In an overheated moment part-way through Laslo Benedek's 1953 film The Wild One, Johnny (Marlon Brando) responds to the question "What are you rebelling against?" with "Watcha got?" That film detailed the restless rebellion of two motorcycle gangs, one bent on havoc, the other on less violent forms of social rebellion, and in Johnny lay the seed of many a Hollywood rebel, the pose of many an aspiring Hollywood actor, and the essence of a new breed of teenager. The following year, two films were released that immediately secured a position for their star as spokesperson for and icon of America's frustrated youth. In both East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause James Dean embodied a restless youngster unable to cope with his future because of the insecurity of the present and the failings of his parents. Unlike Johnny, his anger was still internalized, waiting for the moment of explosion. As director Nicolas Ray said: "When you first see Jimmy in his red jacket against his black Merc, it's not just a pose. It's a warning. It's a sign."
Ever in sympathy with the outsider, Ray fashioned a modern Romeo and Juliet story, a romance set among teenagers seeking satisfaction outside the traditional systems, misunderstood by their parents, misunderstanding and mistrusting of their parents' values. Soon America would explode with the sound of rock 'n roll, and teens would find a form of social rebellion that was non-violent but nonetheless highly charged. Ray caught both the immediate and timeless qualities of frustrated adolescence.
A plea for understanding of the day's younger generation, Rebel Without a Cause focused on three youngsters: Plato, whose divorced parents had abandoned him; Judy, who felt her father had withdrawn his love; and Jim, the offspring of a domineering mother and henpecked father. Disenchanted with their own families, these three alienated individuals sought a...Read More
Federico Fellini's epic study of the loss of values at the climax of the Italian "economic miracle," La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life), delineates the daily activities of a writer, turned reporter for a sensationalist journal, who is too deeply compromised by the degeneracy around him to see it, never mind report on it. The opening and closing scenes of the film are...Read More
If you're familiar with the movies Due Date director Todd Phillips has been involved with in the past (The Hangover, Old School, and Road Trip), then you should know what to expect from his latest film. In my case, what I expected (and received) was a stomach that hurt from laughing too hard, a sore throat from the aforementioned laughing, and a few...Read More
Raiders of the Lost Ark is historically important because it marks the first collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the two most financially successful of American filmmakers. Released in the summer of 1981, the film garnered some of the best critical accolades in either man's career; it also continued their...Read More
Not particularly successful at the time of its release, Vertigo has come to be recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, where his profounder obsessions are reinforced by his technical inventiveness. It can be argued that Hitchcock's "greatness" comes only from the accident that his recurring obsession with voyeurism is the topic that best meshes with the...Read More
Combining the whimsy of a joyous romantic comedy with the heightened reality of a fairy tale, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie is the rare film that touches the heart while dazzling audiences with its invention and creativity. Set in Montmartre and revolving around the escapades of a sweet woman whose do-gooder instincts transform the lives of the people around her, Amélie embraces a hopeful vision...Read More
Carl Dreyer's last silent film is one of the most famous films in the history of cinema. It is seldom missing on "World's Ten Best Films" lists. Few films have been studied and analyzed as thoroughly in articles and books, and one sometimes feels that the real film is buried in the theory and aesthetics. But, a true classical work of art, La...Read More
Early in 1931 an extraordinary event took place in New York City at the George M. Cohan Theatre. Though the talking picture had been firmly established, a new silent film premiered at the Cohan that became the talk of the town – Charles Chaplin's City Lights...Read More
The Silence of the Lambs is the most authentically terrifying movie since Psycho, and it is appropriate that Hannibal Lecter (as incarnated in the superb performance of Anthony Hopkins) should...Read More
An American in Paris, one of the most successful and popular musicals in the history of film, is also one of the few Technicolor musicals to be taken seriously by critics during the Golden Age of Hollywood when many such films were made. Its grand finale, a 17-minute ballet, focused attention...Read More