Monday, June 24, 2013

Great Movie #105 - Gone With The Wind

We finally did it.  I don't know how we did it, but we did.....we got through this never ending movie.  This film was the Titanic of its time; and an hour longer.  I have this belief that the general conception of this film is that it is a mushy romance from an era racked with campy, melodramatic romance.  Thus far, this was the most entertaining movie experience I have had, hopefully there will be many more to come.  

I couldn't help but remain in awe of looking at a film made 74 years ago (1939) and not seeing it as dated.  I think that's a testament to epic storytelling, which is universal.  I think what made it so enjoyable was our approach to watching it.  C'mon, we had to crack jokes on this movie to get through it, we just had to.  Some dramatic points were just so ridiculous you couldn't help but laugh.  

With all that said, I cannot stand Scarlett O'Hara.  She was such a piece of work, if she was a real person I might have to pour a drink on her.  I guess Vivian Leigh is one of the greatest actresses to hit the stage if she could generate such emotional reaction from the audience.  You see this woman grow from a self - absorbed debutante, to an entrepreneurial debutante spending three hours and ninety-five minutes chasing a man that doesn't want her.  To add to this stew of drama, we have none other than Rhett Butler aka (the one and only) Clarke Gable.  Talk about swag on overdrive, that's Rhett Butler.  Almost every other scene this man wouldn't let things phase him.  He was driven to get his woman, and he got her... ultimately to his disappointment.  Yet and still we were able to hear one of the best lines ever. Granted this is only the second time I've seen this film, the emotion behind the "...I don't give a damn." line just oozes with authenticity.  Clarke Gable makes you believe what it saying.  By that point in his career I guess Gable was such an experienced actor it was effortless.

By far the strongest aspect of this film was it cinematography.  The grandiose nature of the set pieces continually pulls your eyes to the screen.  The rich array of colors from scene to scene was just pleasing to the eye.  Coming in second would be the performances particularly of Vivian Leigh and Clarke Gable.  They steal the scenes every time they hit they enter it.  Hell, a new goal of mine is to get what I now call the Rhett Butler swag.  Just imagine, I'm on that 'R.B. swag' (#brilliant).  I  could not address its depiction of race.  The almost propaganda style depiction of the Pre-Civil War South and Reconstruction Era to follow was a bit unsettling for both 'the Mrs'. and Byron.  Still a bit understandable, but in a Post Obama America, who really cares? Yet and still the racism was there and it was something we deconstructed and found humor in its ignorance.  

I feel that people tend to forget about Gone With The Wind as the original epic of the Classic Hollywood system instead replaced by The Ten Commandments (1956).  Though this isn't one of my favorites, this movie should be required watching for any actor or filmmaker.  There are lessons here in performance, cinematography, writing, directing, theory, the list just goes on and on.  We're in agreement this film deserves to be on the list of 1,000.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to stare in the mirror and work on my Rhett Butler Swag.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Great Movie #19 - Taxi Driver

We made it to the first Scorsese on the list.  I feel that next to Goodfellas, Taxi Driver was the first major milestone in his career.  By now there have been just so many great/memorable films by Scorsese you can't help to maybe forget about this one.  Understandable but let's be clear on one thing,  as great as his films are, they still aren't Taxi Driver.

This 1976 film by today's standards is definitely dated, but contains immense strength through its plot.  This character profile is eerie and disturbing to watch as Travis Bickle unravels at the seams.  Not much can be said about the film from a technical standpoint, but rather the film retrospectively.  For example seeing what New York looked like prior to the Giuliani era.  A time when Time Square was full of grime and not a place for tourist.  In addition I found personal enjoyment in the performance to a young De Niro.  A De Niro who has yet reached his full potential and has yet to create a pantheon of memorable characters.  Though I have only seen it once before, this was Byron's fist time seeing this movie (yet another in a series of shocks).  For him, it didn't live up to his expectations considering how much people hype it up.  Totally understandable, I had the same experience the first time I saw Scarface.

No doubt about it, Taxi Driver is from age in cinema we'll never see again.  An era where storytelling and film making techniques were fresh. An era before VFX and CGI was a house hold commodity.  The provocative subject matter and violence though common by today's standards is still intriguing to analyze compared to the other films released in that era.  With all that being said, the slow pacing of the film (something common in the '60s and '70s) still makes it difficult to watch along with the semi anti-climatic ending.  What the movie does have going for it is the provocative subject matter and violence which clearly has influenced later films to push the envelope even further.

All in all just watch it once and be done, it's a good appetizer before a great catalog of film by one of the best to ever do it.                          

Monday, June 17, 2013

Great Movie # 3 - 2001: A Space Odyssey

Oh man, talk about a real mind fuck. There have been few movies have left me wondering what I just watched, literally.  This is the first and last time I will watch this film.  I honestly don't even know where to begin.  Yes, it's worth that much hyperbole.

2001 (ASO) released in 1968 is one of Stanley Kubrick's most recognized films.  Filled with various moments of dazzling cinematography, Kubrick leaves you largely perplexed and unfulfilled. It can be said that Kubrick's photographic eye was running on all cylinders when he story boarded this film.  You could literally print shots out, frame them and they'd still be beautiful.  The picture opens with the dawn of man at the moment when ape gathers intelligence. We transition into a future where man has perfected space flight and is exploring Jupiter.  From there (which makes up about 45 minutes of the movie) I had no idea where Kubrick was taking us.  He did make sure he inserted contemporary elements of science fiction in the film.  Apes, time travel, artificial intelligence, Skype, everything.  My personal favorite was the black monolith.  So much symbolism inserted into a simple black slab; just amazing.

The film's pacing takes away everything that is beautiful and interesting about the film.  Just getting through the first twenty minutes was laborious.  Sitting here thinking about this movie makes me not to watch it ever again, seriously.  Byron put it perfectly, 'An esoteric plot that was a trial to get through'.  He also put it plainly 'It was boring as shit'.

I'm sure there are many people that love this film or hate this film.  I appreciate that Kubrick puts out a film that forces you to have a stance.  I won't sugar coat it for you, this film has severe weakness in pacing and plot.  These issues left us upset because questions were unanswered.  However I cannot emphasize it enough,  the visuals were just AMAZING.  I'm almost going to say it is one of best visuals that I have ever seen on film. In addition Kubrick's vision of the future and technology's evolution is nothing short of awe (considering in 1968, man had just arrived on the moon).

Byron felt some of these effect still hold up to today's standards.  As an avid sci-fi fan, 2001 has influenced every sci-fi film in the genre that followed it.  It is that amazing!  Maybe Stanley Kubrick's intention with the film was to spark conversation.  Maybe it was to spark thought and reflection.  Who knows.  Whatever the result is know that this film deserves to be on the list.  Its innovative depiction of science fiction and forward thinking visuals allow me to even consider putting it in the top 5, Byron has disagrees and doesn't think it should crack the top 50.  Final thought: watch 2001 once; tread carefully, be done with it and judge for yourself.

Great Movie # 2 - Vertigo


Byron and I hit the ground running on this list.  We agreed to skip the no. 1 ranked Citizen Kane.  It was still fresh in my mind (since I made the Mrs. watch it).  Not to mention that it is just that good of a movie.  In my book I can appreciate it being listed as number 1; Byron not so much.  Foretelling of future verdicts... possibly.  So we're starting off with no. 2 on the list, Vertigo.

Vertigo was released in 1958 by Alfred Hitchcock starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.  It's a cerebral mystery of obsession with suspense in only the manner that Hitchcock knows how to deliver with a very interesting twist.  This was probably the second time I watched this film completely from beginning to end.  That tells you how much I can watch it.  I always found the pacing of this film tough, and it doesn't get faster with time.  I suspect it goes to the voyeur effect that really pushes the picture along.  We literally spend an hour or more watching Jimmy Stewart watch Kim Novak from afar.  It's the amazing cinematography as well as the strong color pallet (particularly reds and greens)  that captures my attention every time.  As someone who has traveled many a time to San Francisco, Bryon could appreciate how Hitchcock depicted the beautiful metropolis.  In addition, the beautiful composing of Bernard Hermann's score creates a healthy blend of urgency, romance, and intrigue as a back drop to this film that defines obsession [courtesy of the excellent performance of Jimmy Stewart].    

One thing Byron and I could agree that upon it's theatrical release, there wasn't anything like Vertigo ever seen before.  I'm sure there hasn't been a film in the with psychological twist in identity like Vertigo to it.  As Byron would put it, a real 'mind fuck' for the time of its release.  Something I can totally see and agree with.  Hell, it fucked with my mind the first time I saw it.  Yet and still Byron couldn't help but feel that its twist doesn't hold up to as many contemporary films that accomplish the same thing.  Regardless, this film came first which gives it credence.  Something that cannot be denied, and should be appreciated.  

What I find interesting is that of all his films, many (both academics and casual fans) consider this his greatest work.  An idea that I still cannot wrap my mind around. What about Psycho, or North by Northwest?  I don't know, I guess I'll gather some kind of insight but the time we're done.  If any of you have an opinion, I'm glad to hear your thoughts on my FB wall.  However, despite the accomplishments and regard the world has for Vertigo, we both agree this film isn't worth ranking at number 2.  I'm willing to consider putting it in the top 20...maybe even top 50.  That will have to wait until we go through all 1,000.  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Journey In Time, Space, & Reelality

I don't know how long it has been since I even looked at this journal, but finally there is something to talk about.  Originally this blog was meant to be my opinion about the movies that I watch whether it is new or old.  Nice premise but wore off relatively quickly.  Now,things are different.  I have agreed to take on a journey (so to speak) through the history of cinema.

Here's how it began....

One day at the job, my friend Byron  messaged me with a link to an interesting list.  The list is the 1,000 Greatest Films by Ranking [].  Things got even more interesting when Byron posed the challenge to me... to go through and watch every movie on that list.  The goal of this task to simply understand why these films are considered the greatest pieces of cinema.  Sure every film student in the world has seen these film, but I know for me it has been a while for some, and never for others.  I was intrigued.  The Mrs. on the other hand couldn't do anything but roll her eyes.  Yet again another film debate on the horizon.  So here are the rules we've set for ourselves:

  • We start with the no. 1 ranked movie.
  • Any movie we've have seen can be skipped unless the other feels the need to watch it again.  
  • On an off day we will take alternating turns choosing any movie on the list to watch.   
Simple enough right?  I thought so too with one simple hang up... Byron hasn't really seen anything on this list.  There goes my weekends for the foreseeable future.  It won't be easy that's for sure but we shall succeed... let's get it!!!