Monday, June 30, 2008

Reefer Madness (2004)

Original Reefer Madness was not a government funded film but was funded by a Church group in 1936 and originally entitled: Tell Your Children as a warning guide for parents. Then Exploitation Film Maker Dwayne ???? got his hands on it and after spicing it up, changed its name to "Reefer Madness".

The original play started in Los Angeles for a 2 year run. After that it moved to New York City where Paula Abdul changed the choreography where it opened off Broadway 4 days after September 11, 2001 and then closed shortly afterward. Bigger problems the USA had to deal with other than the drug war.

Harry J. Anslinger:
Harry Jacob Anslinger (May 20, 1892 – November 14, 1975) held office as the Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, before being appointed as the first Commissioner of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) on August 12, 1930.

He held office an unprecedented 32 years in his role (rivaled only by J. Edgar Hoover), holding office until 1962. He then held office two years as US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission. The responsibilities once held by Harry J. Anslinger are now largely under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Anslinger died at the age of 83 of heart failure in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Today he is most remembered for his campaign against marijuana, but in his work he probably spent much more time on work against illegal trading of heroin, opium and cocaine[1]. He has been the target of much criticism, though it is evident that the use of illicit drugs in the United States during his last decade as head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics was evidently lower than it is today.

The made-for-cable musical satire Reefer Madness is based on the award-winning play of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the notorious -- and deliciously awful -- 1936 anti-marijuana film originally titled Tell Your Children. A smarmy lecturer (Alan Cumming in the first of his three roles in the film) arrives in a typical small town of the late '30s to warn the populace of the dangers of the "evil weed," bringing along a lurid propaganda film to dramatize his message. In broad, unsubtle, and hilarious strokes, the movie-within-a-movie shows how even a squeaky-clean pair of highschoolers named Mary Lane (Kristen Bell) and Jimmy Harper (Christian Campbell) can become hopeless dope addicts by succumbing to the lure of marijuana. Reefer Madness is not only a savage skewering of the original black-and-white movie (some of the musical's campiest lines are taken directly from the earlier script!), but also a devastating attack on what playwrights Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney consider to be the real reason that the 1936 movie was made: to frighten the public out of their wits in order to keep them under the thumb of an oppressive government. Thus, the musical manages to take a number of not-so-veiled swipes at xenophobia, racism, McCarthyism, the Bush Administration's Homeland Security policy, and even the recent FCC clampdown on "offensive" TV fare (one of the film's highlights is a garish nightclub number featuring Jesus Christ). The ebulliently staged songs include "The Stuff," "Down at the Ol' Five and Dime," "Lonely Pew," "Listen to Jesus Jimmy," "Mary Jane/Mary Lane," "The Brownie Song," "Tell 'Em the Truth," and the title number. Officially titled Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, this film first aired April 16, 2005, on the Showtime cable service. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 109 mins
Reefer Madness (2004)

Special Features:
1. Original Film "Reefer Madness (1936)". This version is suppose to be 70 minutes but the one on this disk special features only records it as 65 minutes. Decided to not rent the original version.
2. Behind the scenes (Grass Roots), which the top paragraphs were derived from.
3. Commentary with Director, Producers and Cast members. I recognized some of the choreography moves was out of Bollywood's movies. Which they talked about in the commentary. But overall the commentary had too many people talking shit to be worth it, except for a humor.
4. Cast Biographies
5. Photo Gallery

Carola (1973)

Norman Lloyd directed this televised production of Jean Renoir's World War II-era play. Taking place backstage at a theatrical performance in Nazi-occupied France, Carola is a tale of passion and intrigue that involves a beautiful stage actress and her emotional and psychological struggles over a Nazi officer, whom she is entangled in an affair with, and a Resistance leader whom she is hiding. Featuring Leslie Caron as Carola, the play also stars Mel Ferrer, Albert Paulsen, Michael Sacks, Carmen Zapata, and Anthony Zerbe. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 120 mins
Carola (1973)
We can see Jean Renoir's handy work in this play. Quite similar to Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion where class and rank is more important than nationality. As the Resistance Leader and the Nazi Officer than the Nazi Officer with his SS counter part.

Although quite "stage-like" it did hold my attention and was worth the time devoted to exploring more of Jean Renoir's Collection of works.

Ultimately, the solution for their dilemma is solved but not in the best of circumstances and the surviving parties go their separate ways.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Journey (2004)

Two young girls who have fallen in love find their budding romance threatened by the prospect of an arranged marriage in director Ligy J. Pullappally's bold look at lesbianism in the Indian culture. Kieran and Delilah are best friends, but despite their deepening affection for one another tradition still dictates that the young woman of their village must marry the man chosen for them by their parents. Though Kieran does her best to refrain herself from declaring her love for Delilah and acting on her romantic impulses, Delilah's discovery of her best friend's true feelings leads to a forbidden romance that will leave both women forever transformed. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
Theatrical Feature Running Time: 107 mins
The Journey (2004)
A poorly acted film although the story-line is good and is an important message. I miss-read the ending of the film that it does not resolve whether the one girl (Kieran) decides to kill herself-including the fact that Delilah calls out during her wedding to her friend. But the last scene of Kieran is where she walks supposedly down the side of the hill along the falls. She accepts herself as the director explains it, but the director did not explain the reason for throwing the hair into the water. And how Kieran brought the scissors with her.

The directors commentary, which had a distracting buzzing sound during the sound track without the normal background from the film, is based on a true event in her homeland. She notes that there is a significant level of suicide of gays and lesbians. I also note that there is almost an epidemic of farmers that also commit suicide lately.

While it is a tragedy this type of authoritarianism on individuals in a society, we did not see the police state interfering in the young woman's lives or even in the society as a whole. This contrasts with The Circle, where every aspect of the ladies lives were controlled by society and men but more importantly by men in uniforms. "Without a man, you can't go anywhere." We can also note this same pattern in Iran in the film Offside.

The soundtrack also lacks the normal background sounds and music that most modern films have, which seems odd by my tastes. I did like the dance sequences although too short and compared to most Indian films, extremely short.

The director used many Christian images, including offering of the grapes (apple) one girl offers to the other. And the cemetery had Christian Crosses on all the graves.

Canaanite religion

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond.
You use to be in silent films.
You use to be big.

Norma Desmond: I am big!
It's the pictures that got small.

Joe: Uh huh, I knew there was something wrong with them.

Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard ranks among the most scathing satires of Hollywood and the cruel fickleness of movie fandom. The story begins at the end as the body of Joe Gillis (William Holden) is fished out of a Hollywood swimming pool. From The Great Beyond, Joe details the circumstances of his untimely demise (originally, the film contained a lengthy prologue wherein the late Mr. Gillis told his tale to his fellow corpses in the city morgue, but this elicited such laughter during the preview that Wilder changed it). Hotly pursued by repo men, impoverished, indebted "boy wonder" screenwriter Gillis ducks into the garage of an apparently abandoned Sunset Boulevard mansion. Wandering into the spooky place, Joe encounters its owner, imperious silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Upon learning Joe's profession, Norma inveigles him into helping her with a comeback script that she's been working on for years. Joe realizes that the script is hopeless, but the money is good and he has nowhere else to go. Soon the cynical and opportunistic Joe becomes Norma's kept man. While they continue collaborating, Norma's loyal and protective chauffeur Max Von Mayerling (played by legendary filmmaker Erich von Stroheim) contemptuously watches from a distance. More melodramatic than funny, the screenplay by Wilder and Charles Brackett began life as a comedy about a has-been silent movie actress and the ambitious screenwriter who leeches off her. (Wilder originally offered the film to Mae West, Mary Pickford and Pola Negri. Montgomery Clift was the first choice for the part of opportunistic screenwriter Joe Gillis, but he refused, citing as "disgusting" the notion of a 25-year-old man being kept by a 50-year-old woman.) Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-running musical version has served as a tour-de-force for contemporary actresses ranging from Glenn Close to Betty Buckley to Diahann Carroll. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 110 mins
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
It was interesting to note that Max Von Mayerling did not wear gloves in the last scene while the rest of the film he had gloves in every shot. Although you know that Joe is going to die, I knew that was the portent of the coming events. Basically a critic of the lifestyle of Hollywood and the trap of the star. Ironically many of the actors rolls actually mimicked their real life.

The director was in sharp contrast with Renoir that let actors create their lines on stage or adapt them to suite how they felt the character would behave in the given scene. Renoir also spent a good deal of time coaching the actors before the scenes. Billy Wilder did not change the script or allow deviations from it.

I was wondering whether they had underwater video cameras at that time. No, but they used a mirror in 40 degree water to give the illusion of below the floating body.

Special Features:
1. Commentary by Ed Sikov athor of "On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder.
2. Making of Sunset Boulevard
3. Hollywood Location Map. One of the most interesting special feature for myself since I lived on Franklin near Hollywood Blvd, probably a block or two from the supposed 1 bedroom apt of Joe. Apt: Altanedo.
4. Edit Head-costume designer documentary.
5. Music of "Sunset Boulevard".
6. Photo Galleries.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Viridiana (1961)

After 25 years' exile, Luis Buñuel was invited to his native Spain to direct Viridiana -- only to have the Spanish government suppress the film on the grounds of blasphemy and obscenity. Regarded by many as Buñuel's crowning achievement, the film centers on an idealistic young nun named Viridiana (Silvia Pinal). Just before taking her final vows, Viridiana is forced by her mother superior to visit her wealthy uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), who has "selflessly" provided for the girl over the years. She has always considered Don Jaime an unspeakable beast, so she is surprised when he graciously welcomes her into his home. Just as graciously, he sets about to corrupt Viridiana beyond redemption -- all because the girl resembles his late wife. It is always hard to select the most outrageous scene in any Buñuel film; our candidate in Viridiana is the devastating Last Supper tableau consisting of beggars, thieves, and degenerates. As joltingly brilliant today as on its first release, Viridiana won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 91 mins
Viridiana (1961)
Yes basically no good deed goes unpunished, and Viridiana has done lots of good including feeding and caring for the indigent and homeless people she takes in after her uncle commits suicide with a young girls rope. The exact rope he gives the girl earlier in the movie that he helps raise which the daughter of his house maid. The Last Supper and the various actions by the beggars, thieves and degenerates reminds me of the other film: King of Hearts. As both groups decide to make other people's property their own and as their hedonistic desires are fulfilled they act merely as spoiled children and not some enlightened people that were subject to some cruel world.

Corruption is only the part of the story, the desires of both Viridiana's Uncle and Cousin are both incestuous. Ultimately we do not know how the cousins will resolve these issues as the two play cards with the maid in the closing scene.

The River (1951)

The River must be seen in its original Technicolor; it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone fully enjoying this wonderful film while watching a black-and-white TV print. Adapted by director Jean Renoir and Rumer Godden from Godden's own novel, the film is set on the banks of West Bengal. The central character is teenaged British girl Harriet (Patricia Walters), the offspring of a jute-mill owner (Esmond Knight) and his wife (Nora Swinburne). Harriet and her best friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri) harbor a crush for a dashing visitor named Captain John (Thomas E. Breen), who in turn is preoccupied with the hauntingly beautiful Indian girl Melanie (Radha Shri Ram). This languid state of affairs is shaken up by unexpected tragedy involving Harriet's impulsive brother (Richard Foster). The real star of the proceedings is the titular river, exquisitely color-photographed by Claude Renoir (Jean's nephew) and his Indian assistant Ramanda Sen Gupta. The apotheosis of Jean Renoir's lifelong fascination with India, The River served as a launching pad for the directorial career of Satyajit Ray, who met and befriended Renoir during the shooting of this film. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 99 mins
The River (1951)
As noted even by Martin Scorsese (who helped the restoration of the film), it is from the perspective of a British colonist. Jean Renoir makes some mention about how it was better for international film industry to have this type of perspective. There was also a long interview with the original writer the story is written on by Rumer Godden.

While the above review casts the river as a main character, this is mostly discussed in the narrative by the Harriet for much of the film. Which I could have done with less narrative of Harriet and more dialogue with other characters.

It was also a story of growing up in a strange land with many dangers around them. Even the Captain had his own childlike problems he was dealing with including pride and jealousy. And of course the gaggle of young girls was a delight to see on the screen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

When Nietzsche Wept (2007)

Set in the year 1882, director Pinchas Perry's adaptation of Irvin D. Yalom's fictional 1992 novel finds a depressed Friedrich Nietzsche seeking out the advice of pioneering psychoanalyst Josef Breuer for help in battling mental malaise. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

When Nietzsche Wept (2007)
I have spent some time on-line learning about Übermensch and the various philosophies involved in his theories. So this film I had to watch to get an idea of this person and yes some of Nietzsche's nihilistic thoughts do seem to come out in the film even if just in the dream sequence of Josef Breuer.

When Nietzsche Wept-Wiki
When Nietzsche Wept is an independent film released in 2007, starring Armand Assante, Ben Cross and Katheryn Winnick. The movie is based on a book of the same name by Irvin D. Yalom and is directed by Pinchas Perry.

The film follows the storyline of the book quite faithfully, although neither the book nor the movie is based on reality. The novel and movie are both fictions.

In the story, Lou Salome visits Dr. Josef Breuer, and convinces Dr. Breuer to take Nietzsche on as a patient, using Dr. Breuer's new "talking cure". The plot revolves around Dr. Breuer trying to get inside the mind of Nietzsche in an attempt to figure out the cause of his migraines, but the only way Breuer can do this, is by submitting to Nietzsche and being his patient. While Breuer is a physician to Nietzsche, Nietzsche is a physician for the soul of Breuer.

IMDb reviews do not seem to have much praise for this film: When Nietzsche Wept, including:
I rented this DVD having seen it while looking for something else. When I saw the title on the jacket I couldn't believe my eyes. I read Yalom's book about a year ago and loved it, in fact admire Yalom's work in general. (I am a clinical psychologist.) I have watched perhaps 30 minutes of this movie and have had to turn it off. I'm not sure if I can take much more. At a superficial level, the faux accents, as others have commented, are simply distracting at best and irritating and vapid at worst. The acting is dull when it should be passionate and comical when it should be serious. The portrayal of Lou Salome is simply flippant, and the brilliant Freud comes off as little more than a schoolboy. I see very little of the book's spirit conveyed thus far. I had hoped to be able to recommend this film to my students. Instead, I will refer them to the book. Imagine that.

The Rules of the Game (1939)|DIsk 1 & 2

We're dancing on a volcano.
Chris Faulkner, Professor of Film at Carelton University, Ottawa Canada, provides some of the commentation of the film extras. Including how the edited version after the disasterous first weekend release and the reformed 1959 version. Which Chris explains the editions with a split screen and comparing the two versions.
In brief, the short version leaves us with a vicious portrait of unsavory characters in a murderous world.
It reminded me of story "The Great Gatsby" with only the element of naked infidelity left out. Many films from the 20s and 30s talks about the decadence of society and Fritz Lang had much of this same theme in his films. Faulkner talks in depth about how the shorter version did not give time for Jean Renoir's self portrayal of Octave to show his humanity. The shorter version showed more of the helps characters and as such showed the callousness of the "rich and spoiled classes" even when one of their own was murdered.

Now often cited as one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu/Rules of the Game was not warmly received on its original release in 1939: audiences at its opening engagements in Paris were openly hostile, responding to the film with shouts of derision, and distributors cut the movie from 113 minutes to a mere 80. It was banned as morally perilous during the German occupation and the original negative was destroyed during WWII. It wasn't until 1956 that Renoir was able to restore the film to its original length. In retrospect, this reaction seems both puzzling and understandable; at its heart, Rules of the Game is a very moral film about frequently amoral people. A comedy of manners whose wit only occasionally betrays its more serious intentions, it contrasts the romantic entanglements of rich and poor during a weekend at a country estate. André Jurieu (Roland Toutain), a French aviation hero, has fallen in love with Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor), who is married to wealthy aristocrat Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio). Robert, however, has a mistress of his own, whom he invites to a weekend hunting party at his country home, along with André and his friend Octave (played by Jean Renoir himself). Meanwhile, the hired help have their own game of musical beds going on: a poacher is hired to work as a servant at the estate and immediately makes plans to seduce the gamekeeper's wife, while the gamekeeper recognizes him only as the man who's been trying to steal his rabbits. Among the upper classes, infidelity is not merely accepted but expected; codes are breached not by being unfaithful, but by lacking the courtesy to lie about it in public. The weekend ends in a tragedy that suggests that this way of life may soon be coming to an end. Renoir's witty, acidic screenplay makes none of the characters heroes or villains, and his graceful handling of his cast is well served by his visual style. He tells his story with long, uninterrupted takes using deep focus (cinematographer Jean Bachelet proves a worthy collaborator here), following the action with a subtle rhythm that never calls attention to itself. The sharply-cut hunting sequence makes clear that Renoir avoided more complex editing schemes by choice, believing that long takes created a more lifelike rhythm and reduced the manipulations of over-editing. Rules of the Game uses WWI as an allegory for WWII, and its representation of a vanishing way of life soon became all too true for Renoir himself, who, within a year of the film's release, was forced to leave Europe for the United States.. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 106 mins
The Rules of the Game (1939)
The differences between this film and Renoir's other film I also watched recently is amazing in: The River. I would have never guessed the same director in both.

Commentary is by Peter Bogdanovich reading text by Alexander Sesonske. Well worth watching it also, but so filled with dialogue that it is even hard to follow all the action also.

Disk 2:
1. Interview with Jean Renoir in B/W with I presume other film critics.
In the interview, Renoir says he did not want to film one person but the group of people so no one person was the "lead" actor. Considering that he wanted to condemn this type of lifestyle much as Lang also pursued during the 1920s then yes it was probably a good idea to keep all the characters as equals in guilt and sin.

And I'm convinced that landscapes serve no useful purpose on screen.
Landscapes don't count.
The locations only provide actors with the increased ability to get into their respective characters-as I assume opposed to green screens.

10. le sacrifice: Just like in "The Great Gatsby" the innocent had to pay the price for the dying of romanticism.Someone must be killed to appease the gods.

Special Features of Disk 2:
1. Interview with Jean Renoir in B/W with I presume other film critics.
2. BBC Documentary-Part One Only!-Marguerite Houle Renoir the editor adopted Renoir's name but never married Jean also a party member. An interview with Paulette Dubost which played the part of simply "Lisette" the chamber maid. The part I most enjoyed in the film-partially due to her looks.
3. Production History
A. Video Essay-94 minutes for first production release and then cut to 81 minutes.
B. Gaborit & Durand
4. Interviews
A. Max Douy-Production Designer
Since he'd (Renoir) been involved with the Communist Party.
B. Mila Parély - played Genevieve de Marrast. She gets drunk on the set for some of the gun shooting scenes.
C. Alain Renoir-son of Jean Renoir-assistant cameraman on "The Rules of the Game". Everyone knew there was going to be a war.

Basically while there was some interesting parts of Disk 2, I think it was not worth ordering it. It should have been like on side 2 of the disk.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Circle (2000)

"Without a man, you can't go anywhere."
This is one woman that abandons her little girl says to another woman hiding out also. The little girl was about 4 years old and a street vendor finds her alone, and eventually the police come as the two women hide behind a parked car.

Three Iranian women must contend with a repressive political regime that has placed a stranglehold on nearly every aspect of their lives in this hard-hitting social drama. In a nation where a woman cannot buy a bus ticket out of town or accept a car ride from a man, much less have an abortion, it's not difficult for women to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Arezou (Maryiam Parvin Almani), Nargess (Nargess Mamizadeh), and Pari (Fereshteh Sadr Orafai) are left to fend for themselves after leaving an Iranian penal institution. Arezou and Nargess want to get out of town, but as they try to buy tickets to another city, find they must resort to prostitution to do it. Pari is in even worse straits; she's discovered she's pregnant, but she can't legally obtain an abortion without a husband's permission. Pari searches for help among former cellmates Monir and Elham, both of whom are now unhappily married, while learning just how many desperate women roam the streets of Iran. As one might expect, Dayereh was highly controversial in Iran and was initially banned by the government, though it received a limited release after winning the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 91 mins
The Circle (2000)
Although the above review seems to talk as if the movie is about the three, it is actually a real time story told over a shifting number of female characters and each kind of giving a glimpse into their lives including the woman that abandons her little girl since she has no husband. In the end the one woman that is just trying to catch a cab is sent to jail and then in her cell the camera pans back over to our three women that started out in the story. No matter what they did, they ended back in the arms of the authoritarian Islamic state.

At times the film seemed a little gritty and harsh but well worth watching.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The bringing of the African to America planted the first seed of disunion.
War, the breeder of hate.

That's for sure. Just think in a few years after this movie was made, WWI ended and the hating began. I thought it was interesting that Lincoln actually comes off as sort of benevolent toward the South (after the war) as depicted until his untimely death that they reenact with historical precision as the inter-titles tell us. John Wilkes Booth shouts out: "Sic semper tyrannis!"Sic semper tyrannis

The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. The film tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. When war breaks out, the Stonemans cast their lot with the Union, while the Camerons are loyal to Dixie. After the war, Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall), distressed that his beloved south is now under the rule of blacks and carpetbaggers, organizes several like-minded Southerners into a secret vigilante group called the Ku Klux Klan. When Cameron's beloved younger sister Flora (Mae Marsh) leaps to her death rather than surrender to the lustful advances of renegade slave Gus (Walter Long), the Klan wages war on the new Northern-inspired government and ultimately restores "order" to the South. In the original prints, Griffith suggested that the black population be shipped to Liberia, citing Abraham Lincoln as the inspiration for this ethnic cleansing. Showings of Birth of a Nation were picketed and boycotted from the start, and as recently as 1995, Turner Classic Movies cancelled a showing of a restored print in the wake of the racial tensions around the O.J. Simpson trial verdict. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 187 mins
The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Woodrow Wilson's/"History of the American People":
"...Adventures swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of the one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile, and use the Negroes...In the villages the Negores were the office holders, men who knew none of the uses of authority, except its insolences."
"...The policy of the congressional leaders wrought...a veritable overthrow of civilization in the their determination to 'put the white South under the heel of the black South'"
"The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation...until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country."

For her who had learned the stern lesson of honor we should not grieve that shy found sweeter the opal gates of death.

The only special feature is a documentary commentary by David Shepard entitled "The Making of "The Birth of a Nation" in 1993 by Film Preservation Associates.

In 1915 the Supreme Court gave States and local municipalities the right to enact "prior restraint" and censorship of motion pictures, when it wrote that,
"The exhibition of motion pictures is a business pure and simple, not to be regarded as part of the press of the country or as organs of public opinion, they are mere representations of events of ideas and sentiments published and known, vivid, useful and entertaining no doubt. But as we have said, capable of evil having power for the greater because of the attractiveness and manner of exhibition."

Obviously a racist piece of propaganda as a portrayal of Negroes, but shows a period of deep racial divide that even 50 years after the Civil War still felt a lot of animosity in the country.

Judge Tourgee fo the carpet-baggers.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Munich (2005)

Much as Steven Spielberg followed 1993's special-effects blockbuster Jurassic Park with a far more downbeat and personal project later the same year, Schindler's List, in 2005 after tearing up the box office with War of the Worlds the director closed out the year with a powerful and thoughtful drama about the human costs of international terrorism. The 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, were supposed to be a peaceful gathering of outstanding athletes from around the world, but on September 5, the games took a sinister turn when eight masked Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic village, killing two Israeli athletes and abducting nine others. The kidnappers demanded safe passage out of Germany in addition to the release of Arab prisoners in Israeli and German prisons, but when they arrived at the Munich airport they were met by German police and military forces, and in the melee that followed, all nine hostages were killed. In the wake of the killings, the Israeli government gave Mossad, the nation's intelligence agency, a special assignment -- to track down and eliminate the Palestinians responsible for the death of the Israeli athletes. A young and idealistic Mossad agent (Eric Bana) is assigned to the four-man unit created to wipe out the Olympic terrorists, but while he believes in serving his country, as their bloody work goes on he begins to buckle under the weight of his work and wonders if he can morally justify his nation's acts of revenge. Munich also stars Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Ciarán Hinds. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 164 mins
Munich (2005)
Quite a good movie expanding on how people react in times of tensions-although just like any film about reality certain aspects of the film is dramatized for carrying the dialogue. I initially wanted to watch this just for the references with RAF (The Red Army Faction or RAF (German Rote Armee Fraktion) (in its early stages commonly known as Baader-Meinhof Group [or Gang])).
The Mossad agents, tasked with tracing and assassinating Black September members, as depicted in the film Munich, pass themselves off to the Palestinian terrorists in a "safe-house" in Athens as the RAF. At another point in the film, the team leader visits an old friend, named Andreas, in Frankfurt and asks him if he's Baader-Meinhof.
Which was quite an funny part of the film when all were standing around with guns drawn on each other and finally one of the Israeli men called out their membership being RAF. They spend the night on opposite sides of the room and Daniel Craig - Steve does not mind pushing his way onto them also. At one time they look almost to fight the two groups when Daniel's character adjusts the short wave radio of the Palestinians to some Western Music and they go back and forth until they find one station they can agree on.

Not sure why they needed the Italian Group of thugs that seemed to backstab as the example above illustrated. It seems that with a little bit of detective work they could have found the masterminds of the Munich incidents on their own.

So maybe some find controversy in the depictions of Mossad agents but coming from Steven Spielberg then his portrayal may not be good enough for everyone but was presented in a level enough manner for myself.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Straight From the Heart (1999)|Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Romantic misunderstandings, unrequited love, and the gap between two very different cultures provide the backdrop for this romantic musical drama from India. Sameer (Salman Khan) is a gifted singer from Europe who has come to New Delhi to study Indian vocal techniques with Pandit Darbar (Vikram Gokhale). Darbar's beautiful daughter Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) makes a strong impression on Sameer, and soon he's head over heels in love. But everyone advises Sameer to stay away from the girl, and Nandini is set up in a marriage with Vanraj (Ajay Devgan), a successful lawyer. But Nandini isn't happy with her new husband, and Vanraj soon finds evidence that his wife has been corresponding with Sameer, who has since returned to Europe. A jealous Vanraj packs his bags and sets out to find the singer, wanting to know the nature of the relationship between him and Nandini. With top "Bollywood" star Salman Khan in the lead, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was a major box-office success in India, and was enthusiastically received in screenings at the 2000 Vancouver Film Festival and 2000 Seattle Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 188 mins
Straight From the Heart (1999)|Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Yes a long tale even for Indian standards at over 3 hours long, but kept it lively with some nice songs along the way. It explores some important issues with arranged marriages even after 50 years in exploring these issues on film. The father seems very progressive on certain issues but when it came time for his daughter to wed he became very stiff and unbending. Which drove her to...

Like in many tragic love stories this one has Nandini as a self destructive individual (maybe it has something to do with Karma) by putting herself in danger needlessly and even trying to take her own life once-although clearly just an attempt to express herself.

Ultimately Vanraj's risk to look up Sameer pays off and Nandini comes back to him. He spent more time in the relationship at that time and showed that no matter what he was willing to let her go if that is what she wanted. Although there is some questions about his motivation during the movie. It was just as the above review states that Nandini although loved music much, there lifestyles were not compatible.

Saawariya (2007)

The title of Saawariya carries a double meaning; it refers to both an epithet for the Hindu god Krishna and to a title sought by many Indian lovers, who wish to reach a state of 'Saawariya,' or overpowering consumption by love. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's romantic drama Saawariya weaves the tale of the ill-fated romance between two such individuals: artist Raj, who finds the fulfillment of his soul's yearning when he enters one of the most picturesque rural hamlets in India, and his lover, Sakina, a mysterious young woman whom he spots standing on a bridge. Raj tries desperately to win Sakina's love and devotion, but finds it increasingly difficult to accept the truth of her past. ~ Nathan Southern, All Movie Guide
Theatrical Feature Running Time: 138 mins
Saawariya (2007)
Yes quite a visually pleasing picturesque stage set, but for being a rural hamlet in India, it seems way off. Bright lights and flashy lights set the stage for a bridge over a canal much like a Venice scene. The set designs were more of a play than a movie and it reminded me a lot of Moulin Rouge. I loved the dancing and singing. Although my wife said she did not like it, she did actually watch the whole movie.

This film like many other Indian films does not have kissing but they did turn their backs to indicate a kiss. It is also ironic that although it seems to have a hint of Islam influence the scenes and the dialogue is quite racy. The costumes, the bar scene and the side characters being prostitutes (without little condemnation of that) also makes it seem that if Muslims consider this acceptable in India, then they would be on the polar opposite as the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ultimately after nearly the whole film is done, Sakina rejects Raj's proposals and goes with the devote other man.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Awara (1951)

Indian film icon Raj Kapoor directs this Oedipal family drama centering on Raju (Kapoor), the disaffected son of renowned Judge Raghuath (played by the director's father Prithvaraj Kapoor), who finds himself on the street pursuing a life of crime. Soon he runs into Jagga (K. N. Singh), the untouchable criminal who brought shame on his mother. Though he plots to kill both Jagga and Raghuath, Raju saves his real father, restoring his father's love for the lad and at the same time winning the heart of his one and only love Rita (Nargis). ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 168 mins
Awara (1951)
Another epic film that follows the lives of one family through a lot of troubles. The Judge actually believed that criminals were born from criminals and good people come from good people. So Jagga as revenge against the Judge for unfairly sentencing him, he plants seeds of doubt about his wife and then manipulates Raju's life into a life of crime. But unlike the above critique, the judge does not restore his love for his son until after all the issues and proof had been presented to him- and not from the change of plans to plot to kill him. Although he does save his mothers life from Jagga. Only later to be killed by the Judge's car and like a Greek Tragedy the mother wants to see her estranged husband for one last time but the bandages prevent her from seeing when he arrives and she passes away. So close physically but so far apart spiritually and mentally.

The only special feature was an option to jump to various songs in the film. The best song sequence was Raj's dream scene of heaven and hell with Rita in it and Jagga as the devil like creature. Seemed to take some thoughts from Christianity including one scene the Cross is turned 45% to show an X cross, which I am not sure the meaning of that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Aag (1948)

Future Bollywood master Raj Kapoor makes his directorial debut with this loosely autobiographical drama. The film centers on Kewal (Kapoor), a lad hailing from the country who has a gruesome self-inflicted scar across his face and a passionate yearning to build a theater. After his father brutally casts him out of the house, Kewal scrapes together some money and builds a theater, which eventually features his beloved, the beautiful singer Nimmi (Nargis). Featuring heavy usage of expressionistic light and camerawork, the film recalls the Bombay Talkie films of Franz Osten. ~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 135 mins
Aag (1948)
This film like Straight From the Heart deals with arranged marriages. This one deals with a man on his wedding day that meets his bride for th supposed first time on their wedding night on their wedding bed. After the two see each other, he explains his life and how he always loved Nimmi since he was a young boy. His longing was to start a theater group and have his first love star in it-but never happens. He gets his scar actually near the end of the film as he attempts to kill himself as his theater goes up in flames caused by jealousy between him and his financier and the female star.