Tag: Movies

WB Top 100: A Star is Born (1954 & 2018)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

I never seek out tearjerkers, but after seeing two versions of “A Star is Born” over the last week, I am starting to appreciate the catharsis of films-as-emotional release. I am not opposed to crying – it is not an affront to my masculinity or any such garbage – but I typically prefer more positive or upbeat films. Rather than two separate reviews, this week we are going to review 1954’s “A Star is Born” for our list and 2018’s “A Star is Born” just for the pleasure of it, simultaneously.


There was a ton of footage originally cut from the 1954 version. Much was restored, but in our version, there was also several scenes that were just set photos with audio tracks. It took us a second to realize what was happening.

If you are unfamiliar, the original “A Star is Born” was released in 1937, but the film was officially remade in 1954, 1976, and 2018. The announcement of any remake these days tends to be received with the same cries of how Hollywood is “no longer” original. Well, remakes and being unoriginal are as old as Hollywood itself if you look at examples like “A Star is Born”.

All the films follow a similar theme: a woman at the beginning of her career falls in love with a man at the end of his. Try as she might and despite their love, the man repeatedly fails to overcome the weight of his own life. To protect his beloved and her career, the man realizes his presence will only hold her back from her dreams and he chooses to take his own life to, in his view, save hers. There are obviously variations to all these elements, but that’s the generally structure of the narrative in each.


The colors for the 1954 film are really something given its age.

In comparing the 1954 and 2018 remakes, I feel far less jaded about than idea than I once did. Like so many, I usually shrugged anytime I saw a new version of an old favorite being announced. It seems like we are stuck in an endless cycle of repeating ourselves.

That is both true and untrue. If I had considered for a moment my love of the ancient epics from Homer or, more generally, my love of myths and the storytelling of those myths, originality only happens once and everything original happened long, long ago.


This sentiment is echoed in the 2018 version of “A Star is Born”. The film follows an established musician named Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) who falls in love with a singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) as he helps launch her music career overnight with an unrehearsed duet of one of her original songs at one of his concerns. In falling in love with Ally, Jackson remarks that music is “twelve notes and the octave repeats … it’s the same story over and over” but it’s the way Ally uses those twelve notes and the things she has to say with her lyrics that he falls in love with.


I really fell in love with these two falling in love.

These two versions of the same story follow many of the same beats. While 2018’s version cast its leads as musicians, the 1954 version casts them as actors. Judy Garland returns on our list to play Esther Blodgett, an aspiring singer who is discovered by the actor Norman Maine (James Mason) in the early stages of his career decline. Lady Gaga gave a great performance in her version, but Judy Garland’s singing was phenomenal and well-utilized in the frequent musical numbers she performs as her character’s acting career has a rocket-strapped to it by her sheer talent.

In both films, the initial courtship and romance comes off creepy and stalkeresque. Both Cooper and Mason’s Maines are sympathetic characters from the outset, as both deal with blatant, toxic alcoholism. At the same time, the way they pursue Ally or Esther would have invoked serious concern if I were the target. I am grateful that neither story dwells overlong on these courtships as I think doing so would detract from the overall flow of either story, but an additional scene for each may have helped smooth out what otherwise feels like a hunter and prey scenario which, if I had different expectations for where the story was headed, might’ve led me to believe these were a different, more horrifying movies.


I knew Judy Garland could do it all, but she does it all to an otherworldly degree of talent in this film.

Of course, once the romance blooms, both films hit their stride. In either case, I was drawn in by the chemistry of the couples. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga each give fantastic performances. Lady Gaga was especially appealing to me and did nothing to detract or take me out of the film as you might expect with a less experienced actress. I believed in their love and wanted them to survive the weathered, worn down ills afflicting Cooper’s Jackson Maine.

Similarly, though with less chemistry, I was near equally invested in Judy Garland and James Mason and their love. My favorite scene in the 1954 version follows James Mason’s Norman Maine, his contract with the studio terminated because of his declining talent and the liabilities of his alcoholism, as he spends the day in their Malibu home. He is clearly bored as he putts golf balls in the living room and finds ways to occupy his time.


I loved that Esther noticed her husband had spent the entire day wasting his time but never said anything. That’s the value of someone who knows how to tell a story visually.

When Esther arrives home, still in costume from practice for her next big production, they embrace, and he tells her that he has been teaching himself to cook. As Norman wanders off to fetch dinner since the servants have been sent home, you see Esther’s shocked and surprised face as she looks around the room and realizes how her husband has obviously spent the day doing nothing. When he returns, she tells him about her production and, to boost his spirits, performs the whole song and dance number in their living room. As he laughs with her and cheers her on, you see how much in love he is with her and how happy he is for her. The scene ends when a mailman interrupts to deliver a package for Esther but uses her stage name for Norman’s surname rather than recognizing Norman Maine, a man who was once famous.

While you might expect either film to be about the jealousy of a veteran husband of his upstart wife, neither film explores that idea. In a more positive, progressive way, both films are about loyal, loving husbands who only want the best for their wives and their careers. As damaged as they each are, jealousy never really enters the picture.


Heart breaking in both films.

Despite dealing with the lives of very famous people, the downfall for both Maines is unfortunately a very common disease: alcoholism. Even though they both interrupt award shows with their inebriation (in 1954, it is the Academy Awards; in 2018, the Grammys), their wives stick with them through the scandal and embarrassment and are willing to give up their careers to take care of them. But, in both versions, each Maine chooses suicide when they realize they will not get better and that their demons will only drag down the dreams of the women they love.

Though not the kind of movies I typically watch, I found both films to be compelling and worth seeing. Diane ended up favoring the 2018 version while I preferred the 1954 film. We were in overall agreement with our likes and dislikes of each, so the difference is more of preference rather than of quality. I found Norman Maine and his fall to be a more compelling arc than Jackson Maine’s, while she strongly preferred the chemistry of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga to James Mason and Judy Garland. In either case, these are two excellent films and a great example of how remaking something can take the exact same notes and make them compelling with a new voice. Like great music covers, both films are worthy of being on any playlist.


“This is Mrs. Norman Maine.” – Even just revisiting the movie to take screenshots, hearing this line again teared me up.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

At last, we arrive at our final film on this list to star Gene Kelly. In the triumvirate of Gene Kelly films we’ve watched, this is the Caesar and, as the good book says, we must lend unto Caesar what is Caesar’s: “Singin’ in the Rain” is Gene Kelly at his very, very best.


I am unsure why the film started with this, but it was cute!

“Singin’ in the Rain” follows the same formula as “Anchors Aweigh” and “An American in Paris”. It features a variety of singing and dancing acts, mostly notably those of Gene Kelly, the film’s star. There’s also a romantic subplot that is resolved moments before the films conclusion. Finally, there is a large-scale number, similar to the An American in Paris ballet in the film of the same name or the cartoon dance sequence in “Anchors Aweigh”, that likely took up the majority of the film’s budget.

This was our first time actually seeing “Singin’ in the Rain”. The song and dance sequence have filtered their way through pop culture to us, but I would have never guessed the plot. The film follows Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), two silent picture actors at the height of their fame. The two form a pair and, if you believe the tabloids, they are in love. This couldn’t be further from the truth, of course. Accompanying them are Cosmo Brown (played by Donald O’Connor), Don’s lifelong friend and partner in vaudeville, and Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), the film’s love interest.


Debbie Reynolds could only be more charming if she were a grandmother and a witch.

Gene Kelly was perfect, as always, but Debbie Reynolds was the real standout for me. Outside of Disney’s made-for-television movie series “Halloweentown”, I don’t recall ever seeing Debbie Reynolds in a movie. In “Singin’ in the Rain”, she is adorable and easily our favorite romantic interest in all of these three films. She doesn’t get as much focus as she deserved, but she caught my eye every time she was on screen. Her singing voice was fantastic. Donald O’Connor’s performance of the song, “Make ‘Em Laugh” was also great, and his character never overstayed his welcome.

Despite the quality of the performers and their performances, for me, they alone did not make “Singin’ in the Rain” better than the others starring Gene Kelly. This film surpasses them by virtue of having a decent story. While there is a romantic subplot, it is hardly the focus of the entire film. In the second half, the focus shifts to Lina Lamont, a lead actress who cannot make the transition from silent pictures to talkies. Her voice, to say the least, is horrible and her singing is terrible too. The benefit of a plot that made me care about what happened to all of the characters managed to make “Singin’ in the Rain” a film I genuinely enjoyed.


Iconic scene and it still stands up.

Of course, it isn’t without fault. As much as I loved the performances, the film’s big number – surprisingly not “Singin’ in the Rain”, though it is easily the most iconic – ran incredibly long. It was fantastic mind you, but, as the great line from my all-time favorite movie will eventually say on this list: “Too many notes.”

Most interesting for us both were the references to prior films we have already seen. Most notably, “The Jazz Singer” comes up as bringing on the talkie. With it, the film’s entire plot seems to change. There is also mention of “The Broadway Melody” including to an entire number and borrowing some of the film’s visuals in a callback. In a vacuum, if we had seen “Singin’ in the Rain” independent of this project to watch all of these films, these references would have made no sense. Its amazing seeing these movies begin to reference one another


I wish Gene Kelly would have made a three hour long version of the big number he ends all his films with. It’d be a fever dream but one you could tap your feet to.

All in all, there is little more that can be said about this film. Unless there is an even better Gene Kelly film not included in this collection, this seems to me to be the finest iteration of a formula that made him an all-time memorable star. The music and scenes stand the test of time. It was a fantastic musical with a solid story and characters we very much enjoyed.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: An American in Paris (1951)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

After “Anchors Aweigh”, we were marveled by Gene Kelly’s talent, but not necessarily excited to see more of his films. This week, we are reviewing “An American in Paris” from 1951, an altogether superior film and another vehicle to showcase Gene Kelly singing and dancing.

I am unsure what makes “An American in Paris” feel like a lesser musical when compared to musical films I love (“Little Shop of Horrors”, “The Producers”, most of Disney’s animated films, etc.). My biggest issue is that the plot and characters feel secondary to their in-character performances. Rather than review the movie from the standpoint of it being a bad movie and an okay musical, I am going to attempt to leave my bias behind and focus on “An American in Paris” as an elaborate variety show instead.


I know this is supposed to be Gene Kelly, but all I see is “I play polo for the university”.

The film follows Jerry Mulligan (played by Gene Kelly), an American soldier living in Paris after World War II. When the war ended, he remained in Paris to follow his passion of painting. Joining him are Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), a struggling pianist, and Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron in her American debut) as the romantic interest.

The plot revolves around a love triangle between Jerry, Lise, and the French singer Henri (played by George Guétary). Henri is a friend of Adam, who is also a friend of Jerry’s. Henri tells Adam about a woman he is engaged to marry (Lise). Soon after, Jerry happens to meet Lise and falls in love with her instantly. Until the film’s climax, neither man is aware of the other. I am sure this film has some fans for its story, but it really just serves to move the players from one performance to the next.


My feet hurt just looking at this.

The performances are where “An American in Paris” shines best. Unlike “Anchors Aweigh”, which felt bogged down by having to fit in the shell of what a movie is expected to be, “An American in Paris” breezily moves from a dance, to a song, to a concert at a fantastic pace. Better yet, the film is fun and colorful. Early in the film, when Henri tells Adam about Lise, she dances on the screen to his descriptions of her personality. It is fantastic and a great introduction both to the character and the actress, who was a trained ballerina.

Gene Kelly also shines. While the other acts in the film help give you a break from him as the film’s star, he never has to share the limelight the same way he had to do with Frank Sinatra in “Anchors Aweigh”. He is fantastic. Sure, his “romantic pursuit” of Lise was slimy by modern standards, but I’d let any man that light on his feet try to court me too. He was charming and likable every second he was on the screen.


Oscar Levant’s Jerry deserved more time on screen.

The other performances are great too. George Guétary gets several songs, but his performance of the song “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise” had an amazing set and stage production within the film. Similarly, Oscar Levant’s performance of Gershwin’s Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra during one of his daydreams was equally stunning.

Speaking of Gershwin, it would be difficult to review “An American in Paris” without commenting on the film’s music. While modern musicals rely on lyrics to be memorable, Gershwin’s score alone is worth watching the film. I primarily know Gershwin from his composition “Rhapsody in Blue”, but it was awesome hearing more of his original music. It is fantastic.


Some of the sets and costumes were truly amazing.

The film’s closing was our absolute favorite part. While Lise runs off with Henri after the love triangle and tryst have all been laid bare, Jerry dreams of her returning to him. His dream takes the form of a 17 minute ballet within the movie. Amazing in scope, even by today’s standards, the sequence was a marvel to behold. In my research, I read that it cost nearly half a million dollars to shoot and I believe it. It easily rivals the ending performance we saw in “42nd Street” and I think it is worth the watch alone.

“An American in Paris” was not a new favorite film on this list or new favorite musical. There is too much holding it back from either of those titles. At the same time, it was an incredibly fun film to watch and it never overstayed its welcome. We both preferred it to “Anchors Aweigh” and I am curious to see how it stands up to our next film on the list: “Singin’ in the Rain”.


Also, there was this.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

When it came to finally seeing 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, neither Diane nor myself knew what to expect. It is one of those movies that virtually everyone has heard of, but, in our case at least, we had never seen it. I thought it would be more jovial or at least be a lighter film. It is not. As its unlikable characters did unlikable things to one another in an impoverished New Orleans tenement, it dawned on me that what I was in for was yet another example of the Southern Gothic literary subgenre. With that realization, my dread of what to come gripped me tightly as we finished watching the film.


New Orleans shines through the entire film even though the characters rarely go outside the apartment.

I do not pretend to be a scholar on all things Southern Gothic, but I am a big fan of the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Not to digress to politics, there is a certain Conservative way of thinking – a bubble all-encompassing in modern Southern life – that seems equal parts naive and destructive. All my life, I was exposed to people who had little while thinking they had a lot. Any attempt at change or any battering against tradition was the utmost evil. Southern Gothic works are treasonous to that line of thought as they seek to expose the darker culture of a people who live in a ruined place and a lost time, the Antebellum South, without grasping fully the modern world as it has changed around them.

Vivien Leigh plays Blanche DuBois, a teacher whose ancestral home has been lost to debt and poor judgement. With her, she brings all of her worldly possessions: fine clothes and jewelry. She also brings the air of a Southern aristocratic family used to having far more wealth and like minded folk equally obsessed with manners, honor, and dignity. At her heels, a mystery chases after her as she suddenly appears at her sister’s one bedroom home in New Orleans. The sister, Stella, welcomes her openly despite the ill tidings and the odd mood, while Stanley (played by Marlon Brando) is instantly wary of his sister-in-law’s arrival.


Vivien Leigh plays crazy perfectly.

To an extent, the film feels like a melancholy successor to “Gone with the Wind”. Vivien Leigh’s Blanche, much like Scarlett, relies on Southern virtues like honor and duty and manners to anchor herself in a fictional reality. Her life lacks these virtues, however, and her inability to come to grips with that fact drives her mad. Vivien Leigh plays crazy incredibly well. From the start, her character is troubled, but as the movie progresses and she gives one high minded speech after another you begin to realize the depths she has already sunk.

Likewise, Marlon Brando’s Stanley was equally mesmerizing but rather than the piteous Blanche, he was terrifying to behold. This was our first exposure to Marlon Brando the actor rather than the person of pop culture myth. As with the jokes I am used to hearing about Brando, we too had trouble understanding what he was saying half the time. I thought at first it was because every scene had him eating but no. I was also shocked at just how handsome a man he was when he was younger.


I wish I looked that cool drinking alcohol out of a mug that no one likely cleaned since its last use.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is a difficult film to watch. There is little joy and no real character to root for. Kim Hunter’s Stella was the only redeemable character but she often blended into the background while Vivien Leigh chewed the scenery or the shadow of Marlon Brando obscured everyone else as he stalked violently from one room to the next of their one bedroom apartment. There’s a Hollywood ending but no on screen punishment for Stanley. I do not need a movie to end tidily and happily, but after that largely being the case for so many of the films in this series, I half expected “A Streetcar Named Desire” to follow suit. The fact that it doesn’t and that its 125 minutes of human misery ends of only more human misery felt both modern and depressing.

Beyond the acting and the sadness, I found the script to be really interesting. I am unsure how much of the dialogue works in a film. Some of the longer speeches felt ripped from a novel. I am sure they work well in play form, but with film, I expect the characters to talk a bit more like actual people talk. I do not recall the specific lines, but a few made me chuckle at how overwritten they seemed when read aloud.


One of the saddest scenes was when Stanley returns home from the hospital early and finds Blanche dancing around in her finest clothes and talking about a rich suitor that wants her to accompany him on a cruise.

I do not think either of us loved the film. This is art, less as an expression of joy or entertainment, and more as an attempt to make the audience feel emotion. Love falls short of how I would describe my feelings toward “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Appreciation seems to be more accurate. I appreciate the film because it took me to a place I never wish to go to again. I do not love how the film made me feel: hopeless, sad, intense dread. I appreciate the excellent performances of Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando because, without them, I would not have found this film to be so compelling. I appreciated the movie, but I would love to never see it again. I still feel icky.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is the last Humphrey Bogart film on this list. It is also his best. Diane and I both loved this movie. While the first quarter of our list has had its ups and downs, this film is an incredible start to our next set of movies.

The film follows the down on his luck and homeless Fred C. Dobbs (played by Bogart). As he begs his way around the Mexican city of Tampico, he meets Bob Curtin (played by Tim Holt), a man of similar prospects, and a gold prospector named Howard (played by Walter Huston). The three eventually decide to pool together all the money they have to leave civilization behind and go search for gold in Mexican bandit country.


This newspaper is actually in Spanish too. Muy authentico!

As the first Hollywood film shot on location in a foreign country, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” bleeds authenticity. But, before we get into our praise and appreciation of the film, let me get through its one blemish. In the movie’s later act, it leans too heavily on the white savior trope and it really took me out of the movie. Despite this, I felt the movie did a good job of depicting Mexicans and other native peoples without dehumanizing anyone or deeming them savages or less civilized.

Blemish aside, the overall arc of “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is perfect. Early on, the film foreshadows its themes of greed and it also begs the question, “When is enough wealth enough?” Dobbs and Curtin are lured into a job by an American labor contractor who ends up skipping out on paying them. Their free labor helps improve his bottom line and with the oil boom in Tampico attracting more and more people looking for work, there’s always another sucker.

Despite falling for the contractor’s trap, Dobbs and Curtin eventually corner the man in a bar and steal from him what they are owed after a fight. By modern standards, the fight scene was lackluster, but for the time and in comparison to what we have watched thus far, it was incredible. I loved how the camera stayed panned out the entire time. Rather than a flurry of closeups and cutaways, the fight felt more real despite the punches obviously missing because you could see all the actors. The camera let the actors do the work rather than adding the action for them.


Easily my favorite fight scene yet in this series. Panned out camera, relatively few cutaways or cuts, and it lasts about as long as an actual fight.

Before the fight, Dobbs and Curtin met Howard, a gold prospector, at a hostel. Here is where we first encounter the film’s theme of greed. When Howard goes on about the perils of gold prospecting and how dangerous it is to go with others, Dobbs remarks that he would only take enough and not an ounce more than he needed to minimize the risk. Compared to the greedy contractor who repeats his scheme of extracting free labor from idiots despite the risk of getting cornered later, Dobbs holds himself up as a man capable of knowing when enough is enough and sticking to it.

This is in contrast with Dobbs as the story has already presented him. While no character gets any background, Dobbs spends the first 15 minutes or so of the movie begging for money. In a humorous twist, he ends up begging the same man three different times and each time the man gives him a peso. However, though the movie doesn’t call your attention to it, each time after Dobbs is depicted spending the money in a wasteful way. He spends some on a lottery ticket, some on a more extravagant meal, and some on a haircut. To me, Dobbs seems exactly like the kind of man who has no idea when enough is enough. He is content drifting from pleasure to pleasure on any dime he can get to do it.


“I’d only take what I needed,” is a great setup to any story about greed.

With what they are owed burning a hole in their pocket after the fight, the pair find Howard again and the three agree to prospect gold in the remote mountains. The movie plays it funny while Dobbs and Curtin have several comedic scenes of falling behind the older but more fit Howard as he easily climbs hills “like a goat”.

Once they finally strike gold, the movie truly begins. Dobbs and Curtin thought it would be hard to find the gold and easy to leave with it, but the opposite is true. Howard has them setup camp so they can start a small mining operation. Dobbs and Curtin eventually take to the work, but early on we see Dobbs drifting into paranoia. The three men trust one another enough, but because of Dobbs, they decide to hide their portion of the gold they mine each away from one another.

I won’t ruin everything, but Dobbs slow descent into madness is fantastically depicted in “The Treasures of the Sierra Madre”. Humphrey Bogart does a fantastic job. In all of the roles we have seen him in thus far, he has played the romantic lead while also being handsome and intelligent. Once the haircut from early on in the film gives way to Bogart, bearded, sun-baked, and covered in mud, the transformation is nearly complete. By the end of the film, Dobbs is a tragic figure, akin to Gollum, in Lord of the Rings who allows his greed to swallow him whole and gives himself over to madness completely to protect his precious gold.


I really loved all three of these characters and for entirely different reasons.

From the cover art, I had expected something more in the vein of an adventure film, but “Sierra Madre” is a Western film with depth and substance. In addition to Bogart’s turn, Tim Holt as Curtin does a fantastic job garnering your sympathy as he maintains reason and loyalty to nearly his own end. Walter Huston’s Howard nearly steals the show from both of them with his perfect depiction of a crazed, old prospector. In a sense, Howard’s arc is the reverse of Dobb’s as he initially seems quite mad, but turns out to be a reasonable, intelligent, and kindhearted fellow.

In addition to the compelling story, great characters, and great acting, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is shot beautifully. This is one of the few films thus far that has extensively used the location in which it was shot and it shows. It gives the movie a timelessness that painted backgrounds would not have.


Maybe I need to make a D&D homebrew for Patron of the Great Joke, a warlock always on the regrettable end of fate or destiny.

As you can imagine, Diane and I both recommend this movie. It easily tops “Casablanca” as my personal favorite Bogart film and does a great job showing his overall range which we have only seen in his role as a supporting actor (“Dark Victory”, for example).  The fact that he is surrounded by a great supporting cast and the film has a compelling story to tell only adds more to its value. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Best & Worst So Far

Diane and I had a little bit of time while awaiting Hurricane Michael to discuss the first 25 movies of the WB Top 100. We decided to each pick our top five and our worse five, along with a lovely soundbite as to why.

My Top 5

#5: Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – “I really dug the music and Cagney was charming. He did dance like an idiot but better than I could ever do.”

#4: Citizen Kane (1941) – “Still good a second time.”

#3: Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – “I found the movie’s ‘Hail Hydra’ moment to be deeply unnerving, especially given its proximity to the end of World War II.”

#2: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – “Incredibly fun and easily one of my favorite versions of the character. I don’t know why Hollywood keeps trying.”

#1: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – “That captain was the smuggest bastard ever put to film and I absolutely loved him for it.”

Mutiny - 3

Diane’s Top 5

#5: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) – “Was not sure who to root for by the end – a real testament to the actors.”

#4: Cimarron (1931) – “Fooled me into thinking this movie was about a man when it was really about a racist woman becoming less racist. Also, that opening scene.”

#3:   Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – “Fun and a far cry from the previous role we saw Cagney in [Public Enemy]. No grapefruits were harmed in the making of this film.

#2: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – “Incredibly influential and stands the test of time. Pretty much anyone can enjoy this movie.

#1: Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – “Calling out able-ists since 1946.”

Best Years - 2

Our Worst 5 (Combined)

For the most part, we agreed on our least favorite films. Since we had such an easy back-and-forth about our particularly strong feelings, I am combining the two lists for emphasis. Also, I am reversing the order (starting with the worst) since that is where our conversation began.


#1 – Me: Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929) – “Fuck this movie.”

#1 – Diane: Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929) – “Yeah, fuck that movie.”

#2 – Me: A Night at the Opera (1935) – “Fuck this one too.”

#2 – Diane: The Philadelphia Story (1940) – “No, fuck this one first. A Night at the Opera had that one scene.”

#3 – Me:  The Philadelphia Story (1940) – “It was pretty irredeemable …”

#3 – Diane: A Night at the Opera (1935) – “But also fuck this movie.”

#4 – Me: Wizard of Oz (1939) – “No, I still hate it. I will always hate it. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” can be listened to without watching this terrible movie.”

#4 – Diane: Wizard of Oz (1939) – “Fuck Glenda for withholding information. I never get over that fact.”

#5 – Me: The Maltese Falcon (1941) – “Film noir movies are sports movies for /r/niceguys candidates: The male protagonist is always the nicest, smartest man in the room. Every woman wants to fuck him. Chads all want to be him. Oh and everyone wears a fedora.”

#5 – Diane: The Life of Emile Zola (1937) – “The most that movie did for me was help me answer a crossword puzzle. Just plain boring.”

WB Top 100: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.

“The Best Years of Our Lives” returns us to the subject of World War II. This 1946 film follows three returning servicemen who are back home in the United States after the war’s end. Each have difficulties adjusting back to civilian life and reintegrating with their families. Despite being over fifty years, “The Best Years of Our Lives” feels poignantly current and it helped contextualize our current cultural climate in a way that no other film on this list has managed thus far.

The film follows Fred, an Air Force bombardier; Homer, a sailor who lost both his hands and now uses prosthetics; and Al, an infantryman returning to his wife of twenty plus years and his two kids who had to grow up without him. It is a hard movie to describe. At times, it feels almost like a comedy. Laughs are weaved in and out to break up the emotional tension and turmoil. Otherwise, it is a romantic drama.

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To paraphrase, “He lost both his hands and he is okay with that and you are just going to have to get over it.”

There is a modernness to “The Best Years of Our Lives” that makes it feel fresh despite being a movie that neither of us had heard of before. The romantic aspects are pure Hollywood, but they do nothing to distract from the very real subject matter. Al can hardly handle being home for more than a couple of hours before he feels the need to escape from a world and family that have evolved without him. Homer, more or less accepted by his fellow veterans, is stared at by his family. Fred, the film’s romantic lead played by Dana Andrews, can’t even find his wife since she moved out of his parents’ home while he was gone.

Also contributing to its modern feel, much of the film’s subject matter is still relevant today. We both found it off-putting how bluntly some of the civilian characters commented on the veterans. Growing up in the South, here in the US we are taught to respect our troops to the point that the phrase is cliche and meaningless. To see characters openly disrespect veterans was astounding. They used the same language targeted at immigrants in the US today: they are taking our jobs!

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The post-war imagery, including the many, many plans being demolished, was stunning to me.

A modern remake of “The Best Years of Our Lives” might be a good idea; that, or more attention given to the original. As I said, supporting the troops is an eye-rolling cliche these days, but this movie not only presents an era where it wasn’t, but it does so in a way that helped me personally better appreciate the sacrifices of our uniformed men and women. It gives me a context for so many of the bills and laws we have in the USA regarding veterans. For our foreign readers who may have different experiences in their own countries, in the US, when applying for a job, nearly every application asks about your veteran status because we as a society have placed more emphasis, attention, and value into making sure veterans are given equal opportunity. I imagine it is far from perfect, but it is fascinating to see some of the origins of these laws.

Another especially relevant scene revolved around a man at the drugstore. While eating his sandwich, the man notices Homer’s prosthetics and begins to strike up a conversation with him.  The stranger openly states that the US fought on the wrong side and that he sympathizes with the Nazis. Though the man ultimately gets a nasty punch and a fall through a glass display for his trouble, the film plays it straight in a way that, frankly, chilled us. Until recently, the idea of anyone being pro-Nazi seemed like the fringiest of ideas. Nazis, for me, were always historical villains used to great effect in some of my favorite video games (I played a lot of Wolfenstein 3D as a kid). “Nazis are evil” is one of those ideas that comes as naturally as breathing. Hearing a character openly talk about being pro-Nazi after World War II has already been won made us both realize that this is not a new idea nor is it one that ever went away. Like chickenpox, it remains dormant in our system until we all get hate-shingles.

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Homer, scaring away prying kids, does a great job of expressing his vulnerability despite not being the best actor.

Speaking of Homer, it was powerful to see an actual handicapped man play a leading role in a movie. Played by Harold Russell, the real-life man lost both his hands as an Army instructor teaching demolitions work. He is one of two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award (his was for his work in this film as a support actor). Though he had limited screen time and was obviously not a trained actor, the character of Homer was one of the film’s most compelling. His arc primarily concerns his inability to accept how his family treats him and his worry that his long-term fiance will be wasting her life if he lets her marry him. His journey alone could’ve made up its own movie, and I wish it had.

Beyond Homer, the other two characters go through their own trials. Al’s involvement shrinks as the movie continues, but his position as an individual who was already financially well-off returning to an even better job at the bank offered another important point of view. As a loan officer, he is put in the position of turning down veterans who have no collateral yet who also have no way of rebuilding their lives. Despite the “good financial sense” he was hired and rehired for when he returns from the war, he believes that veterans deserve to be gambled on by his bank. The thread gets dropped without an absolute resolution, but I liked that better since it was obviously not a resolved issue culturally and Al vows to keep fighting for what he believes in.

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Fred’s wife was the worst.

Finally, we arrive at Fred and his romance with Al’s daughter Peggy. Teresa Wright, previously seen in “Mrs. Miniver”, returns as yet another patriotic girl next door with eyes for a soldier. Despite their story making up the majority of the film, it wasn’t my personal favorite. I did think it was a good romantic drama plot, especially when compared with some of the others we have seen in this series as of late, but its only real purpose is to entertain while I feel “The Best Years of Our Lives” works best when it does more than simply entertain.

Diane and I did have one complaint: it felt long. At nearly three hours, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is packed. There were some parts that could’ve been tightened up, but I personally thought it was shot and cut beautifully. While not my favorite movie-as-entertainment, I can easily this film as being one of the more historically interesting from a cultural point of view. It’s a shame it isn’t shown more in school. The way it handles veterans stands up well and hasn’t lost any of its importance. The only concerning scene for me was where Al gives his son a Japanese sword, but, given the time, perfectly reasonable. If you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while, we suggest giving “The Best Years of Our Lives” a watch.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

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