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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Bridges of Madison County

Most people have seen Clint Eastwood in his movies as a classic western fighter or the famous Dirty Harry character, then you would be surprised to see this movie. The Bridges of Madison County is a sentimental movie, released in 1995 (and produced and directed by Clint Eastwood as well) - essentially being a movie all about emotions, yearning, and sacrifice. It presented a new side of Clint Eastwood, and when combined with the Oscar Nominated performance by Meryl Streep (her 10th Oscar Nomination), became a phenomenal success. The movie cost approximately $22 million dollars to make, and cleaned up more than $180 million worldwide.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Given that the movie is sentimental (some would say mushy), there are wide ranging reactions to the movie - some people can't stand the movie (and by association, the novel on which it is based), while for others, it is a good movie that shows a wide range of human emotions; especially how life changes for 2 people who meet and click together even in unfavorable circumstances. The movie was based on the (best-selling) novel of the same name by Robert James Waller.
The movie starts out with the children of Francesca (Meryl Streep), looking through their deceased mother's things when they discover a diary. Lo and behold, it reveals a secret that the family did not know till then; in the summer of 1965, their mother had a secret 4 day affair with a photographer for National Geographic (Robert Kincaid played by Clint Eastwood). Her family has gone to a fair along with their steer and will be there for a few days, leaving her alone at home.
Francesca is an Italian-American lady who came to the US in 1945 along with her American soldier husband; she is reconciled with her status, but there is a yearning that has not yet died down even after 20 years of marriage (she feels stifled in her marriage). So, when a photographer turns up lost at her door and they are not able to easily find the place (wandering around), they quickly fall for each in a very deep relationship. However, when it is time for her family to come back, she has to take a decision - go with her heart or with her responsibilities ?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

All About Eve (1950)

Bette Davis was a major Hollywood star, however, by 1950, her career was faltering. Her previous film, "Beyond the Forest" was not exactly a thumping movie. And then came this movie, released in 1950. It was hailed as the greatest role of Bette Davis career, and many call 'All About Eve' as one of the great movies of the 20th century. Its profile of a younger Broadway actress whose desire is to supplant the current queen (aging, but still the queen) of the industry has been splendidly made; and makes this an engrossing movie to watch. The movie had an incredible run at the Academy Awards, being nominated for a record 14 Oscars, and going onto win 6 of them. The movie was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on a short story by Mary Orr called 'The Wisdom of Eve'.

All About Eve (1950)

The movie and script have some basis in reality (and this is not that difficult, given that a lot of people would have had occasion to encourage somebody, only to find that the person whom you have helped could eventually upstage you). In real life, the author Mary Orr was told a story in which an actress did encourage a fan, but eventually found that the fan was trying to take away her roles. Mary Orr used this story, made the character more ruthless, and then wrote the story which in turn impressed the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. By this time, Bette Davis had ended a long contract with Warner Brothers (not being impressed by many of the recent movies that had done no good to her reputation). She was impressed by the script of the movie. Coincidentally, the later superstar, Marilyn Monroe also had a small scene in the movie.
The movie is about this superstar of Broadway, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), who is starting to show her age. She encounters a young fan, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter); Eve impresses Margo by claiming to be a big fan and an aspiring actress from San Francisco. So far so good. However, as the movie progresses, you realize that Eve is actually pretty ruthless and calculating; her aim is to take the position currently enjoyed by Margo, and even break Margo's bonds with her director boyfriend (Gary Merrill), and with her friends, her playwright (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife (Celeste Holm). Towards this end, she attempts to take over the roles that Margo is doing (even though it seems that Margo is not doing those roles). However, the end is ironical when Eve meets a young fan (does the same cycle start again ?)

Academy Awards for which the movie was nominated and won:

* Best Picture - 20th Century-Fox (Darryl F. Zanuck, producer)
* Best Supporting Actor - George Sanders
* Best Costume Design for a Black-and-White film - Edith Head and Charles Le Maire
* Best Director - Joseph L. Mankiewicz
* Best Writing, Screenplay - Joseph L. Mankiewicz
* Best Sound Recording - Thomas T. Moulton
* Nominated: Best Leading Actress - Anne Baxter
* Nominated: Best Leading Actress - Bette Davis
* Nominated: Best Supporting Actress - Celeste Holm
* Nominated: Best Supporting Actress - Thelma Ritter
* Nominated: Best Set Direction for a Black-and-White film - George W. Davis, Thomas Little, Walter M. Scott, and Lyle R. Wheeler
* Nominated: Best Cinematography for a Black-and-White film - Milton R. Krassner
* Nominated: Best Film Editing - Barbara McLean
* Nominated: Best Music Score - Alfred Newman

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Meet John Doe (1941)

Frank Capra directed a number of movies, and one of his movies that has been marked as a great movie, one that has been remembered for quite some time is 'Meet John Doe', released in 1941. Frank Capra had a certain style to his movies, and a lot of his movies showcased qualities such as the basic element of human goodness, hard work and being good to others (also translated as being unselfish); such a concept is very rarely seen in modern age movies that tend to show a large portion of life as having all human emotions including the negative ones, and fewer roles tend to be fully white, more like everybody having shades of grey. Some of the other famous movies by Frank Capra include 'It's a wonderful life' (1946), 'It happened one night' (1934), and many others. The movie did not do well at the Academy Awards, being nominated for Best Original Story.

Poster of Meet John Doe (1941)

This movie is slotted as a comedy, but it actually takes a hard and cynical look at both the newspaper business and at politics. The movie principally stars Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward Arnold. Barbara is a newspaper columnist, Ann Mitchell, who has just been fired, and angry, prints a fake letter from a 'John Doe', who claims that he is unemployed and threatens to commit suicide against the various ills of society. This letter catches the emotional thread of many many citizens, and becomes very popular. As a result, Mitchell is forced to continue the tale (in the process having got her job back), and to make sure that the story has some legs to stand on, they hire a vagabond and former baseball player, John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), to tour the country.
This movement becomes popular, drawing in support from all over, and is financially supported by the newspaper's publisher, D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), who recognizes that such a movement could be a potent political weapon and aims to use it for his own fledging political aspirations. John soon discovers that he is being used, but before he can expose this whole scam, he is in turn exposed by Norton who claims that he was unaware of the scam.
Driven by frustration, John plans to commit suicide by jumping off City Hall (as claimed in the original letter); but what happens ? Does he commit out the actual suicide, or do the John Doe clubs manage to get him to back off ?