Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Off To The Races - Double-Double Feature

Films Recently Watched:

Double-Double Feature (Part I):

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965) dir. by Ken Annakin
Up until this one, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the longest-titled film that I had watched. Well, according to this list, even this one is only the 15th longest film title (Strangelove is 124th), so I guess I've got a long way to go (so to speak).
The list also shows Disney's upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe weighing in at #164. What's #1, you ask? Another Demonstration of the Cliff-Guibert Fire Horse Reel, Showing a Young Girl Coming from an Office, Detaching Hose, Running with It 60 Feet, and Playing a Stream, All Inside of 30 Seconds, of course.

The Great Race (1965) dir. by Blake Edwards

When Volcano and Dante's Peak came out in 1997 and then Armageddon and Deep Impact came out in 1998, I was convinced that either the film studios were blatantly ripping each other off or they had completely lost the ability to generate an original story idea and more than likely, both. But once again, I learn there's nothing new under the sun. Hollywood couldn't come up with two original ideas in 1965 either, so they apparently decided to make the same film twice! Those Magnificent Men and The Great Race are both films about a race to Paris. Both feature an American hero/lead with the antagonist being a dastardly/sabotaging over-acted fiend with a idiot sidekick who does much of their dirty work. Both have enormous male casts with nearly singular female roles, despite Race's theme of Women's Lib. Both clock in at well over 2 hours (137 and 160 minutes, respectively), including musical intermission breaks. Both use a "scope" aspect ratio. Both use an old-timey introduction/opening credits and both use a healthy amount of vehicle operation "acting" in front of rear-projection screens. Finally, both feature the female leads repeatedly losing their clothing. Other than that, they couldn't be more different!

Double-Double Feature (Part II):

Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) dir. by Michael Anderson. Produced by Michael Todd.
This was the Academy's Best Picture winner for 1956. It's IMDB rating is only 6.8. I began to wonder if '56 was a slow year at the movies, but the other four pictures nominated (and their respective IMDB rating) were: Friendly Persuasion(7.5), Giant(7.5), The King and I(7.5), and The Ten Commandments(7.7). No one has ever said that the Academy is free from politics, and my guess is that the Academy chose to honor Michael Todd for his accomplishment of making this monster of a film instead of honoring the actual "Best Picture." See, Michael Todd is considered by some to be the greatest film producer ever. He produced one film and with it, won the Producers' most coveted award, the Oscar for Best Picture. In many ways, the film tells the story of how the film was made. Both Michael Todd and Phileas Fogg, the main character in the story, are convinced that they can accomplish something that their closest friends believe is impossible. For Phileas Fogg, the task is to travel around the world in 80 days. For Michael Todd, it was to create a successful film adaptation of Jules Verne's famous story. Both had to overcome huge obstacles and constantly improvise in order to accomplish what they set out to do. Another accomplishment of Todd's in this picture was the invention of the "cameo;" the bit part played by a major star (e.g. Buster Keaton, Caesar Romero, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, and Red Skelton, to name a few from this one).

Around the World in 80 Days (2004) dir. by Frank Coraci
Disclaimer: I have not read Jules Verne's novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.
That said, if the 1956 version of this film is true to the source material, then this remake is barely recognizable as coming from the same source. Perhaps they should have changed the names to protect the innocent, because the names are about the only things that are the same here. This is pretty much Around the World in Eighty Days meets Inspector Gadget (not a compliment) meets every silly Jackie Chan movie you've ever seen. For me, the remake removes the heart and soul of the 1956 version. The come-what-may stoicism of Phileas Fogg and his true-to-self attitude in the face of adversity, to me were the heart of the story. These are replaced by hijinx and sulking in the remake. Also, the traveling sequences were among my favorites in the '56 movie. In 2004, these are replaced by 10 second CG bits so that they can move on quickly to the next big choreographed fight sequence. If you're only going to watch one, watch the original from 1956.

Other Films Recently Watched:

High Plains Drifter (1973) dir. by Clint Eastwood

Deliverance (1972) dir. by John Boorman

I [Heart] Huckabees (2004) dir. by David O. Russell

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) dir. by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
A simple, sweet story, despite the surface themes of zombies, murder and suicide. I can't help but compare this to Tim Burton's other feature-length claymation work, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Bride's songs are weaker and not as well-used. The story is much simpler, but not as well executed. The characters are fewer, but not as sympathetic. Nightmare is simply better.

I've finally, just recently broken into my birthday present that I got in March even though my birthday wasn't until May. It was a collection of 18 Oscar winners for Best Picture. From it, I've watched five of the DVD's so far: Unforgiven and Around the World in Eighty Days (already mentioned) and the following three titles:

GiGi (1958) dir. by Vincinte Minnelli
Christy enjoyed this one quite a bit.

An American in Paris (1951) dir. by Vincinte Minnelli

Grand Hotel (1932) dir. by Edmund Goulding

The Transporter (2002) dir. by Corey Yuen. Co-produced and Co-written by Luc Besson.
When we were at a movie theater in Indianapolis a couple of months ago, I saw a banner advertising The Transporter 2 with the reference, "From the makers of The Professional." Well, The Professional (aka: Léon) is one of my new favorites, so I figured I'd better watch the original before I considered seeing the sequel. I liked the visual style of the film (the bullet tracers are a really nice effect). It's a simple story that gets complicated, in this case, a little too complicated for its own good, I'm afraid. Similar to other Besson stories: Loner hero doesn't want to get involved, but meets a girl and, of course, gets involved anyway -- saves the day, gets the girl, etc. Completely implausible, but a fun action flick, nonetheless.

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