Cinemark Classic Film Series: ‘Rebel Without a Cause’

by Doug Snauffer

Director Nicholas Ray’s classic ode to embittered, alienated teens, Rebel Without a Cause, was back in theaters last week as part of ‘Cinemark’s Winter Classic Series 2017.’

The weekly showcase of Hollywood’s most distinguished and time-honored films is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events, and often includes commentary reels featuring TCM TV-hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz.

Rebel Without a Cause first hit theater screens on October 29, 1955, and became a sensation, raking in $4.5 million against its $1.5 million budget.  The film’s success was overshadowed, of course, by James Dean’s death in a road accident just a month before the movie’s release.

(top-to-bottom) Natalie Wood, James Dean, and Sal Mineo get cozy.

Rebel was only Dean’s second film.  He’d made his big-screen debut just six-months earlier opposite Julie Harris in director Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, then signed on for George Stevens’ Giant with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.  Production was delayed, however, due to Taylor’s pregnancy, allowing time for Warner Bros. to cast Dean as the lead in Rebel.  It proved to be the defining performance of the young man’s life and career—both of which were cut tragically short.

Despite the wild success of Rebel Without a Cause, Dean—unlike his co-stars Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood—failed to receive Oscar recognition.  Mineo was nominated as best supporting actor and Wood for best supporting actress.  Neither walked away with a win—but Dean was overlooked entirely.

***

I viewed Rebel Without a Cause on January 22, 2017, the first time I’d experienced it on a movie screen, and had mixed reactions to James Dean’s performance.  There’s no denying that Dean had screen presence.  But I tended to view his “method” acting style as more of an oddity.

“You’re tearing me apart!” James Dean delivers his signature line.

A prime example occurs early in the movie after Dean’s character, Jim Stark, is arrested and his parents (portrayed by Jim Backus and Ann Doran) are summoned to the police station.  There they spend as much time arguing with each other as they do admonishing their son, leading Dean to deliver his signature line, “You’re tearing me apart!”

But his “method” delivery, in my opinion, was all artifice, an overly theatrical tribute to Brando and other proponents of that particular acting approach. Dean’s facial expressions and animated hand gestures took away from his performance rather than enhanced it, making it seem forced instead of realistic.

Critic Bosley Crowther, in his New York Times review of East of Eden on March 10, 1955, commented of Dean’s performance:

“He scuffs his feet, he whirls, he pouts, he sputters, he leans against walls, he rolls his eyes, he swallows his words, he ambles slack-kneed—all like Marlon Brando used to do. Never have we seen a performer so clearly follow another’s style. Mr. Kazan should be spanked for permitting him to do such a sophomoric thing. Whatever there might be of reasonable torment in this youngster is buried beneath the clumsy display.”

Of course, after his death James Dean quickly became larger-than-life, and his acting style now defines the legend.  In evaluating Rebel Without a Cause, I doubt it would’ve become the breakthrough hit it did without him.  But whether Dean had the chops to sustain a long-term acting career we’ll never know.

(left-to-right) Corey Allen, James Dean, and Natalie Wood revving up for a “chicky race.”

Rebel wasn’t the only film about teen angst to hit theater screens that year.  Director Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle beat Rebel into cinemas by seven months, bowing on March 25, 1955.  It played from an adult perspective, that of a dedicated teacher, Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford), hired to teach at a rough, inner-city high school.  Vic Morrow, also a disciple of method acting, played a tough gang leader, and Sidney Poitier a young black student with the ability to succeed.

Blackboard Jungle was also a box-office hit; shot on a budget of $1.1 million, it earned $5.2 million in domestic ticket sales.  It benefitted from a hit song, “Rock Around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and His Comets.  (The song had actually been released the previous year but hadn’t caught on.  After playing over the opening titles of Blackboard Jungle, however, it raced to the top of the charts and remained at #1 for eight-weeks.)

Both movies were made in an attempt to focus attention on the soaring rates of juvenile delinquency in the early 1950s—or to capitalize on it perhaps.  Rebel even took it a step further.  Director Nicholas Ray, scriptwriter Stewart Stern, and co-stars James Dean and Sal Mineo made a deliberate effort to portray Mineo’s character, Plato, as being gay.

For instance, when Plato opens his locker at the beginning of the film, there’s a pinup of Alan Ladd inside where one might have expected a female centerfold.  Then when he gets his first look at Jim, Plato is unquestionably swept away in a wave of wanton desires.

Natalie Wood tries to talk Sal Mineo out of making bad choices.

The Motion Picture Production Code at the time (http://productioncode.dhwritings.comwould not have permitted Plato to have been openly homosexual.  To do so in 1955 would most likely have resulted in the film being banned, and could have ruined the careers of those involved.  Even Mineo’s covert take was a risky move.

Blackboard Jungle courted controversy as well; Ford’s Mr. Dadier had to come to terms with his own bigoted feelings towards his black students, while another violent scene depicted the attempted rape of a teacher.

After the movie ended, I glanced around the theater and noticed that, of the 100 or so people who attended the screening of Rebel Without a Cause, a majority were middle-aged.  It would be nice if Cinemark could get younger moviegoers into these classic films, even if it meant handing out free passes in advance to teens who show up for other movies.

Upcoming titles for Cinemark’s 2017 classic film series include An Affair to Remember (60th Anniversary Event), All About Eve, North by Northwest, The Graduate (50th Anniversary Screening), Smokey and the Bandit (can you believe it’s been 40 years!), The Godfather, Some Like It Hot, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bonnie and Clyde (another 50th anniversary), The Princess Bride, Casablanca, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

For more details, visit https://www.cinemark.com/theatres/.


Doug Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.

Diana Vacc Sees “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

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by Diana Vaccarelli

*Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is J.K. Rowling’s prequel to the Harry Potter books and takes place seventy years before them. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, one of the results of which is that going into this film I had high expectations. Would this film hold up?

THE GOOD:

  • The creatures are made with careful thought and imagination. They’re the most realistic CGI critters yet. Watching this film, I definitely felt not just as though they could exist but that the ones I was seeing did exist.
  • The performance of Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as Newt is stellar. Is there anything this guy can’t do? Everything I’ve seen him in has made me feel that he was  perfectly cast in the role.
  • The story went in a direction I was not expecting. I don’t want to give too much away, but let me say this: I was shocked by the character of Graves (portrayed  brilliantly by Colin Farrell).
  • The writing is everything I wanted from J.K Rowling. She gives us a story that stands comfortably on its own while also illuminating the “future” world of Harry Potter with perfection.

THE BAD:

  • Believe it or not there is something about this film that I didn’t like. That was the transition of Colin Farrell to Johnny Depp as the character Grindlewald. Colin Farrell was perfect in his portrayal throughout the film, and to end it with Johnny Depp taking over the character was a huge jolt. Especially since Depp certainly didn’t perform as well as Farrell.

THE REST:

  • If you’re a fan of Harry Potter’s world of Witchcraft and Wizardry, then this film definitely is for you. It’s the perfect way to bring everything we love about Harry to this holiday season. (Except I still miss the boy, you know?)

Diana Vacc sees “Arrival”

by Diana Vaccarelli

 *Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

mv5bmtexmzu0odcxndheqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mde1oti4mzay-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_When I heard Arrival scored high on rotten tomatoes, I had to see the film for myself.  This film follows a linguist as she is recruited by the United States Military to assist in translating an alien language.

THE GOOD:

  • The writing of this film is top notch.  Written by Eric Heisserer and adapted from Ted Chiang’s short story, Story of Your life, Arrival starts out in what I perceived to be the past but it is in fact the future. I love how Heisserer tells the story of not war and bloodshed but one of struggle to communicate and learn from the alien visitors and how the world worked together.  The direction the story takes is, in a word, genius.
  • The actors have done an incredible job in this film. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner as Dr. Louise Banks and Ian Donnelly have incredible chemistry as the linguist and mathematician forced to work together to decipher the alien language. Adams gives a heartfelt, deeply emotional performance that definitely worked on me and my own feelings.
  • Bradley Young’s cinematography is brilliant and brings back the old days of science fiction in film, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey. Each scene is breathtaking to watch and contributes to the tone of each scene.
  • Ultimately, the true brilliance in this story is how the alien race teaches us human beings to truly communicate with one another.

THE BAD:

  • This has to be one of my favorite films of the year. Hence, there is nothing bad in this film.

THE REST:

  • If you have been longing to see a truly classic science fiction film, then this is for you.  Go and see Arrival and you will be entertained – and moved – from start to finish.Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Munchman’s Latest TV Musings

Munchman’s TV Musings #6
by Munchman

  1. Everywhere Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchovy looks on the interwebs he finds reviews of Marvel’s latest film, Doctor Strange. And every one of those reviews the munchy one has read starts out by apologizing for how much the critic has loved the furshluginner thing. Alas, sad as it is to say, Munchmoi is now joining the legion of the damned reviewers and saying, “Yeppers, kids, you’re right. I shouldn’t be so fucken positive but the rep-ruining truth from this particular youngish curmudgeon, “Holy Dread Dormamu, but I really did love this silly movie!” It’s my favorite Marvel comic character brought to life in a way that made me cry when I realized that creator Steve Ditko probably isn’t getting one single cent of the till. What’s that you say? Slammin’ Steve is only the co-creator of Doctor Strange? Well, folks, that depends on your definition of “creator,” doesn’t it? And the way Muncharoni looks at it, if the guy who called him back in the ’60s and said, “Steve, I need a magician character for next Thursday” deserves to be called a co-creator, then Rod Stewart’s ex-wife Britt Ekland deserves to be credited as co-writer of all the songs he wrote while she fellated him. (Yeppers, Britt went to court demanding credit and moola, and Red said what he said about her contribution to the writing, and the judge said, “Buh-bye Britty!”)  Bottom line here: Go see this movie. You’ll have a blast.
  2. On another positive note, I’m pleased to report that a site I never heard of before, called ITVT.Com AKA InteractiveTV Today, is every bit as good as most of the hyperbole on its “About Us” page says. Which come to think of it, means all those words of self-praise aren’t hyperbole at all, just good old self-promotion. Note to ITVT staff: This definitely is gilding the lily. You motherfuckers are awesome. Munchacha particularly is enamored of your new column “Run of Show,” about today’s “star showrunners,” who they are and how they came to be. Although I admit to being a little disappointed in the column title. “Run of Show” sounds just plain awkward to me. Why not something cleaner and simpler, like, say, “Head Honchos?” or “Unsung Heroes?” Wait, scratch that last suggestion. Showrunners aren’t exactly unsung anymore, are they? Thanks for helping with that, ITVT!
  3. Saw an article headling saying, “Why You Need to Change Your Writing Style” at another site I wasn’t familiar with, BaselineMag.Com, and immediately got all freaked out. You know, along the lines of, “Who the hell are you, asshat, to be telling me to change how I write? Munchester is so damned unpopular I’d bet half of Trumpazoid’s billion bucks (but not of me own) that you’ve never even read me!” Then I read the article, and now I’m here to recommend it. Here’s the opening sentence: “If you’re using a writing style that worked a few years ago, it’s probably obsolete.” The rest of this little gem explains why and how to fix it, and every word Mike Elgan puts out there is right on. Especially if your audience is younger than Gen X, the concept that if your examples or language usage is based on samples and usage from 10 years ago or more. Nobody that young has a clue, for example, of what the hell the phrase “right on,” means. Yeah, I snuck that in deliberately cuz like being an anachronistic kinda guy!
  4. Time now to return to the Negative Zone. Munchadario just ain’t buying a how a recent article on inews.co.uk spent about as much verbiage as the rest of us have whining about President Elect Tramp on an article titled “Meet the Visionairy TV Writers Behind the Autumn’s Hottest Dramas. Come on, people! TV show creators aren’t goddamn visionaries, they’re writers! Visionaries are magical beings, people, and, dammit, ain’t no TV writer who’s magic. Put a magical visionary thinker in a room full of TV executives, baby, and believe me, it’ll be like feeding a unicorn the lions. TV is pretty damn good these days, but it ain’t up there at the heavenly heights. Of course, I’m working for a guy who once had business cards claiming he was a “televisionary,” so WTFDIK? (Hope I’m not hurting your feelings, LB.)
  5. Last but not least, another, shorter rant to close my douching mouth. Have you seen the Netflix series, Black Mirror? (Actually, it isn’t a Netflix series, it’s a U.K. series picked up by Netflix and…oh, the hell with it. You get the message, yeah?) Anyway, Black Mirror is getting as many great reviews as Doctor Strange these days, but with one difference: Nobody reviewing it is apologizing for all the luv they’re dumping BM’s way. Methinks this besottedness is a generational thing, by which I mean that nobody I know who has seen both BM and the original oldie but goodie The Twilight Zone has said anything other than, “Hey, been watching a new version of Twilight Zone on Netflicks. It’s called Dark Mirror or Black Reflection or something like that.” In other words, BM is good, but it ain’t all that. Yeppers, I know most of you who’re reading this have no idea what half the words I just used mean. Mike Elgan already told me that. But mind-messin’ is a Munchman kinda thing!

That’s it for this week. Seeya soonish with less about the interweb and more musings about Love, Money, and popsicles on TV!

Diana Vacc sees “Inferno”

A perfect sample of the thrills, chills and excitement you'll see in Inferno

A perfect sample of the thrills, chills and excitement you’ll see in Inferno

by Diana Vaccarelli

*Be warned – this review may contain spoilers*

Tom Hanks reprises his role as our favorite religious conspiracy Professor Robert Langdon in Inferno. This time around he wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory and has to team up with a Doctor to stop an evil plot that will threaten the world.

THE GOOD:

  • The production did a great job with locations. It was truly beautiful scenery. The way it was shot made you feel like you where in Italy with Tom Hanks.

THE BAD:

  • Let’s start with the acting. To be blunt it’s was extremely cheesey.  Now, I love Tom Hanks – who doesn’t? But in this film there is only one word for the performance, and that is – oh, you guessed it (must’ve seen the film): CHEESEY!
  • Oh Boy! Talk about dull writing. The script can only be described as laborious and slooowww. There isn’t an exciting moment to be had.  Nothing about the story kept me from being fully engaged with only my popcorn.

THE REST:

  • I can’t in good conscience recommend this film to anybody for any reason. You are, of course, free to go to any theater that still is showing this dog and judge for yourself, but if I were the guaranteeing sort I would absolutely guarantee that you will wish you hadn’t.

Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

John Ostrander: For What It’s Worth

captain-america-civil-war

by John Ostrander

 “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” – For What It’s Worth, 1967, written by Stephen Stills, performed by Buffalo Springfield

SPOILERS! Warning! Danger! I’m going to discuss some questions raised in Captain America: Civil War, which means some plot points will get spilled. If you haven’t yet seen the film – it’s just out on Blu-Ray – you may not want to proceed.

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Captain America: Civil War but what I liked best was the question that was at the center of the narrative. During an action in Legos involving Cap and some members of the Avengers, there is a mistake and an explosion and innocent bystanders get killed. This, coupled with the human collateral damage witnessed in previous Marvel films, causes members of the United Nations to create The Slovenia Accords – named after the site of the massive destruction in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now the Avengers must submit to an oversight panel. If they don’t, they will be disbanded.

This creates a split within the Avengers themselves. Tony Stark (Iron Man) believes they must accept the accords and some restrictions on how they use their powers or they would be no better than the foes they oppose. Steve Rogers (Captain America) does not, cannot, and will not agree. This compromises their freedom including the freedom to act when they see a situation calling for it. They can’t wait for bureaucratic paper rustling. Lives are in the balance. The Avengers split into Team Cap and Team Iron Man (along with some guest stars) and they will, of course, fight it out.

So… which team do we, the audience, ally with? The film is clever in that neither side is set to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There are arguments for both but the question at the center of the film is – can society allow masked, super-powered individuals to act without some check?

There is no right answer. Oh, my inclinations is to go with Cap; I’m a stinkin’ leftist liberal progressive pinko commie after all. FreeeeeeeDOM!

Except. . .

All these superheroes are basically vigilantes. They operate outside of the law; for the most part, the heroes are not deputized by any government or law enforcement organization (Green Lantern is an exception but that was a lousy movie). They don’t really have any authority to do what they are doing.

I do take exception to one trope in the movie. “Thunderbolt” Ross from The Incredible Hulk film returns, now as the U.S. Secretary of State and evidently liaison to the Avengers from the U.N. He cites all the collateral destruction suffered by society in both Avengers films and the previous Captain America film. He lays the blame for this on the Avengers, noting that there are others in society that feel the same way.

Except. . .

Neither Cap nor the Avengers initiated the situations in those films. Because of their actions, humanity was not enslaved or outright destroyed as would have been the case otherwise. I would have liked to have that mentioned in the film by the heroes.

However, that doesn’t change the root question in Captain America: Civil War. Can any society allow such masked, perhaps super-powered, individuals to act unilaterally? Some of them are masked and the authorities don’t know their true names. Can a society of law survive in such circumstances? It is not a simple question and, to its credit, I don’t think Captain America: Civil War presents it that way.

My heart remains with Cap but I think my brain may agree more with Iron Man. I think I have my own civil war, one that most of us have at one time or another – heart versus head. I don’t think that one is going to be resolved any time soon.

At the start of the column, I quoted a line from Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth.” Despite being fifty years old, the piece is remarkably suited for today. Check it out on YouTube or some such place for yourself and see.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Diana Vacc sees “Sully”

by Diana Vaccarelli

*Warning: this review may contain spoilers!*

sullyFrom Blockbuster/Tentpole Season to Award Season. The earth keeps turning, and Hollywood’s studios are putting out their best work as each tries to garner the top awards.

Sully tells the true story of the “Miracle on the Hudson” when  pilot Chesley Sullenberger became a hero after he made an emergency landing of his limping jetliner on the river and saved everyone on board.

THE GOOD:

  • The acting by Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart as Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles kept me engaged and rooting for the characters. Their chemistry as friends and co-workers completely worked. I definitely felt that they’d been working together for years.
  • The story was particularly interesting because of one of the most controversial things about it: The addition of fictional material regarding the FAA investigation of the landing. The film has gotten some static for supposedly “over-emphasizing” the idea that the investigators were “targeting” Sully, but for me this definitely amped up the tension. Literary license in action!
  • The Direction by Clint Eastwood made me feel as though I was a part of the flight and its aftermath. This fellow knows his stuff. I foresee a big future for Mr. E.

THE BAD: 

  • The pace of the film was slow and the focus drifted all over the place. The film kept backtracking from the investigation to the flight and then back again, over and over, and at times it was way too confusing.

Overall, I give this film 3 out of 5 stars.  Interesting but unfocused. (Maybe that reminded me too much of my own life?!)

HAPPY AWARDS SEASON! Enjoy the Movies!