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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 12, 2018, 21:17
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Until we get to the trial for murder of Vaughn's character.

I just finished The Young Philadelphians. I’ve never seen Robert Vaughn in such a stirring dramatic role as this. He was very good. It seems he was wasted playing the cool, suave, spy-about-town. His bio at IMDB says that it was his Oscar-nominated role in this movie that brought him to attention. Deservedly so.

I thought Newman’s character would turn quite darker than it ever did. The worst he did was steal that internship, helping a judge research and write a book about the Sherman Act. Other than that, he was hardly John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate as played by Al Pacino or Tom Hagen in The Godfather. (18 Sleazy Movie Lawyers.)

At the end, having found a way to do the right thing without dragging anyone under, he reconciles (again…won’t that be a tempestuous marriage?) with Barbara Rush noting that he learned something about himself. He learned that although he might have some disappointments regarding what the wanted to be, he found that he isn’t as bad a person as he thought he was. A pretty good line at the end to sum things up.

All in all, a tight movie that manages jumps in time very well and as smoothly as such things can probably be done. Overall, this is a good movie for adults made by adults. There are zero major flaws in this one. No shark-jumping.

And it was certainly hard to predict what this movie was going to be. I figured that Newman’s social-climbing mother would be central and basically turn this into a sort of Liz-and-Dick shout-a-thon. That never materialized. The mother mellowed out and let Newman run his own life. I really didn’t expect this movie ever to become a courtroom drama, but it’s a fairly brief one and established the evolving character of Newman. A solid all-around drama. Newman is likely about as good as he’s ever been in this, although I can’t say I’ve seen even half of his films. You never catch him acting. He’s completely immersed in his character.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 12, 2018, 22:01
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The book goes on further. Indeed, it starts that way. The book is basically about Lawrence making up his mind to run for DA (and then 4 years later for mayor), as his friend and actual father suggests, though his wife wouldn't be thrilled by the idea. (Incidentally, he was to run as a Republican.) So the point of the book is to look at his family background and personal life to show why his decision to run was inevitable.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 13, 2018, 08:40
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The book is basically about Lawrence making up his mind to run for DA (and then 4 years later for mayor),

In the movie, one of his school chums who he screws out of the internship with the judge works for the DA (and opposes Newman in the courtroom battle). He later thanks Newman for stealing that internship because it opened the door for him for other things.

Regarding politics, his father (Uncle Bill) and this same DA friend (I think) come to him and urge him to run for city council which they say would be the stepping stone to an upward career in politics. The implication being that he could then begin to do something noble with his talents. He says he’ll think about it. This is never resolved in the movie.

I’m not sure that being a politician is a nobler calling than being a lawyer. But then this is Philadelphia. They had Ben Franklin as a model. I’m not sure what the point of the movie is. That’s usually a death knell in terms of me liking it or not. I think I give it some points for not hammering the points home too hard. They could have gone all Upstairs/Downstairs and painted the upper classes as a bunch of inbred snobs and “the workers” as downtrodden bastions of noble poverty.

But nothing was that clear-cut in this. This was more to do with a conflict of personalities and direct interests….probably more like real life plays out than each person being a stand-in for an entire class or class struggle. I guess I appreciate that the movie showed a little restraint in hammering home these points. In the hands of modern film makers, I’m sure it would have been so obnoxious as to be unwatchable.

I watched about the first 20 minutes or so of The Prize. There’s a lot of setup work being done so it’s too early to say much about it. This has the general air of a British comedy or perhaps a Blake Edwards comedy. This is not as overtly silly as the Pink Panther films, but you do have this thread of drama and crime woven into a comedic backdrop. This is directed by Mark Robson who did “Von Ryan’s Express” and “The Bridges at Toko-Ri.”Incidentally, “Von Ryan’s Express” was his film directly after The Prize.

Speaking of Pink Panther, Elke Sommer was in “A Shot in the Dark,” listed by one source as her best movie with The Prize being #3. Her performances are never Oscar-worthy but she’s not hard on the eyes. She is ostensibly in charge of keeping Newman sober and on-time for his appointments and press conferences. Newman has one the Nobel Prize for literature. He’s interesting in that he’s been quoted as being critical of the prize and says he’s only there for the money.

There are schemes within schemes. Edward G. Robinson appears to be an impostor and is hatching some kind of plan even while the Commies are trying to recruit him for their cause. What a ranger of characters he played in his career.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 13, 2018, 09:43
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The novel The Philadelphian portrays the Philadelphia upper class sympathetically, contrasting them with the more snobbish Bostonians. The point is that this family has shown that they breed true, so Anthony Lawrence is an acceptable member (at least by marriage). This is what the matriarch set as her goal from the beginning, after a brief tryst as a maid with the scion of a wealthy family -- to get where that family was. They were her standard of comparison (and the Lawrences, in her mind, didn't qualify -- she thought it just as well that Anthony's actual father was a fellow bog Irishman).

You're just at the start of the intrigue in The Prize, with Craig suspecting that it seems there was a replacement of a laureate by someone else who looks like him. And that observation will drive the main plot of the movie.

Of course you prefer Von Ryan's Express with Frank Sinatra in a great role. But many of us will never forget the question at the end of The Bridges at Toko-Ri, which I think may have come up here before: "Where do we find such men?" The irony of the title is that the bridges prove to be such an easy target that they're sent to drop their remaining bombs at another, which is when their bomber gets fatally hit. A Shot in the Dark was the second Pink Panther movie, introducing Herbert Lom as the increasingly deranged Chief Inspector Dreyfus. His scene at the beginning -- arranging an assignation with a woman only to hear that his wife is on another line -- is a lovely play on the stereotype of the French.

Another interesting Peter Sellers comic caper is After the Fox, with Sellers as the title character -- a professional thief in "semi-retirement in Umbria" (i.e., in prison). He ends up trying to use the cover of making a movie to collect a stolen gold shipment. At his trial, they show the disjointed individual scenes he actually shot, making it obvious the movie was just a pretense. But then a critic rushes forward to praise the "film" effusively.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 13, 2018, 10:07
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The novel The Philadelphian portrays the Philadelphia upper class sympathetically, contrasting them with the more snobbish Bostonians. The point is that this family has shown that they breed true, so Anthony Lawrence is an acceptable member (at least by marriage). This is what the matriarch set as her goal from the beginning, after a brief tryst as a maid with the scion of a wealthy family -- to get where that family was. They were her standard of comparison (and the Lawrences, in her mind, didn't qualify -- she thought it just as well that Anthony's actual father was a fellow bog Irishman).

That’s all very interesting, and completely outside this movie. Early on, Newman’s mother was the harsh social-climber. But then the movie switched gears and it was Newman learning how to play the game.

Interesting that in the book even the Lawrences weren’t good enough for her. There’s not a lot of overt snobbery in this. This isn’t the story of the bastard-child Newman up against the establishment. He quickly becomes part of the establishment. There’s a rough theme floating about it regarding choosing between love and career. But this is never resolved. I guess that’s how strong the performances are by Newman, Rush, Vaughn, and even Uncle Bill. Each scene is interesting enough in itself and leads to the next. Grand overarching themes be damned.

I’ve certainly seen movies shatter themselves as they delay actually having an interesting scene as they build their grand themes. This one was sort of in the opposite direction. Oh, sure, you could lightly check off the list of “snob” and “choosing career over love” and “beware of being entrapped by your parents” but they are secondary to the drama of the individual lives. These are all more or less accepted as a backdrop. No one is overtly fighting this stuff.

I don’t think I’ve seen “After the Fox.” They do have Heavens Above!, a movie about “a minister accidentally appointed to a snobbish parish.” Sellers plays the minister. Might be worth a laugh or two. There appears to be a levered social statement creakily inserted as well. One reviewer writes:

The primary comment seems to be that modern times has gotten Christianity right, that its message is obsolete, that the govt has filled in for dwindling public charity because society has moved from giving to being provided for---to the extent that the tattered welfare state is continuing. The oft-castigated ending was aqdded to continue in this vein the idea that Christianity, which doesn't work on Earth any more, may work better in its only alternative left, outer space, by sending broadcasts down from the heavens. At least that's the message the Boultings seemed to have wanted us to get, tho few on this site have. Like those few films that try to deliver important stories but don't quite work, the effort was worth it.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 13, 2018, 10:40
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I checked out Heavens Above! on wikipedia, and it seems to be a satire of materialism and also dependency. The cast has some interesting quirks in it -- writers Malcolm Muggeridge (who came up with the idea) and Ludovic Kennedy, and Colin Gordon (who was the BBC announcer in The Mouse That Roared and played "the new #2" twice on The Prisoner -- including one of the best episodes, "A, B, and C"). Sellers is sent to the parish accidentally instead of another preacher of the same name, played by Ian Carmichael (later Lord Peter Wimsey in a series of stories on Masterpiece Theatre.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 14, 2018, 09:05
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Well, you win some and you lose some. The Prize turned out to be a stinker. It just went on and on without much of interest happening. What I do with a movie like this is first put it on life support. I’ll keep it running in the background while I surf the web on my tablet. If anything interesting happens, I can look up and perhaps get re-engaged. That never happend.

So I moved onto the 1963 Peter Sellers flick, Heavens Above! I had modest expectations for this film. Screwball British comedies that try to be funny, but aren’t, are a dime a dozen.

This one wasn’t a screwball comedy as much as it was a social satire that was occasionally funny. At this point in his career, it’s likely audiences were ready to laugh at a Sellers character no matter what. He puts on a wig, adopts a plastic persona of a mild-mannered preacher, and I’m sure British audiences were rolling in the aisles.

Sellers’ next film would be the reasonably good “The Wrong Arm of the Law,” followed by the movie and character that would define his career: “The Pink Panther.” This would be followed by the masterful “Dr. Strangelove” wherein Sellers really does flesh out three distinct characters and isn’t simply putting on a wig and getting cheap laughs from an easy audience.

In Heavens Above! Sellers tries to play a mild-mannered and Biblically authentic preacher more akin to Jesus than a tele-evangelist. He speaks softly but usually very bluntly. Upon being (accidentally) appointed to his current parish, Reverend John Smallwood makes the rounds and knocks on the doors of dozens of his parishioners just to get the lay of the land.

He’s confronted will indifference and all kinds of reasons that people don’t go to church although they assure him they are devout Christians (or why they aren't Christians). Having taken the lay of the land, Sellers in his first sermon says something like, “And I’ve found there aren’t enough real Christians in the parish to feed a lion.”

With the recent doings of the Catholic Church in mind, none of the satire seems at all exaggerated. The archdeacon who mistakenly appointed John Smallwood (Sellers) to this parish isn’t there to know that there has been a mixup (as Sellers notes, this was the first time he was ever accused of being a “clerical error”). He’s off in the Mediterranean on a bishop’s yacht. Upon his return he remarks to one of his bishop friends something like, “I was lying naked in the sun on the yacht when I realized that the rich have a much easier time living the authentic Christian life of simplicity.”

I probably just listed all of the overt laughs in the movie. Most is subtle satire that doesn’t rise to the level of a guffaw. Reviews at IMDB are mixed regarding what this movie's point it. Well, I would say an authentic Christian could watch this without being offended. After all, Sellers as Reverend Smallwood is sincerely trying to carry out the words of the bible. And the problems he runs into do not seem like a flaw in the bible as much as how impractical biblical ideas are in the face of human nature.

You would never see a movie made today where “the poor” are seen for what they often are: moochers, vagabonds, and vulgarians. When the good Reverend wins over a rich lady of the town, he’s able to implement a plan to give away food to the needy. Soon “the needy” are everyone who previously had been shopping at the local merchants. The local merchants are then all but forced to close up shop.

We see “the poor” arguing amongst themselves after having gotten their “free stuff” about who got too much, etc. In many ways, the movie is way ahead of its time because this is the exact reality that anyone faces when they give out “free stuff.” It is not gratitude that is engendered. And it is not simply "the poor" who are the recipients of charity.

After making these points, the movie doesn’t know what to do with itself. It tacks on a weird Reverend-in-space ending that makes sense only in the context of the frequent poverty of satire. If you skewer everything and everyone, you have nothing much left. So instead of trying to come to some conclusion, the reverend sneaks his way onto a spaceship being sent into space. The end. And, yes, that makes as little sense as it sounds.

Still, the movie was entertaining enough to stay with it. It was honest in the sense that, indeed, authentic Christianity is much too impractical to live out, at least on a society-wide basis. It’s easy to see how and why church hierarchies becomes so worldly. And what purpose is left for religion in the face of the welfare state (or even the pharmaceutical state which promises to alleviate every bad feeling)? But some of this you have to read in for yourself. The movie doesn’t have the depth or daring to try to come to any conclusion, thus the escape-hatch of Sellers-in-space. I think with a different actor playing the lead (or Sellers more fully fleshing out the character instead of playing him as a plastic dullard) would have helped. But there is a certain charm to his simple plasticity.

The problem that those writing satire often face is having something to say other than the unsaying or skewering of everything and everybody. Having little to no point-of-view, you’re left having eaten cardboard as a light snack. And much of the satire in this movie is in the various signage shown on screen. Most of it is of the intellectual and emotional level of a juvenile which prohibits this film from having much depth.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 14, 2018, 10:00
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Sorry you didn't like The Prize. Different people have different tastes, though they can overlap somewhat.

The wikipedia entry on Heavens Above! did mention the problem with the freebies, though it didn't go into detail on the matter. Nor did it describe the ending even as much as you did.

Good satire doesn't just skewer. It has some sort of point. Consider the scene in Bedazzled in which Spiggott (the devil) has Stanley Moon dancing around him and praising him as if Spiggott were God. After a short while Stanley wonders if they could trade places -- and Spiggott notes that he had the same thought.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 14, 2018, 10:18
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Good satire doesn't just skewer. It has some sort of point.

I agree. And I would say this movie has many points, all well made. What it failed to do was to provide a logical ending.

What surprised me was that the whole accidental switcheroo gimmick of the parish getting the wrong Smallwood is almost entirely immaterial to the film. I expected the Sellers reverend to be some screwball set against the “real” Smallwood who was a traditional, but safe choice, for this supposedly conservative parish.

They do bring in the other Smallwood later in the film in some scenes that really go nowhere. The switch is never played for much comedy.

But the social skewering, especially of “the poor,” is delicious. My favorite scene was when the son of the benefactor of Seller’s outreach mission (aka, handing out “free stuff”) comes home from a trip abroad. His mother, Lady Despard, owns 50% of the shares in a major pharmaceutical company which is the major money in the town and plans on expanding the factory there.

To get inside his stately columned mansion, he has to run a gauntlet of “homeless” people who have camped out on the front lawn and steps. And what a great costuming job they did for these bums. It’s hilarious. A nice touch.

According to the trivia section at IMDB, Sellers based his portrayal of the reverend on one of his teachers in a Catholic school. So maybe he’s created a true-to-life character. But it just comes off as a little flat and self-consciously acting.

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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: September 14, 2018, 12:28
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Sorry you didn't like The Prize. Different people have different tastes, though they can overlap somewhat.

I like the alcoholic writer character that Newman is playing. But his sidekick, Elke Sommer, is dull. And when they do actually have a bit of a plot going, what happens? It’s the old standby of a guy seeing a dead body in a room. He comes back with the cops and someone else is occupying the apartment claiming no knowledge of any body.

Maybe this plot device was fresh in 1940 but not by 1963. Then Newman follows a bad guy and ends up being pushed off a building into the water. He survives the dive but, oh no, a tugboat is coming right for him and it would appear it’s far too close to change course. Fast-forward to him in the back of a taxi with Elke with waterlogged clothes.

And that’s really the problem with the movie. When they do go out for a bit of air, it’s not followed through. We’re right back in the taxi. Why not show him being fished out of the water? There are some missed opportunities for Newman explaining to the captain how he got there wearing (I think) a tuxedo.

And there’s an exact (or near exact) double of Edward G. Robinson. Any interest in this plot line is drained away by his dull niece. I’ve read ahead so I know what this is about. But the only scheme brewing that holds any interest for me (and is sort of funny as well) is Kevin McCarthy trying to expose the man he’s sharing his Nobel with as a fraud. There’s a press conference with both of them at the start of this that was very good. Too bad things got watered down with these other plot lines that have little interest.

There was even some good comedy brewing about the husband and wife being forced back together for appearances sake as he (or both of them) accept the Nobel. But, again, this gets watered down in endless taxi rides, dull scenes including Elke, and just not having much of a point.

Comedy is about timing and this is just too drawn out and unfocused. I wanted to like it but it wouldn't let me.

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