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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘U.S.A.’ Category

And more films…

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

I’m not doing such a bad job with my film watching! Also, I plan to do a Thin Man marathon soon… or maybe a Fred and Ginger marathon. I hope I’m up to it! I WILL BLOG ALL OF THIS. I MUST BLOG.

I thought that seeing all text posts was depressing so I decided to put pictures of movie posters. Once I’m I grad school, I hope to write more thorough posts… or at least ones with screenshots! I have a feeling that my blog posts are going to be just like this though, haha~

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Amarcord (1973)
Director: Federico Fellini
Actors: Armando Brancia, Magali Noël, Ciccio Ingrassia, Bruno Zanin, Josiane Tanzilli, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi, Giuseppe Ianigro
Country: Italy, France

I seem to be watching Fellini’s self-referential films for some reason — I’m not doing it on purpose but the ones I happen to pick up are the ones that reflect Fellini. Or are all of his films like this? What do I know since I know nothing about Fellini!
I enjoyed this film so much and I don’t really know why. I found it to be so beautiful to watch with all of its lush colours and it was like an Antonioni film where each shot looks like something that would be a beautiful photograph. The film felt surreal at times but it always had my attention even though I feel like a film like this could easily make me lose interest.
There are so many hilarious moments that I thought that Fellini was a visual humour genius, just like how I view Lubitsch. I laughed so hard at the car scene when the boys were group masturbating and the car was shaking and the lights were flickering and at the scene where Titta is suffocated by the tobacco shop owner’s boobs. I also couldn’t help but laugh when Gradisca’s butt was pelted with snowballs. I really can’t wait to make gifs from this film and write about this film again.
The Fascist scenes were really interesting because it made me think of how I, as an American, respect the president, but let’s say that America wasn’t a superpower — it’s possible that the world might view the president in a very negative light, just like how we now view Mussolini. America isn’t a perfect country and I admit that I don’t want to know much about the war going on because it would probably make me sick. It’s probably how the Italians felt went Mussolini was in power but because Italy lost the war, the perspective on Mussolini is very different compared to the time when he was in power.
The one issue I had with the film was its portrayal of women. I felt that for the most part, they were dehumanized, although I suppose an argument can be made that it’s completely understandable because the film follows Titta and we find out that he’s a typical boy that gets turned on by women and only cares about sex and not much else.
Random thought, but did Fellini have Fred e Ginger in mind since the Fred and Ginger movie poster was so prominently shown in a shot? Or just a coincidence?
I definitely enjoyed this film more than and I look forward to seeing more of Fellini’s films!

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Laura (1944)
Director: Otto Preminger
Actors: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson
Country: U.S.A.

The first time I watched Laura, I remember that I wasn’t really impressed. I found it rather dull and kind of boring and the only thing that got me going was Gene Tierney’s gorgeous face.
Now that I rewatched it, I feel like I am kind of like Detective McPherson in that I’m growing more intrigued by this film and I’m growing to like it! And the thing is, I don’t know why!!! Sometimes I think about this film and think that it is a bad film because total wtfbbq at Laura and Det. McPherson falling in love like that because I see no reason why either of them would fall in love with each other. I found all the characters to be rather unlikable and unrelatable and found them to be so distant (that’s really the best way I can describe how I feel) with no motivation behind their actions. At the same time I wonder if Preminger is an amazing director because he can make a film look polished, feel empty (yet you wonder the emptiness of it), yet captivating. I need to rewatch Bonjour Tristesse because I remember feeling the same way about that film too.
The casting of this film is excellent and while I’m sure everyone agrees that Gene Tierney’s performance as the titular character is A+, I don’t think enough can be said about Clifton Webb’s performance because it was so, SO good. He really made the film and if it weren’t for his stellar acting, I don’t know if Gene Tierney’s performance alone could have carried this film. I can’t even imagine who else would have been just as good, if not better, as Waldo Lydecker as Clifton Webb was. Also, I think that Lydecker is the character that I like the most in this film, but I think it’s because I/the viewer knows about him the most. In regards to Dana Andrews, I don’t know what to make of him in this film. Sometimes I think he is perfect in it and at other times I think it’s really bad acting. I know he’s a competent actor and maybe it’s the kind of character that Detective McPherson is supposed to be, but I really do waffle back and forth about him. If I’m comparing him to another famous detective performance in cinema, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, both have this rough exterior but when I watch Bogart as Sam Spade, I am enthralled by his performance. Maybe it’s because Sam has such great lines that McPherson doesn’t really seem to shine? I feel like he’s a character that is just there because it’s necessary for the plot. AGH I AM SO CONFLICTED.

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The Razor’s Edge (1946)
Director: Edmund Goulding
Actors: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Elsa Lanchester, Fritz Kortner
Country: U.S.A.

I was SO looking forward to watching this film (I mean, look at that cast!) because I’ve read so much about Gene Tierney’s performance in this film, but I didn’t really enjoy the film. I wouldn’t mind watching it again, but overall, I felt indifferent about it. I’m surprised by this because the cast is superb and I love film adaptations of W. Somerset Maugham’s works but I found the story to be dull. Thankfully the acting kept me going because Herbert Marshall was elegant as usual as Somerset Maugham, Clifton Webb was great and elegant as always, and Anne Baxter was flipping amazing as Sophie, especially during the scenes after her character loses her child and husband. I thought Gene Tierney was alright until the end when you saw the vehemence when her and Tyrone Power’s character talk about Sophie’s death because she totally stole the scene. What is so amazing about Gene Tierney is that she is one heck of an actress and she has the face of an angel so she excels at playing scenes and characters where the most ugly parts of the human psyche is exposed. What I was surprised about was Fritz Kortner’s appearance in this film because I never thought I’d see him in an American film. It was like how I felt when I saw Alexander Granach in Ninotchka because I associate German silent films to Kortner. I see Kortner as one of the best Expressionist actors so to see him play his role in The Razor’s Edge with subtlety was really a treat to see. I thought that his acting alone made the film worth watching.

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Image credit: Wikipedia.org

More film watching

Monday, May 11th, 2015

I’ve been naughty and have been rewatching some films. I can’t always get myself to watch new movies — I don’t know why!!!

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The Age of Innocence (1993)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Geraldine Chaplin
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I did like the film, but there were things that I felt were slightly off because of the casting of the main characters. Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer, and Ryder are great actors but I guess that I imagined these characters a certain way that I couldn’t get passed the cast. However, I do think that it says something about how great these actors are because I started seeing why these actors were chosen for their parts. Pfeiffer was graceful, the way I imagined Ellen to be; Ryder occasionally looked so sweet and innocent, which is how I saw May; and I started to get over Day-Lewis’ hair because I always imagined Newland to have a more slicked down hairdo. My ideal cast would have been John Barrymore for Newland, Mary Astor or Vivien Leigh for Ellen, and… oh May is such a hard one! Maybe Lana Turner? Joan Fontaine? Ooooh maybe Lillian Gish?!?! I think Lillian is the one I’ll stick with for May!
Because I have such an immense crush on Winona Ryder, I just have to say that the sweetness of May came through in the scene when she is reading (narrating?) the letter to Newland about agreeing to hasten the wedding. Also, she did a perfect job in the scene when she tells Newland that she is pregnant.
The only major complaint I have is the use of voiceover even though I know why it was used — I knew that voiceovers would be inevitable for this film. I wondered how in the world anyone could film this book due to how descriptive it is and how much of it is based on Newland’s perception of New York society, but I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up enjoying the film even though I hoped that Scorsese would find a way around voiceovers. I honestly was a bit wary to watch the film because I imagined that anyone who attempts to film The Age of Innocence would fail.
Beautifully shot film (especially the ending!!!) and I loved all the food porn. I still stand by that this is Scorsese’s Barry Lyndon because I didn’t expect either Scorsese or Kubrick to make the films.

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Chaplin (1992)
Director: Richard Attenborough
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd
Country: U.S.A., Japan, France, Italy

Since I do not know much about Chaplin’s personal history, I don’t really have anything to compare this film too, which I am actually glad about because knowing too much about Chaplin could have made me dislike the film because all I would be doing is moan about inaccuracies or wonder why they left certain things out. But maybe the film isn’t riddled with inaccuracies since Chaplin’s daughter is in the film and I doubt she would have been in it if she strongly disagreed with it. I don’t think the film itself is made well (it is ok but I had some issues with the way they edited it), but the acting was phenomenal!!! I also loved Mary Pickford’s hair in the film and even though she wasn’t portrayed in a good light, it is true that Chaplin and Pickford did not get along so I wouldn’t be surprised if Pickford was nasty to Chaplin.
Geraldine Chaplin and Robert Downey Jr. shine in this film and seeing their performance was a joy to watch. At first I was like, “Robert can’t get away with this. He can’t be Chaplin.” but I was proven wrong because his performance was so convincing that it was as if he became Chaplin. I wouldn’t mind rewatching this movie to watch Robert Downey Jr.’s performance again because it is just that good.

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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse
Country: U.S.A.

I’ve wanted to rewatch this movie for some time and I finally got around to it! The last time (and only time) I watched this was in 2007 or 2008 and my mom told me that she enjoyed this movie a lot and that I should watch it. I loved this movie back then because I thought that it was hilarious and fell in love with Gene Kelly’s dancing. I still love the same scene, which is when The Dueling Cavalier‘s sound synchronization goes out the window; it is one of the most hilarious scenes I have seen in any film that I’ve watched.
The reason why I wanted to rewatch this film was because I remembered enjoying it but didn’t remember why I liked it so much nor did I really remember much about it. After rewatching it, I found out that I still love the movie because I find it funny, but I now love it because of all the references to film history. When I first watched it, it was when I was getting my feet wet with film history, so I knew about silent films but not much. Now that I am more aware of film history, all the scenes related to the silent-to-talkie transition resonated with me.
It was rewatching this movie that made me keenly aware of Gene Kelly’s athleticism in regards to his dancing. In the “Moses Supposes” number, seeing Gene dancing next to Donald O’Connor made me think of Fred Astaire because O’Connor is slim and his dancing isn’t as full of power and energy like Gene’s. O’Connor is a great dancer but his style is different than Gene’s, just like how Fred and Gene are very different too. I saw so much power in Gene’s dancing that I was blown away.
I still can’t get over the beauty of how that long veil moves in the “Broadway Melody” sequence — Cyd Charisse looked awesome in it! The whole “Broadway Melody” sequence also made me think that Hollywood films can be very avant-garde and artsy-fartsy too because there were times when it looked very surreal. I actually find all of Gene Kelly’s ballet sequences to be really surreal and it takes the musical genre to a whole ‘nother level. Fred and Ginger tell a story through their dancing and Gene Kelly does the same thing too, but by taking the viewers into a whole different realm than the location of the story is a bold thing to do. I guess it isn’t as jarring in this film because Gene Kelly’s character is telling his idea for The Dancing Cavalier, but it was rather surreal in On the Town and (if I remember correctly) An American in Paris.
Also, does anyone think that Gene Kelly is not a very convincing silent film actor? I don’t know what it is about him but he just doesn’t look like one!!! I know that makes no sense whatsoever because there is no “look” when it comes to an actor in a silent film. I kind of felt that way about Jean Hagan too. Don’t get me wrong though because this movie would not be the same without them and I love them in it.

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On the Town (1949)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Alice Pearce
Country: U.S.A.

Around 2008 or so, I did a Gene Kelly marathon where I would hunt down as many Gene Kelly films as I can and watch whatever I could get my hands on. After several years passed, my memory of these films waned but I remember that back then, there was a film that I considered to be better than Singin’ in the Rain in Gene’s oeuvre. The thing is, I don’t remember what the movie was called but I thought that it was this film or It’s Always Fair Weather because I remembered sailors, Frank Sinatra, and Cyd Charisse.
Now that I watched this film, I don’t think this is the movie I was thinking about but at least I know which movie has Frank Sinatra and sailors — I hope that I don’t forget again. I wonder if my taste and perceptions of movies have changed so much that I won’t know which film I preferred back then. This film was fun to watch but I didn’t think it was anything special and I don’t think I’d watch it again because there isn’t even a scene that would draw me back to this film. Oh wait, I will rewatch parts of this film because I want to learn how to do the Charleston and I think that this film shows off the dance quite well! I wonder what I thought of this film when I first watched it; this is why I need to be more vigilant with my blogging!
Between the time I first watched this film and the time I rewatched it, I was on a Bewitched kick so I was so happy to see Alice Pearce because I love her as Gladys Kravitz.
Now I need to get my hands on It’s Always Fair Weather!!!

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Mr. Skeffington (1944)
Director: Vincent Sherman
Actors: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel
Country: U.S.A.

This is the first Bette Davis film that I’ve ever watched and the first time I watched it, I hated it! I hated the film, I hated Bette Davis, and I was a raging madwoman and didn’t understand the hype about this film or Bette. Well, things have changed over many many years and I think I’ve watched more Bette Davis films than Joan Crawford films >_>; I used to say that I love Joan more than Bette but I’m not too sure anymore!!! I now love them both and they’re brilliant in their own ways.
Anyway, I rewatched this film a year or two ago and I really enjoyed it and found it so touching. I don’t know why I hated it so much when I first watched it and why I found it to be such a bore then, but when I rewatched this film once again, I enjoyed it once more. When Job comes back and Fanny accepts him, my heart was wrung dry and my eyes watered from emotion.
I believe that I read this in Bette’s memoir when she said that she bluffed her way through this role because she knew she wasn’t the most beautiful woman. This film shows off Bette’s acting chops because she is totally convincing as the most desirable woman. I also find Bette to be pretty and wouldn’t mind if I looked like her at all — Warner Brothers knew how to make her up! Maybe all I need is a studio makeover?
I know I’m babbling a lot about Bette BUT HOW CAN WE FORGET CLAUDE RAINS’ PERFORMANCE? Jesus christ that man can act!!! He is so touching as Job and when Fanny keeps on mentioning his eyes, you completely understand what she means because Claude Rains is SO GOOD.

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Robin Hood (1922)
Director: Allan Dwan
Actors: Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, Sam De Grasse, Enid Bennett, Paul Dickey
Country: U.S.A.

I know the basics about Fairbanks due to reading a bit about Mary Pickford but I never watched any of his films because I had this odd abhorrence towards them for no good reason. I think it’s because I felt as if the kinds of films he was known for wasn’t my type but… I WAS WRONG! My reluctance to watch a Fairbanks film ended up being the way I felt about western films: my feelings towards them were completely irrational.
I have to say that this film is something special because no other film has drawn me in that I started to whoop and holler while watching it. Without knowing, when Robin Hood was kicking some booty, I was shouting, “YOU GET THEM!”, “HOORAY!!!”, and other related things. I was laughing, squealing, and rooting for Robin Hood and this is something that I’ve never done in my entire life. I can now understand people who shout at bars while watching sports. Because no other film gave me such an interactive experience, I have to think highly of this film and put it in a special place. It’s rather odd since it’s not really a film I would watch on repeat or whenever I want to cheer up, but I can’t disregard the experience that this film gave me. I wonder if contemporary moviegoers also rooted for Robin Hood while watching this film.
Fairbanks was so charming in the role of Robin Hood. He was ok as the Earl of Huntingdon but he truly blossomed when he portrayed Robin Hood and I wanted to see more of Fairbanks and didn’t care for any of the other actors because he was a joy to watch. Kind of random, but I was surprised to like Wallace Beery in this film because I usually don’t care for him and always see him as a douchecanoe (I don’t know why), but I did like him as King Richard.
The film was shot beautifully and I couldn’t get over the gorgeous sets and elaborate costumes. Also, SERIOUS HAIR INSPIRATION IN THIS FILM. If anyone says that old films weren’t polished or as great as modern films or talkies, they need to watch this film because it has the finesse of films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Did anyone else think of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in the scene where the court jester is murdered? Another thing that surprised me was that people getting hanged and hanged people were shown in the film — isn’t that a bit disturbing?!
I need to make a gazillion gifs from this film because there were so many great moments.
I’m glad that the ice is broken and I look forward to watching more of Fairbanks’ work!

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Ninotchka (1939)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Actors: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach
Country: U.S.A.

Before I start rambling about the movie, CAN WE PLEASE DISCUSS BELA LUGOSI AND ALEXANDER GRANACH BEING IN THIS FILM?! I was working on my “art project” (paper chain) while watching this movie and when the film started and the credits came on, my eyes went straight for Bela Lugosi’s name and I was like, “WTFBBQQQQQQ?!?!”, because I’ve watched this film probably 10+ times and I never noticed. When the credits came on at the end of the film, my eyes went straight for Alexander Granach and once again I had the same exact reaction as I did to Bela Lugosi’s name. HOW IN THE WORLD DID I MISS THIS THE LAST BAZILLION TIMES THAT I HAVE WATCHED THIS FILM? HOW?! I always associate Alexander Granach with German silent films (never forget the pig exit in Schatten) so to see him in an American film (and a talkie at that!) had my head reeling.
I haven’t watched Ninotchka in awhile and decided that this time around, I’m going to be a more active viewer and try to find Lubitsch’s brilliance because as much as I love Lubitsch, I also question why he is so great. Sometimes I wonder if Lubitsch is great because of the great scripts he has (I’m focusing on the sound picture era here) or if he’s great because he really brings out the greatness of a darn good script. I need to read some academic works on Lubitsch to help me out… but I should do that after I do another Lubitsch marathon! After rewatching Ninotchka, I think that maybe Lubitsch’s brilliance is that you forget everything and become a passive viewer; I just take in the jokes and have a good time. I guess that’s some dangerous filmmaking though… I think this is even more apparent in To Be or Not to Be because I always feel reluctant recommending that film because as much as I love it and find it hilarious, some people might find it offensive. I wonder how Russians would see Ninotchka, especially people who lived much of their life in the USSR.
I have a love/hate relationship with Greta Garbo but I absolutely LOVE, LOVE her in this film. I wish that she did more comedies because she is brilliant in this film. Her deadpan face expressions are perfect but she is also great when her character loosens up too. It’s a real shame that her last film, also a comedy, was kind of a dud. I remember not enjoying it when I watched it… or maybe I’ll change my mind like I did with Mr. Skeffington?

Some quick thoughts

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

Since I got into grad school, I figured that I should brush up on my film knowledge before heading off because I say the following phrase too often: I’ve heard of the film, I know some things about it, but I haven’t watched it. Because of this, I am going to watch some films from my to-watch list. It’s about freaking time that I watched some of these!
I’m too tired to write fully thought out entries so this is the best I could muster.

8½ (1963)
Director: Federico Fellini
Actors: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo
Country: Italy, France
I FINALLY WATCHED THIS FILM. I FINALLY DID. AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF IT. My god, it’s beautifully shot and there were some parts of it that I loved but this was my reaction:
First third of the film: What is going on?!
Second third of the film: OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD.
Last third of the film: What what what what?! (à la Kyle’s mom from South Park)
I will have to rewatch this after 10 years have passed, although this movie did make me wonder if I would give it a second chance if it wasn’t such a well regarded film. Also, ANOUK AIMÉE IS SO GORGEOUS IN THIS MOVIE.

Asphalt (1929)
Director: Joe May
Actors: Albert Steinrück, Else Heller, Gustav Fröhlich, Betty Amann
Country: Germany
I really loved the way the title was filmed along with the city scenes since it reminded me of Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt — I think I read that the film was filmed by the same people? It was nice to see Gustav Fröhlich in a movie that isn’t Metropolis (will forever love his pants in that movie) and Betty Amann was such a babe in this film! Can I please look awesomely vampy as her one day?! Her as Else in this movie is my vamp idol. I didn’t find the movie to be too enjoyable to watch although I found it very interesting in that I felt like the movie was a morality film. It’s like: LOOK AT ALBERT’S PARENTS. THEY ARE OLD FASHIONED THUS HAPPY AND GOOD PEOPLE BUT LOOK AT HOW THE CITY HAS CORRUPTED ALBERT BECAUSE ELSE IS THE EMBODIMENT OF MODERNIZATION. Outside of that point, the story itself was nothing special and seemed trite. I did like the happy ending though :)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Director: Tay Garnett
Actors: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames
Country: U.S.A.
I DON’T REALLY CARE FOR THIS FILM BUT THIS MOVIE GAVE ME SO MANY FEELLLLLSSSSSSS. Cora, played by the oh-so-beautiful Lana Turner, is often labeled as a femme fatale and maybe I have the wrong idea of the definition of femme fatales, but to me, I always see that label as connoting something negative. Well, I don’t think Cora is a femme fatale and any trouble Frank got into in his movie was his fault. I found Frank so unlikable that I couldn’t help but side with Cora and couldn’t see her as anyone bad. I think it is because she is shown to be quite human (she is often stating her goals and she is jealous when she finds out Frank had a fling) whereas my personal ultimate femme fatale is Phyllis Dietrichson, who is cool as a cucumber and has an air of mystery. If you ask me, Cora doesn’t have that cool or steeliness that Phyllis does, although that kissing scene is AMAZING when she wipes her mouth and reapplies her lipstick after the kiss.
I wouldn’t watch this film for fun again but I really need to make a gif of that kissing scene because it is too great.

The Misfits (1961)
Director: John Huston
Actors: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach
Country: U.S.A.
I adore Marilyn Monroe and a long time ago, I decided that I’ll watch all the films she starred in but I kept pushing off watching The Misfits. I enjoyed it in the same manner that I enjoyed watching The Night of the Iguana because both films portray the characters so well.
Thelma Ritter was A+ as usual but what I found so disturbing about the film was seeing Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable. The Gable I know is the way he looked and sounded in the 1930s and to see him in this film looking so old and not having that voice of his was shocking. I didn’t know how to digest it and I felt like the charisma he had in all his older films was gone. He was good in the role but he didn’t have that sparkle that he has even in his most banal roles from the 1930s. I always associate Clift with his role in A Place in the Sun because that was the first film I saw him in and he made such a big impression on me. In The Misfits, he looked so haggard that I couldn’t get over it. What made it worse was that I felt like Marilyn Monroe looked so beautiful in this film and to see her with these two stars looking very different than what I am used to emphasized how I viewed her character in this film. Roslyn is so different from everyone around her and her beautiful appearance emphasized that amongst the other actors. The character of Roslyn is actually how I imagine Monroe to actually be: a very sensitive soul that isn’t understood by many people.

A Night in Casablanca ; 1946

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Director: Archie Mayo
Actors: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Charles Drake, Lois Collier, Sig Ruman
Country: U.S.A.

This is my first Marx Brothers movie and I thought it was ok. I still haven’t watched Duck Soup so I’m definitely not writing off the Marx Brothers as “not my cup of tea”. For the most part, I found this movie quite dull even though I adored Groucho Marx’s lines and found the gags in Count Pfferman’s (Ruman) room (when the “Count” is trying to pack) but they weren’t enough to entice me to make me want to watch another Marx Brothers film right away.

I don’t really have much to say, although surprisingly enough, I was very much put off by the last scene when the Marx Brothers’ characters chase Beatrice (Verea). I know that several old Hollywood movies make people side eye them (well, current movies too) but to see a woman express her want for a romance and have to run away from three lustful men scared me. I knew that it was meant to be comical, but I found it so disturbing and frightening that it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Random, but it was amusing to see Sig Ruman play a Nazi because I will forever associate him with Colonel Ehrhardt from To Be or Not to Be.

IMDb Link: A Night in Casablanca

Pi ; 1998

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Actors: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman
Country: U.S.A.

I was very surprised that I enjoyed this movie. Lately I have been thinking quite a bit about what kind of movies I like. I know that for the most part, my genre of choice is romantic comedy and that I prefer narrative films, so I figured that I like anything that is mainstream and easy to watch. When I was in high school and during part of my college days, I suffered from special snowflake syndrome and wanted to watch obscure movies that no one knew about or cared for non-linear and foreign films. Part of that phase did stem from me being interested in them, but my intentions weren’t very pure and I think I cared more about the cool points than actually educating myself. Anyway, it’s been awhile since I watched anything that was “challenging” (unless Quentin Tarantino’s works falls into that category) and to my surprise, I enjoyed Pi immensely. I think it’s the editing style that kept my attention the entire time because the quick cuts and close ups made it feel as if the pace of the movie was going faster. I also liked that technique in another Aronofsky film, Requiem for a Dream (2000), because I think that it made habits look cold and calculated, which for the most part they are because we always do certain things a certain way at a certain time.

As for the story, it was captivating for me because it was about a man’s search to find out a pattern behind the stock market and the obsessive quest is enjoyable (uh… painful?) to watch. I liked seeing how this obsession ruins Max’s (Gullette) physical body and his mental state and how his search for an explanation runs him into trouble. The closer he gets to the truth behind the numbers, the more he cannot handle it physically or mentally because perhaps it is as if he is playing with fire and his headaches and paranoia are all signs for him to back off something that is beyond his control. The way the movie played out and how it ended reminded me of people’s quest to understanding the world and believing in God. Whether or not I believe in God or believe people should believe in God is beyond the point of the post, but when I talk to people who believe in God or even just a higher being, many say that it is faith and that it’s not about trying to find an explanation for everything. Believing in God gives them a sense of lightness and comfort, and it reminded me of how Max ends up in the end. I see Max as finally being content once he gives up trying to find numbers/explanations for everything and can just enjoy being. Or maybe he’s content because he finally understood the numbers and also because he has learned to stop thinking about it and just accepting whatever he has learned in his quest.
What happens to Max also reminded me of how someone’s identity is shaped and how one’s interests become tied to one’s identity. For Max, his obsession with his quest to find the pattern in the stock market becomes his identity. He has nothing other than this quest and his quest is his identity and it physically manifests itself as well through the headaches and the paranoia. He is one with the numbers, just as he said about being the one who was chosen to understand the number sequence. What I liked was that the film medium allows the viewers to only know about Max in relation to numbers and we don’t know how he is outside of the scenes we see of him. This allows the viewers to once again associate Max’s identity to numbers. I think what’s so great is that this movie is so visibly shot on film that one can’t help but be aware of all this. And speaking of that, I absolutely love the look of this movie.

On a side note, I also couldn’t help like the film since it mentions the Kabbalah because in my favourite manga series, X, the Kabbalah is shown in the artwork and also in connection to the tech savvy character, Satsuki. Sort of a connection to this movie, ey?

IMDb Link: Pi

Jackie Brown ; 1997

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Actors: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro
Country: U.S.A.

Someone told me that this Quentin Tarantino movie was a movie that non-Tarantino fans were a fan of. I think the person told me this because I probably mentioned that I’m not a Tarantino fan but here is the deal: I’ve enjoyed every single Tarantino film that I’ve watched but I’m too much of a pretentious person to just out-right say that I’m a fan. Actually, nix that: last month, I declared that I am a Tarantino fan. I don’t even know what my own deal is and why I stupidly refused to say that I’m a fan of his works even though I like his movies so much. Well, I don’t know why non-Tarantino fans see Jackie Brown as something different but it sure wasn’t anything different for me because I enjoyed watching this movie just as much as I enjoyed watching any Tarantino picture.

As usual, the script and casting was excellent, which I take as a given for any Tarantino movie. Like Ernst Lubitsch, I see Tarantino as a director who puts the oomph in their pictures through a superb script and a great cast. Cinematically, I would say that both directors are on par (for me) because while the effects of the mise-en-scène and camera movement isn’t overt, watching any of their films closely makes one more aware of how much control they have over every aspect of their picture and how knowledgeable they are of the filmic language. Of course, Tarantino has a more non-traditional approach to story telling and editing, but I never found his movies to be jarring or difficult to follow. Surprisingly enough, I find his editing style quite easy to follow and even though scenes may be shown in a non-linear fashion, I can’t think of any other way those scenes should have been shot. For example, in Jackie Brown, the Billingsley bag switch segment was PERFECT. By showing what happens to the four different character in succession through each character’s perspectives, you pick up bits and pieces of what’s going on and eventually, everything makes sense. When I saw Jackie (Grier) coming out of the dressing room all frantic, I didn’t understand what was going on. Did something go wrong? Did I miss something? And why did she leave that bag behind? But after I saw Max (Forster) pick up the bag and then saw Jackie using her supposed frazzled state of mind as an alibi at the police station, I was like, “OHHHHHHHHH! It all makes sense!”

And another thing, how could I dislike a movie that shows lipstick that has been rubbed off from a kiss? All in all, definitely liked this movie and would recommend it to anyone. I’m starting to wonder if there is going to be a Tarantino film that I dislike. Oh wait, there is only one more to watch. TIME WILL TELL.

IMDb Link: Jackie Brown

Pitch Perfect ; 2012

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Director: Jason Moore
Actors: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson
Country: U.S.A.

I had to think a lot about this movie and what I would write about. At one point, I wanted to just post “WTF” in big letters, but then I figured that I’d regret writing that when I look back at my entries because I wouldn’t remember why I wrote “WTF”. It would be like the time when I looked back at diaries I’ve written when I was in elementary school and I’d see entries that said, “I’m so mad right now that I’m not even going to write about it because I’m so angry.” Now I look at those entries and wonder what I was so mad about.

While watching this movie, the only thoughts I had throughout the entire film was, “What in the world? What is this? Is this real? WTFWTFWTFWTF.” I couldn’t understand this movie at all and I didn’t get why. I wasn’t sure if this movie was a comedy or what because I think I chuckled nervously throughout the movie. It was just THERE and my brain couldn’t make head or tail out of it. I was still very confused by it for several days and one day, while I was sitting in a tub, singing very badly, several thoughts about this movie popped up. I started to wonder if my brain was so used to thinking, “ANALYZE ANALYZE ANALYZE” that I couldn’t relax and enjoy it. Another thought was that I watched so many old films that I’m stuck in the bygone era and can’t understand contemporary comedy. I remember thinking that the dialogue was crude and I disliked a lot of the jokes, which made me think that I was unconsciously comparing old comedic films to current ones. Some would attribute it to political correctness but many of the jokes rubbed me the wrong way, which surprised me because I didn’t think that I was an overly politically correct person. I don’t think that I was being snotty while watching this movie and I wasn’t planning on comparing it to other movies as well, but this movie came from left field and I had no idea what was going on and how to digest it. Even my raging dislike for a cappella didn’t overcome this confusion by making me think an irrational thought such as, “I HATE THIS FILM BECAUSE OF A CAPPELLA, END OF STORY.”

Another thing that startled me was that I felt that many aspects of the movie, particularly sets (location?), camera movement, and acting was like a B-movie. It was hokey, borderline bad, and the only thing that made it visually good was the crisp quality of the picture and the colors. When I say colors, I don’t mean a beautiful or brilliant use of them, à la Sirk, but that everything was evenly lit so the colors looked nice, like a nice family photo.

And I just have to add, I really, REALLY detested Bumper (DeVine). I guess I can’t hate on Adam DeVine because he was successful at making me want to punch Bumper in the face, but his character was like Barry in High Fidelity (2000), except that I grew to tolerate Barry but I never grew to tolerate Bumper. I know that he’s supposed to be a character to either dislike or laugh with, but I found him overbearingly obnoxious that I wondered how DeVine could make a character so annoying.

I’m still not too sure why I was so thrown by this film, but I can say that I don’t want to rewatch it on my own time. If my friends all agreed and said that they wanted to watch it, sure I’ll watch it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t think it was a huge waste of time and maybe if I do rewatch it, I might like it immensely, but my first impression of this movie was bewilderment, which is a feeling that I have never gotten from a film until this one.

IMDb Link: Pitch Perfect

The White Sister ; 1923

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Director: Henry King
Actors: Lillian Gish, Ronald Colman, Gail Kane, J. Barney Sherry, Charles Lane, Juliette La Violette
Country: U.S.A.

Part of the Gish Sisters Blogathon. Please check out the other entries!

What to say about The White Sister… I think that the best way to put it would be “conflicted”.

In regards to mise-en-scène, it is absolutely breathtaking. I was astounded by the sets and how lovely all the costumes were. It was truly an impressive picture to watch purely for the sets alone. As for the leads, Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman, that is where the “conflicted” feelings comes in. Both Gish and Colman are formidable actors in their own rights but I was less than impressed with Colman in this film and Gish left me both impressed and kind of cold. Personally, the chemistry between the two actors (their characters are lovers) worked and did not work at the same time because I could not wrap my head around the coupling of the two actors. Gish’s character isn’t a child but her looks made her appear to be like a child-woman and Colman appeared a bit too old for her that they looked mismatched. However, what made me think that Gish was a nuanced actress was that despite her youthful face, she appeared incredibly mature, which left me baffled because my brain kept going, “She looks so young, BUT SHE OBVIOUSLY ISN’T!” I think that my thoughts were obstructing my ability to immerse myself into the love scenes because I thought that they were very well acted, but then I would always have an afterthought that ruined the moment.

So why did Gish’s performance make me think that it was impressive but also unimpressive at the same time?
As a disclaimer, I am going to state that I think Gish fans are going to like her performance in this movie. Heck, I think that the sets and her acting were the best things about the movie and it’s those things alone that make this film worth a watch. I actually feel bad for criticizing Gish because I haven’t watched many of her films and only watched some of her most famous pictures, so all I’ve seen of Gish are similar characters. I’m falling into the mistake that people (myself included) made about Mary Pickford so I feel a bit iffy saying not very nice things about Gish.
When I see Gish in highly emotional scenes, such as in The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Broken Blossoms (1919), I am blown away by the power of her performance. It is both Brechtian-esque and immersing at the same time; Gish’s performance of emotional scenes makes my skin crawl and I become aware that I am watching a movie but at the same time, I am almost in a trance-like state where I am captivated by everything Gish does on the screen and all thoughts escape my mind. The reason I hold Gish in such high respect as an actress is because she is able to make me feel that way. I felt this way when I watched Gish in certain scenes in The White Sister (one of them is shown in Picture 2), but what was odd about watching this movie was that I felt as if I was watching Gish performing in the same mannerisms as she did in her previous pictures. What I loved most about Gish’s performance in her other silent pictures was what made me feel detached and a bit pooped in this movie. It’s quite a mystery as to why but I do have an inkling. I absolutely adored Gish in The Night of the Hunter (1955) because of her powerful performance and for me, it was a change to see her as this protective and strong woman whereas the characters I saw Gish perform in her silents were of girls and women who were helpless. While her character, Angela, isn’t completely helpless, she has a weariness to her that seems similar to Gish’s most famous silent film roles.

Overall, I think that this film is worth a watch for Lillian Gish fans but it wouldn’t be a movie that I would personally watch again during my free time.

IMDb Link: The White Sister

Johanna Enlists ; 1918

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Director: William Desmond Taylor
Actors: Mary Pickford, Anne Schaefer, Fred Huntley, Monte Blue, Douglas MacLean, Emory Johnson, John Steppling, Wallace Beery, Wesley Barry
Country: U.S.A.

Johanna Enlists is a cute film to watch and I enjoyed it very much but it was also a film that made me all too aware of the role women play in American society. It made me realize how little things have changed, despite the feminist revolution, from the 1910s until now.

In this movie, Mary Pickford plays Johanna, a country girl who is seen as ugly but she dreams of having a beau. After being upset after finding out that her crush is married with children, she prays to God to send her a beau… and Johanna ends up getting the American army. This leads to Johanna having crushes on a few men and she learns from magazines, newspapers, and books on how to be a lady. This leads to one of those transformations where the girl suddenly becomes hot after she does her hair differently and wears different clothes (similar to how current movies use glasses to make the girl ugly and the girl becomes attractive after she takes them off) and I was a bit surprised to see such a movie trope being used even back in the days. I loved how Pickford’s hair was used as the turning point for Johanna’s transformation because Pickford’s curls were so famous. I love seeing her hair having importance in her movies’ plots. I guess some things just don’t change. After Johanna makes a transformation, men become attracted to her and she has a slew of admirers with three in particular. This leads to a little trouble and in the end, Johanna gets a beau.

The ending is very old-fashioned for current viewers and despite being aware that things were different back in the days, I still find it a little weird when people use the explanation of, “We’re the same kind” to get the girl. Another movie example that I can think of at the top of my head is Ashley’s reason for getting married to Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Even though it is off-putting that a girl goes through so much trouble to get a guy, what I love about Pickford films is that she works with the system to get her way. In the paper that I wrote during my final semester in college, I wrote about how Pickford subverted society’s expectations of females, and I think that this movie is a perfect example of doing so. Sure, Johanna goes through a lot of trouble trying to get the guy (and I enjoyed her trying to change her looks and behaviour, especially dancing à la Isadora Duncan) but it is her scheming to get the men and the males in this movie are flat and are like toys controlled by Johanna. I love it when I see Pickford acting in a coquette-ish behaviour because it becomes another example as to how she wasn’t always portraying innocent characters and how wide her range was.

Another thing that I found highly enjoyable in this film were the effects used in regards to images + texts (ref. Picture 2). I always like seeing these in silent movies and these days, we don’t really see much of it outside of Quentin Tarantino’s films. I had a good chuckle when I saw “Solid Ivory” next to Pa Renssaller (Huntley). There are also some great intertitles in this film, which had me in stitches. A personal favourite was one that said, “Oh, Lordy — when I prayed for a man — WHY did you send me a thousand?”

Pickford was wonderful as an actress in this movie and I loved how there was nothing beneath her to get the desired comedic effect. One of my favourite moments was when she had a clothes pin on her nose because I couldn’t help but think that she was adorable (ref. Picture 3). After getting to know more about Pickford, I am surprised that she is known for playing “little girl roles” rather than being known as a comedienne. She’s wonderful in comedic and dramatic roles and it’s a shame that people aren’t giving her more credit for her acting talent.

I should really get going with a Pickford marathon as well. So many marathons to do and so little time (erm… patience, hahaha. Who am I fooling?)

IMDb Link: Johanna Enlists

As Good as It Gets ; 1997

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Director: James L. Brooks
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Country: U.S.A.

I watched this movie on television in either middle school or high school and I remembered enjoying the movie a lot. I came across it again so I decided to watch it and I found it highly enjoyable this time around as well.

I have a weird relationship with Jack Nicholson in that I admire his acting but I find him scary. It isn’t scary in the Boogieman scary but Nicholson has his own weird vibe that I can’t shake off. Even in this movie, all I can think of is, “It’s Jack Nicholson. It’s Jack Nicholson.” while enjoying the movie.

What I liked so much about this movie was the way the actors worked with each other. It was as if the characters were written for them and no one else could play them the way they did. Even though I didn’t think that there was any romantic chemistry between Nicholson and Helen Hunt, I didn’t find it weird either. Speaking of Helen Hunt, I thought that she was wonderful in this film. While Nicholson’s character, Melvin, is the protagonist and it is his story in regards to how he changes by helping other people, it was Hunt’s performance that I found to be most touching. Her scenes with Greg Kinnear were so sweet and she seemed so genuine that I couldn’t differentiate Helen Hunt, the actress, and the character she was playing. I love it when I watch a movie and I forget that it’s a movie; it’s as if I’m no longer here and I’m just a fly on the wall observing real life people. I guess this is why Brecht came up with his idea of theatre, but I really do love this feeling of total immersion when I watch films and in regards to this film, I’m happy that I can pinpoint why I felt this way. Helen Hunt, you are an amazing actress.

And another thing… Verdell is so cute!!! (ref. Picture 2) I know that animals that perform for movies are highly trained but I couldn’t help but wonder how many takes it took to get the right shot. Verdell was so perfect in every moment that I was astounded by how well he conveyed the necessary emotion to complement the other actors. Verdell and Melvin were the best couple in this movie, I swear. Ugh Jack Nicholson… WHY ARE YOU SO TALENTED?!

I’ve decided that this movie is one of my favourite feel good movies; I wouldn’t be surprised if I come back to it every now and then to cheer myself up.

IMDb Link: As Good as It Gets