The Phantom Carriage (1921)

New Year’s Eve is deemed as the one poignant day upon which humankind bestows great introspection and reflection on the past year in perspective of their life thus far. “What have I accomplished?” “How have I changed?” “Am I truly ‘one year older and wiser’?” “What does my future hold?” These are a small sample of the questions we may ponder on this day. Many celebrate the fresh hope and opportunity that arise from self-analysis, while others may unfortunately be left feeling despondent. “The Phantom Carriage” is a 1921 Swedish silent film directed by Victor Sjostrom displaying the extreme ends of this pendulum of thought taking place near the midnight hour of this very fateful day of contemplation.

Sister Edit (Astrid Holm) is a highly benevolent yet naive worker of the Salvation Army who is sadly near death due to tuberculosis. During the greatest depths of her illness on New Year’s Eve, she asks her mother (Concordia Selander) and dear friend Sister Maria (Lisa Lundholm) for a man named David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) to visit her. Before meeting this character, a sentiment of disdain and anger has already cultivated towards him. Upon meeting him, the contempt harboured towards him seems quite justified. He is also completely ignorant to the cautionary tale his friend Georges (Tore Svennberg) had told him about “The Phantom Carriage”. The very last person who dies on New Year’s Eve must drive the carriage, and they must also be at all costs obedient to Death itself. Little did Mr. Holm know that he would meet that fate and be greeted by a dear friend who, as in similar fashion to Jacob Marley, prompts ample pause for the “maturity of the soul” through past events, behaviours, and untimely consequences.

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I would be amiss if I did not discuss the technical brilliance of this film. I cannot imagine that double exposure techniques were frequently developed in film at the time. This is absolutely central in increasing the effectiveness of telling this particular story. Furthermore, I found the tones of the images were interesting with brown being representative of indoor settings and blue of outdoors. Neither colour is particularly warm, potentially symbolizing the false sense of shelter in which Holm has enveloped himself. Furthermore, several images in this film have been highly influential in shaping the structure of “The Seventh Seal” and “The Shining”, two of the most iconic films in cinematic history in my opinion.

“The Phantom Carriage” itself is a burden to the lost spirits who have to carry its weight for a full year. However, it is also a symbol for the spiritual and emotional strain that many drag with them on a daily basis. Many of our actions and thoughts are resultant of fear, contempt, and anger. In other words, they are reactionary to the lack of core vitality and humanity necessary to achieving wholeness and true presence. Decency, kindness, and compassion embody the true human condition. Overall, this film does an exemplary job in reminding viewers of the importance of responsibility, love, and respect as integral aspects of our functioning. Grief for former possibilities can be devastating upon the realization of their potential.

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I do not own any of the above images.

This post is part of the Happy New Year Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog! Please click on the link to check out other posts discussing films which take place on New Year’s Eve!

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Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017 – Westley in “The Princess Bride”

When I discovered that this blogathon existed, I was extremely interested but also a little bewildered! I am a massive movie lover, and it was therefore very difficult to decide which character infatuation to write about. In the end, I finalized my choice based on bravery, intelligence, sportsmanship, wit, looks (yes, I am shallow), and romance. Farm Boy/Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts played by Cary Elwes in one of the most magical films of all-time, The Princess Bride, just has to be my favourite reel infatuation!

This medieval storybook tale begins with Westley as “Farm Boy”. He is the farm hand to the very bossy Buttercup (Robin Wright). Despite the seeming power imbalance, the two captivate one another. I find Westley’s naivety at this point quite endearing, but it is very evident that he has much growth and evolution in his future. He subsequently embarks on a journey from boyhood to manhood, and we witness the results in due course…

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Fast forward five years where Buttercup is now in the menacing arms of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). The supposed “Dread Pirate Roberts” interrupts the highly orchestrated kidnapping of Buttercup, encountering some of the most memorable characters in movie history. However, the viewers come to quickly realize that “Dread Pirate Roberts” is not the dread pirate at all, but is … Westley! An inconceivable battle of wits, swashbuckling, a journey through the aptly-named Fire Swamp, and a “to the pain!” declaration allow us to witness the evolution of Westley. His devotion for Buttercup though is one of his most attractive qualities, enduring multiple hardships and being nearly dead in his quest for love and justice. As we wish, he is the ultimate embodiment of swoon-worthiness and idealism in a partner in crime or life.

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I do not own the photos in this post. Also, this post is a part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon hosted by A Small Press Life and Silver Screenings! Please take a look at other awesome posts this weekend related to movie, TV, and literary characters that make us blush!

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

“Home is where the heart is”, as the age-old saying goes. Some associate “home” with dread, anguish, and fear while others relate familiarity, comfort, sentimentality, pride, and a sense of belonging to the term. Growth and change can allow one to bloom beyond their comfort zone, but the idea of uprooting from home may arise trepidation. The development of relationships, a career, and overall support is often cultivated in one location designated as home, and the thought of potentially starting anew is daunting. The vibrant 1944 Technicolor musical Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli delves into these apprehensions among an upper-middle class family in the face of starting a new life in the Big Apple.

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The film begins during the carefree summer of 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Smith family children are enjoying the freedom and joviality of summer, counting down to the 1904 World’s Fair. Their father Lon Smith (Leon Ames) drudges through daily life as a lawyer in a downward career cycle. The proposition of success as a lawyer in New York prompts Lon to instruct the family in a highly patriarchal manner that they will be leaving their beloved St. Louis to begin a new life in New York. Meanwhile, wife Anna (the highly versatile Mary Astor) has created strong roots in this community in raising their children. Eldest daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther (the always magnificent Judy Garland) have romantic involvements and educational prospects in St. Louis. Esther is particularly fond of the “boy next door” John Truett (Tom Drake). The younger bratty daughters Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) advocate in favour of staying to continue their obscene and inappropriate pranks. Eldest son Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels Jr.) is already in college at this point, having begun exploring life beyond St. Louis. As the seasons advance towards the once prospectively exhilarating Fair, an aura of despair looms through this observed upbeat, decadent, colour-saturated world.

This film is undoubtedly a quintessential musical. The musical numbers are highly memorable and vibrant, with “The Trolley Song”, “The Boy Next Door”, and the classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” being among the fabulous roster of songs. The propelling of popularity and timelessness of these songs are mainly due to Judy Garland’s exquisite and astute vocals, expressing every emotion necessary in a very genuine manner. Vincente Minnelli’s careful direction showcases Garland’s talent but also allows the viewer to feel great compassion for the Smith family. I must also mention the beautiful costumes, embodying the fashion of the early 1900s. Overall, romance, drama, teenage troubles, and childhood woes all captivate in this wonderful film, which is ultimately an ode to the glory and connection of home. This love, joy, and adoration for St. Louis are expressed within the film’s title and eponymous initial number.

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the Judy Garland Blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood. Please check out the other awesome posts honouring the amazingly talented and legendary Judy Garland!

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A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Psychiatry is a relatively new discipline in medicine which has evolved quite rapidly. The mainstay of therapy less than a century ago was institutionalization. This method can undoubtedly isolate individuals, creating a deeper microcosm. Care evolved to include various surgeries and treatments that are recognized today as ineffective and some inhumane. While not perfect by any stretch, mental health care is now ideally multidisciplinary. Medications, counselling methods, and assertive community treatment (ACT) teams are among the resources used to help ensure optimal functioning in the daily lives of those living with mental illness. Integral to that piece is a caring, patient, and resilient psychiatrist, complementing holistic care and involving patients and families in decision-making. While set in the 1950s at the dawn of antipsychotic medications, Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) exemplifies these essential qualities in A Beautiful Mind (2001) directed by Ron Howard.

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The film tells the remarkable journey of the late John Forbes Nash Jr., a renowned Nobel Prize-winning mathematician. The story begins in 1947 at the beginning of Nash’s undergraduate career. Russell Crowe earnestly portrays Nash as an aloof, introverted individual with a mind attuned to math and science. Nash’s opportunities and accolades within Princeton and later MIT grow, landing a teaching position at the latter. He later falls in love with and marries student Alicia Larde, beautifully portrayed in an Academy Award-winning role by Jennifer Connelly. With a promising future lies much turmoil, as William Parcher (Ed Harris) of the United States Department of Defense is becoming increasingly reliant on Nash’s abilities to decrypt enemy telecommunication. However, this quest to decode information along with other relationships reveal to be part of massive delusional belief systems. Nash’s physical health and safety suffer, and his marriage with Alicia is greatly tested with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The battle between reality and Nash’s own world is persistent and consistent. Recovering and relearning to function meaningfully and safely in society can take quite a long time, but Alicia’s and Dr. Rosen’s steadfast and attentive nature allows him to flourish.

A mind can be quite beautiful. It can create completely original pieces of art encouraging individuals to pursue further introspection. It can also formulate scientific theories to advance various types of research, benefitting the health and wellbeing of humanity. There may also be a division or duality within the mind, with some facets detracting from the necessary imaginative ingenuities. The actualization of ideas and fostering positive growth depends on a great deal of determination, ambition, and support from others. This concept was quite evident in this film, but it can be extremely applicable in knowledge acquisition and utilization on a global scale.

 

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this is part of the Christopher Plummer Blogathon hosted by Sean Munger! Please have a look at other awesome posts celebrating the acting career and many diverse roles of this most excellent Canadian actor!

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Mulholland Drive (2001)

The presence of dreams on one’s life course can fluctuate but it is ever-present. The precise meaning of the word “dream” varies as well. Firstly, our ambitions/dreams create purpose and drive, focusing our attention towards actualizing achievement and hopeful fulfillment. In viewing and experiencing struggles and successes, we experience the unfolding reality of these aspirations. Furthermore, we think of the word in terms of neuronal firings and subsequent image displays of random events that have occurred in our reality while asleep. This combined with yearning daydreams can alter our own perception of the truth, dismissing actualities of our surrounding environment. “Mulholland Drive” is a 2001 psychological thriller directed by David Lynch delving into these fascinating concepts with the ultimate appropriate backdrop – Hollywood.

The tale begins with an impending kidnapping turned car accident on Mulholland Drive. Laura Elena Harring is the sole survivor, fearful for her safety and eventually hiding in a wealthy woman’s townhouse who is coincidentally and thankfully going on a vacation. Meanwhile, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) is a starstruck, wide-eyed, and aspiring actress who comes to Los Angeles from Deep River, Ontario. The very fashionable landlord Coco (the legendary Ann Miller) guides Betty to her Aunt Ruth’s luxurious townhouse. Betty discovers a female unknown to her in the apartment, who happens to be the lady who escaped the automobile accident. She calls herself “Rita” after seeing a movie poster of Gilda in the bathroom, diving into an episode of amnesia. Betty initiates and becomes entangled in a quest to rediscover Rita’s true identity. Further interrelated subplots occur during the story as well. They include a quest to find the dark-haired lady, revelation of a frightening dream in a diner, and threats to control a well-known director’s vision for his upcoming film. These stories culminate in a mind-blowing finale, introducing many more questions than answers.

primary_mulholland-drive-criterion-2015David Lynch is a master of detailed ambiguity. The majority of his films and TV series are filled with hidden gems and facets that are imperative in untangling non-linear screenplays. The beauty of his narratives are that these items and other plot devices are often unclear, as well as the presence of an obscure division between reality and fantasy. We therefore bring our own experiences, values, and beliefs in interpreting his films and creating meaning unique to our lives.

I must also highlight the collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti. His musical contribution to the brilliant Twin Peaks invites us to speculate impending doom yet appreciate beautiful simplicity. In this film, he accomplishes the same feat via minor chords and synthesized sounds. Silence is also key in appreciating moments of intensity and characters’ emotions, and the lack of music in those scenes is essential in accurately conveying those expressions.

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Crucial events in this film begin and end on Mulholland Drive. It is in this location whereby false hopes, shattered dreams, and lost identities unfold. The film industry certainly has its glamour, but it is not without its struggles especially related to control. Many other industries can create a facade of prestige, attracting naive, hopeful youth into their dream factory. This milieu can lead an individual to be swallowed whole by figurative piranhas. Large portions of their individuality, belief system, and personal lives may be sacrificed to mould their new and more amenable selves to the profession which now presides over their every move. Some may unfortunately not have the option to voice their opinions due to potential volatile oppression in these settings. While sometimes extremely difficult, the importance of maintaining our truths and being vocal can help to ensure that our principles are upheld in the face of major power imbalances.

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I do not own the above photos in this post.

 

Hoop Dreams (1994)

The social determinants of health are a group of factors which influence the health and well-being of populations. They include education, literacy, income, housing, food security, culture, and genetics among others. These elements collectively impact and determine health outcomes of a population, but can also be applied to an individual’s life trajectory. If there are certain determinants inadequately present in a person’s surrounding environment, the ability to live comfortably and/or to achieve daily or highly sought after goals becomes increasingly difficult. “Hoop Dreams” is a 1994 documentary film directed by Steve James highlighting the multiple elements shaping the courses of two promising basketball players’ futures.

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William Gates and Arthur Agee are two fourteen-year-olds living in inner city Chicago in the late 1980s. Insurance agent Earl Smith acts as a basketball recruiter for the prestigious private St. Joseph’s High School, priding themselves on their eye for talent and crafting of basketball stars. Both teens begin attending this school, making a long trek daily to advance their education and sportsman skills. The viewers are bystanders to their challenging and sometimes arduous journey from freshmen to the end of high school. Both face incredible uphill battles, from financial to familial to physical struggles. We yearn and cheer for their success and achievements as do their families and friends, and we greatly empathize with them in their trials and tribulations. The community of team sports is quite evident in the film, and that spirit is tangible through the screen.

The concept of “dreams” is present throughout the documentary. The two teens at the film’s epicentre undoubtedly have aspirations to finish high school, go to college, and to ultimately play for the NBA. However, their triumphs and ambitions extend beyond their individual selves and infiltrate into many other systems. Family members may live vicariously through them to relive their lost hopes, but family may also view their ambitions to chase and pursue their own goals. The talent of one may be preyed upon by a recruiting organization, fulfilling their “dreams” of winning competitions, grooming their novices into polished players. Behind the interrelated web of those beneficiaries, supports, and challenges lies a fire. This fuels drive within us all to pursue our passions and purposes. Roadblocks may be insurmountable at times in even thinking about those aspirations. However, I feel that it is crucial to remember and continue to follow these wishes and intentions no matter the speed. These passions and interests are a core aspect of our identity, and our participation in related activities whether large or small allows us to inhabit our true selves and to blossom more fully.

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I do not own any of the photos in this post. As well, this post is part of the Play to the Whistle Blogathon hosted by Film and TV 101 and Reffing Movies. Please check out posts regarding sports-related films associated with this blogathon between June 3 – July 8 (I am putting up my post early)!

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Wrap-Up – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

This has been a great weekend of sharing information and overall appreciation of cinema related to medicine. I have to thank everyone who participated, read and commented on posts, and shared the news about this blogathon! You all definitely made this such a wonderful experience, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I will definitely be hosting blogathons in the future!

As promised, here is a list of films to include in the wrap-up, as well as links to each day of the blogathon! Thanks again!

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society – Dr. Kildare Film Series (1938 – 1942)

Tranquil Dreams – My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

B Noir Detour – A Woman’s Face (1938 & 1941)

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Day 1 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

Day 2 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

Day 3 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Day 3 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

We had another great day of fascinating, thought-provoking posts from the awesome bloggers partaking in the blogathon! Although this is technically the last day for the blogathon, I will write a wrap-up post tomorrow for any later entries. Enjoy perusing!

ALL THAT JAZZ

The Picture Show Girl – Good Night, Nurse! (1918)

Old School Evil – The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The Midnite Drive-In – Monk (2002 – 2009)

I Found it at the Movies – All That Jazz (1979)

Movierob – Awakenings (1990)MASH (1970), & Patch Adams (1998)

Moon in Gemini – Madame Bovary (1949)

dbmoviesblog – Spellbound (1945)

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Until tomorrow for the wrap-up!

Day 2 Recap – Medicine in the Movies Blogathon!

So we have come to the end of the second day of the Medicine in the Movies Blogathon. The posts today have been very excellent, interesting, and educational! Here is a list for your perusing!

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Cinematic Scribblings – The Wild Child (1970)

The Picture Show Girl – Dr. Jack (1922)

Champagne for Lunch – Three Men in White (1944)

Noirish – She Devil (1957)

Lifesdailylessonsblog – Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Movies Silently – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)

Cinematic Corner – The Fountain (2006)

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I do not own the photos in this post.

Until tomorrow, my fellow bloggers!

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Ingmar Bergman is one director who I feel has left a body of work that represents the complicated and sometimes disappointing reality of human nature. The intricacies of human relationships are on full display in his films, delving into associated stressors and supports. A great deal of time is devoted to essential character development, enhancing viewers’ understanding of said relationships. The cinematography is carefully composed with a haunting tone under the direction of frequent collaborator Sven Nykvist. These are all hallmark components to a Bergman film. However, I feel that the openness of the stories allows for much introspection and meaning applicable to one’s own life circumstances. Through a Glass Darkly is a 1961 Swedish Academy Award-winning drama directed by Bergman embodying these qualities in spades.

The film is set on a secluded island during the hot summer months, and events gradually unfold over a period of twenty-four hours amongst four principal characters. Karin (Harriet Andersson) is the central character, fragile in nature. She was recently discharged from a psychiatric facility, having been treated with electroconvulsive therapy and diagnosed presumably with a psychotic illness. She has an overarching delusion with religious overtones infused with auditory hallucinations, dictating and controlling a large amount of her decision-making and behaviour. Her husband, physician Martin (the legendary Max von Sydow), is extremely devoted to Karin and concerned for her well-being. Her father David (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is an ailing, self-serving writer who sometimes uses others’ suffering as subject matter for his novels. Her brother Minus (Lars Passgard) has an unhealthy, immature, and extremely close attachment to Karin, yearning for attention and approval from his father. It can be deduced from descriptions of these close-knit yet diverse group of characters that confusion, conflict, and lament fill their existence and interactions. Overall, I feel that the film challenges our thoughts on familial relationships, mental illness, death, culminating into a surprising yet inevitable finale.

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The title “Through a Glass Darkly” is derived from the following Corinthians verse:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Verses from the Bible or any manuscript based in religion can have a variety of interpretations by modern readers. In my humble opinion, this verse refers to our own self-image and beliefs. They may be distorted by multiple environmental and internal factors, casting a dark shadow on our true abilities and goals. As Karin states, “it’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it”. Recognition of illness and/or suppression by concerned and caring strangers, friends, and family can elevate our self-esteem and self-awareness. Our evolution into genuineness may be supported by them or shunned based on outside expectations. Regardless, a wealth of knowledge and soul-searching in our “face to face” meeting with either a higher power or ourselves stimulates pause for reflection on struggles and joys in our past.

As with many Bergman films, glimpses and explorations into human connectedness are in action. Minus wonders whether “if everyone is caged in. You in your cage, I in mine”. We all experience this sentiment in life at times, some more frequently than others. The truth is that we never act in isolation or in microcosms. Human nature and relationships are dynamic, changing, and influence our very being and direction on planet Earth.

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the “Favourite Director Blogathon” hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Midnite Drive-In! Please check out other posts about excellent directors in cinema that are a part of this blogathon!

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