Daldry
  • Based on book: by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Cast: Thomas Horne, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Zoe Caldwell, John Goodman
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Max von Sydow – Utvandrarna, Invandrarna, Nybyggarna, Robin Hood, Shutter Island, Awakenings, Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, Voyage of the Damned, The Exorcist, Vargtimmen
    • Viola Davis – The Help, Kate and Leopold
    • Tom Hanks – Catch Me If You Can, Road to Perdition, Cast Away, The Green Mile, You Have Mail, Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, A League of Their Own, Joe and the Volcano, Punchline
    • Sandra Bullock  Infamous, The Lake House, Crash, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 28 Days, Practical Magic, While You Were Sleeping, Speed,
    • Zoe Caldwell – somewhere but I can’t find where!
    • John Goodman – My First Mister, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowsky, Barton Flink, Sea of Love,
  • Why? The book is very good.
  • Seen: September 22, 2013 with YW in our read book-watch movie circle


Usually I can let go of the book about halfway through the film but in this one too much of importance has been changed or left out.  The essence of the novel – the parallel story of the grandparents and the bombing of Dresden – is almost completely omitted, eliminating the vital juxtaposition of one terrorist act with another (who decides if it’s a terrorist act or a legitimate act of war? The winners of course).
If they had just gotten this point across instead of adding several searching-for-Black scenes not in the book it could have been a great movie even though they eliminated two of the best searching-for-Black characters: old Mr. Black upstairs (we only get a glimpse) and Ruth Black in the Empire State Building (not in the film at all).
Other objections: things end up just too feel-good and lovey-dovey. The last scene with Oskar on the swing actually takes a star or so away from my rating.
With all that said there is much about the film that is good.  The cast is generally well chosen and they play their roles well.  New York itself plays a strong role with its vast array of oddball characters and out-of-the-way nooks of exotic parks, buildings, streets.
The story of a boy’s grief at losing his father is very well done though again, this becomes a personal grief not really connected to the collective historical grief of 9/11. Maybe that was the intention.
Oskar reminds me continuously of Billy Elliot (without Jamie Bell’s incredible charm and passion and fury) and only in the closing credits do I realize/remember, “Oh yeah, same director.”
But I’m not comparing the film either to the novel nor to Billy Elliot – well, I’m trying not to – so judged on its own, it’s quite a good film.

3 * of 5


23 September 2013

Cry-Baby

Cry-Baby 1990
  • Director: John Waters
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, Susan Tyrrell, Polly Bergen, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, Traci Lords, Kim McGuire, Troy Donague, Patricia Hearst, David Nelson, Willem Dafoe
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Slow Burn, Edward Scissorhands, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Amy Locane – only this
    • Susan Tyrrell  – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Bonanza
    • Polly Bergen – old TV series
    • Iggy Pop – The Crow, Sid and Nancy but obviously I know him more as a rock musician
    • Ricki Lake  – Working Girl, Hairspray
    • Traci Lords – only this
    • Kim McGuire – only this
    • Troy Donahue – old TV series
    • Patricia Hearst- newspaper and TV news
    • David Nelson -  The Ozzie and Harriet Show, The Big Circus
    • Willem Dafoe – Platoon, Spiderman, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Paris je t’aime, American Dreamz,  Manderlay, The Aviator, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, eXistenZ, Lulu on the Bridge, The English Patient, Wild at Heart, Cry Baby, Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Is Burning, The Last Temptation of Christ, Dear America, Streets of Fire
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Fourth movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice. First time May 2011.  Now: September 14, 2013

      Where does one start with a film like this? One is simply overwhelmed from start to finish with the vulgar, the absurd, the crass, the ridiculous.
And it’s done to perfection.
This time the first credit is “starring Johnny Depp”. It took him six years. This time JD is a JD. Johnny Depp = Juvenile Delinquent. We all love to love the bad boy with a heart of gold and oh, Johnny is soooo appealing here.  But so silly. You’d think that watching Johnny Depp slowly, carefully, sensuously demonstrating French kissing to innocent Alison with his flicking passionate tongue would turn one a-quiver with desire but it turns me a-quiver with laughter.
As does Inga from Sweden with the ultra-intellectual “Ja?” “Ja?” “Ja?”  That and the white thingy on her head…Swedish? How proud I feel that the world sees us Swedes so realistically!
No, this is not intellectual. It’s not realistic.  Except we really did hide under tables when the air raid drills sounded to warn us of atomic attack. We really did have frantically religious parents (not me, but some of my classmates), and juvenile delinquents really were sent to reform school.  My bad boy wasn’t quite Johnny Depp but his name was Mike and he had black curly hair and he was so-o-o bad. He came to our one and only date with his lovely black hair dyed red.  This was the 60’s not the 50’s but the principles were still the same.
 This movie is so weird. The 50’s were so weird. The music is outstanding. Too bad Johnny doesn’t do his own singing. He could. He does his own dancing, though he can’t dance (so he says).  Iggy Pop can definitely dance. The whole cast is perfect.  Patricia Hearst?! The Patricia Hearst?! David Nelson, the cutie brother of cutie Ricky Nelson?! Willem Dafoe?! Well it’s not so hard to see him as a prison guard but still.
I watch the entire film with an incredulous grin on my face.  It’s just so bad that it’s good.
And that’s the whole point.
                     

4  * of 5

15 September 2013

Slow Burn

Slow Burn 1986
  • Director: Matthew Chapman
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Eric Roberts, Beverly D’Angelo, Dennis Lipscombe, Raymond J. Barry, Anne Schedeen,  Emily Longstreth, Henry Gibson, Dan Hedaya
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Cry Baby, Edward Scissorhands, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Eric Roberts – The Dark Knight, Sensation
    • Beverly D’Angelo  – American History X, Edie & Pen, Christmas Vacation, European Vacation, Hair
    • Dennis Lipscombe – Roswell, Crossroads
    • Raymond J. Barry – Little Children, Dead Man Walking, Born on the Fourth of July, Insignificance, An Unmarried Woman
    • Anne Schedeen  – ALF and other TV series
    • Emily Longstreth – Pretty in Pink
    • Henry Gibson – Laugh In
    • Dan Hedaya – Alien Resurrection, A Life Less Ordinary, The First Wives Club, Clueless, The Usual Suspects, Benny and Joon, Joe and the Volcano, Hill Street Blues
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Third movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice. First time May 2011.  Now: September 14, 2013

      Even Johnny Depp can’t save this loser.  He’s still playing a cute teenager and there are enough close-ups to see it’s him but it’s just as well that his character is killed off in the first half of the film. Oh yeah. Spoiler warning. Sorry. But never mind.  You don’t have to see this one anyway.
It’s called a thriller but it’s just boring.  The film noir attempt is embarrassing. The story is uninteresting and the characters are irritating. Down on his luck Roberts is hired by trendy artist Barry to find his son (not Depp as it turns out) in Palm Springs. The mother (D’Angelo) is now married to a filthy rich whatever (Heyada).  Drugs, teen pregnancy, kidnapping, macho man with a bruised tender heart comes to the rescue. Well, not really. Sexy vamp villain…The clichés stumble all over each other.
Poor Johnny. It’s good to know that after this TV movie he has never since been in anything without merit. I don’t suppose he, or any of the rest of the cast, actually lists this one in their résumés when auditioning for new parts. They must hope that nobody has noticed.  They all deserve better movies and fortunately they all got some.
Because Johnny Depp is in it and actually does OK in his small role:


½  * of 5

Take Shelter

Take Shelter 2011
  • Director: Jeff Nichols
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Wigham, Katy Mixon, Robert Longstreet, Kathy Baker
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Michael Shannon – The Runaways, Eight Mile, Vanilla Sky, Groundhog Day
    • Jessica Chastain – The Help
    • Robert Longstreet – Undertow, the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
    • Kathy Baker  Last Chance Harvey, The Jane Austen Book Club, Cold Mountain, The Glass House, Cider House Rules, To Gillian on Her Thirty-Seventh Birthday, Edward Scissorhands, The Right Stuff
  • Why? Sounded good. Good reviews.
  • Seen: September 8, 2013

      Is he hallucinating, heading up the same path as his paranoid schizophrenic mother, hospitalized these past twenty years? Or is he seeing the future, the dreadful storm to come?
This is not your run of the mill thriller/disaster film. Far from it.  It’s thoughtful, carefully crafted, seriously and well acted.  And painful to watch.
Curtis and Samantha live quite an ordinary Midwestern American life. He’s a construction worker.  She’s a seamstress working from home. They have a little girl who’s deaf and they’re hoping for an operation for her.
He starts having nightmares. Very real, terrifying nightmares of tornadoes, mad dogs, murderous friends. Has he inherited his mother’s tragic madness? He seeks help but he can’t really afford it.  This and the glimpses into the medical insurance system in the US add an extra somber note to an already heavy movie.
He spends money the family doesn’t have to build an elaborate tornado shelter.  He alienates his friends and his family. Is he mad? Or is the storm really coming?  The tornadoes, the downpours of thick, oily rain?
The tension builds up slowly. We see inside his mind, we see him as others see him.  It’s hard to watch and it creeps in under your skin.
Whatever you expect at the end, it comes as a surprise.


3 ½ * of 5

9 September 2013

Platoon

Platoon 1986
  • Director: Oliver Stone
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen. Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker, Keith David, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, and many more
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Nightmare on Elm Street, Slow Burn, Cry Baby, Edward Scissorhands, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • Charlie Sheen – Big Bang Theory, Pauly Shore Is Dead, Being John Malkovich, Wall Street
    • Willem Dafoe  – Spiderman, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, Paris je t’aime, American Dreamz,  Manderlay, The Aviator, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, eXistenZ, Lulu on the Bridge, The English Patient, Wild at Heart, Cry Baby, Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Is Burning, The Last Temptation of Christ, Dear America, Streets of Fire
    • Tom Berenger – Inception, The Big Chill, Born on the Fourth of July, Someone to Watch Over Me, Eddie and the Cruisers, Looking for Mr. Goodbar
    • Keith David – Crash, Requiem for a Dream, Dead Presidents, Clockers, Reality Bites, Bird, Stars and Bars
    • Forest Whitaker – Repo Men, The Great Debaters, Smoke, The Crying Game, Bird, Good Morning Vietnam, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
    • Kevin Dillon – The Doors
    • John C. McGinley – The Rock, Seven, Wall Street
  • Why? Johnny Depp. Second movie of JD marathon.
  • Seen: Twice. First time in the movie theater here in Stockholm when it came out, with friends from the peace organization I then worked for.  Now: September 7, 2013


Stupid, stupid, stupid. War is absolutely the stupidest human activity ever and anyone who takes the words “defense” or “my country” or “the free world” or “glory” or “manhood” or any of the other stupid euphemisms into their mouth are at best lying to themselves and at worst guilty of murder.
And the American war in Vietnam is among the stupidest and criminal of wars.
Platoon is a sincere attempt to sort things through, ten years after the US lost the war and the rest of the world celebrated with the relief that the Vietnamese had defeated the invaders. I don’t think the US yet realizes that this is what they were. Have they? I hope I’m wrong.
But this movie tries to deal with the guilt, the war crimes, the horror, through a group of individual US soldiers.  Some are gung ho and just want to kill.  Others are horrified but are ensnared in the mad violence.  Some don’t like being there because it’s hot, insect-infested, wet, muddy and deadly. One or two have qualms about killing civilians. No one seems to have an inkling that the Viet Cong might be the good guys.
I suppose that’s too much to expect. The realization that the US had made an enormous, expensive mistake that killed or ruined the lives of thousands of young American men was painful enough. This movie helped the realization happen. Kudos for that.
The acting is mostly very good. Berenger, Dafoe and Sheen usually deliver. Johnny Depp’s part is so small that you have to be on the alert to even see him. The only clear shot of him is carrying a little girl away from the carnage. The rest are long shots but he does them well.
It is of course a visually overwhelming film. And we care about these guys, victims – willing or unwilling, i.e. brainwashed or not – of the insane war machine.  The class and ethnicity conflicts among these boys are dealt with forthrightly.
It’s a painful but must-see film. But I keep waiting for a movie from the North Vietnamese point of view.  Guess Hollywood isn’t up to that yet.


3 * of 5

Morvern Callar

Morvern Callar 2002
  • Director: Lynn Ramsey
  • Based on book: by Alan Warner
  • Cast: Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Samantha Morton  Elizabeth the Gold Age, The Libertine, In America, Jane Eyre
  • Why? Sounded good. Samantha Morton
  • Seen: September 1, 2013

 “Surrounded by donkeys and cactus” is not what Morvern’s friend Lanna expected. I agree.  I bought this DVD because I have a soft spot for supermarket workers, having been one myself, because Samantha Mortenson is good and because I tend to like movies about Scotland. I’m expecting a Ken Loach-Mike Leigh kind of grim social realism.
It starts out grim enough. Morvern finds her boyfriend dead on the kitchen floor in the opening scenes. He’s killed himself. There are a lot of slow close up shots of Morvern’s shocked face.  What would you do?  The obvious answer probably isn’t go to a Christmas party, get drunk and laugh a lot, tell your best friend he’s left you, go home and get rid of the body, send his novel to a publisher under your own name, take money out of his account and go on a booze-drug-disco-party charter trip to Spain with Lanna.
But that’s what she does.  Never mind how they end up surrounded by donkeys and cactus. They do.
I’m not sure how to react to this film. There’s a lot of laughing and goofing around but it’s not funny. There’s a lot of good music but it’s not “cool” (“This year’s coolest film” according to Sight & Sound).  The Guardian calls it a “genuine masterpiece.” Maltin calls it “poignant.”
It probably is. This is a case of me expecting something totally different and it taking awhile – the whole movie as a matter of fact – to really get into it.
Is it a happy ending? I don’t know.  What do you think?
It’s a must-see-again-to-figure-it-out film. And Samantha Morton is, as always, tremendous.


3 ½ * of 5

A History of Shakespeare on Screen

A History of Shakespeare on Screen – A Century of Film and Television, by Kenneth S. Rothwell, 2004.  Read in December 2010.

                      One of the things I like best about this book is the chronological list and the chart listed by play of all the Shakespeare movies made so far. It has helped build my DVD collection tremendously.
                      But there is a lot of interest in the book itself of course. Starting with the silent movies and through to modern times there has been a lot of Shakespeare movies made. Some of the early ones may seem laughable to us now but when Olivier got involved things picked up. Readers of this blog know I don’t madly adore Olivier but his contributions to Shakespeare on film cannot be overestimated. There is, unsurprisingly, a whole chapter about his direction feats: most notably Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III. Orson Welles is also given a chapter as are the early TV productions. Zeffirelli has to share a chapter with Castellani (whose productions I haven’t seen). The weakest aspect of this book is that Branagh isn’t given his own chapter and though he is given positive mention throughout, Rothwell is generally ambivalent, at times even negative, in his appreciation of Branagh’s unique genius. He indicates that cultural materialists (of which I count myself one) hate Branagh’s politics.  What???
                      Generally Rothwell and I have quite different takes on the various portrayals of Shakespeare’s characters but that’s OK. He seems to love Shakespeare movies as much as I do and his final sentences could hardly be truer: “…Shakespeare remains incarnate in the trinity of page, stage and screen, each offering its own unique insights into his mind and art from the muses of literature, theater, and mass entertainment. Thrice armed, he is unlikely to go away.”
                      This is a book to have at hand for frequent reference.
                     
Also posted on: 

2 September 2013

Nightmare on Elm Street

Nightmare on Elm Street 1984
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Based on book: No
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Heather Langencamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, Ronee Blakely, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri (Jsu Garcia)
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Johnny Depp  Platoon, Slow Burn, Cry Baby, Edward Scissorhands, Arizona Dream, Benny and Joon, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Don Juan DeMarco, Dead Man, Nick of Time, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut’s Wife, Sleepy Hollow, The Man Who Cried, Chocolat, Blow, From Hell, Lost in La Mancha, Pirates of the Caribbean (all four of them), Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Secret Window, Finding Neverland, Libertine, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist
    • John Saxon – old TV series, I suppose
    • Ronne Blakely  – Nashville
    • Amanda Wyss – Silverado, Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Why? Johnny Depp
  • Seen: Twice. First time a long time ago. Now: August 31, 2013

      So the Johnny Depp marathon of more than 40 films begins.  It was kind of strange seeing “and introducing Johnny Depp” in the opening credits.  You mean there was a time when JD wasn’t making one weird film – often brilliant but weird – after another?  But this was it – the first one.
I have to be honest.  I have no memory of him from the first time we saw this movie all those years ago.  It was our pre-JD period and at the time I had no premonition of the incredibly diverse acting career he had ahead of him. Did anybody?  He’s cute here, to be sure, but bland and ordinary in his teenage boy dorkiness. No, not even that.  He refined dorkiness in later movies.  Here he’s just…normal.  OMG what an insult. Is one allowed to use that word about JD?
Anyway.  I’m not a fan of this kind of movie. I haven’t seen the Scream movies or the Scary Movies or any of the others. I don’t know which ones are parodies of which.  I can’t compare Nightmare to any others. The only reason we saw this one back then was curiosity about the hype and our reaction was OK, that was kind of…cool…or something.
Same reaction this time. As a silly movie with a lot of chasing, dark corners, fog, screaming and blood it’s not bad.  The story is somewhat interesting. The scary parts are, well, not all that scary but a little at times.  The heroine is a plucky, clever, non-beautiful WASP California girl who dares to defy Freddy. Likeable enough.
The acting is pretty bad. If I say JD is the only one who doesn’t seem to be an amateur (which is pretty funny because he’s about the only one who is – or at least he’s not sure at this point that he wants to be an actor), you see what I mean.
I wouldn’t have bothered to get the DVD if we hadn’t decided to do the JD marathon. I’m glad I didn’t buy the whole box. But with that said (the extra ½ is because of the film’s historical value as JD’s first):
2 ½ * of 5

Macdepp

                      Romeo played by Johnny Depp. Now that I would have liked to see. He has, to be sure, scrupulously avoided playing the gorgeous romantic leads that his looks would have made possible, but in his lost vulnerable Gilbert Grape and Sam (of Benny and Joon) days he would have put more depth, or at least idiosyncrasy,  into Romeo than most of the callow young fellows (DiCaprio being the admirable exception) I’ve seen.  According to Steven Daly in Johnny Depp – A Retrospective Marlon Brando told Depp to do Romeo before it was too late. Sadly he didn’t heed Brando’s advice and it is too late. 
                      For Romeo. But not for Shakespeare. For whatever reason Johnny Depp has avoided Shakespeare for all these years – and seriously, why has he ?!?!? -  isn’t it high time that he changed that? He’s excelled as so many weird characters that taking on Shakespeare would hardly tax his talents.
                      I’ve long harbored a hope that he would do Macbeth. Add a little more anguish and uncertainty to his John Dillinger in his Public Enemies and we’d have an awesome Macbeth. Unfortunately, I recently saw in the newspaper that a new Macbeth is being filmed with Michael Fassbender so Macdepp is probably not going to happen.
                      But just think of Jack Straw as Puck or Feste or even Lear’s fool. Think of Lear! Johnny is still too young but with make-up, a gray wig or another ten years (Lear isn’t necessarily all that old) and his acting skills would give us an excellent crazed, cruel and sad old man.
Crazed and cruel. His Sweeny Todd would only have to add a touch of military arrogance to become Titus.  Even the pies are all ready.
Depp’s decadent cynical Libertine combined with his unhappy but noble Mad Hatter in 15th century costume and there we would have Henry IV – regal but regretful of having usurped the throne of Richard II, haunted by his crime and dying of some dread disease.
Imagine the kindly gentle J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland as the generous and bountiful Timon of Athens and then…I can’t actually think of a comparable Depp role for the Timon transformed into the hateful misanthropic hermit he became after being betrayed by his friends but that’s what makes it so challenging. There’s still room for development in the Depp depths.
Caliban. Richard III. Claudius…
This weekend Hal and I are going to start a Depp marathon. One film a week. It will take about a year. By that time I hope to have been reached by the announcement:

DEPP DOES SHAKESPEARE IN NEW FILM – FINALLY!


P.S. A word about the marathon.  It will be in roughly chronological order but it won’t include absolutely everything JD has done.  No Jump Street for example because this is a movie blog, not a TV blog.  I’m omitting his second film Private Resort because it just sounds so bad (horny teenage boys chase bikini clad girls. JD himself is reported to be embarrassed about it as well he should be). I don’t have Freddy’s Dead - the Final Nightmare because JD only has a cameo role and the film sounds pretty stupid.  I don’t have L’Inconnu but I’m hoping to get it before that point in the marathon (2004). I’m going to include a couple of documentaries, Lost in La Mancha and When You’re Strange but I don’t have everything.  JD’s presence will raise the ratings of the mediocre films but I’ll try to rate all the films as films and restrain from raving just because he’s in them. They are, as we all know, a mixed bag!