Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!
CRITERION CHALLENGE 2021: Oscar Winner
"You can always put that award where your heart ought to be."
Unlike his older brother Herman, whose promising screenwriting career was upended by ungovernable dipsomania, longtime writer/producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz became a model of directorial prolificacy when he replaced a moribund Ernst Lubitsch on the set of Dragonwyck in 1946. Between then and April 1950 when All About Eve commenced shooting, Mankiewicz directed seven more features—about half of which he also wrote…
"This isn't Dallas!"
What ended up becoming my favorite film began life in its amoeba form as Greatest Showman-style pap intended as a vehicle for Welsh crooner Tom Jones. This is what United Artists had in mind when they approached Robert Altman to direct the project (then titled The Great Southern Amusement Company) in 1972. Altman had no interest in the script or in country music and had never visited Nashville, but he agreed to make a different film about…
"What I wouldn't give for a different nightmare."
What's left when you modernize (read: remove all the elevated language from) Shakespeare's most plotless play? Not much—so why not just reshape it into a generic mid-life crisis farce? Please forgive me for not addressing this $13 million turd at length because just finishing it was hard work. Even by his non-standards, Paul Mazursky's Tempest is a woeful misfire—squandering the collective talents of Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Vittorio Gassman and Susan Sarandon…
"I wouldn't go in there for a bottle of whiskey and a redheaded woman to pour it."
Hardened cattle herder Tom Reese (Glenn Ford) is dragooned into an unwanted partnership with tenderfoot hotel clerk Frank Harris (Jack Lemmon) after unexpectedly losing his shirt in an all-night poker game. Reese's ambivalence only deepens when he learns that Harris may be motivated by the prospect of rekindling a forbidden romance with Maria Vidal (Marlon Brando's then-wife Anna Kashfi), the daughter of a…
"I never even met a Charles Boyer."
In John Cassavetes' fanciful romance Minnie and Moskowitz, daredevil parking attendant Seymour Moskowitz (Seymour Cassel) proves himself a Dennis Rodman-level rebound artist by incrementally winning the affection of the gorgeous yet overly idealistic Minnie Moore (Gena Rowlands), reeling as she is from the end of a painful affair. The lovelorn Rowlands is quietly devastating in the early going before opening up to one of her warmest turns. As a thinly veiled amalgam of…
"Trying to fill a bathtub with holes indeed."
In John Ford's big Hollywood-style Bildungsroman How Green Was My Valley, a loving family of coal miners struggles against underemployment, exploitative labor practices, religious provincialism, and generational loss in late-Victorian era Wales—as seen through the eyes of the family's youngest child Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowell), who spends more than half the run time recovering from partial paralysis. Since the film is technically immaculate, comprises the very quintessence of mawkishness, and mostly endorses…