With the Iraq elections tomorrow and the State of the Union address coming on Wednesday, I'm stepping out of my political shoes for the day to make some comments on movies before I have to jump head first into what I assume will be a very political week.
First, Million Dollar Baby-- To be honest with you, it was not what I was expecting. There is a point in the movie where Hillary Swank gets her nose broken--had I thrown up then and left, I would have felt better about the movie as a whole than I did when the movie was over and done. It amazes me that you can put together an allstar cast like that and end up with a mediocre movie. This is Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Hillary Swank...all Oscar winners (and all nominees this year), yet the movie is not Oscar worthy. I'm not sure it's worthy of even the nomination-- certainly not for best picture. I will say that Swank's performance is amazing... other than 90210 and The Next Karate Kid, I've not seen her in a role that was anything less than impressive. She becomes Maggie, but that script didn't leave her with a whole lot of elbow room. Morgan wasn't even that great!! Okay, so he wasn't bad and he was the narrator which meant I could hear that voice that ranks up there with the vocals of Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones, but his performance wasn't too strong or reaching. He wasn't up to the magnitude of Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, or even Outbreak! Eastwood may be the only strength Baby has to offer. The man has passion. Directing, composing, and acting...he's good. But when you leave a movie you should feel some sort of resolution, some sort of finality-- I missed it. (Not to mention the fact that you never know why exactly it's even called Million Dollar Baby.)
Next, I was looking around on Uncle Orson's site again and found this list he made of his all-time favorite movies, so I was inspired just to mention a small collection of my own favorite movies. Mostly in order, but past #1 I guess they are interchangeable:
1. Gone With the Wind-- Margaret Mitchell's book is crap, but the movie is one of the finest Civil War depictions I've seen. Not necessarily a depiction of the war itself (there aren't graphic battle scenes), but a representation of the lives of those not out fighting, those on the homefront trying to survive.
2. Citizen Kane-- This is one of the purest character searches for contentment and overall happiness. Making #1 on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies list speaks for itself. This film is certainly Orson Welles' best and one that everyone should feel obligated to see.
3. Schindler's List-- I have an extremely hard time watching Holocaust movies. I love history and I love learning, but Holocaust movies are of the hardest type to watch. I hadn't seen this film until a few months ago and am now on a campaign to inform everyone of its importance and significance even now 40 years after the liberation of the camps. I feel it is our duty to humanity to see this film, even in edited form.
4.Casablanca-- It takes a pretty great movie to be quoted word for word in a Diet Coke commercial. As you can see, I'm a sucker for historically based movies and I am an even bigger sucker for Humphrey Bogart! The story is incredible, the history leaves you mesmerized, and of course the tragedies of love and war are so relevant even today. This is a great WWII film that I pull out and watch at least every few months.
5. The Manchurian Candidate-- Not the new one with Denzel and Meryl, though I'm sure it is grand, haven't seen it, but the old one with Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh. This one is a rare political thriller for those of us quite intrigued by the political process and is an insight into how the Domino Theory and the Red Scare became so wide-spread in the late 50s/ early 60s. (If this one is too much for you I would recommend Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart.)
Okay I'll be shorter than Orson and leave it at five, but I'd also like to mention The Godfather (I'm don't generally like shoot 'em up movies, mob movies or westerns, but this one I can sit through), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Rain Man, It Happened One Night, and Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life. And... if you've watched a disappointing flick at the theater or chose a poor rental, let me assure you if you need quality entertainment find a good Cary Grant film-- North By Northwest, An Affair to Remember, Destination Tokyo, and Operation Petticoat are my favorites!
...And back to politics I go.