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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
"Be happy in your work"
In 1957, a movie was premiered that was the most awe-inspiring of its time. It was a massive project, involving a collaboration of several countries and the building of a bridge. It was the film that put director David Lean on the map and brought home Best Picture and six other Oscars at the Academy Awards. Although Lean and producer Sam Spiegel later topped themselves with `Lawrence of Arabia' and their first film's flaws have since become apparent, `The Bridge on the River Kwai is still a landmark of motion pictures and still awes (Major spoilers up ahead).
`Madness! Madness!' The last words said in the film by Colonel Clipton can be used to sum up the film. Most of the major characters were mad in a way, but some more so than the others. Let's take Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson, one of his most renowned performances. Nicholson is a stiff upper lip officer, who believes that by building a proper' bridge, he is helping the future and providing the prisoners with better work and self-esteem. He doesn't seem to take into account that this bridge will be used by the Japanese in Burma against the allies and that men are dying on the River Kwai. There are three other main characters in the story. Shears, played by William Holden, Colonel Saito, played by Sessue Hayakawa and Major Warden, played by Jack Hawkins. Shears, from what we can tell, doesn't want anything to do with the war or the P.O.W camp. He bribes officers and, when he escapes, tries to weasel his way out of going back. As an actor, Holden has always been, yet this movie will have us asking why. Hayakawa was 68 years old when he was cast as Saito, yet he doesn't look or act like it. Unlike Nicholson, he only builds the bridge because he has to. Like Shears, he does his duty because of what would happen if he did otherwise. The third character, Warden, is different on the other hand. He sees the war as a game, playing with his plastic explosives as if he's a kid with firecrackers. He also believes only in the mission, carrying around suicide pills should anyone have to be killed.
Speaking of the River Kwai, the actual story was worse than it is here and this is one of only two problems I have with the story. Hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners of war died along this railway from causes such as malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, gangrene, beatings, exhaustion and torture. And some just wanted to die. This sugarcoating of the actual story is one of the most controversial parts of the movie, but what did you expect? This is a Hollywood Epic. This is where the film's only other problem comes in: It seems to have no major focus. We leave the Nicholson-Saito story just when we are to decide whether to cheer or boo Guinness so other events can be fitted in.
The Colonel Bogey March has become one of the most renowned scenes in film history. Originally, however, the song was almost not excepted because it had some rude lyrics. However, the scenes were the march is first used foreshadow other events to follow. The P.O.Ws march past `the graveyard' and the hospital were the sick are kept. They are like new recruits marching past battle hardened veterans as they go to war. Shears remarks to Corporal Weaver, `We're going to be a busy pair of gravediggers'. The second time the march is used is near the end, as the gang marches across the bridge just before the commandos strike. The march, as happy as it may seem, is an omen of what is to happen next.
`There's always the unexpected'. John Milius once said that the commando mission in this movie is the best he has ever seen on film. Why? Because everything that could go wrong does. The team parachutes off course, one member is killed, they have to take an alternate route and Warden gets injured in the foot. However, they continue on and on. They finally reach the bridge, marveling at the quality of the structure and the apparent comradeship of the prisoners with the Japanese. They think that, from there, it's easy sailing. However, nature has a way of toying with them and are they really prepared to fight and kill others if the need arises?
Ironically, the person who destroys the bridge is the same man who advocated its construction. Nicholson's actions, however, still spark debate to this day. Many believe that he would never do such a thing and that he must have been knocked unconscious we he did what he did. However, what about his last line `What have I done?' In my view, though he loved the bridge like it was his own child, he realizes the enormity of what he has been doing and that he must kill his child.
In the end, the bridge is destroyed, but for what cost? Everyone involved is either dead or doomed to die. Their fates have been sealed. On the other hand, life has survived. The first shot we see in the movie is of a bird floating around in the sky. This represents nature's tranquillity, before it is disrupted by the machines of war. The last shot we see is of the same bird and once again is tranquillity. Only this time, it is a return to peace. Men may have kicked aside life in their quest to build and destroy a bridge, but they are only temporary visitors. Nature is a permanent resident.
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Greatest, for a reason
In June 1998, on a much-publicized list, the American Film Institute named `Citizen Kane' America's Greatest Movie, sparking a controversy that rages to this day. Since then, when people watch `Citizen Kane', they've been analyzing it and dissecting to see why it made the list. They completely have forgotten what made it so great (Minor spoilers).
I, for one, am one of those who think any greatest movie list is ridiculous. I believe a person should have several favorite movies and if they are asked what is their favorite, they can name one of those. But they need to know why. `Citizen Kane' is one of these I would name because it's so creative. Every scene is a delight to watch in terms of cinematography, lighting, sound, writing, music or acting. Almost everyone was in their film debuts: Orson Welles, Joe Cotton, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, William Alland, Paul Stewart and George Coulouris are all excellent in their debuts and most would have long careers. It's difficult to name who is the best, but I think that Cotton, Sloane and Moorehead were the best in all their scenes. Welles and Coulouris would be the runners up.
There are other elements that make the film work: The script of Welles and Herman Mankiewicz (Strangely, the film's only Oscar winner), the music score of Bernard Herrmann, the photography of Gregg Toland (The only major team member with previous film experience), the film editing of Robert Wise (Who would have a great career as a director), and the sound created by Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart. Blend all these elements together, allow to bake and you got a great movie.
Film Critic Pauline Kael once called Rosebud a gimmick. Indeed, this is correct. At first, it seems to explain everything, but it also explains nothing. The movie has such a great story because it gives us the inside on the life of a rich and famous celebrity, the kind we are always interested in. Rosebud is the key of newsreel reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland), as well as ours, to unlocking the life of Charles Kane. We really never sympathize with Kane since he is a jerk. He uses people to his own advantage and he kicks anyone around who gets in his way. Nevertheless, the life is fascinating. The screenplay was also one of the first to take liberties in the plot. It doesn't have a linear narrative, but rather jumps from interview to interview, from event to event. Event after 60+ years of age, the movie is still as fresh and entertaining as though it were made yesterday, just as it will be 60 years from now.
If you decide to watch the movie for the first time, do not expect it to be the greatest movie you have ever seen. Rather, don't expect anything. Expect just another movie and you will get your money's worth. On the cinema mountain range, there are few on the same height as `Citizen Kane' (Dr. Strangelove is the only movie I would place on Kane's level, for its brilliance, its acting and its creativity). Unfortunately, many of today's future directors aren't getting raised on films like this. In fact, when I told someone about it recently, they said `Citizen Kane? Is that a movie?' That's a shame, for the filmmakers of tomorrow need better inspiration than the disposable movies of today.
The Apartment (1960)
"Be a mensch!"
On March 27, 2002, as the world has sadly learned, filmmaker Billy Wilder passed away. No doubt, over the passing days, weeks, months and years, there will be some discussion about him and of his work. There will also be biographies, documentaries and other tributes to him. I believe, however, that he should be left to rest in peace and that the only true monument to him is in the great movies he left to us. One of these is 1960's `The Apartment'. Some might disagree with this film's Best Picture win (Considering that it was the same year as `Psycho', `Elmer Gantry' and `Spartacus'), but it's a great movie nonetheless.
Jack Lemmon, In a memorable role, portrays C.C Baxter, an insurance man for Consolidated Insurance in New York. Baxter has a secret: He has been lending the key to his apartment to various executives so they could have extra-martial affairs. In exchange, Baxter's career advances so far that by the movie's end, he is the boss's executive. Shirley MacLaine is elevator girl Fran Kubelik, who has had a romance with Baxter's boss. Even though the boss is a real weasel (More on him and the actor in the next paragraph), Kubelik thinks she still loves him at the end. However, she doesn't realize that she actually has fallen for Baxter.
Fred MacMurray will probably be most remembered for his role on `My Three Sons'. His early film career also involved largely comedic roles. Ironically, his most memorable film roles, like `Double Indemnity' and `The Caine Mutiny', had him adapt to villainous roles, which he did real well. Here, he portrays J.D Sheldrake, the personal manger at the Insurance company. He is a real liar, using people to get to the top (Where he is at) and having flings with others at the building. With his looks and smile, however, you would think that he could have easily played a good guy. Shows just how good of an actor he was (Or was the part just a good fit?). Unfortunately, he joined the ranks of actors who never won Oscars.
Wilder's films had a common theme of people willing to do anything for happiness, even if it means breaking the law. Here, the story is about someone willing to give up his bachelor flat for a higher position at his job. In expense, he loses the trust of those around him. The main character here, like Walter Neff in `Double Indemnity' also have a similar flaw: They don't know what to do until it's too late and they never take a stand on something. Wilder's films also had great endings, often with dialogue. The final line in this film (`Shut up and deal!') has become nearly as famous as Nobody's Perfect'. Now that's movie making!
References to previous Wilder films made in this one:
Mr. Dobisch (Ray Walston), one of the executives, remarks that he picked up a girl that looked like Marilyn Monroe, who was in `The Seven Year Itch' and `Some Like It Hot'. During thr filming of those movies, Wilder had grown to despise Monroe's demands for star treatment and her poor work ethic. Thus, he also included the party-girl Monroe-esque character in this film.
Another of the executives, Mr. Kirkeby (David Lewis), saw Baxter with Kubelik at his apartment and remarks that they had a `Lost Weekend', a possible reference to the 1945 film that won Wilder Best Director and Best Picture academy awards.
The character name Sheldrake was also used in Sunset Blvd. (1950).
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
It will make you stand up and cheer!
Although he will always be well known for his gangster roles, James Cagney's only Academy Award for Best Actor came for his role as George M. Cohan, the hoofer, singer, dancer, actor and playwright portrayed in `Yankee Doodle Dandy'. One might suspect that Cagney only won the Oscar because the Academy would never have given it to one of his gangster roles. Or maybe, it was because this film was just what the country needed in the early days of World War II. Or maybe, the academy actually was recognizing Cagney's abilities as an actor. Whatever the reason, Jimmy deserved the award. Who ever knew he could do that kind of footwork and even sing!
Now, let's get to George Cohan, who's `A good friend of my Uncle Sam' and was `Born on the Fourth of July'. Because of this, Cohan was immensely patriotic and wrote many flag waving tunes. Many of you are still stumped about his name, but you would probably know his songs if you heard them: `Mary', `Give My Regards to Broadway', `Harrigan', `45 Minutes from Broadway', `Over There' and, of course, `Yankee Doodle Dandy'.
The music numbers, since they are stage productions, lack the Hollywoodized touch that's in `Singin' in the Rain'. Nevertheless, they are still exciting enough. A great supporting cast assists Cagney, including Walter Huston, Joan Leslie, Richard Whorf, Irene Manning, George Tobias, Rosemary De Camp, Eddie Foy Jr. and Jeanne Cagney (His own sister!). The film's direction was helmed by Michael Curtiz, responsible for such classics as `Casablanca', `The Adventures of Robin Hood' and Cagney in `Angels With Dirty Faces'. Curtiz puts into the movie his traditional blend of thrills and fast pace. The screenplay is full of memorable scenes and dialogue, particularly `My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you'. About the only problems with it are moments of melodrama and how it might trivialize some of the events in Cohan's life. I also did not like how the script skips in telling us how Cohan's mother and sister died. But, with all the virtues of the movie, these problems are minor. It also shows to never learn your history from movies.
So, if you happen to see this available for rent or sale at your local video store, don't hesitate. Unlike many movies today, this is one you can watch problem free with the whole family.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Reminiscent of Hollywood's golden, inoffensive era
Acclaimed by many as the definitive adaptation of the Robin Hood story, `The Adventures of Robin Hood' is a wonderful film that is likely not to age over the years, with fast paced and exciting direction by Michael Curtiz (Angels With Dirty Faces, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy) and a great cast to boot: The charismatic Errol Flynn as Sir Robin Hood who is impossible to dislike (He smiles in about every scene, for one thing), the beautiful Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian, Claude Rains as the despicable Prince John and Basil Rathbone's haughty Sir Guy of Gishbourne.
At the time in 1938, this film was produced for a then massive $2,000,000, making it the `Titanic' of its day. This permitted, in addition to the top notch cast, for first class production values. The sets are amazing and creative, enough in fact that they received an Oscar. Awards also went to the film editing and the exciting film score of Wolfgang Korngold. With all these virtues, I eagerly await a DVD release by Warner Bros.
Kingu Kongu no gyakushû (1967)
One word: Lame.
This film is an absolute rip-off of the original King Kong. The Kong suit is the worse ever made (Even worse than the one in King Kong vs. Godzilla). The dinosaurs on Mondo Island are rip-offs of the ones in the original. Gorosaurus, the dinosaur Kong battles, looks like, acts like and dies like the T-Rex in King Kong. Even the camera sequences are the same. Kong also briefly fights a sea serpent that is a far cry from the serpent in the original King Kong.
One of the actors in the movie referred to Robot Kong looking like a giant toy. They could not be closer to the truth. I'm surprised you did not have to wind it up! The film's only good part, and special effects, was when he was destroyed.
There is a moral to this story: Do not tamper with a Masterpiece. Long after this film and every other King Kong rip-off has burned in Cinema Hell, King Kong (The 1933 version, mind you) will still be the best monster film ever made.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
How hollywood shows history (Minor spoilers)
I have not seen the movie Pearl Harbor since it first came out in theaters back in May. But after a recent experience, I could not help myself from writing a review.
Recently, in my history class, we were discussing about how Hollywood changes events in history to make movies more entertaining and commercial. One person brought up Pearl Harbor, asking if Hollywood messed up the history or not. If I weren't so in control of myself, I would have gone off on that person! I asked him that why should an important and violent event such as the bombing be toned down for a PG-13 rating and why we pay to see a three-hour love story that should have been a war movie. Being in a classroom full of MTV Generation morons who wouldn't know good movie making if it smacked them in the face, I was told by several people to shut up. But whose has the last laugh.
Pearl Harbor, admittedly, is entertaining. But should this awful event in our history be turned into a duel by the visual effects artists for the explosions? Considering the time period this movie was made in and the filmmaking techniques available today, this could have been as realistic and brutal as Saving Private Ryan. Also, since it was unrealistic towards the attack, it defeated another purpose of the producers; to encourage young people to study more about the attack. If that student in my class had read a book on the attack, he might not have asked if the movie was unrealistic. He would have already known.
There are several other problems with the movie. One of the big ones is the reasons why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. In the movie, the only reason given was that the U.S cut off fuel supplies and trade. Japan decided to show the U.S not to mess with them. If one were to study up on the attack, they would realize that Japan was invading islands and lands in the pacific. Thus, the fuel that the U.S was providing would have been used for the wrong purposes. The Japanese, who launched the air strike and thus brought the United States into war don't even have a big role in the movie. Even the title place of the movie doesn't have a big part, being only the mere backdrop for two young lovers.
One might call me a hypocrite, for I trash a movie like Pearl Harbor for lack of combat accuracy and praise something like The Longest Day, which has some inaccuracies in its view of the D-Day landings. But one also has to know that these movies were made in two different time periods: The Longest Day came out in 1962, a time when censors had more control over film content and thus wouldn't permit Longest Day's producers to show a bloody D-Day landing (This was also the era of the war epic). Pearl Harbor, however, has been released in a time of more leant censors and could have been the definitive movie of December 7, 1941. Instead, it was only made as the ultimate M.M.M (MoneyMaking Machine). When will Hollywood learn to stop cashing in on the dead?
The Scalphunters (1968)
`Somebody ought to just naturally bust some sense into my hard-boned head?'
How has a good movie like The Scalphunters become largely unknown over the years while everyone knows what The Matrix is? With a fine cast lead by the legendary Burt Lancaster, Ossie Davis, Telly Savalis and Shelly Winters and with a lot of memorable dialogue and scenes, this is a great comedy western (Minor spoilers).
Joe Bass (Lancaster) is a fur trapper who has spent the whole winter collecting furs. When a pack of Indians lead by Two Crows take Joe's furs and leave him with Joseph Lee (Davis), an educated slave, Bass pursues the Indians to get his furs back. The two have a series of misadventures that also involves a party of Scalphunters lead by Jim Howie (Savalis), who take the furs from the Indians and also take Joseph Lee. Bass now has to get both his furs and his slave back.
The film works on many levels beside comedy. Some also might consider it a commentary on racial politics. The end of the movie, when Lancaster and Davis become covered in mud and are indistinguishable has some symbolism; the white and black man, while of a different color, are the same people.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
It has aged. But is still worth watching.
When it was made it 1967, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was relevant to the time, reflecting upon the changing times in America. African-Americans were protected by the law, but still were not respected by everyone, as Stanley Kramer showed in this movie about a debate between two families over an inter-racial marriage.
While an overall good movie, some of its ideas have dated. First off, Sidney Poitier's character, in order to be worthy of the white girl (Katharine Houghton) has to be wealthy and a doctor who happens to work in Hawaii. Second, the subject of interracial marriage, while still not accepted by some, has become somewhat common in our society. The movie seems to stand better as a time capsule to the changing ideas of the late 60's.
The performances in the movie are good, though no actor stood out among the rest in my opinion. Katharine Hepburn did win an for her role as Houghton's mother. But, in my opinion, she didn't deserve it. She never gets to have a dramatic scene to herself. Through most of the movie she just stands and says words. The Oscar might also have been out of sympathy for long time lover Spencer Tracy's death, which occurred two weeks after the movie was completed.
The film otherwise does have some good parts and I do recommend it. But it should be seen, as I said, as a reminder of how beliefs and ideals have changed since it was first released.
Modern Times (1936)
I can only give praise. Chaplin was a genius!
While it is only the first Charlie Chaplin movie I have seen, I am already prepared to say that this is one of his best works. In this memorable, hilarious and touching movie, Chaplin takes on the modern era along with his newfound girl friend (Paulette Goddard) in a quest for happiness.
Chaplin is a factory worker at a rather boring factory controlled by a boss who talks to his employees through screens (If that's not television, then I don't know what it is). With the same lame, repetitive work each day, Chaplin suffers a breakdown and is sent to the hospital. He recovers and is released, only to be arrested for accidentally being the leader of a communist parade. Goddard is a homeless girl who struggles everyday to live. Chaplin and Goddard eventually meet and the two vow to get a new home, `Even if I have to work for it!'
There are countless memorable sight gags in Modern Times. My favorite is when Chaplin, employed as a mechanic's assistant, gets his boss stuck in a machine. Another equally memorable gag is when Chaplin, in prison, gets hyperactive after sprinkling Nose Powder' on his food and inadvertently adverts a prison break.
There is much symbolism in this movie. For most of the film, the only things that have sound are mechanical objects such as machines, cars and radios. But for most of the film (As he was through the beginning of the silent era) Chaplin refuses to talk. His memorable song at the end, however, seems to show that he had given up and was ready to enter the modern times of cinema.But he did not change his slapstick humor. If only all comedians these days could be as funny or creative as Chaplin was without using sex jokes or molesting animals.
I guess that's the `Modern Times' for you.
An excellent piece of filmmaking.
If it wasn't for the fact that most of the cast would have been too young or not born yet, this movie could have been made in the 1930's or 1940's. It reminds one of the film noirs that Hollywood used to make during that time period. It is a superb example of film making, certainly among the 20 best movies I have ever seen.
Jack Nicholson is private detective Jake Gitties, who can be as hard-boiled as Humphrey Bogart's Phil Marlowe. But Gitties is different: He is intelligent, dresses well and has associates whom work with him. Gitties is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to investigate into an extra-martial affair she believes her husband is having. However, the investigation leads into bigger things involving the water supply of Los Angeles, which is in the middle of a drought. A series of double-crosses, murders and plot twists all lead into a climatic showdown in Chinatown which has a surprising conclusion.
If the saying `They don't make them like they used to' was ever more true, it was with this movie. Sex is only suggested between the Nicholson and Dunaway characters, yet it is convincing enough. And although Faye Dunaway is a beautiful woman, we never see frontal nudity of her (Directors today would do just the opposite). Some of the plot twists also would not be possibly made today, especially the ending (Which, if you haven't seen the movie, I cannot reveal).
Nicholson is a tour de force in his role as Gitties, but the rest of the supporting cast (Including John Huston as Mulwray's deceptive father) is equally superb. As to how Nicholson could loose the Best Actor Oscar to Art Carney in Harry and Toto is beyond me. Faye Dunaway was also nominated for Best Actress, only to loose to Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Fortunately, Nicholson and Duanway have both won Oscars since. In addition, the film itself received nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Roman Polanski (Who has a cameo in the movie as the knife-welding thug who cuts Nicholson's nose), but those Oscars would be lost to The Godfather, Part II. The only Oscar won was for Robert Towne's screenplay, which is today considered the model for film writing. After watching the movie, one will know why. From the stellar performances to the sharp direction to the superb screenplay, this is a cinema treasure.
Still good after over 4 decades (Some spoilers)
Recently, I watched Ben-Hur for my first time. The movie got off to a slow start and there are quite a few minutes I would have considered editing out (The overture alone was six minutes). But, after about half and hour or so, this movie really got going. The story revolves around Jonah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince who is arrested for attempting to murder a roman governor (Which was untrue. It was a mere accident) and forced into slavery. Ben-Hur is portrayed in an Academy Award winning performance by Charlton Heston. Some critics have complained in the years following the film's release that Heston is wooden in his role. While his performance isn't brilliant and does have some poor moments, he is excellent nonetheless. The rest of the cast is also good. The sets, cinematography and special effects are also excellent, which is probably why they won among the film's Eleven Academy Awards, a tally that wouldn't be equaled until 1997's Titanic.
I though at first that the opening scene of the film (The birth of Jesus Christ) had nothing to do with the movie. But Jesus was a main part in Ben-Hur's life, at least in his Hollywood life. He encouraged him to continue moving on when Jonah was a slave and also baptized him. When Jesus was dying at the cross, he performed one last miracle on the Hur family by curing Jonah's mother and sister of leprosy.
There is in this movie what is among the ten most celebrated action scenes in motion pictures: The chariot race. After more than forty years, the sequence has not lost its original excitement and is still inspiring directors today (See the pod race in Star Wars Episode One). What makes it so good is the way it was filmed. Sometimes, the camera angle makes it look as if we are spectators at the race. In other shots, we are chasing the chariots or even feel as though we are sitting in the driver's chair. The fact it was filmed in the 1950's before such a scene could be computer generated or filmed in front of a blue screen makes us appreciate it more because of the risks the producers took in filming it. Would such a scene be as great and realistic if filmed today?
Three-hour epics such as this are what can be considered an acquired taste. They are long and slow at times and often with unnecessary scenes. But this doesn't mean they aren't worth watching. If you want to learn about the Roman Empire or if you just feel like watching a good movie, Ben-Hur is highly recommended.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Among the 5 best movies of Stanley Kubrick (Some spoilers)
General George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) appoints General Paul Mireau (George Macready) to plan an attack on "The Anthill": An important German position that has been heavily fortified and deemed impregnable. The Regiment chosen to attack is the 701st, lead by Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas). Though it has been estimated that more than half of Dax's men will be killed, the 701st should be able to take and hold the Anthill until reinforcements arrive.
A day later, the attack begins. After a light bombardment, the first wave charges toward the Hill. However it is found to be merely a suicide charge. Many of the troops are either killed or wounded. The bombardment is so intense that some of the soldiers never even leave the trenches. General Mireau (Who was observing the battle from afar) deems the men cowards and orders a court martial with a sentence of death if the men are convicted.
Paths of Glory is a bold and powerful statement against the self-serving officers of all armies. General Mireau did not capture the Anthill. So, although the attack was impossible, he court-martialed and had killed some of the "cowards" who made him look "ridiculous". These Generals, although they must be geniuses to have risen to such high rank, also have no clue what some of these soldiers go through. They live and work and dine and drink in their spacious, nice, clean mansions while the soldiers who do the fighting and win the wars live in cramped, ugly, dirty trenches under the constant fear of death and disease. In one scene, as General Mireau inspects the trenches, he comes across a shell-shocked soldier. In a scene reminiscent of Patton, he hits the soldier who he then claims is a Baby. Maybe if he had been in the first wave of the attack on the anthill, he might have respected the men rather than court-marital them.
I will not talk much about the court martial, for there is not much to talk about. It is also more of a kangaroo court; The outcome has already been pre-determined and the defense is futile. The three men court-martialed are Private Paris (Ralph Meeker), selected because his unit commander has a personal grudge against him (The film shows why), Private Ferol (Timothy Carey), chosen because his commander finds him to be physically unattractive and Private Arnaud (Joe Turkel), elected to be court-martialed just because he drew a slip of paper marked with an X.
Paths of Glory has often been renowned as one of Stanley Kubrick's best films. However, despite wide critical acclaim, it was not a commercial success and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences denied it even a single Oscar nomination. This is a pity, for Paths of Glory is not only one of the best war films but is also one of the greatest movies of all time. Period.
King Kong (1933)
The greatest monster movie of all time
Recently, my dad and I went to go see King Kong at a theater in Anaheim. It made me only appreciate more just how great of a movie this is, and that's considering I must have seen it at least half a million times before.
Of the dinosaur movies that came before and after King Kong, Kong is still the best one. The Lost World (1925) even today has impressive visual effects and is highly entertaining. It's only problems are a poorly written love story and the fact not everyone enjoys silent movies. The Godzilla films, while entertaining, had cheaper special effects and often times the plots were not as good. Jurassic Park (1993), which some consider the best dinosaur movie, has spectacular Special Effects and is very entertaining. But it is slow at times. King Kong, however, is both highly entertaining and, more importantly, is able to tell the film without a wasted scene or dialogue. I felt as if I was in the theater for only half an hour! If only all movies could do that.
But no film is made perfect by accident. This film had a top-notch technical cast made up of the best in the world at that time: Production designer Mario Larrnagia, Film Composer Max Steiner, Marcel Delgado, who built the dinosaur models and Willis O'Brien, who animated them.
Some have questioned as to why plant-eating herbivores like the Stegosaurus or the Brontosaurus would attack humans. Perhaps, the humans were trespassing into their territory and would you defend your property if someone tried to invade it? Also, how many humans living today have seen a live dinosaur in the wild? Then again, some might say this was done by the producers to provide entertainment and suspense. I can agree with that. But do not criticize King Kong for this. It's an adventure movie, not a documentary.
While the film is largely about Kong and the dinosaurs on Skull Island, the rest of the film is able to avoid being overshadowed. While I have seen movies that have better acting, this film's cast isn't too bad. At least they are able to conceive realistic characters. Even Jack Driscoll, the film's hero, gets afraid when he talks to Fay Wray. Some also find it annoying that Fay Wray only screams in the scenes where she is in Kong's presence. Well what would you do instead? Tell Kong in a polite, calm english voice to let you down?
King Kong is easily worth 10 stars, a masterpiece that will be enjoyed for countless generations to come.
A good thought flawed list (Some spoilers)
Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0
The American Film Institute, after creating quite a controversy with their greatest movies list, was able to redeem itself with their Greatest Stars and Funniest Movies lists. Now, they present their latest: America's Most Heart-Pounding Movies.
The list is top-heavy with Alfred Hitchcock. The `Master of Suspense' has nine films, including three in the top ten alone (Psycho, North by Northwest, The Birds). Steven Spielberg has seven, including Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark in the top ten. The late, great Stanley Kubrick has five on the list, though none made the top ten.
The list, naturally, goes from number 100 to number 1. No complaints about Psycho being named the most thrilling movie of all time. It's also nice to see some of the movies that did not make the greatest movies list (The Exorcist, Deliverance, Dirty Harry, Jurassic Park, Goldfinger, etc.). I also thought the interviews with various stars and filmmakers were rather interesting and informative.
But, like every AFI list or Academy Awards show, there are things I did not like about this list. Here are four movies I was sure would make the list.
1. Apocalypse Now: Recently, I went on the AFI's website and checked the list of nominees. They nominated The Blair Witch Project, The General and even Ghostbusters. But not Apocalypse Now! Don't they know the First Air Cavalry's charge to Wagner's `Dance of the Valkyries' and Martin Sheen's battle with Marlon Brando is more thrilling than watching some girl videotape herself screaming?
2. Archnophobia: Again, it was not even nominated. The movie that made me afraid of spiders should have made the list for the heart-pounding battle between Jeff Daniels and the mother Tarantula.
3. The Hunt for Red October: Well, at least they nominated it, thought they selected other less thrilling films over it. The scene where the Red October `Disappears' in front of the U.S.S Dallas and the final battle against that other Russian Sub should have been enough for this film to make it.
4. Patriot Games: Also nominated, but not chosen. You have to love how thrilling the terriost attack on Buckingham Palace and the high-speed boat chase near the end are.
Honorable Mentions that weren't even nominated: Live and Let Die, Thunderball.
Like I said, You have to give the AFI some credit for choosing films that did not make the greatest movies list. But should have spent more time on the nominees and on the films that were selected. Worth watching, but not recommended.
The AFI's top ten:
1. Psycho 2. Jaws 3. The Exorcist 4. North by Northwest 5. The Silence of the Lambs 6. Aliens 7. The Birds 8. The French Connection 9. Rosemary's Baby 10. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Apocalypse Now (1979)
One of the ten best movies ever made (Some spoilers)
Recently, I had the privilege of viewing the new directors cut of Apocalypse Now known as 'Redux'. It is simply a spectacular restoration of a movie that already was a masterpiece.
Almost an hour worth of new footage has been added in. The original always had the sense of being hurried. This new version gives the film more breathing space and develops characters more. They cover a second encounter with the gunboat crew and the Playboy Bunnies seen previously at the U.S.O show and A much-talked about seen at a French Plantation. There is also additional footage of the Air Cavalry and some more footage from the Kurtz Compound.
The best of the new footage is the added footage of the Air Cavalry and of Willard's Gunboat crew. The original cut never really explains why Captain Willard and his men leave after the attack on Charlie's Point so quickly; we assume it's to continue with their mission. 'Redux' explains why. I am not going to tell but this new footage shows more of the insanity of Colonel Kilgore and shows that Captain Willard is not the stone-faced, boring guy we assumed he was (He actually smiles!).
But this is no ordinary Director's Cut, which basically throws in new footage and does nothing else. Francis Ford Coppola and Walter Murch (One of the original editors) have remade 'Redux' literally from scratch. The `new' footage has been restored to match with the original. In addition, Coppola and Murch might have changed some of the existing footage. What I mean is that they have not changed the scene itself, but the camera angle where it was filmed. For example, when Willard kills Kurtz, first off Kurtz is reading an Air Force statement that is banning crewman from putting the F-Word on their planes. In the original, when he was killed, it only showed a forward view of him as he was stabbed. In this version, Kurtz turns around before he is attacked and then shows a struggle between Kurtz and Willard, leading to Kurtz's eventual death.
But even 'Redux' has its flaws. The encounter with the Playboy Bunnies, while harmless, doesn't really have anything to do with the film. It basically shows that people might get desperate enough in wartime to have sex in exchange for fuel. But the French Plantation is not as easy to sit through. Except for showing what the French think of American involvement in Vietnam (Negative of course) and more personality development for Captain Willard (He smokes opium and even has an attraction for a French woman), it has nothing to do with the film's plot. Some call this a trip through time and indeed it has an eerie feeling throughout (Largely because there is fog everywhere). However, I recently found an explanation for the plantation scene that makes sense; the whole journey up the river by Willard and the boat crew is a trip through time. They start off in the Vietnam War, then go to when Vietnam was a French Colony and then go to when it was ruled by savages. Also notice that before they arrive at the Plantation and after they leave it, there is a thick fog (A possible time warp?). However, the movie overall would not have suffered if this scene was left out and instead used as a DVD extra.
Overall, while deliberately paced and a bit tedious (Plus it has graphic violence and many uses of four letter words), Redux proves to be as good if not better that the original. I wonder if it can be eligible for Oscar contendership. I doubt any of other movies this year would be much competition. For me, watching this movie was an unforgettable experience that cannot be summed up in words. If you don't believe me, see it for yourself!
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A movie that is not for idiots. I'll explain why.
As I read all the negative reviews for 2001: A Space Odyssey (On Amazon. Com), I begin to wonder as to what kind of morons people can be today. In today's society, an acceptable film has to be fast paced and highly entertaining (Just look at the Oscar results of the past five years). They don't have to have a plot or a purpose. But it was the reviewer on Amazon who said he was happy that Stanley Kubrick was dead that really got me mad.
The day that Kubrick died was a dark one for American cinema. Few directors alive today have the guts to try something new and imaginative. It's all sequels to hit movies (American Pie 2, Rush Hour 2, Jurassic Park 3) or remakes of old classics (Planet Of The Apes). 2001 was bold. It was a challenge. It was something new. It defied every set standard of Science Fiction films, from its unconventional narrative to its use of classical music. It showed that you do not need to have lots of dialogue to express ideas or emotions. Images can be just as powerful. And 2001 is unthinkable today without the power and excitement of Thus Spoke Zarathustra or the waltzes of Strauss The Blue Danube. 2001 critics also say that the humans are boring and `By the Book', while HAL the computer is sympathetic and interesting. That was Kubrick's purpose: The mechanizing of the human and the humanization of the machine (Another example would be the two airplanes in the opening of Dr. Strangelove).
I have also read reviews of people who claim the movie is boring and complain that scenes take too long. Without the Dawn of Man ape scenes, would you really know what the hell was going on? It would start suddenly with a ship in space. It would still be, in your words, Lame! The docking scenes take five to ten minutes because that is how long it takes to dock a ship! It is not like in Armageddon or Star Wars where it takes just a second. These men are professional airline (Or spaceline?) pilots who are also carrying a cargo of passengers. They sure are not going to risk their lives just to arrive on time. Things are also slow moving in space because of gravitational forces and because it is a sterile and empty environment.
Other morons also talk about how Boring the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite scenes are and how pointless they are. The Star Gate Dave Bowman goes through is the Grand Central Station of the aliens (A highway you could say). The room he ends up in is a `Zoo' where extra-terrestrial `Zoo Keepers' study him and the way he acts in his natural habitat. The monolith there changes him from a young adult Bowman to a middle aged Bowman to an old, dying Bowman and finally into the Star Child. It is only boring if you think its boring.
Some morons also don't know what the monoliths are about. In the beginning, the monolith is a teacher to the apes that causes them to evolve into humans. The monolith on the moon is a beacon. It sends a radio message to the extra-terrestrials on Jupiter telling them that the human race has advanced into outer space. The one floating in Jupiter space is the passageway to the Star Gate and I have explained the one in the room. We also never see the extra-terrestrials at all throughout the movie (We can however hear them in the room). Thus we have a greater fear of them because we do not know how they act or what they look like.
My final thought is that if you have a short attention span or if you thought Citizen Kane was worse than Battlefield Earth, you should stick to Star Wars (Though I did like it) and a stupid Bruickheimer/Bay movie for your entertainment. 2001 is certainly one of the greatest movie experiences of all time and also shows that cinema can be one of the most powerful forms of art and can be utilized for other purposes besides showing people getting shot in the head or fornicating. It is also a reminder that Hollywood's future is always better than the real future. Oh how I would love to have my own Space Liner with it's own spacepods, a videophone and a zero gravity toilet.