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Found 17 results

  1. And so I did, tonight for the third time. When I saw "Barton Fink" in the theater, I swore it was one of the greatest films I'd ever seen, but I didn't have the first idea *why* it was. Tonight, I still think it is, and only now do I fully realize just how much of this film I don't understand. As I type this, I'm partially finished with this piece, an important analysis of "Barton Fink" - "'Writers Come and Go': The Greatness of Barton Fink" by Eric S. Piotrowski on medium.com
  2. The 1988 British film, "Madame Sousatzka," is one of "those" movies that's a personal favorite, but also one which you tend not to recommend to others, since it's so esoteric and focused - you just don't think that most people will enjoy it. I'd seen John Schlesinger's film revolving around an eccentric piano teacher (Shirley MacLaine in a uniquely quirky performance as Irina Soustazka), and her current young piano prodigy, Manek Sen (played excellently, and (just as importantly) with pretty convincing piano, by 16-year-old Navin Chowdhry). Anyway, I'd seen Madame Sousatzka at least twice in the past - once when it was released, at least one additional time on video, and then over-and-over again with some of my favorite clips on YouTube. However, a couple weeks ago on Amazon Prime, I rented it again, and began noticing scenes that I simply did not remember. At first, I thought the passage of time had dimmed my memory, but this continued to occur, and then it became obvious that in the past, enormous portions of the film had been edited out - perhaps almost as much as thirty minutes. I had always felt like this was a charming film, full of brilliant moments, but also with wasted potential throughout; now, I know why I thought this: It's because, for whatever reason, editors had gutted enough scenes to leave the versions that I saw nearly incoherent at times. Now, for the first time ever, I feel like I've actually experienced Madame Sousatzka as Schlesinger intended for me to see it - the difference between this experience, and past experiences, was remarkable enough so that I can't think of another film that had been so thoroughly stripped of its vitality and essence. I now realize that what I'd previously thought as simply foibles in the story, was actually tragedy in the editing room - this film had been denuded of what makes it great, and *now* I can finally say, after nearly thirty years, that Madame Sousatzka is a great film. The more you know about classical music, especially the standard concert piano repertoire, the better. Chowdhry isn't actually playing the pieces, but his fingers are hitting the notes, even in the most difficult pieces, so he was clearly a high-level amateur pianist that had studied the instrument for years. He was also utterly charismatic, charming, and the oldest of old souls, considering he played a sixteen-year-old. If you've ever watched Madame Sousatzka, and feel as I felt (that it was a "fun, cute movie with lots of holes"), please do yourself a favor and watch it on Amazon Prime. I remember during this Charlie Rose interview, David Lynch's outrageously terrible flop, "Dune" (which I contend is one of the worst movies I've ever seen), is revealed by Wallace to have been completely butchered by editors, to the point of rendering it incoherent. Although not as bad as "Dune," what the editors did to "Madame Sousatzka" is surely in the same vein - they very nearly killed the movie. (Full disclosure: I think Frank Herbert's "Dune," beloved by many science-fiction fans, is one of the most interminable, arduous books I've ever read - it took me over six months to read, and I hated myself for finishing it.) I won't spoil the plot for you, but this is not action-packed, and is very much of a cerebral film (with a couple of very hair-raising moments). Please give Madame Sousatzka another chance - it's a wonderful film, and I never even knew it. It's remarkable that I can't find *anything* on the internet about it ever having been butchered (or restored). One last thing: There are numerous supporting roles (close to a half-dozen) that are all superb - this is a very, very strong cast. Yes, even Twiggy.
  3. If you liked "A Fish Called Wanda" and "In Bruges," you'll like aspects of "Brazil." Terry Gilliam directed this 34-year-old, wants-to-be-classic film about a totalitarian state "sometime in the 19th century." "Brazil" is a strange mixture of "Modern Times," "Metropolis," and "1984," all seasoned with the comedic absurdity of Monty Python. At first, without taking itself *too* seriously, it comes across as an extremely powerful, disturbing, effective satire against the oppressive state. Then this film ultimately collapses under its own weight: Rambling and lost, it becomes tedious and pretentious, and tries to be arty for the sake of being arty, sacrificing all semblance of plot for imagery and tone - it's as if the entire last-third of the movie was written on-the-fly. "Brazil" is a good movie, but there's a reason you probably haven't watched it before - someone spent a whole hell of a lot of money making this, but for me, it was a chore to finish. I'm certain there are people who love this film, and I'm curious to hear their thoughts. There are apparently three versions of this - I watched the 2'15" version with Gilliam's original ending, which is more than disturbing.
  4. Note: As of this writing, a high-quality version of this film can be found for free at this URL: http://ffilms.org/marnie-1964/. For those trying to find Hitchcock's cameo, this is the *one* time it will be impossible to miss. *** SPOILER ALERT *** Okay, there's something about "Marnie" Edgar (Tippi Hedren) that's more than meets the eye - instead of simply being a shrewd, serial bandit which is obvious from the very beginning, you have two very disturbing scenes in the first thirty minutes: the "dream scene" at her mother's (Louise Latham's) house, which culminates with her mother, Bernice Edgar, taking a very "Hitchcockian" stroll back down the stairs, and the "spilled red ink" scene at Mark Rutland's (Sean Connery's) office. The viewer should also bear in mind that, at this point, there isn't necessarily a reason to believe that Marnie knows that Mark Rutland is a major client of Sidney Strutt's (Martin Gabel's), from whom she stole almost $10,000 to start the movie - but she *might* know, as she's obviously a very resourceful woman, and might have deduced this while working for Mr. Strutt. Sean Connery does not play fools - there's something a *little* too easy about Marnie bearing witness to this five-digit safe combination in the desk drawer of Rutland's office - they apparently had the perfect candidate right before Marnie interviewed - could Rutland have suspected something from the very start? It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I've learned not to try and outguess Hitchcock (that's the surest way to make a fool of yourself). And yet, he gives her a paper to type about arboreal predators in the Brazilian rainforest, making it very clear that most predators are women - we're being messed with. Master of Suspense bastard! I wonder if this scene of Rutland kissing Marnie had any influence on "Eyes Wide Shut": 1'30" into this 2'10"-long movie, I am as confused as I've ever been with any Hitchcock film - "The Wrong Man," this isn't: I have no idea why anybody is doing anything that they're doing. The "obvious solution," which is being planted into our heads, is too obvious - and it would *really* make this movie dated, whereas one of Hitchcock's trademarks are a timeless quality to most of his works. Every hunch I'd thought of may have been overturned by the question, "Are you still in the mood for killing?" Hitchcock is like Bach: In a Bach Prelude, Fugue, or pretty much anything else, there aren't any superfluous notes (think about it after hearing the question asked (*)). Well, the "obvious solution" happened - with a twist to the twist, of course. I was getting ready to say this was, at best, an average picture, and certainly a sub-average picture for Hitchcock. After having watched the entire film, I still think it's a sub-par Hitchcock film, but I think "Marnie" is a decent motion picture, worth seeing if you're a Hitchcock fan; not necessarily worth seeing if you're looking for true greatness. This is a good film; it's just not a great one. Not having seen either "Frenzy" or "Family Plot," I'm wondering if "The Birds" was Hitchcock's last great movie (Edit: I forgot about "Torn Curtain" and "Topaz," neither of which I've seen either, but for both of which I have greater optimism.) And the final question tonight on Jeopardy: What attracted Sean Connery to Marnie, especially given the thefts? I can see a physical attraction, but to take it as far as he did simply doesn't make any sense at all. (*) This unanswered question remains one of the great unanswered mysteries of this film.
  5. I thought I'd seen "The Birds" in recent years, but I was wrong - I didn't even realize it was shot in color (emphasizing an array of greens). There were lots of "animal horror" movies during the 1950s (I'm thinking of "Tarantula" as I type this), but "The Birds" may have been the first to place abnormal animal behavior in a completely normal situation (if not the first film, then the first influential film).. When thinking about the things it influenced, I immediately thought of "The Walking Dead," which was, of course, influenced by the original zombie film from 1968, "Night of the Living Dead." If this is all true, then if it wasn't for Alfred Hitchcock, there wouldn't be any such thing as the Zombie Apocalypse. Mar 28, 2016 - "The Birds and Night of the Living Dead" by Dawn Keetley on horrorhomerun.com
  6. 100% Rotten Tomato Rating- 1st in History I have yet to read a negative review on the film Lady Bird. As a gift to your Mom, or any person you care about, treat them to a showing of Lady Bird. In true fashion, I do not want to give too much away. The story centers around a young lady attending parochial school who is coming of age, and trying to figure life out. That is all I want to divulge. Go see it, and return, and lets discuss all of the bits of this absolutely beautiful story. I hate California, I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is like, New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire - Lady Bird -kat
  7. When "Get Out" debuted in theaters last winter, I couldn't wait to see it. It had a 99 percent positive critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and friends whose opinions I value raved about it. I am not a fan of horror films, and I really didn't know what to expect. I certainly didn't anticipate what I saw--a thought provoking and highly entertaining film. This is a great film. It is a thrilling, darkly funny, mysterious movie that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. "Get Out" is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele. My son is a fan of Key and Peele, so I expected this film to be funny in a slap-sticky, "Scary Movie," way. I couldn't have been more wrong. The humor is sophisticated and satirical. This movie feels like escapism, but at the same time, it made me think. It is the tale of a black man dating a white woman who goes to meet her family in their upscale country home. Nothing is as it appears during this bizarre weekend. "Get Out" reminds me of some of my favorite old films, combined in a way that is fresh and new. I watched it for a second time last night, renting it on Amazon. After the credits roll, an alternate ending is presented. The director explains why this ending--the original one--was abandoned. I enjoyed watching the film for a second time, seeing all of the nuances I missed the first go around, and I liked hearing about why the movie ultimately ends as it does. If you rent this version, be sure to watch after the credits to see this interesting addition.
  8. I had heard of "Ex Machina," but knew absolutely nothing about it before a couple of nights ago - released in 2015, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects - considering it was a relatively low-budget, independent, science-fiction film, it's pretty remarkable that it didn't come across as low-budget (it didn't come across as high-budget either; it fell somewhere in the middle). Made for $15 million, it beat out such films as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ($250 million) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" ($150 million) - this alone is remarkable. Writer-Director Alex Garland also received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay, justifiably losing to the fine "Spotlight" - I suspect that, in this category, the crew took a "just happy to be here" attitude. I don't write plot summaries here - my time is too limited, and there are too many other fine websites that handle that task with aplomb; instead, I make whatever observations come to mind, and that I think people may find interesting or relevant. If you read past this point, I'm assuming you've already seen the film (don't forget, this is a discussion website). As a side note, if you've never heard "Deus ex Machina" pronounced before, the words sound like 1) Ama"deus" 2) "x" 3) "Mach" V + "eena," with the accent on Mach. As for Racer X, I did not ask him his opinion. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The setting, in God-knows-what remote part of Alaska, Canada, or Siberia - as well as the role of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) - both come across to me as silly. I don't care how smart or rich someone is - they don't own half the world, and have the knowledge to out-think all of humanity by themselves. Isaac played his part poorly, although he was in a no-win situation: Think, for a moment, how inane it is for him to have built a company which handles 94% of all internet searches, *as well as* having the technical intelligence and knowledge to make world-changing breakthroughs (you can be mega-rich, or mega-educated; never are you both, at least not to *this* extent. (Bateman wasn't even very old, yet he made Bill Gates look like a mentally impaired panhandler.) Furthermore, his character was not that far removed from that of a frat boy - I can see this as a satire or farce, but it was intended to be neither, and that's why it falls flat: not short, but flat. I do applaud it for taking a Mickey Mantle-like swing for the fences (that took guts, and I admire it), but it whiffed in a way that could have turbine-powered the entire Bronx on a hot summer day. The computer, Ava - deliciously played by Alicia Vikander, and undoubtedly stoking techno-nerd fantasies they didn't even realize they had - was supposed to pass what's known as a "Turing Test," theorized by tera-genius Alan Turing in 1950, which basically says that if a human interacts with a computer, but thinks they're interacting with another human, then the computer passes the Turing Test. Recall also that Alan Turing, whose work I studied more than any other individual's while in graduate school, was the subject of the fine 2014 biopic, "The Imitation Game" (it just this second popped into my head that "The Imitation Game" also alludes to a gay person staying in the closet, imitating someone who's straight, but that bit of mental numbness is my problem, and can be openly (sorry) discussed in The Imitation Game's thread). I mention the content of the preceding paragraph because at the very end of the film, Ava did indeed pass the Turing Test, as she obviously convinced the helicopter pilot (as well as pedestrians at the intersection) that she was human - I suspect most people are so wigged out by the film's finale that they miss this subtle-but-important point. This was essentially a four-person script, with "test subject" Caleb Smith (played more than adequately by Domhnall Gleeson), and in a lesser role than the other three, the "other" robot, Kyoko (played very well, and with respect for subtlety and nuance, by Sonoya Mizuno). You really need to turn your mind off to enjoy Ex Machina, as the fundamental premise, including the setting and the personality of Bateman, are so improbable that you'll pull your hair out if you question it, so it will help your emotional stability if you accept this in advance - but then again, you aren't supposed to be reading this until you've finished the film. On a related note, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" just this afternoon. On an unrelated note, it's somewhat disturbing that "Portnoy's Complaint" just popped into my mind. Admit it: You had the hots for Ava, and you feel somewhat conflicted. Just admit it. Do.
  9. The first time I ever saw a film by David Lynch was in Manhattan, during the summer of 1981, and it was a re-release of "Eraserhead" on the big screen. I haven't seen this movie in almost 36 years, yet there are images which remain as plain as day in my mind. It was perhaps the creepiest film I'd ever seen at that point in my life. "Mulholland Drive" may not be as creepy - on absolute terms - until, that is, the final 40 minutes, when all sense of logic and reality become distorted: No matter how hard you try and understand what's going on, the film will demand a second watching (at least a second watching). The performances, the direction, the story, the shifting in-and-out of reality, the cinematography, and the music (even the simple doo-wop music (*)) is just so compelling that Lynch was working on a higher plane than mere human existence. I can't describe the movie, but I suggest watching it in parts - perhaps the first 50 minutes twice, then the second 50 minutes twice, and then the final 40 minutes as many times as you need in order to make some sense of things. This is a work of art that is clearly the work of genius; and yet, I can't tell you *why* it's such a great work of art. But it is. Now, I have to go back and watch "Eraserhead" again. Man, what a ride Mulholland Drive is. (*) Just in case you thought it was original:
  10. So, a friend of mine told me that if I didn't mind "Django Unchained," I wouldn't mind "Inglourious Basterds." I didn't mind it, and actually somewhat enjoyed it. Christoph Waltz, in both movies, is really good - there's a certain "Intellectual 'It Factor'" to his demeanor that makes him highly likable and highly unlikable at the same time, all the while being believable, even when in unbelievable situations. Didn't I just say something similar about Tom Cruise and "Jack Reacher?" As one example of me (or is it "my") not hating "Inglourious Basterds," I'm just not on the same page as this review: Aug 21, 2009 - "Review: 'Inglourious Basterds'" by Peter Rainer on csmonitor.com (Forget that it's the Christian Science Monitor - that is an intelligent publication that, yes, has it's biases, but is worth more than dumbed-down criticism for the masses. That said, I'm surprised that this review got a "non-rotten tomato" on rottentomatoes.com For those of you who didn't recognize the term "OSS" just before Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) shouted "Bingo!" - I began this thread last year, and this is the first time I've heard the OSS mentioned since that day.. Had this fantasy been reality, there probably would have been no bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, as all necessary personnel could have been diverted to the Pacific Theater.
  11. I was 12 years old when "American Graffiti" (1973) was released, and just like with "Animal House" (1978) when I was 17, I think both movies meant more to me then than they do now - they're both, in a sense, "coming-of-age" films, and I think coming-of-age films have a greater influence if you're about to go through that period in your life: With American Graffiti, I was 5-years away, with Animal House, I was only 1-2 years away, and that's probably why I loved both movies at the time. Like with "Blackboard Jungle," I didn't realize that "Rock Around the Clock" was the opening theme song of this film - it makes a lot more sense here than there, since American Graffiti is so gentrified and set up to be a movie for upper-middle-class white people - it's almost like you're watching the pilot episode of "Happy Days" (which *also* used it as its opening theme song for awhile). Is American Graffiti the first of the "50s retro-movies" to look back upon it tenderly, as an innocent era? I can't think of any that came before this, so maybe that was the appeal to society (likewise with Happy Days). It all seems so harmless and naive - I wonder if anyone can think of any pre-1973 films that gave the early Rock-n-Roll era the same, sanitized treatment? I guess there's nothing wrong with this; it just comes across to me as a little bit sappy right now, not that sappy is bad. Ha! 45-years later, I still remember laughing at the line, "File that under 'CS' over there" when John Milner (Paul Le Mat) gets a traffic ticket. Oh my goodness! I had no idea Debralee Scott (who played Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie in "Welcome Back Kotter") was in this movie. Not to mention the fact that she's Bob Falfa's (Harrison Ford's) date. The number of famous people in this movie is absolutely incredible, and I think that, for the most part, it was the movie which made them famous, and not vice-versa. I remember so well the line when Steve Bolander (Ron Howard) is in the car with Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams) trying to get one more session in before going off to college - she refuses him, and he arrogantly says, "You want it, and you know it." Even at a pre-pubescent age 12, I thought to myself how ridiculous it was for *Ron Howard* to be saying that to such a pretty girl - it's funny the things you remember (and the things you don't) after nearly 45 years. By the way, the leader of "The Pharaohs" - the physically intimidating Bo Hopkins - is someone I recognized, but didn't remember from where. If you've ever seen "Midnight Express" (1978), he plays Tex, who's the one who says to Brad Davis - after Davis tries to escape - "You seem like a nice enough kid to me, Billy, but try it and I'll blow your fucking brains out." With just over thirty minutes left in the movie, I'm finally getting into American Graffiti - with "slice-of-life" movies, you have to immerse yourself into their atmosphere to enjoy them (cf: "The Last Picture Show," the impossibly beautiful Cybill Shepherd on the diving board notwithstanding). Finally, I feel like I'm watching a longer, edgier version of "Happy Days," which I enjoyed as a teenager, so I've started to feel at home with American Graffiti - but I just can't get over how young Richard Dreyfuss looks, no matter how long the movie goes on. I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie with more famous people in it than American Graffiti.
  12. I'd never before seen "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012), and only knew - or thought I only knew - that it was about what the U.S. did with captives suspected of Al Qaeda involvement, so I went in with a very clean slate. Note this thread about torture (and feel free to comment there), which does *not* reflect my personal views on anything, much less torture - I only mention it because it's probably related to this film. In my opinion, this is very much related to our thread about Lt. William Calley as well. "The Saudi Group" is mentioned prominently at the beginning of the film, and I'd never even heard of the term before (and I've always considered myself pretty well-informed about current events, especially things such as this). Some important (real-life) names you may want to familiarize yourself with - or at least have the Wikipedia links handy while watching the film), aside from the obvious, are: Ammar al-Balauchi (brilliantly played by Reda Kateb), Hazem al-Kashmiri, Ramzi Yousef, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hamza Rabia, Khabab al-Masri, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulai al-Balawi, and Abu Ahmed (I'm writing as I watch, trying not to pause the film, so I'm bound to make some typos, and will also probably miss some key people). You should also know about the general concept of "Black Sites," and what "ISI" is. Note: It's not at all essential to the plot of the movie to know who these people are - in terms of the film itself, most of them are "mix-and-match" high-level Al Qaeda operatives, and that's more than sufficient to watch Zero Dark Thirty - if you hear a name mentioned multiple times (for example, Abu Ahmed (pronounced "Ahkmed")), then you can make a stronger mental note. When Mark Strong (George, the senior CIA supervisor) was chewing out his group for not eliminating more Al Qaeda personnel, I was thinking to myself, "Well, who's in charge of the group, you brain-dead dork?" Mark Strong also played Maj. Gen. Stewart Manzies in "The Imitation Game," who was the man that made Alan Turing's life (more) helllish, so he's good at playing power-hungry authority figures, and these are two pretty huge roles in a short period of time. Jessica Chastain is a terrible choice to play Maya, the quiet, passive girl who becomes psycho-edgy the longer she stays in the group - her acting is terrible, and she's about as believable as watching Geena Davis playing Ronda Rousey (of course, Ronda Rousey isn't very believable playing Ronda Rousey, either, so ....). Ninety more minutes have passed since I wrote the previous paragraph, and the film is almost over. While lauded by both critics and the public, I'm taking a dissenting view and saying that "Zero Dark Thirty" is a stupid, Hollywood rendition of something that could have been made into a great film. Jessica Chastain was laughably bad in her role - she was miscast, plain and simple, and carries about as much gravitas when she uses big, aggressive words around high-up CIA operatives as an Englishman prancing his French poodle around in a dog show. Furthermore, she was a completely fictional character, and the producers had a chance to make her into anything they wanted - and they chose *this*?! In a way, the film is like the absolutely abysmal "Airport '77" in that the ending is terrific - the final hunt for UBL is brilliantly filmed, believable, and dripping with tension even though we all know what's going to happen. It was the same way in Airport '77 with the rescue, which was filmed using actual military techniques, and was the only good part of the movie. This film is like a wrapped piece of toffee - it's really strong at the beginning, and at the end, and there are nearly two hours of Hollywood tedium, over-acted dreck, and God-awful Jessica Chastain who, inexplicably, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress - I can certainly see "Zero Dark Thirty" winning awards for lighting, editing, sound and the like, but acting? Not unless it's either Reda Kateb or perhaps even Jason Clarke, but nominating Jessica Chastain shows just how much the Academy Awards are dumbed down for the masses, and should never be taken as anything more than "notoriety." Go to Rotten Tomatoes, and you'll think this is a great movie - a can't-miss movie - but to this viewer, it was "okay" at best, and very typical Hollywood: big, bold special effects, and story-driven rather than concerning itself with character development, nuance, or subtlety. If anyone thinks Jessica Chastain was successful in her role as Maya, please offer up your opinion - I'd like to know what you think.
  13. After viewing the 1956 version of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much," I decided to watch the 1934 film by the same name, also directed by Hitchcock. Not satisfied with his earlier work, Hitchcock decided to remake the film. While the basic plot remains the same, I was surprised at just how different the two films are. I liked parts of both films, but loved neither. Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day are endearing in the 1956 version in their roles as a Midwestern doctor and his wife on a Moroccan holiday. But the film felt too long as it went on-and-on beyond what I considered the climax of the movie. *** MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW *** The 1934 version felt too long as well, with an unsatisfying shootout scene near the end that felt oddly out of place in the film. There was more humor in this version (the dental office scene in this film being more entertaining than the taxidermist scene in the 1956 version), but there were a lot of flaws throughout the film which made me understand why Hitchcock would want a mulligan.
  14. You may be asking yourselves: 'What in God's name are you doing watching, much less writing about, 'Airport '77,' Don?' And you'd be wise to ask both questions - watching this God-forsaken movie was an accident: I thought it was a sequel to "Airplane!," the uproariously funny parody of "Airport" (1970), but Airplane! came out in 1980, and was a parody of the entire, four-film Airport franchise, "Airport '77" being the third of four. Before watching it, we took a quick peak at Wikipedia, and noticed in one section Roger Ebert's comment that "The movie’s a big, slick entertainment, relentlessly ridiculous and therefore never boring for long," and took that to mean that although there may be moments of downtime, the yucks won't let up for long - hoo, boy, what a mistaken interpretation that was! About 45 minutes into the film, my friend and I commented about how this film was taking an awfully long time to build up to some laughs, and I made an off-the-cuff comment about it being the wrong movie before we realized, about five-minutes later, that I was (despite my random, clueless comment) correct: We weren't watching a comedy; we were watching a disaster movie in the same vein as "The Poseidon Adventure," only worse - much worse ... there *is* no sequel to "Airplane!" So not only were we watching a crummy disaster film, which was so bad we thought we were watching a comedy for nearly 45 minutes, we were watching the third of four in a franchise, not even having the dignity of context (I believe I saw the original, long, long ago, but never saw any sequels). It only made sense, looking at the absurdly rich cast of characters, that they all got together and agreed to make a slapstick for one last, goofy hurrah together on the screen: Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, George Kennedy, Lee Grant, Christopher Lee, Brenda Vaccaro ... that is one seriously famous group of older actors, but instead of going down in a barrel of laughs, they crash-landed in a giant ball of flame and shame: Airport '77 is one of the worst movies I've seen in my adult life. How could this troupe have agreed to sully their reputations by appearing together in this dreadful affair? Even if they were all on the verge of bankruptcy, is there nothing sacred anymore? This movie has nothing worth discussing, with the one exception of the rescue scene at the end, which is interesting because it uses actual Navy rescue techniques. Unless you're OCD, and have a mental requirement to watch films in their entirety (as I do), you're better off skipping to the last scene, to the rescue effort (which, admittedly, is interesting), and eschewing the rest of this awful, awful excuse for cinema.
  15. I decided to watch "Charade" tonight for a number of reasons. I recently watched "Suspicion," a 1941 thriller starring Cary Grant directed by Alfred Hitchcock. While "Charade" was not directed by Hitchcock, it has a Hitchcockian feel. I adore Carey Grant, and felt like spending another evening being charmed by this embodiment of the Hollywood leading man. I am obsessed with Audrey Hepburn, and I was born in 1963. It seemed like a no-brainer that I should give this film another viewing. Although I saw this film several years ago, I remembered very little of it. While Hitchcockian in style and plot twists, it lacks the cinematic magic of an actual Hitchcock film. The plot is a bit like "Suspicion," with the leading lady unsure whether she should or should not trust Grant. The witty banter between Hepburn and Grant made me think of Nick and Nora in "The Thin Man." Their repartee is amusing, but not nearly as fast and funny as Nick and Nora's. I enjoyed watching Grant and Hepburn together, and I was drawn in by the plot's twists and turns. At times, "Charade" seems self conscious, and the film feels like it is trying too hard. While Grant and Hepburn make a charming couple, their chemistry pales in comparison to the sparks that flew between Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday." Hepburn tells Grant time and again in this film that she loves him. She never once uttered those words to Peck in "Roman Holiday," but their love seemed more believable. Perhaps this is because at its core, "Charade" is a silly and stylish movie. It has an early '60s feel throughout, from the opening cartoon-like credits to Audrey's oh-so-chic Givenchy wardrobe. It isn't a great film, but it is an enjoyable one.
  16. I've never seen "All Quiet on the Western Front," and since I've also never seen the 1929 version of "Broadway Melody" (and don't know how to find it), this will be the oldest "talkie" I've ever seen to win the Best Picture Award. I'm also eager to see a movie about WWI, especially from a German perspective - could this be an early version of "Das Boot?" As I start this movie, I'm realizing it's pre-Hitler (sort of), and that alone gives me the creeps. I can tell from the first scene, in the classroom, that this is going to be a really good movie - in just two short years, they really learned how to use sound to their cinematographic advantage - already, even just ten minutes into the film, the young boys have garnered my sympathy - no difference here between German and American high-school kids; they're just kids - bright-eyed kids who succumb to authority figures and peer pressure. It was a fascinating moment to see Himmelstoß, the former lowly postal carrier, instantly becoming a sado-nut drill leader, turning on the boys he was formerly friends with - boy does this foreshadow Hitler for me ... put a uniform on certain average schmoes, and they become Supermen in their own minds. The new soldiers' revenge scene on Himmelstoß was most satisfying to watch. I'm just now realizing "Wings", the first film to win Best Picture, was also WWI-themed - that makes 2 of the first 3 (I'm assuming "Broadway Melody" isn't going to be quite so bellicose). Boy, the extended bunker scene (the one where they kill the rats) is amazing - the cinematography in this film is just terrific, and I cannot believe it was made in 1930 - the industry really learned a lot from the silent age, but the techniques were completely different, and for them to have learned how to use sound to their advantage in just a couple years - to *this* degree - is remarkable. At this point, the film is only one-third over! I'm also reminded that in our History Forum, there's a pretty good thread on World War I - it's worth a skim if you haven't seen it before. After the bunker scene, when the German soldiers head outside to the trench, the wide-angled scene of advancing allied infantrymen look so much like the little plastic soldiers I played with a a child - these poor boys really *were* just numbers - not individuals - on both sides. There's absolutely a correlation between this scene and the one shortly before it, when the German soldiers were killing rats by the dozens - both the rats and the allied soldiers were just being hopelessly massacred in numbers too great to count. I hope you all don't mind that I'm writing in such a choppy, almost random, format - I'm typing as ideas hit me, and writing a well-organized, long-form review just isn't in my blood. This is what I do best - brainstorming in short form - in hopes that something will grab someone, and we can start a conversation about a point or two. So I continue ... (I love this movie so far, in case you can't tell) ... Like "The Thin Man," this is another Pre-Code film, and there are some amazingly shocking scenes you just don't see after the code began being rigorously enforced on Jul 1, 1934 - for example, a young German soldier went to the bathroom in his pants upon hearing the first shell explode (it wasn't graphic, but it was obvious), and when the allied troops were storming the German trench, there was one scene when a grenade was thrown at them, and after the explosion, all you saw was a pair of severed hands, clutching onto the barbed wire fence - it was intensely graphic considering this was 1930. When the allies - what was left of them - made it into the trench, and hand-to-hand combat commenced, all I could think of was that these men, killing each other, could just as easily have been having a beer together in a tavern, as friends. This is all so stupid (not the film, but the whole damned concept of war) - I know, I know, I sound like a bleeding-heart softy, which means the film is working exactly as it set out to do. I'm very much into this movie, and seeing these people being mowed down in such massive numbers is just incredible to behold, even in a movie - I'm not sure I've ever seen so many people killed in such a short amount of time in a film (I'm not talking about doomsday scenarios like "Knowing," but rather people being slaughtered as individuals). Eight minutes might not seem like a long time, but during this one scene, it was an eternity - the producers certainly didn't skimp on the action. I'm now halfway through this 133-minute film (the non-restored version is 152 minutes, which is interesting), and the boots taken from Franz Kemmerich after he passes have played a disproportionately large role so far - something is going to happen involving them. When Himmelstoß (the drill sergeant) bursts into the bunker, demanding immediate attention and respect, and gets nothing but howls and sarcastic comments, it is poetic justice, and reminds me somewhat of Platoon, although I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps it's the first time the young soldiers displayed a "to hell with this" attitude now that they've seen and tasted death up close. I haven't watched the scene yet, but I'm pretty sure Himmelstoß won't be getting his way this time around. (And sure enough, later in the film, poetic justice is executed.) Goof: When the Germans advanced through heavy fire, then noticed a moment of silence, and decided to counter-attack, they ran through a churchyard (and what I believe to have been a cemetery) which had just been devastated by mortar fire, but the scene that shows them running through it features a pre-devastated churchyard. Oops! That's more than a goof; that's somewhat moronic - what possible reason could there have been for this? "All Quiet on the Western Front" cost a *whopping* $1.25 million to make, and the funds were committed just after the depression began. That, my friends, is cojones. (It grossed $1.5 million, and perhaps just as importantly, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, so the sizable gamble paid off handsomely - I wonder if this was the most expensive movie ever made as of 1930.) The scene in the trench with the dying Frenchman was one of the greatest scenes in the film - the Frenchman (Raymond Griffith) played his role *perfectly*, with the one tiny exception of a half-blink at one moment, which nobody would notice unless they were looking for it. It's so fitting that he died with a look of serenity on his face. Amazon X-Ray said he was noticeably breathing, but I didn't really see it. The Dying Room creeped me out. Lew Ayres (the star who played Paul Baí¼mer, who came back from The Dying Room), was married to Ginger Rogers from 1934-1940 - his 2nd marriage of 3; her 2nd of 5. I loved the scene when Paul was out on furlough, and he was in a tavern drinking with some older men who sounded like typical G-men, telling Paul how to win the war, and that 'he doesn't know what he's doing,' and that 'they can see the big picture.' Some things in life are a constant, I guess. Lew Ayres became a conscientious objector in real life - partially because of his role in this film - and was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1940s because of it. Interestingly, he's buried next to Frank Zappa at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The schoolroom scene, which echoed the beginning of the movie, was not only structurally important to the film, but just a joy to watch as well, although I can't help thinking they could have made that scene even more powerful than they did. Paul clearly still shows a modicum of respect for his old professor, not really wanting to humiliate him in front of his students. Here's a little factoid that I didn't know, and you might not either: from 1928-1931, International Sound Versions of "talkies" were made, replacing dialogue with music and subtitles in various foreign languages, so the movie could be seen around the world. Although this might seem similar to how things are done now, the alternative to this was to actually re-shoot the entire film as a Foreign Language Version (for example, "Dracula" was re-shot with new actors speaking Spanish). Needless to say, Foreign Language Versions were reserved for the high-budget blockbusters of the day. The ending of "All Quiet on the Western Front" was fantastic. If anyone knows of any WWI-specific films (this fits more into the general "War is Hell" category) - films that go into detail about historical events - I would be interested in knowing what you think. That said, I'll probably end up watching a documentary for this. Having glanced at the SparkNotes for the book, I can see that the movie deviates some, but not so much that you won't get something out of reading the study guide. Anyway, this is surely one of the greatest movies in history, especially when you consider the topic, the scope, the time period (twelve years after the war ended), and everything about the film.
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