Movie Review – Oliver Twist (1948)

Oliver Twist (1948)
Written by David Lean & Stanley Haynes
Directed by David Lean

David Lean’s second attempt at adapting Charles Dickens is even better, in my opinion. This time around, instead of relying on other screenwriters, Lean and Stanley Haynes worked out the script together and managed to keep most of the story’s high points. Lean was audacious enough to add to the story with two critical bits at the beginning and end that work beautifully and are some of the best scenes of the entire film. Even more so than Great Expectations, we find the director leaning into noir-ish Gothic production design and lighting, which leads to an incredibly memorable viewing experience.

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Movie Review – Great Expectations (1946)

Great Expectations (1946)
Written by David Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Cecil McGivern, Ronald Neame, and Kay Walsh
Directed by David Lean

The success of Brief Encounter rocketed David Lean into a level of acclaim that would only grow for the remainder of his career. His next projects would be adaptations of two classic Charles Dickens novels, starting with Great Expectations. The idea to adapt the story to the screen came after Lean saw a stage production that abbreviated the text and turned it into a digestible narrative while cutting away subplots. It took a couple of years of drafts, explaining the writing credits until Lean was satisfied with the final product. On Boxing Day (December 26) 1946, Great Expectations premiered in the U.K.

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Movie Review – Mank

Mank (2020)
Written by Jack Fincher
Directed by David Fincher

Jack Fincher died in 2003. He was a screenwriter and journalist out of Texas who married a nurse after serving in the airforce. Eventually, he would come to serve as the San Francisco bureau chief of Life magazine and pen a script that would be merged with others to make Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator. After a year-long battle with cancer, Jack Fincher passed away at the age of 72. His son, David Fincher, had become a critically acclaimed director by Jack’s passing. David had wanted to adapt his dad’s script about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and the development of Citizen Kane, but the insistence on shooting in black and white led Hollywood to balk at the idea. It would be seventeen years after Jack’s passing that David would finally release his dad’s movie through Netflix.

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Movie Review – Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter (1945)
Written by Noël Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean, and Ronald Neame
Directed by David Lean

David Lean was born into the Quaker faith in 1908 in the pastoral environs of Surrey, England. While in school, Lean was deemed too dreamy and not up to snuff with the level of academics he was expected to master. At age 18, he entered into an apprenticeship under his father’s accountancy firm. At age ten, Lean had been given a Brownie box camera, and this event was looked back at by the director as one of the most formative experiences in his life. The next formative moment came when at age 15, Lean’s father left his family. Lean would follow suit with his first wife and child. He would remarry five additional times, and friends claimed he slept with around 1,000 women in his lifetime. 

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Movie Review – A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)
Written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark
Directed by Bob Clark

A Christmas Story is a great little holiday comedy about childhood but also one of the most disgustingly overhyped pieces of Americana in recent years. The TBS 24-hour marathon of the film definitely didn’t help things and has honestly led to the oversaturation of the picture. It’s a look back at the Depression Era Midwest and dramatizes Jean Shepherd’s memories of his childhood. The film is done in a series of vignettes that make it easy to consume by casual viewers or kids whose attention spans might wan after too long. But it definitely doesn’t deserve as much licensed merchandise or a Broadway musical based on the picture.

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My Favorite Screwball Comedies

The Palm Beach Story (1942, directed by Preston Sturges)

From my review: This is the ur-text of screwball comedies, every core element boiled down to its purest essence. There are pratfalls galore, windows getting smashed, and people confusing each other for others. It exists as both an ode to the comedies of mixed-up identities from Shakespeare and commentary on the late stages of the Great Depression. This film will inspire future pictures like Some Like It Hot and Intolerable Cruelty, but it doesn’t put on airs of being profound or world-changing. This is a pure character-centered comedy that understands how important it is to have a diverse variety of roles.

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Movie Review – Unfaithfully Yours

Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
Written & Directed by Preston Sturges

At one point in his career, Preston Sturges was the third highest-paid man in America. He knew his value by 1944 at Paramount and began making more demands, throwing his weight around. After some poor business investments in Los Angeles, he started borrowing more money from family and friends. His good friend Howard Hughes even bankrolled Sturges’ venture as an independent filmmaker with California Pictures, a pay cut but also a higher level of control that made others in Hollywood envious. With all this success and prominence came a decline in quality and consistency. Sturges worked best when he has a force to butt heads with, but given complete artistic freedom, he began producing subpar work. After a series of flops, Sturges was no longer a creator people sought out, and he would have one more moderate hit before everything came crashing down.

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Movie Review – The Miracle at Morgan’s Creek

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
Written & Directed by Preston Sturges

In 1922, Hollywood was an incredibly sleazy town. How little things change. The studios were dealing with backlash from some risque films and the even more troubling private lives of their stars leaking into the tabloids. To deal with this problem, they enlisted the U.S. Postmaster General William Hays to write up a code of conduct that would get politicians and angry citizens off their backs. Thus, the Hays Code, the first piece of American film censorship, was born. The Code dictated that profanity, sex, or drugs be prohibited from films. Notice no significant rule on violence.

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Movie Review – Hail the Conquering Hero

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
Written & Directed by Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges did something delightfully subversive in this film, choosing to make another movie that appears on the surface level to be about patriotism and supporting “our boys” in the war effort. What he did was make a satire upending military hero worship and some of the core ideologies of bourgeoise America. During my viewing, I sat there stunned at how much he was getting away with, convinced that the censors at the time were dumber than I thought. This is a criminally underrated, wholly American movie that most definitely could not be made with today’s sterile corporate Hollywood environment.

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Movie Review – The Palm Beach Story

The Palm Beach Story (1942)
Written by Preston Sturges & Ernest Laemmle
Directed by Preston Sturges

This is the ur-text of screwball comedies, every core element boiled down to its purest essence. There are pratfalls galore, windows getting smashed, and people confusing each other for others. It exists as both an ode to the comedies of mixed-up identities from Shakespeare and commentary on the late stages of the Great Depression. This film will inspire future pictures like Some Like It Hot and Intolerable Cruelty, but it doesn’t put on airs of being profound or world-changing. This is a pure character-centered comedy that understands how important it is to have a diverse variety of roles.

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