The end of an odyssey and the start of something new

Wow! I don’t think that any of us could have expected the responses and followers that we picked up over the last six and a half months. We are glad to have so many of you as a part of our journey. For those of you who were there with us at the beginning, you know that Cinema 100 was originally developed around 100 films. Today, we put up the last review.

But do not despair. With this end comes another beginning. Although we will no longer have a weekly schedule, each of us individually will continue to add an article here or there whenever we feel inspired. Cinema 100 has changed the way each of us looks at movies and we hope that it has done the same for you all.

Here’s to the weeks past and here’s to the years to come. Thank you for all your support!

 

-Travis, Kat, Josh, Grace, Claire

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Patch Adams (1998)

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Originally, I truly enjoyed this movie. Patch Adams, based on real life Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams (played by Robin Williams),  shows Adams’ struggle to try and practice medicine in a way that he believes is far more beneficial. He believes in the use of humor and connecting with patients. It is a literal ‘laughter is the best medicine’ policy. The reason I have become wary of the film is the reaction of the real Adams. He has stated that he “hates the film,” and believes it to be a simplified version of his view.

The point of Patch Adams vision is to create a holistic way of life that benefits health. The point of the movie should be to show this vision off, and to present it to the viewer. Adams’ Gesundheit! Institue wants to use over 300 acres of land to build a full size hospital to care for patients with no insurance. The film, while perhaps emphasizing the humor aspect of Adams’ approach too much, does at least try to show that he truly cares for the patients. The idea should get across that perhaps treating people is only about getting them the right medicine. This realization comes to Adams (in both real life and the movie) when he is checked into a mental hospital. Adams considered suicide multiple times in his early life. When he got to the hospital, he was able to help patients by making them laugh and having a relationship with them.

Adams antics while at medical school put him at odds with the strict, formal training of the administration. Despite this, the film doesn’t ignore the fact that Adams is a smart man. He does graduate from medical school, and recieves good grades on his exams. While in real life Adams may not appreciate the simplified version of his view on medicine he was not robbed of his legitimacy as a doctor.

This film is one that must be taken with a grain of salt. It dramatizes and commercializes some aspects of a man’s life. Even so, it has introduced me to Patch Adams and his goal. In fact, his institute’s website mentions that you have probably heard of him through the film. Despite all his criticism of it, it has exposed some people to his ideas. This movie is a medium (a flawed one) for the message of the man. Medicine isn’t just a science. It is a way to help people. Patch Adams isn’t just about adding humor to life, its about creating a new way of life. For Patch to create this new way of life in the movie he creates a clinic out in the country where he practices medicine on people with no insurance, all while creating a small community. Adams considers himself to be an advocate for societal change, something he believes the world desperately needs. His unorthodox methods aren’t just about non-conformity and making patients laugh like the movie shows, they are, to him, a truly better way to practice medicine.

– Josh

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

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This war movie borders on farcical at times. Kelly, played by Clint Eastwood is part of a platoon that has been on the front lines of the war since D-Day. Fed up with their captain and the army in general the platoon decides to follow Kelly on his plan to steal 16 million dollars-worth of Nazi gold 30 miles behind the front lines. Given three days for rest, the platoon bribes their way into supplies and get an artillery raid scheduled to cover their push. To get through the lines they have to bring a half mad hippy named Oddball and his crew of Sherman tanks. Oddball in turn brings an entire military engineer crew to get across a river. All of this activity eventually draws the attention of the higher ups.

From the beginning, the sergeant in charge of the platoon was reluctant. He knew it would be dangerous, and genuinely cared for his men, but as they pointed out, they were just as likely to get killed when they went back to the front, and they wouldn’t be paid nearly as well. This movie is something of a pointed joke at the expense of the military higher-ups that don’t see that much action, but expect soldiers to continue laying down their lives. The radio transmissions of the platoon are intercepted by an over-the-top gung-ho general that believes that some enterprising band of men is pushing through German lines in an effort to be heroes. That’s the point of the name, it’s ironic. The sergeant tells the men they’d have to be heroes, and the last time he checked “there were no heroes in this platoon.”

This movie examines, sometimes somberly, mostly humorously the misperceptions people have about wars and about the soldier that fight them. These men are definitely not heroes in any sense. They are deliberately breaking laws and ignoring orders in the pursuit of gold. But as they put it, why shouldn’t they? They have been fighting on the front lines in an extremely deadly and gruesome war without any rest. They are poorly paid, low on supplies, and generally fed up with their captain that leaves them behind to work on a ridiculous project (he can do this because he is the general’s nephew).

Kelly’s story is much darker than his platoons. Originally a lieutenant, Kelly was ordered to attack a position that was already held by Americans. With fifty dead from friendly fire the powers that be used him as a scape goat. This abuse and callousness towards the lower ranks is exactly what the movie mocks. The general rails at his staff, asking why no one else had managed to pull off this kind of forward movement. He immediately mobilizes his army to the spot where Kelly broke through. He arrives in a freed Clairemont surrounded by cheering French citizens while the platoon drives away with 16 million dollars of gold bars. The general plays the fool, while this front line platoon gets to go home rich.

Not everyone got to go home though. The fact is, they were in a war zone. Men were lost. These harsh realities are balanced against the humorous side of the movie. In the end, I don’t know that if given the option of going home or attempting this that the men would have done it. They were already going back to the front though, and so the reward far outweighed their risk. Finally, they got some kind of compensation for all the friends they lost, and maybe that was what they were after all along.

–        Josh

Sling Blade (1996)

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Sling Blade was written, directed, and starred in by Arkansan Billy Bob Thorton. The movie is filmed in Arkansas and takes place in a small town there. Karl, a mentally handicapped man, has just been let out of a mental institution after killing his mother and her lover (a cruel man that had tortured Karl) when he was 12. He is given a job fixing lawnmowers and is allowed to stay in the shop. Karl is simpleminded, but his docile nature and slow speech seem to put people at ease. He quickly befriends a young boy and his mother, as well as the mother’s gay best friend. The boy’s father is gone, but in his place the mother has a mean, drunken, backwards hick of a boyfriend named Roy. Roy serves as a reminder of everything wrong with small towns and the south, the things we’d rather not have. He is racist, sexist, homophobic, ignorant, and is buddies with the local cops so he can drive around drunk.

Karl is not a violent person despite his past. When asked by an interviewer about the killing he says he “reckons” he didn’t have a reason to kill anyone else. Karl doesn’t react to most of the insults slung at him by Roy. What truly bothers him is the way Roy treats others. Karl is reminded of his own father that didn’t want anything to do with him, that locked him out in a shed instead of letting him in the house. The parallels between Karl’s problems growing up and his new friend Frank’s are clear. While Karl may not recognize these similarities on a conscious level, he is naturally drawn to the boy.

As the situation with Roy worsens, Karl interacts more and more with Frank, his mother, and their gay friend Vaughn. As a character, Vaughn adds another comparison for Karl. He is also an outcast, someone who doesn’t fit into the normal social standards of a small rural town. He is desperate to protect Frank and Linda, and is glad to have Karl around. Curiously, despite being similarly exiled in their society, Vaughn doesn’t really understand Karl at first. He thinks Karl is always deep in thought, and seems to have a romanticized version of the simple minded. Ironically Karl, while not really homophobic, had the immorality of homosexuality drilled in with his mother’s bible lessons. The would be no more than a humorous quirk (Karl feels no malice, and doesn’t understand the societal implications) if it weren’t for the end of the movie.

Karl decides, in order to protect Frank, he must kill Roy, who has started drinking more and more, and threatening Linda and Frank. Karl tells Frank he loves him, and gives him his only worldly possessions, a stack of books his mother gave him. Karl then asks Vaughn to watch out for Linda and Frank. He tells him: “I don’t reckon you have to go with women to be a good daddy to a boy. You been real square-dealin’ with me. The Bible says two men ought not lay together. But I don’t reckon the Good Lord would send anybody like you to Hades. That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That’s an awful big place to live in. you take good care of that boy.” Normally I wouldn’t just include a long quote like this, but it seems to me this is the most important thing said in the whole movie. Karl understands something about the world no one else seems to. He recognizes that killing is wrong, but makes the decision to help Frank, knowing he would just be sent back to the mental hospital. He accepts Vaughn because he is a good person, protects Frank because he can’t protect himself. Karl is no longer a victim, but a guardian angel.

–        Josh

                                                        

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Based on a true story and novel, The Bridge on the River Kwai seeks to give the audience an understanding of the conditions of WWII POW camps and the consequences of being captured. With this focus in mind, it is remarkable to note that this film isn’t about war. The Bridge on the River Kwai is about madness, obsession, understanding, and respect. To translate these themes in a war movie that’s not about war is an incredible feat, one that director David Lean was able to do through the relationship between three men: Shears, Colonel Nicholson, and Colonel Saito. Their beats and moments together throughout the entire movie shift the dynamics of the characters and keep the audience wondering whether or not this movie is promoting patriotism, anti-war, or just complete chaos.

Not only does The Bridge have an incredible progression of characters throughout the film, it also does a wonderful job keeping away from the terrible habit of making Colonel Saito into a two-dimensional bad guy who’s distanced from the plot because he’s not white. Even more amazing is that Saito has such human moments that provide an incredible look into the pain he feels at losing his power incrementally over the camp, such as when we see him privately weeping in his office after Nicholson basically takes over the building of the bridge. The emotional toll over the characters is especially emphasized in Saito and Nicholson’s strange relationship. They both torture each other in their own ways until each of them have been broken (Nicholson in the metal box and Saito’s losing power). Shears is the foil, allowing the audience to compare the mental breakdown happening in the POW camp to Shear’s luxury time spent at the hospital that found him when he escaped.

The bridge is the proof of the madness erupting in the camp. Colonel Nicholson takes on its construction as if it were his own project, nailing a sign to the finished project declaring that it was built and designed by British soldiers. He claims that it is a sign of the efficiency and undying morale of the British army, and yet the bridge becomes a sign of Nicholson’s growing insanity and obsession. After all, he is still a prisoner who is forced to work for the enemy. Strangely enough, by the end of the film, it would seem that Nicholson has made his enemy, Colonel Saito, his friend. He even goes to the point of crying out for help when Saito is killed by one of the Allies in an attempt to destroy the bridge.

The last fifteen minutes of the film consist of the only time when the illusion is broken and war comes crashing in with the sound of a train whistle. All this time, Nicholson and his men have been working diligently and efficiently to build this bridge, a bridge that is helping to further Japan’s attack on the Allies, something they have entirely lost sight of. When Nicholson finally realizes his mistake and collapses on the detonator, destroying the bridge he poured his heart and soul into, we hear the last line of the play cried out: “Madness, madness…madness.”

Truly, it is madness that is captured in this film, providing a lasting impact on audiences who find that the line between sanity and madness has everything to do with who is holding the power.

-Grace

The Third Man (1949)

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The Third Man, a 1949 British film noir, was directed by Carol Reed and stared Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles. The film’s title, The Third Man, makes it clear that the film explores the idea of triangulation. Shot in brilliant film noir black and white, and set on location in the ruined post-war city of Vienna, the film explores several dualistic interactions. Most obviously are the interpersonal relations between the film’s main character and his two incomplete significant relationships discussed in the film. One existing but absent Harry Lime and the other a present but only potential lover, Anna. The Third Man also explores the indirect and shady economic relations of the black market, and the equally gray morality that seems a necessary means of coping with the world of crime and crooked business deals.

In the film, an unemployed pulp fiction novelist, Holly Martins, arrives in Ally-Occupied Vienna to find that it is divided into sectors, and that shortages of supplies has lead to a flourishing black market. He arrives at the invitation of an ex-school friend, Harry Lime, who has offered him a job, only to discover that Lime has recently died in a peculiar traffic accident. Holly concludes from talking to Lime’s friends and associates that some of the stories are inconsistent, and determines to discover what really happened to Harry Lime.

During this time period, after the end of World War II and the beginnings of conflicts in Vietnam and Korea, The Third Man served to illustrate the pattern of societal degradation due to war. The breakdown of usual laws and moral rules in the war-torn Vienna allowed British audiences to fully come to terms with the consequences of war and its meaning for society. The Third Man was made by men who knew the devastation of Europe after World War II first hand. Carol Reed worked for the British Army’s wartime documentary unit, and the screenplay writer Graham Greene not only wrote about spies, but actually acted as one during the war. The film was shot entirely on location in Vienna, where the real mountains of rubble stood next to gaping bomb craters, and the ruins of the previously powerful empire supported a desperate black market economy.

The Third Man provided American and British audiences alike with an accurate portrayal of life after the war in countries that were less fortunate than the powerful leaders of the conflict. The consequences of war, the sacrifice of justice, order, law, and culture, were made completely clear. This dark, sinister film served as a warning to the world against warfare and destruction upon the entering into conflict with Korea and Vietnam by the United States.

 

-Claire

Lawless (2012)

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Lawless is a movie based on the real life Bondurant brothers. These three were the kings of moonshining in Franklin County, Virginia. The oldest, Howard (Jason Clarke), is big, dumb, and often drunk. The youngest is Jack (Shia LaBeouf), who has always been the runt of the litter. The middle brother, Forrest (Tom Hardy), is the man in charge. He speaks very little, mostly to threaten people. When Special Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes in from Chicago to enforce new rules it starts a feud between the moonshiners and the lawmen (who up until now have allowed the system to go on). Rakes, and his boss, want a piece of the action, and most of moonshiners are willing to go along. But the thing is a Bondurant “don’t lay down for nobody.”

The feud begins almost immediately, and Rakes attacks Jack first. Then men are sent after Forrest and the new waitress of their diner, Maggie (Jessica Chastain). Forrest has his throat slit, but Maggie manages to get him to the hospital, although the story that gets started is that he walked. That is the crux of this movie. The Bondurant’s are legends. Even they believe that they might be immortal, especially Forrest. He is confident in his own prowess and control. Of course, they are not immortal, but their legend is what keeps them alive. The local police are afraid of them. Rakes soon escalates the conflict, both in the official ways and in brutal intimidation. He leaves a man tarred and feathered on the Bondurant’s porch, with a sign that reads “bootlegger.”

Rakes main problem, other than being a psychopath, is that he doesn’t understand the culture that he has tried to invade. These are what my dad would call “hill folk.” They don’t like strangers, and they are very proud. Rakes sees them as nothing more than animals that need to fall into line. His disdain and obsessive cleanliness make him the perfect foil for the Bondurant brothers. Prohibition is always seen as being a step too far in limiting freedom. That’s why it was often ignored and eventually repealed. It was a time when the outlaws were the heroes again. The Bondurant’s saw themselves as protectors of a way of life, independent of the laws of mortal men. For a while it works, even with Rakes. They have a huge business with another gangster that keeps them from having to deal with selling locally.  Then the lawmen find their biggest still, and in process of escaping make Rakes angry enough to bring the fight to another level. He murders their crippled friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan). This unites the locals, and leads to a stand-off with law. Eventually even the local lawmen turn on Rakes when his madness is revealed. He shoots Jack and Forrest and tries to escape. He doesn’t make it. Jack kills him as revenge for Cricket.

The movie ends with Jack narrating what happened afterwards. Forrest and Jack both live, get married, and have kids. They are happier. Forrest eventually dies of “dumb luck and pneumonia.” This would seem to suggest that they are not in fact immortal. Jack had stopped believing that a long time ago, but it was hard for Forrest to let go of his legend. This is movie doesn’t try to encourage that, or even approve of all the things the Bondurant’s did, but it does say something powerful about belief in one’s own power, and about the danger in trying to take away a man’s freedom when he’s willing to do anything to keep it.

–        Josh

The Big Parade (1925)

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The Big Parade is a silent film that was released in 1925, a significant point in a tumultuous time period in the United States. The Great Depression was in full swing and attitudes about warfare and the government were widely negative across the American public. This film was revolutionary because it did not glorify World War I and did not ignore the human costs of warfare. This is exemplified by the lead characters loss of a leg from battle wounds.

The Big Parade was set in the United States in 1917 during World War I. James “Jim” Apperson’s idleness (in contrast to his hardworking brother) incurs the great disapproval of his wealthy businessman, factory owning father. Jim informs his worried mother that he has no intention of enlisting in the army to serve as a soldier in the war, and his father threatens to kick him out of the house if he does not join. However, when Jim happens to run into his patriotic friends at a send-off parade for the soldiers, he is persuaded to enlist, making his father very proud.

This issue in the film addresses the real-life issue of enlistment in the army during the time of World War I. Forced American patriotism and familial pressures pushed Jim into joining the army, not sincere patriotism or desire to serve. The film asks whether or not this is moral- requiring people to serve a cause that they don’t believe in or feel passionate about. The film also addresses the validity of patriotism. The title, the Big Parade, conveys images of pageantry and flashy shows. Jim found his false patriotism in the midst of the pomp and circumstance of the floats and exaggerated display of false patriotism. This environment was almost intoxicating; convincing Jim to, in a sense, jump on the bandwagon of patriotic service.

Patriotism, as an idea, asserts that ones own country is better than all others and that it is right in all its actions. That concept is completely debunked in The Big Parade through Jim’s love of the French woman, Melisande, and the loss of his friends and leg in battle. Even though they cannot speak to one another because they only speak different languages, and even though they come from different cultural backgrounds, Melisande and Jim are madly in love. This love that transcends social and political boundaries serves as proof that no country or culture is truly better than any other. The Big Parade makes the point that we all humans share a singular human experience, regardless of our country of origin.

In loosing his leg and his friends in battles, Jim fully realizes the negative effects of warfare and is completely disenchanted with the idea. Each of his friends that died had a story and people that cared about him- each person mattered. The impact of the loss of human life was definitely realized in The Big Parade and allowed the American public to question the validity of war in general. This film asked the citizens of the United States to consider what they were really dying for.

 

-Claire

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a 1966 Italian spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone. Like so many spaghetti Westerns of the time, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a tough-minded tale about changing loyalties and pure human greed. It follows the adventures of a mysterious loner (Clint Eastwood), a bandit (Eli Wallach) and a bounty hunter (Lee Van Cleef) who are after hidden gold. This film made a huge impact on the United States during this time period and was largely successful in the box office and the charts- its theme song rose to second on the pop music chart.

The Good, the Bad and the Uglywas the third film director/writer Sergio Leone made with Clint Eastwood, a cinematic trilogy that served to establish Eastwood as a major actor. This trilogy was called the “dollar trilogy” because of the monetary themes crossing all three films. The other films, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More had the word “dollar” in their title. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was also intended to include the word in its title to capitalize on the connection between the other two films. Each movie in the trilogy was released within a year of one another, making a rapid-fire impact on American culture.

During this time period, the late 60s, the United States was going through major social changes. A counter culture of sorts formed in the United States and a revolution in rejecting social norms controlling clothing, music, drugs, sexism, racism, and schooling. Political conservatives generally denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order. The fight for equality in race and gender was still going strong, advocating for the advancement of rights of women and minorities. The gay rights movement was also taking place during this time, promoting equal rights for sexual preferences as well. This was a time period in which many conservative citizens believed that American morality and what it was to be an American was disintegrating. Calls from right-wing activists demanded a return to “appropriate” gender roles and sexuality. The spaghetti western provided the American public with this fantasy of a return to the all-American western frontiersman image.

Clint Eastwood’s character is strong, independent, and manly. He dominates the landscape around him and always triumphs over his adversaries. He is a direct metaphor for the classic United States stereotype. Even though the makers of this film were Italian (hence the name spaghetti western), American racism and sexism shown through, perhaps to make the films appeal to a larger audience. Generally, African Americans and women were placed in subservient and miniscule roles- African Americans acting as dumbed down minions and women acting almost exclusively as damsels in distress.

This film within the context of the dollar trilogy managed to appeal to a large audience to advertise the appeal of a classic American image of a man and of society.

-Claire

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

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This quirky film has a new take on the afterlife. Anyone that commits suicide, like protagonist Zia (Patrick Fugit), finds themselves in a depressing, washed out version of life where everything is similar just worse. People are stuck here, waiting on one thing or another. One of the few people that seems genuinely happy is Zia’s friend Eugene (Shea Whigham), who has his whole family there. Eventually Zia learns the love of his life, Desiree (Leslie Bibb) is in this purgatory, having killed herself shortly after him. He goes in search of her with Eugene. As they set on their strange odyssey they meet several people along the way, and each one is usually accompanied with a quick scene of their suicide.

The movie seems dark and depressing, but its sense of humor helps to keep its lighter message afloat. Eventually a girl named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who is new to this life, joins them claiming to be searching for the “people in charge” because a mistake was made. Mikal didn’t mean to kill herself, she overdosed on drugs. Eventually they come on a camp of people in the desert. Strange, small, inconsequential miracles seem to happen around here. Mikal made the headlights on the car work, a man levitated, and Eugene altered the color of the fish.

Zia is obsessed with these miracles, and increasingly obsessed with Mikal. His feelings for become evident, though he is conflicted because of Desiree. He receives friendly and vague advice from the leader of the camp, Kneller (Tom Waits). Through another strange chain of events in which Eugene falls for a mute girl and a dog is kidnapped, Zia, Mikal, and Kneller end up at the camp of an occult leader that Desiree “followed” into the afterlife. As Desiree explains what happens, and how the occultist plans to kill himself again, Zia realizes his true feelings are for Mikal. Before he can tell her, the People In Charge show up in white vans and take her away (there really was a mistake).

This is a strange film, but worth watching. It deals with serious subjects like death, suicide, and love in a humorous way. It doesn’t glorify suicide, in fact it is the opposite. If there was ever a reason not to kill yourself, it’s to avoid this place. And of course, for true love. Mikal and Zia (thanks to undercover angel-cop Kneller) both return to the land of living, waking up in hospital beds next to each other. It also doesn’t judge those who have committed suicide (except maybe the cult leader that led others to suicide). None of their reasons were considered dumb, or done for the wrong reason. They were people that wanted a way out of their situation, but it was a way that hurt. The film mentions several reasons why people don’t kill themselves again, even though the place they are in is still terrible. For one they might end up worse off, they also know that it is painful, and apparently futile. Wristcutters: A Love Story is dark, slightly twisted, and more than a little off. But it does attempt to broach a subject that many find uncomfortable or difficult to talk about, and set it against a nice romantic story. Zia and Mikal’s relationship help to make the discussion, if not the act, of suicide okay.

–        Josh