Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Post 2017


     The setting of this film is the early 1970’s when Daniel Ellsberg copied the Pentagon Papers.  The Papers were thousands of pages of classified documents with information about the involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War.  Ellsberg was a State department military analyst in Vietnam during 1966.  He accompanied US troops in combat and documented the progress of the US military activities in the area for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.  Ellsberg copies the Papers and leaks them to the New York Times and they begin to publish the Pentagon Papers.  The Post is desperate to get their hands on the Papers.  The Times receives a court injunction to stop further publication.  Reporter Ben Bagdikian tracks down Ellsberg and he gets copies of the papers for their paper to print.  Newspaper heiress Katharine Graham weighs the consequences of the Post publishing the papers.  Ben Bradlee is the current editor of the Post and he never questions publishing.  Both the Times and the Post go before the Supreme Court for the right to publish the papers.  Soon after, there is a break-in at the Watergate complex.
     It’s important to already know who the characters are in this film or it becomes confusing.  Especially important are the names of the top players and some of the reporters.  Otherwise, it’s difficult to know what’s going on and who the people are.  Ellsberg became disillusioned when he heard McNamara lying to reporters about the war as he exited a plane.  If he’s lying now, he must have lied before?  The papers Ellsberg copied told the truth and countered what had been reported.  McNamara knew the US couldn’t win the war in 1965 and men were still being sent over there to possibly die.  The war began in 1 November, 1955 and ended April 30, 1975.

116 min, Bio directed by Steven Spielberg with Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jess Plemons, David Cross.

Note:  Imdb 7.2 out of 10, 87% critic 73% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*,  Amazon 3.7* out of 5* with 228 reviews, Metacritic 83 out of 100 with 51 critics 7* out of 10* with 313 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in White Plains, New York City, Mamaroneck, Brooklyn, New Rochelle, New York.  Named one of the top 10 films of the year by Time and the American Film Institute.  All scenes with Richard Nixon in the Oval Office are from the White House tapes.  The original copies of the papers from Daniel Ellsberg were used in the film scenes and scattered over the floor.  The words “Top Secret” had already been cut from the bottom of the pages and that also cut off the page numbers.  Spielberg wanted the film released quickly because of all the real news of ‘fake news.’  The time from script to final cut lasted 9 months.  This film is dedicated to Nora Ephron, she was once married to reporter Carl Bernstein and he uncovered the Watergate scandal in 1972 along with Bob Woodward.  Streep was surprised to learn that Spielberg never rehearses with his actors.  Hanks knew this and he took delight in Streep’s surprise!!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Spellbound 1945


     Renowned doctor Anthony Edwardes has been hired to be the head of Green Manors Psychiatric Hospital.  Soon after the arrival of Dr. Edwardes, he begins to act strangely and Dr. Constance Petersen determines that he must be ill.  He is demonstrating odd aversions and personality traits.  Dr. Petersen learns that this is not the real doctor but an imposter.  The real Dr. Petersen has been found dead and it is probably murder.  Dr. Petersen doesn’t believe this man is guilty of the murder and she determines to help him recover his memory.  Since Dr. Peterson and this man have quickly fallen in love, it’s possible that Dr. Peterson’s judgment is skewed?
      This is an Alfred Hitchcock film so there are many twists and turns.  John Ballantyne is the man posing as Dr. Edwardes.  Dr. Peterson and John Ballantyne are on the verge of being caught by the police many times.  There are a LOT of on the edge of your seat moments!!  Some of the psychoanalysis gets a little tedious?  3 1/2* (I liked this movie)    

111 min, Film-Noir directed by Alfred Hitchcock with Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov, Leo G. Carroll, Rhonda Fleming, John Emery, Norman Lloyd, Bill Goodwin, Steven Geray, Donald Curtis, Wallace Ford.

Note:  Imdb 7.6 out of 10, 83% critic 82% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.4* out of 5* with 203 reviews, TCM Leonard Maltin 3.5* out of 4*, average user review 4.2* out of 5*, Eye For Film 4* out of 5*.
Special Note:  Surrealist painter Salvador Dali designed one of the dream sequences experienced by John Ballantyne.  Director Alfred Hitchcock was an admirer of Dali’s work and he realized that no one understood dream imagery better than Dali.  Originally, Producer David O. Selznick was opposed to hiring Dali because of the expense.  Selznick and Hitchcock often had friction between each other.  Selznick was in the habit of hiring out Hitchcock because he was under contract.  Selznick charged other studios more for Hitchcock's work than he was paying him.  In a scene with snow falling on John Ballantyne and Dr. Peterson it was really cornflakes.  This is one of the first Hollywood films to deal with psychoanalysis.  There is another movie with the same title from 2002.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Maudie 2016


     This film is based on a true story.  Maud is also the subject of the book The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis and the stage play A Happy Heart: The Maud Lewis Story.  The setting of this film is rural Nova Scotia of the 1930’s.  Maud Dowley has rheumatoid arthritis and she lives with her Aunt Ida.  Maud is very thin, she has a different walk because of her legs and most people think she is stupid and incapable?  Her Aunt Ida believes this and her brother Charlie thinks the same thing.  Charlie comes to see Aunt Ida and Maud.  He brings some of Maud’s belongings from the house of their parents.  He has sold the house because it was left to him in their will.  Of course, Maud’s parents also thought she was incapable?  Maud is very disappointed about the sale of the family home and she decides to take a job.  Everett Lewis comes into the store and he posts a job notice for a housekeeper.  He’s a poor fisherman living outside of town.  Maud walks to his home and talks to him about the job.  She agrees to room and board plus 25 cents a week.  Aunt Ida is appalled and there is a LOT of gossip in the town!!
     I thought this film was very interesting and moving.  Maud had a rough life growing up, living with her aunt and living with Everett.  As an adult, the children in the area would throw rocks at her?  She was very talented and prolific as a painter.   No one she encountered could see beyond her physical disabilities until her paintings started be seen and to earn money.  The paintings were a way to express herself and an outlet instead of interaction with people.  She was invisible except to suffer ridicule and shaming.   5* (I really loved this movie)

115 min, Bio directed by Aisling Walsh with Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose, Lawrence Barry, Ethan Hawke, Greg Malone, Billy MacLellan, Kari Matchett, Marthe Bernard, David Feehan, Nik Sexton.

Note:  Imdb 7.7 out of 10, 89% critic 89% audience on Rotten Tomatoes,
Amazon 4.8* out of 5* with 226 reviews, Roger Ebert 3 ½*, Metacritic 65 out of 100 with 35 critics 7.4 out of 10 with 34 reviews.
Special Note:  This film project was in development for thirteen years.  The entire replica of Everett’s house was built for production.  The fully restored house of Maud and Everett Lewis is on permanent display in Halifax at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  It was saved from deterioration by a group of concerned local citizens and they struggled for 25 years to maintain the house.  Sally Hawkins became so immersed in the character of Maud that she did stretching and yoga to physically and mentally set aside the character of Maud Lewis.  Filmed in six weeks in autumn of 2015 and then January 2016 for the winter scenes.  Presented at the opening gala of the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival and won the Super Channel People’s Choice Award, the top audience award at the festival for feature films.

Some Came Running 1958


     This film is based on a novel by James Jones.  From Here to Eternity was also written by James Jones and made into a film by MGM in 1953.  The setting of this film is after WWII in Parkman, Indiana.  Dave Hirsch was a writer until he enlisted in the Army.  He returns to his Midwestern hometown 16 years later and along with him on the bus is Ginnie Moorehead.  She was in Chicago with Dave and she has fallen in love with him in a short time.  Dave gives her money to return on the bus to Chicago but she doesn’t leave.  Dave’s older brother Frank owns a local jewelry store and he’s a prominent citizen of the town.  Dave deposits the check he has with him in a different bank than the one owned by his brother just to spite him.  Frank introduces Dave to schoolteacher Gwen French.  She is the daughter of Dave’s former Professor Robert Haven French.  Dave falls in love with Gwen.  Dave meets professional gambler Bama Dillert and Chicago mobster Raymond Lanchak, Ginnie’s former boyfriend. 
     Parkman is a small town and the gossip mill works overtime after Dave arrives back home!!  Added into the gossip are Frank, his wife Agnes, his office employee, Ginnie, Bama and Raymond.  It’s easy to see that Dave would not be happy with his older brother since Dave was placed in a charity boarding school after Dave married Anges.  He had family but they didn’t want him?  This film is more about the characters than the story and this is weak.  3* (This movie is OK)

137 min, Drama directed by Vincente Minnelli with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy, Nancy Gates, Leora Dana, Betty Lou Keim, Larry Gates, Steve Peck, Connie Gilchrist, Ned Wever.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 82% critic 76% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4*, 3.44* out of 5* average user review.
Special Note:  Filmed in Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana and Milton, and Trible County, Kentucky.  Shirley MacLaine received her first Academy Award for Best Actress in the role of Ginnie.  MacLaine credited her award to Sinatra because he insisted on changing the ending of the film.  Arthur Kennedy won Best Actor in a Supporting Role as Frank Hirsh.  Martha Hyer won Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Gwen.  Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn won Best Original Song for To Love and Be Loved.  Walter Plunkett won Best Costume Design.  Frank and his wife Agnes are social climbers.  Frank placed Dave in the charity boarding school rather than take Dave to live in his home with Agnes.  It was probably because Agnes didn't like Dave and didn't want to raise or put up with him?  This film was the 10th highest earning film of 1958.  The gross was $4,245,000 in the US and Canada with $2,050,000 elsewhere for a total of $6,295,000.  The high cost of production resulted in a loss of $207,000. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Great Lie 1941


     This is a soap opera drama.  Sandra Kovak and Peter Van Allen elope to get married.  They throw a large party in Sandra’s apartment after their marriage.  The next day Pete finds out their marriage isn’t valid because Sandra’s divorce comes through the next week.  Pete isn’t sure what he’s going to do.  He travels to see Maggie Patterson.  Pete and Maggie have been engaged off and on several times.  Pete returns to Sandra but he tells her their marriage isn’t legal and he doesn’t want to get married again.  He flies back again to see Sandra and they get married.  Pete talks to Sandra about his plan to fly for the government.  She is all for his plan if this is what he wants.  Pete leaves for a trip to South America and his plane crashes.
     In the period this movie was filmed a lot of occurrences were scandals but they wouldn’t be today!!  I don’t want to give too much of the story away!!  Astor is very sure of herself but Davis wavers in her courage.   3 ½* (I liked this movie)

108 min, Drama directed by Edmund Goulding with Bette Davis, George Brent, Mary Astor, Lucile Watson, Hattie McDaniel, Grant Mitchell, Jerome Cowan, Charles Trowbridge, Thurston Hall, Russell Hicks, Virginia Brissac.

Note:  Imdb 7.3 out of 10, 71% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4*, average user rating 4.5* out of 5*, Amazon 4.5* out of 5* with 60 reviews, Three Movie Buffs 3* out of 4*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Victorville, Mojave Desert, Calabasas and Burbank, California.  Mary Astor won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  Davis and Astor originally thought the script was not very good.  They worked together to rewrite everything.  Astor suggested her hair be cut short because rolling and styling was taking too long.  George Brent was a licensed pilot and he did his own landings.  The plane is a Stinson Model 10 Voyager and over 1,000 variations of this plane were built starting in 1931.   Astor is an accomplished pianist but she mimed playing the piano.  In close-ups, Norma Drury’s hands are seen on the piano.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

This is Our Life 1942


     Stanley Timberlake is engaged to Craig Fleming.  She decides she doesn’t want to marry him and she leaves home with her sister Roy’s husband Peter Kingsmill.  Peter gets a divorce from Roy and he marries Stanley.  They settle in Baltimore, Maryland.  Things don’t work out and Peter begins to drink.  Stanley returns to Richmond, Virginia.  She discovers her sister Roy is now dating her former fiancĂ© Craig and they plan to marry.  Stanley is jealous and selfish plus she feels she may be able to win Craig back?  Circumstances take a different turn and Stanley tries to pin something she did on Parry Clay.  He’s a struggling young clerk working in Craig’s law office.
     It’s interesting that both the sisters have names usually given to men?  A reason isn't given in the film.  Stanley is a piece of work and she only cares about herself.  She drives too fast and she doesn’t care about the speeding tickets.  She also doesn’t care about the person she’s with as long it’s someone her sister wants!!  Her sister Roy is nothing like Stanley!!  She is a decent and kind person that doesn’t deserve an evil scheming sister!!  3 ½* (I liked this movie)  

97 min, Drama directed by John Huston with Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Charles Coburn, Frank Craven, Billie Burke, Hattie McDaniel, Lee Patrick, Mary Servoss, Ernest Anderson.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 73% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4*, average user review 4.8* out of 5*, Leterboxd 3.4* out of 5*, Amazon Video 4.1* out of 5* with 86 review.
Special Note:  Filmed at Warner Brothers Burbank Studios, California.  Director John Huston was having an affair with Olivia de Havilland during production.  There was a comment made by studio head Jack L. Warner that Bette has the lines but Olivia was getting the best camera shots!!  In David Maraniss’ 2012 biography of former President Barack Obama it is reported that Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, the mother of Barack was named Stanley after Bette Davis in this film.  Davis said she regretted making this film and she called it “a most disgraceful film.”  She felt she wasn’t right for the role because the character was supposed to be a very young southern woman.  Davis was older at 34 years old?  Davis drives a 1941 Buick Roadmaster convertible, the Police Inspector drives a 1941 Buick four-door sedan and the Policeman in the pursuit car has a 1939 Buick.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Stormy Weather 1943


     Selina Rogers is an aspiring singer during the period after WWI.  She meets dancer Bill Williamson and they start doing shows together with other performers.  This film is multilayered with music and dance.  There are 14 musical numbers with Lena Horne singing the title song near the ending.
     This film is considered to be one of the best Hollywood musicals with an all black cast.  The plot line is very thin and really there is almost no plot.   I wonder if many of the scenes would be shown in a new film of today?  A lot of scenes contain items that are things complained about in the time period of today?   3* (This movie is OK)    

78 min, Musical directed by Andrew L. Stone with Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Cab Calloway and His Cotton Club Orchestra, Katherine Dunham and Her Troupe, Fats Waller, The Nicholas Brothers, Ada Brown, Dooley Wilson.

Note:  Imdb 7.3 out of 10, 81% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon 4.6* out of 5* with 216 reviews, TCM Leonard Maltin 2.5* out of 4*, 4.35* out of 5* average user review.
Special Note:  Filmed in Stage 2 and Stage 14, 29th Century Fox Studios, Los Angeles, California.  At the time of filming Bill Robinson was 39 years older than Lena Horne.  In the film, he's hoping she will marry him.  This is the final film of Fats Waller.  Less than five months after the July 21 opening in Manhattan, Waller died at the age of 39 from pneumonia while traveling by train.  Also the final film of Bill Robinson, he died of heart failure at age 71 in New York City.  There is another film with the same title from 2003.