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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bonnie and Clyde (1967) - movie about famous bandits

Bonnie and Clyde [Bonnie Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934)] were extremely famous outlaws, robbers, traveling through the United States from place to place in the Central United States, becoming notorious all over the country. During the time of the Great Depression, they were seen as having great appeal, and a legend has developed around them. Part of the controversy around them also rests in whether Bonnie was actually a full member of the gang, or had ever even fired a gun as part of the gang. She was with the gang ever since she fell in love with Clyde after meeting him in 1930, and died along with Clyde in a shootout with a posse of 6 officers from a combined force of Texas and Louisiana officers in a remote location, a desolate road near their Bienville Parish, Louisiana hideout. This was expected to happen ever since Clyde made a move against the Texas Department of Corrections in 1934 and engineered a breakout called the "Eastham Breakout" of 1934. Clyde managed to get the following to escape from the prison, Henry Methvin, Raymond Hamilton, and a few others. However, during this breakout, the killing of a prison officer by another escapee brought down the end of Clyde. He was marked as a hunted man, with the mission of the both the Texas and Federal Governments being to hunt down Clyde. In the next few days, Clyde was also involved in the deaths of 3 more police officers, ending the romantic feelings of the public towards him.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde was a movie released in 1967, and a very famous movie at that, starring as the lead (and doomed pair), Warren Beatty and Faye Dunway. The film was directed by Arthur Penn, with screenplay by David Newman and Robert Benton. The movie also took a lead in enabling Hollywood to present more elements of sex and violence in movies. The movie also won 2 Oscar awards for "Best Supporting Actress" (Estelle Parsons) and "Best Cinematography" (Burnett Guffey). The movie is a greatly simplified version of the actual story of Bonny and Clyde, not detailing their full extent of the gang, the many crimes committed by the gang and so on. Even the person who betrayed them and led the police posse to them (and to their deaths) as depicted in the movie was a combination of multiple people. The movie deviated from the actual story to the extent that the family of the Texas Ranger who killed them, Frank Hamer, sued the movie makers (he was portrayed in the movie as having been caught by Bonnie and Clyde earlier and humiliated while he actually encountered them only in the final shoot out).
The producers of the movie, the studio Warner Bros - Seven Arts were not terribly impressed by the movie and did not have high hopes of success. As a result, they made producer Warren Beatty very wealthy (they offered him 40% of the gross instead of a fee, and the when the movie made $70 million, Beatty stood to benefit).
The movie is about the short life of Bonnie and Clyde, after they met and became the core of a crime gang. They recruited more relatives, including Clyde's brother and his slow wife, with a quick-to-start feud opening up between Bonnie and Clyde's sister-in-law Blanche. The gang starts increasing their operations to include robbing banks, and starts getting pursued by the police and other law enforcement agents. After the gang humiliate Frank Hamer, he retaliates by relentlessly pursuing the gang, turning them one by one against the gang, eventually reaching Bonnie and Clyde and killing them in a hail of bullets.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The name of the movie and the associated novel seem a bit strange when you consider the content of the novel. In the novel on which the movie is based, there is nothing to do with a postman, and there is no ringing of the bell or something similar. The name is seemingly more to do with the attempt of the author to find a great name for the book (and was seemingly derived from the fact that the postman would ring the bell twice to ensure that there was no doubt that the bell had been rung and the person would come to do the door; this was seemingly also based on the fact that the author was a struggling author whose manuscript had been rejected by 13 publishers, and he would wait for the postman to get the results). In the film, the title is used as a philosophical note in the end, when, sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, after having escaped any punishment for the murder that he did commit, the protagonist reflects that the second ringing of the bell by the postman was meant to signify that you will eventually get punishment, if not by the first ringing of the bell, then by the second. The movie was directed by Tay Garnett

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

The book that the movie was based was called the same name 'The postman always rings twice' (published in 1934), written by James M Cain, and the fast paced and racy action (including the depiction of violence inspired by sexuality and adultery) was such that the book was banned in some locations. The book, however, is seen as a great crime novel of the 20th century, leading to this movie (with additional movies on the same theme down the years). The 1946 movie, starring Lana Turner, John Garfield, and Cecil Kellaway, is now seen as a film noir.
The movie is based on a story of a triangle of love, lust, deceit, ambition, and violence (the typical strong human emotions that cause all the problems in life). A drifter, Frank Chambers (John Garfield), stops at a local food diner, and then decides to work over there. The diner is being run by a couple, with the husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway) much older than the wife Cora Smith (Lana Turner). Cora is not in love with her husband, and soon she and Frank are having a sexual relationship, an adulterous relationship. She convinces Frank that she is being mistreated by Nick, and soon they decide to murder Nick in such a way that there is no suspicion on them, as well as Cora gets to own the diner.
Their first attempt fails, when they try to show that Nick drowned in his bathtub, but they are unsuccessful, and are only saved when Nick does not remember what happened. Their second attempt to simulate a car crash is more successful, and Nick does indeed die, seemingly a drunk driving accident where Frank and Cora are injured. Not enough evidence lies to tie them to the murder, and even though the prosecutor tries to play them one against the other (by only trying Cora and getting her to try and confess), they are let off with Cora getting a suspended sentence.
Freed from any possible legal punishment, Cora and Frank get together and plan a life with each other, when the irony of the movie exhibits its full face. Cora dies in a car accident, and it is made to seem that Frank is behind this action; he is prosecuted and sentenced to death for this crime. He is incredulous, he is totally innocent; however, as his execution approaches, he is convinced that it is his punishment for his earlier murder (and Cora dying in the car accident was her punishment).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Singing in the Rain (1952)

The musicals had a great season in American celluloid in a period of the 40's and 50's; and one of the greatest musicals of all time was 'Singing In the Rain' (released in 1952). The movie is also acknowledged to be Gene Kelly's greatest work (with An American in Paris released in 1951 being another great movie). This was a movie that Gene Kelly had thrown his heart and soul into, with not only delivering a great acting role, but also co-directing, and being the choreographer. The movie had some great dances, with the dance on the title song where Gene Kelly danced with an umbrella, with water pouring, dancing in puddles, and generally having a good rain soaked dance being one of the greatest. It is even more admirable due to the fact that the dance happened when Gene Kelly had 103 fever.
The movie also picturised the transition that the American film industry had from the age of silent movies, to the age of movies with sound. This was a major change, and impacted not only the art of film-making, but also had an impact on the film stars of the silent era. Singing in the Rain captures the transition of some of the stars, while others failed to make the transition, and also heralded the appearance of new stars who were more suited for the sound era.

Singing in the Rain (1952) (starring Gene Kelly)

The movie is about a popular star of the silent era, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly). He has risen through the industry while doing all sort of jobs, and is now the leading star. His leading lady is Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen); Don cannot stand Lina, while she feels that they have an ongoing romance (something created by the studio for more publicity). Once, Don gets to suddenly meet a lady Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) (he jumped into her car to escape from some fans); and after some initial back-and-forth, they start falling into love.
However, there is a major disturbance - a new talking film called 'The Jazz Singer' has been released by a rival studio and becomes a success. This forces a change of plans, with the studio boss R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) deciding to convert the upcoming Don - Lina film into a talkie. However, it wasn't so easy, and they eventually decide to get Kathy to dub for Lina, and to make the movie into a musical. Lina does not like Kathy and her romance with Don, and makes sure that Kathy cannot get screen credit for her voice-over; however, in the premiere, after some delay, the inevitable happens. It is revealed that Kathy is the voice, and also the upcoming star.

Raging Bull (1980) - a great Robert De Niro movie

The movie stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty. The movie was based on a biographical novel written by Jake LaMotta (published in 1970), with the biography based on his life - primarily about his life from being a young teenager, reform, his life as a boxer (and his fights with the mafia about trying to get the main title), his jealousy over his wife Vickie; it is also about his attitude, and also about the strong relationship with his brother Jeoy. The story was adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin for the movie, that was eventually directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1980.
The movie is a great black and white portrayal of the life of the boxer, Jake LaMotta. The movie was so popular with critics (after an initial mixed reception) due to its brutal portrayal of Jake's tormented life, going off into violent temper tantrum, suspecting his young wife Vicki, even with his own brother. His temper and attitude also moves his away from his own family. Robert De Niro is able to portray this incredibly, including showing the puzzlement he faces when he is not able to control his own temper tantrums, nor understand why they occur; the impact of these tantrums are very destructive for him.

Raging Bull starring Robert De Niro and released in 1980

The movie got such critical acclaim that it was nominated for 8 Oscars, and won 2 Academy Awards. The event was overshadowed by the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagen by John Hinckley Jnr, attempting to do a 'Taxi Driver' stunt of trying to impress Jodie Foster. Over a period of time, the movie got much more support from critics, being rated among the top movies of all time; definitely the best movie of 1980, and among Martin Scorcese's best movies. The Oscars for which the movie was nominated were Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Sound and Editing; the movie finally picked up the Oscar for Best Actor (DeNiro) and Best Editing (Schoonmaker).
The movie starts in flashback, where a much heftier Jake LaMotta (Robert DeNiro put on 50 kilos for this part of the role, after training to bring himself to a boxer's peak physical condition for the early part of the role) is practicing his comedian's act in 1964. And then the movie moves onto the meatier part of the role, to 1941 where Jake is into his boxing career, aided by his brother Joey who is a sparring partner as well as the organizer of his fights. The movies takes us through the fights he has, the fights that his brother has on his behalf, the wooing of his wife as a young adult upto the point where he becomes paranoid and accuses her of cheating on him. You really need to see the movie to feel the power of the movie.

Sense and sensibility (1995)

Jane Austen's novel, 'Sense and Sensibility', published in 1811, has been a fairly popular and acclaimed work of fiction; it is also used in English literature studies. The novel was the first work by Jane Austen to be published, and describes the lives of a English family, used to riches, and suddenly deprived of their riches. They need to fend for themselves, while retaining their pride and honor, and as was expected in those times, to make a good marriage for themselves. The sense and sensibility is in terms of doing the right thing, listening to both the heart and mind, and eventually making a good life.
The movie was written by Emma Thomson, who was initially hesitant to play the lead role, that of the eldest daughter Elinor, and who finally agreed after the age of the character was changed to 27 (from the 19 in the book). The movie (directed by Ang Lee) was both a commercial and critical success; it cost around $16 million to make, and earned a total of more than $130 million worldwide. In addition, the movie was nominated for 7 Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Actress), and won one of them.

Sense and Sensibility (film)

The story is about the family of Mrs. Dashwood and her 3 daughter, Elinor (Emma Thomson), Marianne (Kate Winslet), and Margaret (Emilie Francois). Mrs. Dashwood was the second wife of Mr. Dashwood, and the family is horrified to find out that the estate of Noland Park left to John Dashwood, the son from the first marriage. John and his wife Fanny (portrayed as greedy, and snobby) move in, and the family soon realize that they need to find quarters elsewhere. They are left with an inheritance of only 500 pounds per year. Pretty soon, Elinor starts feeling an attraction towards Fanny's brother Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), not something encouraged or liked by Fanny or by Edwards' mother.
The Dashwoods eventually find residence in Barton Cottage, a small house in Barton Park in Devonshire, owned by a cousin of Mrs. Dashwood, Sir John Middleton. There, an older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman, playing a character 35 years old) also meets them and falls for Marianne, but Marianne ignores these feelings. She feels more for the young and dashing John Willoughby, who seems to reciprocate her feelings, but at the same time has made the ward of Colonel Brandon, Eliza Williams, pregnant. He is removed from his inheritance and moves to London, leaving an emptiness in Marianne.
The movie is all about the situation that the sisters and their related characters face, and how circumstances eventually lead them to loving relationships. They are not so wealthy as before, but both Elinor and Marianne make happy marriages and lead a good life.

Academy nominations:
- Academy Award for Best Picture (nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Actress (Emma Thompson, nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet, nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Won)
- Academy Award for Best Cinematography (nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Costume Design (nominated)
- Academy Award for Best Original Score (nominated)