Monday, April 9, 2018

Thoughts on recent movies seen-one "old", one "new".

Recent movies seen: 1) "East of Eden", 1955. Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey. 4 stars (out of 5). I've tended to avoid James Dean movies becuse the whole Dean phenomenon is so depressing (including the fact that the car accident that killed him wasn't his fault, despite popular belief), but I've read the book (Steinbeck) so I did want to see the flick. It's a pretty heavy melodrama. You may know it's a modern telling of the Cain and Abel story, but the best scenes in... the movie are those between Cal (Dean) and his mother (Jo Van Fleet), who he'd been told was dead. She's now running a bordello in a nearby town.
She's cold to him at first, but comes to see him as a like-minded rebel against Cal's father and his religious convictions. She eventually develops something close to motherly affection for him. The performance by Van Fleet is in many ways the highlight of the movie, and for once the deserving person actually got the Oscar (Best Supporting Actress). So-what would Dean's career have been like? Would he have been able to graduate to truly adult roles? Paul Newman was at his best when he played punks, such as in Hud and Cool Hand Luke. He was never quite as good again. Maybe the same for Dean. I don't know.

2) "No Country for Old Men", 2007. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin. 4 1/2 stars. This is a Coen Brothers movie-screenplay/directing. Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) is shooting deer in the West Texas bush country. He misses the deer, but stumbles upon what's left of a drug deal gone gruesomely wrong. There are bodies everywhere, one guy barely alive begging for agua, and $1.5 million in cash-which Moss takes. Big mistake. (You need to overlook the fact that whoever killed most everybody left all that money behind).

Anyway, Moss later feels guilty over leaving the guy begging for water, goes back, and his truck gives him away. Javier Bardem is the psychopath who chases Moss and kills people with an ususual method best not detailed. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the old men of the title, those not prepared for a world where dozens are killed over a suitcase full of money. All the performances are fantastic, the dialogue is crisp and often funny, and despite the brutality the movie is, as they say, compulsively watchable.

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