#231 Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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99 mins

Director: Sergio Leone (as Bob Robertson)

Writers: Adriano Bolzoni (story), Mark Lowell (dialogue)

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch

Storyline: “A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.” IMDB

Disposition

Brit Boy:

After quickly consuming the prior three films on our list I was keen to get another under my belt, I am familiar with the collaboration of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood and I am sure I have seen this film before but I cannot recall anything about it. Lets see if anything rings a bell.

American Girl:

Before this blog IMDB journey, I had only watched glimpses of “Westerns” when my Grandfather was watching them on tv (drinking his glassfuls of “ice water” which I later found out to be vodka). I didn’t like them then, I am pretty sure I won’t like them now. After watching “The Searchers” not that long ago, I am not excited for this film at all. Isn’t one Western enough for this list?

Set the Scene

We watched this snuggled on the sofa, excited to check another movie off the list. Nothing special, just us and the tv. And probably snacks because we like snacks. Granted, I should mention that I fell asleep during this movie THREE times, so maybe there are three different “Set the Scenes”?

Final Cut

I think this could be termed a typical spaghetti western, having said that it has got me wondering what makes this western spaghetti? Ok so this is actually an official sub-genre which emerged in the mid-1960’s in the wake of Sergio Leone’s film-making style and international box-office success.

Spaghetti western??? I have never heard of this. I just assume that the western movie thing has been lost on me.

I did enjoy this film, it was well shot and the fairly straight forward story of a loan drifter helping out a town strangled by two warring gangs was good. As mentioned previously I’m not a big fan of Westerns and this one although good, didn’t leave me desperate to see  more any time soon.

In the three sittings we watched this movie I feel asleep every time despite making an effort to watch it. I genuinely only have a vague idea of what happened. A young Clint Eastwood is attractive, but beyond that I am not interested. At least with “The Searchers” I felt there was a time capsule quality. However, for this, it just fell short for me. I am too much of a feminist, too much of a democrat, too much of a girl. It’s just lost on me. 

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I feel bad but this didn’t leave a lasting memory for me and firmly belongs in the annals of a film I have now seen.

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

Sir Richard Attenborough along with Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and Robert Redford is only one of six actors to win an Academy Award for “Best Director”.

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#232 Ratatouille (2007)

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111 Mins

Director: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava (co-director)

Writers: Brad Bird (screenplay), Jan Pinkava (original story by)

Cast:  Brad Garrett, Lou Romano, Patton Oswalt

Storyline: “A rat who can cook makes an unusual alliance with a young kitchen worker at a famous restaurant.” IMDB

Disposition

Brit Boy:

This like many Disney films since I have had kids is one that I have owned on DVD since its release but never watched in its entirety. I am familiar with the stories premise but have no recollection of anything else. I’m really looking forward to watching this, to see what I have missed for all of these years.

American Girl:

Shockingly I have never seen this movie, granted I wouldn’t say I am “excited” to watch it. Rats? Cooking? Cartoon? Hmmmm, not sure this is really going to be “my thing”, but I am willing to give it a try! A lot of the big kids really like this movie, so they join us for the viewing. 

Set The Scene

As its the school holidays and once again we are watching a Disney classic we have curled up in the afternoon with kids in tow.

Final Cut

Well what can I say? I loved it!! Its really unfortunate in a way that we watched this film so closely after Beauty and the Beast as I couldn’t help compare them in so many ways.

Firstly Ratatouille was visually stunning, it was incredibly easy to feel as if you were stood next to the action watching as a spectator what was going on. Whether that was in a farmhouse in rural France or in the hustle and bustle of a Paris kitchen. Its interesting that Beauty and the Beast was also based in France but gave us such a different view, I much preferred the vision that Ratatouille gave us.

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I agree, immediately I recognized how amazing the animation is. You can really see how far technology has come from Beauty and the Beast (released in 1991) compared to this which was released in 2007. I had to check if this was “Disney” or “Pixar” only to find out it was a collaboration. Which led me down a rat hole (pun intended), where I found that Disney and Pixar merged in 1991, their first “collaboration” was “Toy Story” and clearly it has grown from there. There is something magic when Disney and Pixar make a film, the animation sucks you in, and you can always count on Disney for a heartwarming story that will entertain young and old. This movie is no exception and doesn’t disappoint. 

The characterization was brilliant, that of the lovable Remy our principal antagonist, through the bumbling Linguini, to Anton Ego the food critic voiced by Peter O’Toole. Anton Ego I think was based around the famous food critic of the 50’s and 60’s Egon Ronay, the Hungarian restauranteur was credited with raising the quality of British food cuisine offered in public eating places through his guides to British and Irish restaurants.

This movie is actually one of the longest Pixar films (beat only by “The Incredibles” and “Cars”); which is evident in the characterization and story line. However, it never gets boring. I enjoyed myself so much watching it, to the point I would get irritated when our toddlers weren’t paying attention and would distract me from the story. In fact I even made Brit Boy rewind a few times when I thought I had missed something, which I rarely do for an animation. It was very refreshing to watch an animation that had nothing to do with princesses, castles, falling in love. In fact, there is only a very small subplot that touches on romance at all. Instead, it focuses on friendships (new and old) and the ebbs and flows that those entail.

I loved the storytelling, which was more than your standard Disney fair with a plot which was not by any stretch complex, but intelligent and aimed at adults as much as children. I would heartily recommend this movie and I would not be disappointed if I watched it again very soon, in fact I am sure I would find subtleties quite quickly which I missed during my first sitting. This definitely deserves a place on the list and almost certainly higher up.

I was so surprised by this movie, and it exceeded my expectations completely! It definitely deserves to have a spot on the list, and hopefully it will remain in the top 250 for years to come. It is a refreshing story that I don’t feel has been told before, or over done in anyway. I wouldn’t recommend this film for very young children, not due to content, but it’s not geared towards the toddler set. However, because of that, it is really enjoyable to watch for older kids and adults, much inline with Toy Story. I wonder if there will ever be a sequel….?

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

This films link to Sir Richard is fairly straight forward, as I mentioned earlier Anton Ego is voiced by Peter O’Toole who appeared with Sir Richard in the film “Rosebud” (1975).

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#233 Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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84 mins

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Writer: Linda Woolverton (animation screenplay)

Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jesse Corti

Storyline: “A young woman whose father has been imprisoned by a terrifying beast offers herself in his place, unaware that her captor is actually a prince, physically altered by a magic spell.” IMDB

Disposition

American Girl:

I am so excited to watch Beauty and the Beast again! It was one of my favorite Disney movies, during the glory days (as far as I am concerned) of Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Lion King. This movie originally came out in 1994, when I was a Sophomore in highschool and to this day I remember all the songs by heart. I would always consider my best friend as “Belle” and I would make her sing the songs all the time (luckily she has a much better singing voice than me). 

Brit Boy:

Although not as excited as American Girl I am still looking forward to watching this film again, it has been such a long time. I did own the soundtrack to this on CD along with the Little Mermaid and Aladdin, looking back at the release dates it appears that Beauty and the Beast sat firmly between these other classics.

Set the Scene

Brit Boy and I only have our three babies home, all six big kids are off to their respective parents’ houses. This happens only a few times a year, yet we embraced the moment to continue our blog journey. Our 8 month old and 2 year old were having a nap, and we curled up on the sofa with our 3.5 year old to watch the film. This would be the first time she has seen it. We pulled out our blue ray remastered disc and selected the “extended” version.  Brit Boy and I both questioned if we could spot the 7 minutes of added time…

Final Cut

I must admit that initially I was shocked (and disappointed) at the animation. It wasn’t as I remembered at all. The animation seemed jerky, and not what I am used to with current animated films. It wasn’t until Brit Boy pointed out that Beauty and the Beast was made 24 years ago that I truly became in awe.

I’m in agreement that animation did unfortunately look dated, I’m not sure whether some of that was related to the Blu-Ray disk combined with the large screen tv. However it should be noted that this movie was an animation groundbreaker as it was the first feature use the CG techniques which are now commonplace with all the Marvel and Star Wars films. Well where did this happen Brit-Boy I hear you ask…well it was all centered around the large ballroom dance sequence. I’ve found a really interesting article here.

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Belle joins a long line of Disney “Princesses” that are smart, strong-willed, and determined women. She may not be the Merida of our current time, but she didn’t swoon after men (Gaston), and she relished in dreaming of a life for herself. In an era of “Barbie”, I love that Disney started to show girls that there is so much more to life than being “pretty”. Belle definitely fit this bill, and Disney has continued to extend on this, creating positive role models for our daughters (and sons). 

I completely agree, in fact the opening song “Belle – Bonjour” goes to great lengths to explain to the audience that Belle is regarded as weird by the towns populace because she always has her nose in a book. This is reinforced later in the film with Gastons introductory song outlining what an ignorant fool he is, brilliant writing (Alan Menken) and song choices once again by Disney.

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Even after 24 years, I still love the songs, and sang along to them (ok in my head not out loud, but still…). Brit Boy and I think we spotted the added “seven minutes”, the biggest (in my opinion) being a brand new song. Wait, what? A new song??? How can this be?? “Human Again” sung by Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and the Wardrobe. It definitely wasn’t my favorite, and I felt like it was too long (which probably led them to cut it), but I will probably always watch the extended version moving forward, because I feel like I would still miss it now that I know it was once there!

The added material in my mind did not really add anything additional to the story and I can see why it was cut in the released film, in fact I felt myself wanting the song to hurry up and finish so that we could get back to the story.

Ironically, our 3 1/2 year old daughter lost interest in the film multiple times. Granted she is a bit young to follow the plot and isn’t really into “princesses” yet, but I was surprised she didn’t enjoy it more. Maybe it was the dated animation? Maybe she was too young? Maybe it was too long? Time will tell, but I will try to watch it with her again. This movie is a classic. 

I think we should certainly persevere with this and other Disney classics but maybe we should give it a few months before we try again.

I definitely feel like this deserves a spot on the list, and I hope some of my favorite Disney movies are still to come. Even after all these years the movie still filled me with the same energy it gave me when I was a teenager. I am sure the cult following for this movie led to the live action “Beauty and Beast” released in 2017 (which I also loved, and will do a separate blog post on). 

I absolutely agree this is definitely a classic and deserves its place here.

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

This films link to Sir Richard is Angela Lansbury. She starred in the original “The Manchurian  Candidate” (1962) with Frank Sinatra, this was remade in 2004 with Denzel Washington playing the role of Ben Marco. Sir Richard Attenborough directed Denzel Washington in Cry Freedom.

 

 

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#234 In The Heat Of The Night (1967)

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110 Mins

Director: Norman Jewison

Writers: Stirling Silliphant (screenplay), John Ball (based on a novel by)

Cast: Sidney Poitier,  Rod Steiger, Warren Oates

Storyline “An African American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.” IMDB

Disposition

Brit Boy:

I’m really not sure what to expect with this film I’ve heard of Sidney Poitier as a distinguished actor but am not aware of this film. American Girl and I did have a long conversation about this film, and it being a bit “blue”shall we say….. (from her recollection of her mother watching it). It transpires that she was mis-remembering a completely different film, American Girl can you enlighten us?

American Girl:

Yes, I thought this movie was originally “Body Heat”! So I was very confused initially. Suffice it to say I had not heard of this movie before, and didn’t know what it would be about. I was also aware that Sidney Poitier is a highly decorated actor, yet I would struggle to list from memory what he has been in. 

Set the Scene

To be fair this film took us three attempts to complete, I’m not sure why because once I had “committed” it was actually a very very good film. The final attempt was when once again the 6 big kids were gone and 2 of the three babies were asleep for their afternoon nap.

Final Cut

I think it unfair to really discuss the first two attempts at watching this movie because for reasons beyond its control it failed to keep my attention. However viewing number three gripped me from the start. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger very talented actors who were instantly believable in their respective roles. In my ignorance I don’t recall a movie either have been in which I have seen, however maybe IMDB can help me here; unfortunately I have drawn a blank regarding my movie experiences, however Rod Steiger did appear in “On The Waterfront” and “Dr.Zhivago” which I am sure will both be on the list so I am sure we will see more from him. One  interesting fact which transpired from my IMDb search was that Poitier was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Actor – Drama (1968) only to be beaten by his co-star Steiger.

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I agree with Brit Boy that this movie failed to keep my attention. It is definitely a slow burn, and not the normal murder mystery of today’s times, with special effects, car chases, shoot outs, etc. It embarrasses me that this film struggled holding my attention, because as Brit Boy mentions, the acting was phenomenal. In addition to addressing key issues in our society with racism in the south. 

Ok  so back to the movie… my first observation would be that even though it is now over 50 years old it is really timeless, the cinematography was brilliant and instantly drew you into the racist southern world that Poitier found himself in. Once again the movie accurately captured life as I imagine it was back then and I found myself reflecting on how far America has come in the last 50 years, from the institutionalized racism and corrupt small town cops, obviously I’m not naive to think that these things aren’t still problems but I think the general populous has moved on.

This movie was released in 1967 (and took place in 1966) and I feel it perfectly captured the era (at least in the south). I was born in 1978, so this was clearly before my time, so I enjoyed watching this movie from a cinematography standpoint. I also loved seeing the costumes, cars, restaurants, plantation homes. I felt as though I was witnessing a time capsule. 

The intolerable heat (of the night) which our characters had to experience during our “whodunnit” was palpable and cinematic touches like flies buzzing around or air-con being out of order only added to this. Small-town Mississippi was also accurately depicted.

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The characterization and acting was brilliant everyone from the sleazy diner worker (Anthony James), through policeman Sam Wood (Warren Oates) and the amazing Steiger and Poitier. The entire cast was absolutely believable and shone in every scene, this strong collective performance I think was key to the film being nominated for 7 Academy Awards winning 5 for: Best Picture – Walter Mirisch,  Best Actor – Rod Steiger, Best Fim Editing – Hal Ashby, Best Sound – Samuel Goldwyn Studios and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium – Stirling Silliphant. After a little bit of additional research it transpires that Steiger was in very esteemed company when he won Best Actor in 1968, the other nominees were:

Warren  Beatty – Bonnie and Clyde

Dustin Hoffman – The Graduate

Paul Newman – Cool Hand Luke

Spencer Tracy – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

I think this just reinforces his stellar performance in this movie, one which I will definitely watch again. This film absolutely deserves a place on the list probably much higher up than 234, and one which I would heartily recommend to others to watch.

Despite the amazing acting, and cinematography I still managed to fall asleep during this movie all three times we watched it. Due to this, I clearly struggled with staying aware of what was going on, and I missed some of the earlier clues that became important in capturing the killer. Ironically, once I finally made it through the movie, I suddenly really liked it! I would actually watch it again just to catch all the nuances in the story.

I also feel that this movie deserves a spot on the list. In addition to everything Brit Boy and I discussed above, there were also two sequels to the movie and a television series (that lasted for 8 seasons!). This clearly shows the impact it had on society at the time, another reason it should be included on this list.  

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

This films link to Sir Richard is via the Actress Judy Geeson  who has appeared onscreen with Poitier, Steiger and Attenborough in “To Sir, with Love”, “Three Into Two Won’t Go” and “10 Rillington Place” respectively.

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#235 The Searchers (1956)

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119 Mins

Director: John Ford

Writers: Frank S. Nugent (screenplay),  Alan Le May (from the novel by) (as Alan LeMay)

Cast: John Wayne,  Jeffrey Hunter,  Vera Miles

Storyline “A Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from an Indian tribe.” IMDB

Disposition

Brit Boy:

I’m fairly ambivalent about this movie, the cowboy genre is not a favorite of mine, however I do remember loving Young Guns and Young Guns 2 when I was growing up. My only other exposure to this genre was watching Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie on a Sunday afternoon when I was a small child.

American Girl:

I have never seen this movie before (or any other John Wayne film for that matter), but it looks to be your run of the mill standard Western.  I remember my Grandpa watching a lot of Westerns when I was little.  They didn’t interest me then, and they still don’t interest me now.  Regardless, this is one of the reasons Brit Boy and I like this blog, because it pushes us both into unfamiliar territory and watching a Western is definitely unfamiliar for me!

Set the Scene

With our newborn daughter and toddler sleeping quietly in their beds, and all six of our “big kids” away at their respective other parents’ houses, Brit Boy and I actually had some time on our hands!  We decided to snuggle up and watch this title, which we have both been dreading for a few months now, but we didn’t want it to hang us up any longer.  So with beers in hand we had a mini-date with John Wayne…

Final Cut

Considering I had nothing but dread leading up to watching this movie, I must say I was pleasantly surprised.  I was entertained throughout, and albeit I had some occasional Candy Crush playing in the background, I was genuinely engaged with the plot.  A family is murdered by “Injuns”, and two of their daughters are kidnapped.  In comes their Uncle (played by John Wayne) and his band of merry men to track down the culprits and save the young women.  A simple enough plot, filled with plenty of stereotypes, machismo, and all types of political incorrectness.

Well I wouldn’t quite say that this was an enjoyable 2 hours of movie watching, in fact for the first time I did actually nod off for a good 15 minutes. The plot was slow and drawn out and never really went anywhere. Several times I felt the movie was going to come to a climax and it limped along for what seemed like an eternity. It will be interesting to see if we have any further films from this era, as it may just be the genre combined with movie making of that time.

It may be my generation, as I was born 22 years after this movie was released, but I was shocked at how Indians, women, and men were portrayed in this time!  Even the relationships between mothers and their children in this movie shocked me.  On at least one occasion a mother slaps her teenage daughter completely across the face.  A man literally kicks a woman out of his bed.  A “white” woman that was “saved” from the “injuns” is seen completely crazy, cradling a log as though it were a baby, rocking and singing to it.   What makes all of this even worse is that these scenes are shown to be funny, not disturbing as I saw them….  John Wayne’s character marched around the place with no sense of compassion or human consideration.  I am not sure if this arrogance is present in most of his roles, or if it was just especially strong for this particular character.  Regardless, one thing I definitely took away from this movie is how far our society has come in the representation of minorities.  If this movie were made today it would spark outrage.

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John Wayne who I know is regarded as a mans man just came across as an unfeeling ignorant bully. This is the first time I have knowingly watched one of his films and I am assuming that he went to the Arnold Schwarzenegger school of acting, I think what you see is what you get and his other films have similar characterization.

I too was very surprised how archaic the storyline was and more importantly the views of the characters. Within the first 10  minutes we saw the other lead character referred to as a half-breed because he had mixed native American and American ancestry. The Native Americans were portrayed as no more than savages who killed cattle and raped or kidnapped the honest hard-working Texan women.

Thinking about this a little more  I should not be so harsh as this was a fair portrayal of how the Texans behaved towards their women and the native americans at that time (19th Century America), and the film was I expect a true representation. Maybe I just didn’t like John Wayne because it seemed like he believed all of the dross which was coming out of his mouth (and this wasn’t because of his excellent acting ability).

While I was constantly aghast at the political incorrectness, I did however thoroughly enjoy the cinematography.   This was not filmed in front of green screens with lots of special effects.  It has genuine desert countryside and it was beautiful.  I loved the costumes, the hairstyles, I even found myself studying what the homes of that time looked like. I could even picture why kids of that generation loved playing “cowboys and Indians”.  It was exciting and fun to watch, I just couldn’t get over that it was all at the expense of one race.

The backdrop for the movie was stunning with amazing cinematography but that only goes so far during the film’s 2 hour duration. I will not be watching this film again and as I struggle to understand why it made the list, maybe it is regarded as a John Wayne classic, I think some googling is in order…..

Even though I struggled with a lot of the context of this movie, I do feel it deserves a spot on the list if for no other reason to act as a time capsule.  It beautifully captures what America looked like in this time, and it even captured the culture, good, bad, and otherwise.  I don’t want to watch another Western anytime soon, but being that Westerns were such a mainstay in popular culture in the 50’s (and beyond), I do think it is fair for a John Wayne classic to have made the list.  I just hope there aren’t anymore. 

Once again American Girl it appears you have nailed it. “In 1989, The Searchers was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry; it was in the first cohort of films selected for the registry.” – Wikipedia . I stick by my review but maybe once the pain has worn off I will give it another try.

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

John Wayne and Sir Richard Attenborough both appeared in the 1975 film “Brannigan”.

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#236 Manhattan (1979)

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96 Mins

Director: Woody Allen

Writers: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway

Storyline: “The life of a divorced television writer dating a teenage girl is further complicated when he falls in love with his best friend’s mistress.” IMDB

Disposition

Brit Boy:

I have seen some Woody Allen movies before, however none spring instantly to mind (maybe one about a guy from space / set in the future). Maybe its time for a little IMDB’ing to figure out what it is I remember…..

OK I’m back it was actually called Sleeper and my memory isn’t all that bad it was described by IMDB as “A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.” Oh well back to my thoughts:

I don’t like Woody Allen as an actor or director and the fact that this is also shot in Black and White, doesn’t bode well. I’ve never liked Artsy films and this strikes me as being artsy in many ways.

American Girl:

I have to admit whenever I hear of Woody Allen all I think of is his affair/marriage to his wife’s adoptive daughter…. I don’t think I have seen any Woody Allen movies, and I am not eager to watch this one either.  I really don’t want to support anything that Woody Allen has done, but I suffered through reading “American Psycho” for our Distant Bookends blog, so I figured I could suffer through a Woody Allen film.  

Set The Scene

American Girl is taking a well earned break away from the kids so I will be watching this alone, I think I’m going to need a glass or two of wine for this one…

I watched this on the plane, which is quite the switch for Brit Boy and I… I somehow managed to convince him to even let me borrow his fancy noise cancelling Bose headphones for the event.

Final Cut

The first thing that struck me about the opening of this movie was the wonderful use of George Gershwin’s composition “Rhapsody in Blue”, I’ve always loved his music and it reminds me of hot Summer nights growing up watching Tom and Jerry on the TV. After a great deal of googling it appears that one of the cartoons which reminds me so much of this track is titled “Mouse in Manhattan”, I will let you make your own mind up.

One of the main reasons I don’t like Woody Allen is associated with questionable morality  generated by his relationship and subsequent marriage to his ex-wife’s (Mia Farrow) adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. This immediately came to mind when we were introduced to Allen’s character Isaac who is dating a 17 year old school girl 25 years his junior. In my mind there was no need to have a school girl as his primary love interest, as a viewer the fact she was significantly younger was all that was needed, the fact she was supposed to still be in high school was unnecessary and I feel played upon Allen’s liking for young girls as opposed to enhancing the storytelling.

Brit Boy I completely agree… All I kept thinking was about the young Soon-Yi, and that this movie foreshadowed his own relationship which was to occur with Soon-Yi.  It actually surprised me that this movie was considered such a hit, when by any modern standard a relationship with a 17 year old girl would be completely illegal.  Where were her parents throughout this entire movie???! If she were 22 and not in high school, it still could have had the same impact. 

Moving on to the characterization, the main characters in this film (played by Allen, Keaton and Murphy), were all highly dislikable people and not a good advertisement for either Manhattan or America in general. Each one was selfish and incredibly myopic. However this does speak volumes for the level of characterization displayed by our lead actors, Mariel Hemingway our 17 year old schoolgirl was in fact nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

I must say I was mesmerized by Mariel Hemingway’s character.  I kept trying to understand her motivations and how she was able to end up in such a bizarre relationship.  I am surprised she didn’t move on to become a bigger star after this film.  As a side note, I did enjoy seeing some very well known actors in their younger days.  I could not believe how stunning Meryl Streep was!  She also happened to be one of my favorite characters in the movie, albeit she had a relatively small part.  It was also nice to see Diane Keaton in a completely different role than I had ever previously seen her in.

In spite of my dislike of the main characters and loathing of Woody Allen, coupled with my concern for the potential artsy nature of the movie, I actually really enjoyed it. The film was straight forward and didn’t have a staggeringly complex plot, however it kept my attention and proved an enjoyable diversion on a Tuesday night. The black and white filming did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie and actually enhanced some of the views we had of 1970’s Manhattan. I would watch this movie again, maybe not any time soon but I certainly will not avoid it, I grudgingly accept that this movie does deserve a place on the list and was much better than I expected. This is certainly a clear example of why we should continue with this list American Girl.

This movie was much better than I was expecting, but it did surprise me that it was based on Allen’s “love affair” with Manhattan, and yet does not portray Manhattan in a beautiful light at all.  While I appreciate movies with grit, this just seemed to be whiny and egotistical.  (Ironically, American Psycho was also based in Manhattan, which seemed to have similar characters involved as well.)  Having spent very little time in Manhattan, I am now starting to wonder what the actual appeal to the city is!  All of this being said, I do agree that it still deserves a spot on the list.  Woody Allen was definitely considered an innovator in the business, and I know he has been involved with many movies, so it seems apt that he is represented on this list.  I do find it funny that the movie representing Allen on this list also seemed to be a bizarre foreshadowing of his relationship with Soon-Yi.  

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

Woody Allen and Sir Richard Attenborough both appeared as themselves in the documentary “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#237 Papillon (1973)

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151 mins

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Writer: Dalton Trumbo, Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay), Henri Charrière (Novel)

Cast: Steve McQueenDustin HoffmanVictor Jory

Storyline: “A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.” IMDB

Disposition

American Girl :

I have never seen or heard of Papillion before this blog, so this will be another movie which I am watching “blindly”.  All I know is that it is about a prison break.  I don’t have strong feelings for or against this movie and I am going into it with a completely open mind.

Brit Boy:

I also have never watched this film but had heard of it, for whatever reason I did think it was a war movie, so was quite surprised to find out it was about a prison break. I do like both Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen so this peaks my interest to settle down and start watching.

Set the Scene

We are getting pretty boring here now that Brit Boy and I are married and with children… We snuggled up one night to watch Papillion together with a few beers on a summer night.  It actually took us THREE sittings to finish the movie, as neither of us realized that it is 2 ½ hours long.

Final Cut

It took me awhile to really get into Papillion, for many reasons.  First, even though Brit Boy purchased us a special edition blu ray DVD (as he always does for our blog movies), I really struggled hearing the actors’ voices.  I know a lot of this is due to the fact this movie was made in 1973 and movie making technology is not what it is today, but many times I could barely understand what anyone was saying over all the background noise.  However, I did finally seem to adjust after 20 or 30 minutes into the film.

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I must admit this wasn’t a problem for me American Girl, as I was more taken in by the cinematography. It had that really epic movie style quality that we seem to have moved away from in the last 20 years. Without the ease of falling back onto green screens and visual affects (not that this film needed them or I have anything against them per se), it made for a grittier more real film.

The filming style was very original, it never felt staged or scripted.  It is as though the director literally threw all the actors/prisoners on set and just followed them around with cameras.  At one point, Brit Boy noticed a chicken which is injured after being stepped on by an actor which apparently was real and not scripted.  (In today’s society there would probably be outrage if any animal was injured on screen accident or not!) There was always stuff going on in the background as well, the scenes were never focused solely on the main actors.  This background “noise” so to speak, is probably what made it difficult for me to focus on the main story line for the beginning portion of the film.

The chicken completely threw me (if one can get thrown by a chicken), it was close to the beginning of the film when the prisoners are being marched through a village to the camp, one prisoner passed out due to exhaustion. Unfortunately the actor fell on the chicken and injured it in some way, I’ve subsequently looked this up online (I know very trustworthy..) and it is confirmed that my eyes did not deceive me. As for the background noise, I felt it was incepting with the film and did not distract me.

I must also admit that I was shocked to see Dustin Hoffman in this role!  It is not a character I would have pictured him playing, and I do wonder if this was one of his first major roles.  I am sure Brit Boy will do some research for me… Steve McQueen was also fantastic in this movie, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was up for some awards for his performance.  I know Steve McQueen stars in “The Great Escape” one of Brit Boy’s favorite movies (which I have still yet to see), but beyond that I had never really heard of him before.  This movie represented him well, and I would be happy to watch more of his films in the future.

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Well American Girl this wasn’t actually one of Hoffman’s earliest films in fact he had some acclaim prior to this with films such as The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and Straw Dogs, I certainly don’t think this will be the first time we see one of his earlier works. I completely agree Steve McQueen was amazing as “Papillon” and was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1974 for his role, only to be beaten by Al Pacino and his role in Serpico.

One thing that stuck with me through this movie is the notion of “cruel and unusual punishment”.  I definitely do not want to get on a political soap box, but generally my feeling is that if people do really bad things than really bad things should happen to them.  This prison (which I believe is based on a real prison), was not just for hard core criminals.  In fact Hoffman’s character was convicted of financial fraud, and Papillion for murdering a pimp, neither crime seems the worst of the worst.  However, this didn’t stop them from being shipped to an Island to perform back breaking labor in which many inmates commit suicide in gruesome ways just to “escape”.  The point in the movie where Papillion is thrown in solitary confinement for two years became almost too difficult for me to endure watching.

The long periods of solitary confinement reminded me of McQueens subsequent role as the Cooler King in the Great Escape, however as American Girl states above the punishment was for much longer and was much harsher. When it makes a Nazi POW camp look tame you can recognize that this is bad….. Many of the inmates did not make it through this severe punishment often being locked in complete darkness for weeks at a time, many were lucky if they just came out completely mad.

The movie did seem to drag on, and I feel that many of the scenes probably could have been cut out with no real effect on the story line.  When we stopped watching on the second sitting we thought we had another 30-45 minutes to go.  Little did we know that there was only five minutes left of the film!  This definitely ruined the ending for me, as I lost all of the buildup.  However, I can’t believe that neither Brit Boy nor I realized we were in the midst of the climax of the movie or we never would have stopped watching!  I guess that does about sum up my general experience of this film, it was good at parts, the acting was superb, but it failed to ever really grab my attention. I don’t feel l wasted my time watching the film, even if just to get history on an old French prison.  

I completely agree this film did appear over long, however it did get me thinking to the time when this was released there would be an intermission so you could go to the bathroom and grab a Cornetto (a type of ice-cream American Girl). So maybe in two distinct sitting in the Cinema maybe the length was just right. If only we had lasted that extra five minutes I think the climax of the film would have been much better, as it was it was touching and quite moving.

Even though I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this film, I do think it deserves a spot on the list, because the talent of the cast is pretty extraordinary.

I think this deserves its place and yet again probably should be higher up but we won’t know until we have watched a few more films, onwards and upwards……

Footnote – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

Screenwriter William Goldman identified Schaffner in 1981 as being one of the three best directors (then living) at handling ‘scope’ (a gift for screen epics) in films. The other two were David Lean and Richard Attenborough. – John Bradey, “The craft of the screenwriter”, 1981. Page 168

 

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