Blog Directory CineVerse: July 2011

Do you feel lucky?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Punks need not apply, but if you've got a thick skin and a yen for gritty urban action, make a date to attend CineVerse on August 3 for "Dirty Harry" (1971; 102 minutes), directed by Don Siegel, chosen by Norm Omiecinski.

Plus, we'll screen a short documentary, entitled "The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry", following the film.


Star Wars rates high among American film classics

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Star Wars will endure as a movie classic

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is the last in a 4-part article)

In 1997, the American Film Institute published its inaugural list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time, as selected by a blue-ribbon panel of leaders from across the film community. Star Wars: A New Hope ranked no. 15 on the list. When the AFI polled experts anew 10 years later in 2007, the film had moved up two notches to no. 13 on the list of 100.

“This list was not only reflective of the tastes of critics, industry insiders and actors and actresses who were allowed to vote, but it’s reflective of the general public as well,” said Seth Oster, communications director for the American Film Institute, whom I spoke with back in 1999. “Clearly, what they were saying with this list is that these 100 films, including Star Wars, have stood the test of time and quality as the great achievements of the first 100 years of filmmaking.”

The AFI’s 1997 list immediately caught the public’s eye, sparking healthy controversy and debate over the rankings, inclusions and omissions of favorite films.

“People will not always agree on movies,” said Oster, who adds that the list is meant to be subjective. “Our goal was to get people talking about the classics.”

Wherever Star Wars ranks among your personal favorites, Film historian Vivian Sobchack suggests that viewers should think for themselves and not be swayed by critical or public opinion.

“The glut of highly publicized ‘greatest ever’ and ‘top 100' movie lists “should be interpreted with a grain of salt,” she said. “The big, event movies like Star Wars, Gone With the Wind and Titanic will continue to place high on these polls and critics lists because of their overexposure and overwhelming popularity, but “unless you use a single criteria, such as ‘top 10 films of technical importance,’ or ‘best big box office masterpieces,’ it just becomes just another popularity contest.”


The film that introduced Japanese cinema to the world

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Films from the land of the rising sun were little seen on these shores, until 1950, when Akira Kurosawa became a household name among cinema lovers with the release of "Roshomon" (1950; 88 minutes), one of the great movie masterpieces from any country.

Join CineVerse on July 27 for our continued salute to Kurosawa.We'll screen and discuss a different film by this acclaimed director once a month over the next few months.


The sum of its parts, or the parts of its sum?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Star Wars will endure as a movie classic

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is part 3 of a 4-part series)

Some critics prefer The Empire Strikes Back to A New Hope for its more dramatic conflict and deeper probe into the main characters. Richard Schickel, Time Magazine film critic, argued, however, that Empire and Return of the Jedi “didn’t have as much of an impact. Sure, they were more sophisticated in their special effects, but to me, the first time is always the best time.”

Mark Caro, former film critic for the Chicago Tribune, agreed. “I still believe it’s the best of the three movies. Empire may have had more sophisticated effects and richer storytelling and acting, but the first one is the more complete movie.”

Other scholars and historians, including Vivian Sobchack, professor of film and television at the University of California at Los Angeles, believe that, like The Godfather trilogy, the first three Star Wars films should be judged collectively, as a whole.

"The first one made the biggest splash, but the second film deepens the whole series,” said Sobchack. “I didn’t like (Jedi), but it still brings about a resolution that’s important in the series.”

The Force will be with you, always
How will Star Wars be ranked by future generations? “It will keep the shimmer it has historically,” Sobchack said. “In terms of social and cultural importance, hype and eventfulness, it’s a very important film that will continue to be watched and remembered.”

The fact that Star Wars came out 22 years ago and is still such a huge hit is an indication of its staying power, said Caro. “I don’t believe it will have the same staying power as the Wizard of Oz, for instance, but it will be around.”

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert once described Star Wars as one of the only motion pictures he’d seen that felt like an out-of-body experience.

“If I were asked to say with certainty which movies will still be widely-known a century or two from now, I would list 2001, and The Wizard of Oz, and Keaton and Chaplin, and Astaire and Rogers, and probably Casablanca...and Star Wars, for sure,” Ebert was quoted as saying years ago.

“One hundred years from now, when we have reached the stars and there are no more wars, a peaceful planet will look back in awe and wonder at the films that thrilled its great, great, great grandchildren,” said Forrest J. Ackerman, film historian and former editor/creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, whom I interviewed in 1999. “Leading all the rest will be the Star Wars series.”

Next week: Star Wars ranks high among American film classics


Make plans for a movie heavyweight

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Oak Lawn Park District continues its Movies on the Green 2011 Friday night summer series with Rocky (1976) on July 22 at dusk (weather permitting). Bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs and come see a great popcorn film for free on the lush lawn of the Village Green, located directly east of the Municipal Center and north of the Library. Click here for full details.


Now that's one dedicated mom...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meet Susan Tom of Fairfield, California, and her 11 adopted children with special needs. They're the focus of the next CineVerse feature, a documentary called "My Flesh and Blood" (2003; 83 minutes), set for July 20. This film was directed by Jonathan Karsh and chosen by Janet Pierucci.

Also, make plans to arrive promptly at 7 to take part in a movie trivia game prior to the screening; you can win a DVD prize. 


Rediscover National Velvet

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Oak Lawn public library will screen yet another free film in its REEL BOOKS" SERIES -- National Velvet (1944, G, 123 min.) -- Tuesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. – A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes. Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. Based on a children's book by Enid Bagnold. Click here for details.


Fan favorite, critics' darling

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Star Wars will endure as a movie classic

by Erik J. Martin
(Note: This is part 2 of a 4-part series)

Audiences certainly never cared much for what reviewers thought, and they made their votes of confidence count at the box office. What Star Wars may lack, according to the critics, in warmth, character depth and cerebral dialogue, it makes up for tenfold in visually spectacular, feel-good entertainment value, fans believed. Moviegoers lined up around the block to see the film the first time around, and came out in droves when the Special Edition was released in 1997. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find one nuclear family home that lacks a video copy of Episode 4 in the Star Wars saga.

According to a poll of 20,000 readers, Sci-Fi Entertainment Magazine reported in the late 1990s that fans think Star Wars: A New Hope is the number one science-fiction film of all time. Internet Movie Database ( users have voted the movie as the 16th best ever, giving it an average grade of 8.8 out of 10 on the quality scale.

Star Wars also scored a major critical coup in 1997 when it was ranked no. 15 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies, selected by AFI's blue-ribbon panel of more than1,500 leaders of the American movie community. It placed as both the highest ranked science-fiction film and action/adventure film (unless you count Bridge On the River Kwai, no. 13) on the widely exposed list.

“The best movies are, by and large, movies that are rooted in the populist tradition that, at the same time, aspire in unpretentious ways to transcend those roots,” said Richard Schickel, film critic for Time Magazine, whom I interviewed back in 1999. Schickel voted for Star Wars to be named one of the AFI’s top 100 films. “Star Wars is a great example of that -- one of those films that belongs up there with classics like Casablanca and Citizen Kane.”

Back in 1999 when I interviewed film historian Vivian Sobchack, professor of film and television at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of “The Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film” (Rutgers University Press), she begged to differ.

"Star Wars is not way up there in my top 100 movies, by any means,” said Sobchack, also a voter for the AFI Top 100 list. “I think it’s an extremely important film, however, and certainly one of the best science-fiction movies. It changed the genre forever, along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Star Wars was a return to narrative and very full-bodied, archetypal characters – a movie that borrowed upon all sorts of genres like the western and the war film that, in the 1970s, had lost their kick.”

Star Wars “is one of those rare, vastly popular films that has a very serious subtext with real connections to powerfully mythic material,” said Schickel. “It works on all those basic movie levels. It’s a wonderful adventure story with terrific wit and spirit. It has a great villain and a strong feminist character in Leia. I’ll argue that the acting is actually splendid–it perfectly suits the mood of that movie.”

Aesthetically, Schickel continued, “Star Wars broke remarkable new ground, especially considering that previous sci-fi films never really did. But Star Wars had such epic scale, that I don’t even think of it as a science-fiction film. It’s more of a grand, mythic, heroic journey.”

Former Chicago Tribune film critic Mark Caro referred to Star Wars as one of the greatest “popcorn films” ever, he told me 12 years ago. “A lot of popcorn movies have special effects and explosions that don’t hold your interest as much. With Star Wars, though, you’re completely wrapped up in the story, like a mesmerizing video game experience.”

Next week: The sum of its parts, or the parts of its sum?


Enjoy a Breakfast with Hepburn

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It will be closer to dinnertime, but CineVerse cordially invites you to indulge in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1962; 115 minutes), for which you have a reservation set for July 13. This delightful romance was directed by Blake Edwards and chosen by Jeanne Johnson.


Great movie, even greater game

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Oak Lawn public library will be screening another free film in its REEL BOOKS" SERIES -- The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005, PG, 120 min.) -- Tuesday, July 12 at 10 a.m. -- A coming-of-age, golf drama based on the true story of the 1913 US Open, where 20-year-old Francis Ouimet defeated his idol, 1900 US Open champion, Englishman, Harry Vardon. Starring Shia LaBeouf. Based on a biography by Mark Frost. Click here for details.


Citizen Vader

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why Star Wars will endure as a movie classic

by Erik J. Martin

(Note: This is part 1 of a 4-part article that will publish over the next 4 weeks).

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“There’s no place like home.”
“May the Force be with you.”

In 1977, few would dare utter the latter catch quote in the same breath as its predecessors. But 34 years after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope, who wouldn’t agree that “May the Force be with you” is the most identifiable signature phrase of any movie in history?

What’s more, why shouldn’t Star Wars be considered one of the greatest films in history – a cinematic achievement worthy of standing among all-time silver screen classics like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather, or It’s a Wonderful Life?

A long time ago, the critics were far, far away...
When Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977, it was met with mostly positive reviews, though no major critic deemed it an instant classic, artistic masterpiece or cinematic tour de force. Its groundbreaking special effects were certainly widely hailed and its soundtrack and entertaining screenplay garnered favorable critiques.

The film literati, however, were quick to find fault with the sci-fi flick’s performances (New Yorker critic Pauline Kael condemned Star Wars for subscribing to the “Ricky Nelson school of acting”), dialogue, and clichéd motifs borrowed from other genre pictures, such as the OK-corral gunfights, the damsel-in-distress rescue, and the time-worn good-versus-evil conflict.

Time Magazine critic Richard Corliss admitted in a 1997 Time article that he arrived at this unflattering assessment after seeing Star Wars for the first time in 1977: “The sets were Formica, the characters cardboard; the tale had drive but no depth, a tour at warp speed through an antiseptic landscape. I admired George Lucas' attention to detail, his Tolkien-like industry in creating a host of alien life-forms, but I remained unmoved. Peering at Star Wars through the telescope of my disinterest, I made this fearless box-office prediction: ‘The movie's legs will prove as vulnerable as C-3PO's.’”

Academy Award voters agreed with these criticisms enough to only reward the film with lesser, technical Oscars (Best Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Film Editing, Music, and Sound). Nominations for Best Picture, Director (Lucas), Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Original Screenplay lost.  Star Wars’ boffo box-office success began to draw a backlash from some critics, who came to view the film as the prototype for all the mindless, action-packed Hollywood blockbusters that followed. Lucas’ epic was branded as the movie that signaled the end of the string of dark, brooding artistic masterpieces of the 1970s– the kind of critic’s darlings that films like The Godfather, Chinatown and A Clockwork Orange represented. Soon, the critical measuring stick became the bigger the movie hype, the lower the movie type. The unspoken but pervading thought: films raking in nine figures probably didn’t deserve four stars.

But, if a supermodel can say “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” why should Star Wars be given the film critic snob job treatment just because it’s the most watched movie and the second-biggest box office success in history?

Next week: Fan favorite, critics’ darling


Take a walk on the Blind Side

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Oak Lawn Park District continues its Movies on the Green 2011 Friday night summer series with The Blind Side on July 8 at dusk (weather permitting). Bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs and come see a great popcorn film for free on the lush lawn of the Village Green, located directly east of the Municipal Center and north of the Library. Click here for full details.


Feel the Heat

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The sex is steamy, but the noir elements are even steamier in "Body Heat" (1981; 113 minutes), which is next up on the CineVerse schedule, slated for July 6. Don't miss this sultry thriller directed by Lawrence Kasdan and chosen by Michelle Cooney.


One persuasive movie

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Oak Lawn library will be screening another free film in its "REEL BOOKS" SERIES -- Persuasion (1995, PG, 107 min.) -- Wednesday, July 6 at 2 p.m. -- In 1800s England, Anne Elliot, the daughter of a financially troubled aristocratic family, was persuaded to break off her engagement to a young seaman with poor family connections. After each of their fortunes changed eight years later, will he and Anne rekindle their old flame? Starring Amand2a Root and Ciarán Hinds. Based on a novel by Jane Austen. Click here for details.


World cinema web poll

Friday, July 1, 2011

CineVerse has a new poll you can participate in. This time around, we ask the question: What is the greatest foreign (non English-speaking) film of all time? There are so many worthy candidates, but this list is boiled it down to the top 30 that frequently appear on "best of" lists among critics/scholars/historians. Cast your vote now (deadline July 31). Apologies if one of your favorite foreign flicks is not on this list.

By the way, here are the results of our last poll, which asked: What is the greatest film noir movie ever made? The winner was Double Indemnity, with 50% of the votes, followed by The Maltese Falcon (21%). Also garnering 7% of the vote each was Out of the Past, Mildred Pierce, White Heat, and The Big Sleep.


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