Tag Archives: Bill Murray

Review: Get Low

Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black

Director: Aaron Schneider

“They keep talking about forgiveness. Ask Jesus for forgiveness. I never did nothing to Him…”

Felix Bush has lived a hermit’s life for over 40 years, keeping himself away from Thirties society in his cabin in the woods. He is the subject of local gossip, with stories constantly circulating about the possible evils of his past. When Felix feels his time may be coming, he engages the services of funeral director Frank Quinn to arrange a funeral party which he himself can attend, inviting everyone to come and tell the stories they have heard about him. However, Felix himself has a story to tell. The truth.

As we enter 2011, it has become understandably rare to see performances from that older generation of actors who made the Seventies one of the best decades in cinema. Of those that survive Gene Hackman has all but retired, Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford are content to stay behind the camera, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Diane Keaton have been reduced to mediocre comedies and Al Pacino’s appearances are few and far between. Perhaps this says more about the dearth of quality roles for actors over a certain age than it does for the career choices of the actors themselves, but it is certainly cinema’s loss.

So it is a great pleasure to settle down with a new film from the great Robert Duvall, one of my favourites. After all, even if the film itself is bad at least you know you’ll be getting a great performance. Luckily, Get Low isn’t a bad movie by any measure. It just isn’t a great one, either.

As the enigmatic and taciturn Felix Bush, Duvall gently and quietly steals every scene he is in, even from that champion of scene-stealers, Bill Murray, who turns in one of his now trademark understated performances as shady funeral director Frank Quinn. It is Quinn, unfortunate enough to have set up shop in a town where everyone lives long, who sets about arranging the funeral party for Bush. The story unfolds slowly, as you are allowed to warm to the mysterious old hermit despite the dark rumours about his past which are bandied about.

Those years as a fugitive from the law had not been kind to Santa

As you might expect from a debut movie from a cinematographer, Get Low looks wonderful. The period detail is impressive and the locations magical. There is a graceful turn from Sissy Spacek as Bush’s old flame Mattie, whose appearance serves up clues to Bush’s secret. However, it is with this central revelation that Get Low ultimately disappoints. Having spent an hour and a half leaving you to guess just what it was that made Felix Bush decide to withdraw from the town and live in the forest for 40 years, the movie faces a near impossible task of presenting a story that satisfies. Perhaps that is point, that truth can never live up to rumour, but you may still find yourself short-changed as the credits roll.

Get Low is a gentle, sometimes moving tale. Like its protagonist, it moves at the pace it wants to and speaks when it feels like it. And though the story may ultimately fail to live up to its promise, this is still a compelling character study from a great actor who has lost none of his spark, and whose every appearance is now precious.

Rating – 3 Stars

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Top Ten: Movie Couples

It’s that time of year. Well, that day of the year. Cupid is abroad in the land, drawing back his bow and forcing men everywhere to do the things they really should be doing all year round, without his chubby help.

No doubt, part of the Valentine’s rituals across the world will be the sitting down to watch a romantic movie together. With that in mind, here is a list of my ten favourite movie couples. Be warned, though, I like movie couples who are a little bit different so you won’t find the likes of Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman or Casablanca here. So, if you’re getting tired of yearly re-runs of Love, Actually, why not give one of these a go instead.

And, please, let me know who your favourite movie couples are.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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10. WALL-E and EVE

WALL-E – 2008

Who would have thought a relationship between two robots who barely have any lines could be so moving? Pixar did, and they were right. Alone on a desolate Earth, waste disposal robot WALL-E falls head over wheels for shiny, sleek and sophisticated EVE when she arrives on a scouting mission. She’s not sure at first. WALL-E is a bit low-brow, and conversation is not his strong suit, but she is soon won over by his complete devotion to her. Not a dry eye in the house.

EVE: Name?
WALL-E: WALL-E.
EVE: WALL-E? EVE.
WALL-E: Eeeee… aah.
EVE: “EVE”! “EVE”!

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9. Mr. Stevens and Miss Kenton

The Remains of the Day – 1993

James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel revolves around the lives of the backroom staff at the home of Darlington Hall, England, during the build-up to World War II. Head butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) is absolutely dedicated to his work and his master, Lord Darlington, to the exclusion of all else. The arrival of a bright and headstrong new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) stirs feelings in Mr. Stevens which are at complete odds with his rigid and professional demeanour. The unexpressed and unrealised relationship between them is utterly heartbreaking, propelled by career-best performances from both Hopkins and Thompson.

Mr. Stevens: Do you know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my mind elsewhere while you chatter away.

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8. Alvy Singer and Annie Hall

Annie Hall – 1977

Woody Allen’s semi-autobiographical Annie Hall is almost a love letter to ex-girlfriend Diane Keaton (she was born Diane Hall and her nickname was Annie) which tries to explore just why relationships don’t always work out. Comedian Alvy and Singer Annie make an adorable couple, even if the cracks are there from the very beginning. Both are neurotic, both exist on the fringes of ‘normality’. They seem ideally suited to each other, but the things that make them ideal are the things that make the relationship doomed from the outset.

Annie Hall: So you wanna go into the movie or what?
Alvy Singer: No, I can’t go into a movie that’s already started, because I’m anal.
Annie Hall: That’s a polite word for what you are.

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7. Charlotte and Bob

Lost in Translation – 2003

Aging movie star Bob (Bill Murray) is stuck in Tokyo to film an advert for whiskey, but grateful to be away from his marriage and life. Young graduate Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is stuck there with her new husband, a photographer who is more interested in his work than his wife. When they meet at a hotel bar Bob and Charlotte connect through their combined alienation and detachment from their own lives. Sofia Coppola’s movie, filmed on the fly in Tokyo, creates a touching, heartbreaking relationship between the two most unlikely partners. Murray and Johansson have a palpable chemistry, despite the age difference, leaving you wishing for the impossible, just as they are.

Bob: I don’t want to leave.
Charlotte: So don’t. Stay here with me. We’ll start a jazz band.

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6. Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004

Withdrawn and insecure Joel (Jim Carrey) strikes up an unlikely relationship with the emotionally unpredictable Clementine (Kate Winslet), both of them little realising that they are in fact former lovers who both went to Lacuna Inc. to have their memories of each other erased. Their relationship is revisited in Joel’s mind during the erasure, as he and Clementine struggle to hold on to each other. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a touching reminder that even the most volatile and self-destructive relationships can have something worth saving.

Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

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5. Guy and Girl

Once – 2006

These two didn’t even get names but still manage to pull your heart-strings as effectively as the struggling Dublin musician twangs those on his guitar. When he meets a Czech woman, and fellow musician, they begin to collaborate on some songs together, while a romantic attraction begins to flourish. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, both real-life musicians, wrote all the songs for the movie together and subsequently became a couple during the promotional tour for the movie. Awww.

Girl: How come you don’t play during daytime? I see you here everyday.
Guy: During the daytime people would want to hear songs that they know. I play these songs at night or people wouldn’t listen.
Girl: I listen.

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4. John Book and Rachel Lapp

Witness – 1985

Philadelphia cop John Book (Harrison Ford) meets Amish woman Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) after her son witnesses a brutal murder. Although they are virtually from different worlds the spark between them is there from the beginning, and when Book is forced to hide among the Amish community the attraction is given ample time to smoulder. If you saw these two characters individually you wouldn’t think for a minute that they would work so well together, but they are one of cinema’s most electric pairings, enhanced in no small part by the great chemistry between Ford and McGillis.

Rachel Lapp: Are you enjoying your reading?
John Book: Oh, yeah. I’m learning a lot about manure. Very interesting.

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3. Andrew and Sam

Garden State – 2004

Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in this little gem of a movie, garnering much praise in the process. Andrew, a disillusioned actor suffering severe depression returns to his home town for the funeral of his mother. He meets pathological liar Sam (Natalie Portman) and they begin a tentative relationship over the funeral of Sam’s recently deceased hamster. It is impossible not to root for this couple, so cute are they. Portman is at her most kooky and Braff is all that’s likeable in a lost soul.

Sam: Are you really retarded?
Andrew: No.
Sam: Ooh, great job man! I really thought you were retarded. If there was a retarded Oscar you would win, hands down, kick his ass!

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2. Macon Leary and Muriel Pritchett

The Accidental Tourist – 1988

Ever since the murder of his son, travel writer Macon Leary (William Hurt) has emotionally withdrawn from the world around him, including his wife and family. When she leaves him and files for divorce Macon meets the eccentric dog trainer Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), and so begins Macon’s journey back to himself. Featuring an inspired, Oscar-winning, turn from Davis as the unconventional Muriel, whose big heart eventually breaks through Macon’s tough shell, The Accidental Tourist is not about finding the right person, but finding the person who brings out the right you. We all need our Muriel Pritchett.

Muriel: You ever go to movies?
Macon: I really don’t care for movies. They make everything seem so close-up.

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1. Parry and Lydia

The Fisher King – 1991

Terry Gilliam’s New York fable contains a love story so quirky, between two characters who are so clearly made for each other, that if your heart doesn’t drown in its own mush there is something very wrong with you. Homeless Parry (Robin Williams), his mind fragmented by a terrible tragedy, and clueless Lydia (Amanda Plummer), withdrawn and lost in New York’s noise, are brought together by both fate and the actions of a man seeking redemption. Williams and Plummer are adorable together.

Parry: I’m not coming up to your apartment. That was never my intention.
Lydia: You don’t want to.
Parry: Oh, no, I want to. I have a hard-on for you the size of Florida. But I don’t want just one night.

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Summer Movie Blog-a-thon: 1984

I was born in the year 1970, which means I was an active human presence on this planet through that entire decade. However, other than Star Wars, the better episodes of Doctor Who and a few fashion traumas, there isn’t a great deal I remember about the Seventies. So, when nostalgia comes calling for me, it comes bearing the stamp of the 1980s. And when my nostalgia turns to movies, one year stands out above the other nine: 1984.

What a year for the summer movie that was. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Trek III, The Terminator. Oh boy, oh boy, it was a feast of flavoursome seasonal celluloid. And the icing on the summer cake turned out to be a tasty confection called Ghostbusters. It was one of those mysterious and elusive creatures, the Sleeper Hit™, coming out of nowhere and stealing the summer.

I seem to remember spending the best part of the summer of ’84 standing outside the local 3-screen cinema. I was 14 years old, and beginning to gain more traction in that tug of war for more freedom with my parents, and going to the cinema was the activity of choice for a lot of us. Sure, you could hang out at the park, but the cinema was better. Well, it was to me, anyway. Come on, the cinema had movies. The park had grass and a fountain. It was a no-brainer. Yes, I was one of those peculiar teenage guys that sat in the darkened cinema, girlfriend at my side, with every intention of actually watching the movie. I did not go there to snog and cop a feel. That’s what the park was for. Okay, I may have made an exception with Out of Africa, but it was long and boring as a dog’s ass.

Spengler, Stantz, Venkman and Zeddemore - love those surnames.

So, yeah, Ghostbusters. Sorry, may have drifted from the point there. Nostalgia will do that to you. I remember the summer of ’84 was the summer of Ray Parker Jr. asking you who you were gonna call. And then telling you. Incessantly. I confess to you here and now and with no sense of shame…well, maybe a little, that I bought that damn record. Oh, give me a break, it was catchy. A lot of people bought it. And like a lot of people, Ghostbusters blew me away on that first viewing.  It was witty, original, the special effects were fantastic and I think even my girlfriend stopped wondering why I wasn’t trying to put a clumsy arm around her. Maybe we went to the park afterwards, I can’t remember.

With most movies which you saw for the first time all those years ago, you don’t really recall the event. You just know you saw them at the cinema. However, I can remember vividly watching Ghostbusters. We were sitting on the right hand side, near the back (but not right at the back, which was reserved for couples who should have been at the park). I remember the opening scene, the appearance of Slimer, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man all from that particular angle. Isn’t that strange? I don’t recall what I was wearing but, this being 1984, that’s probably for the best.

So much better than watching a fountain in the park.

One more thing that I will always remember, with absolute fondness, is the Ghostbusters novelisation, by Larry Milne. I read a lot of novelisations back then, but this one was by far the best. It was written in the present tense, which was rare for that kind of book, and somehow this made it even funnier than the movie itself. It had such a dry humour to it. It could have been written by Bill Murray. I must have read that book three times, at least. When my girlfriend wasn’t around, of course.

Some films travel with you through time, always remaining in step with you, never triggering feelings of nostalgia. Ghostbusters will always be like an old song to me; a song that takes you back to your youth, and the summer you spent exploring new freedoms and discovering movies that you would love for life.

George Orwell was right about a lot of things, but for me 1984 was a great year.