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The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

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The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Old 06-24-13, 06:34 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by BobO'Link
I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid last knight. It's the first time I've seen the film since the original run in '69. I enjoyed it more this time (mainly because I wasn't on a "first date" like in '69) but still don't quite understand why it gets so much appreciation/love.
As far as the music, I think it's important to pay attention to how much of the film doesn't feature any. There's only something like 20 minutes of music in the entire picture. That's a pretty bold storytelling decision, really. I dig the incongruous sound of Bacharach's score. That ba-da-da-dah-dubba-dah stuff is fun and I think it suits the personality of the movie. I love the Coney Island montage in particular.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is traditionally classified as a Western. I've heard it derisively called "a Western for people who don't like/are embarrassed by Westerns". I've come to feel that it's best viewed instead not as a Western at all, but rather as a period piece about the twilight of the Nineteenth Century and the dawn of the Twentieth. We see the rise of modernity as it threatens the outlaws from the very first shot of the film:

BUTCH: "What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful!"
ARMED GUARD: "People kept robbing it."
BUTCH (dejected): "Small price to pay for beauty."

The obvious symbol of modernity is the bicycle, the "future" that Butch ultimately rejects. It isn't even the law that really catches them; it's the 20th Century. Sheriff Bledsoe admonishes them by flaunting the threat that the new era poses to them: "It's over! Don't you get that? Your times is over and you're gonna die, bloody. And all you can do is choose where." It's almost cruel that even the power of that choice exists only because of modern means of transportation (ocean liner and train). These are analog guys in a digital world. (Or whatever guys were in the world before analog!) No wonder it found an appreciative audience in the fall of 1969! That's one of the key things, really. Like the best science-fiction, there's an allegorical aspect to the film that makes it accessible to any viewers who feel the world is passing them by.

"But I don't identify with robbers!" you might protest. The film actually addresses that for us with Butch's delightful takedown of E.H. Harriman (of the Union Pacific Railroad):

"A set-up like that costs more than we ever took...That crazy Harriman. That's bad business! How long do you think I'd stay in operation if every time I pulled a job, it cost me money? If he'd just pay me what he's spending to make me stop robbin' him, I'd stop robbin' him. [Yelling to the non-existent Harriman] Probably inherited every penny you got! Those inherited guys - what the hell do they know?"

It's a timeless rationalization for theft, but since we already like these guys by that point in the picture, we take it at face value that, yeah, E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad is sitting on top of so much money that he's actually making bad business decisions like overspending to catch Butch and Sundance. Why, it's downright irresponsible! Screw that guy! Part of the fun is vicariously exacting our revenge on all those powerful people whose whims impact our daily lives.

I finally got to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the big screen earlier this year when it played as part of the Cinemark Classic Series. What struck me most then was Conrad Hall's cinematography. From my Letterboxd diary:
Spoiler:
I always feel like I catch new things each time I watch the really good films, or my favorites. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is both, standing at #6 on my Flickchart and a masterpiece by just about any standard.

What struck me most tonight was Conrad Hall's Academy Award-winning cinematography. I always knew it was a beautiful looking film, but sometimes I've wondered whether that's because Hall did such a great job or if it was more the gorgeous scenery makes the film look great regardless of the photography.

Tonight eradicated any doubt. Being an XD exhibition, this was about as large a viewing screen as there is. I was able to get a much clearer sense of Hall's framing and lighting than the TV screen at home could ever have provided.

In a lot of Westerns, the cinematography tries to keep us from realizing just how small the town set really is, afraid to go too near to the edge of buildings or to pull back very far unless the scene takes place on the open range. There aren't a lot of close-ups in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though. Most shots show the actors from the waist up. There are an awful lot of full body shots, too.

The upshot of all this is that Butch and Sundance themselves are shown to be small figures in a larger world. Sheriff Bledsoe articulates this visual commentary in his heated chastisement of the duo: "Your times is over! Don't you get that?" These are big fish in a little pond, and that pond is getting a lot larger with every rail line and bicycle to encroach on the western territories.

Hall keeps them small every step of the way, ensuring that we see the world around them in every frame. The most obvious example is the famed chase by the super posse across the western landscape, where the pursued bandits are dwarfed by the sheer scale of the shooting locations, but that's not even the most interesting showcase.

The handiest microcosm is actually that first scene in town after they've robbed the flyer, with Butch and Sundance looking on from the balcony as the erstwhile town marshal fails to rally the townspeople. We're never very close to Butch and Sundance, who are surrounded at all times by the rest of the balcony and/or the party just visible inside the brothel.

There are, however, a few close-ups of the marshal. He's helpless, of course, and represents no actual danger to the titular duo himself, but symbolically we know that the kind of determined lawman he represents looms very large in their world and the film. William Goldman's terrific dialog tells us the marshal is the unknowing butt of the scene's joke, but Hall's cinematography begs to differ. It's the determined lawman who will get the last laugh, and that is indeed what happens.

There's also, of course, the way that Hall shot the super posse; always at a distance, until the chase reaches its nearly deadly conclusion. Even then, we can only make out the shapes of hats and the impressions of faces. These lawmen mercenaries exist more in abstraction than in reality, at least for us. We don't need to see their faces. We need only to know that they mean to apprehend and kill our law-breaking protagonists.

Lastly, there's Katherine Ross. The story goes that she incurred the wrath of both Hall and director George Roy Hill for getting a camera operator to let her work his camera during one shot on one of the very first days of photography. They were so furious that only the fact it was too late to recast her role prevented her being thrown off the film entirely.

Despite the personal and professional anger, Ross is absolutely beautiful in every shot. Whether forlorn or having the time of her life, Ross is lit and framed to melt our hearts...which, of course, she does. She has wonderful chemistry with both Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and her interactions with the two actually do indicate to us the differences of the dynamics of their various relationships.

Though she's ostensibly Sundance's girlfriend, she's at her warmest with Butch. Even though she outright asks Butch about the possibility of it having been the two of them to have become romantically involved, we never really feel that there's any risk of a love triangle or Butch and Sundance coming to blows over her. It's not until you stop and think about the fact that the story doesn't go in that direction that you realize how peculiar it is that it doesn't. At least partial credit for keeping us from even suspecting that's where things will go must go to Hall, who photographed Ross with Newman in such an innocuous, almost familial fashion.

I could (obviously!) go on about things to appreciate about the film, but I think that's quite enough for one post.
Old 06-24-13, 07:20 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

True crime might make a good checklist addition next year.
Old 06-24-13, 07:37 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Undeadcow
True crime might make a good checklist addition next year.
You know...it just might!
Old 06-24-13, 08:29 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by MinLShaw
You know...it just might!
There's even a satellite channel devoted to it, Investigation Discovery.
Old 06-24-13, 09:04 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by JOE29
So you recommend this movie? I just looked on Amazon and the bluray reviews aren't that promising. But I think that this is an interesting DVD to buy. Although I don't think that I've ever heard of this one before.
I'd recommend seeing it before buying it. I liked it because I'm interested in the period and could see beyond the historical inaccuracies. FWIW, I think Roger Corman's VON RICHTHOFFEN AND BROWN is a much better film on the subject. Corman takes the position that von Richthoffen was an aristocrat, the last of the "gentlemen" fighters and that Brown was more of an average every-man, so he looks at their battle as a change in the way war was fought. Typically of Corman it was a low budget production and that hurts the film ins some ways.
Old 06-25-13, 12:56 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I just finished Argo-a first time watch for me. I really enjoyed it. I thought that on top of the story telling, the visual image of the whole thing was great. It felt like 1979/1980. Even the color tone of the film was touched to make it feel that way. The small doc on the disc was interesting-the actual people involved talking about what happened. I figured that there were going to be dramatics added-it is a film-but it doesn't sound like they were too liberal with the facts.
Old 06-25-13, 03:39 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by LJG765
I just finished Argo-a first time watch for me. I really enjoyed it. I thought that on top of the story telling, the visual image of the whole thing was great. It felt like 1979/1980. Even the color tone of the film was touched to make it feel that way. The small doc on the disc was interesting-the actual people involved talking about what happened. I figured that there were going to be dramatics added-it is a film-but it doesn't sound like they were too liberal with the facts.
And if anything, left some potentially-suspense-adding bits out!
Old 06-25-13, 03:40 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Today I watched The Conspirator. I forget how and why it showed up - probably while searching for Abraham Lincoln - on Amazon, but it looked interesting and wasn't 3 hours long, so I added it to my list and it made the cut.

First off, I must say that the entire cast did a great job - I did not recognize Kevin Kline or Robin Wright (although I guessed who she was playing) - but I was very amused to spot Colm Meaney again, and in quite an important role. I'm now reading up on the films accuracy, and the first thing I read said that it is the first film of the American Film Company, and "in keeping with the company's goal to create historically accurate films, Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson, Lincoln assassination expert Thomas Turner, and Army historian Col. Fred Borch consulted" on it. Which is not an immediate indicator of scrupulous future accuracy, but it's a great start to find a company making the effort to dramatize history accurately.

If it is accurate, it's damning. I didn't know any of it - I thought John Wilkes Booth was the lone assassin. I wasn't aware of the network around JWB - although it makes sense, given (for example) Guy Fawkes being the fall guy for a far wider conspiracy. But the circumstances surrounding the hanging of a peripherally-involved hanger-on's mother is abominable. With stories like that in the past, some of the more-recent criticisms of various legal happenings seem to gain a bit more perspective.

On a completely separate note, I'm feeling tempted to find the time and resources "one day" to create a super Lincoln 12+ hour epic film by cutting together all the footage from the many, many that show various elements of the whole story: Young Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, The Conspirator... I think it might be fascinating. If lengthy.
Old 06-25-13, 06:35 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Inspired by “Rose of Versailles,” I dug out my two film versions of MARIE ANTOINETTE and watched them on Sunday-Monday. The 1938 film version, starring Norma Shearer, turns out to be the best first-time viewing of this challenge so far and one of the best Hollywood films of the 1930s I’ve ever seen. It’s 157 minutes and tells the whole story of Marie from her arrival in France as a teenager to her death on the guillotine in 1793 (220 years ago this October 16) at the age of 37. (Shearer was 35 when she made this.) Shearer was a big star in the 1930s, but retired in 1942 and is not as well remembered today because she didn’t make the kinds of films that became cult hits (or faves of feminists) the way Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck, et al, did. I’ve never had much use for Shearer, having seen her in only three or four other films before this. But she’s magnificent in this film. She really keys into the emotional reality of the character and that’s what drives the film from start to finish as her emotional and physical desires come into conflict with the duties of her position. She enters into an arranged marriage with an extremely socially awkward man and goes through a period of hedonism before settling into her role as queen and defending her husband and the court’s interests with ferocity, culminating in a refusal to flee during the French Revolution, insisting she stay by her husband’s side. Eventually, the royal couple is persuaded to attempt an escape, the sad outcome of which is well-known. I found the film gripping throughout and incredibly suspenseful at times.

Robert Morley plays her husband, the prince, Louis-Auguste, who is eventually crowned King of France and becomes the ill-fated Louis XVI, after the death of his grandfather, Louis XV (colorfully played by John Barrymore). The prince is more interested in making locks than in spending time with his wife and only gradually gets it together to perform his royal matrimonial duties and father an heir. Morley’s performance is quite poignant, playing Louis as a wounded soul, having constantly been made fun of all his life. (“I’m not clever like my brothers.”) The way he plays him leads us to think that Louis may have been autistic or had Asperger’s Syndrome or something. I wonder if there was any kind of intent like that. But it makes the performance very modern.

And the production is lavish in the best MGM manner, with massive sets depicting the chambers of Versailles and sweeping camera movements and beautiful costumes and hairstyles until the onset of the Revolution and the loss of their servants and grooming accessories and the emergence of a vengeful mob as the dominant force.

It’s quite an adult film, too, in the way it treats the inability of the royal couple to have children for the first few years of their marriage and the way they’re ridiculed and taunted because of that. It’s obvious that Marie has her flings with others, most notably Count Fersen from Sweden (played by a young, exceedingly handsome Tyrone Power). And when the mob takes over, their murderous cruelty is suggested if not exactly shown, but in an unmistakably harrowing way.

Oh, and Benjamin Franklin makes a cameo appearance.

I then watched Sofia Coppola’s 2006 version, which is very pretty on the surface and has its good points, but keeps its characters at too much of a distance and never allows us to get emotionally involved with them, in the way that “Rose of Versailles” and the 1938 film do. The best scenes involve Louis XV and his mistress, Madame Du Barry, chiefly because they’re allowed to be the most lusty, the most human, and are wonderfully played by Rip Torn and Asia Argento (with a 44-year age gap between them). Even as the Revolution approaches, though, there’s no urgency, no suspense. We don’t really care. Kirsten Dunst is okay, I guess, but Jason Schwartzman as Louis-Auguste is too handsome for the role and looks too much like Stanley Tucci.

I think I understand (or maybe I don't) what Coppola was trying to do--showing how much Marie and her entourage were "just like us" (i.e. the young mall girls watching the film in 2006), but I don't know how true that would be. She wants to show what the daily experience was like, but something's missing there.

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 06-25-13 at 08:58 AM.
Old 06-25-13, 07:50 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
I then watched Sofia Coppola’s 2006 version, which is very pretty on the surface and has its good points, but keeps its characters at too much of a distance and never allows us to get emotionally involved with them, in the way that “Rose of Versailles” and the 1938 film do. The best scenes involve Louis XV and his mistress, Madame Du Barry, chiefly because they’re allowed to be the most lusty, the most human, and are wonderfully played by Rip Torn and Asia Argento (with a 44-year age gap between them). Even as the Revolution approaches, though, there’s no urgency, no suspense. We don’t really care. Kirsten Dunst is okay, I guess, but Jason Schwartzman as Louis-Auguste is too handsome for the role and looks too much like Stanley Tucci.
What I loved about Coppola's Marie Antoinette is how clearly she creates the sense of isolation that the queen felt at the palace court. There are only a handful of brief scenes in the entire film without Dunst in them, so the film is told almost exclusively from her point of view. That distance you describe that keeps us from connecting with the other characters is deliberate and an important element of the film. We're meant to see how much of an outsider Marie was at Versailles, which is an important part of Coppola's thesis - that despite the way that the queen was perceived and portrayed at the time and in legacy, she really wasn't very powerful within the monarchy and held very little sway over things.

She became the culprit de facto because she was Austrian rather than French and blame for perceived slights and indifference toward the French people were easily attributed - however unfairly - to her on the basis that she wasn't one of the people. It's actually important that Coppola told Marie's story the way she did, because the self-indulgent "Let them eat cake" woman who exists in the minds of so many isn't really consistent with what we actually know about Marie. Look at the numerous scenes in which Marie is completely put off by the ridiculously lavish practices at Versailles, such as not even dressing herself. In another time, she may have had the self-confidence to have affected change. But truly, she held no meaningful power despite her title.

Having studied Marie as I have, I really appreciated Coppola's depiction of the isolation that Marie faced. 99% of the entire film takes place strictly at Versailles, a key reminder how isolated both she and the ruling class in general really had been. We're accustomed to films trying to smother us in recognizable, identifiable portrayals of historical figures, but that isn't what Coppola went for. She doesn't care whether we get a sense of who this bishop is or that duke, or any of the entire lot - because Marie herself had very distant relationships with those people.

That sense of distance is the most important and most powerful element of the entire picture, and Coppola nailed it.
Old 06-25-13, 07:58 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by ntnon
Today I watched The Conspirator. I forget how and why it showed up - probably while searching for Abraham Lincoln - on Amazon, but it looked interesting and wasn't 3 hours long, so I added it to my list and it made the cut.
That's been on my radar for a while, but I kinda forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!

If it is accurate, it's damning. I didn't know any of it - I thought John Wilkes Booth was the lone assassin. I wasn't aware of the network around JWB - although it makes sense, given (for example) Guy Fawkes being the fall guy for a far wider conspiracy. But the circumstances surrounding the hanging of a peripherally-involved hanger-on's mother is abominable. With stories like that in the past, some of the more-recent criticisms of various legal happenings seem to gain a bit more perspective.
Without having seen their portrayal it's hard for me to comment on the veracity of it in details, but yeah, Booth was part of a conspiracy rather than a lone assassin. The History Channel produced an outstanding documentary special a few years back called The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth that I would highly endorse. I even saw it in the $5 bin at Walmart about a month ago so you may scavenge for it the next time you're out.

On a completely separate note, I'm feeling tempted to find the time and resources "one day" to create a super Lincoln 12+ hour epic film by cutting together all the footage from the many, many that show various elements of the whole story: Young Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, The Conspirator... I think it might be fascinating. If lengthy.
Don't forget to put in a coda from the original Star Trek episode, "The Savage Curtain", in which Lincoln is plucked out of time to join Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in a historical all-star battle. I like to think that's gonna happen in another 200 years.
Old 06-25-13, 09:03 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Travis S. McClain, Esq.
What I loved about Coppola's Marie Antoinette is how clearly she creates the sense of isolation that the queen felt at the palace court. There are only a handful of brief scenes in the entire film without Dunst in them, so the film is told almost exclusively from her point of view. That distance you describe that keeps us from connecting with the other characters is deliberate and an important element of the film. We're meant to see how much of an outsider Marie was at Versailles, which is an important part of Coppola's thesis - that despite the way that the queen was perceived and portrayed at the time and in legacy, she really wasn't very powerful within the monarchy and held very little sway over things.

She became the culprit de facto because she was Austrian rather than French and blame for perceived slights and indifference toward the French people were easily attributed - however unfairly - to her on the basis that she wasn't one of the people. It's actually important that Coppola told Marie's story the way she did, because the self-indulgent "Let them eat cake" woman who exists in the minds of so many isn't really consistent with what we actually know about Marie. Look at the numerous scenes in which Marie is completely put off by the ridiculously lavish practices at Versailles, such as not even dressing herself. In another time, she may have had the self-confidence to have affected change. But truly, she held no meaningful power despite her title.

Having studied Marie as I have, I really appreciated Coppola's depiction of the isolation that Marie faced. 99% of the entire film takes place strictly at Versailles, a key reminder how isolated both she and the ruling class in general really had been. We're accustomed to films trying to smother us in recognizable, identifiable portrayals of historical figures, but that isn't what Coppola went for. She doesn't care whether we get a sense of who this bishop is or that duke, or any of the entire lot - because Marie herself had very distant relationships with those people.

That sense of distance is the most important and most powerful element of the entire picture, and Coppola nailed it.
The film you describe, Travis, might have been a great movie, but I don't think it's the one that Coppola made. You're reading a lot into it, maybe more than is there, which is easy to do with a film like that. Or maybe the distanced approach is keeping me too much at a distance from what's going on in the film.

In any event, last night I picked up a copy of the book Coppola based this on, "Marie Antoinette: The Journey," by Antonia Fraser, and started reading it.

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 06-25-13 at 10:35 AM.
Old 06-25-13, 09:32 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Today I decided I was in the mood to watch Hidalgo, but unfortunately the DVD Binder it is in seems to have gone MIA.
Old 06-25-13, 11:06 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Travis S. McClain, Esq.
Spoiler:
As far as the music, I think it's important to pay attention to how much of the film doesn't feature any. There's only something like 20 minutes of music in the entire picture. That's a pretty bold storytelling decision, really. I dig the incongruous sound of Bacharach's score. That ba-da-da-dah-dubba-dah stuff is fun and I think it suits the personality of the movie. I love the Coney Island montage in particular.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is traditionally classified as a Western. I've heard it derisively called "a Western for people who don't like/are embarrassed by Westerns". I've come to feel that it's best viewed instead not as a Western at all, but rather as a period piece about the twilight of the Nineteenth Century and the dawn of the Twentieth. We see the rise of modernity as it threatens the outlaws from the very first shot of the film:

BUTCH: "What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful!"
ARMED GUARD: "People kept robbing it."
BUTCH (dejected): "Small price to pay for beauty."

The obvious symbol of modernity is the bicycle, the "future" that Butch ultimately rejects. It isn't even the law that really catches them; it's the 20th Century. Sheriff Bledsoe admonishes them by flaunting the threat that the new era poses to them: "It's over! Don't you get that? Your times is over and you're gonna die, bloody. And all you can do is choose where." It's almost cruel that even the power of that choice exists only because of modern means of transportation (ocean liner and train). These are analog guys in a digital world. (Or whatever guys were in the world before analog!) No wonder it found an appreciative audience in the fall of 1969! That's one of the key things, really. Like the best science-fiction, there's an allegorical aspect to the film that makes it accessible to any viewers who feel the world is passing them by.

"But I don't identify with robbers!" you might protest. The film actually addresses that for us with Butch's delightful takedown of E.H. Harriman (of the Union Pacific Railroad):

"A set-up like that costs more than we ever took...That crazy Harriman. That's bad business! How long do you think I'd stay in operation if every time I pulled a job, it cost me money? If he'd just pay me what he's spending to make me stop robbin' him, I'd stop robbin' him. [Yelling to the non-existent Harriman] Probably inherited every penny you got! Those inherited guys - what the hell do they know?"

It's a timeless rationalization for theft, but since we already like these guys by that point in the picture, we take it at face value that, yeah, E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad is sitting on top of so much money that he's actually making bad business decisions like overspending to catch Butch and Sundance. Why, it's downright irresponsible! Screw that guy! Part of the fun is vicariously exacting our revenge on all those powerful people whose whims impact our daily lives.

I finally got to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the big screen earlier this year when it played as part of the Cinemark Classic Series. What struck me most then was Conrad Hall's cinematography. From my Letterboxd diary:

I could (obviously!) go on about things to appreciate about the film, but I think that's quite enough for one post.
I had to laugh as I knew as soon as I saw the original post you were going to reply with this!

Originally Posted by ntnon
And if anything, left some potentially-suspense-adding bits out!
Probably! For me, what I was thinking of was
Spoiler:
the end scenes at the airport where they're being chased while on the airplane-they couldn't just call the tower to have them cancel the flight? Plus, I knew that with so much focus on getting through the airport, that's where all the tension would lie if it had been that way or not! Like getting stopped at checkpoints, calling the studio for confirmation and having it picked up on the last ring, that kind of thing.
Old 06-25-13, 11:54 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by ntnon
And if anything, left some potentially-suspense-adding bits out!
Too true about Argo! I enjoyed it a lot, but
Spoiler:
when the car that was taking them in the airplane stalled, I burst into laughter. It was such a ludicrous moment!


I got caught up in a Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman marathon. I was just going to watch an episode while eating breakfast, but ended up watching all of the second season. While I can see its flaws and limitations, I absolutely love the show. Jane Seymour is really engaging and makes watching almost compulsory; I have to see what she will do next.

There are quite a few interesting episodes in the second season - most notable for me were:

2.6/7: "Where the Heart Is" - Dr. Quinn and family visit Boston when her mother falls ill. It was nice to see the principle characters thrown into new surroundings and get out of their comfort zones. Not surprisingly, Colleen wants to stay in Boston while Matthew wants to leave as soon as possible.
2.13: "The Offering" - A typhus outbreak happens when the US Army gives contaminated blankets to the local Cheyennes. This episode is really interesting because it keeps the villains out of the picture.
Spoiler:
Custer is the culprit, and the soldiers charged with delivering the blankets end up victims as well. The town, the immigrants, and the soldiers are all expendable if it means getting rid of the Cheyennes.

2.20: "The First Circle" - The KKK comes to town after Robert E. and Grace buy a house in town. Unfortunately, no one has heard of this new group before, nor knows its purpose. Thus, we are treated to unsettling scenes such as Dr. Quinn and the townswomen sewing KKK insignia on white robes and Matthew all decked out in his robes. It is a very tense and emotional episode.
Old 06-25-13, 03:55 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Travis S. McClain, Esq.
Don't forget to put in a coda from the original Star Trek episode, "The Savage Curtain", in which Lincoln is plucked out of time to join Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in a historical all-star battle. I like to think that's gonna happen in another 200 years.
There's a good bit in Red Dwarf where they save Kennedy
Spoiler:
and, essentially, by not dying his legacy is awful - I think he even gets arrested for something - so they wind up sending him back
Spoiler:
to be the gunman on the knoll!
Old 06-25-13, 04:02 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
Too true about Argo! I enjoyed it a lot, but
Spoiler:
when the car that was taking them in the airplane stalled, I burst into laughter. It was such a ludicrous moment!
Yes, although for me it was really tense: it was such a minor thing, and exactly the sort of thing that could scupper everything.

The interviews, I think, talked about the wait in the lounge being far longer than on screen, which i'm glad they trimmed, but... I cannot imagine how awful that would have been.

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
I got caught up in a Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman marathon. I was just going to watch an episode while eating breakfast, but ended up watching all of the second season.
What?! Isn't that over twenty hours? Did you... ...oh, I see. I read that as you watching the whole second season in a day, and was thinking that that was a near-impossible Herculean feat.
Old 06-26-13, 04:50 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum
The film you describe, Travis, might have been a great movie, but I don't think it's the one that Coppola made. You're reading a lot into it, maybe more than is there, which is easy to do with a film like that. Or maybe the distanced approach is keeping me too much at a distance from what's going on in the film.
I concede it's possible, but I reject that it's likely. I'm pretty astute about such things. All the examples I pointed to are clearly in the film. All that remains is to question whether they were deliberate storytelling choices or if they were happenstance. With someone as specific as Sofia Coppola, I feel confident that they were deliberate storytelling choices.

In any event, last night I picked up a copy of the book Coppola based this on, "Marie Antoinette: The Journey," by Antonia Fraser, and started reading it.
UGH. One more book I want to read! I started Steve Martin's An Object of Beauty back in October. I was breezing right through it until November and I've been stalled ever since. I've got half of it remaining and the truth is, I just don't want to finish it. It's not that it's a bad novel by any means. I've just lost my interest. Unfortunately, I'm a monogamous reader and I can't bring myself to either formally abandon it or start something else until I finish it.

Originally Posted by LJG765
I had to laugh as I knew as soon as I saw the original post you were going to reply with this!
Am I that predictable? :P
Old 06-26-13, 12:43 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Travis S. McClain, Esq.
Am I that predictable? :P
Maybe a bit? Also helps that a few months ago when I watched it we talked about it and you're very passionate about this film!
Old 06-26-13, 12:46 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by ntnon
Yes, although for me it was really tense: it was such a minor thing, and exactly the sort of thing that could scupper everything.

The interviews, I think, talked about the wait in the lounge being far longer than on screen, which i'm glad they trimmed, but... I cannot imagine how awful that would have been.
I watched Argo at a packed university screening and the crowd was really into it. There was lots of cheering, laughter, and clapping as well as silence during the emotional scenes. A guy sitting behind would yell out "'Merica!" when anything good happened. While normally this would bother me, I think it actually made me like the film more; it was impossible not to be captivated when everyone around you is focused on the film. WARNING: A rant based solely on personal opinion and feelings. I will say that while it was a nice piece of filmmaking, I have no idea how it could win Best Picture when up against films such as Life of Pi and Amour and Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty. Those were films that almost demand multiple viewings. I feel like I go everything from Argo from my first viewing. Okay, rant over. Apologies.

Originally Posted by ntnon
What?! Isn't that over twenty hours? Did you... ...oh, I see. I read that as you watching the whole second season in a day, and was thinking that that was a near-impossible Herculean feat.
LOL! I should have noted the time frame for my marathon! However, it isn't impossible. You could watch all 27 episodes and have three hours left. Totally doable :P. I can't figure out how I watched so many episodes is such a short amount of time; once I started, I couldn't stop. I think they sprinkled it with whatever the television equivalent of crack is.
Old 06-26-13, 01:18 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Travis S. McClain, Esq.
I concede it's possible, but I reject that it's likely. I'm pretty astute about such things. All the examples I pointed to are clearly in the film. All that remains is to question whether they were deliberate storytelling choices or if they were happenstance. With someone as specific as Sofia Coppola, I feel confident that they were deliberate storytelling choices.
Travis, I'm siding with you on this one. I will admit that when I saw Marie Antoinette in the theater, I wasn't really impressed and thought the film created too much distance from the audience. However, I've watched it multiple times since, and each time it just gets better. In addition to the isolation of Versailles, Coppola used montages and odd time lapses to create this numbing sense of boredom and tedium. Marie's life is so controlled, and she has very little agency or personal freedom. I also think Coppola is slyly commenting on current celebrity culture through the inventive soundtrack and those wonderful montages of excess that mirror coverage of current celebrity weddings.

Of course, I'm the guy championing Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman so my agreement may actually hurt your case!
Old 06-26-13, 03:07 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by Doc Moonlight
I'd recommend seeing it before buying it. I liked it because I'm interested in the period and could see beyond the historical inaccuracies. FWIW, I think Roger Corman's VON RICHTHOFFEN AND BROWN is a much better film on the subject. Corman takes the position that von Richthoffen was an aristocrat, the last of the "gentlemen" fighters and that Brown was more of an average every-man, so he looks at their battle as a change in the way war was fought. Typically of Corman it was a low budget production and that hurts the film ins some ways.
I think that I would try both of them out. I like that time period too. But probably wouldn't be for a while to buy them both. Although I will put them on my list to buy.
Old 06-26-13, 06:12 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

Originally Posted by mrcellophane
In addition to the isolation of Versailles, Coppola used montages and odd time lapses to create this numbing sense of boredom and tedium. Marie's life is so controlled, and she has very little agency or personal freedom. I also think Coppola is slyly commenting on current celebrity culture through the inventive soundtrack and those wonderful montages of excess that mirror coverage of current celebrity weddings.
My reading of it - without having watched any bonus content, listened to a commentary track or done really any research into the production of the film - is that the evocation of contemporary celebrity culture was meant as much as a frame of reference for viewers as it was about likening Marie Antoinette with the Kardashians (or, being 2006, I suppose Paris Hilton was more "relevant" at the time).

The contemporary music seemed jarring at first, but I really do think it services the film. Because of the proliferation of reality TV built around celebrities (and pseudo-celebrities), I think we do pick up on those cues in a way we previously might not have. We get it. We're going "backstage" to see the tedium and, as you say, lack of freedom and personal agency. It's a shorthand, but one that works by tapping into what we're familiar with and uses that as a starting point for getting us to connect to Marie.
Old 06-27-13, 08:05 AM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

I went to see Schindler's List yesterday afternoon. Here are my thoughts, from my Letterboxd diary:
Spoiler:
When Cinemark announced that they were doing a wave of Best Picture winners for their Cinemark Classic Series, I hoped that Schindler's List would be among them. It was not. But then they announced that June would be a "Spielberg Spotlight" and there it was in the fourth and final week of the schedule! I finally had my chance to see this on the big screen. I haven't been in great shape lately, but I was able to make it to (and through) the 2:00 showing.

This was the fourth time I've seen Schindler's List. It was my first since I finally read Thomas Keneally's novel earlier this year. I anticipated that between the nature of seeing the film in a theater and having the insights of the source material, I would react differently than I have in previous viewings. I was right.

I previously read it that the film was a bit ambiguous about whether Schindler had in mind all along to use the cover of a business to help Jews. That was one of the things I hoped Keneally could resolve. There, he makes the argument that it's unclear just when and why Schindler had the idea. It's only clear that he did a lot to help different people over the years. I appreciated after reading the book that the film didn't invent an epiphany scene for the sake of drama.

This time through, though, I felt that Cinematic Schindler really did start off just being in it for the profit and only later was he brought around to using his power to help. There's a willful obtuseness in the first hour or so that previously played to me as a guy not quite comfortable with what he's really doing but this time it came off a lot more as a selfish guy trying to cover his ears and yell "la la la la la la!" at the very idea of doing anything more than just profiteering.

The film also downplays the extent to which Schindler flirted with his own trouble. We see him arrested after having kissed the Jewish girls at his birthday celebration. That did happen, and he did get out of trouble through the help of high ranking Nazis he'd schmoozed, but he was arrested a second time as well. There was a persistent threat that he would be taken away as a Jewish sympathizer. He burned through a lot of favors staying out of prison. By avoiding this, Cinematic Schindler comes off as more influential and also as less heroic since there's not much sense of the danger he risked.

I also had a stronger sense of Mrs. Emilie Schindler this time through than in previous viewings. She's not particularly well established within the film, only appearing a few times without being acknowledged or discussed throughout any other scenes. I admit, I laughed today when she tells him that if he'll promise her no porter or doorman will ever mistake her for anyone other than his wife, she'll stay with him in Krakow. That line cuts directly to her being on an outbound train. Terrific moment of levity.

One area where I felt the film could have benefited from expanding the narrative is that there's a sense that the Jews were jerked around in a flurry of incidents so regularly that one does begin to wonder why they wouldn't react accordingly. The answer is, things happened slowly enough that they didn't perceive the true nature of what was being done to them.

We do see that things keep going from bad to worse, but what Keneally emphasized is how each time, the Jews had reason to believe that things were as bad as they could and would get. There are a couple of brief exchanges between Jews in the film to that effect ("I think this is the worst it will get"), but they come off as naivete rather than people who have really had time to process their experiences.

Amon Goethe here (menacingly portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) is a sort of stand-in for all Nazi horrors. Keneally makes the case that Goethe's depravity was actually outside the accepted scope of a Nazi official. He was kept at arm's length by his peers and superiors. Here, he's the life of the party. Maybe rough, but so what?

We see Goethe exhume and burn thousands of Jewish corpses, but there's no indication of why that was done. The truth is, the Russians were advancing and the Nazis were terrified of the Russians discovering evidence of what had taken place. We don't get a sense of that. Everything looks like a perfectly typical Nazi community or concentration camp. The truth is, Krakow was a backwater town in Poland where there was almost a sense that being assigned there was a banishment. Goethe's obscene cruelty was disallowed by the Nazi code of conduct (stunning to know they bothered with such a thing, isn't it?).

So these were the basics of the what crossed my mind about the difference between Spielberg's film and Keneally's novel. They don't diminish the power of the film, of course, and at 3 1/2 hours, I can certainly understand the need to abridge and streamline the narrative. One wonders: If Spielberg had it to do today, would he have made this as a film, or as an HBO mini-series? The chief appeal to me of expanding the scope of the narrative beyond what's in the film is that we don't get a clear enough sense of the risks to Schindler, the reasons why the Jews acclimated and accepted each wave of their destruction, or the complexities of the Nazi hierarchy.

This was the first time I've ever seen Schindler's List without having to either switch out tapes or flip over a DVD. As happened last year when I finally got to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen, I found the pace brisker in the setting of a theater. Everything that takes place after the women arrive at Auschwitz (i.e., tape 2/disc side 2) seems to go by in a particular hurry. It doesn't play like the second half, but rather just as the final act. (Which, really, it is since it's half the length of what constitutes tape 1/disc side 1).

John Williams's score is thoughtful and elegant. It's certainly the most nuanced work of his with which I'm familiar. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is alternately frenetic and stoic, serving the scene at hand and the film at large. The performances, the costumes, the sets; all flawless. Aside from what information is or is not in the film, I think my only quibble is with some of the depictions of murder. I've never shot anyone or even seen someone shot, so maybe if you shoot someone in the head they do spray out blood as though from a hose, but there were a few, uh, shots that looked a bit overdone to me. The architect, for instance, didn't just spray blood. Her blood flow looked completely artificially rigged, like something out of a slasher film.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Schindler's List isn't just a powerful film. It's why film is classified as an art, and art as "humanities". We can discuss Steven Spielberg's filmography all day long, but any talk about his best work has to be with the understanding that the answer is Schindler's List. Anything else is just a matter of determining the runner-up.

Schindler's List was re-ranked to #3/1517 on my Flickchart

Schindler's List
-X- Watch 5 movies about historical events of different countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia)
-X- Film about Religious Minority (Jews)
-X- War film that focuses on civilians (Oskar Schindler)
-X- Film about war criminals (Amon Goethe)
-X- Watch 5 movies that take place during different wars. (World War II)
Old 06-27-13, 08:57 PM
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Re: The Fourth Annual Historical Appreciation Challenge...Now with More Appreciation!

That was a really good review of Schindler's List, Travis. I'm glad you shared it.

Just finished Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrow Land. There were segments that were better than others (the one on Mars had some great animation) but overall it was very watchable and interesting. The EPCOT section makes me wish that it had come to fruition just to see how it worked. It had some very interesting ideas on planned living.

Quick question: Anyone know if that Ray Bradbury bonus feature would be more suitable for the Sci-fi challenge or at least qualify for it? Sorry, a bit off topic.

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