MONSTER (Patty Jenkins, 2003)

I knew if I lived long enough I would eventually see a film so unremittingly stupid that it becomes almost an event. Monster, unwritten and undirected by Patty Jenkins, who should muster the mercy never to make another movie so long as she lives, deals with a Michigan-born highway prostitute who, stranded in Florida, becomes […]

THIS ABOVE ALL (Anatole Litvak, 1942)

Sanitizing Eric Knight’s novel, whose title and content predictably misread Polonius as Shakespeare, Anatole Litvak’s This Above All balances wartime romance and wartime propaganda. It’s the most charming, entertaining Hollywood film about the British homefront during the Second World War.      Prudence, although an aristocrat, enlists in the ranks of the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force); […]

MIRACLE (Gavin O’Connor, 2004)

Written by Eric Guggenheim and directed by Gavin O’Connor, Miracle is a mess of a movie, a cliché-ridden Disney sports melodrama revolving around the unexpected victory of the U.S. hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics. It narrows this topic to Coach Herb Brooks’s relentless preparation of his hand-picked team of dedicated amateurs, but it […]

GREAT ECSTASY OF THE SCULPTOR STEINER (Werner Herzog, 1973)

Steiner is Walter Steiner. A measily two minutes is devoted to his wood carving, while the balance of the film, some three-quarters of an hour, is devoted to his “ecstasy,” ski-jumping—or, as Europeans apparently call it, ski-flying. Needless to say, we get lots of shots of Steiner in slow motion “being ecstatic,” with Werner Herzog […]

BREACH (Billy Ray, 2007)

Billy Ray has admitted to not knowing a lot about directing movies. He is one of those art-by-committee folk who refer to filmmaking as a “collaborative” endeavor—which, especially in Hollywood, it often is. Apart from a leading supporting performance, perhaps the person most responsible for the high quality of Breach, Ray’s second film, is its […]