Citizen Rules...Cinemaesque Chat-n-Review

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Rebecca (1940)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Daphne Du Maurier (novel), Robert E. Sherwood (screenplay)
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, George Sanders, Judith Anderson
Genre: Drama, Mystery


Is Joan Fontaine adorable in this film or what! I don't care what Rebecca looked like, she couldn't have held a candle to Joan. And interestingly enough we never see Rebecca, not at all. Hitchcock allows our minds to fill in the blanks of what the drowned beauty looked like. That works wonders for creating tension in this Gothic tale.

It's very telling that Joan's character has no name. Think about it, we never hear her first name she's always referred to as Mrs de Winter. It's like she only exists in Rebecca's shadow, a non person struggling for a breath....Surrounding her is the suffocating Manderley estate where everything screams Rebecca, especially the house keeper Mrs. Danvers, who's strange obsession with Rebecca adds a whole another layer to the film.

I'd have to say that Joan Fontaine was one of the most skilled actresses working in the 1940s. Just check out Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) to see what I mean. Sure there were bigger names with more colorful personalities, like Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn....but watch Joan's body language in this movie. She rolls her shoulders forward and makes her self smaller...Everything she does from her posture to her facial expressions comes out of method acting, she is her character.



And the script too is so brilliant too. For most of the movie her husband is out right rude to her, so was her lady boss at the beginning of the film. Then there's the house keeper who brow beats poor little Joan at every turn. It's like she's about to be swallowed up by this world that she has entered...Then after we learn the truth about Rebecca, her husband becomes caring and warmer towards her. Finally as we get close to the end of the film, Joan's character has found herself and can now stand firmly on her own two feet.

There might be more 'juicy and tantalizing' Hitch films, but as far as I'm concerned Rebecca is Hitch's best.


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The Elephant Man (1980)

Director: David Lynch
Writers: Christopher De Vore & Eric Bergren (screenplay)
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft
Genre: Biography, Drama
Grace under adversity

Such was the man they called a freak, Joseph 'John' Merrick. David Lynch's film poignantly captures the spirit of that man. A spirit filled with grace and dignity, Merrick maintains his humanity despite the brutalities that other men have showed him.

This is a movie and movies are art, and as such uses the craft of the film maker to capture the essences of the man they called an Elephant Man. That essence was gentle by nature, a man who wanted to be good. He didn't seek revenge on those who would hurt him. He sought the bravery of understanding, he was innocently wronged and yet doesn't harbor hatred....I found his character inspiring.



Moved I was...I felt teary eyed during several scenes and for me that's an extreme rarity. The tea scene where he's invited into the home of Dr Treves (Anthony Hopkins) and is graciously met by the Doctor's lovely wife, was quite a touching scene. So was the meeting with the stage actress played to perfection by Anne Bancroft.

I loved this story with it's humanity....and I loved the way David Lynch filmed it too. Lynch creates a visual world where the 19th century London comes alive with it's richly detailed cobblestone streets, hulking steaming machinery, all filmed with effective directional lighting that gives great texture, on black and white film stock. What a visual feast the film is! Loved the surrealist multi exposure scenes...especially the elephants charging which adds an air of mysticism to this unique story. Bravo.

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L'Avventura (1960)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Writers: Michelangelo Antonioni (screenplay)
Cast: Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti, Lea Massari
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Language: Italian


"A woman disappears during a Mediterranean boating trip. During the search, her lover and her best friend become attracted to each other."

There's a lot to like here. Mostly I like how the film invites us to come along for a boat ride and later a tour of Sicily. It's like we're part of the group and we are along for the ride. The film never varies from that feeling either. I found it relaxing in a way, as the scenes are never rushed, nor do they even feel like scenes. It felt like I was hanging out and on a vacation.

When we get to the rocky island and most everyone goes ashore and the Captain says they are some old ruins on top of the island...I was thinking 'what a cool island, but we'll never get to see it.' But we did! We go right up to the top and see the ruins and this gorgeous view of the sea. Then we go inside that little building that's closed off. I like that the film just spends time allowing the feel of the place to soak in and shows us around.

Truth be told, I was glad Anna (Lee Massari) disappeared. She was kind of a pain in the ass and besides her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) was so much more interesting, so I was glad when she disappeared. I wasn't surprised either as the film had already established that she was: unhappy, and a liar with the shark incident, and took a very dangerous dive from a moving boat (which was a pretty impressive scene). So yeah, I'm not surprised that she was the one to disappear.

The mystery of the disappearance was interesting as it was actively pursued. But then at the right time in the film, the director puts the ex fiance together on a train with the blonde friend Claudia. The film then shifts the focus onto the relationship between the two. It was interesting to see the effects of their lust, versus their guilt over the possible death of their friend/fiance. Well, not Sandro he didn't seem to care too much about his missing fiance one way or another.

One of the more interesting scenes is when Sandro goes into the hotel to get a room and Claudia is feeling guilty and worried her missing friend might be there, so she stays outside....and ends up surrounded by gawking men. Those starring men illustrate her inner turmoil at that moment of her journey

Another telling scene is the empty town at the top of the hill. Claudia describes it like a cemetery, utterly void of life. And that's their future together, they don't have one.

By far the most passionate scene was when they embrace in the grass. OMG the look on Claudia face, the way she breathed and the look in her eyes. Ah ha, that's romantic passion!





In the Mood For Love (2000)
Faa yeung nin wa (original title)
Director: Kar-Wai Wong
Writer: Kar-Wai Wong
Cast: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung, Ping Lam Siu
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: Cantonese


Ascetics and Aesthetics

The ascetics of a relationship built on unconsummated love, wrapped in gorgeous haute couture du jour. The aesthetics of 1963 Hong Kong were in abundance and Mrs. Chan was quite the fashion plate in all those high collared, form fitting dresses with the bold prints.

I'd give the movie 5 popcorn ratings just for the way she walked! Her hip swaying was part of the film's sub-context, and the cinematographer framed her in a way that we can see her curvy attributes from the mind set of Mr. Chow. That's not just wolf whistles for a hot babe...the film does indeed present her as a sexy, but not obvious woman of taste and class. Her walk clues us in on how Mr. Chow sees her.

I loved the art production of the film, the sets were so intricate so balanced. I'd say each room, each hallway and every scene is designed with feng shui in mind. That is if I understood what feng shui is all about. At any rate I thought it looked really cool. From the first shot of Mrs Chan's room with the painting of the red apples on the wall and a bowl of red apples resting on the table below...I knew someone had taken great care to make visual art out of the story.




I liked the story and actors too, it's right up my alley. I liked the way most shots had a 'closed in' feeling. We never get broader shots of the building they live in, all we see is a narrow corridor and a few rooms. Even when we enter their rooms the director chooses to limit the information there by not showing us much. I liked that! Especially as it put the focus on the two people, as if they existed outside of the everyday world. That's focused directing.


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I agree with this rating!
You do? why the winky? Oh never mind Have you seen the televised theater play of The Elephant Man that was shown on TV around the same time? The Elephant Man has no make up and the actor contorts his body to give the illusion of the affliction. I haven't seen it since it aired but I remembered it as being good.



You do? why the winky? Oh never mind Have you seen the televised theater play of The Elephant Man that was shown on TV around the same time? The Elephant Man has no make up and the actor contorts his body to give the illusion of the affliction. I haven't seen it since it aired but I remembered it as being good.
The winky was only because I disagreed with the rating on Glory (but I agree with this one)!

Never seen the play. I also had no idea that Mel Brooks was associated with the movie (aside from his wife being in it).
It wasn't until I saw a tribute to Brooks that had a person in an Elephant Man costume run out on stage that I ever heard of an association - it made me very confused and I had to look it up. (Mel Brooks was an uncredited Executive Producer.)




Out of the Blue (1980)

Director: Dennis Hopper
Writers: Leonard Yakir, Brenda Nielson
Cast: Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell
Genre: Drama


I liked this! I've not seen anything else like this that I recall. So this was definitely a hidden gem. It felt like some of the personal, independent films that were made in the early to mid 1970s. Not surprising then, as it was Dennis Hopper who directed Easy Rider. I thought Out of the Blue came close to being an urban-docudrama underground classic.

There's a lot to like here as the film delves into the psyche of a disturbed teenage girl...and the wreck of a life that she's left with after her boozing, irresponsible father slams into a school bus killing the kids on board. Sure she's a weird kid! Which in itself was fascinating and the actress that plays her, Linda Manz commands attention. Just the look of weathered pain on her face, and her aggressive nature tells us she's the walking wounded. I thought she was excellent in the role. She's also really good in The Wanderers (1979) and in Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978). I could have watched her strange life and the odd places she went for hours, it felt real to me.

Dennis Hooper was well suited to his role as the drunken, lout dad. The troubled floozy of a mom was played to trashy perfection by Sharon Farell. These are some messed up people! but their lives felt real, so real you could almost smell the Jack Daniels and the stale smoke on their clothes.

The sub plot about the angry father wanting to settle the score for the death of his son on the school bus, put an even deeper spin on things. And I wish they would have staid more on that theme. Because even though he was out of jail after serving 5 years, he could never be free of what he did. It would always eat at him... and with the anger the parents would feel towards him, his inability to keep a job and his own grief...that would have tore him apart. So I think it was mistake not letting that grief drive the rest of the film to it's climax.

I do think the director took the film down a notch by including the seedy sex scenes situations (nothing is really shown). They weren't really needed and seemed to be more for titillation. The first one where CeBe goes to a taxi drivers room to smoke a joint and there's a girlfriend? or was it a prostitute? also in the room who's there to make it with Cebe? But how did she know CeBe was coming?....That was all a bit to unbelievable. It seemed like throwing in the proverbial car chase for good measure. But overall a unique indie film.





Shallow Grave (1994)

Director
: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Cast: Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor
Genre: Crime, Thriller

"Three friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash."

I have to say the first 18 minutes were a drag...yes, I timed it. I quickly grew tired of the trendy, aka trying way to hard to be hip, film making vibe that those first 18 minutes gave off. I don't know if I was suppose to find the interviews of the prospective roommates funny, but I didn't, grating was more like it. Luckily after 18 minutes the movie settles down and I became interested in the story.

Boy! did they have one nice apartment flat or what? Very cool looking decor, especially the 1950s Electroluxe refrigerator...yahoo! It was odd though that the set designer took the nickle chrome finish off the fridge and redone it in gold plating. Then again, thinking about the early 1990s I remember gold plated looking faucets and light fixtures were a big deal then. I always liked chrome better myself. Someone said the film really looks like the early 90s was a long time ago, yup and this film is like a time machine back to big glasses, blow dried hair, long sweaters and bulky computer monitors!

Kerry Fox and Christopher Eccleston were both OK in this. But could Ewan McGregor be anymore annoying? Ugh, just looking at that photo makes me want to slap his smug lil' face. Which then makes the movie's surprise ending all the more fun!




The winky was only because I disagreed with the rating on Glory (but I agree with this one)!

Never seen the play. I also had no idea that Mel Brooks was associated with the movie (aside from his wife being in it).
It wasn't until I saw a tribute to Brooks that had a person in an Elephant Man costume run out on stage that I ever heard of an association - it made me very confused and I had to look it up. (Mel Brooks was an uncredited Executive Producer.)
I saw that TV version of The Elephant Man too...I think Billy Crudup played the part if memory serves...I thought he did a very credible job of making us believe the disability without the makeup.



I saw that TV version of The Elephant Man too...I think Billy Crudup played the part if memory serves...I thought he did a very credible job of making us believe the disability without the makeup.
I'm glad someone else seen it and liked it.




The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

Director: Coleman Francis
Writer: Coleman Francis
Cast: Douglas Mellor, Barbara Francis, Bing Stafford, Tor Johnson
Genre: low budget monster film


A Hungarian scientist escapes the iron curtain only to be found by Soviet agents in Yucca Flats, USA. Just as the communist agents are about to neutralize the rogue scientist, a nuclear blast strikes them...transforming the scientist into a killer...CR

Wow! was this one helluva stupid movie or what! The Beast of Yucca Flats has been called the worst film ever made....and I believe it. And this isn't one of those so cheesy it's fun films, it's just crummy cheapo film making.

Coming in at an hour long, this was shot on a shoe string budget and without sound, probably because a) the actors weren't real actors and couldn't act, so who needs sound...and b) it's cheaper to pay one guy to narrate the film than it is to drag sound equipment out into the desert.

I like to say this movie at least had an idea and it did! To make money for nothing! The creative title got this movie showings at drive-in theaters, making the film makers some good money.

The Beast of Yucca Flats is so bad that the monster, played by Tor Johnson the Swedish wrestler who made films with Ed Wood, kills his first victim BEFORE he turns into a monster. Say what?.......The film describes him as a family man whos family has been killed by the evil commies and is on the run...It's only after he's exposed to a nuclear blast that he becomes a killer monster. So why this scene? Because It made money!

The producer needed something flashy so after the filming was done he paid a girl to be briefly topless. That will pack them into the theaters! He edited the scene into the beginning of the movie where it makes no continuity sense and yet it's the best scene in the movie.

I could go on, buy why? We get horrible acting, idiotic people and poor Tor Johnson struggling around the desert. Tor was older at the time and can be seen using a big stick as a walking cane. Sadly this movie killed his movie career, and he was only paid $300 for his troubles.

I'm giving this half a rating, and that's for the topless shot and additional cleavage...Oh and for the cute bunny too.


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The Lost Weekend (1945)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles R. Jackson (novel), Charles Brackett (screenplay)
Cast: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling
Genre: Drama


"The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four-day drinking bout."

Ray Milland is one of the all time great actors and he knocks it back as the self loathing alcoholic that is fighting the bottle and losing as he goes on a 4 day drinking binge...aka a bender.

For 1945 this Billy Wilder directed movie is brutally frank and honest about the powerlessness an alcoholic can feel over the bottle. Audiences must have been stunned by what they seen on the screen...and Ray Milland portrays a very believable alcoholic. The movie shows the deceits, the lies, the stealing and the self deprivation that the alcholic puts his loved ones through. Milland's charater would seem to have it all, a beautiful, intelligent and caring girlfriend played by the future wife of Ronald Regan....Jane Wyman.



Jane's character is real good at being an 'enabler' in that at first she thinks her boyfriend just like to drink a lot. Later she wises up and gets tough in her attempts to dry out the drunken boyfriend. But no matter what the situation her faith and love in him is never shaken.



The actress who played the b girl (
Doris Dowling) added a certain notoriety and grittiness to this already gritty film. Love the expression on Milland's face in that photo.

One of my favorite scenes was how in desperation he would hide booze bottles but then get so drunk he couldn't remember where they were hid. Oh and the scene in the DT tank at the hospital, powerful stuff. Milland reportedly spent a night in the detox tank to find out what it was like. And it doesn't sound like a place anyone would want to visit!




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Howard the Duck (1986)

Executive Producer: George Lucas
Director: Willard Huyck
Writers: Steve Gerber (Marvel comics character), Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Cast: Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins
Genre: Comic book, comedy, music


A scientific experiment gone awry on Earth accidentally transports a sarcastic but intelligent duck creature from another planet and sets him done in LA. Once on Earth, Howard the duck most help a girl rocker and a nerdy lab worker stop an evil alien creature from destroying the world. CR

Billed as one of the biggest flops of all time, Howard the Duck has been a thorn in the career of a man who's been called a special effects genius, George Lucas. Lucas still contends that one day people will recognize Howard the Duck is a masterpiece....Hmm maybe he was kidding when he said that?

After his critically acclaimed success with THX1138 and American Graffiti, Lucas then turned towards big budget, flashy special effects movies aimed at kids and at kid-at-heart adults. I mean who doesn't know about he phenomenal success of the Star Wars series and Indian Jones movies?

But then there's the embarrassment called Howard the Duck...What could have Lucas been thinking when he decided to produce this movie? A PG movie with adult type jokes, but with a cutesy duck talking duck creature that would seem to be suited to a kid's movie...Throw in more CG special effects and FX stunts then 5 other movies combined and you get one weird movie. I mean one can't watch this movie without thinking did we really need that elaborate car wreck stunts, not to mention the 2 million dollar duck suit in the movie!

Had this been toned way down, it might have came in at 10 million instead of 30 million. Then with a kid audience this might have made a profit....Howard the Duck combines clever adult jokes which are funny at times, but then again what adult wants to watch a talking duck? It's an oxymoron.



The movie does have a cult following and there's some real rock music with actress Lea Thompson actually singing. It's pretty good too. I liked Lea in this, she's likable which is a good thing because Howard is not a likable character. He's an annoying one joke idea that gets stretched out to a 2 hour movie length.



See what I mean! If you think that looks charming then you might like this film, me I thought it was all wet.

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The Lost Weekend (1945)

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles R. Jackson (novel), Charles Brackett (screenplay)
Cast: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling
Genre: Drama


"The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four-day drinking bout."

Ray Milland is one of the all time great actors and he knocks it back as the self loathing alcoholic that is fighting the bottle and losing as he goes on a 4 day drinking binge...aka a bender.

For 1945 this Billy Wilder directed movie is brutally frank and honest about the powerlessness an alcoholic can feel over the bottle. Audiences must have been stunned by what they seen on the screen...and Ray Milland portrays a very believable alcoholic. The movie shows the deceits, the lies, the stealing and the self deprivation that the alcholic puts his loved ones through. Milland's charater would seem to have it all, a beautiful, intelligent and caring girlfriend played by the future wife of Ronald Regan....Jane Wyman.

Jane's character is real good at being an 'enabler' in that at first she thinks her boyfriend just like to drink a lot. Later she wises up and gets tough in her attempts to dry out the drunken boyfriend. But no matter what the situation her faith and love in him is never shaken.


The actress who played the b girl (Doris Dowling) added a certain notoriety and grittiness to this already gritty film. Love the expression on Milland's face in that photo.

One of my favorite scenes was how in desperation he would hide booze bottles but then get so drunk he couldn't remember where they were hid. Oh and the scene in the DT tank at the hospital, powerful stuff. Milland reportedly spent a night in the detox tank to find out what it was like. And it doesn't sound like a place anyone would want to visit!


A great film, and I think very unsettling. I suspect the role really cemented Milland's career as a top actor. He was pretty courageous at the time, since no one really knew about alcoholism then. It was thought of as a weakness.

I was thinking that Alcoholics Anonymous consulted on this film, but I'm not sure. The society was only 6 years old at the time. I know they consulted on 1952's Come Back Little Sheba, with great performances by Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth. In fact it was AA who led him into getting sober.

Nice review.

~Doc




A great film, and I think very unsettling. I suspect the role really cemented Milland's career as a top actor. He was pretty courageous at the time, since no one really knew about alcoholism then. It was thought of as a weakness.

I was thinking that Alcoholics Anonymous consulted on this film, but I'm not sure. The society was only 6 years old at the time. I know they consulted on 1952's Come Back Little Sheba, with great performances by Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth. In fact it was AA who led him into getting sober.

Nice review.

~Doc
I've heard of Come Back Little Sheba many a time, but I never knew what it's subject matter was until your post. I'll have to catch that one, one of these days. Have you ever seen the original teleplay of Days of Wine and Roses that was shown on Playhouse 90? I think it's more gut wrenching and honest than the later Jack Lemon version, though I do like that movie too.




Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Directors
: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Vikas Swarup (novel)
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Saurabh Shukla
Genre: Drama, Thriller


The life story of a teenage boy who grew up as an orphan on the mean dirty streets of Mubai, India. Told through flashbacks, as he explains during a brutal police interrogation how he, an uneducated 'slumdog' could possible win millions of dollars on the Indian TV version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? CR

A powerful film, with a very misleading poster. This is not a feel good film, it is powerful and thought provoking, but many of the scenes show the sad and brutal life of slum children in India. These slumdogs live in garbage dumps and are brutalized by gangsters. In one scene, small homeless children are gathered from the dirty streets by a nice smiling man. He feeds them and teaches them to sing. Then he forces them to beg on the streets....and in a gruesome scene pours boiling hot liquid into the eyes of a small child to blind him....Blind children earn more money as beggars. There's also torture scenes in the police station. Of course this is a Danny Boyle film and those kind of horror-esque scenes are his trademark.




I had a hard time watching some of this, the torture scenes in particular are gruesome...but it is an excellent movie and Dev Patel as always is top notch. Slumdog Millionaire won an Oscar for Best Picture for 2008.

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