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Found 8 results

  1. "Sunrise: The Story of Two Humans" was not only the first major film of Karl Struss, but it also featured the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress (Janet Gaynor). The 1st Academy Awards had separate categories for Best Picture ("Wings") and Best Unique & Artistic Picture, and this film won the latter. Have a look at our extensive Film Index, and see which movies you've missed out on.
  2. I knew nothing at all about "Black Swan" before watching it, other than glancing that it was a Best Picture Nominee in 2010 - one of only a handful of horror films to be nominated for Best Picture (*) - that was good enough to attract my attention. To be honest, although I knew the name Natalie Portman very well, I don't think I'd ever seen her before - she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in "Black Swan," and it seemed reasonable that she was at least nominated (although this is certainly not one of the most memorable performances I've seen). One problem for the viewer in this film is that there are several divas at work here, and they all look a lot alike - yes, even a 39-year-old Winona Ryder. I understand that ballerinas are largely cut from the same mold, but it would have been nice to help the viewer visually - maybe with an actress of color? For example, I'm *still* not quite sure to whom, early in the film, Nina mistakenly said, "Congratulations," thinking that she (Nina) had lost the part to this other ballerina - Nina was wrong, of course, and the other ballerina furiously came back and dressed her down. Was that Lily? (Mila Kunis?) I don't *think* it was, but I wasn't familiar enough with the characters to be sure - whomever it was, it was *extremely* out of character for Nina not to have hunted her down and apologized profusely, which she never did. I've never seen "Swan Lake," so I was pleased to get a little synopsis of the plot. That said, I suspect there are ballet aficionados out there who loathe this film, for various reasons - refer to "Shine" and piano, which I detest with every fiber of my being. Writing this a day later, I'm already forgetting aspects of this film - I suspect that a year from now, I'll remember almost nothing about it, which may say more about me than the movie. Still, this was not an unforgettable motion picture experience. I wish I had a vote for the Academy Awards - it wouldn't change much (one vote never does), but it would at least be a fair, intelligent vote that isn't wasted. (*) It should be noted that, of the six "horror" films to be nominated for Best Picture, only three are pure horror films: "The Exorcist," "The Sixth Sense," and "Get Out." The other three, "Jaws," "Silence of the Lambs," and "Black Swan" are either thrillers, or (in the case of "Black Swan") psychological dramas.
  3. Wow, I'm almost certain I've seen the ending of "Silver Linings Playbook" before, but I'm also certain that I've never seen the entire film. Despite its spicy language, this is a somewhat classic, old-fashioned, rom-com - chock full of star power, and Jennifer Lawrence's vehicle for her first Best Actress Oscar. It's important to me that I see films "like this," but not for the reasons you may think: Although I'd heard the name "Jennifer Lawrence" a zillion times before, I didn't have the faintest idea who she was (I wouldn't have even been sure if she was a singer or an actress), and watching movies like this are the only way I can keep up with popular culture. The casting of this film was very star-heavy and strong, and there really wasn't a weakness in the entire ensemble that I can think of. That said, despite its "mental illness" twist, "Silver Linings Playbook" is a formulaic rom-com, and absent the language and some of the subject matter, could have been made with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (although you'd need to substitute "rapid-fire dialogue" for "subtle facial expressions"). I found the film charming, if perhaps twenty minutes too long, and everyone gets to walk out of the theater happy and carefree. Given that this is an almost stereotypical rom-com, what more could you ask for? (Other than, of course, eight Academy Award nominations including the Big Five.) Peter Travers said this film was "crazy good"; I contend that while it's well-made, slick entertainment, it's "crazy for-the-masses."
  4. Not only have I never seen "Million Dollar Baby," I know nothing about it other than that it's a boxing movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank, and won a Best Picture award - I didn't even know Morgan Freeman was in it until five minutes ago. This falls within that "post-Karen, pre-DR period" where I went a long time without seeing any movies. I spent many years, decades ago, being a student of film, but I let it slip because I got busy with other aspects of life - although I have a lot of catching up to do, it's coming back very, very quickly. Well, for once, I watched the entire film without writing any of the review during the movie - that's because it was so damned good that I didn't want to pry myself away from the film. This movie is a masterpiece, and not only must it surely be Clint Eastwood's finest directorial effort, but Eastwood also *composed the score*! I think that right now, he can take his place as the most important - or legendary - figure in all of Hollywood: He is our generation's version of the stereotypical Hollywood legend. "Million Dollar Baby" goes on my Top 10 List, or Top 20 List, or Top 5 List, or whatever number happens to resonate with me on a particular day. It's not a "boxing movie" any more than "Unforgiven" is a "western." I'm forcing myself to look at this without looking at any awards, but I do know it won Best Picture. I could also see it winning Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and numerous others - in fact, I'd be surprised if it didn't. How much did this movie affect me? I want to hurry up and finish writing this review so I can see an interview with Hillary Swank about the film, just to know she's okay. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Going into the plot would be redundant and pointless. Just allow me to say that "Million Dollar Baby" is one of the finest films I've ever seen, and that it should be among the pantheon of all-time Hollywood greats. How can Clint Eastwood keep getting better-and-better as he keeps getting older-and-older? I enjoyed "Gran Torino," but that was at a whole other level. Note, however, that both films involve Eastwood coming to terms with religion, atoning for past sins, giving up his life for others, and presenting Catholic Priests - not as characters to be mocked, but as supportive figures, which he badly needs. It's as if Eastwood realizes he's approaching the end of life, and he's displaying all his foibles for us on the big screen. Make *sure* to see "Million Dollar Baby" at least once in your life; just do *not* be prepared to come away feeling the way you did after you saw "Rocky." This is one of the best films I've ever seen, but it's also one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, and it's not a "boxing" film per se. I have one question: When Maggie (Hillary Swank) fought for the title, why wasn't she awarded the bout? How is it possible that she wasn't? It would have been *so* much easier to take the ending had she only known that she was, ever so briefly, the champion of the world - which she rightly was.
  5. Having survived decades of verbal abuse, I am familiar with the term "gaslighting" as it is used to describe psychological manipulation designed to make a person doubt themself. It is impossible to read anything about Narcissistic personality disorder without seeing a section on gaslighting. While I was very familiar with the term, I never questioned why it was called that. I had NO idea this term came from a 1938 play, by the same name, on which this film is based. MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW "Gaslight" is a brilliantly acted, beautifully directed film that stands the test of time. Ingrid Bergman is outstanding as the wife who is driven to think she is going insane by her controlling husband. She is radiant and so convincing as the happy young women whose life begins to spiral out of control. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this role, and I think it is well deserved. Her speech at the end of the film was the highlight for me. I didn't get up off of my couch and cheer, but I wanted to. Bergman's character, Paula, thinks she is going insane. One thing that makes her believe this is the way the gas lights dim each evening, even though there is no one in the house who could be dimming them. Charles Boyer is perfect as her charmingly sinister husband, and an 18-year old Angela Lansbury makes her film debut as the housemaid. If you are looking for this movie to stream online, don't get it confused with the 1940 British version with the same title. If you have lived with someone who has attempted to control or manipulate you, this film will resonate. If you haven't, you will still get swept up in the mystery and intrigue of a very well-crafted film noir.
  6. Since I recently watched "The Maltese Falcon," I decided to have a go at "Suspicion," both films being from 1941. The glass of milk scene was my favorite part of the film - it was Hitchcock at his best. *** MINOR SPOILER FOLLOWS *** I didn't realize until after the movie that Cary Grant's menace is developed by Hitchcock by never having him walking into a scene; he merely "appears" - I'm not sure if that hold true for the entire film, but apparently, it happens quite a bit. Grant's performance was terrific - both childish and increasingly creepy as the film progressed. Will he or won't he?
  7. It's hard to believe, but up until six months before "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was released (June 12, 1967 to be exact - see Loving v. Virginia), interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states. People automatically assume we're such an advanced species, but in reality, we're one small step removed from being cavemen (of course, with the nail bombs and automatic guns people are killing each other with these days, we put cavemen to shame - all they had at their disposal were sticks and stones). Putting it bluntly: We, as a species, suck. Back to the movies. I had watched "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" a few years ago, but I'm unsatisfied at how well (or rather, how poorly) I remember it, so I decided to watch it again - I remember at the time thinking how utterly, completely *wrong* it was for Katherine Hepburn to have won the Best Actress Academy Award over Dame Edith Evans, who deserved a unanimous vote that year: Anyone who *didn't* vote for Evans was either incompetent, dishonest, or both. Back to the movies again. I hate the fact that "message movies" (and this is a message movie) need to be made - not only are they lazy and pompous, but they shouldn't be necessary; yet, they are, because we, as a species, suck. Worse, message movies aren't always correct (refer to "Reefer Madness"), turning the entire process into quite the little farce. But here? Of course it was necessary. And I'm *so* glad the film took place in San Francisco - one of my favorite cities to see and to be in. The cinematography - especially in the 40th anniversary edition, available on Amazon as a $3.99 48-hour rental - is beautiful. Even something as simple as watching a taxi drive through the streets is a lovely sight to behold. Spencer Tracy died 17 days after the film was completed. This was his ninth (and obviously final) screen pairing with Katherine Hepburn, and Hepburn was so devastated by the loss of Tracy, that she never once watched the movie - the two were romantically involved, secretly, for 26 years. Hepburn played art gallery owner Christina Drayton, the mother of Katherine Houghton (Joanna "Joey" Drayton) in the film, which was Houghton's Hollywood debut, and in real life, they were aunt and niece - I did not remember that at all until just now (as usual, I'm writing about the movie as I'm watching it, so expect some chronological progression and random comments in this post - it certainly will not be a well-conceived piece of writing, but if I discover something I think will interest you, you can be sure I'll mention it). Spencer Tracy, for those of you who don't know, was the inspiration for the character Carl Fredricksen in the 2009 Pixar animated film, "Up," and his character in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," newspaper publisher Matt Drayton, is the "look" they were trying to achieve (successfully, I will add) when animating Carl - if you're looking to have a good cry, go rewatch "Up" and the famous "Carl and Ellie" love scene. Sidney Poitier (Dr. John Prentice) was Hollywood's hottest commodity in 1967, starring in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "In the Heat of the Night" (both nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, with "In the Heat of the Night" winning), and also "To Sir, with Love" - not a bad year! I've sometimes looked at Poitier as Hollywood's version of Jackie Robinson - "the perfect Negro" to break into the good ol' boys' club of Hollywood. His appearance, demeanor, and countenance all make him look like an almost-perfect person - much more easily acceptable by the white community than someone with a huge Afro, tie-dyed shirt, and jive accent. This aside, he is one of my very favorite actors from the 1960s, or any other era for that matter (does this mean the strategy worked?) Putting all racial and "perfect man" aspects aside, what would possess a 37-year-old man - especially someone as successful as he is - to marry a 23-year-old girl who he just met ten days before? I know, the correct response is, "love," but my reaction, had I been Joey's parents, would have been, "We don't care that he's a negro; we care very much that you met just ten days ago - why don't you wait six months, and if you still want to get married then, you'll know you were right all along." The brief dance scene between the meat deliveryman and Dorothy (Tillie's drop-dead gorgeous assistant, played by Barbara Randolph) was eye-rollingly ridiculous, especially because there was no music playing except as background music. Was this supposed to be some sort of comic relief? If so, it really wasn't needed, and it was incredibly silly in execution. Meh, it was probably some sort of symbolic representation that went over my head. It's probably just coincidence, but there's a disturbing similarity between Katherine Houghton's role as Joey, and Jane Fonda's role as Corie Bratter in "Barefoot in the Park" - both of them play "spirited dimwits," who ignore the consequences of reality, and try to get by on their "oh-so-cute personality" (and, consciously or not, their good looks). I don't like it - it makes women look stupid. Granted, Fonda's role is twice as blatant, but I see some of the same traits in Houghton here. Why is it that the man in both movies is perceived as the "stable stuffed-shirt" (when, in fact, the men engaged in behavior that was equally reckless and foolhardy)? Well, it has been almost fifty years, and I guess I'm looking at this through 2016 lenses - maybe it's just me, but give me a quietly confident woman any day of the week (Sally Field in "Places in the Heart" just popped into mind - even though she was uneducated, she had a dogged determination about her that made her much more respectable, and quite frankly, "equal," in my eyes - she quietly set out to prove everybody wrong, and she did). Katherine Hepburn's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" line addressed to Spencer Tracy was bordering on being laugh-out-loud funny. I guess it's obvious that Spencer Tracy ordering, then rejecting, then deciding he likes, the boysenberry sherbert, was symbolic of the potential of his relationship with Dr. Prentice; what I didn't understand is the significance of him backing into the car immediately afterwards (would someone like to take a stab at explaining this to me?) And to think *that* damage could be fixed for only "thirty or forty bucks?" Even in 1967? Are you kidding me? My, how times have changed. That's a thousand-dollar accident today, minimum. Interleaved between those two scenes, Tillie (the maid played by Isabel Sanford - yes, Louise from "The Jeffersons!") had a scene-stealing moment when she told off Dr. Prentice - you know, I was certain I'd seen Tillie somewhere before, but I just didn't quite place her as "Weezy," even though it was so darned obvious after I found it out - of *course* she's Weezy!) It became even more obvious during this scene when she raised her voice - there was that distinct, "Louise Jefferson" sound in it. How dim of me not to recognize this. Okay, I just this minute finished watching, the film ending with a ten-minute speech by Spencer Tracy. I'm telling myself, over-and-over again, "It's fifty years old, it's fifty years old, it's fifty years old," because that speech felt so damned scripted, and all that mattered is what the white father accepted; it didn't seem to matter what the black father thought. I'm turning a blind eye to this film, and saying that it was probably "necessary," but I'm not going to sit here and say it isn't dated, or that I particularly enjoyed it. And regardless of color, if my child told me he was getting married after knowing someone - anyone - for ten days, and sought my approval? I'd say, "Do whatever you want - and be prepared to learn from your mistakes for round two." The acting was excellent, if overdone in parts, but it was, for the most part, a very strong cast.
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