#362- Anatomy of a Murder

Quick recap: Lt. ‘Manny’ Manion is accused of murdering his wife’s rapist and it’s up to James Stewart to prove his innocence.

That’s some good lawyering right there

Fun (?) fact: James Stewart’s father HATED this movie so much he took out a full page ad in a newspaper urging people not to go see it.

I wonder why…

My thoughts: Here are a few words I never expected and/or want to hear from James Stewart again:

  • jiggle
  • sexual climax
  • sperm

And the absolute worst:

PANTIES

As you can ascertain, this movie was scandalous for its time (1959). Much of the plot revolves around a woman who has been assaulted and raped, who may or may not be telling the truth. And honestly, I still have no idea what to make of the ending. Lt. Manion was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity but there really is no way to know for certain whether he did it. The bigger point is what the movie is attempting to say. Both scenarios are troubling but also both speak to the times in a way that mirrors what is currently debated in our country.

Scenario #1- Laura was really raped and her husband killed the accuser in a fit of rage

So if this is what ended up happening, then this movie is one of the most fiercely feminist out there. Every single piece of evidence points to Laura coming on to her accuser and this having been a consensual affair. At no time does Manion’s attorney, Biegler, imply anything other than Laura telling the truth. There are several moments of him losing it during the trial when anything else is suggested, which is surprising because the idea about a woman ‘inviting rape’ is still a prevalent one in today’s society. What the verdict says is that it doesn’t matter what a woman wears or how she moves or hips or if she gets into a stranger’s car- she doesn’t deserve rape.

 

Scenario #2- Laura had an affair and her husband is insanely jealous and probably abusive

This is the scenario with the most evidence. And if this is the truth, then James Stewart is actually the villain of the film not the hero he usually is. He is just a lawyer looking to win with tricks rather than finding out the truth. In this perspective, the entire court case is one big circus act. It says a lot about our broken criminal system and how it comes down to who can argue best, not what the actual evidence is.

 

The end of the film finds Biegler visiting Manion and his wife, only to learn they have skipped town. The caretaker observes that Laura was upset and crying and the whole place is a mess. Manion has left a note which makes a joke about his insanity defense. Everyone laughs and happy music plays as the scene fades to black. This is either a happy ending where everything worked out because the criminal justice system works or it’s an incredibly bleak one where everything is broken and a murderer is loose. What a dilemma.

Final review: 4/5. Interesting concept but everything is so muddled, I don’t know what to make of it all.

Up next: The Killing Fields

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#360- The Young and the Damned

Quick recap: A group of boys from the slums of Mexico City resort to crime in order to survive.

Jaibo’s ill-fitting overalls are all you need to know he is up to no good

Fun (?) fact: The movie was very poorly received when it first came out but after people had a chance to calm down, they realized that it held a lot of truth. The Young and the Damned is now considered one of the greatest Mexican films of all time.

My thoughts: I’ve seemingly been caught in a ‘wayward youths’ movie vortex as of late and it’s hard to tell whether I can escape any time soon. I’ve lucked out up until now because almost all of the films have a glimmer of hope attached, even though most of the movie is very grim. (I’m looking at you, City of God)

The Young and the Damned, as I should’ve gleaned from the title, is a different beast altogether. It lured me in at first, making me think this was just a cute cautionary tale about bad boys who drink and smoke but who are just little scamps in the big picture of things. And actually, that part might be true until the Ultimate Wayward Youth, Jaibo, shows up, after breaking out of reform school. The boys immediately take to him as he shows them how to rob a blind man of his money. It’s a cruel scene, but nothing I haven’t seen before. They take it to a new level however when they chase the man and throw stones at him. That’s when I realized no one was playing around. Every actor in the film is believable as a corrupted youth. I was blown away with how complicated they showed their characters to be. As mean as some of the boys are (including a scene where Jaibo straight up murders a kid), it’s very obvious that the director fully believed poverty was to be blamed for all this hard lives.

Pedro, the main character, is about as real a kid as you can get. He tags along with the gang but never really does the bad stuff. He befriends a lost boy and gets him food to eat and he does his best to listen to his mother, even though they both know she can’t really take care of him. He gets caught up with Jaibo, however, and thus starts his downward spiral that ultimately ends in his tragic death. His murder really broke me in a way that is hard to convey because I wasn’t expecting that kind of ending at all. I kept thinking something good would eventually turn up but it didn’t. The final scene of the farmer throwing his body down a hill is so sickening but really hit home the point that Mexico City was in a crisis with poverty at the time. And it’s a reminder that we haven’t moved forward as much as we think we have.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Trouble in Paradise

#359- My Fair Lady

Quick recap: Professor Higgins places a bet he can turn Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl with the most grating voice, into a proper woman in just a few months’ time. It proves to be quite the challenge.

Fun (?) fact: Although Audrey Hepburn went through lengthy vocal training, it is Marni Nixon’s voice you ultimately hear. This bummed me out more than I expected it to.

My thoughts:  My Fair Lady is the musical to end all musicals. It’s hilarious at times, the music is catchy, the costumes are ridiculously beautiful and it’s got freakin’ Audrey Hepburn in the leading role! So why didn’t I love this movie?

Before I get to the heavy stuff, here are the fun highlights:

favorite song- Wouldn’t it be Loverly (because it’s fun to sing)

least favorite number– I’m an Ordinary Man

Favorite scene– the race track

favorite costume-

 

I think I walked away from this movie with sadness because it’s actually a depressing film. Eliza is a poor girl, who has clearly had a rough life. The only family she has is her drunk father who only seeks her out when he needs money. She finally catches a break with Professor Higgins, but is reduced to being humiliated and tortured and mocked mercilessly, all because of her status and voice. And when she finally, FINALLY triumphs, she realizes she was nothing more than a lab rat or a monkey to keep everyone’s attention. And then in the end she goes back to Higgins who has not treated her well at all, except to say that her face is ok. I get the humor in this, I really do, and Audrey Hepburn plays the role so perfectly. But if you look at the facts, this is a woman who had nothing and still has nothing, so she must return to the man beat her down because he’s grown accustomed to her being around.

Final review: 4/5. The music and performances make this a true classic although the story itself is icky.

Up next: The Young and the Damned

 

#358- La Dolce Vita

Quick recap: Marcello Rubini proves that the paparazzi are really just the worst.

Me, getting home from work everyday

Fun (?) fact: I know I’m picking the most obvious one, but it’s still somewhat amazing. The term ‘paparazzo/i’ was coined in this film. Paparazzo is the name of  Marcello’s photographer friend who chases down celebrities and the rich in order to get the scoop first.

Everyone, yes EVERYONE in this movie is the worst. Even that kitten in the previous gif.

My thoughts: I wouldn’t round my relationship with director Federico Fellini up to BFF status just yet, but we have certainly spent a lot of time together these last few years. I was introduced to his style with Juliet of the Spirits but it was Amarcord that won me over. I put my trust in him completely as a director. And honestly, with his movies, I felt invincible. ‘ If I can grasp the themes of 8 1/2,’ I thought to myself, ‘then I can understand any movie!’. But it was not to be, alas. Fellini, we’ve had some good times together but I just don’t know if I can forgive you for putting me through this movie.

I guarantee La Dolce Vita is one of those films people who call themselves ‘film enthusiasts’ love to tout as one of their favorites. And it’s not that I think they are full of it. I just don’t GET.IT.AT.ALL. There is not one redeeming quality about this movie whatsoever, except maybe the camera work. The gorgeous shots don’t come close to make up for the 3 hours of watching insufferable people do the most insufferable things like:

gathering friends around to listen to their poetry on vinyl

taking a famous actress around town and wading into a fountain in the middle of the night

trying to start an orgy at a party but no one is really into it so everyone just walks out to the beach and looks at a dead stingray

I had to brush up on the plot on Wikipedia because everything was just so disjointed and weird. One scene is at a site of a supposed miracle and then right after that, Marcello is taking his father out to a cabaret. The passage of time is loosely one week spend on the main character’s life but that’s also not really true because the end of the movie happens possibly years into the future. I know the good reviewer in me should have read on in the article about theme and symbolism but honestly, I was too worn out by watching everyone pick the worst possible choices in life.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: My Fair Lady