TIFF BELL Lightbox - Norman Jewison

09 Aug 2011

Weekend Box Office

TIFF Bell Lightbox Presents – Norman Jewison

Our own Canadian Norman Jewison gets a retrospective of his films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  Most of his films are American but the man has spearheaded the Canadian Film Centre and widely known as Canadians more as one than as an American.

Jewison himself will be present during select screenings.

Jewison is known for his wide range of commercial films – in fact commercial films at their best.  My favourite of his are FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (the musical) and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.  The segment with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway bouncing off their dune buggy to the tune of Windmills of Your Minds is pure adrenaline flow.

For more information on the programme, showtimes, venue and ticket pricing, please check the TIFF Cinematheque website at:-

He has made dramas, romances, many comedies and musicals.  Below are just 6 of his films capsule reviewed.

Capsule Reviews:

Directed by Norman Jewison
Jewison’s first career foray into drama proves his mettle in the genre with a tight period piece on 5-stud poker.  THE CINCINNATI KID of the tile is Eric Stoner (Steve McQueen) who challenges the best in the game, known as Lancey (the man) Howard (Edward G. Robisnon).  Quite a bit if screen time takes place during the actual duel play between the kid and the man, the segments bringing forth, as expected, the most suspense and drama.  Sideplots involve The Kid and his romantic interest (Tuesday Wel) and his friendship with Shooter (Karl Malden) hired as the dealer and his wife, the flirty Melba (Ann Margaret) who also has a crush on the kid.  It is Robinson and Joan Blondell as Landy Fingers who garner the best performances.  The film feels a bit stagey though Jewison takes his film out into the open streets at the film’s beginning.  But it moves fast whenever the game is on play mode.

Directed by Norman Jewison
The Hurricane is boxer “Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington).  The film narrates his life concentrating on the period between 1966 and 1985.  It describes his fight against the conviction for triple murder and how he copes with nearly twenty years in prison.  At the same time, Jewison intercuts the story with parallel plot, an underprivileged youth from Brooklyn, Lesra Martin (Vicellois Reon Shannon), becomes interested in Carter’s life and destiny after reading Carter’s autobiography, and convinces his Canadian foster family to commit themselves to his case.  Jewison’s conviction to the story is so strong that cetain liberties were taken with the result that the film ran into trouble with inaccuracies.  In one of the famed fights in which the film changed the outcome, the producers got sued and settled out of court for a hefty sum.  Still, Washington delivers a grand performance depicting fury and pride with his boxing match scenes coming across more than convincing.  But evryone in the film tries too hard, as is evident from the film''s start!

Directed by Norman Jewison
Arguably Norman Jewison’s best film, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT went on to win major Oscars such as Best Picture, Best Actor for Rod Steiger and Best Adapted Screenplay for Stirling Silliphant.  The film works as both a murder mystery and a black civil rights film.  It all starts when Philip Colbert, a wealthy man from Chicago, planning to build a factory in Sparta, Mississippi, is found murdered.  Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) comes under pressure to quickly find his killer. African-American northerner homicidal expert Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poiter), passing through, is picked up at the train station with a substantial amount of cash in his wallet. Gillespie, heavily prejudiced against blacks, jumps to the conclusion he has his culprit, but is embarrassed to learn that Tibbs is a respected Philadelphia homicide detective who had been visiting his mother. After the racist treatment he receives, Tibbs wants nothing more than to leave as quickly as possible, but his captain recommends he stay and help. Jewison plays the Poitier and Steiger characters against each other very well, enemies at first but friends at the very end.  Jewison also wrings some genuine excitement especially in the scene where Tibbs is almost beaten up by prejudiced white scum.  The film is beautifully shot, especially the night scenes by Haskell Wexler and the film is aided by a marvellous musical score by Quincy Jones.  The title song Ray Charles captures the mood and sets the tone at the beginning of the film.  An excellent film all round!

MOONSTRUCK (USA 1987) ****
Directed by Norman Jewison
Norman Jewison’s hand in romantic comedy proves more than successful with this delightful and entertaining film going on to win 3 Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress for Cher and Best Supporting Actress for Olympia Dukakis.  Jewison won himself a Best Director nomination.  37-year-old Loretta Castorini (Cher) is an accountant for a few local businesses in the Brooklyn, New York.  Her fiance, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), asks her to invite his younger brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) to the wedding before leaving for Italy to attend to his dying mother.  Loretta and Ronny fall madly in love.  Simple story but great comedic writing by John Patrick Shanley lifts the plot. Wonderful performances all round but it is Vincent Gradenia as Loretta’s cheating dad that steals the show.  The catchy title song also helps set the mood for love sand a good entertaining feel good movie. Jewison also gets it right with the atmosphere and mores on an Italian American family from the typical dinner table setting to the family restaurant.

Directed by Norman Jewison
Jewison tackles two themes in ROLLERBALL – the action game and the individual fighting the corporation.  The film is set in the future (2018 to be exact) where the world is a global corporate state, containing entities such as the Energy Corporation, a global energy monopoly based in Houston which deals with nominally-peer corporations controlling access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food on a global basis.  The film’s title is the name of a violent, globally popular sport around which the events of the film take place. The teams clad in body armour skate on roller skates (some instead ride on motorbikes) around a banked, circular track. The game is an extremely violent one, in which Jewison is unafraid to show the blood, gore and bashings that create quite the excitement.  One man, Jonathan E (James Caan) excels at the game but the corporation (John Houseman representing) wants him out.  The future looks much like Woody Allen’s SLEEPER with white buildings, sparsely decorated filled with people wearing white cloaks.  But noting is explained how the world got to this state, thus failing the audience to engage in the story.  The ROLLERBALL action scenes are well executed like gladiators in a battling arena.

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