Gone With the wind (1939)

This movie set on my shelf still wrapped in its shiny red Netflix envelope, I am embarrassed to say, for several months. I was not looking forward to the prospect of watching a four hour movie that had once been described to me as a "love epic." It was only after the final credits rolled that I was delighted to find that this claim was completely erroneous. 

In fact, I had enjoyed it, a lot. But when faced with the prospect of having to watch it yet again in a span of less than a year, I was equally unexcited. Much the my amazement though, I liked it even better on the second viewing. 

Apart from the fact that I appreciated all of the antebellum, civil war, the south will rise again references (being from the south and having been dragged to my share of hilarious civil war museums), I was consistently entertained for four hours. They managed to create one of the best movie heroes of all time in Rhett Butler. He is wonderful because he is flawed and his flaws are happily flaunted for the audience. They also managed to create one of the biggest bitches of all time, Scarlet of course. They managed to transform her character over time from just a simple spoiled brat to a truly malicious woman but yet you still manage to sympathize with her at points. 

Overall, I loved this film and surprisingly, I love it more every time I see it. I am so often confronted by films that are "classics" but end up being just total shit. Thankfully, there are exceptions to every rule. 


Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

I have been artfully avoiding this film at all costs throughout the years but when I saw that I would finally have to face my fears (of a shitty movie that is) and watch AI, I decided to give it a chance. From the moment I saw the trailer light up the screen (in front of a far better film I'm sure) I remember uttering the words, "there is no way anyone is ever going to make me watch that crap." Even so, I came in with an open mind. Hey I love the genre right? And it did make the list of 1001 movie to see before you die...there must be something to that. 


I'm sure that you can tell by the implied silence of my ellipses that I was wrong...so wrong. I gave the film a chance though, even through when the mom abandoned him in the forest. I gave it a chance through Hailey Joel Osment staring blankly into the camera and at the other actors just like every bad robot cliche ever put to screen. I gave it a chance even when he was activated and continued to stare impassively, but only this time he could say mommy. I even gave it a chance when for no reason we started watching an entirely different story about sex robots (another painful cliche). I, however, could no longer give it a chance when Gigilo Joe did a jig while walking on water for absolutely no reason and then everyone just continued on their marry way. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? Seriously, what was that all about? It's one of those screen moments that just makes you embarrassed for everyone involved, including yourself. 

After that it was all down hill, that is if the film had ever made it to the top of any kind of hill. We sat through two more semi-related but unnecessary stories, a ton of things stolen from Asimov and then done poorly, and a little bit of symbolism as Hailey Joel finally had that dopey, glassy look literally frozen onto his face. Way to go Speildy. 

Overall, these were very few redeeming qualities to this film. I thought that the robot rodeo scene was mildly interesting at the beginning but it quickly devolved into that one angry crowd scene where they throw things at the bad guy. In the end, it just feels like they took a group of tired sci-fi/robot ideas and spliced them together and then pumped an absurd amount of money into them just for good measure. I can see how this film could appeal to people who would generally rather watch a good drama then see robots trying to cope with their human counterparts. For those of us who have watched a lot of sci-fi though, this film just felt tired.


All the President's Men (1976)

I think that all of my dreams were realized last week when I found out that there was a film in which I got to watch Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman battle it out for most feathery beautiful feathered man hair. Excellent. Apart from that, oh yeah it was a good film too even if I did have to pause it a few times and ask my resident modern American history buff what was going on.
I happen to really enjoy this genera of film as the closest thing that I could really liken it to would be Good Night and Good Luck. Even if I'm not always intimately up to date on the history I still find it enjoyable. Having said that, I realize that this movie was made not too long after Watergate and because of all of the knowledge that they presume you have the movie does feel a bit dated. I didn't find it too distracting until the ending when they opted to just breeze over the part where the investigation led up to the white house. I was a bit befuddles by that.

The acting was, of course, exceptional. I mean what do you expect with the kind of cast that they assembled. I spent the middle of the film trying to picture Ben Bradlee donning western gear and jumping on a horse (I love Jason Robards). I thought that the film was put together quite nicely too. It was suspenseful when it needed to be and the pacing was great. Overall, it left you with an appropriate sickening feeling that should accompany the mention of the Watergate scandal. I could have used with a bit less name dropping and overall ambiguity but I did really enjoy watching this movie.

2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

I first saw this movie on cable TV when I was fifteen. Despite the hours of ultra-repetitive commercials that I was subjected to and the fact that it aired pretty late, I was hooked. I'll never forget the utterances of sheer agony and bewilderment that came from my mouth when the credits rolled as my Dad laughed knowingly behind me.
This film can only be described as a psychedelic sci-fi ballet. Every moment is beautifully choreographed and painstakingly wrought. Stanley Kubrick's use of music is, of course, the things that legends are made of. It is a study in the beauty of contrast and an explanation of how to represent themes without even saying a word. 
I love that the film starts out as any good film should, at the beginning...the very beginning. We then get to see where millions of years of evolution has left our species. The acting was subtle and understated and provided a great foil upon which the viewer can truly appreciate the world created for them. 
HAL 9000 is one of the greatest characters ever written, hands down. Who knew that a single red light bulb could be so intimidating and interesting. The other characters were all fairly stereotypical, the shady politician, the all-American astronaut, and uh, monkeys. They were there to show that even though we have evolved so much, even though technologies have increased beyond any one's wildest dreams, we still fit the basic human molds.
Honestly, I have no idea what happened in the end or what the hell was up with those obelisks. Really though, I don't care to know. My only complant is the utter contempt in this film for any kind of pacing. I know that often times, yes, that was the point, but it did get tedious after a while. In the end though, the movie is a wonderful trip and even though I don't quite understand it, I think that it is just fine that way. 

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

To be honest, I watched this film exactly one week ago and I am having problems remembering really anything about this film. It was truly that forgettable. I do remember that one of the people that I was watching it with left after we had all assumed that it was nearly over but we found out that we were only halfway through. She made the right decision.

Apart from the hilariously bad acting and dialog that came from Dix and the fact that Doll had to scream "Dix!" in the middle of a field four or five times, this film was pretty damn dull. The writing was cheesy and uninspired, the characters were largely predictable, and the story was stale. Overall, I just don't know why the film was made. 

I did think that the characters were at least interesting. Their personal stories and psyches were fairly unique but just sticking some interesting people in a room together is certainly not enough to create an inspiring and entertaining film. 

In the end, I have no idea why this film is so revered. It was a chore to watch. 


Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Having been a long time fan of the re-make of this film (the cheesy good one, not the 3 hour long one) I relished the opportunity I finally had to actually watch the original. I have to say that it did not disappoint either. It was a good two hours of swash-buckling, high seas, mutinous adventure even if it did go on a hair too long for my taste. 

One of the things that I was really impressed by was the placement of humor throughout the film. It was genuinely funny! I especially loved the character of Smith who was a much appreciated and well placed comic relief. Even during some of the more heavy moments of the film (like when they were whipping the dead man) they managed to keep it rather light with a little bit of humor and not drag the audience down too far.

Also, Bligh was a totally scary motherfucker! He did a great job and I think that I may have nightmares about him. Even more than that though, at the end, he managed to subtly break down a bit and make his character seem more vulnerable when the head of the military court disapproved of his methods. Clark Gable on the other hand was, you know, himself. He didn't give a mind blowing performance or anything but he was good enough. 

Overall, I think that this was an interesting story, a good cast of actors, and an overall well crafted film. Again, it went on a little too long for my taste but I could see the reasons for it. I would recommend Mutiny on the Bounty to anyone who would like a high seas adventure and doesn't mind getting a little seasick. 


The Third Man (1949)

While I appreciated the story and much of the film making in The Third Man, ultimately it didn't end up doing anything for me. I found the character of Holly Martins to be meddlesome and annoying, the story, while good, never felt very suspenseful or attention grabbing, and the ending revealed nothing new and certainly nothing that would save the story from being mostly boring.

I guess that maybe it was the point and I am missing something entirely but most of the film I was just annoyed every time Holly Martins spoke. He was out of place, clueless, and was trying to act like a detective when in reality he was just a marginal suspense writer. The idea just never paid off for me. Especially the fact that they never managed to explain why he was actually there. It seemed like they were building up towards something more interesting than "he knew a guy who wanted to give him a job."

They were never really able to build up any suspense in the story either. Until you find out that Harry Lime is alive, it is never hinted at or suggested, he just shows up suddenly. From there on, everything just goes according to plan. They find that he has been using the sewer system to escape, Holly meets him with little to no trouble, there is no big master plan or bigger idea present that what has been presented by the police, and then Harry shows up at the ambush as according to plan. Everything worked out for the protagonists, nothing in there was interesting. The only conflict was the slight internal conflict that Holly had about turning his friend over to the police but even that is made to seem fairly cit and dry after a while.

In the end, they kill Harry and his mistress Anna doesn't want to be with Holly. Shocking! The bad guy gets caught and the lonesome writer continues to be lonesome save for maybe a sense of well being. Nothing about this really warranted a film being made.

Don't get me wrong, there were things that I liked. I thought that the basic skeleton idea for the story was good enough but they just never added anything to make it interesting. I liked the character of Major Calloway although again he was rather two dimensional. Of course, the cinematography was fantastic, in fact I found myself paying more attention to that than the story or the characters. But, in the end, some cool camera angles were not enough to save it for me.