Friday, July 31, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Today's film is All Quiet on the Western Front.  What? Two war films in a row?  Well, yesterday's film was from the French point of view, and today's film is from the German point of view.

The movie focuses on a class of high school boys, who are egged on by their teacher to join the war effort as soldiers to defend the Fatherland, Germany.  The boys all join and look forward to being soldiers.  One of their leaders also happened to be their mailman so no one takes him seriously.

Then, we get into the actual warfare, and the boys realize that with all the talk about how great it is to defend the Fatherland, no one said it was terrifying and filled with explosions.  People are losing limbs left and right, and other people get blown to pieces right before their eyes.  None of this was done for just shock value, it's meant to show us that this is what really happens during war.  The film gives us time to get to the know each of the soldiers, so it's really sad to see each one of them die.

There's also a discussion of how WWI got started in the first place.  I always get surprised when I see a motorcycle or truck in these films, but I have to remind myself that this was between 1914 and 1918, not the 19th century.  But I think I know the reason why.  I live in the South, and history here is taught war-by-war.  We spend a great deal of time learning about the Civil War, and then immediately jump into WWI next.  Civil War ended in 1865 and WWI started in 1914.  That's 49 years!  What happened in between those years? I don't know!  They don't even discuss how it happened, they just mention a quick blurb about it before jumping into WWII, which was started in 1939, which again is 25 years we miss.  Man, schools are shit.  I do know that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered after dropping his album "You could have it so much better" and this made all the countries in Europe mad and they started shooting each other.  Now we have WWI.

The German soldiers in the movie also question why they were sent to destroy the French and English.  One of them says it's because one country insults another.  Also, the manufacturers get rich, and every good emperor needs at least one war.  One soldier, named Albert, says "I think it's more a kind of fever. Nobody wants it in particular, and then all at once, there it is. We didn't want it. The English didn't want it. And here we are fighting".

One thing to note that even though these are German soldiers, they speak English were generic (non-regional) American accents.  This is done so the audience can emphasize with the characters.  Germany was seen as our enemy back then, but they're not the "bad guys".  Even the French soldiers aren't the bad guys. One of the high school boys kills a Frenchmen while stuck in a hole and feels so bad about it afterwards (even though the dead guy totally blinks).

One of the boys, Paul, goes back to the high school while on leave, and the same teacher tells him to encourage the new, younger class to fight too.  Paul realizes that he can't say anything positive or heroic about being there, so he wants to go back to his friends.  Everybody ends up dying.  Imperial Germany lost over 2 million people in real life.  This is a great anti-war film because it shows an honest look at the brutality of warfare and wonders what the point of all the violence is.  I will give it a 9/10.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Paths of Glory (1957)

This week is the 101st anniversary of the beginning of World War I.  So today we are watching Paths of Glory.  In the first years of the war, the soldiers engaged in trench warfare, meaning they dug trenches and shot each other over an area called "no man's land" and didn't really accomplish anything except mass casualties.  The movie takes place during this time.

In France, the soldiers are busily fighting against the Germans, but remember everyone's still in the trenches.  General Mireau of the French army has been promised a promotion if his army can take over Ant Hill, which is controlled by the Germans.  Of course he says they could do it in one day without any backup.  He goes to order the colonel of the troops, Col. Dax to launch the attack.  We also learn Colonel Dax, played by Kirk Douglas, was an excellent criminal defense lawyer before the war.  Will this knowledge come in handy?

So, the next day, the French army storms across the no man's land to take over the hill and get obliterated.  Of course they did, they're French. They should be used to losing battles.  But apparently not.  Half of them can't even leave the trench because they're being beaten so bad.  General Mireau orders another group to fire upon the trenches, but they refuse to shoot their own men.  This just makes him even madder.

General Mireau tells them to pick out three men and have them tried for cowardice.  This is where Col. Dax being a lawyer comes into play.  He tries his best, but the trial is really just for show.  So the men are sentenced to die.  Later, Dax tells the higher up, General Broulard, that General Mireau threatened to fire upon his own troops and he's like whaaa.  But, he's not going to overturn the conviction, because that would be like admitting that the army was wrong, and he's not going to do that.

One thing that lets you know this took place long ago is the fact they were in trouble for cowardice.  In the beginning, General Mireau yells at a traumatized soldier and tells him there is no such thing as shellshock.  Well, there is, and now it is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it still affects many people today, both soldiers and civilians.  Men are supposed to be brave and strong and not afraid of anything.  I feel bad for them because they couldn't even ask for help because even admitting they need help would be admitting they were a "coward".  In real life, thousands of men were tried for desertion and cowardice.  There are more steps taken to take care of soldiers affected by PTSD but even 100 years later, we still have a long way to go.

General Broulard offers Dax General Mireau's position, but he refuses it.  He goes back to see his troops inside a cafe gawking at a German woman onstage and he's like oh boy here we go.  But, she starts singing the song "The faithful Hussar (soldier)" in German and all the French soldiers start singing along with her.  For a moment, they're not German or French people who are enemies, they're just people.  This woman is supposed to be the enemy but she's never hurt anyone ever, meanwhile their own General just killed three of their friends for his own reputation.  Colonel Dax watches them and decides to wait longer before sending them back out to be killed in the trenches.  I will give this film an 8/10.

Monday, July 27, 2015

If... (1968) and Elephant (2003)

Today's movie is If... !  It's a look back to high school days, but it's also more than that.  My high school was almost exactly like this, except, you know, we're girls.  The main character, Mick (played by Malcolm McDowell) is a upperclassman who enjoys rebelling against the system with his friends.
The staff of the school are rather bizarre and let a group of seniors, called Whips do all the discipline, which they are more than happy to dole out to Mick and his friends.  Mick and his friends are not bad people, they are free spirits in a restrictive environment.  After a particularly cruel beating Mick and them are forced to clean out the basement, and find grenades, because of course there'd be grenades in a basement.

During the Founder's Day celebration, everyone is gathered inside until Mick and friends smoke them out.  As they run outside, the group picks them off with automatic weapons from the rooftop.  This entire part is surreal, because no one would really do this.  Oh wait, I live in America, yes this sort of thing happens quite often.  And no one seems to know what to do to prevent it.  I will give this film an 8/10.  It's more about rebelling against an unforgiving strict society that aims to keep us down.

Today's film is also Elephant, which can either be called "sad homage to a film like If.." or "sad reflection of today's reality".  The story is basic at best.  Really long takes of people walking, long takes of the sky, like I don't care.  In both films, we don't see any parents interacting with their children.  Except for the one drunk dad who's a screw up.

Then, there's the bullied kids who end up shooting up the school.  If you're wondering how it's possible for them to obtain weapons, well I live in Florida where it's extremely easy to buy guns.  There's a gun store on every corner, and shooting ranges/clubs everywhere.  There was a famous ad here from Nation Trucks that offered a free AK-47 with every purchase of a truck.  In actuality, they gave us a $400 voucher for the gun store where you could buy anything and the AK-47 was an attention grabber.  It really is the best and easiest to handle out of the automatic weapons. imo.   Also, the kids could just get it from their parent's room.  The man who shot up the church in Charleston got his gun as a birthday gift.

The problem with Elephant is that we don't get to know anyone whereas in If, we get to know Mick and his friends, and even some of the minor characters in other grades.  It's more like a documentary style.  But there's no heart in it.  It's just some bullied kids who can't handle their emotions and anger taking it out on everyone around them.  The threat of being shot, along with common core, is one of the reasons it might be a good idea to homeschool.    Most schools nowadays have metal detectors because of the sheer amount of shootings.  Also, the movie takes so long to get to its point, and then oh its just a school shooting for shock value.  Yeah I learned nothing.  I will give this film a 2/10.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dead Man (1995)

Today's film is Dead Man.  At first, it seems like a normal Western.  But really, it's an art film and it becomes more obvious as the film goes on.

It stars Johnny Depp as William Blake, who is traveling by train to the Wild West to get a job.  But when he gets there, there's no job!  No one in the town welcomes him, and through bad luck, manages to get shot.  He meets a Native American named Nobody who helps him, but lets him know that the bullet is in a position to kill him.

So, Nobody is played by Gary Farmer, who actually is First Nation.  And, this film is entirely in black and white.  But, I'm still not going to tell my husband the truth because it's still funny.  The black and white is actually an important aspect to the film, because they really play with shadows a lot.  I think of old German Expressionism, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari while I'm watching this.  The pictures in Dead Man were inspired by Ansel Adams, a photographer who did all the pretty landscape shots a long time ago.

There are some elements of a normal Western, like a posse, and gunfights, but soon we get into weird territory.  A lot of the movie is weird.  But we know this is about Blake's journey into the next life. Nobody mistakes Blake for the similarly named poet and this affects how he treats him.  What if he knew he wasn't the same person? I wonder about that.

This was unlike any Western I have ever seen. I will give it a 7/10.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Today we are going to watch a really fun movie and this one can be described by lots of exclamation points!   !!!!!!!!!!!

Today's film is Kingsman: The Secret Service. This movie only exists to be fun. It can also be described as gloriously self-aware. I will get to that in a minute.

So the story focuses on Eggsy, that's his name, I don't know why he's called that. His dad was in the Kingsman, they're like secret agents.  All the Kingsman are named after knights, like Galahad and Lancelot. Eggsy's dad is killed during a mission, and his dad's friend feels super guilty about it.  So guilty in fact, that later he recommends the adult Eggsy to replace a recently deceased agent.

Eggsy has to go do some competition/training type thing to become the new agent.  Does he make it? No, but he's going to become an agent anyway because he's the star!

Now, what did I mean by "gloriously self-aware"?  Well, there's a reason this movie was made, and in fact it is discussed in the movie itself.  Harry/Galahad and the villain (played by Samuel L Jackson) talk about spy movies.  Harry says that they are too serious and he misses the old Bond movies.  The new Bond movies really are too serious, and we are missing the fun and adventure of the old ones.  This film is meant to emulate the old movies and bring back the fun of watching spy movies.  The action is way over the top, there are tons of fight scenes, and lots and lots of gun violence.

It's also funny sometimes. Like his main weapon is a super umbrella that shoots things and is bulletproof.  What.  Also, their shoes have a knife in them, but they also used to have a phone as well. I do like that Harry mentions that they don't use the tablets because the technology of the real world caught up to them.  I thought it was cool how Bond had a cell phone in his movies in the 60's, but now everyone has one so it's not special. There's a lot more hidden nods to other spy movies and shows and I think it'll take more than one viewing to find them all.  I will give this film an 8/10.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thelma & Louise (1991)

I get irrationally angry when characters make bad choices in movies.  So this movie really frustrated me.  Today's film is Thelma & Louise.  Thelma and her friend Louise decide to spend a relaxing weekend at a cabin, fishing.  Their trip takes takes a downturn when they stop at a bar.

Thelma spends all night dancing with some creep at the bar, and after drinking too much, he takes her outside and tries to rape her.  Louise comes to the rescue and shoots him.  Their plan now is to hightail it out of there and go to Mexico.  There are two ideas that are a lot better.  One is that they could tell the police what happened and that it was self defense.  Or they could go to the cabin and pretend everything was normal, and get rid of the gun.  These are some good life pro tips in case you murder someone.

After they make the bad choice to run, they continue to make even worse choices the entire movie. Most of these have to do with Thelma thinking with her vagina and not her head.  Like she picks up a male hitchhiker.  Mainly because he's hot, but she needs to think about their safety more.  Louise gives her her life savings of $6,700 to safeguard in her hotel room.  Why she trusted her with all of the money instead of splitting it I don't know.  Anyway, hot hitchhiker returns and they have some hot sex, and he describes his convenience store robbing career.  So what does Thelma do?  She leaves all the money on the dresser, not the safe, and leaves it alone with a stranger in the room.  Of course it gets stolen.  These women are so unbearably stupid I cannot cheer them on.  This whole time I was told it's a girl power movie.  Yeah a stupid girl movie.

Early 90's selfie!

This is also one of those few movies where I knew the ending before even watching it.  That's because it has been parodied in lots of cartoons and comedies. Also there is so much denim.  I remember wearing a denim jacket and thinking how adult I looked.  Now I am an adult finally and I see this film with everyone wearing all the denim and they look stupid.

After losing their money, Thelma robs a store, and then they lock a cop in his trunk, and then they blow up a truck.  They're on a death mission.  If they would have gone to the police in the beginning, nothing would have happened to them. But they figured they had nothing to lose so they kept doing bad stuff.  I'm glad my daughter didn't watch it with me.  This film glorified all the bad stuff they did.  They're not heroes and they're not good people. I will give this film a 6/10.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Whiplash (2014)

Today's film is Whiplash, a film in which a man will do whatever it takes to be the greatest drummer of all time.  Which is impossible because John Bonham is the greatest drummer (Dave Grohl is good, but he doesn't focus on drums much anymore).

Andrew studies jazz music and drumming at a prestigious music conservatory.  He hopes to be in the music teacher Fletcher's class, but is warned that he is really intense.  Andrew is accepted into the class and finds out the hard way just how intense he is.  Can he keep up?

Andrew listens to a cd of Buddy Rich, who had a really short temper, which I think foreshadows his teacher's attitude!  Andrew's attitude changes and he becomes even more determined to become a great drummer no matter what.

The only part that lost me was when his car was hit head-on by a truck, flipped over, and he crawled out unharmed and ran to the show.  There's no way.

After he tries and fails the plays the drums immediately after his accident, he is forced to quit the school.  He is approached by a lawyer and the family of a student that killed himself who desire to pin the blame on Fletcher.  Fletcher is intense because he wants to push his students to become better, like a drill sergeant creates better soldiers.  He never had any intention of killing anyone.  Andrew, being upset about losing his dream, agrees to testify that Fletcher pushed him too hard as well.

Later, Fletcher is fired from the music conservatory and Andrew runs into him while he is playing jazz with a band.  They start chatting and it looks like everything is normal.  He invites Andrew to play drums for his band at an upcoming show.  Not just any show, but one with talent scouts that he could actually find a job as a musician.

Andrew comes to the show ready to play, but Fletcher has other plans.  He knew that he testified because who else but the expelled student with a grudge would do that?  Fletcher told him the wrong song!  But instead of being discouraged, Andrew starts playing the most kickass drum solo ever.  Fletcher marches over there and glares at him, but in that moment, they realize they have the exact same dream.  It took years of him pushing his students to the brink for him to find one to push back.  He lets Andrew finish his solo and he leads the band as well.  I will give this film a 9/10.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Broken Blossoms (1919)

Happy belated Birthday America!

I didn't expect to start the month of July feeling feels, but today's film is Broken Blossoms (or the Yellow Man and the Girl).  I wondered, why is he yellow? Is he wearing a raincoat?  Then, I finally realized, oh he's Asian.  I never would have guessed that, but then I don't live in 1919 America.

The best part was just witnessing how people dressed and looked back then, almost 100 years ago. I love their makeup.

The yellow man, who isn't named (but later his shop says Cheng Hueng which might be his name) lives in China.  He wants to bring Buddha's message of peace and tolerance to the British people, who seem to fight and conquer everything.

After moving to a bad neighborhood in London, reality sets in and he all but gives up his missionary dreams and just tends to his shop.  Meanwhile, there is a boxer that regularly beats up his daughter.  The yellow man decides to help her out.  The boxer is none too pleased that a Chinese man is going after his daughter, so he beats her to death.  The yellow man arrives too late to save her, but shoots the boxer anyway.  Feeling depressed, he stabs himself.  This is tragedy of Shakespeare proportions.

It's surprising that a film featuring an Asian hero would be directed by the same guy who made the KKK is Awesome film a few years back.  Wasn't expecting that.  By the way, the yellow man is actually played by a white guy.  There's like 20 billion people in China, they couldn't find a Chinese actor to play him?  I'll give this film a 6/10.