Do the Right Thing (AFI #96)

“Had enough time to get one of these in before heading to the theater this afternoon. As my Twitter status suggested, I went after the largest unwatched gap in the list. Now (except for the top ten) the biggest gap is 3 unwatched movies. Im thinking I’ll keep going at random until I acquire them all, then go in order with what’s left. That’s still a ways off though.

Anyways, Do the Right Thing. I’ll start off by saying that my nitpicks are just due to personal preference. The two things it had going against it for me: 1-not much of a continuous story, and we all know I like narrative. B-Im not exactly the target demo for this. So for those two reasons, it did loose me a bit here and there, which means that the amount to which I enjoyed it is less than what it should’ve been given the quality of the movie. Make sense?

There were some characters that I did like, the first one being Spike Lee’s character Mookie. Definitely the best choice to sorta lead the movie. Good balance between sweet and tough, and very sympathetic. Also loved Da Mayor played by Ossie Davis. Just love the irony how the voice of reason in many scenes was the drunk guy. Martin Lawrence also gets points for his debut performance. And John Turturro always kicks ass.

While this may not have been exactly my thing, I do completely get the point of the movie. The MLK quote at the end pretty much sums it up. And the climax of the movie was definitely intense. In particular, staying cryptic here to avoid spoilers, loved the way that Smiley concluded the scene.

One last thing I found noteworthy was how epic sounding the score was. Kind of an interesting choice, but it actually worked quite well. With such loud costumes and scenery, it makes sense I guess that the music match.”

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

“What’s with me just not getting movies lately? Seriously? Here’s another one. #54 on the list M*A*S*H Between me not understanding the humor and there not being much plot, I was just disinterested. It also just felt very awkard, and Im not sure why.

One thing that kept throwing me off was Donald Sutherland. I’d only previously seen him in The Italian Job. Seeing him here 30 years earlier, and having just spent the past week watching season 7 of 24, oh my God I never realized how much his son Kiefer looks just like him. For a moment there, I thought I’d turned on The Lost Boys instead.

Other than that, I had little sympathy for the characters. The “”Hot Lips”” storyline was okay, but most of the rest was lost on me. The one thing I did find quite funny was the final PA announcement. Everything else, just wasnt for me, I guess.”

Nine

“I hadn’t expected to go so long without a post. I’d decided against squeezing in an AFI before leaving for Texas cause I didnt want it to feel too rushed. Then I didnt really have sufficient time while I was there to get one in or run to the theater. Opted to spend my free time watching Bones and Big Bang Theory. Then work murdered me this week, and the need to pass out trumped the desire to watch movies I’d hafta pay attention to. So here we are.

First post of 2010. I’ll work on my 2009 movie wrap up sometime this weekend.

Before I get started on Nine, I had one comment I wanted to throw in about the previous entry, Cabaret. I was talking to a friend of mine at a Christmakwanzikahsolstice holiday party and Cabaret came up in conversation. (Someone asked if anyone there was Jewish, and when no one replied, I mentioned I’d seen Cabaret that day and asked if that counted). He told me that the storyline(s) in the movie was(were) purposely different from the stage version. Its based on a book called Berlin Stories which is a collection of short stories about living in Berlin in 1931. According to my buddy, they purposely decided to use different stories for the movie than they did for the play. So I guess I halfway take back my previous complaint about the story differences.

With that, we’ll transition into another musical–Nine. First impression, very unimpressed. I very much love musicals and musical theater. I figured between the Academy Award superstars in the cast and the high production value that this was gonna be great. Instead I sadly found it rather boring.

I couldnt quite grasp what was going on. Yes I gathered that Guido was gonna be filming a movie in a few days and hadnt even written a script yet. But I couldnt follow exactly how all the other events (and women) fit into that flow. Also, the musical numbers seemed too forced. With Chicago, director Rob Marshall’s previous musical, the dream sequence-y songs fit right in. I think that was from how the character would appear to start bursting into song and likewise come out of that state at the end. The transitions were too choppy in Nine. And the whole dream sequence flashback with a dream sequence dance in between that happened a few times was just weird. Im sure the stage version must have worked much much better, and I would be interested to see it someday. Another nitpick, yes I know that musical numbers almost always have to be lip synched. Im okay with that. However, Im not okay with them putting in no effort to hide that fact. Not sure if it was the sound balance, the staging, or the acting, but I was rarely able to “”believe”” they were really singing.

There were a few musical numbers I really did like, as stand alone scenes. I loved the dancing in “”Be Italian”” (Im guessing at song titles). The sand and the tambourines looked so great. Going into it, I did not expect Fergie’s number to have been my favorite. I also enjoyed Kate Hudson’s number, even if she wasnt quite the best singer. Although I didnt find her as nails-on-chalkboard-ish as my more musically inclined friends had warned me she’d be. But while those were my favorite numbers, their characters were the ones that felt most out of place to me. I really did not understand how they really fit into the rest of the story.

The all star cast was pretty good, I’ll give it that. Lets just go down the list of who’s left, shall we?
-Daniel Day-Lewis is a really great actor (LOVED him in There Will Be Blood, and was quite happy about that Oscar win) even if I didnt really like Guido’s character that much.
-Marion Cotillard is so cute (Im thinking about her presenting at last year’s Oscars), but this time she was vulnerable with a tough side. Her attitude and bombshell-ness in her second song caught me completely off guard and it was fan-\m/-tastic. Im just intrigued by the way her career has gone. If you think of most of the recent Academy Award winners, their careers have kinda built as they got more well know, then they won their award as kind of a nice pretty bow on top of all their acheivements. (Im looking at you Kate Winslet, prime example). Marion Cotillard, on the other hand, was this little nobody of an actress who managed an Academy Award nod, then a surprising win. And now she’s building her career off that win. Totally backwards, but it works, and I’ve been happy to see her.
-Penelope Cruz has been moving her way up my list of fave actresses. Its a rare combination to have such a sultry character who just oozes sex but also has a depth behind that. You usually only get one or the other, but Cruz pulled it off beautifully.
-Didnt care much for Nicole Kidman. She didnt really do a lot, and her accent was just strange.
-Judi Dench’s character was prolly my favorite, even if I didnt care much for her song. I have a tendancy to gravitate towards the most grounded character when the rest of them are a bit off the wall.

Yeeeeah, so overall bit of a disappointment. I’ll still end up buying the DVD, but you’re prolly just best off You-Tubing the main numbers

Nine – \m/ \m/

Cabaret (AFI #63)

“One of the movies on the AFI list I was most excited to watch. I was in a production of Cabaret two and a half years ago (I was a Kit Kat Girl, Texas specifically) and at the request of the director we were expressly forbiddento watch the movie, and I never got around to it later. Seeing it now, I totally understand and agree with our director. Its so different.

The Cabaret numbers are mostly the same, but all of the other songs were taken out, or at best played as instrumental background music. The only song I was really sad about being left out was “”Dont Tell Mama””, not that I dont like “”Mein Herr”” but at least if I woulda gotten …Mama stuck in my head, I’d have known more than two words of the song. And the story got changed around so much. They did keep the big important emotional storyline (sssh spoiler…rhymes with smishmorshion) but other than that, it was virtually unrecognizable. Hell, Sally and Cliff, er Brian’s, nationalities were switched. Was particularly sad that we didnt have the Shultz/Schneider storyline although that was replaced by Fritz/Natalia. I couldnt really hear the dialogue, and the big disadvantage of the whole Amazon on demand thing is the lack of subtitles, so I really have not idea what was going on with that whole Maximillian storyline.

Was excited to see Joel Grey in this infamous role of his. Up ’til now, the only time I’d ever seen him was as Phil, the leader of the sexaholics anonymous meeting, in Choke. (Awesome movie which you should check out by the way. Couldnt find a video clip of his main scene, but its hi-\m/-larious) And I didnt even know that was him til I saw him present at the Oscars last year. Michael York caught me offguard. I knew the name was familiar and when I first saw him, I nearly yelled out “”Basil Expedition!”” (Austin Powers). I also know him as the antichrist character in The Omega Code, which was a pretty awful movie. It was trying to be Left Behind, but failed miserably. I digress.

And Liza, OMG, Liza. My goal in life is to be Liza Minnelli. If I can’t be her, then I’ll settle for Tina Fey, but really I wanna be Liza. She was so bright-eyed and bubbly, and I totally ge the fascination with her. Was sad that she didnt have as big of a breakdown during her last big number as I would have expected, but she was still fantastic in the role. Oscar trivia – her win for Cabaret makes her the only child of two Oscar winners to win one themselves. She’s also like the seventh person ever to win an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy.

Anyhoo, leaving for Texas tomorrow, provided that I dont get snowed in like last year. Hoping to get another AFI flick in before I go (late afternoon flight), and then we’ll see if I can swing any while Im there. Ill mostly be watching 24 with my Daddy.”

Raiders of the Lost Ark (AFI #66)

“dah dah DAH dah, dah dah dah. Dah dah DAH dah, dah dah dah dah DAH

I love Indiana Jones (big surprise there) oh so very very much. That opening sequence is probably the best action adventure scene ever. The one thing I remember from going to Disney World when I was 5 was the Indiana Jones show where they recreated that scene. Or maybe that memory is just so vivid for me because of its appearance on Full House (here’s the lead in to the clip since the beginning is cut off).

This is the first time I’ve watched this movie since playing Lego Indiana Jones last year. That game is some of the best shit ever. I was so addicted to it. And then I fnished it and got Lego Batman and quit playing that after the first day. But yeah, I kept on visualizing the scenes being played out with Legos.

This was also the first time I watched something on VHS on the new screen. As amazing as it makes the high quality recording stuff look, thats about how bad low quality stuff looks on it. For Indy, I could deal with that.

One more antecdote. One of the best things I’ve ever heard in the church, a couple years ago the pastor was talking about the Ark of the Covenant and telling one of the stories about the ark’s power and someone trying to look inside. Then he said “”We’ve all seen the movie. We know what happens”” Well, it was funny at the time.

Yes, so again, one of the best adventure movies ever. Harrison Ford is so fantastic and suave and so pretty. Im also always amused to see John Rhys-Davies. Most of you prolly know him best (besides here) as Gimli in LOTR, but for me he’ll always be Sliders’ Professor Arturo.

I mean there really isnt much else to say is there? This movie is just so classic. This and The Goonies are prolly my fave adventures.”

King Kong (AFI #41)

“I actually wanna start with some thoughts on the Golden Globe nominees that were announced today. Really happy with them in general. Im in favor of all the movies up for Best Picture and would be quite stoked if the Academy Awards list looks similar. The single nomination Im happiest about is Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for (500) Days of Summer. Not one I expected to see on there, and he’s been one of my faves for years. Also psyched about Tobey Maguire’s nod for Brothers and Woody Harrelson for The Messenger (although I woulda liked to see Ben Foster up there for The Messenger as well). Also amused that the animated film nominations match exactly with the stellar animated films I pointed out on Sun. I typically tend to agree more with what goes down at the Globes than the Oscars (and the Emmys for that matter) so very excited to see how it all turns out this time.

Quentin Tarantino gave his top ten for the year. Well, 8 actually cause he’s leaving room for tweaks and additions. While he and I agree on number one, I think the rest of our picks are a bit different. Im not gonna actually post my list until early Jan. For me, I define the year based on when I see movies not their actual release dates. Its all arbitrary anyways

I would also like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to whoever decided to start selling Funnel Cake Sticks at BK. Genius!

As far as King Kong (gonna likely keep this short cause Im sleepy and my tummy hurts) my biggest complaint is the very minimal plot. My biggest problem with the remake was that the action scenes went on for far too long. I had no idea that was the case with the original as well, although these were still significantly shorter. But with both I fell asleep during those scenes, and woke up feeling like I hadnt really missed anything. I was really excited as the movie started off, but from the point where Kong took

While I originally busted out laughing when I first saw Kong, the more screen time he got the more I liked him. I know that in the context of today’s technology he looks pretty silly, but back in the 30’s that was quite the acheivement, and in that context he’s brilliant. Was also amused by the dinosaurs.

Yeah I guess there really isnt much else to say there, huh?”

Invictus

“Couple quick things before we get started here. One is that I got ExpletiveDleted added to the list of Boston blogs on Boston.com I dont know that anyone actually goes thru the list reading blogs, but I know Im not the only Bostonian who spends a good chunk of the day punting on that site. Personally, the highlight of my day is when a new Love Letters gets posted. A bit out of character for me, I know, but the writer, Meredith, is pretty cool.

Next, AFI posted their top ten list for 2009. Particularly psyched to see The Hangover and The Messenger on the list. The former because I like that they’ll actually acknowledge that type of flick as quality (by some definitions of the word) entertainment. The latter makes me happy cause I dont think that movie’s gotten too much notice. And I really shoulda given it a full four \m/ instead of 3 1/2.

Right. Invictus. Almost didnt make it tonight. Work’s been insanely tough and all I wanted to do was veg out. As motivation, I decided I’d finally try those cupcakes that they’ve had at the theater for a few weeks now. I’d been regretting that I didnt get them when they woulda been free at my Cirque du Freak screening. Verdict on those? The red velvet one had killer cream cheese frosting, but otherwise not really worth three bucks a piece.

Okay I know, this blog is about movies, not cupcakes.

Im actually really glad I dragged myself over to the theater. I left there so happy. Although, it took a while to get to that point. The first half dragged on, and their accents were so bad (at least Im assuming they werent exactly accurate) that I couldnt understand half the dialogue. Im still not even sure what the rugby team was called. But the pace really quickened and the overall mood picked up just past the halfway mark. By the time the rugby team had that coaching session with some of the local kids, the history and tone had been set and we could just coast on the “”Mighty Ducks”” story.

There were some really beautiful images in the movie. That coaching session was a great one. Although, my favorite was the little kid at the end listening to the world cup game with the security officers. I also really liked how they used the work relationship between the black and white members of Mandela’s security staff to illustrate the relationship between the two halves of the country.

Fan-\m/-tastic acting from Morgan Freeman, as if we’d expect anything less. By now, we’ve seen him play a US president in Deep Impact (second best fictitious pres after Dennis Haysbert on 24), win an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, and of course play God in Bruce and Evan Almighty. Apparently Nelson Mandela said that the only actor he thought could play him was Freeman. Now I know absolutely nothing about the man, but I definitely saw him, not Freeman on screen. And that’s saying something for such a recognizable and loveable actor. I also know nothing about his politics or character other than what we saw in the film, but at least here he was such an admirable and inspirational person. To have gone thru hell in prison, and then draw from that experience to try and unite a country could not have been easy. Ew, Im starting to get all gooey. I’ll stop

Love Matt Damon as always, but I dont know if it was the accent or the extra blonde hair that really threw me off. His character grew on me by the end, but it took some getting used to.

As far as the whole rugby thing, that’s a sport that’s intrigued me for a while. I never actually heard of it until high school maybe. Woulda been kinda nice if I knew the game a bit better since a lot of the time when they were playing I had no freakin’ clue what was going on. Makes me wish I woulda gone to see a game back at MIT when I had friends on the team, especially the girls’ team annual prom dress rugby. By the time we got to the final game in the film, I really was on the edge of my seat. Can’t really elaborate much more without getting spoilertastic.

Guess thats about it for now. Hoping to get an AFI movie in tomorrow, but I gots some errand running to do after work. Hopefully I’ll get outta there at a decent hour with an acceptable amount of brainpower left. Just gotta get thru this week and then Im off on Christmas vacay.

Invictus – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

The Princess and the Frog

“This year has been a good one for animation. I hear there’s even enough elligible films that there’ll be five nods for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars. You’ve got Pixar kicking butt as always with computer animation with Up, and also Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in the great computer ani. Then there was fantastic stop motion with Fantastic Mr Fox and Coraline. And now, Disney’s kicking it old school with hand drawn animation for Princess and The Frog, and Im so glad for that. I do remember when computer animation was such a big deal, and I’ve seen it get better and better over time (mostly with each Pixar movie) but I’ve also seen it more half assed over time when other studios just crank out these plastic looking hardly thought thru kiddie films. Having grown up during Disney’s second golden age (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, etc) my poor little heart has been crying and aching for some good hand drawn animation, and so psyched that Disney finally delivered.

The storyline for Princess and the Frog was a really creative twist on the original Frog Prince fairy tale. And I loved the supporting characters, in particular Ray and Louis, although I gotta admit the main characters did annoy me a bit. I found Tiana a slight bit too one-track-minded, and Naveen was too arrogant. Most of my buds who I saw it with adored Charlotte. I did too, while I could stand her. She was a bit much at times. And seriously, what’s up with the Lost actor names for characters? Naveen? Evangeline? Thats the only other time I’ve ever heard those two names.

The music was good, but nothing too spectacular. I much prefer Menken over Randy Newman, and while Newman was better than usual I didnt exactly leave wanting to run to Limewire and download the soundtrack. The New Orleans jazz setting did lend itself to great sound and overall vibe for the movie, and having voodoo available for the required fairy tale magic was a nice bonus.

I liked that this time around, the whole wish upon a star thing was balanced with the idea of working hard to get what you want. You kinda got to see both of those ends of the spectrum and how you need both to make your dreams come true. And even though, as previously mentioned, I may not have entirely cared for Tiana, having a strongwilled independant woman character is always a plus over a fragile little princess. Disney’s usually pretty good about that, but Tiana definitely ranks closer to Mulan than Aurora on that scale.

There was also some great dialogue. A few jokes there for the adults. My favorite being a reference to an AFI movie we’ve already been thru. I wont give it away, but I thought it was quite epic. I was laughing uncontrollably for a minute, but I think I was the only person who was able to fully appreciate it. And of course there was the slapstick comedy that had the little kids to my left and my buddy Carlos to my right convulsing with giggle fits.

So overall, while this may not be a definitive sign of another golden age for Disney, its certainly a step in the right direction.

The Princess and the Frog – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Some Like it Hot (AFI #22)

“So this it was I was actually intending to watch last night, before being pleasantly sidetracked by Titanic. From the opening funeral home/speak easy scene I knew I was going to love it. I have a sorta love/hate thing with farce. I \m/ love them until they get to the point of awkward, at which point I hate them. Some Like It Hot went right to the edge of that line, and it was brilliant. The dialogue was snappy, the characters were great, the twists and turns were just absurd enough without getting too outta hand.

This movie was also my first real introduction to Marilyn Monroe. She’d had a small role in All About Eve, but I didnt find out that was her until after. She was so charming and captivating, I know absolutely understand Hollywood’s fascination with her. What I couldnt get over, however, was her curvy full figure. I’d heard that she was a size 14, but I figured that somewhere along the way the size scale changed. Kinda sad that kinda thing is rarely ever considered sexy nowadays. The majority of today’s Hollywood starlets disappear when they turn sideways. As someone who’s not exactly on that stick figure end of the spectrum, watching Monroe mesmerize the guys in the movie was a bit of a self esteem boost.

Back to the whole farce thing, I’ve heard that the quick way to summarize a farce is a movie/show with a lot of doors. In this case it was more a lot of disguises, although there was a fantastic chase scene that involved lots of doors.

I’ve heard rumors that Lindsay Lohan wants to remake this movie with her in the Monroe role. I hope to God that never \m/ happens. This movie is close to perfect as it is, and would lose so much of its charm if it were updated.”

Titanic (AFI #83)

“Didnt actually intend on watching Titanic tonight for two reasons 1) Im trying to space out the movies I’ve seen before and b) wasn’t exactly in the mood for a 3 hour epic. But when I came home from Up In The Air, the roomie wanted to order a pizza. Usually when we order food, she’ll eat in my room where there’s inevitably a movie on. As mentioned before, I had SNL going in the background, which she didnt approve of. I said I was still blogging so it didnt matter what was on, so I let her choose from my pile, thinking she’d go for something recent. Instead she got all giddy when she saw Titanic in the stack. I figured we’d watch a little bit of it, then I’d switch to something else when I was done. She ended up watching for an hour until the fact that the captain looks like her boss bothered her enough to go back to work. Finished my previous write ups another half hour later, and seeing as how I was already halfway thru, it made sense to just continue.

I was in junior high when Titanic came out, making me a prime demographical target for it. Yes, I did see it in the theater–once at the dollar theater at the mall with my mom. No, I didnt cry at the end. I was just laughing because Rose said “”I’ll never let go”” then promptly let go off and dropped Jack (oops spoiler). I think I watched it once more after that. With all the hype, I couldnt even stand Leonardo Dicaprio at the time. I liked him in Romeo & Juliet and thought he was fantastic in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but I otherwise hated him for some unknown reason. Wasn’t until I saw Catch Me If You Can that he got back on my good side, and was cemented there with The Departed. But this time, the roomie and I were just sighing and swooning anytime he was on the nice big high def screen.

The two things distracting me this time around. One is during the opening stuff before we get to Rose telling her story, all I could think about was Hanson’s video for their song “”River””. I could only find the intro on YouTube. From there it cut to just concert footage, and then it ended by going back to Gloria Stuart (yes that was actually her…and that was Weird Al with her) dropping a Middle Of Nowhere cd into the ocean. The other thing throwing off my groove with the movie tonight is that every time the theme music played, I could picture Bob Saget vocalizing it. He was doing that constantly during his show last week.

Distractions aside, and previous judgement of the movie aside, this actually is a fantastic piece of cinema. Its one of those something for everyone types–romance, humor, action, suspense, drama, (sorta) history. Its no wonder virtually every person on the planet went out and saw it. And by the time the ship started sinking (oops spoiler again) I could feel my heart thumping so fast, totally panic attacking about what was going to happen, even though I knew \m/ well what was gonna go down (absolutely no pun intended). Even if the love story isnt the type of thing to pull at your heart strings, there’s so much more to get you teary by the end of the film. Two things that got me (well nearly got me since there werent any actual waterworks…again no pun). One was the montage of people who knew they were going to die and accepted it–the old couple in bed, the mother telling the kids a bedtime story, etc. The other was the Daddy saying goodbye to his little girls, saying there’d be another boat for the daddies and that they were only saying goodbye for a short little while.

On the cast side, as previously mentioned absolutely \m/ adore Leonardo DiCaprio. He is one of those actors who is as talented as he is gorgeous. Maybe not his greatest display of acting skill (that would be …Gilbert Grape or Blood Diamond, in my opinion without thinking about it too hard) but it was definitely a great display of charisma. No wonder the world fell in love with him. Kate Winslet is just stunning as the strongwilled and steadfast Rose. Points for Kathy Bates as well.

Going thru the IMDB trivia, post movie took a while, but I found a few interesting things worth sharing
-They only built one side of the boat set, so to film things on the other side, they’d reverse the image. In order to make that work, they had to create reverse image costumes and props and stuff.
-The Daddy scene I mentioned earlier was something that actually happened. One of the girls recounted the story after being rescued.
-James Cameron created the names for the main characters, but later found out that there was a J. Dawson on the Titanic although in this case J stood for Joseph. They were able to recover his body and it was buried at a cemetary with other survivors. His stone is apparently the most visited one at the site.
-The movie was shown so much in theaters that they had to keep replacing the reels because they were so worn out.

Guess that does it for tonight. Tomorrow’s plans include Princess and the Frog with MTG social. The goal is to bookend it with two more AFI’s. Here’s hoping I can get my total to 40 before going home for Xmas. Completely arbitrary deadline, but I do love the sound those make as they go whooshing past.”