Saturday, 31 August 2013


Rocky, 1976
Directed By: John G. Avildsen 
Nominated for 10 Oscars, Won 3
Also Won: Best Director, Best Film Editing
Also Nominated For: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (x2), Best Actress, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Writing, 
Up Against: All the President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver

Rocky is the story of a down-on-his-luck boxer who gets a chance to fight in the World Heavyweight Championship. But what it's really about is a crappy boxer who does not look remotely like an athlete when not boxing, who loves his turtles and pets, gets together with the weird girl at the petshop, and randomly gets selected to fight Apollo Creed in the World Heavyweight Championship because his boxing name is cool and Creed doesn't want a real fight. 

This movie is a very big pop culture win. When it came to the montage scenes with Rocky training, I recognized them, and even know he would climb up those steps in front of the museum and pump his fists, even though I've never seen the film. And honestly, with this film being the classic and popular movie that  it is, I was expecting way way better than it was. 

In many ways, I could tell Sylvester Stallone wrote this script, and meant it for himself. All he did was talk the entire movie with everyone else getting few lines. Stallone seems natural for the part, and did a good job in it, but it seemed almost a little too showy, and having almost too many lines compared to his girlfriend Adrian, and various other characters (there weren't many other characters of importance). 

I found this film to be slow-moving for the first hour, and felt little sympathy for Rocky. His first fight showed he wasn't that great of a fighter, and that he wasn't really trying that hard to be great, or trying to do anything else. Rocky is a bit of a slow guy who likes to come across as being content with where he is in life, but we discover that he isn't really. The film moved a bit too slow for me, having very little to do with the final fight, and was more just random tossed together scenes of Rocky trying to help the neighbour girl who's hanging out and smoking with guys on the corner, or telling jokes to the pet shop girl (though mostly telling them to the birds or dog in the store). 

Rocky's shot at the title comes from random chance. The man who was supposed to fight Apollo Creed at the United States Bicentennial has dropped out because of a hand injury, so Creed gives this "marvelous" idea that they should give an underdog, local fighter "a shot at the title". And Rocky randomly gets selected because they like his boxer name "The Italian Stallion". To me, this sounds like a "too lucky" premise, and hardly to be believed. It's quite an outlandish idea, though its supposed to make Creed sound cocky, like it doesn't matter who he fights, they just need to give a show and Creed will win at the end of it, regardless. 

All in all, I found this film riddled with cliches. Yes I know this is the boxing movie that every boxing movie tries to replicate. But it was still filled with things I've seen in any other movie about a down-and-out before it. I find it a little unbelievable that this film won Best Picture in it's day. It was a mediocre film, that goes on to be a classic (for whatever reason). I also find it interesting that it was doubly up for Best Supporting Actor, and also for Lead Actress, all three of which I think were a little unnecessary. Talia Shire could barely get in a word edge-wise around Sylvester Stallone, and while her character represented a lot to Rocky, the performance itself was very small and nothing incredible. 

Overall, this was a barely alright film. It was extremely American, which is a film that never seems to sit that well with me because, well, I'm not American, and I've seen way too many "we love our country, the United States" movies. Sylvester Stallone had a great performance, but everything else about this film was mediocre and cliche. 

Acting- 7.5/10 
Directing- 7/10 
Screenplay- 6/10 
Visuals- 7/10 

Music- 7/10 Emotional Connection- 5.5/10 
Entertainment- 6/10 
Rewatchability- 5.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 6/10 

Overall Package- 6.5/10 
Total: 64/100

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Schindler's List

Schindler's List, 1993
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 7
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
Up Against: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

Wow, once again, it's been a while. I've been pretty busy adjusting to married life and a new job (same company) that I've had little time to watch movies that are of "higher distinction". I'm hoping to get back into this and to post a lot more over the coming weeks. We'll see how this goes! However, my husband and I did find some time to watch Schindler's List (in two parts though!). My husband, who just graduated with his BA in History, knew more about this story than I did. However, we both did enjoy it (or as much as you can 'enjoy' a holocaust movie)

Schindler's List is a story about Oskar Schindler, Polish Jews and the Holocaust. Schindler is a wealthy and successful businessman, womanizer, a German and a member of the Nazi Party. Having moved to the city in order to start a business. Sponsored by the military (after lots of bribes for the SS and Wehrmacht), he builds a factory with the intention of making army supplies. Not knowing much about how to run such a company, he employs Itzhak Stern, a Polish Jew. While in the beginning his intentions are solely to make lots and lots of money, refusing that his company is not a refuge for Jews to work in without danger of being shot or taken to various camps, Schindler slowly begins to change his mind and his heart towards what one man can do, and the difference he can make upon the world.

The story of Schindler is a story I did not know at all coming into this film. As mentioned above, my husband knew more of this story than I did. I knew that it was about a man named Schindler, the holocaust was involved, and Jews being saved and that Ralph Fiennes is in it. So yes, very little. However, going into a movie with absolutely no knowledge or expectations can sometimes be a very good thing. While the narrative was a little less direct and the movie much longer than I had thought maybe it was, I was indeed very pleased with this movie.

One thing that really stuck out was how Spielberg did not shy away from the gruesomeness, the horror and the humiliation of the Holocaust. The digging up of dead Jews and burning them in a pile, while ash falls like snow in the city nearby. Or the Jews having to perform physicals, completely naked, in order to see how should go to the Auschwitz. Small children hiding in toilets, under floor boards, etc. The evil mentality of Amon Goeth (played incredibly by Ralph Fiennes), shooting 25 men in one of the camps, beating his servant girl, and shooting a small boy after "pardoning him". And simply everything the Jews went through. It was as though this was more about the Jews than it was Schindler. This is something I much appreciate about the film. The focus was not on the "good guy" who "saved the Jews", but of everything the Jews went through before a small number (but at the same time a large number) were saved).

Besides how raw and unafraid this movie was, it also looked quite amazing. The lighting especially made it look like this movie was genuinely made decades ago, something from Old Hollywood. The cinematography too, was beautifully (and heartbreakingly) done. The costumes were fantastic. I understand many people in rural Poland sold much of their clothing from back in the 30's and 40's to the film crew in order to make money, so much of it was genuine. As well this movie was cast well. Liam Neeson gave quite a good performance. BUt hardly ever did I think of him as the dad from Taken. Despite the fact that that movie was made 20 years later, Neeson has a 40's look to him that many contemporary stars do not. Neeson gave a great performance, the shining star being the last 15 minutes, right before he flees when the war is almost officially over, and he realizes how much he has, and how much more he could've done. While we all know it was an amazing feat to rescue 1100 Jews from Auschwitz (many of them actually arrived there before Schindler was able to rescue them from there too), Schindler's cries out that his car could've paid for 10 lives, his Nazi button was at least one or two, etc. It breaks your heart to hear him say this after seeing how much the Jews are grateful to Schindler, and knowing how much of a risk he took simply for these 1100, and Stern advising him that he did everything he could.

But it was Ralph Fiennes, to me, who particularly stuck out as brilliant throughout the film. The insanely evil and murderous Amon Goeth, he had a true Old Hollywood look to him that sometimes I almost didn't recognize him. He was fiercely evil, but sometimes you could tell he was confused about what he was doing. You hate his guts, but in moments you felt sad for him. Knowing what a mess he'd gotten himself into, but how evil he really was that he did deserve what he eventually got. And Fiennes played that beautifully.

Overall, I feel this was a very brave film, and no one could have made this film better. Spielberg, a Jew himself, was able to distance himself enough to make an unbiased film and make things absolutely brutal. While it was a great film, it's one I probably won't watch again for a very long time. It was incredibly heavy and emotional, and not the cheeriest subject matter (obviously). This is a film I indeed agree that it was Best Picture worthy, and am glad a film like this was made. 

Acting- 20/20
Directing- 20/20
Writing- 20/20
Personal Enjoyment- 18/20

Overall Package -19/20

Total: 97