Voyagers

“Voyagers” is a perfectly fine science fiction morality tale, that goes off the rails about halfway through and devolves into an average action film in space. The big ideas that it starts with get left behind for a replay of issues from some very familiar material. I think if they had stuck to the questions concerning the morality of the entire enterprise instead of becoming “Lord of the Flies” in space with sex, this could have been something special. As it is, you can enjoy it as a passable theatrical experience that will not sit long in your head.


Let me begin by telling you what I thought was intriguing about the concept in the first place. In order to allow the species to go forward, scientists have devised an ark, that they will send forth to populate a new planet. Since it will take 86 years to get there, and unlike other films in the genre, there is no hibernation technology, the decision is made to seed the galaxy with children derived from genetically manipulated and selected materials. The kids get raised in isolation so they do not know what it it is they are leaving behind. This is to spare them the emotional trauma of separation anxiety. Right there, you could stop and develop that storyline and have an interesting picture. That’s not what the script does. Instead, we go on an accelerated launch with only one adult to manage things for the three or four dozen four year old who are being set afloat. OK, that would make an interesting film also, but that section lasts five minutes and we then enter into teen world. Here. the emotions and biology of the passengers is being manipulated to sustain  resources, space and to avoid potential emotional conflicts. The ethics of that choice would also be a worthy trail to follow. Instead, we get the consequences of a rejection of the process and what we end up with is “teens going wild”. 


Much of what happens does not make sense given that the kids have been immersed in a controlled environment their whole lives. How do the genetic offspring of geniuses, go from docile well oiled parts of a grand plan to sex crazed maniacs within a short period of time. The story shortcut seems to be a little too quick. It also appears that in spite of their intensive education, starting practically out of the womb, they never studied ethics, philosophy, theology or any system that would justify a moral code. Some of these kids shed the veneer of civilization as quickly as taking off your coat. The main villain is practically leering with evil intent five minutes past a key point in the movie. His naked ambition remains hidden to almost all of the rest of the kids with the exception of our two or three heroic figures. There is one idea that works for a while, the rebel maniacs start exploiting fear and uncertainty among the whole crew about a possible outside threat. “The Thing” vide works well at building animosities but everyone gets pushed over the threshold so easily that it feels a bit laughable. 

The young cast is attractive but sometimes a little too mechanical. The characters are supposed to be somewhat level headed but it’s not until some really bad things happen that they wake up from the growing threat.   It was not clear why there was not more than one sustaining hand to guide these kids through the early part of their development, in fact at one point is seems as if they were going to be launched on their own. Fortunately Colin Farrell does go along for the ride, adding some credibility to the start of the whole process. I know it would be difficult to imagine him as impotent in the face of the growing problem, but the catalyst for the escalation seems to be a shortcut. Farrell certainly has a charismatic impact on the film, and that could dwarf the focus on the kids. Tye Sheridan has been solid in the things I have seen him in, and once the movie gets to the outburst of violence, he is a little more active, but early on he is playing it as a somnambulant. Lily-Rose Depp is new to me but she seemed very familiar as a type, I think if the movie was better this could have been a breakout part. As it is, she is simply the best in a largely bland set of performances. 


Production design for this movie feels a bit trapped in pre 1970s sterility. Most of the sets consist of well lit hallways with some trim on the doors. The ambient lighting reminds me of THX-1138 and 2001. The exteriors of the space vehicle are vague and brief, suggesting that the budget here was not quite as big as it might have been originally. It looks like someone who was trying to project something futuristic, but they never got past modern minimalism. There were only two of us in the theater for this screening, which suggests to me that the future is not long for this world.  

Godzilla vs. Kong

This mish mash of film ideas is all over the place. The movie has moments out of Transformers, Thor, Harry Potter and of course past Godzilla and Kong films. It creates some of the most implausible ideas to explain it’s own implausible ideas, and then shows us some amazing footage that looks like it could be two guys in suits wrestling among miniature models. So how is it that I don’t really hate this movie? It’s simple, it’s because this movie is designed to be stupid fun, based on old Japanese movies about a guy in a big green dragon suit destroying property. 


Maybe the original Godzilla from the 50s had something to say about atomic weapons and it was played straight for the most part. My guess however is that people who fondly recall these movies think of the later films, that featured Mothra, Baby Zilla, Rodan and other rubber suit characters. If the 1990s “Power Rangers” TV episodes are a delight to you, then this will be a gas. CGI monsters that act like rubber creatures in combat are just as entertaining. 


At least this time, Millie Bobbie Brown has something to do, although Kyle Chandler might as well not be in the movie. Watanabe and Hawkins are long gone, and it’s not that they were bad in the earlier films they appeared in, they were unnecessary, not the actors, the characters. Alexander Skarsgård and Rebecca Hall replace them as unnecessary characters and we are just fine as a result. Brian Tyree Henry brings the funny and Julian Dennison is the requisite non-threatening friend who assists Brown in whatever it is she is doing. 

Two stories play out, the first involves finding a secret place for the titans to have originated, and for some reason to take Kong there. The second story involves corporate shenanigan’s at “APEX” which is mysteriously linked to provoking Godzilla out of a three year non-active space. Fans of the old Toho films will know what is coming, everyone else will probably not be surprised, but let’s just say there is a reason that “Pacific Rim” exists.  


I have had serious doubts about movies that portray mass destruction on the scale depicted here. If you started adding up all the dead, you will end up with a figure that is likely to out do the dollar gross for this movie in theaters on opening weekend. Here is the thing though, there is almost no attempt to show casualties that result from the mayhem. The sailors in a fleet are almost non-existent, and the citizens of Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated spaces in the world, are invisible. Thank goodness because a lot of building get knocked over and any sense of reality would be disquieting enough to turn us off.  

It looks pretty funky, there are a few amusing moments, and the battles between the combatants are staged in a way that is so much clearer than other giants fighting each other movies. I was happy to see a solid turnout in the theater, even though this is also playing on HBO Max. We picked a Dolby Cinema experience and the sound mix was worth it. Do yourself a favor. If you have any real interest in this, see it in a theater. I watched it at home the next day and fell asleep. This is one of those foilms that needs theatrical to really work, and it does as far as it goes. 

Raya and the Last Dragon

In the last few weeks, I have revisited a number of animated films that I remember having a solid emotional connection to. “Ratatouille” works like the devil and it has an emotional wallop to it at the end. Pixar has thrived on the “Toy Story” films and manages to get us with them almost every time. “Moana” and “Tangled” worked for me very well. “Frozen” was a moderate success from my perspective whereas it’s sequel is a disaster .  “Raya and the Last Dragon” is perfectly fine in a number of ways and I can heartily recommend it to animation fans, but I must acknowledge a reservation. I felt more detached from the film than I should have. 


This is an original story, with a production design that pays homage to a culture that is under represented in American animated movies. Let me start by complementing the artistry of the backgrounds and the inventiveness of the landscapes and nations that are presented in the story. The people who populate each segment of the lost nation of Kumandra, look distinct enough for us to identify but also they look as if they can share a culture as well. We don’t really get to spend much time in a couple of the segment nations that are labeled by the part of the dragon topography we see on the maps in the story. Fang, Heart, Spine, Tail and Talon each end up with a piece of critical gemstone that can be used to resist a mysterious plague that turns the living residents into stone. The mythology feels genuine for the cultures that the story is based on, even if they are invented. 


Raya takes her place as a Disney Princess, and she is closer to Mulan than Elsa. This is a warrior who moves from being a little girl at the start of the film, to a woman on a crusade for the majority of the story. There is a turning point near the end of the film which feels completely appropriate given the set up of the story, so it should resonate well but for some reason it doesn’t quite hit for me, and I can’t really explain why. The character arc is right, the plot points lead us to this conclusion, and we have had a variety of character to relate to so we should feel invested. I just did not and that is a disappointment for me in spite of all the excellent work that the film makers did, apparently most of it from home under the pandemic rules. 

One of the major characters in the story is the Last Dragon of the title, Sisu, voiced by Awkwafina. Her take on the voice and characterization reminded me of Phyllis Diller and the animation style, while certainly in keeping with the production design, made this character feel a little too cartoon like. I enjoyed her attitude but in the context of the story it feels like some comic relief being imposed on the proceedings. There is also a baby character that seems designed for humor and heart but who also undermines some of the tone of the film. The character of Tong as the sole survivor of his nations populace was actually fun and tragic in the right proportions. Namaari is an antagonist that is also well thought out and the nickname she is given at one point is one that I will be adopting for my oldest daughter, Allison, get ready to be referred to as Princess Undercut. 

This movie has everything going for it, and if I’d not seen every Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/Fox film in the last thirty years, it probably would have worked for me a little better. Those of you with kids can safely assume they will be fine with this because it will probably feel fresh to them. 

Chaos Walking

The advantage of being an older adult is that I don’t feel compelled to try to know everything by searching the internet constantly. I had only a vague notion that this movie existed, and I had no idea that it was based on a YA novel series. As a result, I was mostly uncertain of where much of this was going or even what the hell was happening at times. The concept of “The Noise” gets introduced fairly early, and that is the key twist in the story. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that the men in this world are basically displaying their thoughts out loud and visually to those around them. This makes secret keeping and lying difficult. It also sets up the main flaw in the premise which you will probably identify before I get to it below.


The two young leads might have been a tell as to the YA origins of the film if I had been paying attention. Daisy Ridley is a rising actress with the latest Star Wars films under her belt. Tom Holland is of course the current “Spider-Man” and his winsome manner and somewhat nasally voice are perfect for the kind of character he is playing in this film. This is a combination western/sci-fi/fish out of water story. Daisy’s character is Viola, a space traveler who in a scouting mission to the new world her group is traveling to, crashes into an environment that is not only unfamiliar to her but presents a communication scenario she never could have imagined. Tom is Todd, a native of the new world who’s family immigrated but died long ago. He is also out of water because in his world there are no living women. 


Once the story starts rolling out, the plot line has only a few surprises. The two leads have to go on the run, they are pursued by an implacable foe, and there are complications along the way. Despite being set in the future, the setting feels like a western. Maybe because there are horses involve (and there is even an explanation of why there are horses on this new world). So Butch and Sundance have to evade the posse, and reach an objective. I suspect that the film has compacted many elements of the novels. As I listened to some of the teen girls in the audience chat with each other after the film, it seems the story has material from all three source novels and not just the first. It ends in an open enough way that sequels could be possible, but if another film is never made, the conclusion is perfectly acceptable, it does not leave us dangling. 

The director Doug Liman, is a competent action director who has made a couple of films with Tom Cruise, a Bourne movie and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He keeps enough chase scenes and fights with the influence of “The Noise” to make the movie feel like it is active, but some of the complications from the thing that distinguishes this story from all other dystopian YA, “The Noise”, gets lost in tying to keep things moving. “What Women Want” was a movie that took the same premise essentially and made it intp a comedy concept. This is a more serious story but it is still trying to avoid being too dark. All of us have had abhorrent thoughts in our heads that we are glad that no one else can know, What would the consequence be if those thoughts could not be hidden. This movie does not come close to that. “The Noise” becomes a trivial inconvenience that allows some mental magic, but that’s about all. The one character who makes it potentially dark, David Olelowo’s Aaron-the Preacher, mostly lurks in the background and arrives as a boogeyman to commit the most horrendous act of the story, but his demon’s are never really explored. That is probably the main difference between an adult sci-fi story and this YA concoction. 


Visually, the movie works well. The effects masters have come up with an interesting way to share “the Noise” so that we don’t just hear a continuous  internal monologue. There is a combination of traditional frontier living and space age colonization, but there is not a very clear explanation of why the technology process has largely been abandoned. An alien race is introduced, and I suspect it plays a much bigger part in the books than it does in this movie. The landscape that the story takes place in is shot beautifully and there are just enough f/x elements around the edges to suggest a different planet, but that is barely part of the story. 

At the heart of the plot is a secret that drives the main villain, the Mayor of settlement where Viola’s craft lands, played by Mads Mikkelsen. As I said in opening paragraph, there is a flaw in the premise of this plot. If everyone knows what really happened before Todd grew up, how is it that they have kept that knowledge from him? The Mayor is the only character who seems to have the strength to hide some of his thoughts, but the settlement is populated with a variety of other men, two of whom have raised Todd. How did they keep the secret from him? The Preacher is openly antagonistic, why would he have kept this a secret? It does not make any sense and as a result, we are required to dip into out bag full of suspension of disbelief and pour a cupful on this story for it to make any sense.  As the plot plays out there are a number of intriguing events that feel like they would make a better story than the one that we are following at the moment. 

Overall I enjoyed the movie in spite of the flaw that I saw. The actors are engaging and well cast. There is enough action to keep us hooked on what is going on, and the movie looks great. I will end with one warning. If you are more sensitive to animal deaths on film than human deaths, this is a movie you might find to be challenging. There are at least two moments where that scenario plays out and one of them is haunting in a way that some of us might have a hard time with it. 

“Its Still Strictly Personal” : A Book Review

It’s been two years since my on-line friend and fellow blogger Eric, published his first book, “It’s Strictly Personal“. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any of my readers as a way of looking at movies in a slightly different perspective. As I said at the time, it’s an autobiography of someone that you don’t know but it is a story that all of us know. Eric has attempted to talk about movies in the most personal way possible, by showing us the things that the movies he loves say about him. Anyone who is a movie lover will be able to relate to this concept.


The time has arrived for the inevitable sequel. It is a bit ironic since Eric frequently has distain for Hollywood’s insistence on repeatedly going to the same well. The dearth of creativity in film making is one of the points that the author tries to convey in his work. However, there have been plenty of sequels that are worthy and even occasionally outshine their predecessor. The question in today’s review is whether he has managed to do with his second book what others have failed to do with their second bite of the apple. 

Comparisons are always problematic because the things being compared are going to have differences and the fear that apples and oranges are being looked at the same way is a real one. “It’s Still Strictly Personal” is different from the first volume in some important ways and I think those differences matter to a large degree. The original volume is heavy on nostalgia for the era that the films discussed were released in.  There is a childlike enthusiasm for going to the cinema and experiencing the culture in a new way for a kid. Eric’s first book centered on his life from eight to sixteen, when, in spite of some family turmoil, childhood remains a fairly innocent time. The neighborhood kids that you were friends with and the adventures you shared with them seeing movies in a theater or surreptitiously on cable after your friend’s parents went to sleep seem warm and fuzzy memories. When we get to high school and college however, all bets are off. I’m willing to guess that most of us experienced the greatest degree of upheaval, personal drama, and emotional tragedy in our adolescent and young adult years.


This volume of the autobiography is a more challenging read because we have to identify with someone who is struggling to find himself as a person. The thing that makes this story relevant to us is how the author manages to use the movies to accomplish that. The simplest example I can think of from Eric’s story is the bookend films that match up with his parents turbulent second shot at marriage.  “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “The War of the Roses” are not stories with soft landings. Even though the former has a hopeful conclusion, it was hell to get there. Ten years later, Eric sees the later film as being particularly relevant if not exactly literal, to his families own circumstances. The analogous emotional upheaval in these stories is how Eric relates to us, and he finds movies as a key to the cipher of growing up. 

The eight year period this part of the story covers includes for instance the teen focused works of John Hughes. Teens could relate to some characters in those films. You might see your life as being parallel to John Bender, the sullen outcast from “The Breakfast Club”. It’s possible you admire the gumption and attitude of Ferris Bueller as he outfoxes the school authorities and his parent in pursuit of a perfect Spring Day. Eric doesn’t accept any direct connection to a character, but he does see the shy and awkward Brian, the so called “brain” in detention that day, as someone he does share personality traits with. All of we movie fans have seen those kinds of connections. When we see part of ourselves on a movie screen, we are being exposed to that section of the Johari Window that is referred to as the blind area. Movies let us in on who we are sometimes, without us even being aware that that is who we are. 


Over the years that I have followed Eric’s Blog, “My Movies, My Words” , he and I have agreed on many films. There are of course some movies that we have very different thoughts on, and those examples in the book are some of the things that make this read more challenging. Eric never apologizes for his opinion, why should he, that’s how he feels. There are times in the story here however when his distain for a film seems to not be limited to the movie but to the people who have made the film and anyone who actually enjoyed it while he did not. Part of this comes from the experience he was going through at the time. If your romantic life is frustrating, that may bias the way you view an actor or story.  Eric’s book is organized by films as the chapter references. He has Eighty six movies that he talks about in some detail, I have seen all of the films he mentions except four. We are simpatico on the vast majority of them. There are however eight or nine that I feel quite differently about than he does. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes the negative view he has of a movie is flippant, and I don’t always see how it adds to our understanding of his personal growth. Usually, these are just minor incidents rather than major events in his story, so I sometimes think they might have been left out and then I would be able to accept the rest more easily. Let’s not forget that for the reader it is personal also. 

I like the fact that Eric ties events in his life to the movies that he is seeing. Sometimes they are moments of revelation, such as discovering a foreign language film that moves you when you have not been immersed in that world before. I appreciate when he connects the dots between a film makers style and the movie he is writing about at the time. Often the movie is just background for the personal story of his college years and disappointing romantic entanglements. Even if you are indifferent to Eric as a person, which I don’t think I can be, you will still find merit in the story he tells about the times. I think he is honest as hell about the women in his life. That sort of thing matters so it is relevant. I did sometimes feel short changed by not hearing more about the friends in his life. I know some of their names, but I don’t always feel like I know how they influenced Eric. A couple of exceptions occur when he has a vastly different reaction to a film than his companion does, and I wish I’d been more of a fly on the wall for the conversations he had with them about the movie. The problem is that he is in his fifties, recalling events from before he was twenty one,  and who can remember what we said over coffee thirty plus years ago after a night at the movies?

One of the most unusual reactions I had to his story came from a movie that his family saw together several times, and that I would require a big incentive to sit through again. “The Woman in Red” is a small blemish on the career of Gene Wilder. I dislike the film but I do like how Eric explains his families fascination with it. I like that his folks wanted to sit through it a second time. Whenever I went to the movies with my family, and that happened, it was a special moment for me. A story like this is a bit like watching the lives of your neighbors through the living room window. We get a glimpse into how others live, and it is often very different from the way we live ourselves. That’s the value of a book like this. I never lived in Manhattan, I never had to trade schools midway though my education, I never went to summer camp for weeks at a time. This is a life very different from mine, but I still understand it because movies let us share references and feelings and the ability to empathize is enhanced as a result.

Someday, Eric and I will meet in person. I hope we can take in a James Bond movie together and then talk about it afterward at a diner that he knows or a Mexican restaurant like El Coyote. We are movie lovers who tell the story of our life through the films that shaped us. I feel like we are old pals because I know his history of hurt and success. Life is not all sunshine and cupcakes, and we all have to grow up. “It’s Still Strictly Personal” let’s us see how we are doing that. And there were movies… 

Top Ten List for My Birthday #1

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#1 The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

I’ve had a few people who indicated surprise that “Jaws” was not in the number one position. Apparently, you have not read the stand alone page on this site that identifies this as my favorite movie. The reasons it ends up in that place of honor are coming, let me first tell you about the film.

“The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland is one of the most beautiful films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. As an early all color feature, they literally used every color camera that existed in town to make the movie. The story was developed originally with another actor in mind, but studio politics and the successful paring of the two stars in a previous film resulted in the decision to cast Flynn. There was never a more perfect match between character and actor. The insouciant Flynn and the Devil-may-care Robin of Locksley were made for each other.

I have a healthy respect for films made in my lifetime. Seven of the ten films that appear on the current list were produced and released after the date of my birth, but I have always felt an affinity for the Hollywood of the past. The studio heads may have been tyrants, but they were also titans who took risks. The “factory” that created dreams is a mythology I romanticize and wish I could have seen up close. I have never made it a secret that I am a sentimentalist, I love movies that stir me, touch my heart or make me cry. Robin Hood does all of those things. The sentiment that all men should be free and treated fairly, the loyalty to the crown and country, and the passion and sacrifice inspired by love are all abundant in this movie. What is also abundant are the characters and plethora of actors that fill those roles. It is no surprise to me that Claude Rains appears in three films on my top ten list. He is the only actor who is in more than one film on my list, and he is the epitome of the golden age. 

Probably everyone who reads a site like this can remember the movie that made them fall in love with movies. This is the one that did it for me. As much as I love “Jaws”, I might not ever have seen it if I were not the movie fanatic that Robin Hood turned me into. So like your first love, the pattern of your life may be imprinted by that experience and I freely confess it here. This film, filled with the artifice of Hollywood, and the glamour of the studio system, is in my veins and it is the plasma that keeps me coming back. 

I hope all of you have a film like this somewhere in your heart.

Previous Posts on The Adventures of Robin Hood

A Love Letter to a Movie Classic

Academy Conversations TCM: The Adventures of Robin Hood

Centennial Screening Olivia De Havilland

Sunday Screening of Robin Hood

Top Ten List for My Birthday #2

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#2 JAWS

This should be the biggest non-surprise of the list. I have never made a secret of my love for this movie, and if you look at the masthead for this site, you will see how clear that affection is. 

Jaws changed the motion picture industry. It turned Summer into Blockbuster time, it lead the charge to wide releases of films on their opening day, and viral marketing could not have been better. This was a movie that everyone was talking about and everyone was seeing. I did not see it with my late wife the first time either of us saw it, but I know it had a big impact on her. For the summer and Fall of 1975, she seriously thought about oceanography as a college major because of this movie. I was never entranced in that way, instead I was absorbed in how the film was being marketed. Toys, t-shirts, lunchboxes, games, and of course, the theme that has universally become a harbinger of sharks everywhere. This soundtrack was mimicked by other films for decades. The title  instrumental theme made the Billboard top 40. 

One of the greatest instances of professional jealousy was demonstrated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when the Film was nominated for Best Picture, but the young genius responsible for it was snubbed. This movie works because of the choices that Spielberg made and the solutions to problems that he employed. He got fantastic performances out of his lead actors and the main character is only seen occasionally, and it still dominates the movie.  

This may be the film I have seen start to finish, the most in my life. Every Independence Day there is a screening that this house indulges in, and there are three or four additional viewings a year, it has been that way for almost thirty years. When you do the math, that is a lot of fish. 

Modern film technology would destroy this film. Half the suspense comes from not seeing the creature, which would be rendered by CGI in today’s world and it would show up on screen every five minutes. Many people classify this as a horror film. It certainly has horror elements but it is really an adventure film, a political story, a family drama, and a human tragedy with a heroes journey. The film also does something that is incredibly rare. It turns out to be better than it’s source material.  

This is Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece and one of the greatest cinema achievements of the last 100 years. 

Previous Posts On Jaws

Jaws Week Finale
Original Movie A Day Post 
Jaws in Concert
Jaws 2017 Post
Jaws/Hard Ticket to Hawaii
2018 Entry One
Other Great Performance in Jaws
Jaws Video Review
Less Celebrated Lines from Jaws
Jaws List Number One 40th Anniversary
Jaws 2020 Visit
2016 Obligatory Jaws Post
The Faces of Jaws
Happy 40th to Jaws 
Jaws at the Arclight Vlog
Preview of Screening Vlog

Top Ten List for My Birthday #3

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#3 Lawrence of Arabia

Next to my Number Two choice, this may be the film I have written about the most on this site. I first saw it in a truncated form on an ABC Sunday Night Movie, at least I think I did. For me though, the film came to my consciousness in the 1989 restoration. I took my father to see it in the old Century City Mall, he was a big fan of Doctor Zhivago. We drove across the county in the middle of a weekday to get to a screening because it was not widely released. A couple of years later, I owned a beautiful Criterion Laserdisc of the restoration that I must have played a dozen times.

One of the reasons that this has become a top three film for me is that my youngest daughter has embraced it wholeheartedly. Her first viewing was in ideal circumstances at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. She has made me take her to see it whenever we have found it presented on a big screen in a theater. Those opportunities have continued even though we are now far away from Hollywood and the American Cinematique.  Last October was our most recent theatrical visit. 

I try to see something different in the film every time I watch it. That is not hard to do. There are so many interesting choices made by director David Lean. From the title sequence to the end, there are clever edits, sound design, action scenes and dialogue. The cast, all men in the speaking roles, is as deep as you could get. Newcomer Peter O’Toole is sharing screen time with Claude Rains. Alec Guinness would never be given the role today, the brown face casting could not fly in these times, but the performance that he gives in a supporting part is subtle and note perfect. 

Previous Posts on Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence 2019 Again
Lawrenceapalooza
Lawrence End of Summer 2019
Lawrence of Arabia Austin Edition

Lawrence of Arabia 70mm at Egyptian Theater

Lawrence of Arabia at the Cinerama Dome  

Lawrence of Arabia/Vertigo Double Feature Vlog  

Top Ten List for My Birthday #4

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#4  The Godfather/The Godfather Part II

I freely admit that I have cheated here. This is two films not just one. They are inextricably linked to one another however, and the idea of separating them from each other and elevating one above the other is abhorrent to me. A little bit like Alien and Aliens, the question of which one of these two films I think is better, depends entirely on which one I have seen most recently.

Art is a bit subjective. and as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, yet these two films transcend the subjective. I believe they objectively are two of the finest motion pictures ever to come out of Hollywood. The original Godfather, takes what could have been a simple mob movie and turns it into a family tragedy that will haunt our memory. Captain Michael Corleone, a war hero, has returned to the family he is holding at arms length, with the intention of declaring his independence from them by marrying the Waspish Kay. Yet, when his father is gunned down, the family loyalty takes over and he is drawn into the business that he wished to avoid. 

As the reluctant savior of his family, Michael has to reject the life he was planning and put his emotions under control. The problem is that every time he gets emotional, the tragedy gets deeper. The more he tries to grip his passion and hold it down, the greater the sacrifices he makes. Not only does he murder his enemies, he takes out family loyalists who have betrayed him, including his brother in law, and ultimately his own brother. Vito Corleone was a man who followed a code of honor, ruthless as it was, to achieve family security. Michael however becomes a monster of dispassionate violence, who wants to remain all business but like his brother Sonny, can be influenced by his emotions. When Michael feels betrayal from anyone, it leads to further destruction.

The construction of the second film as both prequel and sequel simultaneously, is an amazing innovation that allows the second film to be part and parcel of the first while still standing on it’s own as a piece of art. The production design between the films shows a progression not only of the family but of America in the 20th Century. The critique of soulless capitalism is complete as a metaphor when the corporations cut up  the cake with the image of Cuba on it. The question of what cost comes from success is answered by the hollow posture of power that closes the second chapter of this story. 

My personal history with the film includes one of my favorite stories about dating my wife. I took her to a double feature playing the two films, and when the first one ended, we began to stand to take a break and use the facilities, but instead of an intermission, the lights went down immediately and the second film began. We both sat back down immediately and waited another three hours and twenty minute to relieve ourselves. The fact that she was willing to do that, sealed her fate, I had to marry that woman. 

Previous Posts of The Godfather


The Godfather Live


TCM 45th Anniversary of the Godfather

Top Ten List for My Birthday #5

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now, and I have resisted putting up a list of my favorite films for that whole time. As the Borg say “Resistance is Futile!” 

This year I am marking another year in my sixth decade of life. I did several birthday posts in the past and enjoyed them immensely. The last two years my heart has just not been into it. This year however, I am trying to push my way back into normalcy, but I don’t have the energy to generate 63 things for a list. So what I am going to do is a ten day countdown of my favorite films.

Every year when I have posted a top ten list, I always point out that it is a combination of quality and subjective enjoyment that creates that list. Those are the guiding principles here as well. I will not claim that these are the ten greatest movies ever made, although I know several of them would be deserving of a spot on such a list. Instead, these are my ten favorite films as it stands at the moment. In a month, I could reconsider or remember something that I have tragically left off the list, but for this moment here is how they rank.

#5  Singin’ in the Rain

I have always been a classic movie fan. Sunday afternoons in Southern California were filled with Sherlock Holmes movies staring Basil Rathbone. Weekdays, after school, before the idea of afternoon strip talk shows sucked up all the air time, local stations would fill the day with edited versions of classic films, and I would put off my homework to watch. In 1974, my best friend Art Franz and I went to see “That’s Entertainment”, an MGM cornucopia of musical sequences from the golden age. One of the films heavily featured was “Singin’ in the Rain”.  Now I had seen that movie a couple of times on TV, put when I later found it on a pay channel, there were sequences that I never knew existed. 

Some films are intellectually challenging. Some films break your heart emotionally or make you question right and wrong. “Singin’ in the Rain” doesn’t really do those kinds of things. This movie is an emotional injection of joy that celebrates some great entertainment traditions, singing and dancing.

Watching Donald O’Conner and Gene Kelly performing their routines on the vaudeville stage is simply wonderful. Gene and Donald and Debbie Reynolds singing Good Morning, would be the greatest way to start the day ever. The famous title song performed on a soundstage that looks like a Los Angeles street and features rain on the pavement and in puddles, this was simple movie magic but it was still magic. 

Let’s not forget that the story of the film is also the story of films. The transition from silents to sound changed movies forever. Today we see similar sorts of changes although primarily the delivery systems. The only thing constant is change, if only this kind of entertainment could be constant as well. I don’t think I ever turn down a chance to watch this when it comes up on TCM. 

Previous Posts on Singin’ in the Rain

TCM Presents Singin’ in the Rain

TCM The Essentials