AGEBOC ’14 August 22-24

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TWO WEEKS to go!

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Will Sin City:ADTKF gross more or less in its opening weekend than the first did in 2005 ($29,120,273)? (Editor’s note: WHAT?? That was 9 years ago already?!)

2. Will Guardians of the Galaxy become the #1 grossing movie of 2014 by the end of the weekend (when actuals are revealed on Monday) yes/no?

Deadline is Thursday August 21st 11:59PM (blog time)
To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current rankings

agedbox

Aged Box

Jackrabbit Slim – 45.5
Joe Webb – 27
Rob – 26
James – 21
Juan – 20.5
filmman – 16
Marco – 9
Nick – 2.5

The Wizard of Oz

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This week marks the 75th anniversary of the release of one of the most beloved movies in film history, The Wizard of Oz. There is little left to say about it, critically or historically, but that’s not going to stop me.

The film was not a box office success when it was released in 1939, though it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and won two (both for music). It had a couple of re-releases, but it wasn’t until it started to be shown on television that it became the most viewed film in the history of eyeballs (I have only come across two people who have never seen it: one of them is a contributor to this blog, and another was recently arrived from Turkey). It’s first airing was in 1956, and was the first film to be aired uncut on a network (prior to that, movies were only shown on local affiliates). It started airing annually in 1959 until the 1990s, and now that it is owned by Turner it pops up every so often.

For old fogies like me, the telecast of The Wizard of Oz was a major event, as it was the only way to see it. Every year it drew huge ratings, and I remember anticipating it keenly. I distinctly remember watching while sitting cross-legged right in front of the tube, and when the credits came on feeling a rush of exhilaration.

The film is now a cultural touchstone of great immensity. So many of its lines and situations have been firmly embedded in our cultural ethos that it’s as if they have always existed:

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

“Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too.”

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”
“Who rang that bell?”

“Surrender Dorothy”

“I do believe in spooks.”

“I’m melting!”

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

And many, many others.

Historically, the film is a treasure trove of lore that has filled several volumes. Based on the turn of the century book by L. Frank Baum, it had been made into a film many times before, including a silent version in 1925 with Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodsman. MGM’s Sam Goldwyn bought it as a property for Eddie Cantor, who was to play the Scarecrow. Casting tales are legion–producer Mervyn LeRoy was pressured to use Shirley Temple as Dorothy, but Fox wouldn’t loan her out. Deanna Durbin was also considered, before Judy Garland was cast. Originally Ray Bolger was to play the Tin Woodsman and Buddy Ebsen the Scarecrow, but Bolger had been inspired to enter show business after seeing the show on stage in 1902, and had always wanted to play the Scarecrow, so they switched. Ebsen turned out to be allergic to the paint used in his makeup, and got so sick he was in an iron lung, and was replaced by Jack Haley. Ed Wynn was offered the part of the Wizard, but turned it down for being too small. W.C. Fields was approached, but contract negotiations dragged on, so Frank Morgan was cast. Gale Sondergaard was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West, but when the film’s conception of her was changed from beautiful to an ugly hag, Sondergaard ankled, and contract player Margaret Hamilton was cast.

Some of the lore has varying degrees of truth. Possibly true is that Morgan, looking through old coats for the perfect one to wear, found a tag inside the pocket indicating it belonged to Baum himself at one time. Not true is that you can see a Munchkin who had hung himself in the background of the apple orchard scene. It’s actually some sort of crane.

The film went through many different scriptwriters. The book has no Kansas sequence, and actually happened to Dorothy and was not a dream, so the alternate identities–Elmira Gulch and the farmhands–were created for the film. It’s hard to know who wrote what, but Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf are the credited screenwriters. The directing credits are also complex. Although Victor Fleming retains the sole directing credit, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, George Cukor, and King Vidor all worked on it. Cukor served as a consultant, and may have been the one who nailed down the concept, but Fleming replaced him. Fleming also replaced Cukor on Gone With the Wind, and also got the sole credit. Vidor finished the picture, directing most of the Kansas sequences.

So what has made the film so enduringly popular/over these 75 years? I think it boils down to a few reasons. One is the fantastic music. I would venture to say that it is the best music ever written strictly for a film, and that “Over the Rainbow” is the best song ever written for a film. The songs were written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and Harburg, according to some, wrote much of the dialogue to go with the music. Some of the songs, like “It Really Was No Miracle” and the whole Munchkin song medley, take the place of dialogue. There are no bad songs. Even the interstitial music, such as “Optimistic Voices” (the music playing as the friends head up to the Emerald City) and the chant of the Wookies, the Witch’s guards, have become instantly recognizable.

Secondly, the theme resonates. There is no place like home, but you can’t find that out until you’ve been someplace else. Dorothy’s adventure is thrilling and dangerous, and at the end she could have stayed, but her familial roots pulled her back, even if it was to sepia Kansas (and, by the way, Toto still faces destruction–I doubt Elmira Gulch was willing to let bygones be bygones. Just what happened to Toto?)

Third, the three companions are an example of what came to be known as camp–so ridiculous that they are funny, and, along with Garland, the reason the film is so popular in the LGBTGQ community. I watched with a special eye for that this time, after reading earlier this year that the Cowardly Lion, played by a straight man, Bert Lahr, was actually a well-known stereotype at the time, the “Nance,” an effeminate gay man. The Tin Woodsman also seems to be light in his tin loafers, making the Scarecrow the butch one. Note how many crying men are in the film. The Tin Woodsman, the Lion, and the Wizard’s gatekeeper weep copiously (again, the Scarecrow is the only one who doesn’t). In this day and age, one could see the effeminacy of the characters as making sure the audience doesn’t think of any romantic entanglement with Dorothy (something Larry Flynt so vividly did in a x-rated pictorial in Hustler). I found it interesting to read there was an extra scene written, but never filmed, with Hunk (the Scarecrow’s alter ego) heading off to agricultural college, Dorothy sending him off, suggesting a future romance. Maybe that’s why she tells the Scarecrow “I’m going to miss you most of all.”

Part of this camp humor is so much fun, especially the whole scene after the Wizard is unmasked, and he gives the three males what they want, essentially satirizing American mores. “They’ve got what you haven’t got”–whether it be a diploma, medal, or testimonial, which, one realizes, are meaningless, and it’s action that matters.

The film does feel dated in some areas, notably the special effects. I still find the twister scene effective, even if that is nothing but a lady’s stocking being turned by a fan, but the backdrops are so crudely drawn and the owls and vultures in the haunted forest look like third-rate carnival spook house effects. But the flying monkey scene still works, as does the scene when the Wicked Witch is on her broomstick–it still gives me some chills. Also, the restoration of the picture makes the wires visible, especially in the Lion’s tale in the “King of the Forest” number. But so what? I still love Bert Lahr saying, “I’d thrash him from top to bottom-us.”

 

Opening in the U.S., August 15, 2014

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Another shitty week at the multiplex, but arthouses have something to offer.

On Wednesday came Let’s Be Cops (27), and given the events in Ferguson, Missouri this week, the timing couldn’t be worse. Everything about this film makes me angry, and I hope all involved suffer for their crimes. Jason Clark: “If Let’s Be Cops were content to be simply an unfunny genre exercise, it would be easy to dismiss it and move on. But the sting of astoundingly ill-advised sexism and homophobia is harder to shake.”

The Expendables 3 (35) is tanking this weekend, perhaps not even earning 20 million. This might be due to the leaked screener on the Internet, or it may be that people are tired of watching washed-up action stars in routine action films. What is Kelsey Grammer doing in this movie? Peter Travers: “The Expendables 3, trading on our affection for action stars of the past, has officially worn out its already shaky welcome.”

The Giver (46) is based on a young adult novel I’d never heard of, but even though the source material is 20 years old, it’s yet another film about a dystopian future. Inkoo Kang: “The Giver is an anti-totalitarian allegory so farcically hyperbolic it feels like only a teenager could have come up with it.”

The movie I want to see is The Trip to Italy (76), a sequel to the riotously funny The Trip. This time, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visit restaurants in Italy (duh), but I think I’d watch these two just chatting at a bus stop. Nathan Rabin: “The film lets audiences be third parties in Coogan and Brydon’s dinner conversation. For lovers of words, comedy, and conversation, that’s an awfully hard proposition to pass up.”

Also this week: Life After Beth (54), a supernatural comedy with Aubrey Plaza; Frank (76), with Michael Fassbender as a musician who wears a large plastic head; and Septic Man (8), a horror film about a sewage worker. Gary Goldstein: “It’s a grotesque, deadly dull piece of cinematic upchuck, a horror film minus tension or chills.”

 

 

 

 

Review: Magic in the Moonlight

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Magic–and by extension, spiritualism–has long been a recurring theme in Woody Allen’s work. He was an amateur magician as a boy, reflected in his play The Floating Light Bulb, and magicians and mediums have appeared in his work throughout his career. Just off the top of my head I can think of A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Scoop, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Oedipus Wrecks, and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

Now he is has made his definitive film about the subject, one would hope, with Magic in the Moonlight. Basically the movie is a dialogue about the rational mind versus the mind that believes in the unseen world, and whether a person is happier when one hangs on to delusions. This might make for an interesting conversation over drinks, but not a very good movie.

Colin Firth, in a bad performance, plays a famous magician (in a bit of tone-deaf racism, he disguises himself as a Chinese man, complete with Fu Manchu mustache). He is also an arrogant prick, and is well-known as a debunker of fraudulent mediums (much like Houdini was–the debunker part, that is). A colleague (Simon McBurney), takes him to the south of France to attempt to debunk an American spiritualist (Emma Stone), who has charmed a rich family.

Firth tries to discover her tricks, but can’t, and eventually comes to believe she’s the real thing, which opens his mind to wonders he never considered and briefly makes him a better person. I won’t go any further than that, but any smart person will figure out how it will end.

I think Magic in the Moonlight was meant to be a comedy, but it has no laughs. There are some mild japes here and there, but only one thing made me laugh, when a psychiatrist says of Firth, “He is a very unhappy man. I like him.” Most of the film is made up of Firth’s many speeches about the folly of believing in anything but the rational world. I agree with him, but he quickly grew tiresome.

Almost saving the picture is Stone, who is at her most winsome here. I swear her eyes were enlarged by CGI–she’s like one of those Walter Keane paintings. Stone, who has specialized in light comedy like this, is now due to play something more serious, as she’s kind of wasted here. The movie forces her and Firth together, and they have absolutely no chemistry (as well as being about thirty years different in age). They are the least convincing pair since Allen and Helen Hunt in Jade Scorpion.

There are many other common Allen tropes–the film is set in the ’20s, so we get a lot of period music and the idle rich just kind of wandering around. For a Woody Allen film, the pace is also very bad. Some scenes last a beat or two too long, and the the whole thing is discomfiting. Allen seems to have a good film every other time out of the box lately, so maybe he should just pass on every other idea, and throw it back into the pile.

My grade for Magic in the Moonlight: C-.

AGEBOC ’14 August 15-17

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The battle for 2nd place rages on. It’s Slim’s world and we’re all fighting for table scraps

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. TMNT has to drop more than 60% this weekend, right? (yes=it will or no=it won’t)

2. What new release will end up 2nd among new wide releases – Expendables 3, The Giver, or Let’s Be Cops ?

Deadline is Thursday August 14th 11:59PM (blog time)
To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current rankings

agedbox

Aged Box

Jackrabbit Slim – 43.5
Joe Webb – 26.5
James – 21
Juan – 20.5
Rob – 20
filmman – 16
Marco – 9
Nick – 2.5

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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It seems that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can do no wrong. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers–all huge hits. Now they’ve even gone and taken a minor Marvel property and turned into another tentpole. Marvel has more tentpoles than a campground.

Guardians of the Galaxy, which was hardly a blip on the Marvel publishing schedule, is the latest monster hit from the comic book company. It is a slightly different approach than the other films, in that it is a space opera in the mold of Star Wars rather than a superhero film, but fundamentally it’s the same template–wisecracks, action sequence, sentimental moment, wisecracks, repeat, repeat, repeat.

The film chronicles a gang of misfits that get together and save the universe. Peter Quill, who calls himself Starlord, is a scavenger hired to find an orb. That orb is also being sought by a major baddie–Ronin, who wears a hoodie and has some interesting black paint on his face. He is working for Thanos, who Marvel watchers may remember was seen in the post-credit sequence of The Avengers. Ronin sends one of Thanos’ adopted daughters, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who looks like the Jolly Green Giant’s daughter, to fetch the orb, but Gamora has betrayal on her mind.

Meanwhile, Rocket, a bounty hunter who happens to be a genetically modified raccoon, is after the bounty on Quill. Rocket’s partner is a humanoid tree, Groot, who is his muscle, though can be kind of sweet at times, and knows only three words–“I am Groot.” Later this group is joined by the muscle-bound Drax (Dave Bautista), whose family was killed by Ronin.

The similarities to Star Wars are many. Quill and Rocket both have Han Solo qualities (with Groot as the Chewbacca character). The Kree, Ronin’s race, are something like the Sith, with Thanos as the Emperor. But Guardians of the Galaxy is also buried in the Marvel tradition of wisecracks and use of popular culture. The story is contemporary, and Quill carries around a cassette tape of ’70s hits, mostly one-hit wonders like “Come and Get Your Love” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” That’s the kind of wit the film has. Sometimes it’s very funny, and the film succeeds as a comedy.

It does not succeed as an action picture. The script, by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, has plenty of laughs, but the plot is warmed over boilerplate sci-fi. I mean, an orb that can destroy the universe? How subtle. And the planet that is threatened looks like Disneyworld (of course the Kree are dark and scary). The action sequences–a prison break, a chase through the Disneyworld planet, the final confrontation–are all pretty routine.

A few sequences show some originality, such as a mining world inside the severed head of a celestial body, with Benicio Del Toro as “The Collector.” I also liked the character played by Michael Rooker, Quill’s mentor, who has a trained arrow. But mostly the film gets by on its jokes. Quill, played effortlessly by Chris Pratt, is great company, a guy who fancies himself a space outlaw (when someone does call him “Starlord” he happily sighs, “Finally!”) and Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, provide most of the good lines.

The movie is stolen, though, by Groot, who is briefly voiced by Vin Diesel, perhaps the world’s least likely voice actor. Groot, as was Chewbacca, is an archetype–the sidekick, the kind of friend that every kid wants, usually to ward off bullies. Groot has a sweet nature, but can seriously kick ass, too. And I believe that if any line is remembered from any film this year by future generations, it will be “I am Groot.”

This film is getting raves as if it were the second coming of Star Wars,  but it’s not quite that good. I didn’t like it as much as The Avengers, Iron Man 3, or Captain America 2. But I welcome more films, perhaps with more original plots. And the inevitable team-up of this group with The Avengers ought to make the biggest salary payments in the history of films (because by then, Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, etc. will be commanding major paydays).

My grade for Guardians of the Galaxy: B.

Opening in the U.S., August 8, 2014

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What a dog of a weekend. In fact, the only movie opening this weekend that I could visualize me seeing is The Dog (77), a documentary about the bank robber, John Wojtowicz, who was memorably played by Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. Joshua Rothkopf: “For all its eye-opening material, The Dog still feels unfinished, but for students of New York scuzziness, it’s an essential addition.”

The rest I’ll skip. There’s a completely unnecessary reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (34). Fun fact number 1: I have never seen so much as a minute of any form of this show or the first movies. I do remember, though, when the first film opened. It was Thanksgiving weekend, 1990. I was at a multiplex seeing Dances of Wolves, but there was an army of kids in line for TMNT. A theater manager was prepping his ushers–“Every little kid needs to have a ticket.” he told them. Fun fact number 2: When I was at Penthouse, I was friendly with Julie Strain, one of the Pets. She later got married to Kevin Eastman, of the creators of TMNT. See, boys, what great wealth can attract? James Rocchi: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t a movie; it’s a brand re-launch that’s going to satisfy stockholders far more than it’s going to entertain the people who paid to watch it.”

Into the Storm (44) is weather porn that ups the ante on CGI-based storms since Twister. I’m sure Brian, given his fascination with cyclones, will want to see it. Me, not so much. Billy Goodykoontz: “Into the Storm plays like a special-effects demonstration in search of a movie, but you have to give it to the filmmakers: They take no half-measures.”

Also not very interesting to me is some food porn, The Hundred-Foot Journey (55), about restauranteurs in the south of France, starring Hellen Mirren. Elise Nakhnikian: “The film is rife with tired food metaphors and plot twists so predictable you see them coming like travelers on the poplar-lined street that leads to the dueling restaurants.”

Finally, my favorite title this week, Fifi Howls from Happiness (78), about an Iranian artist I’ve never heard of. Godfrey Cheshire: “As if to confirm how crucial timing is to documentaries, the artist gives the filmmaker a last performance that helps make her portrait of him as extraordinary as the man it portrays.”

AGEBOC ’14 August 8-10

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No comments come to mind…

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Will Guardians of the Galaxy drop more or less than 56% compared to last weekend?

2. The original TMNT opened to $25,398,367 (adjusted $48,935,400) in 1990 (& included one of Sam Rockwell’s earliest roles). Will this latest iteration open below the original’s unadjusted gross, between the unadjusted & adjusted, or above the adjusted gross?

Deadline is Thursday August 7th 11:59PM (blog time)
To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current rankings

agedbox

Aged Box

Jackrabbit Slim – 41
Joe Webb – 26
Juan – 20
Rob – 19.5
James – 16.5
filmman – 16
Marco – 9
Nick – 2.5

Review: Boyhood

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Much has made of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood: the fact that it was filmed over twelve years, thus showing the actors age in real time, and the near unanimous praise (Kenneth Turan thought it was merely a good movie, and almost had to apologize for it). But what I found interesting about it was not so much the fact that it allowed us to see a boy actually age from six to eighteen, but that instead of a conventional narrative it was like flipping through a photo album, or scanning one’s own memory of childhood. In that way it was oddly compelling, even though there were few moments of actual conflict.

Boyhood is the story of one boy, Mason, who as the film starts is six years old. He has an older sister and a single mother, who signals to a boyfriend early on that her children come first. Mason’s father has been gone to Alaska for a while (the film is set entirely in Texas), but he comes back and becomes the kind of single dad who struggles to keep a place in his children’s lives. There’s a great scene when he tells the kids he doesn’t just want small talk, he wants real conversations.

Linklater, instead of making this a highlight reel of a boy’s life, instead makes it like a patchwork quilt. Some important events are there, but others happen off-screen. Very often we get scenes that have no more relevance than that they are part of life, random events that shape us. I was particularly drawn to a scene when Mason is bullied in the boy’s room. We never see him bullied again, and the kids who do it don’t appear again. But it is there, as if we were roaming his subconscious and stumbled upon it. We also see a scene in which he hangs with older boys who brag about their sexual conquests. Mason tells them he has had sex, but we don’t know if he’s telling the truth–the loss of his virginity does not happen on screen.

It is kind of gasp-inducing to watch this film when a transition takes place. Mason goes from a cute little boy to an awkward teen in the space of less than three hours. I’m not a parent, but I gather this is about how fast a child’s life appears to be to some parents. At the end of the film, when Mason is a shaggy, ear-ringed college student, we almost have forgotten how he was as a boy. This is also true with his sister (played by Linklater’s daughter Lorelai). While the dad, Ethan Hawke, doesn’t age physically much, Patrica Arquette, as the mom, does, changing hairstyles, putting on weight, and acquiring more weariness of life.

What “plot” there is in the film mostly concerns the marital life of the parents. Arquette marries two men–one a professor of hers, and then a student. Both, after appearing to be great stepdads, become problem drinkers. We don’t see the split between her and husband number two, only when he confronts Mason after the latter comes home late. But we can hear the echo of the first scene–she puts her kids first.

Arquette is great, but Hawke has a trickier role, if that’s possible. He’s not the deadbeat dad, or the irresponsible dad. How great it is to see a divorced father actually being good to his children. He grows over the film–selling the GTO that seems to define him, getting married to a religious woman, having another child, and driving a mini-van. I’ll be surprised if both Arquette and Hawke aren’t nominated for Oscars.

As Mason is the extraordinary Ellar Coltrane. Linklater had to roll the dice on him. Not only did he have to believe that the kid wouldn’t back out (his daughter wanted to–she asked him to kill her character off) but that he would grow into a decent actor. Now, Coltrane doesn’t give a fantastic performance. He’s not a great actor–I don’t expect him to go on with an acting career of any substance, but at all times he seems to grasp what Linklater is trying to do, and is absolutely convincing.

I wouldn’t give this film a 100, it’s current score on Metacritic–it’s not even the best film of the year (it’s still The Grand Budapest Hotel for me) but Boyhood is a remarkable achievement, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

My grade for Boyhood: A-.

Random Thread for August 2014

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In the ongoing Ghostbusters reboot news, Paul Feig has been tapped as director and word is it will be an all-female cast. I’m not sure if it is a proper reboot, with no mention of the original, or a sequel. A sequel would be better, I think, with some cameos by the original cast (except for Murray, who I think is having none of it).

Hitchcock: Rear Window

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Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the release of Rear Window, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films. It is not only extremely entertaining, but it is technically brilliant, and contains many of the themes that Hitchcock would use again and again in his career, but in a fresh way.

I’ve seen it now several times, but the first time was in 1983, in a re-release in a double feature with Rope at the now gone Cinema Studio. It had been held from public view for over ten years until Hitchcock’s estate had been settled.

Rear Window was based on a short-story by Cornell Woolrich, but greatly expanded by John Michael Hayes. It’s a doozy of an idea: a photojournalist (James Stewart), accustomed to traveling to danger zones and an active life, is apartment-bound due to a broken leg. Out of boredom, he starts looking out his rear window and observing the neighbors around him (clearly this film is unique to its time period, before the ubiquity of television or the Internet). He starts to become suspicious of the activity of a salesman (Raymond Burr) and comes to the conclusion that he has killed his wife (and cut her up to boot). He enlists the aid of his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and nurse (Thelma Ritter) to bring the man to justice.

Of course nothing is simple in a Hitchcock film, even if the premise sounds so. For one thing we have the set. It was shot entirely on a soundstage at Paramount, which meant ripping up the floor and utilizing the basement. Stewart, looking on his neighbors, is immediately identifiable to the audience, for he is looking on something cinematic, as are we. Hitchcock’s primary pacing of shots is to show Stewart looking, what he is seeing, and his reaction, and this is usually what we are feeling. He will look at newlyweds pulling a shade, and smirk at what is going on behind them, or watching whom he has dubbed Miss Lonelyhearts having an imaginary dinner date, and toasting to her.

There is also the sense of the voyeur. Cinema is an act of voyeurism in itself–we are watching the private behavior of characters, but Stewart is watching real people. All through the film the ethics of the situation is questioned, especially by Stewart’s detective pal (Wendell Corey) who rightly states that what people do in private is often unexplainable to others, and Stewart shouldn’t leap to conclusions. But Stewart is right, of course.

The genius of the script is that it gives life to the various people Stewart watches. In addition to Miss Lonelyhearts and the newlyweds there is Miss Torso, a dancer who is the apple of many a man’s eye, and a songwriter, struggling with a piece of music. Many of these relationships, along with Stewart’s to Kelly, is seen with a somewhat gimlet eye by Hitchcock.

Kelly, never looking more alluring, is introduced by a close-up as she moves into the camera to give Stewart a kiss. That hooks everyone, male and female, I suspect, into her charms. She is a society girl, a fashion director who likes dinner at 21 and Park Avenue. Stewart chafes at marrying her, because he sees his craving for rugged adventure at odds with her lifestyle, and doesn’t think either will change. Somewhat ghoulishly, we see the effects of a bad marriage with Burr and his wife, or with the newlyweds, who emerge from their honeymoon quarreling.

As for technical qualities of the film, they are breathtaking. A few scenes stand out. When Kelly (who has impressed Stewart with her daring-do) breaks into Burr’s apartment, Stewart and Ritter are distracted by Miss Lonelyhearts, who seems to be about to kill herself. Therefore they don’t notice, but we do, Burr coming home. Stewart is impotent (another comment on the relationship–Kelly does all the heavy lifting) while she is confronted by Burr until the police come. Then, in a fantastic shot, Kelly, from across the courtyard, shows Stewart she has a wedding ring (an important piece of evidence). Burr notices this, and looks straight at Stewart, the first time the two men have looked directly at each other. It’s chilling.

Then comes the climax of the picture, when Burr comes to Stewart’s apartment. Stewart has nothing to defend himself except flashbulbs, which is to say he uses the tools of his profession–the photographer, or professional voyeur (one thing that is unexplained is why, even though Stewart hears Burr coming, he doesn’t lock his door). But Stewart can’t stop Burr, he can only delay him, and he loses the struggle as Burr throws him out the window. But still, a happy ending, as Kelly lies beside Stewart, dressed not in a frock but in jeans, reading a book about the Himalayas. Until she notices he is asleep, and then she picks up a Harper’s Bazaar.

I should add the film has a few racy moments, at least for 1954. There is a shot of two women on a rooftop and the suggestion is that they are sunbathing topless, with a helicopter hovering above them. There are the newlylweds, who keep the window shade drawn, at least until the husband pokes his head out for fresh air, only to be plaintively called back by his apparently insatiable wife. Most funny to today’s audiences is the scene in which Kelly arrives and announces she’s spending the night, and Stewart makes a big hullabaloo about how there is only one bed, or that he has no pajamas for her. Unmarried people didn’t share living quarters in those days, at least not in the movies or on TV.

Rear Window was a big hit and sits at 100 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve never heard a bad word about it. Stewart is at his most Jimmy Stewart-ish, stammering and making wisecracks, and Kelly is one of the most beautiful women who have ever been filmed. Ritter is a hoot, the comic relief of the picture (and one of the few older women in Hitchcock films who aren’t portrayed as gargoyles). This is certainly in the top ten of Hitchcock films, and perhaps the most entertaining, right there with North by Northwest.

Opening in the U.S., August 1, 2014

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The big opening this weekend is Guardians of the Galaxy (76), yet another hit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I was a big Marvel kid, but these guys were even below my radar (though I have faint memories of Rocket Raccoon). Surely we will soon see The Inhumans and Alpha Flight movies. A. A. Dowd: :Guardians boasts not one, but two Han Solo proxies — not to mention an ass-kicking Princess Leia surrogate, a villain with a very Sithian fashion sense, and the flora answer to Chewbacca. Also, one of the Han Solo types is a talking raccoon.”

The other major release is the James Brown story Get On Up (70). It’s positives seem to be the performance by Chadwick Boseman (who has now played Jackie Robinson and Brown) and the music, but is mired in music biopic cliches. I may rent it some day. Eric Kohn: “Though Get On Up never congeals into a satisfactory whole, its fragmentary portrait of the singer at the height of his fame — intercut with his troubled single-parent childhood — effectively shows his invasive power in popular culture.”

In limited release is Calvary (80), starring Brendan Gleeson as a priest. Joe Morgenstern: “It’s a film of modest means and great ambition, a darkly comic drama concerned with nothing less than the place of faith, and an embattled Church, in modern life.”

Child of God (50) is James Franco’s adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel. R. Kurt Osenland: “James Franco’s general aesthetic is ugly and ambling, not so much because of its brownish-gray monochrome, but because it registers like the jerky result of a college kid wielding a DV cam.”

Finally, for the perv crowd, is Behaving Badly (21), starring Selena Gomez. Gary Goldstein: “Behaving Badly is a dreadful sex comedy that gets worse and worse as its dopey story snowballs into relative incoherence.”

 

 

AGEBOC ’14 August 1-3

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Only 5 weeks left and there is a tight race for second place!

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man has been one success after another and Guardians of the Galaxy looks to continue that streak. Will Guardians open more like The Incredible Hulk ($55m), the first Thor and/or Captain America ($65m) or the first Iron Man ($98m+)? (Pick one of the 4 movies; closest gross wins)

2. What place will Get On Up find itself at?

Deadline is Thursday July 31st 11:59PM (blog time)
To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current rankings

agedbox

Aged Box

Jackrabbit Slim – 39
Joe Webb – 21.5
Juan – 20
Rob – 19
James – 16.5
filmman – 16
Marco – 9
Nick – 2.5

Opened in New Haven – Weekend of July 25th, 2014

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LucyJohansson’s first solo action vehicle, Lucy, earned a terrific 44M over the weekend which automatically propels the actress to the top ranks of female stars (at least in terms of those who can beat people up on-screen). While an iffy C+ Cinemascore indicates audiences weren’t exactly in love with the picture, it would take a pretty catastrophic drop in week two for Universal not to push a sequel.  What a comeback for the actress, who appeared to be headed towards career oblivion just five years ago.

Luc Besson (The Professional, The Fifth Element, producer of Taken) directs. Morgan Freeman and Min-sik Choi (the original Oldboy, in his Hollywood debut) co-star.

Personal interest factor: 6

HerculesThe increasingly-grotesque Dwayne Johnson stars in Brett Ratner’s non-mystical Hercules feature.  Critics (62% on RT) were mostly kind to the film, which led some to ask why Paramount decided to hide the picture until the last minute. It could be they misjudged how

Hercules opened 15M below Lucy, despite 2.5 times the price tag.  While they might make some of it up overseas – it’s yet another disappointing opener for Johnson, who has proven time and time again that he can not open something where a) he is the solo lead b) the film is not part of an existing franchise.

Personal interest factor: 5

Full ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ Comic-Con Teaser “leaks” on the internet

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Oh look: a YouTube account with no activity has uploaded a single video. And It’s a poorly shot cam of the Batman V Superman teaser shown at the Warner Brothers panel on Saturday!

You’d have to imagine that people would eventually begin to catch on that Zack Snyder is more of a marketing genius than a filmmaking one, but it’s certainly an effective and very pretty teaser.  AND OH SO GRITTY.  14 year-old me would be freaking out, too.