Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two Joints - COMING SOON

461. REPORT (1967)

Running Time: 13 minutes
Directed By: Bruce Conner


I decided to watch "Report" tonight for two reasons: 1) because I have to be up at seven o'clock in the morning for work and I just didn't have the time to do a feature length film and 2) because someone mentioned to me in the past that this film was going to be very hard to find and last night, it just so happens, I stumbled upon it on the net, so I figured why not get it watched before it disappears.

If you're old enough, you probably remember where you were the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. I wasn't old enough, but I CAN remember my mother telling me the story of how she was at school when it all went down. Perhaps in all of our lifetimes there will be a tragic, national event that we will be able to replay over and over in our heads, remembering it for our entire lifetime. For me, it will be September 11, 2001, the day planes flew into the Twin Towers.On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was en route to Dealey Plaza, riding in his limousine, alongside his wife, Jacqueline and Texas Governor John Connally. At 12:30pm shots rang out, coming from a nearby book depository. At 1:00pm the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was pronounced dead.

In "Report" Bruce Conner seems to be making a thirteen minute statement about the events, the way we replay such tragedies over and over in our minds and the erratic, confusing feelings that the day must have provided people with. The film starts with a radio reporter detailing the events of the Presidents drive in downtown Dallas, pretty regular stuff, the kind of second-by-second play by play that we get anytime any U.S. President ventures outside the White House. Then the reporter goes on to say that there's been a shooting. The reporter gets a little more excited, more hysterical and begins talking faster and louder, as the image of John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, moments before the assassination, replay over and over on the screen. Following that we hear from an eyewitness, someone who was actually in the crowd, who claims to be certain that Kennedy was struck by bullets at least twice. We then go to a reporter live from the hospital, announcing the death of Kennedy. Throughout the final two commentaries, all we see is a very erratic black and white screen, flickering back and forth fast enough to give an epileptic a seizure. It's as if someone instructed Conner to use the colors black and white and those colors only to symbolize the events of that day. Beyond that we see a bunch of random images, as the voiceover goes back in time to the President's arrival in Dallas and as he begins his trek down the street that would ultimately be the site of his death.

I can't say what the images represent and why the soundtrack suddenly goes back to before the President was killed. I get the first half, how Conner replayed those images over and over on the screen, because that's what we're so used to. Anytime anything of note happens, the media will replay over and over the footage that they have, branding it into our minds so that we'll never forget it. I understand the erratic nature of the flickering black and white screen. The film just really didn't make much sense to me and I'm really not sure why it was included in THE BOOK. I can understand Conner's need to make this thirteen minute statement, because I believe that back then, people existed in a time when the public still cared about their leaders. Back then politicians were as big as celebrities and I believe that the aura that they once held is now gone. I think as time goes by, people are becoming more and more frustrated with the leaders of this nation and they've lost that appeal. I'm rambling, so lets call that a review....or at least lets call it a "write up".

RATING: None. I just can't see any reason to slap a number on this one and judge it like a I'd judge a fictional movie. That's why I'd rather not have these types of films in THE BOOK, because I'm really not an expert on this stuff. I go to the theater to forget the real world, not to be reminded of it's tragedies. Oh and for the curious and needy, here's the link to the film.


August 29, 2012  10:50pm

801. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Gus Van Sant
Written By: Gus Van Sant, Daniel Yost, from novel by James Fogle
Main Cast: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, Heather Graham, James Remar
Click here to view the trailer


This movie is a personal favorite of mine, which is why I slipped it in early, so as not to give it an unfair advantage when TOP 20 time rolls around.

Matt Dillon is Bob Hughes, your run of the mill junkie who makes his scores by robbing pharmacies and hospitals. Bob has a crew of people he works with which includes his wife Dianne (Lynch), his friend Rick (Le Gros) and Rick's girlfriend Nadine (Graham). Bob is also being watched by Detective Gentry (Remar), a cop who has it out for Bob and wants to see him "sent up" for his crimes. Bob and his crew are on the move throughout most of the film, ducking Gentry and always keeping fresh pharmacies lined up for the looting. Bob is the superstitious type, setting certain rules for his crew, including never mentioning dogs, never looking at the backside of a mirror and never, I mean NEVER leaving a hat laying on a bed. The film climaxes when Bob and crew find themselves staying at a hotel that's hosting a sheriff's convention.

I remember seeing "Drugstore Cowboy" for the first time, probably about ten years ago or so and thinking that I'd stumbled upon a hidden gem. I hadn't heard much about the film to that point and really only rented it based on my appreciation for Matt Dillon as an actor and because the title intrigued me. I remember buying it soon after and loving it ever since and going on to become somewhat of a fan of Van Sant. However, I never found another Van Sant film that was as good as "Drugstore Cowboy" and that's because there aren't any. This is another one of those movies that I'll have a hard time telling why I like it, because I've liked it for so long that it's just become a personal favorite and that's pretty much the reason why I like it so much. It's funny how we, as film fans, will almost take on an adoptive parent role when we find movies that we think no one else has heard of. They almost become our movies, the ones WE found and the ones WE appreciated before anyone else knew they existed. I realized that I'm not the first one to have found greatness in "Drugstore Cowboy", but I saw it under the recommendation of no one and simply picked it up for myself and decided to try it out...and I loved it.

The film, as THE BOOK notes, mixes both comedy and drama nicely. The first half of the film is a mixture of crime capers and comedy and then we get into some more serious subject matter. The opening hook here is one of my favorite scenes, as four shady looking characters enter a regular looking drug store and case the place for a few seconds, before Nadine drops to the ground, faking an epileptic seizure. This allows Bob to sneak in behind the counter and rob the place, before the druggist knows what has happened. Dillon is superb as Bob Hughes and the rest of the cast supports him wonderfully. The film is straight and simple. It doesn't preach, it's not philosophical and it's not particularly deep. It doesn't take a stand on drug use, one way or the other and it's certainly not a flashy movie. It's just a movie, a great one at that. For the curious, this film also streams on Netflix and comes with my highest of recommendations. If you've seen it before, relive it again and if you've never seen it, then please treat yourself to this gem. And if you love it, don't forget who you heard it from.

RATING: 10/10  At about the halfway mark of the movie, I decided that this was the first film of the 100 that I was going to go the full monty on. I can't believe we're only thirteen films into the 100 and already this is shaping up to be one hell of a season!


August 29, 2012  12:56am

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

762. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Gustav Hasford, Michael Herr, Stanley Kubrick, from the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford
Main Cast: Matthew Modine, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Arliss Howard, Adam Baldwin
Click here to view the trailer


Someday I'll come to this blog, much like I've just done and I'll write my last post for this blog and I wonder what that will feel like. For now, however, I only come to write the last of the Kubrick reviews and it's kind of a milestone for me, realizing that these nine films are now behind me, no longer able to be looked forward to.

"Full Metal Jacket" is the last Stanley Kubrick entry in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and unfortunately, in my opinion, it's also one of the worst entries. "Full Metal Jacket" is a war film and like any soldier, we start out in boot camp, as a group of new United States Marine Corps recruits find themselves on Paris Island at the mercy of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (Ermey). The main members of our group are Joker (Modine), Cowboy (Howard) and Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (D'Onofrio), who, due to his constant mistakes, mess-ups and inability to do what the others can, earns the wrath of Hartman. Leonard is constantly ridiculed and even physically abused by Hartman, as the Gunnery Sgt. tries hard to build Lawrence into a proud Marine. From there, we jump into the heat of battle, as we follow Joker, now graduated from Paris Island and working as a journalist for the Stars & Stripes newspaper, rarely seeing action, instead reporting on it.  When a platoon of North Vietnamese attempts to takeover the base, causing full scale attacks, Joker and fellow comrade in journalism, Rafterman are sent to Phu Bai. Later, the two meet up with Cowboy and his platoon and encounter sniper fire and several of their men are lost.

If you've read it once, you've read it a hundred times - war films are not my bag, baby! I just find absolutely no interest in the subject and therefore war films have a really hard time appealing to me. I can probably count on one hand the number of war movies that have actually made an impression on me and appealed to my personal tastes. The biggest complaint that the general public have about "Full Metal Jacket" is that they LOVE the first half of the film, but despise the second half. I can understand that argument and in fact, I'd be hard pressed to disagree with it. For me, it's because the first half isn't set in the heat of battle and instead gives us a serious glimpse of what life is like in boot camp for wannabe Marines. I was able to sympathize and connect with the character of Leonard Lawrence, because if I were ever to go to boot camp, I'd probably have the same struggles he had (pull-ups ARE a son of a bitch!). I found much more interest and connection lying with those characters that existed in the first half of the film, than I did with the characters that emerged during the second act.

Now then, do I understand why the film is broken into two separate parts, almost resembling two separate films, save for the appearance in both parts of the character Joker? Yes. It's no secret that the film stands to show the dehumanization of soldiers during the Vietnam War. The first part is someone conditioning them to be robots, killers, inhumane and the second part is them putting that training into action, actually becoming the killer inhumane robots that they were trained to be:

This is my rifle. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace.

Why do men become numb in the face of war? Why are men fueled with hate in the face of war? Kubrick tries to answer some of these questions within "Full Metal Jacket" by focusing on the central character of Joker and showing us his dehumanization from beginning (a wisecracking kid being screamed at by Gunnery Sgt. Hartman) to his killer robot end (singing with his platoon, proud to be a killer).  Trust me folks, you've never seen such ugliness look so beautiful, as Kubrick makes the flames, blood, guts and bullets of Vietnam look like artwork. The first half will entertain you more and you'll be sad when it ends. The second half is more poignant, more serious and just a better looking film. The film as a whole didn't work entirely for me, but I understand why it's included and even I'd have a hard time denying this movie "must see" status, despite my mediocre feelings toward it.

RATING: 6/10  It just didn't hit me the way that it obviously hit others, but everyone should probably see it at least once, if nothing more than to say they've seen it.


As per usual with these dedication weeks, allow me to bend your ear just a little bit more and talk, for just a moment, about Stanley Kubrick.

I've heard a lot of people say that Stanley Kubrick was ahead of his time. "Oh that Stanley K. man, he was just flat out ahead of his time. He was making pictures that no one had seen before and filming them in a way that no one had experienced before!" However, to say that Stanley Kubrick was ahead of his time, is to imply that eventually director's started making films as good as or better that the films Stanley made and that isn't true. No, Stanley Kubrick was neither ahead of his time, nor behind his time - he existed in his own time. If "A Clockwork Orange" or "2001: A Space Odyssey" were released tomorrow, for the first time, they'd be just as fantastic and innovative as they were three decades ago. People's draws would still drop, people wouldn't accuse these films of being dated or behind their time and people would go just as gaga today as they did in the 60s and 70s. Kubrick is not my favorite director and he probably would just barely make it into my top twenty directors, but I'm still sound minded enough to say that he was an absolutely mesmerizing filmmaker, one that deserves every piece of credit that he gets showered with. You don't just view a Kubrick movie, but instead you experience it. You watch the colors and angles of the picture float across your screen and you just absorb everything that Kubrick is feeding you. His films deserved to be appreciated not for the great acting or the great stories, but for the total experience that surpassed great acting and great storytelling. I'm grateful that I've allowed myself to spend a week (or two) with Stanley Kubrick, so that I could get a better grasp of his work, appreciate him more and understand him better. None of his films were rated below a '6' and I think that in time, some of those lower rated ones will even grow on me. For now I close Kubrick Week, but that's the beauty of being a film lover, you can always go back to the beginning and relive the magnificence.

(Some ratings have changed since their initial review. Any ratings revisions will be discussed in the monthly RECAP, at the beginning of September.)

1. Barry Lyndon
2. A Clockwork Orange
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
4. Dr. Strangelove...
5. Paths of Glory
6. The Shining
7. Lolita
8. Full Metal Jacket
9. Spartacus

Everything from #6 up I'd consider very good - excellent. It's also worth noting that I'd probably put "Eyes Wide Shut" and "The Killing" over "Barry Lyndon" as far as best Kubrick flicks go, but they weren't included in THE BOOK.


Say Anything (1989 - Cameron Crowe)
The Ballad of Narayama (1984 - Shohei Imamura)
She's Gotta Have It (1986 - Spike Lee)
Do the Right Thing (1989 - Spike Lee)

August 28, 2012  2:12am

Monday, August 27, 2012

662. The Shining (1980)

Running Time: 142 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson, from novel by Stephen King
Main Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson
Click here to view the trailer


Note: We run into an issue with the running time with "The Shining" as the book cites the film as clocking in at 119 minutes, yet the version I watched clocked in at 142 minutes. After a little research, I find that apparently I watched the U.S. Cut and the time THE BOOK lists is the international cut. Not sure what the difference is, but what's done is done. Now then...

"The Shining" marks, perhaps, the first and only time in the history of this blog where I've actually read the source material that the film is based on. I can remember a time when I made it my life's goal to read every Stephen King book, cover to cover. Unfortunately that goal was never realized and I only made it about four or five books into his catalog, starting from his very first novel. On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to read "The Shining" which was an excellent book and perhaps, my favorite of the few that I did read. Although I hate it when I hear people remind me of this fact, in the case of "The Shining", the book WAS better than the movie.

The film's main location is the Overlook Hotel, a hotel built on the site of an Indian burial ground, but a hotel that holds prominence in Colorado, housing various celebrity guests and important visitors at various times in it's long history. When the film opens, our main character, Jack Torrance (Nicholson), is interviewing for a job as the caretaker of the hotel while it closes down, between the months of October and May. The story is that the snow gets so bad during this time that it would cost the hotel too much money to keep the back roads that lead to the hotel clear. Jack gets the job and is excited to be able to use the time to get a good start on his novel, since a recent attack of writer's block has left his typewriter quiet. Jack arrives at the hotel on the last day of business for the season, along with his wife Wendy (Duvall) and son Danny (Lloyd). We find out quick that Danny isn't like other children, that he has the ability to know things before they happen - a sort of telepathic. When they arrive, Danny meets the Overlook's head cook, Dick Halloran (Crothers), who also has this ability and who calls it the shining. He and Danny have the ability to hold conversations with one another without even opening their mouths, communicating through their thoughts.  We also learn, from Stuart (Nelson), the hotel manager, that a previous caretaker of the hotel got a bad case of cabin fever and murdered his wife and two daughters with an axe, before shooting himself with a shotgun. After everyone departs the hotel, Jack, Wendy and Danny have eight months to keep themselves occupied, as they are all alone for the winter....or are they?


I can't recall every single detail of the novel, but I can definitely recall liking it a whole lot upon finishing my one and only reading of it. It's not that I didn't like the movie, in fact, it's quite the contrary, as I found the film to flow along quite nicely, provide a wonderfully scary atmosphere and characters that I was able to find interest in. My biggest gripe with Kubrick's script, however, is the fact that there are so many loose ends that he never bothers to tie up. I mean, lets just jump right to the end, right now and discuss the meaning of Jack's picture being on the wall, gathered with other guests of the hotel, circa 1921. What's that all about? It's never really made clear why or how Jack was at a party in 1921 and after doing some research into the matter, the answer that I was able to come up with just isn't suitable enough for me. The majority of people seem to think it has something to do with reincarnation, which is also how the explain the character of Grady being both a former caretaker and a waiter at the party. What about the ghosts; are they real? I mean, they must be right, because Grady is the one who lets Jack out of the storage closet and who knew supernatural beings could interact physically with the natural world? What about the guy in the bear/dog suit performing oral sex on an man in one of the rooms? What was with the woman in the bathtub? There are just TOO many things that don't add up and are left unexplained. The whole movie is just this crazy, messed up, head game where nothing ever really makes sense and we're left in puzzlement while we gaze at the beautiful, snowy images and listen to the haunting, creepy score. It's not a bad movie, by any means, it's just almost too whacky for my tastes and I can understand why King wasn't pleased with it.

Of course, Nicholson used the movie to really catapult his career. Despite having already won an Academy Award for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", he would spend the 1980s becoming more of a household name, starring in such blockbusters as "Terms of Endearment" and "Batman". The rest of the cast kind of fell of the face of the Earth,  but not 'ol Jack. Kubrick would only go on to direct two more films, before his death in 1999 and only one more of them is included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" text and I'll be back with that review, probably tomorrow.

RATING: 7/10  I'll keep it short and sweet today since I've been beating you over the head with long reviews and since I pretty much made my point in a quick and succinct manner. Don't take my bashing of and confusion by the film to heart, as it's really a good movie and one that would work wonders during a horror movie night with your honey. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "Full Metal Jacket" - the conclusion!


August 27, 2012  4:46pm

596. Barry Lyndon (1975)

Running Time: 184 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, from novel by William Makepeace Thackeray
Main Cast: Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Gay Hamilton
Click here to view the trailer


It just goes to show you that the one you dread the most will sometimes end up being the one you love the most. I was sincerely dreading watching "Barry Lyndon", an eighteenth century period piece lasting just a scosche over three hours. But low and behold "Barry Lyndon" actually ended up being, perhaps, my favorite Kubrick movie thus far.

Opening shot
The film is split into two parts, separated by an intermission. The first part tells of the circumstances in which Redmond Barry (O'Neal) acquired the name Barry Lyndon and the second part tells of the misfortunes that later befell Barry Lyndon. As a young boy, Barry falls in love with his cousin Nora (Hamilton), who enjoys seducing him and seeking his attention. She later dumps Barry for the wealth and fortune of an English Captain. Barry, distraught over the loss of his first love, challenges the Captain to a duel, shooting him and thinking he's killed him. Barry's family members urge Barry to leave town until the death of the Captain blows over and so he heeds their warning and rides off on his horse, with only a small amount of money, which he is later robbed of. With nowhere to go and no means to get there, Barry joins up with the British army, where he later finds himself engaged in combat as part of the Seven Years War. Barry wants out the army desperately and takes an opportunity to become a deserter, thieving an officer's coat and paperwork and masquerading himself as someone of a higher rank, on important business. At the time, England is in an alliance with Prussia and when Barry happens upon Prussian Officer Potzdorf, he is caught and accused of being a deserter and given the option to join the Prussian army or be shot as a deserter - he chooses the former. While in the Prussian army, Barry goes above and beyond the call of duty, saving Officer Potzdorf (Kruger) and receiving commendation for his bravery. He then is given special assignment to act as a spy on behalf of the Prussian army, where he'll masquerade as the servant to the wealthy gambler Chevalier de Balibari (Magee). Barry ultimately forms a bond with de Balibari when he finds out that he is a fellow Irishman and the two form a bond cheating wealthy aristocrats at cards. The second part gets underway when Barry meets the Countess of Lyndon and falls for her, marrying her swiftly. He is now a wealthy man, with a newborn son and only a rebellious stepson to worry about.

I used to be an ignorant movie goer, picking and choosing my movies based on what they were about, when they were set and what genre they fell into. For instance, I would dismiss certain films simply because they were set in the 18th century and I "surely wasn't going to like anything like that". If I looked at the back of a VHS case or watched a trailer and saw some of those "British guys" dressed in their stylish, powder white wigs and dressed to the nines in corsets and proper wear, my hand would immediately move that VHS case back to the shelf or I'd turn away from that movie trailer. In watching films for THE BOOK, I've been able to really broaden my spectrum and I've learned to enjoy all types of film, with "Barry Lyndon" being a particularly surprising entry.

There are three things, in my opinion, that really contribute to the success of "Barry Lyndon": the story, the cinematography and the score. The story here isn't really what I expected. I'd seen tidbits of "Barry Lyndon" before and all I had really remembered from those quick glances was guys in red coats marching into battle. So, of course, my mind went immediately to war movie. However, "Lyndon" is much more than a war movie and in fact, I wouldn't even categorize it as such, as it just happens to take place during a particular war and the entire film isn't totally centered around a war. No, the story of "Barry Lyndon" is, in fact, the story OF Barry Lyndon, a penniless man who rose to fortune and wealth and the path he took to get there. The story is filled with small anecdotes of Barry's sometimes accidental rise from Redmond Barry to Barry Lyndon. It's a story that doesn't let up and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I could've sit right in that same spot, in front of my television, for another three hours, as long as the action proved to truck along at the same pace. Sure "Lyndon" is long, but trust me ladies and gentlemen, it certainly doesn't feel like three hours. It's one of those long films that really breezes by because it presents you with interesting material, the kind of stuff you really want to see unfold.


The other two x-factors are the cinematography and the score. John Alcott, who shot this film (as well as "2001: A Space Odyssey", "A Clockwork Orange" and my next film, "The Shining") is an absolute master craftsman when it comes to working his camera, capturing memorable images and using natural lighting to it's fullest capabilities. From the opening shot, which shows Barry's father engaged in a duel with someone he's quarreling with over a disputed horse sale, I knew this film wasn't going to be bad. The shot just appealed to me. It's like walking into a party, a party where you expect to have rotten time because you don't know anyone there, and running into your best friend. The opening shot is inviting and seems to let you know that this isn't just any old run of the mill film, that it's going to be something really special, something where you're not going to want to blink, for fear of missing another glorious shot. Add that to the absolutely mesmerizing, hypnotizing and engaging score and you have the makings of a masterpiece, which is what "Barry Lyndon" is. The score here is so catchy, that it sticks in your head well after the credits have rolled and as you play it over and over in your head, hearing those beautiful instruments sing their grim tune, you begin to relive some of the more intense moments of the film, be it the duel between Barry and Lord Bullingdon or the death of Bryan Lyndon. Of course, I'm speaking of the main title theme for the film, but really all the music is spot on, featuring classical pieces from the likes of Vivaldi and Bach.

RATING: 9.5/10  I can't go the full blown '10' because I'm really becoming a picky son of a bitch in my old age, but don't let the '9.5' fool 'ya, "Barry Lyndon" is a freaking masterpiece and for the time being, this is your #1 entrant on the next TOP 20. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "The Shining".


August 27, 2012  3:04am

Sunday, August 26, 2012

431. VINYL (1965)

Running Time: 70 minutes
Directed By: Andy Warhol
Written By: Ronald Tavel, from the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Main Cast: Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, Tosh Carillo


Following the watching of Stanley Kubrick's 1971 vision of Anthony Burgess' novel "A Clockwork Orange", I figured, why not follow that with Andy Warhol's 1965 adaptation of the same material. I found "Vinyl" on YouTube months ago and never got a chance to check it out. For the curious, "Vinyl" is still listed on YouTube, broken up into seven parts for a total running time of just under seventy minutes.

For those of you who don't know the plot of "A Clockwork Orange" scroll down a little further and read the plot synopsis in my "A Clockwork Orange" review. I'm not even going to bother recounting it again here, because, to tell you the truth, "Vinyl" is barely noticeable as an adaptation of "A Clockwork Orange". The film opens with Gerard Malanga (who plays Victor - this film's version of Alex De Large), who is quickly established as a "bad guy" or JD (juvenile delinquent) as he's referred to in the film. He beats up some guy and is quickly picked up by the police and finds himself, for the rest of the duration of the film, tied to a chair and beaten, forced to watch films of other JD's committing assaults and murders. Victor, for some strange reason, also finds himself with electrical tape stuck across his chest in a criss-cross pattern and an S&M leather mask forced over his head. Certain songs from the 60s blare in the background, most noticeably "Nowhere to Run" by Martha and the Vandellas.

The film is absolute tripe to tell you the truth and had they really wanted to turn Alex De Large into a straight laced citizen, all they needed to do was apply the lid locks and force him to watch this incredibly amateur, Warhol "must see" movie. The BOOK really makes me scratch my head sometimes, as you know. I just cannot fathom who in their right mind would feel the need to include this in a text containing 1001 of the supposed most "must see" films. I guess to each their own and I really hope there was a valid reason and not just the fact that it was an Andy Warhol film. The film is shot using one set, cramping about six actors into one frame, some of which say absolutely nothing and are just there for the sake of being there. Edie Sedgwick (who I'd never heard of until tonight) is one of these silent extras, sitting on the side of the screen almost like a spectator, watching the travesty unfold. At one point, right in the middle of the film, the action continues on as normal while someone offstage (presumably Warhol) reads the names of the cast and who's playing each role. It's just so odd. I'm really not sure if this was legitimately supposed to be a serious film or if it was just Warhol and his buddies goofing around with their new camera. If it was just a goof off session, then hey, no harm no foul, as long as everyone had a good time doing what they were doing, then who am I to criticize their fun. Oh yeah, because fun little home movies where an eccentric artist has fun with his buddies has no place in THE BOOK!

In all honesty though, there were actually moments in the film where the cast seemed to be having a lot of fun shooting the film, despite the fact that they really didn't care too much for the source material, the story or making it look the slightest bit of a genuine effort. Actors read from cue cards throughout the film and Malanga actually sounded like a bit of an illiterate, reading certain lines like kids in my third grade class read from their text book - However, there were times where I actually found myself marveling at this amateur production, much like a father who is dragged to his son's high school production of "Robin Hood". I wondered about the good times that were had before and after the shooting, what the famous Warhol party could have been like that night. I wondered about the cars that you could hear buzzing by on the street outside the Factory window and where they were going. Yes, it's a shame when the movie is so bad that my attention is drawn to the cars buzzing by in the distance, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

RATING: 2/10  I'm being an extremely generous gentlemen today in giving this tripe a '2', but I can't, in good conscience, give it a '1', because there were moments when I actually cared (just slightly) about what was going on onscreen.


August 26, 2012  12:55am

Friday, August 24, 2012

525. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Running Time: 137 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, from novel by Anthony Burgess
Main Cast: Malcolm McDowell, James Marcus, Warren Clarke, Michael Tam, Patrick Magee
Click here to view the trailer


I'll tell you now that "Kubrick WEEK" is going to last longer than a week, as per usual with my "week long" director tributes. However, the Kubrick catalog cannot be rushes, as it takes time to process these films, turn them over in my head and ultimately form my opinions on them. "A Clockwork Orange" is no exception.

Alex De Large (McDowell) sits in a milk bar, in futuristic London, sipping on a tall glass of white, surrounded by his "droogs": Dim (Clarke), Pete (Tam) and Georgie (Marcus). The camera slowly pans out revealing nude, female mannequins with erratic, colored hairdos, some being used as serving tables and "A Clockwork Orange" is underway. After they're through sipping on their milk, the droogs, lead by Alex, head out to engage in some "ultra violence", which includes beating an elderly homeless man, brawling with a rival gang and the most dastardly act of their evening, forcing their way into the home of a couple, beating the husband (Magee) and raping his wife, all while Alex belts out his best rendition of "Singin' In the Rain". Later, the droogs decided they're tired of ending their evenings each night with only a few measly dollars to show for it and propose that the jobs get bigger, with more fulfilling payoffs. Alex reluctantly agrees and that night he busts into the home of a wealthy woman. The cops are notified, but before they arrive Alex kills her and finds himself in an interrogation room. He is ultimately sent to prison for fourteen years. Approximately two years into his fourteen year sentence, Alex hears tell of an experimental treatment that prisoners can subject themselves to, in exchange for an early release. Alex eagerly volunteers and is transferred to a sort of hospital. There he finds his "gulliver" (head) strapped to a chair, his eyelids locked open and forced to watch treacherous images and movies being projected onto a movie screen. Alex doesn't mind at first, but notices that the longer he watches the films, he becomes violently ill. It seems that the government has found a way to cure the common criminal and Alex has the distinction of being the first guinea pig.

Honestly, after re-reading that plot synopsis, I don't do this film justice in the slightest. "A Clockwork Orange" is a film that cannot be told about, but rather, one that must be experienced. There's a plot and apparently it's a satire, but the thing that really strikes me when I watch "A Clockwork Orange" is not the story or the social commentaries, but rather, the colors, the numbness of the characters and the hint of a frightening aura. Much like the sun, "A Clockwork Orange" is so bright and rich with color, that staring at in excess might just cause damage to your retina's. It's such a bright picture that you can't help but take notice when the reels are rolling and your attention cannot help but be drawn to the screen. Then there's the characters and their complete lack of emotion, devoid of human qualities, as if they're aliens on another planet. There isn't one character in the entire film that you want to know better and in fact, the entire cast is a of characters are miscreants. In saying that, there's also just a hint of horrific tones in the film - seeing the droogs, their shadows stretching across the pavement, preying over an old man, much like a pack of lions prey over a wildebeest or watching Alex's eyes pried open with lid locks as he's forced to watch films of a particularly violent nature. Those are the three elements of this film that really made it unique to me, that and the fact that Stanley Kubrick had a vision, a vision that only a mastermind could reflect onto the screen. It took a special director to create the images and colors and the sometimes skin crawling feelings that the film forces upon it's viewers and after watching this, it's hard to deny the talents of Kubrick.


Don't get me wrong, I liked the story too. I thought it flowed nicely and was broken up into distinguished sections: The beginning to Alex's imprisonment, Alex's imprisonment to Alex's release and then the rest. It's not flawless or anything though and really, for my tastes, the entire movie really relies on those intangibles that I mentioned above. The acting is good too, with Malcolm McDowell featured in only his fourth film ever (his first film being "If....", which I also reviewed here on the 1001 blog) and everyone else tapping into that strange behavior that was essential in making "A Clockwork Orange" standout. I really don't know what else to say about this film. I have a certain likeness for this film that I really can't describe. I said it best when I said that the film MUST be experienced to be understood and appreciated. It's not something that I can really convey to you here, it's truly a MUST SEE. Sure, there are flaws in it, at least as far as my personal tastes are concerned, but honestly, there aren't many and in fact, even though I wouldn't give it a full blown '10' rating, I'd still consider it a masterpiece.

RATING: 8.5/10  The rating of '8.5' has a way of somehow transforming itself into a '10'. Remember that both "La Roue" and "Once Upon a Time in the West" were initially rated an '8.5' and later named to the #1 spot on their respective TOP 20 lists. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "Barry Lyndon".


August 24, 2012  11:30pm

Thursday, August 23, 2012

488. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Running Time: 141 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, from the story The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke
Main Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain (voice), Daniel Richter
Click here to view the trailer


Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid. 

If you were to go back and read my introductory post on this blog, way back on September 11, 2009, you would see the following quote: "2001: A Space Odyssey bores me to no end". After watching 507 of the most "must see" movies ever made your opinions and tastes begin to transform and while I'm still not as gaga over this film as some, the above statement is one that I'd like to retract.

To detail the plot of "2001" really won't take much and will probably end up being a confusing mess, but I'll give it the ol' college try and hope for the best. The film opens with the headline "The Dawn of Man", as we focus in on a pack of apes having an altercation with another pack of apes. The first pack of apes is driven away from their watering hole by the intruder apes. The next morning the spurned apes awaken to find that a giant black monolith has appeared before them. They explore it, touching it with their hands like a child would explore a new toy. Later, a particular ape browses through a pile of bones, singling out a particular, club shaped bone and pounding it against the ground, realizing that it can be used as both a tool and a weapon. He later returns to the watering hole and kills the leader of the ape pack that forced them away. Flash forward a million years and all of a sudden we're hurtling through space, on a mission to the moon, as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (Sylvester) is headed to the moon on a top secret mission. The shuttle that is taking Dr. Floyd to the moon very much resembles an airplane, complete with comfy chairs, in-flight meals and stewardesses. Arriving at the moon, Dr. Floyd and a team of scientists discover a giant black monolith, exactly like the one we saw during the "Dawn of Man" portion. They touch it and a high pitched noise emanates from it, deafening to their ears. Flash forward another eighteen months and we're aboard the Discovery One, bound for Jupiter. The crew is six members strong, including Dave Bowman (Dullea), Frank Poole (Lockwood), three hibernating crew members and HAL 9000, a super intelligent computer system. This is the longest segment of the film, lasting through the intermission. The plot here revolves around the conflict that occurs when HAL makes an error and decides to go rogue, turning on his human crew.


Before I even begin writing, let me say that this article helped me out immensely in understanding this movie better and if, by chance, I mimic the ideas proposed in this piece of writing, I want credit to go to that author.

Before reading that piece, however, I did understand that this film obviously explored the idea of evolution and that really, that was the backdrop for the entire story. Being an outspoken and adamant believer in God, you'd think that a guy like me couldn't find appeal in a film that adamantly harped and supported the ideas of evolution, but it's quite the contrary. I still hold my beliefs dear, but am open minded enough to listen to other ideas, without getting offended by their sheer notion. I found this picture and it's exploration of evolution to be, at times, very interesting and was open to listening and watching the theories unfold.

I'm not a steadfast supporter of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and am still of the opinion that many sequences in the film are more than capable of boring a person to tears. However, this time around I found myself more drawn to the screen, in awe of the images, lost in the story and trying to figure out the mystery. The "Dawn of Man" sequence was amazing and perhaps one of my favorite shots in the movie is the image of that ape pounding the bone against the ground. The entire opening sequence is brilliantly done and is an amazing hook to this movie. We then switch the story that revolves around Heywood R. Floyd and it gets a little slower. Many glory shots are shown, as Kubrick seems to be showing off the futuristic world that he has created, showing how stewardesses navigate around a zero gravity shuttle, showing the shuttle itself and all of it's very intricate features and gadgets. This particular portion doesn't last long, so that's a good thing. Then we get into the HAL story and thankfully this takes up most of the movie. Again, there are just too many glory shots of the actual space shuttle and the details that were crafted by Kubrick, which only help to slow down the pace of the entire film. The whole HAL going rogue story is awesome and I loved every minute of the time that they were actually advancing the story. This portion of the film housed the most relevant moments for me personally, including the quote I cited above, as HAL actually proves that he has feelings...or does he? Is HAL actually afraid of what Dave's rewiring work will do to him or is he merely privy to the knowledge that human beings, for the most part, are sympathetic creatures and hopes to appeal to that side of Dave. That's just one of the questions that "2001: A Space Odyssey" proposes.

Of course, most of the questions come down to that final "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" portion, when Dave finally makes his way to the surface of Jupiter. At first, he approaches a tunnel of colored light, in what resembles a feature length Skittles commercial. We FINALLY get to the payoff of the whole sequence, where Dave finds himself in a room, looking upon himself as an old man, eating a meal. For those of you who have seen the film, you know everything that follows and if you haven't, then you really shouldn't be reading this far anyway, so I'll stop there. I'm of the understanding that this is merely the next step in the evolutionary chain, from ape to man to starchild, with machine possibly being a link in there as well. What I don't get is the whole gazing upon himself as an old man thing. Why was he suddenly an old man? Why did time seem to speed up when Dave entered this room? Did the colored lights tunnel actually take light years to pass through and when Dave finally found his way to the room, on Jupiter, he was old? So many questions, but I think I've got the just of it. Like I said, read that article because it will help you out immensely in understanding whats really going on and I think you'll find that those are the obvious solutions to most of the questions you'll have after watching this very trippy, very deep, very complicated movie.

The bottom line is this: I'm not going to go all film snob and proclaim "2001: A Space Odyssey" my favorite film anytime soon. However, I can now admit that I understand why people like it, I finally get the appeal. If this is your favorite movie, I have no beef with you and while I don't share your opinion, I respect and more importantly, I understand it. The images that "2001" conveys are awesome, in every sense of that word - they will truly inspire awe, leave you gazing at your television, wide eyed and ready to consume more. While I don't share the ideas and theories presented in "2001", I can still listen to them and find interest in them, even if only for entertainment purposes. The story that really appealed to my personal tastes here wasn't necessarily the evolution of man, but rather the evolution of machine and the breakdown of HAL. It was obvious to me that HAL made a genuine error and when he realized that it was an error, couldn't handle it. The scene where HAL kills the hibernating members of the crew is great. In fact, the dialogue in "2001" is few and far between and most of the really gripping scenes are presented without any words. Of course, there are scenes with dialogue that rule too, like the one where Dave commands HAL to "open the pod bay doors!" My biggest beef with the film is its amazing ability to leave you bored, waiting for more of the plot to unfold, trying your best to get past all the glory shots of the ship and waiting for Kubrick to finish visually gloating about the world he's presenting.

EDIT: I just had a thought about the movie that I wanted to add in. The reason that I included the quote from HAL at the beginning of this review is because it was so haunting, yet touching to me to hear a machine begging for it's life. Maybe the HAL's error wasn't genuine and maybe, in fact, he made the error on purpose so that he could get the crew out of the ship and ultimately kill them. It's noted in the film, through a video message, that HAL was the only one who knew the reasons for the mission: to inspect the signs of possible intelligent life on Jupiter. Maybe HAL knew that if the crew made it to Jupiter and found the signs of intelligent life that machine would be passed up on the evolutionary chain. HAL 9000 wanted to be the next link after man and knew that if the crew succeeded, he would be passed up in favor of the starchild.

I'm going to be twirling this film around my head for days to come, so keep your eyes out here for more edits and if I think of anything, I'll certainly come and add them in. 

RATING: 7/10  I can't see it going very far in terms of the TOP 20 list, but never say never. I'm just glad I was finally able to find something positive in this movie. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "A Clockwork Orange".


August 23, 2012  1:32am

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

754. TOP GUN (1986)

Running Time: 119 minutes
Directed By: Tony Scott
Written By: Jim Cash, Jacks Epps Jr., from article by Ehud Yonay
Main Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Rick Rossovich
Click here to view the trailer

TONY SCOTT: 1944 - 2012

With the death of Tony Scott taking place only two days ago, I felt it would be appropriate to watch and review his only film from THE BOOK, "Top Gun". I had already had it scheduled for this 100 anyway, so it didn't take much maneuvering to squeeze it in. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't necessarily a Tony Scott fan, although I do remember enjoying "Man on Fire", "Enemy of the State" and "Beverly Hills Cop II" to a certain extent.

"Top Gun" made tons of dough in 1986, put Tom Cruise on the map and utilized a handful of classic Hollywood cliches that are still going strong today. Cruise plays Lt. Peter "Maverick" Mitchell, a U.S. Naval aviator and one who thinks he's the man when it comes to navigating his Tomcat through the sky. While Maverick thinks he's the man, most of his superiors and piers think he's just plain dangerous, relying on his cocky attitude in the air to make a name for himself. Maverick's radar intercept (co-pilot, to the average joe) Goose (Edwards) is his best friend in the skies and on the ground and when the opportunity comes along for the two to attend Top Gun school, where all the best pilots gather to become the best of the best, they jump at the chance. At Top Gun school the two buds meet a host of other top notch pilots, including Iceman (Kilmer), Slider (Rossovich) and their instructor, Viper (Tom Skerritt). Even among the elite Maverick is still confident that he'll come out of Top Gun school as the points leader, as all the students are fighting to be named top of the class. There's also a second plot involving Kelly McGillis, who plays Charlie, Maverick's love interest and a civilian Top Gun instructor.

Yes, "Top Gun" made loads of dough in 1986, but that certainly wasn't any reason to give it inclusion into a book of must see films. It simply isn't a must see folks, if you ask this guy and it's a shame that "Top Gun" was included as one of the 1001 entries when other, more important films were left out in the cold. The film is basically just a vehicle for Tom Cruise and used to lure females, aging from 15 - 25, into the theaters to get a look at the hunky actor. Think "Magic Mike" and exchange the stripper gear for pilots gear.

SIDENOTE: I just looked up to make sure that "Magic Mike" was about male strippers, as I usually don't sit up and take notice whenever Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey show up on my TV screen shirtless and saw that this film was actually directed by STEVEN SODERBERGH!!! Really? He USUALLY makes quality films. Could "Magic Mike" be a quality film??.......Nah. 

Okay, maybe it's not that blatant an eye candy film, but certainly the females were the target audience and certainly their plan worked, as "Top Gun" grossed an approximate $176 million domestically. There's a completely useless scene that proves my point, in which Cruise, Kilmer, Rossovich and Edwards play a good, old-fashioned game of shirtless volleyball and something that was clearly added to get whimpers from the female movie goers. As for this movie goer, I was, for the most part, bored to tears, wanting these pilots to land their planes and wrap up A.S.A.P, but wouldn't you know they used every bit of a two hour running time. The film is also very 80s, using a score that's sure to take you back, with songs like "Danger Zone" and "Take My Breath Away". If you're planning an all 80s night at your apartment, with your CD player blaring Michael Jackson tunes, make sure you put "Top Gun" on the television because it'll fit in perfectly. It also had that classic Hollywood blueprint that really came into effect in the 1980s - arrogant heartthrob meets a girl, she's not interested at first but then ends up in bed with him a few scenes later, he gets knocked down a few pegs, learns a lesson and triumphs in the end. All is right with the world!

I'm no Tom Cruise fan and at this stage of his career, he certainly hadn't honed the skills that he would later use in more serious roles such as, "Magnolia", "The Last Samurai" and the Mission: Impossible franchise. I do like Val Kilmer, but he wasn't allowed to flourish here and was simply used as Cruise's competition and general dick. I still scratch my head and wonder how in the world Kelly McGillis got such steady work in the 80s. She wasn't THAT pretty and her acting skills left a lot to be desired. I'll stop trashing the late Tony Scott's work for now. It simply wasn't for me and I really think that the only reason it was included in THE BOOK was for it's popularity and that alone. This book really makes me scratch my head sometimes, especially when you have fluffy Hollywood movies sharing the same binding with the likes of some real classics and definite must sees.

RATING: 4/10  I can't go TOO low, because it wasn't all bad. They were able to shy away from Cruise's bare chest and the "Take My Breath Away" theme long enough to put in some mildly exciting sequences in the air, but then again, that's not my bag either.


August 21, 2012  6:22pm

Monday, August 20, 2012

421. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Terry Southern, Stanley Kubrick, from the novel Red Alert by Peter George
Main Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens
Click here to view the trailer


Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine.

I really shouldn't like this film. When you take into consideration the film's plot - dealing heavily with nuclear warfare, politics and the Cold War - all signs would lead me to believe that this isn't my cup of tea when it comes to cinema. However, it's quite the opposite, as I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and having heaping amounts of fun.

The film begins with General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden) giving orders for a group of thirty-four B-52 bombers to strike against Russian targets, which will subsequently lead to all out nuclear warfare. When the orders are received by the bombers, they take precautions to ensure that the orders are legit and when they are, they prepare themselves to drop bombs. When Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers) realizes that there is no cause for alarm and that the orders were given out in haste, he confronts the General and comes to the realization that Gen. Ripper has gone a "little funny in the head". It seems that the General issued the orders under his own volition and is the only one who knows the recall codes. Word of General Ripper's actions eventually reach the Pentagon, where President Merkin Muffley (Sellers), along with members of his staff, including General Buck Turgidson (Scott), go over ideas on how to avoid the orders being carried out. It seems that the attack plan that was put into place was a plan that was only supposed to be used if the normal chain of command was out of commission. Therefore, no radio interaction or normal abort methods are able to be utilized. President Muffley gets on the phone to Russia and order their premier to shoot down his own U.S. B-52 bombers, to avoid a nuclear war from occurring. Back at the base, Gen. Ripper has locked himself in his office with Mandrake, going on and on about "precious bodily fluids" and the communist conspiracy concerning water fluoridation. Outside the base, U.S. Army forces are attacking their own men, because Gen. Ripper instructed them that attack could come from enemy soldiers in U.S. uniform. In the air, Major T.J. "King" Kong (Pickens) leads his boys in their bomber, readying for attack. At one point they're attacked by Russian forces, having their console damaged and unable to receive any recall codes.

Frequently, when I finish a film, I'll find myself perusing the IMDB message boards, reading other people's opinions and browsing transcripts of conversations that fans of the film have had. Several threads caught my eye today, as certain individuals were either asking if they'd be able to understand this movie if they decided to watch it or, for people who had already watched, citing that they didn't understand the movie. I didn't leave any replies, but I found myself scratching my head over the quandaries of these individuals. I myself am no history buff. I have very little to no knowledge of the Cold War, nor do I know too much about nuclear warfare. I don't concern myself with politics or military affairs, so if anyone should be asking whether or not they'll understand "Dr. Strangelove", it should be me. However, I had absolutely no problem deciphering this movie. All the vital information is given to you and really, it's more of a movie to laugh at than one to try and decipher the meaning of. If you know what nuclear bombs are and that, for many years, there were tensions between Soviet and American powers, then you've got nothing to worry about.

It's amusing because the film actually pokes fun and satirizes the Cold War in a way that didn't leave me, someone who really doesn't know much about it, out in the cold. I understood that the film used heightened concerns over the use of nuclear warfare, computer intelligence and the nonchalant attitudes of those in charge, as it pertains to casualaties - "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops, uh, depending on the breaks" - to it's advantage in providing a comic masterpiece. I'm not sure any of that made sense to you, but I understand what I'm trying to say and hopefully you're following along.

Then you have the basics: the cast, the performances, the sets and all that stuff, which was all top notch. How about that War Room set huh? It was pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself. And remember:

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

The cast, most notably Peter Sellers, were at the top of their game. If I had to choose a favorite character, I'd, without a doubt, choose President Muffley, as he easily had me laughing the most. I also quite enjoyed George C. Scott and it was amusing to see him having fun out there. Usually when I watch a George C. Scott performance, I'm usually conscience of his supposed cranky demeanor and wonder what he was really like on the set. Here, he was having a blast and making jokes and it was really fun to watch him here. The whole affair is just a lot of fun and if you watch it, try not to take it too seriously. There are very few classic comedies, that are remembered or revered as much as "Dr. Strangelove". Usually the films that history tends to remember are the serious efforts and comedies are usually left out in the cold. This is a comedy through and through and it's just a formality that the film deals with such serious matters.

RATING: 9/10  I can't go the full monty and a '9' may be too high still, but I'm going for it. If need be I'll revise it come RECAP time. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "2001: A Space Odyssey".


August 20, 2012  4:04pm

Sunday, August 19, 2012

390. LOLITA (1962)

Running Time: 152 minutes
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Vladimir Nabokov, from his novel
Main Cast: James Mason, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers
Click here to view the trailer


After a brief respite to take in "Fatal Attraction", it's back to the "Kubrick Week" festivities for me, as I take a look at "Lolita", a Stanley Kubrick work that I saw for the first and only time about five years ago and one where my opinion hasn't wavered that much. Although, this time around, I was able to expand my train of thought on the contents of the picture.

The film begins with the ending, as we see a man who we're later able to identify as Humbert Humbert (Mason) entering the mansion of Clare Quilty (Sellers), armed with a gun and ready to commit murder. Humbert finds Quilty inebriated and tries to make him realize that he's about to die. After a few gunshots, Quilty comes to that realization and is then shot dead. Four years earlier and we get a voiceover from Humbert informing us that he's moved to New Hampshire where he intends to spend the summer before taking a job as a professor at Beardsley College. In need of residence, Humbert visits the home of Charlotte Haze (Winters), a single parent with a room for rent. It's easy to tell that Charlotte is infatuated with the professor immediately, wanting desperately for him to accept the offer to live there. Humbert isn't sure...that is until he meets Charlotte's daughter, Lolita (Lyon), a girl in her early teens, whom Humbert first meets when she's sunbathing in the yard, clad in only a bikini. Humbert is immediately infatuated with the young girl and accepts the offer to live at the Haze house, citing Mrs. Haze's "cherry pie" as his reasoning. Humbert begins to keep a journal chronicling his fascination with Lolita, while also trying to make Mrs. Haze think that he's interested in her, even though he obviously finds her quite annoying. When Lolita is shipped off to Camp Climax (I kid you not), Mrs. Haze and Humbert are engaged, Humbert presumably using the marriage as a way to ensure that he keeps Lolita in his life. After a few months of "wedded bliss", Charlotte notices that Humbert is always so distant, committing himself to his room, to the cozy confines of his journal. One day, after a spat, Charlotte runs outside, is hit by a car and dies immediately. Humbert drives to Camp Climax to pick up Lolita, electing to keep Charlotte's death a secret for the time being. From there, Lolita and Humbert enjoy time together on the road, all the while being tailed by the odd and questionable motives of Clare Quilty.


Where do I even begin with this one? How about with the good, because starting on a positive note is always a good idea. Well, the performances were, almost entirely, top notch. You just can't deny the talents of James Mason, a classic actor's actor, who, when he gets a role, obviously does his very best to perfect the character and bring out the most of it. I'm also always astounded at the abilities of Shelley Winters. I first saw Shelley Winters as a recurring character on Roseanne and it's hard to believe that Nana Mary was such a great actress in her early days. And then, last but not least, you have Peter Sellers who peeked my interest every time he appeared on screen and was part of the reason this film's initial hook works so well. The beginning is enough to hook you in and keep you invested in the plot of the movie for most of the duration, as Sellers plays the very inebriated man who wants nothing more than to play ping pong and win ("I'm really winning now. You have to make a rally!"). Also, the basic blueprint of the film is a really good one and one that, since "Lolita", has been done to death - films like "Poison Ivy" and "The Crush" come to mind. A man in his 40s becomes sexually attracted to the point of utter infatuation with a young, prepubescent girl.

My biggest gripe when it comes to "Lolita" is that nothing really seems to come out of that initial infatuation and please, allow me to explain that point. Maybe I just wasn't picking up on it, but the end of the film seems to hint at the fact that Lolita and Humbert were engaged in a sexual relationship for most of the duration of the film, notably everything that follows the death of Charlotte. However, I just didn't get that. Was it just insinuated that they were basically playing it off in public as if they were father/daughter, but in reality, behind closed doors they were really lovers, because that's not what I was getting at all. As far as what I saw develop onscreen, here's what happened. Humbert meets Lolita and is obviously sexually attracted to her, however, he is never given the opportunity to do anything about it. He then marries Charlotte, in an attempt to ensure that Lolita stays a part of his life, but when she dies he takes advantage of the situation and goes to rescue Lolita from girl's camp. After picking her up at girl's camp, the two hit the road, staying in hotels, before they return to Beardsley, where Humbert begins his professorship and Lolita begins school. From there, Humbert takes on a very strict fatherly role to Lolita, forbidding her to see boys (which not only speaks toward the fatherly side, but also the side of him that is attracted to her). Lolita becomes very disobedient toward Humbert, while at other times they get along splendidly. When they have a quarrel over a play that Lolita has starred in, they decide that the best thing to do is to pack up and move away. While on the road, Lolita is stricken ill and is admitted into a hospital. From there, she is taken out of the hospital by Clare Quilty, Humbert is devastated to find that she's gone and we learn that Lolita and Quilty have been having an affair the entire time. Humbert later reunites with Lolita, only to find her married. So that's my summation of the film and nowhere in there do I see Lolita and Humbert having a sexual relationship. It's just never that obvious to me that that's what's going on.

And I realize that you just couldn't do certain things or even insinuate certain things, but then perhaps this film just shouldn't have been made. I have a strong feeling that the book by Nabokov is ten times better than Kubrick's vision of the story, because you didn't have to be as censored when it came to the written word. In Nabokov's book, apparently Lolita is only twelve and it is more obvious that her and Humbert are having a relationship. 

Also why in hell do we need Clare Quilty? I mean, don't get me wrong, I loved Peter Sellers in this, he was marvelous, but was he needed. I have a strong feeling that even he was wandering around set, wondering what he was doing there, what purpose his character was serving. He is a part of that great opening hook, which lead me to believe that his character, put to death by the main character, was going to be of some substantial importance. We follow him all through the film as he assumes different persona's, trying desperately to get closer to Humbert and Lolita and in the end it's revealed that he merely was having his own affair with Lolita and that's all. What the hell? Was that character really a necessity? I don't think so.

"Lolita" had my mind swirling for hours after I watched it. On one hand, the two and a half hour running time was quite swift (mostly), I liked the performances and I liked the basic blueprint of the story. On the other hand there was just so much that I didn't understand about the picture. Why was Clare Quilty made out to be such an important character, when ultimately he was entirely disposable? What was the basis of the relationship between Lolita and Humbert? I can already tell by my long review that the Kubrickian qualities are starting to turn their head and it's only going to get more deep from here. I'll chalk this one up as a near hit, but ultimately call it a big letdown, as I thought my tastes may have changed enough for me to find something entirely positive in this one, when, in fact, I only found certain, traces of positive qualities.

RATING: 6/10  I think that's a really safe rating for the moment. I'll keep turning this one around in my head and maybe come up with some different perspective in time for the RECAP. Next up in "Kubrick Week": "Dr. Strangelove..."


August 19, 2012  10:41pm

Sins of Omission - Entry #94: ZODIAC (2007)

Running Time: 157 minutes Directed By: David Fincher  Written By: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith Main Cast : Jake...