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bleary last won the day on October 28 2018

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  1. bleary

    The Best Years Of Our Lives

    One thing I really appreciate about this film is that, although it seems to basically give its characters classic Hollywood happy endings, it still implies that all of them are works in progress. Fred finds someone who loves him for who he is instead of what uniform he wears, and he may have had some catharsis sitting in the plane at the end, but I doubt his nightmares have altogether stopped. Homer marries Wilma, who also seems to accept him for who he is, but there are still questions about whether his family is able to accept him, and ultimately whether he can fully accept his own limitations. And as mentioned on the podcast, Al's alcoholism is obviously a major concern of his wife, but it's not even addressed in the film as something that he may have to face. I voted yes, because there's so much about the story that I love, even if I'm on the fence about the Peggy and Fred bits in the middle. I assume it would be some standard Red Scare reporting, which would mutate later in the decade into McCarthyism. If it's a legitimate newspaper, perhaps it was reporting on Canada's Kellock-Taschereau Commission, which investigated the possibility that Soviet spies existed in the Canadian government, a fear that many Americans shared. But I don't think we ever actually see what the newspaper is, so it could have been less objective and skewing more towards hard-right propaganda, which would seem to fit with the guy's attitude.
  2. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    I had this thought too, but really, outside of his uncanny valley trilogy (Polar Express, Beowulf, and Christmas Carol) and a couple other stinkers, his filmography contains a bunch of movies I really love. I'll ride and die for both Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Contact, and Back to the Future is great. I don't love the BTTF sequels, but I respect them. And while I'm not super enthusiastic about Cast Away or Flight, I'm not sure I'd call them passionless. I think it's fair to say that Zemeckis seems to choose projects based on the technological hurdles he can overcome rather than what he can bring to the story or characters. But I have a difficult time coming down hard against him, because I do think he makes as many good movies as bad movies.
  3. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    You're right, and I definitely didn't choose my words properly here. What I was really thinking about was all of these so-called counter-culture things in relation specifically to Jenny's arc. The surface level reading of the film's depiction is that Jenny's life kept getting worse and worse the more she delved into these parts of society, and she only found happiness when she took the more conservative woman's role of mother and wife. Now, I completely understand that this is just surface level and it's ignoring the context, which is that Jenny's life keeps getting worse because of her own self-destructive behavior stemming from her past as a victim of abuse, and doesn't actually have much to do with the individual aspects of counter-culture (besides maybe the drug use). But on the surface, it seems to suggest that the things Jenny did were a gateway to sadness. As far as the conservative aspects of the movie, right or wrong, I'm not the only one talking about it. Eric Kohn at IndieWire lambasted the film for its conservatism on its 25th anniversary: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/07/forrest-gump-bad-movie-25-anniversary-1202154214/ while the National Review celebrated the film as the 4th best conservative movie of all-time: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2009/02/23/best-conservative-movies/ My personal feeling is that the film plays it pretty straight down the middle, which then comes off as slightly conservative to me. In the particular case of the DC protest, I do disagree with the idea that the film is speaking out more against conservatives than liberals. The military guy seems to be the only one with a plan, while the protesters are totally bumbling. So while I see the military guy's action as childish and petty, I could easily imagine someone watching that scene and gleefully enjoying how the military guy was able to so easily troll the libs.
  4. bleary

    Forrest Gump

    My view of the film seemed to align pretty directly with Paul's, in that I have so much disdain for this film, and yet it works. Unlike Paul, I have no qualms about kicking this off the list, though I agree with his assessment of how ingrained in popular knowledge it is. If I had to make a food analogy, I would say my feelings for this film basically parallel my feelings about eating shrimp, which are that I enjoyed it a lot more when I was younger, before I realized they're just underwater insects and it's sort of weird how many people fucking love it. On this rewatch, I can't say those metaphorical shrimp weren't tasty, but I still couldn't get past the thought of the beady black eyes, the long antennae, the exoskeletons, and those super weird mouthparts. I liked the episode of the podcast though, and I also appreciated the mentions of Being There and Zelig, which are the two superior films that seem like natural antecedents of Forrest Gump. I was glad Amy mentioned the politics a little, about how all the people doing things associated with liberalism (protesters, hippies, Black Panthers) are all judged to be bad. Amy and Paul probably could have gone even further into this (I'm 80% sure that Forrest Gump would have voted for Trump, but I'm 100% sure he would have worn a MAGA hat), but perhaps didn't want to alienate the callers who do like this movie. I didn't read the book, but when I read the wikipedia page about the differences, I found the bit about Forrest's college career interesting. Apparently in the book, he flunked out of University of Alabama after his first semester, whereas in the film, he graduates in five years. (I have so many questions, but the first thing I need to know is what Forrest majored in.) In this case, the latter is the bigger indictment of society. But to your point, it's another case in which the film seems to be driving towards making a statement, then steers away in time to avoid taking a stance.
  5. bleary

    Upcoming Episodes

    I stopped posting where to stream these because justwatch.com makes it so easy, but it's worth mentioning that The Best Years of Our Lives will be shown on TCM on Veterans Day (November 11, which is presumably why Paul and Amy scheduled this one here) and will likely be available to stream on demand from TCM for a few days afterwards. And while I'm mentioning it, TCM has an insanely good month of programming in November, including a whopping 25% of the AFI Top 100 list: Chinatown, Casablanca, On the Waterfront, North By Northwest, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, Sunrise, Tootsie, Shane, Dr. Strangelove, To Kill a Mockingbird, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cabaret, The Last Picture Show, The Wild Bunch, The Maltese Falcon, All About Eve, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sullivan’s Travels, and Spartacus are yet to air on TCM this month. Plus they're showing a few that got booted from the 1998 list, like Giant, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, and Doctor Zhivago, plus some that I think should be on the list, like Dog Day Afternoon. It's a dream month for anyone with TCM and a DVR.
  6. bleary

    The Godfather Pt. II

    I'm much more with Amy on this one, as I gain nothing from watching Godfather Part II that I didn't have from watching Godfather: that's no enlightenment, no knowledge, no inspiration, Mr. Coppola. And while I would be sad to kick a great John Cazale performance off the list, this film is honestly my least favorite of all his films, and I'd be happy to throw on both The Conversation and especially Dog Day Afternoon in place of this.
  7. bleary

    The Godfather

    I can only speak for myself, but for me, the problem isn't with the ambiguity over why something is happening, it's with the unevenness with which it happens. Why does Michael propose marriage to Apollonia before he even knows her name? It's not about ambiguity in plotting, it's about the emotional truth of that decision not matching with what we've seen from the character. Again, this is a minor quibble, and I agree with most of what you said. It's a remarkable film, and I currently have it as #4 in my list, though it'll probably end up at #5 or #6 when all is said and done.
  8. bleary

    The Godfather

    I was with Paul on this one. It's one of my favorite films and will almost certainly make my top 10 of films covered by the pod (and would probably make my top 10 in general), but I see it as more in the #5-#10 range than #2. I thought Amy and Paul did a great job pinpointing the movie's only weakness in my opinion, which is the discontinuity in Michael's emotional arc, particularly when it comes to his feelings about Kay and Apollonia. I've always vastly preferred this to the sequel, so I'm interested in seeing if that holds up on rewatch.
  9. bleary

    Bonus Reel: Joker & Taxi Driver

    Amy mentioned that the Joker isn't funny, but honestly, I thought that "nobody's laughing now" was a pretty good joke, even if it lacked delivery. That made me question De Niro's reaction, since I would think most comedians would feel a little sympathy for a guy who had a decent idea for a joke and needs more reps on stage to work it out. The choice to make De Niro's character unnecessarily callous in that moment is another example of the script spelling something out in black and white when it could have been more gray. (And this reminds me of the thing that infuriates me most about the script: why was there video of Fleck's performance at all? In 1981, none of the audience members are going to be bootlegging open mic night with their huge 1981 camcorders. So are we to believe the club takes video of all their open mic nights? For what purpose? Just in case someone bombs so bad, they can send the tape to late night shows? That seems like an incredible waste of tape. I needed an explanation for this, because it felt like lazy writing by someone who wanted to ret-con a typical 21st century occurrence into a point in history where it didn't belong.)
  10. bleary

    American Graffiti

    I was glad to hear that my view of this film seems to mostly align with Paul and Amy (and Pauline Kael for that matter). I'm a firm no, and this one is currently in my bottom 5 of movies covered on the podcast. And for the record, this is the 2nd or 3rd time I've seen American Graffiti, and I am not appreciating it any more upon rewatches, unfortunately. Great music though!
  11. bleary

    Some Like It Hot

    I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but as far as alternate titles for Some Like It Hot, I was curious about the title in other countries, so I threw them into Google Translate. So here is the list of translated international titles of Some Like It Hot: Nobody Is Perfect The Hotter the Better Small Places One Eve and Two Adams Hot on the Ears Half Jokingly, Half Seriously In the Hottest Layer Jazz Only Girls Some People Like Jazz There Are Only Girls in Jazz In Jazz, Only Girls Are Girly With Skirts and Being Crazy (I feel like a better translation of this would be solid; it's "Con Faldas y a lo Loco" in Spanish) Edit: After listening to the podcast, this is even more relevant than I expected it to be!
  12. bleary


    I'm late to the pod this week since I had to wait until Saturday's showing of Spartacus on TCM to rewatch it. (It's up on WatchTCM for the next two weeks now, in case free availability was a hindrance to anyone seeing it.) Going along with what FictionIsntReal has said, it was funny to hear Paul say that he didn't see it as Marxist propaganda, because that's all I could see on this rewatch. (Or at least communist propaganda in general. I used to know more about the different "isms" specifically, but it's been a couple decades since I read "The Communist Manifesto" and biographies of the early Soviet revolutionaries. Also, the word "propaganda" is probably a bit too pejorative to really use here, but oh well.) In particular, the Romans are portrayed as the epitome of ruling class apathy and selfishness, as every one of them makes every single decision out of complete self-interest. Even Ustinov's Batiatus helps to free Varinia out of greed more than compassion, as he's given a hefty sum of money for his trouble. His nobility is simply in not reneging on his end of the deal when the money was in hand, as the Cilician pirate captain did. Gracchus freed Varinia because he had nothing to lose and acts outs of spite to hurt Crassus more than out of compassion to help Varinia. But I think the story works well because of the influence of these aspects. As Marx saw, the story of Spartacus is one of class struggle, and having authors with real knowledge of communism like Howard Fast and Dalton Trumbo is what makes the spirit of the story work, in my opinion. (Somewhat relatedly, back in 2015 I saw a screening of Trumbo at the Egyptian Theater with a friend who identifies as a communist, and at the Q&A after the film, screenwriter John McNamara was almost bragging about how he didn't know anything about Marxism, which was pretty irritating to my friend. But that's probably why the screenplay for that film sucked, which (a) tanked a film that's full of solid performances and (b) probably explains why McNamara never had a screenplay for any other feature film made.) On the film as a whole, I also mostly enjoy it, but it feels borderline for inclusion. It's not a truly amazing film; it's flabby at times, dull at others. It falls far short of On the Waterfront and High Noon in my book as far as Black List related films, and genre-wise, I don't feel the need to have a sword-and-sandals epic even if this is the best one. So while I like it, I'm voting no.
  13. bleary

    North by Northwest

    I'm very much in agreement with Paul on this one, as I find North By Northwest more fun and watchable than Vertigo, while acknowledging that the latter is probably a better film. I'm voting yes, as I think it's a worthy inclusion, but I do understand the sentiment that we could find a replacement without having to look too hard. I mentioned feeling some Coen DNA in this in my Letterboxd review, and for me, it wasn't even about the superficial. It was all about the tone and in the way they're telling the story for me. North By Northwest is a film where people are murdered in front of our eyes and there feels like a very real threat that either Eve or Roger could be killed as well, and yet it's more comedy than drama. The Coens have played all around that line for their whole careers, sometimes giving more drama than comedy, sometimes more comedy than drama, sometimes treating violence as shocking and abhorrent and sometimes using it for black comedy purposes. So I was thinking about the Coens before realizing any superficial comparisons. I didn't even think of all the plot comparisons to Lebowski before Amy brought it up, but I did draw a line between the interlude when we meet the Professor and the similar interlude when we meet J.K. Simmons as the CIA boss in Burn After Reading (not only do both scenes featuring government underlings expressing concern while the superior seemingly heartlessly urges no action to be taken, but the cuts to those scenes are extremely similar as well, based on my recollection of Burn After Reading). I know that the Coens aren't the only directors famous for mixing comedy with violence or drama, and I can't explain why North By Northwest struck me as more Coen-esque than reminiscent of a Shane Black or Quentin Tarantino film, but it definitely does. At any rate, I have a feeling that my ideal AFI list would have room for both The Big Lebowski and North By Northwest.
  14. bleary

    On The Waterfront

    As I mentioned on Letterboxd, I'm still a bit confused about the ending, though I think that it makes more emotional sense as representing Kazan's political issues. I had known that Kazan saw the film that way, and even on this rewatch I found that read a bit of a stretch, but I think the key is that Kazan didn't actually hate communism. He just hated communists, both in the way the party operated in pre-WWII America and in the way Stalin ran the USSR. So Friendly is Stalin here, ruling with corruption over an organization that's supposed to promote the labor class. And part of me does think that this is what Kazan thought (or made himself believe) he was testifying against, as if outing the political leanings of eight of his former friends would somehow bring down Stalin. And then I see the ending as being a sort of bullshit Hollywood ending, as Amy and Paul talked about, but it is so because it's Kazan's wish fulfillment. He wishes that his actions could take down dictators, and that the people who felt betrayed by his testimony would change their minds and see that his actions were for the greater good. This interpretation fits with the film, but it also paints Kazan as not only delusional, but a little dumb as well, which he does not seem to be. The reality seems to be that Kazan acted in his own self-interest out of self-preservation, and the hardest thing for me to grapple with is that he doesn't seem to feel guilty at all over that. And sure, if he had refused to testify to HUAC, it is unlikely that his taking a stand would have galvanized people to end HUAC. Most likely, if he had refused to testify, he'd have been blacklisted too and wouldn't have gotten to make things like On the Waterfront, East of Eden, or A Face in the Crowd. And sure, his testimony probably didn't directly affect anyone else's lives, since the eight people he named were already known to HUAC anyway. But it bugs me that he seemed to show no remorse for it, and saw himself as the victim instead. He didn't stand up to a bully, like Terry Malloy did. He capitulated to the bully. So overall, my feelings on Kazan are that I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed. I love his work, including this film, which is my favorite of the ones I've seen. And in the realm of directors who have done shitty things, he's far from the shittiest. But it's disappointing that someone whose films show so much empathy and humanity seemed uninterested in empathizing with those who did stand up to the bully of HUAC, only to be silenced. This was another great episode of the podcast, and despite my misgivings about Kazan, this is a great film. I wouldn't put it in my top 10, but I have no hesitation about voting yes for it.
  15. bleary

    Lawrence of Arabia

    Essentially 4 and 5. Basically, as the podcast covers each film, I make my decision about whether I think they're deserving or undeserving of their inclusion on the AFI list. I think this one is deserving, even if it's not one I care for greatly. I haven't seen all 400 films on the ballot, but I'd guess I've seen around 250 of them. (I can't check, since AFI removed the ballot from their website. If anyone has a link to that 2007 ballot elsewhere, I'd like to see it again.)