Tag: classic films

Why are the Classics so Long?

Tonight I am going to see the classic film Gone with the Wind. Megaplex theaters here in Utah are doing a Silver Screen Series of 10 classic films for only $10. This gives us the chance to see classic films on the big screen!  Here is the series:

This is an awesome opportunity but also a lot of fun because I am podcasting about them with my friend Christine. We have already talked about Lawrence of Arabia, which we both loved. You can listen to that analysis here.

I must be honest though a side of me doesn’t really want to see Gone with the Wind tonight. It’s just so long and so full of melodrama. Plus, there are the racially insensitive moments and all that Magnolia rosy versions of the Slavery South. But mostly it’s just hard for me to get super excited for a 4 hour movie…

It got me thinking 6 of the 10 selections are 3 hours or more. Occasionally you will see a 3 hour movie these days with Lord of the Rings but most are under 3 hours. In fact, films like Batman v Superman will be hacked up to keep it under the 3 hours. I know why this happens because over 3 hours limits screening times which then limits income for the studio.  The 3 hour version is saved for the bluray these days.

But economics aside I think there is something more to this. I mean there is no way a movie like My Fair Lady or Sound of Music would ever be 3 hours these days no matter how many screenings they could fit in. It makes me wonder why?

classics1We can look at the same phenomenon with literature. Classic novels like David Copperfield are so long they took multiple parts to print. Books like Count of Monte Cristo, Nicholas Nichleby, Don Quixote, Moby Dick are well over 1000 pages. Occasionally you will find such a book these days but I think it is the exception rather than the rule.

Just like with movies there was an economic reason for the length of these novels. Authors at the time were paid by the word so the longer they could make the story the better. I love classic novels but some even try my patience including Les Miserables which despite my love for the musical I have never been able to get through.

But just like with movies I think there is more than economics to explain these changes.  Sure occasionally we get a novel that feels like a classic in length but it is definitely the exception to the rule (I haven’t read but been told Infinite Jest is such a book).

It makes me wonder what has changed in our collective storytelling patience in the last 50 years or so? Is it the prevalence of television and it’s 30 minute storytelling platform that made the difference? Is it the amount of material to read and view that makes us anxious for the next item? Perhaps if we only got 2 or 3 major books a year we wouldn’t mind the ones we got being long and drawn out?

Again, I love the classics but I’m not always in the mood for them. Sometimes I am in the mood for a more succinct modern story. Maybe it is just the longer novels/films which have persevered as classics while the shorter ones were digested and forgotten?

What do you think? Why do you think there is this difference in modern and classic books and movies?

What do you prefer? Do you like modern tight storytelling or the more leisurely paced classic?

Classics for a Reason

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. At my local cinemark movie theater they have a ‘Cinemark Classics Series’ where twice a month or so they will have a movie ‘classic’ on the big screen. I try to go to as many of these as I can and you can even get them at a discounted rate.  In last year I’ve seen rereleases on big screen of films such as Roman Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life, My Fair Lady, Home Alone, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and more.  These have all been great experiences.

However, what was interesting about last night is I went to a movie I knew nothing about except that it was a ‘classic’.  I saw the John Huston classic ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’.  I knew this was a Western with Humphrey Bogart and that was about it.

cinemark classic seriesHere’s the trailer.

I ended up loving the movie!  It’s not just a Western but it’s a nuanced and gripping portrayal of a man going crazy over greed.  The moral conflict was much more interesting than anything that happened to them physically.  Bogart starts off assuming he will do the right thing but as the curse of money grips him he becomes more and more of a savage.  The script is so well written and I completely bought the transition.

You can read the rest of my review here but I guess what struck me is that sometimes you can trust ‘a classic really is a classic’.  You could make an argument for only seeing classics I could understand.  The movies have had the chance to sift through and eliminate the turkeys.  With modern movies we don’t have that option.  Of course, I don’t love every classic but there aren’t many that I hate.

Isn’t that interesting? It’s the same way with all the classics- classic books, classic stories, classic TV shows, even classic recipes.  They are the tried, true and tested of the world, and you can rely on them to be good most of the time.

What was particularly striking is there was a lot in Treasure of Sierra Madre that reminded me of the current Oscar frontrunner The Revenant.  It’s a decent flick but I think Treasure is far superior despite having many of the same elements.  They are both about hardened Westerners.  They both have gritty survival stories and both feature stories of greed and revenge. But Treasure is so much more subtle and nuanced than The Revenant.  It also gave me more moments to breath and empathize with the characters where The Revenant is kind of unending in its repetitive beatdown of its characters.  Again, not saying The Revenant is a bad movie because it isn’t but when compared to a true classic it falls far short of where it needs to be.

I wonder if many movies could be looked at that way (or novels for that matter).  If you held them against their classic doppleganger the flaws in the new become much more apparent.

So cheers to the classics!  What are classics you like?  Or what is a movie you’ve watched recently where you thought “____ movie did that better”?  Are there contemporary takes on characters or stories you think did the concepts or stories better than the classics?  Please list in the comments section.

Do you ever go to the theater to see the classics?  It’s a ton of fun if you get a chance.

Movie Survey

movies3

A few weeks ago I did a little survey on books.  Since people seem so fascinated with my opinions on movies I thought I would do a similar post on movies.

Here goes:

Your favorite movie: Up

The last movie you watched : Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Your favorite action/adventure movie(s) : Inception
Your favorite horror movie : The Shining/Wait Until Dark
Your favorite drama movie :  Tough call.  Slumdog Millionaire
Favorite Comic book movie:  The Avengers or possibly X-Men
Your favorite comedy movie:  Clueless, Office Space, Monty Python Holy Grail, Better Off Dead
Your favorite romance: Breakfast at Tiffanys, 500 Days of Summer
Your favorite romantic comedy:  When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail
Movie you are looking forward to:  Book Thief, Enders Game, Hobbit 2
Favorite based on a true story: (favorite genre of mine) Beautiful Mind, Rudy, Apollo 13, Walk the Line, Kings Speech
A movie that makes you happy:  You’ve Got Mail, The Artist, Silver Linings Playbook
A movie that makes you sad: Bright Star, Schindler’s List, Amistad, Les Miserables
A movie that makes you happy and sad: Perks of Being a Wallflower
A movie that you know practically the whole script of: Breakfast at Tiffanys, You’ve Got Mail
Your favorite director: Norah Ephron, Hiyao Miyazaki
Your favorite movie from your childhood: Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast
Your favorite animated movie: Up
A movie that you used to hate but now love: Pinocchio maybe?
Favorite movie in high school: Clueless
If Someone were to play you in a movie?: Melissa McCarthy
Best Adaptation:  Harry Potter movies except 7th part 1 which bored me.
Your favorite quote from any movie:  I love Nora Ephron.  Rom coms haven’t been the same (or even produced) since she left us. Some favorites:
         Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it,  or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?
         People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.
         Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.
          The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.  (how I totally feel about this blog.  Thanks everyone!)
I could go on…(love her movies and writing). See https://smilingldsgirl.com/2012/07/12/nora-ephron/
The first movie you saw in theaters: The first one I remember was Little Mermaid.  Also Home Alone sticks out.
The last movie you saw in theaters: Wizard of Oz (so amazing)
Favorite score of movie: The Mission
Favorite song in movie:  Over the Rainbow.  (Also my favorite song period)
The best movie you saw during the last year: Les Miserables
A movie that disappointed you the most:  Star Wars: Phantom Menace
Your favorite actor(s): Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart
Your favorite actress(es): Emma Thompson, Audrey Hepburn, Meg Ryan
The most overrated movie:  What a can of worms to open again… (see post on this topic)  Terms of Endearment isn’t on my earlier post so I will go with that.  Also, hate to say it but I thought Rushmore was overrated. Just didn’t make me laugh. (send the hate mail 🙂 )
The most underrated movie: See my post on this topic Again I’ll bring up a movie I didn’t put on this list.  Stranger than Fiction.  Love it
Your favorite character from any movie: Holly Golightly
Favorite documentary: My Kid Could Paint That, Civil War (Ken Burns but not really a movie)
A movie that no one would expect you to love: Warrior if they didn’t know I was into MMA
A movie that is a guilty pleasure: Rom coms in general.  Cheesy Christmas movies. Love Comes Softly series
Favorite classic movie: His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, Notorious
Movie with the best soundtrack: The Chorus is wonderful, modern day soundtrack- When Harry Met Sally (love all the Harry Conick Jr)
A movie that changed your opinion about something: Slumdog Millionaire made me decide R rated movies might be ok and to focus on screenit reviews, content rather than ratings
Your least favorite movie: Armageddon, Contact, Drop Dead Gorgeous (only movie I’ve left theater crying in a bad way).  See Movies I Hate

Wizard of Oz

Tonight I had a special experience.  I got to see Wizard of Oz restored in 3D at the IMAX. It is playing through the end of the week so if you get a chance see it!   Its amazing.   They don’t make movies like that any more.  The songs, sets, story, acting, everything is so wonderful.  I have said before on my blog that Over the Rainbow is my favorite song of all time.  I have 13 versions of it on my ipod.  I love Judy Garland and think her life is one of such heartbreak.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2010/10/26/favorite-songs/

I love the story of finding home, protecting your friends, searching for your dreams, and facing evil.  The lesson Dorothy learns through her entire journey in Oz is pretty great:

“if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”

 

wizard of oz2  wizard of oz3wizard of oz6 wizard of oz4 wizard of oz5

Underrated Movies

movie-clip-art11-287x300So a few weeks ago I wrote a story on movies I felt were overrated.  Now those were not necessarily bad movies I just didn’t think they were the amazing 5 stars everyone else seems to. The follow up naturally becomes what are underrated movies that deserve more playing time?

I actually struggled in coming up with a list because some of them seemed difficult to defend but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  Some might think how could I not be into the Godfather and like Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side? I can’t explain it.  I just do. So here are some underrated gems to check out by category:

Rom Coms that do the genre right- anyone knows I love a good romantic movie but they have been the scene of some truly horrific flops in the last 10 years.  Some that were unjustly ignored are:

IQ- a funny movie starring Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Manthau about Einstein’s niece falling in love.  The banter between Einstein and his buddies is hilarious, the chemistry is right on.  Its available on netflix so check it out (many on this list are on netflix).

Sweet Home Alabama-  Predictable? yes.  do some of the jokes fall flat? yes, but I really enjoy this movie.  I LOVE Josh  Lucas.  He is super sexy and Patrick Demsey plays the other man with a lot of class.  They do not take the easy way out and make him a jerk.

Just Wright- A movie nobody saw with Queen Latifah and Common. The Queen is divine as a physical therapist tasked with helping an NBA player come back from an injury.  Yes, its predicable but you need some of that in this genre.  Its really a fairy tale with the prince charming a basketball player and Paula Patton as the somewhat evil stepsister (god-sister in this story . She’s a gold digger with a heart and boy is she pretty)

Return to Me- Similar to IQ this sweet love story of a girl who gets a heart transplant but then falls for the widower of the heart donor. Its sweet and how great to have a Hollywood romance where the character falls in love without the girl revealing a scar on her chest. A very clean simple movie with a great group of older actors playing the Irish/Italian family of the Minnie Driver character.

Better Off Dead- I can’t really defend this movie except to say that it makes me laugh every time.  A boy is infatuated with his girlfriend and then is dumped for the captain of the high school ski team. To get back he decides to ski the K-12.

Hijinks erupt with everything from Howard Cossell Japanese taxi drivers, animated burgers, a paper boy who wants his $2, a mother who boils bacon and makes goo for dinner and a brother who cuts out coupons from boxes before the cereal is eaten.  What can I say?  It just makes me laugh.

Drama’s that deserve  to be seen-

Marvin’s Room-  A gut wrenching drama with Meryl Streep, Dianne Keaton, Robert Deniro and Leonardo Dicaprio.  It reads like a good play. Two estranged sisters get back together when  one is diagnosed with cancer.  Dicaprio plays a teen with severe behavior and mental illness issues but it is done in a realistic way.   Every performance is good.  It felt like watching a real family.

Warrior- Not enough people saw this great sports/family movie.  The conceit is predictable.  We know the brothers will end up fighting against each other but the journey is so well done.  All the performances are great.  Tom Hardy is super hot and Nick Nolte is totally believable as the alcoholic father everyone has discounted.  The fight scenes are not overly long and the tension is built perfectly.  Great example of its genre.

Secret Life of Bees- Another movie with a strong ensemble cast that nobody saw.  Based on the bestselling novel by Su Monk Kidd tells the story of a little girl who runs away from home in 1964 South Carolina. She finds a new home with a family of black women that knew her mother and are beekeepers.  I loved the book and the movie.

Jane Eyre 1996- I have yet to dislike a version of this story (including the 2011 filming) but this one may be my favorite big screen adaptation.  Charlotte Ginsberg is the most plain Jane but that totally works for the character.  William Hurt is brooding and fun as Rochester even without a British accent.

The Blind Side- Obviously this film has its fans as it won an oscar for Sandra Bullock but amongst critics it is frequently chided as sentimental and even manipulative.  My answer to that is so what?  Hasn’t sentimentality always been an essential aspect to the movies? Even going back to Gone with the Wind or Mrs Minver.  If it is done well I enjoy a good hearted fable that helps encourage me to be a better person.

This story is of course about future super bowl winner Michael Oher and how he is adopted by the Tuohy family of Mississippi.  Its the kind of movie I want to watch when I’m having a bad day or feeling discouraged and I don’t think that is a bad thing.  Our society could use a little more hope and little less cynicism.

Children Movies You Might Have Missed

Winnie the Pooh Movie- Finally a movie designed for little, little kids.  Its short enough for them with a simple sweet story that I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for.  I LOVE the music.  No winking humor for adults just an unabashed little kids movie (5 and under)

Holes- The first time I saw this movie I was blown away.  I called my family and said ‘you have to see it’.  They weren’t as impressed but I thought it was so creative.  Weaving a story of a kid sent to a desert camp to dig holes and an cowboy love story that ended badly leaving a curse on the entire family.  I still think it is brilliant.

Where the Wild Things Are- This movie has its fans and I admit it is one you either go with or don’t. I did.  When I saw it in the theater half of us thought it was amazing and half a big bore.  I loved its realistic depiction of a child, without any of the cloying sweetness of most Hollywood movies.  This is a real kid with tantrums and stubbornness.

Then he is given the chance to actually lead creatures, creatures that feature all of his good and bad traits and he realizes how hard it is. He gets a new empathy for his mother.  I loved the music, voice acting, the kid is a great actor (plus looks like my step-nephew).  Its different but I totally bought it.

Ponyo-  A weird but delightful animated movie from Hayao Miyazaki who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.  Both of those are better movies but this one is more like My Friend Totoro and is designed for little kids. The story is simple but the images are so creative and the basic idea so dazzling that the kids have room to write some of their own story.  It is about a little boy that adopts a gold fish that is the daughter of the great sea wizard.  The ocean begins to search for the adorable Ponyo and everything begins.

Classics You Should See-

Talk of the Town- At its release this movie was nominated for Oscars but I doubt many have seen it.  Certainly Cary Grant’s other comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday (both wonderful) are more popular but I love Talk of the Town . It has Jean Arthur who plays the high school crush of town good-for-nothing Grant who has been framed by a union for a fire that killed a man.

Knowing the jury is rigged Grant escapes from prison and seeks refuge at Arthur’s summer home which is soon to be occupied by a potential supreme court nominee played by Ronald Coleman.  Justice vs mercy is amazingly mixed in with some great slapstick.  I laugh my head off at this movie and think about philosophy at the same time.  A rare combination.

Brigadoon- The Gene Kelly musical most people haven’t seen.  Lerner and Loewe’s broadway musical comes to life about a town that ages only one day every hundred years.  Kelly and his friend stumble upon the town on a hunting trip and meet the lovely Cyd Charisse.   Some great songs such as Almost Like Being in Love, There but for you go I, Waitin for my Dearie and other great music and dancing.

Lili- A movie most people probably haven’t seen but a sweet fairy tale with amazing dancing.  Its the story of a girl named Lili played by Leslie Caron who stumbles upon a circus in a small town who agree to give her a job as a magicians assistant.  Young, she botches the first night and runs away in distress.  To her surprise she stumbles upon a puppet show and the puppets start to speak to her.

She agrees to be the MC for the puppet show but gets so lost in the illusion that she doesn’t remember who is behind the scenes. Could it be jaded carnival operator who is bitter about his career in dance going down the tubes because of an injury? You will have to see! The dancing is magnificent and like I said it is a gem.