FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| John Sturges |||
John Sturges

Helming the “Magnificent Seven” should be reason enough, demonstrating that Sturges had the happy talent of taking what was considered strictly “male” oriented stories and making them sexy enough and humorous enough to appeal to female movie-goer as well.

Sturges takes this star-studded gunslinger film based on the Japanese favorite "The Seven Samurai", and makes it a bone fide all-American classic featuring Yul Brynner. At the request of Mexican peasants, Brynner recruits a band of fellow mercenaries, half of whom Sturges introduces as the next generation of action film super-stars including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Steve McQueen. Widescreen!

Sturges is responsible for what is renowned as one of the greatest war films ever made, featuring Steve McQueen and his unforgettably daring motorcycle jumps in the face of the enemy. Allied prisoners escape from a German POW camp in this superior effort, noted for a brilliant international cast and Elmer Bernstein's triumphant score. Widescreen!

This day in the life of a stranger in an isolated town has since been done to death, and this is why. In the hands of a lesser director the talents of this exceedingly manly cast (Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan) would otherwise overwhelm this compelling drama with a prejudice theme, but Sturges is able to maintain a firm grasp of the reigns, keeping his actors this side of mellow drama. Widescreen!

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+