Review: East of Eden (1955)

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East of Eden (1955) was directed by Elia Kazan and starred James Dean, Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Richard Davalos, and Jo Van Fleet. It was based on the novel of the same title by John Steinbeck, which is supposed to be a modern version of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.

Adam Trask (Massey) has two twin sons, one of whom, in his eyes, is the epitome of everything good (Aron, played by Richard Davalos) and the other who is… bad (Cal, played by Dean).  However, when he looses a huge sum of money in his failed attempt in the lettuce business, his bad son, Cal, takes it upon himself to try and raise back the money that his father lost by growing and selling beans in an attempt to bridge the huge gap between them.  What ensues is a dramatic story full of anger, love, touches of prejudice, war, absent mothers, reconciliation, and a sibling rivalry for the ages.

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There are many things I love about this movie.  To start with, the theme of who is “good” and who is “bad” is something that is prevalent throughout.  Throughout the entire film, the characters seem to always insinuate that Cal is bad because he is rebellious and always alone and Aron is good because he does everything that he is told to do and is a well rounded, wholesome, goody-two-shoes.  However, as you watch the film you begin to realize that Cal isn’t bad at all, at least not in the way that everyone says he is.  He’s misunderstood and yes, he is rebellious, but he feels alienated from his father when all he wants is to have a relationship with him like his father has with his brother.  And when his father throws in his face the ultimate rejection, it’s heartbreaking, and makes you want to slap Adam about 50 times across the face for being so ridiculous.

I can’t see anyone but James Dean in the role of Cal Trask.  Some of his mannerisms remind me of a child.  He’s constantly fidgeting around, hardly makes eye contact with other people, and is always challenging adults in an immature fashion.  He’s also great with improvisation.  The scene when Adam rejects the money is a good example.  The awkward hug that Dean gives Massey was not scripted and was not expected by Massey, who didn’t exactly know what to do.

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Dean also really works well with the other actors, particularly Julie Harris and Raymond Massey.  I know that Julie Harris and James Dean became good friends, and apparently she took him under her wing during the making of this movie.  I thought that the chemistry between them was great and I thought that Julie Harris did a great job with the role of Abra.

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Yes, I did state that Dean and Massey worked well together, considering the fact that they Massey didn’t like Dean at all, apparently.  I guess I should say on screen they’re good together.  The story goes that there was a lot of tension on the set between the two and that Dean would purposefully do things to Massey to get a reaction out of him on camera.  Kazan didn’t try to diffuse the tension because it showed up so well on screen.  In fact, the only scenes with Raymond Massey that I really like in the film are his tense scenes with Dean, because they seem so real and authentic, whereas during the rest of the film, you can tell he’s an actor reciting his lines.  The tilted camera angles that Kazan uses in these scenes also add to the tension between father and son/actor and actor.

East of Eden was the only film that was released when James Dean was still alive.  It was a great start to a very short career, showcasing techniques that Dean would use in his next two films.

This was where his iconic legacy began.

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People You Should Know About: James Dean

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James Dean was born February 8, 1931 in Fairmount, Indiana.

In 1955, he starred in the movies East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause.

He would only live to see the release of one of these films.

On September 30, 1955, he was killed in a car accident.  He was only 24 years old.

The year after, 1956, his last film Giant was released and he became the first actor to be nominated for an Academy Award posthumously.

Even though his career and his life were tragically short, the impact that Dean has had on popular culture is absolutely amazing.

Today, he would have been 82 years old.  But it’s hard to imagine what James Dean would have looked like had he lived to an old age.  He will forever be immortalized as the rebel without a cause, the lost boy.

He was a damn good actor, and today, I honor his memory by reviewing East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, and Giant.

Happy Birthday, James Dean!

Review: The Omen (1976)

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So, it’s been a while.  I had a busy semester.

But now I am finally on my break! And I would like to get myself back into the swing of things with a review of the last movie that I watched: The Omen (1976).

After a series of strange and disturbing events that happen after his sons fifth birthday, an ambassador named Robert Thorn starts to believe that his son, Damien, is the Antichrist.

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Obviously there’s a lot more to this story, but in order to make things less complicated, we’ll stick to that summary.

I only recently realized that Gregory Peck was Robert Thorn in this movie.  It came as a surprise to me because I’m not used to seeing someone like him (and by “like him” I mean “like the man that played Atticus Finch”) in a movie like this.  I like Gregory Peck and I liked him in this movie because it was so different than anything I’ve ever seen him in.

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I’ve seen a whole semesters worth of horror films, and I learned a lot about the horror genre.  Compared to the films that we watched this semester (The Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween) none have really messed with my mind as much as The Omen.

This is a very psychological movie and if religion and horror is not your forte (i.e. my mom) then this movie will probably freak you out.  This is pretty impressive because there is no real supernatural experiences or events that happen in the story.  They’re insinuated (like the fact that Damien’s father is the Devil), but never present on screen.

The Omen focused on the distrust of the government and society in the 1970s.  This film was made during a really terrible time period in American history: the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, etc.  There was a lack of faith in our government (I touched on this in my review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well). The Omen placed the threat of the Antichrist right in heart of a system that was already under so much scrutiny.  Instead of the threat coming from an outsider (like in horror movies from the 1930s) the threat was coming from within our own society, from a system we’ve placed so much of our trust in: the government.

The end of this film is probably one of the creepiest end scenes I’ve ever seen.  It just adds to the dread and the feeling of no hope that becomes prevalent throughout the film.  There he is, this creepy little evil child, holding hands with the most powerful man in Western society, the President of the United States.  He turns and looks at us, and smiles.  As an audience, we know that he is aware of what he is, and with that little smirk, he’s letting us know that his reign of terror has only just begun…

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Review: The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong?  Have you ever felt like an outcast?  Of course you have, who hasn’t?  But it’s stories like The Perks of Being A Wallflower that really allow us to admit these things to ourselves, which isn’t easy to do.

I remember reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for the first time a couple of years ago.  It was a very touching coming-of-age story about an introverted boy named Charlie who is trying to cope with the suicide of his best friend when he enters his freshman year of high school.  Throughout the book, he writes a series of letters to an unknown person as a coping mechanism.  He’s taken under the wing of two seniors, stepsiblings Patrick and Sam, and experiences drugs, alcohol, first love, first dates, bullies, drama, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I was very nervous when I found out that this was being made into a movie, however, when I heard that Chbosky was writing the screenplay and directing it, a lot of my worry subsided.  Who better to write and direct a movie based on a critically acclaimed novel than the writer of said novel?!  It worked in his favor, because I thought that the film was incredibly true to the book.

The three leads (Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Logan Lerman) were fantastic.  Sure, you would hear the slip of a British accent from Emma Watson, but they really did bring these characters- these insecure and lost characters- to life for me.

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The film version worked so well because there was a lot of emphasis on the emotions of the characters.  What they feel are things that we all feel everyday: insecure, scared, alone, rejected, lost.  There are a lot of dark themes in this story, but there is also a lot of hope as well.  That’s why this story has resonated with so many people.

I just want to take a few moments to talk about Logan Lerman’s performance, specifically.  He was Charlie.  For me, there has never been a more perfect screen adaptation of a character from literature than Lerman’s Charlie.  Not to get too personal, but he hit a nerve with me.  He reminded me of why I relate to Charlie so much and why I fell in love with his story in the first place: because nobody is ever truly happy, and that’s okay; because sometimes people are different, and that’s okay; because there’s always going to be a lot of bad times in your life, but there’s also going to be a lot of good times as well.  Reading the book, it felt like Charlie was writing his letters specifically to you, allowing you into his world and into his problems while at the same time, giving you reassurance; watching the movie, it was the same exact thing.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful and touching story.  The film does the book so much justice.  Charlie’s story may just change your life.

“Maybe it’s good to put things in perspective, but sometimes, I think that the only perspective is to really be there. Because it’s okay to feel things. I was really there. And that was enough to make me feel infinite. I feel infinite.” 

Review: The Exorcist (1973)

Happy Halloween!

I hope my fellow east coasters are doing okay after Sandy!

Fun fact about today’s review: I had never seen The Exorcist before.  My mother is very Catholic and downright refused to ever watch The Exorcist and basically instilled in me a huge fear of this movie for a very large part of my adolescent and teenage life.  But recently, I had to watch it for one of my classes.  So while watching this movie, I was essentially facing my fears.

The Exorcist tells the story of a little girl named Regan (Linda Blair), who becomes possessed by an unknown, evil entity.  After undergoing failed psychological testing, Regan’s mother seeks out the help of a priest to perform an exorcism on her daughter.

After I was done watching The Exorcist, I couldn’t help but think that my mother completely over exaggerated how scary this movie actually was.  I didn’t faint or go into hysterics while watching it!  But everything about the atmosphere of this movie made me feel very uneasy and disturbed and… scared.

If you’re expecting any jump scares or things of that nature, from what I watched, there are none in this movie, which I was actually relieved about.  The build up to everything is what makes this movie so frightening.  Be prepared for a lot of disturbing images and scenes (I watched this with my dad, so those moments were pretty awkward).  I had heard that the special effects and make up in this movie were corny.  Taking into consideration that this movie was made in 1973, I thought that they were great!

 

Cinematically, I thought The Exorcist was a beauty.  There are some really great shots in the movie.  Some that come to mind are the scene with the statue at the beginning, and the scene of Regan rising from the bed during the exorcism.

There are some things that I didn’t understand, mainly how and why the demon went from Iraq to Washington and why it possessed Regan.  I do want to go back and rewatch this movie again to see if I can answer those questions for myself.

Nearly 40 years later, and The Exorcist is still considered one of the scariest movies of all time.  I’m no expert on horror, but it is definitely one of the best scary movies I’ve ever seen.

Review: American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho had been on my watch list for quite a while.  About a week ago I finally had the opportunity to see it.

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a young and very wealthy man who is working on Wall Street.  He seems to have everything going for him.  However, underneath this mask lies a dark and intense need to kill people for absolutely no reason.

The first time that I saw this movie, I didn’t quite understand the ending until I watched it a second time.  But even at that, I found American Psycho kind of fascinating, while at the same time wondering what exactly it was supposed to be about.

When we talked about it in class, there was mention of it being satirical towards Wall Street and focusing on themes of greed, vanity, and materialism, which aren’t just limited to the character of Patrick Bateman.  We see Bateman and his friends comparing business cards in an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kind of way; his fiancé is all about appearance it seems; and if Bateman’s whole apartment/life/attitude doesn’t scream out materialistic, vain, misogynistic bastard then I don’t know what does.

The outward appearance of other’s is also a relevant theme.  Bateman is trying to fit into a world where virtually everyone is the same.  It seems like he is always trying to find meaning in things that have no meaning, like his constant critiquing of songs and music that are completely mindless.  (WARNING: The scene below is graphic! If you’re not into that, don’t watch)

Going off of the fact that everyone is basically pretty much the same in his society, Bateman has no sense of identity.  Keep this idea in mind when you watch the film and notice that from the very beginning of the movie, everybody is always mistaking certain characters for other people.  Even at the end of the movie, Bateman is mistaken as someone else by his own lawyer.

To me, the character of Patrick Bateman is probably one of the most disturbing I’ve ever encountered.  I automatically disliked him before he started his killing spree.  However I find it interesting that because of the fact that he lives in this society that is so conformed and petty, he has no sense of self; because of this he creates a monstrous alter ego where he is a raging psycho who kills other people just for the hell of it.  He is sick.  And disturbing.  And what makes Patrick Bateman even more frightening is the fact that at the end of the movie, you as a viewer (as well as Bateman himself, it seems) don’t know whether or not he killed anybody or if it was all in his head.

 

American Psycho is definitely worth a watch.  Christian Bale did an excellent job at portraying the monster that is Patrick Bateman.  It’s a movie that will shock you, disturb you, and leave you thinking in the end.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

I’m baaaaaaaack!

First off, I want to apologize for the almost month long absence.  I’ve been busy, y’know, trying to get an education.

Second, I miss this blog a lot.  And I feel terrible that I haven’t had the time to write.

Third, I’ve watched about maybe five or more movies during my absence and I’m going to try and review them all, but it will probably be awhile, considering the fact that my time management skills are just so awesome!

The review today is a film that I just recently watched in class on Monday night:  The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre follows the story of five teenagers traveling to their grandfather’s old home when they are hunted down, tortured, and killed by a crazy cannibalistic family.

Prior to seeing this, I had never seen any incarnation of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  I had a vague idea of what the story was about, but I was under the impression that Leatherface was the only villain.  So I was pretty unaware of exactly what was going to happen in the movie.

The movie starts out kind of slow, however, there’s a lot of foreshadowing going on: desecrated and robbed graves, slaughterhouses, and the creepy hitchhiker.  However, when the film ended, I was left feeling disturbed and scared and very aware of the fact that it was 10 o’clock at night and I had to walk all the way to the bus stop, and then all the way back to my apartment BY MYSELF.

I can’t really remember the last time a movie left me feeling the way I felt after watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  I thought it was extremely disturbing, and I’m glad I was left feeling like that because this is a horror movie after all!  I’m also glad that we watched the original, because I feel like the remake would not have had any sort of effect on me whatsoever.

Something really interesting about this film was that, in a way, it was very symbolic of the time period.  The Vietnam War was going on when this was released and the Watergate Scandal had just happened in ’73.  So there was a real loss of trust in the government and society as well as a decline in the belief of the American Dream.  This movie does a good job at reflecting that through its portrayal of the cannibal family.  The dinner scene is so demented and a good example of showing the breakdown of society and essentially evil taking the place of what is supposed to be good.

I also really like the whole apocalyptic tone of the movie.  There are a lot of shots of the sun that are very foreboding and eerie.  One of the characters, Pam, keeps reading from an astrology book with basically just bad news all around.  And every time we hear a radio, there is always bad news being broadcasted.  There is literally no sense of hope at all in the movie, and even though the final girl, Sally, escapes, it’s at the cost of her sanity and the killers aren’t captured and nothing is resolved.

I have to say that for as disturbing as this movie was, there was very little blood and guts shown, which is actually quite impressive!  The scared and disturbed feeling comes mostly from the tone set throughout the movie.

As far as horror movies go, this is probably one of the best that I’ve seen ever (which might not be saying much; I’m not exactly an expert on horror).  But it left me feeling uneasy and very disturbed, which is ultimately what I expect to feel when watching any horror film.

Movies You Should Know About: Psycho (1960)

Can you imagine my surprise upon finding out that my American Themes class was going to be dedicated to the study of American horror movies this semester?  This is just perfect, especially since Halloween is coming round the bend pretty soon.  And what was the first movie we had to watch for class?  If you guessed Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, you would be correct!

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office secretary, sees an opportunity and takes it.  What is this opportunity?  Stealing $40,000 from her employer.  As she is driving with the money to meet her boyfriend in California, she stops at the Bates Motel to rest and meets the awkward, lanky, momma’s boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).

 

Hitchcock had this thing where he loved to control and manipulate his audience.  Some of the ways he did this were:

  1. By not allowing people who showed up late in to see the movie.
  2. The whole beginning of the movie, basically.

If you’ve never seen Psycho and don’t know anything at all about it, chances are you’ll think this movie is about a woman who steals $40,000 and is on the run.  But then OH MY GOD Janet Leigh is murdered a half-hour into the movie and the $40,000 is completely unimportant to any aspect of the plot now!  This is actually pretty amazing, when you think about it and how it completely shocked audiences in 1960.

For the small part that she has in the movie, Janet Leigh is great.  I mean, come on, that shower scene is completely iconic now!

Anthony Perkins was creepy as Norman Bates.  The ironic thing about this is that apparently before he made this movie, he was considered a teen heartthrob.  After the movie, he was type casted as Norman Bates, which was unfortunate.  However he made the character a film icon.

I have to give a nod out to Bernard Herrmann because this movie wouldn’t have had the effect that it did on people without his score.  It adds to the atmosphere of the movie and literally screams at you.  It was also one of my favorite aspects of this movie.

The shower scene speaks for itself.  The silence that endures afterwards is eerie and unnerving.

The parlor scene before that with Marion and Norman is one of my favorites to!  Anthony Perkins is great in this scene.  It’s very creepy with all the shots of the taxidermy birds (it’s worth mentioning that all those birds just so happen to prey on other animals).  There’s also a portrait of “The Rape of Lucretia” and behind that is a peephole that Norman looks through into Marion’s room, which lends to the whole voyeuristic aspect of the movie.  Perkins is very creepy in this scene when his character starts talking about his mother.  There’s so much involved here and it creates a lot of suspense.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.

One thing that I could do without is the scene at the end of the movie where the doctor’s are explaining Norman’s condition.  To me it was too long and took away from the atmosphere of the movie.  A very brief explanation and then a cut to Norman at the very end of the movie would’ve sufficed.

Speaking of the end of the movie, the scene with Norman wrapped in the blanket and “Mother’s” voice over, it is also one of my favorites in the movie.  Every time I watch it, I can’t take my eyes off of the screen.  And that smile that he gives us at the end- so unnerving!

Bottom line is that Psycho is a classic and it’s been an influence to horror (specifically slasher movies) to this day.  If you haven’t had a chance to see it, what are you waiting for?

 

Review: Empire Records (1995)

A sub par movie review in response to my sub par blogging skills!  But at least it’s something, right?

Over the weekend, my little sister made me sit down and watch this movie because she was convinced that I would love it so much.  I only relented because: 1) I haven’t watched a movie in quite some time, 2) she’s been begging me to watch this movie with her for months, and 3) I feel bad that I haven’t had the time for this blog as of recently.

Empire Records is about a bunch of kids that work in a record store.  One of the kids is given the responsibility of closing the store late at night.  He discovers that the store is in danger of becoming a chain music store and decides to take the profits made from that day (or week?) and go gambling in Atlantic City to win money to save the store.  He looses everything and now everybody has to figure out what they’re going to do to save Empire Records from being transformed into a chain store.

“Let’s go gamble the stores money in Atlantic City,” the stupid boy said.

That’s the general plot of the movie minus the focus on the plans to actually save the store, which are basically just thrown together at the end of the movie.  There was more emphasis put on the characters and their “inner-struggles” and teen angst.  Overall, the plot isn’t very solid.

The acting wasn’t terrible but not great either.  Sometimes it was so dramatic it was funny (when the situation is obviously not supposed to be).  For example, Liv Tyler’s character has a melt down which, I’m assuming is meant to make the viewer feel sympathy for her… Yeah, I busted out laughing at it.

All that being said, for what it was, Empire Records was entertaining.  I enjoy music and I enjoy the idea of music being able to bring people together, and sticking it to the man!

Update on Hollywood Fix

Hey everybody!

I’m extremely sorry for not really keeping up with this blog lately.  I haven’t really had time to watch movies, as I just moved back to college this weekend and started my first classes of the semester today!

I will try to update as much as possible, however, I can already tell that this semester is going to kick my butt.  But I do have some film classes this semester so I will be able to watch some films and hopefully get some reviews up for you guys (if anyone is still out there at this point).

ALSO, if you ever have any movie suggestions or reccomendations, please don’t hestitate to let me know whether it’s through comments or through email: hollywoodfixblog@yahoo.com!

Thanks guys!

Clara