#302- Braveheart

Quick recap: A mostly fictitious tale of William Wallace, the man who (maybe?) freed Scotland from England.

Fun (?) fact: ‘Braveheart’ was actually Robert the Bruce’s nickname, not William Wallace’s. He, unlike Wallace, is considered a Scottish hero and many Scots were angry with the way he was portrayed in the movie.

Come to think of it, they probably don’t care for Groundskeeper Willie either

My thoughts: Oh, Braveheart, my first ‘grown up’ movie I fell in love with. Speed was actually first, but there was just something more mature about a hunky, shirtless Mel Gibson than a bus that couldn’t slow down. Knowing what I know now about the film’s take on historical events as well as what I’ve learned about Mel Gibson, I worried that Braveheart wouldn’t have the same impact as it did on 11 year old Me. Fortunately, it totally holds up.

I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison, but in my mind, Braveheart and Shawshank Redemption are always grouped together. Both are ‘epics’ and both are universally loved. Despite the MANY historical inaccuracies, it was hard not to fall in love with Braveheart all over again. It’s an uplifting film (um…besides all the blood and torture) like Shawshank ,and a message that any toddler could grasp. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, it’s the kind of movie that sticks with you long after it’s over. Mel Gibson may be an ass in real life, but he is a hell of an actor. He absolutely nails the role of William Wallace. It’s those blue eyes, I think. How does he do it?

Treating Braveheart like a folktale (think Robin Hood) is the best way to go about enjoying this movie. William Wallace is larger than life and there are several nods to this in the film. I was a little put off by the fact that Wallace essentially freed Scotland because his wife was murdered but I think the point is that the desire was in him all along. I’m glad that it still holds up, over 20 years later, even if it is mostly not true.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Faces

#294- Boogie Nights

Quick recap: Eddie is a mostly unremarkable 17 year old whose one special talent skyrockets him to porn stardom.

John C. Reilly is a national treasure

John C. Reilly is a national treasure

Fun (?) fact: Boy, did Burt Reynolds hate Paul Thomas Anderson while filming this movie. The two constantly fought throughout the whole thing, and after watching a rough cut, Reynolds said he regretted ever signing on. He ended up being nominated for several awards and many people think it’s his best role of his career.

Fitting  that I watch this movie after purchasing a pair of rollerblades. I'll never be near as graceful as Heather Graham though.

Fitting that I watch this movie after purchasing a pair of rollerblades. I’ll never be near as graceful as Heather Graham though.

My thoughts: Boogie Nights was a treat from beginning to end, which I realize is the corniest thing I could say about a movie about porn, but it’s true. Looking through the list of actors, I mentally squealed with each name- William H. Macy, Julianne Moore (my crush), Don Cheadle, THE Philip Seymour Hoffman (whom I will always love) and….Mark Wahlberg. Yeah, that last one didn’t do much for me. I have nothing against Marky Mark or his Funky Bunch, but he’s never been on any of my favorites list, unless you count Favorite Siblings of Members in New Kids on the Block. But Mark Wahlberg surrounded by actors I do genuinely love totally did it for me. I can’t say that I’ll ever really warm up to him, but I can at least say he has talent.

The entire movie is wonderful but I especially loved the feel of the movie. The 70s were such a good time for music and fashion and Anderson did an incredible job getting it just right. Sure, some of it was exaggerated because we are talking about porn stars here, but every scene still felt realistic and made me wonder if I was actually watching something based on a true story.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything in saying that Boogie Nights doesn’t end as horribly as I thought it might. I know next to nothing about the porn industry, except for a longform article about James Deen I read one time. I remember that it seemed like way more work than I expected it to be and that was a little disappointing. Boogie Nights shows off the fun but I don’t think it ever takes the road of glamorizing what went on. Not that Anderson should be the morality police, but where’s the drama in watching sexy people have fun? I think I was most surprised by the transition of film to video cassettes in the era and how that affected the industry. Porn has always had a seedy history but before home movies, directors at least strived to make something of quality. It’s an interesting perspective that never occurred to me before watching the movie.

boogienightspants

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Gandhi

 

 

 

#291- Lone Star

Quick recap: Everyone has daddy issues- a deputy, the owner of an historic bar, an officer in the Army. Practically the whole town could use some counseling.

daddy issues, both of them.

daddy issues, both of them.

Fun (?) fact: The movie playing when young Sam and Pilar are making out is Black Mama White Mama, a nod to Pilar’s secret heritage.

It's Bailey from Grey's Anatomy! She probably has daddy issues also, although it's never stated outright

It’s Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy! She probably has daddy issues also, although it’s never stated outright

My thoughts: SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. 

I watched this movie almost a week ago and, except for the DVD skipping at the end, had a pretty uneventful time. I started writing my review the next night, as I am wont to do and as I looked up trivia, I noticed people discussing the ending and debating what happened. It was very obvious to me that the two main characters ended up together and everything was nicely tied up so what’s the controversy? That’s when I realized that the DVD skipped the exact moment Sam revealed that he and his lover Pilar were Luke and Leia-ing it up as half brother and sister. And in the end decided ‘screw it!’ and stayed together. The lesson of this tale is that maybe it’s time for the DVD to die out. It makes me wonder how many critical scenes I have missed in the past due to a scratched disc.

So, weird French Film twist ending aside the movie was just ‘meh’ for me. The bulk of Lone Star is about Sam coming to terms with who his father, a police officer, really was. The town saw him as a saint but Sam only knew him as a person he clashed with in his teenage years and didn’t feel close to. There is one scene when young Sam and Pilar are at a drive-in and the police break into the car and separate the two of them. Grownup Sam uses this scene as a way to show how strict his father was, but knowing the ending that they are actually siblings, totally makes sense why he wouldn’t want them together. And then there’s this mystery about an evil, racist deputy that goes missing and Sam thinks his father may have killed him, which would prove he wasn’t such a good guy after all. But really, that proves nothing because the deputy in question murdered a lot of innocent people and needed to be stopped.

There were all these other characters in the town that had their own issues with family and everyone is of course connected somehow in the end. Most of the time I felt like I was watching a television season than a movie. Maybe that would’ve been a better format for this story because it just dragged on and on at times. There were a few revelations that I would label shocking, but I could see them rolled out as a season finale or something, not all thrown into one heap.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: The Graduate

 

 

#290- Glengarry Glen Ross

Quick recap: Real estate agents race to close on deals anyway they can. First prize is a car, second prize is a set of steak knives and third prize is you’re fired.

Y'all got anymore of those good leads?

Y’all got anymore of those good leads?

Fun (?) fact: From IMDb, ‘Every since its release, this film has been used to train real life salesmen how to sell and how not to sell.’

I have a new appreciation for Gil now

I have a new appreciation for Gil now

My thoughts: From the millions of career choices out there, I think sales sounds like the absolute worst. You may say, ‘But, Mary, what about the person who has to clean out septic tanks?’ Yes, that job is gross, but it wouldn’t send me into a panic like sales. I worked at an H-E-B back in college and just offering the sale item as people checked out was enough for me to have a panic attack. Another point, when I worked at a pizza place I was always encouraged to ‘upsell’ by offering a large for just a few cents more. Did I do even that most simple task? Nope. Sales is the worst. Case closed.

That’s why I loved watching a movie about salespeople because they are so drastically different than my life. Every character in Glengarry Glen Ross is the worst. There is literally no one to root for by the end of the movie. They spend the entire film out-slimballing each other and it is so fascinating to watch. It also helps that the cast is phenomenal- Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and my favorite-Alec Baldwin, who I thought would be the villain, but who turned out to be a perfect motivational speaker. I’ve sat through sales pitches before and as frustrating as they are, now I can imagine the hoops they must be jumping through to get me to commit and what glorious prizes await if I just say yes (coffee’s for closers, you know).

I think what I loved most about the movie was that I kept thinking someone would snap and it just never happened. ‘Surely this will be the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ I said over and over again, but the race to the bottom of the barrel continued. And the best part is knowing that this was just one slice of a day for these real estate salespeople. How many times have they had these arguments? How many times have they conspired to steal leads? How many cars have been given away as incentives? It’s this perspective on the American Dream I can’t stop thinking about. It seems such a miserable existence and yet these guys live on it, thrive on it. And I’m so grateful I don’t have to do that for a living.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Lone Star