Take 3: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Review

Peter Lawford is an actor I was not familiar with prior to my participation in the 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon. But, like I’ve said in past blogathons, I didn’t let this stop me to joining Kristen’s event! As I was looking through Peter’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he had starred in the original Ocean’s Eleven. This is the movie I chose to review for the blogathon because of how rarely heist films are talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. Two years ago, I wrote a review for Logan Lucky when I participated in my very first blogathon. Anyone who has read that article would know how I did not like that film. Another point I’d like to make is how Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero (who all appear in Ocean’s Eleven) starred in another movie I reviewed for a blogathon; Marriage on the Rocks. Like Logan Lucky, I was not a fan of the 1965 movie. With my review of Ocean’s Eleven, however, I’m hoping my luck will start to turn around!

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/18360/Ocean-s-Eleven/#tcmarcp-196918.

Things I liked about the films:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I have seen and reviewed Marriage on the Rocks. Three of the film’s stars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, reunite in Ocean’s Eleven! The 1960 picture allowed Dean and Cesar to work with acting material that was different from Marriage on the Rocks, with their performances appearing more dramatic. Meanwhile, Frank’s portrayal of Danny Ocean contained the same ease he displayed in the aforementioned 1965 movie. Ocean’s Eleven also introduced me to talent that I had never seen before, such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. What I liked about Peter’s performance was how he was able to adapt to any situation placed in his character’s path. Even though this was the first time I’ve ever seen Sammy act, I was impressed with the smooth confidence he consistently carried throughout the story! One thing that stood out to me was the on-screen chemistry among the cast! Every actor appeared to work well with each other and compliment their co-stars.

The differentiation among the casinos: In a movie showcasing five casinos, it’s important to differentiate these locations for the audience. This choice avoids confusion and prevents the casinos from blending in with each other. The various New Year’s Eve parties feature creative ways these facilities were able to set themselves apart! At the party in the Flamingo casino, pink balloons served as party decorations. Down the street at the Sands casino, blue balloons could be seen. The costumes of the on-stage performers also highlighted the differences between each location. Dancers wearing burnt orange and white checkered costumes were found at the Desert Inn. Meanwhile, black costumes were worn by dancers at the Sands.

The dialogue: For the most part, the dialogue in Ocean’s Eleven was smartly written and sounded clever! One example takes place during a conversation between Danny’s ex-wife and Sam Harmon. When she is talking about her relationship with her ex-husband, Sam responds by saying how Cloud 9 must have been boring. Another example of smart writing happens when Josh Howard to talking with one of the members of Danny’s group. In their conversation, they talk about bravery. Josh shares that being brave doesn’t make someone invincible. These two examples I shared show how there was effort placed in the script.

The 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes. Image found at https://knwiniarski.com/peter-lawford-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A dialogue heavy first half: Every heist movie sets aside time to lay out the plans for the heist. While the first half of Ocean’s Eleven does feature these plans, it also included explanations of why the members of Danny’s group wanted to pull off the heist. The first half of the story featured explanations of the characters’ personal issues as well. This caused the movie’s entire first half to be dialogue heavy. If some of these explanations had been shortened or cut, it would have presented the heist sooner.

A “bait and switch” third act: With a movie titled Ocean’s Eleven, the audience expects a good portion of the story to focus on the heist itself. While the planning and execution of the heist was shown, the story transitions its focus to Duke Santos and his investigation after the heist takes place. This creative choice made the third act seem like a “bait and switch”. It also caused this part of the story to drag a little bit, preventing the film from ending earlier than it did.

Too many characters: Despite the film containing an all-star cast, I felt there were too many characters in this story. There were times when I had difficulty keeping track of who was who. The large number of cast members also caused some actors to receive less screen time than others, with Red Skelton being one of them. When I saw his name on a casino marquee, I was given the impression he would perform a comedy sketch on the casino’s stage. However, Red was briefly featured in one scene where he was seen arguing with a casino employee. I wondered why this film’s creative team would recruit such a well-known star for such a small part, especially when Red Skelton’s claim to fame, comedy, wasn’t utilized?

Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ocean’s Eleven is the first film of Peter Lawford’s I have ever seen. But I have not seen the “Ocean” movies from the 21st century, so I cannot make a comparison. Despite all this, I found the 1960 movie to be a fine first impression! Unlike Logan Lucky, Ocean’s Eleven showcased a heist that was interesting, exciting, and even suspenseful. Clever dialogue and creative set design at each casino were worth seeing and listening. Even the acting was solid, not just from Peter, but from the cast as a whole! However, there are factors that held Ocean’s Eleven back from being a stronger film. While I liked the dialogue, I found the movie’s first half very dialogue heavy. There were also too many characters and the third act felt like a “bait and switch”. But I still thought it was better than Logan Lucky and Marriage on the Rocks. If Kristen brings this blogathon back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what I choose!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of the “Ocean” movies? Which film of Peter Lawford’s would you want to check out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The results of the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards are finally here!

After three months of voting, the winners of the 2020 Gold Sally Awards have been determined! This year, the nominees were expanded beyond Hallmark projects. I made this choice to better reflect 18 Cinema Lane. Because of its success, I will not only bring the Gold Sally Awards back in 2021, but I’ll continue nominating films from within Hallmark and outside of Hallmark! Thank you to everyone who liked and voted in the 2nd Annual Gold Sally Awards! You are the reason why I keep this event around! Like last year, I have brought back the scrapbook style page showcasing this year’s winners! 2020’s theme is silver and gold with a dash of sparkle! And now, the winners of the 2020 Gold Sally Awards!

20200508_223339[1]
Scrapbook page and screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Best Movie and Ensemble: Avengers: Endgame

Best Story: Mystery 101: Words Can Kill

Best On-Screen Couple: Ziyi Zhang and Chen Chang – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Best Actress: Haya Harareet – Ben-Hur (1959)

Best Actor: Spencer Tracy – Boys Town

Best Supporting Actress: Kathy Bates – Swept from the Sea

Best Supporting Actor: Ian McKellen – Swept from the Sea

Sally’s Star of the Year: Vincent Perez

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World Review

If you’re wondering why I’m publishing this review for The Second Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon early, it’s because I will be attending an event during the weekend when the blogathon is taking place. Since I know I’ll have little to no time to complete this post over the weekend, I thought that publishing it early would be a smart idea. For this blogathon, I will be reviewing two films. As you can tell by the title, the first movie is It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World. I saw this movie for the first time several years ago. But I only watched a third of the film before I decided to stop watching it. When I was choosing what to write about for the aforementioned blogathon, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World came to mind. Had I judged this film too harshly? Now that I’m watching it years later, would I find more enjoyment out of the movie this time? In this review, I will be attempting to answer these questions, especially since the movie stars one of the actors that this blogathon is dedicated to; Spencer Tracy.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World poster
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World poster created by Casey Productions and United Artists. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:It%27s_a_Mad,_Mad,_Mad,_Mad_World_(1963)_theatrical_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This movie has one of the largest casts in cinematic history. But what worked in this cast’s favor was that every performer had television or movie experience prior to appearing in this film. This presented the team dynamic that comes from working with a group of people. What I noticed while watching this movie was how consistent each performance was. Some actors and actresses received more screen-time than others. However, the consistency of the characters was maintained from start to finish. Another aspect to this cast was their on-screen chemistry. All of these characters had a very interesting relationship with one another. Because of the performers’ experience with working on other movies and television shows, it helped the cast create a sense of acquaintanceship with each other.

 

The scenery: California is the primary filming location for this movie. It’s interesting how the various landscapes featured in the Golden State were present within the story. Most of the film takes place in the desert, but there were some unique ways that this location played into the narrative. One example is when Otto Meyer, portrayed by Phil Silvers, drives down a very steep hill. Other landscapes in this movie include the city and the seaside, which also serve an important role in this story. I think it’s great that the creative team behind this film chose to show a more well-rounded view of this state. It reminded me of the movie, Return from Witch Mountain.

 

The music: All of the music in this film was created by the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. Despite this, it worked well with the events that took place on screen. Since this movie is a comedy, most of the music was up-beat in order to fit the overall tone. However, there were times when the music created a mood that felt different from the film’s norm. Going back to the example of Otto Meyer driving down the hill, the music that was incorporated into this scene created a moment that felt suspenseful. There was a song that was performed toward the beginning and end of the movie called “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”. This song’s score could be heard at various parts of the film.

Spencer and Katherine Blogathon
The Second Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn Blogathon poster created Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/announcing-the-second-spencer-tracy-and-katharine-hepburn-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The weak story: People from different walks of life trying to find a large sum of money is a story that sounds like it has potential. But, in reality, this idea works better on paper than it does on the screen. The majority of the movie relies on driving scenes and people yelling at one another. The jokes and gags seemed to last longer than necessary, potentially making up for the weak plot. Any time there was a moment for commentary, the screen-writers don’t take advantage of them. Instead, they focus on creating a series of subplots that feel repetitive.

 

The run-time: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World is approximately two and a half hours, while IMDB lists the movie at three hours and twenty-five minutes. As I’ve already said, this plot was pretty weak. However, the story itself was also straight-forward. This film’s run-time feels excessive, being drawn-out longer than it needed to be. A film’s run-time can be hit or miss. It all comes down to what the story calls for. Personally, I think It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World should have been about an hour and thirty to fifty minutes. That way, the story could have gotten straight-to-the-point a lot sooner.

 

The humor: Humor, like film, is subjective. What is funny for one person might not be hilarious for another. For me, there were very few jokes in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World that I found legitimately funny. One example was when, at the beginning of the film, the man who tells the other characters about the money literally kicks a bucket before he dies. But the majority of the jokes revolved around people getting hurt at the expense of others. Instead of finding the events on the screen hilarious, I kept wondering how the characters were able to survive their ordeals. Something that I’ve already talked about was how, most of the time, the characters end up yelling at one another for a host of reasons. This aspect of the film didn’t add humor to the story either. What it did, instead, was sound like a broken record.

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park in California image created by Welcomia at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree photo created by welcomia – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

If there is ever a movie that I haven’t finished or I haven’t watched in several years, I am more than willing to give it a second chance. Since I have this blog, it provides a place where I can analyze and evaluate each title. Unfortunately, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World did not deserve that second chance. Like I said, humor and film are subjective. This means that this particular film was not for me. Yes, there were things about the movie that I liked. But the negatives ended up out-weighing the positives. The movie, to me, felt like a drawn-out joke that had trouble finding its punch-line. It also seemed like the creative team behind this film put more emphasis on recruiting as many actors and actresses as possible instead of focusing on telling a good story. Since this is a double feature, I’m hoping that the second movie I plan to watch is better than this one.

 

Overall score: 5 out of 10

 

Have you seen any of Spencer Tracy’s films? Are you looking forward to the second part of this double feature? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: I Remember Mama Review

Earlier this month, MovieRob, from the blog, MovieRob, invited me to join the monthly blogathon called Genre Grandeur. This is a monthly blogathon where different themes are chosen by various bloggers. Since I’ve never participated in Genre Grandeur before, I decided to give it a try. September’s theme, as chosen by Carl, from Listening to Film, is Ensemble Movies. Like with any blogathon, I take the time to pick a film that is the right option for me and that could bring something unique to the table of the blogathon. While searching through lists of the “best” ensemble movies, I discovered that I Remember Mama would be classified as an “ensemble film”. Because I already had this movie on my DVR, I figured this would be the perfect movie for me to review for Genre Grandeur! The goal of this blogathon is to share your favorite film from the chosen genre. This was my first time watching the movie, so my review is meant to determine if I Remember Mama could be a favorite ensemble project.

I Remember Mama poster
I Remember Mama poster created by RKO Radio Pictures. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2237/I-Remember-Mama/#.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In any ensemble film, every actor and actress is expected to bring the best of their acting talents to the screen. That’s exactly what happened in I Remember Mama! In this film, all the cast members pulled off an excellent performance! Irene Dunne may be the lead actress, but she never overshadows anyone. Instead, her performance compliments the other performers. Irene was very expressive, sometimes relying on expressions more than actual dialogue. However, this aspect helped make the performance appear more emotional and realistic. Fans of The Waltons would recognize Ellen Corby as Esther “Grandma” Walton. Her portrayal of Aunt Trina highlights how versatile her acting abilities are. She effectively brings a personality that stands out from the other aunts in this cinematic family. Ellen also did a good job at carrying a Norwegian accent. Her performance is an example of how great an ensemble film can be, as it celebrates the cast as a whole instead of a select few.

 

The cinematography: I Remember Mama is a film that I was not expecting to see interesting cinematography in. But, as I watched the film, I was pleasantly surprised by how creative and visually appealing it really was. One common trick was how mirrors were used in a given scene. A perfect example is when Katrin begins to narrate her story. As the story starts, the mirror that is in Katrin’s room turns into a window as the audience enters the first flashback. Close-ups of people’s faces were also commonly used throughout this film. In one scene, Uncle Chris’ face is presented as a close-up when he tells his nieces to move out of his way. Because of the use of this cinematography trick, it reinforces the idea that this character is “scary”, a description that other family members gave him.

 

The messages and themes: Throughout this story, I found several messages and themes that resonated beyond the screen. Selflessness is just one example of an overarching theme that is relatable for a variety of audience members. Whether it’s Mama/Marta putting the needs of her family before her own or Uncle Chris looking after his grand-nephew while he’s in the hospital, it goes to show just how far this on-screen family will go to provide happiness and well-being for each other. The effects of one’s actions is a very important message in I Remember Mama. An example that really highlights this point is when the family has to deal with an injured cat. I’m not going to spoil this point of the film, in case you haven’t seen this movie yet. But all I’ll say is that it has a profound effect on one of the characters.

Painted Cup of Coffee with Natural Coffee Beans on a Chalkboard.
Coffee cup drawing image created by Valeria_aksakova at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/painted-cup-of-coffee-with-natural-coffee-beans-on-a-chalkboard_1013935.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some characters get under-utilized more than others: While having an ensemble cast does have its advantages, it also has its flaws. A flaw in I Remember Mama’s cast is how some characters are under-utilized more than others. Even though most of the story revolves around Mama and Aunt Trina gets her own subplot, Aunt Jenny and Aunt Sigrid aren’t given much to do within the story. Throughout the film, each daughter in the Hanson family shares a teachable moment with their mother. Nels, the only son in the family, is never shown sharing one of these moments. Arne, one of Uncle Chris’ grand-nephews, isn’t seen interacting with many of the characters. While he does spend time with this uncle, during a stay in the hospital, he doesn’t receive a subplot.

 

Having difficulty understanding the accents: In I Remember Mama, most of the older characters speak with a Norwegian accent. That’s because some of them immigrated to the United States prior to the events that take place in the movie. All of the actors did a great job at pulling off this accent! However, there were times when I found it difficult to understand what they were trying to say. This is because I’m not used to hearing Norwegian accents in film, so this flaw is my fault as a viewer.

Norway Map Touristic Symbols Isometric Poster
Norway’s past and present image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/poster”>Poster vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my final thoughts on I Remember Mama, I want to thank MovieRob for inviting me to join Genre Grandeur! When I first discovered genre grandeurs, I thought it was an overwhelmingly analytical process. But the more I learned about it, the more I realized how simple the process really was. I’m glad that I was able to provide my insight to the blogathon’s overarching topic. Speaking of this topic, I’m now going to talk about my thoughts on I Remember Mama! This film was better than I expected it to be! It’s a movie I’ve heard about before, but had never taken the time to see. Because of this Genre Grandeur, I was given a good excuse to finally watch it! I Remember Mama is a story that is engaging and relatable. What helps make this movie memorable is the cast and the cinematography. Since I found this movie to be so good, it definitely has become a favorite when it comes to “ensemble films”!

 

Overall score: 8 out of 10

 

Do you like genre guesstimations? Would you like me to participate in the next one? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen