The Evolution of Eastwood: BRONCO BILLY

BRONCO BILLY (1980)

I’ve got a special message for you little pardners out there. I want you to finish your oatmeal at breakfast and do as your mom and pa tell you because they know best. Don’t ever tell a lie and say your prayers at night before you go to bed. And as our friends south of the border say, ‘Adios, amigos.’” – Bronco Billy McCoy

Eastwood’s filmography had begun to take a surprising turn towards lighter and more optimistic material. His gritty revisionist westerns and ultra-violent cop thrillers had yielded to the comically whimsical Every Which Way but Loose and the understated suspense of Escape from Alcatraz. While these films are by no means family-oriented, they’re unquestionably lighter than Eastwood’s typical fare.

But then he directed Bronco Billy – a modern day fable steeped in idealism and sentiment thicker than frozen maple syrup. The script was written by the team of Dennis Hackin and Neal Dobrofsky (with only Hackin receiving eventual film credit) and Eastwood was immediately drawn to the material.

Bronco Billy chronicles the struggling days of a traveling Wild West Show, featuring an assortment of ex-convicts and deadbeats who pose as cowboys and Indians to entertain local communities. Led by “Bronco” Billy McCoy (Eastwood) the troupe frequently scrape by on little to no money, driven by their familial comradery and the joy that they bring to children or the less fortunate who enjoy their show. Billy can be ornery and stubborn, but he has an open heart and a loyal spirit. When the troupe encounters the feisty Antoinette Lily (Sondra Locke) – a woman who had been abandoned and left penniless by her new husband (Geoffrey Lewis) – she is initially skeptical of their benevolence and idealism, but eventually comes to genuinely admire Billy and his team. However, her disappearance has left her husband a suspected murderer and an inheritance in question. While the troupe debates about whether her presence is bad or good luck, Billy is determined to keep his Wild West Show alive and smiling for as long as humanly possible.

It is immediately evident, even without any meta-knowledge of the production, that this became a very personal work for Eastwood. He strikes a tone with Bronco Billy that we’ve yet to see from him. Even the tenderness he displayed in Breezy was offset by a heavy and mature narrative. But with Bronco Billy, Eastwood forays into outright sentiment, and delivers a surprisingly charming and good-natured film (something which does feel truly rare in his catalogue). The wackiness of Every Which Way but Loose may have set the stage for the lighter material, but that film carried a sarcastic bite with its fun. Bronco Billy, by contrast, isn’t remotely cynical. Both in the character of Billy McCoy and in the good-natured dynamic of his acting troupe, the film dares to explore something truly anomalous in Eastwood’s filmography thus far: that not only does your past not have to define you, but you can actively be whoever you set out to be.

Eastwood’s films are often mired in consequence and detriment, burdened by the weight of moral ambiguity and a painfully haunted landscape (whether the bullet-riddled west or the streets of San Francisco). But Bronco Billy never pulls the rug out from under its optimism. There are complications along the way – sometimes dire ones – but there is a firm undercurrent of hope that feels genuinely refreshing for someone like Eastwood to express. Billy’s troupe of characters are all losers according to common standards, but Billy has given them a place and a chance to move beyond those distinctions. True, he isn’t perfect (just check out the tongue-lashing he gives to his whole gang when they dare to ask about payment after six months), but he’s genuine, and that’s the real irony and charm of his character. Billy McCoy is an ex-con and a louse, but by pretending to be “Bronco Billy” his more authentic self emerges and produces something impressive and joyful (even when the bits they perform go comically wrong).

Eastwood surrounded himself with dependable performers who could authenticate the material: Geoffrey Lewis who had previously co-starred in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and – more recently – Every Which Way but Loose; the charismatic and boisterous character actor, Scatman Crothers; and in her fourth collaboration with real-life partner Eastwood – Sondra Locke. All of them deliver earnest and entertaining performances, making Bronco Billy a disarmingly enjoyable – if somewhat slower paced – piece. Eastwood himself delivers a surprisingly sensitive performance, juggling comic timing and tenderness in equal measure to his trademark tough squint.

Bronco Billy wasn’t a huge success at the box office (although it was profitable), but was praised among most critics. Eastwood often spoke of that film in personal and affectionate terms. He is quoted as saying, “It was an old-fashioned theme, probably too old fashioned since the film didn’t do as well as we hoped. But if, as a film director, I ever wanted to say something, you’ll find it in Bronco Billy.” Speaking for myself, I found the film to be a refreshingly heartfelt piece of work. Not only was it not diluted by its overt sentiment, that sentiment made it all the more endearing and worth seeking out.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE

EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (1978)

“I’m not afraid of any man, but when it comes to sharing my feelings with a woman, my stomach turns to royal gelatin.” – Philo Beddoe

Every Which Way but Loose is often cited as one of the oddest entries in Eastwood’s catalogue. It’s also the highest-grossing hit of his career, even when adjusted for inflation. The film reunites Eastwood with his former costars Geoffrey Lewis (from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) and Sondra Locke (who was quickly becoming a staple of Eastwood’s material). It also pairs him up with Academy Award Winner Ruth Gordon and an infectiously entertaining orangutan named “Clyde”. Clyde is most definitely a scene-stealer (although rumors of mistreatment by his trainer sour the fun of the film more than a little bit).

The story involves a blue-collar trucker named Philo Beddoe (Eastwood) who makes extra money on the side bare-knuckle brawling in underground fighting rings. He’s frequently compared to the legend of that arena, Tank Murdock, who he dreams of someday getting the chance to defeat. After Beddoe meets the lovely and mysterious country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Locke), he sets aside nearly all priorities to pursue her and woo her. The somewhat zany antics that he and his buddy Orville (Lewis), not to mention the ever-present Clyde, encounter along the way make up the bulk of the narrative of the film (and nearly all of the fun). Both the romance and the fighting plotlines take some surprising turns adding up to a genuinely entertaining (if still vitally flawed) film.

Every Which Way but Loose is constantly referred to as a “change of pace” or “uncharacteristic” for Eastwood. But I found that designation puzzling after viewing his first 20+ films. True, it isn’t as dark or violent as the Dirty Harry films or any of Eastwood’s westerns, and it doesn’t feature ambitious action sequences like The Eiger Sanction or The Gauntlet. But apart from the overtly comedic elements (of which there are a multitude), this feels almost like textbook Eastwood material. Eastwood is once again playing a no-nonsense tough guy, who frequently scores with the ladies and embodies an almost western-style machismo.

The comedy is certainly uncharacteristic for Eastwood (the closest he’d come to it before was the disastrous Paint Your Wagon), but Eastwood spends most of the narrative as the straight man, allowing the eccentric Ruth Gordon, Clyde, and Geoffrey Lewis to handle most of the comedy. Eastwood is so firmly a man’s-man in this film that it almost becomes absurd how skilled he is as a brawler. Even the resolution to the final fight – which attempts to add some unexpected flavor to the character – feels so unearned and predictable as to be laughable rather than admirable.

As for the supporting cast, everyone is delivering solid work. Gordon had won an Oscar for Rosemary’s Baby and she brings the full force of her absurd-but-believable comedic powers to this role. Lewis is given a greater chance to play with different character beats – all of which he deftly handles – and the endearing orangutan Clyde is as charming as you’d expect him to be. Locke, who delivered a remarkable performance in The Gauntlet, stretches herself performance-wise by showing off her singing chops, but otherwise brings a similar catalogue of character choices to the role. It’s not a step down from The Gauntlet for her, but amidst a collection of stronger fellow supporting players, she doesn’t stand out quite as much as she did in Gauntlet.

Eastwood was advised against making this film and – as he usually did – he trusted his instincts more than the voices of his advisors. He didn’t direct the film, though. Those duties fell once again to James Fargo, who had directed Eastwood – if that’s what you can call it – in The Enforcer. There are no apparent rumors of on-set drama this time around and the resulting film was wholeheartedly embraced by audiences despite only being met with lackluster reviews from critics.

It also launched a series of more family-friendly and accessible films which would represent one of the most surprising and interesting periods in Eastwood’s filmography. The film remains the biggest money-maker of Eastwood’s career (and in the top 200 biggest box offices in cinema history). Having now seen the film, I’m uncertain it deserves that particular pedigree, but it is undeniably charming in its own way… or, every which way… something like that. You know what I mean.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

Episode 110: Big Trouble in Little China

In Episode 110, Aaron takes a break to continue Seattle International Film Festival coverage, so Patrick calls in a friend of the show who is well-versed in the movies of old, Francisco Ruiz from Retro Rewind Podcast. Big Trouble in Little China has become a cult classic and there is a lot of admiration present as the guys discuss John Carpenter’s famous fantasy-comedy-adventure.

Big Trouble in Little China Review – 0:02:28

The Connecting Point – 0:42:17


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You Should Be Watching: May 10-16

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found. I highlight films that come with my personal recommendation as well as provide a list of notable titles that are coming and going so you’re sure not to miss out on the good stuff.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Modern Times

  

 

Year: 1936

Director: Charles Chaplin

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford, Chester Conklin, Hank Mann, Stanley Blystone, Al Ernest Garcia, Richard Alexander, Cecil Reynolds, Mira McKinney, Murdock MacQuarrie, Wilfred Lucas, Edward LeSaint, Fred Malatesta, Sammy Stein, Juana Sutton, Ted Oliver, Gloria DeHaven, Norman Ainsley, Bobby Barber, Chuck Hamilton, Jack Low, Harry Wilson, Heinie Conklin, Bruce Mitchell, Lloyd Ingraham, Walter James, Buddy Messinger

 

Last week, I highlighted the legendary icon of silent film Charles Chaplin through the biopic about his life simply called Chaplin, which stars a young Robert Downey Jr. Consequently, this week, I’m taking you back a half century further to recommend Charlie himself in a mid-career film that will have the whole family cracking up at Chaplin’s antics (yes, you should share this and other silent movies with your kids). But there’s a reason Chaplin titled this film Modern Times, and he has much more to offer than mere slapstick. Chaplin, playing the part of A Factory Worker amidst The Great Depression, applies a humorous twist on key issues of the day, not unlike modern day socioeconomic concerns, through a series of loosely connected set pieces. Regardless whether he’s exploring the relentless, dehumanizing nature of industrialism via the machines of the assembly line, taking on the problem of political witch hunts, or celebrating romantic love among the destitute, he makes your laughter mean something. You may even feel your heartstrings plucked, and speaking of the love relationship, Paulette Goddard holds her own against Chaplin and lights up the screen every time she appears.


 

Temple Grandin

    

Year: 2010

Director: Mick Jackson

Genre: Biography, Drama

Cast: Claire Danes, Catherine O’Hara, Julia Ormond, David Strathairn, Melissa Farman, Barry Tubb, Cherami Leigh, Tamara Jolaine, Charles Baker, Blair Bomar, David Born, Chloë Evans, Jordan Strassner, Michael D. Conway, Xochitl Romero, Joe Nemmers, Richard Dillard, David Blackwell, Toby Metcalf, Brady Coleman, Silver Renee, Chad McMinn, Nicole Holt, Jake Messinger, Cynthia Huerta, Jessica Wilson, Cassandra L. Small, Kurt Cole, William Akey

 

While I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing Claire Danes in many of her other roles, nothing could have prepared me for seeing her inhabit the role of Temple Grandin, who was among the first people with autism to publicly share their personal experience of living with it. If this were the only role I’d seen Danes play, I’d assume she herself had some form of autism. As it is, she’s practically unrecognizable, not only in her appearance, but in her very attempts at speaking and expressing herself. Her Golden Globe for Best Actress was well deserved.

Temple’s story is remarkable and represents and is among the most fascinating, well-made, and inspiring biopics I’ve seen. She is a brilliant, motivated woman of outstanding character. But early in her life, because of her condition, she refused to speak and threw frequent temper tantrums, leaving her tragically misunderstood and mistreated by her parents and ultimately misdiagnosed as was common at the time. Thankfully, that was only the beginning of her story, and through the journey, you’ll see the amazing things she has accomplished and hopefully gain empathy and a much greater understanding and appreciation for a group of people who are so easily dismissed.

NOTE: The last day to stream Temple Grandin on Amazon Prime is May 21.


 

Changeling


Year: 2008

Director: Clint Eastwood

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Drama

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, John Malkovich, Geoff Pierson, Amy Ryan, Gattlin Griffith, Michelle Gunn, Frank Wood, Colm Feore, Michael Kelly, Denis O’Hare, Jeffrey Hutchinson, Devon Conti, Peter Breitmayer, Antonia Bennett, Erica Grant, Jan Devereaux, Kerri Randles, Morgan Eastwood, Ric Sarabia, Debra Christofferson, Russell Edge, Mary Stein, Gregg Binkley, E.J. Callahan, Reed Birney, Colby French, Kelly Lynn Warren, Richard King

 

For a Clint Eastwood-directed film that’s only 10 years old, Changeling is curiously absent from the cultural consciousness and is criminally underrated. This gripping, stylish Twilight Zone-esque mystery dramatizes the stranger-than-fiction events surrounding Christine Collins (played by Angelina Jolie) and the disappearance of her son Walter. The screenwriter himself, J. Michael Straczynski, in researching the details of the true events found the story so bizarre he thought it couldn’t be real. Being set in 1920s L.A. gives Eastwood a veritable playground of ideas to explore, from the city’s attempts to present a glamorous facade to brutality and corruption within the police force. But through his expert direction and some great casting including Jeffrey Donovan as the police captain, John Malkovich playing against type as Reverend Briegleb and especially with Jolie’s passionate Oscar-nominated performance, the most important quality that’s on display is the unbreakable bond between a missing son and a mother who will go through hell just for the possibility of getting him back.


 

Breakdown

      

Year: 1997

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Kurt Russell, J.T. Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan, M.C. Gainey, Jack Noseworthy, Rex Linn, Ritch Brinkley, Moira Harris, Kim Robillard, Thomas Kopache, Jack McGee, Vincent Berry, Helen Duffy, Ancel Cook, Gene Hartline

 

To finish, let’s go back to 90s thriller territory with Jonathan Mostow’s standout suspense ride Breakdown, which is another Twilight Zone-type story about a disappearance that contains more than faint echoes of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and Steven Spielberg’s Duel. Kurt Russell is in prime form here as yuppie Jeff Taylor, husband to Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) and opposite Russell, J.T. Walsh is wonderfully unnerving. The movie starts out simple enough with the couple driving across the country in their brand new Jeep, but before long they have car trouble in the desert, they get separated while Amy gets a ride to go call for help at the only place around for miles, and then nothing. She has vanished without a sign, and an increasingly desperate and panicked husband can’t find anyone to believe his story. Mostow’s direction is focused and tight, always propelling the mystery, paranoia, and action forward. So once the tension starts, it doesn’t let up, leaving you with a thoroughly pulse-pounding experience.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 11
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

May 15
Metropolis [Restored] (1927)

May 29
The Jungle Book (2016)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 17
Red Dawn (1984)

May 18
Creed (2015)

May 21
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Conspiracy (2001)
The Sunset Limited (2011)
Temple Grandin (2010)

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 11
Forbidden Planet (1956)

Werner Herzog:

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

May 16
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

May 18
Luchino Visconti:

La Terra Trema (1948)
The Leopard (1963)
Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

May 25
Carol Reed:

The Fallen Idol (1948)
The Third Man (1949)

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)

 


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Faces Places (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Warrior (2011)
Last Flag Flying — Amazon Original (2017)
Stories We Tell (2012)

 

FILMSTRUCK

David Lean Collection:

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Alphaville (1965)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Bob le Flambeur (1956)
Le Trou (1960)
Je T’aime, Je T’aime (1968)

 

HULU

Warrior (2011)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

May 16
89 (2017)
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 12
Still Mine (2013)

 

HULU

May 12
Jane (2017)
Still Mine (2013)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

MOVIE REVIEW: Lu Over the Wall

LU OVER THE WALL (2018)

1 Hour and 52 Minutes (PG)

Lu Over the Wall is the newest animated feature from visionary anime director Masaaki Yuasa, and tells the story of a small fishing village that is impacted by the appearance of a mermaid who comes ashore to join a middle-school band. It’s a twist on the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid and features elements that will remind viewers of other films, too – specifically Miyazaki’s Ponyo, Best Picture winner The Shape of Water, and the under-seen musical hit Sing Street. Yes, it’s a little bit insane. But while these references seem similar on the surface, Yuasa’s film forges its own path and becomes some entirely unique.

The biggest thing that sets Yuasa apart from other anime giants like Miyazaki, Shinkai, and Takahata is the animation style. Visually striking and lavishly colorful in the present, it melts into an older style of animation when characters recall the past. The animation is also very busy and moves fast. At times it can be so frantic that it’s hard to follow and feels like you’re staring into a rapidly spinning kaleidoscope. Always, though, it provokes a sense of joy and wonder. Full of character designs like you’ve never seen before (mer-dogs!), if it doesn’t give you a headache the art style will most certainly captivate you and hold your attention.

As for the story, Lu’s friendship with Kai and his middle-school rock band Siren is at the center of the narrative. In this world, mermaids are attracted to music. Naturally, not everyone in the village likes mermaids. While some want to use their existence for profit in the tourist industry, others want to kill them all, and a select religious few wish to live in harmony alongside them. The conflict arises out of these differing opinions, but relational issues exists between Lu and her bandmates as well. This is where the heart of the film lies and the way it tackles feelings of depression, friendship, love, and chasing dreams is beautifully woven into this fantastical tale. That being said, for the most part it keeps things light, but there are elements of the plot that deal with some tougher emotions. In trying to juggle quite a few sideplots the film does seem to get away from Yuasa and perhaps go on a bit long.

VERDICT

Lu Over the Wall is a great reminder of why we watch movies. Yuasa is a director willing to take chances and it is exciting to participate in a cinematic experience like that. This is a beautiful film, overflowing with cuteness, and filled with solid positive messages. It is also a musical that will have you humming along and tapping your feet whether you fully follow the plot or not. Unforgettable animation is rare, but Lu Over the Wall is just that and therefore is a must-see experience.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

You Should Be Watching: May 3-9

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Filmstruck, and anywhere else streams are found. I highlight films that come with my personal recommendation as well as provide a list of notable titles that are coming and going so you’re sure not to miss out on the good stuff. Alright? Let’s get started.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Chaplin

      

Year: 1992

Director: Richard Attenborough

Genre:  Biography, Comedy, Drama

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, John Thaw, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei, Penelope Ann Miller, Kevin Kline, Matthew Cottle, Maria Pitillo, Milla Jovovich, Kevin Dunn, Deborah Moore, Diane Lane, Nancy Travis, James Woods, David Duchovny, Michael Cade, P.H. Moriarty, Howard Lew Lewis, John Standing 

 

Long before Robert Downey Jr. put on the mantle of the iconic Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), he wowed audiences with his Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning performance as the king of silent film comedy–Charlie Chaplin. It’s fascinating to watch him become the character synonymous with Chaplin, that is The Tramp. But many people don’t even realize that mustachioed fellow with the cane and the funny gait did not represent Chaplin’s normal self. Charles Chaplin was a real person behind the mustache and wig. He was a complicated man who led a complicated life, and he was far from perfect. But like any man, he had hopes and dreams, and he wanted to make the world laugh, and laugh they did. It’s a special experience to see Downey Jr. bring this man to life, giving us viewers a window into the life of such an important figure in the history of film. Hopefully, afterwards, you’ll have the push needed to go explore the real Charlie Chaplin’s work.


 

The Negotiator

Year: 1998

Director: F. Gary Gray

Genre: Action, Crime, Adventure, Mystery, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse, Ron Rifkin, John Spencer, J.T. Walsh, Siobhan Fallon, Paul Giamatti, Regina Taylor, Bruce Beatty, Michael Cudlitz, Carlos Gómez, Tim Kelleher, Dean Norris, Nestor Serrano, Doug Spinuzza, Leonard L. Thomas, Stephen Lee, Lily Nicksay, Lauri Johnson, Sabi Dorr, Gene Wolande, Rhonda Dotson, John Lordan, Jack Shearer, Donna Ponterotto, Michael Shamus Wiles, Mik Scriba, Joey Perillo

 

While we’re on the subject of earlier work by actors who are part of the MCU, let’s move on to this tense but highly entertaining 90s crime thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson playing classic Samuel L. Jackson. His character is Danny Roman, a hostage negotiator turned desperate hostage taker after he’s accused of murder and corruption. Yep, Kevin Spacey stars too. If that’s a problem for you, I’m sorry, but I’m recommending art here. Performances not people. Spacey is brilliant as fellow negotiator Chris Sabian, as he so often is in roles that give him the opportunity to play out a mental chess match with the other guy. It’s an edge-of-your-seat guessing game throughout as to what’s actually going on and who’s going to get the upper hand. If you like fast-paced 90s thrillers, you can’t go wrong seeing these two go head to head. The Negotiator is a blast.


 

In The Mood For Love

  

 

Year: 2000

Director: Wong Kar-Wai

Genre: Romance, Drama

Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Rebecca Pan, Kelly Lai Chen, Siu Ping-Lam, Mama Hung, Joe Cheung, Koo Kam-Wah, Chan Man-Lei, Pauline Suen, Roy Cheung

 

Now let’s take a hard right and head into foreign film territory. There are so many ways that a story about adultery can go badly. Adultery is often trivialized or overly sexualized. Wong Kar-Wai avoids every single potential pitfall by emphasizing emotion and longing rather than lust. With artistic values that are quite simply off-the-charts and while avoiding salaciousness, he presents an all too real story about the pain of isolation from those we love and the subtle seeds from which affairs grow, the temporary happiness they promise, and how they affect the unseen future. The emotion of the story is enhanced even more by the backdrop of incredible shots full of creative camera angles, straight lines, bold color, so much elegance and an amazing musical landscape that accompanies the visuals highlighted by the oh so beautiful recurring Yumeji’s Theme, a dark violin-led waltz.


 

Lawrence of Arabia

Year: 1962

Director: David Lean

Genre:  Adventure, Biography, Drama

Cast: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, Claude Rains, Anthony Quayle, José Ferrer, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Wolfit, Zia Mohyeddin, I.S. Johar, Gamil Ratib, Michel Ray, John Dimech, Howard Marion-Crawford, Jack Gwillim, Hugh Miller, Robert Rietty, John Barry, Bruce Beeby, John Bennett, Steve Birtles, David Lean, Robert Bolt, Daniel Moynihan, Peter Burton, James Hayter, Barry Warren

 

Finally, we come to David Lean’s time-tested historical epic, our second biopic and winner of seven Academy Awards, this one based on the life and writings of British officer T. E. Lawrence, who came to care for a country not his own. As a result, he sought to assist the Arabs in World War I in their battle against the Turks, using the skills, strategy, and leadership qualities he’d gained through his military experience. This is a film filled with fascinating characters and detail and exciting large-scale action. David Lean’s filmmaking in conjunction with Freddie Young’s cinematography is exquisite, always enchanting. Never has a desert landscape looked more gorgeous and combined with Peter O’Toole’s arresting performance as the titular and ever-present Lawrence, the nearly four-hour runtime is not only earned, it breezes by, so don’t let it keep you from experiencing this masterpiece.

 

 


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

May 4
Bernie (2011)

May 8
Sing Street (2016)

May 11
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

May 29
The Jungle Book (2016)

 

AMAZON PRIME

None announced

 

FILMSTRUCK

May 11
Forbidden Planet (1956)

Werner Herzog:

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

May 16
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

May 18
Luchino Visconti:

La Terra Trema (1948)
The Leopard (1963)
Rocco and His Brothers (1960)

May 25
Carol Reed:

The Fallen Idol (1948)
The Third Man (1949)

May 31
High Noon (1952)

June 1
House of Flying Daggers (2004)
A Night At The Opera (1935)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Amélie (2001)
Beautiful Girls (1996)
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Red Dragon (2002)
Scream 2 (1997)
Shrek (2001)

 

AMAZON PRIME

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Bull Durham (1988)
The Crow (1994)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Frailty (2001)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Insomnia (2002)
Manhunter (1986)
Thief (1981)
Wonder Boys (2000)

From the James Bond Collection:

Dr. No (1962)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Goldfinger (1964)

From the Rocky Collection:

Rocky (1976)
Rocky II (1979)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
High Noon (1952)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

May 4
Anon — Netflix Original (2018)

May 5
Faces Places (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

May 4
Last Flag Flying — Amazon Original (2017)

May 5
Warrior (2011)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

The Evolution of Eastwood: THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)

“You know somethin’? I don’t think of us as criminals, you know? I feel we accomplished something. A good job. I feel proud of myself, man. I feel like a hero.” — Lightfoot

Until this point, Eastwood’s films are easily identifiable by style and tone as being within a particular family: westerns, cop dramas, romances, etc. The only exception thus far would perhaps be The Beguiled, but there’s a case to be made for its place in the psychological horror club. But you’d be excused, should the conversation arise, for not quite knowing how to categorize Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

It begins with elements of screwball comedy and buddy-road movies before shifting to the realms of introspective drama and heist films. It isn’t until the final few moments of the film that you realize you’ve actually been witnessing the life cycle of a friendship: the rare drama which centers around a relationship between two men which is intimate without being sexualized and affecting without being manipulative.

When we first meet the titular characters of Thunderbolt (Eastwood) and Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), Thunderbolt is posing as a small town preacher trying to lay low while being pursued by three of his former heist partners. A coincidental encounter forces Thunderbolt on the run again, directly crossing paths with the affable and carefree young Lightfoot. The two of them embark on a road adventure attempting to flee Thunderbolt’s old partners, eventually being overtaken by them and coerced into one last payday heist.

There is an episodic quality to the narrative, which was scripted and directed by Michael Cimino (who had previously impressed Eastwood with a written draft of Magnum Force and would go on to win an Academy Award for The Deer Hunter). Each new plot wrinkle has a distinct flavor, ranging from comedy to thriller and back down to drama, culminating in a climactic heist with irrevocable complications. At first viewing, these shifts in tone almost seem disjointed and unfocused, and I’ll admit I walked away from that initial viewing somewhat unimpressed.

But a bit of reflection, particularly on the film’s surprisingly emotional conclusion, produces a kind of retroactive appreciation for all that you’ve seen before it. You thought you’d been watching a disconnected menagerie of moments and sequences with little to no discernable relationship. But it is precisely the relationship between Thunderbolt and Lightfoot that has been the focus of the story: two friends from different walks of life colliding and irrevocably changing each other in ways they couldn’t possibly have predicted. What we’ve seen – the humor, the adventure, the suspense, and the melancholy – have been the rhythms and seasons of all the best friendships in their time.

Eastwood himself delivers a strong performance, balancing toughness and tenderness with ease as the narrative calls for it. Jeff Bridges, however, — in an Oscar nominated performance – is the heart and soul of the story. Lightfoot relates to Thunderbolt as father-figure, older-brother, and best bud all at once as the two of them explore, escape, and enterprise together. Likewise, Thunderbolt takes Lightfoot under his wing and you can easily track a steadily growing affection between them that the two actors capture with effortless verisimilitude. There was apparently some disappointment on Eastwood’s part when the Academy recognized Bridges but not him. However, despite Eastwood’s sensitive and appropriately anchored performance, Bridges is the unquestionable scene-stealer, especially as the film draws towards its inevitably heart-tugging finale.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a strong film, but very of its time. It’s saturated with the sensibilities and thematic concerns of the seventies, and is likely to distance some viewers with its episodic nature. But for those who appreciate films which take their time developing their disparate ideas and trust their audience to go there with them, there are some genuine rewards to be had in the journey. I saw this film in a marathon with three other Eastwood features and after a week’s reflection, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was the one to which my heart and mind kept returning.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

MOVIE REVIEW: Blockers

BLOCKERS (2018)

Teen sex-comedies used to totally be my jam. When I first saw American Pie, I was brought to tears with laughter. But as I’ve gotten older and become a parent, I can’t help but spend most of my time irrationally concerned with the consequences that these teens will experience the morning after their “best night ever.” Apparently, I’m not alone as this feeling drives the plot of Kay Cannon’s Blockers.

Blockers follows Leslie Mann, John Cena and Ike Barinholtz as three estranged old friends who stumble onto their soon-to-graduate daughters’ pact to lose their virginity on prom night. It’s a fun twist on the genre that takes the focus off of the perspective of the teenagers and points it towards their parents and their mission to stop the girls before it’s too late. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

The film is at its best when it’s following the parents. Leslie Mann is one of the most underappreciated comedic actors of her generation. She makes every movie she’s in better, and Blockers is absolutely improved by her performance and comedic timing as Lisa, a single mom worried about what her life is going to look like when her little girl leaves for college. Cena is someone I look forward to seeing in films like this. While his acting ability is limited and usually restricted to one note, I appreciate how he’s always game to play against type if the role calls for it. He plays Mitchell, a dorky dad who would be intimidating if it wasn’t for his inability to keep from crying. In my opinion, Ike Barinholtz steals almost every scene he’s in as the screw-up Hunter, who ruined his family and his relationship with his daughter several years earlier when he had an affair with the babysitter. He’s very funny and his storyline with his daughter provided the most emotional depth in the film. With the three of them together, the movie really sings. When the focus shifts to their daughters and their prom dates, it’s just mediocre to poor teen-comedy fare that bogs down the story.

It’s a pretty funny concept that’s pulled off pretty well, but like a lot of films in this vein, it runs to the well of gross-out humor a bit too often to really stand-out. It’s a shame too, because when the actors are allowed to play off of one another in their race against time, it’s quite funny. I’m not opposed to that type of humor if it’s serving the story, but that’s not what is happening here.

Despite its faults, Blockers is worth seeing simply because it’s a fun new take on a pretty tired old genre with good performances and a surprising amount of heart. But there’s no need to get out to the theater for this one, wait until you can watch it at home where the popcorn is a lot cheaper.

Rating:


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

August 2018 – “Choose Your Director Month”

In January 2017, Feelin’ Film had its inaugural Director Month, covering the films of our favorite director – Christopher Nolan. Going through a single director’s films over the course of several weeks in a row provided a unique perspective on how his work had evolved, and was one of the most enjoyable things we’d done. So, in January 2018, we chose to make Director Month an annual occurrence and covered the films of Stanley Kubrick. This, too, was a wonderful experience for us and left us anxious to do it again.

Looking forward at the new release schedule, we have identified August 2018 as a great time to slip in another Director Month. But this time, we want YOU, our listeners, to choose whose filmography we dive into. Below you will find a list of directors and the corresponding films we would discuss. This is your chance to tell us what you want to hear us talk about on the podcast, and you can vote by clicking on the link below to join our Facebook Discussion Group and selecting your preferred choices in the poll.

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Tony Scott

THE LAST BOY SCOUT
MAN ON FIRE
CRIMSON TIDE
DAYS OF THUNDER


Michael Mann

HEAT
COLLATERAL
THIEF
MIAMI VICE


Michael Bay

PAIN AND GAIN
TRANSFORMERS
PEARL HARBOR
THE ROCK


Jeff Nichols

MUD
SHOTGUN STORIES
TAKE SHELTER
LOVING


David Fincher

SE7EN
ZODIAC
FIGHT CLUB
GONE GIRL


Coen Brothers

FARGO
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE BIG LEBOWSKI


Clint Eastwood

UNFORGIVEN
MYSTIC RIVER
AMERICAN SNIPER
MILLION DOLLAR BABY


James Cameron

THE ABYSS
TITANIC
ALIENS
TRUE LIES


Martin Scorsese

GOODFELLAS
HUGO
THE DEPARTED
TAXI DRIVER


Wes Anderson

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
MOONRISE KINGDOM
ISLE OF DOGS
FANTASTIC MR. FOX


Kathryn Bigelow

ZERO DARK THIRTY
THE HURT LOCKER
POINT BREAK
NEAR DARK

Minisode 038: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

In February we tasked our Patrons with choosing a romantic comedy for us to talk about in honor of Valentine’s Day and by a runaway vote, Crazy, Stupid, Love came out on top. We weren’t surprised, but we are thrilled because this resulted in one of our best conversations yet. We hope you enjoy the discussion!

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