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Rebel Without a Cause

28 Jan

Screen shot 2013-01-28 at 9.41.17 AM

Rebel Without a Cause reminds audiences what it was like to go against the norm in the 1950s.  James Dean’s iconic film survives the test of time because many adolescents continue to feel lost and misunderstood. His unforgettable performance as an angry teenager caught in a world that refuses to acknowledge his choices. Neither side is willing to compromise or give an inch, which will lead to an inevitable series of life-changing conflicts.

Nicholas Ray’s direction captures America’s post war two conservatism and a generation of young people that avoid the label of being a “chicken” at all costs. This film has always had an interesting paradox when it comes to its story. On one side, it shows young people standing up for their right to express themselves, but on the other side it demonstrates the destructive choices teenagers make in order to maintain their reputation. This film continues to resonate with young audiences because not much has really changed.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

A Streetcar Named Desire is the king around here

26 Jan

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Rarely do I use the word masterpiece to describe anything, but Elia Kazan’s film production of Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire is closest thing to that word. The main cast provides some of the most talked about and studied performances in film history. The unforgettable name, “Stella!” continues to be part of American popular culture. Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski) and Vivien Leigh (Blance Dubois) electrify the screen with their commanding performances while Karl Malden (Mitch) and Kim Hunter (Stella) hold their own in the face of an intimidating and domineering Stanley. The film touches upon several subjects, patriarchy, marriage, mental illness, domestic violence, homophobia, and alcoholism in a way that has left an imprint on audiences both young and old.

The film set the standard for several generations to come in several filmmaking categories. A Streetcar Named Desire has proved it is “the king around here and don’t you forget it.”

WORD COUNT: 153

Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The Gold Rush strikes it rich

10 Jan

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One of Charlie Chaplin’s most memorable and successful silent films was The Gold Rush (1925, re-released 1942). It has stood the test of time because it is more than a simple comedy. It is a story about a lonely character that desperately wants to feel loved.

The Tramp has fallen for a saloon girl named Georgia that does not share the same level of affection. He attempts to woo her over dinner where Chaplin performs the iconic Bread Roll dance, but she is hesitant because of his status.  Most of the physical comedy takes place in a cabin occupied by Big Jim (Mack Swain), and later a wanted criminal named Black Larsen (Tom Murray). The sequences between the three actors are hilarious, especially when the cabin is teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Chaplin understood his audiences then, and seemingly understands his audiences today because The Gold Rush continues to strike it rich.

WORD COUNT: 154

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A

THE MUMMY is a universal hit

3 Oct

The month of October is upon us and TCM is showing a bunch of horror movie classics. The first one I stumbled upon was the Universal horror classic, The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff as the evil Imhotep. The story is simple and it has been replicated by Hollywood a number of times with the most recent being the box office hit 1999 version. An ancient mummy is discovered during an early 1920s archeological excavation. The mummy is resurrected and escapes, only to return years later in human form as Ardeth Bey to unleash his diabolical plot.

For today’s  audiences, the dialogue is stiff and the action slow moving, but for 1932, Karloff along with an amazing make-up job by the legendary Jack Pierce create one of the creepiest movie monsters of all time. The two men set the standard for the future Mummy franchise for years to come. Personally, I do not think the replicates have matched the spookiness of the original.

Word Count: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

The Apartment

12 Sep


For its time, The Apartment was an off beat film that tackled issues of infidelity. Some audience in 1960s found this content offensive, but director Billy Wilder was breaking new ground in Hollywood with his story revolving around C.C. Baxter’s (Jack Lemmon) apartment. Baxter is trying to climb the corporate ladder by allowing his superiors to use his apartment for their extra-marital affairs. Everything is going along smoothly, until he falls in love with the cute elevator attendant Fran Kubrick (Shirley MacLaine), who is having a “relationship” with Baxter’s boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurry) the head of the company.

The film boasts a cast of Hollywood’s A-list talent. Lemmon and MacLaine were both nominated for Oscars, while Wilder walks away with Best Picture and Director honors. Wilder uses expressionistic lighting to accentuate the the film’s somber moments and to draw audiences closer the genuinely sympathetic characters affected the most by these affair. This film deserves to be a classic.

Word Count: 159

Adam’s Grade: A+

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Roman Holiday

1 Sep

In a star-making performance, Audrey Hepburn shines as Princess Ann in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday. The film follows the Princess desire to experience Rome on her own without her royal guardians. An American reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) unknowingly meets her and becomes her companion in her quest to see Rome. Eventually, he discovers her identity and views it as a professional opportunity, but love is in the air and Peck and Hepburn’s characters must make some difficult choices.

This movie has its fairy tale elements, but it succeeds because it has two amazing actors delivering fantastic performances. Hepburn wins the Oscar for this film and moves into the pubic’s eye forever. Wyler’s wonderful direction is accentuated by its beautiful location shots and gorgeous costume design. Roman Holiday is one of the greatest romantic comedies in history and it is easily one of my favorite films.

WORD COUNT: 146

Adam’s Grade: A
Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Defiant Ones

24 Aug

In 1958, Stanley Kramers’s The Defiant Ones challenges the racist ideologies of America and demonstrate mankind’s capacity for change.   Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier) and John ‘Joker’ Jackson (Tony Curtis) are chained together when their prison truck crashes in a ditch. The two convicts make a break for freedom, but neither man can do it without the help of the other.  The scenes between the two stars are unforgettable struggles that other filmmakers have been trying to replicate for over fifty years, but none of these efforts have even come close to the powerful performances given by Poitier and Curtis.

The awards and nominations this film received does not significantly communicate the impact this film had on the entertainment industry. It was the first time Poitier’s name was above a title (at Curtis’s request) and a vehicle for some of our greatest actors today.  This is one of my favorite classic film of all time.

WORD COUNT: 152

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Adventures of Robin Hood

17 Aug

In all its three strip technicolor brilliance Errol Flynn dons the famous green tights of Robin of Locksley aka Robin Hood. In 1938, audiences were entertained by Flynn’s confident portrayal and good looks. Ten years later the studio re-released the film to theaters and audiences treated like a new release. Sixty plus years later the film is still quite entertaining, as long as you can forgive the scripted laughs (HA HA HA). I watched the film again and wished I could see the climatic sword fight between Flynn and Basil Rathbone on the big screen. Not to mention, the talented and radiant Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian and the always reliable Claude Rains as the evil Prince John under the masterful direction of Michael Curtiz.

If you like movies, then this film is something you should share with your family and friends. And maybe share a couple “HA HA HA” moments as well.

WORD COUNT: 153

Chuck’s Grade: A
Adam’s Grade: B+