A Variety of Movies: It Happened One Night, Cape Fear (1962), Miller’s Crossing, White Palace & Shattered Glass

It Happened One Night (1934)

Peter (Clark Gable) & Ellen (Claudette Colbert)
Peter (Clark Gable) & Ellie (Claudette Colbert)

This is one of Hollywood’s earliest rom coms… but it ALWAYS seems fun, fresh, and witty whenever I see it.  (I’ve probably seen it 4X so far.)  It was directed by Frank Capra.  Basically, it’s about two VERY different people who fall in love (over a few days) while traveling from Miami to NYC.  My fave part is when the would-be couple is getting ready to sleep in the haystack.  You can see that Ellie is falling in love w/ Peter, and he ALMOST gives her a kiss as he tucks her into “bed.”  The lighting is VERY romantic in that scene!

Peter puts up a "wall" in the cabin
Ellie and Peter are separated by “the walls of Jericho”

See, people used to wear pjs- LOL!  This may NOT be a PC movie (to viewers today), but it’s still a GREAT one!    Watch how grumpy news reporter Peter cares for heiress Ellie- she’s a sheltered young woman who has never been alone for many days or w/o money.  He acts tough/brusque to hide the fact that he’s interested in her.  Peter is prejudiced against the super-wealthy, as we learn from several scenes.

When trying to hitch a ride, Peter insists "it's all in the thumb"

Who can forget the hitchiking/leg-revealing scene?  Peter is mad about her bold move; Ellie says “the limb is mightier than the thumb.”  Many fans of this film regret the fact that there is no kiss at the end.  The finale was rushed b/c both actors were scheduled to do other movies.  This film was shot w/in 4 wks- WOW!!!

Did you know that there is a 1956 update to this movie (w/ song/dance added in)?  It’s called You Can’t Run Away From It (w/ Jack Lemmon and June Allyson).

 

Cape Fear (1962)

cape fear_poster

I’ve seen this film before, as well as the remake Scorcese did w/ DeNiro and Nolte.  The original is thought of as the better version by fans, though I think Nolte was quite good as the father/lawyer, Sam Bowden.  To be senisitive to viewers, there is nothing more troubling than “assault” to describe the violation of women.  Some scenes were cut to make the film less troubling.  But after seeing Law & Order: SVU, the main issue in this thriller isn’t controversial (to modern eyes).

The consummate villain- Max Cady (Robert Mitchum)
The consummate villain- Max Cady (Robert Mitchum)

The best acting here is done by Mitchum- he TOTALLY inhabits Max Cady, an EVIL man out for revenge against the witness who helped put him in prison.  He can be charming, compelling AND menacing!  While in prison, Cady studied law, so he knows how to use it to his advantage.  After he beats/assaults the young female traveler he met at a bar, she is reluctant to file a report (b/c everything will be exposed in public.)  Times have changed, thank goodness!

The concerned family man- Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck)

Peck has some nice moments in this film, esp w/ his wife and teen daughter.    After all, he’s one of Hollywood’s most solid/trustworthy heroes.  However, I thought his demeanor was sometimes a BIT too cool/controlled.  There are nice parts here for helpful police chief (Martin Balsam) and clever PI (Telly Savalas).  But as many fans have said, Mithchum stole the show!

  

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

millers xng_poster

I didn’t know anything about this Coen bros film before I saw it.  This film has a small (but VERY loyal) fan base.  It’s a gangster pic filmed in New Orleans (b/c that city has blocks of untouched ’20s bldngs.)  At first, I thought the city was Chicago (but it goes unnamed in the film).  Now, it MAY take you a mins to get used to the dialogue, esp b/c Gabriel Byrne had a much thicker Irish accent then.  You’ll also hear insults/slang from the Prohibition era.

Troubled couple: Tom (Gabriel Byrne) & Verna (Marcia Gay Harden)
Tom (Gabriel Byrne) & Verna (Marcia Gay Harden)

Tom is a complicated/tough/clever anti-hero.  He’s loyal to his boss Leo, but having an affair w/ Leo’s gf, Verna.  John Turturro plays Verna’s bookie brother, Bernie.  He’s the one who stirs things up in this film!  The Italian mob boss is played by Jon Polito w/ loads of gusto.

Irish mob boss- Leo (Albert Finney)
Irish mob boss, Leo (Albert Finney)

All the main characters are GREAT in their roles, esp Byrne.  (You’ve rarely seen a character like Tom!)  I was VERY impressed by how effortlessly Marcia Gay Harden (in her 1st movie role) stands up to Byrne.  IMHO, this film doesn’t always flow very well.  I watched it b/c the characters were compelling, and I wanted to know what Tom’s final move would be.  Will he kill for the 1st time in his life?

 

White Palace (1992)

Max (James Spader)- a VERY young widower
Max (James Spader) plays a young widower

Opposites attract in this simple/formulaic Hollywood romance.  Max Baron (James Spader) is a 27 y.o. Jewish ad exec.  Since losing his wife in a car accident 2 yrs ago, he hasn’t looked at another woman.  His friends/fam keep badgering him to start dating.  (They have a list of pretty/Jewish/single gals ready for him.)   Nora Baker (Susan Sarandon) is a 43 y.o. lapsed Catholic who waitresses at White Palace, a popular burger joint in the inner city.  She lives in a little house (that she decorates w/ pics of Marilyn Monroe) in an area known as Dogtown.

Max cooks dinner for Nora (Susan Sarandon)
Max cooks dinner for Nora (Susan Sarandon)

After his best pal’s bachelor party one night, Max doesn’t feel like going home.  He decides to stop at a bar and have a drink.  Nora approaches him, wondering what a guy like him (wearing a tux, no less) is doing there.  He isn’t in the mood for talking, but she compliments him w/ “you have a beautiful face” and “you remind me of Tony Curtis.”  Then they both reveal a painful secret from their respective pasts.

Hmmm... will this relationship last?
Hmmm… will this relationship last?

In no time, Max and Nora are involved in a steamy relationship.  Nora wants to keep him at arm’s length (emotionally), but Max says “I can’t get you out of my head.”  But is this love?  And even so, can they overcome their differences: age, education, social status, etc?  The dialogue in this film is rather simple, but what keeps it from being boring is the fine acting by the two leads.  (The fact that they look GORGEOUS doesn’t hurt either!)

 

Shattered Glass (2003)

Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) entertains his co-workers
Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) entertains his co-workers at The New Republic

This small indie film is based on a true news scandal, not unlike that of NYT reporter Jayson Blair (who was exposed in 2003).  It involves Stephen Glass, a 25 y.o reporter for the small (yet VERY prestigious) magazine, The New Republic.  The year is 1998, and Stephen is juggling his stressful job AND law school (to please his parents).  He goes out of his way to please his co-workers, some of whom are also his friends.  It becomes clear to the viewer that Stephen is VERY nervous and insecure, thanks to the characterization by Christensen.  (Like many viewers said, he’s NOT wooden like in the Star Wars films.)

glass_truthout

When one of his stories “doesn’t check out,” Stephen frantically tries to cover it up.   A reporter from Forbes Online in NYC discovers holes w/in the story, too.  The New Republic editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard), grows more suspicious w/ each new piece of info that’s unverifiable.  He wonders if Stephen is merely a “scared kid” who failed to check his sources.  When he questions the reporter, Stephen feels unfairly persecuted.

Sarsgaard plays his (understated) role VERY well, and steals the last 1/3 of the movie.  He’s a natural/believable actor who can fit into ANY role!  Chloe Sevigny plays a friend/fellow reporter who feels Stephen did no wrong.  If you want to see a smart movie about an interesting topic, check this movie out.

Awww… I’m missing this!

Shakespeare in the Park: Twelfth Night

If I was still in NYC, I’d stand in line to get free tix to see this play (going on until July 12th).  Twelfth Night is of my faves by the Bard, and has gotten GREAT reviews!  Since I’m living MANY hrs from Central Park these days, I’ll have to settle for reviews and pics.  Oh well, there’s always NEXT summer…

 

 

A comedy love triangle: Audra McDonald (Olivia), Anne Hathaway (Cesario/Viola), & Raul Esparza (Orsino)

Though pining for Olivia, Orsino is curiously drawn to his new servant Cesario (actually Viola in drag)!
Though pining for Olivia, Orsino is curiously drawn to his new servant Cesario (actually Viola in drag)!
Cesario tries to convince Olivia that they are ALL wrong for each other.
This production is set in the Regency Era (Jane Austen’s time).

Cesario/Viola falls quickly in love the melancholy boss

Olivia won't take "no" for an answer!
Olivia won’t take “no” for an answer!
When it's revealed his loyal/loving servant is a girl, Orsino is overjoyed!  LOL!
When it’s revealed his loyal/loving manservant is a TRULY a gentlewoman, Orsino is overjoyed! LOL!

Time to take their bows

A New York Times review of the play:

http://theater2.nytimes.com/2009/06/26/theater/reviews/26night.html

“Do The Right Thing” (1989)

This film is an accurate portrayal of New York City at that time, under Mayor Ed Koch, who I think really escalated the racial polarization and fear in New York City. And it’s safe to say that the city is not like that today. The New York you saw in this film is not here today. That’s not to say all racism is gone, just because Barack [Obama] is in the White House. 

-Spike Lee

 

dtrt_poster 

 

I watched this film after many years.  Did you know that Pres Obama and  Michelle went to see Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing on their 1st date?  They mentioned liking the film very much.  It was controversial when it came out; some reviewers worried that race riots would ensue.  These people totally didn’t understand the film!    

 

This film helped launch the careers of Rosie Perez (who plays Mookie’s gf, Tina) and Martin Lawrence (one of the jobless guys on the block).  Perez (who grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn) was a college girl when Lee noticed her dancing abilities; Lawrence was living in the projects in Maryland.  Wow!

 

Mookie (Spike Lee) and Sal (Danny Aiello)
Mookie (Spike Lee) and Sal (Danny Aiello)

 

One of the most well-rounded characters in DTRT is the Italian-American owner of the pizzeria, Sal (Danny Aiello).  In a nice scene w/ his unabashedly racist older son Pino (John Turturro- see pic below), he tells the young man: “They grew up on my food.  My food.  And I’m very proud of that.”  Pino, on the other hand, hates being around black people.  His friends back in Bensonhurst make fun of him for working in Bed-Stuy.  “If they make fun of you, they’re not your friends,” Sal quietly tells him. 

 

Pino (John Turturro) 

 

Pino’s extreme prejudice toward blacks doesn’t make sense.  Racism doesn’t make sense!  The black customers he (often) curses at put money in his family’s pockets.   Sal sees Mookie not just as a delivery man, but as “another son.”  Vito, Sal’s younger son, likes that Mookie listens to him.     

 

The looks on the faces of Pino and Mookie speak volumes when they see Sal (innocently) flirting w/ Mookie’s younger sis, Jade (Joie Lee).  Sal’s face lights up, and he says “I’m gonna make you something special.”  He notes that hers are “the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen.” 

 

I think what everyone underestimates in the film is how funny the film is. One of the great gifts in the film is its tremendous humor. The film keeps its edge, but you’re still laughing up until the last 15 minutes of the movie. … It’s got the energy, the humor, the color … but it’s really not heavy-handed.

-John Turturro 

 

Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) tells Mookie: "Always do the right thing."
Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) advises Mookie: "Always do the right thing."

 

A voice of reason on the block is elderly, wrinkly-clothed, and (often) drunk Da Mayor (Ossie Davis).  Da Mayor doesn’t like the fact that some young people are rude to him, judging him for his drunkenness.   After all, they don’t know what he’s been through over the years.   

 

Da Mayor and the lady he has a big crush on, Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee), harken back to another era.  In that time, people looked out for each other in the neighborhood.  In an action sequence, Da Mayor performs a heroic act.

 

Radio Raheem
Radio Raheem

It’s not often that films evoke that type of response where [racism] is really that exposed in people.

-Spike Lee 

 

What’s the big deal about having pics of black people on the wall of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria? Jade asks Buggin Out.   Jade advises him to channel his energies into something productive.  But Buggin Out decides to boycott Sal’s.   Mookie tries to keep everyone cool b/c he needs this job ($250/wk) to support his baby son, Hector.  

 

Toward the end of the film, Mookie does something that is STILL debated by viewers!  Did he do the right thing?  You decide!   

 

Related Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_the_Right_Thing

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097216/

http://www.theroot.com/dtrt20

No easy answers here!

Hello readers!

I hope you had a good (though short) vacation over 4th of July wknd.  (It was cloudy and rainy, so we didn’t see much fireworks- TOO BAD!!!) Dad and I went to see Mom and lil bro in Indy.  Evan will be 20 later this month- WOW!  He looks a BIT taller- maybe he’ll grow until 21.  Did you know that a person’s brain keeps developing until age 25?  OK, I feel old now…   

My 2 blogs help keep me sane during this tough time of being jobless!  This month, I’ll have plenty of movie reviews for you (as usual).  BTW, I found a film Dad was looking for (Swades) at a VERY low price online recently.  Even though Swades is an Indian (Hindi) movie w/ Shah Rukh Khan, it’s NOT totally Bollywood (has more subtlety & originality).   If you liked Lagaan, you should see it.

I’m on the lookout for interesting blogs.  If you have a blog, please leave a comment w/ the address.  I’ll keep adding to the blogroll…

Thanks for visiting,

EMMA.

  

 doubt_poster

In Moonstruck, another work by John Patrick Shanley, we met a group of loud/loveable/quirky Italian-Americans in Brooklyn.  Doubt (set in 1960s Bronx) couldn’t be further from that- the predominantly black/white/gray color scheme, nuns in restrictive habits, and a priest who could be a predator or a prayer to a needy community.  By now, many people have seen the critically-lauded Doubt.  This is a thinking person’s movie w/ many layers!  (Each of you may have a different interpretation.)  It’s NOT just about whether the priest is guilty or not…   

 

Sister Aloysius (Merlyl Streep)
Sister Aloysius (Merlyl Streep)

While I was watching this film, my sympathies lay w/ different characters at different times.  I liked the liberal views of the approacheable Father Flynn; the congregation and the boys at the school seemed to like & respect him.  I REALLY liked how the gentle/naive Sister James (Adams) was committed to teaching her kids.  I wanted to know more about sensitive student Donald and his mother, Mrs. Miller! 

 

I sided w/ the stern principal, Sister Aloysius (Streep), who was certain that the priest had done something VERY wrong.  It’s easy to believe Meryl Streep, right?  She truly disappeared into her role!

 

Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)
Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)

Streep was the 1st one cast in the film.  Then Shanley wondered who was an actor who could “stand up to Meryl Streep?”  That would be Hoffman- he was honored to work w/ Streep, BUT able to challenge her as well.  Father Flynn is a complicated character, and Hoffman is able to convey that.  As one reviewer said, “we never see the gears moving” while he’s acting.  I was VERY impressed w/ his work!  

            

Sister James (Amy Adams)
Sister James (Amy Adams)

Amy Adams is easy to relate to in this film; she doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, but wants to “do the right thing.”  Like many young teachers, she’s full of enthusiasm, smiles, and concern for her students.  But Sister Aloysius comes to teach her about discipline b/c she needs that as well.  I liked learning more about the Catholic church, but I thought it was unfair how the hierarchy limited the nuns’ options (even when dealing w/ VERY serious issues).       

 

Streep and John Patrick Shanley (playwright)
Streep and John Patrick Shanley

Doubt is about more than meets the eye, though Shanley attended Catholic school for many yrs in the East Bronx where he was taught by nuns who wore the strange/old-fashioned bonnets seen in this film.  The boys were usually Italian or Irish (like Shanley).  There was once a black student (like Donald Miller), and he wondered “how does that guy feel?”  If you want to know what this film is REALLY about: Shanley commented that “I’m comfortable w/ some uncertainty.”  Obviously, Sister Aloysius feels differently in the end.             

 

 

 

man_push_cart

Somtimes little/mundane events in one person’s life are equal to big/dramatic ones in another person’s world.  Man Push Cart is slice-of-life film that was recently shown on IFC.  The director, Iranian-American Ramin Bahrani, was featured in an article in the New York Times Magazine a few months back.  It centers around Ahmad, a young/sad-eyed/lonely Pakistani immigrant who runs a breakfast cart in Midtown Manhattan.  He sells bootleg videos at night.  Ahmad lives in a tiny attic room in Flatbush, Brooklyn.     

 

 

pushcart_closeup

One day, a customer (and fellow Pakistani) recognizes him as a popular singer in the old country.  This customer, a wealthy young businessman named Muhammad, gives him some work and even offers to help Ahmad w/ his music career.  We sense that Ahmad is uncertain about singing again.   

 

 

pushcart_love

Ahmad has a (potential) love interest, a petite beauty from Spain who’s running a newspaper stand a few blocks away from Ahmad’s cart.  They become friends quickly, but she wants to be closer to him.  Check this film out for yourself!