A middle-class family endures World War II.
Essentially propaganda,… MoreA middle-class family endures World War II.
Essentially propaganda, Mrs. Miniver exalts the bravery of common people in extraordinary circumstances. Of course, "common" in this uniquely British sense involves a life of luxury, and while the class issues of British society are treated tangentially, the most pressing aspect of the film is how the characters rise to their circumstances. Mrs. Miniver's courage when confronted by a marooned German soldier, Mr. Miniver's excursion on a fishing boat, and their son's flying missions are all examples of common bravery. Most of these scenes are subtle and individually compelling, but the film amounts to a simple extolling of the everyday, and as a result it becomes locked in its political message.
One scene that bothered me from a feminist perspective involves Mr. Miniver smacking his wife on the bottom after he finds out she is responsible for the marooned German's capture. The patriarchal necessity that the man be the locus of courage was yet another reminder that this film is confined to its era.
Overall, while there is some good acting, war propaganda can only go so far.
A free African-American is sold into slavery.
The performances are all… MoreA free African-American is sold into slavery.
The performances are all strong, and the plot is compelling, and the filmmaking is visceral and demanding, but the film doesn't surpass the sum of its parts. For some reason, the horror piled on horror left me admiring the film but strangely uninvolved. I think that while the central conflict of the film -- Solomon's quest to have the truth discovered and be returned to freedom -- is interesting, there isn't a lot of time spent on working out this conflict; most of the film details the horrors of slavery.
Additionally, the language is almost Victorian. Expressive vocabulary and inverted sentence structures may be more historically accurate, but the dialogue felt false.
Finally, and this is an undeveloped point, this is the most white-heavy slavery film I've ever seen. Compared to Roots, 12 Years a Slave is far more centered on internal conflicts within the slave owners. Edwin Epps's self-revulsion at his attraction to Patsey, Ford's clear antagonism with the institution of slavery, and Tibeats's need for power and control over the "property" all center on white people's experience with slavery, and the film spends so much time on these conflicts that during the film I actually said sarcastically, "Yeah, slavery was really tough on white people." The danger is that these characters can become flat if they lack internal conflict, but this is not a complaint one would level at Ralph Fiennes's character in Schindler's List whose character arc is both compelling, round (as opposed to flat), and decentered from the film's central issues.
Overall, there's no doubt that this is a well-made film, but it's less that all it could be.
A fast food manager receives a call from the police claiming that one… MoreA fast food manager receives a call from the police claiming that one her employees is guilty of theft and that the manager should subject her to more and more brutal searches.
With stellar, understated performances, Compliance is difficult to watch unless one can maintain one's disbelief. I know I'm not supposed to laugh at this film, but I did because the characters' gullibility defies believability. The opening credits triumph that this was based on actual events, and if I hadn't looked up the real case beforehand, I would not have believed it were possible. Heavy-handed in its anti-authority message, the film does well when it shows us what happened, but by the end of it, I still can't understand why it happened.
Overall, we should all watch this film and be able to laugh at it, but alas, the world remains unhumorous.
A boy discovers that the men in his family can travel back in time to… MoreA boy discovers that the men in his family can travel back in time to a moment of their choosing, and he uses this power to pursue his dream girl.
Super Reviewer Alice Shen's birthday movie is so fucking charming it makes me want to punch happiness in the face. The film parades from one delightful moment to the next, and it gets to the point where there is almost no conflict. Indeed, the one problem that Tim can's solve with time travel, his sister's depression, reaches its resolution by Tim and Mary sitting and waiting. Yes, a conflict is resolved by waiting for it to get better.
Also, the time travel elements don't hold water for anyone familiar with other time travel stories. Once Tim goes back in time, does he have to live through the intervening time again like in Stephen King's 11-22-63, or does he get to jump back to the future (heh, heh) once his task is complete? If so what happens to his other, past self? And why doesn't he have memories of his new kid if his sister has memories of her new boyfriend? No sense, Richard Curtis!
Finally, let's play a game: "Spot the Misogyny in Richard Curtis's Latest." In Love Actually we're meant to believe that Colin can have a foursome iin Wisconsin because he has a "cute British accent." I tried this in Ohio, and no, you can't. In Pirate Radio the female characters only exist to pleasure male desires. And (drumroll please) the women in Tim's family can't do shit. They can't travel back in time. They can't freeze time. They can "be uninterested" in a life without their men. That's about it.
All this notwithstanding, the film did touch a small, still-living section of my heart, so I can't pan it too badly.
Overall, if you're susceptible charm, then this is the film for you.
A businessman woos a lower class girl, but his refusal to marry her… MoreA businessman woos a lower class girl, but his refusal to marry her complicates their desires.
This film could be offensive in its anti-feminist and classist depictions and its mockery of homosexuality. Or this film could be progressive in its satire of gender conventions and class boundaries; its lampoon of homosexuality is markedly clear. I struggle with making meaning out of the film. The idea that Roger would see transcending class boundaries as a punishment is ridiculous, but it's played that way in the film. The idea that women cannot choose to sleep with a man she fancies is also condemnable, and while there are moments when the film seems to agree, when Doris Day's character is made to say, "I will become a woman," in her decision to sleep with Mr. Shayne, I couldn't resist a stomach turn of repulsion that she would think her womanhood, or maybe even personhood, rests on her sexual escapades. It's a complicated mess, and I left this film unsure of what to make of it and even less sure whether I enjoyed it.
Overall, the surface of this film is charming enough, but thinking about it causes concern.
A doctor treats and loves a pregnant woman amid scandals about the… MoreA doctor treats and loves a pregnant woman amid scandals about the morality of his past.
Predictable but charming, Joseph L. Mankiewicz once again proves why he's one of my favorite classic directors. His stories are tightly constructed, and the performances by his actors are always fun but with a kind of depth that many directors of his time weren't able to manage. Cary Grant, the great gentleman of classic film, is alternatively charming and petulant, able to convey a strength of character that is absent in present-day movie stars.
I would have liked the film to be more morally ambiguous. The entire question of the film is whether or not Grant's character harbor some deep, black secret (as though one could be such a question on Grant), and by the time we realize he's as pure as he purports to be, it's like we been shown a box that contains a treasure, but once the box is opened, we discover it's only a scrap of paper reading, "Fooled you."
Overall, I enjoyed People Will Talk, but the compelling story is not flawless.
A self-made man is engaged to an upper class lady, but will the… MoreA self-made man is engaged to an upper class lady, but will the impending marriage cause him to betray his dreams?
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn have never been more delightful. Their performances, in that quick and lively manner of old cinema, flies off their tongues. The plot and "message" of the film is that one should always "follow one's dreams," and while that's not a new story, it will never be old.
Overall, this is a wonderful time at the movies, and Grant and Hepburn are in top form.
Two astronauts are marooned in space when an accident destroys their… MoreTwo astronauts are marooned in space when an accident destroys their shuttle.
As a thriller and a technical and visual feast, Alfonso Cuaron's film is nearly perfect. Every frame of the film's special effects is an extraordinary achievement, and never has 3D been more effectively used. I think the first shot lasts an uninterrupted thirty-four minutes, beating the Children of Men spectacle, and the explosive destruction of various spacecraft is rendered more tense and nearly terrifying for their lack of sound. Gravity is a phenomenal technical achievement.
The performances are good. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are compelling and charming respectively, but this isn't a script that demands emotional depth, though Bullock is occasionally able to rend some pathos. It's not a small achievement that the performances stay out of the film's way as it careens to its conclusion.
Overall, this film is a must-see - in the theaters, the way its meant to be experienced.
A ship worker falls for a suicidal woman.
Much of George Bancroft's… MoreA ship worker falls for a suicidal woman.
Much of George Bancroft's performance as Bill Roberts is spent strutting and posing with a masculine air that borders on satire, and the plot of the film is victim to silent film's inability to express full character interaction: if this is a love story, it's a love that the audience must endow with its own background and motivations.
However, the film is a technical achievement. The cinematography is beautiful, and while Bill is a tough guy to like, there's enough compassion in him that we can find ourselves siding with him. This is a seedy world, and director Joseph von Sternberg presents it in all its bleak charm. There aren't many good guys, so von Sternberg makes the bad guys all themore interesting.
Overall, this is a solid and remarkable film but not without its flaws.
A butler working in the White House witnesses various presidents'… MoreA butler working in the White House witnesses various presidents' dealing with the path to Civil Rights as his son works in grass roots movements for African Americans' equality.
A solid and moving film, Lee Daniels'[s] The Butler works in its subtlety and its moments of high drama. Most of the film's interaction between Cecil and the presidents is understated. The presidents consider historical moments of black rights while being served reservedly by Cecil. Forest Whitaker gives a remarkable performance, expressing his views through pained eyes and forced grins. One wonders about the film's raison d'etre until Martin Luther King gives voice to the importance of the "black domestic," who, in his view, works as a counter-narrative against the myth that blacks are lazy and unimportant to American culture. The subplots of the film could use more clarity, especially those involving Gloria, Cecil's wife. We don't get a sustained plotline about her, and sometimes I wondered if she were merely a placeholder for Cecil's domestic life, without a story of her own. The foil character, Cecil's son, is a good counter-balance to the dominant subtlety of the film, and I liked the scenes between Whitaker and David Oyelowo.
By the end of the film, however, I was left wanting more - more interaction between Cecil and those he served, more about Gloria, more about father and son reunion, more, more, more, but all of my mores may have belied the film's overall subtle feel.
Overall, as birthday films go, this was good and will be a contender at the Oscars, but it could have been more.