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Monthly Archives: July 2010

JPF Asks Why Don’t We Take a Look at Barton Fink?

Hollywood lore has it that the Coen brothers were having a tough time writing Miller’s Crossing decided to take a break and ended up writing Barton Fink in three weeks.  Man that must have been one hell of a three weeks because this film is nothing short of fantastic.

Barton Fink is played by John Tuturro.  On an aside, like so many other cast members of this movie, Tuturro also appears in the Coen Brothers The Big Lebowski.  Fink is a successful playwright who is approached by Hollywood to leave his native New York and go on the writer’s Hollywood safari to write B-movie wrestling pictures.  At first Barton is reluctant to go on safari, as he fears it may separate him from ‘the common man,’ whom he pompously regards as the source and reason of his creative outlet.

Fink does accept Hollywood’s high-priced proposal, and checks in to L.A.’s Hotel Earle, a resident’s hotel where he intends to write.  The Hotel is essentially run by “Chet” (Steve Buscemi also in The Big Lebowski) who informs Barton that one of the Hotels fine amenities is a free shoe shine.  After meeting the studio executive, Fink sits down to work but suffers from a serious case of writer’s block.  He becomes torn between his love of creating art with meaning, about and for ‘the common man,’ as he regularly puts it, and the demands of his new Hollywood masters, who are expecting a bestseller formulaic wrestling picture.  Looking for anyway to break his block, Fink begins to look around and venture out into his surroundings.  Perhaps he will even meet a few people.

Enter John Goodman who plays Charlie Meadows, Barton’s hotel neighbor.  Charlie is a charismatic insurance salesman, and becomes a confidante and source of inspiration to Fink.  Fink comes alive when he converses a common man like Charlie, who is supportive and provides comfort in the desolate, and soulless atmosphere of the Hotel Earle and his California surroundings in general.

The Hotel Earle becomes one of the strongest, most disturbing elements of the film.  It is eerie and unsettling, and it’s overall dark and depressing atmosphere is adequate housing, symbolically speaking, for Barton Fink, who is suffering from life-affirming lows and struggles linked with the creative process, ‘The life of the mind’, as it’s referred to in the film.  The Hotel Earle and the mind of Barton Fink are the same – cold, lonely, unsure, messy, and unpredictable.  Eventually the Hotel literally becomes a living hell—fire and all.  Be that as it may, one could go on for days about the symbolism displayed.  The wallpaper peeling in the hotel room that represents Fink’s mind, analogies offered by the very film Fink is working on, references to slavery as metaphors of the studio’s ownership of Fink’s creativity, along with other strong yet accurate accusations of the Hollywood machine (the studio head exclaims to Fink: “This is a wrestling picture, the audience wants to see action, adventure, wrestling.  They don’t want to see a guy wrestling with his own soul!”)

Barton Fink is an intelligent, funny, and powerful story, with dark elements of multiple genres and layers of various meanings, symbols, and representations.  It can be viewed as a strange film, not one to forget in a hurry, but pleasing, as much as it is unnerving.  It stands alone as an example of great film-making, and is certainly one of the finer offerings from the Coen brothers.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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The jpfmovie Giveaway!

Ok all of you movie fans out there, jpfmovies is going to giveaway two new movies of your choice shipped to you anywhere in the world. The winners are chosen at random from your comments on the next two movie reviews i.e. one winner for each review and you can’t win twice. Each movie will be brand new and shipped to you directly from the vendor. Just make sure to leave an email or some other way that you can be contacted if you’re the winner.

The giveaway is our way of saying thanks to all of you movie fans out there who take the time to visit http://www.jpfmovie.wordpress.com!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Dr. H and JP Look at “Operation Petticoat” what we dub as Humor In Uniform:

Operation Petticoat is an early (1959) a post WWII comedy directed by Blake Edwards (the Pink Panther Series, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Great Race, “10”, Victor/Victoria and others) filled with a cast that were either big names like Cary Grant or rising stars like Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), Marrion Ross (Happy Days) and Gavin MacLeod (the Love Boat) and others.  The movie could even be seen as an early attempt at bringing feminism to the big screen and the precursor to the rash of 1960’s sex comedies that soon followed.

The film story goes something like this, following the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepared to invade the American-occupied Philippine Islands.  During an air raid on the American naval base there almost sink the new submarine the “Sea Tiger.”  The boat’s insistent and professional commander, Matt Sherman – played by Cary Grant – wants to get the Sea Tiger operational at any cost.  After persuading the powers the be who give Sherman permission to make the Sea Tiger sea worthy, he and the remnants of the ships original crew (which has been decimated by transfers because the boat is considered sunken condition) succeeds in raising the sub from the harbor bottom and commence getting her seaworthy enough to escape to Australia before the pending Japanese assault.  Unfortunately the repair efforts are hampered by the bureaucratically-based shortage of necessary parts and supplies.  Enter Tony Curtis as Lt. Nick Holden; an accomplished back-alley smoke filled room deal cutter who joined the Navy to get into a nice uniform which he believes will land him a very wealthy wife.  Alas, having secured a cushy job as an admiral’s aid the sudden outbreak of the war results in all Mr. Holden’s carefully laid schemes sent completely awry.  Thus being at the end of his rope, Holden finds himself assigned as a replacement officer to the Sea Tiger.  Faced with the alternative of being stuck on Bataan to endure the certain Japanese onslaught, he sees it is in his best interest to make up for the seagoing experience he has managed to avoid by becoming the Sea Tiger’s Supply Officer and secures everything the captain needs to get “the . . . submarine” out of there and to someplace where he can get a better deal.

Holden implements his supply procurement program which at best is unorthodox and at worst just plain felonious.  Holden out does him self when he manages to “scavenge” five stranded Army nurses and convinces Cary Grant that he must take them aboard.  From then on the film becomes Cary Grant’s battle to get this backfiring-limping submarine to Australia while avoiding the “exchange of information” about the proverbial “birds and the bees” between the crew and their female guests.  Grant’s struggle becomes more and more complicated as the film moves on to the point where a maternity ward has to be opened on the Sea Tiger to accommodate its passengers.

For those who enjoy MASH (the movie), Stripes or the Russians are Coming this movie is a must see.  A perfect example of how a good comedy can be made without resorting to “blue humor” or three stooges like slap stick.  Fifty years later, the jokes a still witty and story remains fresh.  This film was also one of the first movies to inspire a TV spin-off.  In 1977 Operation Petticoat the TV. series aired starring none other than Jamie Lee Curtis who’s father, Tony Curtis, starred as one of the lead male roles in the 1959 movie.

Per Dr. H—This one is a rose for your bouquet.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Jude Finestra Finally Looks At Bladerunner!

Jude Finestra Reviews Bladerunner–At Last

Behold! The glory of Bladerunner — science fiction, an apocalyptic future, philosophical self-doubting reflections by my man Harrison Ford. Behold! the magnificence of Bladerunner — music by Vangelis, an entire movie filmed (with the exception of one sunrise or sunset — oh the ambiguity!) in the dark.

Bask in the brilliance of director Ridley Scott and ask yourself: how could this man, the producer/director of Black Hawk Down (my man JP’s all time favorite war movie), the producer/director of Gladiator, and the director of Alien, for god’s sake, how could this man make a bad movie? Answer: he has.

I admit it. Scott did also make GI Jane and Thelma and Louise. Everyone has off days. Some chick probably made him do those.

Bladerunner has an almost mystical quality to it and was immediately nominated for two Oscars (I think a fucking popularity contest), won or was nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for more categories than I care to totally list here (but I will mention its nomination for Best Score award for Vangelis’ music), and was nominated for Best Cinematography Award, the International Fantasy Film Award (twice once in 1983 and once in 1993), and the Golden Globe.  It won the Hugo (best dramatic presentation, 1983), won the London Critics Circle Film Award for visual concept in 1983, won the Los Angeles Critics Association Award for best cinematography (again 1983), and was nominated for five prestigious Saturn Awards (best genre video release, best director, best science fiction film, best special effects, best supporting actor) and after more than twenty years won a Saturn in 2008 for best DVD Special Edition Release.  Clearly this movie was never headed for the dung heap.

Remember this movie came out in 1982. It has truly survived the test of time—much more so (sorry, Dr. H) than The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Almost a generation later Bladerunner is as fresh and compelling as it was when I was in college. Do I need to tell you that this is a rose? A bouquet of yellow roses!

Dude, I dare you to watch the following scene and not get drawn in.

If you read old reviews of Bladerunner, you’ll find all sorts of invective regarding the decision to add narration by Harrison Ford. The narration was added later, only when the powers that be decided that moviegoers would be too confused without it. Well, sometimes The Man gets it right. Ford’s narration is brilliant and quite frankly, as The Man predicted, holds the movie together and MAKES it so compelling. Through the narration it becomes clear that Ford is utterly conflicted about killing these replicators, but dude, it is his job. Consider these lines:

“They don’t advertise for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-Bladerunner. Ex-cop. Ex-killer.”

“Sushi, that’s what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish.”

“I quit because I’d had a belly full of killing. But then I’d rather be a killer than a victim.”

Then in this scene we see Ford forced to kill in cold blood yet again:

No, he’s no angel, he is burned out, on the verge of moral bankruptcy and a killer, but we know he’s still one of the good guys. What kind of actor can act out a cold-blooded killing and still leave us feeling that he’s one of the good guys? Harrison Ford, that’s who. No, he’s not Mr. Sweetness and Light. But he means well.

I’ll grant you that there is something lacking in originality in the premise for the script. It’s a Hollywood chestnut that human governments can’t tolerate anything nonhuman that has intelligence, spirit, character and poses a threat to our hegemony. Must kill all nonhuman forms of intelligence. Must kill anything alien or artificial (ala Battlestar Galactica). Yeah, yeah. But the execution (no pun intended) of this film makes up for any lack of originality in the premise.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends.  You are a fool if you have not seen this movie yet so get your ass in gear and bathe in the glory of Bladerunner!

I think I’ll go watch it again myself.

Now what do you say, Dude? JP? was it worth the wait, Mr. “I haven’t received your review yet Mr. Finestra”? I hope you enjoyed it. I sure did.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Let’s Take a Trip Back to the 1980s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Where do you start with a movie like this?  Let’s go with the fact that Fast Times served as an incubator for many of today’s great actors and actresses: Sean Penn (one of my personal favorites), Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a young Nicolas Cage performing under his real name “Copolla,” Judge Rienhold,  James Russo and Forrest Whitaker each appeared in this film early in their careers.  The cast was not solely composed of soon to be stars; Fast Times also had some more seasoned actors in it like Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) who played Mr. Hand, the history teacher and the dearly departed Vincent Schiavelli who played the biology teacher, Mr. Vargas.  Fast Times was a launching pad for many of these major movie and T.V. stars.

Next is the movie’s great soundtrack.  Songs like “Speeding” by The Go Go’s, “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne—on a side note, this song reached #7 on the Hot 100 and became Browne’s highest charting single, interestingly “Somebody’s Baby” was not included in a Jackson Browne album until 15 years later when his first “best of” collection was released.  Other great songs include  “Love Rules” by Don Henley, “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” by Sammy Hagar, “I Don’t Know” by Jimmy Buffett, “Goodbye, Goodbye” by Oingo Boingo, “Fast Times (The Best Years Of Our Lives)” by Billy Squier, and “Raised On The Radio” by The Ravyns.  The Fast Times soundtrack reads like a Who’s Who of 1980s top bands and music for the decade.
Now the story of Fast Times: the movie portrays teenage life but is virtually plotless, it simply chronicles a group of teenagers as they stumble their way through high school.  Typical of so many 1980s teen movies, much of it (rightfully so) takes place at the local mall giving the viewer the opportunity to reminisce about all those timeless 80s arcade games.   Though virtually plotless, the basic storyline involves Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the ideal slang-talking emptyheaded surfer sporting Hawaiian shirts.  Spicoli has a hard time with the formality of school, especially as it is personified by his history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).  The two begin to have a battle of wills which surprisingly evens out in the end.  Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is a senior who hops from one fast-food job to the next but has no idea what he is supposed to do in life even though everyone, including his guidance counselor, expects a lot from him.  Stacy Hamilton is a guy-crazy chick who is sensitive, but always wants sex and attention, leading her first into the arms of an older man, and eventually into those of Mike Damone, a cocky hustler, when the only guy who genuinely cares for her is nerdy Mark Ratner. Damone is a shady character, a charming sweet-talker who scalps tickets with his piano scarf and does what he can to make a quick buck.  He tries to help Ratner score with Stacy, then steals the girl right out from under him.  Ratner is an insecure nerd-type who has a good heart and just wants his shot with Stacy.  He finds himself brokenhearted when he uncovers Damone’s betrayal.  Linda Barrett is Stacy’s best friend and confidante, a very sexy, confident girl who is constantly moving from one guy to the next and sort of becomes a quasi role model for Stacy. That’s essentially the basic foundation for what goes on.

In conclusion, this is the best 80s teen movie. Fast Times separates itself from “Brat Pack” films (the group of young actors and actresses who frequently appeared together typically in John Hughes’ films like The Breakfast Club) due in part to a much stronger cast.  Think of where the actors and actresses from Fast Times are now versus members of the Brat Pack.  Fast Times is required viewing for teens, adults and anyone with a fondness for 80s culture.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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