Day: November 5, 2009

Sister, Sister: Review for “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

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Have you ever been manipulated by a completely crazy person? Are they related to you? Thought so. But was it so bad that they crippled you with their car? Thought that would get you. In the classic thriller What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, Davis shows us child stars were bratty and manipulative even in 1917. This chilling film had problems during production, mainly doubt that the film would even be released. The director, Robert Aldrich, kept hearing “I wouldn’t pay a dime to see those two old broads on the screen.”

It’s funny how art can imitate life. At the time, both Crawford and David were hard up for roles in film and the two were rivals in their glory days. The film begins with baby Jane Hudson, a young and precocious child star on vaudeville in 1917 with her own porcelain doll (“For only $3.25!). Her standby is a song called “A Letter to Daddy”, an eerie song recounting a young daughter’s wish for her father back from heaven. When the show is over, she acts up in front of a crowd, embarrassing her ring master father and helpless mother. Her sister, Blanche, watches by, jealous yet patient. Her mother consoles her, assuring her that she would be famous and pleads not to treat them the same way they treat her.

Jump 20 years and Blanche is on the silver screen making epic romance films and hilarious crowd pleasing comedies, both gaining the attention of critics. Though, a part of her contract is to allow her younger sister Jane in on the money as well and get her some jobs. Jane’s films don’t even sell. The executives won’t release many of her films, almost deeming her box office poison (which is ironic, because by this time, Crawford had gained that nick name).

Jump 30 years and Blanche (Crawford) is living in a wheelchair after an accident caused by her psychotic sister Jane (Davis). Blanche is almost happy-go-lucky and totally giddy when a television station starts playing her old films. She loves her sister and feels a need to pay her back, even though Jane is delusional and mean and completely crazy.

This psychology between the two is the main spectacle of the film. Blanche seems to be completely deluding herself that Jane is a healthy and sane person, when in reality; she goes completely nutters on several occasions. This Jane character completely manipulates her older sister, almost driving her mad, stuffing dead birds and rats in her lunch and murdering maids.

The performances are amazing, some of the best for either actress. The two grace the silver screen like the icons they had once been, both in the film and in real life. The creepiness that surrounds the characters and their state of mind is almost overwhelming. It gives a complete sense of evil that has only been replicated on screen a handful of times. The score by Frank DeVol adds to the aura of mystique and the even scarier version of “A Letter for Daddy” done by a grown up crazy Jane makes shivers go down the viewer’s spine. It is a fantastic film and a stand by for all time scary films!

Grade: A

From Bruges with Blood: Review of “In Bruges”

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Dark comedy is not easy to do, since comedy itself is hard enough. With dark comedy, you have to have the right amount of bleakness or terribleness and then a mix of comedy for it to work. The Coen Brothers have perfected this art in such films as Fargo. Martin Macdonagh’s new dark comedy/thriller/action/shoot ‘em up film is called In Bruges. Think of it as Fargo with thicker accents, less niceness, and more cursing. Collin Farrell plays a gun for hire named Ray. He has a mentor named Ken (Brendan Gleeson). And they have a guy after them named Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes). Oh and there’s a “dwarf” named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice, from American Pie Presents the Naked Mile) Why, yes, this all ties together, but I shan’t give the plot away.

The beginning of the film is so wrought with darkness and sadness, you’re ultimately shocked that towards the second half it actually becomes…quite hilarious. Brendan Gleeson, who has done a lot of British television and stage work, makes an old fart like Ken seem cool. The cinematography, done by Eigil Bryld, can be annoyingly shaky sometimes, but in certain shots, very beautiful. Never has a climb up the stairs been so moving, but I will get to that scene a little later in this review.

What makes this film so good? It’s rather flawless humor and drama, how one never overshadowed the other and how each element was actually used appropriately. Swift changes between the elements actually can enhance a film’s emotional plotline, or bring it down. But it is indeed possible to go from thinking of committing suicide to kicking a dwarf in the crotch.

The score by Carter Burwell was another thing that made the film. It was a very moving score when need be and then it could go to a pulse pounding chase scene and make the score turn that way too. One of the best uses of scores I’ve ever seen on screen is when en is climbing up the stairs with a shot in his neck and knee and it plays this old Celtic song that is so moving a beautiful. He then proceeds to jump off of the building and you can almost feel the rush of the wind on your face. A superb, if very morbid scene.

The film as a whole has a very good sense of what it is and doesn’t take advantage of that knowledge. It manages to be a well written, dramatic, and funny film. Ralph Fiennes is excellent and the cursing throughout the film is outrageous. “F***ing Bruges” is said about a hundred times in the film, if not more.

 

Grade: A-