Take 3: Children of a Lesser God Review

May’s theme for Genre Grandeur is ‘Best Picture Nominated Movies that didn’t win’. As the Oscars have been around for more than fifty years, there were plenty of titles for me to choose from. But I knew the main-stream, bigger name films were going to get selected by other participants of Genre Grandeur. So, I decided to choose a movie that was not only off the beaten path, but also less talked about than other films. This is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing Children of a Lesser God. Eric Binford, from Diary of A Movie Maniac, is another reason why I chose to write about the 1986 project. While talking about non-preachy movies containing messages, I brought up the Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Sweet Nothing in My Ear. After Eric mentioned how he loves Marlee Matlin, I realized I have never reviewed any project from Marlee’s filmography. I have seen Sweet Nothing in My Ear, as well as a handful of Switched at Birth episodes. But I’ve never discussed the ABC Family show on 18 Cinema Lane and I didn’t review the 2008 Hallmark Hall of Fame film. It should also be noted how the last time I wrote about an ’80s movie was last September.

Children of a Lesser God poster created by Paramount Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since Marlee Matlin is one of the reasons why I chose to review Children of a Lesser God, I will talk about her performance first. While portraying Sarah, Marlee’s facial expressions and body language were expressive. They were also as fluid as her sign language. During an assembly, Sarah witnesses a performance from James’ students. At first, she appears content, not seeing any issue with the performance. But as the performance goes on, Sarah’s face progressively changes, appearing angry for reasons not yet revealed. In fact, Sarah becomes so upset by this performance, she ends up breaking a mirror. The strength of Marlee’s acting abilities not only allowed her to stand on her own, talent-wise, but also go toe-to-toe with William Hurt!

In Children of a Lesser God, William Hurt portrays James. The first thing I noticed about his acting performance was how he was able to balance the light-hearted and serious moments of the story! Toward the beginning of the film, James is explaining to his students why they should learn to speak. To demonstrate a likely scenario, James does a hand-stand, in an attempt to make his point. Later in the film, James learns more about Sarah. She explains how, in high school, her male peers would desire an intimate relationship with her, yet refuse to take the time to get to know her. During this conversation, James becomes frustrated over things he can’t change, such as Sarah’s past. Similar to what I said about Marlee’s performance, William was also expressive in his role. The expressive nature of his performance is what helped him maintain a consistent portrayal!

Several scenes show James interacting with the students in his speech class. These scenes are meant to serve as the more light-hearted moments of the film. One of the students in this class is Lydia. Portrayed by Allison Gompf, Lydia was not afraid to try new things. In fact, she was one of the first students to try speaking. What helped Allison and her character be memorable was her on-screen personality. It was so bubbly and up-beat, you can’t help but smile every time she appears on screen!

The on-screen chemistry: As I just mentioned, both Marlee and William gave solid performances individually. However, they also performed well together! The strength and expressiveness of their acting abilities worked in their favor and complimented one another. These aspects of their combined performance allowed them to showcase a relationship that felt realistic. One of my favorite scenes in Children of a Lesser God takes place when James wants to listen to one of his records. But shortly after he puts on a Bach record, he is overcome with guilt. James turns off the record, telling Sarah he can’t enjoy the music because she can’t hear it. A few moments later, Sarah puts the record back on, as she knows how much James enjoys the music. Through the acting, as well as the screenwriting, this scene is a great example of the sacrifices and compromises that can take place within a romantic relationship.

 An introduction to deaf culture: Whenever I talk about a movie highlighting a specific culture/community, I try to remind my readers that the film in question is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to discussing that culture/community. This is the case when talking about Children of a Lesser God. The students in James’ speech class are their own individuals, displaying distinct styles and expressing unique perspectives. These students, including Sarah, have their reasons why they either want or don’t want to speak. At one point in the film, James’ students perform in their school’s assembly. Throughout this performance, they sing, dance, and sign while on stage. The joy expressed by these characters can be seen and felt. This scene shows one can experience joy when they’ve found a place to belong.

Sign language alphabet image created by Freepik at freepik.com. Hand sign vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

A confusing title: With a title like Children of a Lesser God, I’m going to safely assume “children” is referencing deaf people, with the title itself emphasizing how deaf people are just as important to society as hearing people. But in the movie, Sarah is the only deaf character the story revolves around. Yes, there are deaf characters featured throughout the film. However, these characters are shown as well-adjusted individuals who aren’t prejudiced or mistreated. As I mentioned before, Sarah recounts a situation that happened to her in high school. Sarah’s mother, portrayed by Piper Laurie, shares traumatic events Sarah experienced in her life. But all of these events happened prior to the film. With all this said, the title, Children of a Lesser God, seems confusing.

A limited presence of James’ students: As I said earlier in this review, the moments where James interacts with his students were meant to be the more light-hearted moments of the film. But throughout the movie, the presence of the students themselves were limited. I really liked the camaraderie between these characters, as it made their connection seem believable. Because of the student’s limited presence, it left few opportunities to get to know them. Sure, we learn about them through their experiences in James’ speech class. But compared to James and Sarah, I felt like I, as an audience member, only became familiar with James’ students. I kind of wish they had received their own subplot.

No appearances from Ruth: When Sarah’s mom is talking to James about Sarah’s past, she mentions her other daughter, Ruth. She also mentions how, in high school, Ruth’s male peers were more interested in Sarah. Despite Ruth getting brought up in the story, Sarah’s sister never appears in the film. Personally, I think this was a missed opportunity. It would have been interesting to hear the perspective of a sibling of someone with a disability. I also wanted to know how Ruth felt about what Sarah went through in high school. In the movie’s opening credits, I learned Children of a Lesser God was based on a Broadway play. I haven’t seen this play, so I don’t know if Ruth is a character that is meant to be in the story. But, like I said, it still feels like a missed opportunity.

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My overall impression:

Children of a Lesser God is a character-driven movie. With these types of films, you need a cast that is so strong, it gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the overall story. That is exactly what this 1986 production achieved! Even though Children of a Lesser God primarily revolves around Sarah and James, the supporting cast was great to watch. Presenting an introduction to the deaf culture also helps. Though I liked this movie, there were some aspects of this project that could have been stronger. I wish James’ students had received their own subplot and Ruth had appeared in the story. But as I said in this review, Children of a Lesser God is based on a Broadway play. Therefore, I don’t know what was in the original source material. As I close this review, I’d like to say I can’t speak for whether Children of a Lesser God should have received the Best Picture award. That’s because I haven’t seen Platoon or the other films nominated in 1987.

Overall score: 7.7-7.8 out of 10

Have you seen Children of a Lesser God? Which movie do you think should have won Best Picture in 1987? Please let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Song of Bernadette Review

Shock and sadness. That’s how I felt when I discovered the passing of Patricia, from Caftan Woman, on Twitter. Upon hearing the announcement of the Caftan Woman Blogathon, I wanted to participate as a way to pay my respects to a fellow blogger. Over the years, Patricia has recommended several films for future reviews. So, it was only fitting for me to choose one of her suggestions for the event. Since the blogathon is commemorating a loss, I felt The Song of Bernadette was the most appropriate choice out of the recommendations on my Pinterest board. This also compliments other religious/faith-based films I’ve reviewed in the past, such as Ben-Hur and The Carpenter’s Miracle. With all that said, let’s start this review of The Song of Bernadette.

The Song of Bernadette poster created by 20th Century Fox

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: One of my favorite movies is Portrait of Jennie. Jennifer Jones’ consistent and captivating performance is one of the reasons why I love that film so much. In The Song of Bernadette, Jennifer’s portrayal of the titular character reminded me of her portrayal of Jennie. This is because she has a talent for pulling off an innocent demeanor without coming across as childish or immature. Throughout the film, Bernadette claims she is dumb. Yet, when asked what a sinner is, she tells the local reverend a sinner “is someone who loves sin”. The reverend even comments how Bernadette chose to say “loves sin” instead of “commits sin”. Personality wise, Jennifer brought a gentleness to her character. When speaking with one of Lourdes’ members of police, the policeman gets details of Bernadette’s story wrong. In a polite manner, Bernadette corrects him, pointing out the policeman’s errors in a soft-spoken voice. This innocence and gentleness allowed Bernadette to be taken seriously by the audience.

On 18 Cinema Lane, I have reviewed several of Vincent Price’s films. In most of these movies, Vincent portrays a character that can exude a sense of fear for the audience. But in The Song of Bernadette, his role of Vital Dutour was very different from his other roles. One reason is how Vincent is a part of an ensemble instead of a main focus in the story. Another reason is how Vital’s actions and choices were not chosen to cause fear. Despite all of this, Vincent carries his character with elegance and arrogance. In an effort to get to the bottom of Bernadette’s “visions”, Vital questions her story in his office. He speaks to Bernadette with a stern voice and presents a no-nonsense attitude. By interacting with her in this way, Vital is attempting in enforce his authority, thinking he will get his way. But because of Bernadette’s strength in her faith and her innocent demeanor, she is able to stand up to Vital. With that, both Jennifer Jones and Vincent Price are able to, acting-wise, go toe-to-toe with each other!

The set design: The Song of Bernadette takes place in the French countryside of 1858. But according to IMDB, the movie was filmed in California. Despite this, the set didn’t look like a set. Instead, it looked like a small French town from the 1850s! The architecture of Lourdes’ buildings was simple. Materials such as stone cover these structures. A traditional roof shingle design is displayed on top of these buildings. Like any well-researched production, the attention to detail was not overlooked! Vital’s office boasts two impressive things: a large desk and fireplace. The desk is a big piece of furniture that is coated in darker wood. Small, gold detailing can be found on the side of the desk. The fireplace is a massive marble structure, with etched detailing just below the mantle. Attention to detail and thorough research made this on-screen world an immersive environment!

Correlations with Biblical stories: When I reviewed the 1959 film, Ben-Hur, I talked about how certain Biblical events were incorporated into the overall story. With The Song of Bernadette, I could pick out moments that felt like unintentional correlations with some stories from the Bible. Toward the beginning of the film, Bernadette’s father is hired to dispose dirty rags from hospital patients. Shortly after being hired, Bernadette’s father can be seen pulling the wagon filled with dirty rags up a hill. This scene reminded me of the Crucifixion story, when Jesus is carrying the cross. The scene can also serve as a reminder how everyone has their own cross to bear, literally or figuratively. After Bernadette sees her first “vison”, Bernadette’s neighbors offer Bernadette’s family extra food they had acquired. The neighbors’ multiplying of food is reminiscent of the story where Jesus multiplied two fish and five loaves. Because this scene takes place after the first “vision”, I saw it as a miracle similar to the aforementioned Biblical story.

Using little to no dialogue: In two scenes, the movie’s creative team did a great job using little to no dialogue! One of them was the aforementioned scene where Bernadette’s father climbed up the hill. Orchestral music replaces any dialogue, which captures the emotions of Bernadette’s father. A long shot showcases the journey, elaborating how small Bernadette’s father is compared to the hill. This scene visually explained how difficult his life is. Another scene that used no dialogue is when Bernadette experiences her first “vision”. Not only is orchestral and choir music incorporated, the creative team uses a spotlight to accentuate Jennifer’s facial expressions. At one point in this scene, wind blew unexpectedly, signaling something was about to happen. Both scenes were able to say so much while saying so little!

The Caftan Woman Blogathon banner created by Lady Eve from Lady Eve’s Reel Life and Jacqueline from Another Old Movie Blog

What I didn’t like about the film:

The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother: In The Song of Bernadette, the titular character appears to be friends with a man named Antoine. Antoine also appears to be close with his mother. These two characters were only shown in a handful of scenes. Even when they were included in the story, their significance in the overall plot was weaker. The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother was disappointing, as I felt they could have offered more to the story. But since this movie was based on a book I haven’t read, I’m not sure if the limited presence of these characters is close to the source material.

A few ignored details: Toward the beginning of the movie, a friend of Bernadette’s explains to their teacher how Bernadette has asthma. This diagnosis is brought up on a few occasions by Bernadette’s family throughout the movie. But, for the most part, this detail was ignored and had little significance in the story. There were times when Vital Dutour was seen wiping his nose with a handkerchief. At one point in the story, he claims it’s “influenza”. However, it isn’t clearly explained what he’s medically dealing with. As I already said, The Song of Bernadette is based on a book I haven’t read. But if the creative team knew they weren’t going to utilize these details, it makes me wonder why they would include them in the movie?

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My overall impression:

Incorporating faith into film can be a tricky task. On the one hand, you don’t want to run the risk of alienating those who aren’t religious. At the same time, you want to acknowledge the beliefs of those who choose to include religion in their lives. The Song of Bernadettefinds a way to achieve “the best of both worlds”! Bernadette’s story is shown as a procession, a good exploration of how religious phenomena can affect a small town. The film doesn’t seem to take sides when it comes to the actual topic. Yes, some people make fun of Bernadette because of her “visions”. But there’s no antagonist or villain in the movie. Lourdes’ mayor and his friends don’t believe Bernadette. However, none of the men are religious, approaching the situation from a legal and literal perspective. Even the town’s reverend isn’t quick to assume the “visions” are religious. Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, so far, I’d say The Song of Bernadette is the strongest one! If you are interested in checking this film out, I think Easter would be an appropriate time to see it. Personally, I wish I had seen it sooner, especially since I can no longer thank Patricia for the recommendation.

Overall score: 8.2-8.3 out of 10

Rest in Peace Patricia

Sally Silverscreen

The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon is Ready to Set Sail!

All aboard the blogathon train! Spring is a time when vacations are either in the planning stage or just beginning. This is one of the inspirations for my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon! As was mentioned in the official announcement post, plans can either go hilariously or horrifyingly wrong. So, for this year’s event, entries are classified accordingly. All the participant’s posts will be found on this one communal post, in order to locate them easier. With that said, grab your suitcase and fasten your seatbelts! We’re off on a blogathon adventure!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Sally from 18 Cinema Lane — Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Hilariously Wrong

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

Ruth from Silver Screenings — How to Have a Miserable Vacation

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — The Hardys Take Manhattan

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 131: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy — “French Kiss” (1995)

Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse — 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Great Race (1965)

Horrifyingly Wrong

Debbie from Moon In Gemini — The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon: Train to Busan (2016)

geelw from “DESTROY ALL FANBOYS”! — The Passenger, Or: Boarding? Pass!, The Gift Or: “Where’s Waldo?” Or: “Really Dead Letter Office”

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 130: “Airport”

Eric from Diary of A Movie Maniac — THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)

Evaschon98 from Classics and Craziness — movie review: flightplan (2005).

Take 3: Death on the Nile (2022) Review + 415 Follower Thank You

When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate for my last Blog Follower Dedication Review, I figured by writing about a mystery film, I would be giving the readers what they wanted. Well, for my 415 Blog Follower Dedication Review, I decided to give my readers yet another mystery, as both reviews for Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate and Cut, Color, Murder have been quite successful. This time, though, the movie in question is a more current mystery production from the big screen. Recently, my family rented the 2022 adaptation, Death on the Nile. This is the follow-up title to the 2017 adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express. On 18 Cinema Lane, I have gone on record to state I was not a fan of Murder on the Orient Express’ ending. I would say why, but then I’d have to spoil that movie for my readers. With that said, I watched the 2022 film with an open mind, hoping the ending would be better. But was that enough to be stronger than the 2017 title? Join me as I review Death on the Nile!

Death on the Nile (2022) poster created by Kinberg Genre, Mark Gordon Pictures, Scott Free Productions, TSG Entertainment, and 20th Century Studios

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Sometimes, in ensemble films, there is at least one performance that steals the show. In the case of Death on the Nile, I can’t say that happened, as everyone’s performance was equally strong. So instead, I’m going to talk about how all of the actors and actresses appeared at ease in their roles. Every interaction among the characters seemed natural. Despite the talent being on different journeys in their career, there was a shared chemistry to be found. Gal Gadot did not star in Murder on the Orient Express alongside Kenneth Branagh. However, when they interacted together, it felt like their characters, Linnet and Hercule, had known each other longer than their total screen time. Even actors and actresses whose characters developed their own relationships created a believable on-screen connection. Bouc is a close friend of Hercule’s, but wasn’t brought up or featured in Murder on the Orient Express. Rosalie is a character who made her debut in Death on the Nile. Despite never meeting prior to this film, Rosalie and Bouc formed a romantic relationship that felt genuine. Their bright smiles and warm embraces present the impression they were always meant to be together. It’s interactions like Bouc and Rosalie’s that allowed the overall acting performances to be enjoyable to watch!

An atmospheric setting: The majority of Death on the Nile takes place in Egypt, specifically on the Nile River. Despite a cruise ship being the primary setting for the story, the characters make an excursion to an ancient Egyptian tomb. I’m not sure if Death on the Nile was filmed on-location, on a set, or if everything was green-screened. No matter where the movie was filmed, this particular location was very atmospheric! The structure was covered in a warm sandstone, reflecting the nearby natural landscape. The interior walls were covered in hieroglyphics, only seen through torch light or a flashlight. Before the characters entered the tombs, a long, overhead shot showcased their entry. Even though a structure like this one would likely never be done justice through filmography, it emphasized the scope of a location of that scale!

The Egyptian tombs were not the only atmospheric location in this film. When it comes to the S.S. Karnak, the creative team knew what style they wanted to execute. Boy, did they stick the landing! This ship was posh, bearing the word “elegant” like a badge of honor. The floor was a dark wood, which nicely contrasted the white shiplap walls. Polished glass windows surrounded a grand sitting area, separating patrons into an isolated, beautiful world. Even this aforementioned sitting area was a sight to behold! A detailed oriental rug hosted an island to a set of plush armchairs and a sofa. An elegant bar overlooked both the seating arrangements and the windowed walls, which showcased a perfect view of the river. When I first saw this ship on screen, it looked, to me, like a miniature version of the Titanic.

The use of black and white imagery: Within the mystery genre, black and white imagery has been, in my experience, used rarely in more recently released titles. Even in Death on the Nile, this kind of imagery had a limited incorporation in the movie. But the use of black and white imagery is what stood out to me. This film’s very first scene is captured in black and white. However, it took place during World War I, with the rest of the story taking place in 1937. The distinction of past and present through imagery was clever and visually interesting. This creative tactic was used again later in the story. But this time, color was included to force the audience to focus on that scene’s particular aspects. Like I said about the previous scene, it was an interesting and clever way to use black and white imagery!

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What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery’s delayed start time: One of my least favorite aspects of the mystery genre is when the mystery starts at a later time in the story. This is because I prefer mysteries to be more interactive and get to the heart of the matter sooner. Unfortunately, Death on the Nile did not ask me what I wanted, as the mystery in this movie started at the halfway point. That means the audience was given half a movie to attempt to solve the mystery alongside Hercule. To me, this felt reminiscent of episodes of Murder, She Wrote, where the first half of the story is devoted to the mystery’s build-up. This creative decision caused a much slower start to the movie, as well as a delay in suspense.

A mystery overshadowed by relationship drama: Drama among the characters can work in a mystery’s favor, as it provides possible motives and suspects. Various types of relationships can also create tension within the overall story. But in Death on the Nile, the relationship drama ended up overshadowing the mystery. In fact, it dominated the film’s first half. While characters fell in and out of love, or simply reflected on love, one of my family members asked, “Isn’t someone supposed to get murdered in this story”? I could easily sense this family member’s impatience, as I too felt my good will toward the movie slipping away with each of the characters’ romantic embrace. I have never read any of Agatha Christie’s books, so I’m not sure if these relationships are straight from the source material. However, this part of the story was over-emphasized.

A past detail that doesn’t lead anywhere: Death on the Nile starts with showing Hercule during World War I. In that time, it is revealed he developed romantic feelings for a woman named Katherine. For the rest of the movie, though, this part of the story was never revisited. If Katherine was brought up, Hercule only talked about her in passing. Hercule’s past relationship and his time during World War I getting ignored was confusing to me. Why include these details if there was no plan to follow through on them? It felt like they were added to the story simply for the sake of being there.

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Death on the Nile, I would like to thank my followers for helping make this review a reality! In four years, my blog has achieved far more success than I ever imagined. All of that is thanks to you. Now, back to sharing my overall impression. While the ending/resolution in Death on the Nile was stronger than Murder on the Orient Express’ was, the overall execution was weaker than the 2017 adaptation. The 2022 film contained a similar flaw to Knives Out: the drama among the characters overshadowed the mystery. Having the mystery start at the movie’s halfway point didn’t help Death on the Nile’s case either. Like Murder on the Orient Express, though, the cast was strong in Death on the Nile. In fact, it was difficult for me to choose a favorite performance. The locations in the 2022 production were atmospheric as well. At the publication of this review, I’m not sure if Kenneth Branagh has plans to adapt more of Agatha Christie’s books. It depends, at this point, if the potential is there.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work? Have you read any of Agatha’s books? Don’t hesitate to comment in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Bridge on the River Kwai Review

William Holden is an actor who I am familiar with. I have seen some of the films on his filmography and have even reviewed a few. So, when I came across the announcement post for The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon, I saw it as a great opportunity to explore William’s filmography some more! As I was signing up, though, I noticed how The Bridge on the River Kwai hadn’t been selected yet. Surprised by this, I found another good opportunity to check out a “classic”! For years, I had heard of the 1957 film. It is even featured on the American Film Institute’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. At the publication of this review, I have seen twenty-nine of the movies on this list, in their entirety. Some of these titles have been enjoyable, but there are others I wasn’t a fan of. Where does The Bridge on the River Kwai fall on that spectrum? Keep reading to find out!

The Bridge on the River Kwai poster created by Horizon Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since William Holden is one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai, I’ll talk about his performance first. This is not the first war film William has starred in. Four years prior to the release of The Bridge on the River Kwai, he appeared in Stalag 17. What makes his portrayal of Shears different from Sgt. J.J. Sefton is the material allowed William to expand his acting abilities. While on a beach at a nearby hospital, Shears is flirting with a female nurse. In this scene, William turns on the charm, sharing nice on-screen chemistry with Ann Sears. In the next scene, Shears carries a serious demeanor as he is called upon for a military mission. Out of Williams’ films I have seen, his character presents one of two personas: the “charmer” or the serious, no-nonsense man. In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Shears displayed both.

One of my favorite scenes is when Colonels Nicholson and Saito are attempting to make a negotiation. Colonel Saito, portrayed by Sessue Hayakawa, wants every member of Nicholson’s team to work on the bridge. Colonel Nicholson, portrayed by Alec Guinness, refuses this order. Prior to this scene, Nicholson stood his ground. He was even locked in a small hut because of his refusal. But Nicholson persevered, even carrying a dignified persona that ends up boosting the morale of his team. He consistently maintains this persona, especially during his meeting with Colonel Saito. This dignified, confident demeanor of Nicholson angers Saito. Up until that point, Saito presents himself in a professional manner. He is no-nonsense and doesn’t allow anyone to step out of line. But in his meeting with Nicholson, his anger becomes visible. Both Sessue and Alec gave different performances, portraying two different military leaders. Yet the strength of their acting abilities allowed them to go toe-to-toe with one another.

The scenery: The Bridge on the River Kwai had such magnificent scenery, it honestly stole the show! There are two locations I loved so much, I wanted to talk about them in my review. The first location is the hospital I just mentioned. The Mount Lavinia Hotel was the stand-in for the hospital. When looking at the exterior and grounds, one could see why this location was chosen. The trimmed lawn was a great contrast to the small white structure. The manicured gardens surrounding the hospital created a pleasant outdoor space. In the scene the hospital was featured in, a nearby beach was primarily showcased. The clear blue waters and bright sandy shore paired with the garden-esque surroundings illustrated a tropical oasis!

The second location is Major Warden’s office! Any time a scene took place in his office, glass windows in wooden frames were always open. This allowed the audience to see the beautiful view! Major Warden’s office overlooked a river. Sloping green hills sat on the sides of this river, contributing to the visually appealing view. Similar to the aforementioned hospital, Warden’s office also oversaw a trimmed lawn and manicured gardens. The spacious surroundings of this location presented the audience a peaceful atmosphere!

The music: There were some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai that included little to no dialogue. This decision led the film’s creative team to use music to elevate a scene’s tone. While stumbling through the jungle, Shears notices a group of vultures sitting on a nearby tree. As he walks through this environment, quiet orchestral music becomes louder. A “bird” appears out of nowhere, adding to the scene’s tension. The music gets even louder when Shears crosses paths with the “bird”. When the “bird” is revealed as a bird-shaped kite, the music stops. The tension and suspense of this scenario was accomplished by a combination of music and visuals!

The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon banner created by Virginie from The Wonderful World of Cinema, Emily from The Flapper Dame, and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood

What I didn’t like about the film:

A confusing first half: During the first half of The Bridge on the River Kwai, I was confused by what was happening in the story. This confusion was caused by the lack of explanations. At the prisoner camp, Colonel Saito continuously mentioned the importance of the titular bridge. He stresses how the bridge needs to be built on a specific day, even going so far as to claim he’ll commit suicide if the bridge isn’t built. What Colonel Saito failed to mentioned is the bridge’s purpose. Even though an explanation was eventually provided, it is given at the film’s half-way point. Had this information been given sooner, so much confusion could have been avoided.

A limited amount of urgency: In war films or films that involve a significant amount of action, a strong sense of urgency can be felt throughout the story. This sense of urgency encourages the audience to care about the safety and wellbeing of the characters. But because some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai were drawn out, the sense of urgency was limited. Toward the end of the movie, a climactic moment involving the story’s major players takes place. While I won’t spoil the movie, I will say this moment was drawn out a little longer than necessary. The action moved at a slower pace, which also effected the urgency. It seems like this creative decision was made to build suspense. However, it left me, at times, frustrated.

Inconsistent halves: Earlier in this review, I said William Holden was one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai. Interestingly, his character’s story was the one I found the most engaging. This movie features two major storylines: Colonel Nicholson’s team in the prisoner camp and Shears’ experiences in the military. Since Shears’ story was prominently featured in the film’s second half, I found that half the most interesting. With Shears’ story, there was a strong conflict and an even stronger part of the plot. Meanwhile, Colonel Nicholson’s story seemed to remain at a standstill. Like I also mentioned in this review, the film’s first half was confusing due to the lack of explanations. If The Bridge on the River Kwai had just focused on Shears’ story, the film as a whole would have been more intriguing.

Military plane image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by brgfx – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Why is The Bridge on the River Kwai on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time? I’m not asking this to be disrespectful or mean. I’m asking out of curiosity. When I think of lists like AFI’s, I think of movies that fit one of two categories: those that represent the time they were released and those that brought something new to the cinematic table. With The Bridge on the River Kwai, I can’t see this film fitting into either category. As I mentioned in this review, Stalag 17 was released four years prior to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was also released in 1957. With that said, what makes those two films less deserving of being on AFI’s list than The Bridge on the River Kwai? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any cinematic advancements The Bridge on the River Kwai had to offer. The more films I watch from AFI’s list and the more I think of lists of this nature, I wonder what the criteria is? Was there criteria to begin with or is the list purely subjective? As I explore more “classics”, those are questions I will keep in mind.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you watched any of William Holden’s movies? If so, which one would you like me to review next? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) Review

Two years ago, when I reviewed the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, I was given a movie recommendation by Le from Crítica Retrô. That recommendation was Cyrano de Bergerac’s 1950 adaptation! Like any film suggestion I’m given, I wanted to make the time to watch and/or review this title. The opportunity finally came this month! March’s film for Genre Grandeur is Oscar Nominated /Winning Films. From what I’ve gathered, 1950’s Cyrano de Bergerac was nominated for and won an Oscar for Best Actor. Then I discovered The Bonnets and Bustles: Costume Blogathon. While thinking about what to write for the event, I realized Cyrano de Bergerac would be an eligible topic. Therefore, I’ve decided to review this movie for both blogathons!

Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) poster created by Stanley Kramer Productions and United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am not familiar with José Ferrer’s filmography. Despite this, the one word I would use to describe his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac is confident! The confidence within José’s portrayal helped him stand out against Gérard Depardieu’s portrayal in the 1990 adaptation. This confidence was also a consistent component that made Cyrano a force to be reckoned with! Toward the beginning of the film, Cyrano engages in a duel at the local theater. Throughout this scene, the protagonist speaks eloquently and with sophistication. He holds his own in the duel, with his posture and skills showing the audience that he knows what he’s doing. But this aforementioned confidence never comes across as cocky. Instead, Cyrano is presented as being sure of himself, despite his flaws and imperfections.

Christian de Neuvillette is portrayed by William Prince. What makes his portrayal stand out from Vincent Perez’s performance is how Christian came across as a hopeless romantic. This can be seen when he visits Roxane one evening. During their conversation, Christian becomes tongue-tied. He struggles to find the right words without Cyrano’s help. But the passion he feels for Roxane is displayed on his face. William’s body language also proved how much his character wanted to be with Roxane. Speaking of Roxane, let’s talk about Mala Powers’ performance. In this adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxane was mesmerized by the romantic words of Cyrano and passionate gestures of Christian. The balcony scene is a perfect example. As Christian quotes Cyrano’s poetry, Roxane is overcome by her feelings. Her voice contains emotion, expressing through words what is in her heart. Roxane’s body language longs for a romantic embrace, as she searches in the night for the one she loves. Mala’s performance is one of the reasons why that scene packed such a punch!

The sword fights: In this adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, there were some exciting sword fights! Part of that excitement comes from the quality of the choreography! As I said earlier in this review, I talked about Cyrano’s involvement in a duel at a theater. While that fight was captivating to watch, that wasn’t the only fight to feature good choreography. One evening, Cyrano guards a local baker on his way home. Along the way, they become surrounded by the baker’s enemies. Throughout this scene, the fight choreography is sharp, fast-paced, and precise. These elements allow the fights to appear professional, like the actors involved are taking this part of their performance seriously. What also made these fights exciting was the different camera angles used to capture the shots. The various angles let the audience witness the fights from different perspectives.

Cyrano and Roxane’s interactions: Because Cyrano and Roxane have known each other prior to the events of the film, they have a pre-existing friendship. The on-screen camaraderie between José Ferrer and Mala Powers made my experience watching Cyrano and Roxane’s interactions enjoyable! During these interactions, Roxane and Cyrano share a genuine tenderness that comes across as sweet and good-natured. At the bakery one day, Cyrano learns Roxane has developed feelings for Christian. Even though he is not pleased to learn this news, Cyrano seems to place Roxane’s happiness before his own. Later in the film, when Roxane is sharing Christian’s “poetry” with Cyrano, Cyrano adopts a protectiveness toward Roxane. Meanwhile, Roxane doesn’t miss a beat. She recites Cyrano’s words in a heart-felt way, her vocal inflections indicating how much she enjoys the words. Interactions like this one make me wish Roxane appeared more in the film.

Bustles and Bonnets: Costume Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer and Paul from Silver Screen Classics

What I didn’t like about the film:

An orange tint: Throughout the film, the picture was coated in an orange tint. Though this tint was not consistently present, it was somewhat distracting. The colors of the costumes and set design appeared faded because of this tint. However, I’m not sure if the tint was caused by the use of lighting or the cinematic technology of the ‘50s.

Few interactions with Christian and Roxane: A major plot-point in Cyrano de Bergerac is the growing relationship between Roxane and Christian de Neuvillette. What makes this plot-point so memorable is how Roxane is smitten by Christian’s words, which were composed by Cyrano. In this adaptation of the story, Christian and Roxane don’t spend much time together. Looking back on the film, I can think of only three scenes featuring their interactions. Because of Roxane and Christian’s limited time together, Mala and William’s on-screen chemistry wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

No build-up to the war storyline: When I reviewed the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, I wrote about the war storyline that dominated the movie’s second half. In my review, I said this storyline pulled a “bait and switch” with the film’s overall tone. I also said the build-up toward the war and the reasoning behind it felt too “inside baseball”. While there is a war in the 1950 adaptation, there is no build-up or reason for this event. It feels like the war was placed in the middle of the movie for the sake of providing more action in the story. I still have not read this story’s source material, so I don’t know the historical context of this text. However, some build-up and/or a reason for the war would have been appreciated in the 1950 adaptation.

Movie award essentials image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background psd created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

My overall impression:

A singular adaptation of any story is not the “end all, be all”. Part of that is due to film itself being so subjective. Cyrano de Bergerac from 1950 is the second adaptation of this narrative I’ve seen. But I ended up liking it about as much as the 1990 version. 1950’s Cyrano de Bergerac follows similar beats to 1990’s adaptation. But the movie itself is distinct enough to stand out on its own. The differences in the 1950 version added enjoyment to the overall project, such as the sword fights. But, like the 1990 film, the 1950 project had its flaws. I will say Cyrano de Bergerac from 1950 is the more accessible movie of the two. But no matter which version you choose, the romance, wit, and ways with words are still the same.

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sailor Moon S: The Movie Review

When Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, invited me to join the Wilhelm Scream Blogathon, I had no idea the “Wilhelm Scream” was even a thing. However, I was determined to find the perfect selection for the event! After searching high and low on the internet, it was down to two choices: F9 and Sailor Moon S: The Movie. I ultimately selected the latter because it’s been some time since I last reviewed an animated movie. As a matter of fact, the most recent animated film reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane was 1990’s The Nutcracker Prince back in December of 2021. I was also surprised to discover the “Wilhelm Scream” was featured in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! Even though this is my first time writing about anything Sailor Moon related, I have watched the English dub version of the show years ago. With that said, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. To avoid confusion for my readers, I will refer to the characters by their Japanese and Americanized names, if applicable. The version of Sailor Moon S: The Movie I watched is the English dub version. So, “in the name of the moon”, let’s start this review!

Sailor Moon S: The Movie (English dub) poster created by Viz Media, Pioneer Entertainment, Optimum Productions, and Studiopolis

Things I liked about the film:

The animation: Despite Sailor Moon being released in the ‘90s and 2000s, the animation quality still holds up! One consistent element was the use of color! Princess Snow Kaguya, the film’s villain, wants to blanket the world in an infinite layer of snow and ice. Even though wintery environments typically don’t feature an expansive color palette, Kaguya was presented in hues of blue, green, and purple. The wardrobe of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts boasted bright hues; from Makoto’s/Lita’s orange sweatshirt to Usagi’s/Serena’s pale green sweater. This showed the creative team’s incentive to use as much color as possible. In some scenes, sparkles were added to provide a layer of dimension to a specific piece of animation. One example is when Luna is looking out at the ocean, as the sparkles give the illusion of the water moving. Another example involving Luna is when she is crying, with the sparkles emphasizing Luna’s emotions. Though the sparkles don’t make the animation 3-D, they do bring depth, in varying degrees, to the film. The fluidity of the animation’s movements also showcase the impressiveness of the movie! In some scenes, snow falls from the sky. The snowflakes fall in a steady progression, to the point where you forget it was likely added as an extra layer of animation. The fluid movement of these snowflakes brought realism to a given scene as well as the world of Sailor Moon!

Interconnected stories: Sailor Moon S: The Movie contains three plots. But it never felt like these plots were clashing or in competition with one another. Instead, they were interconnected, woven together by a strong thread! Two of the plots, Luna’s growing feelings for Kakeru and Himeko’s space journey were heavily affected by Kaguya’s attempts to cover Earth in snow and ice. While Kaguya’s plans provided the tenser moments of the movie, the other two plots served gentler moments, where the scripts messages of selflessness, dreams, and doing the right thing are instilled on the audience. The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts are the glue that keeps the stories together, as they have some connection to each one. All of these components help the script move in a cycle.

Differing views on astronomy: In the Diagnosis Murder episode, “An Education in Murder”, Dr. Mark Sloan explains to his class how medicine is both an art and a science. This statement, though applying to astronomy this time, is brought to life in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! As I just mentioned, Himeko, a local astronaut, is preparing to make a journey to space. Her approach to astronomy is more scientific, as she chooses to think logically and “by the book”. Her friend, Kakeru, is also an astronomer. But his approach to the subject is more artistic. This is because he uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. These characters don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to their respective scientific field. However, they not only care about one another, but they also recognize the importance of space exploration. Himeko and Kakeru’s story shows the audience how everyone can come to any subject differently.

The Wilhelm Scream Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Not feeling cinematic: When I choose to watch a movie, I expect that production to feel cinematic in some capacity. However, that wasn’t really the case for Sailor Moon S: The Movie. Most of the story was episodic, as these plots could have also been featured on the show. As good as the animation was, it looked like it came straight from one of the show’s episodes. The moment that truly felt cinematic was the final battle, with the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts going up against Kaguya. Every member of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts present and the high energy excitement serve as two reasons for the cinematic feel. Even Usagi’s/Serena’s monologue about protecting life made that scene feel larger in scale. But outside that moment, Sailor Moon S: The Movie feels more like an extended episode.

The limited presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista: The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts from the Outer Planets, Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make an appearance in Sailor Moon S: The Movie. But outside of their transformations as Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto, they only appeared in the film twice. Their limited presence was a missed opportunity to learn more about Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista. It also prevented these characters from having a stronger connection to the three aforementioned plots. If anything, the presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make it feel like they were there for plot convenience.

Confusion over the moon princess: As I mentioned earlier, Kakeru uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. While this part of the movie was easy to understand, I was confused over the true identity of who this princess was. Based on what some of the characters said, it seemed like Kaguya claimed to be the moon princess. Her place of origin happened to be the moon itself. But Luna planned on pretending to be the moon princess, in order to make Kakeru’s dream come true. When everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a definitive answer of who the moon princess was meant to be.

Many years ago, I purchased these Sailor Moon S VHS tapes at a video store sale. However, I’d like to call them relics. Screenshots taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

One of my reasons for reviewing Sailor Moon S: The Movie was the inclusion of the “Wilhelm Scream”. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear this scream while watching the film. Then again, I was so engrossed in the story that I must have missed it. As I said in the introduction, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. However, it was nice to revisit the series, even for an hour! The animation still holds up, maintaining its color, depth, and fluidity over twenty years later. Like the show, Sailor Moon S: The Movie features important messages and themes. But it also contained differing views on astronomy, a topic that wouldn’t typically be found in the Sailor Moon series. Despite all these strengths, I wish the movie felt like a movie, instead of an extended tv episode. I also wish Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista had more appearances in the story. If you are a fan of Sailor Moon, ‘90s entertainment, or animation in general, then this is worth an hour of your time!

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you watched Sailor Moon? Do you prefer the Japanese version or the English dubbed version? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

First, it was All Dogs Go to Heaven 2. Then, it was The Cabin, followed by Scarlett. Now, for the fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, I am continuing my saga to find the one movie that can rightfully claim this coveted title! As you can see by the aforementioned films, my track record has been two ‘90s projects that were just ok and one 2011 Hallmark movie that was so bad, it was unenjoyable. This time around, I traveled further back in time to choose my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie. In my review of The Lion, I mentioned Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. This is because that book introduced me to the 1962 title. Through this publication, Leonard introduced me to another movie. That film is 1978’s The New Adventures of Heidi! According to Leonard’s review of this picture, the movie contains the following:

A) A “modern” retelling of a well-known story

B) Musical numbers

C) New York City

D) Christmas

To me, these facts sounded like the ingredients of a “so bad it’s good” project. But has The New Adventures of Heidi finally claimed this sought-after title? Keep reading to see what’s on the other side of the mountain!

The New Adventures of Heidi poster created by Pierre Cossette Enterprises and NBC.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to acting performances in made-for-tv movies, it can be hit or miss. But in The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was stronger than initially expected!  Portraying the titular character, Katy Kurtzman gave a performance that appeared genuine, like the character’s goodness was true all along. Whenever Heidi is with her friend, Elizabeth, you can see they truly enjoy spending time together. Elizabeth meets Heidi after running away from school. Despite knowing each other for a short amount of time, they display a strong camaraderie. This camaraderie was displayed through a down-to-earth personality, pleasant facial expressions, and a kind demeanor from Katy. Executed with consistency, Katy also displayed authentic emotion. When Heidi first learns about her grandfather’s plans to send her away, her emotions effortlessly change over the course of the scene. Happiness turns to thoughtful concern, her eyes intently set on her grandfather. As the conversation continues, Heidi’s eyes grow sadder, eventually leading to shed tears. Because of Katy’s acting strength, her overall performance was enjoyable to watch!

Since I mentioned Elizabeth, I’ll talk about Sherrie Wills’ performance! On the surface, Elizabeth seems like a spoiled child who is rough around the edges. But beyond the surface, she doesn’t seem like a stereotype. Because of Sherrie’s acting abilities, Elizabeth is a character that gives the audience a reason to be sympathetic toward her. A great example is when she and Heidi go Christmas shopping. When they arrive to a toy store, they are overcome with happiness and wonder at the sights of the season. But as soon as Elizabeth sees a carousel music box, she immediately bursts into tears. This is because Elizabeth’s mother, who passed away before the film’s events, used to give her father a music box every Christmas. It is scenes like this one that show how there is more than meets the eye.

Back in 2019, I reviewed Summer Magic, a Disney production from 1963. One of the reasons why I wanted to see that particular film was Burl Ives’ involvement in the project. When I discovered he was cast in The New Adventures of Heidi, I was curious to see how his performance differed from Osh Popham of Summer Magic. Like his previous performance, I liked his portrayal of Heidi’s grandfather! While his acting abilities were expressive, there was a lot of heart in his performance. This heart can be seen during the musical number, “Heidi”. In that number, Heidi’s grandfather is singing about how thankful he is to have Heidi in his life. Throughout this scene, he appears genuinely happy, reminiscing over all the joy Heidi brought so far. A warm smile appears on his face and a pleasant demeanor is heard in his voice. Heidi’s grandfather seems approachable, showing him as a friendly man and lovable parental figure. Even though he was in a handful of scenes, Burl Ives did a good job with his role!

The messages and themes: The original Heidi is known for containing messages and themes of family, friendship, and finding a silver lining. Like the original, The New Adventures of Heidi also features themes and messages that are timeless and relatable! Before Christmas, Elizabeth’s father, Dan, tells his secretary how he’ll be too busy to celebrate the holiday with his daughter. His secretary, Mady, tells him “But no two are the same. And you’ll never have this one back again”. This simple statement reminds the audience how unpredictable time is. Therefore, it is wise to spend that time with those you love. When Heidi comes home, she is upset because her grandfather hasn’t returned. Dan shares with Heidi how even though it’s important to hold on to the memory of lost loved ones, time needs to be made to open hearts for those still living. This message is just as meaningful today as it was in 1978. That could also be said about all the messages and themes in The New Adventures of Heidi!

The scenery: This movie was filmed in California and Colorado, according to IMDB. For the scenes taking place in the Alps, my guess is they were filmed in Snowmass, Colorado. Despite this, the setting looked like a pretty convincing Switzerland! In some establishing shots, large mountains and dark green hills are captured in long to medium shots. A color palette of greens, browns, and white illustrated a natural landscape whose justice likely can’t be done through filmography. Red poppies are sprinkled around Heidi and her grandfather’s home. They can also be seen in expansive green fields. The vibrant hue of the flowers provide a striking component to this landscape. When all this is added together and paired with a bright blue sky, a welcoming and picturesque environment is presented to the audience!

The Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Glaring cases of discontinuity: What makes or breaks any story is its continuity. This component is like a thread, tightly holding each piece of the story together, if strong enough. But when it comes to The New Adventures of Heidi, there were a few aspects that caused this thread to be looser. In the introduction, I mentioned the movie was a “modern” retelling of Heidi. While this statement is true, it looks like Heidi, her grandfather, and Peter didn’t get the memo. That’s because their attire reflects the time period of the original story, which is set in the 1880s. Even Heidi and her grandfather’s home is reflective of an era gone by. During the movie, Heidi’s grandfather begins to lose his eyesight. Because of this, he decides to send Heidi to live with her cousins. But while singing the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, Heidi’s grandfather prays to God to have Heidi stay in the Alps, even going so far as to sacrifice his eyesight just to make his prayer a reality. It seems like he has forgotten that this decision was in his control since the very beginning. This example shows how discontinuity can muddy the waters of character development.

The musical numbers: As I mentioned in the introduction, there are musical numbers in The New Adventures of Heidi. I can tell the film’s creative team wanted to include musical numbers in an effort to give their project its own unique identity. In all honesty, though, I don’t think this movie needed musical numbers. My reason is how weak these numbers were. Some of these musical numbers were performed by Katy and Sherrie. I’m not going to give these actresses too much criticism, as they were children at the time of the movie’s production. But I will say they are better actresses than singers. Sherrie’s voice was flat, unable to reach higher notes. Meanwhile, Katy’s voice was stronger, but she couldn’t reach some higher notes either. This highlighted the actresses’ weaknesses, giving the audience the impression of how Katy and Sherrie were likely not professionally trained singers. Even professional singers couldn’t catch a break either. Burl Ives is a talent who can do no wrong, singing wise. But he was caught up in one major weakness in these numbers: talking throughout the song instead of singing. This happened during the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, where Heidi’s grandfather is speaking his prayer when he’s meant to be singing it. Marlyn Mason also fell into this trap with the song, “That Man”. Because she tried to sing and talk through her lyrics at the same time, she performed the song faster than the music. To me, this felt so jarring, as the music and execution of the lyrics seemed like they belonged to two separate pieces.

A regurgitated story: This film is titled The New Adventures of Heidi. If you take the time to watch it, you’d see how the movie rehashes most of the story points from Johanna Spyri’s original. Take for instance, the character of Elizabeth. In The New Adventures of Heidi, she’s meant to be a Clara representative; a wealthy young girl dealing with her own conflict that Heidi helps to resolve. But instead of dealing with a serious medical situation, Elizabeth wants to spend more time with her workaholic father, especially after the death of her mother. Similar to the original story, there is a medical situation present in The New Adventures of Heidi. But this time, Heidi’s grandfather is losing his eyesight, as I explained in my paragraph about the film’s discontinuity. The longer I watched this movie, the more I questioned what it’s intended point was.

A screenshot of my copy of Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The answer to whether The New Adventures of Heidi will claim the title of “so bad it’s good” is…an unfortunate no. The longer I think about this film, the more I see how spectacularly average it is. As I mentioned throughout my review, there were musical numbers included in this production. I also noted how Christmas makes an appearance in the story. But when you look past all the silver and gold decorations (that Burl Ives reference was definitely intentional), the movie is the same story as the original wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. Despite the title boasting “new adventures” with the world’s favorite Swiss mountain girl, the script spends more time repeating history. At the same time, parts of the movie are treated as if the project were a sequel, the creative team expecting the audience to know exactly what is happening on screen. Reflecting on my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie, I realize a script’s strength can determine a film’s overall quality. In the case of The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was strong and the film itself did have other merits. But not even Burl Ives himself could save this picture. Bottom line is if a cinematic project chooses to use bells and whistles, that may mean the creative team is trying to make up for a loss in another department.

Overall score: 5.1 out of 10

Do you have a “so bad it’s good” film in your life? If so, what is it? Please share your thoughts 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 Man with the Golden Arm Review

On my Movie Recommendations board on Pinterest, I have 107 films listed. The Man with the Golden Arm is one of those films. Maddy, from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, recommended the 1955 movie to me years ago. With all my movie recommendations, I try to find the perfect opportunity to review them, as a way to show respect to the people who suggested those movies. When the Kim Novak Blogathon was announced, I immediately went to my aforementioned Pinterest board, to see if any of Kim’s films were on there. Sure enough, I came across the poster for The Man with the Golden Arm! This is not the first time I’ve reviewed one of Kim’s films. Back in 2019, I wrote about the 1954 title, Phffft, a movie I thought was just ok. How will the 1955 film compare to Phffft? The only way to find out to keep reading my review!

The Man with the Golden Arm poster created by Carlyle Productions and United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Kim Novak is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing this movie, I’ll talk about her performance first. Portraying Frankie’s lover, Molly, Kim adopted a different persona from her role in Phffft. In The Man with the Golden Arm, she traded flirty for headstrong! Molly is a woman who knows what she wants and finds a way to get it. One of these things is for Frankie to get clean. She says it likes it is by telling Frankie what he needs to hear instead of what he wants to hear. Whenever this happens, Kim uses a tone of voice that is stern enough to be taken seriously. Her approach to emotions in The Man with the Golden Arm is more subtle. However, Kim’s facial expressions and body language perfectly showed the audience what was on her character’s mind. While working at a nightclub, Molly is disappointed by Frankie’s lateness. Her eyes are more downcast, like she doesn’t want Frankie to see her disappointment. Also, her face carries a serious expression, as if she’s tired of being let down.

Most of Kim’s scenes show Molly interacting with Frankie. These scenes presented an on-screen chemistry between Kim Novak and Frank Sinatra I liked seeing! This on-screen chemistry was a strong friendship where both parties seemed to have a deep understanding for one another. It kind of reminded me of the on-screen chemistry between Mercedes Ruehl and Jamey Sheridan in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, The Lost Child. While we’re on the subject of Frank Sinatra, let me talk about his performance next! The Man with the Golden Arm is the seventh movie of Frank’s I’m reviewing. In the previous six, he carries this suave charisma that presents an illusion of his character having an effortless existence. While his character, Frankie, does have charisma, it is toned down. What overshadows it is a persona that is more downtrodden and beaten. This makes sense for this particular story, as Frankie is attempting to overcome a drug addiction. Despite the change in acting material, Frank effortlessly pulls it off! His performance was versatile, allowing Frank to adapt to whatever his character faced. His performance was also consistent.

Another consistent performance came from Eleanor Parker! Prior to watching this movie, I had seen and reviewed Interrupted Melody. In that review, I said Eleanor’s portrayal of Marjorie Lawrence was emotional. I can also say that about her portrayal of Zosh, but for different reasons. Zosh is a woman who became paralyzed due to a car accident. While she also wants to see Frankie get clean, she has her own reasons why. Because of the emotionality Eleanor possesses, her portrayal of Zosh caused a ripple affect among the characters. The best example of Eleanor’s emotionality can be seen when Frankie returns from rehab. As their interaction carries on, Eleanor’s demeanor changes over time. It starts with Zosh being excited about Frankie’s return, then leads to concern and frustration over his and her future. Zosh’s reactions ripple through Frankie, presenting some obstacles on his journey to recovery.

Showing the negative effects of drug use: The subject of drug use/drug addictions is one that requires a certain amount of seriousness. Not only is that seriousness found within the story of The Man with the Golden Arm, but it can also be seen in Frank’s performance. When Frankie experiences a relapse, his right hand shakes. Shortly before he relapses, his pupils change in size. Frankie’s attitude changes to agitation, as he attempts to get the “monkey” of his back. He even becomes desperate to appease this “monkey”, putting himself, Zosh, and Molly in danger. Besides being referred to as a “monkey”, Frankie’s addiction is also compared to sugar by a member of the card dealing world. He tells Frankie giving up the addiction is like giving up sugar for the rest of his life, giving Frankie the illusion he can quit whenever he wants. However, these words cause more harm than good. It was interesting to hear the characters in this film talk about drug addictions in a more open sense. The Man with the Golden Arm was released in 1955, a time when drug addictions/drug use wasn’t talked about as openly as today. Therefore, this subject’s inclusion in the script felt ahead of its time.

The use of music: Throughout The Man with the Golden Arm, I noticed how music was used to elaborate on a scene’s particular tone. The music also built up to a tense filled moment. A great example is when Frankie relapses. While on his way to consume drugs, an orchestral tune can be quietly heard in the background. When he gets closer to his destination, the background music gets louder, stopping once Frankie gets what he wants. This specific tune plays every time Frankie relapses, serving as an indicator to the audience what’s to come. A big band tune could be heard when Frankie is looking for Molly later in the film. This tune highlighted Frankie’s urgency to find Molly. It also reflected Frankie’s musical desires and Molly’s place of employment. The use of music I described in this paragraph shows the cleverness incorporated into the movie!

The Kim Novak Blogathon banner created by Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Kim Novak: Earlier in this review, I talked about how I enjoyed watching Kim’s performance. While I still stand by this statement, I feel her talents were underutilized. Kim appeared in a handful of scenes. Even though she was cast as a main supporting actress and she was one of the few actresses in the film, I was disappointed by how limited Kim’s on-screen appearances were. The Man with the Golden Arm is Frankie’s story, as he is the titular character. Therefore, I knew Frank Sinatra’s character would be focused on the most in this movie. But Eleanor Parker had much more screen time than Kim did. If you’re planning on watching this film specifically for Kim’s performance, like I did, you may be a bit let down.

Too many plots: The Man with the Golden Arm contained five plots, each having something important to say. Because there was no distinction of focus between these plots, they ended up spending the movie’s run-time competing against one another. The competition among the five plots caused them to be resolved in an unsatisfactory way or too conveniently. One example involves a secret Zosh carries throughout the story. This secret will not be shared in this review, in an effort to prevent the film from being spoiled. But when the secret is revealed to the rest of the characters, the timing of this reveal feels presented simply to tie up loose ends. Had some of these plots either been written out or relegated to subplot status, maybe Zosh’s secret would have been revealed sooner.

Limited inclusion of musical talents: I don’t believe there is an unspoken rule that Frank Sinatra has to sing and/or have a musical number whenever he stars in a film. But I do feel there was a missed musical opportunity in The Man with the Golden Arm. At the beginning of the movie, Frankie shares how, while in rehab, he learned how to play the drums. He even plans on joining a band. After these words were spoken, I was so excited to see Frank step out of his comfort zone and try his hand at playing an instrument that may have been new to him. But as the story progressed, Frank was shown playing the drums for a handful of seconds. In one of these scenes, it seemed like Frank was playing the drums alongside the radio, which made it difficult to discern what sounds truly came from the radio. The other two scenes presented a force that prevented me from seeing Frank perform a full drum solo.  That excitement I felt toward the beginning of the movie slowing but surely fizzled.

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My overall impression:

Throughout my years of movie blogging, I have seen films that tried to say so much, but ended up saying so little. The Man with the Golden Arm is one of those films. I recognize the important messages the creative team wanted to share with the audience. But because the movie had five plots, these messages did not have a strong delivery. I can, however, commend the production for addressing a serious issue in a time when that issue was not openly talked about. The strong acting performances and use of music can be acknowledged as well. Kim Novak’s performance was one of the strongest in this film. So, it was disappointing to see Kim receive a limited amount of screen-time, especially since she was one of the reasons why I chose to watch this movie. In the future, I want to seek out Kim’s other film work. I’d also like to watch Frank’s and Eleanor’s other work too.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any of Kim Novak’s films? If so, which one would you recommend I review next? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen