Blog Directory CineVerse

How I learned to stop worrying and love the movie

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On July 1, CineVerse will kick off its new series: Our Favorite Films--an ongoing series spotlighting CineVerse members top-ranked movies. Part 1 will be “Dr. Strangelove” (1964; 95 minutes), directed by Stanley Kubrick, chosen by Mike Bochenek; Plus: “No Fighting in the War Room,” a brief documentary on the historical and cultural importance of this movie.

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Shedding light on a dark thriller

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The plot machinations may be far too convoluted and the implausibilities are numerous, but somehow Wait Until Dark works -at least on a very primal level that satiates our appetite for suspense. Here are the conclusions our CineVerse group reached on this late sixties nail-biter:

CAN YOU IDENTIFY ANY PROMINENT THEMES SUGGESTED IN WAIT UNTIL DARK?

Vision and the ability to see perceptively, despite appearances: consider how intuitive and observant Suzy and Roat are; the former is truly blind, while the latter hides behind dark sunglasses.  Also, Suzy’s husband doesn’t see what threatens his wife until nearly the very end, even though he has his site.
Double meanings: in this film there are two heroines that propelled the plot; a female heroin whom we identify with, and a narcotic heroin that remains mostly out of sight.  There are also two “dolls”—Suzy, an attractive female, and the inanimate toy plaything and she is supposedly harboring.
Appearances are not what they seem: Suzy would appear to be a pitiable, helpless blind woman, but she actually proves quite insightful and resourceful; Roat wears disguises and it proves to be a sadistic psychopath, not just a petty criminal or drug dealer. 
Cautionary fairy tales: there are remnants of frightening children’s stories found in this tale, including Little Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs, each of whom are threatened by wolves trying to gain entry.
Female empowerment: writer John Lyden  interpreted both this movie and Dial M for Murder as “an expression of female rage against male aggression, as the woman refuses to be made a victim and is able to fight back effectively in the end.”
Claustrophobia: Suzy’s apartment proves to be a dark, confining, entrapping space where the walls are closing in on her, as well as us, the viewers.  This is based partially on the fact that the source material is a stage play, which typically features minimal sets and settings.
Turning a handicap into an advantage: Suzy levels the playing field by turning out the lights on her attacker.
Reviewer Eric Henderson wrote: “Like similar psychological thrillers ruminating on the theme of urban isolation and loneliness, Wait Until Dark manages to create a paradoxical environment of civilization devoid of human life. The apartment building Suzy lives in is perpetually empty; Suzy's husband, Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), leaves her on her own for most of the day, and the dorky young girl upstairs is apparently motherless most of the time. Also, Young makes the smart decision of setting his thriller inside a basement apartment, the cave-like arches of which have the unsettling effect of positioning Hepburn in a nondescript underground (the windows only look out on the feet of passersby, emphasizing Suzy's disconnect from her neighborhood).”

WAIT UNTIL DARK HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE BEST HITCHCOCK MOVIE THAT ALFRED HITCHCOCK DIDN’T DIRECT.  HOW IS THIS FILM LIKE A HITCHCOCK DIRECTED MOVIE?
It features an attractive, icy cool, and intelligent female protagonist who is in danger 
It includes a MacGuffin: in this case, the doll filled with heroin
It employs knot-tightening suspense in its plot, pacing and directorial choices
It uses symbolism and thematic elements to help tell its story, including the symbolism of dark glasses and blindness representing inability to see deeper and more perceptively beyond the obvious
It mimics the stage bound settings of some Hitchcock thrillers, including Dial M for Murder, Rope, and Rear Window

WHAT OTHER FILMS ARE BROUGHT TO MIND AFTER VIEWING WAIT UNTIL DARK?
Rear Window
Gaslight
Silence of the Lambs
Sorry Wrong Number
The Tenant
The Seventh Victim
Dial M for Murder
Sleuth

OTHER PICTURES DIRECTED BY TERENCE YOUNG:
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Thunderball

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Make a blind date with terror

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Few thrillers come as suspenseful as “Wait Until Dark” (1967; 108 minutes), directed by Terence Young, chosen by Danealle Kueltzo, which is slated for June 24th at CineVerse.

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View the July/August calendar

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eager to learn what we'll be watching and talking about over the next several weeks at CineVerse? You can view the July/August 2015 schedule right now by clicking here or visiting http://1drv.ms/1GjKIb6

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Bringing sanity to lunar lunacy

With its retro seventies esthetics, claustrophobic interiors, and the unfettered performance of Sam Rockwell, "Moon," directed by David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, takes us on a unique space oddity that even Ziggy Stardust would appreciate. Boiled deep in the subgenre of hard science-fiction, this film forces us to confront tough questions about what it means to be human and if the future is worth looking forward to. Here's our group's take on "Moon":

DOES MOON MAKE YOU THINK OF ANY OTHER FILMS?
“2001: A Space Odyssey” in its art direction, set design, and depiction of artificial intelligence and space loneliness and isolation.
“Silent Running,” “Solaris” and “Alien” in its somber, inauspicious tone and cautionary tale-like lesson.
“Blade Runner” and “AI: Artificial Intelligence” in its exploration about the nature and veracity of artificial or cloned existence.
“Dead Ringers,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and the remake of “The Fly,” all of which purport assimilation and repopulation-type horror
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Truman Show”

WHAT ARE SOME KEY THEMES AND IDEAS PONDERED IN “MOON”?
Solitude, seclusion, alienation, emptiness, and loneliness, and the effects these have upon the human psyche.
Man’s fear of the unknown, embodied here in the enigmatic mystery and awe of the desolate, monochromatic moon itself  
The nature of reality, identity, individuality and existence: even if the memories within a clone are planted and not authentically experienced, aren’t they “real”, and don’t they define that person as a person?
The reliability of our experiences and memories. How accurate is our past? If you are a clone or artificial being, are you still not capable of emotions and original thought? Is Descartes and his conception of “I think, therefore I am” wrong or invalid here?
The ethics of bioengineering and human-replicating technology. Is it wrong to clone? What rights do clones have? Is programmed obsolescence wrong? What is our moral responsibility when creating clones or artificial intelligences?
The desensitization and expendability of human beings for the advance of profits and big business
Biblical allusions and metaphors: Cain (the younger clone) slays (beats up) his brother Abel (older clone); the lunar equipment is named after Gospel writers Matthew, John and Luke; “Eve” is Sam’s daughter
According to writer Steven D. Greydanus: 
o deconstruction of human nature
o the commodification of human life to existential loneliness
o alienation and the dehumanizing effects of corporate ruthlessness

HOW IS FILM DIFFERENT FROM MANY OTHER SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIES, AND WHY IS THIS DISTINCTION IMPORTANT?
Unlike so many other sci-fi pictures, this one can more accurately puts the “science” in science-fiction, as opposed to being a space opera fantasy in which scientifically accurate details, principles of physics and the known universe, and realism take a back seat.
It doesn’t involve clichéd chases, heroic rescues, spaceship battles, Michael Bay-sized explosions or colorful and exotic aliens. Instead, it’s a simple, slowly paced story that asks deep philosophical questions, forsaking popcorn entertainment-style action, thrills and romance for a more intellectual experience.
It features primarily only one character and actor, forcing you to patiently examine his thoughts and behaviors and see things through his eyes; the benefit of this is a simpler story in which character development is given priority as opposed to plot and rising/falling action.
In addition to posing timeless, universally applicable existential questions, it also tries to maintain a topical relevance and realism—staying mostly within the borders of what we currently know about lunar exploration, manned space flight, modern energy needs, near-future dilemmas such as the ethics of responsible cloning, and more.
This distinction is important because it demonstrates how rare films like “Moon” are, that make you pay attention and think as opposed to being a passive viewer of frenetically paced fantasy action and adventure. This is a refreshing departure from franchise and sequel-dominated big FX flicks like the Transformers or Star Wars films It’s a challenge to pull a film like this off successfully, as measured by audience appreciation and critical praise, not necessarily box office bucks.

SOME CRITICS CONTEND THAT THIS MOVIE LEAVES TOO MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED. CAN YOU THINK OF ANY SUCH QUESTIONS?
Reviewer Richard Scheib wrote: “The main problem I have is that the film seems to be all build up but oddly missing a third act. 
o There is a great deal of conceptual mystery created – why are there dozens of clones of Sam Rockwell beneath the base on The Moon? 
o Who put them there? 
o How come two clones were activated at once? 
o Why does the company make so much effort to imprint them with memories of the original Sam and provide him with faked tapes of his family, yet keep communication with Earth blocked? 
o If the capacity existed to imprint each clone with memories, then the capacity also existed to imprint them with no or few memories, thus removing the need to create such an elaborate facade. 
o If Sam is the only person on the base and in the near area then why build direct communication towers with Earth and then disable them – what purpose can they serve? 
o Would the controllers not be more actively monitoring of what happens and take steps to prevent the clones from returning to Earth or making contact with Sam’s family? 
o The computer GERTY seems to behave in ways that do not make sense – it appears to be communicating live with Earth at one point, but nothing further is made of this, while its mandate to protect Sam Rockwell from knowledge is overridden with absurd ease.”

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Enter the dark side of the moon...

Sunday, June 14, 2015



On June 17, World Cinema Wednesday returns to CineVerse with a sci-fi special from the United Kingdom:“Moon”(2009; 97 minutes), directed by Duncan Jones, chosen by Brian Hansen. Plus, stick around for a trailer reel preview of the July/August CineVerse schedule.

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A comedy that never fails to quack you up

Thursday, June 11, 2015

There are many who believe the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" to be the funniest film of the classic Hollywood black-and-white era. With its rapid-fire one-liners, hilarious gags, unforgettable sequences (like the mirror scene), and mirthful mayhem, it's hard to argue with that claim. Here are some of the observations we reached about the brothers Marx and their 1933 comic masterpiece:


HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE MARX BROTHERS' BRAND OF COMEDY?
Anarchistic, silly, satirical, absurd, irreverent, improvisational
It employs a variety of styles, such as: 
o Slapstick—a boisterous form of comedy marked by chases, collisions, and crude practical jokes
o sight gags—a comic bit or effect that depends on sight rather than words
o verbal jousting that includes puns (a humorous play on words), insults, silly arguments, quips, wisecracks, and double entendres (a word or phrase having a double meaning, especially when the second meaning is risqué or controversial)
o running gags
o satire—irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity; consider how their comedy lampoons institutions like the government and military, authority figures, upper crust snobs, dictators, and film censorship itself
o comedic songs
Team-based comedy in which each brother has a unique comedic styling and talent set that works well together or separately; unlike Abbott & Costello, the 3 Stooges, or even Laurel & Hardy, the 3 Marxes carry their own solo scenes independent of each other

EACH CHARACTER HAS HIS OWN UNIQUE PERSONALITY AND TALENTS. WHAT ARE THEY?
o Groucho’s talent set included verbal wit, expressive eyes/eyebrows, stopped gait, short stature, and singing/guitar playing; rocker Alice Cooper remarked: “"He was able to use words in the same way Errol Flynn used a sword."
o Chico’s gifts consisted of a funny accent, pun-dominated exchanges, quirky piano playing style, playing straight man to Harpo, and getting Groucho’s goat
o Harpo’s forte included clownish physical and nonverbal comedy, pantomime, mastery of the use of humorous props, crowd-pleasing childlike charm and innocence, sublime harp-playing that instantly transformed him into a sensitive and loveable character, and a hankering for chasing women

HOW IS “DUCK SOUP” DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MARX BROTHERS MOVIES, AND WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S REGARDED BY MOST CRITICS, HISTORIANS AND FANS AS THE MARX BROTHERS’ BEST?
It’s pure Marx Brothers, start to finish, without any obligatory song-and-dance numbers, boring romantic storylines, or reliance on plot. As BFI writer Geoff Andrew wrote: It has “the perfect comic timing. Duck Soup is probably the fastest of the Marxes’ films; certainly it is the shortest, its 68-minute running time undercutting even Monkey Business (77 minutes) and Horse Feathers (70 minutes). There’s not an ounce of fat on the film; each scene is meticulously paced and structured, and each gag given just enough time (usually a second or so) to sink in before the next one comes along.”
Keeping the film moving briskly, it doesn’t feature Chico or Harpo playing their instruments.
It contains perhaps their single greatest skit: the famous mirror scene
According to film reviewer Jeffrey Anderson: “Perhaps the ultimate reason Duck Soup continues to dominate the other Marx Brothers films is its cynicism toward politics. The ridiculous reasons for going to war ("I already put a deposit on the battlefield") and the awkward, hysterical war itself are especially relevant today.
It’s bold, brash, and insolent, not afraid of inciting controversy or offending audiences. Consider:
o Hitler and Mussolini had recently risen to power, yet the film skewers their fascist tendencies over the coals
o It mocks warmongers and the absurdity of war
o It ridicules jingoism and patriotism, even insinuating volunteering soldiers as “suckers”
o It lampoons religion and gun-owning conservatives, “singing “we got guns, they got guns, all God’s chillum got guns”
o It parodies government bureaucracy, which subtly was poking fun at Roosevelt’s cabinet and initiatives during the Great Depression
o It flips the bird to the Hays Code and expected film censorship standards of the time, showing Harpo in bed naked with a horse

WHY ARE THE MARX BROTHERS MOVIES STILL FUNNY TODAY, CONSIDERING THEIR AGE?
Meticulous craftsmanship: fine-tuned humorous personalities at the heights of their powers, impeccable comedic timing, and undeniable multi-faceted talents for each brother.
Their characters are indelibly etched into our pop culture consciousness and remain timeless. Groucho's former co-manager Shep Gordon was quoted as saying: "Their movies will always be relevant because it is intelligent, character-driven humour. Groucho uses words like a laser surgeon and Harpo is the perfect innocent scoundrel."
Ahead-of-their-time absurdity: Consider how zany, unpredictable, contextually rebellious and disrespectful, and visually inventive many of these films and individual scenes are. Without the Marx Brothers, perhaps you don’t have: 
o Monty Python-esque humor that veers into surrealist/illogical territory
o Visual cut-and-paste-style comical montage (think of the stock footage-sourced rampaging elephants and animals intercut with the war scenes in Duck Soup)
o Modern comedy sketches, TV shows and films that dare to break the rules without the Marxes. Contemporary comedy director Judd Apatow revealed: "The first movie that had an impact on me as a person interested in comedy was Duck Soup. I was a fanatical Marx Brothers fan as a 10 year-old. It might have been because I loved their rebellion - it seemed like they were flipping the bird to everyone."
o Daring political satire, from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” to Sasha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator” without “Duck Soup.”
o Comedy that isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall and defy the traditional structure of film comedy—such as talking to the audience and a doghouse tattoo that reveals a live action dog.

OTHER MOVIES HELMED BY DIRECTOR LEO MCCAREY
The Awful Truth
Going My Way
The Bells of St. Mary’s
An Affair to Remember

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Anarchy meets comedy x 2

Sunday, June 7, 2015

On June 10, CineVerse will present a Marx Brothers double feature: “Horse Feathers” (1932; 68 minutes) directed by Norman Z. McLeod and “Duck Soup” (1933; 68 minutes), directed by Leo McCarey, chosen by Tom Nesis.

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Film fans know how to party

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thanks to all the CineVerse members who attended yesterday's 10th anniversary celebration, including those who brought snacks and beverages. It truly was a special event.  


It's hard to believe that an entire decade has gone by since our little film discussion group got started. Here's to the next 10 years and beyond, and a note of sincere appreciation for your involvement, dedication, and passion about movies.

From left to right: (back row) Jeff, Len, Farrell, Dan, Brian, Erik, Tom, Pat, Janet, Larry, Rose, Carole, Mike, Peggy, Joe; (front row) Don, Ken, Marce, Danealle, Jeannie.

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