Category Archives: Running Feature

Memento (2001)

Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.

– Leonard Shelby

It has been a while since I have seen the film that put Christopher Nolan’s name out front and center, the #29 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Memento. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and  Film Editing. The strange thing is that the story is based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story, Memento Mori. Personally, I don’t like movies that go backwards through the narrative. There is something tragically simple about this movie that make me forget about my past grievances with this way of storytelling.

I don’t know how to approach this review without spoiling the ending, which is in the beginning of the movie. Hmm… Be forewarned. A man who has short-term memory loss, Leonard (Guy Pearce) had just shot a cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) in head. He takes a Polaroid for a little reminder that the person that he thinks raped and murdered his wife (Jorja Fox) and lost him with his memories will be documented.

As you know the narrative is backward to retrace the events that lead to Teddy’s demise. The puzzle is slowly being put together. Leonard has an arm full of Polaroids. All of the clues to find the killer has been either in the Polaroids or have been tattooed on his body as a reminder of his ultimate goal of revenge.

Was Teddy telling the truth? Because a person named “John G.” was the person that was there that night his life changes. Teddy is not his real name. Leonard realizes this from Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who Leonard befriends while he is investigating. Is she working for him or against him? He cannot trust anybody unless it was written on the back of the Polaroids.

He tries to remember Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a former case of his when he was an insurance investigator. He thought that Sammy was faking his condition which it is exactly like his. Everything that Sammy remembers before the accident, he knows. He has trouble building new memories like Leonard. His wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) thinks at she could do something to trigger his memories, but nothing happens.

Leonard has to deal with betrayal, manipulation, murder, drugs, and theft all for the ultimate goal of solving his wife’s murder.

The movie is carefully thought out about what happens next. I thought the flashbacks in black and white broke up the movie in a good way to see how Leonard knows certain things and not others. This is probably the best performance of Guy Pearce’s career. I thought that the ending was different from what I remember. It blows my mind that the movie about memories and not making new ones could make me questions how the ending or beginning was.

But I did have some questions about certain elements of the movies that didn’t make any sense to me. What happened to the drug money? How did Leonard get those items that belonged to his wife? I cannot think of how that happened. I went over the movie again.

Judgment: I know that Nolan is capable of making movies outside of the Batman franchise that could still be good.

Rating: 9/10

Rashômon (1950)

No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.

– Commoner

I do not know that many Kurosawa’s movies. I have only seen Seven Samurai and have reviewed as part of the LAMB in the Director’s Chair spotlight a while ago. I wanted to see more of Kurosawa’s film because I enjoyed Seven Samurai very much. I wanted the #8o Film of All Time on IMDb, Rashomon. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, but it won an Honorary Award for Foreign Language Film, not the competitive Oscar. It was expected to be blown away, but I felt cheated.

The story takes place in the ruined temple of Rashômon where is a torrential rainstorm. A Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) seeks refuse from the rain. He sees the Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and the Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) look visibly distraught. The Commoner asks the men what is disturbing them. The Woodcutter tells him about a terrible that happened in the middle of woods on top of the mountain.

He recounts finding a woman’s hat in a tree branch, then a samurai’s cap, a piece of rope and finally the samurai’s body. He goes to the police. The Woodcutter tells his account to the trial of the bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune).

Tajômaru tells his tale when the Policeman (Daisuke Katô) arrested in the woods after the murder. Tajômaru tells why he did what he did, because he wanted to capture the wife, Masako (Machiko Kyô) of her husband, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori), but not kill him. Tajômaru ties up husband to a nearby tree. Masako tries to stab Tajômaru with her pearl inlay. He forces himself upon her. Afterwards, Masako says that he dies or her husband.

The Woodcutter thinks that the story is a lie. The movie gives three other versions of the story. One of them is true, but which one.

The movie’s plot was not what I was expecting. Granted, I went into this completely blind. The premise seemed silly to me. I have to watch an hour and half of people counted stories from different perspectives. That’s it. I felt cheated. I thought it was going to be an epic movie, but it was very quiet and subdued. I didn’t care for it. I started and stopped it at least three times, because I was not invested in the story.

Judgment: The theme is interesting, but the rest is not.

Rating: 5/10

Groundhog Day (1993)

Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.

– Phil

I always wanted to see # 157 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Groundhog Day, but I never got the chance to watch until a couple of days ago. I thought maybe this film would help me, because I feel like I am stuck in the same day repeatedly. I try to change the outcome, but it’s always the same. Besides, the great character actor Stephen Tobolowsky talked about some memories of the movie on his podcast, The Tobolowsky Files. I had a duty to watch it.

A jaded Pittsburgh weatherman, Phil Conners (Bill Murray) is sent once again to Punxsutawney for the fourth year in a row to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. He goes on the trip with his new producer, the bubbly Rita (Andie MacDowell) and the cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliott).

Rita wants to talk more about the preparation that goes into watching a groundhog being plucked out of a stump to look at its shadow. Phil is not interested in doing that, because he wants to do bigger and better things than cover a silly festival.

His day starts with him waking up at 6 am to go downstairs to have his coffee where he run into the Man in the Hallway (Ken Hudson Campbell) who wants to talk about the upcoming festival. The owner of the bed and breakfast that he is staying in, Mrs. Lancaster (Angela Paton) asks him if he wants to stay the night. He declines. He want to leave immediately after his segment.

An old classmate of Phil’s runs into him on the street, Ned Reyerson (Tobolowsky). He doesn’t remember him. Ned rambles on about their past run ins until Phil tries to make a swift exit and steps in a puddle. Phil goes to the festival to see that Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter.

Phil wants to leave, but a huge snowstorm blows into the area. He said that it would hit another place. The only way out of the town is closed. Phil thinks that his day cannot get any worse. He tries to shower with cold water and goes to sleep.

Waking up the next day, Phil feels a strong sense of déjà vu. He thinks that the town is trying to play a trick on him, but it seems like it’s no trick. He begins to freak out and taking out his frustrations on the people that he already met. He remember what happened before, but everybody else doesn’t. He is wondering why is he reliving the same day. He tries to change the scenario, but it doesn’t help.

People have told me to change the ways that you do things, you could change your outlook. It’s so hard to do that when you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out. I should take some lessons from the movie and input it into my life. Try to work life in different configurations to see what works and what doesn’t.

Judgment: It’s an essential movie for people who want to have existential questions.

Rating: 8/10

Apocolypse Now (1979)

What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? A lie. A lie and we have to be merciful.

– Colonel Kurtz

I have no idea what is my problem. There are so many classic movies that I have never seen. Francis Ford Coppola’s epic movie, the #36 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Apocolypse Now is one of many. I knew very little about this movie when I saw it. It was a good thing, because would not have enjoyed it more than I did. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two for Best Sound and Cinematography.

A disillusioned Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is tired of waiting around to find action in and around Saigon. he is finally recruited by Con-Sec Intelligence for a top-secret mission in Nha Trang. Willard meets with Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford) and General Corman (G.D. Spradlin) to talk about the mission.

There is a decorated Green Beret named Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) that has played renegade with his own missions with the consent of the US government. At first, Kurtz was praised for his efforts, but soon his leadership skills are questioned when he goes rogue. The men listen to secret tapes of Kurtz talking about the possibility that he is insane and that his actions are monstrous.

They let Willard know that Kurtz has crossed into Cambodia with his Montaguard army to take over a tribe there. There is a warrant out for Kurtz’s arrest for the murder of four Vietnamese Intelligence agents that he thinks were working as double agents. His ultimate mission to follow the Kurtz’s path to Cambodia, infiltrate his team and eliminate him.

To accomplish his mission, Willard is take on a Navy patrol boat down the river.  There is the surfer, Lance B. Johnson (Sam Bottoms), Jay “Chef” Hicks (Frederic Forrest) and 17-year-old, Tyrone “Clean” Miller (Laurence Fishburne) make this ragtag group that Willard has to deal with. There is the captain of the boat, Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) that knows that Willard is not being escorted down the river just for R&R. He knows something big is about to happen.

The movie was an example of how war cam fuck you up mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sometimes when you are in a life and death situation for so long that your moral core erodes away and you don’t know the difference between right and wrong. The actions of some of the characters are awful and despicable, but their conscience is not there.

The movie is dirty and beautiful at the same time. Who knew that Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” could fit perfectly with bombing of a Vietcong village?

Judgment: This movie shook me to the core.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

You’re too good for me, George. You’re a hundred times too good. And I’d make you most unhappy, most. That is, I’d do my best to.

– Tracy Lord

It’s a known fact that Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison during the early part of her career. It wasn’t until she went to Broadway with the #244 Film of All-Time on IMDB, The Philadelphia Story that her career got back on track. It was a smash hit and ran for year until MGM purchased the rights to the play by Philip Barry and created the motion picture. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won Oscars for Best Actor Jimmy Stewart and Best Adapted Screenplay. The farcical nature of the film seemed unnerving to me.

A Philadelphian socialite named Tracy Elizabeth Lord (Hepburn) is getting married to her nouveau riche fiancé, George Kittridge (John Howard) at her parents’ house. The whole action of the movies takes place in the span of three days. Tracy is prepping for her wedding with her mother, Margret (Mary Nash) and her younger sister, Dinah (Virginia Weidler). Their no-good father, Seth (John Halliday) is not invited to the wedding.

A tabloid magazine, Spy headed by Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell) wants to infiltrate the wedding to get the scoop on the nuptials when Tracy refuses access to the event. He wants to have his reporter, Macaulay Connor (Jimmy Stewart) and his photographer girlfriend, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) to be a part of the wedding party. How would they do it, you may ask? They enlist the help of former Spy employee and Tracy’s ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) to pretend that they are friends of Tracy’s younger brother, Julius.

The trio have their plan of action. Macaulay and Liz are looking around the rooms to find any dirt as Dexter schmoozes with his former in-laws. When Tracy sees Dexter, the tension between them is palpable. She wants him out of her house and out of the wedding. She knows that the people pretending to be friends of her brother are working for Dexter. The family pretends to be an eccentric family when the real scoop of the story unfolds with Tracy, George, Macaulay and Dexter.

The movie is a pleasant romp. A comedy of errors, but there were very few genuine laughs in the movie for me. The acting was a little hammy for me.

There were some moments of heart between Stewart and Hepburn. I’m gonna go on a feminist rant here, but I hate it when a strong woman that doesn’t want to get married would settle with an asshole that treated them like shit. their only motivation is not to end up alone. This was the same problem that I had with His Girl Friday, also starring Cary Grant– I will get to him in a moment. A guy could be a complete bastard to the get the girl and she falls for it. It pisses me off. I know that these movies were before the sexual revelation, but come on. It makes me question the intelligence of these women in the end.

I have a major issue with Cary Grant. I have seen couple of his movies that I have notice that he shows no range. He is delivering lines that would cut through Hepburn’s character, but feels like he is saying the lines. He reminds me of Bill Paxton in his delivery. He has this stoic look on his face. It bothers the hell out of me.

Judgment: A nice fluffy movie with not that much substance.

Rating: 6.5/10

Chinatown (1974)

Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse.

– JJ Gittes

Roman Polanki’s Chinatown is currently #68 Film of All-Time on IMDb. It is one of the those films that everyone in the entire world has seen except for yours truly. It was nominated for eleven Oscars and only won for Original Screenplay. I knew very little about the movie when I started watching it. I don’t know if it was a good thing or bad that I went in blind, because I felt little cheated with the movie.

A cocky private detective, JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) looks into the lives of unfaithful spouses when the wife (Diane Ladd) of the Chief Engineer of the LA Water Company, Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling) wants to hire him to see if her husband is cheating on her.

Gittes takes the case and follows Mulwray throughout his day which included a city council meeting to approve a proposed dam  to help with the drought the city is currently in. Following Mulwray, Gittes sees a man going to different waterways to see if he makes the right direction opposing the measure.

Gittes is about the give up on the case when one of his associates, Duffy (Bruce Glover) tells him that Mulwray is in Echo Park with a young blonde, Katherine (Brenda Palmer). News of the affair is front page news across the city. The trouble is the real Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) comes to Gittes office to serve him papers.

Gittes believes that he was setup to expose Mulwray indiscretion to make him look like a fool. Mulrray suddenly disappeared and winds washed up in a riverbed. While looking over the body in the morgue, Gittes picks up a pattern of high-powered people at the water company are being drowned. He wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery before he could be the next victim.

If I knew that this movie was be about water conservation, I would have laughed in your face. That is the mystery. who would kill the chief engineer of a water company. I thought that I was going to hate this movie, but there was something with chemistry between Nicholson and Dunaway that made hold on.

Judgment: I thought the mystery itself was ridiculous and too much soap opera plots for me. 

Rating: 7/10

The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man is one the those classic movies that is on people’s top ten lists. This movie comes in as the #65 Film of All-Time on IMDb.  I wanted to see this movie, because it was taunted as one of the greatest mysteries ever. The movie won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was well deserved. I cannot get the feeling that I was disappointed with this movie.

The setting takes place in post war Vienna where the city is divided into four sections; French, British, Russian and American. An American comes into the city, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) with the promise of a writing job from his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). It turns out that Harry recently died from a car accident and he was being buried the day that he arrives.

Major Calloway (Trevor Howard) questions Martins about his relationship with the departed Lime. He clues him in over a couple of drinks that Lime was being investigated for racketeering. He allegedly dabbled in selling black market penicillin to hospitals and having the recipients of the medicine die as a result.

Martins hears that Lime was killed in an accident. An acquaintance of Lime’s, Crabbin (Wilfrid Hyde-White) tells a completely different story that what has been told. He said that Lime was murdered instead. Martins’ Porter (Paul Hörbiger) said that Lime was alive when three men carried his body away from the scene. It was Dr. Winkel (Erich Pronto) and a Romanian, Popescu (Siegfried Breuer) with a mysterious third man.

Martins meets up with the girl that he saw at the funeral, Lime’s main squeeze, Anna Schmidt (Alida Valli). She is an actress with a play in a local theater. During their time together, Anna warns Martins not to get in too deep with the investigation that he wants to launch into the mysterious circumstances of his friend’s death. He feels that the investigators are not handling the case the way that they should.

Major Calloway and Sargent Paine (Bernard Lee) are thinking that Anna may have something to do with Harry’s death. When one of the people who Martins talked to ends up dead, he becomes public enemy number one.

I heard a couple of a things about the movies. I guess I might have misinterpreted them. The movie started out like a comedy of errors with Holly Martins being a sloppy drunk mess, then it’s supposed to be intriguing with the swirling mystery. I was a bit bored with the movie. I was thinking, “Okay. When is the part that something is supposed to blow me away?” And then it came with Orson Welles as Lime. He was very charismatic as the arrogant bastard of the story. He saved the movie for me.

Judgment: The mystery thriller was bogged down with too much for my taste.

Rating: 6.5/10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Can you hear me? I don’t want this any more! I want to call it off!

– Joel

Everybody had been talking about how great the #61 Film of All-Time on IMDb, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is. I have only seen bits and pieces of the movie through the years of its release back in 2004. My greatest fear was that the movie was not gonna live up to the hype. The movie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and it should have won a couple of more. I wish I could own this movie and watch it repeatedly.

A social awkward man, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is reeling over the break up with his tangerine-tinted girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). When he is venting his frustration over Clementine seemingly ignoring him to Rob and Carrie (David Cross, Jane Adams) when Rob hands Joel a card from a company called Lacuna. The card says that Clementine has had a procedure to erase Joel from her mind.

Joel is heartbroken and intrigued to see what this procedure is all about. He finds the office of Lacuna where Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wikinson) is performing the procedure of the heartbroken patients. He wants to have the procedure done as a way of getting back at Clementine for being so heartless to erase him from her mind.

The process of mind erasure is to gather all the items that remind you of the person that you are trying to have wiped from your memory so it could build a road map to which sections of the brain to target the memories. Mierzwiak’s associates from the clinic, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Partrick (Elijah Wood) arrive at Joel’s apartment while he sleeps to begin the erasure process.

As the erasure happens, Joel is fine having the end of their relationship cleaned off. When the erasure starts going into the happiest moments of their relationship, Joel want to be able to keep the memories, because she still holds a torch for Clementine. He tries to find clever ways to hide the good Clementine inside the inner workings of his brain.

This movie is visceral and devastating to watch. Everyone knows the feeling of heartbreak and wish that there was a procedure to help erasure the bad memories out. Those bad memories are a life lessons to find out what you don’t want in the next relationship so you won’t repeat the same dating pattern. Those bad times shape you into who you are as a person and what you can give to a relationship.

People call this one of the greatest love stories of all-time. I wouldn’t go that far, but identity to the plight these characters are in. My life was on-screen. The movie was off-kilter, surreal and mind fuck. This is Charlie Kaufman we are talking about. This is his M.O.

There is one thing about this movie that I didn’t get or maybe I am reading too much into it. What happened with the relationship with Patrick? If you know what I mean, then you’ll understand. Was that a dropped plot line?

Judgment: This is a raw, beautiful, self-destructive story about love.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Graduate (1967)

Mrs. Robinson, if you don’t mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.

– Benjamin Braddock

I always wanted to see the #161 Movie of All-Time on IMDb, The Graduate for a long time now. I have never had the chance until now. It is one of those movies that everyone have already seen many times or at least known some of the famous lines from it. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards and it only won for Nichols as Best Director. Strange.

Based on the novel by Charles Webb, the movie tells the story of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) who has come back to the west coast after graduating from college. Mr. and Mrs. Braddock (William Daniels and Elizabeth Wilson) throw him a welcome home party of the home. Ben is uncomfortable having all the attention on him. He isolates himself in his room.

The wife of his dad’s business partner, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) bursts into his room thinking that it was the bathroom. Instead, she asks Ben to drive her home, because her husband (Murray Hamilton) took the car out. After Ben drops her off, she invites him in for a drink and proceeds to slowly seduce him.

Mr. Robinson comes back home to find them acting like nothing happened. Mr. Robinson senses Ben’s uneasiness and decides to give him advice about sowing his wild oats. He doesn’t know that his wife has offered herself to Benjamin any time he wants for a quick romp.

After Ben turns 21, he decides to proceed with the affair at a local hotel where he decides to reserve the room under the name, Mr. Gladstone. Their affair continues but it seems that Ben wants more than a physical relationship, but Mrs. Robinson doesn’t want to chit-chat.

Things becomes complicated when the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross) comes to town and Ben’s parents are forcing him to go on a date with her.

I can see why Nichols won the Oscar for Best Director. The way that the movie is shot is a sight to behold. You have the camera placed in the closet, a camera rolling into darkness, people facing away from the camera delivering their dialogue. I really enjoyed the relationship with Ben and Mrs. Robinson. It’s not tawdry as I thought. It was realistic. Anne Bancroft was luminous on screen. I love the lilt in her voice.

There some things I didn’t enjoy about this movie. I was not thrilled about the relationship between Ben and Elaine. It didn’t seem organic to me. Ben also becomes stalkerish near the end that really disturbed me.

Judgment: A story about an affair that is not dated.

Rating: 8/10

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

I have always wanted to see #31 Movie of All Time on IMDb, Sunset Blvd. The dialogue from the movie has been in the American lexicon ever since it premiered in 1950. It is the seminal movie that every gay man should see before they die. It has Gloria Swanson and fabulous Edith Head costumes. The movie won three Oscars including Best Original Screenplay. What more could you ever want? Apparently, this gay man needed a lot more from this movie.

 A screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is in dire straits when he cannot afford the lifestyle that he is accustomed to. He is three months behind in his rent and the repo men are knocking on his door to take his car away. desperate to find a way out of his situation, Joe goes to Paramount Studios to talk to Sheldrake (Fred Clark) about an idea that he wants greenlit.

A plucky upstart reader, Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) takes that his idea “Bases Loaded” is not good. They want to change the idea to make it unique. Joe is in need of a job when he is dropped by his agent.

Driving down the boulevard in his car, Joe notices the repo men in the intersection. They give chase. During the pursuit, Joe blows out one of his back tires and he has to pull off the road. He finds the driveway to a delapdated mansion belonging to a has-been silent film star named Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). When Joe is ushered in by her butler, Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), Norma thought that he was a funeral director to help her bury a pet chimp.

The eccentric Norma Desmond intrigues Joe. During their conversation, she catches wind that he is a screenwriter. She wants to hire him to transform her magnum opus into a screenplay. This is the opportunity that Joe needs to get away from his financial problems and possibly have a way to get back on his feet. He takes the job, but he realizes that Ms. Desmond is craving a lot more than limelight.

 I was fully expecting to love this movie from beginning to end, but I might have had high expectations for it. There is something about the movie that is uncomfortable to watch. It might be because it paints the dark side of Hollywood, the price of fame and any means to get it back. The obsession, the affluence, the sheer loneliness of being famous. Parts of movie had me bored out of my mind.

Looking at the extras on the DVD made me appreciate the film more when I got finished looking at the last frame. Gloria Swanson mirrored her life with the over-the-top, theatrical Norma Desmond. She was a forgotten silent film star that got her chance again. William Holden’s fame was all but extinguished when he was cast. He was washed up at that point. His last big hit was Golden Boy over a decade earlier. Erich von Stroheim directed Gloria is the maligned movie, Queen Kelly that ruined both of their careers. It was fascinating to watch art imitating life.

Judgment: Who knew that a movie about obsession, madness and fame would bore you.

Rating: 6.5/10

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