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.