Tag: Borzage

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film

Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film

This movie often filp flops with There Will Be Blood as my favorite movie of all time. Where TWBB is a focused study of a man grabbing at whatever he can to get rich, Magnolia pulls back and looks at a dozen or so LA denizens and how their lives weave in and out of each other’s. It’s not the first movie to do such a thing and it owes a lot of debt to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts in both its form and function. But there’s a kind of craziness that underlies everything. This being PTA’s third film he is mostly allowed to go all out on the filmmaking front. There’s a couple of multi-minute-long shots, the characters take a break in the middle of the film to have a cosmic sing-along, and then there’s the ending. It’s a pretty audacious piece of work but what makes it my favorite drama film is the characters. Like I said earlier there are about a dozen characters and all of the directorial trickery works to make you care about each and every one of them. From Tom Cruise’s woman-hating public speaker to John C. Reilly’s well meaning police officer to Melora Walters’ junkie caught between love and addiction, each of the characters has a full life which we glimpse for only a day. It is one of the best combinations of script, direction, and acting I have ever seen and it never fails to get my tear ducts working. Sometimes it’s Cruise’s confession at his dying father’s bedside or the heartbreaking date between Reilly and Walters that ends with this line, “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?” or the final, redemptive scene of the film; they knit together to create a dazzling and desperately human work of art.
Notes:

  • I have, for some reason, only seen this film twice. I feel like I should go out and buy it right now. I’ve talked myself into it.
  • As hard as it was for me to not turn this into a Borzage-fest, it will be just as hard to keep all of PTA’s films off the list. There may or may not be another one coming up soon.
  • There were roughly a billion other films I could have chosen for this spot including films like The Assassination of  Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and most of Borzage’s movies and The Searchers and How Green Was My Valley and so on and so forth.
  • LOOK AT THE AWESOME!

30 Day Film Challenge Day 11 – A Film By Your Favorite Director

Day 11 – A Film By Your Favorite Director

I’ve written (or at least picked out the movies for) the remaining posts in this series now. I’ve worked out that there is, after today, only one more Frank Borzage movie coming up. I feel justified having 1/10th of this project be about Borzage because he is just that good. There’s a certain level of optimism in his films that is absent from the majority of films both today and in his time – his last directorial job came in 1961 but Moonrise in 1948 is considered his last great film. Magical dresses abound and the power of love usually conquers all. That’s not to say his films ignore reality. People die and lose their loved ones but the focus is always on the good rather than the bad. Today’s film is a sweet little love story where an injured WWI vet (the fantastic Charles Farrell) falls in love with a feisty younger woman (Janet Gaynor). They teach each other lessons about being good people and love and by the end the power of love is quite literally transcendent. The final ten minutes of this film are among the most beautiful I have ever seen and for that it is worth of this coveted spot on my list.

Notes: 
  • These two actors also star in the more well known (relatively, of course) Borzage film 7th Heaven. That, too, is a great film but I don’t like it nearly as much as I do the intense melodrama of Lucky Star.
  • Janet Gaynor had a real good shot at taking my favorite actress spot. I do like Margaret Sullavan better but it’s a close race. Gaynor’s more famous role in F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won her an Oscar (along with her roles in 7th Heaven and Street Angel).
  • Here’s a clip of some of the best scenes from three Borzage-Gaynor-Farrell films: 7th Heaven, Lucky Star, and Street Angel.

30 Day Film Challenge Days 1-6

The 30 Day Film Challenge is a fun little project that I started doing over at The Reelists website. That website is shutting down so I’ll be continuing it here. The idea is to pick a movie based on certain criteria for each day of the month. First up are the 6 movies already posted there. I’ll just put them here for completion’s sake. Later today I’ll post Day 7.
Day 1: Your Favorite Film
If there’s one thing that Paul Thomas Anderson is good at it’s examining the way broken people deal with the broken world they live in. There Will Be Blood is the epitome of that idea. Daniel Plainview (played perfectly by Daniel Day-Lewis) will tell you that he is an oil man and you will have to agree. The problem is that he is single minded in his quest for oil. His nemesis Eli Sunday (Paul Dano’s performance has been maligned but I think he does a good job of being the sniveling opposite of Day-Lewis’s towering inferno of a show) is similarly broken, leaning on religion as a way to exploit the small town people he purports to lead. The movie is deeply serious on first viewing but after multiple exposures the dark comedy comes to the fore. It’s a great example of what movies can do and the technical craft is second-to-none.
Day 2: Your Least Favorite Film
Aliens (1986, Cameron)
How can I hate Aliens, you might ask. Let me count the ways. It’s a sequel that completely changes the tone and world of the original film (which is a masterpiece, by the way). Instead of a smart and scary thriller we get a dumb and explosion-y action film with nothing horrifying in the 137 minute run time. Remember the characters in Alien? They had depth and a purpose. The sequel gave us people that spout one-liners like they were going out of style and lacked anything resembling nuance. And then the creatures. One alien was enough to kill the entire crew of the Nostromo but a hundred aliens left three survivors (thankfully killed in the superior third film)? The increase in numbers did not lead to an increase in scariness. And there’s a boss fight! A freaking boss fight. Aliens, you did what every other sequel does but for some reason people love you and condemn the rest. Not I! Boo, Aliens, Boo.
Day 3: A Film You Watch to Feel Good
Sure, Jurassic Park has a few people dying in it. And it’s not exactly a carefree romp or anything. But it is super fun and fulfills the promise of cinema to the fullest extent. The great thing about movies is that you can see and hear things that don’t exist. It’s limited only by imagination and the craftiness of the artists behind the scenes. In the case of Jurassic Park the imagination is great and the craftiness greater. Like most young boys I was fascinated by dinosaurs. They were so big and there were so many kinds. And thanks to Steven Spielberg and Stan Winston I could finally see real live (or real clever use of CGI and giant puppets) dinosaurs. And that’ll make me happy any day of the week.
Day 4: A Film You Watch to Feel Down
The great thing about Hoop Dreams is that it’s a documentary about two kids that are chasing a dream. The terrible thing about Hoop Dreams is that they fail. It’s a 3 hour movie about people struggling against the system and themselves and losing. Not exactly what I would call uplifting. The two kids aspire to go to a good basketball school and transition into the NBA. While not the easiest goal to meet it certainly seems doable to young William Gates and Arthur Agee. But when one pushes his schooling to the side and the other’s body starts to fail him already the dreams begin to disappear. There are moments of joy sprinkled in there – Arthur’s mother getting her nursing assistant certificate made me cry – but most of it is utterly depressing. It is on my list of 100 greatest movies but I’d never watch it unless I wanted to be super sad.
Day 5: A Film That Reminds You of Someone
Liliom (1930, Borzage)
Those of you that know me might be surprised that this is the first Frank Borzage film from me. Many of you might not have seen a film from Mr. Borzage. Allow me to explain. My final semester in college I took a film class that focused solely on the films of Frank Borzage. He’s an old Hollywood director that nobody else seems to care about. But my professor, Bob Smith, really loved him. His appreciation was infectious and by the end of my time in his class I, too, had become a huge Borzage fan. Liliom is not a typical Borzage movie. It’s got a lot of flaws (mostly in the whole spousal abuse element and some of the acting choices) but those flaws serve only to highlight the spectacular look and feel of the film. To quote another Borzage film, “Everywhere… in every town, in every street… we pass unknowingly, human souls made great by love and adversity.” I’d like to thank Bob Smith for introducing me to Frank Borzage and for being the best teacher I’ve ever had.
Day 6: A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere.
How can a movie remind me of a place that doesn’t exist? It’s just that good at the world-building aspect of film. Peter Jackson took J.R.R. Tolkien’s base novels and planted them firmly in the already otherworldly land of New Zealand. The combination leads to a place that doesn’t really exist outside of the frame of the film but within that frame it’s as real as anywhere. It takes a special film to make me nostalgic for a place I’ve only experienced through books and movies. The Fellowship of the Ring is that movie. I would live in a hobbit hole in a second and even listening to that flute piece that plays seemingly throughout the time spent in the Shire is enough to bring me back to that place I’ve never been and will never go to.