#166- Downfall

Quick recap: An account of Hitler’s last days, told from the perspective of his secretary Traudl Junge

This is where that 'angry Hitler' parody comes from

This is where that ‘angry Hitler’ parody comes from

Fun (?) fact: from IMDb: ‘During the war, the majority of the cyanide capsules produced were made in the concentration camps, which made sabotage a real problem. This is one of the reasons why many Germans who committed suicide by cyanide also shot themselves to make sure they would die. This is also the reason why Adolf Hitler‘s beloved dog Blondi was poisoned; he wanted to make sure his batch of cyanide was not fake.’

My thoughts: I know I say it often, but seriously you guys, THIS is the most depressing movie ever. If nothing else, the last 1/2 of the movie is just people killing themselves as well as children and dogs. And it’s all real, which adds another layer of tragedy.

At 166 on the list, Downfall is the most uncomfortable movie I have ever sat through. It started off a little boring, with people calling Hitler crazy (as they were wont to do) because he decided to stay in Berlin, which was close to being occupied by the Russians. World War II history just doesn’t do much for me, I think, because it has been talked about and researched so thoroughly that I feel I know all that I need to know. But at some point, I can’t really pinpoint when, this movie got to me. I think it was one of the scenes with Hitler and Eva Braun or with Traudl Junge, where he seemed almost…..charming. And then with the rest of the SS officers, many of them were seen as almost human, although they were known to have committed some of the worst atrocities in history. I felt intensely guilty having any emotion whatsoever, considering the 6 million Jews that were tortured and killed. But at the same time, it made sense. We would like to paint Hitler and his officers as completely evil because it makes it easier to separate right from wrong, black from white. Reality is much more complicated, unfortunately. Dr. Goebbels and his wife seemed like decently normal people who had a beautiful family, but then they went and poisoned all 6 of the children simply because they didn’t want them to live in a world where the Nazi regime was no longer in power. Eva Braun brought out the softer side of Hitler, if there was one, even though she was just as crazy as he was.

Throughout most of the movie, I felt like I was watching a documentary instead of a bunch of actors recreating scenes. When I was looking up pictures to add to this post (none seemed appropriate), it impressed me how realistic the bunker was compared to the real thing. The casting was also spot on, almost terrifyingly accurate. This made the scenes like the children being poisoned and Hitler and Eva committing suicide all the more difficult to watch.

Most people reach for Schindler’s List when trying to understand all the evil that happened in World War II, but I think Downfall is a necessary companion to show another perspective. My opinion, as well as most of the world’s, will never change about the Nazis or Hitler, but the things I have believed up to this point are no longer as accurate or as simple as they were before.

Final review: 5/5.

Up next: The Jazz Singer

#153- Straw Dogs

Quick recap: An American and his English wife move back to her childhood town where everyone is out to get them. It’s seriously messed up.

Thankfully, the movie and song aren't related. *shout out to the two of you who get this!*

What does it take to be a super hero in my world?/make no mistake that these villains always get the girl/we can escape and then we’d skate away from all of this/ but no one ever does

Fun(?) fact: Dustin Hoffman says he only took the role for the money. Not being a fan of violence (most people aren’t, buddy), in the scene where Hoffman beats a guy to death on the floor, he instead used coconuts to hit. You can see bits of it flying around in the movie during that scene.

at times, Hoffman reminded me of a much darker Ted Mosby. Now THAT would've been a more controversial ending to HIMYM

at times, Hoffman reminded me of a much darker Ted Mosby. Now THAT would’ve been a more controversial ending to HIMYM

My thoughts: Oh, boy. At first glance, this is just a very violent movie. When I finished it the other night, I was ready to give it a 1/5 because it made me so uncomfortable. The more I thought about it, though, the more Straw Dogs began to remind me of A Clockwork Orange, another seemingly senseless violent movie that actually has a deeper meaning.

So, first of all, I suppose I should start with the concept of a ‘straw dog’. Straw dogs were ceremonial objects in Ancient China, but the reference in this film comes from an old text that says, ‘Heaven and Earth are heartless / treating creatures like straw dogs’. So I guess that would make the characters David and Amy the straw dogs? Honestly, the whole thing is beyond my ability of thinking. What I got from the movie is that violence is not always personal, it just happens and as David showed in the end, violence is in all of us. What a fun lesson!

The beginning of Straw Dogs confused me because the editing was so weird. It would jump to David and Amy about to have sex and then in the very next scene, she is crying in his office after he has said something to hurt her feelings. It made everything seem so turned around and off-putting, which is exactly what director Sam Peckinpah wanted the viewer to feel. And as for that rape scene most people know this movie by, I think it’s vitally important to discuss, since it has become a controversial issue lately. Rape has always seemed black and white to me but then in watching Straw Dogs, I get the grey line- what if a woman consents at first, sends mixed signals, or appears to enjoy herself? It’s still rape and there is still a crime being committed, yet some people feel that it legitimizes it in some way, as if there is only one kind of rape to be had.

Final review: 4/5, but grudgingly. Also, there’s a dead cat so I’m not giving it a full 5.

Up next: The House is Black

#143- Amores Perros

Quick recap: Three seemingly unconnected stories are told, although everyone crosses passes with another at some point. Each story has something to do with love as well as something to do with a dog. Thus, Amores Perros.

Octavio y Susana, a story about a guy who is in love with his brother's wife. He also makes money dog fighting.

Octavio y Susana, a story about a guy who is in love with his brother’s wife. He also makes money dog fighting.

Fun (?) fact: For once, I put my 3 years of Spanish to good use because I knew that ‘Amores Perros’ means ‘love dogs’. Awww, love dogs. I love dogs! Upon doing some research, I found out that it is actually an expression, meaning roughly, ‘love’s a bitch.’ Oh.

Daniel y Valeria, a story about a guy finally getting to be with his mistress, a model. She has a horrible car accident and ultimately loses her leg.

Daniel y Valeria, a story about a guy finally getting to be with his mistress, a model. She has a horrible car accident and ultimately loses her leg.

My thoughts: In its synopsis, Netflix said Amores Perros was the ‘Mexican Pulp Fiction‘. That excited me because I love me some Tarentino. He has a way of mixing outlandish gore and humor so that you can’t help but fall in love with his movies. I also love the idea of other Tarentinos out there, with their own beautiful, twisted ideas in other countries. But then I watched the first scene, which featured a dying Rottweiler, completely covered in blood, and I knew that I had stepped into something closer to Funny Games than Pulp Fiction. Damn.

El Chivo, a story about a former hitman who now wants to be reunited with his estranged daughter.

El Chivo, a story about a former hitman who  wants to be reunited with his estranged daughter.

The dying dog scene was traumatic all by itself, but then the next scene featured a dogfight with people around the arena sweeping up the buckets of blood and hauling off dead dogs. The movie had a disclaimer before the opening credits that no animals were actually harmed, but everything was so realistic. As I looked up trivia about Amores Perros, I learned that the dogs were actually just playing and the director edited the scenes to make it look like fighting. As for the dead dogs, they were just heavily sedated. That’s all well and good and legally I can see how that wouldn’t be considered ‘harmful’, but most dogs if given a choice, wouldn’t care to be knocked out for a long amount of time.

So, as you can see, it was nearly impossible to get past all the gruesome dog deaths. It reminded me of all of those people who whine that they can’t sit through movies like Marley & Me, knowing that the dog will die in the end. They have no idea that there is much worse out there. And for those people who have watched Marley & Me as well as Amores Perros, what the hell is wrong with you??

Besides torturing dogs for two and a half hours, the theme of love also carried throughout the movie. And by love, I mean people being awful to each other. In the first story, Susana is married to Ramiro who abuses her and robs people on the side. His brother Octavio is in love with her and shows it by practically raping her every chance they are alone together. So, basically what I took from this movie is that people who are mean and cruel to dogs are also awful people in real life.

Final review: 3/5. I see why so many people love this movie, but it was just too much for me.

Up next: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

#141- Up in Smoke

Quick recap: Two stoners unknowingly drive a van made entirely of marijuana from Mexico to the US and hijinks ensue.

HI-jinks, get it??

I’m sorry. So very sorry for that one, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be more.


Fun (?) fact: The dog that stole the burrito was not actually part of the movie but was instead a stray that had just wandered onto the set.


My thoughts:  Much like breaking the first rule of Fight Club (which I suppose I am doing right now by even mentioning Fight Club) I broke cardinal rule while watching Up in Smoke: I was not high. I felt that it would really be lame to watch this movie completely sober so I instead decided to kick back a couple of beers while watching, hoping that I would feel some of the same effects.

The first thing that surprised me about this movie was that there was a plot, but just barely. Good on them for putting something cohesive together, although I think it would’ve been just as funny and probably more existential to have Cheech and Chong just driving around, getting high. It would be sort of like Two-Lane Blacktop but with more shenanigans and less James Taylor.

And as for the shenanigans, there were plenty: from a girl taking a hit (is that what the kids call it?) of the cleaner Ajax to smoking a blunt as big as a burrito. I laughed throughout several of these scenes but I didn’t find it all that creative or revolutionary. Which is not to say that it should’ve been. I think part of the issue is that the ‘stoner comedy’ has been done SO many times since then that watching the original is kind of underwhelming. Also, I wasn’t high while watching this so I felt like I wasn’t the intended demographic.

They call them fingers, but I've never seen them fing....

They call them fingers, but I’ve never seen them fing….

Final review: 2/5. Alcohol does not in fact replace marijuana.

Cheech and Strong Bad sound almost exactly alike. Remember Strong Bad? Good times.

Cheech and Strong Bad sound almost exactly alike. Remember Strong Bad? Good times.

Up next: Close-Up