#298- Once Upon a Time in the West

Quick recap: A mysterious harmonica player seeks revenge for the death of his brother and also protects a widow who has lost the only family she has ever known.

Henry Fonda as Frank

Fun (?) fact: When Henry Fonda was chosen as the bad guy, he arrived in Italy with dark contacts and a mustache. Director Sergio Leone made him get rid of the costume because he wanted the audience to recognize his blue eyes and be shocked Fonda was a bad guy.

Some of the scenes in this movie were some of the most beautiful I’ve experienced so far

My thoughts: Once Upon a Time in the West is a Western, but it’s on a different level of Western than our American versions. Think of Shane like Caillou and Once Upon a Time in the West as Game of Thrones. That’s actually a perfect analogy because that’s about as much as I hated Shane.

Sergio Leone directed this movie as well as The Good, the bad and the Ugly, so I knew what I was getting into, but still, this movie seems much darker. In one of the first scenes, bad guy Frank shoots an entire family, including a young boy. I thought Frank might take the boy in or something or at least let him fend for himself until someone discovered the massacre, but nope. The following scene as the widow looks at each body of her family was incredibly hard to watch. I’m not sure what I imagine when I think of the Old West (mainly because I don’t think about it too often) but it’s something darker than Rio Bravo but not as dark as this.

It’s difficult to put into words what I loved about this film because everything just fit together so well. It’s a masterpiece. The music is perfect and as I’ve mentioned above, the scenery is beyond amazing. Sergio Leone captured the desolation of the West in a way no one else has. The only thing I didn’t love was the plot. It was too complicated for what I’m used to for a Western. At the end of the day, Frank was a bad guy but also just a henchman for the powerful and rich. It’s a great metaphor for today but I guess I was wanting something a little more simple. Still, it’s an essential film. At the very least, watch the first 15 minutes or so as the bad guys wait for the train. You just can’t get better filmmaking than that.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. You better believe there will be plenty of Simpsons GIFS for that review.

 

#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

#286- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Quick recap: An older couple invites a younger couple over one evening and it turns into a series of mind games and horrible secrets revealed.

Kirk: It could not be more simple, Luanne. You want me to show this to the cat, and have the cat tell you what it is? 'Cause the cat's going to get it.

Kirk: It could not be more simple, Luanne. You want me to show this to the cat, and have the cat tell you what it is? ‘Cause the cat’s going to get it.

Fun (?) fact: Bette Davis never said, ‘What a dump!’ like Martha (played by Elizabeth Taylor) said she did. She did however start saying it that way when she did her one-woman show.

How Elizabeth Taylor can make eating fried chicken look glamorous, I'll never know

How Elizabeth Taylor can make eating fried chicken look glamorous, I’ll never know

My thoughts: As someone who suffers from second-hand embarrassment on a daily basis, this movie was almost unbearable to watch at times. The other day, my cat Kiedis attempted to jump onto the counter but didn’t quite make it and I had to walk away because it was just that awkward. So, watching people fight, especially two amazing actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was like torture for me.

This movie is the very opposite of any #relationshipgoals you might have, and yet, Martha and George are doing something right to have stayed married so long. It was the young couple I originally banked on surviving until the end of the film, but now I’m not so sure. Martha and George are both destructive tornadoes and if you get close you will be destroyed. But together, since they are both tornadoes, I suppose they cancel each other out or something. It was fascinating to watch the destruction of both relationships and the lingering hope at the end.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf apparently stays very faithful to the play, written originally by Edward Albee. There are only 4 main characters and just a couple of different sets. Normally, this might be where I lament why this was ever turned into a movie, but I know the answer to that-the acting. Oh my god, the acting. It’s no wonder everyone was nominated for an Academy Award because all of them were phenomenal. I briefly considered finding if there was a production going on somewhere I could watch, but for now I’ll shelve the idea because if there’s no Elizabeth Taylor, I’m not interested. I haven’t seen enough of her work to ‘get it’ before, but after watching this movie, I don’t need any more proof of her greatness.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Diner

 

 

#283- Eyes Without a Face

Quick recap: After a horrific accident, a father goes out of his way to try and repair his daughter’s face. It sounds like the sweetest story ever, until it is revealed he is murdering young women and stealing their faces.

there's a face that'll keep you up at night

there’s a face that’ll keep you up at night

Fun (?) fact: In order to get financial backing for the movie, director Georges Franju was advised to leave out the animal torture scenes (to not offend the English), too much blood (to not offend the French) and a mad-scientist character (to not offend the Germans).

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My thoughts: Many of the horror films I’ve watched from other countries do a nice job of building up suspense long after the movie is over. Except for Funny Games, which traumatized me from the very beginning. Eyes Without a Face is no exception. I thought it slow moving while I watched, but there were enough creepy scenes to keep me somewhat occupied. After the movie was over, however, I couldn’t get the image of the girl out of my head and it has stuck with me since then.

Unsettling is the best word I could use to describe the movie. There was never anything downright scary, but instead several scenes that unsettled me. The surgery scene, for example, as the doctor removed the girl’s face to transplant it on to his daughter’s. It was gruesome, but not terrifying. And then end scene when the doctor gets what’s coming to him was also gross but not scary. All the scenes in between, though, especially anything to do with the main character and her Mask of Gloom bothered me. She was very sweet and didn’t ask for any of this, but why did she have to look so creepy with the long, flowing night gowns? And whoever decided that the mask was an improvement over her disfigured face was out of their mind.

As has been the unofficial theme of HorrorFest this year, I had trouble trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to fear. The doctor was evil, murdering pretty girls just for their faces, but that didn’t particularly scare me. Or maybe it was the girl herself, who, as I just described, creeped me out, but only because of the mask,not because of who she was. I can appreciate that my knowledge of the horror genre has increased, but it also makes me a little sad that it’s harder to find good movies that just scare me, without any rhyme or reason. Maybe one will pop up here next year, because this year has been a bit of a dud.

Final review: 3/5. The girl wasn’t enough for a higher rating, although the movie itself wasn’t bad overall

Up next: the last film of HorrorFest!