Blog Directory CineVerse

A bit of cinematic hocus-pocus from The Netherlands

Sunday, July 14, 2019

World Cinema Wednesday makes a comeback at CineVerse on July 17, when we'll feature a film from The Netherlands: “The Vanishing (Spoorloos)” (1988; 106 minutes), directed by George Sluizer, chosen by Janet Pierucci.

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Do the right thing: Attend CineVerse on July 10

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Once a month in 2019, CineVerse will celebrate a milestone anniversary of a cinematic classic with a special Q&A discussion format unique to our Cineversary series. On July 10, we'll celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Do the Right Thing” (1989; 120 minutes), directed by Spike Lee.

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Star spangled Cagney

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Want to feel good about your country on Independence Day? Watch "Yankee Doodle Dandy," arguably the most patriotic film ever released by Hollywood, and an important piece of wartime propaganda to boost morale at home in 1942. Ranked #98 on the American Film Institute's list of top 100 movies, this gem never fails to entertain. We discussed the reasons why last night at CineVerse. Here's a summary of that discussion:

What emerges as different, distinctive, or surprising after watching Yankee Doodle Dandy?

  • James Cagney steals the show in unexpected fashion. Here’s an actor so typecast as Grade A gangster that it’s a revelation to see that he’s multitalented; viewers then and now were and are probably surprised to discover that he can dance and sing. He may not croon as well as Crosby or hoof it as majestically as Astaire (who turned down this role), but he has an energetic dynamism in his dance moves that absolutely rivet our attention. Roger Ebert wrote that “he was such a good actor he could fake it.” Cagney is so invested in this role, and his sheer force of will and enthusiasm command us to keep watching and enjoying.
  • It’s a biopic without much serious conflict or high dramatic tension. This is built to be a feel-good flick that entertains as its first and foremost goal; Yes, George M. Cohan suffers some setbacks along his journey—like getting fired and the death of his father. But the film is imbued with such sheer joy and exuberance, primarily thanks to Cagney’s ebullient performance, that it’s virtually impossible not to feel uplifted and amused.
    • Blogger Tim Brayton wrote: “There's not a cynical bone to be found anywhere in Yankee Doodle Dandy, but there's quite a lot of clear-eyed, unsentimental appreciation for the desperate work done by desperate people to drive the entertainment industry, and that tends to help the gloppy sentimental passages go down easier… as much as it's unmistakably a tribute to the most idealistic version of the United States as a glowing symbol of democracy and prosperity, Yankee Doodle Dandy is maybe even more a tribute to the cutthroat fearlessness of America's vaudeville tradition, positioning the Four Cohans as the best kind of troupers, endlessly plying their trade in crap theaters across the continent according to a robust, unwritten code of ethics.”
  • The songs are familiar and memorable. Cohan really did write some all-time classic numbers that have become embedded in the American fabric—likely more songs than you knew were created by this one man.
Themes crafted into Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Patriotism: Cohan wrote many songs that have become flag-waving standards meant to inspire Americans in the early part of the 20th century and beyond. His personal story and the lyrics and spirit of his songs capture the essence of American pride and exceptionalism.
  • Success and the American dream: Cohan stands as the perfect embodiment of the American ethos and recipient of the land of opportunity; his is an inspiring story to others about how a hard-working and creative American can help make his country great and vice versa.
  • Strong family values. We see how the Cohan family worked so diligently and often performed best as a well-oiled collective unit. We are shown how George honors, respects and adores his parents and sister, and vice versa.
  • The power of the movies to motivate. Alongside Sergeant York, Casablanca, and a handful of others films released during World War II, this picture roused audiences to support our country in wartime and boosted morale.
Similar films that come to mind
  • The Glenn Miller Story
  • Words and Music (about the songwriting team of Rogers and Hart)
  • Night and Day (about Cole Porter)
  • The Great Ziegfeld (about the famous theater producer)
  • Rhapsody in Blue (about George Gershwin)
Other movies by director Michael Curtiz
  • The Mystery of the Wax Museum
  • Captain Blood
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Angels With Dirty Faces
  • The Sea Hawk
  • Casablanca
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Life With Father
  • White Christmas

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One dandy of a film just before the 4th

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Don't miss CineVerse on July 3: We'll celebrate Independence Day a day early with “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942; 126 minutes), directed by Michael Curtiz, chosen by Jim Doherty.

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Adventure and romance in Africa -- Hollywood style

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Now 68 years old, "The African Queen" is a vessel that shows its age yet still maintains fine form while demonstrating impressive resiliency and strength--thanks in large part to the powerhouse casting of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Our CineVerse group discussed this John Huston-helmed classic last night and drew these conclusions:

What makes this film memorable and a cut above? What elements particularly shine?
  • It’s shot on location in the Belgian Congo, adding to the realism; in 1951, it was extremely rare not to recreate exotic locales within the studio or on a lot. Here, the filmmakers actually travel to Africa and risk the cast and crews to many perils, including stampeding elephants and waterborne illness.
  • The tramp steamer itself and the natural environment become crucial and colorful characters in the film.
  • The film ticks many genre and subgenre boxes: romance, action/adventure, war film, and drama.
  • Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie Allnut continues the Huston tradition of using anti-heroes as one of the main protagonists; consider how Bogart and Huston bring many other anti-heroes to life in films like The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Key Largo. Allnut’s gruff personality, penchant for booze and smokes, and overall griminess make him a classic anti-hero, although he evolves into a more classic hero/good guy as the movie progresses.
  • The filmmakers used Technicolor cameras, which were difficult to haul and position on a remote shoot on the water; hence, the cameras had to show closer and closer shots of Charlie and Rose—establishing an intimacy with the audience.
  • Bogart and Hepburn represent a colossal coup of casting—two superstars never before paired together—that works wondrously. We believe in their characters’ unexpected romance, one of the greatest in the classic Hollywood era.
  • “Great movie romances aren’t easy to accomplish, and the best ones tend to think outside of the box. Here we have two relatively older people from opposite walks of life falling for each other in a surprisingly short amount of time. It shouldn’t work, but it does. And as time goes on, The African Queen’s many breaks from typical romances only make it seem more modern and fresh,” wrote movie blogger Evan Saathoff.
Themes prevalent in The African Queen
  • Humanism vs. divine intervention. Charlie and Rose demonstrate the amazing capacity for human beings to rise above their flaws and challenges, be resourceful (such as making torpedoes out of spare parts) and solve problems, and draw from inner strengths, yet some of the ways they escape incredible danger seem to almost be deus ex machina-like (such as avoiding death on the rapids, getting unstuck from the mud and weeds, not being hanged or blown up when the torpedoes sink the Louisa, etc.).
  • Nature versus man. Set in an exotic and dangerous locale, with elements, animals and the natural environment representing significant threats to survival, Charlie and Rose have the odds stacked against them. And yet, they are able to hold their own against nature but nearly succumb to the threat posed by other human beings (the Germans).
  • Opposites attract. Charlie is a gritty, worldly man with lots of doubts and pessimism as well as vices (smoking and drinking); Rose is a prim, proper woman of stout religious beliefs whose optimism and determination help them survive and fulfill their mission.
  • True love conquers all. If this sounds like a sappy convention from classic Hollywood movies, it’s because it is; this is a classic Hollywood movie that makes you believe in the power of true love and its ability to overcome obstacles.
  • The doomed quest. As in many films by John Huston (including Moby Dick, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Man Who Would Be King), our protagonists are on a bit of a suicide mission—or at least think they are.
Movies similar to The African Queen
  • Jean Renoir’s The River (also from 1951)
  • Heaven Knows, Mr. Alison
  • Rooster Cogburn
  • Australia
  • White Hunter, Black Heart
  • Apocalypse Now (much of the story also takes place on smaller ship)
  • The Empire Strikes Back
Other films directed by John Huston 
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Key Largo
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • The African Queen
  • Moby Dick
  • The Misfits
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • The Dead

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Queen for a day

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Circle June 26 on your calendar; that's the date “The African Queen” docks at CineVerse (1951; 105 minutes), directed by John Huston, chosen by Ken Demske.

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Born to be wild about podcasts

In episode #12 of the Cineversary podcast, host Erik Martin is joined by Barna Donovan, professor of communications and media studies at Saint Peter's, the Jesuit College of New Jersey; together, they take a cosmic trip (minus the hallucinogenics) back to 1969 and celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Easy Rider." Erik and Barna examine why the movie is worth celebrating five 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, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/cineversarypodcast, and email show comments or suggestions to cineversegroup@gmail.com. 

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Summertime fun at CineVerse

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The next two months promise thrills, nostalgia, comedy, gripping combat action, and romance at CineVerse, as evidenced by the variety of movies scheduled for July and August.

To view the complete July-August 2019 calendar, click here.

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The old man and the see (it before you die)

If you were only given six to 12 months to live, how would you spend your remaining time? If you're Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, you live it up to the hilt and cross as many things off your bucket list as you can. And that's basically the plot of Rob Reiner's "The Bucket List," which serves as a comedy, drama, road movie, adventure film (of sorts), buddy picture, and philosophical feature all in one. We broke down the film last night at CineVerse and came away with these ideas:

What are this film’s strongest attributes, including elements that may have surprised you?

  • The acting chops and irresistible charisma of Jack Nicholson is fully evident. Even if you didn’t care for this film, it’s hard not to admire Jack and what he brings to the role.
    • You could make a case that Jack is simply playing Jack here: a fabulously rich man who’s had his share of fun and who enjoys living alone yet wants to continue having expensive fun.
  • The camaraderie and chemistry between Nicholson and Morgan Freeman stands out; here are two senior-aged A-list actors who command respect, gravitas and attention and who play off each other nicely.
  • The exotic locales, toys and trips are memorable. This film serves as a wish fulfillment vehicle for viewers who may never get to see or do the things these two older gentlemen experience. We can live vicariously through these characters and, even if we don’t share a terminal illness, can learn a valuable lesson about living life to the fullest.
    • Interestingly, the “bucket list” experiences and vignettes only constitute about a third of the film; the trailer and marketing campaign had many believing that this was going to be a nonstop road picture, sort of a fun action/adventure thrill ride for senior citizens. It is for a while, but not the majority of the movie, which is reserved instead for character development, poignancy and smaller details.
  • The ending, arguably, wraps up nicely and bookends the movie similarly to how it began.
Themes built into The Bucket List
  • You can’t take it with you, so enjoy life and treat yourself now.
  • It’s the little things in life that often mean the most.
  • Coming to grips with one’s own mortality and limitations.
  • Refusing to be defined or constrained by illness or physical limitations.
  • Opposites attract; consider how different Edward and Carter are racially, economically, and otherwise. The latter is married, the former is single, too.
  • Good friendships are priceless.
Other films that The Bucket List brings to mind:
  • Going In Style
  • The Intouchables
  • Last Vegas
  • Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
  • The Magic of Belle Isle
  • 50/50
  • Patch Adams
  • About Schmidt
  • As Good As It Gets
  • Gran Torino
Other films directed by Rob Reiner:
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Stand By Me
  • The Princess Bride
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Misery
  • A Few Good Men

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