Movie Review: Gigi

I’m glad I got this for cheap as I will need to upgrade to a much better print, especially if I do the Pink Floyd sync with this. That’s all I thought about when I watched it. I don’t know what I expected but what I got was not at all pleasing to the eye.

A young Parisian girl is trained to be ready to integrate with high society.

The fact that the tape and package was in pristine condition should have tipped me off to what was inside. I bought the 1986 print (the one with the “Musicals Great Musicals” packaging) for less than fifty cents. The tape was rewound and looked like it was maybe played once. After the tape rolled through the usual logos and stuff, a giant red flag appeared in the form of an oversized MGM lion, the ribbon cut off on both sides. I should have stopped the tape right there as what followed was the movie owner’s nightmare from the days of VHS: pan and scan.

I know what you’re thinking: why would you buy a VHS copy, especially a shoddy one at that, when you can get the DVD? Well, my entire film collection is mostly secondhand. I rarely buy a DVD when it’s brand-new unless I’ve seen the film in the theater and know that it needs to be in my collection. Besides, I have not been able to find a DVD copy of this film anywhere so when I saw it in the thrift store, I figured if it took this long to find a print then I should take what is there. Buyer’s remorse does happen and it hit with this film.

My first bad experience with pan and scan was with the Collector’s Edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The entire film was fullscreen, obnoxious pan and scan that made the film practically unwatchable. THEN, there was a featurette that showed clips from the movie in widescreen as it should have been. My unfortunate viewing of Gigi brought those memories back and I winced each time it happened. In my head, I imagined some kind of low rumble when the camera would pan and scan. It got to the point where I swear I heard it outside my head.

So, what about the actual content of the film? There were some interesting style choices like how for almost every single musical number, the main character is seated. Talk about dynamic. The first number, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls”, becomes very creepy when you realize a grown man is in a park surrounded by young girls and singing this. The musical highlight is Gigi singing “The Parisians” in the first act.

While the costumes and set design were well made (as far as I can tell from a VHS copy on a flatscreen, definitely a best use of resources) the story is OK at best. It comes off as a cousin of My Fair Lady and after ten minutes it’s a matter of riding the movie out like a leisurely boat ride at an amusement park. True, the moments where Gigi is training how to be in society are amusing at times, those scenes do not last long.

Also, what is up with that text on the poster? It looks like someone smeared lipstick. My brother, upon seeing the cover, thought it looked like a horror movie. Imagine his surprise when I said it was a G-rated musical.

It’s movies like these who won the Best Picture that I wonder if any of the other nominees were any better or if the year wasn’t that spectacular.

The way a movie is shown, especially for a first viewing, makes a lasting impression. I will need to find a better print. I’ll probably donate the tape to a rummage sale or something or keep it for the Pink Floyd sync (the answer lies on the cover of Ummagumma).

5/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years

Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song

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Movie Review: The Seventh Seal

 

Today was quite dreary outside, raining since early in the morning. I was in my usual morning routine of checking my stats and such and happened to watch an episode of Animaniacs. One episode in the first season had spoofed this movie with Death as a Swede and reminded me that I should watch the film after my classes. Well, here I am one viewing later.

During the Black Plague, Death is challenged to a chess game by one who is slated to die, so it goes.

“Dies Irae” rings throughout the land in a few scenes. This was a first for me as I have always heard the song synthesized, namely from The Shining and Room 237. Granted, it isn’t a toe-tapping cheery tune but I smiled just because it was familiar.

The cinematography has a wide range of values. From white daytime to the darkest of Death, there’s a lot of grey inbetween. The shot composition has variation between the symmetrical and asymmetrical. There is nothing extraneous in the shots.

Before I saw this, I had thought the entire movie would be focused on the match. Nope. There is a lot more to it, with romance and defending pride to the death.

Their belief of the abandonment of their god fits with the period of the film. With many people dying everywhere due to the plague, it’s no wonder they thought that the seals of the apocalypse were opening and that the end times were now. Death takes them away to dance macabre. You could hope and dream but that wouldn’t do much if you had a sign of the plague.

Don’t play chess with Death; try poker instead.

7.5/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

Movie Review: Rebel Without a Cause

 

“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART!” I came home last night after another school day and sat down to watch this and eat my reheated dinner. Nothing says “bon appetit” like juvenile delinquency.

Over the course of a little more than a day, James Dean tries to fit in at school and defend his pride while making (and losing) some friends and putting up with his overbearing parents.

For me, it was a nice surprise to see Jim Backus in a non-comedic role. I’ve only known him in Gilligan’s Island and Mr. Magoo. To see him in something so emotionally charged was a nice change.

Depending on who you talk to, the “tearing me apart” line is attributed to either James Dean or Tommy Wiseau. More likely than not, members from my generation will see The Room first before seeing Rebel Without a Cause. I fall into that category. So when it came time for the quote, I was first amazed that it came so early in the film (11 or so minutes from the beginning). I had to rewind and finish the quote with “Lisa!”, hand gestures and all. Of course, I was the only one in the room but I still had fun. What’s less likely, at least in my opinion, is having someone who’s seen The Room that’s my age and then watch this movie in order to fully get the reference.

After watching the movie, I had trouble figuring out who the titular rebel was and the lack of cause. Each character was a rebel in their own way and had a cause for doing so. It turns out that the title was borrowed from a book and the movie does not reference said book. You would think that a movie’s title would have some relevance with the content but I did not think so.

For a high schooler, I thought James Dean was a bit too old for the part, but you take what you can get. His performance was great, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t know if they could get anyone else high school age that could carry that kind of acting required.

All in all, a nice flick with great performances.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

AFI Top 100 (1997): #59

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

Movie Review: On the Waterfront

 

For a movie that’s supposed to be incredible, it’s not talked about much where I come from and that’s a shame. Even in the above picture, it looks like Terry’s thinking, “C’mon, why haven’t you seen this? After all, I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender and all that.” That you were Terry, that you were.

Terry Malloy is witness to a murder and is pressured into revealing information that can destroy his life.

I saw a lot of me in Terry, right down to the flannel. He tries so hard to figure out what the right thing to do is that it leads him to the climatic battle on the waterfront. He may not have been the smartest man on the docks but he had the guts to do what he needed to do. I was cheering for him all the way, something I don’t usually do.

It’s really cruel what the boys do to the pigeons after Terry attends the hearing. I thought i saw something fly by the screen rather quickly and the movie allowed us to see what that something was: a dead pigeon. Why would anyone kill a pigeon, especially one that was taken care of? Sure a pigeon is just a pigeon but Terry cared for them. Kids can be so cruel sometimes.

The “Contender” speech in the back seat was something I looked forward to. The delivery of the line, the emotion, everything that was going on within the world of the waterfront showed how hurt Terry was and we feel that pain. Because of his past actions, he has resigned to the fact that he will always be a bum and with that, no ambition to do anything. Whatever he does now is not seen as impactful, according to Terry. It is up to him to do something about it.

When I said this film isn’t mentioned much, I really mean it. Aside from “I coulda been a contender” and the occasional puzzle clue, it seems forgotten. That’s not good for a film that netted eight Oscars, including Best Picture. I suppose I need to get my own copy, preferably Criterion if I can afford it.

Good job Terry, good job.

9/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

AFI Top 100 (1997): #8

AFI Top 100 (2007): #19

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years

Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction-Set Direction Black-and-White, Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), and Best Film Editing

Movie Review: Oklahoma!

I could’ve sworn I saw this as a kid but after watching it last weekend I was mistaken. I have the Rodgers and Hammerstein movie 3-pack with this, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. With all of them over two hours, I figured I needed to start somewhere and picked this movie, knowing that I would take advantage of the intermission when it came time.

I can handle musicals just fine. With this particular one, I was a bit reluctant to watch it because of how perky it looked; too perky. Everything would turn out fine in the end anyways so the movie played out as just a fictionalized documentation of a small part of the early 1900’s Oklahoma Territory. As such, I could not relate to the characters as well as I would have liked.

Basically, there’s a dance one night and love does some interesting things among the cast. All’s well that ends well, for the most part.

One of the slowest parts of the film is the musical number “I Can’t Say No.” I looked at everything else off-screen instead of the singer because the camera shot focused on her for so long. I grew restless and kept checking the clock because the poor actress could not carry this song. If it was part of her character, I’d be fine with it but something tells me this was the real deal. The composition of the shot is very static and boring to look at; very boring.

What makes the shot’s composition so boring partly lies in how it was filmed. This was the first film photographed in Todd-AO 70 mm widescreen. By showing so much of the frame, it allows our eye to process and analyze more of the composition. But with something like this song, all you see is the singer in the center of the frame with very little else to look at. Seeing as how the film’s location is out in the country, there are not a lot of landmarks or elevated land. I would have liked a few more reaction shots of the other girl inbetween the prolonged shots.

There were two highlights in the film and both of them deal with Jud. The first of the two is the song “Pore Jud is Daid.” With this song, the shot’s duration is very long but the composition is much more interesting to look at. The actors were able to sing and tell a story at the same time. The claustrophobic surroundings purposefully directed the focus toward the singers. The second highlight is when Jud sets fire to the haystack. At that point, I was cheering for him but, alas, it was futile.

It’s not necessarily a bad or poorly executed musical as the duo had a significant part in making sure their musical was adapted to the screen as they intended. At the same time, I don’t think this film was a strong choice for the 1001 update. I’m not sure how I’ll do with The Sound of Music but that will have to wait for another day.

5/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Winner of Best Music Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording