Blog Directory CineVerse

"The horror...the horror..." continued

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Make plans to attend CineVerse on August 21, when we'll conclude “Apocalypse Now” (part two; 26 minutes). Plus: We'll watch and discuss “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse” (1991; 96 minutes), directed by Eleanor Coppola, et al., a fascinating documentary on the making of “Apocalypse Now."

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Further proof why Francis Ford Coppola was king of 1970s cinema

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cineversary comes back to CineVerse on August 14, the night we honor the 40th anniversary of “Apocalypse Now” (1979; 170 minutes), directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Note: Tonight, we will be watching part 1 of “Apocalypse Now Redux,” a longer cut of the film, to conclude next week.

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No CineVerse meeting on August 7

Sunday, August 4, 2019

CineVerse will not meet on August 7. Your friendly neighborhood moderator will return on August 14 refreshed from summer vacation.

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The "Knight" is darkest just before the dawn

Friday, August 2, 2019

Often, the middle chapter of a movie trilogy is the darkest, taking audiences to grim, ominous and dreary places where the characters they fell in love with in the first installment are at greater risk in a more dangerous environment. This tonal shift is evident in middle chapters of memorable genre film series; consider "The Empire Strikes Back," "Godfather Part II," "The Two Towers," "Back to the Future Part II," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," and "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." And it's certainly true in "The Dark Knight," Christopher Nolan's follow-up to "Batman Begins" and predecessor to "The Dark Knight Rises." There's a heck of a lot going on in this picture beyond the non-stop action. CineVerse took a trip down to the Batcave last night to try to unravel some of the mysteries behind the 2008 blockbuster. Here's what we arrived at:


How did The Dark Knight change expectations for what a superhero action movie can be?

  • The film adopts a dark, pessimistic, and even tragic tone that can make viewers feel uneasy and uncertain. Typically, superhero films follow a standard pattern: good conquers evil, with some serious challenges and sacrifices along the way. Here, although Batman survives, some of his friends do not, and deep moral questions are asked about good and evil, morality, and the unpredictable nature of human beings. This is a dangerous world our characters inhabit, and anything seems possible, even an unhappy ending.
  • The movie asks deeper existential questions about identity, whether Batman is the good guy or bad guy in his own tale, if redemption is possible, how to live with the consequences of your decisions, and when it’s appropriate to take one for the team and play the martyr.
  • This Joker, as personified by Health Ledger, is a complete reinvention of the character, one who seems to have no decided purpose or ambition other than to sow discord and chaos in a random fashion and to present moral quandaries for his enemies. This Joker is not a cartoonish imp with funny lines or scenery-chewing dialogue like the one played by Jack Nicholson or Caesar Romero.
  • The screenplay and characters are quite complex for a film about a comic book hero. The main plot, subplots, twists, and character arcs are not what you’d expect from a Batman movie.
  • The fights, chases, explosions, weapons, and derring-do do not overshadow the main story or its characters. But when there is action, it’s a cut above the ordinary, thanks to solid direction and top-notch special effects.

Themes examined in The Dark Knight

  • Dual identities: Bruce Wayne and Batman, Harvey Dent and Two-Face, the Joker and the abused boy who became him.
  • Becoming more mask than man: The man behind the mask is more Batman than Bruce Wayne, and the death of Rachel makes it easier for him to choose what he believes is his real identity—that of Batman. By the end of the film, we come to believe, as does Bruce, that being Bruce Wayne is more akin to wearing a mask.
  • Order vs. chaos: Batman strives to preserve the former; the Jokes is an agent of the latter.
  • Morality vs. random chance. Batman personifies the former; Two-Face stands for the latter. “The only morality in a cruel world is chance,” he says. Recall, also, how the Joker says “people are only as good as the world allows them to be.”
  • The power of symbols: Bruce and the superhero he embodies are fallible, mortal and corruptible. But the idea and symbol of Batman as, ideally, a force for good, is more powerful. Likewise, Harvey Dent the man is imperfect and, ultimately, flawed; but the white knight district attorney he represented stood as a powerful agent of justice and hope.
  • The dark and unpredictable nature of human beings. The Joker stands as an impulsive, erratic, and capricious agent of evil; it’s virtually impossible to guess his next move. Many also didn’t see Dent’s change of nature coming—his transformation from do-gooder to villain. And the Joker forces two boatloads of citizens to choose whether to be martyrs or survivors, forcing everyday people to make difficult moral decisions and confront dark sides to their natures.
  • Making sacrifices and reaping the consequences of your choices.

Other similar films

  • Batman and Batman Returns by Tim Burton
  • James Bond films, especially Skyfall
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • War for the Planet of the Apes

Oher films directed by Christopher Nolan

  • Memento
  • Insomnia
  • Batman Begins
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Inception
  • Interstellar
  • Dunkirk

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Can't see the "Forrest" for the Royale with cheese

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Looking back, 1994 was a stellar year for film. Consider some of the best flicks from 25 years ago, including "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Lion King," "Quiz Show," "Hoop Dreams," and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." But film fans often argue that the heavyweights that year were "Pulp Fiction" and "Forrest Gump." The latter earned Oscar gold in the form of the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards. But the former is regarded by many critics and cinephiles as easily the best movie of 1994--and possibly the 1990s.

Writer Adam Nayman just wrote a fantastic essay on this topic, one that makes a solid case for why "Pulp Fiction" is the much better film--one that changed cinema forever. I highly recommend this read, available here.

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Batman at his best

Sunday, July 28, 2019

It's been hailed as the greatest superhero movie ever made. You be the judge by attending CineVerse on July 31 for “The Dark Knight” (2008; 153 minutes), directed by Christopher Nolan, chosen by Nick Guiffre.

Note: Due to the long runtime of this movie, CineVerse will start 15 minutes earlier, at 6:45 p.m.

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Remembering the whole "Affair"

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Calling "An Affair to Remember" a weepy chick flick does a disservice to a more than serviceable romantic comedy that also happens to be a tearjerker. That's because this picture can arguably appeal to male viewers just as much as female watchers, thanks in large part to a balanced point of view established between the two romantic leads, the spot-on casting of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and a steady hand steering the ship in the form of director Leo McCarey. These were among the takeaways from our CineVerse discussion last evening. Other points covered include the following:

What did you find surprising, different or curiously satisfying about An Affair to Remember?

  • This was made by a director known for making audiences laugh, helming several classic comedies. McCarey, who was known for his long two-shot takes and “idiosyncratic, often spontaneous performances,” per critic Emanuel Levy, displays a deft hand at balancing the right lighthearted and bittersweet tones in this film.
    • “McCarey doesn't go for any of the obvious tricks in bringing his lovers together, instead he exercises tremendous restraint. The whole of An Affair to Remember has an air of calm, and in that calm, McCarey is able to foment feelings of desire, longing, and eventually sadness just by letting the actors be themselves. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr reportedly improvised a lot of their dialogue in the courtship scenes, and it shows. At times, they seem genuinely surprised at the things that come out of each other's mouth, and the natural interchange between the two makes for honest romantic yearning,” wrote film reviewer Jamie S. Rich.
    • The ending is romantic and satisfying, but it’s also tinged with both sadness and sentimentality. According to Slant reviewer John Lingan: “only a person intent on being fed fairy tales would interpret the ending of McCarey’s film as purely glorious or decisively final. Instead, it’s a bittersweet moment: Two people who changed cataclysmically while together, then painfully while apart, are finally reacquainted and given a rare second chance at a relationship. Terry starts the film as a vibrant girl with a potentially disastrous future, yet she ends it bedridden and profoundly happy. McCarey’s brilliance, and his films’ indelible effect, stem from his recognition that true love is a cousin of wisdom. It’s not a peak that you reach; it’s a series of experiences that help make you a better person.”
  • Despite the fact that there are several implausibilities in the story, the heightened melodramatic moments and infectious credibility of the romance arguably make viewers look past any plot holes and far-fetched elements.
  • The production values are lavish and lasting. This film was shot in CinemaScope using DeLuxe Color, meaning we get a very colorful and lush widescreen film—fitting, considering that the 1950s was known for introducing new widescreen techniques like VistaVision and Cinerama and abandoning black and white for color.
  • Stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr convey great chemistry and plausibility as romantic love interests. Note that they were allowed to improv some of their lines together, which made their rapport and onscreen romance more believable. This was also not their first or last pairing—they also teamed up for Dream Wife (1953) and The Grass is Greener (1960).
  • There’s a lot more music and singing in this film than you’d expect; in fact, the movie features four songs, including the titular theme that was a giant hit for Vic Damone.

Themes found in An Affair to Remember

  • The unpredictability and precarious nature of love
  • Good timing is everything in a relationship
  • The repercussions of ignoring your romantic feelings for another
  • Unconditional love and making sacrifices for the greater good
  • Love can happen at any stage of life—even your later years

Other motion pictures this movie makes you think of:

  • Brief Encounter
  • Love Affair, the original this was remade from, also directed by McCarey
  • Love Affair, a 1994 remake
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • The Shop Around the Corner
  • ‘Til We Meet Again (1940)
  • Mann, a 1999 Bollywood film

Other films directed by Leo McCarey

  • Duck Soup
  • Ruggles of Red Gap
  • The Awful Truth
  • Make Way for Tomorrow
  • Going My Way
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • Various shorts featuring Our Gang and several Laurel and Hardy films

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The story of right hand-left hand--30 years later

Monday, July 22, 2019

For episode #13 of the Cineversary podcast, host Erik Martin welcomes Monica White Ndounou, associate professor of theater at Dartmouth College, to discuss Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” which celebrates a 30th birthday this month. Erik and Monica examine why the movie is worth celebrating three decades later, its cultural impact and legacy, what we can learn from the picture today, how it has (and hasn't) stood the test of time, and more.

To listen to this episode, click the "play button" on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download or subscribe to the Cineversary podcast using Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Anchor, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Google Play Music, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at tinyurl.com/cineversarypodcast and email show comments or suggestions to cineversegroup@gmail.com.

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Cary + Kerr = fireworks long after July 4

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Romance is in the air at CineVerse on July 24, when we'll spotlight “An Affair to Remember” (1957; 115 minutes), directed by Leo McCarey, chosen by Danealle Kueltzo.

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