Friday, February 25, 2011

The Man in the Black Pajamas

I've taken a breather from the AFI Top 100. May never go back. I got burned out on all of the gimmicks and themes. Here's a bit of a change of pace.

In The Big Lebowski, which is easily in my top 5 all-time favorite movies, Walter Sobchak makes a reference to "The Man in the Black Pajamas - a worthy f***ing adversary." Google that phrase and you'll find it's all over the internet, much like anything Walter ever said. I have a theory on this that hasn't shown up anywhere. In fact, if I put this phrase together with another, very similar phrase (both in their own quotes), there are absolutely ZERO hits on Google. So, it needs to be said. What better place than my movie blog? Are you ready for the second phrase? Okay, here it is:

"The man in pink pajamas."

That this came from a hundred-year-old novella is in and of itself no reason to raise an eyebrow. Two different colors, surely this doesn't mean anything. But, if I were to tell you that this phrase came from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, would that get some gears grinding? No? Well, take in these other important facts, and see if the ever-so-creative Coen Brothers are making a hooded reference for the ages:

  • Joseph Conrad was born born J√≥zef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. He was Polish, just like Walter Sobchak. (don't worry, they get better)
  • Heart of Darkness was the basis for the movie Apocalypse Now, which is about the Vietnam War, which Walter fought in.
  • There was no man in pink pajamas in Apocalypse Now, but there was a man in a getup that looked something like pajamas, black ones. That was Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando.

The man in pink pajamas in the book was actually Marlow, who was looking for Kurtz in the Congo. In both cases, he was the representative of an organization who viewed Kurtz as an adversary who had gone crazy in the jungle and turned himself into some sort of king. If you're familiar with either the book or the movie, you'd know that Kurtz was a "worthy f***ing adversary."

Now sure, we see in the next line that Walter mentions "a bunch...trying to find reverse on a Soviet tank," which would imply that his reference to "the man in the black pajamas" is a collective, not an individual reference. We can also surmise that Walter did not physically go into Cambodia to hunt down Colonel Kurtz, whose reputation as a black pajama wearing man was probably not widespread.

However, we cannot claim that the use of "the man in...(color) pajamas," in conjunction with its significance in the book upon which one of the great Vietnam movies was based, was an accident. The casual viewer can easily equate the mental picture with that of a ninja or a Vietnamese jungle fighter, but I think the Coens wanted us to dig deeper. I'm disappointed that no one else has gone there in 15 years. Go read Heart of Darkness. It's a helluva book.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Taking a Break

By halfway through The Wild Bunch, I'd had enough. I sat watching on my computer screen in my recliner and kept nodding off, not because I was tired, but because the colors were washed out and the plot was mindless. It was at that point I realized the true nature of the AFI Top 100 List and called it quits. Maybe one day I'll pick it back up again, but probably not. Judging by what I've seen from television film critics and what I've seen of these movies, they are probably horrible people, one and all. No thanks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

#79: The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)

There were FAR better movies being made by 1969. This was a shallow movie with little to no heart. I even read that Sam Peckinpah was trying to horrify his audience with all the spaghetti sauce he threw around, but instead they ate it right up and went to the movies to see more blood. Sure, there was some good distance work with cameras, but that doesn't excuse the overall brownness of the movie, alleviated only by a bright blue sky, which actually made the brown more brown. The acting might have been good if the characters were anything I cared about, but there was never any reason to get involved. Pitiful excuse for a Top-100 Film. File this one under: Technical Achievement. Which is hardly so.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Groupings for what these movies really are:

Yankee Doodle Dandy
Swing Time
Bringing Up Baby
A Night at the Opera
Modern Times

Toy Story

Ben-Hur (Religion)
Do the Right Thing (Race)
Pulp Fiction (Drugs)
The Last Picture Show (Sex)
The French Connection (Drugs)
Sophie's Choice (Holocaust)
Platoon (Vietnam)
Easy Rider (Drugs)
All the President's Men (Nixon)

Blade Runner
The Sixth Sense
12 Angry Men

So far, out of 22 movies watched, there are only 5 I can come up with for which you don't have to be either 80 years old or a political radical to enjoy. I'd put 3-4 of the "message" movies on my list anyway, but the others had serious help from people more concerned with agendas than movies. I already hate the AFI. Who knows what this will look like by the end.

#78: Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)

Glad that's over. I suppose we could learn something about the ever-changing societal sense of humor, or beauty. I could make comparisons between The Great Depression and what we're experiencing now. Or, I could just talk about being bowlegged. I think I'd rather not talk at all and forget this ever happened. If there was a movie yet that made me want to quit this project, this is it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

#77: All the President's Men (Hoffman, Redford)

Alright, there have been plenty of movies so far on this list that have underwhelmed me or been outright disappointments. This includes the first Alan J. Pakula film I saw, Sophie's Choice. There have also been some very good movies, ones that deserve the accolades they've received. This is a rare movie that does everything a movie is supposed to do, and always with class and excellence.

The casting: Lots of gritty 30+ year-old actors who are not appealing to the eye. Some of them downright ugly, a lot of guys with Bill Hader haircuts. Man, do they really relay the common man and make him real, though.

The cinematography: The French Connection, which was onlyl 5 years earlier, did a hideous job of filming guys walking around. They tacked on an extra 20 minutes of movie time with absolutely nothing interesting. Here, every time someone walked, it was interesting. The shots were great, the way that Hoffman and Redford moved from one place to another always told what they were thinking. Just great.

There is not a drop of action in the movie. It's all dialogue, it's all phone calls and house visits and board meetings and guys sitting around the newsroom with noisy typewriters banging away and people talking. It doesn't need anything else. Everyone does a great job of acting. The lost art of the facial expression is at its finest, with no thought of striking a Brangelina sexy pose ever entering the actors' minds.

Granted, I am counting down, so the movies should be getting better. They really haven't been, though. There's been no real connection between rank and quality. This, though. This is a movie. Great suspense. Great acting all around. Highest marks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

#83: Titanic (Cameron)

This movie won 11 Oscars, mostly for being the most popular movie of all-time among lonely women. The lines are a bit forced at times, which is usually a sign that they're not well-written, The dialogue reminds me of some of Star Wars: Episode I, which bothered me even as I refused to dislike the movie. My co-watcher, a certified Titanic fanatic, was also bothered by the fact that people generally weren't talking like they were actually from that time period.

I like Bill Paxton and am glad he was in there as the salvage man. Seems like a small role for him, but he wasn't that big yet. I had never seen this movie before, but understand why I didn't like Leo DiCaprio back when the movie came out. He wasn't as good of an actor, just popular with the ladies because his character fulfilled their fantasies.

I know I'm more critical of contemporary movies because there's so much great stuff that I've seen that's complex, while it would appear that the movies the AFI chooses are more simplistic and base. This is a good disaster flick with excellent special effects, but like their glorification of Citizen Kane, I think the AFI worships style over substance a little too much, and that style is often the overwrought Big Hollywood Style instead of small art style. Oh well, maybe I'll take all the movies I've seen and make my own list when I'm done.

Monday, February 09, 2009

#82: Sunrise, A Song of Two Humans (1927)

In the quest to be a high-ranking white person, it is important to claim that you want to one day use your Netflix to go through the AFI Top 100. It lets other people know you care about good movies, without actually having to labor through all the difficult films to watch on the list.

It is not important to attempt this feat, only to say that you want to. If you do wind up watching these movies, you get stuck being surprised by a 1927 silent film. The story is at least interesting, the emotions well-conveyed, but nonetheless it is a silent film. Provided you actually continue watching beyond the first minute or two, you realize that half of the movie is a total downer and the other half is full of la-la happy times. It's a remarkable feat for 1927, probably one of the first movies to use wide shots, such as at the carnival, but it's not something that begs the 21st century Netflix enthusiast to take interest. I had a good time with it, but wouldn't have chosen it and will probably never watch it again.

Oh Gawd, I have to break into the unholy trilogy and watch Titanic next.