Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Doctor Zhivago (dir by David Lean)


Klaus Kinski is the main reason to watch the 1965 film, Doctor Zhivago.

The legendarily difficult and erratic Mr. Kinski shows up about halfway through this 3-and-a-half hour film.  He plays a cynical and unstable prisoner on a train.  The train is full of passengers who are escaping from Moscow and heading for what they hope will be a better and more stable life in the Ural Mountains.  (The film takes place during the Communist revolution and the subsequent purges.)  That Kinski taunts everyone on the train is not a surprise.  Both Werner Herzog and David Schmoeller (who directed Kinski in Crawlspace) have made documentaries in which they both talked about how difficult it was to work with Kinski and how several film crews apparently came close to murdering Klaus Kinski several times throughout his career.

Instead, what’s surprising about Kinski’s performance is that he’s even there to begin with.  Doctor Zhivago is an extremely long and extremely stately film.  It’s one of those films where almost every actor gives a somewhat restrained performance.  It’s a film where almost every shot is tastefully composed and where the action often slows down to a crawl so that we can better appreciate the scenery.  It’s a film that stops for an intermission and which opens with a lengthy musical overture.  In short, this is a film of old school craftsmanship and it’s the last place you would expect to find Klaus Kinski luring about.

When he does show up, you’re happy to see him.  Even though he’s only onscreen for about five minute, Kinski gives the film a jolt of much-needed energy.  After hours of watching indecisive characters talk and talk and talk, Kinski pops up and basically, “Screw this, I hate everything.”  And it’s exciting because it’s one of the few time that Doctor Zhivago feels unpredictable.  It’s one of the few times that it feels like a living work of art instead of just a very pretty but slightly stuffy composition.

Just from reading all that, you may think that I don’t like Doctor Zhivago but that’s actually not the case. It’s a heavily flawed film and you have to be willing to make a joke or two if you’re going to try to watch the whole thing in just one sitting but it’s still an interesting throwback to a very specific time in film history.  Doctor Zhivago was designed to not only be a spectacle but to also convince audiences that 1) TV was worthless and that 2) Hollywood craftsmanship was still preferable to the art films that were coming out of Europe.  At a time when television and independent European cinema was viewed as being a real threat to the future of the film industry, Doctor Zhivago was a film that was meant to say, “You can’t get this on your black-and-white TV!  You can only get this from Hollywood where, dammit, people still appreciate a good establishing shot and treat the production code with respect!”  Even today, some of the spectacle is still impressive.  The beautiful shots of the countryside are still often breath-taking.  The scenes of two lovers living in an ice filled house are still incredibly lovely to look at.  The musical score is still sweepingly romantic and impressive.

It’s the story where the film gets in trouble.  Omar Sharif plays Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and a poet who falls in love with Lara (Julie Christie) while Russia descends into chaos.  The Czar is overthown.  The communists come to power and prove themselves to be just as hypocritical as the Romanovs.  The revolutionary Pasha (Tom Courtenay, bearing a distracting resemblance to Roddy McDowall) is in love with Lara and helps to bring about the revolution but is then declared an enemy of the people during the subsequent purges.  The craven Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) also wants to possess Lara and he’s so corrupt that he manages to thrive under both the Czar and the communists.  Alec Guinness plays Yuri’s half-brother and is the most British Russian imaginable.  Doctor Zhivago is based on a Russian novel so there’s a lot of characters running around and they’re all played by a distinguished cast of international thespians.  However, none of them are as interesting as the scenery.

As for the two main actors, Omar Sharif and Julie Christie convince you that they’re in love but not much else.  Sharif is never convincing as a poet and he feels miscast as a man who spends most of his time thinking.  Reportedly, Lean’s first choice for the role was Peter O’Toole and it’s easy to imagine O’Toole in the part.  But O’Toole had already done Lawrence of Arabia with Lean and didn’t feel like subjecting himself to another year of Lean’s notoriously prickly direction.  So, the role went to O’Toole co-star, Sharif.   Julie Christie turned down Thunderball to do both this film and Darling, for which she would subsequently win an Oscar.

(Speaking of the Oscars, Doctor Zhivago was nominated for Best Picture and, though it won five other Oscars, it lost the big prize to The Sound of Music, of all things.  1965 really wasn’t a great year for the Oscars.  The only 1965 Best Picture nominee that still feels like it really deserved to be nominated is Darling.  Of the other nominees, Ship of Fools is ponderous and A Thousand Clowns is almost unbearably annoying.  And The Sound of Music …. well, I prefer the Carrie Underwood version.)

Doctor Zhivago is a big, long, epic film.  It’s lovely to look at and it has a few nice scenes mixed in with a bunch of scenes that seem to go on forever.  In the conflict between the state and the individual, it comes down firmly on the side of the individual and that’s a good thing.  (The communist government attempts to suppress Yuri’s love poems because they celebrate the individual instead of society.  And though the government might be able to destroy Yuri’s life, they can’t destroy his spirit.  Again, it’s a message that would have worked better with a more thoughtful lead actor but still, it’s a good message.)  It’s a flawed film but watch it for the spectacle.  Watch it for Klaus Kinski.

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.

Cleaning Out The DVR: The Day This Fish Came Out (dir by Michael Cocoyannis)


I recorded the 1967 film, The Day The Fish Came Out, off of FXM on May 11th, 2017!  It took me a while to get around to watching this one.

Ugh, what a mess.

The Day The Fish Came Out is kind of a comedy and kinda of a drama and it really doesn’t succeed as either.  It takes place on a Greek island that is populated by four goat herders and one village full of disgruntled people.  The biggest news of their lives comes when it’s announced that Greeks will now be allowed to immigrate to Greenland.  All of the people of the village stand up and run through the streets but — and this is typical of the film — we never actually see anyone go to Greenland.  A potentially funny joke is set up and then promptly abandoned.

Because the island is so remote, it seems like the perfect place for a damaged NATO plane to dump its nuclear payload.  Two nuclear missiles end up in the ocean.  Meanwhile, a radioactive crate known as Container Q ends up landing near a goatherd (Nicolas Alexios), who promptly takes it home and starts trying to pry it open.  Meanwhile, the plane’s pilot (Colin Wakely) and its navigator (Tom Courtenay) end up wandering around the island in their underwear, trying to retrieve the crate without letting anyone know that they’re there.  And while it may not sound like a bad thing that, for once, it’s the guys who spend the entire movie in their underwear, let’s just say that Wakely and Courtenay spend a lot of time rolling around in the dirt and it doesn’t take long for those tighty whities to get disgustingly grimy.  Bleh!

Meanwhile, a group of American secret agents have been sent to the island to look for the crate and the missiles and hopefully retrieve them without causing an international crisis.  The problem is that the Americans are pretending to be real estate developers and they think the pilot and the navigator are dead.  And the pilot and the navigator don’t know that the brash Americans are actually secret agents so they keep hiding from them.  In other news, everyone in this movie is really stupid.

The townspeople — or at least the ones who didn’t go to Greenland — assume that their island is now a hot tourist location because of all the interest from the “developers.”  Through an annoyingly complicated series of events, this leads to the discovery of an ancient statue.  Electra Brown (Candice Bergen) comes to the island to investigate the statue and pose in the latest 60s fashions.  She then gets on a boat and leaves the movie.

Meanwhile, the ocean starts to glow and fish start to show up dead on the beach, proof that the radiation is spreading.  However, the townspeople and the tourists who have recently arrived assume that it’s just a part of the island’s newfound charm…

The poster for The Day The Fish Came Out announces, “Dr. Strangelove, move over!” and that pretty much defines the approach this movie takes to its material.  It wants to be even more outrageous and satirical than Stanley Kubrick’s anti-bomb classic.  However, The Day The Fish Came Out lacks both Dr. Strangelove‘s focus and it’s chillingly detached world view.  (One reason why Dr. Strangelove works is because Kubrick isn’t scared to suggest that maybe the world would be better off if humanity did just blow itself up.)  The Day The Fish Came Out also lacks the right type of cast for this material.  There’s no equivalent to be found to the performances that Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Slim Pickens, Sterling Hayden, and even Peter Bull gave in Kubrick’s film.  Among the members of The Day The Fish Came Out‘s ensemble, Sam Wanamaker, as the delusionally positive leader of the American agents, comes the closest to capturing the satirical feel that the film was obviously going for but the rest of the cast flails about in apparent confusion.

When the townspeople and the tourists blithely dance in the radioactive water and ignore the NATO man frantically yelling, “Attention!,” the film briefly achieves the satirical grandeur that it was going for.  But otherwise, The Day The Fish Came Out is almost as messy as the doctrine of mutually assured destruction.

 

Playing Catch-Up: Crisscross, The Dust Factory, Gambit, In The Arms of a Killer, Overboard, Shy People


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Crisscross
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Chris Menges
  • Starring David Arnott, Goldie Hawn, Arliss Howard, Keith Carradine, James Gammon, Steve Buscemi

An annoying kid named Chris Cross (David Arnott) tells us the story of his life.

In the year 1969, Chris and his mother, Tracy (Goldie Hawn), are living in Key West.  While the rest of the country is excitedly watching the first moon landing, Chris and Tracy are just trying to figure out how to survive day-to-day.  Tracy tries to keep her son from learning that she’s working as a stripper but, not surprisingly, he eventually finds out.  Chris comes across some drugs that are being smuggled into Florida and, wanting to help his mother, he decides to steal them and sell them himself.  Complicating matters is the fact that the members of the drug ring (one of whom is played by Steve Buscemi) don’t want the competition.  As well, Tracy is now dating Joe (Arliss Howard), who just happens to be an undercover cop.  And, finally, making things even more difficult is the fact that Chris just isn’t that smart.

There are actually a lot of good things to be said about Crisscross.  The film was directed by the renowned cinematographer, Chris Menges, so it looks great.  Both Arliss Howard and Goldie Hawn give sympathetic performances and Keith Carradine has a great cameo as Chris’s spaced out dad.  (Traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam, Chris’s Dad left his family and joined a commune.)  But, as a character, Chris is almost too stupid to be believed and his overwrought narration doesn’t do the story any good.  Directed and written with perhaps a less heavy hand, Crisscross could have been a really good movie but, as it is, it’s merely an interesting misfire.

  • The Dust Factory 
  • Released: 2004
  • Directed by Eric Small
  • Starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelly, Kim Myers, George de la Pena, Michael Angarano, Peter Horton

Ryan (Ryan Kelly) is a teen who stopped speaking after his father died.  One day, Ryan falls off a bridge and promptly drowns.  However, he’s not quite dead yet!  Instead, he’s in The Dust Factory, which is apparently where you go when you’re on the verge of death.  It’s a very nice place to hang out while deciding whether you want to leap into the world of the dead or return to the land of the living.  Giving Ryan a tour of the Dust Factory is his grandfather (Armin Mueller-Stahl).  Suggesting that maybe Ryan should just stay in the Dust Factory forever is a girl named Melanie (Hayden Panettiere).  Showing up randomly and acting like a jerk is a character known as The Ringmaster (George De La Pena).  Will Ryan choose death or will he return with a new zest for living life?  And, even more importantly, will the fact that Ryan’s an unlikely hockey fan somehow play into the film’s climax?

The Dust Factory is the type of unabashedly sentimental and theologically confused film that just drives me crazy.  This is one of those films that so indulges every possible cliché that I was shocked to discover that it wasn’t based on some obscure YA tome.  I’m sure there’s some people who cry while watching this film but ultimately, it’s about as deep as Facebook meme.

  • Gambit
  • Released: 2012
  • Directed by Michael Hoffman
  • Starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Togo Igawa

Harry Deane (Colin Firth) is beleaguered art collector who, for the sake of petty revenge (which, as we all know, is the best type of revenge), tries to trick the snobbish Lord Shabandar (Alan Rickman) into spending a lot of money on a fake Monet.  To do this, he will have to team up with both an eccentric art forger (Tom Courtenay) and a Texas rodeo star named PJ Puznowksi (Cameron Diaz).  The plan is to claim that PJ inherited the fake Monet from her grandfather who received the painting from Hermann Goering at the end of the World War II and…

Well, listen, let’s stop talking about the plot.  This is one of those elaborate heist films where everyone has a silly name and an elaborate back story.  It’s also one of those films where everything is overly complicated but not particularly clever.  The script was written by the Coen Brothers and, if they had directed it, they would have at least brought some visual flair to the proceedings.  Instead, the film was directed by Michael Hoffman and, for the most part, it falls flat.  The film is watchable because of the cast but ultimately, it’s not surprising that Gambit never received a theatrical release in the States.

On a personal note, I saw Gambit while Jeff & I were in London last month.  So, I’ll always have good memories of watching the movie.  So I guess the best way to watch Gambit is when you’re on vacation.

  • In The Arms of a Killer
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by Robert L. Collins
  • Starring Jaclyn Smith, John Spencer, Nina Foch, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Sandahl Bergman, Linda Dona, Kristoffer Tabori, Michael Nouri

This is the story of two homicide detectives.  Detective Vincent Cusack (John Spencer) is tough and cynical and world-weary.  Detective Maria Quinn (Jaclyn Smith) is dedicated and still naive about how messy a murder investigation can be when it involves a bunch of Manhattan socialites.  A reputed drug dealer is found dead during a party.  Apparently, someone intentionally gave him an overdose of heroin.  Detective Cusack thinks that the culprit was Dr. Brian Venible (Michael Nouri).  Detective Quinn thinks that there has to be some other solution.  Complicating things is that Quinn and Venible are … you guessed it … lovers!  Is Quinn truly allowing herself to be held in the arms of a killer or is the murderer someone else?

This sound like it should have been a fun movie but instead, it’s all a bit dull.  Nouri and Smith have next to no chemistry so you never really care whether the doctor is the killer or not.  John Spencer was one of those actors who was pretty much born to play world-weary detectives but, other than his performance, this is pretty forgettable movie.

  • Overboard
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Garry Marshall
  • Starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall, Michael G. Hagerty, Brian Price, Jared Rushton, Hector Elizondo

When a spoiled heiress named Joanne Slayton (Goldie Hawn) falls off of her luxury yacht, no one seems to care.  Even when her husband, Grant (Edward Herrmann), discovers that Joanne was rescued by a garbage boat and that she now has amnesia, he denies knowing who she is.  Instead, he takes off with the boat and proceeds to have a good time.  The servants (led by Roddy McDowall) who Joanne spent years terrorizing are happy to be away from her.  In fact, the only person who does care about Joanne is Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell).  When Dean sees a news report about a woman suffering from amnesia, he heads over to the hospital and declares that Joanne is his wife, Annie.

Convinced that she is Annie, Joanne returns with Dean to his messy house and his four, unruly sons.  At first, Dean says that his plan is merely to have Joanne work off some money that she owes him.  (Before getting amnesia, Joanne refused to pay Dean for some work he did on her boat.)  But soon, Joanne bonds with Dean’s children and she and Dean start to fall in love.  However, as both Grant and Dean are about to learn, neither parties nor deception can go on forever…

This is one of those films that’s pretty much saved by movie star charisma.  The plot itself is extremely problematic and just about everything that Kurt Russell does in this movie would land him in prison in real life.  However, Russell and Goldie Hawn are such a likable couple that the film come close to overcoming its rather creepy premise.  Both Russell and Hawn radiate so much charm in this movie that they can make even the stalest of jokes tolerable and it’s always enjoyable to watch Roddy McDowall get snarky.  File this one under “Kurt Russell Can Get Away With Almost Anything.”

A remake of Overboard, with the genders swapped, is set to be released in early May.

  • Shy People
  • Released: 1987
  • Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky
  • Starring Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey, Martha Plimpton, Merritt Butrick, John Philbin, Don Swayze, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Mare Winningham

Diana Sullivan (Jill Clayburgh) is a writer for Cosmopolitan and she’s got a problem!  It turns out that her teenager daughter, Grace (Martha Plimpton), is skipping school and snorting cocaine!  OH MY GOD!  (And, to think, I thought I was a rebel just because I used to skip Algebra so I could go down to Target and shoplift eyeliner!)  Diana knows that she has to do something but what!?

Diana’s solution is to get Grace out of New York.  It turns out that Diana has got some distant relatives living in Louisiana bayou.  After Cosmo commissions her to write a story about them, Diana grabs Grace and the head down south!

(Because if there’s anything that the readers of Cosmo are going to be interested in, it’s white trash bayou dwellers…)

The only problem is that Ruth (Barbara Hershey) doesn’t want to be interviewed and she’s not particularly happy when Diana and Grace show up.  Ruth and her four sons live in the bayous.  Three of the sons do whatever Ruth tells them to do.  The fourth son is often disobedient so he’s been locked up in a barn.  Diana, of course, cannot understand why her relatives aren’t impressed whenever she mentions that she writes for Cosmo.  Meanwhile, Grace introduces her cousins to cocaine, which causes them to go crazy.  “She’s got some strange white powder!” one of them declares.

So, this is a weird film.  On the one hand, you have an immensely talented actress like Jill Clayburgh giving one of the worst performances in cinematic history.  (In Clayburgh’s defense, Diana is such a poorly written character that I doubt any actress could have made her in any way believable.)  On the other hand, you have Barbara Hershey giving one of the best.  As played by Hershey, Ruth is a character who viewers will both fear and admire.  Ruth has both the inner strength to survive in the bayou and the type of unsentimental personality that lets you know that you don’t want to cross her.  I think we’re supposed to feel that both Diana and Ruth have much to learn from each other but Diana is such an annoying character that you spend most of the movie wishing she would just go away and leave Ruth alone.  In the thankless role of Grace, Martha Plimpton brings more depth to the role than was probably present in the script and Don Swayze has a few memorable moments as one of Ruth’s sons.  Shy People is full of flaws and never really works as a drama but I’d still recommend watching it for Hershey and Plimpton.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: The Dresser (dir by Peter Yates)


(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day.  These films could be nominees or they could be winners.  They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee!  We’ll see how things play out.  Today, I take a look at the 1983 best picture nominee, The Dresser!)

Taking place during World War II, The Dresser is a story of the theater.

Sir (played by Albert Finney) was once a great and famous Shakespearean actor but that was a long time ago.  Now, he is reduced to playing in regional theaters, traveling across Britain with a company made up of a motley collection of forgotten has-beens and never-weres.  He can still draw an audience, one made up of elderly theater goers who remember seeing him in London and people who are merely looking for a distraction from the war.  While bombs echo outside, Sir alternates between playing Othello and King Lear.  Backstage, Sir talks about the memoir he’s going to write and barks out orders to the members of his company.

Though Sir’s overly florid style of acting may seem old-fashioned, there’s no denying that his talent.  We don’t see much of his performance but, when we do see him, we never doubt his claim that he was once declared to the greatest King Lear to have ever appeared on the British stage.  Onstage, Sir is in complete control.  Offstage, he often struggles to remember where he is or what play he’s going to be performing.  At one point, when he’s meant to be getting ready to play Lear, he puts on his Othello makeup.

Fortunately, Sir has a dresser.  Norman (Tom Courtenay) doesn’t appear to have much of a life outside of taking care of Sir’s every whim.  Perpetually high-strung but blessed with a biting wit and an all-important bottle of Brandy that he takes a drink from whenever Sir gets too difficult to deal with, Norman is the one who holds the theatrical company together and who, most importantly, protects Sir.  When Sir can’t remember who he’s playing, Norman reminds him.  When Sir harasses a young actress, Norman is the one who hushes it up.  When Sir insults another actor (Edward Fox), Norman is the one who brokers a peace.  When it’s time for Sir to play King Lear, Norman is the one who helps Sir to transform into Shakespeare’s most tragic monarch.  Neither Sir nor the rest of the acting company seems to have much respect for Norman. The other actors consider Norman to be an ass-kisser and Sir … well, Sir doesn’t have much respect for anyone.  But for Norman, a gay man living at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, Sir’s theatrical company provides him with the only safe place he’ll ever find.

The Dresser is an adaptation of a stage play.  (A few years ago, another version was produced for the BBC with Ian McKellen as Norman and Anthony Hopkins as Sir.)  It’s a good film, though I imagine that it’ll be best appreciated by people who have actually worked in theater.  Finney and Courtenay are both great and I also liked the performance of Edward Fox.  That said, it’s definitely a filmed play the feels more appropriate for PBS than for a movie screen.  As a result, it seems to be a bit of an odd pick for a Best Picture nomination.  I imagine that, much like Birdman, it benefitted from being a movie about actors and performing.

The Dresser lost Best Picture to Terms of Endearment.  It’s still worth seeing, if just for Courtenay’s final monologue.

A Movie A Day #44: Let Him Have It (1991, directed by Peter Medak)


The year is 1953.  The place is Croydon.  Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is 19 years old but has the mental capability of an 11 year-old.  Unable to hold down a job and judged unfit for the national service, Derek drifts into a gang led by 16 year-old Christopher Craig (Paul Reynolds).  When Derek and Craig are caught burglarizing a warehouse, it leads to a tense rooftop confrontation between Craig and the police.  Derek has already been captured by the time that the police demand that Craig hand over his gun.  Bentley shouts, “Let him have it, Chris!”  Craig opens fire, killing one officer.

Because he’s a minor, Craig is only facing a prison sentence for killing the police officer.  But, as a legal (if not mental) adult, Derek will be hung if he’s found guilty.  Under the common purpose doctrine, it doesn’t matter that Derek didn’t actually shoot the gun.  The only thing that matters is what Derek meant when he said, “Let him have it, Chris!”  Derek says that he was telling Craig to hand over his gun.  The Crown says that Derek was ordering Craig to open fire.

Let Him Have It is based on a true story.  The case of Derek Bentley was one of the many cases that eventually led to the death penalty being abolished in the UK.  Let Him Have It was released at the height of a long campaign to secure a pardon for Derek.  That pardon was finally issued in 1998, though it was too late to help Derek Bentley.

Let Him Have It is a powerful and angry docudrama, one that reveals in searing detail how Derek was railroaded by the British legal system.  In his film debut, Eccleston gives a powerful performance as Derek and he is ably supported by both Paul Reynolds and, in the role of Derek’s father, Tom Courtenay.  Let Him Have It leaves little doubt as to why the case of Derek Bentley remained a cause célèbre for 45 years after his initial trial.

The National Society Of Film Critics Honors Spotlight!


Spotlight

Last year, the National Society of Film Critics kept things interesting by naming Goodbye To Language as best picture.  This year, they went with Spotlight, just like everyone else.  However, Michael B. Jordan did win best actor for Creed so there was at least that.

BEST ACTOR
1. Michael B. Jordan (Creed) 29 points
2. Geza Rohrig (Son of Saul) 18
3. Tom Courtenay (45 Years) 15

BEST ACTRESS
1. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years) 57
2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) 30
3. Nina Hoss (Phoenix) 22

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) 56
2. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) 16
3. Sylvester Stallone (Creed) 14

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) 53
2. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) 23
3. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) 17
3. Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy) 17

BEST SCREENPLAY
1. Spotlight (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy) 21
2. Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman) 15
2. The Big Short (Charles Randolph and Adam McKay) 15

CINEMATOGRAPHY
1. Carol (Ed Lachman) 25
2. The Assassin (Mark Lee Ping-bin) 22
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (John Seale) 12

PICTURE
1. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy) 23
2. Carol (Todd Haynes) 17
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller) 13

DIRECTOR
1.Todd Haynes (Carol) 21
2. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) 21 (because he was on fewer ballots)
3. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) 20

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
1. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako) 22
2. Phoenix (Christian Petzold) 20
3. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien) 16

BEST NON-FICTION FILM
1. Amy (Asif Kapadia) 23
2. In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman) 18
3. Seymour: An Introduction (Ethan Hawke) 15