There are a few movies I've recently seen that I felt like reflecting on...plus I've wanted to write my first blog on here for a long time and finally my yearn for writing about movies has come and manifested itself:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
I just saw this film today after having seen it on many top movie listings and knowing it's been regarded as a classic. It's been sitting on the top shelf of my dad's DVDs under the "B"s for as long as I can remember having had DVDs in my house, and have always just past it when perusing for a good movie to watch. I was first really exposed to Westerns junior year of high school when I took History in Film and saw films like Unforgiven, The Magnificient Seven, and Tombstone. Maybe it was my lack of knowledge which led to a lack of respect for the Western genre, but since then I've never really been a fan. Some say it's a dying genre but I don't think that's true at all. In the past few years, a few films have come out under the Western genre which have caught my attention and with every film I regain a newfound perspective of the genre and the history behind it. Some examples are No Country for Old Men, Appaloosa, and 3:10 to Yuma. I also so The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford but didn't really have that same reaction.
Now to the film itself. I'm going to skip over the synopsis and whatnot because this is more of a personal reflection on the film, and overall I just loved Newman and Redford's characters and their relationships. I've never seen Newman's old films and this one was a great starter to those famous blue eyes and charm. In the beginning scenes already his face held such a command I was drawn to him and he's probably the most pleasant cowboy I've ever seen so far portrayed in film. In contrast, Redford as the Sundance Kid isn't the sidekick I thought he was, he's on the same level as Newman and holds his own and is never looked down upon by Butch, but only for guidance as a companion. As the two ride and run in the West and later on in Bolivia, the smart dialogue between them and strong acting compelled me into being along for the ride and being on their side. The presence of Katharine Ross as Redford's love interest also brought along a nice womanly touch to the film, I think her role was vital in keeping Newman and Redford on their toes while in Bolivia and her scene with Newman in the bicycle scene to "Raindrops Keep Fallin on my Head" was one of my favorites. I thought that this film was just going to be a boring Western with the usual guns, horses, and towns in the middle of nowhere, and while the film does have these components, the story and script worked beautifully with the acting and ultimately the combined forces made me want to go along on the adventure. I also won't deny that I wanted Paul Newman and be his Etta James but I guess I'll reserve those thoughts for my fantasies.
I've been wanting to write about this movie ever since I watched it early December but never really had a chance. I even wanted to write a whole voluntary paper about Harvey Milk and the film, and finally I can have this blog entry to put my thoughts on. To put into simple terms, I was simply moved by this film. The acting, its relevance to the Proposition 8 issue in California (of which I'm a resident and voter in), and the whole impact of how this real person's life had on others. As a film, Gus Van Sant's directing did a beautiful job telling the story with a few memorable angles as well as with the integration of the archived footage- it added a very historical and real tone to the film. Sean Penn's portrayal was reminiscient to me to Jamie Foxx's role of Ray Charles in Ray about 5 years ago of which he also got the Best Actor Oscar for. Sean Penn made me believe I was watching THE Harvey Milk on screen, the personality, sexuality, and passion for the causes he fought for all spoke to me. Knowing that he was going to die from the getgo was a constant reminder that in any scene of the film he could be assassinated but when it finally came I was just as shocked as if I hadn't expected it. Josh Brolin is not to be forgotten, while he is the responsible killer you do see easily where he comes from and understands his position, especially because the man did want to collaborate with Milk in political policies. The setting of San Francisco which is also a place I often visit gave it very homey feel for me, seeing the Castro in the 1970's gave me a personal connection to the film and brought me that much closer to the people and their cause.
The fight for gay rights among other issues was very relevant at the time of this film's release, which some people thought should have been earlier to maybe have had an affect on the election results of the passing of Proposition 8. There are debates and rallies that occur throughout the film and when Harvey gets phone calls from teenagers who have been neglected by their family for being gay or we see the harsh treatment the community gets from the opposition, it made me want to just get up or shout to these people that were treating these human beings so poorly. During the campaigns leading up to the November general elections, I'd seen many commercials and personal accounts for people against gay rights but not very many from the actual community. However, in the film the actors from James Franco (who does a great job) to the screaming and shouting extras in the crowds really made me want to join their cause and fight alongside them. In the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) which is available on Hulu.com, people who knew him well and worked with him echo the same time of passion the film emits, and for those that want to know more about the man and the gay rights movement, I highly recommend the documentary. I went through a roller coaster of emotions watching this film and I'm so glad more and more people are watching it and positively reacting to the film and its issues. While those that do not support gay rights will probably have a small chance of being exposed to it, I think even those that already support the movement can also gain a new and valuable perspective.
The Queen (2006)
During the 2007 Oscars, I remember Helen Mirren winning the Oscar and thought "great, they gave it to the oldest one of the group". I was familiar with the film but had not seen it until a few days ago. I do remember she looked great in the dress at the ceremony though. And apparently, was quite the fox in her younger years.
I'm glad I didn't know about the premise of this film but if I did I would've watched it much sooner, since it centers around the death of Princess Diana. I don't know that much about the woman but do know she did a lot of charity work and her personal involvements with the monarchy as well as the media resulted in much public exposure. The film follows the Queen of England, played by Helen Mirren, her royal family, and Tony Blair, the then newly voted Prime Minister. Tony Blair, a member of the Labour Party, was the first of the party in 18 years to hold office and had a very Barack Obama-like inception, in that the changing of the political balance at the center of government was a very big deal. Essentially, the British people blamed Diana's death on the royal family for a number of reasons and the Queen, being the symbol of the England, did very little in publically responding to the shocking incident. What I liked most about the film was the script (penned by Peter Morgan, also writer of Frost/Nixon), Mirren's acting, and the relationship between her and Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen (who plays David Frost in Frost/Nixon). With the wig and mannerisms, Mirren flawlessly pulls off the look, but what drew me to her was the humanization she gave to England's symbol. The center of blame from the people and media, the Queen holds a firm stance on her beliefs as well as her emotions. She expresses privately that she didn't feel for Diana the way the public and world did about her, but that's not to say she didn't care. Michael Sheen, who as the new Prime Minister had only met the Queen in person once before Diana's death, phones the Queen often and offers heavily recommended advice when the monarchy's image is being torn apart by the media and people who regard her as being ignorant. Tony Blair was seen as a commoner and representative of the people (shown in the cinematography style) and at first I thought he was speaking on behalf of the public and trying to get the Queen to respond to their regard. However, while he holds to his constituency he also truly does hold a respect for the Queen and ultimately understands the justifications she has.
While I would guess most viewers of the film would side with the public or did when this occurred 12 years ago, the audience finds some compassion for the Queen and admiration for the person that's been the head of the English monarch for over 50 years. Helen Mirren gave the character honesty and through certain nuances of emotional display she gave commoners like me a sense of personal connection to someone of that great of stature. Again, this film also uses archived footage, showing the fields of flowers placed in front of Buckingham Palace as well as clips from Diana's interviews and media coverage. I have a small recollection of when I was young and found out about Diana's death on the news one night those 12 years ago, and wish that I could have been more aware of her presence in the world then so that her death would have a greater impact on me now and when I watched the film.
Thanks to anyone who decided to read any of this.