Posts Tagged With: Movie Reviews

The Apartment

Warning: contains spoilers. The Apartment is a classic movie about a pencil pusher who lets executives at his company use his apartment for trysts, in exchange for a fast-track up the corporate ladder. He falls in love with the current mistress of a company VP, who is, coincidentally, using his apartment to hook up with her. It's a tribute to the idea that you don't need a complex plot or special effects to produce a wonderful film. In my summary of Breakfast at Tiffany's last year, I noted that Audrey Hepburn's character only started to like George Peppard's character once he rejected her. In a slight twist, Shirley MacLaine's character only starts to like Jack Lemmon when he turns down the VP's request for his apartment, and quits his job instead. Which is, to be frank, the first alpha-male move he's made all movie. MacLaine leaves the VP and heads to his apartment. And then you get this scene, culminating in one of the most famous lines in moviedom: Lemmon throws away all of his alpha status by proclaiming his love for MacLaine. She's obviously aware of this, and also put off, which is why she tells him to "Shut up and deal." This is code-speak for "Stop cloying, if you keep it up I'm really going to regret my decision to be with you." This is reminiscent of an earlier scene in the movie, when Lemmon actually forgives MacLaine for standing him up, and MacLaine rebukes him for doing so. Total post-movie relationship time: Unless Lemmon starts acting like she should be grateful for the chance to date him, and not the other way around, I'd give it about a week. (As a side note, Fred MacMurray's character is a master of reframing. MacLaine attempts suicide after he doesn't show her enough affection, and in their first conversation after she recovers, he says something to the effect of, "How could you be so silly? You should apologize to me for giving me such a scare." Maybe 1% of guys would ever think to say that and 0.1% would have the guts to pull it off.) George Peppard-Jack-Lemmon role that you see in Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Apartment, where the cloying lead character gets the girl anyway, is not one that you see much nowadays.

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High Noon

Recently I watched High Noon, the 1952 classic about the sheriff who stands alone against four bad guys who want to kill him when the town is too afraid to stand up. The lesson is supposed to be to stay true to your principles and stand up for what you think is right, even if you might die in the process.

The sheriff is supposed to be a hero. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie. But what I see instead when I watch the movie is someone who does not understand group dynamics, and makes his task much more difficult by failing to recruit anyone to his cause. The sheriff thinks that he’s got lots of allies in the town, and from the opening wedding scene, it appears that he does. But when he asks for help, he discovers they are not true allies. High noon is a bad time to find that out.

The sheriff also fails to win the PR war between himself and the bad guy he locked up 5 years ago. The bad guy hasn’t spoken a word to anyone in the town in over 5 years, he’s coming back to town to kill the sheriff, and the sheriff still can’t convince people to help him fight this guy.

The sheriff goes (alone) to the bar, the church etc. and pleads for help. Well when you are one person in a crowd of 50 who all say no, it is easy to say no. This is a good way to *not* recruit people to your cause.

The sheriff needs people to help. But people are unwilling to help if they think they are the only one helping, and rightly so, as the risk decreases with the number of additional people on your side.

Instead the sheriff should act and behave as though he has 3 or 4 other people ready to help. The people he asks rightfully feel guilty about leaving him to face the bad guys alone, but he absolves their guilt instead of exploiting it. He should approach his most likely allies individually and secure their support. Then once he has their support, he can go to the larger community with those allies behind him.

The sheriff also fails to strategically plan for the long term. He’s positioned himself as an outcast, a loner, without support from the group, who believe that he’s going to die. Even if he kills all the bad guys, he will not be welcomed back into the community with open arms.

It’s true that our heroes need to have lots of courage, and they often face a solitary road. But they don’t often screw up such an easy opportunity to recruit allies.

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Final Chapter Mediocrity

POTC Spiderman 3, Shrek 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 have come out in the past month, with lots of hype and big budgets, but I haven't seen any of them, mainly because they reviewed so poorly, among my friends and the papers. I would think that these movies would have done worse among reviewers if not for the hype and ad campaigns and big budgets. Don't waste your money; go see Hot Fuzz instead. The third film of a trilogy remains really hard for Hollywood to get right. They are riding high on the success of the first two, and maybe bring in a new writer or new director, a larger budget, and don't want it to go to waste, so they pack it with special effects and forget that good storytelling attracted people to the first two movies, not over-the-top effects. For my money, the original Star Wars trilogy and the Lord of the Rings share the title of best three-movie trilogy ever made. Even The Godfather 3 wasn't that good. While a book isn't subject to board meetings, producers and budgets, I am not hopeful for Harry Potter 7.

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Review: Snakes on a Plane

I went to go see Snakes on a Plane tonight. It felt like a porn film without the porn (well, except that one scene in the bathroom where the girl's having sex with the guy, and gets donked in the knockers by the snake). The acting and dialogue were mere devices for the snakefest. That said, this film was highly enjoyable, because it had Samuel Jackson and also because it made no pretenses at being a good film. Whoever tried to call it "Pacific Air 121" clearly wanted to lose the studio a lot of money. "Pacific Air 121" would have been a terrible movie. "Snakes on a Plane" was great precisely because it was terrible, and didn't attempt to pass as a good film. I would recommend this film. It's a social phenomenon, Samuel Jackson is a G, and people get mauled by snakes in hilarious ways. Don't set your bar high, because this film will fail to meet expectations. Go with some buddies, just laugh at the badness, and you will have a good time.

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Miami Vice, and Variable Movie Pricing

I just got back from watching Miami Vice, the new Michael Mann movie starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell. I didn't think it was worth the $9.50 ($19, if you count my date) I paid to watch it. I thought Mann over-used the hand-held shaky camera effect (critics call this 'gritty') and purposely poor lighting. I felt that the first hour was more a documentary about a drug deal than an action film, and that the movie couldn't make up its mind between being an action film and a romance. Plus, Colin Farrell just looks tacky with a mullet and mustache. On the other hand, Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly was excellent. If you like Philip K. Dick, you will enjoy this movie. Paying too much to see this movie brings to mind the idea of variable pricing for movies. This idea has been discussed before, I'm not inventing it. Say Miami Vice flops its opening weekend. Don't you think it would be smart for the distributor to lower the movie price for the next weekend? I'm sure you could get one theater to try this with one distributor, and then see the results. There are bound to be people that would stay home if Vice costs $10 but would come in if it was only $5. I don't know that much about the movie industry, but this seems a smart idea to me.

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