March 2013 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Wilder – The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above, or join the Twitch stream here!

Director Billy Wilder adds a new and intriguing twist to the personality of intrepid detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Stephens). One thing hasn't changed however: Holmes' crime-solving talents. Holmes and Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely) take on the case of a beautiful woman (Genevieve Page) whose husband has vanished. The investigation proves strange indeed, involving six missing midgets, villainous monks, a Scottish castle, the Loch Ness monster, and covert naval experiments. Can the sleuths make sense of all this and solve the mystery?

PrivateLifeofSherlockHolmes1Ryan COMMENTARY w/ RatingI think The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is the movie that shows that Wilder is a man out of his era better than any of the other movies we have seen lately.  While Kiss Me Stupid was a horrible film that tried to exploit the 60's sex and free love time period, at least there he tried to make a film for the time. With Sherlock Holmes he made a film that isn't bad at all, where the cinematography is very lush and the set design (especially their apartment) was wonderful, but it still feels like a movie made 15 years too late.

The original idea for the film was a roadshow film that was to be three hours long and include an intermission. Wilder was going to make a grand epic in the flavor of DeMille or Lean and shot the film that way, only to see that type of movie lose favor with the studios thanks to bombs like Dr. Doolittle and Around the World in 80 Days.

Instead of the three hour film, it was cut down to just over two hours, and you can feel that the movie is incomplete while watching. Some subplots are forgotten and some character moments seem to be thrown in haphazardly as almost a patch for missing footage. These types of things are not common in Wilder written films, and I would love to read the full screenplay to see if things gel better.

The movie has a lot of potential that it never reaches fully. The idea to have stories about Holmes less famous adventures unearthed long after the characters had died was a new spin. I liked how Wilder cast two lesser known actors in the main roles and Robert Stephens was a good Holmes and Colin Blakely played a very Wilder-eque version of Dr. Watson.

So to wrap up this introduction I have to ask you a question: considering how the movies tone fluctuates, would you classify this film as a mystery with comedic elements or a comedy with a mystery?


Oliver Stone: Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

In Oliver Stone's second take on Vietnam he focuses on the story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise).  He is a Vietnam vet who entered the war full of patriotism and vigor, leaving with no feeling below the chest, and eventually became a radical protesting future wars.  This is his story through Stone's direction.

Kyle is running solo for this week.Fuckin' dignityKyle Commentary BannerBorn on the Fourth of July is the second in Oliver Stone's series of three Vietnam films (we'll talk about Heaven & Earth in a few weeks), and it provides more context around the war and its ripple effect on American society than the intensely combat-focused Platoon. Held side-by-side with that movie, you'd think that young Ron Kovic immediately following his return home had been part of a different war. Here is a role designed in every way to take advantage of Tom Cruise's manic, eye-bulging energy as an actor, which is harnessed in the early scenes to depict a young man who clings desperately to the idea and image of a faultless, wholesome America even as it's dismantled in front of his very eyes.

The first portion of the film is the strongest for this reason. In watching Kovic's slow, losing battle with his own optimism, Stone captures the deeper cultural effects of Vietnam: the disillusionment and loss of trust and hope that it helped usher in so strongly. Maybe each decade or generation is characterized by a shared illusion—certainly for the 50s we have unbridled, white-bread Americana and the nuclear family, and the 60s a vaguely defined revolutionary optimism based on broad ideals and dirty communal gatherings. The film starts off with an effective representation of the former. And to be clear, not of the real time period, but of the sentimental story-book version—the 1950s that consisted of parades with sports and war heroes, sporting events that the whole town attended with genuine investment, and young men who wanted to join the Marines because it was honorable and the “right thing to do for your country.”

We see all of this in a highly stylized fashion, and it's impossible not to recognize it as a carefully maintained, engineered illusion—that Kovic is so eager to go to Vietnam because he believes he is being a “good American” is all the more painful because the world we are shown in these opening scenes is no more real than an elaborate stage play. This also creates a crucial effect during the few scenes that take place in the war—a friendly fire incident and an accidental massacre of a civilian village—and in the intense sequence following Kovic's discharge to a military hospital to recover from a paralyzing gunshot wound.


Parental Guidance (2012)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

About as good as it getsAndrew DISLIKE BannerIt's difficult for me to understand the appeal of films like Parental Guidance.  Getting an afternoon or evening away from your normal routine and getting the opportunity to watch a film is something that I loved doing with my family when I was younger.  We mostly watched fantasies and cartoons.  I enjoyed it.

But the world inhabited by the people in Parental Guidance is like some kind of hyper reality.  I get that some people like watching a comedy that seems to speak to their day to day routine.  It's nice to go to a film that understands that.  It's wish fulfillment to watch a film that says "I get it" and entertains for a while.

What I don't understand is the kind of wish fulfillment on display here.  Grandma takes a pole dancing class to stay in shape.  Grandpa gets hit in the testicles and then proceeds to vomit onto a child.  At another point grandpa gets a standing ovation by threatening to spank his grandson in front of a packed auditorium audience trying to listen to some Tchaikovsky.


Rust and Bone (2012)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

Let me carry youAndrew LIKE BannerThere are too many colors.  Red, purple, blue, yellow, green, all splayed across the frame with  little structure.  Then we see a hand.  Reaching out from the random prism the hand takes someone's face.  We see relief.  Then the shape begins to form with hands and faces, bodies, some intertwined and some at a slight distance but still they touch.

Still they touch.  No matter how random the pattern may seem there are still two figures reaching out from across a willingly impenetrable spectrum of visual experience so that they can try and feel something.  This is the chaos we've created, but we can still feel each other.  If you can't trust emotion, which lies to us as much as anything else, how about sensation?

My first memory is a two-fold split between when I broke my foot and when I had my fingers beaten into a vacuum cleaner.  Both times was held in a rocking chair until I stopped crying.  My mom was able to keep the rhythm going during the day and I remember the way the hall light looked on my dad's face when he took over at night.  When I became an adult the lowest moment was when I begged for my face to be touched.  The highest when someone reached over without me asking.


Stoker (2013)

Please join the Twitch stream at Can't Stop the Kittens. Andrew's writing is on hiatus, but you can join the kitty stream at night with gaming and conversation during the day.

A challenger approachesAndrew LIKE BannerA superficial description of the events of Stoker might make it sound like yet another one of the seemingly endless supply of vampire media that's still being produced.  After all, it wasn't that long ago that we finished up a lengthy film series that was partly about a vampire having a child.  Worse still, a quick dig into director Park Chan-wook's filmography shows that his last feature-length film was Thirst, another movie about vampires.  All the elements are in play for a respected foreign director to make a crass American cash grab and call it a day.

That did not happen here.  Chan-wook, despite working in territory he's recently commented on, transported his talent for visceral, direct imagery in the presence of intense psychological conflict quite well.  This isn't to say that Stoker is a great film but rather a very good one that suggests if Chan-wook produces a script for English actors that he'll do just fine.

Despite the horror that lies at the center of Stoker the events of the plot move at a surprisingly brisk pace.  Like other thrillers there are surprises to be had, so the skeleton of the plot will have to do for now.  Richard (Dermot Mulroney), the patriarch of the Stoker family, dies in a car accident on his daughter India's (Mia Wasikowska) eighteenth birthday.  She's left behind with her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), who regards India as an annoying rash and India returning those feelings much the same.