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On the Beach (1959)
This has got to be one of the most depressing and sad movies I've ever seen.
There is a sense of impending doom throughout.
The worldwide fallout will eventually kill every human on the planet.
Everyone is basically fatalistic and/or suicidal.
There is no sense of hope for any kind of future... the people just seek out pleasures and human love.
No one imagines that there might be a place to go to escape from the radioactivity... Antarctica, maybe?
There is no mention of faith in God (except for some Christians, and even they give up in the end).
It gives Australia a bad name. The people there would've certainly done better, if this had actually happened.
Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)
A tarnished gem of 1960 Hollywood sci-fi
There's a lot to hate about this movie -- the cheap FX (e.g. the Flash Gordon models once the "X-80" reaches space); the scientific flaws; the inexplicable plot holes at some points...
Also the futuristic sets seem to borrow heavily from preceding sci-fi hits -- "Forbidden Planet" especially, with all the triangular doors and passageways.
Still, I like this movie because it touches on so many themes or tropes that still exist in most science fiction movies (and books too, for that matter). It mixes and matches some of the best ideas from the Twilight Zone series... in fact, it's like watching an extended episode of TZ!
Examples of ideas:
Destruction of atmosphere (ozone?) -- in this case by nuclear tests
Discovery of hyperluminal/"faster than light" technology, leading to:
Colonization of Mars and Venus (briefly mentioned)
Future history (after 1960) which includes Russian and German scientists
Mutation from radiation (in this movie, cosmic rays)... leading to loss of hearing (the "deaf-mutes") and sterility... deformities are suggested but not seen
Surveillance by a Supreme authority (cameras watching everything)
Telepathy (apparently only the girl "Trirene" has it?)
Time travel (obviously!) -- but no mention of the Grandfather Paradox if the protagonist goes backwards in time in order to change the future
Underground "citadel" for protection from "cosmic plague" as well as from the:
Zombie-like savage mutants on the surface, or kept below in a dungeon
And probably many other concepts as well... many of these ideas are part of every modern Hollywood sci-fi movie.
P.S. The scene where Trirene swims (naked?) in a pool is obviously borrowed from "Forbidden Planet"...
The Happy Years (1950)
Just in case anyone has seen the movie "Enders Game" without reading the book, and/or feels rushed or confused by the psychology and fast growth of young "Ender" as characterized in the movie...
Well, this old film from 1950 is excellent.
It tells a very similar story about a young man's experiences as a youth in a prep school, in fighting and sports and knowledge.
I wonder if Orson Scott Card ever saw this movie.
The minimum length for my review is 10 lines of text... working on that. Do I have 10 lines yet? I do believe that brevity is the soul of
Dial 1119 (1950)
A truthy scenario
This story seems to repeat itself over and over again in movies, TV, and real life.
An angry war veteran seizes hostages and/or murders innocents, and gains media attention and feedback -- in this movie, by means of telephone and television.
(Does the name Christopher Dorner ring a bell?)
Perhaps this was one of the first depictions of PTSD. It was released in 1950, and the main character describes his experiences in the Pacific War.
Also, there's a psychiatrist involved -- and a handgun with more than one clip, and an explosive device -- but not a single cell phone, helicopter, or automatic pistol.
The scenario has truthiness.
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)
Wondering How Life Resembles Art
Just saw this movie on TCM. I was particularly struck by a conversation between Pope-elect Kyril and one of the cardinals. The cardinal tells Kyril that he has been placed in the "shoes of the fisherman" (St. Peter) and is following in the footsteps of Jesus, as Christ's vicar on earth. Kyril discusses his doubts about his own ability and worthiness. The cardinal replies that Kyril CANNOT resign his holy office. Well, we know how the movie ends.
In the real world of February 2013, Pope Benedict has in fact resigned his office, the first Pope to do so in nearly 600 years. I wonder if Pope Benedict ever saw this movie, and thought deeply about it.
And for that matter, I wonder if Pope John Paul II was inspired by this movie -- after all, he was the first Pope from a Slavic nation, like Kyril.
Take Shelter (2011)
One thing irks me about this movie: It does NOT accurately portray schizophrenia. I write as someone who grew up with a schizophrenic sibling, and I have studied the topic. I also have a schizoid friend.
1. The movie's character mostly has waking visual hallucinations (the storm, the birds) although keeps hearing thunder. Schizophrenics usually have no visual hallucinations, and their auditory hallucinations involve voices talking to them, or about them.
2. He has nightmares, but is still able to sleep a little every night. The movie focuses more on his nightmares. Active decompensated schizophrenics have long periods of mania and sleeplessness, even for days at a time.
3. He is able to function normally at his job until he's fired for using the company's equipment on a weekend (an error in judgment, not work performance). For most schizophrenics, the ability to hold down a job is one of the first thing to go.
4. Schizophrenics (especially paranoiacs) will not seek treatment or counseling, as a rule. They don't think there's anything wrong with them.
5. Positive: The character's obsession with the fixed idea of the coming Storm, and his compulsion to upgrade his storm shelter, is accurate with regard to the obsessive/compulsive and delusional aspects of schizophrenia. His irrational need for gas masks in the shelter (based on a single news story early in the movie) is also good.
6. Positive: The character is emotionally flat and distant in his conversations with others (except for his daughter, and his outburst after he's assaulted by a former friend). "Flat affect" is a common symptom of schizophrenia. Then again, maybe it was just bad acting...
Well, that's my two cents about the so-called schizophrenia in this movie. However, I was also disappointed with that stupid ending. It resolved nothing.
2010: Moby Dick (2010)
Plan 9 from Undersea
A movie as awful as this ought to get at least some credit for its sheer awfulness, not unlike "Plan 9 from Outer Space".
The story is occasionally interesting, although many spectacularly impossible events occur. The CGI effects are primitive.
Regarding allegiance to Melville's famous novel: Perhaps the script writer(s) actually read the "Cliff Notes" for Melville's novel, as evidenced by the character and ship names, and the use of a few quotes by "Captain Ahab".
As another reviewer wrote, this monstrosity should be viewed by film students as an example of awfulness.
Outside chance: Maybe some young viewers would be inspired to READ THE ACTUAL BOOK?!?
Into the West (2005)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Watching the episodes of "Into the West" over the past two months has reminded me of a book I read many years ago called "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown, published in 1971.
I was happy to discover it in my collection of old nonfiction books, and I've been re-reading portions of it as the story develops. There are some interesting differences in the details, but overall I would say that ITW sticks to the historical facts without too much spin on either side.
I recommend the above-named book to anyone who sees "Into the West" and has questions about the events that are shown. Of course, Dee Brown's book is not a full, complete history of the USA vs. Indian wars of the late 19th century -- but it is very well-documented, and it offers many accounts from the viewpoint of the defeated tribes.
In particular, chapters 18 and 19 of her book are well worth reading after seeing Episode Six of ITW -- regarding the "Ghost Dancers" and Sitting Bull, the subjugation of the Plains Indians, and that fateful massacre in December 1890.
A real person named "Black Elk" was an eyewitness to many of the events depicted in ITW. I'd like to think he is the young Lakota character who learned to write at an Indian school, but... that would be fiction.
Years later, Black Elk wrote this: "I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream... the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead."