• THE WAY BACK (2010) Thriller
This fine film might have slipped by you. It is a true story. It stars Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. In 1940 four prisoners break out of a Siberian prisoner of war camp and try an impossible 4,000 mile walk to freedom. They somehow manage to cross the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas to find freedom in India. Beautiful scenery is everywhere as we follow the escapees from one hardship to another. The film is a tribute to man’s will to survive and be free. Available now on DVD.
• ALL GOOD THINGS
Another true story that will send shivers down your spine. It’s not a horror story but I guess it might be, if it happened to you.
Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst star with the always-great Frank Langella. The story spans about 25 years and starts in the early 1970s.
Ryan Gosling’s character is the son of a rich and powerful land-owning father (Langella).
The son has a deep hatred of his father because he was made to witness the suicide death of his mother when he was only six years old.
Gosling somehow meets the girl of his dreams and eventually marries her, taking her to upstate NY to open a Health Food Store.
Somewhere along the way, the poor guy is pulled back into his father’s cruel but legal business. Things unravel fast for him—he’s not exactly sound to begin with—and soon his wife goes missing. Although all signs point to him as her murderer, he’s acquitted. Hitchcock would have nailed this story, but alas he’s in Psycho Heaven. I recommend you rent this movie to see how it all turns out. Available now on DVD.
We’ll take a break from Historical Hollywood this month and review some interesting terminology and aspects of film.
• Cameo: This is the word used for an unexpected on-screen appearance of a famous person, usually in a walk-on or small role. Often the appearance comes as a pleasant surprise.
The cameo role gets its name from the famous brooch, with its instantly-recognizable profile. Though cameos are mostly used in comedy, famous writers sometimes show up in their own dramatic stories. Alfred Hitchcock practically trademarked the cameo, appearing briefly in 37 of his films. A cameo can be wordless or used to set up an important scene with brief dialogue. In Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarrantino cast Rod Taylor and Mike Meyers in cameos. Most of the time, a cameo actor plays himself, and if he has a sense of humor, it’ll be an exaggeration. The HBO series, Extras, got some big laughs when famous actors appeared, being stupid or obnoxious. A cameo sometimes verges on being a role for a supporting actor. In Superman, Marlon Brando’s brief but memorable role could be classed as a cameo. You shouldn’t confuse a cameo with a small role played by an actor before he was famous. Before he was a star, Sylvester Stallone appeared briefly in two movies, Bananas, where he plays a thug and Prisoner of Second Avenue, where he suddenly appears as a mugger. Of course there are literally hundreds of other famous actors who started out as extras or in walk-on parts. Bob Hope had Bing Crosby do cameos in some of his films. Sean Connery makes an unbilled appearance in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves as King Richard. Visit the IMDB site on the Internet and type in an actor’s name. If the role is listed as uncredited, it usually means it was a cameo.
• The 4th wall This is what film and theatre people call the imaginary boundary between the stage and the audience at a play. A set usually has three walls; this is also sometimes true in film. When an actor seems to step outside the play and talks directly to the audience, he is said to be breaking the 4th wall. In film, this almost always happens in comedies.
Laurel & Hardy did it in all their films: Hardy would turn around and look at the audience after Stan did something stupid. Bob Hope used it in some of his films where he would crack a joke to the movie audience. In Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety, the camera pulls back as the audience hears a plate glass window breaking. Boston Legal used to have deadpan discussions where key players worried about being renewed for another season. William Shatner sometimes made references to Captain Kirk, his character in the earlier Star Trek series.
The next time you’re at a movie and a famous face unexpectedly pops up, you will know it’s a cameo. When an actor acknowledges the presence of the audience, you will know he’s breaking the fourth wall.
Ric Pantale writer and director, is an independent film maker. His latest film, Delilah Rose, is scheduled for release this year.