Top 100 Movie Review: #93 – The Apartment (1960)

More Drama Than Comedy

While The Apartment gets pegged as a comedy, its premise is too dated to get the same laughs today but thankfully holds its own with sentimental moments. 

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Jack Lemon and Shirley McClain.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #93
Academy Awards: Nominated for 10 winning five, including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Sick and stuck visiting family, I went to the on demand section of their cable provider looking for something to watch. Not wanting to get sucked into the four hour “Gone with the Wind (though I succumbed to that on day three of the flu), I decided on “The Apartment”; heralded as a classic comedy, it would fit nicely with my febril mood.

I ended up not finishing it. Too sick to continue and too confused by the lack of laughs, I took NyQuil and went for a deep sleep. Unfortunately when I came to, the on demand selections had reset. I didn’t finish watching until many weeks later, renting the DVD from the library.

I wanted to get it over with so I could write my review and move on, but something happened — I really enjoyed the last half of the film. All the problems that I was going to use to bury this film evaporated into thin air as the movie continued.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #94 – GoodFellas (1990)

“Do I Amuse You?”

Yes you do Joe Pesci! Along with the rest of this crime film’s cast of characters.

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Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #94/100
Awards: Nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor and Actress with Joe Pesci winning Best Actor.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Finally, a contemporary movie to review! I actually know some of these guys.

GoodFellas is a great crime film with plenty of gore, curse words and crude behavior. The long scope of its timeline allows you to  dive deep into the intricacies of being involved in the mob, following Henry Hill from an outsider admirer, to being one of its main players, to the ultimate down fall.

The arc is bittersweet, almost feeling sorry for the unfortunate endings of the depraved characters you somehow become attached to.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #2 – Casablanca (1942)

Play it Again, Sam.

Okay – I know that quote never happened, but what did happen is Hollywood’s template that it still uses today: love story, playful characters, happy ending, good always prevails.

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Sam (Dooley Wilson) , Rick (Humphrey Bogart)  and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).

American Film Institutes Ranking: #2/100
Awards: Nominated for eight winning three: Picture, Director and Writing/Screenplay.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This movie.

From the first moments in Rick’s cafe, I realized that I was going to really enjoy this one. What Hollywood does so well is pulling the wool over our eyes. The movie’s plot and characters feigned, pushing against the boundaries of reality, but time and time again we find the magic produced so enticing we suspend our thinking minds and tap into our imaginations.

This doozy of a WWII flick combines anything you can consider to be Hollywood and does it at a high level. The dialogue, the characters, the setting, and the plot all swept me up, transporting me to a time that no longer exists (and truthfully never did) for one of the best films of all time.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #100 – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Somehow I Enjoyed a Musical 

I don’t know who I am anymore — enjoying a film based on theater and stage.

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James Cagney plays in this biographical movie about George Cohen, the man who ruled broadway and had his beginnings in vaudeville America.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #100/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for several: best picture, actor, screenplay, supporting actor etc. Won for Best Actor (James Cagney).
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

My dislike for theater runs deep and goes to my early days of college — VCU was home to a vibrant theater community, and early every morning they would flood the dining hall dressed in straight black forgetting that they weren’t on stage. It was kind of like a qualitative study where I got to see what the stress of performance did to one’s life first hand, not to mention the suspense of what Shafer Hall would do to my GI tract.

I set up my netflix cue with a bunch of random movies, so when Yankee Doodle Dandy arrived, I really had no idea what it was about. Once I read that summary on the DVD slip, I started to worry.

Somehow, I came out not only pleased, but ready to recommend this film to anyone who would listen to me Yammer about vaudeville, WWI and this “American as you get” film.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #98 – Unforgiven (1992)

A Ho-Hum Western

The moment you’ve been waiting for finally comes 4/5ths through the movie, but it all seems too late and anti-climatic. 

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Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Jaimz Woolvett. 

American Film Institutes Ranking: #98/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for several: best picture, actor, screenplay, director, supporting actor. Won for supporting actor (Gene Hackman), Director (Clint Eastwood) and Picture.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

I’m okay with Westerns. My favorite book of all time happens to be a Western (Lonesome Dove). Older generations who display the red,white and blue at every door and buy cars made only in Detroit view Westerns as a quintessential American representation. The West represents the idyllic egalitarian society with no centralized government and each small community creating their own standards for law and acceptable behavior — no need for big government here!

It all works out for you as long as you are the swashbuckling cowboy and not one of the the characters regelated to the edges such as women, children, seniors, and those not willing to be violent. Unforgiven continues with this deconstruction of the Western narrative, focusing on a protagonist that isn’t glistening with moral righteousness while showing the real toll of vigilante justice. So while Unforgiven is certainly a Western, it tries to butt up against the glorification of the genre.

My problem is that in the process of flipping the script, you lose connection with the characters leaving a resolution that is ultimately unsatisfying.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #3 – The Godfather (1972)

The Offer We Just Can’t Refuse

A front row seat to the underbelly of Mafia crime, the movie about the Corleone family has plenty of malevolent retribution to enjoy.

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Marlon Brando who won Best Actor as Vito Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #3/100
Awards: Nominated for eleven awards with one being revoked and winning Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This is one of the heavy hitters of film, obvious by how high it is ranked (#3!) but also by its universal acclaim. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% on the bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong. I find this movie very good and enjoyable, but I’m not quite sure I would put it in my top five movies of all time.

There is something intoxicating about seeing the inner workings of the mafia, and Francis Ford Coppola’s movie does a wonderful job of characterization — there are rememberable people, interactions, and changes amongst the cast over the course of the movie. The fact that no one is safe from the violence adds an additional level of intrigue, never knowing who might be the next one to “sleep with the fishes.”

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