movies

Woody Allen

Woody Allen Didn’t Make the Cut

I thought I’d donate some things to Goodwill in an attempt to start clearing out my spare bedroom of “stuff.” My general rule of thumb is to pitch things I haven’t used in a year. It’s different with books and movies, because you likely don’t want to hear the same stories once per year. So, I had to approach my DVD and book shelf a little more thoughtfully.

Though I don’t believe in getting rid of stuff for the sake of wanting to get rid of stuff, I also know I’ve lugged around the same DVD/book collection to multiple residencies without having even cracked some of the covers. It was easy to pull the 2000’s garbage movies that my husband probably inherited, like My Best Friend’s Girl and The Dukes of Hazzard, but it was far more tricky to get rid of any of the movies I had bought when I was “serious about film.”

I started with a book called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and it guided most of my movie purchasing in my early twenties. Anytime I saw a movie that was in my book, I bought it. I probably spent most of my disposable income building the ultimate DVD collection. It didn’t help that I was a film student at the time, drinking the Andy Warhol Kool-Aid at the UW-Milwaukee art school.

The sad truth is that, rather than watching the movies that I thought were interesting or reading up on writers and directors that I liked, I pursued the “art” that I was told was the best and most meaningful. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

I am not a fan of Woody Allen. I never have been. I think he’s annoying and whiney. I dislike it when a character, who the writer clearly favors, delivers some bulldozing rant that’s meant to sound off-the-cuff when the writer must have spent hours coming up with it. That being said, I just had to have Annie Hall because it was in my book. I watched it once and hated it. Needless to say, it went in my donation box.

Now, I have no problem not liking something that is “great.” I’ve never had a problem calling out my husband’s garbage movies and he’s never had a problem calling out my boring movies. We at least have an understanding and we both like what we like. And maybe someone is thrift shopping right now, eyeing up their favorite Woody Allen movie on the $1.99 shelf.

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Are Movies Getting Worse or Am I Getting Old?

Here we find ourselves mid-2016 award season, and I find myself becoming less and less excited over new releases. Looking for a Saturday night date this past Valentine’s weekend, my husband Sean and I trolled through the local showtimes and came up empty handed. I had a medium interest in seeing The Revenant, but not enough interest that I couldn’t wait for it to come to Redbox. Sean wanted to see Zoolander 2. I didn’t even want movie theater popcorn enough to sit through it, though I have to admit I did think the first Zoolander was funny.

I remember not that long ago when I couldn’t wait for new movies to come out… I think the last movie I was really amped up to see was The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Now, I rarely see features that even peak my interest. Maybe that’s just a part of getting older. What happened to all the really great movies that had me making plans and buying tickets in advance? Do I have to starve for that anticipation just because I’m not a Star Wars fan?

Instead of a going-out date, we had a stay-at-home date: pizza and a rental. Despite the bonus of being cheap and leisurely, I also found that there weren’t many new release rental titles that looked very interesting. As a fan of thrillers, I picked Crimson Peak (Sean picked Jurassic World, which we have yet to watch). I thought Crimson Peak was very beautiful visually, and I actually found the plot to be fairly solid for a movie about a haunted house. Even with some room for improvement, we really couldn’t go wrong since the rental was free with our pizza. Not to make this all about money, but where I live a movie costs $10 – $14. I can skip the candy, but I must have a bucket of popcorn the size of my head: $8. Then a tub of Pepsi because of all the salt: $6. For two, that’s over $30. Even though that isn’t much, if the movie is awful, I just paid over $30 to see it. I heard a blurp on public radio suggesting that the price of admission should be based on the quality or demand for the movie. Though it sounds logical, it’s highly unlikely. In that reality, though, I wonder how much tickets would be for Zoolander 2, The Boy, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The most telling part of this whole harangue is that on Sunday, I found more enjoyment in catching the last twenty minutes of Casablanca on Turner Classic Movies.

And the Oscar Goes To…

This Sunday, the Academy Awards will conclude this year’s awards season with it’s usual over-hyped pomp. I don’t care too much for watching it on TV and am happy with the two-minute version I’ll get on the Monday morning news, but in the spirit of the awards I wanted to share some of my favorite Best Picture winners of all time.

1934 – It Happened One Night
Even if you’re not a big black-and-white picture person, this movie is still fresh and funny. Claudette Colbert was as gorgeous then as any woman today.

1939 – Gone with the Wind
This is my all time favorite. I probably watch this movie twice a year. Scarlett O’Hara is, in my opinion, one of the greatest female characters of all time, and all women owe it to their sex to see this movie at least once.

1943 – Casablanca
I think this is one of the best screenplays of all time. The story incorporates romance, action, suspense, drama and comedy all against the backdrop of World War II. Plus, so many memorable lines that people are still saying 62 years later.

1946 – The Best Years of Our Lives
This is one of my mom’s favorites, but I gravitate to it’s sad happiness. I think it’s an honest tribute to the soldiers who came home from World War II. Dana Andrews plays a decorated hero who has to take his old job as a soda jerk; the scene says it all.

1950 – All About Eve
The original up-and-comer-claws-past-established-pro plot that has been redone many times since, this is definitely a chick flick. Bette Davis is my favorite actress to watch and she is phenomenal in this movie. She was snubbed a Best Actress statuette because co-star Anne Baxter, who gave a great performance as a total bitch, was a total bitch and insisted she be nominated for Best Actress as well. The votes were split and neither actress won.

1951 – An American in Paris
Despite how unusual it is for a musical to win Best Picture, the academy couldn’t ignore that the genre was at the top of its game. Gene Kelly fueled this project, and even though I love Singin in the Rain, I think this is my pick as the best musical of all time.

1953 – From Here to Eternity
Maybe I just like movies that take place during World War II… This drama is wrapped around Pearl Harbor. I really like the romantic play that goes on between Burt Lancaster/Deborah Kerr and Monty Clift/Donna Reed; all four have moments of strength and weakness, but you’re not sure who you’re most sympathetic towards. Frank Sinatra is, as always, a welcome cast member.

1954 – On the Waterfront
Brando! Brando! Brando! I actually think his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire is better, but here he stands out amongst some powerhouse male leads. This movie looks and feels gritty–I feel cold just thinking about it. The mob-driven tough-guy plot skews masculine; it’s one that my old-movie-phobic fiance will even sit and watch with me. “I coulda’ been a contenda!”

—–I think I’ll make this a two-parter, there’s so many more I like!

Don’t Call Me Sugar

Over the weekend, I worked on a creative non-fiction essay. I wanted to write a series of personal experiences, each headlined with a Scarlett O’Hara quote from the film Gone with the Wind. The intention was to show how Scarlett O’Hara’s audacious character is really a role model for me and, I think, for many women. I created an extensive list of Scarlett quotes, delivered perfectly in Vivien Leigh’s incomparable on-screen performance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the flow of telling my anecdotes while working in the quotes, so I had to botch the idea.
The list remains, and reminds me why Scarlett O’Hara is my absolute favorite character of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy film, there are so many memorable moments that the movie itself can’t be denied as one of the greatest of all time. Here is a selection from the list of quotes I pulled:

“Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream!”

“Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”

“I never heard of such bad taste.”

“If I said I was madly in love with you, you’d know I was lying.”

“I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

“Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore and don’t call me Sugar.”

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*It should be noted that Margaret Mitchell’s novel was adopted for the screen by Sidney Howard, among other uncredited contributors. See more quotes at IMDb or browse this extensive list at the GWTW Fan Page.