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Archive for the ‘Academy Award Winner’ Category

mrsmithThose of you who know me know that even though I run the accounting department where I work, I actually have a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Since my movie cohort Benn Farrell and I decided to make October reviews theme Presidential movies in honor of this horrendous Presidential election, I decided my Classic Movie Review would be a movie that many of my High School teachers and college Professors of Political Science told me to see, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  I can see why a Political Science teacher would want someone to see this movie because even though it is extremely dated it does have some relative points to make even in today’s political landscape.

Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life,) is the leader of a rural outdoor boys organization in a unnamed American state when he is appointed by the Governor to be one of the two US Senator of his state when the sitting Senator dies.  What Smith doesn’t know is that a local businessman named Jim Taylor, played by Edward Arnold (Meet John Doe,) has bribed the Governor and the other sitting Senator, Joseph Paine, played by Claude Rains (Casablanca,) to propose a bill in the US Senate that includes money to build a dam that is profitable to Taylor and Smith was sent to Washington to be an unknowing supporter of the bill by just doing what Paine tells him.  However, Paine, Taylor and the Governor weren’t planning for is Smith’s assistant Saunders, played by Jean Arthur (Shane,) who was the original Senators assistant, to fall for his innocence and his wholesome beliefs of what the country stands for, and tells Smith exactly what is going on.  When Smith tries to tell his fellow Senators what is going on, Paine turns on him and tries to get Smith kicked out of the Senate.  Smith must try to not only save his job but also convince the Senate that he is telling the truth and Paine is lying about the dam.

So my biggest problem with the movie is the story and the unnecessary…oh how do I say it…filmmaking choices by legendary director Frank Capra.  I’ll start by explaining the last half of the previous sentence.  When I mean filmmaking choices I mean the style that was in use during this time in that there is a scene in the film that is puts together a montage of location scenes to set the mood of the moment or the character of the individual or the theme of the movie.  In this movie we have a scene just like this.  The story sets up this scene earlier by showing our dear Mr. Smith at a rally where he shows how patriotic he is, how he believes in the purity of the Constitution, and his naivety at how this process works.   Later we see him arrive at a train station in Washington DC and his handler quickly loses him.  There is great consternation about where he has gone and what has happened to him.  Well never fear movie watchers as Frank Capra takes us on the journey with Mr. Smith.  What the viewer gets is about 3 minutes and 18 seconds I think (I wrote it down but lost the paper,) of a montage of Washington DC landmarks with a heavy emphasis on the Lincoln Memorial.  Wow.  Just Wow.  I know that this movie was made in 1939 and most of the country could not just get in the car and take the family on a trip to DC.  It was the depression after all.  But however long this montage is it is too much. I feel that this montage also tries to show how patriotic the film is supposed to be but I already get that feeling from the title of the movie and the first 15 minutes.  This is a minor issue but it leads into the biggest drawback of the movie which is the unfulfilling ending.  The ending, spoiler alert…as if you were going to watch this, has Mr. Smith going on a marathon filibuster in the Senate to keep the vote from happening on whether or not to kick him out of the Senate.   He is trying to convince the Senate that the bill that is to be voted on is a fraudulent one that needs to be stopped.  As Smith becomes fatigued he is able to finally get Senator Paine to admit that everything Smith has been saying is right.  The rest of the Senate has gotten out of their seats to charge at Paine who is acting crazy while Smith has passed out from exhaustion at this point.  Do we get to see what happens? Do we get to see Taylor crushed and arrested?  Do we see the aftermath of the confession and Paine sent away and Smith Vindicated?  Do we see get to see Saunders and Smith give each other that big Hollywood hug and kiss that happens at the end of these movies?  Nope.  Paine goes looney on the Senate floor, he is rushed, Smith is carried out with a smiling Saunders looking from above, fade to black, then end.  Now here is where my two issues combine.  Maybe, just maybe, if we had only a 30 second patriotic montage at the beginning, we can take those 2+ minutes and put them at the end of the film, to see what happens.  But no, let’s give us a 3 minute montage of DC and leave us wondering what happens at the end.  Don’t like it.

The acting is superb in the film with Stewart leading the way.  He has the deer in head lights look of innocence anyway so its not hard for him to be a naïve country boy in the big city.  But his big filibuster speech is pretty amazing.  He also works well with leading lady Jean Arthur who herself has a pretty funny scene where she is drunk off her ass in a bar.  However I will say that I just don’t buy that these two, Smith and Saunders, would fall in love with each other that fast.  But it’s Hollywood and we need a love story in our movies.

As much as I bagged on the story earlier above, it is also very good for a few reasons.  The writer, and maybe director, did a great job of keeping this political movie non-political.  What I mean by that is that we don’t know from what state Smith comes from.  We don’t know the political affiliations of the good or bad guys in the film.  If a remake of this movie is made today I would bet you my next 10 paychecks that the corrupted members were Republicans and the good and honest politicians were Democrats.  Hollywood has changed a lot in 80 years.  The reason that this movie is a timeless classic is the issues in this movie are not dated and could work today.  Oh sure the main story of the building of dam by a corrupt businessman would have to change but the story itself is what remains the same.  Change the dam with Benghazi or email servers or bankrupt hotels and you have yourself a movie take from today’s absolutely horrible headlines.  The only problem for this movie I see is that it would be very difficult to find a non-partisan naïve individual who just believes in the founding fathers and the Constitution to play the part of Smith in this day and age.  Most of one party wants to get rid of the damn thing (Progressives…I’m speaking to you.  Yes you.)  I also will say that despite the ending that I complain about, the story keeps me involved and I want to see how it ends.

I can see why my political science professors and teachers wanted me to see this film.  It is a good film on how the politics of this country, both good and bad, work.  If you decide to see this film realize that it is dated and most of it is shot in a style that is like putting a camera inside a playhouse and watching a theater production of Mr. Smith goes to Washington but that is just the era in which this movie is made.  I can say that this is the first Jimmy Stewart movie I have watched where he was the star and I can see why he is considered an amazing actor for his generation.  I need to see more of his films.

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id4***2016 update***

I reread my original review and I am somewhat embarrassed at it.  I was an extreme douchebag.  My feelings are pretty much the same in that it isn’t a great movie but its a fun movie.  Looking back I enjoyed Jeff Goldblum much more than when I first saw it and the same goes for Will Smith.

One thing I will add in comparing this to the new movie and it makes this one better, in the new movie the counting clock that was the alien drill digging to the core of the planet wasn’t nearly as menacing as the first film was when we just had aliens coming to our planet just to kick the shit out of us, and taking their time while they were doing it.  That is much more stressful to me instead of saying we got 10 minutes left to kill the queen or we are gonna die.  Just not as good as the first story line.

I still say that the big uplifting speech near the end of the movie is one of the worst in cinematic history.  I shouldn’t blame Pullman as much as I should blame the writers because it’s their fault and he did the best he could.  Oh and the update down below the original review is from when I loaded it to this blog in 2011.

Anyway, head down below to read the crap I wrote 11 years ago.

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(Review written in 2006)

This was an entertaining movie, but not a good movie. It fulfilled my sense of action and did have some funny scenes but overall it was very uninspiring and the aliens were about as intimidating as an 8 year old with a pair of curved scissors.

This movie gets its laughs from stereotypes and clichés. Judd Hirsch playing the most Jewish parent that film has seen since Kyle Broslofski’s mom in South Park. Jeff Goldblum and his computer nerd nature loving Al Gore wanna be pain in the ass hero/anti-hero. Oh and lets not forget the walking Stereotype Harvey Feirstein and his prancing around asking, “David, why did I send my mother to Atlanta?” The clichéd bad guy who is in charge of the CIA and the ineptitude of the military, who would have guessed that? Let’s add Brent Spiner’s clichéd and stereotyped mad scientist who works for the government, a classic.

Possibly the worst character in the movie was Bill Pullman’s President Thomas Whitmore. I swear this guy was a bigger wimp then Jimmy Carter and made the most uninspiring speech in movie history. If I was one of those pilots listening to his “independence day speech” I would have shot him and given myself to the Alien’s. Easily one of the top five worst speeches in movie history.

Now the action was great and the special effects, except for the aliens, were very good. Will Smith as an action hero is money in the bank. But the aliens were one step above the rubber costumes that we used to see on the original Star Trek episodes.

This movie will make its way into my collection but not because it’s good, but because its mind numbing. So remember if you watch the movie, take your brain out or you may become so incoherent, and unaware of reality, that you may actually want to vote for John Kerry at the next Presidential election.

(Update: It’s obvious by the last paragraph that this review was written in the summer of 2004.  But I still stand by what I said!  Oh and it did win an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, I guess they like the rubber suited aliens better than me.)

Brian – the Naked Gun

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towering infernoFor me this is the movie that is the measuring stick for all disaster movies ever made. This is the granddaddy of them all.  The original The Poseidon Adventure may be older, and very good may I add, but Irwin Allen’s film of a fire starting in the world’s tallest building is the best disaster film that has been made.  This film is over 40 years old yet I would argue that today’s computer generated special effects would not make this film any better than when it was made back in the 1970’s.

Doug Roberts, played by Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,) is a soon to be retired architect who has designed the world’s largest sky scraper building in downtown San Francisco built by Jim Duncan, played by William Holden (Network.)  During the morning of the grand opening of the tower an electrical problem causes a fire on the 81st floor of the building that goes unnoticed by staff and security due to mounting electrical problems. That night as the grand opening celebration party begins on the 135th floor dining room, the fire that started earlier in the day begins to spread and is compounded by the electrical issues running through-out the building.  By the time Chief O’Hallorhan, played by Steve McQueen (Bullitt,) he not only has to deal with a fire that has begun to spread but a building owner who doesn’t believe that the fire is serious enough to close down the party and move it to the bottom floor.

One of the many great things about the disaster films of the 1970’s is that there was an all-star cast in most of them.  This particular movie had 5 Academy Award winners, 1 Academy Award nominee, 3 Golden Globe winners and 2 Golden Globe nominees, and one actor/football player who murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  This movie actually did earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the then 75 year old Fred Astaire which ended up being his only nomination in his very long and celebrated career.  The movie did earn 3 Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Original Song along with 5 more nominations including Best Picture and Best Music, which was done by John Williams.

When I think of the story of this movie I can’t help but also think of the 1997 James Cameron epic Titanic.  My biggest problem with Titanic is the complete waste of what seemed like 8 hours of my life that involved the fake love story between Jack and Rose.  It causes me to think of the movie with great amounts of hatred.  Titanic became a movie about a tragic love story around the sinking of the most famous ocean liner instead of what it should have been which was a movie about the tragic sinking of an ocean liner with a love story being one of the many stories around it.  The Towering Inferno doesn’t make that mistake.  The story and action revolve around the main characters of Doug Roberts and Chief O’Halloran in dealing with surviving and fighting the fire.  But we also get interesting sub stories involving the conflict between Roberts and the electrician for the building Simmons, played by Richard Chamberlain (The Swarm,) the conflict between Duncan and Simmons, who also happens to be his son-in-law, and the story of Harlee Claiborne, played by Fred Astaire (Royal Wedding,) who is a con man trying to swindle a wealthy widow Lisolette, played by Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette,) who both are at the party on the night of the fire.  There are more stories as well but the great thing is that the writer gave us enough information on some of the supporting characters to make the audience care about them and worry if they would live or die in the fire.  At no point did I laugh at a death of a character in The Towering Inferno.  To this day I still laugh out loud every time that guy falls off the back of the Titanic and hit the propeller and flips into the ocean.  F’ing hilarious.  That’s why Titanic is a sham of a disaster movie and The Towering Inferno is the best.

There are some logic issues in the story.  I don’t quite believe that the security team for the building wouldn’t have at least go to check the storeroom when the computer system reported the initial fire and I don’t believe that it would have taken all day for the smoke to finally start showing up underneath the door.  I also don’t quite understand how blowing up water tanks at the top of the building would send a million gallons of water down the right areas of the building to put out the fire.  I feel that most of the water would fall outside of the building or escape in the elevator shafts or stair wells and just make everyone down below wet.  But I am willing to suspend my disbelief of those issues to enjoy the film.

Considering that this movie was made in 1973 the special effects are awesome for the movie.  When you see a character in the movie on fire, chances were pretty good that you saw a real live human stuntman on fire.  This movie played on two fears, the fear of being burned to death and the fear of heights.  I was really surprised at how nice the effects were dealing with the height of the building and real it looked.  There were only a few scenes that looked like they were large green screens.  One was the scenes involving the buoy chair and the other was the scene when the fire fighters enter the office area of the character Dan Bigelow, played by Robert Wagner (Austin Powers,) whose office was basically a big wall of fire.  Other than those scenes I thought the special effects were really awesome.

toweringinferno2

This is just a wonderful action disaster film with a little bit of heart an emotion thrown in to the mix.  As I said this is the flag bearer for all disaster films and the one that all are measured against.  I don’t imagine any future disaster films being better than this one just because they are so much more focused on special effects then they are on telling a story.  Telling a compelling story that will make you care about the characters will make you feel something for them and care for them and hope that they don’t die in whatever apocalypse they have to deal with.

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Pearl HarborWhen I saw the trailers for this film way back in early 2001 I was very excited. Being a WWII history buff I always wanted to see what the modern movie technology could do with the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I didn’t believe that they could improve on the 1970 Academy Award winning film Tora, Tora, Tora in terms of story because Hollywood has to be Hollywood.  I was hoping that we would see a special effects masterpiece showing the attack on Pearl Harbor with great detail and a story that would show a few of the important people leading up to the attack.  What I got was a very good special effects movie with some wonderful moments and a story that was regrettably similar to the movie Titanic.

Capt. Rafe McCawley, played by Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,) and Capt. Danny Walker, played by Josh Hartnett (The Faculty,) are two pilots in the US Army Air Corps trying to prepare for the upcoming war.  In the fall of 1941 Rafe volunteers to join the Eagle Squadron, a group of American pilots fighting with the British against the Germans and leaves Danny as he and the rest of their squadron head off to their new base in Hawaii.  Rafe is also leaving his newfound girlfriend who is a nurse in the US Army, Evelyn Johnson, played by Kate Beckinsale (Vacancy,) and Rafe asks Danny to look out for her.  Just as Danny and Evelyn are getting settled in Hawaii they get word that Rafe is shot down over the English Channel and presumed dead.  Danny and Evelyn try to get over their loss together and keep preparing for the future.  Meanwhile relations between the United States and Japan begin to fall apart and the Japanese decide that the only way they can continue to dominate the Asian theater is for a quick striking sneak attack against the American fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor Hawaii.

So I am sure that you noticed that my summary of the movie was about 90% story about our heroes and 10% story about the build up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Well that is what this movie feels like.  I do not understand the need to not create a love story but a love triangle in the middle of a movie that is supposed to be about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  There is absolutely no need to introduce this to the movie unless the producers were trying to get a Titanic like audience in that without a love story the chances are that most of your movie theaters will be devoid of any ladies in the audience.  We don’t need to have love story in a movie that should be celebrating the heroes of that battle.  Three years before the release of this film, Stephen Spielberg showed that you can have a great movie that shows the heroism of the military in Saving Private Ryan as long as you have a great story and develop the characters that you focus on.  Pearl Harbor does attempt to develop some of its characters but never has you cheering for any of them except for Affleck’s character and because of the stupid love triangle I ended up cheering against both Hartnett’s and Beckinsale’s characters.  The love story really did this movie harm in my eyes, even though Kate Beckinsale is absolutely gorgeous.

kate beckinsale

The story that involved the actual historical narrative leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor was adequate but not great.  The movie did show the desire of President Franklin Roosevelt, played by Jon Voight (Glory Road,) to do as much as he legally could to support the war effort in Europe.  The movie also showed the US military intelligence codebreakers primarily with the use of the character Captain Thurman, played respectably by Dan Aykroyd (Crossroads.)  The one area I felt the story was a little weak was showing the Japanese side of the events leading up to the battle.  Mako (Conan the Barbarian,) did an nice job as Admiral Yamamoto trying to show in only a few scenes that even though he was planning the attack that he knew the attack itself wasn’t the best thing to do for his county. One thing I thought the writer did do well was to show the real life Navy Petty Officer Dorris “Dorie” Miller, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. (Selma.) Petty Officer Miller was the first African American to win the Navy Cross for his actions on the USS West Virginia.  He helped rescue several injured sailors to reach safety during the attack and did man a 50m caliber machine gun until he ran out of ammo and had to abandon ship.  All of these things added to the movie and in some degree made up for the love story.

One last thing I will say about the story that has me a little conflicted is the whole Doolittle Raid added to the final 45 minutes of the film.  The reason why I am conflicted is that it is cool to see the raid put to modern film, plus Alec Baldwin (Concussion,) was awesome as the cranky abusive Colonial Doolittle.  What I don’t like about it is that because we are in modern day Hollywood and we are dealing with a bunch of Millennials who need safe spaces from things like…words, Pearl Harbor couldn’t have ended on a down note because people wouldn’t like it.  So they had to have an ending that was somewhat uplifting.  So while it was fun to watch that part of the story it was totally unnecessary to the story.

It sounds like I didn’t like this movie but that is not the case.  I enjoyed the movie despite the love story and other minor issues largely because it did fill my desire of having modern special effects show the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was a stunning visual feast of destruction for what seems like 45 minutes.  I am not sure that is how long it was combined but it gave me everything I wanted.  I really enjoyed the dogfighting scenes involving Rafe flying in Europe and then the scenes with Rafe and Danny fighting the Japanese during the attack.  Oh and would like to add the Doolittle scenes to my enjoyment as well.  While I saw a few inaccuracies in the ships that were bombed at Pearl Harbor and the explosion of the USS Arizona didn’t lift it out of water, like in the movie, I felt for a PG-13 movie, which it should have been an R movie, did a great job of showing the fight scenes somewhat accurately and showed the many heroic acts of the battle.    This movie did win an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.  It lost the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which I can respect because that movie had better effects.

I would also like to briefly mention that the music in this film was awesome, in particular during the entire attack of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of the Doolittle Raid when the bombers are flying off the aircraft carrier. Hans Zimmer knows how to pluck at my musical emotions and get me worked up and he did once again in this film.

As we celebrate Memorial Day weekend this week and if you are stuck in the house because of bad weather and this movie is on, you can do a lot worse than watching this film.  If you want a more accurate portrayal of the events surrounding the attack from both the Japanese and US point of view then I would recommend you watch the movie Tora, Tora, Tora.  If you don’t have it, this will do, just ignore the whole love story thing.

My fellow movie review website writer, Benn Farrell, has a small review of the film that you can see here, and he also put it in his Favorite Top 5 U.S. Armed Forces Movies, which you can see here. If you would like to see my Top 5 list please go here.

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sergeantyorkWhen I picked this movie to watch I was hoping to see some scenes that would show some of the trench warfare that was defined warfare in the western front of World War I. I knew a little bit about Sergeant York just from doing some basic reading about the American Army in World War I.  I knew he won the Congressional Medal of Honor for almost single handedly capturing 100 or so German soldiers.  When I finally watched this film I ended up finding out more about York’s past leading up to the war and very little about the actual war itself.

Alvin York, played by Gary Cooper (High Noon,) is a county farmer in the south along the border between Tennessee and Kentucky.  Alvin struggles with alcoholism and while he is a God fearing man, like almost all of the people in his area, he hasn’t come to terms with his faith.  He meets a woman named Gracie, played by Joan Leslie (High Sierra,) and realizes he is going to have to change his ways if he wants to earn her love.  He quits drinking and dives into his farm with the hope of buying the field next to his which is much more suitable for farming.  When he is shot just a few dollars, he challenges local hunters to a shooting contest and wins only to find out the farmer had sold the field already.  Alvin gets drunk and looks to take revenge on the farmer who sold the land but in a huge thunderstorm Alvin is stuck by lightning and instead of killing him it destroys his rifle.  He believes it’s a message from God and he embraces his faith all the way.  As he begins his life with God and looks to start it with Gracie he is informed by town Pastor Pile, played by Walter Brennan (To Have and Have Not,) that he is drafted into the Army.  Despite his attempts to get exempt as a consciousness objector to violence based on his religious beliefs, he is drafted and forced to go.  Once in the Army he comes to grips with his job as a soldier and with God and goes on to great glory in the Army.

I was hoping that we were going to get a lot about York in the military.  Obviously by my ridiculously long story description the story concentrates more on his life leading up to the military.  I suppose that is important but for me the movie was an odd combination of really slow and borderline boring to unknowingly entertaining.  I found the story slowly dragging and with it being produced in pre-World War II America still in the Great Depression, the movie had that look of a theatrical production put to screen.  I will say that I was impressed with how the production design looked authentic even though it was clearly inside a studio.  The scenes with York and the minister while he is plowing look clearly like they are in a studio yet York is talking to the minister while he is plowing a rocky field.  The field was real with actual dirt and heavy looking rocks.  Now some scenes where shot outside and almost all of the military were shot outside so that helped but when they did shoot inside I thought the production was as good as could be.

The only real combat shown in the move was the battle at which he won the Medal of Honor.  As much as I was looking forward to seeing it was a very 1940’s sterile version of combat with lots of men spinning and falling as they get shot.  Plus it looked like many of the edits were of the same scene but from different camera angles.  That being said the battle itself isn’t as horrible as I make it sound and I hate to make it an excuse but this is the 1940’s so I shouldn’t expect a lot.  Plus since I do not believe anyone has tried to remake or tell this story in the last 50 + years this is all we got.  I included a link that shows the 10 minute battle in the film.

Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor in this film and I can completely understand why he got it.  I haven’t seen a lot of other movies from 1941.  OK, actually I have seen only one other, but Cooper really had his part nailed down.  He played the role of the borderline uneducated hillbilly from Tennessee honestly and respectfully, especially for the time.  In today’s Hollywood hillbillies from the South are usually played way over the top.  Cooper pretty much dominated every scene he was in with the other actors, not to take anything away from them.  I will say that Walter Brennan also did an excellent job and both he and Cooper seemed to play off of each other very well.

If you are a historian like me who likes military history in particular this should be a movie on your bucket list.  I don’t think you need to add it to your collection or spend any money on renting it.  Just wait until it comes out on Turner Classic Movie channel or some other classic channel and you will eventually find it.  Or wait until it’s free on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Sergeant York is a moderately entertaining yet incredibly dated movie.

 

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the big shortWhen I got done watching this movie I went to the website for my credit cards and started reading the fine print on all of the contracts. I also decided that on my next day off I am going to go Barnes & Noble and look up personal finance books.  Probably start off in the …For Dummies section.  The Big Short is one of those movies that make you want to reexamine whatever aspect that these kinds of movies are dealing with in your life.  On a side note, if you are a bid Bernie Sanders for President fan then this movie validates your beliefs of Wall Street and capitalism as a whole.

In early 2006 stock investor Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kinds,) discovers that the housing market is about to collapse because of the way the big banks are selling too many bad mortgage loans called Sub-Prime mortgages.  He takes his money to the banks and buys short on these mortgages, basically he is buying insurance on these mortgage funds that when they fail he gets paid on them, he does it this because the banks are giving great odds on the insurance because mortgage funds have never failed. Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March,) gets wind of Burry’s plan and after investigating on his own, he looks for people to invest with in the same fashion and finds Mark Baum, played by Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty,) who investigates what Vennett has to say and when he confirms what he has said, invests money with him.  Another group of investors also do the same with help from Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt (Fury.)

Adam McKay, who was the director and co-writer on the film, did a great job of slowing down the movie to explain these complicated ideas to the movie going office.  The one I knew of before I even saw the movie was when he put the actress Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall street,) in a bubble bath explaining the basic concepts of the mortgage bonds and sub-prime mortgages.  Oh if you don’t know who Margot Robbie is, she is portraying Harley Quinn in the new Suicide Squad movie.  Anyway, here is her bit in The Big Short.

They also used Chef Anthony Bourdain in another scene and some economist and Selena Gomez in another. Not only did these people break the fourth wall but Gosling’s character would sometimes break the fourth wall to explain something as his character.  He also was the voice over for parts of the movie serving the same purpose.  It seems like that is a lot of explanation but in reality it isn’t.  I’m no genius but I’m not a dummy either but when I was watching it on DVD I had a hard time following what they were saying when describing the concepts of everything so I had to turn on the subtitles so I can read what they were saying to understand what was going on.  My deafness didn’t help the problem either but reading the film helped.  This leads into the last thing I will say along these lines and that is you can’t be distracted and watch this movie, if you get up and deal with kids or bathroom breaks or drinks or whatever, you can easily lose track of the film and get lost.  If you want to enjoy this film you must not have any distractions, this is a thinking person’s movie.  Oh and this movie won the Academy Award for writing in 2015.

I like the performances of both Steve Carrel as Mark Baum and Christopher Nolan as Michael Burry.  In an interview Burry, who is the only actual person in this movie that is a non-fictional character as all the others are combinations of the actual people, had said that is son has Asperger’s Syndrome and Burry believed that his son got it from him and he believes he has it as well.  Nolan I would have assumed picked up on this as he does a wonderful job of portraying this genius with numbers who show the traits of someone who has the syndrome.  His performance is not as good as say Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man as an Autistic, but it’s up there.  Carrell’s performance is exciting because I have never seen him do a performance like this, even though he has been doing more of these rolls recently.  It was nice to see him with the inner conflict that his character had who was trying to save the world but in some degree he was saving it from people like himself.

The only thing I didn’t like about the film, and its nit picking here, is that it was a little too heavy handed with the showing of the effect of the common man by these evil Wall Street Bankers.   The scene that involved Mark Baum’s associates Danny, played by Rafe Spall (A Good Year,) and Porter, played by Hamish Linklater (42,) were looking at a newly developed neighborhood in Florida and Danny visits a house to find the owner who is 90+ past due on the mortgage and ends up talking to a renter who is shocked to hear that the home owner is behind even though the renter is making all the payments.  The guy, who is the picture of the blue collar working, starts acting all scared and asking Danny if he is in trouble and what should he do.   I don’t think we need to see this because the housing bubble crash happened less than 8 years ago and we all those who would watch this film know what happened and whom it affected the most.  But, like I said, this is nitpicking.

This is a great movie, and a somber movie, and if you have the focus and ability to sit for 2 hours and pay attention, you will understand this movie and enjoy it, and be a little more sad or angry depending on your politics.  Like I said at the top, if you love Bernie then this movie will reinforce your desire to tear down the system and embrace socialism.  If you are like me, you will not believe the system is broken but believes that the people who break the law should be punished, harshly, and therefore keep people from wanting to do this again.

If you want to see by movie review partners take on this movie click here.

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key largoThis is a movie review challenge from Benn Farrell to me.  Actually I set the parameters of the challenge this month because I know Benn dislike most movies made before 1970.  The challenge for us this month is to review two movies made before 1970, one of them has to have been made before 1960.

I am a fan of the late great Humphrey Bogart. Every one of his movies that I have seen, I have enjoyed.  I haven’t seen a lot of them but the ones I have seen are enjoyable.   He seems like he is one of the original tough guys of Hollywood.  He isn’t a physically imposing figure on screen like Arnold or Stallone or even Clint Eastwood. In movies like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, or The Big Sleep, it’s the way he carries himself in the movies that makes him a tough guy.  I don’t know, maybe it’s the era that these movies were made because I wouldn’t really call him a cerebral tough guy either.   It’s the style he has that displays toughness in all of his films I have seen. Well except for this one.  In the case of the film noir classic Key Largo, he comes across as a tough guy almost by being insubordinate which is kind of weird.  But I still like.

Frank McCloud, played by Humphrey Bogart (The Maltese Falcon,) is a World War II veteran heading to Key Largo Florida.  He is heading there to meet Nora, played by Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep,) and her father James, played by Lionel Berrymore (It’s a Wonderful Life,) who are the wife and father of Frank’s good friend that was killed during the war.  When Frank arrives at the hotel that James and Nora own, he runs into a strange cast of characters who have rented every room in the hotel.  It turns out that these men are henchman for famous mob boss Johnny Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity,) who is hiding out in the hotel with his girlfriend Gaye, played by Claire Trevor (Stagecoach.)  Frank is stuck trying to keep Nora and James safe and not appear to threating to Rocco until the mob guys leave for Cuba.

Bogart approached the character of Frank McCloud in a fairly interesting way.   McCloud seems like a damaged WW II vet and shows no over the top heroism.   There is a scene where Rocco offers up a handgun to McCloud and tells him to shoot him with it.  McCloud grabs the gun but makes no threatening jesters with it and quietly puts it back down.  Both James and Nora look at him with some surprise considering his war history.  The deputy who is the captive of Rocco takes the gun and aims at Rocco as he tries to work his way out of the room.  He gets to the door and tries to use the gun only to discover it is empty at which time Rocco shoots the deputy.  Both James and Nora look at Frank differently.  Here is the interesting part, when James asks Frank if he knew that the gun was empty almost begging Frank to say yes.  Frank vehemently denies that he did saying that he wanted no part of the heroism that there was nothing to risk his life for and he just wanted to live, almost sheepishly.  However, every time James or Nora acts rebellious against Rocco Frank makes sure to get in between Rocco and the two and sometimes take the punishment for them.  In fact the fun scene was the result of one of those interferences.    To me this is a different character to the one he played in Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep but more like is Casablanca character.

laurenbI would be remiss in my man duties if I didn’t mention the hotness of Lauren Bacall.  She is an absolutely lovely woman in this film and she can act.  Of course it’s the 1940’s so there is no skin at all but I would argue that it makes her even that more attractive in the film.  I will also say she is quite the actress.  In this film she comes off as a very strong woman who isn’t afraid to stand up to Rocco as he weasels his way around her.  I will say that it is somewhat odd that while her character has mourned for the loss of her husband that she so quickly latches on Frank.  Although I have seen other old films and that seems to help the romance of the movie along.

The one odd thing about this film is that Claire Trevor won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in this roll.  She plays the alcoholic sex object of Rocco and that’s it.  I called her girlfriend in the write up but I really wouldn’t call her that.  There is nothing spectacular about her performance as this kind of character.  I suppose if it’s the first appearance of this type of character in movie history then I suppose it is worth an award.  But that would be the only reason.  Else it’s just like every other performance of a woman, or a man for that matter, who is under some kind of addiction that has lead their life astray but does the right thing at the end of the movie.

The last thing I will say, which is kind of odd because it should have been the first, is that this film has what became every Hollywood cliché mocked in it.  I remember as a child growing up the Bugs Bunny cartoons and whenever Bugs had to deal with a mobster type character, Edward G Robinson would be that character that Bugs or Daffy or whomever would have to deal with.  Even Bogart’s damaged veteran look with shoulders hunched over was mocked in Warner Brothers cartoons.  So if you want to see where WB came up with so many of its mob or dramatic type characters then watch this film.

Overall I would say that this is a good film if you like Film-Noir.  It has the classic elements of water and women and drama.  It does drag a little in parts and the whole Indian sub plot was kind of annoying, especially the part that shows this really old Indian woman smoking a cigarette handed to her by Bacall’s character.  Other than that you could do a whole lot worse if you want to see a classic film noir film.  If you haven’t ever seen a Bogart film before, I would still start off with Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon, but Key Largo is a good film to go to after those two.

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