It’s the Little Things

There are so many bits and pieces that go into making a movie really good.  A good script, good director, good acting are all no brainers, I’m talking about the IT factor.  The part of movie making that is just inspired and that is very hard to do on purpose.  George Lucas had no idea that Star Wars would be that big of a hit and that’s just one of the known stories of this phenomena.  It isn’t just about a GOOD director, its about the RIGHT director for the project.  Can you imagine if Frank Cappra was slated to make Gone With the Wind?  Scarlett wouldn’t have been the same Scarlett from the book, that’s for sure.  Or what if James Cameron directed Juno, Yikes.  That would be utter crap.  It’s also about the right cast, the right music, the right editor, the right location, the right cinematographer, and the list goes on.  It really doesn’t take much to make a movie go wrong, and it takes a tremendous amount to make it go right.  It’s just not always clear what is in either category.  Here is a short list of movies that I feel got it right and some of what I think they did right, I tried to keep it eclectic.

1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I don’t like Westerns.  I’ll just put that out there right off the bat.  I think they’re dull and the same story over and over.  I also hate when a historical movie is way off base with its facts.  Having said that, this is my favorite movie.  I think because it has so much charisma that it makes me not care about the above mentioned dislikes.  I love this movie so much that one time a boyfriend said to me, “you just keep thinking Butch, that’s what you’re good at” and I thought it was the most wonderful thing he’d ever said to me!  I was actually moved that he saw any similarity between me and Paul Newman’s character, that I loved so dearly.  The chemistry between Redford and Newman is the best I’ve ever seen; they are in love with each other in a way that is neither romantic nor creepy.  They are more committed to each other than they are to any women and it doesn’t make them seem any less masculine.  They are brothers in a way that few movies get right.  In real life Butch and Sundance hardly worked together at all, well at least compared to the way the movie paints it. My one complaint about this movie is the score.  Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head is a great song, but I have no idea what it is doing in a period piece about train robbers.  Also the instrumental music is so of the time that this movie was made, not when it takes place that during certain scenes I just cringe.  The classic lines, the twinkle in Newman’s eye when he smiles, and the way the two men ride silently through the landscape with only the sound of the horses hoofs makes this movie so elegant that I can watch it over and over and over, and I have.  Although I don’t recommend that you watch it with me, unless you like to hear someone other than Newman say, “Hell, the fall’ll probably kill ya!”

2. Secretary.  I know an odd choice to follow BCaTSK, not just because of the S & M subject matter, but because few have seen it.  I do have to say right of the bat, I am not into S & M, not that I think there is anything wrong with it.  I worry every time I recommend this movie to someone because I’m wondering “will this person think I’m trying to ‘out’ myself in some way?”  I’ll agree I’m a little twisted, but only in my head, not so much in my activities.  Having said that, I think this is one of the most beautifully romantic movies ever.  It is about being loved for your flaws and finding that person that is right for you and only you.  Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance made me instantly fall in love with her.  Those eyes are so entrancing (and her brother is the same way).  The whole movie hinges on a couple of scenes going the right way and it’s due to Maggie’s eyes that they do.  There is a scene where everything changes and it’s so subtle and I can feel it in my bones when it does.  The casting of James Spader was inspired too.  He is so believable as a well-meaning sadist, who is deep down a coward.  So many romantic movies show two beautiful people, not ones with kinky faults, fall in love.  They lack true imagination.  Secretary tells a very specific story that I see as more of a hero’s journey that a love story.  I also love the song at the end of the movie.

3. About a Boy.  I am a huge Nick Hornby (the author of the book About a Boy is based on) fan.  It seems that I am always either reading one of his books, just finishing one of his books or asking for one for Christmas.  I know that makes me sound like an incredibly slow reader, he doesn’t have THAT many books.  It’s just that I often volley between five books at any given time depending on my mood.  Hornby, however, is my traveling companion.  I tend to read his novels when I’m on a trip.  Now, knowing that I am a huge fan of the author usually means that I hated the adaptation, About a Boy is a lovely exception.  I did read the book after I saw the movie though, which for as closed as my mind can sometimes be, that’s usually the best course of action.  I thought Nicholas Hoult was so enchanting as the main character and although I am, already, a huge Hugh Grant fan, his performance was so subtle and charming I feel in love with him all over again.  And the MUSIC!  Don’t get me started!  The soundtrack is one of my favorites and several of the songs were played at my wedding including an instrumental one (which incidentally is a really funny story.  The song is called “I love NYE”.  For the life of us, neither my husband or I could figure out what NYE meant until I saw the movie again a couple of years after our wedding.  It is played in a scene at a New Years Eve party.  It means New Years Eve.  Not all that special unless you know that my husband and I met on, you guessed it, New Years Eve.)  The narration switching between the characters of Will and Marcus is so brilliant that it makes you wonder, which of these two is the”boy” the story is about?  Another “love” story that isn’t about romantic love, although that’s in there, I find the perspective wonderfully fresh and unique.  Well done all around.  Also, Toni Collette can do no wrong in my eyes, which brings me to my next picks.

4. Muriel’s Wedding/The Dish.  I’ve lumped these two together because a lot of the things want to say about them is the same.  I love Australian comedies.  I have an Aussie friend who does not understand this, but I’m sure there are American things he loves that I don’t get, so it all works out.  Both of these movies are wonderfully cast, perfectly scored (I love me some ABBA, Yo) and are both light-hearted with tears.  Another thing I love about these two movies is that they are two of my parents’ favorites.  It makes me love my folks even more to know that they “got” these two movies.  I know there isn’t all that much to “get” other than the heart of the movies, but to me that can be a real test of who someone is.   Also my folks are both mad ABBA fans.  Both have themes of loyalty and again (here’s a trend) neither is a romantic love story.  Both are directed like a fine symphony with a light touch and perfect flow, it’s magic!  (Sorry, very corny I know, that was just a little nod to ABBA).

5. Shaun of the Dead.  I know what you’re thinking.  A common horror movie?  I know I don’t tend to like the genre either, but this one is so funny and well written and far from common.  Not to mention that I would follow Simon Pegg into a burning building, were he to ask.  I love British humor and every one of the main actors are funny by themselves.  That is why it is awesome that there are two commentaries on the DVD, one with Pegg (co-writer) and Edgar Wright (director and co-writer) and one with the some of the main cast (Pegg, Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis and I think Nick Frost, but don’t quote me.  I’d check, but as I write this I have loaned out my dvd yet again).  Pegg has been heard describing this movie as a Zom Rom Com because it’s a funny zombie movie (that never uses the “z” word) that has a romance sprinkled in.  He left a few things out, it’s also a slacker film, a bunch of misfits ban together to beat the odds movie, a hero’s journey, a nod to Pegg and Wright’s show Spaced, a war film and a touching drama (only for a minute when Shaun’s mom becomes a “z” word.  Hope I didn’t spoil it for you.)  I think the only thing it isn’t is a murder mystery.  For that, check out Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Wright’s follow-up.  This one is definitely good for the writing, acting, directing and great musical moments including a zombie sing-a-long to the song White Lines and the most creative use of Panic by The Smiths that I have ever seen.

I think I need to do another list.  I still have so many movies that I want to write about like, (in no particular order) Eagle vs. Shark, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Princess Bride, Ghostbusters, The Sting, The Breakfast Club, High Art, Donnie Darko, The Shawshank Redemption, LA Confidential, True Romance, The Color Purple, Garden State, Razing Arizona, Walking and Talking, Superman, Shallow Grave, Rushmore, The Bourne Identity and the list goes on and on.

I love movies, they ignite my heart and entertain my mind.  But they only do that when they “work”.  Unique and moving stories are what capture imagination and with the big block busters so prevalent s, those two things are becoming a dying breed.  Support independent film!  They are the best chance at originality.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Aussie
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 23:55:38

    Actually, I do like those two Australian films! Thank God you don’t have Young Einstein on your list. Or The FJ Holden.


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