Around two years ago approximately on the 5thJanuary after feeling the effects of indulging over the Christmas period (of feeling mostly guilty) I decided rather than promising myself to get a six-pack or get a job in the media industry (which I have unsuccessfully trying to pursue for the last seven years) for that years New Year’s Resolution I thought I would do something more achievable and fun. So I set myself the task of watching all the movies featured on The American Film Institute’s top 100 list of all time.
Sounds straight forward right? But how wrong was I? Not only were there two lists – one from 1998 and an updated version on 2007 which means there were in fact 123 films to get through but some of the older films were extremely difficult to get hold of thanks to Sky getting rid of their classic movie channel and replacing it with a modern great movies channel which considers films like ‘Barb-Wire’ to be a worthy movie.
So this task is challenging to say the least, but I am loving every minute of it and I thought I will document my journey with reviews, thoughts and the obstacles I face until I get to the end – this will be the first New Year’s Resolution that I will complete even if I am 2 years too late!
When a flake of snow hits UK soil – the whole island is put on hiatus. So it was pretty befitting that I’d catch up on my AFI challenge and watch a classic movie this weekend (as the inch of snow forced me to stay in), plus I haven’t posted on here for a year and a half – so it’s about time I attempt at doing this bloody list again.
As it was Oscars weekend I thought I’d check out ‘The Graduate’ (1967: ‘98 #7, ‘03 #17). One of the most iconic coming of age movies that was the last to win only for Best Director at the Academy awards (bit of trivia for you). And when I say this film is iconic, I mean it in every sense of the word. Even though I never had seen it before this weekend – I pretty much knew the whole plot, some of the key quotes and the soundtrack, which is why it is ranked so highly in on the 1998 and 2007 lists. But other than having a huge cultural impact, does the film have the credentials to be ranked so highly with ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941) and ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993)?
The Graduate (1967)
The storyline is pretty straight forward; a talented graduate (Dustin Hoffman) from a middle class family, but with no sense of direction, begins an affair with an older family friend (Anne Bancroft) only to fall in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross). A tame plot by today’s standards, but Bancroft’s nude scene raised a few eyebrows at the time and age difference of 20 years between her and Hoffman’s character made the movie pretty controversial at the time. People probably wouldn’t have battered an eye lid if the male character was 20 years senior than the female. No one seemed to care when Grant was wooing a much younger Hepburn in ‘Charade’ (1963) and despite a twenty-five year age gap, Bacall and Bogart’s romance celebrated romance on and off the screen. Hypocrisy is today still prevalent as Best Picture nominee ‘Call me By Your Name’ (2017) has been criticised (by mostly straight white males, including James Wood) for the age gap of just a six years between the two gay characters. But star of the Academy Award winning film Armie Hammer brilliantly highlighted our double standard society by kindly reminding Woods that he dated a 19 year old when he was 60.
Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman
But back to ‘The Graduate’; yes, it was a risky plot at the time and yes, it perhaps invented the coming of age genre. But Hoffman’s character comes across as such a self-absorbed selfish brat who doesn’t seem to have the slightest concern his actions are destroying a family – that he is hard to like. That being said Hoffman plays the part brilliantly and his awkwardness brings in subtle comedy to the movie. He even at times, when not being an arrogant punk, displays endearing and charming qualities of the arguably the greatest literary character of the twentieth-century; Holden Caulfield from ‘Catcher in the Rye’ (1951). In fact I’m almost certain that Benjamin Braddock was inspired by the protagonist in J.D Salinger’s masterpiece.
It’s hard to think of anyone other than super seductive Anne Bancroft playing the role of Mrs. Robinson. Her iconic husky and commanding voice brought some of the most memorable one liners to modern cinema, it’s crazy that the role could have gone to Joan Crawford or ‘Murder She Wrote’ star Angela Lansbury. At times Mrs. Robinson can be a bit annoying and her nonchalant attitude at the beginning of the movie makes it hard for you to have empathy for her. But toward the end of the film, you definitely see her more as a victim and can sympathise with her for having a loveless marriage.
‘The Graduate’ trailer
The unforgettable ending, which has probably been recreated by every soap in the last fifty-years (as well as famous Renault Clio advert from the 90s) alone qualifies the classic to be in AFI top 100 films of all time, but it is suited to its 2007 ranking of #17 rather than top ten position in the 1998 list.
For its superb cast, iconic quotes, invention of the coming of age genre and soundtrack that sets the mood for the movie – I give ‘The Graduate’ 4 out of 5.
I haven’t posted an update for a good minute now, actually more like a year.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on MovieBrando.com and my quest to watch the Top 100 AFI Films just yet. It’s just that a lot has happened over the last 12 months – I unexpectedly left my job of nearly 5 years and went travelling all over South-East Asia to come back and start a new career. So watching classic movies hasn’t been my top priority (although constantly on my mind).
But over the last few weeks I kept getting email from WordPress requesting me to update my domain (or whatever, I’m not internet savvy AT ALL!). So I thought I might as well put that $18.00 to good use and start blogging again. Call it my new found inspiration or a calling of some sort.
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie from the 1930s for the AFI challenge so I’d thought I’d take it way back to 1935 for the iconic ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ based on a true story (1935: AFI 1998 #86) staring the George Clooney of the Golden Era Clarke Gable (because the Cary Grant comparisons are absurd – there will never be another actor as effortlessly charming as Grant) playing Fletcher Christian and British theatre star Charles Laughton as villainous Captain William Bligh (yup, they again chose a Brit to play the most hated man in the movie). I actually think that this maybe (correct me if I’m wrong) but the oldest film I have reviewed so far – although I managed to catch Buster Keaton’s silent farcical classic ‘The General’ (1926: AFI 2007 #18) a while back but haven’t managed to write about it because I hope to compare it to Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ (1936 AFI 1998 #81, 2007#78) which I’ve yet to see.
Clarke Gable and Tahitian love interest Mamo Clarke
‘Mutiny’ is a legendary story of how Lieutenant Fletcher of HMS Bounty stages a revolt after witnessing Captain Bligh’s cruel and brutal treatment of his officers and crew on the long voyage to Tahiti in 1787. As a history minor graduate I had heard of this infamous tale, but I decided to take elective’s on the History of Sport and The French Revolution so it never made my syllabus, so I’m not sure if it is historically accurate. However, the fact that central character Roger Byam (played by Franchot Tone) who faces a moral dilemma of obeying his tyrant Captain or following his friend Fletcher into the mutiny was not a real character but based on midshipman Peter Haywood suggests that those wanting to use the flick as a point of reference before their history exam on the event may find that their grade is not as high as they’d hope. And although Captain Bligh has a reputation of being a tormenter he did not flog any of his crew to their death as the film depicts.
‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ 1935 trailer
The historic event has had such a huge interest over the years that it has been made into a major movie five times – twice before the Gable version and twice after. There has always been a fascination with how or why the revolt took place- was Bligh a sadistic control freak like the 1935 movie depicts? Or was Fletcher and the crew so engulfed in the freedom and sexual liberation they experienced in Tahiti the thought of going back on board to a disciplinary Captain dreaded them so much that they took a huge gamble and staged a revolt as many contemporary historians suggest was the real cause of the mutiny.
Documentary on facts vs fiction on ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’
We may not know the real cause of the conflict or what really happened when the crew landed in Tahiti (which is now a Honeymooner’s paradise and where the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills spend their summer vacations) but this film does a good job of trying to fill in the gaps. And although it maybe historically inaccurate in some parts – the film is bloody entertaining – I was not expecting to like it so much. It has the suspense of a modern blockbuster and you become so invested in the characters that you are desperate for Bligh (who was voted AFI’s 19th best villain) to have a piece of his own medicine. Charles Laughton who looks like a cross between Boris Johnson and Oscar Wilde is terrific as the ruthless captain who lacks a drop of compassion and Gable comes across as endearing and idealistic that he almost seems like an early prototype of Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke (1967). I haven’t seen the other versions of this story, but this is the only one that made it into the prestigious AFI top 100 list that it is probably the best version. Even Marlon Brando couldn’t save the 1962 version from it being a huge critical and financial disaster. But it would be interesting to see how Mel Gibson tackles the protagonist and Anthony Hopkins the villain in ‘The Bounty’ (1984).
Hopkins and Gibson in ‘The Bounty’ (1984)
For Bligh’s and moustacheless Gable’s near perfect performance, the cameo from James Cagney and the jam packed action that inspires blockbuster films to this day – I give ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ a perfect score 5 out 5.
It’s been a while since I made my last post, but don’t worry I haven’t given up on my AFI Challenge which looks set to take longer than I thought. The truth is I’ve been pretty lazy over the last few months being a man of leisure. But I have managed to catch the ultimate classic movie whilst on my way to Kenya on my first African visit.
The best thing about flying (other than the beaming obvious trip to a destination that is guaranteed to be at least five degrees warmer than London) is I get to catch up on movies I haven’t watched yet as there is pretty much nothing else to do. Despite being a big classic movie fan (who would have thought it) the idea of sitting through more than three hours of Charlton Heston’s overacting in ‘Ben Hur’ doesn’t always fill me with the most excitement. With plane TV screens you feel obliged to watch a movie from start to finish to feel like you are making most of your time in the air. I kind of feel like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ when his eyes were clamped open when watching the small screen on aircrafts, but with less agony.
I managed to catch some new releases that I wouldn’t dream of watching in the cinema like ‘Southpaw’ which although had an extremely cliché and predictable storyline it had a heartfelt performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Kenya Airways had a questionable classic movie category in their inflight entertainment, which included masterpieces like the intellectually simulating ‘The Hangover’, but I think they used the term loosely to describe anything that wasn’t released within last twelve months. They got it right with two movies – ‘Northby Northwest’ (1959, AFI 1998 #40, 2007 #55) and ‘Casablanca’ (1942, AFI: 1998 #2, 2007 #3) – I’ve seen these bonafide classic movies before, but as I’ve already reviewed the Hitchcock masterpiece I thought I’d re-familiarise regularly with the most famous romantic movie of all time.
7oth Anniversary trailer for ‘Casablanca’
It’s hard to believe that the most iconic on screen romance all time was considered a side project for movie executives at Warner Bros – despite the flick having two of the biggest stars at the time Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman insiders thought it wouldn’t be a hit – there were even rumours that the script was incomplete when filming and so at times the actors had to improvise – with the huge budgets Hollywood films have nowadays this would simply be unheard of. So why did this film with a relatively straight forward storyline, which was filmed mostly in a bar and one that people that little expectations of become the greatest love story of all time?
Bogart must choose between his former lover and helping her husband
The movie which was directed by Michael Curtiz tells the story of American expatriate (Rick Blaine played by Bogart) who runs a successful casino and nightclub in Casablanca during World War Two. His world turns upside down when his former lover Ilsa Lund (Bergman) comes back into his life after abandoning him without explanation, but this time she is with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) who is a notorious Czech-resistance leader on the run from the Nazis. Blaine must decide whether to help this man escape or to be with the woman he loves.
For me it’s pretty hard to pinpoint what made this black and white classic such a timeless piece that people of all ages flock to see when played at the outdoor cinema at Somerset House every summer over other romantic masterpieces such as ‘It Happened in One Night’ (1934, AFI 1998 #35, 2007 #46)? Bogart’s cool portrayal of selfless Rick Blaine is so memorable and the character is so likable that the AFI voted him as the fourth greatest hero on the big screen – which definitely separates this movie from other romances over the years. The movie is far from cheesy or soppy and although I’m not a huge fan of Bergman (who looks like she is about to burst into tears in every scene) you can’t deny the chemistry between the who main leads. This along with the beautiful theme song ‘As time goes by’ and the famous, sharp and witty one liners (“Here’s looking a you kid”, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, “We will always have Paris” (is this were the silly American romantic obsession with Paris began?), “Of all the Gin Joints..”) makes ‘Casablanca’ pretty much a perfect movie – the blueprint for all romances that followed over the last 70 years.
I know this post is about thirty-days too late, but screw it – it’s still (barely) January and I’ve just got back to my day to day routine (Plus it’s my god damn blog – I’ll write about Christmas movies in July if I wanted to!) So it’s the perfect time to reflect on the classic movies that I came across in December which was only a few short weeks ago.
During that weird period between Christmas and New Year when you struggle to remember what date it is but strangely know exactly what day Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve falls on there are quite a lot of quality movies on the box – particularly classic flicks that are featured in the American Film Institute Top 100 Films of All Time. So I pretty much had a field day going through my list this festive season – although it seemed like every time I switched on the TV ‘Elf’ (2003) or ‘Home Alone’ (1990) was playing for the umpteenth time (but Will Ferrell giving James Cann lingerie as a gift never gets old).
‘Elf’ Buddy gives his Dad an inappropriate gift
Unfortunately these movies are not deemed to be classic by the AFI; but what was shown on the Sky Christmas Channel and is worthy to be featured in The Top 100 Movies of all time list twice was the ultimate Christmas move – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946: AFI 1998 #11, 2007 #20) staring the remarkable James Stewart and Donna Reed. The movie centres around banker George Bailey, a hardworking man who can’t seem to catch a break – he is financially unstable, but his good willed nature, enthusiasm and hope gets him through tough times. That is until he reaches boiling point and contemplates suicide, but before he decides to end his life a guardian angel shows him what life would be like if he was never born. So it’s kind of like flipped version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) by Dickens with the obvious differences that Scrooge was rich and disliked whilst Bailey was poor but loved.
The fact that the film lifted themes from Dickens’s masterpiece doesn’t take away how influential it is to the wholesome family movie genre. Ever since its release Hollywood producers have tried to create a Christmas flick as well written, acted and magical as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but have so failed to deliver something that the whole family can enjoy and watch Christmas after Christmas.
The unmistakable Stewart speaks about how he got involved in his most iconic role
It’s pretty remarkable that children are still fond of this black and white movie, usually when I tell my family (who are all well over thirty) that I want to watch a film on my list, they tell me “It better be in colour”- but ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets a free pass. It proves that the strong storytelling and the message of thankfulness and belief in the kindness of human nature far outweighs any 3D or CGI special effects that has been regurgitated by movie execs in the last ten or so years. There were talks that the movie was to be colourised, but legendary director Frank Capra and Stewart were against it the final product. I must admit I would be curious to see if the movie would still be as perfect if in colour, but I guess if it isn’t broke why fix it?
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets the colour treatment
One of the reasons why this masterpiece which is 70 years old this year still resinates with viewers is that it touches on themes that are more relevant than ever. Many of us plan to travel the world when we leave school, but our dreams are put on hold by our guilt to help the family business or get a ‘proper’ job – I know I can relate to that. And almost all of us during the festive season reflect on our careers and financial position which can make us unsatisfied. This movie reminds us what is important – ‘Elf’ and ‘Bad Santa'(2003) may give us laughs, but will that be enough to sustain their legacy in years to come?
For the fact that this movie is not only the best festive movie of all time, but best movie period I give it 5 our 5.
Sometimes I get lucky when attempting my challenge of watching all films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time like this weekend when just as I was wondering how I’m going to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon I came across a film which needed to be ticked off my list. Actually my brother came across it after trying to give a Danny Dyer and Martin Kemp flick a shot, but only lasting ten minutes before changing the channel (what did he expect it to be? A masterpiece?). ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner? (1967: AFI, 1998 #99) couldn’t be further away from a British gangster film set in the noughties. Firstly there is hardly any action and most of the movie takes place in one location, the house of Mr and Mrs Drayton played by arguably the greatest screen couple to have ever graced the silver screen; Spencer Tracy and the most successful female Oscar winner of all time (yup, even more successful than Meryl Streep, would you believe?) Katherine Hepburn.
Trailer for the 1967 Oscar winning movie ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner?
Set in an affluent white upper middle class neighbourhood in San Francisco in the 1960s the story centres around the Drayton’s whose liberal tolerance gets tested when their daughter introduces them to her black fiancé played by Sidney Poitier – who is the first black actor to win an Oscar (although not for this role, but ‘Lilies in the Field). The plot is simple and hardly shocking by today’s standards, but for the time when racial tension in North America was at an all time high it was perhaps a surprise that Stanley Kramer’s movie was a critical and commercial success. Even more startling is that it was well received in the notoriously racist Southern States and released just a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There is even a scene where the family’s black maid Tillie who is clearly the most offended by the presence of Poitier sarcastically asks if “The Reverend Martin Luther King” is coming to dinner too?
Maid Tillie interrogates Poitier
The movie definitely deserves its spot on the AFI’s top 100 films of all time list – it highlights the deep rooted racial prejudices even the most tolerant people have. Kramer wanted to make Poitier’s character Dr. John Wayde Prentice Jr. flawless – he is well educated, respectful and does not believe in sex before marriage – he is a perfect suitor for Joey. The only that is preventing her parents from jumping for joy is that he is black.
The subject matter of this blockbuster is sadly relevant in today’s society. Even though interracial relationships are more common than ever there is a still a stigma attached to them. But naively I was under the impression that in the UK non-black ethnic minorities were the only group who still found it difficult introducing their families to their partner from a different background and that black and white people were better integrated. But after watching the British comedy ‘Chewing Gum (2015)’ I realised some black people found it hard tell their parents they were dating a white person as protagonist Tracey (no relation to Spencer) does throughout the first series. Perhaps roles are reversed and ethnic minorities are now the ones who seem to find it hard to accept other races into their families rather than just white people.
Although ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner’ had the happy ending we liberal people of the Twenty-First Century hoped for I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing that this was Spencer Tracy’s last movie before his death – he died only two weeks after completing the film. So his heartfelt speech where he declares that he accepts the relationship is even more poignant as it feels this is farewell to his onscreen and real life lover Hepburn and to the world as he knew his time was drawing an end.
Spencer Tracy gives his memorable speech weeks before his death
Nevertheless the legacy of Tracy and his unforgettable character Mr Drayton still lives on; not only was his last role considered one of his finest he was also the inspiration for lovable Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s classic animated ‘Up! (2009). For the exceptional characters and acting from the crème a La crème of Hollywood as well as the topic that is still a subject of conversation today – I give this flick 4.5 out of 5.
Lead character in ‘Up’ is inspired by Spencer Tracy
The movie can also be a useful tool to show to your parents before bringing someone home they may not approve off as suggested by my brother – I wonder who he’s planning on bringing home to meet the folks
I was flicking through the movie channels yesterday when I came across the classic cult ‘Carrie’ (1976) starring a very young and terrifyingly terrific Sissy Spacek as well as John Travolta pre Saturday Night Fever fame. The flick is not only a perfect horror movie, but it ticks all the boxes for the American Film Institute criteria on what films should be selected for the prestigious Top 100 Films Of All Time List. It was a critical and box office hit, but most importantly it has lasting influence – there is not a Halloween that goes by when someone doesn’t dress up as a blood covered Carrie and most movie enthusiasts are aware of the iconic scene where she gets covered by pigs blood when accepting her prom queen win. So why did this AFI top 100 nominated movie fail to make the list?
Spacek gets her revenge in ‘Carrie’ 1976
Generally movie critics (who I assume make a large proportion of the American Film institute voting body) have a distaste for horror movies – well when you have crass films like Piranha 3DD (2012) or unimaginative flicks like Freddy VS Jason (2003) it’s not hard to understand why the genre has a bad rep. So unsurprisingly horror films get little representation on the 1998 and 2007 AFI Top 100 Movie List. Can Hitchcock’s greatest masterpiece Psycho (1960: AFI 1998#18, 2007#14) or the epitome of the classic gothic story Wuthering Heights (1939: AFI 1998# 73) be considered horror? ‘Psycho’ has a strong case as does ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991: AFI 1998#74, 2007 #65).
The nineties sleeper hit may technically be a thriller/ crime movie, but there are so many elements of horror that I think it can be lumped in that category plus I was shit scared for the most of it. It’s also one of those pictures where you think you’ve seen it before because you remember all the iconic scenes like when Dr Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins creepily tells Clarice how he ate one of his victims. But I thought I must completely watch it from start to finish because there are some parts I can’t piece together.
After viewing the first ten minutes I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen it from the beginning. I didn’t realise that Clarice, played by the ever versatile and Oscar-winning Jodie Foster, was a rookie FBI agent who had reluctantly been persuaded by her superior to get in the mind of cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter to help solve a case of serial killer Buffalo Bill. I’m not sure if in realty the FBI would seek help from a psychopath, it seems pretty far-fetched to me, but then again so are most horror films.
Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in their Oscar-winning roles
Over the years Hannibal Lecter has a comical and somewhat camp persona, I first introduced to him when I watched the prequel Hannibal (2001) in the cinema and vividly recall the audience laughing when he murdered is victims, especially when he ate the brains off Ray Liotta whilst he will still conscious and at the dining table – so to say his character gave me a sleepless night in this 1991 Best Picture Winner is perhaps an over-exaggeration, but then again he was truly frightening when he escapes his incarceration, which suggests why he was voted the Top Villain Of All Time
‘Silence Of The Lambs’ trailer
Perhaps the supporting character Buffalo Bill terrified me more, not only was he truly disturbed for killing woman for their skin in order for him to make a body suit, but he was loosely based from real murderers – Jerry Brudos, Ted Bundy and Ed Gein – with the latter also inspiring Norman Bates in ‘Pyscho’ (1960) and Leatherface in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'(1974). Nothing thrills a horror geek more than believing some of the plot is based on true events – although that term is used so loosely in almost all movies of this genre that I wouldn’t be surprised if a scary movie about a giant people eating dinosaur would have a ‘based on true events’ disclaimer.
Hopkins gets into character on the set of ‘Silence ff The Lambs’
‘Silence of the Lambs’ may not be a traditional horror movie, in fact it combined traces of horror, thriller and crime to create its own genre which inspired movies like ‘Kiss the girls’ (1997) and even television programmes such as CSI (2000 – 2015). For inspiring a string of thoughtful and psychological thrillers that came after I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
Ted Levine plays the disturbed ‘Buffalo Bill’
Perhaps in the Twentieth Edition of the Top 100 Films of all time the AFI committee could consider more classic and traditional horror movies like ‘The Shining’ (1980), ‘The Exorcist’ (1973) or the amazing and perhaps my personal favourite ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) to feature in the coveted list.
Long before the late Robin Williams did his best drag impression in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’(1993) Dustin Hoffman arguably played it more convincingly in ‘Tootsie’ (1982: AFI 1996 #62, 2007 #69). Sure Williams had the advantage of superior make-up to effectively disguise his identity, but Hoffman’s character was better developed and it always bugged me that Mrs Doubtfire introduced herself as English rather than Scottish (those darn Americans!) in the 1993 film set in San Francisco based on a book by British author Anne Fine (those darn Americans!).
When I sat down to watch the 1982 Oscar Winning movie for my AFI 100 movie challenge I definitely had my favourite childhood film to compare it to, but to be honest the only similarities are that the protagonists dress up as women to deceive people close to them with hilarious consequences. That’s where the comparison ends.
In ‘Tootsie’ Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey an out of work actor who has a reputation of being difficult so no one in the industry wants to work with him. He hears of a upcoming role in a soap opera and auditions for the part of ‘Dorothy Michaels’ disguised as a woman and wins the part. Much to Dorsey’s shock his creation becomes an overnight sensation because of ‘her’ feisty and no nonsense attitude. But things get a bit awkward when Dorsey falls for his co-star Julie Nichols played by innocent and timid Jessica Lange. There is even a really cringy scene where Michaels who is meant to be a middle-aged feminist tries to kiss Lange.
Lange and Hoffman get cosy
Although the movie is entertaining and Hoffman is brilliant as the eccentric Michael Dorsey and equally nuts Dorothy Michaels I wondered if the flick was good enough to make it on AFIs list of 100 movies of all time. What separates it from all the other comedies where the main character cross-dresses to trick people? Firstly the script is sharp and punchy and unlike family friendly ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ this film is for the adults. The supporting cast is terrific, Teri Garr (Phoebe’s mum in Friends) plays the ditsy and hopeless romantic acting student of Hoffman and I think she should have taken the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress rather than wooden Jessica Lange. Bill Murry brings in his typical dry wit dry humour as Hoffman’s roommate in his pre-Ghostbuster superstardom days.
Dustin Hoffman, Terri Garr & Sydney Pollack on the set of ‘Tootsie’
But most importantly Michael Dorsey /Dorothy Michaels is believable and more likable than William’s creation in this Sydney Pollack classic. There are a few flaws in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ that I’ve come to realise as I’ve grown older. Firstly Robin Williams character is pretty much a loser, he lives off his wife, behaves likes a big kid and we are supposed to feel empathy for him when she throws him out? In real life a character like that wouldn’t have the intelligence or guts to pull of Mrs Doubtfire. In fact he would probably break down in tears the moment he steps into his old family home again. Hoffman’s character is a go-getter, a perfectionist who knows what he wants and is ruthless in his pursuit which makes the movie more realistic than the similar plots made before and after the 1982 classic flick. Although one can argue Williams complete and utter dedication towards his children gives him the courage and determination to succeed in his trickery.
Robin Williams On Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Tootsie’ Performance
Dustin Hoffman is perhaps the most underrated performer of his generation. In the 1970s only he and Jack Nicholson were able to immerse themselves in completely different roles in a believable manner. So it’s sometimes frustrating that De Niro and Pacino gets all the praise when most of the time they often played one dimensional characters (but brilliantly nevertheless). For the shear genius of Hoffman who despite having a stellar supporting cast can carry this movie by himself I give ‘Tootsie’ a 4.5 out 5.
The last day of September this year marked the sixtieth anniversary of the death of on one of the most iconic movie stars to ever grace the screen. I arguably use ‘iconic’ loosely when writing up my experiences of doing the American Film Institute challenge, but James Dean is the epitome of a movie star – even his death from a tragic head on car collision at the age of twenty-four is legendary. People to this day pay their respects to the site where he died in California and I can bet that a large majority of those visitors have never seen a film he had starred in.
Dean was a fan of fast cars
What made this film star who only managed to do three movies in his lifetime and never won an Oscar remembered by critics and the public as one of the all time greats? Two of his movies were featured in the AFI top 100 movies of all time list and he even managed to bag himself a spot in the Top 25 male stars of the Golden Age where he is in the company of much more prolific stars like Humphrey Bogart and James Stewart whose body of work over the years earned them a place on the list. But what separates James Dean from these Hollywood heavyweights is that I can almost guarantee that a casual movie fan will know who Dean is and there is a fair chance they will not have a clue about Bogart or Stewart unless you mention ‘Casablanca’ (1942: AFI 1998#2, 2007 #3) or ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ (1946: AFI 1998 #11, 2007 #20).
It’s a mixture of things that has given James Dean immortality and placed him in the consciousness of all popular culture fans:
1. Firstly like Peter Pan he never grew old – he will always be known for good looking and cool outsider in his most famous role ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ (1955: AFI 1998 #59) and not that difficult and eccentric overweight actor who didn’t bother to learn his lines that Brando became later in his career.
2. He had a timeless style – you could never go wrong with a pair of Levis, a white t-shirt and slick back hair. Unlike stars of the 80’s who had mullets or ridiculously long side burns from the 70s, actors from the 50s had a cool and classic style. James Dean’s look was never dated which is why he is still so marketable and his pictures would not look out-of-place on a teenage girls bedroom wall along with the Channing Tatums and Zac Efrons of today.
3. Finally he was a damn good actor – Although he never received an Academy Award he was nominated twice for East of Eden (1955) and for Giant (1956: AFI: 1998 #82). His portrayal of troubled Jett Rink in ‘Giant’ who was infatuated with Elizabeth Taylor’s character was intense, powerful and showcased his natural acting ability.
Unfortunately Dean would not be able to see the final product of his epic and perhaps most ambitious film as he died before the film was released. But luckily he managed to complete the film co-starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor who were bigger and better known actors at the time. The media hype surrounding Dean’s death propelled the movie to be a huge hit when it was released a year later. The American drama tells the tale of a wealthy Texan family in the 1920s until the Second World War. Dean plays a handyman hired by the Hudson and he soon becomes obsessed with his wife played by Taylor – a love triangle develops and things get more complicated when Dean discovers oil on his small plot of land and becomes filthy rich.
struck it rich!: James Dean in ‘Giant’
I didn’t know much about the plot before I convinced my mum she would like it and to watch it with me, but feared it could have been a Western (you know how I hate those). Thankfully it wasn’t and at times it reminded me of ‘Gone With The Wind’ (1939: AFI 1998 #4 2007 #6) for its elaborate storytelling and like the seminal movie starring Clarke Gable you need to set aside the whole morning to complete the movie. The story even highlights racism Mexican immigrants faced in the USA during the first half of the Twentieth Century which often gets overlooked in Hollywood. For the ambitious screenplay, excellent cast and getting a glimpse of how Dean would have looked when he was older I give the movie a 5 out of 5.
Elizabeth Taylor speaks about ‘Giant’ co-stars Dean and Hudson
In contrast ‘A Rebel Without A Cause’ ensures Dean remains youthful as teenager Jim Stark who has trouble fitting into his new high school. He clashes with popular students which results in the famous car race scene that has been redone a thousand times by copycat movies. The chemistry between Natalie Wood and Dean is perhaps more convincing than with Taylor in ‘Giant’.
The movie oozes iconic from the famous ‘tearing me apart’ scene in the police station to the episode in the cinema – it is clear that this film was the prototype of the countless teenager rebellion movies that were released over the last sixty-years. I would argue that Dean’s depiction of complex and perhaps mentally unstable Stark was his most challenging role. This flick is a must see for any fan of cinema – it’s beautifully shot, acted and highly influential – for this reason I also give it 5 out of 5.
A Rebel Without A Cause Trailer
James Dean never got the chance to branch out and attempt roles outside his comfort zone (he seemed to always play the underdog with an emotional past) but to be fair he never had the chance to step outside the box. Would he have been a great musical star or action hero? We will never know, but he has left a huge impact on films and popular culture that most actors would struggle their whole career to achieve and so his films deserve their place on all time great lists.
James Dean and Natalie Wood play troubled teenagers in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’
I thought I’d probably seen every episode of ‘The Simpsons’ to date, so I pleasantly surprised when I came across a Halloween Special that I’d never watched before. In my opinion the show is the king of parodies and they have put their yellow magic on some of the prominent films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time – from ‘Rear Window’(1954: AFI 1998 #42, 2007 #48) to ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941: AFI 1998 #1, 2007 #1). This time they took their spin on classic horror ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971: 1998 #46, 2007 #70) with the programme’s darkest character Moe befittingly playing disturbed Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying British (but partly funded by an American studio which explains why it is eligible for the AFI list) masterpiece.
For the American Film Institute to consider a movie for their 1998 and 2007 coveted list it has to have significant and lasting cultural impact – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ definitely fits into this category with artists like Kylie Minogue (yup, it doesn’t get more commercial than that), My Chemical Romance and Blur paying homage to the terrifying villain played so well by Malcolm McDowell. The film which is set in a futuristic London centers around lead character Alex and his group of thugs called ‘ Droogs’ who perform violent crimes including rape whilst high on drugs. When his luck runs out and he gets caught for murdering a woman the sociopath is sent to prison where he is a participant of an experiment to cure his bad behaviour. This involves him being subjected to hours of violent footage and images whilst having his eyes clamped open.
‘A Clockwork Orange’ movie trailer from 1971
Unsurprisingly the film was surrounded by controversy when it was released and it’s still pretty shocking by today’s standards – the rape scene is pretty gruesome, only Kubrick can take an innocent and cheery song like ‘Singing in the rain’ that is beloved by millions of people including me and totally change the mood of the song as McDowell eerily sings it whilst torturing his female victims. Apparently Gene Kelly was so disgusted by Alex DeLarge’s rendition of the classic musical number he ignored MacDowell when he approached him at some showbiz event they both attended.
Alex DeLarge and his ‘Droogs’
But violence is key to explaining the plot of the movie, without it you will never get a sense of how twisted the lead character is. We are in an age where films are brutal for the thrill or shock factor without adding anything particularly to a piece – take for example ‘American Psycho’(2000). For years my friend told me the film was a masterpiece and it was a must see (although he did use to show me some disturbing violent videos on his computer when I went around to his for tea after school – the film must have been pretty tame by his twisted standards) so this weekend me and my brother, Sati decided to watch it. It was highly entertaining and Christian Bale did a fine job playing disturbed Patrick Bateman but the ending of the movie left us feeling unsatisfied. Did he or did he not really kill those people in the over the top, unrealistic fashion or was it in his imagination? If it was the latter than the gory violence seems pointless and the film appears to be lazy because there are so many things left unexplained – it all seems rather pointless.
Malcolm McDowell speaks on the genius of Stanley Kubrick
With ‘American Psycho’ you begin to question whether the villain is in fact a victim of capitalist society, but in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the answer more definite especially with Alex’s final words. The movie feels more complete, there are no loose ends and hence the piece has more purpose than a majority of the bloodstained and brutal flicks that have been released in recent years. For the gripping plot and Kubrick’s attempt to answer the ever relevant question ‘can someone be cured of evil?’ I give this movie a 5 out 5.