Showing posts with label He Made Me Watch It. Show all posts
Showing posts with label He Made Me Watch It. Show all posts

Friday, January 22, 2010

He Made Me Watch It ~ Chinatown (1974) @ the Brattle

I know I know, it's the wrong decade for me. I usually avoid the 70s like the plague. But the film takes place in 1937 and it's as historically accurate as it could be, so I'm letting that slide.

Me? A Film Buff? More like a Film Bluff if you ask me.

I'm really tired of being the person who claims to have extensive knowledge of classic films but has yet to see many of the classic classics. Those films that everyone and their mother has seen and permanently reside on important lists like the AFI's top 100. I'm embarassed to admit that I haven't seen Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Bonnie & Clyde (1967), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964), 12 Angry Men (1957), among others. Every decade has some classics that I've avoided for whatever stupid reason I have come up with. My biggest excuse is that it's popular. I've always been a bucker of trends and the additional layer of popularity on the film is like that nasty icing on a cupcake that you have to eat through to get to the cake (or you remove it like I do).

So I've been very very very open-minded lately. Carlos suggested we see Chinatown (1974) on the big screen and I immediately acquiesced. It's not even really He Made Me Watch It but more like He Subtly Suggested It and I Immediately Jumped on the Bandwagon.

I came to Chinatown (1974) with almost no prior knowledge except for the fact that it starred Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway and that the film has won critical acclaim and some Oscars. I'm very glad that I hadn't because I came with no preconceived notions and the film to me was fresh and new.

Carlos, Kevin, Lisa and I saw Chinatown (1974) at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on Wednesday night. Chinatown is a favorite of both Carlos and Kevin but Lisa and I were both newbies. Although I was very tired and perhaps didn't pick up all the details of the complex plot like I could have if I had been perky, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Much of what I liked of it was that it felt more like 1937 than 1974, which I appreciated. The style of the film was very noir but seeing as the movie was shot in post-Hayes Code days, they could take a lot more liberty with sexuality which I thought was interesting. I've always been fascinated with the abuse of power when it comes to natural resources, like water, and this film focuses on the redirection of water in Los Angeles during a late summer drought.

I was happy to see that many folks came out on a Wednesday night to see Chinatown at the Brattle. A few folks laughed during a scene they found particularly campy (the Daughter-Sister-Slapping scene with Dunaway and Nicholson), but I chalked that up to their unfortunate ignorance and incapacity to understand the film. I have absolutely no patience for people who mock classic films. Those people should not even be allowed to see these films in public, in my honest opinion. They couldn't ruin my night though, I had a blast.

Stay tuned to this space as Carlos makes me watch another film on the big screen!

Monday, December 21, 2009

He Made Me Watch It ~ It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

On a cold Saturday evening, Carlos and I snuggled on the sofa had some mint Hot Cocoa (with some peppermint Schnapps for some added warmth) and watched It's a Wonderful Life (1946). After my 29 year + semi-voluntary boycott, I now join a legion of people who have watched and enjoyed this film. I am now one of many, rather than one of few.

I was very impressed by Jimmy Stewart's multi-dimensional performance as reluctant townie George Bailey. He certainly had his regular aw-shucks demeanor and it suited the character really well, but you see Bailey go through a wide range of emotions, from hopefulness, disappointment, love, anger, frustration, hopelessness, etc. And I have a tremendous soft spot for Jimmy Stewart. He is one of a serious of male actors who I look up to as fatherly figures. If Jimmy Stewart is crying on screen, I am crying off screen. George Bailey's desire to travel the world gets eclipsed by his responsibilities to his father's business and to his hometown of Bedford Falls. If Bailey leaves the town, the evil Potter (played by the completely unrecognizable Lionel Barrymore), will take over. We can't take the good out of the town and leave it to the evil. Oh no siree. And while Bailey's accomplishments probably eclipse that failure in his life, I still feel sad for him. Part of me really wants to see Bailey escape Bedford Falls and travel the world because people should allowed to live out their dreams. This film, and Capra's message, certainly is about the merit of the individual but in the end, Bailey had to sacrifice himself for his community. Bailey is a 1940's Jude Fawley if you ask me.

With really important films, especially ones that have an impact on myself and/or on others, I always go back to my inner Derrida. I want to deconstruct the film just the way he would. So I asked myself, "what makes It's a Wonderful Life so effective?". And my answer: opposites. Throughout the film, we see George Bailey and all the good he does for everyone in Bedford Falls. It isn't just enough to see it. We need to feel it too. So let's throw in a villain. Mr. Potter, the evil, greedy business magnate who is trying to take over Bedford Falls with his iron fist and cold heart. You put Mr. Potter side-by-side with George Bailey and Bailey looks a positive saint, even more so than he already did. Now you could have the film continue with just Mr. Potter battling George Bailey and you would have your standard run-of-the-mill good guy versus bad guy story. The clincher is the addition of the angel. And it's not just the angel himself. It's what the angel shows Bailey, but more important what is shown to us as the audience. We see Bedford Falls as it would exist WITHOUT George Bailey. Deconstructionism teaches us that the presence of something is intrinsically linked to it's absence. We really appreciate something when we understand it's absence as well as it's presence. It's a difficult concept to explain but once you comprehend it, it sticks with you for life and you can never shake it. We get the important of George Bailey in Bedford Falls because not only we see it but we see what life in the town would be like without him.

So what was my personal reaction to the film? I enjoyed it immensely and was very moved by it but I am okay with only watching it once in a great while. Maybe that's why this is such a Christmas classic. Once a year is probably enough for some folks. I hurt a lot for Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey and winced, cringed and hid my face in my hands/blanket at every moment of dramatic tension. It was a difficult film to watch. Carlos kept reassuring me that everything was going to be okay but it didn't help when I saw him get emotional. By the end of the film I had tears streaming down my face. Maybe it was for the best that I hadn't watched this film at the Brattle theatre.  It's always embarassing to have one's tear-soaked face exposed by the bright lights that turn on when the end credits roll.

What touched me (or bothered me) the most about this film is the kindness factor. The kindness that Bailey showed the town and the kindness the town showed back to him. Kindness is rare these days. I find that many kindnesses go unrewarded. While you shouldn't be kind to get a reward, the joy should be enough, the quality of one's life is immensely improved by acts of kindness. On some days, when I'm down and out and really need a hug or a kind word said to me, I come up empty. All I really get in return is people wanting sympathy for their own problems and not seeing that I have many of my own. Maybe people are too self-centered these days. Or maybe, just maybe I'll have my George Bailey moment one day. We'll see.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you (or angered you, whichever), I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

P.S. Why did no one tell me Gloria Grahame was in this film?!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

But I don't want to see it! ~ It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

As of this very moment, I'm 29 years, 18 days and a few hours old. In that span of time I have never, not ever, not even once, seen the classic film It's a Wonderful Life (1946). I have had no even an iota of interest in watching it. Why? Who knows. I just never wanted to and still really don't. Do any of you have a film like that? A film that everyone praises to the skies but you react to the idea of watching it with an unenthusiastic "meh"?

Here are a few things you should know about me.

1) I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas but adopted the tradition as an adult.
2) I tend to shirk those movies that are uber-popular. Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.
3) I believe life is too short to watch films that don't interest you when there are so many other films that do.
4) I will however take a film recommendation of a friend or someone I care about because sharing films is a great way to experience them.

Unfortunately, It's a Wonderful Life happens to be a really popular Christmas movie that my family never watched when aired during the holidays, that never piqued my interest and one in which no one has realy taken the initiative of forcing me to watch it. Until now.

Tonight, I will break my lifelong boycott of It's a Wonderful Life (1946). I have absolutely no idea what my reaction will be! Will I hate it and wonder why I even bothered? Will I love it so much that I wondered how I lived so long without this marvelous film? Or will I simply say "meh"?

Next up: My reaction

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

He Made Me Watch It ~ Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

This is the first installment in a new short series called He Made Me Watch It. "He" refers to my beau Carlos who is coercing... errr I mean, encouraging me to watch some of his favorite films. Most notably, these are films that I have had no interest in prior to Carlos' recommendation. You may recall a couple months ago I wrote about The Hustler (1961). This is one of Carlos' all-time favorite movies and I was so impressed with the film that I was resolved to be open-minded and watch more films that Carlos recommended to me, regardless of any hesitance I had previously to said films. And because I have such a soft spot for the man, I'm even allowing him to take me to see It's a Wonderful Life (1946) - a film I've been avoiding like the plague - on the big screen around Christmas. So stay tuned for a post on that.


My viewing of Dr. Strangelove (1964) came at the perfect moment. I had just seen Seven Days in May (1964) (read my post about it here) and had been thinking a lot about the Cold War and how it has been represented on film. I've also been watching the 3rd season of Mad Men and had been particularly interested in 1960s America especially the political and social changes that our country faced during that time. And here enters this Kubrick classic.

Now everyone and their mother has seen this film. So I won't pretend to be an expert or to give you any new insight. I just want to say that I enjoyed how this film manages to blend farce and suspence into this witty film. George C. Scott is a hoot as General Buck Turgidson, a man so on edge and so sensient that he is just bursting at the seams. His facial expressions and mannerisms are hilarious!

My favorite line of his is quite a naughty one. He says the following to his bikini-wearing secretary: "You just start off your countdown and ole' Bucky will be back here before you can say 'Blast Off'". Oh my!

I also have a soft spot for Sterling Hayden (The Most Beautiful Man in Movies) who plays General Jack D. Ripper - great names huh? - a deranged General who has just ordered several B-52 to drop atomic bombs on Russian soil. Eek!

When I hear people talk about this movie, they usually talk about Peter Sellers who plays three roles: The President, Dr. Strangelove and Captain Mandrake. I can't say I was all that impressed with Sellers (I'm waiting for someone to throw tomatoes at me). He's okay. I think Hayden and Scott were much more interesting actors to watch on screen.

I think for me to truly appreciate this film I need to learn more about it. I want to spend sometime reading a few articles about it and watching the extras on the Special Edition DVD. If you have written a post about it on your blog or know of an interesting post or article online, please send me a link! I'd also really love to hear your thoughts on this film and if you have any tidbits of information to share or interesting observations, please please please leave me a comment. Speak!

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