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I didn't realize that I'd only seen "The Shining" start-to-finish one time, but I saw it again yesterday. Disclosures: I'm very much of a Stanley Kubrick fan, and I think Stephen King is "good but not great," as he writes a little too much for the masses, for my taste. "The Shining" is a long film, with some very good moments, but it's also a drawn-out film, with some very bad moments. I wonder if there's anyone out there who truly loves this film, and everything about it. I could list probably a dozen things about this movie that I strongly disliked, but taken as a whole, it's a good horror film when you factor in everything. One fundamental thing I didn't like was the introduction of the two, competing, otherworldly powers which have no explanation - I don't need to be spoon-fed explanations for the supernatural, but personifying evil through the silly ex-caretaker, Delbert Grady (Philip Stone, who played Alex's father in Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange") was a bit much. There are other things that I found annoying ("Redrum," for example), but I don't want to sit here and rattle them all off. I liked, didn't love, "The Shining," but without taking inventory, my guess is that I'd put it in the bottom half of all Kubrick films I've seen up until now. I know this is supposedly an "intellectual" film, and I'm sure that repeated viewings would reveal additional layers and nuances. --- Room 237 (DonRocks)
*** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** (I'm assuming you've already watched the film if you're going to read this.) --- Continuing my recent trend of seeing movies I haven't seen in years, or decades, for the second time, I rented "Easy Rider" on Amazon - my general rule of thumb lately has been to rent movies that I've seen, and enjoyed, but don't really remember. I knew that Easy Rider is a beloved road movie starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper; I didn't know their characters' names were Wyatt and Billy, respectively - for Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. With Amazon, you have the option of using "X-Ray" to glean little tidbits about films - for me, it's often helpful since I'm on my second viewing, but I can also easily see it being an annoyance - the good news is that it's easily deactivated. Since I'm more of an aesthete than a hedonist, I tend to use it for second viewings. My chicken's ready. I'm back. Do you get a little Robert Redford here? And, to Mr. Redford: *Happy 80th birthday this Thursday*! I doubt he'll see this, but hey, Jack Sock liked my tweet today! I didn't remember that Easy Rider popularized "The Pusher," which came out the year before: The brief scene when Wyatt looked at his watch and threw it on the ground is *so* late-60s, the rapid-fire changes in photos often seen in B-horror films, often with psychedelic music and sometimes with a girl screaming while realizing something. Wow, and all this during a cold open - I didn't even realize that. Well, as of right now, I'm 40 minutes into a 95-minute movie, and to be honest, I think it's pretty boring. Other than the obviously appealing imagery of the two men on the bikes (an iconic American image which will be around for a long time), we've visited a ranch - which was tolerable enough - and spent *way* too much time at a commune, and to what end? Perhaps this will tie in later in the movie, but as of right now, I wish they'd get the heck off that commune and get on their merry way. So far, this is poorly acted, without any clear meaning, and just plain dull. Also, the drug deal in the beginning has absolutely nothing to do with this except for financing their trip. It's the next day now. And now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever seen this film before, at least not in its entirety - I don't remember a single thing about it. I'm pretty sure I'd remember George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) riding on the back of that chopper in a football helmet. My biggest problem with the extended commune scene is that, one day later, I hardly remember a single person in the commune (or maybe, that's the whole point?); however, the campfire scene with George Hanson smoking his first-ever joint is priceless, and vintage early Jack Nicholson. *That* is some character development, and it only took a couple of minutes - it's the highlight of the movie, so far, in my mind. Dennis Hopper (Billy) - who got a little psycho-weird when he called BS on Hanson's UFO theory - always has a little bit of "creepy" to him, even here ... it's hard to get "Blue Velvet" out of my mind, even when I see him in such a vastly different role like this. Okay, the scene in the diner - with the local rednecks - is suspenseful. This movie is almost like a series of "short stories," linked together by motorcycles: Chapter 1 - Drugs, Chapter 2 - Ranch, Chapter 3 - Commune - Chapter 4 - Campfire, Chapter 5 - Diner. it's starting to chain together now, and I'm liking the movie more - it's almost like a theme and variations. Have you seen that internet meme that's been going around - the one about conservatives always longing for "the good old days" (itself a strawman - how many people have you actually heard say this?) and the liberals rebutting it by saying, "Name one single year that you'd like this country to return to" (of course, nobody can - the retort is nothing more than argumentum ad antiquitatem: an attempt to force the person to choose an easily debunked, logical fallacy). It's supremely ironic that Hanson said - after the diner scene - "You know, this used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." Tables turned - most amusing, and whenever I come across things like that on Facebook, I realize I'm spending too much time on Facebook. I hope it goes without saying that I'm talking about "conservative" and "liberal" in the original, *non-political* definitions of the terms (the fact that I felt the need to say that makes me long for the good old days, when you weren't walking on eggshells every time you say something - we all need you, John Cleese): Hanson (Nicholson) is coming up with some compelling lines in this campfire speech, and I wish every food writer, celebrity chef, and hanger-on would watch this movie and pay close attention to what he's saying: things like, "It's real hard to be free when you're being bought and sold in the marketplace." Of course, even if they paid close attention they wouldn't dream of thinking that these words apply to them, so what good would it do? I'm sorry - did I just offend anyone? God, I hope so. Oh, man! And then he continues: "Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they gonna get *real* busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are." Man, this movie's slugging percentage just went up - way, way up. As the Wikipedia plot summary says, so correctly: "He [Hanson] observes that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it." I wonder how many people *aren't* going to look in the mirror right now - probably something close to 100%. Nevertheless, this bit of dialog is the best scene in the movie so far. And then what comes right afterwards? Wow. The cowards strike in the darkness of night - just as they always do. Interestingly, the two girls in The House of Blue Lights are played by Karen Black and Toni Basil. Amazing cinematography in the final scene - powerful stuff. I was *so certain* I'd seen Easy Rider before, but I'd never seen it in my life, and I'm glad I did.
I'd heard about "Five Easy Pieces" throughout my entire adult life (I'd even read "Six Easy Pieces" by Richard Feynman (which really weren't all that easy)), but I really had no idea what the film was about until I saw it over the past couple of days. Instead of writing a review, let me just give a really well-played example of each of the "Five Easy Pieces" (which really aren't all that easy): Chopin Fantasie in F-Minor Op 49, played by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D-Minor, played by Wilhelm Kempff: Mozart Piano Concerto No 9 in E-Flat Major K271, played by Maria João Pires: Chopin Prelude in E-Minor Op 28 No 4, played by Sviatislov Richter: Mozart Fantasy in D-Minor K397, played by Emil Gilels: I do, however, want to tie this in with restaurants. The girl sitting across from Jack Nicholson is none other than Toni ("Hey Mickey!") Basil: If you've watched "Five Easy Pieces," and *only* if you've watched "Five Easy Pieces," then you owe it to yourself to read this review by Noel Murray. This is the rare review that teaches, enlightens, and actually makes the movie better than it "was" before you read the review. Listen up: If you *haven't* seen the movie, then you're doing a grave disservice to three things if you click on that link before watching: 1) the reviewer, 2) the movie, and most importantly, 3) yourself. This is the type of review you read, and then realize, "Oh, this person really *does* know a hell of a lot more than I do," and you'll emerge from it fully awakened.
I watched "The Departed" today, and while I loved the film, I'm a little surprised it won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Picture. It was an excellent, thrilling, double-twisting, head-scratching, mess-with-your-mind, crime thriller involving mirror-image good-and-evil juxtapositions that make you thankful you're watching it on video, since you're camped on the rewind button for half the movie. A great picture with mega, mega-stars? Yes! Best Picture of the year? Boy this must have been a very lean year, not that the Academy Awards are any arbiter of truth; still, I just don't see this as even being in the running, although the Academy has shocked me in the past with its mediocre winners. Don't get me wrong: It's an outstanding crime thriller which I really enjoyed; I'm just surprised so many critics thought so highly of it. How many films have you seen lately where Matt Damon is arguably the third-biggest draw, and where Alec Baldwin is perhaps the sixth-biggest? How much did they spend on salaries? I am very much in the minority in that I find Quentin Tarantino terribly overrated, and someone who relies far too much on excessive violence; this film clearly had a Tarantino-like influence over the far-superior Scorsese. Did he really need to make this such a bloodbath? Well, it added something, I suppose, and also like most audience members, I'm starting to become numb to gratuitous splatter films, so as long as movies aren't torture porn (and this didn't go that far) they've become socially accepted, and not even all that shocking which I think is a real shame.