Tag Archives: Elizabeth McGovern

Harry Watts, The Practice of Film Criticism Podcast 2022, no. 2, Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

A thoughtful, exploratory discussion of a landmark gangster film, a story about America made by one of Italy’s greatest directors. We discuss how the film might have re-defined the gangster genre; the film’s aesthetic and how particular choices serve expression, we talk of the violence in the film and the charges that it might be misogynist; the distinctions between script and mise-en-scène; what the film shows and the film’s pov on those actions; the relative lack of dialogue and the focus on faces; we discuss the significance of the closing shot…and much much more, not least Robert De Niro’s extraordinary performance.

The podcast may be listened to here:


José Arroyo and Harry Watts.

Ava; The Secret Conversations Riverside Studios February 17

It was poignant yesterday to be reminded that the affections of the public are never fully secured. Here was a leading lady playing a legend, and neither her 80’s films, nor Downton success nor even a film out currently, were enough to get Elizabeth McGovern an audience of more than 50 people for a matinee at Riverside Studios; and 50 people in a theatre of 500 seats feels especially sad for those who once – and not that long ago — rode so high. McGovern is still very beautiful; comfortable onstage, and quite good playing a lonely, suspicious former film star. But she’s no Ava Gardner; she lacks the animal bit and she lacks the sensuality bit. Also, there’s no play. It’s really a string of reminiscences of  famous former husbands (Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra) strung together by some great dialogue taken verbatim from Robert Evans’ opportunistic book, which is much better at evoking that drawly, sexy, forties lingo, than either of the actors in this two-hander (the other is Anatol Yusef, who plays the writer and impersonates the husbands, mostly well: he’s better at Rooney than Sinatra). Aside from seeing movie stars onstage, a fetish of mine, I was also glad to see the mise-en-scene. It’s an attempt to make a movie on stage: partially opened curtains and screens creating a sense of angles; the frame of the stage constantly being altered; and really superb use of video mapping to make of the walls and windows of Ava’s flat anything writer and director desire. There’s also a liberal use of excellently chosen clips of Ava and the husbands, which made one long to see them at the cinema rather than here, in this sad if imaginative imitation, onstage. An educational experience.

José Arroyo

The Commuter (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2018)

The Commuter



I like these relatively low-budget star vehicles featuring action. They’re often much better than they’e thought to be. Here we discuss how Collett-Serra frames a wonderful opening scene through innovative use of editing, the superb montage of dissolves that highlight the commuter’s lonelyness, the wonderful shot that tracks through all of the carriages of the train, the ingeniousness of the central promise. There’s more cinematic nous and contemporary relevance here than in all of Downsizing. Mike likes it less than I and we discuss these differences of opinion whilst highlighting the many pleasures this film offers. Neeson, who I think is terrific, is surrounded by a great cast: Elizabeth McGovern, Vera Fermiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill. A good example of today’s Termite Art.

José Arroyo

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

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With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.