Blog Directory CineVerse

Go ahead...make my Wednesday

Sunday, July 26, 2015

On July 29, CineVerse brings back Our Favorite Films--an ongoing series spotlighting CineVerse members top-ranked movies. Part 5 will be “The Enforcer” (1976; 96 minutes), directed by James Fargo, chosen by Larry Leipart. Plus: “The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry,” a brief documentary on the influence and legacy of the Dirty Harry movies.

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A natural-born world shaker

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Many film fans consider Cool Hand Luke to be the definitive, quintessential prison film to end all prison films. Admirers of The Shawshank Redemption might beg to differ. But most would agree that the former is an incarceration classic for the ages. CineVerse took a closer look at this movie last evening and came away with these conclusions:

NOTES ON COOL HAND LUKE

WHY WOULD THIS FILM HAVE RESONATED STRONGLY IN 1967 AND CONTINUE TO RESONATE TODAY FOR MODERN AUDIENCES?
Because its themes of nonconformity, anti establishment, protest against the man, the anti-hero, and distrust of power figures are timeless.
1967 was at the height of the Vietnam War and the younger generation’s growing unrest about our involvement in that conflict; additionally, the times were marked by race riots and increasing distrust of government and authority figures; Cool Hand Luke connected with younger audiences as well as older viewers who had enjoyed popular prison films from previous years.  
Its main message, What we’ve got here is failure to communicate, translates across all demographics, including older generations who feel like youth don’t listen as well, and younger generations who can appreciate the theme of disconnect with their elders.  
Today, this film is still enjoyed and appreciated by new generations, in large part because sympathy for nonconformists and naturally identifying with underdogs and iconoclasts never goes out of style.
Also, good prison movies are evergreen and timeless, especially if they have strong characters and gripping narratives.

COOL HAND LUKE IS REPLETE WITH RELIGIOUS THEMES, MESSAGES AND SYMBOLS.  CAN YOU CITE ANY EXAMPLES?  
Consider the main characters and their Biblical counterparts they are personifying: Luke is a Christ-like figure who endures great punishment and sacrifices himself for his followers; the prisoners are his disciples; Dragline is both a Peter and Judas figure; the guards are akin to the Romans, Jewish persecutors, and Philistines; Arletta is meant to evoke the Virgin Mary; the captain is a Pontius Pilate figure; and Boss Godfrey (think of his name) personifies a cold, authoritarian, vengeful God.
There are many scenes depicting Luke sufferings great hardship like a martyr, including the scene where he eats 50 eggs (representing the 50 prisoner souls he is trying to save) and then lays out on the table in a cross like position; and the scene where he keeps having to dig the same hole again and again, like Jesus having to carry his own cross.
The number on Luke’s shirt is 37, which makes the religious in the audience think of Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Following the scuffle with Dragline, we see the sun arcing behind Luke’s head, suggesting an aura around him.
The scene in and outside the church at the end, where Luke is talking to God, reminds us of the Garden of Gethsemane story in the Bible.  Luke is asking God to spare him and show him another way, just as Jesus did in the garden.
Luke is resurrected several times in the movie, including after eating the eggs, after he digs his own grave and crawls out of it, and after he is shot and later praised by his disciples.
Recall the scene where Luke inspires the other prisoners to complete the highway paving with relish and pride prior to the conclusion of the work day; this has been compared to Christ’s cursing of the Temple of Jerusalem and the conspiring of the leaders to punish him for that.
Notice how we never see Boss Godfrey’s eyes until Dragline knocks his glasses off; before this, Boss Godfrey is depicted as in omnipresent, all-seeing, angry and violent God, similar to how God is often shown in the Old Testament; with Luke’s death, the “New Testament” now begins, and God is shown in a different light.
At the end of the film, watch how Luke’s face is superimposed over the crossroads, which resemble a cross.
Consider the scene where the prisoners scoop up Luke’s rice so that he will not be punished any longer, making us think of the Last Supper and Jesus’ quote, “Take and eat, this is my body.”
Following his death, Dragline spreads the “gospel of Luke” to his fellow inmates, saying that Luke has done enough world shakin’ and now it’s their job to continue Luke’s work.

OTHER THAN THESE RELIGIOUS THEORIES, WHY DOES LUKE ACT THE WAY HE DOES?  
In addition to being a martyr, he is also a masochist, a glutton for punishment who simply cannot abide by the rules of the establishment and authority figures.
Roger Ebert suggested the following: “It is a point of pride to Luke that he hauls himself to his feet and refuses to admit defeat, and this, we discover, will be his method throughout the movie; he can’t win, but he can continue to absorb punishment indefinitely.” Ebert also said: “The physical suffering and danger are sickening, no less so than Luke’s punishment of being made to dig and fill in the same grave-shaped hole time and again…  Rarely has an important movie star suffered more, in a film wall-to-wall with physical punishment, psychological cruelty, hopelessness and equal parts of sadism and masochism.”
It’s interesting to ponder that Luke is an anti-hero, not a conventional hero or a rebel with a cause; he’s not trying to uphold truth, justice or the American way.
o He exudes all the classic characteristics of the anti-hero: a protagonist who has some characteristics that are opposite of the traditional hero; he’s antisocial, alienated, obnoxious, passive, and yet pitiful; the anti-hero tries to define his own values vs. those imposed by society.  
o Luke despises those who worship him; he’s a criminal; you want to like him, but he does things that are frustrating and antithetical of a hero; this anti-hero fails and falls from grace, only to redeem himself later.
Reviewer Rob Nixon wrote: “Luke has no particular agenda or set of beliefs that put him at odds with the rest of the world beyond his status, which remains unexplained other than he's simply one who doesn't ‘fit in.’ We're meant to accept him from the beginning as an iconic outsider and loner, and if that's not enough to root for him, the filmmakers stack the deck in his favor by portraying his jailers as almost unanimously sadistic and unsympathetic while portraying him in the most positive light and his fellow convicts as by and large a rather likable bunch.” In addition, Nixon suggested: “Today, Luke seems more a victim of his own self-ostracism, even something of a masochist.”
Think about the final images in the movie: Luke is dead, and the green light switches straight to red, with no yellow in between.  And the red is below the green, unlike a real traffic light.  This insinuates that Luke has turned authority upside down and made an impact on those around him.

OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND US OF COOL HAND LUKE:
Previous prison films like I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, Stalag 17 and The Great Escape
Contemporary films from the sixties in which heroes are crushed when they play outside of society’s rules, including Bonnie and Clyde, and Easy Rider
Other movies where rebels cannot escape from past mistakes and must follow their natures, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, From Here to Eternity, and A Clockwork Orange.
Anti-hero films also starring Newman, like The Hustler, Hud, and Hombre

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What we've got here is...one heck of a movie

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Our Favorite Films--an ongoing series spotlighting CineVerse members top-ranked movies--returns to CineVerse with Part 4 on July 22; “Cool Hand Luke” (1967; 126 minutes), directed by Stuart Rosenberg, chosen by Janet Pierucci.

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You must remember this...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On July 15, Our Favorite Films--an ongoing series spotlighting CineVerse members top-ranked movies, returns to CineVerse with Part 3:“Casablanca” (1942; 102 minutes), directed by Michael Curtiz, chosen by Peggy Quinn. Plus: “Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic,” a brief documentary on the historical and cultural importance of this movie.

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CineVerse makes headlines

Friday, July 10, 2015

Your friendly neighborhood film discussion group was profiled in a lengthy feature in yesterday's The Reporter newspaper, which serves the southwest suburbs.  Writer Jeff Vorva was kind enough to visit one of our Wednesday meetings last month and write the article.

Visit http://1drv.ms/1UK0sPh to read the full scoop.

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There's no crying in baseball movies...well, maybe a little

Thursday, July 9, 2015

" A League of Their Own" may be dripping with corn and sentimentality, but its heart is in the right place and its stars are definitely in alignment--and the stars are plentiful here, from Tom Hanks to Madonna to David Straithairn.  This is a crowd pleaser, for sure, but then again, isn't every notable baseball movie?  Our CineVerse group played umpire last evening and called this film " safe" at home plate.  Here are our observations:

WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING ABOUT THIS FILM, BEYOND PERHAPS WHAT YOU EXPECTED?
It’s as surprisingly entertaining and enjoyable for men as it is for female viewers, thanks to its strong cast, colorful characters, sex appeal, and feminist subtext.
Speaking of the cast, the actors are perfectly chosen for the zeitgeist of the times; consider that this was the height of the careers of Geena Davis and Jon Lovitz, and the time right before Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell became overexposed and passé to many audiences.  It also features some surprising cameos from two Laverne and Shirley character actors, David Straithairn early in his career, as well as bit parts by Bill Pullman and Tea Leoni.
It isn’t afraid to take the chance of telling a lesser-known story from history about a unique gender experiment in a male-dominated sport and within a movie genre geared toward men.  If this film did not exist, many people would not even be aware that there actually was an All-American Girl’s Professional Baseball League.
It features popular actor Tom Hanks in one of his last turns as a comedic actor; he has been so strongly associated with powerful and memorable dramatic roles over the past two-plus decades that it’s sometimes easy to forgets that the first decade of his career was dominated by comedies.
The Rockford Peaches lose the big game, which many viewers would not have expected.

ON ONE HAND, THE MOVIE HAS BEEN CALLED A STRONG FEMINIST FILM, WHILE OTHERS SAY IT SUPPORTS CONSERVATIVE VALUES AND ULTIMATELY ESPOUSES WOMEN’S SUBSERVIENT ROLE TO MEN.  WHICH GERRY DO YOU SUBSCRIBE TO?
Blogger Katharina Bonzel posited the following: "The threat to U.S. society of having professional women athletes is dispersed most significantly in the way that Dottie emerges as the moral heroine after having given up her spot as the best player in the league to return to a conventional, domestic life with her husband. In doing so without a fight, she represents the ideal solution to the gender anxieties of post-war U.S. society. Through its flashback structure, the film frames the league as a short-term opportunity for independence and self-determination for women, without any real changes to their subsequent life trajectories. The flashback reassures viewers that almost all of the players eventually did – as prophesied by the makers of the league – turn into beautiful, charming ‘ladies,’ who were steered into the safe haven of marriage either during (like Marla) or shortly after their active sporting career (like Kit). As the moral lynch-pin of this film, however, Dottie personifies the idealized woman who has done her patriotic duty, but ultimately rejects being a (female athlete protagonist) in order to obediently return to her husband. The film celebrates these actions in a way that helps to ensure a stable society of American men and women clear about their appropriate gender roles."
To the film’s credit, however, it shows the trick bag that these female baseball players, as well as the filmmakers, or put into: on one hand, you have to market the sex appeal of the athletes/actresses to sell game tickets and movie tickets; on the other hand, most of the women are given strong, independent voices and personalities and are depicted as having to carefully balance the expectations placed on them by society—expectations that include being a capable athlete playing a male-dominated sport and also being loyal to and nurturing to the men in their lives.
It’s also important to remember that this picture is directed by a woman; although Penny Marshall isn’t known for being an overt “feminist”-leaning director, it’s likely that she was very sensitive and careful in personifying these characters and doing justice to the all-girls league.  Marshall to carefully juggle here: if she makes this too much of a chick flick or politically feminist film, she will undoubtedly alienate up to half her audience.

OTHER FILMS THAT A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN MAY REMIND YOU OF:
Bend it Like Beckham
Blue Crush
Heart Like a Wheel
Whip It

OTHER FILMS BY PENNY MARSHALL
Big
Awakenings
Riding in Cars With Boys

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Root root root for the home team

Sunday, July 5, 2015

On July 8, CineVerse brings back Our Favorite Films--an ongoing series spotlighting CineVerse members top-ranked movies. Part 2 will be“A League of Their Own” (1992; 128 minutes), directed by Penny Marshall, chosen by Don McGoldrick. 

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Deciphering Dr. Strangelove's hidden recall codes

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stanley Kubrick's cold war masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove, still packs a chilling and comic punch 51 years later. Our film discussion group agreed on these conclusions about this timeless flick: 


WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS MOVIE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAIN THEMES?
The folly of the Arms Race and the Cold War and the ironic fallacy of nuclear weapons being “deterrents”
Man’s impulse to wage war is linked to his sexual drive; a man’s sexual frustration (in this case Ripper) can have disastrous repercussions
How bureaucracy, red tape and following protocol can also have disastrous consequences; examples include:
o Mandrake has to go through motions of treating Ripper like a superior officer even after Ripper demonstrates how psychotic he is
o Turgidson covering his ass while the world is on the verge of meltdown
o The polite banter between us president and Russian prime minister while on the hotline
o Bat Guano resists shooting the Coke machine because it’s private property

THE CHARACTERS NAMES AND PERSONALITIES ARE MEANT TO BE SYMBOLIC AND REPRESENTATIONAL. CAN YOU GIVE ME EXAMPLES?
Mandrake is the name of a mythical herb or root believed to increase male potency; Mandrake is evocative of the prim and proper English officer played by Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai
Buck is a euphemism for a studly male, and Turgidson plays on the word “turgid,” which means full of fluid to the point of hardness
Soviet Ambassador de Sadesky sounds similar to the Marquis du Sade
President Merkin Muffley has a name that is evocative of female pubic hair, as if to say he’s lacking in male machismo; his character is loosely based on politician Adlai Stevensen
Jack D. Ripper is an obvious play on Jack the Ripper, a sociopathic serial killer; his use of the word “essence” is a synonym for semen; he is depicted as an impotent character
Colonel Bat Guano’s name can be interpreted as “bat shit”, a euphemism for insane
Dr. Strangelove is an amalgam of several people, including Henry Kissinger, Lionel Atwill the police inspector with the wooden arm in Son of Frankenstein, Rotwang the black gloved mad scientist in Metropolis, and Herman Kahn, a 1960s nuclear think tank point man

ASIDE FROM THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES, CAN YOU GIVE ME EXAMPLES OF THE RAMPANT SEXUAL METAPHORS AND INNUENDOS USED THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE?
The refueling of the jets is symbolic of sexual coupling
The Coke machines spewing fluids
The B-52 crew goes through a complex ritual of foreplay that arms the bomb for use
The plane is rendered impotent at the last moment when the bomb doors fail to open
Slim pickens straddling the nuclear bomb = a phallic image
Dr. Strangelove’s arm saluting becomes a phallic symbol
These are images and situations meant to symbolize physical acts of the human body
The intended bomb target is the island of Laputa, which in Spanish means “the whore”
The pilot viewing an issue of Playboy
Plan “R” for Romeo (war equals love)
Male characters constantly having things in their mouth, such as food, chewing gum, and cigars, suggesting that they are stock in the oral stage of development, or some arrested stage of development indicating immaturity

HOW DOES KUBRICK JUXTAPOSE IMAGES AND MUSIC IN CREATIVE WAYS THAT ADD IRONY AND HUMOR TO AN OTHERWISE NONHUMOROUS SCENE?
He matches the scene of the aircraft mating in mid-air with “Try a Little Tenderness”
He pairs footage of nuclear armaggedon and the infamous mushroom cloud with the ballad “We’ll meet again” for a great nonsequitor
He would repeat this method in 2001 with the Blue Danube Waltz and in A Clockwork Orange with “Singin’ in the Rain”

DR. STRANGELOVE HAS BEEN HAILED AS THE GREATEST BLACK COMEDY MOVIE EVER MADE. CAN YOU GIVE ME OTHER EXAMPLES OF BLACK COMEDY FILMS?
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Arsenic and Old Lace
Monsieur Verdoux
The Trouble With Harry
Fargo
Prizzi’s Honor

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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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