Tuesday, January 20, 2009

#84: Easy Rider (1969, Hopper, Fonda)

This movie doesn't really have a plot. That's because it never really had a script. These two guys just decided that they wanted to make a movie about drugs and motorcycles and then did it. Something moderately interesting happens, then they ride for a while as a good soundtrack usually plays, then something else happens. They camp out by the road, Dennis Hopper cultivates the original stoner movie persona, introduces "dude" to popular culture, etc. Deliverance gets a good deal of its plot here, with the protagonists taking a trip through redneck territory with mostly negative results. This was supposedly the first movie to bring the 60's to the big screen, helping to catch up to music and protesting and all that. It is what it is, certainly the fact that it didn't shock now as it did then says something profound, but I'm not gaga for profound tonight.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

#85: A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers)

This is my first experience with the Marx Brothers. If this was the 1930's, I might have found them funny, but not so in the present. Humor is very difficult to judge over time since it changes so much, which is why Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine is always ranting against long-running cartoons that no longer employ a relevant sense of humor. To add to the disconnect, the movie is full of opera singing, which is not fun to listen to. The whole movie felt like a Saturday Night Live with the scenes fading to black and entering new and different scenarios that had little transition. By today's standards, this was a discombobulated mess. Ah well, can't win 'em all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

AFI's Top Movies of My Lifetime

Here they are, ripped from the Top-100 List I am tackling:

1. Raging Bull
2. Schindler's List
3. E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial)
4. The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring)
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
6. Unforgiven
7. Tootsie
8. Saving Private Ryan
9. The Shawshank Redemption
10. The Silence of the Lambs
11. Forrest Gump
12. Titanic
13. Platoon
14. The Sixth Sense
15. Sophie's Choice
16. Goodfellas
17. Pulp Fiction
18. Do The Right Thing
19. Blade Runner
20. Toy Story

Hardly. Boo. I have verified that this is an inexact science.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

#86 Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986)

I watched this one last year, so it's not altogether fresh in my head other than some major scenes, like where important people are shot and killed. Oliver Stone's okay. He makes big Hollywood movies with big Hollywood actors, mostly about the government and the military. I guess it's problematic that I saw this shortly after Apocalypse Now, which does a much better job of cinematography. If Platoon is watching a very good movie about the soldiers in Vietnam, Apocalypse Now is actually watching the soldiers and experiencing what they experience.

Platoon proved to be just a little too crisp and clean to be believable. Also, if you put 10 fairly talented guys together, they don't equal one amazing superstar actor. Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, and the rest all fill good supporting roles, but Charlie Sheen just doesn't have the chops to fill the lead role the way his father did.

Nonetheless, Oliver Stone was actually involved in the Vietnam debacle, so we can trust him to give what he believes to be an accurate portrayal. I don't know, the mid 80's was the dawn of the monster crisp clean Hollywood movie, and I think this one got a little overbaked for the subject matter. Still, it was fun to watch.

Monday, January 05, 2009

#89: The Sixth Sense (1999, Shyamalan)

M. Night Shyamalan does surprise endings. This was the first of his crazy little franchise that became increasingly megalomaniacal. Once we got to The Village, things were starting to smell a little fishy. It was a cool movie that I own with a fine cast. Then came The Chick in the Pool or whatever that was called, and the ending was telegraphed far too soon, but it didn't matter because Shyamalan had an idea and wasn't going to listen to anyone. I say all that to say that this was a phenomenon heralding a potential new great when it came out, but it will probably fade off the list like Amadeus and Dances With Wolves before it.

Additionally, I didn't find this movie all that enthralling. At the surprise ending, my reaction was, "Well, duh. I thought the glossing over of that very important event was odd." I actually liked the critically panned Unbreakable best of all 5 of his movies because it really embraced a sense of fun and wonder in getting to its conclusion. In fact, Unbreakable was really a fantastic precursor to the Spider-Man-led superhero movie genre that blew up a couple of years later.

Shyamalan has, sadly, not lived up to the promise of his early career and has delivered a series of films that have gone straight downhill. If he is able to regain himself later, perhaps The Sixth Sense will stand the test of time. Most likely, though, it will be forgotten. Oh well.

#92: Goodfellas (1990, Scorsese)

Alright I do like Scorsese I really love The Departed and Taxi Driver and Gangs of NY and really need to see other things like Raging Bull which is way higher on this list but I just couldn't figure out what the huge massive deal with this movie was like maybe I need to watch it again or something but perhaps it's just because I watched this pretty much right after watching The Godfather and come on there's just no comparison with that and the thing that irked me the most was when they did one scene ONE that had Ray Liotta's wife narrating after he'd been narrating a whole heckuva lot and it just didn't go anywhere with her after that and what's the point of that female narration it just struck me the wrong way now don't get me wrong it's a decent flick with a lot of classic moments but does it only have this sort of notoriety because it's a mob movie that brought us back from the mob movie disaster that was Godfather III and made us believe again?

It's a lot easier to be disappointed in the selections for movies of my lifetime than it is for earlier eras, where I have to take someone's word for it because I just haven't seen enough of those movies and probably never will. Good night.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

#87: 12 Angry Men (1957, Sidney Lumet, director)

Sidney Lumet is a critically acclaimed legend. My first experience seeing a film I knew was one of his came in 2007, when I saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. It had a great set-up, could have gone in a million good directions, but fizzled out as he played out every last murder laboriously. There weren't really any surprises, as all characters followed their personal paths and none did anything uncharacteristic or surprising. I was unimpressed.

I see some of the same elements of Lumet's work in one of his earliest movies here. From the time that Henry Fonda stands alone as the one Not Guilty vote in the room, you know exactly how it's going to end as he slowly convinces different jurors, and himself, of his points. This ought not to be a suspenseful movie for the viewer.

I found interesting that almost the entire movie was contained within a single room. I'm sure that hadn't been done much before. So, I enjoyed the backdrop. I also liked that we were given a good long look at the defendant's face before these men went into the room.

12 Angry Men stands as a generational movie that challenges the men of the status quo and forces individual choice upon each juror. Everyone has a point that gives him a moment of doubt and causes him to change his vote. There are immigrants and jocks and ad men and old men and businessmen. They each see things differently and have different personal obstacles to seeing things clearly. Put this in the early 1990's and it would barely cause a blink, but in 1957 it asks questions that weren't asked to the few in the audience who actually wanted to answer them. I now laud my first Sidney Lumet film in 3 tries.