What I Watched, What You Watched: Installment #48

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I am going to begin trying something a little different with this column starting next week. Instead of revealing everything I watched on Sunday each week I am going to do individual listings throughout the week and then on Sunday do a complete recap of the week. It will add a little bit of variety to the weekly grind of movie news, trailers, pictures and editorials and hopefully give us a little something different to discuss. Then, on the weekend I’ll list everything once again and the conversation can continue as normal. It will just be a trial period to see how things work out, but I have a feeling it will work.

As for this week’s edition of “What I Watched,” one movie I forgot to mention a couple of weeks back was yet another viewing of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and this week I also watched half of the Marx brothers’ Duck Soup, a little bit of Teen Wolf and Coyote Ugly was playing on E! in in the background while hanging out with some friends.

All the King’s Men (1949)
QUICK THOUGHTS: In 2006 Steven Zaillian (writer of Schindler’s List and Gangs of New York) co-wrote and directed a remake of this Oscar-winning film (Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor) and it starred Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins. Suffice to say, it was awful. Until only a few days ago I had never seen the original and man-oh-man it’s wonderful. Zaillian and crew must have tried hard to mess it up. I am now tempted to watch the remake again just to get a better understanding of what went wrong, although I have an idea based solely on the casting.

Primarily, the casting of Sean Penn to play the role of Willie Stark may sound like great casting when given an outline of the story, but Penn just isn’t the kind of actor to take on a role if you’re looking for the same impact Broderick Crawford brought to this country bumpkin turned dirty politician. The dirty part works just fine, but Penn is no country bumpkin and it’s a necessary trait when balancing the two faces this character portrays. There is a slight bit of innocence Crawford brings to the character that Penn’s all-too-serious acting can’t attain.

What I probably found most striking about this film, though, was how dark it is. A lot of people die or get hurt in this picture and it’s the kind of people that make up the list of victims that makes it so dark and the frequency with which it happens quite surprised me. If you’ve yet to see this one, give it a shot, it’s well worth the time. I caught my viewing on TCM.

The Shootist (1976)
QUICK THOUGHTS: January of last year I wrote an article comparing John Wayne’s The Searchers with Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino and in the commments someone suggested Wayne’s final film, The Shootist, may serve as another decent comparison and I’ve been meaning to see the film ever since. So, while checking the TCM line-up this week this one also jumped out at me and I set the DVR to add it to the queue.

I haven’t seen enough of Wayne’s films to call any of them his “best” and I wouldn’t say this is the best Wayne film I’ve seen, but it is a good one and well worth checking out. What was probably most affecting with this film was TCM’s Robert Osborne and his introduction to the film as he points out how it was Wayne’s last film and how Wayne pretty much knew it was his last film. There’s a certain solemn nature that surrounds the picture to start with considering the story content, but you add on this extra layer and it changes things a bit.

With 172 screen credits listed on IMDb, to think this was Wayne’s last film and to know the nature of the film as he plays the notorious gunslinger J.B. Books as he learns he is dying of cancer (the same disease that would ultimately take Wayne’s life three years later) is a very sad truth to be sure. Wayne’s joined in this film by Lauren Bacall, James Stewart and a young Ron Howard. I definitely recommend this one to just about any movie watcher.

Oh, and as for the comparison to Gran Torino, I still think The Searchers works much better.

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.