Saturday, February 20, 2010

#53 On The Waterfront - Marlon Brando didn't always sound like he had cotton balls in his mouth

1954. dir. Elia Kazan, starring Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden.

Seen it before? No.

There seems to be a trend in the older movies we've been watching. There is always ONE woman who is intentionally there as a love interest (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Rashomon, The Lady Vanishes, Singin' in the Rain, etc.) otherwise there would be just men in the movie (12 Angry Men). Sam's The Wire comparisons are hilarious because there is some truth to them. It's also like what I have been writing in previous posts...there's something eerie about the past being similar to the present in that clearly we're not getting any more creative with our story lines and essentially that we're not evolving into better human beings and creating better situations for ourselves. People are still greedy. People who ask too many questions still get killed. People who want out get hunted.

Marlon Brando is terrific. Seeing him this young and vital is refreshing compared to watching him as the leader of a strong mob family. It's kind of like watching him before he gets a promotion. I liked the conflict about being brothers and being safe. Where do your allegiances lie? Where can they lie without anyone getting hurt? Eva Marie Saint is great. The woman character/love interest always seems to be strong. I guess she would have to be to deal with what she has to deal with!

Would I see it again? Yes
Would I own it? Eh

#52 Rashômon - come to your own conclusions cause we won't tell you the truth

1950. dir. Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

The story itself is interesting. A body is found in a field near a straw hat belonging to a woman and an overall suspicious circumstance. Four narrators (one who comes to a psychic as a spirit) tell the story to a priest. All accounts have two things in common, a woman being taken advantage of and a man's death...but how it all happened is up to the viewer to decide because there is no clear conclusion.

I found the general theme to be that all the characters showed weaknesses. In other words they were human. I think that is why this movie is on the list. The woman might not have been strong enough to leave her husband. The husband might not have been strong enough to deal with a 'damaged' woman. The bandit might not have been strong enough to leave the man alive. The fourth story teller might not have been strong enough to resist temptation and become a thief.

I probably won't see it again but I don't discount that it was probably a really terrific movie when it came out in 1950.
Most annoying character: the it and you'll hear why.

2/21/2010 - I meant to write this earlier but I was too much into finishing these posts that I forgot...while watching this film all I kept hearing was "Like Kurosawa I make mad films, 'kay I don't make films, but if I did they'd have a samurai!" thank you VERY much Barenaked Ladies!

#55 Raging Bull: He ain't pretty no more.

1980. dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent.

Seen it before? No.

This was funny: I turned on this movie, and a couple minutes in, my wife says "Why are they boxing? I thought this was a baseball movie." Uhh, no. That's Bull Durham.

(an aside: No movies about baseball on the list. Probably because so many of them are sappy or boring or ridiculous or just plain terrible. I think the best movie about baseball ever made is Major League but I think this is a minority view.)

And but so anyway. Robert DeNiro plays Jake LaMotta, a middleweight boxer with some pretty serious rage issues. He has a brother played by Joe Pesci and a wife, whom he conveniently discards for a better-looking and nicer woman (Cathy Moriarty). He wins a bunch of fights, but drives everyone away due to his insane jealousy. Oh and he throws a fight because the Mob makes him. (Hey! It's Billy Batts! Now go home and get your fuckin' shinebox.) The movie is (mostly) in black and white for some reason.

Movies like this are why I generally don't like biopics - it's just one thing happening after another, with no real overall story linking them. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "If I wanted a long boring story with no point to it, I have my life." It is still worth seeing for Robert DeNiro's performance, and the meticulously re-created boxing matches, which are all based on real fights. The guy who plays Sugar Ray Robinson looks like he could mess you up pretty bad. The way the fights are shot are intense and visceral. Oh and apparently Scorsese stole Alfred Hitchcock's idea from Psycho and used Hershey's Syrup for blood.

Position on the list: 72
Movie that ripped off this movie's ending: Boogie Nights. Dirk in front of the mirror reciting his dialogue. But don't worry, there's no giant schlong in this movie.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#54 The Big Lebowski: Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine...

1998. dir. Joel Coen, starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Peter Stormare.

Seen it before? Many times.

Way out west there was this fella. Fella I wanna tell you about. Jeff Lebowski, aka the Dude (Jeff bridges) is a slacker living in L.A. I won't say he's a hero, cause, what's a hero? Two thugs break into his house and micturate on his rug - turns out they were looking for money from a different Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston). At the urging of The Dude's foul-mouthed Vietnam veteran friend Walter (John Goodman), he goes to visit Lebowski to ask for compensation, but is rudely rebuffed. Later he gets involved in a kidnapping scheme involving Lebowski's trophy wife (Tara Reid). The plot defies description... there's some weird dream sequences, and lots of bowling. It all totally makes sense if you think about it (everything The Dude says to Lebowski in their last scene together is correct).

This is one of the funniest movies ever made. It takes at least two or three viewings to really get all of it. I like IMDB's Memorable Quotes page for this movie. I estimate that it contains 80% of the screenplay. I find myself quoting it quite a lot. This one is particularly handy at work:
The Dude: "That's a great plan, Walter. That's fuckin' ingenious, if I understand it correctly. It's a Swiss fuckin' watch."
Position on the list: 140
F-Bombs: 292

Monday, February 15, 2010

#53 On The Waterfront: I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum...

1954. dir. Elia Kazan, starring Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden.

Seen it before? No.

Marlon Brando stars as Terry Malloy, a washed-up former boxer who now works down at the docks. The dockworker's union is ruled with an iron fist by Johnny Friendly, played by Lee J. Cobb, who seemed to specialize in shouty asshole roles like this. (See also: 12 Angry Men.) The union is corrupt and crooked, and Friendly uses brute force to run it. He has Malloy set up a hit on somebody who I guess was asking too many questions. The guy's sister (Eva Marie Saint, winner of Best Supporting Actress for this role) investigates his death, and becomes involved with Malloy. Oh and Karl Malden is here too, as a meddlesome priest.

This movie reminded me of Season 2 of The Wire. Apparently not much has changed in the last 50 years for the dockworkers: backbreaking labor, lousy pay, inconsistent hours, and organized crime. Of course The Wire was able to explore these issues in more detail, given that it had 13 hours to play with instead of 107 minutes. Anyway, this is a great movie, and it's worth seeing for Brando's performance.

Position on the list: 114
Another weird Wire parallel: The pigeons. "Man, shit like that don't even work in them cartoons. The roadrunner just snatch the birdseed and book."

#51 Braveheart - Mel Gibson portrays Christ...

1995. dir. Mel Gibson, starring Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau, Angus Macfadyen.

Seen it before? not ever in its entirety until now.

Braveheart is a movie that many are calling a modern classic. It's story (a tad more fictionalized than reality - the baby in real life was not Wallace's) and the ages of the real people don't match with the romanticized version of the movie. So what IS the story about? Some would say eros. Love for ones country. Love for another person. The quest for self preservation when people are being oppressed. You could see it with Wallace (Gibson's character) - he lost his brother and father and was taken in by his uncle Argyle who showed him a love of things beyond revenge: arts, languages, life - all of which allowed him to open his heart up to love and find love with Murron. While courting her he told her father that he was not a fighter but a lover (not in so many words but you see where I'm going with this) but his love for her caused him to see the love for his country that was there before but hadn't manifested itself in the form that the rest of the movie circles around - the historical events that led Scotland away from the oppression of England. When Wallace has his dreams throughout the film you see the pain of the love and what it leads him to do.

Was it a good movie? Actually it was a pretty visually stunning movie. The story was full bodied and the characters realistic (though romanticized)
Would I see it again? Only if I really want to spend a few hours in front of the other words, there are better things to do.
Worst part? Mel Gibson...great director...terrible Scottish accent!

#50 The Lives Of Others - why do Germans have to be made out to be so bad?

2006. dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, starring Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur. German with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

It's a good thing that films other than American ones made it onto the top 250 because I would have missed the opportunity to see this film Das Leben der Anderen from 2006. It's based in 1984 and is just very well done and a must see...Here's what is in store if you choose to watch it -espionage, double crossing, wire-taps, sex, and just smart writing. It makes me feel good about being an artist and having a voice, and more importantly, using the voice to bring about change. More people today should be so bold as to use their voice to change things for the better! This movie had me thinking, in a crisis of conscience which side would I choose? Want to know more? Take my advice and WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!

Would I see it again? Did the Berlin Wall fall in 1989?
Would I own it? Sure, if I can find it!

#52 Rashômon: I don't mind a lie if it's interesting.

1950. dir. Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

A woman has been raped, and a samurai has been stabbed to death. What exactly happened, and who was responsible? You're not going to find out, because there are four conflicting accounts of the incident from four unreliable narrators:
  • The bandit (Toshirô Mifune) who is insane and laughs a lot,
  • The woman (Machiko Kyô), who is also sort of nuts,
  • The samurai (Masayuki Mori), who narrates his account from beyond the grave via a medium, and
  • Some guy (Takashi Shimura), who was hiding in the bushes.
I liked the idea of this movie. As for the actual execution of it, I don't know. I don't think the characters were well-defined enough, and all of the performances were over the top. Overall... meh. Hasn't aged well.

Position on the list: 86
Sitcoms that based an episode on this movie: Perfect Strangers, Diff'rent Strokes, Frasier, M*A*S*H, Coupling, Happy Days, Mama's Family, and I'm sure countless others

#51 Braveheart: Outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes

1995. dir. Mel Gibson, starring Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau, Angus Macfadyen.

Seen it before? Yes.

It's medieval times, and the English king Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is cruel and merciless. He's trying to maintain control over Scotland, so he puts all sorts of oppressive policies in place. Like Michael Scott, he implements prima nocta, which enrages pretty much everybody. So William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson, leads a bloody rebellion against the English, and tries to get the Scottish nobles on his side.

It's a pretty good movie. One of the last of its kind made before CGI ruined everything (five years later, Gladiator came out) so the battle scenes feel more "real" than a lot of newer movies. I really had three problems with this movie:

1. Like Pocahontas, they didn't trust history to tell a good story, so they added a lot of bullshit. You should essentially disregard anything that happens with Sophie Marceau's character, because it's all total fabrication. For example, the movie implies that Wallace was the father of King Edward III, which is God damn ridiculous.

2. Everybody's too pretty. Well, except the guy with leprosy. But everyone else has perfectly straight, white teeth, and Wallace's wife (played by Catherine McCormack) looks like she just stepped out of the salon. Check out Mel Gibson's stubble, he always has exactly the same amount. Come on people, it's 1280! People bathed once a year, if that!

3. Mel Gibson. Not a good actor. I did not for one second find him believable as a medieval Scottish peasant. If he was smart he would have cast somebody with more of an "everyman" quality but I think his ego got in the way. There's a lot of shots of Mel just standing there looking all heroic and manly, while the music soars in the background, and I was thinking, OK, who directed this? "Dear Mel Gibson. You're the greatest. Love, Mel Gibson." I kept joking during the movie that he probably wanted to cast himself as Jesus in Passion Of the Christ but realized he was too old. Well, just watch the ending of this movie if you want to see Mel play Jesus.

Position on the list: 88
Did this deserve Best Picture? I'll say yes, but... 1995 was not a great year for movies. No real all-time classics like Fargo or Pulp Fiction.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

#49 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl - sailing the seas with holes in the sails

2003. dir. Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush.

Seen it before? Yes.

How often are we lucky enough to watch a movie acted by someone who IS the lead character? Sure there's Connery's Bond (sadly no movies are on this list), there's Damon's Bourne (you're in luck Bourne Ultimatum is on the list) but then there is Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow - he's slightly tipsy, is smooth talking (despite getting into a heap load of trouble regardless of the smooth talking), and just perfect for this role!

The CGI wasn't overdone. The scenes where the pirates turn into their cursed selves are so well done it's just awesome. The story was easy to follow and you just can't tear your eyes off the screen. I also really liked the Tortuga scenes when Captain Jack tells whether he deserved the slaps or not. The pirates Pintel and Ragetti are hilarious. I'm glad they were kept for the whole series. Daniel found it hilarious when the canons spouted silverware and Ragetti got a fork to his eye.

But I think my favorite part by far is the music. Klaus Badelt created music that just stuck with you the whole time (even after the movie ended) and has since been stolen for use at many sporting events including the beginning of the White Sox and Pirates games. It's exciting and it pulls you in to the movie.

Own it, Love it, so glad this movie made the list!
Yes, scarily enough I agree with Sam's Goofus and Gallant comparisons!

#50 The Lives Of Others: Bad men who put people in prison

2006. dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, starring Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur. German with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

It's 1984 in East Germany. Communists are still in charge. The Stasi, which is the secret police, has a network of spies and informants to keep track of enemies of the state and subversive thoughts. This guy Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) gets assigned to spy on a playwright (Sebastian Koch) but it's all just a ruse to get the guy out of the way for the Stasi commander to move in on the guy's girlfriend (Martina Gedeck) So Wiesler begins to sympathize with the writer, and it starts to interfere with his work.

I've always said that the easiest thing in the world is to make a movie about how bad the Nazis were. The second easiest thing is making a movie about how bad the Communists were. Yes, we get it, it's a oppressive regime, it's a madhouse, damn you all to hell, etc. The most interesting part is what happens after the end. Spoiler: the Berlin Wall falls in 1989.

Position on the list: 56
You pervert: And then they presumably had intercourse.