0068: Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932)

Boudu Saved From Drowning.jpg

Rating: 6.5/10

Bhoudu (Michel Simon) is a homeless man living on the street, after a suicidal plunge into the river, a bookseller, Edouard (Charles Granval) saves and brings him into his home. He starts being his benefactor so that Bhoudu can become a member of the bourgeoisie himself. While this is happening, Edouard is also having an affair with his live in maid, Anne (Severine Lerczinska) from his wife Emma (Marcelle Hainia).

This movie was directed by Jean Renoir, a French Icon who directed many great films over the course of his 40 year career. This film shows that Renoir is a master of his craft. The cinematography and editing is great, the tone consistent as a lighthearted satire of 30s France, and the acting perfect from its principal cast (the 4 mentioned in the above paragraph). Though it’s not as funny as I would have liked for a satire, there were still points that I couldn’t help but laugh, especially from Bhoudu as the befuddling fool, he brings a lot of much-needed lightheartedness to the story.

The problems are that the pacing isn’t always correct for this type of movie and some scenes seem to drag and that the story itself is particularly slow to get going and, if I could have been there, I would have recommended they started the movie at the beginning of the second act as that’s where the “excitement” starts, and then have more character development between  Bhoudu and the rest of the household throughout the film. He’s the best part of the movie, and gives the movie it’s real heart, hardly having him in the first act at all, outside of small scenes away from Edouard’s house, in not to this movie’s benefit.

As for the pacing problems, this movie had many scenes that were kind of pointless, such as the reaction shot of the audience that gathers as Edouard swims out to the drowning man. Or  the many shots of cats that are never mentioned and go nowhere. Also, there’s too many cold-open shots where nothing is happening for 30 seconds or so before action starts happening in each scene. This is more something you’d expect in the beginning of the movie when they’re introducing characters, but instead it’s all throughout the movie even when one isn’t called for. I feel both these things are more something you’d expect in a drama than a satire, and a faster pace would really have added to the effects of the genre. As is, the pace of the movie and the tone of the movie feel at odds with each other. Maybe it had something to do with styles of the time, if so, I’m glad it’s one that didn’t last.

Why you should watch it before you die: For the wonderful character of Boudu and to see an almost-great film from a masterful director.

SCORING:

+7: Decently entertaining satire

+1.5: Expert directing and cinematography

+1: Perfect acting from principal cast members

-1: Pointless first act

-1: Too many slow scenes

-1: War between Pacing and Tone

My List: The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

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Rating: 8.5/10

Here’s a biopic about the king of porn and creator of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) as he fights the law at every turn when the moral majority says that printing smut is a crime. He’s not always in the right, legally, but he always pushes onward knowing that the First Amendment should protect his freedom of speech, even if certain groups disagree with what he’s printing. As the story goes through his legal troubles, it also goes through the story of his life as he meets his wife Althea (Courtney Love) and lawyer and best friend, Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton) and all the trials and tribulations that come with running a pornography company. He gets in a legal battle with Jerry Falwell for creating a parody article that pushed them both all the way to the Supreme Court to decide just how much the First Amendment protected America’s right to say what they want.

Unfortunately, this movie goes through the plot structure you’d see in almost any biopic. They start with his childhood, even though it’s not really that important, goes through many aspects of his life whether or not the tone really fits with the rest of the movie, and end with a series of text-on-a-freeze-frame shots that tell you what everyone else is doing with their lives. What sets this movie apart from other “standard” biopics is that it’s not just going through the motions. Instead it’s using it as a framework to tell the story of one man who took a stand against corrupt people and laws during a time when the majority didn’t see any problems at all. That morals could outway artistic integrity and Larry stood up and said that he had a right to peddle smut and make fun of Jerry Falwell, or any public figure, all he wanted to.

Also, I think the acting from our principle cast is incredible. Love does a great job playing Flynt’s porn star wife and you really get a sense that the two are very much in love. Harrelson is incredibly entertaining and interesting to watch as Flynt, whether he’s making jokes at a judges expense or making a point by firing his entire staff, he never loses the character’s natural charisma and really brings Flynt to life on screen. Norton’s Isaacman steals every scene he’s in until Harrelson steals it right back again. Really good acting though, very commendable.

I compliment this movie’s use of jump cuts. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that had as many jump cuts as this movie and still used them as well every time. It could be something like this: Flynt is arrested for selling his magazine, then jump cut to a day later and he’s coming out of the jail’s front door after posting bale. It both gets to the point faster and keeps the movie’s quick pace moving. It’s nicely done, but outside of that the editing and cinematography wasn’t much more than what you’d expect in a movie like this, good, just not great. Still, great jump cuts.

Why it’s on my list: It’s one of those films that stands out among biopics with great acting, directing, and editing. Also says an awful lot about what the First Amendment rights mean to have to free speech, along with what censorship could do in any country when it starts getting out of hand. They should show this movie to people in high school history class, though they wouldn’t due to censorship.

+8: Entertaining and informative biopic

-1: Copy-and-paste biopic plot points

+1: Impressive acting

+0.5: nice use of jump cuts

0055: Earth (1930)

Earth

Rating: 10/10

A Russian silent movie about a time after the Revolution where everyone farmers in the Ukraine, who were allowed to keep their land initially, until Stalin ordered the hostile takeover of all the agriculture both for the ownership of the government and to “weed out” the last of the capitalists within their borders. However, the peasants do not turn over their land and instead start a minor revolt by themselves. They ask, “who is the government to say that we can’t own the land we own?” And for a moment they’re able to prosper. Until their leader is brutally slain.

Decent acting for a silent film, coupled with a good score and great editing/cinematography, this makes for a very unique viewing experience. It’s also a Russian film with strong political undertones that speak out against Communism at a time when doing so was likely to get you killed. Luckily for the film’s creator, Alexander Dovzhenko, they only tried to kill the movie with bad publicity. Which didn’t work as the movie grew into something that was viewed throughout the country and is said by many film historians to be one of the greatest films to come out of the entire existence of the Soviet Union. If nothing else, this film is an example of a movie that is heavily criticized upon its release but resonates anyway with the audience that finds it.  Maybe because of the films uniqueness, or that it has hidden depths that could only be discovered upon repeat viewings, or maybe it’s one that’s made with such passion, style, and love that nothing anyone can say keeps the film from showing its heart.

I don’t have much to penalize the film for. There’s a montage showing every step it takes to harvest grain and then turn it into bread which gets to be borderline documentary and doesn’t quite match the tone of the rest of the film. It’s a short scene in this fairly short movie, so I guess it’s not much of a complaint…

Why you should watch it before you die: This is an amazingly creative drama of the silent era. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s interested in an historical film with political undertones of the day and some of the best cinematography I think I’ve seen in any movie.

SCORING:

+10: a truly beautiful movie

-0: some half-hearted grievance I had, I hardly remember it now

 

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1099: Atonement (2007)

 

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Rating: 10/10

Atonement is a semi-nonlinear period piece taking place in England during WWII. It’s about a man named Robbie (James McAvoy) who falls in love with a girl named Cecilia (Keira Knightly). Instead of this ending happily ever after, Robbie is arrested because Cecilia’s kid sister’s, Briony (Saoirse Ronan), friend is attacked and she thinks she saw Robbie do it. He’s allowed out of prison if he’s willing to fight in the war. Robbie is hoping to survive to the end so that he and Cecilia can finally be together.

This movie does a cool thing with a few separate scenes where it shows what Liony sees, before showing us the scene immediately before it with the other characters involved. This is a really cool idea, and I don’t think any other movies that do this in quite the same way. I like how it’s edited and I think that these sequences make for a very interesting viewing experience. I wish it did more of these throughout the movie though I can’t really think of where they would have added it.

I liked the story. It does a really good job of demonstrating what it means to strive for atonement and how the consequences of one event could change everything in your life and the lives of your friends and family. Briony makes a mistake that ends up screwing up everyone else’s lives when she’s only 13, this creates a divide between her and her sister and changes both of their lives forever. Can they make amends? Can Briony truly atone for what she’s done?

I don’t really have complaints about this movie, some of it was slow but that’s fine as it required a slow pace during those parts of the movie. I wouldn’t call this movie perfect though as a perfect movie I think has a lot of rewatchability, this movie has some but I don’t think there’s much to be gained from watching this movie multiple times.

Why you should watch it before you die: Aside from the philosophical questions this movie asks about its subject, this movie is a well-acted, period drama with a great story. I would highly recommend this to anyone who’s adult enough to understand the concepts.

SCORING:

+8: Great drama and period piece with high concepts

+1: Terrific acting

+1: some pretty cool non-linear perspective sequences that more movies should do in general, great editing outside of these sequences as well

Inside Out (2015)

 

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Rating: 7.5/10

Inside Out is about a young girl Riley and her Emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust as they rule her brain and run her life. However, things change as she and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco, California. After they move, something happens as Joy and Sadness are accidentally sucked out of the control room of Riley’s brain and have to find their way from long-term memory back to Riley’s consciousness as Fear, Disgust, and Anger do their best to keep control of Riley’s mind without her main emotion of happiness.

What I like about this movie is that Pixar is making something original again and isn’t just forcing out more sequels, which, aside from the Toy Story franchise (so far…), haven’t really been very good. This is a totally original story, however, that has a similar flow to the first Toy Story film. Much like that film, it’s a Hero’s Journey, though instead of being flung out into the world by crazy forces, it’s a group forced into the furthest reaches of Riley’s mind (by crazy forces).

The voice acting is very good in this movie. Especially from Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness) and Richard Kind (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend, Bing-Bong). Though it is good all around really, even the minor characters in minor scenes, such as Frank Oz and Dave Goelz arguing about whose hat is whose as they stand guard outside of Riley’s worst fears, capture the essence of the characters they possess to a nearly perfect degree.

The part I don’t like in this movie is the first half-hour. This is about how long any movie’s first act is supposed to be, and first acts are meant to be introductions to the characters and to the world, but this introduces us to everything with Voice-Over Narration while also showing us everything Joy is narrating. Now, the phrase “show don’t tell” isn’t entirely right. Show things when you can but tell things when you need to, however, do your very best to not show and tell at the same time, pick one and stick with it. Here, I think this movie could have cut all the V.O. Narration (along with maybe ten minutes out of the first act) and the movie would have been better for it.

Just a Rant: This section is a part I started in the beginning to explain why I thought movies I watched were on the list of 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die, but I realized that there wasn’t much reason outside of the company that makes it wants to sell books. I mean, some movies deserve to be on said list, but a lot don’t. Also, things like Three Days of the Condor or American Psycho are surprisingly absent, while other things like Dangerous Liaisons or Black Narcissus are on there. The first two movies are wholly original and do things I haven’t seen anywhere else in quite the same way, the second two are things that some people might like, but they’re not prime examples of either what films were like at the time nor are they the best examples in what each film tries to accomplish in terms of genre or plot. You can argue these films are objectively good, and you might like them, but I would argue against you that just because some people thought a movie was good, doesn’t mean everyone should watch it. Unless these films are ones that are historically significant (they aren’t) I would not put them on a list of this nature. That’s why I switch to the “Why you should watch it before you die” prompt for those movies. Recently I realized that I should change my list items to be the “Why it’s on my list” because I can explain the reasoning behind it even if I can’t for the other list. Now, for my Random movies list I changed it to “Random Thoughts” as those movies aren’t always of a nature that I could really recommend them (sometimes just not always) and it is better just to reserve them for other thoughts I might have about the movie, or thoughts the movie made me think, you know, whatever. I don’t know what to do here though for something that’s just a normal movie that isn’t on one list and I wouldn’t put on mine. I’ll probably experiment with this in the future.

TL;DR: I don’t know what to put here for “normal” movies but I’ll try different things moving forward.

SCORING:

+7.5: Good Kids movie and a return to original content from Pixar

+1: Terrific Voice acting all around

-1: First act is a bit long and voice-over is unnecessary

0076: Footlight Parade (1933)

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Rating: 8.5/10

James Cagney plays a playwright and theater manager in a time when talkies are all the rage and people don’t want to go to the theater anymore. He keeps going though by making “prologues” a series of short plays to precede movies performed right in the movie theater. For the first half of the film he produces one about cats (which is kind of similar to the play Cats oddly enough) and we get to watch the finished product, then in the second half of the film he gets the idea to take all unproduced musical comedies and shorten them to 40 minutes for his prologues and runs with it.

It’s a fun, fast-paced musical comedy, and the first movie to star James Cagney as something that wasn’t a mobster. That’s probably not entirely true but as a star of vaudeville before his transition onto the big screen, it was cool to see him in a role that was similar to what made him famous to begin with. It was also made in the Pre-Code era when women were allowed to be sexy and people could swear at and murder each other. Rather than the Code era when everyone in America had to pretend that no one had sex or swore ever for any reason, also that everyone believed in Jesus and no one was black. Okay, I don’t think that’s right either, who’s writing this stuff?

I really like James Cagney in this movie. I like his fast-paced character matching the fast-paced life of a theater manager, constantly moving from one project to the next. He’s fast but always concentrating completely and giving his all to every project he decides to work on. His character really holds the film together too. There’s not much in terms of plot, what I’ve mentioned two paragraphs ago is essentially all there is for most of the film. We’re just watching a guy do his job. It picks up a bit after that, but this is more a story of Cagney’s character than a typical plot-driven musical. I would say that Cagney does a really good job of bringing his off-the-wall character to life and I think I could watch him and his secretary talk about anything. Their dialogues are so fast paced and enjoyable, they really bring their characters, and this movie, to life.

Why you should watch it before you die: Though it has a plot so loose you could argue it doesn’t have one, it’s characters and musical sequences are so enjoyable you’ll hardly notice.

SCORING:

+8: a fun musical comedy

-0.5: plot’s a bit lacking

+1: James Cagney’s great performance

Box o’ Rando: Leap!

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Rating: 6.5/10

This was a pretty good animated movie except for one thing. The main focus is on a young girl following her dream to become a ballet dancer, but almost all the music is modern day pop music, I think, I’m actually not sure what’s popular right now. Is Techno still a thing? How about Disco? Are there kids on my lawn? Because they gotta go before I shake my cane at them.

Anyway, this was a good movie outside of that fact. I mean, there’s so much ballet music but you know, pop is what’s in. Also, the nutcracker, which is a big thing about who’s going to dance in it, should sound like the nutcracker! Are you trying to make stupid people believe this is what the Nutcracker sounds like!? God!

Okay, enough complaining, this was a pretty good movie storywise, animation, and voice acting. I liked that every character had an arc and almost every character was more than just a stereotype.  That is aside from one of the villains who didn’t learn anything and was basically just villainous the whole time. I’m not going to deduct points for that because most kids movies have a villain like this, though it’s a bit lazy storywise.

Random Thoughts: I’d say this movie was nearly perfect if they just used more ballet music…

SCORING:

+7.5: Decently entertaining throughout

-1: Wrong music

-1: Super wrong music for Nutcracker bit

+1: (mostly) good characterization