The Untouchables 1987

The Untouchables
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by David Mamet based on the book by Elliot Ness and Oscar Fraley
(number 302)

content warning: kids in danger a couple of different times in this movie.

What caught my eye in the opening credits? Wardrobe by Georgio Armani. Fancy! But such a sensible choice when everyone’s going to be wearing suits. Plus this film was made at the height of product placement being a fad in movies. Well, for one of the first times anyway.

Jesus H. I didn’t expect that for the opening. Immediately having flashbacks to the Battle of Algiers which I so didn’t brace myself for. Thankfully I’ve watched enough movies at this point that I predicted what was about to happen…

Awww, itty baby Kevin Costner. The tone of this movie is a bit hard to pick. It starts with a big shock, that’s for sure. Then you have Ness introduced as a lovable do-gooder, a teetotaller who takes no shit and is perfectly happy to bulldoze into a warehouse with a snow plow, just cause it might have smuggled cargo inside. There’s jokes, like with the press photographer. Then we get Capone just… baseball batting a guy to death over dinner. I felt off footed because it was hard to go ‘okay it’s this kind of movie’. Maybe that was intentional? I dunno. It’s jarring anyway.

There’s some very OTT music at points, I gotta say. The soaring Spielberg hero music as they bust the Post Office stash is very discordant to me. Like, yeah, we get it that they’re doing good but lord… we don’t need the ‘Peter Pan remembers who he is’ music to illustrate it. I liked the Opera sequence, though. Added some real gravitas to Malone’s final scenes.

Does it make me love the people? Hell yes. I love Ness right away, I love Malone as soon as he’s introduced and I love their recruits. This could all be my relief for watching a gang crime movie where the cops are actually the heroes feeding into my affection, but still. It’s hard not to enjoy Connery in this role. Super sad when Wallace bought it too 😦 I liked that little guy and then Malone. Yeah, it hurt.

How can you not love Ness when that incredible sequence in the train station with the baby carriage happens? It’s a genius sequence. Really good, really tense.

Bechdel test: Noooo, we have characters who are women and some of them are even named, but they only talk to men and seldom appear in the same scene. Not terribly surprising, but disappointing all the same.

Best line:

Ness: Hey, wait a minute! What the hell kind of policemen you got in this god damn city? You just turned your back on an armed man.
Malone: You’re a treasury officer.
Ness: How do you know that? I just told you that.
Malone: Who would claim to be that who was not? Hmm?

I want to reference the bring a knife to a gun fight moment but the full quote includes racist slurs soooo… knives to gun fights references happen in this movie and I appreciate that.

State of Mind: Didn’t expect to, super enjoyed this film. It’s interesting and kept me hooked on the story, plus the characters were so good. I had a lot of feels. It’s well written, not too dumbed down and not too intellectual or fast talking. Also, I’m one more movie off having watched and blogged the bottom 200 movies off the list! 😀

Watched movie count

Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

Sawdust and Tinsel
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
(number 309)

Content warning for animals in distress 😦

According to imdb, this movie was originally marketed in the States as a sex film under the title “The Naked Night” … so. That’s interesting to know. There I thought it was just an incredibly depressing film about how much it sucks to be in a crappy circus in Sweden.

I mean. It is about that for sure. This is a film which opens with about the saddest story I’ve ever seen being told and acted out. Hit all my anti-bullying feels and put me in the weird position of feeling bad for a clown. It immediately made me think of the Seventh Seal which I found a lot more enjoyable. The bleakness and casual violence also reminded me of that other weird circus film on the list… which was almost certainly influenced by this one.

What’s the appeal of showing harsh human drama, relationship breakdown against the backdrop of the circus? Is it to see behind the curtain of what’s generally considered something fun and lighthearted? Or is to show that these people who you might consider free/carefree/beyond normal actually have pain and suffering in their lives… a sort of a way to prevent people running away to join the circus?

Does it make me love the people? I just… I mean. Sort of because I feel awful every time someone is humiliated, but they’re so awful and somewhat unforgivable. The whole film I was just kind of waiting for it to be over, but at the same time I was quite invested in what happened? so I guess… yes. Yes, this film made me love a whole lot of messed up, mean people. Anne had a really good response to Frans the actor trying to insist he could make love to her if he wanted to, she bit his ear and promised to make mincemeat of his lips if he kissed her again.

Bechdel test: Anne, Alma and Agda. Only women with A names and only in different scenes to each other or only there as background.

Best line:

Albert (drunk and angry): Come to think of it I don’t hate a soul. Not even the policeman on the square today. Not even Anne, although she is unfaithful. You despise me, you despise everyone. But I like people, I want to cuddle them!

State of Mind: The end is so bleak, the whole film is so bleak. I do like the silhouettes of the caravan on the hillside against the sky. Overall though, this is a freaking depressing film and I’m not sure how I feel about having seen it. I don’t think I’ll be watching it again in a hurry and I’m not sure I can recommend this. There’s some clever scripting and yeah, it’s filmed well, but I think Seventh Seal is better.

Watched movie count

It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Robert Riskin based on a short story by Samuel Hopkins Adams
(number 306)

When I looked up this movie I learned about the Hays Code, and how before it came in (shortly after this film was released) suddenly there was a lot less sex, drugs and strong women characters in the movies. It’s pretty compelling argument for tracking down more pre-code romantic comedies.

In the fine tradition of ‘once it’s old, Romantic comedies are fine’, this is a comedy about a society girl who runs away from her father, has to catch a bus with the hoi polloi and falls in love with a snarky newspaper reporter. It’s a pretty standard rom-com set up and it’s acted charmingly.

Here’s a bunch of current romantic comedy tropes this movie hits: everyone sings for some reason, lovers hate each other to start with and fall in love despite themselves, pretending to be a married couple at a hotel, one rich/high society and one working class, road trip fraught with disasters, gender differences brought to the foreground. That’s… really quite a few tropes you can see in modern movies, isn’t it? It works, I guess.

There’s lots of little illustrations of the depression in this film too. The boy crying on the bus because his mother’s sick and they spent their last money on the bus tickets, Ellie complaining of hunger repeatedly and there’s simply no money for food, the harsh reactions of some of the people they encounter. It’s beautiful, really because it’s never hammered home obviously, just these little touches which you wouldn’t see in a movie from the fifties.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. From the moment she defied her father and jumped off the yacht to swim to freedom I loved Ellen. How could you not love the sass? Peter took a little warming up to, especially as he’s very much the ‘do as I, a man, says!” and he spanks her for disagreeing with him at one point. But I absolutely wanted them to work it out so I’ll say it’s a win.

“You think I’m a fool and a spoiled brat. Well, perhaps I am, although I don’t see how I can be. People who are spoiled are accustomed to having their own way. I never have. On the contrary. I’ve always been told what to do, and how to do it, and when, and with whom.”

Bechdel test: No 😦 Agnes the secretary is never in the same scene as Ellen and although Ellen talks to numerous women about the shower situation, and later when she’s thrown out of a hotel she talks to the woman owner, but none of those women are named.

Best line:

Alexander Andrewa: Oh, er, do you mind if I ask you a question, frankly? Do you love my daughter?
Peter: Any guy that’d fall in love with your daughter ought to have his head examined.
Alex: Now that’s an evasion!
Peter: She picked herself a perfect running mate – King Westley – the pill of the century! What she needs is a guy that’d take a sock at her once a day, whether it’s coming to her or not. If you had half the brains you’re supposed to have, you’d done it yourself, long ago.
Alex: Do you love her?
Peter: A normal human being couldn’t live under the same roof with her without going nutty! She’s my idea of nothing!
Alex: I asked you a simple question! Do you love her?
Peter: YES! But don’t hold that against me, I’m a little screwy myself!

State of Mind: I just loved this one. It’s funny and engaging and interesting, lots of different scenery and various minor characters. Plenty of drama at the end too, brilliant pay off. Loved it and will watch it again.

Watched movie count

All the President’s Men (1976)

All the President’s Men
Directed by Alan J Pakula
Written by William Goldman based on the book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
(number 305)

The only reason I recognise the Watergate hotel, Hell. The only reason I know anything at all about the Watergate scandal was because of a sweet little, criminally poorly seen movie called Dick. Aside from the potentially off putting name, I assume no one saw it because it was a comedy and it had Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in it. Also maybe it didn’t have the distribution. Anyway, it’s a bloody good film and really my best context for what this movie is about. I know a lot of details from watching Dick that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

I suspect that like a few others on this list, this movie has lost its impact over time. When this came out it was only two years after the actual events, so it would have been a chance for the general public to actually understand what had happened. I can see that it would have been one of those movies with a big impact at the time – like Farenheit 9/11 or something. But watching it now, it’s a historical piece. And to me, it’s not a particularly compelling one at that.

It’s hard to know if I’d care about it more if I were American or not. I suspect this movie’s on the list due to the historical importance, documenting as it does a big moment in recent American history.

Does it make me love the people? Honestly? I found the movie a little too far on the boring side to care about the characters. That said, it’s mostly just watching a couple of driven guys be pretty good at their jobs. I dunno, I mean. Dustin Hoffman is good obviously, Redford too but I just… ehhh. I don’t care particularly about them or the people they talk to.

Bechdel test: there are a tonne of named women but they only talk to men, they’re almost never in the same scene as each other. They’re just informants and we only see them via Bernstein or Woodward.

Best line: Listen, I’m tired of your chicken shit game! I need names. I need to know what you know.

State of Mind: Honestly I just didn’t care about this movie. I was ready to be drawn into the intrigue but it was a bit too slow moving and a bit too true to life to be exciting to me. Ironic, since I really enjoyed Zodiac? Maybe, or maybe the hunt for a serial killer is just a little more interesting to me than a crappy president. Maybe the crappy president being impeached is a bit too nasty given what’s going on (and not going on) with Trump at the moment.

Watched movie count

The Thing (1982)

The Thing
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Bill Lancaster based on the story by John W. Campbell Jr.
(number 295)

A classic of the ‘monster picks off the cast one by one’ genre, and also of gross out alien genre, and also of everyone in this movie is a man genre? Okay, that’s not a genre. Mostly this is another of those movies which makes me want to play Geiger Counter.

Content warning for violence to animals in this movie, lots of cute huskies in danger 😦

I like how quickly this movie cuts to the chase. There’s very little scene setting or world building before things start going to shit and getting weird. The characters, again, unsurprising that they rely hard on stereotypes for characterisation, it cuts out world building time so nicely.

The alien thing is pretty Lovecraftian and in turn made me want to play the Time Stories playset I played with Luke and Sam based on a voyage in the Antarctic as well. Carpenter has said this is a potentially apocalyptic film because of the implications if this alien made it to a more populated area. I guess with that in mind it’s scary but I dunno, I find this movie so predictable, so run of the mill kind of.. I didn’t find it too ground breaking. Probably I should have watched it as a kid and had the crap scared out of me, but thankfully I didn’t.

The suspicion between the characters is realistic. I think it’s probably the strong point of this film, the way they all tell each other to watch each other. The question of how do you know who is human and who’s a perfect imitation of one just chilling and trying to blend in. The blood test sequence was probably the most tense of the movie for me.

I don’t like body horror, it’s a big squick for me. But the special effects here were so dated that it didn’t even bother me particularly. Maybe I’ve become cynical over the course of this movie watching project? But I think more realistically is just that movies have moved on so far since this that the stretchy neck or the alien spider head thing just seem plasticky. Movies like the Saw are far more visceral – you can imagine the pain of that better than the weird Thing mutations.

Does it make me love the people? Mehhh? I’m inclined to like Kurt Russel because he’s the one I recognise. I don’t think that’s any kind of strength in the script or acting, it’s just casting.

Bechdel test: Nope, no women in Antarctica.

Best line:

So how do we know who’s human?

State of Mind: I like that there were two whole black guys, not just the token one, and that they didn’t die first. Overall for me this movie didn’t live up to the hype I’ve had over the course of my life. So much refers back to this film and so many class it as a classic but…I dunno. It just seemed like so much of the focus was on the weird SFX or the horror of the bodies twisting into something new. I feel like if the focus was more on the suspicion and the breakdown of trust and the nature of humanity it’d be a lot stronger. It was a miss for me, and I’m disappointed that it was a miss.

Watched movie count

Roman Holiday (1953)


Directed by William Wyler
Written by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton based on a story by Dalton Trumbo
(number 270)

What did I know going into this? That it’s a movie about Audrey Hepburn and it’s probably a romance. I was impressed to see it’s filmed entirely on location in Rome. In the opening sequence Audrey’s Princess Ann immediately won my heart by stretching out her feet during a formal occasion by slipping a foot out of a high heel one at a time under her huge hoop skirt. It was adorable and hilarious. Reminded me a little of the Princess Diaries … I’m sure there’s a conscious homage there.

Two Disney movies owe quite a bit to this: Enchanted was the first one which sprang to mind – especially the wandering through the town, not really understanding how things work and giving away/using the money the man has given her. And then I thought it was a bit like the city sequence in Tangled as well.

Ann getting a haircut was very familiar ‘are you sure you want it all off?’ and then a super adorable haircut at the end of it. Damn you Audrey with your fey good looks and excellent costume department dressing you.

It’s like a lovely tour of Rome in black and white, framed with a bit of story and romance. It was especially good because Anna kept being like “I’ve been there!” which is a nice counterpoint. To me it’s all foreign and only read of in novels. (Alex in Rome by Tessa Duder in particular…). It hits all the tourist stuff which is still popular to this day – I imagine there was a quite a boost in tourists to Rome after this screened in America. It certainly made me want to ride a vespa and eat gelato.

Does it make me love the people? Princess Ann immediately, she is most excellent. It’s hard not to love Audrey after all, and when she’s playing a character who just keeps on being delighted it’s impossible not to love her.

Bechdel test: Yes, and nice and early too. Ann and Countess Vereberg discuss what she wears, what Ann will be doing the next day and why Ann shouldn’t stand near the window without her slippers on.

Princess Ann: I hate this nightgown. I hate all my nightgowns, and I hate all my underwear too.
Countess: My dear, you have lovely things.
Princess Ann: But I’m not two hundred years old. Why can’t I sleep in pajamas?
Countess: Pajamas?
Princess Ann: Just the top part. Did you know that there are people who sleep with absolutely nothing on at all?
Countess: I rejoice to say I do not.

Best line:

Joe Bradley: Now, come on. You’re not that drunk.
Princess Ann: [laughing] If you’re so smart I’m not drunk at all. I’m just being
[her head falls against his chest]
Princess Ann: verrrrry haaaappy…

State of Mind: Aaaaaww, this is lovely. Once again proving my theory that movies about women/movies which are romantic comedies only have value if they’re past a certain age, though. If you remade it now it would be dismissed as a ‘chick flick’ but because it’s from the fifties and stars icon Audrey it’s acceptable to say this is a great classic. I did enjoy it very much and I can see myself watching it again for sure. It’s a bit more accessible than Funny Face. Although the ending is rather sad. I had hoped for something else… heh. Anna liked it and expected the ending, because she’d made the connection with the film’s title and is smart. The photo given to the princess right at the end of her smashing a guitar over someone’s head is a highlight for both of us.

Watched movie count

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Franco Solinas based on the story by Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo
(number 126)

This film starts bleak and hard and I have to say it doesn’t really get better from there. Knowing very little about this movie, I watched it with Steve who I think, got a better grasp on the politics of the film than I did from the start. Later on I have everything straight right.

Jesus, the sequence with the kids attacking the wino, that was unpleasant to watch. The old upsetting bullying mob thing gets me every time. Oh god and then the old Arab guy in the street and all the white French people calling out where he is and where he’s going to the police can pick him up. I really hate

This film is apparently based on the real events of the Algerian war of independence from not so long before the film was made. The quality of the film and the documentary style way it was shot meant at the time it was released many cinemas advertised that it had no news reel footage in it, because otherwise people would think it was a documentary.

The escalating tactics of the French military police all felt very real and also, tapped right into my fears for the future of America and maybe England. I don’t think New Zealand is so far down that path, but sealing off the Muslim quarter and instituting checkpoints where people have to produce papers sounds very much like something that could happen in Trump’s America. Horrifying.

Does it make me love the people? I feel like this movie was deliberately made to give me no love for people. It shows so much of people at their worst, being underhanded. Steve has pointed out that at least they have established that each faction is doing what they think is best. By the end I did actually love Captain Mathieu and Ben M’Hidi, the two heads of the opposing sides. Especially after the firecracker sequence of the press conference. That was just dynamite to watch, ace stuff.

Bechdel test: There are a lot of women, and they are in scenes together. But it’s hard to get their names, and I don’t think they talk to each other, just to the men. I did love the sequence of the women coming home, taking off their veils and then making themselves look like French women instead by cutting their hair, applying make up, etc. Sort of reminded me of Persepolis. It does get close with the three women who leave the bombs, except I can’t seem to find their names.

Best line:

Ben M’Hidi: Acts of violence don’t win wars. Neither wars nor revolutions. Terrorism is useful as a start. But then, the people themselves must act. That’s the rationale behind this strike: to mobilize all Algerians, to assess our strength.

State of Mind: Gripping, but unpleasant. The massive crowd scenes with the protesters against the police are intense, Steve and I both felt like we were watching news footage and for goodness sake..how did they film it all? No wonder they had to put out disclaimers. It really was a fantastic film but not a pleasant watch particularly. I’m impressed. I may even consider watching it again, and I’m pleased that I saw it.

Watched movie count