Posts Tagged ‘AFI

14
Oct
09

#55: The Sound of Music

Remember that wedding I told you about?  Well, it’s now officially one week until my flight leaves for Arizona.  This means that my job search will momentarily be put on hold while I fulfill my best man preparations, namely wrapping gifts, signing cards, writing my ENTIRE BEST MAN TOAST SPEECH!  I’m having a mini panic attack.  I haven’t prepared a speech since my public speaking class sophomore year (nor has anyone, I suppose).  I’m not usually nervous about speaking in public, but this occasion holds much more significance than a speech explaining what you did over the summer to a group of burnt out undergrads.  This is more  like the State of the Union for civilians.  And it’s been a long time since I’ve had homework.

Sound_of_musicSomehow, in the time that should have been spent writing this damn thing, I find the time to watch a three hour movie.  The Sound of Music (#55), is highly revered in my family.  It’s one of my mom’s favorite movies (she knows all the songs by heart, apparently) and it’s also the first film my dad ever saw as a child.  Over the years, I’ve watched bits and pieces on TV.  Thanks to various records, tapes and songbooks of my childhood, I was already well acquainted with the music.  But as far as sitting down and watching the film all of the way through, it’s a feat I had not yet accomplished.

Julie Andrews plays Maria, a spunky wannabe nun who is ordered by her Austrian convent to go out and give the real world a try.  Her mission: to tame the seven unruly Von Trapp children and turn them into a nationwide singing sensation.  Okay, the singing is more of a byproduct to loosen everyone up, especially their stern father, Captain Von Trapp (Chistopher Plummer).  But doesn’t it sound like a great sitcom or reality show idea?  Partridge Family meets American Idol, all the while fleeing the Nazi regime in Austria.  Sounds like Nielsen’s gold.  In the end, Maria eventually gains the affection of the children through her inspirational and educational songs.

Maybe I can take a page or two out of Maria’s book.  Let’s start at the very beginning (which she says is a very good place to start).  My speech will need an introduction, thanking everyone for coming, thanking Brandon for bestowing this great honor on me.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to introduce myself as well.  It should sound a little something like this:

“Er, um…I’m Brett, Brandon’s best man.  I live in Missouri with my parents and I have no job.  If you are in a position of power and would like to give me one, please see me after the reception.  For those who don’t know me, basically everyone here, I met Brandon when he moved in across the street.  The element that first brought us together was our common fascination with film.  From that point all the way to junior high, I would go over to Brandon’s house and watch movies.  Mostly because he had access to rated R movies, which were strictly forbidden to youngsters at my house…

Oh no.  Is that joke too off color?  Am I making Brandon’s mom and stepfather look like bad parents because they unknowingly let us watch violent, nudity ridden films right under their noses?  Will this unravel the very fabric of Brandon’s new family dynamic?  Will Brandon and Melissa get a divorce only an hour after their wedding?  Will Brandon’s parents ground him a whole 18 years after such incidents occurred?  I can’t do this.  I’m feeling too stressed.

But what would Maria say to do in one of her songs?  I know!  I’ll simply remember my favorite things, and then I won’t feel so bad!  Let’s see.  How about…

Beers in tall glasses and burritos with chicken

Small pups and D-cups and coasters that sicken

Drum solos, old books, and hot onion rings

These are a few of my favorite things.

That seemed to help.  Back to the speech.  I guess the point I want to emphasize the most in the toast is that Brandon holds a lot of passion and excitement for things in his life.  Upon meeting the guy, you wouldn’t perhaps pin him down as an overly outgoing guy.  His favorite things list would include European prog-metal, David Lynch movies, and funky camera shots (if you could find a way to rhyme that).  But I know that his overwhelming giddiness extends far beyond pop culture.  Brandon will undoubtedly treat his marriage with the same spirit and cheer that he gives every thing I’ve seen him take on in the past.

Now if I could find some way to put that into words and write it down.  Oh wait, I just did.  Already have a few toast lines in the bag.  Add in a few more embarrassing memories and memorable quotes, I’ll have this thing cranked out in no time.  And of course I’ll thank Rodgers and Hammerstein.  You know, for providing inspiration.

Brett HeadBrett HeadBrett HeadBrett Head4 out of 5 Brett Heads

11
Oct
09

#46: A Clockwork Orange

Part of my job as boyfriend and self proclaimed film scholar is to introduce my girlfriend to movies she hasn’t seen that will potentially make her very uncomfortable and question my character.

Clockwork_orangeAAs was the case with A Clockwork Orange (#46).  Listening to me blab over the years that this film is a contender for my favorite of all time, she thought it necessary to finally view it as I made my way through the AFI list.  So armed with a bowl of spinach dip and glasses of strawberry daiquiris, we strapped ourselves in for the two and a half hour roller coaster ride that was to follow.

Even from the synthesized chords of “The Funeral of Queen Mary” and the bright, blank red screen that start the opening title sequence, Amanda had a look of frustrated disgust on her face.  It’s the kind of look I probably sport when asked to hold her purse while she tries on countless outfits at the mall.  So far, I think we’re even.

The film is told from the perspective of humble narrator Alex (Malcom McDowell, a young malchick who loves performing a bit of the old ultraviolence and in-out, in-out on weepy young devotchkas.  Oh wait, I’m sorry.  For those of you who don’t speak Nadsat (the fictional Russian inspired English used in the Stanley Kubrick film, as well as the Anthony Burgess novel), he basically likes to rape, pillage, and beat the crap out of people.  In the futuristic world of A Clockwork Orange, Alex and his droogs (friends) show that the young are a force to be reckoned with.

For Amanda, this onslaught of cockney sounding dialect and gratuitous violence within the first ten minutes was already proving to be too much.

“I can see why you like this movie,” she said sarcastically as Alex and his pals pummeled a drunken tramp.

I replied, “Just wait, it gets better.”

“There’s too many boobs,” Amanda said, upon seeing at least the third pair so far.  Okay, so I wasn’t fairing too well.  But I figured once the plot kicked in and the film’s biting social commentary began, I would make a convert out of her yet.

A Clockwork Orange 1971

This is what it took to get Amanda to pay attention during the movie

Fed up with Alex’s dogmatic leadership, his droogs leave him to be captured by the police after their murder of a health farm manager.  Thus, his 14 year prison sentence begins.  But Alex desperately desires to get back to his life of crime.  By sucking up to the Minister of the Interior, Alex becomes the first prisoner to partake in a new rehabilitation technique that promises to get you out and keep you out of jail.

By this point in the film, Amanda is more concerned with Twitter updates on her iPhone.  But she reluctantly continues watching as Alex undergoes the “Ludovico Technique.”  The rehabilitation center shows him a series of violent, sex filled films.  Sounds entertaining enough, right?  Leather straps fasten him tightly to his chair. Clamps force his eyes open.  Electrodes monitor his brain activity.  Add the fact that he’s given a drug that makes him feel like he’s going to die in a torrent of his own vomit, and you’ve got one fun filled day at the movies.

As a result, Alex does not choose against crime, he’s simply so physically repulsed by it that all he can do is surrender to his brain’s conditioning.  People from Alex’s past take advantage of his state by carrying out various forms of revenge on our humble narrator.  The results are often darkly comical and provide a spark of philosophical assessment.

But by the end of the movie, Amanda is unimpressed with Kubrick’s visual mumbo-jumbo and is not easily swayed by his attempts at higher thinking.  Two thumbs down was her final rating.  Perhaps if she watches it 200 more times like I have, she’ll come around.  However, there’s one good thing to come out of her watching this film.  She’s now on the hunt to find a robe similar to one worn by Alex’s author victim.  Minus the blood stains of course.

Brett HeadBrett HeadBrett HeadBrett HeadBrett Head5 out of 5 Brett Heads (I would give it 10 if I could)

08
Oct
09

#94: Goodfellas

If the whole job thing doesn’t work out, as well as my Bonnie & Clyde-esque capers, my next career path will probably be to join the mob.  And I’ll tell you why.

GoodfellasTwo reasons: Italian food and booze.  As evident in Goodfellas (#94), the two commodities are never scarce when you’re a gangster.  Everyone is well fed and much imbibed with drink.  So what’s not to love?

Well actually… a lot, and Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill finds out the hard way.  As a child, Henry dreams of becoming a gangster.  So he does what ANY kid from Brooklyn does if he wants to hit the mob fast track: join the corrupt Italian front company across the street.  They’re everywhere, right?

Working for mob boss Paul Cicero, Henry meets all the top Brooklyn gangsters, baddest among those are Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci).  Jimmy is a smooth talking big spender, but plays his cards close to his chest.  Tommy on the other hand has a bit of an anger problem.  If you talk smack on the guy, chances are he’ll kill you.  Or at least stomp on you a few times and stuff you in his trunk.

Life is good for Henry.  He’s settled down with a nice girl, had a few kids, and receives a constant stream of income from his airport heist business.  But that starts to change when Jimmy shoots one too many friends of “the family.”  Oh, and Henry takes on multiple mistresses, which doesn’t make his wife very happy and she threatens to shoot him.  Then there’s the fact that he’s started dealing/taking dope and his friends are getting “whacked” left and right, which leaves Henry always watching his back because he’s a paranoid mess.

Whew.  He might get his meals and drinks for free, but at what a cost.

I’ve wanted to see this movie for a long time.  Martin Scorsese ranks up there as one of my favorite directors.  The fact I hadn’t seen this film until now should really be a crime.  Scorsese paces the narrative so that you can’t seem to pull yourself away.  Match that with visuals that shift with the story and you’ve got yourself a film worthy of a place in the top 100.

The ending of this film was ruined for me.  Not because I have some malicious friend who likes to spoil movies for me.  All thanks to Netflix, the ending was apparent before I even put the disc in the player.  It’s not like the film has a M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist or anything, but you’d like to at least be surprised when you reach the credits.  Netflix on the other hand likes to pass off in its summaries crucial pieces of the resolution as minor plot points.  Here’s the Netflix synopsis of Goodfellas:

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro chew plenty of scenery, but the focus of this gripping Martin Scorsese opus is real-world mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a gangster who dreamed of making it big but landed in the Witness Protection Program.

This whole Witness Protection Program thing is only introduced in the last five minutes of the film.  Last five minutes.  If you were a writer of descriptions at Netflix, don’t you think it would be a good idea to not give away any information that occurs in these final frames?  Having this information made me ponder all kinds of things as I was watching.  “When is he going to enter the Witness Protection Program?”  “I wonder what happens that lands him in the Witness Protection Program.”  “Two hours have passed.  Why isn’t he in the Witness Protection Program yet?”

So maybe the mob isn’t a very good choice of employment.  But I potentially see a future in writing Netflix summaries.  At least I’d do better than the broad writing them now.

Brett HeadBrett HeadBrett HeadBrett HeadBrett Head 5 out of 5 Brett Heads