The General

Our next AFI movie was 1926’s The General, starring and directed by Buster Keaton.  I had never seen any of his movies and I was really impressed with the effects they were able to create during this era.

Keaton plays a train engineer during the Civil War who wants to enlist but is denied.  The girl he loves is disappointed and thinks he is being a coward instead.  Keaton eventually finds a way to help his cause with his train’s engine is stolen and he has to stop the enemy’s plans.

Since this is a silent film, there is no audible dialogue.  The distributor had added in public domain music, which sometimes was distracting (Pomp and Circumstance, anyone?).  I also felt the second half dragged a little bit and became repetitive.  Overall, I was glad we watched it, but was a little underwhelmed considering it was so high on the list.

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The Graduate

Up next on our AFI top 100 re-watch was The Graduate at number 17.  I had somehow managed to never see this one and it was awesome.  I loved the music and all of the interesting shots and perspectives.  Obviously, I wasn’t really a fan of Ben’s choice of sleeping with Mrs. Robinson in the first place, but once he was in so deep, I couldn’t wait to see how he was going to get out of it.

The final scene starting with Ben running to the church to stop Elaine’s wedding was so amazing.  I loved them screaming at each other and Ben waving the cross so they could escape.  I also enjoyed the last part, when the jubilation of their escape slowly fades and they are still left with the same problem of deciding what they are doing to do.

Sunset Boulevard

My husband and I watched Sunset Boulevard, number 16 on our AFI 10th anniversary list.  Number 15 was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was started together and he just couldn’t get into it, so we turned it off.  I had seen 2001 a long time ago, but barely remember it, so I will probably have to re-watch by myself at some point.

Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 film noir directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.  A struggling script writer stumbles upon an aging movie star’s house one night and is sucked into her life, essentially becoming her live in boyfriend as she attempts to work on a script for her comeback.  It becomes more clear as time passes that she is losing her grip on reality.  At the climax of the movie, he tries to leave her and she shoots and kills him.

There are some famous lines from this movie, including “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  This takes place at the end of the film, when as the police are taking her away from her house, she thinks it is a sound stage where her new movie is starting to be filmed.

Psycho

Psycho is number fourteen on AFI’s anniversary list and we watched it over two evenings last week.  I had seen the famous shower scene years ago, but I don’t think I ever watched the whole thing from start to finish.  My husband hadn’t seen it either.  Alfred Hitchcock made the movie in 1960 starring Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates and Janet Leigh as Marion Crane.  The film was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Marion is presented with an opportunity to steal a large amount of cash from her employer and takes it.  She starts a road trip to meet up with her boyfriend when a storm forces her to stop at a run down motel off the road.  She meets the disturbed owner Norman Bates and her fate is pretty much sealed from there.

It was interesting to watch the movie knowing the twist (SPOILER – Norman has killed his mother and is pretending to be her) because Hitchcock does not let the audience on this until the very end.  If you didn’t know what was happening, you would think she was alive and interacting with the characters.

The movie still holds up and is appropriately creepy and disturbing.

Vertigo

Number nine on the AFI list was Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s film from 1958.  I remember seeing parts of it when I was younger, but really didn’t remember anything about it. James Stewart plays Scottie, a retiring police detective whose old friend asks him to follow his wife, played by Kim Novak, who has been acting strangely.  Scottie suffers from a crippling fear of heights, which ultimately takes center stage at the film’s pivotal plot point at the top of a mission’s bell tower.

The movie wasn’t all that well received when it first came out, but over the years, it has been strongly acclaimed.  Hitchcock used an impressive visual effect with a dolly to show Scottie’s point of view looking down from great heights.  The major plot twist of the movie was surprising (I won’t give it away) and intriguing and the last shot of the movie leaves a little open to interpretation about what will happen to Scottie.  We both really enjoyed the movie and are looking forward to more Hitchcock in the future.

Number ten on the AFI list is The Wizard of Oz, which I have seen over 20 times, and my husband has seen it before, so we decided not to re-watch it.  The kids have watched it several times, so it’s been on in our house for the past few years.  It’s also one of my favorites though, and if for some reason, you haven’t ever seen it, I would strongly recommend it.

Schindler’s List

We made it to number 8 on the AFI top 100 (10th Anniversary Edition).  I had seen Schindler’s List in the theatre when it came out in 1993, but hadn’t watched it since then.  I remembered it being incredibly moving, but having now watched it again as an adult instead of a child, it was all the more moving, especially being a mother.  It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Steven Spielberg.

The movie chronicles Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, and his heroic saving of over a thousand Polish Jews during World War II through his employment of them in his factories.  Schindler starts out with the motivation to only make money and take advantage of the labor situation in Poland, but as he develops relationships with them, especially his Jewish business manager, played by Ben Kingsley, Schindler also develops a compassion for them that drives him to rescue as many as he can from the concentration camps.  This transformation is completely revealed through Schindler’s emotion at the end of the movie when we tearfully confesses that he could have done more.

I was totally riveted throughout the movie, even though I already knew what was going to happen.  Ralph Fiennes plays Amon Goth, possibly one of the meanest villains ever and the controller at a concentration camp.  He is really tough to watch at some points.  I feel that this movie is incredibly important to watch as an historic reminder of that period and also as a Christian example of standing up for what is right.  We intend to show this movie to the kids when they study WWII in school and have meaningful discussions with them about this moment in time.

Lawrence of Arabia

We finally made it through Lawrence of Arabia last night after our 4th viewing attempt.  This movie is long – 201 minutes.  We started watching it about a month ago, but between being busy at the end of the school year and going on vacation, we finally had to just bite the bullet and sit down and power through the rest.  You can probably tell I wasn’t a big fan.  I guess I just don’t know what all the fuss is about.

The movie follows the story of T.E. Lawrence, a real person during WWI in the Arabian Peninsula.   The 1962 movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.  It certainly is an epic and the scenery and all of the people are epic.  Maybe the story really didn’t interest me that much.  I did like the score.  There are no women in this movie at all and I’m not saying that every movie needs to have a ton of female characters, but really?  Not one?

I also found Peter O’Toole to be a little annoying in the role of Lawrence.  He seemed very passive and possibly the movie wanted to show his reluctance to violence, but the movie is about war and I don’t know what he expected to happen.  I did enjoy his interactions with the various Arabic tribes and how he learned their cultures.  Maybe on a big screen in the movie theatre, I would have enjoyed this more, but over several nights at home, it just didn’t do it for me.