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Angela's Ashes (1999)
A bit long, but a masterpiece
I won't begin to repeat or re-hash the numerous excellent comments on this movie. I'm in the camp of thinking it is a masterpiece, with excellent performances. I watched the movie just this week, and am starting the book now; I'll be interested to see what I think after I read the book.
The one comment I'd make is that the movie could have been shortened. I was surprised that it was nearly 2 1/2 hours long. I think that, as sometimes happens, there was a feeling that the entire book needed to be captured; some judicious editing would have been desirable. For instance, as has been pointed out, fewer scenes with the chamber pot would still have conveyed the point. (Not sure if this is a true "spoiler", but better to be safe than sorry...) Notwithstanding that, the movie never "dragged" for me; and in spite of the obviously dreary nature of much of the movie, I was not depressed by it at any point. I guess that this is partly due to the fact that the resilience of the human spirit shown through the entire story.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Greatest Movie Ever Made
There are so many excellent insightful comments, here, I will only add a few:
1. Like many others, I consider this the greatest movie ever made. 2. I consider Peter O'Toole's performance the single greatest acting performance in the history of cinema. 3. What never fails to amaze me is that it is an awesome epic with the brilliant dialog of the best, intimate play.
In "Amadeus", Salieri says about one of Mozart's pieces, "Displace one note and there would be diminishment". That's the way I feel about this movie.
You Can Count on Me (2000)
A disappointing movie to me
Warning: There is a "spoiler" below.
I'm a movie buff and almost always find myself in agreement with consensus opinions on good movies. I found this movie, however, disappointing on two unrelated counts: The more serious one was plot and character development. I didn't feel that Laura Linney's behavior in particular made sense. Obviously movies can and should contain "surprises". However, the surprises should be in terms of events; or if they involve behavior, the surprise behavior should in hindsight make sense in terms of character development. When she had the affair with her boss, it made no sense in terms of their relationship or what she thought of him, even in hindsight.
Secondly, I didn't think that the role of her son was either well conceived or well performed (I'm not sure which was the real problem.) In the context of the movie he should have been a sympathetic character, and to me he just wasn't. The best character in the movie by far was Mark Ruffalo's character, both in terms of the character in the movie and his performance.
Finally, I had a real problem with the music. Bach's cello suites are one of my all-time favorite pieces of classical music; but to use them in this movie (and at ear-splitting volume) made no sense in terms of the context of the movie. Obviously the writer-director liked them also. I can almost hear him thinking: "I'm going to use them, even though they are totally wrong for the setting and context of this film". It felt like he was on an ego trip. Oh well, if using them turned anyone on to that fantastic body of music, it wasn't a total waste.
I'll Fly Away (1991)
An incredible series that I'm amazed was originally on commercial TV.
Respectfully, I disagree with the one comment posted so far.
My wife and I discovered this series when it was on PBS. As stated, we are amazed that something this good was originally on commercial TV. Is it totally unrealistic that a maid would ultimately be that outspoken, and that a Southern white lawyer could slowly have his eyes opened? Maybe. But I think the key is that everything developed slowly, over time. There were no unrealistically sudden conversions.
Among the other things that impressed us: There were no easy answers; every episode, it seems, almost painfully explored issues with complexity. If you want easy answers, this is not the series for you.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" was certainly a classic (although, as my 85 year-old father has observed, Gregory Peck played the same essential character in virtually every movie.) And it may be true that its characterization was true of the vast majority of even well-meaning southern whites. But I accept the possibility that, even in that time, at least one person of color "pushed the envelope". And that at least one Southern white of good heart found himself or herself slowly transformed.
If you can accept this, admire this series for its excellent performances and refusal to take the easy way out in any episode.
Groundhog Day (1993)
A Timeless Fable
I finally saw this movie years after it came out, and was blown away.
--SPOILER AHEAD-- It hit me that it was in a sense a re-doing of "Beauty and the Beast". In that story, the Beast could not be transformed until he had truly won the love of the girl. Here, Bill Murray could not get out of the endless loop until he won the love of the girl.
The movie sort of felt like a fable, as day piled upon endless day. I also thought it did a good job of taking Murray through the various stages: Denial; anger; trying to take advantage of the situation; and finally acceptance and grace in dealing with his situation.
IMHO even though this movie is generally well-regarded, I think it is under-appreciated. I think it is a very well-done version of a timeless fable.
A unique, surrealistic, great film with some flaws
There are many good comments here, including numerous synopses, so I won't re-iterate the plot. I'll just add a few personal opinions.
I saw this movie in the theater in the Fall of 1966, as a high school senior. As I walked out of the theater, I had two strong feelings:
1. I was blown away by the movie and loved it.
2. The movie would sink without a trace in a week or two. It was clear that I was about the only one there with whom the movie resonated.
Since then I've watched it periodically. For years it wasn't on TV, or at least VERY rarely. Still hard to find.
I respectfully disagree with the comments about the movie dragging. Maybe it's a case of Frankenheimer being in love with every second he filmed, but the pace is a big part of what made the oppressive atmosphere of the movie. Would the bacchanalian scene or the cocktail party have had the effect if they had been edited shorter? I don't think so.
I have two disappointments:
1. Although the point was clear that (probably) EVERYONE fails (because you can't really change who you are), I would have liked a bit more about why Tony felt he had failed.
2. My second comment isn't really Frankenheimer's fault. (Believe it or not, there was SOME editing!) Towards the end, when he visits his wife, he makes some comments that make no sense in the context of the edited film. Apparently there was a scene where he visited his daughter as well, which was edited out. It provided a context for the later comments.
I wonder if there is a "director's cut" version?
Of the entire movie, about the most painful part for me is where all the folks are waiting, just waiting, for another chance. And I think the scene that sticks with me the most is when Charlie goes in for his second (third) chance, and is crying; and shortly you realize that he was crying for two reasons: Happiness/relief at having another chance; and the conflict because HIS chance is due to Tony being sacrificed. (Gee, interesting metaphor I never thought about: "He gave his life, that you might have life everlasting". HMMM!)
BTW, there have been a lot of comments about Rock Hudson's performance. For what it's worth, I heard a tape of an interview with him where HE said he thought it was about his finest performance, or words to that effect.