Mini Classic Film Reviews:Born on the Fourth of July…

Full Title: Born On the Fourth of July
Director: Oliver Stone
Year: 1989
Comments: This is one of greatest American stories ever told and one that needs to be heard. I think anyone that is considering joining the military should see this film or read the novel by Ron Kovic, which it is based on. Ronnie is easily one of the most admirable figures in American history. From start to finish he demonstrates immense courage; whether it is his unflinching attitude to immediately volunteer for the Marines, his tremendous bravery on the battlefield in Vietnam, his continuing determination (even after being paralyzed) to fight for his country whilst suffering in a horribly unfunded veterans’ hospital, to his new found awareness of the evil of government and war and his resulting militance as peace/anti-war activist/author/public speaker. I am always inspired by his character, even when I am incredibly frusturated by his ignorance and the way he blindly obeys the call to action to “Stop Communism.” The fact that he was able to stand up and take charge against the system that robbed him of so much (his ability to walk, his ability to reproduce, his faith in humanity, etc.) is remarkable. I love the way director, Oliver Stone, himself a Vietnam Vet, paints this wonderful picture of Americanism and tells the story of twentieth centruy America through Ron’s tale. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, it is kind of cheesy and cliched, but it works really well here, like it adds this made for TV movie feel to it that in many ways fits the ridiculous nature of American society as a whole. Kids had watched their fathers and grandfathers fight in “noble” wars and so when Vietnam came about, now it was their time to take up the arms and defend their country. Then they find out it was (and still is) all a lie- everything they were taught was a lie. Long live brave people like Ron Kovic, who can make such 180 turns after being so invested in the opposing side.
Grade: A-

Full Title: Malcolm X
Director: Spike Lee
Year: 1992
Comments: I CHARGE THE WHITE MAN FOR MAKING TOO MANY TERRIBLE MOVIES. I CHARGE THE WHITE MAN FOR BEING THE GREATEST PERVAYOR OF HORRIBLE TELEVISION PROGRAMS, OF BEING THE FAKEST SWINE TO WALK THE EARTH. Thank God, we have Spike Lee, an excellent Black filmmaker, and certainly this is one of his finest films. I would go as far as to say this is the best biopic to grace the silver screen, the model for all other biopics. Like Ron Kovic (except so much more), Malcolm X’s story needs to be heard. I would recommend y’all read The Autobiography of Malcolm as Told to Alex Healey (1965) as seen in the Recommend Reading section of this site before you watch this flick, but if you’re a little whiny bitch and you do not like to read or do not have the time then at least view this exceptional film. Malcolm’s story is the black man’s experience in AmeriKKKa. This is what makes him such a crucial figure, we see him rise through the shadows and darkness and into the light through prison. His militance transformed a whole generation of black people into liberators, truly emancipating themselves from their white oppressors. Now, I in absolutely no way can relate to that, but privileged (white) people, such as myself, can learn many lessons from the Minister’s teachings. He took everything and turned it upside down- whatever the white man said he sliced deep into and ripped out what lay beneath. One can do this with anything; take white man and insert government (though that’s basically the same thing) and peel slowly and see :) Denzel Washington steals the show as the title role and I love the way Lee moves beyond a simple “Malcolm X died on…. He was influential…” instead he provides one of the most heartfelt closers in the history of cinema: we see images of the real Malcolm and how he affected the world from the time of his death till present (then 1992) over Ossie Davis giving him his eulogy (if I am not mistaken). A powerful film for all to see.
Grade : A

Full Title: Walk the Line
Director: James Mangold
Year: 2005
Comments: What else can be said about the Man in Black that hasn’t been said over and over again. This film does a great job of capturing the early Rock and Roll/Sun Records Memphis music scene. Here we see Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins. Great performances from Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (June Carter); I appreciate the fact that both of them did their own vocals as well. We see Johnny go through hell and back and at times he is not that wonderful guy we know and love, but that is precisely what makes him who he is. He knows the plight of the worker, the misery of the drug addict, and (to a much lesser extent) the frusturation of the prisoner. He represents and brings out the best in all of us. He is our American Badass- no matter what political, social, relgious group you belong to.
Grade: A/A-

Mini Classic Film Reviews: Almost Famous…



Full Title
: Almost Famous
Director: Cameron Crowe
Year: 2000
Comments: Almost Famous is perhaps the greatest portrayl of Rock and Roll ever to hit the silver screen. What I really dig about this flick is that it takes place in 1973 as the era of Great Rock and Roll was gasping for air. We see these last precious moments of rebellion through the eyes of William Miller (Patrick Fugit) a fifteen year old journalist and a devout fan, experiencing this transition from music of the people to “industry of cool,” as real life Rock Critic, Lestor Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) puts it. With great performances from Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Billy Crudup, (a young) Zooey Deschanel, amongst others, this is a Must See for Rock fans and non fans (but who cares about them?!) alike.

Grade: A/A+

Full Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Director: Milos Forman
Year: 1975
Comments: This has been a favorite of mine for about six or seven years now and I can’t imagine anyone walking through life and not seeing this at least once. Granted, the novel is better and I can understand why those who love the book would detest this. With that being said, I prefer the adaptation so much more because the brilliant performances of Jack Nicholson and crew truly bring all of these colorful characters to life in ways that for me personally are not as effective in the written form. The classic ending is so triumphant and beautiful that I have rarely seen another film top it; easily one of the greatest final shots in the history of cinema. Funny, passionate, disturbing, and inspiring- what else can you ask for? It should also be noted that after thirty-five years this movie has not dated at all; I watched it in one of my Psychology classes and nearly all of the class appreciated and/or loved it. How a film stands the test of time is to me a major factor of quality and Cuckoo’s Nest appears to be timeless.

Grade: A+ (in my top ten)

Full Title: Do the Right Thing
Director: Spike Lee
Year: 1989
Comments: So, it was after 1 A.M. on a Monday night, a school night, junior year of high school, and I’m lying in my bed, watching this Spike Lee joint (bad idea for any first time viewing of a film) struggling to stay awake. Then all of a sudden, as the film is reaching its climax, I rose and walked toward my TV set and stood there for the remainder of the film (a good 15-20 minutes) just glued to the screen. This has never happened to me before. I couldn’t sleep after what I had just seen; my brain was overloaded with numerous thoughts, questions, impressions, etc. The next morning in my Algebra class, I put forth a valiant effort to focus on whatever it was we were covering in the Math world, but my mind was just fixed on DTRT, particularly the ending (one of the greatest I’d wager). If you haven’t surmised already, this is an extremly thought provoking film and unleashes the most heated of debates, even amongst its participants (disagreements have risen between Lee and some of the actors). To spare the suspense, the movie depicts the lives of those in a Brooklyn neighborhood on the hottest day of the Summer and like the heat, the racial tension between blacks, whites, hispanics, and asians is driving everyone crazy. Though, this a black film, Lee does not shy away from portraying black characters with many flaws (there are also several black characters that fight prejudice and are quite respectable) as well as both racist and non racist characters of other ethnicities. Lee’s perspective as black director is essential to this film as it distinguishes itself from other race related films such as American History X (1998) and Crash (2004), which have less of a point of view, in this respect. I could go on all day about all the various, super factors that make this a terrific film, but in short, it’s the little things that Lee incorporates that makes this joint Spike Lee’s distinctive piece- from Rosie Perez (ready to go with her boxing gloves) dancing to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” (1989) over the opening credits to DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) listing off the roll call of the radio station’s many, essential, black artists “that make the day just a little brighter.” Suffice to say this film makes you think.

Grade
: A+

Three great dramedies (though they are more than that) to check out!

Next: A Full Review of I Am Legend (2007) or a Mini Classic Review of Born On the Fourth of July (1989) and others

Malcolm X’s Final Scene

This is the final scene in the epic, Spike Lee film, Malcolm X (1992), one of my all time favorite movies. Sorry, to give away the ending ahhahaah. I highly recommend watching the ENTIRE film, reading his Autobiography and Malcolm X Speaks , watching his sppeches, as seen on Youtube, etc.

Chris