ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

JER'S TURN: FILM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK- THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

JER: Epic films can be defined within two possible categories: The second would be more of the contemporary kind that is now considered a ‘blockbuster/ summer film' filled with computer- generated’ backgrounds, characters and special effects. Prime examples would be AVATAR or LORD OF THE RINGS. The first would be the Classic Epic, meaning a film by a major motion picture studio with the grandest of sets, costumes, music, locations and actors in which no expense is spared. Those particular films were made with a different kind of care and process not seen in over 50 or 60 years.Studios contributed every dime imaginable for what were and are the hopes of a financial investment in box- office returns… sometimes it worked…. Sometimes it didn’t.

Such a film that was once considered an investment gamble but was an amazing box- office success is my topic for my Recommendation of the Week. In my opinion, the greatest film ever made: Cecil B. DeMille’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS!
The trailer in all its grandure! Enjoy this masterpiece
An audience can be divided by such a film: there is a large percentage of a younger audience that expresses no interest in an “old” film with actors they are not familiar with and what may be deemed as out-dated because of use of special effects and dialog spoken. Where’s Seth Rogan or Jonah Hill? Is it directed by Michael Bay? Don’t get me started!

The second is an audience that accepts a more refined and matured film that can withstand the test of time and the atrocities of modern- day CGI and bubble- wrapped marketing! For this reviewer, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is all the latter, it is a film that is timeless because of the era captured on many levels and can still be greatly appreciated and enjoyed by anyone today. Has it been a while since your last viewing or perhaps it is a film that is in your Netflix list and you have yet to see it? Let me deconstruct this a little better for the right kind of enticing!

PLOT SUMMARY: During the early ruling of Ancient Egypt, in the years before Christ would walk the Earth, prophets had foreseen that a deliverer would be born amongst the Hebrews (the believers of God) to free them from their generations of slavery in building pyramids and monuments in the honors of the pharaohs and their multi- pagan gods.

Bithiah (Nina Foch) finds the infant Moses
The existing Pharaoh, Sethi (Cedric Hardwicke), ordered that every firstborn Hebrew son be slain to avoid the prophecies from becoming true. As the soldiers carry out the bloody bidding, a young Hebrew mother places her newborn son into a waterproof basket, in hopes to find salvation away from the Egyptian sword. The infant, Moses (Fraser Heston), is wrapped in Hebrew slave cloth as the basket is released to drift along the Nile River towards destiny. Bithiah (Nina Foch), Sethi’s sister, finds the basket and immediately claims the infant as a gift from the gods… however; her servant Memnet (Judith Anderson) witnesses her salvaging the infant and the cloth he is wrapped in. Sworn to secrecy, Memnet helps Bithiah raise the infant to become the Prince of Egypt.

Rameses (Brynner) & Nefertiri (Baxter)
Moses (Charlton Heston) is now a man and the beloved son of Egypt. Sethi’s only son, Rameses II (Yul Brynner) is the next Pharaoh to rule and feels the threatening grasp Moses carries with his ways and the obvious love shared with the “thrown princess” Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) who can only marry the next pharaoh. In a chain of events, Memnet reveals that Moses is not Egyptian born, but the son of Hebrew slaves. Moses is quickly stripped of his royalty and thrown into slavery with his people, thus securing Rameses’ position as the rightful pharaoh and his arranged marriage to Nefretiri… against her will.

At Rameses II’s request, Moses is cast out of Egypt and sent to the desert sands with a wooden staff and the robe made of Hebrew cloth for protection to live- out the remaining days of his life. At near death, Moses discovers an oasis where Jethro and his grown daughters have made home. Taken in and cared for, he finds a new life amongst his founders and discovers true love with daughter Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo) and marries her. In the midst of tending flock, Moses follows a stray lamb that leads him to a burning bush. Although the bush is engulfed in flames, it doesn’t burn… he takes it as a sign of God and hears a voice speak from within the bush revealing to Moses that it is God requesting that he return to Egypt as the one who will free his Hebrew people. 


Moses (Charlton Heston):"Set my people free!"
Gone, but not forgotten, Moses confronts Rameses II, the new Pharaoh, with the command to set his people free by the will of God. Ignoring his requests, a plague is put over Egypt until the Hebrews are freed. Laughing off the divided plagues as mere coincidences, Moses warns Pharaoh that the next plague would be harrowing to his own Egyptian people… this time, it would be the first born Egyptian male who would die, including Pharaoh’s own son. As can be expected, the warnings are ignored and Pharaoh finally succumbs to Moses’ wishes and the Hebrew slaves are set free to be led out of Egypt.

The famous 'Parting of The Red Sea'
The journey is long and parlous through the scorching Egyptian desert as Moses leads his people to a place that God will call His Holy Land. During the journey, Pharaoh helms a small army to catch up with Moses and the Hebrews as they are cornered at the shores of the Red Sea, incapable of crossing such a large body of water. In an act of faith, Moses stands on a hillside and parts the Sea to allow the Hebrews safely to the other side, away from the incoming Egyptian chariots. Believing that they too can pass, the small army crosses through only to have the Sea close and drown the men right before Moses and his people. Upon arriving to the base of Mount Sinai, everyone rests as Moses is summoned to the top of the hill alone. Feeling abandoned for a considerable amount of time, the majority of Hebrews begin to doubt and lose faith in Moses during his absence and fashion a pagan golden calf to worship in hopes that they be accepted back into Egypt without bloodshed.

At the same time, Moses witnesses the finger of God as words are etched into the hillside stone and broken off to become the two tablets containing Ten Commandments set forth by God to be followed. As he makes his way down the mountaintop, Moses witnesses the worshipping of the false idol created and throws the given tables in a fit of rage! At that moment, the grounds begin to tremble and open up to swallow the sinning Hebrews. The surviving people would continue their journey for another forty years until they arrive in the land of Canaan. It is there that an elderly Moses appoints his follower, Joshua (John Derek), as his successor in leading the people through before leaving on his own final destiny.

Director Cecil B. DeMille
PRODUCTION: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was directed by Cecil B. DeMIlle, a maverick film director with a high reputation for reality and getting what is needed on camera. Throughout his career, DeMille directed a number of films including THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH and UNION PACIFIC, but would be remembered for his biblical films including THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE KING OF KINGS and THE CRUSADES.
DeMille took great strains in the accuracy in the biblical telling of Moses by researching extensively and speaking with religious scholars and historians. Having already worked with Charlton Heston in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, DeMille was convinced that no one else could play the part of Moses. For one, he said that Heston bared a striking resemblance to Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses! During production of the film, DeMille suffered a heart attack and was put out for two days and returned back to directing against his doctor’s advice.

The original 1923 TEN COMMANDMENTS
Not known by many, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a remake to an earlier 1923 black and white silent film that was also directed by DeMille. Once the advancement in sound and color came into motion pictures, DeMille felt the need to use the technology for his re-telling of the story of Moses. The original clocked in at 136 minutes (2 hours and 16 minutes in length) whereas the remake would be 220 minutes (3 hours and 40 minutes)! The film was released on October 5th, 1956 and became a blockbuster hit for Paramount Pictures. A gamble in itself, the film’s budget was a whopping 13 million dollars considered a staggering amount of money for the 1950’s. The film’s success drew in over 80 million dollars in its initial release.
The 1923 version of the "Parting of the Red Sea" by DeMille
The film had seen its days of bad editing, including the removal of both the glorious overture composed by Elmer Bernstein and the introduction by Cecil B. DeMille, who is seen walking through velvet curtains to a microphone stand, addressing the audience in the theater. Both pieces have now been restored in the newly released DVD and Blu- Ray Anniversary editions.

Costume Designer:
Edith Head
DeMille served as “Narrator” throughout the film with a voice reflecting intellect, knowledge and wisdom. Other talented actors that rounded off the cast include Edward G. Robinson (Dathan), Debra Paget (Lilia), Vincent Price (Baka) and John Carradine (Aaron). Charlton's infant son, Fraser Heston plays the infant Moses in the beginning of the film! THE TEN COMMANDMENTS received seven Academy Award nominations that year including Best Picture; it won the award for Best Special Effects. Honorable mention needs to go to famed Hollywood Costume Designer Edith Head who helmed a vast crew of designers and costume designers for their nominated work.


Charlton Heston with Jer (early 90's)
PERSONAL VIEWS: Since the days that Johnny Chazz and I worked together and spent many the hours creating lists of ‘Best Films Of All Time”, my number one has been and will always be THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. There is a vast wealth of cinema greatness in the film that it is hard to pick it apart and focus on just a few things that it the Best Film ever. To start, it is a sweeping Epic to all other Epic films… period! Directed by the great Cecil B. DeMille with a cast of classic and fine actors, it is broad and defiant. It contains all of the elements (or ingredients) needed to make a great film: it is historical and factual (based on your beliefs), it is grand and exotic, romantic, bold where needed and gentle in other moments, innocent pitted against the evils of power and greed, slightly playful, wondrous to bestow, Bernstein’s classical musical orchestrations that added the grandeur to complete the story telling, a cast of a million extras, unimaginable sets and costumes and it is a film that used the greatest of Technicolor usage for its time. A film can be considered a favorite when it is over three hours long in length and it is not felt as such. BEN-HUR would come within a hair below as well.

Without a doubt, I await JOHNNY CHAZZ’ take on this film, as a vaguely recall his position on the film...

JOHNNY CHAZZ: One the topic of "Epic" films, we find ourselves glancing at DeMille's TEN COMMANDMENTS this week. Jer states that the film is grand, exotic, romantic whilst comprising all the ingredients necessary to make a great film. Most of that may be true as specific to this film in particular, but let's please remember (the typical J. Chazz angle) that there is a viable gap between what constitutes a tremendous and epic movie, and what comprises the perfect film per se.
Documentary with DeMIlle in English with French subtitles

Thus, Jer awaits my position on the film and so let's dive into this week's segment.

I have heard him refer to TEN COMMANDMENTS as being perhaps his favorite or one of his favorite films of all-time. Others in the film industry succeed with comments regarding the film such as: "The greatest motion picture ever made".

What is so amazing about this epic movie (please note that J. Chazz does not refer to TEN COMMANDMENTS as a film for specific reasons) is that so much of the shooting exists and was shot on basic indoor sets. Everything from the pillars to the rocks to the background scenery is so convincing - and especially for the time.

The colors are intriguing as well. The colors are almost a special effect in their own right offering a dreamy landscape and almost a surreal feel to the movie. This works - and quite well as a matter of fact.
Anne Baxter as Nefertiri
As for the performances in the movie, one may immediately consider Brynner and Heston great actors for their roles here. Anne Baxter as Nefertiri is also quite impressive in her role, but it parallels with what we see from the leads. Are the performances a bit "over-the-top"? I would venture to say yes - but, again this is what epic movies require which often takes away from the real artistic and cinematic value of what goes into a genuine performance. We remain in "story-ville" per se - as we are led through the book of Exodus. In essence, and in the end, what we are left with is a grand show on a grand stage dealing with a grand subject.

Over the 3 hours and 20 minutes running, there is little doubt that by the ending credits one is left knowing that they had just viewed one of the top biblical epics of all time - and likely the greatest ever.

It is the movie's scope, sets, costumes, and color that give it such magnitude. The film is lavish, but deals with harsh subject material. The movie is intentionally epic, but often times over-the-top. The movie is controversial, but convincing in its' own right.
Final thoughts from Johnny Chazz: "The Ten Commandments" is a must-see for anyone who has yet to view it. Additionally, it is without a doubt worth re-visiting at least once a year if you are a fan of this genre and type of movie-making. DeMille accomplished so much with this rare work that it remains true eye-candy for all viewers (still, I would recommend ages 12 and up considering some of the subject material and visual elements of the movie). Perhaps that is what separates "COMMANDMENTS" from being a great film and rather a great movie - the very fact that it is the "visuals" that we remember most of all and a great film digs much, much deeper than that I must proclaim.

As for one of the greatest films of all-time? "The Ten Commandments" might rank somewhere in my top-300. As for one of the top-epic movies of all-time? Likely in the my top-5.A tremendous topic this week Jer and I look forward to your response as I do know how near and dear this movie / film is to your heart.

*** Chazz's Picture Points: 7/10

FILM....

...movie
JER: I walk away from J. Chazz’ review like I would a Las Vegas visit…a lot going on but nothing in my pockets to bring home! How could this “film” be considered just a “movie” to you? Our views on the two categories had been discussed previously. A recap: A “film” is a motion picture made by a reputable studio with all of the right elements combined to make a great product. It is a product worthy of most Academy Award nominations (if not wins) and stands above the average tripe dished out in contemporary cinema. A “movie” is popcorn entertainment, a foot-loose and fancy-free concoction made for fun and not to be taken as anything more than a good time at the theater. These would be the differences between SCHINDLER’S LIST and PORKY’S! One is a defined “film” and the other is a mere “movie”. Are you going to tell me that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is not worthy of your “film” knighthood? Your overall review is glowing and give great credit where it is due...still, I wonder why not a 'film' by your opinion. It would seem as if you were a little hung-up on the fact that special effects played a part in the film... here is the difference between this film and modern films. The effects help with te story telling and it doesn't override or exceed the use. This is important to state in review.

Author: Dorothy C. Wilson
Furthermore, I am glad you brought up the subject of performances within the “film” as being “over-the-top”, though. The story and screenplay were written by Dorothy Clarke Wilson and another six credited writers. The dialog presented in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was presented to give the film its biblical flair, a nobleness of how words spoken were almost poetic, stitching words and phrases like a seamstress would sew patterns for a dress. A keen sense of how the language was used represented what country you were from and how much education did you receive. In many ways, that is still the case in modern society. Still, the delivery may be interpreted as “over the top” simply because no one talks like that in modern times. No one uses ‘thou’ or ‘thee’ these days… unless you are attending the local Renaissance fair! Anyone for a turkey leg and a pint of ale?

I feel that the Chazz Picture Points are low on here…7 out of 10? A higher- grade would go to something more along the likes of a Fellini picture or a film like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF or the likes there which. Don’t get me wrong, all of them are worthy of high points, but COMMANDMENTS is epic… let’s not forget that word to describe!

'Can't Touch This...!'
An interesting find: a few bloggers dared strike up the conversation as to who could remake THE TEN COMMANDMENTS today: James Cameron or Peter Jackson? I’ll tell you what… walk away and leave it ALONE! There are certain films that have been re-made that shouldn’t have been touched (PSYCHO) and others that do not need to be contemplated upon (BEN-HUR, GONE WITH THE WIND, WIZARD OF OZ, etc.) this was previously discussed on our August 9th, 2011 blog topic entitled: “The Horror Of Remakes. Reimaging & Reboots Of Stories and Film.”

Who could honestly take on the heavy characterization of Moses by today’s actors? Whom? George Clooney, Gerard Butler or even Justin Timberlake? I think you get the ‘picture’!

What do you think about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS? Is it an annual tradition in your home? Do you remember it is a child or have you never seen it? We always welcome your opinions and comments and please check back as we reply to ALL!

Keep us locked-in for JOHNNY CHAZZ' turn on Wednesday April 11th, 2012! Thanks for checking in and please enjoy our previous topics for great info and news!

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!

9 comments:

  1. Ten Commandments was really a great movie to watch when I was younger and in some way it does stand the tests of time. You both make some good points here and it is obvious that one of you feels that epic movies are great films and the other feels that they are just great movies. There is a difference in my opinion. I can also think of many more cinematic pieces that I have enjoyed more than the 10 Commantdments simply because bigger is not necessarily better. My wife would probably disagree with me though since she loves these kinds of EPICs. Anyways, thanks for listening to my thoughts and the blogs you guys write are really good.


    Kerry, UTAH.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Okay, now my turn to comment (laughing). I am Kerry's wife who just posted a comment on your blog about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. All of my life I have strongly felt that this is one of the best movies and films ever. I can see why it would be critic Jer's no.1 of all-time since it does have all of the piecess that go into a great epic. How anyone can like another feature better than this is completely beyond me. Ok, so there (lol). Emily - from UTAH

    ReplyDelete
  3. To Kerry and Emily from Utah,

    You are guys are too funny! We greatly appreciate both of your comments and thank you so much for taking the time to bring them here.

    Kerry: Dude, you cannot leave me hanging here! You needed to make your closing arguement by listing at least a couple of films that you feel might be stronger than THE TEN COMMANDMENTS...I would be extrememly curious aas what they would be.

    Emily: I will side with you on your take. i, (Jer) feel that this film is the epic of all epics because there are other strong films out there like GONE WITH THE WIND< CLEOPATRIA and even LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and BEN-HUR....but I think that 10 COMMANDMENTS still brings it stronger than all of them. It would seem as if you agree with me there.

    Glad you both are enjoying the blog and we look forward to hearing from you as often as you'd like!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Jer and Jonny Chazz,

    To answer your question, I would probably list about 3 or 4 that I felt were a lot stronger than Ten Commandments. However, I do not want or mean to say that Ten Commandments is a bad movie in the least. "The Good, Bad and The Ugly" is filmsa fav of mine; "The Shawshank Redemption" is another really good flick; "Citizen Cane" and "It's a Wonderful Life" are also high on my list. I know for sure that my wife will disagree, but it is only my opinion.

    Kerry (UT)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for writing us back, Kerry. An impressive list with with some arguable contenders! I will side with your wife that TEN COMMANDMENTS would still be a cut better than those you mentioned...but I respect your opinion highly and I see where you are coming from. I think the film has made such an impact on me because I began watching it as a child and it was just a specticle to see!
    Great films! Worthy of the title of FILM over just a regular MOVIE!
    Thanks again for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really enjoyed your review. I loved watching the Ten Commandments since I was a child. Now that I have children we watch it together. It is very touching when the plague of the angel of death passes by the homes with the blood of the lamb on the doorposts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A very foreboding moment in the film...meant to strike fear in the hearts of non- believers! The film is riddled with such moments. Very awe- inspiring indeed.

    Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  8. i grew up watching TEN COMMANDMENTS every HOLY WEEK.. a very good Film.. my Grandparents even told me that they were newly weds when the movie was first shown. i love the Film so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! This is, by far, my (Jer's) most favorite film ever...I grew up watching this yearly as you did and bought every version that was released including the double VHS pack, the 2 disc DVD and I will soon include the Blu- Ray box set!
      May you continue enjoying this classic for many more years to come!!!

      Delete