Terms of Endearment (1983)

The mother-daughter relationship is extremely layered and complex. All females in nature innately protect and nurture their loved ones, especially their young. This support can conversely be appreciated yet overwhelming at times. During adolescence, their children try to grow and explore their own individuality separate from perceived parental coddling and beliefs. Daughters may experience a great internal struggle, feeling obligated and even guilt in incorporating a sense of their mother’s character while discovering their selfhood. Mistakes, resentment, and conflict between mothers and daughters are imminent in this process. However, respect, love, and care remain at the centre of this relationship. This idea is at the heart of the Academy Award-winning 1983 film “Terms of Endearment” directed, produced, and written by James L. Brooks.

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Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) have been living in a beautiful home in Houston, Texas since losing a husband and father. They have been the core of each others’ universes for a great deal of time. Emma marries Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), a local who aspires academia and is also not welcomed into the family by Aurora. The two eventually start a family and move to Des Moines, Iowa for Flap’s career, creating a wide physical distance between mother and daughter. Aurora eventually begins seeing her seeming opposite – the contentious, womanizing neighbour who happens to be a former astronaut, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Throughout multiple life changes and obstacles over a decade, including further pregnancies, affairs, and illness, Emma and Aurora continue to proclaim and treasure their “terms of endearment” towards one another.

This film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning five. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson) were the categories nabbing the coveted golden men. The themes in this film surrounding resentment, acceptance, loss,and love are told in a highly relatable manner to all audience members with such care. Shirley MacLaine played Aurora with such heart and earnestness, and we could witness and appreciate her growth as a human being throughout the film. This particular evolution of acceptance is especially towards Jack Nicholson’s character. It is difficult to dissociate the legend that is Jack from many of his roles – his facial expressions, voice, and mannerisms are so unique and distinct. He often plays the ladies’ man with an edge, as he did in this role. However, we also witnessed his transformation into a devoted confidante. In my opinion, we could appreciate his struggle to make this change, as many individuals are torn in their ability to compromise in any new relationship. Overall, “Terms of Endearment” showcases the quintessential human experience through multiple stages of the life cycle.

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I do not own any of the photos in the post. As well, this post is part of the Here’s Jack Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget! Please check out other great posts celebrating the 80th birthday of the legend that is Jack Nicholson! As well, it is Shirley MacLaine’s 83rd birthday today, so let’s also toast to her acting excellence!

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Dangerous (1935)

The course of one’s life can be tumultuous, rollercoasting through peaks and valleys. The highs can be intoxicating, while the lows can be crushing to one’s soul and spirit. These extremes of success and emotion are not a product of their own presence. Multiple factors mesh together to forge varying experiences. For example, the peaks can be a product of many years of tireless work or extensive spiritual clarity.  The valleys may derive from economic downturn. “Dangerous” is a 1935 film directed by Alfred E. Green starring Bette Davis and Franchot Tone which examines these concepts from its onset.

Joyce Heath (played by the always formidable and outspoken Bette Davis) was once a prominent actress in the theatre world. However, she is now considered a “jinx”. A catastrophic correlation between Joyce’s love and men’s demises via devastating means led to sequestration from the theatre, poverty, and alcoholism. Don Bellows (played by the suave and charming Franchot Tone) was so greatly inspired by one of Joyce’s performances that it altered the course of his life to pursue architecture instead of business. Still, he is swept up in a world of social elitism propelled even further by his sweet yet spoiled fiancee Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay). One night, he crosses paths with Joyce who is inebriated at a local cafe. He feels as if he owes a great debt of gratitude to her, and cares for her at his country home for a period of time much to the dismay of his housekeeper, Mrs. Williams (Alison Skipworth). The juicy events unfolding from this supposed rehabilitation engrosses themes of jealousy, trust, lust, gullibility, failure, rejection, and masquerading.

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Many would argue that Ms. Davis should not have won her first Oscar for this role. Some feel as if it was a consolation prize for not winning or even being nominated for her larger-than-life and magnetic performance in “Of Human Bondage” the year prior. I feel that this award was well-deserved. She displayed all the complexities of a woman who had lost in love and life through a magnificent screenplay. Her performance was complemented immensely by the on- and offscreen chemistry with Franchot Tone. His calm, unassuming, and naive character contrasted with the forlorn and tormented Joyce tremendously.

The spunky and devoted Mrs. Williams is intuitive and wise in many ways. On the one hand, she informs the earnest and conflicted Don that “turnips will make your chest hair grow”. Within the same breadth, she refers to Joyce Heath as “dangerous” due to her past and seeming hostility. Some individuals make less than ideal choices by society’s standards more often than others due to the sociopolitical and economic climate. Others are quite manipulative, outwardly infallible to the effects of their decisions on others’ journeys. As well, the existence, events, and uncertainty of life always creates an aura of potential danger. Our navigation and judgment throughout each day is impacted by many risks, benefits, opportunities, and challenges. One may characterize life itself as being “dangerous” due to various obstacles. However, these trials and tribulations shape our character and our ability to gain resiliency and coping mechanisms in the face of adversity.

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I do not own the images in this post. As well, this post is part of the Franchot Tone Blogathon hosted by Finding Franchot! Please head over and have a look at other wonderful posts dedicated to this underrated leading man!

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The Towering Inferno (1974)

Humans on planet Earth originate from a variety of countries and cultures. Our choices, celebrations, and customs may vary dependent on our backgrounds. Individuals agglomerate in many locations – at parties, on trains, or in restaurants to name a few. Our separate, sometimes isolated lives may be quite evident even in circumstances whereby conversation could be perpetuated. However, we all experience a broad facet of emotions associated with universal experiences of joy ranging to fear. The sweeping 1974 disaster epic “The Towering Inferno” directed by John Guillermin showcases collective mayhem with the best and worst of humanity materializing in the midst of devastation.

Jim Duncan (William Holden) is the principal instigator of “The Glass Tower”, a 138-story building beaming into the San Francisco skyline. It has been designed by architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) with electrical engineering provided by Duncan’s self-centred son-in-law, Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain). It seems as if Simmons used cheaper wiring to lower building costs, blaming Duncan for that idea. On the same night as the grand opening gala for this extravagant tower, a small fire in a storage room of the 81st floor balloons with Murphy’s Law ever present.  Fire chief Michael O’Halloran (Steve McQueen) effectively leads and collaborates with a multitude of fellow firefighters and civilians to try to mitigate this blazing “towering inferno” in the face of numerous challenges.

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Many elements of this film encourage its intrigue. The stunts and sheer grandiosity of the tale are quite impressive feats to embark upon in the film’s creation. It has an extremely strong ensemble cast with Jennifer Jones, Faye Dunaway, and Fred Astaire as some of the supporting players. I feel that each character introduced in the film highlights numerous human qualities which encompasses the very core of being human. For example, Harlee Claiborne (Fred Astaire) is a swindler who decides that true passion and care must eclipse exploitation. Lisolette Mueller’s (Jennifer Jones) timid nature is sidelined at the thought of treasured neighbours lost. Lastly, Jim Duncan experienced an ego battle swimming through his guilty conscience at the thought of place lives in peril due to budget cuts. A great deal of effort was required for him to succumb to reluctant leadership in the face of a personal and professional nightmare. Ultimately, each character, especially Holden’s in this supporting yet imperative role, recognizes the importance of appreciating human life and emotion due to our interconnectedness.

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With prestige and leadership comes great responsibility. This truth is encapsulated in the film with some definitively rising and others crashing with this calling. Emergencies demand experienced guidance and authority, but initiatives can only be achieved with strong teamwork. Each person has a vital role to play in accomplishing the most desirable outcome for all involved. Human lives are at stake when emergency responders, especially firefighters, leap to action. Society owes a great debt to their skill, knowledge, bravery, and dedication to an occupation with so many emotions and ultimately lives swinging in the balance.

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I don’t own any of the pictures in this post! As well, this post is a part of the 2nd William Holden Blogathon hosted by Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema. Please check out other posts dedicated to this most excellent actor over the weekend!

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All About Eve (1950)

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”. It is one of the most commonly quoted (and misquoted) lines in the history of film. In addition, it is delivered by the incomparable and legendary Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, a juicy drama from 1950 directed and written by Joseph Mankiewicz. This quote in embedded in modern-day lexicon, embodying the aura of uneasiness of the unknown and predicting the sense that unpredictable yet stirring events are about to unfold. In the film, this quote is impeccably placed. It signals the deception, criticism, loss, and turmoil set to unfold in the lives of deep-rooted and also budding theatrical folk in this flawless film.

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Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is a starry-eyed fan of the theatre world claiming to have seen every performance of “Aged in Wood”, a play in which theatre veteran Margo Channing (Bette Davis) plays the lead role. After one performance on a rainy evening, Margo’s best friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) invites the impressionable Eve to the star’s dressing room, where she meets Margo and a number of people in her inner circle. Margo and director boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill, who later married Ms. Davis in real life) grow to quickly trust and wrap Eve under their wings, as Eve becomes Margo’s secretary, second hand, and second brain. However, longtime maid and friend Birdie Coonan (Thelma Ritter) is suspicious of Eve’s infatuated motives, alerting Margo to this potential mistrust. After the aforementioned quote is spoken at a party for Bill (which Eve set into motion, unsurprisingly), an elaborate web of issues associated with ageism, vulnerability, deceit, manipulation, blackmail, dishonesty, disdain, female competition, and tainted success unfolds between these fascinating and colourful characters.

This film is such a classic in every sense of the word. The script is absolutely brilliant, encapsulating the necessary and important character development and flaws of all involved in the film’s universe of New York theatre. The acting is outstanding to say the least. George Sanders won Best Supporting Actor for his role as intelligently scheming theatrical critic, Addison DeWitt. Davis, Holm, Baxter, and Ritter were also deservingly nominated for their roles. A total of fourteen Oscar nominations were bestowed upon this film, with six wins including Best Picture and Best Director. “Titanic” and “La La Land” have only been able to match this mountainous feat of nominations. I feel that this is one of the most superb films ever constructed. Some of the characters in this film can definitely be thought of as the original “mean girls”!

Eve Harrington is certainly one of the most contested and engrossing characters in cinematic history. Her ascent to stardom is certainly marked by malice and corruption. Her transformation within the film from lamb to wolf, so to speak, is startling. It stirs the most unsettling emotions in viewers. Fellow characters and viewers mark a wide range of curiosity to contention surrounding Eve. Hence, the core of the film is “all about Eve”. However, her actions have created an extreme ripple effect amongst those in her own inner circle. This film is a stark reminder of how each of our decisions and motives influence others in our lives to either their or our detriment or benefit. Integrity and truth must therefore be key components of our actions in daily life. Manipulation will either immediately or eventually serve to hurt those who fuel and/or receive impending emotional damage.

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I do not own the pictures in this post.

This post is part of the Classic Quotes Blogathon, hosted by The Flapper Dame. Please check out more wonderful posts over the next few days pertaining to classic films with classic quotes!

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Sociopolitical events impact groups within and every individual in a society. Income, healthcare, and personal safety are just some examples. As well, the political climate often shapes the overall atmosphere of the jurisdiction they govern. As a result, our own attitudes towards universality and humanity are often influenced. The interplay with overarching laws and our potentially evolving values may be synergistic or highly conflicting to many individuals. However, others may “float accidental-like on a breeze” throughout this time period. Forrest Gump is a sensational 1994 film directed by Robert Zemeckis that whisks viewers with the main character from childhood to fatherhood in the midst of the heated American political environment of the 1960s and 1970s.

Forrest Gump is a well-meaning, good-hearted individual from Greenbow, Alabama with an IQ below average impeccably played by Tom Hanks in an Academy Award winning performance. He tells vivid stories of his past throughout the majority of the film while sitting on a park bench waiting for a bus in Savannah, Georgia. In spite of the challenges he faced, his uncomplicated optimism, integrity, and honesty led him to the core of major historical events. The Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, and the running craze of the 1970s are amongst many other grand happenings that occur in Forrest’s life. Apart from his dear mother (Sally Field), this journey led Forrest to meet people who anchor and shape his life. They include love of his life Jenny (Robin Wright), close friend Bubba aka Benjamin Buford Blue (Mykelti Williamson), and headstrong Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise). Apart from the magically astounding special effects, I feel that this film is a reminder of how macro- and micro-level interactions mould our existence.

 

In discussing the importance of rain, I could not avoid major plot spoilers (just a warning!).

Rain in this film surrounds events that influence Forrest’s future relationships with three crucial figures in his life. Firstly, torrential rain is present when Forrest and Bubba commence their friendship on the way to an army bootcamp. While in Vietnam, a four-month monsoon creates a heightened need for reliance and trust amongst the soldiers, and Forrest’s and Bubba’s friendship grows very deep in a short period of time partly as a result. It is absolutely devastating when Bubba’s life ends so abruptly after the rains end. Thus, rain bookends their brief but beautiful friendship. “Bubba was my best good friend, and even I know that ain’t somethin’ you can find around the corner”.

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Following the attack that ends Bubba’s life, Lieutenant Dan’s legs are amputated above the knee. He then becomes extremely hostile towards Forrest, revealing that he had a “destiny to die in the field with honour”. They grow apart over time, but are reunited in New York City where Lieutenant Dan slowly rejuvenates his amicability towards Forrest. The authenticity and respect of Forrest towards his cherished friend Bubba is still resounding, as he plans to buy a shrimp boat and became captain to respect Bubba’s wishes and memory. Lieutenant Dan agrees to become first mate if the plan materializes, and he is definitely “a man of (his) word”. Their success is quite poor until Lieutenant Dan questions the presence of God whilst at sea amidst their lack of luck. As Forrest plainly states, “right then and there, I think God showed up”. Hurricane Carmen ravages the fishing industry in the Bayou la Batre, wiping out all of the fishing vessels except for one. Contrary to logic, this monstrous weather event paves the way for the twosome’s financial freedom and success. The strenuous experience also strengthens their friendship, delivering it to a place of peace, serenity, and forgiveness.

 

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While rain cements the friendships previously mentioned, it signifies a sense of distance between Forrest and Jenny. In one scene, Forrest is waiting for Jenny on a very stormy night outside of her dormitory with a box of chocolates. He does not realize that she is with a young man in a car in the parking lot. Forrest’s protection of Jenny escalates, and punches the other man. Animosity is created with Jenny being extremely embarrassed. However, she understands Forrest’s sometimes rigid patterns of thinking yet good intentions. Upon an invitation to her room, Jenny physically reveals herself to Forrest. Whilst this is an intimate moment, subsequent events diverge the two’s life paths very differently. Another rain scene shows Jenny hitchhiking in California as a part of the hippie and free love movement of the 1960s. Forrest was quite far-removed from that particular world. Despite this, Jenny’s presence was with Forrest during Hurricane Carmen as he named his initial boat and then eleven more after her. Despite their varied journeys, Jenny was always in Forrest’s heart.

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I do not own any of the images in this post. This is a longer entry than usual. It is because Forrest Gump is my absolute favourite film, and I cannot contain my love for this movie! This post is also a part of the April Showers Blogathon hosted by Steve at Movie Movie Blog Blog. Please check out the link for excellent posts about movies with significant rain scenes and plot points throughout the March 31 – April 2, and anytime thereafter!

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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

The art and direction of conversation fuels our daily interactions. They may consist of information relating to trivial banter, joyous or disastrous news, brainstorming a new idea, or securing a promising sale. Grammar, tone, and phrasing are just some components necessary to convey persuasion and importance to ensure a successful sale. While some are genuine in selling a product, others use manipulation and deception. Tactics used in selling a product may all be influenced by personal communication styles, product practicality and cost, work environment, and mode of pay. “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a 1992 drama directed by James Foley which explores the differing strategies and attitudes of four salesmen working in a real estate agency under extreme pressure from a more powerful company but also for themselves.

Rio Rancho Real Estates is a struggling real estate firm umbrella’d beneath a larger company named Premier Properties. Blake (Alec Baldwin), a cocky, wealthy salesman from the more esteemed business, delivers a masqueraded, vile ultimatum to the disillusioned agents. The top grossing salesman wins an El Dorado, the second best wins a set of steak knives, and the bottom two will be fired by week’s end. The top two will also gain access to the coveted leads of Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms. This prospect cultivates the salesmen to individually and sometimes collectively to achieve their goals with less-than-ideal leads via various means – night-owl home visits, a robbery, and careful coercion via alcohol and crafty wordsmith skills. Greed, family dependence, deception, jadedness, facades, ego, yet survival all fuel the salesman’s quest for success. However, they harbour desperation, loneliness, emptiness, and longing for a less arduous existence at their core.

The ensemble acting is the beating heart of this film. Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce, and Jack Lemmon deliver razor sharp dialogue with a mesmerizing tempo. They separately represent men with varying and sometimes polar opposite character traits. Together, they are dynamic, explosive, and clever but also vacuous. Of note, Jack Lemmon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role of Shelley Levine, a once prominent but now poor-selling salesman with an ill family member. He embodies many emotions so convincingly in this character, from feeling desolate, pitiful, anxious, frightened, shocked, weary, and overjoyed. Lemmon was a veteran and absolute legend at this point in his career, and mutual respect amongst the actors (especially towards Lemmon) palpably exudes from the screen.

The title refers to two important lead prospects, as mentioned previously. Their potential possession dangles in front of the salesmen, creating salivation and yearning for even more monetary gain. The whole idea of giving the most substantial leads for real estate lands to the greatest closer is preposterous. It does not allow those who are struggling to harness their potential with greater material in their initial pitch to buyers. This creates a larger wage gap and animosity between members of the same group, spiralling out of control as long as this setup continues. It is a reminder of the importance of workers’ rights. Decent humanity and protection of these rights will lead to a more productive work and home environment.

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I do not own the above picture.

This blog post is a part of the Jack Lemmon Blogathon hosted by Critica Retro and Wide Screen World. Please check their pages over the next two days to check out wonderful posts about the endearing and wonderful Jack Lemmon!

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Yi Yi (2000)

Films transport us through a vast ocean in the spectrum of emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, and pure bliss are just some examples. They also convey amplified yet sometimes realistic portrayals of life events which themselves stir the deepest sentiments in viewers. Those very tales may have occurred in the past, present, or are impending in the lives of those who are engulfed in the film’s reality. The beautiful 2000 film “Yi Yi” directed by Edward Yang is one of the greatest examples of everyday characters highly representative of many moviegoers. One of the characters in the film states that “movies give us twice what we get from daily life” by living vicariously through their eyes, hearts, thoughts, and actions.

The story focuses on the intergenerational Jian family from Taipei. Each member faces trials and tribulations that are central within their particular stages of life. The adorable eight-year-old Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) is quite the school prankster but is extremely inquisitive in trying to understand life’s truths. His teenage sister Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) is challenged by friendship, loyalty, lust, and loss. Their parents, NJ (Nianzhen Wu) and Min-Min (Elaine Jin), are separately questioning the course of their life trajectories. Their maternal grandmother (Ruyun Tang) suffered a hemorrhagic stroke early in the film, and family members aim to provide care and comfort in her final days on Earth. The film also traverses through a variety of life events, including a wedding, a funeral, a business trip, a Buddhist retreat, and a birth. Many other characters interact through each family member’s storyline and these events, playing integral roles in reflection and personal growth via various interweaving perspectives and differences.

There was one exceptional detail of cinematography that I found quite intriguing in this film – the use of glass and mirrors. Often, there would be two differing scenarios reflected by two sides of glass, usually a windowpane. The simultaneous struggles of two separate individuals were mirrored within the same frame, alluding to humanity’s worldwide daily clashes and endeavours. The use of mirrors would reflect the emotions felt by the characters in a 360-degree realm, a point accentuated by Yang-Yang. He feels as if he needs to look at the back and front of a person to truly appreciate their emotional undercurrents, and this technique allows us as viewers to do the same.

The title “Yi Yi” translates to “A One and a Two”. That particular phrase is commonly used as a brief warm-up signal prior to a musical performance. In relation to the film, NJ reveals to a potential business partner that he ended a romantic relationship secondary to the partner’s lack of appreciation for music. That action impacted his future, just as decisions made within the arrangement of a musical composition can dictate many facets of its performance. Extending beyond that example, there are many within the film warning of probable conflicts. Approaches and compositions in preventing turmoil can be quite different. Every decision we make can have positive or negative consequences, and we must face the outcomes if possible with great composure and consideration. In other words, it is important to manage our roles in life patiently – one step at a time.

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I do not own the above image.

 

The Whales of August (1987)

It is a well-known certainty that family members, while in the same bloodline, may have highly differing personalities. This can create and augment conflicts varying from furniture arrangement to political opinions. Tension may even heighten to a point of estrangement. This step may be necessary, as each familial dispute is highly contextual. In many circumstances and despite disagreements, family members can reconvene and support one another through celebrations as well as trying trials and tribulations. As individuals age, it is essential that the support of family members shine so that their elderly loved ones receive well-deserved attention and care. “The Whales of August” is a 1987 film directed by Lindsay Anderson whereby the necessities of support are central to the survival and quality of life of the main characters.

Libby Strong (Bette Davis) and Sarah Webber (Lillian Gish) are two elderly sisters living together in their childhood beach home on the beautiful coast of Maine. With loss of her vision, the death of her husband, and distancing of her daughter, Sarah cares for Libby on a daily basis. Their personas contrast greatly. Sarah is mild-mannered, welcoming, and still hopeful for life’s unique challenges and promises. Libby appears to be more brash, aloof, and pessimistic. This mix could lead to a seemingly cantankerous relationship. Other vibrant characters contributing to their daily routine include upbeat meddler Tish Doughty (Ann Sothern who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role), debonair Russian nobleman Nicholas Maranov (Vincent Price), and noisy handyman Joshua Brackett (Harry Carey, Jr.). Their interactions throughout the film reveal cumulative loss in many facets of life, the reality of impending death, the treasury of friendship, and the beauty of our natural surroundings.

The magnitude of star power in this film is absolutely spellbinding. Vincent Price is a vital figure in horror and suspense cinema, Ann Sothern is a strong presence in the history of TV and film, Harry Carey Jr. is a renowned character actor, and Lillian Gish is one of the most recognizable faces and pioneers in silent film. To me, Bette Davis is one of the most brilliant and fearless actresses in the history of cinema. She was quite frail at this point in her life. She had suffered several strokes in 1983 post-mastectomy relating to breast cancer as well as major familial conflict. However, her courage, determination, and ferocity shine through in this wonderful role as always.

Whales are frequently mentioned throughout the film. Their presence in the nearby ocean marks the impending change of seasons, but I feel that they symbolically represent nostalgia, home, and a portal to a more youthful past amongst the characters. As individuals grow older at any point in their life, they often lament and pine for more carefree days. Fears relating to health, time, and regret may cloud the present. However, this film demonstrates that a rich life, change of perspective, and subsequent flexibility of ideas can persist well into old age.

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I do not own the above image.

This post is part of the Second Annual Bette Davis Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Please click on the link and head to her blog to read excellent tributes and movie reviews about this legendary, trailblazing actress!

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Yojimbo (1961) & Sanjuro (1962): Double Feature

Loyalty is a driving force behind many of our actions. The bonds of friendship, family entanglements, workplace duties, and an overall sense of respect and love for fellow humans motivate a conglomerate of purposeful activities. While our choices are often rooted with positive intentions, they may also be fuelled by fear, dishonesty, and betrayal. Unyielding overarching power may dictate decisions and planning within allegiances, and any moral compass may be tossed aside to feed egos. Themes of this nature are pervasive in the 1961 film “Yojimbo” and the 1962 film “Sanjuro”, directed by one of the masters of cinema, Akira Kurosawa.

Both of these films follow two distinct journeys of a nameless yet impeccably skilled ronin, played by frequent Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune. When asked his name, he reports that his given name is “Sanjuro” (translated means thirty years old, although he claims to be “close to forty”) and his surname references species of nearby plants or vegetation. The stories in each film have different content. In “Yojimbo”, Sanjuro opts to continue his stay in an economically challenged town now overrun with opposing gangs. In the eponymous film, he aids a group of young samurai in challenging a seemingly powerful superintendent who has captured the leader’s morally sound uncle. Our fearless, shrewd, and wearied swordsman consistently champions against corruption. He also “can’t fight on an empty stomach”. Resounding commonalities weaving these stories together include betrayal, loyalty, facades, corruption, and friendship among other themes. Kurosawa’s impeccable cinematography draws us into the samurai world of mid-19th century, permitting us to form strong connections with the endearing and spiteful.

The word “yojimbo”translates into the word “bodyguard” in English. Indeed, that was Sanjuro’s initial goal within the battered Japanese community he encountered in the first film. While being a bodyguard or samurai for another perceivably more powerful individual could bring prestige and nobility, freedom and individuality is lost. Sanjuro uses his intellect to forge fragile alliances, and is completely aware that he must rely on them for survival and for the preservation of social justice. Uncertainty and dread is always palpable, but his autonomy remains of central importance. I feel as if this concept is central to Sanjuro’s character development, as he appears to be more grounded in his knowledge and sense of self in the latter film. I believe that he reminds audiences of the importance of discovering and maintaining an authentic identity in their life course. It is essential to protect this commodity, as individuals themselves can duplicate only their uniqueness. Overall, the process of self-discovery and self-love attunes us towards our passions and talents, which can then be used to protect and advocate for those most vulnerable.

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I do not own the above image.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)

Divisions and inequities between social classes have plagued the well-being of a multitude of societies for centuries. One major contributor to this boundary has been the wealthy profiting from the hard work of labourers. The truck system once used by merchants and fishermen in the nineteenth century in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada is one example of this exploitation. International demand and poor supply of codfish were important factors in determining the amount of credit that fishermen would receive in a season. However, merchants often engrossingly controlled this credit system. Many fishermen would remain in debt or barely make ends meet despite their arduous and sometimes life-threatening work. This type of working environment and indomitable power created constant fear and poverty. “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”, a 1978 Italian film directed by Ermanno Olmi, explores a similar contentious, fragile relationship between landowners and farmers in nineteenth century Italy.

Many joyous and trying stories envelop this film with bleak yet beautiful cinematography. The lives and alliances of four families harvesting vegetables and livestock are examined with a gradual pace, allowing the tales to humorously and sometimes tragically unfold as nature intended. Their rich landlord profits two thirds of their yearly harvest, a blatant exploitation of his tenants’ patience, talents, intelligence, and fortitude. In spite of this, the families collectively find solace in hope, religion, laughter, and support from one another. The sheer will and strength needed to survive in these often dire conditions is a testament to the mutual affection and respect shared between these families. I feel that a large aspect of the film’s authenticity lies in the actors and actresses originating from the farming province of Bergamo in Italy. This definitely allows for a heightened sense of awareness and connection to the hardships and successes of the types of stories portrayed in the film.

The title of the film refers to one instrumental storyline. Batisti (Luigi Ornaghi) recognizes that his young son Minec (Omar Brignoli) is having difficulty walking the collective eight miles to and from school daily secondary to his dilapidated clogs. He boldly chops down part of a tree on a well-traversed path by the landlord to lovingly construct new clogs for his son, as the family cannot afford to purchase new shoes. Batisti is highly aware of the gravity and potential financial consequences of his deed, but ignores these regulations to momentarily improve the well-being of his son. While his fears echo the utter hypocrisy of maltreatment of the poor, his defiance of “order” demonstrates that love and devotion always extend far beyond petty rules. The type of bravery and gumption that Batisti exercised has been demonstrated worldwide in many seemingly small acts. While some have led to persecution, others have led to the creation of unions and advancement in human rights. While sometimes difficult and resisted, doing what is right is the ultimate victory for humanity as a whole.

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I do not own the above image.

As well, here is a link about the truck credit system: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/economy/truck-system.php