#335- High Noon

Quick recap: A bad guy is on the noon train to get revenge on a marshal who sent him up north to be hung. The marshal, against almost all advice, chooses to fight him and his gang rather than run away.

I’d gladly watch two hours of Lloyd Bridges smirking

Fun (?) fact: Considering a book has been written about the filming of High Noon, there is a ton of trivia to choose from. I’ll go with the most salacious though because I don’t do that enough- Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly carried on an affair throughout the duration of filming. Is this what it feels like to be Perez Hilton? Is Perez Hilton even a thing anymore?

I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not-

My thoughts: Right before starting High Noon, I realized I’m just about burned out on the Western genre. I started out with dread and that quickly turned into head over heels love. There are a few stinkers, to be sure, but it’s been a good run so far. Thankfully, this film is one of the better ones on the list and knowing that John Wayne despised it until the day he died is the cherry on top. Maybe I’m not done yet. Westerns, I wish I could quit you.

One of the most unique aspects of High Noon is that it is almost entirely shot in ‘real time’, as Marshal Kane waits for the noon train. The anticipation is palatable, not just because I wanted to see who would arrive but also because it’s a race against the clock. Had this been a montage, I don’t think I would’ve been as empathetic to Kane as he tried to drum up support as well as attempted to keep his bride from leaving him. Whoever wrote this 1001 movies list must be a sucker for the technique like I am because there are several movies that play out like this one did. Two that come to mind are Cleo from 5 to 7 and Run Lola Run.

As a whole, High Noon isn’t better or worse than other Westerns I have watched lately. I was a little ‘meh’ when it was over, and then I learned that the whole movie is an allegory for the Red scare. Shortly after High Noon was released, screenwriter Carl Foreman was blacklisted from Hollywood due to alleged communist ties. In this light, the film takes on a much more important role to me. At the time, most people were terrified of these meetings and knew that they didn’t have much choice with what might happen. Most actors and directors chose to distance themselves from anything that might label them ‘unpatriotic’ but there were a few that stood up to McCarthy and ultimately it finally faded away. Marshal Kane knew that he could run and hide and probably go on to live a normal life, but that would be wrong. It’s so satisfying to see one person fight for what is right, whether it is a showdown in the Wild West or a bunch of teens in high school. High Noon is the happy ending we all need.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Philadelphia Story

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#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold.

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord

#310- The General

Quick recap:  Johnnie, played by Buster Keaton, is on a one man mission to rescue a locomotive from the Union soldiers who stole it. As always, hijinks ensue.

MRW school is getting close to starting again

Fun (?) fact: This movie is based off of a much less hilarious incident during the Civil War. Union soldiers stole a train dubbed ‘The General’ and drove it north, all the while destroying power lines and train tracks. They were eventually caught by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest ( who founded the KKK). The men were found guilty and hanged.

reality is a tad bit darker than I imagined it to be

My thoughts: I enjoyed The General much more than my last Buster Keaton film, Steamboat Bill Jr. I cheered on Johnnie from the very beginning because he was just so darn likeable. Than I realized he was on the Southern side of the war, meaning I was basically cheering for slavery. But then I remembered the North eventually won, so it’s ok to support a small victory like this.

Keaton made me laugh much more this time around, especially during a scene involving a cannon. For the first shot he is careful to put in the correct amount of gunpowder but when the cannonball nearly blows up his own train, he says ‘screw it’ and poured the whole keg of powder. There was only a minimum of slapstick in this film, although considering it is a silent film, most of the gags are still visual. The General seems like more of a mature film than other silent ones I’ve watched- the plot is succinct and action makes up a large part of the run time, because what’s the point in having several minutes devoted to watching the actors’ mouths move?

I was most surprised by how in depth I got to understand Johnnie’s character. Most silent films have archetypes that are easily identifiable but they don’t stick around for long. This movie is just the beginning to showcase how films can be used as a character study. The very first scene shows Johnnie hard at work as an engineer and then as he walks to his girlfriend’s house, two little kids follow him and mimic his every move. He doesn’t mind it, although he gets a little annoyed when he wants some privacy time with his love. It’s such a little moment but it says so much about his character. And the ending sealed the deal for me. Johnnie is finally hailed a hero and it was so sweet to see him finally get his recognition.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Good Morning, Vietnam

#293- The French Connection

Quick recap: A pair of cops go after a drug smuggling cartel with a connection. A French connection, if you will.

I like my coffee like I like my cops- flawed, with a bit of sass

I like my coffee like I like my cops- flawed, with a bit of sass

Fun (?) fact: Lee Marvin, current Night Vale Resident, was initially offered the role of Doyle but turned it down because he didn’t like cops. He went on to star in other roles and is just about to celebrate his 30th birthday.

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My thoughts: The French Connection reminds me of my non-existent days in the hood, where the drugs were rampant and everyone was just trying to get by in Brooklyn. I’ve never really gotten into cop films or tv shows (except The Rockford Files because of that sweet French Horn solo), but it gives me the same nostalgia as most Westerns do.

Plot-wise, the movie is pretty direct. The cops are trying to catch the drug cartel, but the audience knows who it is because we’ve been watching them from the beginning. It was just a matter of the two finally meeting each other. I was really curious what The French Connection meant until the opening scene, which is set in France. That’s when I realized that there is LITERALLY a French connection. I always like titles that just tell it like it is.

I enjoyed Gene Hackman especially, but everyone did a fine job in the film. The story is based off of real events, although I think only loosely. The duo reminded me of a podcast I’ve recently gotten into, called Stranglers, about the Boston Strangler of the 60s. Although the story itself fascinates me, I mostly love hearing from these old retired cops and the lengths they went to in trying to catch the killer. Much like those cops, this drug case consumed Doyle, to his detriment. I won’t give away the final scene but it didn’t really surprise me. Throughout the movie I kept wavering between whether I should root for Doyle or not, but I think it’s just the way things were done back then. He really wanted to solve the case and get the drugs off the streets and was willing to do anything to make that happen.

I’ve described your stereotypical cop film so far,yet there is something about it that just stands out for some reason. For me, I think it’s the combination of gritty landscape and ominous music. I love films from this decade and The French Connection fits in perfectly for that time period. It’s also a good reminder that despite what certain politicians think, things have gotten better.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Boogie Nights