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Man's Castle (1933)
Young and Spencer star in the finest film of the pre-code era
It's a shame this movie is so hard to get your hands on in the US. I found it through a rare video dealer, and it was certainly worth it. This is, without a doubt, the best film made during the pre-code era, and the finest film of the 1930s. Masterful director Frank Borzage made wonderful films about the Depression, and with MAN'S CASTLE he created a fairy tale amidst the hardships of the era.
Loretta Young and Spencer Tracy have a wonderful chemistry between them, and they help make this movie a wonderful romance. Young's Trina is sweet and hopeful, while Tracy's Bill is gruff and closed-off. The dynamic between the character creates one of the most difficult, but in the end rewarding relationships on film.
MAN'S CASTLE is the most soft-focus pre-code film I've seen. Borzage uses the hazy and dreamy technique to turn the squatter's village where Bill and Trina live into a palace. The hardships of the Depression are never ignored, in fact they're integral to the film. But as Borzage crafts the film as a soft focus fairy tale, the love between the characters makes the situation seem less harsh. It makes the film warm and affectionate.
MAN'S CASTLE is the crowning achievement of the pre-code era. If only more people could see it.
The Loved One (1965)
Garbage. How could they turn something so great into something so wretched?
There's really no other word to describe this movie than horrible. Well, maybe irritating. Yeah, irritating is a very good word. Irritating and horrible. Not only was I more disappointed by this than any other movie I have ever seen, it's quite easily one of the worst movies ever made.
Dennis Barlowe (Robert Morse) is an English poet who has arrived in America to stay with his uncle Sir Francis (John Gielgud), who does something at a Hollywood studio, they don't really make it clear what. When he's fired, he kills himself, and Dennis is left to make the funeral arrangements at the ultra creepy funeral home Whispering Glades. There, he meets cosmetician Aimee Thanatogenous (Anjanette Comer) and becomes smitten. Aimee is interest and excited by Dennis, though she finds him to be ethically challenged. However, she's also smitten with the head embalmer, Mr. Joyboy (Rod Steiger), who is smitten right back.
The film is based on the scathing Evelyn Waugh novel of the same name, which is one of my favorite books of all time. But Waugh focused on the relationship, and the effects the commercialism of the funeral business had on it. The film is just a mess. When I saw on IMDb that it was over two hours, I wondered how they could get a movie that long out of a book that's only 163 pages long. They did that by adding a lot of pointless, confusing, peripheral story lines that are both incredibly silly and trivialize the real story. There simply isn't enough focus on the relationship, because of a really bizarre storyline that was added. The owner of Whispering Glades is in the middle for some apparently huge conspiracy to get rid of Whispering Glades and turn it into a retirement home. A lot of business is made of him, The Reverend, flying around ominously in a helicopter watching over all his little establishments. It's laughable, and it makes it so the film has no real focus.
Which brings me to the next problem. The film lacks focus on just about everything. It starts out as a satire on Hollywood, and then ditches that to becomes a satire on the funeral business, completely missing Waugh's point of blending the two and showing how disgustingly alike they are. Then the conspiracy side story starts out as some campy mystery about the man in the helicopter, and that's quickly thrown to the side to turn him into a sinister business man. None of the movie makes much sense.
And the characters are all wrong. A few changes wouldn't have been bad, but the changes that were made make the situations completely unbelievable. Dennis starts out as a bumbling, befuddled brit, but suddenly turns into a callous, almost mean, horndog. Aimee, instead of being very business like, is daffy and seems like a zealous catholic or something. And Mr. Joyboy. Yikes. Mild-mannered, quiet Mr. Joyboy was turned into something flamboyant and strange. And it's these things the hurt the primary love triangle the most. Dennis, while definitely arrogant, really had the best of intentions toward Aimee, but he was English, and she was American, and it was almost impossible for them clear up their social understandings. Instead, Dennis is just an incredibly horny young man, and it seems an awful lot like he wants to marry her just to get in her pants.
The film also makes Whispering Glade far too cultish, almost like a harem or something. I think Waugh's point here was completely misunderstood. He was trying to tie together Hollywood and the funeral business, so Whispering Glades, though efficient and business-like, had a very publicized, Hollywood feel to it. Not a creepy cult feel at all.
And just when you think things can't get worse, there's a weird orgy in the coffin room. The film puts a lot of things in there just to offend you. It's supposed to be a comedy, but I didn't laugh once.
The only reason it gets a 1 and not a 0 is because John Geilgud's brief appearance is fantastic, and though the character was written all wrong, Comer's performance as Aimee is enjoyable enough.
Screen Two: Northanger Abbey (1987)
Completely strips Austen's satire of its spirit
Sometimes, changes to novels when they're made into films are not only necessary, but a good thing. However, in the case of Northanger Abbey, it's a very, very bad thing. Not only is the story itself ripped to shreds, but the satire is almost completely absent from the film, and it's mixture of romance and intrigue doesn't even touch upon the biting commentary that Austen put into her work. It fails to be amusing or satirical at all, and instead turns the character's fascination with her fantasy world into mostly a drama.
This affects the romance as well. It's meandering and aimless. Chemistry and interest are never established. The reasons Tilney is attracted to Catherine are completely absent from the film, leaving the audience to wonder what it is he sees in her at all.
Hopefully some day soon, we'll get a more faithful version if Austen's satire.
SLC Punk! (1998)
Good movie. Clearly misunderstood.
I like this movie very much. I found the characters incredibly interesting, and had an amount of depth I wasn't prepared to see in a film about punk. The acting really is amazing (I placed Lillard on my "Performances You Should Know, But Probably Don't" list.) However, it seems that it was largely misunderstood by several of the reviewers on this site. I've seen several comments from people proclaiming themselves as punks saying that the film accurately depicts their lifestyles.
So, the question becomes, did you not see the ending? Or did you just choose to ignore it.
Because the ending very blatantly says that the punk lifestyle is a pointless and meaningless one, that all people who think they are punks are really just posers, and that, like communism, anarchy is an idea that might work on paper but would never work in reality.
And it's not just the ending. It's actually what the whole movie is about. Lillard's character grows up. Through the whole film he's working toward the ending, when he realizes he's been silly and acting like a child.
So, are you people saying that it's such a great film because it has people that dress like you and live the way you do, and therefor it is a great representation of punk life? Do you not realize the film is essentially attacking the way you live?
Evil Laugh (1986)
People take this film too seriously
Yeah, it's dreadfully bad, but in it's infinite badness is an enjoyable film, which one can watch with friends on a friday night and laugh your ass off. The dialogue is ridiculous, the acting is horrible, the death scenes are hilarious (one guys gets his head cooked in a microwave) and everything else is just lazy. I can't think of a funnier movie.
Waking Life (2001)
A pretentious mess
I'm all for movies that make you think. I love it when movies question reality (i.e. Mulholland Drive), but generally they have a story. This movie was uninvolving and boring, presenting ideas with zero story, and no character background or development to back the story at all. They way Linklater presents his ideas without the above mentioned film elements proves his utter pretention. (This was also a problem with Before Sunrise) Linklater should stick to movies like Dazed and Confused, where his penchant for dialogue can prove itself. Liklater has some interesting ideas, but Linklater's presentation of them is a mess.