Blog Directory CineVerse: December 2019

No CineVerse meeting on Dec. 25 or Jan. 1

Sunday, December 22, 2019

To no one's surprise, CineVerse will not meet on Dec. 25 or Jan. 1. CineVerse will reconvene as usual on Jan. 8. Happy holidays to everyone!


January/February 2020 CineVerse calendar unveiled

Friday, December 20, 2019

In 2020, we urge you to make a New Year's resolution to visit CineVerse more. As an incentive, we've added plenty of crowd-pleasing and thought-provoking films to our lineup over the next two months.

To see the January/February 2020 CineVerse schedule, click here.


Have yourself a merry little meetup in St. Louis

Thursday, December 19, 2019

To celebrate the diamond anniversary of an MGM musical gem, CineVerse shifted into Cineversary mode last night to honor "Meet Me In St. Louis," a movie that detractors may consider mawkish, antiquated, and irrelevant today. But our group found ample meaning and merit in this bygone pleasure. Here's a summary of our discussion:

Why this movie is worth celebrating all these years later

  • The music won an Oscar and is among the most memorable song cycles in the Hollywood musical genre. Many of the tunes have become standards, including “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas.” The latter number was especially resonant to viewers in 1944, many of whom were missing their loved ones fighting overseas in the war and yearning for them to come home and be reunited with the family.
  • The vibrant Technicolor on display is incredible. The filmmakers were able to create an idealized yet fantasy-like world thanks to the chromatic palette provided by the Technicolor process.
  • The narrative structure, being segmented by the four different seasons, provides a simple yet effective way to tell the story of one family’s growth and transition over a set period of time. As each season progresses, so too do the characters, who come of age more as time passes.
  • There isn’t much of a plot here, tension and conflict are lacking, and not every song is memorable. But what the film has in spades is emotional resonance, courtesy of its reliance on nostalgia and idealized depictions of domestic harmony and everyday life in a typical American family from 120 years ago—a family where the kids squabble, joke, pine for love, etc.

Ways in which this film was influential on cinema and popular culture or set trends 

  • The film intended to make people appreciate the importance of families and happy and secure domestication.
  • Consider that this World War II was still raging at this time. This movie made viewers appreciate what we were fighting for – the preservation of the American family and all the values that were held dear.
  • This is also a nostalgic film that, in 1944, provided a vision of what America could be again. It demonstrates that wistfulness and nostalgia can be powerful tools to tell a cinematic story and emotionally impact viewers.
  • This is the picture that launched the golden age of the MGM musical (overseen by Arthur Freed) that lasted until the early 1960s. It’s also the film that established Vincente Minnelli as a notable filmmaking talent and Judy Garland as a major star.

Themes and messages explored in “Meet Me In St. Louis”

  • The importance of family values and staying true to your roots. So long as the family stays together, it doesn’t matter what happens in life.
  • There’s no place like home—a message shared by Garland’s earlier film “The Wizard of Oz”.
  • Coming of age, experiencing first love, and maturing into a new stage of life.
  • Hope springs eternal: It’s fitting that the film’s final act falls in springtime, a time of renewal and rebirth when love, like the flowers, are in bloom.

Whom the film appealed to initially when it was released in 1944, and whom it appeals to today

  • As aforementioned, in 1944 this picture would’ve resonated among families eager to see an end to the war; any homesick soldiers who would have seen it would probably have been moved by it, as well. Being that it was also a musical with a primarily female cast, it would’ve likely appealed primarily to female viewers.
  • Today, the messages of the film – be true to your roots, honor thy mother and father, continue family traditions in familiar settings – probably don’t resonate among modern audiences. They aren’t likely to be inspired to marry the boy next door, buy a single-family home in the neighborhood they grew up in, and live life like mom and dad and grandma and grandpa.
  • However, the simple values on display here, the fantasy of having a normal, close-knit family, and the imagery of Americana can still pack a punch and make a contemporary watcher feel wistful for these things they’ve likely never experienced.
    • DVD Savant reviewer Glenn Erickson wrote: “The world of Meet Me In St. Louis is a 1944 dream of a life most Americans never had. Yet it is the sentimental definition of the American way of life that our troops were defending. America's official ideals were accepted by a much greater consensus of the country back then, which some people think was a good thing. Although it is an idealized fantasy, this is one of the key films my generation could have looked to, to understand our parents' generation.”

Elements that may be problematic nowadays

  • This film unintentionally demonstrates the negative effect of a male-dominated society and the pressures it imposes on women, at least back in this time period. Today, the film demonstrates the relative lack of freedom and agency that women had back then as well as their methods for coping with society’s limitations. Consider, for example, that Tootie gets respect on Halloween by wearing male cosplay; the mother acquiesces to her husband’s rules and wishes; and the older sisters eagerly await and bank on marriage proposals, suggesting that a female’s prime ambition was to land a man to marry. In this turn-of-the-century time era, men had the vast majority of jobs and college educations. Ponder, as well, that every vehicle and outlet for escape for these women is literally driven by men: the trolley, the ice truck, etc. 
  • On the other hand, we see how Esther strongly defends her sister physically and verbally and castigates her father after nearly spoiling Rose’s telephone call opportunity, and we learn that Mr. Smith is preparing to send Rose to college.

This movie's greatest gift to viewers

  • At a time when many people criticize the dangers of living in the past and celebrating sentimentality, this film’s entire central premise celebrates nostalgia and its feel-good effect.
  • Today, the media and popular culture often reinforce how different we are generationally, and how it’s healthy and necessary to break from your parent’s unhip and outdated values and traditions. But this film is telling you that being in a loving family is cool, and that family dysfunction isn’t a universal experience.
  • Also, you need not have lived in 1944, or 1903 for that matter, to appreciate this movie’s themes, characters, music, or values.


Clang, clang, clang went the trolley...

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Cineversary returns on December 18; that's when CineVerse sends happy birthday wishes to “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944; 113 minutes), directed by Vincente Minnelli, which celebrates 75 years in 2019.


Becoz of the wonderful things he does

Saturday, December 14, 2019

In Cineversary podcast episode #18, host Erik Martin talks with guest John Fricke, the world's foremost Oz historian and author of several books about The Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland. Erik and John honor the 80th anniversary of the most watched and arguably the most beloved film in history, "The Wizard of Oz," and explore why this masterwork is worth celebrating all these years later, its cultural impact and legacy, what we can learn from the picture today, how it has stood the test of time, and more.
John Fricke

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 Google Podcasts, Google Play Music, Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Anchor, Breaker, Castbox, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at and email show comments or suggestions to


October lingers--even into December

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Cold War is long over, Alec Baldwin's turn as an action star ended decades ago, and films featuring an all-male cast are now out of fashion. So why should we care about "The Hunt for Red October," John McTiernan's 1990 political thriller, which features Sean Connery as a renegade Russian commander of a high-tech nuclear-armed sub and Baldwin as all-American hero Jack Ryan? We explored the myriad reasons yesterday at CineVerse. Here's a summary:

How is this movie different from other films about submarine or naval conflict, and what did you find surprising or satisfying about The Hunt for Red October?

  • Unlike other war films such as Das Boot, there arguably isn't as much action. This is more of a story about contrasting personalities and trying to gain a mental and strategic edge over your opponent; as such, there’s a lot more dialogue than you'd possibly expect, although there are several tense torpedo and evasive maneuvering scenes.
    • Esquire reviewer Calum Marsh wrote: “What's interesting about Red October is that it is, at least on paper, a film in which practically nothing happens. The bulk of the running time is spent cross-cutting between Sean Connery's state-of-the-art submarine heading toward the U.S. in near-silence and the Americans sitting around boardrooms discussing at length how best to proceed. It's to McTiernan's credit that so much of this is made intense…It's telling that the film's most exciting scene isn't the last-minute bombing of the climax or the close-quarters corridor chase that precedes it, but rather a moment a little earlier when Ryan tries to convince his superiors that the ship they are hunting will momentarily turn toward starboard instead of port.”
  • Arguably, this is less a submarine film than a movie about military and political strategizing. In most other pictures about submarines, the destiny of the vessel itself and its occupants is of central concern to the viewer.
  • Instead of using subtitles and have the Russian characters speak in their native tongue, the filmmakers choose to have them speak in English.
  • Interestingly, the timing of this film’s release coincided with the fall of the Soviet Union, which puts at risk our capacity to care about the political tension. Wisely, the filmmakers chose to set this story in 1984, when the Cold War was still a serious concern.
  • The cast assembled here is quite impressive, even down to the smaller supporting characters: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil, Courtney Vance, Tim Curry, Joss Ackland, Peter Firth, Jeffrey Jones, and Fred Dalton.
  • We learn early on that Ramius is seeking to defect, which confirms Jack Ryan’s theory; by giving the audience more information, this increases the intrigue and suspense among the audience and makes us sympathize more with Ramius.
  • There’s extra intrigue by challenging the viewer to solve the mystery of the saboteur aboard the Red October.

Themes at work in The Hunt for Red October

  • The mysteries of human nature and the challenge of trying to predict what another human being will do.
    • Roger Ebert wrote that this film suggests “how easily men can go wrong, how false assumptions can seem seductive, and how enormous consequences can sometimes hang by slender threads.”
  • Gamesmanship and careful strategy: The characters in the story are playing a high-stakes game of military chess, and the citizens of the United States and the Soviet Union who are unaware of and powerless in this game are the pawns who will pay the price.
  • Betrayal: Ramius feels betrayed by his native country and is demonstrating his disloyalty by defying orders and possibly defecting.

Similar films that come to mind

  • Notable submarine combat films like Das Boot, Crimson Tide, K-19: The Widowmaker, The Bedford Incident, U-571, The Enemy Below, and Run Silent, Run Deep
  • Other adaptations of Tom Clancy novels featuring Jack Ryan, including Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears

Other films directed by John McTiernan

  • Predator
  • Die Hard
  • The Thomas Crown Affair


Enjoy a sub with Russian dressing

Sunday, December 8, 2019

On Dec. 11, you're invited to join CineVerse in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990; 135 minutes), directed by John McTiernan, chosen by Don McGoldrick. BYOP (bring your own periscope).


The apocalypse under a microscope

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Disaster films and paranoia thrillers were all the rage in the 1970s. An early example of this trend was Robert Wise's "The Andromeda Strain," based on Michael Crichton's novel and released in 1971--a movie that puts more of an emphasis on "science" than "fiction." Here's a summary of our CineVerse group discussion last night about the film.

What did you find notable, curious, unanticipated, or surprising about The Andromeda Strain? 

  • Amazingly, this was and is rated G, despite the frightening plot and subject matter, a brief bit of nudity, and dark, pessimistic sci-fi/horror elements.
  • Unlike other sci-fi horror movies, the enemy or threat isn’t a monster, beast, or tangible force; it’s a practically invisible organism that infects. That means that much of the story and action involves human beings talking, planning, and reacting.
    • reviewer Michael Reuben wrote: “What distinguishes Andromeda from so many science fiction films is that, until the last ten minutes or so…the film is almost entirely exposition. The adversary in Andromeda is microscopic, and the film consists of scientists and doctors talking, debating, arguing, running tests and experiments, working giant remote arms behind hermetically sealed glass panels, studying readouts on antique monitors and printouts from teletypes.”
  • Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the picture features no major movie stars, the actors aren’t very emotive or expressive, and the film has a documentary-like feel to it thanks to its focus on real science and accurate scientific details. In fact, the story seems more focused on and reverent to science and technology than human beings.
    • As Rueben put it, “it’s a serious attempt at intelligent science fiction.”
  • It’s an early example of a movie to employ sophisticated-for-its-time computerized photographic visual effects, thanks in large part to the work of effects master Douglas Trumbull.
  • Interestingly, the filmmakers use split screen, also called a split diopter, to visually tell the story.
  • The Andromeda Strain provided a rare example of a female scientist who isn’t featured for mere sex appeal. Dr. Ruth Leavitt, played by Kate Reid, plays a role that normally went to a man in films before this one.
  • Despite growing mistrust at this time in government and the military, we see the scientific community work in successful tandem with the military in this film.

Themes woven into The Andromeda Strain

  • There are two dichotomous and divergent messages here: the dangers of technology run amok, and the need for humans to turn to technology for solutions to serious problems.
  • Dehumanization as a consequence of scientific advancement
  • Technological breakdown and human error
  • The random, entropic, and unpredictable nature of the universe

Other movies that this one reminds us of

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • THX 1138
  • Silent Running
  • Zardoz
  • Outbreak
  • 1950s and 1960s horror and sci-fi films like Them!, Kronos, GOG, Invaders From Mars, The Quatermass Xperminent, Quatermass 2, and Quatermass and the Pit, and Planet of the Apes

Other films directed by Robert Wise

  • Curse of the Cat People
  • The Body Snatcher
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • The Haunting
  • West Side Story
  • The Sound of Music
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture


Is this the most adult G-rated film ever?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Decades before Michael Crichton conjured up his bestselling tale of dinosaurs run amok in modern times, he envision an apocalyptic outbreak of extrerrestria origin, as depicted in “The Andromeda Strain” (1971; 131 minutes), directed by Robert Wise, chosen by Jim Krabec, and slated for CineVerse on Dec. 4. 


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