Color, credits, and Cary Grant

After watching the inscrutable film The Lobster, I decided I needed a break from high-brow art films and so decided to watch films that just entertained and did not tax the mind. And for that purpose, I have been on my own personal Cary Grant film festival. I first watched That Touch of Mink (1962) that co-starred Doris Day, then Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Grace Kelly, then my favorite Charade (1963) with Audrey Hepburn. Next in my queue if I can find them are Indiscreet (1958) with Ingrid Bergman and The Grass is Greener (1961) with Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, and Jean Simmons.

Grant almost always plays a suave, witty, sophisticate. These old romantic and/or suspense comedies all provide the promise of being very pleasant and unchallenging. You can be sure that everything will end happily and that they will never take a sudden dark turn, though one false note that one should be prepared for is the casual male chauvinism on display that was taken for granted in those days but now strikes the viewer as jarring.
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Violent reaction to Brazilian comedy film

Last week I favorably reviewed the Brazilian comedy The First Temptation of Christ that has drawn protests from Christian groups because of its suggestion that Jesus may have been gay. Now the protests have spawned violent offshoots that have attacked the filmmakers’ offices with firebombs.

Police are investigating a fire-bomb attack on the Rio de Janeiro office of a production company behind a controversial Christmas special aired on streaming service Netflix.
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Who are the people in Star Wars?

Those who recall the first Superman film starring Christopher Reeve will I am sure remember the scene where he is heartbroken that he could not arrive in time to save Lois Lane from death when she falls into a crevasse, if I recall correctly. So what does he do? He flies around the world at high speed in a direction opposite to the Earth’s rotation and by doing so he reverses the flow of time so that events go backwards and Lois emerges from the depths and he can rescue her. This was laugh-out-loud funny bad science.
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Film review: The Lobster (2016)

This is one truly weird film. I watched it because the capsule description said it was a comedy and it had many well-known good actors such as Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman (who seems to be in everything these days), Ben Whishaw, and John C. Reilly. I did not laugh even once. Instead I watched it with a kind of curious fascination, trying to figure out to what the hell it was all about, what message the film makers were trying to convey. I still don’t know.
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Film review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) (no spoilers)

I am not a big Star Wars fan, so take my review of the final act with a grain of salt. (I mean the final act of the original nine-episode storyline of course. This lucrative franchise will be milked with spinoffs until the next millennium.) I enjoyed the first trilogy (episodes 4, 5, 6), absolutely hated the first film of the second prequel trilogy (episode 1), so much so that I completely skipped episodes 2 and 3. The first film in the final trilogy (episode 7) got good reviews, enough that I went to see it and quite enjoyed it. I then watched episode 8 and was disappointed again and was now ambivalent of seeing the latest release but decided to do so due to a combination of staying with people who were going to see it and curiosity about how the story line would end. We ended up seeing it at 8:45 on Christmas day morning which had the benefit of the theater being largely empty even though we were watching it on an iMax screen.

(Q: Why were the nine films made out of order? A: In charge of scheduling, Yoda was.)
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Midsomer Murders and ethnicity

As I have mentioned before, I am partial to watching British police procedural shows on TV. They tend to eschew graphic violence and chases in favor of more genteel story telling. One of the most venerable of these shows is the series Midsomer Murders that has just released its 21st season. Over time, the series has developed a slightly campy, tongue-in-cheek feel because of the sheer implausibility of so many murders taking place in quaint little villages and rustic settings in one small English county. With each season, the way that the murders occur have become steadily more outlandish so that I now often laugh out loud when people have been killed in bizarre ways and their bodies are found in the most incongruous places. (In one episode a few seasons ago, the victim was a cricketer killed by the mechanical bowling machine used for practice that had been adjusted by the killer to rapidly fire high speed balls at his head.)
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Dubbing, subtitles, and miscommunication

I wrote recently about how disconcerting it was when watching a film when the audio and video are not synchronized, so that the spoken words do not match up with the mouth movements of the speaker.

I recently watched a film where this problem was even more pronounced. It was an Italian film but they had dubbed it into English. Dubbing is usually bad and rarely done these days. When I was young in Sri Lanka, I recall seeing a number of so-called ‘spaghetti western’ films that were made in Italy that had one American star (like Clint Eastwood in the Man With No Name trilogy) or with Steve Reeves as various mythical heroes like Hercules, with the rest of the cast being Italian. So the star would speak in English but all the others in Italian with their voices dubbed in English. They were pretty bad.
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Film review: The First Temptation of Christ (2019)

Some of you may remember my review of the hilarious short (45 minutes) film The Last Hangover by a Brazilian comedy troupe Porta dos Fundos that that has a reputation for skewering religion, politics, culture and other hot-button topics. That earlier film envisaged the Last Supper as a massive drunken blowout that resulted in the apostles waking up the next day to find Jesus missing and having only the vaguest notion of what had happened.

The troupe has returned with an even funnier short film (45 minutes) The First Temptation of Christ that is being streamed on Netflix. The central premise is a surprise 30th birthday party for Jesus thrown by his parents Mary and Joseph when he returns from spending forty days in the wilderness. But things start to go awry because Jesus (played here by the same actor who played Judas in the other film) has brought a friend Orlando with him whom he met during his desert sojourn. God (whom Jesus has known all his life as just his Uncle Vittorio) also turns up and he and Joseph and Mary have to tell the oblivious Jesus the truth about his real parentage, that he is the Son of God with miraculous powers, and what his mission in life is to be. We also have cameos by the Buddha, Shiva, and other gods who all get their share of barbs thrown at them.
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Jonathan Miller (1934-2019)

The multi-talented Miller died yesterday at the age of 85. His obituary describes the wide range of activities that he was involved with in his life, including being a doctor, writer, and theatre and opera director.

I first came across him as one of the four people (along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and Alan Bennett) that made up the sketch comedy team whose performance of Beyond the Fringe broke with traditional British comedy and set the stage for later acts like Monty Python.
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