Thursday, March 29, 2007

all these things that i've seen, part 3

elizabeth [1998] -long, slow, and as difficult to keep the inter-character politics straight as 'braveheart', but without the great battle sequences and blue facepaint. while no aspect of the production showed a lack of quality, i really didn't care much.
as is the case with most movies, however, the last 15-20 was somewhat interesting and brought together the story through a montage that was most certainly homage to one of the greats. in a sequence paralleling the 'baptism/execution' scene of 'the godfather', we see that elizabeth is eliminating her enemies to consolidate her power as well. further referencing coppola's masterpiece, the film ends with elizabeth ceremonially assuming her throne, establishing in no uncertain terms that she rules, and that you should never takes sides against the country. after the fade to black, the film informs us that the queen ruled for another 40 years, creating england's golden age and making it the most powerful country in the world.
interesting how information like that can make the film that much more enjoyable.
--less than i expected--

four weddings and a funeral [1994] -the pacing moves along briskly, leaving no time to get bored; keeping track of the eponymous number of weddings and funerals helps, too. edited for tv, it's interesting how the british profanity was left in; it means nothing to me, but would have burned the ears of some of my friends. the movie gets in just as things get interesting and gets out before anything becomes dull; the story brings a joyful array of characters, including a deaf brother, whose signing ability becomes more than just another flavor to the story.
i am a hugh grant fan--he's just too darn charming. 'about a boy', 'sense and sensibility', 'the englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain', and this; you just can't beat the bloke. i think this was his introduction to u.s. audiences, and over ten years later, his sheepishly pathetic charm shows no signs of fading.
it was interesting to see the film's philosophizing on the institution of marriage, this being an early predecessor to our current climate of nervous bafflement toward matrimony. the movie looks at marriage with a mixture of yearning and apprehension. a mentality that has only grown amidst the late 20's early 30's crowd in the new millennium, notably dealt with in both of zach braff's directed features, viewing marriage can be a scary thing. the reservation toward entering into the commitment shows that there is still some respect for the sacred covenant, evidenced by the fear of breaching such. yet even the careless hugh grant character [and his surrounding enterouge] felt a yearning for something more than just a night in bed; the desire to be one with someone is within each of us.
not until the final act of the story did i find myself really caring about the characters, but during the closing sequence, i was smiling because i was happy for them.
--better than i expected--

platoon [1986] -best picture 1986, on the afi top 100, i was curious to see it. sadly, it did not hold up to great vietnam movies like 'the deer hunter' or 'apocalypse now'. what happened? well, universal truths come from specific experiences. 'deer hunter' and 'apocalypse now' are the journey's and experiences of defined characters--martin sheen or robert deniro [and/or christopher walken] are all unique characters, following paths that we have not specifically seen before. charlie sheen in 'platoon', however, could have easily been one of thousands of grunts in the surreal jungle world. there is no clear objective or plot with the movie; its thesis statement is simply, 'war is hell', and spend the next two hours eloquently stating such. i disliked oliver stone's very anti-war 'born on the fourth of july', and was happy that 'platoon' was not so nauseatingly manipulative. still, the movie gave us little to hold on to. there were a dozen tertiary characters, including johnny depp [whom i did not recognize until his credit shot at the end] and john c. mcginley ['scrubs's dr. cox], all of whom i suspect most vietnam vets could recognize as being from their company.
my knowledge of old war movies is about as shallow as my experience with westerns, but john wayne, gary cooper, and the heroes of yesteryear made war look glorious and heroic, with clearly defined boundaries between right and wrong, the good and the bad. and, to a degree, it seems that things were moreso back then. even the modern wwII epic, 'saving private ryan', doesn't invoke the same nightmare as the contemporary vietnam stories. 'platoon' showed the horrors of war without leaving room for dispute while avoiding repulsion. in the end, we are left feeling like that of our everyman protagonist, not knowing what went on out there, but it was crazy.
--less than i expected--

patton [1970]-patton could have easilly be a movie about a stubborn and headstrong general who lived for war, believing in reincarnation and who won one of the most impressive victories in not only world war II, but in the history of the united states. and it would have been a fine movie that way. there are two aspects of it that make it become so much more. the foremost is an seemingly small incident that ripples through the entire movie. grandpa simpson put it best when he said, 'you can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to die on some forsaken rock. but for some reason, you can't slap 'em.' the general's slapping of a soldier who had lost his nerve created a stir throughout the military and government bureacracy as well as a spike of outrage among the u.s. civilians. soon patton was released from his command, even after making a formal apology for his actions, and was stationed around as little more than a decoy. when the germans read from the american newspapers that the great and formidable general, one of their biggest concerns [and rightfully so], had been demoted for slapping a grunt, they blow it off, unable to believe that the americans would dismiss their greatest leader for something so trivial.
the question is never explicitly addressed and barely stated, yet it is one of the movie's ponderings that makes it deeper than 'just a good war movie'. is there logic in removing a great strength in the army or any organization because of a relatively small indiscretion? is the loss of leadership worth the example made about the importance of rules above all else? in our current culture, we are much quicker to praise heroes who break the rules to achieve their noble goal, following that the ends do indeed justify the means. but in a movie made thirty years ago about people thirty years before that, it was much more of a question [making a wwII during the vietnam war is intriguing in inself, but won't be discussed here].
the 'always on the offensive' personality of general patton seems possibly impeccable early in the movie, that perhaps making people hate you at the moment but getting the job done is the way things work, not caring whether or not they like you afterward. the other strength of 'patton' is that it does not glorify it's emponymous character, but tells the story of an eccentric man. the antithesis is karl malden's character, omar bradley, whose book provided much of the source material for the screenplay [written, by the way, by a pre-godfather francis ford coppola]. general bradley is a good friend of patton's, and they work together throughout the war, but with very different attitudes. while we do not see much of his leadership, we can infer that bradley leads with respect, not blazing determination. when patton is given command over the 3rd army, he is under bradley, but he has also learned humility. he no longer reaps results through shouting and fear, he has learned that people respond even more effectively to support and affirmation, best shown in the wonderful scene where he hops out of his jeep and cheerfully directs intersecting patrols of tanks himself.
i've been wary of 'patton' for a while, not only because it seemed like a boring old movie that my dad likes to watch, but also because i wondered if i could ever take george c. scott seriously after his amazing role in 'dr strangelove, or how i learned to stop worrying and love the bomb'. neither was a problem; the dialogue carried with it just enough fun and levity to keep it from being a dry and dull military movie and from the opening monologue to the final scene with him and willy [not william] the pit bull, i never doubted he was patton. the title is correct; it is not about world war II, nor anything or anyone else but george s. patton. there is no bias, no glorifying nor demonizing, but a movie that tells the story of a person.
--better than i expected--

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