Thursday, August 29, 2013

Classics: A Review of My Man Godfrey By Lauren Ennis

Does this mean you don't want to be my protegee?
Screwball comedy is defined as a whimsical or eccentric film in which characters find themselves in complicated plots filled with farcial situations. These films often feature quick witted repartee, romance, and conflicts between both the sexes and the classes. One of the most notable of these films is the 1936 classic My Man Godfrey; a film which combined romantic comedy with social justice to create a comic masterpiece.  By the film’s hilarious end, even the most hardened cynics will be tempted to believe that the impossible is possible and modern viewers will realize that cinema was one of the few ‘great’ things during the Great Depression.

The film starts as high society sisters Irene (Carole Lombard) and Cornelia Bullock (Gail Patrick) arrive at the city dump in search of a ‘forgotten man’ or, in today’s terms, homeless person. The unusual search is part of a society benefit scavenger hunt which requires, amongst other odd items, a forgotten man. Determined to win the contest, Cornelia approaches the homeless Godfrey (William Powell) and offers to pay him $5 if he appears with her at the benefit. Insulted, Godfrey proceeds to show Cornelia exactly what he thinks of her proposal by pushing her into an ash heap and chasing her off of the premises. He then agrees to appear at the benefit with the zany but well-meaning Irene in order to further humiliate her sister. Godfrey and Irene go on to win the scavenger hunt, much to Cornelia’s irritation, and Irene asks him to replace their recently fired butler. Godfrey hesitantly agrees and arrives for work at the Bullock house the next morning, where he quickly realizes that Irene’s antics are just the beginning of the family’s eccentricities. The girls’ mother (Alice Brady), for instance, proves to be just as daffy as her daughters, and insists upon maintaining an indigent composer (Mischa Auer) as her ‘protegee’; a post which largely involves entertaining Mrs. Bullock and Irene while eating the family out of house and home. Meanwhile, the girls’ father (Eugene Pallette) tries his best to maintain some sense of sanity and financial security amidst the upheaval of the household. Although the family is initially reluctant to accept Godfrey as Irene’s protégée, they quickly come to appreciate and rely upon Godfrey as a butler, advisor, and most importantly, a friend. Godfrey similarly benefits from life with the Bullocks as he uses his position to regain a purpose in life, and his newfound funds to assist the countless other ‘forgotten men’ in Depression-era New York. To provide any further details of the madcap plot would only take the fun out of the film’s many unexpected, and sometimes inexplicable, turns.

One of the film’s most likable aspects was also its most controversial upon initial release; its mixture of offbeat comedy and social commentary. While many films of the era sought to lionize the poor and criticize the rich, few were able to do so in such a subversive or enjoyable way. Powell’s understated portrayal of Godfrey perfectly encompasses the writers’ image of the dignified poor. Similarly, Lombard displays expert comedic delivery and her Irene proves to be endlessly endearing, despite her role as a caricature of the idle rich. Both stars play off of one another perfectly while rattling off a seemingly non-stop slew of social barbs.  The contrast between Irene and her unabashedly wacky family and Godfrey and his fellow forgotten men demonstrates the disparity of wealth during the 1930’s and the ways in which different parts of society coped, or refused to cope, with its effects.

Everybody loves Godfrey
While the juxtaposition of Godfrey and Irene provides a clear message about the writers’ view of the rich, the film’s use of physical and romantic comedy prevents the message from becoming heavy handed. Despite all of the compromising situations Irene’s careless actions put Godfrey into, the film never judges her. On the contrary, the film seems to indulge her petulant needs far more than the begrudging Godfrey allows himself to. Godfrey is also portrayed as possessing flaws despite his basic decency. For example, his high mindedness does not prevent him from giving Cornelia her comeuppance. Irene’s schoolgirl crush on Godfrey also adds another dynamic to their relationship, which calls into question which of the two actually has the upper hand. Her absolute adoration of Godfrey imbues Irene with an innocence that makes her selfish behavior more childish than callous, and enables her (and vicariously her class) to appear more unknowing than unfeeling. As a result, the film refuses to deny that many rich people do possess virtues and many poor people do have flaws.

Although the film delves into the dark territory of class warfare, its greatest message seems to be that people and societies need to balance their priorities. For instance, the Bullocks' frivolous spending eventually leads them to face the very real possibility of financial ruin. Irene also chances losing Godfrey when she places her own desire for a romantic relationship with him over the value of their friendship. It is revealed that even Godfrey has strayed from the straight path when he allowed himself to drift into a life of poverty following a broken engagement. Through this portrayal of average people led extraordinarily astray, the film offers a mirror for 1930’s America, which had similarly lost its way after the recklessness that permeated the 1920’s. In this way, the film also offers a solution for its audiences to alleviate, if not completely solve, their problems by maintaining one’s priorities and remembering what is most important in life. It is a simple message, but one that we could certainly stand to remember in our own uncertain times.

While the film’s side-splitting writing alone is worth the price of admission, it would not have been nearly as effective without its extraordinary cast. Lombard’s combination of innocence and recklessness elevates Irene beyond the typical screwball comedy ditz to a truly likable heroine. Powell’s straight-man approach to Godfrey provides the audience with a moral and intellectual center that keeps the film from veering too far off course, while serving as an excellent foil to the off-kilter Bullocks. The supporting cast is equally delightful with Brady proving to be almost as hilariously unaware as Lombard, and Patrick adding a dynamic level to her shrewish antagonist. Similarly, Pallette and Auer hold their own against the ladies in the house, while also expertly playing off of one another.

My Man Godfrey truly is a comedy for the ages. The film deftly combines romance, social commentary, and slapstick humor to make the screwiest of screwball comedies. The film marked a peak in the careers of former real life spouses Lombard and Powell and proved to be a stepping stone to their later successes. This film was recommended to Depression-era audiences for its ability to help them transcend above the harsh world outside, while inspiring them to find a way to improve that same harsh world. Today, this film is recommended for those same reasons that still resonate today, and as a reminder of the days when comedies could be substantial even as they made audiences laugh away their cares, at least for a little while.

At home with the Bullocks

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 MORE Actual Confessions of a Film Junkie

Confessions of a Film Junkie: 5 More Actual Confessions of a Film Junkie

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Well it’s about that time again. Time for me to share some things with you my loyal audience.  Here are 5 MORE Actual Confessions of a Film Junkie.

1.)    I also do film reviews for another blog

Early in 2013 my friend Zee, who some of you may remember co-wrote the “Moth Diaries” review, invited me to join a new blog that she started on blogger called “Asylum for Nerds”.  Asylum for Nerds is a blog site where we review films, television, music, video games, and pretty much anything Nerd related.  However, unlike “Confessions of a Film Junkie” I don’t limit my film reviews to just straight to DVD horror.  On Asylum for Nerds I’ve reviewed all types of films and I’ve even branched out to writing a couple music reviews.  So if you’re a fan of “Confessions of a Film Junkie” please be sure to check out and subscribe to “Asylum for Nerds”.  Just click the link below.

             Welcome To Asylum for Nerds

2.)    I can’t watch eye gouging scenes in films.

I don’t know why, but whenever I watch a film and there’s an eye gouging scene, I have to cover my face and look away from the screen.  I have no idea why.  I just feel so uncomfortable and disgusted during eye gouging scenes.  When I watch a film and see a drill bit or a needle getting stuck too close to a person’s eye I will always look away and cover my own eyes so I don’t have to watch it.  These are the only types of scenes I cannot watch in film, and what sucks is that there are eye gouging scenes in two of my favorite films “Repo: the Genetic Opera” and “Lockout”.  Am I the only one who doesn’t like these scenes in films or are their others?

3.)    I’ve had two film reviews banned by blogger because the content of the film was “too vulgar”.

Long before I discovered my niche of reviewing straight to DVD Horror films, I’d pretty much review any film I saw; comedies, dramas, horror, action, musicals, independents, I reviewed many different types of films when I first started this blog.  However, I did have one film get taken down by the people on Google/Blogger for being “too vulgar”.  The film I reviewed was a 2010 Italian Romance/Drama called “Room in Rome”, and in my review I just basically ranted for 2 ½ pages about how all it was “Porn with a plot and a budget”.  I didn’t even include pictures in the review because I couldn’t find any on-line that didn’t contain full frontal nudity.  Yet, a day after I posted the review, I went on the site and saw that my review had been erased.  I was confused, so I re-uploaded the review and it was removed once again.  I became frustrated and sent an e-mail to Google/blogger, and that day they sent me an e-mail explaining to me that they removed my review because it violated the content policy and said it was “too vulgar” and that I made numerous references to pornographic images and used strong sexual language so that’s why I got removed.  I’m not mad anymore that my review was taken down because it was my own fault for not reading the content policy or terms & agreements when it came to posting my reviews on the site.  I did manage to upload the review on another website, so if you’re really interested in reading my review on “Room in Rome” you can click the link below. 

*Most Recently they have also banned my “Retrospect on A Serbian Film” for being "too vulgar" and "too graphic"

4.)    “Dark Crystal” scared me so much as a kid that I had to sleep with my lights on until I was almost in the 6th Grade.

Some of you may remember me mentioning in my “5 Scariest Moments in children’s films that you probably never realized were too scary for kids” review that the film “Dark Crystal” scared me as a kid, but I didn’t really talk about how badly this film scared me as a kid.  I saw this film for the first time when I was 8-years-old, and I was terrified of it.  Those puppets were freaky looking and the story was very dark—even for a children’s film.  The scene that scared me the most of all was one Chamberlin lost the battle to become the new emperor of the Skesis and the new Emperor had the other members tear off his uniform and cast him out.  The reason why I found this so scary was because as a kid, I thought the Skesis killed him by ripping him a part.  Those images on the screen gave me nightmares for a long time and I couldn’t sleep in the dark anymore.  I slept with my closet light on until a few weeks before I started the 6th grade.  My parents were concerned that if I needed to get over my fear of the dark quickly since they didn’t want me to still be afraid of the dark since I was going to be a teenager soon.  My mom bought those plastic glow and the dark stars and put a bunch of them on my ceiling, and even though they weren’t super bright they helped a lot and I eventually stopped being afraid of the dark. 
How I felt being forced to watch it!
    Another funny story I have about “Dark Crystal” is that when I was in college, my friends and I were watching “Labyrinth” and then they asked me if I wanted to watch “Dark Crystal” next and I stood up and told them no way in hell because of how much that film scared me as kid.  Well a few months later they went full on “Clockwork Orange” on my behind and held me down against my will and forced me to watch “Dark Crystal”.  The first 20 minutes I thought I was going to have a panic attack, but I didn’t and after making it through the whole film for the first time in 11 years, I felt really stupid, but at the same time I must thank my friends who helping my get over my stupid fear.

5.)    I once acted in a film that was written by Miss-E.

Quite, the awesome cast!
Yep, it’s true.  Many of you may know Miss-E as the writer for Confessions of a Film Junkie: “Classics”, but like me she is an amateur screenwriter as well.  When we were attending Lasell College she wrote a script called “Through Enemy Eyes” that was loosely based off of actual events that happened at our school in the 1940’s.  She showed her screenplay to one of our Professors and they were so impressed with her work that they managed to get her some funding to make an abridged version of the film.  So she recruited me and few more of our friends to star in the film.  Miss-E was the star—of course—since it was her screen play, but many of us had to take on dual roles because we couldn’t find enough people who wanted to be a part of the film.  I had to play two different parts in the film because the director did not want to cast a woman dressed as a boy for the role.  So I had to play a Boston Detective and a German Resistance leader.  The film making process was “hellish”.  We really didn’t know what we were doing, and I was stressed out a lot when we were filming and did a very crappy job as the Boston Detective, but when we all got together to watch the film for the first time, I was very impressed and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  So if you are interested, please click on the video(s) below and watch our film.  It’s not very long; I promise. 

Hey, This Handsome Gent Looks familiar ;)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Classics: A Retrospective of Mae West By Lauren Ennis

Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
Despite the many new freedoms that America offered women in the 1920’s, entertainment remained a male dominated medium. The door for women in comedy was kicked open, however, by the arrival of a brassy blonde who knew how to drop lines laced with innuendo as well as any man, and didn’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer; Mae West. From her beginnings on the vaudeville circuit to her twilight years as a Las Vegas sensation, West proved herself to be a trend-setting entertainer and set the stage for the numerous female comediennes who came after her. West’s reign as the queen of cutting edge for over fifty years proved that too much of a good thing truly is wonderful.

West was born Mary Jane West to boxer “Battling” Jack West and former corset model Matilda West on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her childhood, West was known for being a headstrong and willful child with a talent for mimicry. In order to both entertain her own lost dreams of fame, and channel her daughter’s energies into something constructive, Matilda began entering Mae in amateur talent contests at local burlesque theaters at age seven. These local performances enabled West to attain her legendary stage presence and proved to be the start of a successful performing career. She began to perform professionally at age fourteen and tried her hand at various vaudeville personas including drag king and minstrel “coon shouter”. While on a burlesque tour of the Midwest, West met and began a relationship with fellow performer Frank Wallace. The two were eventually married in secret, as West was only seventeen and under the legal age of consent. The marriage legally lasted until 1935, although it was over in West’s mind when she began a relationship with another performer the next year. She eventually graduated to Broadway and was featured as a sexy “vamp” in such shows as Vera Violette and A Winsome Widow before finally getting her big break in the Shubert Brothers’ Broadway Revue, in which she performed a scandalous shimmy.

Eager to challenge herself, West soon began writing and producing as well as performing in plays. Her first play, Sex, was written under her pen-name “Jane Mast” and premiered in 1926. The play told the tale of a Montreal prostitute who tries to sleep her way to the top of the social ladder. Although panned by critics, the play became a controversial hit through its combination of racy humor and sharp social commentary. The play gained even more publicity for West and the rest of the cast after the acting mayor of New York, Joseph McKee, ordered that the show be raided on charges of public indecency. West was sentenced to ten days in jail, but only served eight after having her sentenced lightened for good behavior. While West’s stint in prison had little effect on her morale, it led to Sex gaining even more notoriety, and becoming one of the most infamous productions of the 1920’s.

She followed up her debut success by writing another, even more controversial play; The Drag.  The story was considered shocking for its frank portrayal of homosexuality and cross dressing, and as a result was barred from opening on Broadway by the Society for the Prevention of Vice. The success of West’s later plays (The Constant Sinner, Pleasure Man, and The Wicked Age) prompted Hollywood to take notice, and led to her being cast in the George Raft film Night After Night. Although initially distraught at the small size of her role, she used her part to the greatest possible advantage and later won the lead role in the comedy She Done Him Wrong. The film was also the first leading role for Paramount contract player Cary Grant, and is credited with starting his film career. The film became such a massive box office success that it saved Paramount Studios from the verge of bankruptcy. West went on to star in several more films at Paramount throughout the 1930’s before the advent of the Hollywood Production Code forced her to sanitize her scripts. The Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, was a censorship code put in place by Hollywood executives after facing pressure from various religious and morality groups. Although many pre-code films dealt with adult topics, West’s films were by far the industry’s most open in their approach to sexuality. As a result, her films were forced to undergo numerous changes after the code was put in place and lost much of the risqué humor that had made them so popular. By the end of the 1930’s, the effects of the Production Code had led to a steady decline in her career, prompting her to return to her stage roots.

Why don't you come up and see me sometime?
Following her successful run in Hollywood in the 1930’s, West performed her material in various other mediums. Her foray into radio ended disastrously in 1939 after her sketch on The Chase and Sanborn Hour was deemed “vulgar and indecent” by the FCC, despite the fact that the sketch utilized the same humor that West had built her career upon nearly twenty years earlier. The incident prompted NBC to ban her from the station permanently and crushed any hopes she had of becoming a success in radio. Never one to go down without a fight, she  made a comeback career with a Las Vegas nightclub act in the 1950’s that revitalized much of her classic comedy material. She retired from the stage in 1959 and published her biography Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, which recounted her experiences working in show business. She went on to make guest appearances in various television shows throughout the 1960’s and even made two parody rock albums. She briefly returned to film with 1970’s Myra Breckinridge and 1978’s Sextette (based upon one of her 1930’s stage scripts). Although both films were panned by audiences and critics alike, they have since become camp classics. West died on November 22, 1980 at age 87 of complications following her second stroke and was buried in her native Brooklyn.

West proved that she could walk the walk as well as talk the talk by living a personal life that was almost as controversial as her professional life. For instance, while the United States remained a racially polarized nation throughout her lifetime, she refused to let race interfere with her pursuit of romance. During her relationship with African American boxer William Jones, West became infuriated when she realized that her apartment building's staff barred African Americans. In order to remedy the issue and teach the staff a lesson, she proceeded to buy the building herself and institute a new, racially equal ,set of rules. She also openly supported the gay community at a time when the mere mention of homosexuality was grounds for scandal. In her play, The Drag, she called for tolerance from mainstream society and denounced society's hypocrisy in encouraging homosexuals to lead deceptive double lives while shunning those with the courage to be open about their sexual orientation. She also considered herself a supporter of women's liberation, although she declinded restricting herself to any labels, including 'feminist'. In various stage and screen performances she used humor to challenge traditional gender roles and suggest that women could be just as happy with a career as with a home and family. Furthermore, through the success of her own career, she provided women with an example of what career women could achieve with hard work and innovation.

Though not the first, Mae West was certainly the most memorable of Hollywood’s blonde bombshells. With her signature saucy wit, she was able to challenge her audience’s moral and social views, while still keeping them entertained. She made a career out of breaking society’s rules, as she began a successful film career in her forties, established herself as a voluptuous, middle aged sex symbol, and became one of the industry’s few successful female writers. While best known for her infamous one-liners, her legacy in film, theater, and popular culture could hardly be summed up in a single line. Mae West once said that "you only live once, but if you do it right once is enough", if there was one person who lived up to this statement, it was Mae herself; a woman who lived both her personal and professional lives to the very fullest.
And now, as a bonus, here is a link to some of Mae’s most memorable lines

You can be had...Yes, even you Cary Grant.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A review of "Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     You know what? This film is boring.  It really is.  I mean, the plot of the film is given away just by the title alone: “Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter”!  So just from that title we know right away to expect cannibals in the plot and that that some girl named Elfie Hopkins is going to hunt them.  So what more do I really need to explain?  I guess I’ll start with the plot.                                                          
Uhh...isn't the guy on the left the villain???
So Elfie Hopkins is a 22-year-old girl who lives in a quaint country village in England with her father and stepmother.  Elfie’s daily routine consists of wandering around the village with her best friend, Dylan Parker.  Elfie and Dylan for the first half of the film basically do nothing except get stoned in the woods and look for “mysteries to solve”.  The reason why Elfie is so interested in investigating stuff is because when she was twelve her mother was murdered in the woods and the police never solved the murder.  Elfie hopes that by becoming a good investigator she’ll someday hopefully be able to solve her mom’s murder.  One day a new family—The Gammons—move next door to Elfie, but there’s just something about them that doesn’t seem right to her.  They’re all so happy, and polite, and very worldly.  Mr. & Mrs. Gammon are both “Travel Agents” that specialize in Travel to exotic places like East Africa and the Amazon rain forest.  However, their travel agency is just a clever ploy to trick people into going on vacations they’ll never come back from because the Gammons are actually cannibals and they roam the world moving into small quiet towns and eating their residents before moving on to the next place.  Now it’s up to Elfie and Dylan to stop the Gammons and save the village before they are all eaten.  So yeah, the plot is pretty rudimentary and you can predict just about everything that’s going to happen in the film.  
Nobody likes you go away!
     Not to mention none of the characters are really that likeable.    You have Elfie who’s really not that much of heroine.  She’s just a stoner girl who does nothing except wander around her town all day annoying everyone with her “crazy investigations” and shows no ambition or interest in much of anything.  Not to mention her character is a total b!tch to everyone she meets.  Every time she talks to a person she sounds very condescending and hostile.  She’s just not a very strong or interesting character.  
Dylan's in the friend zone/ He will be forever alone!
Then we have her best friend, Dylan Parker, who’s not much better.  Dylan is pretty much the male equivalent of Elfie, but he actually has potential as a person.  Dylan applied to get into a college and was accepted, but doesn’t want to go.  He doesn’t give a reason why at first, but it’s obviously because he has a crush on Elfie.  I have no idea why his character would have any interest in her, other than the fact that she’s probably the only girl his age in the village.  I think most women know a guy like Dylan; the guy who claims to be your “friend”, but really he has an unhealthy obsession with you and wishes deep down that you were his girlfriend.  Yeah, Dylan’s that kind of guy; moving on.                                       
Subtlety:  You Both Lack it!
    The Gammons—our films antagonists—are just so bland and generic.  Just from the first time you see them on screen you’ll have to roll your eyes and say “yep, they’re the bad guys, all right.  Mr. & Mrs. Gammon are just so plain and uninteresting.  As for their kids; their son Elliot reminds me of Edward from the “Twilight Saga” and their daughter Ruby, looks like a young mentally ill Helena Bonham Carter.  There is just no subtlety about them whatsoever.  Every time they look at the camera they have a look on their face like, “Hey, we’re weird, and you should probably be leery of us”.   There’s a few other characters that the film focuses on like Bryn the Butcher, who interestingly enough is played by Ray Winstone, the father of Jamie Winstone who plays Elfie Hopkins, and then there are a couple of the residents in the village, but we don’t really get to learn a lot about them before they get killed off by the Gammons.               
    This film isn’t bad, it’s just boring.  Really, really boring.  You can accurately predict just about everything that happens.  If you do decide to check it out, just prepare for a lot of predictability and nothingness.  There’s no action, there’s no excitement, just complete and utter boredom.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Classics: A Review of Vertigo By Lauren Ennis

Nothing says love like duplicity and murder
A film’s status as a classic is marked by several varying factors including its critical success, commercial success, and ultimate legacy. One of the most crucial factors in a film’s success is its ability to resonate with audiences both initially and over the course of several viewings. While some films fade after their initial, overnight ,success others gain prestige as time goes on and audience perceptions change in their favor. One film with an ever evolving reputation is the Alfred Hitchcock fan favorite Vertigo. Through its innovative cinematography, memorable score, and iconic performances, Vertigo has gone from box-office disappointment to collectible classic since its release in 1958.

The story begins on a suspenseful note typical of Hitchcock as police officer John ‘Scotty’ Ferguson (James Stewart) attempts to apprehend a criminal with his partner. Tragedy strikes when Scotty’s partner falls, and is left hanging onto the edge of a building for his life during a rooftop chase. Despite his best efforts, Scotty is unable to overcome his crippling fear of heights to help his partner, who falls to his death. Scotty determines that his phobia is too great a handicap for a policeman to have and retires from the force, completely devoting himself to the task of overcoming his fear. He starts out pursuing his goal with high hopes through the help of his friend/ex girlfriend, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), but is quickly disappointed with the failure ridden process. His course soon changes, however, when old college friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) approaches him with an offer to work as a private investigator. Elster explains that he fears for his suicidal wife, Madeleine's (Kim Novak), safety after she has taken to wandering about the city without telling anyone where she is going or why. Scotty initially refuses the offer, but soon finds himself too intrigued not to accept, and pursues Madeleine  across San Francisco. By putting together information from his conversations with Elster and Madeleine’s trance-like behavior, Scotty concludes that Madeleine is possessed by the ghost of her late great-grandmother, Carlotta, or at least thinks that she is. The more that he learns about Carlotta’s tragic life, including her suicide, the more he becomes convinced that Madeleine is following in her ancestor’s ill-fated footsteps. After rescuing her from a possible suicide attempt, the two become fast friends and eventually embark upon an affair. Scotty’s new romance with Madeleine seems to provide the redemption he so desperately needs until his fear of heights interferes once again and prevents him from saving her from another suicide attempt. Following Madeleine’s death, he finds himself in an even greater depression than after his partner’s death, which ultimately alienates him from his friendship with Midge. After spending several months in a mental hospital, Scotty attempts to move on with a fresh, if lonely, start. His life changes, however, when he meets Judy (Kim Novak) a local shop girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to Madeleine. The film then takes a suspenseful psychological turn as Scotty realizes that all is not as it seems regarding either the former or current loves in his life.

Upon its initial release, the film proved to be both a critical and commercial failure, with many suggesting that Hitchcock had lost touch with the public. Audiences found the film too slow paced and missing the director’s trademark thrills and sly humor, while critics found the storyline to be too melodramatic and self-indulgent. Shocked by the public backlash, Hitchcock blamed former favorite leading man James Stewart for the film's failure, claiming that he was too old for romantic roles, and refused to cast him again. Stewart proved the director wrong by going on to continue starring in films in various genres into the 1980’s. Kim Novak continued to work in melodramas and romantic comedies (including Bell Book and Candle opposite Stewart), but was unable to attain another role as well known as her Madeleine/Judy, and has since become synonymous with Vertigo.
It's uncanny!

Hitchcock was reportedly devastated by the film’s poor reception, as it was his most personal film to date. An analysis of Scotty as a character reveals just how personal this film really was for the famed director. When one compares the director to his hero, it becomes clear that in many ways Scotty is a stand in for Hitchcock. For example, Hitchcock was known to have shared Scotty’s fixation on blonde women (even girl-Friday Midge has the required tresses) and need to dominate the women in his life. The way in which the director would control every aspect of his films, particularly the looks and behaviors of his leading ladies, directly mirrors Scotty’s treatment of Judy later in the film. The similarities between the two men become obvious during the scenes in which Scotty mercilessly forces Judy to change herself into a replica of Madeleine despite her protests. Scotty’s demands are almost identical to those which Hitchcock allegedly made of actress Tippi Hedren when she starred in his later films The Birds and Marnie, revealing that both director and character possessed disturbing views of women. When comparing Hitchcock to Scotty, it is easy to understand how Hitchcock would have taken criticism of the Vertigo so personally, as the film embodied so much of himself.

Although Vertigo is widely considered a masterpiece, and has recently begun usurping Citizen Kane’s spot on the top of various “best movie” lists, I was unable to become completely engrossed by the film. I enjoyed the first third of the film, which followed Hitchcock’s usual formula for mystery and suspense, but by the time that Scotty and Madeleine began their affair I found the plot increasingly implausible and full of holes. For instance, how does Scotty know that the necklace is a crucial clue in the mystery if he never sees Madeleine wear it? Also, what happens following the second fatal fall from the tower; has Scotty been framed, and will Elster face consequences now that his scheme has been discovered? Overall, I found Elster’s plot far too elaborate and reliant upon timing and coincidence to be successfully carried out, and as a result was unable to suspend my disbelief following Judy’s confession letter.

I also found the acting too theatrical and over the top to maintain believability. Bel Geddes' performance is too cute and girl-next-door to add any depth to Midge’s relationship with Scotty, and Stewart’s usual ‘golly-gee’ manner does not add any pathos to their scenes. Similarly, Novak portrays Madeleine as a blank slate, which makes her ideal for Scotty to see as a living fantasy, but makes it difficult for viewers to identify with or care about her. Stewart’s performance becomes progressively and uncharacteristically more theatrical as the movies continues, making it increasingly difficult for the audience to see Scotty as an actual person and relate to him. Though not entirely the fault of the actors, the  love scenes between Stewart and Novak are particularly tedious as they feature the characters endlessly declaring their love for one another without first establishing a basis for that love, or providing any evidence that it does in fact exist.

Vertigo is a film that truly is an acquired taste. For today’s critics, the film is a nostalgic reminder of films that didn’t need action to be effective, and an example of the artistry that films can become when created by the right hands. On the opposite spectrum, for 1950’s audiences, the film represented the bloated tendencies of the auteur theory, and the implausibility that Hollywood was becoming more prone to. Personally, I found the film interesting, if not enthralling, and would have perhaps given it a second chance if not for the heightened expectations brought on by its elevated status. If nothing else, the film is worth viewing for those seeking insight into the mind of the Master of Suspense and those curious as to what all the fuss is about.

I'll have whatever he's smoking

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A review of "Infected"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Infected”

By: Brian Cotnoir

I attended the Horror Movie and Music convention Rock N Shock in 2012 and one of the things I was most excited about was going to the amateur film festival that they have every year.  I was looking forward to seeing some new Horror films made by some directors and films companies local to the area.  Most of the films I saw we’re pretty low-budget so I couldn’t judge them for being bad, but the one film that got top-billing at Rock N Shock and generated quite a deal of buzz was “Infected”.  I was excited to see this film because it was the one film at the festival that had a few notable actors; including Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), Christy Romano (aka Ren Stevens from the Disney TV show “Even Stevens”) and William Forsythe (Dear Mr. Gacy).  This was the only film at the festival that required a ticket or pass to see (because of the Q & A with the cast after the film) and unfortunately by the time I showed up to the convention they were all sold out and I couldn’t get in.  I was disappointed because I was hoping that I’d get to meet William Forsythe.  Fortunately for me, he canceled his appearance at the last minute, so at least I didn’t miss out on that chance.  Well 9 months later the film has appeared on Netflix Instant so I finally get a chance to see “Infected”.  So was it everything like I hoped it was going to be?  Not even close. 
    The film is the story of three men and their adult kids who are go on a weekend hunting trip in the woods somewhere in Rhode Island.  The dads are focused on hunting and drinking beer, while the kids could care less about this little trip.  Unfortunately, for them a mysterious blood virus has been traveling through the woods and is infecting everyone, turning them into violent flesh eating maniacs.                   
Where's the "Skip Entirely" Option???
First of all this film doesn’t have much focus.  Is this supposed to be a cabin-in-the-woods style horror or a post-apocalyptic zombie horror?  I don’t know.  The story seems to be jumping back and forth between two sub-genres and it’s really confusing.  Especially, in the last 15 minutes where the film just seems to lose focus on its original story.  I can’t tell if it was done that way on purpose or if it was because the film was intended to be longer and they ran out of money, or if it was just really poor editing, or what, but no matter what this films story does not flow well.  Not to mention that we keep randomly getting introduced to some characters throughout the film and some of these characters sound like they are important to the plot, but they’re not really properly established and we don’t get a good explanation as to who they are or what they’re doing in the film.                                                 
What are you wearing, Mr. Forsythe???
    Most of the acting is pretty mediocre.  Michael Madsen is bad, Christy Romano is hardly in the film so there’s really not enough to establish who her character is in the film, and William Forsythe looks and sounds like he’s in the wrong film.  Just the way his character dresses in the film makes him look more like a secondary character from a 1970’s episode of Dr. Who.  Even the way he talks in the film he doesn’t sound like he belongs there, he sounds like he should be playing a character in a much better film.  It’s sad because William Forsythe is a good actor, but he’s not good in this film.        
I call B.S. on your explanation!
Another thing that confuses me about his character is that he get’s infected with the blood virus and yet he can still speak and he is not driven to eat human flesh.  All the other people who are infected can’t speak they can only growl or roar and they all want to eat flesh.  What makes Forsythe’s character immune to this?  We get some bull sh!t explanation from his character that if you fight the urge to eat human flesh long enough that you are immune to it, but I’m just not buying that.  I also wasn’t buying was the films explanation for the blood virus.  According to a radio report in the film the blood virus is a “new strain of Lyme Disease”.  Okay, I’m not a medical expert, but I’ve known a couple people who have gotten Lyme disease and no strain of Lyme disease would ever, ever make you hunger for human flesh.  This film is about as medically accurate as “Birdemic: Shock and Terror”.                     
The Only reason you should bother with this film
     So should you see this film?  No.  Maybe it’s because I was expecting much more out of this film, but it wasn’t that good; even for a low-budget film.  The only part of the film I actually liked was when this prostitute character (who was on screen for a whopping 2 minutes) brought one of her clients to the woods and we got to see her take her clothes off before she got attacked.  She had amazing t!ts and was pretty much the only enjoyable part of this film.  Maybe, I am being too harsh on this film, but I still say that if you see it you will be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A review of "The Tall Man"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Tall Man”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     I am going to try so hard to make it through this review without giving away too many spoilers, because I honestly do believe that people should see this film.  I mean just from the description I got on the film, I thought it was going to suck, but it didn’t.  This film isn’t just “Slender Man” the movie people it’s more than that.  Much, much more. 
So the plot to “The Tall Man” is the following:  The town of Cold Rock, Washington has fallen on some tough times.  Unemployment is skyrocketing, the town is on the verge of financial ruin, parents can’t support their own children, their “hospital” is a closed down school, and worst of all dozens of children have disappeared without a trace.  The town’s residents are all on edge.  Legends begin to spring up of sightings of a “Tall Man” living in the woods who sneaks into people’s homes at night and takes away peoples children before vanishing without a trace.  The residents of Cold Rock begin to speculate on who could be doing this.  Some think its deranged pedophile, while others believe that the “Tall Man” may be something supernatural, or possibly something much, much worst.                 
Come back, Please! It gets better!
      The film was made in 2012, but was only released in a handful of theatres. Unlike many of the films I do review this film actually has the benefit of some credible actresses.  Our films main character is played by Jessica Biel, she plays Julia, a nurse in Cold Rock, who many of the residents in town seem to have a love/hate relationship with because she is the only licensed medical professional in the area, but many people also think that she’s not as good as her husband who was the towns resident Physician for years and has since passed on.  Jessica Biel actually gives great performance.  Her character is very driven and motivated despite the adversity of practicing medicine in a run-down “Shack Town” where a good portion of the town’s residents seem to resent her for not being more like her husband.      
Silent Hill!!!....I Mean, Cold Rock!!!!
Also appearing in this film is actress Jodelle Ferland.  Ferland plays a girl in Cold Rock named, Jenny.  Jenny comes from an abusive home and has “speech problems”, so she communicates with everyone by writing down in a journal.  And yet, it is her character who narrates a good portion of the film...which doesn’t make sense.  Why would you have a character who does not speak narrate the film?  I mean, I know what Jodelle Ferland’s voice sounds like, but for anyone who has not seen in a film before, how are they going to know that it’s her character who is narrating.  Yes, her narrating is useful at times to explaining parts of the plot, but it still doesn’t answer how the audience is supposed to know that it’s her talking when we never hear her speak at any other point in the film.  Jenny was befriended by Julia who tries to provide her with love and encouragement and tries to help her work on her speech.  As it just so happens to turn out, Jenny will be the last victim of “The Tall Man”.     
It's called "The Secret" in certain countries
I’m going to stop there, because I don’t want to give away any more details to the plot, and I think you should give this film a try.  You’ll be sitting through the first half of the film saying to yourself “This is stupid.  I already know how this is going to end”, but once the film reaches its climax it’s all twists and turns and the more you think you’re starting to know what’s going on, the film’s story throws another twist to the plot and keeps you guessing.  This was one of the better twist endings to a film that I’ve seen, and I honestly think it’s up there with the endings to “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” and “Primal Fear”.  So do yourself a favor and check out “The Tall Man”, it’s a good thriller with plenty of twists to the plot and then after you see it, you should tell all of your friends to go and see it too. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Classics: A Review of A Bronx Tale By: Lauren Ennis

No, my son's not allowed in your Coke commercial
One of the most difficult and fascinating journeys that we face is that which takes us from childhood to adulthood. For some, this time is marked by awkward exchanges with peers, angst-fueled outbursts, and the start of the desire to understand who we are. In the coming of age classic,  A Bronx Tale, adolescence is a time  in which Calogero Anello is was forced to confront the things he was always told he would understand ‘when you get older’. Through the guidance of his two very different father figures, he learns about love, family, and the sadness that is wasted talent.

The film begins as an adult Calogero reflects upon his childhood in the Bronx’s Little Italy. He describes his parents, neighbors, and most notably, the local organized crime syndicate. To nine year old Calogero (Francis Capra) and his friends, neighborhood boss Sonny (Chazz Palminteri) and his mob are living legends who provide a glimpse of life beyond the city’s tenements. Calogero’s father, Lorenzo (Robert De Niro), is a hard working bus driver doing the best that he can to support his family while following the neighborhood protocol of minding his own business. Lorenzo tries to teach his son the importance of living with integrity, but all the boy sees is the “clothes, cars, and money” that organized crime offers. One day, Calogero witnesses Sonny intervene in a street fight and shoot a man to death. When the cops arrive at his apartment looking for information, he follows the code of his neighborhood and refuses to rat, a decision that he father calls doing “a good thing for a bad man”. Sonny shows his gratitude by taking Calogero under his wing, and treating him like a surrogate son. Although he means well, Sonny’s attention only exacerbates the tension between Calogero and Lorenzo, and fosters in Calogero an even greater adoration for the criminal lifestyle.
The story then flashes ahead eight years as a now seventeen year old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) copes with the Bronx’s version of the adolescent experience. He continues to spend time with Sonny despite Lorenzo’s disapproval, and views Sonny as a mentor and father figure. He also falls under the influence of his increasingly reckless childhood friends, Slick (Joe D’Onofrio) and Mario (Louis Vanaria). Eventually, he begins a romance with African-American schoolmate, Jane (Tara Hicks), despite the dangers of interracial relationships in the 1960’s. His relationship with Jane is further complicated by the racist actions of Slick and Mario, who viciously beat a group of black students riding bikes through the neighborhood, which happens to include Jane’s older brother. Sonny sees the negative effect that Slick and Mario have on Calogero and tries to convince him to stay in school and pursue a better life, much like the one Lorenzo always planned for him. Tensions finally boil over when Calogero is forced to choose whose example he will follow and what kind of life he wants to lead.
I never get nagged like this by the gangsters
 One of the most notable aspects of A Bronx Tale is the fact that it is based upon a true story. The film originated as a one man play written by Palimteri and is based upon his childhood experiences growing up in the Bronx in the 1960’s. The play premiered in 1990 and became an off-Broadway hit. Robert De Niro attended a performance of the play, and was so impressed that he offered to buy the rights to the script. Palimteri only agreed to sell the rights under the conditions that he would write the screenplay and play the role of Sonny. De Niro accepted Palminteri’s conditions, and became so focused upon maintaining the script's integrity that he even went so far as to hire one of the actual members of Sonny's mob to play himself in the film. This critically and commercially successful collaboration launched  both Palminterri's film career and De Niro’s directing career.

The story’s foundation in reality provides the film with a sense of historical and geographical accuracy that many gangster films lack. For instance, while Sonny and his crew are clearly part of the mafia, they’re influence is restricted to the neighborhood over which they preside. Similarly, although Calogero’s parents are portrayed as morally upright, his mother is still tempted when Sonny offers Lorenzo a job with his crew. The film also expertly captures the racial tensions rising in the city and across America during this time period. One scene in which Calogero uses a racial slur against Jane’s brother in a moment of frustration and another in which he finds himself on the receiving end of racial hatred in her neighborhood are particularly striking in their emotional honesty. By firmly maintaining its sense of time and place, A Bronx Tale is able to rise above the clichés that many gangster films rely upon and tell a story that is both poignant and raw.
The film perfectly encompasses the universal conflicts and confusion of adolescence, despite the fact that it is a period piece. While Calogero’s experiences with Sonny’s gangsters are difficult for audiences to completely relate to, his interactions with his friends and family are familiar to people of all walks of life. His efforts to resist peer pressure while trying to remain ‘cool’ in the eyes of his friends are reminiscent of the conflict between image and integrity that teenagers continue to face today. Similarly, his awkward first meeting with Jane portrays the nervous thrill of a new relationship that viewers know all too well. Calogero’s relationships with Lorenzo and Sonny convincingly combine the misunderstandings, conflicts, and life lessons that make up father-son relationships in ways that give equal weight to his interactions with both men. Thus, through its superb script and exemplary cast, A Bronx Tale tells the story of one young man’s coming of age, while serving as a reminder of all the growing up we, the viewers, have done and will continue to do throughout our lives.
A Bronx Tale is a film that continues to entertain with its unique take on timeless themes. By combining the gangster and coming of age genres, the film reveals the challenges of growing up and explores what it really means to be a man. Since its release, the film has gained a cult following with many of the lines (especially Sonny’s door test speech) regularly quoted. This film is commendable for the way that it manages to both entertain and educate without ever resorting to clichés or lecturing. I recommend this film for those coping with growing up and those who remember the highs and lows of doing so. And as an added bonus, here's one of Sonny's life lessons, on the house:
You dump her and you dump her fast