Laura (1944)

Laura (1944) - Laura (1944) Photo (15751310) - Fanpop

With the close of both the Holiday Season and Awards Season, I move again to my series of reviews on American film noir in the 1940s.

Where Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon have survived into the 21st century with reputations intact as noir classics, Otto Preminger’s masterpiece Laura has been relatively forgotten outside of more expert circles.  Continue reading

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88th Annual Academy Awards

Perhaps you could call this year the year of the Blockbuster.  Or, the year of the colon.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Mad Max: Fury Road, the list kind of goes on and on when it comes to the colonated titles that did more than just “grace” the box office charts.  Continue reading

The Samurai Trilogy (1954-1956)

In an unprecedented move, I am going to review three films at once.  So, while I will technically only write four reviews on samurai film to accompany my recent essay on that genre, I will actually be reviewing six movies.  The three movies that I will be reviewing today make up the masterful trilogy from director Hiroshi Inagaki and actor Toshiro Mifune called, simply, The Samurai Trilogy.  This trilogy is made up of three films, Musashi Miyamoto (1954), The Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955), and The Duel at Ganryu Island (1956).  The release of these films marks an important moment in the development of the samurai film and its role as not only the predominant genre of Japan, but as Japan’s most exported film-type in world cinema. Continue reading

Scrooge (1970)

One of my family’s most treasured Christmas traditions is to watch Ronald Neame’s unique musical interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, named after the story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.  Scrooge is, without question in my mind, the finest adaptation of this famous story ever committed to film.  Some of the more faithful adaptations (like the one starring Patrick Stewart in 1999) reek of Hallmark made-for-TV movies.   Others sacrifice the important emotion for the sake of Christmas commercialism, in what may be the most hypocritical move in the history of the industry.  But Scrooge…Scrooge is the perfect adaptation, integrating enough of its own originality into the purity of Dicken’s novella. Continue reading

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

“You’ll never be a first class human being or a first class woman until you’ve learned to have some regard for human frailty.”

So says C.K. Dexter Haven, ex-husband of the pretentious and beautiful Tracy Lord.  She has thrown him out and banned him from her mansion estate, and has recently engaged herself to George Kittredge.  In Kittredge, she sees everything that Haven was not.  Unlike Haven, who was born into the social elite, Kittredge was a self-made member of the upper-classes, not subject to the vices of the pampered life (a life that she, herself, has lived).  A woman of her privilege demands the absolute best in everything she consumes: her wine, her clothes, her horses, and her men.  Haven couldn’t live up to the task; he was an alcoholic with no respect for the things she wanted.  Perhaps Kittredge will. Continue reading

It Happened One Night (1934)

Of all the screwball/romantic comedies of the 1930s, few stand as tall as It Happened One Night.  When the movie was released to secondary movie houses in 1934 after mixed success with its initial release, it started a popular wave across the United States as people everywhere swarmed theaters to see Clark Gable—“The King of Hollywood”—and silent-film golden girl Claudette Colbert fall in love.  What at first appeared to be a flop turned out to be the biggest success in the history of Columbia Pictures up to that date. Continue reading

Fantasy Academy Awards Ceremony

Okay, so this is a little indulgent.  But I can’t help but think that all this Academy Award talk in which I have been engaging can be diverting in this quest from casual movie watching to competency in film.  What I would like to do is bring back the discussion from contemporary films and set our sights backwards again, towards the vast world of cinema that encompasses over a hundred years of art and culture.  So, I’ve decided to go back and set up my own hypothetical awards ceremony, complete with honorary awards and imaginary glamor.  Imagine a red carpet with Miley Cyrus in her fishnet leggings and Audrey Hepburn in her black Givenchy dress; Jared Leto’s long hair followed by Humphrey Bogart in unbelted wool jackets.  The notion is enchanting, sure.  Those basketball or football video games that I like to play often have a “fantasy draft” setting or a pick-up game kind of setting were you can do the most absurd things: you can have LeBron James play against Oscar Robertson, or have the Detroit duo of Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer take on Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman.  Why not do something like that for movies?  I consider this “fantasy academy” a well-earned journey into the indulgent imagination of my own self.  It is time to let all those worlds, the world of John Huston, the world of Federico Fellini, the world of Robert Bresson, the world of Martin Scorsese, and the world of Christopher Nolan, all come together in the ultimate exposition of glamor, art, competition, and class.  And considering the fact that my lists of the greatest directors and movies and acting performances are buried so deep in this blog, I feel like a resurrection of these lists in some new form is not an altogether bad idea, especially considering the fact that I just posted a page which, in essence, restated all the principles and theories that this blog has laid out thus far.  As long as I’m in the “reviewing” mode, I might as well review those earlier lists by having a little fun; having my own awards ceremony in my head.

The nominees are listed in alphabetical order.  There are 10 nominees for each category.  The winners are in bold.  I have hyperlinked all but one of the nominees to clips online (most of which can be found on YouTube) for your viewing pleasure. Continue reading

86th Annual Academy Awards

With my most recent page focused on the topic of “Awards Season”, I have considered it worthwhile to post my own comments in regards to the upcoming Academy Awards.  This is merely the opinion of one man, and they are not to be read as predictions.  I have merely selected those films which I think should win, not those that shall win.  This was a fantastic year for film, and there were, therefore, no shortage of “snubs.”  I should make some preliminary comments: the Academy is primarily American, and these awards are undoubtedly ethnocentric.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  So, while foreign films do indeed have a category of their own, and while these foreign films do indeed get the occasional nomination in other categories—including “Best Picture” every now and again—I am not putting up a fight that we should take the Academy Awards ceremony away from its home.  I am the first to assert that the world as a whole produces better films in cooperation as opposed to the narrow scope of Hollywood, which casual movie-goers too-often consider as the only true factory of film.  However, I will not try, in this blog post in particular, to fight against a solid, respectable tradition.  So, there there are two foreign films that make the “Best Picture” race, at the expense of a couple very popular American films (sorry), but for the most part, the ethnocentrism is maintained.  Critics who decry American films get annoying, after all.  It’s not like we can’t make a good movie ourselves.  We often make the best movie in a given year.  Granted, it takes 100 movies to make one good one.  But that’s beside the point.  Besides, think of all the jobs we’re creating.

KEY:  My pick for winner is in boldface.  The asterisks (*) mark those who shouldn’t have been nominated in my opinion and should rather have been replaced with those that were “snubbed.”  The “snubbed” category refers only to those films that should have been nominated, not those that could have been or those that barely missed the cut (there are three exceptions here…you’ll see them in the “Best Picture”, “Makeup and Hairstyling”, and “Original Song” categories).  I include various notes to explain my more controversial picks.  You will notice that some “snubs” were so egregious that even the person or film who should have won it all was not even nominated (“Makeup and Hairstyling”, “Original Song”, and “Foreign Language Film.”)  I watched all the movies that were, and might have been, nominated, with the exception of a few that I refused to watch based on sexual content or lack of personal appeal.  These movies were Blue is the Warmest Color, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, and The Wolf of Wall Street.  I also could not get to most of the short films, as most of them are accessible only in certain windows of time. Other than that, my opinions should be considered pretty valid. Continue reading