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”

12 Angry Men (AFI #87)

“I think I’ve finally figured out the most comfortable setup for watching movies on my laptop. Tonight, I piled up the big blankets into a little mountain. Topped it with a strategically placed pillow. Snuggled up into the little fleece blanket. Placed the laptop in enough to leave me with leg stretching room. Then called the kitty over to cuddle while watching. (Here she is!). I was so comfy I didnt move, and even my computer kept trying to fall asleep.

Maybe part of the reason I was pratically immobilized is that I was completely absorbed by the film. I’d seen a stage production back home, so I already knew how it was gonna go down. But still I was captivated. All the characters and performances felt so real. I found myself IMDB-ing all of the actors, trying to find where I knew them from. Turns out, I didnt actually know any of ’em, they just had a \m/ belivable “”everyman”” quality, which makes quite a statement for this film.

Found some interesting trivia on this one too. Something I hadnt actually noticed until it was pointed out, early on the film starts out with a lot of wide angle shots. They get moved in closer and closer over the course of the film to create a claustrophobic feeling. Very effective. Also, a lot of the stuff the jurors do while deliberating (namely getting the extra knife and reenacting the guy shuffling in his apartment) is apparently referred to as “”jury experiments”” and can be grounds for mistrial. Huh.

I feel like I should be writing more about the film, but it was so pared down (which was one of its best qualities) that I cant think of much else. Also, Lestat is yelling at me for dinner, so I should go fix that. Anyways, the goal for this week is to get to 20 by the end of Sunday. This one puts me at 13. I have a plan/schedule. I just need to stick to it.”

Jaws (AFI #56)

“I really should stop trying to get a movie in on Fri nights. I fell asleep again. And again that is not a commentary on the movie at all. Finished it off this morning, but had to postpone blogging until after running errands for BYOP. Wasnt worth cutting into my zipcar res time.

Anyhoo, such a great movie. No, it didnt actually scare me (that takes a lot) but it did hit some of the key elements for a good horror film. Spielberg was a master when it came to creating suspense, and a lot of that was apparently by accident. The first half of the movie is incredibly effective because you dont see the shark. Turns out they only did it that way because the shark-bot was malfunctioning half the time. Just think, if the shark had worked properly, the movie would not have been nearly as good (and I know Im not the only one of that opinion).

The realism of the movie was another plus. This wasn’t about some mythical being or a psycho is some specific set of circumstances. The villain was a natural creature, killing indiscriminently based on instinct. Its a lot easier to scare people when they can actually believe in what’s trying to scare them.

John Williams’ score was fantastic (but we knew that). It built suspense, but also created a sense of adventure. I swear, there were a few times I thought I was watching the Goonies or Pirates of the Carribbean.

Im just 12 movies into the list, but I’ve already noticed something really cool and unexpected. Watching these movies makes me appreciate the movies I love even more. Okay so Im watching the scene where Quint and Hooper start comparing scars. At some point, Hooper says “”I got that beat. I got that beat”” Im thinking ‘I know that’ Then I think ‘hey they were just talking about permanent scars…no way…put your leg on the table. Put your leg on the table! Holy \m/’ That scene was parodied in Chasing Amy, which is one of my all time favorites, and prolly my second fave Kevin Smith movie after Clerks. Although in Amy they were talking about scars that were, um, acquired doing something else. As is, that might be my favorite scene in Amy, cause it just sticks with you. I had no idea it was a spoof. That makes it ten times better.

Also got an unexpected funny early on when we got to the “”that’s some bad hat Harry”” line. Anyone who watches House knows why that’s relevant.

Well, off to spooky up the Hellmouth for BYOP tonight!”

Rear Window (AFI #48)

“Back on track, after a two day break due to DWTS watching. Sadly, my boy Louie has been eliminated, which means the show will no longer be interfering with this blog.

Trying to get in a few of the suspenseful and scary films this week, prepping for Halloween this weekend. Figured a Hitchcock movie was a good place to start. Those are some of the ones Im most stoked about on the list. Up til today, Psycho was the only one of his I’ve seen (which I absolutely love) and Ive really been meaning to check the rest out. If nothing else, it’ll make that Hitchcock Halloween trivia episode of That 70’s Show make that much more sense. If you’re a fan of the show, you should really check it out. Season 3, I think, or 2. One of those season’s Halloween episodes was called “”Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young To Die””. Maybe this one? You’ll know you got the right one if Fez is dressed as Frankenfurter, not Batman. Moving on.

Side bit of trivia before I get started. According to IMDB trivia, Rear Window is NPH’s favorite movie. Yay!

This one stayed consistent with the feeling I’ve had towards most of the movies on the list. Started great, slowed down in the middle, sensational ending. I think in this case, the expectations were set just a smidge too high. I’d expected it to be a bit faster paced and more suspenseful throughout. However, those last 15 minutes or so proved exactly why Hitchcock is the master of his genre. I really was at the edge of my seat with my heart pounding.

Another thing that grew on me was the set. At first, it seemed a little too fake. But it worked so beautifully with the film. I love how everything was done from the protagonist’s apartment. You only saw what he could feasibly see. And you know that helpless feeling you get when you’re watching a movie and you want to warn the characters that there’s someone on the other side of the door? This time, you actually had someone on screen to share that feeling with, which was just genius. Im really looking foward to the other movies old Alfred’s got for me this fall.

Also worth mentioning that this was my first introduction to Grace Kelly. Oh my God that woman is gorgeous. I now understand every compliment that’s ever been said about her. Absolutely adored her. And this was James Stewart’s first appearance on the list. He’ll be popping up quite a bit more.

Final thought, although this may be a long thought. I wanna talk a bit about Rear Window vs Disturbia. Yeah, that silly movie with Shia LaBeouf where he thinks David Morse is his friendly neighborhood serial killer. Disturbia was very losely based on Rear Window: guy confined to his house watches the neighbors for entertainment, and thinks his neighbor killed someone. Now Disturbia wasnt anywhere near as smart and well crafted as Rear Window, but it is worth a watch if it interests you. Much more faster paced (definitely a plus for me) but more for today’s audience, particularly the younger crowd. Not saying there’s anything wrong with Rear Window. Its by far the superior of the two and I’d definitely recommend it first. But Disturbia takes just enough influence from it balanced with enough creative license that it works. I really enjoyed it when I first saw it, and I gave it another watch a few weeks ago and also got really into. Dont know how I woulda felt about it if I saw Rear Window first though. Anyways, I just thought this was an appropriate chance to plug an underappreciated flick.”

Pulp Fiction (AFI #94)

“I \m/ love this movie. Quentin Tarantino is a movie god, and hands down my \m/ favorite director. I just love every aspect of this movie. Serioulsy, Tarantino is a \m/ genius. I have no idea how he comes up with these stories. And I love the gritty feel and the funky music (which I just added to my download list) and the fantastic cast and just everything. I wont argue with anyone who says its Tarantino’s best, but to be honest I actually prefer Reservoir Dogs. Mostly I just prefer the story.

I also like some of the subtle interconnectedness with Reservoir Dogs, the big one being that Vincent Vega is Vic Vega’s (Mr Blonde) brother. There’s also one theory about the case that the contents are the diamonds from ‘Dogs. Personally, I prefer the theory that its Marsellus Wallace’s soul. I just dont think the characters would react to the contents the same way if it weren’t something priceless and incredible.

Watching it again, I was thinking that I sorta wish I could be watching it for the first time. And then I wished I could be watching it a theater. In particular, I was thinking about Christopher Walken’s speech and how out of nowhere it is. I just wanted to feel that initial shock again.

And such killer dialogue thru the whole \m/ movie. The opening sequence is brilliant, as are all of Tarantino’s openers, and it just gets better as it goes on. While there are so many quick-witted quotes to chose from, I actually do have a favorite, and its one that has a lot of personal meaning to me: “”Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?…That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”” Those of you who know me know that Im usually very quiet. If I dont have something worth saying, I keep my mouth shut. I’ve seen some of my friends get used to that slowly over time. And yeah, it is special once you have that unspoken understanding.

Geez, throughout the whole thing I kept on noticing stuff I wanted to point out, but now Im just basking in the awesome and I cant remember the rest of my points. And Im also a bit sad that I didnt get to do the Tarantino-esque production of Bat Boy I’d wanted to direct. Maybe in another five years when it comes back around.”

The Maltese Falcon (AFI #31)

“Here’s another one where I expected something completely different. I thought a story about someone searching for a priceless statue would be more of an adventure. I guess Humphrey Bogart’s outfit on the movie poster gave me too much of an Indianna Jones vibe. Turns out, this was actually a mystery–film noir to be more specific, but a real fun one at that.

It did hit on every noir cliche, but I suppose this is the movie that was best at it. I actually was really intrigued by the story, and I liked the falcon being at the center of the murder mystery.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the AFI flicks so far: they all have really good endings. No, Im not getting spoilery, but so far most of these films have wrapped up very nicely with conclusions that I absolutely agree with. This was another one of those.

Should also point out that this was my first introduction to the illustrious Humphrey Bogart. I didnt even know it was him, til halfway through the movie I was so impressed that I couldnt wait to IMDB him. And suddenly his reputation made sense. He was suave yet sharp and slick and smart. He delivered his brilliant one liners with ease, and he just has this breathtaking confidence about him. We’ll be seeing more of him this fall. I think he’s got another 3 on the list, including, of course, Casablanca.

Not really much else to say about this one. It was pretty \m/ close to flawless.”

Network (AFI #64)

“This is one of many movies on the list that I’d never heard of before starting this project. But IMDB has just informed me of some rather interesting stats about it. Its only the second movie to ever win 3 acting Oscars, the first being Street Car Named Desire which we’ll get to later on this fall. Also, Peter Finch is one of two actors to get a posthumous Oscar win. I think we all know the other–Heath Ledger *tear*. Beatrice Straight won supporting actress for the shortest amount of screentime for a winning role. I thought Judi Dench had that distinction for Shakespeare in Love, but she’s apparently second with 8 minutes of screentime. Straight only had 5. But I have to say, without even knowing she’d won an Oscar, I was really struck by those 5 minutes. Also, I guess the reason I find all of Network’s Academy Award triumphs so remarkable is that 1976 was a good year for movies. 3 of the 4 other movies it was up against for Best Picture appear on the AFI list – Rocky (which took the win), Taxi Driver, and All the Presidents Men. Huh.

Anyways, as has been the case with most of these so far, I was hooked at the start of the film, but got lost along the way. However, this time was mostly my fault. I’d misread a synopsis of the movie, and was waiting for events that weren’t ever gonna happen. Once I realized that, my disappointment made me momentarily lose interest. I got it back eventually, but not as strongly as it’d started.

I find stories about people who work behind the scenes in the entertainment business to be really interesting. I’d meant to point that out last night with Sullivan’s Travels, but somehow missed it come blog time. This time around it was about a tv network (ooooh that’s where the title comes from!). I know its all sensationalized fiction, but I find it kinda ironic that an industry Im so interested in is littered by a type of person I’d never wanna actually hafta interact with.

Besides the kinda messed up (in a good way, or at least good way for me) beginning, the end (I wont spoil) took an even more messed up turn. That definitely gets points from me, even if the middle dragged. And the cast was fantastic. The lovely Faye Dunaway makes yet another appearance in an AFI movie, and it wont be the last time we see her. But I think I liked her better in Chinatown than Network, even though Network is the one that finally got her a win. Already mentioned that Beatrice Straight was fantastic in her 5 min 40 sec of screentime. And points for Robert Duvall as well. But I think Peter Finch’s crazy Howard Beale is what really made the movie. If it wasnt for the first 20 minutes of his performance, I dont think I woulda ever gotten hooked in.”

Sullivan’s Travels (AFI #61)

“I have two goals for this project this weekend. One is to get my total of AFI movies watched to at least ten. The second is to have enough cash left over in this pay period to place a half.com order for a few of the ones that are expensive at Best Buy and not available to rent on Amazon. Here’s hoping.

The order Im picking to watch movies is pretty random. Since I’ve seen about 1/4 of them before, Im trying to keep those repeats spread out to every 4th movie. Also trying to balance the online vs offline movies. Right now the strategy for picking online movies is to first go for the ones that would be most expensive to otherwise get at Best Buy. Sullivan’s Travels would have actually been the most expensive purchase, according to bestbuy.com So its priority was upped and I watched it just now. Wow that paragraph was boring. Sorry, peeps.

Mixed feelings about this one. There were points when I thought it was one of the greatest comedies Ive ever seen, and points when I found it kinda dull. Mostly the good outweighs the bad. The dialogue (which you’ll learn is prolly the most important thing in a movie for me) was smart and snappy, especially in some of the opening scenes, which I absolutely loved. But the slapstick that was sprinkled into that was a bit too much for my taste. I think thats because I tend to find visual humor very predictable, whereas quick dialogue is more likely to surprise me. That’s also why I like offensive humor, but thats not applicable to this film.

My big complaint, however, is that while watching the film, it felt kinda disjointed. The main plot line wrapped up earlier than I expected, and then the story took a weird twist kinda late on. By then I was kinda ready to file this movie away, not start on some new train of thought. It all got wrapped up very nicely, but it wasnt until those final moments that it all made sense. Until then that last half hour was just awkward.

Another thing Im on the fence about is that there were a lot of sequences without any dialogue. Some of them were beautiful, others boring. Ultimately, I do think it was a nice touch, I guess I just didnt have the attention span.

What I am completely sold on in this movie, was Veronica Lake’s performance. I just loved her. She has that 1940’s glam but she was also one tough cookie. This may actually be the first time that I see a character from such a far back time period who I wish I was. Sadly a quick IMDB check shows that I wont be encountering Ms Lake in any other AFI films, but she did make a zombie movie in the 70’s. May hafta scope that one out later.

Im just not enough in the writing flow right now to come up with any more comments on this one. I very much enjoyed the first hour, but the rest of the 90 minutes just lost me.”

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assisstant

“This has to be one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me. You know how there’s a multitude of online sweepstakes out there, where you fill out a webform and then promptly forget about it cause no one ever wins? Well I actually won the grand prize in one of those. I remember entering, but I cant remember how I even came across it. Most likely linked off IMDB news or something. Anyways, I got a private screening of Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant for “”200 of my closest friends”” with an appearance by Chris Massoglia, who plays Darren (the vampire’s asst).

The past week has been such a blur. I got the call last Wed at work. At first I thought it was the landlord calling to yell at me like they had the day before. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked once I found out what the call was actually about. At first I was told this would be happening at the end of the month/early next month. Okay, I can work on getting 200 people in a couple weeks. Then I find out late Thur that is happening in 6 days. Enter panic mode.

Ultimately I managed 20 guests, which actually worked out quite well. Some of my usual gang was there as well as some peeps I hadn’t seen in a while. And since we were a small group, we scored VIP concessions–meaning we could have as much free food as we wanted. Once we were there I was kinda in person wrangling/running around mode, so I couldnt quite take full advantage of that. But I know some of the others had fun trying to see how much candy and popcorn they could carry. One of many reasons why this was one of my most surreal days _ever_.

And having the auditorium to ourselves was prolly the most fun part. Its something I’d always wanted to do. I seriously have been wanting to own a theater someday so I can do things like that. It was great knowing we could relax and have fun (for some reason everyone found the term Vampinese hiliarous each time it was said), like it was a movie night home at the Hellmouth, but with a bigger screen and better accomodations over all.

Meeting Chris was really cool. Although, this is one of those situations where I really wish I was a better conversationalist. He signed two posters for me (there were two different styles) and posters for the majority of my friends there. Also managed to grab a picture with him. He’s such a sweet kid, I just kinda wish that portion of the evening hadnt been so rushed.

As far as the movie itself, it was such campy goodness. The intro gave me a total Lemony Snicket vibe (between the music and the opening sequence). And overall it felt like A Series of Unfortunate Events crossed with the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, without Joss Whedon’s killer dialogue. It had a bizarre mix of cheese and darkness that worked surprisingly well.

Such a fun cast (John C Riley, Willem Dafoe, Salma Hayek, Patrick Fugit, Michael Cerveris etc), even if some of the bigger names only appeared briefly. John C Riley is one of my favorite actors because of his range. He’s done award winning films like Magnolia and Chicago, but also mixes in some Will Ferrell flicks. From the trailer I was a bit worried about him in this one, but it turns out it was just that the dialogue was cut strangely in the preview. While he wouldnt have been my first choice actor to play a vamp, he pulled it off rather nicely–dark but just approachable enough to make him a likeable character.

I also found the choice of freaks to be quite interesting, but Im not entirely sure what I make of that. They were definitely creative and different, but few of them could not have existed without some computer graphic help, which just sorta pushed the boundaries of belivability a touch too far.

Also worth mentioning, as someone who is an avid vampire fan, Im always curious about the mythology and rules surrounding vamps in a different ficticious universe. This one definitely gets points in that area. Some creative new stuff while still remaining true to a lot of the core vamp lore. Im just not so sure about the superspit thing.

Very fun movie, though I think the whole experience was definitely a postive factor. I would’ve definitely enjoyed it either way, but I might not have been gushing quite so much otherwise. But I really hope the next set of books gets movie-fied as well. And since I just finished Chuck Palahniuk’s Pygmy, I guess tomorrow’s a good day to head over to Borders to pick up the first book or two in the series.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n (its really a solid 3, but it gets bonus points because the whole experience was awesome)”