Blog Directory CineVerse

The Eve of destruction

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"All About Eve" is essentially all about bad girls pretending to be good and good girls behaving badly and the boys who adore them. But it's also about power dynamics in relationships, the challenges men and women experience in trying to understand one another, and the damage inflicted by deceit and devious manipulations. Those are among the conclusions reached by our CineVerse group after viewing the movie last evening. Here are some others:

WHY IS THIS FILM STILL MEMORABLE AND ENTERTAINING, EVEN 67 YEARS AFTER ITS THEATRICAL RELEASE?
This has been called a “writer’s picture,” and the sparkling dialogue has often been noted as among the very best in Hollywood history; this screenplay, in fact, ranks number five on the Writers Guild of America’s list of 101 greatest screenplays.
It’s more than just the spoken words that shine, however: All About Eve is also masterfully structured as a story. Blogger Jason Fraley wrote: “All About Eve revolutionized the sort of non-linear, fractured narrative structure to which we’ve become so accustomed. It was one of three phenomenal examples of fractured narratives in 1950, joining Sunset Boulevard and Rashomon… Eve begins with its ending, then loops back around to that same scene at the end. How clever that the scene featured both at the beginning and the end is an award ceremony, where the person giving the acceptance speech may actually be hated by all those she’s then thanking. We dive into this idea in one long extended flashback, where voiceovers from various characters unravel the story in a way that we think we know who we’re rooting for. But by the time the film’s third act arrives, we have totally different sentiments for the film’s characters, and that is the true brilliance of the script. We watch Margot go from snobby heel to sympathetic victim, and Eve from naïve innocent to conniving bitch.”
The screenplay’s structure is also conjoined with the exploration of two character arcs that intersect and diverge: one character is Margot, grappling with feelings of insecurity, aging into obsolescence, and self-doubt as she presumably heads into a downward trajectory; the other is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who is headed in the opposite direction after sleeping and scheming her way to the top.
Interestingly, for a film about actors and theatrical talent, we don’t ever see anybody performing on stage or in front of the camera. Reviewer Glenn Erickson said: “All About Eve cautiously avoids showing anybody performing, and instead uses testimony to describe Margot’s star qualities and Eve’s sensational breakthrough performance.” In other words, what fascinates us is the backstage banter, off-camera jockeying for power, and behind-the-scenes drama.
Cattiness, cynicism, and the conniving, usurping nature of human beings never go out of style. The way that Eve worms her way slyly into the accepting circle of Margot, and the subtle nuances that help her accomplish her scheme, make for intriguing entertainment.
The fact that the film received a record 14 Academy award nominations – winning six, such as Best Picture – has become an oft-quoted footnote in Hollywood history and film fan trivia. Such accolades attract old and new generations to the movie, with many viewers wanting to see what all the fuss was about.
The cast is among the greatest ever assembled for a major motion picture, with many giving arguably career-defining performances, including Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter, and Anne Baxter.
While this isn’t an overtly feminist film, there is evidence that suggests female dominance here at a time when women characters were often subjugated in a patriarchal society. Consider that the female characters are given more screen time and significance than their male counterparts. Additionally, “what makes Mankiewicz’s approach gently revolutionary is the female leads’ reluctance to sit back and passively transform from objects of desire into (bluntly) mothers and/or wives,” wrote Slant Magazine reviewer Joseph Jon Lanthier. “Even Eve… sees her attractiveness as means to an end: It’s power, not sex, that she wants. (In) the movie’s climax… Mankiewicz grants them their dreams with surprisingly little patriarchal compromise: Margot escapes the stage’s unforgiving clutches, and Eve wins success at what is, really, a nominal social fee. The refreshing implication is not that women need men to succeed, but that both sexes may need one another to keep their respective evils in check.”

WHAT THEMES SURFACE AFTER VIEWING THIS FILM?
There’s a hidden predator in all of us that sometimes surfaces if we are to survive and thrive.
Comeuppance can be karmic and cruel but deliciously ironic, too.
Human beings often wear masks to disguise their real intentions and personalities.
The injustice and unfairness of growing old and being replaced by someone younger.

OTHER FILMS THAT COME TO MIND AFTER WATCHING ALL ABOUT EVE
Sunset Boulevard
Limelight, which also details the fall from popularity of an old-time star
Fedora
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

OTHER MOVIES DIRECTED BY JOSEPH L MANKIEWICZ
Cleopatra
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
A Letter to Three Wives
Sleuth
Suddenly, Last Summer
Guys and Dolls

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"Fasten your seatbelts--it's going to be a bumpy ride"

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Mark March 22 on your calendar: that's the date you'll want to join Cineverse for “All About Eve” (1950; 138 minutes), directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, chosen by Larry Leipart.

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Growing up the hard way

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When's the last time a modern motion picture actually made you feel something genuine, actually moved something inside of you--without resorting to shameless schmaltz or formulaic melodrama? Unless you don't have a pulse, it's hard not to be stirred by "Short Term 12," certainly one of the finest films of the last several years and a refreshingly rare look inside the lives of an overlooked subset of our society: abandoned, abused and troubled teenagers and the people entrusted with caring for them. After careful examination, our CineVerse group came to the following conclusions about this movie:

WHAT DID YOU FIND DIFFERENT, UNEXPECTED, SURPRISING OR SATISFYING ABOUT THIS FILM?
It’s brave: it isn’t afraid to show, warts and all, the inner workings of a group home for wayward adolescents and all of the tremendous psychological and emotional problems that can beset this population.
Arguably, it’s one of the greatest films about “social work” that’s ever been made; we often get depictions of psychiatrists and psychologists/therapists in movies, but rarely do we see what supervisors of group homes and social workers have to do. They are operating on the front lines of a psychological battlefield populated by children.
This film is well-balanced totally – it’s sad, funny, uplifting, and suspenseful; it includes just enough mirthful moments to help neutralize a lot of the melancholy and depressing elements, stories and characters. As Katie Walsh from IndieWire wrote: “What could drift into melodrama or sentimentality is always righted by the realistic and delicately varied tone of the film. Real life drags people through a lot of different emotions from moment to moment, and the film captures just that.”
The screenplay is excellent: the dialogue is credible and rich, the characters are deeply layered with understandable motivations and personalities, and the storylines and subplots are arresting. The movie is smartly bookended by two different escape attempts from one of the teens. Walsh further wrote: “The storytelling is deliberately structured, drawing you and instantly to these characters and then allowing their stories to open up like an onion, reveal after reveal leaving the viewer devastated, hopeful, or breathless with suspense… Short Term 12 expresses its serious subject matter in a fresh and authentic manner, never relying on the content itself to keep the viewer’s interest but how it unfolds for the audience, anchored to these characters who we grow to deeply care about.”
The story in the background is the plight and problems of the teens in the group home; but the bigger story in the foreground is the relationship between Grace and Mason, and Grace’s past coming back to haunt her – especially in the context of her care of Jayden, who reminds Grace of herself.

WHAT MAKES THE MOVIE FEEL “REAL” AND AUTHENTIC?
It looks like a documentary. Scenes filmed at the group home were shot at a previous short-stay facility. Director Destin Daniel Cretton based the story on his personal experiences working in a group home for teenagers. Also, research shows that the majority of kids in the movie were cast via open casting calls and most lacked any previous acting experience. It also helps that two of its actors who are now semi-stars – Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield – were relatively unknown when this film was released theatrically. Having fresh young unidentifiable actors appear in your film gives it a blank slate upon which the audience can paint their own picture, without bringing any baggage to the viewing.
Using a handheld, mobile camera, extreme close-ups, and long/unbroken takes lend a vibe of immediacy and verisimilitude to the movie, making viewers feel like they’re getting a rare, privileged, private view inside these lives—like we’re following them around. 
The film has many lingering moments of quietude that force you to pay close attention to the performances and even the smallest of sounds—creating a feeling of greater intimacy.
The score is not syrupy, bombastic, or shamelessly emotionally manipulative. It kind of hangs out subtly in the background to shade our experience and add a tinge of emotional color.
Several characters shed tears, and they absolutely look real and non-contrived—which is a testament to solid acting.

WHAT THEMES ARE EXPLORED IN THIS PICTURE?
Psychological scars run deeper and heal slower than physical wounds.
Even the most troubled child is worthy of redemption and capable of healing.
Suppressing or denying old emotional wounds can come back to haunt you – sometimes these are lifelong struggles that have to continue to be managed.
Even the most challenging jobs and difficult tasks can be extremely rewarding – in this context, supervising and caring for troubled children can be gratifying and fulfilling.
Love and compassion can overcome fear, anger and sadness.
The challenge (and irony of) preparing to bring another child into a world that is already so difficult for children.
Grace under pressure—literally. Grace is bombarded with challenges: the lingering specter of an abusive father, pregnancy, connecting with her boyfriend, managing and coping with troubled teens, etc.

OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND US OF SHORT TERM 12
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
The Spectacular Now
Precious
Girl, Interrupted
Happy-Go-Lucky
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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Short-term movie, long-term appreciation

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Short Term 12” (2013; 96 minutes), directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and chosen by Janet Pierucci, is slated for March 15 at CineVerse.

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Now that's some sweet swashbuckling

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Years ago, Mel Brooks made another of his famous movie genre spoof films, "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," this time applying the parody spotlight to romantic adventure films – particularly "The Adventures of Robin Hood" from 1938 starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. While Brooks' effort proved to be mediocre at best, the source material on which it was based remains unimpeachable. That's because it's just plain hard to find fault with a fairytale film that mixes elements of colorful superhero bravado with children's storybook charm – a motion picture with an endless supply of kinetic energy, interesting characters, and old school stunts. Consider these finer points about the film, discussed last evening with our CineVerse group:

WHAT IS MEMORABLE, INNOVATIVE, AND IMPRESSIVE ABOUT THIS CINEMATIC ADAPTATION OF ROBIN HOOD?
It was the first English-speaking Robin Hood talkie – previously, there was a silent version from 1922 – and the first created in color.
It was Warner Brothers’ first film shot in the expensive three-strip Technicolor process.
It was the only Robin Hood film version ever nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
It marked one of 12 occasions when Flynn was directed by Michael Curtiz and was the fifth of nine films that Flynn would costar in with Olivia de Havilland.
It is considered by many to be not only the greatest Robin Hood story ever filmed, but arguably the finest swashbuckler movie of them all.
It signified a departure for Warner Brothers, known previously for gritty urban crime pictures, social problem films, and Big Apple musicals, and represented their biggest budgeted production up to that point.
Its original music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold ranks number 11 on the American Film Institute’s list of the top 25 greatest film scores.
It proved to be extremely popular with Great Depression-era audiences and seemed to benefit from the opportune time in which it was made; blogger Tim Brayton suggested the following: “There’s little if any chance that this movie could have been made outside of the very small window between 1935 and the outbreak of the Second World War… Later generations of filmmakers would more and more come to privilege realism.”
For as fantastically garish and exaggerated it is in storytelling, characters, colors and pageantry, critics and audiences also appreciated the thrilling stunts and lavish attention to detail – supposedly the actors used unblunted sword points in their dueling and swordplay, and Flynn performed many of his stunts himself.
This is a stellar example of perfect casting: it’s hard to envision anyone else but Flynn playing this role, especially at this time period, and by this time he had been indelibly linked with de Havilland on-screen; consider, too, the embarrassment of riches in the supporting cast – Claude Raines, Basil Rathbone, Patrick Knowles, Alan Hale, and Eugene Pallette.
This is a prime example of a film that benefited greatly from the studio system in the classic Hollywood period, during which studios pumped out masterpieces or near masterpieces in assembly line fashion and tapped a rich vein of in-house and external contract players and resources, many of which they borrowed from other studios. Because studios like Warner Brothers had perfected this craft to a finely tuned but utterly efficient science, they could churn out high-quality product on a regular basis with consistent results.
Roger Ebert theorized that this film is so effective because it keeps things relatively straightforward. He said: “The movie knows when to be simple. And it is the bond between Robin and Marian, after all, that stands at the heart of the movie. The ideal hero must do good, defeat evil, have a good time and win the girl. The Adventures of Robin Hood is like a textbook on how to get that right… Their love scenes, so simple and direct, made me reflect that modern love scenes in action movies are somehow too realistic; they draw too much on psychology and not enough on romance and fable.”
Arguably, this picture contains the greatest and most memorable sword fighting sequence in film history.

OTHER MOVIES THAT REMIND YOU OF THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD
Other film adaptations of the Robin Hood legend, including the 1922 Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks, Robin and Marian starring Sean Connery, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, and Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe
Other swashbuckling adventures starring Errol Flynn, including Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk
The Prince and the Pauper 
The Mark of Zorro
Ivanhoe
The Star Wars films, with their light saber battles and derring-do adventures

OTHER MOVIES BY DIRECTOR MICHAEL CURTIZ
The Mystery of the Wax Museum
Captain Blood
Angels With Dirty Faces
The Sea Hawk
Casablanca
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Mildred Pierce
Life With Father
White Christmas

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The future meets the past--90 years in the past--at Cineversary

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cineversary, a new once-a-month event on select Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. in the downstairs theater at the Oak Lawn Library that celebrates a milestone anniversary of an artistically, culturally and historically important motion picture, returns on March 11 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of “Metropolis” (1927; 149 minutes). Note: Due to this film’s long runtime, Cineversary will end around 4:20 p.m.

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A swashbuckling Cupid

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Make plans to attend CineVerse on March 8, when we'll feature “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938; 102 minutes), directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, chosen by Joe Valente.

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The pluck of the Irish

Thursday, March 2, 2017

It could easily be mistaken for an episode of "Masterpiece Theater" or "PBS Mystery." But "Widow's Peak," a largely overlooked little comedy/drama from the UK that premiered in theaters back in 1994, is certainly more substantial than a made-for-TV standalone period piece. Among the observations our CineVerse group made on this film were the following:

HOW WOULD THIS FILM HAVE BEEN A SURPRISE OR UNEXPECTED TREAT TO 1994 AUDIENCES WHEN IT WAS RELEASED?
It features Mia Farrow in her first role following her separation from Woody Allen; moviegoers were not used to seeing her in a non-Allen film; in fact, this was her first appearance in a movie not directed by Allen since 1984.
Interestingly, Mia’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, was originally intended to play the part of Miss O’Hare – which went to her daughter.
The film tries to balance carefully between a murder mystery and comedy while also tapping into uniquely Irish and British sensibilities. This results in a mixed stew of varying tonalities that perhaps keeps the viewer intrigued and curious as to how things will develop.
To Americans watching this back in 1994, or today for that matter, the dialects and dialogue – especially how speech is contrasted among the different widows – is central to the film’s power and allure. Roger Ebert wrote: “It uses understated humor and fluent, witty speech; it’s a delight to listen to, as it gradually reveals how eccentric these apparently respectable people really are... Widow’s Peak is more about sharp-edge humor and barbed tongues and women who maintain a façade of perfect respectability while getting up to all sorts of mischief.”
This picture arguably puts more emphasis on colorful and interesting characters than a crunchy plot; it helps that there is a strong ensemble cast that includes instantly familiar British actors like Joan Plowright, Natasha Richardson, and Jim Broadbent.

THEMES OR MESSAGES SUGGESTED IN THIS FILM:
The dangers and repercussions of keeping secrets
Appearances can be deceiving, and things are not always as they seem
The damage caused by scandal and hearsay
Class warfare
The weight and baggage of reputations

OTHER FILMS AND TELEVISION SHOWS THAT REMIND US OF WIDOW’S PEAK:
Enchanted April
Hear My Song
Waking Devine
The Snapper
The Remains of the Day
Howards End

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Mia Farrow reveals her Widow's Peak

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On March 1, CineVerse will present “Widow’s Peak” (1994; 101 minutes), directed by John Irvin, chosen by Peggy Quinn.

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