Been away from the forum's 'Watching' thread for a couple of weeks because of too much work (which is good) but also because I was away visiting my folks in AZ for Thanksgiving (not so good but better than a kick in the head) so I'll cram my late November viewing into this thread (sorry!
). Let's start this differently with the movies I co-erced my folks to watch with me on their 52" Samsung HDTV (with Surround Sound tech they bought but never used) whenever we weren't walking their dogs five miles (ugh!) or playing ping-pong (UGH!
). Keep in mind (a) my folks are simple people in their 60's that aren't into movies, (b) I didn't reveal the titles of these movies until they saw them themselves in the opening titles and (c) I didn't have a plan in choosing other than trying to match the mood they were in on viewing day. They took bathroom breaks (I paused the movie) and were allowed to talk/comment on the flick, otherwise they wouldn't have bothered to watch them (even though they said they enjoyed them all afterwards).
We kicked things on a Saturday evening with Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL (1977) on DVD
while eating a home cooked meal on a table set directly in front of the huge TV (my idea, hoping once the movie got rolling they'd be hooked long after they finished eating). I knew my dad and his wife were huge Dianne Keaton fans but her earliest movie they had seen was "The First Wives Club" (and yes, that means they haven't seen "The Godfather" movies!
). Anywho, they didn't catch-on that it was Keaton until the scene where she shows up in her thrown-together jacket-and-tie and they asked me if it was her; they immediately fell in love with her character (as does pretty much everyone that watches that scene). They laughed at a few of Woody's zingers and the ending left all three of us sitting quietly reading the closing credits in complete silence (a first for them) but my folks said afterwards that if Dianne wasn't in it they wouldn't have liked it as much. BTW, this DVD (which I picked from the local library as a last-minute substitute) looks like ass on a 52" HDTV to my high-def loving eyes but they didn't say a word about its looks.
Tuesday (folks weren't in the mood on Sunday or Monday to watch anything except their daytime/primetime TV shows) for Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) on Blu-ray
. For this one I forced them to sit in a slightly-uncomfortable bench directly in front of the TV because the comfty couches in the back of the room would have definitely put them to sleep. They liked it but my stepmom almost bailed out during the gore scene of a wounded soldier in the helicopter/village attack and when the cow gets you-know-what toward the end. They were both riveted and even started yelling 'when is this Kurtz guy gonna show up'
an hour before he did. My Dad said outloud 'holy s***, that's Marlon Brando'
when Kurtz emerged from the shadows (he didn't recognize him from the voice or the earlier pics of young Brando-as-Kurtz that Martin Sheen was looking at on the boat). Also, even though they had no idea who he was, they were both riveted by Hopper's drugged-up dude. When they were making noises about whether Willard or Chef called the air strike on Kurtz' compound (yep, that was their main beef with the flick) I showed them the YouTube video of the theatrical credits on my laptop as soon as the Blu-ray ended (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZVukrNo8g
). Only when they saw the title in the YouTube video did they know the name of the movie they had just watched for the past three hours.
Wednesday I tackled my stepmother's life-long refusal to watch slapstick comedy with the gentlest, nicest and most audience-friendly example of the genre I could think of, Tati's MON ONCLE (1958) on Criterion DVD
(another last-minute library substitute). Since they're dog people and had just returned from a French vacation I figured the dogs in the movie and contrast between old France and then-modern ideas of the future would amuse her. Well, the short of it is that it was the most vanilla and dry viewing experience for stepmom (she laughed a little but didn't really mention the movie afterwards), my dad enjoyed it (laughed out loud during the party at Hulot's brother-in-law lawn) and I couldn't hold back tears of joy when the movie ends on that pleasant note of dogs running around without a care in the world set to the 'Mon Oncle' theme song. Basically I felt I wasted a night and a movie with this one until I saw the Terry Gilliam intro afterwards in which he mentions that the just-watched "Apocalypse Now" paid tribute to "Mon Oncle's" title card with one of its own.
Thanksgiving night was reserved (though my folks didn't know it) for Robert Wise's THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) on Blu-ray
, which turned out to be one of the most surreal viewing experiences I've ever had as a group. We sat in the comfty chairs and I dragged the 52" Samsung across the living room to be as close to the screen as possible (about five feet). They had no idea what was coming from the minutes-long opening shots of the Alps (at one point my stepmom turned to me and asked point-blank 'is this Stallone's "Cliffhanger"?'
) so, when the camera finally comes down to Julie Andrews' face and she belts 'The Hills are alive with the sound of music...'
, it literally hit my folks like a ton of bricks. They haven't stopped singing that line since. As the movie dragged on though they couldn't contain their innate inability to watch musicals with a straight face (which I understand since, with few exceptions, musicals also are tough for me to slug through) and engaged in impromptu 'RIFTING' (what they have settled into as a substitute word for the term 'riffing') with some savage comments. I introduced them to Rifftrax Live last October by buying them tickets to "House on Haunted Hill" in their hometown (they've never seen "MST3K") and, primarily to keep awake this Thursday night, they started really tearing into "The Sound of Music" while simultaneously enjoying it. During a 'dunk your face into cold water to keep awake' break (again, my idea) I explained to them that 'RIFTING' doesn't work like they were doing it. That, for riffing to work, the movie had to suck and/or not be compelling. So they dialed-down their 'RIFTING' (it got really bad during the musical segments, especially when Peggy Wood's Mother Abbess starts belting out her tune and they went crazy with 'singing penguins' jokes) but whenever a song was good (like 'My Favorite Things,' which my stepmom figured out was where Oprah Winfrey got the idea for her giveaway shows) they sang along even as they were mocking the characters
. When Eleanor Parker says 'there's a girl that will never become a nun'
to Plummer my folks screamed in delight and cheered. Somehow, though they were engaged in 'RIFTING' "The Sound of Music," they were totally into the movie's narrative and were following along. I had more fun laughing with them and seeing their faces than the movie itself. Did I mention we were sitting in sleep-inducing comfortable chairs?
Then, when the camera pans down after the wedding bells shot to show Austria under Nazi control with Swastika flags everywhere, my dad and his wife were completely flabbergasted and stopped their 'RIFTING' cold. Judge Giron talked about this on his review of the Blu-ray recently (http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/soundofmusicbluray.php
) but I actually lived through the tonal shift of the movie completely turning what was a 'fun' family movie into a dead-serious one. Since my folks (a) had not even heard of the real Von Trapp family or (b) seen the movie before they honestly didn't know whether Maria, the Captain and/or any of the kids would live through the end of the movie. Afterwards they told me that, since I've shown them movies with downbeat and/or depressing endings before ("2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Shining," the aforementioned "Apocalypse Now," etc.), they thought the reason I liked "Sound of Music" was because all the happiness in the first two thirds would be offset by death and tragedy in the end. So, with my folks completely engrossed by a final act I knew too well wound end with happiness for all (except for Rolfe
), came to an end one hell of a fun but surreal exposure of "The Sound of Music" to a new pair of converts. Sad part is that I bought the Blu-ray for me thinking I would leave the DVD copy of the movie with my folks after I showed it to them for the first time in HD. But they balked at the idea of watching the movie again in anything other than high-def Blu-ray (it really is a stunningly good-looking transfer) so I had to leave the BD behind. Now I have to start saving my pennies for a new BD of "Sound of Music" for mua.
Friday (again laying in the comfty chairs with the big screen TV five feet in front) I tried a double-feature since the first movie, Sergei Eisentein's BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925)
on DVD, was only 69 minutes long. It was a reach for me to try to get my folks to appreciate the nuisance of silent film technique in a 1920's Russian propaganda movie (they saw Lang's "Metropolis" last summer in NYC and kind-of liked it) but they were reasonably amused and gripped by the Odessa Steps massacre. The sailing of the Potemkin ship toward the Admiral's fleet just annoyed the hell out of them though, especially when you-know-what doesn't happen in the end. I had the HD-DVD of "The Untouchables" ready to go (get it? "Potemkin"... "Untouchables"... baby carriage down the stairs... har har) but at the last second I got cold feet and went instead with Sidney Lumet's NETWORK (1976) on DVD
. Halfway through the movie we lost my dad's wife to sleep (guess I shouldn't have done a two-fer) but my father, whom I usually have to wake-up when he falls asleep, was riveted by the whole thing. Like me he's a news junkie that has MSNBC as his cable box's default channel (hates Fox News) so the whole movie just went down like showers in April. Howard Beale is his new hero and dad wondered what other good movies 'Hatchet,' aka Robert Duvall, has done. When I asked him how many Robert Duvall movies he has seen he told me only the two that I had showed him ("Network" and "Apocalypse Now"). Sounds like it'll be a "Godfather" weekend next time I visit the folks (especially since Dianne Keaton is in it and they don't know it). The scene in "Network" that my father thought was too improbable and too unbelievable to be true? How high Faye Dunaway's body was when she and Holden were making love. Either it was bad blocking or Holden was... well, Holden (snatch). "Network" is the only movie my father asked to keep from the one's I brought on my visit; I told him I'll mail it back with its proper case and the disc of bonus features when I return home. And, since "Network" and "All The President's Men" are getting released on Blu-ray in February of 2011...
Saturday night we went back to the 'dinner and a movie' setting from the week before and, since the folks were on a good and attentive mood, I unleashed the A Bomb that is Charles Laughton's THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) on Blu-ray
on their unsuspecting minds. To say they were blown away by the movie would be an understatement, they were transfixed and entertained by the whole thing. They both recognized Robert Mitchum the moment he appeared and, since they thought there was a good chance his preacher character would come out ahead (again, using my reputation as a guy that likes negative movies to pull a wool over their expectations like I did with "Sound of Music"), didn't expect "Night of the Hunter" to go the way it did. They kind-of fell back on RIFTING when Mitchum and Lillian Gish engaged in their sing-off duel (which kind-of defused with laughter one of the most tense moments in the film) but afterwards we engaged in a very intense debate about the movie and its historical setting (they didn't know about the abandoned children of the Great Depression or the historical setting in which the movie took place). Not since I showed them "400 Blows" on BD a year prior were they so eager to talk about a movie. Personally (this was my 2nd viewing of "TNOTH") I love how the Spoon couple (Evelyn Varden and Don Beddoe) are partially guilty of the death of Shelley Winters' character, yet you don't hate or despise the couple (particularly Varden's portrayal of Icey Spoon) because that was the way many a good folk was back then. And whoever cast young Billy Chapin as Peter Graves' son deserves kudos because they really look alike. Though very grainy at spots (not in a bad way but noticeable) the B&W cinematography of this movie is borderline stunning. This movie's failure robbed Laughton out of a potentially great second career as a director, but there are many directors with lots more movies that don't come close to the near-perfection that is this odd duck of a children's horror fairytale.
Sunday afternoon, with only a few hours to spare before my scheduled flight back to Gotham, we ate a tasty Sunday brunch (again in a conviniently-positioned table in front of the 52" HDTV) and watched Nic Roeg's WALKABOUT (1971) on Blu-ray
. The day before we went on a little hiking trip to the top of South Mountain near Phoenix (next to a cluster of radio and TV antennas that oversee the city) so this seemed like an appropriate send-off film. My stepmom nearly barfed at the hunting/butchering sequences and, even though I told them beforehand to try and abandon any previous expectation of normal movie storytelling (i.e. don't get stuck wondering why the father shoots his kids and then blows his brains out), she couldn't get past the jump-in-time final scene with Agutter-as-a-grownup reliving her memories. Stepmom really wanted to know how the kids got back to their home, how their mother reacted, did the black boy really die (yes he did!), etc. She called the movie 'strange' and 'weird' but afterwards said she liked it (lie). My father liked "Walkabout" a lot more (and joked that it resembled our odd family life the previous week) but it was a lot of internalized, quiet joy at seeing the whole 'circle of life' idea presented so simply. As with "Mon Oncle" I felt afterwards that I chose the wrong movie because, even if its memorable, it didn't inspire much conversation afterwards. Looked 'purty' on dad's big-screen TV.
Other movies I had in my pouch that I didn't choose to be among the 'chosen' eight for dad and his wife: "The Usual Suspects," "Sansho the Bailiff," "Bonnie & Clyde," "Goodfellas," "The Iron Giant," "Atonement," "Paths of Glory," Ozu's "The Only Son," "Tin Cup," "Suspiria," "North by Northwest," "The Third Man," "Back to School," etc.