‘Chaplin’ faced fame, controversy; enjoy the silly ‘King’s Man’

| December 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

The Real Charlie Chaplin (8/10): 112 minutes. Charlie Chaplin was a 5’4” superstar who faced fame and controversy. His loyalty was questioned, and he exacerbated the problem by saying, “I certainly say if that’s communism then there are a lot of people in the United States who would vote for it,” among others. His relationships with women were selfish, forcing Joan Barry to have two backstreet abortions. Barry was so unnerved that several years later she was committed to a psychiatric hospital, and “there’s no further trace of her.” One thing that fascinated me was that there are photos of his last wife, Oona O’Neil, who he married when he was 53 and she 18, and they had eight children. She was gorgeous but silent. Says one of the daughters (unfortunately unidentified), “My mother’s voice doesn’t exist. There’s nothing with her. No recorded interviews. Certainly she kept diaries. Writing was her way of escaping; writing furiously; writing continuously. In her last years she spent a lot of time destroying. Destroying what she had written. She was probably very lonely. I could imagine it would be quite lonely being the wife of Charlie Chaplin.” SHO

The King’s Man (7/10): 131 minutes. R. WWI was the most nonsensical war in the history of mankind. The fact that it occurred still boggles the mind. So this comes up with a fictional story about why it happened that isn’t as ridiculous as the truth. Silly as it is, though, it is enjoyable, aided by fine performances by Ralph Fiennes and Gemma Atherton and a scintillating, over-the-top job by Rhys Ifans as the mystic Grigori Rasputin. While the film treats actual historical events fictionally, how hard it was to kill Rasputin is accurate. You won’t learn anything, but it’s a fun movie.

Being the Ricardos (7/10): 125 minutes. R. The tale of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman, who, at 5’10,” reflects Ball’s relative tallness at 5’7”) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) is told focusing on one week in the production life of their seminal TV show, “I Love Lucy.” The problem is that the troubles pictured in this movie did not all occur within the same week. They are, to wit: Ball is accused of being a Communist, she is pregnant, she wants Desi to have a producer’s credit, Desi is playing around, etc. Well, Desi was playing around throughout their marriage, not just this one week. Walter Winchell accused Ball of being a Communist in the fall of 1953, and her pregnancy was written into the show in 1952; her son was born in January of 1953, so there was no connection.
According to this movie, Desi was the power behind the throne, helping to develop the three-camera technique in front of a live audience and filming all the shows while retaining the rights to them, which created the rerun industry that is enormously lucrative. But Aaron Sorkin barely mentions these and wasted his time covering minor incidents.
All the supporting players give fine performances, especially Nina Arianda and J.K Simmons as Vivian Vance and William Frawley, respectively, playing Ethel and Fred Mertz in the show. Neither looks much like the person being played, but they display the pervasive animosity between the two in real life.
Although too long (considering what it chose to cover), both Kidman and Bardem give wonderful performances. Who knows how accurate they are? I doubt Bardem’s is very faithful to Desi’s dissolute alcoholic, unfaithful character.
Despite a wonderful opportunity lost by missing the important aspects of their groundbreaking lives, I give this a weak positive mark due only to the performances of the cast.

WEST SIDE STORY was remade by Steven Spielberg.

West Side Story (7/10): 156 minutes. PG-13. Why remake a beloved film that won 10 Academy Awards, including best picture, in 1961? Director Steven Spielberg shows here that there are no good reasons. Robert Wise did it better, and that’s all there is to it. Just a few things that Spielberg did worse:
Jerome Robbins’ wonderful choreography has been dumped or changed by Justin Peck (uncredited), to the film’s detriment.
Spielberg has greatly changed “Dance at the Gym,” and it is much worse. Along with the music, it’s the best part of the 1961 movie. Robbins’ choreography was captivating. Peck’s is pedestrian. Especially romantic was the way Wise had Maria and Tony meet, as everything dims as they see each other across the dance floor and float together as the other dancers fade and they do a slow, dreamy mambo. Spielberg has them meet and then go behind the grandstand, standing there alone, robbing it of the mystique and magic that Wise / Robbins created.
One of the most romantic songs in the play is “Somewhere,” a duet between Maria and Tony. (“There’s a place for us; a time and place for us; Hold my hand and we’re halfway there; Hold my hand and I’ll take you there; Somehow, someday, somewhere.”) Spielberg has Rita Moreno, playing Valentina (a male character named “Doc” in the original), singing it alone. It makes absolutely no sense and borders on heresy. If Spielberg remade “Showboat” he’d probably have someone like Kathryn Grayson sing “Ol’ Man River.”
The music is so good in “West Side Story” that it would be almost impossible for a director to make a film that was not entertaining. But as to Wise v. Spielberg, I score it Wise: 1, Spielberg: 0.

The Beatles: Get Back (5/10): 7 hours; 48 minutes. I might be a Beatlemaniac, but even for me this is far too long and disjointed. There is no narration, just The Beatles creating songs and preparing for their album / concert “Let it Be.” One has to be a true fanatic to stick with it all the way through. It’s interesting because there doesn’t seem to be much alienation, even though they are about to split up. And the way they create a song — at least the song “Get Back” — is revealing. They break out into other artists’ songs and all seem to play their instruments without any rehearsal (especially Ringo, who keeps good time to everything). McCartney seems to be the boss, and Lennon doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s a snapshot in time past of the inner workings of probably the greatest band of all time. But most normal people will probably find it pretty boring.

By Tony Medley,

At the Movies

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Category: Entertainment

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