Friday, November 30, 2012

Wilder Week - COMING SOON


159. The Man in Grey (1943)


Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Leslie Arliss
Written By: Leslie Arliss, Margaret Kennedy
Main Cast: Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Phyllis Calvert, Stewart Granger, Harry Scott
Click here to view the trailer

IT CAME FROM YOUTUBE

Expect an onslaught of reviews to be rapidly fired your way between tonight, tomorrow and Sunday morning, as I wrap up the sixth season of my "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die" project and move one step closer to my ultimate goal of 1001 movies watched.


"The Man in Grey" is told in flashback style and begins at a boarding school for girls, where a new teacher, Hesther Shaw (Lockwood), arrives.  In the beginning, Ms. Shaw and popular pupil Clarissa (Calvert) don't get along, but after a while, they settle their differences and become best friends. After a while, Ms. Shaw leaves the school to marry a man named Barbary and soon after, Clarissa also departs the school, later marrying Lord Rohan a.k.a. the Man in Grey (Mason). Clarissa and Lord Rohan don't get along, nor do they love each other and it is admitted by Rohan that the only reason he married Clarissa, was so he could have an heir. After Clarissa bears him a son, Lord Rohan and Clarissa seldom see one another, nor does she even see much of her son, as Lord Rohan keeps him secluded most of the time. Later, Clarissa meets back up with Hesther and asks her to move into her and Rohan, in London. Hesther obliges and though he is reluctant at first, once Rohan lays eyes on the gorgeous Hesther Shaw (now Hesther Barbary, although she's split from her husband) he gives in. Is is here that Hesther becomes more wicked, as she plans to steal Lord Rohan away from Clarissa, which is initiated when they begin an affair. Meanwhile, Clarissa begins falling in love with a man named Rokeby (Granger), an actor and explorer.


THE BOOK admits that the plot to "The Man in Grey" is very forgettable and that the only reason it was chosen for inclusion was because of it's fabulous art design, noting that the crew were able to resurrect Regency period England. That very well may be, however, it seems like a weak reason to label a film as "must see" material. I'm sure that when I reach the end of my journey, I'll barely remember "The Man in Grey", as it is quite the forgettable little tale. In fact, the only positive thing I took away from the production was the brilliant acting, and of course you're going to get brilliant acting when James Mason is involved. He's a man that, while I'm not a fan of many of the movies he stars in, is always reliable for a fantastic performance; an actor who truly becomes his character and plays him to perfection. However, the true star of the picture, for me, was Margaret Lockwood; a standout discovery for me and someone who made the screen shine when she appeared on it. Actually, I didn't care for Phyllis Calvert at all and found myself rooting for Margaret Lockwood to come out on top, even though I knew she wouldn't. If nothing else, I'll be able to note "The Man in Grey" for introducing me to her, as I hope to seek out and watch more of her films. Other than that, I really don't have much else to add to this review. "The Man in Grey" was a VERY random choice and something that I can safely tell you IS NOT a must see!


RATING: 3/10  I'll give it three notches for the performances of Lockwood and Mason, but that's about as high as it gets on this one.

MOVIES WATCHED: 595
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 406

November 30, 2012  10:48pm

Thursday, November 29, 2012

594. Deewaar/The Wall (1975)


Running Time: 172 minutes
Directed By: Yash Chopra
Written By: Javed Akhtar, Salim Khan
Main Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Nirupa Roy, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi

B-B-B-BOLLYWOOD!

With only one Bollywood film under my belt, I went into "Deewaar" with very low expectations. Actually, I was dreading the damn thing, because I knew I wouldn't like it and it was nearly three hours. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the film turned out to be really good!


The plot is long and somewhat complicated so, as always when that's the case, I'll fill in the main points and get on with my opinions. The film begins with a police officer accepting an award and inviting his mother onstage to accept it with him. We then flashback to a family - a father, mother and two sons - with the father involved in a labor strike. When his family is threatened, Anand Verma, the spokesman for the laborers, has no choice but to sign away the rights of his fellow laborers and be shunned from the town as a result. When Anand runs away from his troubles, his wife, Sumitra (Roy) raises her two children, Vijay (Bachchan) and Ravi (Kapoor), with very little money, taking on any job she can to support her sons. When he's old enough, Vijay agrees to go to work too, so that he and his mother can put Ravi through school. We then flash forward to the future, with the two sons grown up and taking very different paths. Vijay finds himself involved in the criminal underworld of smuggling and Ravi decides to go through police training.  While Ravi is away at police training, Vijay rises through the ranks of the criminal hierarchy, becoming a big time boss. When Ravi returns to Bombay as an active duty police officer, he is immediately given the task of bringing Vijay to justice, something that he struggles with.


SPOILER ALERT!

There were good and bad things about "Deewaar" and, as usual, we'll kick things off with the negatives. I thought the film, for the most part, was a gem, however, it did run a little on the long side. THE BOOK notes that normal Bollywood films have six to ten musical numbers, while "Deewaar" only has three. At first, I wasn't crazy about the musical numbers, wanting to continue seeing the plot unfold and not patient enough to sit through the songs, despite the fact that they were well done numbers. However, after a while, I realized that some more musical breaks would've done this film good, serving to break up the action and give the audience a little respite. The film is also a bit too melodramatic, but, there were even times when that didn't bother me that much. I was able to get over it quickly and let the melodrama unfold and swallow it easily. The ending, with Vijay dying in his mother's arms, was perhaps the most over the top acting in the entire picture, but it still worked and none of the actors overdid it, they simply put on powerful, bold performances. The script could've also benefited if they'd cemented the relationship between the brothers a little more, when they were boys. When we get to the end and Ravi's chase for Vijay, it comes off as less powerful, because their relationship was never really, fully established as a solid one.


On the other hand, the plot was great and "Deewaar" made me realize what an untapped market I have in Bollywood cinema. How many other great Bollywood pictures have gone unseen by my eyes, I wonder? We've seen the feuding brothers storyline done to death before, since 1975 and "Deewaar", but Yash Chopra does that same old storyline his own way and manages to make it original, intense, interesting and powerful. As noted above, the acting is good to great all around with Amitabh Bachchan getting top acting honors, in this viewers opinion. It's worth noting that my only other Bollywood experience, "The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride" was directed by Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra's son.

RATING: 7.5/10  An '8' seems to high, at this point, but I could see this rating going up. The entire film is currently available via YouTube and although it may be a small thing, I think I would've enjoyed the film even more if I wouldn't have had to watch it via my uncomfortable computer chair, sitting up at my desk.

MOVIES WATCHED: 594
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 407

November 29, 2012  2:15am

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

810. The Unbelievable Truth (1989)


Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Hal Hartley
Written By: Hal Hartley
Main Cast: Adrienne Shelly, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke, Julia McNeal, Gary Sauer
Click here to view the trailer

ANOTHER SLIGHTLY TWISTED COMEDY

I first became acquainted with Hal Hartley in July 2011, when I watched "Trust" for THE BOOK. It was a film that I had a hard time really getting a grasp on, noting that the characters seemed out of this world and that the plot never really went anywhere. I'd have to say that "The Unbelievable Truth" was a bit better, but still lacking something.


The film begins with a man trying to hitch a ride, alongside the highway. We soon learn that the man's name is Josh (Burke), he's an auto mechanic and he's just been released from prison for committing murder. Meanwhile, we also zoom in on Audry (Shelley), a defiant teenager with paranoid thoughts about the end of the world. Vic (Cooke), Audry's father, wants her to go to college and is prepared to broker any deal he can to get her there, even if it means donating money to one of her "communist, bomb loving" charities. One day, Audry and Josh meet and Audry is crazy about him immediately. When she finds out that he's a mechanic, she gives him the address to her father's car repair shop, so that he can get a job. Audry tries to think up excuses to see Josh, even stealing his wrench at one point, so she'll have an excuse to go see him again. Meanwhile, a scamming photographer cons Vic into getting Audry into modeling, promising that the line of work pays well. The con ends up paying off for the reluctant Audry, who makes tons of money modeling and moves out of her parents house. There's also Pearl (McNeal), the daughter of the man Josh murdered, who is trying to cope with Josh's return to town.


Again with Hartley, I see characters who just aren't acting natural and who are really hard to get a read on. It's almost as if Hal Hartley and his movies are from Mars and not meant to be fully understood by us Earthlings. "The Unbelievable Truth" is a mildly interesting film, but not one that's going to make you reexamine your personal tastes or anything. I had a fair amount of fun with it, enjoyed it for the most part, but when it was done, it was done and that's that. The cast all did a fine job, adapting their styles to fit into the confines of a Hal Hartley film. They're all pretty much unknown faces, but they all delivered, especially the primary players: Shelly, Burke and Cooke. The dialogue was snappy and well written, but again, Hartley's sense of humor is something that I can't entirely comprehend or get in sync with. Therefore, the film left me wanting a little more in the way of seriousness, more naturally acting characters and a stronger plot.


Despite my mild enjoyment to Hartley films, I still see something there that appeals to me and I'd like to see more of his films to maybe find one that I can connect with. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to drop a line in the comments box.

RATING: 6.5/10  Not horrible by any means, but not blow away either. For the curious, this actually replaced "El Norte" from the FINAL 15 list, which went to a 'short wait' on Netflix.

MOVIES WATCHED: 593
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 408

November 28, 2012  12:26pm

Wilder Week - COMING SOON


725. Out of Africa (1985)


Running Time: 161 minutes
Directed By: Sydney Pollack
Written By: Kurt Luedtke, from novel by Isak Dinesen
Main Cast: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Michael Kitchen, Shane Rimmer
Click here to view the trailer

A DOUBLE SHOT OF POLLACK: 2 of 2

Up early on my day off from work to put in overtime on the sixth leg of my journey, hoping to be finished up by this Saturday evening/Sunday morning. This a.m. I take a look at the second and last feature from Sydney Pollack, from THE BOOK - "Out of Africa".


Karen Dinesen (Streep), a wealthy, Danish woman asks her friend Baron Bror Blixen (Brandauer) to marry her. While he is a Baron, it seems that he's broke and since Dinesen is very wealthy, they agree to wed, move to Africa and start a dairy farm. The Baron arrives in Africa first and without the knowledge of Karen, instead purchases coffee seeds, instead of dairy cattle. This initial act of dishonesty upsets Karen and is a precursor to what she can expect from Baron Blixen. The Baron shows little to no attention to Karen, instead opting to hunt in the African wild and engage in extramarital affairs. Karen soon finds out about the Baron's infidelity when she contracts syphilis and is forced to return home to Denmark, to seek further medical attention. After a while, however, she returns, meets up with a friend she previously knew, Denys Hatton (Redford) and the two have an affair of their own, even before the divorce between her and the Baron is final. The two have an ultra romantic relationship, which includes flying over Africa in a plane and making up stories to tell to one another.


Son of a bitch, was this thing long! Not to mention boring! You know, I'm not even going to ask how "Out of Africa" won Best Picture, even though I didn't enjoy it one bit. I know how it won. This is the typical kind of movie that the Academy eats up and when you have people like Streep, Redford and Pollack at the helm, that only makes Hollywood go more gaga. The only thing - and I do mean the only thing - I liked about this picture was the score; a bit overpowering, but beautiful medley composed by John Barry. Now, I bet you're saying to yourself, "But what about that cinematography? Wasn't it simply breath taking?" Umm...no, not really. Okay, I guess it was pretty, but it was too pretty and usually overpowered everything else. There were times when I wanted to check to make sure my DVD player didn't accidentally shut off and perhaps, my television got switched to the National Geographic channel. The setting of Africa was more of a character than Karen Dinesen and Denys Haton and at times, it came off like a blatant effort to simply show the African countryside, wildlife included.


Oh, but maybe you're saying, "But what about Streep and Redford? Surely you can't disqualify their wonderful contributions to this film!" Oh yes I can. This film actually made me want to rethink my previous admiration for Robert Redford and wonder if the only reason I enjoyed him in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting" was because he was beside the wonderful Paul Newman and maybe something rubbed off. I didn't care for him in "The Natural" and as far as I'm concerned, he was awful in this. Awful, you say? He was just so blatantly acting, rather than being a man transforming into another man - becoming his character. All he was here was Robert Redford putting on a performance, that's it. And I just don't like Meryl Streep anyway. She always seems to play the same type of role, never challenging herself, usually going for the parts that are likely going to win her awards and keep her in her comfort zone. Everything about this film screamed "GIVE ME THE AWARD!", while I couldn't stop screaming, "LET IT BE OVER!"

RATING: 2.5/10  I can't really even justify that '2.5', except to say that a '2' seems to low and a '3' too high.

MOVIES WATCHED: 592
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 409

November 28, 2012  9:56am

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

806. GLORY (1989)


Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Edward Zwick
Written By: Kevin Jarre, from the letters of Robert Gould Shaw, from the book Lay This Laurel by Lincoln Kirstein, and One Gallant Rush by Peter Burchard
Main Cast: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher
Click here to view the trailer

BEST CIVIL WAR MOVIE, THUS FAR!

Well, I'm still on track to meeting my goal of finishing this season on Saturday night. Today, after writing my "Tootsie" review, I turned right back to the television and started up another DVD. This time, the movie of choice was entrant #806 in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book - "Glory".


"Glory" tells of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, composed entirely of African American men (mostly freed slaves) who were assembled to fight for the Union as part of the American Civil War. Chosen to be the Colonel for these men was Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick), a Bostonian who was previously involved in the Battle of Antietam, suffering minor injury. With his second-in-command chosen, Major Cabot Forbes (Elwes), Shaw takes his assignment, trying to turn a group of mostly uneducated black men into soldiers. From the very beginning, the soldiers are discriminated against, being kept from uniforms, rifles and even the proper footwear. However, Shaw uses the resources he has available to him to, at least, get the men into shape, teaching them how to march and act like a real regimen. After a while, Shaw becomes more attached to the men and truly believes in them, ready to stand up and fight for their rights. Meanwhile, decisions on whether or not the 54th will be permitted to see actual combat leans toward the negative side, as the African American men pray that they will be able to enter the battlefield and claim their glory.


I had only seen "Glory" once previously and could barely remember it, as I sat down to view it for a second time. I really liked this movie, plain and simple. Perhaps it was a little too over emotional, a little too blatant in it's efforts to force the viewer's feelings, but I was okay with that and agreed that almost everything about it is "must see". The cast is exceptional, with Matthew Broderick really surprising me with his talents. This won't be the last Broderick film I watch this season, as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is scheduled to be the cap of the sixth season. When I think of Matthew Broderick, I tend to think of a one hit wonder, who only really had success as Ferris Bueller, but "Glory" busts that myth. You've also got a crop of black actors really stepping into their own as Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher all step up to the plate and hit home runs. Freeman had already established himself at this point, but Washington was still fairly unknown and garnered his first Academy Award nomination with "Glory". The score, at times a little too much, is, for the most part, a success, evoking the right emotions at the right times, at least from this viewer.


This film actually made me cry a little bit and as I've previously mentioned on the blog, that's not something I do easily anymore. As I've aged, I find that I don't cry near as much over movies and television and so when I actually do, I know I've found something special. Key scenes to look out for include the whipping of Trip (Washington), the scene right before the taking of Fort Wagner and of course, the attempted taking of Fort Wagner itself.

RATING: 8.5/10  Good stuff all around and an easy thumbs up. Only ten movies to go now and then it's TOP 20 time!

MOVIES WATCHED: 591
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 410

November 27, 2012  3:59pm

685. TOOTSIE (1982)


Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Sydney Pollack
Written By: Larry Gelbart, Don McGuire, Murray Schisgal
Main Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning
Click here to view the trailer

A DOUBLE SHOT OF POLLACK: 1 of 2

We've done the final tribute week (Levinson), the final "Hat Trick" (Hou) and now we come to the final "Double Shot" of the season - a two film salute to the late Sydney Pollack. We kick it off with "Tootsie", a film starring one of my favorite actors, one who I boasted about in my "Rain Man" review - Dustin Hoffman.


Hoffman is Michael Dorsey, an unemployed actor who, for the life of him, cannot land a role. Every time he auditions he is told that he simply isn't right for the part and is ushered off stage. Michael shares an apartment with Jeff (Bill Murray), the writer of a play that Michael plans to produce and star in. However, until he can come up with the dough, he's left to attend audition after audition. When an actress friend of his, Sandy (Garr) asks Michael to accompany her to a reading, he happily abides, even giving her some much needed tips on how to perfect the part she's reading for - Emily Kimberly, the independent and sassy hospital administrator on daytime soap opera "Southwest General". Sandy is promptly released from her reading, but Michael sees an opportunity and immediately runs home to change. Michael Dorsey returns to the audition as Dorothy Michaels, a glasses wearing, redhead who oozes sass and lands the role. Now, Michael will have to keep up his charade, all the while dealing with his agent (Sydney Pollack), Sandy, who won't be happy to know that he played a woman better than her and Julie (Lange), his co-star who he's falling madly in love with.

"I was a better man with you, as a woman... than I ever was with a woman, as a man."


In one of our old, family photo albums, somewhere there's a picture of me and on the television behind me you can see Hoffman donning his Dorothy Michaels gear. The point is, is that I've seen "Tootsie" quite a few times in my life and I've always had a really good time with it and last night was no different. However, last night's viewing left me asking myself, just a little bit, why I've always liked it so much. Last night's viewing just didn't rub off on me the way it has in the past and honestly it came off as silly. Was this film really worthy of a Best Picture nomination? If you released this film today, it wouldn't get half the attention that it got in 1982 and it certainly wouldn't get nominated for an Academy Award. Hell, just look at the facts: "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Big Momma's House", "White Chicks" and probably a slew of other "man dressed as woman" films have been released since 1982, all trying to replicate the success of "Tootsie" and all failing. The score to "Tootsie" reminded me of an 80s television show theme song and was too generic to really make any sort of an impact. It was fun, jazzy and upbeat, but it was just too generic. Everything about "Tootsie" just didn't seem genuine or serious and even an attempt to tie a love story into the mix only came off as more of a screwball farce. The whole thing just felt ordinary and had Hoffman & Pollack not been involved, "Tootsie" probably would've been a straight to video release.


I don't want to bash the film though. I really loved watching Dustin Hoffman dressed in drag and as usual, he did a standout job. The rest of the cast was kind of touch & go, as I didn't care too much for Jessica Lange, but enjoyed the presence of both Bill Murray and Teri Garr. The film was all kinds of fun and kept me entertained for the duration and really, that's all you can ask for in a movie.

RATING: 7/10  Do I really have to keep noting that I'm keeping these short & sweet? No, but I just feel unaccomplished when I don't write as much. Fun movie that has, at least, a small shot of landing something, somewhere on the list.

MOVIES WATCHED: 590
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 411

November 27, 2012  10:58am

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wilder Week - COMING SOON


732. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)


Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Paul Schrader
Written By: Leonard Schrader, Paul Schrader
Main Cast: Ken Ogata, Kenji Sawada, Yasosuke Bando, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Masayuki Shionoya
Click here to view the trailer

THE HARMONY OF PEN AND SWORD

Closing in on the end of the sixth season, I come to Paul Schrader's 1985 film "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" - a Hollywood film told almost exclusively in the Japanese language, something THE BOOK labels an anomaly.


To detail the plot of "Mishima" would probably take longer than I'd care to spend on it, so I'll gloss over the basics and we'll move on from there. The film plays out like an homage to Yukio Mishima, a Japanese writer who, on November 25, 1970, entered the office of the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp with a list of demands and threats on the commandant's life, threatening seppuku (ritual suicide). The film begins on the morning of November 25 and ends with Mishima inside the commandant's office. Throughout the picture, inter-cut between scenes of Mishima preparing for his seppuku, are three depictions of Mishima's work: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko's House and Runaway Horses. Also inter-cut throughout the picture are black and white sequences depicting Mishima's real life back story and how his own life mirrored his written works.

Leonard Maltin wrote the following about "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters":

Ambitious, highly stylized drama […] Long, difficult, not always successful, but fascinating.


I'd call that a spot on observation of the film. While the "Mishima" is ultra fascinating, it is, at times, very difficult to get through and often lost my attention. However, the film is so beautifully constructed, designed and filmed that it's hard to dislike it or negatively criticize it. To realize that the film was made in the mid-80s is hard to believe, because it could be released today and hold up against anything coming out of Hollywood - suffice it to say that it has aged very well. The film does deal a lot in politics though and, as my regulars should know by now, doesn't usually sit well with me. I just can't bring myself to invest interest in anything that even remotely has to do with politics, military coups or anything of the sort. I don't care the slightest about those subjects myself, in my country and can't imagine caring so much that you'd be willing to commit suicide to make your opinions heard...I just don't get it.


However, like I said, the film is just mesmerizing, at times. The colors that Schrader and staff were able to create in front of the camera are dazzling and if nothing else, a movie goer should be able to appreciate that. My personal favorite segment of the film was easily "Kyoko's House" - a depiction of Mishima's novel that tells of a young, narcissistic man who gets involved in a sadomasochistic relationship with an older, female lover. Inter-cut throughout this particular sequence are black & white scenes depicting Mishima's struggle with his own sexuality and sexual preference, as well as issues he may have had with his self image. It's a very fascinating segment and I'd have easily watched an entire film based around "Kyoko's House".

RATING: 6/10  Keeping it short & sweet tonight. A '6' is probably too high, but, as I said above, it's hard not to recognize the brilliant film making on display here.

MOVIES WATCHED: 589
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 412

November 26, 2012  7:56pm

Sunday, November 25, 2012

712. Paris, Texas (1984)


Running Time: 147 minutes
Directed By: Wim Wenders
Written By: L.M. Kit Carson, Sam Shepard
Main Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clement, Hunter Carson, Nastassja Kinski
Click here to view the trailer

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PARISIAN

As I write this, it's very late and I'm very tired, but kicking things into super blitz mode in order to finish by a certain date (a certain date that is one week away) requires certain things that simply have to be done in order to make said goal. This required me to, not only watch "Paris, Texas", but stay up later than usual to review it.


The film starts with a thirty looking man wandering through the desert and eventually collapsing in a ramshackle house. He wakes up in a, sort of, makeshift hospital, being examined by a burly looking doctor, who takes the liberty of calling his brother. The man is later identified as Travis Henderson (Stanton) and his brother, Walt (Stockwell) drives from Los Angeles to Texas to pick him up. It seems that Walt and Travis haven't seen each other in four years, not since Travis and his wife Jane disappeared. Travis and Jane also had a son, Hunter (Carson), whom was ultimately raised by Walt and his wife Anne (Clement). Travis doesn't say anything to Walt when he finally arrives, not because he's unable to or because he's angry with Walt, simply because he has nothing to say to him and wishes to remain silent. Travis also refuses to sleep & eat and takes any chance he gets to continue wandering into the vast emptiness of the desert. Travis eventually comes around, saying a few words to Walt and making it known that he refuses to fly in an airplane, meaning he and Walt will have to drive two days to make it back to L.A. Once there, Travis will be reunited with his son, a task that Hunter doesn't take kindly to. Travis will also intend to find Jane, whom he also hasn't seen in four years. And what about this span of four years? Where was Travis? What happened to him and Jane?

SPOILER ALERT!


So let's start out talking about the title of the film, shall we, because, at this late hour, it's very interesting to me. The film is titled "Paris, Texas", but why? The only mention of Paris, Texas in the film is the home of a piece of land that Travis bought years back, because he was always led to believe that's the city where he was conceived. Travis also mentions that his father met his mother in Paris, Texas and would always used to joke that he "met his wife in Paris...Texas". Travis also notes that after a while, his father started to believe his own joke and actually thought his wife was from Paris, France and thus expecting her to act like a classy, beautiful Parisian, when, in fact, she was the exact opposite - a shy southerner, who was very plain. So "Paris, Texas" refers to characters who expect other characters to be something their not. This foreshadows the relationship between Travis and Jane, two characters who had undying love for one another, but their relationship was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole - ultimately, it just wasn't the right fit and expectations weren't met. This is also why, leaving Travis and Jane to go their separate ways at the end of the film was the exact right call, because to have them reconcile would've blown the whole film - at least in my opinion. Also, what about Walt's wife, an actual French female; surely that was a conscience casting decision that somehow ties into the concept of Paris, although I'm not exactly sure how. Anne had a, sort of, motherly quality about her too, even when dealing with Travis - making sure he had enough pillows and blankets, asking him if he'd like strawberry waffles, kissing him before bed. I don't know, there was something about her that just seems pivotal, but I can't put my finger on it.


In a way, I was a little (just a little) disappointed with "Paris, Texas", a film that I've wanted to see for many years and just never got around to. In a way, I thought the film would be a little less conventional than it was. I almost had to grit my teeth when Travis was being shown how to dress like a proper father figure, by Walt's Spanish maid. The scene just reeked of Hollywood, something you shouldn't be subject to in such and artistic picture. I think I expected a Palme d'Or winner to be a little more bold, artistic, unusual, unconventional and original and while I really did enjoy "Paris, Texas", at times it was very normal and standard...which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Harry Dean Stanton, of course, steals the show as Travis and don't let me forget Dean Stockwell, who also did a fine job. And hey, did I spy John Lurie in there? I believe I did!

The film is a fine film, one that could easily be picked apart and contemplated over or one that you could just leave alone and take for what it is: a simple story about a man trying to reconcile and come to terms with his past, reconnecting with his estranged family. I kind of wish they had left the character of Travis a little more mute throughout the film, so that when he finally delivers his grand finale speech, we're hearing him talk for the first time. Not totally mute, just thinning out his dialogue a bit more than it was. The big speech at the end, when Travis finally tells what happened to him is pretty great stuff and a credit to Dean Stanton.

RATING: 8/10  Okay, so that MAY be a little too high, but who cares about numbers at this point. I'm just glad that there are still a few really good movies left, as I'd like to finish off this season with a BANG and not a fizzle.

MOVIES WATCHED: 588
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 413

November 25, 2012  2:43am

Saturday, November 24, 2012

627. CEDDO (1977)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: Ousmane Sembene
Written By: Ousmane Sembene
Main Cast: Tabata Ndiaye, Moustapha Yade, Ismaila Diagne, Matoura Dia, Omar Gueye

JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

This is replacing "Das Boot" and it's kind of a shame, because I was actually really looking forward to seeing "Das Boot". But, as it is, I'll see "Das Boot" sometime down the line and in case you haven't noticed by now, I kind of enjoy saying "Das Boot"! For now, we take care of another movie that graced my "unfound list" since the inception of this project - "Ceddo", which finally popped up on YouTube.


The film didn't have much meaning for me, nor did it have much of a plot, so expect a succinct, short review, as I throw out a few quick opinions and call it a day. The film is a piece of African cinema and deals with the conversion to Islam by a King, who then proceeds to force the commoners (or ceddo) to also convert. In protest, the ceddo kidnap Princess Dior Yacine (the King's daughter). Throughout the film, there are many scenes that show debates between the ceddo and the high council of the King. In an attempt to retrieve the Princess, a few of the King's subjects are killed. The King is also eventually killed and the imam (the Islamic leader) takes control of the village, renaming everyone so that they have proper Islam names.


I suppose people who enjoy mixing religion and cinema will have a hoot of a time with this one, but it simply wasn't for me. Despite my extreme disinterest, however, the film didn't really drag and was over quickly and painlessly. However, my mind did have a tendency to wander as I watched this picture and I had a hard time focusing on the film, at hand. I just had absolutely no interest and wanted it to be over and in the end, it was just another mark in THE BOOK. I try not to let movies be "just another mark in THE BOOK", as I really try to take my time with each and every picture and try to like it. Sometimes, though, it's just hard to concentrate on something I have no desire to watch. That's really the only problem with tackling this mission - sometimes you have to force yourself to watch things that you wouldn't normally watch and know, for a fact, you won't like. Sure, sometimes a surprise comes along and you go into something thinking you're going to hate it and end up really liking it, but for the most part, I know my tastes, what I like and don't like and "Ceddo" was one that I was never going to like, no matter what.


RATING: 2/10  I'll give it a couple notches for not dragging ass, but it's more like a "MUST MISS" than a "MUST SEE".

MOVIES WATCHED: 587
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 414

November 24, 2012  4:33pm

Friday, November 23, 2012

Let's take each other's hand as we jump into the FINAL 15

It's been a hell of a ride this season - a season that I'd say was, perhaps, the worst season yet. However, there was enough good buried in there for me to make a pretty kick-ass TOP 20 list. While I've got your attention, let me tell you that my current plans (which are tentative) see me finishing the season on the weekend of December 1/December 2nd and spending that Sunday afternoon/evening compiling my sixth TOP 20 list. I'm going to have to gear into super blitz mode to get that goal accomplished, but that would really be the perfect time, considering I have that weekend off from work. Also, it'll nicely wrap things up before the Christmas season really gets in gear and I end up spending many nights wandering aimlessly around malls, hunting down that perfect gift. In case it wasn't clear, I will be taking a much needed hiatus following the wrapping of the sixth season.

Anyway, this is, as mentioned above, the FINAL 15 post. It highlights the final 15 movies that I'll be watching and reviewing this season. Remember, as always, everything is tentative. Things go in and out of stock on Netflix daily and if something I'm planning were to escape my grasp, substitutions would have to be made. Otherwise, barring unforeseeable circumstances, these will be the next fifteen films I'll be watching, in no particular order.

1. Ceddo (1977 - Ousmane Sembene) **replacing "Das Boot"**
2. Deewaar (1975 - Yash Chopra)
**replacing "The Right Stuff"**
3. Gallipoli (1981 - Peter Weir)
4. Glory (1989 - Edward Zwick)
5. Mediterranee (1963 - Pollet, Schlondorff)
6. Heaven and Earth Magic (1962 - Harry Smith)
7. Tootsie (1982 - Sydney Pollock)
8. Out of Africa (1985 - Sydney Pollock)
9. El Norte (1983 - Gregory Nava)
10. Sunless (1983 - Chris Marker)
11. Paris, Texas (1984 - Wim Wenders)
12. The Man in Grey (1943 - Leslie Arliss)
13. The Travelling Players (1975 - Theo Angelopoulos)
14. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985 - Paul Schrader)
15. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986 - John Hughes)

**Due to the fact that "Ceddo" and "Deewaar" are available on YouTube and only on YouTube, I had to cut "Das Boot" and "The Right Stuff", two films that appeared in the original sneak peek video for the this season, in order to squeeze them in, before they disappear from YouTube.

There you go. I'll be tackling these ASAP and hopefully finishing up by next weekend.

November 23, 2012  7:21pm

Wilder Week - COMING SOON


195. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)


Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: Frank Capra
Written By: Philip Van Doren Stern, Frances Goodrich
Main Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, Thomas Mitchell
Click here to view the trailer

ON MY JOURNEY I SAW AN ANGEL SAVE A MAN

With the Christmas season officially kicking off yesterday, at about the time Santa Claus was being courted down Main Street, New York City as part of the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I figured it would only be fitting for me to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and allow Jimmy Stewart's George Baily to fill me with holiday spirit.

"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary" 

George Bailey (Stewart) is the greatest man you'd ever want to meet. He resides in Bedford Falls and even at an early age, he had a penchant for helping people. When he was just twelve-years-old, George jumped into a freezing lake to rescue his little brother Harry, losing the hearing in his left ear. However, George is all grown up now and has big dreams. His plans include traveling the world, going to college and then becoming an architect. George plans to "kick the dust of this crummy little town off his feet" and become somebody - words he tells to Mary Hatch on a romantic evening stroll home from Harry's graduation festivities. On that very same stroll, George finds out, via his Uncle Billy (Mitchell) that his father has had a stroke. His father later dies and George stays behind to see to the family business, the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan. When George gives a passionate speech in front of the board of directors, prompting them to keep the Building and Loan open and reject chief shareholder Mr. Potter's idea of halting home loans for working families, the board agrees - but only if George stays behind to manage the Building and Loan. With the idea that Harry will return home from college in four years and take George's spot, so that he can then commence with his plans, George accepts. However, things continually go unaccording to plan and when Harry returns home, he does so with a new wife and a promising future, one that George doesn't have the heart to dash. Meanwhile, Mary and George's relationship continues to blossom and is the one thing that George can rely on.


SPOILER ALERT!

I'm not one of these people who has seen "It's a Wonderful Life" umpteen times, can quote it and who watches it every single Christmas, come hell or high water. This viewing probably makes my second or third and every time I watch it, I'm a little less than impressed. Sure, it's a Capra picture, starring Jimmy Stewart and it's certainly GOOD, but is it as fantastically, life changing as everyone makes it out to be...not in this movie reviewers eyes. Now, despite those last few sentences, I'll go ahead and tell you now that "It's a Wonderful Life" has, at least, a good shot of making a "Ten Worth Mentioning" spot on my next TOP 20. All I'm saying is that I'm not quite as gaga for it as others. However, much like everyone else, I do love Jimmy Stewart and felt that in "It's a Wonderful Life" he was cast 100% correctly and does a marvelous job portraying down on his luck, everyman George Bailey. Much like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", Capra lays a lot of ground work in hopes that the finale will payoff the entire movie and all the investment you've put into these characters. I feel that "Mr. Smith" does a better job of paying off the audience and I'm also of the opinion that the ending to "It's a Wonderful Life" is a bit too stretched out and drags on a little too long. George is shown a world in which he never existed, via Clarence and having to listen to him, over and over, refuse to believe that Clarence is genuine or that he's really being shown a George-less world becomes a little tiresome. Then, he finally realizes that it is true, snaps back to reality, runs home and we're finished before you can say "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".


However, Jimmy Stewart does have an uncanny ability to take a script and squeeze every bit of life and raw emotion out of it as possible. He takes what he's given - mere words on a page and truly makes them his own and breathes life into them with his passion. When you talk about great actors and I mean actor's who are on a completely different level than everyone else, then for me Jimmy Stewart is on that level and always will be. Be prepared to whistle or sing "Buffalo Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight" after watching this one and keep your eyes peeled for numerous Stewart speeches and of course, the "Lasso Around the Moon" scene.

RATING: 7/10  Let's play it safe and call it a '7'. I'm not sure if that will stick, as I could see it rising or lowering in due time, but for now it seems about right. Also, in case you weren't aware, "It's a Wonderful Life" is barely a Christmas movie and can probably be enjoyed year round.

MOVIES WATCHED: 586
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 415

November 23, 2012  6:48pm

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...