Be Back Soon

J.W. Waterhouse  Miranda, The Tempest, 1916
J.W. Waterhouse
Miranda, The Tempest, 1916

Pardon me for several weeks. I’m finalizing the first draft of my second novel, “Inside the Gold Plated Pistol”.

Take care, Cindy

Sunset Blvd vs. Stalag 17

Continuing with my winter project to explore the filmography of a film legend I know little about, I selected William Holden. Did you miss the review of the first pairing? You can read The Wildbunch vs. The Man from Colorado  HERE .

Arguably William Holden’s two best roles, or associations with writer and famed director Billy Wilder, the Wilder-Holden partnership was commercial gold in the 1950s with Sunset Blvd. (1950), Stalag 17 (1952), and Sabrina (1954). They would pair up one more time at the end of their careers with Fedora in 1978. Check out TCM William Holden if you are interested in learning more about his career and accomplishments.

Stalag 17 garnered Best Director, picture, and actor nominations.  He won Best Actor beating out Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity. Sunset Blvd is the premier example of American noir; it is a dark, psychological tale of two pawns within the Hollywood machine. Silent picture great, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world, a recluse who cannot let go of her former self. She clings to Holden’s character, Joe Gillis, a desperate screenwriter on the run from loan sharks. He stumbles into Norma Desmond’s world. Like a fly in the web, he feeds the delusions of Norma and becomes her kept man.

tumblr_lsx24srsMH1qacnpio1_1280

There is a lot of heart in the film. Director Cecil B. DeMille’s cameo in the film pays homage to the silent film era and his former diva, protecting her ego from studio actors and staff most of whom have no recollection of her. Her omnipotent servant and chauffeur is Max, who devotes his life to protect her reputation. Erich von Stroheim plays the loyal, mysterious companion. The complicated relationship between Joe and Norma is exquisite. He assumes he’s manipulating her, but in due time, it is he who has been seduced. As the narrator who speaks from the grave, he is not angry. He wants to “set the record straight” because he cares about her. The men in Norma Desmond’s life owe her everything and bend to her whims. Her mental frailty is ironic and what makes the film one-of-a-kind. Sunset Boulevard won Best Screenplay, Best Art-Direction/ Set-Direction, and Best Music. Like Tennessee William’s Blanche DuBois, there’s a universal tale of irony behind these unforgettable female characters. As the audience comes face to face with Norma Desmond at the finale, we feel pity for the star and the forgotten greats of the silent era. We are reminded that glory is brief, beauty fades, and time is often cruel.

Stalag 17 showcases William Holden as the camp hustler and suspected “stoolie” for the German officers of a POW camp where hundreds of Allied soldiers are held captive. As a girl whose three favorite shows on television were Star Trek, M*A*S*H, and Hogan’s Heroes,I realized five minutes into the film that the entertaining albeit ridiculous Hogan’s Heroes showing ingenious Allied soldiers and idiotic German officers and enlisted guards (I still quote Schultz’s “I see nothing, nothing!”) was inspired by the film.

The inspiration for 1965-71 television series, "Hogan's Heroes"
The inspiration for sixties television series, “Hogan’s Heroes”

Stalag 17 had its weaknesses. The moronic character Sgt. Stanislaus ‘Animal’ Kuzawa was over-the-top to the point of distraction. The narration was unnecessary by “Cookie”. I enjoyed watching Peter Graves and William Holden’s performance as J.J. Sefton. His sarcastic humor, cleverness, toughness amid persecution by Duke (Neville Brand) offered William Holden the chance to deliver a dimensional performance worthy of an Oscar. The combination of comedy, drama, and mystery added complexity to the film to make it interesting, although it was hard to ignore how unrealistic were the shenanigans of camp personalities. Still, there’s a charm to the film that sticks with you days after viewing. Also, I doubt Billy Wilder meant for the film to be realistic. Its silliness undermines the drama and suspense for me. Others love that element of slap-stick humor in the film. Just a little less comic relief would be all I would change.

What are you thoughts about these two Holden classics? Which do you prefer?

Movie Review: “Foxcatcher” is more than a True Crime Story

Check out Bill’s smart review….

The Cinema Penitentiary Diaries

When I saw “Foxcatcher,” I was unaware that it was being marketed as a true crime story. Before it was half over, however, I guessed that something extreme was going to happen. Otherwise, this apparently aimless tale of a billionaire’s sponsorship of an Olympic wrestler would never have secured funding. Even though I had a pretty good idea of what sort of crime would bring the movie to its startling conclusion, the twist caught me off-guard.

John du Pont (Steve Carell) is a withered mama’s boy who pays amateur wrestlers to live on his estate and work out in his gym if they accept him as coach, mentor, and father figure.  He latches onto champion wrestler Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum), using  him to give his gym the  legitimacy needed to lure some of the nation’s top athletes into joining his cult. Tensions rise between Schultz and du Pont, which are…

View original post 327 more words

John Malkovich Recreates Iconic Photos

I had to share this! I ♥ John Malkovich and adored this post. It’s scary!

Silver Screen Serenade

malkovich

Just when you thought John Malkovich couldn’t get in cooler…he did. A longtime friend of photographer Sandro Miller, Malkovich recently helped out with a little project. Titled “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to photographic masters,” this project is all about recreating iconic photographs with–you guessed it–John Malkovich. Guys, prepare yourselves. The following photos are almost too amazing.

View original post 110 more words

Mad Scientist, Alienated Creature

Having just watched The Machine, I thought it a clever update on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. At the core, it’s the same story: a misunderstood scientist creates a creature which turns against society/government/the creator. It’s a variation on a Frankenstein theme. Using technology, man crosses into God’s realm and creates a monster. The monster is sweet, pure, childlike. Through adult manipulation, it turns confused often running away or recognized as a “mistake” and is hunted down and destroyed. The story never ends happily and the audience feels empathy for the monster. There have been many films utilizing this theme, and I think it relavant.

machine

Caradog W. James wrote and directed this British Science-Fiction thriller, The Machine. The opening scene really had me hooked. The mishap with the brain-damaged veteran who trips the red alert lights and goes on a reflexive killing spree, and blood disappears into the red-lit room was ghastly and effective. Toby Stephens played the gifted scientist with sensitivity, and the performance by Caty Lotz was mesmerizing. She wowed me as the cyborg creation who grows disenchanted about this new world her creator brought her in to. The film had its faults like the constant darkness of the military fortress or the overly-simplistic evil, military bureaucrat Thompson, who wants to take the creature, Ava, and use her as a weapon of destruction. He is able to manipulate her because Vincent, played by Toby Stephens, is attending to his dying daughter for whom he hoped he could fix.

tobymachine_2812168b

The purpose of Science Fiction is to raise questions about society and imagine a world if a scenerio played out. The ambiguous, abrupt ending had many reviewers scratching their heads. What makes a human, human? Is Ava alive because she is conscious? Is the daughter alive if her consciousness is captured on a screen but has no body? What kind of life is that? It’s a pertinent issue, and I liked the ambiguity. Was Vincent wrong for saving his daughter? Shouldn’t Ava take the computer plate and pitch it into the ocean? Would that be murder? It raises that ethical question–just because we can manipulate life, should we?

imagesm

Any time a film produces more questions than it answers has me overlook flaws. The special effects were outstanding in The Machine, and I appreciated the film much more than the critics, apparently, and that’s okay with me. It’s a heavy, dark film and not for everyone.

What film did you like which raised an ethical question about life and death and our human need to control it? 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑