Posts Tagged ‘films’

MOVIES – THEN AND NOW A Star is Born Part 2

April 22, 2019

Part 1, I compared the production techniques of three of the four versions of “A Star is Born.” My cliffhanger at the end was the promise that I would compare acting techniques in Part 2.

First, for folks too young to remember the movie serials, I’ll explain the term “cliffhanger.” Each chapter of the serial ended with a “cliffhanger,” which meant it would end with something terrible happening to the protagonists. You had to watch the next chapter to see how they escaped destruction.

Now, back to comparing acting styles.

In the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, the acting was just a shade less than stage acting, which requires projecting not only of dialogue, but of facial expressions and gestures because audiences are at distances from the actors. In movie acting, the camera can come close so that speech and bodily expressions need to be “natural.”

What’s interesting is that in one scene a producer, defending Esther Blodgett’s screen test by noting her acting was “mild.” He pointed out that might be a good thing, that perhaps movie acting would become more “natural” in the future.

Indeed it would. That trend actually started when sound was introduced in the late 1920s. Hollywood had to start hiring stage actors who were vocally trained because many silent movie actors had heavy foreign and/or regional accents and squeaky voices. The problem with the stage actors was they were trained to project voices and bodily expressions. So, they were instructed lessen their projection.

They did, but not to the degree that would come later. The 30s acting was more realistic than the 20s, and the trend continued through each decade. Many movie historians believe the big change in the 1950s when “method” acting took hold with stars like Marlan Brando and James Dean.

Frankly, the effort to make acting totally realistic has often gone too far with actors mumbling to the point they are not understandable. I suppose the trick is to come across as being “natural” while speaking distinctly enough there to be understood.

As far as “A Star is Born” is concerned, the stars performed more naturally with each new version that I saw, it appears to me. Still, my favorite version was the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason. I missed the Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version.

I know this is too long, but I didn’t want to take time to make it shorter.

6Hoyt Bray, Rob St. Clair and 4 others
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Nate Gross

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is Laugh-out-loud Hilarious and Sad

August 13, 2016

Critics aren’t being kind reviewing a movie that isn’t that doesn’t portray them as a kind lot.  When informed that  the review in Friday morning’s Ledger–Enquirer  panned “Florence Foster Jenkins,” I informed my informers that a critic’s review is simply one person’s subjective opinion.  I can judge for myself whether I enjoy a movie or not. I found the film very entertaining.  A friend who I ran into in the theater after the movie said he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I told him I did both. He admitted that he did, also.

Meryl Steep being in a movie is enough to get me in the theater. And she didn’t disappoint in this one about a wealthy Manhattan socialite who a 1944 New York Post critic called the “world’s worst singer.” Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg all turn in the great performances.

Not only did I get caught up in the emotions of the film, I found the depiction of 1940s Manhattan very entertaining. I love really good period pieces, especially ones using a lot of antique autos.

Do I recommend it? Definitely.

Oh, and we enjoyed the recliner seats Carmike has recently installed in some of its theaters.

A Columbus Film Society?

July 1, 2015

Anyone interested in restarting a film society group in Columbus, Georgia?  I don’t know what happened to the one that existed at one time, but I think it would be fun to have one now.  After all, the Screening Room at the Ritz 13 is showing a Carmike Classic every Tuesday night at 7.  All seats $5. Not bad.  We plan to make the next one and hope to see you there. We saw “Raging Bull” last night. Robert De Niro turned in an incredible performance as Jake LaMotta.


This Tuesday, July 7, it’s David Lean’s (yes, the fellow who directed “Lawrence of Arabia”) production of Noel Cowards “Brief Encounter.” It is indeed a classic.


“Hollywood South”

February 3, 2015

Hollywood is still considered the movie capital of the world, but it’s getting a lot of competition from Georgia now.  Lee Thomas, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, told Columbus Rotarians that Georgia came it third last year in the number of productions filmed in America.

There are a  number of sound stages operating in Atlanta now, and a lot of movies are being shot on locations all over the state.  It’s become a billion-dollar industry in the state. More than 700 films of different types have been made in Georgia since 1972. Westville has been the location for a number of films, including one just recently released, The Homesman,  directed and starring Tommy Lee Jones, and featuring Hillary Swank, and Meryl Streep. And some major ones were made before then.  Parts of Gone With The Wind were shot in Georgia in 1939.  A number of movies have been made at Fort Benning, including the Green Berets with John Wayne.

Why are so  many being made in Georgia now?  Impressive tax breaks, and many suitable locations for shooting feature films, television shows, commercials, and more.

So now if you want to work in the movies, you can do it here in Georgia.  Movies employ about 150 locals for middle-range budget movies, and about 250 for big budget fims.

Two Movies Worth Seeing

December 10, 2013

Philomena and The Book Thief are examples that show that intelligent, meaningful,  moving,  serious dramatic movies are still being made.

I recommend both of them.

Judy Dench turns in another Oscar worthy performance in Philomena.  Some consider the film anti-Catholic and anti-Republican Party.  I get the anti-Catholic charge, but not the anti-Republican one.  The film does depict the cruel practices of  some nuns many years ago in Catholic convents in Ireland where unwed mothers gave birth to babies that were sold to adoptive parents, but It doesn’t assert that all Catholics are bad, and it does assert that the convents were reformed.  And I just don’t get the anti-Republican charge stemming from a reference to the Reagan administration.  It’s a great film.

The other one, The Book Thief, is a World War II film about what a young German girl who loves books goes through as she risks her freedom by defying the censorship of book-burning Nazis.  It is also about her relationship with a young Jewish man who is being hidden in a cellar to prevent his capture by Nazi’s who would kill him. It is a very well performed and produced piece of cinema. 

So if you’re looking for movies that rely on interesting stories well told instead of special effects and a lot loud explosions,  I think  you will have found them in these two.  


“Midnight in Paris” Proves Hilarious, Intelligent Movies are Still being Made

June 12, 2011

Now I have even more reason to be hopeful about the return of quality movies.  First, “The King’s Speech” showed me that the movie makers can still produce well-written, directed, acted, photographed, intelligent adult films.  Then, I got even more encouraged when “Water for Elephants” hit the screen.  And now we have a truly clever, witty sophisticated comedy by Woody Allen that I’ll probably go see again.

I loved “Midnight in Paris” from the opening montage of iconic shots of Paris – I was there in 1955 when I was in the Army – to the hilarious ending of this highly entertaining time-warp comedy.  You just never know who will turn up as the protagonist is transported back by a vintage taxi to the Paris of the 1920’s, people like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. And there are a lot of laughs when he, a flaming Hollywood liberal,  is in the present, interacting with his wealthy, conservative Republican future in-laws.  It’s a gem.

IMAX at Patriot Park Revisited – Part 3

June 23, 2010


Since I really enjoy the IMAX experience, I want to see the theater at the National Infantry Museum succeed.  With that in mind, I decided to get a progress report on the first year in operation. 

Ben Williams, Executive Director, National Infantry Foundation, in the lobby of the National Infantry Museum's IMAX Theater

National Infantry Foundation Executive Director Ben Williams, who is also managing the theater at this time, told me, “It has been moderately  successful.” Attendence since the theater opened was 107,800.  He went on to say that financially it broke even for the first year.   Maybe that’s not so bad since the first year has been a learning experience.

When it first opened in March of 2009, along with the stunningly beautiful IMAX documentaries, a Hollywood feature movie was shown every day.  The problem was they were second-run.  They had already had long runs in Carmike Cinemas’ theaters in Columbus. Ben told me that the foundation decided that since theirs is a museum IMAX, and since first run movies are really expensive, anyway, they wouldn’t get into the first-run game.

However, they learned that some second-run films do well for them so they will continue to run them from time to time.  It depends on the movie. During the Christmas season, Polar Express attracted large crowds. During its run it attracted  7,400 people , “Our best film so far.” A lot of folks were there the night we attended. Probably one of the reasons is that seeing it in a conventional theater is entertaining, but seeing that movie in 3-D on the huge IMAX screen with the theater’s incredible sound system is really spectacular. Also, the marketing was creative.

"Conductor" Owen Ditchfield punches 3-year-old Cliff Tankersley's ticket, as mom Ann looks on

In the theater lobby, volunteer Owen Ditchfield dressed in a train conductor’s uniform and delighted kids and their parents by punching their tickets.  The foundation plans to do it again this Christmas.  Why not?  It’s a Wonderful Life draws audiences every Christmas when it’s run on TV.  Some movies are evergreen.

Just started its run. Showtimes are at 1:30 and 6 p.m.

The theater just started running another Hollywood feature film, How to Train Your Dragon in IMAX 3-D.  It has gotten really good reviews. Maybe the IMAX experience will do the same thing for it that it did for Polar Express.  I plan to check it out to see.

While the full-length feature films will run from time to time, the theater’s mainstay will continue to be the shorter documentaries.  When people come to visit the museum, they are more likely to be willing to take 45 minutes to see a documentary than sit through a movie that can last more than 90 minutes, Ben said.  

Since that is the case, it is really fortunate that the documentaries that are shot with IMAX cameras are so well made.  Stunning and spectacular are not hyperbole when applied to those docs.  When “members” of the Lewis and Clark expedition shoot the rapids, you feel as though you’re in the canoe with them.  Ben tells me, by the way, that the Lewis and Clark film is the museum’s most successful documentary.

However, Hubble 3-D could give it a run for the money.  It’s pulling in good audiences.  It deserves it.  You’ve never seen the galaxies in a more spectacular fashion than through the Hubble space telescope images projected on the IMAX 5-story tall, 72-feet wide screen.  It’s magical.

The theater’s newest doc is Fighter Pilot” Operation Red Flag. It follows a fighter jet pilot, the grandson of a World War II ace, as he participates in the most challenging combat training course for fighter pilots.  We’ll probably feel like we have flown the course ourselves since a lot of it is shot from inside the cockpit for an F-16.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I will.

Sometimes when I go there are only a few people in the theater and that concerns me, but, then I have to reflect on the fact that that also happens sometimes when I go to a Carmike Cinemas’ movie.  I’ve been to the Peachtree Art Theater when I was the only person there.  After watching some of the movie, I realized why. However, I’ve also seen decent crowds and really fine movies there. You can’t judge by just one visit.

When I went to the National Naval Air Museum at the Naval Air Station Pensacola IMAX, I saw a Blue Angels documentary, The Magic of Flight. Since that amazing Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is stationed next door to the museum, what could be more appropriate? 

Blue Angels in Diamond formation (Photo by Jon Sullivan)

And what could be more appropriate than an IMAX documentary about the United States Army Infantry at the National Infantry Museum? It would be a natural and should be highly successful if done well.  The National Infantry Foundation folks know this and want one.  The problem is cost.  We’re talking millions.   Actually, though, it would seem to me that it shouldn’t be hard to get someone to sponsor it.  For instance, The Magic of Flight is sponsored by aircraft manufacturer and defense contractor McDonald Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997.  Fighter Pilot, the doc we told you that is now playing at the Infantry Museum, is a Boeing sponsored film. You would think defense contractors would line up to sponsor an IMAX U.S. Army Infantry film.  But, the sponsor certainly wouldn’t have to be a defense contractor. 

As I said, I want the theater to be successful.  One of the ways to help it is to go and enjoy it, which I have done and will continue to do, and I hope you join me.  Or, even better yet, get up a group to go.  I did that once.  20 of us saw a movie, and then had dinner at the Fife and Drum. It was fun.