Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'O'  11


OLEANNA (director/writer: David Mamet; screenwriter: based on the play by David Mamet; cinematographer: Andrezej Sekula; editor: Barbara Tulliver; music: Rebecca Pidgeon; cast: William H. Macy (John), Debra Eisenstadt (Carol); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Patricia Wolff/Sarah Green; MGM Home Entertainment; 1994-USA/UK)

Adapted from Mamet's play. Wordsmith Mamet enraptures the screen with a two-character story. It features performances of scathing and provocative dialogue between the pompous, middle-aged professor and his dull, feminist student. She has come to him for help concerning her failing grades and he goes off on a tangent explaining his philosophical views about education. They both tell their sides of the story, explaining their troubles, but are unable to communicate with each other. Their exchange covers many educational themes such as: tenure, curriculeum, modern education, and sexual harassment. The problems are articulated by the characters, but the answers lie with the audience. The film's title, Oleanna, interestingly enough, is taken from a folk tale of a husband (Ole) and wife (Anna) selling worthless swampland to farmers and then disappearing with all the farmer's money. GRADE: B

OMEGA MAN, THE (director: Boris Sagal; screenwriters: story by Joyce and John Corrington/based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: William H. Ziegler; music: Ron Grainer; cast: Charlton Heston (Neville), Anthony Zerbe (Matthias), Rosalind Cash (Lisa), Paul Koslo (Dutch), Lincoln Kilpatrick (Zachary); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Walter Seltzer; Warner Brothers; 1971)

The L.A. chosen ones, part human and part barbarian, try to kill a lone survivor (Heston) of germ warfare. Joe Canutt, the action coordinator, son of the legendary Yakima, does an excellent job arranging the action sequences. Interesting theme for Heston as he talks to himself, battles the creatures, and tries to come to grips with living just on memories. The film, also, defines the scientist Heston as a man who understands nothing until there is nothing to understand. GRADE: B-

ON THE WATERFRONT (director: Elia Kazan; screenwriter: Budd Schulberg/from the original story by Schulberg/suggested by the series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articlesby Malcolm Johnson; cinematographer: Boris Kaufman; editor: Gene Milford; music: Leonard Bernstein; cast: Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Karl Malden (Father Barry), Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Rod Steiger (Charley Malloy), Pat Henning ("Kayo" Dugan), Leif Erickson (Glover), Eva Marie Saint (Edie Doyle), Martin Balsam (Gillette); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Spiegel; Columbia Pictures; 1954)

Brando is outstanding as a longshoreman-boxer, who could have been a contender but for the corruption on the waterfront he's involved in. An interesting sidebar to the film, is that Kazan squealed to the McCarthy hearing (which may have played into his glorification of the Brando role ratting on the mob). GRADE: B

ONCE UPON A TIME, CINEMA (Nassereddin Shah, Actor-e Cinema) (director/writer/editor/cinematographer: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; cinematographer: M. Hashemi; cast: Ebrahim-Khan (The Cinematographer), Ezatollah Entezami (Nassereddin, The Shah), Akbar Abdi (Mali Jak), Mohammad Ali Keshavarz (Servant), Fateme Motamed-Aria (Golna); Runtime: 100; Facets Video; 1992) ... Reviewed on 8/16/2001.

This is a lightweight entertainment film meant not to cause any controversy as it comes after the Iranian government banned the director's last two films. It's a fantasy and comedy about the history of Iranian cinema, it's seen through the eyes of an early cinematographer (Mehdi Hashemi)--modeled awkwardly on Charlie Chaplin's tramp character--who introduces movies to the Persian court, gradually winning over the shah (Ezatollah Entezami) after the ruler falls for an actress (Fatemeh Motamed Aria), literally dropping from the screen into the palace. The film was plagued by impossible to read subtitles, which blend into the B & W picture onscreen and are too low on the screen to be visible. And since I didn't catch on to all the inside jokes about Iranian cinema, I found it not possible to say I enjoyed this film. Though, I must say it was filled with dazzling displays of photography and did itself proud by presenting the old silent days under the shah to the current day. It also poked fun at the current censorship rules. GRADE: C

ONCE WERE WARRIORS (director: Lee Tamahori; screenwriters: from the book by Alan Duff/Riwia Brown; cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh; editor: Michael Horton; music: Murray Mcnabb; cast: Rena Owen (Beth Heke), Temuera Morrison (Jake Heke ), Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell (Grace Heke), Julian Arahanga (Nig Heke), Taungaroa Emile (Boogie Heke), Cliff Curtis (Bully); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robin Scholes; Fine Line Features; 1994-New Zealand)

This is a very powerful drama on any level you approach it. It is the study of a family wracked by violence and abuse from a father, Temuera Morrison (Jake Heke). He can't control himself when he is often drunk. He is subject to extremely violent outbursts, feeling insecure that he comes from a family of ex-slaves. His wife's family remains rooted in their native Maori traditions. Beth Heke's (Rena Owen) role is to be the submissive wife, mind her lip, and hold the family together. The other part of the film just as effectively traces the cultural heritage of a proud people, who a thousand years ago were the conquerors of New Zealand. The film is distinguished by outstanding acting and a memorable story. Highly recommended. GRADE: B+

ONE DEADLY SUMMER (director/writer: Jean Becker; screenwriter: from the book One Deadly Summer by Sébastien Japrisot/Sébastien Japrisot; cinematographer: Etienne Becker; editor: Jacques Witta; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Isabelle Adjani (Elaine/Elle), Alain Souchon (Pin Pon), Edith Scob (Lady Doctor), Suzanne Flon (Cognata), Jenny Cleve (Pin Pon's Mother), François Cluzet (Mickey), Manuel Gelin (Boubou), Roger Carel (Henry IV), Maria Machado (Elle's Mother), Michel Galabru (Elle's Father); Runtime: 134; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Christine Beytout; Universal; 1983-France, in French with English subtitles)

An interesting, though not a particularly sensitive telling of a revenge flick. Adjani plays a young, attractive woman whose mother was raped. The film changes moods many times in the telling of her story, as it becomes more and more complex. Adjani's performance is mesmerizing, lending the picture an eerie psychological edge. The major problem with this story is, that it is difficult to feel sympathetic to someone so bent on getting revenge. GRADE: C

ONE  FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (director: Milos Forman; screenwriters: from the novel by Ken Kesey/Dale Wasserman author of the play/Bo Boldman/ Lawrence Hauben; cinematographers  William A. Fraker/Bill Butler/Haskell Wexler; editors:  Sheldon Kahn/Lynzee Klingman; music: Jack Nitzsche; cast: Jack Nicholson (Randle Patrick McMurphy), Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched), Dean Brooks (Dr. Spivey), Sidney Lassick (Cheswick), Danny De Vito (Martini), Will Sampson (Chief Bromden), William Redfield (Harding), Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit), Christopher Lloyd (Taber), Scatman Crothers (Turkle Crothers), Michael Berryman (Ellis); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Michael Douglas/Saul Zaentz; Warner Brothers; 1975)

Nicholson is placed in a mental institution, and immediately infuses some hope into the other patients. It is derived from Ken Kesey's book, using the unrest in America to take the side of the under-dog against the system. There is much energy in this popular film. GRADE: B-

ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (director: Henry Koster; cast: Deanna Durbin, Adolphe Menjou, Leopold Stokowski, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer, Eugene Pallette; 1937)

A sweet film, skillfully done. Deanna gets Stokowski to form an orchestra. GRADE: B

ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY (director/writer: Akira Kurosawa; screenwriter: Keinosuke Uegusa; cinematographer: Asakazu Nakai; music: Tadashi Hattori; cast: Chieko Nakakita (Masako), Isao Numasaki (Yuzo); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Shojiro Motoki; FDM Films; 1947-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

Kurosawa at his maudlin worst, doing a Frank Capra sentimental tear-jerker instead of looking to fellow countryman, the great Ozu, for inspiration on how to make this type of film. The result is a whimsical love story about a returning soldier down on his luck and short on cash, who is engaged to this nice girl whom he dates once a week on a Sunday. Chieko is nice enough as the optimist as opposed to the downcast but proud Isao. They worry about money. She watches him play baseball with some children. They go to the zoo. They look at a house they cannot afford. He wants to have sex with her, but she doesn't. So they go to see Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony." But ticket scalpers buy up all the cheap seats and they can't afford to go. It ends as the couple sit in the now empty outdoor stadium where Schubert was just performed and he pretends to conduct the symphony. Naturally, we hear the symphony. That was just too much for me.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN (director: William Wellman; cast: Grant Withers, Regis Toomey, Mary Astor, James Cagney, Joan Blondell; 1931)

Opens with an hilarious scene in a diner, and evolves into a love triangle story among best friends on the railroad. A rather conventional, but razor-sharp look at small-town America during the Depression. GRADE: C+

OUTLAW, THE (director: Howard R. Hughes/Howard Hawks; screenwriter: Jules Furthman ; cinematographer: Gregg Toland; editor: Wallace Grissele; music: Victor Young; cast: Jane Russell (Rio), Jack Beutel (Billy the Kid), Walter Huston (Doc Holliday), Thomas Mitchell (Pat Garrett), Joe Sawyer (Charley); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Howard R. Hughes; RKO; 1943)

The censors worried about Jane's cleavage. Hawks unhappily walked off the set. Howard Hughes meddled and finished this off-beat Western by directing it himself. And then there was the plot, it had Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, and Pat Garrett getting all hot and bothered about such things as the worth of Jane, stolen horses, and shooting some people. The film has a healthy erotic quality to it, along with a diverting casual style. GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"