Week 5: Breath Before the Dive

Tomorrow we will be diving into the 1954 Marlon Brando classic “On the Waterfront.”  How does this one feel?  Well, even given the critical reception, there has not been too much that leaves me waiting in breathless anticipation.  I hope to be very, very wrong about my generally negative impression of the film so far.  No worries, we won’t miss watching it!  I haven’t been able to find much more interesting information on the film, so this post is a bit light.  What more can I say about it?
I know one thing.  I think the film gives me such a bad taste because, well, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a Brando film.  I have definitely heard of his tendencies to be an incorrigible jerk to everyone around him.  So I don’t have that impression of his acting that supersedes his reputation.

Side note: I know!  Never seen The Godfather, Apocalypse Now,  or even Superman.  To reiterate: That’s the point of the quest!  Surely, I’m not alone.  I hope to have my mind changed by this movie.

Have a good one!

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Soundtrack Thursday: Week 5

Hello all.  Today we’re taking a peek at the soundtrack for the movie “On the Waterfront.”  This film is on the docket as this week’s random selection for the IMDB Top 250 Quest.

And guess who composed the soundtrack?  Leonard Bernstein!  That shocked me when I found out, though it shouldn’t have, I suppose.  Bernstein, for those who don’t know, is one of only a few “classical” composers we typically bother to recognize from the 1950s.  This period of time is pock-marked by experimentation gone awry, and so musical history from the time can be very polarizing (John Cage is a famous example of this, if you’ve heard of him).

Unfortunately, the film does not seem to have a neat and tidy OST, as it were.  There is a symphonic suite that Bernstein wrote, but I don’t think this will do too much to convey moods of different scenes.  Without knowing the movie or the story, I don’t think there’s much we can do with the soundtrack.

 

With that said, here’s a taste that can be found on Youtube:


As you can tell, it sounds very Leonard Bernstein as we might understand him from West Side Story.  It definitely has a bombastic air about it, like something we would expect out of any film from that era.  I like this symphonic style of music, of course, but I like the more subtle directions that are taken today.  For me, classical music in these types of films feels hobbling, like we have a composer adhering to archaic media instead of moving forward.  Despite that, it feels archaic to me because I am young.  In the 1950s, this likely would have felt perfectly appropriate.  It does nothing for me like the soundtrack to “There Will Be Blood” did.  It’s difficult for those classical traditions to evoke cinematic atmospheres.  They just don’t gel so well for me.  I’d be happy to be taught a lesson about this, though!
All in all, the music sounds cool.  It doesn’t surprise me, after hearing it, that Leonard Bernstein was the composer.  It does not psyche me up or make me more curious about the movie, so I’m walking in with tepid impressions except for the 100% critical reception.

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Rotten Wednesday: Week 5 (bumped up)

Hello all.  As I mentioned before I will be missing from the Internet this weekend, so things are getting moved forward a little bit.  So savor the flavor of a tomato on Tuesday!  What does Rotten Tomatoes say about our movie for the week, On the Waterfront?
100%.  Bam, there it is.  That officially marks our second 100% film on the IMDB Quest.  Given the fact that’s it’s one of the top movies of all time, I suppose it’s not terribly surprising.  50 reviews is a small sample, too.  The audience reaction out of around 50,000 views says 94% enjoyed it.  I don’t consider this a disparity between the critics, since a score of 94 is about as high as you’ll ever see from the audience aggregate.  96% is, so far, the highest I’ve seen, and I’d be happy if you corrected me should I be wrong.

 

So audiences and critics are in agreement.  On the Waterfront is top tier and fantastic.  What details can we pull out about what to expect?  What makes this film so good?
Unfortunately, Rotten Tomatoes has not stored any written reviews from 1954, so the critical reception is most certainly retrospective.  All seem to come from around 2003 onward, so we can take the reviews with a bit of salt.

 

“Under Elia Kazan’s direction, Marlon Brando puts on a spectacular show, giving a fascinating, multi-faceted performance as the uneducated dock walloper and former pug, who is basically a softie with a special affection for his rooftop covey of pigeons and a neighborhood girl back from school.

Kazan does a penetrating job of staging the fireworks and the interspersing tender meetings between Brando and the girl. Latter is Eva Marie Saint, a newcomer to films who has appeared in television and the legiter, ‘Trip to Bountiful.’ Miss Saint, in sharp contrast with the robust people and settings of “Waterfront,” is fresh and delicate but with enough spirit to escape listlessness in her characterization.”

Variety Reviews

 

On the Waterfront is a great film for many reasons, but its most enduring asset may be the young Brando, whose incandescent acting style ushered in a new era of more naturalistic, less mannered acting. It’s a tribute to the almost unprecedented emotional power of Brando’s performance that although the character he plays here is among the screen’s least articulate and eloquent heroes, he has one of the best-known and most quoted bits of dialogue in movie history.”

Steven Greydanus, Decent Films Guide

 

So obviously a lot can be said for Brando’s performance, which is not a shock.

Rotten Tomatoes has raised my expectation and anticipation for the film a bit more!  It should be fun to check it out.

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Trailer Tuesday: Week 5 (But it’s Monday!)

Shaking things up this week.  We’ve picked On the Waterfront, the earliest film covered so far by the IMDB Quest.  Today we’re taking a look at some trailers, and I find it interesting to see these older films in preview form.  Much different from how we do things today:

As you can see, much of it is spent simply telling you how good the makers of the film think it is.  I was not very impressed by the trailer, but I was psyched to notice Eva Marie Saint in here.  I did not catch it on my initial skim of IMDB after picking this one out.  I liked her a lot in North by Northwest, and so I expect I’ll like her here, too!

The trailer doesn’t tell us much about the story, mainly who is in it.  Unfortunately, this is a little lost on me since I’m only familiar with Marlon Brando, principally.  This is the only trailer I could find, which is not too surprising.  I’m not going to expect a TV cut in a time when television was just starting to get popular.

Does the trailer get you worked up to watch the film?  In my opinion, no.  It doesn’t convey what it’s about.  It doesn’t look particularly impressive cinematically, and I have very little to attach myself to.  We will shove forward, of course, but it’s a tiny bit less exciting now.

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Aside: The Dark Knight Rises Was Good!

Like I mentioned, my wife and I went to see the the new Batman movie.  Darren over at The m0vie blog gave a far more insightful and excellent review than I can ever hope to verbalize. It does contain some elements that you don’t want to read about before seeing the movie, but it is an extremely in-depth review of the movie and covers what I thought was weak and strong.

Personally, for me the unrooting of the film from realism a bit more than before left a sour taste in my mouth.  As with The Dark Knight, I left the theater feeling empty, like it was the last time I might get something special.  I expect that another viewing might be helpful to extinguish those negative feelings since I will already know what’s coming next.  This helps me to simply sit back and become more immersed.  For some reason, it’s only been with a few movies that I’ve had trouble doing that on their first viewing.

So if you want my recommendation, go see the movie, and then go read Darren’s review.  It adds a lot to the film for me, and I appreciate it a lot!

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Week 5: Movie Selection

Hello, everyone!  I am movie’d out this weekend after our watching of the whole Dark Knight Trilogy as well as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  This coming weekend I will be out of town without Internet, so I am bumping each day up!  Today is like Monday, so we’re going to select the movie…TO THE RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR!

 

110…We’re Watching “On the Waterfront.”  1954, another apparent classic I am loathe to say I never heard of!  A quick glance tells us it stars Marlon Brando, which is usually a good thing.

Synopsis: “Terry Malloy dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny’s thugs, and later meets the dead man’s sister and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry, who tries to force him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers.”  Courtesy of IMDB.

 

I imagine my followers know this one better than I.  I’m a fan of boxing films.  Judging by the synopsis, though, this isn’t going to be Cinderella Man.  I’m always happy to find gems!  So let’s dig into this one starting bright and early tomorrow.  We’ll get some trailers in.

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Week 4: Complete!

Let’s get it out of the way.  Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was an awesome movie!  I’m generally ambivalent to heist films unless they’re funny (for some reason).  This movie did not disappoint in that regard.  I thought it was very cleverly written, and the humor was at times overt and at other times quite subtle.

 

Sitting through the film I remembered some of the biggest criticisms I saw it get.  The plot was convoluted, said Roger Ebert.  A lot of the negative reviews stem from this inability to follow the story.  I’m kind of a moron when it comes to film, and I had no trouble following the plot.  I was really on the edge of my seat wondering how all these absolutely malevolent forces were going to converge and how the heroes (ha) would get out of it.  I, personally, DID care about the main characters.  They seemed like low end but somewhat decent guys caught in a huge jam.  I cared whether they succeeded, and I wanted them to win in the end.
I did not agree, also, that the characters felt too young.  I thought their youth added to the bewilderment of the situation.  How are these four twenty-somethings possibly going to get out of this?  It added to the suspense in my mind.

So I don’t really agree with the weaknesses picked out by the critics.  In that sense I can see why there was a disparity between popular and critical reaction.  Would I recommend seeing it?  Of course!  It breezed along at a healthy clip and peppered the dark story of thugs and brute violence with some funny gags.  Everything intertwines so carefully throughout the film and then suddenly unravels in the end.  You should definitely check out Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels if you have not.

That’s going to wrap up week 4.  We’ll be picking a new movie on Monday, and perhaps some final thoughts will be added tomorrow!  Have a good one.

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Week 4: Taking the Plunge

Tomorrow we are going to tackle Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  This week seems to have whizzed by, in fact!  Unfortunately, there was not much substance to the soundtrack, similar to Casino.  Rather, there was nothing to review or digest since the pop soundtracks tend to just beat you over the head.  Nothing against them, just not much that’s pertinent to the film since the songs weren’t crafted for it.
It’s all good!  The critical reception doesn’t bother me since the popular opinion is so high on this film.  It’s also relatively short at 100+ minutes, so if it isn’t that good, then the pain won’t last long.
This weekend is a big movie fest for me.  In preparation for The Dark Knight Rises, my wife and I caught Batman Begins.  We’ll be watching The Dark Knight tonight before catching the newest film tomorrow.  I love the new crop of Batman movies.  Of course, as per the rules these films won’t be on the IMDB Quest despite the fact that they’re on the list.  Why?  One, I’ve seen them too many times to dissociate them and go in blind.  Two, their place on the Top 250 may be related less to absolute quality and more to CURRENT popular opinion.  Time needs to tell on them.  Plus, who wants to hear yet another person rave about these films?  I’m psyched, and it should be a fun, movie-filled weekend!
We’ll catch you tomorrow, bright and early with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels!

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Week 4: Soundtrack Thursday?

Well, unsurprisingly the flick that is often compared to Tarantino movies does not have an original soundtrack.  Not too big a deal, really, but it leaves little to talk about.  Of course, it being British means there’s quite a bit of British pop.  There’s also a fair dose of American funk/soul ala James Brown.
None of that is surprising in the least given the kind of film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is trying to be!  Too bad…not much to say today!

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Week 4: Rotten Wednesday

Movie?  Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.  We’re moving right along in our quest here!  Every week I like to take a look at and analyze the big review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes.  This can reveal some interesting information about the film without busting out the spoilers.  Well, it doesn’t spoil except for those unscrupulous reviewers without sensitivity!

How does Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels fare on the Tomatometer?  Critically, it’s rather weak!  76% based on 58 reviews.  Granted, 58 is a pretty low sample size.  The problem here was likely that not enough people reviewed it.  When compared to the audience rating of 92%, we see the largest disparity for critics and audiences encountered so far on the IMDB Quest.  Last week a multitude of critics found fault with Casino, while a higher portion of movie watchers liked it.  It was a populist’s film in that case lacking somewhat in artistic merit.  Well, for my sake I’d rather watch a good film than one that was well-made and over my head.

What are some positive thoughts about the movie?  Roger Ebert gave a positive review, so let’s start there!

“By the end of it all, as you’re reeling while trying to make sense of the plot, “Lock, Stock, etc.” seems more like an exercise in style than anything else. And so it is. We don’t care much about the characters (I felt more actual affection for the phlegmatic bouncer, Barry the Baptist, than for any of the heroes). We realize that the film’s style stands outside the material and is lathered on top (there are freeze frames, jokey subtitles, speed-up and slo-mo). And that the characters are controlled by the demands of the clockwork plot.

But `Lock, Stock’ is fun, in a slapdash way; it has an exuberance, and in a time when movies follow formulas like zombies, it’s alive.”

Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com

 

Reading that review you’ll notice that the end impression is strong, but throughout he peppers the text with nitpicks.  The film is bewildering, the plot difficult to follow on the first viewing, the actors too young, more stylish than substantial.  Perhaps this won’t be a bad thing when all is said and done.  That’ll be up to us!

So what do the negative Nancys have to say about it?

“The storyline bounces around like a leaf in the wind. Although there are several funny episodes, the picture as a whole never quite gels.”

Steve Rhodes, IMDB.com

Really, given my reading of the negative reviews (that one right there actually felt more positive in tone than Ebert’s!), it just seems like the characters are relatively indistinguishable for the most part.  It’s likely not going to be helped much by the cockney accents, just as I imagine a Brit would have trouble in the deep South.  Otherwise, it appears to be as funny as the trailers make it out to be.

Given the facts assembled from this project, my enthusiasm is renewed!  Positive impression from Rotten Wednesday!

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