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 “double take” best. Capra’s 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

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One Missed Call (EdwardHavens)

By EdwardHavens

April 21st, 2005

If Takashi Miike’s “One Missed Call” is, as some have suggested, a parody of the rash of recent J-horror films, he has created a work that is too clever for its own good.


If not, and Miike is simply a latecomer to an already-passé trend, he’s created an uncharacteristically derivative work that might suggest sixty-three films in twelve years might be too much for a single filmmaker to take on before hitting their expiration date. Either way, this film is one missed opportunity to bring something new to a tired genre.

Think of all the J-horror (and K-horror) movies you’ve seen and heard about from the past five years, and think of all the clichés from those films. The dead grandmother. The crazy mother. The absent father. The things that hide in the closet. The strange convulsions. The quick-cutting and multi-speed shaky-cam zooming and darting about. The evil young girl with long black hair who comes out of nowhere. Someone who proclaims “It’s over, it’s okay,” followed by a moment of calm before something even worse happens. The cheap thrills using extremely loud sound effects in place of a genuine shock. The explanation that the evil comes from someone who died under adverse conditions. They’re all here. Every single one. It’s as if there was no script at all but a magnetic plot kit on Miike’s kitchen fridge, with various scenes arranged and rearranged until nothing made any sense, and only then did he decide to start shooting.

To be fair, there are a couple of interesting moments in “One Missed Call” (especially handling, no pun intended, the creepy post-accident dialing of a cell phone by a disembodied arm) but not quite enough to make it anything more than a curiosity for hardcore Miike fans only. Plot is rather simple… the friends of a staid young woman (Kou Shibasaki, so exceptional as the psychotic Mitsuko in “Battle Royale,” doing a complete turnaround of her most famous character) start to die in mysterious ways, all tied to individual voicemail messages left on their cell phones, dated three days in the future, in which their last moment alive is recorded for posterity. Determined to figure out what’s going on after her best friend gets one of these creepy calls (despite the fact the phone was shut off when the call came in), the girl teams up with a introverted funeral director whose sister died under similar circumstances to find the missing link and save the day.

I’m really not that demanding a filmgoer, unless expecting a modicum of respect from filmmakers of their audiences is considered being difficult. When I go to see a horror film, I expect some truly frightening moments. Scenes that build up the suspense until oppressed audience members are ready to burst if you don’t give them that visceral release and give it to them right now. Like almost every other recent Asian horror film, “One Missed Call” relies too heavily on the loud quick thrill that’s there and gone in the blink of an eye. If this was meant to be a parody of films like “Ringu” and “Ju-On”... well, a parody should be smarter than the films it is mocking, not more frustratingly obtuse. Miike is normally a smarter filmmaker than he is here, and will hopefully return to form with his future endeavors.

My rating: D+