Tuesday, August 26, 2014

STAND BY ME (1986), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)


I was twelve going on thirteen when I first saw a dead human being. It happened in 1960, a long time ago...although sometimes it doesn't seem that long to me. Especially on the nights I wake up from dreams where the hail falls from my eyes.-Stephen King, The Body

Stephen King states in his afterward of the four novellas from his Different Seasons collection that his publisher was a bit troubled that the stories that lay within its covers weren't about haunted hotels, possessed prom queens or demonic dogs. They were character studies, two of which were later made into successful movies that are well thought of enough to be included in the 1001 movie book.

The Body became Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, a coming of age story set in 1959 about a group of four kids who know where the body of a dead boy is and set off on foot to try to find it. There are some changes from book to movie as there always needs to be, but the core of King's story is intact and this continues to be a beloved film by many. And you got to love the pie eating scene.


Five hundred yards. The length of five football fields. Just shy of half a mile. He crawled that distance, maybe with one of those small Penlites in his hand, maybe with nothing but a couple of books of matches. He crawled through foulness that I either can't imagine or don't want to imagine. -Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

A movie that has become even more revered is The Shawshank Redemption. This film was only moderately successful when released, but quickly became a movie so acclaimed that it soon became (and is currently) the number one rated movie on the IMDB top 250 list. Shawshank is a prison picture in setting only. It is really about injustice, friendship, survival, renewal, transformation, and salvation. Frank Darabont's adaptation of King's story is a prime example of how to keep the original voice of the author in a screenplay while still making needed cinematic alterations.

Get busy living or get busy dying.


Afterward: My favorite of the four King stories is actually Apt Pupil, a character study of a former Nazi war criminal who gets involved with a middle schooler who may even be more twisted that he is.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WADJDA (2012, SAUDI ARABIA)


Some preliminary reports for the listing of new films for the 2014 edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die include the Saudia Arabian film Wadjda. We showed this film for our foreign film series at the library last week and though we didn't get a big turnout, the film was well received and I was quite taken with it.

It's a small scale film that draws obvious comparisons with the neo-realistic classic, The Bicycle Thief. However, the stakes are different here. Wadjda's bicycle isn't an economic necessity like in The Bicycle Thief, but a dream of something she desires while the society she lives in frowns upon her having it.

I would be predisposed to rooting for this movie after reading about the difficult odyssey of female Saudi filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour in getting this movie made. Financing it was difficult in that Saudi Arabia has no film industry to speak of and the fact that she was a female director didn't exactly open doors.

Luckily, the finished product is a most interesting character and societal study, and al-Mansour's difficult decision to shoot it in Saudi Arabia pays off. I feel I'm inside a society I've never seen before and really get to know the struggles of Wadjda, her family, her friends, her schoolmates and teachers.

Obviously, I'd be happy to see this one on the next 1001 list.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

GIMME SHELTER (1970)



Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll! or 
If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 7 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Documentary on the free 1969 Altamont rock concert that quickly turns from an unforgettable night of music to a night remembered chiefly for its violence.

It's 60's kind of quotes...

Gram Parsons: "Please stop hurting each other man! You don't have to."

Paul Kantner: "Hey, man, I'd like to mention that the Hells Angels just smashed Marty Balin in the face, and knocked him out for a bit. I'd like to thank you for that." 

Grace Slick: "You got to keep your bodies off each other unless you intend love"

Mick Jagger: Hey, hey people. Brothers and Sisters.come on now. That means everybody just cool out!"

Jerry Garcia: "Oh, Bummer"

Hell's Angel Sonny Cutler: I didn't go there to police nothing man. I ain't never gonna pretend to be a cop. And this Mick Jagger put it all on the Angels, man. Like, he used us for dupes, man. And as far as I'm concerned, we were the biggest suckers for that idiot that I can ever see."


Iconic 60's shot: Mick Jagger performing next to the ominous presence of members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang.

Sex: Some in the crowd at Altamont decided to shed all there clothes and inhibitions, but my vote in this category goes to Tina Turner's sensuous performance of I've Been Loving You Too Long.

Drugs: Hashish...L.S.D...Psilocybin...or whatever else you may want.

Rock and Roll: Ladies and Gentlemen...the Rolling Stones!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

PERFORMANCE (1970, GREAT BRITAIN)


Sex! Drugs! and Rock and Roll!
or If You Remember the 60's You Weren't Really There Week
(Post 6 of 7)

Plot synopsis: Mob enforcer Chas runs afoul of his bosses and takes refuge in a basement room of an ex-rock n' roll singer named Turner.

It's a 60's kind of quote: What a freak show!...I tell you, it's terrible...It's a right pisshole...long hair...beatniks...druggers...free love...foreigners...you name it!

Iconic 60's shot: The final shot of Chas being driven away. Or is it Chas?

Sex: Healthy doses of S and M, androgyny, a menage a trois and quick cuts of Rolling Stone girlfriend Anita Pallenberg in various states of undress.

Drugs: Chas gets the mushroom treatment from Turner and his girlfriend and changes his perspective of life

Rock and Roll: Musical credits include Jack Nitzsche, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Buffy Ste. Marie, Civil Rights rappers The Last Poets and Rolling Stone front man Mick Jagger as Turner.