Categories
Movie of the Day

Murder by Phone

Release: October 8, 1982
Studio: Canadian Film Development Corporation
Director: Michael Anderson
Cast:
Richard Chamberlain – Nat Bridger
John Houseman – Stanley Markowitz
Sara Botsford – Ridley Taylor
Robin Gammell – Noah Clayton
Gary Reineke – Lt. Meara
Barry Morse – Fred Waites
Alan Scarfe – John Websole
James B. Douglas – Jack Gilsdorf
Ken Pogue – Fil Thorner
Neil Munro – Winters
Jefferson Mappin – Photographer
Tom Butler – Detective Tamblyn
Colin Fox – Dr. Alderman
Luba Goy – Beth Freemantle
Lenore Zann – Connie Lawson


Categories
Movie of the Day

The Black Rose

Released: September 1, 1950
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Henry Hathaway
Writers: Talbot Jennings (screenplay), Thomas B. Costain (novel)
Cast:
Tyrone Power – Walter of Gurnie
Orson Welles – Bayan
Cécile Aubry – Maryam
Jack Hawkins – Tristram Griffin
Michael Rennie – King Edward
Finlay Currie – Alfgar
Herbert Lom – Anthemus
Mary Clare – Countess Eleanor of Lessford
Robert Blake – Mahmoud
Alfonso Bedoya – Lu Chung
Gibb McLaughlin – Wilderkin
James Robertson Justice – Simeon Beautrie
Henry Oscar – Friar Roger Bacon
Laurence Harvey – Edmond

Categories
Movie of the Day

Downton Abbey (2019)

“A royal visit is like a swan on a lake,” says a newcomer to the Downton Abbey servants’ quarters. “Grace and serenity above, demented kicking down below.” It’s a visual metaphor that Julian Fellowes used several times in interviews when the show he created a decade ago was sweeping the world. In the belated film adaptation, Fellowes gives it to the King’s Royal Dresser (Max Brown). The recycling of a good line signals that film is going to deliver a lot more of the same that was delivered by the TV show—serenity and kicking.

The opening sequence playing behind the opening credits shows a letter being written in Buckingham Palace and making its way by train, car, motorcycle and foot to the lord or the manor as an even more majestic version of the TV show’s theme plays out. Shots linger on the sides of train cars and vans to remind us that the British postal service is called the Royal Mail, and in this case is conveying a royal missive.

This reverence for monarchy and tradition is what Fellowes and his TV show were all about. Even the former chauffer and Irish Republican, now son-in-law Tom (Allen Leech) can admit he respects the Crawley’s love of the monarchy even if he is not much of a royalist himself. Such values were intriguingly nostalgic when the show premiered in 2010, and are hopelessly out of touch in 2020, with scandals swirling around Prince Andrew and Prince Harry. But being in-touch is never what Downton Abbey is all about. The film is not really concerned about the future, but rather about preserving traditions, despite subplots suggesting that things may get better for gay men and women who have children out of wedlock.

These are just two of countless subplots packed into the film. The scripts for the first three seasons of the TV show were published in book form, and many of the scenes clock in at two pages or less. That kept a 45-minute episode moving along at a fine clip, but with a two-hour running time, it can be overwhelming.

The main plot involves a suddenly announced visit by King George V and Queen Mary to Downton. The importance of the guests serves to bring back characters who had left the big house, namely Carson and Molesley (Kevin Doyle, who steals the show with his giddy nervousness). Maggie Smith, of course, is back and gets all the best one-liners. There are also newcomers in the form of the King’s Dresser (Max Brown) and a lady’s companion (Tuppence Middleton) who serve as dual love interests for single members of the household. But despite the fresh faces, the film rarely gives more than what fans want—more of what they got from the TV show.

Cast

Maggie Smith – Violet Crawley
Michelle Dockery – Lady Mary Talbot
Matthew Goode – Henry Talbot
Tuppence Middleton – Lucy Smith
Joanne Froggatt – Anna Bates
Imelda Staunton – Maud Bagshaw
Elizabeth McGovern – Cora Crawley
Kate Phillips – Princess Mary
Allen Leech – Tom Branson
Geraldine James – Queen Mary
Mark Addy – Mr. Bakewell
Laura Carmichael – Lady Edith
Sophie McShera – Daisy Mason
Hugh Bonneville – Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham

Categories
Movie of the Day People

Guy Kibbee

Filmography

  • 3 Godfathers (1948) – Judge
  • Fort Apache (1948) – Capt. Dr. Wilkens
  • The Red Stallion (1947) – Ed Thompson
  • The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) – Cal Baggett
  • Over the Santa Fe Trail (1947) – Biscuits
  • Lone Star Moonlight (1946) – Amos Norton
  • Gentleman Joe Palooka (1946) – Uncle Charlie
  • Singing on the Trail (1946) – Dusty Wyatt
  • Cowboy Blues (1946) – Dusty Nelson
  • The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) – Radio Director / The Chief
  • Dixie Jamboree (1944) – Capt. Jackson of the ‘Ellabella’
  • Learn and Live (1943) – Saint Peter
  • Girl Crazy (1943) – Dean Phineas Armour
  • Power of the Press (1943) – Ulysses Bradford
  • Cinderella Swings It (1943) – Scattergood Baines
  • Whistling in Dixie (1942) – Judge George Lee
  • Scattergood Survives a Murder (1942) – Scattergood Baines
  • Tish (1942) – Judge Horace Bowser
  • There’s One Born Every Minute (1942)- Lester Cadwalader, Sr.
  • Miss Annie Rooney (1942) – Grandpa Rooney
  • Scattergood Rides High (1942) – Scattergood Baines
  • Sunday Punch (1942)- ‘Pops’ Muller
  • This Time for Keeps (1942) – Harry Bryant
  • Design for Scandal (1941) – Judge Graham
  • It Started with Eve (1941) – Bishop Maxwell
  • Scattergood Meets Broadway (1941) – Scattergood Baines
  • Scattergood Pulls the Strings (1941) – Scattergood Baines
  • Scattergood Baines (1941) – Scattergood Baines
  • Chad Hanna (1940) – Huguenine
  • Street of Memories (1940) – Harry Brent
  • Our Town (1940) – Mr. Webb
  • Henry Goes Arizona (1939) – Judge Van Treece
  • Bad Little Angel (1939) – Luther Marvin
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – Governor Hopper
  • Babes in Arms (1939) – Judge Black
  • It’s a Wonderful World (1939) – Fred ‘Cap’ Streeter
  • Let Freedom Ring (1939) – David Bronson
  • Three Loves Has Nancy (1938) – Pa Briggs
  • Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) – Pa
  • Three Comrades (1938) – Alfons
  • Joy of Living (1938) – Dennis Garret
  • Of Human Hearts (1938) – George Ames
  • The Bad Man of Brimstone (1937) – Francis X. ‘Eight-Ball’ Harrison
  • The Big Shot (1937) – Dr. Bertram ‘Doc’ / ‘Simmzy’ Simms
  • Riding on Air (1937) – J. Rutherford ‘Doc’ Waddington
  • Mountain Justice (1937) – Dr. John Aloysius Barnard
  • Jim Hanvey, Detective (1937 – James Woolford ‘Jim’ Hanvey
  • Don’t Tell the Wife (1937) – Malcom J. ‘Dinky’ Winthrop
  • Mama Steps Out (1937) – Leonard ‘Len’ Cuppy
  • Three Men on a Horse (1936) – Carver
  • The Captain’s Kid (1936) – Asa Plunkett
  • M’Liss (1936) – Washoe Smith
  • Earthworm Tractors (1936) – Sam Johnson
  • The Big Noise (1936) – Julius Trent
  • I Married a Doctor (1936) – Samuel Clark
  • Captain January (1936) – Captain January
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936) – Mr. Hobbs
  • Captain Blood (1935) – Hagthorpe
  • I Live for Love (1935) – Henderson
  • Don’t Bet on Blondes (1935) – Col. Jefferson Davis Youngblood
  • Going Highbrow (1935) – Matt Upshaw
  • Mary Jane’s Pa (1935) – Sam Preston
  • While the Patient Slept (1935) – Lance O’Leary
  • Babbitt (1934) – George F. Babbitt
  • Big Hearted Herbert (1934) – Herbert ‘Big-Hearted’ Kainess
  • Dames (1934) – Horace
  • The Merry Frinks (1934) – Uncle Newt Frink
  • Merry Wives of Reno (1934) – Tom
  • Harold Teen (1934) – Joe ‘Pa’ Lovewell
  • Wonder Bar (1934) – Simpson
  • Easy to Love (1934) – Justice of Peace
  • Convention City (1933) – George Ellerbe
  • The World Changes (1933) – James Clafflin
  • Havana Widows (1933) – Deacon R. Jones
  • Footlight Parade (1933) – Silas Gould
  • Lady for a Day (1933) – Judge Blake
  • The Silk Express (1933) – Railway Detective McDuff
  • The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) – Phlaxer
  • Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) – Faneul H. Peabody
  • Lilly Turner (1933) – Doc Peter McGill
  • Girl Missing (1933) – Kenneth Van Dusen
  • 42nd Street (1933) – Abner Dillon
  • Central Park (1932) – Policeman Charlie Cabot
  • The Conquerors (1932) – Dr. Daniel Blake
  • Scarlet Dawn (1932) – Murphy
  • Rain (1932) – Joe Horn
  • Big City Blues (1932) – Hummell, the House Detective
  • Crooner (1932) – Mike the Drunk with Megaphone
  • Winner Take All (1932) – Pop Slavin
  • The Dark Horse (1932) – Zachary Hicks
  • The Strange Love of Molly Louvain (1932) – Pop – a Policeman
  • Two Seconds (1932) – Bookie
  • The Crowd Roars (1932) – Pop Greer
  • The Mouthpiece (1932) – Bartender
  • Play Girl (1932 – ‘Finky’ Finkelwald
  • Fireman, Save My Child (1932) – Pop Devlin
  • High Pressure (1932) – Clifford Gray
  • Union Depot (1932) – Scrap Iron Scratch
  • Taxi (1931) – Pop Riley
  • Blonde Crazy (1931) – A. Rupert Johnson, Jr.
  • Flying High (1931) – Mr. Smith
  • New Adventures of Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford (1931) – McGonigal
  • Side Show (1931) – Colonel Gowdy
  • Laughing Sinners (1931) – Cass Wheeler
  • City Streets (1931) – Pop Cooley
  • Man of the World (1931) – Harry Taylor
  • Stolen Heaven (1931) – Police Commissioner

Categories
Movie of the Day

Dames (1934)

Cast

Joan Blondell – Mabel
Dick Powell – Jimmy
Ruby Keeler – Barbara
Zasu Pitts – Mathilda
Guy Kibbee – Horace
Hugh Herbert – Ezra
Arthur Vinton – Bulger – Ounce’s Bodyguard
Phil Regan – Johnny Harris – Songwriter
Arthur Aylesworth – Train Conductor
Johnny Arthur – Billings – Ounce’s Secretary
Leila Bennett – Laura – Matilda’s Maid
Berton Churchill – Harold Ellsworthy Todd

Crew

Directed by
Ray Enright
Busby Berkeley – (musical numbers)

Written by
Delmer Daves – (screen play)
Robert Lord – (story) &
Delmer Daves – (story)

Categories
Movie of the Day

Kansas City Princess

Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell as American manicurist posing and French manicurists.

Cast

  • Joan Blondell – Rosie Sturges
  • Glenda Farrell – Marie Callahan
  • Robert Armstrong – Dynamite ‘Dynie’ Carson
  • Hugh Herbert – Junior Ashcraft
  • Osgood Perkins – Marcel Duryea – French Private Eye
  • T. Roy Barnes – Alderman James ‘Jim’ Cameron
  • Hobart Cavanaugh – Alderman Sam Warren
  • Gordon Westcott – Jimmy the Dude aka Frankie Smith
  • Vince Barnett – Quincy – Dynamite’s Henchman
  • Ivan Lebedeff – Dr. Sascha Pilnakoff
  • Renee Whitney – Mrs. ‘Lovums’ Ashcraft
  • Arthur Hoyt – Mr. Greenway

Categories
Movie of the Day

The Long Walk

“How you and I been walking along this road now? 50 years now?” an unnamed old man asks. The odd thing is the woman is speaking to, who also goes unnamed, couldn’t be much older than 20. The Old Man (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy) finds a decaying motorbike in the jungle where he has lived his whole life, strips and meticulously cleans the useable parts. When he sells the parts on to a street vendor, he receives payment from a mobile phone, directly to a chip in his forearm. “You still have a government-issued chip?” the vendor yells. “Ancient technology, ancient man!”

These two lines early in the film tell the audience that despite the abundant nature of the jungle setting, The Long Walk is a science fiction fantasy story with its own rules about how the universe works. The Girl (Noutnapha Soydara) serves as a link between the Old Man and a painful memory from his childhood, which unfolded in the same house where he is still living. He dilapidated house is a perfect setting for a film about the inability to let loved ones move on after they have died.

Director Mattie Do was born to Lao refugees in America, and only recently moved to Laos to become a filmmaker. It couldn’t be easy, as there is not much of a film industry in the country. Her debut film became the first Lao film to screen outside of Southeast Asia. The Long Walk is only her third film, and already looks like the work of a seasoned filmmaker. It often calls to mind Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, not only because it is a sci-fi story in a naturalistic setting, but because of the assured tone and pace of the film.

Categories
Movie of the Day

Only the Animals

Damien Bonnard as the lonesome farmer, Joseph

The Tokyo International Film Festival offers something that is rather rare in the city—the chance to see French films with English subtitles. I see as many as I can and am rarely disappointed. I went into Only the Animals knowing next to nothing about it.

I was a bit apprehensive in the first ten minutes, as Alice (Laure Calamy) makes her rounds in a mountainous area of France to see that farmers are following hygiene regulations for some unmentioned agency and has sex with lonesome farmer Joseph (Damien Bonnard). But this is not actually how the film begins. The scene before the opening title has a young man weaving through traffic in Côte d’Ivoire on a scooter with a live goat strapped to his back. He goes to an apartment, where he asks for Papa Sanou (Christian Ezan). This prologue signals that Alice’s story is going to go somewhere very different, and indeed it does.

Veteran actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi with future star Nadia Tereszkiewicz.

When Alice sees a news report about a missing woman with a shot of an abandoned car she saw on her rounds, it is the first of many, many plot twists, as the structure of the film unfolds like a Chinese box, shifting to the perspectives a different characters, first Alice’s aloof husband Michel (Denis Ménochet, who is the highlight of the ensemble cast) then missing woman herself (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and a young, needy waitress (the intense Nadia Tereszkiewicz, who has a great career ahead of her). Some of the same scenes are replayed from the perspective of another character, until everything leads back to the young man on the scooter in Côte d’Ivoire (Guy Roger ‘Bibisse’ N’Drin). He is told by the shaman Papa Senou “Chance is stronger than you”—a line that seems designed to take some of the stink off the incredible coincidences in the film. But more than chance of fate, the story is driven by impulse. All of the characters immediately give into their impulses, except for the local Gendarme (Bastien Bouillon), who doesn’t understand why people just don’t behave rationally. If they did, we wouldn’t have stories like this.

Categories
Movie of the Day

La Llorona

María Mercedes Coroy as the mysterious maid Alma in La Llorona
© COPYRIGHT LA CASA DE PRODUCCIÓN – LES FILMS DU VOLCAN 2019

“Guatemala is tired of weeping for its missing people,” a journalist says, wrapping up a report on the overturning of a court ruling that found a retired general guilty of genocide in the early 1980s. And La Llorona is a film about weeping.

The news report is being broadcast on a widescreen TV in a luxurious home and is soon drowned out by the chanting of protestors. We are inside the home of the aging general himself. “People have been saying bad things about grandpa on the internet,” says the preteen Sara (Ayla-Elea Hurtado) early in the story. The general is named Enrique Monteverde in the film, but clearly based on former chief of military intelligence Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, who denied any responsibility for the genocide of the Maya Ixil people in court in September, 2018, which must have been just as the writing on this film was getting started.

Enrique is played by Julio Diaz, who looks like a veteran actor but IMDB has this as his only credit. Although Enrique agrees with his old military cronies on their strategy to never lower their heads, so they appear as heroes rather than victims, when the old man returns home under heavy guard and bulletproof vest, he is troubled. He believes he hears a woman crying in the middle of the night.

Sara (Sara (Ayla-Elea Hurtado) is drawn to water after meeting the family’s new maid.

Attacks by the protesters have proven to be too much for the servants, and all but one has left during the trial. The loyal Valeriana (María Telón) tells the family she has sent for people she knows in her hometown, and soon arrives quiet Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) who fixes the adults with a haunting stare by bonds with the granddaughter. The maids are both Mayan Ixil, the ethnic group subject to the general’s genocide. With Alma’s arrival, Enrique is consumed by images of water, and the sounds of a woman weapon, and the film becomes both a social drama and a horror film. The actress and director Jayro Bustamante work together to make Alma both a frightened victim and unsettling.

Director Jayro Bustamante at the Tokyo International Film Festival

Bustamante appeared after the screening at the Tokyo International Film Festival and said that the legend of La Llorona is one of the most well-known in all of Latin America. He said he wanted to share stories of Guatemala’s war with viewers who are too young to remember it. When he realized that young audiences like horror, he decided to combine a drama about genocide in which thousands of children were lost with the legend of the woman who was abandoned by a man and out of grief killed her own two children. The La Llorona of legend and Alma in the film can only go on weeping.

Categories
Movie of the Day

Earthquake Bird

A love triangle meets over beers. Credit: Netflix映画「アースクエイクバード」 11月15日(金)より独占配信開始

“I got a gig at the club in Ikebukuro,” Bob tells his friend Lucy during a hike into the mountains. “The band is really the best musicians I have ever played with. That is what I love about Japan—you get a second chance here.” Bob is a Brit running a Karaoke bar in 1989 Tokyo who dreams of a more serious career in music. He’s just a minor character (played by an underused Jack Huston) in Earthquake Bird and just one of many trying to start afresh in Tokyo. He introduces recently arrived Lily Bridges (Riley Keough) to long-time resident Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), whose name in its original Swedish pronunciation sounds just like the English word “flee.” Even Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi), the photographer who forms the third corner of the love triangle with Lily and Lucy, has come to Tokyo from Kagoshima in the rural south. “I didn’t like the girls in my hometown,” he says when asked about his dating history, although his excuse doesn’t quite ring true.

But this is Lucy’s story, and Vikander’s movie. The actress is in every single scene of the film, for which she not only learned to speak Japanese quite well but also learned to play the cello. We meet Lucy is pouring herself into her work as a translator, writing Japanese subtitles in pencil for another American film set in Japan, Black Rain, when the police arrive at the office and ask her to come in to answer a few questions. Lily was reported missing some time ago, and now a body has been found. The good cop/bad cop duo (Kazuhiro Muroyama and Ken Yamamura) see Lucy and uncooperative, when in fact she answers their questions, and only their questions, with exacting precision. “Five years and two months,” she says without taking time to think when asked how long she has been in Japan. Another time she informs the officers that she didn’t lie, but that they simply asked the question in the wrong tense. It is this rigid attitude that brings back the past Lucy is so desperate to flee, both her recent past with Teiji and Lily, and her more distant and more painful memories from Sweden, and the majority of the story unfolds in flashbacks.

“I was thinking this is the weirdest date I have ever been on, if it is a date.” Credit: Netflix映画「アースクエイクバード」 11月15日(金)より独占配信開始

Wash Westmoreland is probably the perfect director for this, having spent a year in Japan in the 1980s. I happen to know Tokyo well, having lived in the city for nearly 20 years, and was able to spot the usual sins of geography that have cropped in foreign films set in the city since at You Only Live Twice. A group of characters walk through the brightly lit streets of Shinjuku that were used on the final scene of Lost in Translation, and go down into a club that is nearly a mile away. But Westmoreland and his team work to make the Japanese settings authentic. The late ‘80s setting could have invited gags about big hair and clunky payphones, but the few reference to the time period help fill out the characters. “I called a girlfriend back home and talked for like, 20 minutes,” Lily says in one of her early conversations with Lucy, “and it wound up costing like a hundred bucks.” “It’s better not to call,” Lucy is quick to say. “It is good to be isolated.” When that hike into the mountains leads four characters to a stunning view of Mount Fuji, instead of pulling out smartphones to capture the moment for Instagram, they simply realize they haven’t brought a camera.

A sequence featuring the Ondeko drumming festival on Sado Island, is especially effective at using the rhythms to underscore Lucy’s increasing disorientation, paranoia and jealousy. After this masterful scene and a climax that is both surprising and mirror Lucy’s long-held anxieties, the quite resolution leaves a bit to be desired.

Naoki Kobayashi, Alicia Vikander and Wash Westmoreland at a press conference before the Japan premiere.

Vikander, Westmoreland and Kobayashi were on hand to present the film to the audience at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and surprised the audience by making their comments in both Japanese and English. This, as well as the film itself, is a sign of a level of international film production that has rarely been reached.

Categories
Movie of the Day

Witness to Murder

Director:
Roy Rowland
Writer:
Chester Erskine
Cast:
Barbara Stanwyck
George Sanders
Gary Merrill
Jesse White
Harry Shannon
Claire Carleton
Lewis Martin
Dick Elliott
Harry Tyler
Juanita Moore

Categories
Movie of the Day

Kind Hearts and Coronets