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Deservedly a classic. Unmissable!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:18 (A review of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939))

"You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that."

Frank Capra is a man with an impressive résumé; he directed some true classics during his career, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is certainly one of his best. The film is deservedly a classic; an uplifting experience that boasts some truly groundbreaking perspectives.

As the film opens we are informed that a senator has died and a replacement is necessary. While searching for a candidate they come across an honourable, modest man named Jefferson Smith (Stewart). Smith is a man who has nothing but the upmost respect for politics and politicians. Smith also runs the Boy Rangers, is respected by the boys around him, and has just heroically put out a forest fire. And so he is chosen as a senator in Washington. At first awe-struck by the historic merits of his surroundings; but as he begins getting settled in, Smith finds nothing but corruption and crime in the highest levels of government. Smith is highly inexperienced but finds himself single-handedly battling ruthless politicians who are out to destroy him and expel him of his powerful position.

The plot is simple but brilliant. The concept of portraying political corruption was unheard of at the time. The film especially emphasizes the cynicism present in some politicians who will go to great lengths to cover something up. It will probably never be proved if such corruption exists, but the perspectives are made believable.

But one aspect that is most admirably highlighted is what politics can do to a man. Claude Rains delivers a poignant speech that points out what happens to a man when they enter politics; ideals are changed and their sense of individuality diminishes. And he admires Mr. Smith because he does his best to defend his ideals that still firmly exist.

The expansive production design looks outstanding. Most of the film's budget must have gone into the realistic Senate set where most of the action takes place. The set looks fantastic, real and believable. There appears to be no difference between the set and the real thing.

One thing that I discovered while watching the movie was a number of minor technical faults. There are several jarring edits that are sometimes obvious; despite this the material is always so strong and highlighted by a dynamic performance from James Stewart that is bursting with energy. Stewart's performance can't be faulted and he was nominated for an Oscar. He is supported by a host of outstanding co-stars. Jean Arthur was particularly memorable as someone who shows firm support in Mr. Smith. And of course Claude Rains was another unforgettable actor who helps carry the film. Stewart was already enough to keep me engaged; thankfully the rest of the cast maintain this high level of talent.

Because the film turns into a Senatorial debate for about the final 30 minutes there always had to be something that keeps the audience interested. The whole thing is staged very well and moves at a brisk pace; carried by the magnificent actors and the passionate directing from Frank Capra. The film builds up to an exhilarating climax.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a timeless classic and a cinematic triumph; it's unforgettable, powerful and moving. Not to be missed.

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It truly is awesome!!

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:17 (A review of Some Like It Hot (1959))

"Nobody's perfect."

Billy Wilder became forever famous for his classics; Some Like It Hot is one of those memorable, timeless, unforgettable films that has lost very little of its original appeal. Wilder has crafted a risqué, gender-binding comedy rich in sexual innuendo, steamy seductions, and spoofs of gender stereotypes.

The very straightforward plot follows two men; Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) who are simple jazz musicians seeking decent work in Chicago at the peak of prohibition. Soon the two become unfortunate witnesses to a gangland crime and hence are on the gang's hit list. In a hurry to get out of town to avoid being whacked by the mob, they rename themselves Josephine and Daphne, pose as girls and get themselves into an all-woman jazz band as they head on an all expenses paid trip to Florida.

Then a highly hilarious love triangle emerges; the lead singer of the band (Monroe) falls for Josephine (who has posed as a young British millionaire), and an old millionaire (Brown) falls for a very bewildered Daphne. On top of this a bellhop also takes a fancy to Josephine (a very good recurring joke). Sure this sounds like an episode of a daytime soapie, but the story is handled well and the script is superb.

At first I was quite reluctant to watch a movie rich in themes about transvestites; however the first scene when we look at the two men now dressed in drag...had me in stitches and sold the idea. On top of this the laughs emerged fairly quickly.

The two central male (/female) characters were given an array of fantastic lines to deliver. Then when Marilyn Monroe appeared...I was sold. She is certainly in her prime and at her best. She's young, angelic and stunning. It's no wonder she became one of the sex icons of the 20th Century. Tony Curtis displays a vast array of different characters here. In addition to being his actual character, he's also a woman and a young British gentleman. His voices were all done to perfection. I especially liked his British accent. Jack Lemmon is one really fantastic actor. He can be very funny when he wants to. Kudos to the screenwriter for conceiving a perfect character for Jack to work with.

The major stand out here, though, was Joe E. Brown as a perverted old millionaire who wants to marry Jack's character. This sets the stage for the very famous final line that had me laughing for several minutes after the film concluded. With these classic films, it was pivotal to have memorable lines of dialogue such as that.

Some Like It Hot remains an extremely enjoyable romp after almost 40 years. The laughs never get old. Some of the sight gags even had me laughing. I never would have thought that an old film could supply golden laughs.

Some Like It Hot is classic stuff in every sense of the word. It's highly memorable and everlasting; in short, a film you cannot afford to miss. Don't hesitate to pick this one off the shelf.

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Incredible in every sense of the word.

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 08:15 (A review of All About Eve (1950))

"If nothing else, there's applause... like waves of love pouring over the footlights."

The quality of All About Eve has been much discussed and widely acclaimed in the decades following its release. All About Eve is a truly incredible movie that is hard to describe accurately in words.

The film still holds the record for the most amount of Academy Award nominations - as this screen gem received an unfathomable amount of 14. Just this merit in mind should be enough to warrant a screening. The themes of jealousy, manipulation, and betrayal richly unfold on screen with this exceptional film noir loosely adapted from a story by Mary Orr.

The story of this film is really quite simple; Margo Channing (Davis) is a star of the theatre who features in plays written by Lloyd Richards (Marlowe), and under the direction of her boyfriend and director Bill Sampson (Merrill). Margo has everything; fame, fortune and adoring fans. But one evening after Margo completes another performance her career is altered when one of her friends brings Eve Harrington (Baxter) into her life. Eve is one of Margo's fans who is obsessed; she watches every play that Margo features in and on every night it is being performed. Eve quickly wins the heart of Margo and her friends when she tells them the story of how she became a dedicated fan.

Soon Margo incorporates Eve into her daily life. Eve loyally assists in any way she can. But a theatre critic (Sanders) begins seeing through Eve's elaborate performance and scheme. It would be unthinkable to reveal more about the film's plot.

As the film opens we are introduced to all the characters via fascinating narration as an award ceremony unfolds. Then the film uses heavy flashbacks as we look at the aforementioned plot. Needless to say, the film is all about Eve.

One of the first things that struck me was the very intricately written screenplay by director Mankiewicz. The lines of dialogue are highly intriguing and are transformed to the screen skilfully using a fantastic cast. Bette Davis has never been better. She feels plausible and real as a famous star who is now struggling to hold onto her career. She was nominated for an Oscar with good reasoning. Anne Baxter was also nominated for an Oscar. Her portrayal is simply stunning to watch. The script was already good enough, but these two title actresses do wonders to that screenplay and nail their characters.

The supporting cast is full of big names. George Sanders was very articulate and skilled in bringing his character to life. Also as the narrator he needed a voice that was easy to listen to. The opening few moments of narration already had me engaged.

All About Eve is a true classic that suffers from few flaws. The film has always been widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. I can't blame them. You can only see it to believe how incredible the film really is.

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An important film; and a masterpiece

Posted : 10 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2008 06:36 (A review of Munich)

"We have 11 Palestinian names, each one of them had a hand in planning Munich. We want them all dead."

Steven Spielberg has always been capable of achieving excellent results when behind the camera. I have been a massive fan of his work for years now and I always anticipate the release of his latest movies.

Munich was a film that I had wanted to see ever since I learned he was at the helm. The film met with major criticism preceding its release because of the short time in which the film was made. Filming began in June 2005 with a December 2005 release date in mind. Spielberg has always been good at making films in a very tight shooting schedule.

While watching the movie I couldn't believe the focus and concentration that is obvious while watching each frame of film that has been produced.

Munich is a riveting, powerful, involving and confronting human drama that is one of the most important films of this century. It was a daring move to produce such a confronting piece of cinema due to how incomplete the facts are; make no mistake, the film is no history lesson. But then again it was never meant to be a documentary. The facts presented may be seen as agonizingly erroneous, but what actually happened will always remain a mystery.

Munich is also a milestone in Steven Spielberg's career. He has been well known for making family-friendly blockbusters that sometimes mirror his childhood. The film represents a step up for maturity in Spielberg's filmmaking.

Based on true events; Munich chronicles the fate of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes who were brutally murdered during the Olympics of 1972 in Munich. In response to the savage massacre the government commissions a group of agents to track down and eliminate those responsible for the tragedy that occurred in the Olympic village that fateful day. The five-man team carry out their mission with the knowledge in mind that they officially have had no contact with those who hired them. The mission is confidential and officially does not exist. As the team eliminate men in the most callous of ways and the body count rises - so do questions, uncertainties and sleepless nights. They begin questioning the justification of the counter-violence and loyalties begin to blur.

Munich is a film that asks a lot of its audience as Spielberg presents questions without answers; offering no easy answers and keeping firm focus on the human response and the conflict between the motivations behind their actions and the consequences.

The tension built up between the characters is insurmountable. Some of the pivotal roles are executed in outstanding style; the accents seem genuine and each line appears to be said with meaning. The film wastes no time getting into the nitty gritty suspense sequences.

Spielberg has also integrated archive footage that gives the film a high level of chilling realism. The beginning events are essentially told through the archive footage presented. And throughout the movie we are shown clips that look in detail at the tragic massacre during which 11 athletes lost their lives. Some of these clips are shown in harrowing realism; startlingly showing brutal violence and heart-wrenching sequences that will have your mouth gaping open.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski achieved fantastic results with this film. The action and suspense scenes were filmed extremely well. From the opening sequence I was already engaged in the film; although production was rushed it never feels this way.

John Williams' score creates a brooding, maligned atmosphere that is intense and malevolent. The key suspense scene had me sitting in awe at what was going on.

Munich was a daring film but was executed spectacularly. The film is challenging, pulse-pounding, captivating and involving. The whole film is an extraordinary experience marred only marginally by its over-length. Highly recommended.

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