#360- The Young and the Damned

Quick recap: A group of boys from the slums of Mexico City resort to crime in order to survive.

Jaibo’s ill-fitting overalls are all you need to know he is up to no good

Fun (?) fact: The movie was very poorly received when it first came out but after people had a chance to calm down, they realized that it held a lot of truth. The Young and the Damned is now considered one of the greatest Mexican films of all time.

My thoughts: I’ve seemingly been caught in a ‘wayward youths’ movie vortex as of late and it’s hard to tell whether I can escape any time soon. I’ve lucked out up until now because almost all of the films have a glimmer of hope attached, even though most of the movie is very grim. (I’m looking at you, City of God)

The Young and the Damned, as I should’ve gleaned from the title, is a different beast altogether. It lured me in at first, making me think this was just a cute cautionary tale about bad boys who drink and smoke but who are just little scamps in the big picture of things. And actually, that part might be true until the Ultimate Wayward Youth, Jaibo, shows up, after breaking out of reform school. The boys immediately take to him as he shows them how to rob a blind man of his money. It’s a cruel scene, but nothing I haven’t seen before. They take it to a new level however when they chase the man and throw stones at him. That’s when I realized no one was playing around. Every actor in the film is believable as a corrupted youth. I was blown away with how complicated they showed their characters to be. As mean as some of the boys are (including a scene where Jaibo straight up murders a kid), it’s very obvious that the director fully believed poverty was to be blamed for all this hard lives.

Pedro, the main character, is about as real a kid as you can get. He tags along with the gang but never really does the bad stuff. He befriends a lost boy and gets him food to eat and he does his best to listen to his mother, even though they both know she can’t really take care of him. He gets caught up with Jaibo, however, and thus starts his downward spiral that ultimately ends in his tragic death. His murder really broke me in a way that is hard to convey because I wasn’t expecting that kind of ending at all. I kept thinking something good would eventually turn up but it didn’t. The final scene of the farmer throwing his body down a hill is so sickening but really hit home the point that Mexico City was in a crisis with poverty at the time. And it’s a reminder that we haven’t moved forward as much as we think we have.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Trouble in Paradise

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#357- Goldfinger

Quick recap:     Goldfinger! He’s the guy who loves that gold! Goldfinger! He makes James Bond wear a duck on his head! Goldfinger! There’s actually someone named Pussy Galore!  Goldfinger! Nothing makes sense!

Fun (?) fact: Sean Connery wore a toupee as James Bond since he had started going bald at 21

Ewan McGregor and Sean Connery are the only men allowed to wear this.

My thoughts: This is only my second James Bond film, after watching Spectre in 2015 (I KNOW). Now I can compare that first experience to arguably the best of all Bond films, Goldfinger. 

The very first scene is of a duck floating in a bay and I thought a very nice calming moment before all the mayhem. But then Sean Connery as James Bond emerges from the water and it turns out to have been a disguise! What a twist and I’m only 3 minutes into the movie! Let me tell you, it was a rollercoaster from then until the closing credits. Everything was over the top ridiculous, but only in the best possible way. I’m not even going to pretend that the plot made sense to me but I don’t think it matters because we are all in it for Bond. The audience wants him to win even if we don’t quite understand the gravity of the threat. Goldfinger was such an interesting villain because he was so obvious about his love for gold but also he apparently went to great lengths to show off how dastardly he was. I absolutely loved the scene where he gets all the crime bosses from the major cities and shows off his master plan to rob Fort Knox. How much time do you think went into building that room and the very detailed model and then turning it into a gas chamber?? Say what you will, but Goldfinger really cares about those little touches. He’s like the Martha Stewart of villains.

I’ve never been one for hunky guys like Channing Tatum or various Hemsworth and I figured Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond would fall into that category as well. As a progressive woman it annoyed me that he wanted to make out with literally every woman but also, I totally would’ve made out with him on the spot. He’s one of those jerks that just has to smile and it’s all over. I can’t imagine anyone ever coming close to this level of hotness and I can say that as an expert now, having watched a total of two Bond films.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#355- Jacob’s Ladder

Quick recap: A Vietnam Vet’s life starts to get really weird and creepy when he starts having visions of demons and nightmares of torture.

I finally realized that Tim Robbins reminds me of John Green and now I can’t unsee it

Fun(?) fact: Much of the imagery for the film comes from photographs taken by Joel-Peter Witkin. I won’t post on here because it is super creepy and gruesome but you should Google it if that’s your thing. Or just scroll through Creepypasta on Reddit because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of his pictures there at some point.

Macaulay Culkin! Tim Robbins! Jason Alexander! This movie is peak 90s

My thoughts: SPOILERS APLENTY!!

I’d heard this movie was terrifying but I tend to take those warnings with a grain of salt. Basically, all I knew was that it had something to do with Vietnam and seeing as how I never fought in the war, I considered myself safe. What I did not realize is that Jacob’s Ladder is about visions and nightmares, of which I have PLENTY (nightmares, not visions). I was a little weirded out while watching the movie, but it was the lingering thoughts after that did me in.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how minor details seem so creepy and can add up to something terrifying. In the beginning of the movie, Jacob heads to his local VA to talk with a doctor about his flashbacks, only to find out there is no record of him in the system. It’s unnerving but seeing how this was Pre-Computer age, not entirely illogical. But as the movie progresses, more and more of Jacob’s life starts to fade. He realizes something awful happened to him in Vietnam but when he goes to see a lawyer, the lawyer tells him that he never actually fought and was dishonorably discharged. Combine that with the super creepy demons and this movie kept me up for hours after it was over.

And here’s the spoiler: The entire film takes place in the moments before Jacob dies. Turns out, he was mortally wounded in Vietnam after all and all these nightmares and visions are just his mind’s way of coming to terms with his mortality. I was a little annoyed by how hokey the scene was when Jacob is reunited with his dead son Gabe and they walked upstairs to a white light, but then the next scene was the medics crowded around his body and that stark contrast really threw me off. It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in All that Jazz, when he does that huge musical number about saying good bye and then the very next scene is of him being put into a body bag. It’s such a sobering thought to realize that I just sat through a man’s final, horrifying moments on earth but I’m also grateful that Jacob finally got some peace.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Possibly more Horrorfest?

#350- Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Quick recap: There’s this ring, you see, that causes trouble and might ultimately bring destruction to Middle Earth. So it’s up to a Hobbit who has never stepped foot out of his village to destroy it and save everyone.

Fun (?) fact:

Fellowship of the Ring

Gimli the Dwarf is played by John Rhys-Davies, who is actually 6 feet tall. This makes him the tallest actor out of the fellowship.

The Two Towers

Gollum was actually biting a fish shaped lollipop instead of nomming on an actual fish.

Return of the King

Director Peter Jackson is arachnophobic and based the spider design on what he is most afraid of.

 

My thoughts: I’ve now spent a hellish semester in 7th grade reading The Hobbit, watching the trilogy when it first came out and then watching it AGAIN for this list. I guess the only real surprise is how come I still don’t love it yet. Are we through, Tolkien? Please release me.

Fellowship of the Ring

I haven’t watched the trilogy more than once for two reasons. 1) it’s long and 2) there are SO MANY CHARACTERS. I was also in high school when this movie came out so I’d like to think my movie tastes have matured since then. Nope. The movie still felt long, mostly because it’s tiring to see Frodo and his pals in constant peril. And speaking of pals, I was following when it was Gandalf and all the Hobbits but then everyone else showed up and I had no clue who anyone was. Fight me if you want, but Aragorn and Boromir look too similar. I won’t say I’m glad Boromir died but it sure made it a lot easier for me. As for everything else: plot, music, scenery, I was into it. I enjoyed it much more this time around, as did my kid, who walked out in protest when Gandalf died.

The Two Towers

This was my favorite of the three although now looking back, they do all sort of meld together seamlessly. I really loved the huge fighting sequence and I liked that there weren’t too many sappy moments (more on that later). Everyone is still in peril, of course, but the talking trees made everything seem like they would be alright in the end.

Return of the King

Peter Jackson went all out for this one so it’s no surprise it won so many Oscars. I enjoyed it as much as the others, but the neverending sap fest at the end got a little old. The movie would’ve been great had it ended with Frodo waking up and seeing that his friends are ok. But then the next scene was of Frodo finishing the book ‘Lord of the Rings’ which would’ve been an even better ending but NO, Peter Jackson’s reign of terror was far from over because then I had to sit through a gut wrenching scene between Sam and Frodo as he leaves them forever. Still not done yet, I’m subjected to seeing Sam head back to his impossibly cute family and live happily ever after. That being said, it really resonated with me how Frodo still carried the scars of his journey. Everything was back to normal but it was also completely different and would always be so.

So in the end, I think I can finally say that I’ve made peace with these movies. I found them boring back when I first saw them and the characters were overwhelming. I still feel that way a bit but this time around I really enjoyed the story and the little details that make the story timeless.

My thoughts: 5/5 for all three

Up next: La Dolce Vita