Category Archives: Best Picture

Annie Hall (1977)

Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.

— Alvy Singer

I was psyched Woody Allen’s movie, Annie Hall was coming IFC that I set a reminder to watch it. Being familiar with Allen’s movies, I would have expected some random dialogue and meandering situations. That’s correct for the most part, but this film is so much more. This #132 Movie of All-Time on IMDb was nominated for five Oscars and it won four including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay.

This movie is about a pessimistic comic, Alvy Singer (Allen) recounting the relationship he had between himself and an aspiring singer, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). Alvy’s problem is that his paranoid man that has delusions of grandeur. He treats the people around him like shit, because he is the only sane person, even though he has been seeing an analyst for most of his life.

Alvy and Annie meet when Alvy’s actor friend from Hollywood, Rob (Tony Roberts) introduces them during a spirited match of tennis. They bond over their eccentricities, the mundane of life and seeing analysts.

Whenever there is a conflict with Annie or their families, Alvy turns to the camera to offer his commentary about the situations. He deconstructs every flaw about a person and blows it out of proposition.

As they go deeper into their relationship, Annie feels that Alvy tries to mold her into something that she is not like forcing adult education courses upon her, taking her to an obscure foreign language movie or the condescending tone in his voice whenever they are waxing philosophic.

The relationship starts to wane that they are not having sex. They are going into a funk and they have to decide if they should stay together or break apart.

This movie was charming from start to finish. I love it when Alvy and Annie were having drinks on the roof of her building. They pontificate about some random topic and a bunch of subtitles pop showing the audience what they are really thinking. It reminded me of a particular scene in (500) Days of Summer.

The only flaw about the movie was the sequences in Los Angeles. It rang false to me. It was like a stereotypical take on Los Angeles that you have seen repeatedly. The hippies eating alfalfa spouts and drinking wheat grass or whatever.

Judgment: This is a great ode to relationships.

Rating: ****1/2

1001 Movie Club Catch Up: The Apartment (1960)

Stephen Jay Schneider chose this movie as one of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” He compiled a massive list from the classic to the obscure for his anthology. The most worthy movies are chosen to be on this list. Every year, there is a revision to include the most essential movies to be on the minds of film buffs everywhere.

When Billy Wilder was spotlighted in a recent LAMB in the Director’s Chair, I didn’t even bother to visit more of his back catalog. Shame on me for not fulfilling my film snob credentials. It should have been suspended. Thanks to 1001 Movie Club, I would have never got the chance to see the #99 Movie of All-Time on IMDb, The Apartment or get the movie in past the post date.

Jack Lemmon plays an insurance agent, C.C. Baxter at Consolidate Life New York who on the outside seems like an overly ambitious worker bee that wants to move up with the company. Some of that is true. In actually, he is working the extra hours so the top officials of the company could have a safe place to carry on their affairs before eight o’clock. They compensate C.C. whatever they do in his apartment in exchange to getting a leg up on the corporate ladder.

The neighbors are growing more suspicious about the numerous activities that are happening at C.C.’s apartment every day, especially Mr. and Mrs. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen, Naomi Stevens). They think that he is living the high life with the drunken sex marathons, but he is just the schlubby guy left out in the cold. His bosses’ late night escapades are affecting his work.

When one of his bosses unexpectedly needs his apartment, he forced out in the cold, rainy night. He develops a cold with put his little side job into turmoil when he has to reschedule other encounters so he could recover.

Every day, C.C. passes by a bubbly elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), but he notices her when he is sent to personnel department to let him know if he is being promoted or fired. Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), the head of personnel hears word that C.C. rented out his apartment to top officials at he wants in on the action. In exchange, he gives C.C. to tickets to a Broadway show. He want to ask out Miss Kubelik, but she is spoken by someone C.C. knows.

I thought that this movie would be a straight romantic comedy, but the action takes a dangerous curve to places I never thought it could possibly go. Shirley MacLaine owns this movie. She was given a wide range of emotions from being bubbly and feisty to being morose and heartbroken. Wonderful. There were some people that annoyed with some of the women with their helium-induced voices like Sylvia (Joan Shawlee) or Mrs. MacDougall (Hope Holiday). It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

This movie must have been very controversial at the time of its release. Before the sexual revolution later on that decade, I’m sure that this movie would have raised a few eyebrows. The struggle between male dominance and female empowerment, sexual dynamics, taboo topics that were rarely discussed much less shown.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movie Club Approved

Judgment: This is a testament of how a romantic drama should be handled.

Rating: ****1/2

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all. No… not the artful postures of love, not playful and poetical games of love for the amusement of an evening, but love that… over-throws life. Unbiddable, ungovernable – like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love – like there has never been in a play.

— Viola de Lesseps

During my senior year, my high school put on a disastrous modernized retelling on Romeo and Juliet. Around the same time, Shakespeare in Love just opened in theaters and it was an assignment to watch the movie for some extra credit. At first, I didn’t know that it was supposed to be a comedy. That aspect of the film went completely over my head. When I owned the movie on video, I paid attention to the comedy and I loved it. I still do.

This movie fictionally retells the life of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) when he was exiled from his former life circa 1593. Times in his new home, London, are not faring so well. The plague rages across the land. Any public forums are closed including the theaters, which is not good for writers like Will or actors or the theater owners like Mr. Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush).

Henslowe owes a lot of money to Mr. Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson), who is like an investor for new plays in England. Will has to take small acting jobs when he can and other professional actors have to travel to other lands to perform.

Henslowe wants Will to write a new play that could be successful to pay off his debts. There is a problem. Will has no inspirations, no muse to let the words flow. He thought he had a muse with a loose woman, Rosaline (Sandra Reinton), but not.

With the advice of the country’s number playwright at time, Christopher Marlowe (Rupert Everett) plants the idea of Romeo and Juliet to Will. Henslowe has auditions for the men who will plays all the parts. At the time, women were not allowed by law to be on the stage.

One privileged woman, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) dreamed about being an actor. She is helped by her nurse (Imelda Staunton) to masquerade as a man, Thomas Kent, to audition to be in William Shakespeare’s new play. Will is taken by Thomas Kent that he wants him as his Romeo.

Their love blossoms at a chance encounter at a party at the de Lessep’s, but there is a wrench in the plan with Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) attends to make Viola his bride and bring her to the New World. Having only two weeks together, Viola and William begin a forbidden love affair that mirror the greatest love story ever told.

This is a love letter to the works of Shakespeare. I thought that it was ironic that at the time Marlowe was a bigger “celebrity” that he was. Shakespeare’s works are still revived today, but Marlowe is almost lost in time. The intertwining of our modern day catch phrase and the Elizabethan language is more hilarious every time I see it.

This movie was controversial when it won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Should it have won? In some ways, yes. The problem with Ryan is that there are too many endings. Spielberg tacked on a happy ending that doesn’t need to be there. To me, Shakespeare in Love was more heart wrenching and sweeping that Ryan. That’s just my opinion.

Judgment: Revisit this movie if you haven’t seen this movie since it won the Oscar.

Rating: ****1/2

Unforgiven (1992)

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I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed everything that walks or crawls at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you done to Ned.

— William Munny

I can cross Unforgiven from my list of great movies that I have never seen. Touted as Clint Eastwood’s final western the movie went on to win a four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman. As many of you know that I am not a big fan of westerns, but this one is different. The #110 movie of All Time on IMDb, this movie transcends the traditional template of a western.

The crux of the movie is about a dispute in Wyoming between a cowboy Quick Mike (David Mucci) cutting the face of a prostitute, Delilah (Anna Levine) who questioned the size of his manhood when they were trying to have sex. His partner Davey Bunting (Rob Campbell) comes into the room and takes part in the brutal slashing.

Little Bill (Gene Hackman), the sheriff of Big Whiskey wants to give the boys a couple of lashings with a whip, but the girls wanted them to receive a worse punishment. Little Bill lets the boys go by just taking half of their horses as their punishment.

Seeking justice, the lead madame, Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher) and the rest of the girls gather all of their money together– a thousand dollars– as reward for any gunslinger that would gun down.

The news travel throughout the land when The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) seeks out retired gunslinger from Kansas, William Munny (Eastwood) to join him in killing the cowboys. He changed his ways from the drink, the cussing and the killing. He hasn’t picked up a gun in over a decade and doesn’t know if he could get back in the saddle.

Eventually, William takes him up on his offer. Along the way, William recruits his friend and another former gunslinger, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). Going on the way to Big Whiskey, the trio realizes some truths about themselves.

Meanwhile in Big Whiskey, a known marksman, English Bob (Richard Harris), known for killing Chinamen moseys onto the town with his biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek). He is met with some resistance by Little Bill and the lawmen.

There is an ordinance says that all outlaws must surrender their weapons. Little Bill doesn’t want to be cut down by an assassin’s bullet in his town. He becomes more paranoid that another marksman is going to turn his town into a shooting gallery.

This quiet film might not sit well with rough and tough, shoot ‘em up kind of viewer. I thought this was subdued brilliance. The shadows filled the scenes in dark bars or dimly lit rooms like a film noir. You get the sense of authenticity when see this film.

The themes of regret and redemption interwoven throughout the movie with William going back to life of being a criminal after her has made a promise to his dead wife or the way that The Schofield Kid reacted towards the end of the movie about killing a man.

Judgment: A fascinating portrait of gunslingers way past their prime in the Old West.

Rating: *****

The Hurt Locker (2009)

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You’ll know when you’re in it.

Currently out of town for the moment, there was a chance to see a special advance screening of Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, The Hurt Locker. Not being familiar with her filmography, this was a solid character piece about broken soldiers trying to survive in war torn Iraq.

This is not just another anti-Iraqi war propaganda movie. This is a movie about Bravo company, a crew dealing the de-arment of roadside bombs.

When the movie starts, Bravo company deals with the loss of their leader, Sgt. Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce) from one of the roadside bombs. A hard-headed maverick, Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) joins Bravo company at the tail end of their year long tour.

He immediately butt heads with Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie). William doesn’t follow protocol and does things his way, not the Army Way.

This film follows the lives of William, JT and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) as they try to survive active combat.

The filmmaking was superb. Even though this film was shot in the desert, it was very alive, not monochromatic.

Judgment: Go see this film when it opens later this month and wider in July.

Rating: ****1/2

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

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Frankly, you’re beginning to smell and for a stud in New York, that’s a handicap.

— Ratso Rizzo

Returning back to the running theme of this month, Midnight Cowboy was nominated for seven Oscars. It won for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie was good, but seemed hallow.

Joe Buck, an amateur hustler from Texas travels to New York City with his trusty radio in his hand. He struggles to find any means of income in the city.

He meets a handicapped con man, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) who dupes him out of the last remaining Joe has.

When Joe is locked out of his apartment, he has nowhere to go, but he reluctantly befriends Ratso.

The movie was enjoyable, but some things didn’t gel. What was up with the flashbacks to Joe’s life in Texas? Ratso’s dream sequence? Was it necessary?

Judgment: An enjoyable movie that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Rating: ****

Casablanca (1942)

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Here’s looking at you, kid.

— Rick

Coming in at #11 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB. Nominated for seven Oscars, winning three; including Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Curtiz and Best Screenplay.

Casablanca is considered one of the greatest cinematic romances of all time. Highly doubt that. Not to say that it was a terrible movie. Far from that, but it wasn’t perfect.

Set in the middle of WWII in unoccupied Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is an former freedom fighter who has a famous club where all the refugees come to get away from the Nazis. His trusty pianist pal, Sam (Dooley Wilson) entertains the crowd with his songs.

One night, he receives two transit papers that were stolen from an SS officer from Ugarte (Peter Lorre). He hides them as SS officer, Major Strausser (Conrad Veidt) arrives in town to investigate where the papers are with the help of morally ambiguous Captain Renault (Claude Rains).

That very night, Rick’s former love, Isla (Ingrid Bergman) is with her companion, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). Both are active freedom fighters that are looking for a way to get out of Casablanca to escape to America.

Problems with the movie. The “romance” between Rick and Isla was not fully explored. There was no connection between them. It felt forced. Two beautiful people got together. No explanation. This movie should have been longer. Allowing the relationship to develop between the lovers.

Negatives aside, Ingrid was lit beautifully. Loved it. Interesting angles with the camera. Light and shadow worked perfectly.

Judgment: Gorgeous visuals, but the story could leave you high and dry.

Rating: ***1/2

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

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“Anybody can lose one fight, anybody can lose once, you’ll come back from this you’ll be champion of the world.”

— Scrap

It has been five years since I saw Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby in theater when it was on the shortlist to clench the Oscar for Best Picture. I thought that I might see this movie again to see if I had the same reaction I did then.

The movie won four including, Best Picture, Best Director: Clint Eastwood, Best Actress: Hilary Swank and Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman. It currently #144 of all time on IMDB. This was my top favorite film of 2004.

The movie deals with an aging trainer/manager, Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) that loses his best male boxer, Big Willie (Mike Coulter) to a rival manager, Mickey Mack (Bruce MacVittie) in order for his to get a title shot.

Dunn runs the gym with a retired half-blind fighter, Scrap (Morgan Freeman). They deal with crazy characters like the scrawny featherweight, Danger (Jay Baruchel) who wants to be beat a welterweight champion of the world that retired years before. Also, there is Shawrelle (Anthony Mackie), a cocky boxer that could knock you out with a left hook, but he is unfocused.

An amateur boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) wants to be trained by Frankie, but he doesn’t train girls. She works as waitress and she is almost penniless. She struggles to support herself and her family.

After Dunn’s repeated attempts to drive her away, her stubbornness and tenacity breaks Frankie down until he takes her on.

As she begins to gain experience, she becomes overly-confident with fame and fortune that unexpected incident happens that changes her life forever.

I still have to same feelings as I did five years ago. I still think that Maggie was get to cocky for me to root for her. The characters in this movie had too much pride with a particular thing and they have to be brought down a peg.

As in any Eastwood film, Catholicism is front and center in story. Dunn tries to reconnect with her estranged daughter, Katie, who we never get to see. He goes to mass everyday to harass Father Horvak (Brían F. O’Byrne) to atone for a sin that the audience doesn’t know about.

Judgment: If you haven’t seen this movie in a long time, I would suggest revisiting it.

Rating: ****1/2

The Departed (2006)

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When I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what I’m saying is this. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

— Frank Costello

The winner of Best Pictures in 2006, The Departed won four Oscars including, Best Director for Martin Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. It currently at the time of this posting #52 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB.

I have not watched this movie in its entirety before last night. I tried to watch it one time a couple of months ago when it was on the cable. I was so annoyed by the overwhelming Bostonian accents that I shut it off. I don’t know why, but I have a hang up with the Bostonian accent. It bugs the hell out of me.

This movie was the American remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs that I haven’t seen yet.

The plot revolves around two cadets, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Costingan is recruited to go undercover by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) to help take down crime boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

Sullivan is secretly working for Costello who help raise him from when he was a little boy.

As the two men go deeper with “Who is the rat?” and “Who is the mole?”, revelations come out that lead to tragic consequences.

I have seen some of Martin Scorsese’s movies. I don’t think that this movie is his finest work. I have some issues with Jack Nicholson’s laughable characterization, the quick cuts, the convenient plot twists that I saw from mile away, the last shot of the film and numerous others.

I was bored during the first hour of this 2 1/2 hour opus. A whole bunch of talking that needed to trimmed are jettisoned all together. When the plot twist that happens at the hour mark, then I was invested in the film. It was uneven to me.

Judgment: If you want to see smart characters, a head shot extravaganza and Jack Nicholson’s hilarious performance, I would suggest this film.

Rating: ****

All About Eve (1950)

Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!
— Margo Channing

Last night, I saw the number 75 of the top 250 IMDB films of all time, All About Eve. I heard Michael Vox from Cinebanter discussing this movie in his last five. He expressed his disappointment that the movie is too dated. I didn’t feel that way when I saw it. I enjoyed it.

This movie was nominated for fourteen Oscars back in 1950. That was a huge achievement until Titanic tied it in 1997.

The movie is about the rise of a young vindictive ingenue, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) that tries to usurp the theater career of Margo Channing (Bette Davis).

It begins at an award ceremony with a humorous voice over from Addington DeWitt (George Sanders), the conniving theater critic. He is sitting in the table with Margo, her best friend, Karen Richards (Celeste Holm), Karen’s playwright husband, Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe) and producer Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff).

The action flashes back to a plain jane Eve being an assistant to theater diva Margo. Everybody around Margo thinks that Eve has ulterior motives, Addington and also the maid, Birdie (Thelma Ritter).

All of the main cast were nominated for Oscars; Bette, Anne, Celeste, Thelma Ritter, and George Sanders, who won.

Lastly, Marilyn Monroe appears in a small part as Miss Casswell, a naive young actress that was the date of Addington.

I don’t think that the movie is dated. The way that people’s acting careers are a polar opposite today with screen actors going to the stage to get some theater cred. I took this movie for what it is, a taut “how-catch-her” with witty dialogue and moments of cold shoulders and relative catty-ness.

My judgment: If you want to see a solid film about how actors were behaving in the late forties, seek out this movie.

My rating: *****

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