Sunset Boulevard (1950) IMDB Top 250 Review

I’m back with one of my own IMDB Top 250 reviews! Let’s have a look at Sunset Blvd… 🙂

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough

IMDB Rank: 51 out of 250

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful screenwriter, and Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a faded silent movie star who draws him into her fantasy world where she dreams of making a triumphant return to the screen.

My Opinion:

At least I watched this Top 250 movie slightly more recently than the last one I reviewed (Warrior). I watched this on the 7th of November, 2015. I’m catching up! Unlike Warrior, this is an all-time classic that deserves its place in the IMDB Top 250. Although it’s not very “me” or one I’ll ever consider a favorite at this point, it’s easy to see why it’s so appreciated by true film lovers given its themes and its exploration of the movie industry & stardom. Plus the story of a faded starlet, a woman who has aged, is sadly still just as relevant of an issue nowadays. But things are improving somewhat, I think. We’ll get there one of these days, ladies! Let’s do this! Equal rights!! Do I sound like Patricia Arquette? I hope so! She’s great. 🙂

First of all… Wow – I had no idea how much American Beauty owes to this film. Damn – American Beauty has just gone down slightly in my estimation. But Kevin Spacey is still great! I’m sure he’s a William Holden fan.

I really need to watch more older films like this one. I’m not sure why I find that so difficult – I started this project as a way to “force” myself to watch the old classics I’ve never seen. Therefore, the names in this don’t have as much meaning to me as they should. Look at this impressive list from Wikipedia:

The film stars William Holden and Gloria Swanson with Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling, her devoted servant. Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough and Jack Webb play supporting roles. Director Cecil B. DeMille and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper play themselves, and the film includes cameo appearances by leading silent film actors Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson.

I should know more of those people but I only instantly recognized a couple of names. William Holden was in plenty of films but I never really noticed him until I watched The Bridge On The River Kwai for this project (which I loved – it’s one of my favorite “new discoveries”). I really enjoyed his performance in this.

I knew that Gloria Swanson was a star long before this film, which is why she was chosen for this, but this is certainly the only thing I’ve seen her in. Wow – she really is fantastic! I’m shocked that she didn’t win an Oscar for this. She was of course nominated but I just assumed she’d won. She was robbed!

If you’d asked me to name Cecil B. DeMille’s work before I looked him up just now, I’d have only been able to say The Ten Commandments. I’ve never seen any of his films. I’m so ashamed! I’m a sorry excuse for a movie blogger. I know of his name just as much from the extremely well-known “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” line in this (as do most people – it’s one of the all-time greatest movie quotes). And I love now knowing that the man playing Swanson’s butler in this movie used to direct her in real life. I didn’t know that either until I read this in IMDB trivia:

There are several references to Gloria Swanson’s actual career in the film. Norma’s butler, Max, who used to be one of her directors is played by Erich von Stroheim, who directed Swanson in the movie Queen Kelly, clips from which are used in the scene where Norma and Joe watch one of her old films. Norma goes to visit Cecile B DeMille, several of whose films she had starred in. Swanson had also starred in several DeMille films.

Summary:

Sunset Boulevard is a true classic. It’s very “clever” & well-written, but I think that’s a given since it’s a Billy Wilder film. It’s very self-referential and the way it satirizes the movie industry was apparently quite controversial at the time and makes this movie seem very ahead of its time. So many films are similar to Sunset Boulevard nowadays – it reminded me of things like the Coen Brothers films in the way those are written & of course the whole of Robert Altman’s The Player. It clearly has had a huge impact on many filmmakers and I’m glad I finally watched it. I can now say that I’ve seen four Billy Wilder films (Sunset Blvd, The Apartment, Witness For The Prosecution & Double Indemnity – yay, me!). Although I’d have to say that I didn’t love this one in the same way that I did The Apartment, this one is probably the best “film“. Sunset Boulevard is a movie that every true film lover should watch at least once, especially for Swanson’s performance. It deserves a higher rating than I’m giving it. Hey, as I always say: I rate these movies based on my own personal enjoyment. I enjoyed The Apartment more but there’s no denying Sunset Boulevard’s brilliance.

My Rating: 7.5/10

FYI – If anyone wants to do a guest Top 250 review, these are the films still available:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Graduate 1967
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

**Selected for now**
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 1998 (Tom)
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 (Tom)
Gone with the Wind 1939 (dbmoviesblog)
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 (Drew)

Advertisements

Network (1976) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

I’m starting up the IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews again (link to list of available films below) & today’s review comes from Keith of Keith & The Movies. Thanks for the review, Keith! 🙂 Now let’s see what he thought of Network, IMDB rank 171 out of 250…

There are another 23 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

***WARNING: SPOILERS***

“Network” is a film that I have probably seen if you piece together all of the portions I’ve watched over time. But it qualified as a Blind Spot because I had never sat down and watched it through. I never could put a finger on what kept me from investing the time to watch a film that many categorize as truly great. Upon watching it in its entirety, I was reminded what first drew me to the movie as well as what pushed me away.

For me “Network” is a mixed bag that is hard a narrow down or label. To call it messy would be an understatement, but there is a reason and motivation behind its messiness. “Network” seeks to push every button it can reach. It strives to be a full-blown outrageous satire, an insightful look behind the scenes, and a sermon on nearly every social or political concern of 1976. Director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky never allow their film to be pigeonholed but at the same time its constant shifts in tone and voice, specifically in the second half, do more to distract than enlighten.

The film begins by painting itself as a behind-the-scenes expose on a struggling television network. UBS makes the decision to fire their longtime evening news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) after a steady ratings decline. During one of his final broadcasts Beale threatens to kill himself on live television (an idea inspired by Christine Chubbuck’s on-air suicide in 1974). This infuriates the network heads who have him removed immediately.

Beale’s best friend and news division boss Max Schumacher (William Holden) allows him to appear one more time in order to bow out with dignity. Beale uses the opportunity to go on a mad rant which again angers his bosses but spikes the network ratings. Programming director and ruthless ratings hawk Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) convinces her boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to exploit Beale’s obvious mental breakdown much to Max’s disapproval.

But “Network” then shoots off into a number of unusual directions including an ill-fated romance between Diana and Max. Diana is incapable of loving anything other than television ratings while Max flippantly and emotionlessly leaves his wife of 25 years Louise (earnestly played by Beatrice Straight who won an Oscar for her whopping 5 minutes of screen time). It is a weird side road that only plays out in spurts. There is a compelling current in each of their scenes yet we are never allowed the time to fully understand the relationship.

The film also branches off into a Patty Hearst-like side story complete with an urban leftist militant group directly patterned after the Symbionese Liberation Army. These scenes start off strong but intentionally grow more absurd. These things all clash together before culminating in an ending which is completely off the rails. Again, none of this is by accident. Lumet and Chayefsky have so much to say, so much to explore, and so many indictments. Some of it is chilling and prophetic while some gets lost in the melange of loud rants and pointed lectures. But somehow it is always compelling.

“Network” was a huge success in 1976 and was widely applauded by critics. It won a total of four Oscars (for Dunaway, Finch, Straight, and Chayefsky) and was nominated for six more. It is a film that does so many interesting things and it subverts nearly any expectation the audience may have going in. Yet despite its irreverent ambitions it is messy to a fault. The clashing between seriousness and satire is jolting and not always in an entertaining way. I also don’t think the film lives up to its own lofty feelings of self-importance. It ends up being an engaging but frustrating road full of many ups and some disappointing downs.

VERDICT – 3 STARS

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #19 – The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) Review

20130723-052727 PM.jpg
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) – IMDB Rank #100

Watched 23/6/13

Directed by David Lean

Starring:
Alec Guinness
William Holden
Jack Hawkins
Sessue Hayakawa
Geoffrey Horne
James Donald

Running time: 161 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):

In World War II, British prisoners are marched to a Japanese prison camp in western Burma. The commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), informs them that all prisoners, regardless of rank, are to work on the construction of a railroad bridge over the River Kwai. The senior British officer, Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), reminds Saito that the Geneva Conventions exempt officers from manual labor.

And a bit more – that gives you the general idea.

20130723-052849 PM.jpg
My Opinion:

I have to admit that with this IMDB Top 250 Challenge, I’m not looking forward to forcing myself to watch some of them – Especially the war movies and the Westerns. Plus most of them are so LONG. So I put the 161 minute war movie The Bridge On The River Kwai on when I had nothing else to watch and figured I could have it on in the background while I did some chores and it would get one of these long, boring war movies off the list. Well, I didn’t do any of those chores because this movie is BRILLIANT! I loved it! Along with the Charlie Chaplin stuff, Kwai is my biggest pleasant surprise since starting this challenge. My faith in the IMDB Top 250 has somewhat been restored after some real disappointments recently.

20130723-053117 PM.jpg
Here’s my confession: I’d seen Alec Guinness in nothing other than Star Wars before this. Horrible movie fan, I know! Well, you know… I’m young(ish). So, anyway… Give me a break. 😉

Alec Guinness is amazing in this. Turns out he’s a REALLY great actor. Lol! Yeah – I think everyone already knew this so there’s not much point in saying much more about it. His performance as the strong-willed Lt. Colonel Nicholson, whose resolve never falters, truly is stunning. The film is worth the watch for his performance alone. Luckily, though, it’s worth watching for many other reasons as well.

20130723-053201 PM.jpg
William Holden plays United States Navy Commander Shears and also gives a fine (and very American) performance. I won’t go into the story as there may actually be some people who haven’t seen this but he plays a very important role. Hell – everyone in this gives an Oscar-worthy performance and I can’t fault any of them: Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito, Jack Hawkins as tough-guy British Major Warden, Geoffrey Horne as the cute Canadian Lieutenant Joyce, and James Donald as British medical officer Major Clipton, who has a smaller role but I really enjoyed his character & he gets to deliver a great memorable line. Why can’t they make movies like this with performances like these anymore?

20130723-053249 PM.jpg
Summary:

One of those “worthy” classics that truly deserves all the praise it has received. Excellent, gripping story with an intense and unforgettable ending and characters that you really believe in and care about (something unfortunately lacking in far too many modern movies). Unlike some classics that have been hyped up over the years and then leave you a bit disappointed when you watch them, The Bridge On The River Kwai never disappoints & is one you’ll be happy to have finally forced yourself to watch. Oh, and it’s good from the very start, unlike some long classics that take a while to get going. I guarantee you won’t get any chores done for 161 minutes should you decide to give this one a try. And I really hope you do give it a try. As you may have guessed, I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 9/10

20130723-053322 PM.jpg
(Good movies make me happy) 🙂

The famous “Breakfast Club” whistle. John Hughes knew good shit when he saw it. (I wasn’t going to finish this review without mentioning The Breakfast Club): 😉

(And after this one, I watched a long Western! Once Upon A Time In The West. I suck at being girly.)