Minisode 041: Grave of the Fireflies/Mary and the Witch’s Flower

In this special minisode, we kick-off Patrick’s “Summer of Anime” movie challenge by confronting the late Isao Takahata’s masterpiece, Grave of the Fireflies. But to lighten things up, we also have a short and entirely spoiler-free review of the first feature film from Studio Ponoc, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. 

Mary and the Witch’s Flower Spoiler-Free Review – 0:03:53

Grave of the Fireflies Review – 0:15:27


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August 2018 – “Choose Your Director Month”

In January 2017, Feelin’ Film had its inaugural Director Month, covering the films of our favorite director – Christopher Nolan. Going through a single director’s films over the course of several weeks in a row provided a unique perspective on how his work had evolved, and was one of the most enjoyable things we’d done. So, in January 2018, we chose to make Director Month an annual occurrence and covered the films of Stanley Kubrick. This, too, was a wonderful experience for us and left us anxious to do it again.

Looking forward at the new release schedule, we have identified August 2018 as a great time to slip in another Director Month. But this time, we want YOU, our listeners, to choose whose filmography we dive into. Below you will find a list of directors and the corresponding films we would discuss. This is your chance to tell us what you want to hear us talk about on the podcast, and you can vote by clicking on the link below to join our Facebook Discussion Group and selecting your preferred choices in the poll.

Vote Here

Tony Scott

THE LAST BOY SCOUT
MAN ON FIRE
CRIMSON TIDE
DAYS OF THUNDER


Michael Mann

HEAT
COLLATERAL
THIEF
MIAMI VICE


Michael Bay

PAIN AND GAIN
TRANSFORMERS
PEARL HARBOR
THE ROCK


Jeff Nichols

MUD
SHOTGUN STORIES
TAKE SHELTER
LOVING


David Fincher

SE7EN
ZODIAC
FIGHT CLUB
GONE GIRL


Coen Brothers

FARGO
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE BIG LEBOWSKI


Clint Eastwood

UNFORGIVEN
MYSTIC RIVER
AMERICAN SNIPER
MILLION DOLLAR BABY


James Cameron

THE ABYSS
TITANIC
ALIENS
TRUE LIES


Martin Scorsese

GOODFELLAS
HUGO
THE DEPARTED
TAXI DRIVER


Wes Anderson

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
MOONRISE KINGDOM
ISLE OF DOGS
FANTASTIC MR. FOX


Kathryn Bigelow

ZERO DARK THIRTY
THE HURT LOCKER
POINT BREAK
NEAR DARK

The Evolution of Eastwood: THE BEGUILED

THE BEGUILED (1971)

“You must understand that it was the wine that turned loose the devils in me.” – Corporal John “McBee” McBurney

For nine films (and years of network television) Clint Eastwood had been “a man with a gun”, whether that was in a war film, a western, or a police drama. At this point in his career, he was genuinely concerned about being overly typecast and he made two calculated choices to try to perform against type. The first choice was this Civil War drama, The Beguiled, and his second choice was to finally direct his first feature film.

The Beguiled is a unique entry in both the catalogue of Clint Eastwood and of Don Siegel, its director. At this point, the pair of them had collaborated twice already and had become good friends as well as a veritable mutual admiration society. The opportunity to try their collaborative magic at something quite different appealed to them both. Eastwood himself was a major force behind the project’s inception, having read and become captivate by the original source novel, A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan. The script went through a few different iterations (including one with a straight-forward “happily-ever-after” ending) before ultimately landing with the results for the final film.

The premise revolves around a badly wounded union soldier (Eastwood) during the Civil War who is discovered and taken in by a group of young ladies at a boarding school. The headmistress is rigid and occasionally oppressive, but the soldier’s presence sends the entire group of young women into distrustful disarray, inciting desirous intentions and deceit, eventually erupting in violence and disturbing behavior as the soldier rejects and accepts certain advances (while making one or two of his own at the same time). The tension and threats escalate to an irreversible degree and the soldier soon realizes that he must find a way to escape or he will be trapped there forever, if not dead.

One of the earliest shots in the film, immediately following the soldier’s being taken into the school, is of a raven tied by a sequence of thread to an upstairs bannister. We discover that this bird had a wounded leg and is being held there while it heals, but we occasionally witness the bird’s frantic attempts to break free of the restraints and fly away. This steadily increasing dread and ever-deepening threat extend throughout the film, and the result is both disturbing and compelling.

It is often a very uncomfortable film in its extremist depictions of relational desire. There are moments involving sensual advances by teenagers and even an incestuous thread (albeit by flash-back). The soldier, too, presents an unsettling attitude towards desire and entitlement, although his perspective is frequently portrayed within a survivalist context (i.e. he’s doing what he ordinarily might not do because of the pressure of his circumstances). This all makes it challenging to openly endorse or recommend the film, but the performances (particularly by Eastwood and Geraldine Page – who plays the school’s headmistress) are exceptionally complex and often captivating.

But the most prominent element of the film is its exploration of the discomfort of gender roles in positions of power. Siegel is quoted as having stated that the film contained in its central theme “the desire of all women to castrate men.” This makes for several outright emasculating qualities to the narrative, which is about as drastic of a departure for Eastwood as you could imagine, even more so than when he sang in Paint Your Wagon. The film disturbingly treats women within certain stereotypes and does no favors for any conversation about equity of value within relationships or society. But the film-craft at work through the production and performances are enough to maintain a highly compelling viewing experience.

The film is also frequently frightening. The narrative plot may be a period drama, but stylistically and tonally, this is a horror film, and nearly everyone is – at one time or another – a monster. It is a strong opportunity for Eastwood as a performer to play a variety of emotions, including ranges of terror and vulnerability that he had literally never shown before. And without tipping too heavily into spoiler-territory, I’ll vaguely mention that there are at least a couple of devastating predicaments in this film that his character doesn’t escape without irreversible consequences.

But the film was not terribly well-received by audiences (although critics praised it rather highly). Eastwood would eventually blame mishandled marketing on the part of Universal Studios and a sensibility from his fans that did not like to see him so vulnerable. Time has been much kinder to it in general (and renewed interest was sparked when Sofia Coppola remade it in 2017). But The Beguiled is a bleak, unsettling, southern-gothic thriller and it is very, very effective. With the disclaimer that there are some highly uncomfortable thematic elements and a few disturbing moments, it still comes with a pretty strong recommendation.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

The Evolution of Eastwood: KELLY’S HEROES

KELLY’S HEROES (1970)

“Sergeant, this bank’s not gonna fall into the hands of the American army. It’s gonna fall into our hands.” – Kelly

When Eastwood originally signed on to lead Kelly’s Heroes, he did so because it was supposed to be helmed by Don Siegel who, following Two Mules for Sister Sara, Eastwood considered his personal friend and favorite director. However, Siegel was bogged down with post-production on that film and unable to fit the production schedule. Meanwhile, Eastwood was unable to back out of his contractual obligation.

Directorial duties then fell to Brian G. Hutton, who had previously helmed Where Eagles Dare. In a few ways, Kelly’s Heroes is quite similar to that film. it features a troop of soldiers on a mission behind enemy lines, but unlike the weighty and twist-filled Where Eagles Dare, this mission is of a more personal nature and the tone is much more light-hearted and direct.

The 34th Infantry Division are disgruntled, frustrated, and overwrought. Their captain is glaringly selfish and whenever he decides to lead his men at all, he frequently positions them either in the way of harm or of boredom. When Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) learns from a captured German officer about a bank filled with millions of dollars in gold bars, he resolves to travel behind enemy lines to break in and steal the loot. Enlisting the aid of his fellow disgruntled officers, along with a ragtag group of misfits from other divisions, the group cross into enemy territory and begin a series of adventures in misdirection in an effort to obtain the gold.

Eastwood carries top-billing this time, but he’s a bit dwarfed by the rest of the impressive cast. The cast includes the brutish and intimidating Telly Savalas, the apoplectic and hilariously obnoxious Don Rickles, and – in one of his most delightfully eccentric performances – the hippie-zen-warrior “Oddball” played by Donald Sutherland. The cast also includes Carol O’Connor as a naïve commander and Gavin Macleod as a perpetually furious army mechanic. Eastwood anchors the chaos with a steady and assured performance that is by no means a step backwards, but is hard to find impressive amidst such a colorful and entertaining collection of co-stars.

The film deftly balances some genuinely exciting action sequences with a constant thread of sardonic humor. But it is the most cynical film in Eastwood’s filmography thus far, often criticizing without any subtlety the hazards and pointlessness of wartime conditions. Not only is the mission at the plot’s base a mission of profit and desertion, but along the way, the “heroes” of the title enlist the help of nearly every disillusioned soldier, including at least one Nazi. The cynicism becomes perhaps most apparent when the soldiers – essentially on a bandit’s mission – are mistaken for bold and devoted patriots who are making an advance against the enemy (prompting the joke of the film’s title).

There is an utterly chilling moment when, following a particularly significant victory, a Nazi solider who has joined their treasure hunt instinctively gives the Nazi salute, momentarily stunning Private Kelly into remembering who they were before this mission. Once this shocking instinct is realized, the same Nazi alters his posture into a military salute, letting his mouth drift into a self-righteous smirk. It’s a provocative moment of glaring indictment against the whole enterprise that is unsettling and unforgettable.

But despite these alarmingly biting elements, this film manages to be highly entertaining and paced like a bullet, displaying once again Hutton’s talent for handling wartime mission narratives. It is often laugh-out-loud funny and occasionally poignant. It also contains possibly intentional echoes of Eastwood’s collaborations with Sergio Leone, most noticeable in a climactic scene where he, Savalas, and Sutherland face off against a Tiger Tank in a fashion unmistakably reminiscent of a western showdown. With strong characters, a simple and direct narrative, a steady pace, and a sharp tone, Kelly’s Heroes is an easily recommendable war film, whether you enter it with or without affection for that type of film.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

Episode 95.1: Full Metal Jacket Diary with Matthew Modine & Adam Rackoff

After recording Episode 95: Full Metal Jacket, we found ourselves eagerly seeking out even more information about the film. This led to the discovery of Full Metal Jacket Diary, a collection of star Matthew Modine’s journal entries and pictures that had been not only printed in book form and recorded as an audiobook, but developed into a one-of-a-kind immersive iPad app experience. We found Modine’s stories of his time on the set and insight into the mind of Stanley Kubrick to be fascinating.

In this special episode, we sit down with both Matthew Modine and short film producer/iPad app developer Adam Rackoff for conversations about the book, the app, and Matthew’s experiences filming Full Metal Jacket.

** Get Full Metal Jacket Diary Here **

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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The Evolution of Eastwood: TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA

TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

“Everybody’s got a right to be a sucker once.” – Hogan

The script for Two Mules for Sister Sara was shown to and discussed with Eastwood by Elizabeth Taylor while he was filming Where Eagles Dare with her husband Richard Burton. The original plan was for her to star in it, but when the time came, she was busy on another project. The role went to Shirley MacLaine (a more established star than Eastwood at the time), and it was the last time in Eastwood’s career that he would get second billing for a major role in a feature film.

Partnering up once again with director Don Siegel, who had helmed Coogan’s Bluff previously, and bringing on composer Ennio Morricone to score the film provides some familiar touchpoints for Eastwood in this film while still allowing him to flex a bit of range in his characterizations. He plays a drifting bounty hunter named Hogan (who strongly resembles his “man with no name” with the hat and cigarillo but minus the poncho) who rescues a nun (Sister Sara of the title) from a group of lecherous bandits and finds that his current mission to capture a French-occupied fort coincides with hers to rescue a group of prostitutes from the same place.

Despite much grumbling and numerous frustrations (not to mention her nunnery vows), Hogan finds himself drawn into romance with Sister Sara which deepens even further after he is badly wounded by a group of Indians along their quest and nursed back to health by her. Her impetuous boldness and his stubborn attitude provide much of the flavor and enjoyable drama in the film, and the broader setting of their mission raises the stakes to a very effective and engrossing level.

Eastwood is more talkative and expressive in this film than in any of his previous works thus far, frequently casting out sarcastic arguments and displaying exaggerated reactions to the absurdity of his character’s predicament. It is no small degree of fun to see him flex his characterization this way, and MacLaine’s fiery, assured portrayal as Sister Sara is an excellent counter to him. The story itself isn’t the strongest, but its functionality as a vehicle for its stars is well-suited and Siegel handles the pacing and tone extremely well. There is even a soft third-act twist that makes for a fitting resolution to both the narrative and the characters (I call it a “soft” twist because it is a twist of character rather than of plot).

I enjoyed Two Mules for Sister Sara quite a bit. It finds Eastwood playing to some of his strengths without feeling too familiar and finds him stretching his talents without drifting too far upstream from his core appeal (like what happened with the poorly crafted Paint Your Wagon). There are rumors that things on set were tense with MacLaine, not necessarily between her and Eastwood but between her and Siegel, and the film certainly feels as if her character is the more crucial one driving the overall production forward. This is not to say that she overshadows Eastwood, but it is telling that not only did Eastwood never take secondary billing again, he also wouldn’t work with a female co-star of his same celebrity status again until Bridges of Madison County.

But for fans of Eastwood westerns, this is a must-see. I’d even say it’s a must-see for fans of westerns in general. And even for the broader general audience, it’s an enjoyable comedy-action-western that’s likely to bring several smiles to your face and an ultimately satisfied feeling when the credits roll.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

Connecting With Classics 002: Casablanca

Here in Episode 2 of “Connecting With Classics”, Aaron, Don, and guest host Josh from LSG Media’s Science Fiction Film Podcast celebrate Valentine’s Day by discussing a film that is considered one of the greatest love stories ever told. Casablanca checks in at #3, NUMBER THREE!, on the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary list. This is definitely a beloved classic we have a great conversation about its quality as a film and all of the ways it has resonated with us emotionally.

One of the goals for “Connecting With Classics” is listener participation. We will be hosting prize drawings for podcast swag and more at the end of each calendar year. Entries into the drawing can be earned for every episode by watching the film and posting your own review or thoughts about the podcast episode in the comments section of the episode announcement post in our Feelin’ Film Facebook Discussion Group. For listeners who do not wish to be a part of the discussion group, emailing reviews to feelinfilm@gmail.com will also be accepted.

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Episode 095: Full Metal Jacket

Our final week of Kubrick Month has arrived and we wrap things up by having a conversation about the movie that gave us the great director’s take on the Vietnam War. Full Metal Jacket is extremely tense, often funny, and incredibly shot, but it is more than just a war movie. It’s also a commentary about humanity and with that provides us plenty to talk through. It’s been an awesome month of celebrating Stanley Kubrick and we’re glad to go out with a bang. 


What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:26

(Aaron – Maze Runner: The Death Cure)
(Patrick – Electric Dreams)

Full Metal Jacket Review – 0:12:53

The Connecting Point – 2:00:37

Guest Appearances:


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

The Evolution of Eastwood: WHERE EAGLES DARE

WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968)

“Do me a favor, will you? Next time you have one of these things, keep it an all-British operation.” – Lt. Morris Schaffer

The third film Eastwood released in 1968 was the only one in which he was not the primary lead. It’s also possibly the best of the three. The film began specifically as a vehicle for its primary star, Richard Burton, who was looking for a stronger candidate to have a hit film. The film was a calculated attempt to earn a box office hit and allow Burton to perform in a piece with a broader appeal. Lee Marvin was approached to play opposite Burton, but he turned it down because he’d just recently completed The Dirty Dozen. The script was then sent to Eastwood, whose star was shining brightly thanks to the Leone films. Originally Eastwood didn’t care for the script, but the amount he was offered for the role quieted any quibbles he was carrying.

Writer Alistair MacLean had established a reputation for himself as a solid thriller craftsman whose bestselling books frequently translated into hit films. He was commissioned to craft a new story, largely with an eye towards being a Richard Burton vehicle. The result was Where Eagles Dare, a wartime covert-rescue thriller in which an elite team (who had never worked together before) must infiltrate a secluded castle stronghold and extract a captured American General. Although the mission is direct, its chances of success are very slim, and it quickly becomes clear that the mission is not as simple as it seems (and neither are the men on it).

Although Eastwood is not the primary headliner on this film, his presence is invaluable to why it works so well. Richard Burton, whose acting background was largely based in live stage work, adeptly handles the language when exposition or revelations become too wordy. Meanwhile, Eastwood (who, again, was not a fan of the script and actually asked for some of his lines to be given to Burton) spends his time largely letting his steely squint speak for him (a quality he’s come to nearly perfect thanks to his work with Leone). Burton and Eastwood were given much liberty to help craft their own characters for this film and the result is a highly watchable, frequently thrilling wartime spy classic.

The script itself, despite Eastwood’s irritations, is skillfully crafted, although it frequently suffers from a certain pedestrian bluntness when it’s delivering key pieces of exposition or explanation. This simplicity is offset, however, by a handful of genuinely surprising plot twists. Having never seen this film and knowing very little from cultural awareness allowed me to experience these twists with unjaded eyes and I found them to be very effective. From the onset of the narrative mission, one of the team is killed in a way that was intended to appear accidental. Since the individuals have not worked together before, suspicions begin to abound, not only about who on the team might be a traitor, but also about why they might truly have been sent on the mission at all. With each new revelation, the stakes and advantages shift; and I dare any first-time viewer to accurately guess what surprise will come next.

Most of the action sequences are focused on the last half of the film, and some of them are quite suspenseful. There are two sequences involving struggles atop a miles-high cable car that are very tense. It is also probably worth noting that, possibly because of the wartime setting, Eastwood’s character kills more people in this film than he does in any future film in which he stars (including some of his more brutal westerns). The sequences feel somewhat dated for the most part, but any astute viewer entering the film with an understanding of late-60s sensibilities should find themselves in for quite a treat.

As for this entry in Eastwood’s overall filmography, it made me wonder why he didn’t take on more secondary or supporting roles. No one would question his charisma or talent as a leading man, he’d already well proven those by this point. But he really thrives as a supporting character (although, true, he’s practically a co-lead in this film). His capacity to influence a scene in which he’s not directly leading the action is highlighted in this under-discussed gem. If you’re a fan of covert mission stories, or of wartime thrillers in general, you should give some time for Where Eagles Dare.

 


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

Episode 094: Dr. Strangelove

It’s Week 3 of Kubrick Month and we turn our attention to the director’s version of comedy. Dark, satirical comedy as it may be. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb isn’t just a movie with one of the longest titles in cinema history, but is a masterful look at how nuclear weapons have shaped the world, and the potential dangers that come with them. For the first time this month we aren’t left scratching our heads and trying to figure out what the film means. Enjoy this conversation about another classic from Stanley Kubrick.


What We’ve Been Up To -0:01:19 

(Aaron – 12 Strong)
(Patrick – The Prince of Egypt, Secret Hitler)

Dr. Strangelove Review – 0:17:49

The Connecting Point – 1:04:09

Guest Appearances:

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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