Last week I was a little bit under the weather. Unlike most people I watch less movies when I’m not feeling so well. I also started watching Shoah, the nine-hour documentary on the holocaust, that’s why I’ll only discuss four movies this week.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.7) – Adventure, Western (Italy)
After catching up with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, I wanted to watch ‘West’ and I noticed that I had already seen bits and pieces on TV. I really enjoyed this film, probably more than ‘America’, because it’s shorter and it has Claudia Cardinale, who is one of the most beautiful woman you’ll ever see on screen. The film is about a man who gets killed, but we don’t know why at first. Her wife, Claudia Cardinale’s character, was just returning home only to find everyone dead. She decides to return to New Orleans, but the local mobsters have some unfinished business. Also, there’s a wise-guy with an harmonica and some serious gunplay skills. Besides the eye candy, I loved Ennio Morricone’s score (once more) and the recreation of the old wild west. The actors do a fine job, but I wish the ending wasn’t so bittersweet for some reason, though I’m sure I would hate a “happy ending”.
L’Age D’Or (1930) – 6 (IMDb 7.5) – Comedy, Drama, Criterion (France)
When I watched Luis Buñuel’s L’age d’or my head was kind of exploding. Not because of the surreal imagery or the rats, but because I was medicated and down with the flu, so I don’t know if my judgment of this film is entirely fair. I liked it, but I felt that we’ve seen a lot better from this particular director especially further in his career. The film is a series of vignettes, following a bourgeois romance and exploring themes that Buñuel would return to in every picture ever since: Family, church and society. This film clearly influenced great directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Woody Allen and Lars von Trier and many more I’m sure. To me Salvador Dalí’s vaguely linked storytelling felt more absurdist than surreal, even in terms of humor. It’s not a bad film, I can certainly recognize it’s technical merits, but it’s not one of those I’ll feel like revisiting anytime soon.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Mein Liebster Feind – Klaus Kinski (1999) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Documentary (Germany)
Easily the best film I’ve seen all week. This is a documentary directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great german auteur as he discusses his professional and private relationship with Klaus Kinski. Herzog shot five feature films with Kinski and even lived with him before he was famous. In the film Herzog recounts his tumultuous love-hate-relationship with the actor that seemed to be a crazy egomaniac with some serious rage issues. In some scenes he just seemed possessed. I’m not exaggerating. Herzog also interviews a couple people that worked with Kinski, such as Claudia Cardinale who co-starred in Fitzcarraldo. To his leading ladies he seems to have been a real gentlemen, but to everyone else he was just impossible. He always needed to be the center of attention and as soon as he wasn’t he lost it. He certainly was a great actor, that’s why Herzog put up with all his shit, but sometimes they just wanted to kill him. Literally, or so they say.
This is the End (2013) – 5 (IMDb 7.4) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
This is the worst I’ve seen last week. The film about the apocalypse and how a bunch of actors would react to it. The interesting gimmick is that everyone plays a version of themselves, of course most of it is characters archetypes and has little to do with the actual persons or so I should hope. The film mostly plays on the persona of actors such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel Michael Cera and Emma Watson which are some of my favorite or likable current Hollywood actors. I loved watching them in the film, they were funny (especially Cera and Franco who’s just so damn likable), but the script was just to convoluted and sometimes overly cliché to be even appreciated on a so-bad-it’s-good level. It felt like Your Highness all over again. The “religious” or fantasy aspect was bad, even if to some degree it made me think, their idea of God is not something I’d agree with. Beyond that some jokes fall flat or are badly timed, the film’s pace is off multiple times and the CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. All in all a forgettable film, with a few good and genuinely funny self-referential moments.
That was my week in movies. If you want to share what you watched last week feel free to do so. If you have seen the films I mentioned: What did you think of them? Would you agree or disagree with me? Either way: See you next week!
With This is the End coming out in theaters, many might think actors playing themselves is somewhat revolutionary or “genius”. While I can’t think of an entire film based on that premise alone, there certainly have been a lot of actors playing themselves in movies over the years. And I’m not talking about like Woody Allen playing a version of himself in every one of his starring roles or instructing his actors to play a surrogate of his persona: I mean actors playing themselves, like literally.
1. Cecil B. DeMille in Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Not an actor, but a director; still what a memorable cameo in what’s quite possibly the greatest Hollywood film of all time. A great scene in a classic film about film and the film industry. Definitely one of my all time favorites, highly recommended for Billy Wilder’s fantastic script and direction.
2. Marcello Mastroianni et al. in Fellini’s Intervista (1987)
One of Federico Fellini’s most self-indulgent movies no doubt, but it’s still a lot of fun to see him re-team with Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and others. To see these aging icons however made a weird impression, but overall Intervista works as a self-referential comedy imbued by the master’s trademark humor.
3. John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (1999)
Great movie. John Malkovich playing himself is hilarious and creepy at the same time. Or maybe it’s the other character’s obsession with him that give off these weird vibes of creepiness. Regardless, director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman knock it out of the park with this one.
4. Alfred Molina et al. in Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)
Most if not all of the eleven shorts in this Jim Jarmusch film feature celebrities playing versions of themselves. My favorite has to be Cousins? with Alfred Molina discovering that he’s related to Steve Coogan, who couldn’t care less. Very funny.
5. Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
His cameo in the films is a repeated joke in all the Harold & Kumar films. Neil Patrick Harris, as a comedic actor, is highly overrated, but his ‘shtick’ is fairly appropriate in the context of these already ‘schlocky’ films.