Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Everett Jones ""

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Underrated '86 - Everett Jones

Everett is an avid movie watcher and user of Letterboxd like myself - follow him there: - I've gotten many good film recs this way.

See his Underrated '96 list here:
One of the more endearing aspects of the original Stars Wars and Indiana Jones series is how un-Hollywood, aside from certain key roles, their casting tended to be. Shot largely on English soundstages, they naturally tended to use the locally available talent, rather than the familiar names and faces back in L.A. Denholm Elliot, as Indy's older colleague Marcus Brody, is a case in point; an actor I'd never seen or heard of before that Raiders tape first slipped into the VCR. For that reason, it's always doubly satisfying to see him, or other Spielberg/Lucas-approved names like Paul Freeman (Belloq; The Long Good Friday) or Ronald Lacey (Toht; Flesh + Blood). His role in this stylish, intelligent political thriller, as a boozy journalist, is one of the best of his later career, taking far more advantage than Lucasfilm ever could of his patented air of terribly English dissipation.
The In-Laws was first introduced to me as a kid by my parents, who would quote certain lines (“Serpentine! Serpentine!”) prodigiously; I couldn’t be happier that, with their announcement of its forthcoming release, the Criterion Collection has bestowed on it long-overdue recognition as one of the masterpieces of the cinema. Well, maybe not, but it’s certainly a favorite. Its follow-up, not so much, but it is one of the more intriguing and compulsively watchable misfires of a decade better known for equally disposable successes and failures. Reuniting screenwriter Andrew Bergman and stars Alan Arkin and Peter Falk, this kind-of/sort-of/not-really remake/parody of Double Indemnity doesn’t even begin to find the common ground between Bergman’s machine-tooled plotting and replacement director John Cassavetes’s improvisatory experimentation. Ultimately, the film’s greatest marks of distinction are probably the role it gives to the lovely, underused Beverly D’Angelo and inspiring the title of one of the finest film blogs
Another fascinating failure of 1986 is this hugely expensive (for the time) flop from Roman Polanski. If there’s anything I find more fascinating in “bad” films than the clash of mismatched sensibilities, it’s the misapplication of one singular talent. Polanski is every bit the master filmmaker of Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby in this, constructing sequences and serving up spectacle with a sense of control and scale that the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean never mustered. Yet this attempt at an Errol Flynn/Burt Lancaster-style blockbuster is a tonal and narrative disaster, with Polanski’s bleakly absurdist, Eastern-European’s-eye-view of the world handily defusing the good-natured excitement to be found in even the worst Hollywood pirate flick. As oddly compelling as the filmmaking, in the same car-crash kind of way, is Walter Matthau’s performance as the film’s primary salty sea dog. I can imagine most directors letting Matthau’s native Brooklynese go unchallenged and unchanged in his performance; instead, Polanski eggs on his star to go full-bore buccaneer, using an accent best described as seeming to have every previous pirate movie accent in it. You can keep your Fantastic Fours and Jupiter Ascendings; we won’t see the like of such debacles again.
It’s a little surprising, somehow, to think that, of all the great movies that didn’t need or invite a sequel, Psycho got two of the better ones. Psycho II, directed by the talented, craftsmanlike Richard Franklin, is a solidly constructed thriller, very much in the vein of if not in the league of its predecessor. Psycho III is something else entirely, feverish and, it would seem, oddly personal. Maybe it’s just the strain of monetizing a valuable piece of intellectual property long past its natural expiration date--this series is entirely dependent on the incompetence of mental health services in Fairvale, California, which keep prematurely releasing Norman Bates--or maybe it has to do with Perkins himself, by this point as trapped within his most famous role as Norman Bates was within his own mind.

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