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2011-10-22 04:13 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1958: Gigi

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia].

So, I was expecting this film to be pretty similar to the previous one (An American In Paris) as it was a musical by the same director, set in the same city, and with the same actress playing the love interest... I couldn't be more wrong.

I found this one even less charming, and the music more uninspiring than An American In Paris. Based on a French novel set in early 1900s Paris, it follows the story of a young girl being groomed by her great aunt to be a courtesan, and an aristocratic man who is eternally bored. They start out as friends, and then through a series of what seems like rather manufactured angst, become involved in a relationship.

While perhaps the original story was nuanced, I don't think it survived the transition to musical. I found the plot rather bland and the characters utterly unbelievable.

I don't have a lot to recommend about this one, unless one really likes musicals.
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2011-09-26 08:12 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1951: An American In Paris

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Another musical, which I admit, isn't my favourite genre of film, but this had an appropriate level of silliness that made it

Set in Paris, the titular American is Jerry (Gene Kelly), a veteran and aspiring painter who moved there for the inspiration he hoped it would give him. He has some friends there, and the focal plot and struggle of the movie is the love triangle that develops between him, Milo, a rich woman who acts as Jerry's patron, and Lise, a young (but engaged!) frenchwoman who captures his heart.

Beyond that, there's not much else, but lots of music and dancing. I enjoy the tap dancing that Gene Kelly gets up to. Whatever happened to tap? It's so... charming!

I found the climactic dance/ballet at the end of the film to be a little drawn out, and the conclusion a little wanting. But the characters themselves are charming, and the film is fun. However, I certainly don't find it Best Picture worthy, given its faults; perhaps 1951 was a weak year, or musicals were a lot more popular.
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2011-03-28 10:02 pm


As most of my entries are friends-only, I was wondering if there was anyone still reading this that I haven't friended.
chezmax: (Default)
2011-03-09 10:01 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1956: Around The World In 80 Days

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Been a while since my last review...

This film was three hours across two discs, so I ended up watching it in two parts: with [ profile] balatro on Friday, and the rest this evening.

It's based on the classic book by Jules Verne, and features a Victorian gentleman, Phileas Fogg, who bets some other gentlemen a substantial sum money that, with all the new-fangled steamships and trains covering the planet, that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. With his new valet, Passepartout (played by an apparently then-famous Mexican comic, Catinflas), he embarks on his challenge, and serieses of unfortunate events and wacky hi-jinx ensue, including interference from an inspector who believes he has robbed the Bank of England and wishes to delay him until he can be arrested.

As the audience, we are treated to a variety of locations ranging from Paris to Hong Kong to San Francisco, and a variety of methods of travel from train to hot air balloon to elephant to steamship.

Wikipedia indicates that the scope of the film was huge, employing over 100 locations, tens of thousands of extras, thousands of animals, and dozens of cameos by famous performers.

Unfortunately, to modern eyes, the scope of the film isn't quite as apparent: it doesn't feel as huge, especially compared to modern films. Some of the wonder of seeing foreign places is lost, and the pacing seems slow, and so I felt that film tends to drag in places. I also don't know how much of the foreign places is silly stereotype versus historical accuracy.

In the end, the film is fun, but long.
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2010-11-07 11:43 am

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Another war movie, this film follows some British soldiers who are prisoners of war, as they build a bridge for the Japanese in Thailand as part of the Thailand/Burma Railway.

First, near the beginning of the movie, the prisoners are whistling the Colonel Bogey March, which was stuck in my head for days. Gah. [Youtube if you want to share my earworm.]

Colonel Saito, the Japanese commander of the camp, announced to the British POWs that they will be building a bridge, and everyone, including the officers will do manual labour. The British commander, Colonel Nicholson, refuses, citing the Geneva Conventions prohibiting officers from doing manual labour. Saito doesn't take very kindly to this, and locks up the officers. Meanwhile, the enlisted men are doing quite a piss poor job of building the bridge, both from their desire to not help the enemy, and that the Japanese engineers aren't entirely up to snuff.

Eventually, Saito realizes that the plan is not working, and that the bridge won't be done by the deadline, and he will have to commit seppuku. After coming up with some silly reason to save face, he releases the officers. Nicholson, thinking it best for his soldiers if they can take pride in their work, has his best engineers redesign the bridge, and directs the soldiers to do it properly. Conditions improve for everyone.

Meanwhile, an American, Commander Shears, escapes from the camp, and eventually arrives in Ceylon, where he is convinced by the British army there to help them blow up the bridge under construction...

I quite enjoyed the acting, characterization and cinematography. Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson is quite well done, I felt. Also, this movie didn't overly play up the horrors of war (not a lot of killing or sickness), which after a whole slew of depressing movies, was a nice change. It was quite long, 2h40, but I must have enjoyed it cause it didn't feel nearly that long.

It was filmed on location in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), which lends quite a bit of authenticity to the film. There are some quite beautiful scenes filmed within the jungle. The film went on to win 7 Oscars.
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2010-10-10 12:48 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1954: On The Waterfront

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Terry Malloy (a young Marlon Brando) is a longshoreman and former boxer working for a corrupt union boss, Johnny Friendly. At the open of the film, Terry is used to unwittingly lead another dockworker to his death, which he resents, but there is a culture of D&D: deaf and dumb; nobody talks out of fear of shame or retribution.

The dead dockworker's sister, Edie, however is determined to find out what happened to her brother, and enlists the help of a local priest, Father Barry. Terry falls in love with Edie, and feels tremendous guilt over his involvement, but refuses to testify out of fear.

Father Barry eventually convinces another dockworker to testify at the hearings, but he ends up dead, crushed in a dockside 'accident' . This incident causes Terry to lean towards testifying, and Friendly sends his lawyer/accountant, Charley, Terry's older brother, to convince him to stay silent or to kill him.

This leads to a famous film scene in the back of a taxi, where Charley attempts to convince Terry, offering him a cushy job in exchange. In an incredibly emotionally poignant scene, we learn about Terry's former boxing career: he was a promising young boxer, and he 'coulda been a contender, could abeen somebody' but he had thrown an important match because his brother asked him to, so Friendly could win a substantial amount of money betting on the underdog. Charley is unable to convince Terry, nor convince himself to kill him, so he lets him go. However, Charley has been spied on, and he is killed shortly thereafter.

Terry is understandably furious, and plans to kill Friendly. Father Barry manages to convince Terry to get his revenge by testifying instead, which then leads to climax of the movie.

Apparently based on actual stories of corruption on the waterfront of the East Coast, the film has an air of authenticity. The defeatist attitude of the dockworkers is heartbreaking, but they have no alternative: they fear for their safety and their jobs. And one mirrors the frustration at this attitude by the outsiders, Edie and Father Barry.

The performances are great, and the story is strong (though I felt the eventual ending was a bit weak and loose), but it puts you a bit through an emotional wringer. Marlon Brando's performance was strong enough that I just added his other famous early film, A Streetcar Named Desire to my list.
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2010-10-02 01:34 pm

[LJ2ME] Adventures in radio

While in the car...
J: What was that song (on the radio) that just finished?
Me: I dunno, I wasn't paying attention...
J: You were singing along!!
Me: I was?
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2010-09-13 11:08 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1959: Ben-Hur

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

This film was epic. It goes on for for more than three and a half hours. It has fantastically elaborate sets and scenes. And it's ridiculously wide screen, to fit more on at all times.

The story itself is also pretty epic. And it appears that it's only about half of the book it's based on.

The movie is roughly is the life of Judah Ben-Hur, who is a wealthy merchant in Jerusalem, and is a contemporary of Jesus. His childhood friend, Messala, has returned from Rome as a military tribune. They are at first happy to see each other, but they soon discover they have political differences: Judas believes in the freedom of the Jews, and Messala believes in the might of the Roman Empire.

A little later on, while watching the new Roman governor arrive in Jerusalem from their rooftop, a loose tile falls, and nearly kills the governor. Messala, despite knowing of his innocence, banishes Judah to be a galley slave, and has his sister and mother thrown into prison.

After several years in the galleys, the ship Judah is in goes down in a fight, but Judah was able to save the commander, an important Roman Consul, Quintus Arrius. However, the battle is won, and in gratitude, has Judah freed, and adopts him as his son.

More time passes, and Judah longs to return to Jerusalem, to find what has become of his family. He is lead to believe that they have died in prison, when reality they had contracted leprosy, and were expelled from the city.

He enters a chariot race against Messala, hoping to get some form of revenge. The race is violent, gripping, and seems to go on and on. In reality, this scene took three months to create, and is sort of the crowning achievement of the film... and I shan't give away the ending.

Despite mostly taking place in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, Jesus is just a bit part in the film. It opens just before the nativity, and closes just after the crucifixion.

The characterization is strong: Judah distress over his family, and his longing for revenge conflict with his faith. The heartbreaking desire of his mother and sister for Judah to believe they are dead rather than lepers. Messala's ambition conflicting with his childhood loyalties... They all make for complex characters. The cinematography is great (perhaps even over the top: apparently a huge gamble on the part of an MGM on the brink of bankruptcy), and although quite long, it doesn't drag (although, I was glad for the intermission. We watched it over two nights, since my attention span isn't 3 hours long...).

I think as far as epic films go, I preferred Gone With The Wind, but this was also quite good.
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2010-08-11 07:23 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1955: Marty

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Marty is the story of a weekend in the life of a 34-year old Italian-American somewhere in New York City. Marty is as of yet unmarried, due to not having much luck with women. He's constantly harassed by his family and friends as to why he hasn't married yet.

After giving into his mothers badgering, he and a friend spend a saturday night at a dance club, The Starlight Ballroom, where he meets Clara, a plain schoolteacher who has been abandoned by her blind date. They form an instant bond over their troubles with men/women, and have a fun and happy evening with other.

The next day, his mother and friends indicate their dislike of Clara, and Marty becomes very conflicted, between his desire to pursue a relationship and the peer pressure...

This film is a fairly straightforward and simple romance, and seems like one of the weaker Best Picture movies. While I did enjoy it, and it is heartwarming, and apparently very successful (and with 100% of rotten tomatoes), I did not find it fantastic. The performances for Marty and Clara are done very well, but the narrative structure doesn't give them a lot to work with.

It is also somewhat of an interesting glimpse into 50s culture, with a few interesting turns of phrase (such as calling someone unattractive a 'dog' but the word seems much less harsh then it is today...).

Altogether, not a waste of time, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it again.
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2010-06-29 07:25 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1950: All About Eve

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

The movie opens on an awards banquet, where Eve Harrington is accepting a prestigious award for her theatrical work. As we watch the ceremony, the movie fades into a flashback...

Eve is a woman who is down on her luck, and has a fanatical devotion to Margo Channing, a famous Broadway performer. After seeing her waiting outside the theatre every night for 6 weeks, Margo's friend Karen takes pity on Eve, and brings her in to be introduced to Margo. Amazingly, Eve and Margo hit it off, and Margo employs Eve as her assistant. Eve is kind, attentive, and wonderful, and we soon discover Eve is a more talented actress than anyone could have ever guessed...

Unfortunately, without giving away the entire movie, that's about all the plot I can mention.

The central cast in this film is fantastic. Eve is played charmingly and perfectly by Anne Baxter, and Margo, the aging actress who is starting to feel that her career is over is played fantastically by Bette Davis. George Sanders, playing Addison DeWitt, a well-regarded film critic, is wonderfully portrayed as a conceited but highly intelligent fellow that no one quite likes... The supporting cast playing Margo's flame Bill, the playwright Lloyd, and his wife, Karen are also great (and in fact, many of these were nominated for Academy Awards for their acting). Their relationships, egos, ambitions all come across as realistic (although Margo, as the famous actress does come across as very dramatic).

Despite the plot being almost entirely based on these 6 people and their relationships and ambitions, the film is excellent, and after a slightly slow start to establish location and characters, I was rivetted.

In sum, this was a fantastic film, and for a change from recent films, did not depress me, but the exploration of ambition is eye opening and indeed, this film was worthy of it's awards, in my opinion.
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2010-06-21 10:45 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1953: From Here To Eternity

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Another wartime movie, this film takes place at a base in Hawaii in the months leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It won a ridiculous number of academy awards, but perhaps I'm missing the historical context, but I did not find it fantastic. It was good, as all these films are, but I don't see Oscarity in it so much.

It mostly follows a Private Prewitt who has transferred to these barracks, his cruel treatment by his commanding officer and others for refusing to join the unit's boxing team (he had blinded someone in a match before and wants nothing to do with the sport), and his commander's wife's affair with the first sergeant.

There are several intertwining subplots, romantic and dramatic: Prew falling in love with a hostess at a local club, his best friend picking the wrong enemies, and the wife's and sergeant's subterfuge (with apparently one of the most famous romantic scenes of the 50s, and finally the bombing of Pearl Harbour. The stories are generally compelling and believable, and come across as very human.

Like many war movies, the end is not happy. I'm in desperate need of some happy films... Still, a good film, but not as incredible as 8 oscars would indicate.

Funny thing about movie trailers from this period: almost everyone says something like "The greatest film of our time! Perhaps one of the best of all time! To be remembered and talked about for years and years to come!". And many of them I'd never heard about since I embarked on this project. They can't alll be the greatest film.
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2010-06-08 08:22 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1945: The Lost Weekend

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

This film, based on the same-titled best-selling novel from the previous year, is the story of an alcoholic writer, Don, who goes on a drinking binge on a long weekend, and it shows the effects on him, and those who care about him.

The film is pretty dark, and watching the protagonist's descent into drunkenness, desperation, and self-aborption is even harrowing at times, and the compassion shown by his girlfriend is touching. The blunt honesty of the film is powerful.

The acting by Ray Milland, who plays Don, is fantastic. He manages to portray an otherwise quite intelligent man caught in the grips of severe alcoholism. He plays the intelligent, waxing poetic about the alcohol as he's drinking it; to the desperate, stealing money to fund his habit; to the pathetic, nearly unable to function from the pain of withdrawal. He received a (well-deserved) oscar for his acting.

I found this film somewhat eye-opening for it's frank treatment of alcoholism, and it certainly gave me a new understanding of it as a disease beyond the control of its victims.
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2010-05-12 10:19 pm

Bonus Movie Review: 1939: The Wizard Of Oz

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

So, as you might imagine from the last poll, J and I just watched The Wizard Of Oz (1939). This wasn't a Best Picture (it lost to Gone With The Wind, but it seemed like something I would watch, since I had never seen it before.

The DVD I just watched of it was an amazing restoration, so that in terms of film and audio quality, it didn't look like 1939 at all, although the effects are quite dated ;)

It was actually quite a bit more silly and camp* then I was expecting, but the film does have a certain charm that did make it an entertaining watch. The companions were rather more flamboyant than I was expecting, but I suppose about par for a musical. It's also amazing how much of the movie has become pop culture, with certain catch phrases and musical parts I've heard before ("Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" being the most obvious).

I also really liked the contrast of Kansas (sepia) to Oz (oversaturated color; in fact, I'm pretty sure the water was dyed blue in Munchkinland).

So, to sum up: very silly, but worth seeing for the history.

*: Then again, these movies only seem camp to a modern eye, probably due to the influence of that very movie.
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2010-04-27 10:22 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1928: Wings

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Another day, another depressing war film...

So, this is the first full length silent film I've ever watched, and I was pleasantly surprised (despite the mood of the film itself). There seemed to be an artistic flair missing from later movies, more akin to theatre, due to the need to convey information and emotion without the benefit of voice. The dialogue, such as it is, is sparse, and presented as text on the screen.

Despite the lack of dialogue, the character development is strong, and the production is rather good. The soundtrack, provided by a Wurlitzer theatre organ also adds a lot of the emotion.

This film takes place during the First World War, and follows Jack, and David, from the same small town, as they enlist in the Air Service, and become pilots. They start out as rivals fueled by their love for the same woman, but as they end up at the same post in France and eventually become good friends. It also follows Mary (played by Clara Bow), the "girl next door", who is in love with Jack, but who he utterly fails to notice.

Without giving away the plot, the film continues on with themes of friendship, spurned love, war, heroism, mistaken identity, tragedy, and reconciliation, all with little dialogue. I can say it took me on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

Personally, I was utterly amused about the scene where Jack has a bit too much to drink and becomes infatuated with imaginary bubbles. ;)
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2010-04-11 02:40 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1942: Mrs. Miniver

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

From World War I and right into World War II. Thank you for sending all the depressing all at once...

Where All Quiet On The Western Front was about the horrors faced by the soldiers, Mrs. Miniver is about their families. Mrs. Miniver is a housewife in a village outside London, and this film is about her, her family, and how they face the realities of war.

The Miniver's are shown to be a fairly successful English family: Kay is a housewife; Clem is her architect husband; Vin, her eldest son, is a university student; and Toby and Judy are her younger children; Gladys and Ada, their household staff. As War breaks out in England, Vin joins the air force, and falls in love with Carol, the granddaughter of the aristocratic Lady Beldon.

As the war intensifies, and the Blitz begins, we are shown the family struggling with the uncertainties of war: sons out on assignment, huddling in shelters during bombardment, buildings shattered, and the death of friends. But through these moments of horror and the more mundane moments of every day life, we are also shown the indomitable British morale that helped pull them through the war.

Apparently, this film was on a series of newspaper columns, written about this (fictional) Mrs. Miniver, which apparently was quite popular, and wikipedia says is sometimes credited with hastening US involvement in the war.

The film is a product of its time, and is a little propagandistic, the intense emotional ups and downs in the second half of the film and wonderful acting still make it a great movie, but like AQOTWF, I won't hurry out to see it again.
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2010-04-03 11:52 am

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1930: All Quiet On The Western Front

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

This film was intense.

The film takes place in Germany in World War I, where a group of young men are convinced by their professor to join the army for honour, glory, and protecting the fatherland. And then it shows, fairly graphically (esp. for 1930!) the horrors of war as they are sent and endure the trench warfare of the Western Front.

This movie based on the novel of the same name, which I have not read, but it stands on it's own as a powerful film and is even somewhat difficult to watch in parts. The sounds of exploding mortars and the whistling of bombs is nearly maddening just to watch for a few minutes, never mind to experience for months on end.

I liked that the soldiers were portrayed as German, as otherwise the film would give a very 'oh, woe are our soldiers, and Germany is so evil' vibe, but instead it comes across as just how horrible it was for everyone. Although, the actors who portray them are very American, and have that indefinable charm that American actors had in the first half of the century.

Honestly, the movie is quite depressing, and does not end on a high note. I would probably not watch it again because it's a somewhat difficult watch, but I'm glad to have seen it. It's intense, powerful, moving, and does a good job of portraying the horrors of war. I, personally, did not know that much about World War I (overshadowed mostly by World War II), but this film would have been made when The Great War was still fresh in everyone's mind. Recommended, but don't watch if you're already in a bad mood ;)
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2010-03-26 02:23 pm

More cleaning...

Again, I'm still looking to get rid of a mini-stereo system, $50 OBO :)

And I'm looking to part with my original PS2 Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2, with guitars. I never play them anymore since they're not PS3 compatible and am pretty satisfied with Rock Band. Free to a good home.

Hopefully someone else can make better use of these than I do.
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2010-03-11 03:32 pm

LJ As Classified Ads

Dear locals:

I have some things I no longer need, both audio related.

1) A 5.1 speaker system. This system is build very similar to a set of computer speakers. All the intelligence is in the sub, and the other 5 speakers attach to it by wires. However, it has RCA plugs and a Dolby decoder rather than 3 1/8" jacks (it does one 1/8" jack for connecting to other sound sources). It has a remote, which is wired.

The system was intended to be used with game consoles or the like. It would find good use attached to a second TV used for gaming and the like. The wired remote would make it kind of awkward in a living room. But it's up to you.

This is free to a good home.

2) A stereo mini system/shelf stereo system. 3 disc changer (I believe, might be five), two casette decks (heh), Am/FM stereo, two speakers.

I'd like $50 for this, but make me an offer.
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2010-03-07 05:49 pm

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 1948: Hamlet

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

I don't have much commentary on this film. It's Shakespeare, done traditionally, which you either you like or you don't. A pretty good treatment. The acting and delivery was such that I found it pretty easy to follow and understand, although I have seen Hamlet more than once before.

Laurence Olivier is both director, and lead, in which roles he won both Best Picture and Best Actor. He plays melancholy and brooding very well.

Since the play is rather longer than the time allotted for a film, apparently about half the play had been excised for the screenplay; most notably, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are completely removed, leaving the film much darker and with little comedy.