Friday, January 27, 2017

1020. The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Hurray!  Another film in the 1001 Book that was directed by a woman.  That brings our total to 10?  Actually, don't tell me.  It will just depress me.

While I was looking for pictures for this post I came across an article titled "Here's Why 'The Hurt Locker' is the Worst War Movie of All Time."  Apparently, it is incredibly inaccurate in its depiction of what its like to work on an army bomb squad.  I was about to launch into a review about how I didn't find this enjoyable but it may be important to see...that really knocked the wind out of my sails.

Ahem...onwards.  Sergeant First Class William James is assigned as a new team leader of EOD unit in the Iraq War.  However, his unorthodox way of doing things lead to dissension in the squad.  Fill in the blanks with the familiar war themes.

The filmmakers do a tremendous job of building suspense and the visuals are surprisingly stunning, given the environment.  On the other hand, I'm not sure this movie really did anything particularly new for the genre.  But hey, I don't really like the genre to begin with, so perhaps I'm not the best judge.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

First film to win Best Picture that was directed by a woman.

Lowest grossing Best Picture winner of all time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1019. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire
Directed by Danny Boyle

Before we begin, does anyone plan on watching the Oscars this year?  I haven't seen any of the nominated films except Moana.  I don't plan on watching the ceremony or most of the nominations.  But, needless to say, if "How Far I'll Go" doesn't win Best Song, I will burn this city to the ground.

Jamal Malik is an Indian Muslim competing on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"  He is one question away from winning but before the big moment, he is captured and tortured by the police, who suspect him of cheating.  Jamal takes us through his life, explaining how random incidents in his life led him to each answer.  By the way, as a huge Dumas fan, I would have totally crushed The Three Musketeers question.  And, of course, the hundred dollar bill question.  Other than that, I would have been lost.

Did this remind any other 1001ers of Manila: In the Claws of Light?  Just once I would like to see one of these women successfully saved themselves.  I am not saying it would be terribly realistic, but it would be a nice change.

In any case, I enjoyed this film.  I think it's a very creative premise.  I know a few of my followers attend trivia nights; I wonder if this film got you guys thinking about how you know certain things.  Honestly, most of my knowledge (outside of formal education) comes from the 1001 lists!

Obviously visually dazzling but it's Danny Boyle, so there is going to be some gross.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The grand prize in US dollars would be $411,600.

20% of the movie's dialogue is in Hindi.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

1018. Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby
Directed by Clint Eastwood

A sports drama film!  You know that's my jam.  While I can't deny that this was a quality film, it was a grueling experience.

Maggie, a waitress from a struggling family, dreams of becoming a boxer, because apparently punching other women will improve her quality of life.  She asks Frankie Dunn, a cranky boxing trainer (think Walt Kowalski) to train her, but he refuses.  Eventually, he is impressed by her dedication and agrees to help her.  Oh and Morgan Freeman lurks in the shadows.

I don't like sports movies, least of all boxing movies, but the Listmakers seem to think that this is one of most crucial genres in the history of film.  I don't actually have a lot to say about this.  The performances were gritty and the story is incredibly depressing.  In other words, it was made to be a Best Picture winner.

I did find out that the filmmakers misspelled the term "mo chuisle" as "mo cuishle."  Copyeditors are truly the unsung heroes of our time.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Hilary Swank gained about 20 pounds of muscle during training for the film.

Sandra Bullock was originally going to play Maggie, but she dropped out to make Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

1017. Chicago

Directed by Rob Marshall

Happy New Year!  I decided to kick 2017 off with a sinus infection.  I also decided to get ready for Oscar season by catching up on all the Best Picture winners in the 1001 list.  Not that I am actually planning to watch anything hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, but you know how much I love my themes.

To that end, let's talk about Chicago.  Velma Kelly is a beautiful vaudeville performer who murdered her sister and husband after seeing number 17.  She hires the sleaziest/most effective lawyer in town, Billy Flynn, to defend her.  Enter Roxie Hart, who dreams of becoming Velma someday.  She has an affair with Fred Casely, who claims to have connections that will help Roxie achieve stardom.  Once she realizes that he lied to get her into bed, she shoots him dead.  She initially gets her hapless husband Amos to take the blame, but Amos recants his confession when it is revealed that Roxie is, in fact, the worst.  Roxie then engages Velma's lawyer for her trial, and the two women compete for the media's attention.

I like musicals, but this has never been a favorite of mine.  None of the songs were particularly catchy, excepting perhaps "All That Jazz."  Actually a few of the songs were straight up obnoxious, like "We Both Reached for the Gun" and "Razzle Dazzle."  On the other hand, I did think the choreography was brilliant, particularly in "Cell Block Tango," where the red handkerchiefs represented the blood.  Busby Berkley would be proud.

It was interesting to view this film as a comment on the American press and the glamorization of murderers.  Was it good enough to warrant a Best Picture win?  Um, no.  I think The Pianist should have won.  I am pretty sure I could have lived without seeing Richard Gere tap dance.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

John C. Reilly is a clown enthusiast and insisted on designing his own clown make up for the "Mister Cellophane" number.

Renee Zellweger had no dancing or singing experience prior to making this film.