Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaking News

There is nothing of shock-value contained in this post, as it is only a reference to broadcasting. The reason for such a reference is the theme of two movies I shall describe in the following post. Originally, I meant to review just one film, obviously the first film I will talk about. Then, this morning, as I crafted my very own Russian crepes for my dad and I, we watched a beloved film of ours called Morning Glory, which does, indeed, have to do with broadcasting and the news. I realize that I did not mention the title of the first film: it's an older movie called Network, which, though much more serious than the newer movie, is very similar to it. Mainly, because of the ambitious, driven woman in the starring role. By starring role, I mean lead role.

Network - As I was lounging in my dad's cozy bedroom, home alone once again, I browsed through the Romance folder, which contains an array of corny love stories that I have seen countless times. After finding nothing I felt for, I started to head towards the Comedy folder, when I stopped at the Drama folder and had an urge to explore some of the many films I've yet to watch. Usually, I save these movies for when my dad is home, therefore this is a rare occurrence, and isn't likely to happen again. (That was for my dad's benefit, who was a bit jealous to discover I had watched it without him.) I have a feeling this is going to be an overly lengthy description. Anyway, I settled on Sidney Lumet's newsroom drama out of acclaimed-curiosity. I was surprised to find out that Sidney Lumet was the director of this fine film, a man whose films I've never seen. Not one single film. Until now. Since I've stated that this is a fine film so suddenly, prepare for a detailed review on why that is. (During the film, I actually took notes on nine sticky-notes with a great pen. It's one of those that writes like a marker, clear and without smudges. I think it's by Bic. Longer and longer.)

The film is about the sinister exploitation of a raging ex-anchor's rantings, used for profit by a fading network desperate for higher ratings. It stars William Holden as Max Schumacher, seemingly the only moral, sane person in the entire film. He drives the film in a way that reminds the audience that this is all fictional, and that reality is needed for such a powerful, consuming picture. Also starring is the enchanting Faye Dunaway as the zealous vice president of UBS determined for success, Diane Christensen. Faye Dunaway portrays a familiar, if not typical, working girl in an environment dominated by men, who successfully establishes herself as a compelling force. Now, that may sound cliched and like something a feminist would preach (and by golly, I'm no feminist), but it is merely a factual description. However, despite this characterization, the actress gives a phenomenal performance, and the source of this great performance is the fiery, tenacious fervor she displays on the screen so believably. Moreover, Faye Dunaway gives a unique performance as a female vice president in the "show business" industry of journalism. What is so unique about her in the film is that she seems to belong in this "plagued world of male dominance", so well, in fact, that I believe she can single-handedly run the network. Again, while that may sound like a huzzah for women and a boo to men, it is not. It is a display of admiration for Faye Dunaway's sensational performance. (Truthfully, unless the man is incompetent, they belong at the head of the workplace. Call me old-fashioned, or batter me with stones, but that's my feeling on the subject. Moving on.) In every film, there's a bit of romance, which is not true. (What a ridiculous sentence.) In all seriousness, there is love here, and it is between William Holden and Faye Dunaway. When the two escaped the world of show business, one they are devoted to, for the weekend, they celebrate it with a kiss. At that moment, I actually smiled. It is not as if this is a rare occasion, for I usually smile at adorable scenes of affection, but it does signify a film's undeniable good quality. During their romantic getaway, she is excitedly going on about the present events of her career, such as the new fall schedule. And, wouldn't you know, this makes the romance all the more real and enjoyable. Only I would find the romance in a serious drama of which love is an inconsequential subplot.

Another supporting actor, Robert Duvall, is marvelous as the heartless head of UBS, perhaps because he shouts a lot and he is consumed with profit. I enjoy cynical realists, they don't play games. And they're never caught looking like a fucking hypocrite. (They cursed in the movie, so why not.) Anyway, I find myself entertained by Robert Duvall, as the actor he is, but only in supporting roles, such as Tom Hagan in The Godfather. Otherwise, in leading roles for example, he should go away. I was surprised not to see him attain a nomination for his role here, just mentioning, for he was just as good as his co-cast.

Onto the main attraction of the film, one that most likely established this as a satirical, controversial hit. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Peter Finch, portraying the mad-as-hell ex-anchor in an Oscar-winning performance. (Fun fact: he was the first man to receive the Oscar posthumously.) Allow me to copy and paste a sticky-note I wrote to begin. It's amusing to see how television influences the public, who, unfortunately, is basically a stupid mob. Emphasis on mob. This somewhat insightful thought arose when Peter Finch delivered his "I'm mad as hell"-speech, and viewers followed his orders to shout out their window "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Peter Finch was overly convincing in his deranged outburst. Why, even I felt the urge to do as he said! Well, not really. This iconic scene isn't as awe-inspiring as one would imagine, but it does accurately depict the stupidity of viewers. Don't misinterpret my tone, for Peter Finch's rants on the degradation of society and the corruption of the "truth" given by unreliable television is absolutely brilliant. However, that is to the praise of the brilliant screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky. The corporate executives treat Peter Finch as if he were a mad man, a circus act sure to attract viewers, and this is really sad because most of what he says is completely true. He is pleading to his audience, albeit a tad erratically, to comprehend the dire predicament society is in, that society is degrading more and more with the help of television. The same applies for modern times, through nonsense government for one, and the closest we have to a character like Peter Finch are comedians like Bill Maher. (I underline his name in reverence.) Because, my friends, pointing out the humor of degradation is easier than changing things.

Please excuse this interruption for a sneaky side-note: What I want to stress about society is how blind, how unaware people are, how they require direct orders from a figure on the screen, which, overall, construes the image of society, then and now. "Less than three-percent of you read books," he tells his audience, and this applied to the 1970s. Imagine how embarrassing this statistic is now, in a world where the majority of books read include vampires. And they don't count as actual books.

While Peter Finch makes very interesting points in the film, that is to the credit of the writers and their masterful screenplay. Peter Finch, as an actor, is a bit unsettling to behold as he plays the anchor-turned-prophet. "I have seen the face of God", mumbles Peter Finch, and, whether it's because religion makes me uneasy or not, that's just creepy. His strange outbursts of omens of the future, accompanied by insane arm-flailing, is not good acting, but over-acting. It seems the Academy has not yet learned the difference. (Only in rare, special occasions.) That being said, I feel it is William Holden who should have walked home with the satisfaction of having earned another Academy Award. Then again, he probably would have been driven home in a limousine, since he was rich and famous.

The ending was very controversial, and I'm sure it was even more edgy in its time. Even before the shocking finale, the film was surprisingly wonderful in that it was so litigious (word of the day) and undoubtedly touchy for the boring 1970s. Why was that era so dull? Ask them, but I think it's because of the numbness brought on by those laid-back hippies and the dead-end desire for peace. It won't happen. As for the film, Paddy Chayefsky superbly documented the ruthlessness of television, how a dying show will be pulled from its socket the moment it loses viewers. To take such extreme measures to eliminate a man whose ratings were lagging just epitomizes the callousness of all television networks. And even more savage is how that stunning frame melded with the other innocent ones, such as a commercial for Life cereal. That, dearies, is the pinnacle of a glorious satire. See how I didn't actually tell the ending? I've learned the art of blunt implications.

Morning Glory - I doubt there will be any thorough or elaborate scrutiny with this quirky picture, nor will there be multiple paragraphs. This is simply a delightful comedy set in the chaotic world of broadcast-journalism, including the mishaps that unfold behind the scenes of a daytime news show. I've skimmed a general critical analysis of the film, summed up by a variety of critics, and am aggravated to see them compare this to Network. Aside from my own brief comparison of the leading ladies coming up shortly, the only likeness they share is that they take place in the atmosphere of television. Many critics, also, condemn this movie for failing at sending a meaningful message about the media. I highly doubt the filmmakers' goal was to create another cerebral satire on television as Sidney Lumet did with Network. This adorable picture has the sole purpose of entertaining, not to lecture on the complex world of the media. Sometimes, critics get too in-depth with their responses. Anyway, I'm going to brush them off for now. Rachel McAdams plays the part of Becky Fuller, portraying the role of ambitious, driven journalist superbly. She plays the role of the dedicated workaholic ideally, achieving the rare quality of being irreplaceable, and her awkward character is more endearing than it is pathetic. Saying that, it makes me frown and let out a disappointed "aww" when people around her, in the movie, scorn her embarrassing and hopeless enthusiasm. Honestly, I see her character as somewhat of a role-model, though that's most likely because I want to be in her line of business. It's a cruel world, that world of journalism and broadcasting, but gosh be darn if I don't have the same spirit as she does! Anyway, onto my brief comparison: Becky Fuller and Diane Christensen. (It really is brief, like too brief even for an introduction.) Pointing to the obvious, both are women in this business of broadcasting and both are keen on establishing themselves, as well as the network they represent, as an impressive success. While Becky Fuller has more of a charming, cute spunk, Diane Christensen has an intimidating aura of cold-hearted endurance. I see Becky, and perhaps her entire story in Morning Glory, as the prequel to Diane's career in Network. Similar qualities of devotion and intelligence are certainly evident in each woman's, albeit one is a serious drama focusing on the corruption of television, while the other is just a sweet, enjoyable comedy. Once again, different genres call for different perceptions.

Back to the movie in question (Morning Glory that is), I loved it after the fifth time seeing it. Many of the laughs are summoned by the typecast-rough-yet-charming Harrison Ford, in a role where the most action he faces is marching up a flight of stars leading nowhere. ("What's in the briefcase? Anchorman papers? And where am I going?") This is the film that made me like Harrison Ford because, before this, I viewed him as the irritatingly self-absorbed Han Solo whose smile was meant to cause Princess Leia to melt. Please excuse this interruption. I just watched a clip of Harrison Ford being interviewed on ABC, and he was quoted of saying that Han Solo should have died in the film. As a character, Harrison Ford says, he was not so interesting. That just raised my level of adoration for him. Harrison Ford's on-screen relationship with Rachel McAdams is so bewitching and sweet, as are most successful contrasting characters'. Her bright-eyed optimism clashes with his stern, egotistical coldness enormously well that when they develop a friendship in the end, you feel as if it was always there. And perhaps it was. Always there. Diane Keaton is smashing as Harrison Ford's supercilious co-anchor who is just as desperate for higher ratings as anyone else, though her confidence deflects that "pathetic" hope. I would have hoped to see more of her in the film (not more like in Something's Gotta Give), though, sadly, she contributed a few great moments of comedy. The entire movie was absolutely delightful, which will be stressed and repeated as much as to establish it as a terrific piece of work.

Yet another example of how I condense two film reviews in one post, though this wasn't so succinct. I hope you enjoyed each of these descriptions. I also hope that I didn't sound pseudo-intellectual with that lengthy, uncommonly profound piece on Network. Sometimes, I have insights influenced by those so-true comedians out there, as well as my surroundings and personal viewpoint on events. My so-called insights aren't just copied from Google sources (I would never do such a thing), therefore they are cultivated by my constant study of the world around me. Once again, I aspire to entertain you readers, if not to receive that ultimate satisfaction of clicking "Publish Post". Serenity now.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Sensational Day

Good day, old chaps. Yes, it is quite the sensational day, which is why I gave this post a title suitable to its great quality. The day's great quality, I mean. Technically (I hate using that term, mind you), this proclaimed sensational day took place yesterday on the twenty-seventh of July, yet I made sure to have it so this post would be published on that particular date. In other words, I sort of cheated my way into having a post published on the day it was meant to be published, rather than actually writing this post yesterday. Is all this time-talk confusing you? You're not alone. As a matter of fact, I just watched an episode of Family Guy where Stewie and Brian get puzzled by the mystery that is time-travel. What a fantastically hilarious piece of television.

Anyway, onto my marvelous day. It began as any other day does when with my dad, which involves waking up before nine in the morning to watch some sort of classic. The day before, he surprised me by making Russian crepes and a marathon of Grumpy Old Men, the delightful films starring the timeless duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. But that was the day before this day. On this specific morning, my dad prepared some smoked-salmon sandwiches with tea. For out movie accompaniment, we decided to try a film unknown to us, which is quite a daring risk. The film in question is called California Suite.

California Suite - Given that this film was made in the dull era of the seventies, my dad and I were skeptical whether we would finish it all the way through. However, the appearance of Walter Matthau in the main credits urged us to venture into this slice of seventies-magic. Also, the plot sounded appealing: misadventures of several groups unfold while they visit the sunny land of California. An ensemble comedy, one might call it. I am pleased to say that I enjoyed it very much, so much so that, if I were a critic for Entertainment Weekly, I would have given it a solid A. (I say this to allude to my dream of becoming a critic for Entertainment Weekly.) It was a phenomenal film that incorporated several interesting plots and held my undivided attention from beginning to end. The highlights of this endearing film were the story of the visitors from London and the visitors from Chicago. The latter included the hilarious Richard Pryor, who I've never really experienced much of other than his hilarious performance in See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He and Bill Cosby, one I never really took a liking to, are in an all-out comic war concerning money and hotel rooms. (This movie did not alter my judgment of Bill Cosby.) The visitors from London, on the other hand, included the charming Michael Caine and the dazzling Maggie Smith, as a British stage actress nominated for an Oscar for the first time. Her performance as an anxious newcomer to the Academy Awards was simply marvelous, and it earned the actual actress an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The relationship between her and Michael Caine is so real, not in the manner of romance but in plain substance. I'm not sure how to put it eloquently it seems. Another interesting "motif" in the film was the shocking contrast between life in California and life in New York, acted out by Alan Alda and Jane Fonda as they battle per custody of their daughter. And this battle is so tranquil, much like the film's overall aura, that it provides the film with such an easy-going flair, one that allows the picture to stand out in an era of inadequacy. As for Walter Matthau, he's caught in some hot water when his wife comes unexpectedly to find an unconscious woman in his bed. Zany hijinks as always, Mr. Matthau!

I.Q. - After that sheer delight of a film, we chose to continue on the path of Walter Matthau's glorious career. For our next movie, we settled on the adorable romantic-comedy starring Tim Robbins as a sci-fi enthusiast/uneducated car mechanic who falls for the super bright, super adorable Meg Ryan who is a bit out of his league, intelligence-wise. I recall watching this movie years ago, when I wasn't much in-depth in my amateur study of film. It didn't take a genius to predict the outcome of the movie, whether one remembered the plot or not. What I didn't remember was the actor who portrayed Albert Einstein, and that was because I was not aware of Walter Matthau's comical talent at the time. Yes, Walter Matthau played the overrated genius that is Albert Einstein, and I say overrated because everyone compares smart people to him. Though I do agree that he was much more intelligent than the average person today, who knows that Albert Einstein came up with E=mc2...and that's all they can tell you. I'm cynical because I care. Anyway, the film as a whole was just as adorable as I remember it, from the "you lied to me" climax to the sweet happily ever after. Meg Ryan was the source of the film's likability, for she was the ideal romantic-comedy actress when she was as adorable as she was here and in films before this. Then, she was bombarded with surgery. Let's remember her for the good, shall we? You probably never even heard of I.Q., which is why I am urging you to find it and watch it. For your own good. It is the only Albert Einstein movie out there, to my recollection. Again, people don't really know what exactly he did. Cynicism.

Following this morning of delightful pair of films, we decided to let our dying movie projector to rest. In case you passed that sentence entirely, let me repeat that our beloved projector, our method of watching the many films we watch, is malfunctioning severely. From the moment we start it up, the picture begins to flash from light to dark, and it is rather disorienting. (Perhaps I am hinting for some technical help, if you're experienced with projector-operation?) Anyway, while my dad took a well-needed day-nap, I chose the path of healthy exercise. An hour-and-a-half of healthy exercise on my handy-dandy elliptical machine, with four episodes of Friends playing continuously in the background. One can imagine how fantastic I felt after this long workout. After an hour post-workout break, accompanied by Family Guy, my dad and I prepared dinner and picked a movie. Now, this film, we knew, had to be especially special because it's a very special anniversary: our 200th film of the year.

The Aviator - And what better film to watch for such an occasion than a Martin Scorsese retro-biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio? The immensely talented director, once again, proves his place in Hollywood royalty with this excellent biopic on the career of the eccentric Howard Hughes, played by the gloriously talented Leonardo DiCaprio. I love a great film about Hollywood, so I sure do enjoy this lovely picture. The scenery of the film was so captivating and beautiful, it alone could take your breath away. Like all Scorsese pictures, the dialogue was sharp and comprehensible, in that it wasn't "artistically" obscure like some pretentious films. To create such a fascinating biography and direct it onto the screen, successfully mind you, is just the work of brilliance. One minor flaw in the film occurred near the end, when Howard Hughes became completely loony as he isolated himself in the projection room naked. A tad unnecessary, I must admit. Overall, however, the film was superb. While this film may have five Oscars under its helm, something people found impressive when purchasing the DVD, those awards are, sadly, meaningless, as they are artsy awards for art direction and costumes and all that. Though, Cate Blanchett benefited from Oscar night as she walked away with the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her role as the bold Katharine Hepburn, which she won rightfully. They have no worth when analyzing such a marvelous film. It should have received what it deserved, particularly the Best Actor statuette. Leonardo DiCaprio undoubtedly shines as this brilliant and strange Howard Hughes, who provided much foundation for Hollywood as well as aviation. The actor gave such a convincing, incredible performance that it is a damn shame that all he got was a Golden Globe. His only Golden Globe, I might add for emphasis on how under appreciated he is. It is downright infuriating that Leonardo DiCaprio has never received an Oscar, for he may very well be one of the greatest actors of this generation, proving his undeniable acting prowess in this film, as well as many others. (I must note that he was, also, nominated for Blood Diamond, a film he could have finally won, as his competition was thin and he was phenomenal. Who received the honor instead? Forest Whitaker. I'll allow you to recall what film he won for.) Aside from Leonardo DiCaprio's aggravating snub, Martin Scorsese was also robbed by Clint Eastwood, for his annoying little picture called Million Dollar Baby. Maybe that movie is decent, but I refuse to confirm this doubt because I greatly dislike Hilary Swank, another Oscar thief. Of course, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio do not need Oscar statuettes to prove their extraordinary talent, though it certainly boosts one's morale to have it in their possession, I should think.

Small Time Crooks - Our final film of the evening was something toned down, something mellow and charming. And there's nothing better for a pleasant mood-change than a Woody Allen picture. This particular comedy was released during his transitional period, from conversational dramedies to more screwball-type comedies with a little romance. Taking from the generally positive reviews, I'd say this was his first endeavor in his cinematic transformation, if you will. (After this one, he went on to make less-successful films such as Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending, two films I absolutely love, but the critics didn't care much for. Then, he travelled to film in Europe, where his films maintained that old Woody Allen charm and returned more to his traditional form of filming. Moving on.) Small Time Crooks is about a would-be criminal (played by the hilarious Woody Allen himself) and his scheme to rob a bank by opening a cookie store nearby with his wife (played by Tracey Ullman) fronting the joint. From the initial opening to the failed bank robbery to the sudden cookie fame to the satire on socialite life, this film is just wonderful. Tracey Ullman is basically flawless as the uncouth, pretentious Frenchy as she strives to become part of upper-class society. Woody Allen's Ray is more down-to-earth, enjoying the simpler pleasures of life in New York, such as eating pizza and watching old black-and-white movies. His gang of equally-moronic hoodlums , including Jon Lovitz and Michael Rapaport, are additionally hilarious to the film's premise. Elaine May, playing Frenchy's frighteningly-stupid cousin May, provides an innocent flair to the movie that actually warms your heart. It warmed mine up anyway. Sure, it's less intellectual than most of Woody Allen's fare, but it was incredibly entertaining nevertheless.

There you have it. My absolutely, positively, supercalifragilistically sensational day. At the moment, it is raining a storm outside my window, so I apologize for my sudden lack of words.

Monday, July 23, 2012

An Overrated Display of Affection

Once again, I am conflicted with opting for a title without punctuation. The title that was originally intended for this post was Isn't It Romantic?, however, as you can see, there is a question mark. I just can't surrender to this odd habit of mine. Anyway, perhaps you can gather what topic I'll be discussing today from each of the titles: romance. In films, of course. I am far too inexperienced to digest on such a complex subject as love. (Digest?) That being said, the following analysis of each film I'll be mentioning may be a bit subjective, as always, as well as inaccurate, considering my lack of knowledge on the subject. It's as if I consider myself an expert on all the other things I talk about, which may very well be true. Much like my previous post on films that make you cry, I will provide two films that the general public consider to be the ideal romance, and two films I consider to be the ideal romance. In this particular case, I will choose two classic romances, dated back to the Golden Age of cinema, and two modern romances. Let's begin with the overrated romances, shall we?

Casablanca - You read that right. I'm going to be blunt in stating that I did not enjoy this so-called "ultimate classic". It was not romantic in the slightest, nor was it even an entertaining picture. The story is utterly dull, completely uninteresting. A film as blown-up as this one really should capture your attention, at least. It was incredibly slow-paced, therefore feeling longer than it actually was, which is not an appealing quality for any movie. Not only is it an overrated film, but it is an awfully overrated romance. I am going to place the blame on the "dashing" leading man, Humphrey Bogart. Before analyzing this specific romance, let's take a look at Humphrey Bogart: he is very unattractive, totally emotionless (therefore not the greatest actor), practically incoherent with his constant mumbling, and, honestly, doesn't seem like a nice person. That may sound childish, but I find myself annoyed in the presence of actors who in real-life are rude and nasty. My evidence that Humphrey Bogart might have been (note my uncertainty) a rude person is an excerpt from his Oscar speech that I read in The Complete Unofficial History of the Academy Awards: "I'm not going to thank anybody. I'm just going to say that I damn well deserve it." I admire a shred of humility in any actor, but to see an actor who isn't the greatest act cocky and self-assured as he is is just repulsive. Also, I have just discovered that the American Film Institute, an organization I hold in the highest regard because it named Some Like It Hot the greatest comedy of all time, awarded Humphrey Bogart with the title of #1 Male Actor of all time. Preposterous. Moving on. The iconic romance between Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Bergman) is so exaggerated in its intensity that it becomes nonexistent altogether. In other words, there is no overwhelming spark between the two, mostly because Humphrey Bogart is unable to conjure feelings of romance. Again, completely emotionless. He utters his romantic lines to Ingrid Bergman as if he were informing her of a family death or threatening to kill her. And his facial expressions are no different, so you cannot perceive love in his blank stare. Ingrid Bergman is nearly successful in making this romance believable, for she is a wonderful actress, though not the best of her time. Her foreign and delicate beauty is almost mesmerizing in the film, yet the film itself is so boring that all she does is stir me into a lullaby-slumber. For those who are curious in seeing this "remarkable classic" should lower their expectations, as it is absolutely unworthy of its massive acclaim. Perhaps then, with little or no hope of it being as good as the critics say, you might enjoy the film.

The Notebook - The first book-to-film adaptation of one of many Nicholas Sparks' novels, this is probably the most well-known and adored modern romance of the new generation of cinema. This won't be much of an aggressive review as with the previous film, for I did enjoy the film very much. Set in the 1940s, a time I find myself enchanted by, it follows the love between Allie Hamilton (played by the ever-adorable Rachel McAdams) and Noah Calhoun (played by a dopey Ryan Gosling). The love story here is pretty generic: rich girl falls for poor boy, which could never work because she is destined for greatness. Although this story sounds familiar, the film goes on a different angle that includes the surprising liberality of her parents. Even when her parents forbid her to see the boy, Allie dramatically refuses, stating that she loves him. Normally, the girl would protest in this situation, only to be beaten by her overbearing parents. Here, however, her mother secretly keeps them apart by throwing away all of Noah's letters, allowing her daughter to move on. And, what do you know, it worked. Shortly after their move to Charleston, away from Noah, Allie finds herself in a genuine romance with Lon Hammond Jr. (played by the charming and underused James Marsden), to her parents' delight as he is heir to an immense fortune. During this time, Noah is depressed and outraged most of the time, as he labors over fixing up a large mansion. Allow me to stop short, before I give everything away again. As I've said, the film itself was very good, something I would watch again in the future. However, the romance between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling was not as impressive as I imagined it would be. To begin with, I don't see how they became so passionate for one another. One minute, she refuses to go out with him unless he threatens to jump from the Ferris wheel. Next moment, she pounces on him in a tender embrace, which was unheard of in the 1940s I might add. The entire beginning of the film, actually, was unnecessary and tedious. Once the Hamiltons moved to Charleston, and Allie met and fell for Lon, then the film became interesting. In fact, the love between Rachel McAdams and James Marsden was far more believable and romantic, in my opinion. Of course, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams shared that now-iconic kiss under the rain. It's the poster for the movie, after all. Of course, I am forgetting the most romantic element of the whole picture, and that is the one between Noah and Allie in their later years (played by James Garner and Gene Rowlands, respectively). The moments they shared on the screen were so poignant and heart-warming, so much so that I am now regretting listing this as an overrated romance.... Well, what's done is done.

Now, onto the real ideal romances. Short pause in the post.

Gone With The Wind - I am speechless as to how extraordinary this film is, in more ways than one. One could call this the ultimate classic, and even the ultimate film, as it has profound drama, captivating imagery, and, most of all, sincere romance. It's more than romance, it's an undying love that can exist on-screen so impressively that it increases the passion of it more so. How amazing is it that a love between two actors on-screen can be so believable and affectionate! Yes, an exclamation point, I dare say. The plot, too, is absolutely sensational from beginning to end. There is not one point in the film that I wish it would end, quite the opposite. And taking into consideration the astounding length of this film (nearly four hours), this is a true accomplishment of direction, worthy of far more esteem than it is granted. Compared to the much shorter, slow-paced "epic romance" that is supposedly Casablanca, it is baffling how undermined a true classic like Gone With The Wind is. Onto the romance, our leading actors are Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. (Even their names are more romantic than the previous classic's stars.) Unlike the unintelligible Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable provides an irresistible elegance and charm to the film, in addition to his good looks and marvelous acting. His performance as Rhett Butler was simply smashing, and it is a crime to the Academy that he was not honored for his unquestionable achievement. His leading lady is Scarlett O'Hara, played by the intoxicating beauty that is Vivien Leigh, whose first-ever role proved to be her defining performance here in Gone With The Wind. As the audacious, intelligent, and, at times, insecure Scarlett O'Hara, Vivien Leigh shines in one of the most outstanding performances of all time. Most female leads of that time were rather uncharacteristic and ordinary, so Vivien Leigh's remarkable portrayal was all the more incredible. She received the Best Actress Oscar, as she rightfully should have, in the role that only she was destined to play. Another pleasant element of the film was Hattie McDaniel as the sassy and caring maid, Mammy, who received the Best Supporting Actress award. Gone With The Wind, as famous as it may be, is underrated in the cinema stratosphere, with a disgraceful place on the American Film Institute's Best Movies List that is under lesser films such as Casablanca. It is truly shameful that such an amazing film as this be under appreciated, for it may very well be the greatest film of all time.

When Harry Met Sally... - While it may not be as passionate as The Notebook, this is my absolute most-cherished romantic-comedy of all time. (I sure do take advantage of the phrase "of all time", don't I?) I've recently rewatched this delightful film, written by the late great, Nora Ephron, and directed by the talented romantic-filmmaker, Rob Reiner. What makes this film so wonderful is how realistic and sweet it is, how conversation is the prime factor of the film, therefore making it unique. Not all romances have to be epic passions involving dire circumstances and difficulties. Maybe that's why I love this film so much, how there is hardly any intense scenes of love and focuses more on the philosophy of relationships. Relationships, not romance. The term "romance" is so romanticized, if you can believe it, that it becomes repetitive and, eventually, typical. With this quiet, comfortable picture, you can enjoy the ambiance of interesting conversation between two immensely likable characters. The leading actors, as you may know, are Billy Crystal, playing the lovably cynical Harry Burns, and Meg Ryan, playing the adorably bright-eyed Sally Albright. The chemistry between the two is present from beginning to end, which is magnified by their wonderful friendship. I notice I continue using the term "wonderful" to describe almost every element of this film, and that is simply because this film is wonderful in an array of ways. The relationship between Harry's friend Jess and Sally's friend Marie is mirrored to the eventual romance between Harry and Sally themselves, also. (Thought that was worth mentioning.) Every conversation between Harry and Sally is a little movie in itself, a series of enjoyable clips that form to create a wonderful film.

Well, there you have it. Yet another succinct post describing four romantic films, some more so than others. I'd just like to say I rather enjoy writing these sorts of posts, as it provides readers with an interesting point-of-view on films they may or may not like as much as I. Of course, my view is, and always will be, subjective. With that in mind, please know that there are many more amorous romances and touching relationships out there for moviegoers to behold and admire, or to scoff at and mock. I attempted to close with another meaningful thought, but there's really nothing more to add. Say, why don't you provide some intriguing comments on films that you consider to be romantic or overrated? I'd have no objections to some comments like that. It would be swell of you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An Absence of Expected Emotion

Yet another lengthy title. I was contemplating whether to title it Was I supposed to cry?, but decided against it because I don't feel comfortable with using punctuation in the title. Today, I will discuss several films that are famously known for their ability to summon tears from the general public. And I am referring to actual tears of sadness, not tears of how funny or awful a film is. This urge to write such a post came to me after watching Terms of Endearment, known as one of the most heart-breaking films of all-time. Even those who haven't seen the film know, without a doubt, people who have seen it have cried. I was one of those very people who made this assumption, as well, and wished to see exactly what was so sad about it. Not to mention that the film won Best Picture in 1983, in addition to an Oscar win by Jack Nicholson for Best Supporting Actor. And you know how I wish to be fully absorbed with all knowledge on Jack Nicholson's talent. (Absorbed?) Along with Terms of Endearment, I will discuss another film that is well-known for its tear-jerking factor, though it has that element in terms of romance. The film in question is The English Patient, which also won Best Picture in 1996. Besides their emotional element, what do these movies share, in terms of my opinion? They did not make me shed a single tear.

Terms of Endearment - You're probably still shocked by that last statement I made. Well, it's true. And, believe me, I wanted to cry sometime during the movie, really I did. But I didn't. In fact, the entire film itself was nothing too impressive, as most would have you assume. Perhaps it is because of the length of time that has passed since its debut, nearly thirty years ago actually. That's quite some time for a film to lose its...good quality. (Please note that not all films suffer this unfortunate decay. Just the truly inadequate ones.) I was actually surprised not to find this film on IMDb's Top 250. That was only slightly necessary to mention. Anyway, onto the film itself. Terms of Endearment follows the lives of a mother and daughter, who supposedly "beat to different drums". Aurora, the mother, (played by Shirley MacLaine) is an uptight, traditionally-nosy mom, who occasionally calls her daughter to check in. What they would have you believe in the movie is that she constantly calls to invade the lives of her daughter and family. Being an uptight woman who hasn't had much fun in the past fifty years the movie takes place throughout, she is rejuvenated when she meets her new neighbor, Garrett (played by Jack Nicholson), who is a vile yet irresistibly charming ex-astronaut. He allows Aurora to release her stern standards and just be blissful in life. With sex, obviously. As always, Jack Nicholson delivers a marvelous performance, using his natural irresistible charm and easy-going nature. I find myself calling him irresistible and charming quite often, most likely because of its unquestionable accuracy. Shirley MacLaine gives a fine performance, as well, though, once again, I don't see what's so great about it that she would receive an Oscar. Yes, she won for Best Actress. She is talented, of course, only I would rather have seen her winning for, say, The Apartment, for she was truly glowing there. As for Aurora's daughter, her name is Emma (played by Debra Winger, who strikingly resembles Ray Liotta's wife from Goodfellas and, according to my dad, Zooey Deschanel) and she is, apparently, her mother's opposite. Instead of leading a barren life of nurturing her mother, she decides to get married to Flap (played by Jeff Daniels), a goofy teacher who is just plain goofy. They venture to Iowa where they have three children and lead a different sort of barren life: one where the husband works all day, possibly cheating, and the wife is stuck home and miserable. As her oldest son grows up, he becomes quite nasty, giving the impression that he despises his mother for supposedly driving daddy away. Quite the delinquent. I'm telling the entire movie, aren't I? As a result of her unhappiness at home, Emma chooses to stir up an affair with a friendly banker (played by John Lithgow) who is so enormously sweet, one would think that he is the source of the alleged tears. However, he wasn't that sweet. Emma's whole storyline was what made the film a bit of a drag, to be honest, therefore uninteresting, and therefore I'm done talking about it. I'd like to mention that Debra Winger was, also, nominated for Best Actress, not only at the Academy Awards but in every other awards category. Now that is some unfortunate luck. Overall, the movie was fine, just fine, though it was absolutely nothing extraordinary or upsetting. Evidently, the peak of tears was to emerge during Emma's deathbed scene. Her cancerous passing was a sure shame, but it wasn't anything worth crying over. I mean, really, ladies and gentlemen, there have been sadder situations in cinema.

The English Patient - Another "tragic" film, only this one is about love. Not only did it not conjure up tears within me, but I didn't really sense the so-called overpowering romance between the main characters. I have to be honest by saying that it's been a while since I've watched this, and will remain a while considering how much I didn't enjoy it. The reason I decided to include it here is because I just watched the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine hates The English Patient. (I feel as rebellious as Elaine for not liking the film. Oh, how I love that naughty feeling.) So, as I said, my judgement of the film cannot be as relied on as for Terms of Endearment. From what I do remember, I was disappointed from how dull and uninteresting the film was. And so long! After watching romantic classics like Titanic and Gone with the Wind, I expected much more from "another romantic classic 'of the same caliber as those films'". Instead, I wasted one-hundred sixty-two minutes of my time with this completely overrated "classic". I'll be blunt in my criticism, considering my scarce memory of the film's detail. The "undying love" between Laszlo and Katharine is more like a hot, passionate craving fueled by lust. In other words, it appeared to me that they were more focused on the sexual factor of their "relationship". The other thing I recall about the film is that a French nurse named Hana (played by Juliette Binoche) cared for Laszlo after a scarring burn, and she watched over him while she sparked a romance of her own with an Indian officer. In this muddled mix is Caravaggio (played by Willem Dafoe) who seeks to kill Laszlo for whatever reason. (Just to be clear, I don't care for Willem Dafoe. I thought his name was William. It upsets me that it isn't.) There's much more to this "remarkable" film, as I gather from the plot synopsis of which I am getting the information that I did not remember, but it's all tedious to remember. It's an excruciatingly long film. Back to my visit with Seinfeld, Elaine was mocking the people who watched The English Patient and were crying afterwards. I felt like her in that scenario, as there was nothing to waste tears over. Again, in my opinion. There are films much more worthy of emotion than this one.

That last sentence being said, I have chosen two other films more worthy of tears than Terms of Endearment and The English Patient. Of course, there are many films that would summon tears from viewers, and they are all tears of a different nature, such as romantic-tragedy tears or sweet-ending tears. With that in mind, I have chosen a film that is symmetrical with each of the films I have just described. They will be in order of their respective, symmetrical film.

Changeling - While this is different from Terms of Endearment when considering plot and mood, I wanted to include this particular film, directed masterfully by Clint Eastwood. The reason of my including this film is that this is the movie where I cried the most. Ever. Not only did I cry, but I was deeply affected by this film and its content, so much so that in moments that I cried, I literally shook, as in my body shivered rigorously. This is a magnificent film, and I really would not want to spoil it for those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing it. All I will say is the basic plot. It follows Christine Collins, a woman whose son is missing throughout the film, and her determination of finding him. There is a chance that you have heard of such a case because it is based on a true story. She's involved in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders of 1928. That's all I will say, in respect of your possible ignorance of this film. For that reason, and the genuine fact that I am shutting my eyes in horror recalling the events that took place both in the film and in reality. Having watched this film twice already (and that's quite a compliment to Clint Eastwood, as a movie like this is watched, at most, one time only), it is an absolute shame that the Academy did not recognize it more than it did. Of course, Angelina Jolie's performance deserved the esteem it received, as she played the grief-stricken mother very well. Her performance here is what brought me to admire her so much. (More than the former Mrs. Brad Pitt, just saying.) More than that, Changeling was an astounding achievement in film-making, and Clint Eastwood most certainly should have been recognized for Best Director, just as the film itself should have been recognized for Best Picture. This is definitely deeper and more provoking than Terms of Endearment ever hoped of being, therefore an unfair comparison. I just wanted to mention this extraordinary film, and encourage you all to share my understandable presence of overwhelming emotion.

Titanic - You must have seen this one coming. I did mention it in the description of its parallel, after all. I hope I won't have to say much for this film, as I have flattered it many times before and it's an absolutely glorious film. Yes, I say it is absolutely glorious. For that reason, many think it is clever to mock and criticize this film harshly because they will feel rebellious for demeaning such a beloved film. (Differently from the way I feel rebellious when finding the evident flaws in The English Patient.) The romance between Rose and Jack is simply too present to reject as cliche. Their love symbolizes what filmmakers today strive for: ideal chemistry, heart-warming passion, and romance. Here, the love between Kate Winslet's upper-class prisoner Rose DeWitt Bukater and Leonardo DiCaprio's adventurous, passionate artist Jack Dawson is so sensational that it actually shines. The two immediately spark a genuine romance on the ill-fated ship. There are no spoilers there, as you all know the plot of the film. Even those who haven't seen it--I'm repeating a line from the Terms of Endearment description. Regardless, everyone knows this movie. What they may not realize is that glorious love between Rose and Jack. Just saying their names, Rose and Jack, brings heart-filled sighs and hopeless-romantic tears to my eyes. (Sighs from my lips, tears from my eyes.) While that may sound feminine and something that would affect only hopeless romantics as myself, well, that's incorrect. The film summons overwhelming emotion from any viewer that is affected in the presence of unquestionable love. To compare this to a film as vapid and colorless as The English Patient is just ridiculous. Titanic is the modern romantic-classic, and one of the greatest films of all time. I like to make my bold statements from time to time.

Well, there you have it. Four film reviews in one succinct post. I've saved you the trouble of deciding which to pick on movie night, haven't I? Now, these are not the sole movies that conjure tears from moviegoers, certainly not. More like a slice of what cinema has to offer in matters of intense emotion. Plus, not all films are expected to make everyone cry. One person can be moved by romance and scoff at realistic tragedies, just as a person can cry at the climax of an action and be unaffected by family dramas. There are countless films out there just waiting to be cried at for the first time. People are different almost in the same way movies are. I hope you enjoyed this post, as well as the deep, meaningful closing to it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Great Escape

Long time, no see. It's been a while, huh? How about this weather? Some heat. I just returned from an impromptu vacation on account of that nasty storm that struck the East Coast last week. East Coast is capitalized, right? It is a location after all. Anyway, about that storm. On the night of last Friday, a torrential thunderstorm hit my little town of Nowhere, bringing shocking destruction that has never been anticipated. Trees littered the streets, houses were damaged, and lives were disturbed. Mainly because of the massive power outage that lasted for nearly two weeks throughout the city. As I've said just moments ago, I was abducted by my anxious mother, who made the decision to pack her entire family (plus me) and head someplace else. Where did she choose to escape to? Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Amish Country. I'll wait for the irony to settle. Overall, this emergency trip was adequate, considering the circumstances, though I really do wish it never had to happen. Aside from the inevitable irritation I endured from my mother's ever-obnoxious husband and the scalding heat, I made a few errors of judgement during my time there. One event in particular threw me into a depression, and, yes, it had to do with alcohol. I've got to stop doing that. Despite that appalling mistake, which I will not share, I was proud of myself for utilizing my hotel's fitness center. How driven am I! My mother was dreadfully affected by the heat, in her pre-menopausal stage in life, particularly with "the help". In the entire time we were there, she snapped at more than a few employees, whether they be forgetful waitresses, immigrant maids, or impatient hotel clerks. The latter was the most scandalous scene to take place, which, according to my mother who tends to exaggerate often, had to do with her getting a credit card stuck in a vending machine. The specifics are inconsequential. All that matters is that my mother is still trying to get the hotel clerk fired for her rudeness. Heat can transform the most passive people into raging lunatics. (No, my mother is not a lunatic, she's just very over-emotional.) I just let out a deep breath, which signifies the end of this tedious tale.

I found this amusing.

Overall, this was quite an experience, for me and everyone else who finds sudden natural disasters alarming. The entire week felt so surreal, as if this were the beginning of a new era. Actually, that would be one of the many explanations for the 2012-frenzy. Furthermore, many people viewed this severe storm as one of the initial signs for the apocalypse, or the rapture, or whatever they call it. Which brings me to my topic of the day: religion. Such a touchy subject, isn't it? It makes the issue of race seem like a daily inconvenience, like rude service at a restaurant. As I mentioned before, my mother's husband was the primary source of aggravation throughout this whole trip, mainly having to do with his being a so-called religious fanatic. (Please note that he is merely a pseudo-religious fanatic, as he has never understood the concept of the Bible because, well, he's more than a tad doltish. But that's besides the point. If there is a point.) Throughout this little adventure, especially in such a religious atmosphere, he has been going on about how it's a blessing we survived and we should be thankful for God and Jesus, yada yada yada. Another thing he mentioned, which really disturbed me in a way of disgust rather than fear, was basically this: "This is a sign that the Rapture has begun everyone. Let us pray." And he said this in such a "I told you so" manner, as if he were thrilled that this was happening! I never understood why Christians were so vehement in their declaration that the world would come to an end, and that those who choose not to believe in what they believe will perish in flaming pits of fire. Of course, they would be saved by God, or Jesus depending on which term they used less in their rants. I guess that's why he's so happy? (Though I highly doubt he would go to Heaven, should there be one, because he did abandon his first child and have sex before marriage. That's too gosh darn bad.) What really put a twist in my panties was the fact that my ten-year-old brother is brain-washed by all this Rapture nonsense, that he actually has a screensaver saying "Are you ready for the Rapture?" It just frightens me to think that he truly believes in this, so much so that when I rejected it, he burst into tears. Religion is being with God and the Bible and all that spiritually. Believe, but don't take things literally. I am agnostic because religion, to me, is just ridiculous.

Oh, I'm not anti-religion, I just find it all very silly. Why, just now, I watched Religulous, an excellent documentary by Bill Maher which satirizes most religions. And the most important thing to remember about that documentary is that he is stating the facts of religion and mocking it. One might find that wrong or mean, but it's not that hard. I won't get too in-depth into this because, as I said, it's a delicate issue. I say "issue" because it is the root of so many conflicts and countless debates which continue to no end. For now, let's just allow the world to spin round and for life to carry on for years to come. Enjoy life while it lasts because it will end for each individual person on completely uncertain day. As for myself, I'm going to watch Desperate Housewives with the accompaniment of a nice, cool margarita. Seriously, I've got to stop.