Quick Takes – 03.19.12

The African Queen (1951)

Grade: A | 1st Viewing

This was my first time seeing this John Huston classic starring the dynamic Humphrey Bogart and equally exciting Katherine Hepburn. The African Queen comes at the tail end of a post-war era of cinema that featured American characters defeating all odds to overcome a foreign foe. I will have to admit that despite being tired when I hit play on the Netflix Instant Queue, I was riveted throughout and left with a substantial surge of patriotism; I was ready to find some Nazi’s and take them down for God and Country.

What really makes The African Queen such an enjoyable experience is that the stakes could not be higher. Not only are the characters lives in danger with every obstacle they face in the river, but the lives of thousands of other Britons and Americans could be at risk as well if their plan does not succeed. Bogart and Hepburn make a delightful pair whose squabbling hilariously turns to devotion to their cause and one another.

Chico & Rita (2011)

Grade: C+ | 1st Viewing

This Cuban animated film was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year and finally received a limited release in 2012. Unlike many foreign animated films, Chico & Rita does not get an English language dub and instead we experience subtitles throughout the film’s running time. The film also had two writers and three directors, which may be why the narrative seems aimless. There was some beautiful animation and some excellent musical numbers, but the two main characters seemed to be lacking a through line.

I feel like this is a film that would have benefited from less dialogue. The soundtrack is vibrant and the characters move fluidly to the jazz beat and I would have loved to see the filmmakers allow the characters to tell us everything through song lyrics and symbolic imagery. However, the dialogue was very simplistic, which appeared to give the characters a lower intelligence than their musical ability otherwise indicated.

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Grade: A | 5th+ Viewing

I realized it had been since college since I last sat down and watched any of the Star Wars movies and I thought it was time that I fixed that. Unfortunately I only had access to the Special Edition DVDs which include the silly CGI vehicles in the background and Gredo shooting at Han Solo first. However, even George Lucas’ progressive insanity cannot destroy the sense of wonder that these movies instill with every viewing. The original Star Wars trilogy will never age, no matter how graphics improve or hairstyles change. Luke is an eternal hero and Darth Vader is an eternal villain.

I like to think of the central battle in Star Wars in relation to today’s economic climate. Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and the Imperial Army represent Wall Street and the selfish quest for power, while Obi-Wan Kenobi represents unions and classic labor practices. Luke is the youthful generation that has to inherit a world in turmoil and decide which path to take. That’s part of the genius of Star Wars – its story is so universal it can be applied to almost any place and time.

The Godfather (1972)

Grade: A | 5th+ Viewing

My wife had never seen this classic and so I decided it was time for her to experience the brilliance. Unfortunately she fell asleep halfway through (we are old), but I was still happy to once again experience this American saga. Every time I watch it, I find something new to treasure about the film. I have always enjoyed the performances of those in the Corleone family (Pacino, Caan, Brando, etc.), but this time around I really paid more attention to some of the work being done by the supporting cast.

For instance, Sterling Hayden is magnificent as the detestable Captain McCluskey who gives his loyalty to the highest bidder. His laid back ignorance during the infamous restaurant shooting scene is a perfect contrast to Pacino’s calculating Michael Corleone. I also really enjoyed the comic (I think you can call it “comic”) performance by professional wrestler turned actor Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi. The brutish Luca is an oft-imitated archetype, but nobody has done it quite as well as Montana.

What movies did you see this weekend?

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