Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Hot Rock

(1972)

Donald E. Westlake wrote fourteen novels featuring John Dortmunder and his gang of hard-luck thieves, and I adore all of them. A new Dortmunder was a cause of celebration, rejoining the familiar characters and settings, such as the back room of the O.J. Bar and Grill, where horrible Amsterdam Liquor Store Bourbon, “Our Own Brand!” is served, where the capers are planned, where the regulars ... Read more »

Grand Hotel

(1932)

MGM boasted “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven,” and they brought out many of their big guns for this one. You get Greta Garbo (saying her famous line “I vant to be alone!” three times), Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, and two Barrymores, John and Lionel, for the price of one. It has several intertwining stories, setting the example for later all-star stories. It ... Read more »

Knives Out

(2019)

If you enjoy and old-fashioned cozy-type whodunit about the upper classes (as I do, from time to time) you can’t do better than this. Nasty and grasping people brought together in a spooky old mansion to find out the contents of the rich, grumpy, cynical old patriarch’s will … sure, it’s a cliché, but if done right, it’s a hoot. How much more Agatha Christie can you get? This isn’t the ... Read more »

The Big Chill

(1983)

When this came out, there were some who complained about its resemblance to a John Sayles movie with a much lower budget and no big-name stars, Return of the Secaucus 7, which also deals with a reunion of former semi-radical students. It’s a good film, but this one is better. In the case of The Big Chill, the occasion for the gathering ... Read more »

In the Bedroom

(2001)

I have to issue a small complaint concerning the title. In the first few minutes it is explained that a lobster entering a trap goes “into the bedroom.” Possibly this applies to what comes after in some metaphorical way, but it went over my head. The story is of a couple (Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson) whose college-bound son falls in love with Marisa Tomei, an older woman who is trying ... Read more »

Witness for the Prosecution

(1957)

Charles Laughton was one of the best actors ever to appear in motion pictures. (He made a few stinkers, like everyone does, such as Hitchcock’s worst film, Jamaica Inn.) Here he is at the height of his powers, in a tour de force as a curmudgeonly barrister defending a man accused of murdering a rich old widow. Tyrone Power is strong as the accused, even though ... Read more »

Who the Fuck is Jackson Pollock?

(2006)

Okay, the title they put on the box finessed the vulgarity with #$%#, which I think of as the Beetle Baileying of language. Remember the Sarge, when he was cussing out Beetle, always used those symbols? Who are we kidding, folks? “Fuck” is as deeply embedded in the language now as the verb “to be,” and almost as commonly used, and bleeping it only draws attention to it. It’s high fucking ... Read more »

Judy

(USA, UK, 2019)

Strangely enough, I have only seen one of the other Oscar-nominated performances for this year: Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story. It’s possible that Cynthia Erivo, Saoirse Ronan, or Charlize Theron were better than Renée Zellweger … but I strongly doubt it. This is one of those uncanny performances where the actress channels the part so strongly that she ... Read more »

Ford v Ferrari

(2019)

Also known as Le Mans ‘66 in Europe. Presumably they might not enjoy seeing Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, the legendary Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), and the legendary but lesser known Ken Miles (Christian Bale) hand the super-legendary Enzo Ferrari his ass.

The insanity of Le Mans is a 24-hour endurance race run at speeds well over 225 mph. The cars are ... Read more »

Marriage Story

(USA, UK, 2019)

One of those films that actors love to make, but I’m afraid don’t appeal all that much to me. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver act up a storm, but after all it’s the story of a divorce, and there is nothing much for me to like here. I saw it just a few months ago when it appeared on Netflix, and I can remember very little about it. I guess there’s not much more to say. If this is your ... Read more »