#380- The Last Picture Show

Quick recap: A coming of age story set in a dying Texas town in the 1950s. Bleak doesn’t even begin to describe this film.

This movie is crawling with stars! Pictured here is Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges

Fun(?) fact: Orson Welles was the one to convince director Peter Bogdanovich to film in black and white.

And another BONUS FUN FACT: I have visited the real life town of Archer City, where this movie was filmed and based off of. Unfortunately all I remember are the massive bookstores owned by Larry McMurtry and a cat that followed me around.

see, Mom? My memory remains intact.

Thoughts and Observations:

Not having grown up in the 1950s I don’t know how accurate The Last Picture Show is, but I did grow up in a small Texas town and there were many scenes that felt uncomfortably familiar. This Larry McMurtry fellow might be on to something I think. My town didn’t have a tradition of parking our cars outside of a motel when our friends lost their virginity but we did have a bunch of old men who cared more about high school football than is healthy. We didn’t have teenagers sleeping with older women in unhappy marriages (I don’t think) but we did have our fair share of scandals that literally everyone knew about. And finally, I don’t remember my friends ever throwing a nude swimming party but there were plenty of times we rode around town and visited the couple of spots still open past 8 on a weeknight.

Don’t let the description fool you. This is not a Texan version of American Graffiti. Although this is a ‘coming of age’ movie, it happens as everything around them, especially the town is dying. I related to that more than anything I think. I live in a big city now and stores opening and closing is a daily occurrence. But in a small town, its impact is felt by everyone to some extent. And I think everyone goes through a shift at some point when they feel like they are too big for their town and it’s time to move on. I found myself thinking about this a lot during the movie. What would’ve happened to these teens had they lived in Dallas? Would Sonny have had a better life? Would Jacy have ended up with someone she truly loved? It’s interesting to see how the teens shaped the town and more importantly how the town shaped them.

  • If I had to rank the bleakest scenes, Billy’s experience with sex was the worst. Even worse than his death at the end of the film. I loved the character and I love how it showed Sonny’s humanity but it was a heart wrenching story to experience.
  • To the opposite end, I don’t know if I really enjoyed any of the scenes but I wish I could’ve seen more of the Picture Show since it seemed to be the hotbed of all teen activity and was the title of the film.
  • Cloris Leachman’s character Ruth was another sad one but I felt more sorry for her when she was having an affair with Sonny than when she screamed at him for abandoning her. Her life was hard, yes, but Sonny only offered her a false hope that couldn’t be sustained.
  • As mentioned, there are a ton of stars (both up and coming as well as established) and I had a tough time naming them, except for one :  Randy Quaid, whom
  • I recognized immediately.

  • I could go on and on about the characters but what really did me in was the setting. It’s no secret that I love Texas and its scenery and The Last Picture Show made me want to jump in my car and visit Archer City all over again. The scenes where Sonny headed out of town and watched the sunset felt so familiar and calming.

Final review: 4/5. I’d give it a perfect score but those nude scenes really snuck up on me.

Up next: L’Atalante

#379- Nosferatu the Vampyre

Quick recap: One of eight vampire films to come out in 1979, this one is a faithful retelling of the original Nosferatu.

Of course Dracula porn was a thing!

Fun (?) fact: Klaus Kinski, who played the title character, was apparently a big baby on set. His constant tantrums made him extremely difficult to work with, although Warner Herzog learned to use them to his advantage. Klinski wanted a more ‘excitable’ vampire, but Herzog disagreed. When Klinski wouldn’t budge on his opinion, Herzog made sure to goad him into a tantrum right before filming so that he would act subdued later on.

Thoughts and Observations:

Vampires can be creepy, weird, and yes even a little sexy, but they are definitely not scary.E specially with those pointy teeth and untrimmed fingernails this dude has going for him in this version. There were times during Nosferatu when I was definitely creeped out, like when the ship arrived at its destination and the villagers were met with a ton of rats and dead bodies. But the uneasiness never morphed into fear for me, though. Nosferatu seems like such an old-fashioned kind of monster, from a time when medicine was basically useless. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have merit, though. I really enjoyed the time spent on the build up and the unease at what might be lurking around the corner. The end was especially enjoyable as the whole town came apart and basically just waited on their turn to die. The villagers dancing in the streets surrounded by coffins was wonderfully macabre. I don’t know the real story well enough to judge this adaptation so I was surprised when Dracula had been killed, only to realize a new vampire had risen and Lucy’s sacrifice was for nothing. A bleak ending always gets me into the Halloween spirit.

  • Renfield was my favorite character by far. He was so creepy and unhinged, like when he carried around a box of flies and kept trying to eat them. That was much scarier to me than the vampire because Renfield was so unpredictable.
  • I’m not afraid of rats and mice but a whole army of them disembarking from the ship to spread terror was so creepy. I would love to see a movie about the ship’s journey, as Nosferatu and his band of rats slowly take control of the crew.
  • The ghost boy playing the violin at the castle was anything but scary, however. As Jonathon Harker lays in pain from falling out of the tower window, this jerk kid stands by him and practices the violin. I didn’t realize he was a ghost at the time so the whole thing was just hilarious.

Final review: 4/5. Mysterious yes, scary no.

Up next: HorrorFest continues!

#378- Rain Man

Quick recap: A selfish jerk kidnaps his disabled brother for money.

Fun (?) fact: It is in fact true that Qantas airlines has never had a commercial flight crash from 1921-today.

 

Thoughts and observations:

  • Director Barry Levinson did a great job painting Charlie (Tom Cruise) as the worst human being alive because I still believed it at the end of the film. He has to dress like that AND sale rare cars? You’ve gone too far, Levinson.

  • I was never able to fully appreciate Charlie and Raymond’s relationship mainly because it began when one brother kidnapped the other. I don’t care how many juice boxes you give, you can’t come back from that.
  • I’ll go ahead and skip to the ending to point out that ‘ I no longer yell at my disabled brother’ is NOT growth.
  • Why did this movie annoy me so much? I think it’s because Charlie tried to make the case that the group home was an inappropriate choice for Raymond with little to no facts. He barged in and assumed he could do a better job even though he had never heard of the term ‘autism’ before. He might have sweet memories of his brother when the two were younger but that doesn’t mean you will be a better caretaker.
  • And no, Charlie, using your brother to win money is not funny or a great bonding moment.
  • I’m not really sure what the lesson was here. Be nice to the Autistic because they may be worth a lot of money? No, you can’t keep your Autistic brother as a pet?
  • Dustin Hoffman did a phenomenal job so I won’t give this movie one star, even though I’d really like to. I think it goes hand in hand with my distaste for Inspiration Porn. The disabled do not exist as a way for you to feel good about yourself. They are not brave or strong. They are real people with real struggles and deserve human dignity. That’ what Rain Man felt like, one long Good Morning America segment about a brother being just a little less of a jerk to his brother with Autism.

Final review: 2/5 only because of Dustin Hoffman

Up next: The Last Picture Show

#377- The Ten Commandments

Quick recap: This movie is basically the story of Moses you remember from church, except with some love subplots thrown in for fun.

Except for this movie because it takes place in the Old Testament

Fun (?) fact: The special effects for this film were groundbreaking for their time, even though they look quite silly today. My favorite special effect is the hail that was actually popcorn painted white.

The parting of the Red Sea always made me sad as a kid because I imagined the fish were freaking out

Mary’s Ten Commandments for the film Ten Commandments:

  1. When casting for a film about the Middle East, thou shalt cast as many white people as thou can.

2. Thou shall not lust after Moses but Ramses II instead, as his is shirtless throughout the entire film.

3. Although the movie is almost 4 hours long, thou must only show 3 of the 10 plagues, and when showing the                plagues thou shalt make the blood as close to the consistency of Kool-Aid as possible.

4. In place of the other 7 plagues, thou shalt stuff as ridiculous a love plot as thou can cometh up with.

5. Thou shalt also record a message of director Cecil B. de Mille justifying said love plot because of research,                 not because of monetary reasons.

6. Thou shalt include a score that I will hum incessantly for all of time.

***side note**** My band in high school did a mash up show of music from the Ten Commandments and the Prince of Egypt. I haven’t touched a French Horn in years but I still remember most of the fingerings.

7. Charleton Heston must keep the same tone throughout the film, whether he is wooing a girl or condemning                the Tribes.

8. Thou shalt spend 3 weeks filming the orgy scene at the end of the film so as to teach what not to do. Or                      something  like that.

9. Thou shalt show the back breaking work of the slaves but also make me really want to stomp in mud and straw          for a little bit.

10. Thou shalt murder as freely as thou like as long as you are God and/if you are murdering an Egyptian.

Final review: 4/5. I was able to watch this film in its entirety with little to no boredom. The story was familiar but it has been awhile since I’ve heard it so the plot kept me on my toes. The plagues were gruesome enough and although the special effects were cheesy, this was the 50s and everyone tried their best.

Up next: Rain Man