Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Originally, I was going to write a double feature for The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon by reviewing Twentieth Century and Young at Heart. However, due to technical difficulties on my end, I was only able to find the time to publish one review. Because I’ve written about five of Frank Sinatra’s movies this year, I chose to take a break by selecting Twentieth Century. Back in January, I watched and reviewed In Name Only for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon. At the time, it was my first time seeing any film from Carole’s filmography. Despite this, I ended up liking the film! As I have mentioned before, I try to feature movies on my blog that were recommended by visitors and followers of 18 Cinema Lane. Twentieth Century was suggested by Patricia from Caftan Woman and Vincent from Carole & Co.

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In my review of In Name Only, I praised Carole’s portrayal of Julie Eden, as her on-screen personality was down-to-earth and her overall performance contained the right amount of emotion. Carole portrays Lily in Twentieth Century, a character who is very different from Julie in In Name Only. This is because Lily experiences frustration on several occasions. One example is when Lily is forced to stay late at rehearsal because Oscar wants her to scream. Lily’s emotions spill over, causing her to yell and burst into tears because of her pent-up frustration. These emotions were able to be felt through the screen because of how good Carole Lombard’s talents were in this film! Speaking of Oscar, I liked watching John Barrymore’s performance in Twentieth Century! It showed a transition from a theater director who seemed to have his heart in the right place to a man who let power and influence get to his head. After Lily’s first performance on stage, Oscar visits her in her dressing room. The way he speaks to her indicates he is putting all his attention on her. But when you look and listen closely, there are hints of his possessive mentality. A good example is when Oscar tells Lily she was a diamond who needed some polishing.

The set design: While watching Twentieth Century, there was some impressive set design I noticed! Toward the beginning of the film, Oscar’s office was shown. Dark wood walls surrounded the space, with a medium shot signifying the room’s high ceiling. Eye-catching details helped give the space a unique identity, such as the inclusion of a suit of armor and stained-glass windows. Details in other scenes stood out, stealing the show whenever they appeared on screen. Lily’s bed is just one example, a massive piece of furniture that was shaped like a boat. It’s white woodwork and bedding is paired beautifully with dark wood carvings on the bed. On the train, there are sketches of animals located near the ceiling of the sitting room area. The style of the sketches looked like they came from a storybook from Medieval times.

Carole’s wardrobe:  I really liked seeing Carole’s wardrobe in Twentieth Century! However, there were two outfits that were the most memorable! On the night of Lily’s first performance, she wears an off the shoulder sparkly white dress. Despite the film being presented in black-and-white, the sparkly nature of the dress shown through beautifully! The second outfit was a silk pair of pajamas, complete with fine detailing on the shirt. The pajamas complimented Carole very well, highlighting her true beauty!

Masks of comedy and tragedy images 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.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery: In Twentieth Century, there was an on-going mystery revolving around the appearance of religious stickers on the train. The mystery itself felt randomly placed in the overall story, offering no strong significance within the plot. Had the religious stickers served as a reminder to not lose personal beliefs and values in the quest for fame and fortune, that would have added a meaningful moral to the movie. Sadly, it was a small piece just to keep the plot moving forward. When the guilty party is finally revealed, it seems like the script is providing them with excuses for their destruction of public and personal property. This can be heard through the characters’ dialogue; from the train security saying the guilty party has a “sickness” to describing the guilty party as “a little crazy, but harmless”.

An awful group of characters: I understand characters from any movie are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. However, there is a fine line between personal preference and the characters themselves being awful. Twentieth Century is a perfect example of this, featuring a host of characters that are unlikeable to varying degrees. Oscar treats everyone around him horribly. He “fires” his friends on multiple occasions and he is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. Despite this, Oscar’s friends still try to help him fix his relationship with Lily, even going so far as to blame her for Oscar’s failures. Meanwhile, Lily turns into a diva after she becomes a movie star. It got to the point where I found myself not caring about the characters’ outcomes because their ugly personalities made me lost investment in them.

Lily and Oscar’s abusive relationship: I briefly mentioned in my previous point that Oscar is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. In the beginning, when Lily was starting out as an actress, Oscar gives the impression of having her best interests in mind. An example of this is when, after Lily expresses her frustrations over staying late at rehearsal, Oscar reminds her of her dream and how he’ll help her reach that dream. As Lily’s career grows, so does Oscar’s jealousy and obsession. He not only controls Lily’s life, but he also physically harms her, poking her with a pin just to get her to scream on stage. Oscar even goes so far as to threaten suicide if Lily does not stay with him. Even though Lily ends the relationship, Oscar is still obsessed with her. One of his worst actions in Twentieth Century is faking his own death just to trick Lily into signing his contract.

The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

My overall impression:

Back in January, when I reviewed Marriage on the Rocks, I said the film made me feel uncomfortable because of the movie’s one-sided view on marriage and divorce. Watching Twentieth Century made me appalled for several reasons. The abusive nature of Lily and Oscar’s relationship is just one example, especially since it exists throughout the whole film. It also doesn’t help that Oscar doesn’t face any accountability for his actions and behavior.  Another issue is the characters themselves, as all of them are horrible to certain degrees. Despite being poorly treated by Oscar, Oscar’s friends still support him. They even encourage Oscar to get back together with Lily. According to IMDB and Wikipedia, Twentieth Century is labeled as a “romantic comedy”. I will admit there were a handful of moments I found funny. But the aforementioned relationship, random mystery, terrible characters, and the story being ninety one minutes of those same characters complaining about their personal issues overshadows all of the movie’s strengths.

Overall score: 4.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of Carole Lombard’s or John Barrymore’s films? If so, which one do you like the most? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Holiday Date Review

Last year, in a Word on the Street story, I talked about how Hanukkah would be incorporated into two upcoming Hallmark movies. As time has gone on, these films were revealed to be Holiday Date and Double Holiday. Recently, on Deseret News, a writer named Gillian Friedman shared why she wasn’t looking forward to seeing Hanukkah featured in Hallmark’s films. When I read her article, I found that she had good, valid points to her argument. Gillian wasn’t alone, as I read more similar opinions on the internet. However, I still chose to review Holiday Date with an open mind. Like I mentioned in the aforementioned Word on the Street story, movies that discuss the Jewish faith are not commonly found in Hallmark’s cinematic library. So, I was glad to see that the network was adopting story-elements that we haven’t seen in quite a while. I was also curious to see how Hanukkah would be included in both films. Now that I have seen Holiday Date, it’s time for me to share my honest opinion about this much talked about movie!

Holiday Date poster
Holiday Date poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.hallmarkchannelpress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Holiday+Date.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Brittany Bristow is an actress that has appeared in several Hallmark projects. Whenever she is given a supporting role, she has always found a way to stand out and be the best actress that she can be. I was excited when I found out she had received the lead role in Holiday Date, as I knew she had what it takes to carry a Hallmark film. Brittany’s performance in this movie did not disappoint! She had a very pleasant on-screen personality and was versatile in her portrayal of Brooke. Another actor that gave a versatile performance was Matt Cohen! For his first time starring in a Hallmark film, he did a really good job portraying Joel. Throughout the movie, Matt was funny and charismatic, which helped make his character memorable. This makes me hope that Matt appears in more Hallmark films in the future! The supporting cast in Holiday Date was solid! What worked in their favor was how well each cast member worked with one another. This was achieved by the good on-screen chemistry between the film’s actors and actresses.

 

The humor: In my review of The Nine Lives of Christmas, I said that it feels like most of Hallmark’s Christmas movies have been light on humor this year. Seeing Holiday Date as a more humorous story than other “Countdown to Christmas” films was a pleasant surprise. The type of humor that can be found in this movie is “comedy of errors”. Because the story is about a man and a woman who pretend to be a couple, it makes sense to include “comedy of errors” into the narrative. I found the humor in Holiday Date to be well-written and genuinely funny. One scene that I thought was hilarious was when Joel tried to keep Brooke’s dad’s (Walter’s) glasses away from him in an attempt to avoid seeing Joel’s television commercial. Since the whole cast had good comedic timing, it helped all the humor in Holiday Date stick the landing!

 

A unique story: A story involving a “fake” significant other is nothing new for Hallmark Channel. But, because this kind of story is not featured as often as other narratives, it makes Holiday Date feel like a breath of fresh air! Standing out from other films on the network, Holiday Date creates a sense of memorability for itself. The movie’s creative team went against the grain and focused more on quality than formula. This movie incorporated different story-telling elements into the script. The inclusion of Hanukkah is a good example of this. With this creative decision, it allows for interesting perspectives to be shown and discussed. Watching Joel and Brooke’s family learning and experiencing each other’s traditions and cultures was a great thing to see. It instills the values of friendship and family that are woven into the fabric of Hallmark Channel.

491032-PH3FVI-159
Hanukkah mehorah image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mehorah-with-flaming-candles_3299423.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The “it’s not what you think” cliché: In Holiday Date, Joel sees Brooke spending time with her ex-boyfriend. This causes him to assume that she still has romantic feelings for her ex. While I wasn’t a fan of Brooke’s ex-boyfriend showing up unannounced, I found that particular scene to be surprisingly hilarious. But, as for the “it’s not what you think” cliché, I thought it was unnecessary. The main plot of the story already provided a conflict for Brooke and Joel, so they really didn’t need a second conflict. Also, since most of the female main characters in Hallmark movies form a relationship with the male main character, the audience knows who she will ultimately fall in love with.

 

No subplots: Because Brooke and Joel’s “fake” relationship is the primary focus of the story, the majority of the film’s events revolve around this conflict. However, I found several missed opportunities for subplots to take place. One example is Tessa’s desire to become an actress. During Holiday Date, Tessa auditions for the local theater’s Christmas play. I liked seeing this part of the story unfold. But I think it could have been fully explored if it were a subplot. I also think that some of the characters could have benefited from receiving their own story. In the movie, Brooke’s sister, Ashley, and her husband, Glen, mention that their new house has met some difficulties when it comes to its construction. Like Tessa’s part of the story, this wasn’t explored as much as it could have been. Having one or two subplots might have added some interesting elements to the overall narrative.

 

An isolated story: One of the reasons why Joel agrees to pose as Brooke’s boyfriend is so he can gain research for a potential acting job. What makes Holiday Date different from other stories with small-town backgrounds is that Brooke’s town, Whispering Pines, didn’t really play a strong role in the story. Sure, a few establishments were featured, such as Brooke’s uncle’s hardware store. But it felt like Joel received a limited scope of small-town life. The people within the town only made brief appearances in the film. This prevented them from sharing their perspectives with Joel and making a bigger contribution to the story. Because of these things, it made the overall narrative feel isolated.

75719-OF1MAD-104
Christmas house created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/smiling-snowman-with-a-red-house-background_958592.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Films are a subjective medium. Because of this, everyone is bound to view movies differently. Holiday Date is a good example of this. Some people were not a fan of Hallmark choosing to incorporate Hanukkah into their films. Personally, I found Holiday Date to be nowhere near as offensive as some people made it sound. While watching this movie, I could tell the network had the best intentions when creating this film. Through the interactions of Joel and Brooke’s family, it felt like the film’s creative team had their hearts in the right place. Holiday Date is a film that I truly enjoyed! There were a lot of elements that worked in this project’s favor, from the entire cast to the creativity of the story. This film has its flaws, but, to me, the positives outweighed the negatives. When I look back on Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” line-up, Holiday Date will be one of the films that I’ll fondly remember.

 

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

 

What are thoughts on Hanukkah appearing in Hallmark’s films? Have you seen Holiday Date? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

If you want to read Gillian Friedman’s article, here’s the link:

https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2019/12/6/20997216/hallmark-hanukkah-movie-double-holiday-date-countdown-christmas-antisemitism-chanukah-jewish-menorah

I also found this interview with Holiday Date star, Matt Cohen, so here’s the link if you want to check that out as well:

Matt Cohen talks Hallmark Channel’s Holiday Date

Take 3: All About Eve Review (Clean Movie Month — #5)

Well, this is it. The final review for Clean Movie Month. As I look back on my entries for this particular blogathon, I notice that most of these movies were decent, according to my opinion. Only Madeleine was just ok. Again, this is based on my opinion. This observation was very interesting, something that I hadn’t expected. As All About Eve is the last movie I’m reviewing for Clean Movie Month, I wanted to see if I liked this movie any more or less than the other movies I’ve previously talked about. This specific film was released in 1950, within the final years of the Breen Code era. Several days ago, I had reviewed two other films from this same year: Madeleine and Les Enfants Terribles. Among these two films, Madeleine was the one that seemed to follow the Breen Code more closely. Les Enfants Terribles, on the other hand, only partially incorporated the Breen Code. Would All About Eve follow the footsteps of the crime drama from the United Kingdom or be influenced by the character-driven French film? Hold your applause and get right for the curtain call, as we’re about to review 1950’s All About Eve!

All About Eve poster
All About Eve poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/all-about-eve.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I mentioned in my review of Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Bette Davis excels that portraying characters that are unsettling and over-the-top. Her portrayal of Margo Channing, however, is very different from her performances in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. This is because the character is more grounded and subtle in presentation and personality. Despite this, Bette successfully brought versatility to her role! Watching Anne Baxter’s portrayal of Eve Harrington was entertaining! She was able to capture that sense of awe and wonder that most people would display when entering the theater world. As her character grew, she allowed her performance to evolve. The other cast members had good on-screen chemistry, keeping their interactions interesting and engaging. They effectively brought their characters to life and gave great performances!

 

The voice-overs: At various points in the film, voice-overs could be heard from some of the characters. They were narrating how Eve came into their lives and how she impacted their relationships. Eve, however, never gets to narrate her own story. But, through these voice-overs and interactions, the audience gets to see her develop as an individual. This type of story-telling is very reminiscent of Citizen Kane. The difference between this film and All About Eve is that in All About Eve, the audience has the chance to connect with each of the characters. The characters who are narrating the story are still given a chance to tell their stories. Their narrations also provide a sense of depth to the overall plot.

 

The behind-the-scenes look at the theater world: All About Eve is about a group of people who work in the theater industry. While this film showed the “glitzy” and “glamourous” side of things, it also showed the not-so-glamourous side. Seeing both of these perspectives was not only refreshing, but also insightful! I also liked how these characters were portrayed in a realistic and relatable way. When it comes to cinematic stories about the theater or movie industry, the characters are, sometimes, portrayed as being something greater than what they really are. All About Eve, instead, shows the characters dealing with situations and issues that other people could experience. Margo wanting to help Eve enter the theater world is a good example of this.

All About Eve photo card
All About Eve lobby card created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/67044/All-About-Eve/#tcmarcp-373822.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Drawn-out scenes: There were some scenes in All About Eve that felt more drawn-out. One example is the scene where Margo is hosting a dinner party. It introduced characters that only appear on-screen for minutes at a time, but furthered certain story-lines forward. While this part of the movie provided character development, I think it lasted a little too long. Had this scene been cut in half, the narrative would have gotten straight to the point. This would also shorten the film’s run-time.

 

A predictable plot twist: All About Eve contains a plot twist that changes the overall perception of one of the characters. I won’t share what this plot twist is, in case you haven’t seen this movie. But, when I learned more about this particular character, I knew that something wasn’t right. When the plot twist happened, I was not surprised. Because of how predictable this plot twist was, it took away the mystery and surprise that could have been incorporated into the story. What I got instead was a story element that I was aware of all along.

 

A misleading title: As this movie is titled All About Eve, it gives the impression that the film focuses on the character of Eve Harrington. While this is true to a certain extent, the movie is also about Bette Davis’ character, Margo Channing. When looking at the cast of characters, Margo is the one who is leading this story. Even on the movie’s poster, Margo is the only character that is featured in the image. It makes the title appear misleading, as if the creative team behind this film is not holding up their end of the bargain. If the film were given an honest title, it would be called “Mostly About Margo” or “Sometimes About Eve”.

Clean Movie Month banner
Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/cleanmoviemonth85-is-here/.

My overall impression:

All About Eve will close this year’s Clean Movie Month as being a decent film. There were elements to this movie that I thought were interesting. The insightful look into the world of theater is just one example. However, certain aspects prevented the film from being a better project. As I already mentioned, the predictable plot twist is one of the reasons. It was nice to see a different side to Bette Davis’ acting abilities, as I’ve previously only seen her portray characters that are unsettling and over-the-top. It shows just how talented Bette Davis is. Even though All About Eve was approved by the Breen Code, I was surprised by some of the language that was featured in the script. During the aforementioned dinner party, Margo tells an ill guest that they’ll “burp” if they take a particular solution. This reminded me of something that Tiffany and Rebekah said in their Breening Thursday review of “The Trouble with Angels”. According to this article, references to bodily functions were looked down on. Because All About Eve was released in the Breen Code era, this mention of “burping” shouldn’t have been featured in the film. Another thing that I noticed was how one character got slapped in the face, which wasn’t done in self-defense. In the films that I reviewed during Clean Movie Month, the violence was either frowned upon or done in self-defense. Like I said about the “burping”, this action should not have been featured.

 

Overall score: 7 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on Clean Movie Month? Would you like to see me participate in next year’s blogathon? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Man with Two Faces Review + 85 Follower Thank You

Last week, my blog finally received 85 followers! This new wave of followers was partly because of the unexpected success I experienced from my Book Adaptation Tag post (that post currently has 16 views and 13 likes). Thank you for helping 18 Cinema Lane acquire these many followers! I remember like it was just yesterday when I published my first blog follower dedication review last March. I had reviewed the film Saving Mr. Banks when I received only five followers. Looking back, I never thought I’d have almost a hundred followers in this short amount of time. If you followed or read my blog for a significant period of time, you would know that any time I receive a milestone number of followers, I review a film that was released in the number of years of that milestone number. So, since I’ve received 85 followers, I will review a film that was released 85 years ago (in 1934). When I was doing my research on which films premiered in 1934, I came across a film called The Man with Two Faces. The one thing that made me interested in seeing this movie was the idea of an actor portraying a character who also portrays a character. In the general scope of cinema, I feel that this concept is rarely seen. Personally, the only time I’ve ever seen an actor portray a character who portrayed a character was when Max Lloyd-Jones was cast in the film The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story. In that movie, Max portrayed Jason Priestley, who portrayed Brandon Walsh on the show. So, without further ado, let’s start this review for The Man with Two Faces!

The Man with Two Faces poster
The Man with Two Faces poster created by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Man_With_Two_Faces.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: To me, the acting was one of the strongest aspects of this film! Mary Astor’s portrayal of Jessica Wells really shined, making it feel like her character was a real-life person! When it comes to this performance, I think that Mary’s career as a silent film actress worked in her favor. Since silent films rely on the emotions and expressions of its actors to convey a certain message, it makes sense for Mary’s performance to be as well-rounded as it was in this movie. I also liked Margaret Dale’s portrayal of Aunt Martha Temple. Her performance successfully conveyed the moral compass that was needed for this particular story.

 

  • The portrayal of “the man with two faces”: While this film had a strong cast, it was Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of “the man with two faces” that really stole the show! As I mentioned in the introduction, performances where actors portray characters who also portray characters are not that common. But Edward did a good job with his performance of both Damon Wells and Jules Chautard! From the emotions to even the accent, Edward effectively made these characters feel like distinct individuals, even though it was the same person the entire time. What also adds to this portrayal was how the character was written. Having both Damon and Jules be very unique from one another enhances the experience of seeing these individuals on-screen. Both the acting and writing helped make “the man with two faces” live up to this film’s title.

 

  • The villain: The main conflict in this movie was Jessica Wells having to deal with her husband, Stanley Vance. He was, obviously, the villain of this story. Stanley not only treated his wife very terribly, but he also threatened physical violence to anyone who stood in his way of getting what he wanted. Even though I found this character to be despicable, I have to applaud Louis Calhern’s performance. He did a great job at portraying those hurtful behaviors and making the audience feel negatively toward this character. Even when he didn’t say anything, his facial expressions made his character come across as very unsettling. I also have the applaud the screenwriting that was associated with the character of Stanley Vance. The way this character was written added to the effectiveness of how he appeared on-screen. These two factors made this character and performance as memorable as it could be.

12 size
Masks of comedy and tragedy images 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.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • A lack of suspense: When I first watched the trailer for The Man with Two Faces, I was led to believe that this story would be suspenseful and mysterious. If anything, this movie felt more like a drama. There was no mystery associated with this story and there was no suspense to be found. The story was written in a way that showed how someone chose to resolve another person’s conflict.

 

  • A slower pace: Throughout this movie, I found the pace to be slower than I had expected. This caused the story to feel more drawn out. It also made the run-time feel longer than it was realistically set at. The pace was definitely one of the weaker aspects of the film.

 

  • Some of the scene transitions: Toward the beginning and end of The Man with Two Faces, I noticed the transitions between scenes came a little too quickly. Because of this, the flow of the film felt choppy. These transitions also caused some of the scenes to either feel too short or unnecessary within the overall picture.

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

My overall impression:

I found The Man with Two Faces to be just ok. While it’s not a terrible or poorly written film, I think that the movie could have been better. I will say that the best part of this film was the acting. This makes the movie a character driven project. There were several stand-out performances within The Man with Two Faces, from Mary Astor to Louis Calhern. However, the most memorable performance in this entire cast came from Edward G. Robinson! Through his portrayal of Damon Wells and Jules Chautard, he was able to do what very few actors have done before, during, and after his time: portray a character that also portrays a character. As I watched this film, I could see that Edward successfully conquered this challenge and made this performance the best that it could be. I would be interested in seeing other films from Edward’s filmography and sharing my thoughts about them with you on 18 Cinema Lane!

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on my review? Which movie from 1934 is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen