Friday, May 31, 2013

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

In honor of my husband's 30th birthday, I am reviewing one of our favorite films, Anchorman.  This movie is hilarious from start to finish.

The plot: Ron Burgundy is an anchorman in 1970's San Diego.  He feels threatened when a new employee, Veronica, is hired as part of the news team. She is determined to become the world's first female anchorman.  They try their best to humiliate and sabotage each other. Will they ever learn to work together?


The acting is probably the best part of the films. Even when some of the most hilarious moments happen, they keep a straight face and just let the comedy happen.  Every movement is carefully thought out, and every line delivered flawlessly and dramatically. Look how Will Ferrell portrays his character's anguish:

Steve Carell was a gem as Brick, who had the best one-liners and random sayings. He is easily one of the funniest characters in the movie. Indeed, he does love the lamp. Although it is small, it shines brightly. Shine brightly, Brick.

Script: This movie would be pointless if not for its amazing script. It takes a typical story of feminist history where a woman desires to become "the first female so-and-so" and the jealous males who try to stop her. This could have been easily turned into a drama, but who wants to watch that? There are already plenty of news/tv crew dramas out there. There are so many puns and gags throughout, and the chemistry between the male news team is amazing.  From trying to stay the best rated team in town, to physically attacking rival news team in a huge street brawl; I don't how to put this, but they're kind of a big deal. I'm giving this an 8/10 for being funny from start to finish, with a well-written, almost beautiful script.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nanook of the North (1922)

A little baby with little puppies!
Today's documentary is Nanook of the North, one of the first full length documentaries ever made.  It focuses on Nanook, a hunter in Northern Canada, and his family of Eskimos.

It mainly focuses on stereotypes of Eskimos - seal hunting, dogsledding and Eskimo kisses.  We don't get to see them as regular people. What are they thinking about?  Do they like living where it is so cold?  This film is nothing better than a Nat Geo special.  It's so concerned with showing what they are that it never asks who they are. And that's a shame.  They did show a lot of the cute babies and puppies though. I'm giving this a 5/10.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Senna (2010)

Here's a documentary on the fast paced world of Formula One racing. Personally I like watching the Grand Prix rather than NASCAR; I think the races are more exciting. They even race in the rain!

Aryton Senna was a racer in the 1980's and 90's.  He started off as a go-kart racer in his native Brazil, and graduated to Formula One a few years later.  He had a natural talent for driving, but never played the politics game of racing.  For this, he was put in bad situations. His rival, Prost, used his knowledge of the politics of the racing game to strip Senna of his first championship and got him suspended. Did he deserve it? No, but the bitter rivalry made for great TV and made Formula One even more popular.

In the 90's, Prost's team got this neat car that was totally computerized, and a lot more high tech than any other car in the Grand Prix.  Nobody, not even Senna, could outrun this car. Prost easily won the championship.  Later, he was fired for making fun of the Ferrari brand. Lol, he deserved it. He is such a jerk.

The next year, Senna was hired by Prost's former team to drive the computerized car. However, right after he was hired, computerized cars were banned by race officials because they provide an unfair advantage. It is really tough luck that the jerk Prost was able to win even though Senna is a better driver, and now Senna can't even have the same advantages Prost has. It seems this was done on purpose. Unfortunately, removing all the computerized parts made the car harder to drive.  This made Senna's car lose control on a turn and crash, leaving him with a fatal head injury.

Senna was a hero to his native Brazil during his time, and will always be remembered as one the most talented drivers ever. His memory lives on in a charity founded by his sister, that focuses on helping underprivileged children.  After his death, safety measures were increased and there has not been another death in Formula One racing since.  This is a well made documentary and receives an 8/10.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

San Pietro (1945)

Why does every man in the '40s talk out of the side of his mouth? Enunciate!!!

This is nothing more than a propaganda piece done by the U.S. Army.  The narrator only refers to the other side as enemies. Not Germans or Italians, not people, not men and women. Enemies. The narrator seeks to dehumanize them as much as possible. When the camera pans over the American soldiers, they are all smiles.  When the camera focuses on the dead, they are being placed neatly in white bags. Their hands are carefully folded. When the camera focuses on the enemy dead, the bodies are sprawled out in grotesque positions; their eyes and mouths wide open. After the battle, the townspeople return from their hiding places in the mountains to their homes, "the children all laughter and smiles". Meanwhile, the camera pans over their homes, which are blown to smithereens (the narrator never mentions this).

Unless you're in a high school history class and need to write a paper about World War 2 battles, there is no reason for you to watch this movie. I'm giving this movie a 4/10.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Chelovek s kino-apparatom (Man with a Movie Camera) (1929)

Here is a documentary in its purest form: A man goes around town literally documenting everything that happens. And so many things happen!

We see people filling out marriage certificates as well as divorce certificates.  We see the preparations of a funeral, and a woman crying near a grave. At the same time, we see a baby's coming into the world. I love babies! The scenes are edited neatly to show us all of this happening at the same time.  We see that all stages of life happen all the time, even in a small town or city.  Somewhere down the road someone has just died, and at the same time, a baby has been born in a nearby hospital.  Life is always happening.
It's time to go to work!  I loved seeing the old machinery of the factories.  I had no idea that there was so much technology back in the 1920's. The camera catches the intricacies of the gears and other moving parts, and how they move so seamlessly to keep everything running. The sewing machines work on the same principle as my own, only mine has more features.  No matter what kind of job a person has, they all smile at the camera.
Now it's time for fun. The man with the camera goes to the beach and films people tanning and swimming. Next is a montage of people playing sports. This section is quick-paced and exciting.
Beach Aerobics!
The Man Himself
The Man with the movie camera goes to great lengths to get his prize shots. He lays on a railroad track to film a train, and actually stands on a moving car to film passers-by.  He hung off the side of a train to get some good footage as well.  Then everything was edited by a lady. This part should be called "The Lady in the Editing Room". Without editing, there wouldn't be a film, just random footage.  Honestly, this film is edited together much better than most modern films. You have to see it to believe it. I will give this film a 9/10.

Documentary Week

This week is Documentary Week!  Documentaries provide a realistic glimpse of a variety of subjects. They can be an effective learning tool.  However many documentaries are biased and some are propaganda. It's important to distinguish fact from opinion.  I believe that every day presents a new opportunity for learning. What sorts of things will we learn this week?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nosferatu (1922)

So, the quest for a horror movie that actually scares me continues.  I heard many great things about this movie. I was even lured in by the Netflix description which states, "the scariest Dracula adapation ever". No, it's not. It's not bad, it's just not scary.  I don't want a film with gore; I'm in the hospital regularly and seeing blood doesn't bother me. Jump scares are cheap. They're meant to startle, not scare.  I'm just so disappointed with every horror film I see.

Here's Count Orlok. He looks like Count Chocula. He makes me really want chocolately breakfast cereal.

Note that he's not named Count Dracula, because that would be copying the book.  The director did try to change a few things so he wouldn't be sued. But he got sued anyway.  At least he didn't do anything unforgivable like make the vampires sparkle.

Like I said, I watched this on Netflix, but instead of the original soundtrack, they replaced with some really awful music. So, as usual when I watch silent films, I turn on Pandora. And it was awesome. The best part was when Count Orlok is on the ship, and the sailors start dying off. One of the sailors goes down to the hull to check things out. Then, the song "Sail" by AWOLNATION came on.  The entire song matched flawlessly with the tempo of the film. That just turned up the viewing experience to 11.

I was a little perturbed by this scene. Ellen is waiting for her husband to come home from Transylvania, and goes to relax at the beach. That sounds fine. But why are there crosses everywhere? Is this a graveyard beach? What is going on here? And why, throughout the movie, does she keep have the psychic moments where her eyes get really huge? Is it Nosferatu's hold on her? Because this is not explained whatsoever in the film. There were a lot of things not explained. It's as if the filmmakers expected us to read Dracula and at the same time accept this as a different story. Not happening. I'm giving this film a 4/10.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chinatown (1974)

Here's one of the best films noir/mysteries I ever seen, and it's not even from the 1940's! It was made in 1974. (I had to look up in a grammar book what the plural of film noir was.) Why did I like it more than the other films noir I've seen? It's not just because this movie's in color. Although it did help me focus on everything. The colors are lush and gorgeous in this movie. A lot of the plot focuses on water or the lack thereof, and the colors of the city contrast with the beige of the desert and farmland.

Why is it better than most mysteries I've seen? Normally in mystery films, I can figure out everything within a short time frame. This is one of the reasons why I don't watch crime shows on TV. But this film has so many twists and turns, it keeps leaving me guessing, then waiting for more. Secondly, unlike most films noir, the main character (the private investigator) does not narrate the story. Instead, we discover the clues at the same time he does. It provides a more realistic feel. Also the main character is played by a young Jack Nicholson and he is awesome.

One thing I need to point out.  The story is supposed to be set during a heat wave and a drought, and it clearly appears to be summer. When Gittes, the private investigator, arrives at the farm, there are fully grown oranges in the trees. My house is surrounded by orange groves. They ripen in the winter and are picked all the way until spring. They would not be there in the summer! I wish directors would pay attention to things like that. Another thing, when Gittes is leafing through Mrs. Mulwray's wallet, I noticed a modern day Social Security card. Then he reaches in a different area of the wallet and pulls out a Social Security card of the film's era. So did somebody accidentally leave their Social Security card in the wallet before filming? And I noticed that there were goldfish in the Mulwray's pond. The pond is an important plot element because it is saltwater (and water is very important in this film). Goldfish can't live in saltwater. This part confused me to no end because I thought the pond was freshwater the whole time.

Then, once I think the mystery can't get any more convoluted, they throw an Oldeuboi-style twist at us! That kind of thing makes me throw up. A twist like that means the movie can never end happily. There is a lot of drama in this film, it's hard to figure out, but not hard to follow. It keeps us interested and intrigued the entire time. I'll give this film a 9/10.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shao Lin san shi liu fang (36th Chamber of Shaolin) 1978

Are you tired of watching the Academy Award winning films on this list, wondering why they won anything? Are you tired of watching heavily themed dramas from Europe?  Did you just watch a 3 1/2 hour silent film? Well, this review is for you! This movie gets straight to the point, and that point is
Kung Fu Fighting!!!!

San Te joins the temple at Shaolin in order to learn kung fu. He lost his family and friends to the evil Manchus, who are taking over China. He wants to bring this knowledge to the common man, so they can defend themselves.

When San Te first enters the temple, he is very determined to learn kung fu. But he spends his first year there cleaning.  When asked which chamber he wants to start with, he chooses the top, the 35th.  Obviously he is out of his league when he cannot say any of the verses, and the leader uses the Force to knock him down. He understands that he has a lot to learn, so he agrees to start at the bottom. Each chamber focuses on a technique or using a part of the body. There's the eye chamber, where he learns to focus. There's a wrist chamber, leg chamber, head chamber, all of them. He does exceedingly well in each chamber due to his perseverance.

The head monk asks him if he would help take charge of any chamber, except the 35th, which deals with the Force. San Te asks if he could lead the 36th. What? But there is no 36th! He explains that he wants to create it so the people can defend themselves.

The head monk kicks him out of the temple, but this just lets San Te do what he wanted all along. He recruits people to help him take down the general, and gives them great pointers on defense. The monks agree to let him lead his 36th chamber, and the villagers learn kung fu skills that will help them. Everyone is happy, except the bad guys who lose. Very awesome feel-good film with epic fight scenes. I'll give this movie an 8/10.

Note: Today's film's original title is Shao Lin san shi liu fang. It is also known as the 36th Chamber of Shaolin, and Master Killer. This is the reason why I post the film's original title first, because it can be translated in many different ways in other languages.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Frankenstein (1910)

A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that there are 63 films based on the story Frankenstein. That's a lot! Today I'm watching the very first film adaptation.

It says at the beginning of the film that it is a liberal adaptation. And I actually liked that.  Films don't necessarily have to be exactly like the book. With this being the first Frankenstein film ever made, I was kind of surprised they took so many liberties.  When I think of Frankenstein, I think of a steampunk laboratory in a scary castle, with lightning flashing. (Remember that the name Frankenstein refers to the scientist, not the monster! I keep forgetting that.)

Instead of sewing up decaying body parts for his monster, Dr. Frankenstein creates a very scientific potion and tosses into a tub. From that, the body grows, like a plant.  It may look silly now, but the effect of the monster being created is commendable for 1910.

The monster is grotesque and stalks Dr. Frankenstein and his wife.  But then, he looks in the mirror and realizes what a monster he is. So he vanishes! But, his reflection remains. This is possible because mirrors are actually portals into other time dimensions (if we're following the multiverse theory). So the monster goes to a dimension where he'll be more accepted.

Dr. Frankenstein sees the monster as a reflection in the mirror. So, we see that the monster he created was an extension of the evil in his mind. And when it vanished, the evil in his mind vanished too. I'm giving this film a 6/10.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Intolerance (1916)

The word "epic" was actually created to describe this film.  Here we get four films for the price of one. And it's a good thing we get title cards to explain everything because it switches from story to story randomly. I'm giving this film an 8/10.

What are the four stories?

 One focuses on modern times (1916), where a girl's life go from bad to worse at the hands of do-gooders who honestly think they're helping society. Will she ever catch a break?           Amazing acting right here. You can truly tell she's sad. When the director tells her to emote more, that is some emoting!  I did like the car chasing the train scene.                                                                      
The next story is about the French Catholics versus the Protestants. I don't know what the difference is, but they hate each other.  Very nice period costumes here. I like the attention to detail.

Third, we have the story of Jesus and some things he did in the Bible, like save a woman's life.  He also turns water into wine at a party.  The best I can do is turn Dr. Pepper into ammonia. Jesus is the best kind of friend to bring to a party.

Lastly, we have the story of the fall of Babylon. This is the story with the most amazing setpieces. Here's one right now!

All of the sets were built for this movie. There are some spectacular battle scenes, even one with a guy cutting someone's head off.  The makeup and special effects focusing on the battle wounds is very impressive for the time it was made.  Even to today's standards, the buildings, large gate doors, and temples of Babylon are grandiose in scale.

At the end, we see angels watching over the people of Earth in the midst of battle. Again, how did they do this without any technology?               Here's another thing I loved. The colors. There are scenes that are sepia, purple, blue, green. Skittleriffic! Why can't all "black and white" pictures be like this? I'd be more apt to watch them. It definitely cuts up the monotony of the constant greyness.

Last but not least, Vintage Boobies. You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Producers (1968)

Yes, there is a musical based on this movie, and it's hilarious.  But I'm reviewing the original film, made in 1968. Gene Wilder is so funny in every movie he's in, and Zero Mostel is a treat.  They play a producer and an accountant, Max and Leo, who discover they can make a lot of money. They gather lots of money from old ladies to produce a play that's guaranteed to fail, and take all the money lost and keep it! I'm not an accountant so I'm not sure exactly how that works. But I know it can't end well.

They spend hours reading through bad plays and are about to give up.  Some plays are tasteless, crass, and weird. But they come across a gem that's sure to give them everything they want. It's a musical...

...About Nazis.  There is no way we can sympathize with the characters, the story is completely uninteresting, and I would pay money not to watch it. The musical they chose is called Caberet.

I'm just kidding - it's Springtime for Hitler.  Max and Leo choose everything bad in order to guarantee the show fails. However, if you combine a bad director, bad actors, bad everything, what do you get? Something along the lines of a B-movie, something so terrible that it's awesome.

The audience finds the musical hilarious, and it turns out to be a big hit. So Max and Leo will have to pay their backers. Oh no! Now they will be exposed for the fraudulent ways.  So they'll have to go to jail. 

Lesson learned: don't create elaborate schemes to obtain money because you will ultimately fail. Not necessarily a lesson for everyday life, but it is still worth learning. I'm giving this movie a 7/10.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The King of Comedy (1983)

I wanted to watch this because I thought it would be a fun, lighthearted comedy movie. It's not. It's awkward. Every scene oozes with awkwardness and pain, like squeezing a neck pimple.  It's an overall unpleasant experience.

Rupert Pupkin (played by an unrecognizable Robert De Niro) desperately wants to be a famous comedian. He stalks his idol, a late night host named Jerry (played by Jerris Lewis).  Rupert is ambitious but doesn't know how to break into the comedy scene. He and his friend Masha kidnap Jerry and force him to let Rubert guest star on his show.

The performance by Sandra Bernhard as Masha was remarkable.  She perfectly executed a very creepy woman who seduces the tied-up Jerry. Her creepiness counterbalance's Rupert's awkwardness. The pair is unattractive, malicious, and overall makes me very uncomfortable.

Of course, Rupert's demand to be on Jerry's show is obeyed and the audience enjoys it. We don't actually get to hear the whole act. Does it matter?  Rupert is jailed afterwards, but bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. He writes a book about his experience, and later becomes a famous comedian.  So he had a dream, broke the law and endangered someone's life to achieve the dream, and then reached his goal. And what did we learn? Nothing at all. I'm giving this film a 7/10.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957)

I was disappointed in Midnight Cowboy, so I decided to watch an actual western, and I chose Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Here's the plot: It's about the events leading up to a gunfight. At the OK Corral. Got it?

Burt Lancaster was okay as Wyatt Earp. I mean his acting was good, and he's handsome; I just didn't like his character. I loved Michael Douglas' dad as Doc Holliday, who remains a badass gunslinger despite his illness. However, in this movie the word "tuberculosis" is never mentioned. I only know he had it because I watched Tombstone (essentially a well done remake of this movie) when I was little and my dad explained it to me. Thanks Dad. Did you know that in every scene Michael Douglas' dad preplanned all of his coughs to preserve continuity when the film would be edited later? True professional right there.

Doc joins Wyatt and his brothers to take down a gang of cattle rustlers.  We get to meet Wyatt's brothers towards the middle of the film. One of his brothers is Morgan Earp.

Wait a second, that's Bones!!!!!!!  I am so excited to see him! When I first watched Star Trek when I was six, there was an episode where Kirk and Bones go to the OK Corral. I thought it was so stupid to have a western episode in a show about space. But now I finally get it. It's a nod to DeForest Kelley's character in the movie. I'm giving this movie a 6.5/10.

It's a good thing they have a doctor from space in the old west, they're going to need it after this gunfight.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

I decided to watch a movie that had won a best picture Oscar, so I chose Midnight Cowboy, which won in 1969. What else was nominated? It was Anne of a Thousand Days, Z, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Hello Dolly!. Still trying to figure out why this one was chosen over the rest.

When they say "cowboy" they meant "hustler (male prostitute)". Was it the director's intention to use someone completely unattractive, vapid, and loud mouthed?  And he never stops bouncing when he stands! Stop Fucking Bouncing all the time! I get restless just watching him go about the city. Plus he wears those glaring cowboy shirts and neckties like he's Howdy Doody. Look at him:

Bleh. Maybe I'm spoiled. My husband has a strong Alabama accent, dark skin, dark hair, and was on the high school bull-riding team. That my friends, is a true Southern gentleman, not the idiot as portrayed above. So we observe him wandering the city, trying to pick up women for his business. I can't even feel sorry for him because he's just so goddamn stupid. The only saving grace in the whole movie was Dustin Hoffman, and he wasn't even that great because he insisted on sounding like Bugs Bunny the entire time. I'm giving this film a 5/10.

I'm onto your game, Joe Buck. I mean
Governor Rick Scott.

          However, as I was watching this, I couldn't help but think I had seen Joe Buck before somewhere. And then it dawned on me. At the end of the movie he rides the bus to Florida. And he's still here today.  He is still just as stupid (when there was a meningitis scare, he announced a public contact number but accidentally gave out the number to a phone sex line), makes poor choices, is completely unattractive, and is more than welcome to leave Florida as soon as possible.  We don't need you.

He even has stylish boots! Perfect for a "cowboy".

Ah hah! Still going about your old cowboy ways? How many
secrets do you have, Governor?


Friday, May 17, 2013

Duck Soup (1933)

Marx brothers movies are okay. They're silly but don't have any substance. This movie is like a live action Looney Tunes cartoon.

The movie starts out with the government of Freedonia begging Mrs. Teasdale for her inheritance money and she agrees only if a new leader is appointed. She chooses Rufus T. Firefly, played by Groucho Marx. And then not more than 5 minutes later, they start singing! I had no idea this was going to be a musical. Firefly is late to his own party, so he quickly jumps out of bed and slides down a firepole to the castle floor below. Now I've never been to an actual castle, but I can see why they would have firepoles. It must be tiring walking up and down all those stone steps in the towers all day.

The best part is Firefly's quick-firing jokes and one-liners. He says them so fast sometimes you have to rewind it to catch what he says. He has plenty of fat jokes, dirty jokes, and puns. “If you can't leave in a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If you can't leave in a huff, you can leave in a minute and a huff.”

I don't understand why Firefly has such big bushy eyebrows and mustache. They don't even look real. They look painted on with black makeup.

The spies, Chicolini and Pinky, are also played by Marx brothers. Pinky is silent but funny. He whips out a mousetrap, a blowtorch (just to light his cigar), a record, and a gun to shoot the record all from his jacket. And why is he always cutting things with his scissors? What is his problem?

No matter how hard they try, eventually their country goes to war. This of course leads to more singing. I'm giving this film a 6/10 for being silly.

On second thought, let's not go to Freedonia. Tis a silly place.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1920)

Wow, here is a silent film that kept my attention so much that I didn't even notice it was silent.  It starts outside in a mental asylum where a guy, Francis, is telling a story. This story is the plot of the film.  A lot of films are like this: told in a flashback by one character. Just get to the point already.

So Francis and his friend are both in love with the same girl. They all go to the carnival together. At this carnival, there is a sideshow featuring a somnambulist named Cesare.  What is a somnambulist ? Turns out it's just a fancy word for someone who sleepwalks. He can see the future, and is being controlled by Dr. Caligari.  We soon learn that Dr. Caligari is hypnotizing Cesare to kill people! Cesare kills Francis's friend and then kidnaps his girlfriend! Francis rescues her and discovers the truth - that Dr. Caligari is running the mental institution and has become obsessed with finding a somnambulist to control. But soon we learn the REAL truth, which also provides us with the very first film twist in history. This movie had a lot of action, and not too much overacting like we see in a lot of silent films.

Wait a second, was any of this real? Was his ladyfriend in any danger? Did any of this really happen? Did Cesare the somnambulist exist at all? Remember at the start of the movie we were being told a story by a man at a mental asylum.  We just saw a silent rendition of the rantings of a crazy person. I'm giving this film a 7/10. Awesome.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Corked (2009)

Today's documentary is Corked.  Well, it's not actually a documentary, it's a mockumentary.  That's a scripted movie performed as if it were an actual documentary, and makes fun of the subject it is studying.  If you've seen any films by Christopher Guest, these are the funniest mockumentaries.  This one is obviously very influenced by Guest's style.
This film takes us through the daily lives of winemakers as they prepare for an upcoming festival.  I'm sure the winemakers in different countries have different ways of life, but the film only focuses on the California Wine Country in Sonoma. 
There are many different kinds of winemakers:
  • The snobby winery owner who feels his clientele are better than everyone else because they enjoy his fermented grape drink. He is untrusting of his migrant workers in the fields, and harsh to the workers inside the processing area. Obviously votes Republican.
  • The rich boy whose millionaire father purchased a winery for him so he could run it and not be a failure for once in his life. He has many ideas, terrible ideas, but they're ideas!  Can he take his new career seriously, or is it time to party?
  • The frustrated manager who has to control the rich boy and reject all his really stupid ideas. He has to make wine, there is no time to babysit!
  • The hardworking one man show. He does everything from harvest the grapes, process them, create the wine, make labels and distributes them. Can a small business owner compete with the big time wineries?
As we see each winemaker in his natural habitat, we learn that there will be a wine festival coming up soon, and a pretigiuos wine critic is coming to sample their wines! How exciting! Will he judge fairly, or is this festival simply a popularity contest? We'll soon find out. I'll give this movie a 6.5/10.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I wanted to like this movie. I really wanted to.  Quentin Tarantino's films are full of fun and violence.  When he was asked why he makes his movies so violent, he replied "Because it's so much fun, Jan!!"
Some moments were tense and full of drama. Other moments were full of action. The Nazis are evil and everyone enjoys seeing them get beat.  The Nazis are not 'people' like us. They are personifications of evil and deserve to be beaten with a baseball bat and branded.
I didn't like this movie because every scene dragged on and on and on.  I was so bored waiting for something to happen.  I completely lost interest near the end of every scene. And every scene came from something I've already seen before.  The entire scene where the American holds up the wrong three fingers in a German bar was a story my dad told me when I was little.
Why is this movie in the 1001 list? It is a fine example of revisionist history?  Hitler never went to trial or had to answer for his crimes. He killed himself before anyone could catch him.  But, here he dies in a barrage of bullets and fire. Do we feel that now he has received justice? What do we gain from this?
I think that if it's supposed to be a fun violent movie, I should be having fun. And I'm not. I'm giving this a 6/10.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (1988)

This beautifully drawn anime is not about dragons, magic, or robots from the far distant future.  This anime is a realistic depiction of a brother and sister coping with loss and navigating an uncaring world.
Seita tries very hard to take care of his little sister, Setsuko, and shelters her from the reality of what's going on.  He does not tell her that their mother died in the recent bombing. He tells her that she is going to a hospital in another town.
Their spiteful aunt reveals the truth to Setsuko. Their aunt has no intention of taking care of them and give them the most meager portions of anyone in the house. 
One thing that bothered me is why Seita never asked for help. He must feel helpless because his aunt refused to help them and doesn't trust anyone. But he needs to for the sake of Setsuko.  When he took her to the doctor, the doctor told him she needed food, but he keeps trying to provide for them on his own.  When he was caught stealing food from the farm and brought to the police, the police officer is kind and offers Seita some water. Why didn't he tell the officer they needed help? There had to be a place somewhere that took in children and fed them, or maybe a shelter for victims of the bombings.  We know that they have family in Tokyo, why didn't he look them up? I don't know my parent's address, but I can look it up if I want to visit them.
Think about how many drone strikes there are today. Think about how many bombs or leftover mines went off.  How many children were killed today?  The exact number is something we won't know.  The movie is powerful as it reminds us of the forgotten victims of war.  It also shows that animation is not just a medium of fantasy, but can portray the darkness of reality as well. For that reason I will give it an 8/10.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Memento (2000)

Huge Spoiler:

A man with no short-term memory tries to find his wife's killer. In truth, he was the one who killed her. His wife tricked him into giving her too much insulin because she was tired of dealing with him. Due to the traumatic nature of his wife's passing and his own mental defect, he was able to partially block this memory, attributing it to another person. There. I just saved you two hours of utter confusion. You're welcome. Film gets 5/10 for being backwards. Stop trying to be all fancy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dracula (1931)

This is the cheesiest movie I have ever seen. As such, it is very funny. When I saw it was one of the number horror films on almost every list I read, I had no idea it was going to be so campy.  The special effects are abysmal, the acting is sub-par, and there was like no action at all.

Bela Lugosi was very creepy as Count Dracula and has the voice and accent that everyone still today associates with him.  In the far distant future, people will dress up as vampires for Halloween and still speak in his accent. It's become a part of our culture. People have been obsessed with vampires for hundreds of years.  There's at least 15 vampire movies on the "1001 Films" list. I personally think that that's overkill.  All we need is a classic one, that set the genre, and a recent one that either redefines the genre or provides a similar but more in-depth story.  But no, we get 15 or 16.  I'm not going to sit here and count them cause I'll just get angry.

We first encounter Count Dracula at his castle in Hungary/Transylvania. The castle courtyard is overrun with armadillos and possums, which are very common here in Florida, but wouldn't be near a European castle. It's too cold for them.  The castle is also covered in cobwebs and is generally a wreck. If a vampire can live forever, then certainly he can find some time to clean his place.

He leases Carfax Abbey, which is next to the sanitarium in England where his lawyer, Renfield, is sent to after being bitten and becoming one of his slaves.  Renfield was so great with his crazy eyes, expression, and over-the-top voice.  His nurse/orderly, Martin, was one of the funniest characters with his dry sense of humor. Count Dracula is not scary at all, just weird and creepy. And his fangs are never showed.  How am I supposed to know he's a vampire if I can't see his fangs? Film gets a 6/10.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This movie does not simply take us through outer space. We get to experience the harsh winter of Hoth, the swamp jungle of the Dagobah system, and even journey to a city in the clouds.

I was lucky in that I got to see the re-release on the big screen.  The beginning scenes on Hoth were excellent. The empire comes to fight them on the rebel's snowy base and there's lots of explosions and fighting (x-wing fighters vs. the at-ats).  But, the rebels have to leave because its no longer safe.
I never saw the point of Yoda other than to reiterate the fact that they're in space so there has to be space aliens. In the first movie, we saw aliens in the bar, but Yoda is different.  He is a Jedi (and until the prequels the only alien Jedi that I noticed) and a scholar.  He has been training Jedis for 800 years. He trains Luke to harness the force. He also has a weird backward way of talking.
Han catches up with his old friend Lando in Cloud City.  But Lando is going to betray them! When Han sees Darth Vader in the other room, he immediately starts firing at him. No questions, no long story, he just springs to action. He is so awesome. This post needs a picture of him. When Han is being dragged away to be frozen in carbonite, Leia cries out that she loves him. Originally, George Lucas wrote in the script that Han was to reply that he loved her too, but no one thought that matched his character. That's why he simply says, "I know."

There we go.

Vader is wanting to take Luke to the Emperor. So there's someone higher up than Lord Vader? Well of course, he's just a lord. I always thought that even when I was watching the first movie. If he was the highest one in command, he'd be called like Emperor Vader, not Lord Vader. And then, Luke comes and fights Darth Vader.  They have an epic light saber duel which will ultimately lead them to a stunning revelation.

Behind the scenes photo from the film.
There are several hints at Luke and Leia's true relationship.  Such as when Yoda says, "There is another." And they have this kind of "twin telepathy" thing going on.  When everyone's leaving Cloud City, Leia tells them to turn back because she knows where Luke is and they go right to where he has fallen down at the bottom of Cloud City.  Vader only knows about Luke (I'll discuss how he finds out about his daughter in the next film). Of course, he wasn't there for their birth during the prequel because he's a whiny jerk who abandoned them.  But when the Emperor tells him the dangers of the son of Skywalker, he insists that he can turn him so he won't become a Jedi. He even tells Luke that he wants them to rule the galaxy together. And he orders Boba Fett not to disintegrate anything because he wants everyone on the Millennium Falcon alive.

I'm giving this film an 8/10.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Report (1967)

Whaat? This is not a film! I feel like I've been tricked.  Although, the film is titled Report, and that's all it is. A news report. About the JFK assassination.  As if he's better than all of us.  People die every day.  If he did not want to get shot at, then he shouldn't have ridden in a car with the top down in the middle of Republicanland.
The worst part is that most of it didn't even have any video to go along with it. I thought that was the whole point of a movie - a motion picture with sound.  If one of the elements is missing, it's not a movie.  I listen to the news report every morning with no video. It's called a radio.  Are we going to include morning radio broadcasts in the film list now too? I'm giving this a 0/10 for not being a film at all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

I wanted to watch a movie Azalea could watch with me, so we both chose Singin' in the Rain. This is honestly the first time that either one of us has ever seen this movie.
We both enjoyed the songs very much. They were fun.  Neither one of us saw the point in all the tap dancing routines. I understand that it was popular back then, but my daughter was not the least bit interested.  It's really just them banging around with metal shoes on.
The movie is a musical in the era of silent films, which is funny because a musical is the opposite of a silent film.  Like in the later film The Artist, some actors and actresses just couldn't make the transition. Such as Lina Lamont, who is beautiful but dim-witted and has the worst sounding Betty Boop type voice I have ever heard.  So they find a stage actress named Kathy to dub over her voice so she can successfully perform in the studio's first talking picture.  I found out that some of the songs were actually sung by Jean Hagen, who plays Lina. So it's Kathy dubbing Lina, but it's actually Lina.
This movie is fun, with songs and dancing and a happy ending. It's a good movie for kids. I will give it a 7/10.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Robert Redford and Paul Newman were great in this movie and in the movie The Sting.  Also, they are very handsome.  I could probably have watched them play two hours of World Championship Poker and been enthralled.

Paul Newman plays Butch Cassidy, the leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, and Robert Redford plays the Sundance Kid.  They rob trains with dynamite, and then play poker.  One of Butch's gang members challenges him to a knife fight, so he kicks him in the balls and knocks him out.

Then, Butch rides a bicycle with a hot lady, Etta, while the song "Raindrops keep falling on my head" is playing, which is exactly what I expect when I watch a Western.  The funniest part is when they blow up another train but used enough explosive for like 5 trains and there was this epic explosion.

After the robbery, a posse is sent out to follow and capture them.  Butch and the Kid toy with the idea of either joining the Spanish-American War or going to Bolivia. They end up going to Bolivia. First, they go to New York City with Etta, who appears to be their mutual girlfriend. They see the sights, shop, and live like high society.  They hop on a steamship to Bolivia. When they arrive, they realize that it's a craphole. What did they expect?  Butch and Sundance go to rob their first bank and discover they don't understand anyone. Omg, I am dying with laughter.  They didn't bother to learn any Spanish before they went. And besides, they're white people in a South American country in the 19th century.  People are going to notice them and remember them.

 I do have to say one thing about Etta.  It's supposed to be the year 1898, not 1969 (the time it was filmed).  Yet she is wearing smoky eyeshadow and too much eyeliner.  At least try to get the makeup somewhat accurate. She is taking me out of the film.  Also, the bruise on Sundance's face is the exact same shade of smoky eyeshadow. And, the blood on any character is far too orange to be regarded as real blood. The makeup department seriously failed in this movie.

Even though there are some flaws, overall the movie is quite funny with some action, and I will give it a 7/10.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Today's film is Being John Malkovich. In this film, we first encounter Craig, a talented puppeteer that sacrifices everything for the chance to perform his art.  He neglects his wife, his personal hygiene, and actual employment, until one day his wife asks him to look for a job. He finds one as a filer for a strange office located on the 7 1/2 floor of a highrise.  One day, he finds a tiny door that opens to a portal, like in Alice in Wonderland.  He cautiously climbs down into it, and wakes up in the mind of John Malkovich!  About 15 minutes later, he is spat out onto the side of the New Jersey turnpike.

So he starts his own business along with a coworker, selling 'mind-trips' into the mind of Malkovich, making a lot of money. Meanwhile, his wife is at home still being ignored while he flirts with his coworker, who could not care less.

The character I feel most for is Craig's wife, Lotte.  We know that she wants to have a baby, because she tries to discuss it with Craig, but he'd rather spend time in the basement with his puppets. (He even makes a far more beautiful puppet of his coworker and plays with it in the basement! That is all kinds of creepy.) She is a caring person, so in lieu of a baby, she has all sorts of pets, including a monkey with his own therapist. When she enters the portal to Malkovich's mind, she feels sexually excited for the first time in a very long time. She mistakenly believes that she wants to become a man, but really all she's feeling is excitement because she's something different.  Because at the moment, she's a different person.  She doesn't want to be herself anymore, because nobody wants her or loves her. And that's sad. She deserves so much more.  Will she find happiness? Maybe she will, in an unexpected place.

I could go on and on asking questions about this movie, and I think that's why it's so meaningful to this list of 1001 movies.  If a movie raises questions and sparks discussions, it proves that it's not just a medium of art, it's on a whole different level.

What happens to the people's bodies when they enter the portal? Are they caught in stasis inbetween dimensions until they pop out at the side of the road?  And why does Flemmer need to take over Malkovich's body on his 44th birthday? What is the significance of 44? Is it because 4+4=8? Is that why they're on the 7 1/2 floor because that's right before 8?

This raises serious ethical questions about free will and immortality.  Is it really living forever if it's in another person's body? Should Flemmer have brought so many people with him? What if one of them fights for control of the body? Will this cause Malkovich to have a nervous breakdown?  Does this explain why some people have auditory hallucinations (voices speaking to them) - because they are listening to the multiple voices Actually in their head? I have a lot more questions, so I'm going to rate the movie a 9/10.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

L'âge d'or (The Golden Age) 1930

For the first few minutes, we get to learn all about scorpions. They truly are fascinating creatures.

Then, the title card said, 'Picturesque Views of the City', and that's exactly what we get. Suddenly, we see a man kicking a violin down the street.  I am sure it was a very bad violin that called him names.

The poor man and woman keep trying to make love, but are continually thrwarted.  Probably because they keep trying outside where people can see them. The only time we ever see the inside of her bedroom is when she walks in and there's a cow on her bed! I hate when that happens.

There is a fancy dinner, and they keep trying to get it on outside.  So many weird abstract things happen.  But alas, the man is dragged away from the woman again.  He goes into a room and relieves his pent-up desire and frustration by throwing things out the window.
After this, it inexplicably switches to a castle, where a giant orgy has been held. Then Jesus walks out.  I really can't say much about this film because it's very abstract. I know that the film makes fun of the stuffiness of organized religion and high society. It just does it in a really odd way. I will give this film a 6/10.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Star Wars (1977)

It is May 4th! May the Fourth be with you!  Or, in other words, today is Star Wars Day and I hope you are enjoying this most glorious of holidays.

This is truly a fairytale set in space. An unassuming farm boy goes on a daring mission to rescue a princess from an evil lord, and then goes on to save the whole galaxy. My daughter enjoys the fairytale aspects of it, and of course I love anything sci-fi.

The thing I have a problem with is the fact that there is supposed to be no sound in space. However, we hear the sounds of the ships themselves and the weapons firing quite often.  It works because our minds are so used to matching the sounds with the image, that if it were accurate and had the space battles in complete silence, it would feel really weird.

The technology used for this film was amazing.  They didn't have the same computers and high-tech equipment we have today. They managed to have talking robots, spaceships, x-wing fighters (my favorite in the movie) and a really really huge moon. Wait, that's no moon. It must be a space station. Outstanding!

I also love the chemistry between the three main actors, Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke), and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). I don't think that this movie or the others to follow would have been nearly as good if it weren't for them. Both Luke and Leia are strong-willed and are determined to get their way, and Han is the very very handsome and lovable scoundrel.

At one point, Han boasts that he made the Kessel Run in only 12 parsecs, a daring feat for a pilot. Wait, aren't parsecs a measure of distance, not time? Did Han misspeak? No, actually, he's telling the truth. (He's probably exaggerating a bit though.)  If you read any of the books, you'll find the Kessel Run is 18 parsecs in length, because it goes around The Maw, a cluster of black holes. Most pilots avoid this area. However, Han flew as close as possible, narrowly avoiding the black holes, in order to reach his destination (and guarantee the authorities wouldn't follow him). He's not bragging about his speed; he's bragging about his ability as a pilot and his ship's maneuvering capabilities.

Star Wars is a great film whose technology paved the way for many other science fiction films. I will give it a 9/10.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Astrópía (2007)

When I was searching for a fun movie, I came across this hidden gem all the way from Iceland. It's called 
Astrópía, and it's similar to The Big Bang Theory sitcom.  The film reminds me of the sitcom because it's about a ditzy blonde who meets and later befriends a bunch of 'nerds' or 'geeks'.   The two terms mean different things, but they are used interchangeably far too often.  In this case, they're geeks because they have a specific interest in a certain aspect of pop culture, such as a certain video game, roleplaying, or films.

Hildur is a spoiled blonde who loses everything when her boyfriend is arrested for fraud.  She moves in with her friend, who has a young son. She is offered a job on the spot at the local comic book store just by entering to spend time with her friend's kid. Although she's doesn't know anything about any fandom and can't answer any questions, the store does amazing business (because she's a hot blonde in a comic store) and the employees want her to stay so they won't have to count the register anymore.

Meanwhile, Hildur's boyfriend is in jail and is planning his escape.  The escape is similar to the one in The Shawshank Redemption, but it's done in a very over-the-top and comical manner. 

During the majority of the movie, the characters speak in Icelandic, except certain phrases, which they exclaim in English, such as, "The Force is strong in this one.", and,  "Sweet Jesus on a Tricycle!"

Hildur decides to learn how to role play in order to help her customers better. She goes to her boss, Goggi's, house and plays her first game. The other characters are Playmolas the elf (played by Dagur, the cute guy who likes her), Inigo Montoya the warrior (played by Beta, the girl), and Rincewind the sorcerer (my favorite since I love this Discworld series).  Whenever they role play, we see their imaginations so it appears as if they really are elves and warriors in the forest.

When her boyfriend and everyone else in the prison for that matter escape from prison, they kidnap Hildur and it's up to her new geek friends to rescue her.  I loved it when Beta ran in yelling "Leeeeeeerrrrrrrooyyy Jenkinnnnnnsss!" because I do the same thing all the time.  This movie was great and I will give it an 8/10.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Grizzly Man (2005)

I have to tell you about this amazing documentary I watched. It's called Grizzly Man and it's the true story of Timothy Treadwell and his love of grizzly bears.  He seems to equate the bears with the cuddly teddy bears of his childhood.  However, real grizzly bears are highly dangerous carnivores that will not hesitate to eat a human being. 
The Grizzly Bear should be respected for its strength and ferocity.  It should never be a pet or domesticated in any way.  It should never be forced to perform tricks in a circus.  It should never be attacked and milked for its bile on a farm.  The bear belongs in its natural habitat in the wild of Alaska where it can be free to run and hunt. 
A few months out of the year, Timothy goes to live in Alaska with these carnivores.  The people interviewed in this film all think he is crazy for going up there year after year. Eventually, he's going to get eaten by a bear.
Guess what happens. He gets eaten by a bear.  One year, he is staying in his usual spot in Alaska in a tent with his girlfriend.  The video camera's microphone just happens to be on during the incident.  So there is audio, not video, recording of what happened.  The audio is never played during the documentary as to respect their families.  Of course, I was curious and looked up the original police report and found the audio files. What I heard was the horrific screams of a man and woman clearly being attacked by a bear. 
What makes this documentary great is that it provides a glimpse into the life of a person who loved nature and wanted to share his passion with others. He often taught classes at elementary schools and shared the same childlike wonder of animals and the natural world as the young students did.  He just was not responsible for his enthusiasm and misjudged the ferocity of the wild bears.  I give this documentary an 8/10.