Ray Liotta Dies Aged 67

Sad news today. One of my favourite modern American actors had died suddenly, at a relatively young age.

He was the star of ‘Goodfellas’, one of my favourite films, which featured in my all-time Top Ten.

Many of his other performances were memorable too, including ‘Sin City’, the underrated ‘Narc’, the marvellous ‘Copland’, and ‘Hannibal’. He was in ‘Field of Dreams’, ‘Unlawful Entry’, ‘Phoenix’, ‘Revolver’, and many more.

He was not a ‘thespian’, far from it. But his engaging smile, good looks in his youth, and tough-guy persona often lifted a film that he was in.

I will miss him. But we will always have ‘Goodfellas’.

RIP, Ray Liotta.

No Thanks, Mr Spielberg

I have just been watching a feature on the BBC News, promoting the remake of the film musical ‘West Side Story’, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Being old enough to have seen the 1961 film on release in the cinema, it remained a musical I really liked, in a genre that I don’t generally gravitate to. When I heard the film was being remade for release in 2021, I really couldn’t see the point. After all, the songs and music are the same, and the story virtually unchanged. The original film is still amazing to watch, even sixty years after it was released.

So why do it? Why not just show the original in cinemas again, for a ‘new audience’?

Watching Spielberg being interviewed this morning, I got my answer.

The original film is no longer considered to be ‘representative’. In the new age of political correctness, where history has to be reworked and authenticated to satisfy the media and some minorities, it seems that Mr Spielberg did not think there were enough ‘real Puerto Ricans’ in the original version.

Of course, Natalie Wood was the lead female character, Maria, and she was a ‘white American’ actress. Rita Moreno co-starred and she was Puerto Rican. But there were not enough minority actors in the film to satisfy Mr Spielberg, so he sought to remake it to ‘rectify that fault’.

If we follow this through, then I suspect many old musicals will have to be remade, and very soon.

‘The King and I’ starred Yul Brynner, playing the King of Thailand.
How dare they not cast a Thai actor in the role?

‘Cabaret’ stars Joel Grey as the master of ceremonies in the Kit Kat club.
Come on, we know he’s not German. Get that film remade tout suite!

‘The Sound Of Music’ tried to fool us into believing that Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were Austrians.
Why didn’t they use Austrian actors? I want to know!

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ starred Dick Van Dyke as an English professor.
We all know he is American, and there were plenty of suitable actors available in England. Get that remake made!

I could go on, but will spare you more of my sarcasm.

It is just complete nonsense.

No thanks, Mr Spielberg. If I want to watch West Side Story again, it will be the 1961 version for me.

Streaming Confusion

At one time, not too long ago in the dim and distant past, if I wanted to watch a film that I had missed at the cinema, there was a straightforward option.

I could buy the DVD.

Not only from Amazon, but from many other DVD sellers around the UK. Even if the film was a Region 1 release that only played in North America, there was a 95% chance that I could find a Region 2 copy, released for the European market. I have bought over 700 films on DVD since they first launched the concept, and killed off VHS in the process.

Then everything changed.

Netflix released its own films.
Amazon Prime released its own films.
Apple TV released its own films.
And Disney put many of its better releases onto Disney+.
Then came Hulu, HBO, HBO Max. SKY Films, and many more…

So now, buying a DVD is often a very difficult prospect, and sometimes impossible.

Yes, I can rent a DVD on Amazon, or watch some films free on Prime. But that means watching it on a computer for me.

I can see a Netflix film on the streaming service, but that costs money, and we currently have access via my stepson’s account. I cannot buy a Netflix film to keep on DVD though.

As for Disney+, most of their output is not to my taste, so I am unlikely to pay a monthly fee to watch just an occasional film.

I get recommendations from blogging friends. I think “Ooh, I would like to see that”. Only to find it is on SKY Cinema, Hulu, HBO Max, or Paramount. If those services are available in Britain, I am not aware of them, except for SKY. Even if they are, they probably cost close to £10 a month each or more, so I cannot justify another £30-£50 a month outlay just to watch a few films during the year.

My conclusion is that DVD will soon be dead.

It is currently in the Intensive Care Department, struggling to live. But it has enemies, and those enemies are the ever-growing army of streaming service providers who want to kill it off completely. The shiny discs will soon be a thing of the past, along with the players that we can watch them on.

Thing of the past? Yes I know.

A lot like me.

Film And TV Stuff

I have been watching a few films lately, and that got me thinking. Most of those I watched were being shown on TV. Mainstream channels, not Netflix or Amazon. (Both of which I have access to) I have Netflix through a relative, but I cannot remember the last time I watched anything on it. I am also a member of Amazon Prime, though I mainly use it for the next day delivery service, and don’t take any of the ‘free’ books or make much use of any other membership options. I have only ever watched three films on it, and none of their own popular series.

There is also the NOW TV box, which I have had for some years. Offering access to Sky Atlantic, and many ‘free’ films too. (Most of which I have seen)

I use the marks around ‘free’ as nothing is free of course.

My stepson pays for Netflix, and we are on his account. I pay for Amazon Prime, and also for the NOW TV box. Those monthly subscriptions start to add up, but we get used to paying them, and don’t even think about what we could do with that £18-40 a month people like me pay for streaming services.

Many people pay much more. I have a close friend who has the whole SKY Q package. That includes everything, and live sports too. But SKY currently charges around £70 a month for all that. As with mobile phone and broadband contracts, it becomes ‘normal’ to pay out for them every month, and we mostly forget about those costs.

New kids on the streaming block here include Disney+. They are getting wise though. Many streaming providers are outbidding regular TV networks for popular series. So if you are a long-term fan of things like ‘The Walking Dead’, or anticipating a new series of ‘Loki’, you have to pay up, subscribe, or not get to see your favourite shows.

I predict this will be the way of things, sooner rather than later. Streaming companies will outbid established providers like the BBC, and make many of our favourite TV shows only available to their subscribers. Anyone who cannot afford to pay out for all the various players in the streaming ring will be stuck with whatever everyday programming is left to the free channels.

And what about DVD films? Do you still buy them? I do. I mostly buy used copies from Marketplace sellers at much less than £5. But sometimes I have to pay full price for something unusual. I just checked the shelves behind me, and I have 52 DVD films yet to be watched. Most are still in their cellophane wrapping, and some I have had for as long as five years without watching them. The majority are foreign language films, and most of those could be described as ‘obscure’. They are never going to turn up on mainstream TV, or on a streaming service.

So what of those films in the future, when companies just stop making DVDs in the same way they did with VHS tapes?

I have no idea, but I suspect it will be a case of having to see them at a cinema that shows rare films (of which there is only one on Norfolk) or never be able to see them at all.

You know that I am old now, and resistant to change. But I will rue the day when streaming becomes the only option to watch anything, and anyone without the money to subscribe is sidelined.

Just my thoughts.

Some Britsploitation films

Another old film post from 2013, a look at some very different British films. I think only Eddy and Vinnie have seen this one previously.

beetleypete

The Antipodean film buff, and blogger extraordinaire, James Curnow, recently added an interesting post on his website, at http://curnblog.com/  It was a look at twelve Australian films, and he wittily entitled it, ‘Ozpolitation: Twelve Australian Exploitation Classics.’ This was a play on the often-used term, ‘Blaxpolitation’, common in film writing to describe a genre of American films that featured predominantly black casts, small budgets, huge Afro hairstyles, and jive-talking leading men. These films were mostly made in the 1970’s, taking popular cinematic subjects of the day, and re-making them with a black cast, and lots of cultural references relevant to the largely black-populated districts of America’s cities. Well-known examples include; ‘Cleopatra Jones’, ‘Car Wash’, ‘Shaft’, and ‘Superfly’. They usually had soundtracks featuring leading black artists of the day, including such leading lights as Curtis Mayfield, and Isaac Hayes.

This gave me food for thought. British Cinema has not escaped this…

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More Films About Art

I recently reblogged my old 2013 post about the depiction of some famous artists in films made about their lives. Many readers suggested other films about different artists, some of which had not been released at the time, and others which I had seen but had left out of the original post. I suggested I might publish a second post later this year, but as it is a damp and dismal afternoon in Beetley, I have done it today.

I have only featured films I have actually seen. I know there are many more that I have not got around to viewing.

The Agony And The Ecstasy. (1965)

I was only 14 years old when I saw this at the cinema. It was promoted as an epic tale of the life of Michaelangelo, starring Charlton Heston as the painter and sculptor, and Rex Harrison as The Pope. The film was produced and directed by Carol Reed, one of Britain’s best. It turned out to be mainly about Michaelangelo’s struggle to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Not wanting the job, then unhappy with the finished result.

All this is set around the intense world of politics and war that beset the region in the 16th century.

The result is rather stodgy, to be honest. It felt overlong at 138 minutes, and I was shuffling in my seat long before the halfway point. The worthy supporting cast members give it their best shot, sets and scenery are well-handled, (they recreated the Sistine Chapel on a film set) but Heston overplays his role, and you cannot fail to notice that.

Here’s the official trailer.

Lust For Life. (1956)

Kirk Douglas does very well as the troubled Vincent Van Gogh in this film, and we also get another artist, Paul Gaugin, played by Anthony Quinn. An indication of how good it is was a Golden Globe for Douglas as Best Actor, and an Oscar for Quinn as best supporting actor.

We get Vincent’s early life, his departure to Paris with his brother Theo, and his meeting with Gaugin. Kirk Douglas throws everything into the role, and I found him completely convincing. (Yes, the ear cutting scene is included) His descent into madness and hallucinataions is well-handled, and the recreations of the original paintings good enough to make it feel as if Kirk is painting them.

Good sets, some location filming, and nice period feel, great supporting cast, and exceptionally good use of colour make this film stand out. It is still worth seeing now, for anyone interested in the painter and his work, or to watch Kirk Douglas giving one of his best ever performances.

Here’s an old trailer.

Moulin Rouge. (1952)

Thankfully not the awful Baz Luhrmann musical from 2001, this is a biopic of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, starring Jose Ferrer and directed by John Huston. Courtesy of a flashback, we learn that the young Henri suffered injuries in a fall as a child. This caused his legs to be stunted, giving him a lot of pain, and also making him exceptionally odd in appearance.

Unhappy, unlucky in love, and convinced that life will hold no joy for him, he loses himself in his painting, moving to Paris to begin a career. There he spends his time with dancers, entertainers, and prostitutes. He favours the nightclub ‘Moulin Rouge’, where he paints advertising posters of the stars and leading ladies, all the time drinking heavily. There he falls in love with a prostitute, Marie, but their relationship is turbulent, and she takes advantage of him.

As Henri continues to try to find love, he is slowly drinking himself to death, resulting in another accident when he falls down some stairs.

This is a remarkable film; with wonderful recreations of the Moulin Rouge, convincing characters, and a real feel of the turn of the century setting. It is also a tour de force from Ferrer, as he had to work with various props including knee pads and concealed pits to give the impression of his incredibly stunted legs. He also plays his own father, early in the film. I have seen it many times, and even now it is hard to believe it was released the same year I was born.

Here is the official trailer.

Carrington. (1995)

I saw this on TV a few years ago, and really liked it. English painter Dora Carrington is played by Emma Thompson, with the marvellous Jonathan Pryce as Lytton Strachey, her destructive love interest. This film has sexual themes, including homosexuality, and ‘sexual confusion’. Filmed as chapters, it covers a time period from 1915-1932. The film also features a particularly good score, with the music for the soundtrack composed by the talented Michael Nyman.

The supporting cast deserves mention, as it includes some of the best British character actors of the time. Samuel West, Penelope Wilton, Rufus Sewell, Jeremy Northam, and Janet McTeer. (As well as many more) Sets and costumes are never less than flawless, and the direction from Christopher Hampton is perfect. This is as much a film about Stracey though, and was actually adapted from a book about him, choosing to feature his unusual realtionship with Dora as its main theme.

Serving as an acting masterclass from many of the best in the business, this film rewards the serious viewer who is not deterred by some of the content and themes. Pryce and Thompson are simply outstanding.

Here’s the trailer.

Mr.Turner. (2014)

British artist J.M.W.Turner is played by Timothy Spall, who won the Palme’Dor at Cannes for Best Actor in the role. He is joined by a fine supporting cast, including Lesley Manville and Marion Bailey, with direction from the wonderful Mike Leigh. The story looks at the last twenty-five years of Turner’s life, (he died in 1851) including his relationships with the women in his life, and his unusual approach to his painting.

In all honesty, it doesn’t get much better than this, especially if you are a fan of both history, and Turner’s art. Spall is amazing, completely inhabiting the role of the painter. Cinematography, sets, location filming, design, costumes, casting, nothing lets down the viewer. Direction and screenplay from Mike Leigh is as good as ever, and the whole film is a cinema experience and a feast for the eyes. Not much more to say really. Just watch it when you can.

Some reviewers called this film ‘A masterpiece’. No argument from me.

Here is the official trailer.

That’s it from me. I don’t think I have seen any other films about the lives of artists and painters. If I remember one, I will do another post. 🙂

Some Comedy films

Another old film post from 2013 that no current followers appear to have seen. (Except Eddy) Unusually for me, this one is about comedy films.

beetleypete

Some time ago, my friend Jim Medway (look him up, very talented cartoonist) asked if I was going to post some suggestions for comedy films that I would recommend. I had feared that someone would make that request, as Comedy is my least favourite genre, when it comes to films. It is not that I don’t find things funny, far from it; just not the sort of things that are commonly called ‘comedy’, by film-makers.

I could barely raise a chuckle at the big box-office successes starring the likes of Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or Steve Martin. It is also highly unlikely that I will ever want to watch a teenage ‘rom-com’, or one of the cruder attempts at being funny, that seem so popular in the multiplexes these days. I will confess that some parts of ‘There’s something about Mary’ made me laugh, but not enough to get it…

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Some Musical films

Another film post reblog from 2013. This time it features some musicals. Hardly anyone has seen it before, except Eddy and
Vinnie.

beetleypete

I am not generally a fan of musicals, especially theatrical ones. I have never seen a Lloyd-Webber, and have nothing good to say about ‘Les Miserables’, or ‘Moulin Rouge’. However, there are some film musicals that I do like, and it is those I recommend here. Most, if not all are well known, so nothing to surprise the reader.

The Producers. This original 1968 version, written and directed by Mel Brooks, still makes me laugh 45 years later. The story is about an unscrupulous Broadway producer (Zero Mostel) duping old ladies into backing a production that is designed to be a failure; then all the backers lose their money, and the producers of the title clean up. At least that is the plan. He recruits a shy accountant (Gene Wilder) to fiddle the books, and buys a sure-fire disaster of a script from a Nazi fanatic, entitled ‘Springtime for…

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Some American Civil War films

Another film post reblog from 2013, this time on films about the American Civil War. I appreciate this is a very niche interest. 🙂

beetleypete

Something that I have not previously mentioned, I have had a life long interest in the American Civil War. To be accurate, Civil Wars in general, though that will probably be the subject of another post, not in this category. When I was young, there was a television series, called ‘The Gray Ghost’. This was imported from the USA, and concerned the exploits of a Confederate irregular unit, led by the real life officer, Major Mosby. The issues surrounding the causes of the war, States’ rights, Industrialisation and immigration in the North, and the issue of slavery, were not really addressed of course, and it was all about the action. I later read a lot about this war, and carried on the interest into adulthood. Like many others, I favoured the Confederacy, though naturally not from a racist standpoint, more from admiration of the tactical skills of their generals, and…

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Some films about Art

Another film post from 2013 that hardly anyone has seen. This time it is about famous artists whose lives were filmed.

beetleypete

You know the old  quote, ‘I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like!’ Well, I only know a bit about Art, but quite a lot about films. Here are some suggestions that manage to combine the two, providing visual delights, exciting action, and some great acting in the process.

Caravaggio. Whatever you think of the controversial English film-maker, Derek Jarman, don’t let it put you off this 1986 work. Despite the quirky additions to the story, ( a typewriter in 17th Century Italy!) strong performances by a very good cast make this well-worth watching. The story of Carvaggio is told both on film, and by his paintings. His love interest, played by a younger Sean Bean, is an integral part of the plot also, with Bean taking hold of the film for the most part, and overshadowing Nigel Terry, in the lead role. What makes it…

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