Paths Of Glory & On The Waterfront IMDB Top 250 Reviews

These are my final two IMDB Top 250 Project movies I’ve watched but not yet reviewed (not counting the Clint Eastwood or the Akira Kurosawa films, which I plan to review all together). So from now on I’ll only be reviewing movies for this project on the occasional Tuesday as I happen watch more of them. My Tuesdays are now free! What the heck am I going to post weekly instead of these Top 250 reviews?!? Hmm. Most likely, nothing. I like the idea of a blog-free weekday!

I’ve put off “reviewing” these two as I don’t have much to say about them. They didn’t connect with me like so many of the films that I’ve watched for this project have. I understand why they’re classics & agree that they do deserve to be in the Top 250, though, despite them not working for me. Hey – we can’t all love the same movies! What a boring world this would be if that was the case.

So I’m going to say a very small bit about each film now just to get them off my list. Here you go: Two short paragraphs each for two all-time classics I’m clearly not cultured enough to have fully appreciated! 😉

Paths Of Glory (1957)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Based on Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson

Plot Synopsis:
Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

Wow – I, um, believe this is the only Kirk Douglas movie I’ve ever seen. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching Michael Douglas as they’re so similar (I suck). At least I’ve added another Stanley Kubrick to my list of movies seen (I’ve ranked his films HERE – I need to add in Full Metal Jacket at five while Paths Of Glory would be at six).

I preferred Paths Of Glory to On The Waterfront. The pacing was pretty slow so I’ll fully admit that my uncultured, non-war-movie-loving mind wandered quite often but it did have an overall story that I found far more compelling than that in On The Waterfront. I won’t give away the full story for those who know nothing about this but it’s something that should have moved me a bit more than it did. I think that, perhaps, they didn’t spend enough time developing a few characters who really deserved to have more time spent on them. I’ll say that Douglas was great in this so, yes, I really should watch at least one other movie he’s been in. The novel was based on a true story & this practice (what happens in the film) was done during World War I from what I can tell of the very little I read of this movie at Wikipedia (war experts can feel free to chime in on this). I don’t know how often this tactic was used but it’s truly appalling & the movie did finally have my full attention at the end. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what the outcome would be – I don’t know how I managed to avoid such a huge movie spoiler for all these years. Paths Of Glory is a film deserving of all its praise with great performances & a very important topic that needed to be brought to light (apparently this movie was fairly controversial at the time as it’s a pretty anti-war film). It’s just not my type of thing but I’d certainly not disagree with anyone who says they love it as I can see it being a favorite film for some people. For all lovers of war movies, it’s a must-see.

My Rating: 7/10

On The Waterfront (1954)

Directed by Elia Kazan

Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint

Music by Leonard BernsteinIt’s the end of the world as we know it! (And I feel fine)

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

I watched this movie on September 9th, 2014. It’s taken me almost two years to muster up the (strength? courage??) to do a little write-up for it. I remember sticking this movie on & kind of half-watching it while doing some housework then finishing it later while in bed. This is when we were working on painting a wall in the bedroom so a big cabinet was in the middle of the room & partially blocking my view of the TV from the bed. So, yeah… this is how I watched On The Waterfront – a huge Oscar-winning, beloved classic. What can I say? I have no class. I’m a bum!

Umm. Unions? Mobs? I think I remember some pigeons. Marlon Brando! He’s in this. I haven’t watched a lot of Brando’s films (but at least I’ve watched more Brando films than Kirk Douglas films). Let’s see: I’ve seen this, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Superman. That’s it. I’m not a fan. Should I delete my blog? Will some big Brando fan come along to yell at me & tell me that my blog should be “taken down” like the Western-loving guy who commented on my review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? As much as I’ve moaned about having to watch all the war movies & Westerns in the Top 250, I’ve ended up really liking the ones I’ve watched so far (some are even favorites now, like The Bridge On The River Kwai & The Good, The Bad And The Ugly). So maybe I can’t keep saying they’re “not my type of thing”? The story in On The Waterfront, however, is what I think really isn’t my type of thing. It didn’t connect. I’ve never really gone for movies involving the mob in some way or for this type of drama. When it comes to older films, I prefer the “grand epics” to the types of films involving true-to-life human conflict with Oscar-worthy performances and lots of talking & drama. I find something like a Morricone score coupled with beautiful cinematography far more moving than an intense performance from an actor/actress. That’s just me – we’re all moved by different things & I’m not one to care too much about the “acting” in a movie (as long as the performances don’t totally suck). Brando is great in this, yeah. I didn’t follow the story very well or really find myself caring about any of the characters. I don’t remember it much now but that’s to be expected, I suppose, when you are only partially paying attention to a movie while it’s on. On The Waterfront won loads of Oscars (best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, screenplay, cinematography, art direction & film editing). Oh shit… That’s really a lot of Oscars. I’m going to delete my blog. I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it! *blog deleted* (Let’s go ahead & give this the same rating as Paths Of Glory, although I preferred that one. I’m sorry! Don’t hurt my pigeons!)

My Rating: 7/10

**If you can’t bear to see nothing posted on this blog on a Tuesday, here are the remaining films available for guest reviews:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Graduate 1967
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

**Selected for now**
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 1998 (Tom)
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 (Tom)
Gone with the Wind 1939 (dbmoviesblog)
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 (Drew)

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The Godfather (1972) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Zoe has already reviewed The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE). Now, as if all those reviews weren’t enough, Zoe was the first person brave enough to choose to review The Godfather I & II (stay tuned for her review of The Godfather: Part II at this same time next Tuesday). Thanks so much for being such a big part of this project, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s hear her thoughts on The Godfather, IMDB rank 2 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Alright, so this is going to be quite the post here. I took The Godfather movies because I was horrified to see it just languishing there on Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 challenge… alone and untaken. How could this possibly be?! This is one of the greatest film sets ever! Alright, Part III might be a little sketchy and all that, but Part I and Part II are just… wow. Naturally, there are the heathens out there that will slam it, which I just find heartbreaking (though I still love you Eric, don’t ever forget that…). I am one of those people, like a good war movie I love a good mob flick.

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“There is more money potential in narcotics than anything else we’re looking at now. If we don’t get into it, somebody else will, maybe one of the Five Families, maybe all of them. And with the money they earn they’ll be able to buy more police and political power. Then they come after us.” – Tom Hagen

Synopsis: The story begins as “Don” Vito Corleone, the head of a New York Mafia “family”, oversees his daughter’s wedding with his wife Carmela. His beloved son Michael has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father’s business. Through Michael’s life the nature of the family business becomes clear. The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family. Don Vito lives his life in the way of the old country, but times are changing and some don’t want to follow the old ways and look out for community and “family”. An up and coming rival of the Corleone family wants to start selling drugs in New York, and needs the Don’s influence to further his plan. The clash of the Don’s fading old world values and the new ways will demand a terrible price, especially from Michael, all for the sake of the family. – IMDB

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“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”. – Don Corleone

This movie is just amazing. Something that you can really just wax lyrical about. This is certainly a fantastic mob movie, no two ways about it. I mean just to look at how old this film is, for starters, you cannot help but appreciate how particularly stunning this is, how well it is put together, the actors, the camerawork, the story, the music… everything. But we shall gush about that all as this progresses.

This movie was a piece of pure genius. Marlon Brando was an amazing Vito Corleone… he was certainly not someone I would have messed with, at any rate. The movie progressed at a gradual pace, but it was never boring. From the beginning you know that Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is definitely the Don’s favoured son, though he has three as well as one that Sonny (James Caan) brought in at a young age and is regarded as equal to his blood sons, and a daughter, Connie (Talia Shire), who has just gotten married to Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). Vito Corleone is a powerful man, and such is evident at his daughter’s wedding. Michael arrives at Connie’s wedding dressed in his Marine Corps uniform and his girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) at his side. It is evident from the off that Michael is not like the rest of his Corleone brothers, though he is favoured by his father.

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“My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” – Michael Corleone

A drug baron called Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) rolls into town and wishes to go into business with some of the families, and Vito is approached by a rivalling family, the Tattaglias, to take the deal. Vito, however, is not in for the drug trade, though it seems Sonny is. Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), considered the up and coming family consigliere, brought up with the Corleone boys as one of them, advises Vito that taking the deal is the one was to keep the family in power, and not having it usurped over the years. Naturally, this is where the whole movie finally catches. An attempt is made on Vito’s life, and he is left for dead. The Corleone family bands together and Sonny heads it up in the meantime. Michael gets wind of his father’s predicament, and soon his life changes.

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Watching the change in Michael is astounding. He starts off as reluctant, wary and insistent that he is not like his family, but when push comes to shove it is evident that the Corleone tendencies are well and truly there. Full scale crime family war breaks out, and it seems no one is safe. There is so much that is going on, so much traitorous betrayal and attempts to do one another in to protect themselves, but the Corleone brothers still stand. Michael gradually becomes harder, tougher and less forgiving, ultimately making the choice and assassinating the police chief and Sollozzo, taking cover in Sicily while things come right. Vito is not dead, but it seems that the family structure has changed drastically.

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“What’s the matter? What’s bothering you? I’ll handle it. I told you I can handle it, I’ll handle it.” – Michael Corleone

Michael’s isolation changes him even more, and he takes a wife while over in Sicily, though it becomes evident that it will not be safe for him there for much longer. While he is away, he needs to deal with the fact that his brother, Sonny, is killed, and he in enraged. Due to Sonny’s assassination, Vito decides enough is enough. Too many people are dying at one another’s hands in an attempt to even the scales, and it must come to a close. It thrilled me to watch how pacts and truces were made, how the hierarchy fit together, how people understood their place and abided by it, not questioning too much. It amazed me to see the power that some of these people have. It is astounding to me that although you know what rackets the Corleone family is involved in, it is never thrown onto the screen, never made something that takes over the story. Primarily this movie depicts the familial ties, the organisation and the loyalty, keeping focus on it and demanding your attention.

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“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?” – Don Corleone

The Godfather also touts one of the best cast ensembles in ages, and cannot be faulted for it. I was doing some extra reading and was so shocked to see exactly how much drama there was involved of the making of this movie, how Paramount fought Coppola almost every damn step of the way on casting, decisions, attempts to have him fired, the whole shebang. They were adamant about not having Marlon Brando in there (who *cough cough* won a damned Oscar for his performance, although he declined it) as well as not wanting Al Pacino… I was like what?! Imagine Paramount had gotten as much say as they wanted… The Godfather is one of the most influential films of all time, and should be appreciated for what it is: a piece of genius.

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“Only don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” – Michael Corleone

I loved everything this film brought to us. This film was an excellent piece on the mob, not highlighting it as something evil and disgusting and something that should be taken down, but telling the story from the inside, which was fantastic. I loved how authentic everything was, how Italian, there are infinitely quotable lines from it, the camera work was fantastic, the score complemented every minute of it and the cast rounded it off perfectly. I still feel I haven’t done this film justice, but I just don’t know anymore. You are riveted for 175 minutes; there are no two ways about it.

Apocalypse Now (1979) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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For today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review, we have J James of JJames Reviews (oddly enough!). He writes excellent reviews and watches LOADS of films. I can’t keep up with him! I’m forever apologizing to people on WordPress as I fall so behind on my blog reading & J James is certainly one of those people always receiving my apologies! But when I do catch up on his blog, I know I’ll always get reviews of all the most current theatrical releases as well as the classics.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now over to J James to hear his thoughts on Apocalypse Now, IMDB rank 35 out of 250…

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

Directed By: Frances Ford Coppola

Written By: John Milius and Frances Ford Coppola

Starring
Martin Sheen
Marlon Brando
Frederic Forrest
Laurence Fishburne
Sam Bottoms
Albert Hall
Robert Duvall
Dennis Hopper
Harrison Ford
Scott Glenn

Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes

Adapted from: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Plot Synopsis

After returning to Vietnam for his second tour of duty, special-forces trained Captain Benjamin Willard’s (Martin Sheen) superiors order him to track and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a formerly decorated US soldier who has begun leading a cult that unilaterally executes those they call enemy. With the aid of Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) and his crew of navy personnel, Willard travels the Nung River en route to Kurtz’ compound, all the while growing more disenfranchised with the war. And also more psychologically unsettled.

My Opinion

Frances Ford Coppola’s epic treatise on the Vietnam War needs little introduction, if only because those unfamiliar with the film’s content probably know the story of its creation, a fact that makes this film as infamous as it is respected.

To be sure, it is a quality picture, even if it is not perfect.

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More than most films, Apocalypse Now is theme-based. Good thing that Coppola and Writer John Milius effectively portray the senselessness of war and the fragility of sanity. Between Willard’s mission, Colonel Kilgore’s (Robert Duvall) unseemly obsession with surfing, Captain Colby’s (Scott Glenn) men mindlessly firing their weapons into uninvestigated space, Clean (Laurence Fishburne) shooting civilians, and soldiers responding badly to a USO show, Coppola shows how war creates bad decisions. In his hands, war becomes descent into madness, whether it is Kurtz’ explosive variety, Kilgore’s obliviousness or Colby’s soldiers’ emotional catatonia.

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Perhaps most impressively, Coppola’s filmmaking technique, especially the audio, helps us understand Willard’s descent. Early in the film, the sound design is conventional. We hear the sounds of the characters’ surroundings as they shout to be heard, but as the movie progresses, the audio becomes increasingly psychedelic, until, eventually, Willard’s environment is almost silenced by trippy and disturbing rhythmic noise. Apocalypse Now won an Oscar for Sound Design, and it is no wonder why.

Sound is not the only technical element that proves successful. So does the movie’s cinematography. Few motion pictures use darkness and (almost paradoxically) color to blind both the viewer and the characters, to produce uneasy nervousness.

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In other words, Apocalypse Now is very well made. It is also well acted. Robert Duvall shines as a crazed combat commander, as does Dennis Hopper as a hyperactive photojournalist convinced of Kurtz’ greatness. Of course, Marlon Brando is disturbingly intelligent as the malicious Kurtz, while Martin Sheen admirably anchors the movie.

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All of which is to say that Coppola’s epic is thematically and technically successful. Too bad it is narratively flawed. Most of Willard’s descent, for example, is told through dry voice over, not shown through action or other character’s dialogue, a direct result of Willard’s status as observer in his own story. He spends most of the movie watching other people’s insanity, instead of doing things himself. Similarly, we frequently hear about Kurtz’ charisma, most especially from the Photo Journalist (Hopper), but we do not see it. We see Kurtz’ intelligence and ruthlessness, of course, but not the likability that causes his followers to treat him as their god. Unfortunately, telling not showing continues throughout much of the film’s narrative.

Including with many of the side characters, none of which are well developed. Each has one trait, something Willard often describes in voice over. Ditto that for the consequences to many actions, including Willard’s choice to kill a wounded woman. He tells us that his companions now feel differently about him, but we don’t see their behavior change, really.

Finally, Apocalypse Now has zero notable female characters. While understandable given context, the absence of femininity makes the picture too macho.

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To be sure, none of the narrative flaws ruin Coppola’s film, but they do keep us at an emotional distance from the story. We are unable to immerse in the characters’ psychology and experience, a fact that means we never truly feel their struggle.

Conclusion

Apocalypse Now is a masterfully made thematic film that accomplishes its objectives. Even still, additional focus on narrative and character development would have produced a more emotional, and thereby more moving, final product.

Final Score: 7/10