what i'm watching, part two

Boy I haven’t had time to write about movies lately.  In fact, tonight I finally went out to go skating, but it started raining when I got there, so I just wandered around and got wet for about 20 minutes, which actually felt pretty nice.  It’s a nice, cool, summer night out.  I couldn’t skate, so I came back here to write about movies.  Rock on.

I just finished watching an old Sherlock Holmes movie today.  I’ve had the entire collection of the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce movies done by Universal from the 1930s or whatever for a long time, but I’ve only seen half of them.  Part of the problem when I go to watch one is I can’t remember which ones I’ve seen and which I haven’t (there’s about twelve total, I think), so instead of going through the trouble of figuring it out, I’ll just watch something else.

This one was The Spider Woman (oops, 1944, not 1930s, ah well), and it was pretty good, comparing them to the other ones.  The movies themselves are actually really toned down compared to the radio drama show starring the two actors, who both do a great job in their roles.  I have about every MP3 of the old time radio show, I think … I’m probably missing a few, and if you can dig them up (I haven’t looked at OTR websites in a long time) they are well worth the effort.  The name of the show was The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and the sponsor was Petri Wine.  They sure knew how to do advertising back then, that’s for sure.

This weekend was like the first in a month or so that I’ve had time to myself and didn’t have anything to do.  I have had my Netflix account on hold since I knew I was gonna start moving, and finally activated it the week before, with the 8 at a time plan.  So I got a ton of movies in the mail and got to go through them.  About 5 of them were junk, and didn’t pass the 5-minute test, but the others were cool enough to keep me watching.

One I got to watch was Always.  Now, I should say that I’ve never been a big fan of Spielberg, at all.  Not because I didn’t like his movies, just because he seemed so extremely overrated by everyone else’s opinion, and since his movies always seemed no better or worse than everyone else’s, I’d always watch his with extreme skepticism.  I’ve never seen Always, but I knew the general premise, having seen bits and pieces on TV or whatever.  I gotta say, this one was really good, and it grew on me a bit.  Holly Hunter did a great acting job.  Richard Dreyfuss did alright, though it felt a little static.  I’ve never seen him in a starring role other than What About Bob? so I kept waiting for him to go crazy at any moment.

The movie really dragged on, though.  I remember watching it and thinking my crap a lot has happened, and then I realized it’d only been twenty minutes, and I knew I was in for a long one.  Sheesh, I hate it when that happens.  Never look to see how long a movie is.  The less you know about it before watching it, the less expectations, and therefore, disappointments, you’ll have.

Anyway, I’ve never been terribly impressed with Spielberg’s work, but I had happened to record Jurassic Park at the same time on my Tivo, so I watched that the next day.  Looking back now, I still think it’s a great movie, really well done.  I kept thinking that, for its time, the CGI and animatronics are extremely well done.  You still don’t see movies done that well today on a regular basis.  Universal must have put a lot of cash into that one.  The thing that I realized watching this one, though, was that Spielberg does a great job of capturing on film the human condition on a realistic level when they are in dire situations.  The thing that got me thinking about it was remembering his remake of War of the Worlds.  I remember watching it in the theater, and thinking that this was exactly how I imagined society would react during a huge calamity — bundling together for just survival and a sense of cohesion, but so fragile that they can all easily snap and turn into a mass of of self-preserving hysteria outbursts at any moment.

I have to interject something funny about Netflix here… it thinks I’ll hate every single movie, it’s pretty funny.  Netflix’s guesses for what I’d like are always at least half a star lower than everyone else’s.  My rating system is pretty strict, though, so it makes sense.  I *rarely* give anything five stars, which in my mind is a mind-blowing can watch the movie any time and I never get tired of it, so perfect, no problems kind of movie.  There’s only a small handful of those.  A four would be something that was between that and average.  A three means I’d watch it again, and so anything I don’t like gets two stars.  And since my success rate of finding movies is around 2% or so, Netflix just thinks I hate everything.  Which, technically, I guess I do, but whatever.  I really like the ones I do like, so it all evens out. :)

One other one I caught recently was I Am Sam.  I’ve been meaning to watch this one for a while.  I’ve always thought Sean Penn was a good actor, but wow he did a good job in this one.  I’ve never seen Michelle Pfeiffer do so well, either.  She seems to be one of those actresses that doesn’t get challenged much, and she really shone in this one.  As far as the story, it really seemed forced to try and make you feel emotional, and so I got tired of that pretty quick.  Plus, I’m tired of seeing that little kid in every movie that’s been out.  How many 8 year olds have already starred in 23 movies or whatever.  Sheesh.  I’m all about movies that find unknowns and give them a chance.  It’s nice watching a movie when you don’t instantly know who the star is because it lets you forget where the story “should” be focusing on, and instead lets you decide for yourself who and what it revolves around.

Which reminds me of another movie that I’ve been meaning to comment on for a long time.  I saw this a long time ago, but it was so stunning.  The Winslow Boy by David Mamet.  This is one of those that so rarely comes along that you watch it, and it so unique and stunning that you are mesmerized and the next time you blink is about an hour later.  That’s exactly what happened with watching this one. I can’t describe it, the style was just really cool, very succinct, quick moving, interesting, about a minor moral struggle that the kid it involved was completely indifferent about anyway, and it was just amazing.  All of David Mamet’s stuff is just that way though.  If you haven’t seen The Spanish Prisoner, go check it out.  I can’t recommend that one enough.  There’s a movie you could spend a long time studying.

Ah, I swear there’s more, but I can’t remember them right now.  Just watched Better Off Dead, a classic 80s flick.  John Cusack has been doing films for a long time, and he’s a great actor.  Good stuff.  What else.

Well, I can’t remember.  I’m sure there’s one I just can’t think of right now.  And for the record, no, I haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet.  Gah, what kind of a Batman fan am I, anyway?  My pillowcase is a Batman one, I kid you not.  He rocks, man.  I gotta go see it — the longer I put it off, the more I’m going to find out about it from other people.  Don’t tell me anything!  Punks.

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