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The African Queen

The African Queen  

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  1. 1. Does The African Queen belong on the AFI list?

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  • Poll closed on 11/02/18 at 07:00 AM

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This used to be on all the time at my grandfather's house. But he also frequently watched Murphy's War, and it was easy for me to confuse the two as a kid. It seemed a solid enough movie as far as I recall, but it's been a long time since I saw it.

There was a sequel made to True Grit titled Rooster Cogburn. It wasn't based on any Charles Portis novel, but instead seemed to be inspired by The African Queen. It even has Katherine Hepburn as a pious spinster on a boat filled with explosives alongside a drunk! It's just old John Wayne instead of Bogart.

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Just to add an obsessively trivial note – the Novel the African Queen is vaguely based on a bizarre real life incident in World War 1 – a German Gunboats did indeed control Lake Tanganyika at the start of the war. In 1915 the a British Navy expedition  28 men, and two motor boats (named Mimi and Toutou ) was dispatched from England – the 28 were not, as might be expected,  the cream of the British Navy  - they were mostly a collection of misfits and oddballs that the Admiralty felt they could easily spare on what they no doubt privately thought was a suicide mission – (they were going to have to drag the boats some 500 miles to the lake from the nearest railroad.) The most eccentric of the party was the commander one Geoffrey Basil Spicer-Simson who was heavily tattooed and preferred to wear a woman's skirt in the tropics among other traits.

After heroic and desperate efforts they managed to get the boats to the lake and had some success but like so many actions in World War One ended in futility and controversy when Spicer-Simson refused to obey  orders to support another force and he was sent home in vague disgrace.  

A truly black comedy could be made of the true story well told in the book Mimi and Toutou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle Of Lake Tanganyika  by Giles Foden.  

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So, I just finished the episode and I have question for the boards. Does anyone here actually rank these movies higher on their personal lists based on how difficult the shoot was? Not difficult in a special effects type of way, but straight up, “This was a tough shoot in the jungle with a crazy director so I’m going to go ahead and give it an extra half a star?”

It’s come up a few times on the show and it just feels kind of bogus to me. Personally, I’ve been ranking these movies before I listen to the episodes, and I know next to nothing about most of them until after I've listened to the episode. And while their arguments might sway me a little bit, I’ve never been like, “Sounds like a rough shoot, I guess I’ll move this above All About Eve...” 

I feel like I’m being a bit of a contrarian this week (although I’m not going to apologize for liking a movie), but I’m genuinely curious. Because for me, it’s always been more about the product than the process. All that anecdotal stuff is interesting, but ultimately, what matters to me is what’s up on the screen. Does it really matter to AFI voters, or to anyone? 

Also, while I get what Paul was saying about Bogart’s Academy Award, I’m not sure I buy his argument that The African Queen is on the AFI list to represent “Old Hollywood” and the Classics. Not when there are, by my count, 28 other films on the list that could just as easily represent the old guard - three of which even star Bogart! I

I mean, I get that they weren’t really into it and didn’t feel like it deserved to be on the list, and that’s fine, but I feel like that particular argument is a bit of a stretch. It just feels a bit conspiratorial to me (“Since I wasn’t personally feeling it, that must mean there were ulterior motives in play for it be included.”) Or...it could just be you didn’t really like it, but it is still worthy - which is more or less how I feel about Apocalypse Now :)

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1 hour ago, Cameron H. said:

Does it really matter to AFI voters, or to anyone? 

It definitely doesn't matter to me, but part of me does think it might matter to AFI voters.  It certainly seems to matter to the Academy, as they honor ambition over quality over and over again.

But I hope that acknowledging that as a possibility doesn't feel like it's demeaning your love of the film.  I think Titanic is great, and I think it deserves its place on the list, while also acknowledging the possibility that it got on the list based on its perceived ambition.  (I'm tempted to say that it didn't deserve 11 Oscars, but at the same time, that was a not a particularly stellar year for movies.  The Full Monty was nominated for BEST PICTURE!)

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2 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

So, I just finished the episode and I have question for the boards. Does anyone here actually rank these movies higher on their personal lists based on how difficult the shoot was? Not difficult in a special effects type of way, but straight up, “This was a tough shoot in the jungle with a crazy director so I’m going to go ahead and give it an extra half a star?”

It’s come up a few times on the show and it just feels kind bogus to me. Personally, I’ve been ranking these movies before I listen to the episodes, and I know next to nothing about most of them until I listen to the episode. And while their arguments might sway me a little bit, I’ve never been like “Sounds like a rough shoot, guess I’ll should move this above All About Eve...” 

I feel like I’m being a bit of a contrarian this week (although I’m not going to apologize for liking a movie), but I’m genuinely curious. Because for me, it’s always been more about the product than the process. All that anecdotal stuff is interesting, but ultimately, what matters to me is what’s up on the screen. Does it really matter to AFI voters, or anyone? 

Also, while I get what Paul was saying about Bogart’s Academy Award, but I’m not sure I buy his argument that The African Queen is on the AFI list to represent “Old Hollywood” and the Classics. Not when there are, by my count, 28 other films on the list that could just as easily represent the old guard - three of which even star Bogart! I mean, I get that they weren’t really into it didn’t feel like it deserved to be on the list, and that’s fine, but I feel like that particular argument is a bit of a stretch. It just feels a bit conspiratorial to me (“Since I personally wasn’t feeling it, that must mean there were ulterior motives for it be included.”) Or...it could just be you didn’t really like it, but it is still worthy - which is more or less how I feel about Apocalypse Now :)

Two things. First, I agree with you completely. I've always been of the belief that any work of art should be able to stand on its own. If you need a ton of backstory and explaining to enjoy something, have it makes sense, or just be "good" then what is the point? Especially consider the time in which a lot of these movies were being made when this kind of information was much less talked about or out there. I doubt most people knew of the hardships or the strife that went on. Like you I believe if a movie is truly a great movie it should be all there on the screen. That said you can see scenes shot a certain way and acknowledge to yourself "gee, that must have been hard to do" and that could weigh in slightly when considering the skill it took to make the movie.

This also why sometimes I have a hard time with super method acting. All I have to go on is what is on screen. Whatever an actor is doing off screen to get into the right space to play the character is meaningless if the scene doesn't work. Some actors need to experience things and draw on it and others just try to mentally put themselves in that position and mind set. If both are talented you won't be able to tell which one is which most of the time. 

Knowing information like how hard it was to shoot or the behind the scenes problems and that stuff just makes things more interesting. It could make you appreciate things more or make you look at scenes in new and different ways. Yet when those things start to shape your opinions of things away from your initial reaction than you are no longer judging the movie on its presented merits. Imagine you were a teacher and you got two essays to grade and you gave them both Bs. Later in talking to the students you find out that one wrote it with a high fever in a blackout by candle light using hard to find texts. Does that suddenly bump it up to an A? It just seems a bit odd to me. Not to mention knowing this stuff before seeing something there and letting preconceived ideas or knowledge effect ones thoughts on the film. It's hard because we don't live in a vacuum. 

Second, there is a slight problem I have with this idea of "this film is on the list because of the old guard" or "these films are on here because they are the ones that the voters grew up on." Like it was mentioned we saw the list change in the ten years between the first and the second. Like they said new voters coming in who aren't familiar or nostalgic for certain films bumped others done and others up. If a third lists comes out and is voted on by a bunch of new voters who are younger and more diverse of course we'll see another shift in the list. Isn't this though just repeating the same process? In thirty or forty years that list will be looked upon as "they only picked that because they grew up in the 80s" or "this was included because they were friends with this 90s filmmaker." I think we should admit and accept that we all personal tastes and beliefs and those will effect which movies we deem worthy. We should try to divorce ourselves of personal opinions of those that worked in front of and behind the camera other things that aren't on screen and judge the movie for its own merits. That's sometimes hard and that's fine as long as you are willing to acknowledge that.

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14 hours ago, bleary said:

It definitely doesn't matter to me, but part of me does think it might matter to AFI voters.  It certainly seems to matter to the Academy, as they honor ambition over quality over and over again.

But I hope that acknowledging that as a possibility doesn't feel like it's demeaning your love of the film.  I think Titanic is great, and I think it deserves its place on the list, while also acknowledging the possibility that it got on the list based on its perceived ambition.  (I'm tempted to say that it didn't deserve 11 Oscars, but at the same time, that was a not a particularly stellar year for movies.  The Full Monty was nominated for BEST PICTURE!)

That's interesting. It just seems like such a weird criteria. Like I said before, sure they make for interesting stories, but ultimately, who cares? There are tons of ambitious projects of varying degrees of quality. If I truly felt like a painting was mediocre,  I wouldn't shower it with accolades just because the artist painted it while drunk in the desert while a crazy person yelled obscenities at them. 

I guess I also find it odd that people just assume that people already know these stories. For example, during the Apocalypse Now episode, Amy and Paul posited that perhaps the reason the film is so well regarded has more to do with the insanity of the production than the quality of the film, but...how many people really knew about the filming? I certainly didn't. And knowing it now has had zero impact on how I feel about it. Same for Titanic. Now, of course, maybe this is something AFI voters specifically give a shit about. I don't know. Maybe they really are like, pencil to lips, "Hmmm...Well, I prefer The Third Man, but Katherine Hepburn had to crap in a jungle so..."

And, no worries! I'm not worried about anyone demeaning my love for the film - lol. We all like what we like. It's really nbd. I was just curious is all. It's been brought up a few times now, and when I heard it this time, I couldn't help thinking, "I have literally never based my opinion of a movie on the conditions under which it was filmed." I just wondered if anyone here had.

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1 minute ago, Cameron H. said:

Like I said before, sure they make for interesting stories, but ultimately, who cares? There are tons of ambitious projects of varying degrees of quality. If I truly felt like a painting was mediocre,  I wouldn't shower it with accolades just because the artist painted it while drunk in the desert while a crazy person yelled obscenities at them. 

I completely agree with you, but movie awards and movie lists are voted on by movie people, and I think many of them often value the narrative of the movie-making procedure more than they value the narrative in a film.

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I mean, extreme direction is just as valid a reason as using "Oscar winner" as some sort of judge of what's worthwhile...  

But yea, I agree - I don't know these backdrop stories, nor do I care at all.  But I imagine there's some mythologizing here by the movie industry -- like "look what we go to to get you your entertainment, aren't we awesome!"  And movie industry people -- AFI voters, critics, actor/comedian/podcast hosts included -- probably are way too quick to use it as 'proof'.

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I agree that the backstory doesn't play into my ranking of a movie, personally. It might give me an extra appreciation for a performance (such as Katharine Hepburn puking her guts out through that opening scene), but the film should be good on screen and be able to be interpreted/judged based on what you see. Certainly the difficulty of certain shots/locations, etc. can play into the technical achievements of a movie, I don't think they make it any better or worse. It depends on what you do with it. I also didn't know any of the backstory for Apocalypse Now, and none of it made me like it any more. It kind of just made me dislike Francis Ford Coppola. 

If we're judging and adding movies to the AFI top 100 based on backstory, The Room should be up there ;)

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23 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

If we're judging and adding movies to the AFI top 100 based on backstory, The Room should be up there ;)

WHERE’S THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU!?!

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14 hours ago, bleary said:

I completely agree with you, but movie awards and movie lists are voted on by movie people, and I think many of them often value the narrative of the movie-making procedure more than they value the narrative in a film.

I was going to be a bit more generous and say that because the organizations (talking the Academy and the AFI here) who include film makers*, I could imagine they can appreciate the difficulty in the craft (and backstory) more and that can understandably alter their opinions.  But your take is probably more realistic a lot of members.

*: Which is why when referencing the BFI lists on this topic before for Apocalypse Now, the BFI critic's list is made up by polling critics, not film makers.  The BFI director's list is made up by polling directors.

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To answer the question at hand... I haven't really been ranking them as we've gone along like other people have.  But in general, when I do compare for ranking movies, difficulty of shooting doesn't really factor in much.  [About to state reasons why... oh wait, the melatonin is kicking in].

ETA: Waking up a bit now. I can imagine situations where knowing the difficulty of a shoot might enhance the appreciation of a scene.  But that's usually something after you already like a movie.  In situations where it matters, it seems like because of its difficulty, you shouldn't get many movies that do whatever this hypothetical difficult shoot is supposed to be doing though.  I'm thinking, for example, in Fitzcarraldo, they actually dragged that boat over a mountain.  However, the scenarios I gave is the difficulty is inherently tied to what you're getting on screen.  The, "yeah, the reason why you don't see this on film too much is because it's really difficult to do," which that rarity is probably already affecting my opinion of a film (and more-so than it being a difficult shoot).

I think Amy and Paul, when going this line of thought though seem to put the difficulty before the film itself as the reason why people like it so much, it feels like they're probably missing the real appeal of the film or at least, why it appeals to the people it appeals to.

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9 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

If we're judging and adding movies to the AFI top 100 based on backstory, The Room should be up there

Well, this makes me think of something else to ask everyone: Do you judge a film more favorably if it's a first-time director?  Are you more forgiving of its flaws if you know it was made on a shoe-string budget?

I'm thinking about this right now because I just watched Christopher Nolan's first film, Following, which was made on a budget of $6000.  If I had seen it in 1998, I'm sure I would be impressed by it for both reasons.  Seeing it now, it's not super great, but I still feel a respect for any film that can be shot for that much money.  (Even Tangerine cost $100,000 and that was shot with an iPhone.)

Another example off the top of my head is Bong Joon-Ho's film The Host, which was a monster movie made on an $11 million budget.  The CGI appearances of the monster look terrible, very SyFy-channel in nature.  If he'd have gotten Peter Jackson money, I'm sure the CGI monster would have looked super great.  Does the terrible CGI hurt your appreciation of the film, or do you overlook it because it was the best they could do for the money?

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5 minutes ago, bleary said:

Well, this makes me think of something else to ask everyone: Do you judge a film more favorably if it's a first-time director?  Are you more forgiving of its flaws if you know it was made on a shoe-string budget?

I'm thinking about this right now because I just watched Christopher Nolan's first film, Following, which was made on a budget of $6000.  If I had seen it in 1998, I'm sure I would be impressed by it for both reasons.  Seeing it now, it's not super great, but I still feel a respect for any film that can be shot for that much money.  (Even Tangerine cost $100,000 and that was shot with an iPhone.)

Another example off the top of my head is Bong Joon-Ho's film The Host, which was a monster movie made on an $11 million budget.  The CGI appearances of the monster look terrible, very SyFy-channel in nature.  If he'd have gotten Peter Jackson money, I'm sure the CGI monster would have looked super great.  Does the terrible CGI hurt your appreciation of the film, or do you overlook it because it was the best they could do for the money?

For the first question, I'm honestly pretty terrible at recognizing directors. Unless it's someone super well-known, I probably wouldn't know if it was their first film or tenth. So, I guess my answer would have to be no.

For the second question, for me, a good story can absolutely transcend bad CGI. I feel like I have a movie on the tip of my tongue that would be a good example, but it's eluding me at the moment. I'll post it later if it comes to me.

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17 hours ago, bleary said:

Well, this makes me think of something else to ask everyone: Do you judge a film more favorably if it's a first-time director?  Are you more forgiving of its flaws if you know it was made on a shoe-string budget?

I'm thinking about this right now because I just watched Christopher Nolan's first film, Following, which was made on a budget of $6000.  If I had seen it in 1998, I'm sure I would be impressed by it for both reasons.  Seeing it now, it's not super great, but I still feel a respect for any film that can be shot for that much money.  (Even Tangerine cost $100,000 and that was shot with an iPhone.)

Another example off the top of my head is Bong Joon-Ho's film The Host, which was a monster movie made on an $11 million budget.  The CGI appearances of the monster look terrible, very SyFy-channel in nature.  If he'd have gotten Peter Jackson money, I'm sure the CGI monster would have looked super great.  Does the terrible CGI hurt your appreciation of the film, or do you overlook it because it was the best they could do for the money?

I think one doesn't necessarily judge a first time director or shoe-string budget more favorably, but rather, differently.  It can be a bit like, evaluating a movie on what it's trying to be, rather than what you want it to be. Though in practice, I guess that differently does become a more favorably.  That said, related to the rear projection and the model figures on the miniature boat in The African Queen (I finally watched it), it does bring to mind of another movie podcast (unnamed because non-earwolf podcast) I listen to when they reviewed King Kong.  On the thought exercise of one of the hosts "I wonder what it must have been like to be an audience member in 1933 going in to see King Kong for the first time.  It must have been amazing," one of the other hosts replied,"I can actually answer that because I dug up some reviews from 1933."  And the ones he had were very disinterested.  They called out the herky-jerkiness of the claymation even, which, after eliciting a deflated sigh from the first host, did raise the notion of, know matter when you watch a movie, there is always an aspect of having to give oneself over to the film (as they would say).  Which is also kind of my thought to those scenes in The African Queen.  Some scenes seemed impressively immersive for the time.  Some of the others, less so, but seemed like they were needed for editing together the cohesive narrative/progression through the rapids (blue screen scenes were, well, blue-screen with outlines.  But if you notice the river seems overly wide for them, so if they stuck there, it kind of dislocated the viewer, I think, and thus called for a shot of the boat in the river as a means to re-establish their progression through the river).  And I guess because you guys talked about how distracting those were for you, so much, it kind of prepared me mentally of, "okay, there are some scenes that are just not going to work to modern eyes as well as others," which kind of allowed me to forgive those shots (in favor of the stronger ones).

Overall on the movie, I enjoyed it while watching, but was kind of "eh" now that it's over.  I liked the sound design when it was recordings of animals instead of music though.  I don't know the history of jungle/forest sound design though and am lacking other movies from that era and before to compare it to.

 

On the related topic, why are great movies considered great, how much of it is because other people talk about them being great?  And that sounds silly because I don't think anyone would say 'yes' to it when phrased that way, but conforming to a crowd is a known psychological phenomenon (though, that knowledge came pre-replication crisis in the psychology field, so who knows what's true psychological knowledge).  Or to put it a couple of other ways it might manifest itself, and especially in the case where there's a ballot of 100 greatest movies, you have two movies that are barely going to make the cut for your list.  One is considered great by many other people, the other has its admirers, but isn't really on many all time great lists.  You're mostly luke-warm on both, but that's where you're at when it comes to selecting number 100, and honestly, you could go either way.  Do you defer to the wisdom of the crowd and just say, "yeah, this great movie, I kind of enjoyed it, though mostly it was appreciated its greatness.  I guess it makes sense to put it in the final spot." Or do you go with, "Eh, movie A isn't that great and already gets lots of love.  Movie B could use more votes (even though it's kind of throwing the vote away if it doesn't make the top 100 normally)."

 

Then there's also the habit I think, of people conflating talking about something a lot and familiarity with it to mean it's something good.  Which, as correlation, I don't think is entirely unfounded.  But it's a thing.  I think.  It seems like it's a thing.  The explanation Paul thought of in terms of the drop in the AFI rankings seemed rooted in that notion.

 

And more realistically, even for top 10 lists, movies that are considered great, might be the benefit of repeated viewings and having their strong points repeatedly highlighted.  There might be a movie out there that you now consider great, but you didn't love the first time.  And maybe in a world where other people didn't consider it great, it would have still stuck with you enough to devote more time and thought to, but maybe not.  And in those repeated viewings, you came to appreciate things that you didn't pick up on during the first viewing, or sensed there was some theme going on you weren't getting, but then saw it crystalized because someone else made it explicit by writing it out and then everything clicked. And in that repeated viewing, the subtle details became richer, and you appreciated it more, you savor it more.  And that would not have happened if the catalyst of everyone saying it was great wasn't there.

That last one I chew on a decent amount.

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In terms of buying the romance though.  After the German base when they kissed, I really needed some witty exposition from Hepburn.  Say her pulling back and saying, "I have to warn you, I've heard relationships based on intense experiences never work."

After all, they were both stuck on a boat that if it dropped below 5 miles an hour, German conscripted soldiers would shoot their explosives and blow their boat sky-high.  I assume the real reason the German sniper didn't hit bogie wasn't because of the sun, but rather because he was missing a thumb.  There's a backstory between Bogie and that sniper, I'm sure of it.

Speaking of which, doesn't Speed 2 belong on the AFI list?  I mean, it's another woman and (insane, crazy) man on a boat movie.

 

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On 10/25/2018 at 8:10 PM, Cameron H. said:

I’m listening to the episode now, and I wonder if secularism affects one’s enjoyment of the film. While I don’t know where Amy and Paul land on a Spiritual level, I’ve noticed when it comes to the presentation of Christianity in these films, particularly Christian metaphors, they tend to either miss them completely or make shallow generalizations. For example, Paul was amazed that Rose “wasn’t Puritanical” and had expected her to be “not so well-rounded.” Amy said she would have expected her character to be more “priggish.” However, there’s never anything in the film - especially in the first couple of scenes they were discussing - to suggest that she should be any of those things. 

While some Christians can be rigid and uptight, most Christians cuss. A lot of them drink and smoke and fuck for fun. It feels like as soon as Rose was presented as Christian, they already made up their minds about the type of person she must be, and were then “surprised” when their preconceptions were challenged. 

 Paul then goes on to say something about how the ending didn’t fit or make sense because nothing up until that point suggested that they were going survive, but literally the whole movie is full of little miracles (e.g. Surviving the rapids, the sun in the sniper’s eye, the rain that gets them to the lake, the torpedo, their salvation). However, if you’re not looking at it from a Spiritual standpoint, it all seems like series of lucky breaks that, I guess, seem kind of dumb and trivial. I guess what I’m saying is, if you exorcise the Judeo-Christian God from the narrative, the whole thing loses a ton of meaning.

Perhaps it’s a generationist mentality (it’s a new word I’m trademarking). I feel like the intended 1951 audience for this movie was probably predominantly white and Christian. We live (thankfully) in a more diverse and secular time, but the 50’s were a far more conservative (with all the baggage that goes with that). My point is, because our our society is more secular, I feel like a lot of the things might be lost on today’s audience that might have been more apparent and readily accepted seventy years ago. That doesn’t make it good or bad, necessarily. It’s just a different mindset.

Just to clarify, I am not religious myself. Being raised by someone who worked for, coincidentally enough, a Methodist Church cured me of that. However, this is big reason why I still feel like it’s important to ensure my children have a passing familiarity with, not just Christianity, but all religions. Historically, Art and Literature are jam packed with religious allegory, metaphor, and allusions and if you can’t recognize it when you see it, or dismiss it out of hand when you do, you’re not experiencing it as the artist intended.

Now that I've watched the film, I now feel like I might need to re-listen to the episode, because she seemed about as puritanical as I was expecting her to be.  Basically sheltered, hadn't lived life.  Never had known the physical pleasure of... *ahem*, steering a boat through some rapids.  I guess she wasn't as evangelizing as they expected?  She doesn't pour out his booze until he goes back on his promise.  Up until that point, she (and her brother), display discomfort at his behavior, but try to politely ignore and accept it.  Which is a type of depiction of Christianity I feel showed up in classic films a lot.  For everything else (except for the rain), I feel like the movie foreshadowed a bit*, so it felt like it could have been just as likely as a "no coincidence, no story," type of narrative progression.  My gut feels like Paul felt it didn't make sense because he had the outside knowledge of how it was originally written, and through that lens, them surviving seemed less... plausible.

*: The sniper getting the sun in his eyes was stated as something working in their favor by Hepburn beforehand.  Hitting the torpedo, they said those Germans all be like, we got to maintain order and procedure, so we're going to maintain our patrol (which would have been in the path of where the African Queen sunk).  The convenient timing is just narrative tension and resolution.  Something that hasn't left script-writing even today.

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Briefly back to the topic of backstories and the AFI list, I did want to mention, at some point I said, these lists can often be viewed as the product of a few components.  One of them was who's voting for them.  I was thinking more in terms of tastes (e.g. looking at the two BFI lists (critics vs directors), you see historically canonical doing better on the former.  And movies that are what I'd think of as being more cinematic (also possibly skewing more towards the 70s than pre-70s) doing better on the directors list.  Imdb's list is everyone on imdb, which is the "general population," so unsurprisingly, blockbusters do better there (which, by definition, are movies that sell a lot of tickets, so presumably a lot of people like it) and recency bias there means favoring a movie because it came out in the past year, rather than on the BFI/AFI lists where it seems to work in the other direction. "We don't know how it's going to age, let's give it another decade first"). Amy seems to have taken the inside baseball track for evaluating the AFI list (namely, friends-and-possibly-daughter-of-director-of-film are the people voting).  Which, I don't know.  I mean, I literally don't know who makes up the voting members of the AFI.  Maybe that isn't a wrong mindset for assessing why certain movies are where they are on the list.

 

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1 hour ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

On the related topic, why are great movies considered great, how much of it is because other people talk about them being great?

Well I think this, above anything, is the main thesis question of Unspooled.  Maybe we should come back to it in 75 weeks. 

But I mean, on a micro level, Unspooled is about that week's movie and the discussion around it.  But on a macro level, it becomes 'what is great?  are these great just because people/the AFI say so, or because they truly are?"  Is this an objective question, or purely subjective?  Or both somehow?

I think a lot of the angry comments ended up directed at Amy seem to be people offended that, maybe, some of these aren't so great, and they're upset at her willingness to question this.  I mean, we all know this list is flawed at best -- it's only 100, it's only American, it's only white male directors.  Regardless, that's how I approach these films.  Slightly skeptical perhaps, but eager because I know they're popular or famous for some reason -- and what is that reason?  

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52 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

it's only white male directors.  

Well . . . mostly (Spike Lee and M. Night Shyamalan are on there).

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15 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

 I feel like the movie foreshadowed a bit*, so it felt like it could have been just as likely as a "no coincidence, no story," type of narrative progression.  My gut feels like Paul felt it didn't make sense because he had the outside knowledge of how it was originally written, and through that lens, them surviving seemed less... plausible.

 

I just can't agree with "coincidence, no story." If it were just a movie where stuff happens, then there would be no reason to make one of the characters a missionary and have them be prominently delivered in the movie through prayer. From my point of view, the movie is pretty specific. It's about a divine being (Rose) experiencing humanity and a man experiencing divinity (Allnut) and how their shared experience elevates each of them.  Along the way, they are faced with obstacles that test their faith and resolve. After successfully navigating through a number of "impossible" trials, they face their toughest challenge - a floral paradise. Despite everything they’ve been through, it is in this moment of Temptation that Rose confesses that even she's having some doubts. However, they persevere. Ultimately, they face their oppressors and are punished by being hanged from a cross...er, I mean a yardarm (an object that looks absolutely nothing like a cross...)

Yardarm.JPG?itok=YeJgZdbZ  

This is why I understand the original ending as the movie would have culminated with our Christ figures (joined as one) making the ultimate sacrifice, but through their sacrifice, they save others. The torpedo blowing up the German ship would have then represented their ascension to Heaven. That being said, I totally get why the studio would want to change that.

Obviously, Paul and Amy didn't see the movie the same way. They said they weren't really sure what they were looking at. Paul said it didn't really jibe for him as a "Hope and Crosby 'Road To..'" movie or as a "Rom-Com." The problem is, the movie isn't either of those things. So if that's what you're looking for or expecting, you're probably going to be disappointed. It might feel like it doesn't have a point or coalesce properly. For myself, I see all the religious stuff because, as a Literature Major brought up in a church, I'm probably a bit predisposed to see it. ;)

And this all leads me back to my original question: does secularism affect ones viewing of The African Queen? This isn't a knock on anyone or their beliefs (or lack thereof). I just wonder if the reason that its lost some of its prestige is because, in the last 70 years, society as a whole has become more secular thus making it harder for modern audiences to relate to its religious themes. In other words, if you're not looking for the allegorical/metaphorical/whatever, or if it's lost on you, is it even possible for it to resonate in the way in which it was intended?       

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3 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Well . . . mostly (Spike Lee and M. Night Shyamalan are on there).

Yea sorry, 2% is not worth mentioning or significant. But yea. It’s not exactly all american either, I don’t think.

but I have a sneaking suspicion this is why the AFI didn’t do another 10-year list yet. You can’t put out a list like that nowadays... imagine!

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5 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

That said, related to the rear projection and the model figures on the miniature boat in The African Queen (I finally watched it), it does bring to mind of another movie podcast (unnamed because non-earwolf podcast) I listen to when they reviewed King Kong.  On the thought exercise of one of the hosts "I wonder what it must have been like to be an audience member in 1933 going in to see King Kong for the first time.  It must have been amazing," one of the other hosts replied,"I can actually answer that because I dug up some reviews from 1933."  And the ones he had were very disinterested.  They called out the herky-jerkiness of the claymation even, which, after eliciting a deflated sigh from the first host, did raise the notion of, know matter when you watch a movie, there is always an aspect of having to give oneself over to the film (as they would say).

Sure, it's like magic tricks.  Some people will never be impressed by seeing magic tricks because they know that actual magic isn't real, and magic tricks are actually a combination of deception, distraction, and some well-practiced physical or mental skills.  But there's also a big difference between David Blaine (or former guest Rob Zabrecky) and the magic trick that Bruce Willis does in The Sixth Sense.  And I'm not fully saying that the effects in The African Queen are Bruce Willis coin-trick level, but they're definitely on that side of the spectrum in my opinion.

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6 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Well I think this, above anything, is the main thesis question of Unspooled.  Maybe we should come back to it in 75 weeks. 

But I mean, on a micro level, Unspooled is about that week's movie and the discussion around it.  But on a macro level, it becomes 'what is great?  are these great just because people/the AFI say so, or because they truly are?"  Is this an objective question, or purely subjective?  Or both somehow?

I think a lot of the angry comments ended up directed at Amy seem to be people offended that, maybe, some of these aren't so great, and they're upset at her willingness to question this.  I mean, we all know this list is flawed at best -- it's only 100, it's only American, it's only white male directors.  Regardless, that's how I approach these films.  Slightly skeptical perhaps, but eager because I know they're popular or famous for some reason -- and what is that reason?  

I think I just don't expect them to answer that question definitively; and that's for a variety of different reasons.  So, I just take the show on your micro-level with the overall premise being a recurring thought exercise and set of discussion topics.  As well as the root organization of what movies to review - as opposed to recent releases.  The format of the podcast is also very casual, not a formal one.  So I'm not extremely disappointed or angry when they deviate from the does it deserve to be in the greatest list (or go down avenues of assessment that I kind of roll my eyes at).

And the one I said I chew on a lot, it doesn't deny that for a movie that seems great as a result of all this examination isn't actually great, but rather, what about the other movies you've watched only once.  Something that feels even more relevant as I've gotten older.  With less time to watch movies as a whole and as the ability to see so many different movies at one's fingertips has arisen, the ability to make time to rewatch movies has in many ways gone quite far down for me. So what ultimately gets to decide which movies I rewatch?  I'd guess mostly first impressions from a first viewing.  The exception maybe being a movie where my first impression was okay, but maybe not "Great,"  that things like critics or a these type of lists tell me there's a "there" there.  This podcast wouldn't address that type of bias, because some of these movies they're watching effectively for the first time (i.e. not evaluating in terms of repeated viewing), and they aren't reviewing movies that aren't on the list (e.g. the other 300 movies that were on the ballot).  If that all makes sense.  It's also a question I wrestle with for myself and don't really expect to hear a podcast answer for me.

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4 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea sorry, 2% is not worth mentioning or significant. But yea. It’s not exactly all american either, I don’t think.

but I have a sneaking suspicion this is why the AFI didn’t do another 10-year list yet. You can’t put out a list like that nowadays... imagine!

The list, in my mind, definitely is not all American. The current version is more American than the previous edition but their definition of American seems to be primarily American produced. That's why Hitchcock movies are on here or LOTR which is at least as New Zealand as it is American.

As for the list being all white guys, it's because women directors and directors of color basically do not exist in American cinema before the 1980s. I don't want to say the AFI is blameless but it's more 10% AFI/90% Hollywood. It's impossible to include what decades of racism and misogyny in American cinema prevented from existing. I can name a lot of women directors I respect. I can name a lot of directors of color I respect. But if I only include Americans who are active and making good movies before 2008, that list is very, very short. It's Spike Lee, Penny Marshall, Amy Heckerling, John Singleton, Robert Townsend, Sofia Coppola, Ang Lee, Oscar Micheaux (who is more influential than than enjoyable for me personally) and Mira Nair (but I think a lot of her films are international co-productions so maybe don't count?). I'm sure there are some people I'm forgetting or ignorant of but that's a pathetically small list.

I'd definitely dump African Queen or Swing Time or Ben Hur to at least consider Brokeback Mountain, Malcolm X, Clockers, Mo Better Blues, A League Of Their Own, Awakenings, Lost In Translation, Boyz N The Hood, Clueless. So, I guess that negates my argument that there isn't much from women or people of color to include. But is this really it? Am I missing some stuff?

If the AFI updated their list in 2018 and we don't see more presence of people of color or women, that's on them. No real excuses with the influx of people of color, women and lgbt directors to not have greater numbers.

EDIT: for anyone with Turner Classic Movies, they are showing a few hours of silent shorts directed by women this Thursday. If you want the earliest examples of women directors (and one woman of color) in American cinema, I believe this is it.

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