True, it took me a bit longer than a week to get these taken care of and I ended up replacing two of my promised films based on extenuating circumstances, but better late than never. Once again, in this segment I document my mission to fill in the blanks of my exposure to classic films, a mission which I am now defining under the following weekly goal: to see five classic films per week. Of these five, two must be on the AFI Top 100, two more must be on the IMDb Top 250, and one must be left over for culturally significant films. This week I fudged the lines a bit by exchanging one IMDb Top 250 entry for an additional culturally significant film, but as I am the one creating the rules I have a feeling I will probably get away with it. Without further ado, here are this week’s entry’s.
Blue Velvet: 8.5/10 – Impressive
Well, I now understand what people mean when they say that David Lynch is a sick son of a Bitch. The one-two punch of Dennis Hopper’s frenzied depravity and Lynch’s twisted direction, I’d say I spent about half the movie cringing. Under that messed up candy coating, though, is a well acted and highly compelling story of crime and corruption. It’s films like this that remind me of the true meaning of the word disturbing; something that reaches down into the core of you and makes some sort of real, lasting impact. With Lynch’s beautiful cinematography and Hopper’s psychopathic brutality, Blue Velvet is a film that I will not forget for a very long time. In the end, isn’t that what really matters?
Dazed and Confused: 8.0/10 – Pretty Damn Great
After giving similar scores to Goodfellas and The Excorcist, I’m hesitant to maintain honesty with this one for fear of the wroth that will inevitably follow, but I stand by it. Dazed and Confused is a great movie, but it just didn’t click with me like it has for some people who have cited it to me as one of their favorite movies of all time. Part of it is probably a result of the differences in time, particular the prevalence of high school hazing in the film which has basically been illegal since before I was even born. I mean, I know bullying still exists but it’s hard to just go along with socially condoned assault and battery when you didn’t grow up in a time when it was the norm. In any case, for the most part I really did love the characters and the movie as a whole, especially the “Revenge of the Freshman” subplot against an insanely young Ben Afleck. Also, I feel like the amount of references I now understand would’ve made seeing the movie worthwhile even if I hadn’t enjoyed it.
The Birds: 8.5/10 – Impressive
Arguably one of the most prominent Horror movies of all time, The Birds makes me all the more curious as to what were to happen if Hitchcock were still alive today. With his era’s limitations on special effects removed, the sky would be the absolute limit for the sorts of modern masterpieces we would have bestowed upon us. Alas, that ship has long since sailed, but I can still dream. In any case, the occasionally silly practical effects make The Birds much more effective in creating an ominous atmosphere (i.e. the gathering birds on the playground equipment) than all out terror (i.e. when the birds actually attack). What really impressed me, though, was the sort of development given to the characters that is nowadays unheard of for the genre. The ending is a bit abrupt and I would have liked a bit more explanation as to why the birds attacked in the first place, but all in all The Birds easily earns its classic status.
Raging Bull: 8.0/10 – Pretty Damn Great
Ditto to the first sentence of my Dazed and Confused. It seems like sacrilege to say anything bad about Scorsese’s upper echelon of films, but the characters and story here just weren’t enough to completely sell me on Raging Bull. Maybe it’s a compromise to my integrity as a film critic, but damn it all I like my movies to have at least a few characters I can support. Part of it is that I absolutely loathe domestic abuse, and it’s hard for me to get behind a film that brushes it off like so many “classic” films seem to. I’ve attributed part of this to my dislike of the Mafia genre, but I’m beginning to wonder if there’s just some central aspects of the passionate nature of the Italian culture I’m just not getting. If there’s anyone out there from a traditional Italian family, I would greatly appreciate any sort of input on the sort of family interactions in movies like this that I’m not seeming to understand. As a final note I would like to say that I really did appreciate the film from a cinematic standpoint and that the pros for it definitely outweigh the cons. It also might stand as Robert DeNiro’s finest performance of all time, and no dislike I had for his character does nothing anything to change that.
Singin’ In the Rain: 9.0/10 – Incredible
Luckily, I have absolutely no qualms in singing this one’s praises, rain or shine. I’ve never really been the biggest fan of musicals, so I was hesitant going into this one. Last night, though, some friends and I went to a local art house theater that was screening the film, and it ended up being one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve had in months if not years. The evening really reminded me that the best way to watch a movie like this is with other people who already love it; there’s something invigorating about having the people all around you clap after every musical number that just makes all of the difference in the world. Getting back to the film itself, I’ve always loved old movies made about the movie industry itself (i.e. All About Eve), and having that setting combined with some of the most talented and innocently funny set of leads I’ve ever seen really made me forget all about my apathy for musical theater.
This Week, I’ll be checking out the following films that qualify as classics under one definition or another:
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Sting (1973)
Top Gun (1986)