#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

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#369- Kiss of the Spider Woman

Quick recap: A man imprisoned for homosexuality is locked up with a political prisoner. The two develop a very deep bond despite horrible conditions. Think of it like the Odd Couple except not funny and someone dies. Cheers!

Fun(?) fact: Sônia Braga, who played several roles in the ‘film within a film’ part of the movie, spoke no English at the time. Instead, she memorized her lines phonetically.

Yes, Virginia, there really is a spider woman

My thoughts: It’s been difficult to decide on a direction for this movie because it is all over the place. It’s sweet at times, painfully sad, funny and also a mystery? But in the end, it just didn’t work for me. I’ll start by saying that I loved William Hurt and his performance is the reason I’m giving this film any points at all. The way he tells the ‘film within a film’ plot was magical and well worth sitting through the rest of this pile.

I think the many directions this movie takes is why I’m so hesitant to embrace it. If it had stayed a story about a gay man falling for his prisoner roommate who is very masculine, that would be fine. If it had just been about an unfair justice system and regime, that also would’ve worked. Hell, if it was just about William Hurt’s character Luis actually being an informant, that would also be compelling film. But all of these things plus two movies within this movie? There’s just too much to focus on. Luis himself is a mess so I get it to some degree. And I enjoyed not knowing what would happen next because of that. It felt more realistic to not predict what Luis would do after he got out of prison. At the end of the movie, however, I still hadn’t decided on how I felt about his character. Was he ever in love with Valentin or was it all an act so he could be released early? I guess if you look at the ‘film within a films’ it would seem as if he really did fall in love and saw himself as a sort of martyr. That would also explain the ending, which I won’t spoil for once.

I loved the way the scenes from the past were weaved in with the present, as well as the silent movie throughout the various scenes. It all made Kiss of the Spider Woman compelling to watch, even if the end wasn’t satisfying.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: Pierrot le Fou

#368- Project A II

Quick recap: Having not seen the first Project A, I have no idea why Dragon (Jackie Chan) has so many enemies. I also have no idea how he was able to go from the Navy to Police Sergeant but that’s also a thing, apparently. Maybe it’s his ridiculously good martial arts skills?

 

It’s easier just to name who doesn’t want Dragon dead

Fun (?) fact: The peppers Dragon ate and then spit in his hands to rub in his attackers’ faces were real

My thoughts: I absolutely love discovering subgenres within a genre. My first realization of this came very early on in this list when I learned ‘foreign’ isn’t a genre, except to win an Oscar. And now I’ve expanded my horizons to learn that there are different kinds of Martial Arts films. Before this list I had only ever seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is so vastly different than this movie that they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same realm.

Project A II was a lot more fun for me to watch than previous films of similar fighting plots. There is an underlying humor I didn’t always understand but still very much enjoyed, especially during the fighting scenes. It’s one thing to film people punching and kicking people but Jackie Chan adds all these elements that show he is enjoying himself but is also a master. My favorite scene was when Dragon went to confront the big mob boss that ran the district he was policing. He had a few friends with him and it was obvious how outnumbered they were. Yet that didn’t stop Dragon from trying to kick as much ass as possible and also have time to show off. The restaurant they fought in became a sort of playground for both sides as they used everything from couches to the bar to the walls to attack.

This movie is about as straightforward as it gets: good guy comes to town to defeat bad guys. Yet I found myself getting lost in the new characters and trying to figure out who was really the villain. At some point I gave up and just enjoyed the ride. I’m fairly sure events in the film take place in the early 1900s but some of the costumes look like something out of Miami Vice and the soundtrack is full of synthesizer. Jackie Chan knows what we are here for though and he delivers exactly that over and over. Just don’t think too hard and you will love this movie.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Kiss of the Spider Woman

 

#363- The Killing Fields

Quick recap: As I may have mentioned one or two times before, war is hell. Journalist Sydney Schanberg is momentarily stuck in Cambodia during the mass murder cleansing campaign ‘Year Zero’ along with his friend and translator, Dith Pran. While Schanberg is eventually rescued, Pran, a native Cambodian, is left to fend for himself in a country now hostile to its citizens. OH! AND THIS IS A STORY BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

I made the mistake of Googling ‘The Killing Fields’ . Don’t do that.

Fun (?) fact: Haing S. Ngor, the actor who played Dith Pran has a tragic story that almost rivals the one told in the movie. His wife died during childbirth during the Cambodian cleansing campaign because even though her husband was a doctor, seeking his help would mean the Khmer Rouge finding out about him and murdering him. Ngor eventually escaped to America and was chosen to play Pran. He was later murdered in what many people believe to be a revenge killing for speaking out against the Cambodian atrocities.

My thoughts: Time to let my American ignorance shine through as I admit to knowing next to nothing about Cambodia’s history before this movie. I had heard of Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge but I had no idea how evil it all was. The killing Fields is a tough movie to stomach for several reasons, but for me there is a lot of guilt and anger that this piece of history was never discussed or mentioned in school. As evidenced from this movie, though, Americans alive while this happened weren’t aware of the atrocity either. The final scene of the movie explains that as of 1984, the film’s release, Cambodia was still recovering. Even today, there are remains that have yet to be identified.

History lesson aside, This movie was just as powerful as I expected it to be. The Killing Fields is told in two parts: the first part is about Sydney Schanberg and his crew trying to make it out of Cambodia and the second part focuses on Dith Pran’s struggle to survive as he is left behind. As much as I liked Schanberg, the performance felt a little heavy handed at times. It never crossed over into him being the victim thankfully but it got close several times. Pran’s part of the film had my full attention. The real Pran coined the term ‘Killing Fields’ when he stumbled into a body of water lined with thousands of bodies, people murdered from the regime. That scene has stuck with me several days later.

What I appreciate most about this movie is that it never feels sanctimonious or preachy about the plight of the Cambodians. The story focuses on these two friends and how they navigated such a terrible time in our world’s history. Looking at the suffering close up really drives home how horrible it all was and I was better able to grasp the atrocities. The conflict reminds me a lot of Syria and the images shown daily of the refugees and dead children. Will we hear of stories like this in 10 years and feel the same shame and regret that we didn’t pay attention sooner? Time will tell.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Ikiru