Classic Movie Review: Harvey (1950)


Title: Harvey
Release Date: December 21, 1950
Director: Henry Koster
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Summary/Review:

Harvey is a movie I saw parts of when I was younger, and I’m pretty sure attempted to watch at a later date (checked out the video but didn’t get a chance to watch it).  So it’s been on my “list” for quite some time.  The central premise is whimsical: Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is best friends with a 6′ 3.5″ rabbit who is a pooka that only he can see.

The reality of the film is darker.  Elwood’s sister, Veta Louise Simmons (Josephine Hull) and niece, Myrtle Mae (Victoria Horne), share his home and find their social life ruined by his apparent mental illness and alcoholism.  They’re attempt to have him committed to a sanatorium turns into a comedy of error that relies on a lot of cringe humor that rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe I’m overly sensitive to issues of mental health and substance abuse but much of the humor in this film didn’t make me laugh.

The other big problem with this movie is that the cast of this movie are just not as good at acting as Jimmy Stewart.  He has some wonderful moments in this movie, even if you have to set aside the cliche of the “wise fool” to enjoy them.  When he’s not on screen, it’s readily apparent that his colleagues aren’t up to snuff and the movie suffers.

Rating: **1/2

Movie Review: Titicut Follies (1967) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “T” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “T” documentaries I’ve reviewed are 13th, Tower, and Trekkies.

Title: Titicut Follies
Release Date: October 3, 1967
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Production Company: Zipporah Films, Inc.
Summary/Review:

This is a hard movie to watch and its even harder to believe it exists.  Frederick Wiseman filmed his first verite-style documentary with a single-camera and only existing light sources over 29-days at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  Bridgewater  State is far more prison than hospital and Wiseman documents how the patients are frequently stripped of clothing and left in bare rooms (reportedly as a cost-saving measure).  Guards mock and taunt patients. In a particularly grueling sequence, we see the prison staff rather indifferently force feed a patient.  The same patient died later on and images of his body being prepared for burial are intercut with the force feeding segment.

Not surprisingly, Massachusetts banned this movie and it was not made viewable by the general public until the 1990s.  The argument that it violates the patients’ privacy has its merits, but more like it was a cover your ass measure to hide the cruel treatment at Bridgewater State. In the decades after this movie was filmed there were cases of wrongful death as well people being held at Bridgewater past the end of their sentences, and some people sent there who never should’ve been there at all.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

This film documents another instance of how the word “criminal” can be used to justify the cruellest treatment of human beings.  A psychiatrist frequently appears in the film, but he seems only interested in agitating the prisoners and often he speaks nonsense.  The point is made that if you weren’t insane when you arrived at Bridgewater State, it is the type of place that would drive one to insanity.  Whatever your thoughts on crime and punishment, I hope you can agree that the cruel treatment documented in this film doesn’t do anyone any good.  I’m certain that even though this movie is 50 years old that there are prisons and “hospitals” that still function like this in the United States, and we need to work past incarceration and towards transformative justice and treatment.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

“Like” may not be the right word in regards to this documentary, but if you feel moved to do something to help the incarcerated, I believe the Prison Book Program is an excellent cause to support.

Source: Kanopy

Rating: ****


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family
R: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
S: Soundtrack for a Revolution

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

Book Review: Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher


AuthorCarrie Fisher
TitleWishful Drinking
Narrator:  Carrie Fisher
Publication Info: S&S Audio (2009)
Summary/Review:

Based on her stage performance, the delightful Carrie Fisher wryly reflects on her celebrity upbringing, her marriages and relationships, her mental health problems, and substance abuse issues.  An interesting memoir for fans and non-fans alike.

Recommended booksFuriously Happy by Jenny Lawson, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, and You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felcia Day
Rating: ***

Book Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson


AuthorJenny Lawson
TitleFuriously Happy
Narrator:  Jenny Lawson
Publication Info: [New York] : Macmillan Audio, p2015.
Summary/Review:

This collection of humorous essays is a laugh riot from the perspective of the author of The Bloggess which skips among topics such as depression, anxiety, marriage, therapy, and taxidermy.  Really, a surprising amount about taxidermy.  Listening to the audiobook in Lawson’s enthusiastically goofy voice is an added bonus.

Recommended booksHyperbole and a Half  by Allie Brosh, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day, and Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me  by Ellen Forney
Rating: ***1/2

Podcast of the Week: This American Life – “579: My Damn Mind”


My Damn Mind” is an episode of This American Life that tells the story that ties together several topical issues: Alan Pean, an African-American man living in Houston suffers from a delusional episode but in his lucid moments has the presence of mind to go to the hospital for help.  Except, while at the hospital he doesn’t get a psychiatric evaluation and ends up being shot by the police!

The story is also covered by The New York Times.

Book Review: Marbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, and me by Ellen Forney


AuthorEllen Forney
TitleMarbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, and me
Publication Info: New York : Gotham Books, c2012.
ISBN: 9781592407323
Summary/Review:

This graphic memoir depicts artist Ellen Forney’s experience when diagnosed with a bipolar personality, and her efforts to come terms with the manic and depressive periods of her life, as well as the cocktails of pharmaceuticals to help address this.  Forney explores the idea of the “troubled artist” stereotype, wondering if medication would kill her creativity, but also learning of the terrible struggles of famed bipolar artists.  This book ends on an upbeat note as Forney reflects on how she’s changed since her diagnosis, and grows to accept some of the tradeoffs in life.

Favorite Passages:

“Sometimes it seems like ‘pain’ is too obvious a place to turn for inspiration.  Pain isn’t always deep anyway.  Sometimes it’s awful and that’s it.  Or boring.

Surely other things can be as profound as pain …  ?”

Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.
Rating: ***1/2