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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
A Movie in the Time of the Hayes Codes
"Arsenic and Old Lace" tells the story of two older women who kill a man and their antics following the murder as well the Teddy, who think he is Theodore Roosevelt. This movie is filled with hilarity that makes absolutely no sense, which is common in movies made the era of the Hayes Codes. Movies like "My Man Godfrey," and "Palm Beach Story" follow almost impossible story line filled ridiculousness. The reason for all the absurdness is the Hayes Codes. The Hayes Codes were a series of rules that outlined what a movie could and could not have within it's contents. For example, man and wife could not share a bed, the could not be any violence, unless to bring the bad guy to justice, and the bad guys could not win in the end. With all these rules, there was nothing else to make movie-wise but absurd, and nonsensical movies.
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
The Grapes of Wrath
"The Grapes of Wrath" is a 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel of the same name. It tells the story of the Joad family trying to make their to California while trying to survive the harsh conditions of the Great Depression. The movie was very political in the sense that it made many references to left sided politics, especially when the preacher, Jim Casey, mentions that he is turning to Communism. Because of this, the movie received a little negative criticism. The movie won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Directer, as well as nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound Recording, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Family Life During the War
There were many movies made about World War II. One important movie that always stands out is Casablanca, as well as any movie in modern day that is made about the Second World War. However, one movie that is often overlooked is "Mrs. Miniver." Directed by William Wyler, this movie tells the story of a quiet family living in the English countryside, living peacefully, but trying to avoid the war the best they can. This movie, any many other movies of the time period had a deep effect of the viewers of that time. While they saw movies as some sort of an escape, the theme of the current war followed them into the theater. However, it helped people to cope with what they were dealing with while they related to the characters in the film, as they were going through the war too.
Citizen Kane (1941)
My First Welles Movie
I had never seen a Orson Welles movies before I had seen "Citizen Kane." I had heard so much about the movie, I had very high hopes for it, as everyone I talked to said it was a magnificent movie. "Citizen Kane" tells the story of Charle Foster Kane and his life through flashbacks, as the title character died in the very beginning of the film. The entire movie is an investigative journey through Kane's life trying to figure out what "Rosebud" means, the last word the man uttered. Welles charted into unknown territory with "Citizen Kane." He told the story through flashbacks, something that has never been done before, on account of not wanting to confuse the audience and therefore loose ticket sales. This was a very risky move that Welles made in 1941, however it proved to profitable since many movies since have used the flashback sequence to tell their stories.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
Web of Lies
"Where the Sidewalk Ends" tells the story of a New York City Police detective who kills a man in self defense. However, the murdered man, Ken Paine, has connections and a well decorated military record. Detective Dixon knows that favor is not on his side, so he gets rid of the body. He is later assigned the detective to investigate Paine's murder. Looking to frame someone for the murder, Dixon frames one person, than another, getting tangles in a web of his own lies. This movie explored the film noir genre with shadows, darkened lighting, and, of course, the ark themes of lies and murder. Dixon eventually confesses and is landed in jail for his murder while his girlfriend agrees to wait for him.
The Big Heat (1953)
My First Film Noir
This was my first film noir. I had to have someone explain to me what a film noir was and the difference between a regular film and a film noir was. A film noir is a darker sort of film. There are more shadows, the lighting is much darker than normal and the themes of the movie are darker themselves. Characters usually die and the good guy doesn't always win. "The Big Heat" tells the story of a cop Dave Bannion, investigating the suicide of a man within the first min of the film. Already that sets the viewer up for dark themes and ideas within the movie. The villains are killed, as well as the female lead, which shocks the audience with the amount of violence the movie contains.
Afraid to Shower
I have seen "Psycho" many times, and each time I am terrified by both the shower scene and the stairs seen. "Psycho" tells the story of Marion Crane staying at the Bate's Motel and her Motel owner. Strange things start to happen and the audience as well as Marion become horrified as to what is going on. Hitchcock's genius comes from the sound effects and music , I discovered. Camera angles bring fear to the audience as well. The scene where Hitchcock delivers an ariel shot of Norman Bates coming out of the bedroom with the infamous "Psycho" soundtrack playing is extremely frighting because of the suddenness with witch it happened. What I had noticed in multiple viewings is that the movie is hardly as scary without the sound, hence Hitchcock's masterful use os sound effects and camera.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
What struck me the most about the movie was both the music and the costumes. "Singin' in the Rain" tells the story of Don, Kathy and their friend Cosmo during the time that Hollywood pictures were beginning to talk, and therefore beginning to sing. I am a lover of musicals, yet I had never seen this one before. I was amazed by the colors of the costumes as well as the musical numbers and the choreography that went with them. Gene Kelly amazed me at his dancing abilities, as I had never seen any man dance like that before and Debbie Reynolds, who I learned was not a dancer, but in fact a gymnast and learned all her dancing on the set. In a age where the only place one can seem to see a musical is on a Broadway, or off Broadway, production, it was refreshing to see a musical as a movie with amazing sound and color.
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Even though this movie was considered a film-noir, I was not prepared for the subjects that it dealt with. Prostitution was what shocked me first. The movie tells the story of a woman, Kelly, who tries to reform herself from the once prostitute she used to be. After almost being run out of town but a police officer she once had an affair with, Kelly falls in love with a rich man. They get engaged and the wedding is all planned. Kelly finds out that her finance is a child molester, catching him in the act, an she kills him. The child molestation is what shocked me more than the prostitution. I feel as if that theme is something hardly found in any of today's movies and here it is in a movie from the 1960's. While this movie is film-noir, the lighting and camera angles will be darker and less subtle, but the themes of the movie is what makes it really dark.
The Killing (1956)
Not Kubrick's Finest
Stanley Kubrick is to this day one of my all time favorite directors. Film's like "A Clockwork Orange," "The Shining," and "Eyes Wide Shut" are all moving, shocking, and sometimes terrifying. When I was about to watch this movie, I geared myself up for some kind of mental mind twist, and anticipated wanting to watch it multiple times in order to understand it. Instead, I found Kubrick's first movie, which was a B movie, exactly that, a B movie. It was a low-budget crime movie that was generally okay, but lacked the Kubrick mind-bend. While Kubrick brock the mold with elements such as real time series of events, and a surprise ending, the movie was still just a crime drama where the bad guy looses in the end. This movie did not measure up to any other Kubrick movie I had seen before and was utterly disappointed in it. Perhaps I, and others, would find more entertainment in it if it was not in fact a Stanley Kubrick movie, but something by another directer.