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Review of Titanic, AFI Top 100 Movies #83

Titanic was released in 1997, and I won’t bore readers with the usual onslaught of movie facts. We all know who’s in it, who directed it, and every note of that damned song that was played too many times in the intervening years.

Haters hate, but I loved this movie when it came out and on the two or three re-viewings. Tonight is no different, although I feel like I know it so well that I barely need to watch it.

Pointless observation:  I still find the red and black beaded gown that Rose wears during her failed suicide attempt to be one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever seen. It is breathtaking on her creamy, pale skin.

It’s not a deep or thought-provoking film, but it’s definitely the palate cleanse I need after Easy Rider.

Leo DiCaprio’s baby face makes it seem as thought Rose is robbing the cradle, but it’s Billy Zane’s sexy ways that make me purr. Yes, his character is loathsome, but his delivery is delicious.

Next up is Sunrise (1927). The film title didn’t ring any bells, so I allowed myself a peek at to review the actor list. None of the names were familiar, but the description intrigues me:
“A married farmer falls under the spell of a slatternly woman from the city, who tries to convince him to drown his wife.”

Definition of SLATTERNLY from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary
slat·tern·ly adj \ˈsla-tərn-lē\
1: untidy and dirty through habitual neglect; also : careless, disorderly
2: of, relating to, or characteristic of a slut or prostitute
slat·tern·li·ness noun

First Known Use of SLATTERNLY – 1677
skanky [slang], sleazy, sluttish, slutty, trampy

I’ll admit it, I’m intrigued!

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Review of Easy Rider, AFI #84

I have no problem admitting that I’ve been hitting the snooze bar on this movie. Like the French Connection, it’s exactly the type of movie I typically avoid. The super-stylized-for-the-period-in-which-it-is-made, can make for a great time capsule, but for future generations it can also be a barrier against viewing.

The thing that finally got me off my butt is finding out that it’s written and directed by Dennis Hopper. He’s been one of my favorite actors for decades, so it seems fitting to honor his recent passing (May 29, 2010 of cancer) by finally taking time to watch it. Also, I tend to have trouble getting into druggie movies. There are many I’ve just never bothered to watch, because I have difficulty empathizing with the characters or even having enough interest to try it out.

About halfway through and I’m bored out of my mind. The music is not enjoyable, nor does it seem to fit the mood of the scene in many cases. Chooch thinks it’s meant to be a soundtrack of the time period, but I can think of 20 examples of movies by less respected directors that have done it much better.

The camera angle and scene transitions are jarring, and the whole filming style reminds me of a movie acid movies, shot in a particular style to provide deeper enjoyment for those that were tripping on acid. Maybe you have to be stoned to enjoy Easy Rider? In which case, this is truly not the movie for me.

Jack Nicholson has now joined the traveling party and it’s interesting to see his distinctive acting style on such a young looking face. I’ve seen him in older movies of course (Little Shop of Horrors, 1960). While there’s an exaggerated sense to his character, it’s still the Jack Nicholson I know and respect. The beating and murder of his character is disjointed and anti-climactic, and I feel a bit cheated.

The most compelling part to watch was the graveyard acid trip scene, with the crazy cinematography and trying to figure out if the other people were hallucination or actual mourners being put upon by the stoners. I’ve always taken offense when people use graveyards and cemeteries as party locations, dating back to my teen years. They truly didn’t endear themselves to me in this scene either. But it was a kick to see Toni Basil and Karen Black during the scene.

I’m saddened that Chooch and I have gotten ahead of the “Watching 100 Movies Podcast” as I’m looking forward to hearing out Mike and Christiana’s opinions of the film. I’m utterly disappointed that the movie lived down to my expectations. I’m still not even sure what it was about, as it seemed to be Drug Deal, Travel the Country to Get to Mardi Gras, Drop Acid in a Graveyard at Mardi Gras and Die “Free.”

I’ll have to look up some other reviews and find out what I “didn’t get” from it, but I am glad we finally watched it so we can return it. Apologies to M.A. in PA who has been waiting on it.

And now bring on Titanic! I enjoyed the film when I saw it years ago and am curious to see how it holds up. Although, I’ve heard “My Heart Will Go On” enough times already so will have the ‘Mute’ button handy.

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Fun in Measured Doses

For some reason, the potential impact of a concert-triggered migraine didn’t really occur to me until I was mired spinny and owie in a doozy at the They Might Be Giants concert earlier this year. While I was fine and happier than a newb geek has any right to be during Jonathan Coulton’s opening set, the much higher volume and lights sent me running from the venue for relief during TMBG. The horns certainly didn’t help. I was really bummed, since it was my first time actually making it to one of their shows and also because we were with friends Pat and Lisa, who we rarely get to spend time with.

Since then, I’ve been afraid to buy tickets to any shows. My recent heartbreak was newly found Metric playing in Richmond last month. My Scott Pilgrim Fangirl heart was broken at missing them (Their “Black Sheep” was performed by The Clash at Demonhead in the flick. Easily my fave song on the soundtrack.), but we couldn’t justify springing the dough for a show I might have to bail on.

My new heartbreak is the Linkin Park show in February. Their Hybrid Theory album literally catapulted me singing and screaming through a lot of rage and heartbreak at a dark time in my life. That album unsurprisingly resides on my “Perfect Album” list and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, regardless of what I think of their recent releases.  The Projekt Revolution concert I went to in Fairfax, VA was a high-energy, face-twisting, lustful-singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs show and I loved fangirling after the show when I met them. Yes, I told Mike Shinoda what the album meant to me and how it helped me in a wrenchingly cathartic way.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also had to show restraint with movies although it’s only been recent ones that have really triggered the symptoms in any notable way.

After viewing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World three times in the theater and once at home, I’ve yet to see the ending boss fight. The visual effects drive a spike through my brain and I have to close my eyes and cover them to negate them. Bummer, but not unexpected. Video games have reportedly caused seizures in people before, and the movie is pretty heavy with video game effects. I was disappointed that I was unable to view it at home, as I was sure that the smaller screen would help. I was wrong.

Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the big screen last week hit me harder than I anticipated. It’s possible that the long day played a part in this, however. I was up at 6 a.m. and we went to the midnight-oh-one showing. There were a few scenes that were particularly harsh,  the one where Harry departs Privet drive, one with Hermione and a snatcher in the woods, the battle in the Ministry and the ending battle.  I was quite loopy after the end and needed to remain seated for a bit, and kindly Jett offered me her arm as we exited for stability.

I’ve already reduced my video game time, especially those that have a 3D effect. There have also been nights were I’ve had to log off of Lord of the Rings Online because of dizziness when navigating the Misty Mountain trails, among other things. But these don’t surprise me as much as concerts or movies since they are far more immersive.

I now have to stop and make a concerted effort to evaluate the possible effects, and even carry ear plugs with me, as I did the night of the Geek Radio Daily Pub Crawl and Chooch’s band practice the other night.  Although so far it’s only been the visual inputs that trigger dizziness, both the visual and the audio can trigger the migraines.

Talk about a buzz kill.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One – Spoiler Free

Chooch, Jett (our HP movie marathon partner from last weekend) and I went to see the midnight showing at the local theater. We settled into our reserved seats with no fuss or muss, and braced ourselves for awesome. We were not disappointed.

If you are a Harry Potter fan of any sort, see this movie. If you aren’t a fan, you should read the books. If you don’t have time for that, get the audio books and listen during your commute. If you don’t have the time for that, see the movies, starting at number one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I felt this movie was very true to the tone of the books, being dark and frightful. The danger that has been building throughout the series is at its greatest, and you really feel it. I was completely immersed in the story and jumped, gasped, laughed and cried. It was all I hoped for, and I can’t wait – err, I will wait patiently for the final installment.

For parents wondering if their children are old enough to watch the movie, I recommend YOU see it first. You know your kid and what they can handle better than anyone. If, however, you are unable to do that and can handle spoilers, I’ll point you to my hands-down favorite online resource Kids In Mind movie review site. They use a numerical rating system that I have found to be pretty accurate compared to the films I’ve used it for. Keep in mind, it’s five in the morning and I got up 22.5 hours ago, so I only skimmed the HP#7 review but I’d say it’s spot on for what I read.

Just know that it’s a dark movie and you see some scary things (wearing my parent hat here). It’s rated PG-13 for good reason, in my humble opinion. Besides the physical violence, there are also some extremely upsetting emotional occurrences and this should not be taken lightly either.

If you’ve seen it already, or otherwise don’t mind the hit and miss spoilers we divulge as we discuss the film, check out the Into the Blender episode we just recorded. We got home, grabbed our chocolate frogs and butterbeer (thanks M.A!) and headed into the burrow to record a discussion of the HP marathon we did last weekend, the films themselves and some tangents (naturally). Many thanks to Jett Micheyl for joining our discussion and our Harry Potter activities.

And, WOW!, thanks to Chooch who is working as I type this on posting the episode. It’s very rough with no cuts (we’re exhausted) and stream of consciousness. We’d love feedback and discussion on the episode or the Harry Potter movie, books or world.


Okay, that’s an overstatement, but I did want to mention an extremely enjoyable bit of animation during the movie gives me hope for future projects. It’s the only continuation I’d really like to see beyond the original seven books. There, was that such a bad spoiler?

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Harry Potter Movie Marathon

Late Friday night, dear friend Jett Micheyl arrived so we could rise early and begin our long planned Harry Potter Marathon in preparation for the release of the seventh installment in the movie series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.

Although it was just the three of us (including Chooch, of course), Jett began long ago planning out theme foods for the weekend. Much to the doom of my health plan, she succeeded in making adorable and delicious sugar mice and horrifically addictive pumpkin pasties. And by horrific, I mean the screams coming from my bathroom scales when I stepped on them this morning. The work she put into them was richly paid off as both her desserts were gorgeous and delicious.

My contribution was a batch of chocolate frogs and pumpkin juice (which Jett ended up doing most of the work on), as well as regular meals. I’ll be honest when I say that I was unfamiliar with all but the chocolate frogs before settling in on Saturday morning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But we literally squealed with delight when we saw the sugar mice being chomped on by Harry and Ron in the first movie. Later in the weekend, when Jett dropped a chocolate frog she was eating, I couldn’t resist saying “What a shame! They’ve only got one good jump in them.” And I imagined that every time they sat with the orange colored beverages in front of them that it was pumpkin juice. In truth, I’m already eyeing some recipes for butterbeer in preparation of a sudsy beverage on movie launch. If anyone has a recipe they like for it, please link to it in the comments.

Fear not for our health, dear readers, for we planned to counter all this gastronomic delight with a healthful jaunt. We went for a brisk hour-long walk in my neighborhood, on a route I had long wanted to share with her. We braved dogs off leashes and an aromatic gift from Kaylee. We prevailed against these hazards and immediately settled back into the movie marathon, refreshed and ready for the remaining adventures of Harry and his posse.

Having only read the last few books only once each at the time of their releases, I find that I’m really missing that world. The movies are fantastic and truly enjoyable. Particularly in watching the kids grow up in a seeming fast forward effect when watching them all back-to-back. But there is simply no way to pack all the charm and depth of the books into the movies. This is proven by the nearly unanimous acceptance of us devoted Harry Potter fans of the seventh book being broken up into two parts. After all, the one continuing complaint since the movie franchise started up was that the movies were too short and left too much unseen.

I will say that thanks to the tantalizing draw of TuacaCon, created, planned and executed by P.G. Holyfield (with help from Chooch, Rich Sigfrit and others), I understandably missed parts of the movies. I’m tempted to watch them all over again, before the movie is released in theaters on Friday. I would feel that was obsessive if not for the fact that Jett read the entire series TWICE since we started our planning. Time is short this week, with two exams and much work to be done. If only I had a time turner. *sigh*

Judge us all you like, but we had a truly magical time geeking out to our approximately 16 hours of immersion into Harry Potter’s world. And I can’t wait for more!

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Sharing Scott Pilgrim

Approximately two years ago, Chooch and I invited my family over for dinner and a movie. The impetus for this was that no one in my local family of 11 (at that time) had seen Firefly or Serenity. The shame I felt was immense, so we went about correcting that. Each one of them loved the movie, but I was unable to get anyone to commit to a viewing of Firefly, either in marathon or across multiple nights. Still, progress.

Once again, Chooch and I are having dinner and a movie for the fam. Some have moved away, so the count is lower.  But, having discovered how cool he is in the last few months, we are including my BET (Bro’s Ex’s Twin).  Our count is 8, possibly 9 if BET brings his son.

If you’ve seen the movie, then you’ll appreciate that I’m serving garlic bread and chicken parmesan. In lieu of the gelato, I’m serving turtle pecan cheesecake as a belated birthday cake for my Baby Sis. I may yet pick up some gelato as I’ve always wanted to try it and it certainly seems like the right night.

I fell in love this movie, from the first second of the Universal logo. I didn’t understand the hub-bub around it, but was happy to see it with Chooch and the visiting P.G. Holyfield. I literally had to use all my willpower not to dance on the seats in the theater. The music, cinematography, editing, acting and every other aspect of this movie made me swoon and giggle at the same time. I have been absolutely joyful upon all three viewings in the movie theaters at its utter perfection. It’s not an exaggeration when I say that, for me, this movie was game changing. I love it deeply and fiercely, but will try not to judge you if you don’t. No promises.

I could gush for a few thousand words on why, but I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I’ll give you a quote from a recent chat between director Edgar Wright and Guillermo Del Toro. At the end of the article, Guillermo says something similar to what I’ve been saying since it came out in August:

“To me, [this] is a really important screening because I think we all can go out to the world after this screening and tell every motherfucker out there to watch the movie,” said Del Toro. “Why? Because anyone that didn’t watch it is a motherfucker. We can tell them when they ask why does Hollywood make such shitty movies because when they do great ones, you don’t fucking show up.”

Rent it. Buy it. Share it with others.

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A Night at the Opera, #85

This is my first viewing of a complete Marx Brothers movie. I’ve seen pieces of their movies over the years, so was familiar with the basic idea of their comedy. It was filmed in 1935, and is pretty much exactly what I expected — a wealth of puns and one-liners and physical comedy. Yes, there were some “groaners” at the more obvious bits, but overall it was greatly enjoyable.

I watched it with Chooch and visiting bestie P.G. Holyfield. When I mentioned that we had A Night at the Opera, from Netflix, P.G. and Chooch opted to postpone watching The Walking Dead so we could watch it. Chuckles, guffaws and Bah!s were sprinkled throughout the viewing, as we all enjoyed it.

It’s easy to see how present day comedies continue to be heavily influenced by this and comedies like it. Don’t expect a life-changing experience here, just a light-hearted romp that is fun and funny. It frequently makes no sense, much in the same way that Bringing Up Baby did, but in this case I’m really glad to have seen it. The comedic timing of the physical and verbal jokes was impeccable, and kudos to the actors that were able to stay stoicly in character as they watched the antics of the comedians.  I now cannot wait to see Duck Soup, which is reportedly the best of all the Marx Brothers films.

As an aside, Chooch commented on the absurd hat that Groucho was wearing in the ocean liner dinner scene. Now I must have one as it was exquisite in its absurdity.

Exquisite, I say!

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Platoon (Number 86)

Directed by Oliver Stone and released in 1986, this movie starts at Day One with a new recruit in the war in Viet Nam. I first saw this on videotape sometime in the late ’80s/early 90s, as it was definitely not the type of movie I wanted to watch on the big screen.

It has a lot of familiar faces, far more than I remember being in this movie. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, John McGinley, Forrest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and  Johny Depp are the faces I most easily recognize, but there are others whose names I don’t know. And of course Oliver Stone is in a memorable bunker scene.

Platoon is a tough movie to watch. It just doesn’t get much more brutal than this. You see ugly things happen to American soldiers and you see ugly things done by American soldiers. Heart wrenching, stomach turning, gag inducing and it doesn’t let up for more than a moment before it hits you even harder in the next scene. This kind of stuff overwhelms me so it’s hard to talk about plot points, cinematography or realism of special effects. It’s just damned painful.

That said, it’s impossible to forget that the actors, each one, give their all. It’s difficult at times to remember that this is just a movie as they are immersed so completely in this insane landscape that you find yourself immersed as well. Horrifyingly realistic, it’s one of those movies I’d hoped never to watch again and likely would not have if not for this endeavor. Willem Dafoes’s iconic death scene easily includes the best and worst moments in the entire film.

The evil red glow in Barnes’ eyes as he moves in on Taylor, the deer (?) that Taylor saw or visualized after the deadly ambush – these brief images add to the many reasons that this movie belongs on this list.

Fave quote:
“Don’t drink that, asshole. You’ll get malaria.”
“Yeah, I hope so.”

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Review of 12 Angry Men (87)

I’ve been really looking forward to this movie, as I’ve always heard of it in such awed tones. We watched the trailer, and I have to say I doubt it would have urged me to the theaters. It’s overly dramatized and under represents this subtle and powerful film.

I also believe it’s the only Henry Ford movie I’ve seen, other than On Golden Pond, and I loved him in that. How could you not?

It also stars Jack Klugman, (who I’ve had a crush on since Quincy), Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall and Ed Begley’s Jr’s dad, Ed Begley. Obviously there are other men in the movie, but these are the actors that I recognized from other movies.

Last but not least of those recognizable, is the man whose face I didn’t recognize but his voice is one I could never forget. John Fiedler is unforgettable as the voice of the sweet and lovable Piglet in all those Winnie the Pooh movies you’ve seen. In checking his IMDB page, I’m sad to say he passed away in 2005.

As for the movie itself, the first thing thing of note was the way many of the jury members stared down the accused. It’s pretty clear their minds were already made up on his guilt. As they file into the room in orderly fashion, we see these formal men relax and get comfy in the deliberation room.

We are immediately introduced to the camaraderie of the jury room, save for one lone man standing by the window. Henry Fonda stands separate from the rest, smoking a cigarette. It’s a simple yet powerful way to differentiate him from the others. Most of them, maybe all, are already stating the defendant’s guilt and he stands silently at the window.

Many times during the film I was struck by the casual and friendly interaction between the men, other than when they were in conflict over the votes to decide guilt. It makes me wonder if that was always the way it was when white men were gathered together. It almost seems as if there was a short hand based on their apparent standing in society.

The balance of tension in this film is masterful, ranging from a tangible suspense that is broken up with some hilarious one-liners. The casting is meticulous and the actors are completely immersed in their roles. They are completely believable as one by one the jurors change their votes after various personal epiphanies regarding the case. One of the most powerful scenes is when one of the jurors raves about how despicable the lower class is, in his opinion. Seeing almost every man silently stand against his comments was a powerful statement in this group of men that at once seemed so unified.

I’m thrilled to see a film that unquestionably belongs on this list, and I won’t be too surprised if this movie is higher on my personal ranking than 87. If you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There are no car chases or sex scenes, but it is a purely enjoyable film with great depth.

Favorite line: “He’s a common, ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English.” Another gem is “Let’s throw it on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.”

On a related subject, Christiana Ellis started a 24 hour gaming session in support of The Children’s Miracle Network. I can think of no better person to take on this challenge and OWN IT. So far, she’s raised $696 for this amazing and deserving charity. If you can spare a couple bucks, please make a donation to the cause. While gaming for 24 hours straight sounds awesome, it’s no easy feat, and I applaud her efforts.

And if you haven’t yet, check out the podcast that Christiana and Mike Meitin are doing as they go through the AFI Top 100 Movies. They are the inspiration for this blog series after all!

Now, pardon me as I go through culture shock. Chooch has fired up the next disc in our mainlining of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The title of the episode is “Who Pooped the Bed.” Yup, you read that right.

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"Bringing Up Baby" Review

Bringing Up Baby (1938) was released in 1938 and stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. I was VERY excited to watch it because I’ve always heard about how great these two are together. I am completely ambivalent about this film, as it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good either. I found it to be nothing more than a bit of fluff, which is actually more disappointing than if I had passionately disliked it. It inspired nothing more from me after viewing than a shrug and a “Meh.”

Talking with friends this weekend, I was struggling with the inclusion of this movie on the list and wondered if it wasn’t another that was there because it represented something rather than by standing on its own merits. I’m even more perplexed as to why this movie is on the list when, in the opinion of my friend Andrea, Philadelphia Story is much better and also stars both Grant and Hepburn. That movie is also on the Top 100, and I’ll get to see it as well.

Susan (Hepburn) may be a “flutter brained vixen with love in her heart,” but she pretty early on reminded me of Sandra Bullock’s character in “All About Steve.” The big difference being that I actually felt empathy for both the lead characters in that movie and I never cared at all about any of the characters in “Bringing Up Baby.”

I found them all unlikable, including the indifferent fiancee, the obnoxious and self-involved socialite (Hepburn), and the oblivious, and in many cases incredibly stupid, paleontologist (Grant). Correction: I cared about the leopard and the dog. I was worried that the dog was going to get eaten by the leopard, and sure enough they had a fight between the two that was pretty shockingly violent, depending on how much was actually done with the two animals. While I don’t belong to PETA, I would be extremely upset if that were a real fight between little dog and leopard. I’m not terribly surprised, because it was 1938 and I have no idea what kind of protections were in place for animals on the set in those days. Guessing there wasn’t much judging by the amount of furs you find in the old movies.

I had marveled at how much interaction there was between the actors and the leopard, but later in the movie, when Hepburn’s Susan is forcibly dragging a wild leopard, Chooch noticed some camera trickery that we felt was actually pretty fantastic for 1938. If you look closely at the leash she’s using, you can see an overlay of another leash at a slightly different angle. Clearly she wasn’t in any danger in that scene. They also used glass in some scenes to keep the leopard contained and unable to attack the actors. Still, better than I expected.

It says a lot for how I felt about the Susan character in that I thought that she was the “Baby” in the film title. Her character was so oblivious and obnoxious in her annoyance directed towards Cary Grant’s David, that it was completely unbelievable to me when she was suddenly in love with him. “Screwball comedy” or not, I feel pretty strongly that this movie is another that doesn’t belong on the list. I hope it gets corrected and more worthy films get added. I may change my mind after I hear what Christiana and Mike have to say, as they typically explain the reason for such things. But for now I just don’t get it, especially with Philadelphia Story coming up at Number 44.

I did find it interesting that David’s fiancee told him not to use slang after he says he’ll “knock him for a loop.” It goes to show how much has changed since then as I find it rare to hold a conversation of any real length without slang being used. It’s definitely a huge part of American vocabulary, although it remains true that some slang is too raw for use when  in the workplace or formal environments. “Knock him for a loop” seems so innocuous and descriptive it’s surprising that it ever raised an eyebrow, even with a tight-ass like the fiancee.

I was curious about what the current value of $1,000,000 was since they mentioned it a bajillion times. If the site I used (I didn’t save the name) is correct, then it’s now worth $14,461,800 (1,446.18% x 1,000,000). It’s easy to see why there was such a fuss.

Easily my favorite part of the movie was when Susan was acting like she was a gangster. Chooch may correct me, but I think that may have been the only part I laughed at.

12 Angry Men has just arrived, and I can’t wait to watch it. By all accounts, it will be fantastic.

**Edit: I thought I had posted this a week ago, but found it lazing about in drafts. Better late than never, eh?**