Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Gate of Hell (地獄門 (Jigokumon)

(Japan, 1953)

Hey, look, I was able to copy and paste Japanese ideograms! This was the 7th film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. Wiki informs me that it is a Jidaigeki film, which means “period drama.” These are most often set in the Edo period, 1603 to 1858. Quite a long period! This one, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, happens quite a bit earlier, in 1159. ... Read more »

Secret Honor


Here is the prologue: “This work is a fictional meditation concerning the character of and events in the history of Richard M. Nixon, who is impersonated in this film. The dramatist’s imagination has created some fictional events in an effort to illuminate the character of President Nixon. This film is not a work of history—or a historical recreation. It is a work of fiction, using ... Read more »

Tanner on Tanner


It is now sixteen years later. Tanner lost the nomination (it inexplicably went to the totally colorless Michael Dukakis, the worst Democratic decision until 2016), and his daughter is trying to make a documentary about her father’s run for the White House. She is pretty much a disaster at all aspects of filmmaking. Her rough cut is shown at a film festival and falls totally flat. She is ... Read more »

Tanner ’88


This was a six-hour HBO mini-series, a one-hour pilot and then ten half-hour episodes. The idea was to follow a fictional presidential campaign at the same time the real campaigns were going on, and it works quite well. It was scripted by Garry Trudeau (did you know that Doonesbury is still running in newspapers? Or … somewhere, anyway, because who can find a ... Read more »

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial


Every once in a while one gets a pleasant surprise. I never would have dreamed that Herman Wouk is still alive, but he is. As of today, 11/5/17, he is 102 and almost six months. And he published a book last year: Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author. Long may he write!

His novel The Caine Mutiny was a ... Read more »

The Outrage


As I said in my review of Rashomon, this is a much-maligned remake of that Japanese masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa. And it’s really not all that bad. Paul Newman plays the outlaw, here a Mexican bandito with maybe a little too much of an accent. Claire Bloom and Lawrence Harvey are the woman and her murdered (or was he?) husband. The three gathered at the Rashomon ... Read more »


(Japan, 1951)

Rashomon (1951) (Japan) In 1964 I went to the only theater in Port Arthur, Texas, that occasionally showed movies that didn’t star John Wayne or Doris Day. That’s where I saw and a few other foreign films. This one wasn’t foreign, but it was not quite like anything I had ever seen. It was called The Outrage, and it starred Paul ... Read more »

The Gift


The problem with reviewing some thrillers is that you can’t say much about them without revealing things that would be better left as surprises. This is one of those. It leads you down a certain path, never cheating at all, and then turns your head around. The plot, briefly, concerns a thirty-something couple who move from Chicago into a to-die-for house in the Hollywood Hills. Couple ... Read more »

Monsieur Vincent

(France, 1947)

The second Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film went to this little gem of a biopic. The Vincent in the title is Vincent De Paul, who became a saint in 1737, seventy-seven years after his death in 1660. I’m not much of a fan of the Catholic Church (please don’t accuse me of prejudice against Catholics; it’s the Church I don’t like, not the parishioners), but sometimes they hit the ... Read more »

O.C. and Stiggs


Even the most devoted fans of Robert Altman (and Lee and I count ourselves in that number) admit that this was a mis-fire at best, a total disaster at worst. Hell, even Altman himself admitted that it didn’t work, though he was careful not to blame the actors for the failure. It’s pretty clear that he never should have signed on to this turkey. It’s based on an extended story that appeared ... Read more »