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.

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State Property II

By EdwardHavens

April 13th, 2005

"State Property II" isn't so much a movie as it is a ninety-four minute commercial for all of actor/writer/director/hip-hop mogul Damon Dash's various entrepreneurial enterprises. One could probably count on one hand the number of shots that do not feature a character framed to lovingly show off a piece of clothing from Dash's Rocawear or (hey hey now!) State Property clothing lines. Those interested in annoying things like plot or plausibility are best off steering clear of this inane celebration of all things thug.


If, like myself, you never saw, or (more likely) heard, of "State Property," Dash is kind enough to give a quick recap of the first film during the opening credits... not that the summary makes much sense, fighting for attention with the bombastic soundtrack and the busy, 1980's-era "Yo! MTV Raps" title sequence. I think it might have had something to do with a guy who calls himself Beans (Beanie Sigel) who tries to make himself the big man in Philly's drug scene but fall short of toppling the main crew in town. Regardless, Beans is now doing time in the pokey, and helpless to act as he watches his once-mighty empire fall to pieces as his inept lieutenants screw up deal after deal. Looking for a way to get back into the game, Beans hooks up with a fellow inmate, Pollo Loco (Victor 'N.O.R.E.' Santeago), to get out of prison and take over the Philly drug scene once and for all from Dame (Dash).

Or at least that's the excuse of a story. Most of all, this is a home movie shot on digital video, with a bunch of friends and acquaintances doing the modern urban version of that old Mickey Rooney "Come on, let's put on a show" zeal. You know you're in trouble when there is a reliance on narration to move the story forward. But unlike "Sin City," there is nothing of interest here to keep viewers motivated. Music fans will no doubt be playing Magic Mirror for most of the film ("I see Mariah Carey and Ol' Dirty Bastard... oh, there's Cam'ron and Kayne West"), but that's not enough to sustain an entire film.

If Mr. Dash is serious about being a filmmaker, by all means, I hope he does the right thing in the future and spends the time to learn how to tell a real story, because product placement, pretty women, fly rides and lots of guns going off can only take a movie so far. But then, I suspect this film wasn't really made for a thirtysomething white guy who drink tequila and enjoy Fellini movies.

My rating: D