29 October 2020

It Stinks, Sucks and It Ain't No Good: Amazon Reviews of Great Films

Citizen Kane
In the good old days before Trumpy and the pandemic, I occasionally, on this blog, posted comments from Internet Movie Database users on classic films. Sadly/happily IMDb removed the comment feature and that particular series on this blog ended. It finally occurred to me -- years later -- that I could find the same quality of erudition from the brilliant film critics who commented on movies on Amazon. So here today I present part one of my initial return to "people say the wackiest things about great films." All comments are verbatim without having been edited. In a few instances I have added a comment at the end. Names have, of course, not be included. Part two will appear on this space Monday.

Citizen KaneI am a retired grandmother who has seen multitudes of old movies, especially black and white, which are my favorites, and who has been hearing about Citizen Kane for many years, but, because I do not particularly care for Orson Welles other than in Rebecca, I never watched it until now. I found it completely and utterly boring! After 10 minutes ... 20 minutes ... and then one hour, I kept wondering 'when does it get spectacular as raved by all'? It NEVER DID. The story jumped around, the dialogue was not profound, NOTHING in this movie is memorable other than how boring and what a hyped-up waste of time. I can usually find something about all old movies that teaches me, grabs me, or that I find depth in its dialogue to regard to my experiences in life, but not this movie. The character accomplished zero, there really was no story line or anything profound whatsoever. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and pass for another sixty-some years…Note: Orson Welles was not in Rebecca. Is Grandma confusing Welles with Laurence Olivier?

The Seventh Seal

Haha, the make-up for the grim reaper is so bad. He's litteraly just a bald guy in a bath robe, like, oooh I'm so scared. And why are they all speaking German? Did they not make enough money paying accordion on street corners or whatever to do American voice-overs...?

Also if that's not enough to make you avoid this movie, their's a bunch of scenes with a naked little boy. Lol, what a movie for pedos.

They should remake this movie with good special affects and if they spoke English. Until then it feels like a pretty bad ripoff of Avatar.

Note: The Seventh Seal is in Swedish not German. A rip-off of Avatar, a film made fifty years later?

The Godfather

Profanity, foul language, ethnic slurs, sex, nudity, violence. This is what people watch for entertainment?

Schindler’s List

Just saw this for the first time, it’s a decent period melodrama, but in all honesty I was expecting a lot more. I’d give it a B as a film. Ben Kingsley was very good as always.

Note: "Melodrama?"

The night we watched it, both my wife and I had nightmares all night.

This is worthless, culturally unappealing, Left wing subversion efforts. Don't watch it.

Whatever they do in Korea, this is not what an average American will enjoy. The only reason it got Oscars is it is in tune with the Hollywood Progressive or Left Activists, or whatever they call themselves, agenda of pitting the Haves and Have-Nots, social unrest and mass deception and violence. They don't seem to know they will be the targets if there is a mass uprising of underclass and actual subversion.

You will not enjoy it. No redeeming value of any kind. It is not a dark comedy as some say; Just plain garbage.

Note: "Left activists"? is that a thing?

On The Waterfront

Only watched it because I had to for my Cinema Appreciation course. Thought the acting was horrible. At least many of the stars got better at acting when they got older.

Note: Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, for the film.

Bonnie and Clyde

This had to be one of the worse movies I have ever seen. Bonnie and Clyde were two cold blooded killers who got what they deserved and I do believe this movie shows how liberal Hollywood was becoming during this time period. Frank Hammer's character and story was completely incorrect. The historians who were hired for this movie failed. But, then again I wouldn't be surprised if they only hired socialists to push a narrative against law enforcement.

La Dolce Vita

many fine points and messages. a bit boring . smoke, smoke, smoke!

Do the Right Thing

To racists

Note: Well at least the reviewer was succinct -- in whatever they were saying.

12 Years a Slave

Good movie if they would leave out the BLASPHEMING!

Band of Outsiders
Band of Outsiders
I usually enjoy French crime movies, but this supposedly great film by Godard is meandering and pointless. The plot is almost non-existent, as it appears to be filmed for self-indulgent reasons in a whimsical manner, allowing the story to unfold in a random manner. There is not enough content to justify the running time of the film; maybe if it was edited down to a one-hour television special, all the filler could be removed and the movie would dare to be entertaining, instead of a waste of time.

Bicycle Thieves

This movie is overrated by a mile, like several classics. I just didn't care that much about the guy getting his bike back, and it was also socialist propaganda. It focused too much on one specific plot line. It had too much of a foreign feel to it, and really felt like it was from a different time and place-I didn't relate to it.

Note: Socialist propoganda?

Battleship Potemkin

Extremely disappointed, lots of wasted film showing nothing-boring. Clips of the movie were far more exciting then watching the whole movie.

This film was totally uninspiring as far as turning anybody to communism. Had it’s good parts but as a whole......well I was so bored I didn’t get thru the entire movie. The battle on the steps was really over rated-any remake would be far more superior than this.


Someone raved about this so I gave it a try. Older movies can be slow and strangely paced and this movie is a very fine example of that. The premise is as bizarre as the behavior of many of the characters in this movie. And not in a compelling way, mostly just kind of dumb. I didn't finish the movie, only got about half way through, because I realized I had better things to do with my time.

All the President’s Men

This 1976 historical film depicting the events leading to the fall of a President is far from exciting or thrilling and merely borders on interesting. Actors Dustin Hoffman who plays Berstein, and Robert Redford who plays his fellow journalist, gave only decent performances as the diligent reporters who cracked the Watergate scandal.

The story portrayed in the film is one that leaves room for thrilling encounters, and exciting and mysterious scenes. Unfortunately, it is soarly lacking in all of the above. The plot moved in a slow, layed back pace. A lack of backround music to mysterious scenes, such as those with Deep Throat, only helped to enhance the boring factor.

The acting too was far from spectacular. Both main actors gave only mediocre performances, lacking in spice and borderline lacking in good talent. Thanks to Robert Redford's refreshingly youthful and attractive appearance, the film is bareable to watch. However, if You are looking for a good sleeper, I highly recomend this unusually boring film, All the president's Men!

It's A Wonderful Life
It’s A Wonderful Life
All of the critical reviews love this movie but complain about various technical issues for the DVD. I'm going to criticize the movie itself, which makes my review a minority of one. The moral message of this classic movie has serious flaws, especially in the context of a "feel good" Christmas story.

Actually I'm amazed that I seem to be the only person who sees the elephant in the room: George Bailey is a snowflake who decides to commit suicide over a relatively trivial financial problem. This story takes place during the Great Depression, and unlike millions of Americans George's entire family is doing quite well. George has a nice house in a great neighborhood, a beautiful, loving wife and adorable kids. But the moment George encounters the first real problem in his life - his uncle misplaces some money that was supposed to be deposited in the bank - he thinks that suicide is a solution and it takes a guardian angel - an angel sent by God, no less - to talk him out of it. George is the ultimate snowflake.

Even worse is the way that the guardian angel persuades George not to kill himself. The angel shows George how horrible everything would be if George wasn't born. Without George, the town of Bedford Falls becomes a dystopian nightmare. It isn't sufficient to remind George how lucky and blessed his life has been, nor is it sufficient to encourage him to work through the problem. George must be shown that he is the most special and important person in the entire town. In other words, this movie is a narcissistic fantasy.

I fail to see how this is an inspiring, feel-good Christmas story. Snowflakes who have it as good as George aren't the ones who need guardian angels. For that matter, I'm not sure why the guardian angel earned his wings with this easy case. All he had to do was show George that the town would be a terrible place without him.

A better title for this movie is "It's a Terrible Life Without George." :-)

Note: "A relatively trivial financial problem"? it would have meant prison and scandal!


It was decently funny but to much political rhetoric especially towards the end. Get enough politics every day without something that's suppose to be entertaining shoving more politics down my throat.

Grapes of Wrath

Liberal "progressive" brainwashing. I should have known it would be promoting socialism and "the greater good collective at the expense of the individual and individual freedom and responsibility. It shows Hollywood's Communist bent has been around for a long time. I loved Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in Yours Mine and Ours and thought I would love this but hated this and threw it away.

Note: A very realistic portrayal of those who migrated west during the Dust Bowl is "promoting socialism"? Buddy, wait'll you read a history book. It'll seem like Das Kapital to you.

28 October 2020

I Comment on Today's Headlines, Seventh in a Regular Series

Here's hoping this man is president-elect next week

In July I came up with the brilliant idea of posting some of the day's headlines from various news sources and writing comments about them that were either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response was so overwhelming (thank you, Uriah Clydesdale of Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA) that I have since offered readers additional editions, to enthusiastic acclaim (by which I mean dead silence). Here then is part seven in what is now a regular and beloved feature of this blog.

From The NY Times:

90,000 Told to Flee as California Fires Nearly Double in Size

California is (no pun intended) a hot mess. Thanks to the climate change that our current idiot-in-chief denies is real, that state is once again ravaged by wildfires and there's every reason to believe that such will be the case every year. Electing Joe Biden president will not magically cure all ills but it will finally mean a step in the right direction. Climate change surpasses even Covid as the number one crisis facing our planet and the United States should be among the countries at the forefront of efforts to combat it.

A Divided Nation Agrees on One Thing: Many People Want a Gun

Such is the state of things in Trumpian American that many people are buying their first guns while others are stockpiling weapons. Faith has been lost in our institutions and many citizens feel they have to protect themselves. This will not end well.

As Election Nears, Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science

See what I'm talking about? We have (hopefully only for a few more months) a president who denies science. Science! According to Merriam-Webster science is: "the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding." Yup, a world leader who opposes knowledge and supports ignorance and misunderstanding. Vote everybody, for the love of god, vote.

From the BBC:

Police officer raiding illegal cockfight gets killed by rooster

I suspect fowl play.

Philadelphia rocked by fresh unrest after police shooting

What's this? The police shot and killed an African-American? What else is new. According to the story: "Mr Wallace, 27, had bipolar disorder, and his wife told officers this before they shot him, a lawyer representing his family said." The deceased was holding a knife at the time which he refused to put down. For this they shot him to death? At worst couldn't they have shot the arm holding the knife? They really thought they had to kill the brother? Fucking police....

Kim Kardashian West mocked for 'humble' birthday party on private island

As well she should be. The lives of the rich and clueless. As one person wrote on twitter: "I felt I've never truly understood the French Revolution until now."

From SF Gate:

'This would not have happened with Roger Ailes': Trump upset that Fox News ran Obama's speech

Poor 'lil Trumpy having to deal with the fact that he doesn't have complete and total control of a network. Boo hoo.

Hundreds of Trump supporters stuck in the cold for hours when buses can't reach Omaha rally

I'm trying really hard but cannot seem to muster any sympathy for people who support a serial sexual offender, congenital liar, racist and narcissist for president. Wish I could.

Multi-love: What it's like to have more than one partner in the pandemic

Another reminder of how glad I am that there was no such pandemic when I was in my late teens and twenties. I'm neither proud nor ashamed to say that as a young man I was what was once called a "swinger." Parties, nightclubs and bars were milieu. I was promiscuous and sought females who were similarly inclined. Being sidelined by a pandemic would not have sat well with me and given my love of spirits and drugs I would have found ways to continue my pursuits. I might well have met a premature end. 

From The Washington Post:

Stock market slide muddles Trump’s economic message days before 2020 election

Hey look everybody? Actual good news from the stock market, actual meaningful news from the stock market. Although I must say that Trumpy's message was pretty muddled to begin with.

Trump’s attacks on adversaries often followed by threats to their safety

When Trumpy assails a public official, be they a sitting governor or a health expert, there follows a slew of threats against his target by the president's idiotic followers. The man inspires hate and like no president before him sows division. He has endangered the lives of countless people across the country.

Pandemic depression is about to collide with seasonal depression. Make a plan, experts say.

I don't fully understand this because my seasonal depression comes in the Spring. (I'm nothing if not a contrarian.) I tend to have less depression come November, December and January with a slight uptick in the two months following with full blown depression accompanying April and May. But I certainly can sympathize with having other factors combine with pandemic depression to create a horrible brew of super-sized sadness. As with millions of others, the pandemic has made my depression more acute, as has the on-going nonsense coming out of the White House. Hopefully next week's election will be a curative. Meanwhile -- and at all times -- it is good to have a plan. I have certain routines I try to rigidly follow and different sort of treats and rewards to look forward to. It's important to reach out (easier said than done during a pandemic) and find support systems. We are not alone.

26 October 2020

The Author Answers the Question: What If Only White Males Could Vote? (The Horror the Horror)

Someone I follow on Twitter re-tweeted -- with a reply -- a nasty anti-semitic comment from a conservative. Against my better judgment I checked out the offending tweeter’s account. The first tweet I saw was a screenshot of a partial New York Times headline: "What if only white men voted?" it asked. There followed a number of tweets from right wing neanderthals (are there any other kind?) about how much better the country would be. (I pause here while readers variously fall on the floor laughing or head to the toilet to commence vomiting.)

I decided to go into enemy territory and tweet a reply. It was as follows: “Everyone would be dead from Covid in a few years.” I braced myself for a barrage of misspelled, grammatically hilarious responses from white nationalists but none came. Indeed, my tweet has thus far gotten twenty likes.

Of course it got me thinking about what else one could safely say about what the U.S. would be like if, as in days of yore, only white males had the franchise. Here’s what I came up with:

The rich would pay no taxes.

Police forces would be armed to the teeth and officers would be encouraged to carry out extrajudicial punishments, including those of a capital nature.

Climate change would accelerate even faster and our coasts would soon be under water.

Abortions would be illegal.

Gay marriage would be illegal as would be gay sex and there would be no civil rights or protections for anyone falling under the LGBTQ umbrella.

Women would lose protection from sexual harassment and the right to recourse when such harassment occurs.

Guns would be even more plentiful with even less restrictions with a consequent increase in gun deaths by accident, suicide or murder.

The environment would be ravaged

Government funding for scientific research would be cut to the bone, if not entirely.

The wildest of conspiracy theories being accepted as fact, would influence public policy.

Student debt would skyrocket.

Predatory lending would be encouraged.

The crumbling infrastructure would totally collapse.

Immigration of non-whites would be halted.

More children separated from parents and put in cages.

A costly and ineffective wall would be built. 

Poverty would increase at the same time the social safety net was being dismantled.

The U.S. would be regarded by much of the rest of the world as a rogue nation that is totally unreliable and only interested in self-preservation.

Severe restrictions on freedom of the press would be imposed.

Political dissenters would be jailed.

Peaceful rallies and marches would be quashed.

Public schools would be even more severely under-funded, especially those serving primarily students of color and/or in low income areas.

Christianity would be made the official state religion.

The military budget would be greatly increased.

The national debt would skyrocket.

The Food and Drug Administration’s power would be limited.

Pharmaceutical companies would profit enormously and most citizens would have difficulty affording basic medications.

Regulations on businesses and corporations would be no more.

Small business would become a thing of the past.

Marijuana would be made illegal.

There would be stiffer prison sentences for all crimes.

The crime rate would go up.

Prisons would be privatized.

Mail delivery would be privatized.

The suicide rate would go up by 500% or more.

So let us all take comfort in the fact that we live in a country in which women and people of color can vote (well, theoretically, as we’ve seen, white males often do their utmost to restrict voting).

23 October 2020

Nerds, Jocks, Stoners, Outcasts and Mean Girls: A Guide to 25 Excellent Films That Focus on American Teenagers

Mean Girls
Teenagers are a great subject for films. First of all they look good on screen. Some are beautiful, some are cute, all are young. Audiences would generally prefer looking at seventeen-year-olds rather than seventy-year olds. (I should here add that many who portray teens in films are actually in their twenties.) Teens make for good subjects because they are at turning points in their lives, often making decisions that will effect them forever. Coming of age stories are a staple of films as teenagers wrestle with the transition from childhood to their adult years. Sexual awakening is also a feature of teen films which in itself provides titillation for audiences, but also, if done sincerely, gets at some of the basic realities of navigating romantic relationships, sex and when the twain meet. 

Adults often like teen movies because they can evoke either halcyon days or remind us of struggles we've happily moved past. Teens, of course, love teen movies because they can be anything from a how-to guide, to a mirror on their own experiences, to a look at what many of their counterparts are going through.

Of course many films featuring teen characters are comedies, often of the raunchy variety. This is only natural. Teenagers frequently get into humorous situations, whether intentionally or not. Screenwriters, directors and actors like to exaggerate the zaniness of being a teenager and sometimes do so for good effect.

Of course many people have scars from their teen years. There are heartbreaks, struggles with authority, first exposures to life's harsher realities such as death, addiction, war and violence. Watching a film that explores these experiences can be cathartic.

Speaking of struggling with authority....Teen movies often capture the spirit of rebellion that comes naturally to many as they become self-aware and question society's rules. Usually teens are portrayed as the forward-thinkers, standing up to outmoded practices and ideas.

Never, Sometimes, Rarely, Always
Teenagers face a lot of pressure. Trying to be your own person. Trying to fit in. Trying to be liked. Trying to be loved. Not caring what others think of you. Looking ahead to college or work. Trying to understand love. Having first experiences with romance. Learning to drive. Going to war. Going off to college. Getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy. Earning a scholarship. Failing to get into a dream school. Becoming a star athlete. Getting high for the first time. 

They're tough years and we're not really ready for them until we reach our forties.

Teen movies also capture the different types of people we meet in high school (often creating and perpetuating stereotypes in the process). Meet the nerds, Meet the jocks. Meet the sexually active. Meet the especially mature. Meet the especially immature. Meet the cool, popular kids. Meet the outcasts. Meet the bullies. Meet the stoners. Meet the rebels. Most of all meet the totally normal everyteens, stuck in the middle of all the cliques and archetypes.

Teen films often stereotype teachers, principal and parents, although the better ones don't.

Suffice to say that there are many, many films that explore the teen years and some of them are damn good. What follows is 25 of those damn good ones. Please note this is a subjective list and includes my personal favorites. I could easily have made a list twice as long. Surely anyone else making such a list would have excluded some of mine and included many they prefer.

In compiling the list and noting the ten "runners-up" below, I noted that the vast majority of these films (twenty-five of thirty-five) were made from the 1990s on. This is curious in large part because far less of the overall movies I admire were made within this time span. Obviously the "serious" teen film and the truly funny ones are a recent phenomenon and it is well worth exploring why. I'd imagine one reason is that teens are the target audience and they've become a much more important share of the film-going public. Also I think it's following a trend as the teen film was popularized -- principally by John Hughes -- in the Eighties.

(My goodness I didn't have room for: Footloose (1984) Ross, The Breakfast Club (1985) Hughes, Booksmart (2019) Wilde, Lady Bird (2017) Gerwig, Juno (2007) Reitman, Thirteen (2003) Hardwicke, Heathers (1989) Lehman, Precious (2009) Daniels, Easy A (2010) Gluck,  and Clueless (1995) Heckerling).

1. The Last Picture Show(1971) Bogdanovich. Teens in a small, sad Texas town in the 1950s. Not a cheery topic but a compelling story featuring Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Cybill Shepard. All three struggle with early sexual experiences, romantic entanglements, and the shifting nature of friendships.
2. Rushmore (1998) Anderson. The rebel with many causes, none of them terribly important, but they combine to provide an eccentric, funny, touching story that is  perhaps  the quintessential Wes Anderson film. Our hero, Max (Jason Schwartzman) is a wonderfully iconoclastic teen and Rushmore is certainly a variation on the theme of teen films.

3. Mean Girls (2004) Waters. The classic high school story. Some drama, a lot of laughs in a cultural touchstone, as vibrant today as when it premiered over 16 years ago. It manages to be both insightful and honest and still hilarious. A brilliant script.

4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Anderson. Barely teens falling in love on an island and escaping together. Another Wes Anderson classic and a very different sort of teen love story. Puppy love and scout troops, social services (in the form of a single character) and an all-star cast including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton.

5. My Own Private Idaho (1991) Van Sant. Shakespeare-inspired, this is about older teens who leave home for life on the streets, hustling, bonding, living dangerously but on their own terms. River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star. It's something of a teen road picture with positive LGBTQ themes, narcolepsy and a dash of Falstaff.

The Suicide Virgins
6. The Virgin Suicides (1999) S. Coppola. Sisters living under the repression of uber religious parents. Sofia Coppola’s debut films is a unique look at what it means to be a teenage girl and what it means to love from afar and certainly what it means to live in an oppressive home.
7. Wild Boys of the Road (1933) Wellman. Teens during the great depression. A hard as nails tail of teens taking to the road — via the rails — to ease burdens on families or get away from families while desperately hoping for a better life.

8. Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Ray. They might not have had a cause but they rebelled for a reason. They were fed up with stifling home lives, parents who were absent, or unloving or inept. James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo were transcendent as the teens. Still resonant 65 years later.

9. Boyz n the Hood (1991) Singleton.  African American teens coming of age in a racist society. A powerful drama that is rich with themes and great performances. Teens struggling with an unjust society.

10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) Hittman. The anti-Juno film about a pregnant teenager girl who decides to have an abortion. At times there is a documentary feel to this story of a girl and her cousin venturing from small town Pennsylvania to New York City for the procedure and the tribulations they face. The newest film on this list and one that deserves to be widely seen.

11. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Hughes. Pure fun. Matthew Broderick starred in my favorite John Hughes film about teens who just want to have fun — and “stick it the man” in the process. Some hard truths are learned by one character but the film's theme, as expressed by the title character is:  "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

12. Superbad (2007) Mottola. A super good movie about teen boys looking for sex, love, sex, booze, sex, parties and sex. It's a wild ride and a fun one. McLovin is classic.
13. Waves (2019) Shults. The story of African American siblings in present day Miami and the divergent paths their lives take. To say it’s a powerful drama would be an understatement but also a trivialization of a beautiful film about choices and fate.

14. Little Women (2019) Gerwig. Nineteenth century teen siblings who love — and sometimes hate or envy — each other as they each seek different paths to their dreams. We miss the high school experience here, but Little Women captures the struggles of girls turning into women and making that journey with their sisters.

15. Election (1999) Payne. Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick captures a high school archetype: the driven, ambitious student who has to be a student leader while maintaining her 4.0. Tracy Flicks are at every high school and they can variously be a delight or a royal pain to teachers and fellow students. Usually they're both. Election is an irreverent but realistic comedy about the high school experience, most especially student elections.

16. Pleasantville (1998) Ross. A present-day teen, David (Tobey Maguire and his sister (Reese Witherspoon, again) aremagically transported into a Fifties sit-com and the teen world it portrays. They literally brings the color of his contemporary times to a stodgy, sexless, banal world.

17. The World of Henry Orient (1964) Hill. Teen girls with a crush on an older man. In this case a concert pianist played by Peter Sellars. It's what one would call a charming romp and is well worth a look as a peak into a bygone era. 

18. Elephant (2003) Van Sant. In some ways a look at a typical suburban high school but with the principle difference being that a mass shooting takes place. It is clearly based on the Columbine High School Massacre and helps shine a light on that tragedy and how high school cultures can be dangerously damaging to young, vulnerable psyches.

Yes, God, Yes
19. Yes, God, Yes (2020) Maine. Sexual awakenings are often the stuff of teen movies and this is one of the newest and best examples. Our protagonist, Alice (Natalie Dyer) has an extra challenge as she, like so many others, faces the strictures of being in a strict Catholic school. Alice experiences lust while also witnessing rank hypocrisy. Lessons are learned.
20. Dazed and Confused (1993) Linklater. The classic coming-of-age film featuring an ensemble cast and thus a variety of teen experiences. It takes place on the last night of school with all the madness that can entail.

21. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) Heckerling. Yet another coming-of-age classic with a wide-ranging cast. Fast Times is a school year in the life of a group of disparate characters that comprise some of the various types one meets in a high school. Notable in the cast is a young Sean Penn as a stoner.

22. My Friend Dahmer (2017) Meyers. This is about a future serial killer and cannibal so no, it's not your typical teen movie. It's based on the actual high school experiences of the notorious serial killer and flesh eater, Jeffrey Dahmer. It sounds like heavy fare, but in his school days Dahmer was more of a goofball making the transition into murderer. It's an oddly compelling film and as good a look at high school as you'll see.

23. Napoleon Dynamite (2004) Hess. The title character (John Heder) is the total oddball teen from a weird family (every school has them). He is lovably eccentric, especially when he dances and helps his friend's Pedro's seemingly quixotic campaign for student body president.

24Eight Grade (2018) Burnham. At last a middle school setting. The middle school years can be particularly brutal as teens deal with physical and social awkwardness that can lead to anything from depression to self-loathing to harming oneself. Elsie Fisher is Kayla in the last days of 8th grade looking forward to and dreading the coming of high school. It is, as one reviewer put it, "sweet, sad and beautifully observed." It is also criminally underrated.

25. Dope (2015) Famuyiwa. Another terrific film that flew under the radar. Here we have three misfits (outcasts are best served by traveling together) who find adventure in a tough neighborhood. It has been described as a coming of age film for the post hip hop generation. An underground party is attended, choices are made and challenges ensue. 

19 October 2020

A Preston Sturges Edition of Film Quotes

The Great McGinty
Last Spring I revived the  film quotes feature on this blog  after seven years of dormancy. Since then I've compiled lists of quotes from foreign films, movies from the 1970s, Marx Brothers movies and a list of my all-time favorites. In days of yore I had a list strictly from Woody Allen movies, and one with quotes strictly from female characters. Today I present one-liners from the six great films by writer/director Preston Sturges. Sturges had a nice career as a writer before the early forties and he did some good work writing and directing from the mid-forties on, but from 1940-1944 he had an amazing output of seven films, one of which was good (Christmas in July) and the other six were classics. No director has had such an amazing output in so short a time. Of course Sturges' films were comedies. They had equal parts witty dialogue, slapstick and satire. Sturges the director's greatest asset was Sturges the writer. Here are a few examples.

From the Great McGinty:

If it wasn't for graft, you'd get a very low type of people in politics. Men without ambition. Jellyfish. — William Demarest as Skeeters.

You got me all a tremble. I bet you're scared to death of yourself. — Brian Donlevy as Dan McGinty.

From The Lady Eve:

Positively the same dame! -- William Demarest as Mugsy.

Don't be vulgar, Jean. Let us be crooked, but never common. -- Charles Coburn as Colonel Harrington.

Well, it's just that I've been up the Amazon for a year and they don't use perfume. — Henry Fonda as Charles.

I said they're not good enough for him. Every Jane in the room is giving him the thermometer and he feels they're just a waste of time. He's returning to his book; he's deeply immersed in it. He sees no one except - watch his head turn when that kid goes by. Won't do ya any good, dear - he's a bookworm - but swing 'em anyway…. — Barbara Stanwyck as Jean.

Sullivan's Travels
From Sullivan’s Travels:
There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan. — Joel McCrea as John L. Sullivan.

You see, sir, rich people and theorists - who are usually rich people - think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches - as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn't, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms. It is to be stayed away from, even for purposes of study. It is to be shunned. — Robert Greig as Burrows.

You know, the nice thing about buying food for a man is that you don't have to listen to his jokes. Just think, if you were some big shot like a casting director or something, I'd be staring into your bridgework saying 'Yes, Mr. Smearcase. No, Mr. Smearcase. Not really, Mr. Smearcase! Oh, Mr. Smearcase, that's my knee!'  — Veronica Lake as The Girl.

Not from you, Sully, that's true. Not with pictures like So Long Sarong, Hey, Hey, In the Hayloft, Ants in Your Plants of 1939... But they weren't about tramps, lockouts, sweatshops, people eating garbage in alleys and living in piano boxes and ash cans. — Robert Warwick as Mr. LeBrand

Palm Beach Story
From The Palm Beach Story:
Cold are the hands of time that creep along relentlessly, destroying slowly but without pity that which yesterday was young. Alone our memories resist this disintegration and grow more lovely with the passing years. Heh! That's hard to say with false teeth! — Robert Dudley as Wieinie King.

Toto's a refugee - from his creditors, I think. — Mary Astor s Princess Centimillia.

You have no idea what a long-legged woman can do without doing anything. — Claudette Colbert as Gerry Jeffers.

That's one of the tragedies of this life - that the men who are most in need of a beating up are always enormous. — Rudy Vallee as J.D. Hackenacker III.

From The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek:

The trouble with kids is they always figure they're smarter than their parents - never stop to think if their old man could get by for 50 years and feed 'em and clothe 'em - he maybe had something up here to get by with - things that seem like brain twisters to you might be very simple for him. — William Demarest as Constable Kockenlocker.

I don't deal with spooks. She doesn't need a lawyer, she needs a Medium. - Al Bridge as Mr. Johnson.

Of course he has to have a first name. Everybody has a first name. Even dogs have first names, even if they don't have any last names. -- Eddie Bracken as Norval Jones.

Hail the Conquering Hero
From Hail the Conquering Hero:
I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, in all the years that I have been unsuccessfully mixed into politics, this is the first and only time that I have ever seen a candidate for office - given an opportunity to prove publicly, permanently and beyond peradventure of doubt that he was honest, courageous and veracious…" — Henry Hayden as Doc Bissell.

Well, that's the war for you. It's always hard on women. Either they take your men away and never send them back at all; or they send them back unexpectedly just to embarrass you. No consideration at all. — Elizabeth Patterson as Aunt Martha.

If I could reach as high as my father's shoestrings... my whole life would be justified - and I would stand here before you proudly... instead of as the thief and the coward that I am. — Eddie Bracken as Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith.

They say opportunity's only got one hair on his head and you gotta grab it while it's going by and dog it down or you mightn't get another chance. — William Demarest as Sgt. Heffelginger.

15 October 2020

Movies That Make Me Cry (Actually None Do, But Some Choke Me Up -- A Little)

Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia

I recently saw a filler on TCM in which the hosts each shared which movie makes them cry. Naturally this prompted me to think of movies that cause me to sob. Well cousin, first of all I don’t do crying. I’m not proud of this. It's on my long list of emotional issues. From the time I was a small child until my late teens, I didn’t cry a drop. Not a single tear. There wasn’t a lot of blubbering going on in my twenties, thirties of forties for that matter. Deaths of kin and good friends has caused the waterworks to get going but I’m unable to sustain it for very long. (In other words, I'm a typical Finn.) But at least there’s something. So shedding a tear or two over something like a movie is pretty rare but it has happened. Sports causes me to tear up a bit, such as when the Giants finally won the World Series. But again we're talking getting choked up not bawling. All that being said I thought I'd share some movies that — while they don’t make me cry, nor necessarily even shed a tear -- can at least get a good-sized lump going in my throat.

(Warning: there are spoilers aplenty to follow.)

Philadelphia (1993) Demme - I’m sure I’m not alone here. It’s a superbly done movie and the ending -- which some stone hearts might call emotionally manipulative, is natural and essential to the story. Plus it gets me every time. I used to show Philadelphia as part of a two-week-long unit on Homophobia my middle school used to do and at the end of the movie I’d always have to look away. It wouldn’t do for students to see their teacher red-eyed -- espeically because of a movie. A large part of the emotional impact of the film comes from Tom Hanks' transcendent Oscar-winning performance as Andrew Beckett, the gay lawyer with AIDS.

The Searchers (1956) Ford Saw it recently and the ending got to me again. The wife mistakenly thought this was a reaction to the character of Ethan Edwards being left all alone while everyone else was happily grouped together. That contributes to the effect but it’s really all about the exquisite beauty of the final shot and how it bookends the opening shot and draws to a close the epic story. Perfection in film often touches me emotionally as happened when I last watched Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet and Chinatown (1974) Polanski.

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) Capra Something of a cliche to be sure and actually I’ve seen it so many times that the power to choke me up is pretty much gone, but it did the trick for years. It is a heart-tugger of a story with a man realizing how rich his life how much he's loved and how lucky he is. I think about it sometimes when in a blue mood.

Sean Penn as Milk
Milk (2008) Van SantWhile an inspiring story, it is also unquestionably a sad one and the ending captures that. But it gets me also because I remember those times and how so many of us were so powerfully struck by the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. This is another film highlighted by a bravura Oscar-winning performance, this time by Sean Penn as the title character.

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle — Heroism. Injustice. Youth. The rending of a youthful friendship is tough, when it’s done in the name of genocide it is brutal. It is a great film with an emotionally powerful ending.

Umberto D (1952) De SicaIt’s the one work of Italian Neo-realism that most moves me emotionally. In fact I feel like pitching forward and crying like a baby right now just thinking about the ending and the wonderful character of the old man and his love for his dog. It is a movie stripped of sentimentality being instead a powerfully real slice of life

Ride the High Country (1962) Peckinpah I refer to the death of Joe McCrea’s character a noble man if there ever was one  (he utters one of my favorite lines in all of filmdom: I want to enter my house justified). It’s a cruel fate for such a good man.

The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdanovich There is a pervasive sadness to this film (a true American classic) and it really comes to the fore in certain scenes. Learning of the death of Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), the final emotional outburst by Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), the death of Billy (Sam Bottoms) and the final parting of Sonny (Tim Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges). A lot of moments in Picture Show tug at my heartstrings.

Giulietta Masina 
Nights of Cabiria (1957) FelliniAs with most films that get to me, it is the ending. I’m not so much moved by the injustice of what happens to the title character, played by Giuletta Masina, but the beautiful way she responds to it. Surrounded by joyous people she slowly breaks into a soft, tearful smile. It's one of the greatest moments in movies.

The Big Parade (1925) Vidor There are two scenes that get me every time. The first is when the protagonist, James (John Gilbert) goes off to battle leaving behind the French farm girl, Melisande (Renee Adore). She chases the truck he is on as through their tears they blow kiss after to kiss to one another and James tosses her gifts. Meanwhile soldiers march past her. The truck eventually picks up speed and Melisande is left disconsolate on the road. The second scene is the conclusion when they re-unite. James’ return to France and rediscovery of his lost love is no surprise but in the hands of an artful director like King Vidor, it is grand film moment.

Radio Days (1987) Allen -- It’s not just a celebration of when radio was king, it is a celebration of childhood, family and nostalgia. It’s a wonderful film and it touches me in a million ways and by the end I could have a good cry. (I don’t, but I could.)