Movie Project #26: Rudy [1993]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Rudy [1993]

Rudy [1993] 
Director: David Anspaugh
Writer: Angelo Pizzo
Country: USA
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Starring: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
Running Time: 114 minutes

When it comes to inspirational films, Rudy has a surefire winning formula. It’s based on a true story, it involves a massive underdog, and it’s about someone who refuses to stop following his dreams. Football is at the heart of the story, but it’s the type of feel good flick that can appeal to anyone.

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Movie Project #1: Nashville [1975]

The 50 Movies Project: 2013 Edition

In what has become an annual tradition, I have decided to embark in a third round of the 50 Movies Project. The premise is simple — I have put together a list of 50 movies that I feel I absolutely must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. With so many films to see, it’s easy to get off track and forget about some of the essentials. This is my way of making sure I see those that have been on my “must see” list for too long.

Nashville [1975]

Nashville [1975]
Director: Robert Altman
Screenplay: Joan Tewkesbury
Genre: Drama/Music
Starring: Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Lily Tomlin, Henry Gibson, Shelley Duvall, Ned Beatty, and many, many more
Running Time: 159 minutes

Reason for inclusion: Robert Altman is considered one of the greatest American directors, and I have never seen any of his work.

Accolades: Five Oscar nominations (one win for Best Original Song), nine Golden Globe nominations (one win for Best Original Song), inclusion on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies

I had a chance to go to Nashville once during college. An annual music industry event was held there, and a small group of students from my program took the trip. I couldn’t afford it at the time — go figure, a broke college student — but in hindsight I wish I had found a way to go. After watching Robert Altman’s Nashville, I am even more curious about the Tennessee capital, the country & western music headquarters of the world.

Nashville, the film, is a massive ensemble piece that follows the lives of 24 characters during a five day period. It is in the heat of the Presidential race, and a new upstart party candidate, Hal Phillip Walker (who we never see on screen), is in town for an early political rally. We are there to witness the five days leading up to this event.

Nashville [1975]

There isn’t really a central story arc to Nashville; instead we are introduced to a variety of characters who are just living their own lives. They are a diverse group: there are musicians (both professional and wannabes), eccentrics (including a 3-wheel biker played by Jeff Goldblum), loners, businessmen, politicians. At first, since so many are introduced at once, it’s difficult to keep track of who’s who. However, many of them grow to be unforgettable.

There’s Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin), a gospel singer and wife of two deaf children. She also happens to be a target of lust by singer Tom Frank (Keith Carradine), he of folk group “Bill, Mary & Tom” fame. Bill (Allan Nicholls) is having marital problems with his wife, Mary (Cristina Raines), who herself is deeply in unreciprocated love with Tom.

Nashville [1975] -- Keith Carradine

Also on the music front, there is Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley), a wildly popular country singer who is recovering from a burn accident. Despite the best wishes of her husband, Barnett (Allen Garfield), she wants to return to performing immediately, perhaps exerting herself too hard in the process. Her top rival, Connie White (Karen Black), is also making the rounds in Nashville. On the other side of the spectrum, the bottom rungs of the town’s music scene, there is Sueleen Gay (Gwen Welles) a buxom red-haired woman who is sharp as a box of rocks and can’t sing worth a lick — but that doesn’t stop her from trying.

Set in a popular music city, it’s no surprise that the film relies heavily on music. Nearly an hour of the running time is devoted to musical performances, and most of the songs were written and performed by the actors themselves. Some songs are better than others (Keith Carradine’s Oscar-winning “I’m Easy” is a true standout), but all are true to the country & western vibe. I generally loathe country music, but I rather enjoyed many of these on-screen performances, especially from the veteran singer Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson).

Nashville [1975] -- Haven Hamilton

Now considered by many to be one of the great American films, the influence of Nashville is still felt today. I imagine that director Paul Thomas Anderson is a big Altman fan — without Nashville, we likely would have never received Boogie Nights or Magnolia. By all accounts, this is a film that likely warrants at least a second viewing, simply because there are so many characters that it’s impossible to catch every little reference the first time around. As it stands, I quite enjoyed this film, and I am excited to see more of Altman’s work.

8.5/10

Movie Review: Rango [2011]

Rango [2011]

Rango [2011]
Director: Gore Verbinski
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

When I first saw the trailer for Rango, I immediately thought it was going to be another run-of-the-mill animated movie for children. Slowly, details started to trickle out and I heard about references to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and the Dollars Trilogy, among others. My interest was piqued, and it turns out that my initial notion was dead wrong.

Rango is a smart movie, one that caters toward adults and film buffs. Sure, kids will love its stylish and unbelievably detailed visuals, as well as Johnny Depp’s charming rendition of the title character, but many of the film references and “adult” level jokes will go over their poor little heads. I think that’s what made Rango so appealing for me — it isn’t “dumbed down” at all.

Rango [2011]

So yeah, Johnny Depp is the voice of Rango, a pet chameleon who accidentally becomes stranded in the Mojave Desert. Scared shitless by being alone amongst red-tailed hawks and other predators, Rango wanders aimlessly and eventually meets a desert iguana named Beans, who takes him into an Old West town called Dirt. It is here where the ever-imaginative chameleon develops his persona of Rango, posing as a tough outlaw who once killed all seven Jenkins brothers with one bullet. One bullet! The townsfolk eat this up, and after Rango accidentally kills a terrorizing red-tailed hawk, he is appointed as the town’s sheriff.

What ultimately unveils itself is a clever homage to the classic Chinatown, with the town trying to figure out what the hell happened to their disappearing water supply. Nods to old Westerns are also frequent, and the movie itself is nothing more than an animated spoof/tribute to the genre.

Not enough can be said of the movie’s visuals. This is one of the best-looking animated features I have ever seen, and it is clear that Pixar now has some competition in the form of Industrial Light & Magic. Do yourself a favor and see this on Blu-ray. It is mind-bogglingly sharp.

Rango [2011]

The voice acting is also quite impressive with Johnny Depp leading the way. Whereas other big name actors have been known to phone in their performances, Depp is on top of the game here and is clearly having a great time. Ned Beatty, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Stephen Root and Harry Dean Stanton also lend their talent, to name a few, and the casting overall is quite flawless.

I liked Rango and its eccentricities quite a bit, particularly the beginning and end sequences. The middle portion, while entertaining, dragged on a bit too long, and the overall feature suffers a little as a result. Still, there is a lot to like here. Kids will be pleased with the characters and the stunning visuals, and adults will love all of the references and gags related to other films. A spicier middle segment would have made this one of the top films this year, but it’s still a fun way to spend two hours.

7.5/10