Weekly Update: This week I watched a random plethora of movies. Coming off of the Halloween season, it’s nice to not have a specific theme to have to stick to.
Curious what else I’ve seen on my quest to watch 365 new-to-me movies in 2016? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-
441. Julius Caesar (1953)
This epic adaptation of the Shakespeare play has all the size and scale of a classic Hollywood epic, but director Joseph Mankiewicz manages to make the film also feel intimate and personal, bringing out the theatrical stage presence of all the film’s players. The film is perhaps equally notable for its back-stage production controversies, as star James Mason (who plays Brutus) reportedly felt threatened by Marlon Brando’s bravura and used his power to lessen Mark Antony’s role in the film. Despite this, Brando, who at the time was a rising star, still manages to upstage Mason in several very prominent scenes.
442. Titus (1999)
Director Julie Taymor brought her unique visual style to this adaptation to what is probably Shakespeare’s most violent play. Anthony Hopkins plays Titus, a Roman General who returns in triumph from war with the Goths, having lost 21 of his sons in the war. Titus sacrifices the eldest son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, in hopes of appeasing the souls of his dead sons. Titus then declines an offer of becoming the new Emperor, and in doing soon inadvertently ignites a cycle of revenge and reprisal that seems impossible to break. Full of strange and creative anachronism, Taymor injects new life into Shakespeare’s prose by creating an otherworldly universe for its characters to inhabit.
443. Richard III (1995)
Ian McKellen stars as Shakespeare’s most famous fiend, in this adaptation that re-casts the story in a setting similar to the WWII era. Unlike Titus, which painted the story in numerous visual palettes, Richard III is more consistent, but no less visually intriguing. One of the best examples of this film’s creativity is in Richard’s “Winter of our Discontent” speech, the first half of which is shown as a rousing speech, with the second, more devious half being Richard talking deviously to himself as he uses the toilet. Much of Richard’s dialogue from the play breaks the fourth wall, but McKellen’s Richard takes a particularly perverse pleasure from his plots. The result is one of the most unique and compelling Shakespeare adaptations put to cinema.
444. Meet the Blacks (2016)
First of all, I want to tell Movieboozer writer and hopeless Cinemasochist Hawk Ripjaw to go to hell. For it was Ripjaw whose persistent badgering forced me to agree to see this film. Meet the Blacks is the most dismal excuse for a comedy movie in ages. The plot, which is nominally a parody of The Purge films, is a mixed grab bag of ideas so torturous and soul crushing that the actors involved likely will never fully recover from the experience. If someone told me David Duke financed this movie on the sly as a kind of devious conspiracy to set back African American cinema by decades, I would not be shocked. This is a visual hate crime, and we as a society should consider deploying a large-scale EMP device upon the Earth to wipe it from all hard drives & save future generations from happening upon it by accident. America voted for Donald Trump this week, and I blame Meet the Blacks for his victory.
445. A Dry White Season (1989)
Director Euzhan Palcy tells a story of Apartheid in South Africa, and how the racism ingrained in the system essentially made justice impossible for Black Africans. Donald Sutherland is Ben Du Toit, a school teacher who has spent his entire life avoiding the issue of Apartheid. When his long time gardener Gordon Ngubene (Winston Ntshona) comes to him for help after his son is detained by authorities, he shrugs the issue off, but then the son turns up dead, and Ben is confronted for the first time with choosing sides. Stanley Makhaya (Zakes Mokae) helps introduce Ben Du Toit to the realities of the world, and they enlist Attorney Ian McKenzie (Marlon Brando) to their cause, Ian assuring them of their inevitable failure in court anyway. A Dry White Season is a brutal condemnation of state-sponsored racism with a deeply pessimistic view of the future; no doubt the hard lessons the film professes may overwhelm some viewers.
446. The Arrival (1996)
This weekend I watched Arrival… or rather The Arrival. A sci-fi thriller from 1996 that essentially got lost in the mix in a year that also produced Independence Day. Charlie Sheen plays Zane Zaminsky, a SETI project astronomer who discovers an alien signal. He loses his job the next day, and believes his backers are trying to suppress the news. He soon learns that Aliens have landed on Earth already, and are hiding in the guise of humans. Directed and written by David Twohy (The Riddick series), The Arrival is a surprisingly compelling mid-budget sci-fi story. Some elements of the film have dated considerably, most notably some very sketchy 1990s CGI, but at its heart, the film feels like an extended Twilight Zone episode and quite a good one.
447. The Lion in Winter (1968)
King Henry II of England (Peter O’Toole) needs to decide on an heir to his kingdom, and so at Christmastime in 1183 he invites his three sons, King Philip II of France (Timothy Dalton), and his imprisoned wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) to join him for negotiations. His sons John (Nigel Terry), Richard (Anthony Hopkins), & Geoffrey (John Castle) all are jockeying for power, and Queen Eleanor has some specific ideas of what should happen as well. All have divergent interests and actively work against each other. The backstabbing and laborious plotting at hand here could have been George R.R. Martin’s inspiration for A Game of Thrones, as each character here sometimes seemingly takes more pleasure in seeing their hated family members suffer, rather than make any realistic progress. Hepburn is particularly memorable here, and the Oscar she was awarded for her role was duly deserved.
448. Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Many critics have called this film one of the greatest all time erotic dramas, praising it for its quietly desperate tone, and daring, envelope-pushing decisions. Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider are both excellent in their respective roles as two broken people who become lovers and live together for a brief time in a dingy Paris apartment. Brando’s performance is one of the most complex characters he ever created. And yet, I can’t help but find fault in the film’s ambition. Director Bernardo Bertolucci crafted a story about a deeply abusive relationship, and the ugliness and rawness of it left both lead actors traumatized. Schneider in particular is victimized in a rape scene that feels totally out of place.