Monday, February 28, 2011

542. The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Elaine May
Written By: Neil Simon, from the story A Change of Plan by Bruce Jay Friedman
Main Cast: Charles Grodin, Cybill Shepherd, Jeannie Berlin, Audra Lindley, Eddie Albert

REALIZING THE GREATNESS THAT IS NEIL SIMON

For all of you fellow Netflix stream watchers, there's a whole slew of movies getting ready to depart that portion of Netflix tonight and "The Heartbreak Kid" is one of them. Following the Oscars last night, I decided to watch one of the ones that wasn't going to be available anymore and so I chose this one. It was just what I needed - a fun movie, that I was simply able to kick back and enjoy and not have to put too much thought into.

Many of you are probably more familiar with the remake that came out a few years ago starring Ben Stiller, but today we're talking about the Charles Grodin version...a man, who in one movie proved to me that he's much funnier than Ben Stiller. Grodin is Lenny and within the first ten minutes of the film he marries Lila (Berlin). Immediately following the wedding, the newly weds head for Miami Beach for their honeymoon, in a hilarious group of road trip scenes that sees Charles Grodin chewing gum and trying to belt out "Strummin' on the Ol' Banjo" and giving his new wife a lesson in Milky Way ethics, via the line "Honey, don't put a Milky Way in someone's mouth who doesn't want it." By the time they arrive in Miami Beach, Lenny is convinced that he has made a terrible mistake in marrying Lila. The entire trip he realizes little things about her that drive him absolutely and totally nuts, such as constantly asking for reassurance while making love, eating an egg salad sandwich in a completely manner-less way and using words and phrases like "pee pee". On the beaches of Miami, Lenny meets Kelly (Shepherd) and is very attracted to her and when Lila gets a nasty sunburn on the first day of their honeymoon, which gives Lenny the opportunity to meet and spend time with Kelly...which he does.



I'm not going to spoil anything here, because it simply isn't necessary in discussing the film. This is probably going to be short and sweet, because it won't take me long to tell why I enjoyed "The Heartbreak Kid". No matter how many times I do it, I'm always in a stupor when I see a movie for the first time, that I like, that has been out for decades. I constantly ask myself, "how did I not see this already, it's so good". This is one of those occasions and especially in this case, because when I was younger, I was obsessed with comedies and "The Heartbreak Kid" is a top notch comedy. Charles Grodin, in my opinion, was HILARIOUS. It's very rare for me to physically laugh out loud during a film, even if I think the film IS funny. A lot of times I'll just snicker or think to myself "Oh, that's clever", but not here. I was laughing out loud more times than I could count and it was almost always due to a line that Grodin delivered. Even when he wasn't trying to be funny, there was just something about his mild mannered speech that I got a kick out of.

This film also allowed me the opportunity to check out Neil Simon, a man who I, sadly, had only heard of through a particular "Seinfeld" episode. I looked up his list of film credits after the movie and was surprised to see a bunch of movies that have always looked appealing to me, such as: "Barefoot in the Park", "The Out of Towners" and "The Sunshine Boys". This is someone who I'll definitely be checking out more of and to my surprise, yet again, his first every film is currently streaming on Netflix - "Come Blow Your Horn".

I'll wrap it up now. If you're looking for a really funny comedy, then check out THE ORIGINAL "The Heartbreak Kid" and enjoy it and feel free to swing back around and leave a comment and we can discuss it.

RATING: 7.5/10 I give very few comedies a full '10', so for a comedy that's a pretty solid rating.

MOVIES WATCHED: 222
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 779

February 28, 2011 12:40pm

83rd Annual Academy Awards - Random Thoughts

From time to time I like to use my "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See" blog to talk about other goings on in the world of film. Since I did it last year, I figured I'd post a quick write-up about this year's Oscars, which have just concluded.

THE OSCARCAST

If you're a follower of Roger Ebert on Twitter, you may have seen the following tweet that he tweeted a mere moments ago:

"The worst Oscarcast I've seen, and I go back awhile. Some great winners, a nice distribution of awards, but the show? Dead. In. The. Water."

I could not agree more. Anne Hathaway and James Franco (and especially Franco) just did a horrible job as hosts for the Oscars this year. At least I can give Hathaway a little credit for the effort, but Franco just seemed like he'd rather be longing back in one of the seats of the Kodak Theatre and being a nominee instead of a host. In fact, much of the show just ran flat, with a lot of unenthusiastic appearances. When the 94 year old Kirk Douglas is the first one onstage getting laughs, then you know you're in trouble. I was almost hoping that someone like Kevin Spacey, Billy Crystal or the combination of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. would just kick Hath' and Franco off the stage and take over the hosting duties.

Also, I realize that the Best Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress and Picture awards hold the most interest, but those need to be spread out a little more. I mean, I admire costumes, music and set design in films as much as any avid film goer, but the whole middle portion of the awards always seems slow and I'm sure there aren't that many people out there who care to hear technical guys thanking their wives and kids.

And another thing - there are way too many people appearing onstage. When you have to have host Anne Hathaway introduce Hilary Swank, so that she can introduce Kathryn Bigelow, so that she can present the award for "Best Director"...that's just too many people. What's the host for, if not to introduce the presenters. Let's cut out the middle man (or middle woman), quit harping about the show going long and get this thing rolling!

THE REST OF MY THOUGHTS

Anyway, it was nice to see some people that I enjoy walk off with Oscars tonight. Glad to see Christian Bale finally get that "OSCAR Winner" title before his name, as well as Natalie Portman. Eventhough he didn't win it was super cool to see "The Dude" Jeff Bridges get nominated for the second year in a row...here's to three! It seems as though this is only Tom Hooper's second feature film, so hopefully we see the rise of a new great director.

FYI - Out of the films nominated for major awards tonight, I've only seen: "Inception", "Toy Story 3" and "The Social Network"...Yeah I don't get out to the theatre that often. So much like last year I really have no business talking about my approval or disapproval of the nominees or the winners. I will be talking more in depth about the three films that I HAVE seen in the upcoming "February Recap" post, but if I had to choose a winner out of those three, I'd probably go with "The Social Network".

As for the rest of the movies, I'm very much interested in seeing: True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Rabbit Hole, Biutiful, Another Year and I guess, since it won Best Picture, The King's Speech.

Well that does it for yet another year of Oscars. I highly doubt that I'm going to bang out another 780 movies in the next year, which means I'll still be chugging along at this blog when the 84th Academy Awards are on the air and I'll probably be right back here talking about them again. Maybe next year I'll be more prepared...as far as what I've seen and haven't seen among the noms.

February 28, 2011 12:20am

Sunday, February 27, 2011

943. American Beauty (1999)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: Alan Ball
Main Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari

"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 1999

This will be the conclusion of our week dedicated to Best Picture winners, as we're a mere hours away from this year's Oscar ceremony. Once again I had the advantage of plucking this one directly from my DVD shelf, but once again, I knew going in that it wasn't a definitive favorite of mine. I've flip flopped back and forth on this one for years. Do I like it or am I not thrilled with it? I knew that this would finally have to be the viewing to answer that question.

The film is set dead square in the center of American suburbia, as writer Alan Ball rips the walls off of those perfect, little, suburban houses to show us what life is really like inside. We zoom in on the Burnham family, headed up by father Lester (Spacey). Lester starts off the film by telling us that within one year he will be dead..."but in a way, he's dead already". He's married to Carolyn (Bening) and their marriage is not going down the tubes, but rather, has been meddling in the tubes for years. Their sex-life is null and void and their daughter Jane (Birch) is there to witness it all. In trying to show support for their daughter, a cheerleader, Lester and Carolyn attend a high school basketball game so that they can see their daughter cheer. During the halftime show, Lester falls head over heels for one of Jane's fellow cheerleaders, Angela (Suvari), which results in the famous erotic dance/rose petal scene. Lester then begins to suffer a mid-life crisis, which comes on even harder when he overhears Angela tell Jane that Lester is cute and if only he had some muscles, she'd "totally fuck him". Lester begins to workout hard, he quits his job after getting a hefty severance package and takes a new job as a burger flipper at Mr. Smiley's fast food restaurant. Meanwhile, the Fitts' have just moved in next door, consisting of Col. Frank Fitts, a homosexual despising, ex-Marine, Barb Fitts, a wife that looks like she's taken one too many tongue lashings from the Colonel and goes around in a zombie-esque state and Ricky Fitts, who takes to selling pot to Lester and filming his object of desire - Jane.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I have mixed feelings on hundreds of movies, but this is definitely one that tops the list. I think every single time I watch "American Beauty" I like it less and less. Years ago, when I saw it, I liked it so much that I ran out and bought it. Lets start with the negatives and work our way to the positives.



The way I see it, this movie can't make up it's mind on whether it wants to be taken seriously or wants to be a satire on the ways of the world as they exist in the suburbs. In one way, it wants to be taken seriously, giving us some beautiful scenes, most notably the end, when Lester realizes the error of his ways and the how he had everything that a man his age could ask for, but simply didn't work hard enough to maintain it. I love Lester's speech at the end of the film and the fact that he dies with a smile on his face, as he stares lovingly at a picture of Jane, Carolyn and himself. But then on the non-serious side we're treated to scenes of Lester working the drive through window at Mr. Smiley's restaurant and catching his wife making out with the "King of Real Estate" Buddy Kane and blackmailing his boss into giving him that hefty severance package that I mentioned above. I understand that it's a dark comedy, but feel that there are too many really touching moments in there to label this movie as any type of comedy. Another element of the film that leads me to criticize this film is that there just doesn't seem to be any type of progressive story. It's basically just Lester going through a mid-life crisis with a bunch of other things thrown in to get a reaction out of the audience.

On the positive side of the spectrum, with "American Beauty" you get some great acting from Spacey and Bening. You get some really touching and really funny scenes, that I outlined above and despite the lack of story, you do get a fairly interesting little tale of life in the suburbs, with some characters that I'm sure will draw your interest. Maybe that was the intention of Alan Ball, writing not so much a story, but rather just an anecdote about the hollow life that exists in the suburbs and the one man who decides he's not going to play Mr. America anymore and conform to that suburban life. It's definitely one that has me flip flopping, but I'd still recommend it and I'd also borrow a line from a fellow blogger of mine and say "approach with caution".

RATING: 6.5/10 That rating seems a bit harsh to even me, but a '7' just seems a little too high, so we'll stick with the 6.5. That'll do it for the "And the Oscar Goes to..." series.

MOVIES WATCHED: 221
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 780

February 27, 2011 7:24pm

496. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: John Schlesinger
Written By: Waldo Salt, from novel by James Leo Herlihy
Main Cast: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, Brenda Vaccaro, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver

"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 1969

Less than twenty-four hours removed, until the 83rd Annual Academy Awards commence, tonight I rewound the clock forty two years to take a look at the Best Picture of 1969 - "Midnight Cowboy". It wasn't, however, the first time I had seen "Midnight Cowboy" and actually I was able to pluck this one directly from my DVD shelf.

Joe Buck (Voight) is headed for New York 'by gawd' City, from his original home in Texas, because he's convinced that the city is crawling with women, who'd pay big money to hop in the sack with a genuine cowboy. After a long bus ride, Joe eventually reaches the city that never sleeps, but has to face a harsh reality when he realizes that the women he figured would be attacking him right off the bus, do not exist. Joe does manage to get one date, which results in a memorable scene with Sylvia Miles and ends with him paying her instead of vice versa. Later, he meets up with Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman), who swindles him out of $20, by telling him that he'll introduce him to a manager who handles "hustlers" like Joe. Joe doesn't meet any managers, but down the line he runs into Ratso again and maybe through a feeling of guilt or loneliness...or both, Ratso invites Joe to stay with him in a condemned apartment building. Joe doesn't have a choice, as he's ran out of cash and has no food. Joe and Ratso give the hustling business one more go and through a series of schemes get Joe all ready for the bevy of dates he's sure to get. Unfortunately for the duo, things once again don't pan out and winter eventually arrives, as Ratso takes a turn for the worse - health wise and he and Joe continue squatting in a heat-less, abandoned apartment.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I mentioned above that I plucked this one off of my DVD shelf, but I didn't run out and buy it the first time I saw it. It was more of a "find it for cheap, so I'll go ahead and pick it up" kind of thing. Everytime I see this movie I have mixed feelings but I think tonight, with this viewing, I was able to nail down some of those feelings and make a definitive opinion about "Midnight Cowboy". I'm going to throw some thoughts out there, so please don't be turned off if I get too random.

The first thing that really captures me about "Midnight Cowboy" is the atmosphere of the whole film. I wasn't born in the 1960s, but I must admit that I've always had a certain interest in the decade. I've always tended to wonder about what life was like back then, when the world was going through a social change the sex, drug and rock 'n' roll revolution was in full swing. I've only ever been able to ponder about such things, and in my opinion, this movie gives me the opportunity to do a lot less pondering and a little more fascinating about what it must have been like to live in the Big Apple in the decade of peace, love and harmony. To me this film totally captures the city and atmosphere and makes them another character in the film. This isn't a film you can just set anywhere, New York City is the must have location for Joe Buck and all of his escapades.

This film is also probably one of the most artistic films I've ever seen. To me the entire experience of watching "Midnight Cowboy" is like staring at an intriguing painting. It allows you the freedom to make certain interpretations, it provokes thought, it's beautiful and scary at the same time and I think that everyone will ultimately see some things different. For me, I saw a movie that captures the height of the sexual revolution. A movie that turned me on, but also made me feel. Instead of using colors to paint the picture the film maker's use different assets as their colors. The atmosphere, the characters, the city, the beauty, the sex and the tragedy were this films equivalent to Roy G. Biv, and they were all mixed and mashed together to form something that was brilliant. Through all of the erotic images and uneasy situations, you had a beautiful friendship blossoming in the ugliest of circumstances, between Joe and Ratso. I felt sorry for Ratso. Here you have a man who knows nothing but cheating and stealing, but sees an opportunity to capture a friend. I love the scene where Joe threatens to leave Ratso's apartment, but Ratso eases up on him and almost begs him to stay. It's such a beautiful moment, again, set in the ugliest of surroundings in the most downtrodden of circumstances. In the end, Joe chooses his friendship with Ratso instead of pursuing his hustling career, at a time when it actually seems to be taking off. It was almost as if Joe was saying "Look buddy. I'm sorry for all those times I called you "Ratso" and made fun of you and threatened you. But now, I'm giving up all of my dreams, my desires, my life to make sure you get well, so that you can strive. So that we can strive."

"Midnight Cowboy" is a fantastic film. It is maybe the closest I've ever come to witnessing moving art and I highly recommend it.

RATING: 10/10 Don't give up on this one after your first viewing. Check it out again and I hope you'll be surprised at what you may uncover.

MOVIES WATCHED: 220
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 781

February 26, 2011 10:18pm

Thursday, February 24, 2011

689. GANDHI (1982)

Running Time: 188 minutes
Directed By: Richard Attenborough
Written By: John Briley
Main Cast: Ben Kingsley, Rohini Hattangadi, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, Candice Bergen

"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 1982

Next up in our week dedicated to Best Picture winners is "Gandhi", a film that my wife has been raving about ever since she saw it over a year ago. The bottom line in this train of thought is that, my wife and I don't always have the same taste in films.

The film is obviously a biopic telling the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi (Kingsley), so I'll try to keep this plot summary short and sweet, as I don't feel the need to outline Gandhi's life. The film opens with the assassination of Gandhi, followed by his funeral procession, which looks spectacular on film and boasts around 400,000 extras. From there we travel backwards to Mohandas' work in South Africa in the late 1800s, at a time when a man of color couldn't walk down the street without a pass. Gandhi's philosophy was peace and he always stuck to that policy and in South Africa he changed the way the government treated Indians by holding non-violent protests and campaigns. Gandhi then traveled back to his native India, where he would become aware of the problems that his fellow Indian people faced, most notably being repressed by the rule of the British Government. Ghandi would go on to fight for years for the freedom of Indians and urged (once again through peaceful, always non-violent ways) the British to leave India. Once that hurdle is tackled, the film turns it's attentions to the fighting between the Muslims and Hindus and the separation of India and Pakistan. In the end, we make our way back to Gandhi's assassination.

Obviously this is a biopic which deals with a lot of important events in the history of our world, so I'll spare the "Spoiler Alert" headline, as I think most of us know what happened to Gandhi and what he accomplished.

Actually, maybe I shouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions, as I was one of the probable few who actually didn't know much of what Gandhi accomplished or that he was even assassinated. I hate to make that admission, but it is true and I mean, come on, even the film was released prior to my birth. In that respect, I will give this movie some credit for being a good history lesson for me, as it obviously taught me a lot about who Gandhi was and what he stood for. This is certainly an inspirational film. Gandhi triumphed with the ideals of peace and non-violence and was always prepared to die for whatever cause it was that he was fighting for. Whether it was getting freedom in South Africa or India or fasting until the Muslims and Hindus halted their war, Gandhi was a passionate man when it came to peace, love and unity. Kingsley does one hell of a job transforming himself into Gandhi and there are facts to prove it, like that he dropped an enormous amount of weight, taking up yoga and learning to spin cotton. If only he had learned Indian, his portrayal would have been spot on. The movie exudes power and importance, as the whole thing just feels big and you know you're watching something that had a lot of hard work put into it.

Now lets talk about the negatives, in my opinion. I'm no history buff, so please forgive me for assuming, but I would be willing to bet that Gandhi didn't speak English, nor did the hundreds of other Indian characters in the film. This is something that really took me out of the film. This is a big pet peeve with me, as far as movies go. I hate watching a film set in a foreign land, in a land where I'm certain the people didn't speak English and seeing the actors do just that. "The Pianist" was another blaring example of this, but that film was so good, it was easier for me to overlook. I read in the book where it took Attenborough some twenty years to get Ghandi made and read quotes that said "I never wanted to direct. I just wanted to direct this movie". I read stories about Kingsley going through all the things I mentioned above to become Gandhi. I watched the movie and saw the film maker's obviously strive to make sure the historical accuracies were dead on and that the sets and music and everything was just right, but then they make the movie in English? I realize it's probably not as easy as all that to learn Indian, but maybe if they had at least had his big speeches in Gandhi's native tongue. At least then it would've been a little wink to the audience that "Yeah, we realize he didn't speak English, but here's, at least, a little something to make our film a little more authentic."

I don't know, maybe it wouldn't have mattered, but it just seems really lame when a film set in India has it's actors speaking English. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. In the end, this film really just seemed to drag on and get a little bit like doing homework. I was grateful for what this film taught me, as far as world history and about the Mahatma, but the film itself was a bit of a hard watch. I'm not saying it was entirely boring, because it wasn't, it just had it's dull moments and in the end, I wouldn't call it a favorite or anything like that.

RATING: 5/10 We'll slice it down the middle. If you're interested in your history or just want to know who Gandhi was, it's brilliant. If you want a good movie, it might not be the one you seek.

MOVIES WATCHED: 219
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 782

February 24, 2011 3:51pm

Monday, February 21, 2011

256. From Here to Eternity (1953)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Fred Zinnemann
Written By: James Jones, Daniel Taradash, from novel by James Jones
Main Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra

"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 1953

I was watching 60 Minutes last night and they did a piece on "The King's Speech" and kept going on about how it had twelve Academy Award nominations and how it was among the films that had been most nominated. Unknowingly, this afternoon I chose to check out a film that had thirteen Oscar nominations and I'm not arguing any of them.

"From Here to Eternity" is actually two stories, both set on the island of Hawaii, days before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The film revolves around Company G at Schofield Barracks, where Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Clift) has just transferred. Upon meeting with Captain Holmes, the commanding officer of Schofield Barracks, he is almost immediately pleaded with to join the Company Boxing team, as Holmes has heard of Prewitt's accolades in boxing and wants to bag the championships this year. Prewitt refuses to fight on the grounds that during his last fight he ended up blinding a man. Prewitt is immediately outcast in the Company, with his only solace coming from his new best friend Maggio (Sinatra). Prewitt is humiliated, day after day and forced to run extra laps, climb hills and clean floors due to his refusal to participate in the boxing program. Meanwhile, Captain Holmes and his wife Karen (Kerr) are on the rocks and they've pretty much agreed to give it all up, while still maintaining the facade that is their marriage. Sgt. Warden (Lancaster) has eyes for Karen Holmes, so he makes his move, even without the knowledge that she and Captain Holmes are heading to Splitsville. This, of course, sets up the famous scene on the beach where Kerr and Lancaster collapse into each others arms on the Hawaii beaches, while kissing and flaunting their new found love.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Sometimes when I watch a movie that I enjoy, it's hard for me to put my finger on to just what I enjoyed about it. Sometimes I want to come on here and just say "I just liked it...end of story", but I wouldn't do that, because even I want to give myself more details than that for future reference. Probably like a lot of you, all I ever knew about "From Here to Eternity" was that beach scene, so automatically I thought this was going to be a sappy, romantic love story...not that there's anything wrong with that. I loaded it up on my Netflix streaming device and couldn't help but read the brief description, which mentioned the words "soldiers" and "Pearl Harbor"..."Ugh!" I thought. I wasn't in the mood for a war film, but I knew this was the film that I wanted to watch today, so I bit my lip and proceeded forward. While reading the description, I failed to see Monty Clift's name (because it wasn't there...Lancaster and Kerr were the only two mentioned) and I was pleasantly surprised to see him show up early on.

Over the next two hours I witnessed a fantastic film that I can now say I've seen in it's entirety and not just that beach scene, which was marvelous, if only for Kerr in her 1950s style bathing suit. I was laughing (mostly at Sinatra's character), being moved by the forbidden relations between Kerr and Lancaster, turned on by the lead actresses and shouting "COME ON!" during Prewitt's fight scene with Galovitch. Okay, I wasn't really shouting "COME ON!", but in my head I was. All signs pointed to me disliking this film, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised, further confirming my theory of "If you expect nothing, nine times out of ten, you're going to be very pleasantly surprised". I felt that this movie really showed the kind of brotherhood and camaraderie that soldiers have with one another and the type of shit they have to put up with to be accepted into that brotherhood. I'm going to stop now, because I can see this getting "rambly", but bottom line is...I liked "From Here to Eternity".

RATING: 8/10 You have the Lancaster/Kerr love story for the women and the Prewitt story for the guys...Definitely a great date night flick, if you're into classics and looking for one.

MOVIES WATCHED: 218
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 783

February 21, 2011 7:32pm

998. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written By: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Main Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson


"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 2007

Continuing on with our Best Picture themed week, next up I took to my DVD shelf and plucked off "No Country for Old Men", a film that I saw in theatres approximately three years ago, when it was re-released due to it's Oscar nomination. I hadn't seen it since then, but did remember liking it enough to be anticipating the re-watch. I wasn't disappointed.

We get into the meat of the film when we happen upon Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) hunting antelope in a desert area in West Texas. After proving he's not perfect and missing the shot, he happens upon a mini massacre in the form of four vehicles and several dead bodies. After doing a little snooping we're able to piece together that the massacre came as a result of a drug deal, involving Mexicans, that has obviously gone terribly wrong. Llewelyn does some more snooping and finds a satchel containing over $2 million in cash. He takes it and makes his exit. He quickly realizes that by taking the money he has gotten into some inescapable trouble and he's not wrong, because now Anton Chigurh (Bardem) is on his tail and wants the money. Chigurh is an "ultimate bad ass" as Llewelyn puts it at one point in the film and he pretty much hits it on the head with that statement. Chigurh uses an air gun to ruthlessly kill pretty much anyone who stands between him and the money (and even some that don't). Most of the movie deals with the chase, as Chigurh chases Moss down, via a transponder that has been placed inside the money bag, allowing Chigurh to constantly know where Moss is. On both of their tales through the entire film is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones), a man who is ready to face the new generation of criminals that is being unleashed on society...or is he?

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

"No Country for Old Men" is a movie that you could definitely pick apart, piece by piece and examine every detail with a microscope to find hidden meanings and such. The movie has the base theme that eventually criminals will become smarter and more clever than law enforcement and thus the sheriffs of the days of old will be surpassed in their ultimate pursuit of evil. But was Sheriff Bell to old to play with the big boy criminal of Anton Chigurh? He obviously had a lead on this guy and seemed to stumble into possible solutions without even realizing, as when he told Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald) a story about a man killing cattle with an air gun. I mean he had the answer right on the tip of his tongue, but couldn't make the connection between his statement and the evidence that he saw earlier in the film...thus our title is born and West Texas in the 1980s was 'No Country for Old Men'. Another very appealing part of the movie, for me, is the story of a man who was able to escape pure evil on more than one occasion. Chigurh was the type of man that you didn't get away from once he had you locked in his sights, but Moss got away and even got a few jabs of his own in.

You could even examine the character of Chigurh, probably one of the most interesting and vile characters in 21st Century cinema, if not all of cinema. You could make comparisons to Chigurh possibly being a ghost or maybe he was even the Anti-Christ (the initials match - AC). The ghost theory certainly holds some weight, as Sheriff Bell even hints at this at one point when he is absolutely unable to find him. At one point, Bell is seemingly inside the same hotel room with Chigurh, but Chigurh seems to somehow vanish and escape Bell yet again. You could pick apart the movie like this, but the point I'm trying to get to is why would you want to? "No Country for Old Men" is not a movie where you must find an answer in order to follow or be entertained. The film works on its own and there are no answers that are going to intensify the suspense or make you grip your chair arms any harder. Moss has a satchel full of cash and Chigurh wants it and in the meanwhile, there's a Sheriff who wouldn't mind pinning both these guys down, because obviously some crimes have been committed and some asses need to be pulled in.

I love the Coen Brothers. I love their brand of violence as it seems to be so gruesome, yet have merit all at the same time. This is a violent film, because one of the main characters is a very violent man...case closed. The Coen's know how to hook you and then shock you once they have you immersed in the picture. Whether it's Moss shooting a dog, Chigurh blowing a dead bolt out with his air gun or getting t-boned by another car, the Coens know how to make people jump and ring in that true to life factor of...shit happen when you least expect it. Great film which was definitely deserving of Best Picture, although I've yet to see all of the nominees from that particular year. Also, great acting, as Bardem is amazing as the psychopath, Jones as the old timer and Brolin as the man on the run. It also has mesmerizing cinematography (as most Coen movies have) and an atmosphere that is almost frightening.

RATING: 10/10 Yep...The full monty. This may be in contention as my favorite Coen Brothers movie ever, but still in a hot foot race with "Fargo", which we'll eventually get to.

MOVIES WATCHED: 217
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 784

February 21, 2011 1:45am

Sunday, February 20, 2011

270. On the Waterfront (1954)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Elia Kazan
Written By: Malcolm Johnson, Budd Schulberg, from articles by Malcolm Johnson
Main Cast: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger

"AND THE OSCAR GOES TO...": 1954

With the Oscars a mere one week away, I figured we'd take a week out and take a look back at some of the movies that have been deemed the Best Picture of the Year by the Academy Awards. First up is "On the Waterfront", a movie that I watched for the first time today and one that is currently streaming on Netflix.

The film revolves around organized crime and takes place on the docks of the New Jersey waterfront. Union boss Johnny Friendly (Cobb) rules over the docks with an iron fist and the film opens with the "hit" of one of the dock worker's, mainly one of the dock workers who planned to testify to the Waterfront Crime Commission. The murdered dock worker is lured out of his apartment by Terry Malloy (Brando), who knew nothing of the hit and just assumed that the boys were going to rough him up a bit. Malloy later meets and falls in love with the murdered dock worker's sister, Edie (Saint), who is trying her best to get to the bottom of the murder of her brother. A local priest, Father Barry (Malden), is also determined to expose the crimes that are being committed on the waterfront. The film basically deals with Malloy's struggle to choose between right & wrong and good & evil, as he continues to see people he knows get whacked and continues to fall deeper and deeper in love with Edie, a girl for whom he has all the answers to all of her unanswered questions.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I have to admit, despite the popularity that this movie garners, I wasn't too crazy about it. Now before you jump all over me for not sharing your opinion, allow me to explain. The one thing people usually like to cite about "On the Waterfront" is the acting job of Marlon Brando and I won't argue that in the slightest. In my opinion, Brando did a fine job and was totally immersed in his Terry Malloy character. Hell, I'd even throw Karl Malden in there too, as I thought he held his own with the likes of acting greats like Brando and Lee J. Cobb (I've always liked Cobb, ever since I saw "12 Angry Men" and was delighted to see his name in the opening credits). I'll also be the first to admit that this was a pretty powerful movie, which was beautifully shot. There are so many scenes that I can look at and say "Damn, now that's great stuff". I loved Malden's speech right after the murder of Kayo Dugan, as bottles and garbage are being thrown at him but he keeps right on preaching and it's the moment when Terry's arms are being pulled the hardest in either direction.

The ending was fantastic and any rating I give this film, half of it is because of the ending. To me, the ending signified that one, big, championship fight that boxer Terry Malloy never got a chance to contend in. When he was able to stand up for himself and for his fellow man and snub his nose at the crime world. When Father Barry asks Malloy if he can walk, and Terry, bleeding all over the place, drags himself to his feet and walks past all of his fellow dock workers, it was such an inspirational scene.

Now with all of that praise being showered on the doorstep of "On the Waterfront", why don't I care too much for it? Well it may be hard for me to put my finger on, but here goes. For starters, I just don't think they emphasized the struggle that the character of Malloy was going through enough. To me, this was a film about a man having to decide between good and evil, with evil being the predominant factor in most of his life and all he really knew. To me, it was a combination of the Edie character and all the murder that surrounded him, that forced him to reconsider his status. I just don't think that was emphasized enough and when Terry finally cracks, it comes as no surprise, because it's obviously that's where we were going. Brando was great as Terry Malloy, but who was Terry Malloy, because to me his character just wasn't defined enough. What made this guy finally throw up his hands and say "Dammit, I'm not going to take it anymore!"? Was it the girl? Is that all it took for Terry to see the light and issue a backlash toward his former friends? To me, just not enough definition in this film, not enough focus. And Bernstein's score was much too aggressive in my opinion. Terry wasn't a superhero, he was a man and a man doesn't need superhero music, he needs subtle music that lingers in the background, while still adding something to the overall picture.

RATING: 5.5/10 I'm conflicted on this one and honestly I could see it growing on me over time, but for now we'll just leave it at that.

MOVIES WATCHED: 216
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 785

February 20, 2011 3:31pm

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

240. A Place in the Sun (1951)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: George Stevens
Written By: Harry Brown, Theodore Dreiser, Patrick Kearney, Michael Wilson, from the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and the play A Place in the Sun by Patrick Kearney
Main Cast: Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A LADY NAMED ELIZABETH

My wife got this one in the mail today from Netflix and realizing it was in the "1001" book, I decided to join her in watching it. The biggest impression that "A Place in the Sun" left on me was the realization that Elizabeth Taylor was a stunning beauty.

"A Place in the Sun" is based on the novel An American Tragedy and tells the story of George Eastman (Clift), a man raised in a highly religious household who takes advantage of an opportunity to go work in his uncle's factory. Despite being the nephew of the owner, George is treated with no favoritism and is given the lowest position available in the factory. However, George is grateful for any opportunity and puts his best foot forward. On his nights and off days George takes to fraternizing with a girl he works with, Alice Tripp (Winters), which is in strict defiance of the workplace rules. Eventhough George is dating Alice, it seems that every boy in town is enamored by the beauty of Miss Angela Vickers (Taylor) and George is no exception. Once Angela notices that George exists, it doesn't take her long to fall for his good looks and proper manners. George is now courting two ladies, when he'd rather just be courting Angela and despite his efforts to ignore Alice, he can't shake her, especially when it is revealed that she is pregnant. Meanwhile George begins to move up the ranks at work and elbow his way into his uncle's social circle, but that is all in jeopardy when Alice threatens to spill the beans about their relationship unless George marries her.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

The thing that I find the most intriguing about "A Place in the Sun" is the observance of what a man will do when his social rank is in jeopardy. You take the very gracious, very humble George Eastman, who was raised in a very poor household with a strict religious upbringing. He comes to New York for an opportunity at making it on his own, with his own job and own place and doesn't expect much. He makes the most of the opportunity and in the process begins to gain a little notoriety around the factory and begins to draw the attentions of a beautiful woman. You give George Eastman a taste of what the high life can be like and it drives him to ponder the thought of murder...murder on a person who is threatening to strip him of his new found social rank. I guess it echoes that old adage "Give him an inch and he takes a mile". George was in a good spot when he was living on his own, courting Alice and holding down a steady job, but when he got a taste of how the upper class lived, he wanted a mile.

I can't say that I fully enjoyed this movie as I did the last time I saw it, which was some years ago. I am intrigued by the premise and am enamored with the beauty of Liz Taylor and the acting skills of Monty Clift, but it just didn't fulfill me like it seemed to many years ago. I did love the camera work too. In fact, there's a particular shot in the film where George is conversing with Alice and all that can be seen is Alice's eyes. George looms in the shadows and to me this represents the exact moment when the thought of murder crossed the mind of George Eastman, when a purely evil thought consumed him. On the other hand, one thing that really took me out of this movie, just a bit, was the editing. I'm pretty sure that every change in scene over the course of the film is done with a dissolve, a dissolve that seems to hang way too long and leave us with overlapping images for too many seconds. I know it's a really anal thing to even mention, but it just seemed really sloppy and could've been handled with a little more care.

RATING: 6.5/10 Despite my nitpicking, this really is a good movie and I recommend it based on Elizabeth Taylor alone. I also recommend watching it as part of a double feature with "Match Point" - the 2005 Woody Allen picture.

MOVIES WATCHED: 215
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 786

February 16, 2011 8:37pm

558. The Sting (1973)

Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed By: George Roy Hill
Written By: David S. Ward
Main Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Ray Walston

NEWMAN AND REDFORD TOGETHER AGAIN

I took a small break from watching movies from the "1001" book for the past couple of days, so that my wife and I could enjoy our Valentine's Day Weekend in bed, watching other movies. We saw some great movies and some terrible ones, but that's now what we're here to talk about, now is it? Today we're talking about Newman and Redford once again and this time it's the tandem teaming up in "The Sting".

Johnny Hooker (Redford) is a street-wise conman and a very good one at that. He proves his worth when he pinches a numbers runner for a big time crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Shaw). When word gets back to Lonnegan that he's been conned, he aims to make an example of any "grifters" who have their sights set on his dough. He puts the word out to his boys to take down Hooker and when Hooker shakes Lonnegan's boys by paying them off with counterfeit money, they kill Hooker's friend and fellow conman Luther. Hooker now has revenge in his head and tracks down Henry Gondorff (Newman), a man skilled in the art of the "big con". Gondorff also knew Luther and with a mixture of revenge and riches on their mind, Hooker and Gondorff set out to pull of the biggest of the big cons on Lonnegan.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

It was a smart move to watch "The Sting" in conjunction with "Butch Cassidy...", as they really go well together and make a pretty good pair of movies, especially for fans of classics or the pairing of Newman and Redford. Both portray the characters of Newman and Redford as criminals, yet they're the types of criminals we're meant to root for and have a hell of a time doing so. Once again Robert Redford doesn't fail to impress me here and once again I have to say that I enjoyed him more than Newman. I think it's more of an underestimation on my part, as I just really never paid too much attention to Robert Redford and now I'm getting a wake up call to the fact that he was a hell of an actor. The scenes in "The Sting" are perfectly shot, in that they turn a normally tame scene of Gondorff and Lonnegan playing poker, into a real nail biter. Another thing I have to hand to the makers of "The Sting" is that they really captured the time period. Now, not that I lived in the 1930s, but this is exactly how I would picture downtown Chicago during the Depression era. The music, settings and costumes in "The Sting" we're fantastic and it really made you yearn to be around during that time period.

Now on to the cons...and no I'm not talking about the ones IN the movie. For the most part I enjoyed "The Sting", but I think there was definitely a point there in the middle where it felt like we were just killing time. It wasn't boring at all during, but afterwards when the film was over, it just felt like for a movie that was over two hours in length, not a whole lot happened. They managed to keep the momentum going though and like I said, there was never a point where you were staring at the clock and sighing with impatience. There was also a little bit of predictability in there, with the whole FBI part of the con thrown in, which I wasn't crazy about. It just seemed to provide us with more of a twist ending and I thought the movie could've ended just fine without it, with Robert Shaw screaming at the top of his lungs and throwing a Robert Shaw caliber hissy fit, because he lost a half million bucks. But hey, the FBI racket was the focal point for Dana Elcar, a guy I haven't seen in ages, not since his Pete Thornton days on "MacGyver". And speaking of cast I also thought Ray Walston, Charles Durning and Harold Gould all did magnificent jobs.

RATING: 7/10 I liked "Butch Cassidy..." better, but this was still a lot of fun and I'd highly recommend watching them both as a double feature. On a side note, I just realized that the Oscars are in less than two weeks and I've decided to let "The Sting" be our segue into a week filled with some Best Picture Oscar winners...so look out for those.

MOVIES WATCHED: 214
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 787

February 16, 2010 1:52am

Saturday, February 12, 2011

799. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Running Time: 107 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen
Main Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda

WOODY ALLEN WEEK: THE FINAL ACT

The final leg of the Woody Allen movies, as they exist within the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was an Allen film that I once considered my favorite of his work. This time around I didn't regard it so highly, but still hold it in high regard.

Once again we're treated to two stories that are very loosely connected by the characters that play in each of them. In the first, and darker of the two stories, Martin Landau is Judah Rosenthal, a very successful eye surgeon who is paying dearly for years of infidelity. When his mistress Dolores (Huston) threatens him by telling him that she is going to go to his wife and confess everything, he turns to his criminal brother (Jerry Orbach) for help. In the other, more light-hearted story, Woody Allen is Cliff Stern, an ailing documentary filmmaker who has decided to take a job producing a documentary about his successful sitcom writer brother-in-law Lester (Alda), whom he hates, citing that he is a pompous bore. Along the way, Cliff falls head over heels for the executive producer of the project, Halley (Farrow), whom he gets along with due to their common interests and wants to pursue something with her, despite the fact that his is currently married.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Once again, there's no use even mentioning the cast, as Allen obviously assembled a great one once again. I loved Martin Landau and it is his story that is the focal point of the film for me. In fact, and I can't even believe I'm saying this, if Woody would have cut his own story from the film and made the entire film a drama regarding Judah Rosenthal and his problems, this could have been one of the greatest movies of all time. Not that I hated the Allen/Alda/Farrow story, because I didn't, I just took more to the Landau/Huston story. It was also nice to see Sam Waterston get a more prominent role this time around too and I also loved seeing Jerry Orbach in there. Speaking of Waterston, he is involved in the most powerful scene of the film, when Judah imagines him and has a discussion about morals with him in Judah's living room. It's such a strong scene, as the two argue while maintaining whisper tones and debate on right and wrong, murder, infidelity and forgiveness.

I'm not really sure why my opinion went down this time around, I really have no excuse or even negative criticism. I just know that in watching these six Allen film, it was "Manhattan" that I enjoyed the most of them, with "Hannah and Her Sisters" coming in second and this one in third. However, I'll never forget the first time I saw "Crimes and Misdemeanors". It was near the end of my Allen watching quest and with no more proof needed to consider Allen one of the greatest filmmaker's of all-time, I see another home run smacked out of the park by the "Woodman". I remember loving this film so much and immediately deeming it my favorite of all his work. I think the thing I love about Allen, is that my opinion of his greatest film has changed so many times, not because of my indecisiveness, but because he has SO MANY great movies, that it's just impossible to stay married to one. I guess you could say as far as Allen films go, that I'm as much of an infidel as Judah Rosenthal.

A FINAL WORD REGARDING WOODY ALLEN

I had a great time reliving these six pictures from Woody Allen and writing down some of my thoughts on them. It excites me to write about things that I am passionate about and Woody Allen films are a certain passion of mine. I guess now I'm ready for Tuesday and the release of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" which I absolutely cannot wait for.

I guess in the end, the thing I love most about Woody Allen movies is that they allow me to peer into the lives of people in another class as me. We're more often than not viewing upper middle class New Yorkers, who take vacations to Connecticut and throw dinner parties. People who have relationship struggles and analysts to tell their troubles to. I don't know why, but Allen's entire universe just interests me so much. Even the way he passionately films the city of New York is breathtaking. I've never had any particular interest in visiting The Big Apple, but when I watch a Woody movie, I so want to be sitting under a tree in the middle of Central Park or walking downtown, going to my favorite of thousands of restaurants.

As a last bit of information for you, I guess I should tell you that the film I ALWAYS cite as my personal favorite Allen flick was not included in the "1001" book and that would be "Manhattan Murder Mystery". I've always loved this film and probably because it's the first Woody Allen movie I ever saw, way back when I didn't even know who Woody Allen was or that he was even a prominent filmmaker. I'm sure that opinion will flip flop as time goes by, but for now, I won't pick a favorite, instead I'll just suffice it to say that I am a Woody Allen fan in general.

RATING: 8/10 Great film that just didn't do it for me as much as some of the others did. Still it comes with the highest of recommendations.

MOVIES WATCHED: 213
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 788

February 12, 2011 3:31pm

740. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen
Main Cast: Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Michael Caine, Woody Allen

WOODY ALLEN WEEK: ACT FIVE

Winding down "Woody Allen Week", we come to "Hannah and Her Sisters", a film that didn't "WOW" me years ago when I first saw it, but one that has grown on me with the passing of time.
This go around, we're actually dealing with two plots, that are connected by Hannah and, not only her sisters, but the people close to her. The film starts out during a Thanksgiving party that Hannah and her family are throwing. Over the course of the party we meet Hannah (Farrow), her sisters, Lee (Hershey) and Holly (Wiest) and her husband Elliot (Caine). We find out that Elliot has a crush on Lee, which we find out by the use of voice overs, which take us into the characters' thoughts. Lee is living with and intimate with Frederick (Max Von Sydow), a man who treats her more like a pupil than a lover. Hannah's ex-husband is Mickey (Allen), who upholds a good relationship with her and their two children, which they got by means of artificial insemination, due to Mickey's infertility. We jump back and forth between the two plots, as Elliot pursues an affair with Lee and Mickey visits doctor after doctor, chasing down the origins of a hearing loss, which he's convinced is due to a brain tumor.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

The "1001" book describes "Hannah and Her Sisters" as a Bergman-esque film, which I could'nt disagree with more. To me Bergman has a much darker perspective to his movies, while I consider this one to be one of Allen's more upbeat pictures. Anybody who follows Woody Allen knows that he is an atheist, yet in "Hannah and Her Sisters" he (and his character) seem to be questioning the existence of God and I'll be damned if Woody himself doesn't make a case for his existence. I mean, think about it, Woody's character in the film experiences a "near death" situation, only to survive and question his religion and the existence of God and Jesus Christ. Eventually he comes to the conclusion that you only go around once, so you might as well enjoy it while you got the chance. But then the film ends and Woody's character, a previously infertile man, is deemed fertile again, as we learn that his new wife is pregnant. Come on, what more proof do you need Mickey? Maybe, I'm just reading into it too much, as I highly doubt that the underlying message of "Hannah and Her Sisters" is...there is a God, but I'm just saying.

The cast is brilliant, but you really don't need me to tell you that. I especially enjoyed Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey, who was quite the eye candy for me in this movie. The only cast related complaint I'll make is...What was the deal with Sam Waterston? I mean, don't get me wrong, who doesn't love Sam Waterston, but why the hell was he in there? It was almost as if he showed up on set one day and Woody was like "Hey, you wanna' be in the movie" and he was like "Okay, I got a half hour to kill." His character never developed at all and the story with him and April (Carrie Fisher) just kind of disappeared and we never heard from them again. Carrie Fisher's part was kind of useless too, come to think of it, but I digress. My only other complaint, and it's as minor as minor can be, is the musical intros, as we flipped back and forth between plot lines. In a way it worked for me and in a way it just seemed out of place and I could've done without it. Although, speaking of music, this film definitely turned me on to Bach and his Concerto in F Minor: 2nd Movement. What a beautiful piece of music.

RATING: 9/10 Hey it's Woody in his prime, dealing with relationships in the Big Apple...and he's in it...Doesn't get much better than that for this movie watcher.

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MOVIES WATCHED: 212
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 789

February 11, 2011 11:15pm

Friday, February 11, 2011

495. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: George Roy Hill
Written By: William Goldman
Main Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross

ON MY JOURNEY I MET MEN NAMED NEWMAN AND REDFORD

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" departs the streaming section of Netflix tomorrow, so with some time to kill tonight, waiting for my wife to get off work, I decided to watch it for the second time in my life. I liked it MUCH more this time around.

Butch Cassidy (Newman) and The Sundance Kid (Redford) are two outlaws who are the heads of the "Hole in the Wall Gang", a group of men who rob banks and trains looking for loot and usually making out like bandits. The film starts by getting us acquainted with the gang, mainly Butch and Sundance, with a great scene of Sundance playing poker, where we learn that he is the fastest draw in the west to another great scene where Harvey Logan challenges Butch for control of the gang...he fails. From there we meet Etta (Ross), Sundance's love interest and a good friend to Butch. After that the gang gets back together to pull another job, but are halted by posse that has formed, seemingly to take them down. The hunt for Butch and Sundance by the posse takes up a big chunk of the movie, but, trust me, I'm not complaining, as the entire chase through the hills is quite gripping and just as frustrating for the viewer as it is for the characters. Eventually Butch and Sundance outsmart the posse and get back to Etta, where they offer her a chance to go with them to Bolivia, a place where Butch thinks they'll find a lot of success. The trio head to Bolivia and find nothing but pigs and dirt, so decide to start another gang, this time, with just the trio. They rob banks throughout Bolivia, but before that they must receive Spanish lessons from Etta, who is also a teacher.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

As I write this, I have "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" playing, because it's such a soothing song and such a great scene in the movie (that I was forced to rewind and rewatch) when Newman rides his new bicycle around with Etta. This scene was also so sad for me to watch, and realize that Newman is no longer with us. What a great movie this is, that I for the life of me cannot remember why I didn't like the first time around. I mean, what's not to like? It's probably the most funny, different type of Western there is and if someone were to come to me and say "Recommend me a Western...I've never see one and want to see one", this is the one I'd give them, because it seems like it would be a good Western for beginners.

I mentioned above how frustrating the big chase scene is, and it really is, not just for the characters, but also for the viewer. We never see the chasers up close and not until the chase is completely over do we find out their identities. The entire time Butch and Sundance are asking themselves and each other..."Who ARE Those Guys?" and we're right there with them, asking the same question and we're frustrated right along with them, when you think they've got the right idea on how to lose these guys and the guys just keep on coming.

Newman and Redford were wonderful together, but surprisingly I think I enjoyed Redford just a hair more than Newman. Don't get me wrong, Newman was fabulous here, but Redford, who I wasn't expecting too much out of, really surprised me, by making the character of Sundance his own and working that character in just the right ways. To me, Sundance was the more likable character...such a cool, quiet character, the kind of guy you really love to root for.

RATING: 9/10 Great, great movie and don't be surprised to see "The Sting" show up on the blog sometime in the next week.

MOVIES WATCHED: 211
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 790

February 10, 2011 9:20pm

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coming Soon: The Foreseeable Future

Back in October or so, I started doing weekly "Coming Soon" posts so that readers of the blog would know what I was planning on watching next for the "1001" book. Instead of doing those again, I figured I'd just pop in here and let you know what's on tap for the foreseeable future.

Basically, as of right now, all that I'll be watching is stuff that I currently have at my disposal...which, trust me, is quite a bit. Here's what I have:

*My DVD Shelf - I'd like to sparse these out, but I own approximately 75 movies that I still need to watch from the book. The reason for the sparsing is because I figure if I hit a rough spot where I see a lot of stuff I don't like, then I'll have movies that I know I like to smooth things out.

*Turner Classic Movies - I've taped the following out of print titles off of TCM: Dr. Zhivago, The Big Sky, The Phenix City Story, The African Queen, Johnny Guitar, Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Sins of Lola Montes, The Magnificent Ambersons, Man of the West and Gaslight.

*Netflix Streaming - We have a Netflix ready device hooked to our TV and thus have downgraded our Netflix plan to the "Streaming Only" plan, this is my main focus right now, to get a lot of stuff off of my Instant Queue. Here's what they currently have, that I still need to watch for the "1001" book, as of 02/10/2011: La vie en rose, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Meet the Parents, The Snake Pit, A Fish Called Wanda, Enter the Dragon, All That Heaven Allows, The Naked Spur, Winchester '73, Meet Me in St. Louis, Carmen Jones, Performance, Network, Poltergeist, Naked Lunch, The Asphalt Jungle, Giant, Rio Bravo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blazing Saddles, Diner, JFK, Withnail and I, The Night of the Shooting Stars, The Shining, The Killing Fields, Top Gun, Jaws, The Sting, Batman, Natural Born Killers, Salt of the Earth, Man of Iron, The Right Stuff, Kes, Hour of the Wolf, All That Jazz, Oldboy, Mondo Cane, Happy Together, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, An American Werewolf In London, The Kingdom, Last Tango In Paris, The Host, Paradise Now, Head-On, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Distant, Amelie, In the Mood for Love, The Gleaners and I, Trust, Audition, The Thin Red Line, The Sweet Hereafter, Dilwale dulhania le jayenge, Hoop Dreams, Man Bites Dog, Aileen Wuornos: Selling of a Serial Killer, Slacker, Delicatessen, Boyz N the Hood, Europa Europa, The Heartbreak Kid, Children of a Lesser God, 1900, Don't Look Now, Persona, Blade Runner, Sans Soleil, When Harry Met Sally, Alice, Die Hard, The Thin Blue Line, Au revoir les enfants, Full Metal Jacket, Sherman's March, A Room With a View, Aliens, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, The Official Story, Fanny and Alexander, Body Heat, The Sorrow and the Pity, Mad Max, The Jerk, Breaking Away, My Brilliant Career, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Suspiria, Eraserhead, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jeanne Dielman..., A Woman Under the Influence, The Spirit of the Beehive, Solaris, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Murmur of the Heart, Walkabout, Five Easy Pieces, Playtime, Closely Watched Trains, The Red and the White, The Cow, Peeping Tom, Shoot the Piano Player, One Eyed Jacks, Jules and Jim, Vidas Secas, Onibaba, The Battle of Algiers, Faces, Beat the Devil, Umberto D., Ugetsu, Ikiru, Diabolique, Wild Strawberries, Seven Samurai, Smiles of a Summer Night, Black Orpheus, Mon Oncle, Breathless, The Wages of Fear, The Earrings of Madame de..., The Day the Earth Stood Still, Rashomon, The Lady from Shanghai, Black Narcissus, Beauty and the Beast, I Know Where I'm Going!, Children of Paradise, Ivan the Terrible, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Pierrot le Fou, Hombre, L'Avventura, Cleo from 5 to 7, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Pickpocket, Shadows, The 400 Blows, M. Hulot's Holiday, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Tokyo Story, The Palm Beach Story, Laura, The Stranger, Gilda, Odd Man Out, The Bicycle Thief, The Red Shoes, The Third Man, The Elephant Man, Henry V, Amadeus, All About Eve, On the Waterfront and From Here to Eternity

Whew...So that's what I have immediately available to me and something up there is what you'll be seeing in the coming weeks here on the blog.

February 10, 2011 5:01pm

726. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen
Main Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Edward Herrmann, Diane Wiest

WOODY ALLEN WEEK: ACT FOUR

With such a short runtime, I decided to slip in one more movie for today and move my Woody Allen Week festivities ahead a little further. This time around it was "The Purple Rose of Cairo", which is not one of my favorite Woody Allen films, but still a good enough movie.

Mia Farrow stars as Cecilia, a depression era wife, married to Monk (Aiello), who finds solace at the movie theatre...a place where she can forget her sorrows and escape into arms of a waiting picture. The new movie in town is The Purple Rose of Cairo and as always Cecilia must see it. She sees it, falls in love with the picture and ends up seeing it four more times. During her fifth viewing, one of the main characters of the film, Tom Baxter (Daniels) notices her and literally walks right out of the screen to meet her. He tells her that he's seen her there before and confesses his attraction to her. They run off together and Tom woos Cecilia with charming lines that only a character from a movie could come up with. However, back at the movie house, chaos ensues, as the rest of the cast are forced to halt their performances due to Tom's departure. The producers of the film are called and eventually fly into the small New Jersey town to see for themselves what's going on. They bring Gil Sheppard (Daniels, in a dual role) with them, the man who plays Tom in the movie, to help them sort the mess out. Gil eventually meets Cecilia and the two of them fall in love. Ultimately Cecilia is forced to choose between her husband, the real man Gil or the imaginary man Tom.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Allen has stated before that "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is his favorite amongst all of the films that he has made. Another quote I found from Allen, regarding this movie is that the whole reason he made "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is for the ending and I can definitely see why, as that was my favorite part too. I guess when you take into account the whole premise and the metaphors that I believe this movie is trying to get across, then I guess the whole concept of the picture is pretty clever. Cecilia is forced to choose between someone who genuinely loves her, but is imaginary or someone who doesn't genuinely love her (although she doesn't know this) but is a real man. Now that's a pretty interesting concept. I guess the most interesting part is how the imaginary man, who knows only what his character knows, and thus could not possibly know what love is, is the one who seems to really love Cecilia, while the real man, who knows of love, doesn't love her and really only seems to love himself. The entire concept is very intriguing...

...However, it just doesn't work for me. For me, Allen is at his best when he's dealing with modern time people who are fussing over their relationships. Throw in some comedy and that, for me, is when you have recipes for really fantastic Allen scripts. "The Purple Rose of Cairo" is Allen's most far fetched film post-Annie Hall, by far and when I watch Woody Allen I want to see real people and plausible events. To me "The Purple Rose of Cairo" just seemed silly for the most part and not something that Allen would normally do. To me, someone suggesting a movie where a movie character comes off the screen and proposes love to a real girl is just not Woody Allen type ideas. Now, granted, I realize that Woody was trying to make some points about true love and fake love and the escapism we can find in a good movie, and those points were made and well taken, but the plot to me is just too silly and thus effected my enjoyment.

RATING: 5.5/10 Not terrible or anything, just not my favorite Allen film by far and as far as the book goes, it's the worst of the four I've watched.

MOVIES WATCHED: 210
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 791

February 9, 2011 10:27pm

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

491. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: George A. Romero
Written By: George A. Romero, John A. Russo
Main Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne

"THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU BARBARA"

Working my way through the Netflix streaming catalog of movies that I need to watch, I decided to check out "Night of the Living Dead", on this very cold, dreary, February day in southwestern PA...where, as a matter of fact, this film is set and filmed.

Barbara (O'Dea) and her brother Johnny have decided to spend their Sunday (unwillingly) driving 200 miles to the cemetery where their father is buried to place a wreath on his grave. While in the cemetery, a man approaches them and begins to attack. Barbara gets away, but Johnny gets into a tussle with the "man" and is knocked unconscious when his head hits a grave marker. The man, who it later turns out is actually a zombie, turns his attention to Barbara, but she manages to escape to a nearby farmhouse. Soon after, night falls and she is joined by Ben (Jones), another human seeking refuge from the monsters that lurk outdoors. Ben is the voice of reason, as Barbara is in shock and out of her mind. Ben realizes that the doors and windows need to be boarded up and without questioning the origin of the monsters, does what he has to do to survive. Later, Ben and Barbara are joined by Harry (Hardman) & Helen (Eastman) and Tom (Wayne) & Judy, who have been holed up in the cellar the entire time. Harry and Helen are married with a hurt child who is also on board and Tom and Judy seem to be a newlywed couple. Harry and Ben clash, as they try to think of the best way to survive and last the longest. Do they stay upstairs, where they'll hear help arrive (if it arrives) or do they lock themselves in the cellar, where they'll be more secure?

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Believe it or not, this is actually the first time that I ever saw the original "Night of the Living Dead", even more surprising due to the fact that it was filmed very near to where I live and grew up, which you think would've peaked my interest. I've always loved movies that take a group of people, put them in a small setting and give them a problem and the tension is even more relevant, considering the size of this groups problem. Not only a horror movie, but "Night of the Living Dead" is also a very well put together character study, as we see different types of people forced to be enclosed with one another and conflict arises. You have the family man, with the fatherly instincts, who thinks he is always right. You have Ben, who worked to board the old farmhouse up and get it secure so that he and Barbara could survive and who is also the voice of reason when hot heads prevail. You have Barbara, who is totally off her rocker, and so the characters are forced to deal with her and ultimately are forced to band together as a group and think of a strategy that will help them live.

I liked the movie, and with a little research found that the budget was a mere $114,000, which makes me admire it even more. Of course it's not the greatest looking of all films, but the worn out picture quality fit in well with the fictional crisis and actually enhanced the experience for me. I also loved the ending, despite the fact that it was tragic. Too many times do we see cliche's, where everything just ends up working out for the best. It was a breath of fresh air to see Romero go in the opposite direction of the cliche ending, in a time before it was even a cliche. Another great thing to see, that kind of goes hand in hand with the small budget, was the relative no name cast that Romero assembled and how terrific of a job they all did. You can actually tell that everyone on board wanted the film to be a success, as it comes out in their performances. A success it was, as now it's (apparently) one of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

RATING: 7/10 I'll have to check out Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead and all of the other dead Romero films when I get some free time.

MOVIES WATCHED: 209
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 792

February 9, 2011 6:30pm

656. MANHATTAN (1979)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Main Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep

WOODY ALLEN WEEK: ACT THREE

Let me start out with one simple sentence...I love this film. Last night, I was able to give it another watch, for "1001" purposes and when I finished I had a thousand and one thoughts swirling through my head, regarding this movie. I only hope I can get it all straight and lay it down for you here.

This time around Woody Allen is Isaac Davis, an aspiring book writer, who is currently "wasting his life" writing, what his best friend calls "crap", for a comedic television show. He's involved in a relationship with Tracy (Hemingway), a girl twenty-five years his junior and his best friend is Yale (Murphy), whom he shares everything with. During a night out at dinner, Yale confesses to Isaac that he has been seeing someone else, a woman named Mary (Keaton), whom he claims to be very serious about. A few days later, while at an art gallery with Tracy, Isaac runs into Yale and Mary and after meeting Mary, decides that he despises her, mainly because she seems to have entirely different interests than him and because she mispronounces Vincent Von Gogh's name. Later in the film, they meet again and this time hit it off, walking through the streets of New York until the sun comes up and commencing underneath the 59th Street Bridge to watch the sunrise. Now Issac is in love with Mary, still has Tracy, whom he admittedly has a great time with, just feels guilty for even being with a seventeen year old and has a best friend who is also in love with the woman he's in love with. It's probably Allen's most serious film and one of my all-time favorites.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

This film has, maybe, one of my favorite opening sequences of any film ever. The film starts with Isaac reading chapter one of his book. He keeps re-starting finding something wrong with the previous recital. He eventually finds the words he's looking for and fireworks explode over Manhattan as George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue blares in the background. Then we get into the meat and potatoes of the film and to me this is the most serious film Allen has ever done. There is comedy strung in there, but it's never used as the focal point of a scene and is the type of everyday humor that you would hear in day to day conversation. Speaking of day to day conversations, I love the dialogue here and here more than any other film, you can really pick up on Allen's knack for writing dialogue. It flows so naturally out of the mouths of these uptown New York intellectuals, that I felt like I was peering in on the lives of these people. When I watch "Manhattan" I feel like I shouldn't be getting this movie, like it's out of my league and these people are having such intelligent conversations, that I should be scratching my head. But, despite the fact that some of the references are lost on me, I do get the film for the most part and Allen makes me, so much, want to live in New York City, so that I can interact with people like this, even though they're not the most balanced people in the world.

I love how Allen examines relationships here, especially Isaac's. We see Isaac having such a great time with Tracy, a girl who is seventeen years old. They lie in bed together and eat Chinese food while watching old movies. They go for horse drawn carriage rides through Central Park and Isaac romances her, telling her that she's "God's answer to Job". But, despite all that, Isaac just can't comfortably commit to a girl twenty-five years younger than him, and thus pushes her away and breaks her heart. Instead, he decides to commit to Mary, a woman he met because she was his best friend's mistress and a woman he hated when he first met. He ultimately gets his heart stomped on by Mary and goes back to the woman who's heart he stomped in Tracy. And speaking of that, what a heartbreaking scene, when Isaac and Tracy break-up. I think Tracy was the character in the film that I could identify most with because I've been 17 years old and I know how attached you get to things at that age, especially in relationships. I nearly cried when Tracy started crying, because in a way, I could feel her pain.

I love that Allen went the black & white route with this film, as it gives us an old time feel in a very modern world and I honestly can't imagine this film being in color. The shots of New York City are sublime and watching this film makes me feel like I've visited NYC and been back to tell about it. Woody really takes you right into the heart of the city and busts open the psyche of some of it's characters, for us to muse at and be entertained by. Love this movie!

RATING: 10/10 Believe it or not folks, this isn't even my favorite Woody Allen film...but it is a damn good one and one that I recommend to anyone...even though I'm sure it won't be for everyone.

MOVIES WATCHED: 208
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 793

February 9, 2011 12:54pm

922. Funny Games (1997)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Michael Haneke
Written By: Michael Haneke
Main Cast: Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski

FUNNY...OR RATHER...NOT SO FUNNY GAMES

So this evening I decided to take a break from the Woody Allen Week project and take another look at a movie I saw a few years ago, "Funny Games". For those interested, it is currently streaming on Netflix and is actually a really good film, which Haneke liked so much, he developed a shot for shot remake of in 2008.

The film opens on a very pleasant, happy looking family, consisting of father Georg (Muhe), mother Anna (Lothar) and son Georgie (Clapczynski), driving to their lake house to enjoy a vacation. As they drive along, Anna and Georg play a game, forcing each other to guess the classical music piece blaring from the radio. They eventually arrive at their lake house and as they begin to settle in they hear a knock at the door. At this point, Anna is alone in the house, while her husband and son prepare the boat down on the lake. The knock at the door belongs to Peter, a young man who claims to be a friend of the neighbors. Anna doesn't doubt this, because as they were driving up they did see two young men with the neighbors, whom they themselves did not recognize. She invites him in and he asks to borrow some eggs. Once the eggs are given, they are broke and four more eggs are given, only to be broken as well. When Peter's friend, Paul, joins him, the boys remain calm and very polite, but insist on more eggs. Georg eventually finds his way back to the house, only to find his wife distraught, wanting the young men to leave her home immediately. Georg can't make heads or tails of it, but sides with his wife in asking the gentlemen to leave. The men put up a bit of a fuss and in the process break Georg's leg with a golf club...and that's just the beginning of their 12 hour reign of terror over the family.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Let's start with the good, shall we? First of all, I love the subtlety of this film. Nothing is ever over the top and all the emotions and pain that we're witnessing is very real and very heartbreaking. Haneke reminds us that crooks and criminals aren't always stupid and shows us the horror that these two young men, possessing mass amounts of cunningness, can inflict. Haneke also reminds us, in the midst of our horror, that we love watching it unfold, as Paul breaks the fourth wall, giving us eerie winks and talking directly to us. In fact, one of Paul's lines is something to the effect of "we wouldn't want to disappoint our audience", in reference to the criminals leaving and ending their hostage situation with the family. As far as the cast goes, everyone does a superb job. I was especially fond of Paul, who tended to remind me of Alex from "A Clockwork Orange", as he was dressed in white and definitely resembling a "droog". Anna and Georg were great too, spilling out their emotions at the appropriate times and going full throttle and making me wince at times at the sheer horror and pain in their voices.

Now, the bad...shall we? When discussing the bad parts of "Funny Games", there's really only one part to discuss and I'm sure if you've seen the film, you know where I'm headed. Near the end, Anna manages to grab a rifle and shoot Peter, causing Paul to scream "Where's the remote!" and rewind the film to the point just before Anna shoots Peter. Paul gets back to where he wants to be, stops Anna from grabbing the gun and finishes his job on the family.

Now I really have to question why Haneke did this, because for the life of me, I can't justify it whatsoever. I'm just not sure why, when you have such a fantastic movie going, when all of your players are nailing it and you're telling a hell of a story, why you'd want to stop the momentum of your own movie and do such a silly thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that just because I can't justify Haneke's decision, doesn't mean that there is no justification for it, but I just don't get it...I'm sure there's a reason, but I just don't get it and even if I did, doubt that I would agree with it. The move totally took me out of the movie, and while I still enjoyed myself, definitely lessened the enjoyment overall for me. Going back in time a bit, I'll point to one other spot where there may have been able to be improvement and that's the spot right after Georgie is killed, where for minutes there is nothing going on. Now I'm not calling this bad, because after all, their son was just murdered in front of them, so the reaction is justifiable. But it also took me out of the movie for a bit...not as much as the remote scene, but just a bit.

RATING: 7.5/10 Despite that one scene that I mentioned, this film really is great, with powerful performances and heartbreaking, raw emotion and a great plot. I definitely need to add some more Haneke films to my watch list, as this is the only one in the "1001" book.

MOVIES WATCHED: 207
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 794

February 8, 2011 10:36pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #63: ALADDIN (1992)

Running Time: 90 minutes Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Bu...