FlixChatter Review: Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

Edward Norton is one of the best actors working today, but I feel like it’s been a while since I saw him as a proper leading man. This time he also takes the helm in his passion project, based on Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel of the same name. Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a lonesome private detective with Tourette Syndrome attempting to solve the murder of his mentor.

One thing I noticed right away was the stellar cast, so I was quite dumbfounded when I read on IMDb trivia that the principal major stars worked for free here. Bruce Willis payed his mentor Frank Minna whom we learn later has taken Lionel and his colleagues who worked for his detective agency under his wing. It’s clear that Lionel loved Frank, perhaps even idolized him. The film is set up like a whodunnit classic noir of the Hollywood Golden age, but it’s actually not hugely unpredictable. Lionel’s constant voiceover provides so much info to the audience that initially it was overwhelming. Thankfully over time I was fine with it and actually enjoyed the way the story unfolds. There’s kind of an unhurried pace the way Norton tells the story, hence the nearly 2.5-hour running time.

At a council meeting, Lionel’s investigation reveals a bigger connection to the city than he originally thought. I have to say that it’s not until Lionel meets a black community lawyer Laura Rose (played by the sublime Gugu Mbatha-Raw) that things started to get really interesting. Laura and her boss Gaby (Cherry Jones) are fighting gentrification in NYC where the poor and minorities are being driven out of the city by a development tycoon Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin). Baldwin relishes in playing a callous, unapologetically-corrupt, racist power broker (modeled after a real life ‘master builder’ Robert Moses) who utters lines like “Power is feeling, knowing, that you can do whatever you want, and not one fucking person can stop you,” Meanwhile, Willem Dafoe plays a rather beaten-down sort of a man who’s backed into a corner. This has been quite a year for Mr. Dafoe – his performance here might not be as memorable as the one in The Lighthouse, but he’s always fascinating to watch on screen.

As the lone female figure in a largely male cast, I absolutely adore Mbatha-Raw. I always lights up whenever I see her on screen, she’s so criminally underrated. The tentative bond between Lionel and Laura feels natural as they share something in common. Lionel friends call him ‘Freakshow’ though he’s a brilliant investigator and Laura, as a woman of color with a law degree, each have their own struggles about where they fit in. I particularly love the scene in a jazz club where Lionel slowly dances with Laura, as Michael Kenneth Williams as the Trumpet man performed on stage. It’s a sweet moment that gives us a respite from all the puzzle-solving scenarios, and it’s perhaps the first time Lionel feels ‘safe’ in the arms of a woman.

But there’s no argument that this is Norton’s film… a vehicle for his acting chops and directing endeavor. He’s in virtually every single scene… if he’s not visually on screen, his voice would be, narrating it. I find it interesting that two recent films by acclaimed actors feature characters suffering from neurological conditions. While Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck aka Joker suffers from the Pseudobulbar Affect that caused him to laugh/cry uncontrollably, Norton’s Lionel suffers from a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary tics and vocalizations where he’d compulsively utters inappropriate words like ‘tits’ in public. I can’t comment whether his portrayal of the syndrome is accurate (I read that the Tourette’s Association of America approved of the film), but his performance at times invites laughter from the audience, and I can’t help feeling guilty every time I chuckle.

Now, as for his directing chops, I think he’s a promising filmmaker, but I think this story could’ve been much more gripping when done by a veteran director. For one, a tighter editing and more dynamic pacing would make the film feels less sluggish. But considering this is his sophomore effort, I suppose it takes time for someone to hone their craft. At least this movie isn’t boring, not to me anyway. Norton has said in many interviews that he learned from past visionary directors, the likes of Milos Forman, Spike Lee, David Fincher which eventually inspired him to direct.

It’s hard not to notice some of the timely parallel of what’s going on today… the commentary about insatiable power and that the Moses character has that Trump-like, big-bully mannerism and cockiness. According to NPR, Norton actually finished writing the script before Trump came into power, when he was just a game-show host. “I would say President Trump is a game-show host also — it’s just a more damaging game that he’s playing. …” The film is also a love letter to New York, a city Norton clearly loved. The production design, set pieces, costumes, etc. are meticulously-crafted to reflect 1950s NYC, shot beautifully by Dick Pope (whom Norton worked with in The Illusionist). The scene in the train station (apparently Norton’s crew recreated the Penn Station) look magnificent, and I love the night scenes, particularly the foggy night on the Brooklyn bridge, which shows just how dramatic and atmospheric NYC nights are depicted in the movies.

I love a good mystery film that isn’t overly grim and violent, and Motherless Brooklyn certainly fits the bill. It’s not quite as riveting nor utterly brilliant as L.A. Confidential, a 1950s neo-noir that Norton reportedly admire, but this one is still an enjoyable ride. It helps that I immediately sympathizes with Lionel, which makes me invested in his quest to solve his mentor’s murder. The revelation of what the title means is memorably poignant moment, I like that Norton isn’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. So despite the overlong running time, I still highly recommend this film, and I hope Norton would continue to make films in the future.

– Review by Ruth Maramis


Have you seen Motherless Brooklyn? I’d love to hear what you think.

FlixChatter Review – Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

The Mission: Impossible film franchise is one of the few that somehow got better and better after its third sequel struggle to make a dent at the box office. Not only did the later sequels were financially successful, they’re also critically darlings. Looking at Rottentomatoes.com, Mission: Impossible 4-6 received mid to high 90% rating.

After a mission gone wrong and three nuclear missile heads are in the hands of a new group of terrorists known as The Apostles, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his teammates Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) must retrieve the weapons. When Hunt was getting an intel briefing from his boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), as to where he can find the nuclear weapons, they’re both got interrupted by a new CIA director Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett). Sloan is upset that the IMF team lost the nuclear heads and insists that her agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) must go with Ethan to retrieve them.

First on their task is to capture and impersonate a man named John Lark (Liang Yang) and meet with a mysterious woman named White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), in Paris who has the connection to the Apostles. But when Hunt and Walker met with White Widow, she insisted that they must break out an international terrorist and Hunt’s nemesis Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) from prison or they won’t get the nuclear weapons. Of course this complicates the mission but both Hunt and Walker went along and helped Lane escaped. Along the way, Hunt ran into an old friend Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She’s also has her own mission and that is to eliminate Lane for good. Well, things never go as planned and Hunt must use all of his skills to try to save the world from chaos and also save those who he cares about.

For the first time in franchise history, the same director and writer Christopher McQuarrie of the previous film has returned and take charge of this new mission. To my surprise, McQuarrie has exceeded what he created in the last picture. He crafted a complexed storyline that’s full of twists, drama, humor and big action sequences. By hiring new crew members, notably a new cinematographer and composer, he was able to differentiate this film from the last one. It’s clearly that he used Nolan’s The Dark Knight as his inspiration for this outing. The film even contains a big chase that’s very similar to a chase sequence from The Dark Knight. A big bathroom brawl, a spectacular motorcycle and car chase through the streets of Paris and a helicopter chase are the highlights of the set pieces.

Cinematographer Rob Hardy is having a good year. He shot the excellent Annihilation for Alex Garland earlier this year and again for this film, he did a tremendous job. This film contains so many wide shots in the series since Woo’s Mission: Impossible 2. This is good because we the audience can actually see the action and not trying to figure out what’s going on super chaotic scenes. Shout out also goes to composer Lorne Balfe who apparently is the understudy of Hans Zimmer. So, of course this film’s score sounds like it’s was composed by Zimmer. There’s still the well know Mission: Impossible theme but Balfe made it sounded like something very original. Just a little trivia, Hans Zimmer did compose a Mission: Impossible film, he worked on the second one.

With three box office bombs in a row, Cruise poured all of his performance into this film. He did the usual crazy stunts but was willing to show his character’s age and flaws by having him get his ass whooped a few times in the film. The rest of the cast members were pretty good too. I was afraid Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust might just be nothing more than a cameo but her role was an integral part of the story and as usual she saved Hunt’s life couple of times in the film. Simon and Luthor didn’t really have much to do except to be comic relief. Luther did have a touching scene with Ilsa, I really liked that scene. I liked the addition of Alec Balwin’s character and he even got involved in one action scene with the team members. Bassett and Cavill were a nice addition and I hope we see more of Bassett’s character in the next Mission film. Kirby’s White Widow is an interesting character and I thought she played the role quite well even though she didn’t get a lot of screen time.

Having seen the film twice already, I can declare Fallout is the best Mission: Impossible film yet. It’s full of humor, great tensions and spectacular actions sequences. If there’s an IMAX, Dolby Cinema or other large vendor theater near you, go see it there. It’s definitely my favorite film of the summer and maybe even of the year.


So have you seen Mission Impossible: Fallout? Well, what did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

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I’ve been a fan of this long-standing franchise even from the first one by Brian De Palma. Looking back, it certainly was a more cerebral, somber affair as it took itself way too seriously. It might’ve been the fourth movie when the film took a decidedly lighter tone, but amped up the action to be even crazier. It’s akin to a cinematic roller coaster, a huge adrenaline rush from start to finish. You know when want to go for another round the moment you’re done with a REALLY fun amusement park ride? Well, that’s how I felt the minute the end credits roll.
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It’s to be expected that the stake of Mission Impossible movies get more and more well, impossible. But really, they’re not called the Impossible Missions Force for nothin’. This time Ethan and team take their craziest mission yet, and a personal one. If you’re familiar with the franchise, you know about the mysterious International organization the Syndicate, which is as skilled as the IMF and commited to destroy Ethan & co.

Right from the opening sequence with the highly-publicized plane sequence where Tom Cruise was hanging out on the side of the plane, a stunt the superstar himself performed no less than 8 times, you’ll know what you’re in for. But you’ve got to have a lot more tricks up your sleeve if you show THAT scene early in the movie. Thankfully that is the case here. If you love chases of any kind, whether it be on foot, car, motorbikes, etc. you’ll find them here. It’s as if each action scene tries to one-up the other and I have to say each one is as exhilarathing as the last.

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My favorite scene is the one within the Vienna Opera House, with stunning camera work in the narrow, shadowy corners. The fight scenes are jaw-droppingly spectacular, even more so against the classic aria of Nessun dorma. It’s truly the spectacle to watch going into a movie like this and it looks amazing on the big screen.

Early in the film, we’re introduced to a new character Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), but THIS is her moment to shine. She’s my favorite female character in ALL of the Mission Impossible movies so far. I’d vote to have Ilsa replace Ethan Hunt in future MI movies or have her star in a MI spinoff movies. She’s THAT great. I love the fact that she’s a formidable character who’s no bimbo, and on top of being Ethan’s equal in the action scenes, Ilsa actually has a compelling character arc.

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The relentless logic-defying stunts are electrifying, but I like the fact that director Christopher McQuarrie actually includes one scene that show Ethan is human after all. I won’t mention the scene as to not spoil it for you, but I actually feared for his life for once, even for a moment. There is also an emotional connection between the characters, especially when it comes the dynamic of Ethan’s core group: Benji (Simon Pegg), William (Jeremy Renner), and Luther (Ving Rhames). The camaraderie works well and it’s easy to root for this group.

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Humor is another recipe for success in this franchise. The high-octane stunts are matched with crackin’ wit, mostly from the resident comedian Pegg, but Renner also made the franchise’s oft-used line “I can neither confirm nor deny any details without the secretary’s approval” to hilarious effect. There’s also a particularly humorous scene involving the British PM towards the end. Nice to see Alec Baldwin as another CIA officer, 25 years after playing Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October.

If I have one quibble though, it’d be the villain (Sean Harris). I don’t know why the filmmakers think a weird & creepy bad guy is more effective than a normal-looking one. I’d think that a perfectly normal character with a ruthless agenda can be just as menacing, so long as they cast the right actor. Harris just seems more of a damaged, eccentric psychopath than a really scary villain worthy of a super spy like Ethan.

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Thankfully, the rest of the cast delivered and the movie is as fantastically entertaining as ever. Just like the unstoppable franchise, Cruise clearly still has plenty of energy to make us believe he IS Ethan Hunt, he made even James Bond seems rather tame. He’s starting to look older but young enough to pull off the relentless action and even the shirtless scenes. Still I’m thankful there’s no unnecessary romance that’d make me cringe.

I enjoyed the heck out of MI: Ghost Protocol and I remember thinking, boy how’d they top that Burj Khalifa scene?? Well, not only does Rogue Nation manage to top THAT scene, but the movie as a whole. This one now stands as my favorite of the franchise. I rarely say this about any movie, but I hope they continue to make more Mission Impossible movies and hopefully McQuarrie will be back for at least the next one. This is only his third film, and I actually quite like his previous film with Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher. He also wrote the screenplay for Edge of Tomorrow, so it seems that his collaboration with Cruise has been a rewarding one. Joe Kraemer who worked on the score for Jack Reacher also did a great job scoring this one.

I can’t wait to see this again, next time at IMAX. It’s an escapism sort of movie and Rogue Nation delivers on that front, and more.

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So have you seen MI: Rogue Nation? Well, what did YOU think?

Classic Actor Spotlight: Jack Lemmon Part III… Defining Himself

Greetings once again, all and sundry. It has been my distinct pleasure to proffer two heaping helpings of the life, times and career of one of the true greats of the actors’ craft. Trying my best to keep each segment in chronological order to highlight changes and improvements in delivery and venue. Due to unexpected, though much appreciated feedback. I am going to have to warm up the Halden Collider~Way Back Machine in my basement and cheat a bit, though not much. I’m pretty sure you will be pleased with the end result. That said, allow me to introduce …

Jack Lemmon: Defining Himself


Well on his way to being a recognized name in both Comedy and Drama. It seemed that Mr. Lemmon needed a bit of well earned vacation and down time. And what better way to fill that time, than to sign onto another Blake Edwards project that latched onto the wave of boffo box office generated by Ken Annakin’s laugh out loud romp, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines… With a few obvious and better changes, of course.

The Great Race (1965)

It’s the turn of the 20th century and those odd looking, smoking, choking ‘Horseless Carriages’ are starting to be seen more and more and appear to be catching on in popularity. Enter, The Great Leslie. Entrepreneur and often times daredevil in the vein of Harry Houdini, barnstormer Charles Lindbergh and wing walker Ormer Locklear. Played heroically to a fault and always in spotless white attire and sparkling eyes  by Tony Curtis. Who proposes an automobile race from New York westward, to Paris. Basically, to promote his own prototype, The Leslie Special. Lovingly tended to by engineer and sidekick, Hezekiah Sturdy. Deftly brought to life by always reliable, Keenan Wynn.

Now, anyone so handsome, gallant, clever and heroic NEEDS a villain of equal or greater reputation and stature. And Mr. Lemmon fills that bill with room to spare as Professor Fate. Sneeringly eloquent and often elegant in black greatcoat, suit and nearly always present stove pipe hat. The Professor has his own skin in the game with the ‘Hannibal Twin-8’. Complete with smoke generators, a huge boring drill bit and 3 pound cannon.
Contestants come from far and wide and are whittled down to six. One of note is Maggie DuBois. The beautiful reporter for the New York Sentinel assigned to cover the astonishing event. Delightfully played by Natalie Wood as an emancipated woman long before the sexual revolution. Drawing the attention of both Leslie and Fate during a soiree the evening before the flag drops. Though the principals may be otherwise involved. Night time is the right time for Skullduggery and sabotage. When Fate’s stalwart sidekick and henchman, Maximilian Meen; wondrously mastered by Peter Falk. Applies his trade craft to the three of the cars, one being Fate’s.

The drivers, associates and their machines line up the next morning and the flag is waved. Leslie takes the lead with Fate not far behind as two machines crash through store fronts and assorted street and roadside obstacles. Leaving Leslie, Fate and Miss DuBois in the running. Until her car breaks down and she rides with Leslie and Heekiah. Through the Wild West, encounters with a gunslinger (Larry Storch) and an overblown barroom brawl, courtesy of singer, Lily Olay (Dorothy Provine).

Things only get funnier as the Bering Strait as true love wings its way during a snowstorm and fate kidnaps Miss DuBois. Only to have things kick into high gear when Fate and company arrive in Potsdorf. A small Duchy in the midst of a quiet coup, whose Crown Prince Frederick is under arrest and who also bears an uncanny resemblance to Professor Fate. I’ll let you connect the dots from there as the Duchy is left in a shambles and the racers head towards Paris and the Eiffel Tower…

Overall Consensus:

Though not mentioned as prominently as in earlier critiques. Mr Lemmon and his wily Professor Fate brings all four corners of this tale together quite nicely and delivers it wrapped in a bow. Reacting in ways clever, deft, though not completely thought out or tested. Creating a character who is one third Robert Walker’s Bruno Anthony from Strangers on a Train. One third Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius and one third Snidley Whiplash from the old Bill Scott Dudley Do-Right cartoons of the 1960s. Gleefully popping a child’s balloon one moment. Only to have his rubbery face scrunch up in evil schemes the next. His impersonation of the foppish and just a tad effeminate Crown Prince Frederick at the receiving line of an overly elegant ball is not to be missed! As the fawning crowd responds to upwardly raised hands to laugh. Then stop as they are chopped downward. Very shades of Ernie Kovacs and his dandy creation, Percy Dovetonsils.

In one splendid segment of what was to be one of the last great Hollywood slapstick comedy blockbusters. With many stops pulled out. Including an over the top pie fight between Fate, his handlers. Cooks, chefs, bakers, Miss DuBois, Hezekiah, Maximilian Meen and Leslie, who stays immaculately clean until the last moment.

Nicely rounded out with Oscar-nominated music by Henry Mancini. Between quick sight gags, prat falls and delightfully drawn out attempts at revenge that often blow up in Fate and Max’s faces. Very high kudos to cinematographer, Russell Harlan and editor, Ralph Winters. Who understood what TechniColor was all about and uses its advantages wisely. Also production design and art direction by Fernando Carrere. Set decoration by George James Hopkins and costume deign by Don Feld. For taking the audience on a stylized trip across the world. Without leaving the Warner Brothers Studios.

Which brings us to…

The Out of Towners (1970)

As mentioned briefly in an earlier comment, no one does exasperation as believably as Mr. Lemmon. And in this film the topic is given every opportunity to be toyed with, teased, stretched and pulled in all directions like Silly Putty. On what should have been an overnight vacation and second honeymoon in The Big Apple. With Reservations at the Waldorf Astoria. Dinner, dancing and a 9 a.m. interview for Mr. Lemmon’s  George Kellerman. Up and coming VP of a precision plastic machines in Ohio. Whose sister company is looking for someone like Kellerman to fill a lateral slot.

A journey that begins under sunny cloudless skies as George and his wide Gwen, magnificently underplayed by Sandy Dennis pack up the station wagon and make their flight with time to spare. Once airborne, George’s doubts seem to rise to the fore. Fixated on time and their evening reservations at The Four Seasons as the Boeing 737 buffets ahead of bad weather. A delay is announced from the flight deck and George and Gwen start to regret passing on their in flight meal. The weather doesn’t improve and the flight is diverted to Boston’s Logan Airport instead of JFK.

George is frazzled, though Gwen is upbeat. Until she discovers that their luggage is missing. Which sends them off to report the loss to Billy Dee Williams in the Lost & Found. Then off to find a cab to take them to the train station and then to Grand Central in NY. The ride leaves five minutes to spare. Three of which are wasted over 20 dollars (The only bill he has since his and Gwen’s NY money is in the lost luggage) for a 5 dollar can ride.

The train ride is one from Hell. Cramped, crowded, with no place to sit. And arrives in mid rainstorm over Manhattan. Leaving Gwen and George stuck in the rain amidst a sanitation strike. Near broke and following faulty directions the wrong way as one of Gwen’s heels breaks. Leaving them ripe to be robbed by a friendly man with an umbrella. At wits end, they walk to the local precinct and report their robbery to a desk sergeant (Dolph Sweet) who arranges for a unit to take the Kellermans to the local Armory to sleep for the night. En route, the unit responds to another robbery. George and Gwen are told to sit tight while the cops pursue, are eluded and the thieves hijack the police unit. Dropped in unfamiliar territory, they make their way to Central Park as the rain abates and George cracks a crown. Tired, hungry and fed up to here with the ill hospitality of The Big Apple. They fall asleep under a tree. Only to have Gwen surrender George’s watch to a caped mugger.

The morning comes bright and sunny. As shoeless George searches for Gwen who has found a half empty box of Cracker Jacks for breakfast. Only to lose it to an large, errant Dalmatian. Leaving them time for George to get caught up on current events in about as loud and long argument the two could have while sharing the remains. Before trying to get to the Astoria. En route, they are kicked out of a church. Gwen breaks her other heel. George tries to retrieve it in mid intersection and finally loses it. Screaming at the top of his lungs as pressured neuroses slowly brought to a seething boil throughout leaving Boston and Grand Central Station finally kicks loose internal relief valves. Professing loudly  that the city will never wear them down! Pausing briefly as he smells something strange and steps away from a manhole cover seconds before it blows. Shooting skyward and landing inches away….

Overall Consensus:

As with any Neil Simon play, the magic is in the dialogue. Sometimes overalpping. Often repeated with a slight change of inflection. Yet always clever and fresh. And this film is positively awash in dialogue and telling facial expressions from Mr. Lemmon and Ms. Dennis. As they put up with fate’s or God’s progressively worse ‘sickening factors’ of rain, darkness, piled garbage, stolen wallets and broken heels. And people on the opposite sides of desks or counters who have better things to do. In other words. Just another day or night in Manhattan. Whose names and badge numbers wind up scrawled on a crumpled scrap of paper. George’s growing ‘Who to Sue’ list.

Kudos to Mr. Lemmon for having the bravery to completely and concisely illustrate the ‘Slow Burn’ of running up against a deck of cards stacked so solidly against his meticulously detailed schedule of getting things done. Obstructed so nonchalantly by a city that has other ideas. Wondrously, yet creepily highlighted by locations so dark and foreign looking without landmarks, that you feel the plight of the principals. Equally high marks go to Ms. Dennis’ Gwen. Who lovingly holds her own. While somehow always seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Cinematography by Andrew Laszlo is exceptional. Especially at night. As is an early Quincy Jones’ soundtrack and the ever so brief appearances of secondary characters. Who add to the film’s wickedly dark comedy under Arthur Hiller’s less than subtle touch.

Save The Tiger (1973)

This is the film where Mr. Lemmon comes into his own as a legitimate and recognizable dramatic actor. Giving less than perfect life to Harry Stoner. An executive of an L.A. apparel company that’s come upon rocky, less than prosperous times. Whose recent trip to France to flog spring fashion brings back waves of guilt. For surviving a war begun on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Only to see its snow white sandy beach be the playground for the young, lithe bikinied bottoms and bare chests of those who could care less. Harry’s speech to introduce his company’s lines goes over less than well. Stopping in mid rambling sentence. As a belated mid life crisis stares Harry in the face. And Harry blinks.

Shuttling back to L.A., Harry picks up Myra. A hitch hiking twenty year old free spirit. Played with equal parts curiosity, naivete and ebullience by Laurie Heineman. Who becomes a companion and willing sounding board for Harry as he waxes nostalgic for the long forgotten days and treasured memories of his youth. The post coital scene where Harry and Myra compare cultural, musical, political and sports icons of their times is both melancholy and sweet. Well worth the price of admission or effort to seek out.

Refreshed, if not invigorated, Harry returns to the office and discovers that the company’s financial picture is far less healthy than he had first imagined. Money is owed. Loans are overdue. Designers are squabbling. Sewers and seamstresses aren’t happy with the quality of material. A simple solution would be to torch a company warehouse and collect on its insurance. Though after the idea is broached to a local arsonist. Due diligence is performed and the warehouse is found to be so far below code and standards that several thousand would have to be spent to disguise arson in the first place.

Discussions with Harry’s business partner, Phil Green. Wondrously underplayed by Jack Gilford only buy some time as Harry sees everything he’s been, done and worked for and held dear slip through his fingers. Wanting nothing more than another season….

Overall Consensus:

In what should have been a just over an hour and a half very low budgeted personal project for Mr. Lemmon. A near unknown classic evolved. Through initial viewing and then through word of mouth. Working from a first effort, solid story and screenplay by Steve Shagan. With John G. Avildsen’s deft direction and a prototype film system developed by Fouad Said (‘I Spy’). Cinematography by James Crabe is sharp and uncompromising. Creating a film that is a model of straightforward simplicity and economy of story telling. Aided by a soundtrack composed by a just being recognized Marvin Hamlisch.

Is there action in this film? No. Though there is great power in the spoken words, expressions and body language of a man pushed to his limits. While dealing with changing times, morals, attitude and culture. Well worthy of the Best Actor Oscar win for Mr. Lemmon and a Supporting Actor Nomination for Jack Gilford.

Missing (1982)

Though not a huge fan of Costa~Gavras. Sometimes he gets it right, as with ‘Z’, which was very of its time, external and seething with suspense. And with ‘Missing’. Which is the inverted. Post action packed coup. Pick up the pieces story of a father, Ed Horman. A conservative businessman. Marvelously played to tamped down perfection by Mr. Lemmon. Who fights a near vertical uphill battle with the U.S. State Department and Augusto Pinochet’s newly installed, corrupt fascist government in 1973. Aided by daughter in law, Beth, stoically delivered by Sissy Spacek. The two ask questions very few want to answer between sporadic gunfire and the all too familiar sound of Bell Huey and Jet Ranger helicopters.

Told with occasional flashbacks. We discover that missing son and husband Charlie Horman is a wide eyed naif whose political leanings are just slightly to the right of a 70s stoner hippie, minus the drugs. With dreams of writing either children’s books or the great American novel. Who asks too many questions of people he should have no business knowing. Taking too many notes while being seen by too many people. Making entirely too much noise in a country that is suddenly crawling with too many young Chilean soldiers given the power of life and death. Equipped with U.S. rifles, jeeps and other sinews of war. Charlie is played to ridiculous, near embarrassing perfection by John Shea.

Even with his dumb as a sack of hammers naivete. And stout belief that being an American citizen will get him out of any sticky or surreal situation. There is something noble about Charlie’s quest. Not really following leads, but doing the grunt and groundwork by accident that no US journalist would be able to touch. Even as he is slowly, unwittingly signing his own Death Warrant.

Worthy enough to send his father to his N.Y Senator who knows less than nothing and is quite lame at obfuscating and spouting non-answer answers. Dissatisfied, Ed flies down to Chile. Meets his daughter-in-law, Beth at the airport. And together are given the full press run around from many of the same people Charlie had met and asked questions of only weeks earlier.

Mr. Lemmon’s Ed Horman delivers in many subtle ways. Using all of the tools acquired years earlier. His posture, initially ram rod straight. His words, succinct and sometimes hurtful towards Beth. Who fires back with equal fervor as tiny streams of light, often as slow as molasses begin revealing a trail to dark places neither one really wants to go. Keeping fears under wraps. Never raising his voice as he sits opposite the Chilean liaison and tells him that he will initial, sign or authorize any and all paperwork if he can just see his son.

The absolute high point of the film and pinnacle of Mr. Lemmon’s vast talents. As his body and face seem to deflate while shoulders droop and body sags and shrinks inside its suit seconds before tears threaten to flow, but are stanched. To no real avail…

Overall Concensus:

Mr. Lemmon at the then top of his game delivering much more than required. In a role that would lure other actors into chewing all kinds of angry scenery. The principal projects inwardly in a tightly woven world of surreal external grotesques. Reacting jumpily at first to sporadic gunfire as a  reminder of how dangerous the land is. To almost ignoring or shrugging it off as his journey continues. Never losing hope. Even while trying to find his son’s body amongst hundreds awaiting autopsy. Until a final sit down with another journalist who obliquely lays events bare.

It is then that the old Ed returns. Rigid, robust, knowing just enough and speaking just a bit too loudly as he applies leverage to those who prefer staying in the shadows. Aided along his journey by a notable swath of then unknown, but soon to be known talent. Most notably, Joe Regalbuto and Keith Szarabajka as fellow writers Frank Teruggi and David Holloway.

High marks to Ricardo Aronovich’s cinematography. Also Peter Jamison’s production design in getting parts of Acapulco and its Federal Districts to fill in so believably for parts of Chile in upheaval. Notable for Oscar nominations for its Best Actor, Actress and Film. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worthy of seeking out.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

This is the film most people remember and associate Mr. Lemmon with. And rightly so. Not as the lead player, but being a major part of a superb, A List cast. In a brilliant, yet gritty adaptation of David Mamet’s long running, cross country stage play about less than reputable real estate salesmen faced with a tightening economy. Less than stellar clients and poor prospects that must be sold before the much more lucrative, desirable and coveted Glengarry properties can be touched.

Delivered by sarcastic and evilly grinning Blake. Sent by the unseen, all powerful ‘Mitch & Murray’. Malevolently brought to Satanic llife by perfectly coiffed and adorned Alec Baldwin. Brought in a dark and stormy night’s pep talk. Focusing on the branch’s poor numbers with visual aids both standard and exotic. Offset by scathing dialogue that angers more than helps, before revealing the bundled, treasured Glengarry index cards of potential clients. That are to be locked up in Manager, John Williamson’s office vault until the present dross can be closed upon. In two days. Or people will be fired!

Not the most stirring motivational speech for four salesmen who have been around the block more than a few times. Led by the too smooth for his own good, top salesman Ricky Roma. Seamlessly fleshed out by rarely better Al Pacino. Who learned most of what he knows from the branch’s wise old man, Shelley Levene. Salesman, par excellence, who is starting to drop a stitch here and there and hasn’t closed a deal lately. Played with a hint of growing desperation and an ancient bag of tricks by Mr. Lemmon as hospital bills for his daughter continue to pile up.

With Ed Harris as slow and reliably steady, though loud mouthed Dave Moss. Who lives for the sale, but has a hard time closing. And Alan Arkin as quiet follower George Aaronow, who sometimes thinks he should be in another business. All overseen by the bespectacled and somewhat fastidious, milquetoast John Williamson. Marvelously underplayed by Kevin Spacey. Who understands that his neck could be out there as well.

Once the gauntlet has been thrown down. Shelley tries his best to cajole, con, threaten and bribe John out of some of the Glengarry leads. While Dave floats the idea of stealing them to George.To either use or sell to a competitor. As Ricky grudgingly dives in to re-work over plowed soil and possibly sift out a few new clients. Each finds a task and make far too many phone calls, cold calls and introductory offers. Watching Mr. Lemmon work the phones from a cold start. Then lying through his teeth to play on the potential client’s insecurity and greed would put many confidence men to shame. And is worth the price or effort of seeking out as same day appointments are made and the chance to close draws nearer.

Shelley focuses on a couple, the Nyborgs. Closes a questionable deal and arrives at the office full of bluster. Only to find that John’s office has been vandalized and is crowded with cops. Ricky is upset that his client, James Linkg (Jonathan Pryce) has gotten cold feet and wants his uncashed retainer check back. And dave and George are awaiting being questioned. Undaunted, Shelly regales Ricky with the thrill of the sale and closing. Only to have things turn ugly when John steps from his office and is caught in a crossfire of verbal abuse. First by Ricky. Then by Shelley. Who lets slip one tiny, revealing mistake about Lingk’s check that John latches onto. After telling Shelley that the Nyborgs are bankrupt and delusional and the deal has fallen through. Crushed, Shelley asks “Why?” Only to have Williamson reply coldly. “Because I don’t like you.” As the cops and detectives wait to talk to Shelley…

Overall Concensus:

A proven and superb cast in a near flawless film. Written by one of the masters of moody, often profane and sometimes melancholy dialogue. Where words define much more quickly and fully than a tailored suit, cheap watch or aged, washed out, rumpled trench coat. Spoken by men who are in involved in the cut throat world of sales and commissions. Knowing that their potential client is going to be stand offish at first. Until a flaw is revealed that can be exploited and worked on. And ‘Opportunity’ is sold in ways that may be immoral, but not illegal.

In this arena, Mr. Lemmon’s Shelley Levene reigns supreme. Coaxing and cajoling one moment. Then gently applying pressure to innate greed and later, pride in that soothing voice of his. To get names on papers to pieces of land unseen by either the seller or the buyer. Is there remorse afterwards? Possibly, but it is never revealed in the office.


Check out the first two parts of the Jack Lemmon series:
PART I and PART II



Well, what do you think on the third and final post on the Jack Lemmon series? Do share your thoughts about the actor and/or these films in the comments.