#318- Night of the Living Dead

Quick recap: Surviving hysterical women and zombies, a black man still can’t manage to get a break. 

Ben knows he’s on his own keeping these idiots alive

Fun (?) fact: Night of the Living Dead is ripe with amazing facts, from the chocolate sauce used for blood to Reader’s Digest warning watching the movie would inspire cannibalism. My favorite, however, is that the word zombie is never used in the film. Not even once.

My thoughts: I typically only fear zombies on a case by case basis. Fast moving ones? nope. Super decomposed ones that groan and like to fight plants? not really. Lumbering ones who look like they have just died and their only purpose is to devour you? Totes. And that’s what Night of the Living Dead had, which is why it worked so well for me. I saw the movie years ago but I don’t remember it having the same impact as it did when I rewatched it this time. Maybe it’s these trying times we are currently in or maybe it was the fact that my cat chose to bite my finger during a particular jumpy scene, but Night of the Living Dead got to me.

So, a few stray observations:

  • I know that almost every horror movie draws inspiration from this film but the opening scene is just like Rocky Horror Picture Show, except that Johnny will never be as annoying as Brad.

Dammit, Johnny

  • Ben is a much nicer person than I would’ve been to Barbra. She was useless the entire time, which I get because of the whole ‘brother eaten by zombies’ thing, but still it made it hard to really root for anyone but him .
  • Zombie children are adorable but they use their cuteness to be absolute savage. Judy never stood a chance

I love how low budget this film is, yet it makes its point so clearly. The scene where the zombies chowed down was gross but it was the scenes where they just stood there hanging out that really bugged me. For something that unnerving, you don’t millions of dollars to tell a story. The true punch, though, came at the end when Ben is gunned down by police. Those final still shots of the police take his body using hooks is beyond chilling. If I had watched only that scene, I wouldn’t have been able to tell whether I was watching a horror film or a documentary on police brutality. Director George Romero might not have  meant to make such a powerful statement about race, but he did and that’s why this is film is such a true classic.

Final review: 5/5. Essential viewing

Up next: More Horrorfest!

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#316- City of God

Quick recap: Two boys grow up in the slums of Brazil. One has hopes of becoming a photographer while the other wants to rule the drug trade.

I’ll probably say it again, but this movie is bleak as HELL

Fun (?) fact: Almost all of the actors were recruited from real slums around Rio de Janeiro, including the actor who played Rocket. He actually grew up in the City of God. There’s a lot of great trivia about this movie but most of it gives away major plot points visit IMDb at your own risk.

Loosely based on a real story

My thoughts: Did I mention that City of God is bleak as hell? Not that I expected a comedy, mind you, but I was prepared for light drug trade,maybe a murder or two. Just enough so that I know I’d never want to go through that, but if for some reason I had to, I could make some serious bank (Is that a thing? Do people still say bank?).  Instead, I get a ridiculously sad, mostly true story about people who have no choice but survival, whatever that means. And I learned I wouldn’t last a day in the slums.

The plot was captivating and the cinematography had this brisk pace, kind of like Trainspotting does at times. I also loved that the story wasn’t straightforward, choosing instead to weave characters in and out. I’d get attached to them and then their story would be revealed and it was always tragic. Always. I’m surprised anyone survived in the film, especially towards the end when it was just a huge gun battle.

It’s really hard to write about this movie without giving anything away. There are a set of characters that pop up throughout the movie and at first they are just an annoyance. But as City of God goes on, they become more and more central to everything. But revealing who they are would reduce the impact of the film. So, just go watch it. But be prepared to be crushed. It’s a beautiful film in a way, and there’s a vibrant life to the slums. But it in no way glorifies the drug trade or glosses over how horrible it all was. And still is, in some ways.

Final review: 5/5. An essential film

Up next: Horrorfest!

#313- Meet Me in St. Louis

Quick recap: The Smith family encounters many ups and downs leading up to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903. A better title for the film could’ve been, If You Love St.Louis so Much, Why Don’t you Marry it?

a special ‘thanks’ to Judy Garland for getting this song stuck in my head for a week straight

Fun (?) fact: The mother of Margaret O’Brien (who played Tootie) wanted her child to get paid more, but the studio refused. Instead, they randomly chose a lighting guy’s daughter to fill the roll, going so far as to dress her and give her lines. The studio eventually backed down and O’Brien took her roll back over. The lighting guy then dropped a light during one of Tootie’s scenes, just narrowly missing her. He was later committed to an institution. Hollywood didn’t play around back then.

let me tell you, though, this kid was amazing

My thoughts: I love a good musical, and Meet Me in St. Louis didn’t disappoint. There were infectious songs, beautiful costumes, romance and an absolutely terrifying Halloween scene that gave me nightmares, so what else could I ask for?

So, first off, the entire cast was fabulous, especially Margaret O’Brien (as mentioned earlier) and Judy Garland as Esther Smith. I have heard her voice over and over in the Wizard of Oz but never really appreciated its depth until this movie. Side note: I had no idea this was considered a Christmas film. Garland singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was damn depressing, which is just about what I expect all my holiday movies to be, so I’m on board. Anyway, I loved everything about Garland except for her eyebrows, which really weirded me out. But I also feel guilty about that knowing how much she went through with her looks. And maybe that was the style at the time? They were a little much, but didn’t detract from the overall tone.

Oh, honey. No.

And then there is that crazy Halloween scene, which just comes out of NOWHERE. The scene begins with Rose helping the little girls, Tootie and Agnes with their costume and I’m thinking it’s just going to be another cute peek into this family’s life. But then the girls go outside to join their friends, who have started a freaking BONFIRE in the street. What are they burning?Why are they burning things? Girls are dressed as boys and boys are dressed up as girls and it’s madness. There’s apparently some game going on where the older kids pretend to kill the neighbors by throwing flour in their faces and screaming, ‘I hate you!’. And the thing is, Agnes and Tootie already had a conversation with their mother about the flour so it’s a known thing. The rest of the movie is your typical romance and family fare, but this scene was downright creepy and I’d like to not think about Halloween before, let’s say, 1950.

The hell?

Final review: 5/5. I was originally going for a 4 but when you get a song stuck in your head for a week, it does things to you.

Up next: Grease

#312- Titanic

Quick recap: So, there’s this ship, ok? And everyone says it will never sink, which is exactly the sort of thing you should say when you want the ship to sink. Which it does. And there’s also a love story thrown in for good measure.

Fun (?) fact: After the Internet collectively decided Jack could have fit on the door at the end of the film, James Cameron went on record saying that no, ‘It’s not a question of room; it’s a question of buoyancy.” That’s when the Mythbusters stepped in and proved that with a little bit of help from the life jackets, both Jack and Rose totally could’ve survived.

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Ah, true love

My thoughts: Titanic came out in when I was in junior high and because I was a Cool Teen, I boycotted watching it. While my friends bought tickets to see the movie again and again in theaters, I scoffed at how easily they fell for a love story. I was especially angry that James Cameron turned a perfectly good disaster story into romance. Yuck. But behind closed doors? That was a different story. I got the VHS tapes as a throwaway gift at Christmas and although I outwardly seethed at such a Teenage gift, inside I was giddy to finally see what all the fuss was about. Secretly I watched the movie several times, pausing at my favorite part, when Rose jumps from the life boat back onto the sinking ship and makes the choice to stay with her love. I never admitted it, but it was this level of love I wanted. It wouldn’t be until Moulin Rouge several years later that I could finally be free and admit I had a soft side.

To the most obvious question, ‘Does Titanic hold up 20 years later?’ It does, mostly. Watching it this time around, I was more aware of the background actors, all supposedly based off of a real passenger. Their various deaths stung more when I watched than I remembered back then. The visuals were just as amazing as they were and I can’t imagine anyone ever being able to do the disaster better justice than Cameron did. As for the central love story, this time I wasn’t as enthralled. Leo and Kate have amazing chemistry and sell their characters so well, but the dialogue was insanely cheesy at times, to the point that I cringed during some scenes. Unhappy Rich Girl and Impish Wanderlust Guy just didn’t have the same impact as it did when I was 13. But really, the plot only grated on me during the first part of the film. The second part, when they’ve hit the iceberg, is near perfect. I mean, except for the death. That was unfortunate. I absolutely loved the scenes where Jack and Rose were trying to find a way out through the freezing water and the lights kept flickering on and off. Those moments alone could’ve made a great horror film.

I was in Walgreens a couple of days ago and that Celine Dion song came on the speakers. My first instinct was to roll my eyes but then flashes of the movie started going through my head and for a brief moment, I felt genuinely sad, as if I had just watched a documentary on two real people on the Titanic. Teenage Me would be so embarrassed that I admitted that just now, but that’s part of growing up, I suppose.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Meet Me in St. Louis