104 New To Me Movies: Barry Lyndon (1975)

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Title: Barry Lyndon
Release Year: 1975
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick from the novel by William Makepeace Thackery
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin and David
Star Rating: 4

Review

I’ve never read The Luck of Barry Lyndon but I have read and watched many adaptations of Vanity Fair, so I am familiar with Thackery’s gleeful dislike of the society he was writing about.

Kubrick’s movie is stunningly shot, deliberately paced and blindingly nasty. Steeped in nihilism, a term that didn’t really exist when Thackery was writing but describes his viewpoint perfectly, Ryan O’Neal plays the feckless protagonist with vapid languidity until punctuated with moments of violence.

This movie is a triumph and I will never watch it again because it is three hours long and really boring, but it’s a phenomenal piece of art.

104 New To Me Movies: Bedknobs And Broomsticks (1971)

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Title: Bedknobs And Broomsticks
Release Year: 1971
Directed By: Robert Stevenson
Written By: Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, Songs by Richard and Robert Sherman, from the book by Mary Norton
Recommended by: RIP Angela Lansbury. Truly a One Of A Kind Icon
Star Rating: 3.5

Review

There are some stars who shine so brightly for so long that the idea of them going out is impossible to conceive.

So it was with Dame Angela Lansbury who passed this week. An absolute icon of theater, television and film, she was simply incredible. And, I’d never watched this movie, so it seemed a fitting tribute.

Bedknobs And Broomsticks is absolutely totally OK. Lansbury is wonderful in it. “The Age of Not Believing” does that thing that the best Sherman Brothers songs do, which is make you nod along with it pleasantly in the moment, and then think about twenty minutes later and start crying. (See also “Feed The Birds” and “Hushabye Mountain.”)

But mainly, it’s a wonderful showcase for Lansbury. Her version of English Middle Class warmth is so suited to this material. (An single woman in World War II England decides to become a witch to help the war effort, has a family of evacuated London children dropped on her doorstep) She’s luminous and funny and wonderful in this role.

She will be deeply missed.

Note

Blank Check is still doing Kubrick but I’ve been a little down lately…so I didn’t want to watch A Clockwork Orange. Sorry if you were looking forward to me once again saying, “Ugh, I get why this is amazing, but I DON’T LIKE IT” again.

104 New To Me Movies: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

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Title: 2010: The Year We Make Contact
Release Year: 1984
Directed By: Peter Hyams
Screenplay By: Peter Hyams, from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke
Recommended By: God, I loved 2001, how was I supposed to NOT watch it’s sequel.
Star Rating: 4

Review

Set nine years after the events of 2001 this movie is a much more straightforward though still rewarding sci fi story.

A Russian mission to see what happened to The Discovery leads Doctor Haywood Floyd (Roy Scheider!) to a cosmic encounter with the being that was once astronaut Dave Bowman, and the birth of a new sun just past Jupiter.

There’s also a weird subplot where we learn that HAL’s psychosis was caused by a programming directive that broke his circuits, which is a bummer, because I loved the idea that HAL went nuts because contact with The Monolith gave him sentience and he couldn’t handle it. (I’m always going to prefer an existential explanation to a practical one, it’s simply my nature)

This movie is really interesting. If it were completely divorced from the masterpiece it’s sequelizing it would probably be remembered as a classic. Scheider is absolutely fantastic, the idea of a the gift of a new sun is a really cool, “we are not alone” detail.

104 New To Me Movies: A.I. Artificial Inteligence (2001)

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Title: A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Release Year: 2001
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Steven Spielberg, from the short story by Brian Aldiss
Reccomended By: So, this is a little convoluted…I, like many film nerd, have Spielberg on the brain, with the oncoming release of The Fabelmans, so I’ll probably be filling in some of the stuff I missed in his filmography. I decided to pair this with 2001, as Kubrick was developing this before his death and Spielberg took over the project
Star Rating: 4.5, wow, this is really good

Review

Besides finding a bunch of new favorites, my favorite thing about this project has been being pleasantly surprised by stuff I’d prejudged.

I’d always skipped A.I. because it always felt weird to me that Spielberg picked up a Kubrick project. The two men made such different movies! But A.I. is pretty wonderful. (I do not agree with my friend Gabe that it’s Steve’s best, that’s crazy talk, but it’s certainly higher on my list than expected) The story about a creepy robot child who wants to be a real boy so that his mommy will love him, and his odyssey through a dystopian future is…really cool.

It’s visually absorbing, and philosophically complicated and Haley Joel Osment is incredible as David, and those he meets along they way are also pretty great, especially Jude Law as a charming sex bot named Gigolo Joe.

This is a moody, emotional and savvy piece of genre storytelling. I’m actually really glad that these two masters blended their voices for it, you can feel Kubrick in this movie, but it’s still a Spielberg movie. I’m glad I watched it.

104 New To Me Movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Title: 2001: A Space Odysesey
Release Year: 1968
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clark
Recommended By: AFI 100 Greatest American Films, Blank Check With Griffin & David
Star Rating: 5 Stars (YES I FINALLY LOVE A KUBCRICK MOVIE! WOO!)

Review

As I sat on my couch on Saturday a little grumpy because I had planned on going out but I lost my wallet on Friday, so was stuck until I get my replacement credit cards and IDs, I figured I might as well watch 2001, based on the last few weeks I was going to be kind of bored and annoyed anyway. Might as well lean into the irritation.

Not the case. I loved this one. As I watched I thought of my beloved Fantasia quite a few times. After all the pairing on mind blowing images with classical music. The way the film is sectioned off with multiple narratives mixed in with those images. The pure terror of the missing link, the mysterious monoliths that bring forward that birth of evolution. The existential horror of consciousness that leads inevitably to violence. As the apes become men, they wage war, as HAL 9000 becomes sentient, he grows paranoid and controlling, as the Galaxy Child is born, what horrors will it create?

I loved this movie, and it made me badly wish I could see it it on a big screen.

104 New To Me Movies: Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb(1964)

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Title: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Release Year: 1964
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George from the Novel by Peter George
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4

Review

You know how sometimes you can expierence a work of art, understand why it’s influential, important, and why people love it and also want to bang you head against the wall because you personally dislike it so much?

I’m getting to that point with Stanley Kubrick. I’m learning a lot about the structure of film by watching these movies. Anyway, Dr. Strangelove is a masterpiece. I even laughed at most of it. I just wasn’t in awe of it. This is a good movie.

Maybe the next few weeks will change my mind, but so far, I’m still thinking, “this guy should have kept making noirs, he was good at that.”

104 New To Me Movies: Soul Food (1997)

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Title: Soul Food
Release Year: 1997
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.
Written By: George Tillman Jr.
Reccomended By: Popped up as a “You Might Like” after both Waiting To Exhale and Mystic Pizza, so I decided to give it a shot. It is in fact, probably smack dab in the middle of those movies, and not as good as either
Star Rating: 3

Review

Soul Food’s heart is in the right place, bless it. The story of a middle class black family dealing with a severe illness and then the eventual death of their matriarch is a solid skeleton to hang a shaggy emotional film on.

But Soul Food never quite comes together. Part of that is the conceit that the movie is told through the eyes of eleven year old Ahmad, except when it isn’t, (seriously, Ahmad’s POV is a bright point, but it pops in and out in ways that don’t make a lot of sense) the spectacular cast, (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Mekhi Phifer! OH MY!) can’t really carry the nonsensical and less than earned twists in the road.

Marriages crumble, financial situations fluctuate, homes are lost and found, but it all feels muted, and small, and not in the good intimate way, more like the “why do I care about these people?” way.

It was a pleasant enough Saturday afternoon watch though.

104 New To Me Movies: Mystic Pizza (1988)

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Title: Mystic Pizza
Release Year: 1988
Directed By: Donald Petrie
Written By: Amy Holden Jones, Perry Howzr, Randy Howze and Alfred Uhry
Recommended By: Still gearing up for Ticket To Paradise so went for a Julia I’m less familiar with this time. Also it’s on a lot “movies for fall” lists, probably because of all the sweaters
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

Mystic Pizza is another one of those, “I’ve seen most of this movie but not all at once or in order” choices. And I’m so glad to have checked in with it. Following a season of change for three waitresses at an iconic pizza joint in Mystic, Connecticut, Mystic Pizza is a really touching portrayal of being a young woman.

Big hearted and confused Jojo (Lili Taylor) deals with the fallout of leaving her long time boyfriend Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio) at the altar. Intellectual and quiet Kat (Annabeth Gish) saves for college by babysitting for a young father while his wife is away and their budding romance breaks her heart. The free spirited Daisy (Julia Roberts, unbearably stunning and good here. A Star Is Born performance) gets wrapped up with a rebellious rich kid before realizing she’s worth so much more than being someone’s phase.

This movie is a warm hug. A cup of hot chocolate and fuzzy blanket, and a good cry. Just wonderful. Welcome fall!

104 New To Me Movies: As Good As It Gets (1997)

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Title: As Good As It Gets
Release Year: 1997
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Written by: Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks
Recommended By: More grown up 90s movies that I never saw because I was a literal child. Also, I went to my library’s sidewalk sale this weekend and picked up this movie for less than $1.
Star Rating: 4.5

Review

I really do like watching Jack Nicholson. I like movie stars and he is one of the greatest ever. And As Good As It Gets is probably the purest distillation of that special chemistry he has.

James L. Brooks and Nicholson takes that aggressive and somewhat abbrassive energy and channels it into Obsessive Compulsive author Melvin, and the way that energy (and his illness) efffects how he connects to those around him. Mainly, waitress Carol (Helen Hunt, wonderful) and his neighbor Simon, (an absolutely transcendent Greg Kinnear.)

There’s a road trip, a sick kid, a cute dog, plenty of jokes and pathos and a sexy nude drawing scene that’s not actually sexual at all. Seriously, this movie is great. It’s sharply written, masterfully performed and really made me feel good.

104 New To Me Movies: Fletch(1985)

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Title: Fletch
Release Year: 1985
Directed By: Michael Ritchie
Written By: Andrew Bergman, from the novel by Gregory Maguire
Recommended By: There’s a new Fletch movie out (I haven’t watched it yet) and as a result my friends John (@trumbullcomic on twitter) and Darin (@darincredible) watched this movie for their podcast SNL Nerds. (A few months ago I was on the podcast talking about Studio 60! You should listen!) Anyway, as the guys chatted I realized I’d never watched this whole movie…so now I have.
Star Rating: 3.5

Review

I enjoyed watching Fletch, it is kind of confusing to make the decision to turn a mystery novel, a reasonably tight genre by nature into the kind of bit heavy, loose comedies Chevy Chase made in the 80s. But it just sort of works here.

Some of the bits work better than others. Chase is charming in the way that he was at that point in his career. Young Geena Davis is around. So is Tim Mattheson, it’s fun!

It’s also short, just over 90 minutes, which, the more of this project I do, the more I appreciate short movies. Getting in and out quickly is a real serious gift. As are a few giggles. Fletch delivered on both.