Friday, April 18, 2014

Movie – Broken Blossoms (1919)

Director D.W. Griffith is nothing if not schizophrenic.  Just four years after making the epic The Birth of a Nation (about how the Ku Klux Klan supposedly saved America from uppity black people) he comes back with the small character study Broken Blossoms which features a very sympathetic portrayal of an Asian man and his relationship with a white girl.  Even more surprising is that this film was made right in the middle of the “Yellow Peril” scare in the U.S.  The studio wanted nothing to do with this movie.  Griffith bought the rights to it from them and Broken Blossoms became the very first film ever released by United Artists, the company Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks founded to give artists a way to get their movies released without having to bow to the powers at the big studios.  Despite what the studio thought would happen Broken Blossoms became a huge hit.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Movies with Interracial Relationships

Young Boy with Coffee – “Excuse me, I happened to be passing, and I thought you might like some coffee.”
Little Girl – “Oh, that's very nice of you, thank you.”
Young Boy with Coffee – “Cream?”
Little Girl – “No, thank you, I take it black, like my men.”
                                                – Airplane! (1980)                   

If there’s one subject in most of movie history that pretty much guaranteed controversy it was having an interracial relationship in it, especially if it was black/white.  This category won’t be restricted just to those two races, though.  There will be various combinations among the films.

And by “relationships” I don’t mean buddy movies such as Lethal Weapon, Shanghai Noon, or the like.  No, I mean relationships where two people are romantically or sexually connected to each other (at least as far as it was allowed to go for the time period the film was made.)

Because there have been so many films like this in recent years, I am going to limit this category to those movies where the relationship is a sizable or key component to the film.  This means I will be excluding movies like The Royal Tenenbaums where it is an ensemble and there just happens to be an interracial couple among the characters.

In the interest of showing how things have changed over the years I will be posting reviews of my recommended films in chronological order – oldest to newest.  I've placed the years there to give you an idea of what the range will be.  As I review the films I will come back and add the links for them here. 

O (2001) - (posted July 28, 2012)

On to the reviews…

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Movie – Mud (2013)

Matthew McConaughey had a celebrated year in 2013 with a memorable cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street and an Oscar-winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club.  For my money, though, his best film of 2013 was Mud.  (Wolf was better, but it wasn’t his movie.)  In fact, Mud is one of my Top 10 films of 2013.  It’s from writer/director Jeff Nichols, who had previously done 2011’s Take Shelter, which garnered a number of good reviews.  I consider Mud to be a good step up from Take Shelter and I look forward to what Nichols may do in the future. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

TV and Book – Game of Thrones Season 3

The third season of Game of Thrones is based on the first two thirds of the novel A Storm of Swords – the third book in the ongoing series titled A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.  Please note that this review of the third TV season and book contains spoilers for the first two TV seasons and books.  If you have never seen this show and would like a spoiler-free overview of what it is about and why you might want to watch it, please read my review of the first season and book here.  If you've seen that, my review of the second season and book can be found here.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March Movie Status

I saw 17 new movies in the month of March, I had 1 re-watch, and I rewatched a TV season.  I finished off the last of the movies that appeared for the first time on the 2013 year end IMDB Top 250 list, so I am once again complete on the 16 year consolidated list.

I am semi-actively working on the following lists: Oscar Best Picture Nominees, the six 101 [Genre] Films You Must See Before You Die lists, and They Shoot Pictures Don’t They.  Some of these overlap, but I am showing films under only one list’s count in the details below. 

All of these different lists can be seen by clicking on the names of them.  They link to my Lists from Chip posts on them.

Here are the 17 new movies, 1 old one, and the TV season I saw in March.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

IMDB (3): Before Midnight (2013), Rush (2013), Prisoners (2013)

Oscar Nominees (0):

101 Genre (0):

TSPDT (2): Claire’s Knee (1970), They Live By Night (1948)

Other Movies (12): The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Stoker (2013), Reaching for the Moon (2013), The Lego Movie (2014), Turbo (2013), 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), Austenland (2013), In a World… (2013), Blue Jasmine (2013), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), The Spectacular Now (2013), The Great Beauty (2013)

Re-watches (1): Thor 2: The Dark World (2013), TV – Game of Thrones Season 3

I saw so few films this month that I will just write a bit about each.

Before Midnight (2013) – Worthy third film in what has now become a series.  What happens when you’ve ended up with your destined love?  Real life intrudes.  3.5 stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – Better than the first film in one important area: you can actually see what is happening onscreen.  There’s very little shakycam on display.  Movie watchers rejoice!  4 stars

Rush (2013) – Better than I expected.  Does a good job of recreating the 1970s Formula 1 racing circuit.  3.5 stars

Stoker (2013) – Highly recommended.  You can read my four star review by clicking on the movie name.

Reaching for the Moon (2013) – Period lesbian tragic romance.  Some great architecture (one is an architect), but I don’t have much else good to say about it.  2 stars

Claire’s Knee (1970) – Really slow, talky movie where unfortunately the subjects being discussed were all so banal that they were completely uninteresting.  I’m probably being generous with this rating.  2 stars

The Lego Movie (2014) – A fun movie, although never having played with Legos I’m sure I missed some of the jokes.  3.5 stars

Turbo (2013) – Nowhere near as horrible as I heard it was.  My low expectations helped me like this.  3 stars

20 Feet from Stardom (2013) – Not a brilliant documentary for an Oscar winner.  It does a great job revisiting a lot of old music from a different perspective, but unfortunately takes a wrong turn into racial politics and loses its way.  3.5 stars

Austenland (2013) – Even Jane Austen fans will probably be let down by this.  2 stars

In a World… (2013) – I really wanted to like this more than I did.  It had a great trailer, which unfortunately showed most of the best parts of the movie.  3 stars

Blue Jasmine (2013) – A thoroughly dislikable main character sinks the movie.  All I wanted was for the film to end so I didn’t have to put up with her anymore.  2 stars

Prisoners (2013) – I was expecting a gripping thriller and instead the movie reveals what is going on about 45 minutes into its 2.5 hour runtime (if you’re paying attention).  It then felt like it took forever to get to where I already knew it was going to go.  2 stars

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – a lesser Coen Brothers movie.  They tried to recapture the magic of O Brother Where Art Thou – this time with folk music instead of bluegrass – but it’s just missing that special something that would make it memorable.  2.5 stars

The Spectacular Now (2013) – interesting teen romance film in that it is mostly realistic.  Shailene Woodley does another good job.  3 stars

The Great Beauty (2013) – a lot of pretty images in search of a plot.  Style triumphs over substance (The Hunt) at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language film.  2 stars

They Live By Night (1948) – Good film that everyone seems to place into the Noir genre, but which has little to do with it other than a crime gets committed.  The movie is actually about a young, doomed romance.  It has some great camera shots in it.  3 stars

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Movie – Stoker (2013)

Stoker was one of my most pleasant surprises when I was working my way through a bunch of 2013 films I had heard good things about.  It’s the most recent movie I saw that made my Top 10 for the year.  It features a mess with your head plotline, a couple of mysteries, and some truly outstanding visuals.  Best of all for me, though, was that part way through the film I realized I had no idea whatsoever what direction the film was going to take.  Would it stay a drama?  Would it turn into a thriller?  Would it go places that it seemed to be hinting?  Would an element of the supernatural creep in?  Is what we are seeing 100% real, or is some of it only in the head of a character?  It did end in a way that I thought it might, but that was only one possibility out of several that came to my mind while I was watching it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ten Best Films of 2013

Here is my list of the ten best 2013 movies.  I believe I’ve seen all the big mainstream movies and critically acclaimed films of the year that I felt I might like, including all four Oscar winning films (Picture, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, and Documentary).  If you are curious, a complete list of the 77 2013 films that I saw can be found at the bottom of this post.  That’s down from 101 films for 2012 when I did last year’s Top 10, so this year’s may be missing a great one I just haven’t seen yet.

In case you think it’s a little strange to be doing a top 10 for a year that ended more than two months ago, I’d rather take the time to see as many movies as possible before compiling my list.  This means waiting for some of them to become available on DVD.  In fact, I was waiting for the Foreign Language Film winner The Great Beauty to become available so I could see it before making this list.  It came out yesterday.