#295- Gandhi

Quick recap: It’s about the life of Gandhi.

Look. I'm going to do my best to not make a bunch of Clone High references but with a movie like this, sometimes it's what you have to do.

Look. I’m going to do my best to not make a bunch of Clone High references but with a movie like this, sometimes it’s what you have to do.

Fun (?) fact: I suppose I should be embarrassed for not knowing this beforehand, but Pakistan only became a country in the 1900s. I’ve always thought the whole India/Pakistan thing had been around for thousands of years.

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My thoughts: This won’t come as a surprise to many, but the independence of India was not a topic taught in depth in public school. I’m sure we learned about Gandhi at some point, but only as a footnote of important leaders. It’s a shame because I could’ve really used some context while watching this movie. I really enjoyed it, of course. It’s masterfully done. But there’s this nagging suspicion I have that the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and I should be careful in using it to understand such an important figure in the 20th century.

First of all, as stated above, Gandhi the film is perfectly done and if it were a fictional story, would receive my highest rating. Ben Kingsley is amazing and when researching photos of the real Gandhi, I was surprised by how much the two favor each other. The cinematography is also gorgeous. There were so many beautiful shots, from the scenes of the train crossing the country to the camera panning through the crowds watching Gandhi speak, it was all so beautiful. I especially loved that director Richard Attenborough attempted to shoot many scenes in the same places they occurred. India is a beautiful country and Gandhi really captures that.

As for the movie’s main subject, I just don’t know what to think. According to the film, Gandhi was practically a saint and (almost) singlehandedly brought about revolution and independence. It’s a neat story, but the truth is considerably more complicated. I’m inspired to learn more now to get a sense of what really happened and I love when movies do that to me. It’s one of the reasons I’m doing this list, actually. At the same time, I don’t want to get bogged down in too many of Gandhi’s faults. Leaders are flawed because humans are flawed. But even though we know this fundamental fact, people are still desperate for a true hero. Remember Ken Bone, the guy in the sweater who asked Trump a question during the debate? We LOVED that guy for about 15 minutes, until someone found his history. Then we became uncomfortable with the hero we created and we moved on to someone else. There needs to be a balance between hero worship and jaded apathy towards those thrust into the spotlight. Despite the less than glamorous details, Gandhi is seen as a promotor of non violent resistance, which I think has its place in such a turbulent time such as this. Let’s learn the lessons we need to learn, but not stop too long to worship.

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Final review: 5/5

Up next: Reservoir Dogs

#294- Boogie Nights

Quick recap: Eddie is a mostly unremarkable 17 year old whose one special talent skyrockets him to porn stardom.

John C. Reilly is a national treasure

John C. Reilly is a national treasure

Fun (?) fact: Boy, did Burt Reynolds hate Paul Thomas Anderson while filming this movie. The two constantly fought throughout the whole thing, and after watching a rough cut, Reynolds said he regretted ever signing on. He ended up being nominated for several awards and many people think it’s his best role of his career.

Fitting  that I watch this movie after purchasing a pair of rollerblades. I'll never be near as graceful as Heather Graham though.

Fitting that I watch this movie after purchasing a pair of rollerblades. I’ll never be near as graceful as Heather Graham though.

My thoughts: Boogie Nights was a treat from beginning to end, which I realize is the corniest thing I could say about a movie about porn, but it’s true. Looking through the list of actors, I mentally squealed with each name- William H. Macy, Julianne Moore (my crush), Don Cheadle, THE Philip Seymour Hoffman (whom I will always love) and….Mark Wahlberg. Yeah, that last one didn’t do much for me. I have nothing against Marky Mark or his Funky Bunch, but he’s never been on any of my favorites list, unless you count Favorite Siblings of Members in New Kids on the Block. But Mark Wahlberg surrounded by actors I do genuinely love totally did it for me. I can’t say that I’ll ever really warm up to him, but I can at least say he has talent.

The entire movie is wonderful but I especially loved the feel of the movie. The 70s were such a good time for music and fashion and Anderson did an incredible job getting it just right. Sure, some of it was exaggerated because we are talking about porn stars here, but every scene still felt realistic and made me wonder if I was actually watching something based on a true story.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in saying that Boogie Nights doesn’t end as horribly as I thought it might. I know next to nothing about the porn industry, except for a longform article about James Deen I read one time. I remember that it seemed like way more work than I expected it to be and that was a little disappointing. Boogie Nights shows off the fun but I don’t think it ever takes the road of glamorizing what went on. Not that Anderson should be the morality police, but where’s the drama in watching sexy people have fun? I think I was most surprised by the transition of film to video cassettes in the era and how that affected the industry. Porn has always had a seedy history but before home movies, directors at least strived to make something of quality. It’s an interesting perspective that never occurred to me before watching the movie.

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Final review: 5/5

Up next: Gandhi

 

 

 

#293- The French Connection

Quick recap: A pair of cops go after a drug smuggling cartel with a connection. A French connection, if you will.

I like my coffee like I like my cops- flawed, with a bit of sass

I like my coffee like I like my cops- flawed, with a bit of sass

Fun (?) fact: Lee Marvin, current Night Vale Resident, was initially offered the role of Doyle but turned it down because he didn’t like cops. He went on to star in other roles and is just about to celebrate his 30th birthday.

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My thoughts: The French Connection reminds me of my non-existent days in the hood, where the drugs were rampant and everyone was just trying to get by in Brooklyn. I’ve never really gotten into cop films or tv shows (except The Rockford Files because of that sweet French Horn solo), but it gives me the same nostalgia as most Westerns do.

Plot-wise, the movie is pretty direct. The cops are trying to catch the drug cartel, but the audience knows who it is because we’ve been watching them from the beginning. It was just a matter of the two finally meeting each other. I was really curious what The French Connection meant until the opening scene, which is set in France. That’s when I realized that there is LITERALLY a French connection. I always like titles that just tell it like it is.

I enjoyed Gene Hackman especially, but everyone did a fine job in the film. The story is based off of real events, although I think only loosely. The duo reminded me of a podcast I’ve recently gotten into, called Stranglers, about the Boston Strangler of the 60s. Although the story itself fascinates me, I mostly love hearing from these old retired cops and the lengths they went to in trying to catch the killer. Much like those cops, this drug case consumed Doyle, to his detriment. I won’t give away the final scene but it didn’t really surprise me. Throughout the movie I kept wavering between whether I should root for Doyle or not, but I think it’s just the way things were done back then. He really wanted to solve the case and get the drugs off the streets and was willing to do anything to make that happen.

I’ve described your stereotypical cop film so far,yet there is something about it that just stands out for some reason. For me, I think it’s the combination of gritty landscape and ominous music. I love films from this decade and The French Connection fits in perfectly for that time period. It’s also a good reminder that despite what certain politicians think, things have gotten better and the War on Drugs is over.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Boogie Nights

 

#292- The Graduate

Quick recap: A recent graduate, played by Dustin Hoffman, gets caught between a sweet girl and her mother who he happens to be sleeping with.

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Fun (?) fact: Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin are actually only 6 years apart in real life.

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My thoughts:I know most people love Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and his fumbling and bumbling is supposed to come off as romantic and adorable, but I was completely turned off anytime he opened his mouth. I don’t know what it is about his voice in this film but it grated on my very last nerve. He just sounded so dopey most of the time, like one of those idiot cartoon villains who, for whatever reason, the mastermind keeps around. I just don’t get the appeal.

 I think this is one of those movies I would’ve enjoyed much more had I first watched it when I was 20 or even 25. As I wasn’t around in 1967, I don’t know what audiences thought about Benjamin and Elaine’s relationship, but I can’t imagine girls wanting something like that. I mean, the guy was having an affair with her mom, then on the first date took her to a strip club which made her so uncomfortable she cried, and then stalked her relentlessly. True love? No. That’s creepy. The affair he had with Mrs. Robinson also creeped me out, so basically this movie is about how to be a predator.

The saving grace for The Graduate is the music. I almost went out that night and bought a Simon and Garfunkel album I loved it so much. I never thought I would be a fan but each song fit so perfectly into each scene. I’d watch it again just for that. Also because I laughed every time the line ‘Hello darkness my old friend’ came on. It makes me want to carry around a boombox and put that song on blast anytime I’m sad so people will truly know what I am feeling.

The dialogue is another strong reason for watching this film. It was very snappy and reminded me of Manhattan several times. It could’ve also been because of the creepy relationships, though.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: The French Connection