Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Nineties Nu-Soul Queens ...

For the weekend: a look back at those new '90s music divas  with their funky grooves that got us going then - line them up:
Des'Ree, Macy Gray (we wore out her first album), Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Adeva (I met her up close at Crash club on millennium night and she really is that fierce), Ultra Nate, Rosie Gaines, Donna Allen and Joyce Sims (love that "All'N'All" megamix), and Regina Belle ("You got the love") from the late 80s ....  they still sound terrific now. 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Gina - 90 !

We quite like Gina Lollobrigida here and she turned 90 yesterday! (Sophia is a mere 82, Jeanne Moreau almost 90 as well ...). We grew up on Gina movies like HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (she was a dazzling Esmerelda for us young kids), SOLOMON AND SHEBA, COME SEPTEMBER, WOMAN OF STRAW, NEVER SO FEW, TRAPEZE, etc. and she did some interesting choices in the 60s and 70s too (like Skolimowski's KING QUEEN KNAVE in '72), as she got more interested in sculpting and photography. 
We like this photo with her and Marilyn Monroe - presumably taken on the set of THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH in 1955. Gina goes on and on, as per other posts on her. 

Khartoum. again.

KHARTOUM, 1966. I had forgotten how good KHARTOUM is, directed by stalwart Basil Dearden, and 2nd Unit (presumably those battle scenes) by veteran Yakima Canutt (the chariot race in BEN-HUR etc). It has two towering performances - Charlton Heston, steadfast as usual, as General Gordon, in his element unpeeling the layers of Gordon's complex character,  and a mesmerising turn (in a handful of scenes, but dominating the film) by Laurence Olivier as The Madhi - 
he is almost unrecognisable, blacked up here. This was Olivier's great late period, running the National Theatre, films like TERM OF TRIAL and BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (where he is almost ordinary) He was also playing OTHELLO to great acclaim at the time, also blacked up as the Moor, (it was also filmed, with Maggie Smith), after those iconic performances in RICHARD III, THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, THE ENTERTAINER and SPARTACUS.
His Madhi is a stunning creation.  The film is quite topical now, showing as it does the confrontation between Western imperialism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism - this time in the Sudan of the 19th century. Fascinating for those interested in its history and that of Egypt.
Add in Ralph Richardson on prime form as Gladstone, and familiar faces like Richard Johnson, Marne Maitland, Peter Arne, Nigel Green, Michael Hordern, Alexander Knox, Douglas Wilmer, Johnny Sekka. The story of how General Gordon (a fanatic to some) manages to hold Khartoum as the Madhi's forces attack is well told here and its totally engrossing as the beseiged city holds off the Madhi's forces., also effective is that opening sequence as the British army is led deeper and deeper into the remote Sudan as the Madhi's forces wait to attack ...
I didn't want to see it back in 1966 (when I was 20 and there were more trendy movies around), but seeing it now its marvellously done, with Heston back at what he does best, after his tepid performance in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY the year before, where Rex Harrison had the showier role as Pope Julius (as per recent review of that). Dearden too was branching out into international films after those British classics like POOL OF LONDON, THE BLUE LAMP, SAPPHIRE, VICTIM ....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Nocturnal Animals, 2016

Another polarishing experience  - a movie one will either love or hate, as per 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (see below). Tom Ford's NOCTURNAL ANIMALS was one of the big hitters of the last award season, but I had put off seeing it for a while.  I somehow felt it was not for me. His previous film, A SINGLE MAN, in 2010, was equally polarising, glamorising Christopher Isherwood's downbeat modern classic of crumpled middle-aged folk - hard to believe Colin Firth or Julianne Moore here, and the plot had major changes too - as per my review at the time (see A SINGLE MAN/ Ford labels) - there being no gun or suicide intent in Isherwood's original, and the whole thing being far too glamorous and high fashion for its 1962 setting. But enough of that ...

Image result for nocturnal animalsNOCTURNAL ANIMALS may be among the darkest films I have seen - meaning that lots of it take place in the dark and one can barely see what is happening ...

A "story inside a story," in which the first part follows a woman named Susan who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband, a man whom she left 20 years earlier, asking for her opinion. The second element follows the actual manuscript, called "Nocturnal Animals," which revolves around a man whose family vacation turns violent and deadly. It also continues to follow the story of Susan, who finds herself recalling her first marriage and confronting some dark truths about herself.


Two stories dovetail here: one in which art gallery curator Amy Adams, who seems to lead a glacial existence in her art gallery and perfect home, receives a manuscript from her estranged husband Jake Gyllenhaal and then we see the story within the script as she reads it ... as it follows a man who suffers tragedy out in the Texan wilderness, as his family is abducted, and his mission to seek vengeance on the scuzzy lowlifes, with the aid of a local lawman Michael Shannon. It goes from noir to thriller but remains a disjointed melodrama. Adams and Gyllenhaal shine and we gone a scene each from Laura Linney and Michael Sheen. But what does it all add up to? Right: Tom Ford's 2006 VANITY FAIR Hollywood issue.  

'Gross Indecency' at the BFI ...

July 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark in LGBT rights - the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales (not Scotland?). Though the Sexual Offences Act 1967 hardly put a stop to persecution, it was a step forward in a climate of fear and ignorance, where any on-screen depiction of gay life assumed enormous currency. British cinema boasts a long history of carefully coded queers, but taboo-busting gathered steam in the late 1950s. This BFI (British Film Institute) season spans two decades, bracketed by the 1957 Wolfenden Report and the onset of AIDS in the early 80s. 
So says the introduction to the two-month BFI season, but as a young gay at the time - 18 in 1964 and new in London - there didn't seem to be any restrictions on our lives. There were a few bars and clubs one could go to, but the gay boom of the 1980s and 90s was a long way away. I remember those pioneering BBC "Man Alive" documentaries, and VICTIM (getting an extended run at the BFI) was an early success.
Image result for bfi gross indecencyThe season highlights several rare items I have reviewed over the past few years (gay interest/British labels) like SERIOUS CHARGE, THE LEATHER BOYS, THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, TWO GENTLEMEN SHARING, and they have dug up those two rather exploitative items THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE and the terrible STAIRCASE, as well as GIRL STROKE BOY and the transgender drama I WANT WHAT I WANT, as well as NIGHTHAWKS, and an extended run for PRICK UP YOUR EARS. There is also a rare 1960 TV production on the trial of Oscar Wilde with Micheal MacLiammoir's celebrated portrayal of Oscar (below) - but not the two Oscar Wilde films of that era. Or indeed the 1970 DORIAN GRAY or GOODBYE GEMINI with their looks at early London drag pubs like the Vauxhall Tavern - or those 60s British films DARLING and THE PLEASURE GIRLS with their uncomplicated happy homosexual friends of the heroines. Murray Head does a Q&A after a screening of SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY - one still remembers the audience gasp at kiss, when seeing the film a second time, at a suburban cinema ...
Television is also currently getting in on the act, with a raft of programmes on Channel 4 and maybe on BBC, as well as on MTV where sassy drag queens with attitude, led by Rupaul,  are playing appropriate pop videos, from the likes of Madonna, Kylie & Co. Rupert Everett did a nice programme last night 50 SHADES OF GAY, so it was back to Heaven, The Colherne and other gay London locations of the last 50 years; Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and others explored BRITAIN'S GREAT GAY BUILDINGS (more Heaven, The Vauxhall Tavern, Old Bailey, etc), and POP PRIDE & PREJUDICE covered the gay pop scene, with lots of Bowie, Boy George, George Michael, Jimmy Sommerville, Marc Almond, etc. 

BBC's Radio3 are even doing a 90 minute programme on the making of VICTIM, with actors playing Dirk and his partner, director Dearden, co-star Sylvia Syms etc. Presumably based on Dirk's version of its making, as in his "Snakes and Ladders" book. I don't think I need listen to that. Sylvia is still here of course, but presmably too old to play her younger self ...

Coming up is a new dramatisation of that inflential 1954 court case involving Peter Wildeblood and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with Mark Gatiss, AGAINST THE LAW, which BBC2 will screen this autumn - I also reviewed the previous 2007 one in 2013. A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL:

London Pride is this Saturday 8th, so the city will be thronged as will Brighton for Pride in August, with the Pet Shop Boys doing a full concert.  

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Genevieve

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of another of our great favourites - French/Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold .... the 70s was really her decade, we love her in De Palma's OBSESSION (see review, and a previous longer appreciation on her, at Bujold label) and Crichton's tense medical thriller COMA, and she is the best thing in the hilariously awful EARTHQUAKE. and we also love her in Lelouch's 1978 ANOTHER MAN, ANOTHER CHANCE, as per recent re-view. I never really liked ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS though. She later made interesting films like CHOOSE ME and still works now mainly in independent cinema. Viva Genevieve. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

20th Century Women

I had been looking forward to this - movie buff Martin had it as his "personal favourite" film of 2016 - and we all like Annette Bening. But I found I did not go overboard for this at all, finding it tedious, plotless, pointless, like the worst of indie cinema, so why bother reviewing it?

The story of a teenage boy, his mother, and two other women who help raise him among the love and freedom of Southern California of 1979.

Well, Annette Bening is marvellous as the perfect Mom, worrying about her 15 year old son - rather a blank here as played by Lucas Jade Zumann.  Elle Fanning is as dull and blank as she was in THE NEON DEMON and Greta Gerwig can't make much of her punk photographer, while Billy Crudup completes the lineup as the other lodger.
Set in Santa Barbara in 1979 it captures American suburbia nicely, with the hippie-ish folk. We watch in amazement as Bening lights up one cigarette after another (there is a price to be paid for that...), and has some rather nice moments when alone with her cat, and there is that nice climax as she flies over the ocean. But really, if I had been watching this in the cinema I would have walked by the half way point, and so it seems would a lot of the writers of the comments on IMDB, so its a rather polarising film which one will either love completely or feel mainly indifferent to. I felt the same about BOYHOOD the other year, another mainly plotless, aimless movie covering the same territory. 
Bening of course has been marvellous in so many things, from THE GRIFTERS to AMERICAN BEAUTY to THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT and here, 
Funnily enough I liked Mike Mills' previous film more: BEGINNERS from 2010, where Ewan McGregor is the son of aged Christopher Plummer who comes out as gay in his old age. That moved along nicely and had a plot one could relate to. His new film is semi-autobiographical, based on memories of his own mother and influences on his childhood. It all just seemed far too long and repetitive, but I better say no more about it in case others love it to death.