I know I haven't been blogging as much lately. It's mostly because of lack of drive, and I apologize for it. But that doesn't mean Defiant Success is closing its doors. There is, however, something I want to say in regards with the blog.
As some of you may know, I do a book and movie comparison post at the beginning of every month. Well, I've decided to tone down the frequency of said feature. Instead of every month, it will now be whenever I feel like doing such a post. On a similar note, I intend to review more books for this blog.
Blogging shall resumed later this week.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Fast forward three years, and their partnership has become more bitter than an unripe lemon. She ditches him for Hollywood and her career thrives. (His in turn crumbles.) Then on a train from Chicago to New York, they meet after all these years, and...well, it's not a friendly reunion by any means.
As someone quite familiar with her work, it's clear to say that Lombard is very funny in this. But bear in mind that did this long before films like My Man Godfrey and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. In other words, this is Lombard's first foray in screwball comedy. (Hawks actually complained that Lombard was too stiff early on in production.)
But the absolute scene stealer of Twentieth Century is definitely Barrymore. Again, bear in mind the actor's other roles, so seeing him do screwball comedy could be a bit of a shock. And yet, he is an absolute riot here. (I also love what Hawks said to Barrymore to convince him to take the part: "It's the story of the biggest ham on earth and you're the biggest ham I know.")
Twentieth Century is a very funny film. Thanks to the manic performances from Barrymore and Lombard as well as Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht's script and Hawks' direction, this is the benchmark for the many screwball comedies in the years to come. Go see it.
My Rating: *****
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
George Stevens' The More the Merrier is one such film from that era that could fit the bill quite neatly. It has a nice balance of well-timed slapstick and jokes, but there are a couple of jokes that wouldn't exactly slide nowadays. Still, Stevens knows what he's doing for the most part.
And as with most comedies, it all relies on the right actors to get the job done. For The More the Merrier, Stevens enlists the likes of Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea (a vastly underrated leading man) and Charles Coburn (who got a well-earned Oscar for this). As I said, all it takes for a comedy to work is the right actors, and Arthur, McCrea and Coburn are just that.
I suppose what makes The More the Merrier stand out a bit is that Arthur's character is a working. Bear in mind, this was released in an era where women were either waiting for their men to come home or working in the factories. It wasn't that common to see a woman working a desk job (outside as a secretary, I suppose).
The More the Merrier is certainly amusing though it does get silly after a while. It mainly works because of the trio that is Arthur, McCrea and Coburn, but I'm mostly amused that this was made by the same man who would make A Place in the Sun. (Just saying.)
My Rating: ****
Monday, November 18, 2013
One legend of the silent film era I so needed to catch up on was Buster Keaton. There are some disputes over whether he or Charlie Chaplin was the true master of the silent comedy. Those disputes alone convinced me I needed to see something of Keaton's.
So what better Keaton film to start with than The General? (Always start with the more prominent film, that's what I always follow.) And boy, it is funny. (Certainly not something you'd say about a film set during the Civil War.)
In my eyes, the best comedy can be found in the form of a reaction shot. With a number of silent films (particularly comedies), such shots are usually over-the-top. Thanks to Keaton being, well, himself, these shots are just gold. All it took was a very subtle change in his stoic expression to get a laugh.
Anyway, The General is proof on how to make a great comedy. (I was also very impressed by his stunt work throughout.) This just convinced me I need to see more of Keaton's work. (And I think I'm taking a shine to him more than Chaplin.)
My Rating: *****
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Senay (Audrey Tatou) isn't exactly better off. She works at the same hotel as Okwe but she longs to live in New York City. And like Okwe, Senay is also an immigrant to London. (She's from Turkey.) But her hopes of going to the United States are appearing to become dashed because of the horrors she faces in London.
The performances Frears get out of Ejiofor and Tatou are quite mesmerizing. Take everything you know and love about Tatou in Amelie and throw them out the window. She's not a shy, lovelorn Frenchwoman here. She is instead a woman scared of the world she's a part of. It simply must be seen.
And even though Tatou got top billing (and her face on the poster), it's Ejiofor who's the star of Dirty Pretty Things. Like with many of his other roles, Ejiofor draws you in from the very moment he appears. (Not that many actors have that kind of charisma.) Again, it simply must be seen.
Although it's not the strongest of Frears' films, Dirty Pretty Things is still quite good. Thanks to the work from Ejiofor and Tatou (as well as a scene-stealing Sophie Okenedo), the film shows that the life you're living can become a dangerous one before you know it.
My Rating: ****
Thursday, November 14, 2013
It's understandable to see why The Swimmer is not that well-known of a film. After all, it was released in the year of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bullitt and Rosemary's Baby. So that could mostly contribute to its obscurity. (Then again, there are a number of other less-than-famous films from that year.)
The story is also an unconventional one. Many films from this era would focus on a character trying to achieve the American dream. Here in The Swimmer, it's a complete deconstruction. Once one gets that dream, it can be hard to maintain it for those around you.
And I can't go on with this review without talking about Burt Lancaster's performance. Lancaster was one of those actors who was always good regardless of the film, and The Swimmer is no exception. With his quiet musings on life throughout the film, Lancaster's work in The Swimmer could easily rank as one of his best.
The Swimmer as a whole feels clunky in spots but is overall a solid piece of filmmaking. Perry, better known for the infamous Mommie Dearest, gives his audience an allegorial curio of a film that simply floats around in your mind long after the credits have rolled.
My Rating: ****1/2
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
That film ended up being All Is Lost, which is minimalist in every sense of the word. With very little dialogue and (technically) set in one location, All Is Lost shows you don't need a great deal going into a film to make one that's great.
What I liked the most about All Is Lost is that Chandor could have easily gotten a young, robust actor for the film's lead (and lone) role, but he didn't. Instead, he got Hollywood veteran Robert Redford, and it's the best work Redford's done in his long career. Could he snag a second Best Actor nomination? God, I sure hope so.
It's not just Chandor's direction and Redford's performance that make All Is Lost great. The score by Alex Ebert and the cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco are just as stunning. And yet both are used in subtle but brilliant ways.
All Is Lost is quite simply one of those films that comes along every now and again to show that less is definitely more. Every small detail and action of Redford's performance and Chandor's direction prove that cinema isn't a dying art; it's one that's being re-invented.
My Rating: *****