Sunday, July 1, 2012

#49 Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

I survived! It took three days for me to watch this three-hour silent movie and maybe a twenty-minute nap somewhere in there, but I watched it all!

D.W. Griffith wrote and directed this, the oldest movie on the AFI list. He also wrote and directed A Birth of a Nation, another epic about the Civil War which was extremely racist and pro-KKK, even for its day... probably owing to the fact that he was the son of a Confederate colonel. So, as sort of an apology for the racial prejudice displayed in Birth of a Nation, he wrote this story about love versus intolerance. Maybe "intolerance" didn't mean the same thing back in 1916 as it does now, but I feel like "injustice" would have been a better title for the movie.

What made this film ground-breaking for its day is that it tells four stories, jumping from story to story. The four stories really have nothing to do with each other but the common theme of "intolerance."

1. 539 BC: A mountain girl falls in love with a prince and gets caught up in the religious disagreements that lead to the fall of Babylon.
2. 32 AD: The tale of Jesus and the injustice that leads to his crucifixion
3. 1572: King Charles IX is persuaded to persecute the Huguenots, and they focus on two lovebird Protestants.
4. 1916 (Modern Story): A boy gets mixed up in the Mafia and is framed for crimes he didn't commit, he is sentenced to a hanging, and his poor wife has her child stolen from her because she has whiskey in her home. (This was easily the most entertaining story.)

I don't really know how to review this because it is so different from any other movie I've ever seen (including the two true silent films I've seen, Sunrise and Gold Rush, both about a decade later). The acting is over-the-top; the title cards seem to be written almost in another language; jumping from scene to scene seems clunky and abrupt; people have weird 'names' like "Brown Eyes" and "Dear One"; and there are SO, SO, SO many scenes of Babylon that are unnecessary. But for the time period, this is a masterpiece.

Rating: 5/10? It's also hard to say whether I liked it or not. I definitely don't need to see it ever again, but it was interesting.

Big Names: Lillian Gish (#17 in AFI's list of the 50 Greatest Screen Legends), Mae Marsh

Big "Lines": When women cease to attract men, they often turn to reform as a second option. (This made me laugh... old maids don't have anything better to do, so they start judging people instead.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#51 West Side Story (1961)

Ugh, a musical. I am a girl, though, and I knew this was a love story, so I had high hopes in spite of the musical genre. It was pretty much the exact story of Romeo & Juliet... Once that was obvious to me, I was interested. The movie has some major issues, though. The main characters are terrible actors, Maria's voice is dubbed (seriously?!), and while it intrigues me that men can dance ballet to a gang violence scene, it seems a little silly to me.

Leonard Bernstein wrote the music, and that was easily my favorite part of the movie. The dancers amazed me, and I can't imagine trying to come up with choreography to go with the crazy changes in time signatures Bernstein loved.

As for why I thought the movie was so-so, I agree with Roger Ebert's review from the re-release in 2004:

"So the dancing is remarkable, and several of the songs have proven themselves by becoming standards, and there are moments of startling power and truth. West Side Story remains a landmark of musical history. But if the drama had been as edgy as the choreography, if the lead performances had matched Moreno's (actress who played Anita, a supporting character) fierce concentration, if the gangs had been more dangerous and less like bad-boy Archies and Jugheads, if the ending had delivered on the pathos and tragedy of the original, there's no telling what might have resulted."

Rating: 5/10

Big Names: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno (who's won a Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar!)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

#50 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Surprisingly, West Side Story was a short wait on Netflix, so I was sent this one instead and suddenly I'm in the top half of the top 100 movies of all time. Woo!

This is the only movie since 2000 to make this list (the list was compiled in 2007), so the special effects should blow all the others out of the water. They did, but still...this movie is 11 years old, and since I saw The Avengers just the other day, the effects in this one sadly already look dated.

I had seen LOTR previously... back in 2005 when my college friend Sabrina forced me to watch the entire  trilogy (extended version) over the course of just a few days. I remember watching part of it on my little computer screen since I didn't have a DVD player for my TV, so this time was a bit more impressive. I actually really liked it. It makes me want to try to read the books again. (Last time I got halfway through the first book and was bored to tears.)

Glad I watched this one again! Also, I'm adding the other two movies to my Netflix queue right now.

Rating: 9.5/10

Big Names: Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom (hello, sir! where have you been?!), Liv Tyler, some other people....

Big Lines:
"I made a promise, Mr. Frodo. A promise. 'Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee.' And I don't mean to. I don't mean to."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

#52 Taxi Driver (1976)

This timing is freaky....

I currently have "Roseanne" on in the background while I'm writing this, and Dan is being interviewed on some TV show. (I would be more specific, but I wasn't really paying attention.) The host asks if he can do any impressions, and he says, "This is a character of mine... real nutty little guy named Travis Bickle from a movie called Taxi Driver, and that goes a little something like this: Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to me? Hey... are you talkin' to me?"

For those who haven't seen this one, it's the story of a mentally unstable Vietnam vet (Robert De Niro) who works as a taxi driver in NYC. While driving around the city, he is disturbed by the "scum" of the city, and in his own way, he decides to do his part to "clean up" the streets.

It's an interesting movie because even though Travis Bickle is a frightening character, you still empathize with him. (Reminds me of Natalie Portman in Black Swan) The ending confused me a bit, as I'm not sure if it was meant to be reality or a dream. Either way, I think what this movie's trying to say is how easily Travis could have become an assassin instead of a hero.

Rating: 6/10

Big Names: Robert De Niro, Cybill Sherpherd, Jodie Foster (she plays a 12-year-old prostitute! and this is *before* she did Freaky Friday), Peter Boyle (from "Everybody Loves Raymond")

Big Lines: only the #10 movie quote of all time, according to AFI

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

#59 Nashville (1975)

While everyone else I know is out watching The Avengers and talking about how amazing it is, I'm at home watching this painfully boring movie. The most exciting parts for me were seeing what Nashville looked like in 1975. I recognized parts of downtown, the airport, and Trav recognized Nolensville Pike.

I didn't mind the country and bluegrass music, and a couple story lines were moderately interesting, but overall, this movie had just too much -- and at the same time, not enough -- going on. There were probably two dozen main characters, so you don't get to know any of them well, but it isn't in a fun way like Love Actually. Mostly the camera is just jumping from character to character, and they're all singing or sitting around talking... about nothing.

I can respect it for saying a lot about the confused state of the nation after Vietnam, Watergate, Kennedy's assassination, but still... eh. I think Easy Rider and The Wild Bunch are still my least favorites on the AFI list, but this one is a close third.

Rating: 4/10

Big Names: Shelley Duvall, Lily Tomlin

Monday, May 7, 2012

#54 M*A*S*H (1970)

For anyone who doesn't know, MASH = Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. (I didn't know that until the first few minutes of this movie.) This was originally a book about a surgeon's experiences in the Korean War, but when it was turned into this movie, it deliberately resembled Vietnam.

This movie was meant to be one of those movies highlighting the counterculture of the 70's, like Easy Rider, but it was not nearly as awful or as painful to watch. M*A*S*H still lacked a solid plot; it felt like a few episodes of a TV show jammed together into a movie, but parts made me giggle, and it mostly held my attention. The last supper/funeral was hilarious, and the football game was especially fun.

I'll admit I downloaded the song minutes after the movie ended.

Rating: 5.5/10

Big Names: Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Elliott Gould (a.k.a. Ross and Monica's dad)

#55 North by Northwest (1959)

Travis and I were both excited about this one! It's the first Hitchcock on the list, and the other Hitchcock films I've seen (Psycho, The Birds) were some great movies, so I knew this one would be awesome, too.

Roger Thornhill, an advertising exec in NYC, is mistaken for a government spy by a group of foreign spies during the Cold War. He makes all the wrong decisions while trying to evade the dangerous group of spies and gets caught up with the wrong girl, getting himself almost killed several times and ending up on the other side of the country.

The DVD Netflix sent me started skipping right when the plane scene came on! I was a little pissy about it, but luckily YouTube came to the rescue. :)

I wouldn't mind to see this one again, or even own it. Great movie, especially once you're positive you're following all the action. Also, the ending is about the best cut from one scene to another I've ever seen.

Rating: 9/10

Big Names: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint

#56 Jaws (1975)

Another classic that I hadn't seen! I'm so glad that I'm watching these movies because I'm pretty sure I'm way behind most of the world in the movie-watching. Sigh... I'm catching up, though!

Jaws was a bit predictable since EVERYBODY knows the plot, but it was much more suspenseful than I expected it to be. I literally jumped at one point during the second half of the movie.

Another movie that I liked even though I didn't think it was particularly unique. I suppose it feels that way because all these later suspense/horror movies have copied Jaws's set-up. I would guess Jaws was probably the original natural predator suspense movie, though; that's why it deserves a spot on AFI's list.

Rating: 7.5/10

Big Names: Richard Dreyfuss (I thought he was adorable), Rob Scheider

#57 Rocky (1976)

I honestly had never seen this, or any other Rocky movie before I hit this one on the list. It was pretty much what I expected.... underdog success story, but it had a few moments that made it less cheesy than it had the potential to be.

The love story was odd and cute. Adrian was definitely Laney Boggs from She's All That... (Big glasses; therefore, she's ugly. Glasses off.... hottie!)

The ending was great, too, and it was perfect that he was too concerned about Adrian to even care if he won or lost. You definitely root for Rocky the whole movie because he's such a lovable little guy.

Predictable sports movie: yes. But still enjoyable. I liked it.

Rating: 7/10

Big Names: Sylvester Stallone (who knew he could actually act?)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#58 The Gold Rush (1925)

I've been getting into too many different projects lately, so my movie-watching has slowed a little. I've been watching somewhat regularly, but I haven't felt like writing at all. I watched this movie months ago, maybe the first few days of February.... Oops.

Well, Charlie Chaplin is his usual Little Tramp self, but this time he's a prospector in the Alaska Gold Rush. It's another silent movie, but Netflix sent me the narrated version instead of the original version. The narration was completely unnecessary, and I would have liked to see this for the first time the way it was intended to be watched.

Even though I felt like I had seen a lot of the funny parts of this movie (probably incorporated into some Looney Tunes or old-school Disney cartoons-- see below, pretty sure some cartoon stole this), I laughed at bits of the movie. The love story was pretty cute, too. Charlie Chaplin is actually quite adorable. Too bad in real life he was a bit of a slut. He had several mistresses, twelve kids by four different wives, and his last child was born when he was 73. Wow.

Rating: 7/10

Big Names: Charlie Chaplin

Saturday, January 28, 2012

#61 Sullivan's Travels (1941)

So far, I have LOVED three movies on this list that I didn't expect to even like: In the Heat of the NightBen-Hur, and Sullivan's Travels.

John Sullivan is a movie director in 1941 who has made a fortune on comedies, but in light of everything going on in the world, now he wants to produce a more serious film (specifically O Brother, Where Art Thou?) His advisers (I guess that's what these people are) remind him that he's always been fortunate. and he knows nothing about pain and suffering so he couldn't possibly create a believable film with a serious story.

He decides to leave Hollywood with ten cents in his pocket and try to survive as a tramp ( in Little Tramp or hobo...not stamp), but his advisers think this is a terrible idea so they follow him around in their trailer to watch over him. He tries and tries to get away from Hollywood, and when he finally succeeds, he has to devise a clever plan to get back home.

I have to admit that I can identify with Sullivan in this movie. I grew up in a happy family with successful parents, and even though I've never had everything I wanted, I've always had what I needed. My college was paid for by scholarships and my parents, and I've been self-sufficient since I graduated and received my first paycheck. I've not ever dealt with what so many others deal with every day. I think of Haley Dunphy in "Modern Family" when she whines to her mom that she has nothing to write about for her college essay because she's never had to struggle.

I guess what I liked about this movie was that it was fun and silly at the beginning, then we get a bit of a cute romance between Sullivan and the Girl, and towards the end, the movie has a solid message. We all need laughter to get through.

My biggest complaint: For 1941, the Girl's character was pretty strong for a female lead. They really couldn't give her a NAME, though?

Lastly, I really want this movie poster.

Rating: 10/10

Big Names: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake

Big Lines:
Girl: I liked you better as a bum.
Sullivan: I can't help what kind of people you like.

Hahaha, gotta love a random Pittsburgh slam....
LeBrand: [The movie] died in Pittsburgh.
Hadrian: Like a dog!
Sullivan: Aw, what do they know in Pittsburgh...
Hadrian: They know what they like.
Sullivan: If they knew what they liked, they wouldn't live in Pittsburgh!

#62 American Graffiti (1973)

Harrison Ford is in another movie on this list! First Blade Runner, then Raiders of the Lost Ark, now this, and I know Star Wars must be on here somewhere (probably way too high). This was one of his first roles, and it wasn't really that big of a deal. He had maybe ten minutes of screen time, and I didn't even recognize him at first. He wore a cowboy hat and had an accent. Hilarious.

I had no expectations for this movie. All I knew was the title. It starts out at a drive-in in 1962, and we find out that the four boys talking are celebrating their last night at home before leaving for college. Sounds like a fun start.... I would expect something absolutely crazy to happen. For the movie to be on this list, something crazy must happen. And with all those big names, it's gonna get wild. But it really didn't.

Everything in this movie happens within 24 hours. It's simply the story of these guys' last night in town, who they meet, and what trouble they get into. This guy Josh who I found out is also watching the top 100 movies and blogging about them (I'll absolutely admit he's a much better writer than I am) compared this movie to Can't Hardly Wait. That is a perfect comparison.... even down to the radio station ordeal!

I found it hilarious that what the kids in this town did for fun was cruise around. That was sooooo my hometown. It was the thing for some people to cruise the K-Mart parking lot. I didn't participate except for once as a joke cruising the Taco Bell parking lot with my friend. We blasted some classical music as we did it, too. We were so cool.

So as for whether I think this deserves to be #62 on the list: I don't. I'm not sure why it even made the list besides the fact that it was acted well and had great music. It was a perfectly fun movie, though. Nice and light. Very enjoyable to watch.

Rating: 6/10

Big Names: George Lucas (director), Ron Howard, Cindy Williams (Shirley from "Laverne & Shirley"), Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford

Sunday, January 22, 2012

#63 Cabaret (1972)

A musical.... blech, right?.... but this movie was just so bizarre and unexpected that I actually liked it!

Musicals and Westerns are easily my least favorite genres, so I was NOT looking forward to this one. Musicals always feel so artificial and cheesy. This movie handled the musical moments much better than that, though. All the songs were sung at the Kit Kat night club as part of their show, and the director just cut to those clips at the appropriate times in the story. It didn't feel cheesy to me at all. 

Maybe I've been sheltered, but I had no idea what this movie was about or why gay people love Liza Minnelli. Now I totally get it....

Rating: 7/10

Big Names: Liza Minnelli (Lucille 2), Michael York (Basil from the Austin Powers movies.... hottie in this one!), Joel Grey (he played the creepy part perfectly)

Big Lines: I have a favorite line, but it definitely would ruin much of the movie if you're ever planning on watching this.

#64 Network (1976)

Network is a satire about network television, specifically what people are willing to do to boost ratings. Howard Beale, a middle-aged news anchor for the struggling network UBS, is fired for bad ratings, effective two weeks later. His wife had died recently, and he was childless, so it hits him pretty hard, and he states live on the news that night that he will be committing suicide on air the next night. He makes the front page of the paper the next day, and Diana, the ambitious VP of programming, convinces the network to keep Beale on the air as he goes through his mental breakdown...purely for the sake of gaining viewers. They give him his own news show, "The Howard Beale Show," and he fills the hour shouting his literally crazy opinions. They even go so far as to include a psychic on the show to predict the future news.

What I found fascinating about this movie was that it was shot in 1976, well before the days of Fox News..... but this guy was Glenn Beck! He's ridiculous, opinionated, has his group of loyal followers who believe everything he says. Also on UBS was what was basically a reality show; they film an extreme liberal/terrorist group actually commit crimes and then provide filler with fabricated story lines. It was a little eerie how similar these shows were to the kinds of shows we have on the air in 2012.

Even though I found the idea for the movie very clever, and it was a well-done satire, I didn't particularly enjoy watching the movie. Parts really dragged, and the love story was just obnoxious. I know why it was done -- to show the contrast between a middle-aged man and a younger woman who grew up watching TV, leading her to be cold, selfish, and unfeeling. It still felt unnecessary, and their romance wasn't very believable.

If I was a teacher, I would totally assign this film to my students. As I was watching, I felt like I could write a paper about everything they were saying with this movie. Interesting film.

Rating: 6/10

Big Names: Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall

Big Lines:
"I'M MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY MORE!" (#19 on AFI's list of movie quotes)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

#65 The African Queen (1951)

Maybe I should stop reading the Netflix sleeves before watching these movies because I was prepared for an exciting, action-packed movie. In reality, it was a romantic comedy with only a few scenes of real action.

Rose (Katharine Hepburn) and her brother are Methodist missionaries in an African village in 1914. Charlie (Humphrey Bogart) is the boat captain who brings them mail and supplies, and one day at afternoon tea, he mentions to Rose and her brother that WWI has started. Pretty much immediately after Charlie leaves tea, German soldiers come into the African village, kill the women and children, kidnap the men, and burn the village to the ground. Rose's brother is so distraught that he kills himself, so Rose is left all alone in the village. Luckily, Charlie shows up and offers to help Rose get to safety.

They decide to travel together on Charlie's boat down the river to escape German-ruled Africa. Of course, they face all kinds of hurdles along the way. And as they go along, prissy Rose and dirty Charlie become friends and eventually fall in love.

The beginning and end of this movie were pretty awesome, but I have to admit that the middle dragged a little. Overall, though, not bad. I'd watch it again.

One thing I couldn't get over was how unattractive Humphrey Bogart is in this movie. He just looks sketchy and dirty. Not my type at all. :) Katharine Hepburn wasn't looking her best, either.

Rating: 7/10

Big Names: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn

#60 Duck Soup (1933)

I have now seen both Marx Brothers films on the top 100 list, and even though I liked A Night at the Opera, I didn't really care for this one. Groucho definitely has some good double entendres, if you listen closely enough to hear them. Chico was cheesy and didn't hold my attention, Harpo was annoying and flat out mean, and I'm not sure if Zeppo was even meant to be funny.

The "plot" of this movie is that a wealthy widow Mrs. Tisdale promises to give twenty million to her country Freedonia only if Rufus T. Firely (Groucho) is appointed dictator. Harpo and Chicko are spies of the neighboring country, and Zeppo is ambassador to that same country. Honestly, there really isn't much of a discernible plot. It's mostly just little skits one after the other.

Even though this movie was only 67 minutes long, and I watched it in the middle of the afternoon, I fell asleep fifteen minutes in and had to restart it. I found myself only half paying attention, and by the end of the movie, I was playing on my phone. Oops.

For the time period, Groucho's jokes really push the envelope, and I'm sure Chico and Harpo's cheesy physical comedy would be entertaining to 1930's audiences. In 2012, though, it's not working for me.

Rating: 4/10

Big Lines:

This made me laugh:
Prosecutor: Something must be done! War would mean a prohibitive increase in our taxes.
Chicolini: Hey, I got an uncle lives in Taxes.
Prosecutor: No, I'm talking about taxes -- money, dollars!
Chicolini: Dollars! There's where my uncle lives! Dollars, Taxes!

Big Names: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo Marx; Margaret Dumont (she was in A Night at the Opera, too, and I read that she was cast as a foil to the Marx Brothers in many of their films mostly because she didn't get their humor. They bash her for being ugly and fat, so for her sake, I'm glad she didn't understand their jokes.)

#66 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

No one could believe I had never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies. I don't know how it happened, and I'm not proud of it, but had I known this was such a great movie, I would've seen these movies a LONG time ago. It had action, purpose, music, drama, and unlike most of the 80's movies I've seen, it didn't feel dated at all.

There's not a lot that I'm ready to say about it. I'd like to see the other Indiana Jones movies, because I feel like they opened a few story lines, and I want to know what happens next. I've already added the other movies to my Netflix queue.

Rating: 10/10

Big Names: Everybody involved in this movie was a big name: directed by Steven Spielberg, story from George Lucas, music by John Williams (that's why the music is phenomenal), and of course, Harrison Ford (second movie of the top 100 for him -- after Blade Runner)

Big Lines:
Marion: You're not the man I knew ten years ago.
Indiana: It' not the years, honey. It's the mileage.

#20 It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

I skipped way ahead for this one, but it was Christmastime, and I just couldn't help but watch this one at the right time of year. Honestly, as this movie is one of my favorites ever, I will probably end up watching it again when I truly get to #20 on my list.

Everyone probably knows the story. George Bailey is a hard-working guy whose goal is to get out of his small town and see the world. With his father's unexpected death, he is forced to take over the failing family business, and he ends up having a very different life than what he had planned for himself. Years later, his uncle makes a huge financial mistake that would send them both to jail, and he is so scared, he contemplates suicide. God sends Clarence, an angel trying to earn his wings, down to Earth to save George Bailey. Clarence decides to show George what the world be like had he never existed.

The message of this movie is so simple but so meaningful: It's great to be alive!

Rating: 10/10

Big Names: James Stewart (looks like he's coming up in a lot of the Alfred Hitchcock movies on my list), Donna Reed

Big Lines:
Clarence: Strange...isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole.

Clarence: Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.

and of course....
Zuzu Bailey: Look, Daddy. Teacher says, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."