Monday, January 31, 2011

#31 A Night at the Opera (1935)

A Night at the Opera (1935)

" Hey you. I told you to slow that nag down. On account of you I almost heard the opera."

I love the Marx Brothers. I have for quite some time. This fact is quite remarkable in that my love of the Marx Brothers goes back at the very least to 7th or 8th grade, a time in which I disliked most old movies, and despised black and white. And yet in spite of this severe dislike of old movies, my love of the Marx Brothers remained. The first Marx Brothers film I can remember watching was the one I am reviewing right now, that is, A Night at the Opera. I have tremendously fond memories of this film, being not only my first experience with The Marx Brothers, but also being my favorite of the films they made. This fact caused confusion when voiced to a friend of mine, who couldn’t see how I could possibly like any Marx Brothers film more than Duck Soup. And while Duck Soup is a superb movie, the jokes are hilarious, and the three are in top form, A Night at the Opera brings something more, and that is an actually perceivable plot. While I’m sure there are many who would disagree with my viewing this as a good thing, I actually do, and it is my hope that by the end of this review you will too.

The film starts out with a scene at a swanky restaurant. Mrs. Claypool is waiting for the arrival of Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho), who is serving as her manager, charged with getting her into high society. Mrs. Claypool is upset because Driftwood has not yet achieved this feat, and he doesn’t appear to be putting any effort at all into the job. Driftwood interrupts her with a plan, by providing a large donation to the New York Opera, owned by Gottlieb; she will be instantly entered into high society. The two talk with Gottlieb, who tells Claypool that he will use the money to hire an opera singer named Lassparri, who is renowned as the greatest tenor in the world. Claypool and Gottlieb then visit the opera house where Lassparri is performing to see his talents, and hopefully hire him for the upcoming New York opera season. We are soon introduced to Lassparri, who turns out to be an arrogant, vain, and rude person. Lassparri, as it turns out, is in love with his female counterpart at the Opera, a woman named Rosa. She, in turn is in love with a man named Ricardo, who is a powerfully talented tenor in his own right, but just doesn’t have the right connections and notoriety to make it big. Ricardo meets with an old friend of his, named Fiorello (Chico), who vows to help him make it big in the Opera. The opera is performed, and Gottlieb and Claypool are sufficiently satisfied sign him for their own opera. Lassparri elects to take Rosa with him as his counterpart. The two depart, alongside Driftwood, Claypool, and Gottlieb on a steamer ship bound for New York. Shortly after settling into his cramped quarters, Driftwood soon discovers that Ricardo, Fiorello, and Lassparri’s recently fired assistant Tomasso (Harpo) have stowed away in Driftwood’s suitcase. After some crazy antics, the three stowaways are discovered, incarcerated in the brig, and subsequently escape, sneaking through customs into New York City. This escape is discovered, and the three spend the rest of the film evading police while attempting to get Ricardo into the Opera, which, through a complicated series of antics and machinations, they manage to achieve. At film’s end, Rosa and Ricardo sing a powerful duet, resulting in the disgracing and outturning of Lassparri, the successful union of Rosa and Ricardo, and Ricardo’s grand entrée into the opera scene.

The acting in this film is simply superb; the Marx brothers are in top form for this movie. Groucho’s lines are quick, witty, and uproariously hilarious. Chico is punny and riotously funny. Harpo is equally superb, though not quite as prominent as he was in others of his movies such as Duck Soup or A Night in Casablanca. The chemistry of the three Marx brothers is fantastic. Watching Chico and Groucho riff off one another is among the greatest comical performances of all time. But the Marx Brothers aren’t the only great performers in this film. Rosa (Kitty Carlisle), and Ricardo (Allan Jones) are both very compelling. The story of their romance, serving as a sort of undercurrent of the plot of the film is wonderfully performed. Also notable are Walter Woolf King, and Marx Brothers staples Margaret Dumont and Sig Ruman who give excellent performances as straight men to the Marx Brothers. Walter Woolf King, who plays Lassparri, does a good job conveying the arrogance and vanity of his character, while also inviting an opportunity for sympathy for a spurned lover. Margaret Dumont, who plays Mrs. Claypool has been in a number of Marx Brothers films, including Duck Soup, and was excellent as always, serving as a platform for a number of insults from Groucho with appropriate indignation. Sig Ruman, who has also performed in several Marx Brothers films such as A Night in Casablanca, provides another sufficiently entertaining straight man, though I must say I preferred him in Casablanca, where he played an excellent straight man to Harpo. Nonetheless, it is not the Marx Brothers alone that make for an effective comedy; a good comedy requires an equally good straight man (or men), and A Night at the Opera achieves this end superbly.

The directing in A Night at the Opera is surprisingly very good. There are some very good shots in this movie, the most prominent in my mind is a very funny scene in which the Marx Brothers evade and confuse the head of police in New York by running around a two-room apartment. The cool shot I am referring to is when the camera draws back to show you the layout of the whole of the apartment, allowing you to see just what exactly all of the brothers are doing at one time without having to constantly cut around. One thing I particularly like about this film is that it feels improvised. For all I know it could have been, but the sense of the film is that much of it is done in one cut and many of the characters appear to literally be riffing off one another; coming up with jokes and retorts on the spot. Whether or not this is the case is irrelevant, the feeling it achieves makes the film all the more entertaining. One thing I am disappointed by in this film was the editing, which was not very good, and there are a lot of mistakes and poorly cut shots, resulting in repeated actions throughout the film. However these bad edits for the most part are either ignorable or simply add to the general hilarity of the film.

As I intimated earlier, I consider this movie to be superior to the earlier Duck Soup for the reason that it has an actually coherent plot. There are many who would disagree with me; many allege that the Marx Brothers are weakened by plot, which only serves to distract the movie from the hilarious antics of the brothers. This is simply wrong. Viewers need direction, they need to have a sense of where the movie is going, a goal for them to root for, and characters who are striving for an end which will result in euphoria in the viewer in the end is achieved, or sadness or catharsis when the end is not achieved. When this direction is not there; when the viewer is unsure of where the movie is going, the result is drag. The movie gets muddled, viewers get bored, and things such as checking run time against the DVD’s clock start happening. This is apparent even in a movie as good as Duck Soup, where, even though you are laughing from start to finish, you simultaneously find yourself looking for the end. This is not so with A Night at the Opera. The characters have a goal – for Lassparri it is to successfully perform in the New York opera, for Crawford it is to put on a successful opera and achieve status, and for Ricardo and the Marx Brothers, it’s to get Ricardo’s great talent as a tenor recognized by the general public. The result of these cogent goals is a superbly paced movie, and what’s more, I don’t feel there was a shortfall in antics. The flow of this movie is excellent, and I enjoyed myself from start to finish, and most importantly, I didn’t find myself checking the runtime.

Almost as excellent as the superb jokes of the Marx Brothers is the music. The performances of the extremely talented Chico on Piano and equally talented Harpo on Harp are a staple of Marx Brothers films and are performed stupendously in this movie. These two, however, are further aided by a wonderful cadre of singers, notably Allan Jones as Ricardo, who performs a trio with Chico on Piano, Harpo on Harp, and he singing. Equally compelling are the two or three duets between Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle. These are all superbly beautiful performances. One potential shortfall of this film is you’re probably going to have to at the least be ambivalent towards Opera as there is a lot of Opera singing in it. Luckily for me, I adore opera, and greatly adored the Verdi music laced throughout the movie. For me the intermixing of Marx comedy and Verdi opera music was a match made in heaven.

So why is this film on the list? Well for one, you just have to give the Marx Brothers some love. To leave them out of a list of greatest and most influential film of all time would be akin to leaving out Charlie Chaplin or John Wayne; their great volume of work, and great notoriety as prolific actors and pioneers of film cannot be understated. Moreover, A Night at the Opera signified as monumental shift in Marx Brothers films, away from the undirected (and less popular), non story driven films like Duck Soup, and a change towards films containing story, usually featuring a pair of secondary characters who help to direct and keep the film moving. There are many, such as Roger Ebert who this as the end of the Marx Brothers, but I see it as the rebirth. There is a reason why I consider A Night at the Opera to be their best work; it is the great combination of the dialogue, jokes, and chemistry between the Marx Brothers with a cogent storyline to keep the viewer engaged which makes this such a great movie, and one which deserves to be placed on any eternal list of great movies.

Friday, January 28, 2011

#30 The Leopard (1963)

The Leopard (1963)

"We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us - leopards, lions, jackals and sheep - will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth. "

One of the great things about going to college is that in the course of taking classes, I on occasion get to watch great films in-class, and even greater is that once in awhile these films happen to be movies off the list. This means that before I even start writing about the movie for my blog, I’ve already written rather extensively on it in that class, therefore making it much easier to convey my thoughts on the movie when the time comes to talk about it on my blog. This has happened on a number of films for this blog, such as with The Earrings of Madame de…, and Pather Panchalli. Sometimes I am introduced to the film through the class, such as when a movie is recommended to me offhand by a professor during lecture, as has happened with films such as Metropolis and Blade Runner. This unexpected advantage of being in college classes has proved extraordinarily helpful for me in choosing which movies to watch next, considering the arbitrary and unsystematic way in which I go about watching movies off of my list. The movie which I will be talking about today, The Leopard, directed by Luchino Visconti, and starring the legendary actor Burt Lancaster. So this is a movie, which in many ways bears the trappings of a Spaghetti Western, but it is much more, much much more. I think now would be a very good time to mention that for the first time since I reviewed Dracula, we are looking at a movie whose base work I have actually read.

The movie opens with the vista of an Italian Villa, which eventually pans, balcony by balcony, across the house until we are shown a room full of people saying mass. We can hear something going on outside, but the people keep to their mass. Eventually mass is concluded, and the lord of the manor, one Prince of Salina, is informed that there is a dying soldier outside, who came to the estate to announce that Giuseppe Garibaldi has landed in Palermo with an army of 800 redshirts (no, not those kinds of redshirts). Salina decides to ride off to Palermo in spite of this, which, we learn, was essentially to see his mistress who he keeps in Palermo. The next day Salina returns to his home, and, as we are shaving, we are introduced to the character Tancredi, son of a prominent family, but left impoverished. Tancredi, we learn is a highly ambitious man and this ambition will become a central part of the film. Salina is Tancredi’s nephew, and he is a nephew who he respects and loves as a son. He talks to Tancredi about Garibaldi, and Tancredi reveals that he’s going to join the Garibaldini, saying that “Things must change in order to remain the same.” After Tancredi leaves, but not before we are informed by the family priest that Salina’s oldest daughter Concetta is in love with Tancredi (who would be her first cousin), and she is nearly certain that he feels the same. The ever perceptive Salina tells us that this cannot be so – Tancredi being far too practical to marry someone of such small fortune. We are next taken to an extended scene displaying the insanity and horror that was the battle of Palermo. This scene feels like a Spaghetti Western, showing large amounts of soldiers running around shooting at each other. It’s a very manic scene, and one that is hard to figure out what is happening, which I suppose is the point. This scene ends very abruptly as we are returned to the regal Salina family, riding through the countryside on their way to their summer estate of Donnafugata. They are accompanied by Tancredi, who has been injured and decorated by the Garibaldini.

We are next introduced to the major players in Donnafugata – the mayor Don Calogero Sedara, a miserly social riser who represents the new upper class taking advantage of the revolution – a man without taste, class, or honor, and serves as a complete contrast to the regal, chic Salinas. Besides him is his daughter, Angelica, a woman of considerable beauty and wealth. Finally, there is Ciccio, a simple man who is the groundskeeper of the Salina estates at Donnafugata. We learn that he is extremely loyal to the Salina family and the old monarchy, and Salina cares deeply for the man, even though he considers the man too lofty in his principles, incapable of seeing the grand picture.

While in Donnafugata, Tancredi sets his eyes on Angelica, much to the chagrin of Concetta. Salina is pleased to see his nephew make such an advantageous selection, and offers his support to his nephew, who is now going away again to fight in the wars being waged by Piedmont-Sardinia for the unification of Italy. While this is going on, the town of Donnafugata is taking a vote to be incorporated into Piedmont, and we learn that the vote is drawn at 100% voting yes, with 0 votes no. An odd number, and we soon learn through Ciccio that the votes had been altered by the unscrupulous and ambitious Calogero. Eventually Tancredi returns as a captain in the army of Piedmont-Sardinia and marries Angelica. Eventually we are cut again, to several years later; the Salina family is attending a swanky ball, accompanied by Tancredi, Angelica, and Sedara. For 30 minutes we are lambasted with glorious images of splendor, fantastic costumes, and wonderful dances. Contrasting these images is a Prince who is mired in depression, wallowing in the changing of times. He contemplates his death, and for many scenes you find yourself expecting him to collapse on the spot. Finally, the ball ends, the various parties clear out, and Salina, a relic from a past age, and slowly, he walks home alone.

The acting in this film, I must say is simply superb. Burt Lancaster is fantastic. Salina is haughty, arrogant, cynical, and is marked with a very sharp temper; he doesn’t take kindly to those who cannot do their job. In many ways he represents a thoroughly unlikeable character, and yet Lancaster brings such a presence, and air of extreme grace and culture, his demeanor and carriage are such that he makes the character of Salina into a thoroughly likeable character. It is an absolute joy to watch him performed. Not only that, but the scenes at the ball stand as such a sharp contrast; he’s worn out, visibly tired, and moreover, left jaded by the progress and changes the unified Italy has brought to him and his family. He is a broken man, and it is apparent, and Burt Lancaster makes it that way. The contrast to the affable, cynical Salina of earlier scenes is stark, and watching him move around, appearing as though at any minute he will collapse is just saddening. Alongside Lancaster is Alain Delon, who plays Tancredi. Delon is equally good in his role. Tancredi’s character is a conflict of a seemingly optimistic naïveté, a ruthless ambition, and an extremely perceptive sense of realism. Delon really captures this role nicely. At one moment Tancredi is jovial and jocular, and at the next he is perceptive and staid, and Delon is able to achieve these minute transitions believably. The chemistry between Delon and Lancaster is superb. The dialogue enacted between the two is light and compelling. As for other major actors, I liked Rina Morelli, who played Salina’s wife. At times she borders dangerously on obnoxious overacting, but for the most part she skirts this fine line nicely, keeping more believable than obnoxious. Paolo Stoppa, who plays Don Calogero, was pretty decent. He’s very oafish, but at the same time you can see beneath the oaf a very shrewd and conniving man. Half the time I found myself waiting for him to wring his hands and laugh maniacally, though for the most part this is generally subtle enough to be entertaining. The other major actress of this movie is Claudia Cardinale, who is in a number of other films in this list. Her performance I found to be a bit touch a go. At times she’s believable and entertaining, being sexy and seductive, while underneath showing a shrewd and ambitious girl seeing an opportunity at social prominence, but at other times her performance tips towards overacting, particularly the scenes during and immediately following Tancredi’s proposal. On the whole she came off as annoying, and while in some places that’s a good thing, usually it was unpalatable. Thankfully, the brilliant performance of Alain Delon made the scenes involving Angelica entertaining enough for me to get through.

The directing work in this film is superb. Visconti does an excellent job with the camera work, which is clever, artful, but most importantly not overbearing. There are a number of fantastic scenes involving moving-camera techniques, akin to those of Max Ophüls, but Visconti also knows when to let the gorgeously stunning Sicily landscape do the work for him. One scene I particularly like in the movie is when a servant is sent to notify the Salinas of something. The camera is set up looking down the hall, and we are watching the servant’s back as he walks down the hall, each door revealing the immense size of the hallway. This scene is very striking and shows the great wealth of the Salinas spectacularly. Another scene I liked was Tancredi’s introduction into the movie. We are shown the Prince of Salina shaving, when Tancredi’s face appears in the shaving mirror, representing both Tancredi’s ambition to achieve the wealth and prestige that his uncle as achieved, while also representing the Prince’s viewing of Tancredi as himself at an earlier age. It’s a very effective scene at showing the dichotomy of the two men, before any words have been spoken. I also very much love the costuming of this film. The suits are wonderful, and the dresses are superb. Everything is very well done.

The writing for the most part is very good. Being a huge fan of the novel, I am happy to see it being given such a good adaptation. Although the overall theme of the story has been changed – Lampedusa’s novel being focused on a longing look back at days long past as opposed to the movie’s more progressive and optimistic look towards future opportunity. Although the changing of the times is indeed sad, the future is bright and paved with opportunity. This is best demonstrated in the treatment of Tancredi and Angelica’s relationship. In the novel, while there may have been affection between the two at the start of the marriage, Lampedusa openly states that the relationship was never a loving one and it fails some years later. This failure represents the incompatibility of new money and old aristocracy, and represents the deeply cynical worldview that the very regressive and nostalgic Lampedusa conveys in his novel. The movie, on the other hand is more ambiguous. Although Salina says at one point in the film, “Yes, love, of course! Fire and flames for a year, ashes for thirty. I too know what love is,” this is only the cynical viewpoint of the jaded Salina, claimant to a fairly loveless marriage. Unlike the novel, Visconti never tells the viewer what becomes of the marriage, and from their interactions at the ball, it would seem they live together happily, being more optimistic of the future and the possibilities of a unified Italy. This dichotomy can also be seen in the decisions regarding when the movie ends. In Lampedusa’s novel, the story continues on after the ball, detailing first the death of Salina’s body, and eventually his legacy as we see his fortune being squandered by his pious and aging daughters, all of whom remained unmarried, and holders of innumerable “valuable” relics, which, a priest reveals are mostly counterfeit. The movie, on the other hand, ends first with the departure of Angelica, Tancredi, and Calogero, who are happily riding home to the sound of a firing squad, their future bright. This scene is contrasted by Salina walking the streets alone, tired and worn out, but still alive, still struggling on. Though the scene isn’t by any means happy, it’s still more optimistic than Lampedusa’s novel, leaving the ultimate fates of the main characters ambiguous and open to interpretation. Even though in this sense the movie isn’t “true to the novel” it’s not an aberration. Rather, it’s an excellent reinterpretation of the story, and one which Visconti tells swimmingly.

There were only a couple problems I had with this film. The first is the inclusion of the battle of Palermo. These scenes are not included in the book, and though Visconti stated that he put them in, essentially so the viewer can see the big picture, and understand the reasoning behind the family’s trepidations regarding the Garibaldini, I do not agree. The scene looks pasted on, like it doesn’t fit, and worst of all, it drags. I feel the movie could have done much better without it. The other problem in this film is with the ball scenes. These final scenes of the film take up 30 minutes of the film in the dubbed version, which is the [i] short version [/i]. Although these scenes are extraordinarily powerful, and the costumes are gorgeous, it still drags. I feel as though if about 10 minutes of these scenes were cut (which they easily could have been), it would have been a much better experience, but that’s just me.

This movie is very, very good, but why is it on the list? It may not be a perfect film, but it’s still very good. I feel this movie is on the list on the first part because of the names. Luchino Visconti, Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale are all names which appear on this list of mine several times. Not only that, but all these names (a few times excepting Claudia Cardinale) are all at the tops of their games with this film. That may play a role in it, but I think it’s more for the strength of the film’s adaptation. When this film came out the novel had only been out for about 6 years, with Lampedusa having died shortly after the publication of his novel. This leaves little time for interpretation of the novel, and moreover, there’s no author to provide insight into the book, and as we have seen with such adaptations as Harry Potter, Eragon, and the Golden Compass, even with the author of the book there overseeing and playing a large role in the writing process, it’s very hard to adapt a novel into a movie and make it work. With The Leopard, Visconti manages to adapt the novel fantastically, while applying his own interpretations and making it work, stupendously. This film is on the list for being a fantastically well adapted movie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#29 Barry Lyndon (1975)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

"You are a liar! You are an impostor. You are a deserter. I suspected you this morning, and your lies and folly have confirmed this to me. You pretend to carry dispatches to a British general who has been dead these ten months. You say your uncle is the British Ambassador in Berlin, with the ridiculous name of O'Grady. Now, will you join and take the bounty sir, or will you be given up? "

As I mentioned in an earlier review, Stanley Kubrick was for me one of those large, preeminent figures in filmmaking of whom I was aware of through his film, but in actuality had no idea who he was. It is truly disappointing that I was not aware of him before, because I have been extremely pleased by what films of his I have seen. One more such film can be added to that ever growing list – Barry Lyndon. This epic, an historical tale which netted Kubrick 4 Oscars, is an excellent film. Although I didn’t quite like as much as 2001: A Space Odyssey, it still has served to further engender myself to, and solidify my adoration of, Stanley Kubrick.

The film begins with a duel. The narrator tells us this is Lyndon’s father, who probably would have gone on to be a great man, but he is to be killed in a duel we are now watching, which began in a dispute over some horses. The flippancy and absurdity under which this scene begins the film sets the mood for how the entire resulting movie will present itself. After this scene, we are told that Barry’s mother vowed not to remarry, and instead decided to devote all of her time to the upbringing of her son, Redmond Barry. This point of the devotion of mothers to sons and sons to mothers, as well general treatment of women will come to be a very important point in this film. Redmond, we soon learn is absolutely besotted with his first cousin, and she likewise appears to be in love with him. It’s not to be, however, as she pursues a captain instead, one who will bring a good deal of wealth into her family. Redmond is so angry that he challenges the man to a duel, which Redmond wins. This duel turns out to be a farce, but nevertheless Redmond believes it to be a real duel, and so, on the advice of his friends, he is given all that his mother has, and flees into hiding in Dublin, beginning a journey that will take up the first half of the film. Along the way he is robbed of all of his money, and so looking for a source of income, joins the army, where is he is trained and sent to Germany to participate in the 7 Years’ War. After his first taste of war, he decides to desert, and ends up falling in with the Prussians. From there he becomes an aide, then a spy, and then a gambler. Through all of these pursuits he finds success, and over the course of a few years he manages to rise from being a poor Irish vagabond without a guinea to his name, to being part of the wealthy gentry in late-Bourbon France.

Part two of this film begins when Redmond Barry uses this newfound wealth and prestige to marry the recently widowed Lady Lyndon, a woman of considerable wealth, land. From this marriage, Redmond is able to take on the family name of Barry-Lyndon. Alongside Lady Lyndon comes her young son Lord Bullingdon. We learn very early on that Bullingdon is driven by a total adoration for his mother, and a strong resentment towards Redmond. We also learn that Redmond, having been made a skeptic to love early in his life due to the refusal by his cousin of his pronouncement of love to her, carries no interest or love for Lady Lyndon other than a desire to have a son and a desire to own the lands which she brings to the marriage. As such in part two we see Redmond as a man who is deeply disrespectful towards his wife, and goes on to squander nearly all of the wealth which Lyndon brings to the marriage. The last half hour to 45 minutes of the film consist of the final coup de grace of the downward spiral of Redmond’s life, as he loses everything which he holds dear, and everything which he had worked so hard to gain for himself. This begins when Lyndon fails in a pursuit to get ennobled, is followed by the tragic death of his son, who, aside from his mother, is the only person in his life for whom he truly cares. Finally, following an insult given to his step-son, he is defeated in a duel, resulting in the successive loss of his leg, his land, and finally his wife. A broken man, Barry Lyndon, we are told, fades into poverty and obscurity. We are left with the passing words of the Epilogue: “It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.”

The acting in this film is decent, but on the whole I found it to be rather hit and miss. The character of Redmond, played by Ryan O’Neal, starts off very weak, especially in his delivery of lines for the first half hour of the film or so, but he gains strength as it goes along. Leonard Rossiter, who played Captain Quinn, the man who wooed away Redmond’s cousin, I thought was very good, as was Godfrey Quigley, who played Captain Grogan; the man who served as a close friend and father-figure in Redmond’s early life. Marisa Berenson was very good as Lady Lyndon; her grief following the death of her son by Redmond was strong and compelling. You really feel for her grief. I really felt these scenes were probably among the best in the film, especially for the primary characters of Ryan O’Neal and Marisa Berenson as, especially for Redmond, you for the first time in an hour truly feel sorry for the man. You can see that his son is the one thing he truly cares about, and you really believe it. Finally, I liked the performance given by Leon Batalli, who played Lord Bullingdon. He is haughty, principled, firm in his compassion for his mother –and firmer in his resentment towards his father. The performance he gives in his final, climactic duel with his father, which ends up being rather anticlimactic, a farce of the traditional, (sort of) idyllic, stereotypical duel which starts the film.

The directing in this film is simply superb. One thing I noticed that really shined with the actors was not how they delivered their lines, but how they carried themselves while they delivered those lines. This first occurred to me when Redmond duels with Captain Quinn. You can really see Quinn’s fear. Although he appeared arrogant and affable when he first accepted the challenge, now he genuinely feared for his life, and you could see it. It’s all very subtle, and this fact quite simply made the film for me. The pacing in this film is even better. It’s very even, and though the movie comes in at a length of 3 hours, I did not find myself looking for the end. The pacing in-scene is also very good. A great example is the duel between Bullingdon and Redmond. Bullingdon gets first shot, and he is told to cock his pistol. Things happen now rather slowly, but you don’t expect anything to go awry. Suddenly you are taken from your reverie as in his nervousness he accidentally discharges his pistol. It is a great jump, and one that really added a sudden line of tension in the film. This was quickly followed up by a slow countdown for Redmond to finish off Bullingdon, but you are once again derailed from your reverie when Redmond fires into the ground shortly after the count of two. Kubrick’s play with timing and expectation like this makes for very entertaining viewing. I also like the pacing in terms of the appearance and disappearance of characters. Redmond meets and makes many friends through the course of this film, and what I find really interesting is that many of these characters wax for a period and then drift off. It’s interesting in that there’s often no event in which the characters part ways but usually the characters just drift apart until such a time as you actually forget that Redmond knew that person in the first place. This is very true of Redmond’s character in general, who sees people as means to an end; a vector through which he can get what he wants, and once they have provided their usefulness, they cease to play a part in Redmond’s life.

Another thing I very much like about this film was the flow of music. When the film begins, even during the darker moments of the exposition, the music is light, gay, and playful. Even when Redmond is being robbed of everything he owns, the music, and the tone are upbeat. He may have nothing but the shoes on his feet, but you the viewer is unconcerned. As the film progresses, the music gradually changes. At the apex of the film – the beginning of part 2 – the music is grand, sweeping, and epic, reminiscent of Redmond as a successful, prominent, and grand figure now. By the end of the film, the music is solemn, serene, and morose, reflecting the pall knell of Redmond’s life as a gentleman; his loss and failure. Just as awesome as the music is the set design and costuming; the costumes appear very authentic, and the dress in general is just gorgeous. I’ll talk more on the beautiful backgrounds and locales used in this film a little later, but just as great as these are the luxurious and ostentatious palaces and manors. The little nuances like these are what make Barry Lyndon a great film.

Finally, and most importantly, is the cinematography. I will be frank, and say that the camerawork and framing in this film is not 2001: A Space Odyssey; there isn’t that overwhelming sense of meaning, power, and scope which is contained in nearly every shot of 2001. That being said, the camerawork is still very good. I love Kubrick’s utilization of the sweeping and gorgeous landscapes which he uses as the settings for this film. But no, it is not the camerawork that distinguishes this film. Rather, it is the lighting, which this film utilizes spectacularly and revolutionarily. What is remarkable in the lighting is that, through the use of filters, Kubrick is able to film indoor shots in old buildings with nothing but natural light. This makes for very stark scenes, from images of a dull or dim room contrasted by stark shafts of light brought in by massive windows. Even better than this were the heavily darkened rooms contrasted with small amounts of light provided by candle. Not only are these scenes as stark, brilliant, and imposing as those of 2001, but they also give the viewer a real sense of just how dark (literally) things were in the days before electricity.

So the great Kubrick impresses once again. What I find remarkable about Kubrick is the incredible diversity in film. I’ve already looked at 2001: A Space Odyssey which paints a rich and vibrant space-scape, and develops a generally futuristic feel. I’ve also looked at The Shining, which is a horrifying story of a man going insane in Colorado, and now I’m looking at this: an historical film with rich period sets and characters. Not only are the topic covered varied, but they’re all done properly. If, 4 years ago you had shown me 2001: A Space Odyssey and then shown me Barry Lyndon I absolutely would not have believed they both came from the same man. I’m starting to see now why he is put up along the great directors in film history; not only is he able to make a great film, but he can repeatedly make great films, and make them across a vast array of genres, themes, and stories, and that remarkable ability takes true talent.

Monday, January 24, 2011

#28 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

"When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk!"

Allow me to preface this review by saying that I freakin love Clint Eastwood. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t. And what’s not to love? He’s cool, rather dashing, and just has a gravitas in his performance that just exudes badassery. Even watching films such as Gran Torino in which he’s acting as an old man, he’s still able to carry this swagger of a man who can easily beat you down, and both he and you know it. The movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which is the third in a trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, encapsulates this persona stupendously. Even though for most of my life I rather disliked the Western genre, and was loathe to watch westerns, this movie has shown me fully and completely what I have been missing out on. It is a supremely great film.

The film opens with an introduction of the three primary characters of the film. Tuco is introduced first as he single-handedly takes down 2 assailants before jumping out of a window and riding off into the sunset. Tuco is the Ugly. Next we are introduced to Setenza, who rides to a poor farmer’s house looking for information. After giving up the information, the farmer tries to buy off Setenza – attempting to get Setenza to kill the man who hired him. Setenza takes the money, and then kills the farmer and his son. He then rides off to his employer, and kills him for good measure. Obviously, Setenza is introduced as The Bad. Finally, we are introduced to The Good, played by Clint Eastwood. His introduction scene begins with a scene of Tuco riding through the wilderness, before being attacked by two bounty hunters, seeking to collect the substantial reward on his capture. Clint Eastwood, whose character has no actual name, kills the bounty hunters, and takes Tuco in himself. Eastwood collects the reward, and then rescues Tuco before he is hung. It turns out that this is a scam that Eastwood and Tuco have been performing for some time. Eastwood has had enough of it, however, and so leaves Tuco to die in the middle of a desert. Meanwhile, we find out that Setenza has learned of a large treasure of 200,000 dollars, hidden by a confederate officer. Setenza begins searching for the officer in the hopes of getting the money for himself. Tuco manages to walk the 70 miles through the desert back to town, where he steals himself a gun and vows revenge against Eastwood, who he calls Blondie. Tuco eventually catches up to Blondie, who evades a hanging at the hands of Tuco, but is soon caught again and this time is sent through the desert by Tuco. Just as Blondie is about to die, he is saved by the arrival of a wagon manned by the officer who buried the treasure, who is now on his death throes. The officer tells Tuco where it is buried generally, in a graveyard, but doesn’t tell him the specific grave, which he ends up relaying to Blondie. Having a sudden change of heart, Tuco disguises himself and Blondie as confederate officers and rides to a monastery to find medical care for Blondie. After some time, Blondie and Tuco ride off, but are soon captured by Union soldiers (they’re still disguised as Revels), and sent to a prison camp which is headed by Setenza. Setenza beats the information on the cemetery out of Tuco, and leaves him to die, and then makes an agreement with Blondie to split the treasure 50-50. Tuco gets away and rejoins with Blondie, and the two backstab Setenza, and go off to find the treasure for themselves. They reach the cemetery, after Tuco backstabs Blondie once again, and the three are then confronted by Setenza, who has been following them. The three of them then have a final showdown to determine who gets the loot. Blondie kills Setenza, and reveals that the night before he had taken Tuco’s ammo, and so makes Tuco dig up the treasure for him. Tuco strikes gold, but before the loot is divided, Blondie sets up Tuco to be hung. Leaving Tuco standing on a gravestone, hovering between life and death, Blondie rides off into the sunset with 100,000 dollars, Tuco screaming, “BLONDIE” as he departs….JUST KIDDING! Blondie comes back, and, one last time, shoots the rope holding up Tuco, leaving Tuco to his share before departing once again.

The acting in this movie is simply superb. Clint Eastwood is excellent, as is to be expected. He carries this affability that is quite fun to watch. He’s smooth and well composed, and is very confident in his abilities. At the same time, the other two lead actors are equally good. I really liked Lee Van Cleef who played Setenza. He just plays such a great villain. He’s not arrogant or haughty or dastardly. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. I may not have said it before, but I really like genre savvy villains, meaning I like villains that DON’T do things such as leaving you out to die in the desert rather than shooting you on the spot, or believing your 1st lieutenant when he says that that sound you just heard was probably nothing. Setenza is a genre savvy character. When Blondie disappears after their teaming up, he assumes that Blondie is betraying him, and so sends his crew after Blondie, while making his own getaway. He was just a very cool character. I also liked Eli Wallach, who plays Tuco. I didn’t really like him at first, because he came off as annoying, and clingy, and not capable of taking care of himself. But later on in the film you begin to realize that Tuco is actually very badass in his own right. His interaction with Eastwood was very good, and watching their interactions was very entertaining. For the most part, the rest of the characters are Italian extras (hence, Spaghetti Western), and in general are not very good. One character I did like, however, was Aldo Giuffrè, who played the drunken Union Captain that Tuco and Blondie interact with towards the end of the film. He brought realness to his character that you just couldn’t help but feel sympathy towards, and I really liked that.

The directing in this film is superb. The film is set up as a deconstruction of the Western genre, that is to say, they take all the conventions, tropes, and characteristics of the genre, and exaggerate them to their fullest extent. This deconstruction is made very obvious from the very first scene which shows two cowboys walking towards one another through an abandoned town. This process takes a good ten minutes, showing them walking through town in all manner of funny and peculiar angles. Finally the two opposing forces stop, and they stare each other down for another couple minutes. The camera pans back and forth between close-ups of each actors’ eyes. Finally, the two cowboys do not attack each other, but advance together into a saloon, where we hear gunshots and a man jumping out of a window. After all of that, we don’t even see the fight. What I find even more impressive in this parody, is that the film still maintains a very serious and grave tone. It’s not explicitly funny, but when you think about the way in which the film is presented, you realize that it is very funny. Perhaps the most impressive scene of this film is the very famous “bridge explosion scene” in which Tuco and Blondie blow up a bridge separating Union and Confederate encampments, so as to get both armies out of their way. The bridge itself was constructed in full scale at very great expense, and Leone had only one chance to shoot the scene, and it is just simply spectacular. Another thing I love is the subtlety of this film. Plot elements often are not explicitly told to you. What’s very impressive is how well the characters are constructed in this film, and this is really where the subtlety comes in. Each of these characters has aspirations, pasts, and personalities that are very specific, and while they may not necessarily be apparent to a casual or passive viewer, when one pays careful attention, these elements become very apparent. I particularly like Tuco’s character, which is distrustful, resenting, haughty, and very arrogant. He doesn’t take well to backstabbing, though he happily will do it to anyone and everyone he interacts with. The motivations of these characteristics come mostly from his upbringing, which forced him into a life of crime, and though in some ways he is shown to be resentful of his selected lifestyle, he also likes it a lot.

There was really only one thing I didn’t really like about the film, and that was the pacing. The Film is 2 hours and 48 minutes long, and while I don’t particularly mind a long film, this movie goes on for the first hour without any semblance of a plot, which to me gets slightly aggravating, and though I liked what I was seeing, I found myself constantly checking the clock against the run-time. Once Eastwood and Tuco start out trying to find the treasure, though, the movie picks up in a very good way, and after that it was a much more enjoyable watch.

Overall this is just a superb film. It is a movie which I would gladly watch again and again. Sergio Leone just does a fantastic job, and Clint Eastwood is stunning. This is just flat out a cool movie. In spite of the long run-time of this film, it is very accessible. Now we enter the grand question: why is this film on the list, and more importantly for this film, why this film specifically, and not the other two? Having not seen the other two films of this trilogy – A Fistful of Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More, I don’t think I would adequately make an analysis, though I will provide what thoughts I have. I think on the first part this film is on the list at all for the fact that it stars the pairing of Eastwood and Leone, and truly represents the Spaghetti Western genre. Now, as for why this movie was selected over the two, I can’t make any commentary on the quality of this film over the other two, though I will say that this film was selected over the other two because of its influence. I am aware of the other two films, but that comes more from having a dad who is a big fan of westerns. In that sense these films don’t have wide recognition, whereas The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, is an extremely well known and influential film; one that I would have heard of regardless of the film tastes of my father. Therefore The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was selected over the other two films because it is more widely known, and has more cultural influence than the other two, which regardless of whether or not they are better films, are less widely known. Whatever the rate, I am very happy I saw this film, and it will definitely warrant an enthusiasm for further viewing of western films as I work my way through this list.

Friday, January 21, 2011

#27 Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

"The television said that's the right thing to do."

If there is any monster which has truly captured the imaginations of people on a wide scale in today’s world, it is the zombie. Zombies, once a medium of voodoo has grown, especially in the last 10 years or so, into a massively popular subject in popular culture: in such movies as 28 Days Later, Survival of the Dead, and farces such as Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland; in video games such as Resident Evil; in various comic books; and even in TV shows such as AMC’s wildly popular The Walking Dead. Zombie movies are not a new phenomenon, and I don’t dispute that they are, but no filmmaker has had such a long-lasting and tremendous impact on the zombie genre as George A. Romero. His first film, Night of the Living Dead, will be the movie I will be looking at today.

The movie begins in a very cool manner. The camera starts drawn back, and we can see a car driving along a road. Periodically the scene cuts, and shows the car slightly closer. This proceeds in this manner throughout the whole of the credits until finally the people inside the car are visible. The two people in the car, we learn, are named Barbara and Johnny, who are brother and sister. They have come to lay a wreath at the grave of a relative. After some time, an old man shows up, staggering around. Barbara gets to close and he attacks her, Johnny goes to defend her, and Barbara makes a dash for it. After a very cool scene with Barbara running from the zombie chasing her down, she finally arrives into a house. She’s eventually saved by a black man named Ben. Barbara is shell-shocked, and so Ben sets to boarding up the house. Soon many more zombies show up, and we soon learn from a radio they find that no one really knows what’s going on, but apparently there has been a rash of mass murder occurring along the east coast of the United States. Eventually the two discover that there are more people hiding out in the basement: the couple Harry and Helen with their child, and then another couple Tom and Judy. Eventually Ben and Tom decide that what they need to do is get to a nearby safety station that has been set up, but in order to do that they need to fill up a truck with gas from a nearby station. Ben and Tom lead a daring, but ultimately futile attempt at fueling the truck, resulting in Tom and Judy’s death. Eventually the zombies get riled up enough that they make an attack on the house, and, in spite of a valiant defense, all are killed save Ben, who boards himself up in the cellar.

Meanwhile, the government, who we have been shown, proves to be inactive and unresponsive, has finally gotten their act together, and now vigilante groups, headed by the police have been clearing out the infestation. By morning one of these groups has reached the house Ben is in. The zombies are resoundingly cleared out, but unfortunately, Ben, who went out to see what is going on, is shot alongside the zombies, firmly establishing the trope, so gleefully alluded to in the show Community, that the black man never succeeds in zombie movies.

The acting on the whole in this film is quite good. Ben, played by Duane Jones does a fantastic job; but even better, in my opinion was Judith O’Dea, who plays Barbara. In her performance you can really feel the emotional instability she is dealing with after seeing everything that has happened. I also really liked Karl Hardman, who played Harry. He really pulled off the shrewd, suspicious, selfish skeptic well. Loathe to help anyone but himself and his own family, he really helps to bring tension to a situation that is, essentially, 7 people sitting around in a house.

Even better in this film is the directing. George A. Romero has built a reputation over the years as a master of horror and suspense, and this film demonstrates this spectacularly. The cinematography is very cool. I like the early scenes of zombies attacking, in which are showing hands coming out of the dark, and obscured faces. I also liked the pacing and writing of this film. The film tells you nothing about what is going on for the first 35 minute of film, and even then, it’s nothing more than you’ve probably already surmised. The very small and scattered trickling in of information is very well done, and adds to the mystery and suspense.

What I like more about this film is that it’s not about the zombies; rather, it is about the characters. It’s an interesting study of how various people respond to stress and conflict when put into an extreme situation. I thought the best scene in this film comes at the very end when the zombies are clawing at the door, and Ben and Harry are too busy fighting over the gun to save their own lives. It’s very cool. Frankly, this whole film is just plain cool. Its cultural influence is profound, establishing many of the conventions and clichés of the zombie genre. This movie is an absolute must see for any zombie – or film – enthusiast.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#26 The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

"An all-around cool film"

Our film for today is the Manchurian Candidate. No, not that abomination. Rather, this is the original film, starring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Janet Leigh, and directed by John Frankenheimer. Unlike the last couple movies we’ve done, which are films that before the point that I watched them for the list, I had not seen all the way through, this is a film I actually have seen before. I watched this film my junior year in a US History class. Unfortunately I didn’t pay terribly good attention when it was shown; I was a cocky little bastard who didn’t have time for boring old movies and the showing of a film in class merely meant a day off from doing actual work. Unfortunately I gave this same treatment to North by Northwest in the same class. But anyway, having a very vague recollection of the plot of the film, I sojourned down to the library to give this one a shot.

Thankfully I was not disappointed. The film opens to a very abrupt scene in which, we are told, takes place in Korea in 1952, we see some soldiers in a brothel, and a man, one Raymond Shaw, comes in and breaks up the boozing of the rest of the soldiers in the brothel. The soldiers reveal that Raymond Shaw is unlikeable, and basically everyone hates him. Later, we are shown a Korean leading the same division of troopers through the Korean landscape, but it turns out they are betrayed and all the men are knocked out. The film then cuts to a large image of the Seal of the US imposed on a big bass drum. There is a parade being held, we are being told by a Narrator with one of the coolest voices ever, in honor of Raymond Shaw, who singlehandedly saved his entire regiment, save two men, and is basically a badass. In recognition of his exploits, he is being presented the Congressional Medal of Honor. We later find out that Raymond didn’t ask for any of the theatrics of the parade and celebration, and they were actually put on by Raymond’s mother and stepfather as a tool to garner support for the political campaign of Raymond’s stepfather, who is a US Senator. Irate over his mother’s meddling, Raymond breaks off communication with his mother and stepfather, fleeing to New York.

But all is not well elsewhere either, as many of the men Raymond reputedly saved are having vivid and terrifying dreams, every time the same. The leader of the contingent before Shaw’s daring rescue, Major Bennett Marco tries to organize an investigation, but the military drags its heels, eventually discrediting Marco and sending him on a forced sabbatical. Eventually these recurring nightmares become serious enough for the military to take notice, and the military begins an investigation into the source of these nightmares, which reveal, through the course of the film, that the nightmares are memories of the soldiers, who have been brainwashed by soviet elements as part of a grand conspiracy to set up Raymond Shaw as a sleeper agent to perform tasks unknown. Marco is sent to watch and guard Raymond and through the rest of the film the circle of the conspiracy grows wider and wider, leading to exciting plot twists, and a climax which, I must say is one of the most exciting and tense scenes I’ve ever seen. This is just a brief overview of the plot of the film which, being a political intrigue film, is infinitely more intricate than the summary I gave, but hopefully it will suffice.

The acting in this film is decent. I think the word I would use to describe it best would be “patchy”. For example, Raymond Shaw, played by Laurence Harvey, as well as Angela Lansbury, who plays Raymond’s mother both do an absolutely splendid job in their roles. James Gregory, who plays Raymond’s stepfather, also does a good job. On the other hand, I was not over the moon about Frank Sinatra’s performance; he played Major Cosmo. While he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t particularly great either. One performance I really liked though was Khigh Dhiegh, who played Dr. Yen Lo, the man who programmed Raymond into a sleeper agent. He plays the devious, clever, arrogant villain with such relish that you can’t help but love him.

The movie was directed by John Frankenheimer, who has one other film on my list. I thought he did a very good job on this film. The cinematography especially was superb in this film. One of the decisions I most liked in the cinematography department was in the way in which Raymond’s stepfather, Senator John Iselin is presented. At the same time as the grand conspiracy of Raymond Shaw is going on, Senator Iselin is sort of a tertiary element in the story as his rise to political prominence is displayed. Senator Iselin is set up as a mockery of Senator McCarthy, the notorious Commie hunter of the 50s. Shortly after the return of Raymond Shaw from Korea, we are shown a scene in which Senator Iselin announces that there are no less than 80 (or some similar number) card carrying members of the Communist Party in the military. His story (including the number, and where they reside) change numerous times over the course of the film, and is presented as a farce of McCarthy’s attempts to cleanse the Government of Communists in the 50s, the result of which usually were little more than witch hunts. But Iselin is more than just a farce; he is an interesting character on the side, told mostly through cinematography. And what I mean, specifically is that there are 4 or 5 scenes in which Iselin is directly associated with President Lincoln. The most striking to me was when the reflection of Iselin’s face is imposed upon a portrait of Lincoln. This camera work reveals Iselin for what he is; a man of great ambition, a man who fancies himself a unifier, of great stature and charisma, a Lincoln, in other words. Instead though, he is a farce, a mere shadow of Lincoln, and is in reality controlled entirely by his wife, Mrs. Iselin, who, as we find in ever increasing degree, is completely controlling Iselin’s every move, and every word from behind the scenes.

The writing in this film is pretty good. The story is very intricate, but presented in a very understandable manner. I like the way in which the film starts with a completely closed circle in regards to how much we know, and that circle of conspiracy expands throughout the film, with more and more characters and elements presented to us early on becoming implicated as the film goes on. It sort of felt like a season of the show 24 (in that every time they think they have the mastermind, it just turns out to be another dragon). One thing I really did not like about this film at all however is the introduced romantic interest. In the film, when Cosmo is put on sabbatical, he meets a woman on the train, and there is a very very small romantic element to the story between the two of them. While I understand that this romantic interest, played by Janet Leigh serves as a steadying force for Cosmo, allowing him to focus on the conspiracy, I really thought it did little more than distract the plot of the film, and I just found it obnoxious.

Overall, this film was really great. I liked the cinematography, and it did a really good job of slowly letting on more and more of the story, building up a great deal of tension to the thrilling and dramatic conclusion. The twist at the end of the film is downright Hitchcockian in its sheer awesomeness. Overall I think this film is on the list for a number of reasons. Firstly because of its great influence on the film genre of political thriller, a genre that this movie, if not created, at the least, established many of the leading tropes and themes presented therein. On the second, this film is on the list for the superb performances given by Laurence Harvey, and especially by Angela Lansbury. Finally, this film is probably on the list because of its sheer effectiveness in creating tension and stress and excitement. This is just a straight up cool film.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#25 The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

"A seminal classic"

Aside from Dracula, perhaps the most done, most invoked, and most referenced character in film, would in all likelihood that of Robin Hood. From a dashing 30s action star, to a cartoon fox, a Mel Brooks parody, to…Russel Crowe, it certainly feels like every film studio and their mother has done some Robin Hood film/tv show/short or another. It is quite interesting that a character such a Robin Hood has gained such a prevalence in American society, though it is not at all surprising. The idea of fighting for the poor, the oppressed, and the downtrodden against the oppression of the rich is an idea that is very congruous with the American psyche. While not the first Robin Hood movie ever made, the one I am about to review – that with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone, is perhaps the most famous. It is certainly the most important, establishing many of the tropes, ideas, and clichés that have become and entrenched and required part of any good Robin Hood film.

This Robin Hood movie contains the same story as basically every Robin Hood movie ever made so I’ll just give it a quick gloss job. Basically, Good King Richard is off on the crusades, and on his way back gets captured by Leopold of Austria, and Bad King John uses this opportunity to take over the realm, installing heinous taxes, and egregious treatments upon the goodly Saxons in the process. This is something for which Robin of Lockesly cannot stand, and so he pledges himself to outlawry in order to better the lives of the poor Saxons. After many daring adventures, he accrues a number of partners and companions such a Much, Little John, and Friar Tuck, and with the aid of these, and many more friends, entraps numerous nobles and tax wagons in the forbidding folds of Sherwood Forest, taking from the rich to give to the poor, in the process winning the adoration of the lovely Maid Marian. Eventually, frustrated by the clever schemes and insurgent tactics of Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisbourne hatch a clever scheme to draw out Robin Hood, involving an Archery Contest, with a golden arrow presented by Lady Marian as the prize. Naturally Robin is drawn to the contest, and is caught by John and his forces, and set to be hung immediately. Robin’s gang, with the help of Marian launch a daring rescue attempt, saving Robin, and making John again look the fool. Finally, Richard returns, Guy is killed, John is deposed, Robin and his gang are pardoned, and Robin lives happily ever after with Marian. Sound familiar?

In terms of acting this film is simply spectacular. Errol Flynn is just superb, easily one of the best movie action stars of all time. Not only are his fight scenes superb, but his delivery of lines is impeccable and the way he carries himself just exudes Robin Hood. In addition, Olivia de Havilland gives an equally superb performance. The absolutely gorgeous de Havilland does a superb job carrying Marian’s haughty initial disdain for Saxons, and her subsequent change of heart I felt was equally heartfelt, albeit slightly abrupt. This is de Havilland’s third time playing opposite Flynn, and it’s easy to see the excellent chemistry the two have. Still better than Flynn and de Havilland, I felt though, were Basil Rathbone, who played Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and Claude Rains, who played King John. They just make supremely great villains. They don’t really play the dickish evil villains that you get nowadays, it’s more the hammy, failure-prone haughty and arrogant villains of classic film, and they’re just so much fun to watch. They really define that type of villain for me.

This film was directed by Michael Curtiz, who is quite the monumental force in 30s and 40s film, directing such films as Captain Blood – another Curtiz-Flynn-de Havilland action movie, and Casablanca, and I thought he did a superb job with this film. While I didn’t think the cinematography was anything particularly eye-opening like Citizen Kane or 2001 were, there were some cool shots, such as the first film in which King John spills some wine, and the camera pans down on it, or at the end of the film when the camera plays with shadows to show the climactic action scene between Gisbourne and Robin. For the rest of it, the cinematography was efficient, and it got the point across and kept the movie moving, which is probably the most important in a film like this. One thing I really liked about this movie – apart from the absolutely spectacular musical score – was the tone. This movie is rather upbeat throughout its course. It has this very happy-go-lucky feel, and while this backfire a little in that it also for me meant that there was never any real suspense or tension in the film (I never once felt that Robin was in any real danger), it was good for the film, as the light nature of the film makes for excellent casual viewing. I really like the way the action scenes were shot. While in more modern, post-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon films I tend to be rather condescending on the style of constantly zooming in on the actors’ faces while a fight is occurring, in this film I absolutely love it. It is done in a modest, and sensible manner, and it really works. I also felt that the pacing was excellent in this film. I was never once bored. Additionally, I really liked the scope and scale in this film. The number of extras in this film is just mind boggling, and the sets are quite well done. Especially when you consider that this movie was made in 1938, in an era before blue screen and computer generation made epic scale a relatively inexpensive process in film, it becomes all the more astounding. While many dislike the costumes in this film, and I will admit they were rather silly, I liked them in the context of the film; they fit well with the lightheartedness of the overall film.

I think the thing I liked most of all in the movie was the dialogue. The wit, and the ability and speed with which the lines and banter were delivered in this film felt a lot like something you’d see in a Shakespearean play. The lines are just absolutely hilarious though. “Such imputence must support a mighty appetite”, or “‘Why you speak treason!’ ‘Fluently’”. It is like this for the entirety of the film, and it really contributed significantly to the tone of the film, and helped keep me engaged in the film from start to finish.

This movie I watched thanks to the University Library. I was originally going to watch it on DVD which I had borrowed from my local library, but the disc turned out to be scratched, so I watched the film at UCSC’s media center when I returned for classes. I watched it on laserdisc, and it was my first experience with the medium. Needless to say, it was a very interesting experience. To those of you who have never before used a laserdisc, it basically looks like a giant DVD that is about the size of a dinner platter (or about the size of an LP if you know what that is). The quality was about that of a VHS tape, that is to say, poor, grainy, and very jarring to those of us who are accustomed to the HD of DVD and Blu-ray. It was jarring at first, but I got used to it. What was more peculiar to me was that, like an LP, a laserdisc is double sided, and you have to flip the disc over half-way through. The problem with this is that the flipping occurred in the most arbitrary manner ever, literally the movie just cut off smack-dab in the middle of a fight scene. It was very annoying. Anyway, all media aside, I liked this film, and while it doesn’t have the artistic mind-blowosity of films like 2001 or Seven Samurai or Citizen Kane, it more than makes up for it in acting and just being a perfectly effective action movie. It encapsulates everything that the 30s action genre stood for. It’s just a great way to spend an hour and a half and not be troubled trying to figure out what a particular scene means. I’m sure I’m going to get nailed for underestimating the artistic quality of the film, but I just felt like it was a fun film through and through.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#24 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

"A movie operating on an entirely different level."

In my knowledge of monumental figures in film, there had always stood before me such directors as Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and to a lesser extent Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, who were directors I had heard of but never knew anything about. It is disappointing to me now to think that I didn’t know anything about, nor, to the best of my recollection, had ever so much as even heard of Stanley Kubrick. This is especially distressing, since, aside from the fact that nearly every major American-made film from the 60s and 70s was made by this legendary director, but moreover I had actually seen many of these films before. Kubrick’s presence was made apparent to me by another friend and fellow aficionado of film (does that come off as pompous as it sounds in my head?), and now that I know who he is, I see him all over the place. The movie I am about to talk about, 2001: A Space Odyssey, not only has the benefit of being made by Stanley Kubrick, but is also one of those films off of this list which I was very aware of, and referenced rather often, usually without realizing I was referencing this movie specifically (It’s amazing how well versed in movie references and plots you can be just by watching a lot of cartoons as a kid). Anyway, after finally deciding to watch this epic, I can firmly say that this film is one of the most spectacular I have seen. It is, truly, a movie on another plane above many of the films I’ve watched already.

Alright, so let’s get down to business. The film starts off very peculiarly; nothing but black screen for a good 3 minutes. At first I actually thought the DVD was broken, but then the music starts off, and you’re left staring at a black screen with very eerie, discordant music playing in the background. Finally, after what seems like ages, you are given the film credits. I really like the way in which this is presented, and it really sets the standard of Kubrick’s directing style for this film, which I’ll get into in a lot greater detail later in this review. So anyway, after the credits are finished, we see our first picture in the film: the classic music of this film rolls, and we are presented with a space image of Earth, which the camera moves over, gradually revealing the sun. Finally, we’re taken down to Earth for “The Dawn of Man”. In these scenes, we are presented with ape-looking men, costume designs that reminded me very much of the ape-suits from Planet of the Apes, which I reviewed earlier this week. These scenes are typified by a lot of spectacular long shots. One thing I found very fascinating about these scenes was that although no dialogue, no actual human characters or human-like characters, and no discernable story was happening in these Dawn of Man scenes, which take up a good 15 minutes of the film, I am absolutely enthralled. The spectacular cinematography, coupled with the excellent pacing and compelling reactions made by the humans was very engaging, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Eventually the human-apes are presented with this black monolith which appears rather suddenly before the creatures. The apes prance about trying to touch it and discern what it is. The next scene, probably one of the most iconic in film, features one of the human-apes – who had touched the monolith – discovering how to use a bone as a club. The thing about this scene, is that it has been so thoroughly satirized in film – History of the World, part 1, comes to mind, certainly – meant that I wasn’t so sure whether I should be in awe of how cool the scene was, or laugh because that theme music and the way it was presented has been in so many comedies that it would probably be impossible to list them all off.

Eventually, through a course of a very cool segue; we are taken away from the everyday lives of primitive man, and to Heywood Floyd, an American scientist who, we learn, is on a trip to the moon to deal with some pressing business. What I like about the early portions of this scene is that still no one is talking. I kept track, and the movie goes through over 25 minutes of film without anyone so much as uttering a word. Very cool. Floyd gets off on a space station, and then transfers to another space ship to take him to the moon. Through the course of these scenes I found myself asking hundreds of questions about the details of the world Floyd lives on, mostly nerdy things such as the state of world politics, economy, how this or that works, etc. The most interesting to me was that on both of the ships he takes to the moon, though they both appear to resemble commuter airlines akin to those we use to fly now, both ships were completely devoid of people, and I found myself wondering why that was. I should also mention that these scenes are absolutely spectacular. The flight scenes are long montages set to Strauss’s “The Blue Danube”, and I found the music, and the way it was presented, to be very appropriate. Eventually Floyd lands and we are presented with his reason for coming to the moon…or not. Although on two occasions Floyd has hinted at his reasons for being here, he never explicitly states what he’s doing on the Moon. This narrative teasing on the part of Kubrick will come to be a theme in this movie. Another 20 minutes later, and we finally find out that Floyd is here for an artifact that was being recovered – a monolith just like the one the man-apes discovered.

We are cut again, to a spaceship bound for Jupiter. In this spaceship are 5 astronauts, 3 of which are in hibernation, and the other two, who are set to watch over the other two, are named David Bowman and Frank Pool. Meanwhile, the ship also has an AI named HAL. After being introduced to these characters, and HAL, we soon start to see some weird things happening on the ship – peculiar malfunctions and incongruities. We are told that both Bowman and Pool believe HAL to be behind these weird things. After some time, it is revealed that HAL is behind them, and also that he knows that Bowman and Pool suspect him. He mutinies, killing the hibernating shipmates, and then attempts to kill Pool, and locking Bowman out in space as he tried to save Pool. Bowman manages to make his way back into the ship, forcing him to leave Pool to die in the process, and eventually shuts down HAL successfully. After HAL is shut down, we learn the reason for the manned journey to Jupiter – the monolith from the moon sent a transmission directed at Jupiter, and the astronauts are here to discover who the transmission was directed at. Bowman continues on to Jupiter alone, and the ensuing scenes – the end of the movie – were some of the most peculiar I have ever seen, and I recommend you watch them yourself, as I feel like it would be impossible for me to do them proper justice. But needless to say, it is some of the most confusing, and yet mind-blowing stuff I have ever seen.

The acting in this film is not altogether spectacular. No one in my opinion really stands out. That doesn’t mean, however that anyone was particularly bad, just not particularly great either. It didn’t really have to be particularly great though, because the real show stealer in this film is the pacing and cinematography. The cinematography is simply superb. Every scene was full of elements going on, and was just so full of meaning I feel like it would be beyond my comprehension to pick up on all of it. Even the first 10 minutes of the film, you can tell that every scene, every shot, every second of film is meticulously thought out. There are no throw-away scenes, everything is relevant. It is just mind-boggling; cinematography to rival that of Welles’s Citizen Kane, to be sure. Another thing I like about this film is the pacing. Kubrick teases you, and he does it a lot. What he does is that he gets you interested, draws you in to a point where you are dying to know what this is all about. And just when it appears that he is about to tell you what the hell’s going on, granting you the release you need, he draws off, and doesn’t actually tell you. Instead he draws the scene out for another 5 to 10 minutes, leaving you in agony the whole time. Finally, after a great length of time, he finally tells you what it is all about, and it just feels like an anvil has hit you on the head. It is a brilliant piece of pacing, and it was the single most striking part of the film to me. From the first scene in which he leaves you in darkness for the first 3 minutes of film, to the very end he is constantly giving you just enough to be willing to thrash the TV to find out more, without actually letting it all out right away. It is exceedingly frustrating. The music, as I suggested before, is also spectacular in this film. It is always perfectly appropriate. Finally, I like the ambient sounds, particularly the breathing coming from Bowman’s space suit during space scenes and at the very end. Particularly at the end of the film, it really adds to the tension.

This is truly a superb film, and if I wasn’t afraid of boring readers, I feel like I could go on for 20 pages talking about this film. I know I say that every film I see off this list is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but I absolutely mean it with this film. Everything it does, from the music, to the pacing, the building of tension, the cinematography, the sense of mystery, is just spectacular. I just absolutely adore this movie. It is just an absolutely amazing movie. Truly a movie operating on a different level, even than many of the films I’ve seen off of my list. All I can say in conclusion is that I love this movie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#23 The Great Escape (1963)

The Great Escape (1963)

"A long set-up, but a good climax."

Out of this little list of mine, there are several films of which I have been around for a very long time. Films such as Gone with the Wind; Bridge over the River Kwai; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; and this one I will be talking about today, The Great Escape, which have been very popular among certain members of my family, and have been watched on numerous occasions by them, and yet I have never before seen. When I was younger I was always too close-minded to appreciate the excellence of the film I saw before me. Sure I knew certain famous scenes – the classic duel from The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Scarlett giving birth to her baby in Gone with the Wind (“I don’t know nothing ‘bout birthin’ no babies!”), or Steve McQueen trying to jump his motorcycle over the fences and into Switzerland at the end of this movie, but I have never actually seen these movies all the way through before. I am certainly glad I have seen this movie now, however. A superb piece of filmmaking, which, though it starts slow, builds up tension and suspense all the way to the end as we watch the characters we have spent the last two and a half hours getting acquainted with try to make their daring escapes.

The movie opens to the iconic theme music from this movie; music that no doubt nearly everyone in this country has heard at least one point in their lives. We are then immediately introduced to the primary characters of the film, who take a stroll around the prison, probing the defenses for weaknesses. It is a very neat scene, the result of which is a number of which is a number of characters trying to make their first attempts at escape, and failing quite superbly. What I like about the attempts, though, is that the escapees show no shame or fear of being caught, they act as though it is a point of pride for them. Those being caught and subsequently sent to the cooler is a point of pride for them. This is explained slightly before the catching event when the commanding officer of the prisoners is sent to meet with the guard warden, in which he explains that “It is the sworn duty of every officer to try to escape”. The warden also explains what this camp is; that it is a camp in which the Luftwaffe have placed all the best allied escape artists are being placed in one singular camp, so as to make it easier for the Nazis to keep close tabs on them. The only flaw in this plan is that all the best escape artists are being placed together in one camp, and so they immediately plan an escape attempt of epic proportions: 3 tunnels, 250 escapees. The next hour and half or so of the movie, in which the conspirators collaborate, plan, and prepare their escape, is very fun to watch. A friend who was watching it with me said it felt like an episode of the 80s TV show Hogan’s Heroes, which was modeled on this movie. What it felt like more to me was those scenes in episodes of the cartoon “Rugrats” in which the main character Tommy would plan some elaborate scheme to save something or another and it would work out like clockwork. Anyway, the British prisoners, with the aid of a scrounging American, succeed well with their plan. Steve McQueen, however, who plays Captain Hilts doesn’t want to play their game. He tries to go it alone, making attempts on his own, or with the aid of the friend he makes in the camp, the Scotsman Archibald Ives, whom he meets in his first trip to the cooler. Though Hilts and Ives try time and again to escape, their attempts fail repeatedly, and they find themselves placed evermore in the cooler. It is only after Ives can’t take it anymore, and so commits suicide by running to the fence (getting shot by machine guns), does Hilts finally become a team player, sacrificing his on chance at freedom to give the British valuable intelligence.

Finally after some time the preparation is complete and the escape attempt is made. Naturally things don’t go quite as planned, but the attempt is carried on nevertheless. The last half hour or so details what happens to each of the major characters after they get out of the camp and try to make their way back home. This part of the movie is marked by a sharp shift in tone from, ironically enough, lighthearted and upbeat in the prison, to tense, exciting, and in several cases tragic outside of the prison. This climax is the whole point of the film. You the viewer are built up over the course of 2 and a half hours, getting to know, understand, and care about each of the characters, their motivations, their skill sets, and most importantly, what’s at risk, especially characters like Richard Attenborough who has made so many escape attempts, that he’s told at the beginning of the film that if he tries again and is caught he will be shot on sight. I thought this stark contrast between tone inside and outside the prison was well played, and made for an interesting dichotomy.

Personally, I felt that the directing and cinematography on the whole were rather average. I didn’t feel there was anything particularly spectacular about it, or rather no scene really jumped out at me. There were a couple neat effects scattered throughout the film, though. I particularly liked the scene involving Hilts’s second escape attempt. He tells the British conspirators exactly how he plans to tunnel out of prison, and then leaves. The British conspirators then talk about how original idea it is, and that they hope he succeeds. The very next scene shows a very blackened and dirty Hilts and Ires being escorted to the cooler. It was a very neat cut. Another thing I like is how the escape is presented. I like the cuts from the tense moment of several escapees being on a train with Gestapo checking everyone for their identification, to a serene escape made by rowboat by two other members, to Steve McQueen riding around on a motorcycle. It really plays with your emotions, and makes the tense moments even more exciting. John Sturges does a really good job playing the viewers’ emotions in these scenes. One thing I didn’t like about this film was the pacing. I thought it was rather uneven, especially in detailing various characters’ emotions. In this movie there are two characters that crack and with both of them it happens so abruptly that it doesn’t feel realistic at all. I felt if they could have shown the stress and wear getting to the characters, particularly the Polish digger Danny Velinski, who is a tunneler with claustrophobia, it would have been an even more spectacular movie. However, I do like the dialogue a lot in this movie, it’s very cleverly played. I also like the subtlety revolving around the scrounger Lt. Hendley. You are not quite told what exactly he is up to when he’s trying to get something, so you are as confused as the guards who he is deceiving. Lastly, I really like the relationships developed. I thought these; particularly those between Henley and Blythe, Dickes and Velinski were believable and touching. One thing I was afraid of, going into this film, was that with such a large amount of characters focused on in this film, and who we are supposed to care about in specific ways, the result was going to be a mess in which I didn’t care about any of the characters, but this simply did not happen. Director Sturges does a really good job of introducing the characters and making sure the viewer knows who each of them is, and why you should care about them, so that when the escape occurs you are actually rooting for each and every one of them.

I felt the acting on the whole was quite good. Naturally Steve McQueen (Hilts) and James Garner (Hendley the Scrounger) were very good. Attenborough was excellent I felt, but I particularly liked Charles Bronson, who was playing Velinski, the tunnel king. Even though I thought his cracking under pressure was too abrupt, and it could have been introduced better, after it is introduced, Bronson does a very good job making this character development very believable and watching him breakdown during the escape was simply agonizing (in a good way). My only complaint with the acting was that the Germans accents when some of the guard extras were speaking English were simply atrocious. If they were German extras then maybe it’s just me, but it really felt like something you’d see in Hogan’s heroes; I was half expecting one of them to yell “Jawohl Herr Kommandant!” Overall this made it harder for me to get into the film during the first 5 minutes or so, but it got better after that.

Overall, I thought this film was superb, and even though it runs in at nearly 3 hours, it was definitely a film worth my time. This film is on the list on the first because of the all-star cast, which included Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Charles Bronson, to name a few, and because of the last bit of the movie, which is a masterpiece of suspense and excitement. It definitely helps that the scene in which Steve McQueen tries to ride his motorcycle to Switzerland is one of the most famous scenes in film. Anyway, while I thought this film was on the whole good and certainly worthy of being on the list, it didn’t strike me quite like Seven Samurai, Psycho, or 2001: A Space Odyssey (which I will be reviewing next) did. Though I don’t really think it was meant to. On the whole it was a great film, and definitely worth a watch.

Monday, January 10, 2011

#22 Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

"A timeless, ham 'n cheese classic."

Our film for today is the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, starring NRA head, noted creationist, (and legendary actor) Charlton Heston. This is another of those films which I had seen numerous times when I was younger, but had turned my nose up to it when I got to high school. These types of films are why I am happy that I am doing this list, almost more than getting an opportunity to watch those legendary films I have never seen before, simply because now I get to rewatch those films I’ve seen a hundred times, but in a totally different light, with a new look on life and on film in general. It enables me to see the films as wonderful works of art. This is huge for a movie like this, which, until I watched it now, I had always considered to be a bit of a lame cheesy movie, rather than the spectacular piece of art that I now unequivocally consider it to be.

The movie opens to a spectacular monologue, delivered by Heston’s character, George Taylor, in which he details how he is the captain of a space ship who is out exploring the depths of space. Thanks to some scientific mumbo jumbo, Taylor reveals that while only a couple months had passed for the crew, over 700 years had passed on Earth, meaning that everyone and everything the crew once knew was dead and gone. Taylor then goes into deep sleep, and the film then cuts to one of the coolest opening credit scenes I had ever seen. The music was absolutely spectacular. The credits pass, and the ship crash lands on a planet which, Taylor muses, is about 300 light years from Earth. The crew, minus the one female member, survives the crash and travel through what appears to be a barren desert wasteland. Over the course of this trek, we learn much about the crew members and their personalities and motivations. Eventually, the crew comes upon life, and soon discovers a population of primitive humans. Taylor’s character muses that with life this primitive, in 6 months the crew will be lording over the planet. The reverie is cut short when apes riding on horses and wielding guns bust onto the scene, and soon start killing and capturing all the humans they can get their hands on. One member (naturally, the black guy) is killed, and the other two are captured. We soon learn that the humans on this planet are mute and stupid, and that apes have a very low opinion of humans on this planet. The next hour or so of film involves Taylor struggling to show to the apes that he is intelligent, and therefore should be treated as an equal. After some time, he is deemed a mutant and is set to be executed. After mounting a daring escape, Taylor, with the help of some sympathetic chimpanzees, flees to the so-called “forbidden zone” to find proof of intelligent humans existing before the apes. This proof is discovered, but the religious leaders of the ape society still do not want to accept that humans are equal to apes, and so the evidence is destroyed, though Taylor is set free. Taylor rides off, and, in one of the biggest twists in film, sees a half-buried Statue of Liberty, showing that he has been on Earth the whole time.

The cinematography and directing in this film is simply superb. Director Franklin J. Schaffner does a simply superb job with long sweeping shots, showing the viewer the true scope of the planet when the crew is travelling through the barren wasteland. I love the way the film goes from showing the individual actors, to cutting back to show the viewer the full scope of the region. It tells you more than any words can, and that is the scene of a truly great movie. Another excellent technique the film uses is quick jumps from mystery to blatant showing. What I mean, is best shown through the first scene in which the apes are seen. When the apes first start attacking the humans, we don’t see the apes for many minutes. All we can really see are the horses they are riding, and the tips of the threshers they are holding peaking over the corn fields. This continues for many minutes so that we don’t actually know what is chasing the humans, until, suddenly the film starts showing us. What I like about when they finally show us the apes, is that it is done very casually. The film suddenly goes from showing us nothing at all, to showing us the apes as though it’s been showing them to us the whole time. It’s very natural and done very well.

The acting in this film is…interesting to put it lightly. While there are some good scenes with the two other crew members, and the actor playing Dr. Zaius does a very good job for example, the focus is on Heston and his performance. What’s interesting about Heston’s character is that in any other actor I would call it gross overacting, and it really is. He’s hammy and cheesy, but the thing is, Heston has such a presence, such a gravitas that it really works for him. Though his delivery is on the whole very cheesy, it is actually remarkably compelling, and I actually really liked the cheese. What’s interesting is that many of the other characters are equally cheesy, ham and cheese would probably be the best description of the performances in this movie, but the thing is Heston as the large ham, and the movie’s over the top character just make the ham and cheese work, flat out.

Another thing about this film that really works is the makeup. The way in which real actors were rendered to look like apes in the days before green screen, before the days of Avatar technology, and before computer rendering technology is just really well done. You actually don’t realize that it really is a real human underneath all that hair.

The thing that really made the film for me though was the tension created throughout this film. Everything about this movie is exciting. From the chase scene in which Taylor and the crew are running from the apes, to Taylor’s dramatic discovery of the truth, you are constantly on the edge of your seat. What I like is that you really find yourself feeling for Taylor. You agonize over his inability to talk just as he does. You convince yourself that “if he could only just tell them who he is, then every will be sorted out.” What is more remarkable is that even though you know the truth, even though you know the ending of the film, you completely forget about it through the course of the film. It really is an excellent accomplishment.

With all this praise, however, I do have a couple complaints. One thing I didn’t like was the young chimp Lucius, who only comes into the film towards the end when Taylor escapes to the forbidden zone. I believe he is supposed to show the jaded, cynical youth of the chimpanzees, to demonstrate that the apes really are no different than humans, but he really just comes off as obnoxious, and I felt the film could have been much better without him. There were also a couple scenes that I felt were a bit superfluous to the film as a whole, for example Taylor’s first attempt at escape from town was way too drawn out, and if these scenes were cut down, the film as a whole could have been much better streamlined and paced a little better. However, these are really little more than nitpicks, rather than actual complaints.

Finally, the themes of this film are superb. This movie, at its most fundamental is on the first part about the importance of science, reason, and doubt, and also the importance of keeping science separate from religion. On the second part, the film is about the haughtiness of man, and a warning against the hubris of man being his major failing. One thing I find most interesting that best demonstrates this point is when Taylor finally reveals what the mission of the crewmen was. Their mission was a so called “Adam and Eve” played out in reality, in which the three male crewmen and one female would land on a new planet and repopulate human life on the new planet, with the idea of creating an Earth colony. When one thinks about this mission logically, they will immediately realize the idiocy not only of just sending 4 people on their own without communication to just arbitrarily find an hospitable planet to settle on, but to think that 3 men and 1 woman would be able to successfully create a new population. This mission shows that, in spite of Taylors sweeping anti-religious rhetoric, science and religion were blending on Earth as well. Finally, this movie is also about man’s penchant for destruction. One of my favorite lines in this film comes from the Orangutan cleric Dr. Zaius:

“Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death. “

Finally, I can’t help pointing out the irony of Charlton Heston, today a major proponent of creation science and religious fundamentalism, in his youth doing a movie that is strictly anti-religion and pro evolution. Nevertheless this film is simply stupendous and definitely worth multiple watches. I am really glad I watched this film as rewatching it now has completely changed my opinion both of the movie and the series as a whole.