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.

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