Toy Story Trilogy

Today’s volatile weather conditions allowed for a productive afternoon film-wise, as a planned bike ride along the beaches of Bournemouth was cut short by sporadic torrential downpours, meaning I crossed a trilogy off the list; Toy Story 1-3.

Watching the original Toy Story, the first feature-length motion picture created entirely using computer animation, always send me back to my childhood, aged 8 years old, sat in the cinema watching in wide-eyed wonder as the pixels were brought to life before me, with my Dad sound asleep in the next seat. It’s one of my earliest film-related memories (my earliest cinema experience that I know of was the Lion King, but that’s another post).
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Giant

Before watching it, I only knew of Giant as being the last James Dean film. I’d seen Rebel Without a Cause recently, and been thoroughly underwhelmed, so had high hopes for Giant, as surely this, or perhaps East of Eden, were the reason that Dean is now such a cult icon, a supposedly defining character for a generation. Also, by looking at the cover for this film, I expected Dean to be the star of the film, his image appearing no less than five times on the cover, with Elizabeth Taylor appearing just once, and Rock Hudson not at all. It was with some surprise then that I found the stars to be Hudson and Taylor, with Dean a supporting character (granted, the most important supporting character, but supporting no less).


Having now watched the film, it shall be filed alongside the previously reviewed the Jazz Singer as an important film, just not a great one, though this time for being the last film of James Dean, rather than the first feature length to include audible dialogue. Giant documents the life of a young couple, Hudson and Taylor, from the day they meet and through the next 25 years of their lives. Even with an epic run time of almost three and a half hours, the plotting is generally fast, with major events such as their marriage and the birth of their children skipped over, pausing to show the more landmark occasions, for example the dismay of Hudson’s Jordan Benedict as Jordy, his son, cries when set upon his first horse. Along the way, Jordan’s life is besieged at every turn by Dean’s Jett Rink, a ranchhand who, upon inheriting a small patch of land, becomes a billionaire when he strikes oil. Dean overacts to his heart’s content, failing to draw any compassion within his rags-to-riches arc.


There are two main points that I took from the tale. Firstly, that some things never change, and some things do. This seems a fairly pointless ethos, but shown in the films context takes some form, as the menfolk gather to discuss business as the times change around them, but Benedict’s initial negative feelings towards his Mexican ranchhands are subdued when his son, an excellent young Dennis Hopper, marries and produces a son, both Mexican and Benedict. Secondly, the film shows the dramatic effect a small act, in this case purchasing a horse, can have on the rest of your life. So, essentially, Giant is the Butterfly Effect without the nosebleeds.


Choose film 6/10

The Jazz Singer

Today I watched the Jazz Singer, infamous for being the first film to use dialogue, or more accurately, singing, as this is a semi-musical, presumably to showcase the new sound technology of 1927, as I felt that the inclusion of full-length song performances detracted from the plot, of a young Jewish boy who runs away from home to become a jazz singer. I feel that this film was included in the 1001 Films to Watch Before You Die purely due to its significance in cinema history, of being the first ‘Talkie’, not because it is one of the ‘great’ films.

Choose life 4/10

Out of Sight

Last night I watched Out of Sight. I’d seen it before, but never really paid an awful lot of attention to it, but this time I made an effort to follow the plot. I think the film is a little over-rated, with editing style taking precedence over actual substance. In places, it seems to want to be a modernised version of classic cinema, with freezeframes, snappy dialogue and a plot that sees George Clooney’s prison escapee and Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal thrown together and falling for one another, but it is this plot device that in my opinion lets the film down. I’ve always hated the tacking on of an arbitrary romance subplot almost ruining what would otherwise be an incredible picture (see also the Nightmare Before Christmas, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars), and this is definitely the case with Out of Sight. If the film had focussed on Clooney’s Jack Foley, his escape from prison and the heists before and after, I feel it would have been a far superior picture. By all means keep J-Lo’s character, (but for the love of cinema, recast) but drop the frankly ridiculous romance between the two. The best part of the film was the cast, with Don Cheadle eating up the screen as hoodlum Snoop, whilst Ving Rhames supports well as Buddy, Foley’s redemption-craving partner in crime. And the last minute cameo is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.

Choose film 7/10

All Quiet on the Western Front

Right, it’s done, the list is complete. It can be found on the Challenge page of this truly marvellous blog. The final count stands at 1,327 films, somewhat less than I was anticipating, but still a decent number to watch in 5 years (0.73 a day, stats fans), considering I’ve got to track most of them down, and a large number won’t be watched by my girlfriend (rules: no subtitles, no gore, minimal swearing, no snakes), severely limiting the days I’ll be able to watch them.

And so, the journey continues, with my watching tonight of the original 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front. I recently watched the 1979 TV movie version, and found it entertaining, especially Ian Holm’s moustache, but feel that the original is far superior, not least because all the actors in the remake seem to bring nothing to their roles, copying their predecessors exactly, especially Donald Pleasance as the teacher who inspires his students to enlist. The film is notable for being an American-made film depicting the Germans during World War I, and depicting them sympathetically, as real people with feelings and fears, not just faceless stormtroopers who must be defeated.

Choose film 7/10

True Grit (2010)

I’m a massive Coen brothers fan. I’ve got all their films, a couple of posters, and eagerly await any and all of their new releases, as in a perfect world all films would be directed by the Coens. After the release of Burn After Reading on DVD I even completed a 23 hour marathon of all their films in a single day, and man that was a good day.
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Sideways/Les Vacances de M. Hulot

Cross off two more! I watched Sideways on Sunday, still loved it, but then I’ll watch anything with Paul Giamatti in, even Shoot ’em Up, and I’m looking forward to watching Cold Souls at some point in the future too, as well as Barney’s Version. Choose Film 7/10

Rented les Vacances de M. Hulot too. Wasn’t overly impressed if I’m honest, I found the lack of a driven narrative to be annoying, and that most of the occurrences were contrived merely to allow a few slightly humorous pratfalls. Plus, the character of Monsieur Hulot is a clear inspiration for Mr. Bean, the character that lessened Rowan Atkinson as a comedy genius in the public mindset, for which there is no possible forgiveness. Choose Life 4/10