Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Genre: Drama
Starring: Al Pacino, Jon Cazale, Charles Durning
Directed by: Sidney Lumet

My interest in this film began mainly because when its director, Sidney Lumet, died earlier this year, some of the tumblr blogs I follow exploded in a sadness I could not join because I had not seen any of his work.  I've been wanting to see one of his films since then, and I picked this one first, mainly because it's streaming on Netflix and had the best summary there:

To get money for his gay lover's sex-change operation, Sonny (Al Pacino) -- who's married with kids -- teams up with Sal (John Cazale) to rob a New York bank on a scorching-hot summer day. The stickup goes awry when the press gets wind of the circus sideshow-esque story. Chris Sarandon, Charles Durning and James Broderick co-star in this classic Sidney Lumet-directed film based on an actual event from the 1970s.
I don't know how that couldn't convince someone to watch it.

I am so happy to report that the film did live up to its wonderfully enticing summary, but maybe that's because the beginning was one of the most hilarious things ever. In a good way, I promise. This movie is definitely not a comedy, but there are so many funny moments, especially in the opening. The break-in goes not as intended because of how inept the criminals are; it's so fun to see them try to figure out what the heck they are supposed to be doing, especially because they never quite get used to the whole "holding people hostage" situation.

However, there is definitely a tone that's serious overall, one that is revealed a bit slowly because of how long it takes for the truth about Sonny's intentions of robbing the bank to come out. I think the mark of a good antagonist (which I would say he is, since he is holding people hostage and all) is that it's easy to dislike them for their present actions, but also easy to sympathize with them and see where they're coming from. It's easy to do that with Sonny; he just wants to help, and even though his methods are questionable, it's clear that he does not want to hurt anyone to help those he loves. I loved seeing him deal with the possibility of someone getting seriously damaged while being held, deal with the police that we always closing in, and deal with his friends and loved ones. It's a great mix of issues to watch, especially in such a tense setting. It also doesn't hurt that Al Pacino is awesome and totally brings the character alive. 

At times, it's darkly funny, but Dog Day Afternoon is mainly a constantly emotional and exciting thing to watch. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Favorite Musical Numbers: "The Red Shoes" Ballet

Sadly, I cannot find an embeddable version of the scene, nor the scene in one piece, but part one is here, followed by part two here.

I watched The Red Shoes (1948) last week and loved it, but the ballet scene in the middle, an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Red Shoes," stood out to me the most. Not only does it fit perfectly within the main story of the film, but it stands well on its own. I know absolutely nothing about ballet, but to me it looks like a wonderfully gorgeous, colorful, and fabulously danced piece, with the perfect atmospheric music to match. I also loved that it also managed to be slightly creepy (thank you, weird shoemaker).

So worth watching on its own, but even better if you watch the whole movie along with it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Genre: Sci-Fi
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

A summary, shamelessly taken from Netflix, because there's no way I can summarize this movie on my own:

Stanley Kubrick's quiet masterpiece probes the mysteries of space and human destiny. While investigating the appearance of mysterious monoliths throughout the universe, astronauts David (Keir Dullea) and Frank (Gary Lockwood) battle their ship's intelligent computer, HAL-9000. This epic sci-fi drama based on Arthur C. Clarke's story "The Sentinel" was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for its stunning special effects.
I've a bit of a love-hate relationship with Stanley Kubrick's films. Lolita? Bored me. A Clockwork Orange? Good, but not something I'd be inclined to watch again. Dr. Strangelove? Eternal love. And, now, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Um, no thanks.

I totally see why this film has endured over the years, why people love it, why it is so praised, but oh my gosh this film was so not for me. I need words, characters, a story, all of which were so severely missing from this movie that I was bored out of my mind.

But, I guess I should start off with the nice things, because there are definitely plenty of positive things to be said about this movie. The effects are absolutely spectacular-- colorful, not fake-looking in the slightest, and wonderfully shown off through the (many) wide shots. They were so stunning that I occasionally forgot how bored I was, especially when they were aided by the magnificent score. I do believe that most of the score is comprised of pieces of pre-existing classical music, and each of the pieces were used fantastically. The music is evocative on its own, but when placed with the stunning visuals, it's an entirely new and captivating experience.

If only it was enough to captivate me the entire duration of the film. I understand that Kubrick was going for a quiet sort of movie, but oh my gosh I need words. I'm an absolute dialogue freak-- the wittier, the snappier, the faster, the better. It killed me that during half this movie, there is literally no speaking at all. I was going mad, hoping that someone would begin to speak to bring some life to this movie, but all too often these hopes were not met. There is definitely a smaller story within the movie, the story the summary at the beginning of this post explains, but it was so short that I was unbelievably disappointed. One that story is over, and before it even begins, it seemed to be nothing but shots of space and technology. I understand there was a purpose for them and that they told a story of their own, but I just couldn't pay attention to it when I was so desperate for noise.

Also, those apes at the beginning? I can't even. I was lucky I watched past them.

Very pretty and well-made, but bored me so much it wasn't even funny.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Talking Trailers: Battleship (2012)

The other day, my friend texted me to tell me that the trailer for Battleship (2012) was out. While telling me this, she also said, in summation, "HAHAHAHAHA TAYLOR KITSCH WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

I watched the trailer with this in mind, and for the first eighty seconds or so, I wasn't sure what she was talking about. It didn't strike me as a particularly good movie, or one with much of a compelling story, but then I hit the 1:18 mark.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Favorite Musical Numbers: "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"

Determined to post on here more!

I watched Shall We Dance (1937) not long ago and have been singing "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" to myself (which, as you may imagine, is quite awkward) ever since. I've also been desperately wishing that I could skate or had any dance abilities, because I am totally jealous of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers's mad skills. I think this is my favorite scene from any of the three films I've seen the pair in. Does is get better than dancing on skates? I don't think so.

But, really, who says "oyster" like "erster"?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Fall (2006)

Genre: Fantasy/Drama
Starring: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru
Directed by: Tarsem Singh

My interest in this film was brought about by two things: 1) the People of the Internet said it was pretty and 2) Lee Pace is in it. Because of my deep love of Lee Pace (aka Ned from Pushing Daisies!), I feel the need to support his work in any way I can, except I just can't make myself watch some of the seemingly garbage movies he's been in (Marmaduke and, soon, Breaking Dawn). Instead, I choose to view the films of his that don't seem awful, such as this one.

And now, having seen it, I must say that Lee Pace needs to do more things as awesome as this because my goodness, I really loved it.

My man plays Roy Walker, a silent film stuntman. However, his career has been put on halt because his latest big stunt left him bedridden and potentially paralyzed. Now he's in the hospital, where he meets fellow patient Alexandria (Catinca Untaru). Because even six year olds cannot resist Lee Pace, she begins hanging around him to hear the fantastic, epic tales he tells. The epic comprises half the film, but the real world tells another tale-- of Roy, who wants to kill himself, and Alexandria, who he tries to get to help him, and their developing friendship.

The thing that has helped propel this film into the heart of the People of the Internet is how visually stunning it is even when Lee Pace is not on screen. The epic tale Roy tells is freaking gorgeous. I was excited every time it was time to see his fictional story be told, because I'd be treated to images like this one:

The pretty was just lovely. The colors, the scenery, the wide shots that showed them both off. So great. I wished for more from the epic, as it often felt like the events that happened didn't matter too much as long as it was gorgeous, but whenever I wished that, I would get distracted by the beauty and not care as to what was going on. Oops?

It's hard to balance two stories within a film though, which is why I understand that neither the fantasy nor the reality are particularly awe-inducing. However, I did like both stories, particularly the realistic one, involving Roy and Alexandria's developing friendship. Alexandria is about the cutest child ever, and putting her with Roy made me almost explode from the amount of adorable. That is, when they weren't breaking my heart. Of course, any story involving a man who wants to kill himself is going to be freaking depressing, but add a child into that mix and it just gets ten times sadder. I was most definitely close to tears watching the pair as Roy got even worse.

The Fall probably would have benefited from a bit more story in its two stories, but, yeah, I don't really care. I loved this movie for its emotion, beauty, and fantastic leading characters. As soon as I finished watching it, all I wanted to do was watch it again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Gold Rush (1925)

Genre: Comedy
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Georgia Hale
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Available for free (and legal) viewing at the Internet Archive

As I attempt to figure out how to write movie reviews and get this blog actually going, I thought for a while about what type of movie I should attempt to discuss first. One of my favorites seemed like a good choice, but it's always hard for me to articulate what I love about my favorite things, so that was out.

Yesterday, I decided to watch The Gold Rush, since I hadn't seen a silent film in a while and I'm slowly trying to see all of Charlie Chaplin's work, because I love what I've already seen. And I figured that since I watched it, there was no reason not to discuss it here.

In it, Chaplin, as his famous tramp character, ventures into the Yukon to take part in the Klondike Gold Rush. However, a storm occurs not long after his arrival, forcing him into the cabin of a fugitive, along with a prospector who has recently struck gold. He also meets a girl (of course), with whom he quickly falls in love (of course).

I have a love-hate relationship with silent films; I do like them, but they always take me twice as long to watch because of how easily distracted I am. I have to pause, get up, and do something else every so often because I do not really have the type of attention span they require, especially when I watch on the computer, where the rest of the internet is always tempting to ensnare me. However, I love that they demand my attention. When watching a sound film, I get just as distracted, because it's easy to look away and still follow along by listening instead of watching. However, with silent films, especially with a Chaplin film, there is a certain attention that's required, because if you look away, you might miss something, as I am sure happened to me during my viewing of this film.

However, although I'm sure there were a few things I missed, that doesn't take away from everything I did catch. There's a seemingly never-ending supply of gags throughout this movie; most of them involve misunderstandings and actions that don't go as planned, but no matter what they are caused by, they were always enough to make me crack a smile. Of course, there are the moments where the actions seem over-the-top, but I think that's a bit expected since they kind of have to be, as physical comedy is most of what can be transmitted through silent films. Plus, the unrealistic aspect of some of the events and effects are half the fun.

The Gold Rush, despite the fact that it took me far longer than its running time to get through, was a delightful, humorous movie, even though no words are spoken during it.

This is an obligatory addendum to say that movie reviews are hard, wah wah wah, and that I apologize for the lack of actual discussion about the film in this review. I'm learning, I'm learning.