One of the things that I have realized over time is that when I started talking with Alison we generally were talking about movies seen in the theatre over that past week. It was likely around 2005 when we first started doing this. A lot has changed in the movie watching world in the past 15 years. Principally the difference is no theatres are even open these days and it is about streaming and catching movies on DVD/BluRay. The realization was that movies pre-dating 2005 for the most part haven’t been reviewed, or at least in detail. Of course there are some that have popped up or been part of a compilation list but for the most part this is the case.
For recent content I finished watching Season 3 of Ozark. What started out as a different spin on Breaking Bad (in my opinion), where a Dad with Wife and two kids is money laundering for a drug cartel rather than making crystal meth to have something to leave to his family, has changed somewhat. The overall theme remains the same, but the tactics and how the characters interact is different. Different in a good way. I like how Marty and his wife are at odds on the direction to be taken with managing the money with the new casino license. The kids are involved, and the main new character introduced is Wendy’s younger brother, Ben who early on shows that he can be a volatile personality. The details become more apparent as the season goes on. He is played well by Tom Pelphrey and becomes a divisive character among almost all of the others. Everyone has an opinion about him, and the arc of his story is a good one. I enjoyed this season although it took me plenty of time to finally get through, and I am not sure why. For me a Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones kept me engaged and I was itching to see what was going to happen next. It was very binge-worthy, but here it’s not so much. I could take it or leave it. The final two or three episodes had some momentum and it carried me through to the end. There will be a Season 4 I expect and we will see where this takes us. I have to admit that I am bigger Ruth fan as this season wore on.
In all of the years that I have been going to movies, and seeing movies in the theatre and elsewhere, you would think that I would have seen the 1975 cult-classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have never. I have seen bits and piece of it, mostly Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite songs, but never from beginning to end. This was a film back in the 80s that would play at midnight at a Toronto theatre and the people who attended would dress up, act out the parts and participate (like throwing toast). For whatever reason, I never made it out. I think that the theatre-going experience would add so much more to this campy classic. It stars Tim Curry in a never-to-be-duplicated role as Dr Frank N Furter. It is an over-the-top performance and elevates the tone for the entire B-grade production otherwise. A very young Susan Sarandon also stars. The two songs listed above are memorable, and were stalwarts at high school and summer camp dances for years to come (I can still lip synch both songs in their entirety). Is it a great movie? No. Is it fun and a frolic? Absolutely. I can see why parents would be a little hesitant to have this shown to impressionable teens, but the teens went anyway. This in the same fashion that my Mom when she saw some parts of the movie The Phantom of the Paradise (1975), with Paul Williams and a more highly sexualized take on the Phantom of the Opera, was not impressed as we watched late night on City Tv. I wouldn’t watch this again in the comfort of my own home, but if it was playing at a theatre at midnight I may seek it out to re-live some high school days (maybe bring some older kids along as well)!
From Rocky Horror I then re-watched Caddyshack just because it was on. The premiere golf movie from 1980, directed by Harold Ramis of SCTV lore. It stars Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. It has a memorable appearance of Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight as the Judge. It’s stupid and it’s funny as the Saturday Night Live crew did with this and Murray with other movies like Stripes and Meatballs. People ask me at times what movies are comedies that I can watch? These three films with Bill Murray could be a good start for an evening of fun. The Caddyshack premise is one of an exclusive private golf club where the local teen caddies are looking to get through a summer. The one older caddy (Danny Noonan) played by Michael O’Keefe has a large family, with little money and he is struggling with his choices on whether to attend college. Chevy Chase an older member of the club gives him some advice. Dangerfield shows up and stirs up havoc and ultimately ends up challenging the Judge to a round of golf for a growing sum of money. Meanwhile, Bill Murray is a groundskeeper tasked with getting rid of a gopher that has taken up residence under the golf course. It’s fun. Has some good jokes. It is light entertainment. Some may argue that Happy Gilmore with Adam Sandler is a funnier golf related movie, but I will respectfully disagree (mostly because of Sandler himself). But few would be able to add a funnier golf movie than those two choices.
The Hunt for Red October was a Tom Clancy novel which introduced for movies the character of Jack Ryan in 1990. Sean Connery stars as the commander of a new Soviet Typhoon class submarine with a new propulsion system. Ironically, Tim Curry is part of his crew. Jack Ryan is portrayed by Alec Baldwin who famously only played the part once, after which Harrison Ford took over for other Clancy books made into film like Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Later Ben Affleck took a turn as Ryan. Currently John Krasinski is playing Ryan in a TV series on Amazon Prime. It is a long standing character that Baldwin could have done very well with for years to come. In this story, he is an analyst who knows much about the Connery character. The intrigue begins when word gets out that the Soviets have a submarine with a commander who is threatening the US to launch missiles. Ryan thinks that the intention may be more to defect than have a first strike against the US. There are good performances all around, and it is a high stakes thriller where you wonder how it can all play out. Questions like how do you manage to defect with a submarine the size of WWII aircraft carrier, and hundreds of crew members? This was a good book and I enjoyed it too. The story itself still holds up 30 years since it was released (scary to think about). Another movie that you can watch on Netflix.
Schindler’s List was released in 1993. It came at a time where Steven Spielberg was felt to be not a “serious” director. He could do summer blockbusters like Jaws, or Close Encounters or E.T. and make oodles of money, but he had not as much success with more serious subjects like The Color Purple or Empire of the Sun. In 1993, he directed Schindler’s List, the Holocaust story of Oskar Schindler, a German war profiteer who created a war-time factory using Jewish slave labour which ultimately he used to save 1200 lives at the end of the war. To hear Steven Speilberg tell it in the documentary Spielberg, this was a project that was introduced to him many years before, and then after Raiders Temple of Doom, and meeting and marrying his second wife, Kate Capshaw decided to take it on. For him, this was his opus and he wanted to represent flawlessly the story of the Polish Jews, and specifically Krakow Jews from initial forcible removal from their homes into slums, to then being moved to internment camps and death camps. It is almost entirely filmed in black and white for a reason. It is more powerful. Spielberg uses all his considerable skills, and those of cinematographer and production designer to bring the viewer into that reality. Liam Neeson portrays Schindler. He is assisted directly by excellent Ben Kingsley as his Jewish accountant Izhtak Stern, and the equally excellent Ralph Fiennes as the Nazi camp commander Amon Goeth. These are real people portrayed by these actors. The movie is a triumph, and takes the viewer into the unimaginable horrors that lived in that time. The uncertainty from day to day for each person whether you, or your loved ones, would live or die at the hands of an unpredictable and ruthless overseer rings throughout. The enormity of the tragedy with loss of life is astounding. Millions of lives were snuffed out in a systematic, production line murder process. Enormous resources in people and infrastructure were necessary to execute on Hitler’s Final Solution to the Jewish problem as he saw it. I have not been to Auschwitz, but I have been to Mauthausen near Linz Austria. Seeing a death camp is an experience to remember. How human beings can treat each other like something other than human confounds me. This won Best Picture, and Spielberg’s first Best Director Oscar. In total it won 7 Oscars. This should be mandatory viewing for all so that history is remembered. So that we don’t forget the lives lost, and we ensure that systematic racism does not ever get to this point ever again. This isn’t easy to watch, but it’s worth every moment and shows the remarkable Steven Speilberg at the top of his craft.