Bit late, I know, but Happy Father’s Day, everyone!
Whenever I bring up this movie (because I have been excited to see it for a very long time) everyone’s reaction is always, “Oh, I didn’t know Joss Whedon had done Shakespeare!” So, consider this my bit of spreading the good word.
Here’s the trailer:
Overall, I really liked this film. It was a well-done Shakespeare adaptation and an enjoyable bit of cinema with visual interest, a fantastic score and wonderful costumes. Especially the men’s suits. I kept thinking about licking the men’s necks. What is it about having that one shirt button popped? YUM.
I thought the cast was, by and large, simply amazing. Clark Gregg is so brilliant. Dry and goofy, hilarious. I actually want him to get an Oscar nod. His Leonato is so nuanced and deep. Plus, I love Clark Gregg and I want him to get more recognition.
Nathan Fillion is a comic genius. I have NEVER, in any adaptation EVER, liked the Dogberry scenes and I was laughing out loud this time. Fran Kanz is adorable and surprisingly likeable as Claudio (who is not always the most likeable character). The rest of the supporting cast were also really solid especially Reed Diamond as the Prince and Sean Maher as Don John. (The best, my absolute favorite part of the movie was when– after wrecking the wedding, destroying Hero and Leonato, arguably Claudio too, basically being the biggest son of a bitch ever–Don John swipes a cupcake on his way out. Priceless. Signature Joss Whedon.)
The only real miscasting I thought was in the leads, unfortunately. Amy Acker was a passable Beatrice and she had some good moments in her scenes, but Alexis Denisof was a really boring Benedick. How do you make Benedick boring?! Benedick/Beatrice have some of the most vibrant, hilarious, emotional, wonderful scenes in the Shakespeare canon. How do you screw that shit up? I don’t get it. He was also so hammy. Sometimes it felt like he was in an entirely different movie than the rest of the cast.
Back to the plus side of things, I have to give a shout-out to the score which was also composed by Joss Whedon (he’s so talented I HATE him). I already have two different Much Ado scores on my iPod and I still bought this one. It’s jazzy at times, soft, emotional, and the two arrangements Whedon did for the play’s famous songs “Sigh No More” and “Heavily, Heavily” were just masterful. I knew as soon as I heard them that despite having THREE versions of those songs I would still be buying these. Here’s “Sigh No More” for your listening pleasure…
So, once again, well done Joss.*
Rating: **** (I really liked it)
*I do have to say, though, my favorite Much Ado is still the David Tennant/Catherine Tate one. I’m not sure any adaptation will ever beat that. The two leads are spot-on, the production design is fantastic, the acting. Pretty much a perfect production across the board.
Anybody else seen this version yet? Or even the Tate/Tennant one? Can we squee together? ;P
Just a fun video for any former (or current) theater geeks like myself.
Double Indemnity is a film noir which tells the story of shady insurance salesman, Walter Neff, and the femme fatale he’s goes bad for, Phyllis Dietrichson. (Can I say how much I love that the femme fatale is named “Phyllis” of all things?) They try to plot the perfect murder and would have gotten away with it if not for the interference of Neff’s tenacious friend and boss, Mr. Keyes.
I’ll say this up front: I’m not much of a film noir person. The only other one I’ve ever truly liked up until now is Brick (2005) starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and even the ending of that one makes me angry. I suspect I’m too much of an optimist to really dig film noir. Even this film, I sort of like despite myself. But, dammit, Wilder stuck the ending beautifully. (I honestly can’t think of Wilder film with a sub-par ending. They seem to be a specialty of his.) A fabulous ending can make me forgive a lot. I don’t think I’m alone in that as a theatergoer.
I think we’ll break this review into what worked and what didn’t work for me. First of all: what didn’t work?
Basically? Walter Neff.
I hate the son of a bitch pretty much from his first moment onscreen.
He’s not even a loveable son of a bitch. He’s misogynistic and cynical, smug, and not terribly bright. I think at least part of this might be due to Fred MacMurray’s performance. He seems a little wooden to me, and I’m not sure if someone else could have made me like Neff or not.
Honestly, I’m not sure I am supposed to like Neff at any point. I suspect Wilder doesn’t want us to like Neff much, but it gets a little tough to sit through an hour and forty minutes of movie when you hate the protagonist. I think if anyone less skilled than Wilder had directed this film it wouldn’t have worked at all.
That’s really all I’ve got in the negative column, but since he’s the MAIN CHARACTER it’s kind of a BIG negative. Anyway, on to what worked…
As bad as MacMurray is in the Neff role that’s how GOOD Stanwyck is as the femme fatale. She growls and sidles and purrs her way through the whole movie, sex on a stick that she’s going to bludgeon you with. I loved watching her, and I think she gave a great performance.
“How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”
(Just as a side note, apparently the two writers on this movie–Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler–detested each other, but I don’t think that shows in the finished product. Just goes to show that sometimes the most troubled productions create the greatest stuff.) The scenes between Neff and Phyllis are a particular delight of rapid-fire dialogue, double entendre and innuendo. They just don’t write movies like this anymore. Here’s my favorite example:
Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don’t you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He’ll be in then.
Walter Neff: Who?
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him weren’t you?
Walter Neff: Yeah, I was, but I’m sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Walter Neff: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I’d say around ninety.
Walter Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter Neff: Suppose it doesn’t take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Walter Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.
Walter Neff: That tears it.
In the same vein of the writing, another part of what made this a bearable hour and forty minutes, despite Walter Neff, was how well the suspense element was handled. The writers did a great job of setting up wonderful suspenseful moments then having smaller moments of tension in those scenes: Neff and Phyllis kill the husband and dump his body–and then the car won’t start. After the murder, Phyllis wants to see Walter for a little lovin’, he gives her the go-ahead to come up just as his boss Keyes, who’s investigating the murder, knocks on the door. Phyllis is on her way up and Keyes is loitering in Neff’s apartment. If Keyes catches the two of them together it’s all over. Great suspense.
The other really surprising part of this movie is the friendship between Keyes and Neff. They really do care about each other, and their friendship is the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak, film noir sort of world.
Walter Neff: Know why you couldn’t figure this one, Keyes? I’ll tell ya. ‘Cause the guy you were looking for was too close. Right across the desk from ya.
Barton Keyes: Closer than that, Walter.
Walter Neff: I love you, too.
What did I learn from this movie? This is another lesson in relationships. You can have a dark, bleak, cynical movie world and yet people can still enjoy it, find hope, if you have (at minimum) two characters who are really devoted and care about each other at the end of the day. The Neff/Keyes friendship is what saved this movie for me. So, this is sort of a mirror image to the Star Wars lesson: if you have characters the audience can’t care about (*cough* NEFF *cough*) then at least have characters who care about each other.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? Even though I didn’t wildly enjoy it: Yes, I can. The writing is masterful. This film is very firmly in the film noir world, but I feel like it still does original things within that genre’s conventions. It also has fantastic performances from Stanwyck and from Edward G. Robinson as Keyes. It also has a really beautiful depiction of true friendship at its core, which was amazing to watch.
Favorite part(s)? The last scene. Hands down. They set it up so beautifully all through the rest of the movie that the pay off is very satisfying. The last scene alone is what bumped my admiration for this movie’s skill into a genuine liking. I also really enjoy the sharp-edged banter between Phyllis and Neff while she’s still trying to reel him in.
Overall rating: *** (I liked it)
So, I actually re-watched this the other week but hadn’t written the blog yet.
However, when I saw that today is Star Wars’ 35th Anniversary I just had to get this done in time to post today.
Can I just say how delighted I am that Star Wars made the lists in 1998 and 2007? (#15 in 1998; Lucky #13 in 2007.) And that genre snobbery did not get in the way of AFI recognizing what is truly one of the greatest films of all time, and a film that revolutionized the way we watch movies? I think if the AFI list were made today we’d see a LOT more SF/F on there, but for them to have recognized a SF movie as the 15th greatest movie of all time back in 1998? *applause*
Anyway, as you might have guessed, I am a Star Wars fan. Huge. Big fan. I grew up watching this movie on endless repeat. I have all the lines memorized (even the alien language lines). I had the toys. ALL the toys. (You think I’m kidding? I even had the little bat creature who’s got one second of screen-time in the Cantina scene.) I was Princess Leia for Halloween and a Jedi Knight the next year. I was Luke Skywalker on Dagobah just this past year. (Yoda was my date. Perfect gentleman, lemma tell you.)
I love Star Wars so much, in fact, that I was actually terrified to re-watch it for 100 Days with my critical eye turned on. Could this movie stand up to the other Greats? Would the dialogue, the characters, the story beats, any of it stand up to the other great classic movies I’ve watched?
Short answer? Um, yeah. Hell yeah. I had no reason to be afraid. (Fear is the path to the Dark Side, after all.) As I’ve found with most of the movies I’ve watched so far in this project: There’s a reason this movie’s a classic.
Here’s the imdb synopsis: “Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.”
I think this one really is a classic for the common man. You don’t need a Film Degree to see why this is great. It’s a fairy tale. Its told like a fairy tale, it’s styled like a fairy tale, it is painted in the black and white shades of that binary fairy tale language. Even to the point of color coding the weapons (Green=Good; Red=Bad), the costumes (Darth Vader=All black; Princess Leia=All white), even the sets (Leia’s rebel ship is pure, blinding white; the interiors of the Death Star are a dingy gray). This attention to detail is something I really noticed this time around. That black/white/good/evil juxtaposition is in every frame, every choice. It’s really masterful. This is another film where I think you could watch it without the dialogue and still understand 90% of the plot. Of course, then you’d miss out on the hilarious and infinitely quotable dialogue (“Will someone get this big, walking carpet out of my way?”).
(This is totally OT but in the first scenes the stormtroopers set their blasters to stun to capture Princess Leia. I think this is the ONLY time anyone EVER uses the stun function on their blaster in the films. Am I wrong?)
Another great thing this movie has is stakes. “Stakes” is writer talk for “what’s at stake?” What are your characters fighting for? In Star Wars, it’s right there in the opening crawl, they’re “fighting to restore freedom to the galaxy.” The whole GALAXY. Even the smaller stakes in this movie aren’t that small: a whole planet gets blown up before the movie’s even half over. Because the stakes are so high, the tension moment to moment stays high. BUT the other thing this movie does well is to have smaller moments of conflict and tension. Han’s being pursued by bounty hunters. They escape the guards only to end up in the trash compactor. The droids escape the space dogfight only to be captured by jawas. There are personal and community stakes.
Speaking of, I think one of the reasons this film isn’t just a classic but actually became part of the very fabric of our popular culture is because of the wonderful community in this film. The crew aboard the Millennium Falcon aren’t just comrades, they’re family. A dysfunctional bickering family, sure. But still family. (And I don’t mean just Luke and Leia). Leia comforts Luke at Obi Wan’s death. Chewie is Han’s BFF. Han comes back to save Luke. 3PO is devastated when R2′s injured (and they’re both robots). Everyone likes each other, everyone cares about the other people deep down even if they occasionally call them a “big, walking carpet.”
Incidentally, this is something I think the prequels were missing. In the prequels, all the characters bickered and fought, but no one seemed to actually like each other (not even Padme and Anakin) and none of them seemed to have each other’s backs. In the original Star Wars loyalty and sacrifice for your friends is one of the core themes running through the whole trilogy. The prequels were really, really missing that glue.
Which is another reason that you NEED to have Han shoot first in the Greedo scene. One of the really wonderful threads in this movie is watching Han’s character arc. Leia doesn’t really have one (except to slightly soften toward the others). Luke’s arc is really the classic hero’s journey from naive farmboy to conquering hero. Han’s is the one I’m really invested in. He goes from a cynical lone wolf only out for profit to a trusted and loyal friend and comrade. He needs to shoot first to show his coldness, his detachment. Without that, his arc is unnaturally stunted.
I’m actually really glad I trusted my gut and watched this with my critical brain on. I think it had some valuable writing lessons for me and, anyway, it’s always a good day to watch Star Wars.
What did I learn from this movie? Community. Write characters the audience can care about, yes, but also write characters who can and do care about each other.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? A-yup. Great characters. Wonderful design aesthetics. Compelling story. Good dialogue. GREAT world-building. Infinitely re-watchable. There isn’t really anything this movie (in its original cut) does wrong.
Favorite part(s)? The whole movie basically, but if I gotta pick only a few moments? “Into the garbage shoot, flyboy!” and all the Han/Leia banter. The part where Han returns to save Luke at the Death Star. And, of course, the Throne Room scene which has some of the best music ever written EVAH. But also because they’re so damn happy. Leia’s wearing her This is Serious Business Princess-Face then breaking into a smile at Luke. Han winking when she gives him the medal and she shoots him a Stern Face. R2D2′s OK! The whole damn Rebel Alliance saluting them. And everyone smiling. So good. I still get a little lift in my gut every time I watch this scene.
Overall rating: ***** (I LOVED it!)
And now, in parting–because I can’t resist–I say only: May the Force be with you. Always.
I haven’t given up on 100 Days, 100 Movies. Promise! But I was finishing up edits on my book and my sister and I were thinking of using 100 Movies as a launchpad for our podcast (my sister is funnier than me and smarter too. You’ll love her!). So 100 Days 100 Movies WILL continue, I’m still just figuring out what form it will take.
In the meantime, at my writer’s group last week, the teacher had us do this exercise where we had to freewrite to the prompt “Who do you think you aren’t?”
I was pretty pleased with the results so (after some minimal editing) I thought I’d share my own brainspew here…
I’m not the put together girl.
I’m not the social butterfly.
I’m not the flirt.
(Until I am the flirt.)
I’m not a do-gooder.
I’m not a shrinking violet.
I’m not a damsel in distress.
I’m not a 50s housewife.
(I just wanna dress like one.)
I am not meticulous but I am detail-oriented.
I am not easy-going.
I am not low-maintenance.
I am not clever enough.
I am not patient.
I’m not a princess, I’m the mother-fucking Queen.
I am not the girl next door.
I am not a follower.
I am not brave enough.
I don’t give myself enough credit.
I am not a Beauty. I am not boring. I am not a good driver. I am not a redhead. Or a blonde. Or a brunette.
(What color is my hair anyway?)
I’m not deep enough. Appearance still matters.
I am more than a label. Any label.
I’m not neat, but I am not a mess.
Cheated a little today. I re-watched All About Eve, starring the incomparable Bette Davis. All About Eve is #16 on the 1998 list and #28 on the 2007 one. I’ve actually seen this film many times before. It’s become one of my favorites. So much delicious bitchiness. I’ve even blogged about this film before. (I’m gonna borrow from that old blog a little but not much if you’ve read it before.)
IMDB synopsis: “An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.”
So, after seeing this film, I can understand why Bette Davis lobbied so hard to play Margo Channing when they handed her the script. And I know why she’s still known for this part half a century later. Margot Channing is one of the juiciest parts for an actress, any actress, any age, ever written. She’s queenly and broken. Lovelorn and cold. And every scene she’s in was probably fabulous to play as an actress.
I have to say the scheming young actress plot in All About Eve has always felt a bit stale for me, but that’s because this is the movie that basically spawned all the scheming young actress plots. This is the original, and if you’ve got to have the scheming young actress you couldn’t do worse– or better or– something than Eve Harrington. Anne Baxter plays her as the epitome of cool and serene…up until the moment she flips and you see the conniving little bitch that was hiding there the whole time. Delicious.
Ironically, one scene that really stood out for me this time is when we have Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and Marilyn Monroe in a scene together. Davis and Baxter are the stars of the film and yet I’m watching Monroe. Ah, star power. Marilyn had it even then.
Another real stand out is George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, a sort of Oscar Wilde-esque theater critic who pulls strings just to watch things fall apart. He’s charming. He’s an even bigger schemer than Eve, and he’s a treat to watch as he struts and drawls and delivers fabulous lines like: “You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent!”
What really made this movie for me, though, was the romance between Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and Bill Simpson (Gary Merrill). Margo is the aging older star and Bill is the up and coming young director, and he’s just nuts about Margo, but she’s so hung up on the age difference she can’t see it. Davis and Merrill got married in real life after this movie and that doesn’t surprise me one bit the way their chemistry just zings onscreen. They had a rough ride as a couple onscreen and off, but you can see why they both thought it was worth it. (Serious zing, I’m tellin’ ya.)
At one point they’re fighting and he throws her on a prop bed and holds her down while he pours out his frustration about her pushing him away. The scene was probably pretty risque in 1950, and the tension between them so wonderfully treads the line between passion and violence. (If this movie was made today they probably would have had hot angry sex on the prop bed.) But underneath the frustration and the fighting and the regret their romance is just so freaking sweet.
Maybe because I was really watching the film closely this time the ending upset me more than it has in the past. Eve’s ambitious, bitchy, scheming, and yet she basically ends up in sexual slavery to Addison deWitt indefinitely–until he tires of her. It strikes me as a bit…uneven. A moralistic punishment from the filmmakers. I guess this would be a post-feminist slant I’m taking now? ;P
I dunno. But this film seems problematic to me in a way it never has before. It’s a film about two strong women–the iconic film about two strong women in fact–and yet both of them end up tamed or toothless by the end. In the end Margot Channing, leading light of the stage, a born star, takes a step back from her career to enjoy a simple married life. And Eve Harrington, master schemer and bitch extraordinaire, doesn’t get to enjoy her success because she’s one-upped by a man. *shrug* I’ve no deeper insights to offer than that. Still, interesting the things we take away from films as we get older. How movies change because we’ve changed.
I do still love the last shot, though, where it’s clear it’s all going to start all over again with a new Eve and Margot, and over and over and over as long as there are ambitious ingenues and aging stars.
What did I learn from this movie? Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. This is from an older school of screen-writing that was much closer kin to play-writing. Every line, every word was scrutinized for maximum effect. There are maybe one of two speeches of Bill’s where he gets melodramatic/didactic which didn’t age well. But, otherwise, every line of dialogue in this movie pops. You could basically quote any line in the script, they’re all winners. A few examples:
Margo Channing: I’ll admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.
Margo Channing: Margo Channing is ageless – spoken like a press agent.
Lloyd Richards: I know what I’m talking about. After all, they’re my plays.
Margo Channing: Spoken like an author. Lloyd, I’m not twenty-ish, I’m not thirty-ish. Three months ago I was forty years old. Forty. Four O. That slipped out. I hadn’t quite made up my mind to admit it. Now I suddenly feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off.
Lloyd Richards: How about calling it a night?
Margo Channing: And you pose as a playwright? A situation pregnant with possibilities and all you can think of is everybody go to sleep.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? Yup. Great performances all around. Masterful dialogue. Good plot. Drama. Thea-tuh! Angst. Romance. And Bette Davis giving the performance of her life–of many lifetimes. All About Eve belongs on the list absolutely.
Favorite part(s)? All the Bill/Margot stuff, especially the scene on the bed and the scene where he runs to her side when Eve turns on Margot. The romance really is wonderful. I also enjoy Addison de Witt in every moment he’s onscreen.
Overall rating: ***** (I loved it!)
And now, a small treat, the trailer! (From the Blu-Ray I think?)
Sorry we had a little hiatus. I just got a promotion at work (day job) and this was my first week in the new position so things were a big hectic. Anyway, on we merrily go with my mission to watch 100+ of the movies on the AFI Top 100 American films of all time (up to 2007).
I hadn’t heard of this film before I started my AFI project, and when I sat down to watch it all I knew was that the adorable Myrna Loy was in it and it featured real-life amputee Harold Russell in one of the lead roles.
Here’s the plot synopsis from imdb for anybody else like me who’s never heard of this wonderful movie:
“Three WWII veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.”
The three vets in question are Sgt. Al Stephenson, who was in the infantry during the war and is a well-off banker back at home. Captain Fred Derry was an ace bomber with a pin-up for a wife during the war, but now at home he’s a broke soda jerk in an unhappy marriage . Lastly, we follow sailor, Homer Parrish, who was a star athlete at home but lost both his hands at the wrist to a fire during the war.
Al is trying to adjust to peacetime, to being back with his loving family, going to his boring deskjob, trying to fit back into a life he can barely remember. Fred is likewise having problems going from being “an officer and a gentleman” in the Air Force to just another out of work bum at home. And Homer…Homer just wants “to be treated like everyone else.” And yet he can’t quite bring himself to reach out to Wilma, the girl he left behind. He doesn’t believe she would want to be with him anymore.
This film is very moving. It made me miss my grandfather. He was a WWII vet, and he died when I was just a baby so I never got to know him at all. It’s an odd feeling to miss someone you’ve never met…I think that’s part of why this film is a classic–because it touches you so deeply. The story is very simple, maybe even bordering on melodramatic at times. But you feel for these people, the soldiers, their loved ones. You want them so desperately to be happy, to be all right. I wept like a baby at the ending. From relief. From happiness. The moment where Homer puts the ring on his bride’s hand and the whole congregation is holding their breath and you, the audience, are holding your breath. And then the ring is on, and he smiles, and they kiss. God, so incredible.
I can’t remember the last time a movie got to me like this. The sense of hope in this is just marvelous. But you also get a sense of the cost the veterans have to pay, the difficulties they face. The beginning of the film focuses on this more than the ending (which is a little rushed), but by the end you are rooting for these guys so much it’s hard to want to see them suffer anymore. (Can I just say how amazing it is to watch Harold Russell? He’s so dexterous with his hooks, and when you think about the training, the patience it must have taken him to learn and be able to do all the things he does…It’s incredible.)
I would say the film does get the slightest bit didactic/preachy at times in a “These are our boys. They fought for us. Honor them” kind of way, but I don’t really fault it for that because it’s a worthy message, and those scenes are only a few moments in an otherwise affecting, effective and, yes, entertaining film. Besides, in 1946 I think America probably needed a movie like this, needed a character like Homer to show that the disabled vets were still people, that they could still live normal lives. That they were capable.
I did have a slight problem with how in the middle Homer became a bit of a story catalyst instead of a character. What I mean is, in the middle, his story didn’t really move forward, but he kept showing up and just by virtue of his presence and the very physical reminder of his service, the other two main characters were motivated to take action. But, there again, the beginning and the ending gave Homer such juicy, meaningful scenes I’ll let that minor quibble slide. Still: always give your characters agency. Having them doing things, not inspiring others to do things.
The love story in this is also really well structured. Al’s daughter Peggy falls for Fred, but Fred had one of those hasty war marriages and now he’s stuck with a very unsympathetic harpy for a wife. This is one of the parts that could have crossed over into melodrama land, except the characters are so reasonable throughout. They confide in people, they try to be straight with each other. I thought this subplot was handled very well, and the conflict of it appealed to me. If only Fred had waited to get home he would have found the perfect girl waiting for him. I might steal this subplot for one of my own stories if I can figure out how to work it in.
Overall, I really liked this movie. It’s over two and a half hours long, but it didn’t seem that long. It felt like a “small” movie actually, intimate, tightly plotted. I think everyone should see this film to get an idea of the sort of trials our troops go through and just how much thanks we owe them for their duty and service.
What did I learn from this movie? Probably the focus on characters. We get a long intro where we follow each soldier on his way home. They all end up on the same plane together and they share stories and cigarettes. Then, on the ground, one by one each man gets out of the taxi they’re sharing and goes in to see what his welcome will be like at home. By the end of that segment we are very firmly attached to these guys, rooting for them. So, again: take the time to set up your characters, invest the audience in them, and your film will have that much more of an emotional punch.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? Yes. And again I say, in utter seriousness, I think this is a film that everyone should see. Maybe if you only watch one of these “classic” films on the list…watch this one.
Favorite part(s)? All the Homer scenes. My God. Harold Russell got not one but two Oscars for his performance and he wasn’t a professional actor. As Wikipedia tells the story, “the Academy Board of Governors considered him a long shot to win [Best Supporting Actor], they gave him an honorary award ‘for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance’. When Russell won Best Supporting Actor, there was an enthusiastic response. He is the only actor to have received two Academy Awards for the same performance.”
He deserved the Oscar. Both of them. I already mentioned the wedding scene, but the other really beautiful moment with Homer is when his childhood sweetheart Wilma comes over, trying to convince him one last time that she loves him and wants a life with him. He asks her to go upstairs with him so she can see what her life would be like with him, what she’ll have to deal with. He takes his bathrobe off and for the first time she (and we, the audience) see the braces on his arms, the socks he wears over his stumps. He expects her to reject him and instead she embraces him. He’s still Homer. She still loves him. Ah. It’s manipulative as hell to the audience because we know the girl’s not going to reject him. But still, it got me. But the really great moment is after she leaves and he’s lying in bed alone we see Homer silently crying in bed. He didn’t believe it could be true until that moment. And then we get the wedding and then the crying. Really powerful stuff, and so well done.
See this movie! Seriously!
Overall Rating: **** (I really liked the film. I loved the Homer storyline.)
Today I watched Lawrence of Arabia. #5 on the 1998 list and #7 on the 2007 list. Yesterday I picked the shortest movie I could find on the list. Today, perhaps out of perversity, I picked one the longest.
Here’s the imdb page and here’s the synopsis quoted from said imdb page: “A flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during his World War I service in Arabia.”
Wow. Where to start with this one? There’s so much I almost feel like this needs two posts. (Not least because at 3 hours and 45 minutes this film is basically twice the length of a normal film. It has an overture and an intermission and everything!)
This is a truly great film. The performances. The visuals. The poetry of the dialogue. That desert…so beautiful. The story is riveting. Lawrence himself is just fascinating to watch. Yes, it’s a four hour movie but his internal struggles, his dedication to the Arab cause, his love for his comrades…it is just all so compelling I never really felt the film drag. I basically watched it in one go without stopping–except at intermission for a pee break. The main actors in this (O’Toole, Sharif and Quinn) were fantastic. O’Toole is gorgeous and riveting and tragic. Sharif is loyal and solid and also gorgeous. Quinn is brutal but somehow appealing. Fantastic acting. Top notch.
But, man, this film is BLEAK. And the crazy thing it’s not even bleak because the main character is killed in the first two minutes. His senseless death is really the least tragic thing that happens to Lawrence in this film. The first half is wonderful, you get to see him come into his own, establish a rapport with these people. The British don’t value him, don’t understand what he can do and then he goes to the Arabs and becomes just magnificent. But then we get the hubris and his downfall. We watch his beautiful soul get chipped, corroded, then finally crushed with each successive scene. It’s hard to take. The first act is an adventure story. The second act is a Greek tragedy.
I found the homoeroticism in this to be pretty interesting. It’s very much that coy 60s thing we get in Spartacus where if you know to look for the subtext it is there. Boy, it is there. But if you’re naive enough to overlook it you won’t see anything at all except male friendship. It’s all oysters and snails. If that makes sense. Watching it, though, I was struck how the romance between Omar Sharif and O’Toole is pretty much played as a straight love story. Just without the kissing. (If one of them had been a woman there would have been kissing.) They don’t even do the usual thing movies used to do of adding in a token female love interest to sort of “throw people off the scent” of the homoeroticism. (There are no speaking parts for women in this movie at all. Quite a feat at over 3 hours.) But, anyway, I really loved the romance in the first half. I love that the filmmakers did play it that way, sincerely and without judgement or winking. Just a deep respect and affection between these two men. I wish there had been kissing actually, O’Toole and Sharif had fantastic chemistry. (Just as a side note: historians seem to think the real Lawrence was either homosexual or asexual. None of the arguments seem to lean too strongly toward him being straight.)
I also wanted to mention the dialogue. This film feels a bit like poetry in motion, which is a cliche but my God, look at that one shot of the sunset, listen to the beautiful exchanges and debates they have. If any film is a work of art then this one is.
Also, as a bonus, the line’s get pretty funny at times:
[asked by reporter if he knew Lawrence]
Jackson Bentley: Yes, it was my privilege to know him and to make him known to the world. He was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior.
[after reporter leaves]
Jackson Bentley: He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey.
Prince Feisal: With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable.
Bartender: [after Lawrence enters with a dirty Bedouin] This is a bar for British officers!
T.E. Lawrence: That’s all right. We’re not particular.
Overall, I really loved this movie, but I’m not sure I’ll watch it again all the way through. It’s very draining emotionally. Unsettling. And you don’t even get the cathartic release of a good cry like you do at the end of Spartacus (at least I always bawl my brains out at the end of Spartacus). The ending of this film hurts but it deprives you of that release. I will probably watch the first half again, though.
What did I learn from this movie? I don’t know. It’s very moving. But it was kind of hard to study for screenwriter’s craft because I was so swept up by the characters and the story. Maybe that’s the lesson? Grab your audience by the throat and don’t let them go. From the moment Lawrence played his little game with the matches I was hooked. If you’ve got a great character you can take your audience anywhere.
Can I see why this movie has become a classic? Abso-fucking-lutely. The word “epic” was created for this movie. This is a classic and everyone should set aside four hours to see it at least once. (That’s means you. Yes you.)
Favorite part(s)? I mentioned it above, but the closeness between Lawrence and Ali. That was beautiful. I also enjoyed all of Alec Guinness’ scenes as Prince Feisal. He had this great dryness about his character that I loved. And any of those beautiful shots of the desert. All of them, in fact.
Overall Rating: ***** (I loved it)
For tomorrow: Maybe Spartacus? I seem to be in an epic kind of mood.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled movie review to bring you…a movie review!
Namely of Iron Man 3 which I just saw less than 2 hours ago.
(I’m probably going to get a little spoiler-y so if you mind that sort of thing come back once you’ve seen the movie.)
*SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS*
*STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED!!! LIKE A ROTTEN EGG! SPOIL-ED! OR SPOIL’D (as Shakespeare would do)*
Here’s the trailer:
This movie is basically about stripping Tony bare, taking away his support (the suits, Pepper, Rhoddy, his fabulous house) and seeing what he’s really made of at the end of the day.
So, what did I think? Did it live up to the hype? Is it a worthy addition to the Marvel Film Canon?
Basically: yes and yes.
This is a very good film and they have most of the elements I think we want from Iron Man. There’s some good buddy-cop stuff between Tony and Rhoddy. (They were kind of frenemies in the 2nd one which didn’t really smooth the transition from the excellent Terrence Howard to the slightly miscast Don Cheadle)…(For what’s it worth, I think Cheadle did a really good job in this one and they do a good job of showing, yes, he is an active duty officer. He knows how to kick ass and shoot even without a fancy suit.)
Pepper gets to be feisty and competent and give back to Tony as good as he gets. Jarvis gets a slightly bigger part too, and I love me some Jarvis. There’s also chock a block of that wry humor we love so much. (There’s a great part when one of the henchman surrenders, “Don’t shoot! Seriously, I don’t even wanna work for them. They are so weird!” Hilarious.) And then, of course, there’s Tony being Tony. I think any fan of the Iron Man character will probably walk out of this film happy.
Also, for the feminists in the house, not only does Pepper not die (which I was a little worried about. How long is Gwyneth gonna wanna make these, y’know?) but Pepper gets some genuine kick ass moments of her own. Like, really kick ass. The moments are so kick ass I even forgive Shane Black for the part where he has her lying helpless for like fifteen fucking minutes waiting for Tony to dig her out from under rubble. (This is one of the screenwriting things: if someone, anyone, but especially if it’s your female lead, is trapped or held hostage or whatever you still have them doing something. Besides screaming. Screaming is not constructive. Even digging herself out or trying to would have been more constructive. But, like I said, that was a minor snafu in an otherwise excellent arc for a female character. /rant over.) But yes. GOOD Pepper stuff here. I hope the rest of the Marvel movies continue this trend of 1. Not killing off the female love interest. (All action movies don’t have to follow the James Bond example, you know.) and 2. Giving these lovely ladies some real, important, juicy, good stuff to do. Big round of applause for Pepper in this movie.
I also liked what they did with the Big Bad. Ben Kingsley was marvelous. Absolutely marvelous. As secondary villain, Guy Pierce is his usual smarmy, good-looking self. And I can’t say I minded the part where he was shirtless for the last half of the movie. (Yes, I’m shallow.)
So, what didn’t work? Well, at times this felt more like a Shane Black movie than a Marvel movie. For an Iron Man movie it felt like Tony didn’t get much suit time. Maybe this was them trying to give us more of the actors’ faces. Maybe they were trying to be different. I dunno. Oh, and WHY was this set at Christmas? Christmas is a crutch for you, Shane Black. You don’t need the holiday season to make a good movie. Let it GO, Shane. Don’t get me wrong, the action sequences were interesting and innovative and never really felt like action movie porn. But they also, about half the time, felt more like something from the Lethal Weapon series than a Marvel movie. I love Shane Black, don’t get me wrong, but there are enough tough/wry cop movies out there. When I go to Iron Man I want my f*cking Iron Man.
That said, they did find really interesting things to do with the suits, and there was a bit of musical chairs with them that I LOVED. (Pepper even gets some suit time.)
And now, the big blah: the kid. The freaking kid, man. WHY was he in the movie? What was that about? It didn’t really thread into the rest of the movie. It didn’t really fit with the rest of the theme. Was this a Jar Jar Binks thing? Did someone remind Shane Black it’s a “kid” movie and he decided he should have a kid? Really, the kid served no purpose and I was rolling my eyes through major portions of that whole sequence. Was Pepper pregnant in an earlier draft? Was this Tony working out his daddy issues? I just did not get it.
Also, I miss Coulson!!!
(It’s just not the same universe without you, Son of Coul!)
Overall, though, the movie worked and worked well. I loved the airplane sequence. I love the destruction of Stark Manor. I love that Tony actually does have to deal with emotional fallout from having fought off an alien invasion and fallen through a wormhole. I love Tony/Pepper. I actually liked Don Cheadle. This movie helps restore the Iron Man franchise back to its former glory.
Now, I tend to rate Marvel movies on a scale of Captain America (the worst) to Avengers (the best of the best). Where did this fall?
Not as good as Avengers or the original Iron Man, better than Iron Man 2, slightly below Thor in terms of my enjoyment (and that might just be because there was no Tom Hiddleston in this. Hiddleston can vastly improve ANY movie, I’ve found).
I’ll tell you this, though, I’ll definitely be in line for the next one.
Overall rating: **** (I really liked it)