erik lundegaard

Movies posts

Tuesday August 26, 2014

Siskel, Ebert, and Top 10 Woodys

Woody Allen in Love and Death

Woody Allen, with one of the title characters, in “Love and Death.” Gene Siskel recognized the genius before others.

At the end of the 1970s, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert did a “Sneak Previews” episode arguing over who was the funnier filmmaker: Woody Allen or Mel Brooks. Siskel went Allen, Ebert went Brooks. I remember back then talking about it with my dad, the film critic for The Minneapolis Tribune. How could anyone choose Mel Brooks over Woody Allen? Sure he was funny, but ... Brooks has made only five movies in the ’70s, almost all parodies of film genres, and the last two, “Silent Movie” and “High Anxiety,” were hardly winners. Allen made a movie a year. He’d won two Academy Awards. His movie, “Annie Hall,” had won the Oscar for best picture. He kept growing. Plus I thought he was just funnier. Mel over Woody? Was Roger nuts?

“They probably flipped a coin,” my father said, agreeing, “and Ebert lost.”

Looking over Siskel and Ebert’s annual top 10 lists recently, I see now that Siskel was in fact a bigger Allen fan than Ebert. “Annie Hall” was Siskel’s No. 1 movie of 1977. (No. 8 for Ebert.) “Manhattan” was No. 5 for Siskel in ’79. (It didn’t make Ebert’s list.) Siskel included “Annie Hall” among his best films of the decade and Ebert didn’t. Siskel included “The Purple Rose of Cairo” among his best films of 1985 and Ebert didn’t.

From 1975 to 1989, Woody Allen wrote and directed 14 movies, and half of them, seven, made Siskel’s annual top 10 list. My favorite inclusion is probably “Love and Death” as the third-best movie of 1975—ahead of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Barry Lyndon” and “Jaws." That’s still when Woody was doing broad comedy, too. But Gene always liked broad comedy.

Roger included five Allen movies during this period: Three at the end of the ‘80s—“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Radio Days” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors”—and two from the ‘70s: “Annie Hall” and “Interiors.” Ebert would go on to include one more Allen movie on his top 10 list, “Everyone Says I Love You” from 1996, but Siskel’s list is almost the canon, isn’t it?

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way. Might do more with other directors soon. 

Siskel's Top 10 Woodys Ebert's Top 10 Woodys
Love and Death, 1975 (#3) Annie Hall, 1977 (#8)
Annie Hall, 1977 (#1) Interiors, 1978 (#6)
Manhattan, 1979 (#5) Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#3)
The Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985 (#10) Radio Days, 1987 (#7)
Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#1) Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#8)
Radio Days, 1987 (#7) Everyone Says I Love You, 1996 (#8)
Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#7)  

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way.

Posted at 06:04 AM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Movies
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Tuesday August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall: 1924-2014

I wrote the following for a piece on onscreen chemistry for MSNBC. I began talking about comic opposites and then landed here:

The genre where on-screen chemistry doesn’t require opposites is drama. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, despite obvious differences (and viva those), sizzled in “To Have and Have Not,” in part, because her character, Slim, was as cool as Bogart, which is saying a lot. She plays a pickpocket who uses her sexual allure to separate men from their money. At one point she lands in his lap and kisses him, where we get this exchange before the more-famous exchange about whistling:

Bogart (smiling): What'd you do that for?
Bacall: Been wondering whether I'd like it.
Bogart: What's the decision?
Bacall: I don't know yet.
(She kisses him again; he kisses back; she stands up and smiles.)
Bacall: It's even better when you help.

This may be the coolest woman ever to appear in movies ...

Haven't changed my mind on that. Here's the New York Times obit. Nathaniel Rogers counts down her 10 essential roles

Lauren Bacall

“It's even better when you help.”

Posted at 05:03 PM on Aug 12, 2014 in category Movies
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'Fly, Be Free'

This was from the pilot episode of “Mork & Mindy,” which my brother and I watched in September 1978. We laughed so hard at this. 

Here are his biggest box office hits, adjusted for inflation:

  Movie Studio Adjusted gross Unadjusted gross Year
1 Mrs. Doubtfire Fox $429,377,700 $219,195,243 1993
2 Aladdin BV $427,405,100 $217,350,219 1992
3 Night at the Museum Fox $301,889,000 $250,863,268 2006
4 Good Morning, Vietnam BV $245,778,800 $123,922,370 1987
5 Happy Feet WB $244,595,300 $198,000,317 2006
6 Good Will Hunting Mira. $240,561,300 $138,433,435 1997
7 Hook TriS $233,806,600 $119,654,823 1991
8 The Birdcage MGM $228,754,200 $124,060,553 1996
9 Patch Adams Uni. $222,823,900 $135,026,902 1998
10 Dead Poets Society BV $196,790,900 $95,860,116 1989

Not a bad group. Even “Popeye,” his first film, directed by Robert Altman, which in my memory got confused reviews, confused box office, but became a cult hit among my slyer friends, even that movie grossed $150 million, adjusted.

Some remembrances:

Fly. Be free.

Posted at 05:36 AM on Aug 12, 2014 in category Movies
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Sunday June 01, 2014

More Breitbart Lies

This one is about George Clooney. They seem to hate the guy. Or find him threatening. 

Apparently The Mirror in England has an article, which Breitbart doesn't bother to link to (bad form), with the following headline:

George Clooney planning to move into POLITICS after marriage to Amal Alamuddin

I don't know how true that is, but that's not the lie I'm talking about. The lie is how John Nolte of Breitbart begins his article:

With his movie career fading into commercial and critical mediocrity and a wedding in sight, 53 year-old left-wing Democrat George Clooney is apparently ready to try politics. 

Movie career fading? Commercial and critical mediocrity?

George Clooney's most recent movie was 2014's “The Monuments Men,” not good, but it still grossed $78 million, which isn't bad. His movie before that was 2013's “Gravity,” which grossed $274 million domestically and $716 million worldwide, and was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning seven. His movie before that debaccle? “The Descendants,” which grossed $82 million domestically, $177 worldwide, and was nominated for five Oscars, including best actor for Clooney. And so on. 

Try joining us in the reality-based community, Breitbart.

George Clooney in The Descendants

Breitbart? You are about a hundred miles from smart.

Posted at 08:15 AM on Jun 01, 2014 in category Movies
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Friday May 23, 2014

The Best Thing I've Seen So Far at SIFF

Before the screening of “Leninland” at SIFF Uptown today they showed a short film. I had no idea they were going to do this, so for the first part of the short I assumed we were watching “Leninland,” about a museum dedicated to Vladimir Lenin in Gorky, Russia, which opened in 1987. More on that later.

This obviously wasn’t that. The camera focused on an older couple in a car. Klára (Judit Pogány) is overweight and in the passenger seat. Her first words warn about the speed limit. At one point she tells her husband, Vilmos (Zsolt Kovács) to turn left, then adds, “Be careful—cars are coming from the opposition direction,” as if he’s never turned left before. She doesn’t do this nastily. She just does it. And she keeps doing it.

Vilmos is a bit intense behind the wheel. At times he gets angry. Early on, he says he’s going to record her one day so she can hear what she sounds like, and eventually he does this. He takes out the small recorder and places it triumphantly on the dashboard. She’s taken aback, stares at the thing, then sits in uncomfortable silence for 15, maybe 30 seconds, chomping at the bit. Finally she just starts talking again in the usual manner: watch out for this, the speed limit is that, what’s this road called again? He gives a small cry. It could be a cry of triumph or frustration. Maybe some combination.

I don’t want to give it away, but if you have a chance to see this Hungarian short, called “Újratervezés” (“My Guide”), do. It’s subtle, sweet, funny, poignant.

You can find a trailer for it here. Written and directed by Barnabás Tóth, of Strausborg, who has apparently only made shorts and TV episodes.

Other SIFF 2014 reports:

Ujratervezes

Posted at 02:27 PM on May 23, 2014 in category Movies
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