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Hidden Netflix Gems – Ladybug Ladybug

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug feels dated in many ways, and not just because it is in black & white; it is a quintessential Cold War paranoia movie, from the era of Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the only film of its era to make the threat of nuclear annihilation the subject of comedy. While those films are revered to this day, Ladybug Ladybug has fallen unfairly by the wayside, though its unique approach and hypnotic style are definitely worthy of viewing by a modern audience.

Written by Perry’s wife and frequent collaborator, Eleanor Perry, from a story by Lois Dickert, Ladybug Ladybug‘s title comes from the children’s rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home / Your house is on fire and your children are gone.” Based on a real incident, the film examines the course of events following a nuclear attack alarm at a small town elementary school. The alarm is a “code yellow,” which translates to “nuclear attack imminent within an hour.” After some panicked deliberation, the school’s principal, Mr. Calkins (William Daniels), decides to heed the alarm and send the children home. After this, the film follows one particular group of children as they are escorted home along a country road by a teacher, Mrs. Andrews (Nancy Marchand, best known as Tony’s vindictive mother, Livia, on The Sopranos).

We also see several of the schoolchildren camped out in the bomb shelter owned by one of their families, playing the waiting game and gradually evolving into their own small version of society. The way in which they instinctively form hierarchies and begin to govern themselves when left to their own devices recalls William Golding’s brilliant 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, though the savagery portrayed in that book is given far less time to flourish here. Instead of hunting and killing one another, these children discuss their situation with a rationality nowhere to be found in the adult world of Strangelove, for example. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the children take a vote on whether or not war should be allowed; they all vote against it before concluding that nobody will listen to children.

It’s not all polite discussion, though, as the inherent selfishness of human nature comes out in the children’s refusal to allow their fellow student, Sarah (Marilyn Rogers), into the bomb shelter, claiming there is simply not enough room. The result of this, though ambiguous, implies great tragedy for Sarah, and this tragic ambiguity extends to the film’s ending. Though its political import is a bit heavy-handed, as a narrative conclusion it is striking, poignant and memorable, all adjectives that could be applied to the film as a whole.

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It’s quite possibly the last end of the week movie news dump of 2010!

Things are supposed to quiet down as far as big movie news is concerned for the next couple of weeks, so enjoy these little draps and drabs of movie news from the last week while you can…

* It’s not quite on the level of finding a mysterious monolith on the moon but it comes close. AICN has it that EFX pioneer genius Douglas Trumbull has said that 17 minutes of lost outtakes from Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001: A Space Odyssey” have been found in a salt mine in Kansas. It’s important to remember this story, such as it is, originates from a message board and perhaps isn’t the best sourced item to ever hit the ‘nets. But what better place to store outtakes than a salt mine in Kansas? A pepper mill in Encino?

monolith

* Since the story’s been out since the beginning of the week, by now you’ve no doubt heard the news that Jon Favreau has walked away from “Iron Man 3″ in what we’re being assured was an entirely amicable split motivated primarily by his desire to make the Disneyland themed “Magic Kingdom.” As a lifelong Southern Californian and a current resident in good standing of the city of Anaheim, I love the Happiest Place on Earth as much as the next guy. However, as the premise for a movie, I’m hugely skeptical and wondering just what it is that is getting people of the caliber of Favreau and Guillermo del Toro on board with this these theme-parked based projects. (I’m much less skeptical of the Fincher “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” because, well, it’s based on a beloved book of my childhood as well as a pretty cool Disney flick, not a ride.)

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Directors Hall of Fame movie moments #2: “Paths of Glory”

Another scene honoring an inductee into Bullz-Eye’s Director’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2010, this time looking at my one of my choices for Stanley Kubrick‘s greatest films, 1957′s “Paths of Glory.” One of the greatest visceral depictions of the horror of war ever made.

A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. — Stanley Kubrick

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An end of week movie news dump for one weird and deadly week

It was thundering and lightning today briefly, unusual in Southern California, where we like our rain nice and quiet. Actually, it barely rained at all, which made if feel weirder. Of course, the really weird thing was all the people who died that you’ve been reading about here and we actually left out a few, including the guy who said this…

Anyhow, here are a few more items from this long, strange week of movie news.

* My reaction to the planned 3-D versions of the all six “Star Wars” movies? Let’s just say at first I thought I was reading the Onion, and then the Movie Hell Times.

* As much as I complain about the way Comicon has gone, taking it out of San Diego would only make it worse and even more impersonal. I never really thought it was going to move, but I’m glad I can be sure about that now. I know this is a controversial statement, but I’m going to go out on a limb: San Diego is nice.

* Even though I admit to not knowing the property all that well, I have a hard time imaging Ron Howard pulling off something like the proposed mega movie/TV adaptation of Stephen King’s massive “The Dark Tower” series. The memoir “My Stroke of Insight” with, perhaps, Jodie Foster in the lead seems much more up his alley. I’m all for people getting out of their comfort zones, but sometimes we have comfort zones for a reason.

* Regular readers here know I’m no gorehound, but a PG-13 “Alien” prequel makes as much sense as an R-rated “Mary Poppins” reboot.

* The late Stanley Kubrick’s attempts to forever suppress his first film have, it seems, come to naught. The semi-legendary “Fear and Desire” has been found in a film lab in Puerto Rico and will be making it’s way to DVD. I’ve seen Kubrick’s little known second film, “Killer’s Kiss” and I’m here to tell you, don’t get too excited. It’s gorgeous but, in terms of storytelling, as dull as dishwater. Kubrick’s career as a film great probably started with his third film, the noir-heist classic “The Killing.”

* The foreign language category for the Oscars has been supremely screwed up for decades because the Academy allows each nation to submit one film, and just one film, for consideration. No surprise that the choices tend to be heavily politicized. It’s only October and we already have two controversies.

* I think’s it’s an enormous stretch to characterize “Cast Away” as a classic, as Mike Fleming seems to think. I also think “Back to the Future” is fun but, well, not a classic either. Robert Zemeckis returning to the world of live action and time travel, and thereby having less time for creepy motion-capture, is nevertheless probably a good thing.

* A bit of inside-baseball. Executive Bob Berney caused quite a ruckus with his sudden departure from indie Apparition earlier this year. His new gig, which seems like it’s seeking to help fill the huge gap in middle-brow low-to-mid budget films, interests me.

* A Beach Boys jukebox musical seems to be in all of our futures. I love musicals and I love about half of the Beach Boys catalogue, but the jukeboxers annoy me. I’d almost rather watch this.

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It’s a brand new week and never too early for movie news!

* Sofia Coppola’s latest, “Somewhere,” won the highly prized Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The problem, if there is one, is that she is a current friend and former flame of Jury President Quentin Tarantino. I have to admit that I had forgotten they’d ever been a “thing,” but many do remember and there’s been some grumbling to the effect that the movie isn’t all that “fucking great.” It ain’t the crime of the century, but I guess Tarantino should have recused himself. Speaking for myself only, I find that I tend to be either more harsh or more enthusiastic about friends’ work.  As for Monte Hellman, Tarantino’s hardly alone in praising the maverick writer and director.

* Someone took Stanley Kubrick’s ultimate trip with way too much chemical enhancement over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have a story about that I’ll tell you sometime. In the meantime, protective measures may be in order.

2001-a-space-odyssey-ape

* So, if Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro are going to be in a film by Martin Scorsese, naturally it’s called “The Irishman.” Daniel Day Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, and Pierce Brosnan need to make a film called “The Italian” with Neil Jordan directing.

* Good. L.A. needs all the love letters, cinematic and otherwise, it can get. Naturally, all the lead actors are from foreign lands (Christopher Plummer is Canadian, but he feels like he’s from actual overseas), though I’m not sure about the characters. One of the things I loved about “A Single Man” was the way it depicted the European’s love affair with a town that U.S. natives mostly don’t seem to get.

* Woody Allen has stepped in to a long-running rumor-created fracas. France’s acting first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, apparently did just fine in “Midnight in Paris.”

Mickey Rourke scares small children * Mickey Rourke’s latest gig appears to be playing notorious mob killer Richard “the Ice Man” Kuklinski. I think this is a close to making a true family film as Rourke may ever get, next to “Iron Man 2.” The man’s face doesn’t only scare small children, it scares me.

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