Research Proposal: Popular Movie Reviews Chinatown, 1974, Color

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Popular Movie Reviews

Chinatown

Chinatown, 1974, color, 2hr.11min

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

Chinatown starts off with Los Angeles private eye Jake Gittes (Nicholson) being approached by a woman claiming to be Mrs. Mulwray, wife to the man who designed and built the city's water system and whom she suspects of having an affair. Jake takes the case, but is soon warned off by the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway). He pursues it anyway, uncovering a massive plot of corruption and greed that involves governmental institutions and the personal lives of the players involved. Made in a typically noir fashion, this film leaves the hero butter and disillusioned, but not materially any better or worse off than when he started.

What can movies teach us?

Movies can teach us almost anything we need to know about the world, but most importantly about human relationships. In the film, Jake learns that everything boils down to the interrelationships that exist between people. Even the greed and graft involved in the plot turn out to be secondary to more base human impulses, especially lust. This movie also teaches the importance of looking past surface details and first impressions in a hunt for the truth.

What is the significant difference between the movie and the book?

This script was original, and was not based on any book.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Movie Details: Book Details:

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, 1941, b/w, 1hr/53min the Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886

Director: Victor Fleming by Robert Louis Stevenson

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner 144 pages (2003 Signet Edition)

Both the film and the original novella concern the case of Dr. Jekyll, a young, kind, handsome, and rich doctor who is admired for his knowledge and his generosity and compassion but regarded with some suspicion for his investigations into the separation of the evil and good in man. The film introduces the topic of a love interest for the doctor, which is not apparent in the book, and also condenses the timeline of the action and the perspective from which the story is told. The basic arc is the same, however; Jekyll develops a potion that turns him into the amoral and animalistic Mr. Hyde. At first, the freedom of becoming Hyde is enticing, but then the transformations become uncontrollable and Hyde grows increasingly violent, eventually murdering and finally dying himself as a result of his uncontrollable nature.

Is its iconic status based on the book or the movie?

Though the movie is immensely popular and provides many of the plot details that are most remembered, it was far from the first film or stage adaptation of Stevenson's work. The iconic status is built into the concept and the characters, which are Stevenson's creations from the book.

What is the significant difference of the role of women in the film and in the book?

Women do not figure in the book much at all. In the film, however, they are sources of obsession for both Jekyll and Hyde. They represent the temptations that draw our animalistic nature; Stevenson was more intrigued by the inner workings of a mind.

Slaughterhouse Five

Movie Details: Book Details:

Slaughterhouse Five, 1972, color, 1hr/44min Slaughterhouse Five, 1969

Director: George Roy Hill by: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Starring: Miachael Sacks 224 pages (1999 Dell edition)

Slaughterhouse Five follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, who has come "unstuck" from time and experiences different parts of his life from moment to meant. The film is a fairly faithful rendering of the novel, following -- though not chronologically -- Billy's time as a young soldier and prisoner of war in World War II, where he survived the Dresden bombings, his life after the war as a middle-aged optometrist, and his later life as an alien abductee. The Tralfamadorians teach him a new way of looking at time, allowing him to become freed from the illusion of its always moving forward. His daughter is distressed at such claims, but Billy doesn't really care.

What is postmodernism?

Postmodernism is generally typified by its distrust of social institutions and conventions. It was largely the result of disillusionment after the First World War, and certainly carried through World War II as well, as Slaughterhouse Five demonstrates. The book satirizes many beliefs, not the least of which are the human concepts of death and time, and points out the hypocrisies and pure silliness of many human actions and customs. All of these are elements of postmodernism, which distrusts any system that pretends to be able to create order.

What does Vonnegut achieve by placing himself as a character in the story?

There is an extra level of playfulness added to the work by Vonneguts' inclusion of himself; it both affirms the "truth" of the work and calls it into question.

Some Like it Hot

Movie Details:

Some Like it Hot, 1959, b/w, 2 hrs

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe

Joe and Jerry (Curtis and Lemmon) are two musicians who have to figure out how to get out of town when they witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. With the mob after them they need disguises, so Joe becomes Josephine and Jerry becomes Daphne as the two don women's clothing and leav on tour with an all girl's band. Needless to say, hilarity ensues; Joe finds himself in love with another bandmate (Monroe), and Jerry can't's shake a rich suitor who keeps hitting on "Daphne." Eventually, the mob catches up with Joe and Jerry, but they escape with Sugar (Monroe) and the millionaire Osgood aboard the latter's yacht.

What does comedy consist of?

Comedy consist of many things, but it all boils down to a basic incompatibility between two perceptions. For instance, much of the comedy in this film is provided by the fact that the two lead characters are in drag. This is funny because we see them as men and women at the same time. It is made more funny by the fact that other characters don't see this; we witness them treating the others like women though we know they are men -- and that's funny.

Why is the chemistry of Curtis and Lemmon so important to this film?

Without these two actors playing off of each other so well, the barely believable plot would have fallen apart. It is their ability to commit to the actions and to each other that makes the film hold together and remain brilliant instead of becoming hokey.

Pinocchio

Movie Details:

Book Details:

Pinocchio, 1940, color (animated), 1hr.28min

The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1883

Directors: Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen

Starring: Mel Blanc (uncredited)

208 pages (2008 NYRB edition)

Pinocchio is a story known by almost all children in the Western world, largely thanks to the Disney movie which is drastically different in many plot details from the original story. In the film, the magical talking puppet is brought to life by the Blue Fairy in answer to the lonely Geppetto's tearful wishes. Though innocent at heart, Pinocchio is led into a series of bad decisions despite the repeated worries of his "conscience," Jiminy Cricket. Eventually, as in all good Disney movies, the hero learns his lesson, stops behaving badly, and becomes a real boy.

What changes hath Disney wrought?

Like Oppenheimer himself, Disney blew up the original story, keeping only the bar bones story of a young puppet brought to life. Some of the other original characters, such as the fox and the cat, are preserved more or less in tact, but others are changed drastically, the original story has Geppetto a miserly and child-hating old man, who carves Pinocchio out of a magic log and ends up with a violent and rather mean living puppet, who gets him arrested on his first day of existence. After this, Pinocchio does straighten out somewhat, though he is still tricked into many situations that involve moral dilemmas. Ultimately, he learns to make the right decisions (but not before killing the talking cricket -- seriously), and the Turquoise Fairy turns him into a real boy.

What does a child learn "best" from the story?

More than anything else, this teaches obedience. All other sins flow from its lack.

Macbeth

Movie details: Book details:

The Tragedy of Macbeth, 1971, color, 2hr/20min Macbeth, ca. 1603

Director: Roman Polanski by: William Shakespeare

Starring: Jon Finch, Francesca Annis 160 pages (2005 Oxford edition)

Shakespeare's classic tale of naked ambition going horribly awry has been a crowd pleaser since its first performance. The supernatural figures of the witches and ghosts, the bloody murders and fights, and the sexuality and power that Lady Macbeth uses to exert control over her husband, have all made this popular for the sake of pure enjoyment. Macbeth's ambitions are first stirred by a prophecy come true about his being made Thane (a Scottish duke) of Cawdor. He and his wife set out to make the prediction of his becoming king true… [END OF PREVIEW]

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