Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

DVD Roundup: Waking Dreams

by Tony Dayoub

I'll be brief today on the subject of two surrealist DVD releases which debuted in the last couple of weeks. One is based on a cult series of some renown. The other has quickly developed its own small following.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bigger Than Life (1956) and Its Influence on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

by Tony Dayoub

In his films, Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) often contemplates the psychodynamic turbulence hidden behind facades of normalcy. Bigger Than Life, with its focus on the degradation of a patriarch, Ed Avery (James Mason), speaks to the repression which plagues the seemingly typical fifties nuclear family. In this way the movie looks forward to those of another director, David Lynch. Though he has explored similar themes throughout his work, most notably in Blue Velvet (1986), it is in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me where Bigger Than Life's influence is most strongly felt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seventies Cinema Revival: Le Mans (1971)

by Tony Dayoub

This is my contribution to the Steve McQueen Blog-a-thon hosted by Jason Bellamy at The Cooler.

What's amazing about Le Mans, a film which was branded as McQueen's Folly even as it was being made, is how well it still holds up today. Racing films always seem so full of cinematic potential, speed being the most attractive factor. Yet with rare exception does it ever pan out. I'm speaking strictly from a cinephilic perspective since I am not qualified to render even the most basic opinion about auto racing or even cars (so this is your opportunity to take me to task in the comments section if you have a stronger argument). But contemporary auto racing films like Days of Thunder (1990), Driven (2001), even Pixar's Cars (2006) seem to place a priority on artificially raising tension through camera placement; if one's point-of-view resides amongst the vehicles jockeying for position, then one should get the feel for what it's like to be a driver in one of these competitions. It's just a bunch of horseshit, if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rebel Without a Cause (1955): The Synergy Between Nicholas Ray and James Dean

by Tony Dayoub

Rebel Without a Cause is one film of which so much has been written I hardly have anything new to contribute. Whether it's the legendary tales that have sprung up around the cult of its star, James Dean; the mysterious curse (proposed by some) which took its three leads' lives prematurely; or the film's embrace of the explosive Method style of acting; you can find a multitude of essays which pick the film apart from any number of perspectives. Continuing my look at some of the fifties' output of its director, I'd like to look at Nicholas Ray's collaborative relationship with Dean.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movie Review: Johnny Guitar (1954)

by Tony Dayoub

To say that Johnny Guitar is simply a western is to ignore its quite substantial and not overly implicit meaning. Indeed much of what is going on in Nicholas Ray's film is happening underneath its shallow— and by this, I don't mean banal—surface. But to read Bosley Crowther's New York Times review of May 28, 1954, one would expect this film to be just another horse opera, and a rather weak one at that.
...Joan Crawford plays essentially the role that Van Heflin played in Shane...The only big difference in the character, as plainly rewritten for her, is that now it falls in love with the ex-gunfighter, whom Sterling Hayden here plays.

But this condescension to Miss Crawford and her technically recognized sex does nothing more for the picture than give it some academic aspects of romance. No more femininity comes from her than from the rugged Mr. Heflin in Shane. For the lady, as usual, is as sexless as the lions on the public library steps and as sharp and romantically forbidding as a package of unwrapped razor blades.
Ouch, I think I cut myself with one of Crowther's metaphorical shavers.

To read the rest of review at Decisions at Sundown click here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie Review: In a Lonely Place (1950)

by Tony Dayoub

In a Lonely Place is a coincident film within the careers of Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca), Gloria Grahame (The Bad and the Beautiful), and director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause). Despite being an adaptation of a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, it is the most personal film for each of the trio. For Bogart, the character of alcoholic screenwriter Dixon Steele reveals the real-life vulnerability and mercurial temper that afflicted the actor. In Graham's case, the film highlights some of her insecurities vis-a-vis her marriage to Ray. And as regards Ray, it parallels the slow disintegration of his relationship with Grahame while giving us a glimpse into his early days in Hollywood.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peter Graves

by Tony Dayoub

Though physically imposing, Peter Aurness always seemed more approachable than his more famous brother, TV's Gunsmoke, James Arness. Not even his stage name, Graves, could dispel the man's affability. His mellifluous voice—often utilized for narration in documentaries like the series Biography—probably helped very much in that regard. All indications were that he was as classy a gentleman in life as he was on the screen. Not many actors stay married to the same woman for close to 60 years as Graves did.

The Pacific: An Open Thread

by Tony Dayoub

HBO's The Pacific premieres tonight. It's an exciting prospect for fans of Band of Brothers (2001). I missed that one during its original run. It wasn't until one of its frequent marathon runs on the History Channel last year that I caught a glimpse. I finally finished the remainder of the series last week during HBO's encore run leading up to tonight's premiere.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Movie Review: Green Zone

by Tony Dayoub

Nothing gets my back up more than seeing a movie oversimplify the facts to promote a political agenda. Green Zone, the latest by the Bourne team of director Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Matt Damon (Invictus), does just that. It is the most simple-minded example of progressive propaganda to come out from Hollywood since The Deer Hunter (1979).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Best Films of the 00s

by Tony Dayoub

Oscar night has arrived. And with the Oscar recipients this year being all but a foregone conclusion, I post an alternative to the conversation happening throughout the rest of the film blogosphere.

Here are the best films of the 00s...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Best Films of the 00s: 2009

by Tony Dayoub

2009 proved surprisingly robust in its cinematic offerings. It yielded two films which you'll see tomorrow when I wrap this up with my look at the Best of the Decade. In the meantime, this should prove to be a highly debatable list, as these lists often are when they are created so soon before any serious critical consensus has been achieved. Some reminders: I cannot judge movies I haven't seen, so if you feel a film you like was unjustly left out, it might be that I haven't seen it; also, I've included a link back to the original review for each film.

And now, in alphabetical order, the best films of 2009...

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Best Films of the 00s: 2008

by Tony Dayoub

This is a somewhat reworked repost of my 2008 end-of-year wrap-up, originally published on 1/23/09. The main difference is my inclusion of Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys) on the list instead of as an honorable mention. It replaces a television show (In Treatment) I included on the original list; not because I regret the original decision to include it, but because this series is really dedicated to discussing the decade's cinematic offerings.

I started blogging in 2008 so you should see a marked difference in my selection of films. This isn't by design, necessarily. 2008 just afforded me the opportunity to watch more movies through press screenings, screeners, and invitations to film festivals, now giving me additional access I wouldn't normally get in Atlanta. Some reminders: I cannot judge movies I haven't seen, so if you feel a film you like was unjustly left out, it might be that I haven't seen it; also, if I already wrote a review for it, I'll include a link back to the original review.

And now, in alphabetical order, the best films of 2008...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Best Films of the 00s: 2007

by Tony Dayoub

2007 gave us one of the best years in American film in quite some time. Perhaps it is because so many of these films recall the second golden age in American cinema, the Seventies. Homages to Altman, Friedkin, Kubrick, Malick, Pakula, and Peckinpah are represented on the list. One master who had his most fruitful period in that decade even has a film that shows up on the list. Some reminders: I cannot judge movies I haven't seen, so if you feel a film you like was unjustly left out, it might be that I haven't seen it; also, if I already wrote a review for it, I'll include a link back to the original review.

Now, in alphabetical order, the ten best films of 2007...