Annex - Crawford, Joan (Women, The)_NRFPT_02The Trylon and Heights Theater’s fabulous series, 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith, continues with George Cukor’s classic, The Women.

Review by Trylon volunteer Maria Gomez.

I come from a world where a woman’s gotta come out on top….or it’s just too darn bad.” –Miriam Aarons

Men have long been trying to understand the workings of the female mind, and it seems that women have been fighting to be understood and recognized as strong, independent, self-sufficient beings for just as long. But are we not beings who still ache for the love of another to support us in our endeavors? George Cukor’s 1939 classic, appropriately titled The Women, tackles this very conundrum like no other film before or since.

Centering on a high-society group of New York women, The Women tells the story of how seemingly happily married socialite Mary Haines becomes the talk of the town when her husband steps out with another woman. Soon after being publicly humiliated and shamelessly gossiped about by her friends, Mary soon finds that all the women are finding themselves betrayed by their lovers.

Now the real fun begins! How will she go on? Will she dump that no good, two-timing so-and-so or will she swallow her famous pride and take him back?

What is even more intriguing about this film is the amazingly stellar all-female cast. Heading the bill is Norma Shearer as Mary, followed by Rosalind Russell as her scheming cousin Sylvia Fowler, Paulette Goddard as Mary’s scrappy gal-pal Miriam, Joan Fontaine as Mary’s confidante Peggy, Mary Boland as the love-struck Countess de Lave, and Joan Crawford as the reigning mistress Crystal Allen. Legend has it that even all the animals used in the film were all-female.

You would imagine a certain level of cattiness may have been an ongoing issue on the set, considering all this estrogen floating around, and you would be right. According to Rosalind Russell’s autobiography, she stated that she called in ‘sick’ to the set every day until Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford agreed to share top billing. Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer were said to also have some tension between them on-set but no more than what you would expect from a pair of Hollywood divas.

Filled with witty one-liners, The Women gives us a peek into the social consciousness of women at the time, and what was expected of them. The film also tackles some controversial issues that were just starting to become common place in the film industry at that time–divorce, extramarital affairs, and child custody weren’t discussed in mixed company. The film also addresses not only being single but, as a woman, being limited within your financial means and still having to rely on a man to survive.

Serious contemporary social issues aside, The Women is jam-packed with back-stabbing cousins, two-timing husbands, cat fights in the mud, totally bizarre aerobic work-outs, crazy outfits, an amazing cast, outrageous dialogue, and a well-executed plot for revenge!  The Women has it all… except men, of course.

Maria Gomez was born and raised in Minneapolis and currently resides in St Paul. She likes animals, gardening, paranormal thrillers, and camping on Madeline Island. 

The Heights Theater screens The Women on Thursday night at 7:30. Purchase tickets here.

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 11.21.56 PM

American Jesus review by Trylon volunteer David Berglund.

There is likely no more essential subject of study in a pursuit to understand American culture than Christianity.  It is undeniable that the person of Jesus defines America – not because he holds the nation’s allegiance, but because no matter your worldview or theology, it remains inescapable to be defined by your view of him in some way.  Even the most secular of Americans cannot avoid confronting and interacting with Christianity, as its influence is not only apparent in the many church buildings that pepper our landscape, but because its teachings have impacted the social and political lives of all citizens.

With American Jesus, filmmaker Aram Garriga examines how Christianity has shaped our nation and how Christian faith and practice has been shaped by broader cultural shifts. It is revealing, for example, that with the rise of prosperity and consumerism in Reagan’s America, the methods of Christian proselytism largely shifted from local communities and interpersonal charity to slick, sensory appeals.  This shift reveals that where once Christianity created culture, it now quite often becomes subservient to it. Why, for instance, would there ever be a need for Bibleman, the Christian superhero, or Christoga, a Christ-centric yoga video? The answer is that in America, Christians many times are more concerned with fighting a battle for cultural relevance than knowing and sharing faith in the person of Jesus. While the film points to some Christians who are actively creating interesting works of art and honestly processing their faith, it rightly asserts that such figures find themselves with no real audience – too Christian for the art world, and too progressive or uncertain for the Christian world.

This Christian finds this disconcerting, as a polarized culture war leaves little actual room for Jesus. Indeed, for a film titled American Jesus, there is surprisingly little mentioned of him.  While there is attention given to Christ’s more humble servants, it is the loudest and most forceful pushers of Christendom and their opponents that are given the film’s weight.  This, of course, is fitting, as these are the voices that are likewise most noticeable in the culture at large.

Ultimately, however, it is the many shapes and shades of American Christianity in the film that both serve to make the film consistently interesting and somewhat disjointed.  As there is so much variance in the Christian practice and theology presented in the film, its ultimate lament of culture war seems misaligned with the faithful and seemingly genuine voices of faith in the film that do not fit this warrior part so neatly. Nevertheless, American Jesus is interesting, engaging, and important. It commendably addresses a topic of great societal relevance that is rarely discussed without animus and calls us to enter a conversation with patience, thoughtfulness, and respect.  To that, it is hard not to simply say, “Amen.”

David Berglund is a proud Longfellow resident and ardent cinema junkie who previously wrote on film with his wife, Chelsea Berglund, on their Movie Matrimony blog.

American Jesus screens Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 & 8:45. Purchase tickets here.

A70-170

Our Gene Hackman in the Seventies series continues with what might be his most unheralded role, as angry cop turned heroin addict in French Connection II. This sequel is outstanding, though difficult to endure. Don’t miss it!

Review by Trylon volunteer Michelle Baroody.

Released in 1975, French Connection II was directed by John Frankenheimer, the filmmaker behind The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Ronin (1998), and Black Sunday (1977—perhaps the most relevant to our Twin Cities interests after winning the bid for the 2018 Super Bowl—it’s the one where foreign terrorists attempt to shoot poison darts into the game from a blimp). As for Part 2 in the Hackman series, a poster from the film’s release boasts, “The French Connection was only the beginning. THIS IS THE CLIMAX.” And with a somewhat slower momentum toward said climax, French Connection II portrays the determined return of a partner-less Popeye (Hackman of course), still in pursuit of the heroin-smuggling, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), the “Frog One” who got away at the end of Friedkin’s “beginning.”

French Connection II begins with the same shot as the original, with an expansive view of Marseilles and a quick zoom into its shipyard. Popeye arrives by cab to the scene; it’s April Fool’s Day in France, which is apparently a time for taping paper fish on unsuspecting backs, bums, and cabs. However, this year the ruffians in town have succeeded in tricking the entire police force into searching through cases of dead fish for smuggled drugs and the chaotic scene further confuses an already discombobulated Doyle. Encountering a sea of untranslated French and fish guts, the New York City cop crosses the border without knowing much about the language or customs of the Frenchman he seeks.

Sent on assignment to work with the Marseilles police force, Popeye’s insubordination and wry commentary are back with a vengeance, as it appears that his distaste for authority is not diminished by air travel. In fact, the sequel uses this as an occasion to amp up its nationalist cause. Popeye arrives in the country with a suitcase full of smuggled Hershey bars and a poorly concealed weapon, critiquing the lesser quality of French chocolate, security, and politics, a sentiment that is reinforced by his claim “I’d rather be a lamppost in New York, than the president of France.” He mocks French speakers for not knowing English and snarls at French women for not understanding his advances. Out of his element both socially and professionally, Popeye insists on working alone.

However, the film (and Popeye’s European vacation with it) takes an unexpected turn, as the narcotics officer gets distracted by a young volley ball player and becomes a hostage addicted to that stuff they put in canned soup. After a detox full of xenophobic slurs, the film ends with a “Frog”-style shoot out and a healthy amount of chase scenes involving both public and private transportation. The final sequences build to a climactic finish, where Popeye’s point of view dictates the shots and sounds captured by the camera, leading to another abrupt ending, but this time with some narrative closure.

Where French Connection II really outdoes the original is in the details of the character—we are taken deeper into the mind and temperament of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and the result is a psychological thriller worthy of the big screen!

Michelle Baroody is from Chicago, currently in Minneapolis, a graduate student, and the coordinator of the TC Arab film fest. She is quite fond of geriatric cats, coconut oil, and the newspaper.

The Trylon is screening French Connection II Friday and Saturday at 7:00 & 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 & 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

frenchconnection1

Our Gene Hackman in the Seventies series opens with perhaps his most iconic role, as angry cop “Popeye” Doyle in William Friedkin’s The French Connection, for which our man won his first Oscar (and which inspired the name of the fried chicken franchise!)

Review by Trylon volunteer Michelle Baroody.

The two things you’re sure to learn from watching The French Connection: 1) Never let a cop borrow your car; and 2) Never pay for Paul Newman when Gene Hackman is on deck!

Kicking off the series Gene Hackman in the Seventies is the classic 1971 thriller The French Connection, directed by William Friedkin, who is best known for this film and The Exorcist (1973). While there are no possessed girls or rotating heads in this gritty American crime drama, there is plenty of belligerence, brawn, and border crossing to go around.

The film opens in the port city Marseilles, where a French detective eats a sandwich and trails a drug kingpin, Alain “Frog One” Charnier (played by Spanish actor Fernando Rey). However, in the first five minutes of action, this unnamed detective loses his life and his baguette to an unknown assassin.

The French Connection quickly moves to Brooklyn where we encounter narcotics officer Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Hackman), who dons a Santa suit and joins his partner, Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider), in chasing down a young, petty drug dealer. We learn quickly that Popeye is an intuitive, sleep-deprived, aggressive, and racist cop in New York City, fond of casual sex and cocktails, whose “brilliant hunches” might lead to several dead officers or the solution to NYC’s drug problem. It is from such a hunch that the film gets its name, as Popeye and Cloudy stumble upon storeowner Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and his wife Angie (Arlene Farber), an Italian American couple with unsavory French associates.

Perhaps the real “French Connection” is in this movie’s style. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave of the 50s and 60s, director Friedkin uses choppy editing, urban settings, and hand-held cameras together with an abrupt ending to give the film a kind of rough-and-tumble realism. Shot on location in New York and based on the real lives of two New York City cops in the 70s (who each play minor roles in the film), The French Connection is not to be missed. Hackman’s Oscar-winning performance and a 35mm print of the film are sure to fill your desires for spectacular zooms, fake blood, eerie music, car chases, and good old-fashioned police work.

And stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Michelle Baroody is from Chicago, currently in Minneapolis, a graduate student, and the coordinator of the TC Arab film fest. She is quite fond of geriatric cats, coconut oil, and the newspaper.

The Trylon is screening The French Connection Friday and Saturday at 7:00 & 9:15, Sunday at 5:00 & 7:15. Purchase tickets here.

©Jay Blakesberg/Retna LTD.

The Trylon and Heights Theater’s 1939: Hollywood’s Zenith series continues with perhaps the most iconic American musical ever made: The Wizard of Oz.

Review by Trylon regular Ben Schmidt.

Oz.

The great and powerful film most of us have fond memories of watching…on television. But even on the tube, The Wizard of Oz bursts with magic and charm.

Case in point: summers ago I was staying with an uncle, moving dirt from his backyard to his front yard (a simple tasked I managed to not be very good at). He and I were at the video store one night, looking for something to bring home and watch with the family. While going back and forth about this option or that, I learned that his daughters (ages five and seven at the time) had never seen Oz. That night, they finally did.

Oh, and how pissed they were when it began. All through dinner I’d amped them up–an incredible world, wonderful songs, trees that whip apples at your head. But the opening credit sequence, in black and white of all things, had them feeling duped.

“Just wait,” I said.

And to their credit, they did. Grumpy and bored, they settled in. But I noticed as the tornado began to bear down on Dorothy’s farm, they sat up a bit. And having landed, as Dorothy stepped out from her home into the Technicolor glory of Oz, they were… absolutely… still. From that moment, they were completely taken with it.

The Wizard of Oz is special, able to completely transcend the small screen we all watched it on that evening.

Better to have seen it on TV than never at all. But now here is a chance to see the Wizard in at the beautiful Heights Theatre this Thursday.

The great and powerful deserves nothing less.

The Wizard of Oz screens at the Heights Theater Thursday night at 7:30. Purchase tickets here.