The Morning After: Jun. 11, 2012

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Snake Pit

After suffering a mental breakdown, a young woman (Olivia de Havilland) finds herself stuck in an over-populated sanitarium trying to come to terms with her illness. A concerned psychiatrist (Leo Genn) attempts to break through her mental barriers through various methods in order to find the root cause and bring it under her control.

The cast in the film is all superb, with the varied voices in the asylum creating a rich environment for our leading lady, but this is de Havilland’s show and she nails the role. We’ve seen many attempts to portray the mentally ill through the years with varying degrees of lunacy from the likes of Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys and Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This is one of the finest. De Havilland could teach a master class in acting based off this single performance. Her Virginia Stuart Cunningham uses her face to tell the entire story, voicing over her agitated mind while giving the audience verbal cues. Her intensity adds credibility to the role and she blends the right measure of confused tics and calmness together to create a seamless performance.

The surrounding film, feels a bit dated today, only inasmuch as the then-common practice of electroshock therapy is now generally considered barbaric and ill-suited to the proper resolution of mental traumas. At the time, however, this methodology was ahead of its time. While shock treatment itself was in frequent use, it’s the emotional breakthroughs made through hypnosis and compassionate prodding that brought the profession into the modern age. Dr. Kirk (Genn) doesn’t see his patient as a piece of cattle needing to be herded back into the streets to make room for new patients. He works hand-in-hand with Virginia to bring her into the light. The film has some rather predictable elements to it and ties everything up somewhat too neatly at the end, but the overarching story is anything but conventional.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

I have fond memories of the original Madagascar. Even though it wasn’t a deep or terribly moving film, it was a great deal of infectious fun. The second film starts where the last left off, with our New York Zoo animals attempting to flee Madagascar and return home to New York. It wouldn’t be Escape 2 Africa if they were to make it as the makeshift plane travels far into Africa, but ends up dumping Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) and the quartet of penguins in the middle of a wildlife preserve.

There, Alex is reunited with his parents who had lost him many years before to a pair of poachers luring stray beasts from the preserve where they can capture and/or kill them. Alex’s childhood trauma is played out in a prelude to the film, which is light on laughs, but suitably so. The voice cast is all fine in roles they performed well in the first outing. They display the same knack of timing and passion that keeps these characters endearing. Alex Baldwin, Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd join the cast. Bernie Mac and Shepherd play Alex’s parents, the former reigning as king of the pride. Baldwin plays the conniving usurper-in-waiting whose physical prowess is no match for the King, but schemes to one day take control of the tribe.

The penguins and King Julien remain the most entertaining elements of the film, injecting many scenes with raucous bits of humor, never overstaying their welcome, allowing the audience to return to the main story without forgetting their place. The story is a bit old fashioned with a faint pro-environment message, carefully crafted into its humorous husk. It doesn’t have the jaw-dropping splendor or poignancy of a film like WALL-E, but it is a fun film that should please finicky parents and their well-behaved children.

Alien (1979)

Click here to read the review

Aliens (1986)

Click here to read the review

Alien 3 (1992)

Click here to read the review

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Click here to read the review

Prometheus (2012)

Click here to read the review

1 Comment

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  1. Olivia de Havilland won the N.Y. Film Critics award that year for Snake Pit but lost the chance for back to back Oscars – the nomination would have to do. Please see Dark Mirror where she plays twins one good, one evil. In many ways her greatness resides in the forties not giving her the universal appeal of a Hepburn or Davis. But oh what she could do with that face starting with Gone With The Wind speaks volumes.

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