Monthly Archives: September 2021

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. The Lady Eve (Sturges) – A+
2. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks) – A+
3. Malignant* (Wan) – B+
4. Cry Macho (Eastwood) – A-
5. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
6. Anne at 13,000 Ft.* (Radwanski) – B-
7. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
8. Man with the Movie Camera (Vertov) – A+
9. Cry Macho* (Eastwood) – A-
10. Contagion* (Soderbergh) – B


Talking CRY MACHO on the Split Picks podcast

It was my great pleasure to appear on Split Tooth Media’s Split Picks podcast to talk CRY MACHO with Bennett Glace. He loves it as much as I do and we talk about why the film’s critics are WRONG:

Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO

I reviewed Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO for Cinefile Chicago:

Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO (US)

The Logan Theatre and Various Multiplexes – Check Venue websites for showtimes

If RICHARD JEWELL (2019) was Clint Eastwood’s FRENZY—a dark, angry movie that revisited some of the director’s pet themes in a more disturbing fashion than ever before—then CRY MACHO is his FAMILY PLOT—a surprisingly sweet and gentle about-face that feels like a career summation while showing the old master has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Like MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) and GRAN TORINO (2008), CRY MACHO tells the story of an older man haunted by his past who finds redemption in becoming a surrogate father to a wounded younger person. The relationship unfolds on a picaresque road trip similar to the ones in BRONCO BILLY (1980), HONKYTONK MAN (1982) and THE MULE (2018), and Eastwood also throws in a cross-generational romance (a la BREEZY [1973] and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY [1995]) for good measure. Most of all, CRY MACHO is quintessentially Eastwoodian for how the filmmaker finds new ways to interrogate and subvert his own macho persona as an actor, even though (or perhaps precisely because) he was a physically frail 90-year-old at the time it was shot. Jonathan Rosenbaum once balked at the reception of Manoel de Oliveira’s CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS – THE ENIGMA (2007) because he was convinced that some fans of the then-98-year-old director valued the film only because Oliveira could be seen in it driving a car. There will no doubt be similar skepticism in some quarters towards the neo-western CRY MACHO for containing images of the now-ancient Eastwood riding a horse, punching someone in the face, and dancing with a much-younger señora (the wonderful Natalia Traven). But Eastwood’s performance here is genuinely and subtly moving: there’s a scene where his character, a retired rodeo star, cries while talking about mistakes he’s made, and it’s filmed in such a daringly offhanded manner, with the actor’s cowboy hat slung low over his eyes, that many viewers likely won’t even notice the single tear that streams down his face while he’s reminiscing. The low-key, no-fuss approach is characteristic of both the director and the movie as a whole. CRY MACHO features perhaps the most beautiful widescreen landscape shots that Eastwood has ever composed (with New Mexico credibly standing in for Mexico), even though, typical for a director famed for his visual economy, he refuses to linger on any of them for a second longer than necessary. A small masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the big screen. (2021, 104 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]

Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2

I reviewed Fellini’s 8 1/2 for Cine-File Chicago ahead of a couple of revival screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center this weekend.

Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (Italy)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Sunday, 6:30pm

Life imitates art and art imitates life in Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, a thinly disguised autobiographical study of an Italian filmmaker, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni, naturally), fighting director’s block while making a science-fiction epic. 8 1/2 proved to be exactly the right movie for its cultural moment, as cinematic new waves were cropping up all over the world and the auteurist notion that a film could be (and indeed should be) seen as the personal expression of a single individual was filtering down from critics to the general moviegoing public. Of course, an intuitive director like Fellini wasn’t consciously trying to capture the zeitgeist but merely throwing his own confusion about life, love, and art up on the screen (the film’s original title, THE BEAUTIFUL CONFUSION, would have been apt). Fellini also had no way of knowing that the innovative way he showed the collision of his protagonist’s fantasies, dreams, and childhood memories—most of which pertain to Guido’s struggles with religion and/or the women in his life—would exert such a massive influence on future filmmakers. Everyone from Woody Allen (STARDUST MEMORIES) to Bob Fosse (ALL THAT JAZZ) to Paul Mazursky (ALEX IN WONDERLAND and THE PICKLE) unofficially remade it (while, ironically, the official remake, the Hollywood musical NINE, proved to be an impersonal work-for-hire for director Rob Marshall). As Dave Kehr perceptively noted, “There’s something about the concept (stuck for an idea for his new movie, a director takes a long, hard look at his own life) that appeals irresistibly to the ego of the professional filmmaker. For directors frustrated by the eternal obscurity of life behind the camera, the 8 1/2 formula gives them a way to step forward and grab the spotlight they’ve trained so long on others.” Fellini may never again have ascended to the level of greatness he displayed here, even though he repeatedly mined similar subject matter, but 8 1/2 remains a dizzying career high. (1963, 138 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]

The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. The Card Counter* (Schrader) – A-
2. Short Cuts (Altman) – B+
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A
4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A
5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch) – A
6. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+
7. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+
8. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton) – A+
9. Candyman* (DaCosta) – C
10. Housekeeping* (Forsyth) – A

* – first-time watch

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