Take 3: The Sea of Grass Review

When I participated in last year’s Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, I reviewed It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World and One Christmas. The first movie was not my cup of tea, but I found the second movie to be just ok. This time around, I decided to write about one movie starring both Spencer and Katharine. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t watch films from the Western genre often. This is the reason why I chose to review The Sea of Grass. Looking back on the movies I’ve seen from Spencer and Katharine’s filmographies, this is the first time I’ve seen one of their titles where both actors were the leads. Spencer and Katharine are talented actors individually, so it was interesting to see them acting alongside one another!

The Sea of Grass poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In The Sea of Grass, Katharine Hepburn portrays Lutie Cameron, a St. Louis native who moves to the country in order to marry Colonel Jim Brewton. Toward the beginning of the film, Lutie comes across as naïve, as she is a romantic at heart. As she stays in the country, Lutie gains a sense of maturity and grows as a person. Throughout her character’s journey, Katharine was able to show this transition in her acting performance by adopting a variety of emotions. The “sea of grass” this film is named after is Colonel Jim Brewton’s favorite spot. While talking about it with Lutie, Jim describes the fields like a convincing salesman. His face contains a look of longing; reflecting on the past, present, and future of his prized field of grass. The way he talks about it shows how much he cares for this patch of earth. The facial expressions and tone of voice Spencer adopts persuade the audience of this location’s importance. Spencer’s expressions and vocal inflections also reveal the cracks in Jim’s foundation as the story continues. Brice Chamberlain, a local lawyer, is portrayed by Melvyn Douglas. Whenever his character interacted with Lutie, Melvyn was able to, talent-wise, go toe-to-toe with Katharine. He delivered thought-out remarks with a serious calm that one might expect from a respected lawyer. A professional composure was also present in Melvyn’s performance. Because his on-screen personality was different from Katharine’s, it created an interesting dynamic.

The scenery: The majority of The Sea of Grass takes place in the country. Because of this, the natural landscape of this environment is shown in several scenes! When characters travel through the desert, huge mountainous rocks illustrate just how small humans are compared to the large scope of nature. Long and medium shots are used to emphasis this idea. Even the “sea of grass” is featured in a few scenes, its beauty captured well on screen! Sweeping shots showed the vast size of this field. As the wind blew, the movements of the grass looked like the rippling of water. All of these components came together to create a calming space!

Katharine’s wardrobe: Throughout the movie, Katharine showcased an impressive wardrobe that complimented her well! This is because all of her outfits were simple, but elegant. When Lutie and Jim are sharing their first dinner after their wedding, she wears a white long-sleeved dress with a small set of flowers in the front of the dress’s top. Later in the movie, Katharine wears a black-and-white, over-the shoulder dress. This outfit was paired nicely with a dainty black choker and ponytail hair-do. What’s also worth pointing out is how Katharine’s wardrobe in The Sea of Grass appeared historically accurate with the film’s time period.

The Third Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

More emphasis on telling: At the beginning of the movie, several people in Salt Fork inform Lutie about how awful of a person Jim is. He is, apparently, such a bad person, some compare him to a tyrant. While the audience can hear Jim say harmful things, they never get to see him do harmful actions. This creative decision gives the viewers only part of a bigger picture when it comes to Jim Brewton. Whenever the subject of people using the “sea of grass” is brought up, Jim is very specific about how the land should be used. If someone objects to these ideas, Jim tells others what he’s going to do instead of carrying out the deed.

No major conflict: Since the film is called The Sea of Grass, you’d think most of the story would revolve around the “sea of grass” itself. Instead, the film prioritizes the personal events of the characters. Stories that are character driven can work. But when you have an interesting conflict like how to utilize a field of grass, the character’s stories don’t seem as interesting. While the triumphs and tragedies of Lutie and company are highlighted, the “sea of grass” is relegated to a subplot.

Times moves too fast: In a movie where time progresses, there is usually some indicator that a jump in time has occurred. This is done through on-screen text or a voice-over. The Sea of Grass, unfortunately, doesn’t utilize any techniques to inform their audience that time has moved forward, causing changes to appear abruptly. A perfect example are the lives of Sara Beth and Brock. In one scene, Sara Beth is shown as a little girl, while Brock is a toddler. The very next scene shows Sara Beth and Brock as older children, appearing to be ten and eight.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I chose to review The Sea of Grass, I wanted to expand my Western genre horizons. This decision taught me that Western tragedies do exist. Despite seeing a handful of Westerns, the movie was quite different from other films I’ve seen in this genre. Even though I knew that this movie was about a rocky relationship, it was sadder than I expected. The Sea of Grass is a fine film with strong components, like the acting and scenery. However, it does have its flaws that shouldn’t be ignored. While the “sea of grass” is shown on screen, it isn’t as significant as the title would suggest. In fact, this location feels more like a glorified backdrop. I will say that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy do work well together as actors. As the years go by, I would like to see more of their films where they both star as the leads.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Do you like watching Western films? Are there any Westerns you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

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

Why You Should Give the Film, Boys Town, a Chance

For Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Favorite Code Film Blogathon, I reflected on all of the Breen Code era movies that I’ve seen and/or reviewed since starting 18 Cinema Lane a year ago. One film, that I watched back in May, that left a good impression on me was 1938’s Boys Town. Before 2019, I had never even heard of this movie. But I’m glad I gave the film a chance, as I thoroughly enjoyed it! Boys Town had the components that I look for in a movie; a good story with likable characters. It’s also based on a real-life person as well as a real-life non-profit organization. This is a film that I think people should give a chance. To explain why, I created a list of reasons to support my opinion. One of my goals for this blog is to encourage others to watch films that they may not have seen before. So, if this post accomplishes that goal, I would feel like I helped someone out.

Favorite Code Film blogathon banner
The Favorite Code Film Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/announcing-the-favorite-code-film-blogathon/.

Fantastic Acting Performances

When I review a film, one of the first things I talk about is the acting. This is because the acting performances are one of the first things you see in a movie. In Boys Town, the actors in this cast gave fantastic acting performances! One of the most notable is Mickey Rooney’s performance as Whitey Marsh. Over the course of the story, Whitey evolves from a self-centered youngster to one of Boys Town’s biggest supporters. Mickey’s portrayal of this character helped make this evolution believable. In fact, this is one of the best performances that Mickey has ever given in his career! That’s not the only acting performance that impressed me. Spencer Tracy’s portrayal of Father Flanagan is consistent in not only Boys Town, but also in the sequel, Men of Boys Town. With the right amount of emotionality, Spencer made his character a likable individual. Father Flanagan was stern when he needed to be, yet selfless and caring toward the residents of Boys Town. Throughout this movie, you can tell that Father Flanagan always has his heart in the right place.

 

Based on a True Story

As I said in the introduction, Boys Town is based on a real-life person and a real-life non-profit organization. Before watching this movie, I was familiar with Boys Town as a charity. Their mission and the people that have benefited from Boys Town are things that I learned about years prior. When I watched the film, I learned more about Boys Town and the history associated with it. While there were liberties that were taken in this story, the movie is an educational lesson about who Father Flanagan is and what his mission was. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen or heard of many movies that tell the story about an existing non-profit organization. This is something that makes this film truly special!

Boys Town poster
Boys Town poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boys_town.jpg.

Good Quality Content

Because Boys Town and its sequel, Men of Boys Town, were released during the Breen Code era, there isn’t any cinematic content this is questionable or offensive. Because of this, I will be talking about the positive content that is featured in this film. A large portion comes from the lessons and messages included in this narrative. Giving second chances is a fluid message, highlighted in Whitey’s subplot. By bringing Whitey to Boys Town, Father Flanagan gives Whitey a second chance at life. Despite Whitey’s negative attitudes toward his new surroundings, Father Flanagan never gives up on him. One important lesson that can be found in Boys Town is putting other people before yourself. During the entirety of this story, Father Flanagan is always looking out for the residents of Boys Town. Even when he receives hundreds of dollars in donations and plenty of praise, he still tries to figure how he can help others to the best of his abilities. Messages and lessons like these can be relatable for all members of the audience!

 

An Entertaining Sequel

I’ve been saying in this post that Boys Town was given a sequel called Men of Boys Town. Before I watched this film, I was skeptical about its quality. Since its predecessor was based on a true story, I wasn’t sure how the sequel would hold up. I was proven wrong, however, as I was met by a movie that was just as good or better than the first one! While Whitey’s subplot repeats some of the same story-points from Boys Town, the overall narrative of Men of Boys Town expands upon the story from the first film. New characters are introduced, causing new stories to be told. With this comes new ideas and messages, such as trauma, loss, and finding ways to heal. Men of Boys Town is one of the few sequels that actually compliments the film that came before it. If you do give Boys Town a chance, check out Men of Boys Town as well!

Men of Boys Town poster
Men of Boys Town poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Men_of_Boys_Town_poster.JPG.

My Final Statement

In my review of Stowaway, I shared that I would be reviewing a Breen Code era film every week during Clean Movie Month. This gives me a chance to watch even more movies that I haven’t seen before. That’s the great thing about being a movie blogger, as I not only get to watch films that are new to me, but I also get to share these films with others. In the month of July, films that were released between 1934 and 1954, also known as the Breen Code era, are celebrated by anyone and everyone who enjoys movies. Because of Tiffany and Rebekah, from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, more people can learn about the Breen Code and why it’s an important part of film history. Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of my Clean Movie Month reviews, which will come as July goes on.

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen