Films Worth Viewing

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"The Bicycle Thief" or more correctly "The Bicycle Thieves"-Vittorio De Sica-1948
This is not a feel good movie;... Highly recommended; this a great and influential film.
This is not an escape movie but I can't agree more with "highly recommended". It stays with you. One scene that'll never forget is almost background; the nuns pulling food away from a desperate, starving man because he hadn't gone to Mass.
 
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"Blade Runner- The Final Cut"-Ridley Scott-2007

This came out originally in 1982. Unlike most of the films I preview here, I haven't seen this in a theater. There is a virtual industry trying to decide if Deckard(Harrison Ford) is/is not a replicant. What is a replicant? R's are androids with the ability to learn and form relationships. The newer models have internal programming which will cause massive system breakdowns and death in four years. Androids is probably an incorrect term, as they are flesh and blood. They are virtually indistinguishable from humans; they do have a weird eye turning red thing. Generally they can be detected using a mental test. The newest models are unaware that they are not human. They can be given false memories.

Deckard is called back into service in the police force. He has a very specialized job; he hunts down and kills wayward replicants. He left the force, no reason is given. He is called back to deal with a particular problem;
six waywards have escaped seized a spaceship, killing many, and they have returned to earth. It is not generally known that replicants can become wayward. Two of the group have already been killed by an electric field inside Tyrell industries. It is up to Deckard to hunt and kill the remaining. The remaining four are trying to find a way to avoid their death sentences.

Deckard is a Blade Runner; that is the designation for cops whose job is replicant termination. A Blade Runner was killed by a wayward during an evaluation/questioning. This incident was the immediate predicate necessitating Deckards recall. Deckard traces one of the four to a sleezy nightclub where the replicant performs as a snake dancer. Deckard chases her and kills her. Deckard is called to see the genius founder of Tyrell Industries, Dr. Edmund Tyrell. Tyrell wants to observe Deckard's technique in mentally testing for replicant status. Deckard is led to believe that his initial interviewee was human. Phyllis, Sean Young, is supposedly Tyrell's niece. Deckard discovers after prolonged questioning that she is a replicant. Phyllis is not aware of this; false memories have been implanted so that she believes herself to be a particular human.

This preview is growing like topsy. The film is based on a Philip K. Dick story. Ridley Scott assembled a great technical team, and the film was very well cast. It is set in 2019 Los Angeles; this is a very distopian setting. It is overcrowded and decaying. The population is very diverse; It seems to have a majority of what we call minorities. Scott believed that "Blade Runner" was a neo-film noir. It is worth noting that this film set standards for much of SciFi film and television over the past 35+years. What is human is one common thread; giant corporations dominating the economy and government is another. Over population and technology are other referents.

There were many problems with the 1982 version of this film. It was taken from Scot's control during editing. The film shown in previews was confusing, so a voice over narrative by Harrison Ford was added.
The film has had several debuts; the latest one coinciding with the version I am previewing. It was cleaned up, and certain scenes were restored, most notably the unicorn sequence. Sound was upgraded, and the entire picture was brighter. There was no CGI used. The work done on this film is more akin to a restoration, supervised by the director, than a new film. The critics generally found this version much more satisfying than the 1982 version.

I am not going to go into more detail about the plot except to say that many commentators believe that Rutger Hauer as Roy, the specialized replicant warrior steals the picture. Ford gives a very solid performance as Deckard, He is an excellent detective; he isn't overly emotional, and he is a loner. That isn't unusual for noir protagonists. Writing this preview has forced me to become aware of plot questions/problems. While watching the film I wasnt aware of them. I consider this a very good film, but not a great one. Still this is a film well worth viewing.
 
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"Henry V"-Kenneth Branagh-1989

Shakespeare, this is daunting; not only is he the greatest dramatist ever, and has the poetry to match his grand designs, he didn't write screenplays. The first problem is that you have around 5 hours of text. Remember you have audiences primarily standing during the performance at the original Globe theater. The first thing one must contend with is the pre-edit. What will you cut? How will you make sense of the play when you cut out half the text? Branagh solves this neatly by adding a narrator. This enables him to cover the missing scenes and link them to the parts of the play to be filmed.

The second problem is how is how to deal with the comedy? In the tragedies and histories Shakespeare always included comic scenes and characters. This was to appeal to the groundlings, the standing audience at the Globe. It also allowed for the movement of scenery, and a change of pace. Here Branagh brings back Sir John Falstaff, the greatest comic part he wrote. In addition to his death, we get a reprise of his life and his relationship to the young king. Bardolph, Pistol, et al are important to the play, so we are introduced to them.

Every director of Shakespeare has at his disposal the Veriorum edition which includes detailed notes as to how every scene was handled in previous productions. From Branagh's perspective, the only really relevant previous production was Lawrence Olivier's 1944 color movie. This a great film, and generally acknowledged to be Olivier's finest Shakespearian effort. Branagh was only 29 when he directed this film; it was his first directing job, and only his second film role.

This is a very good film. Branagh is excellent in the key speeches. We remember particularly the speech to the troops on St Crispin's day: "We few...This band of brothers..." The battle is suitably confused, chaotic, and brutal. The play and film don't end with the battle; there is a coda. The scene where Henry woos the crown princess of France is supposed to be light and humorous. This isn't the typical bawdy, risque comedy of Shakespeare. It isn't bad, but it lacks a certain spark.

One historical note; the death bill in the film is accurate to the play, but historical reality identifies the English deed at 400 and the French dead at about 6,000. Henry dies two years later. This puts England once again in turmoil.

This is definitely worth viewing; Olivier's Henry V is much harder to find, but it is a superior film.
 
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Rashomon"-Akira Kurosawa-1950

This film was a success in Japan and an even bigger one internationally. Its release coincided with the development of smaller art house cinemas. Simultaneously, film societies developed at universities in the US and in Europe. Rashomon won the top prize at the Venice film festival, and it became the first best foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. When this film was highly praised, Japanese critics said the exotic nature of the film led to these award. Kurosawa said in his autobiography that this was just another example of Japanese undervaluing their culture.

The film opens with two men seeking shelter from a downpour in the ruins of the main gate to old Kyoto. The two men a priest and a woodcutter are coming from a murder trial. They were both witnesses at the trial. The first words come from the woodcutter:"I am confused." They are in obvious distress. A third man, a commoner, seeks shelter from the rain. He prods the woodcutter to tell the story of the trial. The woodcutter tells of his journey to cut cedar. (The filming of the woodcutter's journey into the forest is done with hand held cameras. The cinematographer, Kazu Miyagawa, made several other important innovations.) He finds a woman's hat, sandals, and later the body of the samurai killed by a single sword cut to the chest.

The priest witnessed the couple on the road. The samurai was walking while his veiled wife rode a horse. The third witness before the tribunal was a policeman. He told of capturing the thief and likely murderer, Tajomaru.
The thief offers his testimony. He lusted after the woman; so he conceived a plan to separate the couple. He knocked out the samurai and tied him to a tree. Then he returned to the wife and lured her into following him.

What follows is the testimony of three witnesses/participants in/of the crime. They are different, so what is the truth? Kurosawa's three assistant directors came to him before shooting; they didn't understand the script. Kurosawa explained; two of the three understood, but one was unsatisfied. The other two witnesses are the wife who was raped, and the dead samurai through a medium. The commoner senses that some thing is missing. It turns out that the woodcutter witnessed the crimes. The evidence he gave was at best incomplete, and more likely perjury. The commoner seizes upon the idea that we all tell lies to ourselves to make ourselves look better.

I had a sense of "are we there yet" watching the film. Culturally in the west, the plot may have twists and turns, but we eventually reach a conclusion. We know, understand what happened. It turns out that the woodcutter's story contains at least one important omission; he stole a valuable pearl handled knife. Roger Ebert has stated that films convince through emotion rather than logic. Here we have a plot/journey which has no logical end, and has nothing satisfying emotionally. The commoner says we all lie to ourselves; he later uses this as an excuse for theft. This is of course only another example of lying to oneself.

Is the belief that one can discover/know the truth only an illusion? The monk/priest has been adding comments throughout the film relating how these events caused him to despair for the state of the human soul. The film ends with the woodcutter taking an abandoned child home to his family after the commoner has taken a valuable kimono and amulet. The priest retains hope because of this action, the woodcutter is perhaps making amends. The commoner has asserted that selfishness and self-preservation are the only truth. Pandora's box, only hope is left, but not everyone accepts hope.

What makes a great film? "Rashomon" would lead you to believe that this is unknowable even after seeing the film. Is our interpretation always a lie? We must hope that it isn't.
 
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I think there is declining interest in this effort, but I will keep going for another few films, and end with an article about my all time favorite "Casablanca."
 
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Rashomon"-Akira Kurosawa-1950

This film was a success in Japan and an even bigger one internationally. Its release coincided with the development of smaller art house cinemas. Simultaneously, film societies developed at universities in the US and in Europe. Rashomon won the top prize at the Venice film festival, and it became the first best foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. When this film was highly praised, Japanese critics said the exotic nature of the film led to these award. Kurosawa said in his autobiography that this was just another example of Japanese undervaluing their culture.

The film opens with two men seeking shelter from a downpour in the ruins of the main gate to old Kyoto. The two men a priest and a woodcutter are coming from a murder trial. They were both witnesses at the trial. The first words come from the woodcutter:"I am confused." They are in obvious distress. A third man, a commoner, seeks shelter from the rain. He prods the woodcutter to tell the story of the trial. The woodcutter tells of his journey to cut cedar. (The filming of the woodcutter's journey into the forest is done with hand held cameras. The cinematographer, Kazu Miyagawa, made several other important innovations.) He finds a woman's hat, sandals, and later the body of the samurai killed by a single sword cut to the chest.

The priest witnessed the couple on the road. The samurai was walking while his veiled wife rode a horse. The third witness before the tribunal was a policeman. He told of capturing the thief and likely murderer, Tajomaru.
The thief offers his testimony. He lusted after the woman; so he conceived a plan to separate the couple. He knocked out the samurai and tied him to a tree. Then he returned to the wife and lured her into following him.

What follows is the testimony of three witnesses/participants in/of the crime. They are different, so what is the truth? Kurosawa's three assistant directors came to him before shooting; they didn't understand the script. Kurosawa explained; two of the three understood, but one was unsatisfied. The other two witnesses are the wife who was raped, and the dead samurai through a medium. The commoner senses that some thing is missing. It turns out that the woodcutter witnessed the crimes. The evidence he gave was at best incomplete, and more likely perjury. The commoner seizes upon the idea that we all tell lies to ourselves to make ourselves look better.

I had a sense of "are we there yet" watching the film. Culturally in the west, the plot may have twists and turns, but we eventually reach a conclusion. We know, understand what happened. It turns out that the woodcutter's story contains at least one important omission; he stole a valuable pearl handled knife. Roger Ebert has stated that films convince through emotion rather than logic. Here we have a plot/journey which has no logical end, and has nothing satisfying emotionally. The commoner says we all lie to ourselves; he later uses this as an excuse for theft. This is of course only another example of lying to oneself.

Is the belief that one can discover/know the truth only an illusion? The monk/priest has been adding comments throughout the film relating how these events caused him to despair for the state of the human soul. The film ends with the woodcutter taking an abandoned child home to his family after the commoner has taken a valuable kimono and amulet. The priest retains hope because of this action, the woodcutter is perhaps making amends. The commoner has asserted that selfishness and self-preservation are the only truth. Pandora's box, only hope is left, but not everyone accepts hope.

What makes a great film? "Rashomon" would lead you to believe that this is unknowable even after seeing the film. Is our interpretation always a lie? We must hope that it isn't.
I first saw Rashomon as part of a Propaganda in Film class that I took at UConn. Marvelous stuff that was. I always thought of Rashomon as the film that made Kurosawa into a huge international film figure, leading to the export internationally of his many great films over the years that followed.
 
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I think there is declining interest in this effort, but I will keep going for another few films, and end with an article about my all time favorite "Casablanca."
Interest in this thread hasn't declined on my part, I'll certainly miss this thread when it is gone. By the way, Casablanca is currently No, 2 on my list of favorite films, behind The Maltese Falcon.
 
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"Grand Canyon"-Lawrence Kasdan-1991

Lawrence Kasdan began his career as a screenwriter. Among his best known efforts are: "The Empire Strikes Back," "The Return of the Jedi," and "Raiders of the Lost Arc." His directing career has been solid and includes "The Big Chill" and "Body Heat." While I acknowledge that this isn't a great film, still this is one I return every few years.

Mac (Kevin Kline) is attending a Lakers game in courtside seats as the guest of his best friend, Davis (Steve Martin) the producer of violent action films. Mac's car breaks down in the midst of the LA ghetto. He is rescued from a threatening car of gang members by the arrival of his tow truck driver, Simon (Danny Glover).
While Mac awaits the car's repairs completion, the two talk. Simon discusses his visit to the Grand Canyon which he suggests as a family outing.

We meet Mac's wife, Claire (Mary McDonnell) and his son, Roberto (Jeremy Sisto in his film debut) at the pickup point for his summer camp. Mac, an immigration lawyer, has a one night affair with his legal secretary, Dee (Mary Louise Parker). She has a black female friend, Jane (Alfre Woodward) who works in the same building.

Claire comes across an an abandoned baby while on her morning run. She takes the baby home and cares for her without notifying the police. When Mac returns home, the police are notified, and Claire indicates that she wants to adopt the baby. Mac arrives one morning at the gas station where Simon works and invites him for breakfast. While at breakfast Mac tells a personal story where an unknown woman pulls him back from the path of a city bus. She was wearing a Pittsburg Pirate baseball cap. The Pirates are his favorite team and the source of his son's name Roberto for Roberto Clemente. Mac believes that his and Simon's meeting was more than happenstance.

Mac's best friend Davis the producer is shot in the leg by a snatch and grab burglar when he offers the keys to his car instead of the Rolex the robber demanded. He has a "religious" experience in the hospital. Later
he states his desire to make life affirming pictures rather than his violent action films. He later recants this, and in one of the best scenes in the film gives Mac a view of Preston Sturges film "Sullivan's Travels"
which he says shows how an artist is brought back to his true calling after an attempt to make a meaningful
film about the poor. He mentions the Grand Canyon as a metaphor for the gulf between the rich and the poor in America. He says that his depictions of violence are artistic truth. The best line is:"That's part of your problem you know, you haven't seen enough movies; all of life's riddles are answered in the movies." Like much of Davis' pontifications, this is a little off. Riddles are solved, questions are answered.

Kasdan attempts to weave together the live's of six principal characters, male and female, white and black, rich to poor in contemporary Los Angeles. Over 25 years later, the problems remain, and perhaps have gotten worse. In addition to the life intersections, this Los Angeles is brought together by the omnipresent helicopter flying overhead. I had thought that it was a police helicopter; if I had given it any thought. It is a TV newscopter reporting on the traffic. The nasty traffic is used in half a dozen scenes as a common problem. Random violence is also a common problem. Dreams/visions are another common tie in. Critics
often found the film facile, and the ending where a group of the principals make it to the Grand Canyon trite.
They wanted answers and truth. I wonder how many understood that Kasdan doesn't believe that films have answers to life's problems. We bring ourselves to the films we view. The great Edith Piaf's signature song "La Vie en Rose" is one of the best artistic explanations of seeing life through rose colored glasses.

This is an excellent script, and the acting is generally spot on. Kasdan is smarter and better than many of his critics allow, still there are a lot of coincidences holding the plot together. We come back to a willing suspension of disbelief, one of best tools in your film viewing kit. Highly recommended; guess what film is next up?
 

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Since you ended on "willing suspension of belief", I'm going with Field of Dreams.
 
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"Grand Canyon"-Lawrence Kasdan-1991

Lawrence Kasdan began his career as a screenwriter. Among his best known efforts are: "The Empire Strikes Back," "The Return of the Jedi," and "Raiders of the Lost Arc." His directing career has been solid and includes "The Big Chill" and "Body Heat." While I acknowledge that this isn't a great film, still this is one I return every few years.

Mac (Kevin Kline) is attending a Lakers game in courtside seats as the guest of his best friend, Davis (Steve Martin) the producer of violent action films. Mac's car breaks down in the midst of the LA ghetto. He is rescued from a threatening car of gang members by the arrival of his tow truck driver, Simon (Danny Glover).
While Mac awaits the car's repairs completion, the two talk. Simon discusses his visit to the Grand Canyon which he suggests as a family outing.

We meet Mac's wife, Claire (Mary McDonnell) and his son, Roberto (Jeremy Sisto in his film debut) at the pickup point for his summer camp. Mac, an immigration lawyer, has a one night affair with his legal secretary, Dee (Mary Louise Parker). She has a black female friend, Jane (Alfre Woodward) who works in the same building.

Claire comes across an an abandoned baby while on her morning run. She takes the baby home and cares for her without notifying the police. When Mac returns home, the police are notified, and Claire indicates that she wants to adopt the baby. Mac arrives one morning at the gas station where Simon works and invites him for breakfast. While at breakfast Mac tells a personal story where an unknown woman pulls him back from the path of a city bus. She was wearing a Pittsburg Pirate baseball cap. The Pirates are his favorite team and the source of his son's name Roberto for Roberto Clemente. Mac believes that his and Simon's meeting was more than happenstance.

Mac's best friend Davis the producer is shot in the leg by a snatch and grab burglar when he offers the keys to his car instead of the Rolex the robber demanded. He has a "religious" experience in the hospital. Later
he states his desire to make life affirming pictures rather than his violent action films. He later recants this, and in one of the best scenes in the film gives Mac a view of Preston Sturges film "Sullivan's Travels"
which he says shows how an artist is brought back to his true calling after an attempt to make a meaningful
film about the poor. He mentions the Grand Canyon as a metaphor for the gulf between the rich and the poor in America. He says that his depictions of violence are artistic truth. The best line is:"That's part of your problem you know, you haven't seen enough movies; all of life's riddles are answered in the movies." Like much of Davis' pontifications, this is a little off. Riddles are solved, questions are answered.

Kasdan attempts to weave together the live's of six principal characters, male and female, white and black, rich to poor in contemporary Los Angeles. Over 25 years later, the problems remain, and perhaps have gotten worse. In addition to the life intersections, this Los Angeles is brought together by the omnipresent helicopter flying overhead. I had thought that it was a police helicopter; if I had given it any thought. It is a TV newscopter reporting on the traffic. The nasty traffic is used in half a dozen scenes as a common problem. Random violence is also a common problem. Dreams/visions are another common tie in. Critics
often found the film facile, and the ending where a group of the principals make it to the Grand Canyon trite.
They wanted answers and truth. I wonder how many understood that Kasdan doesn't believe that films have answers to life's problems. We bring ourselves to the films we view. The great Edith Piaf's signature song "La Vie en Rose" is one of the best artistic explanations of seeing life through rose colored glasses.

This is an excellent script, and the acting is generally spot on. Kasdan is smarter and better than many of his critics allow, still there are a lot of coincidences holding the plot together. We come back to a willing suspension of disbelief, one of best tools in your film viewing kit. Highly recommended; guess what film is next up?
A quick passing mention to Sullivan's Travels. A great movie, although my favorite Preston Sturges film is The Lady Eve. Sturges had a batch of great movies in the 1940's.
 
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"Sullivan's Travels"-Preston Sturges-1941

Preston Sturges is another director who is almost forgotten today. "The Lady Eve" is my favorite Sturges' film, but I haven't seen "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek." The central character in the film, John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), is a successful director of comedies and musicals. The studio heads are shocked when he announces his plan for his next film. "O Brother Where Art Thou" is based on a book of the same name. Sullivan plans to travel the country as a hobo with ten cents in his pocket. More than half a century later, The Coen brothers took the title and many of the situations in the film for an action comedy. The studio heads insist on having a bus with publicity staff, a cook, and a doctor follow Sullivan.

When Sullivan is discussing his project one of the studio heads interjects the phrase: ...with a little sex..." Sullivan is planning to make a film about the common man, but he comes from a privileged background. In his initial foray he meets a girl (Veronica Lake) who buys him a meal. Shortly afterwards he and by and the girl are arrested. When he is released after the identification by his butler and valet; he asks that the girl be released.
The desk sargeant asks: "How does the girl fit in the picture?" He responds:"There's always a girl in the picture. What's the matter, don't you go to the movies?"

This is a comedy. It opens with Capitol and Labor in a life and death struggle atop a speeding train. The first few minutes feature slapstick from the silent era including a car chase. When Sullivan sets off again the girl is his traveling companion in appropriate attire, After several adventures, Sullivan has enough information and he is ready to quit the road. He ventures once again to the hobo village along the tracks, but without the girl. He has $1,000 in five dollar bills which he intends to hand out. One bum attacks him steals the money and his boots. The boots are important because they contain identification. The robber is run over by the train; he is misidentified by the boots. John L. Sullivan is dead,, and even worse a bum assaults a railroad Dick and ends up in prison working on a road gang.

Of course there is a happy ending. Sullivan is rescued from the chain gang, but not before he watches a Pluto cartoon, "Playful Pluto",in a Black church. He learns the true importance of humor, it is sometimes all the poor and downtrodden have. So "O Brother..." is off and it is back to lighter fare, but the girl is back in the picture. If there is a lesson in this film, it is you that better make sure the girl is in the picture.

Next up "Field of Dreams"
 
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"Sullivan's Travels"-Preston Sturges-1941

Preston Sturges is another director who is almost forgotten today. "The Lady Eve" is my favorite Sturges' film, but I haven't seen "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek." The central character in the film, John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), is a successful director of comedies and musicals. The studio heads are shocked when he announces his plan for his next film. "O Brother Where Art Thou" is based on a book of the same name. Sullivan plans to travel the country as a hobo with ten cents in his pocket. More than half a century later, The Coen brothers took the title and many of the situations in the film for an action comedy. The studio heads insist on having a bus with publicity staff, a cook, and a doctor follow Sullivan.

When Sullivan is discussing his project one of the studio heads interjects the phrase: ...with a little sex..." Sullivan is planning to make a film about the common man, but he comes from a privileged background. In his initial foray he meets a girl (Veronica Lake) who buys him a meal. Shortly afterwards he and by and the girl are arrested. When he is released after the identification by his butler and valet; he asks that the girl be released.
The desk sargeant asks: "How does the girl fit in the picture?" He responds:"There's always a girl in the picture. What's the matter, don't you go to the movies?"

This is a comedy. It opens with Capitol and Labor in a life and death struggle atop a speeding train. The first few minutes feature slapstick from the silent era including a car chase. When Sullivan sets off again the girl is his traveling companion in appropriate attire, After several adventures, Sullivan has enough information and he is ready to quit the road. He ventures once again to the hobo village along the tracks, but without the girl. He has $1,000 in five dollar bills which he intends to hand out. One bum attacks him steals the money and his boots. The boots are important because they contain identification. The robber is run over by the train; he is misidentified by the boots. John L. Sullivan is dead,, and even worse a bum assaults a railroad Dick and ends up in prison working on a road gang.

Of course there is a happy ending. Sullivan is rescued from the chain gang, but not before he watches a Pluto cartoon, "Playful Pluto",in a Black church. He learns the true importance of humor, it is sometimes all the poor and downtrodden have. So "O Brother..." is off and it is back to lighter fare, but the girl is back in the picture. If there is a lesson in this film, it is you that better make sure the girl is in the picture.

Next up "Field of Dreams"
Funny, for the first time in many years, I saw "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" on Turner Classic Movies recently. Not quite on the same level as "The Lady Eve" and "Sullivan's Travels" (both excellent films), but close. A very worthy entry in the Preston Sturges filmography.

One character actor who shows up in many Preston Sturges films is William Demarest, who is famous to the television generation for playing Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons". There is often quite a bit of insanity going on in Sturges movies, and Demarest is often right in the middle of it. It's great to watch him do his thing in these movies.
 
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"Field of Dreams"Phil Alden Robinson-1989

This is the 30th anniversary of its release. To celebrate the event, Turner Classic Movies is re-releasing this film in 600 theaters nationwide. Unfortunately, there are no theaters on the Cape participating. Check Fandago; it is being shown on June 16th (Father's Day) and June 18th. I suspect that most 'Yarders have seen this film. So I will not provide a long synopsis. Robinson adapted the screenplay from the W.P. Kinsella novel "Shoeless Joe."
The adaptation, the movie, and the score were Oscar nominees, none won. In fact the only award it actually won was for best foreign film in Japan. It had two valuable elements, baseball and reverence for ancestors, both of which were written on the film posters. This reveals the ending, but it does answer the second of the two questions posed by the classic line: "If you build it; he will come." The he is Ray Kinsella's father. John.
The what we find out early in the film. Ray (Kevin Costner) hears a voice in his cornfield which uttered the famous line. He has a vision of "Shoeless"Joe Jackson in his field-turned baseball field.

Jackson appears along with other members of the 1919 "Black Sox", the infamous group which threw the 1919 World Series. Ray and his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) have an identical dream about Ray being in Fenway Park
with famous 60's writer, Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones). Ray with his wife's blessing sets off across country because he expects to receive another message. Mann is a stand in for a real author who is jealous of his privacy; I will honor that by not revealing his identity. The two men do receive a message, two in fact, "Go the distance," is the first; the second is the major league record of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. They set off on the road to Minnesota to find him. He is already dead; he turns up at the ball field in a different way.

Not everyone can see the players, who now have recruited additional players; so they are now actually playing games. Mark, Annie's brother, (Timothy Busfield) and his partners have bought the mortgage on the farm, they plan to foreclose. Mark walks across the diamond in the middle of the game without being aware of the game. Ray's daughter, Karin, gets knocked off her seat atop the bleachers, she falls hard to the ground. She is turning blue, and just as Annie is running to call emergency services, one of the players crosses from the field to the real world. He changes into Dr. Archibald Graham. He thumps her back and out pops part of a hot dog. "Moonlight" knows that he can't become a player again. He did achieve his ambition of having an at bat against a major league pitcher. This results in the only run we see scored, but it's by a sacrifice fly. Mark can now see the players.

The savior of the farm is the people who come to see the games; the film ends with a seeming endless line of cars with their lights on coming to the "Field of Dreams." Interestingly. Robinson wonders about whether the field should be turned over to corn again. The site has become a major tourist attraction; they have a web site, and today they are having a special celebration to honor the 30th anniversary of the films release.
It is also the 100th anniversary of the "Black Sox" scandal. For the record today is my 79th birthday. Now the conjunction of these 3 nines, may well be mystical.

I should mention that this was Burt Lancaster's final film and Gabby Hoffman's first. Ray Liotta attended his first baseball game at Ebbets Field with his father. I went to my first World Series Game at Ebbets Field in 1954 with my father. Hmm, something may be happening here. I should mention, some critics and audience members find this film contrived, puerile, hokey, and generally one of the most overrated films of all time. If you feel this way, or if you haven't seen it but other films of this ilk like "It Could Happen to You"
or "It's a Wonderful Life" give indigestion or heartburn, psychic or real, don't waste your time.

My highest recommendation.
 
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The site has become a major tourist attraction; they have a web site, and today they are having a special celebration to honor the 30th anniversary of the films release. It is also the 100th anniversary of the "Black Sox" scandal. For the record today is my 79th birthday. Now the conjunction of these 3 nines, may well be mystical.
Happy birthday!
 
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Since you ended on "willing suspension of belief", I'm going with Field of Dreams.
There has been a mention of the "willing suspension of disbelief” in reference to Field of Dreams, with the hint that it also applies to all films with a bit of fantasy to them. For me, all movies need their viewers to have to have a willing suspension of disbelief, no matter how realistic the premise. To me it is simply the movie watcher being willing to buy into whatever story a particular film is telling.
 

storrsroars

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Yeah, but Field of Dreams was a special kind of ride, the way everything fit together. Having read the Kinsella book, this is a case where the movie is definitely more emotionally compelling than the book, as events happen quicker and with less explanation - the miracles keep piling on top of other miracles. As Ray says to Mann, "It's perfect."

Yeah, I was one of the saps in tears at the end when I first saw it in the theatre. I don't care if some critics call it trite or whatever. I imagine those people only talk about themselves at parties.

And to zymurg, since Kinsella wrote about him and it's public information, the Mann character was JD Salinger. I don't think you need worry about mentioning that - it's common knowledge among pretty much anyone who's seen reviews of the film. However, casting James Earl Jones was an inspired choice.
 
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Yeah, but Field of Dreams was a special kind of ride, the way everything fit together. Having read the Kinsella book, this is a case where the movie is definitely more emotionally compelling than the book, as events happen quicker and with less explanation - the miracles keep piling on top of other miracles. As Ray says to Mann, "It's perfect."

Yeah, I was one of the saps in tears at the end when I first saw it in the theatre. I don't care if some critics call it trite or whatever. I imagine those people only talk about themselves at parties.

And to zymurg, since Kinsella wrote about him and it's public information, the Mann character was JD Salinger. I don't think you need worry about mentioning that - it's common knowledge among pretty much anyone who's seen reviews of the film. However, casting James Earl Jones was an inspired choice.
I love Field of Dreams, and I agree with everything you say here. It is a great fantasy film, and it is also one of my two favorite baseball movies (the other one is Bull Durham). Terrance Mann is indeed a great role for James Earl Jones, I also love the casting of Burt Lancaster. He may not have all that much time on the screen in this one, but he really connects with the Doc Graham role. To say that he has charm to spare in this film would very much be an understatement.

There is another Kinsella baseball book that I would love to be turned into a film. That would be The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. It's a great read and story, and it is even more fantastical than Field of Dreams. At one point I thought The Iowa Baseball Confederacy would be impossible to film, but given what they can do with special effects these days, you just never know.
 
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storrsroars

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Oddly I had an entirely different opinion on the Iowa Baseball Confederacy. I struggled to get through that one.

And yeah, Burt was great in that role.
 
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I should mention, some critics and audience members find this film contrived, puerile, hokey, and generally one of the most overrated films of all time. If you feel this way, or if you haven't seen it but other films of this ilk like "It Could Happen to You" or "It's a Wonderful Life" give indigestion or heartburn, psychic or real, don't waste your time.

My highest recommendation.
Good comparison to It's a Wonderful Life. Easily my favorite Frank Capra movie, and one of my top four Christmas movies.
 
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Yeah, but Field of Dreams was a special kind of ride, the way everything fit together. Having read the Kinsella book, this is a case where the movie is definitely more emotionally compelling than the book, as events happen quicker and with less explanation - the miracles keep piling on top of other miracles. As Ray says to Mann, "It's perfect."

Yeah, I was one of the saps in tears at the end when I first saw it in the theatre. I don't care if some critics call it trite or whatever. I imagine those people only talk about themselves at parties.

And to zymurg, since Kinsella wrote about him and it's public information, the Mann character was JD Salinger. I don't think you need worry about mentioning that - it's common knowledge among pretty much anyone who's seen reviews of the film. However, casting James Earl Jones was an inspired choice.
That passage was meant to be ironic; Salinger is well known for pursuing his privacy through litigation. This is one of Phil Robinson's additions that is actually better than the book. Surprisingly, none of the actors received Oscar nominations; this is an excellent cast. Kinsella reviewed the film for a Canadian periodical; he gave it four out of five stars.

Up next "The Great Dictator" and "Alexander Nevsky."
 

Fishy

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That passage was meant to be ironic; Salinger is well known for pursuing his privacy through litigation. This is one of Phil Robinson's additions that is actually better than the book. Surprisingly, none of the actors received Oscar nominations; this is an excellent cast. Kinsella reviewed the film for a Canadian periodical; he gave it four out of five stars.

Up next "The Great Dictator" and "Alexander Nevsky."
Btw....happy birthday!
 
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"The Great Dictator"-Charles Chaplin-1940

This is one of the many films I first saw in college at the special film viewings the undergraduate film group promoted on Friday and Saturday nights. I was very involved in the theater in college. I took tickets, ushered, for most of the films. I even had some influence on which films were shown; I was responsible for showing "My Little Chickadee." I apologize for that choice. As I remember my first viewing, there was quite a bit of laughter by my fellow students. I remembered particularly two scenes. In the first Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator of Tomania is bouncing a balloon globe around in his office. The second is where Napolini, the dictator of Bacteria, is given a kid's seat so Hynkel will be high above him. Those scenes still remain among my favorites.
This film was financed entirely by Chaplin. It cost about $2 million, it made about $5 million. It took several years of preparation, and a year and a half to film. Chaplin, as many of you will know, did everything on his later films:directed, wrote, wrote/chose the music, chose the cast, supervised the editing, and supervised the promotion and theater placement.

The story begins in World War I, the barber is serving with a German (Tomanian) artillery regiment in the later days of the war. The barber (Chaplin) pulls the rope which fires a massive artillery piece which is trying to hit Notre Dame. The first shot misses, and the second shot is a dud. The barber is ordered to investigate the massive shell. This is quite a funny sequence. Several misadventures later, the barber ends up trying to save an aviator. The plane crashes; the barber ends up in the hospital. He stays there for 20 years missing the rise of Hynkel and the double cross party. He leaves the hospital and returns to the ghetto.

The barber almost immediately becomes involved with the anti-semitic police. He is rescued by Hannah (Paulette Goddard) a local washerwoman. She lives with Jaekel (Maurice Moskovitch a star of the Yiddish theater). The ghetto receives a reprieve when Commander Schultz (Reginald Gardiner) recognizes the barber as the soldier who saved him.

I chose to follow Chaplin's example in separating the two story streams. So now we look at Adenoid Hynkel,dictator of Tomania. We first see him making an impassioned speech in a word salad to thousands in person and millions over the radio. This is translated into English sparsely and with no relationship to the truth. Hynkel's two closest advisers are Garbistch (Henry Daniell) the Minister of Propaganda, and Herring (Billy Gilbert) the Minister of War. They are obviously modeled on Goebbels and Goering, However, in real life Goebbels is small and frail and was a behind the scenes adviser. Garbistch is taller more forceful and not at all comic. This is an excellent performance.

There are plans to invade Austerlich. However, there are several problems, one of whom is Benezino Napolino, Dictator of Bacteria. His army is also poised on the borders of Austerlich. This is a great performance by Jack Oakie. Their numerous one upmanship scenes are frequently hilarious. Austerlich is taken by Tomania. Now the two stories really converge.

Commander Schultz is arrested for attacking Hynkel and his policies. He escapes and hides in the ghetto.
He and the barber are captured by the storm troopers and sent to the concentration camp. Meanwhile Hannah and Jaekel escape to Austerlich before the invasion. They are captured and are going to be sent to a concentration camp. Meanwhile, Schultz and the barber escape. Through a series of misadventures they end up on the platform. The barber disguised as Hynkel gives an impassioned speech contradicting all of Hynkel's policies.

This speech was dear to Chaplin's heart; he repeated it over radio, and it feature's prominently in his autobiography. Critics were unkind, many deeming it incongruous for the barber's character. In general the movie was a commercial and critical success despite being banned in many countries. Eisenhower contacted Chaplin to obtain French language prints after the liberation. It was an enormous success.

One area not covered adequately to my mind by commentators and scholars is the use of language. The Hynkel word salad is noted and studied. On the ghetto walls and storefronts in Tomania, many signs are in Esperanto. Esperanto is an invented international language based primarily on Romance Languages. It was invented by a Polish Jew. In Austerlich the similar signs are in Yiddish. Yiddish dates back to the 13th century. It is syncretic; it takes words, concepts, from several languages, but principally German. It is written in a modified Hebrew script. As mentioned above, Chaplin controlled everything in his films. So, what was he trying to say. I've thought about this, and my conclusion is I need a translator.

Your best chance to see this film is either through TCM or by buying the Criterion Edition. It is more than just an interesting historical piece, but by its very nature it cannot fully escape its era. Recommended, but I think most 'Yarders may well find other Chaplin films more welcoming.
 
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"The Great Dictator"-Charles Chaplin-1940

This is one of the many films I first saw in college at the special film viewings the undergraduate film group promoted on Friday and Saturday nights. I was very involved in the theater in college. I took tickets, ushered, for most of the films. I even had some influence on which films were shown; I was responsible for showing "My Little Chickadee." I apologize for that choice. As I remember my first viewing, there was quite a bit of laughter by my fellow students. I remembered particularly two scenes. In the first Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator of Tomania is bouncing a balloon globe around in his office. The second is where Napolini, the dictator of Bacteria, is given a kid's seat so Hynkel will be high above him. Those scenes still remain among my favorites.
This film was financed entirely by Chaplin. It cost about $2 million, it made about $5 million. It took several years of preparation, and a year and a half to film. Chaplin, as many of you will know, did everything on his later films:directed, wrote, wrote/chose the music, chose the cast, supervised the editing, and supervised the promotion and theater placement.

The story begins in World War I, the barber is serving with a German (Tomanian) artillery regiment in the later days of the war. The barber (Chaplin) pulls the rope which fires a massive artillery piece which is trying to hit Notre Dame. The first shot misses, and the second shot is a dud. The barber is ordered to investigate the massive shell. This is quite a funny sequence. Several misadventures later, the barber ends up trying to save an aviator. The plane crashes; the barber ends up in the hospital. He stays there for 20 years missing the rise of Hynkel and the double cross party. He leaves the hospital and returns to the ghetto.

The barber almost immediately becomes involved with the anti-semitic police. He is rescued by Hannah (Paulette Goddard) a local washerwoman. She lives with Jaekel (Maurice Moskovitch a star of the Yiddish theater). The ghetto receives a reprieve when Commander Schultz (Reginald Gardiner) recognizes the barber as the soldier who saved him.

I chose to follow Chaplin's example in separating the two story streams. So now we look at Adenoid Hynkel,dictator of Tomania. We first see him making an impassioned speech in a word salad to thousands in person and millions over the radio. This is translated into English sparsely and with no relationship to the truth. Hynkel's two closest advisers are Garbistch (Henry Daniell) the Minister of Propaganda, and Herring (Billy Gilbert) the Minister of War. They are obviously modeled on Goebbels and Goering, However, in real life Goebbels is small and frail and was a behind the scenes adviser. Garbistch is taller more forceful and not at all comic. This is an excellent performance.

There are plans to invade Austerlich. However, there are several problems, one of whom is Benezino Napolino, Dictator of Bacteria. His army is also poised on the borders of Austerlich. This is a great performance by Jack Oakie. Their numerous one upmanship scenes are frequently hilarious. Austerlich is taken by Tomania. Now the two stories really converge.

Commander Schultz is arrested for attacking Hynkel and his policies. He escapes and hides in the ghetto.
He and the barber are captured by the storm troopers and sent to the concentration camp. Meanwhile Hannah and Jaekel escape to Austerlich before the invasion. They are captured and are going to be sent to a concentration camp. Meanwhile, Schultz and the barber escape. Through a series of misadventures they end up on the platform. The barber disguised as Hynkel gives an impassioned speech contradicting all of Hynkel's policies.

This speech was dear to Chaplin's heart; he repeated it over radio, and it feature's prominently in his autobiography. Critics were unkind, many deeming it incongruous for the barber's character. In general the movie was a commercial and critical success despite being banned in many countries. Eisenhower contacted Chaplin to obtain French language prints after the liberation. It was an enormous success.

One area not covered adequately to my mind by commentators and scholars is the use of language. The Hynkel word salad is noted and studied. On the ghetto walls and storefronts in Tomania, many signs are in Esperanto. Esperanto is an invented international language based primarily on Romance Languages. It was invented by a Polish Jew. In Austerlich the similar signs are in Yiddish. Yiddish dates back to the 13th century. It is syncretic; it takes words, concepts, from several languages, but principally German. It is written in a modified Hebrew script. As mentioned above, Chaplin controlled everything in his films. So, what was he trying to say. I've thought about this, and my conclusion is I need a translator.

Your best chance to see this film is either through TCM or by buying the Criterion Edition. It is more than just an interesting historical piece, but by its very nature it cannot fully escape its era. Recommended, but I think most 'Yarders may well find other Chaplin films more welcoming.
I've seen "The Great Dictator" a number of times, but not recently. A very good Chaplin film (his first full talkie) with some great imagination and creativity, things that you would expect in a Chaplin movie. Some great Chaplin set pieces as well, especially the bouncing globe sequence. And as was mentioned, Jack Oakie is terrific as will. My only complaint is that there are spots where it can get a little preachy in its propaganda. However, given the subject matter with Nazis, war, ghettos, concentration camps, etc.., a little preachiness can be a bit hard to avoid. Still, it is a very watchable film, and I like it quite a bit.
 
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"Alexander Nevsky"-Sergei Eisenstein-1938

Eisenstein is generally considered on of the greatest film directors of all time despite having made very few films. His technical and artistic writings are still used in film schools. One of the major reasons Eisenstein made very few films was politics. His early silent films: "Strike" and "The Battleship Potemkin" were critical successes and were considered politically correct. His "Ten Days That Shook the World" or "October" was considered too artsy and violated the principals of social realism. He had to write apologetic pieces admitting his errors. He spent several years abroad. He even signed a contract with Paramount; it was ended by mutual consent when the studio rejected a screenplay. He then became involved with Upton Sinclair and a project to film in Mexico.
He shot hundreds of thousands of feet of film, but conflicts again prevented him from making a film. He was summoned back to Russia, and he narrowly avoided being caught up Stalin's purges.

"Alexander Nevsky" was virtually commissioned by Stalin. Prokofiev was to write the score; he was also out of favor with the regime. His longtime cinematographer, Edward Tisse, was also part of the team. The collaboration between Prokofiev and Eisenstein was excellent. Without Eisenstein's knowledge the film was sent to Stalin for a private viewing. It was returned missing a reel of film, but with unqualified approval by Stalin. This meant that no changes could be made. The score attached to this print was a rehearsal take, but it couldn't be changed. Nobody knows for sure what happened to the missing reel of film. The film was released in 1938, but pulled 1939 after Russia signed a pact with Nazi Germany. After the German's invaded, Stalin is supposed to have insisted that it be shown in every theater in the Soviet Union. Prokofiev's score was able to be performed in the two year hiatus. It was immensely popular.

The film was shot in the late spring and early summer of 1938. This created major problems for the battle on the ice which is the centerpiece of the film. The historical setting for the film is 1242 with the Mongols attacking from one side, and the Teutonic Knights attacking from the other. Pskov has already fallen, and Novgorod is in peril. The film opens with a panoramic view of a battle ground strewn with skeletons, armor,
and arrows. The setting is a lakeside with peasants fishing with a huge net. They are interrupted by a group on Mongols; a scuffle breaks out. Suddenly, Nevesky emerges. He convinces the Mongols to depart. We find out that Nevesky (Nikolai Cherskov) has defeated the Swedes . Shortly thereafter a delegation from Novgorod comes to Nevsky asking him to lead the fight against the German Knights. In Novgorod we are introduced to three citizens: Ignat, the armorer (Dimitri Orlov) and two soldiers Vasily (Nikolai Okhlopkov) and Gavrilo (Alexander Abriksov) who are in competition for the same girl. We also see that the merchants are willing to make a deal with the Knights. Nevsky rejects this and calls upon the peasants to join his army.
The Teutonic Knights prove how evil they are by literally throwing babies into the fire. Their religion is given sinister overtones by the physical characters of the Bishop and the organ player. We see no priests blessing the Russians. In the "Why We Fight" series a full length film is available on the Russian Front. The soldiers and the people are praised in the intro, but for our purposes it is useful to note the scenes from "Nevsky" are part of the introduction, and even more telling there is an extended scene of the Orthodox Bishop of Moscow blessing the war against the Germans.

I want to spend a little time discussing the importance of Ignat, the master armorer. He gives away swords,battle axes, and armor to the defenders of Novgorod (Russia). He is left with armor which is too short for himself. In the night before the crucial battle on the ice; he tells bawdy stories to the troops. This is very reminiscent of Shakespeare, an acknowledged influence on Eisenstein. Eisenstein's battle sequences influence Olivier and other Western film makers. Ignat is a prototype of the common man, a working man hero. He captures/takes the surrender of a Russian traitor who serves the Knights. The traitor kills Ignat stabbing him with his own knife. There are traitors to the revolution;they are never to be trusted. His last words bemoan his short armor.

Eisenstein uses the three men we meet in Novgorod as eye catchers in the battle. Their presence allows us to humanize the conflict; we can identify these individuals. We know their stories. The Knights are not humanized at all. Their helmets shield their faces from view. Eisenstein wasn't working from a template someone else had created; he created carefully a structure. Nevsky is the prototype hero. He makes an intelligent battle plan, finds the correct leaders to carry out the plan, defeats the enemy's leader in single combat, is aware of the big picture, and he inspires the common people.

Finally, let me mention the incredible achievement of the ice cracking. First there wasn't any ice. Second the breaks had to be in time with the musical score. Third the construction and placement of the fake ice was a huge undertaking. Finally to film it all with the primitive equipment at his disposal including the worst sound recording equipment in the Western world and make it at all believable, was nothing short of a cinematic miracle. Generally critics find "Ivan the Terrible Part I" to be his best sound film; he only made three. I disagree. It is on the border of great and near great, How I rank it at any particular moment depends upon nothing more substantial than my mood at the time.
 

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