Blog Directory CineVerse: April 2011

Sir Laurence's finest hour?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Between 1944 and 1955, Laurence Olivier directed and starred in a trilogy of exceptional British films adapted from the works of Shakespeare: Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), and Richard III (1955). CineVerse invites you to experience the latter on Wednesday, April 27. And be prepared to be impressed.

Note: Because this film runs 161 minutes, our April 27 meeting will run from 6:45 p.m. until 10:15 p.m.--a half hour longer than normal to fit in enough time for discussion. Please try not to be late, as we will start the film promptly around 6:45 p.m.


Pocast blast from the past: 3 classics from Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

About this time 2 years ago, CineVerse explored the works of the 3 great geniuses of silent comedy: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

To learn more about what made these artists and their efforts so memorable, click here to listen to a podcast recording of that evening's vibrant group discussion.


Swan song for The Duke

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You could make a case that John Wayne was the single most iconic movie star of the American cinema, considering his prolific and memorable appearances in countless classic westerns as the tough, grizzled, complex cowboy/sherrif/frontiersman protagonist. Love him or loathe him, he certainly made a strong impression. On Wednesday, April 20, CineVerse will screen The Duke's final entry in a spectacular filmography, The Shootist, co-starring James Stewart.


Rediscovering Brigadoon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

by Erik J. Martin

Judged against the time-tested conventions of classic cinema, Brigadoon (1954) is a film that should not work.

For starters, instead of being shot on the lush, atmospheric moors of the Scottish Highlands, as its primarily outdoor setting begs for, MGM decided to film on an immense soundstage to save money and ensure more controlled conditions (Scotland’s rainy climate was feared too unpredictable). To fully grasp the magnitude of this Hollywood hubris, imagine for a moment if The Sound of Music were not shot on location in picturesque Salzburg and Bavaria as it was, but filmed within the confines of a stage with painted backdrops, fiberglass trees and synthetic floors meant to resemble cobblestone streets.

Secondly, Brigadoon suffers in two technical areas: aspect ratio and color processing. MGM unwisely chose to employ anamorphic widescreen (via 20th Century Fox’s overhyped CinemaScope, which created a 2.55:1 frame), which would otherwise be ideal for an al fresco epic romantic musical. And instead of filming in the complex but chromatically vivid three-strip Technicolor process (which yielded so many timeless MGM masterpieces, from Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz to Singin’ in the Rain), the studio opted for Ansco, a more economical one-strip color film alternative.

Lastly, among MGM’s own prior musical filmography, we’ve seen funnier sidekicks before (witness Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain), more inspired and innovative dancing (An American in Paris) and better screenplays with a more believable love story (Meet Me in St. Louis).

Yet, despite all these shortcomings, Brigadoon holds together as a memorable bit of movie confection on the sheer strength of two undeniable ingredients: the too-talented-to-fail Gene Kelly and the undeniably hummable ditties of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, who penned this musical originally for Broadway.

As in virtually ever movie he’s graced, Kelly makes the viewer believe in a notion as hokey as love at first sight. It’s more than the sinuous dance moves and lovestruck acrobatics he displays—there’s something indescribably potent about the head-over-heels glimmer in his eyes when he’s smitten by a lass as luscious as Fiona, portrayed here by the pretty-as-a-picture but obviously overdubbed Cyd Charisse.

Couple Kelly’s infectious charm with Brigadoon’s relatively solid song cycle—including “Almost Like Being in Love,” “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” and “Waitin’ for My Dearie”—and it’s more than enough to transcend the plot holes and artificial sets. You could also do worse than have a skipper in the wheelhouse as polished as Vincente Minnelli (known for directing Gigi, The Band Wagon, An American in Paris and Meet Me in St. Louis).


"Hand Held" doc a hit at St. Xavier

Monday, April 11, 2011

CineVerse moderator Erik Martin attended the Chicagoland premiere of Hand Held, a new documentary by acclaimed Disney producer Don Hahn, which tells the story of a photojournalist's mission to help thousands of sick and neglected orphans in Romania over the last 21 years.

Martin also had a chance to interview the director and star of the movie.

To read his article, published in, click here.


Explore the Civil War 150 years later...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. No better documentary captures the history and the gravitas of that major event than Ken Burns' phenomenal documentary series The Civil War. CineVerse will spotlight episode 1 of the groundbreaking documentary on Wednesday, April 13.


Worth a rental: Killer of Sheep

Thursday, April 7, 2011

by Erik J. Martin

If you’re looking for a picture that’s a complete 180 from MGM fantasyland, Killer of Sheep (1977, directed by Charles Burnett) is a well-spent if all-too-brief 83 minutes. Here we have a warts-and-all, cinema verite style depiction of African American life in the Watts district of L.A. during the seventies. But that one-sentence description doesn’t begin to capture what you’re bound to experience in this hauntingly beautiful movie.

Expect less of a Boyz In the Hood flavored tale than a Rome: Open City-type study of real people in slice-of-life urban situations, evidently influenced by Italian neo-realism filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica. The main character is Stan, a slaughterhouse employee suffering from existential angst and social disconnection in a mundane, predictable world. This isn’t your conventional narrative with a straightforward plot and series of rising and falling actions built around classic dramatic conflict. Killer of Sheep is more a series of loosely threaded episodes that coalesce to form a skillfully rendered, emotionally expansive impression of an imperfect life among a richly textured culture.

Actually, the fact that you can view this milestone of independent cinema today is something of a minor miracle, considering it was shot for less than $10,000 in the early 1970s and couldn’t be released when it was completed in 1977 because the rights to the music used in the feature weren’t cleared at the time. Thankfully, this fascinating period piece still packs an emotional wallop and hasn’t dated on the viewer impact scale, despite being shelved for 30 years.

Killer of Sheep is definitely worth a rental (it's available on Netflix or at many public libraries) if not a purchase (you can get it through


Experience a bit of August in April

Sunday, April 3, 2011

They say music is the language of the soul--and it's a heck of a good subject matter for a movie, too. Join CineVerse on Wednesday, April 6 for August Rush and find out why.


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