Tag Archives: classic

Educating Rita (1983)

 “I don’t often get the chance to talk to someone like you.”

Cast: Julie Walters, Michael Caine and Michael Williams.

Who said you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks?

Rita (Walters) is a woman on a mission. Having married young and now working in a hair salon, Rita feels like there is something missing from her life. She dropped out of school to be a ‘proper’ wife to her husband yet she’s now bored and feeling like she could have achieved something more – so she decides it’s time to go back and finish her exams. The only thing standing in her way is a jealous husband who isn’t afraid to show it.

Walters is without doubt the star of this film. As a 27 year old enrolling in an open university, she immediately struggles to fit in. There is certainly a barrier between her and the others students – mainly down to class – but she manages whole heartedly to win over her professor with her charming and grounded attitude. Her determination to finish school and keep her marriage from failing, as well as befriending her professor and helping him through his own midlife crisis is great to watch.

Michael Caine provides an equally stimulating performance as Rita’s teacher, Professor Frank Bryant. Taking on Rita as a student seems to be a real challenge, she seems set in her ways and not as open minded as his other students as he soon comes to discover. He also seems to be battling alcoholism after the breakdown of his first marriage and dealing with a seemingly promiscuous girlfriend, but Rita seems to be the breath of fresh air he was craving. The two certainly make for an excellent duo, with Williams also giving a great performance as Brian, Rita’s jealous and short tempered husband.

In places I felt like it could have been more tight. Certain scenes could have been cut and the same message would have been conveyed, though I guess even the long scenes all added to the characters’ roundness.

Not the usual frat party, alcohol fuelled, high-school type genre that is all too familiar these days, but a film that has a much stronger foundation. Educating Rita is a delightful film that teaches that you’re never too old to face your dreams.

Star rating:  6.5/10

Directed by Lewis Gilbert.

Running time 110 minutes.

Midnight In Paris (2011)

“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.”

Cast:  Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates

If you could go back to an era of your choice, in any city of the World, which would it be?

For Gil it would be Paris in the 1920s. Iconic, classic and very influential in progressive societies, it’s pretty easy to see why.

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a Hollywood hack that has recently discovered the true beauty of literature and art from the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso. When on holiday in Paris with his materialistic and shallow fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents, he is magically whisked away to this fantastic era at the stroke of midnight every night meeting the people who’s work he has become a great admirer of.

Films that go back in time always confuse me. Surely that whole issue would immediately change and rewrite history, never mind if it involves and influences main players like Picasso. That’s why to get my head around this film I had to discard my many questions. However Allen directs the film in such a way that science fiction is the last thing from your mind. Whereas most time travel films take up a large majority of the film explaining the ins and outs and logistics, Midnight in Paris is so sweet and charming that it boils down to something as simple as getting into an old car, no questions asked.

Owen Wilson stays true to his typically grounded and simplistic characterisation that we see in many of his films. This is great in that it deflates the ego the film starts to build up around itself. At times a bit pretentious, Wilson really does save it from being too ostentatious and glorified. After all, these actors aren’t actually the characters they are portraying.

The actors were all fantastic though. Cory Stoll as Hemingway, Kathy Bates as Gerude Stein and Marion Cotillard as Picasso’s mistress Adriana, were all main players for me. Giving convincing and interesting performances, it was great to see these actors play such infamous people that have become cultural icons over time. Hopefully Midnight in Paris will spark an interest amongst today’s younger generation towards the fascinating and influential period of the 1920s and onwards, including the pieces of work that were produced by the forever famous stars at that time.

Midnight in Paris is perhaps Woody Allen’s finest film of the past decade. Losing his spark and touch that had seen films such as Deconstructing Harry being sprung into success with high praises, Midnight in Paris will surely see his name back in the spotlight.

For anyone that is interested in the arts this film will be a great watch. Featuring the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Salvador Dali, it really is a dream for admirers of such work. Beautifully shot with some delightful scenes and in a true artistic style, Midnight in Paris is a must-watch for Allen fans, romance fans and literature fans alike.

Star rating:   7.5/10

Directed by Woody Allen.

Running time 94 minutes.

East of Eden (1955)

“But you must give him some sign, Mr. Trask, some sign that you love him… or he’ll never be a man.”

East of Eden

Cast:  James Dean, Raymond Massey and Julie Harris

James Dean plays Caleb Trask, a young, reckless and outright rebellious version of his older brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Competing with Aron for love, affection and acceptance from his father (Raymond Massey), Cal finds solace in women and alcohol, filling in the void that has been created by the continual disappointment and lack of affection that both his brother and father show him.

Not convinced by his father’s claims that his mother died when he was young, Cal pursues his suspicions that lead to a local brothel, where he finds her working as a Madame. He takes comfort in that he actually resembles one of his parents, sharing the traits of being a bit wild, irresponsible and generally bad.

Still wanting to show his father he is worthy of his love and attention though, Cal devises a plan to make money in beans, a market that he believes will boom once World War 1 breaks out. This way he can show he is responsible, worthy of love and affection, and a son that his father can finally be proud of.

East of Eden is a story about the difficulties of conforming to the ideal image society creates, and a rebellion against the constraints that seem to come down on people due to their status in society, in this case the middle class. It is similar to Dean’s role in Rebel Without a Cause, where again he feels he doesn’t belong.

Dean is able to relate so readily with an audience as these sentiments really do effect every young generation. Teenagers often struggle to accept the way they are perceived by others, and try to gain approval for who they are, yet when this is scowled at they begin to change in order to fit in. James Dean, as an icon, carries the message that you shouldn’t change who you are because society says so, as is realised in his films.

Based on the novel by John Steinbeck, East of Eden really captures the struggles in America on the brink of War. This was Dean’s first role, and what a fantastic way for him to make his mark in film. It’s simple to see why there was so much buzz and excitement surrounding his career; he had a magic about him that other actors at the time never seemed to quite capture. He shines on screen, from his cheeky smile and charming looks to his ability to portray a real, raw emotion when called for. East of Eden is the film that sprung Dean into the limelight, and was the only film he starred in that was released while he was alive.

Due to its themes that can be related to over many generations, East of Eden is a classic and definite must watch.

Star rating: 8/10

Directed by Elia Kazan.

Running time 115 minutes.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

“You, say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again!”

Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo

James Dean. Even if you aren’t fully aware of his work, you will recognise his name. It’s still being bounced around in today’s society just showing the true magnitude of his acting talents, of which was only showcased in 3 films.

Rebel Without a Cause

At just 24, Dean was tragically killed in a car accident, and this early death has immortalised him in the same way it did with people like Marilyn Monroe, as an icon.

Rebel Without a Cause, on the surface, is a film about the many adolescent problems that teenagers face. It’s set in suburban, middle class America, in a time of post war. To look from a different point of view through, a web of conflicts involving relationships, teenage delinquency, family and sex is revealed giving the film an intriguing depth.

As the film opens we are introduced to Jim Stark (Dean); clearly intoxicated by alcohol and lying face down in an L.A gutter, he is arrested for public drunkenness. When his parents come to collect him from the police station we are presented with the conflicts that Jim’s faces in his home life. His parents are always arguing about the right way to raise Jim, with his father (Jim Backus) defending his actions but his mother (Ann Doran) always winning the fight.

He is saddened by the lack of support from both of his parents, and especially angered by the absence of his father’s moral strength and manliness. Later in the film Jim’s father is seen wearing an apron, this visual emasculation leaves Jim reeling in anger as his mother is obviously becoming more domineering, while his father doesn’t fight for his ‘rightful’ place as head of the household. This leaves Jim repeatedly asking the question, “What do you do, when you have to be a man?”

At the police station Jim meets Judy (Natalie Wood) and John ‘Plato’ Crawford (Sal Mineo), who in a mere 24 hours he befriends. Jim is able to relate to both of them, being isolated is a common feeling amongst the three, and each have issues with their fathers.

When shown a glimpse into Judy’s home life, it’s obvious that her house is full of sexual malaise. Her father is struggling to deal with the grown-up image she embraces, suggesting she’s nothing more than a tramp. The strained relationship is heightened in that he refrains to show her any loving attention, and she doesn’t know why. Noticing that she is developing into a young woman, he seems worried about his sexual feelings toward her, and believes they can’t have the same sort of loving relationship as they did when she was a young girl.

“What’s the matter with you? You’re getting too old for that kind of stuff. Girls your age don’t do things like that.” He says when she waits for a goodnight kiss.

Judy replies: “Girls don’t love their father? Since when? Since I got to be 16?”

Plato’s father is apparently dead, though the story of how he died changes each time he tells it, suggesting he just ran away when he was born. Preferring to be called by his nickname, he is a very lonely kid, being raised in a parentless house by a black maid. Before he met Jim he had no friends, and although his loosely veiled homosexuality toward Jim isn’t outright declared, it’s certainly hinted at. Obviously 1950s America was not ready for this, so it seems his suggestive nature was in place for when the world grew to be more accepting, but again that is something the viewer would have to decide. Nicholas Ray, who directed the film, has neither confirmed or denied the speculation.

The group make an odd threesome, and although it’s made clear that Plato looks to Jim and Judy as the parents he never had, watching the film you can’t help but think that he merely sees Judy as a distraction to Jim’s and his relationship.

Some argue the film is dated and because of this teenagers can’t relate to the characters. This can’t be true though. The fact that the three main characters share the troubles that every teenager has ever faced makes the film timeless. Ask any teenager today if they have ever felt lonely, isolated or had a desire to fit in with the crowd and the answer will be yes. In this respect the film is worth just as much as it did when it hit theatres 56 years ago, if not more, now that values in society have changed.

Dean really showcases his acting talents in his portrayal of Jim. He acts as an icon for both the straight and gay community. He doesn’t bash Plato for some of the loving gestures he shows toward him, yet embraces the feelings and shows them back. He balances all sorts of emotions, not afraid to embrace who he really is. That’s what allows him to connect so freely with the audience. Throughout the movie we see him fight, cry, shout and love. He embodies the distresses of being a teenager, but shows how you shouldn’t have to conform to any sort of ideal.

Rebel Without a Cause isn’t about some uprising against a political system or belief, hence the ‘without a cause’. It’s just the simple fight and struggle that everyone faces in life, especially when growing up. Whether it be resistance toward a desired image, certain relationship or even within the family home, most teenagers rebel against some sort of system that is put in place, nothing more for the simple reason than being different.

To watch this film, it’s evident that Dean paved the way for the archetypal teenager through his character, Jim, who we see so often in film today. With his white t-shirt, red leather jacket, packet of cigarettes and blue denim jeans, Jim has so far, stumbled through life with no real sense of belonging. No one seems to understand him, or empathise with his problems in life – except everyone who has ever been a teenager.

Star rating:   8.5/10

Director Nicholas Ray.

Running time 111 minutes.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

“And I always heard people in New York never get to know their neighbours.”

Cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard and Patricia Neal

Audrey Hepburn gives one of her most iconic performances ever in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Based on the short novel by Truman Capote, he never envisioned Hepburn being cast as Holly Golightly; he was hoping for someone like Marilyn Monroe who could perhaps relate more to the character.

Nevertheless, Breakfast At Tiffany’s was a smash, being dubbed as “one of Hollywood’s most engaging romances of all time.”

50 years after its release, this romantic comedy is as chic as ever. Albeit an ordinary film, the timeless fashions and simple romance between lead characters allow the story to be conveyed over five generations thus far.

As the film opens we are introduced to Holly. She’s a young woman whose obsession with rich men, expensive outfits and determination to climb to the top of the socialite ladder, group her in a very vain and fabricated crowd. After a struggling writer moves into Holly’s apartment block in New York though, we begin to see that she is rather vulnerable, using the façade of fancy clothing and high profile parties to hide behind.

Paul Varjak (George Peppard), and Holly immediately spark up a flirtatious friendship. Even though she is looking for a rich man to marry, she seems weak to his charm and confidence, reminding her somewhat of her brother whom she was very fond of. We soon discover Paul is a kept man, his services to an older, wealthy woman (Patricia Neal), ensures that he is comfortable when it comes to money and materialistic things.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s chronicles the on/off again relationship between Paul and Holly. On one level a relationship between a gigolo and prostitute, and on another, one between soul mates. The characters aren’t complex, and the story isn’t deep and eccentric. It’s the simple formula that the film adopts that has gathered it such a huge fan base.

Sometimes it would seem that the film is more about Holly as a character though. Paul acts our eyes as we continue to become intrigued by Holly’s personality. She befriends ex-mobsters, cares for a nameless cat, has no issue with causing chaos in her tiny apartment by throwing oversized parties, and won’t settle in a relationship – yet is convinced she’s going to marry a very rich man in South America. She copes by chasing away her worries, eating her breakfast outside a Tiffany’s store every morning, staring at all the wonderful jewellery and presumably dreaming of a different life.

The film only dragged a few times in its storyline, mainly the scenes with Mickey Rooney who played Mr Yunioshi. His failure to deliver a true comedic performance made each scene with him hard to watch. It’s also a rather racist and stereotypical view of Japanese-American’s, even though they were the views in 1960s America. It’s an unfortunate depiction, but at least it shows how times have changed for the better over the past 50 years.

When asked, a lot of people would only recognise the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, rather than the film, or even the novel. Although the song is indeed about two people that share a common liking for the film, it seems that people aren’t aware of how much of a classic it is.

Whether you’re interested in Audrey Hepburn, one of Hollywood’s most treasured romances, or even wanting to watch an old classic, I can’t recommend this film enough.

Star Rating:   7.5/10

Directed by Blake Edwards.

Running time 115 minutes.