Saturday, September 8, 2012

Genre #8 - Romantic Comedies

I have to admit that at this point I'm a little disappointed with the American Film Institute. I was not very impressed with the Western genre. There were some really awful movies tucked away in there, and that really upsets me, especially since there are so many notable Westerns they didn't include. In fact, if you had asked me to name a Western before this, I don't think I would have said a single one of these. I would have said True Grit. The Good the Bad and the Ugly. How the West was Won. Once Upon a Time in the West. A Fist Full of Dollars. I certainly never would have said McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and really still wouldn't. I was very disappointed that I didn't get to watch a single Spaghetti Western, especially after having seen Clint Eastwood's performance in Unforgiven. It's an important genre that they seemed to have entirely skipped. Shame.

I have higher hopes for the Romantic Comedies though - It seems like a good mix and I get to watch a Charlie Chaplin movie. I always did like a good Romantic Comedy, so this should be a good time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Genre #7 - Westerns (A Debriefing)

The American film Institute's list goes like this: #10 - Cat Ballou, #9 - Stagecoach, #8 - McCabe and Mrs. Miller, #7 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, #6 - The Wild Bunch, #5 - Red River, #4 -Unforgiven, #3 - Shane, #2 - High Noon, #1 - The Searchers.

Here's my list:

#10 - McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1969) - My goodness was this movie painful. I literally fast forwarded through parts and didn't miss a thing because they were just shots of people walking to places. There was nothing that made an extended action interesting or engaging. This is one of the least entertaining movies I've ever seen.

#9 - The Wild Bunch (1969) - This is just a hair better than McCabe and Mrs. Miller. I barely remember it, it was a chore to get through and also about the darkness within. Note: They're made in the same year.

#8 - Shane (1953) - Shane wasn't filmed well and the acting wasn't any good and just dragged on and on. I really didn't notice anything in it that made it stand out as good to me. The only great thing that came out of it is an imitation of the whiny kid in it. "Shane..."

#7 - High Noon (1952) - I like the Cold War allegory and the fact that this movie is in real time, but the climax totally ruins it for me. There's all this build up and then a sudden, practically unopposed shooting. I was extremely unsatisfied with the end. It should be noted that I very well could be totally missing teh point and that the anticlimax was totally intentional.

#6 - Red River (1948) - I like the tragic figure that John Wayne plays here and I like the story and the shots of cattle, but I can't stand the shoehorned-in romance, even though I get that Matt is breaking the cycle of moral decay by not making the same mistakes his father did.

#5 - Cat Ballou (1965) - Technically Red River is probably a better movie than Cat Ballou, but Cat is just so fantastic. I think this movie is funny and charming and very 60's. I like Jane Fonda in it, since I missed that period where she was awful, and Lee Marvin is amazing. The best part of this movie is the great chorus - They're what pushes it over the edge into memorable. And I can't get their song out of my head.

#4 - Stagecoach (1939) - I really like a character piece, and this is a great one. Everyone's wonderfully developed or at least entertaining. John Wayne is charming and I like that this movie states that redemption is possible, instead of futile. I like this surprisingly current-sounding speech from the banker:

"I don't know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business...I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president"

This was written in 1939. Some things never change, huh?

#3 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - This was a wonderful, wonderful movie. Robert Redford and Paul Newman are charming and it's funny and I liked watching every minute of it. The guy who plays Lurch is in this movie - As in, from The Addams Family. You can't beat that. I really like the tone of this movie and I liked the jokes and the storyline, even though it does get "Raindrops are Falling on My Head" stuck in my head.

#2 - The Searchers (1956) - I really like the secondary characters in this movie, and there are a lot of very strong comedic parts, believe it or not. I also liked John Wayne in it, the cinematography, and the scenery. I thought the Indians and the Mexicans in it were silly though, and it had a little too much melodrama in it acting-wise for it to be really believable at all.

#1 - Unforgiven (1992) - This movie is all kinds of awesome. The acting's great, every single one of the characters is compelling and entertaining, the story's all amazing, and Morgan Freeman is in it. And that's awesome. This movie makes me want to watch ever single Spaghetti Western ever. If someone asked me if I wanted to watch Unforgiven right now I would absolutely say yes, and that is a sign of a good movie.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Western #1 - The Searcher (1956)

The Searchers is another John Wayne movie, I had it from a very good source that it was awful. It turns out that after all those years it's not, really. It's a fun, engaging movie. It's apparently often considered one of the best movies ever made though, and I don't see that. It's about racism, the darkness within (this seems to be a very common Western motif) and Monument Valley, and while I do think it's a strong movie, I don't find anything about it stunning of anything.

There are a couple of things that bother me about this movie: First, even though it's about how racism is bad, it has the most ridiculous portrayals of Mexicans and Native Americans in the entire list. It's not even the oldest. All of the Mexicans wear sombreros all the time, and the main Native American is played by a German guy. It's awful.

Second, the tone of this movie is very confusing to me. It really suffers from mood whiplash in a bad way to me. There's so much silly content in this movie that makes the serious stuff seem kind of strange. Honestly I think most of the silliness is stronger than the seriousness. Maybe it's because I didn't connect with John Wayne enough, but silly characters like Laurie and Charlie were some of the best parts of the movie. This actually isn't bad, because silliness has just as much merit as anything else, but it isn't what other people remember about the movie, which is strange to me.

And lastly, Scar is a really stupid name for your villain. When I hear Scar I think this:

 I know it's not The Searchers' fault they named a lion that, but my point is that Scar is a very cartoony villain name.

I do really like this movie though. John Wayne is great, there are a lot of characters I really like - Laurie, Martin, Laurie's dad, Charlie, the list goes on. The characters are really an extremely strong point in this movie. I like the plot with Debbie and her assimilation, and I like the shot of the desert through the door. It's interesting to me that three movies in this genre, The Searchers, Unforgiven and Shane, make the point that violent, dark men can't be a part of regular society with everyone else, even if they try to reform. Actually, Butch Cassidy sort of has that too. Notably, Red River has the opposite message, for reform. Interesting.

My favorite part of this movie is the clip they play in The Great Movie Ride in Disney World - "No you don't Ethan! ETHAN, NO YOU DON'T!" It's great.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Western #2 - High Noon (1952)

I was extremely disappointed with High Noon. You see, it's at twelve o'clock the train rolls in, and today outlaw Frank Miller is on it, and he's got a beef with Marshal Will Kane. I thought this was the movie with the big standoff at either end of the street with the music that goes "AEEEIIIIEEEAAA WOWWOWWOW." But it isn't that's The Good the Bad and the Ugly, as it turns out. In this movie Will sneaks up behind Frank and shots him. See that thing on the poster? That never happens. Think about that - the whole movie, through all that buildup, I was expecting a real standoff, and I get that.  It was extremely disappointing.

There are several good things about this movie. It's in real time, which is cool. Scarlett O'Hara's dad is in it, also cool. It's about the Cold War (crazy, right? Have you noticed that almost every single serious movie made from the 40's to the 70's is about the Cold War?). Specifically, it's about how everyone just abandoned the people who were being examined by the House of Un-American Activities Commitee. Which is also cool.

But what gets to me is how anticlimactic the ends is. There's this huge amount of suspense and buildup and then not even a real showdown? No real confrontation? Nothing exciting? It's very, very disappointing. It ruined the whole movie for me. Makes the whole thing seem kind of pointless.