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Craig's Movie Club
Movie Recommendations

Spotlight on: Orson Welles's Citizen Kane
Alternate Recommendation: Steven Spielberg's Minority Report

To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Citizen Kane DVD Cover Orson Welles's Citizen Kane

It's been a long time coming, but I've finally decided to settle down and review (and recommend, of course) what is considered to be the greatest film ever made--Orson Welles's masterpiece, Citizen Kane.

A lot of new film viewers don't seem to get what is so great about Kane. It's a slow film and the "revelation" at the end, in retrospect, doesn't seem very revelatory, but that's not the point. The point is that it's a great story, and after 60 years, it still stands up to repeated viewings.

Influence is admittedly a difficult thing to measure, but after your third or fourth viewing of Citizen Kane, it becomes very obvious that it was way ahead of its time. Welles and cinematographer Gregg Toland did things that you weren't supposed to be able to do then (e.g., deep focus, using ceilings) and made them work. Kane is really stunning visually, what with all the crosscuts, dissolves, and unusual edits, and I defy anyone to come up with a film from that period that is more of a visual feast.

The screenplay, whether it was written by Herman Mankiewicz solo with Welles' input, or as a collaborative effort (I don't really care), is just as much a feat. Telling the story by letting each character tell their own sides, regardless of linearity (even overlapping at some points) was not something that was particularly encouraged. Even now, people say they can't quite keep up with what is going on, and although that may turn some people off, I don't think that Citizen Kane was necessarily meant for a mass audience. After all, Orson Welles, as a genius (and you know how they are), was always more interested in expressing his artistic vision than being concerned about how the public would respond.

Bravery certainly comes in to play here, and courage and determination. Citizen Kane is the film that would not die. For the uninitiated, the story was (not very) loosely based on the life of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (in fact, I did a college thesis comparing and contrasting the film to Hearst's life, but that's a whole other story). The film was so close to reality that Hearst wanted to buy the negative so he could burn it. It was almost never released. And then, once it was released, the public shunned it. It wasn't until the rights ran out and television picked it up from the public domain for broadcast that people finally were able to appreciate the film for what it was. It is almost that the film itself yearned to be seen.

I could go into the performances and other such things, but that would make this really long and I am of the belief that reviews should be relatively short in order to keep the readers' attention. So, I will conclude by noting that Kane's influence even runs to modern music. The White Stripes' album White Blood Cells contains a song called "The Union Forever" where composer Jack White has lifted dialogue and lyrics from Kane and turned them into a bluesy rock song, thus spreading the word of Kane to future generations.

Combine that with the fact that it continually top the list of greatest films ever and what you have is a phenomenon of immense proportions that shows no signs of stopping. As long as people continue to watch Citizen Kane, people will continue to appreciate it for the work of art that it is.

(Also included on the DVD are commentaries by Roger Ebert and Peter Bogdanovich, interviews with editor Robert Wise and actress Ruth Warrick, and a complete documentary--The Battle Over Citizen Kane. A great DVD for a great film.)


Minority Report DVD Cover Alternate Recommendation: Steven Spielberg's Minority Report

I have to say that I was expecting to be highly underwhelmed by Minority Report. Generally, when Big Name Directors and Big Name Stars get together to make a Big Money Film, only mediocrity results. Plus, it seems that every time you turn around someone is making a film of a Philip K. Dick story.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise combine forces to make what is really a substantial thriller with a science-fiction leaning. The story and the characters are what really make this work--particularly Samantha Morton's performance as Agatha the pre-cog.

Also fun are the in-joke cameos (Cameron Crowe, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cameron Diaz) and the references to Stanley Kubrick films (particularly A Clockwork Orange) and other films based on Philip K. Dick stories.

It's not a classic in any sense, but Minority Report is a fun, fast-paced thriller with a brain and a message.


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