Friday, November 27, 2009

Armchair Film School #3

Just smidgen of what I’ve been watching since my last visit to these here parts (it’s been a long time):

The 400 Blows
Genre: Classic/Foreign/Drama
Dir: Francois Truffaut
Length: 99 minutes

Summary: A misunderstood young adolescent turns to petty crime. (There is so much more to this, but you have to see it for yourself).

My 2¢: I really loved this film. Story is king here, and there is never a wasted moment. The story unfolds seamlessly. I was surprised at how timeless this film was and how the characters could very well be telling the story of a pre-teen struggling against all odds in today’s society.

Genre: Classic/Drama
Dir: Robert Altman
Length: 160 min

Summary: Intersecting story lines revolving around the music industry and a political event.

My 2¢: While I clearly appreciated the complexity of how the many story lines unfolded, I never made a personal connection with any of the characters. I think I spent most of the movie paying too much attention to how the film was structured, filmed and edited to really appreciate the story itself. I do believe it’s definitely a film that every filmmaker should see.

A Woman Under the Influence
Genre: Independent
Dir: John Cassavetes
Length: 146 min

Summary: A mentally unstable mother and wife struggles with daily life.

My 2¢: I loved, loved, loved this film. It was so simple yet so very complex. It was as if I had a seat tucked in the corner of that home watching it unfold. Gena Rowlands is simply superb as she takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride through her struggles with mental instability. John Cassavetes allows the camera to disappear as we watch in horror, joy, pain, fear, confusion and just about every emotion you can think of. This film and the story of how it came to be were definitely an education in independent filmmaking.

Genre: Documentary
Dir: Carlos Sandoval, Catherine Tambini
Length: 78 min

Summary: A close look at the immigration issue and how it affects one small town in NY.

My 2¢: I live not too far from Farmingville and I’ve seen first hand some of the issues raised by this extremely, well-documented documentary. What I really loved about this film is how the filmmakers are able to present BOTH sides of the argument. Most documentaries fail to do this - even though they may think they are. After watching this film, I was able to step out of my own personal views and give equal attention to both sides on the immigration fight. This is a must-see for those wanting to go into documentary filmmaking.

The Philadelphia Story
Genre: Classic/Comedy
Dir: George Cukor
Length: 112 min

Summary: A spoiled rich girl on her second marriage, a witty tabloid reporter and a well-meaning, meddling ex-husband provide laughter and joy in this classic romantic comedy.

My 2¢: I’m a sucker for Cary Grant (Arsenic and Old Lace one of my all time favorites). This threesome (Grant, Stewart, Hepburn) is awesome! it was incredible to watch stars of this caliber spar against one another (this is how I saw it). It’s a classic for a reason.

The Searchers
Genre: Classic/Western
Dir: John Ford
Length: 119 min

Summary: John Wayne - nuff said.

My 2¢: Okay, where do I start?! Let me state, for the record, the story I liked. I was completely engaged and was invested in the character outcomes. However, there was one scene that simply had my jaw floored. The rewind button was working way overtime for this particular scene. In all the reviews I had seen for this film prior to watching it, I was never warned about this particular scene. I do not wish to give it away for any of those who have never seen the movie - but I will say this: glossing over it or not seeing an issue with it is extremely troubling. Again, this does not take away from the story or the way it was filmed. It is definitely worth watching, if for no other reason but to start some dialogue on that particular scene.

Sophie’s Choice
Genre: Drama
Dir: Alan J. Pakula
Length: 150 min

Summary: A survivor of a Nazi concentration camp struggles with an extremely painful secret.

My 2¢: This film had been recommended to me a while back (sorry it’s taken me this long to write a review). What can I say about Meryl Streep that has not already been said? I might go so far as to describe this as melodrama, but not in the negative way it has come to be known. This film unfolds like listening to a beautiful piece of music. I was drawn to the set direction of the film as well, particularly costume and set design - there was a lot of attention paid to detail. I’ve only seen this film once, and as I’ve promised to give it a much bigger review, I’ll have to go back for a second viewing.

On the Waterfront
Genre: Classic/Drama
Dir: Elia Kazan
Length: 108 min

Summary: An ex-prizefighter finds himself going up against a mob boss when he questions his own role in the death of a longshoreman.

My 2¢: It took me way too long to finally sit down and watch this film. Marlon Brando’s performance drew me completely into the film. There’s always talk about an actor’s range, but it is truly defined in this film, as you watch Brando’s honest portrayal of an ex-prizefighter struggling to find his own place and, in particular, voice in a world that devalues and uses him. The set locations were particularly interesting as they, too, became characters within the story.

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Dir: Catherine Hardwicke
Length: 122 min

Summary: If I have to summarize, that mean’s you’ve been under a rock somewhere.

My 2¢: I decided to read this series by Stephanie Myers after my children both became fans. I don’t have enough space here to go into all my thoughts on the complete series and what effect that may have (and are already having) on a new generation of young girls and women (this series has a surprisingly large adult female following). It was extremely inspirational to see a film come out and do extremely well that was written and directed by women. The budget could have been better and it showed in some of the lackluster special effects. With that said, I will be going to see New Moon any day now.

Genre: Animation
Dir: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
Length: 96 min


My 2¢: Okay, so like I wanted to see this movie forever, and the hubby and kids did NOT. I won, but they did not go quietly. I was so disappointed, and can’t quite put my finger on what did not work for me.

Step Brothers
Genre: Comedy
Dir: Adam McKay
Length: 98 min

Summary: Two grown men become stepbrothers and the hijinks ensue.

My 2¢: I hate to admit how hard I laughed at the bunk bed fiasco... tears. The rest of the movie, so, so, but all it takes is one good-laugh-out-loud moment and you got me. stupid movie, but, hey isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?

Genre: Comedy
Dir: greg Mottola
Length: 114 min

Summary: Young boys on the brink of manhood, but first, they must get some... okay, maybe not a fair summary.

My 2¢: There were some really funny moments and some yucky moments. I was able to sit on my couch and escape, I mean, reaaaaallllyyyyy escape, and hey, isn’t that what movies are about. I kid. Superbad is not super great but for me it was light entertainment, and yet another reason why I’ll never have penis envy.

My Darling ClementineGenre: Classic/Western
Dir: John Ford
Length: 97 min

Summary: The showdown at the OK Corral.

My 2¢: I really thought Henry Fonda was amazing. I must admit, I had never seen him in a western and I was expecting to be thrown off by his performance. However, I was completely mesmerized, and the whole time I kept thinking about another actor who got his start in Westerns: Clint Eastwood. This is by far my favorite version of Wyatt Earp and the showdown at the OK Corral.

(Up Next: The Hurt Locker, Notorious, Girlfight, And Justice For All, Moving Midway, I’ve Loved you So Long, Good Night and Good Luck, Bullit, The Wackness, and many more.)

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