#307- Spartacus

Quick recap: Born a slave in Roman times, Spartacus leads a rebellion to free all people.

Look, no one’s denying that it’s torture. But jumping over blades is a great workout, I bet.

Fun (?) fact: Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, feeling saucy, originally wrote a scene in which Crassus seduces Antoninus by asking if he preferred ‘snails to oysters’. Seeing as that is blatantly sexual, the whole thing was cut until the restoration in 1991. Although the film had survived, the audio hadn’t. Tony Curtis, who played Antoninus was up for dubbing the lines but Laurence Olivier, who played Crassus was not, seeing as how he was dead. His widow remembered that Anthony Hopkins did a spot on impression of him, though, so he filled in the few lines.

Just a dude oiling another dude and talking shellfish. No biggie.

My thoughts: My movie opinions are absolutely swayed by how I choose to view them. A movie watched on a cell phone late at night is not the same as sitting in a dark theater. There have been plenty of films on this list that I would’ve given a much higher rating to had I watched them with an audience or at least somewhere on a big screen. Spartacus is proof of this. I had the privilege of seeing at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, a wonderfully old place. Before the movie started, we were treated to a man playing the organ, which set the mood for the epic we were about to watch. From the second the names flashed on the screen, people clapped and cheered and I knew I was in the perfect place. I wish all movie experiences could be like this one was.

At over a 3 hour run time, Spartacus is a true epic. It’s directed by Stanley Kubrick which I never would’ve guessed, although his attention to detail is very obvious here. I was entertained every second, which is a very difficult feat to pull off in these long films. I can’t think of any scene that felt out of place or filler material. The acting was phenomenal, of course, especially Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) who was able to make me forget about his chin for a few moments.

The more I stare at it, the weirder it looks

I didn’t know much about the movie going in, except for the famous ‘I am Spartacus’ scene ( which was kind of cheesy,tbh), so I had no idea how it would end. After the big battle, I kept expecting a miracle to happen, maybe with Varinia saving the day or something. I loved how dark it got in that final scene, Varinia holding up their son to a dying Spartacus on the cross. As much as I would’ve loved for them to live happier ever after, it was so much more powerful this way. And, honestly, it makes the film Braveheart look like garbage. The plot is basically the same with both heroes sacrificing themselves at the end, but I really sympathized more with Spartacus, who felt a need to free his people, compared to William Wallace who only fought once his love was killed.

Spartacus is meant to be seen like I watched it a few nights ago. I can imagine Stanley Kubrick spitting in disgust at the thought of how we mostly watch movies now. It should be an experience. Something to value.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Pickup on South Street

#306- Forrest Gump

Quick recap: A simple man somehow manages to do some of the most extraordinary things.

Another perspective

Fun (?) fact: The ping pong ball in each scene was CGI. It was added to meet the players’ paddles.

This, however, is entirely real

My thoughts: Do I really need to do this, serve up my thoughts on one of the most iconic movies of all time? I mean, come on, it’s Forrest Gump! Everyone knows this movie, even my 7 year old who has repeatedly asked for my husband and I to knock it off with the Gump impressions. Watching this movie as an adult,I’m glad to say that the sentimentality of the movie didn’t get in the way of me enjoying it as much as I did as a kid. All the same, there were a few things I picked up on this time around that flew over my head as a 9 year old:

  1. I wasn’t a big fan of Jenny this time. You can make the case that her abusive childhood caused her to cling to Forrest Gump and that’s probably true, but I still didn’t like the way she strung him on, only being there when she needed a protector. She took advantage of him so many times, throughout their relationship.
  2. I’m more amazed than anything that the director managed to fit so many events into this movie. Tying in the Watergate Scandal was a little much (if you remember, Gump called security about seeing a bunch of flashlights), but things really were that crazy back then. It was more comedic this time around, to see how Forrest could be roped into another world event.
  3. I don’t know anyone who dislikes Tom Hanks but I don’t think he is as amazing as people paint him as. That being said, he was phenomenal in this film and deserves all the praise. He made Gump into a sympathetic character that could’ve just been a punchline with a lesser actor. His role will go down as one of the best in cinematic history, guaranteed.
  4. I still love the music, as much as I did when I was young. I wouldn’t want to live in any other decade but if time travel was possible, I’d visit the 60s for the music and the 70s for the films.
  5.  I watched this movie in the theater and my mom made me close my eyes for the dirty parts. It’s funny because there were several sexual references she didn’t bother shielding me from, but rightfully knew they would go over my head. It always amazes me how much more sexual things are when I revisit them as an adult.

Final review: 5/5.

Up next: Pickup on South Street

 

#305- Man of the West

Quick recap: Gary Cooper plays former outlaw, Link, who must go back to his wild west gang when his train leaves him and two other passengers behind.

probably thinking about why he keeps getting thrown into roles he is too old to play

Fun (?) fact: Gary Cooper was 10 years older than Lee J. Cobb, who played his surrogate father, Dock Tobin.

And these two were supposed to be the same age, according to characters in the movie

My thoughts: As you have probably picked up on, Gary Cooper’s age was an issue for me in Man of the West. Now, before I get into my spiel, I just want to go on record and say that I am not ageist. There are plenty of  actors who have played meaningful roles, if not some of the best roles of their career when they were in their 50s and 60s. Gary Cooper did a fine job in this film, in fact. But the role shouldn’t have been given to him. And it really wasn’t his to begin with, looking at trivia. Jimmy stewart was originally cast but he had a falling out with the director and seeing as how there were literally only two men in Hollywood at the time, Cooper was chosen. I don’t know, maybe this is Gary Cooper’s thing, being in a role meant for a much younger man. He did the same thing in Sergeant York, but that was mostly because the real Sergeant York insisted on him. A few years after Man of the West Cooper would be dead so maybe he wanted one last role. I don’t know, but it really took away from the impact of the film, seeing him fit into something not meant for him.

Story wise, Man of the West was no better or worse than other Westerns I have seen. It was darker than I expected, especially that rape scene at the end.  A lot of innocent people died and in the end, good triumphed, so no surprises there. What did surprise me was that I thought I was going to see a buddy movie, from the synopsis I read. The singer Billie and the Gambler Sam were Link’s companions when he was stranded by the train. I thought the three of them would become best pals and fight the bad guys together, but that’s not at all what happened. As soon as Link introduced him to his old gang, Sam was told to dig a grave and Billie was told to strip. Zero fun was had by all. I really did like the role of Link, despite his age. Cooper added a lot of depth to the character and there was this melancholy mood of his that really resonated with me. I’m glad there was a happy ending, but with almost everyone dead, I don’t know how happy it really was.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Forrest. Forrest Gump

#303- Faces

Quick recap: A man leaves his wife for another woman. She, in turn, picks up a younger man at a bar while out with friends. Everyone stays miserable.

There’s also a lot of uncomfortable laugh scenes.

Fun (?) fact: Considered one of Steve Buscemi’s favorite movies, an actor I love. But Faces also inspired Robert Altman, who I definitely don’t like, so I feel like these facts cancel each other out. Carry on.

What a fun party! I hope there’s some cringeworthy dancing about to go on.

My thoughts: Many times I watch a trailer and the first thing that comes to my mind is, ‘ What kind of person would watch this?’. So, as a public service I’m going to list the sort of audiences that will appreciate Faces. Feel free to watch if you:

  • liked Mad Men, but felt that it was a little too soft on women
  • love watching drunk people talking about random things and yelling loudly
  • hate the Middle Class and wishes there were more movies about how miserable everyone is
  • you love the ‘dissolved marriages’ genre ( See also: La Notte and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
  • you just really love random laughter, that sometimes borders on psychotic

The style of Faces was its strongest point for me. At first, it seemed like a documentary but now I think it’s more similar to a home movie. There were some really confusing scenes because there is no music, no voiceover, and no real transition from moment to moment. But it also made the film seem more real, like I was really watching these two people become more and more miserable. I also liked that this was a ‘slice of life’ film, meaning that there is no background given on either character. I’d like to say that the main character Richard Forst is a Grade A asshole, but maybe his wife Maria has her own issues. There are a few hints, however, that just show Forst is Don Draper but without charm.

The characters were all believable and many of the actors were just random  people invited to the set. All this being said, I never connected with anyone. I found myself watching two miserable people without feeling anything about either of them. When reading up on Faces, several commenters said that this movie has many layers, and maybe that’s true. But watching two sad people was enough for one viewing and I don’t feel like digging any deeper.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: Fantasia