Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yippee-ki-yay, mother******!

Since it's Christmas, I thought it only right to commemorate the season by watching one of the most revered Christmas movies of all time. No, not "A Christmas Story". I'm talking, of course, about "Die Hard".

"Die Hard" is one of those movies that I always thought I had seen. I love action movies- I'm not sure how I missed this one. It never occurred to me that even though I could quote from it, that might have been just by osmosis. But when I really thought about it, I couldn't even tell you what the storyline to the movie was. I just knew the names John McClane, Hans Gruber, and a few memorable quotes.

I went into Die Hard with high expectations. I mean, there have been so many sequels, how could the original possibly be anything less than amazing? I was right - it was FUN! I mean, realistically, the story would likely never play out the way it did. But throughout the whole movie I was on the edge of my seat - it was quite a ride.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Bruce Willis. My mom loved him when I was a kid - we watched Moonlighting together when it was on TV and I've always thought him to be a great actor and a good guy (and easy on the eyes especially when he was younger; that helps). He's been in so many great roles, but "Die Hard" is obviously the film he is most well known for (though I have definitely been partial to his work on "That 70's Show" up to this point). To watch him in this movie as the wise-cracking tough guy was pretty cool. He was alone in many of the scenes, and even with the walkie-talkie as his only support, he still held his own. The action sequences were great - not as dated as I expected them to be. I definitely have a soft spot for old-style action where it's not all completely CGI.

I thought the whole message of family was nice as well- here is this guy just trying to put his family back together and having a hard time doing it, and it takes him literally saving his wife's life in order to make her see what a great guy he is. As a woman, sometimes we are forced to choose work over family. We don't always make the right choice - luckily for Holly she figured it out just in the nick of time. I also liked that the kids played a really minor role in the film - they were there and they moved the story along but for the most part it wasn't really about them. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting here trying to remember if there was 1 child or 2, and I can't remember. That's not a bad thing.

The thing that I found the most funny was the attitude of the cops (outside of John McClane and Al, or Carl Winslow, of course). You see this so often in movies in this time - the cops are automatically the arrogant, self-absorbed blowhards. They know everything (even when they don't), they don't need anyone's help (even when they do) and their decisions are the right ones (even when they aren't). But they always see the error of their ways in the end. This made me laugh.

As usual I'm not going to dig deep into the plot, because as usual I'm pretty much the only person who hasn't seen this movie. But it was a great way to end my Christmas Day and I'm really glad to have seen it. I'll probably watch the rest in the series at some point, but I have a feeling this was the pinnacle.

5 of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Excuse Me While I Whip This Out...

The next chapter in this saga is Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." I was really confident about this one. "Spaceballs" is one of my favorite movies and my sense of humor can be really depraved at times, so Mel Brooks' style of humor is right up my alley.

It started off like a punch in the stomach - the racist humor began right off the bat (when I saw Richard Pryor's name in the credits I knew I was in for it). I'm not one to shy away from a dirty or uncouth joke, so I wasn't worried.

It's a western, but it's not a western like I would normally expect. The movie was absolutely hysterical. It's been a long time since I was so completely satisfied by a comedy - there are so few "good" comedies being made in this day and age. People are too PC nowadays; it's refreshing to see a movie that doesn't take itself so seriously and really pushes the envelope.

All the characters are great - Gene Wilder shines as the jailed (and then mysteriously not jailed) Waco Kid (I met him...it was one of the best moments of my life) and Mel Brooks delivers his classic womanizing cameo. Madeline Kahn's ridiculous accent- priceless. The whole cast was hysterical - they had great comedic timing.

My favorite part of the whole film was the last 15 minutes or so. It was also my favorite part of Spaceballs. When the film is taken out of the film and just kinda dropped into "real life" - that is amazing to me. In Spaceballs it was when they watched the VHS of the film on the ship and promoted all the movie merchandise. In Blazing Saddles it was when they literally drove off the set and you saw that it was all a soundstage. There is a fight on screen that makes its way to the commissary in the studio, and the characters drive out of the movie, down the street, and to a movie theater where they go see "Blazing Saddles." Watching them watch themselves on screen is crazy, and awesome.

I am really excited to watch "Young Frankenstein" now for this project- a lot of people tell me it's their favorite of his films. I was really, really impressed by this one - it'll be hard to top.

5 of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Good Enough For Me!

I am 28 years old. This means I was born in 1981, which means I was a child in the 80s and 90s. So the fact that until today I had never seen "The Goonies" has been both a baffling concept and a point of contention with everyone in my life for as long as I can remember. I think I was literally the only person over the age of 25 that had never seen it.

"The Goonies" was actually one of the reasons I started this blog. It's pretty much the pinnacle of "I cannot believe you've never seen this movie," which is the heart of this project.

I watched it today, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I have to admit I was apprehensive over the fact that there was so much riding on my viewing of this film. What if I didn't like it? Would there be something wrong with me? Would I be ostracized and made to feel like a hearless monster? It's likely.

Luckily, I am safe. I loved it. It made me laugh, it made me tear up a few times (though, to be fair, that is not hard to do). Overall, my heart was warmed by the sheer wholesome nature of the movie. I won't go into a full description (because I am certain you already know) but at its core, it's a movie about kids trying to do the right thing. They are a little mischievous, because they are boys, and they are a little rambunctious, again because they are boys. But they care about each other and their families. The whole point of the treasure hunt was to get enough money to save their house and save their family from eviction from the "evil" developers. Not a fresh or unique storyline, no, but done really well. The adventure the day takes them on allows them all to use their strengths and do their part to save the day.

At the end of the day, I was left with a movie with characters I loved, jokes and quotes I FINALLY understood after almost 30 years, and just a general sense of contentment. I totally get why people have given me such a hard time over the fact that this one initially passed me by. And I have to say, a part of me is glad I saw it as an adult for the first time. I know the type of child I was, and I don't think I would have loved it back then. I would have liked it, sure, but I don't think I would have loved it. Seeing it as an adult with fresh eyes allowed me to see the whole picture and really appreciate it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock: I didn't need another reason to wish I had been born 40 years earlier.

I am convinced that I was born 2 generations too late. I was born in 1981, which means I don't really fit in anywhere. I am technically a child of the 80s, but don't really remember a lot of the big events, trends, etc of that time. My nostalgia lies in the 90s, and really, what is there to be nostalgic about? TV was just OK, technology hadn't really emerged yet, and we didn't "DO" anything of great historical value. That's pretty much how I feel about my generation overall- what have we done?

I have always felt that I would be more comfortable if I had been born around 1940. That would put me in my late teens/early 20s around 1960, which is the time I would have been in my prime. The clothing, lifestyle and general attitude of the late 50s/early 60s is what I wish we still had. Not everything gave you cancer, you could discipline your children, and life was just easier. Sure, they were worried about the bomb, but how is that different from now?

This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. In honor of that, I watched the Woodstock movie for the first time this weekend. When I say this film moved me, I mean it MOVED me. I almost can't put into words how much I wish I had been alive for this. The late 60s, though decidedly different in atmosphere than the early part of the decade, are still incredibly inspiring to me. To see half a million people coming together for the love of music and the message that we can do anything as a nation...that is something I don't think we've ever felt in our lifetime. 9/11 brought a glimmer of that, but it was quickly overshadowed by blame and apathy once more.

The music of the 60s is powerful like no other time. The earnest, love, and just the feeling of hope is just amazing. Throughout the 4 hours that this movie lasted (the TV version), I was moved to tears more times than I can count on my two hands. Joe Cocker's spastic, amazing version of "A Little Help From My Friends," Joan Baez singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and talking about her husband who was in prison at the time but still confident that he would prevail. Richie Havens opening the show with just his acoustic guitar and his foot tapping out the beat. Hendrix playing the national anthem. Santana, who was apparently so strung out on mescalin that he thought the neck of his guitar was made of snakes, and still played amazingly well. And his drummer's solo....possibly the best performance of the whole weekend. The list goes on.

The audience interviews are amazing. Everyone's happy to be there, even when they are covered in mud and hungry and tired. They are all there for the experience; almost no one complains. The media tries to make it seem like it's a state of emergency, but really it's not. The government tries to send in the army, but still there is peace. Everyone's on drugs, and some people got hurt and a few unfortunately died, but overall the chaos is under control given the sheer amount of people in this field. Toward the end it seemed to unravel, but still there was so much love. For every person that freaked out because of a bad trip or just because it was overwhelming, there were 1000 people who knew it was going to be ok and just did what they need to do to help the people around them, whether that be food, emotional support or medical help. They were protesting the war through music, and boy did they make their point loud and clear. All you need is love...sometimes that really is true.

I am nothing if not passionate about music. During Santana's performance, there is a split screen of one girl in a striped shirt just standing there alone, with everyone else around her sitting, and she is just dancing like no one else is there. She doesn't have a care in the world; she doesn't need anything else. I think if I had been there, that would have been me.

Woodstock showed me the reality of a generation that felt they could do anything and used music to get their point across. Sure, it might have been the drugs talking. But kids today are on drugs too, just like my peers were when we were kids. And we've never done anything like this. We have nothing to leave behind in history that is of this magnitude. Woodstock is an amazing part of history and we'll never have anything like it again. We're too commercial now; this could never be pulled off today. It's sad, and it makes me nostalgic for a time that I never knew to begin with. Those hippies were really onto something.

Woodstock: 5 out of 5.

Withnail & I: Kinda like Harold & Maude, but not really

Watched Withnail & I last night. It was recommended to me by a couple of people, but I know it's not one that the masses will be familiar with. The short plot is 2 broke, unemployed actors who are best friends decide they need some time away from home and use one of the guy's uncle's summer cottages in the country. Hilarity, homo-eroticism and dead fish ensue.

At first watch, I definitely liked it. I love British humor and it reminded me of Harold and Maude in a lot of ways. Set around the same time period (but made almost 20 years apart), it just "felt" similar to me. The style of humor was similar, the visual aspects were similar, even the scores seemed to fit the movies in the same way. I don't think Harold & Maude was actually based in the UK, but it felt that way to me.

The bulk of the movie takes place in the country with these two guys trying to get away from home and their problems, but their problems seem to follow them there. They are still broke, they still seem unlucky, and they still frustrate each other even though they are best friends. There is a great subplot with the gay uncle following them there in order to get closer to the friend. They finally decide it's time to go home when "& I" (as he is named in the credits; I realized toward the end that I didn't actually know what his name was...I found the name Marwood online but don't remember hearing it in the film) gets an audition for an acting job. When they get home they find that all their problems are still waiting for them, and though Withnail is happy to just stay home and continue to get drunk, Marwood wants to move on with his life. It helps that he has something to move on to, while Withnail has nothing. Their lives have come to a crossroads and even though they care for each other, they know it can't stay the same.

I know a lot of people haven't seen this movie so I won't say anything more except to say you will probably like it. It's worth a watch for sure - I want to watch it again because I have a feeling I will like it more the more I see it. It didn't strike me the way Harold & Maude did the first time I watched it, and I didn't think it was quite as funny, but I'm definitely glad I watched it.

And one more thing...don't threaten me with a dead fish.

Withnail & I: 3.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jaws - Social Darwinism at its best?

My first movie for this blog is 1975’s Jaws. Starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws tells the story of a New York beach town that is met by doom when a great white shark moves to town and starts committing premeditated homicide on fat Americans. I chose this film because it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I figured I would pay homage. Jaws was made from a novel by Peter Benchley, which was inspired by a true story of a shark attack in a New Jersey lake.

When I told people I would be watching this movie for the blog, a lot of people told me it was a “perfect” movie. I guess I can see how people would say that, but for me it fell just a little flat. I enjoyed it overall, but I don’t think it’s perfect.

The movie wasted no time on the action, with the first victim dying less than 3 minutes in. I really liked that it didn’t take long to get right into the story- I’m not a fan of a ton of long, drawn out exposition in a movie. Right off the bat, though, I got angry at most of the characters.

It was really frustrating to me how political the town was – the character of Chief Brody was trying really hard to keep these people safe, and it was more about money and not disturbing the fun holiday weekend for everyone. Although it was making me mental to watch the attitudes of all these people, it hit me that it was probably very realistic. That is probably exactly what would happen in real life. And that made me very sad.

The thing I hated about this movie is that everyone was annoying. I had no empathy for any of the characters in this film, which was hard to deal with. They were all stereotypical selfish, lazy stupid Americans who cared more about their own leisure than human life. So when people started dying, I felt like they deserved it. Even when the kids died I didn't feel bad- their parents' pain seemed startlingly deserved to me. Almost as if the shark was performing his own natural selection.

Hooper, clearly, was the best character in the film. That didn’t surprise me – he was great. I loved how matter-of-fact he was about the whole thing- it was just “I can help you, or you all can die. Your choice.” He and the Chief were the only ones who made any sense throughout the whole movie.

The scenes with the shark were fun – watching it for the first time almost 35 years after it was made obviously makes me biased toward special effects. It clearly was not the best quality

My favorite part about the whole film was the score. I absolutely LOVED the music, and I thought it was one part about the movie that was truly perfect. It was dark and moody, then all of a sudden it was uplifting and jolly, and it kind of catches you off guard.

Overall, I did like this movie. It got to my emotions, but not in the way I expected. It wasn’t scary and I didn’t connect with the characters, but it pissed me off and I found myself caring about what happened even if I didn’t care about the people.

I give Jaws 3.5 out of 5.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Have Seen a Few Movies...

I've been collecting recommendations and will post the full list soon. But I wanted to list a few of the movies I have actually seen, that were recommended to me for this list. It's a short list though!

Bonnie & Clyde
Harold & Maude
Life is Beautiful
Little Monsters
Schindler's List
Some Like it Hot
Stand by Me
The Graduate
The Jerk
The Parent Trap
The Princess Bride
This is Spinal Tap
The Wizard of Oz
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Sound of Music

So I guess I haven't been living entirely in a cave, but have been poking my head out here and there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The "Why"

I am on a journey.

I am on a journey to see every movie that is considered to be a "classic." The term classic has different meanings for different people, but I think that will make this a lot more interesting.

Why am I doing this?

I am married to a movie buff. I would even venture to say he is a film geek. My husband Bill hosts a weekly genre cinema podcast called "Outside the Cinema" (www.outsidethecinema.com - sorry, couldn't resist) in which he and his co-host Chris (also host of the "Are You Serious?" podcast at www.areyouseriouspodcast.com) sit down in our house every week and talk about movies. The show has been running for about a year and a half now, and two things have happened.

1. We have become friends with people around the world who are so startlingly intelligent and well-spoken in many ways, but mainly in the world of film knowledge. People with other podcasts, general listeners and others have become "friends" through this show. The one thing we all have in common is a love for film.

2. Though I love movies, I realized that I have seen practically nothing. I'm not exaggerating. I mean, I've seen a lot of movies. But most of the films I've seen have been more current box-office offerings. I love independent film and I like a lot of different genres, but have not really seen the movies that one would consider to be "essential." There are a few that I've seen, but really it's insane how many I have not.

So, in an effort to better myself, I am on a quest to see every movie that is considered to be a "classic" in any sense of the term. Casblanca, Gone With the Wind, etc, are at the top. But if it's something you consider to be essential for any reason - even if it's not an old film - I want to watch it.

This is day 1 and I have 126 movies on the list. My Netflix account is going to get some exercise - this is going to take years. But I'm looking forward to the ride.