Harold and Maude (1971)
Grade: A- | 1st Viewing
This quirky and original comedy was truly delightful in its eccentricity. The story is unusually romantic and the leading couple make for one of the most enjoyable on-screen pairs in cinema history. The filmâ€™s message is not as effective as it likely was during its early 70s release, following the youth-centric era of the 1960s. Harold and Maude counters that movement by presenting an aging woman who teaches the younger boy to break free from the restrictions of life instead of the cinematic convention of having a young person teaching an older character to â€œlive again.â€
Ruth Gordon is delightful as the unconventional Maude and Iâ€™m disappointed that I havenâ€™t seen more of her work. The 70-something artist in practice manages the difficult feat of exuding elderly innocence and mysterious sex appeal. Hal Ashbyâ€™s direction is all the more impressive because of the fact that there is nothing unbelievable about the central relationship. Right from the movieâ€™s start you know that Harold and Maude are meant for each other.
Wall Street (1987)
Grade: A | 2nd Viewing
I hadnâ€™t seen this movie since I was in high school economics so I thought it was time to brush up before seeing the sequel. Oliver Stoneâ€™s first film about the rough and tumble world of the cutthroat 1980s Wall Street does everything right that its sequel does wrong. Most importantly it trusts its audience to know enough about basic economics by skipping over the unnecessary exposition and getting straight to the drama.
While todayâ€™s economic situation is largely characterized by the greed of a faceless corporation, the 1980s were defined by individual cases of greed with the bears and the bulls of Wall Street competing not only for the biggest stock market gains, but also for their faces to grace the cover of Money Magazine. Gordan Gekko is a perfect representation of the evil Wall Street bull and Michael Douglasâ€™ performance is iconic and brilliant as he oozes sleaze.
I was also amazed by how in touch with technology this film was for its time. Wall Street in the 1980s was revolutionized by the addition of electronic trading and the filmâ€™s constant flashing LED lights and electronic stock tickers overwhelmed its characters with a feeling of rapidness. One particularly sad scene where an older broker gets canned because of his inability to connect in the new tech-infused world serves as a cautionary tale for the upcoming technology boom. Stone tells the viewer they must get plugged in or get left behind.
Grade: C+ | 1st Viewing
I just finished reading Bram Stokerâ€™s exquisite novel this week so I thought Iâ€™d check out the first movie to share the bookâ€™s title. I must say I definitely prefer F.W. Murnauâ€™s silent Nosferatu, which preceded Dracula by almost a decade. Tod Browning and the various screenwriters took more than a few creative liberties to create something that is hardly recognizable as a Stoker adaptation apart from character names. Most disappointing to me was the fact that all suspense is sucked from the film as one of the minor characters reveals every secret about Count Dracula to both the audience and the characters in the first scene.
The film was excellently shot and it strongly resembles German Expressionism with its charactersâ€™ exaggerated gestures and its beautiful depth of shadows. The 74-minute running time hardly does Stokerâ€™s story any justice and many potentially great scenes are glossed over, presumably for budget and time reasons. The climax was not nearly as epic as it should have been with the seemingly indestructible Count Dracula reduced to a moaning death off camera. However, the film is redeemed by Bela Lugosiâ€™s performance, which is one of the most legendary horror performances ever put on screen.
What movies did you see this weekend?