Catching the Classics: Goodfellas

GoodfellasSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list is updated regularly and is currently more than 1700 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

As far back as I can remember (sorry) the definitive gangster film was The Godfather. Even on the schoolyard it was known that was the film to show what it would be like to be a member of the mafia… even if we didn’t really know anything about it beyond the fact that there was, at some point, a Godfather involved. Then in 1992 came Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, and it rapidly joined the ranks of iconic gangster films. It would be some time before I saw either film. In fact, The Godfather was the first film that I ever watched because Fogs was tired of pitching references and watching them sail casually over my head, ten years ago on a site that has long since ceased to be. Catching up with Scorcese’s film, the contrasts are easy to make. Continue reading

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Catching the Classics: Annie Hall

Annie Hall PosterSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list is updated regularly and is currently more than 1700 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

Woody Allen probably has the longest lead time for a director between my having heard of him and my having seen one of the films he directed. I’m fairly sure I first heard of him when I was a kid, seeing his name come up on occasion in the Academy Awards (why I was watching the Oscars when I was too young to understand any of the films is a question I cannot answer.) Yet the first time I watched a film he directed was earlier this year, with Manhattan Murder Mystery. I admitted this oversight at the time and got some gentle picking on for it and some not-so-gentle pushing to check out Annie Hall. Of course, I knew something of what to expect from the film. I knew it was a romantic comedy, and by reputation an unorthodox one. And I knew Woody Allen would be playing a neurotic New Yorker, because — Casino Royale aside — Woody Allen is pretty much impossible to picture as anything else. What I wasn’t sure on was how well I would appreciate the humor. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974 PosterSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list is updated regularly and is currently more than 1700 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

A title can say a lot about a film, particularly when the film is titled The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (promotional material differs on whether “chainsaw” is one word or two; as the film itself uses two words, I’ll be going with that for the review.) It gives a setting, a plot, and a genre all in a few short words. The very title evokes powerful imagery even before one knows anything about the film. It’s the sort of title that would easily have helped the film get attention. Considering one of the interim titles was “Head Cheese”, things could have gone rather differently for it. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: Psycho

PsychoSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list is updated regularly and is currently more than 1700 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

Out of all the films reviewed here, Psycho may be the least in need of an introduction. Everybody knows Psycho, whether they’ve seen it or not. We all know about the shower scene. We all know the “Psycho strings” sound that goes with it. I’m not even sure it gets passed down, exactly; I think it spontaneously forms in peoples’ heads sometime in grade school along with the Jaws theme. It’s almost impossible to discuss Psycho without discussing the plot twists, but that’s OK because everybody knows the plot twists. It’s not even possible to surprise somebody with them by sitting them down to watch it without telling them and skipping over the title, because they’ll get to that shower scene and say “Oh, this is Psycho!” It’s hard to remember sometimes that this isn’t how Hitchcock intended it be. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: The Thing

thingSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list is updated regularly and is currently more than 1700 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

I don’t recall when I first heard about The Thing, but it had to have been a decade or more ago. I’ve known more about its reception than about the film itself; I knew that it wasn’t a major success initially, but that it is one of a number of films to have its stature grow over time to the point where it’s considered a classic of science fiction. Of course, I did know some details. I knew it was about a shapeshifting alien beast in the Antarctic. I knew it was directed by John Carpenter, who directed the horror classic Halloween. And I knew it starred Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley, who are among my favorite actors and character actors, respectively. All of those seemed like perfectly valid reasons to check the film out. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: Jaws

JawsSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

If this were an audio review, I might simply start playing the Jaws theme here; as it is, I’ll spare you my text rendition of the classic sound. It’s such an iconic piece of film music that it was even used, semi-jokingly, as the “you’re talking too much” music at the 85th Academy Awards. Everybody knows the sound. Kids whose parents weren’t even born in 1975 know the sound. And lines from the movie show up in pop culture all the time as well, from “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” to “That’s some bad hat, Harry”, which inspired the name of a production company. To a certain extent, it feels as though I’ve known all there was to know about Jaws for most of my life… I just needed to see the film. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: The Third Man

Third Man PosterSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

It’s almost impossible to be a movie fan and not have heard of Orson Welles. Both as a director and an actor, his acclaim and influence are widespread. But as with a lot of classic actors, it’s possible to know of his work without actually knowing his work. My introduction to Welles came in my childhood, with his cameo in The Muppet Movie and his final role as a planet-eating robot in The Transformers: The Movie. While fun, neither is likely to be considered a definitive role for him. Then in seventh grade my English teacher played some of the old Shadow radio programs for us, and I learned to appreciate Welles’ delivery. But actually seeing him in action, in a major live-action role, always seemed to elude me. So one of the points of “Catching the Classics” was to finally rectify this matter. And although Citizen Kane will eventually be on the docket as well, I decided that first I wanted to check out his performance in Carol Reed’s The Third Man. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: Risky Business

risky_businessSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

We all know the scene. Tom Cruise. Pink dress shirt. Boxer shorts. Bob Seger. He slid into his parents’ living room and into the American consciousness. The scene is ubiquitous in lists of iconic movie scenes. I probably saw the scene itself or homages to it thirty times before I even knew who Tom Cruise was (I was four years old when Risky Business came out). It can be a little odd checking out a film when one scene is already thoroughly engraved in memory through years of repetition.

Continue reading

Catching the Classics: Scarface

Scarface PosterSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

It’s hard to be certain when I first heard about Scarface. High school seems likely. Its excess of violence and its sense of style would have appealed to a lot of my fellow students. It took me a while to catch it, not for any particular reason, but simply difficulty in tracking down a cheap copy — you can be assured I knew even from early on that this was not a film to trust to TBS’s editors. Also, at nearly three hours in length, it’s a film that requires a significant time commitment, so there was that factor as well. But it was one I had to get my hands on eventually, if only to see how a film can garner Golden Globe nominations and, at the same time, a Razzie nomination. Continue reading

Catching the Classics: The Silence of the Lambs

silence_of_the_lambs_ver2Since 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

At 12 years old, I was old enough to be interested in live-action movies when The Silence of the Lambs came out, but not by any means old enough to watch an R-rated psychological thriller, at least by my parents’ reckoning. My parents watched the film when it came out on home video. I gather my mother thought it was fairly good — she always liked crime thrillers, although she was sometimes put off by gore — while my father wasn’t so fond of it. I’ve been hearing “it’s overrated” for around twenty years. But as Dad and I often disagree on films, I’ve long wondered what I would think of it myself. After all, this is a very highly-acclaimed film; it has a Best Picture win, several AFI rankings, and a top 25 spot on IMDb to its credit. It has a considerable reputation to live up to. Continue reading