Article: The Truman Show

Title: suggested by anonymous.

Title: The Truman Show

Year: 1998

Director: Peter Weir

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements and mild language

Quality: 7.5/10

Content: 7/10

Since 2002, Dr. Joel Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University, and his brother, Ian, have been the leading researchers of a rare mental illness that has affected more than forty people in the U.S. and U.K. Patients of this illness range from drug abusers to Army veterans, and the effects range from travelling to a downtown Manhattan federal building for asylum to (almost) climbing the Statue of Liberty for escape (Marantz).

What exactly is this mental illness? The Gold brothers have titled it the “Truman Show delusion” after the majority of their patients explicitly mentioned the film as the origin of these false perceptions or as a medium of relatability (Kershaw). Victims of the Truman Show delusion suffer from a paranoia that there are cameras everywhere filming them and broadcasting them live to a worldwide audience, and the delusion that their relatives and friends are all actors in this 24/7 reality TV show (Kershaw).

Truman, as seen through a camera. Paramount Pictures

Many of these cases point to The Truman Show as either the instigator or endorsement of these thoughts. Maybe because that’s how real and relatable The Truman Show is.

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is just a normal guy in a normal town who does normal things. Or so he thinks. Gradually, he discovers odd peculiarities that lead him to believe he’s being filmed 24/7. Jim Carrey’s performance is so winning that you feel like one of those viewers back at home or at a bar rooting for him. Though there is a handful of normal, “in-movie” shots, most of the shots we see are through the show-within-the-show’s perspective. Even the aspect ratio of the film is small at 1.85:1—very close to that of television sets in the 1990s and of most screens today. Note the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen in most movies. Depending on the size of the screen, the bars should be either non-existent or minuscule.

Despite its persuasive use of dramatic irony, The Truman Show could’ve added more to the effect of Truman and his gradual realization of his lie of a life. In probably the second most dramatic scene in the film (second to the finale), Truman recklessly drives around the town with Meryl (Laura Linney), his on-screen wife, and he swells with frightening madness and insanity. Carrey’s performance already gives this scene the skittish, insane vibe it has, but somehow, that scene feels a bit underwhelming. It could be that the scene was too short for the mood to sink in, or the ending with men in biochemical suits surrounding Truman doesn’t seem right for the mood of the scene. Honestly, though, I don’t know what I would do to change this scene; I just know it could’ve gone places that it didn’t.

Escaping the set, as seen through a camera. Paramount Pictures

Regardless, Jim Carrey’s crazed Truman and Laura Linney’s frightened Meryl along with Peter Weir’s hyperventilating camera nail the mood while it lasts, so maybe it evens out. Their collaboration of talents throughout the film highlights Truman’s growth from an ignorant idiot to one who—slight spoiler alert ahead—disobeys “God” at the end. As the film begins, the falsity in all the lies Truman believes to be true are revealed, and it’s hard to resist the urge to scream at his ignorance multiple times throughout the film. But, boy, does the ending satisfy that itch and add to the victorious actions of Truman. Jim Carrey is the star of The Truman Show, but unfortunately, his résumé boasts only a small handful of other good films; we’ll have to take what we can get, I guess. His charm and charisma make Truman so lovable and appealing to both the on-screen audience and real audience. This one’s a crowd-pleaser and a necessity for film fanatics.


 

Marantz, Andrew. “Unreality Star.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/16/unreality-star.

Kershaw, Sarah. “Look Closely, Doctor: See the Camera?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Aug. 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/28/fashion/28truman.html.

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Article: Twelve Angry Man

Title suggested by “mhargrave” and “jtan2.”

Title: 12 Angry Men

Year: 1957

Director: Sidney Lumet

MPAA Rating: Approved

Quality: 9/10

Content: 9.5/10

Twelve jurors talking about a murder for 95 minutes in a single room. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s everything but. Reginald Rose’s screenplay (adapted from his play) stitches together a plot that interweaves with itself so well. A good analogy wouldn’t be a puzzle; it would be a tightly-stitched blanket. What appears to be pointless banter and dialogue near the beginning later returns to elevate the film to another level in terms of audience captivation and drama.

The jurors. United Artists

As much as I’m a fan of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and his A Few Good Men, and as strong and culturally relevant To Kill a Mockingbird is (here, my opinion becomes unpopular), I think 12 Angry Men is the grittiest and closest-to-reality courtroom drama ever made. Granted, it does not follow what a usual jury discussion would look like—where a typical jury discussion would allow a civil examination of the circumstances, 12 Angry Men highlights the personalities of the jurors more than it does the evidence, but it readily admits that fact. It examines each character, their prejudices, and their reasons and motives for voting the way they did.

In the beginning, the jurors all look bland and similar—like strangers on the street—but by the end, you can distinguish each of them largely based on their personalities. You’re never told their names during the whole jury proceeding, and that contributes more to the vividness of each character. There are many limits in directing a film based solely on conversations in one room, but Sydney Lumet’s smart and nuanced direction gives the film more drive and drama, especially when it comes to the jurors and their personalities. Like our changing perception of the jurors, the camera begins with wide-angled shots to create a literal distance between the jurors and the audience, but then as the film progresses and we discover more and more about each juror, our shots and angles grow closer to the actors’ faces, emphasizing the certain expressiveness of each.

We learn about the murder case as gradually as we learn the jurors’ personalities. Just as the side-quips and topics reveal the personalities, they reveal the case. As the film starts, we only understand three things: this case is on 1st degree murder; the vote has to lean 12-0 for either guilty or not guilty; though it appears to be an “open-and-shut case” like what juror #3 states, there is one juror with enough “reasonable doubt” to vote “Not Guilty.”

At first the lone dissenter, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) states that he believes that a boy’s life, no matter his background, deserves some discussion before sending him to the chair. Henry Fonda’s quiet but authoritative presence as #8 is the strongest effect in the film. Compare that to #3 (Lee J. Cobb), a loud, angry father, and the most ardent “Guilty” voter who, even though he doesn’t recognize it early on, raises his family problems up as the determining factor for his vote.

Juror #3. United Artists

Centered in a room, 12 Angry Men creates an excitement in the proceedings within that room, but, to a greater effect, it paints convincing arguments that make this film an essential resource for lawyers and law students. Juror #8—and later on the other jurors as they are gradually persuaded—applies an interesting technique to win over or counter the naysayers: he uses their arguments against them. Each juror displays different personality traits that Juror #8 and his growing number of allies use to convince each juror in his own language, planting “reasonable doubt.” For Juror #7, his flippancy and carelessness of the situation is pointed out; for Juror #4 who is only concerned about facts, he has facts pointed out to him; and, when no one responds to him, Juror #10 hears his own voice shouting prejudice and bigotry and fades off, ashamed.

Drama is infused into this fact- and argument-based script, but it isn’t the focal point, unlike many films like it, including rip-offs and remakes of this exact film and play. Personalities are the basis of each of the juror’s cases, and the script, by far the most convincing piece of the movie, does the court and debates well.

Article: Gigi

Title: Gigi

Year: 1958

Director: Vincente Minnelli

MPAA Rating: G

Quality: 5.5/10

Content: 6.5/10

Honoré Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) in the opening number, “Thank Heaven”. MGM.

“Thank heaven for little girls / They grow up in / The most delightful way. /… Without them / What would little boys do,” sings Gaston’s perverted uncle Honoré Lachaille (Maurice Chevalier) in the opening number. Just in these frank opening lines, we already see the fundamental problem with this movie. It expects every woman to grow up for the happiness of “little boys.” A few minutes later, it sets out like it’s going to debunk that ideology and has something to say about growing up. It’s all well and good until the final half-hour where the main character, the young Gigi, becomes a “lady” and amends her nature of independence that was so romanticized early on in the film. Gigi thinks “maturing” is becoming stiff and knowing your manners. Apparently, you can’t be a lady unless you know how to chew your nauseating bird delicacies in small bites. And of course, your childhood is to train you for your inevitable near-future marriage.

Article: My Fair Lady

Title suggested by “edean” and “dteh”.

Title: My Fair Lady

Year: 1964

Director: George Cukor

MPAA rating: Approved

Quality: 8/10

Content: 9/10

Poster for My Fair Lady. Warner Bros.

If My Fair Lady does nothing else, it does not take itself too seriously. Sure, it has a very interesting premise—an arrogant, misogynistic phonetics professor, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) cockily takes in a lady, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), from off the “dirt” of the street to make her presentable enough, in manners and clothing, to pass her off as a “duchess at Buckingham Palace.” But it doesn’t wear that premise and the lessons that come with it thin with solemnity. Comedy, song, and characters take precedence; after all, it’s a musical.