“You broke my heart.”The Godfather II
Plenty of people prefer this sequel to the original. I don’t, though I obviously like it quite a bit. Among other things, it has maybe the best moment
in the two movies. (I say two movies, because even though I haven’t seen the third, I’ve come to accept the conventional wisdom that it was a total disaster and should be kept apart from the first two. I still remember my parents and older sister going to see it in Dallas. When the three of them got back, I could hear them in the garage, still laughing
.) I suppose I could save what follows for my analysis of the first movie, but here goes: There are so many obvious strengths to both installments, but the one thing that always bothers me is the transition of Michael from innocent son to Godfather. Pacino is tremendous in both movies, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming him. But there’s a tendon missing—for me, at least. And while you might think this is more damning of the original movie than the sequel, since the original is when the transition happens, there’s something about Michael being at the top for the whole running time that bugs me in a way the first didn’t. Even I’m not sure if that makes any sense. Let’s revisit it when the time comes, shall we?39.
“It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.”Kind Hearts and Coronets
Adapted from my post about this movie back when I first saw it, in September 2008:
The most often repeated fact about Kind Hearts and Coronets
is that Alec Guinness plays eight parts, and he's amazing. But that gimmick is not what makes the movie so great. In this black comedy from Britain’s legendary Ealing Studios, Dennis Price plays Louis Mazzini, who is in line to be a duke. But it's a long line. In front of him stand eight members of the D'Ascoyne family (all played by Guinness), including Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne. Louis narrates the story of how he methodically picks off family members in order to inherit the dukedom. It's beautifully written, and funny in ways both morbid and goofy. I'm a big critic of voiceover narration in movies, but this is mostly when it's done in the third person—Little Children
and Vicky Cristina Barcelona
, to name two fairly recent examples. First person can be more successful (see also: recently listed Badlands
). In any event, the level of writing here makes the narration more like a novel than a movie. On the commentary for another DVD, Guinness said of Kind Hearts
, “I read [the screenplay] on a beach in France, collapsed with laughter on the first page, and didn't even bother to get to the end of the script. I went straight back to the hotel and sent a telegram saying, ‘Why four parts? Why not eight!?’ ”38.
“Ghosts don’t cry.”
“Nothing is simple.”Volver
(2006)Talk to Her
I put these two movies by Pedro Almodóvar together because I can remember Volver
well and Talk to Her
less well, but I loved them both. My cloudy memory of Talk to Her
makes it impossible to decide which of these is my favorite of his, but I think they would be the two finalists. They both feature Almodóvar’s typically beautiful compositions and saturated colors and strong ensemble acting. In Talk to Her
, two women, one a dancer and one a matador, are comatose in a hospital. The movie follows the men who love them. In Volver
, three sisters deal with the death of their mother, one of them believing that her ghost is living with her. The entire cast is terrific, but Penelope Cruz carries the most weight, and as always in Almodóvar’s movies, she’s brilliant and seems even more gorgeous than usual.37.
“We'll be listening to you.”The Conversation
Given that this movie and The Godfather Part II
both came out in 1974, I’d say it was a pretty impressive year for Francis Ford Coppola. (And for me; I was born.) The Godfather
sequel won Best Picture, but I think you could make a case that this is the better movie. Less epic, for sure, but that might be the very reason this tightly crafted story wins out. It’s got a great 1970s flavor and a wonderful ensemble cast, starting with the leading man. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, who specializes in audio surveillance. He becomes obsessed with accurately transcribing one conversation that he taped between a couple in a San Francisco park, and concerned about the couple’s possible fate. In the last scene, one of my favorites in any movie, Harry’s paranoia is turned on himself as he searches/destroys his apartment looking for possible bugs. According to Wikipedia: “On the DVD commentary, Coppola says he was shocked to learn that the film utilized the very same surveillance and wire-tapping equipment that members of the Nixon Administration used to spy on political opponents prior to the Watergate scandal. Coppola has said this is the reason the film gained part of the recognition it has received, but that this is entirely coincidental. Not only was the script for The Conversation
completed in the mid-1960s (before the Nixon Administration came to power), but the spying equipment used in the film was discovered through research and the use of technical advisers and not, as many believed, by revelatory newspaper stories about the Watergate break-in.”36.
“Nothing that happens is ever forgotten, even if you can't remember it.”Spirited Away
Roger Ebert called this movie “a visual feast,” and that’s an understatement. Another critic, Scott Tobias, very accurately and concisely said
, “much of what is great about Spirited Away
defies description and simply must be experienced.” The story, by renowned Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, revolves around Chihiro, a young girl whose family is moving. On the way to their new home, they take a wrong turn, go through a tunnel, and end up in a strange, fantastical world. The movie gets compared to Alice in Wonderland
for obvious reasons, but aside from that broad similarity Spirited Away
is unique. Separated from her parents, Chihiro gets a job working at a bathhouse for spirits. Miyazaki introduces a dizzying progression of wildly imaginative creatures and characters. To try and summarize them (or the movie’s more subtle themes) in a post this size would be ridiculous. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
Labels: 100 Movies