#36- A Fish Called Wanda

Quick recap: George and Ken plan to go on a jewelry heist so they bring in two Americans to help them pull it off: Wanda and Otto, who are lovers but pretend to be brother and sister so that they can backstab the other two later. The jewelry heist comes off almost perfectly except that no one trusts anyone and every man is in it for himself. Hilarity ensues.

there are in fact fish in this movie.

there are in fact fish in this movie.

Fun(?) Fact: A guy in Denmark thought the scene where Ken gets fries up his nose was so hilarious, that he died laughing. That’s not an exaggeration by the way. He LITERALLY died from laughter.



My thoughts: I had high hopes for this film a) because several people recommended it to me and b) because Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the funniest movie ever created. In retrospect, maybe my expectations were too high because I only found myself actually laughing a couple of times. I’ll be the first one to admit that reviewing a humorous movie is the hardest job because humor is so subjective.  That is, unless you are one of those people who have paid money to see Grown-Ups 2. If you are, it’s time to rethink the sad direction your life has taken.

One thing this movie has going for it are the characters. Jamie Lee Curtis as a comedian was a surprise and Otto, played by Kevin Kline, stole the show. The two played off each other so well as Wanda went back and forth from being so turned on by him to thinking he is the stupidest person alive, which he kind of was. Many of my favorite scenes involved Otto spying on Wanda and Archie and then trying to cover up for why he was there. And since I’m on the subject of Archie, John Cleese was wonderful. Archie starts off as a whipped puppy dog with his wife always telling him what to do and his job as barrister not giving him any respect. But then Wanda enters the picture and he slowly starts to transform. My favorite scene of the whole movie is the one where he is dancing naked and singing in German and then in walk a family with children. It perfectly illustrated Archie’s bad luck.

The character that was the most complicated for me was, of course, Ken. I understand the reasoning behind adding the stutter to become a part of who Ken was, but it just turned me off to the comedy anytime he tried to talk. The scene where Otto sticks fries up Ken’s nose just made me feel sorry for him and I especially hated Otto eating his fish in front of him. I knew there was humor in the irony he was such an animal lover and when he had been given the job of murdering the old lady, he kept killing her dogs on accident. But I just didn’t laugh. For many people, Ken was the one who made them love the movie, but it just wasn’t for me. At the same time, I’m not really sure if taking away the stutter would’ve been a good idea, either. I was happy when he ended the movie as a hero of sorts, but that came after feeling sorry for him the whole time.

On a positive note, apparently Michael Palin was confronted by a group of stutterers for how he portrayed their disability and in turn, created a center in London to help children who stutter.

Final review: 2/5.  comedy is much harder to pull off than I realized

How I watched it: this one is on Netflix Instant!

Up next:  either The Best Years of our Lives or The Departed. It depends on which one Netflix decides to send me first



#35- Tsotsi

Quick recap: Tsotsi is a leader of a gang that spends its time robbing and killing people to get what they want. After doing some pretty messed up stuff, Tsotsi takes it further by shooting a woman, stealing her car and then driving away, only to realize there is a baby in the backseat. He makes a decision to abandon the baby but then changes his mind and decides to raise it. It’s like 3 Men and a Baby, except with a lot more violence and the baby almost dying.

The movies are much more similar if you are the kind of person to misunderstand movies and hate Tom Selleck

The movies are much more similar if you are the kind of person to misunderstand movies and hate Tom Selleck

Fun (?) Fact: 

The soundtrack was so interesting to listen to! I’d never heard this style before but it really adds to the mood of the film.

My thoughts: This movie was so hard to watch. I knew it wasn’t going to be a field of flowers and kittens but I wasn’t expecting something so bleak. The film takes place in a slum in Johannesburg, South Africa where crime is rampant and everyone is just trying to survive. The main characters in the film are so bad. In the first few scenes, they stalk a businessman onto his train and then crowd around him. They warn him that they are going to take his money and then one guy pulls out a very sharp, thin ice pick and shoves it into the man, killing him almost instantly. It’s such a cold way to die. One of the members confronts Tsotsi after the ordeal, saying that it makes him sick to kill someone like that. He is severely beaten for this. The point is, as bad as these guys are, they are also trying to survive, like everyone else.

Tsotsi is such a complex character. He seems emotionless at the beginning and yet he starts to crack a little after killing the businessman. After deciding not to abandon the baby after the carjacking, Tsotsi shows that he needs to feel a sense of love and belonging, just like everyone else. But after growing up in the slum, he doesn’t have the skills to care for a child. The baby is constantly crying, and after trial and error he realizes that he is hungry. In the only way he knows how, Tsotsi pulls a gun on a woman with a baby and forces her to breastfeed. It is her compassion and kindness to the baby that brings him to start to remember things about his own childhood.

It is revealed that Tsotsi’s real name is David and he once had a home with a mother and father. In one flashback, David’s mother is dying and she wants to hold his hand for comfort. His father comes in and orders David to go away. He runs and hides from his father and then watches in horror as his father viciously kicks his pet dog and breaks its back. It’s almost unbearable to watch this scene. David runs away and goes to live in a pile of cement cylinders.

showing the baby where he came from

showing the baby where Tsotsi came from

In the end, Tsotsi makes the right decision to return the baby back to his parents. Although the plot itself is riveting, it is the actors who really make the movie shine. Their performances are so authentic that it was hard to remind myself that this was only a movie and not a documentary. On a personal level, this movie made me really think about the kids I teach. Many of them grow up in unimaginable situations and it’s easy to forget that beyond the tough exterior is just a child who wants what we all want. The film is a great reminder that although there is plenty of evil in the world, there is compassion and decency to do the right thing.

Final review: 5/5. If you can stand the violence, this is required viewing.

Up next: A Fish Called Wanda


#33- The Ascent

 Quick recap: The movie centers around two Soviet Partisans who go off in search of food for their group. Along the way, they are captured by Nazis and interrogated. And then everyone dies, except one guy who tries to kill himself but is unsuccessful. I’m not a fan of spoiling movies, but if you are looking for a good war movie where everyone is saved at the last second by their troop, this ain’t it.



Fun (?) Fact:    Depressing fact: The director of this film, Larisa Shepitko, died in a car accident a couple of years after ‘The Ascent’ was released, so this was her last movie.



My thoughts: In case the hint hasn’t been picked up yet, I’ll just go ahead and say that this was a DEPRESSING movie. Depressing in the sense that after it finally ended, I curled up in a ball and regretted ever doing this list, but then I looked at cat pictures and felt a little better. I’m still going to need a few years of therapy.

As I have stated before, I don’t like to look up information about the movie before watching it ,so all I had to go on was that 1) this is a war movie and in the war movies I have seen, everything is gritty but then people get rescued and the Americans always come out on top. GO USA. and 2) the movie is called ‘The Ascent’, which I took to mean that the Soviets would climb out of their situation and everything would be ok. Boy, was I wrong. The film is in black and white and most of the scenery consists of snow and trees. There is barely any music, except when someone is about to be tortured or about to die. That alone would be depressing enough but then there are the characters. Besides the partisans, the Nazis capture an old man who has been working for them but who they no longer trust, a woman who helped hide the two men and who has young children to care for by herself, and a child. One of the partisans decides to step up and admit that he orchestrated everything but of course that does no good. The other partisan begs for his life and is allowed to join the Nazi police. He is immediately told to help walk the prisoners, his friends, to the gallows where he puts a noose around everyone’s neck and helps them to be executed. Seeing his terrible choice, he attempts to hang himself several times but is unable to die. He considers escaping but knows he would be shot dead on the spot so he is left to endure staying at this camp.



I think what got under my skin the most was the lack of violence and torture shown. At one point, one of the partisans has a star branded into his chest. I was thankful to not have to watch that but instead the camera focused on his face which was so much worse. In the scene at the gallows as everyone is hung, the camera focuses on a young child forced to witness the deaths. As he sees everyone hanging, he sheds a tear and it’s just awful. I don’t claim to know much about war movies but this different perspective combined with the saddest ending ever, makes for me, a more realistic view of war. Nowadays, directors try to top each other with the goriness but this movie, made in 1977 does the opposite and creates scenes I can’t get out of my head.

The most poignant part of the film was the scene in which the interrogator kept trying to get information and the partisan only answered in response, ‘What were you before the war?’ It was a question I had never thought about before, that the Nazis were, at some point, regular people with regular jobs and families, not the monsters that they eventually became. War is hell, y’all.



Final review: 5/5. I really wanted to give ‘The Ascent’ a 1 because it bothered me so much, but that’s precisely why it needs a 5. Schindler’s List is seen as the go to ‘World War 2’ movie, but my vote is for this one as essential viewing.

Up next: Metropolis

#31- Splendor in the Grass

Quick Recap: Girl and Boy date. Girl loves Boy, and Boy doesn’t know what he feels except horniness. Boy breaks up with Girl because of said horniness and Girl goes insane. Both lower their expectations significantly and marry other people. A classic tale of romance, indeed!

Memes are hilarious still......right?

Memes are hilarious still……right?

Fun(?) Fact: In real life, the actor who plays Warren Beatty’s father is only 13 years older than Beatty. It must have been a very hard 13 years.

I don't even.

I don’t even.

My thoughts: Sex is bad and you should never have it unless you are married. Then again, Deanie, played by Natalie Wood, refused to put out and she ended up in a mental asylum. So…..sex is good! Have lots of it and with lots of different guys! And everyone knows that the best place to meet young suitors is your oil tycoon father’s New Year’s Eve party. That’s what Bud’s sister, Ginny, did! But she also died in a car accident years later, which no one was surprised by. So who the hell knows what the point of this movie is?

Trying to start an orgy with your brother just a few feet away is the classiest way to go

Trying to start an orgy with your brother just a few feet away is the classiest way to go

When the synopsis of the movie included the word melodrama, I curled up into a little ball while nightmare-ish visions of ‘Written on the Wind‘ danced around my head. But, while that movie’s ‘melodrama’ consisted of nothing more than a guy going crazy because he couldn’t have children, this one took the description and owned it. SO.MUCH. MELODRAMA.

The point is driven home so many times how much Deanie is in love with Bud. She has pictures of him plastered to her wall and kisses them goodnight often. Instead of paying attention in class, she spends the time doodling her name over and over again with Bud’s last name attached. She patiently waits in his car while he finishes football practice. That kind of adoration will never end well. As for Bud, I think he loved Deanie too, but he also wanted to get in her pants so it was hard to tell. And speaking of getting into pants, Deanie’s mom was all over who was and was not in her pants. She has several conversations with the poor girl about not going too far because it would ‘spoil’ her and no man wants that. And for added proof we see the high school slut that all guys sleep with because they don’t want to ‘spoil’ their girlfriends. Despite all the over the top emotion about love, Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty acted so perfectly and natural that I could see various people I knew from high school in this same exact situation.

Beatty and Wood did such a superb job making their characters likeable and able to be sympathized with that I kept hoping they might end up together. Even though that would’ve been a very bad idea indeed. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending with the two of them marrying other people except that I guess teenage love is fleeting and even though it sucks when it ends, we all move on at some point. And if we can’t move on, we get shipped to the mental asylum.



Final Review: 4/5. I’m still not a fan of melodrama but I loved the actors and was especially impressed by Pat Hingle, who played Bud’s father. He was so intense and real that I would watch the movie for his performance alone. Also, I had no idea Warren Beatty looked like this:

oh my.

oh my.

Up next: The Host at Alamo Drafthouse. It’s going to be a good one!