Shame List #25: The Shining (1980)

Shame List Introduction

The Shining is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the movie blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Here’s my review of the third film I can cross off my Shame List:

I feel like I can wash my hands of the “shame” a bit after finally viewing The Shining (1980) for the first time. I always wondered where that haunting image of young Jack Nicholson originated. For someone who has seen movies of him only in his older years when he’s sporting gray hair, it was both a pleasure and a horror to see Nicholson in action in this classic horror film.

So I caught this movie back in October, right around Halloween. But I missed out on posting about it right when it was trendy to do so. So as Thanksgiving approaches with Christmas directly on its heels, here’s just a little summary of my thoughts on the classic horror film, The Shining.

Everyone has stuff to say about this movie. And nothing in this post is going to be purely original regarding the film. I truly wasn’t expecting what I saw, and that was probably what gave me the most joy in seeing it. It’s about a madman portrayed by Jack Nicholson, and frankly, with his balding head and crazy eyes, he seemed to have the role down pat.

It’s common knowledge that Stephen King didn’t care for this film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick. Having not read the book myself, I could only naively say that this is a good stand-alone film. Give me the original source material, and perhaps I could say otherwise. But at the end of the day, we’re talking two different mediums, two different viewpoints, and two different pieces of art. And I liked The Shining, even if didn’t pay the proper homage King was expecting or hoping for from Kubrick.

I think what makes the film so good, so iconic, are the performances alongside the eery score and setting. While there ought to be plenty of praise for the lead Jack Nicholson, I was most moved by Danny Lloyd’s performance of Danny, especially when his “friend in his mouth” took over. Children certainly have the chops to play multi-dimensional characters, and Lloyd’s portrayal was chilling.

I’ve wondered if Shelley Duvall has received as much praise as her costars, because she really does play the character that the audience relates with and roots for. For a while, I chalked her up to a simple housewife who didn’t know how to stand on her own. But of course, as time goes by and her husband has truly cracked and gone over to the side of madness, her character, Wendy, does take charge. It was so refreshing to see another female character be strong and courageous.

The Shining Maze

The maze played one of the most interesting set pieces I’ve seen in a film. We get to see it in both the fall and winter seasons, and I think the contrast in seeing it in both weathers really characterized the maze as either fun or terrifying. The hotel plays its own role in the film as both a haven and a terror for the characters, by playing monster to Wendy and Danny, and partner-in-crime to Jack when he starts to see visions of those who used to run the hotel.

While it seems like multiple people contributed to both the score and soundtrack, a large part of the job fell on the shoulders of music editor Gordon Stainforth, and I think he really delivered in matching the music passages to the scenes in the film.

Kubrick truly doesn’t let any one part of the film go to waste, having pulled out the stops in every area. It’s clear why The Shining has reached its iconic status. While it wasn’t necessarily my favorite film, it is one I would definitely revisit over the Halloween holiday. I recently read there were multiple scenes cut from the film, and I think that was a wise decision. At nearly two and a half hours, the run time had me getting a little impatient as the story built to its final act, and the race for Wendy and Danny to escape came to a halt.

I give The Shining

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What do you think of The Shining? Do you think King is justified in his disdain for this film adaptation? Where does The Shining rank on Stanley Kubrick’s filmography? And last, but certainly not least, what movie should I watch and cross off my Shame List next (list here)?

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Shame List #21: Annie Hall (1977)

Shame List Introduction

Annie Hall is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the movie blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Here’s my review of the second film I can cross off my Shame List:

Annie Hall . . . for me, the movie immediately makes me think of Woody Allen. It is a staple in his filmography, one of the “greats” of his time, a film in which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Of course, I am more familiar with his more recent films, so Annie Hall has been one of those movies of his that I wanted to see so I could understand all the fuss made about the film.

I want to start off this review by saying that Annie Hall was not one of my favorite films. After watching it, I didn’t feel blown away or moved or quite how I expected to feel after viewing it. As a film with a 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I expected to be wowed. However, I just lacked the connection to the film that made me want to revisit it any time in the near future.

Regardless of my personal feelings on the film, I do want to point out that I can understand some of the reasons it is considered a classic. There are certain scenes that come to the forefront of my mind, playing over and over again. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire film is when Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are in line to see a movie. There’s a guy standing in line behind them, who we later find out is a professor. He’s going on and on about his opinion on a certain filmmaker. This upsets Alvy because he believes the professor has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s about to have his own personal fit when he confronts the professor about his lack of knowledge. To further prove the professor clueless, and that he, Alvy, knows exactly what he’s talking about, Alvy reaches behind a machine and pulls out the man who was the subject of the professor’s conversation, breaks the fourth wall, and the filmmaker agrees that Alvy is correct and the professor has no idea what he’s talking about.

If only those moments could happen in real life.

Well, at least that’s how Alvy and the rest of us feel when someone who’s ignorant on a subject can’t stop blabbing about it.

Aside from that quintessential scene, the strength of Annie Hall lies in its characters. They’re real, genuine people dealing with the ins and outs of a relationship. Diane Keaton is particularly strong as the title’s character, Annie, who knows how to pull the right strings to crack up an audience, or when to pull back and reel viewers in again. I couldn’t help but appreciate the simplicity and light humor of the scene in which she convinces Alvy to ride home with her and come up to her apartment for a drink. Moments like those remind you of a character’s vulnerability in asking another person out, even if she had to coyly make up reasons to convince him to join her without coming across too strong.

While it may come across as pretentious or predictable to some viewers, I couldn’t help but appreciate that Alvy used actual dialogue, almost word for word, that he shared with Annie in California, as a major scene in his play. In a movie, sometimes the guy can travel 2,000 miles to win back the girl, and she won’t come with; she won’t be won over; the couple will not be reunited. But then again, that makes for some great writing: real life inspiring art, and art inspiring our lives. It is an endless cycle, isn’t it?

Moreover, Annie Hall is filled with many moments that as a film fan, I could appreciate and enjoy. It’s certainly not a bad film, but just one I lacked a connection with. The film is often described as “a writer who meets a quirky singer.” I saw it more as a movie where a very quirky, opinionated, conspiracy theorist meets another girl who eventually can’t keep putting up with him. That may sound harsh, but I found Alvy to be irritating at times, not only with his conspiracies, but also for his lack of understanding with other characters. He has enough awareness to realize that his first two marriages ended because of him. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that another woman isn’t going to change things because she’s different from the previous two women. Alvy has to be the one to recognize that he needs to change in order for life to be different. It is his character’s inability to recognize this that made me feel like he was arrogant and frustrating while I watching the film.

My other major quip with the film is that I felt like even though it mirrored real life in moments, even striking a chord with me in how it was able to move on despite times feeling incomplete, is that I lost the whole point of the film. Does Annie Hall truly change Alvy Singer? Does Alvy Singer truly change Annie Hall? Is the movie designed to be open-ended for these very questions? Is it a bad thing that I’m asking them?

The honest answer is that I don’t know. But I got lost along the way while viewing, and not in the best possible way this time. However, because of the strong performances and interesting scenes throughout, I’d like to give Annie Hall 

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What do you think of Annie Hall? Is it Woody Allen’s best film? What is your favorite Woody Allen film?

Shame List #8: Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the moving blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Onto my review of the first film I can cross of my Shame List is Roman Holiday (1953):

When I was watching Roman Holiday, I couldn’t help but enjoy each scene, taking in everything I could. No doubt, it’s a movie I’ll revisit again and again, which confirms my purchase of a DVD copy before I had even seen it.

Growing up, I fondly remember watching Audrey Hepburn play the infamous role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964), and the image of a dirty, cockney woman turned into a stately, prim and proper socialite was burned into my memory. Years later, following my college years, I decided to give Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) a try given its reputation. I got to see another well-known side of Hepburn, although I couldn’t help but wonder what the “wow” factor was of the film. But that’s a whole other post altogether.

My only knowledge of Roman Holiday before viewing it is that it starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the leads, and that they fell in love but never got together. I was excited to see this movie for that little insight alone, yet I was shocked when the movie opened and Hepburn was playing a princess and Peck was working for the press.

The opening scene, as no doubt many have recalled and talked about, is famous for its simplicity: Princess Ann is on the last leg of her European tour. She’s exhausted, yet she knows how to paste on her happy face and polite voice because she’s so accustomed to doing so. She’s just arrived in Rome, about to sit down when a huge line of Roman higher ups and citizens await to greet this famous princess who’s just arrived in town. She’s plays it calm, only occasionally lifting her right foot out of her shoe to ease the strain of standing and walking in heels, when she accidentally nicks her shoe, unable to retrieve it without drawing attention. One by one, her assistants emote looks of panic as they realize the gravity of the situation: with all eyes on the princess, no one can subtly collect her shoe.

And that is just the first of many memorable scenes that make Roman Holiday so sweet, enjoyable, and of course a staple in classic film history and a model for so many romantic comedies. Multiple modern romantic comedies came to mind as I watched Roman Holiday, explaining the inspiration directors and actors have aspired to imitating in the last few decades.

When reviewing Roman Holiday, as well as others on my Shame List, I know I’ll run into a problem Dan realized when he recently reviewed Fight Club (1999) at his blog: it’s hard not to reiterate in a review what everyone else has already said about a critically-revered film that’s already had everything discussed and dissected in it. Roman Holiday is a beloved film, and I’m so happy to experience why everyone else who has seen it appreciates it for its beauty, simplicity, and mark on film history.

Of course, Gregory Peck stands out in this film, not only for his acting skills and his tall, dark handsomeness, but also because he stands head and shoulders above all the other guys. This is especially noticeable in the end scene when he’s standing in the middle of the front line of press writers and photographers. I imagine William Wyler purposefully set the scene so that Peck stood out in the group. That scene also captured how well both lead performers were able to express their characters with just their eyes, and it made me wonder when the last time I was so moved by a scene that said so much without many words.

When Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) leaves the royal hall, the scene shows one man taking his time as he strides down the beautiful, rich walls that make up just the hall of where royalty presides. After this end scene, I think of the contrast of the earlier scene with Princess Ann entering Bradley’s room for the first time, and even under the influence of a heavy drug that’s taken its toll, she still inquires if his room is the elevator.

Both leads know how to employ physical comedy, and I can imagine Eddie Albert received his share of scrapes and bruises from constantly getting knocked down or pushed over. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Hepburn impaling a guitar by smashing it over the head over a Secret Service agent while fleeing a dance party.

Despite their best efforts and logical influences, Joe and Ann fall in love in front of us, even if it’s just for a few hours. True love isn’t on display until Bradley pretends he never got the story, because he cherishes his time with Ann more than winning a bet and making some much-needed extra cash. Extending the photos as “scenic photos from Rome” as a gift to Ann reveals Irving’s (Eddie Albert) sincerity as well.

I also really enjoyed all of the fashion, especially on Hepburn (no wonder she’s considered a fashion icon). The dress she wears in the final scene is a great example of how beautiful an outfit can be in black and white. Even with her sporting long and short hair styles throughout the film, her face shines without a single imperfection to be spotted, and it’s assuring that’s her fashionable status is well-earned if she just cracks a smile. I doubt her barber (Claudio Ermelli) really acted too much when melting over the gorgeous actress, like most men did in the film.

Roman Holiday is my favorite Audrey Hepburn film I’ve viewed thus far, and it makes me want to see more of her films. I don’t need any more encouragement to view more Gregory Peck films, although Roman Holiday only confirms my need to see him in more.

All images found via Google Images.

I give Roman Holiday 

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ON SCREEN, crossing my first film off my Shame List.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Roman Holiday? Would you consider it a classic or a must-see film? Or does it make it on your Shame List? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!