Saturday, December 27, 2014

517. M*A*S*H

Directed by Robert Altman

We go from Patton to this nasty piece of work and what a horrible transition it is.  I can't understand why anyone would find this film funny.  I found it to be completely upsetting and the fact that it got a television spin off is baffling to me.  Maybe we can make a sitcom based on Birth of a Nation next.

There isn't much of a plot here; it is more like a series of unpleasant vignettes that take place in a mobile hospital unit during the Korean War. The kind of systematic bullying, which borders on sexual assault, that Major Margaret Houlihan has to endure is upsetting in itself.  Although this pissed me off, it was not enough to make me hate the film.  After all, if you couldn't take watching people be mistreated in films, you would be stuck watching Fantasia on a loop.  What upset me the most is the intended audience reaction for this character.  We were supposed to cheer for the soldiers as they sexually humiliated this woman, supposedly because she represented the bureaucracy?  I don't really care why they said they did it; it clearly revealed this malevolence towards women that can't be explained away.  I don't want to reveal what happens to this character, but just know that the outcome drives me completely insane.

Some people may be able to look past this (or simply not care at all; which is unsettling in itself).  But I cannot and for that reason, it is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould went to the studio in hopes of getting Robert Altman removed from the project.  You are all just terrible.

Much of the dialogue was improvised.

#54 in AFI's Top 100.  Ugh.

516. Patton

Directed by Franklin Schaffer

I am really not a huge fan of war movies in general (little war humor there, which is always popular); however, I have to admit that this is one of the most well-acted, quotable films I have ever seen.

Patton starts with one of the most iconic scenes in movie history.  Patton addresses the 3rd Army, leading with these words: "Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." I was nervous when I started this movie that it would either be nauseatingly patriotic or drearily anti war.  Fortunately, we get a happy middle that seems a lot more real than previous (and future) entries on The List.

Still, this film is not without its faults.  It does tend to drag on for a bit; like I said before, war movies bore me quite easily.  I think it was slightly easier for me to watch since it was more about a man than a war.  Definitely worth a place in The Book.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

George C. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor, but refused to accept it since he was fundamentally opposed to the idea of award shows.

John Wayne hoped to play Patton but was rejected by the producer.

Opening speech:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

515. Ucho

The Ear
Directed by Karel Kachyna

Here we have the Czechoslovakian version of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?.  I know, I know: the long wait is finally over.

An unhappy married couple find that their house has been broken into after attending a political event.   They proceed to bicker quite intensely, enough that I would be running for the window if I was in their presence.  So this was just as awkward as Virginia Woolf, but at least this film has some political commentary.  It was nice to get something out of this besides palm sweat and anxiety.

I did enjoy this film, despite the secondhand embarrassment it offered.  I don't want to give too much away, but I love how the director at times made us feel like we were watching a horror film.  And honestly, what's scarier than having your marriage fall apart while you are under surveillance by Soviet forces?  Think of the secondhand embarrassment that the Soviets must have experienced listening to their wiretaps.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

First released in 1989.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

514. Little Big Man

Little Big Man
Directed by Arthur Penn

I am having a bit of trouble sitting down and writing this review.  Perhaps it is because the mere idea of writing the plot synopsis for this film is quite daunting.  The film spans the life of Dustin Hoffman's character from the age of 10 to the age of 121.  We might be here for awhile.

Jack and his sister Caroline witness the massacre of their parents by the Pawnee tribe (weren't they peaceful?) but are saved and taken in by the Cheyenne tribe.  Caroline escapes, but Jack is raised by Old Lodge Skins.  This apparently doesn't mean much to him, since he renounces the tribe when he is captured by US Cavalry.  He then is put under the care of a Reverend and a very sexually frustrated Faye Dunaway, hence the awkward photograph above.  God, it's like summarizing Forrest Gump.  General Custer makes some unpleasant appearances.  Jack's romantic life goes quite poorly, but he still manages to not have sex with Faye Dunaway.  An admirable accomplishment in my opinion.

From a social development standpoint, this movie is actually quite refreshing.  I mean, we actually have a Native American playing a Native American?  Not even an Italian American (which for some reason filmmakers seem to think is close enough), but an actual Native American.  And yes, I realize that the main reason that the Native Americans were shown as innocent victims during the Custer massacre was  in the service of a point, in order to compare the slayings to the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam.  Still, we are moving in a positive direction.  At least, we are until we hit Dances With Wolves, but we will destroy that bridge when we come to it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Dustin Hoffman achieved his raspy voice by screaming at the top of his lungs for an hour in his dressing room.

Little Big Man was a real Native American who fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn.


513. Strategia del Ragno

Strategia del Ragno
The Spider's Stratagem
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Mentioning Bernardo Bertolucci might still make me gag a bit, but after this film, I might be able to mildly suppress memories of Last Tango in Paris. At least for a little while.  Like for the next five minutes.

Athos Magnani returns to his home, Tara (um, creatively speaking, that's kind of been there done that but all right), in order to find out who killed his father.  I am making it sound like some sort of American action film.  In reality, everyone is a lot less concerned about how Athos I's life came to an end and a lot more interested in simply pretending that Athos II was the second coming.  With more flattering clothes of course.

This isn't really a movie for people that love plot.  In fact, the whole thing kind of reminded me of a dream.  You had a basic goal, like escaping a room, but somehow you end up getting distracted in seconds by extremely weird imagery.  Next thing you know, you are explaining what UTIs are to the quarterback of your high school football team.  At least, that's how dreams go if you're me.

Wow, this post has really gone off the rails.  Suffice to say, there is beautiful imagery and cinematography in this movie, but if you are looking for a satisfying plot, keep on walking.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Based on a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.