Monday, April 30, 2012

The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch - The Original Director's Cut (Two-Disc Special Edition)

#80 (1998) and #79 (2007) on the AFI List of 100 best American Movies
The Wild Bunch is a 1969 American Western film directed by Sam Peckinpah about an aging outlaw gang on the Texas-Mexico border, trying to exist in the changing "modern" world of 1913. The film was controversial because of its graphic violence and its portrayal of crude men attempting to survive by any available means.

It stars William Holden, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates. The screenplay was by Peckinpah and Walon Green.

The Wild Bunch is noted for intricate, multi-angle editing, using normal and slow motion images, a revolutionary cinema technique in 1969. The writing of Green, Peckinpah, and Roy N. Sickner was nominated for a best-screenplay Academy Award; Jerry Fielding's music was nominated for Best Original Score; Peckinpah was nominated for an Outstanding Directorial Achievement award by the Directors Guild of America; and cinematographer Lucien Ballard won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography.

In 1999, the U.S. National Film Registry selected it for preservation in the Library of Congress as culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. The film was ranked 80th in the American Film Institute's 100 best American films, and the 69th most thrilling film. In 2008, the AFI revealed its "10 Top 10" of the best ten films in ten genres: The Wild Bunch ranked as the sixth-best Western.

* William Holden as Pike Bishop
* Ernest Borgnine as Dutch Engstrom
* Robert Ryan as Deke Thornton
* Edmond O'Brien as Freddie Sykes
* Warren Oates as Lyle Gorch
* Jaime Sánchez as Angel
* Ben Johnson as Tector Gorch
* Emilio Fernández as General Mapache
* Strother Martin as Coffer
* L. Q. Jones as T.C.
* Albert Dekker as Pat Harrigan
* Bo Hopkins as Clarence 'Crazy' Lee
* Jorge Russek as Major Zamorra
* Alfonso Arau as Lieutenant Herrera
* Dub Taylor as Preacher
* Rayford Barnes as Buck
* Paul Harper as Ross
* Chano Urueta as Don José
* Elsa Cárdenas as Elsa
* Bill Hart as Jess
* Stephen Ferry as Sergeant McHale
* Fernando Wagner as Commander Mohr
* Jorge Rado as Ernst
* Aurora Clavel as Aurora

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II - The Coppola Restoration

The Godfather: Part II is a 1974 American gangster film directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a script co-written with Mario Puzo. The film is both a sequel and a prequel to The Godfather, chronicling the story of the Corleone family following the events of the first film while also depicting the rise to power of the young Vito Corleone. The film stars Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg.

The Godfather: Part II was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture, Best Director for Coppola and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro, and has been selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry. It is widely regarded as one of the very rare examples in the history of motion pictures where the sequel is considered an equal to its predecessor.

* Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
* Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen
* Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone
* Robert De Niro as Young Vito Corleone
* John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
* Talia Shire as Connie Corleone
* Lee Strasberg as Hyman Roth
* Michael V. Gazzo as Frank Pentangeli
* Morgana King as Carmela Corleone
* G. D. Spradlin as Senator Pat Geary
* Richard Bright as Al Neri
* Marianna Hill as Deanna Corleone
* Gastone Moschin as Don Fanucci
* Troy Donahue as Merle Johnson
* Dominic Chianese as Johnny Ola
* Amerigo Tot as Michael's bodyguard
* Joe Spinell as Willi Cicci
* Bruno Kirby as Young Peter Clemenza
* Frank Sivero as Young Genco Abbandando
* Giuseppe Sillato as Don Francesco Ciccio
* Roman Coppola as Young Santino Corleone
* John Megna as Young Hyman Roth
* Julian Voloshin as Sam Roth
* Larry Guardino as Vito's uncle
* Danny Aiello as Tony Rosato
* John Aprea as Young Salvatore Tessio
* Leopoldo Trieste as Signor Roberto
* Salvatore Poe as Vincenzo Pentangeli
* Al Martino as Johnny Fontane
* Harry Dean Stanton as FBI agent
* James Caan as Sonny Corleone (cameo)
* Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio (cameo)
* Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi (cameo)

* James Caan agreed to reprise the role of Sonny in the birthday flashback sequence demanding he be paid the same amount he received for the entire previous film for the single scene in Part II, which he received.
* Marlon Brando initially agreed to return for the birthday flashback sequence, but the actor, feeling mistreated by the board at Paramount, failed to show up for the single day's shooting; Coppola rewrote the scene that same day.
* Richard Castellano, who portrayed Peter Clemenza in the first film, also declined to return, as he and the producers could not reach an agreement on his demands that he be allowed to write the character's dialogue in the film. Clemenza's role was subsequently filled by Frank Pentangeli.
* Troy Donahue, in a small role as Connie's boyfriend, plays a character named Merle Johnson, which was his birth name.
* Two actors who appear in the film played different character roles in other Godfather films; Carmine Caridi, who plays Carmine Rosato, also went on to play crime boss Albert Volpe in The Godfather Part III, and Frank Sivero, who plays a young Genco Abbandando, appears as a bystander in The Godfather scene in which Sonny beats up Carlo for abusing Connie.
* Among the Senators in the hearing committee are film producer/director Roger Corman, writer/producer William Bowers, producer Phil Feldman, and science-fiction writer Richard Matheson.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

High Noon

High Noon (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition)

#33 (1998) and #27 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies List

High Noon is a 1952 American Western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The film tells in real time the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman.

In 1989, High Noon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," entering the registry during the latter's first year of existence. The film is #27 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of great films.

* Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane

There was some controversy over the casting of Cooper as the lead: at 50, nearly 30 years older than co-star Kelly, he was considered too old for the role.

* Thomas Mitchell as Mayor Jonas Henderson
* Lloyd Bridges as Deputy Sheriff Harvey Pell
* Katy Jurado as Helen Ramirez
* Grace Kelly as Amy (Fowler) Kane
* Otto Kruger as Judge Percy Mettrick
* Lon Chaney, Jr. as Martin Howe (as Lon Chaney)
* Harry Morgan as Sam Fuller (as Henry Morgan)
* Ian MacDonald as Frank Miller
* Eve McVeagh as Mildred Fuller
* Morgan Farley as Dr. Mahin, minister
* Harry Shannon as Cooper
* Lee Van Cleef as Jack Colby
* Robert J. Wilke as Pierce (as Robert Wilke)
* Sheb Wooley as Ben Miller
* Jack Elam as Charlie the Drunkard (uncredited)

According to the 2002 documentary Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents, written, produced, and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, Foreman's role in the creation and production of High Noon has over the years been unfairly downplayed in favor of Foreman's former partner and producer, Stanley Kramer. The documentary was prompted by and based in part on a single-spaced 11-page letter that Foreman wrote to film critic Bosley Crowther in April 1952. In the letter, Foreman asserts that the film began as a four-page plot outline about "aggression in a western background" and "telling a motion picture story in the exact time required for the events of the story itself" (a device used in High Noon). An associate of Foreman pointed out similarities between Foreman's outline and the short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham, which led Foreman to purchase the rights to Cunningham's story and proceed with the original outline. By the time the documentary aired, most of those immediately involved were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Fred Zinnemann, and Gary Cooper. Kramer's widow rebuts Foreman's contentions; Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names and familiar with some of the circumstances surrounding High Noon because of interviews with Kramer's widow among others, said the documentary seemed "one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that."

The film's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Writer, producer, and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but he declined to name names and was considered an "uncooperative witness" by the HUAC. When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman had not yet signed certain papers. Thus, Foreman remained on the production but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening, dishonestly, to name Kramer as a Communist. Foreman said that Kramer was afraid of what would happen to him and his career if Kramer did not cooperate with the Committee. Kramer wanted Foreman to name names and not plead his Fifth Amendment rights. Foreman was eventually blacklisted by the Hollywood companies. There had also been pressure against Foreman by, among others, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's brand new boss at the time), John Wayne of the MPA, and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times. Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "graylisted."

Friday, April 27, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird 50th Anniversary Edition

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 American drama film adaptation of Harper Lee's novel of the same name directed by Robert Mulligan. It stars Mary Badham in the role of Scout and Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus Finch.

In 1995, the film was listed in the National Film Registry. It also ranks twenty-fifth on the American Film Institute's 10th anniversary list of the greatest American movies of all time. In 2003, AFI named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

To Kill a Mockingbird marks the film debuts of Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Alice Ghostley.

* Mary Badham as Jean Louise "Scout" Finch
* Phillip Alford as Jem Finch
* Robert Duvall as Boo Radley
* John Megna as Dill Harris
* Alice Ghostley as Stephanie Crawford
* Brock Peters as Tom Robinson
* Frank Overton as Sheriff Heck Tate
* Rosemary Murphy as Maudie Atkinson
* Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
* Ruth White as Mrs. Dubose
* Estelle Evans as Calpurnia
* Richard Hale as Nathan Radley
* James K Anderson as Bob Ewell
* Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell
* William Windom as Mr. Gilmer, District Attorney
* Paul Fix as Judge Taylor
* David Crawford as David Robinson
* Dan White as Mob leader (uncredited)
* Crahan Denton as Walter Cunningham, Sr.
* Steve Condit as Walter Cunningham, Jr. (uncredited)
* Kim Hamilton as Helen Robinson (uncredited)
* Kim Stanley as Jean Louise Finch as an adult (narrator — uncredited)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night is a 1934 American romantic comedy film with elements of screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams, which provided the shooting title. It Happened One Night was one of the last romantic comedies created before the MPAA began enforcing the 1930 production code in 1934. In spite of its title the movie takes place over several nights.

The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and later by The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In 1993, It Happened One Night was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

* Clark Gable as Peter Warne
* Claudette Colbert as Ellie Andrews
* Walter Connolly as Alexander Andrews
* Roscoe Karns as Oscar Shapeley, an annoying bus passenger who tries to pick up Ellie
* Jameson Thomas as "King" Westley
* Alan Hale as Danker
* Arthur Hoyt as Zeke
* Blanche Friderici as Zeke's wife
* Charles C. Wilson as Joe Gordon
* Ward Bond appears early in the film in an uncredited role as a bus driver

At the 7th Academy Awards for 1934, It Happened One Night became the first film ever to win the "Big Five" Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing). To date, only two more films have achieved this feat: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1975 and The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Also, It Happened One Night was the last film to win both lead acting Academy Awards, until 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also won both lead acting awards.

On December 15, 1996, Clark Gable's Oscar was auctioned off to Steven Spielberg for $607,500; Spielberg promptly donated the statuette to the Motion Picture Academy. On June 9, the following year, Colbert's Oscar was offered for auction by Christie's. No bids were made for it.

Neither Gable nor Colbert were the first choices to play the lead roles. Miriam Hopkins first rejected the part of Ellie. Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy were then offered the roles, but each turned the script down, though Loy later noted that the final story as filmed bore little resemblance to the script that she and Montgomery had been offered for their perusal. Margaret Sullavan also rejected the part. Constance Bennett was willing to play the role if she could produce the film herself; however, Columbia Pictures would not allow this. Then Bette Davis wanted the role, but was under contract with Warner Brothers and Jack Warner refused to loan her. Carole Lombard was unable to accept, because the filming schedule conflicted with that of Bolero. Loretta Young also turned it down.

Harry Cohn suggested Colbert, and she initially turned the role down. Colbert's first film, For the Love of Mike (1927), had been directed by Frank Capra, and it was such a disaster that she vowed to never make another with him. Later on, she agreed to appear in It Happened One Night only if her salary was doubled to $50,000, and also on the condition that the filming of her role be completed in four weeks so that she could take her well-planned vacation.

According to Hollywood legend, Gable was lent to Columbia Pictures, then considered a minor studio, as some kind of "punishment" for refusing a role at his own studio. This tale has been partially refuted by more recent biographies. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer did not have a movie project ready for Gable, and the studio was paying him his contracted salary of $2,000 per week whether he worked or not. Louis B. Mayer lent him to Columbia Pictures for $2,500 per week, hence netting MGM $500 per week while he was gone. Capra, however, insists that Gable was a reluctant participant in the film.

Filming began in a tense atmosphere as Gable and Colbert were dissatisfied with the quality of the script. However, they established a friendly working relationship and found that the script was no worse than those of many of their earlier films. Capra understood their dissatisfaction and tried to lighten the mood by having Gable play practical jokes on Colbert, who responded with good humor.

Colbert, however, continued to show her displeasure on the set. She also initially balked at pulling up her skirt to entice a passing driver to provide a ride, complaining that it was unladylike. Upon seeing the chorus girl who was brought in as her body double, an outraged Colbert told the director, "Get her out of here. I'll do it. That's not my leg!" Through the filming, Capra claimed, Colbert "had many little tantrums, motivated by her antipathy toward me," however "she was wonderful in the part." After her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, she went back on stage and thanked Capra for making the film.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Midnight Cowboy

Midnight Cowboy

#36 (1998) and #43 (2007) on the AFI 100 Best Movies List

Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American drama film based on the 1965 novel of the same name by James Leo Herlihy. It was written by Waldo Salt, directed by John Schlesinger, and stars Dustin Hoffman and newcomer Jon Voight in the title role. Notable smaller roles are filled by Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Brenda Vaccaro, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Salt and Barnard Hughes; M. Emmet Walsh is an uncredited, pre-fame extra.

The film won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the only X-rated film ever to win Best Picture.

* Dustin Hoffman as Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo
* Jon Voight as Joe Buck
* Sylvia Miles as Cass
* John McGiver as Mr. O'Daniel
* Brenda Vaccaro as Shirley
* Barnard Hughes as Towny

The opening scenes were filmed in Big Spring, Texas. A roadside billboard stating "IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN OIL WELL...GET ONE!" was shown while the New York-bound bus carrying Joe Buck rolled through Texas. Such advertisements, which were common in the Southwestern United States during the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s, promoted Eddie Chiles' Western Company of North America.

Joe first realized that the bus was soon approaching New York when he heard a Ron Lundy broadcast on WABC while listening to his portable radio. At the time the movie was being filmed in 1968, Lundy worked the midday shift (10 AM–1 PM) Monday through Saturday at the radio station.

Joe stayed at the Hotel Claridge which was located at the southeast corner of Broadway and West 44th Street in Midtown Manhattan. His room overlooked the northern half of Times Square. The building, designed by D. H. Burnham & Company and opened in 1911, has since been demolished.

A motif that was featured three times throughout the New York part of the movie was the sign at the top of the facade of the Mutual of New York (MONY) Building. It was extended into the scribbage scene with Shirley the socialite when Joe's incorrect spelling of the word "money" matched that on the signage.

Despite his portrayal of Joe Buck, a character hopelessly out of his element in New York, Jon Voight is a native New Yorker, hailing from Yonkers. Dustin Hoffman, who played a grizzled veteran of New York's streets, is actually from Los Angeles.

The line "I'm walkin' here!", which reached #27 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, is often said to have been improvised, but producer Jerome Hellman disputes this account on the 2-disc DVD set of Midnight Cowboy. The cab was driven by a hired actor during a scripted take, and the production team filmed it to look like an ad-lib. However, Hoffman told it differently on an installment of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. He stated that there were many takes to hit that traffic light just right so they didn't have to pause while walking. That take, the timing was perfect and the cab came out of nowhere and nearly hit them. Hoffman wanted to say "We're filming a movie here!", but he decided not to ruin the take.

Schlesinger chose the song "Everybody's Talkin'" (written by Fred Neil and performed by Harry Nilsson) as its theme, and the song underscores the entire first act of the film. (Other songs considered for the film included Nilsson's own "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," and Randy Newman's "Cowboy.") The song "He Quit Me" was also on the soundtrack; it was written by Warren Zevon, who also included it (as "She Quit Me") on his debut album Wanted Dead or Alive. This film was Adam Holender's first cinematography assignment; he was recommended to Schlesinger by Holender's childhood friend, filmmaker Roman Polanski.

Upon initial review by the Motion Picture Association of America, Midnight Cowboy received an X rating (Persons under 16 not admitted) due to homosexual references and its "possible influence upon youngsters".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives

#37 on both the 1998 and 2007 AFI Top 100 American Movies Lists

The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, and Harold Russell. The film is about three United States servicemen trying to piece their lives back together after coming home from World War II. Samuel Goldwyn was inspired to produce a film about veterans after reading an August 7, 1944 article in Time magazine about the difficulties experienced by men returning to civilian life. Goldwyn hired former war correspondent MacKinlay Kantor to write a screenplay. His work was first published as a novella, Glory for Me, which Kantor wrote in blank verse. Robert Sherwood then adapted the novella as a screenplay.

The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards in 1946, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Frederic March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Best Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Sherwood), and Best Original Score (Hugo Friedhofer). In addition to its critical success, the film quickly became a great commercial success upon release. It became the highest grossing film in both the United States and UK since the release of Gone with the Wind. It remains the sixth most attended film of all time in the UK, with over 20 million tickets sold. The film had one of the highest viewing figures of all time, with ticket sales exceeding $20.4 million

* Myrna Loy as Milly Stephenson
* Fredric March as Technical Sergeant Al Stephenson
* Dana Andrews as Captain Fred Derry
* Teresa Wright as Peggy Stephenson
* Virginia Mayo as Marie Derry
* Cathy O'Donnell as Wilma Cameron
* Hoagy Carmichael as Uncle Butch
* Harold Russell as Petty Officer 2nd Class Homer Parish
* Gladys George as Hortense Derry
* Roman Bohnen as Pat Derry
* Ray Collins as Mr. Milton
* Minna Gombell as Mrs. Parish
* Walter Baldwin as Mr. Parish
* Steve Cochran as Cliff
* Dorothy Adams as Mrs. Cameron
* Don Beddoe as Mr. Cameron
* Charles Halton as Prew
* Ray Teal as Mr. Mollett
* Erskine Sanford as Bullard
* Victor Cutler as Woody

Casting brought together established stars as well as character actors and relative unknowns. Famed drummer Gene Krupa was seen in archival footage, while Tennessee Ernie Ford, later a famous television star, appeared as an uncredited "hillbilly singer" (in the first of his only three film appearances). At the time the film was shot, Ford was unknown as a singer. He worked in San Bernardino as a radio announcer-disc jockey. Blake Edwards, later notable as a film producer and director, appeared fleetingly as an uncredited "Corporal". Actress Judy Wyler was cast in her first role in her father's production.

Additional uncredited cast members include Mary Arden, Al Bridge, Harry Cheshire, Joyce Compton, Heinie Conklin, Clancy Cooper, Claire Du Brey, Tom Dugan, Edward Earle, Billy Engle, Pat Flaherty, Stuart Holmes, John Ince, Teddy Infuhr, Robert Karnes, Joe Palma, Leo Penn, Jack Rice, Suzanne Ridgeway, Ralph Sanford and John Tyrrell

Monday, April 23, 2012

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity (Universal Legacy Series)

#38 (1998) and #29 (2007) on the AFI 100 Greatest Films List

Double Indemnity is a 1944 American film noir, directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and produced by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Sistrom. The script was based on James M. Cain's 1935 novella of the same title which originally appeared as an eight-part serial in Liberty magazine.

The film stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead, and Edward G. Robinson as a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims. The term double indemnity refers to a clause in certain life insurance policies that doubles the payout in cases when death is caused by accidental means.

Praised by many critics when first released, Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Academy Awards but did not win any. Widely regarded as a classic, it is often cited as a paradigmatic film noir and as having set the standard for the films that followed in that genre.

Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1992, Double Indemnity was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, it was ranked #38 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century, and in 2007 it was 29th on their 10th Anniversary list.

* Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff
* Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson
* Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes
* Porter Hall as Mr Jackson
* Jean Heather as Lola Dietrichson
* Tom Powers as Mr Dietrichson
* Byron Barr as Nino Zachetti
* Richard Gaines as Edward S. Norton, Jr.
* Fortunio Bonanova as Sam Garlopis
* John Philliber as Joe Peters
* Raymond Chandler as man reading book (cameo)

Double Indemnity opened on September 6, 1944 and was an immediate hit with audiences — despite a campaign by singer Kate Smith imploring the public to stay away on moral grounds. As James M. Cain recalled, “…there was a little trouble caused by this fat girl, Kate Smith, who carried on a propaganda asking people to stay away from the picture. Her advertisement probably put a million dollars on its gross.”

Reviews from the critics were largely positive, though the content of the story made some uncomfortable. While some reviewers found the story implausible and disturbing, others praised it as an original thriller. In his mixed review of the film in The New York Times, film critic Bosley Crowther called the picture "...Steadily diverting, despite its monotonous pace and length." He complained that the two lead characters "...lack the attractiveness to render their fate of emotional consequence," but also felt the movie possessed a "...realism reminiscent of the bite of past French films."

Howard Barnes at the New York Herald Tribune was much more enthusiastic, calling Double Indemnity " of the most vital and arresting films of the year," and praising Wilder's "...magnificent direction and a whale of a script." The trade paper Variety, meanwhile, said the film "...sets a new standard for screen treatment in its category."

Influential radio host and Hearst paper columnist Louella Parsons would go even further, saying, "Double Indemnity is the finest picture of its kind ever made, and I make that flat statement without any fear of getting indigestion later from eating my words."

Philip K. Scheur, the Los Angeles Times movie critic, ranked it with The Human Comedy, The Maltese Falcon, and Citizen Kane as Hollywood trailblazers, while Alfred Hitchcock himself wrote Wilder that "Since Double Indemnity, the two most important words in motion pictures are 'Billy' and 'Wilder'".

The film's critical reputation has only grown over the years. In 1977, notably terse critic-historian Leslie Halliwell gave it an unusual 4-star (top) rating, and wrote: "Brilliantly filmed and incisively written, perfectly capturing the decayed Los Angeles atmosphere of a Chandler novel, but using a simpler story and more substantial characters." In his 1998 review, film critic Roger Ebert praised director Wilder and cinematographer Seitz. He wrote, "The photography by John F. Seitz helped develop the noir style of sharp-edged shadows and shots, strange angles and lonely Edward Hopper settings."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago (45th Anniversary Edition)

#39 on the 1998 AFI List of 100 Greatest American Movies

Doctor Zhivago (Russian: До́ктор Жива́го) is a 1965 epic drama-romance-war film directed by David Lean and loosely based on the famous novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak. It has remained popular for decades, and as of 2010 is the eighth highest grossing film of all time in the United States, adjusted for inflation.

* Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago
* Julie Christie as Lara Antipova
* Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya Gromeko
* Rod Steiger as Victor Komarovsky
* Alec Guinness as General Yevgraf Zhivago
* Tom Courtenay as Pasha Antipov/"Strelnikov"
* Siobhán McKenna as Anna Gromeko
* Ralph Richardson as Alexander "Sasha" Gromeko
* Rita Tushingham as Tanya Komarovskaya/"The Girl"
* Klaus Kinski as Kostoyed Amoursky
* Gerard Tichy as Liberius
* Noel Willman as Commissar Razin
* Geoffrey Keen as Professor Boris Kurt
* Bernard Kay as Kuril, the Bolshevik
* Jack MacGowran as Petya, the Groundskeeper

Despite being a huge box office hit, Doctor Zhivago received mixed reviews at the time of its release. It was criticised for its length and depiction of the romance between Zhivago and Lara. The preview cut, which ran to over 220 minutes, was criticized for its length and poor pacing; Lean felt obliged to remove up to 17 minutes of footage before the film's wide release, and the missing footage has not been restored or located. Lean took these criticisms very personally, and claimed at the time that he would never make another film. However, numerous critics — including Richard Schickel and Anna Lee — defended Doctor Zhivago, and its box office success allowed Lean to write off his critics. Lean made Ryan's Daughter in 1970, then waited until 1984 to make his final film, A Passage to India

The film left an indelible mark on popular culture and fashion, and to this day remains an extremely popular film: Maurice Jarre's score—particularly "Lara's Theme"—became one of the most famous in cinematic history. Over the years, the film's critical reputation has gained in stature, and today Doctor Zhivago is considered to be one of Lean's finest works and is highly critically acclaimed, along with Lawrence of Arabia, Brief Encounter, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and A Passage to India.

As with the novel itself, the film was banned in the Soviet Union. It was not shown in Russia until 1994.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

North by Northwest

North by Northwest (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary Edition)

North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, who wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures".

North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization who want to stop his interference in their plans to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets.

Author and journalist Nick Clooney praised Lehman's original story and sophisticated dialogue, calling the film "certainly Alfred Hitchcock's most stylish thriller, if not his best".

This is one of several Hitchcock movies with a music score by Bernard Herrmann and features a memorable opening title sequence by graphic designer Saul Bass. This film is generally cited as the first to feature extended use of kinetic typography in its opening credits.

* Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill
* Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall
* James Mason as Phillip Vandamm
* Leo G. Carroll as The Professor
* Jessie Royce Landis as Thornhill's mother Clara
* Martin Landau as Leonard
* Philip Ober as Lester Townsend
* Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Townsend
* Adam Williams as Valerian
* Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm
* Edward Platt as Victor Larrabee

Hitchcock's cameo appearances are a signature occurrence in most of his films. In North by Northwest he can be seen missing a bus at the end of the opening credits.

Landis, who played Thornhill's mother, was in reality the same age as Cary Grant. She also played his future mother-in-law in To Catch a Thief.

James Stewart was the original choice to play Thornhill, but as Hitchcock and Lehman developed the script, Hitchcock decided that Thornhill was more a Cary Grant type. Hitchcock was planning to reunite with Stewart during his next (ultimately unproduced) film, The Blind Man.

MGM wanted Cyd Charisse for the role played by Eva Marie Saint. Hitchcock stood by his choice

Thursday, April 19, 2012

West Side Story (50th Anniversary Edition)

West Side Story (50th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

West Side Story is a 1961 musical film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was adapted from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris and it was photographed by Daniel L. Fapp, A.S.C., in Super Panavision 70.

The film's opening sequence was shot on the streets of New York City, mainly in the area where the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts campus of Fordham University now stands. Veteran director Robert Wise was chosen as the director and producer because of his familiarity with urban New York dramas, such as Odds Against Tomorrow. Wise had never directed a musical before and when it was suggested that Jerome Robbins, who had directed the stage version, be brought in to handle all the music and dance sequences in the film, Wise agreed. After about one-third of the movie had been shot, the Mirisch Company, which had become increasingly concerned that the production was over-budget, fired Robbins, who, according to Saul Chaplin in his autobiography, nearly suffered a nervous breakdown during the time he worked on the film. The remaining dance numbers were handled by Robbins' assistants. However, because of his great creative contribution to the film, Wise agreed Robbins be given co-directing credit, even though Wise directed the majority of the film himself. The ending title sequence was created by Saul Bass, who is also credited as "visual consultant" on the film.

The film was released on October 18, 1961, through United Artists. It received praise from critics and the public, and became the second highest grossing film of the year in the United States. The film won ten Academy Awards in its eleven nominated categories, including Best Picture, as well as a special award for Robbins. West Side Story holds the distinction of having won more Academy Awards than any other musical film (unless one counts the Honorary Award given to Maurice Chevalier in 1959, the year that Gigi won its nine Oscars). The soundtrack album sold more copies than any soundtrack album before it, and more than the original cast album did.

* Natalie Wood (Marni Nixon, singing) – Maria Nunez, Bernardo's younger sister, Chino's fiancée
* Richard Beymer (Jimmy Bryant, singing) – Tony Wycek, inactive co-founder of the Jets with best friend Riff, works at Doc's drug store
* Russ Tamblyn – Riff Lorton, leader of the Jets, best friend of Tony
* Rita Moreno (Betty Wand, singing) – Anita, Bernardo's girl
* George Chakiris – Bernardo Nunez, leader of the Sharks
* Simon Oakland – Lieutenant Schrank, neighborhood police Lieutenant
* Ned Glass – Doc, drugstore owner
* William Bramley – Officer Krupke, neighborhood cop, Schrank's right-hand man
* John Astin – Glad Hand, social worker
* Penny Santon – Madam Lucia, owner of neighborhood bridal shop


* Tucker Smith – Ice, Riff's lieutenant
* Tony Mordente – Action, a Jet who is easily provoked and often in an angry state
* Eliot Feld – Baby John, the youngest member of the Jets
* David Winters – A-Rab, Baby John's best friend
* Bert Michaels – Snowboy, the comedic member of the Jets
* David Bean – Tiger
* Robert Banas – Joyboy
* Anthony 'Scooter' Teague – Big Deal
* Harvey Hohnecker – Mouthpiece
* Tommy Abbott – Gee-Tar

Jet Girls

* Susan Oakes – Anybodys, a tomboy who keeps pestering Riff to be in the Jets
* Gina Trikonis – Graziella, Riff's girl.
* Carole D'Andrea – Velma, Ice's girl
* Rita Hyde d'Amico – Clarice, Big Deal's girl
* Pat Tribble – Minnie, Baby John's girl
* Francesca Bellini – "Cool" dancer
* Elaine Joyce – dancer


* Jose DeVega – Chino Martin, Bernardo's best friend
* Jay Norman – Pepe, Bernardo's lieutenant
* Gus Trikonis – Indio, Pepe's best friend
* Eddie Verso – Juano
* Jamie Rogers – Loco
* Larry Roquemore – Rocco
* Robert E. Thompson – Luis
* Nick Covacevich – Toro
* Rudy Del Campo – Del Campo
* Andre Tayir – Chile

Shark Girls

* Yvonne Othon – Consuela, Pepe's girl
* Suzie Kaye – Rosalia, Indio's girl
* Joanne Miya – Francisca, Luis's girl
* Maria Henley - Teresita, Loco's girl
Act I

1. "Overture" – Orchestra
2. "Prologue" – Orchestra
3. "Jet Song" – Riff, Jets
4. "Something's Coming" – Tony
5. "Dance at the Gym" – Orchestra
6. "Maria" – Tony
7. "America" – Anita, Bernardo, Sharks and Girls
8. "Tonight" – Tony, Maria
9. "Gee, Officer Krupke" – Riff, Jets

Act II

1. "I Feel Pretty" – Maria, Consuela, Rosalia, Francisca
2. "One Hand, One Heart" – Tony, Maria
3. "Quintet" – Maria, Tony, Anita, Riff, Bernardo, Jets, Sharks
4. "The Rumble" – Orchestra
5. "Somewhere" – Tony, Maria
6. "Cool" – Ice, Jets
7. "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" – Anita, Maria
8. "Somewhere (Reprise)" – Maria
9. "Finale" – Orchestra

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rear Window

Rear Window (Collector's Edition)

#42 (1998) and #48 (2007) AFI Top 100 Movies List

Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder". Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, and Thelma Ritter.

The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best. The film received four Academy Award nominations and was ranked #42 on AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list and #48 on the 10th-anniversary edition. In 1997, Rear Window was added to the United States National Film Registry.

* James Stewart as L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries
* Grace Kelly as Lisa Carol Fremont
* Wendell Corey as NYPD Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
* Thelma Ritter as Stella
* Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald
* Judith Evelyn as Miss Lonelyhearts
* Ross Bagdasarian as the Songwriter
* Georgine Darcy as Miss Torso
* Frank Cady and Sara Berner as the husband and wife living above the Thorwalds.
* Jesslyn Fax as Sculptor neighbor with a hearing aid
* Rand Harper as the Newlywed man
* Irene Winston as Mrs. Anna Thorwald
* Havis Davenport as the Newlywed woman

Director Alfred Hitchcock makes his traditional cameo appearance in the songwriter's apartment, where he is seen winding a clock.

Hitchcock's fans and film scholars have taken particular interest in the way the relationship between Jeff and Lisa can be compared to the lives of the neighbors they are spying upon. The film invites speculation as to which of these paths Jeff and Lisa will follow. Many of these points are considered in Tania Modleski's feminist theory book, The Women Who Knew Too Much:

* Thorwald and his wife are a reversal of Jeff and Lisa—Thorwald looks after his invalid wife just as Lisa looks after the invalid Jeff. Also, Thorwald's hatred of his nagging wife mirrors Jeff's arguments with Lisa.
* The newlywed couple initially seem perfect for each other (they spend nearly the entire movie in their bedroom with the blinds drawn), but at the end we see their marriage deteriorate as the wife begins to nag the husband. Similarly, Jeff is afraid of being 'tied down' by marriage to Lisa.
* The middle-aged couple with the dog seem content living at home. They have the kind of uneventful lifestyle that horrifies Jeff.
* The Songwriter, a music composer, and Miss Lonelyhearts, a depressed spinster, lead frustrating lives, and at the end of the movie find comfort in each other: The composer's new tune draws Miss Lonelyhearts away from suicide, and the composer thus finds value in his work. There is a subtle hint in this tale that Lisa and Jeff are meant for each other, despite his stubbornness. The piece the composer creates is called "Lisa's Theme" in the credits.
* Miss Torso, a beautiful dancer, initially seems to live a carefree bohemian lifestyle and often has various men over at her apartment. In the end, however, it is revealed that she has been waiting for her sweetheart, a slight-framed and boyish soldier, to return.

The characters themselves verbally point out a similarity between Lisa and Miss Torso (played by Georgine Darcy).

Other analyses, including that of François Truffaut in Cahiers du cinéma in 1954, center on the relationship between Jeff and the other side of the apartment block, seeing it as a symbolic relationship between spectator and screen. Film theorist Mary Ann Doane has made the argument that Jeff, representing the audience, becomes obsessed with the screen, where a collection of storylines are played out. This line of analysis has often followed a feminist approach to interpreting the film. Doane, who used Freudian analysis to claim women spectators of a film become "masculinized", pays close attention to how Jeff's rather passive attitude to romance with the elegant Lisa changes when she metaphorically crosses over from the spectator side to the screen: it is only when Lisa seeks out the wedding ring of Thorwald's murdered wife that Jeff shows real passion for her. In the climax, when he is pushed through the window (the screen), he has been forced to become part of the show.

Other issues such as voyeurism and feminism are analyzed in John Belton's book Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window".

Rear Window is a voyeuristic film. As Stella (Thelma Ritter) tells Jeff, "We've become a race of Peeping Toms." This applies equally to the cinema as well as to real life. Stella invokes the specifically sexual pleasures of looking that is identified as exemplary of classical Hollywood. The majority of the film is seen through Jeff's visual point of view and his mental perspective. Stella's words sum up Hitchcock's broader project as film maker, namely, to implicate us as spectators. While Jeff is watching the rear window people, we too are being "peeping toms" as we watch him, and the people he watches as well. As a voyeuristic society, we take personal pleasure in watching what is going on around us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

King Kong

King Kong

King Kong is a Pre-Code 1933 monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was by Ruth Rose and James Ashmore Creelman from a story by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot, and opened in New York City on March 2, 1933 to good reviews.

The film tells of a gigantic island-dwelling ape creature called Kong who dies in an attempt to possess a beautiful young woman. Kong is distinguished for its stop-motion animation by Willis O'Brien and its musical score by Max Steiner. The film has been released to video, DVD, and Blu-ray, and has been computer colorized. In 1991, the film was deemed "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. It has been remade twice: once in 1976 and again in 2005.

* Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham
* Bruce Cabot as Jack Driscoll
* Fay Wray as Ann Darrow
* Frank Reicher as Captain Englehorn
* James Flavin as Briggs
* Victor Wong as Charlie the Cook

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation - Special Edition

The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) is a 1915 silent drama film directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay (with Frank E. Woods), and co-produced the film (with Harry Aitken). It was released on February 8, 1915. The film was originally presented in two parts, separated by an intermission.

The film chronicles the relationship of two families in Civil War and Reconstruction-era America: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons over the course of several years. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is dramatized.

The film was a major commercial success, but was highly controversial owing to its portrayal of African American men (played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan (whose original founding is dramatized) as a heroic force. There were widespread protests against The Birth of a Nation, and it was banned in several cities. The outcry of racism was so great that Griffith was inspired to produce Intolerance the following year.

The movie is also credited as one of the events that inspired the formation of the "second era" Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia in the same year. The Birth of a Nation was used as a recruiting tool for the KKK. It was the first motion picture to be shown at the White House. President Woodrow Wilson supposedly said the film was "like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." The attribution is disputed.

* Lillian Gish as Elsie Stoneman
* Mae Marsh as Flora Cameron
* Henry B. Walthall as Colonel Ben Cameron
* Miriam Cooper as Margaret Cameron
* Ralph Lewis as Austin Stoneman
* George Siegmann as Silas Lynch
* Walter Long as Gus
* Robert Harron as Tod Stoneman
* Wallace Reid as Jeff the blacksmith
* Joseph Henabery as Abraham Lincoln
* Elmer Clifton as Phil Stoneman
* Josephine Crowell as Mrs. Cameron
* Spottiswoode Aitken as Dr. Cameron
* George Beranger as Wade Cameron
* Maxfield Stanley as Duke Cameron
* Jennie Lee as Mammy
* Donald Crisp as General Ulysses S. Grant
* Howard Gaye as General Robert E. Lee


* Mary Alden as Lydia Brown
* Monte Blue
* Bobby Burns as Klan Leader
* David Butler as Union soldier / Confederate soldier
* Peggy Cartwright as Young girl
* John Ford as Klansman
* Gibson Gowland
* Sam De Grasse as Senator Charles Sumner
* Olga Grey as Laura Keene
* Russell Hicks
* Elmo Lincoln as Blacksmith
* Eugene Pallette as Union soldier
* Vester Pegg
* Alma Rubens
* Charles Stevens as Volunteer
* Madame Sul-Te-Wan as Black woman
* Raoul Walsh as John Wilkes Booth
* Jules White
* Violet Wilkey as young Flora
* Tom Wilson as Stoneman's servant
* Mary Wynn
* W.B. Freeman as Union prison camp sentry

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909, protested premieres of the film in numerous cities. It also conducted a public education campaign, publishing articles protesting the film's fabrications and inaccuracies, organizing petitions against it, and conducting education on the facts of the war and Reconstruction.

When the film was shown, riots broke out in Boston, Philadelphia and other major cities. The cities of Chicago; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; and St. Louis, Missouri refused to allow the film to open. The film's inflammatory character was a catalyst for gangs of whites to attack blacks. In Lafayette, Indiana, after seeing the film, a white man murdered a black teenager.

Thomas Dixon, Jr., author of the source play The Clansman, was a former classmate of Woodrow Wilson at Johns Hopkins University. Dixon arranged a screening at the White House, for then-President Wilson, members of his cabinet, and their families. Wilson was reported to have said about the film, "It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true". In Wilson: The New Freedom, the historian Arthur Link quotes Wilson's aide, Joseph Tumulty, who denied Wilson said this and also claims that "the President was entirely unaware of the nature of the play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his approbation of it."

Wilson's History of the American People (1902) described the Ku Klux Klan of the late 1860s as the natural outgrowth of Reconstruction, a lawless reaction to a lawless period. Wilson wrote that the Klan "began to attempt by intimidation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered course of public action."

Historians believe the quote attributed to Wilson originated with Dixon, who was relentless in publicizing the film. It has been repeated so often in print that it has taken on a separate life. Dixon went so far as to promote the film as "Federally endorsed". After controversy over the film had grown, Wilson wrote that he disapproved of the "unfortunate production." D. W. Griffith responded to the film's negative critical reception with his next film Intolerance.

Soon after World War I, in 1918, Emmett J. Scott helped produce and John W. Noble directed The Birth of a Race, hoping to capitalize on the success of Griffith's film by presenting a film set during the war. It featured a German-American family divided by the war, with sons fighting on either side, and the one loyal to the United States surviving to be part of the victory.

In 1919, the director/producer/writer Oscar Micheaux released Within Our Gates, a response from the African-American community. Notably, he reversed a key scene of Griffith's film by depicting a white man assaulting a black woman.

The film was remixed as Rebirth of a Nation, a "live" cinema experience by DJ Spooky at Lincoln Center, and has toured at many venues around the world including The Acropolis as a live cinema "remix". The remix version was also presented at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire (Two-Disc Special Edition)

A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1951 film adaptation of the 1947 play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, who also wrote the screenplay with Oscar Saul. The film, a romantic drama, was directed by Elia Kazan, who had also directed the original stage production, and stars Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden; all but Leigh were chosen from the Broadway cast of the play, while Leigh had starred in the London West End production. It was produced by talent agent and lawyer Charles K. Feldman, and released by Warner Bros. The film had many revisions to remove references to homosexuality, among other things.

A Streetcar Named Desire was the first film to win three out of four acting categories at the Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Leigh, Best Supporting Actor for Malden, and Best Supporting Actress for Hunter. Brando's performance as Stanley Kowalski, while nominated, even being the favorite and one of the most powerful and influential performances of all time, did not win the Oscar. The film was also the first to win both Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

* Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois
* Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
* Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
* Karl Malden as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell
* Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbel
* Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
* Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbel
* Wright King as A Collector
* Richard Garrick as A Doctor

Much of the original Broadway cast, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Rudy Bond, Nick Dennis and Richard Garrick repeated their roles for the film.

Many big names were considered for the role of Blanche, including Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis.

John Garfield turned down the lead role of Stanley as he did not want to be overshadowed by the lead actress playing Blanche.

Jessica Tandy, who had originated Blanche DuBois on Broadway, was originally slated to play the role but was bypassed as not being well known enough. Vivien Leigh was cast, star of the London production, at the insistence of the producers. This was because her fame from films such as Gone with the Wind, which she had also played a Southern belle in, and provided the star power which they felt the film needed; Brando had originated the role of Stanley on Broadway but had not yet achieved the fame necessary to draw audiences, which is why in trailers and during the credits of the film he is credited after Vivien Leigh

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition)

#46 (1998) and #70 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It was written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. It features disturbing, violent images, facilitating its social commentary on psychiatry, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian, future Britain.

Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the main character, is a charismatic, psychopathic delinquent whose interests include classical music (especially Beethoven), rape, and what is termed "ultra-violence". He leads a small gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim), whom he calls his droogs (from the Russian друг, "friend", "buddy"). The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. Alex narrates most of the film in Nadsat, a fractured adolescent slang comprising Slavic (especially Russian), English, and Cockney rhyming slang.

A Clockwork Orange features a soundtrack comprising mostly classical music selections and Moog synthesizer compositions by Wendy Carlos (then known as "Walter Carlos"). The now-iconic poster of A Clockwork Orange was created by designer Bill Gold.

* Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge
* James Marcus as Georgie
* Warren Clarke as Dim
* Michael Tarn as Pete
* Patrick Magee as Mr. Frank Alexander
* Adrienne Corri as Mrs. Mary Alexander
* Michael Bates as Chief Guard Barnes
* John Clive as Stage actor
* Carl Duering as Dr. Brodsky
* Paul Farrell as Tramp
* Billy Russell as Professor attacked by Droogs in Library (scenes deleted)
* Richard Connaught as Billyboy, Gang Leader
* Clive Francis as Joe the Lodger
* Michael Gover as Prison Governor
* Miriam Karlin as Cat Lady
* Aubrey Morris as P. R. Deltoid
* Godfrey Quigley as Prison Chaplain
* Sheila Raynor as Mum
* Madge Ryan as Dr. Branom
* John Savident as Conspirator
* Anthony Sharp as Frederick, Minister of the Interior
* Philip Stone as Dad
* Pauline Taylor as Dr. Taylor, psychiatrist
* Margaret Tyzack as Conspirator Rubinstein
* Steven Berkoff as Detective Constable Tom
* John J. Carney as Detective Sergeant
* Lindsay Campbell as Police Inspector
* David Prowse as Julian, Mr. Alexander's bodyguard

Another critical target is the behaviourism (or "behavioural psychology") of the 1940s to 1960s as propounded by the psychologists John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. Burgess disapproved of behaviourism, calling prominent behaviourist B. F. Skinner's most popular book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), "one of the most dangerous books ever written" Although behaviourism's limitations were conceded by its principal founder, J. B. Watson, Skinner argued that behaviour modification—specifically, operant conditioning (learned behaviours via systematic reward-and-punishment techniques) rather than the "classical" Watsonian conditioning—is the key to an ideal society. The film's Ludovico technique is widely perceived, however, as a parody of aversion therapy more than of classical or operant conditioning.

In showing the "rehabilitated" Alex repelled by both sex and violence, the film suggests that in depriving him of his ability to fend for himself, Alex's moral conditioning via the Ludovico technique dehumanises him, just as Alex's acts of violence in the first part of the film dehumanise his victims. The technique's attempt to condition Alex to associate violence with severe physical sickness is akin to the CIA's Project MKULTRA of the 1950s.

The Ludovico technique has been compared to the existing technique of chemical castration

Friday, April 13, 2012

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Taxi Driver is a 1976 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader. The film is set in New York City, soon after the Vietnam War. The film stars Robert De Niro and features Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Cybill Shepherd. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. The American Film Institute ranked Taxi Driver as the 52nd greatest American film on their AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) list. The film was considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the US Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 1994.

* Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
* Jodie Foster as Iris "Easy" Steensma
* Albert Brooks as Tom
* Harvey Keitel as Matthew "Sport" Higgins
* Leonard Harris as Senator Charles Palantine
* Peter Boyle as "Wizard"
* Cybill Shepherd as Betsy
* Harry Northup as Doughboy
* Martin Scorsese as a passenger in Travis' taxi
* Victor Argo as a grocery store owner
* Steven Prince as "Easy Andy"
* Joe Spinell as Travis' personnel officer at the taxi depot

The climactic shoot-out was considered intensely graphic at the time it was initially released. To attain an "R" rating, Scorsese had the colors desaturated, making the brightly colored blood less prominent. In later interviews, Scorsese commented that he was actually pleased by the color change and he considered it an improvement over the originally filmed scene, which has been lost. In the special edition DVD, Michael Chapman, the film's cinematographer, regrets the decision and the fact that no print with the unmuted colors exists any more, as the originals had long since deteriorated.

Some critics expressed concern over 13-year-old Jodie Foster's presence during the climactic shoot-out. However, Foster stated that she was present during the setup and staging of the special effects used during the scene; the entire process was explained and demonstrated for her, step by step. Rather than being upset or traumatized, Foster said, she was fascinated and entertained by the behind-the-scenes preparation that went into the scene. In addition, before being given the part, Foster was subjected to psychological testing to ensure that she would not be emotionally scarred by her role, in accordance with California Labor Board requirements.

Copies of the movie for showing by TV stations had a curious disclaimer added during the closing credits. The reasoning behind adding it is not entirely clear.

The disclaimer read: "TO OUR TELEVISION AUDIENCE: In the aftermath of violence, the distinction between hero and villain is sometimes a matter of interpretation or misinterpretation of facts. TAXI DRIVER suggests that tragic errors can be made. The Filmmakers".

John Hinckley, Jr.

Taxi Driver formed part of the delusional fantasy of John Hinckley, Jr. which triggered his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, an act for which he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley stated that his actions were an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster, on whom Hinckley was fixated, by mimicking Travis's mohawked appearance at the Palantine rally. His attorney concluded his defense by playing the movie for the jury.