Films Worth Viewing



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Hey Zy, have you seen Eating Raoul? I hadn't thought of it for years, it just came up in conversation and I swear one of the first things I thought is "what's Zymurg's take?"
That's one I haven't seen. I know a little about it. Interesting premise, I'd like to see it.
 
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"Yojimbo"-Akira Kurosawa-1961

This is an uncredited adaptation of Dashiell Hammit's "Red Harvest" with a few extras thrown in. The Continental Op comes to a town where two warring groups of gangsters are fighting for control. The unnamed Op sets the two sides against each other. In "Yojimbo" a wandering ronin is traveling aimlessly after the end of the Tokagawa Shogunate, He has no employer, and he has no ideas about where to go to make a living. He picks up a stick and tosses it into the air. He goes in the direction the points out. Interesting, the stick has two ends, which end is the pointer? That reminds me of a Yogism "When you come to a fork in the road; take it."
He enters a small town where two groups are clashing. One supports the silkmakers, the other supports the sake maker. At stake is control of the local gambling. Essentially, the Japanese governmental and social system has broken down in 1860.

Kurosawa asked his assistants and other crew members to come up with ways to show the disintegration in the village. It was his suggestion that was the most memorable; we see a dog with a human hand in its mouth running in the street. The composer said he was influenced by Henri Mancini:that makes me think "Moon River". That is not what he is referencing; the score is discordant. This represents the conflicts in Sanjuro's (Toshiro Mifune) mind. For Herzog there is Kinski; for Kurosawa there is Mifune. Mifune arrived late one day and took some flack. Thereafter he arrived on set at 6 am in costume and make-up.

Famously Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" is an almost exact re-make. Kurosawa sued, and he won $100,000 and 15% of the profits. Walter Hill acknowledges Kurosawa in the credits for "Last Man Standing" with Bruce Willis.
More recently the Coen Brothers "Miller's Crossing" uses basically the same plot. This was Kurosawa's most successful film in Japan. Interestingly, it is perhaps the most Western influenced of all his films. Kurosawa attempted to show the negative effects of violence; however, he acknowledged that many filmmakers took the truism that more violence meant more money at the box office. We see blood in the film, and new sound effects to replicate the sound of a sword cutting through bone. Additionally, we have humor in mayhem. I am reminded of the the Steve Martin character in "Grand Canyon;" his worries about missing the gory money shot, and his return to violence for violence sake after his revelations when he was near death illustrate much of action movie making.

This isn't my favorite Kurosawa film, but it has a place in Ebert's "The Great Movies." The review is available on line in full. The movie is available to stream for free; Goggle "Yojimbo" and it takes you there. This is highly recommended; it's not just a great influence of other film makers; it is compelling viewing in its own right
 
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"Yojimbo"-Akira Kurosawa-1961

Famously Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" is an almost exact re-make.
It's been many years since I've seen "Yojimbo", but I have watched it several times. Terrific film. To say that Fistful of Dollars" is almost an exact remake is a pretty accurate statement. I recall being amazed at how certain scenes were pretty much lifted straight from "Yojimbo", most memorably the coffin escape sequence.
 
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That's one I haven't seen. I know a little about it. Interesting premise, I'd like to see it.
Definitely low budget, but I got a kick out of it in high school. I'm wondering if it holds up even a little.
 
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"Showboat"-James Whale-1936

This is based on an Edna Ferber novel and a stage musical scripted by Oscar Hammerstein. Universal made a version in 1929 as basically a silent. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, wanted to make a sound version. Casting difficulties held up the filming until 1936. It was an expensive film to make; despite positive reviews, and a debut at Radio City Music Hall, the film was not a financial success. Laemmle lost control of the studio, and Whale lost control of his pictures. Kern and Hammerstein wrote 3 new songs for the musical; only two appear in the film. Universal sold the rights to MGM. MGM took all of the prints, and for about 40 years nobody saw this film version. There was an additional problem; Paul Robeson was blacklisted because he was a member of the Communist Party. It now appears occasionally on TCM. It is also available for streaming; just Google "Showboat" 1936.

The film begins with a showboat, the Cotton Palace, traveling the Mississippi. The ship docks at various river ports and passengers come aboard to watch shows. This was actually a real thing. It turns out that the leading lady, June (Helen Morgan), is part black. She is married to a white man; that is illegal; she and her husband leave the show. That opens up the leading roles. Magnolia Hawks, the daughter of the captain (Charlie Winnegar) takesthe female lead (Irene Dunn). A riverboat gambler, Gaylord Ravenal (Alan Jones) becomes the leading man. They marry and leave the riverboat. After a bad losing streak, Gaylord leaves Chicago and his wife and child. Magnolia returns to the musical theater; she achieves great success. After many years, Gaylord returns when his daughter is making her Broadway debut.

There are two significant Afro-American characters the previously mentioned Paul Robeson (Joe) and Hattie McDaniel (Queenie). Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for "Gone With the Wind."
You might be shocked to find out that she was barred from the after party because of the hotel's exclusion policy. It took some doing, but she was admitted, but had to sit in the back. She donated her Oscar to Howard in her will. It was displayed along with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's tap shoes. It went missing in the '60's; it hasn't re-appeared.

The humor is very dated, but the music remains some of the finest ever written for musical comedies. "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Bill" are only the most famous. In each case these are arguably the peak performances. Despite how dated some of the scenes appear; in its day this film took enormous risks and great expense to create a spectacle. This is well worth viewing for the great music. The history is an added bonus.
 
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"Showboat"-James Whale-1936

This is based on an Edna Ferber novel and a stage musical scripted by Oscar Hammerstein. Universal made a version in 1929 as basically a silent. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, wanted to make a sound version. Casting difficulties held up the filming until 1936. It was an expensive film to make; despite positive reviews, and a debut at Radio City Music Hall, the film was not a financial success. Laemmle lost control of the studio, and Whale lost control of his pictures. Kern and Hammerstein wrote 3 new songs for the musical; only two appear in the film. Universal sold the rights to MGM. MGM took all of the prints, and for about 40 years nobody saw this film version. There was an additional problem; Paul Robeson was blacklisted because he was a member of the Communist Party. It now appears occasionally on TCM. It is also available for streaming; just Google "Showboat" 1936.

The film begins with a showboat, the Cotton Palace, traveling the Mississippi. The ship docks at various river ports and passengers come aboard to watch shows. This was actually a real thing. It turns out that the leading lady, June (Helen Morgan), is part black. She is married to a white man; that is illegal; she and her husband leave the show. That opens up the leading roles. Magnolia Hawks, the daughter of the captain (Charlie Winnegar) takesthe female lead (Irene Dunn). A riverboat gambler, Gaylord Ravenal (Alan Jones) becomes the leading man. They marry and leave the riverboat. After a bad losing streak, Gaylord leaves Chicago and his wife and child. Magnolia returns to the musical theater; she achieves great success. After many years, Gaylord returns when his daughter is making her Broadway debut.

There are two significant Afro-American characters the previously mentioned Paul Robeson (Joe) and Hattie McDaniel (Queenie). Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for "Gone With the Wind."
You might be shocked to find out that she was barred from the after party because of the hotel's exclusion policy. It took some doing, but she was admitted, but had to sit in the back. She donated her Oscar to Howard in her will. It was displayed along with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's tap shoes. It went missing in the '60's; it hasn't re-appeared.

The humor is very dated, but the music remains some of the finest ever written for musical comedies. "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Bill" are only the most famous. In each case these are arguably the peak performances. Despite how dated some of the scenes appear; in its day this film took enormous risks and great expense to create a spectacle. This is well worth viewing for the great music. The history is an added bonus.
Paul Robeson singing "Ol' Man River". Simply amazing. It just doesn't get any better than that.
 
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"Dune"-David Lynch-1984

"Dune" is the best selling SCIFI novel of all time. It was published in 1965; there were rumors of a film for a decade before this film was made. It was considered unfilmable. It was filmed in Mexico. Lynch spent a year and a half on site. Now Dennis Villeneuve is making s new film of the material. One of the things with re-makes is that they may be made to ride the wave of the popularity of the original film, or to rescue the film going public from an unworthy adaptation. Then with a film like "Dune" , you face the problem of a built in critical audience and the advance in film technology.

The story is incredibly complex and set 8,000 years in the future. Humanity has spread to thousands of planets.
There is an Empire, but individual planets have considerable independence. Not all planets are equal. There is one planet, Arakis, which produces a product, melange or spice,which is necessary for interstellar travel. It enables the pilots to fold space so travel between one point to another is almost instantaneous. This is emphasized by statements like he who controls the spice controls the universe. Arakis is a desert planet; it never rains, it is all sand. The only native life form is the giant sandworm. They are key in spice production; nobody knows exactly how. There is a native population called Freman. Their numbers are unknown; they live primarily
in underground caves. On the surface there is a massive effort to extract spice and send it off planet. While the Empire controls Arakis; a contract to manage the planet and to extract spice is awarded to a noble house. This contract is being switched from one noble house, Harkonen, to another, Atraides as the film opens.

The spacing guild members mutate due to their consumption of spice. There are other mutants or semi-mutants in this universe. First the Benegesserat or witches, they have a breeding program in which individuals always female are trained in mind and body control and married off to males of the leading noble houses. They come into their full powers by drinking "the water of life." This gives them the memories of hundreds of past witches. These children are always female. There is a rumor that someday a male will drink the water of life and not be destroyed. This individual called the tesseracht will have greater powers than any other; he will be able to see the future.

The son of Duke Leto, Paul Atraides, is a potential tesseracht. His mother was trained by the Bennegesserat.
She was supposed to only have daughters. Paul has been identified as a potential problem by both the spacing guild and the witches. The story has Paul drinking the water of life and becoming the mythic messiah, Muu'dib. He leads the freman in a war which liberates Arakis.

The film is visually arresting; the cast includes big names and future big names. The film was a semi-failure at the box office in the US, but it was very popular abroad. The SCIFI channel produced two mini-series "Dune" and "Children of Dune." Children of "Dune" combines several Herbert sequels. They were huge successes in terms of viewers, but critics were mixed.

The cast was composed of quality actors and some newcomers. Kyle MacLauchlan plays Paul while lesser roles
are filled by Linda Hunt, Sting, and Max VonSydow. The story is hard to follow, but the film is still remembered and the upcoming re-make is fervently anticipated. There are literally dozens of "trailers" out there. Most are only subjective peeks at what might be in the new film. The Lynch film is almost a curio. The books of the "Dune" saga are almost holy writ for some devotes; this is an effort akin to bringing to the screen "The Lord of the Rings." It is even more complicated. I find the Lynch film to be flawed, but definitely worth viewing. I'm not sure that it will appeal to many Yarders, but I believe it to be an impressive effort.
 

nwhoopfan

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I've gathered that a never completed version of "Dune" by director Alejandro Jodorowsky is pretty much legendary. There is a documentary about it--"Jodorowky's Dune."

Never watched the '84 film end to end. I've seen parts of it on TV. I read the book several years ago and was really underwhelmed. Maybe you have to read the sequels to really get into it. It just seemed like it spent a long time making you think something really big was going to happen...but pretty much nothing did. I also wondered how the hell these football field sized worms survived in the desert with pretty much nothing to eat.
 
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it always bothered me that there was no water for the worms. I liked the book, but I haven't read it in years. I haven't read all the sequels.
 
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"Love Actually"-Richard Curtis-2003

Curtis, New Zealand born, is noted for his writing for television (Black Adder, Vicar of Dilbey,and Mr. Bean) and fora number of Rom-Com films most recently "Yesterday", had perhaps his greatest success with "Love Actually" which he wrote and directed. The film was a commercial success making over $240 million on an investment of $40 million. One of the popular London tours now is a visit to the sites where it was filmed. There is a show in LA where cuts of the film are projected between while actors play some of the scenes. This is a limited run for the holiday season. It was such a success in 2018 that it was brought back this year. It is interesting to read the viewer reviews on IMDb; they are usually either rapturously adoring or bitingly sarcastic. You often see the words "worst film ever" or worst British film. We call this hyperbole. I like this film, but I certainly don't love it. I wanted to see it again as part of my Christmas viewing program. Most Yarders have probably seen this film, but treading lightly I am going to give you a few peeks at the content.

This is a film which follows the romances of a variety of couples. The reviewers list 8; there are some tenuous ties between some of the characters, but basically you have separate stories running simultaneously during the holiday season with frequent intercuts. This mandates a huge cast; there are truly a bevy of distinguished British actors with Laura Linney being the lone featured exception. One of the central stories features a newly elected British PM, Hugh Grant, falling for one of his staff, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). He is taken with her immediately despite an unfortunate swearing episode during their introduction. (The film has a lot of profanity which I found distracting.) They survive this, but when Grant sees the visiting American president groping Natalie; Grant has her moved away from personal service. He reads her Christmas card and he desperately wants to see her. One of the best bits in the film has him going door to door asking if she lived there. They finally meet up; then they are off to an elementary school pageant where several other characters are present.

The film is bookended by scenes at Heathrow Airport. We see returning passengers being greeted with hugs,kisses, and tears by their loved ones. The crew spent hundreds of hours filming reunions.. The finale has the lovers, all the lovers, arriving at the airport. We see some connections among the couples, but basically the ending allows us a quick peek at how the couples are doing a month down the road.

In no particular order here are some of the notable actors in this film: Rowan Atkinson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Keira Knightly, and Alan Rickman. Bill Nighy's story is interesting. He plays Billy Mack a 50 + former rocker who is trying to return to the charts with a Christmas themed retread of "Love is All Around." In Britain the top of the pops features Christmas songs every year during the season. A variety of groups and individuals issue holiday tunes. The fans vote for their favorites.
It's a big deal to have the winning song.

The music is really important to the film. In one of the special features on the DVD, Curtis discuses why he chose a number of the songs, and he discusses one part of the score. One of the songs he discusses is the Beach Boys "God Only Knows" which is the end theme. This is available to stream for a price; your library has a copy (preferred because the extras are good). I like this quite a bit, but I admit that this time I found it less
rewarding. Still, I will definitely have it on next year's Christmas list. Enjoy.
 
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FWIW, we just caught Curtis' About Time the other night. It was pretty enjoyable and fits in with his others. Not afraid to put a heart on a sleeve.
 
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FWIW, we just caught Curtis' About Time the other night. It was pretty enjoyable and fits in with his others. Not afraid to put a heart on a sleeve.
You might like "Pirate Radio" about the off shore Rock'n'Roll broadcasts ti Great Britain in the 60's. It features both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy.
 

storrsroars

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You might like "Pirate Radio" about the off shore Rock'n'Roll broadcasts ti Great Britain in the 60's. It features both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy.
Pirate Radio used to be on cable a ton. Haven't seen it in a couple years though. Pretty thin plot but the characters and music are excellent, which makes it a solid view for me.
 
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"It's a Wonderful Life"-Frank Capra-1946

Memories, we all are ourselves because of our memories. Memories of Christmas are particularly strong for most of us. I remember the windows at G.Fox and Company at Christmastime. I recently watched "Bad Santa;" I thought it was pretty funny when I first saw it. I suppose it would have been pretty unrealistic to have Billy Bob Thornton become more transformed, but the ending felt pasted on. The film plays with our collective memories of Christmas, and not I believe in a good way. When I was teaching at Weaver, I gave my students a Christmas Quiz; I gave it to friends and family too. I guess that qualifies me as something of a Christmas nut. This movie qualifies as part of a Christmas tradition for millions of Americans. I just watched it in "color" last night; once is more than enough. Artistically the black and white images are superior. Jimmy Stewart testified to that before Congress. I believe that part of his anger was due to a violation of memories. Capra and Stewart were both back from service in WWII when they made this film. Surprisingly, this film was not a success when it was released.

The story of the film's rise illustrates something about the American psyche and copyright law. RKO allowed the copyright to lapse and in the 1970's PBS stations began to show this film as counter programming to holiday spectacles on the networks. The response was amazing. Some entrepreneurs decided to make colorized versions of he film which they copyrighted. I'm satisfied with my black and white memories of this classic; while I don't believe in the morality or efficacy of tampering with your memories; if you watch this film in color because you prefer that inferior representation; you deserve to get coal in your stocking. I remember living in a house with a coal furnace, that dates me, but not this film. Roger Ebert writes in his review for his "The Great Movies" that "It's a Wonderful Life" is a "timeless classic." He mentions that it more than stands up to repeated viewings. I believe that this film and few others have the capacity to reach individuals for whom the setting and back story are unknown territory. The black and white images are part of that unknown territory. They are an indispensable part of the memory. What were the best films of that era like?

Some of the best productions of Shakespeare's plays have transplanted the action into another era. I don't have the same reaction to colorized film versions of classic films. The original text still exists. Screenplays don't have the same weight as the texts for plays. Gus van Sant made a shot for shot re-make of Psycho; it was a failure. We still have re-makes and retrofits, turning films/plays into musicals for instance.

Bosley Crother completed his "New York Times" review with the the following:"...somehow they all resemble
theatrical attitude rather than average realities. And Mr. Capra's "turkey dinners" philosophy while emotionally gratifying, doesn't fill a hungry paunch." Huh!!!?

This was the favorite film of both Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra. So have yourself a "Merry Little Christmas" while viewing "It's a Wonderful Life."
 
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"It's a Wonderful Life"-Frank Capra-1946

Memories, we all are ourselves because of our memories. Memories of Christmas are particularly strong for most of us. I remember the windows at G.Fox and Company at Christmastime. I recently watched "Bad Santa;" I thought it was pretty funny when I first saw it. I suppose it would have been pretty unrealistic to have Billy Bob Thornton become more transformed, but the ending felt pasted on. The film plays with our collective memories of Christmas, and not I believe in a good way. When I was teaching at Weaver, I gave my students a Christmas Quiz; I gave it to friends and family too. I guess that qualifies me as something of a Christmas nut. This movie qualifies as part of a Christmas tradition for millions of Americans. I just watched it in "color" last night; once is more than enough. Artistically the black and white images are superior. Jimmy Stewart testified to that before Congress. I believe that part of his anger was due to a violation of memories. Capra and Stewart were both back from service in WWII when they made this film. Surprisingly, this film was not a success when it was released.

The story of the film's rise illustrates something about the American psyche and copyright law. RKO allowed the copyright to lapse and in the 1970's PBS stations began to show this film as counter programming to holiday spectacles on the networks. The response was amazing. Some entrepreneurs decided to make colorized versions of he film which they copyrighted. I'm satisfied with my black and white memories of this classic; while I don't believe in the morality or efficacy of tampering with your memories; if you watch this film in color because you prefer that inferior representation; you deserve to get coal in your stocking. I remember living in a house with a coal furnace, that dates me, but not this film. Roger Ebert writes in his review for his "The Great Movies" that "It's a Wonderful Life" is a "timeless classic." He mentions that it more than stands up to repeated viewings. I believe that this film and few others have the capacity to reach individuals for whom the setting and back story are unknown territory. The black and white images are part of that unknown territory. They are an indispensable part of the memory. What were the best films of that era like?

Some of the best productions of Shakespeare's plays have transplanted the action into another era. I don't have the same reaction to colorized film versions of classic films. The original text still exists. Screenplays don't have the same weight as the texts for plays. Gus van Sant made a shot for shot re-make of Psycho; it was a failure. We still have re-makes and retrofits, turning films/plays into musicals for instance.

Bosley Crother completed his "New York Times" review with the the following:"...somehow they all resemble
theatrical attitude rather than average realities. And Mr. Capra's "turkey dinners" philosophy while emotionally gratifying, doesn't fill a hungry paunch." Huh!!!?

This was the favorite film of both Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra. So have yourself a "Merry Little Christmas" while viewing "It's a Wonderful Life."
This is my favorite Capra film by far, and one of my top four favorite Christmas movies.
 
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You might like "Pirate Radio" about the off shore Rock'n'Roll broadcasts ti Great Britain in the 60's. It features both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy.
I actually caught that first run at Real Art Ways!
 
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Short Takes

"Boondock Saints-Troy Duffy-1999

Almost everyone missed this film when it premiered in theaters. The reason was the Colombine school shooting. Surprisingly, it was a big hit on video. Two Irish American brothers take on a new job killing career criminals of the worst sort. The two brothers ( Norman Redus and Sean Patrick Flannery) kill the first few in self defense, after their first kills and their release by a gay FBI agent (Willem Dafoe); they kill with a purpose. They are joined by a Mafia distributor (David Della Rocco). There may be a message in this picture: it is okay to be a vigilante and kill really bad criminals. One on the worse problems with evil is when good people do nothing. The Catholic Church didn't endorse the morality in this movie. Dafoe is over the top, but he is pretty funny. Some of the violent scenes ride roughshod through the walls of credulity. The popularity of this film on DVD resulted in a sequel, supposedly a third outing is planned.

Kurosawa thought that his treatment of violence in "Yojimbo" might have a negative impact on film violence. "Boondock Saints" is that dream come true. I think that the film loses its way and the plot falls apart about half way through. This is nowhere near the worst film ever made, but it's not one I will return to.

"Pirate Radio"-Richard Curtis-2009

Discussions with readers created a yen to return to this film. In the UK the BBC totally controlled the airwaves. They only broadcast 30 minutes of pop music a day. The advent of Rock'n'Roll created a vast demand for this new music. There were millions of potential listeners. This vacuum was filled by ships anchored outside the 12 mile limit which supported by advertisers played this music 24 hours a day. Quentin (Bill Nighy), the owner/manager of a ship/station provides a summer internship for his godson Carl (Tom Sturridge). The DJ's work 3 hour shifts; the two most prominent are The Count (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Gavin (Rhys Ifans).
They play a lot of great music and party hard when they are off air. Every two weeks they are afforded on night of compassionate groupie visits.

While the pirate stations were breaking no laws; the government didn't like their evil influence on the country.
One minister, Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) was tasked with removing the Pirates from the air. The minister and his supporters are the villains, even though his secretary is a massive fan who listens at night.

I found this highly enjoyable, but not believable. This was very loosely based on one of the pirate ships, but Curtis makes it clear that this is fiction and not docudrama. That is fine with me; I'll take my cinematic pleasures where I find them. Highly recommended, but you've been warned.

"The Polar Express"-Robert Zemekis-2004

This is adapted from Chris Van Allsberg's book by Zemekis. One thing these three films have in common is that all three directors wrote the screenplays. "The Polar Express" is the only one of these 3 films which was a success at the box office. It is remarkable for its use of digital capture of Tom Hanks playing multiple roles: hero boy/father/conductor/hobo/Scrooge(Marionette)/Santa. Only one of the children traveling on the Polar Express is named, Billy. He comes from the other side of the tracks. He is shy and reluctant to board, but he finds friends and confidence. The Hero Boy is a doubter, but he finds belief. The Hero Girl finds a confirmation of her faith in Christmas and herself.

Critics generally at best had mixed reactions to the film; some found digital capture off-putting. Roger Ebert gave this film his top rating. He believed it would become a true seasonal classic. 15 years later it still is a very frequent holiday choice. In my mind it is a step below the Christmas Trinity: "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Miracle on 34th Street," and "Christmas Story." Highly recommended.
 
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In my mind it is a step below the Christmas Trinity: "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Miracle on 34th Street," and "Christmas Story."
That's an excellent Christmas Trinity of films. To this Christmas Trinity I add in the 1951 version of "Scrooge" starring Alastair Sim. These are clearly my four favorite Christmas movies, and all four are absolutely terrific films.
 
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storrsroars

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That's an excellent Christmas Trinity of films. To this Christmas Trinity I add in the 1951 version of "Scrooge" starring Alastair Sim. These are clearly my four favorite Christmas movies, and all four are absolutely terrific films.
There is no other Scrooge than Alastair Sim in my book. He is the standard. And it's not even close.
 
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There is no other Scrooge than Alastair Sim in my book. He is the standard. And it's not even close.
Agreed, Alastair Sim is absolutely magnificent as Scooge. I find the whole production of this version of Christmas Carol to be terrific as well. No other serious versions of "A Christmas Carol" comes close to this one in my mind.
 
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"Oliver Twist"-David Lean-1948

Dickens published this as a serial from 1837-1839. When it was first published as a novel it filled 3 volumes. Lean wrote the script. Of course in order to fit the story into a roughly two hour film, cuts had to be made.
This is a masterful script, it flows remarkably well, and the basic story is even brought into better focus. However, Lean's real mastery is developing actors' performances. There are so many unforgettable characters; it is difficult to know where to begin. The first great supporting performance is Francis L. Sullivan as Mr.Bumble.
Bumble is the beedle a parish official attached to the Workhouse where the orphan is raised. There are elements of comedy in the portrayal, but Bumble is a man without moral convictions. Casual cruelty is his real nature. The orphans under his care are in constant jeopardy. Oliver creates a situation when he asks for more food. He ends up apprenticed to a coffin maker/undertaker. The situation becomes untenable; so young Oliver walks for 7 days to London.

He is picked up by an associate of Fagin (Alec Guiness). Fagin is an anti-semitic stereotype; this is Dickens choice, Yet, Fagin is clever; he treats his boy pickpockets with a mixture unctuous kindness an menace. Guiness creates a mesmerizing character. We meet Bill a graduate of the pickpocket academy who now is a pimp and a B and E man. This along with Long John silver in "Treasure Island" are the two roles which are the greatest roles of Robert Newton's career. Bill Sykes is a vicious man with a vicious dog. He lives with Nancy (Kay Walsh), who despite a similar experience under Fagin's care, has become a caring compassionate person. When Bill is pushed by Fagin, he brutally murders Nancy. He tries to kill his dog, but that fails. His dog plays a major role in his death.

Oliver has escaped Fagin for a time. He was taken into the home of Mr. Brownlow (Henry Stephenson), a good and gentle man, who initially doesn't realize that Oliver is his grandson. Oliver is seized by Nancy and Bill and returned to Fagin. Mr. Brownlow has posters put up throughout London regarding Oliver's disappearance. Nancy sees it and writes Brownlow. They meet and Nancy reveals the plot to disinherit Oliver. Nancy is overheard, and Fagin's characterization of what she said leads to her murder. Mr Brownlow waits for Nancy on London Bridge; he hears the proclamation of the murder and goes to the police. This ultimately leads to the downfall of all the evil characters. Mr. Bumble loses his job despite his protestations that his wife made him do it. When Brownlow tells him that the law places responsibility with the husband; Bumble memorably replies:"Then the law is a ass."

Lean is an enormously talented director; I believe this is one of his finest films. This a great film. Fortunately, there is an excellent free streaming version (Janus Films the precursor to Criterion) available. Google this version, and you can evaluate my opinion.
 
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"A Christmas Carol"-Brian Desmond Harris-1951

In the UK the film was originally named "Scrooge." It is worth going into the background. Dickens was a well known writer in 1843. His favorite novel, "Martin Chuzzlewitt" was doing poorly. His ability to provide for his family was threatened; he quickly wrote this novella. The edition was bound in leather, on special paper, and filled with quality illustrations. This raised the cost and diminished his profit. Still it went through 14 editions in the first year. In 1849 Dickens began public readings of "A Christmas Carol;" these readings were popular and profitable, and they continued until his death in 1870.

The 1951 film was hardly the first adaptation of the story, and dozens have followed. This adaptation by Noel Jenkins is quite faithful to the original with one exception. In the movie his fiance never marries, but in the book she marries and has a large family. What we remember this film for is Alistair Sim's portrayal of Ebeneezer Scrooge. He commands the screen. His facial expressions are wonderful to behold. Then there are the lines whose resonance has not diminished in 175+ years. "Bah, humbug!;"" Are there no prisons?"; "There's more of gravy than the grave in you;" and my favorite "It's a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every 25th of December." Other characters have memorable lines. Marley's ghost's has the great "Mankind was my business;" however, the most memorable line belongs to Tiny Tim: "God bless us everyone."

Surprisingly, this film version still delivers an emotional impact. There is a debate about whether the film is secular or religious. That is meaningless to me. The dramatic power of the visits of the three ghosts of Christmas provide the engine which drives the story. There are some singularly memorable moments like the unveiling of the two children from beneath the robe of Christmas Present. Ignorance and Want with Ignorance being the most dangerous, Scrooge is transformed and in time for Christmas. The coda declares that his life is permanently altered. He becomes a good man whose actions and affections for others for others is real, and his life is much the better for it. This is a timeless message. Of all Dickens' works, this s the one which almost every literate native English speaker knows the story. Dickens wrote other Christmas stories, but none of those ever reached a mass audience as effectively. Not only is this film version available to watch for free, but several audio books are also available for free.

This film is a memorable telling of a wonderful story with an impeccable central performance.
 
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"A Christmas Carol"-Brian Desmond Harris-1951

In the UK the film was originally named "Scrooge." It is worth going into the background. Dickens was a well known writer in 1843. His favorite novel, "Martin Chuzzlewitt" was doing poorly. His ability to provide for his family was threatened; he quickly wrote this novella. The edition was bound in leather, on special paper, and filled with quality illustrations. This raised the cost and diminished his profit. Still it went through 14 editions in the first year. In 1849 Dickens began public readings of "A Christmas Carol;" these readings were popular and profitable, and they continued until his death in 1870.

The 1951 film was hardly the first adaptation of the story, and dozens have followed. This adaptation by Noel Jenkins is quite faithful to the original with one exception. In the movie his fiance never marries, but in the book she marries and has a large family. What we remember this film for is Alistair Sim's portrayal of Ebeneezer Scrooge. He commands the screen. His facial expressions are wonderful to behold. Then there are the lines whose resonance has not diminished in 175+ years. "Bah, humbug!;"" Are there no prisons?"; "There's more of gravy than the grave in you;" and my favorite "It's a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every 25th of December." Other characters have memorable lines. Marley's ghost's has the great "Mankind was my business;" however, the most memorable line belongs to Tiny Tim: "God bless us everyone."

Surprisingly, this film version still delivers an emotional impact. There is a debate about whether the film is secular or religious. That is meaningless to me. The dramatic power of the visits of the three ghosts of Christmas provide the engine which drives the story. There are some singularly memorable moments like the unveiling of the two children from beneath the robe of Christmas Present. Ignorance and Want with Ignorance being the most dangerous, Scrooge is transformed and in time for Christmas. The coda declares that his life is permanently altered. He becomes a good man whose actions and affections for others for others is real, and his life is much the better for it. This is a timeless message. Of all Dickens' works, this s the one which almost every literate native English speaker knows the story. Dickens wrote other Christmas stories, but none of those ever reached a mass audience as effectively. Not only is this film version available to watch for free, but several audio books are also available for free.

This film is a memorable telling of a wonderful story with an impeccable central performance.
One of my favorite scenes in this movie is one that never seems to get mentioned. It is near the end of the movie, when Scrooge arrives at his nephew Fred’s house for the Christmas dinner engagement that he had previously refused. Fred’s maid answers the door, and lets Scrooge in. Scrooge hesitates to open the next door to enter the room where the dinner party is, but the maid (who has no lines in the movie) gives him an absolutely wonderful look of encouragement to open the door. Scrooge then enters the room where Fred and his guests are. I just find this little scene between Scrooge and the maid to be really touching and well done.
 
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One of my favorite scenes in this movie is one that never seems to get mentioned. It is near the end of the movie, when Scrooge arrives at his nephew Fred’s house for the Christmas dinner engagement that he had previously refused. Fred’s maid answers the door, and lets Scrooge in. Scrooge hesitates to open the next door to enter the room where the dinner party is, but the maid (who has no lines in the movie) gives him an absolutely wonderful look of encouragement to open the door. Scrooge then enters the room where Fred and his guests are. I just find this little scene between Scrooge and the maid to be really touching and well done.
I agree. Scrooge is just coming down from several manic scenes: the mad dancing, accosting the boy in the street, and cackling about sending the giant turkey to the Crachits'. He arrives at his nephew's house; he is unsure; he has come down from his manic state. The rest of his life starts, the gentle encouragement from the maid to enter the party is a subtle sign. That is very excellent film making.
 
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"Christmas in July"-Preston Sturges-1940

The film opens with a couple listening to the radio on the rooftop of their apartment/tenament building. The radio is tuned to the Maxford Coffee hour. Across the country millions of people are awaiting the announcement of a huge contest. There have been over 2 million entrants trying to write the company's new slogan. The young man, Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell), is an entrant, and he likes his chances. To the dismay of all, no winner is announced. The selection panel is deadlocked.

This a strangely bizarre story of a type that was only common for a few years in American film making. A famous example is "Bringing Up Baby. The story is based on two unlikely story elements. The first is sending a tame Leopard, Baby, as a gift for Katherine Hepburn's aunt. The second is the intercostal clavicle of a dinosaur; this is the final bone Cary Grant needs to reconstruct the skeleton. In Christmas in July Powell is a low paid clerk in a competing coffee company. The winner of the contest will receive $25,000. Several of Powell's co-workers plan a prank . They construct a fake telegram announcing MacDonald as the contest winner and telling him to go to Maxford Coffee to pick up the check. Powell picks up the check, but the selection panel is still deadlocked. Chaos ensues; this is screwball comedy. In this genre everything works out in the end.

Powell is ably supported by Ellen Drew (Fiance), Franklin Pangborne (Radio Announcer), Raymond Walburn (owner of Maxford Coffee), William Demerest (the holdout on the selection panel, and Ernest Truex (owner of Baxter coffee). The pace and the dialogue are quick; the film runs less than 70 minutes, and I still find several laugh out loud sequences in this film. What we find funny is both individual and collective and changes over time. One for instance is black face or even yellow face, what once was humorous now is stomach turning. Still this film is well worth viewing, despite some dated references and scenes. This is well worth viewing. It is available for free streaming.
 
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