Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

Thirty movies in thirty days….

This is a page solely dedicated to my film challenge to myself.

Whether you’re here because you want to be, or you’ve just wandered in by accident, welcome! 

As all explanations of how this is going to work are on the original post, we’ll dive right in!

DAY ONE: MARCH 1ST, 2011

Film Title: Metropolitan

Year: 1990

Director/Writer:  Whit Stillman did both!

Stars: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Oh.  A “witty” film.  Great.  Can’t wait.  (Upon first few minutes) Looks cheap, dialogue is stilted and very formal, but charmingly so. 

Final Impression: What a fantastic film!  For my first film of the challenge, this one really knocked it out of the park for me.  Love the Jane Austen references, love the fact that it’s a true modern-day comedy of manners.  It retains the feel of the British stiff-upper-lip period comedies while being wholly American and contemporary.  This film jumps through these peoples’ lives as though someone was just opening a peep hole randomly and letting you see thirty seconds, no matter how “trivial” that moment might be.  Looks like I’m going to have to check out Stillman’s other films: Barcelona and Last Days of Disco.   

Fun Facts: Great quote from the film: “I’m not giving you the silent treatment.  I just haven’t been talking to you.”

Rating:  I know it’s the first film, but I give it 4 dancing elephants.

 

DAY TWO: MARCH 2nd, 2011

Film Title: Trust

Year: 1990

Director/Writer:  Hal Hartley did both!

Stars: Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson & Edie Falco

First Impression: (Prior to viewing, upon drawing it from my German stein, which has now become the official grab box…) Geez.  Not sure I’m in the mood for a Hal Hartley film today.  (Upon first few minutes) Yup.  It’s classic Hal Hartley.  Quirky, humorous, angst. 

Final Impression:  Yup. It’s classic Hal Hartley.  Quirky, humorous, angst. Oh, all right, I’ll give a little.  I liked this film just fine.  As I do with all Hartley films.  I like them, they make me laugh, they’re quite cute with their odd little unexpected eccentricities.  But overall, his films have never WOWED me.  This was no exception.  The late Adrienne Shelly was adorable and plaintive.  I love the way Hartley focuses the camera on the ONE person in the room not talking.  I dislike it when you have a two minute scene of staccato, completely monotonous dialogue in a plain two shot.  Edie Falco is a standout for me.  She keeps the Hartley quirk and still manages to give her character more warmth and reality than the others.   

Fun Facts: This film was shot in 11 days.  This film, exactly like my first one, was shot in 1990 and was written by the director.  Interessssting…. 

Rating:  I respect Hartley’s work.  This did not grab me.  I cannot give a half elephant (tried, but couldn’t get the format right), but if I could, I’d have given it a “Meh” 2.5 elephants.  As is, I’ll be generous and do 3.

 

 

DAY THREE: MARCH 3rd, 2011

Film Title:  La Femme Nikita

Year: 1990

Director/Writer:  Luc Besson did both!!

Stars: Anne Parillaud, Tcheky Karyo, Jean-Hughes Anglade, Jean Reno 

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Awesome!! I’ve always wanted to see this film!!  (Upon first few minutes) Wow.  Parillaud is an amazing actress–what a vicious little creature!!!

Final Impression:  I’m totally satisfied–this film lived up to my expectations.  I’d say exceeded them, mostly because a lot of the reviews I’ve read from the punters say things like, “Well, it WAS special back in the day, but now it seems tame and the acting is bad.” WTF?? It’s not THAT tame, and the acting was extremely well done.  Anne Parillaud is a little wild animal in this film.  Her ferocity is exciting to watch, and I love how utterly primitive she is–this chick lives in the moment–eat, fuck, sleep, have fun, get angry.  I also enjoyed seeing the origins of a lot of Tarantino homages – TONS of things ended up in Kill Bill (e.g. “Uncle Bob” comes to visit the newly engaged couple while he’s still in love with his protege, the “renegade killer bee” aspect of Nikita) and Jean Reno’s cleaner is a mirror to Harvey Keitel’s cleaner in Pulp Fiction.  Ohhh, that Quentin! The only things I scoffed at was Reno driving a car through a thick brick wall at the embassy, with nary a dent in the front fender afterwards, and the idea that I’m supposed to buy that Parillaud can easily pass for 20. Um. No.   

Fun Facts:  Yet AGAIN we get a film from 1990 that is written and directed by the same person!! What the heck? And this time my good friend, Tracy, drew the winning film from the stein.  So fate’s just putting me there…back in 1990…which oddly enough is the year the Trashcan Sinatras put out Cake.  Hmmmmm….that year must have some juju for me…

 Anne Parillaud stars in a favorite film of mine, Sex is Comedy, by my beloved Catherine Breillat.  She actually plays Breillat in the film!

WordPress is not letting me use accents! Cool!

Rating:  For all you folks who called this film dated and tame, I’m gonna shove a pencil in your hand, scream NIKITA!!, and give this four dancing elephants.

 

DAY FOUR: March 4th, 2011

Film Title:  How I Won the War

Year: 1967

Director/Writer:  Richard Lester / Patrick Ryan (novel), Charles Wood (screenplay)

Stars: Michael Crawford, John Lennon, Roy Kinnear 

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Hmmm…not sure if I’m in the mood for 110 minutes of “mind-bending quirkiness.” (Upon first few minutes) Oh, cool.  This is funnier than I thought.

Final Impression:  Yikes.  I didn’t make it through this film.  It’s definitely got it’s funny moments, but the lack of plot structure and the way it just keeps jumping from one identical scene to another with no real rhyme or reason did my head in after a while.  Sorry, folks.  I was not impressed.  This film would work for me if it were a short.  As it is, 110 minutes….sigh.  No.

Fun Facts:  When I was researching a bit prior to viewing this, I read a hilarious “review” of it by a Netflix user.  In it, she quite cleverly points out that this film “is not as funny as the other Beatles films,” and you should only watch it if you’re a massive John Lennon fan, but he’s not even in it that much.  Ha! Now that’s good stuff there!!

Rating:  I respect what this film is trying to do, and it actually is pretty funny, but….I can only, in good conscience, give it two dancing elephants.

 

DAY FIVE: MARCH 5th, 2011

Film Title:  Platoon

Year: 1986

Director/Writer:  Oliver Stone did both!!

Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, & Willem Dafoe 

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Another war film? Oh well, it won Best Picture, right? 🙂  (Upon first few minutes) I am enjoying this immensely.  Is there anyone in this film who isn’t now famous?? Wow. 

Final Impression:  This is a really good film.  I sobbed my eyes out when they hurt the villagers.  Watching Kevin Dillon beat a mentally challenged, defenseless man was devestating, to say nothing of the soldiers raping young Vietnamese girls.  It was also a bit unsettling to watch a young Charlie Sheen taking his first hit of an opium pipe, given his current woes.   

Fun Facts:  Kyle McLaughlin and Keanu Reeves both turned down the role of Chris Taylor, later taken by Sheen. 

The film was largely filmed sequentially, so the actors were able to go home once they “died.”

Rating:  Probably predictably, four dancing elephants.

DAY SIX: MARCH 6th, 2011

Film Title:  La Vie En Rose

Year: 2007

Director/Writer:  Olivier Dahan / Olivier Dahan & Isabelle Sobelman co -wrote

Stars: Marion Cotillard (Won Best Actress 2008 – only one of five foreign language performers to do so) 

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) I’d originally drawn “From Here to Eternity” but Netflix curiously stopped live streaming it! Weird.  So since I’d had this DVD for about a month now, I figured now was as good a time as any to watch it.  I was very excited to see it.  I love Marion Cotillard, and I love Edith Piaf.  (Upon first few minutes) Yup.  This is what I was hoping for. 

Final Impression:  What an amazing performance by Cotillard.  I totally see why she won Best Actress.  She absolutely, unequivocally morphed into that character.  The film itself is very, very good, although I got confused at times about where we were in her life and what was being highlighted.  The flashback to the death of her child at the end totally took me by surprise–I was wondering what the heck I was seeing.  This is not a bad thing–I hate it when films spoon feed their audiences. 

I boohooed.  Yup.  Cried like a wee baby.  Always a good sign. 

I had a problem with some of the translations.  The French being spoken was often much more provocative and moving than what was put on the screen.  (Mounts soap box) Ahem! I learned while studying French at UNCCH that the English language often has thousands of ways to say something, whereas the French language would only have a handful to say the same thing.  Given that, I think it’s pretty sad that English subtitles in French films aren’t more carefully worded to truly convey what the speaker is saying–the English language has a multitude of options available.  (Dismounts from soap box) On the flip side, translation–excellent translation–is extremely difficult to do, and I know that often there are issues with frame times, etc.       

Fun Facts:  Dahan said in the bonus features of the DVD that Cotillard did not enter the character until she was on set.  In his words (I’m translating from French, so it’s not poetic, pardon me), “It’s not like she was spending hours in her trailer or her hotel room practicing gestures.  Everything was spontaneous.  We waited until she was on set, in costume, and went from there.”

Rating:  Marion–t’es une actrice sans pareil.  Four dancing elephants.

DAY SEVEN: MARCH 7th, 2011

Film Title:  Strange Days

Year: 1995

Director/Writer:  Kathryn Bigelow / James Cameron

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Hooray! A sci-fi film!!!! Plus, this video used to get rented a lot at VisArt, so I am pretty certain I’m going to dig it.  (Upon first few minutes) Awesome camera work! This is going to be fun.  Whoa! Tom Sizemore has some TERRIBLE hair in this! Yikes. 

Final Impression: Somebody call VisArt and tell them to take this film OUT of the sci-fi section.  It is primarily an action/thriller film.  But it was still a heckofalotta fun! Happy to see Kathryn Bigleow directed this–feels a bit full circle after last year’s Oscar win for her over ex-hubby James Cameron, considering they collaborated on this film together, and she was a bit of an unknown at the time.  The camera work is so thrilling–you’re inside someone as they’re running towards a building, being shot at by cops, about to jump a rooftop.  Next you’re fucking Juliette Lewis, something I’m sure most guys fantasize about, and next you’re dodging a train.  Finally you kill someone.  Wow.  

Speaking of Juliette Lewis, I was disappointed in her in this film.  Her choices are not strong enough, and makes her unconvincing.  I know she’s not a bad actress, and I know her character is wrestling with/balancing/hiding a lot in this film, but ultimately it is a flat and unremarkable performance.  Ralph Fiennes does a lovely job…not so keen on him wearing leather pants, though.  Ms. Bassett as always lends a stunning gravity to her character.  She is always so rooted in what she’s doing.  She’s a good weight in this film–she keeps it feeling human.    

Fun Facts:  Bigelow could not find a camera that could accomplish what she needed, so Lightstorm Entertainment spent a year designing a 35 mm rigged device.  The 35mm gives it a GREAT grainy effect that, for me, heightens the reality of being there.

See Juliette Lewis capably sing as a rock n roll gal.  I know she has a pretty successful band, but I had never heard them.  The music she performs in the film was written by PJ Harvey, and it’s fantastic.

Rating:  Extremely entertaining, if a bit dated, given the material.  Four dancing elephants.

DAY EIGHT: MARCH 8th, 2011

Film Title:  Just One of the Guys

Year: 1985

Director/Writer:  Lisa Gottlieb / Dennis Feldman, Jeff Franklin

Stars: Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jayne

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Thank GOD! I’m tired of thinking.   (Upon first few minutes) OMG! Like, wow, this is like, SOOO ’80s!! Bitchin’!!

Final Impression:  I was a teensy bit apprehensive about this one at first.  I used to LOVE this film when I was, um, like, 8 years old and HBO used to play it constantly, complete with the little old-school intro of flying over the little houses (remember that?).  But I remembered NOTHING about it, and sometimes films like that can disappoint. 

I’m happy to say that, despite the HORRIFICALLY bad acting, despite the three thousand pound cliches (sorry can’t do accents!), and despite the ridiculous premise…this film is still worth a go if you’re into the whole ’80’s nostalgia thing.  Which I unabashedly am, much to my husband’s dismay. 

Fun Facts:  Too  many to list, but I’ll try (my pen was out of ink before I’d finished this film…):

Just when I was thinking, “Hey, she (Hyser) looks a lot like Ralph Macchio,” in walks William Zabka, playing high school jock/bully, Greg! Brilliant! And Sherilyn Fenn says later, “he dresses like Elvis Costello and looks like the Karate Kid.”  Made me feel all psychic an’ shit.

Arye Gross, my beloved, mon amour, is adorable as a geeky science fiction addict.

The beer cans were plain white with “Beer” written on them in block blue letters.  Like so:

Delicious and delightfully generic!!

Niiiiiice.

At one point, Buddy is pouring red wine out of a champagne bottle.  I would really like to know THAT vintage…actually I take that back. 

Gary Marshall TOTALLY ripped off the opening shot of this film in “Pretty Woman.”  I’m referring to the first shot of Julia Roberts that travels up her body and to her arm hitting the alarm clock.  Complete with lacy panties, although Ms. Roberts wears black lace and Ms. Hyser is wearing white.

Joyce Hyser has really nice breasts.  Seriously.

Fave quote: “I have a rule–I don’t date girls that say bitchin’.”

Rating:  Frothy ’80’s fare.  Cute and quirky, but not a classic, like Revenge of the Nerds.  Three dancing elephants.

DAY NINE: MARCH 9th, 2011

Film Title:  Harlan County, USA

Year: 1976

Director/Writer:  Barbara Kopple directed this documentary

Stars: The hardworking folks of Harlan County, the scabs that betrayed them, and Duke Power, the fuckers.

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) A documentary? Okay, yeah–I’m in the mood for this, particularly in light of what’s going on in Wisconsin.   (Upon first few minutes) Let me put it to you this way–at 17:34, I was already sobbing.  What a film.

Final Impression:  I am completely blown away.  I have not seen a film that has touched me like this in a long time.  What an eye-opener.  This film hits home particularly with me because I grew up in the shadow of Duke Power, as well as people like this.  My dad’s side of the family were chicken and tobacco farmers in the Appalachains of North Carolina, and I felt very much at home in this world.

As I go on, pardon me for speaking in past tense, as I’m sure outrageous safety infractions still occur today, but I’ve not researched current conditions in the mining world enough to comment on them.  I can, after watching Harlan County, USA, say that the way these workers and their families were treated was despicable.  Duke Power had them living in “shotgun” houses (named so because you can shoot a shotgun blast from the front door down the hallway and out the back door) with no running water, they offered no kind of protection against the dreaded black lung disease (in fact no real protection of any kind), no medical coverage, and no sympathy for the wounded.  One gentleman recounted how a supervisor, cautioning him to take very good care of the work mules, once said to him, “We can always hire another man, but we gotta buy another mule.”  Joseph “Jock” Yablonski, a labor leader for the UMWA, along with his wife and young daughter, were slaughtered in their home because Yablonski had been too outspoken and powerful during the strike.  This is not speculation.  The murderers were convicted, and tragically the mastermind turned out to be the UMWA “president” at that time, William “Tony” Boyle, who was in cohoots with Duke Power all along.  Despicable.

There is simply too much to cover here–I feel like I could write a whole blog on this film, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll leave it at this–WATCH THIS FILM.

Moments/Quotes: “Fun facts” obviously has no business here.  Two scenes really stood out for me.  The first one is a coal miner and a NYC policeman discussing their jobs and how they differ.  Secondly, the scene where the “scabs” begin shooting at the picketers ON CAMERA (although they punch the cameraman’s camera and knock it down at one point) is chilling. 

BASIL COLLINS, there is a hot place in hell for you, and I hope you’re burning there now.  (If anyone thinks that’s harsh, watch the movie and then talk to me).

Rating:  Without question or hesitation–five dancing elephants.  This film won an Oscar for best documentary for a reason.

DAY TEN: MARCH 10th, 2011

Film Title: Commando

Year: 1985

Director/Writer:  Mark L. Lester / Jeph Loeb (story), Matthew Weisman (story), & Steven E. de Souza (story & screenplay)

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alyssa Milano, Rae Dawn Chong

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Oh yeah, this’ll be good.  Nice, mindless action film–always good for a Thursday afternoon.  (Upon first few minutes) Um.  This opening sequence with Schwarzenegger and Milano is ri-freakin-diculous.  Hand-feeding a deer, smeared ice cream on a goofy, smiling face…wait, is this Twins? Did I miss something? 

Final Impression: Hmmm…not as thrilling as I thought it would be.  Predator wipes the floor with this film, both in story and in violence.  Oddly enough, Bill Duke is in this film too, playing one of the enemy’s hired thugs.  It has its moments, but overall it’s more chees-ified than kick-ass.  The acting is so. BAD! I mean, I knew it would be bad, but even Chong is terrible, and I feel she’s normally a fine actress.  Dan Hedaya is not convincing in the slightest as a Latin American gangster.  The best acting surprisingly comes from young Milano, and that was only her second film by that point.      

Fun Facts: Look for Bill Paxton making a one-liner appearance as an “Intercept Officer,” and this was AFTER Weird Science! Dang, Bill!

Rating:  I wasn’t expecting much, but I was expecting more than this in terms of being entertained.  2 dancing elephants.  Sorry Arnold.

 

 DAY ELEVEN: MARCH 11th, 2011

Film Title: Badlands

Year: 1973

Director/Writer:  Terrence Malick did both!

Stars: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Yes!!! SCORE!!! I’ve wanted to watch this for AGES!! Thank you, German Stein Mug!!  (Upon first few minutes) Hey, that’s the music from True Romance! Oh Quentin, you card! Oooooh, love love LOVE the ‘70s golden sunlight feel of this film.  To me, Sissy Spacek’s hair alone IS the ‘70s.  She is a goddess.

Final Impression: Ah. Mazing.  Soooo many subtle nuances make this film picture-perfect for me.  From Spacek and Sheen plaintively dancing to Love is Strange, to the loving close-ups of flora and fauna when they’re living in the woods, to the way the scenes don’t always have an obvious arc or purpose (we’re just catching a glimpse of their lives together) to the way I wasn’t sure which was creepier—Kit’s murderous impulses or Holly’s placid, serene acceptance of them.  Picture.  Perfect.  And Malick started writing this his second year at AFI.  Whoa.        

Fun Facts: This film is loosely based on the true story of the Starkweather/Fugate murders in 1958.

Great quote from Holly: “I just kinda felt blah…like when you’re sittin’ in the bathtub and all the water is drainin’ out.”

Malick said that Sheen was amazingly grounded and humble (hear that, Charlie?).  At one point the director found the actor on set, picking up aluminum can tabs off the ground because they didn’t exist in 1958.

Rating:  I had high expectations.  They were met and exceeded.  LOVED THIS!! Tone, writing, acting, cinematography–all superb.  Five dancing elephants!

 

DAY TWELVE: MARCH 12th, 2011

Film Title: Dolls

Year: 1987

Director/Writer:  Stuart Gordon / Ed Naha

Stars: Ian Patrick Williams, Carrie Lorraine, Guy Rolfe, Stephen Lee

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Haha! Oh man.  Yeah, I remember the video box–the wee doll with the eyeball in one hand.  So! Dolls that come alive and kill…Seriously?

(Upon first few minutes) I stand corrected!  I should’ve known that the director who brought us Re-Animator and the writer who brought us Troll would not disappoint.  Within two minutes of the film’s start, before any real chunks of dialogue have occurred, we see the following:

Two screaming, New Wave, London-punk chicks almost get hit by a car

father tells his child to “shut the hell up, kid.”

teddy bear comes alive, grows to seven feet tall, turns evil, and attacks a couple, tearing them to shreds while the daughter screams, “Nooooooo Teddyyyyyyyy nooooooo!!!!!” 

Final Impression: Great, great, great.  So campy I smell a fire and roasting weenies! It’s appropriate that this was filmed in Italy.  Even though it was not written or directed by Italians, it TOTALLY has that indescribably quirky Italian-horror flavor.  The death scenes are hilariously gory, with the blood that’s too red, the acting is off-beat in the best way, and the animation of the dolls is pretty impressive for the ‘80s.  Plus…the fact that dolls come to life and kill is just creepy, isn’t it? 

Fun Facts: No real fun facts, surprisingly.  Just fun.

Rating:  This would’ve been 3.5, but since it’s a horror film it automatically upgrades to 4 dancing elephants.   

 

DAY THIRTEEN: MARCH 13th, 2011

Film Title: The Man With Two Brains

Year: 1983

Director/Writer:  Carl Reiner / Steve Martin & Carl Reiner

Stars: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, Sissy Spacek, & David Warner

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) “…based on your review of The Jerk, Netflix recommends…!” (Upon first few minutes) I might like this better than The Jerk…gasp! (Insert ominous music)

Final Impression: I don’t have many notes written because I was giggling too much and everything was going too fast.  This might be controversial to say, as I know The Jerk has reached an almost untouchable status in the comedy realm, but…although I do love The Jerk, I found this film more accessible and immediately funny.  Go on, throw your stones.  I don’t care.  Ouch! Watch the face!

It reminded me of Airplane—just one silly gag after another.  The Jerk does this as well, but it’s a different style—perhaps it’s the fact that Martin’s character in The Man… is more of a straight man role, and I prefer him that way.  Martin excels at playing uptight.  The wild and CRAZY GUY thing takes second place for me.  (Ducks behind a large boulder) A lot of comedies centered around an extreme character tend to fizzle early on in the film.  And no, for Pete’s sake, I’m not saying The Jerk fizzles early, so pipe down.  I just feel The Man…is more…balanced somehow…and shorter, which for me is a big deal—I like a good, 90 minute comedy.    

Fun Facts: Too many fun things about this movie, but I found this trivia bit on IMDB…

The window cleaner bottle Martin grabs says, “Pane in the Glass.”  

Rating: Long live Steve Martin!! And Sissy Spacek as the brain!!! And Kathleen Turner as the crazy bitch wife!!!! Four dancing elephants.

DAY FOURTEEN: MARCH 14th, 2011

Film Title: Victor/Victoria

Year: 1995

Director/Writer:  Matthew Diamond & Blake Edwards / Blake Edwards

Stars: Julie Andrews, Tony Roberts

This is how it actually played out.  In my life.   

(Drew ticket from the stein)

A musical.  Great.  Sigh.  I hate musicals.  But! I’ve seen this video box sitting on the shelves while working at VisArt, and I was always fascinated by the plot, so…okay.  I’m ready.

(1 minute into the film, upon hearing Julie Andrews’s little speech about being back on Broadway)  

Wait a second.  I thought this was a film.  (Scrambling, searching) Oh crap.  This isn’t Victor/Victoria, the film.  This is a made for TV version of the 1995 Broadway show!! Nooooooo!!!! There IS a film from 1982…just not viewable as a live stream on Netflix.  So now it’s not only a musical, it’s a live show. Taped.  Man, oh man…Strength, good woman, strength! Open your mind!!! Breathe, breathe….

(elapsed time of 1 minute)

Who are these people arriving to the show?? Why is their entrance being taped? I don’t give a shit about these people…

(elapsed time of 20 minutes)

Sigh.  I wish I liked musicals more. 

(20 more minutes)

I like the sets.  The art deco look is gorgeous.  Great costumes, and of course Julie Andrews is always amazing.  Still not into it though…I guess it’s kinda funny…there are a lot of good messages about stereotypes here.

(10 more minutes)

I’m watching my cat eat paper now.  Oops, he just threw it up.  Time for bed!

Fun Facts: I wish.

Rating: I tried, folks.  I really tried.  I don’t understand why I dislike musicals so much.  There are only a couple that I really love—Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hairspray (Waters version!!!), Rocky Horror (but even that one has gotten old for me),  and Annie (remnant from my childhood).  Oh, does Emmet Otter’s Jugband Family Christmas count as a musical?? If so, then that too.  But this…sigh…this is a very tough decision.  I give it credit for style, talent, costumes, all those aspects that SHOULD make it amazing for me…but don’t.  One dancing elephant.

 

DAY FIFTEEN: MARCH 15th, 2011

Film Title: Smokey & the Bandit

Year: 1977

Director/Writer:  Hal Needham / Hal Needham & Robert Levy, primarily

Stars: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reid, Jackie Gleason

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Perfect! Thank you Mr. Stein! (Upon first few minutes) Wow, I forgot how much I loved this movie as a child.  (Yes, this is one of the ones I’ve seen, but I couldn’t remember a THING about it, as I was about four or five years old.)

Final Impression: I want a Trans Am!!!! I want to outrun Smokey!!! I want Sally Field’s hair!!! I want a dog like Fred!!

Fun Facts: In the scene where the Trans Am rips through the crowd at the football game, Hal Needham said that a groundskeeper had watered the grass that day, so the car spun out of control and almost hit people.  Yikes.

Sheriff Buford T. Justice was loosely based on Burt Reynolds’s dad, who was a Georgia sheriff.

Apparently I’m not the only one who wants a Trans Am after seeing this movie.  Trans Am sales jumped from 68,745 in 1977 to 93,341 in 1978. And just one year later that number swelled to 117,108 units sold.

According to Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, this film was a guilty pleasure of her dad’s!

Rating: Boy, this film sure does hold up.  That is one good, rip-roaring romp.  Great, snappy dialogue, it’s sexy without being overt, the comedy is cheesy but still works…I’m so glad I revisited this.  Four dancing elephants.

DAY SIXTEEN: MARCH 16th, 2011

Film Title: Road to Perdition

Year: 2002

Director/Writer:  Sam Mendes / Max Alan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner (graphic novel), David Self (screenplay)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Intriguing…I know nothing about this film.  And a DVD to boot—not live streaming!  (Upon first few minutes) Nicely crafted shots here, and hey—Daniel Craig & Jennifer Jason Leigh.  Score is pretty amazing.

Final Impression: SPOILER ALERT! I really enjoyed this film.  Knowing now that it was based on a graphic novel, I can really see how Mendes and Hall (Conrad Hall, the DP) incorporated that into the framing.  This film is exquisitely shot, exquisitely acted, and the whole tone is great—very monochromatic, except at the very end when they reach Perdition and then the colors of the sea and pine trees (and later, the blood) explode.  Ultimately,  Millers Crossing or Goodfellas gives more overall satisfaction if you’re looking for a gangster film, but this film holds its own in the psychology-of-a-gangster -department.  And again—the score is absolutely amazing.  Credit goes to Thomas Newman, who has composed music for pretty much every film made in the last twenty years besides Danny Elfman, including Revenge of the Nerds and Real Genius! Seriously, the music is so hauntingly beautiful, I’m considering purchasing the soundtrack for some rainy nights and a glass of merlot.

Noteworthy:  Conrad L. Hall, who bonded with Sam Mendes on American Beauty, and who worked with Paul Newman on both Cool Hand Luke and Butch Cassidy…, passed away shortly after this film was released.  The film is now dedicated to him.  I’ve linked his name here so you can see his body of work, which is downright legendary.  In the DVD extras, there are lovely interviews with both he and Mendes, separately, where they speak of their great love and respect for each other.  At one point Hall says, “if Sam wants me for a film, I’m there.”  This throws another level of sadness onto his passing, as you cannot help but wonder what else these two would’ve come up with in future projects.    

Rating: Stellar film, but my one complaint is that there’s something a bit anti-climatic in the arc of the story.  He wants revenge, and he gets it rather easily in the end.  Too easily, I think.  Still a great movie.  Four dancing elephants!!

 

DAY SEVENTEEN: MARCH 17th, 2011

Film Title: Arthur

Year: 1981

Director/Writer:  Steve Gordon did both!

Stars: Dudley Moore, Liza Minelli, John Gielgud

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Hooray!!!! And how appropriate, given that Russell Brand’s version opens soon. (Upon first few minutes) This is not what I expected, in a good way.  It’s more dark and awkward than your typical ‘80s comedy.  The drunk scene between Arthur and the hooker that sets up his character goes on for a disturbingly long time.  It’s the type of thing that normally would’ve been summed up in a typical ‘80’s montage style: opening credits with perky, quirky, saxophone music, cut to Arthur in a bar getting drunk & buying everyone a round, cut to him picking up hookers, cut to him laughing with hookers, cut to his bed the next morning with the butler handing the hookers their clothing.  But no! In a wonderful, out-of-the-box move, Gordon gives us Arthur’s truly atrocious self-absorption in a scene that is easily the first full ten minutes of the film, and we’re allowed to marinate with his character a bit.  A great bit is when he asks what her childhood was like, and when she says she was abandoned by her mother at six and raped by her father at twelve, he responds, “Oh, so you had six good years in there.” Delightfully dark!!

Final Impression: Wonderful, fantastic, wonderful.  Dialogue is snappy, Moore and Minelli have excellent chemistry, and Gielgud is hilariously dry.  He reminded me of PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves character.  There are also some really bizarre camera shots, like the one where Arthur and Linda are eating dinner on their first date—the whole right side of the screen is a massive clay pot.  The two actors are squeezed into the left side and pushed away from camera, leaving each person about two inches high and the clay pot a jarring 15” high on a 32” TV screen.  It’s very odd, but I like it—again, this film is totally unexpected in so many ways.  

Fun Facts:  At one point during filming, Liza Minelli got onto a real bus, thinking it was the movie bus, and only realized it after she’d gone a few blocks and looked back to see everyone laughing at her.

John Travolta, John Belushi, & Bud Cort were all considerations for Arthur.  The first two actually turned the role down.

Rating: Fantabulous film.  Except, I do have one beef.  The audience is never given a good reason why Arthur’s family is so intent on him marrying Susan.  It needs to be a pretty strong reason for them to threaten to cut him off, and yet we’re never let in on it.  On the heels of that, the grandmother, who up to the end of the film has not cared one bit when he tells her he likes another girl besides Susan and wants to marry for love, suddenly changes her mind.  Why? Dunno.  Cos it wraps up the movie nicely?  So that’s my only “Hmph.”  But it’s not enough to make me give this movie any less than four dancing elephants!!!

DAY EIGHTEEN: MARCH 18th, 2011

Film Title: Sugar Hill

Year: 1974

Director/Writer:  Paul Maslansky / Tim Kelly

Stars: Marki Bey, Robert Quarry, Don Pedro Colley

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Voodoo zombie blaxploitation film? Hell yeah!!

(Upon first few minutes) I’m going to write the first dialogue spoken in the film.  I think it speaks for itself.

Langston: “Like the show, Sugar?”

Sugar: “Dynamite.”

Langston: “That’s what some people say you are.”

Sugar: “Some people might be right.”

I’m hooked.

 Final Impression: Who doesn’t love the idea of a gorgeous sistah taking bloody revenge on some thugs by hiring a voodoo god to resurrect dead slaves to slice and dice said thugs? GENIUS!!

Fun Facts:  Marki Bey only shot this one film.  The rest of her career was comprised of small TV roles.

Paul Maslansky is largely known for having produced all of the Police Academy films.

Rating: I’m officially voodoo-ed.  My only complaint was that there could’ve been more blood and gore in the surprisingly creative killing scenes, one of which included feeding a man to pigs, a la Snatch.  Four dancing elephants!!

DAY NINETEEN: MARCH 19th, 2011

Film Title: Peggy Sue Got Married

Year: 1986

Director/Writer:  Francis Ford Coppola (gee, I wonder how Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola got cast in this?) / Arlene Sarner & Paul R. Gurian

Stars: Kathleen Turner, Nicolas Cage

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Awww! Paul’s gonna be thrilled.  He’s been telling me for AGES that I should watch this. 🙂 This one’s for you, honey!!  (Upon first few minutes) I still cannot believe I’ve never seen thi—whoa!! Helen Hunt as Kathleen Turner’s daughter does NOT look right.  And Joan Allen!! Looking magnificently frumpy in large, octagon eyeglasses!! And Jim Carrey! And Catherine Hicks! And John Carradine!!?? Sheesh, is there anyone who’s NOT in this film?!? 

Final Impression: This film is a fresh, realistic, and surprisingly touching look at time travel.  When Peggy Sue chokes up upon hearing her grandmother’s voice on the phone, I got sucked right in there, due to the fact that I personally miss my granny terribly, and would love to be able to go back in time, if for no other reason than to give her a big ol’ hug.  And how lovely, to walk back into your home that you grew up in, to feel those feelings all over again of being taken care of.  I also read a few reviews of this film during my research where people were arguing over the choice she makes in the end.  I think it’s nice the way it works out.  Life is difficult, but even if you COULD change the ENTIRE way your life went, would you really? It’s an interesting question.  For me personally, although I admit I’ve made mistakes galore, particularly when I was a teen, that I would potentially LOOOOOOVE to erase…I wouldn’t have chosen another path because it might not have led to Paul Livingston, the love of my life, much the same way Peggy Sue wouldn’t have had her children.  Which brings me full circle because Paul was the one who insisted on me watching this film. (Shake) Whew! Way to wax sentimental there, Joyanna!       

Fun Facts:  Peggy Sue’s mother is played by Barbara Harris, who we all know and love as Miss Fanny Eubanks of Omaha in Dirty, Rotten, Scoundrels!

Ms. Turner hated Nicolas Cage’s nasal voice so much in the film that she demanded he be fired…obviously he wasn’t.

Rating:  For thoughtfulness, a good story, great cast, and a fantastic period setting…four dancing elephants!! I know, I know, you’re wondering why not five? Well…I dunno.  It was a lovely movie, but it wasn’t AMAZING.  Maybe it’ll grow on me more—definitely could be a creeper, that one.  I can see myself reaching for it on a rainy afternoon.

DAY TWENTY: MARCH 20th, 2011

Film Title: Valley Girl

Year: 1983

Director/Writer:  Martha Coolidge/ Wayne Crawford & Andrew Lane

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Wow, the Stein really wants me to watch some Nicolas Cage right now… (Upon first few minutes) HEH-LOW!!! Hair down to the knees, riding up an escalator at four minutes, twenty seconds.  Ew.  Oh! Deborah Foreman is the chick from April Fool’s Day!! Love that movie! 

Final Impression: I am kinda blown away.  I know, RIGHT?!?! But seriously, I am.  Maybe because I was only expecting ‘80s fun with this film, but there was so much more there.  The relationships between the different characters are very sweet and engrossing…and REAL.  (Watch it again if you’re scoffing.)  The chemistry between Foreman and Cage is palpable.  The scene where EG Daily (Dottie!!!!) gets treated badly by Tommy after a makeout session is so sad.  I really felt for her when she weakly whispers “get out” after he’s already left her with her clothing (and self-esteem) in shambles.  After doing more research, I discovered that Coolidge was date-raped.  Perhaps that sensitivity to the subject is what led to such tender direction.  These are real people with real feelings, despite all the “fer sures” and “bitchin’s.”  There is a total Amy Heckerling vibe.  Or rather, there is a Martha Coolidge vibe in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless.  Ahaaaa!!          

Fun Facts:  There was a total hair thing going on in this film (see knee-length hair above).  Nicolas Cage’s chest hair has clearly been waxed into the shape of a “Y” which I cannot figure out. 

Fun words I’d like to bring back – PUKE-OID, TRIPPIN-DICULAR

Tommy (Michael Bowen) is Buck, who’s here to fuck, in Kill Bill Vol. 1!!!

Martha Coolidge was ordered by the producers to “show female breasts at least four times.”  WTF?

Rating:  I know I’m going to catch some major flak for this, but…five dancing elephants.  This film surprised me and touched me with the relationships involved.  

DAY TWENTY-ONE: MARCH 21st, 2011

Film Title: The French Connection

Year: 1971

Director/Writer:  William Friedkin/ Ernest Tidyman (screenplay), Robin Moore (book)

Stars: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) A classic! (Upon first few minutes) Good score.  It’s very eerie and jarring.  Loving the pounding noises. 

Final Impression: A motion picture with this kind of weight (five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, & Best Director) deserves a bit more than some quickie blurb from yours truly, so this blog entry is a bit longer than usual.  Watching and judging this film was a very interesting experience for me, and I admit—I’m going to go out on a limb here.  There are so many things about this film that are right up my New York City alley, but…ultimately I’m left a bit cold.  Let’s first go over the aspects that I really liked:

1.    The acting was very natural and realistic.  It’s the style of film that any actor would kill to be a part of, and I am no exception. 

2.    I loved the ambiance.  Friedkin, jerk extraordinaire, is nevertheless a master at creating atmosphere.  There are a lot of scenes where you as the audience member are placed in the role of a true observer—you’re watching Doyle (Hackman) talk to a pretty young hostess, but the blaring music of the nightclub means that you cannot hear what they’re saying.  It makes you feel immersed in that world.

3.    The ‘70s are alive and well in this film, always a plus for me, and it’s so well crafted in terms of scenery, color tones (although Friedkin later altered the film’s color to make it even colder, without the Cinematographer’s permission or approval), and lighting.  But this isn’t the golden, warm tones of the Dakotas in Badlands—this is the dirty, taupe and gray tones of Brooklyn at a time when crime rates were through the roof and the cops were almost powerless to keep up.  The bleakness of these neighborhoods makes you feel like you need to swish the grit out of your mouth afterwards.   

4.    This film does not spoon feed its audience.  It quickly leaps from point to point, and woe to the person who is not following closely.  I like this.  I cannot stand it when a filmmaker assumes audiences are morons that need to be coddled through an intricate story.

5.    It’s based on a true story, and what a story!

6.  There’s hardly any dialogue in a 2 hour crime film.  That’s pretty amazing.  I’ll bet if you condensed all the dialogue down, you’d have about twenty pages.  It’s all told visually.

That’s a lot of positives, huh? As I’m writing this, I’m asking myself what the heck I’m thinking in not loving this film, but I haven’t gotten to the other side of the pancake yet.

What I did not like has been difficult for me to pinpoint.  I’ve actually held off writing this for over a day to try and sort out my thoughts.  I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of it.  I don’t care about these people.  Any of them.  The only one who inspires any warmth in me is Russo (Scheider), and he’s forced to play second fiddle to Doyle.  Besides, I actually think that it’s just Scheider’s personality coming through there, rather than any real sort of character development.  Scheider is a hero type—you just feel protected by him, despite a darkness that’s there.  Excellent casting choice for a cop…which he’s done before, I think? 🙂  I understand the significance there—the film’s tagline says it all:

“He’s a bad man…but a good cop.”

I get it.  The anti-hero.  But, I cannot truly get into a film where I feel nothing for any of the characters, plain and simple.  So yes, this film is a masterpiece in so many ways, and I HIGHLY respect it.  But will I ever say I loved it? I cannot, and will not.  I never realized that this facet of film watching was so incredibly important to me until now. 

Fun Facts:  Fernando Rey was cast as Alain Charnier due to a mistake.  Friedkin kept saying he wanted “the guy from the Buñuel films,” meaning Francisco Rabal, but they brought in Rey by accident, and he worked out well.  Problem is, his French was atrocious, so they dubbed his lines in the film with a native French speaker.

The famous car chase was not permitted!! They just went for it.  Several of the minor fender benders in the film are real—they’re stunt drivers, but they were unintentional collisions. 

Rating:  Based on my own personal experience with this film, three dancing elephants.  Mostly out of respect.  Go ahead and throw your stones.  Opinions are like assholes.  🙂

DAY TWENTY-TWO: MARCH 22nd, 2011

Film Title: Kramer vs. Kramer

Year: 1979

Director/Writer:  Robert Benton / Robert Benton (screenplay),  Avery Corman (book)

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Yay! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to see this.  Plus, today I’m shored up on the couch, so it’s a perfect day to have a cryfest.  (Upon first few minutes) Yup.  Seventies sentimental drama.  I’m in. (Grabs tissue box.) 

Final Impression:  

Hold, on, hold on.  Can’t. Type.  Eyes watering too much.  Sniffle. Sob.  (Pause)

Oh, what a fantastic film!! The characters were appropriately soooo right and soooo wrong at the same time, the acting was absolutely magnificent, and I love the quiet, non-verbal, slice-of-life scenes between Hoffman and Henry.  There was also a really nice, emotional, full circle drawn using French toast.  If you don’t have any idea what I mean, watch the film.  It’s very sweet.  Sniffle.   

Fun Facts:  Justin Henry was the bratty brother in Sixteen Candles!

Meryl Streep wrote her own courtroom speech (which was wonderful, by the way).

Rating:  Exactly what I needed on a rainy afternoon when I’m trying to recover from so many late night rehearsals.  This was an incredibly touching, real look at what happens when a marriage unravels.  Five dancing elephants!

DAY TWENTY-THREE: MARCH 23rd, 2011

Film Title: The Wild Bunch

Year: 1969

Director/Writer:  Sam Peckinpah / Sam Peckinpah & Walon Green

Stars: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, Jaime Sanchez, Emilio Fernandez

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) 2 hours and 25 minutes….yikes.  This challenge is getting harder and harder.  I’ve got rehearsals every night until almost midnight, we preview the show before a live audience tomorrow night, I’ve got an apartment building to run, and I keep drawing long movies!! AUGH!! 

(Upon first few minutes) Okay, no more belly-achin’, ya lily-livered coward!! Shut up or put up.  (Mental slaps) This is a classic, now.  Respect! 

Final Impression: SPOILER ALERT!! Wow.  I’m so glad I watched that!!  What a wonderful blend of action, brutality, and sentimentality.  The shoot-outs are very satisfying, and then there will be a scene of extreme tenderness, even bromances, if you will.  The ending is very sad, and I found myself shouting, “NOOOOOOO!!!” when Pike (Holden) and Dutch (Borgnine) die.  This film is a western, through and through, but it also closely looks at brotherhood and the true meaning of friendship, as sappy as that sounds.  I will definitely revisit this one. 

Fun Facts:  During the “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” scene between Pike and Dutch, the director couldn’t yell, “CUT!” because he was crying.  I can see why.  Bromances are powerful.

Two surprising Buffy the Vampire Slayer name links:  Pike and Angel!!

This film broke ground at the time by showing exit wounds of bullets.  Peckinpah wanted the audience to know what it was like to be shot.

Look for Alfonso Arau, who plays El Guapo in The Three Amigos!, as Lt. Herrera.

Rating:  A good kick in the ass for me, as I am starting to wear down a bit from this challenge.  There is a purpose here, and this film served it up cold.  One problem I have with it—there is NO way animals were not harmed during the making of this film…and there is no disclaimer saying so either.  😦  I really liked this film.  Four dancing elephants!

 

DAY TWENTY-FOUR: MARCH 24th, 2011

Film Title: Go

Year: 1999

Director/Writer:  Doug Liman / John August

Stars: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Nathan Bexton, Timothy Olyphant

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Sigh. Okay.  Everyone always tells me I’d like this…which makes me nervous.  And Katie Holmes?? Not so keen on that one.  (Upon first few minutes) Ooh! Snappy! 

Final Impression: Well done, friends! I DID like this one a lot.  Katie Holmes didn’t bother me TOO much, although she still annoys me.  I love how darkly funny it is, and it moves quickly.  I admit, there’s not much to really ponder on here—I was entertained, short and sweet. 

Fun Facts:  Apparently Jay Mohr wanted to be the drug dealer, and even after learning that he was cast as a lead, he continued to argue his case.

Doug Liman also directed Swingers!

Rating:  Fun times.  Nothing too deep.  If you like this one, you’d like Four Rooms.  Three dancing elephants! Well, three and a half, but I can’t look at halves of elephants.  Shudder.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE: MARCH 25th, 2011

Film Title: Antichrist

Year: 2009

Director/Writer:  My hero, my dream director, my God of film, Lars Von Trier, did both!

Stars: Willem DaFoe & Charlotte Gainsbourg

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) I allowed my friend, Heather, to draw from the stein today, as she is my honored guest this weekend.  When she drew this, I was thrilled.  I love, love, love times infinity love Lars Von Trier.  I cannot WAIT to see it.  I’ve heard it’s kind of hard to watch though… (Upon first few minutes) Beautiful, just beautiful shots.  Love the lighting, love the—HEH-LOWWWWWWW!!! Penis entering vagina!!!!! Okay.  I’m prepared now.   

Final Impression: My brain is thudding inside my skull.  It is absolutely no accident that the stein chose to give me this movie to watch with Heather, who, incidentally is studying Eco-feminism and Women’s spirituality…and happens to be a Virgo, like myself.  Boy, are we analytical, especially in pairs.  We kept stopping the film to discuss what we were seeing.  I cannot POSSIBLY even BEGIN to write all that I felt about this film.  I would need to write a thesis on this film.  There are so many questions racing through my brain.  Cannot do this.  I’m going to have to leave it at this, painful though it may be, as it doesn’t do this work of art any justice:

 The lighting is amazing.  The acting is phenomenal.  The ideas put forth here are mesmerizing.  The cinematography was stellar.  I was entranced and sucked into this world like few films have done to me.  I want to learn more about what Von Trier was trying to say here.  Why say Chaos? Chaos has such negative connotations.  Otherwise I would agree that the females are more tied to nature than males, and I would agree that…chaos…reigns in nature.  But I don’t like that word.  Heather and I discussed this point at length.  And why does she begin accepting that women are evil?!?! AUGH!!

Must stop now.  This isn’t over yet.  I plan on researching this film.  I have too many unanswered questions. 

And yes, it is VERY HARD to watch.   

Fun Facts:  have no place here.  This film was born out of Von Trier’s severe depression during that period of time.  There is nothing light-hearted here.

Rating:  Five dancing elephants.  Without question.  By the way, I wrote this blog all in one go.  No editing.  Cannot edit.  Cannot think right now.  I need a unicorn chaser, badly. 

 

DAY TWENTY-SIX: MARCH 26th, 2011

Film Title: The Magnificent Seven

Year: 1960

Director/Writer:  John Sturges / William Roberts

Stars: The Good Guys are….Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, & Horst Buchholz.  The Bad Guy is….Eli Wallach!!

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Boy, I need to be entertained.  One of my best friends, Chris Walker, is moving to New York City (although he assures me he’ll be back to LA a lot…), the Tar Heels lost to Kentucky, and my coed soccer team who, up to this point had been undefeated all season…sigh…lost 4-1.  This film looks to be the right medicine for a crappy day.

(Upon first few minutes) Yes, yes, yes.  This is perfect! 

Final Impression: I am really starting to love these old westerns.  Previously I’d only gone for the spaghetti westerns, and even then it’s so far been a scant foray at that—only the Sergio Leone classics…and not even all of those…so…yep! I’m starting to really open up here.  These films are great character studies set to gorgeous scenery, and despite the decidedly misogynist themes running rampant through them all, I am becoming a fan…although if I see one more lusciously-bosomed, Hispanic female batting her doe eyes while washing clothes in the river, just waiting for the rugged white man on the horse to (very briefly) whisk her away for a sneaky tryst, I think I’ll puke.

 I also have a HUUUUUGE crush on Steve McQueen now. 

Fun Facts:  This film is based on The Seven Samurai, and the final showdown of The Three Amigos! is based on THIS film! In fact, Elmer Bernstein did the score for both the films as well! Fun!

Yul Brynner was married on set.  Awwwww!!! AND he was apparently so concerned with appearing taller than McQueen in all their shots, so he kept building a wee mound of earth to stand on…which McQueen kept kicking.  Tee hee hee! Actually they were so competitive during filming that Brynner hired an assistant to count the number of times McQueen was doing small things in the scene to steal focus, like touching his hat, etc.  Okayyyyyy…obsess much?!?

Eli Wallach bonded with his hired bandit gang so much that they insisted on personally checking his horse tack and prop gun.

Rating:  Great way to relax and unwind.  Fantastic characters that you are really rooting for, and fun (albeit not bloody enough) shoot-outs.  I also really like the story, but that’s to be expected, given the origins.  Now I just need to see the Seven Samurai!! Too bad the stein didn’t give me that one first.  Four dancing elephants!!

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: MARCH 27th, 2011

 Film Title: The Future of Food

Year: 2004

Director/Writer:  Deborah Koons

 Stars: The farmers of our nation, Canada, and Mexico / The large pesticide companies and the US government

 First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Uh oh.  I’m never going to want to eat again am I?  (Upon first few minutes) Looks a bit cheap so far… 

Final Impression: I’m warning you right away that I’m crossing over from film critique into activism here, but this is important, so listen up.  Despite the decidedly cheaper production quality of this film, it is nevertheless extremely informative and does not overload the viewer with too much scientific or legal jargon, so it’s accessible as well.  However, although a viewer might not feel overwhelmed by the amount of information, there is no way that viewer will not be overwhelmed with disgust at the abuse these large pesticide companies are heaping upon the non-corporate farmers of this nation and the world.  Our government is right there with them, protecting these companies and turning their backs on the very people they’re claiming to be trying to save—the family-owned farms.

 This basically boils down to patent laws.  Previously, patents on living things were not allowed, as this could start a dangerous and slippery slope whereby a human being could own a living organism and its offspring…AND its cross-contaminated offspring.  Nature always finds a way to propagate, and that is where things get sticky, legally.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me tell it this way…

 Diamond v. Chakrabarty (1980): An engineer working for General Electric tried to patent a bacterium that he’d developed and was roundly denied, for the reason just stated.  GE put the full force of their money and clout to work, and the case was taken to the Supreme Court, where the GE side won in a monumentally short-sighted vote of 5-4.  (Although, as we’ll later see, Supreme Court Justices are contaminated themselves.)  This opened the floodgates for companies to begin patenting living organisms.

 Pesticide companies began buying seed companies.  This serves a few purposes, but the most important are that a) they can then produce genetically modified seeds that are resistant to their pesticides b) they can patent those seeds that they’ve developed, which leads to c) if they own the seed, they own that market.  Oh, and the FDA always pushes these through with little or no hassle because the seeds are “substantially equal” to the original, natural seed.  Uh huh.  Sure.

What happens next is absolutely terrifying, to me at least.  Farmers using the same pesticides for years and years inevitably came up with plants that were resistant to those pesticides.  The pesticide companies then come in and say, “Hey! This is patent infringement! This is our special, genetically modified grain! You cannot sell our grain!” Now, the only way to tell the difference between their grain and the farmers’ grain (besides examining them on a genetic level) is to spray the pesticides over the whole field and whatever dies is…was…the farmers’ property…Neither of those are viable options.  So now the pesticide companies have started waging patent wars on these small farmers.  The most outrageous aspect of this is that courts are AGREEING with them—they’ve ruled that if cross-contamination occurs, no matter how that may happen (i.e. birds, bees, wind, etc.), that crop then belongs to the company that owns the patent.  Stop for a second and take that in. 

Our farmers are being really put through the ringer here.  They are spending thousands in fines and litigations, not to mention if cross-contamination occurs they have to destroy all the seed they’ve stored up, because those could potentially be contaminated as well.  These pesticide companies (the main one mentioned here is Monsanto, who owns “Round Up” and who are responsible for Agent Orange!! Thank you, Monsanto!!) are destroying small time farmers and controlling the seed market with their patents. 

I have not even BEGUN to scratch the surface here, but if this alone isn’t enough to get you to start perking up your ears, try this one on for size:

Most of the government officials hired to oversee food safety organizations are from these same companies that are destroying and controlling everything.  This from Wikipedia:

“Former Monsanto employees currently hold positions in US government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) and the Supreme Court. These include Clarence Thomas, Michael R. Taylor, Ann Veneman, Linda Fisher, Michael Friedman, William D. Ruckelshaus, and Mickey Kantor.[24] Linda Fisher has been back and forth between positions at Monsanto and the EPA.

So basically the people who are supposed to protect us from these harmful practices and protect our farmers from being put out of business by big corporations are FROM those corporations! And not just from them, but regularly going back and forth between the two jobs. 

Folks, I cannot say this enough.  Fight for organic, local farms.  Patronize your local farmer’s market, or if you don’t really have the time for that (I often don’t), you can try a service that I myself use that I LOOOOOOOOOVE:

Farm Fresh To You:  This is a service where fresh, local, organic produce is brought to you as often as you’d like: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly—whatever you want.  You can cancel any time, or put it on hold for a couple weeks or months if you go on vacation.  There are no contracts, it’s charged to your credit card, it’s CHEAP, and they deliver right to your door.  There are several levels of deliveries, with the cheapest starting at only $25 per delivery for mixed fruits and vegetables—and believe me, even the smallest level is an incredibly good value.  You can customize your orders to your dietary needs online with the simple click of a button.  They also have stellar customer service, which in my opinion is a lost art.

Final note: I’ve just read in my research that Monsanto is now patenting the breeding of pigs.  I’ve also perused Monsanto’s website (Good Lord, they own SOOO MANY companies!!), and what really got me was this quote, right on their homepage:

If there were one word to explain what Monsanto is about, it would have to be farmers.”

This from a company that has thousands of pending patent infringement suits on those same farmers, ruining their lives, their stock, and their personal funds.  Stop supporting these despicable companies.  Work to end government subsidies to those companies.  Government subsidies should go directly to the farmers themselves.  Instead they often go to the corporations.  You know who pays those subsidies to Monsanto? You do.    

Rating:  For the informational value alone, five dancing elephants.  WATCH THIS.

More helpful links:

The Future of Food official website

The Future of Food Blog, regularly updated

Wikipedia page on Monsanto

Millions Against Monsanto

***Update!!! As if what I’ve just said wasn’t bad enough, I forgot to mention a little final tidbit thrown in by the film at the end.  The gene that causes breast cancer has been patented by Myriad Genetics.  For a long time, they’ve had the audacity to try to limit breast cancer research to their laboratories only, and claim that any research done on breast cancer using that gene is a patent infringement.  Praise God and Hallelujah, they LOST in court on the 29th of March, 2011!!! What a wonderful coincidence!! Read the article  HERE.   This makes me so happy.  Take THAT, ya biotechnology bastards!!

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: MARCH 28th, 2011 

 
 
 
 
 

Beware my cotton candy cocoon!!!

 

Film Title: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Year: 1988

Director/Writer:  Stephen Chiodo / Charles, Edward, & Stephen Chiodo

Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson, & John Vernon

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) Haha! Okay, sure.  And seeing as it’s already 930pm, the fact that it’s only 86 minutes is a definite plus.  (Upon first few minutes) Oh yeah.  I knew what I was getting into here.  The clown costumes are really funky—all…rubbery… 

Final Impression: Yep.  The music is appropriately atrocious, synth, bubble-gum-trying-to-sound-dark 80’s crap.  The acting is also appropriately atrocious.  Overall I’m left wanting.  I guess I expected this to be more scary than it was.  It was more goofy than scary.  That might be a result of reading too much about it first.  People were saying that it’s scary AND also very aware that it’s a B flick.  I say it’s not scary at all, silly beyond belief, and yes, I agree it’s aware of its status in the film industry.  In fact, that’s the only thing I really liked about it—the filmmakers approached it with tongue firmly stuck in cheek.  I’m sure it was a fun set to work on.  But with no major gore and nothing remotely frightening (beyond people’s very natural fear of clowns), you might as well go to Chuck-E-Cheese on a Saturday afternoon—in my opinion that is terrifying, and you’ll get pizza, at least.  Toxic Avenger, for example—knows it’s a B flick, is silly and stupid—BUT!! It has incredibly gory effects.  The balance works. 

Fun Facts:  The actors in this film have surprisingly prolific careers, with the standout being  the late John Vernon.

They actually spent $2 million on this piece of shit.  And that was NOT on the Klown Kostumes.

The Chiodo brothers are special effects guys who regularly work.  Thank God they never decided to try and make another film on their own, although God bless ’em, I appreciate their sense of humor.

Rating:  Netflix assumed “Joyanna will give this 4 out of 5 stars!!!” WhatEVERRRR.  Two dancing elephants. 

DAY TWENTY-NINE: MARCH 29th, 2011

Film Title: Roger & Me

Year: 1989

Director/Writer:  Michael Moore

Stars: Michael Moore, the people of Flint, Michigan, and Roger Smith, former CEO of GM.

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) I’m glad I get to see this finally, but it’s already day 29, and not a SINGLE samurai movie yet.  REALLY, Mr. Stein?! REALLY?!? (Upon first few minutes) Classic Michael Moore film.  This is gonna get me really mad, isn’t it?

Final Impression: SPOILER ALERT!! I’m still reeling from a woman bashing a bunny rabbit’s brains in with a lead pipe.  I am traumatized.

 This is exactly what I imagined it would be.  I’m still nevertheless amazed at how amazed I am by people’s greed and unwillingness to aid their fellow human beings, but there you have it.  There were so many times in this film that Paul and I cringed and looked at each other, unable to believe what we were seeing.  Mr. Moore repeatedly interviews the wealthy, privileged population in Flint, asking them what they think of the GM workers who are losing their jobs, getting kicked out of their homes, etc., and all these morons had to say was, “Well, they should become entrepreneurs!! There are so many opportunities out there! They could sell Amway products, they could try finding other jobs…”

Uh huh.  Yup.  It’s that easy!  But um…question—who the heck are they going to sell Amway to, exactly, Mr. Ugly Golf Pants? NOBODY HAS ANY MONEY TO BUY SHIT.  The lack of empathy and the abundance of stupidity overwhelm me.  Especially take note of the moronic Miss Michigan, who stammers, eyes blank,  and cannot even formulate a sentence when Moore questions her about the decline of the city of Flint, but who instantly sparkles and comes alive at the question, “Well, what would you like to see happen here?”  Her response? Not something like, “Well, I hope the city of Flint can recover,” or “I hope GM will cease these unnecessary plant closings.”  No, no.  She perkily jumps up and down and asks the same people whose misfortune seems to escape her to cross their fingers for her as she tries to take home the Miss America title.  I want. To. PUKE.

Fun Facts:  This whole FILM is not-so-fun facts, but I’ve tried to scour a few little tidbits…

The town of Flint had no theaters open by the time this film premiered, so it had to play at a nearby town.

During the early screenings a seat was always held for Roger Smith.  He never attended.

Rating:  I’d give this film four dancing elephants, except that I feel that showing that woman bludgeoning the bunny with a pipe is unnecessary shock footage on Moore’s part.  It’s my rating system, and I’ll demote if I want to.  So there.  Three dancing elephants.    

DAY THIRTY: MARCH 30th, 2011

I’d like to apologize for the delay in writing this last entry.  My husband FINALLY returned home from him month-long tour, and my musical opened last night (also FINALLY!!), so it’s been a hectic couple of days, to say the least.  However, I’m proud to say that I completed this challenge on time, and I will be writing one final entry (writing it now, as a matter of fact!) to sum up what I’ve learned from this.

Film Title: First Blood

Year: 1982

Director/Writer:  Ted Kotcheff / David Morrell & Michael Kozoll

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, & Richard Crenna

"Just another sunny day in my mentally unstable world!"

First Impression: (Prior to viewing) First Blood, eh? So there’s to be no samurais, but at least I get to see some form of ass whoopin’.  (Upon first few minutes) Wow, I love the landscape of this film.  Oh! Snap! Rambo just kicked the shit outta all those jerky cops!! Awesome!

Final Impression: That’ll teach ya to disrespect a former soldier! What a fun film to have as my send off.  Nothing special here, I must say.  Sly is a bit of a hero for me, and I’m looking forward to perhaps doing a blog on him and his career…more to come on that.  I’m not making any promises! But yeah, I enjoyed watching him kick butt, and I thought the cinematography was pretty artistically executed for an action film, but otherwise it was exactly what I thought it would be, and that’s a good thing!

Fun Facts: 

John Travolta was considered for the part of Rambo!

And Dustin Hoffman!! (Huh??)

And Al Pacino!! But he wanted Rambo to be more of a madman.  When that was rejected, he rejected the role.

Although Hope, Washington does not exist, this film was made in Hope, British Columbia.

The rotting piece of canvas that Rambo dons as a garment was in fact a discarded item found in the woods.  Stallone still has that canvas in his home to this day.  Awwww, he’s so sweet.  J

Rating:  Dug it, but it didn’t blow my socks off or anything.  Three dancing elephants! By the way, Paul is saying to me as I write this, “if you’d have seen that when it first came out, you would’ve been like, YAAAAAAAHHH!!! RAMBOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

EPILOGUE

Well, folks! This is it.  It is finally finished.  The rehearsal schedule for my play has been pretty grueling—weeknights from 7-11, aside from Fridays, and four to five hour stretches on both Saturdays and Sundays—and this, combined with my day job, definitely made it difficult at times to complete the challenge.  There were days I had to double up films, days where I wrote three blogs in one afternoon, and days where I seriously thought about throwing in the towel.  I started to ask myself why the fuck I was doing this anyway—I mean, who really cares about bloggers in general, let alone a blogger challenging herself to watch thirty films in thirty days? Big whoopdee deal.  And to be honest, I don’t have an answer for you there.  Why WOULD anyone care if I stopped or if I kept going?

Well, they might not, but I would.  And that’s frankly enough to keep me going.  Foolish pride is a powerful thing, ain’t it? Yeah, I’m a bit of a bull-headed buffoon in that way.  If I assign myself a task, I DO it, sometimes to my detriment, but this is not one of those cases, thankfully, or else I might consider slamming my head into the nearest wall. 

I am surprised that I learned as much as I did.  For one thing, I made judgment calls on many of these films that were totally off.  Some I wouldn’t have given a second glance, or when I pulled the name out of the stein I felt dismayed at having drawn it, but then it turned out to be one of my favorites, like Metropolis.  The documentaries were particularly powerful, and really affected me, sometimes for days afterwards.  I also enjoyed the westerns a lot, whereas ten or fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have really been as interested.  In general, I’m glad I watched many of these now, because if I’d watched them when they’d come out or at a younger age, I might not have appreciated them as much as I do.    

I’m still perturbed that not a SINGLE samurai film came up, but I will remedy that quickly.  I plan on watching The Seven Samurai immediately.  I would also like to check out Shogun Assassin and Azumi.  Another one I missed sorely was Gaspar Noé’s Enter the VoidBlade Runner I STILL have not seen, but that is because my beloved Tracy Breyfogle, who is across the country at this moment working on a pilot in Wilmington, has all three cuts of the film AND a massive wall screen with which to view it, so I figure, I’ve waited my whole life, so why not one or two more months?

For those of you who’ve been following this, I tip my hat to you.  I very much appreciate your Facebook comments and comments on this website.  I give my sincere apologies for being a bit techno-ignorant and not knowing how to make the ability to comment here easier from the get-go, or else we might’ve had more livelier discussions   Luckily that is now a thing of the past, so I expect great things for the future.  For now I leave you, with promises to return shortly.

If you’re bored in the interim, check out my picture blog:

CREEPY SHOPFRONTS!!

You might even giggle a bit.  Seriously.

7 Responses to “Thirty movies in thirty days….”

  1. You want good translations? Try one of my all-time faves: Cyrano de Bergerac, translations written by Anthony Burgess in rhyming couplets (I think!) guess what… 1990!

  2. Freaky deaky!! What is UP with that YEAR?!?!? And nice factoid, there, sister! 😉

  3. LOVE Harlan County!

  4. It was. AMAZING.

  5. Awesome! I have to try something like this sometime. Harlan County and Antichrist are two of my favorite films!

  6. Hiya Nick!
    Glad you liked this. It was really fun, and surprisingly difficult! haha! I love. and I mean LOVE me some Lars Von Trier. 😉

  7. […] Hooray! It’s screener season, which means my annual SAG dues are put to very good use.  I didn’t do this last year, but in light of my shameful lack of contributions this year, I’ve decided to take keyboard in hand and do mini-reviews much the same way I did for the Thirty Movies In Thirty Days page.  […]


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