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Welcome to the human race...
#70 - 10 Things I Hate About You
Gil Junger, 1999



A modern high-school interpretation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew where a pair of sisters - one popular, one not - are only allowed to date if the unpopular one starts dating first, so some male students cook up a plan to set the unpopular one up with a date.

10 Things I Hate About You is an enjoyable enough little piece of late-90s fluff. Some clever writing here and there (such as that first classroom scene that establishes Julia Stiles' firmly antiestablishment character and Daryl Mitchell's understandably acerbic teacher, which is probably the best moment in the whole film) helps to balance out some rather awkward gags (such as one character's obsession with Shakespeare, which seems really heavy-handed considering this film's source material). The performances are decent enough - Heath Ledger's break-out role as the local bad boy who is brought in to "tame the shrew" isn't all that amazing (reminds me too much of his equally stoic and unimpressive turn in Two Hands), but the rest of the cast is decent enough. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is charming enough as the film's adorkable protagonist, Stiles is pretty good as the frosty riot-grrl and so is David Krumholtz as Gordon-Levitt's fast-talking offsider. Allison Janney is also here for a short amount of time that almost justifies her name being in the opening credits.

Otherwise, this is actually a fairly by-the-numbers rom-com. It's got some good jokes, some not-so-good ones, is shot fairly competently and has the kind of soundtrack that captures the late-1990s alt-rock sound so well that it's physically painfull. It's not an amazing film by any measure, but it was worth watching once.

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Iro is to reviews as Kubrick is to films.



I remember being unimpressed with 10 Things, but that is about all I remember. Some people's love for it has always made me think I should give it another shot. Your review makes me think I don't want to revisit that experience.
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Welcome to the human race...
That's only fair. It's got some good moments, but it's of very inconsistent quality and if you weren't impressed by it originally I really am not sure if a second viewing will make much of a difference. Maybe lowered expectations are the key?



Welcome to the human race...
#71 - Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood, 2004



A cynical boxing trainer (Eastwood) ends up taking on a female pupil (Hilary Swank) much to his own consternation.

I saw this one survey that suggested that audiences were more likely to enjoy a piece of narrative fiction if they had it spoiled for them. Keeping that in mind along with the fact that I knew about this particular film's shocking swerve at the end of its second act, I wonder if that assertion holds all that much weight. I guess without its third act Million Dollar Baby would come across as a film that takes a few too many cues from a certain other Best Picture winner about a coarse but good-hearted boxer rising above their desperate circumstances with the help of an old, strict mentor. It is helped by the inclusion of Morgan Freeman as one of the gym's staff and one of Eastwood's former pupils, whose sage-like narration ultimately doesn't add all that much with its emphasis on maxims about the nature of fighting, but it's better than nothing, I suppose. His back-story is also fairly interesting, even if it does involve him relating it to Swank's character. I guess Eastwood knows just how much people like to hear Freeman talk.

Swank's character is one I go back and forth on. She's clearly gone to some effort to learn how to box convincingly, which only draws some attention to her outside-the-ring acting - it's decent enough in the film's third act, but for the first three-quarters of the film it's a fairly standard idealistic trailer-trash performance. Eastwood, well, he's Eastwood - a grouchy bastard with a heart of gold (and, of course, some personal issues that play into the film's plot and his motivations). The whole first act involving Swank trying to convince Eastwood to train her takes a bit too long - we know you've got to have at least some resistance on his part and it allows us to build the characters, but the characters don't have that much depth to need this long a film. The boxing sequences are well-shot and, despite the sudden turn the film takes during the last half-hour, it doesn't succumb to Oscar-bait nonsense as much as you'd think. It's solid enough and I may revisit it, but as of right now I think it's merely alright.




Welcome to the human race...
#72 - Drunken Master II
Lau Kar-leung and Jackie Chan, 1994



Wong Fei-Hung once again gets into some ridiculous mischief as the result of an unintentional mix-up and must question his reliance on drunken boxing as a result.

The original Drunken Master is probably the best of Jackie Chan's early films, which basically means it's one of his best films full stop. Taking well-known folk hero Wong Fei-Hung and making him into a cartoonish fool who was still somehow a capable fighter was a risky choice but it definitely paid off for him. Drunken Master II came out about fifteen years later and just before Chan really broke into Hollywood. It's as good a connection between his classic output and his Hollywood output as possible, especially given its emphasis on a bigger narrative than its predecessor.

Unlike the original and its bare-bones "learning kung-fu" storyline, this film opts to tell a bigger story as Fei-Hung gets embroiled in a conspiracy involving the smuggling of ancient artifacts, along with contending with his strict father (Ti Lung) trying to stop him from performing drunken boxing out of the understandable concern that it will ruin him. Of course, this being a Jackie Chan film the plot only exists to provide a variety of fights and stunts that demonstrate Chan's ability to both give and take a lot of physical harm, and of course, they are good. Chan does drunken boxing, which of course involves several gags involving him needing to get drunk enough to do some, plus his attempts to cover up his various mistakes so that his father doesn't find out. It's definitely not of the same quality as its predecessor and runs a little longer than it should but it's an entertaining enough entry into Chan's filmography.




Welcome to the human race...
#73 - Annie Hall
Woody Allen, 1977



The story of a neurotic comedian and his on-and-off relationship with the titular character.

This film already comes with some serious baggage - being a Best Picture winner, the fact that I've already seen it once and thought it was merely alright but not as great as I'd been led to believe, and then there were the recent allegations of child abuse against him. The latter makes Allen's quip about politicians having less ethics than child molesters really stick out like one very sore and infected thumb. Even if I were going to try to separate the art from the artist (and, when the movie involves Allen playing a main character that's really similar to himself, that's going to be a little difficult) the fact of the matter is that I actually don't like Annie Hall, so of course I'm going to have to try and defend my opinion here.

I concede that it's got some pretty inventive ideas - the film takes some surreal detours involving animated sequences, breaking the fourth wall, present-day versions of characters walking through their own flashbacks, bringing in actual celebrities to criticise people talking about them and so forth. That only draws attention to the fact that the plot at the centre of the film is rather weak. Even without knowing that the romance between Alvy and Annie was originally supposed to be a sub-plot in an epic murder mystery, the whole thing feels sort of empty. Maybe this got some praise for being a modern take on old screwball comedies, but here the whole thing feels just as inconsequential as any of Alvy's breaks from reality. I don't see much reason to even care about these characters, whether they're sticking together or breaking up or whatever. Alvy is a rare example of a constantly snarking character who I actually don't find remotely charming, no matter how many one-liners he fires off - his nervous disposition isn't endearing in the slightest. I do wonder how much of Annie's characterisation can be explained away by the idea that Alvy is an unreliable narrator who does seem like the kind of guy who would embellish certain facts, but I'm not sure what's Oscar-worthy about it. Keaton is a good actress, but this character...not so much. Singing torch songs and being able to keep up with Allen's rapid-fire delivery are alright achievements, but that doesn't feel all that impressive. The rest of the cast is a peppering of odd-ball characters that do stick out but don't provide much of a contribution.

Problem is, the jokes don't work for me. I'd say that the best joke in the film comes from Christopher Walken (in a small role as Annie's brother) telling Alvy about his car-crashing fantasies, but for the most part it's all really flat. It's Allen's film, of course, so a lot of the film is him offering endless comments about every-frickin'-thing, and that can (and does) get tiresome. There's a good barb here or there but most of them don't work. Aside from Walken (and, occasionally, Alvy's best friend) he doesn't get much weirdness to react disdainfully towards. The film clocks in at about ninety minutes and even then it doesn't so much end as fizzle out, though it's not like I was even hoping for a happy ending or anything for these people. Ultimately, whatever charm that Annie Hall has doesn't have any effect on me. The humour's been done better before and since, so I credit it with being influential, but beyond that I don't credit it much at all.




Welcome to the human race...
#74 - My Left Foot
Jim Sheridan, 1989



Based on the true story of Christy Brown, a man born with severe cerebral palsy who is only capable of moving his left foot, as he grows up in an impoverished Irish neighbourhood.

On the one hand, I could be cynical about how much the entertainment industry's ruling bodies like to reward actors and actresses who play people with serious disabilities or mental problems. On the other hand, I like Daniel Day-Lewis's other movies and am willing to bet he of all people can pull it off. He really is the main draw about this film as he exercises an impressive amount of discipline in order to play Christy (as is the kid who plays his younger self). He pulls off a range of emotions quite convincingly in the process as his character encounters all sorts of highlights and hardships. The surrounding cast is also solid - Brenda Fricker rightfully earns her own Oscar as Christy's patient and loving mother, while Fiona Shaw shows some polite restraint as his physical therapist and Ray McAnally serves as a grumpy but understanding father.

The grainy low-budget nature of the film's cinematography does betray its humble origins, but it seems suitable considering the subject matter. The plot does follow a familiar narrative as Christy is initially challenged and ridiculed by his condition but overcomes it in a number of ways that can be funny, heartwarming or just plain sad. It's not exactly a great film when all is said and done but its overcomes its now-clichéd premise with surprising effect.




Welcome to the human race...
#75 - The English Patient
Anthony Minghella, 1996



In the final days of World War II, a badly burned amnesiac pilot is tended to by a nurse in an abandoned cathedral.

So this ended up being the exact type of lengthy period piece that had some impressive art direction and cinematography but is ultimately undone by a fairly stock melodrama complete with revelatory flashbacks and characters whose motivations run the gamut from revenge to selflessness to survivor's guilt. Is it a good or a bad thing when I struggle to think of anything worthwhile to say about this film? The performances are decent enough, it's technically well-made but the story is kind of flat and unmemorable. Shame about that. We'll see if I ever give it another shot.




Welcome to the human race...
#76 - Kramer vs. Kramer
Robert Benton, 1979



When his wife suddenly walks out on him one night, a high-profile executive must learn to care for his young son.

It's a little hard to forget how this was the film that won Best Picture over Apocalypse Now, but I figured I'd give it the benefit of the doubt. Kramer vs. Kramer is a decent enough little drama about the effects of divorce on a household. It helps that the couple in question are played by actors as talented as Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, even though the latter is out for the picture for about half the film's length. The film's second act, which shows Hoffman slowly learning to bond with his young son, drags a fair bit with its vignettes that are alternately comical and dramatic (with the latter being much more effective than the former). The film picks up in the third act as Streep returns and sues Hoffman for custody, resulting in some fairly tense courtroom scenes that are actually fairly effective at showcasing the talent of both its leads. Though it's fairly inconsistent with a less than impressive second act, Kramer vs. Kramer was definitely a bit better than I expected, but I daresay that one viewing is all that I really need.




28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Ever since you revealed your "Worst Films" list, I feel you seem to rate films a bit harder than anyone else.

I found the film to be highly relatable and truthful and I'm not even a child of divorce. Little scenes in the film rang so true to me that I thought this had to be lifted from the writers personal life.

As you've mentioned Streep and Hoffman are terrific, but the story doesn't need to be lifted by them, they simply inhabit the well written characters.

I came away hating her and my wife was in tears at the end, until the last few minutes.

I'm not that much of a fan of Apocalypse Now, but the version I saw was the Redux, so I owe it a second viewing. With that being said, I have no problem with this winning best picture that year.



Welcome to the human race...
I did say it was good in parts, but also it wasn't so good in other parts - the lead performances are good, the rest of the film...not so much. That whole third act was surprisingly good.

As for my ratings, well, I do tend to make my first-time ratings out of 4 instead of 5 so I guess that's only contributed to me doing supposedly lower ratings over the years. It's gotten to the point that I don't really think of 2.5 as that bad a rating - like I gave Annie Hall a 2 and I gave it a fairly scathing review but a lot of 2.5s tend to be films that have a significant number of good points but the overall product isn't that great. I don't know, I'm weird like that.



Welcome to the human race...
#77 - Gandhi
Richard Attenborough, 1982



Chronicles the life of Mohandas Gandhi, from his beginnings as a lawyer in 19th-century South Africa through to his becoming an influential figure in the liberation of India from the British Empire.

You ever wonder if it's possible to get tired of good movies? Powering through this many Best Picture winners in so short a time might be leaving me a little fatigued by the looks of things. It gets to the point that I approach each new film with a little skepticism. Gandhi had some of that, because I was aware that Gandhi, despite his reputation as an influential pacifist and leader, still had his fair share of extremely unfortunate flaws and those were at the back of my mind for this film's considerable running time. The film even begins with a disclaimer that admits that the film is an abridged account dedicated to conveying the spirit of the man rather than the man himself, and in that regard, it does work.

As befitting a story spanning several decades and multiple countries, the technical skill on display is competent and the scenes it captures are memorable. Ben Kingsley delivers an effective performance, even if it is hampered slightly by all-too-familiar biopic tropes. There's a good supporting cast that largely serve as either foils or obstacles to Gandhi's journey. There are also some striking setpieces on display. With a supposedly glowing review like this, you might wonder why I'm giving it the rating I'm giving it. Well, maybe it's because I'm not sure it really needed to be a whole three hours and that certain plot devices draw unnecessary attention to themselves - such as the inclusion of white American journalists played by name actors like Martin Sheen and Candice Bergen seem a little distracting and studio-mandated - but hell, it's a good enough movie and I'll definitely return to it at some point.




I don't know/can't remember, but he'd been talking about making Gandhi since the 60's and had asked Candice Bergen to be in the film back then. That being the case, it wouldn't surprise me if Sheen (and others) had been offered roles in it in past meetings with them/when working with them.
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5-time MoFo Award winner.



Welcome to the human race...
#78 - Prizzi's Honor
John Huston, 1985



A Mafia hitman falls in love with a woman who is also an assassin, which naturally complicates things for his organisation.

Wow, I really did not like this movie. The premise had the potential, but the execution was really terrible. The idea of it being a black comedy is understandable, but the resulting film is over two hours long and, while the jokes I noticed are sort of clever they're not nearly clever enough to justify not getting any laughs. The plot plays off a bunch of twists and turns thanks to the conflicting loyalties at play, but they aren't engaging thanks to the terrible characterisation on offer resulting in me ultimately not caring who comes out on top. This might be the worst Jack Nicholson performance I've seen yet as he delivers every line in a slow, mumbly Brooklyn accent completely lacking in any kind of spark. How a man who had won two acting Oscars by this point manages to come across as a mush-mouthed amateur is beyond me. Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Huston - as Nicholson's contract killer love interest and Mob princess ex respectively - at least seem to be trying, but it's not hard to seem good compared to Nicholson's uncharacteristically bland performance. Otherwise the film is full of some boring Mafia caricatures - bosses, heavies, etc.

I thought I might have missed something the first time around so I even tried to re-watch this but gave up halfway through that viewing because it was so incredibly dull. I think the fact that I at least tried indicates that there's got to be something of worth here, but I'll be damned if I can tell what it is.




This is one of the films I've not sure if I've seen or not because I know I started to watch it, but it's so dull and really not anything I was enjoying. I remember it being quite lauded when it was released, too.



Welcome to the human race...
It received eight Oscar nominations (including Nicholson for some reason) and one win for Anjelica Huston. I'm wondering if that can be credited to one massive sympathy vote for John Huston.



Eight? Blimey. I know that Huston was nominated/won for it, but I didn't know it was nominated for anything else. I've always put it down to being a Huston, but then, a cynic like me would.



Welcome to the human race...
#79 - Lolita
Stanley Kubrick, 1962



While boarding in an American widow's home, an English professor becomes obsessed with the widow's teenage daughter.

It's a little weird to think of a Kubrick film that I'd classify as being merely good rather than great or an all-time favourite, but here we go. Might be a little slow at times, but it's aided by some appropriately strong performances. James Mason makes for a good protagonist who comes across as slimy and unlikeable but charming enough that you can understand why other characters don't see through him. Peter Sellers steals the show as Mason's rival, a quick-talking playwright who's always ready with one line or another (and one memorable scene where he disguises himself as a German psychiatrist serves as an obvious predecessor to his work in Strangelove), while Sue Lyon manages to give the titular character even more depth than you'd expect. The monochromatic cinematography isn't especially daring or innovative but it suits the film nonetheless, as does the darkly comic pacing of some scenes (the prime example being Mason taking a phone call about a car accident). Lesser Kubrick, but still very solid.




Just watched Lolita for the first time this week. I gave it a
Right now it is my favorite Kubrick. I have a few to see though.



Welcome to the human race...
#80 - The Grapes of Wrath
John Ford, 1940



Based on the classic John Steinbeck novel about an Depression-era family abandoning their Oklahoma homestead in order to build a new life in California.

Barring an abortive attempt at reading Of Mice and Men, I haven't managed to read any Steinbeck at this point in time. Since the film had a similarly strong reputation, I figured I'd watch it as well. It's definitely good, but as for actually enjoying it, well, I guess it had its drawbacks. There's a good ensemble at work, of course, and they all get their fair share of moments, but the film as a whole is a bit of a chore to get through at times. Has it just been overtaken by stories that built on its foundations? I liked it well enough, but it's got its problems. The cinematography is sharp at times, but it's often dark to the point of distraction. Ford's style is all the over this film - he seems to have a knack for making films that are a bit too earnest to properly support its darker undercurrents. Given its classic status, I'll definitely have to give it another shot at some point but as far as my subjective opinion goes I merely think it's alright.