As some of you already know, today is the National Classic Movie Day and I am participating in the 6 Films 6 Decades Blogathon hosted over at Classic Film & TV Cafe. The aim is to list 6 favourite films from 6 different decades, and my choices are:
- The 1920s – Metropolis 
Truthfully, I can’t be too original in this category because I have not seen many films from the 1920s decade, but, from all those that I have seen, Metropolis is a definite stand-out. This German expressionist film by Fritz Lang is a sci-fi masterpiece made before any visual effects were even there to help underpin the futuristic concept introduced. Wonderfully acted and brilliantly directed, it tells of a wealthy magnate, Joh Fredersen (the master), who has a rift with his son Freder, who, in turn, feels uneasy about the oppression of people in his city. Meanwhile, a “mad” scientist proposes the unthinkable to the master just as Freder falls in love with a girl from the working class segment of the population. A very creative design of the film, its ambition and dramatic passages are just some of the highlights as the film also introduces a take on the Romeo & Juliet story, and works magically on both the hearts and minds of the audience. “The mediator of the head and the hands must be the heart!“
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Nowhere in Africa (2001)
When I heard about The Home Sweet Home Blogathon, I knew I had to participate. Homes and families have always been such an important theme in films, and it is one of my favourite topics. I previously talked about the meaning of homes in my post “Housing Films: 99 Homes (2014) and House of Sand and Fog (2003)”, and this is another opportunity to focus on families in films, the loyalty that binds them together despite hardships they endure. Directed by Caroline Link, Nowhere in Africa is a German-language film and a winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is perfect for this blogathon because it focuses on a family reunion and separation, on familial misunderstandings and hope, as well as on finding home in a new place. It is based on a memoir by Stefanie Zweig that tells of a life of one Jewish family that had to emigrate to Kenya in 1938 because of Nazi persecutions in their native Germany. The family, mother Jettel (Juliane Kohler), father Walter (Merab Ninidze) and their small daughter Regina (Lea Kurka), settle on a farm and soon make friends with their cook Owuor (Sidede Onyulo). They initially have very few ideas of what really lies in store for them on the new soil. This film, which has beautiful production design and a feel of a real life lived daily, is something much more than one’s usual story of a new settler or a story of the WWII told from a perspective of someone living in Africa. The adaptation is a touching tale of a family enduring frightful separations and hopeful reunions through the years, staying true to their family bond despite immense hardships. It is a film about the meaning of home and identity, an important story to tell about the need to welcome and to cherish people’s differences.
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Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Jay from Cinema Essentials are hosting The World War II Blogathon, and I am happy to participate (check out film reviews from Day 1 here). Some of the world’s best films were about the World War II and events related to it, including Schindler’s List (1993), Life is Beautiful (1997) and The Pianist (2002). This time, I am talking about Clint Eastwood’s Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima, a film which Eastwood produced after his patriotic Flags of Our Fathers (2006). Both of these films depict the Battle of Iwo Jima, in which the US army landed on the island of Iwo Jima and battled with the Japanese in 1945.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Letters from Iwo Jima does not merely portray another battle in the World War II. When US army (navy and marine corps) landed on the island of Iwo Jima (an island of immense strategic importance) on 19 February 1945 (after air bombardment prior to that), they thought the battle would last five days, but it lasted for over a month. It has been called the bloodiest fighting in the Pacific, and the Japanese, under the command of fearless General Kuribayashi (played by Ken Watanabe) demonstrated unexpected smartness (tunnels, strategy, etc.) and courage. All the odds were against the Japanese in this battle, but, looking at the fierceness of the battle, as well as the number of American casualties, one may even assume the opposite. Masterfully directed and brilliantly acted, Letters from Iwo Jima showcases compellingly the horrors of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective, the desperate situation in which Japanese soldiers found themselves in, and the instances of both good and evil found on both sides of the battle. Also, coming from an American director in particular, Letters from Iwo Jima could also be said to be a very special film: a respectful one that honours another culture, tradition and point of view to the point of being completely “selfless” and “compassionate” in its purpose. In many ways, this is an anti-war film that underlines our common humanity no matter on which side of a war we find ourselves at any given time. We are all humans with an innate need for happiness, peace and understanding. Given the above, Letters from Iwo Jima is not merely a film that makes a powerful statement – the film is a powerful statement in itself. Continue reading “The World War II Blogathon: Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)”
Debbie at Moon in Gemini is hosting The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon, which is a fabulous idea since it is an opportunity for everyone to discover or re-discover classic and “must-see” films, or even find hidden gems. I have chosen to write on Robert Bresson’s “Pickpocket” because it is considered one of the greatest of films (at least in some circles). It is a definite achievement of Robert Bresson, an acclaimed film director, and the film is ranked as one of the greatest films by the Sight & Sound magazine (the 2012 poll). Moreover, Roger Ebert, the late popular film critic, once included it in his “Great Movies” list. And, “Pickpocket” is great, just not in a conventional way. This is because Bresson is a French director who practices some form of austerity in his films, and his films do have a minimalistic quality, even though all the philosophical observations in his movies more than make up for the understated presentation or plot.
This film is Bresson’s debut as a scriptwriter for his movie, but it is also fair to say that he was in some way adapting Dostoevsky’s novel “Crime and Punishment” (1866) to make this film because “Pickpocket” more or less follows the stages of Dostoevsky’s novel and has similar characters. Like in the classic novel, Bresson is preoccupied with fear, guilt and redemption in his story as we follow Michel (Martin LaSalle), a recently released thief, who struggles to get back to his “job”. Michel is reclusive and apathetic, but he does make friends with Jeanne (Marika Green), a young woman and his mother’s neighbour, and has a friend called Jacques. Bresson conveys to the screen the intrigue of the trade which is called pick-pocketing, as well as its dangerous, claustrophobic and lonely nature. What works best in the film is the portrayal of Michel as a societal outsider who tries inwardly to come to light and good. The main character becomes quite sympathetic, maybe even more sympathetic than in “Crime Punishment”, because the crimes of Michel are less horrendous than the murders of Raskolnikov. Continue reading “The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen Blogathon: Pickpocket (1959)”
Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Emily at The Flapper Dame are hosting The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon to honour Grace Kelly, the icon of beauty and elegance. She was a terrific actress, who worked most notably with Alfred Hitchcock (see “Rear Window” (1954) and “To Catch a Thief” (1955)). In “Dial M for Murder“, Kelly is Margot Wendice, the wealthy wife of an ex professional tennis player Tony Wendice, played by Ray Milland. She is to become the centre of the plot whereby the husband hires a hitman to kill the wife. Kelly’s character (that wonderful lady in red, and then in blue) comes off as a beautiful, brave and stoic woman who wants personal happiness, and would have stolen the show completely if not for the intricate, clever and psychologically-interesting plot and the cunning personality of Tony Wendice, played brilliantly by Milland.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
You know you are in for a treat when a film you are about to see is made by Alfred Hitchcock, and “Dial M for Murder” does not deviate from this rule. In the midst of it is a cleverly-constructed plot whose entangling may cause some to pause and ponder. Hitchcock is basing his movie on a screenplay by Frederick Knott and is concerned with the proving of guilt, rather than with the usual whodunit mystery. “Dial M for Murder” starts with the blackmail and the deceit by the wife of her husband, but it ends in an unexpected area. The interesting thing about this movie is that we know from the beginning who is the (attempted) murderer, and we follow every step to the conclusion, but we are still in for some surprises. Initially that is because the murder of Margot, as planned by her husband Tony, does not exactly go according to plan. Continue reading “The 4th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon: Dial M for Murder (1954)”
There is nothing like snowy and wintery films to cool us all down in the middle of this summer, and Debbie at Moon in Gemini hosts The Winter in July Blogathon for that very purpose. For this fun blogathon, I chose to write on animated films “Frozen” (2013) and “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). While “Frozen” is, essentially, the winter animation, there is also some winter scenery at the very end of “The Sword in the Stone“. These are both Disney-productions, with some fifty years separating the two, but one is computer-generated, while the other one is hand-drawn. My arguments will be that there are good enough animations, but they both fell short of their desired mark. While “Frozen” has great visuals, some music and concepts, the animation’s plot and characters can be criticised. Equally, while “The Sword in the Stone” relies on a fascinating legend and is entertaining, its visuals sometimes leave much to be desired and its episodic plot is uninspiring. My first post will be about “Frozen“, and because I critique it in depth, I am also warning about spoilers!
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The Birds (1963)
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films hosts a second blogathon in honour of Alfred Hitchcock and his films, and I am writing, as they say, on his most terrifying film – “The Birds” (1963). The film takes inspiration from a story by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca” (1940)) of the same name, and it is about a strange behaviour of birds in Bodega Bay, California. The centre of the story is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite who romantically pursues a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), whom she has just met. While we watch all the romantic tensions and a love triangle developing, the birds in the area start to attack people, and what initially looks like a light and intriguing romance story takes a sinister turn and we are confronted with unimaginable horrors. Complex and technical to film, “The Birds” represents one of Hitchcock’s most admirable accomplishments. Here, an intriguing romance story with thought-provoking elements meets an original take on horror and the result is a classic, “must-see” film.
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Movie Movie Blog Blog hosts a blogathon that celebrates movies originating in 1961, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte” is one of those movies I decided to write about. Like Antonioni “L’Eclisse“, which followed a year after, “La Notte” concerns itself with the existential theme of personal alienation in the world which becomes busier and more progressing. In such a place, finding right answers to contradictory feelings are often hard, and the apparent artificiality of modern living and its construction is even more obvious as one experiences too human feelings of futility and claustrophobia. “La Notte” may not be the most packed-with-action or fast-paced film there is, but it still represents a one of a kind achievement by its director to lay out some very complex philosophical ideas so clearly on screen.
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The Handmaid’s Tale (2017)
“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” (Atwood, 1985:34)
“Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing what people can get used to as long as there are a few compensations.” (Atwood, 1985:283)
The 2017 dystopian web TV series is based on an award -winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is about a young woman, Offred, who recounts her time living under the totalitarian regime of Gilead, where women have few rights and their main function is to reproduce in a controlled environment. Pronounced “a TV sensation” overnight, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had 10 episodes (although there is still Season II to come!), and starred such recognisable names as Elisabeth Moss (“The Square” (2017)) and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)). I will review the series paying special attention to its faithfulness to the original novel and to the philosophical ideas behind the story.
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Silver Screenings and Wide Screen World are co-hosting the Time Travel Blogathon, and my contribution is the review of “Edge of Tomorrow“, a fantastic science-fiction film directed by Doug Liman and starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. Relying on the now fabled “Groundhog Day” concept, “Edge of Tomorrow” is about a Major (Cruise) who is doomed to relive one particular day of the invasion battle with aliens until he is forced to find a solution to the infinite time loop and save the humankind from the destructive alien force.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
“The empires of the future will be empires of the mind” (Winston Churchill).
“What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is foreknowledge” (Sun Tzu, The Art of War).
“Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a 2004 Japanese novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. In near future, as Earth is being invaded by aliens, William Cage (Cruise), a Major with no combat experience, is ordered to go to fight the enemy as part of a landing operation in France. Cage is killed during the battle, but, surprisingly, finds himself again alive and well back on the day before the battle. The time loop then repeats itself, and every time Cage is killed, he again starts the day of the battle anew. Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Cage makes an acquaintance with a Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski or the Angel of Verdun (Blunt). Together they try to piece together the time conundrum and devise a method to defeat the enemy. As a time-travel movie, “Edge of Tomorrow” is simply great and it is fascinating to watch Cage waking up each day with the hope to make that particular day the one where he will be able to vanquish the aliens.
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It’s Only the End of the World (2016)
This is my second post for the amazing O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy (check out some of the amazing entries here).
“There I was…after twelve years of absence, and in spite of my fear, I was going to visit them. In life, there are a number of motivations…that force you to leave, without looking back. And there are just as many motivations that force you to return. So after all those years, I decided to retrace my steps. Take the journey…to announce my death.” Such are the thoughts of a young man named Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) as he takes a plane journey to visit his estranged family after twelve years of absence. Louis suffers from a terminal illness, which means that death is at his doorstep. Few directors working today can convey the depth of emotion through a cinematic lense as masterfully as Xavier Dolan can, and “It’s Only the End of the World” is yet another film which is a proof of that statement. In this movie, Dolan demonstrates that he can exercise visual restraint, but “It’s Only the End of the World” still ends up being as potent, emotionally-moving and convincing as his previous work.
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Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy are hosting the O Canada! Blogathon to celebrate all things Canada in film and TV, and I thought I would contribute because Canadian cinematography is close to my heart. It has always tried to be different and often experimented. Xavier Dolan, my choice for this blogathon, is no different. He is a Montreal, Quebec-born film director who produced his first major film “I Killed My Mother” (2009), that received numerous awards, at the age of 20, and who then went to direct five other award-winning films with his seventh film “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” (2018) currently being in production. I will focus on two of his films: “Laurence Anyways” (2012) and “It’s Only the End of the World” (2016).
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Xavier Dolan writes unusual films with equally unusual presentations, but his stories are always full of much humanity and bare human emotion, and, thus, they are always very relatable. “Laurence Anyways” is one of those movies. It is a beautiful and daring French-language film about the enduring power of love that trespasses the boundaries of societal conventions.
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Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the Horrorathon, celebrating horror movies in the light of the forthcoming Halloween, and I have decided to contribute with a short review of one intelligent and highly influential film which some view to be one of the parents of the modern psychological horror/thriller genre:
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French-language film “Les Diaboliques” is the film which Alfred Hitchcock was dying to make, but never did (he ardently wanted to buy the rights to the book). The film is not a strictly horror movie, but, rather, a psychological thriller with suspense and horror elements combined. Here, two women, Christina and Nicole, the wife and the mistress of the oppressing director of a boarding school respectively, decide to kill their man and dispose of the body. Everything goes according to plan, but does it really? After the murder, the two women realise that the corpse of their victim is nowhere to be found and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing day.
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Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, honouring the fantastic classic duo from the Hollywood’s brightest times, and my contribution is a short review of one of Hepburn’s most distinguished films:
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
George Cukor’s “The Philadelphia Story” is based on a Broadway play of the same name also starring Katharine Hepburn. In this film, Hepburn plays a rich socialite Tracy Lord, who is about to be married to George Kittredge (John Howard), after her previous marriage to a yacht designer C.K. Dexter Haven, played by Cary Grant, fell apart. Meanwhile, two reporters Mike Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) are secretly “planted” in the house of Tracy to spy on her and to try to cover the big wedding. Surely, they are helped in their endeavour by Tracy’s ex-husband Dexter, who still secretly hopes that Tracy will realise that their love was genuine and true. The gist of the comedy here is that Tracy knows about the true purpose of Connor and Imbrie, and her family puts on the show to impress and mislead the reporters. As Tracy flirts with Connor, the realisation of her mistake in the decision to marry Kittredge becomes more apparent. The great thing about this film, apart from its cast and performances, is the way it cleverly combines a witty story, involving a theatre of “appearances deceiving”, and the reflecting character study.
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Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame are hosting the Duo Double Feature blogathon, and this is my contribution to this amazing and fun cinematic race. The blogathon showcases pairs of stars who made only two films together, and my choice is Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, who were in both “Pretty Woman” (1990) and “Runaway Bride” (1999). The onscreen couple consisting of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere may not be the most “homogeneous” of couples ever (for example, because the individual differences still show), but, in this case, it is the case of opposites attracting. The result is the onscreen chemistry which is palpable and undeniable, and which seems very “genuine” and moving, with its quirky and fun moments. This means that while Roberts and Gere’s iconic pairing in “Pretty Woman” might have been quite unforgettable, their chemistry in “Runaway Bride“, nine years after their first film, was still as solid.
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“Cleese’s work [here] is even better than anything he did for the Monty Python troupe. Yes, it’s that good.” (John J. Puccio, Movie Metropolis)
Debbie at Moon in Gemini is hosting The Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon, and my entry is a British TV series from the 1970s called “Fawlty Towers“. Written by John Cleese (“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979)), and Connie Booth, the series has twelve episodes only, with six aired in 1975 and another six in 1979. The series spent some time winning over its critics, despite the love from the audience, but, it is safe to say now that “Fawlty Towers” is a pure classic of the British comedy genre, and is still enjoyed by generations old and young. The series is extremely funny, witty, ingeniously written and staged, and hugely entertaining overall. It will provide anyone not overly familiar with the British humour and mode of life with a real glimpse into the culture. However, that glimpse should never be taken totally serious, because comedy is comedy, and the series will play on some familiar stereotypes and misconceptions, as well as contain some dark humour, including some “shocking” punchlines.
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Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, and this is my entry dissecting one of Hitchcock’s most claustrophobic and intriguing films: “Rope” (1948). Even thought this film may not be as ambitious as Hitchcock’s later “Psycho” (1960), it is still suspenseful, tense, cerebral and belongs to one of my favourite cinematic “genres”: “one location” setting films. This “genre” was later used by Lumet (“Twelve Angry Men” (1957)), Polanski (“Repulsion” (1965)) and Mangold (“Identity” (2003)), among others, to a great result. And, this is because in such films what the audience is usually left with is the fascinating psychological “game” among characters of scheming, guessing, suspecting or simply going crazy, without any outside “distractions” being present. Hitchcock’s “Rope” is no different.
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Movies Silently is hosting the Swashathon or the Swashbuckler Blogathon, and I could not pass this opportunity by to review Randall Wallace’s “The Man In the Iron Mask” (1998). As many of you would know, today is also Bastille Day or la Fête nationale in France, which provides for another excuse to delve into a film portraying France. Here, despite many critics’ allegations that “The Man In the Iron Mask” is laughable, flimsy and disrespects the novel by Alexandre Dumas it is based on, the film is actually an enjoyable ride from start to finish. If the audience does not take this film too seriously, and allow themselves to be carried away by the plot, action and the humour, they are in for a treat. The visuals are delightful, the music composed by Nick Glennie-Smith is great, and the film has a cast many directors would “die for”: Leonardo DiCaprio (“Revolutionary Road” (2008)), John Malkovich (“The Portrait of a Lady” (1996)), Jeremy Irons (“The Correspondence” (2016)), Gabriel Byrne (“I, Anna” (2012)) and Gerard Depardieu.
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Charlene at Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews is hosting this absolutely amazing blogathon – The Medicine in the Movies Blogathon, and this review of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945) is part of the race. There are many good movies out there which explore interesting, intricate aspects of medicine: from Wellman’s overblown, but entertaining “Night Nurse” (1931) to Soderbergh’s documentary-like, but fascinating “Contagion” (2011). Psychiatry in films has not been left too behind either. Many films here focused on a mental institution itself, such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), while others touched on various psychiatric issues through their “serial killer” plots, such as Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) and Mangold’s “Identity“ (2003). But, while these films often explored medical concepts and disorders indirectly, some movies really got to grips with the intricate details of psychiatry by focusing on the issues head on. “Spellbound” is one of them.
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The 16th of May is National Classic Movie Day, and what better way to celebrate this than to write a post on one’s favourite five classic movie stars. The rules of this blogathon hosted by the Classic Film and TV Cafe is that people list their five favourite classic movie stars and then say why they love them. So, without further ado and in no particular order:
I. Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967)
“My birth sign is Scorpio and they eat themselves up and burn themselves out. I swing between happiness and misery. I am part prude and part nonconformist. I say what I think and I don’t pretend, and I am prepared to accept the consequences of my actions.” (Vivien Leigh)
I will talk about three November-born ladies, and my first one is Vivien Leigh, who had a rich life story. She was born in British India, but when her parents left for England, found herself at a British boarding school. From there, she was determined to succeed as an actress, and even set aside her married life with a lawyer to pursue theatre work. She later married no other than Laurence Olivier, with the two sharing a passionate love and mutual professional admiration. Her breakthrough came when she was cast as Scarlett O’Hara in the famous adaptation of Margaret Mitchell novel of the same name “Gone with the Wind” (1939) alongside Clark Gable, for which she won her first Oscar. There, she proved to be a great actress indeed: controlled, magnetic, capable of showing every possible façade of a personality, from cunning aloofness to extreme passion. Vivien Leigh really was Scarlett O’Hara, strong-willed, determined, intelligent, passionate, magnetic and beautiful. She was a femme fatale, both on screen and in life, but without any negative connotations, admired for her irresistible charm and acting skill. She was later also cast in such films as “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) alongside Marlon Brando, for which she won her second Oscar, “That Hamilton Woman” (1941), “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945) and “Anna Karenina” (1948).
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