#311- Good Morning, Vietnam

Quick recap: Based on a real story, Robin Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, an Armed Forces DJ adored by the troops. The higher ups aren’t fans however, and want him gone.

Now you’ve just seen 2/3 of the movie!

Fun (?) fact: Good Morning, Vietnam was filmed in Thailand and if you look closely, you can see several signs written in Thai in the background.

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My thoughts: First of all, rest in peace, Robin Williams.

Now, on to business. War is hell, man. It’s what I say for all war movies and although Good Morning, Vietnam has some comedic moments, the phrase is still apt. Pithy, but apt. This movie has Robin Williams in his most Robin Williams-esque role. I read trivia that he ad libbed all of the scenes of him on the radio and I’m not at all surprised. I grew up with him as the Genie in Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire and it was nice to see him at his craziest. I also appreciated that he could turn it on and off because Robin Williams ‘on’ is a little much. Although the real Adrian Cronauer has said that the movie was only ‘about 45% accurate’, it still paints a good picture what went on for men in roles other than soldier. My favorite scene was when Cronauer was in the jeep and his coworker announced to the troops who he was with. Cronauer had given up being on radio because of circumstances I’ll get to in a minute, but seeing how happy he made everyone changed his mind. What struck him though was that this might be their only happiness considering the war zone they were about to enter. Williams never had to say any lines about his epiphany because you could see it etched on his face.

The one thing that bothered me about the movie was that I totally sided with the higher ups in their decision to release Cronauer from his job as DJ. He befriended one of the enemies and although it saved his life, there are reasons why you don’t associate with whomever you please while at war. It doesn’t matter that the kid had a good heart. But I also agree that Cronauer should’ve toned it down for the news releases on air, at least a little bit. At the end of the day, Armed Forces radio serves an important purpose in getting the word out. Really, I’m mostly angry at myself for being an adult and seeing things from a different perspective. Now I’m afraid to watch one of those 80s flicks that takes place at a ski lodge where the stodgy adults want to tear it down and leave the cool teens without a place to snowboard. I think I could totally see the reasoning behind shutting it all down. Help.

Final review: 5/5, but just barely.

Up next: Titanic

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#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

#288- The Night of the Shooting Stars

Quick recap: Told through the perspective of a little girl, a group of Italian villagers flee their town from Nazis. Along the way to find Americans to liberate them, they decide that they are going to fight back however they can.

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fighting the Germans. What could go wrong?

Fun (?) fact: The scene where the Germans bombed the church filled with villagers was based on real events. After some research years later, it was discovered that it was the Americans who were behind the accidental bombing. Oops.

My thoughts: Let me tell you, there is nothing that brings in the Christmas spirit more than a war film, featuring children, no less. I’m not much of  a ‘Christmas’ person to begin with, so it didn’t have much effect on my near non-existent cheer. Not that it would anyway, because out of the bunch of films I have watched so far featuring World War II, this one can almost be described as optimistic.

Almost. Mind you, there is still a lot of death happening to a lot of people you get attached to. But most of the death comes from fighting the Nazis and Fascists, which, by the way, really sucks that Italy had to fight two evil powers during the war. Everyone had it bad back then, but from what I’ve seen, Italian war films are generally the most depressing because it’s so difficult to grasp the amount of suffering the villagers went through. Night of the Shooting Stars further drives this point home as I watched the journey of these families as they fleed their town and homes. It made me wander where all that courage came from. I have no idea the first thing I would do if war came to my town. I’d like to say that I could muster up something deep inside to fight and keep going, but I don’t know. And these villagers didn’t know either, until it happened to them. The scenes where the people ran through the wheat fields to escape the fighting were the most heartbreaking for me. Here were these old women, impeccably dressed , crawling on their hands and knees, just trying to survive. It was almost too much at times.

But as I said before, this film is not just blood and gore and sadness. I think by putting this through the eyes of a 6 year old girl, the audience can see the optimism and hope. During the final battle scene, the little girl imagines her neighbors as Roman soldiers, defending their people. In reality, these are a bunch of people with weapons that barely work and little to no experience fighting. But to the little girl, they are heroes and they save the day. The Night of the Shooting Stars is based of Italian lore that once a year in August, shooting stars streak across the sky and if you make a wish, everything will come true. It was enough to keep her going and something for me to think about when times are rough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Forbidden Games

 

#287- Diner

Quick recap: A group of friends from high school learn to navigate the trials and tribulations of their early 20s at-you guessed it- a diner.

Kevin Bacon is peak Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon is peak Kevin Bacon

Fun (?) fact: As I learned from this article, Judd Apatow was directly influenced by Diner. He said that every scene in his movies where people are sitting around talking about sex, come from the dialogue from this movie.

Hear me out- young Mickey Rourke reminds me of Bruce Willis, but with hair. They even sound alike.

Hear me out- young Mickey Rourke reminds me of Bruce Willis, but with hair. They even sound alike.

My thoughts: I know it will come as a shock to many, but I was never actually a college age male in 1950s Baltimore. I’m really glad to get that out of the way. Despite this handicap, I still expected to enjoy Diner, even if I couldn’t personally relate to it. I mean, what else could you possibly need in your life besides a young Kevin Bacon?

Plenty more, apparently, because I just didn’t care for this movie all that much. It’s one thing to have a movie about ‘nothing’, but it’s another thing to have a whole bunch of ‘nothings’ make you think you are about to get ‘something’, when in fact everything will happen exactly like you predicted in the beginning: the wedding will go on, a young man with a gambling problem will not be taken out by the mob, and the young couple will fall back in love, exactly where they started.  ‘But!’, you say. ‘What about the journey? The self-actualization? The maturity?’. Yes, the friends grew up and learned to live in their situation but they never actually came to terms with anything, except the value of resignation. I imagine a sequel where everyone meets up in 10 years, probably in the same diner, and everyone sits around complaining about the same issues they’ve always had. I wasn’t expecting some twist or even closure, but don’t hand me a sappy ending when you know full well that when the camera stops, everything continues as it always has been.

Final review: 2/5. The point is for Kevin Bacon.

Up next: The Night of the Shooting Stars