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Category: General Page 2 of 275

A 56-Year-Old “High School”

1968: a public high school in Philadelphia.

This is what Frederick Wiseman, America’s most famous documentary maker, trained his camera on 56 years ago, in High School.  A dandy film, it reveals perfectly the unkillable regimentation in modern schools, although the classrooms in this particular, predominately white school do not drive us to the kind of despair that dysfunctional schools in 2023 do.  Still, there are problems, regimentation or no.  Bad behavior runs its course, albeit we don’t see any violence or cussing out of teachers.  There is some fluff in the instruction:  one teacher guides her students to appreciate the “poetry” of Paul Simon.  She reads aloud the lyrics to “The Dangling Conversation,” then plays a tape of the song.  And clinical lectures about sex just might have run counter to the moral values of many of the kids’ 1968 parents.

On the other hand, a Spanish-language teacher inculcates what seems to be the Spanish for “existentialist philosopher.”  Nope: this is not a 2023 public school.

Wyler Presents Rice: “Counsellor at Law”

Cover of "Counsellor-at-Law"

Cover of Counsellor-at-Law

I don’t quite understand what the film Counsellor at Law (1933), derived from a play by Elmer Rice, is about, but it certainly holds the viewer.  This is thanks mostly to director William Wyler and his actors.

John Barrymore carries the film beautifully, with force and despair, and the women here are nigh enthralling.  A successful New York lawyer (Barrymore) becomes imperiled in more ways than one as Wyler’s camera captures the unceasing contacts and interaction in this particular law firm.  Regarding his direction, Wyler said, “No critic ever wrote that [the movie] was just a photographed stage play.”  No, indeed.  The play has been thoroughly cinematized.  Indeed, Wyler’s directing is so astute and sensitive we can forgive the film’s irritatingly pat conclusion.


My Dislike For The Movie, “Iris”

I consider Iris (2001), about the British novelist Iris Murdoch and Alzheimer’s disease, a lousy film.

Not only does smug Murdoch wear her intellect on her sleeve, which is bad enough, but nothing justifies such a thing since the talk here is constantly intellectually shallow.  Acted as a young woman by Kate Winslet (and here the smugness comes in) and as an elderly woman by Judi Dench, the revered Iris has a penchant for skinny dipping as well as adultery, even lesbian adultery.  She is, then, a run-of-the-mill female rake, which is not very interesting.  And then there’s Murdoch’s husband John Bayley (he’s always fun),  who is such a silly and awkward man it is damned difficult to think of him as a professor of literature.  The blame for the jejune acting of the two men who portray him belongs, I think, to the director, Richard Eyre.  This is Eyre’s John Bayley before it is the actors.’

Iris (film)

Iris (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll Share About “The Secret Sharer” (The 1952 Short)

A ’52 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s story, “The Secret Sharer,” offers James Mason as the newly commanding sea captain.  He and director John Brahm do estimable work on the 48-minute effort, even if Mason may be too old for the role.

Going against social morality, Conrad’s, and Mason’s, captain protects a sailor, Leggatt (Michael Pate), who has committed murder.  He did so, indeed, out of the same sense of duty that the captain possesses, but he will never be understood by the navy (or society?).  Likewise the captain is not yet understood by his crew.  He so resembles Leggatt that the latter amounts to being the captain’s “other self,” and it was exactly right for the production company to cast an actor who looks a lot like Mason.  And The Secret Sharer (in black and white, naturally) looks a lot like Conrad.

“The Peanuts Movie”: C.B. Is Back

Needless to say, the computer-animated The Peanuts Movie (2015) contains a lot of humor.  What it lacks is the excellent wit of Charles Schulz‘s A Charlie Brown Christmas and, of course, the comic strip, although this is not to say it completely lacks wit.  No, sir.

Scriptwriters Craig Schulz (Charles’s son) and Bryan Schulz (grandson) purvey a Charlie Brown who causes problems for others as much as for himself, albeit one who is assuredly spared is the sad sack’s love interest.  The movie’s central element is C.B.’s hope of impressing The Little Red-Haired Girl, a newcomer to the neighborhood and, here, a lass whose face is very slowly revealed in full.  Amid all the slapstick, Chuck keeps his distance from her—but, withal, he does make progress and so a certain sunny vision arises in the flick.

No, it isn’t quite what Charles Schulz gave us, but I agree with the critic who said the movie feels like “the return of an old friend.”


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