The besties review
Please mind the dust! the site is undergoing Maintenance and will be back up and running soon!
Harold and Maude
God, I love when old movies play their same original song over and over. “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” is to Harold and Maude what “Danger Zone” is to Top Gun. I thought I’d be quick to get annoyed with Cat Stevens’s music, but by the end I came to appreciate all his little ditties.
What connected with me most on first watch was the dark humor and sort of meandering plot. Looking scene-by-scene, the film definitely followed a formula. Still, there was a bit of forward momentum attached to every scene, or if not, at least a hilarious punch line (like Harold “exploding” in front of his date). Not sure this will be a frequent rewatch for me (as funny and comforting as it was, it was also morbid and philosophical), but I’m looking forward to see how this film affects me differently with age.
“A mother and daughter— what a terrible combination of feelings and confusion and destruction.”
A sonata is most simply defined as a piece played rather than a piece sung (cantana), so it’s interesting to me that most of this film consists of conversations, monologues, memories, and meditations. But while some of these beautifully written sections stick out as being particularly memorable, the film’s most powerful moments lie not in the characters’ recitations, but in the reactions of those who are simply sitting there, listening. This is a movie about relationships (mothers and daughters, sonatas and cantanas) and it’s easily one of my favorite entries in the genre of “slow cinema” that I’ve seen in a while.
I found the first half of the film was dominated by Ingrid Bergman’s intense energy, but as the film progressed I became more and more entranced by Liv Ullmann, who matched and exceeded Bergman’s (intentionally) oppressive presence. Though this movie is squarely focused on its actors and script, I think the technical team deserves a lot of credit. The directing and cinematography are both impeccable (as you should expect from Bergman), but the set design, costume design, and staging of the scenes also contribute greatly to the film’s success.
St. Elmo’s Fire
To me, St. Elmo’s Fire works a lot better as a historical artifact than an actual film. The acting is actually pretty good throughout, but the more exciting thing is just seeing all of these people on screen together. My favorite performance by far was Andrew McCarthy as Kevin, the sour puss anti-romantic who is revealed to be in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, Leslie. I haven’t seen him in much else before, but I know he is in Less Than Zero with RDJ, so I think I’ll move that up own the watchlist.
But back to St. Elmo’s Fire… It’s okay, I guess. Not great, but not terrible either.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
This is one of those rare films that is so predictable and so classically “correct” in its structure that it appeals both as entertainment and comfort— even on a first watch. Though I didn’t love it right off the bat, I will definitely be adding Planes, Trains and Automobiles to my November movie rotation. It strikes me as a film that will be much much more rewarding on a second, third, and fourth watch.
What more can I say that hasn’t already been said? This movie is just splendid! Steve Martin and John Candy are an impossibly perfect duo, and I just pray to the movie Gods that they never remake this, because if they did they would probably cast someone like Alec Baldwin as Neal and the insufferable James Corden as Del and it would just be terrible.
Dead Poets Society
“O Captain! My cap-
…no, I can’t start the review like that. It would be way too cheesy. Plus everybody knows that bit anyways, whether they’ve seen the movie or not.
This really is another one of those classic films that I felt like I had seen before ever seeing it, and actually watching it for the first time didn’t really offer up any surprises. My initial reaction is that this is simply a good movie that features a smattering or truly excellent scenes here and there. I won’t call out all the best parts (because if you’ve seen the film, you know what they are), but I can confirm that Dead Poets Society is, overall, a fine film with fine acting and a fine script. I liked it, I really did, but I also have to admit to myself that it is really is just fine.
Is that fine?
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!