Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Our Time (1944)

If you follow this blog at all you will notice that I like watching films that were made during World War II. I like seeing all the patriotism (to a certain extent because sometimes it can get too preachy) and how Hollywood answered the call to inspire moviegoers and showed men and women in action. It was a great time for women they came out of the homes to work in factories or join auxiliary groups of the various war departments (I think it’s time for Hollywood to write either a movie or a show about women who served during the war. I am dying to write one). I also like seeing how the studios made films dealing with war in Europe. So many actors throughout the various studios were from Europe so they used to tell the European side of the conflict. The 1944 film In Our Time is one of several films that tells the conflict from a European civilian’s point of view.
            Jennifer Whitteredge (Ida Lupino) goes to Poland with her employer Mrs. Bromley (Mary Boland) to look for antiques. Their train is stopped in the middle of nowhere to let a group of Nazis on board. At the antique store in Poland Mrs. Bromley and the owner go upstairs to see more items and leave Jennifer downstairs by herself to watch the store. A man comes in wanting a watch. He thinks she works in the store. They have a discussion about a song from a music box. It is a song by Chopin the great Polish composer. Jennifer proves the man wrong by playing the two songs on the piano. The man likes Jennifer he asks her to go to the ballet with him. She tells him she cannot go. Mrs. Bromley and the owner come downstairs. The owner tells Jennifer the man is Count Stefan Orwid (Paul Henreid). She gets Mrs. Bromley to go to the ballet.
            For the entire ballet Stefan and Jennifer have only eyes for each other. He is there with his family and they all notice he is not watching what is happening on stage. After the ballet Stefan takes Jennifer for a walk around the town. When they come to the statue of Chopin Jennifer tells Stefan she is leaving for England the following day. On the day Jennifer is to leave Stefan proposes to her. She agrees and leaves Mrs. Bromley to travel back to England by herself. Stefan bring Jennifer to meet his family. When they arrive at the house Stefan’s uncle Leopold is listening to the radio about the Nazis invading the surrounding countries. He believes Poland will be next. Stefan does not let Jennifer get a word in edgewise. He lies to his family about where they met. His mother and sister do not approve of his marrying Jennifer. His other uncle is a Nazis and he does not approve whatsoever of the marriage. He makes Jennifer feel awful and she leaves. Stefan finds her at the train station. He tells her that he wants to make everything work. He wants her to help him make his own way he does not want his Nazis uncle to help him financially.
            They live at his family’s home. Stefan’s sister is nasty to Jennifer and his mother does not care for her. The only person on their side is Leopold. Stefan and Jennifer come up with the idea to modernize their estate by buying new equipment for their tenant farmers. His mother wants to throw a large party. Stefan tells her they cannot have the party they have to cut back on extravagances since they are not relying on the Nazis uncle. His sister feels her whole comfortable way of life is threatened and she is not happy at all.
            One day they try to teach the farmers how to use the new tractors. The farmers do not like the tractors at first. Stefan in frustration walks away. Jennifer tells him they have to try and not give up. She comes up with the idea for the farmers to use the equipment by telling them they will get a percentage of the harvest. Stefan and Jennifer hold a party for the farmers at their home to thank them for all their hard work. The Nazis uncle hears about the party. He feels Jennifer is destroying their tradition because she could not the money herself. That is not true at all she truly loves Stefan. The uncle tells his nephew that he must now be consulted on everything and if he is not told what is happening he will be (Stefan) will be cut off from the family.
            As the two men are talking they see lights flashing. They think it is thunder but when they go outside they see Warsaw is being bombed. Stefan’s regiment is immediately called up.
            Some time later Jennifer comes in from working in the fields with the farmers. While Stefan has been away fighting she has been keeping herself busy by helping. She looks exhausted and beaten. As Jennifer puts her stockings on the window sill she sees Stefan walking home. She runs downstairs and into Stefan’s arms. Soon after his mother, sister, and Leopold come home. Leopold had made passage for them to get to Monte Carlo. Stefan refuses to leave. He answers the mayor’s call to defend Warsaw until the end. He rallies the farmers to help.
            Stefan, Jennifer, and the farmers burn the house and fields to the ground as they leave.
            In Our Time is not very memorable but the performances are. Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid had great chemistry. Their characters were typical they did not really stand out too much. I liked the story except that it got drawn out in some parts and the scenes where Stefan’s aristocratic family does not approve of Jennifer were very clichéd. I did like the bit of a twist with Stefan’s one uncle being a Nazis, it was an interesting balance with the peaceful Leopold. I caught In Our Time on TCM a while ago. If the channel ever airs the film again get it a watch just for Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hunger Games (2012)

“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear.”

            Last year all my friends were telling me to read The Hunger Games. A few years ago I made the mistake of reading the Twilight series so I was not keen on ever reading another young adult series again. My one friend told me The Hunger Games are all about love and the main character is great. Another friend raved about them. So I borrowed the books from one of my friends. I liked the story but I was not thrilled with them. I wanted to see the movie but some people told me it was really good and others said it sucked. Well I thank the retail gods for putting The Hunger Games movie on Blu Ray for only $7.99 because I bought it and thought it was awesome.
            If you do not know what The Hunger Games is all about here is a synopsis:
            In the future in a place called Panem there are twelve districts with District One or The Capital being the wealthiest and District Twelve the poorest. Many, many years previously there was an uprising and with this uprising came the destruction of District Thirteen and its people. In honor of this uprising and to teach the people a lesson every year The Hunger Games are held. The Hunger Games takes a boy and a girl from ages twelve to eighteen from each District and makes them all fight to the death until only one is left. Many of the Districts after Three never have a chance since they are poor and cannot train. The ones in Districts One through Three are called “Careers” because they can spend their whole lives training.
            The story focuses on a young girl named Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from District Twelve. Katniss and her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) keep their families fed by hunting in the woods. They sneak out beyond the electric fence. Katniss is skilled at using her bow and arrows. Her younger sister Prim is now eligible for the Games. Katniss tells Prim she should not really worry since it is her first year and her name is only entered once.
            Unfortunately Prim is chosen for the Games. Katniss runs up to the front yelling that she volunteers to go in Prim’s place. The boy that is chosen is Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss and Peeta are taken to The Capital to take place in a huge ceremony and interviews. All of the people that have been chosen get to train and work on their skills. On the day they are to show their skills to the sponsors Katniss messes up on a shoot and the sponsors laugh at her and do not pay attention to her. To get them to notice her she shoots one of the arrows directly into an apple in a pig’s mouth. All the sponsors are impressed and she receives the highest score of eleven.
            During the interviews Peeta reveals that he and Katniss are in love. They really are not but he does that so they can get sponsors. Katniss is not happy about what he has done without her knowing but she eventually plays along knowing sponsors will love it.
            The contestants are thrown into an arena made by the Game Makers. The arena is Katniss’s strength. They are all throne into the woods. Katniss thrives in this environment. She teams up with a small girl from District Eleven named Rue. Rue reminds Katniss of Prim. Unfortunately Rue is killed. Katniss makes a sign to the people of District Eleven and sparks the people there into a frenzy of revolt.
            The Game Makers want to play up the “star crossed lovers” angle so they make the announcement that if a boy and girl from the same district are left they will both win. Katniss and Peeta are the only ones left alive. The Game Makers change their minds and now only one person must live. Neither Katniss or Peeta want to kill the other. Katniss gives Peeta some poison berries so neither one will live. The Game Makers have no choice but to accept them both as winners.
            Katniss’s action has set off a chain reaction she had no intention of ever setting.
            All the actors were perfectly cast. Jennifer Lawrence is just brilliant. Katniss is an emotional, loving, strong willed girl and Lawrence was perfect. Josh Hutcherson was alright but I think it is the character of Peeta I was not crazy about him in the books. My favorite casting was Lenny Kravitz as Cinna Katniss’s costume designer. He had the look and the attitude of a designer. I really liked his chemistry with Lawrence too you can tell they had a great love for each other as friends. Elizabeth Banks is just awesome. I have seen her in plenty of films especially her comedies and I think she was perfect as Effie Trinket. I am glad to see that she was cast in a big movie like this. Liam Hemsworth was total eye candy in his scenes. He made a good Gale.
            I really liked the direction by Gary Ross. It almost reminded me of a surrealist film the way it was filmed. It was an interesting choice to film a teen movie in this way. I liked how there were some scenes that were filmed from unconventional/different angles. Ross’s direction is more than half the reason I liked The Hunger Games so much.
            The Hunger Games is a great movie with a great story. I like stories where the character comes from a normal/humble background and something extraordinary happens to them and their life and their world just completely changes. Highly recommend seeing The Hunger Games whether you have read the books or not especially for the cast and the direction.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rich Man Poor Girl (1938)

Every girl dreams of finding a rich man that will love her unconditionally… well, let’s face it we dream about marrying a rich man for the money and if there is love well that is a bonus! Haha. Rich Man Poor Girl kind of takes the whole poor-girl-pining-for-the-rich-man- scenario and flips it around to the rich man pining for the poor girl.
            Joan Thayer (Ruth Hussey) is secretary to Bill Harrison (Robert Young). She is going away on vacation for a few days. Bill tells her the office might as well close without her there she runs everything so smoothly. He offers to take her on vacation on his boat up the coast to his place where his sister is currently staying. Joan tells him thanks for the offer but she wants to go away in her own.
            Joan’s cousin Henry (Lew Ayres), her sister Helen (Lana Turner), her parents, and brother go to see her off at the train station but she does not show up on time. She comes and tells everyone she is not ready to leave the office yet it is too busy at the moment.
            Bill asks Joan to marrying him. He wants to get married that night. Joan agrees and she goes home to tell her family. Helen is excited and so are her parents. Henry hates authority and especially hates the idea of Joan marrying the boss. She tells them Bill is coming over to pick her up and to meet them. The house is totally crazy when Bill arrives but he likes every one of them. Joan has second thoughts about getting married in a hurry. She would love to run away with Bill but she loves her family. Joan decides to ease him into her family and her family to him. She wants to get to know him outside of the office.
            The next day Bill talks to Joan’s mother. Her mother tells him how her husband came up to where she lived when they were young and slept in a spare room at her house. This story gives Bill the idea to stay their place to get used to them. Joan wants him to leave that night she thinks he thinks the whole thing is a joke. Bill tries to spend the night. It is hot and noisy for him in the small apartment. He leaves a note inviting them all out on his boat that afternoon. The entire family thinks Bill has a large yacht and get all dressed up. When they get to the dock they are disappointed to see he has a small sailboat.
            The mother told Bill that Henry would love to go on an adventure. Bill sends Henry down to Brazil through a company. Henry is beyond thrilled and excited to be going down to Brazil. At his going away party Henry finds out the head of the company knows Bill. Now he does not want to take the job.
            At work Bill asks Joan to give him reports on his accounts. Joan is upset he never came to their apartment. Later that night Bill’s sister Sally goes to see Joan. She tells the family that Bill is planning on giving up his money all because Henry talked to him about the middle class. The whole family is upset especially Helen because she does not want to stay where she is socially. Sally has the family come with her to her house she tells them it is important. They pull up to a big house. Bill comes out. The whole thing was a trick. He wanted to open a hardware place with Joan’s father and wants to send her brother to aviation school. Sally will take on Helen as a bit of a project. Bill gives Ma his sailboat since she had such a great time on it.
            Joan is taken with Bill’s kindness and genuine love for her family.
            I loved the cast. Ruth Hussey and Robert Young are such underrated actors. I liked them together. They looked like normal people. They were not the typical flashy screen stars of classic Hollywood at this time they were both just second tier actors. Both their characters had a good heart and were smart. I really liked how Joan did not throw herself at Bill she was smart and wanted to get to know her boss as more than a boss. And also how her family came first but did not run her life. I would want to be like Joan if I were to ever (never) be in her situation. Lana Turner was so unbelievably adorable I could not even take it. She was hilarious. Turner looked great with her natural brunette hair, I am not a fan of her platinum blonde hair she sported for the rest of her career. Lew Ayres’s character sounded like a communist. He hated authority and democracy. Henry was a good character I think he represented the feelings of most of America at the time.
            Rich Man Poor Girl is a very cute and enjoyable film. It is not the best film any of the actors were in but they all did a fantastic job. Rich Man Poor Girl is not available to view on Youtube nor is it on DVD. I caught this on TCM quite a long time ago so keep an eye out for it on the channel.