Archive for murder

PLATOON (1986)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2017 by cdascher

Platoon_posters_86Long before I was born, my grandfather crossed the ocean to join a war that had already been ongoing for years. Nations had allowed authoritarian strongmen to take control of state, and they in turn waged war on their neighbors. From what I understand, the fighting had pretty much ended by the time my grandfather arrived, but judging by the photographs my grandmother showed me, he was able to see the awful results of these criminal states. With its global scope, good vs. evil narrative and large set piece battles, screenwriters found the Second World War readily adaptable, and movies about the conflict appeared early and often. When the subsequent generation went to war in Southeast Asia, putting it onscreen was a more complicated affair. The films that did appear focused less on battlefield heroics than on the moral and psychological complexities of the conflict. Then, a decade after Saigon’s fall to the communists, Hollywood produced perhaps that generation’s definitive statement on the Vietnam War: the unsettling Platoon.

The movie starts with Private Chris Taylor (Sheen) arriving in Vietnam to take his place in an Army infantry platoon. With an ineffectual lieutenant in command, de facto leadership falls to the platoon’s NCOs, particularly the brutal Barnes (Berenger) and compassionate Elias (Defoe). After Barnes’ crimes bring the two into open hostility, the men of the unit align with one or the other, initiating a war-within-a-war; combating the enemy while distrusting one another.

I think this is the most I have ever liked Charlie Sheen. In fact, this may be the only time I have liked Charlie Sheen. His character, Private Taylor, is relatable, human and engaging. I had a hard time getting excited about watching this film. The world has felt so heavy and violent and defeating, and the idea of sitting down to watch a movie about a grueling, devastating, unwinnable war did not exactly feel like how I wanted to spend my free time. However, Platoon did a good job of showing the confusion and desperation that militarism breeds. The characters are interesting and strong. None of them are perfect; they are engaging in large part because of what they bring out in each other. As awful as he was, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Barnes, for example. Continue reading

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

CHICAGO (2002)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2015 by cdascher

chicagoI was in for an awesome surprise with this film! One of the actors featured in a fabulous musical scene was Mya Harrison – who I went to high school with. I didn’t realize Chicago was a musical when we first chose it as our next film to watch – but I was definitely pleased. The songs were numbers I had heard before, and the choreography and showmanship was fantastic. Having a familiar face pop up on the screen was just the icing on the cake!

 But I am getting a little ahead of myself. Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a young woman bored in her marriage who wants more than anything to be a performer on the stage. She gets wrapped up in a torrid love affair, thinking that the man she is involved with might be able to get her an in in show business. When he announces he is leaving her and that he never had any real connections to help her with her career, she loses it. They have a confrontation and he tosses her against the wall. She gets a gun from the drawer and shoots him, killing him. It is against this backdrop that our story begins.

Let’s see if I remember this right: this film is adapted from the Broadway musical that was in turn based on the play, itself inspired by real events and the basis for a contemporary silent film. Taking place in a stylized version of Jazz Age Chicago, it aspires to historical accuracy about as much as a typical Halloween costume. Thematically, though, the film nails a few things perfectly. The decade of the 1920s saw the birth of modern mass media and popular culture as we know them. It is the perfect setting to explore themes like trial by news media and the pursuit of fame as its own end, by whatever dubious means. Bear in mind that in the real Chicago of this time, crime boss Al Capone was actively courting media attention, contriving a public image. It was also a time of tremendous change for women in society, coming right after the first generation of the Women’s Movement.

It’s been pointed out that Chicago is the first musical to win Best Picture in 34 years. But I think it’s really more of a danceacal. The elements of the film are, in descending importance: dance, music, character, plot. In fact, the music I found a Continue reading