Sunday, April 22, 2007

#90-81: Heathcliffe, the Holy Grail, and (Ben)-Hur

90--Sound of Music
Mountaintops and Toblerone bars and hilarious science teaching co-workers are just a few of my favorite things about Austria. The Sound of Music makes that cut too, though the eerily adorable children make it a tad Stepfordish. Still, the sing-a-long factor and Julie Andrews make it a standard for snowy nights and fires and warm apple strudel.
89--A Place in the Sun
A stellar murder thriller taking the audience on a trip through the anxiety riddled mind of a desperate man. Shifting the tables on the audience, so often rooting for the coppers to catch that dirty rat, you instead suddenly understand the dirty rat’s predicament. Some part of you knows why he commits his crime and some part of you might have wanted to do the same thing. It’s as psychologically riveting as Crime and Punishment without the torture of all the Russian pronunciations.
88--Some Like it Hot
Again, contrary to what Brent says there is some humor in cross dressing comedies. No matter how many times the creators of modern offenders (Big Momma’s House) cite the classics as inspiration. Here the redeeming factor is not Marilyn Monroe (the female version of my anti-James Dean fixation), nor is it Tony Curtis (doing a lame Cary Grant impression). It’s Jack Lemmon. Only Jack Lemmon. Forever Jack Lemmon. And Billy Wilder
87--It Happened One Night
Say what you will about screwball comedy: it’s unrealistic, it’s repetitive, its overwrought zaniness can grate on your nerves after the one hour mark. But whatever you say don’t lump this film in with the movies that give the genre a bad name. Clark Gable starts a grand tradition of sensible men turned into blithering nincompoops by a beautiful woman. And as a sensible man who is a blithering nincompoop in the company of a beautiful woman, I greatly admire this performance.
86--Wuthering Heights
Out of the whole of Laurence Olivier’s career you’ve got to think that this is not the movie he would pick to be the most beloved for generations after he’s shuffled loose the mortal coil. But it is, Heathcliffe on the moors and an enduring romance that is to dorky English teachers what Pretty Woman is to America at large (only without the profanity and creepy George Costanza moments).
85--Taxi Driver
Every one of my posts contains one entry that’s guaranteed to make Brent’s blood pressure rise. This is that entry. There’s nothing wrong with Taxi Driver. It’s classic. It’s DeNiro and Scorcese at the top of their games. It’s chilling, yet human, haunting, yet heroic. So why is it at 85 and not 15? One word, four syllables: gratuitous. Do we really need all the blood, all the time at the porno theater, all the political subplot. We probably do. It just distracted me from everything else.
Epic. There were a lot of movies that worked towards this end before Ben-Hur, there have been a lot of movies that have tried to achieve the feat afterwards. None of them manage to pull it off quite like this one does. True, epic is often boring and confusing: (What his mom and sister are being thrown out of the house? *2 hours later* What? He has a mother and sister?) but the high moments of Ben-Hur are so great, so grand and inspiring that you can’t help but pull yourself to the edge of your seat. Witness the thousands of (failed) attempts to achieve the chariot race scene again, none of which matches the intensity of the original.
Ben-Hur was long with moments of incredible intensity. Amadeus is long with aching crescendos of personal introspection. Just the kind of movie that an overly-reflective guy like me would like. It’s not totally accurate, and three hours of Mozart in a movie is a tad gratuitous, but F. Murray Abraham is like a human chariot race. Hanging on to everyone who watches him and pulling them along for the ride.
82—Dances with Wolves
When it first came out it was beloved, then it was totally and utterly forgotten. It’s worth looking at again, not because Kevin Costner is a cinematic genius (he’s not), nor because the romance is stirring (it’s a little frigid) but just because it found a way to recapture the dramatic beauty of the Western, the rolling fields and plains and mountains and everything that made me proud to grow up Montanan, the sense of land and history and culture and pride, and Graham Greene just generally being awesome.
81—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Good, solid, fun. It’s all the best parts* of Star Wars, wise cracking Harrison Ford, and rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure, with a dollop worth of rah-rah Americana in an effort to best the Nazis. AFI suggests Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that movie doesn’t have Sean Connery or the Hindenburg, making this movie much more list worthy.
*Ed. Note: By best parts of Star Wars we mean “best human parts of Star Wars” because clearly wookies would not have done well in the 1940s…or, maybe…