Tuesday, May 19, 2015

David Holzman's Diary (1967)

Today's film is David Holzman's Diary.  This film is of great historical significance because it features the world's first vlogger.

David wants to make a video diary about his life.  He has lots of neat equipment: a videocamera, sound recorder, and microphone, all adding up to 19 pounds he carries around everywhere.  This is very interesting because we can see how far technology has come.  I can film myself on my iPod touch, which has a much better camera and weighs less than a pound.

The problem is that David has nothing to say.  He wants to film himself and his girlfriend, but she is having none of that.  He disrespects her wishes and films her asleep, so she leaves.  So now he's all alone.  Lots of people have vlogs now.  They can be about anything.  It can be about someone's interesting life, a journey across the country, raising kids, or hobbies.  But David's blog is literally about nothing.  In the end, he realizes this and gets frustrated with himself.  He doesn't properly lock up his equipment and they get stolen while he is out of town.  So that's the end of the movie.

This movie may seem like a documentary, but it's actually a film with a script. The people are just actors.  It looks realistic so I will give it a 6/10.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ben-Hur (1959)

Today's film is Ben-Hur.  This film had a huge budget, and they used every bit of it.  Authentic costumes, props, thousands of extras, no expense was spared and that makes one awesome movie. However, some of the editing cuts were pretty bad, but then again it was made in the '50s.

Judah Ben-Hur (played by Charlton Heston) is a Judean prince whose best friend is a Roman, Messala.  Messala (played by Stephan Boyd) is power hungry, and when an important Roman figure is killed by Ben-Hur's poorly maintained roof, he uses this to his advantage.  Instead of forgiving him, he makes an example out of him and sends him off into slavery, and also imprisons his mother and sister.

Ben-Hur spends the next three years as a galley slave, rowing the Roman boats.  He catches the attention of a Roman Consul, Quintus Arrius, and later saves his life when the boat sinks.  Arrius is so grateful that he petitions for his freedom and later adopts him as his son and teaches him how to drive chariots.  However, Ben-Hur is still consumed by his quest for revenge against Messala and he returns to his hometown.

Now here comes the part we've all been waiting for: the chariot race.  Ben-Hur meets a sheik that owns beautiful white horses and asks him to run the big race.  Once he finds out Messala is running too, he agrees.  Because the race is so dangerous, either one could die while doing it.  So now he can kill Messala in a semi-legal way, which somehow makes it better.  Messala may be an ass, but he hasn't killed anyone.  Meanwhile, Ben-Hur killed two guards while escaping prison, and then more people while the boat was sinking.

The chariot race scene itself had 15,000 extras.  The little town my husband lived in had 6,000 people living it it.  Ok?  So 6000 people in town and then over twice as many were in one scene in a movie, that's how big this scene was.  That's amazing.  The race was exciting, and Messala pulled some straight James Bond shit with his sharp wheels.  However, Ben-Hur won, which is not surprising because it is his movie.  Messala is dying from his injuries but Ben-Hur doesn't even care.  Was killing him really worth it?  Did it really change anything?

Meanwhile, he finds out that his imprisoned mother and sister contracted leprosy.  A remedy wasn't available back then.  Fun fact: leprosy takes about 3-5 years before symptoms appear.  They were imprisoned for 3 years, meaning they could have caught it long before they were imprisoned.  So, Ben-Hur killed the bad guy and will marry his slave's hot daughter (who is a terrible actress and took away from the scenes) but what will happen to his mother and sister?

One of my lit teachers told us about "deus ex machina" - basically, the writer can't end the story (like the plot has come to a standstill or they face an impossible problem) so something unexpected happens to solve the problem almost by magic.  It comes from Greek theater where a god would appear at the end to fix everything.  Well, this is how they solved the leprosy problem - Jesus, who by now has had a few cameos, uses his +5 god magic to heal them.  Wow.  Did not see that coming.  So the moral of the story is, if one of your friends betrays you, make sure you kill enough people to survive, and kill him too, then Jesus will heal your family.  Cause that's what happened.

Since so much effort was put into this movie, it really is a spectacle.  I will give it an 8/10.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Superfly (1972)

Today's film is Superfly.  It makes me sad that I missed out on wearing '70s clothes.  Our main character, Priest, is tired of his drug selling lifestyle and decides to make one big score and retire.  He has $300,000 dollars to spend and wants to turn it into $1 million before he cashes out.

Problem is, almost everyone's against him.  The mob, the corrupt drug dealing cops, his former mentor, and his partner/best friend.  Everyone is just using him.  It's easy to see why he wants to escape his life.  He can rely on the women in his life to help him out.  There is one sexy scene but it is too unbelievable as they don't make bathtubs that big.

Besides the photo montage of everyone using drugs, the overall film is unbiased about drug use.  Most films preach about how bad drugs are, but this film shows it as everyone's reality.  Priest's partner tells him if he stops selling dope, then the only thing he can do is be a pimp.  Like those are his only two options in life.  Once Priest escapes with his money, then no one will be able to tell him what he can or can't do.  He has a clever way to escape and keep his money safe from the crooked cops, and it works.  It is overall a straightforward film, and I enjoyed it, especially the music.  I will give this film a 6/10.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Today's film is Five Easy Pieces.  Jack Nicholson does a great job in this film.  He plays Bobby, who grew up in high society and was groomed to be a concert pianist, but abandoned it all to live a simple life working on the oil fields.

Bobby is dating Rayette, a not too bright waitress.  His friend, Elton, has a toddler and tries to convince Bobby that babies are great.  He tells him that Rayette is pregnant.  Bobby never asks her about it, nor does she ever tell him herself, so the fact of whether or not she really is pregnant is unknown or just plain ignored.

Bobby makes an impromptu stop at his sister's studio where she is recording piano music.  His sister tells him that their father has suffered from a series of strokes and may not recover.  Even though he doesn't want to, he decides to visit him for the last time.

He takes Rayette with him, but dumps her off at a motel before he reaches his parent's island.\ But, after a while, she runs out of money and goes to the island to meet him and his family, something he is quite upset with.  To him, she's simple and irritating (which is highlighted by the constant whiny female country music), and above all, asks for ketchup for a nice meal. Disgusting, I'd want to smack her too.  Later, there's a gathering of semi-intellectuals droning on and on, while Rayette demands to watch TV instead.  Equally uncomfortable by both his family and her, he just wants to leave.

Bobby tries to speak with his father, but it's too difficult as he is unresponsive.  He falls in love with Catherine, a woman practicing music at his house, but that's only because she's the opposite of him and opposites attract.  She has life goals and works hard to achieve them while he just drifts along.  She asks him to play the piano and he chooses to play the simplest song he knows.  He could be something but chooses not to.  Getting nowhere with her and not being able to talk to his dad, he leaves.

While leaving, Bobby and Rayette stop at a gas station.  He hands her his wallet while she goes inside.  He hops into a logging truck and tells the driver he lost everything in a fire.  The driver offers him and jacket and tells him it will be very cold where they're going.  I think they might be going to Alaska because we heard the hitchhikers earlier talking about how clean it is.  Bobby always takes the easy way out and always runs from his problems.  I liked this movie because it highlights and discusses a lot of problems society has, but the characters feel helpless to solve anything.  Bobby couldn't even get his toast per restaurant policy. I feel bad for him.  I will give this film a 6/10.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Today's film is Natural Born Killers. I was excited about it because it was written by Quentin Tarantino.  It was a very creatively made film.  I just didn't care for it overall.

Both Mickey and Mallory Knox came from traumatized childhoods, and band together to travel across America killing people.  They leave one person alive to tell the story and eventually become media darlings.  America loves serial killers.  They're dangerous, exciting, and mysterious.  Mickey points out that technically they are mass murderers, but since they do it more than once, I think it counts.  There are so many movies, TV episodes, documentaries, and books about serial killers.

The film has a highly visual style that requires the viewer's full attention.  There are a lot of extra images in the background, and random commercials as well.  It's like the media: bombarding us with violence then commercials to calm us down and make us want to buy stuff.  Coca-cola let the filmmakers use their delightful polar bears feature in the movie without bothering to read it which I think is hilarious.

Mickey and Mallory are caught and inexplicably wind up in the same jail.  Mickey pulls a daring escape in the middle of a live interview and they both escape into the wilderness.  Maybe they shouldn't have been put in the same jail at all, that would've solved that problem.  I also liked Wayne, played by Robert Downey Jr, because he was everything wrong with the media.  He only cared about himself and his ratings and ended up with nothing.

The movie was visually exciting but I don't think I would watch it again.  I will give it a 6/10.