Ms. Bryan - 2014-15


Film Study II - The Movies We Watch


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Based on Larry McMurtry's novel Horseman, Pass By, Hud (1963) is the story of the Bannon family of Texas. It stars Paul Newman as Hud, a young man who believes in nothing but his own pleasure and gaining control of his father's (Melvyn Douglas) ranch. Brilliantly filmed in black and white, Hud effectively conveys the emptiness of both the Texas landscape and of Hud's existence.
This World War II flick is quite different from The Best Years of Our Lives. In The Dirty Dozen (1967), Lee Marvin attempts to turn a dozen violent, lawless military men into an efficient fighting group whose job it is to take over an estate frequented by high-ranking Nazi officers on the eve of the D-Day invasion. The film costars Charles Bronson, John Cassavettes, Jim Brown, and Telly Savalas, among others. There's plenty of action and humor.
The final entry among our WWII films, Father Goose (1964) features Cary Grant in a role he purposely chose so that he could play against his standard debonair characters. Costarring Leslie Caron and a bunch of school girls, Father Goose pits The Filthy Beast (Grant) against Goody Two Shoes (Caron) in a battle of the sexes. The laughs are many but are juxtaposed against the tensions of WWII in the South Pacific.
The ninth and final pairing of real-life partners Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) was a ground-breaking film for its time, focusing on the relationship between an African-American man, brilliantly played by Sidney Poitier, and a white woman, played by Hepburn's niece, Katharine Houghton. This is a heartwarming, life-affirming film that includes excellent supporting performances by Cecil Kellaway, Beah Richards, and Isabel Sanford.
What can you say about Hitchcock's best known film, Psycho (1960). What you may not realize is that Hitchcock himself considered the film something of a comedy. Not only did he use his TV crew to produce this masterpiece for under $1 million, but Psycho also features the first shot of a flushing toilet in an American film. Oh, and there's a little excitement created by a shower scene.
"Where were you in '62?" American Graffiti (1972) may not be long on plot, but it features a fascinating ensemble of teenage characters, a lot of hot cars, and some great music. Starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford and Cindy Williams, American Graffiti will give you a slice of adolescent life from the early 1960s. In fact, the film gave birth to the TV series Happy Days. Be on the lookout for Suzanne Somers as the mysterious blond in the white Thunderbird. Wolfman Jack also plays a prominent role in the film.
Who doesn't know the story of Rocky (1976)? In case there is someone out there who doesn't, Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, a talented but underachieving boxer from Philadelphia who boxes when he can and works as a leg breaker for the mob to make ends meet. Out of the blue, Rocky gets a shot at the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Along the way, he falls in love with Adrian (Talia Shire). Burgess Meredith is wonderful as Rocky's crusty, cantankerous manager, Mickey.
Making Jaws (1975) was nothing but a headache for Steven Spielberg. In fact, the shark would have appeared earlier in the film, but the technicians couldn't get the darned thing to work right. In the end, though, Jaws was finished and has become a classic. Featuring the magic of Spielberg and unforgettable lines like "You're gonna need a bigger boat," Jaws is based on a novel by Peter Benchley, who plays a reporter on the beach in the film. By the way, none of the sequels were directed by Spielberg.
Combining live action and animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) is a ground-breaking film and one that kids will probably remember from their childhood. Detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) hates Toons because he believes a Toon killed his brother. Once he's hired to investigate Jessica Rabbit, a knockout Toon, though, he is forced to spend time in their company, especially that of Roger Rabbit. The laughs are almost constant. Christopher Lloyd is especially scary as Judge Doom. Kathleen Turner provides the speaking voice of Jessica Rabbit while Amy Irving provides her singing voice.
Desperate for an acting job, Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) dons a lot of makeup, a wig, and women's clothing to land the part of a hospital administrator in a daytime soap opera. Life becomes complicated for Michael/Dorothy when s/he begins to fall for Julie (Jessica Lange), who plays a nurse on the same show. While Tootsie (1982) offers lots of laughs, it has its serious moments, too. In fact, Dustin Hoffman was so moved by the way people treated him when he was a woman that he said, "For me, this was never a comedy." Tootsie also features Dabney Colman, Teri Garr, and Bill Murray.
On Golden Pond (1981) garnered Best Actor Oscars for both Katharine Hepburn (her fourth) and Henry Fonda (his first). Working together for the very first time in their long and respected careers, Fonda and Hepburn play long-married couple Norman and Ethel Thayer. They are spending possibly their last summer together in their summer cabin on Golden Pond. As Norman struggles with his failing health and approaching death, Ethel searches for ways to help him. Adding humor and complications to the plot are their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) and Chelsea's new stepson, Billy (Scott McKeon).
In Contact (1997), Dr. Eleanor Arroway has spent her life searching for truth in the study of radio astronomy. Palmer Joss has spent his searching for truth through faith in God. When Ellie discovers a stunning message from an extraterrestrial intelligence, they and everyone on Earth will be forced to challenge their own assumptions. In the inevitable first contact, will humankind be able to find a compromise between science and belief?
David, single, lonely and not happy with his life, flees reality by watching Pleasantville - a 1950's b&w soap opera, where everything is just that... pleasant. His sister Jennifer, sexually far more active than her brother, gets in a fight with him about a very strange remote control. The remote was given to them just seconds after the TV broke, by an equally strange repair man. They suddenly find themselves in Pleasantville, as Bud and Mary-Sue Parker, completely assimilated and therefore black and white, in clothes a little different and with new parents... pleasant ones. David wants to get out of the situation as well as his sister, but whereas he tries to blend in (effortlessly, with his knowledge), she does whatever she wants to do. One event leads to the other, and suddenly there is a red rose growing in Pleasantville. The more rules are broken, the more colorful life gets in Pleasantville, USA
Disenchanted with the daily drudge of crushing rocks on a prison farm in Mississippi, the dapper, silver-tongued Ulysses Everett McGill busts loose. Except he's still shackled to his two chain-mates from the chain gang -- bad-tempered Pete and sweet, dimwitted Delmar. With nothing to lose and buried loot to regain -- before it's lost forever in a flood -- the three embark on the adventure of a lifetime in this hilarious offbeat road picture. Populated with strange characters, including a blind prophet, sexy sirens and a one-eyed Bible salesman, O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000) is an odyssey filled with chases, close calls, near misses and betrayal that will leave you laughing at every outrageous and surprising twist and turn.