Archive Page 2

31
Aug
09

#88: Easy Rider, #38: Double Indemnity, & #53: Amadeus

I sat here looking at the blinking cursor for hours on end, typing and deleting the summation of my feelings and experiences in the week since my last post.  Frustrated and fed up with these attempts, here’s the abridged version:

I’m getting really tired of looking for employment, not having a job and living with my parents.

My girlfriend is getting really tired of me looking for employment, not having a job and living with my parents.

The Beatles: Rock Band is going to kick ass.

Oh.  I have a job interview.

And I watched some movies.  And here they are.

EasyRiderMaybe it’s because I enjoy all things psychedelic, but Easy Rider (#88) always serves as a good trip.  Wyatt and Billy (played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper respectively) travel via motorcycle to creepy hippie communes, small towns, and whore houses in 1960’s Americana.  I learned some valuable lessons from this film.  Chief among those: tripping acid in a graveyard with Tony Basil (Yes.  The woman behind, “Oh Mickey you’re so fine”) never turns out good.  Oh and also, if you were a male with long hair  in the ’60’s, you were likely met with heckles and gunfire.

brett headbrett headbrett headbrett head4 out of 5 Brett Heads

Double_indemnityIf Easy Rider is ultimate film of the counterculture movement, Double Indemnity (#38) serves as the film noir cornerstone.  Insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) teams up with bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) to knock off her husband in a good ol’ fashioned case of insurance fraud.  The crime duo’s steamy romance cools down when Neff’s boss suspects something fishy going on.  The only thing I found fishy: Neff’s insistence on ending every one of his sentences with the word “baby.”

brett headbrett headbrett head3 out of 5 Brett Heads

AmadeusmovGoing from classical uses of voice over to classical uses of…classical music, Amadeus (#53) was next on my list.  F. Murray Abraham plays the part of Antonio Salleri, an accomplished composer bent on outdoing his creative archrival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Told from Salleri’s point of view, one can’t help but compare Mozart to “that guy at work with the annoying laugh and no self awareness.”  Yes, the film features beautiful music, sets, and some great performances, but Amadeus doesn’t rock me enough to feel like it merits a place in the top 100.

brett headbrett head2 out of 5 Brett Heads

Advertisements
21
Aug
09

#99: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Question: What is Katharine Hepburn so scared of in this picture?

GWC_Hep Face

If you said a grizzly bear just walked into her living room, sadly, you are incorrect.  Yes, in the abundantly racist world of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (#99 on the list), an educated black man showing up at your doorstep is more shocking than if it were a wild animal in your house.  The film is far from racist, but features a lot of racism.

The start of the movie plays out like an uncomfortable, prejudicial farce.  Returning home from her recent vacation, 23 year old, Caucasian, trust fund bimbo Joey Drayton (Katharine Houghton) brings home her newly appointed African American fiancé to meet the folks.  Dr. John Wade Prentice (played by the stellar Sidney Portier), has accomplished much in the medical field.  You’d think the consent of Joey’s parents for the marriage would be almost immediate with this bit of information.

MPW-10743Once again, you’re incorrect.  Upon first meeting, Joey’s mother Christina (played by Katharine Hepburn) doesn’t know if she should shake Dr. Prentice’s hand or play dead to avoid being eaten.  Joey’s father Matt (Spencer Tracy) isn’t too happy about this impromptu interracial engagement either.  In fact, everyone in the Drayton’s circle has something to say about it.  Joey exists as the one character who tries to act like there’s nothing wrong.  This gives her character somewhat of an inherent annoying quality.

What works for the film is the placement of the story’s pieces.  Layers and layers are added to the plot as we learn about the predicament facing the characters.  Dr. Prentice tells Matt in private that he will not marry Joey unless her father gives permission.  Add in some crucial story threads, a ticking clock, along with a dollop of social commentary, and you’ve got one hell of a film.

Okay, yes, the movie is a bit cheesy and long winded at times.  But it’s not just about the intolerance of interracial relationships.  In it’s purest form, the film is a love story.  And not really in that Hugh Grant, fairy tale, vomit inducing love story kind of way.  It’s about love conquering all, despite differences in one’s background and all that touchy feely crap.

The message that exists under the surface is the question “How much say do parents really have in a child’s decisions as an adult?”  Dr. Prentice’s definitive monologue of independence to his father says it all.

And Lord knows I could stand to take a page out of his book.  But for now, I think I’ll continue doing menial chores in exchange for shelter at my parents’ house.  Let’s see how long I can hold out.

brett headbrett headbrett headbrett head4 out of 5 Brett Heads

19
Aug
09

#27: Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie_and_Clyde.JPGMoving up on the list, I decided to tackle #27: Bonnie and Clyde.  Though Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty make their mark as the bank robbing duo, this film’s not really anything special (definitely undeserving of its high placement on the list).  Borrowing elements from more “artsy” cinema, Bonnie and Clyde prides itself on being a sexy, comedic, social commentary riddled crime story.  But at the end of the day, the film is just plain unfocused.  Was the story about the pair’s wave of debauchery during the depression or really about Clyde going through the psychological frustration of living with erectile dysfunction?  I sure couldn’t tell you.

I do know that my job search and movie list took a short hiatus as a result of a welcomed visit from the Bonnie to my Clyde (why my girlfriend of course).  We watched the movie together and ate the remaining pieces of our apple cake, leftover from our sweet tooth excursion the night before.  But she grew bored, more interested in her coloring book than the film (mind you we are dealing with a 20 year old woman here).

Just for fun, we marked off the 100 movies we’d previously watched.  Amanda racked up a whopping 12.  As for me, I was surprised to find I’d already seen 46 films on the list (prior to starting the countdown).  Mind you I still plan on reviewing all 100.  But the AFI challenge might prove to be more of a marathon than I thought.  The two of us clicked through the films available on Netflix Instant Watch, finding that 3 of them (Birth of a Nation, Giant, and Ben-Hur) clock in at over 3 hours.  Yikes.

But away from the sprawling Hollywood epics and the myriad distractions of job hunting, we enjoyed a carefree day dedicated to entertaining our inner children (friend and fellow “big boy job” hunter, Kyle, joined us).  Armed with a cooler of Lunchables and healthy snacks, our little motley crew traveled to Deanna Rose Farmstead in Overland Park, KS.  Goats, chickens, pigs, bison, prairie dogs, peacocks, sheep, and horses (just to name a few) were all there to greet us.  At the end of the day, my little jobless soul had been appeased by the day’s activities.

But alas, I had to drive Amanda to Harrisonville the next morning for her ride back to Springfield.  The two days she spent in KC left me with a feeling of purpose.  But as I watched her drive away, my duties and responsibilities came back into view, realizing, “Oh I still have to do that job thing.”

And “that job thing” didn’t really spark that day.  Nor did anything else.  I got more enjoyment out of watching the menagerie of animals parading across the deck than mindlessly jumping through the same hoops.  Later it started raining, which always messes with my system.  Much like a dog.

A couple setbacks didn’t really help in supplying a roaring fire of productivity.  Automated e-mails informed me that I was “not a match” for two positions I applied for and I received an auto reply message from one of my active contacts, letting me know that he would be out of the office until Monday.  What does this week hold?  Who knows?   With my luck, maybe robbing banks is a better option.

brett headbrett head2 out of 5 Brett Heads

16
Aug
09

Inglorious Itinerants

itinerant-noun: a person who alternates between working and wandering.

My grandpa called me this while on the phone with him.  I had to look up the word, but assumed it was some kind of “old-timey” put down.  Another example: my mother called me Jimmy Neutron.  Not because of my amazing intellect, but rather my new hair cut.  Not exactly related to my job status, but still stung a bit.

Actually, I don’t take offense to any of the names at all.  My grandpa’s pretty much dead on with his label.  Working as a custodian (NOT JANITOR!) for the school district followed by my joblessness (a word I can’t believe spell check didn’t spit back at me) means I’m a true itinerant.

Now here comes the part where I tell you about all the new things I’ve learned in this short period of my new job search and movie watching goal.

1. Watching 100 movies is hard. It may not seem like much, but when you look over a list of 100 films, the task seems daunting.  If I want to finish this list in a year, I’ll have to watch at least 1 movie every 3-4 days.  Yikes.

2. Finding a job is hard. I got this little uplifting message from a contact of mine: “It is a tough time in any industry to look for work.”  Wow.  So no matter what career path I pursue, my chances of finding work are as slim to none.  That’s reassuring.

3. “Job Search” is not always a valid excuse. My girlfriend brought this my attention, and boy was she right.  I seem to use my unemployed status as an excuse to blow off others at times (The phrase “You don’t understand, I DON’T HAVE A JOB” doesn’t cut it).  Making time for others (girlfriend, friends, family) and working with others’ schedules is something I can improve on.

4. All work and no play makes Brett a grouchy boy. Interspersing work time with playtime makes the process a little easier to swallow.  Resume and e-mail writing burns me out.  Rock Band and reading (not at the same time of course) serve as motivating rewards.  Not every minute of every day needs to be productive.

More movie reviews to follow and hopefully some good news on the job front too.

14
Aug
09

#100: Yankee Doodle Dandy

What better place to start on my film journey than with the worst of the best: Yankee Doodle Dandy at #100.

Yankee_Doodle_Dandy_posterJust hearing the name, I assumed this film was some kind of epic, feel good Revolutionary War story.  Turns out I was wrong.  Unbeknownst to me, Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of those mega classic cornerstones of American cinema.  Apparently the film was too mainstream for my artsy, state university in southern Missouri.

Yankee Doodle Dandy showcases the life and times of George M. Cohan, an Irish-American Broadway playwright and actor (or so Wikipedia says).  Played by James Cagney, Cohan scores Broadway hit after hit with his rousing flag waving musicals.  We’re talking productions dripping with so much patriotism, Glen Beck would be bawling in the aisle.

Cohan is summoned by President FDR to appear at the White House over “urgent matters” (Cohan is freaked at this point).  During his meeting in the Oval Office, George feels comfortable blabbing his entire life story.  But the patient FDR (played by George Steinbrenner from Seinfeld) listens attentively as we enter a plot device/flashback.

FDR as Steinbrenner

FDR as Steinbrenner

Let me paint a picture of my movie watching vicinity at this point.  Upon finding out the film I was watching, my mom shrieked with excitement, shoved me off the couch and watched the entire movie with me.  My dad followed suit (though he eventually fell asleep facedown on the floor after an hour).  So we had a “gay old” family movie night against my will.  We even popped popcorn!

Not exactly what I had in mind for a relaxing evening.  After trying hard to conjure up a productive day, I looked forward to putting my feet up and watching this movie…ALONE.  The morning started off rotten when I found out that one of my professors passed away the previous day.  Though I only had two classes with him in college, his passing definitely shook me up.  Finding all my school e-mails completely gone and tweaking my resume for the billionth time didn’t help either.  It left me with what those in the psychological community call an “ooky feeling.”

But I was enjoying the movie, despite an uneventful day.  Thankfully my dad wasn’t snoring…yet.

The Cohan 4 in one of their politically correct musical numbers

The Cohan 4 in one of their politically correct musical numbers

Back in movie world, we meet Young George (comparable to a vaudeville Zac Efron).  His performing family, “The Cohan 4,” puts on song and dance shows that are only sometimes racist.  Eventually, George takes on Broadway alone.  He writes show tunes such as “Over There,” “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” and other songs only my grandparents would know.

Basically, the movie is a series of unbridled successful events with little conflict (Except one moment.  SPOILER ALERT: his dad dies).  The prosperity of Cohan’s life left me both inspired and bored.  At the end, we find out that FDR invited Cohan not to blacklist him,  but to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor for songwriting (an honor I didn’t know existed).

Yankee Doodle Dandy was released during the height of WWII.  This leads me to believe that the film’s main purpose was to rally Americans and urge them to buy war bonds or something.  Thus, peace was restored.  All thanks to James Cagney’s tap-dancing feet.  And I guess that’s something worth saluting.

brett headbrett headbrett head3 out of 5 Brett Heads

12
Aug
09

No job, no paycheck, no problem: Brettflix Takes on AFI’s Top 100

Let’s recap.  Between now and the last time I “blogged” (how many ever eons ago that was), I gained a college degree, moved back in with my parents, worked a summer job, quit a summer job, and trudged through all of the heartache along the way.

You might believe this summer to have a fairy tale ending.  A story about me overcoming the adversity of a sluggish job market and persevering to gain a fully independent adult life.  Working a “big boy job.”  Living in a place of my own.  Making an adequate salary.  Residing near my ever wonderful girlfriend, Amanda.

Hundreds of e-mails, countless job searches, numerous applications, and one interview later, I still don’t have a “big boy job,” nor am I any closer to living in close proximity of my girlfriend.

AFI MoviesWith all of these things in mind, there seems to be only one thing to do: scour the globe for jobs in a completely different location than where my girlfriend lives and watch A LOT of movies in the process.  Well, I guess that’s two things.

And not just any movies.  It’s been my lifelong ambition to watch all 100 of “AFI’s Greatest Movies of All Time.” (Maybe not lifelong, but at least since 1998 when the list came out)  Having graduated with a media degree, it seems appropriate to screen all these movies.  How else am I supposed to get material for making hip/snotty comments at parties? (“The Graduate is great, but come on: French New Wave totally jumped the shark when Hollywood started copying Godard.”)

Chances are I won’t be able to put this accomplishment on any resume, but what better opportunity to take this list on when I have little money and lots of time.  Perhaps these classic films will provide life lessons and inspiration as I make the journey into the great unknown of “the real world.”

And have no fear Brettflix bloggers.  I’ll of course be posting the progress of my film watching and job searching goal along the way.  I might view the films in order, I might mix them up, who knows.  I DO KNOW that my posts will be filled with the narcissistic witticisms, wisdom, and wisecracks that you’ve learned to love.

So pop some pop-corn, sneak in with a box of Milk Duds hidden in your purse, and grab a comfy seat covered in hardened chewing gum & artificial butter topping because the Brettflix feature presentation is about to begin (after 30 minutes of previews).  To quote Bette Davis in All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy year.  You know with the economy and all.”  Something like that.

02
May
09

Even With Too Many “Mutha’ uckas,” Conchords Soar in St. Louis

The funniest band/comedy duo in the room?  You betcha!

My girlfriend and I had the privilege of seeing funny folk group Flight of the Conchords in St. Louis this past week.  Performing to a sold out crowd at the Fox Theatre, the New Zealand pair definitely had the audience by the sugarlumps for the entire show, even when the crowd tried to take over.

The best photo I could get from our vantage point.  That's Jemaine on the right, Bret in the center, and Nigel (the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) on the left.

The best photo I could get from our vantage point. That's Jemaine on the right, Bret in the center, and Nigel (the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) on the left.

Those hoping to see the band blandly play through the Conchords catalogue, thus fanboy wishes fulfilled, were in for a disappointment.  Instead, Bret and Jemaine treated the crowd to what felt like an impromptu, stream of consciousness show.  Though they did perform such FOTC favorites as “Robots,” “Hurt Feelings,” and “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor,” you could tell that the show you were watching was different from the one the night before.  

Interspersed throughout the Conchords set list were delightful comedic bantering (which they dubbed as professional talking) and audience interactions.  One such example that sent the crowd into an uproar was when Jemaine removed his blue dress shirt to reveal a St. Louis Cardinals T-shirt (which he wore for the entire concert).  Off the cuff changes to songs and topical humor (swine flu) drove me to gleeful squeals.  Bret and Jemaine mostly performed as the Conchords you know and love, but were accompanied at times by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (aka one frizzy haired guy who can and looks like he can play every instrument imaginable).

Bret & Jemaine's robot helper takes a picture of the crowd as I take a picture of them taking a picture.

Bret & Jemaine's robot helper takes a picture of the crowd as I take a picture of them taking a picture.

However, there were a number of aspects audience members couldn’t grasp on to.  For one, Bret and Jermaine as Conchords are fictional characters.  Shouts from our section called out “Where’s Murray?” (the band’s manager on the show).  Bret responded, “That’s like asking Harrison Ford what’s it like working with Darth Vader.”  Once one person yelled, it turned into monkey see monkey do, eventually becoming a free for all and disrupting the flow of the show.  I can see that because a FOTC performance is one part comedy show and one part concert, the lines of theatre etiquette are blurry.  However, being the professionals that they are, the two kiwis didn’t skip a beat, turning heckles into audience insult gold.

Sadly, the Conchords plan on making the second season of their HBO series the last.  One heckler shouted, “Season three,” in which Jermaine shouted back, “You make season three.”  Bret and Jemaine know that the joke can’t go on forever.  Hearing the crowd clamor for the played out, but still hilarious, song “Business Time” makes me draw the same conclusion.  The boys of Flight of Conchords are too talented to forever be destined as frat guy fodder.  Seeing the musical magic of Bret and Jermaine in person makes you realize that these Conchords are ready to spread their wings and soar to bigger and better things.