Author: Andrea O

November 14, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Jessica O’Byrne

The Life Aquatic – 2004 – dir. Wes Anderson

Since its first release in 2004, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has proven itself to be a large draw for commercial moviegoers and indie film fans alike. Its original Christmas Day release unconsciously reflects an epic subtext found in the film that is thankfully downplayed by the always awkward and affably charming (and above all talented) cast. The film, which chronicles the making of a documentary about Steve Zissou’s (Bill Murray) quest to hunt down the “jaguar shark” that killed his best friend, utilizes a variation on the traditional quest pattern to draw viewers in and align them with Zissou’s zany crew. Several subplots run alongside this main storyline, which I will leave you the pleasure of discovering for yourself when you watch the film. The Life Aquatic’s true triumph lies in its ability to portray largely absurd (and, particularly in the case of Zissou, often obtuse) characters that are regardless almost universally relatable. While laws, physical and otherwise, in the film are not always on par with the laws of our own universe, The Life Aquatic nevertheless takes place in a world that most viewers are ready and able to relate to.

November 4, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Melvin Cartagena

The Conversation – 1974 – dir. Francis Ford Coppola

From conception to execution, it came together almost as an afterthought. From the lean, modestly budgeted screenplay that he wrote in the sixties, and then set aside as he worked in other projects, through its production and release in between the first and second Godfather movies, The Conversation came and went with the same sad resignation that Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul displayed in the film’s final shot. Poor box office returns conspired with the media’s frenzied interest in The Godfather phenomenon to further send the little movie into film oblivion.

October 20, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Gerry Waggett

Mr. & Mrs. Smith – 1941 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The 1941 screwball comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith should not be mistaken as the original version of the 2005 Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt action comedy.  The premise of the 2005 Mr. & Mrs. Smith – a husband and wife hiding from each other their secret careers as paid assassins – actually sounds closer to the sort of film audiences have come to expect from suspense master Alfred Hitchcock.  The big secret in the 1941 Mr. & Mrs. Smith?  The titular couple (played by Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard) discover that their marriage was never legal.  It’s a twist on the comedy of remarriage genre popular during the 30s and 40s, but not exactly what we think of when we hear the term “Hitchcockian twist.”

October 14, 2008 / / Film Notes

The Candidate – 1972 – dir. Michael Ritchie

By Paula Delaney

The Candidate is a film that provides the viewer with a window into the background machinations that occur during a political race. Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford, is a young, idealistic and passionate civil rights attorney who finds a great deal of fulfillment in his work helping the disenfranchised. When Marvin Lucas (played by Peter Boyle) enters his life, McKay becomes unwittingly swept up in a campaign for State Senate.

September 3, 2008 / / Film Notes


By Kris Tronerud

Once Upon A Time In The West (C’era Una Volta il West) • 1968 •  Directed by Sergio Leone

In 1966, after the commercial failure of his first two movies, (and well before the smash international success of The Conformist and Last Tango In Paris), fledgling director Bernardo Bertolucci found himself at a professional and personal dead end, and fled, as he often did, to repair to the movies and re-energize himself. He decided on a screening of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and, in one of those happy coincidences that seem to figure in the back stories of so many film classics, present in the projection room were, not only TGTBATU’s newly successful director Sergio Leone, but a young critic looking for an ‘in’ in the film industry, future horror great Dario Argento. When asked by Leone why he liked the film so much, Bertolucci blurted out that he admired the fact that Leone, like John Ford, rather than prettifying horses in profile, filmed ‘their arses from behind”. After a stunned silence, the Ford-worshipping Leone replied “We must make a film together sometime”. While this suggested partnership might have gone against the grain of the young Marxist’s usual filmic tendencies, Bertolucci was (like his entire generation of European directors) also an infatuated Hollywood film buff; and, as he later admitted, “I dreamed… of making a film that (simply) gave pleasure to everyone”. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, as the film which grew out of this chance meeting was arguably (with the possible exception of Ford’s The Searchers) the greatest Western ever made: the epic, astonishing and mesmerizing Once Upon A Time In The West.

August 20, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerud

All That Heaven Allows • 1955 •  Directed by Douglas Sirk

Kay: Personally, I’ve never subscribed to that old Egyptian custom of walling up the widow alive in the funeral chambers of her dead husband … Of course it doesn’t happen anymore.
Cary: Doesn’t it?
— Jane Wyman and Gloria Talbott in All That Heaven Allows

In 1937, successful German Theater director Detlef Sierck, along with his Jewish wife, actress Hilde Jary, was denounced to authorities by a vengeful ex-wife, and forced to flee 1937 Germany; with little else but moxie and a considerable European reputation, the newly christened Douglas Sirk quickly found work in wartime Hollywood, starting out, appropriately enough, with an anti-Nazi potboiler, Hitler’s Madmen. Sirk, however, might well have been remembered simply for a long string of colorful, quirky, better-than average programmers, were it not for his fortunate teaming with an inordinately supportive studio and an equally sympathetic producer: of the 23 (!) consecutive films he made at Universal, four made for kindred spirit Ross Hunter (Magnificent Obsession {1954}, All That Heaven Allows {1955}, Written on the Wind {1956} and Imitation of Life {1959} form the core of his American work; of these, All That Heaven Allows is the undisputed masterpiece.

July 19, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Chris Kriofske

Talk to Her – 2002 – dir. Pedro Almodovar – Original Theatrical Trailer


In Pedro Almodóvar’s world, the protagonists tend to be women, from the juicy parts his muse Carmen Maura played throughout the 1980s to the female-heavy ensembles of the more recent All About My Mother and Volver. Although not his first effort to feature male leads (see Pablo in Law of Desire or Victor in Live Flesh), Talk to Her is the rare Almodóvar film to structure its story around and explore the dynamic between two male characters.

July 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Erin Blakeley

The Breakfast Club – 1985 – dir. John Hughes – Original Theatrical Trailer

Early on in The Breakfast Club, Brian Johnson, one of the students stuck in Saturday detention is asked to describe the activities of the Physics club, of which he is a member. “I guess you could consider it a social situation,” he replies. “I mean, there are other children in that club.” Today, no self-respecting teenager, on-screen or off, would ever refer to himself as a child. In fact, the word ‘children’ has largely fallen from the lexicon, replaced by shorter, snappier words—kids, teens, tweens—that reflect the growing lack of distinction between adults and their progeny. Yet, the characters in The Breakfast Club—the five high schoolers famously archetyped as the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal—are children. Each one, save Bender (the criminal), is dropped off at Saturday detention by a parent. And despite the promise of social transformation that is at the heart of the film’s appeal, at the end of the film, after all the truth-telling and boundary-breaking and making out—they get right back in the car with their parents.

July 14, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Julie Lavelle

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1956 – dir. Don Siegel

Don Siegel’s 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers has prompted countless debates over its political message: is it anti-McCarthyism or anti-communist? Although the iconic invasion narrative gives the plot cohesion, the film is most interesting for its bleak envisioning of a post-World War II America filled with broken promises, mental instability, and general uneasiness–a world in which anxiety rules and love can’t save the day.

July 11, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Paula Delaney

Chinatown – 1974 – dir. Roman Polanski

A young Jack Nicholson stars in this complicated weave of drama, suspense and intrigue. Nicholson plays the role of J.J. ”Jake” Gittes, a private investigator who has retired from the police department with some very bitter memories of corruption during his days working for the district attorney in Chinatown. Nicholson is as savvy and self-assured as he is in all of his movies, and he can be captivating as he risks his life to solve this intricate “whodunnit” about the murder of a Water Department official in a close knit town in southern California.