Saturday, February 17, 2018

cinema obscura: John Frankenheimer's "The Fixer" (1968) / façade: Alan Bates

By all appearances, a noteworthy "prestige" production - made by MGM in the late-'60s, when the studio was having one of its many tumultuous periods - has evaporated: John Frankenheimer's splendid version of Bernard Malamud's "The Fixer," starring Alan Bates in the title role.

Adapted with fidelity by Dalton Trumbo (the '50s blacklisted writer who returned to the scene via Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," thanks to the intervention of star Kirk Douglas), "The Fixer" stars Oscar nominee Bates as Yakov Bog, a peasant Russian-Jewish handyman who becomes a victim of anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia when he's charged with a crime that he did not commit - the "ritual murder" of a Gentile child in Klev.

The film vividly traces his journey from pariah to eventual hero, detailing the tortures, indignities and humiliations that Yakov suffers along the way.

Frankenheimer gives himself over to this alien milieu with his usual artistic and humanistic abandon, offering a masterfully mordant exploration of what it takes to live and survive. Abetting him are sterling (and stirring) performances from a varied, top-notch cast - the singular, much-missed Elizabeth Hartman, Hugh Griffith, Georgia Brown, Dirk Bogarde, Ian Holm, Carol White, David Opatoshu, Murray Melvin, David Warner and, of course, the star of the piece -  the equally singular and much-missed Alan Bates.

Bates died in 2003 at the age of 69 and, despite his virile screen presence and vigorous performances, is barely remembered today, his name rarely invoked (if at all) in film pieces. During his life, he made 55 films (including one short, 1972's "Second Best," adapted from the D.H. Lawrence story), along with 30 appearances in assorted television movies and series.

His first film role of any consequence was as Laurence Olivier's son in Tony Richardson's "The Entertainer" (1960), followed by Bryan Forbes' "Whistle Down the Wind" (1961), John Schlesinger's "A Kind of Loving" (1962), Clive Donner's "Nothing But the Best" and Michael Cacoyannis' "Zorba the Greek" (both 1964), and Silvio Narizzano's "Georgy Girl" (1966), in which he and Charlotte Rampling made an incredibly hot couple.

But Philippe de Broca's hugely popular "King of Hearts" (also '66) was, arguably, Bates' breakthrough role.

After that, the output and quality of his work were amazing, with too many titles to mention here. However, if I were to arrange an Alan Bates Film Festival, these would be my top picks: Schlesinger's "Far from the Madding Crowd" (1967), Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between" (1971), Peter Medak's "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" (1972), Harold Pinter's "Butley" (1974), Lindsay Anderson's "In Celebration" (1975), Paul Mazurksy's "An Unmarried Woman" (1978) and particularly Ken Russell's "Women in Love" (1969), in which he shared one memorable scene after another with co-stars Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden and Oliver Reed, his challenger in a stunning sequence - the film's erotically-charged nude wrestling match.

Bates' final screen appearance was in a TV-movie version of "Spartacus" that aired on the USA channel in 2004, a year after his death, and has been released on VHS and DVD by Universal Home Entertainment. 

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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~poster art for "The Fixer"

~Alan Bates in "The Fixer"
~Photography: MGM 1968©

 ~Elizabeth Hartman in "The Fixer"
~photography: MGM 1968©

~Bates with Jennie Linden in "Women in Love" and a moment from the film's nude wrestling match with Oliver Reed
~Photography: United Artists 1969©

Monday, February 12, 2018

a fan's notes

Today, a few notes. Or rants. (Take your pick.) Here goes...

the academy awards

One of the most marvelous moments in Paul McGuigan's curiously overlooked "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," a singular mini-biopic of one of Hollywood's most singular personalities, Gloria Grahame, is an archival postscript of Grahame winning her supporting Oscar for her role in Vincente Minnelli's wonderful 1952 film, "The Bad and the Beautiful."

While McGuigan's film stars Annette Bening in an uncanny, nuanced approximation of Grahame, the filmmaker does something almost unheard-of in biopics - he uses images of the real Grahame whenever his movie calls for still shots, posters or film clips of the actress, including the aforementioned clip from the 1953 Academy Awards broadcast.

Anyway, at that ceremony, Edmund Gwenn reads off the list of nominees (the others being Jean Hagen, Colette Marchand, Terry Moore and Thelma Ritter) and then announces the winner - Grahame, who sashays by Gwenn, collecting her Oscar, says a terse "thank you" and exits stage left. This is when winning an Academy Award actually meant something.

Of course, in case you didn't receive the memo, the annual Hollywood sweepstakes/giveaway is no longer referred to as The Academy Awards. For years, the award was nicknamed Oscar, much to the chagrin of the Hollywood establishment, old-timers who remembered when it was originally called The Academy Award of Merit. Some mouthful, right?

There have been various theories about the source of the word "Oscar," the most popular attributed to Bette Davis who claimed that the buttocks of the award's nude male statue resembled her then-husband's - Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr. I'm not sure that I completely buy it. That story seems to have a publicist's fingerprints all over it. Anyway, in 2013, Neil Meron, one of the producers of that year's broadcast with his partner, Craig Zadan, announced during an interview with Steve Pond of The Wrap: "We're rebranding it. We're not calling it 'the 85th annual Academy Awards,' which keeps it mired somewhat in a musty way. It's called 'The Oscars.'"

Gee, thanks. Meron and Zadan are long gone but we're still stuck with the word "Oscar." So much for tradition. Personally, I prefer history.


Uh-oh. There was another memo I didn't receive because, apparently, it is now de rigueur among movie critics to harumph and complain about the snubs among the Oscar nominees - as if their commenting (and navel-gazing) on (1) who will be nominated versus who should be nominated and (2) who will win versus who should win, isn't quite nearly enough.

Now, there are heated essays devoted to the unfairly overlooked, with the petulant writers conveniently overlooking the fact that there are only five nominees in most categories. (The Best Picture group can go as high as nine these days, while some of the technical awards can include as few as three nominees.) Anyway, someone has to left out. Of course, the consternation always revolves around the acting nominees. No surprise.

The two names invoked the most this year have been Tom Hanks, overlooked for his performance in "The Post," and the recently disgraced James Franco for his role in "The Disaster Artist." Hanks is, at best, fine in "The Post," not necessarily outstanding. And exactly how many more Oscars does he need anyway? As for Franco, even on a good day, it is doubtful that the status-conscious Academy would recognize or reward his work. He's been a bit too marginal to fit what Oscar sees as its "brand."

That said, it's my turn to carp. I'm disappointed that the following were overlooked: Florence Pugh (who?) as best actress in "Lady MacBeth" and Sebastian Stan as best actor for "I, Tonya"; Michelle Pfeiffer and Catherine Keener, both as supporting actress for their roles in "mother!" and "Get Out," respectively, and Steve Coogan, supporting actor for "The Dinner."

And, getting back to "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" - Bening and Jamie Bell for their lead roles in a film that Sony Pictures Classics was quick to snap up for distribution and then, curiously, neglected during the awards-season campaigning. Someone was overpaid to make a bad decision. 


Speaking of Sebastian Stan and "I, Tonya," the actor is every bit as effective and memorable as his two leading ladies, Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, both of whom received well-deserved nominations. Janney is the favorite to win in her supporting category - but why exactly? She's a fantastic actress. However, while Janney is hugely entertaining to watch in this overly showy role, she's also strictly one-note and repetitive. Much more impressive (and subtle) are the performances of Laurie Metcalf in "Lady Bird" and, my favorite, Lesley Manville in "Phantom Thread."

But that's just me.

more is more than enough

For more than six decades, the Best Picture nominees were restricted to just five. But it was expanded a few years ago, largely because popular mainstream studio extravaganzas were being shut out by arty independent titles. There were complaints by the studios and the Academy greased the squeaky wheels. Anyway, despite the revision, nothing's changed.

The Best Picture nominees for 2017 are largely fringe titles, specifically items that don't lend themselves to an IMAX presentation - "Lady Bird," "Phantom Thread," "Call Me by Your Name," "The Shape of Water," "Get Out," "Darkest Hour" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Steven Spielberg's "The Post" is the lone throwback to the kind of old-fashioned film that routinely snagged the top Oscar - and Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" is the only title that's broad-shouldered and Big.

the award for ubiquity

Speaking of awards, I am eagerly anticipating one for those actors who have the stamina and passion to appear in multiple films every year. This year, the awards would go to:

Woody Harrelson, who acted in no fewer than seven titles - "Wilson," LBJ," "War for the Planet of the Apes," "Lost in London," "The Glass Castle," "Shock and Awe" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

And he acted in five titles in 2016.

Also, the ever-surprising Nicole Kidman, whose 2017 appearances included "Queen of the Desert," "The Beguiled," "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" and two ambitious, continuing TV dramas - "Top of the Lake" and HBO's "Big Little Lies."

laughing all the way to hell

When will Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and especially Alec Baldwin and Lorne Michaels wake up and recognize that current politics are no laughing matter? Or am I being a mirthless grump?


It seems that, all of a sudden, a new favored expression is being invoked by television critics - "the cold open," applied exclusively to the sketch that opens "Saturday Night Live" every week. Huh? It's the opening sketch, that's all. Right? Wrong. Reliable Mike Schlesinger has advised me that "'a cold open' is a long-established film term referring to something that occurs before the opening titles. An 'opening sketch' usually occurs afterwards (e.g., 'The Carol Burnett Show,' 'Hollywood Palace')." Got it.

Thanks, Mike. Frankly, I never heard of "a cold open" until recently and had no idea that it was originally a filmic expression. So why are TV critics using it and only in reference to SNL? Whatever. But for some irrational reason, I find its current use annoying and, well, a tad pretentious.

Since I'm on a roll here, speaking of TV critics, I never got the point. I mean, there are close to a ga-zillion stations these days, each with endless original programming - and at least a dozen episodes for each program. So how does one keep up with each show and its progress?

Or, more likely, lack thereof?

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.

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(from top)

~Gloria Grahame receiving the best support actress Oscar from Edmund Gwenn in 1953 - for her role in Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful"
 ~photography: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences 1953©

~ Sebastian Stan and Paul Walter Hauser in "I, Tonya"
~photography: 30West-Neon / 2017©

~Woody Harrelson and Francis McDormand in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
~photography: Merrick Morton / Twentieth Century-Fox 2017©

~Nicole Kidman in "The Beguiled"
~photography: Ben Rothstein / Focus Features 2017©

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

uncommon women: "the young and the restless"

I've been procrastinating, so apologies to the crew behind of one of CBS's crown jewels, "The Young and the Restless," particularly its talented cast.

Even though this site is devoted largely to theatrical films - misunderstood and neglected movies, to be specific - I've indulged myself occasionally by commenting on television and even commercials. They're all relatives of sorts, linked by the camera's eye, and "The Young and the Restless" is one of the best shows on television, daytime or prime time. Period. So, Bravo!

Full disclosure: My wife and I began watching daytime dramas - or "soaps" - when we started dating, binge-watching the three ABC dramas, all 15 hours of them, via Beta tapings on lost weekends in the 1980s. We were definitely ahead of our time. And, frankly, I found the shows often more stimulating than what I critiqued as a working movie reviewer at the time.

I confessed this once - rather sheepishly - to the critic Pauline Kael, who immediately shared that she had no problem skipping an evening screening when it conflicted with a telecast of "Rich Man, Poor Man."

When the ABC soaps, one by one, became unwatchable, we switched to "The Young and the Restless" and could not believe what we had been missing. The only difference between "The Young and the Restless" and, say, "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" or "Scandal," is the difference between a daytime slot and a prime time slot. They're all "soaps" - or "continuing dramas," if that makes you feel more secure about your viewing habits.

And so was Kael's "Rich Man, Poor Man."

"The Young and the Restless" has been on CBS's daytime slate since 1973, so we discovered it rather late in the game. It's a given that the show has experienced its artistic ups and downs during the several decades it's been airing, and we lived through a slump when refugees from ABC's "General Hospital" came on board, making dubious decisions. (Veterans of daytime - producers, directors, writers, performers - tend to play "musical soaps," hopping back and forth among the few that survived the culture wars.)

For the past couple years, the show has been guided by executive producer-head writer Mal Young and, except for some jaw-dropping twists and turns of late (more about that later), he has done a bang-up job, especially in the area of providing a troupe of terrific actresses with deliciously meaty material. While it's undeniable that the actors on "The Young and the Restless" are first-class - especially the unparalleled Eric Braeden, Peter Bergman (who always seems to be having a high old time in his role) and reliable Doug Davidson - it's the women who soar here:

~Sharon Case. For my money, Case is the one reason to watch "The Young and the Restless." She plays a character named ... Sharon and she fully inhabits the role. No matter what the writers toss at her (and a character's motivation can change on a soap from day to day, sometimes irrationally so), Case handles it. But most impressive is the chemistry she has with whoever is opposite her in a scene. She's had memorable acting duets with just about every cast member. Chemistry between actors is a necessity, but especially on a soap where there are dozens of characters.

~Eileen Davidson. No one plays a strong woman as well as Davidson and she does it in an impressively atypical way - with a certain reserve and style. She fairly drips with style. Davidson never pushes, which makes her character, Ashley, all the more commanding but never intimidating.

~Mishael Morgan. Morgan is not only hugely charismatic but patient. For more than a year, her character, Hillary, seemed to flail, as the writers figured out what to do with her. But as the soap's relentless, unapologetic provocateur/opportunist, Morgan tears into her role with all the bravura of Faye Dunaway in "Network." She's a hoot to watch, hands-down.

~Melissa Claire Egan. Egan has a naturalness that makes all of her scenes flow by smoothly, seamlessly and with apparently little effort. She makes acting look easy - which isn't easy. And like Case, her Chelsea has incredible chemistry with her co-players, especially her leading men. Whether it's Michael Muhney, Justin Hartley or (currently) Joshua Morrow, she seems absolutely crazy about the guy - an actor's dream partner.

~Amelia Heinle. Heinle has the most psychologically complex woman's role on "The Young and the Restless," playing a character riddled with insecurities (thanks to daddy issues) and only half cognizant of her talent and worth. Her Victoria often fumbles at game-playing and can be self-sabotaging but it's what makes her sympathetic. And Heinle nails it every time, making it possible for us to root for the spoiled, clueless rich girl.

~Gina Tognoni. Unlike Victoria, Tognoni's Phyllis is definitely a player and this wildly talented actress - who refuses to age - plays the game with a transparent male aggressiveness which she never tries to excuse but rather makes attractive. Tognoni has shrewdly updated the kind of women played by Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn. That's a good thing.

~Marla Adams. Arguably, the greatest female performance this year on daytime (or nighttime, for that matter), was turned in by the irresistible Adams, who played a Grand Dame of business with such cultured casualness that one could smell her wealth. And what a fabulously monied voice. I had fantasies about having lunch with her. Unfortunately, she is now off the canvas, seemingly permanently, and is much missed.

~Beth Maitland. Maitland plays Tracy, a recurring character on the show - sister of the aforementioned Ashley - but it's always a treat when she shows up. The actress exudes a warmth that never feels affected or fake and her winning smile perfectly complements the no-nonsense advice she tries to impart to the show's drama queens. She's utterly indespensible.

~Melody Thomas Scott. Scott works wonders with the requisite role of the show's First Lady - married to the richest, meanest man in town. Her matriarch, of course, comes with a past (she was a stripper in another life!) and she hasn't quite let go of her maverick ways. Scott excels at playing her character with a girlish fillip. "The Young and the Restless," like all the soaps, never gets into politics but I'm willing to bet the rent money that while her awful husband is a conservative, Scott's Nicki is a liberal. They keep getting married but there's a reason the unions never work.

~Camryn Grimes. It must be a rare acting treat for Case and Morrow to have Grimes back on the show, as she played their daughter more than a decade ago and now plays that deceased character's long-lost twin, all grown up. (Hey, this is a soap, remember.) I never saw Grimes as a child actress but I appreciate that she came on the show as a fully-formed, albeit messed-up adult. She acts opposite Case and Morrow on equal terms. Like Mishael Morgan, the writers played around with her character, trying to match her up with other players, and while their attempts never really worked, Grimes always came through. She found her footing via her character's much-appreciated, well-put sarcasm, a feature underlined by her long, flowing, often wild red hair. She is currently involved in a lesbian subplot - well, sort of - which any experienced soap viewer knows will inevitably be abandoned. The core fan base of soaps, see, doesn't seem to approve of gays, interracial love (at least not when the man in the couple is of color) or Jewish characters. It would be great if the powers behind soaps ignored these dated biases because, frankly, soap fans aren't exactly going anywhere; they'll continue to watch, no matter what.

~Melissa Ordway. It's always a privilege to watch a performer grow in stature and hone their talent in ways that are totally unexpected and exciting. Ordway who, about five years ago, was a charming ingenue as Abby, is currently at the top of her game. She's subtle and nuanced, her line readings are flawless and, better yet, she says all there is to say with her gorgeous, penetrating eyes. And when she's on screen, the viewer's eyes can't help but go directly to her. She's a Movie Star in the making.

~Jess Walton. Again, a recurring character, but every time she's off-canvas, I miss her whiskey-soaked voice. Walton is a terrific actress who has been amazing playing the same basic scenes over and over and over and over again. She needs - and deserves - a change, a challenge.

~Christel Khalil. Khalil is such a fan favorite that even if she was off the show for six months, the fans would still vote for her as a favored daytime actress. She has comedic talents that are rarely tapped; the funniest moments on "The Young and the Restless" have involved her Lily bitching about the awfulness of Hillary. The show needs more of her spark. Instead her character is involved in the drawn-out reconciliation with her smacked-ass husband (something to appease the aforementioned fan base). It would be great to see Lily leave and go absolutely wild as a divorcee.

~Tracey E. Bregman. She and Christian Le Blanc play the soap's power couple - he's an attorney and she's a successful entrepreneur - but they tend to have problems which makes it easy not to envy them. Bregman brings a nice mix of savvy and neuroticism to her character, Lauren. She's never a pushover, she's never unsure of herself and, when she miscalculates a situation, she claims ownership of it. But it doesn't help that the show dressses this "power" woman like a cocktail waitress. It undermines the empowerment that's essential to her character. 

~Judith Chapman. Her name is Gloria, a great name for a dame, and Chapman is never less than a delight as a seemingly frivolous, flirty woman whose street smarts are always being underestimated by the show's entitled denizens who judge and look down on her. Gloria rocks!

These actresses, all 15 of them, make for great company.

Now about those unfortunate recent twists and turns that I referenced earlier, none of which make any narrative sense.

Here goes...

All of a sudden, Chelsea is involved in some kind of vague skullduggery involving her designer business. Huh?  Why? And all of a sudden, Nicki is apparently hooking up with a much younger man, a rough-hewn contractor. Huh?  Why?  And all of a sudden, Ashley has suddenly turned into another character altogether, bent on tormenting Victoria. Huh? Why? And the show is intent on reuniting Lily with that cheating husband. Huh?  Why? And what happened to Ravi?

Weren't he and Ashley almost an item, the operative word being "almost"?

In addition to the fublous Dina, two other characters seemed to have been axed - Scott (no great loss here) and Graham (who was truly fascinating to watch) - and I fear that Ravi may also be on his way out as well.

Noah may be also be gone, given that the character has been matched up with innumerable women in the last few years, always with dispiriting results. Talk about chemistry or, in this case, lack thereof.

Initially, there were signs that Graham would be revealed as Ashley's brother, adding another member to her clan. Then, he was revealed not be a blood relative at all, which would have qualified him as a love interest for Ashley. But now the character is stone cold dead. Too bad. I liked Graham. As for Ravi, I believe that the fan base is none-too-friendly towards interracial relationships. So, he's doomed. Too bad. I like Ravi.

And I think we can expect that lesbian subplot to soon be history.

Early on, I said that there is no difference between a daytime soap and a prime time soap. Well, that's not entirely true. Either the viewers of nighttime soaps are more open-minded or the shows' makers care more about the quality of the show than what the fans expect. Daytime, on the other hand, listens to the fans. A little too attentively, in my opinion.

To reiterate, these fans aren't going anywhere. They'll always tune in. So there's no reason to force poor Lily to reunite with that lying husband.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.
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~The logo for "The Young and the Restless"
~CBS 2018©

~ Sharon Case, Mishael Morgan, Amelia Heinle, Marla Adams, Melissa Ordway and Judith Chapman

Thursday, February 01, 2018

luca guadagnino’s "call me by your name": getting it wrong & other supercilious offenses

"A beautiful love story!"

Oh, brother! I've actually lost count of the the number of critics who have invoked those words - or a variation of them - in their reviews of Luca Guadagnino's quite splendid, Oscar-bait work, "Call Me by Your Name."

In terms of its narrative, the film is decidedly not beautiful, unless the critics are referring either to the stunning, sun-struck rural landscape of Northern Italy, where the film takes place, or to the monied lifestyle of its privilege characters. But its storyline itself is rather unpleasant, not unlike one of its characters, Oliver, a young man with a sense of entitlement, played commandingly - and uncompromisingly - by Armie Hammer.

And, the fact is, Guadagnino's film is not really a love story at all, but a bittersweet tale of the one-sided infatuation experienced by its teenage protagonist, Elio Perlman, played by the remarkable and preternaturally gifted Timothée Chalamet. "Call Me by Your Name" is much more nuanced and complicated than its glowing reviews imply - and much of that has to do with handsome Oliver, the undeserving object of Elio's infatuation.

The 22-year-old Chalamet plays Elio who, we're told, is 17 (but, physically, looks closer to 15). Elio's father (Michael Stuhlbarg, excellent) is a professor of Greco-Roman culture and art who, every year, invites a graduate student to assist him in his lofty, rather solipsistic research at the family's summer manse. This year, that student is Oliver who is supposed to be 22 but is played by the 31-year-old Hammer who looks 31. Got that?

Oliver is immediately presented as something of an imperious prig who, initially, is dismissive of Elio, who comes to resent this rude interloper. But the more Oliver condescends to him, the more Elio is attracted to Oliver.

It should be noted at this juncture that both Elio and Oliver are involved with women, although only Elio seems to be sexually active with his girlfriend. One is uncertain about Oliver, who tends to be exhibitionistic with the local women but is never seen being intimate with them.

More pertinent to the narrative are the assorted messes that Oliver routinely leaves in his wake. He is recklessly impulsive and jaw-droppingly inconsiderate. It may not seem like much but his room (Elio's room, actually) is a mess, with clothing tossed here and there, and when he mutilates a soft-boiled egg at breakfast, he leaves it uneaten and is served another. He is a guest here, see; others can clean up after him.

A feeling of dread overtakes the second half of the film as he draws in Elio in a passive-aggressive manner that's truly impressive and starts a sexual relationship with the teenager. From what we've seen of Oliver, it's apparent that this will not end well. And it doesn't. Given that the film has been in release for several months now, I'm going to indulge in a spoiler.

Here goes...

A few months after Oliver returns to the states, he phones the Perlmans with the news that he is getting married. The film ends with Elio huddled in front of a fireplace staring at the flames. His face is in close-up. He's transfixed, numb. Guadagnino lets this moment play longer than any other filmmaker would. Elio slowly tears up. The amazing Chalamet telegraphs his character's sense of abandonment and isolation, as a festive family dinner is being prepared in the background. It's painful to watch.

Oliver has moved on. The forgotten Elio hasn't. One senses that he will be haunted by this experience for the rest of his life, and not in a good way. Beautiful? Hardly. Guadagnino's film is a great, unrelenting tragedy.

And that's why "Call Me by Your Name" is powerful.

Now, about the subject of spoilers in movie reviews...

Movie critics are often accused of being supercilious, probably because critics (and only critics) use words like supercilious. But the fact is, a critic is indeed superior to the average moviegoer because there's a distinct difference between an educated opinion and a merely casual observation.

Even a movie critic whose vague credentials are fair game for scrutiny has an edge over your average moviegoer by virtue of the fact that he/she sees everything - or almost everything, given all the titles that go direct to video or play On Demand or disappear after some film festival screening.

Although I spent half of my life as a working movie critic, I don't read very many reviews myself because, yes, people who review films are (or can be) supercilious. But there are also other reasons. Too many critics are self-consciously elitist. Too many go along with the popular opinions or trends among their colleagues (case in point: "Call Me by Your Name").

And, worst of all, too many are predictable.

That's the Cardinal Sin for me.

It's disheartening to be able to accurately predict exactly how your local movie critic will review a film (based on who directed it, who stars in it, where it's playing, whatever) before he/she actually reviews the thing.

Then there is the lazy reviewer, whose "critique" of the film in question is nearly all synopsis, revealing plot point after plot point, with a few adjectives tossed in for quotability. Case in point: My friend Marvin sent me a link to The Hollywood Reporter review of Keira Knightley's "Colette" that recently screened at the Sundance Film Festival, with the comment, "Joe, I feel that I have already seen the damn film. A little bit of  'analysis' would have been welcome." Personally, I was able to find one lone adjective ("enjoyable") that serves as a "critique" of the film, only one.

The entire review is a spoiler. Where the hell was the reviewer's editor?

This tendency among current critics is anathema to me.

I received a lot of hate mail in my time from readers, largely accusing me of having bad taste, but never about giving away too much of a movie's plot. I routinely allotted no more than two graphs (three tops) to plot.

Today, I obviously spoiled that record.

Regarding Comments: All comments are enthusiastically appreciated but are moderated before publication. Replies signed "unknown" or "anonymous" are not encouraged. Please sign any response with a name (real or fabricated) or initials.  Be advised that a "name" will be assigned to any accepted post signed "unknown" or "anonymous." Thank you.
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~A moment from "Call Me by Your Name"
~Photography: Sony Classics 2017© 

~Anton Ego, the critic in "Ratatouille"
~Photography: Pixar/Disney 2007©