Deliverance (1972)

"Insurance? I never been insured in my life. There's no risk. "

Let's just get this out of the way at the beginning. Burt Reynolds is a man amongst boys. Now that I have discussed that, we can get on with business. 

I got pretty much what I was expecting out of this film. An overall disturbing sensation, people running for their lives, characters wondering what to do once they have killed someone, and a little bit of rape. All of that and I didn't even really know that much about the film. I think that overall Deliverance had the elements that the filmmakers wanted to convey but I think that they should have gone further with some of the themes and cut out others. 

In the moment that they realize that they will also have to bury Drew in the lake along with the others, Bobby makes the observation that it will never end. This is a really great theme to explore and while they touched on it I don't think that they ever dove into this theme which is unfortunate because it would have been the most interesting parts of the film. 

It would have been a good decision to get rid of most of the initial canoeing down the river and use that time to explore more so what happened to the three men once they got out of the river. This is a much more interesting topic than a bunch of city dudes and one Davy Crockett testosterone pumped guide floating on some water.

This was an absolutely beautifully photographed film though. I had no idea when it was made until I asked about it. The colors were vibrant, the shots were not totally innovative but always interesting, and overall it really did make you feel like you had been dropped in the Georgia woods (which may not be such a great thing now that I think about it). In addition to that I thought that the sound mixing really stood out (and no, I am not being facetious). I find that a lot of times, when there is running water in film (particularly older films) it can overwhelm the soundtrack but it was done very nicely here. There were also a lot of nature sounds mixed in a more subtle manner than is per usual. The music is, of course, iconic and I can see why. It is not only very interesting, but mixed in the right parts at the right noise level. 

Overall, I thought that this film was pretty good. I don't know that I will be screening it at my next movie night or anything but it is iconic and I'm glad that I finally saw it. I think that many of the ideas in the film have been rehashed and done a lot better (A Simple Plan) but there is something to say for it being the original (if it is in fact the original). 

A final thought before we wrap up our January movies. I don't know if anyone else has realized this but, for some reason, this month's movie picks have mostly given an elaborate argument for not living in a given place:
Mulholland Dr. - don't live in L.A. you will get shot at and find rapidly decomposing bodies (that you later become and then tiny old people make you kill yourself?)
The Last Picture Show - don't live in rural Texas. Nothing will ever go right in your life, ever. 
Deliverance - don't live in rural Georgia, you will probably not make it out alive and unraped.
Manhattan - well I guess that it's ok to live in Manhattan, if you can deal with Woody Allen.


The Last Picture Show (1971)

I can't say that I liked this movie. I can't say that I hated it either. I also can't say anything negative about the current South Korean Prime minister. So there we go.

For whatever reason it just didn't seem to capture my interest at all. There were some interesting characters but way too many of them and because of that you really didn't get to know most of them. It really only made the movie seem disconnected and muddied. There were definitely some central themes and, you know, universal truths and things but for the most part, the movie was either jumbled or predictable.

Also, I have no problem with a sex scene or two but seriously, how much awkward sex can be crammed into two hours? I understand that sexuality and coming of age was one of the biggest, if not the biggest themes in the film and I have no problem with lingering on a scene of really stiff awkward sex for a long time if it proves a point but to have to sit through that many scenes of it just became excruciating after a while.

I honestly don't have too much more to say about the film. It was overall just kind of bland to me. I liked the idea of Sam holding the town together and after his death everything started to crumble. In the end though, the film just seemed mediocre at best to me. I guess that maybe it just didn't click.

Oh also, I never want to live in rural Texas.


Mulholland Dr. (2001)

"Now you will see me one more time, if you do good. You will see me, two more times, if you do bad. Good night."

This is a film that I would never fault anyone for not liking and yet almost everyone I know inexplicably enjoys it. I, am of course, included in this category of person. Even though I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time, it somehow remains entertaining all of the way through. For a movie that is pushing two and a half hours, that is quite a feat. For a movie that, at least on a first viewing, made no sense to me, that is nothing short of fantasmic.

Much to my surprise though, upon viewing it a second time, it actually did make a lot more sense to me. I don't know if this is due to the weakened state of my mental health now that I teach young children all day or the fact that I was expecting a lot of the craziness and was able to look past it this time. I will forgo giving any of my half hearted theories about what really happened and which dream sequence took place during which fantasy in an alternate reality and all of that. Honestly I kind of feel like thinking about it too hard is missing the point.

The undeniable fact was that there was a very powerful love story happening and weather or not it happened in the "real world" or in a plastic blue box it is extremely compelling. The Rita character is always somewhat angelic and mysterious and by the end of the film the audience falls in love with her too. It compels the viewer in a way that they are not just rooting for Diane's relationship in a third party type of way but in a way that they personally have a vested interest in the state of the relationship. As much as they clunky dialogue and surreal fantasy world in the first half are meant to take the viewer out of this film, this is how the second half of the film pulls the viewer in.

But these are just a few reasons why I enjoy this film. I think that the bulk of why I find something like this fascinating is just intangible. Frankly, I would rather not have someone sit down and explain to me exactly what happened and why or give a break down of the film in different time-lines and things, it just works more for me that way. Mulholland Dr. is about letting go and allowing yourself to step into David Lynch's brain for a little while, and yes, it is a scary place.


Manhattan (1979)

Generally watching a Woody Allen film makes me want to drop kick a toddler. This one however, was not half bad.

I honestly don't know what it is that people find funny about Woody Allen, he is a whiny guy with an annoying accent that relies way to much on Jewish humor. Not to insult anyone who likes him or anything, but I just don't get it. Sure, he says some funny things, even some hilarious things every once in a while ("Years ago I wrote this short story about my Mother called "The Castrating Zionist"). The amount of bumbling bullshit you have to sit through though just makes it not worth it for me.

Having said all that, I would have to admit that overall, I enjoyed Manhattan. I think that it was a really honest story about relationships and it was neat to get to see New York from the perspective of someone who loves it so much. There were some definitely funny moments in the film and Woody Allen only kind of annoyed me (the toddlers of Korea are safe for now). While I did like it, there is not much else for me to say about its merits other than "it was nice."

There were some things that bothered me though. Like who decided that Woody Allen is a highly attractive man that should be able to date not just one but two different beautiful women? The thought of Woody Allen and sex in the same film makes me want to become a nun. I'm not trying to have impossible standards for beauty or anything but really? really? Also, the man has no real redeeming qualities in the film, he is self conscious, whiny, oh and unemployed. I mean good for him and all but it was just kind of hard to believe from my perspective.

Also, the fact that he was a forty-two year old man dating a seventeen year old girl was just flat out creepy. Even so, the other characters barely commented on it. I think that the correct reaction should be "WTF do you want to go to jail?" not "Oh Issac, so silly dating a seventeen year old. Oh, haha you are older than her father? That's cute." Blegh. Gross.

Well anyway, Manhattan was much better than I expected (especially after seeing the disaster that was Annie Hall). I laughed, I enjoyed, I tried not to vomit in my mouth a couple of times, but overall I'm glad that I saw it.


Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

I tend to have a very love-hate relationship with Steven Speildburgh and generally for reasons that are rather inexplicable, but I do love this movie. It showcases a darker side of his sensibilities. Sure, there are family issues in a lot of his movies and, of course, this isn't the only darker film he has made but generally his movies don't revolve around a dysfunctional family that is completely falling apart.

Of course, the film is remembered as an alien film and it is in a sense but I think that the family drama often gets overlooked. I makes a statement that is not usually made anywhere is Hollywood. That perhaps, everything is not going to be all right. Something that people don't often think about is the fact that in the end Roy Neary abandons his wife and children t go live with aliens and it is set up in a way that he audience is cheering him along.

But, of course, there are aliens, and the effects are pretty stunning for 1977. I really do wish that they never gave us a clear picture of the aliens though, because as usual, what we can individually imagine in our own minds is generally more interesting than what they put on screen.

In the end, this is a film about Roy trying to find happiness, by any means necessary. His journey is very engaging and I think that most everyone can find a bit of their own search within his. We are lead to believe that he does in fact find what he was searching for all along but left to think about the question, "at what price?"


M.A.S.H. (1970)

To me, M.A.S.H. isn't so much a move as it is an amalgamation of random occurrences that happened to all take place in the Korean war in the same unit. And before you roll your eyes any further into the back of your head and sigh "Well obviously, that's what he was going for," know that just because the director accurately depicted "what he was going for," doesn't mean it's good. I guess that I'm just not really sure what the point is (and maybe that in itself is the point (but maybe that it just a little too post modern for my sensibilities)).

But really, what more did I expect from Robert Altman? I mean that man gets off on listening to people having disjointed conversations over the actual important conversations which by that point are just totally indecipherable. I mean, have you seen Gosford Park? Anyway, If I wanted to listen to a bunch of people having meaningless conversation over each other, I would go back and sit in my office for a while (which I am currently trying to avoid by any means necessary so why would I want that in a film?). Generally, I like films because they are escapist. They aren't real life. If I felt that I just couldn't get enough of every day real life I would probably not be watching a movie at that moment and be out grocery shopping or something. Altman seems to have missed this point entirely over his career though.

I also tend to enjoy my movies much like my men. I appreciate wen they are going somewhere! You know, some kind of driving element that makes the story move along, conflict, plot, all leading towards a resolution. Oh no that would be way too much like a film for Robert Altman to put it in his film (wait a minute...). Mostly at then end it just made me go "so why exactly did I watch that?"

As a point of interest, I have watched many films that some would consider sexist (Marnie for example) and had a romping good time, but seriously this film was sexist as hell and it takes a lot for me to say that. Besides all of the rampant sexual abuses being depicted, the only woman in a position of power (and it was a minor one) was automatically demonized, called an idiot and in the end forced to be naked in front of the entire camp. Now I won't go into how this is close enough to glorifying rape and all that shit but come on people! Ok, so maybe that was the point. Maybe he was trying to point out the sexism in the military and what not, somehow I doubt it though.

Of course there were funny moments, that film had its humor. I laughed out loud maybe once or twice, I chuckled, I can admit that. Overall though, it just wasn't enough to save it. I could hang around a group of random people all day and probably get just as many laughs. It would feel about the same as watching the film too, only more productive.

In the end, I can see how this probably made a damn fine TV show (I have never seen it) but as a movie it is lacking a lot. I actually find t hard to understand how it is so popular.


8/12 (1963)

I loved this movie even more on a second viewing. It is funny, and poignant and you could petty much write a twenty page thesis on every scene in the film. But as was pointed out, "This life is so full of confusion already, that there's no need to add chaos to chaos." As I have always been a fan of brevity and with the central themes of this film in mind, I present you with my 8 and 1/2 word movie review:

So much symbolism, my head is really going to splode!


Marnie (1964)

Instead of posting a more traditional review of Marnie, I decided to contact Sean Connery and ask the man himself what he felt about this film. Below is a partial transcript of that interview.

Me: Well hello Mr. Connery, it certainly is nice to be able to speak with you.

Sean Connery: You're very sexy with your face clean.

Me: Oh...thanks. Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was that film Marnie that you made way back in 1964. Now from what I understand, it was a pretty big flop at the box office and only in later years did it really gain critical acclaim. It certainly does have Hitchcock's particular aesthetic written all over it. For example, the blatant use of the zoom, dolly, and extreme close up to make the viewer hyper aware that they are in fact watching a film. Also his stage like film making techniques give the audience a sense that they are watching a play as a means to heighten the drama of the situation. Honestly, I am not a big fan of these techniques and I really believe that for me, at least, it really only serves to take me outside of the film mentally.

Sean Connery: What do you believe in?

Me: Well, I understand that there are a whole lot of Hitchcock fans out there but I guess that I'm just really not one. His brand of film making tends to irritate me more than fascinate me. For instance, I have never watched a Hitchcock film and felt that it was remotely well paced. I also find the theatrics of his films very over the top and unintentionally funny. I just can't handle his particular style.

Sean Connery: By anybody? Or just me?

Me: I'm sorry, I don't understand what your asking.

Sean Connery: Really? You didn't seem to mind at my office that day, or at the stables. And all this last week i've handled you.

Me: I, uuh...don't think you understand what I'm talking about. Let's just get back to the interview. The film wasn't all bad for me though. I really loved the opening shot of Marnie walking slowly away and the camera zooming out from her bright yellow purse. It was a great introduction to her character and at least the surface aspects of her psyche. It was also just very intriguing and a great hook for the rest of the film. Do you remember what it was like to shoot the first scene?

Sean Connery: You're here to answer the questions old girl.

Me: No actually, I think that you missed the point of having an interview. And if you really want to know, I felt that the whole ending of the film was trite and there was no logical progression to it. I'm getting the feeling though the you think that I am wrong.

Sean Connery: That's right - you are. And I've caught something really wild this time, haven't I? I've tracked you and caught you and by God I'm going to keep you.
Me: I don't even know where you were going with that one but don't you find it a little silly that halfway through the film you pretty much became a professional psycologist? Your character had no reason to be such an expert on Freud and psychoanalysis in general. The worst part though, was that the ending of the movie really hinged on your talent as an amateur psychologist which made it seem more than a little contrived.

Sean Connery: I'm fighting a powerful impulse to beat the hell out of you.

Me: Well that is just really inappropriate and I think that this interview is over now. I was even going to say some more nice things about the film like how I felt that the story itself was very interesting and even that I enjoyed your character a lot. Now you'll just never know.

Sean Connery: Atlantic City opens for races at the end of the month. We could drive out there next Saturday...

Me: Yeah right. I don't even know you and just because you used to be James Bond (which is why you got the part in this film in the first place) doesn't mean that you can tell me what to do.

Sean Connery: When we get home, I'll explain that we had a lover's quarrel... That you ran away... That I went after you and brought you back.

Me: Ok well I'm going to end this interview before my boyfriend gets home because I don't think he would be to happy about this.

Sean Connery: He also admires wholesome animal lust.