Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movies 101 – A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire – 122min – NR

Blanche Dubois (Vivien Leigh) Arrives in New Orleans looking for her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) after she loses the family plantation in Mississippi. Blanche has to stay with Stella and her husband Stanly (Marlon Brando). Stanly and Blanche do not get along, she has had a rough life and puts up a front of decency and properness that Stanly sees through. Blanche comes to New Orleans to start life anew and get away from her past. She starts up a relationship with Stanley’s friend Mitch (Karl Malden) in hopes that if she puts on airs of being a proper southern woman she can hide the fact from Mitch and herself that she has had a very painful past. Stanly sees right through her act and digs up her past and throws it in her face. Stanly ruins the new beginning she had with Mitch and as a final act of barbarism attacks Blanche and has her committed to an asylum.

This movie makes me sorry for Blanche, I watched it twice to make sure I was not missing anything; she is a wounded person trying desperately to make a change in her life and reaching out to anyone to help her. The first time I felt sorry for Stella as she was getting abuse from Stanly and from Blanche. Then on the second viewing I realized that Stella is in this position because she chose it. She was attracted to the unbridled passion of Stanly but with that comes a cost of unbridled abuse. I have never understood the minds set of women who put themselves in that situation. I am glad that at the end of the movie she does make a chose to leave Stanly but it’s at the cost of her sister’s sanity. I have known a Stanly in my life and seeing his attacks made me cringe. This movie brought up feelings in me that I guess I have not dealt with and as such a flood of emotion hit me while I watched this story unfold. I can look back and see that everything that I am today is because of the events that brought me here and I can look back and say that the Stanly in my life severed as an excellent role model of what not to do.

This was a play and it was brought to the screen by Elia Kazan. If that name sounds familiar he was given an academy award in 1999 to a split audience half applauded and some refused to acknowledge the award. That caused me to dig into why he would have such a reaction and my research found that he was a friendly witness during the HUAC. He named names and provided a list of people who were members of the communist party to the House committee looking for communist in the Hollywood industry. From my brief reading of the situation he was placed in a rough spot, if he refused to help he would have been the subject of scrutiny and if he did cooperate he would betray some of the people he was friends with. I like to look at the award being given to a man who had a huge influence on the theater and on the way movies were made in the 50’s and 60’s. Regardless of the political complications he was a story teller that held up a mirror to the ugliest parts of our selves, and showed us the beauty and horror of what we are.

My take away:

This translated over to film very well, the uses of the shrinking stage to build tension was brilliant. I have been moved by the overwhelming sadness of the characters. This movie is a fallen woman film, where a woman is punished because of her lack of moral fiber. I like Stella’s strength she has at the end, and it comes at a great cost. The subtly of the characters performance are outstanding, Kazan was wonderful at bring the best out of his performers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TRON: Uprising

Disney is making an animated series to bridge the gap between Tron and Tron:Legacy. This looks Great, I hope they put some time into the story and don't sit back and expect the flashy art of the animation carry them. Memo to me: record this series. Where is my TiVo remote?

Movies 101 – Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard – 110 Min – NR

Hollywood is the setting and the subject of this films hard look at the people who are striving for fame and those who lose it. Joe (William Holden) is a writer who is struggling and stubbles on what appears to be an abandoned house. The residents are an Ex silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her Butler Max (Erich Von Stroheim). Norma wants to stage a return to the screen, and has a rough draft of a script; Joe the writer sees an opportunity to take advantage of the situation to his benefit. What he does not count on is Norma’s over powering control on everything she comes in contact with. She is a deeply wounded individual that craves the fame that has slipped away and she filled the gap with a fantasy world that traps Joe as a love interest. Joe sells his soul and becomes a kept man for a chance to stay in Hollywood for his shot at fame. When he realizes that his life and dignity are in a conflict he decides to make a change and it comes at great cost.

I was so disturbed by the characters in this film and was uncomfortable with the spiral they were on. I can see this as a cautionary tale about how you boil a frog. Joe started out small with one compromise here and there, and it’s soon he was in way over his head. Norma was in character and so visually expressive like the characters she played in those silent films. Her pain came from a loss of fame from a bombed performance and her difficult nature to work with. She never recovered from that loss. I think her relationship with Max did not help her situation and his dedication in keeping her safe deepened her fantasy. Joe and her relationship started over the body of a dead ape, Norma lost a play thing and found another. She found something that was going to fill the missing parts of her soul.

The narration of Joe as he was floating in the pool at the beginning was well played, I loved the shot of coming up from bottom of the pool. I am amazed at the subtext of the actors who were in it and their relationship with each other and the characters. Erich Von Stroheim Directed Gloria Swanson when she was a Silent film star. Max in the movie directed Norma in her past. Billy Wilder did an excellent job of holding up a mirror to some personality types in Hollywood. He told a very pointed story that made history, as uncomfortable as I was with this story, I enjoyed this film.

My take away:

Most of my take aways were on well this story was told. A movie with a sad ending can be an excellent subject. I truly loved Joe’s journey. I am reminded of another movie where the end of the movie was given away and it still made for a great story. Fallen started out telling us a story about how the main character almost died. All the stories about Hollywood seem to show us the bad things. Are there no good stories about Hollywood and fame? The only character I felt for was Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson)she was the only pure spirit in the god forsaken city.

I watched this movie on DVD from Netflix.