Popular Movie Reviews Chinatown Chinatown essay

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Their methods, however -- regicide, then more murders to cover up the first one, and finally a desperate civil war in an attempt to kill the throne -- are not exactly worthy of nobility. All prophecies are eventually fulfilled; though Macbeth reigns as king, his line ends with him.

Are Shakespeare's witches symbolic or real?

Though tempting to interpret the witches as a sort of symbolic force, there can be little doubt that Shakespeare intended them to be real. There are hallucinations in the play, and they are reacted to quite differently. Macbeth and Banquo both converse with the witches early in the play, and their words motivate much of the action. Though there might be symbolism in their characters -- the inner whisperings of greed, etc. -- the figures themselves are very real.

What do we learn of Love, Greed, and Power?

All three, especially unchecked, will only lead to ruin.

The Maltese Falcon

Movie Details: Book Details:

The Maltese Facon, 1941, b/w, 1hr/41min the Maltese Falcon, 1930

Director: John Huston by: Dashiell Hammett

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre 224 pages (1989 Vintage edition)

The complex plot of the Maltese Falcon is something only a genius like Dahsiell Hammett could have come up with. In short, the story concerns the set of events that are put into place when Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Astor in the film) attempts to double-cross her partner and swindle her competitors in retrieving an immensely valuable statuette. The bitter and cynical private detective Sam Spade (Bogart) works all the angles, emerging the hollow victor of this novel and movie, both of which defined their genres of the detective novel and film noir.

What is film noir?

Frankly, this movie is. It really did define -- or redefine -- the genre. Basically, film noir takes place in a world where morality rarely exists anywhere but in the central character, and it is often ambiguous even here. They are almost exclusively crime dramas and detective stories, and usually involve a female seducer who is found to be in some way central to the nefarious activities at the heart of the plot, either by design or as a helpless victim of circumstance.

Why is it considered one of the best detective stories ever written?

The plot of this story keeps one constantly guessing, yet each development is entirely believable and, at its heart, mundane. Yet despite this, the movies (and book) are fantastically exciting. The bitter disillusionment of Spade and the story's perspective comes not from grand revelations, but the pained and patient study of human nature.

High Noon

Movie Details:

High Noon, 1952, b/w, 1hr/25min

Director: Frank Zinneman

Starring: Gary Cooper, Ian Macdonald, Lloyd Bridges, Grace Kelly

This film deals with newly married and retired Marshal Will Kane (Cooper) trying to leave town with his wife (Kelly) when everyone learns that pardoned criminal Frank Miller (Macdonald) is on his way in on the noon train to exact his revenge on the lawman that put him away. Kane attempts to enlist the help of the townspeople in facing Miller and his gang, but they all refuse. His wife attempts to persuade him to leave, but he cannot, facing the four men alone. With her help, he survives the battle, and leaves the town with nothing but contempt for the people there.

What cinematic techniques make this movie great?

The cinematic techniques employed in the film reflect the plot and the themes of the movie. The long, static shots reveal both the isolation of the Marshall and the inaction of the townspeople. There are no distractions, only a long, hard focus on the events as they unfold, and the decisions as they are made. There is a sparseness to the look of the film that is mirrored in the script and the acting. The cinematography is as minimalist as any other element in the movie, accentuating the plain and simple choices involved in momentous decisions.

Why does the Marshall have such a profound sense of civic responsibility?

The Marshall knows -- as the people prove -- that no one else in the town will stand up to protect them. Even as they turn their backs on him, he knows he cannot leave them to Miller's mercy. He loves the townspeople like children, and protects them no matter what.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Movie Details: Book Details:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1976, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's color, 2hr/13min Nest, 1962

Director: Milos Forman by: Ken Kesey

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher 288 pages (1999 Penguin edition)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest follows brash recidivist Randle P. McMurphy (Nicholson) as he serves a sentence for statutory rape in a mental institution, almost certainly on purpose as a way for him to escape the work farm where he began doing his time. His battles with Nurse Ratched have already become a thing of legend, and the characters were iconic right from the outset. The repeated attempts to fully institutionalize McMurphy and make him fall in line take their toll on both Ratched and McMurphy, but these scenes also bolster the confidence of many of the other patients in the ward, many of whom are there on a voluntary basis. Chief Bromden, the (at first) silent Indian whom McMurphy befriends, emerges as the true hero of this story, finding himself and escaping when McMurphy could not.

How does this reflect American culture of its time?

Written at the end of the 1950s, published in the 60s, and turned into a film in the 70s, this movie reflects the changing landscape of all three decades in the way it pits the push for individualism against institutional conformity. These issues were central to perspectives on things like the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and basic civil liberties, all of which were being fought for during this time.

How does society view and treat people with mental illness today?

Things have improved somewhat, but taking any action with mental illness involves a dilemma. Many of them refuse help as part of their illness; when is it okay to force it?

American Beauty

Movie Details:

American Beauty, 1999, color, 2hr/2min

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Chris Cooper

American Beauty explores the darker underside of the suburban success story. Lester Burnham (Spacey) is going through a mid-life crisis, and in the course of the film quits his high paying job and starts working at a fast food restaurant just to occupy his time. In he meantime his *****y wife Carolyn (Bening) is having an affair, his rebellious and uncaring daughter Jane (Birch) is dating the brooding boy next door (who also becomes Lester's pot dealer), and Jane's friend Angela attracts Lester's attention -- and seems to return the feelings, at first. Such a set-up can only end in tragedy, yet he movie is ironically light in its tone, making it especially creepy.

How does modern satire work?

The tone of the film contributes heavily to the satirical nature of it. Rather than exposing the fallacies of larger-than-life institutions and individual human motives as older satires did, this modern satire explores the larger-than-life aspects of a typical mundane existence. The humor is incredibly dark, and no optimistic answers are provided. There is no suggestion that if people were not so hypocritical, things would be better -- the notion that this is even possible is one of the things most satirized in the film.

Is the theme a "common trend" in society today?

In many ways, the satirical view of American Beauty is typical of postmodernism. It is even bleaker than many postmodernist works, however, suggesting there is no nobility to be found even in individuals.

This was an increasing view of art and literature in the 90s.

Blade Runner

Movie Details: Book Details:

Blade Runner, 1982, color, 1hr/57min Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968

Director: Ridley Scott by: Philip K. Dick

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young 256 pages (1996 Del Rey edition)

Blade Runner modernizes the noir genre and follows detective Rick Deckard (Ford) as he navigates the streets of a futuristic Los Angeles in an attempt to locate and neutralize four fugitive replicants, led by Roy (Hauer). These replicants are advanced androids that appear entirely human, and have escaped their off-world work colony in an attempt to live longer. During his investigation Deckard encounters Rachael (Young), a new breed of replicant with memory, emotions, and know knowledge that she is actually an android. She, as well as other incidents in the film, make Deckard to question the very nature of humanity and suggests the possibility that he himself could be an android.

Is it fair for the director to change his movie years later?

The hint that Deckard might be a replicant was not as strong in the original release of the movie, but the director's cut released over a decade later included some new images and information that makes this seem…[continue]

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