Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The French Connection (1972)

"I'm Popeye. This is pretty much what I do: stand around and look surly like everyone else in this movie. But aren't my cars cool?"

Nominees: "A Clockwork Orange" "Fiddler on the Roof" "Last Picture Show" "Nicolas and Alexandria"

He Said: No Connection Here

First off I just wanted to write about how I am finding myself rather disillusioned with these Oscar winners, and we are only 7 movies into this thing. I think I am more excited about the anticipation of finding out what the next movie is rather than actually enjoying the movie that we are currently watching. Incidentally if no one knew we randomly choose the next movie after finishing one.

So here we are at The French Connection, a classic old-school Gene Hackman film that I am ashamed to say I haven't actually watched all of before, although I have seen part of the chase under the above ground subway numerous times. In the end I would have preferred not watching it and doing something else for 104 minutes.

Wow was this one boring as hell. This has almost next to no dialogue, the dialogue that is present is mostly mumbled so it can be hard to actually know what is being said and thus what is going on. Basically this movie is about a few cops following the drug trade from France by following around the various drug dealers and staking out their hotels and homes and walking/driving around New York City after them. This movie just didn't grab me, and has no grab factor at all. All it comes down to is watching a couple people drive around following other people or walking around New York following people with the occasional running chase scene and of course ending in the classic subway chase. There is the odd moment that something happens outside of this, mainly focusing on Popeye Doyle and his personal life, but that is rather rare.

I have no idea how this won best picture, let alone best actor for Gene Hackman. I guess he won for looking angry and frustrated and running, lots and lots of running. Doyle tends to be a bit of a Dirty Harry kind of cop, the smug, take it in his own hands kind of cop with a dash of sexual creepiness. That being said, I think the directing was interesting with some nice long no-cut shots and interesting camera angles, but there just was no story. And the chase scene with the subway really wasn't all that good after actually watching it start to finish and knowing the context of it, perhaps it was interesting for the time but too simplistic, and I have seen better chase scenes filmed in the sixties and seventies so this is nothing to sneeze at.

Overall this movie is confusing, hard to follow, and has no real dialogue at all. Kind of the opposite of All About Eve which was all dialogue and no action with women being the focus, this was all action, no dialogue and barely had a woman speak in the movie. I can summarize my feeling of this movie like this: the cops kind of knew what was going on and following the drug dealers to figure out everything, the drug dealers were just there and the audience isn't let in at all, we have no idea what the cops know and we never feel compelled to root for the cops or the dealers.

The only other nominee that I have seen is A Clockwork Orange. I didn't really like that movie, but the book is fantastic, and the movie is maybe a bit better than The French Connection. I think The French Connection is pretty close to the bottom, although I would place it just above Oliver!

Next up, the fantastic classic The Godfather Part 2. We decided to watch this one even though Shannon hasn't seen The Godfather, because part 2 won best picture so it was supposed to be the best movie of that year and therefore should be a good movie in and of itself as a standalone product. I haven't seen the Godfather movies for quite some time but I do remember liking the second one more than the first and the second one can be enjoyed without having seen the first one, but you might need the context of the first one a bit, but Shannon will be the judge of that.

She Said: um... what?! ...

There are many things I don't know about this movie, like almost everything. But here are a few things I DO know:
  1. Popeye Doyle is a cop (yes, that's his name) trying to crack a drug ring.
  2. The drugs come from France (hence the title).
  3. There's a brown cadillac involved, in which the drugs are smuggled to the states. It gets torn apart at the police station, then put back together in record time.
  4. There's lots of cars in this movie. I hate movies with lots of cars.
  5. Detective work looks boring. Too much standing around in the cold.
  6. It's based on a true story. I would've rather seen a documentary.
  7. The movie would've been much better if one of the cops (preferably Popeye) had been dirty. I decided this halfway through and kept hoping my dreams would come true right up until the end.
  8. All men in 1970's New York look the same. I kept having to ask Kurt "Who is that?"
  9. All the cars look the same, too. Did I mention there were a lot of cars?
  10. Police chases on foot (of which there were many) are not as exciting as police chases in cars, which aren't very exciting either when they involve the Subway. You'd think they would be, but they are not.
And that's all I have to say about that.

PS: "Fiddler"?!? How did "Fiddler on the Roof", one of the greatest musicals of all time, not win??!! Granted, I haven't seen the movie version, but come on!! It's "Fiddler"!!

Verdict: The Academy was wrong.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All About Eve (1950)

She's got Bette Davis eyes.

Nominees: "Born Yesterday" "Father of the Bride" "King Solomon's Mines" "Sunset Boulevard"

He Said: All About a Manipulating Conniving Bitch

First off sorry it has taken so long to get the next movie up. We started watching this one a few weeks back but then life got in the way including visitors, a nasty stomach illness ran through our family, and general life chores. But we finally found the time to watch it this past weekend so here are our thoughts. I've never heard of this movie before. I read the little blurb on about it before watching it, and it sounded boring as hell, and it turned out to be just as boring as I feared.

It started off with Eve Harrington getting an acting award, and I must say that it is rather ironic that she got this award considering how poorly acted her role was by Anne Baxter. As she gets the award a group of people are hating on her and that is when we are transported back in time something around one year earlier to find out how we came to be at this spot of this young lady receiving an award and the hatred felt towards her. Going back in time we end up focusing on Bette Davis's character, Margo Channing, a highly skilled and sought after Broadway star. Shortly afterward Eve makes her entrance as a shy fish out of water who is following Margo's every move almost like a stalker, but that this point she simply seems to be a sweet young woman who is a huge fan of Margo's.

At the start of Eve's relationship with Margo, it was like a stalker, and sort of creepy in a way, then it turned into a sort of girl crush which, although titillating, was almost more creepy. It was as if she wanted nothing more than she herself to be Margo. Slowly over time we find out how Eve is really a manipulative person who is manipulating all these different people, actors, directors, producers, in an attempt to become the next big Broadway star and replace Margo Channing, her supposed hero/mentor.

I will give this movie kudos for being almost entirely about women and being female driven, this is a rarity today and I imagine it would have been even rarer in the 1950s. So to be female driven in a male driven industry and time period, and to win the Oscar for best picture is certainly an achievement. Although I don't need to endure this movie the first time or again to understand what kind of an achievement this is. All this is good to be female driven, however keep in mind that it is female driven from the standpoint of a manipulative conniving woman, and the drunkard starling, so it doesn't exactly put the nicest spotlight on women or showcase them from the best standpoint. So it is somewhat unfortunate that it wasn't a female driven movie with a few more positive viewpoints of women. But that being said, it might be hard to find a lot male driven movies that portray men in a positive light and not as abusive alcholics, or other stereotypes.

Overall the movie was boring and somewhat predictable. The entire movie is simple scenes of prolonged dialogue, which I don't mind in and of itself, I just don't appreciate it when the dialogue is not written well and not acted well. Although I will say that Bette Davis acting the part of drunk Margo at her boyfriend's birthday party was actually quite well done.

At any rate, I would say this is only slightly better than Oliver! for the worst movie so far on this list and the Academy must have had something better to pick from in that year; The Father of the Bride (not the Steve Martin version but that is definitely Oscar worthy) and the original King Solomon's Mines, never seen it but I'm sure it can't be better than the Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone version.. As an aside, The American Film Institute has this as the 16th best film on their 1998 list of the top 100 movies and then dropped to number 28 in the 2007 list, so maybe I missed something.

Next up The French Connection, classic Gene Hackman.

Lastly, here is my list of the 6 movies so far and what order I would put them in best to worst:
Crash followed closely by The Great Zeigfeld, Casablanca, Around the World in 80 days, All About Eve, Oliver!

She Said: All About Nothing.

Okay. So I didn't find this movie as boring as Kurt did. In fact, I even quite enjoyed the second half, once Eve starts acting creepy and the everything falls down around Margo. But I can't say I really liked it, either. I was hoping I would, but I just found it all.... a little much. Eve was TOO perfect, and then TOO evil, Margo TOO damaged, Karen TOO caring, Bill TOO earnest, and Addison DeWitt TOO unlikable. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel about any of the characters, and as the movie has no real plot, if you don't connect with the characters, it's hard to get into the film.

Don't get me wrong- I don't think a movie needs to have a plot. Not every movie needs non-stop action, and this one certainly doesn't have it (unlike "Around the world in 80 Days", which tried too hard to be non-stop action interspersed with pretty landscapes). And I did find Anne Baxter's portrayal of Eve quite interesting, even if I wasn't all that interested in Eve herself. I liked how we echo Margo's changing opinion of her, but faster because we have all the information whereas the characters obviously do not.

I also appreciated that this was a "woman's" movie, in that it was primarily about woman and their relationships with themselves and other women. The men seemed mostly there as props and pawns to be used by Margo, Eve, and Karen, with I guess the exception of Addison DeWitt. I think I would've enjoyed the movie more, though, if it was just "All About Margo," with her facing her own doubts and insecurities about aging and herself without the Eve to pounce on them. I know Eve's the impetus for that to happen, but its was all a little too predictable. Of course Eve HAS to be not who she says she is, or else Margo is just being ridiculous and can't ever change... then again, what if Eve Harrington WAS exactly who she said she was? Would that have changed Margo's reaction and transformation? I dunno.

All in all then, this movie was draggy in parts, over-acted in others, and intriguing not for the story presented, but more for my own imaginings of how it could have gone. I wish they'd made my version instead.

Verdict: The Academy was wrong.