Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews
I should be seeing the movies atleast, for all the fines I paid. Saw quite a few movies in the past two weeks. Apologies for possible spoilers.

My Shtick
In my experience, I always find that the vaunted and deemed 'classic', old movies are major disappointments. Either, the effects or the ideas that the movie then introduced have been mimicked so much, that when you see the movie,(eg: Citizen Kane), it fails to register, or you just expect too much (eg: Psycho). The special effects, baring really rare cases, are not a patch on even the worst flicks of today.
After the numerous disappointments, I have now begun to hold a position opposite, to what I call the Unecessary Reverence Handicap
which is - Despite what you really feeling that a classic sucked, you deceive yourself to believing that is was excellent and praise heaped on it is justified. Why? Because,the experts and everybody else says so.
My new Scant Reverence Attitude is not much of a help to have an unbiased view either.

Hiroshima Mon Amour(French,1950s)
Hiroshima Mon Amour from the New Age of French cinema of the 1950s was really good. At end, I wondered why I liked the movie so much, despite the insipid principal actors. Clearly this a movie that revolves strongly around an excellent story by Marguerite Duras and really clever and artful direction by Alain Resnais. The present, and the past are both intermingled, as are the present and past lovers of the French woman in Tokyo. She comes to Tokyo to come to terms with a personal tragedy, hoping that Hiroshima would help alleviate the pain. The actors are not very expressive but the dialogues are memorable. Throughout the movie you seem to be thinking their thoughts, trying to read between the lines. What makes the movie a compelling watch is how Alain Resnais slowly draws the curtains and slowly reveals the story. He makes us reflect on what tragedy holds more significance for and individual- the private or the public?

The Best Years of Our Life(1940s)
It's not hard to see why this movie swept the Oscars a few years after the war ended. It is one of few movies that deals with the problems of the veterans and not just the war. Three serviceman, an Army sergeant, a Bombardier Captain and a Naval Midshipman, return from their tours of duty. All of them return to different social circumstances and learn to cope with problems of marriage, disability and settling down to a normal civilian life. Also present is the composer, Hoagy Carmichael in a cameo role as the bar-owner, Butch. It effectively shows the tension between the civilians who want to 'get-on' with life, now that the war is over and veterans who feel that they need to be given special treatment for their wartime sacrifices. Without being overly sympathetic it shows how they all come to terms with the changed life.
Excellent performances by Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews and the lovely Teresa Wright.

An Affair to Remember(1950s)
At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, this is nothing but a classic chick flick. Cary Grant, a playboy and the fantastic red-head Deborah Kerr meet on ocean liner and fall hopelessly in love despite being attached to significant others. They agree to meet and marry in six months if they still feel the same about each other. The first half was really good with the comic scenes and the sizzling chemistry of what is a hopeless romance. The second half and the story after that was quite a drag with the movie just wandering. Yet to see a girl make such a senseless decision as Kerr. I thought only blondes were dumb. The movies throws in songs by children for no rhyme or reason. The last scene is quite good, in a losing effort to save a movie that falls apart after the half.

After the disappointment of the previous movie, I sought solace in Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, hoping that the neurotic, psychotic self-deprecating Allen would not fail to disappoint. I really did not know what to expect of this particular movie, which made it an all the more fun movie to watch. Woody Allen the actor does not talk much except for the interview scenes. The idea of making 'mockumentary' on a fictional Jazz Age figure Leonard Zelig is pure genius. All Zelig wants to do is ' ..blend in', which he does to the extreme of transforming himself to kind of people he is with. Zelig is the Human Chameleon. If it were not for Allen or Farrow in the main roles, anyone would believe this as a Discovery or the History Channel documentary without blinking an eye. Not seeing Allen in his element is more than made up for by the general whackiness of the theme the development of Zelig's fictional career. The serious narration are a trip and appearances by luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Saul Bellow and Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in colour between the shots make it an all the more believable nonsense. Gordon Willis, the cinematographer stomped on the film in the shower to give it the aged look. An outstanding job by Willis to create the shaky, scratchy, out-of-focus B/W shots.
These special effects placing Allen in scenes with Lou Gehrig, Al Capone Hitler and prominent members of the Jazz Age are 15 years ahead of Bob Zemeckis' Forrest Gump scenes.

Coffee and Cigarettes(2002)
This was black comedy in black and white. It has about 14 unrelated fictitious short stories/scenes, all taking place around coffee and cigarettes with a star list of actors. The opening scene with Benini was the worst of the lot, but it prepares you for the crazy stories that follow later. Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan provide the longest and most hilarious story of long-lost cousins. Steve Buscemi plays an Elvis Conspiracy theorist and Bill Murray a caffeine addict. Iggy Pop and Tom Waits try their hand at one upmanship. Cate Blanchett is fantastic in playing herself and her cousin who is clearly jealous about Cate's celebrity status.
By the end you are clutching your gut but also thinking about the fake social graces we adopt, out litte delusions (thinking coffee is champagne), attempts at buying love, friendships and failed efforts at making good impressions. Hilarious!

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