Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Two

#2 — Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Casablanca is the quintessential Hollywood film of its era, so completely shaped by the strictures of the time and grounded in the established mechanics of narrative cinematic storytelling that it very nearly transcends itself to become a movie about what movies can achieve. It intermingles hope and cynicism, romance and sorrow, stirring patriotism and nomadic isolation. Filmed and released after the United States was wrenched into the tumult of World War II, it serves as an effective avatar of the somewhat ambivalent view towards international engagement that still defined the national sentiment. The theme of the weary, … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Two

Campbell, Cukor, Curtiz, Gluck, von Donnersmarck

Adam’s Rib (George Cukor, 1949). Probably the apex of the onscreen collaborations between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, largely because the storyline involving married attorneys facing off against one another in a high-profile trial allowed for the sort of warm, frightfully intelligent banter that served the duo best. For most of the film, the interplay is infectiously delightful, especially as presented by the sure lens of George Cukor, who demonstrates an unerring sense of timing, including knowing when to just lean back and let his stars cut back and forth across the frame. The screenplay by Ruth Gordon and Garson … Continue reading Campbell, Cukor, Curtiz, Gluck, von Donnersmarck

Audiard, Curtiz, Elliot, Polanski, Vaughn

Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009). A beautifully downbeat stop-motion animation feature about unlikely penpals on the opposite side of the Atlantic who correspond over a number of years, developing a moving, warm, fragile and occasionally fractured relationship. Despite the distance–or, arguably, because of it–they drawn strength and even courage from one another, muddling through the unique challenges of their respective lives in part because they’ve got a lifeline out there somewhere in the world, someone who may not understand them, but at least takes the time to try. Max, voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is an especially wonderful creation, … Continue reading Audiard, Curtiz, Elliot, Polanski, Vaughn

Pivotal film, selling out your monkey

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008). The acclaimed Irish playwright follows up his Oscar-winning short film with a feature debut about a pair of hitmen laying low in a Belgian tourism mecca. The film is enjoyable, charged by a flinty wit and features a pair of winning lead performances by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. It’s also fairly inconsequential, structured with the shrewd storytelling insight of a seasoned dramatist but somewhat wanting in depth. All of the characters feel like pieces instead of completely realized creations. None of the relationships have resonance, causing problems as the twists of the plot require … Continue reading Pivotal film, selling out your monkey