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Entries in politics (104)

Monday
Sep082014

Robert Wise Centenary: I Want to Live! (1958)

We're celebrating the centennial of director Robert Wise this week. Previously: Tim on "Curse of the Cat People" (1944) and Nathaniel on "Somebody Up There...". Now, David on Susan Hayward's Oscar vehicle, with an exclamation point!
 


Though the internet seems to increasingly denigrate the importance of punctuation, once upon a time it was vital to our sense of understanding language. Would I Want To Live! have any of the same feverish impact without that exclamation mark at the end of its title? Perhaps. But it signifies the bold stance of this cry for social justice in a millisecond. I mean, just look at this poster! Only Britain's notorious newspaper The Daily Mail has taglines that long these days.

That boldness is a quality more of the film's frenzied marketing than of the film itself; director Robert Wise, whose centennial we're marking this week, excised the closing rhetoric that producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz was insisting upon, sure that if an audience wasn't convinced of the film's social statement by then, a few platitudes wouldn't make a difference. As our series of pieces has and will demonstrate, Wise was an extremely adaptable filmmaker who transcended genre, but he often pursued work that aligned with his anti-establishment politics.

Never more so than here [More...]

 

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Wednesday
Jul302014

Why I'm Not Seeing "Lucy"

"Lucy" will be discussed soon on the podcast but at least one member of Scarjo-loving TFE refuses to see it. Here's Matthew Eng to tell you why. - Editor


I don't care if Lucy is every bit the gloriously silly and shamelessly outré action fireworks show that gung-ho summer audiences have made into a "surprise hit." I care even less that Luc Besson has managed to curb his own gonzo cheese-fest tendencies to a running time of less than 90 minutes, compared to the ceaselessly spinning tops and chiseled self-mythologizing of every Christopher Nolan movie post-Insomnia. And, though it's been tempting, I finally don't care that Besson and Co. have seemingly put the newly-rejuvenated Scarlett Johansson (so good in Under the Skin; so great in Don Jon) on a pedestal of full-out Film Goddess proportions, in a genre where movies in which women are front and center and not merely killjoy bystanders or fatal love objects is an all too well-known rarity.

That last fact has been my greatest lure towards shilling out for Lucy (aka Scarlett), but I refuse to believe that we should have to tolerate, much less applaud, any old action movie, no matter how dire the prospects, because some Hollywood bigwig has had the amazing insight to put a more-than-deserving actress at the forefront. I, too, was giddy about Angelina Jolie snatching Salt right out of Tom Cruise's hands, until I actually sat down and watched the thing, only to realize what a sorry, secondhand vehicle Jolie was actually driving. If you really want to watch a fully-realized femme figure take names and kick ass with the full support (and smarts) of the filmmakers behind her, then by all means rent/stream/buy the Alien series or the Kill Bills or the Terminators, or, for something less familiar, take a gander at Kathryn Bigelow's exquisite Strange Days, in which a bravura Angela Bassett is every bit the strong and stalwart action heroine she needs to be, while also, you know, playing a recognizable human being.

But what finally set aside any and all chances of me seeing Lucy was this image, ℅ of Rena Meownegishi, who found it and translated. [more ...]

 

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Monday
Jul282014

Podcast: Charming Musicians, Frosty Survivors, Talking Apes

It's one-on-one podcast time this week. Nathaniel and Nick discuss two movies they're sympatico on (Begin Again and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and one which halfway divides them (Snowpiercer). 

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download the conversation on iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments.

Index
00:01 Intro & Scene Stealing
01:30 Begin Again: rough starts, Mark Ruffalo's abrasiveness, Keira Knightley overall excellence, how it compares to Once.
14:00 Why we're not talking Boyhood. Plus the difficulty of grading ambitious movies.
20:00 Snowpiercer: allegory, structure, and the fight over the final cut, Tilda Swinton of course. Plus Bong Joon-ho and Korean cinema.
35:00 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: highlight scenes, amazing imagery, franchise politics, Jason Clarke, and Caesar vs. Koba.
45:00 "Lost Stars" 


What is this picture doing here?
You'll have to listen to find out.

 

Begin Again Snowpiercer Dawn of...

Sunday
Jul132014

Tweet of the Capsule of the Dawn of The Planet of the Apes

Of the. of the. of the. Help, stuck in a prepositional loop! I regret to inform that there is no full review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) -- you may have noticed unusually sparse off my game posting -- but I press on with this exhaustively multi-tasking post. It's a list. It's a tweet roundup. It's a review.

I can't go on. I'll go on."
-Samuel Beckett 

Were I to write a traditional review of the surprisingly strong sequel to the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) it would essentially be some sort of fussy expansion and tangent filled detours of these 10 points:

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Saturday
Jun282014

Obvious Child, Juno, and Choices

Here's Adam on a film that's been on everyone's lips lately and an earlier hit you all know (and love?) - Editor

Juno & Donna. A girl in trouble is a temporary thing.

Leaving the subway platform on my way back to my apartment in Brooklyn from seeing Obvious Child, the reductively coined “abortion rom-com”, a young woman stepped out of a bodega mere feet away from me and accidentally dropped a mason jar of grape jelly. As she pouted in disappointment while the chunky purple contents dribbled through the sidewalk grate into the netherworld of New York City’s sewer system, I flashed back to the scene in Juno when Ellen Page slurps down an entire gallon of Sunny D and to the vacuum sound during Donna's abortion. Aside from the indisputable narrative similarities between the two films which each revolve around awoman's unexpected pregnancy, both delve into the crucial period of self-identification and questioning of a person’s, and that of their unborn child’s, significance in the world.

That’s what plagues people of all ages, right? Leaving your mark. Having a legacy. Will a family unit be the missing variable to your fulfillment equation?

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Friday
Jun202014

My Beautiful Laundrette 

[With Gay Pride festivities happening in various cities in June, we'll take a look back at a few gay classics. Here's Matthew Eng (who you'll remember from a couple of American Hustle pieces) on an Oscar nominated 80s classic - Editor]

Initially envisioned as a low-budget, Channel 4 telefilm, My Beautiful Laundrette cheekily challenged the Western moviegoing market upon its U.K. and U.S. releases in, respectively, 1985 and ’86. It became an out-of-nowhere arthouse hit, all while ironically embracing and blending a distinctive, regional-specific grouping of Thatcher-era South Londoners who fall under social categorizations normally left discrete or disregarded in modern-day moviemaking, both then and now. In the film, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young, business-minded Pakistani-Brit, sets out to renovate his uncle’s dreary laundrette into a clothes-cleaning arcade, a luxury laundrette “as big as the Ritz.” To do this, Omar recruits Johnny, his white former classmate and one-time lover, resulting in all the charged, complicated power shifts that would inevitably stem from a South Asian British man employing his former skinhead ex-boyfriend in Thatcherite England.

Arguably the film’s greatest claim to fame is that the smirking, blonde-streaked, and neck-licking Johnny is played by an effortlessly charismatic and impossibly hot Daniel Day-Lewis, the only actor in the cast since allowed to top his work here (not to mention the only one still working, period) and whose strong turn in Laundrette—coupled with his amusingly meek snob in the same year’s Merchant-Ivory export A Room with a View—prompted a prize-winning stateside breakout...

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Wednesday
Jun182014

A Year with Kate: State of the Union (1948)

Episode 25 of 52: In which Kate confronts Angela Lansbury onscreen and the Blacklist offscreen and manages to beat both.

 Early on, I stated that sometimes Kate’s career seems charmed. I’d venture 1948 is one of those charmed years. As we saw last week, Song of Love failed--Kate’s first failure at MGM.  Yet some strange circumstances and good luck landed Kate in State of the Union, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. I say “good luck” because in the fall of 1947, the storm that would become the Hollywood Blacklist was brewing, and Kate nearly got caught in the center of it.

Though not as cloyingly obvious as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - no light from the Lincoln Memorial in this film - State of the Union nevertheless delivers the classic Capra Corn package: nostalgia, patriotism, and a happy ending snatched from the jaws of tragedy at the last second.  Spencer Tracy plays Grant Matthews, a self-made businessman who abandons his political and marital morals in order to run for president. Matthews is Mr. Smith if he’d met a lobbyist on his way to Washington: an idealist and a patriot, but also an egotist with political aspirations. In a word: corruptible.

Despite this refreshingly layered central character (played with well balanced self-awareness by Spencer Tracy), Capra fills the rest of the cast with his favorite stereotypes: the amoral politician (Adolphe Menjou), the conniving vamp (Angela Lansbury), the wise-cracking journalist (Van Johnson in top form), and most importantly the long-suffering matron, in this case Matthews’s wife, Mary (our own Kate).  When Mary arrives (30 minutes in) she acts as Grant’s conscience, arguing loudly for him to practice honesty over chicanery. Kate shines in the comedy but can’t deliver the patronizing Capra monologues well--they come off as shrill and rushed. Unfortunately, she’s one shrill voice among many: the agriculture lobbyist, the labor lobbyist, the judge, the newspaper syndicate owner, etc. The theme of Capra’s State of the Union seems to be, “Every time a cash register rings, a lobbyist gets his wings.” That is, until a True American Patriot can stand up to the corruption.

Protesting HUAC

The idea of a righteous man standing up to a corrupt oppressor is part of the American identity, but it was also what so many of the actors, directors, and writers who were blacklisted in the 1940s and 1950s had attempted to do. When the Hollywood Ten stood in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Fall of 1947 and refused to testify about their political beliefs, they were not only criminally charged, but also shunned by the terrified studios. Among those Kate worked with who would face HUAC and the blacklist were Ring Lardner Jr. (Oscar-winning writer of Woman of the Year), Donald Ogden Stiers (The Philadelphia Story and Without Love), and Dalton Trumbo.

Kate herself would face her biggest backlash that fall. In the November 1947, just days before the Hollywood Ten and the Waldorf Statement, Kate’s name was popping up with alarming regularity as a possible Commie next to names like Charlie Chaplin and Paul Robeson. Always one to stand by her convictions, Kate had made an unpopular political speech in May (wearing a red dress), and now insisted on joining the Committee for the First Amendment to protest HUAC. By the time Song of Love opened, Hedda Hopper was gleefully reporting that Kate’s image on movie screens was being stoned by patriotic patrons. Fortunately, Kate was already shooting State of the Union, a movie where she declares twice that she is a Republican, and stands--however woodenly--as the nationalistic moral conscience of a film made by a decorated hero. 

This is what I mean by luck. HUAC didn’t go after A-List stars (too risky), but if Kate had starred in a few more flops, or if Claudette Colbert hadn’t gotten sick and had to drop out of State of the Union, or if Kate socked Adolphe Menjou on set for being a Friendly Witness to HUAC instead of being WASP-y and polite, Hepburn may not have stepped into Capra’s flagwaving film in October 1947. As it was, State of the Union was a success when it opened in 1948. Kate was (at least affiliated with) a patriot, so she stayed an A-List celebrity, and the Communist rumors slowly faded. It was like getting a seal of approval from a bald eagle. It’s a pity though. I’d have loved to see Kate smack Adolphe Menjou.

 

Previous Weeks: A Bill of DivorcementChristopher StrongMorning GloryLittle WomenSpitfireThe Little Minister, Break of HeartsAlice Adams, Sylvia ScarlettMary of ScotlandA Woman RebelsQuality StreetStage DoorBringing Up BabyHoliday,The Philadelphia StoryWoman of the YearKeeper Of The FlameStage Door Canteen,Dragon SeedWithout LoveUndercurrentThe Sea Of GrassSong of Love 

 

Next Week: Adam's Rib (1949) - In which Tracy and Hepburn's best comedy shows that love, life, and law are a circus.

 

 

Thursday
May222014

How Does 'Fahrenheit' Hold Up?

Taking a trip down memory lane Michael C revisits an atypical Cannes winner...

I knew all this politics crap would be brought up," he said. "We all agreed that Fahrenheit 9/11 was the best movie of the competition."

That was Cannes Jury president Quentin Tarantino talking to the BBC back in 2004 -- 10 years ago this very day -- defending his decision to make Michael Moore’s political hand grenade of a movie Fahrenheit 9/11 the first documentary to win the Palme d’Or since The Silent World in 1956. Fahrenheit went on to become and remains, the highest grossing documentary of all time by a significant margin.

Tarantino continued:

"I just whispered in his ear and said, 'I just want you to know it was not because of the politics that you won this award, you won it because we thought it was the best film that we saw.'"

I would sooner stick my head in a bag of scorpions than reopen the toxic debate over the accuracy of Moore’s film. But now, on the 10th anniversary of Fahrenheit’s big Cannes win, I would like to take issue with the above statements. With the safe distance of time, with all the political consequences long since passed, is it safe to admit the plain truth: Tarantino's statements are transparently false...

Click to read more ...