Netflix is a great product. I think I’ve made my opinion about them clear in previous posts, but it demands repeating. I’ve been using my Netflix queue for two main purposes, the first being to catch up on all the recent movies I haven’t seen and the second is to re-watch or watch old movies from some of my favorite directors/actors. I figure it’s a worthy weekly feature for MKinMotion.com, so I will start to review two movies each week that I’ve recently experienced via Netflix. Full disclosure, I was a customer before I added them as an incentive link in the sidebar, but I did add them as a “sponsor” because I use their product and enjoy it and have no hesitation telling you that if you don’t already have a Netflix account, you’re missing out and you can get one through MKinMotion.com. OK, enough disclosure…
This week I’ve chosen to feature two movies that I hadn’t seen until just the last week or two. Their both from directors that I have a lot of respect for and anything that they’ve released tends to be worthy of a rental. I took 3 quarters of Film classes in college and taking those classes really gave me an appreciation of the art form and also reinforced the idea that some movies are there just to entertain you without making you think at all…and that’s okay. They’re all art and creative regardless of whether there are explosions, CGI, or brilliant acting. When I was taking these classes at the end of each term there was a project that allowed you to watch 3 movies from one director and do some compare/contrast from different films. While a lot of people went after Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction had just blown up), Steven Spielberg, and the popular film class safe bets of Scorsese, Woody Allen, Coppola, Kubrick, Wells and Hitchcock, I spent the three terms looking at the films of Robert Altman, Wim Wenders, and The Coen Brothers. For Robert Altman I watched MASH (the movie, not the TV show), The Player, and Nashville (and I’d seen Short Cuts and Popeye also). For Wim Wenders, it was Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire), Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World), and Im Lauf der Zeit (Kings of the Road). For the Coen Brothers, I watched Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and Miller’s Crossing. I could go into some observations of each, but me even listing the three films for each director is already probably tiresome.
This week’s features come from Robert Altman and The Coen Brothers. First from Robert Altman comes a movie that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen when I finished it. The Long Goodbye was released in 1974 and teamed Altman with his star of MASH, Elliot Gould (who this generation knows more for Ross and Monica’s Dad than his previous leading man work) as Philip Marlowe a private detective, based on the Raymond Chandler novel of the same title. Gould is brilliant and Altman’s directorial style shines in this movie. One of the shining moments of the film for me was the opening sequence of Marlowe feeding his cat, I’ve never seen a cat that well trained and the humor was priceless. The movie came out in 1973 and is set in Los Angeles in 1973. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a brief and silent role in the movie (his second role of his career). It’s a mystery and has some good twists, but nothing or no one can outsmart the eccentric Philip Marlowe. I was surprised to see that Elliot Gould wasn’t nominated for any awards for his performance as it was dynamic and performed flawlessly. It reinforces my appreciation for Altman’s other movies and the loss that the artform experienced in November when he passed away.
The first movie that the Coen Brothers directed was Blood Simple which featured a very young Frances McDormand in her debut (Frances would go on to be in Fargo, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing and The Man Who Wasn’t There with her husband Joel Coen) and a pretty solid performance by Dan Hedaya. John Getz shared the lead spotlight with Frances, but his career hasn’t been nearly as illustrious as McDormand’s. The movie centers around several relationships and focuses on how badly things can go when relationships and communication break down. Dishonesty begets dishonesty, violence begets violence. It’s shot well and the acting is very solid.