What I Watched, What You Watched: Installment #15

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On top of the titles listed below I also watch the Criterion Blu-ray for Howards End and the Blu-ray for Warner Home Video’s North By Northwest, both of which will be reviewed on Tuesday along with the Criterion Blu-ray for Wings of Desire. On top of that I watched the Blu-ray for Disney/Pixar’s Up, which will be reviewed in a couple of weeks along with the Blu-ray versions of Monsters, Inc. and Cars.

As for the titles listed below, the first three are the final three of Sony’s November 3 release of Film Noir Collection Volume One after I discussed my thoughts on The Sniper and 5 Against the House last week. You can get more details on the complete set right here and a link to buy the set is included with all three films below. As a quick note, the only one of the five I didn’t particularly take to was 5 Against the House, the rest are quite good with The BIg Heat, The Sniper and The Lineup all being extremely good.

As always, remember you can keep tabs on my personal Netflix queue right here. I now have 50 friends on the movie rental site and would love to have a few more if those of you out there with accounts are interested. Now, here’s the recap of my week in movies…

The Big Heat (1953)
QUICK THOUGHTS: This was my second time seeing Fritz Lang’s film noir classic starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin as I watched it for the first time this past August when it was shown on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars on Gloria Grahame’s night. It’s a great film, as is most anything from Lang, and actually gets quite dark with a spectacular performance from Marvin as tough guy Vince Stone who isn’t afraid to scar a woman for life.

The Lineup (1956)
QUICK THOUGHTS: This one stars Eli Wallach and while Michael Mann offers up some thoughts on the DVD for The Big Heat, I would find it hard to believe this film didn’t, in some way, inspire Mann’s Tom Cruise thriller Collateral as Wallach’s character is a hired gun making his way around San Francisco scooping up drugs and leaving a wake of death behind him. It’s really, really good stuff. This one is directed by Don Siegel, and like The Big Heat it can get pretty dark at times, even to the point where a little girl is used as a human shield.

BEWARE: The clip below is a great one from the film, but it is also a MAJOR SPOILER. I couldn’t find the trailer so this is what you get.

Murder by Contract (1958)
QUICK THOUGHTS: This is a good film, but not a great film. What makes it a notch above average is its message as it features a hired hitman with a conscience and a distaste for guns.

The Thin Red Line (1998)
QUICK THOUGHTS: I had never seen this film before or Terrence Malick’s Badlands and I have had both of them sitting on my coffee table from Netflix since September 10 and I finally found some time to get around to one of them. I honestly think I could write for days about this film, a film I didn’t watch in 1998 because I was told it was boring… Boring? This film is about as intense as they come and on top of that it isn’t your stereotypical, cliched war film.

Addressing issues of “life and death” and “good and evil” with a bend toward nature there are several messages that can be taken away from this film. I will admit, at nearly three hours there isn’t a lot left to decipher by the time the film is up, but there are so many different metaphors used along the way it opens up new comparisons as you go.

We are witness to a battle wounded baby bird midway through the film only to have the frequent voiceover dissecting its appearance toward the end coming to the conclusion that “death has the final word,” which is a line I found particularly important since the most prominent message I got from the film was that even once the battle is over, people are still alive. In short, it appears the soldiers that die along the way are getting off easy.

This is portrayed in several different instances and even debated as Nick Nolte’s war-mongering will offer up one outcome, later referred to by voiceover as the side that “feels the glory,” compared to Elias Koteas’ well-thought-out, preservation-of-life tactics. Another example comes in the form of language as an American soldier tells a Japanese soldier he’s about to die in English, only to have that soldier yell back in his face in Japanese. Something that typically would only suggest an inability to converse. immediately becomes menacing. When the man who was just told he is dying musters up the resolve to yell right back and you can’t understand a word he is saying there is something terribly frightening about what is unknown at that moment.

Further, I got a sense of religion from James Caviezel’s character and thought Woody Harrelson’s death scene was one of the better deaths I have seen in a war film.

A few things that bothered me included the voiceover for most of the time as I didn’t think it added as much as it detracted from the film’s intensity and I never thought it added anything to the story that wasn’t already available for deduction. I also thought it was strange how Sean Penn and even Adrien Brody were sporting gelled up 90210 hair-dos shortly after the bombs had stopped going off and the bullets had stopped flying by.

Beyond those minor nitpicks I thought this film was extraordinary and a definite must see if you haven’t yet seen it. On top of everything I have already mentioned it is also an astonishingly gorgeous film, but that shouldn’t really surprise anyone that has ever seen a Malick film. This one is prime for a Blu-ray fitting, let’s hope it happens.

There you have it. Now share your weekly recaps and weigh in with any thoughts you may have on the films I saw. And remember to connect with my Netflix queue by clicking here, I have already added several titles from those that have already linked up.