Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Update 14

I really liked all of these except for one. See if you can guess without reading the capsules!

All the President's Men

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star as the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story. The film was only released a couple years after Nixon resigned, and it's fascinating to see a film linked so closely to a historical event. Parts of it would be unbelievable if it wasn't a true story, and it sheds a light on just how crazy the scandal was. The two leads are great, their boss also does a fine job, and it's just an extremely well-put together film. My only real disappointment is that they don't cover as much of the timeline as I would have liked, but at some point they just ran out of time. It's still over two hours.

Bonnie and Clyde

I have to think this is one of the most important films in cinema history when it comes to the depiction of violence. It's quite a bloody movie, and though The Wild Bunch holds the title as the king of violent mainstream 60s movies, it didn't come out until two years later. Bonnie and Clyde is also just a good movie, turning another true story into an interesting plot and resting on great performances by a young Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Gene Hackman also has a nice little role as Clyde's older brother. There were a few spots that felt a bit aimless, but the film lays a blueprint for movies about heists and criminals that would be copied for decades.

In the Heat of the Night

This movie actually beat Bonnie and Clyde for Best Picture at the Oscars, and it was an odd coincidence that I saw them on the same day. Night is also an important film, mostly for its depiction of racism. Sidney Poitier is a Philadelphian homicide detective who gets pulled into a murder investigation in a sleepy southern town after being essentially arrested for the crime of being black. He butts heads with the chief, played by Rod Steiger, who won Best Actor. They eventually try to put their differences aside in order to solve the crime. Night is notable for having real things to say about race while still managing to just be a really good crime movie. Some of the scenes involving race almost border on parody now, but things are still bad enough now in some cases that I guess it's mostly believable for an uneducated, isolated town over forty years ago. Another well acted, solid film.


I usually manage to find something good in these old movies even if the general act of watching them isn't particularly pleasant, but if there's one area where I sometimes struggle with that, it's silent dramas. I didn't like D.W. Griffith's Way Down East, and if anything his earlier Intolerance is even more of a struggle. It's over three hours long, and doesn't really have what I'd call a plot. It has four story threads from four different periods in history, showing the bad things that happen when people can't get along. It's sort of a response to how people reacted to Birth of a Nation (which I still have to see), and feels more like a very long history lesson acted out by mimes than a movie. I can understand how it was significant at the time, and how huge of a production it was. But I just didn't really like watching it at all.

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