Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Mel Brooks Blogathon

This past Monday was Mel Brooks' 90th birthday and to celebrate, Louis of The Cinematic Frontier is hosting a blogathon on the director. I've seen the more famous of his films but which of them have I decided to cover?

(1974, dir. Mel Brooks)

You know it's going to be a funny movie when you read some of the production notes. Why? Apparently Brooks and the whole crew had to stuff handkerchiefs in their mouths so as to not ruin takes from laughing. And he added extra scenes to film since everyone enjoyed making it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Devils

If one year could be pegged down as one filled with controversy, it would easily be 1971. All in the Family hit the airwaves, the Vietnam War was on its last legs, and the world of film was pushing the limits of what could be shown. With the likes of A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs being released that year, moral guardians were up in arms from their graphic content.

But those two pale in comparison to what Ken Russell had to offer with The Devils. All these years later, the controversy surrounding it hasn't faded. Beneath all of it, however, Russell provides a thoroughly captivating story.

In a way, The Devils is a more graphic take on The Crucible. (The Devils, by the way, is based on works by Aldous Huxley and John Whiting.) After all, it involves a supposedly upstanding citizen being accused of witchcraft. (Though Arthur Miller probably wouldn't have such details in as lurid a perspective as Russell displayed.)

Speaking of details, the production design of The Devils is a dazzling one. (Being designed by Derek Jarman certainly helps.) With this being a film as bleak as it is, what Jarman puts in adds something of a breather.

Despite the controversy that overshadows it, The Devils is a complex work to say the least. Had Russell made this film in a more flattering light, it probably would've escaped controversy. But had he cleaned up its content, it more than likely would've been tossed aside as another religious picture. (Apparently controversy's a good thing if you're Ken Russell.)

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The 2nd Annual SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon

Steve over at Movie Movie Blog Blog has brought back his successful blogathon from last year. Last time around, I wrote about The Long, Hot Summer (mainly as an excuse to objectify Paul Newman and his Greek god physique). For this year I again chose a film where I could ogle the leading man without any sense of shame. The film in question?

(1951, dir. Elia Kazan)

Ah, the post-war era of Hollywood. This was when directors and writers started not giving a damn about the censors. They wanted to see how far they could push the limits of the Production Code. All it needed was that one film to start such a revolution.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Order in the Court! The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon

Theresa of CineMaven's Essays from the Couch and Lesley of Second Sight Cinema have teamed up for this examination of courtroom pictures. There have been many over the years from comedies to dramas to thrillers. My film of choice?

(1960, dir. Stanley Kramer)

Sure, you may have been thinking more along the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird or 12 Angry Men but I wanted to focus on one not often held in the same regard. (Also I wanted an excuse to re-watch it.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Royalty on Film Blogathon

Emily of The Flapper Dame is hosting a blogathon where the subject matter is of the regal society. There have been lots of films (especially in recent years) about both fictional and real-life royalty. I opted for the former. My film of choice?

(1953, dir. William Wyler)

This is just one of those films where it's next to impossible not to like. Not one element of it feels dated and it's still lovely on re-watches. (Honestly, we need more films like this nowadays. Do away with big CGI'd explosions and gratuitous nudity. We just need a simple story.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sing Street

If there's one thing that can unite people with ease, it's music. Whether it's one song or an entire genre, people use this form of expression to connect with others. (In more ways than one sometimes.)

John Carney frequently has music as the main theme (so to speak) in his films, and his latest Sing Street is no exception. (Carney being a musician prior to becoming a director definitely has something to do with that.) Much like his earlier films, there's charm amid the many original songs of Sing Street.

Set in 1985 Dublin, Sing Street chronicles the many plights that come with growing up: school, bullies, precocious crushes, things of that nature. But Carney also shows how there can be bright spots in otherwise bleak situations. (After all, haven't we all felt that way at some point when we were younger?)

On an unsurprising note, the soundtrack for Sing Street is really good. And not just the likes of Duran Duran, the Cure and Spandau Ballet. No, the original music of the film is catchy to an almost ridiculous degree. (And yes, at least one of the songs will be stuck in your head.)

Sing Street is an utter delight of a film. You'll find yourself smiling from ear to ear several times throughout, a rarity amongst today's films. It's easily one of those titles that you have to see, preferably more than once.

My Rating: *****

The Man Who Knew Infinity

There's always a complicated matter in biopics about some of the greatest minds that ever lived. On the one hand, you want them to be accessible to the masses. But on the other hand, you don't want their achievements to be dumbed down just so the film could be enjoyed more. It's a difficult balance.

Some focus more on the genius' personal life (The Theory of Everything) while others alter details of said personal life (A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game). So where does Matthew Brown's The Man Who Knew Infinity fall under? Well, it focuses more on the achievements (which is probably a first in God knows how long).

The subject of The Man Who Knew Infinity is Srinivasa Ramanujan (played here by Dev Patel), who created and rediscovered many mathematical theorems. Indeed, he's not as well known as the likes of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein but he should be amongst their ranks. After all, what he discovered nearly a hundred years ago helped us understand the universe more.

But as is frequently the case with biopics, The Man Who Knew Infinity falls short. It doesn't pick up until the third act, and the script feels sluggish in spots. Still, the work from Patel and Jeremy Irons makes up for the script's faults. (Not by much but they do.)

The Man Who Knew Infinity is an average film about an extraordinary person. In more capable hands this probably would've rivaled the other genius biopics out there. Alas, all we can do is imagine what such a project would've been like.

My Rating: ***1/2