Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 46 and 1967(Part 2)

I’m finding it hard to keep up with this. But I guess that’s the nature of the beast. I’m writing this on day 46, though the first entry goes back to day 34. In case anyone’s keeping track. This starts with 18 on the list, though I’m currently up to 23. For more trivia, I’ve actually switched the order a few times. I actually watched Blow Up before I watched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That’s because I got confused. I watched Dont Look Back after In the Heat of the Night because it was convenient. I almost switched a couple of others but was thwarted by a damaged disc. Guess the universe was self correcting. Anyway. Enough stalling. Back to the entries.

Bonnie and Clyde is credited with a lot of things. Some herald it as the beginning of the New Hollywood movement. It’s heavily influenced by the French New Wave. Truffaut was even approached to direct it. It portrays violence in more graphic ways than anyone had seen, especially in American films, though it seems somewhat tame by today’s standards. It put new vitality into the careers of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Beatty struck new ground as an actor/ producer. Curiously, a lot of critics at the time dismissed it at first, Ebert being a notable exception. As audiences flocked to it, some critics actually reversed themselves. There’s no doubt that it’s an important film. It paved the way for what was to come. I find it entertaining and visually stimulating. I appreciate all the performances. It’s filled with great location shooting. It follows the themes both of anti heroes and distrust of authority figures. It even has newfound relevance as it casts bankers as the villains. As we’re repeating the depression, it’s almost more relevant in that regard than it was in 1967. This is another case where the fact that it was so new at the time I’m sure I would have been one of its biggest champions. But despite all my appreciation for all these things, I have to admit that my gut reaction is that this just leaves me a little cold. Glad I saw it. Had a good time watching it. I think I actually appreciate Warren Beatty more as a producer than as an actor. He certainly does his job well here, but I’m more impressed with what he went through to get the film made. The characters are kind of shallow and uninteresting and, though perhaps they didn’t deserve quite as brutal an ending as they received, I didn’t necessarily feel much when I saw it. It’s a lot of fun. But, for me, it just doesn’t hold up as well. But, in deference to Mr. Clooney, I can certainly see why it’s on the list as it’s a touchstone of the era.

Wait Until Dark is a curious entry to have on this list. It’s been about 11 days since I saw it and I enjoyed it very much. But I can’t say it’s really stuck with me. That doesn’t mean I don’t remember the plot points or the performances. That just means I enjoyed it a whole lot more watching it than it actually resonated with me. This continues the theme of crime, but otherwise it’s a fairly conventional genre thriller, the one unique aspect being that the woman in peril is blind and uses her disability to get the upper hand in the climactic scene. And, of course, the fact that said woman is Audrey Hepburn raised the stakes for 1967 moviegoers. It’s probably the finest performance I’ve ever seen her give, which may seem like faint praise if you’ve read my entry on My Fair Lady. I also didn’t see the appeal of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But I truly feel she’s very effective here. It was also great seeing Alan Arkin do such good work. He’s always great, but he hasn’t gotten a chance to do something this meaty in some time. It looks like he has other works represented on the list and I look forward to it. Wait Until Dark is based on a play and, as such, it’s mostly on one set. Director Terence Young also directed a number of the early James Bond films and displays a talent here for building suspense. Clearly, I don’t have a great deal of original thoughts on this one. If there’s even such a thing as a truly original thought. I think I need to work harder on getting these up in a timely fashion. It’s a good movie. Not the strongest of this batch, but worth your time.

My friend John joined me for the next two films starting with Cool Hand Luke. I saw this one for the first time probably around ten years ago. Memory is a curious thing. I don’t remember most of this. I remember the egg eating scene. I’m pretty sure I remember him dying at the end. But for the most part, this great looking Blu Ray transfer felt new to me. Ebert wrote about this one both in his original column and for his Great Movies series. He speculates in both reviews about anti hero archetypes and antiestablishment themes. He places the beginning of the antihero with Brando in The Wild One. But Paul Newman is a different breed. Not scowling or moody, he smiles through it all. Though the title comes from the line where he remarks during a card game that, “Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand,” cool is the best word to describe Luke himself. Whether he’s spending the night in the box, eating 50 eggs in an hour, or processing the death of his mother, he never seems to be asking for pity. Though he certainly does suffer, he never asks for pity. When he finally escapes, the act of rebellion doesn’t seem to be an act of desperation. He’s put in “the box,” a tiny room where a prisoner can’t even really lie down, simply because his mother dies, which always makes prisoners “turn rabbity” as the warden says. Even in the stacked deck of prison rules, it seems he can’t take getting punished merely for something that happens to him as opposed to something he does. He was always popular, but this sets him on the road to martyrdom with the other prisoners. I was struck by how much this plot mirrored that of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, especially with the somewhat heavy handed Christ imagery near the end of it. This is Newman’s first appearance on the list and I’m looking forward to his other titles. Not much else to say here, but this is a good one.

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