The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
Happy 2009! With the advent of the new year, SOFA CINEMA will add another category to the list of reviewed movies - FIRST WORK.
A FIRST WORK is indicated when an actor, writer or director debuts with an exceptional contribution. The following movie not only is the first to be reviewed in FIRST WORK but also is a READER RECOMMENDATION. Suggestions always are welcome for review and I try to include as many as possible in the column.
If you have a favorite movie you'd like to introduce, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
FIRST WORK/READER RECOMMENDATION
When one hears the name Ridley Scott, any number of his blockbusters come to mind: "Gladiator," "Alien," "Blade Runner" and "American Gangster." But his directorial debut was a period piece filmed on a low budget, "The Duellists."
Based on a Joseph Conrad short story, the movie deals with the ongoing conflict of two officers in Napoleon's army, D'Hubert (Keith Carradine) and Feraud (Harvey Keitel).
In that time, questions of honor were taken seriously and over the years the two officers dueled. To explain the reasons for these challenges most certainly would take away from the mystique of the movie.
What is most interesting is the intimate filming style Scott uses in exposing his characters. Because "The Duellists" had a minimal budget, creative locations and shot selections were imperative to achieve the desired effect.
One might not have predicted the evolution of Ridley Scott's career by viewing his first feature but his filmmaking genius is apparent in "The Duellists."
"Burn After Reading"
The Coen brothers are unpredictable. If you've been a fan over the years, you're no doubt familiar with their dramas ("No Country for Old Men" and "Miller's Crossing") and comedies ("Raising Arizona" and "The Big Lebowski") and their most famous film "Fargo," that doesn't fit easily in either category.
Where does "Burn After Reading" fit in? It's mostly comedy, at least for the first half of the movie. Brad Pitt's characterization of an inept athletic trainer is integral to moving the action along and there's no shortage of star power. George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton lend their talent to the jumbled plot line.
The R rating is earned in the first two minutes and the dialogue is filled with profanity, so be prepared (or not) to be barraged. The Coen brothers are an acquired taste so if you're already a fan, you'll know what to expect. If you haven't seen any of the movies listed here, rent "Fargo." It's the best of the lot.
It may be a stretch to list "Manhattan Melodrama" as a classic, but the movie is interesting on several different levels. The film opens with the tragedy of the General Slocum in 1904. Even though the scene of the steamship fire that claimed more than 1,000 lives is hardly historically accurate, it does establish the relationship between two boys from the neighborhood who are left orphaned by the event.
Blackie (played as a boy by Mickey Rooney/later by Clark Gable) plays the odds in life. As a gambler/gangster, he is the antithesis of his "brother," Jim played by William Powell. Blackie's girl, Eleanor (Myrna Loy) didn't take long to figure out that she was with the wrong man and, supposedly with Blackie's blessing, marries Jim. Jim and Blackie remained friends in spite of working opposite angles of the legal system.
"Manhattan Melodrama" is produced by David O. Selznick (of "Gone With the Wind") and won an Academy Award in 1935 for Original Story-Writing. The movie's claim to fame came at a screening in Chicago in 1934. John Dillinger was shot outside the theater after attending a screening. While you're watching the plot unfold with all its twists and turns depicting good versus evil, good guys versus bad buys, imagine the irony of Dillinger watching Blackie as he goes on trial for murder.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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