classic film reviews

Dazed and Confused (1993) directed by Richard Linklater

Superman (1978)

This film was both a masterpiece and a trainwreck. There were elements to it that were incredibly brilliant, while others were completely moronic. The movie was filled with plot holes and logical inconsistencies. Many things were not well explained and made little sense. Lex Luthor’s logic that Kryptonite would be a weakness for Superman was such an enormous, baseless leap that it could have come from a Dan Brown novel. The worst part was the climactic scene where Lois Lane dies in the earthquakes caused by Luthor’s missile strike. Superman is so distraught that he flies into space and circles the Earth so fast that it reverses direction and, somehow, reverses time itself. As if the inevitable forward march of time is determined only by the rotation of one insignificant planet in what is already established to be a vast and well-populated universe. That alone makes absolutely no sense, but what was worse was that he only reversed time just enough to save Lois, but not enough to stop the attack in the first place, proving Superman only cares about Lois and not at all about the countless other people who must have died.

Lois herself was another major flaw in this film, though she was played well by Margot Kidder, the characterization of her was terrible. Ordinarily, it would bother me that the main female character serves as nothing more than a damsel in distress, but I recognize that it is important to the Superman mythos that he must routinely rescue Lois. What was wrong about it, though, was the way in which she manages to get herself in trouble. My favorite version of Superman and Lois Lane come from the 1996 Superman the Animated Series. In that series, Lois does regularly need to be rescued, but only because she is a great reporter who, like all good reporters, takes huge risks in order to get at an important story. She is bold, daring, and fearless, and that gets her in trouble, which is when Superman comes in for the rescue. Needing to be saved isn’t her weakness, it’s her strength. This is not the case in the 1978 movie. In the film, Lois is a tragic case of unfulfilled potential. Early on, when she is first introduced to the new reporter, Clark Kent, the two are walking down the street and they get mugged. Instead of handing over her purse, Lois attacks the mugger, causing him to shoot his gun and run off. Clark was able to catch the bullet, but not the bad guy. Provoking the mugger was stupid and reckless, but it was bold, and during the entire situation, Lois stayed calm, collected, and strong. Those traits do not survive the movie. Afterwards, whenever she gets into trouble, it’s either by coincidence or her own stupidity, but not because of any bold or strong action she’s taken, and instead of fighting to help herself, she just sits and screams until Superman saves her. She also turns into a vapid, lovesick child whenever she’s in Superman’s presence, totally losing any semblance of strength of character she had left. When Superman takes her flying through the city, her bizarre, out-of-place internal monologue sounds like the musings from a 13-year-old girl’s diary, not a grown woman.

Jimmy Olsen was another case of wasted potential. In the comics and the show, Jimmy is young, naïve, and inexperienced, but he is also intrepid and clever, and important to Superman as a character because Jimmy keeps him grounded in humanity. In the movie, though, Jimmy has maybe two minutes of screen time, if that, and he serves no purpose in the story. Superman occasionally comments on how much he likes Jimmy, but nothing on-screen holds that up. Jimmy is so insignificant in this film that he may as well not been in it at all.

With all that said, there was a lot this film did very well. The first thing that strikes you about this movie was the score. Of course, you can’t watch a film scored by John Williams without mentioning the music. John Williams knocks it out of the park every single time, and Superman was no exception. The main theme pulls you in right from the start. It’s powerful, heroic, and dramatic. It has the perfect feel of hope and righteousness that every good Superman story needs. Throughout the entire film, the music enhanced the good scenes and redeemed the bad ones. John Williams can take a mediocre movie and make it great just from the power of music.

Also worth noting was the performance of Christopher Reeve. He played Superman the way he was always meant to be played. Many people have commented on how Clark Kent maintains a secret identity with nothing more than a pair of glasses, but it has been established in the comics that he does so much more than that. He changes the way he speaks, the way he holds his body, the way he walks. Clark uses his physical presentation to change the way he appears to other people, even without a mask, and Christopher Reeve does this perfectly. When he is Clark, he stutters and stammers, he slouches and slumps. He is clumsy, awkward, and unassuming. Despite being tall and muscled, he almost disappears into the background. He is nonthreatening, unimposing, and unmemorable. As Superman, he stands tall, he talks clearly, and he dominates any space he’s in. He holds himself with righteous confidence without being arrogant, and he really does become the paragon of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Without knowing ahead of time, you’d never know they were the same person. 

This film also had a number of other details that really made it great. The art direction and special effects were astounding, especially for the pre-digital era. Superman’s flight scenes were both innovative and effective. The film made great use of miniatures and matte paintings, which should be used more often today. My favorite detail was that every scene Lex Luthor appeared in, he was wearing a different wig. The early scenes on Krypton with Marlon Brando as Jor-El were like a great short sci-fi movie on its own, with great effects and a compelling story. Superman had many issues that kept it from being perfect, and it was goofy and ridiculous at times, but at other times it was masterful. It was the first big-budget feature superhero film, and it created an entire genre that we are still enjoying today, so it deserves a great deal of credit for that. It did something totally new, and despite its flaws, it did it well.

Robbie D.
The Directionless Director 

Released March 30, 1953: JEOPARDY, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, and Ralph Meeker.  Directed by John Sturges (The Sign of the Ram, The People Against O'Hara, Bad Day at Black Rock).  Barry Sullivan embarks on a family road trip deep into Baja California with his wife (Barbara Stanwyck) and young son (Lee Aaker).  Stanwyck’s opening voice over expresses the joy of taking to the open road, and conveys the wonderment of Tijuana’s carnival-like atmosphere and desolate openness of Baja  California.  It all sounds delightfully optimistic and freeing until they stop to camp at an isolated beach where Stanwyck’s narrative turns ominous as she describes a dilapidated old jetty that will soon play a big part in ruining the family vacation.  Things go awry when Aaker explores the jetty and gets his foot stuck in the planks.  After Sullivan climbs out to rescue him, a portion of the jetty collapses, pinning Sullivan’s leg under a large piling at the waters edge.  Unable to free himself, Sullivan instructs Stanwyck to drive back to an abandoned gas station they passed earlier to find some heavy rope.  Meanwhile Sullivan remains trapped at the beach with Aakers, as the steadily rising tide threatens to submerge him.  The family’s plight only gets worse when Stanwyck encounters a murdering escaped convict (Ralph Meeker) at the empty gas station.  On the run from the police, he wastes no time kidnapping Stanwyck and commandeering her car.  Despite Stanwyck’s pleas, he refuses to go to the beach to save Sullivan.  The remainder of this rather short film focuses on Stanwyck’s attempts to convince the violent and selfish Meeker to help save her husband, while at the same time, the film’s flaws gradually become apparent.  Since half the movie was spent setting up the family vacation, very little time remains to properly build drama around Stanwyck’s predicament.  We get short vignettes of Stanwyck and Meeker driving the dusty roads of Baja California, interspersed with lackluster scenes of Sullivan helplessly pinned at the beach.  The lack of in-depth storytelling results in many missed opportunities to generate tangible suspense.  For example, early in the film we are deliberately shown Sullivan’s gun being placed in the glove compartment of the car, signaling this will be important later in the story.  But when Meeker kidnaps Stanwyck, he stumbles onto the gun almost immediately and takes it for himself, eliminating any tension around its potential use by Stanwyck.  It would’ve been much more interesting to keep the gun hidden for a time, holding out hope that Stanwyck might get to it.  One can imagine how Alfred Hitchcock might have leveraged this situation far more adeptly.  Another aspect that undercuts the edge-of-your-seat involvement is Stanwyck’s defiantly tough character.  We desperately want to see her overcome Meeker and we share her disappointment each time she is thwarted, but her character is so emotionally resilient, that she barely seems affected by her situation.  In one scene, she even takes a casual cigarette break with Meeker.  With subtle indication that’s typical of the era, it’s intimated that Meeker eventually takes advantage of Stanwyck sexually, but even this is initiated by Stanwyck as a means of trying to save her husband.  While it’s encouraging to see a strong female lead on screen, Stanwyck’s lack of emotional vulnerability only mitigates her sense of peril and thus, our involvement.   The final blow that cripples this film is the unexpectedly abrupt about-face by Meeker in the movie’s closing scene.  For no credible reason, he suddenly chooses an honorable course of action and discards his previously well-established selfish impulses.  This sudden bad-guy/good-guy flip is not only out of place, but it robs us of the satisfaction of seeing a reprehensible villain get his comeuppance at the height of his deplorable worst.  In the end, Jeopardy offers a mildly suspenseful story, highlighted by some attractive scenery of Baja California, but ultimately the film leaves us asking, “Is that all there is?”  We give Jeopardy 2 out of 5 fedoras.

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It’s Arnie’s 70th birthday today! What better way to celebrate than with me, Obscurus Lupa and his regrettable first film, Hercules in New York, in this classic review!

Watch on robynhoodscloset.com

Starting the year off right with my top pick flick this month, from 1966, its Daisies.

Yes this is a foreign film, but don’t let that deter you, it feels very universal and especially modern and relevant for 2015. An absurdist farce, it was probably the most anarchist film made during the Czech Nu Wave film revolution, and by the only female director in the country at the time, Vera Chytilova (bad bish). A “radically mischievious” picture about “two dangerously bored young women [who] have anarchic fun in a series of loosely connected episodes.”(NYTimes) —-> haaa I love that description, it’s so spot on. Complacent teens with nothing better to do than wreak havoc on others. Story of our generation.

My favorite scenes are the ones I relate to the most; public drunkenness, constant eating, the sugar daddies, impromptu fashion show, frolicking in the meadow. Well, I don’t frolic as much as I’d like to these days, but you catch my drift. It’s all here: the fashion, the food, the attitude, the nonchalance of it all just speaks to my soul. But what really draws me in is the freedom. To be wild, brash, and carefree while we’re young…and give zero fucks about it. Life goals.

It’s really ahead of it’s time, as you can see just from the gifs, hard to believe this was made in the ’60s.  The director uses many experimental filters/effects/colors and purposeful set designs to create a vibrant surreal look at the effects of boredom. It’s an innovative perspective and one that’s stood the test of time. I’d just love to recreate some of these scenes in my own life, just for giggles. That’s bad, right?

So now let’s talk about the weird storyline, or, ahem, lack thereof. It’s all good! This is one of those artsy fartsy films so it’s just more about the imagery and the wildness of the girls’ antics than the actual plot. It’s really only a peek into their ‘adventurous’ lifestyle. Not surprisingly however (because people love to get their panties in a bunch), the film was banned in Czechoslovakia in ‘66 and our director here was unable to work in her home country until 1975. If history has taught us anything, depicting too much fun is always bad for our health (rolls eyes). So we try to just leave those naughty parts out.

Anywho, yeah it’s kind of all over the place, really leaving it open to some interestingly thoughtful interpretations, like, “Do their games represent the dangers of idleness and ideological shapelessness, or do the women personify a punklike liberation? And what to make of the archival war footage that opens and closes the film?” (NYTimes). But honestly, who cares what the meaning behind it all is, cause it’s fucking funny.

Look, I’m not really sure what to make of the war footage in the intro/outro, I don’t know what this film contributes to the feminist movement, hell, a couple times I didn’t even know what they were talking about, I just know what inspires me and this one makes me want to go out and eat the world…Then break it! ~~~Njoy~~~

I’ve included the full movie here just press play

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I haven’t forgotten about my monthly movie post!!

For April, I’ve chosen one of the greatest films (well, in my opinion)….”All About Eve,” from 1950, starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.

I really love how Rotten Tomatoes opens it’s summary with… “All About Eve is an elegantly bitchy backstage story revolving around aspiring actress Eve Harrington (Baxter)”. An extremely accurate description without giving too much away. I don’t really want to tell you what happens in the picture, because it’s just too good for you not to experience it yourself.

One of the most profound “mean girl” movies I’ve ever seen, the flip-moment is spectacular. A sad story about a woman’s aging, the effect it can have on a successful career, and the perspective we have toward ourselves. Depressed by her 40th birthday, Margo Channing (Davis) says that admitting her age makes her “feel as if I’ve taken all my clothes off.” She looks at Bill and bitterly says: “Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it 20 years from now. I hate men.”

We all know how much shit we give mature actresses for their withering looks and diva dispositions. But is it really fair to them? I think not. Why are they not allowed to grow older and wiser, or to know exactly what they want and settle for nothing less? Why are we so obsessed and preoccupied with the virginal, naive, adolescent types who have not experienced very many life changing events. In my opinion, there’s not much to learn from them, not very much depth, and I personally don’t always understand the appeal. Well, you get to see Marilyn Monroe in a small cameo, sort of portraying just this character: the young sexpot that she is so well known for, lol; but she always manages to steal the screen no matter how small or insignificant her role may seem…a true star.

One of my favorite moments in the film is in the broken down car scene when Margo gets very introspective about her own success, not as an actress, but as a woman. It’s a very dark part, for me at least, because in some way I relate to this….in her epic monologue, she states, “That’s one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we’ve got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we’ve had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing’s any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you’re not a woman.” Like…damn.

You sort of develop a love-hate relationship with all of the main characters….it’s very taxing emotionally lol. The acting of course is top notch. With the legendary Bette Davis giving a sharp, yet heartfelt (at times) performance….honestly she steals the show - and that’s as it should be. 

“Praised by critics at the time of its release, All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards (a feat unmatched until the 1997 film Titanic) and won six, including Best Picture. As of 2014, All About Eve is still the only film in Oscar history to receive four female acting nominations (Davis and Baxter as Best Actress, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter as Best Supporting Actress).“ - - -taken from Wikipedia

You can find the movie on Netflix if you’ve got an account or watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmga-_c2sCI for a small amount -___-

8

A Clockwork Orange (1971), Stanley Kubrick

Cheat Review

The first time I had heard about A Clockwork Orange was when I was about 11 years old on some random cable television special, which was counting down the creepiest and scariest movie scenes of all-time. The infamous break-in/rape scene that appears early on in A Clockwork Orange was one of those scenes, and the second after I saw it, I immediately assumed, even potentially declared, that I would never watch that movie. 

Then, when I was around 14 years old, one of my friends announced that he had seen “the weirdest movie ever made”. A couple other friends and I went over to watch this “weird” movie, and it turned out to be A Clockwork Orange. Within the first 20 minutes or so, a little past the rape scene mentioned earlier, we decided that this wasn’t the movie we really wanted to watch on a laid-back weekend night, and I was pretty thankful for that decision because, to be honest, the film was really freaking me out. 

Now that I have become more familiar with Kubrick’s work throughout the years, I thought that I should finally experience this disturbing piece of work in its entirety, because, well, why not? 

It turns out, I kinda fucking loved it. 

Now, the film is still pretty upsetting and I can’t imagine watching it regularly, but the film really hit me in a fascinating way. A way I can only describe as invigorating. (I feel weird writing that… but fuck it, whatever.)

Kubrick really captured a dystopian world in a way that is unlike any other. The environment and culture are both completely unworldly, yet somehow grounded. I can just imagine with time certain pockets of the world becoming like this futuristic London and can only imagine what type of scientific experiments may be performed on the most severely disturbed people of the world. It’s unsettling and scarily captivating.

Malcolm McDowell as Alex is a huge reason for this film’s success. McDowell’s performance is certainly dark, yet because Alex is young and so incredibly disturbed, I rooted for his improvement, only again to be saddened by the measures that were being taken to “improve” him. Deep down, this film is all about the issue of morality and the question of whether or not morality can be improved upon, or, in other words, if a person can be “cured” of their amorality. The film does a great job at making you think about those questions critically, even if you already had a strict belief towards a specific answer. 

A Clockwork Orange is a long and taxing look at the idea of whether or not the bad people of this world can be saved from their demons, but it is so damn captivating and enthralling that it is clear to understand why this Kubrick vehicle is considered such a classic. 

Metacritic : 78, RottenTomatoes : 89%, IMDb : 8.4

Evil dead 1982

In true style of a a classic 80’s horror we can cringe at the dialogue and laugh at the beauty of the dodgy camera angles. And oh boy the overload of cheese man, I mean how do they do it?! It’s been so long since I last watched a horror I nearly forgot the cliche sexism, and as always with cabin in the woods film the forest is a big perv…
Can we all take a moment to appreciate the detail in the book though, except the ink was black and blue, I thought that it was meant to be written in blood?…Also if you find a tape about demon resurrection you don’t listen to it!!!!! And I absolutely adore the possession smile www nice touch costume and make up department my hat to you sirs.
Honestly though, this is one of the classics that has to be seen, it’s just a good old cheese filled hack n slash that has a half decent plot and demons with half decent brains.