While I touched on TV earlier this week, I thought today I'd briefly review two recent films set in the 1940s. Both being in the same general time period, the late forties and early fifties were a dark time in Hollywood's history thanks to the blacklist, but the two films couldn't take a more different approach to the subject.
What of the costumes? Scarlet gets a great suit, but Tilda Swinton gets several delectable ensembles playing a set of twin gossipy reporters. The film follows around a lot of men, who I find less interesting, but the ladies costumes (whether on the stars or background extras) do not disappoint. One hat of Swinton's (an ultra cute perched number in rainbow striped silk) is begging to be recreated for my own wardrobe!
I finally saw Trumbo, I had been waffling about seeing it since it came out last fall. I don't really know why I had ever hesitated, I really liked it. The film centers around it's titular character Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood. Of course thanks to his being a communist he and he rest of the Hollywood ten, along with many many others are carted off before congress to explain themselves. Correctly (at least in my opinion) pointing out that the 1st amendment guarantees them the right to believe and say what they'd like, Trumbo and the others decide to push back instead of cooperate and are charged with contempt of congress. When a swift change in the leanings of the Supreme Court ensures them jail time, Trumbo seems a bit surprised but remains resilient in his beliefs. Forced to write under false names to get any work in Hollywood, Trumbo and others struggle to make it, secretly working under the curtain of Hollywood's blacklist. The fear mongering is left to gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), John Wayne (David James Elliott), and the rest of the House Un-American Activities Committee who are seen in the film as the villains they really were (even if elderly Trumbo gives them a pass, I don't).
There is no doubting the studios were the ones responsible for the blacklist, not the government itself, and how stupid they were to bend to pressure. Some reviews of the film criticize the glossing over of Trumbo's actual communistic beliefs, saying that perhaps his beliefs were somehow more dangerous than this film lets on. Perhaps I'm just liberal, but I'm pretty sure your allowed to have any beliefs you'd like in the US whether they be right, wrong, radical, or otherwise. Until you begin to break laws, you shouldn't have to do jail time right? I can't say I am well read on the Hollywood blacklist, or the Hollywood ten, but Trumbo has certainly made me more interested in finding out more.
The film of course simplifies certain portions of the story, but let's Cranston shine. As for the costumes (you know I love costumes), evil Hedda Hopper gets some great ensembles and gorgeous hats (the real Hopper was famously devoted to hats). Cleo Trumbo (Diane Lane) as Dalton Trumbo's stalwart wife is great and gets some lovely costumes. The style and design in the film feel very authentic and I enjoyed the aesthetics immensely.
One final note on these films, having seen these two films (Hail Caesar is in theaters now and Trumbo has just been released on DVD/Bluray/Streaming) within the same week I certainly noticed the parallels between both, and chief among these the focus on the male characters. Where is my movie about Marsha Hunt? I'd love a film set in this time, dealing perhaps with the same issues, but with some female leads. As always I am left thinking. where are the ladies at?
If you have seen either film I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are your favorite modern films (lets say within the last 25 years ish) set in the forties and fifties? I'd love to add to my watch list!