End Of The Week Shorts #15

Today's Shorts: A Page Of Madness (1926), A Few Good Men (1992), True Heart Susie (1919), Vampyr (1932), Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011), Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014), War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017), Stagecoach (1939), My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

A Page Of Madness is an incredibly convoluted and complex silent film, but, despite being hard to follow, this is a terrific filmic experience. 
What you will have to know going into this film is that its about a man who gets a job as a janitor at an asylum so he can be close to his wife (who is a patient). Conflict arises from this when his daughter, who is to be married soon, finds this out. 
On top of being a formal and aesthetic storm of mastery and ingenuity, A Page Of Madness is a melancholic film about family, the disconnection between peoples' minds and the fact that we usually have little to no influence over a person's 'madness'. This then makes the symbol of a mask, something that creates a facade, a poignant and devastating element of this film's conclusion. 
Without delving into spoilers, all I can say is this is an early avant garde film worth being lost in.

I've seen it many times over, and it's not a masterpiece, but this movie always works and never fails to keep my attention. 
Performances all round are great, especially Tom Cruise's, and are supported incredibly well by Reiner's direction of the camera. He allows his actors to take control of the frame and shoots for a seamless edit that allows every major scene to flow perfectly. Above all of this, however, is Sorkin's tremendous script. Whilst his general structure and subtext are nothing remarkable, the dialogue he creates is sensational; it's not its content, but the punch and beat of the lines - truly brilliant. 
All in all, this is then rightly the great movie we all remember for the line: "You can't handle the truth!"

True Heart Susie is a melancholic drama and a romantic depiction of highest female virtue (as its title suggests). In regards to story, this is probably not a film that would work very well by the modern standards of some. But, seen with patience, this can certainly be considered a timeless film about moral forbearance and understanding, one that eventually accepts all of its characters as a narrative about time, forgiveness and maturity. 
Griffith projects this story with brilliant pace (helped by the great score of the version I watched), his iconic cross-cutting and some truly beautiful exterior sets and cinematography which captures a natural aesthetic that Griffith often managed so well. So, all in all, I had a wonderful time with True Heart Susie and certainly think it's a great silent film that anyone who appreciates early cinema should watch.

Though it has the tone of other Dreyer films, Vampyr is very different from the likes of Day Of Wrath, Ordet and The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. Driven not so much by religious themes, but mythology and legend, Vampyr is heavily plot-centric. However, there is a greater focus on aesthetics in this film, and in this regard it is a masterpiece. 
Dreyer then exhibits no minimalism with Vampyr, instead, he blends a pinch of expressionism with abstract and surreal narrative forms to produce a spectacle of ingenious camera movement and cinematography. This unfortunately distracted me from the story and narrative, which isn't as strong as Ordet or Day Of Wrath though seemingly has a lot to it, and so I'm left with little more to say other than that this is a tremendous first talkie from Dreyer and an uncharacteristic formal masterpiece.

A surprisingly brilliant reprisal of The Planet Of Apes series containing one of the greatest moments of all cinema: that tremendous roar of "NO!". 
The only real draw-backs of this film concern the building and use of the human characters, which, though they are peripheral to this story and so certainly aren't welcome to take the spotlight, could have been handled a little better. On a more positive note, Wyatt takes this film in a direction that the rest in the trilogy didn't; he embraced the spectacle that could be captured with the apes natural movement - look for instance to scenes where the young Caesar moves around the home, or where he climbs the giant redwood for the first time. 
Beyond this, Rise is all about story with some great ties to the idea of 'Genesis'. For a lot more on this that contains spoilers, check this out.

Though it is excellent, this is my least favourite film of the prequel trilogy. This all comes down to the over-use of the human characters. 
What Dawn then really establishes is the fact that humans are the most problematic aspect of The Planet Of The Apes; they just can't get them right. Dawn, however, has particularly uninteresting and the least complex of human characters. The greatest element of this film, however, is the arc of Caesar that sees him rise from a mere leader and awakener of the apes, to a young and established king. 
For a lot more on this topic, follow this link.

I've just seen it for the second time and this really is a great movie - combined with the previous two in the trilogy, I believe this is a masterpiece. 
As with the whole trilogy: human characters are the main weakness. So, though Harelson's Colonel is the most complex of human characters in the trilogy, there is a lot left to desire concerning ambiguous human details at many points of this movie. This then means that the biggest fault of War is that there's not enough of it. But, maybe there's more to come from this series that delves deeper into humanity's role, which may hopefully see them have their own rise and revolution? 
That said, for an in-depth and spoiler-based discussion of this movie, follow this link.

John Ford's seminal western is a stark classic that, of course, features John Wayne in his break-through role and wouldn't only go on to influence westerns for decades to come, but some of the greatest filmmakers of all time - Orson Welles in preparation for Citizen Kane being just one example. 
Technically perfect, Stagecoach's editing, pacing, structure and characterisation represent the gold standard of traditional Hollywood movies. Layered onto this, however, Stagecoach is an exploration of honour and integrity stemming from unlikely places. It is this meeting of character and tension that then imbues the action and high-drama sequences with such energy and life, making this movie entirely riveting and a worthwhile watch. 
Whilst so much more could be said about the tremendous chase sequence and the stunt work within, I'll refrain and urge anyone who hasn't seen this classic picture to give it a go.

My Neighbour Totoro is an utterly beautiful film, both in terms of form and content. It goes without saying, but the animation is astounding with innumerable intricate nuances that make each re-watch a slightly different experience. The Ghibli team also bring such life to their characters who, though they veer on the more cartoonish side at times, exude such raw emotion and strength of personality. 
The core of this movie though is certainly its exploration of maturation and a flourishing nature in two young girls who have to learn to grow up without the constant guiding hand of their parents. And the manner in which this subtext is injected into the fantasy elements of this narrative through symbolism is entirely masterful. 
So, all in all, My Neighbour Totoro is a film I simply can't fault; pure cinematic magic.

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