James Stewart

its-a-wonderful-life 1

It’s a Wonderful Life is a far bleaker entry than many of the other beloved films in the Christmas cinema canon. A Christmas Story is all about familial quirks, painted in Norman Rockwell hues. Even Die Hard never sees its everyman hero losing hope that he’ll save the day. But Frank Capra’s inspiring masterpiece puts us — and its protagonist George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) — through an emotional wringer and to the very brink of death before delivering a happy ending. Before we are shown the reason we must hang on to hope, even when life seems far from wonderful, we follow George through a fierce storm of emotional upswings and free falls. Through melodrama, Capra’s film communicates the intensity of our inner passions in a way that always rings true. Being something of a softie, it’s no surprise most of my favorite scenes in It’s a Wonderful Life are the ones that celebrate love. Here are six of the best.

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YCTIWY scenes

Frank Capra‘s adaptation of You Can’t Take It With You is one of the least favorite Best Picture winners. For many critics, but not for me. Outside of It’s a Wonderful Life, this film was my gateway to Capra, who I consider one of the most fascinating Golden Age directors. It was also my introduction to Jean Arthur, forever since my primary Hollywood crush. My interest in the film initially came about through a high school production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, in which I played an FBI agent. As an idealistic teen, everything from the title to the anarchic yet loving clan of eccentrics spoke to me. It’s fair that some people don’t think YCTIWY deserved the top Oscar, especially since it was up against such great movies as Grand Illusion and The Adventures of Robin Hood. Also, if you know Capra was at the time president of the Academy and was supposed to host the ceremony again that year and he threatened both a resignation and a massive boycott of the event out of support for the near-to-strike Screen Directors Guild and is said to have been honored for his leadership in resolving the whole matter, well all that seems to make the wins for Best Picture and Best Director (out of seven nominations) a little fishy. Awards matters aside, though, it’s hard not to like YCTIWY with its perfect ensemble cast and its happy-go-lucky political hodgepodge. It’s far from perfect, hardly Capra’s […]

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Editor’s Note: Max Allan Collins has written over 50 novels and 17 movie tie-in books. He’s also the author of the Road to Perdition graphic novel, off which the film was based. With his new Mickey Spillane collaboration “Lady, Go Die” in great bookstores everywhere, we thought it would be fun to ask him for his ten best films noir. In true noir fashion, we bit off more than we could handle… We have to begin with a definition of noir, which is tricky, because nobody agrees on one. The historical roots are in French film criticism, borrowing the term noir (black) from the black-covered paperbacks in publisher Gallimard’s Serie Noire, which in 1945 began reprinting American crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Horace McCoy, Jim Thompson, Mickey Spillane, W.R. Burnett and many others. The films the term was first applied to were low-budget American crime thrillers made during the war and not seen in France till after it. The expressionistic lighting techniques of those films had as much to do with hiding low production values as setting mood. In publishing circles, the term has come to replace “hardboiled” because it sounds hipper and not old-fashioned. I tend to look at dark themes and expressionistic cinematography when I’m making such lists, which usually means black-and-white only; but three color films are represented below, all beyond the unofficial cut-off of the first noir cycle (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955). Mystery genre expert Otto Penzler has […]

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Last week’s discussion on the sex appeal of animated characters sparked a little offline controversy. Why did we forget to include sexy villains in our list, when everyone knows they can be just as mouthwatering? Now we could spend an entire novel talking about the awkward crushes we have on certain animated villains, just as we could in the opposite direction, however I’m more interested in the modern rejection of Hollywood’s traditional “uglying up” the bad guy. See, this is where movies have always lost me. A true villain, one who is charming, relies on henchmen, and has a bevy of beauties would never be a disgusting, rotted, warted-up mess. In fact, no matter how determined a villain is to get his or her way, their tinge of crazy (read: psychotic levels) often makes them more attractive to those sharing screen time.  This is probably why you feel the need to shower after watching anything starring Vincent Cassel. But recently mainstream films have taken a page out of the indie playbook and started making their villains just a touch more delicious. Movies.com’s Jenni Miller wrote earlier this week about the sexification of the rapist in next month’s Straw Dogs remake. She discusses her discomfort with the film’s marketing decision to highlight the sexiness of the gang of deviants and how the film’s “down home” feel will get lost with such good looking villains. I have to disagree. Although Alexander Skarsgard (Charlie) has made a career of playing a hot Viking […]

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HarveyStewart

Literally. The entire film will be Steven Spielberg wrestling an invisible rabbit in his living room.

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oam-canttakeitwithyou

You Can’t Take it With You one of Frank Capra’s biggest Depression Era hits, is a rambunctious, hopeful story that’s still relevant today.

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Destry Rides Again

Destry Rides Again still delivers honest fun and a couple of memorable dialogs. Plus, the birth of a great western actor and one hell of a catfight!

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