Category Archives: drama

Late to the Kobayashi’s proposal! A review of The Usual Suspects

[Editor’s note: if you have not yet seen The Usual Suspects and the identity of Keyzer Soze has not yet been spoiled for you, please don’t read any further. This movie was ruined for me a few years ago and I would hate to do that to someone else.

Okay, ready?]

Verbal: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.

Spoilers suck, but sometimes you just can’t help but spoil. I get it. Any time that you’re watching something old(ish) and popular, it’s likely that other people have already seen it. You can’t spend your life try to avoid spoiling plot points for people. I get it. I GET IT.

But sure as hell, when someone tells you that they haven’t seen a movie (or TV show), and you intentionally say something that spoils that movie (or TV show) for them, you are a garbage person.*

*For some reason, this was a frequent occurrence when I told people I was watching The Wire for the first time. “Oh, you love [fill-in-the-blank character]? Don’t get used to them being around for much longer because it really sucks when they die.” THANKS BUDDY.

The Usual Suspects was spoiled in a similar fashion for me and I have to say, knowing the identity of Keyzer Soze killed the buzz for me. When you know the secret ingredient to something, it just isn’t as exciting. As I watched the movie, my brain constantly said to me, “oh well, that’s Keyzer Soze doing this or that,” and I was so distracted that I could barely appreciate the movie.

Usual Suspects was still an entertaining movie. I’m biased as I absolutely adore Kevin Spacey and I’ve had a crush on Gabriel Byrne since accidentally watching Stigmata when I was fifteen (spoiler alert: it is god awful, do not watch). I also loved seeing a mumbling baby Benicio del Toro, so clearly the casting for this film was a big plus for me. The story was intriguing, perhaps a little complicated or hard to follow at times, but typically things became clearer after a while. I’m just a sucker for a twist ending (not some Sixth Sense-crap but more like a Hitchcock type of goodness) and I’m super bitter that I couldn’t experience the climatic-mystery-unraveling-scene at the end of the movie for what it really was. Bummer.

Face palm moment + Favorite part + The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment, all combined into one:

This gif, re: Manti Te’o and Lennay Kakua. I’m sayin’.

I get it.

 Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 10 out of 10 for the spoiled factor.

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Late to being a contender! A review of On the Waterfront

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.

On the Waterfront (1954)

I’ve been putting off watching On the Waterfront, thanks to a case of mistaken identity. For years I thought that On the Waterfront and On Golden Pond were the same movie, and I have no desire to watch On Golden Pond because, although I respect the hell out of her, I don’t really enjoy watching Katharine Hepburn. No hate, just zzzzzzz. But on a night when I finally decided to give Henry Fonda and Hepburn a chance, Marlon Brando ended up on my television instead. I’m thankful I decided to stop bratting out over that movie because this one turned out to be one of my favorite movies I’ve seen as a part of this blog.

Brando seems like such a caricature in The Godfather— that’s not meant as an insult to him, but when you see millions of people do bad impressions of Don Corleone I can’t help but giggle a little when I hear some of his lines now coming even from him. Couple that with the fact that I was too obsessed with Martin Sheen to even notice that Brando was in Apocalypse Now, and I just never really thought much about how incredible of an actor he is. This movie did it for me. While watching the film, it’s hard to believe that Brando isn’t actually Terry Malloy, that he doesn’t actually feel like so morally conflicted, that he’s not actually intrigued by Edie, that his brother isn’t actually breaking his heart.

While Brando’s acting is probably my favorite part of the movie, he’s supported by a cast of equally talented individuals. The plot and screenplay were very solid to me as well. There is definite political commentary as well as some religious overtones (overtones may not even be adequate considering one of the supporting characters is a priest), but those aspects sell the story. And the last scene? Waterworks. I felt like I was standing right behind him. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so emotional and invested in a film by the end of it.

There are a million other scenes that stand out to me in addition to the finale– the opening scene, the pigeons, the rally at the church, the taxicab scene with his brother, the scene at the bar. Even now as I’m writing this, I’m excited to watch it again. And here I go with the hype machine: I consider this one of my favorite films that I’ve watched so far on this “Late to the Movies” mission, and potentially one of my top ten favorite movies of all time.

[Editor’s note: And if you don’t believe my hype, On the Waterfront won eight Oscars — Best Picture, Best Director (Elia Kazan), Best Actor (Brando), Best Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction (Richard Day), Best Cinematography (Boris Kaufman) and Best Editing (Gene Milford)– and was nominated for four more (score by Leonard Bernstein and three Best Supporting Actor nominees).]

Face palm moment: Not that I didn’t love Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, but this movie has led to a very unhealthy girl crush on my part. I’m not quite sure what to do about it. She was incredible in this movie, she had great chemistry with Brando, and she deserved her Academy Award win. Wowzer.

Eva Marie Saint as Edie Doyle

Favorite part: I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but just assume that I cried my eyeballs out at the last scene. Then I popped my eyeballs back in, and cried them out again. Rinse, repeat.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: Anything ever related to that contender line.

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 10/10. Don’t judge a book by the fact that you think it stars Katharine Hepburn. Recommend if you like movies that are wonderful, and especially if you liked the second season of The Wire

Late to the Oscars! A review of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

[Editor’s note: I’ve been reviewing several Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies that I haven’t seen.

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was nominated for 11 Academy Awards but only won one.[22]

Award Result Winner
Outstanding Production Nominated Columbia Pictures (Frank Capra)
Best Director Nominated Frank Capra
Best Actor Nominated James Stewart
Best Writing, Screenplay Nominated Sidney Buchman
Best Writing, Original Story Won Lewis R. Foster
Best Supporting Actor Nominated Harry Carey
Best Supporting Actor Nominated Claude Rains
Best Art Direction Nominated Lionel Banks
Best Film Editing Nominated Gene HavlickAl Clark
Best Music, Scoring Nominated Dimitri Tiomkin
Best Sound Recording Nominated John P. Livadary

Man, 1939 was a great year for movies.]

Every once in a while, my grandma will call to let me know about a movie running on TCM later that day or week that she thinks I’d enjoy. A few weeks ago, she called to recommend Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. 

My grandmother knows me well. I’ve been a Frank Capra fan since the first moment I saw It’s A Wonderful Life and It Happened One Night. And, although his personal politics and mine don’t necessarily align, Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time. His Hitchcock movies won me over (including Vertigo, Rear Window, Rope), he was the voice of the Sheriff in Fievel Goes West and… well, there’s his poem about his dog Beau. I can’t really discuss it. I don’t want my mascara to run.

Perfect to watch during an election year, this movie really made me want to sit down in a room of politicians and force them to watch it. Oh wait, never mind. I don’t want to spend that much time in a room filled with awful people.

Also of note, the entire movie is basically a prequel to It’s a Wonderful Life:

  • Auld Lang Syne appears, but at the beginning of this movie
  • Jeff’s mother is played by Ma Bailey
  • Uncle Billy has a part in the movie
  • Mr. Gower has a part in the movie
  • I thought spotted one of the guys who shows up at the end of IAWL with the warrant.

This movie is wonderful. You have the classic naive dreamer hero in Jefferson Smith, the evil multi-million dollar political machine in Jim Taylor and the good-guy-gone-bad-but-feeling-guilty-about-it character in Senator Paine. The romance between Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart’s characters was a nice touch and I thought their chemistry was very fun and genuine Also, I feel like so many recent political dramas about corruption end up being about affairs and murder (most recently, The Ides of March), so it was refreshing and interesting to watch something a little different (even though it was outdated– a boys campground now sounds to me like a dangerous place). And… the filibuster! Oh, the filibuster! I had always heard it referred to as one of the greatest scenes of all time, and I absolutely have to agree.

Favorite part: I don’t usually love female characters but I adore Saunders. In fact, I even decided that my next dog will be named Saunders. And that’s a pretty big deal for me.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment:

I’ve only seen this picture one bazillion times, but now I finally know where it’s from:

I love you, Jimmy

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 9/10. It’s a movie that I’ll definitely watch again, and I feel like everyone should be required to watch it in an election year. Thanks for the recommendation, Grandma!

Late to the Oscars! A review of Citizen Kane

poster for Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane

[Editor’s note: In the month of February I am reviewing several Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning movies that I haven’t seen.

Citizen Kane (1941) was nominated for:

It was widely thought the film would win most of the awards it was nominated for, but it only won the Best Writing (Original Screenplay) Oscar.]

Prologue by Ian T. McFarland:

Citizen Kane is not the best movie of all time.

The American Film Institute would disagree, having placed it in the top spot in both its original and redo on the 100 Best Movies of All Time list.  And the general zeitgeist of film criticism would be on the same page – how many times do you hear the phrase, “It’s not Citizen Kane, but. . .” when describing an average movie?  (The answer is too often.)  But, at least as far as my opinion is concerned, Citizen Kane is far from the greatest thing ever.

There.  Now that we have that out of the way, you can appreciate Citizen Kane for what it is – a great movie that is eclipsed by its importance.

Orson Welles isn’t remembered all that kindly anymore, so it may be a surprise to find that he was considered the next big thing in the world of theatre when he was barely older than a teenager.  At the age of twenty-five (twenty-five!), Hollywood co-opted him in a deal that gave him complete artistic freedom – something that even today’s A-List directors like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan could never get from a studio.  The result was Citizen Kane – his first movie, and a liberatingly different take on what the medium of cinema was capable of.

Coming out of a Hollywood system that churned out product like Grade B meat, here was a film that used the camera like a paint brush instead of a documenting tool. The film didn’t just look good, the cinematography was real artwork. But at the center of Kane is, well, Kane – an unconventional protagonist that isn’t particularly likable or even all that moral. None of that matters, though – what makes the film is the enigma of the character, not just what Rosebud was, but what it meant to him.

These ingredients make for a great film, but more importantly they were ingredients that were never used so radically before. Citizen Kane isn’t the greatest movie of all time, but could well be the most important.


LTTM review:

Phew. I couldn’t have asked for a better review from Ian for several reasons, mostly that it takes the pressure off of me.

My excuse for missing more recent classics like Wayne’s World and Big Lebowski, even Top Gun, has been my family. We rarely went to the movie theatre growing up, so what we watched on the weekends was whatever my dad brought home from Video Library (RIP). He loves old movies, so that’s what we watched. Why haven’t I seen Citizen Kane, one of the most famous “old movies” of ever ever ever? I’d like to blame my parents for this atrocity, but I’ve been out on my own for nine years and I need to be accountable for my poor life decisions. In addition to my love for movies made before 1980, I have visited the Hearst Castle and obsessively read Hearst biographies for months after my trip. What is wrong with me? Why have I avoided this for so long?

Truthfully, it goes back to what I’ve said before about hype. With the #1 ranking on the AFI list and repeated acclaim from every ill-informed and pretentious film student (why I will probably never watch 400 Blows), I anticipated being disappointed and knew my expectations would never be met.

In a way, I was right. Citizen Kane is not the greatest film I’ve ever seen. But I feel like my skepticism led me to be more realistic and I ended up enjoying the movie a lot more that I thought I would.

Citizen Kane is not without its flaws.  Aside from Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten (who has always been a favorite of mine, thanks to his role in Shadow of a Doubt), I thought the acting was atrocious. I tend to harp on female actors but I am not sure I’ve seen a female performance worse than the one by the actress who played Susan Alexander (and maybe that was done on purpose, since she was panned for her terrible operatic acting). Also, I suppose that the makeup in the movie was “ahead of its time,” but I couldn’t help but get flashbacks of the terrible makeup on Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar. Ick.

Unfortunately Rosebud’s identity is one of the worst kept secrets in cinema history, a la Keyser Söze (I still haven’t seen that movie), but I found the plot very interesting and well-developed (and I expected to be very bored). The structure of the film– beginning with Kane’s death, the news reels and the journalist’s initial investigation into “Rosebud,” followed primarily by flashbacks– was extremely entertaining. This same plot executed in a more linear fashion would have made for a very boring movie. I also loved the cinematography– particularly the highlights of Xanadu, portrayed as an almost haunted and evil mansion. And overall, I thought Orson Welles did a tremendous job. He really has the most soothing voice, doesn’t he? I would never have freaked out at his radio narration of War of the Worlds because his voice would have put me to sleep (in a good way). I don’t know if I’ve been heavily influenced by Welles’s age and theatrical accomplishments, but I thought his acting and directing was superb.

Face palm moment: I’ve never seen Orson Welles in anything, nor have I heard the War of the Worlds recording. I’m not sure that this warrants a face palm. Maybe it does.

Favorite part: See below.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: I feel like THE ABSOLUTE WORST for not knowing this GIF came from Citizen Kane. I’m terrible.

Applause!

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 7/10. I suppose my review is more harsh than I really felt. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but definitely disagree with the #1 ranking it regularly receives. My BFF Roger Ebert has Citizen Kane ranked as #14 on his official “top movies” list and I’d agree more with that ranking.

Late to…HEY, where is MY sensei? A review of Karate Kid

Prologue by Patrick Matthews, owner of Screenland Crossroads:

No mercy.

Karate Kid is the first film I saw as a kid to make me feel like I had a chance. If Daniel, this whiny little pissant momma’s boy, could beat some of the coolest guys in town… I guess I could too. Yeah I’ll say it, the Cobra Kai were awesome. If I were the Cobra Kai I would probably kick the shit out of Daniel too. Despite that, Daniel still won me over by the end of the movie and to this day I still can’t really explain why. Perhaps I could never be like a member of the Cobra Kai so I had to settle for being a “Daniel.” Maybe it was because he wore a shower curtain to a costume party or befriended an old Japanese man who cleaned the pools. Whatever the reason, it gave me hope that the little guy could beat the cool kids.

There is nothing groundbreaking about Karate Kid but simply put, it’s one of the best sports movies ever made. Throw in pre-Adventures In Babysitting Elisabeth Shue, Martin Kove hamming it up as John Kreese, an 80’s soundtrack that can’t be beat, and MF’ing William Zabka and you’ve got a true classic.

Young hearts beat fast,
Driving down the road.
Rubber, plastic, metal, glass.
Why did you have to go?
Young hearts die young

On a “WHAT?! You haven’t seen ______???” scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest level of shock, disappointment and sad): I suppose I can give Laura a pass for missing this one growing up since admittedly it IS a “guy” movie at the core. However, since it was recently remade (to this day I still refuse to see it, just like the upcoming Footloose remake) I’m surprised she didn’t seek it out sooner. I hope that it can resonate with Laura like it did me, even if she is watching it at an older age.

Go, find balance.


LTTM review:

After Kevin read my review of Big, he told me that we were watching Karate Kid next and if I didn’t like Karate Kid… “well, I don’t know what I’ll do.” My friend Annie hadn’t seen Karate Kid before so she came over and we watched the movie together. Annie happened to take some incredible notes from statements the three of us made, and they are much more entertaining than any review I could write. So I’ll type those out instead:

Annie:

  • Didn’t know “Wax On, Wax Off” was from Karate Kid until Ralph Macchio was on “Dancing with the Stars” and they referred to it constantly.
  • Super jealous of the mom’s poncho.
  • Are there people in movies named Johnny who aren’t assholes?
  • Note to self: call Kevin ‘Kevin-san.’ Not funny, but sounds cool.
  • During the date scene, Laura and Kevin start talking about the movie Fear and the song “Wild Horses” and the scene on the rollercoaster. That doesn’t sound fun.
  • Wondering about the “Hare Krishna” joke and how it played in the midwest in the 1980s.
(and then she drew this picture of a girl at the arcade wearing a vest that said ‘Flip Flirt’)

Laura:

  • “…Is that a pig having sex with another pig on that guy’s shirt?” (Referencing the ‘Makin Bacon Shirt…and EW.)
  • “Oh…BABY Elizabeth Shue.” [Editor’s note: Now I understand why all the boys I know have a crush on Elizabeth Shue. She has, um, large boobs.]
  • Thinks Johnny looks like a bigger Draco Malfoy. (Annie: “I think you mean Draco looks like a smaller that guy.”)
  • Mr Miyagi: “To make honey, young bee need young flower, not old prune.” Laura: “Gross.”
  • Not a fan of sake.
  • I love that the end credits show that there was a guy in the role of “Chicken Boy” and a stuntman named Buck McDancer.

Kevin:

  • “It’s almost as if I’m 10 years old again, and watching this with Tommy and Mike and their sister Michelle, and we’re at a pool party.”
  • Sings along to every musical cue at the beach party.
  • Answers “NO SENSEI!” with the dudes at Karate.
  • Kevin lived in Okinawa for a year. He mentioned this thrice in the “bonsai tree” scene. I think it’s funny and Laura pretends to be annoyed.
  • Kevin yells, “CALM DOWN AND LISTEN TO THE LYRICS!!” Then he sings along (Young hearts beat fast).

Overall, I LOVED the movie (A+++++, would watch again). I’m a sucker for David versus Goliath stories, especially when they star Japanese men who remind me a lot of Yoda. That, and Ralph Macchio is very, very cute. Annie made me watch some DWTS clips after the movie and he looks about as old as he did during the original Karate Kid. Do I watch the second and third movies now? We’ll see!

Face palm moment: A personal face palm moment was when I realized that Martin Kove looks like John Travolta (mixed with Patrick Swayze, added Annie). If you don’t know by now, I am VERY anti-John Travolta. Seriously. I won’t watch Pulp Fiction ever. I know, I know, it’s a GREAT movie and I’m REALLY missing out and can’t I JUST THIS ONCE make an exception. No.

Favorite part: As Patrick mentioned, my favorite part HAS to be the shower curtain costume. I love costumes and that was just brilliant. Also, probably the Makin’ Bacon shirt. Okay, ALL of the fashion from this movie except for Daniel’s plaid shirt and camouflage pants. Tim Gunn would never let you out of his house dressed like that.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: Karate Kid is like the Goonies, where even if you haven’t seen the movie you know a quote is from the movie. That said, the following Chris Brown lyric jumped out in my head during the movie: “She wax it all off; Mr. Miyagi.”

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 9 out of 10, mostly because of the freeze frame on Mr. Miyagi’s face at the end of the movie. I still think that the crane kick by Daniel to win the match should have been in slo-mo and Kevin was greatly offended by that suggestion. Still, it would’ve been sweet. Otherwise, I really love this movie except for the fact that Kevin is going to walk around saying “Get him a body bag!” and “Troubles with Johnny?” for the next week or five.