#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

#355- Jacob’s Ladder

Quick recap: A Vietnam vet’s life starts to get really weird and creepy when he starts having visions of demons and nightmares of torture.

I finally realized that Tim Robbins reminds me of John Green and now I can’t unsee it

Fun(?) fact: Much of the imagery for the film comes from photographs taken by Joel-Peter Witkin. I won’t post on here because it is super creepy and gruesome but you should Google it if that’s your thing. Or just scroll through the Subreddit Creepypasta because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of his pictures there at some point.

Macaulay Culkin! Tim Robbins! Jason Alexander! This movie is peak 90s

My thoughts: SPOILERS APLENTY!!

I’d heard this movie was terrifying but I tend to take those warnings with a grain of salt. Basically, all I knew was that it had something to do with Vietnam and seeing as how I never fought in the war, I considered myself safe. What I did not realize is that Jacob’s Ladder is about visions and nightmares, of which I have PLENTY (nightmares, not visions).

One of my favorite things about this movie is how minor details seem so creepy and can add up to something terrifying. In the beginning of the movie, Jacob heads to his local VA to talk with a doctor about his flashbacks, only to find out there is no record of him in the system. It’s unnerving but seeing how this was Pre-Computer age, not entirely illogical. But as the movie progresses, more and more of Jacob’s life starts to fade. He realizes something awful happened to him in Vietnam but when he goes to see a lawyer, the lawyer tells him that he never actually fought and was dishonorably discharged. Combine that with the super creepy demons and this movie kept me up for hours after it was over.

And here’s the spoiler: The entire film takes place in the moments before Jacob dies. Turns out, he was mortally wounded in Vietnam after all and all these nightmares and visions are just his mind’s way of coming to terms with his mortality. I was a little annoyed by how hokey the scene was when Jacob is reunited with his dead son Gabe and they walked upstairs to a white light, but then the next scene was the medics crowded around his body and that stark contrast really threw me off. It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in All that Jazz, when he does that huge musical number about saying good bye and then the very next scene is of him being put into a body bag. It’s such a sobering thought to realize that I just sat through a man’s final, horrifying moments on earth but I’m also grateful that Jacob finally got some peace.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Possibly more Horrorfest?

#351- Irreversible

Quick recap: A tragic night is told in reverse chronological order

just about the only screenshot I can show

Fun (?) fact: As if the film wasn’t gruesome enough, a low frequency sound was added to the first 30 minutes which causes nausea and dizziness. 3 people fainted during the Cannes showing and it’s claimed that 200 others walked out.

My thoughts: My main draw to Irreversible was the reverse chronological order format. Each scene ends at the moment as the one previous to it. For example, one scene starts as a group of friends walks to a party and ends as the two men talk about their sexuality. The previous scene started as the two men discussed their sexuality and ended as the woman left the party. It’s an interesting concept and made me pay attention more because I didn’t know what would be important later on. The beginning of the movie, which is really the end of the night, wraps up what happened but I didn’t realize it while watching because I didn’t know what would be significant.

The rest of the movie is disturbing on SO many levels. Nudity, graphic violence and a 10 minute full rape scene are just some of what I had to endure. Was it a worthwhile film for the list? Maybe? But probably not. I hesitate to throw full support for the movie because it’s just so dark for no good reason. Director Gaspar Noé began Irreversible as a study of married life and as his plan went on, the idea become more dark. So it’s not that he wants us to learn anything from this; he just wants to throw as many disgusting things as he can for the sake of art. The first 20 minutes are of the main character Marcus in a gay club, searching for a man. Noé was afraid he would come across as homophobic in the scene so he played one of the characters participating and enjoying himself, as if that makes it ok. The rape scene is just as horrible as you would imagine (please don’t) but later on we find out that the woman who was raped was also pregnant. What’s the point of adding that detail other than to shock and bum everyone out?

Final review: 2/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#345- Three Colors: Blue

Quick recap: A woman’s husband and child are killed in a car accident and she must learn how to navigate this new life without them.

yes, there was actually a lot of the color blue in the movie

Fun (?) fact: The scene where Julie scraped her knuckles along a stone wall was real. Actress Juliette Binoche didn’t think a prosthetic hand looked real enough so she went full badass and did it herself.

I know she’s in a deep depression, but ordering coffee and then pouring it over ice cream is PERFECT

My thoughts: I knew this movie would be sad but I didn’t expect it to cut so deep. It’s a sadness that settled into me and took awhile to shake off after the credits were over. But Blue is also a beautiful film and actually hopeful in the end, even if only marginally so.

It is impossible to do this movie justice because the visuals are so rich. It’s not a dialogue-heavy film anyway and it doesn’t need to be. I’ve never been through grief like the main character but watching her try to continue on seemed so familiar. There aren’t any scenes of her completely losing it like you would expect. Instead, there’s a pushing down of emotions that somehow make it all the more depressing to watch, like her swimming in the pool and crying.

The score plays a huge part in this film, if not the most important part. Julie’s late husband was a composer, although it turns out to have been her writing most pieces. He also had a mistress who shows up pregnant towards the end of the movie. It feels weird saying I disagree with Julie’s decision to house the mistress and finish the symphony because this is such a personal story. It’s like it actually happened, as if I watched a woman’s grief in real time. And when someone has lost as much as Julie, what else is there to say or do?

Final review: 5/5

Up next: The Right Stuff