Thursday, May 18, 2017
Whether you consider it more of a comedy or a drama, it's hard to deny the charms and philosophies at work on Hal Ashby's "Being There," featuring perhaps Peter Sellers' greatest performance. There's a lot of substance packed into this film, and more than meets the eye, as demonstrated by the extensive discussion we enjoyed last evening at CineVerse. Here's a roundup of that group talk:
HOW DO YOU INTERPRET THE FINAL SHOT OF CHANCE WALKING ON WATER?
OTHER MOVIES THAT BEING THERE MAKES YOU THINK OF:
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY HAL ASHBY
Monday, May 15, 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
David Fincher's "Gone Girl" takes viewers on a tense and uncomfortable ride through the minefield of an unhinged marriage and gets us to the other side in one piece--but without a feeling of safety or closure. Our CineVerse discussion group took a closer look at this work of dark chocolate and arrived at the following observations:
WHAT THEMES ARE AT WORK IN GONE GIRL?
HALLMARKS OF MANY DAVID FINCHER PICTURES:
OTHER MOVIES THAT REMIND US OF “GONE GIRL”
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY DAVID FINCHER
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
There's no cult movie quite like "Vanishing Point," a strange but exhilarating chase flick from 1971. On one hand, it likely would have appealed to manly men conservative types back in the day, but also to hippies, multicultural-minded moviegoers and liberal-leaning viewers, too. For a film that lacks any type of meaty plot or character development, there was a lot more to talk about with this picture than expected. Here's the thrust of our CineVerse discussion points:
WHAT THEMES COME TO MIND AFTER WATCHING THIS PICTURE?
WHAT OTHER MOVIES DOES VANISHING POINT CONJURE UP?
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY RICHARD C. SARAFIAN
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Giuletta Masina acquits herself quite nicely as an outstanding actress in "Nights of Cabiria." Of course, it helps getting direction from your husband, Federico Fellini, perhaps the greatest Italian director of all time. And borrowing physically expressive elements from Charles Chaplin's Little Tramp character doesn't hurt either, especially when playing a spirited young lady of the night with a diminutive stature but a large heart. Masina certainly does much of the heavy lifting in "Cabiria," but the film excels across many levels besides acting. CineVerse tapped into what makes this movie tick last evening and deduced the following:
WHAT IS INTERESTING AND OFFBEAT ABOUT NIGHTS OF CABIRIA?
A FEW NOTES ON FELLINI AND HIS STYLE:
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY FEDERICO FELLINI
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Our May/June schedule listing what's on tap for CineVerse and Cineversary is now ready for viewing. To access the new calendar, visit tinyurl.com/cineversemj17.
If you enjoy films that function as interesting character studies of individuals living realistically in their natural environment, you'd be hard pressed to find a truer example of this form than Vittorio De Sica's 1952 neorealism masterwork "Umberto D." Warning: the plot is thin, the tone is grim, and the pace is slow. But it's about as honest and authentic a movie of its period can be, and that's refreshing. Our CineVerse group came to the following realizations about this picture:
WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING, UNEXPECTED AND MEMORABLE ABOUT THIS FILM?
OTHER MOVIES DIRECTED BY VITTORIO DE SICA:
WHAT OTHER FILMS CAN UMBERTO D. MAKE YOU THINK OF?
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Friday, April 14, 2017
It's for no small reason that director and film historian Martin Scorsese called Rome Open City “the most precious moment of film history.” He and many experts believe this picture infused cinema with a new kind of realism, immediacy and energy that proved to be highly influential on both sides of the Atlantic. This movie is worth studying and appreciating for multiple reasons, including the following discussed by our CineVerse group last night:
Monday, April 10, 2017
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Thursday, April 6, 2017
It's widely known that Franco filmmakers like Godard and Truffaut loved American pulp fiction and film noir. But long before the French New Wave and its slight tip of the cap to noir influences, the Italians were dabbling in the genre, as evidenced by Luchino Visconti's 1943 classic "Ossession," an early adaptation of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Our CineVerse group took a closer look at this picture last evening and came away with these observations:
HOW IS THIS ADAPTATION DIFFERENT FROM AMERICAN VERSIONS OF “THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE”?
• The 1946 version with Lana Turner was glossier, and featured more of a true film noir femme fatale who was evil and calculating.
• The female lead in this movie, by contrast, is arguably a more sympathetic character who is driven by understandable marital frustration and desperation for her economic and trapped condition. We see her collapse, surrendered, in a kitchen full of dirty dishes and feel for her more than Lana Turner’s femme fatale.
• This version “excels in a more taboo realm,” wrote reviewer Gary Morris, who cited the Italian film’s “barren landscapes, driven characters and sexual frankness…and unabashed lust with which Visconti treats the illicit relationship.”
• Speaking of the setting, the location is more rural, realistic and believable than in the 1946 version. This is a more bleak and unfertile landscape.
• Prostitution is also common in the world these characters inhabit; Giovanna implies that she previously prostituted herself before marriage out of financial pressure, and Gino is enamored with a young harlot later in the film.
• This adaptation doesn’t show the murder, nor have a suspenseful buildup to the crime or a carefully planned murder plot. The murder occurs off-screen and is executed seemingly on the spot, at the sudden whims of the secret lovers.
• This version also features the suggestion of a gay relationship between Gino and Spagnolo—or at least an unrequited crush on one for the other. “What makes Ossesssione particularly compelling,” wrote blogger Tony D’Ambra, “is a homoerotic strand interwoven with a critique of petit-bourgeois values.
• Per Henry Bacon, the director “wanted to convey the internal life of his characters through their behavior and their relationship to the environment, to capture their essence by showing them as an organic part of a certain social reality, which in various ways constantly conditions and guides their behaviors, thoughts and feelings.”
• Here, instead of using stylized setups, formalistic framing or clever editing the camera is employed to depict the psychology of the main characters. Consider how the female characters are first introduced and continually photographed in the 1943 vs. 1946 films: the latter uses soft lenses and glamorous lighting; the former doesn’t try to objectify or pretty up the female lead.
• There is more of an exploration of class warfare and tension between the social classes in this Italian rendition.
WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN RISQUE AND CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT THIS FILM FOR 1946?
• The sexual subtext: the passionate sudden physical-based romance between the 2 lovers.
• Its dark and seedy subject matter and bleak tone: this film was considered provocative and insulting to the Fascist regime, and hence suffered from censorship meddling and distribution hurdles—with prints of the movie seriously edited and even destroyed. Fortunately, the director stashed away a secret negative or it would have been lost forever.
• Clara Calamai, who plays Giovanna, had appeared topless in an Italian film a year before this, so she had likely developed a sexy reputation that would have rattled cages.
WHAT THEMES ARE EXAMINED IN “OSSESSIONE”?
• Doomed love
• The corrupting influence of lust and greed
• Shifting loyalties
• Ironic fate
OTHER FILMS THAT OSSESSIONE BRINGS TO MIND
• Double Indemnity, also involving a plot by lovers to do away with a husband
• Body Heat
• Other adaptations of Postman: The Last Turning (France, 1939); a remake starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange from 1981; and a 1998 Hungarian version titled Passion.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Thursday, March 30, 2017
"Still Alice" is a brave but haunting exploration into a vibrant life suddenly interrupted by a very cruel disease: early-onset Alzheimer's. In many ways, it's more terrifying than a modern horror film. But it's also more poignant, human, honest, and life-affirming than the vast majority of big-screen dramas. Our CineVerse group tried to carefully examine this film last evening and came away with the following conclusions:
WHY IS THE FILM TITLED “STILL ALICE”?
WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES THAT COME WITH TRYING TO MAKE A FILM ON THIS SUBJECT?
SOME CRITICS HAVE NOTED THAT JULIANNE MOORE GIVES A MORE SUBTLE, MINIMALIST PERFORMANCE THAN ONE MIGHT EXPECT FOR THIS ROLE. IF YOU AGREE, WHY WAS ADOPTING A SIMPLER, MORE RESTRAINED APPROACH TO THE ROLE THE RIGHT CHOICE?
OTHER REVIEWERS HAVE POSITED THAT THE MOVIE MAY SUFFER FROM FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON ALICE AND PERHAPS NOT ENOUGH ON HER SUPPORTING CAST FAMILY. DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE?
THEMES AND SYMBOLS USED IN THIS FILM INCLUDE:
OTHER MOVIES THAT REMIND US OF STILL ALICE
OTHER FILMS CO-DIRECTED BY RICHARD GLATZER AND WASH WESTMORELAND
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Sunday, March 19, 2017
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 MAKES THE MOVIE FEEL “REAL” AND AUTHENTIC?
WHAT THEMES ARE EXPLORED IN THIS PICTURE?
OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND US OF SHORT TERM 12
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Monday, March 6, 2017
Sunday, March 5, 2017
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:
THEMES OR MESSAGES SUGGESTED IN THIS FILM:
OTHER FILMS AND TELEVISION SHOWS THAT REMIND US OF WIDOW’S PEAK:
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
It's not easy to follow on the heels of established fantasy film blockbusters like the "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. But "Stardust," an overlooked but satisfying little pixie of a picture from 2007, acquits itself well as a standalone example of how Hollywood fantasy doesn't require a multi-part franchise to capture the imagination. Following are the key discussion points of our recent CineVerse chat on this movie: