Each month, the Indie Prof reviews a current film in the theater and second film or series available on DVD or instant-streaming service. Follow “Indie Prof” on Facebook for updates about film events and more reviews.
This month’s column will be slightly different from the norm of reviewing one new film in the theater and a second film or series available on VOD or a streaming service. October marks the start of a fall film series at The Cube in Northfield (8371 Northfield Blvd), and I hope you can join us for one or all of the screenings and discussions. I also give a short review of a new network TV show that started in September.
The film series is entitled “The Greatest Movies…Why?” and that is the exact premise; I will discuss why these films are so lauded, and why they have stood the test of time. The four films in the series are Casablanca (10/5), Citizen Kane (10/12), Bicycle Thieves (10/19), and Singin’ in the Rain (10/26). I have previously reviewed Bicycle Thieves (November 2013) and Singin’ in the Rain (May 2016), so you can read those in the archive; I will discuss the first two films in the series.
In 1942, the Hollywood “Dream Factory” was turning out hundreds of films per year, and Casablanca was just another one of those films. It tells the story of several characters involved in political intrigue and romance during WWII. Morocco was one of the key stops for refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. While it is a fictional film, it is based on actual events in Europe and Africa during the late 30s and early 40s. That the brutal reality of the era could play out on a Hollywood sound stage is remarkable in its own right.
The film has remained iconic because of its classic plot, the energetic screenplay, the brilliant performances of the entire cast, and the thematic depth. That depth is the most interesting part for me; when the film was under production in 1941, the U.S. had not yet entered the War, and most Americans had no idea about the Nazi concentration camps. The film was a brilliant allegory for pre-War America: Rick (Humphrey Bogart), the American owner of the café in the film, remains neutral. It is not only until he learns of the atrocities in Europe that he develops a conscience and intervenes. It was a wonderful, powerful, and timely story.
Join us at The Cube in Northfield at 7pm on 10/5 to learn more about the film. It’s a treat!
Citizen Kane (1942)
Widely considered the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane was Orson Welles’ first film (as director and/or actor). It was based—loosely—on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, and it became highly controversial. Hearst offered to buy the film for a substantial sum with the intention of burning the negatives, and he threatened a media boycott of the studio and theater owners who showed the film. The studio finally decided against the offer and it was released, although it received little publicity (Hearst newspapers refused advertisements). It was a box-office flop.
As more people saw the film, it gained in importance, relevance, and influence. The innovations in cinematography, setting, editing, and sound still stand as landmarks for all filmmakers. The story structure was also very complex and told from different perspectives, thereby making heavy demands on the viewer—a new concept for films of that time period. It’s hard to find any filmmaker that doesn’t count Citizen Kane as one of their biggest influences.
Please join us at The Cube in Northfield at 7pm on 10/12 and find out why I consider this to be the greatest film ever made. You won’t be disappointed.
New Amsterdam (NBC)
I don’t normally review shows on network TV; you can find plenty of reviews about such shows in many other places. After having a chance to screen the pilot (aired on 9/25) this past summer, and meet the cast and crew, however, I was impressed. This is a very good show by a talented group of artists—both cast and crew—who believe in what they are doing and have all the right intentions. Series creator and pilot writer David Schulner said that he conceived the idea after the 2016 elections and he wanted to bring something positive into the world. Judging from the pilot of this new medical drama, he succeeded.
The show is based on the book Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, by Eric Manheimer. Manheimer was the Chief Medical Officer at Bellevue Hospital in NYC for 15 years, and he even became a patient himself—fighting two bouts of cancer. The show follows the same premise: Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) takes the reigns of the oldest public hospital in the U.S. and immediately sets out to reform the place. The pilot has one of the most arresting sequences I’ve seen in a while that really makes you want more. But no more spoilers.
The show is expertly realized, and the pilot is helmed by Kate Dennis—one of the hottest directors on TV, most recently two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. The cast is very good, Eggold especially, but supporting players Freeman Ageyman, Janet Montgomery, and Jocko Sims are all solid in their respective roles. This is a show with heart, intelligence, and a strong sense of place and time. Give it a go.
You will like this show if you enjoyed Grey’s Anatomy, ER, and/or House.
It airs Tuesday nights on NBC, 9PM MST.
Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Cinema Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.