Jan 6, 2011

5 first mini reviews of 2011 including awesome "Caged"

For some reason, I haven't been in the mood of writing reviews lately, even when I started the year very well in terms of the quality of the films I've seen. I had very low expectations with some of them but they impressed me; others, didn't. Today I finally managed to describe my feelings towards these five films, take a look:


Since you went away (1944; John Cromwell)
Who's in it: A lot of great actors, Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Hattie MacDaniel, Agnes Moorehead, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Walker.
What's it about: The life of a family during the II World War.
The good: I like the movies about war that show the domestic life of the people who stay. It gives you more elements to understand historical events. I liked all the performances, but if I had to pick my favorite it would be Robert Walker's as the shy Corporal Bill. Even when it lasts more than 2 hours, it maintains the tension about the possible loss of the father in the war. David O. Selznick produced and wrote the screenplay, so expect a magnificent musical intro and intermission (by Max Steiner), varied locations and an overall well managed drama. On the frivolous side, I also liked this guy who played a minor character.
The bad: I didn't find any flaw. I only have a very personal thing with very melodramatic scenes, they always kind of distract me, no matter if they are needed and well acted.
Should I see it?: Yes.


The bigamist (1953; Ida Lupino)
Who's in it: Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmund Gwenn.
What's it about: A guy marries Joan and then Ida. The end.
The good: I liked the performances by Ida and Edmund. Ida makes you feel that her character doesn't expect anything good from life and you understand why is she attracted to this unknown guy without asking questions; and even when Edmund's character is breaking the law, you could understand his acts. There's dramatic tension until the end. Also, I'm crazy about movies told in flash back, so kudos just for that. I loved the trip to see the famous actors houses in LA, like Barbara Stanwyck and James Stewart's (watch a tiny part of this scene).
The bad: I didn't like the end, so that's a big con. Joan and Edmund supposedly have a terribly boring marriage, but that's told and not shown, because when they're together I didn't notice they didn't get along. I found it kind of boring at some points.
Should I see it?: I know some of my fellow bloggers loved it, but in my humble opinion there are many movies you should see before this one.


Scarlet Street (1945; Fritz Lang)
Who's in it: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett.
What's it about: Edward is a good person, efficient worker, but his life sucks. Then he meets bad Joan and when you think his life would be better, it painfully enters in the most terribly state of decadence.
The good: I liked everything in this movie. I even liked the ending despite the fact that it was far from what I was expecting. Edward's performance is terrific as always, Joan surprised me because she played an harpy but at the same time she showed a bit of decency that made you hate her but not completely. The real BAD guy is her boyfriend, one of the most despicable characters I've ever seen, a vicious, greedy bastard with not ethics or feelings. Fritz's usual dark photography fits very well the theme of the film, and makes everything even more painful to see.
The bad: Only that I wanted the bad guy to suffer more.
Should I see it?: If you're in the mood for a dark movie, totally.


Caged (1950; John Cromwell)
Who's in it: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Jan Sterling.
What's it about: A young Eleanor Parker is imprisoned because of a tiny criminal act and has to endure the terrible life in jail.
The good: I LOVED this movie. I loved it so much that I saw it twice. Eleanor Parker was surprisingly awesome in this film and I'm really impressed by her chameleonic appearance in the different films I've seen her in. She's able to show such vulnerably, such discomfort and frailty that you really suffer with her. This movie has another terribly cruel character, Evelyn Harper (Hope Emerson), the matron of the cell. She's an aggressive beast who thinks that prisoners are animals, and what's more terrible she has powerful contacts so she can't be dismissed by humanitarian Head of the prison played by Agnes Moorehead. It has great secondary characters and many intense and shocking situations to show so it's never boring. This is a movie that really makes you think of the reality of prisons and how people could change if they had a chance.
The bad: SPOILER -----When I saw it for the first time, I thought that they could have managed better the change in Eleanor's character personality, like showing it more gradually, but the second time I didn't care. 
Should I see it? YES!


In the good old summertime (1949; Robert Z. Leonard)
Who's in it: Judy Garland, Van Johnson, S. Z. Sakall, Buster Keaton.
What's it about: It's the same story of The Shop around the corner, You've got mail, etc...
The good: S. Z. Sakall! I always love to see him and here he funnily plays the owner of a music shop. Also, it's a pleasure to hear Judy singing. My favorite numbers were Play that Barbershop Chord (watch) and I don't care (watch). Plus, she's funny in this one. The story of two people hating each other when you know they're gonna end up together, is always fun. At the end, you can see Judy and her real life baby daughter, Liza.
The bad: There are some adapted situations that I felt kind of forced, like Van Johnson getting fired because he lend his boss' violin. One of my favorite scenes, the one when the couple is going to meet in a restaurant and he sends a co worker to check how the girl looks, here is delivered really fast and with less intensity. Plus some characters lost presence and identity in the adaption (the man who advices the couple; Keaton's character; etc).  
Should I see it? The shop around the corner and You've got mail are better in my opinion, but this one is fun anyway. 


That's all folks!

5 comments:

  1. Clara, what a fine way to start the year! An interesting sidenote on THE BIGAMIST is that it was one of the first Hollywood films directed by a woman (co-star Ida Lupino). SCARLET STREET is a remake of Renoir's LA CHIENNE, which has a better ending. Fritz Lang couldn't end SCARLET STREET the way he wanted because of the Hays Code. His solution to that dilemma is still interesting, though. I saw CAGED as a kid...very disturbing movie even then. Isn't there a scene where an inmate's head is shaved? That stuck with me as a kid!

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  2. Thanks for the great reviews. I'm going to check out Caged. It sounds kind of similar to The Snake Pit (which I just saw and LOVED), although that takes place in a mental hospital. Well, maybe they're not that similar...:)

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  3. It's me again. :) I forgot to ask: what other Eleanor Parker movies do you suggest?

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  4. Rick: thanks for that interesting info!I didn't know Scarlet Street was based in a film by Renoir. And yes, in Caged they shaved Eleanor's character head in a very realistic way! Thanks for dropping by :)

    Audrey: Yes! I though about "The Snake Pit" while watching Caged, but in this one there's no element of mental disturb or flashbacks, so they make you face her terrible reality with no element of distraction or relief. BTW, The Snake Pit was great too! Uhm, about Eleanor Parker...I've seen her in "The sound of music", "Scaramouche" and "Escape from Fort Bravo". Of these titles, I only loved TSOM. I'm looking forward to see her in "Detective Story" (1951) and "Home from the hill". I hope you can watch "Caged", it's really great :) Thanks for commenting, Audrey ^_^

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  5. Clara, what a fine way to start the year! An interesting sidenote on THE BIGAMIST is that it was one of the first Hollywood films directed by a woman (co-star Ida Lupino). SCARLET STREET is a remake of Renoir's LA CHIENNE, which has a better ending. Fritz Lang couldn't end SCARLET STREET the way he wanted because of the Hays Code. His solution to that dilemma is still interesting, though. I saw CAGED as a kid...very disturbing movie even then. Isn't there a scene where an inmate's head is shaved? That stuck with me as a kid!

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