Blog Directory CineVerse

Introducing the Cineversary podcast

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Many folks forget their wedding anniversary date or spouse's birthday and end up in the doghouse. But it's easy to remember a major milestone date of one of your favorite films: just listen to Cineversary, a new podcast that celebrates an important birthday of a movie classic.

Every month, the show spotlights a different film currently observing a joyous jubilee--everything from a 20th to a 100th anniversary. Host Erik Martin (who serves as moderator of CineVerse, Oak Lawn's weekly film discussion group) interviews film scholars, critics, historians and fans to discuss why each spotlighted movie is worth celebrating all these years later, its cultural impact and legacy, what we can learn from the picture today, how it has stood the test of time, and more.

For its inaugural episode, Cineversary honors 2001: A Space Odyssey, marking its 50th anniversary in 2018. Martin interviewed Barry Vacker, professor of media studies at Temple University and author of the book Specter of the Monolith, which was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. In August, Martin will feature a different guest to talk about the 25th anniversary of Groundhog Day.


To hear the July episode in a browser, click here. Cineversary can also be streamed or downloaded using Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

For more details on the Cineversary podcast, visit www.facebook.com/cineversarypodcast.

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Like father, like daughter

Henry Fonda wasn't the only superstar in his family. The Oscar-winning patriarch had an acclaimed thespian of a daughter--who won a Best Actress Academy Award for “Klute” (1971; 114 minutes), directed by Alan J. Pakula, which constitutes part 2 of CineVerse's current Quick Theme Quartet: A Fonda Family Foursome. Join us July 18 for this film and discussion.

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Print the legend

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Do filmmakers have a responsibility to follow the facts and maintain historical accuracy when tackling a biopic about a major public or political figure, or can they take dramatic license to tell an entertaining tale--even if it's a "tall" one that seriously stretches the truth? These are questions that arise after watching a film like John Ford's highly acclaimed and venerated "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939), which spins a fun and gripping yarn but could put off some viewers expecting veracity and a dramatization of well-known events. Here's a roundup of our talking points last evening after discussing this movie with our CineVerse members:

WHAT DID YOU FIND CURIOUS, REFRESHING, NOTEWORTHY OR ENJOYABLE ABOUT THIS PICTURE?

  • It doesn’t aim for exact historical accuracy. The trial sequence is only loosely based on a real court case Lincoln defended and won, and many other scenes and situations are pure hokum or speculation. 
  • Being freed of trying to do justice to the “Great Emancipator’s” real story, the filmmakers are free to explore mythmaking, play up Americana, and turn Lincoln into a too-good-to-be-true folk hero. 
    • According to DVD Savant reviewer Glenn Erickson: “It doesn't have to deal with the man's legacy or any of the big chapters in his career. It instead looks at what could be called the future president's formative years.” 
  • The film lacks a strong central narrative, instead consisting primarily of three different acts: the man’s humble young beginnings when he was courting Anne Rutledge; his period of growing into a leadership role following Anne’s death; and the trial of two innocent men, with the latter serving as the most focused plot. 
  • Fonda seems, like Daniel Day Lewis in contemporary times, like he was made for the part, and he appears to step into Lincoln’s shoes effortlessly by not being pressured to be perfect and instead imbuing the part with subtlety and restraining any temptations to chew the scenery. 
    • Some have said his performance evokes the folksy mannerisms, speech and personality of Will Rogers, a 1930s humorist who also starred in a handful of Ford films. 
  • This is the product of an extraordinary collection of talents, including master director John Ford, the perfectly cast Fonda, producer Darryl F. Zanuck, screenwriter Lamar Trotti, and composer Alfred Newman. 
    • Criterion Collection essayist Geoffrey O’Brien wrote: “It is a masterpiece of concision in which every element in every shot, every ratio, every movement, every shift of viewpoint seems dense with significance, yet it breathes an air of casual improvisation. While its surfaces paint, with relaxed humor and effortless nostalgic charm, an imaginary antebellum America, it sustains an underlying note of somber apprehension, all the more powerful for being held in check… The film radiates a youthful joy, while at the same time insistently implying that the hero’s destiny—the moment when the weight of history becomes unavoidable—will necessarily mean the loss of all joy.” 
WHAT THEMES STAND OUT IN YOUNG MR. LINCOLN?
  • The power of myth and abiding by the principle of “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” as espoused in a later Ford film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. 
  • The impact of simple but effective words and the ability to speak to people in language they understand. Put another way, words actually speak louder than actions, when they’re delivered by a great orator and man of the people like Lincoln. 
  • Helping our fellow man and looking out for the little people is everyone’s duty. 
  • Fate and destiny: consider that Lincoln trusts in the randomness of a branch falling to determine which path to follow; knowing how he will become a great leader and president, this tall-tale moment feels like it’s been preordained. 
  • Never forget where you came from. Lincoln supposedly remained humble and appreciative of his roots, his stomping grounds, and the common folk who influenced him, and he used his down-home small town charm and native skills—like rail splitting—to win friends and influence people. 
  • Great men and women are often driven to greatness by loss and toil. Lincoln grew up poor, had to work hard, and suffered great heartache when his first love died. 
  • Rivalry and competition: this film plays up the rivalry between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas 
WHAT OTHER FILMS OR WORKS DOES THIS MOVIE REMIND YOU OF?
  • Three other Lincoln biopics: Abraham Lincoln (1930), starring Walter Huston; Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), starring Raymond Massey, and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012), starring Daniel Day Lewis 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, another film featuring a great courtroom drama at its heart and which also has its heroic protagonist defuse a lynching situation with skillful rhetoric. 
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster, another great tall tale kind of movie featuring a venerated politician/lawyer in the title character and a memorable trial. 
OTHER MASTERPIECES BY JOHN FORD:
  • Stagecoach 
  • Drums Along the Mohawk 
  • The Grapes of Wrath 
  • How Green Was My Valley 
  • My Darling Clementine 
  • Fort Apache 
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 
  • Rio Grande 
  • The Quiet Man 
  • Mister Roberts 
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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The railsplitter grows up

Sunday, July 8, 2018

On July 11, CineVerse introduces a new Quick Theme Quartet. “Quick-theme” months explore movies tied together by a theme. Over the next 4 weeks, CineVerse will present A Fonda Family Foursome: four acclaimed and memorable films each starring a member of the Fonda acting family (an idea suggested by Brian Hansen). Week 1: Henry Fonda in “Young Mr. Lincoln” (1939; 100 minutes), directed by John Ford. Plus: A trailer reel featuring highlights from Henry Fonda’s career.

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No CineVerse meeting on July 4

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Independence Day happens to fall on a Wednesday this year, which means there will be no CineVerse meeting on July 4. Enjoy the holiday!

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A doggone entertaining flick

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's hard to find fault with a film featuring fantastic animal actors, as is amply evidenced in "Eight Below," in which the canine thespians steal the show and the humans tread on some thin ice in their performances. It also helps when the animals' survival story--"inspired" by true events--is as gripping and engaging as the one depicted in this Disney effort. Here's our CineVerse breakdown of this picture:

WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING, UNEXPECTED OR SURPRISINGLY DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS MOVIE, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THAT IT’S A DISNEY FILM?

  • The animals are beautiful, smart and cuddly, and have unique personalities, almost like human actors; yet, this isn’t a G-rated film that’s completely suitable for younger children. Some of the dogs die, and we see animals (like the leopard seal) suffer and humans in anguish about it. 
  • The dogs are the true stars of the film. The dogs are arguably better actors than their human counterparts; they command more attention and give more captivating performances. 
  • It lacks a central villain as a force of conflict; refreshingly, we don’t get a stereotypical “science-over-humanity” type of authority figure working against the dogs. 
    • “The film lacks a human villain because the decision not to return for the dogs is wise and prudent, and not made by a mean man who hates dogs,” per Roger Ebert
  • Thankfully, the filmmakers didn’t try to overly-humanize these canines or dumb-down the story; they could have, for example, used human voices to have the dogs speak aloud to each other, or included voiceover narration—like we hear in a film such as March of the Penguins. Likewise, the filmmakers smartly refrain from giving these dogs implausible skills or superhero-like abilities, although some of their escapes and exploits are a bit incredible. 
    • Ebert continued: “Movies about animals always live with the temptation to give the animals human characteristics. Lassie, for example, could do everything but dial the telephone and drive the car. Eight Below is restrained, for the most part, in how it presents its dogs. When there are close-ups of a dog's face, absorbed in thought, anxiety or yearning, we aren't asked to believe anything we don't already believe about dogs...the dogs are not turned into cute cartoon pets but are respected for their basic animal natures.” 
  • Interestingly, the quest to rescue the dogs—arguably the most important part of the plot—occurs in the third/last act; the filmmakers could have made this more of the centerpiece of the film and focused acts 2 and 3 (the majority of the story) on this quest, but chose not to. 
  • This is, debatably, a rare example of a non-animated non-superhero live action drama by Disney that is well made and memorable. Disney doesn’t always have a great track record in this vein. 
THEMES EXPLORED IN EIGHT BELOW
  • The struggle for survival in the harshest of conditions 
  • The dogged persistence and perseverance of the human will 
  • The value of animals: as beloved and loyal companions, as intrinsically intelligent creatures worthy of our love and respect, as irreplaceable members of a family or team. 
  • The impartial cruelty of nature: survival of the fittest. 
FILMS AND WORKS OF LITERATURE THAT EIGHT BELOW BRINGS TO MIND
  • Alive 
  • Antarctica, for which this film is a remake 
  • Snow Dogs 
  • Spirit of the Wind 
  • Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog 
  • The Incredible Journey 
  • Never Cry Wolf 
  • Family adventure pictures like Swiss Family Robinson 
  • Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang 
  • War Horse 
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY FRANK MARSHALL
  • Alive 
  • Arachnophobia

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The outside temp may be hot, but at CineVerse it's "Eight Below"

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Join CineVerse on June 27 for an instant cool-off via “Eight Below” (2006; 120 minutes), directed by Frank Marshall, chosen by Jeff Kueltzo.

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Find out what's on tap at CineVerse over the next 2 months

Thursday, June 21, 2018

July and August promise to be exciting months at CineVerse, when a diverse array of films will be presented and discussed. Take a look for yourself by checkout out our next two-month schedule, available at tinyurl.com/cverse78

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In tune with life

The life of an artist in true pursuit of his or her craft is a hard road to travel. Just ask Greta, her friend Steve, or her new manager Dan. They've all suffered the slings and arrows of misfortune in their musical careers. But hope springs eternal, as do new songs that can inspire and entertain if they're performed from the heart. Such are the lessons to be learned from Begin Again, a well-cast film that rises above standard romcom fare by focusing on the joy of writing, recording and performing music. Here are the major takeaways from our CineVerse chat last night about this movie:

WHAT DID YOU FIND CURIOUS, PLEASANTLY OFFBEAT AND/OR DISTINCTIVELY MEMORABLE ABOUT BEGIN AGAIN?

  • It tells the first act of its story non-linearly; the opening scene where Greta performs in the bar is repeated 20 minutes later and 20 minutes after that, showing different perspectives of the characters. 
  • The conclusion is refreshing in that the girl doesn’t end up with up to three different suitors she can choose from, including Dan, whom we can tell she is growing fond of as the picture progresses. Instead, we see Dan reunite with his wife and Greta embark on a new phase of her life flying solo. 
  • It isn’t truly a movie musical, where the characters break out into song, but it does rely heavily on the strength of the original songs, written for the film by former New Radicals musician Gregg Alexander. 
    • Slant magazine reviewer David Lee Dallas wrote: “Greta’s songs are imminently appealing and listenable, but hardly spectacular, which works in the film’s favor: it’s characters are talented though far from geniuses, finding joy in the making of music rather than in the final product itself, but the album is still absolutely believable as a career-making hit.” 
  • The plot itself is also often driven by the music and lyrics instead of dialogue and action. 
  • The film gives us an insider’s view into the magic of making music – the process of writing, rehearsing, producing and performing songs and the carpe diem, of-the-moment, spontaneous nature of being a street musician with hopeful dreams. 
  • The movie often contrasts the glitz of the music business against the unglamorous reality of being a starving artist. 
    • Per Bluray.com reviewer, Martin Liebman: “That juxtaposition of the grit of reality versus the polish of the process is reflective in every theme and story line that runs through the movie, notably in the way protagonists Greta and Dan carry themselves in a more raw, unrehearsed, soulful manner that frequently clashes with the more prepared world in and through which the system says they must work. The city -- representing life itself -- proves a powerful elixir for both, releasing them, in essence, to be themselves, to operate on their own terms and be shaped by what life really is and has to offer, not what it appears to be in the blindingly white, bright, sterile world of clean lines and elegant stylings found inside the record office.” 
WHAT IS THIS MOVIE TRYING TO TELL US? WHAT ARE THE MAIN MESSAGES THE FILMMAKERS ARE ESPOUSING?
  • Finding meaning and purpose in life through a love of music 
  • Staying true to yourself and your vision without “selling out” 
  • “The process of self-discovery, the importance of self-confidence, and the ebbs and flows of life,” according to the blog Reel Simple
  • The importance of remaining active and passionate about what you do. 
  • In an interview, director John Carney said: “My worldview is that we need to keep moving, to keep singing and writing and imagining new possibilities and things. For one character, you might have to move forward, and for another character it’s like Dorothy’s line in the Wizard of Oz: if you can’t find what you’re looking for in your own backyard, maybe you never lost in the first place. Maybe for some people, to begin again is to go back to what they knew and begin again. And for other people, it’s to move on and find a new future.” 
MOVIES THAT BEGIN AGAIN REMINDS US OF:
  • The Thing Called Love 
  • Music and Lyrics 
  • Crazy Heart 
  • Inside Llewyn Davis 
  • Like Sunday, Like Rain 
  • That Thing You Do
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY JOHN CARNEY
  • On the Edge 
  • Once 
  • Sing Street

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