Sunday, January 30, 2011

Epic #9 - Reds (1981)

I'm beginning to sense a pattern here.

Reds (directed by Warren Beatty) is about communism. Sort of. Reds is the true story of the radical revolutionary journalist Jack Reed (Warren Beatty), who is a jerk, and his wife Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), who get swept up in the events of the Russian revolution, and attempt to bring the revolutionary spirit to the United States. It's epic and romantic and historic commentary, but mostly it is long. And kind of boring. Not bad, though, it's definitely a very well-made movie. It's just very, very long and uneventful.

Like The Ten Commandments, Reds is split into two parts. The first half is mostly about Jack and Louise's budding romantic relationship, an the second half is mostly about how they've gotten caught up in Bolshevism and Communism and the Russian revolution, and how this affects there lives. There's no Intermission music though, which is lame. The second half is far more interesting than the first. A whole lot of nothing happens in part 1, but part 2 is very eventful. People go to Russia, people get thrown in jail, it's very excited. They more to the seaside in part 1.

In the first half of the movie, Louise has an affair with Eugene O'Neill, the playwright (Whose son-in-law, by the way, was Charlie Chaplin, who was a knight. You can't question knighthood.) Eugene O'Neill is played by Jack Nicholson. Do you know who's creepier than Jack Nicholson? Nobody. Nobody is creepier than Jack Nicholson.


I wonder if Eugene O'Neill was really that sinister in really life, or if that's just Jack Nicholoson. There was a point in the movie when he was angry at Louise, an I literally thought Eugene O'Neill was going to kill her.

Stephen Sondheim, the great writer of musicals, actually did the score for this movie. I didn't actually notice the music most of the time, but there was this one song that's heavily featured in the first half of the movie, and comes to symbolize the relationship of Jack and Louise. As the movie goes on and they start movie away from this relationship, we hear this song less and less. The point in the movie where they finally get back to each other is when we hear the song again, and it's a really strong point in the movie. It's my favorite part, actually.

Do you know what there are a lot of in this movie? Montages. There is an incredibly large amount of montages in this movie. I swear there is a montage for every single major event in these people's lives. When we're not watching a montage, we're watching a series of very short, incomplete scenes, which I know sounds like a montage but isn't. A montage has music over it. This movie is made up almost entirely of scenes lasting no more than a minute or two, and montages. It's very bizarre, and I can't figure out if it's good film-making or not. Since it's the American Film Institutes's #9 epic, I'm going to assume it is, but the way this movie moves is still vaguely unsettling.

The part of the movie that isn't montages is mostly made up of people who really lived through the events of the movie, "Witnesses," summing up what's happened, introducing what happens next, and giving historical background. The historical background helps, to be honest I know very little about this point in history. This is really cool and all, and definitely interesting, but they talk for really long periods of time. The movie does a lot of telling, and not a lot of showing, which I've been told is bad. I wish we got to see more of what the main characters did.

For the most part, I'm pretty indifferent to this movie. There was nothing in it that I really disliked, but there wasn't much that I really liked, either. I sat through it, but I wouldn't necessarily want to watch it again. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that they watch it, but I wouldn't tell anyone that they should never watch it ever. It was average for me, though it's obviously a well-made movie. Good critically. Won three Oscars. Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Maureen Stapleton as revolutionary Emma Goldman), and Best Cinematography. It did have very good cinematography. Congrats, Warren Beatty.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Epic #10 - The Ten Commandments (1956)

The Ten Commandments is, first of all, a huge movie. It's directed by Cecil B. DeMille, the great director of epics, and is about, of course, Moses leading the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt, and then presenting them with the Ten Commandments, as given to him by God. Presented in brilliant Technicolor. It’s all very exciting.

The movie stars Charlton Heston as Moses and the voice of God, and Yul Brynner as Ramses II, apparently because he was tired of being the king of Siam. Vincent Price is also in it, playing, as far as I can tell, Vincent Price (He's so Vincent Price-y), and it also features Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Now, I really don’t know exactly who Cedric Hardwicke is, but I do know this: he was a knight. And therefore awesome. You can’t question knighthood, ladies and gentlemen. That’s a fact.

The Ten Commandments actually won the 1956 Oscar for special effects, which doesn't surprise me. The parting of the Red Sea is really quite impressive. Not by today's standard, of course, but nevertheless. Props, Cecil B. DeMille. Props.

The Fire Tornado is, however, far less convincing.

The Ten Commandments starts with the baby Moses (Who is actually played by Charlton Heston's son, fun fact that is), son of Hebrew slaves, being floated down the Nile in a basket to save him from Pharaoh Ramses I (Ian Keith)'s order that all first-born Hebrew sons must be killed. He floats down to the palace, or where ever it is that Egyptian royalty lives, and is saved by the Pharaoh's daughter Bithiah (Nina Foch), who raises him as his own. He then grows up in the court of Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), who, other than the enslavement of an entire race of people, is pretty awesome. He is loved by the throne princess, Nefretiri (I watched the entire movie and I'm still not sure how to pronounce that. She's played by Anne Baxter, who seems pretty awesome), and really kind of hated by the Pharaoh's son, Ramses II (He's Yul Brynner remember).

Eventually, Moses's Hebrew heritage is found out and he is cast out of Egypt. He crosses a desert, gets married, is spoken to by God, and then returns to Egypt. He demands that the Jewish people be set free (This is where "Let my people go," comes in). Ramses II, who is now Pharaoh, refuses, and seven plagues descend upon Egypt. Ramses II eventually set the Jewish people free, changes his mind, pursues the slaves, and looses all of his army to the Red Sea. It's an Easter classic. There's also some kind of side romance between Joshua (John Derek) and Lilia (Debra Paget) that's sort of interesting, but not really that relevant. Lilia wears a lot of color though, so it looks nice, which is always good in a movie.

It's a good movie. I was entertained by the whole thing. Mind you, it was billed as "The Greatest Event in Motion Picture History," so, bit of a letdown there, but, you know. It was big, mostly. Big acting, big sets, big story. There was always lots of people on screen, and just huge crowds of extras. It's also very long. I actually knew that it was going to be long before I watched it. This was my first clue:

Yes, Netflix sent it to me on two separate disks.

And then it began with an Overture. So I was prepared. It didn't actually seem to drag at all though, I was engaged throughout the whole thing. It was very entertaining, although I was kind of hoping that Charlton Heston would say "Let my people go!" more often then he actually did. Oh well. It certainly deserves the #10 slot in the Best Epics Ever, at least so far, which just goes to reinforce the American Film Institutes complete trustworthiness.

So it is written, so it shall be done.

That's how the movie ends, see. I thought it was clever. Perhaps a bit abrupt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Genre #1: Epics

I'll admit, I always sort of thought that an epic had to be a poem. Evidently this is not true.
I also thought that an epic had to be about something specifically heroic, like a war, or a quest or something. An epic, to my knowlege, has to be very, very long.

And ships. I feel there should be ships.

However, Titanic, for an example, is on this list. Mind you, a ship is heavily featured in Titanic, but I've never noticed anything particularly heroic about it. But the American Film Institute has, and the American Film Institue is never wrong. Clearly, I don't know exactly what an epic is.

I asked for a strait definition of the word. Among the first couple of definitions, assured me that an epic was "an epic poem," "epic poetry," or "something worthy to form the subject of an epic," which was less than helpful. After some further digging,
"Any work of literature, film, etc, having heroic deeds for its subject matter or having other qualities associated with the epic," came up, which was much more helpful, although still a bit vague toward the end. This is about what I said earlier, but without the ships.


First up: The Ten Commandments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Project

Hello Internet.

I like movies. Everyone likes movies, really, but I'm an especial fan of them. Mind you, I like all forms of fiction, but there's just something really fantastic about movies. They're stylish, they're engrossing, they're iconic. They paint a picture not of what the world is like, but what we think it's like, what it should be like. Movies, more than anything else, show the true nature of human society. The movies possess a pure, undeniable glamor that no other medium has, and even better than that, they are darn entertaining. They are, in short, awesome. So I said to myself: I should see some really good movies. This will be important later.

On a related note, I'm sure you've heard that we are fast approaching the Apocalypse. On December 21st, 2012, the world will suddenly and completely cease to exist. According to the Mayans anyway, and I don't know about you, but I can't remember a single time that the Mayans were wrong about something. So I said to myself: What a perfect day for a deadline! It's quite poetic.

From those two conclusions I created Project Apocaflicks, through which I will watch some of the best American movies ever made. And who decides what the best American movies ever are, you ask? Why the American Film Institute, of course, who, much like the Mayans, are never wrong. You can find them here. They apparently make a lot of lists. They have lists of the best movies in a particular genre in eighteen different genres. I've decided to take advantage of this, and will be watching the top ten movies in thirteen different genres, all before December 21st, 2012. I will not, however, be watching movies that appear in more than one list more than once. I will be watching them in the list in which they rank higher. All this means that I have roughly 101 weeks to watch 114 movies. I hope you'll stick with me all the the way through.

Here we go.