Take 3: Woman in Gold Review + 440 Follower Thank You

For this Blog Follower Dedication Review, I was originally going to review some episodes of Murder, She Wrote. The two reasons for that decision were a) I haven’t reviewed Murder, She Wrote episodes since 2020 and b) I was going to offer something different for my readers and followers. But since I recently watched Woman in Gold, I chose to write about that movie instead. The 2015 film revolves around the subject of art restoration, specifically art stolen during World War II. When it comes to entertainment media, this subject seems to have received more awareness within the previous decade. Two years after the release of Woman in Gold, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series tackled this subject in their movie; Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again. In 2014, Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, was adapted into a film. These are just three movies, with two of them based on a true story. Think of all the other stories like these that haven’t been covered in film yet?

Woman in Gold poster created by BBC Films, Origin Pictures, Entertainment Film Distributors, The Weinstein Company, and Constantin Film

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Helen Mirren is an actress who has a commanding presence. While I’ve only seen a handful of her movies, the ones I have watched feature her as a lead actress or in a prominent role within an ensemble. In Woman in Gold, Helen portrays Maria, a woman desiring to reunite with a painting of her aunt. Maria was eccentric in the film. But the way she was presented in the movie was pleasant and inviting! On a trip to the airport, Randol ‘Randy’ Schoenberg and his wife are giving Maria a lift. When Randy mentions how much luggage was packed, Maria replies, nonchalantly, how they should arrive in Austria in style. Before meeting with the art museum’s archivist, Maria excitedly tells Randy how their mission is like a James Bond film, with Randy as Sean Connery. This presentation, as well as the on-screen camaraderie, made Maria someone to root for!

In my years of watching and reviewing movies, I have noticed a more successful transition of comedic actors in dramatic roles. This was Ryan Reynolds’ case in Woman in Gold. When Randy first meets Maria, the subject of her recently deceased sister is brought up. After seeing how much stuff Maria inherited from her sister, Randy jokingly remarks how she will no longer have to argue with her roommate. Remembering why Maria has her sister’s belongings, he quickly apologizes for the ill-timed joke. Even when scenes are more light-hearted, Ryan utilized his comedic acting skills. However, it never overshadowed his dramatic efforts!

The more of Daniel Brühl’s movies I see, the more I appreciate his acting talents! So, when I discovered his involvement in Woman in Gold, it piqued my interest in watching the film. Daniel portrayed Hubertus Czernin, a reporter from Austria. Because he supports the art restoration movement, Hubertus uses his resources to help Maria and Randy. The scene where these three characters are interacting for the first time showcases Daniel’s acting skills! While Hubertus is speaking about who he is and why the aforementioned movement is so important to him, you can sense how at ease Daniel is in his role. His mannerisms come across so naturally, the interaction between these three characters felt realistic. With all that said, I wish Daniel had more appearances in this film, as he was only in a handful of scenes.

The historical accuracy: As I’ve said in past reviews, an indicator of a movie’s time period is the inclusion of technology. Some parts of Woman in Gold take place in the late ‘90s. Therefore, bigger, boxier computers are shown at Randy’s law firm. Randy’s cell phone looks like one sold from around that time period, even sporting an antenna. But technology is not the only indicator of when a story takes place. A series of flashbacks show pieces of Maria’s life, including moments from around World War II. In these flashbacks, wardrobe elaborates on that story’s respective time. The World War II segments show Maria wearing sensible blouses and skirts that reach the knees. These parts of the flashbacks even show characters in tailored coats.

The legal side of art restoration: When I think of art restoration, I reflect on the process of restoring a piece to its original form. But because Woman in Gold revolves around restoring art to its original origin, the legal component is explored. A lot of well-known pieces I’m familiar with were acquired by respected museums and institutions. Therefore, I, more often than not, assumed those museums and institutions legally owned those pieces. Even if a museum or institution acquires an art piece, Randy and Maria’s story shows how difficult it is to obtain ownership of such a priceless artifact. Woman in Gold not only highlights United States law, it also addresses Austrian law. This allows the audience to witness the similarities and differences between these two legal systems.

Art tools image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flar-art-tools-pack_835368.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>.  <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/paint”>Paint vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

How Randy’s grandfather was an afterthought: Throughout the story, Randy’s grandfather, a renowned composer, is brought up by various characters. Maria even claims to have crossed paths with him. Since the film primarily focuses on Maria’s efforts to reunite with her aunt’s portrait, Randy’s grandfather seems like a footnote within the overall narrative. As a viewer, I get the impression Randy deeply cared about his grandfather. A shot of Randy tearing up at a concert celebrating his grandfather’s work serves as one example of this assumption. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I learned enough about Randy’s grandfather from this story.

Some rushed parts of the story: Another thing I’ve said in past reviews is how there’s only so much story you can tell within a given run-time. In the case of Woman in Gold, the movie is an hour and forty-nine minutes. Because of this and because of how long and complimented the legal process is, some parts of the story were rushed. One example was when Maria and Randy took the Austrian government to court in California. I know that any on-screen court case is going to be abbreviated for the sake of time. However, the aforementioned California case only presented the opening arguments and the end result. As someone who wanted to learn more about the legal side of art restoration, it felt like the script skipped some key elements just to get to the exciting parts of the case.

Weak segues between flashbacks and “present time”: I like how the story incorporated pieces of Maria’s life through flashbacks, giving depth to the overall narrative. Unfortunately, I found the segues between these flashbacks and “present time” weak. In one scene, Maria is looking out a window. All of a sudden, a flashback begins. Several moments later, the flashback ends abruptly. Weak segues like this one caused the flow of these scenes to feel a bit choppy.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression, I’d like to thank every follower of 18 Cinema Lane! I appreciate the time you’ve given to reading and engaging with my content! Now, on to my overall impression of Woman in Gold! The subject of restoring art stolen during World War II has, in the past decade, received more awareness within entertainment media. In the case of the aforementioned film, it explores the legal side of that subject. I did learn how complicated the process of art ownership can be. The movie also had its strengths, such as the acting performances and the project’s historical accuracy. But due to the film’s heavier subject matter, the re-watchability rate isn’t as strong as other films I’ve reviewed. The movie had its flaws as well, with some rushed parts of the story as one example. With all that said, Woman in Gold is a film I would recommend, especially if you’re interested in the topics brought up in this review.

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Do you see Woman in Gold? Have you seen any films about restoring art stolen during World War II? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review

Last year, when I reviewed Let Him Go, it became my 275th movie review! But that wasn’t the only movie review that achieved a milestone. My recent review, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, was my 650th post! With these achievements, I decided to write a top ten list, as I haven’t published one yet. Whenever I wanted to review a particular title, I have, for the most part, been able to seek that title out. While most of them have been accessible, some of those films were harder to find. The idea of film accessibility caused me to reflect on which movies I would love to review someday. Therefore, my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review was born! The films featured in this list are underrated/lesser known. They were also released over ten years ago. This was a conscious choice, as it keeps each entry on an equal playing field. The entries are listed based on how accessible they are. In this case, “accessibility” means whether I can legally and realistically rent, purchase, or view a film.

Wish list image created by Vectorjuice at freepik.com. Task list vector created by vectorjuice – www.freepik.com

10. A Little Romance

I first saw the trailer for A Little Romance years ago on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The movie looked so sweet and charming based on what my television screen presented. Looking back on the trailer, the story seems like a light-hearted version of Rich Kids; where two young characters go off on an adventure. This is ironic, as both Rich Kids and A Little Romance were released in 1979. I have not only found several DVD copies of A Little Romance, but I am able to rent the film. So, a review of this movie will have to be in order in the foreseeable future!

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Some of Bai Ling’s projects have been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, one of my most recent movie reviews was of her 2002 HBO film, Point of Origin. So, when I discovered Bai starred in a Hallmark movie, I knew I had to, eventually, check it out. Based on what I know about the 2001 project, the story is based on Chinese folklore. This is a very different and unique film concept from the types of movies Hallmark creates today. Similar to A Little Romance, I have found several DVD copies of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. The full movie is available on Youtube as well.

8. Alex: The Life of a Child

Long before 18 Cinema Lane came along, I had learned of Alexandra Deford’s story. After reading Alex: The Life of a Child, I wanted to see its respective adaptation. For the longest time, a twelve-dollar donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was the only way to receive a VHS copy of the movie. But if you visit the non-profit’s website, there is no mention of the film or how to acquire a copy of it. Fortunately, the full movie has been posted on Youtube. So, expect a review of Alex: The Life of a Child in the near future!

7. A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II

One of Judy Garland’s movies I like is A Child Is Waiting. For those who aren’t familiar with the 1963 title, Judy portrays a music teacher who works at a school for students with special needs. A decade after the release of A Child Is Waiting, two made-for-tv films, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II, aired. Unlike Judy’s movie, the aforementioned productions are based on the true story of a teacher named Mary MacCracken. Her books were not only the source material for these movies, Mary was also one of the screenwriters for both films. While I haven’t found a physical copy of either movie, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II have been uploaded on Youtube. With everything said, these titles could serve a future double feature!

6. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising

I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane how some Hallmark Hall of Fame titles were only sold on VHS. This exclusivity has encouraged me to seek them out. Even though I’d like to see as many of those films as realistically possible, Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are at the top of my wish list! Each synopsis sounds interesting and Asian/Asian American stories are far and few between in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. As of late June 2022, both Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are available on Hallmark’s streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now. I have also found some copies on VHS.

On-line movie purchase image created by Makyzz at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/on-line-order-cinema-movie-tickets_1577652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/technology”>Technology vector created by Makyzz – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

5. An Old Fashioned Christmas

I have gone on record to state An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving as one of my favorite Hallmark films. Two years after that movie’s release, Hallmark aired a sequel titled An Old Fashioned Christmas. This is one of Hallmark’s unique Christmas offerings, as it is a period drama. The story also takes place in and was filmed in Ireland. I have come across a few DVD copies of An Old Fashioned Christmas. However, these copies were included in Christmas movie box sets, which have been, more often than not, expensive. The 2010 film has an official page on Hallmark Drama’s website. But the movie isn’t scheduled for any upcoming presentations. Hopefully, when Christmas time rolls around, An Old Fashioned Christmas will appear among the network’s selection of seasonal titles.

4. She Couldn’t Say No

This 1953 comedy starring Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum was originally recommended to me by one of my readers. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to, legally and realistically, watch the movie. No VHS tapes or DVDs of this title have been attainable, as of late June 2022. She Couldn’t Say No has also not been posted on Youtube. Similar to An Old Fashioned Christmas, the 1953 movie does have an official page on Turner Classic Movies’ website. But it doesn’t look like the movie will air on the channel anytime soon. The only option I have left is to wait for the Youtube channel, Cult Cinema Classics, to upload the movie.

3. Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again

While looking for a title to review for the upcoming Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon, I came across this project on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. As soon as I read the title, it gave off Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo vibes. Because of that, I thought I had finally found my “so bad, it’s good” movie. But I discovered Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again is a “Dickens spoof broadcast as part of the BBC’s 1995 “Comic Relief” telethon”. As someone who enjoyed the 1968 musical, Oliver!, I am curious to see what an Oliver Twist sequel would look like. But as of the publication of this list, there have been no uploads on Youtube of Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again. For now, it would be considered “lost media”.

2. The Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels

I won’t talk about this entry too much, as I’ve already talked about it in depth in my editorial, Why Now is the Perfect Time to Release the Tim Pope Cut of ‘The Crow: City of Angels’. Personally, I’d consider the Tim Pope Cut a “partial lost film”. The film itself isn’t lost, but this version of it is. Since publishing my aforementioned editorial, it has garnered over a thousand views and counting! This tells me there’s a desire to find and restore the Tim Pope Cut. But, as of late June 2022, this version of the movie hasn’t been restored. For now, all there is to do is wait and “trust the timing”.

1. Four Devils

For those not familiar with this title, Four Devils is a 1928 project that is considered one of the most infamous lost films. The movie revolves around four siblings who form a circus act called the “four devils”. I don’t always receive an opportunity to review films from the 1920s. Therefore, writing about Four Devils would provide unique and intriguing content for my readers. Like I said about the Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels, there has been no recent development in the retrieval of Four Devils. In the meantime, I guess I’ll find the book this movie is based on and read that.

People working on films image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by katemangostar – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Point of Origin Review

When the subject of “disaster films” is brought up, one will usually think of films revolving around over-exaggerated, fictionalized disasters. Whether it’s Sharknado or The Day After Tomorrow, these types of titles have become the faces of the “disaster film” category. But what if a movie depicts a real-life disaster that could be experienced by anyone? This is the case of my Disaster Blog-a-Thon entry, Point of Origin. Last month, I searched on Wikipedia for a title to review for May’s Genre Grandeur. During that search, I stumbled across the aforementioned 2002 HBO production. After reading the film was a “fact-based drama about an arson investigator searching for the perpetrator of a string of deadly fires in 1980s California”, I knew it was the perfect choice for J-Dub and Pale Writer’s event! Before I start this review, I would like to point out how this marks two firsts for 18 Cinema Lane. Not only is this my first time participating in the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, this is also the first HBO film reviewed on my blog!

Point of Origin poster created by HBO Films and New Redemption Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: For the most part, the mystery in Point of Origin allowed the audience to experience it alongside the characters. What also helps is how the mystery started right at the beginning of the film. This immediately hooked the audience into the story, while also giving them a shared journey with the key players on screen. There was room for viewers to speculate what would happen in the story. That gave them the opportunity to interact with the film’s mystery. Three separate components played a role in the overarching narrative. While I won’t give anything away, it was interesting to see these components come together.

The special effects: When John was investigating a crime scene, he would attempt to figure out how the fire started. Toward the beginning of the film, this thought process was visualized through special effects. As John is recounting the information, the actual fire is played out in reverse on screen. This is very different from other mystery movies, as flashbacks might be utilized to speculate the cause of a crime. When it came to the fires themselves, it appeared as if they actually took place in a given scene. It may have been possible for the movie’s creative team to insert footage of fires through editing or CGI, as Point of Origin was released in 2002. However, practical effects were an interesting choice. This creative decision reminded me of productions like The Crow.

Showcasing the dangers of fire: While investigating a local fire, John and his co-worker, Keith, examine a young boy who died on the crime scene. Despite only the victim’s face being shown, it is blackened due to smoke and flame exposure. Later in the film, John visits a surviving burn victim in the hospital. The victim’s face and part of his hand are covered in burns. He even claims that it hurts to open his eyes. Due to the nature of Point of Origin, the story is heavier in tone. However, the incorporation of the dangers of fire never felt like they were there for “shock value” or as a tactic to scare the audience. If anything, it was shown just enough to get the point across.

The Second Disaster Blog-A-Thon banner created by J-Dub from Dubsism and Pale Writer from Pale Writer

What I didn’t like about the film:

Bai Ling’s limited presence: Bai Ling was cast as John’s wife, Wanda Orr, in the 2002 HBO film. Her involvement in Point of Origin is one of the reasons why I sought out this movie, as she is the top billed actress. When I watched the film, however, I discovered Bai appeared in only a handful of scenes. Compared to some of Bai’s other projects, her talents were under-utilized in Point of Origin. It also seems like the main supporting actress, Illeana Douglas, received more screen-time than Bai. Bai did a good job with the acting material she was given. But this situation is very reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s involvement in 1994’s One Christmas, where Katharine appeared in about five scenes despite being that film’s top billed actor.

A confusing time period: As I mentioned in the introduction, Point of Origin takes place in the 1980s. Elements from that decade were incorporated into the film, such as vehicles and a typewriter used by John at various moments in the story. Meanwhile, Bai’s wardrobe looked like it came straight from the early 2000s. There was also a scene where a store patron tells another patron not to smoke in the store. This attitude was more prevalent in the 2000s, as smoking in public places was more accepted in the 1980s. The inconsistency with the film’s historical accuracy was so confusing, it was, on a few occasions, distracting.

An unidentified red-haired man: Throughout the movie, a red-haired man made multiple appearances. I won’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. But I will say when everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a satisfying explanation of who that character is. Yes, I can assume the red-haired man’s identity. However, when it comes to that character, the movie was building up to something without providing a pay-off.

Magnifying glass and fingerprint image created by Alvaro_Cabrera at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/loupe-over-a-fingerprint_853908.htm’>Designed by alvaro_cabrera</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Alvaro_cabrera – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

For the Disaster Blog-a-Thon, I chose to talk about a film that revolved around a real-life disaster. This is because, in my opinion, these types of titles aren’t talked about as much within the realm of “disaster films”. When it comes to Point of Origin specifically, it was a fine, competently made, intriguing movie. But the 2002 HBO project made me feel similarly to Red Corner. This is ironic, as Bai Ling was cast as the lead actress in both films. What I mean by my aforementioned statement is I held higher expectations for each film, only to be somewhat let down by them. As I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane, the historical accuracy works when the creative team places emphasis on the details. In Point of Origin, however, it seems like the film’s creative team forgot, at times, their project took place in the 1980s. This is because some aspects of the film reflected the time of the film’s release; the early 2000s. I haven’t seen a lot of HBO films, so I can’t make any comparisons with Point of Origin. But I will say, based on other made-for-TV mystery productions, this one felt closer to the middle of the road.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Point of Origin? Are there any HBO films you’d like to see reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Flying Colors Review

The theme of February’s Genre Grandeur is “College Themed Films”. While looking for ideas through a general internet search, I came across titles I had either heard of or seen before. But, for this month’s event, I wanted to choose one that was new to me. Toward the bottom of an IMDB list of “college films”, one movie caught my eye. That would be the 2015 Japanese film, Flying Colors! Prior to 2022, I had reviewed two Japanese productions; Howl’s Moving Castle and From Up on Poppy Hill. But anyone who knows anything about film would know Studio Ghibli is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to Japanese cinema. With that said, this will be the first time a live-action Japanese movie has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! Because I don’t watch and/or review international movies often, I had never heard of Flying Colors. According to IMDB, this is a “fact-based tale” that, to me, sounded uplifting and inspirational. Those aforementioned words usually don’t come to mind when the subject of “college films” is brought up. So, before hitting the books and cramming for that upcoming test, take some time to read this review of Flying Colors!

Flying Colors poster created by Toho.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Flying Colors revolves around Sayaka, a struggling student who receives the opportunity to improve her grades and apply to one of the top universities in Japan. Since this is a “coming-of-age” story, the project needed an actress who could effectively show the changes and growth happening within Sayaka’s life. Kasumi Arimura did just that, allowing this on-screen growth to appear natural! Specifically referring to the college application process, there are ups and downs along the way. One of those downs is academic burn-out. Sayaka becomes so frustrated by a stand-still in her academic journey, she chooses to take a break. This frustration is met with yelling at the tutor, Tsubota-Sensei, and an angry look on her face. Through Kasumi’s performance, the audience can see this frustration is not directed toward the tutor, but is coming from a place of self-doubt and insecurity. Later, when Sayaka shows up at her mother’s place of employment, she bursts into tears as soon as her mother approaches. This is in response to those earlier feelings of self-doubt and insecurity bubbling to the surface.

Because I brought up Tsubota-Sensei, I’m now going to talk about Atsushi Itô’s performance next! The on-screen camaraderie between Atsushi and Kasumi was strong, which made Sayaka and Tsubota-Sensei’s interactions memorable and enjoyable! In preparation for college entrance exams, Tsubota-Sensei creates a game where Sayaka has to give answers in a short amount of time. During one of these games, Sayaka lost, so she had to remove the false eyelashes she was wearing that day. This game is just one example of how Tsubota-Sensei not only created a lesson/study plan that was tailored to Sayaka’s interests, but also gave her the freedom to evolve as a student and young lady. At a restaurant with an investor, Tsubota-Sensei was given doubt about the effectiveness of his tutoring program. The investor also shares insults about Sayaka. Tsubota-Sensei comes to her and the program’s defense, appearing sure of Sayaka, himself, and the rest of his students. But if you look closely at his eyes, you can see how hurt Tsubota-Sensei is by the investor’s comments. These moments show how Atsushi Itô is a good actor individually and within an ensemble!

The messages and themes: As I said in the introduction, Flying Colors sounded uplifting and inspirational. This statement is true because of the messages and themes found within the story! Before seeking Tsubota-Sensei’s help, Sayaka was a junior in high school, whose grades were suffering. Her father feels she is a hopeless cause and her teacher is confident she won’t graduate high school. Despite all this doubt, Sayaka still puts effort into her academics, realizing there is more to her life than she initially thought. Her story shows the audience how it’s not too late to write a new chapter in their story. Throughout Flying Colors, Sayaka’s father pushes her brother, Ryuta, to become a professional baseball player. This has happened since he was a child, so Ryuta becomes burned out by all the pressure coming his way. The burn-out causes a dispute between him and his father, which ends up upsetting the whole family. Ryuta’s part of the film serves as a cautionary tale of how it isn’t wise to place all your eggs in one basket.

Sayaka’s wardrobe: When I talked about Atsushi Itô’s performance, I said his character, Tsubota-Sensei, allowed Sayaka the freedom to evolve as a student and young lady. One area of evolution is her wardrobe. At the beginning of the film, Sayaka places more emphasis on her looks than her grades. This is reflective in outfits that are colorful and considered “fashionable”. While at a tutoring session, Sayaka wears a yellow sundress covered in small pink and blue flowers. Complimenting the dress is a large, robin’s egg blue, flower necklace and a pair of yellow wedge shoes. As Sayaka grows into a studious, college hopeful, her outfits adopt an appearance that some would say is more “conversative”. Toward the end of the film, she wears a black and white plaid sweater dress, which looks more like a longer coat. Paired with black boots and a light blue scarf, this outfit shows how much Sayaka has matured since her story’s start.

Skyline of Yokohama, Japan image created by Lifeforstock at freepik.com. Travel photo created by lifeforstock – www.freepik.com. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Confusion over the college applications process: Because Flying Colors takes place in Japan, the college applications process is reflective of the Japanese educational system. While I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Japan’s college applications process, there were times when I found myself confused. After taking some practice tests, Sayaka is frustrated when she receives a “E” score. But when she receives a “C” score, Sayaka becomes more confident in her academic abilities. Since I’m not familiar with Japan’s educational system, I wasn’t sure what these “E” and “C” scores meant. I also didn’t know the importance of the numbers and symbols on those practice tests. If you are unfamiliar with Japan’s educational system and/or college applications process, you might be as confused as I was.

An unresolved relationship: While attending Tsubota-Sensei’s tutoring sessions, Sayaka meets a male student who is taking the tutoring program for similar reasons. Like Sayaka, this student also changes his appearance over time, to reflect his new-found focus on his academics. As the story progresses, these characters become friendly with one another, with the script implying they might form a relationship. However, their interactions doesn’t really lead anywhere. I know not every on-screen relationship is meant to be romantic. But I wish the script had clarified where Sayaka and this male student stood in their bond.

The run-time: Flying Colors is an hour and fifty-six minutes. Even though it is a “coming-of-age” story, it is also a straight forward narrative. Because of this, I don’t think the movie needed to be almost two hours. Some of the practice testing scenes could have been eliminated, an example of how the run-time can be reduced. A few scenes related to Ryuta’s baseball training could have been cut too. With that said, the film’s run-time might be an hour and twenty-five to thirty minutes. This solution would have allowed the story to get straight to the point sooner.

Library image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stack-of-books-on-library-desk_2509490.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/school”>School image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

How I feel about Flying Colors is similar to how I feel about Red Corner. Both films have something important to say, while presenting strong acting performances and an intriguing story. But they were held back by their flaws. In the case of Flying Colors, the run-time is a bit too long. The college applications process of Japan was also confusing, as I’m not familiar with the components of this process. However, like Red Corner, I would recommend Flying Colors to anyone seeking international films, especially those from Japan! The delivery of the messages and themes feel genuine, making the audience feel good about what they watched. The interactions between the characters appear realistic, giving viewers a reason to stay invested in their journey. While I’m not sure how “fact-based” Flying Colors is, I’m glad I discovered this movie! Thanks to MovieRob and Jason from Agent Palmer, this review might not have existed if it wasn’t for Genre Grandeur.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Do you watch Japanese films? If so, are there any you’d like to recommend to me? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Elephant Man Review

Two years ago, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. I chose to re-watch this movie in an attempt to give it a second chance. For the Anne Bancroft: A 90th Birthday Celebration Blogathon, I decided to do something similar with another movie. This time, the film of choice is The Elephant Man. Many years prior, I saw about ten minutes of the 1980 title.  At the time, I thought the film was boring. Upon discovering Anne starred in The Elephant Man, I thought it would give me a good excuse to re-visit this movie. It also provided a good opportunity to check out more of Anne’s filmography. So, in honor of Anne’s birthday, let’s raise the curtain on this review of The Elephant Man!

The Elephant Man poster created by Brooksfilms, Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors, and Paramount Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed The Picture of Dorian Gray last week, I talked about how I was disappointed to see Peter Lawford in a smaller role, as he was one of the reasons why I watched the film in the first place. Anne Bancroft’s role in The Elephant Man made me feel similarly. She is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1980 title. Like Peter Lawford, she appeared in the film for a short amount of time. However, I did like her acting performance! Portraying a stage actress named Mrs. Kendal, she brought a brightness to the story that was greatly needed. Her kind disposition is one of the reasons why I liked her interactions with John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. One of my favorite scenes is when Mrs. Kendal and John are reciting Romeo and Juliet. The way these actors conversed with one another helped create a genuinely sweet moment for both characters!

Speaking of John, I also liked John Hurt’s portrayal of the titular character! When it comes to historical figures or real-life people, it can, sometimes, be difficult to picture that person existing in the same world as us. That’s because we are, at times, so far removed from these individuals. With John’s performance, it made the realization of John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” existence come alive. With the help of elaborate makeup, John was able to transform into another person. At the same time, he was able to bring the humanity out of his character. During the movie, John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man” builds a replica of a nearby cathedral. Even though this example is a simple one, it highlights John’s personality, as well as his desire to learn and dream.

Prior to re-watching The Elephant Man, I had seen some of Anthony Hopkins’ films. Out of the films I have seen, most of Anthony’s roles were a source of fear. For example, as I talked about in my review of Audrey Rose, his character seemed to have power over the situation. That’s because he carried the answers Ivy’s parents were desperately seeking. But in The Elephant Man, his character was not a source of fear. This gave Anthony different material to work with. While portraying Dr. Frederick Treves, he came across as charming. Frederick always had his heart in the right place, going to the ends of the earth for John Merrick/ “The Elephant Man”. But there was one scene when Frederick was angry for the right reasons. In that scene, he was truly scary, from angrily yelling to pushing someone across a room. However, this incident was meant to show how one’s suffering can cause another person to react.

The use of black-and-white imagery: Because this story takes place in the Victorian era, the creative team chose to present their project in black-and-white imagery. I found this to be an interesting choice, especially since the film was created during a time when color cinematic imagery was available. Whenever illustrations or pictures from the Victorian period are shown, they are typically in black-and-white. Therefore, the imagery gave the illusion of these illustrations and pictures coming to life. This creative choice allowed the audience to be transported back to that time. To me, I found the overall project immersive, thanks in part to the black-and-white imagery!

The cinematography: Another area of interest was the movie’s cinematography! At times, the camera was positioned as if the view is from John Merrick’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” perspective. When John first goes to Frederick’s office, he stands in a corner of the room. As Frederick is entering his office, the scene is presented from John’s corner, as if John himself is holding the camera. When it came to the cinematography, creative decisions were found. As John is entering the hospital for the first time, Frederick meets him at the front desk. During this interaction, a long shot looking down on John shows him walking around the front desk. This was an interesting way of presenting this scene, shown in a way I never would have considered.

Anne Bancroft: A 90th Birthday Celebration blogathon banner created by Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

Lots of establishing shots: Throughout the film, establishing shots built up to certain parts of the story. However, the abundance of these shots felt more like padding. A good example is when Frederick is on his way to see John/ “The Elephant Man” for the first time. Before Frederick arrives at his destination, scenes of him walking down streets and alleys are shown. But instead of the three or four establishing shots presented, there should have been only one. If some of these shots were cut, the movie would have a run-time of less than two hours.

Prolonging John’s/ “The Elephant Man’s” appearance: As the title suggests, The Elephant Man revolves around John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. The film is also based on an article titled The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu. With all that said, it appears the creative team tried to emphasize the idea of someone having different life experiences or medical conditions than ourselves. But instead of normalizing John’s appearance by showing him on-screen sooner, John’s presence was prolonged for the first thirty minutes of the movie. During that time, John was either shown very briefly or his appearance was hidden. One example is during a medical presentation, where only John’s shadow could be seen. Even the movie’s poster features John covered up by a mask and cape. These creative choices went against the team’s good intentions.

Missed opportunity for a mystery: While John is having tea at Frederick and Ann’s house, he mentions how he’d like to find his mother and meet her. As soon as John said this, I thought Frederick was going to solve the case. Sadly, this part of the story never came to fruition. This disappointed me because omitting this mystery felt like a missed opportunity. At the same time, I can understand why this mystery was, simply, a passing comment. As I mentioned before, The Elephant Man revolves around the true story of John Merrick/ The Elephant Man. If little to no information is known about his mother, then it wouldn’t be faithful to make up details for the sake of intrigue.

Theater seats image created by weatherbox at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/weatherbox.”

My overall impression:

In The Elephant Man, Mrs. Kendal tells John “the theater is the most beautiful place”. While the theater, both on screen and stage, can be beautiful, it can also be quite ugly. Throughout the 1980 film, the script presents both ugly and beautiful moments in John’s life. The story is told in a way that I’d refer to as a “slow burn”. Even though this movie is based on a true story, it is a character driven narrative. It is also presented in an interesting way. I’m glad I gave this film a second chance! Because of my choice, I got to see familiar actors take on different roles. I also got to see more films from the 1980s. Looking back, I realize both films I re-visited, The Elephant Man and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, were because I reviewed them for a blogathon. It will be interesting to see what film I plan to re-visit next.

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen The Elephant Man? Did you re-visit a film recently? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen