3 Star Flicks (#39-54)

 Of the 5 groupings of movie ratings, I’d say this one had to be the hardest. The 1 and 2 star have problems, so there was a lot to talk about and explain how I am smarter than these Oscar winning people and could have made their movies better. The 4 and 5 star reviews, still to come, are the movies I’m most passionate about. This batch is the just sort of there ones. They’re all good, solid films. Parts I like, parts I don’t. Not movies I really feel like I ever need to see again. Drink every time I say a movie is boring. Enjoy!

 

37. Rain Man, 1988

38. Platoon, 1986

39.  Hamlet, 1948 Ah, Olivier. I knew him well. He lets me know, when I see with mine own eyes his name appeareth in thy opening credits that real acting shall soon commence. Every inch of Sir Laurence acts. Why, his eyebrows are brooding moments before he’s even entered the scene. Beside the fact that he’s about twenty years too old to play Hamlet, the internal mulling over his conflicts doesn’t work as well as it does in “Wuthering Heights.” His soliloquies should be the moments he can really go crazy and we see the real him at that state, but he still stays pretty reserved. This is the root of the quintessential problem of the film: how crazy is he? Is he crazy from the start? Does he go crazy? Is the ghost real and he is cogitatively seeking revenge? Are we seeing the story from outside his head or inside? Olivier doesn’t spell any of those questions out but leaves it for your interpretation. Intellectually, that may be more satisfying, but theatrically, an extreme choice is a lot more delicious to watch. The fact that he wrote (adapted), directed, and starred in it just feels so self-indulgent (*cough* Kenneth Branagh* cough*), though at the same time, he is one of only two actors to direct himself into an Oscar (along with Roberto Benigni in “Life is Beautiful”) But overall, there’s an eerie air that really works. If you’ve ever watched one of the billions of Shakespeare and other classical plays filmed for BBC in the 70s (Please do a shot right now for each one you’ve seen. What, thou art still parched?), they have this style that makes you feel like you’re watching a play with a stage (set and lighting and acoustics) while still having 360 degrees of scenery and clearly no audience, that lets you know, it really is a movie. You never get lost in realistically taking it for anything other than the art of drama and making it about the characters and the words. The set here is a labyrinth of castle halls that I assume are mirroring Hamlet’s need of psychotherapy. The women really help add to this haunted house effect as well.  Besides Hamlet himself, they are the two roles most up for interpretation.  Like most Shakespeare plays, there are two women to every thirty men, but the roles stand out that much more. Gertrude, played by Eileen Herlie, is fairly strong yet emotional. She’s got two main choices to make as an actor: how innocent is she to the murder of her previous husband by her new husband and to what degree does she love Hamlet. For the day, Olivier pushed the incest pretty far, which I really appreciate. Who doesn’t love ‘em some good Shakespearean incest? But the standout moment for her is the final scene where we see, with no lines to aid, her clear innocence turning to a complete understanding of her murderous husband and his intention to kill Hamlet. Her choice at that moment is self-sacrifice, to drink the wine before Hamlet can. It makes her very sympathetic and brave and leads me to think it probably finally sets in all the things in the back of her mind she could have seen earlier but chose to ignore, hence her need for absolution. It all works very well. Then we have Jean Simmons in her only Shakespearean film as Ophelia. If you’re only gonna do one, make it a doozy.  She goes from a school-girl crush to crazy rather fast. She does go crazy to the point we believe she’d kill herself. She is hurt by Hamlet. But why she goes crazy seems a bit up in the air. It seems it was the hurt of Hamlet, but her love didn’t seem deep enough for him to warrant that. Helena Bonham Carter really nailed the part for me, clearly showing it was the sudden death of her father that really pushed her over the edge at a vulnerable time. The most bizarre choice of the film is to cut Rosencrantz and Guildenstern out entirely!! While the film only covers 2 of the play’s 4 hours, I think the camera could have backed away from Hamlet a couple minutes. I bet Olivier, when discussing it with himself, re-enacted a scene from “Sunset Blvd.” “Laurence, they don’t want to see you every second.” “Of course they do. Why else would they have come?” Please picture Olivier in a feather nightgown as well. They also cut Fortinbras from the final scene and delivering the last news, which to me insults the audience. A classic piece of film with some odd choices. Just because he received the British stamp of approval does not leave it the quintessential interpretation of “Hamlet.” DRINKING GAME: 1) Cool camera effects move you through the castle like a predecessor to video games 2) The fog rolls in 3) You find yourself staring at Hamlet’s bangs and wonder if he’s a distant relative of Draco Malfo  Hamlet 

40.  Lawrence of Arabia, 1962 Ten minutes into it, I’m double checking the Netflix’s sleeve to be sure I didn’t get a remake by mistake. Nope, it says (1962). If I had caught a scene out of context, I would have guessed it was from the mid-80s golden age of epics like “Out of Africa” and “The Last Emperor.” Not being a film major in college, there is a lot about the development of film and camera technology I don’t know. For instance, I don’t get why we were making “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939 in the most luscious colors ever seen (just 11 years after talkies began- amazing), which lasted through the early 60s, when colors started toning down to muted colors, like “Oliver” and “Midnight Cowboy.” Then we hit the 70s and EVERYTHING is just brown. Clothes were brown. Furniture was brown. Drapes, cars, auras. It’s like there was a brown gel over the lens. Why were the 70s so brown? Then by the 80s, we are in rich but normal pallets. Some of the day have an orange-ness or are a bit grainy, but many look like they were filmed today. “Arabia” stands out as looking a good 25 years ahead of the time. This is true for camera shots as well. Each decade has its own mark on fashionable styles of film technique, from the early 30s pretty boring still shots and just changing points of view to the 60s where “The Sound of Music” has a sweeping camera swooping down on Julie Andrews like it’s going to take your breath away and take out a nun. The 70s went shaky camera and raw to “The English Patient” in the 90s where long, lush camera shots are evoking dramatic loneliness and desperation. Again, “Arabia” is on par with the last, gorgeously painting art with every shot, symbolically capturing our hero’s emotional state. And the musical score is bold and memorable. It is beautiful. I would love to see it on the big screen. Peter O’Toole does a regal, captivating job.  This was his first Oscar nomination (with seven more to follow, giving him the record for the most nominations without a win), losing to Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” so you can’t really argue.  O’Toole transitions into a sort of maybe half-crazy guy who somewhere along the road turns from a British soldier to Arab, yet who’s still too British to ever forget tea time, even if he has a train full of people to slaughter. With all the stories we hear today of Westerners turning to join al Qaeda, it’s an interesting time to watch this one. The real life guy was so complex that no one really understood (though he was probably bi-sexual, which of course got left out). So, I suppose it’s not out of place to walk away not really feeling like I’ve understood him anymore. But to spend over 3 hours intensely going through his life and really getting in his face, in an 80s cinema-graphic kind of way, it’s frustrating to not know him much better. DRINKING GAME: 1) Horses wear feathers 2) flags wave 3) You find yourself staring at Laurence’s perfect part and wonder if he’s a distant relative of Draco Malfo Lawrence of Arabia 

41.  Gandhi, 1982 What can you say bad about a guru of peace? Um, not the best fashion sense, but minor flaw, minor. Ben Kingsley did an amazing job. He owns the role to the point that you can’t imagine anyone else playing it, kind of like Yul Brynner playing the King of Siam in like 5,000 performances of the “King and I.” Or maybe I just made the comparison because they’re both bald. Either way, Ben is the movie. The film does a nice job showing the span of his life and how he went from an average Joe to the leader of a people.  The film is clearly a biopic. We all know that. I mean, it’s the title for Rama’s sake. Just not enough happens. I guess I didn’t grasp the multitude of what was at stake or how bad it was. It felt like they tried to cram way too much historical information of the politics of the time to really follow or grasp it all. I loved watching Ben’s delicate acting and transitioning, but overall slow. I learned a lot, have some memories, learned to value salt, don’t really want to see it again. DRINKING GAME: 1) Ben’s accent seems to be getting thicker with each scene 2) White guy (90% of the time it will be Ian Charleson, who did a great job, so sad he died so young) 3) Salt Gandhi

42.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003 (Longest title to win) This is about as fun and silly as a Best Pic gets, even though the whole movie is a gigantic, bloody war, but the war is giants and hobbits. This is the only example where this movie isn’t the only winner, but the trilogy was really what got recognized, though all three were nominated separately. But in my opinion and in my rankings, I’m really ranking all three in this spot, sort of like how “Indiana Jones” makes my personal top 20 all-time favorites (though there it’s really just 1 & 3). I really thought “Fellowship of the Ring” was the best of the three. It was the best balance of character development, action, and shires. “Return of the King” is the action-heavy one. The special effects and technical effects are super cool, especially when the trees take up arms! This is also one of my favorite examples of the movie being better than the book. “The Hobbit” was good, but the trilogy was so confusing. There are like 40 characters with crazy long names and they all have the same personality and goals. It is not fun. But the movie fleshed it out and made it a lot easier to follow who was who, cause you could see them! (Although, I’d just as soon not see Orlando Bloom.) And I know the books are popular because they add that extra level of depth, but I don’t really see it. It’s got all the usual good vs. evil, weak triumph over the strong when your virtues are true, hobbits are cute and have big hands (which makes me wonder?…what do you say, Elijah Wood?) that any fantasy flick has, and the spectacle is cool, and the plot is solid (where “Avatar” fails miserably in that department and never deserved to win Best Pic and should feel lucky it even got nominated), and for that, the trilogy deserved to win, beating “Lost in Translation,” “Master and Commander,” “Mystic River,” and “Seabiscuit?” (really?) , but this one’s just fun. Nothing deep. Nothing profound to take with you. It’s just fun. DRINKING GAME: 1) Precious 2) Dragons 3) Hobbits look cuter than they are scary The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 

43.  The Sting, 1973 You thought “It’s a Small World” got stuck in your head. This will have “The Entertainer” up there for a week. The few comedies that make this list deserve a special shout-out just for that fact alone. It’s unfortunate few are deemed as pieces of art like dramas are. “Young Frankenstein” deserved to win just as much as any. Here, “The Sting” is clever in its witty charm and unexpected turns, equally intriguing as to what will happen next like a good Scorsese, only with a constant light-hearted air. And the 30s gangster time-period is just fun. Robert Redford is young and charming and you just want to have a shot with him or have him pull a scam over on you. Makes me wonder if Han Solo is just a cheap imitation. Naaah. But made me think about it. And Paul Newman is slightly-aging and charming and you want to get drunk with him or pass out drunk in his bed and have him take advantage of you. And why did pinstriped suits ever go out of fashion? Now while I’ve praised its clever charm ‘til I made it blush, it could use a bit more character development for me. There’s not really much known about anyone and that leaves it a bit forgettable when it’s over. “The Sting” is sort of the Chinese food or “Full House” of the flicks. You can remember enjoying it while it was going on but in retrospect, can’t really recollect why. DRINKING GAME: 1) Redford pulls one over 2) Women of ill repute… ill reputing 3) a title card appears announcing a new chapter 4) someone’s gambling 5) (chug) whenever “The Entertainer” is playing The Sting

44.  Ben-Hur, 1959 Charlton Heston, crazy gun-rights activist he may have been, God rest his soul, but god he was hot in the 50s. In “The Ten Commandments”, when he comes home and Princess Nefertari turns around and purrs “Moses!” with lust in her eyes and you’re like, “uh-huh!,” I’m so burning in hell for lusting after Moses. Anyway, what movie we talking about? Oh, yeah. Great chariot race. Bricks fall. Injustice. Save someone’s life. Justice. It’s a big epic that’s loosely religious, but not nearly as heavy as “King of Kings” or “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” I guess it’s sort of the “Lord of the Rings” of the day. It held the record for years as the most Oscar wins, 11, which is now tied with “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings.” Big sets. Lots of fun action. And constant sex appeal that we’re not talking about because it’s the 50s DRINKING GAME: (is that sacrilegious to do a drinking game on this movie?) 1) Loin clothes and sweat 2) horses 3)Biblical women are wearing some serious make-up  4) God shows up Ben-Hur

45.  Terms of Endearment, 1983 As I was talking about this project and listing off a few that made the best and worst, this one frequently came up by the fans (not to be sexist, but it was always the girls) as a favorite that always makes them cry. And yeah, it is a tear jerker, but no more than “Beaches” or “Steel Magnolias,” the type that’s just dangling the tissue in your face from the beginning and just waiting. The ending stuff doesn’t really do it for me so much and I love to cry at a movie. It’s just kind of pushing me too much to make me cry that I won’t do it out of belligerence. And Shirley MacLaine annoys me too much here. Actually, every movie since 1970. For someone that found meditation, she sure turned into a crabby bitch. Her comedy is funny, but I don’t care about her or feel bad when I should. And Jack Nicholson is absolutely disgusting. He’s gross and greasy and just looks like he smells of meat ball sandwiches. The quality of the flick is Debra Winger. Where did you go girl? I’ve been searching for you. Come back to us! Her common struggles resonate with a tight script. And she’s got a bitch of a mom I can’t help but pity her for. DRINKING GAME: 1) Shirley makes a snarky, one-liner 2) Jack Nicholson is in a bathrobe (eewh!) 3) Shirley or Jack make any kind of mention to still having sex (eewh!!!) Terms of Endearment 

46.  The Lost Weekend, 1945 I greatly admire the desire in 1945 to bring to light the harsher issues of alcoholism. Thirty years later, it’s still being treated as a joke. And they really have a desire to push the boundaries and expose dark truths that aren’t being talked about. This film does for alcohol what “Reefer Madness” did for marijuana.  Half the film is way over the top. If anyone finds out what kind of rock-gut brings on hallucinations like these, you got to let me know. While a great deal of the film is over the top much of the time, it’s constantly striving. Ray Milland is filled with a terrible pain. And lovely Jane Wyman has the right kind of hard-love tenderness that’s endearing and admirable. Billy Wilder captured a dark pacing and cinematography that really let you in on the dark intensity Milland is feeling.  Evidently, this flick was the first to use that trendy shot of a guy walking towards the camera as neon signs flash behind. It’s odd the film didn’t have a greater impact on society to change perspectives more. Maybe too many people were too close to it. Or maybe drunk people are just too funny.  I’ve seen all the other nominees for this year, “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, “Spellbound”, “Mildred Pierce”, and “Anchors Away”, and “Weekend” is definitely the strongest, though “St. Mary’s” is pretty good too, better than the first movie, “Going My Way.” DRINKING GAME: 1) Milland finds a new place to hide a bottle 2) Hallucinations (oh, the animals in the walls!) 3) Someone needs a drink (even you) The Lost Weekend 

47.  The Bridge On the River Kwai, 1957 I finally get the joke at the beginning of “The Parent Trap” when the twins get in trouble and are sent to the isolation cabin as punishment and all the other girls follow behind whistling “Colonel Bogey March.” They’re comparing Camp Inch to a Japanese prison camp in Thailand during WWII. Oh, Haley Mills, you can be such a card. I just love ya. Both of ya. Back to WWII- this is one of the most unique looks at war I’ve ever seen, especially for the 50s; it actually does a fair job at showing multiple perspectives. Alec Guinness (who deservedly won the Oscar) is solid and riveting, constantly making the opposite choices one would expect, basically always putting British honor above all else. Interestingly, many Brits found it to be mocking the British more than anything. I guess that shows how often one can play into stereotype prejudice and not realize it, because I totally bought that any upper-class Brit would behave the same way- ordering tea from your captors while they have guns pointed at you. I’m just kidding. But seriously, they do. The script poses great questions for the audience and keeps you guessing and anxious till the end. By many, this film still ranks in the top ten of all time, but this is my list. No doubt- “Kwai” is solid. Cinematography and score are great. I deducted points for two reasons. First, William Holden. I like him okay in others, though never stand out, but I was just bored by his story line and didn’t care, until the end when I was more concerned with how what his character did affected the others. Second, the torture in the beginning. This was no Hilton Inn, but by today’s standards, it doesn’t seem all that bad. The book was evidently a lot more graphic. And the men of the actual event on which the story was loosely based said they endured a great deal more, but it suffered cuts from 50s boards. The latter half of the film and Guinness’s Colonel Nicholson left me pondering for days. It’s unfortunate that later movies, like “The Deer Hunter,” left the torture feeling slightly lacking here. DRINKING GAME: 1) Japanese somehow can’t seem to get the knack of engineering. British, help us, please! 2) Someone’s shirtless 3) You think, in reality, if Colonel Nicholson behaved that way, he probably would have had a stick of dynamite shoved up his butt The Bridge On the River Kwai 

48.  A Beautiful Mind, 2001 We all have certain actors we just don’t like to watch. They’re people we don’t want to be friends with, immensely, so why would we want to watch them? Russell Crowe is high on my list of least-watchable for me. His ego and douche-bagginess seem to overwhelm the screen.  Though the real life John Nash might not have been a lot better. There were so many other actors considered for the role, I really wish one of them had gotten it. His physical build really bothers me too. He’d just come off of filming “Gladiator” where his muscles are bulging from his thong like I haven’t seen since He-Man. Going on to play a dorky mathematician just doesn’t seem right. They tried to hide the muscles with loose clothes, but I know they’re there. Maybe I’m jealous. He does a fine job here, but I think many men could have done it much better. And his accent! Bad southern accents really bother me. While Nash was really from West Virginia, Crowe, when he remembered to do one, was more like one of Scarlett O’Hara’s beaux. But Jennifer Connelly, who plays his wife Alicia, way makes up for it. Her sweet concern is compelling every second she’s on screen and she deservedly won Supporting Actress. She is the window to allow us to see into this crazy world. The piece is important for its look at schizophrenia. I haven’t thought of any other movie that deals with it at all in a way that helps us understand it better. Ron Howard leads us into his world smoothly and with a great deal of respect. Make-up is quite impressive. They actually developed a new type of fake-skin make-up for aging. The screen-play was well laid out, though I wish they’d touched on his bi-sexual side and how his son was diagnosed as schizophrenic as well.  DRINKING GAME: 1) Numbers light up 2) Crowe scratches his forehead (he forgets to do it for awhile, but he remembers again later) 3) Charles pops up (because Paul is such a good actor, like a best friend) A Beautiful Mind

49.  A Man For All Seasons, 1966 This is a subtle, slow piece of British almost royal history. Ooohhhh, are you sold yet? We’re mainly following Sir Thomas More in medieval England under the reign of Henry VIII. The king is pompous and a big mouth. Sir Thomas is the one totally honest judge who won’t budge from his morals in the slightest, even for a king. Eventually, it comes back to bite him in the ass, title taken away, jail, poverty, execution. It’s a bummer. You feel for the injustice of the good guy 500 years ago and you’re glad you didn’t live back then, even though I still think chain mesh is totally fun (but there isn’t any in this movie). If you’ve seen the cover, it’s the king and the judge sitting under a tree talking. That is the most exciting scene. Acting is solid and intriguing. Paul Scofield won the Oscar for Best Actor. He’s good. Susannah York as his daughter is a nice, strong female, small role. But I’ve been watching “Game of Thrones” and basically the same thing happens to Ned Stark, well, not really, but god that show is a lot more exciting to watch than this. DRINKING GAME: 1) You see a goblet 2) someone is riding in a boat 3) The king yells A Man For All Seasons   

50.  Crash, 2005 Are you a racist and want to change? You’re in luck, because this movie was made for you! And with each viewing comes with a free sledge hammer to beat yourself with in case you don’t get it. For everything this movie did well, there’s an equal but opposite “but…” I love ensemble flicks where everyone’s dealing with similar issues that all brilliantly come together (for an excellent example, see my personal all-time favorite, “Magnolia”). But… the characters are all whining so much about their victimization that you can’t care for anyone. A character needs to try to do something or try to be better and something happens so you can feel bad for them. NO ONE (except the lock smith) is trying to do anything. Dealing with racism today is refreshing and needed to be readdressed after a period of rest from the subject. But… every line is so over the top and unnatural that it’s like Michael Moore decided to make a drama. Maybe this is about common, everyday people and a representation of our current culture, BUT why the hell did they need to place it in LA so it just felt like Hollywood preaching back to us or discussing it amongst themselves to make them feel better. And the fact that it won over “Brokeback Mountain,” one of the most beautiful, innovative, and daring films of the decade, just says all the more how out of touch the voters who picked this flick to win Best Picture were. On top of that, only one performance earned an Oscar nomination, the white guy. Matt Dillon was completely forgettable. Even Don Cheadle, who usually blows me away, was kind of sleep walking through this one too. There were however two stand-out performances, which were two of the three reasons this film did not rank a lot lower. Thandie Newton is one of the most under-rated actresses. She captivates me in everything she does and I wish she did more. Every scene with her stands out, but her car accident is stomach-twisting. And Michael Peña as the locksmith, as I just said, is the one really empathetic character. The scene where his daughter gets shot is an emotional punch that makes me cry thinking about it. And a special honorable mention should go out to Ludacris as well for stepping up his game. The fact that none of them got nominated and Matt Dillon did confirms for me that this was a racist voting team that was trying to pick the film because they thought they were supposed to. And the third reason, this film is really trying. I don’t think anyone will take away any profound impact, but you might look at people differently for a day or two, and that is something. From the beautiful music to the constant little plot twists to the optimistic ending that we can each choose to make a difference, the writer and director were really trying, and that’s nice. But the homophobic voters still robbed Heath Ledger.  DRINKING GAME: 1)Brendan Fraser 2)shaky camera scenes make you know these are real issues 3) Shaniqua (always makes me happy in a flick too) 4) offensive name calling 5) (take a shot for) Tony Danza Crash 

51.  Patton, 1970 One of the most iconic film openings ever, a gigantic American flag with George C. Scott yelling at us to fight a war and grow a pair. It’s intense. Scott is intense. (Though I was picturing Percival McLeach, the villain in “The Rescuers Down Under”, the whole time) It’s a character study. We’ve really only got two, and 90% of the film is on Patton and he is pretty fucked up. The actual plot of war was pretty confusing for me. That’s not really my strength to follow battle facts, but I had to pause a few times and read some Cliff notes of what was going on in battle to keep up. But really, that didn’t matter so much. It’s much more about the guy. He’s scary. Maybe this is the type of hard-ass guy it takes to win the war, but you want to hope that there’s a deeper level of fairness and humanity that prevails, even in war. And especially from an American. That’s completely racist of me, to have a patriotic stereotype that we are a good people and play fair.  Somehow, it’s more digestible in “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now” because they are low ranking soldiers and there are bad people, but high ranking officers in our army are fair and just.  Guantanamo clearly tells us how untrue that is.  You see Patton’s side at times, but I think about, if he were my boss, I’d quit in an hour. He’s such a dick. He’s balanced brilliantly by Karl Malden, who played so many intense rolls. He gives us some hope. And Patton does frequently get the reprimand he deserves. It’s thought provoking like if you turn your back on Scott, he’ll shoot you in the back and boil you up for stew.  The reason it ranks low for me is because I don’t like watching someone I dislike so much non-stop for 170 minutes and the plot felt really difficult to follow. I may just be dumb, but you got to spell out the battles a bit more for me. But it’s an important piece to watch to question our choices in military involvement. DRINKING GAME:  1) Every time Patton should be cussing (it is rated PG) 2) (take a shot) when the kid is stealing the ring from the dead soldier and the scorpion is on him and you see the dead guy’s shoulder and eyelids move 3) whenever Patton gets demoted  Patton 

52.  Casablanca, 1943 Unquestionably, this is one of the most well respected and loved films in cinema history, usually ranking in the top 3 of any lists of the best films of all time. While I agree with “Citizen Kane” as one of my favorites, this one comes in a bit lower. To give it such a low ranking either says I’m an idiot and don’t know what I’m talking about or I’ve got some serious balls. Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the latter, but if you disagree, or have proof to the contrary, let me know. The setting is unique (“Casablanca” that is, not my balls). There are tons of war flicks, probably more on WWII than any other.  Set in this bizarre refugee city at the brink of a world at total war chaos, no one knowing which country will be overtaken next or where is safe.  In Casablanca, apparently anyone can get in but no one can leave, kind of like the Haunted Mansion at Disney World or Scientology.  We find the only place where Nazis and Allies are taking a breather from genocide to have a cocktail and listen to some great blues. If it wasn’t pretty much real, it would be too over the top to believe. I think this is what really set the story apart, that and it’s a love story. What’s that Bogie?  You’re not too terribly comfortable wooing a lady?  No sweat. You fell in love last year and all you have to do here is tell us you’re madly in love and we’ll believe it. I mock, but it’s a great mechanism in telling a tragic love story. Few films have been able to capture complete, passionate love in the few minutes we get on screen. Though we get a bit of a flashback, it’s mainly something we can just accept already happened and focus on the agony of not being together. And after all, true love means suffering. It’s melodramatic, but it works enough. Ingrid Bergman is certainly trying hard, but Bogart just doesn’t do it for me, but that’s just me. I’ll take Laurence Olivier playing Heathcliff any day for a nice brooding, aloof tragic romantic lead. Typically, this is considered one of the tightest scripts ever written, though it was joust around several times by 3 or 4 writers who hurriedly threw it together. While others find the balance of melodramatic romance, political intrigue and suspense at perfection, I can’t help feeling that I just don’t care much. Politically, it’s really a piece of propaganda to a country in the height of needing patriotism. The message is that the greater need is far superior to any little problem you might be going through. That’s not a message I really connect with today, nor do I know if I want to. And while the bouncing back and forth between romance and politics is clever (especially when it’s ironically segued by another awesome song, on the conscience part by the singers in the film when serious trouble starts to arise, they just smile and start a hummin’), especially when dealing with such horrible atrocities, I feel too removed to care. Replacing the leads would help me get into it better, who let us feel the life at stake, with Olivier and, let’s say, Meryl Oberon? But then I can just watch “Wuthering Heights” instead, and I do.  I’ve given it several shots now, and it’s just boring. It pops when the two sides are looking at each other in the same room with tension, and when Sam starts singing, and the last ten minutes, but the pop doesn’t outweigh the bore.  So, I guess I’m saying, it’s got some merit, but go watch ‘Wuthering Heights” instead. Side note (for all my fellow Disney fans out there): so for years I’ve been told (and passed on as I give personal tours of Disney World) the story of building the “Casablanca” scene in The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They bought a Lockheed 12A plane for the scene, chopping off the back-half because it didn’t fit in the building and using it on Jungle Cruise. After running the code number on the plane to see if it actually flew in WWII, they discovered it was actually the very same plane used in the movie. I’ve loved telling that story all these years. In reality, for the famous “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid” scene, it was filmed on a soundstage with a cardboard plane and a bunch of midgets in airport personnel suits. It all looked so bad, they doused the scene in a thick fog to try and cover it up. Now I’ve got two crazy stories and where oh where does the truth lie? I would love to know. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon… oh, to hell with it. Drinking Game: 1) Whenever the Cross of Lorraine of the Free French Forces shows up (that’s the symbol that looks like a crucifix for a Jesus with four arms) 2) As cool as Sam is, he clearly still knows his place 3) Bogart appears to have petrified (drink again if he starts moving again) Casablanca

53.  All the King’s Men, 1949 It’s sort of the poor man’s “Citizen Kane.” Or the poor, poor man’s “MacBeth.” I always thought it was set in Medieval times. Nope. Part of the intrigue for me was which character I’m supposed to be watching and what’s the motivation of anyone. It doesn’t seem to quite focus on a particular theme for the first half. I’m not sure how intentional that was, but it worked. The latter half is a bit more structured and by then we clearly see where it’s going, and because of that, it gets a little less interesting and the dialog a bit more cheesy at times, but Broderick Crawford plays a solid MacBeth, I mean Willlie Stark, who deservedly won Best Actor. The supporting cast, however, all graduated from the “A drama is best when it’s a melodrama” school of thought. And I love me some melodrama, when it’s done well (see “Wuthering Heights” from ten years earlier), but it doesn’t quite hit the mark here. Where feelings and empathy change towards Willie, I think you’re supposed to care about the supporting characters, but not so much. The one exception is Mercedes McCambridge’s in her film debut as the very atypical character for the time, Sadie Burke (for which she also won a Best Supporting Actress). She’s ballsy and she wears the pants and she’s been burnt before but it left Sadie street smart and an independent sort and ain’t no man gonna keep Sadie down. Side note, Mercedes got the role because she got furious at the producers when she and a bunch of other actresses were kept waiting for hours at an open audition. The film is worth a watch for the political changes, but much of the film is flat and doesn’t stand the test of time.  DRINKING GAME: 1) Campaign posters! 2) Someone’s got to make a speech 3) You know Sadie is really playing ball for the other team All the King’s Men 

54.  Annie Hall, 1977– Woody Allen. You either like him because he challenges your intellect because you don’t understand half of what he does and you can interpret what you will out of it to make sense of it so it must be art or you tolerate because you feel too stupid in society to admit it’s bad. I’m more inclined to the latter half. I would never be friends with him in real life. I would make fun of him with my friends for how socially awkward he is and then feel bad for him in the end. Then I find out he’s made a movie that surprisingly scored Best Picture and I tell everyone we’re friends and how I just saw him at a dinner party the other day and was telling him how uniquely witty he is. Woody seems to be very personable to people. In general, there is a tediousness to his work that bothers me more than I enjoy. Thus far, the two I really enjoyed were “Sweet and Low Down” and his newest “Midnight in Paris.” I think I like him best when he’s using fantasy, giving his perspective the ability to be clever and unexpected while letting us interpret how we will from our perspective without him forcing wine tasting events in the North Hamptons down our throats, or when Woody isn’t in the film. This movie hits one of the 2 requirements, making it worth a watch. The majority of the film is looking at all the things we think about but don’t share with our partners, for whatever reason.  It gives us a lot to think about personally and keeps us steadily chuckling. Diane Keaton, who won the Oscar for her Annie, looks accidentally well written. Where most of his characters are New York elite snobs, he tried writing a middle-class, uneducated, 70s feminist female lead. She comes across as normal and relatable (and interestingly, far from a feminist- though the suits and pants help disguise it). Even more so by how well Keaton makes her pop. Even more so by how much you want to be her friend and how much empathy you have towards her because she has to deal with the annoying Woody. Even more so because you so want to be in her family (Colleen Dewhurst is her mom and Christopher Walken is her brother and Grammie Hall makes awesome sauce). “La-de-dah, la-de-dah.”  As for Woody’s character, I’m guessing for years audiences felt like we were laughing with his characters, that someone who looks and acts like him would ever have women falling all over him and would be constantly sleeping around. In reality, we were laughing at him, because he really did see himself like that and wanted approval to sleep with his 12 year old step-daughter. It’s still as gross as it ever was. I think that’s a big part of why I can’t like him more. And I get tired of watching him, though his coke scene is a classic. A couple of elements I find to be quintessential Allen aren’t really present- his constant use of music and his single-shot, sliding camera-work. I kind of like both elements, but I think not having them in this keeps the movie pretty relatable today and not much dated at all. There are so few comedies or Independent-type flicks in the Best Picture cannon, this one is refreshing and worth seeing, once. DRINKING GAME: 1) Every time someone is wearing glasses (presumably to make Woody feel more normal and not look so much like a big, dorky nerd) 2) Woody uses a word with 4 or more syllables (shot if you’ve never heard the word before) 3) cameo of a kick-ass actor  4) Annie’s hair/clothes are that of an 80 year old woman (oh, those crazy 70s) 5) you see someone not Caucasian or not straight (oh, wait… instead, drink when Woody makes a racist joke)- how bout you just do that for every Woody Allen movie (oh, wait… well- they don’t really have those kind of people in New York I guess) Annie Hall 

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