Blog Directory CineVerse: November 2021

Old-school romance

Thursday, November 18, 2021

What do you get when you pair a young box office favorite with a much older actor who hasn’t been considered a heartthrob or surefire hitmaker for nearly 20 years? The result is Teacher’s Pet, a relatively lightweight romantic comedy that’s long on runtime but perhaps a bit short in its ability to earn the status of an all-time classic. CineVerse took a classroom approach in evaluating this movie last week, which provoked the following observations (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

What was interesting, unorthodox, surprising, or disappointing about Teacher’s Pet?

  • Clark Gable seems to be mugging a lot for the camera – offering comic glares and exaggerated reactions galore, which are arguably appropriate for a romantic comedy but perhaps overdone.
  • This is a long film for a romcom, clocking in at two hours. Debatably, the filmmakers could have pared this story and some of its subplots down to make it more effective.
  • Some hopelessly dated and archaic elements can’t be overlooked in this movie, including Gable grabbing Day for an unsolicited kiss at will; Gable remarking that he might have “belted” Day when asked what he would’ve done under a different circumstance; Mamie Van Doren singing “The Girl Who Invented Rock and Roll,” which sounds nothing like rock ‘n’ roll; and continual shots and scenes involving the characters smoking and drinking.
  • The depiction of the newspaper business and how it has been forced to adapt to the increasing competition remains relevant today. Instead of worrying about the threats of television and broadcast news, print journalism has remained increasingly marginalized over the past two decades thanks to the rise of the Internet and smartphones. This film also gives us a rare early glimpse at the actual workings of a busy newsroom and printing press.
  • Teacher’s Pet serves as yet another fitting vehicle for Day, who commonly appeared in “opposites-attract” narratives in which we get to hear her sing at least once.

Major themes

  • Street smarts vs. book smarts, and experiential education vs. academic education.
  • Stepping outside your comfort zone, familiar surroundings, and chosen way of life to broaden your knowledge.
  • The importance of maintaining journalistic integrity.
  • Opposites attract.
  • The value of rolling with the changes. Gable and Day each learn that they must have an open mind and embrace the other’s methodology and approach to journalism; Gable also explains that the newspaper business has been forced to adapt to survive, which remains a topical theme today.

Similar works

  • Doris Day romcoms like Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back
  • His Girl Friday
  • The Shop Around the Corner
  • Broadcast News
  • School of Rock

Other films directed by George Seaton

  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • The Country Girl
  • Airport


The sun never sets on this classic

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

In Cineversary podcast episode #41, host Erik Martin celebrates the 70th anniversary of A Place in the Sun, directed by George Stevens, by interviewing two great guests: George Stevens Jr., son of the director, founder of the American Film Institute, and author of the forthcoming book My Place in the Sun; and David Thomson, revered film critic and historian, author of numerous books on cinema including A Light in the Dark, and a frequent contributor to The Criterion Collection. Together, they examine why A Place in the Sun is worth celebrating all these years later, its cultural impact and legacy, what we can learn from the film in 2021, and more.

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

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


The plain truth about The Burning Plain

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Cast three Academy Award-winning A-list actresses in your film and you’ve got a surefire recipe for instant success, right? Actually, that answer is debatable, especially as it relates to The Burning Plain, a 2008 feature directed and written by Guillermo Arriaga, which didn’t exactly wow critics upon its release but which boasts some remarkable performances. Our CineVerse group performed a forensic examination of the cinematic kind on this movie last week and arrived at the following observations (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

What is notable, distinctive, interesting, or unexpected about The Burning Plain?

  • The cast is first-rate, featuring three actresses at various stages of their careers: an older but still impressive Kim Basinger, a young fresh face in Jennifer Lawrence (before she became a superstar), and Charlize Theron in her prime giving another exceptional portrayal.
  • The narrative is unnecessarily convoluted and confusingly intertwined, presenting three different narratives to follow across three separate timelines. Told chronologically, this tale might have been more impactful and certainly more comprehensible. One could argue that telling the story linearly would defeat the payoff of the reveal that Sylvia is actually Mariana, but many viewers likely guess this early on anyway.
  • The tone is excessively serious, lacking some needed humor and comic relief in pinches to buffer the heavy-handed solemnity.
  • Some of the characters lack motivational plausibility. For example: If Mariana is smart enough to disconnect the mobile home gas connection, wouldn’t she be smart enough to also realize that the nearby gas container is a fire/combustion risk? Also, what did she expect to happen by setting the trailer on fire in the first place? And wouldn’t she be emotionally and psychologically devastated after accidentally killing two people, one of whom is her mother?

Major themes

  • Forbidden love. Both Gina and her daughter Mariana engage in secretive love affairs that threaten to destroy their families and would forever alter their futures.
  • Living with scars. Gina bears the challenging scars of a double mastectomy, while Mariana self-mutilates with sharp rocks and fire; the fact that Mariana can bear the pain of burning and cutting her skin without flinching suggests that she is both strong and resilient while also perhaps numb to the psychological trauma she has endured.
  • Navigating the challenges of mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational trauma. This story depicts three generations – Gina, her daughter Mariana, and her granddaughter Maria. Each subsequent generation seems to be suffering from or bearing the burdens of the previous generation.
  • Abandonment and neglect.
  • Is it possible to forgive the unforgivable?

Similar works

  • Random Hearts
  • Leaving
  • Crooked Hearts
  • Sex and Lucia
  • The Descendants

Other films written by Guillermo Arriaga

  • Amores Perros
  • 21 Grams
  • Babel


Color me scared

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Perhaps the most colorful and chromatically stimulating horror movie ever made, Dario Argento’s Suspiria was a shot across the bow in 1977, alerting filmmakers of macabre content that expressive hues meant good news to fans of scary films. Our CineVerse group explored this unsettling work of visual bravado last week and came away with the following conclusions (to listen to a recording of our group discussion, click here).

What stood out as interesting, unexpected, disturbing, satisfying, or disappointing about Suspiria?

  • This film likely will disappoint when it comes to narrative cohesion, plot structure, character development, and plausibility. But because it employs a fairytale logic, expressionistic design, and surreal vibe, it’s not necessarily meant to be taken literally as a story. Like all memorable fairytales and bedtime stories, it infuses elements of over-the-top characters, situations, and symbolism to tell its tale and stir emotion.
  • The music and sound design of this film are especially noteworthy, as Suspiria is an assault on the auditory senses in particular, with the theme music being repeated again and again to get under your skin; vague whispers and nearly subliminal noises and sounds also serve to unnerve. The score by Goblin, particularly the main theme, was a major influence on John Carpenter when scoring the music for his film Halloween.
  • Despite its unintentional campiness—including the bad dubbing and plot holes—the highly stylized nature of the production and the visuals create a feeling of otherworldly uneasiness and psychedelic disorientation, helping to emphasize that we can’t necessarily trust what we are seeing or hearing as realistic.
    • Brian Eggert, an essayist for Deep Focus Review, wrote: “A phantasmagoria of unnatural colors and only slightly less unnatural situations, Suspiria remains Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s finest achievement. His beautifully conceived aesthetic approach triumphs over the necessity for dramatic context, creating an experience that proves haunting because of how its colors and sounds tap into our unconscious, as opposed to our emotional identification with the narrative. Arranged in splashes of primary colors that illuminate every scene, the film’s visual boldness is not interested in hues and shades; rather, Argento employs solid, pure colors to hyperbolic effect. It’s a film entrenched in poetic reasoning and the power of image, and within those limitations, it proves engaging as a sensory experience, but not a logical or emotionally satisfying one. Indeed, Argento refuses to conform to traditional methods of storytelling, shot for shot logic, tonal consistency, or matters of characterization that might create a bond between the film and its audience.”
    • Eggert further wrote: “Argento doesn’t create suspense through his embrace of narrative tension; he does something more primal, creating chills through editing and mise-en-scène—beyond the stated uses of color. He’s tapping into something involuntary in his audience, something that cannot be easily explained. Take a sequence where Sara and Suzy share theories about the strange behaviors and secrets at Tanz. Argento keeps his camera on his actresses, who look around with paranoia, their eyes moving frantically in their sockets. He sustains this shot for so long that we forget what the girls are saying, and eventually, we share their terror.”

Major themes

  • Fairytale logic. As in classic folk stories and children’s tales like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel, the virtuous and innocent protagonist overcomes her challenges and vanquishes her foes, in true good-conquers-evil fashion.
  • A stranger in a strange land, or a fish out of water. Suzy is an American truly out of her element in this German dance school.
  • Females are the dominant gender in a supernatural world. All the male characters in this film are less powerful, resourceful, intrepid, or intuitive than Suzy and her fellow dance academy denizens.
  • Colors can convey powerful emotions. Certain rooms and areas in the dance school are represented by a specific color, and we see how red trumps and overshadows all hues.

Similar works

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  • Grimm’s fairy tales
  • Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium Eater
  • The Secret Beyond the Door
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Blue Velvet
  • Black Swan
  • The Red Shoes
  • The 2018 remake of Suspiria

Other films by Dario Argento

  • The Bird With the Crystal Plumage
  • Deep Red
  • Inferno


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