ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: "JUST CUT IT OUT..."- THE ART OF MINIMAL EDITING IN FILM

JOHNNY CHAZZ: To witness, and better yet, to experience a film with minimal cuts is positively sensational. The problem is that we just do not see it much anymore. Use of minimal cuts and extended takes is a direct sign of strength in direction, writing and in the overall editing process. To witness, and worse yet, to experience a film with constant cutting borders on both tiring and annoying, serving as a sign of weakness in direction and in the overall film-making process. Hence, the subject for this week: The effects of constant cutting in film.

Director James Cameron: "JC, I have you now!"
Today’s worst films are placed into one single category: The action and adventure film. These are not films – they are popcorn movies that saturate the screen with endless and pointless action, over-cutting and a complete lack of meaningful dialogue. Little is being accomplished with these films and they have become a dime a dozen. Simply put – they are tasteless eye candy. Even James Cameron (“Avatar” and “Titanic”) analogized today’s action films as being so over-cut that they appear as ‘chopped salad’.

The idea of an extended scene or take not only adds to the realism of the film, but creates a real bond between audience and character. Constant cutting creates distraction and more importantly, a space between the character and the audience resulting in a separation that we never want. Constant cutting also disorients the audience wherein you completely lose your audience and destroys the scene from the top-down and from the bottom-up. The effect is a total reduction in the dramatic and tension effect that these types of scenes are capable of creating.

Acclaimed Director: AKIRA KUROSAWA
How conscious are we really of the cuts in a film? It is the idea of the ‘uninterrupted shot’ that creates the emotion. Camera angles may constantly change and dollies may move in and out adding to this amazing effect without effects being used. To shoot an extended scene within a limited space is priceless. Directors such as Kurosawa, Scorsese, Truffaut and Woody Allen are especially known for utilizing long-takes to draw audiences into them and create the right mood. Other examples might include the party scene from “Far From Heaven”, the interior scenes of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” the final scene from Coppola’s “The Conversation” or Antonioni’s “The Passenger”. Perhaps the opening scenes to most Kubrick films ("A Clockwork Orange" or "2001: A Space Odyssey"), might qualify, or even the extended take in Lynch’s "Mulholland Drive” at Club Silencio. Both “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” also have memorable and extended scenes allowing us (as an audience) to become emotionally invested into the characters. How about the tour through the House of Blue Leaves in “Kill Bill”? Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” also offers us an opening scene that we instantly become invested in. Finally, the extended take during the last scene of "The Third Man” could easily be regarded as another long-take that works with great effectiveness.
An awkward tender moment without edits from BEFORE SUNRISE

We could go on and on, but I imagine that this week’s readers get the idea of where I am heading. Most directors and audiences who enjoy constant cutting do so to maintain interest – a visual interest. The truth is that when a scene is extended and minimal cuts are used, well – that is precisely what makes some of the most memorable scenes in Hollywood and film history. Just think about some of your favorite scenes of all time and it would be a safe bet that the cuts used in those scenes are strictly limited. Extended cuts will always allow the audience to be emotionally drawn into the scene while creating a sense of real-time.

Someone once said: “Audiences prefer to move their own heads and to examine a scene, but when our view is forcibly changed – we lose all interest”.Judge for yourselves CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT readers. I leave this portion now with my counterpart Jer, and eagerly anticipate his response in reference to the effects of over-cutting in film.

JER: Yet another great topic pulled from the heavens to talk about! It is funny how you diligently mentioned directors such as Kurosawa, Scorsese and Coppola…yet, again, no love for one of my personal favorites and an exemplarity of the extended scene director: Mr. Brian DePalma!

Director Brian DePalma
I took it upon myself to cover one of DePalma’s greatest films and a prime example of long shots in a motion picture when I covered THE UNTOUCHABLES in my November 7th, 2011 posting. There are several extended/ uninterrupted scenes to converse about. The opening scene hangs over Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Al Capone as he sits in a barber’s chair. The scene is unflinching as it stays on a wide shot and slowly begin descending into a close- up (or tight- shot) of the hot towel wrapped around his face only to have the barber remove the warm cloth and reveal Capone for the first time. The shot still remains unedited as you hear him reply to reporter’s questions. An excellent tracking shot (or dolly shot) has a low positioned camera circling around the table occupied by Sean Connery, Kevin Costner, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith. The camera never cuts to any other shot and steadily paces round them, like an inpatient waiter, circling while the actors carry on with their talks. One other wonderfully extended shot has Martin Smith walking into an elevator within the Chicago Precinct as the camera remains on the outer doors as they close and pans to the left to catch both Costner and Connery walking into the scene while in conversation. It is a well- choreographed moment involving a busy hallway of officers and citizens carrying on their own business while intermingling with the real action taking place.

Another example of a long- steady cam shot can be found in 1992’s RAISING CAIN, also by DePalma. The scene is a well executed moment as we follow Dr. Lynn Waldheim (Frances Sternhagen) as she followed by two investigators as she rattles off an impressive and extensive piece of monolog concerning the main character’s multiple personalities. The scene begins in an interrogation room, moves out into the hallways, down two sets of stairs, into an elevator and into the basement morgue. The entire unedited scene clocks in at a staggering four minutes and fourteen seconds!
Start counting after 0.21! Here is the scene from RAISING CAIN!

Famed music video director Julien Temple directed the feature length film ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS in 1986 with musician/ actors David Bowie and Sade. Taking a page from his recent Janet Jackson video entitled “When I Think Of You” which had Miss Jackson strolling and singing through the neighborhood streets while pedestrians walk, chefs cook and a policeman directs traffic all in one single and unedited shot, Temple would re-create a similar scene as the opening to his film. Most of the main characters repeat the basic choreography and scenery from Jackson’s video on a grander, more cinematic scale. Same scene, different budget!
Not the film, but Temple's Janet Jackson video for "When I Think Of You!"

THE SHINING (1980)
Director Stanley Kubrick embraced the newly- introduced Stedi- Cam by using its equally balanced camera operation to avoid shaking while the camera followed a moving sequence in his 1980 classic THE SHINING. The best use of both the camera and the continuous unedited scenes followed little Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) as he would peddle his tricycle throughout the corridors of the emptied Overlook Hotel. The pace is quick, as we are almost bring driven by Danny’s energetic legs peddling though lobbies and hotel walkways… as he is unaware of what may lie around every bend turned, the audience is victim to his maneuvering ways.

A very complex extended shot would appear in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob film GOODFELLAS. The film is sprinkled with tiny shots but one has to lean towards the sequence involving Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill as he escorts Lorraine Brocco’s Karen as they exit out of a car, cross a busy street filled with cars, though the backdoor of a nightclub, passing the kitchen and though the waiters’ doors to the front of the club where a table is brought forth on cue with chairs awaiting to finally sit and enjoy Henny Youngman on stage beginning within seconds after their grand entrance. Intricate in its timing including busboys, waiters, patrons and cooks along the way. A flawless piece of work played to the tune of The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me."
Here is the scene from GOODFELLAS for your entertainment

JOHNNY CHAZZ: I will, of course give Credit to DePalma for his use of extended scenes and long takes as well. Specific moments in "Carrie", "The Untouchables" (nice detail you included here in your response as the wide / tight shot is highly effective in the opening barber scene) and well - the forgetful, but appropriate for this week "Black Dahlia" utilized this technique quite well. It is virtually impossible as you know Jer; to include every director in these discussions, so I simply try to highlight the ones that immediately come to mind. Still - DePalma does come to mind when discussing the films mentioned above. Kurosawa, Scorsese, Kubrick, Truffaut, Coppola and Allen are all immediates however and must be included as well - thus, I am glad you agreed with this.
A great moment from Akira Kurosawa's final film DREAMS

"Absolute Beginners" is a film that I am unfamiliar with, but the idea of the single, and unedited shot sparks my interest.....Netflix is calling here.

You mentioned "The Shining" (that specific Kubrick style I have tried to allude to this week) as well as "Goodfellas" (Scorsese again) and I could not agree more. The use of the Stedi-Cam is highly effective and creates that real, genuine tension that gives both films such power. The ultimate effect is to develop an atmosphere of authentic suspense or what we refer to as "cinéma vérité" to heighten dramatic scenes. It is also intriguing that you mention the tune "Then He Kissed Me" as having such an effect on a scene - as music is just another way to heighten the emotional impact and overall effectiveness of the single-shot......

So CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT Fans - it appears as though the ball is in your court now. How do you feel about films today being cut-up like "chopped salad"? Chime in with your thoughts and opinions on the subject and leave us your comments. Please note that we always respond to all so please check back here for our replies.


CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT will be tuning- off for a holiday- break and will return with a brand new topic on Wednesday January 11th, 2012! On behalf of both JER and JOHNNY CHAZZ… we wish you all the Happiest and Safest of Holidays and a prosperous and eventful New Year! See you back here in 2012!


Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

JER’S TURN: FILMS (AND DIRECTORS) THAT DEFINED THE ERA THEY REPRESENT

JER: If you haven’t already noticed or if you are a first- time visitor to CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT, most of our film comparisons (or disagreements), recommendations and topics have involved the reflections of good films long past. You may also have noticed that the rarity of talking about any films made within the last 10 years. I think I can speak on behalf of myself and my ‘counterpart’ Johnny Chazz when I say,”movies just ain’t what they used to be!”

With that said I can confidently sally forth with looking into cinema’s past and pluck my topic of the week!

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974)
At a most recent Movie Party at my place, I had a viewing of Brian DePalma’s THE PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Those who had attended mentioned how the film had represented or ‘marked’ the era that the film was made in, thus 1974. One of my buddies had even mentioned the possible remake of this cult classic! The mere thought made my legs give out….oh, and even worse… a possible remake of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW??? What??? These films defined an era that cannot be repeated or duplicated and it was these films that time-stamped the right actors, music, photography and even marketing that made them stand- out as the solitary works they are. 
1974's campy musical PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE

This inspired my topic of discussion: are there films made within a decade that carry that recognition of the era they represent? Confusing? Possibly, so let me give you my definition and what they stood for when they were made.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
Automatically, I will make my first reference to 1955’s REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. It is a story about teenage angst that takes place in the 1950’s and was made in the 1950’s… get it? The film wasn’t made in 1980 to represent 1955, like BACK TO THE FUTURE was. The actors (James Dean and Natalie Wood) stood for their misunderstood generation and spoke to them at their level. They were relatable and what happened to them within the film made teenagers feel their frustrations because they were going through similar domestic issues as well. Boys impersonated the ‘puppy- dog’ looks of Dean and even bought up red jackets like the one he wore in the film. Strong topics such as overbearing parents, rebellious teenagers and uncontrollable young love were probably being revealed for the first time with such truthful impact.

It wouldn’t be fair to start the subject right in the middle of film’s history… we would almost need to go back to the beginning… the beginning of film.

A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902)
Since the creation of moving pictures and the experimentation with images dating back to Thomas Edison playing with the kinetoscope between the 1890’s and early 1900’s, the fascination of capturing images and showing them back had always been the goal of a filmmaker. Even in the early films, going back to Georges Melies’ 1902 classic A TRIP TO THE MOON, imagination would blur the concept of straight capturing or filming of current era reality.

Fast- forward a few decades and we arrive into the 1930’s: Prohibition, speak- easies and gambling were making a stronger impact on the American lifestyle and brought forth the dawn of a new name for the bad guys: the mobster. Hollywood was ready to cash- in on the new bullies and create some of its own along the way.

LITTLE CAESAR (1931)
LITTLE CAESAR (1931) starred Edward G. Robinson as ‘Rico’ and dealt with true events occurring at the same time the film was in production. It was the story of how a little known gangster wanted to rise to the top surrounding himself with booze, women, corruption and violence. The film was pivotal and very impactful for its time…

The same year would see James Cagney in PUBLIC ENEMY, telling the tale of a ‘hoodlum’ making his way through the crime wave of Chicago. Soon thereafter, other films began defining the era, such as Paul Muni as SCARFACE (1932) and ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938)… all of which represented the mob era of the 1930’s.

Moving into the 1940's, another war was boiling over and the world was either involved in or shook in anticipation from what the outcome might bring. Several films reflected the times including CASABLANCA (1942) and THE BIG SLEEP (1946)… but one film took a defiant stand against The Third Reich and the deviant mind that created the war… surprisingly enough, it was Writer/ Director/ Star Charles Chaplin’s  1940 controversial offering entitled THE GREAT DICTATOR! In playing the role of dictator Adenoid Hynkel, ruler of the nation of Tomainia, Chaplin was blasted for going too far and hitting too many resemblances between his character and that of Adolph Hitler. He was accused of being a communist sympathizer at the time, which only made matters worst.
See it for yourself, the 1940 trailer to THE GREAT DICTATOR

THE GRADUATE (1967)
Having mentioned REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE earlier in my topic for the 1950’s, I can go right into the 1960’s. Times were changing once again, America’s innocence was lost with the assassination of JFK and quickly shifted into the Vietnam War. Two films can easily be categorized as those that defined the later 60’s: THE GRADUATE (1967) and EASY RIDER (1969). Both films plunged forward into forbidden topics and not only spoke of them, but almost dragged them out into the public’s eye for all to see and judge. THE GRADUATE touched on insecurities within relationships and offered the grand MILF in the character of Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft. EASY RIDER was about freedom on the road, experimentation of drugs and the morality of human life and the appreciation of it. Cinema, it would seem, was starting to lean towards the interest of what young adults were saying and Hollywood was ready to start focusing its attention to a new breed of audience.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977)
We could also look upon 1977’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER as a similar ‘young adult’ case study: this time representing the changing world of the 1970’s. Disco music ruled the nightclubs and both young men and women were dressing up in their best polyester suits and satin dresses as they blew their hard- earned week’s wages every weekend. The film took advantage of ‘cashing- in’ on the popular craze by filling every shot with both visual and audible ‘candy.’ In just a few short seconds of coming off the Paramount logo (the studio that released it) we are drawn into the very distinctable streets of Brooklyn and the slow crescendo of the disco anthem, “Staying Alive”, performed by the Bee- Gees.

But films didn’t just speak to the younger generation nor define it for the youth. Some filmmakers spoke loud and proudly for adults as well.

WOODY ALLEN
It would be unfair to just focus on a film or two from director Woody Allen, but instead, look at a large body of films. ANNIE HALL (1977), INTERIORS (1978), MANHATTAN (1979) and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) are just a small list of case studies that might similar in range. They all take place in the boroughs of New York; they are both the humorous and serious topics of life lessons: divorce, infidelity, illness, parenting, dating, courtship and family imperfections. Allen might be considered the ‘director of contemporary classics’ as he knows great dialog, hand- selects the best cast to deliver his work onto the screen and within just some of the films mentioned here, captures the events of life within the East Side.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)
Another such director who was able to capture the human spirit and defined the decade of the 1980’s was John Hughes. Hughes was my topic on a previous CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT blog posting entitled “Remembering Director/ Writer John Hughes” (June 2011) in which I expressed in great detail and reverence the body of his films that helped me through my ‘generation’ with recognizing that dweebs, morons, nerds, princesses, jocks, tools, geeks, cool kids and metal heads all had their time to shine within the 1980’s. SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984), THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985), FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986) and even SHE’S HAVING A BABY (1988) showed us that even the man best remembered for adolescent fun needed to grow up, get married and start having children, too.

Corruption of the system had its blinders pulled off; when director Oliver Stone’s 1987 film WALL STREET had Americans take a long, hard look at what was now being acceptable in the world of finances and take- over. The scariest line to ever to be taken away from the film was the slogan: “Greed is good.”

By the 1990’s, films got a lot more creative visually but were almost starting to lose its flair for storytelling. Not all films were marked with this stigma…yet. That wouldn’t become more evident until the 2000’s… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 1991 offered a very real look into the increasing world of urban gangs when director John Singleton made his debut with BOYZ ‘N THE HOOD. Heading by a cast of unknown actors at the time (Cuba Gooding Jr and Ice Cube) the film opened awareness to the lifestyles of South Central in Los Angeles and the rules to which you live to survive and survive to live. This was also one of the first films to expose viewers to the ‘Crips’ and ‘Bloods’ gang war fought in the public, shamelessly taking lives in the daylight and where innocent bystanders can fall prey to stray bullets.
The explosive trailer for 1991's BOYZ 'N THE HOOD

PHILADELPHIA (1993)
1993’s PHILADELPHIA was one of the first ever films to tackle the topic of AIDS and the dangers surrounding it. Back in the early 1990‘s, when this horrible epidemic started to become more publicly known, was still a very infant disease and no one knew what it was or how you got it. Tom Hanks won an Academy Award for his daring portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a man fired from his very conservative law firm because of his condition and the suit he filed against the firm for wrongful dismissal. If ever there was a time of confusion and trumped- up rumors of contagiousness, it was the topic of AIDS in the early 90’s.

Of course, there are numerous titles and eras still yet unmentioned, but the topic is left to your recollection. Everyone will have either a favorite era genre or event in mind. At this time, I would definitely like to hear what Johnny Chazz has to say about the topic and what films and/ or directors he mentions… it’s all yours!

CITIZEN KANE (1941)
 JOHNNY CHAZZ: Let's begin this by seconding Jer's comment that movies are not what they used to be. The truth is that films today, for the most part, lack the very essence of what used to comprise an outstanding film including: quality script, strategic sets and lighting, quality actors and actresses, careful editing, strong direction and a narrative that is something that audiences can relate to.

This week Jer suggests that we take a look at the films that define the era they represent. This really should not be too difficult, and will span the decades from 1940 to 2010. Thus, I will select a total of at least three to five films to represent each decade representing a total of roughly thirty (30) films in this week's topic.

1940-1949: CITIZEN KANE (1941); PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940); THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). Here was a decade where black and white films dominated the screen, and Hollywood film-making set the barat a new level for future features to follow.

The original classic 1941 trailer to THE MALTESE FALCON
J

1950-1959: The decade of the melodrama - that's what really defines this era. Additionally, the Japanese and European invasion into film-making became increasingly important during this time period. My selections? ON THE WATERFRONT (1954); SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950); VERTIGO (1958); SEVEN SAMURAI (1954); WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957)

1960-1969: Oh my - what a decade, and how difficult this will be to only choose three. Oh well, here it goes: 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968); 8 1/2 (1963); BREATHLESS (1960). I imagine that I left out close to 100 films that could represent this category, but I will settle on these for the time being. Fellini, Godard and Kubrick (Antonioni left out....quite triste about that) bring new ideas, new approaches and new angles to film-making - a quality and work of art that both commented on society while making a mockery of it simultaneously. The directorial techniques and performances during this era will never be surpassed in our lifetimes.

1970-1979: THE EXORCIST; ANNIE HALL; TAXI DRIVER. The struggle with inner turmoil defined this decade as love and romance were completely placed on the backburner. What a blessing for audiences.......

1980-1989: A disastrous decade for film as only "movies" began to surface on the big screen. Entertaining audiences became the focus and that simply was not good enough. Three films that best define this era? RAGING BULL (1980); BLUE VELVET (1986); CINEMA PARADISO (1988). Well, at least I found three......

1990-1999: CASINO
1995 FARGO 1996); SCHINDLER'S LIST1993

2000-2009: MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001); TRAFFIC (2000); THE LIVES OF OTHERS (2006). Now, where is the escape door from this decade? Mercy.....and of course you can now see what we are left with in 2011.
Let's look back at the classic 1950 trailer for SUNSET BLVD.
JER: I see where you were going here, but I think you kind of missed my point. Example: Although 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) was a milestone film and clearly set the bar for science- fiction film from the late 60’s on forth…it isn’t a film about the 1960’s… it is a futuristic film.

Again, SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993) was an excellent film that boldly showed audiences what the Holocaust was, is still not a film about the 1990’s… it is about the 1940’s.

Regardless, the films mentioned are strong and can be validated in its own way for the era they were made in… not the era they are representing based on the events or the pop culture of its time stamp. Speaking for myself, I think of countless films made in certain decades that couldn’t have been made in another. The right actors, script, direction, cinematographer, music and locations need to fall into place. If any one piece fails, then the entire project should be scrapped. To this date, I know of certain films produced in the mid 50’s and into the 60’s that might had been a better film had the movie’s score not sounded so comical or ‘cartoonish’. You could look back at anything starring Sandra Dee or Patty Duke for examples. I’ll even through in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) as a clear example of a film that defined its era, but is too over- the- top and is, in my opinion, a highly overrated movie from the start. This might be another future topic, however, so I might just leave it alone for now…

So, are there any films you feel define a particular era you find interesting? Maybe one you grew up in or that takes you back to a time that was much simpler and enjoyable? Let us know your thoughts and comment back to us with your favorites. We always look forward to hearing what you have to say! Until next time, when JOHNNY CHAZZ takes his turn at the keyboards… we will, as always, SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: "TENSION, TEARS, DRAMA AND CLIMAX"

JOHNNY CHAZZ: One primary focus in film is to cerate a sense of feeling – a deep and embedded lasting emotional reaction on the part of the audience. For a melodrama to really work, strict themes of loss, desire, love, death, betrayal and anger must present themselves in a believable and thoughtful manner on screen. The ultimate goal?: Leave your audience in a state of shock, disarray, deep reflection and enveloped in tears. Simply put – force the viewers to endure precisely what the characters on the screen are experiencing, and for them to witness a film that truly “moves” them – then and only then and there do you have a working melodrama.

BETTE DAVIS
The likes of Bette Davis (“Of Human Bondage”; “Jezebel”; “Now Voyager”; “All About Eve”) was probably one of the great names and actresses who appeared in so many early melodramas during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Greta Garbo and Barbara Stanwyk are also prime fits for that genre during those years. Liz Taylor would be the next in line during the 1950’s and 1960’s (“Butterfield 8”; “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”). The key is that they were all characters that were bland and dry like a martini; yet, they remained ultra-cool while being transformed as the film progressed. They were a bit on the trashy side as well as edgy, but their mood remained dark and blue, yet with a glimmer of inspiration and hope.

Sets, sound, timing and virtually all aspects of mise-en- scene (a French expression for “placing on stage”) are fundamental in the classic melodrama. Sets must reflect the inner turmoil of characters while being lit and cast in a manner that reflects the nature of the genre itself. Sound must remain symbolic, honest and literal in every sense of the word if the character(s) are to be well complemented in the film. Thus, we must dwell. We must dwell on mixed emotions, inner distress and find resilience in character that runs silent and deep (no reference of course to the film of the same name). The final product is a work of art on screen that amplifies the “emptiness” and “longing” of characters on screen. The opening to a film such as “Ikiru” (1952) combined with the camera work, mood and editing of “Far From Heaven” (2002), then adding a dash of the timing with “In the Mood for Love” (2000) and finished off with the honesty, resiliency and subtle nuances of “The Scent of Green Papaya” (1993) and the final scene in “The Conversation” (1974). These are the end products of how a director not only should, but also must utilize the melodrama in the most efficient, and ultimately, understated manner. It takes just the right touch in terms of mise-en-scene (placing on stage), lighting, mood, dialogue, timing and score can give a melodrama the proper ingredients to deeply impact an audience.
The original trailer from Akira Kurosawa's IKIRU
So, what films make my list for best melodramas of all time? In essence, I am really asking myself: “Which films do the best job of communicating elements of mood, tension, drama and climax on screen?” Let’s keep in mind that not all melodramas are what we would call “tear-jerkers”, but the dramatic elements of the film weigh quite heavy on our hearts and in our minds. The ideal melodrama must use the proper tools to completely transcend all other genres in order to generate a real, a lasting and a genuine emotional response from the viewing audience. Thus, let’s keep both ideas in mind this week. Here is my list in chronological order:


Sunrise (1927)
Of Human Bondage (1934)
Love Affair (1939)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Now, Voyager (1942)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
CHAINS (1949)
All About Eve (1950)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Death of a Salesman (1951 & TV Version of 1966 and1985)
Ikiru (1952)
On The Waterfront (1954)
East of Eden (1955)
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
The White Angel (1955)
Wild Strawberries (1957)
Death of a Cyclist (1955)
Le Notti Bianche (1957)
An Affair to Remember (1957)
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)
Butterfield 8 (1960)
Lola (1962)
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Marnie (1964)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
The Sandpiper (1965)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
The Graduate (1967)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

THE CONVERSATION (1974)
Rocky (1976)
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Ordinary People (1980)
Paris, Texas (1984)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
The Color Purple (1985)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
Beaches (1988)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Schindler’s List (1993)

THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA (1993)
Philadelphia (1993)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Fargo (1996)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
In the Company of Men (1997)
The Ice Storm (1997)
In the Mood for Love (2000)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Far From Heaven (2002)
The Pianist (2002)
Talk To Her (Habla con Ella) (2002)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Sea Inside (2004)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Lives of Others (2007)
An Education (2009)
Winter’s Bone (2010)
The Artist (2011) ???? To be determined.

GRETA GARBO
JER: What a great topic to come back from November’s holiday break with… very powerful and profound. This seems to be the subject that began building up about a couple of blogs back. The conversations were becoming stronger and opinions of cinema were becoming very insistent with personal perspectives. I don’t pretend to be that heavy and that deep on the subject and your views stem from two different aspects; one: being your love for classic story development and film and two: being your education from attending film school. My voice and dialog was picked up from the streets with no formal schooling. I learned as I went along and deemed what I felt were good movies to glorious works of film!

Your coverage of the earlier screen icons (Davis, Garbo and Stanwyk) will give me the opportunity to talk about more contemporary actors and films. The tempos of film changed drastically between decades. The culture, political standpoints and pop- standards go in and out quickly and both music and movies can be outdated quickly if not produced correctly and with a sense of timing.

Johnny Chazz left his portion of discussion off at around the 1960’s, so let me pick up with the dawn of the 1970’s. This would be the decade that might have introduced an alternative take: the storytelling became grittier with more firepower coming from both the written screenplay and the scenarios they developed based on drama, misery, action or high- tension depictions.
The 1976 trailer for Brian DePalma's OBSESSION
A new wave of film makers were graduating out of film school and most of their hands- on training came from self- made documentaries and home movies. At around the same time, many others were coming from theater backgrounds and bringing more dynamics and a flare for the drama. Some stage writers were also trying their hand at more realistic dialog and developing characters that an audience could relate with. Most of the work was also based on the culture of what the world was surrounding itself with: the age of the Vietnam War, the Cold War and economic and social growth (good or bad, depending on who you spoke with). Hollywood took a chance and needed to speak to those who were forming protest lines to voice their minds and find a way to appeal to them. The years would pass into decades to come and the role of a “screen idol” had drastically changed.

MERYL STREEP
A new breed of talent was arising and bringing a new form of acting techniques and style. Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Jessica Lange, Sally Fields, Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close are amongst just a few names of a new generation of talented unknowns that would soon rise to top in both their performance and artistic caliber. I will be the first to admit that their films would portray a different recognition for acting and cinema that could never be compared to the “Golden Age of Hollywood” … but a talent, nonetheless, worthy of mention.

As to not repeat any titles, I agree with some of the films selected by Johnny Chazz, but I wanted to bring forth a list of other titles, more contemporary, but still worthy of the topic at hand. If there was a list of recommendations that I would hand deliver, this would be it. Review carefully: how many of these films have you already seen, been far too long since last seen or never viewed at all? Look, find, buy or rent them and make the call yourself. Here it is:

A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970)
THE GODFATHER (1972)
LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1972)
BARRY LYNDON (1975) 
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)
OBSESSION (1976)
THE OMEN (1976)
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978)
INTERIORS (1978)
COMING HOME (1978)
KRAMER VS KRAMER (1979)
THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980)
DAS BOOT (1981)
BLOW OUT (1981) 
HEAVEN'S GATE (1981)
FRANCES (1982)
THE BIG CHILL (1983)
SILKWOOD (1983)
AMADEUS (1984)
THE KILLING FIELDS (1984)
MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS (1985)
RAN (1985)
PLATOON (1986)
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988)
THE ACCUSED (1988)
MISSISSIPPI BURNING (1988)
GRAND CANYON (1991)
AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998)
THE GREEN MILE (1999)
TRAFFIC (2000)
21 GRAMS (2003)
BEFORE SUNSET (2004)
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (2004)
CACHE (2005)
CRASH (2005)
MUNICH (2005)
EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO “PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)
CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER (2006)
UNITED 93 (2006)
ALPHA DOG (2007)
AUGUST RUSH (2007)
GONE BABY GONE (2007)
DOUBT (2008)
SEVEN POUNDS (2008)
THE WRESTLER (2008)

JOHNNY CHAZZ: There is no doubt that the films beginning in the 1970's - although still an honest and literal era, became "grittier" as you state here, Jer. The subject material (One looks at "Easy Rider", "The Exorcist" "The Deer Hunter", "One Flew Over..." or perhaps "Apocalypse Now" or "Taxi Driver" and that ‘new flare’ had definitely been brought to the genre.

Christopher Walken: THE DEER HUNTER
How intriguing, Jer, that you mentioned that these films and new breed of actors (male and female alike of course) could “never be compared to the "Golden Age of Hollywood” but that their talent remains worthy of mention. Well, that is an understatement in my mind. As much as I appreciate classic cinema, the films of the 1970’s may very well have been the compilation and the climax of what audiences have experienced in melodramas considering precisely the ingredient your referred to prior: The subject material was so gritty and daring that characters with inner turmoil now had to deal with a world and other characters posing threats to their inner being. We can never sell short what we have seen in this genre post-1960, and in some ways we are seeing better and more impacting melodramas as time marches on.

UNITED 93
 I am sure that I took some titles away from you in my list which is not to say that you agree with most of them, but I would imagine that you are on-board with me on a large portion of those selections. Looking at your list for a moment – and the list is good (no pun intended again): “The Godfather”, “Barry Lyndon”, “Interiors”, “The Elephant Man”, “Silkwood”, “The Accidental Tourist”, “Amadeus” (nice choice here), “Traffic” and “21 Grams” (how did I forget those….perhaps I felt they fell into the suspense and thriller genre, but fair enough), “Before Sunset” (refer to earlier blogs and Jer really seemed to have a love affair with this one and I was so pleased), “Cache” and “Crash” are simply amazing, “Pan’s Labyrinth” (a melodrama and fantasy film weaved into one), “United 93” (terrific performances throughout, but was it a true melodrama? Perhaps…..enjoyed it immensely though), “August Rush” (never saw it….ahem, but will log-onto Netflix immediately), “Doubt” (I know your love for this film – and it definitely falls into this realm), and both “Seven Pounds” and “The Wrestler” were very impacting films.
The intense and tragic trailer for Woody Allen's INTERIORS
This list of yours is outstanding and I think the combination of both selections from us, at the very least, creates a compilation for our Cinema: Counterpoint readers to scan over and decide which films they would to like to re-visit or perhaps to view for the first time. The goal this week? Let’s fall in love with the Melodrama all over again and never forget the place and value of this genre in film history, as well as in the future of what studios aim to release. 

This closes out this segment and as always we will see you here on Cinema: Counterpoint with another motif and distinct discussion topic this time from Jer. SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY and happy film-going!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!