Duck Soup (AFI #60)

“I realized that I keep on picking movies that I want to see, and skipping over those that I have no interest in. I figured I should mix in a few of the ones that Im dreading now, before Im only left with a whole bunch of movies Im wary of. Duck Soup is one on that list.

I’d actually seen this one before. I think it was soph year that I took a (primarily) literature class called Comedy. Besides a few books and plays, there were a few movies we watched. Since I couldnt make most of the screenings, I half.com-ed them, which turned out well since 3 of those are on the AFI list: The Philadelphia Story, City Lights, and Duck Soup. I’d also ended up getting Noises Off and His Girl Friday. And we saw Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill (which was my favorite part of the class), but I already owned and loved that.

I totally get why this movie is considered one of the best movies of all time. The slapstick is masterful and all the puns are expertly delivered. I just dont find that stuff too funny. I laugh when a joke catches me off guard, not when I see it coming from a mile away. A lot of it was also just too non-sensical for my taste (taking a pair of scissors to every cuttable object you see? really?).

I’ve said before that plot is important to me. I like to be told a story. For this movie, the plot was very thin secondary to the comedy. It was basically there to connect all their schtick–not good for catching my interest (again, personal opinion).

I’ll close with an amusing anecdote. I heard once that when interviewing some really high up there politician (who I can’t remember right now) a reporter once asked him what his thoughts are on the situation in Freedonia, and what we can do to correct it. The politician then went on a tirade about how awful the situation was and our responsibilties toward it, blah blah blah. Yeah um, Freedonia is the ficticious country that Groucho Marx’s character is the leader of in Duck Soup. The reporter was running a bullshit test. The politician failed.”

The Men Who Stare At Goats

“New release Tuesday at Best Buy! Stopped there on my way home. Bought my first Blu-Ray: Up. No haven’t upgraded my system yet, but Disney does that combo pack thing where they give you a DVD and BluRay disc. Figured since I should hopefully be getting that hook up in a little over two weeks, it was worth buying that now. And Bones is on sale. Just got season one. I expect to lose focus on the AFI project as I try to get in episodes of Bones in between.

Enough of that. Tonight’s movie, The Men Who Stare At Goats. I went in there with zero expectations. Entertainment Weekly gave it an F (I just read the review and theyre just being whiney). This weekend it had been in the big auditorium, but tonight they moved it to a little one. And I dont typically put a lot of trust into George Clooney’s movie choices. At least for me, they’re very hit or miss. All of that equalled not such the best outlook. But we all know what happens when you go into a movie with zero expectations–I actually kinda enjoyed it.

The main comment I’ve got is WTF?! Every other minute, there was another WTF moment. Kinda felt like a Coen bro’s movie. But I was chuckling at every one of those WTF’s–as was everyone else in the overcrowded tiny theater. And there was one moment that got every last guy in the audience to groan out loud with sympathy pain. That amused me.

Most of the film didnt make sense, but I went along for the ride. Well I guess its not necessarily that it wasn’t sensical, more that it was just over the top absurd. However, I felt that our main guys, Ewan McGregor and George Clooney had enough charisma to pull it through. Was also very amused by all the “”you can be a Jedi like one of us”” talk at Ewan, who as well all know played Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequels. That got a smile outta me every time.

Props to the supporting cast as well. Kevin Spacey was a total scene stealer, and I love him for it. Also wanna point out Glen Morshower, who plays Aaron on 24. Aaron is the only character other than Jack Bauer to be in every season, and he’s one of my faves. Wasn’t particularly special in Goats, it just made me happy to see him.

Yeah, so totally didnt deserve the F that EW gave it. This is why I get upset at movie critics, and why Im scared about being an amateur one. One person’s opinion shouldnt determine the fate of a movie.

The Men Who Stare At Goats – \m/ \m/ \m/

Midnight Cowboy (AFI #43)

“Started this as soon as I got home. Thought maybe I’d be able to end it early enough to at least start another to make up for yesterday. But, as luck would have it, something was wrong with the disc and it took me a good 30-45 min to see everything in chapters 25 and 26 of the film. And Im totally kicking myself for not being a receipt saver, cause I got this from Newbury and could have gone back to exchange it. Oh wells. Rock & Roll.

Despite that set back, I really liked this one. Some of the early stuff was light and funny, but then other parts were dark and intense. But the best part–Dustin Hoffman. It seems like he moves up my respect ladder with each film I see him in. This performance is right up there with Rain Man. I could try to explain the awesome-ness of him in this role, but I think you just gotta watch it for yourself.

Jon Voight was also quite wonderful, although I really could not get over seeing him so young. And I spent about 80% of the flick trying to figure out who he looked like. I was convinced it was a current young thing, but it eventually hit me–John Schneider as Bo Duke. That revelation amused me because when I saw old school Dukes of Hazzard, I couldnt get over young John Schneider after seeing him as Jonathan Kent on Smallville. But it was great seeing Voight in one of his signature roles, instead of the type of stuff he’s been in lately. Bit of trivia about his recent work, when he was filming Holes he took Shia LaBeouf under his wing as his acting padowan. He’d give him homework assignments, making him watch classic screen performances.

Another thing in the yay! column was that I really liked the dream sequences and flashbacks. My favorite was early on when Voight was chasing Hoffman thru the subway. That sequence more than anything else up to that point really hooked me.

Not sure how intentional this was, but I found it cool how there were a lot of X’s in the movie–the windows at the apartment, the conversation about Rizzo’s dad. Reason why Im intrigued by that is the movie was originally rated X, and its the only X rated movie to have ever won Best Picture. Two years later the rating did get knocked down to R when X became almost exclusively associated with porn. I can kinda see how it woulda gotten that rating (which would be like NC-17 now) back in the late 60’s, but not so much by today’s standards.

Well Ive got a kitty crying at me for her dinner, so that’s my cue to peace out.”

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

“While yesterday I couldnt write much about North By Northwest, I could write forever about LOTR. I had quite the obsession with it back in the day. Not even sure how it started. A couple years before I’d even heard of the movies, I tried reading the first book. I was with it until they got to Bree and then had no idea what happened after. Something compelled me to pick up the big 1000+ page three in one edition with the movie poster that came out a few months before the first movie. This time around, I was hooked by the time we got to Bree. I’ve read through that thing about 3 or 4 times cover to cover (plus a few failed attempts). I remember someone taking a look at my copy and commenting that it looked “”very well loved””. The last time I read it, I took it with me to Arizona when I spent a month in the desert for my field geology class. I figured, 1000 pages would be enough to occupy me for the month. I was done in about 2 1/2 weeks. Been thinking I should give it another whirl soon. Im finishing up the True Blood series and starting on Cirque du Freak, but Im gonna be looking for some new (well new to this year at least) reading soon.

Im gonna be using a lot of abbreviations, which should be obvious but just in case: LOTR = Lord of the Rings, FOTR = Fellowship of the Ring, TTT = The Two Towers, ROTK = Return of the King. Got it?

So if you think that’s obsessive with the book, it gets even worse with the movie. I was supposta see FOTR with a so-called friend of mine on opening day, but he ended up blowing me off. When I talked to him a few days later, he said he forgot, but that he shoulda called me the second time he saw it. Twice within the first week? Without me? Oh, it was on. I ended up beating him 5 times to 4, and on that last one we finally managed to go together. The next year, for TTT, I went 9 times–no contest, just wanted to see it again and again. I moved up to Boston just in time for ROTK, which meant I really could go to the movies anytime I wanted. I think I managed about a dozen trips to see it. I kinda lost count at some point.

Then there was all the merch. BK (Burger King) had some LOTR toys in their kids meals back when FOTR came out. I think there were 18 in the set. It was small figures of the fellowship that had interlocking stands that joined up to a big ring in the center. Each figure either lit up or talked, or if it was a really important character, he did both. I ran all over Laredo Texas for a month and managed to get the entire set. I still have them in my room back home. A few of the voice boxes dont work so good, but they’re there. On top of that, I’d constantly patroll K B Toys waiting for LOTR toys to go on sale. The way that the people at Best Buy nowadays know me cause Im there so often, thats how it was there.

Needless to say, I absolutely love the movies. In Clerks II, when they have the trilogy argument over LOTR vs Star Wars, I totally sided with the hobbit lovers. There was a point where constantly have one of them on, but it’d actually been a while since I’d last watched them. So long, that it almost felt like watching for the first time. Almost, cause I knew what little things to expect, but I did get excited for them all.

Book adaptations have the potential to go so wrong, but this one wasn’t done to make money. It was done by people who utterly loved the books so completely, that they wanted to make a good movie. Everything from the detail of the costumes to the camera tricks for the size differences is brilliant. I remember going to the LOTR exhibit at the MOS (Museum of Science) a couple times and just hanging out in that room for over an hour each time.

And the cast is fantastic. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monoghan, I love each and every last one of them. Im always struck by the extreme friendship you see portrayed by them–every time Sam runs after Frodo or Boromir runs after Merry and Pippin or Legolas teams up with Gimli–its just beautiful.

Seriously, I could just go on and on about LOTR, but I think I’ve gotten my point across for now. I hear there’s a first draft of the script for The Hobbit floating around now, that Ian McKellan has already been allowed to read. No news on who’s gonna play Bilbo yet, but Im kinda excited.”

North By Northwest (AFI #55)

“Can’t quite figure out what to say ’bout this one. It started off really intriguing. I was so ready to get caught up in the mystery and suspense. But then after a while, I just didnt care anymore. I think the problem (my own fault) was that I expected it to take a particular turn, and then it didnt. Reason for that is that the movie is referenced in Lucky Number Slevin, one of my absolute faves, and they compare Cary Grant’s predicament to Josh Hartnett’s. I guess I sorta assumed they’d end up following the same route. Not the case. Sorry, being cryptic to avoid spoilers on both ends.

To me, this felt a lot more like a James Bond movie than a Hitchcock. I know I dont know enough about either to be any sorta expert, but it sorta threw me off balance. Really dont have too much else to comment on it.

Update on the movie aquisition. I went by the Newbury Comics on Newbury and picked up a handful of movies. I found it weird that I could hardly find any of the AFI movies in their feature film section. Nearly gave up, and then I noticed there was a tiny section called “”Classics”” that had most of the movies I was missing. I’ll need to check the Fanueil Hall Newbury to see if they have a similar section I’ve missed, even though I’ve found a lot of them there already. Couldnt resist buying Streetcar, even though I’d already rented and watched it for this blog. The price was too good to pass up seeing the “”Hey Stella!”” scene again. My half.com order still hasnt come in, and Im starting to get concerned. Its been two weeks, and the status just says Confirmed, not shipped or anything. The site wont let me complain about missing items til next week. I hope they’re just slow. I should prolly try and get another order in soon. Although, I am more than halfway through acquiring movies. Nearly 3/4 of the way if you count all the Amazon rentals still available. Just wanna get as much of them bought before I start spending too much on Christmas presents this year.

Anyways, I’d planned to get two movies in tonight, but ended up falling asleep for two hours. Had especially hoped to get one of the 3 hour ones outta the way cause I thought I’d have this huge free evening. Funny how a nap can really cut into that. Think I’ll start #50 – Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the Ring and hopefully if I do crash, I’ll wake up early enough to finish it off in the morning before running to the matinee of Side Show. Besides, this is one of the movies on the list that I know best, so its okay if I end up watching a chunk of it in a sleepy stupor.”

The Box

“The first week after “”fall back”” is always so trippy. I went to the early movie (12:30!) and outside looks like I just got back from the 4:00ish show. WTF?

Kinda apprehensive about going to see The Box, the latest offering from Richard Kelly. Wasn’t sure where it’d fit on the Donnie Darko to Southland Tales spectrum (his two previous films). Although really excited about actually being able to see one his films on the big screen. Speaking of, before I go further, I hear there’s a midnight Donnie Darko at Coolige Corner. Extremely tempted, but wont go that far that late by myself. If anyone is actually reading this and wants to go, drop me a line. End tangent.

Verdict? It was no Donnie Darko (and I never really expect anything else to ever be) but I really enjoyed it. I think Kelly learned a lot from …Tales about what does and doesnt work, and how to try to recapture that Darko feel without trying too hard. The story was a lot more streamlined for the most part. I could follow it, but was still surprised by every turn (even ones I saw coming). There was a good chunk of it, though, that didnt really make much sense. At that point, I stopped trying to figure it out, then stopped trying to follow, and just tried to absorb as much as I could to process later once we saw where everything ended up. That proved to be an effective strategy. It wrapped up pretty well, and from reading up on it later, I think I was as close as I was ever gonna get to figure out that weirdness.

I got to wondering what Kelly’s feeling towards this whole thing is. Is there a deep meaning behind every little detail, or does he just think its kinda cool? After reading this article on IMDB, it seems like he just thinks its cool, trying to add a sci-fi element to the story. I can totally respect and understand that. I’ve had hour long conversations about Donnie Darko on multiple occasions, and could possibly do that for The Box as well. I kinda like knowing that at the end of those discussions, there really isnt a right or wrong answer. Hell, even if I sat down with Richard Kelly for an hour (which would be OMG amazing), Im not sure I’d get anywhere further than I am now.

To go a bit deeper down the philosophical rabbit hole, another thing that I really liked is that while a lot of it is kinda effed up, there’s a logical sense to it, like its not as messed up as it seems. Or at least there’s reason behind why things went down the way they did. Yeah Im prolly not making any \m/ sense. I’ll move on.

Really liked the cast–Camerian Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella. They all fit quite well. Diaz and Marsden were so believable that I kinda came close to almost crying at the end. Also thought the setting gave such a great feel to the movie.

I think it was a Sat afternoon well spent. Def worth a watch if you like Donnie Darko, just dont expect it to be as good.

The Box – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n (I’ll likely round it up to 4 when I lable the DVD I’ll inevitably get)”

On the Waterfront (AFI #19)

“Trying to squeeze in another AFI movie today wasnt such the best idea. I was fighting to stay awake. I prolly coulda really gotten into this movie otherwise. Needless to say, this write up is likely to be short.

So I was on a bit of a Brando kick after watching Streetcar this morning, which is why I chose the movie that won him his first Oscar. As expected, he was fan-\m/-tastic, but I think I prefer his Streetcar role.

Noticed a few other actors from this week’s AFI films. Karl Malden, won did win an Oscar for Streetcar, was in this as well as two jurors from 12 Angry Men. Also noteworthy, this is Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.

‘Member how I was saying one of the cool things about this project is hearing classic quotes in context? On the Waterfront gave us “”I coulda been a contender””. Did not expect that. For some reason, I’d always assumed that was from Rocky. I feel educated now. And sleepy. Bed time.”

Platoon (AFI #86)

“I actually bought this movie a while back. There was an episode of Entourage where some movie mogul said that his daughter was the one with the real eye for talent. She was about 8 when she saw Platoon and pointed out Johnny Depp to her daddy saying that he was the one to watch out for. Being on a Johnny Depp kick at the time, I picked it up. Tried watching it once, but couldnt get into it. Couldnt really get into it today either.

There wasnt much narrative to it, it was mostly montages of war scenes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I just like to be told a story. I also dont typically care for war films (Private Ryan being an exception). Example: I absolutely \m/ love the first half of Full Metal Jacket (which came out around when Platoon did). But once they get to ‘Nam it loses me. Now, there were some outside factors involved in why I didnt quite groove with the movie. If you remember, a few weeks ago I had this big saga with trying to get a second cat and then it didnt happen. Today I emailed the shelter I got Lestat from, and right after I started the movie got a response. There was some on and off phone calling about that. The good news is I should be meeting some potential kitties next week. So understandable that I had other things on my mind during this film.

What I did like was the cast. Mostly, I was just amused by how young they all look. There’s some killer cast people in this: Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Kevin Dillon. This was the first time I actually noticed the family resemblance between Charlie Sheen and his bro Emilio Estevez. Kinda got me giggling. Then Kevin Dillon gave a line, and my first thought was that it was Matt Dillon. At which point I put two and two together for the first time and realized they’re bros (IMDB confirmed it). Kevin was def my favorite in this movie. Some of it was amusement at seeing a much younger Johnny Drama on screen. But I was just drawn to his character.

Gonna try to get some time in with my guitar to clear my head before attacking a third today.”

A Streetcare Named Desire (AFI #47)

“I’ve been curious about this one for a while. As a theater person, I tend to hear the play mentioned often (especially back in my theater classes), and as a movie person, I tend to see references to it. Yet another reason I think this project was a good idea. So that now I actually have a clue what these peeps are talking about.

Some time ago I found an interview with Edward Norton (for those not in the know, Norton is my fave actor) where he said the reason he did The Score back in ’01 is cause he didnt want to walk by the poster one day and see someone else’s name listed with Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. I now completely understand. I’ve had mad respect for Marlon Brando since I first saw the Godfather. That just increased times a thousand. I was just drawn to him every time he was on screen. And I had to watch that “”Hey Stella!!”” scene again once I’d finished the movie.

I think the biggest downside to this whole Amazon Rental thing is that there’s no subtitles. Its been a habit of mine for years now to always turn on the subtitles when watching a DVD, to be sure I dont miss any important dialogue. Started that when I first saw Donnie Darko (my all time third fave flick). Immediately once the credits hit, I backtracked to the first chapter, turned on the subtitles, and watched the whole thing over. Didnt make much more sense that time, but the habit stuck. It also comes in handy when watching movies at home with my Daddy. My mom has a tendancy to wander in the room and talk loudly about nothing. With the subtitles on, we didnt miss any of whatever we were watching (usually 24). But for Streetcar, between how fast Vivien Leigh (I didnt even recognize her until I IMDB-ed it) talks and Brando’s manner of speaking I lost so much of the dialogue, which made me really sad.

There was a lot I didnt get, and some I didnt care about. I was far more interested in Stanley (Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) than I was in Blanche (Leigh). I perked up whenever Brando was on screen, and lost interest whenever he and Hunter were both absent. There were also some subtleties that I didnt catch onto until I read about them afterward. Apparently a lot of stuff got censored from the original play, which is what led to a lot of confusion. Also, the ending didnt make much sense to me until I heard what it was originally supposed to be. Dont you hate it when Hollywood does that?

Now for the part where I tie the movie into some really bad current film that I love for some reason. This time, Hollywood Homicide. Comedy with Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford where they play cops with career interests other than LAPD. Ford is trying to be a realtor, and Hartnett wants to be an actor. Throughout the film, he’s practicing for a showcase where he’ll be playing Stanley in Streetcar. He’s constantly walking away yelling “”STEEELLLAAAAAA””. Yeah kinda had that image in the back of my head everytime Brando said the name. But no contest that Brando did it waaaaay better”

The Graduate (AFI #17)

“Got started on this one late. The plan was gonna be to finish the penultimate episode of Numb3rs season 5 that I fell asleep to last night. Then watch a movie. Then finish Numb3rs while going to sleep. Buuuut that episode ended on a cliffhanger, so I had to finish it all off. Now that that’s done, I hopefully wont be as distracted. I still have season 4 of My Name Is Earl to go thru, and a few assorted non-AFI movies I picked up recently, but I dont forsee getting too wrapped up in them.

Right. The Graduate. Highest ranking movie on the project so far. I get kinda nervous talking about the classic ones like this. If I dont like one of these “”best movies of all time”” do I lose my street cred as a movie afficionado? But the fact remains that sometimes I just dont “”get”” it. Kinda the situation here. Now there were a lot of things I did love about it, and I’ll get to those later. Lets just get the yuck outta the way, shall we?

The movie lost me just about halfway in. It didnt seem like it was gonna go anywhere. I kinda spaced thru much of the next bit. And I also had a really hard time being sympathetic toward Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman’s character). I have mad respect for Dustin Hoffman. He is way up on my list of favorites. C’mon, who doesnt love Rain Man? Although I think I first saw him in Hook. I heart that movie now, but it scared me when I first watched. Well, the scene with the scorpion box scared me. I digress. Shiny things distract me. Back now. What I loved were a bunch of little things. And while there are more of those little things, they dont seem to add up to enough to get over the somewhat boring (to me at least…dont hit me) plot.

What did I like? The director, Mike Nichols. Some of those shots are simply iconic–the scuba thing and of course, the shot thru Mrs Robinson’s leg during the classic “”Mrs Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?””. And the dialogue free shots were just beautiful. Great images with a really soothing soundtrack from Simon and Garfunkel. To be honest, they’re a bit too mellow for my taste, but it fit the movie well. And hearing them always makes me think of a buddy of mine, who once told me she and her sister were not allowed to be on the same team when playing Taboo because they’d use Simon and Garfunkel lyrics as clues.

While I may not have liked the character much, I did like Dustin Hoffman’s performance. He played awkward so well, I felt uncomfortable for him. That aspect grabbed me right away. I think it was because of that party scene at the beginnig, which felt almost too real for me. When I go home, I feel like Im in that same situation with my parent’s friends. They all wanna talk to the MIT graduate. Half the time I feel like Im being interviewed by Jay Leno, but I didnt do anything special. Needless to say, at that point I was behind Benjamin. It just didnt last long.

Also wonderful performance from Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson. Although I know her better as Ben Stiller’s mom in Keeping The Faith (great flick if ya havent seen it). But there’s one random actor I need to point out. During the scuba scene, I was thinking that William Daniels’ (Benjamin’s dad) voice sounded incredibly familiar, but I couldnt place it. And with the hat and glasses, I couldnt recognize his face either. I checked IMDB. Name didnt ring a bell. Clicked on him anyway. Oh my \m/ God, its Mr Feeny from Boy Meets World!! I almost dropped my laptop, I was laughing so hard. Okay now, everyone all together “”Fee-nay. Fee-hee-hee-hee-nay!””

Guess thats about it for this one. That brings the total up to 14/100. Still a ways to go”