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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 17, 2018, 09:47
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The only thing I liked about On Golden Pond was the cinematography.

Netflix has it for streaming so I watched “On Golden Pond” last night. I thought it held up well. The one scene you mentioned about Jane Fonda diving off the diving board comes at the end and is a relatively minor event but does symbolize one of the main themes of the movie: redemption. And I think she did a wonderful job of evincing the adult who turns into a frightened child when in the presence of her parents.

She had need for Norman’s approval. One of the best lines of the movie came at the end between father and daughter, first set up by Ethel’s insistence to Chelsea that if she wanted to repair things that she not wait too long:

Ethel: Chels, Norman is 80 years old. He has heart palpitations... and trouble remembering things. Just exactly when do you expect this friendship to begin?

Chelsea and Norman have a little talk at the side of the dock (this coming just before Chelsea’s dive).

Chelsea: It seems that you and me have been mad at each other for so long.
Norman: I didn't know we were mad. I thought we just didn't like each other.

Given how consistently cantankerous and verbally abusive Norman is, you could hardly fault Chelsea for thinking that her father didn’t approve of her. She would doubtlessly hit back and you’d get to the point of not just being mad but not liking each other. The way Norman spars with Dabney Coleman shows you something about how quickly you could come to dislike this man.

But the dutiful wife, Ethel, insists that Norman is really just a warm-fuzzy Teddy bear if you’ll take the time to see the real him.

The only thing that makes the redemption and change of attitude plausible (in both Billy and Norman) is the magical quality of Golden Pond. It’s the redemptive beauty of nature. And who’s to say that little future-school-shooter punks such at Billy couldn’t do with getting away form the mean (or at least sterile) streets of the city and perhaps even to spend time with an adult male who, although cantankerous, is a real man, the bull elephant of the herd?

However condensed some of these transformations are to accommodate the runtime of a movie, they do happen. And I think the writer, Ernest Thompson, has captured the dynamic that often exists between parent and child. I doubt most of them get redeemed this quickly or completely because there are underlying reasons why Norman is such a “poop” other than having a daughter who isn’t sufficiently touchy-feely.

Having an elderly parent, and hearing the stories of so many others who have responsibility for an elderly parent, I’m beginning to believe that The Greatest Generation has transformed into The Cranky Generation. Forgiveness and a certain amount of tolerance is required, but I’m not so sure that Norman didn’t have it right in the first place: They didn’t like each other anymore.

But certainly Chelsea has some deep-seated anger. And some of the best scenes are of her mother, Ethel, basically telling Chelsea to stop being a Snowflake and to grow up.

Chelsea returns from her trip to Europe with Dabney Coleman. They got married in Brussels. She’s happy about this but thinks (with good reason, one would suppose) that her father will rain on her parade once again. It culminates in a good exchange (ended with a slap) between mother and daughter:

Chelsea: He is a selfish son of a bitch.
Ethel: That old son of a bitch happens to be my husband.

The “tell” of this movie is when father and daughter seem to come to an agreement to try to work things out.

Chelsea: I want to be your friend.
Norman: Oh. This mean you'll come around more often? Mean a lot to your mother.
Chelsea: I’ll come around more often.

In a nutshell, many old people are just isolated and lonely. And they help make themselves more so by lashing out at those around them. Not everyone has a dutiful Ethel to see the big picture and guide people through the immediate rough patches.

Norman is also obsessed with dying, of course. It’s a major theme of the film. And younger people can have the same obsession, so this isn’t necessarily about age. (And, honestly, I’m not really sure what it’s about.) As dislikable as Norman is most of the time (notwithstanding his “playful cantankerousness” being overly romanticized), he is a sympathetic character if only because he has the sympathies of a good woman such as Ethel. Without Ethel, there is zero chance of anyone vacationing on Golden Pond and coming out the better for it.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 17, 2018, 20:14
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More FilmStruck fare: A Matter of Life and Death.

Peter Carter (David Niven) jumps from his bomber after a raid over Germany. His plane is all shot up. The surviving crew parachuted out. Niven, as commander of the aircraft, is the last one aboard. There is no usable shoot remaining for him. Instead of burning and crashing, he decides to jump out of the plane.

Before doing so, he is in radio contract with ground control…an American girl (June). It’s a desperate conversation but filled with bravery and British understatement. In those few moments before Carter bails out of his aircraft, they bond deeply.

Cut to Carter waking up in the serf, apparently unharmed. There’s no earthly explanation for it. But there is a Celestial one. Carter had fallen through such a thick English fog that Heaven lost track of him and his death.

Carter meets up with June and their romance continues…until an official from Heaven informs Carter that he is due at the Pearly Gates. Carter objects. Surely his newfound love supersedes such considerations. And why should Heaven’s screwup effect him?

And then a sort of strange trial occurs to determine whether Carter can stay on earth with his new love or must proceed to the next realm where he belongs.

There are many aspects of this movie that are very well done, especially the depiction of the Heavenly realm, although his French intercessionary seems an odd choice. This is very light comedy but he seems over-the-top. Many aspects of this film seem a-kilter, although technically they are hitting most of the right cinematic notes. But just as there is a difference in hitting the keys in the correct order on a piano to play Mozart (something anyone could do), it’s another thing altogether to play the song.

And that’s what this movie feels like. It’s not cinematically played with all that much skill. What could have been a good film is merely lukewarm passable. There is almost no chemistry between the dull Kim Hunter (June) and Niven. The bizarre French guy I already mentioned. Clearly there is a bit of British dullness that is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Hollywood excess. This film might feel just right to a British audience.

The film switches from Technicolor to black and white, depending upon whether they are on earth (color) or Heaven (black and white), a choice that seem gratuitous and also backwards. But there is enough visual inventiveness to forgive some of the excesses.

And a trial that should have been about whether or not Carter’s love merited him staying on earth bogs down into a silly rivalry between Britain and the rest of the world (particularly America). This film often lost focus like this. And although this is a light comedy, it missed obvious opportunities to pull on the heartstrings.

This is the first draft of a movie that should have had at least three more drafts. It's a hodgepodge of elements, including a naked boy playing a flute while herding goats and a rooftop camera obscura for keeping an eye on the village. And how about a table tennis match between the doctor and June for no apparent reason other than adding length to the film? Still, it is unique enough and odd enough (and Niven enough) to be mostly watchable.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 17, 2018, 21:02
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I checked this out on wikipedia as usual, and found that it's very highly regarded in Britain. J. K. Rowling said it was her favorite movie and inspired certain scenes in the final volume of the Harry Potter series. But the French guy (an aristocratic guillotined during the French Revolution) was Carter's conductor to Heaven (who had missed him in the clouds). He was allowed to pick a defender from among those in Heaven, but couldn't think of any good choices until his brain surgeon suddenly died in a car accident, and he chose him (and obviously chose wisely). It mentioned the black-and-white Heaven, which was somewhat controversial, but didn't say why that was done.

It also mentions that one important aspect of the movie was to encourage better relations between the British and the Americans.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 09:01
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It also mentions that one important aspect of the movie was to encourage better relations between the British and the Americans.

Perhaps that explains some of the film’s odd content. One reviewer writes:

I thought it started out with an enormously promising idea and then, gradually, ran out of steam. At the end it got mired in an interminable discussion of both the friendship and the rivalry between England and the USA. Yes, yes, that makes a lot of sense : the dead spend their time hashing and re-hashing international relations, it's not as if they've got any other metaphysical idea or experience to consider. And of course all beings, living or dead, from any era since Creation are absolutely tortured by one crucial question : where do people make the best cup of tea, in England or the USA ?

Another reviewer wrote regarding the core problem of the film which is supposed to be about justifying to the Court of God that the love found between the pilot and girl was worth postponing death. Instead, as this fellow writes:

the idea ought have been to make the audience care about the pilot in love, about the pilot as lover, and instead we get table tennis and a summary of the hostility between the Yankees and the British

Indeed, that is what we got. But it’s such a bizarre mix of elements and ham-fisted storytelling that this film takes on a Rube Goldberg aspect. It’s a sometimes bizarre, disjointed kaleidoscope, but colorful nonetheless. Somewhat saved by its own goofiness, I suppose. But in the hands of someone with an eye toward both comedy and meaning, this could have been a gem.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 09:31
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I get the impression that they don't just include what we would call Heaven, but everyone in the afterlife, so they're free to keep their prejudices. The prosecutor was the first American killed in the Revolutionary War, and still resented the British. Apparently the first jury was packed with Brit-haters as well. At least they were replaced with a random assortment of contemporary Americans. Based on the plot summary, one scene I'd like to see is that June, when she testifies for Carter, is told that she will have to take his place -- and willingly does so. Logically, Carter should then offer to take her place, since the whole reason he justifies staying is their love affair. Fortunately, the stairway is quickly brought back to let her rejoin him.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 09:39
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The afterlife, as shown here, is certainly unconventional and even Pythonesque. What was strange was to have this movie sidetracked to a discussion of old rivalries between Britain and America. It made no sense. By all means, create a movie where this rivalry is, with tongue slighted planted in cheeks, given a Cosmic trial.

But this movie was supposed to be about whether Niven’s newfound love overided the laws of the universe. Instead, it was like watching the (awful, in my opinion) The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Some segments were good. Many were awful. But each could be judged independently, which is part of the problem of both movies, having a coherent story.

But many of the portrayals of heaven in the Niven movie were quite creative.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 10:05
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Since there apparently is a stairway leading to the final afterlife (though no doubt people can be brought back down as needed for purposes such as this trial), that probably isn't Heaven yet. Perhaps this has the theology of Heaven Can Wait (a remake of Here Comes Mr. Jordan, but I can't remember if the latter worked the same way), in which you initially go to a way-station until you take a flight to your final destination (which was never shown).

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 11:26
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One reviewer noted that he kept expecting a big Hollywood musical number to start dancing down those stairs.

One aspect of the film that was interesting but totally unrealized cinematically was who you would choose to defend you if you had everyone (living or dead) to choose from. Assuming all lawyers are not in hell (too bad there is so little humor in this film), I might choose Lincoln. Actually, Niven wanted to but then said "I wouldn't want to bother him." It occurred to me that this is just the kind of case that Lincoln would have loved and excelled at. One could have chose John Adams as well. Or William Jennings Bryan. Maybe Johnnie Cochran if he isn't already in hell.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 11:33
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Cochran wasn't dead yet, maybe not even born. Also available was Daniel Webster -- this sounds right up in his alley based on The Devil and Daniel Webster, in which he says he can persuade any American jury. Clarence Darrow was probably also available. And if everyone in the afterlife is available, being in Hell would be no obstacle (though whether you want a Hell-sent lawyer is another matter).

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Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: February 18, 2018, 11:52
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One would suspect the majority of the best defense lawyers are in hell, so I suppose we should include those and I did not see where the movie excluded them.

Still, I would choose Lincoln because he is Lincoln and I’d love to meet him. And, it’s said, he was a pretty fair lawyer. Certainly I would trust a closing argument to him.

If I had to choose a fictional lawyer, however, I might go with either Atticus Finch or Perry Mason. Denny Crane, however, might be the most entertaining. Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart in “Anatomy of a Murder”) would be a fair choice as well. I suppose Horace Rumpole is a logical choice but he still seems a bit dodgy to me. I would assume that a Heavenly jury would be more favorably impressed by a Lincoln.

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