My Month in Film: May 2011

Continue reading “My Month in Film: May 2011”

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The Moth: "Poitier and Brando: Mississippi 1964"

The Moth is a non-for-profit story telling organization that was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members. Every Monday, a new free podcast can be downloaded through itunes. The stories are always hilarious, poignant and memorable tales.

This week’s podcast is a story told by Bob Zellner, the author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement. The story is called “Poitier and Brando: Mississippi 1964”. Zellner recounts his years as a civil rights activist and his experiences with Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, and Harry Belafonte. It’s a great story and you can listen to the story here.

Zellner’s memoir is being adapted into a film to be directed by Spike Lee.

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire is the kind of movie that if you haven’t seen it in forever you forget how good it is. It is film driven by the brilliance of Tennessee Williams’ play, the direction of Elia Kazan and often gutwrenchingly powerful performances of the cast. In this film, casting is everything, which is why it has stood the test of time.

Marlon Brando is spetacular, to say the least, in one of his career-defining roles as Stanley Kowalski. Vivien Leigh is equally breathtaking, mesmerizing, and infuriating as the tragic Blanche DuBois. The supporting cast of Karl Malden and Kim Hunter also do a fabulous job. (Karl Malden is by far one of the most underrated and underappreciated actors of all-time.

A Streetcar Named Desire the story of Blanche DuBois (Leigh) a Southern belle who has lost everything: her beauty, dignity, home, career, mind, and most of all, her love for a certain “young boy”. She moves in with her pregnant sister (Hunter) and her no-good husband (Brando), who live in the French Quarters of New Orleans.

Blanche obviously disapproves of her sister’s lifestyle and most of all of Stanley. There is no doubt that that feeling is mutual. And he does one thing to her that entirely changes the mood of the movie. Blanche, who finds Stanley to be no good for her sister, clashes with her brother-in-law. But underneath the extravagent cloths, the jewelry, the make-up, and a doomed relationship with Malden’s Mitch, Blanche is a woman falling apart.

Of her confrontations with Stanley, their final one proves to be the most destructive. Stanley’s rape of Blanche leaves Blanche utterly wrecked and she is committed. Stella vows never to return to Stanley and in the final scene she seeks refuge with her newborn son at a neighbors. It is a scene that was changed from the original play. Although ambiguous, the play’s ending implied that Stella, although different from her sister, would be heading down a similar destructive path because of her marriage to Stanley. The movie says otherwise.

Nevertheless, A Streetcar Named Desire has given us one of the most iconic sequences in the history of cinema. And because of it, the nature of cinematic performanc changed forever.

Updated October 6, 2010