Monday, March 13, 2006

Weekend viewing

The King of Marvin Gardens (Bob Rafelson, 1972)
About a month and a half ago some friends and I started an informal film-watching group to meet every two weeks and be moderated by Tony Macklin, a film historian, critic and professor who taught at the University of Dayton for 38 years. (You can read more about Macklin in my profile of him here.) This was our third installment, one of five films that Rafelson's made with Jack Nicholson. Like the other Rafelson/Nicholson collaboration I've seen, Five Easy Pieces, this was a bit elliptical and elusive but a rich character study and a visual marvel. Some of the shots are just amazing pieces of composition and visual storytelling that give you as much about the characters as the acting does. Nicholson is remarkably quiet and restrained, and Ellen Burstyn is wonderful. At times I thought it was a little too obtuse for its own good, but overall a really interesting film (followed by some good discussion as well).

What's Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972)
I think I've learned something after watching this movie: I just don't like screwball comedies. This didn't bother me quite as much as His Girl Friday did, but it had many of the same annoying qualities. I simply could not get over the overwhelming arrogance and insensitivity of Barbra Streisand's character, and that wasn't because of her acting. I really felt sorry for Ryan O'Neal's nebbishy musicologist, who just wanted to present his findings about prehistoric instrumentation and kept getting sidetracked by this crazy girl getting him into trouble. Of course his fiancee is humorless cold fish (although Madeline Kahn is brilliant as always in the role) and he eventually falls in love with Streisand despite the fact that she more deserves a punch in the overdeveloped nose. I will say that this movie featured one of cinema's more inventive car chase sequences and a few moments that made me laugh, but mostly I found it too mind-numbingly stupid to enjoy.

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