A Star Is Born (1954) Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

There are three different versions of this film, soon to be four by next year. I think that’s interesting given the heavy nature of this picture. A Star Is Born is about a young woman that becomes a ‘somebody’, and even more so, it’s about her alcoholic husband.

Judy Garland plays Esther Blodgett, renamed as Vikki Lester. It’s what they did back then, to give you a more ‘Hollywood’ name. I find it interesting that this film in someways peels back the curtain. That the stars people idealise really are just like them, with their own flawed little lives. Norman Maine, her husband, is a drunk. He tries to go clean for her, but constantly makes a fool of himself.

He knows he has a problem, yet he can’t help himself. It leads to his wife, Esther, to wither. He inspired her to be a star, to really appreciate and share her talent, yet without him it isn’t worth anything to her.

It’s when he realises that he’s ruining her life as well as his own that he takes his life. The thing is, in this film we see him cry. I think that’s really interesting, because films now rarely show that. It also was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

A Street Car Named Desire had a man wailing with raw emotion.

I find this fascinating, because I rarely find modern Hollywood films trying to hit these types of heavy emotions. Films like that are still being made, but you have to look elsewhere to find them and I think that’s ashame. Because these films are really trying to be about something, and they were mainstream.

They weren’t indie darling, these were intended for general audiences. I wonder why Hollywood doesn’t trust the average cinema goer with this type of art any more?

A Star is Born is flawed. It has too much time spent away from the main plot, making the pace inconsistent and the film far too long. There are parts that are just a bit boring. Yet Judy Garland acts splendidly in this film and sings beautifully with some real stand out songs. The Man That Got Away is a particular highlight.

You also believe their relationship. They really did fall in love and it shows. He worked hard to make her a star. She worked just as hard to save him…but some people can’t be.

When she’s grief stricken and still able to march on. You feel it.

Life is hard, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on your knees when it tries to cut you down.

I enjoyed this film, it isn’t the best of that era, All About Eve is better. Regardless this is still a good film, it’s just not perfect.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

The title of this film is a lie. I swear that the brunette gets more guys looking at her than Marilyn Monroe (not that Jane Russell isn’t a looker herself). This film is actually pretty funny, as a comedy should be.

It has the two leading ladies continually getting themselves caught up in hijinks, from accusations of stealing a tiara to being investigated for a love affair. It’s nice seeing the two women play off each other, and being a little man crazy.

I liked that, it’s not something that I feel like I see often enough in films (maybe I’m not watching the right ones?). Regardless, this film has scenes with men parading around shirtless. Let it never be said that the 1950s didn’t have fanservice for the ladies.

I liked how the women played off each other, they were loyal and always back each other up, no matter the trouble they wound up in. The music was nice and playful, and the romance was well done.

Marylin’s character however has the oddest addiction to diamonds. Yet it did lead to a great musical number, one that’s become iconic and kept alive through people like Madonna. It’s a scene that has been replicated throughout the decades, it’s a nice scene, but not the best musical number of it’s time. Yet it is still good. It’s a great example of how they achieved spectacle in a time before CGI, with it’s great sets and dancing.

This is a pleasant film, that’s smarter than you’d think. Give it a shot on a lazy afternoon if you’re game.

An American in Paris Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

When an old fashioned American musical comes to mind, this is essentially the type of movie you get. Not La La Land.

Now La La Land had great acting and cinematography; but the musical numbers floundered. Due mainly to the main actors singing and dancing. They’re no Gene Kelly, and damn it if that man can’t dance!

He does an excellent job in this film. He’s likeable, charming, with the right amount of wit. Just like the rest of this film. This isn’t one for everyone, if you don’t like musicals, dancing or good clean fun, this isn’t for you. It’s really old fashioned, but honestly, I found it refreshing.

It’s about a man that falls in love with a girl, they can’t be together for one reason or another, then they end the film in an embrace. All is right with the world! It’s cheesy and silly, but nice.

It’s a very typical film that way. What isn’t are these strange moments when the film can become quite surreal. The best example is near the end of the film where it feels like your watching a theatre ballet of sorts. They’re are heaps of dancers, the chorography is just great. It feels dramatic and grand. The shots are carefully taken, your not really sure what’s happening, but I loved it regardless.

Did it make much sense to the film as a whole? Maybe not, but it felt important and symbolic. It could’ve been it’s own separate short film, like someone inserted their experimental art piece in the middle of a standard musical flick.

Whatever the case, I’m glad it was there, because it was just that well done.

The film overall has great music, good dancing.

I felt like Leslie Caron, though a great dancer, was rather weak in her role as the main love interest. I also found the romance to not be believable. Yes, they like each other. But Gene Kelly’s character, Mulligan, almost had a stalker-ish vibe to him in the beginning. It was odd.

There are other characters that just get their hearts broken. It’s a little sad really, but then again that’s life, and somewhat realistic. Love never was fair.

I just want to quote one of my favourite parts of the film:

“That’s… quite a dress you almost have on.”

“Thanks.”

“What holds it up?”

Modesty.”

That’s the type of good dialogue that keeps the story interesting, even though the film does have it’s slow points. Ironically those lines above weren’t even said by Ms. Caron, but by Nina Foch. I feel like Ms. Foch was wasted and under utilised in this film, because she stole every scene she was in. She holds her own against Mr. Kelly, and I look forward to watching her more in the future.

This isn’t a film for everyone. It’s a classic. It’s a 1950s American film. You’ll know whether you want to see it or not. I, however, fully recommend it.