No. 84 EASY RIDER (1969)

Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are.

On the surface Easy Rider is a late-sixties film about sex, drugs and bikes – and not necessarily in that order. But when you watch further you realise why this movie made America change the way it looks at itself. Easy Rider is considered to be a very real and innovative look at a chaotic time period – a movie that was the first real indie distributed by a major company. This was also one of the first movies to have a soundtrack of previously recorded music. According to Peter Fonda the music in the film is mostly from his and Dennis Hopper’s record collections. So let’s get into the mood with one of the movie’s classic tracks:

                                              Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

In the movie two bikers Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt, aka Captain America (Peter Fonda) make a major drug deal with a LA connection (Phil Spector). With the cash safely tucked away in the stars and stripes gas tank of Captain America’s bike, they head to Mardi Gras for the last party before retiring to Florida. On their way through Vietnam-era America they pick up a hippie hitchhiker (Luke Askew) and take him to a struggling commune in the desert. While driving thru a small-town Billy and Captain America manage to get arrested for parading without a permit. In the jail they meet an alcoholic ACLU lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson). Hanson joins Billy and Captain America on their road trip only to find brief joy in smoking grass for the first time before he meets his grisly end in the hands of Southern rednecks. Wyatt and Billy continue their quest. They finally reach New Orleans and join the Mardi Gras after honouring Hanson’s memory by visiting “the best whorehouse in America” (which they were planning to do together). Billy’s and Captain America’s celebrations climax with a couple of hookers (Karen Black and Toni Basil) and some LSD at a local graveyard. Will they make it to Florida to retire? That’s for you to decide after Billy and Captain America are once again met with bigotry and hatred just because they ride motorbikes and have long hair.

                                           What you represent to them is freedom

Produced by Fonda and shot by Hopper Easy Rider paved the path for socially relevant and documentary-style movies. It takes a sober look at the end of the flower-power era and a country that has lost its ideals. Most of the dialogue was improvised and the realism in being stoned comes from – well – really being stoned. The Mardi Gras sequence was shot first on 16 mm film. At this point Hopper and Fonda had gathered a crew out of their friends and acquaintances. According to both of them it was such chaos and a lot of the people quit because of Hopper’s antics, so after that they hired a professional crew and screenwriter.

                                            You’re stoned out of your mind, man

Both Fonda and Hopper deliver excellent performances as two friends looking for something, yet not quite knowing what. This is the movie that made Jack Nicholson a movie star and he is enigmatic as Hanson who puts into words what everybody is feeling.

                               But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em

Easy Rider is filled with symbolism – from tossing of the wristwatches, stuffing money into the stars and stripes gas tank to scoring “junk” on a junkyard. It starts as a road trip movie with long sequences of Billy and Captain America riding through iconic American landscapes in the style of Westerns, but it ends with a much deeper look at the ignorance and narrow-mindedness that too often results in unnecessary violence. I found the end such a shock that it will stay with me for a long time. This is a movie that everybody should watch and it would hopefully make them more open-minded.

click to watch video Roger McGuinn - It's Alright Ma

You know Billy, we blew it


Everything Gets Old if You Do It Often Enough

The Last Picture Show, a movie about the dirty laundry of a small Texan town, was considered to be risky and scandalous at the time of its making. It has scenes with full frontal nudity and sex between high school students and married adults. So, pretty much nothing that is currently considered scandalous. But at the time of filming Cybill Shepherd had to consider many times if she would do the nude pool scene and Cloris Leachman refused to get naked on camera and instead waited until her character got under the covers.

                                       Nope – you should not have worn that shirt

It’s 1951 in a small Texas town called Anarene. Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) are best friends who play football, go to the movies at an old movie house and hang out at the local pool hall. Both places are owned by Sam The Lion (Ben Johnson), who has a close relationship with Sonny. Both boys also lust after rich Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), whose mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn) gets around and also had an affair with Sam The Lion.  Jacy is going steady with Duane while Sonny falls into an affair with the football coach’s wife Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman). After Sam the Lion’s death the pool hall is left to Sonny, who is determined to honour Sam’s legacy while Jacy and Duane head away from Anarene. Sonny and Duane make one last trip to the closing movie house.

It’s a bleak town

The Last Picture Show is based on a book by Larry McMurtry. When the director Peter Bogdanovich (The Mask and The Thing Called Love) saw the book the first time he did not read it – even though he was intrigued about the name. Thankfully he did the second time around and made a movie out if it that went to win 2 Oscars (Johnson and Leachman).

                                                             Lion, Sam The Lion

The movie was filmed in Larry McMurtry’s home town, Archer City. Which is the same town that the book is based on. So no wonder that the film crew was not welcomed with open arms, as the real Duane, Sonny etc. were still there. Even though the actors never got to meet their real-life counterparts. The whole movie is shot in black and white, which was originally suggested to Bogdanovich by Orson Welles who thought that the depth of that period could only be captured in B&W. I have to say that it definitely adds dimension to the depressive atmosphere of the movie.

The Last Picture Show has many great scenes like the one where Sonny is driving Ruth to the clinic and back. So much has been left unsaid and the viewers can decide themselves the reason why Ruth is so upset. Another excellent scene by Cloris Leachman is the final scene between Ruth and Sonny.

                                                                Never you mind

Another scene, which portrays Bogdanovich great talent to concentrate in expressions and emotion instead of dialogue, is when Lois realises that her daughter has been with her lover. Total of eight different emotions run through her face while she walks from the living room sofa to the kitchen. If that’s not powerful acting, I don’t know what is. Bogdanovich’s only advice to Ellen Burstyn was to think the thoughts of the character in that scene.

I found that one of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Billy dies and Sonny is carrying him away from the street. Once again almost no dialogue for Sonny – only one line: He was sweeping!

He was sweeping!

I am sure that The Last Picture Show is a great movie on many levels and I am glad I watched it. But would I watch it again? No – as I found it extremely depressing, which I am sure just speaks of its greatness.

Yep, nothing much has changed.


I would create a fake family for that

It seems that almost every movie nowadays is a remake of something. So is the Adam Sandler vehicle Just Go With It – it’s a remake of 1969 comedy Cactus Flower, which won an Oscar for Goldie Hawn. I have never seen Cactus Flower, so no clue if that’s as funny as the remake. Yes, I know, I know – all the critics slayed Just Go With It, but I found it surprisingly funny. Then again why would this be surprising – Adam Sandler is a funny guy. And it is directed by Dennis Dugan, who also did Grown Ups – which I thought was enjoyable watching, even though less funny.

                                                                        Let’s do it!

In Just Go With It Adam Sandler plays Dr. Danny Maccabee – a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, who has for years pretended to be married in order to hook up with women. Then comes the day when he meets a young teacher, Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) and decides that it’s time to stop pretending. Unfortunately he is not quick enough with the truth and Palmer finds his wedding ring. All kinds of shenanigans follow when Dr. Danny asks his loyal assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) to impersonate his soon-to-be ex-wife. Things get complicated when Katherine’s kids become involved in the scheme and the whole gang heads to Hawaii with Dr. Danny’s cousin Eddie (Nick Swardson). There they find Katherine’s old college frenemy Devlin (Nicole Kidman). Well, you can guess the rest…

Feels good being honest, doesn’t it?

What the movie lacks in plot is substituted with the onscreen chemistry between Sandler and Aniston. Don’t except this movie to be anything else than a feel-good, entertaining film for the whole family. But then again does every movie need to be something more? Just sit down with a bowl of popcorn and your favourite drink and relax after a hard week at work with this light-hearted rom-com. What could be more relaxing than that? Well, maybe actually holidaying in Hawaii…

               I’ll be taking acting classes and become the next Miley Cyrus, yes I am.

Sandler is his usual self in the role of Dr. Danny, but it’s Aniston who steals the movie by proving that she is a good comedy actress. The most ridiculous character award goes to Swardson as Cousin Eddie with his “The Dolph Lundgren” impersonations. I could not help but laugh out loud. Some scenes are bit tacky like the coconut / dance contest in Hawaii, but most are well executed.

Lundgren, The Dolph Lundgren

So here’s for you critics – go get yourselves a funny bone!

No. 92 GOODFELLAS (1990)

As far back as I can remember; I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.

All you need to know about this movie is the following two words: Martin Scorsese. This on its own should make you want to watch Goodfellas. I must admit that this was my first time seeing this particular Scorsese movie – I have seen more recent ones like The Departed, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. All great movies, but a tad bit violent. Though the thing about Scorsese and violence is that even though violence goes hand in hand with almost all of his movies, yet he does not glorify violence by any means. Scorsese’s violence is always messy, ugly and well – violent. He portrays violence how it is – an unthinkably horrible act.

Goodfellas is based on a book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. Pileggi also co-wrote the screenplay with Martin Scorsese. “Wiseguy” is a true rise-and-fall story of a real-life mobster, Henry Hill. As Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) says in the beginning of the movie – he always wanted to be a gangster. So from a young age Henry starts hanging out and running errands for the neighbourhood’s mob boss, Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino). He then starts pulling jobs with Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro), who are part of the same mob crowd. There are several milestones in Hill’s life: first arrest, wedding to Karen (Lorraine Bracco), mistress number one, mistress number two, jail term and running around behind the mob boss’ back dealing cocaine. But the most profound moment is the murder of Billy Batts (Frank Vincent), when everything changes for Henry. From there begins the fall that concludes on one cocaine-fuelled day in 1980.

Anything I wanted was a phone call away.

Goodfellas is not your ordinary gangster film. This does not make you want to be a gangster and unlike in The Godfather, you do not see the gangsters living in big mansions. You see them fighting for survival every day and night. As the real Henry Hill puts it – it was anything but the American Dream.

                 Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.

I don’t think I even need to address the issue that Scorsese is probably the most genius director of our century. The greatness of Goodfellas comes down to Scorsese’s brilliance as a director. And also to his advice to actors who according to Scorsese should not act like the people they are portraying – instead they should behave like them. This gives the movie that magic intensity and sense of reality.

                                                       I don’t mean no disrespect!

The use of voice-over narrative in Goodfellas is just genius. It increases the level of the relationship between Henry and the audience by giving it more intimacy. The casting is perfect. All fantastic performances – Liotta, Pesci – who won an Oscar for his performance -, De Niro, Sorvino… I could go on and on. One of the interesting performances comes from Scorsese’s mum, who plays Tommy DeVito’s mum in that famous dinner scene. Martin Scorsese’s own roots are deep in the Italian-American community in New York – not that different from the neighbourhood is Goodfellas.

Sure, mom, I settle down with a nice girl every night, then I’m free the next morning.

There are many excellent scenes. One is the nightclub scene between Pesci’s and Liotta’s characters. Scorsese shot it with a medium shot (no close-ups), so that the audience is able to see how the people around Tommy and Henry behave. You can see the expressions on their faces changing from laughter into alarm.

                                            Funny how? What’s funny about it?

The 3rd act in the movie is basically Henry paranoid running around and going home to stir pasta sauce; and then the same again and again – all the time with the same intensity level. Brilliant! Another talent of Scorsese is to take a small detail and blossom it into art – like in the prison sequence the most memorable thing is how thin Paulie cuts the garlic.

Now take me to jail

So has Goodfellas earned its number 92 spot on the list? Absolutely! It’s also a movie, which should be watched more than once to truly appreciate its brilliance.

Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else.

TRUE GRIT (2010)

You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.

I am not a huge fan of Westerns, but I am a fan of the Coen Brothers. O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty are amongst my all-time favourite films. Hmm… now when I think of it – both of them have George Clooney in them. Coincidence, I ask? I do like other Coen Brothers’ movies as well and that’s why I wanted to see True Grit – and because it was nominated for 10 Oscars. I started to watch the film with low expectations, but within minutes it won me over. It is a well-done movie, where everything works; there is no weak link.

                                 I always go backwards when I back up.

True Grit is a story of a tough 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), who sets to avenge her father’s murder. Mattie’s father was unfairly shot and robbed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Mattie hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find – Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) – the man with true grit, questionable character and a strong liking for booze. Against his wishes Mattie joins him and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) in tracking Chaney into hostile Indian Territory, where they encounter more questionable characters and finally Tom Chaney himself. Along the way a strong bond develops between Rooster Cogburn and Mattie.

Them men wanted a decent burial; they should have got themselves killed in summer.

The story itself is interesting. It is based on a book by Charles Portis, who is considered to be the greatest writer you have never heard of. The book paints a picture of moments of mundane reality. The Coen’s movie is closer to the original book than the 1969 John Wayne movie was. I love how the screenplay is told from a young girl’s perspective. There is no dull moment in this movie as the screenplay moves along with steady pace.

That didn’t pan out.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is astounding. He uses the nature is such spectacular way that it provides the perfect emotional backdrop for the actors. The eeriest scene of the movie must be “the hanging man” scene, which was filmed in the middle of dead wintry cottonwoods. All the acting is stellar. Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon all give fantastic performances.

  Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down

Once again the Coen Brothers have created a movie well worth of watching!

Time just gets away from us.


Why are you here then – Because I bloody well stammer!

The must-see-movie of this year and I have finally managed to view it. And it sure did live up to all the expectations. The whole movie just reeks of quality – from the beginning to the end. No wonder it won 4 Oscars including screenplay, leading actor and directing.

          What’s he saying? – I don’t know but… he seems to be saying it rather well

The King’s Speech tells a story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who reluctantly becomes the King of England after his brother King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates due to a scandalous marriage to American divorcée Wallis Simpson. King George VI or Bertie – to his friends – has been suffering from stammer all his life. At that day and age stammer was regarded as a weakness – a king with a stammer was considered to be an unfit leader for a nation. After trying every kind of treatment Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Suspicious Bertie meets with Logue and after a couple of turbulent meetings starts Logue’s unorthodox treatment course. During that course of treatment Bertie and Logue develop a strong bond that becomes a lifelong friendship. England is facing war and its people are desperate for a strong leader. Thankfully Logue’s treatments are working and the whole country gathers around their radios to witness the King’s speech, which will unite them in battle and inspire them through the inevitable war.

Kinging can take a lot of time…

This film has such an impressive cast. Colin Firth is marvellous as the troubled King George VI. He sounds like his has been stammering all his life. Mr. Darcy is all grown up! Funnily enough Jennifer Ehle, who plays Mrs. Logue, was Elizabeth Bennett to Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995). Mini-series with that famous lake scene of wet Colin Firth…

                                 Is the nation ready for two minutes of radio silence?

Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter give equally impressive performances. Costumes are spot on – like everything in this movie.

Ham; not palm

David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay, wrote a letter to Queen Mother a several years ago asking for permission to make a movie out of King George VI’s story. Queen Mother asked him not to do so during her lifetime, as the memories were too painful for her. Seidler respected her wish and the movie was made after Queen Mother passed away. David Seidler also got very lucky as private journals of Lionel Logue were found a short time before the movie started filming, thus they could be incorporated into the script and give valuable insight into the private relationship between Bertie and Logue.

                                 Do you know any jokes?

At the end of the day this is a bromance story. As Colin Firth recaps the movie: Boy meets therapist – boy looses therapist – boy gets therapist.

If you have somehow missed The King’s Speech you must watch it and enjoy moviemaking at it’s best.

Waiting for me to… commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait.

No. 12 THE SEARCHERS (1956)

Texican is nothing but a human man way out on a limb.

It is time to get back to the mission and who better to lead the way than the ultimate man’s man – John Wayne – in a movie that has been quoted as one of the most influential movies ever made. The Searchers is number twelve on the AFI’s list of the 100 best movies and it sure has earned its place there.

                                                         Lone Star

It tells the story of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), who returns home from the Civil War to his brother’s ranch in Texas. There he hopes to find peace close to the woman – his brother’s wife – whom he is in love with. But peace is not in the cards for poor Ethan. While he is out riding with his 1/8 Native American nephew Martin, a Comanche raid kills most of his brother’s family. Only little Debbie “survives” and is kidnapped by the evil Chief Scar. From here begins a five-year mission for Ethan and Martin to find Debbie and bring her back or as Ethan puts it – most likely to kill her, if she has been “brainwashed” by the Indians.

                                                             Do you know what Ethan will do if he has a chance? He’ll put a bullet in her brain.

Some of the dialogue and subject matter makes you gasp for the same reasons as Mad Men. One of the movie’s best lines comes from Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) when he and Uncle Ethan find Martin’s accidental Indian wife killed by the US soldiers: “What did them soldiers have to go and kill her for. She never done nobody any harm”. I suppose that was the time when you shot first and then asked questions. At the time most of the moviegoers missed that it’s hinted throughout the movie that Uncle Ethan might have had an affair with his brother’s wife. And who knew who really was Debbie’s (Natalie Wood) father.

 No words needed

An additional explanation for Ethan’s fury towards the Comanche is explained in the scene where he finds Debbie’s doll next to his own mother’s tombstone. On the tombstone it reads that Ethan’s own mother was killed by the Comanche.

The Searchers is an impressive Western. It was filmed in Monument Valley, Utah. As that time there were no roads there, the film crew built roads. They also built a whole town for the 250 odd crew and cast. As the closest town was 175 miles away, everything had to be brought in – water, electricity etc. What a hassle that must have been even before they got into filming, but the director, John Ford, was adamant to film at the home of the Navajo.

                                                      That’ll be the day

This movie is a cinematic portrayal of the hard life of the settlers. The screenplay is moving and the story is told with drops of humour mixed in with the dramatic story line. Acting is good all around. John Wayne is perfect as Uncle Ethan who is tortured by his own experiences, but who at the end reconnects with his humanity. The Monument Valley offers a spellbinding backdrop. I can see myself riding there in the Olden Days. Even though I don’t think my life would have been long at all – if it had not been childbirth that would have killed me, it would have probably been a suicide. Just look at the gravestones at an old graveyard in Tombstone, AZ – most of the women there were killed by either one of those.

The Searchers is a movie that does make you think about the fairness and unfairness of the treatment of Native Americans. It is well worth of watching. Even though Rio Bravo still remains as my favourite Western of all time.

Some day this country is gonna be a swell place to live in ~ Well said, my man!