The insanity of awards season is upon us.  The New York Film Critics Circle has announced its awards for 2017.  The once prestigious body which often made more thoughtful, meaningful choices than the Academy  —   Charles Chaplin did win; so did Great Garbo, twice  —  has announced that this year’s best picture is neither the best directed nor the best written.  And the best directed film is not the year’s best.  Neither is the best written.  And so it goes.  This body of voters is comprised of four of the country’s most discriminating and knowledgeable critics.  Is a puzzlement.


“The wonderful thing about the Academy Awards is that they are fundamentally trivial.  To pretend otherwise is to trivialize movies.”  (A.O. Scott in “Are Oscars Worth All This Fuss?” from the New York Times, 2/24/08).

Coupled with this from his same article:  “…I am…bothered by the disproportionate importance that the Academy Awards have taken on, and by the distorting influence they exercise over the way we make, market and see movies in this country.”

But my favorite passage in Scott’s article comes with his discussion of what is now called The Oscar Show.  He comments on “the overproduced underwhelming renditions of the nominated songs.”  Hear!  Hear!

REMINDER for my readers in Akron or Cleveland or nearby:  The Cleveland Cinematheque is showing The Earrings of Madame de… this Saturday and Sunday.  (See Rick’s Flicks for December 22.)


Until then,
See you at the movies,


Danielle Darrieux, super star of the French screen, died on October 17 in Bois-le-Roi at age 100  .  Few performers can boast of a career lasting nine decades.

With Daniel Gelin in La Ronde

Most obituaries of long-lived artists these days are disappointments, appearing to be authored by writers who think films began when they started going to see them.  And the obituaries for Darrieux, with the exception of the New York Times, seemed interested mainly in the fact that she was not successful in American movies, failing to mention her outstanding films and the great directors with whom she worked on native ground.

Memorableperformances from her filmography of 100 titles:

 Mayerling,  Anatole Litvak, 1935
Ronde , Max Ophüls, 1950
Plaisir, Max Ophüls, 1952
The Earrings of Madme
de…, Max Ophüls, 1953
The Rouge et le noir, Claude Autant-Lara 1954

The hazard of a complete and accurate obituary is finding included the accusations against Darrieux as a collaborator during World War ll because she worked at an occupying German film company.  She denied the accusation and worked after the war to clear her name.

IF YOU LIVE IN NORTHEAST OHIO John Ewing is showing The Earrings of Madame de … at the Cleveland Cinematheque on January 6 at 5:00 and on January 7 at 8:35.


Until then,
See you at the movies,


If you missed The Immigrant as I did on its first release, find it and view it now.

Incomparable Cotillard
photo by Anguerde

Of what better leads can one dream?  Cotillard, Phoenix and Renner.  All three are as fine as film acting can be.  Marion Cotillard is excruciatingly subtle, especially when she speaks with her eyes rather than with words.

Joaquin Phoenix adds one more portrait to a stout list of self-doubting and/or self-hating melancholy souls.  Jeremy Renner as the small-time magician dancing and  floating through life may suffer less, may be a shallower character.  But he proves himself capable of making his own kind of sacrifice.  Renner is so versatile that it seems not quite accurate to describe him as perfectly cast here.

Joaquin Phoenix
photo by Aphrodite

Set during one of the peaks of historic immigration as waves of newcomers inundate Ellis Island, the story is a tale not often told of the perils, in the situation, for a woman  alone on the island, or even on the boat before arrival.

It is an ugly story, beautifully told.

Jeremy Renner
photo by handbook



The engrossing cinematography captures the sepia of era photographs.  And the final shot ranks at least with that of The Third Man as two of the greatest final frames in film history.

The Immigrant James Gray 2013
photography Darius Khondji
production design Happy Massee


Until then,
See you at the movies,


DON’T MISS Lady Bird.  It is at least as good as you are reading and hearing that it is.  First-time director Greta Gerwig (who also wrote the screenplay) draws excellent performances from her cast.  All the work is good, but Saorise Ronan, Laurie Metcalf and Beanie Feldstein are outstanding.    One of the best achievements of Gerwig and Ronan is that we’re always on the side of Lady Bird, almost always pulling for her, though she is not always that likable.

Lady Bird
Greta Girwig

NEXT POST Friday  December 8

Until then,
See you at the movies  —
Off the couch and out of the house
To a theater showing Lady Bird,


“The Oscar Farce”
David Thomson
The Wall Street Journal, 2/27-28/17

In a mean-spirited piece on Academy Awards and the audience for popular culture, Thomson, writing about the phenomenon of viewers not viewing as they once did  —  and not feeling, while viewing, as they once felt  —  makes two interesting points about narrative today.

Speaking of the technology available to today’s filmmaker, Thomson says:  “We are depressed because that technology somehow betrays our allegiance to narrative and our longing for the untamed actuality of the world out there.”

And he concludes:  “So don’t bother to trust the movies or attend them in the old way.  As we drift away from narrative and from caring about what we watch, the Academy looks as substantial as an abandoned set for Rick’s Café, while Oscar is made of melting ice cream.”  (In both quotations the italics are mine.)

For many years I have resented the modern-day fact of life that greeting card companies can purchase and overuse my favorite lines from my favorite films.  I am now concerned about the mini-dramas created for television commercials.  Is the only narrative, the only fiction (besides football) that today’s average pop culture absorber will ever experience is what he or she finds in these fifteen-second scenarios which often seem bent on making fun of fiction itself?


NEXT Friday POST December 1

Until then,
See you AT A THEATER at the movies,


GOLD          Karl Hartl          1934

The exposition is clear, simple and always interesting.  Shown rather than told.  The narrative is a smooth flow.  The photography in this near-SciFi film from Nazi Germany is clear and highly professional.  Am I being condescending?  What else to expect from UFA?

The story,  today, has to seem  not very original, however:  some German scientists’ attempt at alchemy, building to a moral dilemma  —  scientific and commercial success vs. the social good.  We’re talking gold  here  —  and materialism  —  and, towards the end, inklings of globalism.

Gold comes out of thirties Germany; but I detect no Naziism.  The individual who steals the German scientific secrets, and murders to do so, is a Scot who is capitalistically self-centered and selfish.  Is the struggle between this Scot industrialist bad guy and the German good guys perhapsmore propagandistic than I have taken into account?

Albers, in center, as Dietrich’s lover in Von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL

The directing is straightforward and competent.  The film is well-paced with a lot of effective silences.  And the actors are successful.  Hans Albers stars as the principal good guy German scientist  —  principal because he’s the one left alive.  According to Katz (Film Encyclopedia), Albers made no films between 1935 and 1943.  Interesting.  Katz also reports that Brigitte Helm retired in 1935,  He comments that the silent star (now posthumously world famous as a result of the longevity of Metropolis) was less successful in talkies.  I do not agree, based on her performance here.

Some footage from Gold appears in Curt Siodmak’s 1953 American film The Magnetic Monster, starring inveterate monster chaser Richard Carlson.  The climactic scene of Gold, in which our German good guy destroys the alchemical machine stolen by the Scotch bad guy, is brilliantly and matchingly spliced into the conclusion of Siodmak’s film.

On right, Richard Carlson who after such diverse films as TOO MANY GIRLS, HOLD THAT GHOST AND THE LITTLE FOXES, became creature chaser par excellence in the second phase of his career.

The Magnetic Monster          Curt Siodmak          1953
editor, Herbert L. Strock ; production designer, George Van Marter


Until then,
See you AT the movies