First movie of 2023, if anyone is keeping track, and off to a shaky start. This was on the Sight & Sound list, and of course I’ve always been curious about the movie where a boy befriends a hawk. But I also know about animals in movies, and assumed the hawk has to die in the end, which it does. At least, per imdb trivia, it’s the favorite film of both Krzysztof Kieslowski and Karl Pilkington.
British adults are authority-obsessed obstructionists, and Billy is a smart, resourceful kid who gets into kestrels, then steals a chick and raises it. He steals something in every scene, so the adults have reason to be suspicious of him. Billy gets brief fame at school, the others impressed by his pet hawk, until his older brother kills the bird. If the movie is about anything, it’s that institutions fail us and birds are beautiful. I hope England sinks into the sea (but slowly enough for the birds to relocate). The kid kept acting, was in an All Quiet on the Western Front remake with Donald Pleasence and Ian Holm.
Cool opening as everyone in town passes out, and all the women wake up pregnant. But – oh no, it’s British – so we cannot say the word “pregnant,” it wouldn’t be proper. The men are understandably upset since nobody in Britain has had sex in years, but life must go on, all the babies are born heavy with strange eyes, growing fast and blonde, and the grown-ups make the best of it.
Alan (Michael Gwynn, a priest in Scars of Dracula) visits town to see what’s up, checks in with his friends George Sanders (All About Eve narrator, Voyage to Italy husband) and Barbara Shelley (Quatermass and the Pit) and their new alien son David. The kids are psychic, resistant to authority, and tend to make adults who threaten them commit suicide. As an unexpected tie-in to our Hellraiser-themed month, their intelligence is tested using a complex puzzle box. The angry drunks at the bar think mob violence is the solution, but it’s not – it’s sending George Sanders to the schoolhouse with a bomb, trying to guard his thoughts from psychic intrusion until it goes off. In the Defining Movies book, Chris Fujiwara praises the ending, the crumbling wall superimposed over Sanders’ eyes “shows the process of thought – the gradual erosion of the man’s concentration.”
The author’s Day of the Triffids was filmed the year before with Howard Keel, and more recently with Eddie Izzard, while this was remade a few times, the latest coming out just a few months ago (and now I need to check out the John Carpenter version). Rilla is mainly known for this – looks like he made some naughty indies in the 1970’s.
Sanders, matching the curtains:
Both the movie and its lead dude Cooper Hoffman move fast. He gets Alana Haim to be his chaperone on a promotional trip for his acting career, then things escalate, until he’s arrested for murder while selling waterbeds at a teenage fair, and flooding the house of Barbra Streisand’s boyfriend. She directs the ads for aspiring politician Benny Safdie, he opens a successful pinball palace. Haim gets to run a lot. The final scene, I dunno, but hey, why not.
Kid does not have a bike, and lives in a group home but keeps escaping to look for his dad, a sous chef who sold the bike and doesn’t want to be a dad anymore. Enter large-hearted hairdresser (and Haute Tension star) Cécile de France, who takes a liking to the boy (even though he’s a bit of an asshole) and buys his bike back. Gaining a new mother-figure is outweighed by Dad (Jérémie Renier, naturally) telling him not to come around anymore, so Kid immediately gets mixed up with a gang of criminal youths. He stabs Cécile when she tries to keep him from going out to conk a newsseller with a baseball bat. The newsseller takes revenge, but everyone is alive and intact in the end, and Cécile remains large-hearted despite having to pay back the money her shitty adopted son stole. The Kid would go on to play Jean Renoir’s little brother in a biopic.
Miller has made an interesting movie out of typical prestige drama material by not shooting this in a typically prestige-drama manner. It looks Little Shop sound-stagey, with big cartoon Lost Children close-ups and boss scene transitions.
DC family’s beloved son starts having violent outbursts, they’re told it’s a fatal degenerative brain disease with no treatment, so the dad goes from support groups to library research to medical conferences to hiring labs to make custom experimental drugs, earning his son twenty extra years of life through the resulting treatments. Intro scene in East Africa pays off when they invite L’s protective buddy Omouri to help out towards the end (Nolte balks: “We can not bring an African to this racist country”).
All the nominations went to Sarandon and the writers, but all the awards went to Emma Thompson and The Crying Game. No noms for Nolte, who can’t do much to elevate the movie while saddled with an Italian accent.
Celia’s beloved grandma just died, but she’s got the new neighbors next door to play with, and the eternal hope that she’ll get a pet rabbit. Unfortunately the neighbors are communists, and it’s Australia in the 1950’s during a myxomatosis outbreak (I’ve had the Radiohead song’s bassline in my head all week), so she’s constantly being warned against rabbits and commies.
Rabidly anti-commie dad (Nicholas Eadie of pre-fame Nicole Kidman miniseries Vietnam) chooses sides, and buys her a rabbit if she won’t play with the neighbors anymore, tells her they’re bad people. Cruelty abounds: the other kids hurt her rabbit, dad gets the neighbor fired. Her family’s cop friend John (Bill Zappa of The Road Warrior) straight-up kidnaps the rabbit, and after it dies in quarantine, Celia becomes the Joker. She shoots John to death while seeing visions of storybook monsters (major Heavenly Creatures parallels) and gets away with it, then fortunately doesn’t kill his daughter while staging mock gallows executions.
Not so harmless:
Celia was Rebecca Smart, who debuted in Dusan Makavejev’s The Coca-Cola Kid. Turner later directed Sam Neill and pre-fame Russell Crowe, and remade Teorema starring Sandra Bernhard in the Stamp role(!!)
Treated myself to a new Gena Rowlands movie and… well, I didn’t hate it, but I have no desire to watch the Sharon Stone version. It relies on big acting moments, but instead of Peter Falk we’ve got this ten-year-old kid. I warmed up to the second half, but until then, practically every moment felt phony. Still, it’s Gena as a tough broad capering through 1980 NYC, and that’s a lot.
“I hate kids, especially yours.” Gena inherits the neighbor kid when his family is murdered by gangsters. She happens to know the people responsible, and tries to keep both of them safe long enough to broker a peace agreement, but the baddies insist the entire family must be killed to set an example, and Gena too, since she interfered, so she shoots her way outta there. My people online all liked this, but if I can’t get into a Cassavetes/Rowlands take on the ol’ mismatched adult-child caper movie then I should definitely avoid C’mon C’mon.
Buck Henry, I just saw him in To Die For, which I also complained about:
Among Those Present
Watching three Lloyd shorts from the same year, and this one opens with the best bit, wealthy-looking Harold exposed as a coat-check guy wearing a guest’s fancy clothes. A witness to the incident offers to get Harold some glad rags and take him partying with the swells, for obscure reasons, leading to riding and hunting antics and cute rich girl Mildred Davis. After this complicated setup, the second half is just Harold pantsless, running away from various animals. Mildred’s parents are very good – James Kelly had been in all of Chaplin’s Mutuals, and Aggie Herring was in the Jackie Coogan Oliver Twist and, uh, Suicide Squad.
Now or Never
Now Mildred is the maid of a neglected kid with rich parents, but it’s the day she’s supposed to meet the boy she knew years ago, and they are both having transportation issues. Harold has wrecked his car, rides underneath a train car, then Mildred gives him the kid and boards… a different train? Doesn’t matter, they end up together, most of the movie devoted to the stupid kid being naughty-cute.
Animated segments! Harold and Mildred are finally married in this one (and soon IRL), walking around with a baby carriage full of wine (aha, prohibition). Then the movie goes downhill, taking care of horrible kids that aren’t theirs again, and Harold’s fairly incompetent in this one.
Newmeyer and Roach made these, as would be expected.
First time watching this in high-def… oh my.