Classic Film Project: Future Shock

I watched a 1972 documentary film last night called Future Shock. Based on a 1970 best seller of the same name by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, it was hosted by Orson Welles being his Orson Welles-iest. Puffing on a cigar, speaking with an air of gravitas, and emphasizing the final two words in the sentence: “And with all our sophistication, we are in fact the victims of our own technological strengths –- we are the victims of shock… a future shock.”

The film also has those absolutely terrible keys that are the hallmark of early 70s documentaries, and some rather comical zoom ins of random people’s faces, which it would then freeze on.

But the points the film made were rather important, and things that we don’t think about enough today. It talked about how radical the transience of our society was, how friends and houses were no longer permanent but way stations on our way to new friends and another house. It talked about the constant decision making we had to do every minute of the day, as we were bombarded with ads, products, and ideas, an attack on our brains that our forefathers didn’t really have to deal with.

Though done with plenty of 70s schmaltz, much of what Welles talked about rang just as true in today’s society as it did in 1972. In fact, in some ways we probably haven’t changed as much as we think we have. “Just as things and places flow through our lives at top speed, so do people. Long term commitments are not expected. Involvements are compressed in time. Young people embrace new values in an atmosphere of intimate intimacy.” Swipe left indeed.

In fact, in watching this, there are some reminders that 1972 wasn’t as long ago as we seem to think it is. There is a scene of a gay marriage, talk of the expansion of artificial organ implants, and discussion about the morality of invitro fertilization (which at that time had only been tried on mice). There were also robots that looked almost as lifelike as the ones we marvel over today, and plenty of talk about computers.

It’s only 42 minutes long, and despite the cheese factor, is well worth a watch. I’ll give it a C+, and a welcome invitation to discuss it at the bar with anyone who gives it a viewing.

The Classic Movie Project: Mean Streets

Haven’t done this in, well, 9 years, but the wife and kid are gone for a few days, so what the hell else am I going to do but sit on my couch, eat Cheetos and watch some movies? For those who have forgotten or simply never knew, the concept is simple: I watch films that are considered classic but which I have never seen. For this movie, I picked the 1973 Scorcese film Mean Streets.

The film primarily focuses on two characters: Charlie (played by Harvey Keitel) and Johnny Boy (played by Robert DeNiro.) Charlie for some reason takes care of Johnny Boy, even though Johnny Boy is a complete and total pain in the ass. And their relationship is a big part of why the movie didn’t do much for me…Johnny Boy brought absolutely nothing to the table. He was a punk who constantly stiffed people money, and Charlie spent the whole movie cleaning up his messes. Why? It was supposed to be because they were friends, but who would be friends with a shithead like that with no morals and nothing to lose, when you had a sense of morality (in Charlie’s case from his Catholic upbringing) and plenty to lose? I really think that if Charlie owed him one from when they were kids or something, it would make more sense. Instead the majority of the movie is Charlie telling Johnny Boy to pay people back and Johnny Boy coming up with excuses to not pay them back. Charlie seems like a nice guy, but he’s kind of a bozo; hey dumbass, get this: your friend is never going to pay anyone back. Why do you keep covering for him when he repeatedly shows you no respect? I dunno, I just thought that it was unrealistic for a friendship to be so unevenly balanced, with one go going so far out of his way for the other with zero re-enforcement from the other guy.

However, the beauty of the film is that it really brings to life a Lower Manhattan and a Little Italy that no longer exist. It is gritty and grimy and gloomy, and the interior shots mostly take place in a seedy Go Go bar, doused in a grim red haze. Does a great job of using a tough Italian neighborhood to create a mood, similar to Rocky in that regard (though Mean Streets is nowhere near as good of a movie). I also liked the fact that really not a whole lot happened. There wasn’t a ton of gratuitous violence or lots of real explosive scenes. It was just sort of a slow burn, an unapologetic look at Little Italy in the early 70s that neither glorified the Mob nor looked down on it.

This is a movie that is worth watching for the scenery, the backdrops, and to glimpse an early, unpolished Scorcese. But I think its status an all time great film is rather overstated. Grade: C+



Road House.

12 Angry Men.


Triple review: Blue Velvet, Magnificent Seven, and Blow Out.

Godfather 2.


North by Northwest.

Dr Strangelove.


What was the Worst Best Picture Winner of All-Time?

As you’ve been reading throughout the week, I asked quizzo regulars Mike Minion, Junior, and Koob to submit their favorite and least favorite movies that won the Best Picture Award. They’ve all three agreed on Casablanca as one of the five best films to win Best Picture. (I disagree, btw. I think it’s way overrated.) There is also one film they all agreed was one of the worst: Dances With Wolves. All three of them hated this film. Of course, part of the reason they all hated it is that it’s a bad movie that knocked off one of the greatest films of all time. Here are their comments, as well as the one Best Picture winner Mike Minion refuses to watch.

Junior: This movie was the one which made Kevin Costner think he could do anything. I would have liked it a lot more if Costner wasn’t in it,  but he was EVERYWHERE!  Too earnest and self-conscious and self-satisfied.
Better Choice:  GoodFellas

Koob: This movie was just long, slow, and boring and it beat out Goodfellas which is one of my favorite movies of all time and probably my favorite Scorsese movie.
Mike: When Kevin Costner cares about a subject, he can make a decent movie. He likes baseball, so Bull Durham and Field of Dreams are pretty good. Apparently, he doesn’t care for oceans, the US Postal Service or Native Americans, as Waterworld, The Postman and Dances with Wolves are not. Three hours of Kevin Costner being “earnest” is about 173 minutes too long. To quote Lisa Simpson, “Poor Mr. Costner, he tries SO hard.” Even worse: it beat out Goodfellas for the award.
As for the movie that Mike won’t watch, because he’s ridiculously stubborn so principled: The only Best Picture I haven’t seen is Titanic, and I never will. I have seen the You-Tube version: The Titanic in 5 Seconds. Now, THAT I like. But when you take an engrossing tale of tragedy, heroism, cowardice, nobility and fate and ruin it with a sappy and impossible love story (steerage passengers did NOT look like Leo DiCaprio; they had bad teeth and smelled like yesterday’s catch), I just can’t get on board.
My take on Mike and Titanic: You had Gigi in your top 5, so who knows what you’ll like. Who knows? You might love Titanic. Personally, I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it either. Everything other than the dumbass love story is pretty awesome. But the love story is incredibly cliche and obnoxious.

Koob’s Worst Best Pics

Here’s Koob’s worst four Best Picture winners. Believe it or not, I’ve only seen one of them. It was Shakespeare in Love. I liked it, but it wasn’t great. Winner pics coming later this afternoon. Of course all three guys hated the same film. I’ll post it a little later today as well.
Ordinary People. Not a terrible movie and it was actually very well acted.  Timothy Hutton won a deserving Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland were both great as his parents.  It’s more on this list because it beat out Raging Bull which is a far superior movie.
Driving Miss Daisy – This was a pretty weak year for Best Picture noms.  Once again, not a terrible movie, and very well acted, but pretty cliche and forgettable when all is said and done.
Shakespeare in Love – A pretty forgettable romantic comedy with some good acting performances and some genuinely funny moments, but this was probably the biggest Oscar robbery of all time when this movie won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan.
Million Dollar Baby. This might come as a surprise to some people, but I just did not like this movie at all.  I thought it was a pretty good underdog story with the gritty Hillary Swank convincing the crotchety Clint Eastwood to become her boxing trainer up until the last third of the movie which I don’t want to spoil in case you haven’t seen it, but it just seemed to be one of those plot twists that was manipulative just for the sake of being manipulative and making people cry.  At least this movie finally got Morgan Freeman a much deserved Oscar.

Junior’s Worst Best Pics

On Monday, Junior gave us his best Best Picture movies. Today we’re getting his worst. Junior was kind enough to not only post his worst Best Pics, but also provide a film that was nominated that year that should have won. The only ones I’ve seen are Crash and Last Emperor. Crash I commented about on Mike’s, and Last Emperor, I saw it a while ago and don’t really remember much about it. So obviously I didn’t think it was very good.

Betty Hutton really grates on the nerves. Typical back-stage drama boredom with a circus theme. Embarrassing.

Better Choices: High Noon or The Quiet Man

THE LAST EMPEROR. Overlong and tedious. And it won everything it was nominated for…go figure. This was one of those films that the Academy honors to feel good about itself. High honors for high art. Yawn!!

Better Choices: Broadcast News or Fatal Attraction

CRASH. Even Jack Nicholson was surprised when he opened the envelope to announce the winner. The Academy is not brave enough to award a movie with a major gay theme. Crash was about self-involved Los Angelinos acting like idiots…..hey, wait a minute……..

Better Choices: Brokeback Mountain or Good Night, and Good Luck

The Worst of the Best:

OLIVER! Kids. English kids. Orphaned English kids. Dancing orphaned English kids. Singing and dancing orphaned English kids. Overblown production numbers. Bad English accents from authentic English performers. Cloying. Sickening attempts at pathos. Unsuccessful attempts at comedy. Well, it was 1968 and the Academy was definitely on a bad LSD trip when they awarded this piece of tripe.

Better Choices: The Lion in Winter or Romeo and Juliet

The Worst Best Picture Winners, According to Mike Minion

You already saw what Mike thought were the best Best Pictures ever. Now it’s time for his worst. There is one film that all three of our reviewers thought was one of the 5 worst. I’ll save that as one final post. There are two more that both Junior and Mike agree on. Junior’s reviews coming tommorrow. Here are films Mike loves to hate. His reviews are first. My two cents is 2nd.

GONE WITH THE WIND. I can’t think of a protagonist in any movie I loathe more than Scarlett O’Hara. She’d be a perfect guest for a special episode of the Dr. Phil show. If she could swear, Jerry Springer. But how can you have a movie about a love story when no SANE person could possibly fall in love with the romantic lead? In the history of cinema, no character ever made a better final choice than Rhett Butler. Oh yeah, it’s racist and stupid too.
JGT’s Take: Got it for a Christmas present a couple of years ago, but still haven’t seen it. Pretty sure I’ll hate it if I ever watch it. Not my kind of film.

OLIVER! Take one of Dickens bleakest novels (which weren’t a batch a sunshine and daisies to start) and turn the staving, exploited orphans into dancing, singing, smiling, lovable urchins. Who’s f***ing brilliant idea was that? But, it was 1968 and the whole country was stoned, so what the hell. P.S. Exclamation point? Really?
JGT’s Take. Never seen it. Never will. Hate almost all musicals.

CRASH. I can accept a lot of improbable things when I see a movie; after all, that’s part of the fun. But the plot of Crash goes way past improbable into the realm of “you’ve GOT to be kidding”. Not only that, but a better-acted, funnier, more-realistic, and well-scripted version of this piece of junk was made in 1991: Grand Canyon. Maybe they thought no one would notice. Who knows? Plus, it was a coward’s choice: Brokeback Mountain was one of the other nominees, and Good Night, and Good Luck hit too close to home.
JGT’s Take. I thought this movie was good. Maybe not Best Picture good, but I rather enjoyed it. I thought Matt Dillon was great and so was Terrence Howard. This movie and American Beauty have both been savaged by people, but I’ll take either one over Gladiator and The Departed, which both had flashes of brilliance but absolutely mind numbingly stupid endings. I have seen a lot of Best Pictures that were worse than Crash. That said, I did like Good Night, and Good Luck better.

FORREST GUMP. Now, I don’t really think this is a bad movie. It’s just that I think that it was the worst of the nominees, and I can’t understand how it won. The other films nominated in 1994? Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, and The Shawshank Redemption. Not only were the other nominees better, but Jenny is a close second to Scarlett O’Hara in the “Who’s the most unlovable love interest” race. If Forrest only had 5 more points of IQ, he’d have dumped her ass when she played Blowing in the Wind naked and wondered why no one was interested in her music.

JGT’s Take. Yes and no. Forrest Gump is actually a very good movie, but not nearly as good as Shawshank Redemption. It is obviously not one of the worst 5 films to win Best Pic, but perhaps one of the worst 5 choices to win.

Bonus! The Best Best Picture Winners According to Koob

Koob’s Best Pic resume isn’t quite as impressive as Junior and Mike’s but it is pretty damn good. He’s seen 63 out of 83. So I thought it would be pretty fun to throw in his two cents. So w/o seeing Mike or Junior’s he threw in his Top and Bottom 5, and the results were interesting. He agreed with both Mike and Junior on Casablanca, and agreed with Mike on Godfather. Here are his other three best.

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. This is my favorite film of all time, so of course it has to be on my list of the five greatest best picture winners.  Jack Nicholson’s best role hands down.  Perfect from start to finish with one of the best endings of all time.  Look for appearances from Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd as some of the mental patients.

JGT’s Take: I also love this film. The baseball scene is one of my favorite film scenes of all time.

THE GODFATHER PART II. I rank this slightly ahead of The Godfather, but just barely.  I go back and forth on this all the time, but I give the slight edge to Part II because of the way it masterfully tells both the story of Vito Corleone’s journey from Italy and rise to power, along with Michael Corleone’s transformation from a man doing whatever it takes to protect his family to a a cold-blooded and ruthless overlord who drives his family apart.  The betrayal of Michael by Fredo and it’s subsequent aftermath are some of the most heartbreaking and chilling scenes ever caught on film.
JGT’S take: As I stated earlier, I like this one a little bit better than the first one. (Here’s my review of it from a couple of years ago. Needless to say, after since rewatching Godfather I, I get the Marines scene at the end now.) They’re both brilliant, but the second one just covers so much ground in so little time, and ties together so brilliantly and heartbreakingly at the end.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS . Choosing the 5th movie was hard as there are many deserving candidates, but in my own humble opinion, this movie gets the edge simply because Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in this movie may be the best performance ever captured on film.  Ted Levine is also scarily convincing as the serial killer Buffalo Bill, but he was completely overlooked by the Academy.  I guess they were afraid to award such a creepy performance.
JGT’s Take. I am not a horror film fan. I don’t like spending my free time making myself scared. If I wanted to do that I would just walk 12 blocks south of my house at night time. That said, this is a really well done film that I enjoyed when it came out. Buffalo Bill has haunted my nightmares ever since. Another good reason not to watch horror films.

The Best Best Picture Winners of All-Time, According to Junior

Junior and Mike Minion agreed on two films, meaning there were three films that he loved that did not make Mike’s Top 5. I have not seen any of these three films, but I do have Mutiny on the Bounty on DVR and plan on watching it in the next week. I will review it after watching. Interesting to note that both Mike and Junior had Marlon Brando Best Actor films included. Here are Junior’s picks:

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.A Best Picture doesn’t have to be a sweeping epic to be worthy of accolades. This was a fun movie with a great script and lots of memorable scenes. I like movies from the ’30s that take place in contemporary times which are just as much escapist fare now as they were then. This solidified Frank Capra’s reputation and moved him along to a long and successful career.

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Two consecutive Best Actor winners (1933’s Charles Laughton in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ and 1934’s Clark Gable in ‘It Happened One Night’) team up for the best screen version of “Mutiny on the Bounty”. Laughton and Gable played magnificently against each other. All of the production values were great and holds up remarkably well after 76 years.

ON THE WATERFRONT. Very authentic look at the rough lives of dock workers and their corrupt boss and one guy’s turmoil as he is torn between his loyalties. Terrific work by Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee. J. Cobb and Eva Marie Saint, all of whom were nominated for Oscars (Brando and Saint won). Brando gives his famous ‘I coulda been a contender’ speech in this film. The music score supports the film perfectly.

The Best Best Picture Films Ever, According to Mike Minion

You may have read Mike and Junior’s shared Oscar favorites last week. They both thought that Casablanca and Rocky deserved to be in the Top 5 Best Picture winners of all time. The three below are three of Mike’s Top 5 favorites. Keep in mind, Mike will be hosting an Oscar quiz tonight at the Westbury at 9 p.m.

THE GODFATHER. Greed, love, duplicity, murder, ambition, and cannolis: this film has it all. Great quotes, a wonderful roman a clef (which ties into another Best Picture winner: see footnote below**), and a stellar performance by Al Pacino in his first big role combine to make this a nearly perfect film.

JGT’s Take: No argument here. Brilliant film. That said, I think I like part II a little bit better (it also won Best Pic.)

PATTON: The opposite of Rocky, this film is big in every way. In an era full of larger-than-life characters, Patton was the largest. George C. Scott captures the essence of the man beautifully (check out You-Tube for some of Patton’s real-life speeches) and makes him accessible and more human at the same time. One of the greatest performances ever. Fun fact: Scott won, but declined to accept the Ocsar for Best Actor.

JGT’s Take: Embarrassed to say this: never seen it. I know. I know. Trust me, it’s on the short list.

GIGI: I can’t come up with any rational reason why I like this movie, so I’m not gonna try. More to the point, I’m not sure I want to know. It’s a corny musical (which generally annoys me) with a terrible social message (which REALLY annoys me) and worst of all, it’s set in France (which… well, you get the point). But for some reason, I really, really like this movie. Sue me.

JGT’s Take: Not embarrassed to say, I’ve never seen this. Mike encouraged me to DVR it, which I did. Will I actually ever sit down and watch it, or will it perpetually take up 7% of my DVR space? Only time will tell.

**It has been suggested that the character of Johnny Fontane was based on Frank Sinatra. The role he asks his Godfather to help him get is the fictional version of Maggio in From Here to Eternity, which won an Oscar for Best Picture and several others, including a Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra. This is much clearer in the book than the movie, but it’s hard not to make the connection in either case.