Quick Takes – 09.05.10

The Quiet Man (1952)

Grade: B- | 1st Viewing

It is impossible to deny the delightfulness inherent in John Ford’s Irish folk tale, but the first 90 minutes of the film are hardly redeemed by the epic final fight scene. John Wayne is as likable as ever and Maureen O’Hara is at the top of her game, but to me the first three quarters of the film are dry and mostly humorless; filled with exaggerated stereotypes of Irish characters and one-liners that fell flat.

The film is beautifully shot and may be one of the best presentations of the Irish countryside ever put on film, but Ford’s typical themes were not as clear as they normally are. I hate going against the grain on a film that is pretty much universally loved. Blame it on context, or the fact that I’m not the biggest John Wayne fan, but The Quiet Man, while undeniably likable, did not click with me.

Scary Movie (2000)

Grade: D | 2nd Viewing

I returned from a mostly exhausting camping trip and put in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance while headed to bed. When I turned on the television Comedy Central was airing the original Scary Movie and I instantly decided that my current physical and emotional state required something that allowed me to shut off my brain.

Reportedly the first Scary Movie is the most tolerable in the franchise, but I can’t say for sure because I’ve only made it through the first. The problem that I have with the movie is that it’s comedy without any type of risk. I don’t mean risk in terms of pushing the envelope, but the writers and filmmakers behind this movie took such care to make sure there would not be a joke that anybody would not understand. The opportunities for smart comic decisions were prevalent throughout the movie’s running time, but the simple and obvious choice was always made in order to ensure that nothing would go over any audience member’s head. This type of comedy is the scourge of mainstream films.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

Grade: A- | 5th+ Viewing

If I were to compile a list of essential children’s films, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would inevitably have a spot. Re-watching it in its entirety years after I stopped watching it annually as part of my childhood VHS collection gave me some new perspective on the film. Most notably the film’s two and a half hour running time caught me off guard as it was at least an hour and a half into the movie when the family finally arrived in Vulgaria for the most memorable scenes in the movie.

Another important element that it was a pleasure to re-discover was how well director Ken Hughes frames the musical numbers. Too often it seems that modern musicals opt for flashy cinematography with quick cuts in and around the singers. Hughes pulls the camera back and allows the performers to dictate the action with most of the musical numbers shot in straight forward wide shots. It’s this trust in his cast to carry the scene that makes them so enjoyable.

The Third Man (1949)

Grade: A | 1st Viewing

I finally saw Carol Reed’s film noir masterpiece after years of floating near the top of my Netflix queue. I’m disappointed to see the brilliance that I had been missing. The Third Man is one of the best shot movies that I have ever seen with wonderfully original camera angles and brilliantly lit exterior scenes. The ever-present shadows creep into the frame giving the film an ominous feel that wonderfully contrasts the optimistic-sounding zither soundtrack.

I wish I could have put myself back to a time where I didn’t already know that Orson Welles was going to appear as the infamous Harry Lime. Throughout the film Lime is described with such profundity and bravura that only an actor like Welles could have matched the enormous persona that is created. The fantastic character introduction of Welles is epic and his mere appearance in the film has to stand out as one of the greatest of all-time.

What movies did you see this weekend?

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  • Davin

    I can’t believe you haven’t seen The Third Man until now! That is a crime against humanity! But, I am glad you finally got to appreciate the glory of Orson Welles entrance, a scene that Roger Ebert once labelled the greatest moment in american cinema (although it’s tough to define Third Man as American).

  • Jose

    Animaniacs: Wakko’s Wish ( I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it.)

    Why are there no more cartoons like this? This was the first time since the VHS was discountinued that I’ve seen this movie, and I just cannot beleive how exhilirating it still was after all these years! Maybe nostalgia had something to do with it, but either way Wakko’s Wish still has a zanyness that a bunch of cartoons today lack, and this film to me is just a classic.

    A.

    Bright Star 2nd viewing

    I gave this movie a second look, ther’s really nothing exceptionally bad about it, but there’s nothing really great about it either. Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish both felt stilted and refrained, and the best performance came from Schneider, but I really hated his character. B-

  • Ghost Writer and Daybreakers.

    Ghost Writer was disappointing especially since it had such amazing reviews. It was good, but that’s it. Didn’t stir up any emotions in me like Rosemary’s Baby.

    I loved Daybreakers’ story and theme but sometimes it tried to be an action movie and those parts prevented it from being great. It’s a good film anyways.

  • The Third Man would be in my top 10 favorite movies list.

  • Quinn

    I love “The Third Man”.

    “Toy Story 3” – 3rd Viewing
    Just as good as it was the other times. Definitely the best movie of the year so far, and my favorite of the series. And at the ending, I still cried a bit even though it was my third viewing.
    A.

    “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” – 1st Viewing
    I really didn’t know much about Joan Rivers at all other than she was a comedian, but my mom loves her and wanted to see it and it had a good trailer. It began with a hilarious stand up comedy act about her daughter being offered to pose for Playboy. The film was funny, moving, and compassionate
    A-.

  • Andrew R.

    I watched 5 movies this weekend. I’d seen them all at some point, but it had been a long time since I’d first seen them. They all get something in the A range, so I’ll just review them.

    Sweeney Todd: While the Joanna subplot is unnecessary and there is practically no talking until Borat shows up, this is still a very fun, gory musical. Johnny Depp got all the attention, but what about Bonham-Carter?

    Last Picture Show: Superb film with superb acting. The two acting Oscars were deserved, particularly Cloris Leachman.

    Singing in the Rain: I still think it’s a teensy bit overrated (why does it make every Top 10 list?) but it still should’ve won Best Picture. Superb singing and acting.

    Young Frankenstein: More Cloris Leachman! The acting in this movie is underrated-the five leads and Gene Hackman’s cameo are brilliant. Best part: “Frau Blucher!” *whinny*

    Almost Famous: Kate Hudson almost won the Oscar, Frances McDormand should’ve won the Oscar, and no Best Picture nomination. Argh. Well, at least it won for the script and Marcia Gay Harden isn’t a bad choice.

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