The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen

Goodbye.

Yes, I do mean it; I am no longer using this blog.  I will keep it up though, as a reminder of where I started.  (It’s my baby blog!)

But I can’t quit blogging – oh no no no.  I’ve become much to addicted to it.  At this point, I NEED to blog.

So for those of you who enjoy my film reviews, I would suggest keeping up to date with The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen. However, I am restricting this blog to just analysis, so no pictures with funny captions.  In this way I can use my iPhone to upload reviews, making it more enticing for me to consistently post film reviews.  I might now and again insert random commentary about my life into the review, but the focus will be on the film itself.

I would like to thank anyone who has read and has enjoyed this blog and my writings.  I hope that either one or both of these blogs will continue to entertain you.

-Erin R. Drake

Week of January 27 – Feburary 2, 2013 (“My Heart Will Go On” is now and forever stuck in my head… and I don’t know how I feel about that…)

What is with me and my habit of posting every other week?  I saw some  really great movies two weeks ago!  Why must I be so lazy and unproductive… *sigh* Oh wells, maybe February will be different…To be fair though, the one film I did see this week was a 3 hour+ epic, so I think it’s fair to say that I have compensated nicely.

1. Titanic (1997)

Titanic Image 1

I am positive that in modern times, babies are born knowing how to breathe, how to cry, the scent of their mother, and that ROSE WILL NEVER LET GO.  Honest to God, for the longest time I never felt the need to see this film because society had pretty much told me everything that happens. (Thanks a lot guys.)  And yet, despite this spoil… Titanic is undoubtedly a beautiful masterpiece that must be seen to believe its sheer epicness.

In the present day (or 1996,) a group of explorers search the Atlantic Ocean for the “RMS Titanic” in hopes of finding a priceless jewel known as the Heart of the Ocean.  Unfortunately all they can find is a sketch of a nude woman wearing the jewel in question around her neck, and this discovery is broadcasted on television.  A very old woman views this broadcast, and it is revealed that she is the woman featured in the sketch.  She agrees to meet with the crew to help them on their search for the treasure by describing her experience on the ill-fated ship.  This initiates the grand story arc of the film; in 1912, a young woman named Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) boards the gigantic ship known as the “Titanic” in Southhampton with her mother and 30-year old fiance, whom she must marry in order to keep her family out of financial ruin.  Rose is a fiery and independent thinking spirit, and longs for an uninhibited life that is in stark contrast to the aristocratic lifestyle she was born into.  While on the ship, she meets a young man named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) who only gained passage by winning tickets to the legendary vessel through a poker game.  Though he is poor, Jack has lived an enriching life that has cultivated him into an incredibly street-smart individual.  Though they are of different class, the two fall in love with each other.  Their affection grows despite Rose’s entourage attempting to keep them a part.  This wonderful love story is the main focus of the film, but it is set in the middle of one of the worst catastrophe’s of all time.  

If you are not familiar with this event, let me put it one way: BIG ship + BIG iceberg = REALLY BIG PROBLEM

If you are not familiar with this event, let me put it one way: BIG ship + BIG iceberg = REALLY BIG PROBLEM

What has impacted me the most from this film is the complexity of Rose – not necessarily as a character, but specifically as a woman.  (Did I view this film with a feminist lense?  Maybe a little.)  Apart from the recreated disaster, this film is remarkably all about Rose and her transformation aboard the “Titanic.”  She boards the ship as a spoiled girl of privilege with many revolutionary ideas, but is too afraid to fully stand up for herself against the likes of her overbearing mother and wholly jerkish fiance.  Upon meeting Jack, she is enamored by his lifestyle, but can’t admit to herself that his way of living is the way she wants to live too.  Jack is not so much of an individual character like as he is Rose’s “guardian angel”; his encouragement and words of wisdom act as her new, budding conscience.  Through him she matures from a naive girl filled with ideas into a brave, confident woman who actually acts on her ideas.

While Rose and Jack’s love story is what most people remember from this film, Titanic is also a story about the true nature of man.  In the event of an accident (crashing into an iceberg) that accelerates into an unimaginable  and horrorific reality (the sinking of the ship,) the audience witnesses what innate characteristics that lie within all humans.  Fear does not know age, or gender, or class.  All men, not matter their education, can be prone to selfish, brash, and inappropriate behavior.  At the same time, even in the most hellish of situations, compassion and pure, undying love can also be found within the human spirit. 

The actors portray these basic expressions beautifully.  Whether they are a young couple holding on to each other for dear life, a family fighting to stay together when everything else they have is gone, or a group of musicians performing to their deaths because it is what they were born to do, every character displays genuine expressions that can be found within anyone.  Director James Cameron does an unbelievable job at somehow capturing and representing not only the human element of the event, but the magnitude of the event itself.  Much like his other notable film Avatar, Cameron overpowers the viewer as he sucks them into a world that is unfamiliar, yet feels eerily real. 

Maybe certain aspects of the film would have been more touching or shocking if I was not already aware of their existence.  And yet this film nonetheless managed to truly move me – THAT is the mark of a great and endearing work of cinema.  At times I wondered if I only “felt something” because of the hype that dresses the film in our culture, but I truly think this hype is well deserved.  And even though I have heard “My Heart Will Go On” to the extent of overkill, its use in the film strangely felt appropriate and just very right.

I close the review with this iconic image.  Now, go to YouTube, pull up "My Heart Will Go On" (only use the Celine Dion version if you are brave enough) and begin to cry.  It's okay - no one will judge you, honest.

I close the review with this iconic image. Now, go to YouTube, pull up “My Heart Will Go On” (only use the Celine Dion version if you are brave enough) and begin to cry. It’s okay – no one will judge you, honest.

5/5

Week of January 13 – 19, 2013 (Heavy Metal Head Thrashin’ 101)

I only watched one film this week – what is wrong with me?!?! I am so used to writing long, looooooooooooooooong entries, but this one will be fairly short.

Actually in general I am going to try to keep all of my film reviews to about three paragraphs each: summary, reflection of technical aspects (actors, director’s choices, etc.) and then my final, personal analysis of the film.  That way the reviews feel more structured and my thoughts aren’t running around so freely, like unruly butterflies with ADD. 

1. Rock of Ages (2012)

215px-Rock_of_ages_film_poster

I saw that my mom had picked this film up from the library, and I thought, “Ooo, this looks like fun!”  In certain ways this movie was entertaining… But compared to other film adaptions of musicals that I’ve seen, there are quite a few spots that make me want to scream “meh.”

Rock of Ages mainly focuses on the music used in the film, which includes a wide-range of classic rock n’ roll hits from the 1980s.  Due to this focus, the plot is fairly simple.  A young woman with dreams of becoming a rock star (Julianne Hough) makes her way out to California.  When she arrives at the West Coast, she meets another young man (Diego Boneta) with wide-eyed rock dreams as big as her own.  He helps give her a job as a waitress at a club called the Bourbon Room.  A crisis looms over the Bourbon Room as the owner (Alec Baldwin) and his helper (Russell Brand) try to come up with a plan to raise enough money to pay off unpaid taxes.  

Well, ya know, if they had paid the damn taxes in the first place instead of avoiding them and "the system," or whatever it is lazy rock n' rollers love to do - then their main source of income probably wouldn't be in such  a dire position.  Just saying.

Well, ya know, if they had paid the damn taxes in the first place instead of avoiding them and “the system,” or whatever it is lazy rock n’ rollers love to do – then their main source of income probably wouldn’t be in such a dire position. Just saying.

Eventually the owners come in touch with a greasy manager (Paul Giamatti) who promises to bring the legendary Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) to perform at the club.  While the club gets in a frenzy over the arrival of a rock God, and the two young people fall in love for what “feels like the first time,” (see what I did there?)  a group of conservative protestors led by the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) stand outside in the streets with their picket signs and lead crosses.

Apparently all of the actors in the film sang their own part, including Tom Cruise.  This surprised me, since I never thought of him as a singer.  A really good and REALLY crazy actor? Sure.  But a rock god with a harem of bimbos ready to fulfill his every desire at any given time?  Honestly not really. 

Sexy....... Beast??

Sexy……. Beast??

All of the performances were decent, though I didn’t understand Russell Brand’s role in the film.  Unless being eccentric and British counts as a “role,” then nevermind.  The one performance I absolutely loved came from Catherine Zeta-Jones; you do not even have to be familiar with her part in 2002′s Chicago to know that singing and dancing is completely her element.   This woman was hamming up her role as an ultra-conservative, fuddy-duddy at the highest level, and it was fantastic.  I wish all of the other actors took their parts as “seriously,” because what more appropriate film is there to be outrageous than one that includes songs most people only sing when they are totally drunk out of their minds?

The end credits of the film were similar to those that concluded another musical-movie adaption, Hairspray.  This makes sense as both films were directed by Adam Shankman.  Like Hairspray, Rock of Ages is a purely entertaining film with great songs most people already know and love.  But as I mentioned earlier, the film seemed to lack the momentum of other movie-musicals that I have seen.  This genre of film is hard because for one thing, the director has to transcribe a story made specifically for the confines of a stage onto the much more spacious movie screen.  Also, I felt like most of the songs in the movie acted as a soundtrack versus pieces of sung dialogue.  This created an almost anticlimactic feel within the film for me, like the plot really wasn’t pushing forward towards any grand destination.  I would have to watch and analyze more movie-musicals to really understand the mechanics behind ones that work and ones that don’t work, but this is my general consensus.

Overall the film is fun, especially for anyone who loves 80s rock.  Personally for me, I associate true rock with names such as CCR, Van Morrison, a little Black Sabbath… yeah, you know what I’m talking about – classic rock.  But perhaps my greatest disappointment from the film is that no one – NOT A SINGLE PERSON – mentioned anything about their amps going up to an 11.  Or Stonehenge.

3/5

 

Week of January 6-12, 2013 (The “Exploitation Entertainment” Genre is Explored, while Puppeteering Takes a Twisted Turn)

Last week I watched a whole slew of films – so many, it led me to decide that I should only review my top 5 favorites of the week, while any other films that I view shall receive a small acknowledgement.  This change came about because it took me about 2 1/2 hours to write 5 reviews the first time.  Anyway, something called the human condition occurred, and I ended up not writing anything for that week. (In the event that I watch any of those films from that week again, I will be sure to include them in my online journal.  You know, to make them feel special and wanted.)

ironically I only watched two films this week, and by not writing a post for two films would only demonstrate a lack of gumption.  And boy howdy do I want people to know that I’ve got gumption.  It is such an admirable quality to have.

Both of the films were excellent and thought-provoking, but not everyone can be #1.  A decision had to be made.  

2. The Truman Show (1998)Truman Show TP

Upon mentioning to a friend how much I wanted to see this movie, he then lent me a copy of the film to watch.  I have such nice friends.

True riends certainly are people you appreciate more after watching this film.  The Truman Show stars Jim Carrey as the title character, Truman Burbank.  Truman lives in a perfect island community with his lovely wife, best friend, cheerful neighbors, and satisfying job.  One day as Truman heads out for work, the continuity of his daily routine is shattered as a spotlight falls from the sky and crashes right in front of him.  From that moment on, Truman begins to suspect that his so-called “perfect” life actually harbors a secret that everyone is aware of but him.

This secret is that Truman does not actually live in the town of Seahaven, but a ginormous dome located in the middle of Hollywood.  His friends and family are all actors playing a scripted role in his life, which has been recorded and broadcasted to the entire world since he first exited the safety of the womb.  The creator of this grandiose reality television show is a man named Christof (Ed Harris.)  He created such a show in order to capture genuine human emotions, as he believes such emotions no longer exist in a horribly corrupt and cruel world. 

As Truman begins to learn more about the true nature of his life, he comes to the conclusion that he must somehow leave Seahaven.  This task proves nearly impossible as Christof’s enormous team of co-conspirators always manage to block Truman in his path.  The greatest roadblock Truman must overcome is his fear of sailing on water.  This fear was instilled in him since his father “drowned” on a sailing trip during a fierce thunderstorm when he was a boy.  This traumatizing experience was planned and executed by Christof for the very reason of giving Truman thalassophobia, eliminating any possibility that Truman could leave the island and therefore the show.

It’s ironic that Christof’s motives derive from his desire to create a genuine person in a perfect society, when all his efforts do so are the result of manipulation and deceit.  Also, if his purpose in creating the Truman Show was to somehow show the rest of the world what a real human was, was it done to set an example for others to follow?  If so, that plan failed completely, as the fans of the Truman Show watch Truman’s drama occur while stuffing fistfuls of popcorn into their gaping mouths.  Some people only sit to watch Truman’s life shatter before him because nothing better is on TV.

Truman desperately tries to escape his situation so that he can live a REAL genuine life.  Though the world is corrupt in numerous aspects that make can make living a legitimate hell, there are also just as many good aspects that remind us why living is worthwhile.  To try to determine which of these good aspects are the best can come down to a personal opinion.  To force these opinions onto someone as the only way of living, a Christof has done to Truman, is not living a genuine life.  Rather, it is a life of oppression that is void of free will.  These conditions are similar to those imposed by an overbearing, tyrannical government.

The film came out in 1998, a time in which reality TV had not become a staple genre in our culture.  It should be noted that I LOATHE REALITY TELEVISION SHOW WITH A BURNING PASSION. 

"The Learning Channel?" As if - more like "The Let's-Exploit-and-Degrade-Every-Minority-Group Channel."

“The Learning Channel?” As if – more like “The Let’s-Exploit-and-Degrade-Every-Minority-Group Channel.”

The popularity of reality TV lies in the fact that some people love to see individuals related to some interesting group live their “normal” lives.  Of course, their version of normal often includes making asses of themselves for the amusement of the home viewer.   While Truman understands his unfortunate predicament and wants to escape it, it shocks me that there are Real Housewives and Honey Boo-Boos in this country that are essentially in the same situation, but are there by choice.  They allow their lives to be exploited and manipulated for the sick amusement of others.  At least these people are receiving something Truman never did; compensation in the form of an outrageous sum of cash.  Who knew bumbling ignorance and sheer stupidity paid so well these days.

(It should be noted that The Truman Show provided Jim Carrey the vehicle for which he was able to display his talents as a dramatic actor.  His pliable face suited him well to play a character who is loved by millions for his ability to portray unadulterated expressions.  All I can say is that I like Truman Burbank more than I did that utterly obnoxious Ace Ventura.) 

4/5

 

1. Being John Malkovich (1999)

Being John Malkovich TP

Typically after I am done watching a film, I have a pretty solid opinion on it.  But for the first time in my life, I finished watching a movie feeling… confused.  It’s not that I didn’t like Being John Malkovich, on the contrary.  What I’m confused about is exactly HOW much I liked it.

This truly is a one-of-a-kind film.  The plot centers on the awkward, greasy puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) who lives with his frazzled wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz.)  Craig finally decides to get a real job as his oddly disturbing and uncomfortably fascinating   special hobby has not proven to be a lucrative career.  He manages to acquire a job as a file clerk in an office that is on floor 7 1/2.  Literally, workers must use a crowbar to jam the elevator to enter the low-ceiling work environment. 

If the movie starting out with a bizarre puppet show wasn't a strong enough hint, it should be obvious by now that this movie is  a grade-A mind f#!%.

If the movie starting out with a bizarre puppet show wasn’t a strong enough hint, it should be obvious by now that this movie is a grade-A mind f#!%.

While organizing file cabinets one day, Craig stumbles upon a doorway.  Through exploration he discovers the doorway leads straight into the mind of actor John Malkovich.

Wait… as in THE John Malkovich?  You mean the guy in that one film who played sex-ladden mind games alongside Glenn Close, and ended up falling in love with Michelle Pfeiffer, but not before banging Uma Thurman?  Like, the legit actor John Malkovich?

…Whoah… Okay then.

Craig stays in this unique wonderland for only 15 minutes.  He is then dropped into a ditch near the New Jersey Turnpike… Okay then.  He shares the discovery with his wife who eventually enters the doorway for her own adventure.  She makes her the discovery that by “being” John Malkovich – a man – she comes to the realization that her life as been unsatisfying because she has never embraced the fact that she feels most comfortable being a man… Okay then.

Craig also shares this discovery with co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener,) a formidable and sexy woman who persuades Craig into turning the doorway into a business venture with her.  The two charge customers $200 to be someone else.  There happens to be a long line for this experience, which I’m not sure should be a surprising discovery or not. 

Many ideas are presented throughout the film.  One that stood out to me is the role of the celebrity in our culture.  I am not sure why John Malkovich was chosen as the real-life celebrity for the film.  It also frustrates me that I will never be able to watch this film as the first audiences did with a strong, predetermined opinion about the actor and his persona.  (Hell, years from now people might watch the film and not realize that John Malkovich was a real American actor.)  Regardless, choosing an actor who apparently lives a low-key lifestyle suites the film perfectly.  Customer’s enter Malkovich’s mind dissatisfied with their life, and exit completely reborn after watching John consume his breakfast, or make mundane phone calls.  That is how we use celebrities in our culture; though most of them truly lead unremarkable lifestyles, they have been elevated as gods; they have generated enigmas for us to idolize and emulate.  Just by merely existing, certain celebrities inspire certain people to become the individuals that they want to be.  I think its fair to say that no one is immune to doing this.  From personal experience, I can say that part of who I am today is out of admiration for celebrities that completely enchant me. 

At a later point in the film, Craig learns that he can physically control John Malkovich’s body, and literally takes over and becomes  John Malkovich.  This further perpetrates the idea of what celebrities mean to our society. In idolizing them, we  force them to exploit themselves for our benefit.  By the end of the movie, all I really wanted to do was to find John Malkovich, give him a hug, and whisper “I’m sorry they hurt you.”  (That’s not weird, right?)

The larger point of the film is that we as a collective group essentially hate our lives.  Why is that?  Why do most people find it impossible to be happy with their own bodies?  And why are celebrities given the daunting responsibility of  being our inspiration?  Oh, such complex questions to ask in a mere film review.  They are good questions, and is embarrassing to realize that most people do live their lives by creating themselves through others.  Actually no, I take that back – I think its fair to say that EVERYONE is shaped by someone else.  Actors happen to exert engaging qualities most individuals do not have, but even they have idols and people they admire and wish to be.  Is there truly a person that exists that has created an identity that has not been shaped by others?  I don’t think so.  Is that a bad thing?  Is it even possible to create a wholly original identity? 

I hate to throw out all of these questions without answers, but they are the final thoughts I have after watching this film.  Maybe that’s why I feel so unsettled, because I still have all of these philosophical thoughts running through my head.  In time I hope to find solutions for these questions, and simultaneously I believe I will come to realize just how amazing this film is.  For truly the best films are the ones that make you question life to the point where you are changed from the experience.  Not necessarily in a completely turn-about fashion (though I suppose they could,) but definitely in a way that somehow evolves your individual thinking and viewpoint on your existence.  By these standards, a good film is exactly like entering someone else’s head – except far less intrusive and creepy.

5/5

Week of December 23, 2012 (The Perfect Family Christmas, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Bubbies,” and SPACE HERPES!)

So this is my “first” film review in the new format.   Hopefully it works better than the last one. 

“Erin….” the hesitant viewer asks in a very small voice, “Wha –what about Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘bubbies?’  Actually, what are bubbies?  And for God sakes, WHAT IS A SPACE HERPE?!?!”

Shhhhh dear viewer, all in good time.  My seemingly irrelevant subtitle will soon make sense.  Read on – starting with the most loathed movie of the week and ending with the most loved.

 

5. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare_in_Love_1998_Poster

One of the most interesting classes I took last semester was a course in Shakespeare.  Well actually the subject matter was a bit lackluster… but the teacher, now HE was a character.  Anyhow, he promised the class that after our final he would show us Shakespeare in Love.

“Oh my gosh, I love that movie!” the girl next to me exclaimed.  I was excited; surely then I would love this movie too.

“I just have to make sure to cover the screen when Gwyneth Paltrow’s shows her ‘bubbies,’” said the teacher.  “I only call them that because that’s what they are called in the movie.” 

(What did I tell you?  My subtitle is totally relevant.)

We ended up not watching the film in class, but I was so revved up to watch it (for the Shakespeare, not the bubbies) that I was happy to find that I could access the movie on Netflix.

Yeah.

It’s not that I didn’t love the movie.  It’s just that I really, really, really despise this film more than I ever thought I would.

A more fitting title of the film would be Shakespeare in Fellatio, or something just as crude.  The story is about an incredibly attractive William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) who has sold the rights to his next play to multiple theatres.  The only problem is that he has not written an actual play, and is waiting for the right muse to come along and inspire him.  Because I guess his usual hussies just don’t do it for him anymore.

The muse comes in the form of the aristocratic Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltow) who is absolutely in love with theatre.  She is so devoted to the craft that once Shakespeare begins auditions for his unfinished play, she shows up dressed as a boy in order to receive a part, as women were not allowed to act during the Elizabethan era.

Eventually Shakespeare learns that the boy is actually a beautiful woman, and the two begin a grand love affair.  This is when I really started hating this movie, because this “grand affair” is based off of a silly girl being in love with a poet who is skilled with two kinds of pens, and a destitute play write who becomes infatuated with another PYT.  That’s not love – that’s just stupid and shallow. 

None the less, it is this affair that ignites Shakespeare’s fire to write a play, perhaps the greatest play of all time.  And what is this play?  Why ROMEO AND FRIGGIN’ JULIET.  That play is so removed from detailing “true love,” it makes me want to slap every melodramatic preteen in the face who thinks 2 weeks  is enough time to create a deep relationship.

Unfortunately, the two smitten lovers are not meant to be together, as Viola’s family has betrothed her to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) who plans to take Viola with him to the new world of Virginia. 

Oh boo hoo.

Oh boo hoo.

I knew Paltrow had won an Oscar for her role in this movie, and I do think that she did an enchanting job at portraying a love-sick puppy, which is what Viola/Juliet essentially is.  I also knew Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I won an Oscar as well, even though she was in the movie for three flashes of a minute.   I have to wonder, did this utterly annoying film win any other awards?

Oh, it won Best Picture at the 71st Academy Awards?  Wow… If that was the winner, I can only imagine how good the other nominees were.

 2.5/5

 

4.  Pitch Perfect (2012)

220px-Promotional_poster_for_film__Pitch_Perfect_

Every girl my age seems to love this movie.  Granted, I don’t hate it as much as Shakespeare in Love, but I really do not need to see this film again.  I can – and I surprisingly have – but I’d rather not.

The film is a combination between the raw girl-power found in films such as Bridemaids with a singing, “let’s do a new rendition of this popular song,” element that has made TV shows like Glee and SMASH so popular.  The story centers on an all-female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, as they try to round up new members to join the group.  Many are reluctant however, as the Bellas suffered a public humiliation at the last International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and have become a joke.  A riff-raff group of girls is eventually formed, including the loner Beca (Anna Kendrick) who would rather mix different music tracks together than connect with other human beings.

The veteran members try to get the new members performance ready by having them rehearse the usual Bella repertoire of placid pop songs, which they perform at EVERY competition.  Beca suggests they sing different songs, and maybe even sing two songs at the same time in lieu of the music that she creates.  This idea is initially shot down – but this a predictable brand of movie.  So of course the Bellas eventually follow Beca’s suggestion, and of course they win the big ol’ championship, and of course Beca gets the attractive boy (Skylar Astin) in the end.

People like this movie because of the songs because really, deep down, we all love it when rehearsed singers redo our favorite tunes.  People also like this movie because of the humor, which I found to be awkward at times.  Actually, I find the humor in a lot of modern comedies to be awkward.  And what’s even weirder is that the films are self-aware of this awkwardness, and yet they allow the awkward jokes to exist anyway.

I have to admit I love the character of Fat Amy, played by the talented and wholly entertaining Rebel Wilson.  If you watch this movie for any reason, watch it for her.  She is literally genius.

 

GENIUS

GENIUS

3/5

 

3.  Ice Pirates (1984)

215px-Ice_pirate

This movie is so 1980s, it hurts.  In a good way though – at least for me.

Ice Pirates is a film I knew wasn’t supposed to be good, and yet I rather enjoyed myself.  It was like I was dropped into the head of an imaginative adolescent boy growing up in the 80s, who was inspired to write a sci-fi short story after watching Star Wars for the umpteenth time.  (I think he might have read Dune a few times as well.)  Oddly enough, this short-story transformed into a film.

I really do think a young boy would have had to conjure up this story because:

  1.  The film pushes the viewer headfirst into a world where water is the greatest treasure, and thieves known as Ice Pirates are always trying to steal it from those that have it in order to sell it on the black market.  (“Forget back story!”  the little boy seems to say, “let’s get right into the action!”)
  2. Anything is possible in this universe, including unicorns, and toad-people, and a slave-trade system in which male prisoners are castrated before being turned into androgynous, silver-colored drones.  As you can imagine, there is no explanation for any of these elements, other than “just because.”
  3. The sexually innuendos installed are not particularly inspired, but they do work for some good old fashioned cheap laughs.  For instance, an alien creature is presented known as a Space Herpe that only exists so that there could be a herpe related joke in the film.  Classy. 
"So what does a space herpe look - HOLY CRAP, WHAT ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH IS THAT?"  (The answer to your question.)

“So what does a space herpe look – HOLY CRAP, WHAT ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH IS THAT?” (The answer to your question.)

Speaking of sex, there is also a totally unnecessary, yet incredibly hot love scene between the leading actor and actress (Robert Urich and Mary Crosby.)  Again, remember who wrote the script for this thing.I can’t hate this movie.  It’s silly, but obviously a lot of effort was put into it.  Like everyone involved had no idea just how much of a stinker this film was going to be, so they went full out to create a unique space opera.  It reminds me of another movie I saw at my Uncle’s house years ago, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.  I don’t remember what it was about, but I certainly remember that is was thoroughly entertaining. 

3.5/5

 

2.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

 220px-NationalLampoonsChristmasVacationPoster

Surpisingly, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas movies this year.  Does that make me a bad person?  At least the one that I did see is one the best.

 For those who haven’t had the pleasure to see the film, it tells the simple story of one man, Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase,) who just wants to have the perfect family Christmas.  Lots of antics ensue that stand in the way of making this dream a reality, but like all Christmas entertainment, everything works out to create a jolly, happy ending.

 Anyone can relate to something in this movie.  Whether it be the stress of fitting all of your family members under one roof, finding the perfect Christmas tree, stringing the house with a bazillion lights, or the anxiety that comes with waiting for a Christmas bonus – the Griswald family Christmas could very well be a reflection of your family Christmas. 

 There are other, subtle nuances in the film that truly make it a master work of comedy. 

shitter

Like this gem.

However my favorite part of the movie isn’t a joke or a gag, but rather a touching moment experienced by Clark.  At one point in the film, Clark stumbles across some old home-movies depicting Christmases of years past.  The look on his face is genuine as he becomes lost in the nostalgia and wonder of what Christmas used to be in a simpler time.  I think the best Christmases are those that reside in our childhood, and as we grow older we try to recreate these “perfect” Christmases.  So we get our entire family under one roof, we buy everyone lavish gifts, etc… All in hopes that in doing so, we can regain that same feeling of Christmas bliss that we once felt.  But as the season draws to a close, it becomes obvious that our efforts are fruitless.  You can’t just make a perfect Christmas.  They happen on their own, and they become more perfect and wonderful the longer they simmer in our memories, always there for us to reflect on and enjoy.

4.5/5

 

1.       The Dead (1987)

 195px-Thedeadposter1987

Technically this isn’t a Christmas movie, but I will always consider it one.

 Last year, Christmas Eve came around the genesis of my Anjelica Huston obsession.  On that night I really wanted to watch a movie she was in, so I just choose this one to rent off of iTunes.  I have to say, it was one of the best  choices I have ever made.

The Dead is based off of a short-story by James Joyce.  It is also the last film John Huston directed before he died.  The short-story itself is a wonderful read, and somehow that beauty found within the prose was translated perfectly to the screen.  The story is a snapshot of an Epiphany party – a Christian feast day occurring after New Year’s – held by two elderly sisters in 1904 Dublin.  Many people attend this party, including Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston.)

 I have truly never seen a movie like this before, and it continues to astound and enchant me.  There are so many scenes between the guests depicting the manner in which people addressed each other during those times.  The dialogue was tricky to understand at first, but it was a challenge I warmly accepted.  I wish I could attend a party like the one in the film – a party where ladies found partners to dance with, a party where men secluded themselves in a parlor room to have a few drinks.  A party where individuals sang, played the piano, and read poetry for the entertainment of others.  To me, nothing seems more romantic.

 Gabriel is nervous for most of the party, for he has been asked to deliver a speech at dinner.  Gabriel is presented as an awkward man, a fact I found more evident in the short-story.  He is not completely socially inept, but enough so that he does not truly understand the feelings of others and how to deal with them.  At one point during the party, he engages in conversation with an Irish nationalist, who accuses him of being a “West Briton,” or an Irish person who does not support his own country.  In retaliation to her remarks, Gabriel tries to overcompensate during his dinner speech by praising the Irish people.  He praises the individuals who have passed on that have influenced the living, but also comments that those people, along with the past, should with time be forgotten by the living so that they can move on with their lives.

 The irony of his speech becomes apparent later as Gabriel prepares to leave the party.  He notices his wife stop as she walks down the stairs, entranced by a song someone is singing.  At first Gabriel thinks nothing of it, but as the couple travels to a hotel for the evening, Gabriel senses that his wife is distraught.  At the hotel, Gretta reveals that the song she overheard is the same song a boy used to sing to her when she was a young girl.  Gretta goes on to say that she was in love with the boy, who was to leave her in order to be sent to a convent far away.  Before he left, the boy stood outside Gretta’s window in the pouring rain in order to say goodbye to her.  He became sick after the incident, and unfortunately died.  It is obvious that though the boy has long been dead, Gretta is still deeply in love with him, a fact Garbriel never knew before that night. As Gretta cries herself to sleep, Gabriel does not know how to comfort her. 

the dead

You could try to console your troubled wife… Or you could look on awkwardly, that’s an option too I suppose.

Instead he looks outside the window and contemplates on his wife’s story, his speech from earlier, and the relationship between the living and the dead.

 Again, I still cannot believe how seemlessly the shortstory was adapted into to film.  The simple beauty of the story is captured perfectly, and all of the vignettes installed - some of which where not found in the original story – make perfect sense when place alongside each other.  At times it seemed like the camera was focused on Anjelica longer than it needed to be, but you can’t blame a father for wanting to focus on his daughter.  This is not an example of nepotism, but rather a sign of respect and admiration.  In fact, knowing that the film stars the director’s daughter, uses a screenplay written by his son (Tony Huston,) and focuses on a subject matter that he loved deeply (Ireland and it’s people) makes the film all that more personal and sentimental.

The reason I see this as being a great Christmas movie is because the message of the story is appropriate for end of the year.  (That, and it snows in the movie.)  The Dead deals with making the best out of your life while you are still living, because at some point we are all going to die.

 “One by one they were all becoming shades.  Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and whither dismally with age.”

 It is also important to make the best use of our time while we are living, because we do not know what influence we will have on others once we are gone.  These are the thoughts that I like to reflect upon as the New Year approaches.  This is also the type of film, which I can only describe as absolutely beautiful, that I like to watch as snow falls softly onto the world on a winter’s night.

 “His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all of the living and the dead.” 

 5/5

Change of Plans

I can’t do this anymore.

Now hold on you lurkers, I don’t mean what you think I mean. Though if you did gasp in shock, I’m honored that you care so much about my blog that the thought of me ending it frightens you.

What I mean to say is that I can’t blog the way that I’ve been blogging. My goal was to post a review for every movie I watch fairly soon after I watch it. While my reviews are entertaining, the effort put into creating them has made it incredibly daunting for me to write one. I’ve literally become too scared to watch movies now because of the thought of having to write a long review for them.

“But Erin,” you say, “no one would know if you watched a movie and didn’t post a review for it.” True, BUT I WOULD KNOW. And I like to be a honest person, including with myself. The guilt of not writing a review when I told myself that I would…. Well, it would be excruciatingly painful.

Here is what I plan to do now instead: Originally when idea of starting a film review blog began formulating in my head, I thought I would post one review every month. In that one post I would list all of the movies I had seen that month and talk about the 5 films that I liked the best. It was going to be a segment called, “Five Fantastic Films,” because I absolutely adore alliteration. Now I want to combine this idea with what I am doing currently.

Each week I will post an entry in which I give a small review for every film that I saw over the past week. (Of course by my standards, “small” is still probably going to equal, like, a thousand-jillion words.). Out of those films, I MIGHT choose one – likely my favorite – to highlight. That is, if I have the time/feel inclined to do so. This film will be given a proper review, including a full summary, insightful analysis, and delightful pictures with witty captions. Because I know you all love those pictures.

(A voice in my head pipes up. ” ‘You all?’ Who are you referring to? Nobody reads your blog except, like, two people.”

“And those two people are awesome,” I reply smiling. My smile quickly fades though, upon the realization that I’m having a conversation with a voice in my head, thus meaning I might be developing schizophrenia… Which would be really fun.)

By doing this I hope I will feel more encouraged to write. My reviews will start to feel more like journal entries, but I never set out to sound like a professional. I just want to have fun. Oh, and now I have a new goal: FINE MY FAVORITE MOVIE. I don’t really have one, but I want one. I want to find a film that has a great story, acting, directing, etc., and message. The message, or what I take away from the film, is the most important factor in deciding my favorite film. For it must be a movie that defines my personality – that when I declare it as my favorite movie, it gives people an accurate feel for what I am like as a person. Because people always judge others based on their favorite movie. (“Oh, you like the (I)Avengers(I)? Wow, I think someone is jumping on the bandwagon of generic, summer-blockbuster fan fare.”) It is vital that I choose a film that fits me perfectly. I know it is very likely that my favorite film will change over time. But I can’t think of any film that I feel like deserves the #1 slot. I mean, I do love The Addams Family … But my favorite film should actually be a “film film,” ya know? Otherwise my membership to the Official Cinephile Association might be terminated. That absolutely cannot happen. I WORKED TOO DAMN HARD FOR THAT MEMBERSHIP.

Sabrina (1954)

The other day I was with a group of girls discussing various women we admire.  One of the girls mentioned Audrey Hepburn, a name that immediately conjures words such as “classy,” “elegant,” and “sophisticated.”  Such terms to describe the actress are very appropriate.  Though I did not like Breakfast at Tiffany’s as much as I thought I would, (it only proved that parties in the 60s were awkward/dorky-in-a-bad-way before the drug culture started to gain momentum) I was still impressed by the charm Audrey exuded.  Hers is a certain kind of glamour that many try to emulate.  I think it has something to do with the fact that Audrey wasn’t a “sexy” kind of beautiful, like that of Marilyn Monroe, but a different, more understated variety of beauty.  The simplicity of this glamour is what speaks to a lot of women; that a woman doesn’t have to be a pin-up vixen, or have the looks of one, in order to be attractive. 

SBRNA 

            After the discussion, I was very much interested in wanting to watch another Audrey Hepburn movie to see more of her characteristic appeal.  I have always noticed Sabrina pop up when I browse through the endless sea of Netflix titles, but I have not had an inclination to watch it until now.

            The film begins with a shot of a mansion, as Audrey’s voice is heard telling the audience a story that starts “Once upon a time…”  I found this introduction, if clichéd, to be surprisingly cute and charming.  Through this narration the audience is introduced to the central players of the film.  The impressive estate is owned by the Larrabee family.  The family has two sons, one of which is a professional playboy (William Holden.)  The other, in contrast, is a professional workaholic (Humphrey Bogart.)  The Larrabee’s have many people working for them, including a chauffeur and his  daughter, Sabrina Fairchild, played by the one and only Audrey. 

            Sabrina has grown up around the affluent lifestyle of the Larrabee’s, but has never actually been a part of it.  Instead she watches as lavish parties take place on an outdoor patio, dreaming about David Larrabee, the notorious playboy.    

Aiming for the bad boy I see.  *pff* Typical.

Aiming for the bad boy I see. *pff* Typical.

            Unfortunately David pays little mind to Sabrina’s existence, and instead chases around other young women to Sabrina’s torment. 

            Sabrina is expected to leave for culinary school in France, but the night before her departure she is overcome with a horrible bout of hopelessness.  She convinces herself that David is never going to love her like she loves him and the only way to handle the situation is to kill herself.  She then proceeds to enter the Larrabee’s garage, turns on all of the expensive cars, and then tries to sleep in a cloud of monoxide poisoning.  However the other Larrabee brother, Linus, manages to find the lovesick puppy just in time to save her life.  Oh darn, I guess that means she has to go to Paris.

            Two years pass.  In that time David becomes engaged to a pretty young woman who just so happens to be the daughter of a wealthy business man.  One day as David is driving around town he comes across a sophisticated woman standing alone by herself at the train station.  Being the playboy that he is, David jumps at the chance to drive the woman to her destination.  It is soon revealed that the mysterious young woman is non-other than Sabrina, completely transformed after her stay in Paris.

A shorter haircut and a pooch tends to do that to a woman.

A shorter haircut and a pooch tends to do that to a woman.

            Despite having matured greatly during her time abroad, Sabrina is still completely in love with David.  Though she is well aware of David’s upcoming marriage, she is completely confident that her new cosmopolitan ways will win over his heart.

            An engagement party for David and his fiancé is given shortly after Sabrina’s arrival.  Instead of watching the party from afar as she normally would have done, Sabrina arrives at the party upon David’s invitation wearing an absolutely gorgeous, and dare I say iconic, ball gown.

I’m fairly positive that anything Audrey Hepburn has ever worn is considered iconic.  If she were to show up at a party wearing nothing but a potato sack and a pair of crocs, *BAM* iconic.

I’m fairly positive that anything Audrey Hepburn has ever worn is considered iconic. If she were to show up at a party wearing nothing but a potato sack and a pair of crocs, *BAM* iconic.

            Sabrina’s arrival truly is a Cinderella moment as every man at the party turns toward her wondering who she is.  To her delight, David is completely smitten with her to the point where he forgets his fiancé even exists.  He manages to steal a dance with Sabrina and the two plan to meet intimately in the indoor tennis courts.

            There was once a time in my life where I too was smitten by a boy.  Like Sabrina, I was also welcomed with unrequited love.  Also like Sabrina, I dreamed of the day where I would blossom into an incredibly attractive woman.  Unlike Sabrina, instead of fantasizing about using my newfound charms to win the boy’s heart, I realized I was too damn good for the idiot.  I instead fantasized about flaunting my wares in a taunting fashion.  These fantasies also included me singing “I’m Still Standing” with a tribe of background dancers performing an intimidating dance routine.

            The aristocratic party in Sabrina is incredibly lavish and is the most perfect scene for Sabrina to make her dreams come true.  As she runs off to the tennis courts to meet her Prince Charming, I couldn’t help but smile at her good fortune.  (Even if I thought it would be best for her health if she stopped obsessing over the dumb schmuck.)  Unfortunately, father Larrabee and Linus notice the attraction between the couple and round up David before he can meet Sabrina for their rendezvous.

            The audience then learns that David’s marriage to the wealthy socialite will actually come to represent a business deal between the Larrabee’s and the bride’s family.  But David doesn’t love his fiancé anymore – of course – and realizes that his heart has always belonged to Sabrina (says the playboy with three failed marriages already under his belt.) 

            At the tennis courts, Sabrina is finally received by Linus.  He comes to talk with her about her budding relationship with David in hopes to discourage it.  They talk, they walk, they sip on some champagne, and they dance a little bit.  Linus even gives Sabrina a small peck of a kiss.  My heart began to flutter at this point in the movie; what a wonderful ending!  I suspected that soon Linus would realize that he was in love with Sabrina too, and Sabrina would realize that Linus was her Prince Charming all along!

            I paused the movie for moment in order to get some water.  That’s when I realized the film was only half-way over.  What?  What more does this story have to tell?

            Quite a number of things:  For instance, the peck that Linus gives Sabrina was apparently only step one of the master plan to get Sabrina out of David’s life.  The plan in its entirety involves Linus making Sabrina fall in love with him instead, in hopes that he can eventually coax her into traveling to France with him.  And by “with,” Linus really means “without, but given a hefty sum of cash to compensate for a broken heart and shattered dreams.”

What the heck Bogey?  I don’t care how much you dislike her silly hat – you can’t just get rid of something by shipping it off to a foreign country.  It’s rude.

What the heck Bogey? I don’t care how much you dislike her silly hat – you can’t just get rid of something by shipping it off to a foreign country. It’s rude.

            Sabrina, although being in black-and-white, was released the same year as the last film I reviewed, Dial M for Murder.  I mentioned how the second act in that film started to lag in comparison to the excitement of the first act.  Unfortunately, Sabrina, follows this same pattern. I don’t know if it’s fair to say it is because it was released in 1954, and all films released in 1954 have awesome beginnings and sluggish endings, but it is something I noticed.  (I notice tiny comparisons like this, and they make me wonder if they are just coincidences or mean something on a grander scale.)  I believe the reason for Sabrina’s unenthusiastic last half is due to the fact that all of a sudden, the story shifts from being about the title character, Sabrina Fairchild, to the stuffy Linus Larrabee.  The reason I fell in love with Sabrina’s story is because I could relate to her lovelorn plight and I was very interested to see how her fairy tale would end.  If the film had been about Linus Larrabee from the onset, I probably would have been able to sympathize and care more for the character.  But the film is called Sabrina, not Linus, and I after the first half of the movie I was expecting a love story that was catered to the “little girl who dreams of her Prince Charming” part of me, not the “I’m never going to find true love because the real world is no place for dreamers, but maybe this new person in my life can change all that” side of my personality.  (I actually prefer those types of films, so honestly a film focused on Linus wouldn’t be so incredibly boring to me.  But like I said, I was promised cake, I became really excited to eat cake, and at the last minute was served ice cream.  Excuse me for being a little upset.)

            The ending is cute and almost makes up for the previous act.  Overall the film is very delightful and even garnered some genuine laughs from me.  Imagine that, a young person like me finding jokes in an old film funny!  I love it when that happens – it restores my faith that I have good taste.  I just wish the whole film was as delightful and magical.  Though I suppose the aspects I did like made it worthwhile.  And I got to soak in Audrey’s fabled presence, which is always a treat.  That dress certainly was absolutely stunning. 

Rating: 4/5

 

***

 

Sabrina

1954

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden

Writers: Billy Wilder, Samuel A. Taylor, Ernest Lehman

Distributor: Paramount Pictures