Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blood Simple, (1984) Grade B

Directors Joel & Ethan Coen
Awards -- Independent Spirit Best Actor & Best Director, Sundance Grand Jury--also on AFI Top 100 Thrillers List
Cast:: Frances McDormand; John Getz; Dan Hedaya; M Emmet Walsh; Samm-Art Williams, Deborah Neumann, Rawquel Gavia, Van Brooks, Senor Marco, William Creamer, Loren Bivens, Bob McAdams, Shannon Sedwick, Nancy Finger, William Preston Robertson, Holly Hunter

PLOT:  "...In a jealous rage, Texas tavern owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires unscrupulous private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to not only tail Marty's two-timing spouse, Abby (Frances McDormand, in her screen debut), but also to murder her and her bar-keeping paramour (John Getz). Events take a surprising turn, however, when the gumshoe double-crosses his client. ..."
 sez says: This is the Coen brothers 1st movie. It uses the old technique, so familiar to 1930s farce stories--where no individual character completely knows what the other characters know.  The audience knows all. In a farce it makes for comedy: In a thriller it makes for tension that is built on the viewer wanting the characters to tell each other what they know so bad things won't happen.  The interesting think is, in real life, we go around in this half knowing state all the time.  We engage in believing our own assumptions about other people all the time.  In any case, this gets a bit gory (not to my taste) but it is all within the context of the story--and not just thrown in--and it works.  Fun to see YOUNG!! McDormand--and Walsh made an exceptionally good villian.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Biloxi Blues, 1988 (Grade D+)

Director Mike Nichols
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken
Screenplay by Neil Simon -- from a Neil Simon play

sez says: This was a big disappointment.  We saw the play performed recently and really liked it a lot.  Simon is a very clever fellow and his work--while popular--is still insightful and very funny. But this piece did not make the transition from play to movie --even with Simon doing the screenplay. Broderick did not make a convincing character  -- he didn't --or the scrip didn't --have the insightful self observation that is so important to the play.  It is as if the story got opened-up to wide. It needs to be in a clearly defined place. Even Walken, who can play a crazy person as well an anyone,  was tamped down--maybe it was the direction.  There is one very funny part, when Broderick goes to visit Rowena (to lose his virginity)  his awkwardness is filmed with fine finesse. But that is not nearly enough to make the movie half the fun of the play.  GRADE D+