FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented ďdouble takeĒ best. Capraís brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

Advertisement

Dinotasia

By EdwardHavens

November 5th, 2012

Dinosaurs have fascinated mankind for millennia. We as a people have a seemingly voracious appetite for all things dinosaur, especially after John Ostromís works about the Deinonychus Antirrhopus became public in the mid-1960s. And before we take another journey back to "Jurassic Park" next year, we have the animated anthology movie "Dinotasia" to keep us engaged.

Dinotasia

Directed by long-time Werner Herzog collaborator Erik Nelson and Disney character designer David Krentz, "Dinotasia" may have a kind of quaint, lo-fi feel to some. The CG animated feature, which bounces around through various segments of dino history, plays like a series of cut-scenes from a 1997 PlayStation game, and Herzog's brief narrations give the movie a certain gravitas it would have not had with any other speaker. But there in lies the filmís major problems. Its graphics, both the look of the dinosaurs and how they are inserted in to real backgrounds, are far too distracting, and the promise of Herzog narration is hardly met. Throughout the vignettes, Herzog has but one or two lines to set up each segment and one additional line late in one part, which for this writer is hardly "narration" in its traditional movie-related sense. Malcolm McDowell narrates "A Clockwork Orange." Jean Shepard narrates "A Christmas Story." Edward Norton narrates "Fight Club." Werner Herzog's discombobulated voice, popping in every ten minutes or so to say something sardonic and laconic until the next time he is needed, is hardly narration.

Yet "Dinotasia" does have a certain charm. Borrowing liberally from the Disney classic from which is moderately borrows its name, the film is what the cineastes call pure cinema. Here is the timeframe, here are the dinosaurs of the era, and this is what we think happened. The dramatic mood music sets up the terror and horror of what life may have been like for the animals of the Mesozoic, as various beasts fight and maim each other and prove that barbarous callousness and bloodthirsty ruthlessness is not a recent or human trait.

For someone who worked so closely with Herzog on a number of his recent successful entries in the documentary field, it seems co-director Nelson didnít understand what made his bossís movies like "Grizzly Man," "Encounters at the End of the World" or "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" such rapturous endeavors. It was not just the images alone that helped these movies find an audience, nor was it Herzog's indelible voice or the words he spoke. It was the mood he set and the anticipation of what he would explore. Dinosaurs are infinitely more astonishing and enthralling than grizzly bears, old caves or the Antarctic, yet the CG animation makes one sit and wonder why these dinosaurs canít at least equal graphics created by computers which havenít been state-of-the-art since the middle of the first Clinton administration.

Presented in association with the Discovery Channel, "Dinotasia" may have worked better as occasional filler between episodes of "Man vs. Wild" and "Planet Earth" rather than a feature film. One can admire Nelson and Krentz for going for the fences, but this time out theyíre taking the bench after striking out.

My rating: C