Sir, exfils are like abortions. You don't wanna need one. But when you do, you don't do it yourself.
As I have said before, whatever my opinion of Ben Affleck the actor, I have yet to be disappointed by Ben Affleck the director. In my review of The Town, I jokingly suggested that he could have a fine career as the John Ford of the Boston-based crime story. Apparently, he didn’t agree. I won’t argue, so long as films like Argo are the end result.
Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
Back in 2006, when Blu-ray players and discs first appeared in stores, Sony distributed a demo reel for stores to play showing how fan-damn-tacular movies looked in the new format. This included scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, a Sony property via Columbia Pictures, implying the film would be among the first released. For the next six years, film buffs waited with increasing impatience for Sony to make good on that promise.
I, for one, am tickled that they waited so long. The Blu-ray edition released in November, based on a meticulous 4K restoration, is simply amazing. The last time the movie looked this good to my eyes was back in 1989, and I was watching it projected in 70mm at the old Cinedome theaters in Orange, CA.
A truly excellent movie always manages to boil its story down to the essentials. It’s the mediocre ones that fumble around trying to figure out what they’re about. I won’t say what the bad ones do, but it often involves some hand lotion and a back issue of National Geographic.
Even before its classic final scene, the subject of madness runs under this particular bridge, as all three of the main characters have their sanity questioned at some point and the chief questioner, played by William Holden, jokingly questions his own mental state. For all its vast scale, The Bridge on the River Kwai remains an indelible and intimate portrait of fanaticism fatally clashing with fanaticism.
Beyond cleaning up at the Oscars, the true lasting impact of Gladiator is that it marks the beginning of the longstanding cinematic “bromance” between director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. It is also the high water mark for that creative team. They’ve done good work since but not on this level.
Ten years ago, movies like this didn’t win Best Picture. They lost to safe, happy movies like Forrest Gump and Shakespeare in Love. By their usual standards, the Academy voters would have gone with Michael Clayton, the safe and respectable choice. In the last couple of years, however, the Academy has been on a serious indie kick, and the Coen Brothers’ dark character study is about as indie as mainstream movies get. Was the best film of 2007? Perhaps, perhaps not. At least this makes up for Fargo losing out to The English Patient.
Perhaps the saddest line in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-sweeping epic, comes early when the 9-year-old Emperor Pu Yi (Tijger Tsou) naively tells his brother that an emperor can do anything he wants. The bitter irony is that this is only true so long as the emperor does not want to do anything that matters to the people of China. He spends his childhood as a prisoner of his court’s need to have an emperor, in order to justify their own position.
William Friedkin’s The French Connection is a lean, uncompromising example of filmmaking without a single gram of fat on its bones. Nothing unnecessary to telling the story is on screen, allowing Friedkin to tell a fairly complex story within a surprisingly compact running time of 104 minutes. Gene Hackman’s balls-out performance as unconventional and obsessive narcotics cop Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle elevates what was already a superior film to the level of a classic.
Oliver Stone’s Platoon remains the pinnacle of his directorial career and with good reason. Presenting the grunt’s eye view of the Vietnam War, this is definitely a movie that could only have been made by someone who had been there. Even if you disagree with Stone’s politics and find fault with his later work, it’s hard to dispute the sincerity and brutal honesty he brings to this film.
If F-words were horses, Martin Scorcese’s The Departed would be a stampede. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Scorcese film without an intensive barrage of R-rated language and this is a prime example of the director in his natural environment, among cops and wise guys and navigating a morally ambiguous urban landscape.
Scorcese has spent the last decade away from his natural milieu, possibly pursuing a level of artsy respectability that would earn him that long denied Best Director Oscar. That makes it someone ironic that he finally won the award with a lurid, violent but insightful crime film that played to his strengths.
Patton is a bigger-than-life film about a bigger-than-life figure and it will be remembered for a bigger than life gesture by its star when George C. Scott refused to accept a Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Scott didn’t believe he deserved this award. The rest of the civilized world, with good reason, begged to differ.
The team behind Paul Haggis‘ Crash said they were out to polarize people and, well, mission accomplished. This film made its share of both “ten best” and “ten worst” list for last year. You don’t divide critical opinion to that degree without swinging for the fences and, if Crash is not quite a home run, it definitely has warning track power.
Crash takes an Altman-esque look at the often bumpy interrelations between persons of different ethic backgrounds living in Los Angeles. Using a large, diverse cast, the film examines how they are all, in turn, victims of other people’s preconceived notions about their particular ethnicity and then turn around and, without thinking, inflict the same treatment on others.