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Black Swan (2010)
Aronofsky Shows Psychoticness in his Finest Film
The dark psychological thriller Black Swan is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder. The film takes place in modern day New York City.
Nina Sayers (Portman) is a ballerina who performs in a New York City ballet company and her life centers around dance. Her mother, Erica (Hershey), was a ballerina and the two live together in an apartment and she has much control over Nina's life making sure that dance is her number one priority. When the production of Swan Lake begins at the opening of the season the director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) chooses Nina to be the lead of the Swan Queen instead of the veteran ballerina Beth (Ryder). Also Nina believes that a new dancer at the company Lily (Kunis) is trying to steal the lead role away from her so she has to stop her. But I didn't even talk about all the crazy hallucinations and rashes and stuff...
The screenplay was written by Mark Heyman, and Andres Heinz, and John J. McLaughlin and it was absolutely brilliant. All the five leads were as developed as they needed to be so the viewer could live in Nina's insane world. The hallucinations were great and the parts that weren't hallucinations were great. From the very start of the film it was enthralling and and it absorbed you into its complex plot. The only problem I had with the screenplay was the ending, it was just not as great as the rest of the film. If it was more crazily dramatic and there are some things specifically I could say about the ending but I will not because it is a spoiler.
Darren Aronofsky's direction was brilliant, and I have to say this is my favorite film of his so far. I am a big fan of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler but the two did not contain the beauty that this film contained. Speaking of The Wrestler I felt a lot of that film in this one, both are sports films but really not about sports, and both have the same sort of tracking shot which I really loved where the camera follows around either Rourke or Portman as they're just walking someplace. There is not one shot in this film that didn't feel appropriate, and the ballet scenes were absolutely beautiful. I loved a specific scene with Portman and Ryder in the hospital but I can't go into any details because it is a spoiler, but just know it was fantastic. People who think Inception is a mind bender haven't seen Black Swan.
Natalie Portman gives an Oscar worthy performance in this film and if she doesn't win the trophy on February 27 I'm going to be very angry. Because Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right can't even compete with her and if they just give it to Bening because she is older and never won before that is just a cheap shot. Portman is brilliant as a very shy, fragile, childish woman who just wants to live her dream as being the Swan Queen. In the final scene she confirmed to me that she gave the best performance of the year and also whenever she is interacting with another of the female leads in the film she is magnificent. She is fine with Cassel also, but there is no crazy parts with Cassel.
Mila Kunis is known for her comedic roles in the TV shows "Family Guy" and "That 70's Show" or in the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and in this film she turned her back on comedy and decided to go to crazy psychological thriller. She was absolutely electric in this film and was perfect for the role. When she and Portman were on the screen together so many emotions were portrayed and it was just magnificent. I really hope that Kunis will stay in serious films like this one because she can truly be a star.
Vincent Cassel is the director of Swan Lake and he is the only character that doesn't get involved in Nina's craziness really. He plays the part of a stage director brilliantly and it is exactly how I imagine that stressful world to be. He is attracted to Nina's character and tries to seduce her. Cassel is a very interesting actor and the only other movie I've seen him in was Ocean's 13 and I can't really judge his abilities by that. But in this film he shows much promise and I hope that he too stays around in American films because I know earlier this year he was in a couple of foreign ones.
The classical score for this film by Clint Mansell was perfect. It added another layer of drama, and psychological horror to the film and I was in love with it the whole time. It worked great with the stage work and even better when Nina was going crazy.
Overall I give this film a 9/10, it was fantastic and my only problem with it was the ending. If you are preparing for Oscar season this is a must see and it is the second best film of the year, the first being The Social Network. The whole entire cast delivers wonderful performances in this thrilling film. I recommend this to anyone who likes dark psychological thrillers or really the films of David Lynch. Aronofsky has his best film with this one and he will finally get an Oscar nomination. This film is absolutely crazy and I love it.
The Game (1997)
The Game is Fun but it Isn't Fincher's Best
The psychological thriller The Game is directed by David Fincher and stars Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, and Deborah Kara Unger. The film takes place in modern day San Francisco.
Nicholas Van Orten (Douglas) is a very successful business man who lives alone and is very depressed. He used to be married and does not have a very close relationship with his brother, Conrad (Penn). On Nicholas's birthday he remembers how his father killed himself when he turned forty eight. But on Nicholas's birthday his brother gives him a gift that is from a company known as Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). What this company provides is a game that will control your life and promises a thrilling experience that you've never felt before. But it gets a little bit too thrilling...
John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris wrote the screenplay for this psychological thriller, and it was a little bit too outrageous. It still is a very fun and entertaining ride but it requires you to not think too deeply about what the company needs to be doing for all of this to be happening. I will not go over all the ridiculous things that happen that make this film illogical because there are too many to count, but like I said if you forget about them it is a fun film. Also, this film is purely plot driven, the characters are very one dimensional. In all psychological thrillers there is some sort of twist and in this one there are many as well and they are satisfying, especially the final one.
David Fincher is one of the biggest directors of today but this film was only his third feature and it did not have as much intensity and grittiness as his previous film Se7en. None of the shots in this film were all that impressive, but the sequencing of the shots kept me fascinated the whole way through the film. Fincher grew much as a director since this film and I would even claim that he is one of the best of his generation. But this film is not the reason why he is considered that at all, he became a cult favorite from Se7en and Fight Club then went on to start making more wide spread audience films like Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the recent The Social Network. His film repertoire is very impressive and it is enjoyable to see one of his early works such as this film and see how he has grown from it.
Michael Douglas plays the lead of Nicholas Van Orten and even though the character is one dimensional he embodies the role quite well. He sort of plays a sad Gordon Gekko but does not have the great lines that Gekko had. He was very believable in the role but again this is not something that he will be remembered for when talking about why Michael Douglas is a very successful actor.
Sean Penn does not have a major part in this film but he is still in it for a little bit as Nicholas's brother Conrad. When Nicholas and Conrad are running from the CRS and Conrad has sort of a paranoid nervous breakdown Penn is quite good, even though it is nothing compared to the many brilliant performances of his career. When I think Sean Penn I think Milk, Mystic River, and his comedic performance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, not this film even though he is good, like Douglas.
Deborah Kara Unger plays a waitress named Christine that Nicholas drags into his game. As the film goes on it is hard to determine if she is trying to help Nicholas or if she is working with the CRS. Her performance is alright, but nothing really memorable. I can't even cite a scene in the movie where she was good, it was just her character that was interesting.
Overall I give this film a 6/10, because it is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the dramatic finale. None of the qualities of the film are great, but they are all decent. I would recommend this to fans of Fincher, psychological thrillers, or I guess dark films with a twist.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Kubrick's Genius at Work
The war drama Paths of Glory is directed by Stanley Kubrick and stars Kirk Douglas and George Macready. The film takes place in 1916 France.
General Paul Mireau (Macready) is ordered by a superior general to take an area known as the Anthill in his sector which is currently under German control. At first Mireau declines because the mission is impossible but when the superior general says how he may be considered for a promotion Mireau goes through with the action. Mireau personally supervises Colonel Dax's (Douglas) attack on the German controlled territory but when Dax's troops do not even make it out of the French trenches Mireau orders that the French artillery fire on their own men to motivate them. When the battery Captain refuses to do so without a written order the general does not pursue the option but instead decides to try three men from under Dax's command for cowardice which is punishable by death.
The screenplay by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, and Jim Thompson is superb. The characterization of General Mireau and Colonel Dax are both great and by the end of the film you know the two for exactly who they are. Also you get quite attached to the men that are tried for cowardice and hope for them all the way to the end. What makes this film different from most other war films is that there is no action in it after the attack on Anthill. It is part courtroom drama as well and this film is much more than it appears. Also I absolutely loved the ending which featured Stanley Kubrick's future wife, the only female in the entire film and his wife until he died in 1999.
Stanley Kubrick is often called one of the greatest directors of all time and this film shows why he is. The shot that I absolutely loved was a long shot of General Mireau travelling the trenches and greeting several soldiers on his path before the attack on Anthill. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a beautiful long shot like that, and by long I mean that it lasts for a long time not that it is far away. Also when Colonel Dax is on the battlefield the shots of him are absolutely mesmerizing, the fact that this film was completely ignored by the Academy Awards is just a shame on their part. Throughout the film there are plenty of more wonderful shots, one is towards the end with a bunch of soldiers in front of a large building, I won't describe what is happening because it is a spoiler. I personally believe that Kubrick is the greatest director of all time and obviously that is arguable but I believe everyone who respects film understands that Kubrick is a genius and this film is just one of the many examples why.
Kirk Douglas gives a very powerful performance in this film. He is very strong and military like and deserves much praise for his performance. When he gives his strongest performance is when he confronts General Mireau or General Broulard at the end of the film. Also, when Douglas is leading his men on the battlefield he does a very good job. The only problem with Douglas's character is that he is kind of one dimensional. He is a man who believes in justice and truth, not in politics. Truly a man that a person can look up to. But that is basically it, but that is all he needs to be because even though he is the lead the supporting characters take up a large part of the eighty seven minute film. This is the first of two films that Douglas works with Kubrick, the other being Spartacus, and the two are a great team.
George Macready also gives a great performance except his character is the exact opposite of Douglas's, he is a selfish, despicable man. But Macready plays the part extremely well. Whenever him, Colonel Dax, General Broulard, or all of them together all three of them give their best performances. The look of Macready's eyes is what really makes his performance so powerful, his stare can break a person's will. Also, when Macready was at the battle of Anthill ordering the artillery to fire on his own men his devious performance was fantastic as well.
Overall I give this film a 9/10, it is another Kubrick classic. Everything about it was great, and what I love about Kubrick's films is that he never uses music to tell the audience how to react to what is happening on the screen. He lets them feel how they want to feel. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys war or courtroom dramas. It definitely is a must see just for Kubrick's direction.
The war comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is directed by Stanley Kubrick and stars Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden. The film takes place in planes over Russia, the war room, and in an American base.
Brigadier General Jack Ripper (Hayden) made the insane notion of dropping a nuclear weapon onto Russia during the Cold War. President Muffley (Sellers) must try and calm down the Russian President and make him understand that this attack was not planned by America just one crazy general. General Turgidson (Scott) tries to convince the President that maybe the attack isn't a terrible idea while spewing anti communist insults to the Russian Ambassador that is present in the war room. But the Russian Ambassador reveals that if Russia is attacked by a nuclear weapon a doomsday device will automatically go off destroying the entire world...
The screenplay by Peter George, Terry Southern, and Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest comedic screenplays of all time. Probably my favorite scene of the film is when the President is on the phone with the Russian President for the first time. The back and forth between the two is comedic genius and is humor that everyone can enjoy. Another comedic part I thought was quite hilarious was the classic line when the President told General Turgidson when he was attacking the Russian Ambassador that there is no fighting in the war room. My only problem with the screenplay was that it took a while to get into the film, by that I mean the introduction to the film was not as strong as the middle and end of it. But besides that this film is absolutely hilarious.
Stanley Kubrick directed this classic comedy and he did so brilliantly. His last film was the controversial Lolita and he goes to what could have been an extremely controversial film about the cold war if it wasn't comedic gold. There are many iconic shots in this film, the first that comes to mind is the shot of the entire board room. It is a simple shot but it is beautifully composed. I have to say it is hard to find a shot in this film, or any Kubrick film really, that is not masterfully done. Besides the great shots he got great performances from his entire cast.
Peter Sellers played three roles in this film, the president, Dr. Strangelove, and Group Captain Lionel Mandrake. In all three of those roles he used his comedic talents to make this film as great as it is. Sellers worked with Kubrick previously in Lolita and in both films he was absolutely wonderful. Above I mentioned the president and the Russian president's phone conversation, well that could not have been so hilarious without Sellers's great voice and facial expressions. Then when he is Dr. Strangelove he again uses his voice talents to win over many laughs. Sellers proves with this film that he is one of the greatest comedic forces of all time.
George C. Scott was also fantastic as General Turgidson, delivering plenty of laughs as well. My favorite scene with Scott was when he was explaining what was happening to the president. How he tried to make himself look like he could save the situation was just uproariously funny. He is an extraordinary actor overall, one of my favorite films features him in the Best Picture winner Patton where he also wins an Oscar for Best Actor. I would say that in this film Scott does an equally well done job as Sellers, which is saying a lot for the both of them.
Sterling Hayden has worked with Kubrick before in The Killing and in this film he delivers a fine performance as the insane General Jack Ripper. He delivers many great lines about fluids that guarantees a couple of chuckles from the audience. Hayden works quite well off of Sellers as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake. I loved it when Hayden takes the machine gun and shoots it out the window out his fellow Americans.
Overall I give this film a 9/10, due to its great script, direction, and performances. I recommend this film to absolutely everyone, even those people that don't have an interest in film and just want to have a good time. This film features a great ending that is extremely hilarious as well. If you haven't seen this classic, go get it. Right now.
127 Hours (2010)
James Franco Vs. Nature
The drama 127 Hours is directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Franco, Kate Mara, and Amber Tamblyn. The film takes place in 2003 in Moab, Utah.
Aron Ralston (Franco) is a mountain climber who decides to go to the place in Moab, Utah where he has the whole course memorized for his daily thrill. While bike riding, walking, and running around he meets up with two girls Kristi (Mara) and Megan (Tamblyn) and for a short while the three of them go climbing and swimming and all that crazy stuff. Well after the girls leave he gets himself into quite a predicament. While jumping onto a branch he slips and knocks a rock down which crushes his right arm. Oops. The rest of the film is about hallucinations he is having and flashbacks to his family and an old girlfriend. That's why I don't mountain climb, I just write film reviews so I can't my arm crushed.
The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle was pretty good. This film could have been equally torturous for the viewer as it was for Aron Ralston but it didn't really drag on for the full length of the film, it flowed nicely. The problem with a true story is that the second you go in there you know how it's going to end so the whole time I was like none of this matters I know what's going to happen. I did not see the need to put the flashbacks of his girlfriend in there because it never led up to anything, it didn't even really help with characterization it just showed that Ralston once had a girlfriend but now he's trapped in a canyon. The dialogue for the whole of the film was very believable, usually when one person is talking to themselves it doesn't work out very well but here it works very nicely.
Danny Boyle had some pretty stylized direction on this one, and it helped keep the film entertaining throughout. Is this film as good as his previous, Slumdog Millionaire? No. Personally I believe Boyle's best film to be Trainspotting which also had a lot of style and I think Boyle is much more comfortable with stylistic films than something which cannot have a stylistic influence upon it. I like how Boyle does films in multiple genres: Slumdog Millionaire-fantasy, Trainspotting-crime, 28 Days Later-horror, Sunshine-science fiction, and 127 Hours-real life drama. All of Boyles directing decisions I think were fine with this film, the only reason I couldn't give it a higher score is because the story is very limited to a guy trapped in a rock and he couldn't really put in any crazy mind games to add another layer of interest.
James Franco easily gave the best performance of his career so far and it would be shocking if he did not receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor at this year's Academy Awards. Will he win it? I highly doubt it. In the film Aron Ralston is fun, carefree kind of guy who climbs mountains to just to have a good time. When he gets trapped he starts to lose hope and his mind a bit. The part where Franco delivers his best in the film is when he is pretending to interview himself because it just shows how low he has gotten. This is the first time Franco has ever really been in a lead role, I know him mostly for his supporting roles in Spiderman and Pineapple Express, but as a lead man he is very impressive and has a bright career in front of him.
The only real supporting cast in this film was Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn as the two girls Ralston meets before he gets trapped. Both girls did a fine job but nothing really noteworthy. They were basically just average girls who are just following a path for fun. There wasn't really enough acting in the flashbacks to criticize but none of them were bad enough to notice.
Overall I give this film a 7/10, the only reason I couldn't give it higher was because the script was very limiting and I already knew how it would end since it is a famous story. If you like films like Into the Wild or other man vs. nature type films then you would like this one as well. Franco and Boyle both have very bright careers for the future even though they both had very successful careers before this Franco will make his way as a leading man and Boyle will still be one of the best directors of today.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
A Great Original Crime Drama
The crime drama Thelma & Louise is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt. The film takes place in modern day Arkansas.
Thelma (Davis) and Louise (Sarandon) are best friends and really need to go on a trip to escape the pressures of everyday life. Thelma's husband is extremely controlling and does not value her at all, so she is reluctant at first to go on the trip but eventually accepts. Louise's boyfriend Jimmy (Madsen) is a cool guy that really loves Louise and it is safe to say that if Louise doesn't love him she definitely feels quite strongly about him. While the two are at a bar Thelma gets quite drunk and a man tries to take advantage of her in the parking lot. Well when everything comes to an end Louise shoots the man to protect Thelma but they must go on the run. Can a police detective, Hal (Keitel), solve the murder and put the women in prison? Or will they escape the grasp of the law and make it to Mexico? The screenplay for this film by Callie Khouri is very original and a great twist to the crime genre. While watching the film you really get a sense for the characters and their personalities, and they never do anything outside of their character. On the surface it is just a basic do a crime and run type of film but with the added characterization and the relationships the characters have with their husband/boyfriend it adds another layer to the film. One thing that bothered me about this was its resemblance to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the plot loosely and the finale loosely as well.
Ridley Scott is one of the best directors Hollywood has to offer and this is a film that shows his range as a director. At the time he is really known for great science fiction films like Alien and Blade Runner but he decided to mix it up with this one and I love it when directors spice it up. Like usual he has many great shots which develop the characters of the film allowing the audience to really know and become attached to Thelma and Louise. Now is this one of Scott's best films? Certainly not. But it is definitely worth noting when talking about his impressive career.
Susan Sarandon really shines in this film as the role of Louise, and the film put her on the map. Before this film she was known but after she became a superstar who went on to win an Oscar. With this film she showed her talent and earned an Oscar nomination as well as a woman who wants to just take a break and have some fun, but obviously that isn't what she gets. Her facial and voice expressions in this film were absolutely remarkable and this is definitely my favorite film I've seen her in even though I have not seen much of her repertoire.
Geena Davis delivers a superb performance also earning an Oscar nomination for her role as Thelma. She was fun, cute girl escaping from her husband and having a good time even after she almost got raped. Her accent was great and the chemistry between her and Sarandon was absolutely wonderful. It is a shame that her career never became anything more than this, the only film I can remember her in after this is with Michael J. Fox in Stuart Little. She is definitely a great talent and I would love to see her come back into the spotlight.
The supporting cast did a decent job as well, but nowhere near as good as the leads. I was kind of disappointed by Harvey Keitel as a nice guy detective. It didn't feel like he gave much of a performance, just put on a sympathetic voice when talking to the women. Michael Madsen is always good and he was in this as well, though he was not magnificent or anything. I always respect Michael Madsen because he is a working man actor whose name isn't big but still gets around. He is still kind of a tough guy in this and he is not as good as he is in Reservoir Dogs or Donnie Brasco but this was earlier in his career and he grew as an actor. The film features Brad Pitt's first major role as a cute guy thief and he does a decent job. Nothing good really but for a first major film definitely not bad.
Overall I give this film an 8/10 and I recommend it to anyone who likes crime films, films with female leads, and original films. It is fun at parts and the ending is a classic, and you kind of have to see it if you have any liking for Ridley Scott.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
An Extremely Powerful Story About the Loss of Innocence
The drama The Last Picture Show is directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starred by Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, and Cybill Shepherd. The film takes place the small town of Anarene, Texas during the 1950s.
Sonny Crawford (Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Bridges) live in the small Texas town of Anarene and are typical teenage boys. The film starts during their senior year of high school and both have girlfriends. The boys spend time at the local pool hall or going to the picture show with their girlfriends until Sonny loses his after the two basically got bored with each other. Duane's girlfriend Jacy (Shepherd) is the prettiest girl in town and at the start of the film she is a good girl but her mother (Burstyn) really wants her to break loose of Duane and explore the other men of the town. The film revolves around Sonny, Duane, and Jacy and how they experience sexuality in many ways from many suitors.
Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich wrote one of the most spectacular screenplays of all time for this film. Never have I seen a film flow so brilliantly throughout and it does not have an ordinary structure of a film, it just continues through the characters' experiences. I find that the majority of great screenplays throughout history are character driven rather than plot driven because if you don't know and care about the character why should you care about the plot? The three lead roles in the film were so comprehensively built it was absolutely wonderful. I loved seeing when Sonny and his father had about a ten second conversation, in those ten seconds I was able to understand Sonny's entire family life. The theme of loss of innocence in this film was also absolutely wonderful, the screenplay was just terrific.
Peter Bogdanovich's direction matched the brilliance of the screenplay that he co-wrote. There were hundreds of shots in this film that were so simply beautiful and were able to get me inside the characters mind and into a deeper level of the film. The scene with Jacy going to the naked pool party was wonderfully shot and will ironically be remembered. It just showed the curiosity of a young person trying to become an adult. Also I really loved the final scene of the film, but I will go into no detail in order to not spoil it for those who have not seen it. Sadly Bogdanovich has not directed another film as wonderful as this one.
Not only did Bogdanovich write and direct a great film, he got two Oscar winning performances from his actors. One is not from Timothy Bottoms, but I thought he gave an amazing performance as an innocent young boy trying to become a man. Some of this best acting would have to be with Cloris Leachman when they are having an affair. His simple expressions are just magnificent in showing his confusion about the world that surrounds him. Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar for playing a simple teenager on the outside but a boy longing for love on the inside. Definitely one of the best performances of his very successful career. Cybill Shepherd's character Jacy was definitely one of the most interesting characters in this film in how she wanted to experience pure lovemaking and bliss, and not end up like her mother. She was absolutely stunning, like the rest of the cast. Ben Johnson won the Oscar for his role as Sam the Lion. The scene in which he showed why he deserved to win was when his son came home with a bloody nose and he told the other boys to leave him alone as a tired old man who was done fighting. That was one of the most effective scenes in the film and will also always remain in my memory. Cloris Leachman won an Oscar as well for her performance as a woman who is depressed with her marriage and has an affair with the young Sonny Crawford. The weakness in her face while performing was just enchanting, everything about her was so real. This film definitely has one of the greatest ensemble performances of all time.
The editing by Donn Cambern was spectacularly done, I really liked how the film was in black and white making the simple town even simpler. If this was in color I could not really see myself liking it as much and that is why this decision was extremely well executed. The film flowed seamlessly going from character to character. I was completely engaged the whole entire film and never was the rhythm broken. Many films with multiple stories don't work out well because the editing makes it like a break in the film and that takes you out of the film experience.
I really loved the country music that was used throughout the film. It added another layer of simplicity to small town and the black and white appearance. Music is key to making a film flow like the editing and this film did it wonderfully letting the songs express the language of the film.
Overall I give this film a 10/10. It is one of the greatest films of all time and is wonderful in every aspect of it. There is nothing I could say that is wrong with this film, I absolutely loved it. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys extremely powerful dramas about the loss of innocence because this is one of the greatest ever. Ever. Go see it right now.
James Cameron Did It Better
The drama Titanic is directed by Jean Negulesco and stars Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, and Audrey Dalton. The film takes place in 1912 on the famous Titanic.
We all know the story of the great ship the Titanic and how it was the biggest ship ever built and then of course it sadly sank to the bottom of the ocean. But we do not all know the stories of the passengers of the Titanic and what it was like to be there as the Titanic was making it's voyage to the endless depths of the massive ocean. There wasn't enough lifeboats for everyone, only enough for the women and children. This film centers around a family on the ship, the Sturges family, and the battle in the family between the mother, Julia (Stanwyck), and the father, Richard (Webb). The family is extremely well to do and Richard wants their children to live a life like royalty while Julia wants them to be kind, humble people. Well they do not know yet that those problems will sink to the bottom of the list after they spend a few days on their trip to America.
The screenplay for this film was decent but it would have been much better with more characterization. By the time the film ended I really did not know who the characters were at all, and that could have been improved if the film was lengthened in order for more dialogue and plot could happen. I do like it when films have a small plot within a much larger plot, I always find that interesting. Other films that do the same type of thing is In Old Chicago with the great Chicago fire and Apocalypto with the Europeans discovering the Americas. The main flaw with the screenplay was the fact that all the characters weren't well developed and also the ending should have had much more drama to it.
The direction of this film was poor and this film could have been much better if it wasn't so. This is a majorly dramatic event and yet the film never makes it feel like it is. Negulesco never does any camera movements to make me feel like a ship in sinking and many people will die. She films it the same exact way she films the beginning of the film which is much more lighthearted. It could have been monumentally better but unfortunately not.
Even though Negulesco wasn't the greatest behind the camera at least she was able to get decent performances from the actors in their single dimensional roles. Clifton Webb played the part of a gentleman fine and he really did not need to do much more than that because even as the boat was sinking he was still a gentleman. Barbara Stanwyck is one of the great actresses but this film is not the reason why even though she also did a good job, just nothing extraordinary due to the limitation of her character by the writing. She did everything in her role very well though. The same is to be said about Audrey Dalton and all the other actors in this film, most of it centered on Webb and Stanwyck's characters though.
Now I would like to compare this film to James Cameron's Titanic which is far superior. The reason why the more recent Titanic is so much better is because it is a three hour film instead of only an hour and a half. For the first two hours we learn about Jack and Rose and grow to know them while we are not able to do it in this film. Then for the final hour is all the drama of the ship sinking, instead of a mere twenty minutes. I felt for Jack and Rose while I did not really at all care for anyone in the family in this film. Sometimes it is better for a film to be longer so the audience can grow into it.
Overall I give this film a 6/10 because even though I've said mainly negative things about the film it isn't bad. I would recommend James Cameron's Titanic to you much sooner than this though. It is very interesting to see an older film do something of such large proportions though and I would recommend it to anyone who likes classic films and also drama about true events.
The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
One of the Greatest Performances of All Time
The drama The Three Faces of Eve is directed by Nunnally Johnson and stars Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, and Lee J. Cobb. The film is a true story and takes place between 1951 and 1953 in a small town not too far from New York City.
Eve White (Woodward) is a woman who suffers from severe headaches and spells of amnesia. She thinks it is only spells that she goes through so goes to a doctor, Dr. Curtis Luther (Cobb), to see if he can do anything to help her overcome her illness. After some time Dr. Luther comes to the conclusion that Eve has multiple personality disorder when he met with Eve's other personality, Eve Black. While Eve White is a very quiet, somewhat depressed woman Eve Black is the exact opposite, a woman who is very loose and does anything for a thrill. Eve's husband (Wayne) does not believe that Eve has an illness and blames her for everything that Eve Black has done. He's really mad at her before he even knows that there is a third face of Eve.
The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson is very entertaining, and for the time very daring and unconventional. Sadly by today's standards it is nothing new and somewhat a cliché since multiple personality is an overly used illness. I really enjoyed this film the whole way through thinking as if I saw this for the first time in theatres and not seeing all the multiple personality films and television programs of today. It was very intense and I had no idea how it was going to end at all. The three characters that Joanne Woodward played were all interesting and kept me wondering. Unfortunately, the end of the film did not satisfy because it did not match the rest of the film in its mood. Johnson had a very successful career as a writer and this film is definitely one that will be remembered that she wrote.
Nunnally Johnson's direction for this film was also good, except the ending still bothers me and brought the film down a point. He had some very powerful shots during this film, the first one that comes to mind was when Eve's husband pulled Eve off their child as she was trying to strangle the child. When I saw that I was thought I didn't know they could do that in the 1950s. There were many great shots throughout the film many of them were for when Eve changed into a different personality. Of course Johnson has to be complimented for his great job getting wonderful performances from his actors.
Joanne Woodward delivered one of the greatest performances of all time in this film. For all of those people who play a person with multiple personality I suggest you take a lesson from Woodward on how to do it. She won the Oscar for Best Actress and she deserved it more than most of the women who won it. The way she transformed into each of the separate personalities was amazing. She had a different voice, different facial expressions, different body movements, it was like she was actually different people. It was like watching a person switch characters without stopping the shot, well actually it was that. Magnificent. Now David Wayne played her husband and he did a fine job, I thought it would have been better if he acted more tough instead of like a coward pretending to be tough. I though Lee J. Cobb did a very good job as the doctor, he could have done nothing really to improve on his well done performance.
The score for this film was very well done. It added suspense when it was proper and kept me on the edge of my seat. When it was sad the music was appropriate and got me more engaged in the film and especially Woodward's performance. Like a good score should it adds another layer to the film that allows the viewer to get more entwined with the plot.
Overall I give this film a 7/10 due to the outstanding performance by Joanne Woodward and also the edginess for the film at the time. It would have been an 8/10 if it had a more satisfying conclusion. If you watch this film today thinking it was made today you will be disappointed by the writing though because of how overused multiple personality disorder is. See this film to see the wonderful performance and also if you like dramas that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
The Film is All Right
The dramedy The Kids Are All Right is directed by Lisa Cholodenko and stars Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, and Mark Ruffalo. The film takes place in modern day California.
Joni and Laser are raised by their two mothers Jules (Moore) and Nic (Bening). Laser is curious to find out who his biological father is because his mother, Jules, used a sperm donor have him and Nic used the same sperm donor to have Joni. After calling up the agency which is in charge of that information they discover it is a man named Paul (Ruffalo) who owns a restaurant not too far away from them. The children meet with him and realize how he is a cool guy who laid back. When their moms find out that they have met with their biological father they insist on meeting him as well, and that is when the chaos starts...
The screenplay by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg was very clever, fresh, and original. All the characters and characterization was great, especially for the two mothers. They were very corky and unique, and had many great lines. Yet I thought it was odd for the son and daughter's story lines. The son's ends halfway through the film and the daughter's never really becomes completed. I did find the way everything turned out with the parents and Paul very believable though, and I'm satisfied with that conclusion. I would not be surprised if this received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay but it had no chance of winning the prize.
The direction by Lisa Cholodenko was satisfactory because in no way were the shots impressive and did not really add much to the comedic aspects of the film. It didn't really hurt the comedy of the film but with appropriate reaction shots this could have been a hilarious film. What Cholodenko did was just present the script in visual form, she did not make you look at it in a certain way. But I have to compliment her on getting the great performances from her leads.
The acting for this film was easily the strongest part, especially by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. Julianne Moore played the more laid back parent that is kind of like a hippie. She was absolutely perfect for the role and played everything wonderfully being very funny at times and very dramatic at others. She may earn an Oscar nomination for her performance but the buzz is saying that it will go to Annette Bening more so than her if only one gets chosen. Bening plays the more strict parent that keeps order in the household who is very opposed to Paul. My favorite scene was when the whole family visits Paul and she is at dinner just singing and it was quite funny. She has her nomination locked in even though she won't get the award yet again because it just wasn't Best Actress status. Mark Ruffalo is the also laid back Paul and he gives a fine performance but nothing awards worthy. Personally I don't believe Ruffalo will ever get an Oscar, maybe someday a nomination. He's not a bad actor he just is not a good enough actor to compete for an award. The kids in the film are all right but nothing special either. Yes, the pun was intended.
Overall I give this film a 7/10 because the great performances by the lead actresses and the clever writing. With the ten best picture nominations I would not be surprised to see this as one of them along with best original screenplay and hopefully two best actress nominations. I doubt it will win anything because I believe it will turn out as The Social Network taking Best Picture, either Inception or Black Swan winning Best Original Screenplay, and Natalie Portman winning Best Actress. I haven't seen Black Swan yet but Darren Aronofsky can do no wrong. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys clever comedies.