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Tag: pauline kael
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Million Dollar Movie

One worth seeing…and I bet Matt B will agree with me on this one.

From Pauline Kael:

Melvin and Howard (1980) – This lyrical comedy, directed by Jonathan Demme, from a script by Bo Goldman, is an almost flawless act of sympathetic imagination. Demme and Goldman have entered into the soul of American blue-collar suckerdom; they have taken for their hero a chucklehead who is hooked on TV game shows, and they have made us understand how it was that when something big – something legendary – touched his life, nobody could believe it. Paul Le Mat plays big, beefy Melvin Dummar, a sometime milkman, sometime worker at a magnesium plant, sometime gas-station operator, and hopeful songwriter – the representative debt-ridden American for whom game shows were created. Jason Robards plays Howard Hughes, who is lying in the freezing desert at night when Melvin spots him – a pile of rags and bones, with a dirty beard and scraggly long gray hair. Melvin, thinking him a desert rat, helps him into his pickup truck but is bothered by his mean expression; in order to cheer him up (and give himself some company), he insists that the old geezer sing with him or get out and walk. When Robards’ Howard Hughes responds to Melvin’s amiable prodding and begins to enjoy himself on a simple level and sings “Bye, Bye, Blackbird,” it’s a great moment. Hughes’ eyes are an old man’s eyes – faded into the past, shiny and glazed by recollections – yet intense. You feel that his grungy paranoia has melted away, that he has been healed. With Mary Steenburgen, who has a pearly aura as Melvin’s go-go-dancer wife, Lynda; Pamela Reed as Melvin’s down-to-earth second wife; Elizabeth Cheshire as the child Darcy; Jack Kehoe as the dairy foreman; and the real Melvin Dummar as the lunch counterman at the Reno bus depot. This picture has the same beautiful dippy warmth of its characters; it’s what might have happened if Jean Renoir had directed a comedy script by Preston Sturges. Cinematography by Tak Fujimoto. Universal, color.

Million Dollar Movie

Welcome to Stanley Kubrick Week on Million Dollar Movie.

Claire Quilty: I get the impression that you want to leave but you don’t like to because you think I think it looks suspicious, me being a policeman and all. You don’t have to think that because I haven’t got a suspicious mind at all. A lot of people think I’m suspicious, especially when I stand on street corners. One of our boys picked me up once. He thought that I was a little too suspicious standing on the street corner. Tell me, I couldn’t help noticing when you checked in tonight–It’s part of my job, I notice human individuals–and I noticed your face. I said to myself when I saw you, there’s a guy with the most normal-looking face I ever saw in my life. It’s great to see a normal face, ’cause I’m a normal guy. Be great for two normal guys to get together and talk about world events, in a normal way.

Peter Sellers is best remembered as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, but his artistic masterpiece is generally considered to be Dr. Strangelove. Sellers plays three characters in Stanley Kubrick’s dark, political satire. His performance is all that and them some and deserves all the praise it gets, but I believe Sellers’ accomplishment in Kubrick’s previous film, the 1962 adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s notorious book, Lolita, is just as fine—a comic actor at the height of his powers.

Sellers plays Claire Quilty, a pompous hipster playwright, the alter ego and nemesis to James Mason’s lustful professor, Humbert Humbert. “Are you with someone,” Humbert asks Quilty at one point. “I’m not with someone,” Quilty replies, “I’m with you.”


She Lost it at the Movies

When I was a teenager, the film critic Pauline Kael was one of my idols. I loved her reviews. Even when I disagreed with her I learned something new. I felt sure that I could predict which movies she’d like and which ones she’d trash, but I was never that sure. She was always surprising. She was crazy for movies and wanted to be overwhelmed by them. She wrote sprawling reviews. They were always something to look forward to.

In the late ’80s, she fell ill, and I wrote her a note, saying, in effect that she could not die before she had the chance to review my first movie. Weeks later, I received a postcard with scrawled handwriting on one side–”It wasn’t the prospect of reviewing your first movie that laid me so low, although something sure as hell did. Good luck, Pauline Kael.” She retired from the New Yorker not long after that.

Her reviews were also condensed into blurbs in the front of the New Yorker. Here is a random selection, sure, as always, to raise an eyebrow, make someone furious, and perhaps turn your head too.

It’s a rainy day in New York. Enjoy:


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