Home for the Holidays (1995)

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Happy Thanksgiving! Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays is a depiction of the holiday that is all too realistic for many Americans, yet it is too lovingly and joyfully produced to not smile and laugh along with all the dysfunction we identify with so well. The Larson family gathers for Thanksgiving. The father (Charles Durning) offers a profanity-laced meal prayer expressing his disgust for traditions like Thanksgiving. The mother (Anne Bancroft) is so obsessed with making everybody else feel comfortable that the results of her efforts produce the completely opposite result. Their three children are equally unhappy to be there “celebrating” the holiday. Claudia (Holly Hunter) is trying not to let her family know the recent unpleasant details of her life to her parents, but of course they get out. Tommy (Robert Downy Jr.) also tries to keep the details of his personal life quiet, but he and Claudia are the only two members of the family that are close enough to share anything with each other. Joanne (Cynthia Stevenson) is a busybody who refuses to respect the privacy of either Claudia or Tommy. Her own insecurities and self-consciousness give her the desires to point out everybody else’s problems in the hopes that she won’t have to deal with her own.

All of this sounds on paper like a depressing study of family dysfunction. But Home for the Holidays couldn’t be any further from that. It’s one of the funniest movies ever made, but it’s humor is so founded in reality that I can’t write in a way that does any justice to that comedy. Robert Downy Jr. has a brilliant line that sums up everything that the movie accomplishes. Following the meal prayer and all the strange revelations about the family it brings up, he says “That was absurd. Let’s eat dead bird.” Jodie Foster’s direction deals so wonderfully with the absurdity of dysfunction that in the end, it is not really movie about dysfunction at all. It is a celebration of family despite all of the confusion and hurt so often associated with family.

Because Thanksgiving has become a holiday mostly about food in America, thankfully being divorced from its unjust, violent, and racist origins, Jodie Foster is able to tap into that wonderful reality that meals can bind people together. Each member of the Larson family comes from different lots in life. They’re not in agreement about much of anything. They’re not willing too listen to each other over many topics. They have familial ties, but they’re separate. Yet most of them embrace the absurd as they eat their Thanksgiving meal together. The movie never loses the cynicism about the American family it begins with, but it portrays its cynicism in a way that also celebrates it. Celebrating Thanksgiving means celebrating family, even when that means embracing what is uncomfortable, what is painful, what is absurd.

That was absurd. Let’s eat dead bird. Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

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Perhaps the best-filmed depiction of the adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely, John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate is exactly what the above poster promises. The first few minutes show a brief glimpse into the Korean War that served as the beginning of a brain-washing process that in specificity has no basis in reality but the politics and corruption behind this fantastic process are too real to not disturb and frighten. Years after his service in the war, Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) testifies in behalf of his own sanity to keep his military position. He hears himself robotically, uncontrollably utter the words “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I have ever known.” The revelation of who Raymond Shaw is that unfolds throughout the rest of the movie is definitely like nothing else we’ve ever seen (including the ridiculous 2004 remake).

We hear other soldiers involved in the Korea incident that opens the film utter this same statement about Raymond Shaw several times throughout the film. When Major Marco says it, however, he immediately catches himself and explains how false the statement is, how he doesn’t understand why he is compelled to say it whenever Raymond’s name comes up. His superiors of course don’t understand either and try to explain it away as Major Marco’s shell-shock. But the audience knows this isn’t the case.

Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), while certainly not the kindest, bravest, warmest, and most wonderful human being, is also not the villain of the story. He is a victim just like those who served along side him in Korea. All of the brainwashing we see is a conspiracy to  build the perfect assassin. Raymond is the person chosen and programmed to become that assassin. He had no choice or knowledge in that decision. It was all done for political gain.

Raymond’s stepfather, John Iselin (James Gregory), is a senator likely to become a Vice Presidential candidate, yet his political aspirations are not particularly high. He’s an idiot, completely incompetent in his role as a senator, only able to gain the favor he has because of the conspiracy that makes him appear capable. He also is a victim. His wife (Angela Lansbury), we learn fairly early on, is the central figure in charge of the conspiracy. She is the one who wants the perfect assassin programmed for her. She’s the intelligence behind her husband’s politics and the hopes for the White House are her own. She stops at nothing, including the endangerment of her own son, to reach that absolute power she craves.

Angela Lansbury gives one of the greatest acting performances in film history. Every second she is in this film, she is riveting and terrifying. She is a reminder of the darkest side of humanity that is very real (even if the details of the conspiracy are not realistic). She is a reminder of the dark forces of greed, power lust, and narcissism behind political scandals and all abuses of power. This is not a movie where good triumphs over evil. It may not be a movie we enjoy watching (though it is a very exciting thriller, and its screenplay is filled with a scathing sense of humor that inspires more winces than laughs, yet it is still humor), but it is an extremely important movie to recognize the relationship between character and leadership, something very quickly disregarded with the 2016 U.S. presidential race. While I do not suggest watching this movie to look for reasons to further suspect our President-elect (We don’t need any more reasons for that than he has already given us during his campaign), I do suggest it to remind us of our values as Americans and to make sure that we stand up for those values rather than giving into blind acceptance of what a person with great power says. If we are not willing to do this, we become vulnerable to be captured by the subtle ways that such people with too much power use to gain control over others. This is a very real type of brainwashing that the movie alludes to while showing its unrealistic type. It is what makes The Manchurian Candidate a significant, confrontational, and powerful film.

“Stumble” alert: The Manchurian Candidate is a very dark and disturbing movie. It is best to watch at a time when not already full of anxiety, anger, or other strong emotions. Watching it while in a healthy mental state helps toward the self-evaluation I talked about in the last paragraph. Watching it in a lesser healthy state could encourage an extension of that state beyond what is necessary. The film includes a few scenes of violence, but none are graphic. There is also a reference to incest that is intense and terrifying, but nothing sexual shown on screen.

 

List: Greatest Movie Quotes #175-151

Here is the next set of great movie quotes. See the Youtube playlist here for corresponding videos where available for quotes #200-151.

mv5by2m2ntzhngetyzllnc00nzdllwfjnmetyjbizwu3zta1yziwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkxmjm5nzc-_v1_Picture, Fargo (1996); 3 quotes on the top 200

 

175.  “Argo f*** yourself.” Argo (2012)

174.  “I like the way you die boy.” Django Unchained (2012) *Warning: This video includes violence, profanity, and a very disturbing scene of slavery.

173.  “Cream?”…”No thank you. I take it black, like my men.” Airplane (1980)

172.  “Why don’t you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?” The Manchurian Candidate (1962) *No video available.*

171.  “What do you need this grabber for?”…”Grabbing.” The Straight Story (1999)

170.  “There will be no Christmas trees, but there will be delousing with ice water.” Stalag 17 (1953) *No video available.*

169.  “I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey. You wore blue.” Casablanca (1942)

168.  “Bond. James Bond.” Dr. No (1962)

167.  “Under the circumstances, I will sit down.” Casablanca (1942)

166.  “Everything will be alright in the end. So if everything is not yet alright, it is not yet the end.” The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

165.  “He was kinda funny lookin’ in a general kinda way.” Fargo (1996)

164.  “Maybe a little Wagner?” Stalag 17 (1953) *No video available*

163.  “They loved him up and turned him into a horny toad.” O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

162.  “We both have so much in common like we both love soup.” Best in Show (2000)

161.  “You look clean cut enough, but you could’ve murdered your granny with a hammer.” Across the Universe (2007) *No video available.*

160.  “That’s life. Which ever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you.” Detour (1945) *No video available.*

159.  “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Casablanca (1942)

158.  “This is the most uncomfortable coffin I’ve ever been in! You’re selection is quite shoddy. You are wasting my time.” Ed Wood (1994)

157.  “Look at that! Look how she moves! It’s like Jell-O on springs! Must have some sort of built in motor or something. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!” Some Like It Hot (1959)

156.  “Aren’t you worried?” “Would it help?” Bridge of Spies (2015)

155.  “He’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!” Despicable Me (2010)

154.  “We’ll always have Paris.” Casablanca (1942)

153.  “We mustn’t underestimate American blundering? I was with them when they blundered into Berlin in 1918.” Casablanca (1942) *No video available.*

152.  “Water polo? Isn’t that terribly dangerous?” “I’ll say, I had two ponies drowned under me.” Some Like It Hot (1959)

151.  “Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard?” Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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Picture: Some Like It Hot (1959); 5 quotes in the top 200

List: Best Film Quotes #200-176

I apologize for the incomplete post on Thursday. I began this project of the best movie quotes quite a while ago and had them all scheduled but was unable to get the first one complete, but now here it is.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movie quotes (See their list here). For the rest of this year, I will publish my own list of the greatest quotes, but I will have 200 quotes. My list will represent several categories of films that were ineligible for the AFI (non-American films, documentaries, and films of the last ten years). I will present 25 quotes each list, and you watch the scenes that contain these quotes by clicking on this Youtube link.

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Picture: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), 4 quotes in top 200

 

200.  “How would you feel if somebody broke your dinosaur?”…”I never had one. We were too poor.” On the Town (1949) *No video available.*

199.  “I killed him! I killed him! I’m the most horrible!” Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) *No video available.*

198.  “We need to talk.”…”About my mausoleum?” Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) *No video available.*

197.  “We may not look like much, but between the three of us we have four eyes, four legs, and three working lungs.” The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

196.  “I buried Maude Rockefeller today, and you missed all the fun.” Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) *No video available.*

195.  “Tell that to my frying pan!” Tangled (2010)

194.  “I just think I’m gonna barf.” Fargo (1996)

193.  “Joy, that’s long-term memory, you could get lost in there.””Think positive.” “OK, I’m positive, you’ll get lost in there.” Inside Out (2015)

192.  “Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor.” The Hunger Games (2012)

191.  “Perhaps you have already observed that in Casablanca, human life is cheap.” Casablanca (1942)

190.  “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” The Maltese Falcon (1941)

189.  “I loves my gun.” Bowling for Columbine (2002)

188.  “It all could have happened differently I suppose, but it didn’t.” Mansfield Park (1999) *No video available.*

187.  “As my grandpappy Old Reliable always used to say, don’t recollect if I ever mentioned Old Reliable before.” Lady and the Tramp (1955)

186.  “If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.” The Maltese Falcon (1941)

185. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Rebecca (1940)

184.  “Shane, come back!” Shane (1953)

183.  “What hump?” Young Frankenstein (1974)

182.  “I’d rather stay at home and count wrinkles on my dog’s balls.” Argo (2014)

181.  “Wax on. Wax off.” The Karate Kid (1985)

180.  “It’s a big pretty white plan with red stripes and curtains in the windows, and wheels, and it looks like a big Tylenol.” Airplane (1980)

179.  “Pull in your reel, Mr. Fielding, you’re barking up the wrong fish.” Some Like It Hot (1959)

178.  “As the prince anxiously waited, the stepmother took matters and Florinda’s foot into her own hands.” Into the Woods (2014)

177.  “I fly to the moon. I shrink the moon. I grab the moon. I sit on the toilet.” Despicable Me (2010)

176.  “Wunderbar, but maybe too wunderbar for my wife.” Stalag 17 (1953) *No video available*

"The Maltese Falcon" Humphrey Bogart 1941 Warner Brothers ** I.V.

Picture: The Maltese Falcon (1941), 4 quotes in top 200

Saboteur (1942)

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Happy birthday Norman Lloyd! Born this day in 1914, Norman is probably the oldest living Hollywood personality. He began his career as a character actor in many important films including several of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest American movies, one of which is Saboteur. He turned to television in the 1950s-70s, producing several series, including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” He has returned to acting, and earned screen credit at the age of 100 in Trainwreck.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur, Norman plays Fry, a mysterious man at the scene of a fatal explosion. Fry hands Barry (Robert Cummings) a fire extinguisher to put out what appears to be a manageable fire; his friend asks for the extinguisher so Barry passes it to him, not knowing that it was filled with gas. Fry disappears, leaving Barry to grieve the loss of his friend as the prime suspect in the death. The whole movie is Barry’s attempt to avoid the police and to find Fry.

Throughout his search, Barry has to rely on many people he comes in contact with, knowing that there is high risk involved. Everybody in the country knows his name and face from the case, so he has to quickly get people to believe him instead of the papers. That is certainly not an easy task. But even more difficult is his need to read every one of these people, to determine if they believe him or if they are playing some sort of a game to get him arrested.

The first two people he encounters are people who exhibit unusual amounts of grace. A blind man explains that without sight, he is able to see things that other people can’t, like innocence. Barry is only able to continue in search and secure his freedom as long as he receives the mercy and kindness extended to him.

Of course most of the people he comes in contact with are not like these two. If they believe him at all, it takes much more than a sixth sense to reach that point. The blind man’s niece, Pat (played by the wonderful Patricia Lane), is with Barry during most of his journey. Initially trying to release him to the cops, her journey to eventually believe him and join him in his pursuit of justice is one as thrilling as anything Hitchcock ever made. It is also a very spiritual journey, requiring her to recognize everything inside of her that leads her towards quick judgment and distrust of others (not just Barry as we find out early in the film). Learning to trust Barry also means trusting her uncle, and most important trusting that there is good in the world and that good can triumph over evil.

As a movie crafted entirely around a chase, Saboteur is extremely influential for the later TV series “The Fugitive” (which of course was adapted into an excellent film in 1993). Fry is very much like the one-armed man. We see him only twice in the movie, but both times Norman Lloyd is electrifying. The first time we see him, we are struck by his mysteriousness. The second time, we are convinced of his malevolence. Even though he is in the movie such a short time, Norman plays one of the great movie villains. Best of all, he was 28 at the time of the movie’s release, and he’s still making movies as he turns 103 today. Happy birthday Norman Lloyd.

Watch SaboteurThe film airs tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 8) on TCM at 9:15PM. It can also be currently seen its entirety here.

Also Directed by Alfred Hitchcock:                                                                                             Psycho (1960)                                                                                                                                    Notorious (1946)                                                                                                                       Rebecca (1940)                                                                                                                                                    Shadow of a Doubt (1943) 

List: 5 Best Political Movies

5.  The Butler (2013)

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Lee Daniels’ epic chronicles a White House butler who worked for eight consecutive presidents. We see history of racial matters, war, assassination and assassination attempts, and much more that was significant during the time through the eyes of this butler who originally gains his position solely because it was a position only seen fitting for black men at the time he started. We see the changing landscape of America, certainly in racial terms but much broader as well, as we see the butler relate with each of the presidents and their staff members.

 

4.  Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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The politics of war have never been funnier. “You can’t fight in here this is the war room!” Political banter is the source of all the humor. From a well-meaning president doing all he can do avoid nuclear warfare to a general so sadistic that he might just secretly want to know what it’s like to experience a nuclear attack, Dr. Strangelove is shows more variety of attitudes toward war than could possibly exist in one room, but each attitude makes the way for remarkably memorable characters and delightful absurdity.

 

3.  The Great Dictator (1940)

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In Charlie Chaplin’s greatest performance, he plays Adenoid Hinkel, a thinly disguised (actually not disguised at all other than the name) parody of Hitler. We follow the dictator’s rise to power through speaking to the anger raging in the midst of a small portion of his people. Through winning this minority over and through blaming all of their legitimate problems on the Jews (and other non-Arians) instead of taking the responsibility involved in his position to work towards meeting the real needs at work in the midst. This movie’s nature as a comedy never gets in the way of how accurately it portrays the rise of a tyrannical leader.

 

2.  The Manchurian Candidate (1962)mv5bmtu1nti0mzu4m15bml5banbnxkftztcwnzixnjmyna-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_

Senator John Iselin is hoping to be selected as the Republican nominee for Vice President. But his wife wants it for him even more than she does. Her lust for power knows no limits. She’s involved in the invention of a perfect assassin, who unbeknownst to her throughout most of the movie, is her own son. He is the way she plans to use to see that John is not only selected as the running mate but that the Republican nominee will also be assassinated so that through her husband, an inept leader, she will have the control she’s looking for even at the expense of her son’s life and her husband’s reputation.

 

1.  Citizen Kane (1941)

MV5BMzcwMDU4NDAyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODAyODQ5Ng@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1265,1000_AL_.jpgWhile far more than a political movie, the politics involved in Orson Welles’ masterpiece are remarkable. We follow the life of one abandoned by his parents, raised by people who control his life. Through attempts at making in politics, Kane tries to not only regain control over his own life but gain control over his constituents. The adage that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is portrayed powerfully in the politics of Citizen Kane.

The Yacoubian Building (2006)

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The Egyptian film The Yacoubian Building is an extremely important film for today’s American culture. Living in what is often sadly called a rape culture especially now with the Presidential nominee of a major party being accused of sexual misconduct left and right, we view the lives of characters living within another rape culture (the building that the title refers to, which is in Cairo). We see Muslims and professing Christians twisting their views of what their perspective holy books say in order to meet their own perverse desires without any regard for any person outside of themselves. All of the male characters in the film appear to be misogynistic, self-centered hypocrites at the outset, although as it progresses we learn that this is not true of every character. Rather, we see a believable mix of the good and the evil in each character.

In addition to rape and misogyny, the film also deals with terrorism, but it is not a major theme of the movie. This is an epic film with many characters for many different backgrounds as the building the title refers to is a hotel and apartment complex related to the Egyptian embassy. Because of this, and naturally being set in Egypt, there are many Muslim characters that we get to know. Yet only one has any ties to a terrorist organization, and he is the only character we get to know who is involved in the terrorist attack depicted. This fits appropriately with the statistics we have regarding the number of Muslims involved in such organizations, yet in America many of us are too full of stereotypical fears to recognize this fact.

Similarly, the movie reflects much truth contrary to stereotype regarding rape. We are encountered with a situation where a man (though he certainly doesn’t call it rape or believe it to be rape) vividly describes raping his wife. The movie explains a situation so believable, so natural, and so full of empathy for its victim that we are left knowing this is something possible. Also, the movie involves male rape victims who are so often left with even less a voice than there female counterparts because of a world that wants to act as if such things don’t or can’t happen. Every victim in the movie, as in real life, is left without a voice. Whether the feelings are based in reality or not, they feel as if there is no one to turn to, no one who will believe them over their attacker, and that their lives are now defined by the evil that was done against them. Because of this, we see the journeys of characters trying to regain their voices while the culture around them (whether for reasons of financial, religious, or social situations) does not pave much of a path for recovery. In light of this, we can easily see why so many people do not open up to such attacks or in many cases why they do so a long time after the fact. We are almost forced to empathize with people who do so only after receiving an opportune moment like the tapes released about Mr. Trump, because now finally the world will believe them.

I realize that I have made The Yacoubian Building sound like a movie about rape, which is far from accurate. Because there is so much sexual indiscretion and such lack of respect for the lives of others represented in the movie, it speaks very strongly to the America we live in at the present time. Nevertheless, director Marwan Hamed has created a much broader cinematic experience than this. More than anything, it is about the building itself, about the people who live there, the people who work there, and how the rest of Egypt is indirectly effected by the events that take place within the building. It is a powerful depiction of the reality that our decisions radically effect the lives of other people and that whether literally or metaphorically, whether directly or indirectly, narcissistic behavior always destroys lives.

“Stumble Alert:” Sexual themes abound in this movie, yet nothing is showed any more than to tell the audience what is going on. There is no nudity. In the most important rape scene, we see only the victim’s face. We see her anger, her fear, her disillusionment, her trauma, her pain. Because of this, I recommend anyone who has ever been the victim of such an attack to approach this movie with discretion. It is very intense and excellent for those of us who haven’t been through it, but perhaps too real for someone who has, as if living through it again. There is also a graphic terrorist attack much like what we see on the news on a fairly regular basis. If you are uncomfortable watching violence of this nature, you will know when it’s about to begin, and the transition at the end to the next scene is obvious enough from the sounds, that you can turn away or close your eyes through this scene and not miss anything.

Watch The Yacoubian Building: The movie can currently be viewed in its entirety here. Note though that a few of the subtitles in this version are obviously wrong, but the context of the story makes it easy enough to figure out what’s going on so that they aren’t distracting.