Monday, August 31, 2015

People Places Things

Ah, August. That time in the year where studios basically dump their remaining films for the summer. Most of the time they're usually action and horror movies that got little to no publicity whatsoever. But often times this is where smaller productions (regardless of quality) get released. More often than not, some good titles go unnoticed.

One such title is James C. Strouse's People Places Things. As is the case with most indie features, the film doesn't boast many big names. (Unless you've seen your fair share of cable TV.) But does that weaken the film's charm? Of course not.

To give you an idea of what People Places Things is like, its mood is similar to that of Kramer vs. Kramer. Both films revolve around men trying to cope with life as a single father with varying degrees of success. Yes, Kramer vs. Kramer is decidedly more serious in tone than People Places Things but the point still stands.

What People Places Things also does is paint a portrait of life after a personal failure. You think life can't go on after losing someone dear to you but it's far from that. Sometimes all it takes for things to get back in order is a gentle nudge.

Between a summer of blockbusters and awards season, it's nice to have something that's more of a breath of fresh air. It's an escape from the last few months of moviegoing fare, and it's something that one should seek out when you have the chance. It's a charming little film.

My Rating: ****

Friday, August 28, 2015


Sometimes the reality subtext behind a work of fiction can show up within said fiction. Take for instance Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli. His first collaboration with actress (and future wife) Ingrid Bergman, it's a film about a woman in an unfamiliar land trying to stay intact mentally. If you're familiar with the behind the scenes scandal of the film, one can't help but wonder if reality began to imitate art.

What was the scandal? Rossellini and Bergman, both married to other people, began an affair during production which resulted in Bergman getting pregnant. The world was shocked at Bergman's actions, which ended up tarnishing her career for most of the 1950s. (It was restored after she won an Oscar for Anastasia.) Because of the scandal Stromboli was ignored by audiences but decades later, it received the praise that the scandal clouded over.

As you watch Bergman throughout Stromboli, you wonder whether the effects of the scandal began to affect her. Shortly after her character Karin arrives on the titular island, she complains to her husband that he's not able to support the lifestyle she's used to. Seeing as how Bergman was a prominent name in Hollywood at the time, it's likely it wasn't too much of a stretch for her to feel the same during both the production and her self-imposed exile.

Rossellini, one of the Italian neo-realists of the era, more than likely also channeled the scandal into Stromboli. As the film wears on, Karin is viewed by the other villagers of the island as a shameless flirt. (Her husband gets called a cuckold at one point.) It's also worth noting that while Bergman's career floundered as a result of the affair, Rossellini's started to take off. (A textbook example of double standard, don't you agree?)

Stromboli shows that there's more to the film than the behind the scenes scandal. It's a film that was, to paraphrase the closing line of Bergman's most famous film, the beginning of a beautiful collaboration. And it all started with a letter Bergman wrote...

My Rating: *****

[for The Wonderful World of Cinema]

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Liebster Award

Spandan of Cinephilia has nominated me for a Liebster Award. As per the rules, I need to answer the 11 questions provided, pass it on to 11 other bloggers with 11 questions of my own. So let's get started, shall we?

1. Which is your favorite film of the 1970s? I have to choose just one? Ugh, fine. Um...probably Apocalypse Now Redux.

2. Which is your favorite adaptation of a novel? Again, just one? All right, all right. Recently Maurice holds that honor. (The book's definitely worth a look too.)

3. Which is your favorite Western? Rio Bravo, without a doubt.

4. Which film have you seen the most number of times? 50 First Dates. (Shut up.)

5. Which is the first film you have seen in a theater? Not sure precisely, but I think I remember seeing Monsters, Inc. when it was in theaters.

6. Which are the five DVDs/Blu-rays in your personal movie collection which you will never give to anyone? Oh, that's easy. My Criterion copies of Sweet Smell of Success, Bigger Than Life, The Night of the Hunter, Shallow Grave and Ace in the Hole.

7. Which is your favorite animation film? I don't usually watch them, but WALL-E has a place in my heart.

8. Which movie star you'd love to go on a dinner with? Tom Hiddleston, hands down.

9. Which is your favorite movie soundtrack? Either The Fountain or A Single Man.

10. Which is a film that you will recommend that you think not many have seen? Oh Lord, there are a lot of movies that I'll recommend to people that are severely underrated. But to choose just one, probably Local Hero.

11. Who is you favorite film critic? Roger Ebert.

Right, so who to pick, who to pick...oh! I think I got a few in mind.
  1. Rambling Film
  2. cinematic corner.
  3. Dell on Movies
  4. A Fistful of Films
  5. Movie Movie Blog Blog
  6. The Cinematic Spectacle
  7. Movies Silently
  8. Being Norma Jeane
  9. FlixChatter
  10. Such Moving Pictures
  11. Sorta That Guy
Now the fun part: questions! (I say fun. It really isn't, believe me.)
  1. Favorite TV show(s)?
  2. Last movie you saw?
  3. Book you're currently reading?
  4. Comedy or drama?
  5. Classic or contemporary?
  6. What's that one movie you always recommend to anyone who asks?
  7. You’re able to go back in time and be an extra on the set of any movie. Which one is it?
  8. Favorite foreign film?
  9. Book version or movie version: which is better?
  10. Best performance from your favorite actor/actress?
  11. Watching movies alone or watching movies with someone?
Blergh. Coming up with questions is hard. Thankfully I don't get tagged for these awards very often.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


There must have been a few naysayers when it was first announced that the Who's rick opera Tommy was going to be made into a film. "How could anyone turn an album into a movie?" one might be asking, especially if it's an album as wild as Tommy. Simple: get someone who's more than capable of depicting such insanity.

And who better for the job than Ken Russell? After all, this is someone where "low-key" and "self-control" don't exist among his personal vocabulary. (Just watch any of his films, and you'll see how true that is.) Quite frankly, no one but Russell could have made Tommy into a film.

Speaking of which, there is a lot going on in Tommy that could make the viewer believe that the production of it couldn't have been anything less than a nightmare. Knowing some of the people behind the film, it's a miracle that production didn't go over-budget (or past schedule) or result in someone vowing never to work with a certain person ever again. (This is what happens with most infamous film productions.)

And though the main focus of Tommy is easily the soundtrack (come on, it's the Who), the set design is equally stunning. There's just so much going from both a visual and auditory standpoint. (Not to mention the many cues that just scream "this was made in the 1970s".)

Tommy is just one hell of an electric film. (Like we needed more proof that 1975 was a really good year for movies.) The soundtrack and set design pretty much prove that you need to see this on a big screen with a top notch sound system. (Fairly certain "Eyesight to the Blind" is the closest thing to an actual religious experience.)

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Origins of an Auteur Blogathon

John of Hitchcock's World is hosting a blogathon where the objective to discuss the directorial debut of a prominent director. The rules are pretty simple:
  1. Pick one director and identify his or her first feature film. It must be the first feature film (i.e. over one hour runtime) listed in her/his filmography.
  2. While you will be primarily discussing that one film, you should have an understanding at least some of the director's later films, enough to be able to recognize his or her style.
  3. Analyze your chosen film in relation to the director's later projects. What elements of his or her style do you see here?
  4. Keep in mind that this blogathon is based on critical thinking and analysis, not simply on whether you liked the film. Your post should not be so much on the film itself as what it says about the director.
  5. Repeats (i.e. two people writing about the same director and film) are acceptable, but discouraged. If you do choose a topic someone else is writing about, try to find something different to say on the subject.
  6. Include a banner and a link back to this post. There are several banners to choose from below, and you are permitted to create your own provided they fit the blogathon's themes.
So what did I choose?

(1994, dir. Danny Boyle)
Admittedly I'm only familiar with a small handful of Boyle's later films (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine), but I did manage to take note of a few trademarks that Boyle would use in some of his other work. (Some of them are courtesy of IMDb.)

(Spoilers ahead!)

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Anti-Damsel Blogathon

You ever get tired of watching movies where the women are written as helpless and one-dimensional? Well, Fritzi of Movies Silently and Jo of The Last Drive In are hosting a blogathon where you get to write about "the wonderful women of classic cinema, both real and fictional." Initially I was torn on whom to write about. The lives and roles of Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck seemed too obvious (as with most film noirs). Finally I opted for this performance:

Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953, dir. Fred Zinnemann)
(More after the jump.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Film Emotion Blogathon

(I know I've been involved in a lot of blogathons recently, and I apologize if you come here strictly for the reviews. But I've been travelling a lot lately, so I don't really have time to watch anything new. I will try to rectify that though. Oh, and there'll be a few more blogathon participations throughout the rest of the month as well.)

Connor over at Conman at the Movies decided to create his first blogathon. Inspired by Inside Out, the general concept is simple:
1.) Pick five films to represent the five emotions in Inside Out. The criteria for choosing these films is listed below. I would be willing to allow a tie, if you couldn’t decide between two films to best represent one of the emotions.
2.) Write out five paragraphs, (one for each film) talking about the movies and why you chose them.
3.) Post them on your blog (or Tumblr or whatever). 
4.) Send me the link by posting it here in the comments.
What I’m looking for are five movies that make YOU feel a certain emotion. Here’s what to look for: 
JOY: First of all, you want to pick a movie that makes you happy. The kind of movie that you put on whenever you’re in a bad mood that never fails to lighten your spirits. It can be a family film, a romance, a comedy – as long as there’s a smile on your face by the end credits, it should be fair game. 
SADNESS: Now for the movie that made you cry the most. From Bambi to Titanic, there are plenty of tear-jerker movies out there. These are movies where you gravitate towards the main characters and really don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. Maybe a character dies, maybe the guy doesn’t get the girl, but your eyes should be pretty watery by the film’s end. 
FEAR: This is the movie that gave you the most nightmares. Pretty self explanatory. There are plenty of classic horror movies to choose from, but it doesn’t have to be an out-and-out horror film. If the movie’s about a more subtle kind of fear, or if the movie just has a creepy atmosphere, that should work. Whether blunt or subtle, this is the movie that scares the **** out of you 
ANGER: This is a movie that you flat out hated. Not a movie that was dull or boring, but a movie that just fills you up with rage just thinking about it. Maybe it’s a movie made by a certain director that had so much potential, maybe it’s an adaptation or a sequel that just didn’t do the original justice. It could also be a movie where your anger isn’t directed at the movie, but at the characters. Ever wanted to scream at movie characters for making such incredibly stupid decisions? 
DISGUST: This last one is a bit tricky, I’ll let you interpret it the way you want. It could be a horror film with a lot of really awful imagery that you don’t want to look at, it could be a comedy with a bunch of gross-out humor that you can barely listen to. It could even be a movie that you like, but your disgust comes towards the basic premise in a grander sense, like being disgusted by what you see in 12 Years A Slave or Schindler’s List. Either way, this film should make you cringe.
My choices start after the jump.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My word.

Can you believe that Defiant Success has now been running for six years? I didn't even think it would last this long but here we are. Sure, my own life has had its ups and downs recently but I do try to keep this blog alive.

Here's to another year.