Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From Here to Eternity (1953)

“Maybe back in the days of the pioneers a man could go his own way, but today you got to play ball.”

            I read about From Here to Eternity a few times in various film books. I think the first time I really read about it was when I was read a biography on Ava Gardner… no she is not in the film but she was married to Frank Sinatra who was in it (in case you did not know). I came across the film on TCM when they had Montgomery Cliff as their actor under the day. I was a bit excited to see it since I was heard about it. I did not go into it with high expectations or any expectations at all and thank God I did not because I would have been disappoint and was.
            There are like five plots going on at once and I did not like any one of them. If I had to pick I liked the plot of Burt Lancaster’s character Sgt. Milton Warden and Deborah Kerr’s character Karen Holmes really falling in love with each when they have never been in love before. Their relationship was not outrageously romantic but to me they were the best actors in the whole film which in turn made their scenes watchable and bearable. Their famous kissing scene on the beach was really good. Kerr was excellent she was angry and spiteful at the world and she knocked it out. She looked gorgeous too. Burt Lancaster was so handsome and was such a great actor, he was very believable.
            I actually did not even remember or realize Montgomery Cliff was in the film. I do not like him at all he drives me nuts. His story line was a load of crap I though. He plays a soldier named Robert E. Lee Prewitt who transferred from the bugle corps. Karen’s husband Capt. Dana Holmes found out that Prewitt used to be a boxer and wants him for a match against another company (or so I think). Prewitt does not want to so Holmes and other soldiers make his life miserable. While out he meets a girl named Alma (Donna Reed). They fall in love but she does not want to be a soldier’s wife but she eventually relents and agrees to an engagement.
            Prewitt’s only friend is a guy named Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra). Angelo is a typical Italian with a quick temper. One night he pisses off the head of the stockade while out at a bar. His life like Prewitt’s is made miserable. Angelo eventually winds up in the stockade where he is beaten over and over again.
            So pretty much the only good scenes were the ones with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr and I also liked Donna Reed she was excellent. Frank Sinatra was perfect along with the three actors I mentioned made the film worth sitting through. Reed and Sinatra would both win Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor respectively. This is what revived Sinatra’s career, he was in such a bad slump he could not get a hit with his songs. At this point in his life he was married to Ava Gardner and neither one was seen very favorably because she broke up his first marriage. They just got a lot of bad press which did not affect her career but did his.
            From Here to Eternity was not to my liking. The film to me dragged so bad in so many parts that my attention wandered. I understand the stories and everything that went on I just could not get into the plots and stories that was needed. From Here to Eternity is one of the best known and well admired classic films; I can see why that is so but it is not one I well admired. Although I am not a great fan of the film it is one that deserves to be seen at least once. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Miracle Worker (1962)

“It's less trouble to feel sorry for her than it is to teach her anything better.” 

                        The first time I watched The Miracle Worker I had to do a project for my theater arts class my sophomore year of high school. It was a project where we had to choose, pick a scene, then make a model of the set the scene takes place in. Everyone was either picking Shakespeare or Chicago or Phantom of the Opera or some other musical. I had no idea what play I wanted to do at the time I was not into theater and films like I am now. My mom suggested doing a scene from The Miracle Worker. She told me it was about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. Of course I had heard of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan who hasn’t in their history classes growing up but I never knew there had been a play about them. My mom rented the movie for me and I really liked it.
            Helen Keller (Patty Duke) was born a healthy baby but she came down with a really high fever that resulted in her going blind and deaf. As she gets older she becomes violent and difficult to manage because she is frustrated over not being able to communicate. Her father for a time thought about putting her in an asylum but her mother would not hear of it. They hear about the Perkins Institute for the Blind and write to the school.
            The school sends Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) who herself was once blind but through several operations was able to regain her site. She did not have an easy childhood; she was thrown in an institution with her brother when they were younger. She travels all the way from Boston down to Alabama for days by train. When she arrives she is not what the family was thinking. Captain Keller (Victor Jory) throws a fit over the fact that she was once blind.
            Annie’s first meeting Helen goes alright. She gives the young girl a doll. Annie watches Helen play with it and she gets down on the floor to teacher her the word “doll” in sign language. Helen a little latter takes the doll and smacks it into Annie’s face which results in a lost tooth.
            As the days past Annie sees that the Keller family spoils Helen. She is a little tyrant who gets whatever she wants. At breakfast she sees that the family just lets Helen eat off their plates as if she were a dog. Annie will not tolerate that she forces the girl to sit down and eat with a fork and a napkin. Things get out of hand and Annie shoves the family out of the dining room. Woman and little girl are just as stubborn as the other. Helen uses all her will to get away from Annie and Annie uses all her will to force Helen to eat. After a few hours Annie comes out to the family who has been out on the porch. She reports that Helen has eaten with a fork and even folded her own napkin.
            Annie realizes that in order for Helen to learn anything she has to be away from her family for an extended period of time. Captain and Mrs. Keller agree that Annie can have her alone in a small house on their property for two weeks. It takes Annie a whole week just to teach Helen very simple words and not too many. But what Helen has learned is more than she ever knew before hand. The challenge is trying to teach the girl word association she needs to know what the thing is she is spelling. When Helen’s parents come to take her home Annie begs for another week. The Kellers will not give it to her they want their daughter back.
            When they get home everything Annie has taught Helen about table manners comes undone. Annie becomes furious and the scene almost turns into the first dining room scene. After a few furious pumps at the water well what Annie taught Helen finally sinks in, Helen finally understands.
            I thought this movie was fantastic the first time I watched it. Now that I know who Anne Bancroft is and I have seen her in other movies I cannot believe how incredible she was. United Artists originally wanted either Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn to play Annie Sullivan! The movie would not have been the same if either of the other actresses got the part. You would have been watching the actress not the character. Bancroft was a stage actress she played the part on stage as well she knew what went into truly playing the/a character. Bancroft would go on to deservingly win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role.
            Patty Duke was sixteen years old when she played Helen in the movie. She played the character along with Anne Bancroft on Broadway. Duke was excellent there is no sixteen year old alive today who could have done. Along with Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke won an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actress)
            I always seem to watch The Miracle Worker at the right times in my life when I really need a push. When I was a sophomore I was not a great student academically but after watching this I started to care more and try harder (oh I picked the dining room scene as my set because it was a great scene. I got an A on it) Watching this movie again right now I am taking a break from school it is weird to say I miss it. I am ready to do better and watching this I have never been more ready to learn and have a challenge again.
            The Miracle Worker is one of the most perfect movies ever made. The story is fantastic and endearing. The acting from the entire cast is perfect. I like how strong the theme of determination is from both Annie and Helen: they were very stubborn people who tested and pushed each other. I also like how it shows that if this girl who could not communicate could learn to finally do so and later go on to write books and graduate college with honors then we who do not have trouble communicating and learning could do so much if we really try. 

“I am quite surprised, that with all my work, and some of it is very, very good, that nobody talks about The Miracle Worker. We're talking about Mrs. Robinson. I understand the world... I'm just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet.”--Anne Bancroft

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Life is Beautiful (1997)

“This is a simple story... but not an easy one to tell.”

            Life is Beautiful is a movie that everyone has to see. Everyone that I know that has seen this movie loves it. It is one of the most beautifully told, filmed, and acted movies you will ever see.
            Guido is a bumbling, carefree book keeper. When the movie begins he and his friend are on their way to the city from the country to find work. Guido dreams of opening his own bookstore but first he needs to make money. On the way to his uncle’s house where he and his friend will be living he meets a woman whom he calls Principessa- princess in Italian. She literally falls in his lap as she was working on the top floor of a barn house.
            Once in the city Guido gets a job as a waiter in a fancy hotel. He tries to get a store to open his house but his personality gets away. He keeps bumping into his Principessa over and over again. At the opera one night Guido gets his chance to impress his Principessa -whose name we find out is Dora. Dora and Guido have a great time together they fall completely in love. Unfortunately Dora is to be married to the man who would not give Guido his book store.
            Dora’s family throws her engagement shower at the hotel where Guido works. The whole night they cannot keep their eyes off the other. Guido decides that to get the girl of his dreams he must do something big. The biggest thing he thinks of is the white horse that is waiting outside. He literally rides in on a white horse (well it is green because some fascist have written something nasty on it) to take his Principessa away.
            A few years later Guido and Dora have a son named Joshua. They are very happy together living at Guido’s uncle’s house and he finally got his bookstore. On the day of Joshua’s birthday Dora come home from picking her mother up and she finds the uncle, her husband, and her son gone and the home is complete chaos. Guido along with his uncle are Jews and have been deported to a concentration camp. Dora gets to the train station before the train to the camp departs. She tells the Nazi guards she wants to get on the train. She does not want to be left behind without her family.
            Joshua does not know what is going on and Guido does not want him to know. In order to keep his son alive Guido turns the horrible situation into a game. While everyone around them is miserable Guido is light keeping his bumbling carefree personality in full gear.
            I cannot give away too much more you will have to sit through the movie.
            Robert Benigni plays Guido and also directed the movie. He was spectacular as both actor and director. He had so much energy he leaves you wondering how exhausted he must have been after doing several of the scenes. The chemistry between Guido and Dora is so cute, being greatly helped by the fact that Benigni is married to Nicoletta Braschi. She was great as well. The little boy who played Joshua was adorable and he was a pretty good actor too he was not annoying. The ending with him is heartbreaking and fantastic because he was so great.
            The first time I ever saw Life is Beautiful when I was in high school. I cannot remember what class I watched it but I can clearly remember just loving it. It is a film that after all these years I have never forgotten.
            Life is Beautiful is a mix of comedy, drama, and tragedy. Those are three genres you would never think would work well together but in this movie they helped to create one of the most moving and stunning films of all time. Everything about this movie is just flawless and wonderful. Life is Beautiful is a movie that every person with a heart and soul should see.