#237- Storm Over Asia

Quick recap: A Mongolian herdsman starts a revolution because he got ripped off by a fur trader.

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To be fair, that’s a pretty nice piece of fur

Fun (?) fact: A silver fox fur coat will put you back about $5,000.

My thoughts: I’ve recently gotten into the podcast You Must Remember This, which examines the history of American cinema. This season, they are tackling the story of the Hollywood Blacklist, which fits perfectly with Storm Over Asia because it is legit Soviet propaganda, yo.

Did this movie create a bunch of Communists? Probably not. Unlike Salt of the Earth which had me legitimately questioning what I believed, Storm Over Asia only made me feel sorry for the poor foxes murdered for their fur. Not too sorry, though, because Mongolia is a very cold place and I’m sure fur was invaluable for keeping warm. The story itself, about the Mongolian joining with the Communist Partisans to fight the evil British army never really happened. Britain never invaded Mongolia, although they did occupy other places in Asia so it’s not too far fetched of an idea. Granted, I don’t know my USSR history as well as I should, but I just can’t imagine hoards of Russians rushing to movie theaters only to leave as card carrying members of the Communist Party because they were so angry about the fictional invasion of Mongolia.

Propaganda aside, the movie itself ran much longer than it should have. There are several scenes that made fun of Eastern religions, which made sense for the USSR to put in but watching 20 minutes of ritualistic dancing got old very quickly. I also didn’t really sympathize with the Mongolian herdsman, although I agree he should’ve gotten more for that pelt than what was given to him. Really, the only part I truly enjoyed was the last minute or so of the film when an actual storm blows in. At first, I wondered why someone chose to film a wind storm but then I got it- THIS is the storm over Asia! To make sure I understood the subtlety, among the wind blown objects were British Soldier hats and dead bodies, It was an exciting way to end an otherwise boring movie, although it still didn’t make me a Communist.

Final review: 1/5

Up next: La Notte

#231- There’s Something About Mary

Quick recap: In the screwballiest of screwball comedies, There’s Something About Mary is about a guy (Ted) in love with a girl (Mary).

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Ben Stiller as a high school kid will haunt me for a long while

Fun(?) fact: Lee Evans (who plays Tucker) has the most godawful British accent but as it turns out, he is actually British and just exaggerated what he normally sounds like. Actors!

 My thoughts: Hello. My name is Mary. YEAH. This movie came out when I was in middle school and has been the bane of my existence ever since then. Not that I needed more fuel for people to tease me about my name- ‘Hey Mary, how does your garden grow?’ ‘Hey, Mary, where’s your lamb?’ ‘Hey, Mary, are you proud?’ ‘Mary Me!’ (actually, that one was kind of funny). The point is, I hated this movie just for that reason and I’m glad to say that now I can hate it because it is the WORST.

All you really need to know about There’s Something About Mary is that it is directed by the Farrelly brothers, who are known for such gems as Shallow Hal, Osmosis Jones and Dumb and Dumber. Now, I have nothing against lowbrow comedy or even the Farrelly brothers in general. I have seen Dumb and Dumber many times and certain scenes still make me laugh. The difference though is that that movie had heart where this one just has jokes about masturbation and killing a dog. Yes, there is a love story but just barely. It’s mostly just a vehicle to get to the gross out stuff and making fun of people who are disabled. I never bought into the whole Ted/Mary dynamic mainly because there wasn’t much there. There is one scene where the two sit around and talk about more meat products needing to be on sticks. This turned out to be a joke that Seinfeld was going to use originally but decided against it so the Farrelly brothers bought it. These guys suck.

And as for the ending, which I’m going to go ahead and spoil because screw you if you want to watch this after my review, it turns out that EVERY guy is in love with Mary. There is a zany cast of suitors throughout the movie with the reveal at the end that Mary’s crazy high school boyfriend, Woogie, is Ted’s best friend and his been patiently waiting for his chance. I cried in despair upon realizing that I had been duped by the Farrelly brothers and hadn’t seen the twist ahead of time. The other reveal that Mary’s ex, Brett, was actually Brett Favre didn’t send me into quite as big a shame spiral, but I was still pretty broken up about the whole thing. Please don’t watch this movie.

Final review: 1/5. I guess you could call this the height of screwball comedies, which just means that it gets much, much worse.

Up next: Cleansing my palette with The Godfather

#220-One-Eyed Jacks

Quick recap: Marlon Brando in a Western, doing Western stuff.

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Not that One-Eyed Jacks

Fun (!) fact: Marlon Brando replaced Stanley Kubrick as director and shot 6 times the footage that he needed. This ended up being his only directorial role, which he said was too much work. Considering he spent hours staring at the waves waiting for a perfect shot, he might’ve been doing it wrong? I’ve never directed anything so I guess I can’t say much.

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He wore this scarf the whole time and although I think it looks fierce, it kind of looked odd in a Western setting

My thoughts: I’m beginning to not like Westerns. I remember watching Shane for the first time, bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the prospect of a new genre to potentially love. It disappointed me in ways that I’m still not comfortable talking about in public, but I continued on, determined to find something to latch on to. Red River wasn’t as bad as Shane, but was still a disappointment. There were some other pseudo-Westerns thrown in between these movies but I wanted more.Something authentic. Something gritty. Something…not Marlon Brando.

Marlon Brando didn’t necessarily do a bad job in One-Eyed Jacks, but he laid on the ‘vengeance’ thing a little thick. Most of the time he reminded me of a sullen teenager whose mom has taken him to JC Penny’s to buy clothes when he would much rather be at Hot Topic. There is one scene in particular after he escapes from prison in which he rolls his eyes THE ENTIRE TIME. His hat is pushed so far down into his face but you can still see the whites of his eyes. It looked creepy and made me wonder if that whole thing about ‘if you roll your eyes enough, they are going to get stuck like that’ thing was true.

Another thing One-Eyed Jacks lacked was subtlety. In the story, Rio (played by Brando) is a robber, along with his best friend Dad. Yup. Dad. So after one heist, Dad takes the money and leaves Rio to be caught. He is thrown in prison, escapes after 5 years. When he gets out, he learns that Dad ( I KNOW) is now the sheriff of a town and has turned into a model citizen. The two meet again with Dad trying to teach Rio a lesson and help him repent of his stealing ways. In comes the whipping scene. After shooting a guy, Dad strips Rio’s shirt off and whips him for a few minutes. If you think this sounds a little erotic…….it totally does. I was both repulsed and intrigued.

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As we later find out, Rio has knocked up Dad’s Step-daughter ( just go with it). He now has to make a choice whether to continue his vengeance or let it go and be with the woman he loves (and knocked up). I won’t spoil the ending, although I really suggest not watching this movie, but let’s just say that Rio has his cake and eats it too. And by cake, I mean that he kills Dad and rides off into the sunset with the girl. Oops.

Final review: 1/5. Please don’t watch One-Eyed Jacks. Might I suggest an episode of Twin Peaks instead?

Up next: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly………..another Western

#217- The Color of Pomegranates

Quick recap: Red. The color of pomegranates is red. And sometimes pink, but mostly red.

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I’ve seen a lot of life hacks about eating pomegranates, but this is a new one

Fun (?) fact: Director Sergei Parajanov once said that the American public didn’t understand his movie because people ‘are going to this picture as to a holiday.’

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Weirdest holiday ever.

My thoughts: The Color of Pomegranates is about the life of Armenian poet, Sayat-Nova. Despite being a a biographical film, there isn’t really a plot, or words, or characters or anything that would help me understand what I was watching at any point in time. So instead, I took everything at face value and came up with a few highlights to share with you about Sayat-Nova’s life:

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As a young boy, nothing made Sayat-Nova happier than dancing while his face was obscured with an instrument

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His real passion, as we will see throughout this film, was holding stuff

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From his angsty teenage years

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Sayat-Nova cared about his studies and finally got accepted into a university that specialized in professional pomegranate eating

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Sadly, Sayat-Nova died. His many friends attended the funeral

Now, it could be that director Sergei Parajanov put everything in here as a symbol, but as a stupid American who doesn’t appreciate good film, I wouldn’t know better.

Final review: 1/5. Supposedly this is a gorgeous film with a ton of meaning, but it went WAY over my head.

Up next: Detour