100 Word Review – Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

“A girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick.” – Holly Golightly

Based on the novel by Truman Capote of a prostitute and her next door neighbour, this Hollywood version keeps all of the glamour of its source.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a New York Socialite, lives next door to ‘average Joe’ and hopeless romantic Paul Varjak (George Peppard) in this 1960s cult movie.

Screenplay by George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch, Paris When It Sizzles), this film manages to live up to its stylish reputation while sneaking in some of the darkness and turmoil of the original story.

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100 Word Review – Hidden Figures (2016)

The amazing true story of the African-American women behind the 1960s NASA Space Programme.

Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) are three female mathematicians, known as “computers”, who use their intelligence and perseverance to fight the racism and sexism that holds them back.

Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and directed by Theodore Melfi (St Vincent), it has a fantastic soundtrack from Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer that fits perfectly with the upbeat tone of the film.

Wonderful, uplifting and inspiring, it’s one of those stories everyone should know.

100 Word Review – Experimenter (2015)

Whether or not you’ve ever heard of Stanley Milgram, this brilliant biopic is definitely worth your time.

Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) is a social psychologist whose experiments in the early 1960s may have been decried by some as unethical and immoral are still talked about today and focus on the obedience to deemed authority.

Written and directed by Michael Almereyda (Hamlet (2000), Nadja), it is insightfully told from the perspective of Milgram himself. Rather than a conventional drama, Almereyda uses archive footage, photos as backdrops and breaks the fourth wall regularly.

It is dark, engaging and thought provoking with truly educational elements.

 

100 Word Review – Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Susanna (Winona Ryder) is committed by her parents after combining pills and vodka in what they see as an attempted suicide. In Cleymore mental hospital she meets the other patients, including the rabble rousing sociopath Lisa (Angelina Jolie)

Adapted from Susanna Kaysen’s autobiographical account of her 18 month stay in a mental hospital in 1960s by the writers of Gorillas In The Mist and Walk The Line.

The fantastic cast includes Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Redgrave, Elisabeth Moss, Brittany Murphy, Clea DuVall and Jared Leto; and that\s not even mentioning Jolie’s Oscar winning performance. This film is dark, magnificent and truly unforgettable. 

100 Word Review – The Addams Family (1991)

Margaret: Where’s your costume?

Wednesday: This is my costume. I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everybody else.

Adapted from The New Yorker satirical comic strip of the 1940s and the TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, this time the inversion of the ideal American family are hitting the silver screen.

After going missing in the Bermuda Triangle for 25 years, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is reunited with Gomez (Raul Julia), Morticia (Angelica Huston), Wednesday (Christina Ricci), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Lurch (Carel Struycken). But is everything as it appears.

Family-friendly fun, albeit with a morbid sense of humour.

100 Word Review – Hairspray (2007)

This film may appear corny to start with but it has a heart of gold and a timeless sense of humour. 

Tracy’s (Nikki Blonsky) a large girl with a personality to match, determined to dance on a local daytime TV show.

Co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Brittany Snow, Zac Efron, Elijah Kelley, Taylor Parks (pictured) and Allison Janney, this is a musical of epic proportions.

Based on the 8-time Tony Award Winning musical set in segregated 1960s Baltimore and the 1988 film adaptation starring Rikki Lake, it’s an up-beat comedy not to miss.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

Believe it or not, this film is a sophisticated satire. Although you would be forgiven for not realising it. 

Starring Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, with cameos from Noel Coward, Tony Curtis and Marlene Dietrich, it plays like a romantic farce.

Gabrielle Simpson (Hepburn) is a typist sent to the hotel room of acclaimed screenwriter Richard Benson (Holden) to type up the pages of his latest masterpiece. The problem is that he hasn’t started writing it yet and only has three days to get it written and delivered to the producer.

George Axelrod (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Seven Year Itch, The Manchurian Candidate) penned the screenplay and it was directed by Richard Quine (Sex And The Single Girl, How To Murder Your Wife).

The key to understanding the genius of this film, comes with understanding the changes Hollywood was going through at the time. So here is a brief history of the Classical Hollywood era.

When Hollywood started making films, the rating system that we are all familiar with did not exist. There was censorship or sense of filtering audiences by a film’s content. By the end of the 1920s, Hollywood was getting a reputation as a hotbed of sin and debauchery. Extra-marital affairs were rife and well recorded in the national and international press and there were even a couple of high profile rapes and murders.

In an attempt to restore the at least the appearance of a moral code, the studios hired Presbyterian Elder William Hays who, in 1930, brought out the Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC also known as the Hays Code). The MPPC laid out a series of rule that filmmakers had to abide by, including banning the “use of profanity”, “ridicule of the clergy” and “sex relationships between white and black races”, and cautioning “special care” around “sympathy for criminals”, “men and women in bed together” and “the institution of marriage”. These rules applied to all American filmmaking until 1968 when the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system was put in place, however from the 1950s onwards American filmmakers pushed back against these restrictions.

By the end of 1950s a new style of filmmaking was coming out of Europe, christened French New Wave. Directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Agnes Varda took a free-form approach to filmmaking, seeing it as a form of artistic expression rather than commercial storytelling. This flew very much in the face of Hollywood’s ethos, which was (and still is) very much the movie “Business”.

This is the period of change that Axelrod was writing in, and that he tapped into when writing this clever little film. His characters write a screenplay that not only jumps from genre to genre but pushes and pulls at the MPPC as well as poking fun at French New Wave.

In a scene within the fictitious film that takes place in the bedroom, Benson comments on the risqué nature of the scene. Miss Simpson responds “You might take that view, but I believe they are playing Parcheesi”, gently prodding the MPPC’s allowances of insinuation. Also within the film within a film, Gaby gets caught up with a French New Wave actor (played by Tony Curtis) who’s involved in a fictitious film about Bastille Day called No Dancing In The Streets because “in this version it, like, rains”.

So watch this film, but when you do, look beyond the farcical romantic comedy and try to see the brilliantly executed satire that lies beneath.

100 Word Review – One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (1975)

Jack Nicholson at his finest in this superb adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel about the inner workings of 1960s mental institutes.

McMurphy (Nicholson) pleads insanity rather than face his prison sentence thinking it will be the easier option. He is mistaken.

Louise Fletcher won an Oscar for her portrayal of the terrifying Nurse Ratchet; Nicholson nabbed one for Best Actor; Milos Foreman won Best Director: Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman were awarded Best Screenplay for their adaptation; and with the help of the marvellous cast (Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd) ensured the Best Picture win.

Little wonder it’s #15 on IMDb’s Top 250. 

100 Word Review – Across The Universe (2007)

Based on the music of The Beatles, this is a musical you don’t need to have seen to know the words to. 

Jude (Jim Sturgess) moves from Liverpool to America where he meets and falls in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). Set in the 1960s, the socio-political climate of the time makes for a dramatic background to this moving love story.

Director Julie Taymour (Frida, Titus) truly transports her audience. The film’s littered with references to the period, particularly within the music industry, but even if you only pick up the odd one it still makes for mesmerising viewing.

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