FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Norman Jewison |||
Norman Jewison

Yes, he directed “Moonstruck” and two unforgettable musicals, but Jewison is also responsible for a trilogy of films focusing on racial-injustice, a whacky Cold War comedy and a signature film of Steve McQueen’s showing that he is one of the most versatile directors since Robert Wise.

This blueprint for good investigation dramas tells the story of a black Philadelphia detective investigating a murder in Mississippi who matches wits with a redneck sheriff. Groundbreaking for it’s time, this Oscar winning film is still relevant today and offers a gripping mystery with terrific dramatic performances by a complete cast of fully realized characters.

This is an amazingly funny and entertaining irreverent "Cold War" comedy about a Russian submarine stranded outside an isolated New England town, which throws the locals into a panic. Jewison does a delightful job of utilizing his all-star cast to their fullest, deftly mixing Capra-esq characters with Mel Brooks’s type situations (and vise-versa).

A bored millionaire (Steve McQueen in his prime) masterminds a flawless bank job as Faye Dunaway (an insurance investigator out to get him) identifies him as the mastermind and falls in love along the way. This is the original and the best, with all the arch stylized movie techniques of the ‘60s (including split-screen and fuzzy shallow focus) and the most erotic chess game ever captured on screen.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Becoming Jane

By BrianOrndorf

August 3rd, 2007

Jane Austen's literary output as been adapted to the big screen more times than I would ever dare to count, trusting the loyal will squeal with delight viewing the stories of romantic woe and life-changing fortune time and again. "Becoming Jane" looks to peel back the artifice and explore how Austen's artistic viewpoint was shaped. Does it come as any surprise that the answer is romantic woe and life-changing fortune?

Becoming Jane

The youngest of the Austen clan, Jane (Anne Hathaway) suffers from the ridiculous notion that she will marry for love and her writing will support her. With no romantic prospects in sight, Jane is forced to consider marrying for money, when into her life walks Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy). A dashing law student, Tom has little in the way of prominence, but gives his entire heart to the young author. As their affair heats to a boil, the reality of their positions in society is a burden too much to bear, lending Jane the inspiration for her most famous novels.

“Becoming Jane” is a lovely little heartbreaker, but to find that emotional core, you have to sit through the rigmarole of costume drama formula. Oh yes, the social obligations, tea time, gossip, mud-caked farmland, horse-drawn carriages, and pining are all accounted for here, at times almost more out of obligation than inspiration. Director Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”) is faithful to the expectations, but never aggressively so. He’s painting a larger portrait of the elements that informed Austen’s writing, devastating self-criticism, and love of irony, and if they fail to awaken the senses (the first act does get a little overtly sleepy), they do justifiably have a place in the narrative.

It takes the attraction between Jane and Tom to slap the film to life. It’s never the production value or the period recreation that sells a costume drama to me, it’s the passion. Thankfully, Jarrold understands the value of love on the rocks, and starts to massage the torture Jane feels once she finds her heart engorged for a man she is destined to be separated from.

Hathaway and McAvoy spin the bottle wonderfully, pitch-perfect in their repression of attraction. Using eyes and quivering throats to expressing heir longing, “Jane” is beautiful when it pays attention to the soreness of doomed affection. Again, Jarrold isn’t arranging the plot in any sort of revolutionary manner, so it makes a difference when you have actors capable of breathing between the lines, giving the viewer a peek at mental processes that would never find the light of day through dialogue.

“Becoming Jane” isn’t a series of cold hard facts: this is an imagined life for the beloved author, tying her real passions and failures to those she spent her life writing about. It’s a charming, peaceful picture; a perfect diversion for those who like their corsets tight and confining and their romance kept behind a fence of social judgment and impossible odds.

My rating: B+