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Alphabetical Movie – The Magnificent Seven

Not only did I watch this film for the Alphabetical movie project recently, I watched it again for A Reel Education!

That provides me with a wonderful springboard to talk about A Reel Education, which is by far my favorite podcast to record.

Every couple of weeks I get to sit down with Jena Young and Melissa Kaercher, watch a movie and then talk about it.  How is that not the best idea for a podcast ever?  I’m not saying that it is the best idea from a “everyone wants to listen to this podcast” standpoint.

Rather, it is the best idea from a “boy do I enjoy spending my time this way” standpoint.


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Alphabetical Movie – The Madness of King George

I don’t know if anyone has kept an official tally but it sure does seem to me like the best way to earn an Oscar nomination is to play an English monarch.  Helen Mirren has an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II.  Judi Dench has one for playing Queen Elizabeth I.  Dench was also nominated for playing Queen Victoria.  Cate Blanchett was nominated for playing Elizabeth I twice.

That’s just the queens.  When it comes to the Kings, things get completely ridiculous.  Not too many wins.  Colin Firth has one for The King’s Speech, Charles Laughton for The Private Life of King Henry VIII,  and Laurence Olivier got an honorary one for Henry V but when it comes to nominations, seems like almost every king of England is Represented.

Nigel Hawthorne was nominated as George III in The Madness of King George.  Both Olivier and Kenneth Branaugh were nominated for Henry V.  Peter O’Toole was nominated for playing King Henry II in two different films!  Robert Shaw was also nominated for playing Henry VIII but he probably lost that award due to stupid Oscar politics.  Henry VIII already had an Oscar.

Fucking Charles Laughton.

Olivier was nominated for Richard III.

Oooo!  Richard Dreyfuss won for The Goodbye Girl and he was in a production of “Richard III” in that movie.  I’m going to count that one!

I mean, you can get nominated for playing a lot of other roles but a head of state in England just might be the ticket, baby!

Maybe it just feels that way because when it comes to historical drama, political leaders are well represented.  If you make an American film, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it feature a President (and boy o boy have a lot of folks been nominated for playing Presidents).  If the film is set in England, a monarch just might show up.

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Alphabetical Movie – Made for Each Other

I have an autographed picture of Jimmy Stewart in my bathroom.  I know that hardly sounds like a place of honor but it is in the same bathroom with my Peter Jackson autograph so please accept that only the most important stuff that I couldn’t fit on other walls in my house are found in that bathroom.

The autograph came with a certificate of authenticity so while I don’t know for a fact that it is real, I’m confident enough.  It is either an autograph by him or by someone who has spent a lot of time learning to copy his signature.  One has to admire that amount of effort.

I can’t communicate with Stewart’s spirit because psychics aren’t real.  Also, Stewart was a lifelong conservative so he might resent ending up in some liberal atheist’s house just to verify an autograph.  Given all of this, I’m going to live my life as if the signature is genuine.

It makes me sad, though, that the picture of Stewart isn’t joined by pictures of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

If that was the case, I’d have the three leads of Philadelphia Story on my bathroom wall, and boy would that be something.

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Alphabetical Movie – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Those who have been following my Alphabetical Movie Blog closely might have noticed that I’m writing about Madagascar 3 without having taken the time to write about the two films that, presumably, preceded it.

Thing is, I don’t own either one of them.  The rules of the project clearly dictate that I’m only watching movies I own.  It just so happens that the only movie I own in the Madagascar trilogy is the most recent.

I think that the explanation is simple.  Here it is:

I don’t own the other two Madagascar films because I think they are OK.  And my kids think they are OK.  We simply haven’t had any pressing need to pick up a copy of either one of them.

That Circus Afro song, though.  That constitutes a “pressing need.”

If you would like me to explain why I cannot get enough of a fifteen second song sung by Chris Rock voicing a polka dotted zebra, I have no words.  It is, simply, an absurd moment that fills me with primal glee.

My admission should not be taken as some sort of shame.  I’m not the only person who was totally gaga over a fifteen second joke in a 90 minute movie.  Once the film was released, they made a new trailer that basically acknowledged the fact there was a subset of their audience that was interested in only one thing.

Because I have kids, I’ve seen most of the “kid” movies in my house multiple times, even if it is just in the background.  So it is with this film.  I know there are other parts to the movie and yet I can’t remember them because they are eclipsed by a gigantic rainbow colored clown wig.

I love it even though it was the only song my children sang for at least a week after we saw the film on initial release.  Generally, that behavior makes me want to find every copy of the song in existence and smash it with a hammer.

Yes, I believe there is a way to smash an iTunes version of a song with a hammer.

But something almost sinister happened with this particular snippet of music.  I wanted to sing along with my kids.

Look, there are very few movies that I can recall scene for scene.  The best movies have slow points.  And movies I love more than anything might get re-watched once a year at most.  I may not be able to recall most of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted but the truth is, I like it enough that I’m willing to watch the rest of the movie for that moment.

It isn’t even that a singing zebra clown is the funniest thing ever featured in an animated film.

But it is silly and absurd and (if you haven’t seen the trailer) unexpected.  It stays with you and makes you like the rest of the film just a little bit more.

There are few enough scenes like that in any movie.  Don’t judge me for enjoying that scene in this movie.

Alphabetical Movie – Lover Come Back

Lover Come Back is a perfect example of 60’s feminism viewed through the lens of Hollywood Producers who were, unfortunately, men.

Which means they had no idea what the hell they were doing.

The story involves a man (Rock Hudson), who is a sexist jackass and a woman (Doris Day) who dislikes him because he’s a sexist jackass.  So he behaves like the “perfect man” for her and she falls for him.

Day plays a competent advertising executive and Hudson plays a far less competent one who has the important skill of knowing how to make other guys happy.  He doesn’t have to put together the best campaign because he gets his clients drunk and laid.

Fortunately, it’s the sixties so all of his clients are men.  His plans work perfectly.

So she’s competent but has to work twice as hard as he does just to get ahead.  He’s pretty much a complete tool but is successful because he works in an industry (advertising) where being a tool is a benefit.  That’s something we’ve all learned from “Mad Men.”

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Alphabetical Movie – Love Actually

I know there is wild disagreement about Love Actually.

A lot of people find it funny, romantic and charming.  Others find it cloying, sexist and offensive.

I’m not going to wade into that debate because like or hate Love Actually, the film has resulted in the most sinister of conceivable side effects.

I’m talking about Valentine’s Day. And New Year’s Eve.  I’m talking about every film that uses a holiday to create a romantic melting pot of celebrities being adorable.  These films are the bastard children of Love Actually and they keep popping up every year in a sad attempt to do what someone else already did better.

To call these films forgettable feels like a complement.  They don’t deserve enough time to be forgotten.

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Alphabetical Movie – The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2

The central argument being made by Jurassic Park and The Lost World is if we bring dinosaurs back from extinction, they will destroy us.  Humans, we learn, are just too puny to survive the return of the giant lizards and we will become a buffet for T-rex and Velociraptors.

Not being a biologist, I can only speculate that there are gigantic problems with this assumption as the current climate on most of the Earth is not actually compatible with dinosaur physiology.  Sure, Velociraptor infestation would a problem in New York but could they survive the winter?

Science aside, here’s the big problem with this premise:  Who cares?  Dinosaurs!

If a scientist stepped up to a podium tomorrow and said “I can re-create dinosaurs but there are going to be a few problems…” every reporter in the room would miss what came next because they would be envisioning parks where you could saddle up to ride an Apotosaurus, go Pteranadon gliding and feed goats to a T-Rex.

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Alphabetical Movie – Lost in Translation

There is a shot at the end of Lost in Translation when Bill Murray whispers something into Scarlett Johansson’s ear.  We don’t get to hear what he says because the moment is a private one.  What was said is not so important as the idea that Murray manages to open up to someone, if only for a short time.

I find it interesting that so many people have spent so much time trying to figure out what Murray said.  As if that will unlock a deeper understanding of the film.

Lots of theories exist and, as with most such things, none of those theories are more interesting than that private exchange we don’t get to share.

I think there is some sort of insatiable desire to know the unknowable.  Watching a movie is a voyeuristic experience. As such, we feel we are entitled to know everything  The movie should keep no secrets from us.  And yet the final shot of the film is one big secret.

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Alphabetical Movie – The Return of the King

photo-2I have a framed poster for this film signed by Peter Jackson and it is hanging in my bathroom.  There’s a picture of it on the left if you don’t believe me.  Every time I poop, I see this poster.

I’m not saying that to brag.  I mean, if I was trying to brag, I wouldn’t admit that I look at this poster every time I poop, would I?

OK, fine. I’m bragging just a little bit.

I’m not a big memorabilia collector.  When it comes to autographs, I place far more value on a genuine interaction with another human being than I do on their signature.  Still, it’s pretty damn cool that I got to see an advance premiere of Return of the King with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson and Peter signed a poster for everyone in the room.

The story is a lot more interesting than the autograph, actually.  I could’ve forged the autograph.  It could have been stamped on by a printer.

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Alphabetical Movie – The Two Towers

When I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I made the choice to watch the extended editions.  I don’t believe they are better than the theatrical editions but one of the most remarkable things about the universe Jackson created is how excited I was by the prospect of seeing more – even if the extra bits didn’t add all that much to the story.

If I’m watching a movie for the first time, I’m pretty much always going to try to see the theatrical cut of the film.  If I don’t like that version of the film, why would I want to watch a version that has more stuff I don’t like?  If I like the film, I want to establish a baseline and I feel that baseline should be what everyone else has already seen.

Besides, the theatrical cut is almost always better.  Most movies don’t need to be longer.  Most movies need to be shorter.  As much as I love the extra stuff in the LOTR movies, I don’t feel like any of the movies are improved by the additional material.  The theatrical versions exhibit better pacing and storytelling than the extended editions.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the avalanche of skulls really makes Return of the King better.

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