Friday, April 17, 2009

Armchair Film School Reviews #2

I’ve been busy going back to film school via my DVD collection and Netflix subscription. Whenever I start work on a script, I turn to movies to put me in the right frame of mind. I try to immerse myself in old, new, good and even some I can barely get through.

I tend to start with ones I’ve seen already. Here are a few:

Citizen Kane
Genre: Classic
Dir: Orson Welles
Length: 119 min

Summary: A news reporter tracks down the meaning behind the last words uttered by an eccentric publishing tycoon.

My 2¢: I introduced this to my teenage daughter, who fell asleep with only 15 minutes left to the movie. In her defense, it was very late at night and she had just finished working her Saturday night job as a hostess at a popular, and very crowded, neighborhood restaurant. Needless to say, she did like what she managed to see through her sleepy and droopy eyelids. The attention to detail and the camera work makes this a continuous lesson in filmmaking.

The Bicycle Thief
Genre: Classic
Dir: Vittorio De Sica
Length: 93 min

Summary: A man, along with his son, searches for his stolen bicycle, which he desperately needs in order to work and provide for his family.

My 2¢: Wow, I have never watched anything so freaking cynical and downright depressing in my life. I have always been known as a pessimist, but this left me desperately needing a trip to Disneyland and then to Smurfland. I had tried to watch this a few years earlier and could never get through it. Now, this is not to say that this movie is bad. By no means. It’s a classic, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least bit why. It stays with you. It gets deep down inside and toys with every emotion you have locked away, and at the end, it leaves you drained and asking more questions about life and humanity than you did before you sat down to watch it. My only advice: do NOT watch this when you’re having “one of those days“. The hubby and I finished watching this and just looked at each other and said, ”man, life sucks“. This is as real as they come.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Genre: Comedy
Dir: Dennis Dugan
Length: 115 min

Summary: After a firefighter’s pension is threatened, he convinces his firefighter buddy to marry him.

My 2¢: I’m a sucker for an Adam Sandler movie. While his movies can sometimes be hit or miss, those that hit go a long way towards becoming instant cult classics. I have seen this movie a number of times, but it was during a recent viewing that I stopped watching it as mere escapism, and really began analyzing the structure. The writers and director of this really worked on character development, making sure that the character arcs for each character was there. What I find pretty amazing about Sandler’s movies are how, while the writers have an abundance of characters to work with, they give each character their due attention from start to finish. This is not an easy task, but they make it seem like a walk in the park (by the way, why are walks in the parks easy? Have you walked through Central Park?). Anyway, if you haven’t watched an Adam Sandler movie in a while, check one out (preferably a good one) and pay close attention to character development. Also, I think years from now, Sandler will get his much-deserved respect of being a great comic actor. I know some of you might be rolling your eyes, but you wait and see. His comedic timing, his knack for making otherwise dull characters lovable and downright funny have been taken to the next level by Seth Rogen and the actors from Superbad. By the way, this movie was nominated for a Razzie. So, what the hell do I know?

Singin’ in the Rain
Genre: Classic/Musical
Dir: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Length: 103 min

Summary: Silent Film stars transition into the sound era.

My 2¢: I grew up watching musicals. There was no cable, and Saturdays and Sundays were made for Kung-Fu and Musicals. In other words, magic. The singing and dancing bring instant smiles and warm feelings. While most people know the name Gene Kelly, it was Donald O’Conner I was extremely drawn to in this film. He was so AMAZING that I found myself rewinding his big dance number where he back flips off the wall. Besides his dancing, his comedic timing was genius. Of course, having come from a vaudeville and circus background made him an actor who knew how to fully draw the audience’s attention. A very young Debbie Reynolds holds her own - and then some - against these two powerhouse actors.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Dir: Roger Donaldson
Length: 108 min

Summary: A special team is called in to hunt down a government experiment gone awry (in a nutshell, but there is so much more to this).

My 2¢: I remember watching this years ago, and really liking it. The one genre I don’t watch is horror. I’m a punk. So when this recently had a run on cable, I caught myself watching it a few times, despite my fear of the things that go bump in the night. What I particularly liked about this film is the character development of the alien; she had a strong arc, something you don’t see too much in horror/alien/monster films. One of my all-time favorite pieces of literature is Frankenstein, so my monster expectations are pretty darn high. [Sidebar, for those of you who have never READ Frankenstein, and have only seen the movies, please, please, please do yourself the biggest favor and read one of the greatest human nature stories ever written.] Okay, back to the film at hand. The group assigned to bring her in dead or dead is an eclectic group. While I think, on paper, their parts are interesting, I think that some of it really didn’t translate to the screen very well. For example, Forest Whitikar’s character seemed to take me out of the film. While I, oddly enough, felt it plausible for there to be an alien created from messages sent from outer space, Whitikar’s psychic abilities felt a little forced and a bit fantasy and not sci-fi. Though, with that said, I think it’s a film worth watching and worth learning from. I also plan on watching this again and doing an in-depth analysis.

Okay, this is all for now. I still have more on the way.

1 comment:

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