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East of Eden (1955)
east of eden review
To start this review I absolutely have to say that I love James Dean and his performance in John Steinbeck's East of Eden is remarkable! He is emotional and captivating. This is not to say, however, that Julie Harris' (Abra) acting wasn't equal in quality to her on screen partner, she was fabulous as well! This film is a (much shorter) version of Steinback's perplex yet fascinating classic. The film represents a more modern version of the biblical Cain and Able story. Through Dean's excellent performance as Cain and unmistakable body language (especially with his eyes) it is almost effortless for the audience to feel anything but what Dean feels. Abel, played by Cal's brother Aron (Richard Davalos) is clearly favored by their father, casting a rebellious light on Cal's character. In the beginning, as Cal follow's his mother (Jo Van Vleet) down, what seems like, a steaming street. The cinematography in this film allows it's viewer to feel completely 'there' with the character. In this particular scene, the camera allows it's viewers to feel just how hot that street could be. The music accompanied with this movie is always appropriate from scene to scene. I truly enjoy this film and was very happy when I saw that it was a movie that our class would be watching! I rate it an 8 out of 10! Excuse my in formalness here but...YEY FOR JAMES DEAN!
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Sunset Blvd Review
This extremely dramatic film noir was surprisingly a movie that I liked. Although at first glance, I admit I assumed it to be over the top or annoying perhaps but I was wrong, Gloria Swanson (famous silent film actress) stepped out of her silent film career to play this more well known role of her career. Surprisingly enough, this film is about Hollywood in the 1950's. William Hollden is a somewhat struggling film writer who ends up meeting Norma (Swanson). The pair make for a humorous yet strange pair throughout the entire film. The black and white film itself creates for an even more intense and certainly dramatic mood, it especially helps to atmosphere of the movie when scenes take place in Norma's gloomy old mansion. Narration throughout the film is in first person from Holden's point of view. The entire thing is a sort of- flashback, as most noirs are. Camera tricks such as fading in and out are used quite often in the film to add to dramatic effect as well. Of course the ending was my favorite part where Norma stares blankly at the screen and says " Mr. DeVille- i'm ready for my close up." I really liked this film a lot. It was visually and emotionally enticing.
The postman always rings twice review
Although I didn't get to watch this film with the rest of the class; i'm almost tempted to say my review was more enjoyable and personal, making it a totally different experience for me. This face paced and thrilling film-noir from 1946 is certainly a classic... one of my favorite films from class, to date. Many elements of film making went into this piece. Great lead role acting, particular camera angles, and appropriate mood lighting make this film the high quality that is. For example, Lana Turner's character Cora is unforgettable, her excellent acting skills allowed her to be enticing on screen but not carnal or even just too dramatic. John Garfield's character Frank Chambers is a strong supporting role and I really liked his sense of humor and the way he portrayed his infatuation with Cora, I felt the passion between those two after that infamous lip lock. The camera aids her in this smooth sense of seduction as well. Lighting throughout the film also helped to make the mood suspicious (in the way of her careless husband Nick) yet captivating and sensual (Cora's form fitting outfits and intense kissing scene) I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and enjoyed it all to myself this time too!
Stagecoach is a Western style film produced in 1939. This film was directed by John Ford and it stars John Wayne. This film, common to Western styles, is extremely fast paced. The cinematography is a majority of constantly moving shots. They're are rolling backgrounds which gives the look of a moving stagecoach. During one of the final scenes, in which a battle takes place, the stagecoach is "moving" extremely fast through the desert while engaging in combat with the Apaches. Although the coach isn't really moving on set, the backgrounds are moving which gives the appearance of a fast chase scene that was extremely advanced at this time. Another element that I really enjoyed was the camera cutting out when John Wayne's character Ringo shoots at his enemies, this makes for a really nice suspense camera trick. To match the fast paced cinematography, the music throughout the film is very lively and fast paced as well (this is true for most aspects of such Western style movies) The majority of the music is played by a piano, in one scene however with Mrs. Mallory, the music is slowly played- almost like a lullaby. The acting throughout this is well done. John Wayne is constantly flashing a coy smile paired with a set of calm eyes. This body language to me makes him seem that much more dangerous. Claire Trevor has a constant nervous attitude and always observing eyes. Her acting, next to Wayne's, seems confident yet respectful of his main role. Dallas' character is high spirited yet caring and passionate. This cast of actors/actress' are well suited for their parts and to act with one another. As an example, as Ringo and Dallas embrace towards the end, it is heartfelt and sincere. These two play well together and well off of each other. Although this film is a Western (typically not one of my favorites) I enjoyed it very much. I appreciated the pace of the film, it kept me interested from the beginning to the very end.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Mildred Pierce Review
Mildred Pierce is a film noir that was produced in 1945 by Michael Curtiz (also directed Casablanca!) Due to the style of film noir this film had a sort of gloomy, hopeless feeling to it. The introduction to this movie is a ocean shot, rolling waves continuously turn over the opening credits. To me these waves are symbolism for the unsteady tide that is a metaphor for Mildred's life. In the first scene of the film, Mildred is followed by the camera as she slowly and wearily walks down the boardwalk, moonlight streams over her face (making her intentions seem desperate, somehow mysterious and dark) There has been a murder- Mildred's husband. Playing dumb Mildred is taken to the police station to be questioned. Her movements are noticeably nervous and finicky. During this scene Mildred has a flashback while talking to the Poliece (flashbacks are common in film noir) It is during this flashback that the audience and police officer are witness to her life previously and the events leading up to the murder of her current husband. Through this flashback we see Mildred's divorce, financial difficulty,emotional and mental abuse by her eldest, Vita, who is extremely ungrateful and the cause of most of Mildred'd unhappiness, the death of her youngest daughter, the success of her new restaurant business, and her marriage to Monty (seriously influenced by the money they could accumulate together). It is quite apparent throughout the film that Milly and Vita's relationship as mother and child is pathetic. Vita is spoiled rotten and the more she rejects her mother, the more Milly intends on spoiling her to win her affection. Vita's acting is phenomenal. I really hated her in this film, she was the epitome of a bad child, she was completely convincing. During this flashback sequence the cinematography is amazing. All of the camera angles are sharp and dramatic, also common to this style of film. Specifically, during the first romantic scene between Milly and Monty, there is a shot of them kissing reflected in the mirror across from them in the living room. This indirect shot of their kiss is romantic and intense, a very clever way to capture such a moment. This camera angle makes one feel like they are wrongfully peaking in on the two lovers. As well as the spectacular film elements, there is also a surprising element of humor in this film. Both the female housekeeper and main waitress at Milly's restaurant are hysterical. The housekeeper has an unusually high voice and is flighty. The waitress is sarcastic and dry- "let me bite you, darling boy *barks*". These two women create a necessary break throughout all of the tension in this film. Many people don't care for film noir because of it's dramatic effect and it's seemingly identical story lines. However, I am a fan of film noir and enjoyed this particular film a great deal. I would rate it as a 7 out of 10, the acting was well done, which leads me to compliment the script writing as well. Lastly, the cinematography was intriguing and really set the mood; this is what really caught my attention during this film. Two thumbs up for film noir!
The Unknown (1927)
The Unknown Review
This film was the second silent film I watched for this course. It was much different from the first, The General, however. The Unknown is a unique and suspenseful movie starring Lon Chaney as a demented criminal pretending to be handicapped without arms. In the opening scene, there is a gypsy circus setting that he is a part of, the camera pans around to the audience's reactions to all the freakish events. Alanzo (Lon Chaney), the "armless" man throws daggers and shoots pistols with his feet at a seemingly innocent girl. This girl is the circus owner's daughter Nanon, she is seductive and teasing and all of this can be read through her eye language. One has to rely on hints like this to follow the moods of story lines in silent films. Alanzo also uses powerful eye language to convey his emotions without speech. At times he is adoring, others crazed. Nanon likes Alanzo and the fact that he is a gentlemen, having to learn to be a man without his hands, especially in the presence of women. The acting in this movie is very well done, all body language is easy to pick up on and makes the movie's pace steady throughout. In scene 2/10 Nanon is enraged after the strongman (Malabar) touches her and his much too forward with his hands, she uses very apparent body language (arm and hands flailing about/teeth clenching) to signify her disgusted emotions toward him. This film is done in black and white and I prefer it that way. It makes the movie seem mysterious, the way it should. The music during this film consists of what sounds like an accordion and tambourine during lively moments and piano for slower scenes (when Nanon is thinking to herself about her life, and misfortunes/fears) There are drums used when Alanso is desperate for Nanon's love and marriage (could signify the strength of his heartbeat at that moment of intensity) This script is written with a twist at the end, a certain irony. I really enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. I rate it an 8/10!
I've just finished watching the classic movie Scarface, a gangster life propaganda film starring Paul Muni. This movie was entertaining in many ways. The cinematography was interesting and well thought out. During the opening scene, the camera pans around a lonely street lamp flickering against a fading night sky into early morning. There has been a party all night thrown by a notorious gangster named Big Louie. In the same scene, however, Louie is approached menacingly by a shadow creeping into his home, intending to slaughter him (no doubt an attack of gang relation) This camera effect of following Paul Muni's character as a shadow is menacing, and thats just what his character is. This film, like many others of its era, has long scenes without breaks (it is 5 minutes into the film before the second scene even begins) During gun wars between North and South side are long, drawn out, loud, and shot from very unique angles. The audio, even for an older film, is sharp and clear. Even when focusing on characters with heavy accents, it isn't hard to hear the dialog. This movie is extremely well put edited. As for the acting in this film, as I've stated before, Paul Muni is incredible. He is so well animated and his facial expressions are over the top. In the scene where he meets his love interest Poppy played by actress Karen Morley he imitates her plucking her eyebrows- it's hysterical. His thick Italian accent accompanied with such facial expressions makes his character so believable. I really enjoyed this movie! After seeing this version, I appreciate it so much more than the re-make.
My Man Godfrey (1936)
My man Godfrey
I really enjoyed this film, it has been my favorite in Cinema class thus far! Comedy is my absolutely favorite film genre and this one really reinforced that feeling for me! Although it was filmed in black and white, I thought it was excellently shot. In fact, I think the film's character might have been diminished a bit if it were done in color instead. There were so many aspects about this particular movie that I enjoyed. The cinematography was excellently executed. The accompanying music was very appropriate, slow in some scenes and fast in others. Just like the pace of the movie. Scene transitioning was done very well also. Unlike some of the earlier movies we've watched in Professor Jaeger's class, the transitions were done very smoothly and weren't too long between breaks. The acting in each scene was very well rehearsed and animated, especially the hysterical and bizarre relationship between actress Carole Lombard and actor William Powell. Their interactions with each other were hilarious and really made the movie for me. This screwball comedy was a pioneer for later films of the same genre. It was so interesting to see such an early film of this type because I've always been fascinated by the dialogs between one another in comedies. It made me realize exactly where later comedies got their inspiration. For example, in the movie Juno (2007) the on camera relationship between protagonists Juno McGuff and Paulie Bleeker is ridiculously funny. Their conversations are very quick and sarcastic. These types of interactions are what make movies the most enjoyable for me. This is the reason why I'm so astounded by the same type of relationship in My Man Godfrey between Godfrey and Irene. The film was made so many years before another screwball comedy like Juno, but it possesses the same charm. The acting is also so fast paced and witty..Two thumbs up for this film, absolutely!
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang review
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a black and white film from 1932. Historically, this is during the time of the Great Depression, and it's theme and sort of depressing mood is portrayed throughout. Although colored pictures weren't being produced very much at this point, I appreciate the films simplicity and it's use of black and white film. Not only is the acting in this film representative of the times, but I believe that the actual lack of color in the film gives a sense of very little hope in Allen's (Paul Muni) life as well. Along with phenomenal acting, the cinematography in this movie is astounding as well. It is so interesting to see such long scenes with very few breaks in them. This only proves that the actors involved in productions like these are well rehearsed in their lines and movements. Due to the expense of these older films there was no extra time or funding to allow for many outtakes or mistakes to be made. The acting in this movie made it very enjoyable as well. The star of this film, Paul Muni is so well animated. With every cynical stare,the flaring of his arms, or his enormous eyes filled with rage, I found I liked his character more and more. I enjoyed this film very much. I rate it an 8 out of 10.
The General (1926)
Significant elements in The General
I have just finished watching the General. Although it is a silent film, there are many ques from the background music that demonstrate the moods that the characters can't say for themselves. It's introductory music is light with an accordion sound being the most predominant. This instrument plays well into the beginning scene and appropriately represents the bustle of life during the mid 1800s (Civil War period...just before) In the second scene of this film the protagonist Johnnie Gray learns of shots fired upon Ft. Sumter and with the strong encouragement of his girlfriend, is on his way to enlist. However, Johnnie is turned down and told he is more valuable to the South as an engineer. During this scene the music is still mostly accordion, but is slow and drawn out to represent the disappointment Johnnie feels for being unfit to serve the South. Another interesting piece of music is during the fourth scene; while Northern generals exit the train they are accompanied by a sample of quickly paced string instruments to advertise the stealth of their actions. As the music quickens the train is stolen and their plot is underway. Aside from the appropriate music accompaniments, the cinematography and the way the story was written is quite clever. There is a certain sense of sarcasm and wit put into the writing of each scene and general direction of the film. It can certainly be seen through the facial expressions and manor isms of the actors. As for the way each scene was shot and edited, I was surprised that the transition between scenes (although there aren't many) are not choppy like I had expected but rather fluid and smooth. I enjoy the contrast between the smooth changes in scenes paired with the busy/excited acting. Due to this enthusiastic style of acting, it seems as though The General has a stylized approach. I rate this silent film from 1927 a 7 out of 10. It was fairly enjoyable!