Oliver Twist

Image result for oliver twist 1948If you are going to watch a film about Oliver Twist, this beautiful black and white 1948 re-telling of the Charles Dicken’s story by David Lean is the one to watch.

The story follows the well-known, beautiful tale of sweet Oliver Twist, played by John Howard Davies, who is an orphan boy born in the workhouse that his mother stumbled into before she dies after giving birth to him.  Years later, after drawing the short straw and asking for seconds of gruel at dinner time (the legendary line, “Please, Sir, can I have some more?”), Oliver Twist is sold to work with a coffin maker and undertaker before escaping and running away on a 7 day journey to London.  London is where he bumps into The Artful Dodger and gets swept into a life of pick-pocketing with a group of other orphan boys in order to keep a roof over his head with the old man Fagin who leads the group.

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Prior to seeing Oliver Twist, I’d only seen Carol Reed’s 1968 version Oliver!.  That version is a musical and is the one that immediately comes to most people’s mind when you think of on-screen Oliver Twist.  I’m very pleased to have discovered this older version as it’s interesting and refreshing to see such a superb production of the story as it was supposed to be seen without the singing and dancing.  Oliver Twist is perfect if you aren’t keen on musicals and David Lean’s film is the best way to see it.

Having the correct lightining is critical to black and white films and an art form in its own right.  There’s something really special and magical about the lighting throughout Oliver Twist, indoors and outdoors (on an indoor set) with candles, lamps, carefully positioned shadows and even the lightening in the first stormy scene.  It makes the film stand out on the screen and gives beautiful, dramatic shots to set the scenes in this motion picture and let’s David Lean’s top directing skills shine through.  I am excited to see what else he has to offer in his first Charles Dicken’s retelling of Great Expectations which was made few years prior to Oliver Twist.

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Oliver Twist has a 100% rating on rotten tomatoes compared to the various remakes which are not so well received but still highly rated in relation to other similar films.  This one is basically perfect.  Lean has created a truely wonderful film that I can’t fault.  This 1948 version is a must see for fans of the story or classic literary tales.

The story is an emotional rollercoaster but a memorable experience told in a wonderful visual way.  There are happy moments and sad moments and you only want the best for lovely young Oliver.  It gets top marks from me and the only visual telling of this classic which still makes an impression today.  It is entirely deserving of being one of the top British films of all time.

Oliver Twist is available on Amazon Prime for your enlightenment if you haven’t seen this film before or wish to see it again, which you should.  It is a truely stunning translation of the literary classic which no other version has matched up to yet.

All my love and films,
Jen xxx

Singin’ in the Rain

Image result for singin' in the rainThis is the second 50s film I’ve seen within a week that’s set in the 20s!  Singin’ in the Rain was directed, choreographed and starred in by Gene Kelly.  It is a marvellous celebration of Hollywood’s short history.  It celebrates feature film, silent film, film with audio, music, amazing sets, dancing, acting, singing etc. etc.  What more could you want?

The focus of this film is taking us back to the 20s when audio in films was still cutting edge, and the complications that came with it: unwanted sound and actors that had the wrong voices.  The comic telling of the tale in a romantic setting was a wonderful way to be enlightened by this theme.  It’s been over dramatised but I still found it fascinating how audio in films came to be and the funny side of how it was perceived and their difficulties.

Having seen All About Eve recently, set in the theatre, and the playwrite wanting to go to Hollywood to hit the big time in the movies; the Hollywood vs New York and Film vs Theatre rings true more than ever.  At the start, Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) isn’t interested in the famous silent movie star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) after he accidentally hitches a ride in her car.  She’s rude to him and makes her dreams very clear.  About her going to New York and being on the stage to do “real acting”, unlike his ‘undignified’ career.  Don asks “What’s your lofty mission in life that lets you sneer at my humble profession?” and she simply replys “I’m an actress…” then “…on the stage”.

Image result for singin' in the rainThey end up reuniting at an actor’s party when the head of Don’s studio is giving a presentation about the cutting edge technology of sound in films!  Debbie pops up, literally, to her embarassment, as a party entertainer.

Gene Wilder was apparently a bit of a perfectionist meaning many of the incredible songs and dances which awe us in this film were products of numerous retakes.  There’s one fantastic shot in a dance routines which is one roll and they nailed it.  Goodness knows how long it took to shoot, but they’re really wonderful scenes.

There’s a random broadway scene in the middle where Gene Kelly starts singing and dancing with absolutely incredible theatre set designs.  I’ve heard this is apparently because Gene Kelly wanted to dance with a professional who was just as good as he was as Debbie wasn’t as good as he’d hoped (poor Debbie!)

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Singin’ in the Rain has some cracking tunes, which everyone will know, regardless of whether you’ve seen the film or not.  ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’ in particular.  When Gene is actually singing in the rain, in that iconic scene, it’s completely magical and very touching.  It makes you rethink you life and want to get out and enjoy things which are considered not so great normally.

What ever happened to tap dancing musicals?  As pop culture developed, we seem to have lost touch with this marvellous art form.  There had been a gaping hole in Hollywood tap musicals before La La Land emerged and with An American in Paris hitting the stages again, I can see it’s popularity rising again.  I wonder if we’ll have more coming soon.  It’s always nice to see something a bit different and fresh, that we’ve not seen for a while.  My world has been enlightened since I discovered this gem I am keen to watch more Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers etc. masterpieces.  Please recommend some to me that you think are worth watching!

This is such a beautiful film and I truely believe everyone will love it.  A wonderful, light hearted romance, with great singing and dancing.  I managed to record Singin’ in the Rain on Sky Movies although the second part never seemed to tape, so it took a few goes!  Keep an eye out for it, it must get airtime on tv all the time, otherwise it’s available for renting in all the usual spots: Sky Store, Amazon Prime.

All my love & films
Jen xxx




Some Like it Hot

Image result for some like it hotThis film, directed by Billy Wilder, very quickly became one of my favourite films I’ve watched so far on my little journey of film of the world’s greatest films.  It is therefore no surprise to me that after researching it following my viewing it falls on many of the most loved/favourite comedies of all time.  It is a perfectly touching and beautifully funny film which just glitters with joy.  I fell immediately in love with the two main characters Joe and Jerry (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon respectively) who go undercover in disguise as Josephine and Daphne (Jerry didn’t like the name Geraldine haha!!!) in order to get a job as musicians in an all girl band in Florida.

Image result for some like it hot screenshotsIt starts off in the 20’s in the prohibition era when Joe and Jerry are playing in a speak easy and scraping together a living, playing the double bass and sax.  They lose their job when the speak easy get’s shut down and they accidentally stumble on the 1929’s Saint Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago.  It’s freezing cold, times are rough and following their brush with death and needing to escape the mob, the only job they can seem to lay their hands on are these two positions in a lady’s band touring in florida.  Naturally they decide to go for it.  It’s effectively the only option they have so they decide to make the best of a bad situation.  They dress up in women’s clothes, don their best girly voices and board the train to Florida.

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Remarkably the two don’t get caught out, which is just fantastic, as you do forget they’re men when they’re playing their respective females.  Curtis and Lemmon had a feminine coach during filming to help them with getting in touch with their feminine sides for this role and I honestly think they nailed it.  On the train over to Florida they meet the band’s beautiful ukelele player, Sugar, played by Hollywood’s sex symbol, Marylin Monroe.  After covering for her when she’s found with a flask, Sugar and Daphne quickly become friends and partake in some secret drinking in Jerry’s bunk in a bid for him to get closer to her.

Image result for some like it hot screenshotsJoe on the other hand takes a different approach to woo Sugar as she’d previously stated to him she has a thing for saxophone players (which he is) but she always gets her heart broken so is on the lookout to date a rich man with a boat while in Florida.  By dressing up as a rich, English yachtsmanan at the hotel, Joe decides to play hard to get when he “accidentally” trips up Sugar on the beach.  He knew Sugar would fall head over heels in love with him.  Which she does.

I don’t care how rich he is, as long as he has a yacht, his own private railroad car, and his own toothpaste.” – Sugar

Daphne, staying as a female, frolicing in the sea and dancing all evening, constantly gets chatted up by a gentleman, Osgood, who genuinely does have a yacht and takes a fancy to ‘her’.  Joe and Jerry then decide to make a scheme in order for Joe and Sugar to have dinner on his boat whilst Daphne keeps Osgood busy for the evening.  Joe and Sugar hit it off on the boat and Daphne and develops a deeper relationship with Osgood which ends in a proposal(!)

Some like it hot is set in a glamourous beachside hotel in Florida (actually in LA due to the director’s request that it isn’t far from the studio) and it has some fabulous songs.  “I wanna be loved by you, just you and nobody else but you” sung by the wonderful Marylin.  I was singing that for days after watching the film.  Some like it hot has everything it needs to be a masterpiece comedy.

Image result for some like it hot screenshotsWilder reinforces Marylin’s role as a sex symbol throughout, for example how Jerry admires her when we see her for the first time running down the platform to catch the train.  “Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!”.  The costume department also put Marylin in a rather revealing dress whilst she sings in one of their performances which I’m sure everyone double takes at, thinking she’s naked.  Keep an eye out for that one.  Pretty funny.

Apparently Marilyn Monroe was very difficult to work with, constantly getting her lines wrong because she was popping pills and drinking the whole time, she was also pregnant!  They must have been so patient with her as they caught all the scenes with her perfectly.  Marylin’s personality really comes out in this role and she’s such a likeable character.  I don’t want to dwell too much on her because I truely think that Curtis and Lemmon are the stars of the film and it is very much their story.  But Hollywood definitely put up with a lot of Marylin’s antics because she brought in the audiences.

This film is such a lovable barrel of laughs right from start to finish and it is  an absolute pleasure to watch.  A true entertaiment.  It’s a comedy but is also very romantic.  The closing scene is such a gem, what an iconic happy ending.

Some like it hot is currently on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.  You’re welcome.  Let me know what you thought!

All my love and films,
Jen xxx






Raging Bull

See the source imageI’ve been trying to put my finger on why this film is considered such a great film.  Raging Bull, by Martin Scorsese, is the tale of a boxer struggling with internal demons.  I have a black belt in kick boxing so I am fascinated by how boxing is featured in this film, and how it has changed since those days.  It’s no longer about beating each other to a pulp like it is portrayed in the film, but there’s more to it in this film.  The sport reflects the protagonist, Jake La Motta’s life and personality.

Jake la Motta, played by Robert De Niro, is a massive antagonist.  He has a terrible home life, he beat his first wife and cheated on her.  He then married this new woman, Vikki, but his home life is still rife with domestic violence, suspicions and anxiety.  He is a bully and is constantly paranoid that his wife is cheating on him and at one point is convinced that she is having an affair with his brother, Joey.  Jake is also under the influence of the new york mob just to add to his multitude of personal issues.  He is a top professional boxer but isn’t satisfied with his life and has a lot going on in his head.  Someone with his amount of anger really should not be a boxer and that much is obvious in the film.  He uses it as his way of dealing with his life, it gives his life meaning.  By some miracle his wife stays with him throughout it all, which is crazy and seems unrealistic to me, but I guess that’s how it sometimes is in these sort of relationships.  They still love each other beneath all the terrible day-to-day goings on in their life.  Their first date scene is really beautiful and you get a glipse of what Jake could be like if he wasn’t so angry, violent and paranoid.  It is scary though that that is probably the man Vikki fell in love with and the hope of maybe seeing him again is what is keeping her with Jake.

Image result for raging bullThe iconic shot of Jake in the boxing ring shadowboxing in slow-motion at the start of the film when the opening credits start rolling in is really fabulous.  We had to go back to the start and watch it again after finishing because we wanted to see it again!  It gave me the shivers – it’s really haunting!

The boxing match against Sugar Ray, in the middle of the film, where the mobsters bet on him losing is the turning point of the film and of Jake’s life.  Jake get’s beaten to a pulp.  It’s insane how realistic the fight scenes are.  If you don’t like violence, defintely don’t watch this film!  In a way it kind of symbolises where he’s got to in his life.  After this point Jake gives up fighting and opens his own club.  Through his new club he ends up getting into trouble with underage girls, so his life doesn’t get better after quitting fighting, and he still has problems at home with his wife and his brother doesn’t want to know him.

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At the start of the film, I didn’t even recognise Robert De Niro, which is him at the end of the film.  De Niro famously gained loads of weight for this part of the movie.  The latter part of the film, 30 years later, is so convincing, he genuinely looks much older and more mature.  After seeing him at the end, the film comes full circle and the poem he reads at the start makes sense, a really beautifully shot scene.  Jake is above all, a really sad, unhappy man, and he still is.

Martin Scorsese’s artistic decision to film Raging Bull in black and white takes you back to the 50s and I honestly forgot this film wasn’t actually filmed in the 50s.  One thing I did notice, and I found it really interesting, is how much they swear.   Films that were made in the 50s completely contrast to this film and show those days in a completely different light.  Everyone was very well spoken and there’s no swearing, no violence and nothing terrible ever happens.  Raging Bull, filmed in 1980 ruined my perception of those times.  Of course I’m sure they did use this language, it was just shocking to see as it’s the first time I’ve seen a film with this perspective based during that period.

Image result for raging bullThe supporting actors gleam just as much as De Niro.  Joe Pesci, who plays Jake La Motta’s brother and manager, Joey & Cathy Moriarty, who plays Jake’s wife Vikki.  Jake’s brother has to deal with all of Jake’s crap over the years which eventually pushes him over the edge.  Jake comes crawling back to try and make up with him in a public display to try and plaster up wounded sores that still gape open between them.  I think it’s great how Joey stands up for himself and doesn’t allow Jake to so easily apologise.  He know’s what Jake is really like and he’s had too many chances over the years.  He’s screwed up too many times.

I’ve not actually seen any other films starring Robert de Niro when he was younger so I am not familiar with his work.  (Taxi Driver is on my ‘to watch & review’ list so look out for my thoughts on that one coming soon!).  De Niro nails his role in Raging Bull and it’s uncanny how believable his character is.  These sorts of films wouldn’t normally have appealed to me, but I gave Raging Bull a go due to it’s top knotch reviews and popularity.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it in more of a thought-provoking art-form sort of way, than a film I’d watch as an enjoyable pass time.  That’s something to bear in mind before you put it on for some light hearted fun – you won’t get any of that with this film!

I downloaded this from Sky Cinema, but it’s also available to rent on Amazon Instant Video for £4.49.  Did you enjoy it?

All my love & films,
Jen x

All About Eve

All About Eve.  Where to start….

IMG_8972 instaThis is one of those films that my mum has ALWAYS been trying to get me to watch.  “If you only watch one black and white film, Jennifer, it should be this one”.  I ignored her most of my life, obviously.  Mum has this on DVD and lent it to me recently for my viewing pleasure.  I’d not heard anything else about it apart from that it’s listed in the AFI and BFI top 100 films of all time.  So surely it must be good.

I eagerly put it in the DVD player and watched it for the first time last week; my eyes have been opened.  What a genuinely fantastic film.  It’s 2 hours of pure enjoyment about Margot Channing, a stage actress, played by Bette Davis, who gets introduced to the young fan Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, in her dressing room one evening.  It’s really funny from start to finish and the 2 hours went in a flash as we were so engrossed!  Eve is in awe of Margot, she goes to every one of Margot’s shows.  They quickly become friends and Margot takes Eve under her wing.  This whole film is definitely a whilwind of friendship, suspicions, glamourous parties, media, awards and backstage backstabbing.  It even features a very young Marylin Monroe!  This must have been one of her first films.

Image result for all about eve margot and lloydMargot Channing is such a character.  She’s really funny and likeable the whole way through even though she’s a bit of a diva.  What I thought was truely beautiful about this film is that Bette Davis actually fell in love with the actor that plays her on screen love interest, Lloyd, played by Gary Merrill, when they were both already married.  Bette and Gary actually went onto marry for 10 years.  They say that Bette and Gary divorced because Gary really fell in love with the character of Margot Channing instead of Bette herself.  Bette didn’t marry again after that.

Anyway, back to the film, I think this film is like the original, non-thriller version of Single White Female, the Barbet Schroeder film based on the book of the same name but about a girl who will do anything to get close to a certain person and try and dislodge them from where she is in life.  Without giving the plot of the film away, take from that what you will.  But if you enjoyed Single White Female, you’ll enjoy this.  All About Eve isn’t a thriller, as I said, it’s most definitely a comedy/drama, but it has unnerving aspects about Eve, which made me keep thinking about Single White Female and made me want to watch that film again!

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Bette Davis really lives up to her reputation in this film as one of the grestest actressess in the history of Hollywood.  She proves just how great of an actress she is with her sterling performance throughout.  I hear Bette was actually quite similar in real life to her character, which I think is such a gem and probably why she’s so good in this.  She lets her comic and fun personality come through into Margot.  It’s based on a true story as backsage backstabbing was definitely rife in Hollywood in those days.  Bette Davis, as much as I love her, was notorious for having tiffs with various other actressess.  She was best pally with her on screen rival, but hated her on screen best friend.  Apparently when filming this she even made a comment about how Marylin Monroe’s kitty kat voice doesn’t make up for her bad acting, which I thought was quite funny.  Sadly Marylin didn’t get a huge opportuinity to showcase her acting ability, dying so young.  This is the first film I’ve seen her in but I’ll definitely be writing about Some Like It Hot soon so watch this space.

It’s about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto!” – Lloyd Richards, All About Eve

Image result for all about eveI’ve never labelled myself a feminist but I do think All About Eve, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is a very progressive film for it’s time.  It’s wonderful that Bette Davis was the star in this film when she 42!  That was really quite old for women in the 50s who were still acting, espcially to land such a leading role.  She probably thought she was almost finished with acting but still got the part of this glamorous actress.  And to think that nowadays older actressess are complaining there aren’t enough parts of older women.  Also, 4 females were nominated for oscars based on their All About Eve performances.  I want to see more films featuring these strong female actresses.

If rotten tomatoes is anything to go by, it has 100% in the tomatometer!  I’ve not seen that on many films I’ve watched before.  All About Eve is truely a charm and recommended to anyone that wants some entertainment for a couple of hours.  It’s old, but timeless.  You honestly forget that it’s even in black and white, you get so invested in the characters.  It makes me kind of wish Hollywood was still like this and made films like this: incredibly beautiful and sophisticated.  It is totally deserving of the best picture Academy Award that it won in 1950.  I always knew it would be good, but it gets the double thumbs up from me.

All About Eve is available on DVD or can be rented from Amazon Prime Video at a steal of £3.49!!  If you’ve not seen it yet, I hope this post gets you adding it to the top of your ‘to watch next’ list.

All my love & films,
Jen x