Tuesday, August 16, 2011

14. On the Waterfront (1954) 8/10


-You're getting on. You're pushing 30. You know, it's time to think about getting some ambition.
-I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

Marlon Brando originally turned the lead role in this film down. Frank Sinatra would have been his replacement, and it would have been an excellent film. It's got everything: a love story, a dynamic protagonist, a solid spiritual message straight from Galatians, and a real-life historical perspective that is rarely taught about because the problems of "mob rule" in labor still hits pretty close to home today (even though the mighty corporation has taken the place of gun-toting Italians). Yes, it would have been an excellent movie, but Marlon Brando decided to take the role and one of the greatest films in history was born. His performance in this movie is not over-the-top and there are no jaw-dropping moments that could be easily pointed out for reference. Even the famous "'Coulda beena contenda" speech fits as an equal part of a greater performance that is simply flawless from start to finish.

I'll be honest, I never really got the whole "Marlon Brando-the greatest actor of all time" thing, and I still am not willing to back it one hundred percent. Let's just say that after watching this masterpiece, I understand why people say it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

13. The Lost Boys (1987) 4/10


What, you don't like rice? Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people be wrong?

Quality - 2/5
Enjoyability - 2/5

I'm not really sure why this movie is such a cult classic. The only explanation I can think of is that it solidly owns the "so bad it's good" status and is a pseudo-nostalgic trip back to what the the 17-year-old working at Hot Topic thinks 1987 must've looked like. It's not funny enough to be a comedy, geeky enough to be a vampire movie, scary (or gory) enough to be a horror, sweet enough to be a romance, or cute enough to be a kids movie. While researching it, I saw quite a few folks likening it to other '80s fare such as "The Goonies", "The Karate Kid", or "Back to the Future." No, no, a thousand times no. It doesn't hold down the whimsical charm to be remembered in the same realm as those true classics. The screenplay contains no memorable quips (which explains why I've never heard any), numerous gaping plot holes, and never truly commits to being a farce (if that was, in fact, what it was going for).

One last thing: I don't think a movie ever needs more than one "flying over the water/clouds/amusement park/cliffs" shot. This movie contains so many I lost count including three different ones in the opening five minutes. Painful, simply painful...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

12. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 6/10


I hate the British! You are defeated but you have no shame. You are stubborn but you have no pride. You endure but you have no courage. I hate the British!

Quality - 3/5
Enjoyability - 3/5

After the pure awesomeness that was "Lawrence of Arabia", I expected a little more from David Lean's previous work. Like "Lawrence", it was quite epic, but it lacked the sweeping epic story to go along with the prodding pace, gorgeous locales, and 2.6 hour runtime. The acting was also a little hammy and over-the-top (except for the absolutely perfect Sir Alec Guinness, of course). I guess that one could find some underlying theme of control, militarism, and rule-of-war, but it doesn't really make up for the simply average story.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

11. The Tree of Life (2011) 8/10


-The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things. The nuns taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.

Quality - 4/5
Enjoyability - 4/5

To help me catch up a notch, I'm including this one that I caught a couple of weeks ago in Cary. I am not a huge Terrance Malick fan, but I know the dude can make a pretty movie (and for some reason is a huge fan of shots of the wind blowing long blades of grass). I was intrigued about the buzz surrounding this movie from Cannes to US theaters issuing warnings to moviegoers about the films "slow" content, so I figured I would check it out. It was a pretty doggone good idea. Like those theaters though, I will also issue a warning: This movie has absolutely no traditional storyline either linear or otherwise. It is pretty much snippets of a "normal" 1950s family's life interspersed with classical music montages over Hubble telescope imagery, CG shots of the beginnings of life on Earth, and fantasy sequences with the central character as an adult in present day. At first, I was touched by the film's beauty, but then as the film marinated in my mind, I realized it was much more than a pretty picture. While the movie is very abstract, its themes are very simple (and best summed up by the quote above). Looking back, every (seemingly insignificant) scene tied into that struggle between nature and grace. I was touched by the film's message of love, and it is probably the single most spiritually satisfying movie I have ever seen.

10. Dead Poets Society (1989) 9/10


Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Quality 4/5
Enjoyability 5/5

By far the best movie I have seen for my new (still quite young) blog. I'm not really sure how I've missed this one for so many years. It's one that I am being constantly recommended and guaranteed that I would love. Who'd a thunk it? They were right. Still, I'm sort of glad that I didn't get around to watching it until now because I probably would have modeled even more of my teaching style around acting than I already do. Robin Williams does an amazing job capturing the essence of an astounding teacher not just because of his outstanding performance, but also because he is an actor by trade. Every day, it is a teacher's job to capture student's attention, imagination, and cognition. This really isn't much different from what a solid actor does when they go in front of the camera or on the stage. Another reason I'm not really sure why this movie passed me by for so long, was that it features Ethan Hawke (my confessed "man-crush") in one of his breakout roles. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles (of "Sportsnight" fame), and Kurtwood Smith (of "That '70s Show" fame) in awesome roles.