My Week With Marilyn (2011)


June 1st is Marilyn Monroe’s birthday, but instead of doing a tribute to her and her movies I decided to do a review on a movie I watched from last year; My Week With Marilyn.  The truth of the matter is if you are looking for any information on Marilyn Monroe, you won’t have any trouble finding what you are looking for. She may be the most recognizable movie star in the world. (Well, maybe Mickey Mouse.) She is admired by many, and hated by some. There are those that think she was a horrible actress, and others that believe she was way more intelligent than she let on. Whatever you think of her, she has made a lasting impression on the world, and her successful career shows how much she was loved.

My Week With Marilyn is a movie that combines two books written by Colin Clark. The movie takes place in 1956, when Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is 22 years old, and wants to work in the movie business. His parents are extremely wealthy and have high aspirations for him, but nevertheless they allow him to go to Laurence Olivier’s production studio to ask for a job. He arrives and is rejected by the office staff. After much persistence, he sees Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) with his wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond). Vivien remembers Colin from a previous meeting through his parents and convinces Olivier to give him a job.

Colin becomes the third assistant director on Olivier’s new movie, The Prince And The Showgirl, starring Olivier, as well as Marilyn Monroe. He begins working as mostly an errand boy, find Marilyn a bodyguard, as well as a home for her to stay in with her newest husband, Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). As the production begins, Colin meets a wardrobe assistant named Lucy (Emma Watson), who he begins to date.

My Week With MarilynWhen Marilyn arrives Colin is swept away into the world of Marilyn’s beauty. He is enamored by her very presence. He finds himself staring at her every time he sees her both on the screen, as well as on the stage. One day, Lucy asks him the question that all women eventually asks the man in their lives, “Do you think Marilyn’s beautiful?” (Just as a side note…. there is no right answer here, guys.) He continues to hang around her as much as he can, despite the fact that many of the others in the cast and crew are annoyed with her lack of professionalism. Finally, Marilyn notices Colin and their relationship grows quickly.

They get a tour of Windsor Castle, as well as going to Colin’s old boarding school. Now that he has become an intimate friend, he discovers the personal troubles that she endures on a regular basis. The glamour of being Marilyn’s friend quickly fades, but his love for her does not.

The entire movie is well made. For the scenes where they are filming The Prince And The Showgirl, the same sound stages were used as the ones they used in 1956, during the actual filming of The Prince And The Showgirl. The production makes My Week With Marilyn feel as if it really was filmed in 1956. Everything looks realistic and authentic. Director Simon Curtis transports the audience into Marilyn’s world and life.

This movie was an unusual look into the life of an icon. To see part of Marilyn’s life from the “other” side is intriguing. Many filmmakers could have used the opportunity to make a movie about Marilyn Monroe, and exploit all the bad parts of her personality. Instead, we see the painful side of her, without wallowing in her miseries. My Week With Marilyn was taken seriously, and not as a joke. She is treated with respect and admiration, and the audience is left thinking that Marilyn herself was smart and funny, not stupid.

Michelle Williams gives a tremendous performance as Marilyn. She completely embodies her and makes the audience forget that we are not watching Marilyn Monroe herself. Michelle looks the part, walks the part, speaks the part, and even sings the part. She received a much-deserved Academy Award nomination (her third).My Week With Marilyn

Kenneth Branagh is also brilliant as Laurence Olivier. I have actually heard people confuse the two in real life before, and now whenever I see Kenneth, I think of Laurence. He, also, received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for his performance.

My wife would be the first to tell you that I love Marilyn Monroe. There is something mysterious about her that draws me in. It was so exciting to see a movie that told a real story about a Hollywood legend.  It is my contention that My Week With Marilyn could have easily been a Best Picture nominee this last year. It was deserving, and I am sorry that it was Marilyn Monroeexcluded.

No matter how you feel about Marilyn Monroe, she is certainly a part of movie history, and what better way to celebrate her birthday than by watching a movie where she has been personified so well.

Today, June 1st 2012, Marilyn Monroe would have been 86 years old.

For more information about Marilyn Monroe you can check out this blog.

Titanic (1997): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #83



#83 Titanic (1997)

Director-James Cameron

Running Time-194 Minutes


When I decided to count down the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies, there were some movies I was very excited to see. Titanic was not one of these movies. I have disliked Titanic since opening day, December 19th 1997. I was very excited to see this movie. The trailer made it look like it was going to be the greatest movie ever made, but while I sat there watching, I realized that the movie was really about two very young kids meeting and having a connection over the course of a few days. That was really what the first half of the movie is about. It’s not even a great love story, as much as it is a story about 20 something year olds who meet, feel an attraction, and have sex. I’m not going to call this a love story, just as I don’t consider Romeo & Juliet a love story. They are both stories about attraction and infatuation. I in no way am trying to say that there are no “loving” feelings taking place in the movie, I just don’t see this as a great ”lost love” movie, like Doctor Zhivago.

Not only am I upset about the lack of love that these two shared, but what about the rest of the ship? The movie is three hours and 19 minutes long, and when the ship sinks how many people do you really care about? I have had some people argue that they care about all the nameless faces we see as the ship sinks, but I don’t see how. If we don’t know their names and they had less the five minutes screen time, its awful hard to say that we care on a deeper level than we care Titanicabout some of the nameless characters. For instance, the guy who falls from the propeller, or someone who has frozen to death in the water. The filmmakers didn’t try to include the smaller characters into the story. They made them superficial, and that is exactly how they feel to me, unnecessary. Other people have told me that everyone who helped create the ship is given proper screen time, and when they reach their tragic end the viewer feels for them. Yes, I agree we are sorry they die, but honestly it’s one of the older laws in Hollywood. I call it the “Frankenstein Monster” law. If you create a monster, you become responsible for his actions. I am glad these characters were included in the movie, but I have a harder time feeling sorry for them than I do all of the third class passengers locked downstairs. I just wanted more to care about, and I don’t feel that this movie fulfilled my needs.

Now, with that being said, while I watched Titanic this time I noticed a few things that I had not thought about in previous viewings.

  • The music in Titanic is one of the greatest music scores written ever. I hate to say this for many reasons, but as I watch this movie the music keeps me involved, even when I didn’t want to be involved anymore. I have been a James Horner fan since I was very young. Field Of Dreams, Glory, Legends Of The Fall, and Apollo 13 have some of my favorite movies scores ever. I think that all of those movies are better because of the music James Horner created, and although I always felt he ripped off his own music in order to create Titanic, it still is the one score he wrote that actually drives its movie forward. A lot of the reason is probably the immensely popular Celine Dion song that we all have heard so many times we have had nightmares. But all throughout the movie, there is that haunting melody, reminding us that there is tragedy looming around the corner.
  • The costumes are amazing. The colors and the designs blew me away. I think it’s the attention to detail that always draws me in, and makes me believe I am in another time period. The first twenty minutes especially, I find myself paying an incredible amount of time looking at the costumes. A well deserved Academy Award.
  • Along with the costumes, the sets and overall grander of Titanic was unlike other movies from the 1990’s. I know that a lot of the backgrounds were computer generated, but overall throughout the movie I had an overwhelming sense of awe. Everyone involved obviously went to a lot of trouble to put this movie together the best way they knew how because they wanted it to look good, not because they were looking to make money. (At least that is how I feel).Titanic
  • Finally, I realized that I didn’t need to go to the library to get Titanic because I already owned the DVD. I thought back to when I purchased the DVD and I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I remember selling my video copy at a garage sale. The question I asked myself was, “Why do you own the DVD, (as well as video at one point) of a movie that you don’t like?” I think the only answer is that even though I don’t love this movie, it certain has obtained a place in the cinematic ranks because of the IMPACT it had on the world. It’s a movie that changed the way movies were made. After Titanic, movies were made a little bigger, and maybe they started to rely on computer-generated images too much, but it certainly made everyone sit up and take notice.

I will never be able to call Titanic one of my favorite movies. Once you take out the special effects, there isn’t much left of this movie for me. However, the special effects are there. It’s a complete package that you have to reflect upon. When Titanic won Best Picture I was devastated. I was rooting for something original like Goodwill Hunting, or something gritty like L.A. Confidential. I even could be sold on a love story that was believable such as As Good As It Gets. Now years later I do understand why it won Best Picture. It may have been the best movie from 1997, but I don’t think its one of the best of all time.

Clint Eastwood: Happy 82nd Birthday!

I love to watch movies. When I find someone who I enjoy watching I tend to watch as many of their movies as I can find. It can be a bit frustrating because so many movies have become harder to find. Clint Eastwood is the exception to this rule.

When I decided to start watching Clint’s movies I was surprised at how many were easy to get. In fact, there is only one movie staring Clint Eastwood that I was unable to purchase (le Streghe 1967), and I was able to watch it on YouTube.  Everything else in the Eastwood library is available, and I watched it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In all honesty, most of his movies are entertaining, and the few that aren’t still include moments where I found myself smiling. Although not everyone loves Clint, most people have a special place in their hearts for at least of one of his movies.

I think Clint Eastwood is one of the most underrated actors of all time. Everyone knows he is an action hero, but what about his dramatic abilities? Why isn’t he taken seriously as a dramatic presence? And although many will disagree, I think he has a magnificent sense of humor. If I was an actor I would want to be like Clint Eastwood because he spent his entire career making the movies that he wanted to make. Even though he has two Academy Awards for directing, I would still argue that his directorial movies deserve more credit than they receive. He has made over 50 movies and still continues to put another one out almost every year. He is an icon in every sense of the word. Today is his 82nd birthday, and I couldn’t be happier to tell the world how much I love his movies, and how glad I am that I have been able to enjoy so many.

Every year I try to convince someone to watch one of Clint’s movies that they typically would skip, so today I challenge everyone to watch something that Clint made, even if you don’t think you will like it. Here are the best of my favorites. (It may be excessive, but that’s what happens when you’re this good.)Clint Eastwood

For A Few Dollars More (1965): Everybody knows about the “Man With No Name”, but of the three movies this is the one to remember. It has more feeling than the other two combined, and when you watch them all together, For A Few Dollars More stands out for one obvious reason. It’s better. I understand why The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is so famous, but just because it’s the biggest, most expensive of the three, doesn’t mean that it has the best story (which it doesn’t). Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef have an amazing chemistry in For A Few Dollars More, and for my money (or yours) that is the one I will watch time and time again. If this movie was released today I think it would have a huge following. It’s real, and dirty, just the way it should be.

Clint EastwoodWhere Eagles Dare (1968): If Quentin Tarantino was directing movies in the last sixties, this would have been his movie. It’s a WWII action movie where Richard Burton and Clint go into a German castle to retrieve an Army General who has been captured. Essentially, it’s a phenomenal “Nazi-Killing” movie. It might have been the most violent movie that had been made, at that time. It’s so much fun you might not even notice the holes in the plot, or the two and a half hour running time. This is a movie that is just as enjoyable today as it was 45 years ago. Some late-teenagers with a hankering for action will find it to be right up their alley.

Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970): A drifter comes across two men about to rape a nun. When he kills the men, he becomes stuck with the woman. Yes, I know this sounds like just another run of the mill western plot, but it is more than that. Shirley MacLaine plays the sassy mouthed nun, and the two have unbelievable chemistry. It’s actually more of a comedy, with a western theme. Then at the end, we get twenty minutes of straight action when Clint joins the underdogs and fights alongside “his” nun. This is one of those movies that cheers me up when I’m feeling down. It also was the movie that taught me what I should do if I ever get shot with an arrow. (You never know.)

Play Misty For Me (1971): This was Clint’s directorial debut, and there are obvious moments of brilliance. It’s a suspense movie that has flown under the radar. If you haven’t seen it and you like that old “pit-in-your-stomach” feeling, you should try this one out. Years before Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct Clint knew what would scare men all across the country: a woman scorned.

Dirty Harry  (1971): No Clint Eastwood list would be complete without Dirty Harry. The strangest thing about Dirty Clint EastwoodHarry for me is the simple fact that it came out the same year as The French Connection, and shared many similarities, but for some reason didn’t seem to gain the same recognition. (Although in all fairness, Dirty Harry doesn’t have that amazing car chase!) One thing Dirty Harry can always say (besides, “Make My Day”) is people turned out to see all four sequels, and most people don’t even remember French Connection 2. Dirty Harry is not only action-packed, but it is also a very real feeling movie. And really, it’s what made Clint a star.

Breezy (1973): The first movie that Clint directed, without acting in, was a smaller love story about an older man troubled with divorce and his life’s disappointments, who meets a very young drifter girl. The two fall in love, and although it’s a strange romance, they have to learn to come to terms with their differences. William Holden does some of the best acting of his career, and Clint’s directing is very strong. He shows us that he has something real to say with his movies.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): This was the first time Clint Eastwood was given proper attention for his directorial abilities. It’s an extremely well made western movie that starts at the very end of the civil war, and shows how one man who wanders long enough can find his place in the world. It’s one of the best westerns I have ever seen, and should be remembered more than it has been.

The Gauntlet (1977):  All right, you can laugh if you want, but I think this movie is an extremely enjoyable movie. I would not call it a “quality” movie, but I laugh the whole way through. The first time my wife and I watched The Gauntlet, she was bored out of her mind. By the third time I forced her to sit there, she started laughing right along with me.

It’s the story of an alcoholic policeman who is transporting a witness across state lines. It turns out he has been hand-picked for the assignment because the police want the witness dead, and they think this dead-beat is the perfect man for the job. What they don’t know yet, but will learn quickly, is that they are messing with the wrong man.

Clint EastwoodEscape From Alcatraz (1979): It’s a great story with great acting all the way through. I don’t have to explain the plot because the title takes care of that for me. Doesn’t everyone love a drama about escaping from prison? And Alcatraz is the best prison ever made, so what could be better than this?

Pale Rider (1985): Another western; yes, but this one strikes me as different. Clint plays “Preacher” who comes into a small mining community at just the perfect time, because they are lost and in search of a leader. He leads them, by example, and teaches the power of community.

Unforgiven (1992): Best Picture winner, and possibly my all time favorite movie. Unforgiven tells the story of an outlaw that years ago went straight, but after the loss of his wife and a failing farm, he must turn to his old ways in order to Clint Eastwoodprovide for his children. Without a doubt in my mind, this is the greatest western ever made, and has so much to say about the different paths people choose. The entire movie is filled with thought provoking insights as to what we should all do with the time God has given us. This movie is beyond powerful, and shows what men will do with their backs against the wall. It is also one of the most “real” movies you could ever see. There are no good guys, and there are no bad guys. We are living now, and our choices will dictate our future. “Deserv’ns got nothing’ to do with it.” If I was ever able to meet Clint Eastwood I would thanks him for many things, but Unforgiven would be the standout moment of his career that changed the way I watched movies, changed the way I lived, and made me see the world in a new light.

The Bridges Of Madison County (1995): Clint is able to do many things in his movies, but I didn’t ever think he would make me root for a marriage to split up. This story was beyond sad for me, and when I think about this movie I become chocked up. Clint does some of his best work, in part because of Meryl Streep, but also because he had become an all around great filmmaker by this time.

Mystic River (2003): I consider Mystic River to be a “perfect” movie. It has everything I feel a movie needs, and easily could have won Best Picture. Unfortunately, too many people like to hand out “make-up” awards, and this was one of those years. I can argue all day on why this movie is great, but I don’t think I really have to today. Clint’s direction is better here than it had ever been before, and while surrounding himself with brilliant actors, he made a film that I believe will one day make a resurgence in the world and find itself on many peoples “best” lists. I know it’s on mine.

Clint EastwoodMillion Dollar Baby (2004): Another Best Picture winner, Clint takes on woman’s boxing (why not, he already has done everything else), and he does it in the highest possibly quality. He gives an emotional performance, along with magnificent directorial work. Although many people have decided to skip this movie, it is one that should be seen not just because it won so many awards, but also because of the father-daughter relationship that Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood share on the screen. It is one of the finest relationships Clint ever has on screen, and I love every second that they give to us.

Letter From Iwo Jima (2006): I never knew how much I would enjoy a WWII movie from the point of view of the Japanese. Another in the long list of Clint’s “perfect” movies, this one takes its viewers through the days on Iwo Jima during the American’s attacks. It’s film making at it’s finest, and also a highly educational movie. I learned more about the battles on the island while watching Letters From Iwo Jima than I had learned the rest of my life combined.

Gran Torino (2008): Gran Torino blew me away, but not for the normal reasons. Obviously I love Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwoodmovies, but NEVER had I seen him act more beautifully than in this movie. It is a role that I didn’t expect from Clint, but was amazed by how well he pulled off the “old man” with his racist remarks, and don’t mess with me attitude. If you missed this movie, don’t waste any more time. It should be seen by every eighteen year old in the country, and I think that Clint himself should have been given more recognition for his work in the role.

I could go on longer, but then I would just be taking up time that you could be watching any of Clint Eastwood’s wonderful movies. Happy Birthday Clint! Thanks for giving us so much to talk about.

Easy Rider (1969): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #84


#84 Easy Rider (1969)

Director-Dennis Hopper

Running Time-95 Minutes


I understand that there are certain movies that define a generation. Those who live through that time period have a connection that means a great deal to them. The problem with movies such as these, are they have a hard time speaking to future generations. Easy Rider still has an audience, which is why it is still remembered so well, and regarded so highly. Easy Rider is number 84 on this list, moving up four places from the first time the AFI made this list. Therefore, Easy Rider is considered even better today than it was ten years ago.

The story revolves around two free spirited bikers (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) traveling through the South with no particular place to go. They encounter different kinds of people from all different walks of life. Some of these hate our “heroes” and others love them for their easy attitude.

Now here comes the part of this blog where I get to say, “I just don’t get it.” What is so great about this movie? I had never seen it before, and I don’t think I will ever see it again. What were they doing? What was the point? I know that I don’t understand the time period, but as someone who completely missed the sixties, I am baffled as to what about Easy Rider spoke to others.

Easy RiderNow don’t get me wrong, I see the groundbreaking film-making that took place. It’s the simple film style, the rebellious, independent movie that shocked the world. I understand all of that, but how about entertainment value? Doesn’t that count for something? To say that I didn’t get caught up in the story would be a lie. At the end I was amazed and surprised by what happened, and I think all the actors did a great job conveying their thoughts and feeling with very few words. I just don’t understand how someone could say that there have only been 83 American movies that are better than this one. Easy Rider may have paved the way for the more “real” movies that were coming; I just don’t think it deserves that credit that it has achieved here.

I am sure that there are people who understand and appreciate the movie more than me, and I would love to hear from all of them. Someone explain its greatness, please. Otherwise, I will have to remain in my ignorance. I’ll be waiting.

Certified Copy (2011)



Lately I have had many people ask if I ever watch current movies. The answer is yes, although not terribly often. Today I decided to try something a little more recent, with Certified Copy, from 2010. This movie is in French, English, and Italian, and was directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. It stars Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, in his first acting performance after many years as a successful opera singer.

The story of Certified Copy is complicated, but I will try to give you a brief look at what happens, without giving away too much. The movie opens with an author (William Shimell) speaking about his experiences with writing his new book titled Certified Copy. The book argues that an original is no better than the copies that are made. Even an “original” itself, such as the Mona Lisa, is actually a copy of something else. (I’m not giving the philosophy of the book its proper justice in this quick explanation, but that is the basic concept).

Certified CopyDuring the authors speech a woman (Juliette Binoche) comes in and sits down in the front row. A minute later her son comes in playing a videogame and wanders over and stands against the wall, where he continuously gets his mothers attention because he wants to leave. After a few minutes the two of them leave and go to get some food. During their quick meal we see the deteriorated relationship that they share.

The next scene takes place in the woman’s antique shop, where our author has come to meet with her. It is obvious that he doesn’t want to spend his day at her shop and he suggests they go for a drive. They leave and head out of town. The rest of the movie is essentially just the two characters experiencing different stages of a relationship. In fact, slowly throughout the rest of the movie their relationship evolves, but not in the way that most people change as they get to know one another. Instead of things naturally progressing, we are left to believe that they Binoche and Shimell have actually known each other for quite some time. The realities are not certain, and everything is left to the viewer’s own interpretations.

To say that this movie can be confusing would be an understatement. I was puzzled right from the beginning, but also extremely intrigued.  Usually with newer movies I complain that you aren’t required to do much thinking. I am not typically a fan of mindless movies day in and day out, although sometimes that is exactly what I am looking for. Certified Copy is a movie that requires thought. If you go into it with your thoughts elsewhere, you will probably find yourself confused and overwhelmed before it is done. Overall, I thought this movie was extremely thought provoking and enjoyable. I am eager to watch this movie again and continue to notice more.

One of the best aspects of the movie was the acting. I think Juliette Binoche is one of the most underrated actresses Certified Copyworking today. Her starring in this movie is what attracted me to it in the beginning. I do not listen to opera music, and had never even heard of William Shimell, but I think he was brilliant. And yes, his voice sounds beautiful when he speaks, just as I am sure it does when he sings. (There was about one minute of footage in the bonus features of him singing and it was phenomenal.) The chemistry these two actors had was memorizing. They embraced what seems to me to be two incredibly difficult roles, and they pulled them off flawlessly.

I give Certified Copy my highest possible recommendation because I love movies where you finish watching and then want to spend time reflecting on what you have just seen. There is no moment of extreme shock throughout this movie. It sneaks up on you methodically, until you suddenly realize that the movie you were watching has changed. The characters might believe that everything is a copy, but for me this movie was truly a refreshing original.

A Night At The Opera (1935): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #85



#85 A Night At The Opera (1935)

Director-Sam Wood

Running Time-91 minutes

Rated-Not Rated

A Night At The Opera is the story of a woman looking to donate money to the opera. She ends up traveling to America with some well know opera singers as well as a few stowaways. It almost seems ridiculous to try to explain the storyline of a Marx Brothers’ movie. Just assume that craziness ensues, mayhem takes over, silliness is everywhere, and it all works out in the end, even though it shouldn’t.

Let’s be honest, you either like the Marx Brothers or you don’t. I have never met anyone who is indifferent. In fact, as the years go by I know fewer and fewer people who have even seen any Marx brothers movies. If you find that hard to believe, A Night At The OperaI have a little challenge for you. As you go about your day, find someone under the age of forty and ask them to name the Marx Brothers. If you can find anyone, I would be highly impressed. At the same time that the younger generation in America is forgetting the Marx brothers, the American Film Institute is remembering them better than ever. On the first AFI list, A Night At The Opera did not make the cut at all. I think that jumping up to number 85 is pretty good. On the first list, the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup was number 85, and now it is number 60. That’s a pretty significant achievement. Charlie Chaplin has three of his comedies on this list, and Buster Keaton has one. In my opinion that’s pretty good company to keep.

I am one of those that love the Marx Brothers. So far I have passed that love to both my ten year old and my eight year old. The five year old isn’t quite sure yet, but to see her walking around the house with her “Groucho walk” is hilarious. One of my favorite things about their movies is the music. I have begun to rely on Chico’s piano playing and Harpo’s harp solo in the middle of a movie for no apparent reason other than the fact that they can.  I don’t think my wife loves the Marx Brothers. She tolerates them because so many of us in the house do love them. Yet in almost every Marx Brothers’ movie she ends up laughing at something. (Sometimes louder than the rest of us). If you have young children and you haven’t exposed them to the Marx Brothers, I think you should seriously consider trying it out. A lot of people will show their kids some Three Stooges, but I think that just promotes an unneeded violent streak. The Marx Brothers are good, clean slapstick fun, and apparently A Night At The Opera is one of their two best.

Platoon (1986): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #86



#86 Platoon (1986)

Director-Oliver Stone

Running Time-120 Minutes


Platoon was the first war movie I ever saw. I have memories of watching this movie and being amazed by the action scenes. Obviously I had never seen “war” action before, and I found it to have a feeling of reality, as opposed to the typical movie violence I had seen up to that point. It worked out rather well that today is Memorial Day and I was able to write about a war movie, albeit an anti-war movie. Platoon is the story of Chris (Charlie Sheen), who has just arrived in Vietnam. The platoon itself has been divided into two groups, and the men have formed alliances with one of the two Sergeants. On one side there is Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), who is your typical racist and extremist who will fight with anyone or anything that tries to get in his way. On the other side you have Sgt. Barnes (Willem Dafoe), with his pot smoking, live and let live attitude. Chris, who could easily spend the war lost between these two sides, ends up with Barnes (after he learns to smoke pot).

One day the men are out on patrol when they come across an abandoned enemy camp. While they are investigating, two men get blown up in a booby-trap, and another man goes missing. When they find him he has been killed and tied to a stake. All of the men are outraged and their tempers are high when they, unfortunately, arrive at the closest village. Sgt. PlatoonBarnes is convinced that this village has been supplying the enemy with food. While he is question the chief of the village, the chief’s wife starts yelling in the background, and when Sgt. Barnes can’t listen anymore he shoots and kills her. Everyone is shocked and nobody is sure what to do. Barnes then grabs the chief’s daughter and puts a gun to her head. While the young girl sits there crying, Sgt. Elias shows up and stops the entire scene. He and Barnes then start fighting, and all the other men break it up. They burn the village and continue on. When they arrive at base camp both Barnes and Elias are told that there will be a full investigation into the day’s events, and if there were any illegal killings, a court martial will take place.

In order to avoid to many plot details, let’s stop here and say that the rest of the movie is about surviving the war from your enemies, your fellow soldiers, and yourself.

War movies are not my favorite genre. In fact, they are my least favorite type of movie to watch, but not because I don’t think they are important, but rather because it’s hard to ever see one that ends happily.  I don’t understand the horrors of war on the levels that you see in the movies. Obviously sitting at home in front of my TV is much safer than anyplace else in the world. I do, however, believe that war movies are extremely important to show to younger audiences. I’m not talking about ten year olds, but rather teenagers. Platoon had a tremendous effect on my life because I was able to see a brief glimpse of something that children hear about all of their lives. War.

Platoon was a major success, especially for a war movie. There have been many war movies nominated for Best Picture, but very few have won. Platoon not only won Best Picture, but also Best Director and two other awards. Oliver Stone went on to make to more movies about the Vietnam War with Born On The Forth Of July and Heaven And Earth.  Neither of them had the same kind of success, but both are good movies and educational. I don’t know how this movie has made its way to number 86. On the first AFI list it was 83, but I never think of it a “groundbreaking” or “historically significant” the same way other movies on this list are regarded.  I do believe it’s a good movie, I’m just not ready to say that there are only 85 better American movies in the world. No matter what I think about Platoons place in cinematic history, it is good to watch a movie like Platoon on Memorial Day, and remember all the sacrifices that have been made for our country.

How Many Best Picture Nominees Are Necessary?

The number of Best Picture nominee’s at the Academy Awards is a debate that has been getting a lot of attention these last few years. I hear lots of different viewpoints on both sides. I have sat patiently listening until I was sure what I thought on the subject, and at last I have.

When the Academy Awards held their first awards show back on May 16th 1929, there wasn’t much to it at all. The winners knew who they were in advance. There was obviously no television coverage. People all over America were still watching mostly silent movies. Things were way different in Hollywood. One other difference was there were only three “Picture” nominees. In addition to “Picture” they also had a category for “Unique and Artistic Picture”, which also had three nominees. Looking back on the first award ceremony, I notice that of all of the films nominated for awards the most remembered and talked about is the winner of the “Unique and Artistic Picture”, Sunrise. The Academy quickly realized that you couldn’t be successful and have two different kinds of “Best Pictures”. (This is a problem that the Golden Globes still have not been able to figure out with their Best Picture Drama and Best Picture Musical or Comedy.)

By the second Academy Awards there was one category called simply “Picture”, and they went up to five nominees. But after three years with five nominees, they decided to shake things up a bit. Here is how many nominees they had each year since 1932:

  • 1932- 8 nominees
  • 1933- 10 nominees
  • 1934- 12 nominees
  • 1936- 1943- 10 nominees
  • 1944- 2008- 5 nominees. Somehow by 1944 everyone had decided that enough was enough and so five nominees sounded pretty nice to everyone. (Except for the five movies that no longer were nominated).
  • In 2009 and 2010 there were once again ten nominees

Then this last year got really confusing. Now, movies are voted to be a Best Picture nominee through a complicated voting process, and a whole lot of math. The short answer is that there has to be five nominees, there can’t be more than ten, and getting first place votes is EXTREMELY important. (You must have five percent of the first place vote to be a Best Picture nominee.)

Now after that history lesson, I can tell you my thoughts. I agree that ten nominees sounds like a lot, but in a world with more and more movies being released each year it has become hard to agree on the “best” five. What I mean to say is if you have ten nominees, you are bound to include the five best, right? How many years do you see a movie that you’re surprised made it into the top five? I’ve heard many people say, “That is one of the five best movies of the year?” With up to ten nominees, there will always be a couple of movies that seem questionable to some. Although I enjoyed The Blind Side and District 9, I don’t know that they are Best Picture nominee worthy.

Although, this does bring me to my next thought. When I have looked back to the thirties, forties, and fifties, I have found that years with more nominees can help guide my viewing in the right direction. If there are only five nominees and I watch those five movies, there is no way of looking back to see what “almost” made the list. By having more nominees the viewers are given a chance to see the five “best” choices, but also up to five more.

Lets take for example the year 1960. In 1960, the five Best Picture nominees were The Alamo, The Apartment, Elmer Gantry, Sons And Lovers, and The Sundowners. I don’t even want to go into which of these are deserving of being here, IPsycho just want to look at two movies that are now considered two of the greatest American films of all time, that were not included. In fact, Spartacus was nominated for six Academy Awards and won four of them. The only movie to win more than four awards that year was The Apartment, which won five. Besides Spartacus, there was Psycho, which was nominated for four awards including Best Director. In addition to these accolades, Psycho now sits at number 14 on the American Film Institutes top American Movies. Now what all of that says to me is that had there been ten nominees, these two movies would have been included right there with the others. Then years later when people are looking back, they would see all of the “best“ from any given year. This year is just one example. You can go to almost any year with five nominees and find a couple of movies that are more deserving of a nomination.

I guess what it boils down to for me, is that I would rather watch ten movies and only have seven be great, then watch five great movies and miss two others. Of the nine movies that were nominated this year I have only seen eight thus far. When the ninth come to DVD I will see it as well. I enjoyed each of the movies I have seen, and I would be sorry to have missed any of them, if only been five nominees had been allowed. I think that the new system is the best they have ever had, and I hope they will try it out for a few years before they abandon it because of people’s complaints. And yes, I have heard plenty of people who think that this has all been done to give recognition to sub-par movies, in order to get more people to go to the theaters. I don’t know if this was a consideration, but I believe it is important to recognize greatness, and if you don’t want to go to the theaters to see all these movies then you don’t have to. That’s why we have DVD, blu-ray, and now “instant streaming”. More movies for everyone at a fraction of the cost.

So that’s my opinion; what’s yours?

12 Angry Men (1957): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #87



My Hall Of Fame


#87 12 Angry Men (1957)

Director-Sidney Lumet

Running Time-96 Minutes

Rated-Not Rated

In my opinion, in order for a movie to be a ”perfect” movie it has to fit into these criteria:

  • Well directed
  • Well written
  • Impeccably acted
  • Technically sound
  • Entertaining

So few movies make the cut and become “perfect”. The other way I like to judge if a movie is “perfect”, is to think to myself, “If someone remade this movie, could they make it any better?12 Angry Men is one of the few movies that I consider “perfect”. It is quite simply one of the greatest movies ever made, period. Anyone who has seen 12 Angry Men will tell you that it is a great movie. I have never heard anyone say differently. That is, as long I they have seen the movie. I have spoken to some who say that it always looked like a boring movie, so they have chosen not to give it a try, but they are only cheating themselves.

12 Angry Men is the story of a jury deciding whether or not an 18-year-old boy is guilty of the murder of his father. The beginning of the movie shows the men in the jury box, as they are explained instructions for their deliberation. The jury moves into the deliberation room and begins by taking a preliminary vote. Eleven men vote guilty, but one man (Henry Fonda), says that he isn’t quite certain of the boy’s guilt. He doesn’t think he is necessarily innocent, but he would like them to talk about it before sentencing a boy to death. The rest of the movie shows what happens when you put people together, and give them a reason to argue. Tempers flare, prejudices rise, and everyone discovers what they are truly made of.

Everything about this movie amazes me. When I think of the directing I am astounded at the way the camera moves around a small jury room. It would be hard to work in such a small place, but to move around a deliberation room for the entire movie is absolutely unbelievable. The room feels cramped and stuffy, but somehow the camera glides around the entire 12 Angry Menroom.  In 1948, Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called Rope, where he went throughout the movie doing shots in ten-minute sections, and all in one apartment. It was like watching a stage play. However, it was a huge apartment with plenty of space all around and never more than eight people in the room. In 12 Angry Men, there is much less space, and four more people.  On top of that, this was Sidney Lumet’s directorial debut. It’s no wonder he had such a prolific career.

Reginald Rose wrote a beautifully script for 12 Angry Men. It’s smart, quick paced dialogue is amazing to hear. Also, the characters are so well written that in a very short time, we learn a lot about the personal lives of the men we are watching. This brings me to the acting, which for my money could never be duplicated. Every one of these jury members plays his part perfectly. I can’t imagine any other actors in these roles. Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb in particular are stupendous.

As far as this movie being technically sound, I don’t think there is anything I could say to do justice to the way this movie is constructed. The cinematography, the lighting, the make-up, and the editing are so completely perfect. They complement each other well, and make all the other aspects of the movie better. Even the music of 12 Angry Men is done so subtly that it is hard for viewers to remember when they even heard music. Obviously, all of these things were done in order to make you feel the emotions of the movie, not just be a member of the audience.

When it comes to the entertainment value of 12 Angry Men, I consider this to be one of the few movies that you can’t even look away without feeling as though you have missed something. It is not a movie that I would want to pause in the middle. It needs to be watched from start to finish, with no interruptions.  This movie could be remade 50 times, but it would do a disservice to the original.

So many movies are considered “groundbreaking” or even “rebellious”.  In many ways 12 Angry Men is one of the most “rebellious “ movies that has ever been made. Not because it is filled with graphic violence that had never been seen before. And certainly not because the filmed in “Vista Vision” or “Cinemascope”. There is no controversial language and 12 Angry Menreally nothing to offend any viewers at all. But in 1957, very few people wanted anything to do with a black and white, no action, courtroom based drama.  And on top of that, there is virtually a cast of unknown actors except for Henry Fonda. It’s a miracle this movie was made at all. This was really the first New York courtroom drama that was ever made. It set the bar for a whole new genre that was waiting to explode on the American public. While everyone else was at the theater watching The Bridge On The River Kwai, a small audience saw 12 Angry Men for exactly what it was: Brilliant!

In 1997, 12 Angry Men was not included on the AFI list. (I can’t figure out why that was.) I am thrilled to see that it has gained some notice and made it to number 87. I hope it continues to move closer to the front as time continues. I have seen this movie three times in the last year thanks to the Criterion Collection edition that came out on blu-ray. It looks absolutely marvelous.

I also decided that my ten year old was at the right place to see this movie for the first time. Although I had to explain a few details, it was very well received over all, and I hope he can take the life lessons of this movie to heart. The reason I bring this point up is (obviously) my new goal in life is to promote older movies to the next generation of viewers. As I talk to people that are my age, I have discovered that the invention of the VCR made it so many people could watch a plethora of children’s movies and we avoided the older, more classic movies that were available. I don’t want this trend to continue. Today’s kids will embrace quality film making from years gone by if they are given the opportunity.

Insomnia Movies: Review

Do you ever have one of those nights where there is nothing you can do to make yourself go to sleep? I tend to try watching movies of which I don’t expect too much. Lately, I have noticed that the movies I pick are better than I think they will be. So here are some of my insomniac movies that I’ve been watching recently. I never intended to write about these movies, but since they were more enjoyable than expected, I discover myself wanting to share them with others.

A Blueprint For Murder (1953)-This is a mystery/thriller film starring Joseph Cotton, Jean Peters, Gary Merrill, and Catherine McLeod. It is the story of “Cam” Cameron (Cotton) who rushes to the aid of his sister-in-law Lynne (Peters) when he hears that his niece has taken ill. Cam’s brother is already dead and Lynne was his second wife, so his niece is actually the stepchild of Lynne, and there is no other family except for Cam’s nephew. After Cam’s niece dies it is discovered that she was poisoned. Cam’s friends, Fred and Maggie Sargent, (Merrill and McLeod), suspect that Lynne is the killer. Lynne’s husband had left the majority of his money to his two children. Now that one of the two children is dead, the police and Cam are worried about the well-being of the remaining child, if Lynne is the killer. Cam is not convinced that Lynne is the murderer, but he is very concerned and he is willing to do anything to uncover the truth.

This may not be they greatest crime movie ever, but it certainly is entertaining enough to watch. It received negative reviews when it came out, but it ended up being much better than I had anticipated. Of course, I love Joseph Cotton and I am always up for a crime thriller.

My ReputationMy Reputation (1946)-This movie is a “social standings drama”, starring Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent. Stanwyck plays a recently widowed woman, who has spent the last two years caring for her dying husband. She is saddened to see her husband die, but now that he is gone the rest of her friends and family don’t understand why she is continuing on with her life. Her mother expects her to ware black for the rest of her life, just as she has done for decades since her husband died. Her young sons want her to stay home alone every night, and most of her friends want her to remain single and alone. She goes on a skiing trip and meets an Army officer. They quickly make a connection, but when she returns home nobody is very excited about the way she is behaving. She continues to wrestle with everyone around her while deciding how best to continue on in life.

I only watched this movie because I love Barbara Stanwyck movies. It didn’t look like a great one, but I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining it was. I enjoyed watching a story about what was appropriate behavior in her society, especially considering all of the problems she encounters are non-issues today. I always love watching older movies and seeing how the times have changed.

Without Reservations (1946)-A John Wayne romantic comedy is certainly something that everyone should see at Without Reservationssome point. He didn’t make very many romantic comedies, but in their own unique way they can be an enjoyable experience to watch. Without Reservations is the story of a famous writer (Claudette Colbert) who has just written a best seller that is going to be adapted into a movie. While she is traveling by train across the country she meets two Marines (Wayne and Don DeFore). She feels that John Wayne would be perfect to play the lead role in her story. She decides not to tell him her plans because she thinks he will laugh her off and leave. They travel across the country together getting into all kinds of trouble, and having fun along the way. And just the way all romantic comedies should, they fall in love.

I love John Wayne and I think Claudette Colbert is always hilarious, so this movie has been waiting in my collection for just the right time, and the other night was just the right time. I laughed throughout the movie and I am sure I will be watching it again another night I have trouble sleeping.