Somewhere in Time (1980)
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
I approached this film with moderate expectations but found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Somewhere in Time is a melodrama dripping with maudlin sentimentality. But it’s a well crafted one, so those excesses and silly bits can easily be ignored or enjoyed. The film is based on the novel Bid Time Return, also written by Richard Matheson. Between this film and my Twilight Zone series, I have enjoyed Matheson’s work this year. I’d only previously read I Am Legend, but I think I may need to do a deeper dive into his work. Somewhere in Time feels like a Matheson episode of Twilight Zone, which is stretched out a little longer and gives us a relatively decent tragic love story.
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Written by Jules Feiffer, Songs by Harry Nilsson
Directed by Robert Altman
The making of Popeye began with a bidding war for the film rights to the Broadway stage adaptation of Little Orphan Annie. When producer Robert Evans found out Paramount had lost the bid to Columbia Pictures, he held an executive meeting about what comic properties they owned that could replace Annie. One person chimed in “Popeye,” and so it was decided they would make a movie musical based on the spinach-eating sailor man. The original concept was to cast Dustin Hoffman as Popeye and Lily Tomlin as Olive Oyl, but that fell through. At one point, even Gilda Radner was considered for Olive. However, when things finally settled and production began, we ended up with a picture that Paramount wasn’t too happy with, but that has become a cult classic.
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The Quiet Earth (1985)
Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, and Sam Pillsbury
Directed by Geoff Murphy
The Last Man on Earth trope is a prevalent one in popular science fiction, being the fodder of the Twilight Zone multiple adaptations of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and even a Fox television series. There’s the old scary story “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” This is the foundation on which The Quiet Earth is built, exploring what it would be like to exist as the last member of your species, knowing that with your end, so goes all memory of your civilizations.
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Rambling Rose (1991)
Written Calder Willingham
Directed by Martha Coolidge
The role of women in Southern culture is a complex one, and as a white man, I will not be able to adequately convey what it is like from my perspective. Rambling Rose, though, is a film that gets somethings right but so much else wrong, like problematically wrong. I sat stunned within the first few moments of this movie, and throughout the rest of it at how tone-deaf and overly melodramatic so much of the story becomes. The female character at the center of the picture really has no voice, and instead, the narrative is shaped by an adolescent boy that lusts after Rose. There’s an attempt to have him learn a lesson about women, but it’s muddied with troublesome archaic thinking.
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Written by James Dickey
Directed by John Boorman
The opening dialogue of Deliverance, based on the novel of the same name by James Dickey, tells us everything we need to know to understand the conflict that underlies the entire film. The quartet of friends talks about a new damn built on the fictional Cahulawassee River and how this effort of modern industrial ingenuity is going to change the landscape. This plays out over scenes of massive earth-moving machinery and explosives clearing away cliffs. This will be a story about modernity clashing with primal forces of nature and how masculinity navigates how a strange old world redefines it.
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First Cow (2020)
Written by Jonathan Raymond & Kelly Reichardt
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
In all of Kelly Reichardt’s films, and especially in First Cow, she makes the audience contemplate moments & the stillness of life. This view of the world was especially prevalent in the 19th century when this film takes place. There was a lot of time spent sitting and mending clothes and equipment, and so you found comfort in the silence. This quiet space likely meant peace as you weren’t struggling, just keeping things put together so that you could continue to survive. If you have been following social distancing lately, there’s a chance you have experienced these moments, but more likely, you, like myself, have filled that space with the chaos of the news and social media.
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Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)
Written by Henry Farrell & Lukas Heller
Directed by Robert Aldrich
The box office success of 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was a complete surprise to producer-director Robert Aldrich. Upon seeing those returns, he decided a follow up needed to be made, another picture pairing Bette Davis & Joan Crawford. This time around, Aldrich switched the roles with Davis playing the invalid and planning on Crawford being the conniving villain. However, the rivalry between these two women kept going into the filming. Crawford filmed her on-location scenes, but when production returned to Hollywood, she claimed she was sick and dropped out of the film. This led to Olivia de Havilland being cast as Crawford’s replacement and many scenes being reshot.
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The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Written by James Agee
Directed by Charles Laughton
Of my thirty-nine years on this earth, the last thirty-fours (sans one) have been lived in the American South, specifically Tennessee. The American South is a complex region, the hub of an insurrection that led to the Civil War. The place where slavery festered and even upon its dissolution, its legacy poisoned any possibility of a greater sense of community to the present day. Jim Crow was born here. The American South is a “Christ-haunted landscape,” as author Flannery O’Connor once said, words that could not be truer. Churches pop up so that one city block is crammed full with them. A drive through the country will guarantee passing by at least half a dozen. History and Religion bleed through the trunks of the trees and up through the lawns. These are Visions of the American South.
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Little Children (2006)
Written by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
Directed by Todd Field
Tom Perrotta has enjoyed quite a bit of success in having his novels adapted to film & television. Election, directed by Alexander Payne, was his first work turned into a movie and remains a great picture about the dangers of ambition. Even more successful was the television adaptation of The Leftovers by Damon Lindeloff, arguably the best series of the 2010s. Inbetween these two lies Little Children, a very literary film helmed by Todd Field. This is a dense movie that doesn’t stick to the text with fidelity, instead creating its own narrative spin on the same themes and characters.
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In the Bedroom (2001)
Written by Todd Field & Robert Festinger
Directed by Todd Field
The bedroom is the rear compartment of a lobster trap and is designed to hold two lobsters before turning on each other. A lobster fisher must check their traps regularly lest multiple animals get caught in the bedroom and begin tearing each other’s claws off. In the same scene that we learn this, we are also told that when a female lobster is “growing berries,” i.e., carrying eggs, she becomes the most fearsome type of lobster.
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