IMDB #234 Safety Last!

I am on a roll today. We move now to the prohibition era, 1923, with the silent comedy classic Safety Last! Zaniness will ensue.

The Key Players:

Produced by Hal Roach Studios, this film was a real collaborative effort, directed by two men (Sam Taylor and Fred Newmeyer) and written by four.

But it’s a Harold Lloyd film, a silent comedy legend that has somehow become third man on the totem pole behind Chaplin and Keaton, despite no failure to match either for productivity or originality of vision. The highest paid film-performer of the 20’s (as he released 12 features to Chaplin’s 3), he was famous for his “Glasses Character,” a pale-faced go-getter referred to as “Harold” or “The Boy” in inter-titles.

Lloyd’s go-to co-star (and second wife) Mildred Davis co-stars as “The Girl,” our plucky young hero’s sweetheart. Finally, Bill Strother, a real life Human Fly type, plays Lloyd’s roommate for reasons that will become clear.

The Story:

Young Harold we meet at the train station, saying goodbye to Mildred and her mother (though initially a sight gag makes it look like he’s off to the gallows). He’s heading to the big city to seek his fortune, and after nearly accidentally stealing a baby, he’s off.

We then find him some weeks later working a low-wage job in a department store, getting into antics in the fabric section while trying not to get canned for showing up late. One afternoon he runs into an old friend that’s now a policeman- when his roommate “Limpy” Bill shows up, he claims he’s in so good with the police that they can pull the kneel behind him/push him backwards gag and not get in trouble. Naturally, they do it to the wrong cop, and Bill has to scramble clear up a four story building to get away, drawing a small crowd in the process.

Later, Mildred surprises Harold by coming into the city to start a family early, as his letters had given the impression he was much more of a big shot than he actually is. Wackiness follows as he tries to impress his sweetie at work by acting important, with his superiors none the wiser, and in the process he overhears the boss claim that he’ll give $1,000 to anyone who can draw large crowds to the store.

This gives Harold the bright idea to have Bill climb the twelve story building, and split the grand with him. The boss loves it, ads are put out, and they all prepare to find glory and success the next day…

The Artisticness:

Lloyd, at least in this film, is more of a reactionary comedian than a physical one, except for his stunt-work. Eschewing the pratfalls of Chaplin or the complex interactive scenery of Keaton, he mines laughter from the aghast faces of those taken unawares by our hero’s hijinks: the ambulance driver that finds Harold only faking a fainting spell to hitch a ride back to work, or the uptight supervisor double-taking after Harold’s snuck around behind him to punch in.

While this film featured Lloyd as an upwardly mobile ragamuffin, he was apparently unique for the range of class types he portrayed, instead of typecasting himself as a champion of the poor (like Chaplin’s “The Kid”).

Also, I hope to see a silent film with live music someday, as I’m sure that enhances the experience. The reworked score for the DVD version by Carl Davis was lively enough as it was.

Even at seventy minutes, silent films can drag a bit, but this one picks up as soon as it reaches the famous climbing sequence…


So the cop shows up at the big exhibition, preventing Bill from climbing the building. It’s okay, he says, Harold can just climb up to the second floor, duck in a window, and Bill will put on his coat and hat and finish the job. Harold awkwardly climbs the first story as the crowd cheers him on, but the cop finds Bill on the second floor.

Just go up one more, he says, while I ditch the cop. But the second floor has people crowded at the window ledges watching. The next floor has a dog, the next the cop shows up again, and so on. My favorite was the floor where a man is about to be photographed holding a gun, and Harold opens the window right as the flash goes off, and quickly continues upward thinking now he’s being shot at.

Other obstacles ensue, like some nosy pigeons, a broken flagpole, and of course the famous clock that Harold hangs onto for dear life. Finally, he reaches the top, where Mildred has come to wait for him, and is rewarded with a kiss (and presumably $1000),

He promptly walks through roofing tar on his way downstairs.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Hard to say. I’ve seen plenty of Chaplin, and some Keaton, but it’s hard to distinguish from our viewpoint. This pales in comparison to some of the more lavish productions like Modern Times (and it doesn’t have the imagination of Sherlock Jr.), but it made me chuckle.

The Legacy:

This is really the only film that most people remember of Lloyd’s and largely for the clock scene. It’s referenced directly in several places, most notably Back To The Future and the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy. Modern day physical comedian Jackie Chan also paid tribute in his 1983 film Project A.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Just for fun, here's a compilation of clips from Project A and their inspirations, where Mr. Chan makes homages to not only the clock scene, but parts of Modern Times and Sherlock Jr. as well.

Leftover Thoughts:

My other favorite gag was when Lloyd tried to get rid of the cop by writing “Kick Me” in reverse on the wall in chalk, and then bumping him into it.

Apparently Lloyd had a missing ring and index finger on his right hand from a 1919 set accident, which makes the stunts climbing the building all the more impressive (unsimulated climbing was done by Bill Strother- close-ups like the clock scene were Lloyd on soundstages). The danger was real enough to cause some audience members to faint, which they proudly bragged about in marketing the film.

This entry owes a lot to the Wikipedia page on Safety Last! What do you want from me? In 1923, my grandfather was 4.

IMDB #235 Casino Royale

Plugging right along with the relaunch of the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale, at number 235. A confession: while I’m up to date on all of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies (which started out on a decent foot with Goldeneye and spiraled progressively downward), I’ve only seen one other previous Bond movie in its entirety: Connery’s You Only Live Twice. This makes me not the best Bond scholar, but also more receptive to the blond-haired, blue-eyed, visceral direction in which they’ve taken the franchise.

The Key Players:

Martin Campbell, director of Goldeneye as well as the relaunch of another film icon (The Mask Of Zorro), came back to direct this new adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. He works with a screenplay by duo Neil Purvis and Robert Wade (who worked on The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day), as well as Paul Haggis (a double Oscar winner for Crash (boo!)).

Given the track records of the men above, and no offense to them, but it’s hard not to ascribe the new look and tone of Casino Royale to Daniel Craig’s steely performance as a 007 just earning his stripes. Selected to much die-hard consternation after an epic search that spawned countless oh-he-would-be-awesome!-type rumors (my favorite was Clive Owen), Craig put in ample badass practice in Layer Cake, amidst some character work in Infamous and Munich before taking the super-spy mantle.

Eva Green puts most other Bond girls to shame as agent of the Treasury Vesper Lynd, Bond’s first love. Jeffrey Wright plays his wise-cracking American CIA counterpart, Judi Dench returns as M, Mads Mikkelson plays the bad guy, various other people play various other things, but are we really that concerned? It’s all about being cool.

The Story:

We open with the brief story of how James Bond earned 00 status, which apparently takes two kills. The first is a messy brawl with an enemy operative in a restroom (which Craig plays with some great vulnerability), the second is a showdown with the fellow agent that had been selling the first guy information. Both scenes are in super-noirish black and white, and the messy up-close and personal first kill is in stark contrast to the gentlemanly clean hit of the second. Bond, it would seem, got his legs fast. Cue title sequence!

Then Bond chases a parkour-mad bomb-maker through Madagascar, before being forced to kill him in a public embassy. Turns out the guy was on the hook from Le Chiffre (Mikkleson) to blow up a plane in Miami, and cause the plummeting of the airline’s stock, which Le Chiffre had “shorted” with an African warlord’s $100 million.

This involves buying a “put option” on the stock of the company, which I think entails the following: Le Chiffre pays $100 million for an option to buy an equal number of shares of Skynet (the plane-makers) and sell it at the current price, within a certain timeframe. The key is that he gets to sell the stock at the present value no matter what happens to the stock in the meantime. Thus, his plan is 1) Buy put option. 2) Blow up plane, causing Skynet stock to plummet to nothing. 3)Buy the shares for nothing, and sell them at pre-explosion price, essetntially doubling his investment. I think.

Instead, Bond stops the replacement demolitions expert assigned to bomb said plane in the nick of time, and Le Chiffre loses everything. He then organizes a high stakes poker game at the titular Casino Royale in Monte Carlo to get his money back. M sends Bond to play to keep Le Chiffre in debt to his superiors, so they can offer him sanctuary in return for information.

Vesper Lynd (Green), of course, tags along as an agent of the treasury to keep an eye on the $10 Million stake he’ll be playing with, and to charm our hero mostly by being not terribly impressed with him at first. Then it’s high-stakes Texas hold ‘em time, as Bond survives African thuggery, attempted poisioning, and burgeoning love while trying his hand at cards. Guess what? He totally wins!

But wait! Is MI6 agent in Monte Carlo Rene Mathis what he seems? Is Vesper Lynd for that matter? And why is Bond naked and tied to a chair? Mystery and excitement!

The Artisticness:

I was thinking, after recently watching the direct sequel to Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace, that the biggest difference between the new Bond and the old Bond is this: I’d watch Brosnan and think “I could do that. You just wear suits, drink martinis, seduce women and use gadgets to do all the dirty work.” It seems like a simple job, really. But I could not do what Daniel Craig does. He crashes into the arms of cranes in mid-air, gets tortured, crashes his spiffy Aston Martin, and has to be defibrillated back to life after poisoning. Not for me.

Some people have accused the new films of emulating the Bourne series a bit too much, but I don’t think so: Craig still goes after the ladies, looks good in suits, and orders fancy drinks. It’s just that there isn’t a wink and a smile anymore- Craig is all business (especially in the new movie), and if he has to be an ultra-suave badass to accomplish his assignment, then so be it.

The first Bond girl we encounter, the girlfriend of a middleman thug, he pursues only long enough to get what he’s looking for, and leaves before getting to any hanky-panky to fly to Miami.

The performances are mostly stellar beyond Craig as well: Green is as smirk-faced and icy as Craig, and Judi Dench especially hits some great notes in her brief scenes. I enjoy Jeffrey Wright’s frank CIA Agent Felix Leiter as well, despite his dialogue being a little to snappishly American (“I’m bleeding chips, not gonna last much longer.”)

Mads Mikkelson isn’t terribly memorable as the stereotypical stone-faced villain (who cries blood!), but Jesper Christenson is menacing as a mysterious man-behind-the-scenes.


Where were we? Oh yeah, Bond wins the card game, but then fellow agent Mathis apparently sells him and Vesper out to Le Chiffre, and he’s captured and tortured for the password to access the poker winnings. But then, Le Chiffre’s debtors show up and kill everyone except our hero and his lady love. Bond and Vesper then deepen their relationship while recuperating (Bond was, uh, manhandled a bit while in captivity), Mathis is tasered and taken away. Cue happy ending!

Or.. not? Vesper it turns out, is trying to make off with the winnings in Venice along with some mysterious men with guns. Bond gives pursuit and sinks an entire building into the canal, ultimately trapping Vesper in a submerged elevator shaft. She sadly pushes him away as he tries to rescue her, and drowns in shame at her betrayal.

It turns out she had been a rogue agent the whole time, working with the very shadow organization that brokered the Le Chiffre deal to get the money for themselves. Or was she? M tells Bond that Vesper was being blackmailed to save the life of a boyfriend, but Bond –perhaps in dismissal of that theory and perhaps in anger at being the “other man”- simply says “The bitch is dead,” with cold-hearted disdain, and pledges to move on.

Then he tracks down the mysterious guy (Christensen), shoots him in the leg, and finally goes “The name’s Bond. James Bond.” Cue theme music!


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Higher, ya’ll. Definitely higher. I can watch this film back to back if I’m bored enough, and I actually thought the new one was far too short, compared to Casino Royale’s running time.

I definitely need to catch up on my Bond to call it the best in the series, but it blows what I’ve seen away.

The Legacy:

It holds the temporary title of highest grossing Bond ever before Quantum Of Solace likely usurps it in the coming weeks, and it was the first to inspire a direct sequel.

Otherwise, it hasn’t been quite long enough to gage. Though whenever my friend Dave is even slightly drunk he says he feels like the scene right after Bond gets poisoned and stumbles through the Casino in bleary-vision.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

The chase scene after the titles is pretty epic, and actually co-stars Sebastian Foucan, one of parkour's founding fathers. It's not only awesome to watch, but leads to hilarious moments of contrasting styles, when Foucan acrobatically flips through a gap in an unfinished building to while running away, only yo have Craig just bust through the dry-wall to keep up with him.

Leftover Thoughts:

Forgot to mention the awesome credit sequence with a song by Chris Cornell and David Arnold (who composed the score) that incorporates the Bond motif from the film score better than any other title song I’ve seen. Plus the animation focuses mostly on casino-themed shadow characters fighting, not suggestively-posed women, which really gets tacky after the first thirty seconds.

Dave had a Vesper Martini once, and it was crazy bitter. But it was also made at theater with wooden seats in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and served in a plastic cup, so it might not be the best measure of the drink’s viability.

“How was your lamb?” “Skewered. One sympathizes.”

I really wish the moment when Bond has to veer off the road and ruin his car wasn't spoiled in the trailer, because it would have been an awesome moment in the theater.

The Countdown: Keeping It Hip

An update on the process: My original list was copied from on 7/3/2008. I just took today's list (11/30/2008) and synthesized the two to keep up with the times. There were 229 films that appear on both lists, so I kept The Dark Knight at number 4 (where it looks likely to stay), and I have a new top 230.

What do I do for entries 235 through 231 you ask? Well, I get to pick and choose the films that interest me most among the ones that have appeared on/fallen off the list in the intervening time. Why? Because I said so, that's why. Do you really want to hear me bitch about the 1946 Great Expectations? Probably not, I'm guessing.

IMDB #236 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Another western, folks! This time it’s another Ford/Wayne movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The Key Players:

John Ford and John Wayne have been discussed in this here space already, pilgrim.

Jimmy Stewart is of course a Hollywood icon, wobbling his way through many diverse standards from Frank Capra classics like It’s A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to three Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.

Lee Marvin, an Oscar winner for Cat Ballou and a That Guy! From plenty of other westerns and war-movies, plays the villain, while Vera Miles plays the love interest (she was Janet Leigh’s sister in Psycho! And was also in The Searchers (hey!)).

The Story:

Stewart and Miles open the film as a middle aged couple returning to a small town named Shinbone, in an unnamed state that Stewart is the Senator of. They’re back to attend the funeral of a friend, prompting a nosy inquiry from the local newspaperman. Stewart agrees to tell the story of his acquaintance with the deceased, in winding flashback form.

A long time ago, Stewart came to Shinbone as a young lawyer, wide-eyed and full of ideals (isn’t he always?). He was promptly robbed and beaten on the road by Lee Marvin’s psychotic Liberty Valance, to be rescued from death by Wayne himself, the town’s resident badass.

In the course of his recuperation, Stewart takes a shine to Miles, a waitress at the town mess hall, and Wayne’s presumed gal, who he’s just waiting to propose to until he finishes fixing up his house for her. Or something, he's hard to read, that guy.

Anyway, the local Marshall’s a nincompoop, so Marvin just runs around terrorizing everybody. Wayne and Stewart argue about which is might, the law or the gun, with the gun usually winning in practice. Eventually things come to a head when Stewart’s chosen to be a delegate to the territorial convention to determine a congressman.

The townsfolk want statehood, the local ranchers (and their guns for hire, which include Marvin), want to be an open rage territory, which means no one gets to keep their property. Marvin finally challenges Stewart to meet him in the street, Old West style. And the results of said confrontation change everyone’s lives…

The Artisticness:

I gotta say, after the wide-shot majesty of the desert in The Searchers, this film feels a little smaller in comparison. It’s in black and white, as well, which leads to some neat shadows during the climatic confrontation, but mostly a drab looking film.

The narrative is interesting enough, of course, especially in the conflict of ideologies between the rough and tumble Wayne and the heart on sleeve Stewart. What good is law and order in the middle of chaos? But what good is brute force without conscience? Not that it ever gets too verbose in the contemplating of said matters. Mostly there are gunshots and Marvin and Wayne having stare-offs.

Vera Miles sold being hung up on John Wayne okay, but she and Stewart seemed to have no chemistry. It made the love triangle aspect hard to buy. And the local townsfolk were largely annoyingly clownish caricatures.


So Stewart and Marvin face off in the street, at night. Marvin shoots our hero in the gun-holding arm, then tauntingly shoots near his good left hand as he goes to retrieve said pistol. Then, can you believe it, Stewart nails the bad guy with a left-handed crackshot, winning the immediate acclaim of the townsfolk (and Miles), leading eventually to his selection as the congressional delegate, Governor, and U.S. Senator.

Wayne, after seeing Stewart and Miles embracing, drunkenly goes home and burns down his spiffy new house. I wonder what he’s so cheeved about?

The big twist is, of course, that Wayne was standing in the shadows, and he is the man who shot Liberty Valance, but he realizes that the people need their nice guy hero, and he’s lost the fight for his girl.

In the present time, the newspaper dude agrees, and decides not to print the story. The film ends on a somber note, as it’s clear that Miles never quite got over Wayne, Stewart is eaten up to some degree by living a lie, and Wayne died never having fixed his burnt home years later, merely content to fill his garden with the cactus flowers Miles loved so much.

It’s a sort of pessimism most Westerns avoid, even when dealing with ostensible sadness: the lone gunman riding into the distance is at least accompanied by triumphant music. Here we just get some ironic adulation from the train attendant to Stewart as he and the missus head back to Washington. “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance,” the guy says. Aww.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I give this one a shrug. I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. I liked the integration of the standard western gunplay with some political grandstanding, but the comic relief all fell flat for me. Let’s say lower, by a hair.

The Legacy:

Well, I suppose it’s right up there on Best Westerns lists, and it’s been included in the National Film Registry. Beyond that, I can’t think of many cultural references, but it’s high in the Ford oeuvre to be sure. Plus it got an Oscar nod for Best Costumes, so there’s that.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

I’d go with the big twist scene, even though it’s pretty predicatable, if only for the way Wayne sets Stewart the hell straight with as few words as possible, but a hell of a stern look. Plus, the revisit to the gun fight is framed in a cool way with the shadows and all.

Leftover Thoughts:

The time period this takes place in is never named, just like the state it takes place in.

On the night he gets shot, Valance has the “dead man’s hand” in a poker game (Aces and Eights) that Wild Bill Hickock was holding when he was killed. Woo, history!

The only intentionally comedic scene that made me laugh out loud: They call the doctor to look at the gut-shot Valance. He barks out: “Whiskey, quick!” takes a slug off the bottle, rolls Valance over with his foot, and just goes “Dead,” with a shrug. Hi-larious.

I swear one of the sets appeared in The Searchers as well. I bet that happened a lot when you made as many films per year as John Ford did.

IMDB #237 Planet Of The Apes

Whatup, folks? Next up is the original 1968 Planet Of The Apes, which to my shame I have actually never seen before. But I’m savvy to countless pop-culture references that spoil the ending, and I have inexplicably seen the Tim Burton remake.

The Key Players:

Our director is Franklin Schaffner, who mostly worked in TV before busting out with Apes, and winning the Best Director Oscar for future entrant Patton. The screenplay was written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, which explains why it feels like a double size Twilight Zone episode. They were working from the novel by Pierre Boulle.

In every scene of the film is Charlton Heston, who you may know as Moses, Ben-Hur, El Cid, Robert Thornton (who found out what Soylent Green was), Marc Antony (three separate times!), or that crotchety old guy in Bowling For Columbine. He died on April 5 this year, and is a lock for the end of the “People We’ve Lost” montage at the Oscars.

Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton play Heston’s human companions, Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall are the apes most sympathetic to his cause, but the only other big part is Maurice Evans as the wise but ruthless Dr. Zauis.

The Story:

We open with Heston, the captain of a deep space mission (to where or what exactly we never find out) making a final captain's log before he goes into a deep sleep. Some recent theory suggests, he narrates, that traveling near the speed of light will cause centuries to pass on earth while they only experience six months (no mention of Einstein here, oddly. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of relativity as it relates to space travel since I saw Flight Of The Navigator as a young child. Because that movie is awesome: it has time travel, an adorable alien thing, and the voice of Pee Wee Herman. But I digress.)

Anyway, he takes a six month nap, only to awake to a ship crashed in a lake, one of his companions dead thanks to a cracked stasis chamber (the only lady astronaut, alas), apparently on some alien planet with little signs of life.

Until they find a jungle, and some mute human-appearing creatures that steal their clothes while our heroes are skinny dipping. They watch the simple-minded locals climb some trees, and speculate that at least they’ll rule the roost on this planet.

Cue the intelligent, superior race of apes, that come swooping in (on horseback?), kill one of our adventurers (the black guy-totally saw that coming) and capture Heston.

Then it turns into, essentially, a reverse Scopes Monkey Trial, as the apes argue about what the presence of a speaking human means. But nobody’s any match for Dr. Zauis, who occupies the unique position of both Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith in the ape community.

The Artisticness:

Given that references to this film mostly involve the campiness of certain screaming moments that we’ll get to later, I found it surprisingly moody and well, cinematic.

The first thing I noticed is a distinct 2001: A Space Odyssey influence, but then I looked it up to find that it was released… three days earlier? So scratch that. But there’s a definite Kubrickian pacing and use of extreme noise to portray the early crash-landing and desert sequences. Not to mention Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which pitched and groaned like "Peter and the Wolf" on LSD or something.

I appreciated the patience the movie had, to let us get to know Heston and co. before getting into the nitty gritty. He and Robert Gunner have an entire conversation about the reasons they’d sign up for a seven hundred year journey as they explore that I enjoyed- Heston’s character is the kind of cynical but inquisitive know-it-all that I recognize from the work of Robert Heinlein. All in all, it’s half an hour before we see our first ape.

The story-telling, while it gets a little heavy-handed in the reverse ape-man chicanery, is intelligent enough not to get too overly expository. And the level of dialogue puts most modern sci-fi to shame. This is, I suspect, perhaps a combination of Serling’s sense of erudite pondering (Heston says to himself at the beginning “Space is boundless- it squashes a man’s ego.”) and the Boulle’s novel (he’s also famous for The Bridge On The River Kwai).

Once you get your brain to stop asking questions about why the apes read, write, and speak English (Heston never seems to question this, much like on the original Star Trek), there’s plenty of fun in the “heresy” being discussed: Heston represents a “missing link” for some apes that theorize that apes “evolved” from man. It would be even funnier if this debate had gone away in the last forty-five years…

That said, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when the apes say things like “You know what they say- human see, human do,” or “I never met an ape I didn’t like.” Or at the moment when, when sitting in judgment during a tribunal, three apes strike the see/hear/speak no evil pose.


OMG you guys it was Earth the whole time! You maniacs!

But seriously, in the trial of science v. religion, science loses (like it always does), and Heston is sentenced to be lobotomized. Sympathetic ape scientists bust him out, and they eventually end up finding incontrovertible proof of the earlier existence of intelligent men (including a heart valve and eye-glasses, but Heston doesn’t quite put the whole “Earth in the future” bit together at this point) and show it to Dr. Zauis, clearing the good apes of heresy.

Heston rides off (with his new, mute gal-pal), and Dr. Zauis then orders the proof of ancient cultures destroyed and the good apes arrested again (bummer). A young progressive-type ape exclaims in anguish “Why must knowledge stand still? What about the future?” To which he replies “I may have just saved it for you.”

Implicit in that teachings of the ape religion, apparently, are that they must avoid the warring, destructive nature of an advance, completely “civilized” culture. Hence the text of their 29th Sacred Scroll (Verse 6):

“Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.”

Anyway, Heston finally reaches the iconic ruins of the Statue Of Liberty, and has his famous hissy-fit at the folly of man’s past. After all the buildup, parodies of this scene had led me to imagine it would be way more over-the-top than it was.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’d say higher, maybe, since it outdid any of my expectations, and has proved highly influential. It’s definitely not as campy as it’s made out to be, and it’s a heck of a lot better than the Mark Wahlberg version (man, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said “it’s a heck of a lot better than the Mark Wahlberg version I’d have… fifteen cents, at least).

The Legacy:

Let’s see: it spawned four sequels and two television series, as well as countless pop-culture parodies/homages (well, they’re countable, but we’ll let Wikipedia do the work. My favorite, hands down, is the Simpsons where Troy McClure (who you may know from such self-help films as Smoke Yourself Thin! And Get Confident, Stupid!) revives his career by starring in the musical “Stop The Planet Of The Apes, I Want To Get Off!”).

And it’s even a visual precedent for things like the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope where the Jawas stalk R2D2 through the desert much as the primitive humans follow the astronauts soon after they land.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Final scene, anybody? Watch this, and tell me if it's as extreme and over-acted as you've been led to believe. I feel like I've been short-shrifting Charlton Heston this whole time as a scenery chewer (though I've never seen Ben-Hur. Sacrilege, I know.). I mean, saw what you will about the guy, but he's not post-Scent Of A Woman Pacino in terms of pure salted ham.

Leftover Thoughts:

Difference from the novel #1: the apes speak a different language entirely, which the hero has to learn to prove his intelligence. Thank you. Although, while I thought it convenient that Heston has a convenient injury to his throat when initially captured, it provided a great buildup to the classic line “Get your paws off me, you damn dirty apes!”

Difference from the novel #2: (Spoilers) The planet of the apes is actually a different planet in the book, but the hero returns to earth proper to find that the exact same thing has happened, vis a vis apes being in charge and all (?). Boulle allegedly has claimed he wishes he thought of Serling’s ending. (End spoilers)

Speaking of which, I’d like to think that I’d have seen the ending coming if I didn’t already know it, but I guess I can’t claim that with complete impunity.

My favorite exchange: “I didn’t realize man could be monogamous.” Heston: “On this planet, it’s easy.”

IMDB #238 Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Surprise! I wasn’t on pace for another one of these at least until Obama’s inauguration. But who am I to turn down inexplicable bursts of productivity? And seeing as everyone in the world has seen today’s entrant in the countdown, there’s no need to recap the plot of Pirates Of The Carribean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl at all. So while we’re here, let’s settle this once and for all: It’s pronounced ca-RIB-bean, not carri-BE-an. You can even listen to a Miriam-Webster robot get it right. (A sidenote: I find I hilarious that the Wikipedia page “List of words of disputed pronunciation” has a note that says “the factual accuracy of this page is disputed.”)

The Key Players:

Director Gore Verbinski’s biggest claim to fame before PotC (as the kids call it) was The Ring, the English remake that kicked off the huge wave of (mostly) forgettable J-Horror remakes. He also put in time taking paychecks for Mousehunt, and doing a pale Soderberg imitation with The Mexican.

Johnny Depp is Johnny Depp.

Orlando Bloom is of course mostly famous for playing Legolas in the LotR trilogy (the kids, they really don’t like to spell things out) and delivering my single favorite line of the trilogy for unintentional comedy purposes (where, in Return Of The King, they discuss the plan to draw out Sauron’s troops and clear the way for Frodo for about ten minutes before good ol’ Legolas is all like “A diversion!” (at the 9:30 mark here)).

Keira Knightley broke out in Bend It Like Beckham (which I’ll see someday when I’m a thirteen-year-old girl) and is now a Serious Actress in Serious films with accents and wigs.

Geoffrey Rush won an Academy Award for Shine, and my personal favorites of his storied career include Intolerable Cruelty, Quills, and Shakespeare In Love (which is inexplicably not on this countdown, by the way. This is a tragedy, people that rate things on imdb! I will literally fight anyone who thinks that Saving Private Ryan (#57 on this countdown) should’ve won Best Picture instead).

The cast is filled out by faces either familiar from other things (hey, it’s Jonathan Pryce from Brazil!, and the Dwight from the British Office!), or familiar from this trilogy. Also, there’s a monkey and a parrot.

The Story:

So there’s these Pirates, in the Carribbean, and they need to get some black pearls from some black oysters, but then some ninjas show up and they have a giant ninja/pirate brawl and uh…. Has anyone really not seen it, but also happens to be reading this obscure page on the internet? I say no.

The Artisticness:

Lesson learned on style: 1) Gore Verbinski really likes blue lighting or orange lighting. 2) Jerry Bruckheimer (producer extraordinaire) really likes action sequences that go on 20% longer than necessary. 3) If Keira Knightley doesn’t have enough cleavage for your purposes, you can always paint some more on.

But the honest strength of this movie, beyond Depp’s Oscar-nominated Keith Richards impression, is Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s screenplay. It’s sprightly witty, in a sort of Tom Stoppard (but more accessible) way, and this first installment of the PotC series is actually pretty tightly plotted. In subsequent entires they went a little haywire, but there’s not a spare moment in Black Pearl.

But seriously, this movie is funny like a screwball comedy from the 30’s. Depp and Rush get to ham it up all they want amongst Bloom, Knightley, and a host of other British straight-people. And there are not one but two Useless-Comic-Duos, one of hapless Pirates and one of hapless Redcoats.

The playfulness of the script even pervades to the Rube-Goldberg-machine-like action sequences, which utilize pulleys, catapults and levers (though this may be an influence of it being based on a theme-park attraction, naturally. I’ve never been to Disneyworld, myself.)

Finally, Klaus Badelt's score is one of the few instantly recognizable modern classics, with only Howard Shore's LotR themes quicker to remind me of the film it's from when I hear it (among films from this decade).


This is clearly the first film wherein the writers weren't absolutely sure they would be writing sequels, so it’s definitely the most satisfying conclusion. The hero gets the girl, the Pirate gets the ship, etc.

There’s an annoying trend these days (I call it the Pirates/Matrix Syndrome), in which a pretty awesome blockbuster will do well enough to spawn sequels, and then immediately we’re treated to two (or more) films that don’t tell satisfying tales in and of themselves, and don’t even come close to living up to the original movie.

Some series avoid this by having a plan for future stories already in place (LotR), or focusing on one film at a time (hence Spider-Man 2 improving on the first).


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’d say this seems appropriately weighted, in the larger scheme of things. It’s not often a large-scale action adventure movie (an original one, no less), goes for such an oddball, crowd-pleasing tone and hits all the right notes.

The Legacy:

Of course, if Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End weren’t over-plotted, overlong, and filled with bizarre stretches of exposition regarding half-crustacean people, voodoo goddesses, and the East India Trading Company, maybe The Curse Of The Black Pearl wouldn’t look as awesome in comparison. (For the record, I own all three, and I’ll probably see the upcoming fourth. They’re still entertaining, just not as awesome. Ah, well).

Otherwise, Johnny Depp now stands as one of the world biggest movie-stars in addition to already being one of the world’s coolest, but the brief making-movies-from-theme-park-rides trend died immediately with The Haunted Mansion.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Well, the whole thing is on YouTube (starting here), but since there's no way that's legal we'll go with the scene after the credits, because monkeys=awesome. Seriously, Owning A Pet Monkey is high on the list of things I dream about but would never actually do (like Robbing A Bank, or Joining The CIA).

Leftover Thoughts (Favorite Quotes Edition):

-“Clearly you’ve never been to Singapore”

-“You cheated!” “Pirate.”

-“Spiritually, ecumenically…grammatically.”

-“Oh, not you. We named the monkey Jack.”

-“That would be the French.”

-“…and then they made me their chief.”

-"A wedding? I love weddings! Drinks all around!"

-“Lovely singing voice, though - eunuch.”

IMDB #239 In Bruges

Whatup, internet? I’m sticking with this business, even months apart! So there! Next up on the countdown is In Bruges, a film that wasn’t on my original list, but the French film that I was supposed to do (La Haine) is boring as all get-out, and it’s fallen off in the meantime. This means, by a rule that I made up, that I get to replace it with something that’s appeared on the top 250 in the intervening time. And guess what’s at number 231 right now? That’s right, In Bruges, a film that would get like a zillion Oscar nominations if the world were as awesome as it is before I wake up in the morning.

The Key Players:

Our director is an Irish gent by the name of Martin McDonagh, who was mostly a playwright before wining an Academy Award for a live action short film called Six Shooter in 2006, and writing as well as helming 2008’s In Bruges.

Colin Farrell, who you may know from such classics as S.W.A.T., the re-imagining of Miami Vice in film form (which my friend Dave will defend to the death, because he loves Michael Mann like a long-lost brother), tabloid photos wherein he’s dressed like a hobo, and Daredevil, stars as an assassin in training that completely FUBARs his first assignment.

Brendan Gleeson plays his friend and mentor- he’s hip to us younger folks for his work in recent masterpieces like Gangs Of New York and 28 Days Later, and to the even younger for the last two Harry Potter movies. He’s also been in Braveheart, Michael Collins, Troy, Kingdom Of Heaven, and Beowulf. In fact, I bet he has business cards that just say Brendon Gleeson: Badass for Hire.

Finally, Ralph Fiennes shows up halfway through the film as a villainous, veribosely profane crimelord with a cockney accent, and Clemence Poesy (who you may vaguely recognize from the GAP ads on the back cover of recent Entertainment Weeklies, if you’re me) plays a random love interest for our boy Colin.

The Story:

It’s a pretty simple premise, and to be honest one that I didn’t think would hold water from the trailer (look up). Farrell, a novice thug, botches a hit. Fiennes, a scary boss guy, tells Farrell and Gleeson to hightail it to Bruges, Belgium (pronounced BROOJ), the most well-preserved medieval city in the world, to lay the eff low and do a little effing sightseeing.

Farrell takes an interest in a local film production that features a dwarf with very strong opinions, as well as a PA that looks like a fashion model (Poesy). Farrell hates Bruges with typical young-punk nihilism, Gleeson loves Bruges with typical middle-aged reflection. I smell a sitcom.

But then, things happen, and it’s crazy awesome. For more, read on.

The Artisticness:

I may be sort of an old tourist type well before my time (witness: I watch 60 Minutes, hate loud concerts and my jacket smelling like smoke, and I constantly spout Gloverisms about getting too old for various types of sh*t. I am precisely twenty four years old.), but Bruges looks awesome to me. It’s shrouded by a majestic mist in the mornings, bath in yellow light in the night, there are ancient towers, churches, castles.. It’s probably my innate American jealousy of Europe (quoth Eddie Izzard: “Where the history comes from.”), but we don’t have any ruins of anything.

So this film looks cool, with stark sepia and blue lighting, and it has an excellent score by Carter Burwell punctuated by the occasional rocking tune from The Walkmen or Townes Van Zandt. Plus the dialogue is punchy and clever, and peppered with many, many curse words, which seems like the way hitmen would actually talk.

How could it get even better? Oh yeah, the acting is incredible. You can tell from the start that McDonagh is a playwright by trade, with the gradually widening scope of the drama (there are some key twists and turns), with the focus remaining on a few key characters. You know what? Let’s move behind the spoiler veil and discuss this in detail.


So they get to Bruges, and bicker about there being nothing to do, and Farrell acts all edgy and difficult, and about twenty minutes into the film you get a flashback to the botched hit (he shot a priest, but frakked it up and winged a little boy in the head while firing through the guy. The boy dies on the scene). And you realize that Farrell’s been on the edge of breaking down the whole time, and he plays the whole thing with such relatively jumpy subtlety that you’re almost willing to forget about Phone Booth.

That’s Turn #1. Turn #2 is when Fiennes calls up Gleeson, and after a profanity laced, vaguely menacing conversation about how awesome Bruges is, you find out that the trip was a gift to Farrell, so he could be happy before Gleeson kills him. Because you can’t kill little kids. Apparently even gangsters have limits. Turn #2.

So Gleeson goes to kill Farrell, but only stops Farrell from shooting himself. Turn #3. He tells him to flee and start over. This enrages Fiennes, who comes to Bruges to kill Gleeson (but only shoots him in the leg, as they’re old friends). But (turn #4), Farrell has been arrested for punching a Canadian tourist and is discovered by Fiennes, who then fatally shoots Gleeson after a struggle, and chases after our boy through the snow-tinged streets of medieval Belgium.

Got all that? The films end in a spectacularly grim and brilliant scene where a gutshot Farrell stumbles through a film set, made up to resemble a Hieronymus Bosch painting, or a vision a purgatory, and Fiennes catches up and shoots him again, in the back.

But in the final turn, the bullet goes through our hero and blows the head off the dwarf. Mistaking the dwarf’s body for a child’s, Fiennes shoots himself on principle, leaving Farrell to wonder in voiceover, as paramedics rush to save him, if hell is just an eternity spent in effing Bruges. And he finally wishes he won’t die. Scene.


Overall- Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, I don’t normally recap the entire film, do I? So I’d say higher, but what do I know? Tasha Robinson of the Onion AV Club said this: “If Guy Ritchie sat down, took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, and put as much thought as energy and style into his films, they'd look almost exactly like this.” I couldn’t agree more. This has all the wit and edge of a Ritchie film, but none of the overdone flash, and way way more emotional weight.

The Legacy:

Uh, it came out this year, so… awards remain to be seen, but I’m holding out hope for Gleeson to get some buzz, or maybe the screenplay (Original is annually a hard ballot to fill out. Most big pictures are normally based on something.)

And, for me at least, this and The New World officially move Farrell in the Serious Actor With Awards Potential category (instead of the, y’know, star of Oliver Stone’s Alexander category).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Well, there's always one of those every-curse-word compilations, but honestly, just watch the following scene: a quiet moment of Farrell and Gleeson taking in the sights on a canal. It's a lot more representative of the film than the ridiculous trailer, which is all Hey! Guns, Gangsters, in Europe! Whoo! and gives you no impression that this is yes, the kind of film where someone karate chops a midget while on coke, but also the kind of film with thoughtful discussions of purgatory on park benches.

Leftover Thoughts:

-For a comparison, Guy Ritchie’s two smashes, Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are ranked at #188 and #160 on the list. Meh.

-Dave once dressed as Colin Farrell for Halloween. Not as one of his movie characters, just as the man himself, but to be fair he was the well-dressed Vanity-Fair-photoshoot Farrell (with fake tattoos on his arms and everything), not the so-scruffy-it's-kind-of-pretentious Farrell. Still, nobody got it.

-I’m expanding the rule (wherein I can substitute things for other things) to include obscure things I can’t get a hold of. As long as I replace it with things that still appeared in the top 250, I’ll sleep easy. But I’ll keep it in reason (i. e. I’m not gonna replace Casablanca with Iron Man (which recently cropped up at #249)).

-Ralph Fiennes is scary. That is all.

Best Picture Rankings

Selections from mine and my friend Dave's recent email chain, wherein we rank the prospective Best Picture Nominees. Purely for our own amusement. Because we are that into the Oscars.

ME: "Aaaaaand another one bites the dust! Australia was clearly on the fringe anyway, but it's clearly not a BP contender. In my opinion, we are left with eight films for five spots: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (favorite), Milk (dark horse), The Dark Knight (popular vote), Slumdog Millionaire (Indie darling), Frost/Nixon (Traditional choice), Doubt (Streep Factor), Revolutionary Road (Titanic Nostalgia), and The Reader (H-Caust factor).

Wall-E seems to be on the outside looking in, sadly, unless four of the above open to sub-par reviews/enthusiasm (which, based on pre-release buzz, seems possible for The Reader or Revolutionary Road, but unlikely for Button, Doubt, or Frost/Nixon. Milk, Millionaire, and Dark Knight have the numbers already).

Just for fun, a ranking:

1. Button, 2. Milk, 3. Frost/Nixon, 4. Dark Knight, 5. Doubt, 6. Slumdog Millionaire, 7. Revolutionary Road, 8. The Reader, 9. Wall-E, 10. Rachel Getting Married, 11. Defiance, 12. The Wrestler, 13. Gran Torino, 14. Changeling... 2576. The Happening."

DAVE: We should have a Best Picture Power Ranking. I would go:

1.) Benjamin Button. 2.) Frost/Nixon. 3.) The Dark Knight. 4.) Milk. 5.) Slumdog Millionaire. 6.) Doubt. 7.) Revolutionary Road. 8.) Wall-E. 9.) The Wrestler. 10.) Rachel Getting Married. I will not add anymore because Defiance and Changeling's reviews have not been friendly. Gran Torino? I say no.

The Happening for Razzies. Can we launch a campaign for that? 'Worst On Screen Duo'? Mark Wahlberg and Plastic Plant. I demand an acceptance speech that goes, 'Hey Plastic Plant, good to see you. How's it going? Been a while since The Happening. What's with that about? (Pause) All right, well, say hi to your mother for me.'"

IMDB #240 La Dolce Vita

The long awaited eleventh installment in the countdown is finally here! I like to call this one La Dolce Vita: Cinematic Classic or Celluloid Equivalent of a Coma? or, Why Film Studies Was My Minor, Not My Major. Let’s hop the heck to it.

The Key Players:

Your maestro and tour guide for this nearly three hour excursion is Frederico Fellini, a giant of foreign cinema, in company with your Bergmans and Antonionis, whose films won four Oscars and a Palm D’Or. This is my first Fellini experience, and not the last on the countdown (so look for the others in the fifteen years it will take me to finish this).

Marcello Mastroianni stars as a journalist (also named Marcello… who does this Italian dude think he is, Charlie Sheen?) that we follow for seven days as he reports on news items sensational and tabloid.

Anouk Aimée is a high society heiress he encounters more than once, Anita Ekberg shows up for a little bit (and all over the movie posters) as an American actess that Marcello follows around for a day. The only other major parts in a large cast are filled by Alain Cuny as an intellectual friend, and Annibale Ninchi as Marcello’s father.

The Story:

Basically, the film follows Marcello around for a few days as he deals with a crazy girlfriend, has a tryst with the above-mentioned heiress, lusts after the furtherly-above-mentioned American movie star, chats with his friend at a church, hangs out with his father for a night, goes to a crazy party and then ends up on a beach.

That’s really it, and it is in no way as exciting as it sounds.

The Artisticness:

Wow. Beyond having a job and writing some other things, you want to know why it took me so long to write this up? The first three times I tried to watch this film, I fell asleep. I finally got down to it today, and made it through a long stretch and felt my eyes drooping again, so I paused it to see how long it could be. Surely, there couldn’t be much left… I was halfway through. Yeah.

This film was beautifully shot, so far as I can tell, and who knows? The camerawork may have been revolutionary, but I couldn’t stay awake. As I tried to make the journey with Marcello, who played it alternatively smug, mute, or misogynistic, I found it hard to really care to keep up.

So I’m sure I’m a philistine that missed the clever significance of the statue of Christ being flown to the Vatican dangling from helicopter in the film’s opening scene, contrasted with the fake vision of the Holy Virgin Marcello investigates much later. I’m sure the way all the high society actors and socialites our hero encountered spoke in non-sequitors and empty platitudes because it was an artistic way to show the disaffection of the wealthy and the impossibility of true happiness.

Anita Ekberg certainly hammed it up in the process of confirming that Europe has always thought the United States to be kind of air-headed, but nice to look at.

And I’m sure there’s some crazier stuff in 8 ½, from what I’ve heard, but Fellini doesn’t seem to write a good part for the fairer sex. We encounter the following women in La Dolce Vita: Marcello’s suicidal, nutso (ex?) girlfriend who can’t live without him, a disaffected heiress that sleeps with him at a stranger’s house, the ditzy actress that mostly acts like a giggly five-year old, a woman who celebrates her divorce by doing a striptease, and finally, a woman that Marcello rides like a horse and covers with feathers when he’s in a foul mood at that same party, near the end of the film.


The only real movement to the film is that Marcello’s intellectual pal Steiner, one of the few characters not spoiled, selfish, or downright annoying, abruptly kills his two children and then himself two-thirds of the way through. While I’m sure this has a lot to do with Marcello’s bad mood at the party the next day, it’s not really touched upon.

Or maybe I’m just not smart enough to read more into it. Ah well.


Overall- Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, I think if you consider the achievement of this film within the larger context of post World War II Italian cinema, then you can- zzzzzzzzzzzzz… buh? Oh sorry, I just nearly bored myself to death.


The Legacy-

Well, it won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and the Palm D’Or at Cannes. So there’s that. I bet there’s a Criterion edition of it and everything. So it must be pretty cool, I guess.

Also, this film popularized the term "paparazzi." So there's that.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

Apparently, this scene where the actress ends up in a fountain and implores Marcello to join her is one of the most famous in modern cinema. But mostly it just reminds me of this Family Guy takedown of Dharma & Greg. (“Dharma, get down off that couch!” “Nuh-uh, silly, not until you come up here!”).

Leftover Thoughts:

  • I wish they could all be thoughtful discussions, but sometimes I just can’t stay awake. My bad- but for the record, I never asleep, during anything. So it’s almost impressive that Fellini found the right formula of ridiculously slow pacing, prentetiousness, and characters I could care less about to get me to doze off.
  • I did like the scene (parts, anyway) where Marcello spends the evening catching up with his father, and implores him to stay longer. It was a subtle reminder that me was losing touch with his roots in his glamorous gossip magazine lifestyle.
  • The last scene of the film is a girl from an earlier scene in a café trying to call something to Marcello, but he can’t hear her- Women sure are hard to understand, huh Fellini?

IMDB #241: The Searchers

Hey, it’s our first foray into an all-American genre: The Western. The first of around twelve or so on the countdown (more if you count modern neo-westerns like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood) is 1956’s The Searchers.

The Key Players:

Adapted by Frank Nugent from Alan Le May’s novel of the same name, The Searchers is directed by the legendary John Ford, the all time record holder with four Best Director statuettes to his name (For The Informer, The Quiet Man, The Grapes Of Wrath, and How Green Was My Valley- none of which are Westerns, ironically). Ford directed some 140 films in his career, and defined the Western as we all know it.

And the lead role in this film was written for one man, and one man only- the star of 24 Ford films, John Wayne. We all know John Wayne, who took home one of just two Oscar nominations for True Grit, but remains an icon (just ask Paula Cole, who doesn't seem to realize that John Wayne would probably be a terrible boyfriend. But maybe not as bad as the Marlboro Man, who must not have any teeth by now).

There’s some other people in this cast, I guess, but nobody I recognize other than Natalie Wood in a brief part. Jeffrey Hunter costars as Wayne’s sidekick, essentially, but it’s largely a one-man show.

The Story:

1868, rural Texas: Wayne, a confederate veteran (who’s been up to God knows what for the last three years), finally comes back to visit his brother’s family. The reunion with the whole family goes swimmingly, except for some slightly racist things Wayne says to Hunter, the family's adopted son who happens to be one eigth Native American.

Then the local Ranger shows up to round up a posse to hunt some Comanche (which Wayne pronounces "co-MANTCH" for the whole film) sighted nearby causing trouble, and enlists Hunter and Wayne, despite the latter's dubious past.

Wayne shares some silent looks of longing with his brothers wife (!) and then they leave. But it turns out that it a was all a ruse, and the Comanche raid the farm while everyone's away- killing the brother, his wife, and their young son, and spiriting away their two daughters.

So Wayne, Hunter and company try and track them down, only to lose them after an initial skirmish. Our two hero's and the older daugher's fiancee proceed with the search alone, only to find the older daughter's body (whereupon the fiancee flips out and gets himself shot).

So then it's just a matter of a over five-year-long search for the younger daughter (played by Natalie Wood by the time they catch up with her), now living among the Comanche.

And this whole time Hunter has a girlfriend that may or may not marry some yokel dweeb if our heroes insist on traveling the country all the time.

The Artisticness:

It's a western. There's long, beatiful (if you like that sort of thing) shots of barren landscapes and windy desert. I can see the appeal, I suppose.

But the real appeal of The Searchers is its relative subversiveness- well before the murky, gritty Leone westerns of the 70's, this film doesn't present the frontier struggle with any sort of black and white, cowboys v. Indians cohesiveness.

Wayne is an antihero, a badass who knows a surprising amount about the Native American way of life but thinks of them as less than human nonetheless. He's cavalier with the lives of hostages, and takes extra shots when his enemy is in retreat

It's not your standard John Wayne character, anyway. Equally spiteful is the Comanche Chief ("Scar"), who kidnaps a white girls for each one of his dead sons. And the savagery of both sides of the central conflict are merely in the forefront of an entire landscape of treachery and self-serving malice. Half the people that Wayne and Hunter run into offer help with their search, and then try and kill them for their lunch money when they turn their backs.

The Searchers is a depature from your Gene Autry, Howdy Doody frontier types, to say the least, (in fact, the dweeby singing cowboy trying to woo Hunter's girl gets punched in the face at a point), and it paved the way for the genre to be less of a goofy talkie picture where guys wore bandanas or feathers and more of, you know, an art form.


So when they initially catch up to the Comanche, Wood remembers them but wants to stay with "my people" instead of come back. At this, Wayne tries to shoot her since being a Comanche chief's bride is "worse than death," but Hunter stands in his way and then Comanche shotguns start going off until they have to leave.

They head back to town (I'm not clear which town- have they been in Texas this whole time?), break up Hunter's flame's wedding to the dorky guy, round up a posse and march on the Indian camp- Hunter sneaks in for Wood before the raid starts (Wayne wanted to just march in, risking her swift execution by her captors, because he is not a nice guy).

End result- Hunter shoots Scar, Wood inexplicably changes her mind and wants to go with them, and Wayne nearly shoots her again but stops himself when it occurs to him he might be batshit crazy.

Then everyone but Wayne goes back inside to continue there lives and be normal people, but he stays out in the wild because that's where borderline-pyschotic anti-heroes live, and the film ends with a great shot of a door closing on him and the sunset.

It's a good ending, in that it subverts your expectations for any kind of grand finale (the Comanche are better scalpers than marksmen, I guess) and makes the high tension about John Wayne, a beloved hero, chasing down a scampering Natalie Wood with death in his eyes. And of course he stops himself, but for a moment there you're like no way!


Overall- Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, to be quite honest, I've seen some other random John Wayne movie where he has to protect a bunch of children or something maybe (actually The Cowboys- where he hires schoolboys to help herd cattle. I saw it in middle school) and none of the Leone westerns, so I'm not a great judge on where this ranks among the greatest westerns.

But it was a decent enough film, even though it dragged a bit with the years of searching, and 241 doesn't seem out of line. Plus, it's John Wayne! Come on!

The Legacy-

In addition to the stark depicition of racism and moral turptidue opening the door for countless great future Westerns, this film ranks as a classic influence on plenty of other filmmakers.

The discovery of the brother's burned farm is more or less directly referenced in Star Wars, when Luke realizes Uncle Owen won't ever ask him to run errands again. My other favorite tidbit is that Wayne's character's cynical refrain of "that'll be the day" from the film inspired the Buddy Holly song of the same name.

Also it was officially named the greatest Western ever by the American Film Institute on their 2008 lists by genre (which shafted Sergio Leone, probably for being Italian).

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Some YouTuber calls this "probably the best ending in the history of cinema." Yeah, I don't know about that, but it's a cool shot:

Leftover Thoughts:

A lot of people make a big deal about the secretly-in-love with the wife's brother thing in terms of Wayne's motivations, but I think that only comes out after multiple veiwings and thinking too much about it. Really not that played-up.

There's a remnant of an earlier kind of western when Hunter tries to bargain for a blanket with a different tribe, and ends up with a wife instead. Hilarity ensues, but then she gets killed by some U. S. Rangers- whoops.

Also, to try and convince Hunter that they should just barge into Scar's camp (and risk Wood's death) he tells him one of the scalps of hair Scar showed them to initimidate them was Hunter's mother's. This is never mentioned again.

I hope The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (another Ford/Wayne project) is significantly different, because it's coming up soon on the list.

‘The X-Files: I Want To Believe’ In A Nutshell

This is a movie parody, the idea for which was inspired by ripped off shamelessly lifted from a writer known as Cleolinda Jones. She did a whole bunch of them, called Movies In Fifteen Minutes.

She even published a book of them, which is only available on Amazon UK for some reason. So go check those out if you like this at all, or maybe thought the idea had potential but could've been funnier in execution. She's a pro.

For my part, I kept trying to write a review of The X-Files 2 and could only keep making fun of it. And this was the inevitable result.

Two notes: Can anyone think of a better indicator of the brevity of the parody than "In A Nutshell" (and "In Fifteen Minutes," obviously)? Or maybe it just strikes me as a dumb suffix this time because it sounds like someone wants to believe in a nutshell. Who doesn't believe in nutshells? Nuts have to come from somewhere.

Also I joked that not only did Amanda Peet bring her "acting face" for her FBI Agent role, she also sported her "FBI-Bangs." So that's where that name comes from... Enjoy!

‘The X-Files: I Want To Believe’ In A Nutshell

Night, Some Lady's House:

SOME LADY: Listen to the score of this film! It’s so ominous and creepy. I hope there are no creepy bald guys around.


SOME LADY: Aaah! Eat garden hoe!

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: I have something to tell you about the future. Also, YAA! (kidnapping ensues).

Some Snowy Field, later (but edited so you think it’s the same time what?):

RANDOM FBI AGENT: Why are we all following this old priest around and combing through this snowy field? And why are there so many of us for just this one field? Seriously- there’s like thirty of us out here, you guys.

AGENT FBI-BANGS (Amanda Peet): Quiet, he’s having a vision.

FATHER JOE (Billy Connolly): Here, it’s here!

RANDOM FBI AGENT: Where? It’s all just snow!

(some other random FBI agents dig to find a severed arm with some garden-hoe-like scratches on it)

RANDOM FBI AGENT: How did he know that was there?

AGENT FBI-BANGS: He’s psychic, you see.

RANDOM FBI AGENT: Oh. So he said he had a vision of a severed arm and you just took his word for it? You mobilized like fifty FBI agents on some nutjob’s whim?


RANDOM FBI AGENT: I can see maybe if he’d had the arm already, but-

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Look I just don’t have much experience with this psychic stuff, okay? If only there was someone out there who did…

Christian Hospital Of Death:

SCULLY: And so, ladies, gentlemen, woman on the tv, I know none of the treatments for Little Johnny’s brain situation have worked so far, but I think we should pursue some experimental therapy because science is awesome- and I’m totally a doctor in case you forgot.

EVIL PRIEST BIG EARS: Well, the board feels that the boy is too cute to be in any more pain. Hospice, pronto!





(this is seriously how this subplot unfolds, for the whole film)

Later, in the Hallway:

AGENT XZIBIT: Dana Scully? Hi, I’m an FBI Agent, for real. We need you to contact Fox Mulder for us and tell him the FBI is willing to forgive everything that nobody remembers he did anyway if he’ll come help us with a case. For the FBI.

SCULLY: Wasn’t he sentenced to death or something like that?

AGENT XZIBIT: Yes, but we’ve got a missing FBI Agent/gardening enthusiast and we really need him to come in and disagree with everyone until the case is solved. Did I mention that I’m like a full FBI Agent? - I have a badge and everything.

SCULLY: Okay, Xzibit, I’ll tell him.

Scully’s House (Mulder’s house? Do they share it? I wasn’t clear):

MULDER: Did you see these newspaper clippings? I’m thinking of making a paper maché.

SCULLY: Mulder, I’m worried about your mental health- there are negative effects to long-term isolation, even though we may or may not share this house.

MULDER: I’m in perfect mental health! I keep my Unabomber beard neatly trimmed!

SCULLY: Yeah… Anyway, some rapper told me that the FBI would call off the manhunt and forget everything if you help them find some missing agent.

MULDER: Really? What if it’s a trap?

SCULLY: Sure, but what if it’s a plot device?

MULDER: I’ll do it. Are you going to be with me the whole way, or abruptly turn into a wet blanket when I get obsessed and take things too far?

SCULLY: No promises.

Washington, D. C.:

MULDER: Wow, it’s funny how we could get here in a helicopter from Alaska, or wherever it was so snowy.

(It was Somseret, West Virginia. Really?)

AGENT FBI-BANGS: So, Agent Foxy, I’ve read your files and I have to say you’re pretty boyishly handsome. What’s with the beard?


AGENT FBI-BANGS: Huh? Oh, anyway there’s these missing women, and the last victim was an FBI agent, and now there’s this priest dude who claims to have visions from god and he led us to a random severed arm.

MULDER: Psychic, you say? Well I may not be able to prove his visions are real, but I’ll defend to the death his right to have them.

SCULLY: I guess we can take a look…

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Also he’s a convicted pedophile.

SCULLY: WHAT!? Screw this noise!

Pederast Dorm:

FATHER JOE: That poor girl… I didn’t ask for these visions, just like I didn’t ask for little boys to be so-

AGENT FBI-BANGS: I’m gonna stop you right there. So Fox, what’s the S. O. P. in this situation? Little cards with lines and squiggles? Hypnosis? Any kind of Scientific Method?

MULDER: Well, mostly I just stubbornly refuse to doubt them until something randomly happens that backs me up, and then I solve the case somehow.

AGENT XZIBIT: That’s it? This FBI Agent is skeptical.

SCULLY: Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Do you know how many strings I had to pull to get you pardoned or whatever? That’s all you’ve got? At least shave your stupid beard, dammit!

FATHER JOE: Uh.. maybe I could go take a look at the house?

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Fine, whatever. Lead the way, Father Joe.

SCULLY: Why is everyone calling him “Father” Joe? Doesn’t that get revoked or something?

In The Car:

FATHER JOE: So who are you again? Didn’t I see you at the NAMBLA convention?

MULDER: No, no- it’s just the beard. I used to investigate paranormal phenomena for the FBI.

FATHER JOE: You believe in that stuff?

Me: Say “I Want To Believe”! Say it!

MULDER: Let’s just say I want to believe.

Me: Whoo! Nailed it!

Some Other Car:

SOME OTHER LADY: Nothing like driving down deserted roads after a good swim. Hey, that truck’s getting awful close…

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: In Russia, hay bales you! ::Knocks Some Other Lady’s Car Into Bale of Hay:: (kidnapping ensues)

Some Lady’s House:

FATHER JOE: Oh yes, the midi-chlorians are really high here..

SCULLY: What?! I’ve had enough of this charlatan.

MULDER: If he’s faking, how did he find the arm?

SCULLY: He’s clearly involved in whatever went down!

AGENT XZIBIT: Maybe he has a really good sense of smell?


AGENT XZIBIT: Hey, uh, I’m totally in the-

MULDER: FBI, we get it. You’re very believable. Scully, how many ridiculous things do you need to witness before you start to believe?

SCULLY: Always one more, crackpot.

FATHER JOE: The visions! So portentous yet vague! ::CRIES BLOOD::


The Next Morning, At Scully’s (Mulder’s?) House:

SCULLY: So there’s this little boy with a brain thing...

MULDER: What’s his name?

SCULLY: Uh.. Little Johnny? No wait, it’s Christian. Isn’t that weird that that’s his name and I’m having a crisis of faith about his treatment?

MULDER: That’s pretty contrived, yeah. Maybe stem cells?

SCULLY: Go on…

MULDER: I was just throwing it out there- I don’t know anything about them. But maybe you could google “stem cell therapy,” learn all about it, get approval, funding, and the parents to agree all in a day and perform the procedure tomorrow?

SCULLY: Come on, there’s no way that would be possible- not even here in British Columbia or maybe Virginia. By the by, you know what’s weird? That severed arm had a horse tranquilizer in it, but we all just sort of shrugged and moved on.

MULDER: What the what!? ::Shaves Beard:: It’s time for some serious obsessiveness.

SCULLY: I’ll catch up with you later. ::Googles “stem cell therapy”:: (this seriously happens!)

Local FBI Headquarters:

MULDER: Horse tranquilizers!

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Another swimming missing woman!

FATHER JOE: Visions!


The Woods:

SCULLY: Mulder, there’s nothing out here. Also your sister is dead already, just move on!

MULDER: Wow, that was uncalled for. I know that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to look for Samantha- I mean, Some Lady.

FATHER JOE: The visions, they’re hazy and unclear. I’m not sure if- no, it’s down there actually.

RANDOM FBI AGENT: This is like the coldest West Virginia winter ever, people. ::Digging:: What’s down here, anyway?


MULDER: Ha! See?

SCULLY: This doesn’t prove anything.

FATHER JOE: Hey Scully: "swing away."


FATHER JOE: I mean: "don’t give up."

SCULLY: You mean on my patient? Should I use these cell stems I’ve been reading about?

FATHER JOE: ::Shrugs::

Some Other Lady’s Wrecked Car:

MULDER: Looks like another abduction victim. Father Joe?

FATHER JOE: I got nothing. A hay-monster?

MULDER: Oh-kay… maybe this medical bracelet and swimsuit will tell us something- to the pool!

Christian Hospital Of Death:

EVIL PRIEST BIG EARS: So we’re transferring Christian to a hospice where God doesn’t have to think about him and feel guilty.

SCULLY: But what about the experimental-

EVIL PRIEST BIG EARS: God doesn’t experiment! It was six days and then “hey, that looks good to me”! No meddling!

SCULLY: But the parents-

EVIL PRIEST BIG EARS: The parents saw it my way after three hours of cajoling. Now clearly the catholic church always has the best interests of children in mind. Good day!

The Pool:

POOL ATTENDANT: Yep, both missing ladies are here in the log. Funny how they always wore bracelets with their blood type on them. They had a whole little “AB Negative” club that met on Thursdays.

MULDER: Clearly they were targeting people with that blood type! Maybe they put out a craigslist ad or something. What do you think, Agent FBI-Bangs?

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Hey! My name is Dakota Whitney.

MULDER: Yeah, that sounds like a name someone would have.

Some Other Hospital:

RANDOM COP: Excuse me sir, are you a licensed organ transporter person?


Pederast Dorm:

FATHER JOE: Agent Scully? Wha?

SCULLY: Why did you say “Don’t give up” to me?

FATHER JOE: I’m just a vessel.

SCULLY: Why would God reward you with psychic visions after what you’ve done? Plus, why are they more cryptic than the first season of Lost?

FATHER JOE: Proverbs 25:2- “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.”

SCULLY: So… I should do the stem cells?

FATHER JOE: ::Seizures::

Creepy Russian Lab:

SOME OTHER LADY: They left this cage open! Maybe if I crawl away very loudly I can-


Christian Hospital Of Death:

SOME RANDOM NURSE: Here’s your giant needle of stem cells, doctor.

SCULLY: Take that, religion!

SOME RANDOM NURSE: I can’t believe we just had those laying around for this.

Downtown Richmond:

AGENT FBI-BANGS: We’ve tracked Russian Leoben to this organ facility. Turns out he was married to some Creepy Bald Guy that Father Joe molested when he was little! Xzibit, you lead the raid up there- I’ll wait in the street with Foxy Clean-Shaven.

AGENT XZIBIT: Xzibit? My name is Mosley Drummy… what is with the names in this movie? ::leaves::

AGENT FBI-BANGS: So, Mulder, there’s another case I need you to take a look at, but we’ll have to go back to my apartment to-

MULDER: There he is!

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: ::Drops Cooler, Runs::

MULDER: ::Runs::

AGENT FBI-BANGS: (running) Wait! How are you so much faster than I am? Aren’t you nearing fifty?

(they chase Russian Leoben into a building under construction, but lose him- Mulder ends up two floors above Agent FBI-Bangs)

MULDER: (calling down) I lost him!

AGENT FBI-BANGS: Mulder! Have you seen him? I didn’t see him anywhere, so it’s probably safe to lean precariously on this railing to shout up at you.


MULDER: Oklahoma Brittany! Wait, that's not right. South Dakota Slim? I mean, FBI-Bangs!

AGENT FBI-BANGS: ::Impales::

Back On The Street:

AGENT XZIBIT: Well, nothing fishy going on up there. Hey, I wonder what’s in this cooler?


Christian Hospital Of Death:

SCULLY: Mulder, where have you been? I totally did the stem cell thing, without any training even! Also it turns out Father Joe has lung cancer.

MULDER: Father Joe, do you recognize this Creepy Bald Guy’s picture?

FATHER JOE: Not really. Is that Gollum?

MULDER: It’s one of your victims!


SCULLY: Just for the record, is the original Some Lady still alive?

FATHER JOE: The visions say… yes, she is.

SCULLY: Owned. They just found her head in a box! Enjoy your cancer, faker.

MULDER: Nice burn. Anyway, there’s still another victim to rescue, so-

SCULLY: I can’t look into the darkness with you anymore, Mulder.

MULDER: Wait- wasn’t my involvement in this all your idea?

SCULLY: Nevermind that now! The point is, if you go any further with this I’m not coming home tonight.

MULDER: So we were living together!

SCULLY: Also you’re out of Orange Juice.

Nutter’s House of Feed and Tranquilizer:

MULDER: Anyone buy this sort of horse tranquilizer from like an hour ago?

CLERK: Hell, son, we give that stuff away with every six pack! That Russian guy coming in is our biggest customer.

MULDER: Russian guy? ::Hides::

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: Yes, can I refill this prescription?

CLERK: That’ll be a forty-five minute wait.

Another Snowy Road:

MULDER: This Russian guy is so dense he doesn’t notice me following him, when I’m the only other car on the-


SCULLY’S CAR: ::Tumbles::

Christian Hospital Of Death:

CHRISTIAN’S DAD: We’re having some doubts about this procedure- isn’t it pretty painful?

SCULLY: You know what else is painful? A red-ass beatdown. We’re doing this thing.

CHRISTIAN’S MOM: If you were a mother you’d understand.

SCULLY: First of all, I’m pretty sure I am (sort of?), and secondly WHAT DID I JUST SAY!?

A Snowbank:

MULDER: Ugh.. should I go for help? Find my cell phone? NO TIME! We’re doing the rest of this on foot, head-trauma style!

MULDER: … I hope Scully’s not mad about her car.

Scully’s House:

SCULLY: Good old google- I'd never pull off half that "doctor" stuff without it. I wonder if there’s anything else about stem cells on here…

GOOGLE: Stem cells totally kept this severed dog’s head alive! (Are you feeling lucky?)

SCULLY: I should call Mulder about this, even though I was pretty final back there…

SCULLY: ::Dials::…. these voice-mail menus take forever.

Local FBI Headquarters:

SCULLY: Mulder’s missing! He won’t answer his phone!


SCULLY: And we need to find him!

AGENT XZIBIT: I think you need another branch for that. You, see, I’m in the-

SCULLY: Saying it all the time won’t make it plausible! Why are you here, anyway!? Do you at least have a song on the soundtrack?

AGENT XZIBIT: Actually, I-


Creepy Russian Lab:

MULDER: Wow, this place is creepy. At least I have the element of-


A Snowbank:

SCULLY: My car!

SKINNER: He must have gone further down this road on foot.

SCULLY: Thanks for your help. Hey, how’d you get here so quickly?

SKINNER: They just leave those helicopters laying around everywhere.

Creepy Russian Lab:

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: Don’t worry, my Creepy Bald Love, soon you’ll have a fresh, young woman’s body and you’ll be… well, even more creepy, but alive.

MULDER: Not on my watch! Unhook that machine! Turn this process around! Hit Ctrl + Z!

RUSSIAN DOCTORS: (confused yelling)

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: Hey, you know what helps with head-wounds? Horse tranquilizer.

MULDER: Yeah, let’s give that a shot. ::Falls Down::

Some Snowy Road:

SKINNER: Look how snowy it is here! We’ll never figure out where he went.

SCULLY: Stop- let’s go back to those mailboxes.

SKINNER: This is no time for identity theft!

SCULLY: No, look, mailbox 252 has a medical company address in it! We’re close!

SKINNER: Why mailbox 252?

SCULLY: It’s the same number as a biblical verse some possibly psychic pedophiliac priest mentioned before!

SKINNER: Uh, isn’t that kind of ridic-


Creepy Russian Shed:

RUSSIAN LEOBEN: I'm here to prepare you to pass through the next door, to discover what lies in the space between life and death.


RUSSIAN LEOBEN: I mean, Ax-Time!

SCULLY: Thwack!

MULDER: Scully, you came back! Funny how you always give me some sort of ultimatum and then cave.

SCULLY: This is the last time I swear.

Creepy Russian Lab:

RANDOM FBI AGENT: Hands up, Russians! Uh, can we just unplug this stufff, or…

SCULLY: Stand back- I’ve got some doctoring to do! ::Saves Some Other Lady::

CREEPY BALD GUY’S SEVERED HEAD: Hey, don’t pull that tube out of- ::Dies::

SKINNER: ‘Sup, Mulder. You still crazy?

MULDER: I dunno, are you still bald?

Scully And Mulder’s House:

MULDER: So not only did Father Joe die, he’s suspected of collaborating with the crazy Russian Dr. Frankensteins!


MULDER: How can you say that?

SCULLY: Eight-year-olds, dude.

MULDER: Whatever. What’s on for today, more stem cells?

SCULLY: I don’t know, everyone seems to be against me on that. Plus I’m not clear if it’s even legal to begin with.

MULDER: But didn’t Father Joe say “Don’t give up”?

SCULLY: He could have been talking about anything! Like “Don’t give up on The Wire after one episode!”

MULDER: Scully…

SCULLY: Fine, I’ll do it! Can’t you ever use my first name? We sort of (maybe?) have a kid together for Chrissakes.

Christian Hospital Of Death:




SCULLY: Damn straight.

SOME RANDOM NURSE: Are you ready to begin, Dr. Scully?

SCULLY: (pause) Yes- yes I am. Let’s stem up some cells or whatever!

SOME RANDOM NURSE: I don’t think that even makes any-



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