Thursday, May 26, 2011

"The Graduate" a comedy that actually makes you laugh

TITLE: "The Graduate"
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
STARS: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
EDITOR: Sam O'Steen
AWARDS: Best Director (Oscar)
BOX OFFICE: $104,397,102 
RUN TIME: 106 min.
VIEWING FORMAT: Netflix Streaming

"The Graduate" is a humble film revolving around the romantic affairs of Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who has just returned home to LA after graduating from college. Poor Ben doesn't know what to do with his life, and is fearful of his future. Family friend, and seductress, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) spares no time in making herself available to Ben in a purely physical fashion. What will Ben do with this new-found attention? Will it help his plans for the future, or will it disrupt his entire life? And what will happen when Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross) returns home from school for the summer?

This film is considered to be a "classic" of cinema for many reasons. It was nominated for 7 Oscars, 7 BAFTA's, 7 Golden Globes, and 1 Grammy. It won at least 1 award at every one of those ceremonies. Why all the attention?

This was the first lead role for, the little known, Dustin Hoffman. He took critics and audiences by surprise. A relative unknown who, arguably, outshone the great Anne Bancroft onscreen. Bancroft was well known for her many film roles by 1967, having already won an Oscar for her immortal role as Annie Sullivan in "The Miracle Worker" (1962). She was also the wife of Mel Brooks, who had cast Hoffman in "The Producers" (1968), but let him leave the production for his role in "The Graduate."

Both Hoffman and Bancroft received numerous awards consideration for their roles, as well as Katharine Ross. It is funny then, that the two leads were not the actors originally intended for the parts. Mike Nichols had looked at Doris Day and Patricia Neal for the role of Mrs. Robinson, Robert Redford for Ben, and Gene Hackman (Hoffman's former roommate) for Mr. Robinson. The actors passed on the roles for different reasons, though Redford was actually turned down for the role. Nichols thought he didn't possess the underdog qualities he had envisioned for the role. When Redford asked what he meant, Nichols responded, "'Have you ever struck out with a girl?' 'What do you mean?' asked Redford. 'That's precisely my point,' said Nichols" <>.

Nichols was a young director at this point in his career, his only previous effort being "Who'd Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966). That film turned out to be a major success though, garnering 5 Oscars of its own. He still had to deal with producers and studio executives though. He had to make a deal with the producers of the film to keep the, now iconic, soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel. He had to give up his actress of choice for the role of Mrs. Robinson, the French actress, Jeanne Moreau, in order to keep his soundtrack in tact. Who knows what the film would have been like. Bancroft gave the most popular performance of her career, and created a sex icon for generations to come.

"The Graduate" has many good things that add up to a good movie. Right off the bat, the soundtrack is unforgettable. The songs by Simon and Garfunkel are now iconic. They gave a beautiful pop/folk sound to the film that made it feel all the more realistic.

The performances are spot on. Nichols directed his three leads to an Oscar nomination each. His supporting cast, featuring William Daniels (Mr. Feeny) of "Boy Meets World" fame, continued the excellence present in the performances of the leads.

The cinematography, while fitting for the story, falls into cliche today. Many zooms and camera moves remind us this film was made in the 1960's. The story takes place in the 60's though, so I don't feel that a few cliche camera tricks really detract from it.

The best part of this film is this: it is actually funny. I was not laughing consistently throughout, but Hoffman's portrayal of Ben leaves every scene with an air of humor, even when there is a serious tone. Many comedies fall short, and don't keep the audience smiling until the end. "The Graduate" does not fail, and continues to provide laughs and humor until the final frame. This is the film's strongest point. As a comedy, it completely succeeds. As a character drama, it lacks some believability, but I still found myself rooting for Ben.

I would highly suggest this movie. It has aged, and perhaps not gracefully, but it is still funny, and worth watching for anyone looking for a short escape from the real world.

MY IMDb RATING: 7 out of 10

Monday, May 23, 2011

in the beginning...

i've been looking for a reason to justify my continued habit of watching movies at a constant pace in my life. this blog is my new excuse. how will it help me justify my obsession? this blog will act as a service to friends, and fans of movies, as one average guy's opinion on many different films from across the world, decades, and genres.

i will offer a review, every thursday, of a film that i have watched in the previous week. there will be criteria to what films are chosen though. all films reviewed on this blog will be considered "classic" in some sense. that is where it gets complicated.

the word "classic" opens the door to many different interpretations. i will consider it in a number of ways. holds this definition:

–adjective Also, classical
1. of the first or highest quality, class, or rank: a classic piece of work.
2. serving as a standard, modelor guide: the classic method of teaching arithmetic.

this definition would pretty much narrow down the film selection to well known, older films, that would most likely have a direct impact on today's top artists. while that would keep this blog filled with great cinematic treats, i feel there are plenty of other films that deserve to be seen that may not meet this criterion. so what else will be included?

"contemporary classics" will not be ignored. newer films, that have already had a major impact on our culture, and the film industry, will have their place. genre films, from such sordid categories as: cult sci-fi, horror, creature features, existential films, martial arts cinema, erotic thrillers, and more. films with these classifications may not be considered the same caliber as films from the hollywood golden age, but they still hold their own and have influenced countless films in their own, and other, genres to this day.

while romero's "day of the dead" (1985) may not be considered to be on the same plane as welles' "citizen kane" (1941) i would argue it is the "citizen kane" of zombie films, and has stood the test of time to become one of the greatest horror films ever made. this is just one example of a "lesser" film that holds as much merit as a "classic."

films that will not be reviewed: current theatrical releases, "schlock" cinema (unless it is one of the rare examples that has ascended to a "classic" status), pornography, popcorn films that do not attempt to be something more than a cash-cow for a studio, and generally bad films.

my posts will be split into three parts. the first being a short summary of the film of the week. i will try to include a minimal amount of spoilers. sometimes they are inevitable (for example: if someone had no idea that superman was able to fly, and i wrote of this ability in a review, it would technically be a spoiler. i will be assuming that some parts of popular films are common knowledge). so, don't be scared to read the summary of the film if you haven't seen it.

the second part will be my justification of why it is the film that was chosen for that week. this is where most of the meat of the post will be. i will include some history behind the film. i will make it clear as to why it is, or should be, considered a "classic."

the third section of the post will be my critique of the film. i want to make it clear that my opinion is just that, an opinion. film, just like any art form, is open to interpretation. there are many popular films that i despise, but many other viewers love, and vice versa. i will not be trying to convince you that something is either great or terrible. i will simply present my opinion in an honest fashion, and will attempt to justify my words.

i am an average joe. i was born in chicago, il. i resided in indiana for the end of my high school, and college, careers. i love the midwest and what it has to offer, yet i now live in los angeles, ca. i work steadily as an editor/assistant editor/grip on feature films, short films, web series, music videos, and commercials. while i work in the film/video industry, and have a working knowledge of the production and business side of the art form, i am still grounded in my upbringing as the boy who just wants to enjoy movies as much as possible.

please feel free to leave requests for films you would like reviewed in the future. reviews will start this thursday (may 26th, 2011).