Archive for January, 2016

PATTON (1970)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2016 by cdascher

pattonI’m not a huge fan or aficionado of military history – but I’ve been exposed to it all my life, through my grandfather, my father, and now my partner. I’ve heard a lot about battles and generals over the years. But I had never heard that General George S. Patton believed in reincarnation. I might have taken a stronger interest in him long ago if I had.

Stuck in the snowstorm, we watched the 1970 Best Picture winner Patton a few days ago. I had told Mouse that I wanted to mention how closely I have been following the very rightful #OscarsSoWhite discussion when we next spoke about a film. We will say more about this when we get to our 2015 and then 2016 films, but I couldn’t bring up an Oscar winner at this moment in time without mentioning this. In studying the format for choosing nominees, I can see how this unjust and embarrassing reality has unfolded. I think we as the general public have very little understanding of who chooses nominees and how. I admire folks like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee for opting to sit this year out (in a style of resistance that as my friend Bomani pointed out calls to mind Marcus Garvey’s philosophy – if folks of color aren’t recognized by this ritual and institution, perhaps it’s worth a concerted effort to not care about it and focus instead on other things). The rub, though, is that there is money connected to winning an Oscar. There are parts offered as a result. And Hollywood had better contend with the fact that over 40% of seats sold to theater goers are to people of color. It’s time for better, more complex roles and real recognition.

Another awkward factor in this #OscarsSoWhite conversation is that the current President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science is a Black woman. Another dear friend of mine pointed out how often Black people are placed in positions like this where they are essentially having to publicly hold up and justify racist practices. In media, she has spoken of her desire for the Academy to do better, and has said that she is heartbroken. It’s extremely uncomfortable to watch and hear. As host, I really wonder what Chris Rock will say about it all this year – also a strange position to be in.

In Patton there is one actor of color who has a small role towards the end of the film. When it becomes clear that after stepping out of line and allowing his big mouth to get away from him Patton will not receive a significant promotion in post, this character consoles him. Not a particularly complex or interesting role, but sadly I was shocked that there was even a Black character at all in this film.

The movie tells the story of a man who lives for combat. Patton was a tank commander in World War II, and our story begins with his role in North Africa, progressing through the invasion of Europe and the fall of the Third Reich. He is blistering, pushy and loud – and we see in several scenes that he believes he is a warrior from past battles reincarnated. Other characters seem to think he is kidding around when he asserts this, but apparently his belief in reincarnation was deeply held. Another interesting fact about Patton, which I learned from this film, was that of all the Allied Forces military leaders at the time, German High Command seemed to hold him in highest regard. It’s an interesting thing to think about when remembering his life.

With all this talk of industry people staying home from the Oscars, it’s interesting to watch this movie now. At the 43rd Academy Awards, there was a conspicuous no-show: George C. Scott, nominated for his role as George Patton, refused to accept the Best Actor award, becoming the first person to actually decline an Oscar. However, he wasn’t protesting any exclusionary practice, rather he objected to the entire idea of a competitive award for acting in the first place. I can’t say I object to the sentiment, although if I were somehow to find myself in his shoes, I doubt I would have the stones to pull such a stunt. Continue reading

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THE GODFATHER (1972)

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2016 by cdascher

Godfather_ver1Well, here we are. This one had us stalled out a bit while we put off watching it. Not because watching would be a chore, or that we felt we’d have little to say about the movie. Quite the contrary. 1972’s The Godfather is a staple of best-ever lists and has achieved the cinematic triple crown of enduring critical regard, commercial success and lasting cultural significance both artistic and popular. I’ve heard it called the best movie ever made and I honestly can’t find an argument against that statement. This really is where it all came together. So while I quite looked forward to watching it yet again and discussing it yet again, we run into the problem of just what to say about it that hasn’t been said a thousand times over. I mean, this is normally where I’d summarize the story, but I can’t imagine you’d actually be reading a movie blog if you haven’t seen this film at least once in your life. So these two bloggers stalled and tried to find an angle to work that could manage a fresh viewpoint. We tried to secure an actual Italian-American to watch with us but that proved fruitless, despite our South Philly locale. But when we realized the blog could wait no longer, we declared this holiday to be an Italian-American cultural appreciation day, set to work on several recipes from Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Italian Kitchen and treated ourselves to a New Year’s Day viewing of a classic saga of organized crime.

Given how intimidated I feel making a stab at intelligently discussing The Godfather, I’ll pursue a more personal approach. I’ll bet everyone has story about this movie, and here is mine. The first time I ever saw it, I inadvertently rented a special VHS release that combined both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II into a single piece, edited into chronological order. I was about three and half hours into watching, with no ending in sight, when I began to wonder just how long this damn movie was? I somehow made it through that six hour, 15 minute beast only to learn the truth later.

Also, putting an orange peel in one’s mouth really can frighten a small child, something I learned personally by trying the experiment on my nephew. I have, in fact, photographic evidence of him fleeing in fear as I approach menacingly, citrus rind in mouth. Fans of The Godfather know that much of its content was inspired by actual people and events, but I’m living proof of real-world basis for that famous scene.

This was my second time watching the film, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. There is a lot that is emotionally compelling about this movie. It’s also my strongest experience with both Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Mouse mentioned to me that one critique of the film centered on how it glorified organized crime – and I imagine that is a valid one. The original Don Corleone, Vito (played to perfection by Brando) is an extremely sympathetic character. He appears to have a moral compass and a deep regard for family, and as audience members we remain shielded from what I have to imagine are some of his worst actions. Continue reading