FilmJerk Favorites

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

||| Joseph L. Mankiewicz |||
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz directed 20 films in a 26-year period, and was very successful at every kind of film, from Shakespeare to western, drama to musical, epics to two-character pictures, and regardless of the genre, he was known as a witty dialogist, a master in the use of flashback and a talented actors' director.

The 1950 Oscar for Best Picture and Screenplay brought Mankiewicz wide recognition as a writer and a director, with his sardonic look at show business glamour and the empty lives behind it. This well orchestrated cast of brilliant and catty character actors is built around veteran actress Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as her understudy desperate for stardom.

One of Mankiewicz’ more intimate films, this highly regarded and major artistic achievement is a spirited romantic comedy set in England of the 1880’s about a widow who moves into a haunted seashore house and resists the attempts of a sea captain specter to scare her away. This is a pleasing and poignant romance that is equally satisfying as a good old ghost story.

Mankiewicz wrote and directed this witty dissection of matrimony that has three women review the ups and downs of their marriages (with all its romance, fears and foibles) after receiving a letter telling them that one of their husbands has been unfaithful. Once again Mankiewicz deftly utilizes the skills of a well-chosen ensemble, which includes a young Kirk Douglas at his dreamiest.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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You Got Served

By BrianOrndorf

January 30th, 2004

The hip-hop dance sequences in “You Got Served,” the new urban dance drama are thumping, exciting, and fun to watch. Too bad the rest of the film is positively hip-hopeless.


There’s a tradition in the dance films of the 80s and 90s, in that for every interesting scene of booty shaking, there must be at least twice as much clichéd and painful screenwriting to support it. With “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” and the two “Breakin’” films, the formula thrived to decent box office, and occasionally became cinema legend.

The tradition continues in the new decade with “You Got Served,” a highly energetic dance drama about covert dance competitions that sinks to mind-boggling depths of awfulness when the characters feel compelled to speak. Much like its cousin, the recent Jessica Alba misfire “Honey,” “Served” has this outlandish notion that the story is the real glue to the film’s success. Writer/director Christopher Stokes has plenty of great dance footage to work with, and, unlike “Honey,” the filmmaker seems to enjoy the rumbling thunder of the underground hip-hop nation of dance-offs, often letting the “crews” just do their thing without much obstruction. The movie does present an overtly urban storyline that is about as fictional as the dancing world depicted, including stogie-suckling crime lords, “big momma” type grandmothers, and the thematically desperate shooting of a 9 year-old to get the film to a climax. Oh, and the two leads of the film are well meaning DRUG COURIERS. Clearly, there’s not a lot to root for.

Whenever the film finds itself in a hole, Stokes cuts back to the dance footage, making the picture seem like a less depressing venture than it was before. The tightly choreographed routines are fun to watch, and they’re backed with a booming soundtrack that helps these propulsive sequences out immensely. It’s a wonder why Stokes just didn’t cut out the Ebonics-heavy dialog (which actress Jennifer Freeman has a hard time with, much to the delight of the audience I attended the screening with) and afterschool special material that clogs up the momentum of his film, and just showcase the dances on their own. But I guess I shouldn’t expect the director of “House Party 4” to have that kind of foresight.

“You Got Served” is borderline racist (all the Caucasian characters are designated as pure evil right away), the acting atrocious (by such “thespians” as Raz B, Lil’ Fizz, and J-Boog), and Stokes has a borderline grip on what making a movie is all about. But all that is silenced once the dancing begins, and it’s hard to deny a mighty power like that.

My rating: C