Ebert, Roger (1975). One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Retrieved April 11, 2008, from rogerebert.com Web site: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19750101/REVIEWS/501010348/1023
In his 1975 film review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Roger Ebert lauds the film for possessing stretches of brilliance, but states that the factor which keeps the movie from being great is director Forman's insistence on trying to assign to it a broader philosophical meaning. According to Ebert, the film attempts to be more significant than its story will allow. For example, in the scene in which Billy is discovered sharing a bed with one of the women McMurphy brought to the ward, Billy talks back to Nurse Ratched, his usual stutter conspicuously missing from his voice. The intention of this message is clear: it is devised to show that Billy has been liberated to some degree by both McMurphy and his nighttime experience. However, it lacks subtlety, and takes away from the film's generally thoughtful and three-dimensional characterizations. In fact, according to Ebert, it is these characterizations that constitute the best aspects of the film. Ebert believes that Forman should have focused his efforts on examining the characters and using their interactions to develop the film, rather than trying to create an antiestablishment parable.
I agree with the review on many of its key points. The movie's strongest facet is its ability to develop its characters and portray them in a way that demonstrates their change and growth throughout the story. McMurphy's significance as a character does not lie in his crusade against the establishment; rather, it is his ability as an individual to change the patients around him, and, by interacting with them in his carefree, individualistic manner, to release them of their inhibitions. It is also interesting how each character responds differently to McMurphy based on their personality. Cheswick, easily influenced, immediately takes to him, while Harding, who is naturally suspicious and guarded, never warms up to him. The nervous Billy is cautious but open, while the wild Taber does not seem to care about McMurphy's presence at all.
Crowther, Bosley. "Screen: No 'Philadelphia Story,' This; 'High Society' Lacks Hepburn Sparkle Sinatra, Crosby, Grace Kelly Are Starred." The New York Times. 10 April, 1956. New York Times Online Archives. 7 April 2008.
New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther delivers a discontented review of "High Society" in this newspaper article. Not a huge fan of the film, he bemoans its ill-selected cast and tedious delivery of an originally delightful plot. One thing Crowther somewhat enjoys in this film is its musical score and songs. He praises the skill Louis Armstrong and his band as well as the numbers performed by Frank Sinatra and Bill Crosby. The points Crowther harps on are the miscast roles of Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord and Bill Crosby as C.K. Dexter-Haven. He complains that they seem unnatural in their parts and compares Kelly to Katherine Hepburn who played Tracy Lord in 1940s non-musical version of the story, "The Philadelphia Story". Crowther draws comparisons between - in his mind - 1940s far superior "The Philadelphia Story" and 1956s much duller "High Society". He notes that "High Society" manages to entertain as a "handsomely set and costumed film" but continues to find more merit in the earlier film.
One interesting shift to notice in this review is the way Crowther refers to rich upper classes in this film, how his attitude towards the cultural elite has changed. He describes the movie as "documenting the weird behavior of the socially elite" in words containing far less of the affection Crowther showed towards depictions of the upper classes in his review of "The Philadelphia Story". He even says that the best song in the film is the one that is "a spoof of the haughty and blasé". Crowther, and by extension some of America's, socio-cultural attitude had shifted from 1940 to 1956. A movie review of the same story, written by the same author, for the same newspaper receives the messages of the film quite differently sixteen years later. Spoofing the "weird" elite has become more enjoyable than watching them prance around in their finery trying to sort out their charmed lives.
Crowther, Bosley. "The Screen: a Splendid Cast Adorns the Screen Version of 'the Philadelphia Story' At the Music Hall." The New York Times 27 Dec. 1940. New York Times Archives. Philadelphia. 7 Apr. 2008.
Bosley Crowther gives "The Philadelphia Story" a glowing review in this article for the New York Times movie section, published just two days after Christmas in 1940. Crowther unabashedly proclaims his love for the film hailing it as a holiday present from MGM to the American public. He points out that some of the psychological aspects of the plot are tenuous but exuses all of the imperfections of the film with a reminder of the superb acting of its main stars: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. Crowther most enjoys the admirable skill of the actors, witty repartee of the script, and opulent setting of "The Philadelphia Story".
The disparity of what is emphasized in a film review written in 1940 as opposed to one written in the twenty-first century is interesting to note. Mention of the movie theater where the reviewer saw the film, like the one Crowther makes, is no longer a widely practiced convention, for example. Crowther describes the film as "a sleek new custom-built comedy with fast lines and the very finest Hollywood setting", in short, the perfect screwball comedy. Perhaps the most important facet to analyze in this review is the acute awareness of the class issues embedded in the film take up much of the two pages of this review when printed out. This serves as proof that even in the forties Americans were cognizant of how much they enjoyed to watch, mock, but really revel in the lives of the rich and famous. Crowther notes that the film is "a straight upper-crust fable, an unblushing apologia for plutocracy" which depicts with pleasure "the trials and tribulations of the rich". He even goes so far as to warn viewers that those who have a low tolerance for the incredibly wealthy should avoid seeing the film. Crowther concludes with a quote from George Cukor though that says, in a statement wholly indicative of the popularity of films like "The Philadelphia Story", that one of "the prettiest sights in this pretty world is the privileged classes enjoying their privileges". Is this film a tad over-the-top? Yes, that was readily admitted even in 1940; but does this make "The Philadelphia Story" any less enjoyable? On the contrary. Its unapologizing depiction of a whirlwind Philadelphia weekend is a joy to watch.
“Vertigo Movie Review.” Variety Magazine. 14 May. 1958. 8 Apr. 2008.
In this original 1958 Variety Magazine review of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the critic provides a very mixed assessment of the film. The reviewer lauds the performance of Jimmy Stewart while noting that under Hitchcock’s direction, Kim Novak is “nearer an actress than she was in [previous films].” The reviewer also notes the beautiful photography of San Francisco and feels that the images will play a paramount role in whatever success the film generates. The major problem with the film is that “the film’s first half is too slow and too long.” The critic believes that this may be the result of Hitchcock becoming too enamored with scenery or with a screenplay that just takes too long to get going. The reviewer describes the action as “mainly psychic” while appreciating and even giving away the final scene of the film. The review culminates by questioning if the two-hour runtime could be better spent by the viewer. The critic finds the film to be “basically only a psychological murder mystery.”
This review is important because it shows the overwhelming sentiments that the film received when it first came out. The critic goes so far as to question if she wasted her time watching the film. And this is a film which is today regarded as a masterpiece. It is interesting to note that the Variety viewer believed that the film’s photography would play a part in its success. Although this turned out to be incorrect, Hitchcock too believed that extravagant settings would lead to a strong reception. Overtime, response to Vertigo changed as critics began to find deeper meaning in the film.
Reviewers, “Some Like it Hot.” The Catholic World 189 (1959): 156
This review from a 1959 journal provides a multifaceted snapshot of the movie world in 1959. The review is a good template for analyzing the focus of some movie reviewers at the time, and what aspect of a film was considered to be of importance. In reading several reviews from the time it seems as if reviewers of this era looked at the success of the movie in its attempt to create world the audience could relate to.
For the section on Some Like it Hot the reviewers focus seems to be on Billy Wilders production style in this movie rather than the cast and plot of the movie itself. After a brief summary of the basic occurrence in the film Billy Wilder is then praised for his ability to make a mediocre script into a hilarious comedy. However this praise is not untainted for soon after Wilder is criticized for what the reviewer thought to be over the top suggestivity particularly in scenes where Marilyn Monroe wore very slinky clothing. This opinion is clearly colored not only by its author’s personal preference but also by the journal in which this review is contained (The Catholic Word). It is interesting to see the angle and criticism doled out by a magazine with a catholic spin.
This source is opinion based but despite this is still credible in its role as an indication of the movies reception during its time. Essentially the value of this source lies in its opinionated foundation that expresses one of the many attitude that reviews had regarding this Wilder flick.