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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is so-so in my opinion, at least if you only look at the technical elements and not the plot. Everything seems entirely straightforward, with no particularly interesting camera angles or fancy lighting schemes or interesting moments of sound that went on for an extended period of time or seemed as though they were planned, as far as I can remember. I think what makes the movie so interesting is that it is so normal in every way, that it speaks to the turmoil that ripples though the plot. The main characters, an interracial couple, are the epitome of a normal couple that is happy and in love, but chaos and confusion and upset is all around them in very much the same way. What makes it so interesting is that the plot and technical elements mirror each other. Great messages that really hit home, having a mother who went through very much the same thing in the early '70s. Really touching, would watch again and recommend.
Easy Rider (1969)
We all need to see this.
While I'm probably supposed to talk mostly about the technical elements of this movie, I think that they really go hand-in-hand with the plot and the overall themes of the movie. The whole point of Easy Rider is rebellion against everything, against what the older generation tells the younger generation to do and against class i s m and superiority based on whether members of a community hold you in higher esteem than someone else. This movie rebels in the first couple of minutes, and for the rest of the movie, with repeated scenes depicting casual drug use, sex, anti-establishment monologues and POV shots of people seeing as though they are high. The editing, especially, makes the movie, as it makes the iconic scene where they all drop acid in a cemetery and trip for 20 minutes. The movie is all about rebellion, and it rebels in every way it possibly can. It exposes societal issues in every way it can, with bright, clear lighting and straightforward camera angles and tracking shots. It makes the rebellion real.
The Graduate (1967)
While I have my issues with The Graduate technically, it's definitely not to say it's not iconic and awesome in its' own right. The use of lighting is really incredible in this film, and really speaks to the time that it was made. Though everyone was pretty much ignoring the Hays code at this time, they still cut out the lights to avoid depicting anything beyond a single kiss between the two main characters, even though there wouldn't have been anyone to stop them if they had done that, and they would have just gotten a harsher rating. Moving on, the angles for certain shots were great, and there was very dramatic lighting a lot in the beginning. I especially liked the POV shots (one of the very earliest I'd seen) during the birthday party scene. There seem to be a lot of shots from very far away, which work very well when the main character is traveling or when he is driving or looking for his girlfriend in a sea of people on a college campus. The upwards-and-downwards angles during the final scene in the church were really great. Great plot, great movie. 9/10 would see again.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Do the Right Thing is one of, if not THE worst movie I have ever watched, both technically and in terms of subject matter. While I understand the significance of what happened in the movie and the fact that acts like the ones depicted are real and should NOT be overlooked, I hardly think that the decisions made in its production were appropriate, nor did it adequately address racial, social and generational issues. There are no redeeming qualities in the movie or in it's characters, who were poorly realized and apathetic at best. I honestly think the entire thing is an overly glorified, class i s t piece of excrement that attempts to make a racial issue out of the fact that humanity is just disgusting. It forces you to take sides in a situation where everyone is wrong, to turn a petty fight into an issue of skin color, and I absolutely hate it. Moving on to technical issues, the awful, again, pretty much drowns out any good. A drunk toddler could have done better. Half the time, it's blown out with harsh lighting and yellow filters,and the other half is full of tracking shots that look like the cameraman was trying to stalk real people through the streets of Brooklyn. Don't waste your time.
Psycho is one of Those Movies that you always hear about but rarely manage to sit down and see for one reason or another. I'm honestly thrilled that I took the time to do that for my cinema class, because I've discovered yet another incredible movie I probably never would have watched any other way. It's a perfect example of a late code film that's trying to deal with mature subject matter. I find the use of cuts and editing and lighting to keep a murder mystery to Code really fascinating to watch, and I have, over and over again. While at times the movie has a certain "underexposed" feel (very dark, that is to say), that hardly detracts from the plot. In fact, it adds to it. You really feel the imposing darkness at night, the dim lighting of the house above the Bates hotel, and the brightness of day. Also, the use of sound is really interesting not with the voices or the various background noises, but the score itself, especially in the iconic "Shower scene". Truly a must-see.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Singing in the Rain has got to be one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm 20 years old, and my mother raised me on the songs, but I had never seen the movie itself until I took a cinema class in college, and boy, was I missing out. The music and sound were incredible, as well as the tracking shots. It all has a kind of staged feel which I felt fit very well with the plot of the movie, since most of it DID take place on the stage. And, we have the introduction of dancing and musical numbers, which are always a great thing to throw in. Keeping in the trend of having the viewer feel like the people they are viewing, everything was lit very well, which is reminiscent of the stage lights that they had to stand under. Furthermore, the viewer is introduced to the type of problems that they might face if they were in show business during the transition from silent to sound: Worrying about one's voice, etc. I really think it's an incredible movie that doesn't get near enough attention.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Not my favorite
I had to watch Mildred Pierce for a Cinema class that I'm taking, and I'm sorry to say that it wasn't my favorite. While I do like Film Noir and very much enjoyed the new style of direction (especially the very dark lighting), I found it pretty dramatic and not all that interesting a film. I think that it could have been a lot better. Nevertheless the cinematography was technically pretty good, and setting aside the plot elements that made it pretty unbearable for me it had an element of realism that was very nice and very mysterious. I felt like I was playing clue. Perhaps not what I went to a Cinema class to do, but somewhat enjoyable, either way.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane is yet another classic that one spends entirely too much time hearing about and entirely too little time actually sitting and watching, which I think is incredibly unfortunate, as the movie is absolutely brilliant both plot-wise and in technical terms. It is well lit at the appropriate times, but not without the occasional blown out or 'underexposed' shot to demonstrate certain circumstances like being in a dimly lit library or being outside. The lighting is actually very interesting to watch in this movie due to Welles' tendency towards very dramatic lighting schemes. The editing, also, works very well, with clips 'layered' over top of each other to show the passing of time and other such things. The sound is very clear, as it had a trend of being in the very early days of sound where you could hear every noise, from a pillow being fluffed to a room being torn apart. All in all a fabulous movie that I would watch again and again.
I had to watch Stagecoach for a class I am taking in college, and it was one of the few in which I liked the acting/plot and the technical elements equally. The plot is very interesting, which is saying a lot because I'm normally not all that interested in westerns. I find the characters very likable--interestingly enough, I think that Dallas and Ringo, the two criminals, are actually the most round and likable characters. Technically the movie has many interesting elements, including a lot of shots of the horses/coach riding through the desert, which I always find really great because I like seeing a lot of scenery. It sets the mood wonderfully and really helps to make everything feel authentic. I also liked the shots inside the coach itself just because they really illustrate that cramped feeling you get when traveling a very long distance with many other people very well. In my opinion, that feeling alone makes the movie great. The idea that it can really make you FEEL something is just incredible, especially for a movie in a genre I usually quite dislike.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Maltese Falcon, right off the bat, has very interesting technical elements. It has great compositions in its shots, it seems very balanced and clean, which is very different from many of the older movies I have seen before. Everything in the movie seems remarkably composed and tidy. The transitions between scenes are noticeable but not so noticeable that they become jarring and the editing seems well done. The long shots that they did--especially the very first one on the phone--is really interesting and feels new. It also has some amazing photographic moments, notably the scene between Mister Spade and the widow where the light is shining through the blinds onto the wall The acting and character seem so-so to me, though I believe a lot of the reason I have decided that I dislike it is not because of the quality of the acting itself and more that I was not very interested in the movie itself. Over all so-so, but great technically.