Saturday, July 16, 2016


All that Fluff

He Said:

Leaving Richard Gere's awful nasal singing aside, as that horribleness speaks for itself, this movie ultimately is just plain old boring. I simply did not care for Roxie at all, she is not a character that one is cheering for. After all, she did have affairs and kill a man, so why should I feel bad for her since she got locked up and is trying to evade the death penalty. I saw this movie shortly after it came out and did not particularly like it (I generally hate musicals, especially movie musicals) and was not looking forward to the second viewing.

I am not going to go into detail on the thread of a plot that exists in the movie (you can look it up online), but generally it follows a young woman, Roxie, who is desperate to enter the world of show business and cabarets, and ends up killing her affair for double crossing her and it follows her trying to get out of prison and the lawyer that is hired to help her. I think the whole thing could be done in about 30 minutes if you left out all the dancing and singing, and there is just not much to see here at all. I think Shannon sums it up best that this movie is simply ‘razzle dazzle.’ It is a boring, nearly plot-less movie covered up by using production numbers and songs. Somehow the Academy fell for it and decided to award it the best picture, that was a horrible mistake. I am not sure which of the others should have won (it was a bit of a soft year for films), probably the Pianist or possibly Gangs of New York, but certainly not this drivel.

She Said: Nothing but "Razzle Dazzle"

I remember really liking this movie when I saw it in the theatre. Heck, I own it. We're watching my copy right now. Which is all to say I was really looking forward to seeing it again, in that nostalgic "I loved that movie!" Kind of way.

Too bad.

So now we've watched it, I'm disappointed, and wondering what I saw in it. Sure, I love musicals, it was visually beautiful, and structurally interesting, but there wasn't enough emotion to carry it through. I wasn't invested in how it turned out, other than to see the next musical number. Heck, there were even parts of it I didn't remember. I'd still like to see it on stage sometime, because musicals were made for the stage, but I'm ready to retire my copy.

Other nominees: Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

Verdict: The academy was wrong

Next up: Gandhi

The Greatest Show on Earth

He Said: Possibly the worst best picture ever

Well...not sure where to begin with this train wreck of a movie. I was certainly not particularly looking forward to a movie from the 50s about the circus, but I thought it just might be an interesting insight into the circus world. The one up side of this movie is the bit of inside look into the circus as a documentary portion of the film, but the rest of the movie was very dull and boring.

The movie's focus is around Brad, played by Charlton 'From my cold dead hands' Heston, who manages the Ringling Brothers circus and his love affair with his center ring trapeze flyer Holly. But Brad decides to hire “The Great Sebastien,” and once the ‘debonair of the air’ arrives he is put into the center ring and the main act thus displacing Holly; inevitably leading to major trapeze flyer issues and in-fighting between Holly and Sebastien. Eventually a strange love triangle develops between Brad, Holly, and Sebastien where the trapeze artists are falling in love, but are still trying to one up each other by doing more elaborate and dangerous stunts. A few other cursory plot lines develop, although nothing significant, frankly the main plot line focusing on Brad, Holly, and Sebastien only makes up a very small portion of the movie time maybe about 20 or 30 minutes. The bulk of the movie seemed to be focus on seeing the circus at work, including the various circus acts (including trapeze artists, elephants, clowns, etc.), and documentary style portions showing how the circus moves around the country as it was actually moving around the USA, the set up, take down, and everything in between. Frankly that was interesting, it would have been nice to see a full documentary on the inner workings of the circus in the 50s rather than wasting our time with the awful plot.

Something that was really interesting is that according to what Shannon looked up, the actors who played Holly and Sebastien actually learned how to do the various trapeze acts, they didn’t use stunt doubles or special effects available in the 50s. Although that doesn’t specifically add to the overall enjoyment, it does make the actors stand out more in the film for their desire to really put themselves into the show, but even with that, the film is a huge bore.

She Said: The boringest movie on earth

I didn't have high hopes for this movie. I know Kurt was thinking it might be another "The Great Zeigfeld", and while it had all the spectacle, I just didn't care. Granted, I didn't care about Zeigfeld, either, but this movie had only the lamest of plots holding it together. Essentially, it's a documentary on the Barnum and Bailey Ringling Brothers Circus, with a ridiculous story trying to tie the bits together. I guess they didn't believe in documentaries back then. It's a shame, because the best part of the movie was seeing what circuses were like in their heyday. Even by the time I was a kid in the 80s, circuses had changed a lot. I'm not saying that's a bad thing (the poor elephants), but just that I had no idea what a "real" circus was like. I can see how they won the moniker of "Greatest Show on Earth". This movie was filmed on location/tour with a real circus... even the actors learned the acts in order to do their own stunts. Too bad they couldn't learn to act.

I did a bit of reading, and apparently this movie is considered one of the worst to have ever won Best Picture, and it only won because High Noon couldn't. These movies came out during the blacklist period in Hollywood, and High Noon was anti-McCarthyism, while Cecile B. deMille was a proper Republican. Now, as for why Singing in the Rain didn't win? I have no idea

Other Nominees: High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man

Verdict: The academy was horribly wrong

Next up: Chicago

Lawrence of Arabia

 This is gonna be one long desert ride Aurens

He Said:

This is long. And I don't mean 2 hours or 3 hours long. I mean 3 hours and 47 minutes long complete with a black screen overture and an intermission. For that reason we were putting off watching this movie for a long time as it sounded like a long boring old epic that would take us forever to watch. But we finally committed to it and watched it over 2 nights, and I was really surprised at how enjoyable it was. They certainly don't make movies like this anymore, and it is a real shame. I would have loved to see this in 70mm, as it was originally filmed, to see the amazing panoramic vistas of the desert and mountain scenes. That would have been simply amazing

The acting was okay overall, Alec Guinness seemed to channel his inner Obi-Wan (yes I know this was filmed 15 years prior to Star Wars) but it still reminded me of Obi-Wan, so I guess more appropriately, he channeled his inner Faisel when he did Star Wars. We could also have a long discussion about the fact that Guinness was chosen for a role of an Arab, however the 1960s was a different time, a period where that kind of thing was much more common and considered acceptable. Peter O'Toole's acting was what is expected of the time period, somewhat stiff and overacting in areas and not enough acting in others. But as a friend of mine said, people were easier to please back then.
Omar Sharif was actually probably the best actor of the group of main characters, although some of the minor actors did a good job as well. Overall the action sequences and drama were not as well done as what we are used to these days, but for the year it was made it was done pretty well.

The film seems to be divided into two halves, the first half filled with epic scenic gloriously cinematic shots and the long (and I mean long) travels of Lawrence across the desert. The second half is more about the military actions of Lawrence and the Arab tribes as they slowly fought their way to Damascus against the Ottoman Empire. I really got into this movie, partially because I am into World War I and a bit of WWI in the near east. I even pulled out the board game Pursuit of Glory to look at the maps and see where they were traveling and which villages they were attacking (Shannon laughed at me for doing this and thought I was weird that I even had maps for that region during WWI).
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this movie. It was filmed in such a breathtaking and eye catching way and in a slow but well-paced manner (certainly nothing like the films made in the past 50 years or so).
I am not so sure this would be the best film of the year, although the only other nominee I have seen is To Kill a Mockingbird. Mockingbird certainly had much better acting and the story was more important to tell in the 1960s, but I thought Lawrence of Arabia was an overall much better film. It might be a case of the Academy being really into the long epics and giving the award to that type of film, rather than something a bit shorter and tighter like Mockingbird. That all being said, it was a good movie, but if you aren't really interested in World War I in the near east, then this wouldn't hold much interest for you. If you are going to take the plunge, then read a brief bit on wikipedia about Lawrence and his adventures and campaign. I could tell the movie didn't do a great job of explaining things as Shannon was lost at times.

Overall, a really good movie for those interested in the era or interested in the cinematic aspects of film, but I could not say it belongs as a best picture.

Other nominees: The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird

Next up: The Greatest Show on Earth 1952

Monday, February 29, 2016


I'm the king of the 90s hair!

He Said: Talk to the Hand

I have seen this movie once before when it was out in the cheap theatre (at my spouse's birthday party before we started dating). I really didn't want to see it back then because of all the hype and it seemed like a boring romance with some disaster thrown in for good measure to keep the boyfriends/husbands happy. And then there was the “Leo-factor.” In the 1990s Leonardo DiCaprio was the it guy that all the teenagers were swooning over at the time. It probably started with his role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and snow balled from there with Romeo and Juliet and then Titanic. At the time I hated him, he was uber popular for no particularly good reason other than his babyish looks (his acting was okay, but nothing to celebrate), and this just added to me not wanting to see Titanic. But it was my friend's birthday so I went along with it. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the first half, with the character development, etc, but I really didn't like the disaster half. It was so long winded and I felt like, okay it sinks we get it, just get on with it already! The sinking part was so boring, and the special effects were good at the time but even so it just dragged on. I figured it was James Cameron just trying to one up himself from his previous special effects efforts.

Now time for the second viewing. I actually forgot about how long the first bits are with Rose as an old lady, but I guess that is necessary to set the stage for the whole plot. While watching it this time around I wanted to see if it really is a classic and something that withstood the test of time (it has been almost 20 years since it was first released!) or a bombshell that hit it huge when it was first released but has since faded to unwatchableness. I have immediately noticed how the computer special effects are very dated, and what was breathtaking back then is cartoonish and antiquated now. Although this is the same with any movie that relies so heavily on special effects, the development in special effects is amazing (although I still prefer real movies and hate computer generated special effects) and the special effects of today's movies are outdated within just a few years, let alone 20 years. This movie really is a visual feast with the huge set designs and costumes and special effects, and it seems like the plot of the rich woman and poor boy is just tagged on to give us some reason to watch it.

Another disappointing aspect is the hair. I don't know who was in charge of haircuts for that movie, but none of the main characters have anything remotely resembling period hair from the 1920s. Leonardo has his 1990s Leo hair, Billy Zane has his bad ass 1990s hair (although he does slick it back a few times), and Kate Winslet has her Kate Winslet flowing curly dyed red locks. When I first watched it, I thought nothing of the hair, maybe because I was younger and didn't care about hair cuts and costumes in movies, maybe it was because it was the 1990s and I enjoyed seeing hair from the 1990s. But watching it now, I found it very distracting to see non-period hair (strike 2). Billy Zane was his typical 1990s creepy villian, which he does really good, but it is the same character that he has been doing since Back to the Future and I think it is high time to see something different from him. Overall, the plot much more boring this time around than I remember it being before. Was it because I had seen it once already or was there something more sinister afoot? I am not entirely sure. The plot is absolutely nothing new or inspiring, we have seen this sort of thing a million times before, but it was also likely more boring this time around as I was familiar with the plot, even if I hadn't seen the movie in 20 years.

I have seen a few of the other nominees, and frankly I don't think this was a particularly good year for movies. I certainly enjoyed As Good as it Gets and L.A. Confidential better than Titanic, but I couldn't see either of those as being best pictures. I would say the Academy went for the big showy epic, with big special effects, especially as there wasn't much in the way of good competition for films that year. Ultimately I cannot say this is a best picture and it certainly does not stand the test of time. This movie should be left in the 1990s along with Leo's and Zane's hair and James Cameron's career.

Other nominees: As Good as it Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, and L.A. Confidential

Next up: Lawrence of Arabia 1962 (oh my this going to be a long one)

Sunday, February 28, 2016


mmm, this skull is so soft on my skin, not rough like sand

He Said: To Watch or not to watch...

This is one we were not looking forward to at all. We had been dragging our feet for a long time, procrastinating, to avoid watching this oldie. It isn't that I don't like Shakespeare, I do like some Shakespeare a great deal, but a Shakespeare play filmed in the 1940s was not something I was looking forward to. Then add on the fact that it is one of the most commonly produced plays and one of the most boring and it makes it an exercise in will power to watch this film. But eventually we settled in for a two night viewing of this classic and it was more or less what I expected it to be. 

For starters it is an impossible task to determine if the Academy got this one right as I haven't seen any of the other nominees (does seeing The Red Shoe Diaries on Showcase back in the day count as a substitute for The Red Shoes?) nor have I seen anything else from 1948, but I can at least say if I was entertained and enjoyed the film. In short, no, but there were aspects to the film that interested me. 

I am sure most people know the plot line of Hamlet so I won't regurgitate that (if you don't, then look it up on wikipedia). In short, some people die, there is back stabbing and revenge, and more people is a Shakespeare tragedy after all. Even though I knew the general plot, there were times that I was lost and didn't really know who the minor characters were and forgot how they were connected with each other. But a quick check on wikipedia was all it took to bring some clarity. Now I doubt this feeling of being lost had much to do with the movie specifically and more to do with Shakespearean plays, I often find it hard to follow the minor characters in the plays in the first or second act. I did happen to pull out a copy of Hamlet and tried to follow along with the movie just to see how in keeping with the original text it was. The movie does, for the most part follow along fairly closely, although there were a couple scenes that were reversed in the movie compared to the play, I am not sure why they were reversed nor do I feel that it was an issue with continuity. The production and quality of acting was quite good and overall it was a good film. The problem is that I don't care about Hamlet as a play and I tend to prefer watching Shakespeare on stage or reading it rather than watching it on film. 

So overall a good movie, but best picture? Not so sure about that one, the jury will likely remain out indefinitely on this as I don't foresee myself watching any of the other nominees ever.

Other nominees: Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Next up: Titanic 1997 (Jack! Jack, jack, jack)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bridge on the River Kwai

I am more stubborn than you!

He Said: Comet, it makes your mouth turn green. Comet, it tastes like gasoline...

I think I would rather eat comet than watch this movie again. For those not familiar with this movie, it features Obi wan Kenobi, I mean Alec Guinness, at his finest. I think he once said that it was one of his favourite performances. Guinness is Colonel Nicholson who is captured by the Japanese along with his soldiers. The Japanese need to finish constructing a railroad bridge and decide to use the British POWs to finish the work in time. The movie is based on a novel which is very loosely based on the real-life construction of the Burma railway.
First half of the movie was quite boring and not much interesting there, although it does set the tone for the second half which is a fair bit more interesting. Guinness' acting is pretty darn good, but the whole movie was mostly just who cares. The story of how the Nicholson was such a proud British soldier that he would command his troops to build the best bridge possible in order to help the Japanese with the war in southeast Asia seems a bit weird and far-fetched, but I suppose possible. The last 20 minutes or so is really quite something to see, it is just a shame you have to sit through 2 hours of boredom to get there. Frankly this movie just makes me want to watch Star Wars. Obi wan Kenobi you're our only hope.
Of the other nominees, I have only seen 12 Angry Men, and it is really quite a great movie. I can see why the Academy would pick Bridge on the River Kwai however, as it is a really big epic war movie that they seemed to be obsessed with in the 1950s and 1960s. But I much prefer 12 Angry Men and have seen it and its remake many times. So save yourself the trouble, watch Star Wars and then the original 12 Angry Men, followed up by Dr. Stangelove (as much as I like the original 12 Angry Men, I love how crazed George C. Scott gets in the remake).

Other Nominees: Sayonara, Peyton Place, Witness for the Prosecution, 12 Angry Men

Next up: Hamlet from 1948 (yay, can't wait for that)

Monday, February 22, 2016


 Ben Affleck...with beard...and shaggy Iran

He Said:

This is one that I was actually looking forward to seeing even before it won best Oscar but then having won best Oscar made it something I wanted to see even more. As a note I am not getting into how the film is not very historically accurate, especially in regards to how the Iranians were displayed, nor will I get into how the movie glosses over how much work the Canadian government actually did to help.

Heading into the movie, I only knew the smallest amount of the plot. I knew about the hostage crisis taking place during the 1979 revolution, but I didn't know any details on how many people, how long, if they survived, etc, and I knew nothing of the 6 people that escaped the embassy early on that the movie focuses on. I guess I was naïve about it, and since it happened when I was born I missed out on all the news coverage going on at the time, although no one really knew about the 6 escapees until 17 years later when the operation was declassified.
This makes me wonder how much information there is that is classified and what it is all about, it often seems that some fairly innocuous information is kept classified for much longer than it needs to be. 

The plot, as I am sure you all know, is about the CIA making a fake movie production for a sci-fi movie called Argo in order to break out the 6 escapees. The first half of the movie is the set up and how they go about getting the fake movie put together. Then the second half is the operation in Iran. And that's about all there is to it.

The movie feels real quick, not slow anywhere, but not as quick as an action movie, so the pacing is great. The acting is good throughout, the directing was good, overall a real good production. The story was interesting, in that I didn't know any details of it, and it kept me generally interested, but not to the extent of really great movies that I just love to watch over and over. This is a one and done kind of movie. I don't think I will ever watch it again, although watching the special features will probably be really interesting, since I am far more interested in what actually happened than the dramatic production that this film was. That all being said, I don't know if that makes or breaks a best picture. Does it have to be something worth sitting through multiple times? Generally I would say yes, but it also depends on what else was out that year. And as we go through that list, I don't think there was anything as good as Argo. So it kind of wins by default. Argo is certainly better than Django Unchained, as much as I love Tarantino films that one was just too long and silly at the end. It is most definitely better than Life of Pi, that movie was so boring I could only sit through the first half of it, even though I loved the book. I guess the transition from book to film just doesn't work well in some instances. I haven't seen the other nominees, but the only others that I could imagine that could come close to best picture are Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, which is another classified spy take down production.

I would agree with the Academy on this one, but asterisk by saying it wins since it is better than the rest this year and not that it was an outstanding movie, but still enjoyable.

Next up: The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 – Obi-wan Kenobi you're my only hope, oops wrong movie