44 Days Of Paranoia #22: Suddenly (dir by Lewis Allen)


We are halfway through the 44 Days of Paranoia!  In order to mark this special occasion, I’d like to feature one of the first true American conspiracy films, the 1954 film noir Suddenly.

Suddenly takes place in the small town of Suddenly, California.  (If only the town had been named Tranquility, so much trouble could have been avoided.)  On the day that President of the United States is scheduled to visit the town, a group of gangsters led by John Baron (Frank Sinatra) takes over the house of the Benson family.  It turns out that the Benson House overlooks the train station where the President will be arriving and Baron is planning on assassinated the President as soon as he steps off the train.  Baron sets up his rifle in the family dining room and, while he waits for his target to arrive, he also has to deal with a steadily growing number of hostages who do not want the President to be assassinated in Suddenly.

Clocking in at just 70 minutes and basically taking place on only one set, Suddenly is a grimly suspenseful film that is all the more effective because it deliberately keeps Baron’s motives obscure.  We know that someone has hired Baron to kill the President but we’re never quite sure who.  In the role of John Baron, Frank Sinatra gives one of his best performances and invests the character with subtle menace.

Frighteningly, Suddenly has apparently recently been remade by Uwe Boll.  That’s the type of news that will make any lover of classic film go, “Agck!”  However, the original Suddenly has entered into the public domain so, if you have 70 minutes to spare, please feel free to watch it below.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City

The D.C. Critics Embrace 12 Years A Slave


Oscar season continues!

A lot of observers (like me) were a bit surprised to see neither Los Angeles, New York, nor the National Board of Review name 12 Years A Slave best picture of 2013.

However, 12 Years A Slave has been doing well with the smaller critics groups.  Earlier today, it was named best picture by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association.

Here’s the full list of winners from D.C.:

Best Picture: “12 Years a Slave”

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyongo, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, “Her”

Best Art Direction: Catherine Martin, “The Great Gatsby”

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity”

Best Editing: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger, “Gravity”

Best Score: Hans Zimmer, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Foreign Language Film: “The Broken Circle Breakdown”

Best Animated Feature: “Frozen”

Best Documentary: “Blackfish”

Best Acting Ensemble: “12 Years a Slave”

Best Youth Performance: Tye Sheridan, “Mud”

Ghosts of Christmas Past #9: The Brady Bunch 1.12 “The Voice of Christmas”


I haven’t seen that many episodes of The Brady Bunch but the few I have seen lead me to suspect that The Brady Bunch may be the most creepy show ever made.  With their eternally optimistic attitudes and their total and complete faith in authority figure Mike Brady, you have to wonder if The Brady Bunch is a family or if they’re a cult.  Plus, what was the deal with Alice?  Was she an indentured servant?  Did Mike Brady win her in a poker game?  I mean, seriously, I’ve never seen anyone so happy and willing to devote her life to picking up after a bunch of entitled little brats.

However, I also know that some people love this show and see it as a perfect example of bizarre Americana.  And I have to admit that I’ve often said, “Oh!  My nose!” just to get a cheap laugh on twitter.

So, with that in mind, tonight’s Ghost of Christmas Past is the very first Brady Bunch Christmas episode.  First aired in 1969, The Voice of Christmas tells what happens when Carol loses her voice.  Does Mike use Carol’s lack of verbal ability to confess that he’s been cheating on her with his secretary?  Do Marcia and Greg finally act on their secret feelings together while sharing a cup of coffee?*  You’ll have to watch to find out!

——

* That’s a reference to what those of us who watch too much TV call the “Folgers Too Close Siblings commercial.”  It used to air every Christmas but I haven’t seen it yet this year.  Here it is, in case you’re curious:

Song of the Day: Let It Go (by Idina Menzel)


Frozen - Queen Elsa

My latest review was one where I mention my surprise at just how good Disney’s latest animated film really turned out. It was a surprise born out of seeing the House that Mickey built returning back to it’s fairy tale roots. A return which first began with 2010’s Tangled and now continues with their latest, Frozen.

Close to everyone who has seen Frozen have fallen in love with the film and with many of the characters in the film. Like all past classic Disney animated films, Frozen also succeeds in having some great musical numbers. Frozen doesn’t just have strong characters, storytelling and musical numbers, but it has some great singing performances to round everything into what looks like a classic in the making.

Disney Animation has been kind enough to provide, for free, one of the biggest highlights of the film and what I consider my favorite singing performance in a cast full of them. Idinia Menzel as Elsa didn’t just hold her own in the acting department, but also knocks it out of the park with her power ballad “Let It Go”. Her voice just has a power all their own which brings the character of Elsa to life. The emotions she shows throughout this number just grows and grows as her character grows gradually from the unsure Elsa and into the sassy and confident queen inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s character from his fairy tale, The Snow Queen.

Best to just watch and listen to Idina Menzel just sing her heart out.

Let It Go

The snow glows white on the mountain night
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I stay
Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air and to the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
My one thought crystalizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
When I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand in the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

Quickie Review: Frozen (dir. by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee)


FROZEN

“The cold never bothered me anyway.” — Queen Elsa

During the 1990’s Disney was the king of animated films. It was a decade where they enjoyed a new Golden Age of film animation which first started with Little Mermaid. As the company entered the new millenium their success with traditional animation began to wane and a new kid on the block took over as king. This new kid was called Pixar and soon enough they joined the House that Mickey built. So, it was through Pixar that Disney retained their crown when it came to animated films, but their own in-house animation house suffered setbacks through failed projects and/or subpar productions.

It was in 2010 when Disney itself began a nice comeback with the surprise hit Tangled. This new Disney take on the Rapunzel fairy tale became not just a hit with both critics and fans, but showed that Disney could compete with their very own Pixar when it came to CG animation and storytelling. These were two areas that Pixar were known for and Disney followed it up with another critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite Wreck-It Ralph.

Frozen marks the latest from Walt Disney Animation and, at first glance, the film looked like an attempt to replicate the fun and whimsical nature of 2010’s Tangled. Even some of the character animations looked similar. The film wasn’t helped by a media and ad campaign which made the film feel like it would be about pratfalls and juvenile jokes. Yet, what the public got when it was finally released this past Thanksgiving was a definite return for Walt Disney Animation to their heyday of the 1990’s.

The film takes Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen fairy tale and makes it into a story about the love of two sisters in a faraway kingdom where one grows up repressing her ability to control and create ice and snow for fear of harming her younger sister. It’s this part of Frozen which brings the film from becoming just an animated production for little kids and into the realm of appealing to audiences of all ages. Even Olaf the Snowman who was a prominent face in all the ads leading up to the film’s release ended up becoming more than just comedic relief.

The characters of Elsa and Anna, at first, look like your typical Disney princesses, but as the narrative moves forward the two pretty much blow up whatever negative tropes that have been attributed to past Disney princess roles. Anna didn’t just come off as the spunky little sister, but becomes a multi-faceted character who actually becomes the redemption for her older sister Elsa.

Now, speaking of Elsa, Disney has been famous for creating some very iconic female characters with their animated films. Some of these characters have been the protagonists in their films, but some have also been the villains. In Frozen, Disney has created a character in Elsa who many could say inhabited both sides of the film’s conflict. She becomes a sort of antagonist midway through the film due to fear and ignorance of her ability to create and control snow and ice. This incident also prompts the film’s turn from being just a cute and fun film and into the realm of becoming a classic in the making.

Seeing Elsa accepting her true nature and becoming more confident in herself as a woman makes Frozen a rarity in animated films where females character tend to have male counterparts to help them along. Elsa also becomes such a great character due to Idina Menzel’s voice performance both in the speaking parts and the songs Elsa becomes a part of. In fact, I would be quite surprised if the most pivotal moment and song in the film, “Let It Go”, doesn’t end up winning best original song come Oscar time. Ms. Menzel brought so many facets of emotions through Elsa from a sense of despair to a sassy determination that should make the character a fan-favorite of little girls and mature women for years to come.

Frozen, a film that looked like it was a flop for Disney waiting to happen, ends up becoming one of the surprise hits of this holiday season and cements the return of Walt Disney Animation back to the forefront of animated film storytelling. This was a film that ended up becoming more than it’s initial first impression had going for it. A film that showed the power of female-centric storytelling could compete with the sturm und drang of the male-dominated blockbusters.

I wholeheartedly recommend people see this film on the bigscreen if just to experience Idina Menzel’s performance in “Let It Go” on the biggest screen venue as possible.