In accordance with the plan I laid out a few weeks back, I now resume my survey of the Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection. I’ve made good on my word to power through the rest of it, and, as of this writing, I only have two left to watch. But, I still have to write about each of the films. Thus, here is a rundown of the movies from the collection that cover 1989 through 1994:
Driving Miss Daisy (1989): Showing this film to the median 25-year-old in 2022 would be an interesting exercise. This movie depicts what most of us in the 80s and 90s believed to be a positive, hopeful representation of race relations, but today would likely be mocked or sharply criticized as naïve or condescending or worse. I’m not convinced that this shift is “progress.” Still, contemporary critics and the Twitterati would almost certainly pillory Morgan Freeman’s Hoke as demeaning or servile—even though that’s sort-of the point! In 1989, though, critics loved it, and the Academy honored it with a boatload of nominations, including Jessica Tandy becoming the oldest Best Actress winner, and Dan Aykroyd(!!!) getting a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. To date, it’s the last PG-rated movie to win Best Picture. For me personally, it’s fine, if a bit paint-by-numbers. It’s certainly better than some of the other films you’ll read about in a moment, although it’s probably one of the weaker Best Picture winners. The only thing that I actively disliked about Driving Miss Daisy was that I found it implausible that a backwoods highway patrolman would instantly identify the rather uncommon surname “Werthan” as Jewish.
Goodfellas (1990): Here’s where I drift in to heretical territory. Goodfellas is undoubtedly a strong movie. Let me say that at the outset. Excellent performances abound, including the best of Ray Liotta’s career. Here comes the “but.” But, I think Casino is actually a better version of this type of film. Goodfellas has some of the hallmark “Scorcese”-isms, including requiring a voiceover to drive the plot, and having some scenes that clearly include partial improvisation, but Casino handles both of these elements better. Goodfellas gets credit for coming first, but Casino took much the same formula and smoothed out some of the rougher edges. On the other hand, the rough edges are part of what so many people like about Goodfellas. For me, it’s a good movie that’s plagued a bit by the eternal “book-based-on-a-movie” challenge, where time leaps and glossing-over are necessary to fit the story within a three-hour window. But I don’t want it to sound like I don’t think Goodfellas is good. I absolutely do. I just wouldn’t put it in my top three of Scorcese’s movies—which is as much a testament to his work as it is to my opinion of Goodfellas. Continue reading
(Mostly) Untimely Movie Review: The Matrix Series
Continuing my strong stretch run through the Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection, I now get to tackle The Matrix. However, with a fourth Matrix film recently in theaters, and, strangely enough, not having seen any of them, I decided to watch all four movies in about three days a few weeks ago.
I “get it” now. I understand why The Matrix was such a phenomenon in 1999. What is less clear to me is why the sequels are considered so weak by comparison, and, in particular, why the third film is rated so much “worse” than the other two in the trilogy.
First, the original. The Wachowskis had three major assets working for them. One, a simple-but-compelling concept, around which they could add layers of (occasionally excessive) complexity. The premise is so terrific as to seem obvious in hindsight, as technology has advanced so much that watching the original film today makes it land a little closer to “science” than “fiction.”
I assure you that, in 1999, the notion of a fully virtual, ultra-realistic world was still visionary.
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