Sights and Sounds

Noises Off

Noises off coverI’ve always liked films and plays that are about films and plays themselves.  Maybe it’s because there is still a part of me that would have like to have been “an actor.” (Said term must be pronounced with the air of exaggerated sophistication that implies the lack of same.)  Noises Off is one of my favorites.  It has an all-star comedy cast featuring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve.  The story is about a group of actors in a touring company performing a comedic play that they hope will head to the big time.  In this case the action behind the scenes is as funny, or funnier, than what is taking place on stage.  The film gives us a chance to the see the action from both sides.  From the front we see the play “Nothing On,” from the back we see the interactions among the actors.  There are affairs, personality conflicts, and drinking to the point of drunkenness.  The term “noises off” comes from the direction that backstage sounds are to cease, something that doesn’t exactly happen backstage in the movie.

Noises Off is a comedy based on the play by Michael Frayn. It is a fast paced and driven movie that reminds me quite a bit of some of the best skits from the Carol Burnett Show.  In most plays backstage is an area of controlled chaos.  In the case of the backstage action in Noises Off remove the word controlled.   If you like a good, semi intelligent comedy mixed with slapstick and outrageous personalities you should give Noises Off a try.

Muscle Shoals

Muscle Shoals is great music documentary about the "special sound" that came out of the studio recordings of this small town in Alabama that includes names like Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers (among others). Interviews with the studio musicians, the engineers, and some of the more famous people involved on the bands listed above help tell the story of this great place to make music. I was particularly interested in the story of the session musicians from that town, named "The Swampers" that played behind the varied kinds of musicians that came to record over the years.

Harvey

“Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Elwood P. Dowd.

Jimmy Stewart once said that his role as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey was one of his favorites.  It is perhaps his most famous movie role beside that of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”   Harvey is a laid back and enjoyable film about a man who has left the work-a-day world and apparently entered into a life of unreality.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

I chose to highlight this film, released (and slightly forgotten) last year, because the holds queue has recently run its course. The plot concerns a small-town Texas man who escapes from prison to reunite with his wife and their child he has never seen. If you're looking for a crime picture that is equal parts emotional relationship drama and technical detail period piece (mid 20th century), check this out. The box advertises it as a "modern western", which I suppose it is, in the way a film like Down in the Valley or Lonely Are The Brave (the last "good Western", according to Sam Shepard's True West) is. It has a few action scenes, but this film is more Badlands than Bonnie & Clyde.

Drug War

If you are looking for a good, modern crime thriller, and are not averse to subtitles, this new Johnnie To movie is definitely worth checking out. A contemporary of filmmakers like John Woo and Tsui Hark, Johnnie To has been known for making good (crime) pictures in China for awhile now, but this new one is a great blend of action and plot. Reviews I have read compare it to Infernal Affairs (which Martin Scorsese's The Departed was based on), though the plot here is not THAT convoluted.

Auto Focus

In the 1960’s one of the top rated TV shows of the time was a comedy about the unusual subject of a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany.    The show was the story was about a group of prisoners in Stalag 13 whose mission was to conduct secret operations behind enemy lines.  It was known as Hogan’s Heroes.   The film Auto Focus is not about this television show but about its star who found himself in the public’s eye and being held up to public as the example of the ideal family man.  His life and his actions were anything but ideal. 

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