0202: A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death

Rating: 7.5/10

I guess this movie is also known as “Stairway to Heaven” as I found nothing but posters with that title before I found the one above. Anyway, this movie is about a man who goes down in his plane during a war (probably WWII but it never actually says). He decides to bale out without his parachute as he’d rather die that way then when his plane crashes. He doesn’t survive, but Heaven isn’t able to find him so he remains on Earth. Also, he’s in love with his radio woman, something he proclaims to her as his plane goes down, even though they’ve just met.

The first act of this movie is very good. It does all the things I’m always telling other movies to do instead of their terrible first acts. It develops characters as things are happening, it doesn’t over explain anything, we know everything we need to about our main character and the woman he loves as he’s going down in the plane. It makes everything that’s happening interesting to watch.

What I don’t like is most of the second act, though the scenes with the Frenchman who is our main character’s consultant from Heaven are all very good scenes. The rest of the second act spends a bit too much time on the “he’s insane and we need to operate on his brain or something” plot and it just gets a bit tiresome. And the stuff that happens right at the end of it just feels maybe a bit too convenient. This part definitely could have been cut down with no ill effects.

It comes back around in the third act though. I think the acting throughout this movie is very good all around too. It really stands out throughout the movie and really boosts the movie from just a retelling of Faust with a modern twist to a very entertaining fantasy-drama about life and death.

Why you should watch it before you die: It has some pretty good themes and great acting throughout. I would most recommend this film to people who like dramas and don’t mind that it’s a bit sappy.

SCORING:

+7.5: Good dramatic story with fantasy elements

+1: Good acting all around

-1: 2nd act is somewhat boring

Donate to help me build an actual Stairway to Heaven!

Note: Unrelated to Led Zeppelin in any way.

$1.00

0810: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

The Thin Blue Line.jpg

Rating: 8.5/10

This movie didn’t just start a new wave of crime documentaries, it also proved to a nation that a man, falsely accused and incarcerated, was innocent of murder. Watching it now, you would probably recognize the form of it. It shows crime reenactments for the first time in a documentary, something that became very popular in mainstream TV for quite a bit afterwards and I think there’s still about a million CSI shows, both documentaries and fictional. None of which would exist if not for this movie. It took real interviews and used a combination of actors and great editing to make a very interesting to watch documentary. The first of its kind.

It also has some pretty good music, something it really didn’t have to do. Though some documentaries do have a score that stands out, I think here it does a good job of emphasizing scenes and stands out.

Something else I like is that it puts the audience in the place of a detective. It shows us going through the case and discovering things as they do. We’re all uncovering a mystery, but what’s really impressive is that it was all true. Not only that but someone was wrongfully imprisoned and we all got him out together. That’s pretty cool. Something those investigation shows can’t do. I guess something like this was a once-in-a-lifetime subject to film.

It also does a good job of showing corruption in the US justice system in certain circumstances.

Why you should watch it before you die: If you’re a fan of true-crime documentaries you should definitely check it out. Not only was it the first, it was probably the best of its kind.

SCORING:

+7.5: a very compelling documentary

+1: freed an innocent man from life in prison

0177: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis.jpg

Rating: 6.5/10

Judy Garland is one of the best actresses to ever appear on the silver screen. Here she is just a good as she always is, but someone who steals the show is Margaret O’Brien. A young girl in this movie, only about 8 or 9 though she plays a someone who is 5. Here, she’s probably the best child actor I’ve ever seen, it makes sense that the Academy Awards gave her a Special Award for Child Acting. Something I believe they handed out only once, to Margaret O’Brien, for her role in this movie.

I also discovered that Judy Garland was apparently working on this movie for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Working all night on recording music and then all day acting, and people were still upset with her for being late on set. Still, she acts and sings as good as she ever has in this movie.

Though some of the songs are okay in this movie, I feel they aren’t too great overall. They feel like they’re just being phoned in just a bit and some of it isn’t original. Maybe all of it actually, I’m not familiar with this era of music too well. But it’s okay, I like that we get to hear Judy Garland’s amazing singing voice again. I just wish she was singing better music.

Much like the music, the story also feels a bit like it’s just phoning it in. Just standard movie/musical stuff to keep it going. I know it’s based on a book, but not all books should be adapted to movies. Something like this probably has more interesting internal issues with the characters, either that or it’s just like this and mostly just focusing on a family and how they change in the course of a year. It’s not bad, okay, but not something that stands out as anything but the bare minimum requirements for a musical like this.

Why you should watch it before you die: For Judy Garland’s and Margaret O’Brien’s performances. Or you’re just into musicals.

SCORING:

+6: Decent musical

+1: Judy Garland’s performance

+1: Margaret O’Brien’s performance

-1: Lackluster story

-0.5: Lackluster Music

0014: Nanook of the North (1922)

Nanook of the North.jpg

Rating: 6.5/10

This movie was a bit of a surprise. I’ve heard about it a lot and what you always hear is how things weren’t very accurately depicted, and then someone always mentions the scene where Nanook tries to take a bite out of a music record but that scene was entirely staged. It’s true that it was staged, but this was a time before we had a thousand documentaries coming out a day on Netflix alone. All the things the director did, like staging scenes and passing it off as real life documentation is now considered amoral. Then though, there weren’t any standards for the genre, and though this isn’t the first of its kind, it is the first that was as popular as it was.

What it shows is the story of a man and his family. Though much of the action was staged, it was done so as real as it could manage. They might have hunted with guns at the time and using spears and such was “acted out”, but the Inuits still made the spears and used them to hunt a real walrus for this movie. This was perhaps showing how things were for them in a distant yesteryear but it was still all the Inuits doing everything that they still knew how to do, even though they didn’t have to learn it anymore.

So, a “realistic” docudrama is what we get with this movie, though packaged as the real thing, which isn’t cool. But it’s forgivable because the director didn’t know any better? I guess?

This was enjoyable and fun to watch. It was a good start to documentaries as a whole though, even though it isn’t the first one it’s the first anyone took notice of. It’s only downfall is that it’s not entirely real. If it said somewhere that this was a fictionalized reenactment of how things once were for these people rather than trying to tell them that this is how things are at the time of filming I would have forgiven it for that. I guess people probably preferred it this way at the time, but now I think I would have preferred a more accurate telling of the Inuit people in the 1920s than a fictionalized retelling of it.

Why you should watch it before you die: It is the first modern type documentary, even if it doesn’t share the ethics of modern documentary filmmakers. Check it out if you like documentaries though.

SCORING:

+7.5: a good movie and enjoyable to watch

-1: passing fiction off as reality

0009: Way Down East (1920)

Way Down East

Rating: 10/10

Here’s a movie by DW Griffith that isn’t horribly racist! Yay! As you know, he’s the one who wrote and directed the Birth of a Nation, the most famous piece of racist propaganda in modern history. This movie was waaaay better than that, I’m happy to report.

It’s about a young woman, Anna, who gets married in a fever but then it turns out her husband is a horrible womanizer. He tells her that they aren’t legally married so he sends her away and she has a baby out of wedlock, which was a big no-no back then, and things only get worse for her from there.

Unfortunately, this movie has been partly lost or damaged throughout the years and many scenes are missing. At least they have all the intertitles, but it would have been nice to see this movie in its entirety despite it already being 2 and a half hours long. Still, it is a very well made movie and I did enjoy it quite a bit by the end.

I can’t but help think about Manchester by the Sea because it was a movie that essentially did the exact same thing this movie did with the true-to-life tragedy. Except it works here because it has a consistent story throughout and it has a point. Something it says right away with the first intertitle. This movie is about something and the plot moves forward and no scene is out of place or there for no reason. Thanks DW Griffith, you knew how to make a movie correctly. It’s too bad you’re so racist otherwise…

We follow the main character and she feels like a real person. Speaking of which, the acting was great. Even though it’s a silent movie, everyone felt real even during some of the sillier bits. Also, though this movie was flooded with intertitles, and I’m not a fan of having too many, I never minded after I got used to them.

I also want to compliment the music, though I’m sure it was changed some to accommodate the missing footage, I thought it was just superb throughout. It perfectly complimented the movie, whether it was a funny scene, or scary, or sad, the music always matched.

I only have a couple complaints. First, that it was a bit slow in the beginning. I don’t think it had to spend as much time as it did introducing our protagonist especially since she doesn’t stay where she is for very long. Secondly, there was a dancing part that I felt probably didn’t have to take up as much of the film as it did and felt more like “see what we filmed” than an essential part of the story. Also, since they only play “Turkey in the Straw” during this part it’s the only section of the movie where the music falters.

Why you should watch it before you die: Because it’s really good, as far as silent movies go. Though I think the major plot point of having a kid out of wedlock might feel a bit dated, it’s a good look as how things used to be for women and how they had to live with a double-standard that society judges them on and… um, actually, I guess they still do. Sorry all women, my bad…

SCORING:

+10: a forgotten masterpiece, forgotten by me anyway

-0.5: dance sequence too long

-0.5: unnecessary introduction

+1: everything else is great

 

1196: Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Manchester by the Sea.jpg

Rating: 2/10

Though this movie is well acted, it’s not very well written or edited. What stands out most are the near-constant, pointless scenes. They tend to not go anywhere and this story doesn’t ever find a consistent tone. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a tragedy, a drama, a comedy, or what. It doesn’t do any of those things correctly and if it does it doesn’t keep that same fluidity you’d expect from anything in those genres. As far as I can tell this is just trying to be true-to-life and nothing else, which I just don’t think works as a genre all its own.

This is the story of a man who after his own tragedies, his brother dies and he has to look after his nephew. It tells its story non-linearly, but in ways where you’re not always sure if what you’re looking at is happening in the present or the past until later on in the movie. The first twenty minutes of them doing this was fine and it seemed to be telling a consistent story until Lee, the main character, decides to go back to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, and everything basically goes out the window. It doesn’t really tell a consistent story and all the scenes just seem like completely random events that happen to Lee for seemingly no reason. But I guess “life is just like that” is the message of this movie. Something they didn’t have to spend 2 hours and 15 minutes to pound into my skull.

I’m fine with realism in movies, but if you have a movie that’s realistic you better also be telling a story. This movie is not a story, it’s just inconsistent scenes that feels more like they’re the scenes you would cut out of regular movies and they’ve been thrown together here for our non-enjoyment. If this movie is supposed to be a tragedy, just because your movie has tragic moments in it does not make it a tragedy. One of my professors once told me that “a comedy is meant to show how ridiculous humans are, but tragedies are meant to show how noble humans are.” There’s no nobleness here. And most of the humanity has been cut out of this movie as well. Instead we’re left with these broken people who don’t seem to care about anything except when they’re being completely selfish.

Also, it kind of feels like a soap opera script that everyone involved just tried to act so hard to cover up. Another professor once told me “you can make a bad movie out of a good script, but you can’t make a good movie out of bad script.” I think that’s true, and I think that shows here. Though everyone acts their pants off, no one can cover up the initial schlock.

Why you should watch it before you die: Because you’re a brainwashed tool created by the establishment.

SCORING:

+5: Good acting

-3: Nothing else is good

0962: Titanic (1997)

Titanic.jpg

Rating: 5/10

This movie is a bit of a conundrum for me in that I just don’t understand why people like it so damn much. I mean, it’s okay but nothing special to me. Mostly it’s just boring, many of the scenes are pointless, and the acting, for the most part, is just terrible. Also that song is just awful and they play parts of it throughout the movie just to remind everyone how terrible it is. It does have some cool effects later in the movie but it really doesn’t have to take OVER HALF THE MOVIE to get to the good stuff. I guess this is going to stay a conundrum for me and nothing I do here will matter. The people who like this movie will continue to like it and the people who hate it will continue to hate it and that’s that. Oh well, here we go.

I guess James Cameron did accomplish something great here: he let a bunch of horny teenagers see boobs in a PG-13 movie! Quite an achievement and we should all applaud him for it.

Anyway…the things I like in this movie are that Kathy Bates does a pretty good job as Molly Brown, but she’s not in it nearly enough, and I think the scene about an hour in where Jack takes Rose to the party in 3rd class was an okay scene and did a better job of showing the difference between the characters and the classes than any scene before it.

Okay, now my complaints, I don’t like any of Leonardo DiCaprio’s or Kate Winslet’s acting in this movie. They take the whole movie down. They were probably just hired because they had pretty faces more than they could act the part. I’ve seen them both act better in other things but here I think it has to do with being in a period piece. What I talked about John Malkovich’s performance in Dangerous Liasons, that some people don’t have to chops to act like they were from another time, or just a specific time period, but whatever it is, the two main characters can’t cut it here. So what are you gonna do? You can cover up bad acting in a lot of ways. Good music sometimes, but no help with that here since all the music is basically based around that “Heart Will Go On” song. So you can also cover it up by just having a lot of action so your characters are basically always moving and busy. Of course they can’t act, they’d die if they did! This movie does eventually do this but you have to sit through a whole first half of a 3+ hour movie that’s just crap. But even then it’s just a half-decent disaster movie, a genre I’m not a big fan of to begin with…

There’s also a lot of pointless scenes. Many things that just stood out how pointless they were. The most obvious of these are any of the scenes that are set modern day. They didn’t have to do that, at all, and because they’re pointless all the V/O narration from future Rose was equally as pointless.

Also the shoehorned in romance that pretty much becomes the main plot is just really, really cliche and general. It’s nothing special and considering this movie is called Titanic, I think the story should more be about the ship and the event than this second-rate romance. I don’t even know why it’s in there because James Cameron’s strong suit is definitely not with characters with emotion. He’s better with ladies who punch aliens, or robots who terminate, you know? He’s not the romantic-directing type.

The scenes with practical effects showing the boat sinking are pretty good, though the scenes with computer effects are pretty dated.

Why you should watch it before you die: Because you like romantic-disaster movies set in historical settings.

SCORING:

+10: EVERYONE LOVES IT!

-1.5: Modern day stuff is pointless

-1.5: Most of the other scenes are also pointless

-4: Leo’s bad acting

-2: Kate’s bad acting

-1: Cliche, boring romance

+0.5: Okay poor-person-party scene.

+0.5: Kathy Bates is good but not in it enough

+5: Pretty good once the boat starts to sink

-1: that terrible song

0842: Roger & Me (1989)

Roger & Me.jpg

Rating: 7/10

Michael Moore’s first movie and documentary, made with almost no money showing just how pissed off he was about the closing of all the GM factories in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Michael Moore has a style totally unique to a documentarian. He’s very in your face and is very good at hammering his point across. I don’t always agree with his views or his questionable techniques, but he is very good at showing corruption in all its forms. You see the beginnings of his hard-hitting style here with this film.

Roger & Me shows the beginning of all businesses shipping overseas and how it affected an entire city. This really became an ethical question of whether big companies should keep overpaying the American person simply to keep their business in America and strengthen America and show a little American pride perhaps, or just pay two cents per hour to open a factory in Mexico, or China, or wherever. Well, we all know what the big companies chose there. American consumerism means that only the richest have all the power and everyone else should be treated like cattle. I’m not even making a joke…

This is a documentary but it’s more like gonzo journalism as well. Rather than tell you all the facts, it mixes it with the feelings of the director and what things mean specifically to Michael Moore. It’s truly a unique documentary. This hard-hitting style really is good for showing people what’s happening and having it from Moore’s voice makes it very personal that something like this happened in his hometown and forced over half the population of a city into poverty.

Why you should watch it before you die: It shows just how evil American consumerism really is and how little the common people really mean to all these bigwig corporations.

SCORING:

+7.5: Very informative and entertaining documentary

-.5: some pointless scenes

1010: Memento (2000)

Memento.jpg

Rating: 8/10

Many might think they have a bad memory, but none as bad as Guy Pearce in this movie. He is stricken with a condition where he has no short-term memory and can’t remember anything for longer than 15 minutes or so. We see things entirely from his perspective throughout the film with all the forgetfulness of our main character. The way Christopher Nolan accomplishes this is by telling the entire story in the opposite order. It starts at the end, Pearce’s character, Leonard, has killed someone. The next scene is the scene before this where it shows why Lenny kills the person he does, and so on.

Memento shows us Lenny’s story all the way to the beginning. Though this might sound like the definition of an anticlimactic storyline, every scene reveals something we didn’t know and also asks more questions that we can’t figure out until the next scene begins. This goes on until the M. Night Shyamalan styled twist that will make you want to watch it again only to see it in a new perspective. And the best things about it is that there’s another story underneath, and you don’t quite know what really happened to Leonard unless you watch certain scenes frame by frame. So, while Leonard is trying to solve a mystery in real time, it’s showing us another mystery is reverse time, while there’s still a third mystery concerning Leonard’s past that we have to figure out by ourselves…or just look it up on YouTube after you finish the movie.

Truthfully, just the premise and editing makes this movie worth watching. Because it works backwards, it creates something completely unique. Movies don’t always go in order, many of Tarantino’s films are non-linear, but nothing quite like this has ever been made as successfully as this film is. Truthfully, if the movie was in order, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting or entertaining. The acting is fine but nothing special, the story is mostly just a simple noir plot, the music and cinematography don’t particularly stand out, but showing the movie in this way makes it both interesting and entertaining. It gives us a film that’s totally unique and worth watching multiple times just so you can get the full story of it.

Why you should watch it before you die: It’s a movie not quite like any other and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie quite like this either before or since it came out. A truly original movie that was the start of Christopher Nolan’s directing career.

SCORING:

+7.5: entertaining movie with a unique style

+1: amazing editing

-0.5: some unnecessary scenes

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs.jpg

Rating: 8.5/10

When masters suddenly turn on their pets and condemn them to an island landfill, a pack of dogs must rescue a boy and help him find his lost canine. They must face the wilderness, other dogs, some of which might be cannibals, and a country that hates them on a journey to find a dog that may already be dead. This kids movie is surprisingly more adult than it lets on but there’s more than enough here to keep the kiddies entertained as well. And if you’re a dog lover, you don’t want to miss this movie.

Claymation seems like a thing of the past but Wes Anderson and others prove time and time again that it’s better than it’s ever been. Here the claymation is beautiful, and with the combination of Anderson’s style with that of Japanese filmmakers throughout the ages, you see a claymated film that is truly unique in style, story, and music as well. Speaking of which, the music was just as terrific as the rest of it and also matched the music you’d find in any of Anderson’s movies with that of traditional Japanese music and percussion.

This movie is yet more evidence that we need to have a Oscar category for Best Voice Actor. Everyone in this movie is top notch, something they didn’t have to do, especially since it’s a position that you can literally phone in.

Though this movie is an A+ for dog lovers, there should have been more to it than just a simple childrens story. Maybe because of all the adult themes throughout, it felt strange having the villains just want to get rid of dogs for no good reason, and stop anyone who got in his way. Movies don’t have to have deeper meanings to be good, they’re just better when they do.

Also, this movie didn’t know how to end. It doesn’t drag on forever, it just felt like they could have shaved a 5-10 minutes off and it would have been just a little more perfect. If movies go on for too long they start to lose their meaning. Since this one didn’t have much meaning to lose, keeping the ending tight is doubly important.

Why you should watch it: If you love dogs, Wes Anderson, claymation, Japanese culture, or all of the above, then you should definitely check it out.

SCORING:

+7.5: wonderfully entertaining childrens movie

+1: Great voice acting

+1 Great music

-1: Ending drags