Here we go. This is the final entry of my 2008 movie odyssey. I will probably be doing something similar again this year, but I haven't decided yet what format I want it to take. Ten word movie reviews? Movie X meets movie Y? The same thing all over again? Something completely different? Cast your votes in the comments section.
It’s a story about an impossible cattle drive. It’s a WWII drama. It’s a story about a woman finding her way in a new world and love in unlooked for places. It’s about the problems that arise when two very different cultures collide. And so much more. The problem with all these different elements is that with so many of them the film lacks any sort of uniting theme and the audience is treated to about three movies for the price of one. It is Giant in Australia.
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
A star-studded cast brings this Charles Dickens story to the big screen with lots of memorable characters. The film is lots of fun to watch, as should be expected from Dickens.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Maybe I’m getting old, but more often than not I sided with the adults in this high school coming-of-age story. On the other hand, Sean Penn gives his only good performance as the very funny terminal slacker Jeff Spicoli. The rest of the film, not so much.
Gunga Din (1939)
Cary Grant and his two compatriots have an excellent entrance in this film as each one’s heads come crashing through an upper story window as they are called to by their superior officer during a bar fight. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film: light-hearted high adventure. Gunga Din is an obvious influence on the Indiana Jones films as Cary Grant and company encounter many of the situations that Jones later encounters. While the film’s treatment of the Indians is far from being politically correct by today’s standards, there are still plenty of thrilling action pieces that make the film more than worth while.
The Kid (1921)
I am not a big fan of Chaplin, much preferring the works of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, but I felt like I ought to see this film. It was pretty enjoyable, but it is readily apparent that Chaplin was still learning the language of cinema as there were several narrative rough spots that are not evident in other films from the same era, and there are far too many title cards. There is also an extended dream sequence at the end which is not very funny and adds nothing to the rest of the film. On the other hand, Jackie Coogan as the titular kid is amazing to watch and his scenes with Chaplin are very sweet.
Christmas Vacation (1989)
Sometimes, finding a good movie feels like searching for a pearl in a pile of pebbles. For me, finding a good 80s comedy often feels more like searching for a diamond in a pile of manure. There are the handful of comedies that stand proudly alongside the great comedies of the 30s: Airplane!, Ghost Busters, Back to the Future, Tootsie, and The Princess Bride. They all are very funny, have many memorable characters, and you feel good about laughing at the movie. Then there are the rest of the 80s comedies, which seem more interested in wallowing in uncomfortable situations (Planes, Trains & Automobiles), excessively ruminating on sex and nudity (Animal House), and featuring a cast of characters that are so far removed from reality that they bear no resemblance to anything even close to real people (Caddyshack). Christmas Vacation falls squarely in with the majority, featuring far too many uncomfortable situations with highly unbelievable characters. I guess I should have expected that with two 80s non-stars: Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid.
Coming up next: #10 on my top and bottom 10 list for 2008.