Archives for May 2012

Revisiting “Jaws” (1975)

I decided to save this selection from the “Universal 100th” for the time around the summer blockbuster season. For, we are told, it is the film (Jaws) that CREATED the summer blockbuster. I think this passage found in “the Wikipedia” just about sums it up as best as possible:

Generally well received by critics, Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time. It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and it is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time … Jaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which revolves around blockbuster action and adventure pictures with simple “high-concept” premises that are released in the summer at thousands of theaters and supported by heavy advertising.

Source: Wikipedia

As for the movie itself and my reaction to it,  let’s just say it took me a while to be able to sit down and watch this one through. This film may be singlehandedly be responsible for my avoiding beaches and the like for the greater part of my childhood and team years.

From a visual perspective and when compared to present-day effects-laden spectacles, one could argue that the film’s bark is worse than its bite. But of course they are wrong; there is something happening here that is WAY beyond visual effect. The imminent threat that is mostly not there is the most frightening and affecting aspect of the film . I would even go as far as to say that you do not even need to see the shark, as evidenced by the opening sequence, where we see a young skinny dipper being pulled under water.

Based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is set in the fictional town of Amity where, after the aforementioned attack, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beach. But seeing as it is the peak tourist season, he is forced to go along with keeping the beach open and suppressing the true nature of the attack.

After a second person is attacked and killed by a shark on the beach, Amity draws the attention of marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) and “shark bounty hunter” Quint (Robert Shaw). And the battle of men versus beast begins …

My favorite scene? When Quint (Shaw) recounts the tale of the USS Indianapolis (a real-life WWII incident). The fact that this is actually happened adds even more dramatic tension and fear to what we see onscreen.

Based on the evidence of this film, one can easily say that in the subsequent 37 years since its initial release, we have been offered up, for the most part (there are notable exceptions, of course), increasingly inferior and lackluster blockbusters. Nothing beats the original.

On a related note: can you believe that Steven Spielberg was only twenty-seven years young when he co-wrote and directed this feature? WOW!

Let me know your thoughts on the film below.

OTHER TRIVIA

According to filmsite.org, the plot for both the novel and the film were taken from several sources including:

  • Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby Dick, about a search for a monstrous sea creature (a great white whale) by a determined Captain Ahab
  • Ibsen’s 1882 classic play An Enemy of the People
  • the exploits of diver Peter Gimbel’s shark expedition recounted in the documentary film Blue Water, White Death (1971)
  • Peter Matthiessen’s 1971 non-fiction book Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark
  • two great 50s horror films: The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)
  • a real-life incident on the New Jersey shore in the summer of 1916 that claimed five lives over the course of two weeks

Source: filmsite.org

 

BAMcinemaFest 2012

 

In the wake of the Cannes Film Festival, there comes another, smaller festival which seeks to highlight emerging voices in American independent cinema.

A showcase for emerging voices in American independent cinema, this annual film festival features New York and North American premieres of films culled from Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, SXSW, and other festivals from around the world.

Now in its fourth year, the 2012 edition of BAMcinemaFest opens with a screening in the spectacular BAM Howard Gilman Opera House followed by a BAM-wide party with a DJ, drinks, and snacks for ticketholders. The festival includes 21 New York premieres, rare repertory films, an outdoor screening, live music, filmmaker Q&As, lots of special guests, parties, and more.

One of the highlights is a screening of Sundance favorite and personally an eagerly anticipated film for me – Beasts of the Southern Wild. Unfortunately as I tried to order a ticket for the screening, I found that it was sold out [this is an official sad face]. I guess I will have to just wait until the film’s limited (NY/LA) release the following week.

Back to BAMcinemaFest. Here are some highlights of the event:

I may give some of these events a go (if I can get tickets).

Does anything interest you?

New Stills from “Django Unchained”

(All Images Courtesy of Weinstein Company)

 

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, DJANGO UNCHAINED stars Academy Award®-winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Academy Award®-winner Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles – dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South’s most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Academy Award®-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Academy Award®-nominee Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival… ‘
Written and directed by Academy Award®-winner Quentin Tarantino, DJANGO UNCHAINED is produced by Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone. The executive producers are Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Michael Shamberg, Shannon McIntosh, and James Skotchdopole. DJANGO UNCHAINED will be released in the U.S. by The Weinstein Company on December 25, 2012, and internationally by Sony Pictures.

 

I dunno – while the film boasts an all-star cast, the whole combination of Tarantino and the subject matter are a tricky one for me.

What do you think about this film? Comment below.

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Penny Serenade (1941)

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I am back with the regular feature which is part of the Todd Mason’s ongoing series, Overlooked Films. Be sure to go visit his site to check out other titles.

I guess I am in a Cary Grant mood as of late. Last week I selected People Will Talk and this week, I am going back to the 1940’s to George Steven’s 1941 Penny Serenade starring Cary Grant (in an Oscar nominated role no less) and frequent co-star of the 1930’s, Irene Dunne. This title often gets overlooked when compared to the other screwball comedies the two participated in just years earlier. One reason for this oversight might just be the fact that this film was not a comedy. In fact it resides most decidedly in the realm of melodrama.

Click here for a plot synopsis.

The plot feels a bit like its sole intent is to pull at the audience’s emotional strings, I think this film is worth a look see if for no other reason that Mr. Grant eschews the urbane, light comedic role that he is often associated with in favor of a character whose emotions run the gambit.

Personally I feel that Cary Grant is often overlooked for his dramatic thesp skills. I guess he made it look so darn easy.

This film is easy enough to find as I believe it is available in the public domain.

Enjoy!

Memorial Day (US) Weekend Viewing Options …

In general, this looks like another light weekend; that is of course with the exception of :

Personally I have no interest in seeing this. I have not seen any of the previous installments (did I just say that out loud)? The MiB franchise is just not one that I ever fully invested in.

Looking further down the list of weekend releases, these are two other films that stood out in term of buzz (I will leave it up to you to determine if the buzz is good, bad or indifferent) …

As for me, I will be taking a couple of days off to attend the wedding of a family member in South Carolina. If you are Stateside, I hope you have some exciting plans for the long weekend.

Have a good one everyone!

 

Future Classic Movie: Hunger (2008)

First, I would like to thank Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club for asking me to take part in the blogathon, Future Classic Movies. Here is the Rule of Engagement:

The job is to predict at least one movie from 2000 to the present that will endure 30-40+ years into the future, much like CASABLANCA or GONE WITH THE WIND have done today. Bonus predictions could be who will be hosting on this channel and how will movies be delivered to the consumer (hologram, chip in the brain, etc.).

After much deliberation and back and forth, I have decided on Steve McQueen’s 2008 feature film debut Hunger. I have only seen it once and the experience had such an impact on me that I cannot imagine that this film will be forgotten by any and all who see it.

Simply stated this is an amazing debut for the Turner Prize winner; he handles the film with a level of confidence that you would expect in someone very experienced. For me this is a perfect example of cinema as an art form. Hunger features Michael Fassbender (in his breakthrough performance) and Liam Cunningham (The Guard).

The story is a very controversial one that centers on IRA member Bobby Sands (Fassbender), who along with his fellow imprisoned IRA members embarked on a hunger strike. This series of events would lead to Sands’ demise.

Not to diminish the political impact or significance of the events surrounding the film, but this is part of the reason that I feel the film will continue to be a source of debate in the decades to come.

As a work of cinematic art, McQueen uses very few words to tell us an emotionally charged story, often in disturbingly graphic detail, about the conditions the inmates placed themselves under. On a more esoteric level, the piece is on a statement on the lengths an individual (or group of individuals) will go to for a set of convicted beliefs. McQueen also manages to tow the fine line of not necessarily taking sides with the issue. In fact, in the film’s only dialogue – heavy scene between Sands and Liam Cunningham’s priest’s demonstrates the fine line between passion, conviction and irrational fervor.

Clips and Other Bits

Instead of creating separate posts for some of the new material that came out in the past few days, I have decided to combine into one.

 

RUBY SPARKS

New Photos:

 

 

SYNOPSIS

In RUBY SPARKS, Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now struggling with his writing — as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby who inspires him.  When Calvin finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later, he is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person.

A Fox Searchlight Release

 

 

THE GREAT GATSBY

Trailer:

 

 

SKYFALL

Trailer:

Also check out Total Film Magazine’s analysis of the trailer for clues, etc.

 

 

THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN

Two viral vids:

 

Let me know your favorite!

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: People Will Talk

This week’s selection as part of Todd Mason’s ongoing blog series is one that I have wanted to discuss for a while. I am referring to Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s People Will Talk from 1951. The film stars Cary Grant (Dr. Noah Praetorius) a doctor dedicated to a holistic, humanist approach to patient care and Jeanne Crain (as Deborah Higgins) a troubled young woman who finds herself in his care.

Among the supporting players we have Walter Slezak, Dr. Praetorius’ confidant and Hume Cronyn, a fellow physician who finds Praetorius’ methods and popularity among the students very distressing. And finally there is Shunderson (Finlay Currie), the doctor’s right hand man who has a very mysterious past.


What I always found strange about this film is that by all appearances, it posits itself as a romantic comedy (see poster below). However, you do not have to go that deep (just sit down and watch it actually) to see that the film is quite dark; in fact, it deals with a few ideas that I would imagine were taboo at the time – namely suicide and an unplanned pregnancy. Heavy stuff indeed.

As with any Mankiewicz piece, the writing (he is a credited co-writer as well as director) is clever and witty, despite the subject matter.

Have you seen this? Let me know what you think below …

 

One Day I Was Watching “One Day” …

My goodness. This weekend while channel surfing, I stumbled upon a film that until this point, I had successfully avoided – the Jim Sturgess Anne Hathaway tearjerker One Day. Despite its best intentions the film just did not do anything for me. Well, there was that wince inducing moment near the end that I did have a slight chuckle. However, I do not think that was the response the filmmakers desired.

The story of One Day is adapted from the bestselling novel by David Nicholls (also wrote the screenplay). Upon getting together on graduation night, Dexter (Jim Sturgess) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) develop a friendship that we, the audience, drop in on, on the same day July 15th (St. Swithin’s Day), over the course of 20 years. Whereas in the novel, each chapter chronicles a single year, the film does not have this luxury so the narrative skips a few years at a time, still focused on the “one day”. This aspect of the movie is well executed.

The performances overall were quite good; the excellent supporting cast includes Rafe Spall, Romola Garai and Patricia Clarkson. The one slight disappointment is Ms. Hathaway. This is not entirely her fault for, if I am honest, the kerfuffle in the media at the time of the film’s theatrical release regarding her Leeds accent was a bit of a distraction when watching her onscreen.

The film is wonderfully shot under the direction of Lone Scherfig (An Education, Italian for Beginners). So one would think that this is a wonderful formula for an emotive, romantic piece. But, as stated in my introductory paragraph, this was not the case.

What escapes me at this point is why, for the life of me, I walked away from the film thinking it ended as a bit of a mess. It had so much potential – unique narrative device, a great cast and director, but misfired where it mattered most – eliciting the necessary response from the viewer (me).

This is where you, fair readers, come in – what am I missing? Did you see One Day? If so, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

A Tale of Two Silents

This past week was a bit of a triumph for me. I finally caught up with a couple of classic silent films I was told are “must see.” My reaction to each piece was a personal revelation.

Let’s start with City Lights, the 1931 silent feature written, directed and starring one Charlie Chaplin.

At the time of the film’s release, silent pictures were on the wane, ushered in by 1929’s The Jazz Singer. So you can imagine how worried Chaplin was about the reception this film would receive in the public. Chaplin need not have worried.

The story of “The Tramp” and his love for the blind Flower Girl (Virginia Cherrill) was equally parts funny and enchanting. In other words, I absolutely loved it. There is something about the coordination of the physical, narrative and musical performance that pulls you in and does not let go.

Even if you are not a fan of silent film, I can guarantee that this is a great entrée into the genre.

 

Metropolis

The story of the multiple restoration efforts has become something of legend. I feel as if that these stories only added to the idea of Fritz Lang’s sci-fi extravaganza as a “lost masterpiece.” As a result, Metropolis has been on my must-watch list and now, I was going to witness the mastery first-hand.

Click here for Metropolis synopsis (source: IMDb)

 

Well, while there is no doubt that the film is visually arresting in scale, scope and ambition (there was nothing like it at the time), I found the narrative quite wanting and middling in places. This definitely was not the futuristic dystopia I was hoped to see. But I was determined – I kept on watching, hoping at once to have that “eureka” moment, where I understand what the fuss was all about. Unfortunately that moment never came for me.

Let me clarify: the film is not bad, but rather I did not respond to it in the way I really wanted to. This somewhat (but not intentional) contrarian view on Metropolis left me wondering … did anyone have the same reaction after seeing it?