Movie Education – September 2011 Update

Hey! We’re back with Movie Education posts! Let the bands play and the cheerleaders do whatever cheerleaders do (What? They cheer? That’s all?) because I’m going to awe and astonish you with classic and beloved films I waited until I was over 30 to see.

King Kong (1933)

Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong is one of the few times I’ve let myself see a remake before the original. By and large, I feel like whoever got there first deserves to get to my brain first, too. But Peter Jackson is a special case, and I made an exception.  I’ve finally looped back to the original and was surprised what a complete and fun film it was. I expected to have to make a lot of excuses for how dated it would be, but I stopped paying attention to when this was made long before I got to the impressive stop motion effects. This movie is what it is – a tragic adventure about a big ape – but for what it is, it’s pretty fantastic.

Fright Night

Once I was obligated to see the remake for David Tennant, I decided not to do what I’d done with King Kong and make every effort to see the original. Especially since I wasn’t so much interested in the remake as I was going to hang out with ladies drooling over Tennant. Here’s the thing with the original Fright Night: It’s ok. It’s got some truly awful performances, and some bizarre special effects choices. It’s also got a really compelling character for Roddy McDowell as Peter Vincent (a character that, in the remake, was so shallow even Tennant couldn’t do much more than make a few funny jokes) and a fun, apple-chomping villain played Chris Sarandon. It’s one of those movies I’d have liked a lot more as a teen, but isn’t the kind of trash heap you could only like at that age.

Nashville

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first Movie Education pick that I bombed out on a third of the way through. I love Altman, and I was pretty pumped up to finally see Nashville, but after an hour I still didn’t care about a single thing going on and couldn’t bear to drag through another 2 hours of it. Some day I’ll try again. I’m sure it was me, and not the movie, and I probably just picked the wrong time to give it a chance. I’m a little disappointed in myself.

The Wild Bunch

This movie once sat on my shelf for a year before I gave up and returned it to Netflix.  This time, I didn’t let it sit longer than few days. How did I wait this long to see this movie? It opens with an incredible action montage – not a montage like that Team America song, more like the one they make you watch in film class from Battleship Potemkin – before settling you into the doomed final mission of a group of  outlaws who’ve seen their glory days fade into memory.  The old west is no more, and the law is closing in on William Holden’s gang.  They’re forced into stealing guns for an unstable generalissimo, and step by step are backed into a corner by a world in which they no longer fit. Every performance is great, and if you like the kind of rough westerns Sergio Leone produced, Peckinpah’s classic will rub you just right.

The Graduate

Boy, this one influenced pretty much every director on the planet, didn’t it? Especially Wes Anderson. I bet his screen saver just plays The Graduate on infinite loop, even when he’s asleep.  It’s interesting, because The Graduate is a really good but not really awesome film. It’s funny and well constructed, but it’s also so much a piece of its time that it doesn’t get much father than that.  It’s not that the transition from college into adulthood isn’t still just as unsettling as it is for Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin. It just doesn’t feel like this, not exactly. You can tell it was made in the 1960’s because it’s obsessed with awkward zoom shots and the use of really long lenses pointed at people running toward the camera. I find the visual experimentation of late 60’s and early 70’s American film interesting, but I don’t always like it. The Graduate is well shot, though, and you’ll notice moment after moment from the dozens of films that’ve aped it since it came out.  It’s absolutely worth seeing, but it’s also one of those films that – as time passes – becomes more important than it is great.

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